All posts by amytalksbooks

About amytalksbooks

Muddling through life with a book in my hand.

What I’ve been reading lately: mini reviews!

Hi!

It’s been a week or two since I posted , as I’ve got a few university deadlines coming up which have made me very sick of looking at my laptop, sorry! However, I have definitely still been reading, so I thought I’d do three mini reviews of some of the books I’ve read that I haven’t had a chance to properly review yet. Here we go!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

the guernsey

This book is a book lover’s delight! It is a book about books and literature and how they bring people together. Set just after WW2, this book follows Juliet Ashton, an author who wrote during the war under a pseudonym and who is eager to begin writing things of substance in her own name. At the beginning of the book Juliet receives a letter from a man named Dawsey from Guernsey, who came across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. After engaging in correspondence, Juliet learns about Dawsey, the world of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and the experience of living in Guernsey during the German occupation.

This book is written entirely in letters and was just completely wonderful. I don’t normally enjoy books written in this format because I don’t feel like it allows for enough description/plot to be explained to the reader, but this book did it brilliantly. This story was warm and so full of heart. Each character was lovable and wholesome, and I loved the idea of books bringing people together in dark times. It was quite hard reading about details of the war and how it impacted Guernsey, however it served as a way of highlighting the strength and resilience of the characters in the story. I loved the members of the society and the real feeling of community and family that they shared. This book was also incredibly witty and funny. I found myself snorting with laughter on one page and crying on the next. Also…the ending made my heart so full!

All in all, a lovely little short novel. Loved it.

Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

saga volume 1

This graphic novel series follows two soldiers from warring planets who risk everything to be together and raise their child. I have to admit I picked this up based on the hype I have seen for years online, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I loved the art style, the humour, the originality, the imagination. I zoomed through this really quickly and am definitely going to continue on with the series. However, sci-fi just isn’t really my thing, and so as much as I enjoyed this I don’t have a frame of reference to really say if this is good or not. I enjoyed it nonetheless, though!

 

 

 

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

the cowsMy god, I bloody loved this book. This book follows Cat, Stella and Tara. Cat is a famous blogger and face of feminism in the UK, representing women who do not want to have children. Stella is a personal assistant who is having to deal with some difficult health problems. Tara is a single mother and documentary maker in a male dominated industry who – through no choice of her own – is catapulted to online infamy. Throughout this story these women’s lives intertwine an it is such a witty, funny, entertaining and feminist read.

There is some great discussion about public shaming and the fast paced nature of the internet. I find the internet really scary at times, especially the idea that one small mistake or poorly worded tweet could ruin your life. This year I read (and loved) So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson and I found this book was a great fictional example of what Ronson was trying to explain.

This book was just a really great piece of women’s fiction in my opinion. I enjoyed it so much, I loved the inclusion of a famous blogger as a character (I’ve never read a book with an ‘influencer’ in it), I loved that it discussed some feminist issues and I would definitely recommend it!


So that’s all for this post! I can’t wait to get through a few of my deadlines so I can a) read some more and b) blog more!

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Book Review.

44467803_535537553525114_7350922855946649600_nEvelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways. (Goodreads)

*CONTENT WARNING: MENTION OF DOMESTIC ABUSE AND NON-CONSENSUAL SEX*

So last week I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, because I had seen so much hype about it online. I absolutely adored it.

This book was so transportive in so many ways. There are flashbacks to 1950s-80s Hollywood, which I absolutely loved. It made me think of the film Singin’ in the Rain with all the references to the behind the scenes of 1950s studios, which was really fun!

This book also tackled some really interesting themes, but from an interesting almost dual perspective. What I mean by this is that Evelyn Hugo is discussing a lot of interesting themes that were prevalent during vintage Hollywood and which impacted her life and the lives of those close to her at the time, such as female beauty standards, patriarchy, ethnicity, poverty, homophobia, domestic abuse and more. However, the discussion becomes interest because Evelyn is addressing them through flashbacks in her memoir, with the perspectives she has now and the understanding and progression of society since then, which leads to some interesting observations of how fucked up and – oftentimes – backward societal expectations were at the time of her fame.

This book is heartbreaking in a lot of ways, particularly in discussion of society’s attitude towards sexuality. There are a number of LGBT characters in this novel, and reference to pivotal moments in history which defined the progression of LGBT rights, such as the Stonewall riots and popular figures such as Elton John coming out as gay. I found these parts really well done but also so heartbreaking in that it disappoints me that people had to hide who they truly were for fear of being seen as ‘deviant’. I think this book does a great job of showing how society was and how people hid their sexuality and how they had to censor themselves for their own safety, which is very harrowing.

This book had so much excitement and drama and luxury to it that I found it really hard to put down. The book focuses on Evelyn’s rise to fame, her husbands and other conquests and in doing so there is never a dull moment. What I also thoroughly enjoyed about this book as that parts of it did happen in the present day, so we got to see the development and life of Monique (the journalist/biographer) in between the drama of Hugo’s life.

The characters in this book were great. They were so multifaceted and were never purely good or bad. I particularly loved that each husband was completely unique to the other, came into Hugo’s life for a purpose and was completely three dimensional. Evelyn is such a complex and great character. She is completely aware that she was corrupted and is not a good person and that the view that others had of her is not the truth, but there are also so many moments throughout where she proves she has good facets to her character. I loved her character, and I also loved Monique’s character. They were completely captivating and interesting.

This book was drama filled start to finish. There were no dull moments and it was so gossipy and moreish, but also incredibly power. I would honestly recommend this to anyone. It was so good! I cried and I was shocked by twists and I found it really full of heart. I’d really recommend it. It is entertaining and I really loved it.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: Book Review.

*CONTENT WARNING* THIS BOOK CONTAINS POTENTIALLY TRIGGERING THEMES SUCH AS MULTIPLE MENTAL ILLNESSES/DISORDERS, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND SELF HARM*

it's kind of a funny story

Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. (Goodreads)

I’d first like to say that this is an own voices novel, in that it is written by Ned Vizzini, who spent time in inpatient treatment due to mental illness. Ned Vizzini sadly passed away by suicide, leaving behind this book in his legacy, which has and will continue to help individuals struggling with mental illness.

This book has so much heart and warmth to it. Every character is so interesting and has endearing and has humorous qualities, which added a bit of light to the hard topic of the story. It really highlighted for me that even during the darkest points of life things can still be humorous. Some of the humour in the book surrounding the patients in the ward did not come across as inappropriate or insensitive, but instead really highlighted that finding these moments within bad times does not take away from the bad times you may be experiencing. It instead shows that things such as mental health are not linear, but instead exist on a spectrum and days can vary in their difficulty and feeling.

One somewhat random facet of this story that I particularly appreciated was Craig’s family. I found it really endearing and nice to see that Craig had a solid family dynamic where his parents and sisters were supportive and understanding of his mental health struggles. I think for many teens/young adults (talking from experience) there can be nerves opening up to parents because of how their generations viewed mental health, and so I was really pleased to see how much effort Craig’s parents made to aid his recovery.

I feel this book is really important in that it highlights the pressures placed on young adults and teenagers which can have very troubling consequences. It also provides great commentary on how while it can be a very real experience for young people, because of a lack of awareness and understanding of it in wider society a lot of friend’s of Craig have really warped/inaccurate views of mental health, comparing some of their problems to Craig’s suicidal thoughts. I found this interesting as there is so much discussion as to whether people self diagnosing themselves is contributing to a negative view of mental health.

There was one part of the book where Craig touches – ever so briefly – on how mental health isn’t necessarily becoming a ‘trend’ or ‘more prevalent’, and the quote really got me thinking about how maybe there has been an increase in cultural acceptance and acknowledgement of mental health between generations. I think that mental illnesses have been prevalent throughout history, however an increase in discussion and diagnoses makes it seem as though it is on the rise.

“We’re just part of that messed- up generation of American kids who are on drugs all the time.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re any more messed up than anybody before.”

I also think this book provides a positive view of inpatient treatment, crisis intervention and the idea of acknowledging your mental health and taking an active role in your recovery. Inpatient treatment is often stigmatised and villainised to the point where people see it incredibly negatively, however I think books like this can do work to change perceptions, so that hopefully we can get to a point where inpatient treatment is seen for what it ACTUALLY is.

Overall, this book was really special to me. I felt the value of it even now as a 22 year old, but I definitely wish I had read this when I was 17. It is a mental health novel with uplift and hope, which addresses a lot of things that young adults NEED to hear.

Have you ready it? Did you enjoy it? I’d love to know.

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Reading for escapism.

Escapism (n): the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

Hi all.

So I go through waves with my reading tastes, where when things in my day to day are feeling monotonous or are getting a bit tough for me to handle I love to pick up books that I can escape into. While it is important not to become avoidant of our problems in our real lives, I really think books can provide a valuable escape or reprieve from days when things feel a bit much. Since I am currently at a point where I’ve got a lot on my plate, I have been using fiction more than ever to balance out my days and give me that sense of escape. This got me thinking about books which – to me – provide that escapism for me, and I thought I’d recommend some of them to you.

There are a few main genres that I gravitate towards in these instances, and that is typically either fantasy or historical fiction. I think this is because they are so transportive and take me to time or place that I have never experienced. These sorts of books give me a chance to get completely immersed in the world building or the era or culture in question and I find their complexities really useful when I’m craving a bit of distraction.

So here are my picks:

Imperium by Robert Harris

imperium robert harris

This is the first of a trilogy of novels following Marcus Tullius Cicero and his ascent through the ranks of the Roman Empire’s government, all told from the perspective of his slave, Tiro. These books are so compelling and vivid, and for someone who previously had very little interesting in Roman history, I adored it. It covers all bases of Cicero’s life and the romantic, violent and politically intriguing backdrop of Rome. When I first read this I was engrossed so quickly and I felt like I was IN this story. I’ve reviewed this book if you are interested.

 

 

Scythe by Neal Shusterman (Arc of a Scythe #1)

scythe

I read the first two books in this series recently and I became absolutely OBSESSED with them. This takes place in a utopian future, where the world has been eradicated of hunger, disease and all other negative aspects, meaning that nobody dies naturally anymore. As a result, a prestigious group who are known as scythes are tasked with ending lives to maintain population control. The story begins with two characters, Citra and Rowan being chosen as apprentices, who are immersed into the world of the Scythedom. This series is INSANE. It is addictive and the world and the history that Neal has woven is so incredibly intricate and interesting. I loved the characters and the idea of this utopian world is so intriguing because it has some basis in our reality, with the increased use of technology and advances. Plus, the second book has an absolutely jaw dropping ending which will make you throw your book across the room. I can’t wait for the third one. This is so unlike what I’d normally read.

Circe by Madeline Miller

circe by madeline miller

I have mentioned this book a lot on my blog in the last couple months, because it is honestly one of the best books I have read in a long time and one of my favourites of the year. It is a Greek myth retelling, recounting the exile of Circe from the house of Helios (the god of the sun) to an isolated island. On this island she meets a host of characters while basking in her solitude and developing her occult, witchcraft abilities. I have reviewed this on my blog if you are interested! I found it so moreish and I just got sucked into the story so easily. I find Greek Gods and the history so fascinating, but Madeline Miller’s writing is just so beautiful and immersive that I wish the book was hundreds of pages longer. Also, the Song of Achilles (also by Miller) is equally fantastic. I definitely want to reread them both soon.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

gentleman's guide

Now this book is just sheer fun and enjoyment. It follows Henry “Monty” Montague, who is about to begin his tour of Europe with his best friend (who he is in love with), Percy. Set in the 18th century, this book is filled with unexpected adventures and plot twists and adorable romance. It is not overly historically accurate by any means, but it is just so much fun and I am really looking forward to reading the second book in this series, which follows Monty’s sister, Felicity. It is absolute escapism and I found it so enthralling and humorous from start to finish.

 

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor

I have mentioned this a lot on my blog recently (apologies, but not really) and that is because it is one of the best books I have read all year. I am going to write a full review, but basically this is a middle grade fantasy book following Morrigan Crow, a ‘cursed child’ who on her 11th birthday is fated to die. However, on the day she is fated to die she is visited by a man named Jupiter North, who whisks her away to compete in trials to become part of Nevermoor’s Wondrous Society. It is utterly magical, so entertaining, whimsical, funny and special. I loved it more than I thought possible and I am so ready for the second book (in what I believe will be a nine part series) to come out at the end of October.


There we have it! Just a few books that I have read in the past which I think are particularly good for if you feel like you need to escape into some fiction. I know we all go through tricky times and deal with them in different ways, and for me reading provides me with a lot of comfort and distraction. If you have any recommendations for some really immersive historical fiction or fantasy that you think are great to escape into OR you have books that you like to go for when times are hard, please let me know! And if you are struggling for any reason, I hope that it passes soon. xxx

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The F.R.I.E.N.D.S Book Tag.

Hey…how you doin?

I’m sorry, I just had to quote Joey, seeing as I am doing the F.R.I.E.N.D.S book tag! I originally saw this tag on Kristin from Kristin Kraves Books’ blog and I just knew I had to do it. I believe this tag was created by Roxanne from An Average Life, so you should definitely check out her original post! Now, on with the tag!

For each character there is a question relating to a book and one relating to me as a reader. Here we go!

Monica:

my team always wins

A book based on a game or competition:

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor

This is a middle grade series that follows Morrigan Crow, a cursed child who is whisked away to Nevermoor by a man named Jupiter North, to compete in trials to become a part of the prestigious and magical Wondrous Society. This book will give you the same feeling of magic and enjoyment as reading Harry Potter for the first time, and the competition aspect is so entertaining. Definitely worth a read! Also – as it is middle grade – it reads really quickly and easily!

 

 

Organization Queen- How do you organise your books?

While I would love at some point to have my shelves organised by genre, fiction/non fiction or read/unread, my bookshelves are not big enough and I also don’t have enough of certain genres to justify that style of shelving. So, at the moment my books are in alphabetical order by author’s surname. Other than that, I have a Harry Potter shelf (obvs) and a shelf for hardbacks that are too big for my regular shelves. But yeah…pretty boring I suppose!

Rachel:

i'm assistant buyer

A book you read for the hype:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlander

If you have been living under a rock you may not have heard of this series, but since it was adapted into a TV show it has been all over the place! This book follows Claire Randall, a world war two nurse who – when on a trip with her husband Frank to the Scottish highlands – steps into a stone circle and is transported back in time to 1743, and becomes entangled in a life in pre-Jacobean uprising Scotland. As a Scot I was so apprehensive about reading this book (and they are BLOODY long books), but I had seen so many people raving about it I just had to see what the fuss about. No surprise, it was actually delightful. I have read the first two books in the series, and I made it 30% through the 1000 page third book before deciding I needed a little break from the series. That being said, it is definitely one I want to finish as it is worth the hype. Romantic, atmospheric and so moreish!

Shopping Addict- What makes you buy a book?

Circe

I buy a lot of eBooks primarily, as they are oftentimes cheaper and – as I said previously – I don’t have a lot of shelving space. However, when I buy physical books it is usually because I am such a sucker for a beautiful book cover! I gravitate towards books with captivating covers, and if the synopsis sounds appealing I will then 100% pick it up. If there’s a book I really want to read and I know that I want the physical copy for my shelves, it’ll be because it is a beautiful (and Instagrammable) version. Case in point: Circe by Madeline Miller.

Ross:

dinosaur impression.gif

A science fiction book:

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

sleeping giants

I don’t really read science fiction, but I really enjoyed this book. It is hard to describe, but essentially this book begins with a girl named Rose falling down a hole in the earth and landing on top of an upward facing, giant, metal hand. This raises countless questions as to what the hand is made of, why it is there and where the rest of the body is. Years later, Rose becomes a physicist running a project trying to uncover the properties of the hand’s metal and why it is there. However, this book is shrouded in mystery as it is written in interviews (conducted by an anonymous person), case reports and audio clips. It is so intriguing and mysterious and – having picked it up on a whim – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

On a break- Which books have you put down to pick back up later?

I do this very often, as I can tell pretty quickly if I’m not in the mood for something at that time. I don’t want to DNF a book fully if I just feel the timing is off and so most recently I put down The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. It is not that I wasn’t enjoying it, because I was, but it is a very long book and it took quite a lot out of me to read as it read almost like a classic (which is not a bad thing!). So I think I will revisit it at another time as it was definitely beautifully written and captivating.

Chandler:

chandler dancing.gif

A book that made you laugh out loud:

The Bad Dog’s Diary by Martin Howard

the bad dog's diary

This is the most stupidly entertaining book I’ve read in years. I wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t been recommended to me, but if you can imagine Bridget Jones Diary, meets The Communist Manifesto meets DOGS. It is in diary format, sharing a year of Blake’s life and his attempts to dominate the territory in the park and dodge his owner’s attempts at dog training. It was so bizarre and unique from anything else I read that I found myself snorting with laughter and trying to keep a straight face. Definitely a funny book, if a bit odd.

 

 

That time at Space Mountain- Are there any books you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve read?

Apart from the one above…I can’t really think of any. I’m a massive proponent of reading whatever you want to read, whenever you want to read it. I don’t like the idea of being shamed/shaming others into thinking they can’t read certain things. I read predominantly fiction and within that there are no holds barred! I used to get embarrassed admitting to people I was reading YA, or a romance novel etc. I remember vividly someone at my work asking me about a book I was reading (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson) and the tone of their voice made it clear to me that the book sounded “weird” to them, and I immediately closed up and acted embarrassed. I hated that feeling and I’d never intentionally do that to somebody else! So, even with the book above, I’m not particularly embarrassed for reading it as I enjoyed it, and that is the entire point of reading!!

Joey:

ichiban

A scary book you’d keep in the freezer:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

animal farm

So I don’t really read any scary books. Ever. The last time I read a “horror” novel was in 2016, and it was kind of shit. However, a book I did find scary (for different reasons) is Animal Farm by George Orwell. Hear me out. Animal Farm is a satirical retelling of the lead up to the Russian Revolution and follows farm animals rebelling against their farmer and forming a democratic state. The scary part to me is the way in which this democracy then begins to crumble and chaos ensues at the hands of the most dominant group in the farm’s society (the pigs). It is a reflection of how fragile government is and the nuances of democracy and – like Orwell’s other fiction – seems to be really relevant to the shit storm that is contemporary society. When I think too much about it I feel particularly anxious, which in my head I have linked to fear. Also…the feelings I have about this book may well be linked to watching the animated version of Animal Farm as a child (a family friend gifted it to us assuming it was suitable for little children…because animals…on a farm…how nice) and I remember it really scaring me at the time. Who knows?

V is for Encyclopedia- As an adult, have you read any books with words you had to look up to understand?

Yes! This is one of the reasons I love my Kindle, because any time I don’t know a word it will tell me the meaning. Most recently it was What Would Boudicca Do? by E. Foley and B. Coates. This is a great book which seeks to solve struggles women are facing in the modern day world by relating them to some of the most inspirational and prolific women in history. In this book I looked up a number of words, including: iconoclast, cynosure, callipygous and apocryphal. The more you know!

Phoebe

chandler and monica

A book with a spiritual or supernatural theme:

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood

15 tales of women and witchcraft

I reviewed this in my most recent blog post, but it is basically a short story collection by 15 different authors surrounding witches and witchcraft. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and while the stories varied in the levels of magic or spirituality, some of them were very spiritual and supernatural.  A few stories in particular mentioned spiritual energies and destiny and such, which to me made this the optimum book for Phoebe, who in another life would 100% have been a witch!

The boycott- Are there any authors, booksellers or publishers you refuse to support?

I haven’t come across many instances where I have felt strongly enough about a situation to boycott an author etc. However, recently I have seen some negative things online about Benjamin Alire Sáenz, the author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which is a book I absolutely loved. Essentially, there have been instances where he – as an author – has emailed book reviews/YouTubers etc. and getting in touch about criticisms they have had of his books and in the process has come across as rather unprofessional and insensitive to his readership. You could probably Google it if you were interested in knowing the intricacies, but I was majorly unimpressed when I first realised this and have subsequently decided that – despite loving Aristotle and Dante – I will not read any more of his books.


So those were the answers for the main characters, and now here are some shorter answers for some of the side characters!

Janice:

oh my god.gif

A book with an OH MY GOD twist:

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman. If you know, you know.

Emily:

emily waltham.gif

A British classic:

Jane Eyre is 100% my favourite British classic. I love rereading this in autumn/winter as it is so dark and broody and atmospheric. Plus, I find Jane to be a progressive character for her time. Although, unlike Rachel I DID read the book and I don’t think Jane Eyre is like Robocop.

Gunther:

gunther

A book nobody seems to be talking about:

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is such a lovely little novel about a single mother who becomes the housekeeper of an elderly mathematics professor with a memory condition. It is heartwarming and was one of my favourite books of last year.

Carol and Susan:

carol and susan

An LGBTQ+ book or author:

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera is a great book about Juliet, who – before heading off to do an internship for a white feminist writer – comes out to her Puerto Rican family and tells them that she is a lesbian. This book is humorous and entertaining and makes great commentary on inter-sectional feminism and how white feminism is – quite wrongly – the most dominant in the public eye. This is a great piece of YA! I’ve reviewed this book if you’re interested.

Eddie:

eddie

A book or character with intense/stalker vibes:

I picked Vincent and Eli from Vicious by V. E. Schwab. They are both very ambitious and intense throughout the story, and (considering they are enemies) they definitely do stalk each other across the country throughout the novel. *I found this one kind of hard, my bad*

Mike:

mike

A slow burning book OR romance novel:

I picked East of Eden by John Steinbeck for this one, as it is a long book which focuses a lot on character development and atmosphere rather than plot point after plot point, meaning it was quite slow burning.

Richard:

richard burke

A book that left you feeling accomplished or better educated:

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson was a really interesting book about how the internet has created a resurgence in the joy of public shaming and how easily lives and reputations can be ruined by social media. It really educated me on how I can be a more mindful social media user and encouraged me to make sure I am never unfairly bashing somebody online.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

friends.gif

Which F.R.I.E.N.D.S character do you most identify with? 

I think I am a bit of Chandler and Joey. Joey because I love food (duh) and I like to think that I am a good friend and that I would do anything for any of my friends, and Chandler because of his sense of humour. That being said, I think I relate to a little bit of each of them, so it is hard to pick!


And that’s the tag! I hope you guys enjoyed this and I will speak to you soon! Feel free to do this is you want, consider yourself tagged. I have one more thing to say as a parting gift…

PIVOT!

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Blog hop: exploring new genres (the book reviews)

Hey guys! So I am back today with my book reviews of the two books I read for the blog hop I did with Charlotte (WonderfullyBookish), Fleur (Fleur’s Makeup Box), Ellie (Foxy Travels UK), Jade (Reading With Jade) and Kelly (This Northern Gal). I am looking forward to reading everyone else’s reviews, as I was pleasantly surprised by both of the books that I read.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about just now, a couple of weeks ago I posted about this blog hop and the fact that I was eager to read more urban fantasy/magical realism novels. To remedy this, I have read two books: the first was an adult fiction novel, the second was a YA short story collection. Here are my thoughts on both:

1) Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London

Summary synopsis: This follows Probationary Constable, Peter Grant, who when guarding a zoned off area of London after a bizarre and forensically confusing murder begins to take the statement of an eyewitness…who happens to be a ghost. This leads to Grant being taken under the wing of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who makes up the magical division of the London Metropolitan Police.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It is so original and satirically funny, which is the type of humour that I love in fiction. I love the inner monologue of Peter Grant and his observations about the police, London, British people and all number of things. I enjoyed his character as he is just an average Joe sort of guy who is thrust into an unbelievable new life, yet adjusts pretty casually to the whole thing. I found myself during this book wondering how he hadn’t freaked out or had any meltdowns about his new circumstances. I also loved the character of Thomas Nightingale, who is very mysterious and private. I imagine (seeing as this book is a series) there will be further investigation of his character as time goes on.

rivers of london 1

In terms of the fantasy aspects of this novel, I loved the magic system. I do think it went relatively unexplained for most of the story, but like I said above, Peter seemed completely calm and less manic about the whole thing…which may mean the character only mentioned as much as he felt was relevant. I like the idea that magic is a lengthy process to learn, as to become a fully trained wizard detective will take approximately 10 years. I also really enjoyed the fact that magic isn’t necessarily this all powerful cure all in this book, as there are instances where Nightingale (an experienced wizard) has uncertainties and doesn’t understand magical properties. It suggests to me that there is still so much to learn about the magic system in this world, which is so exciting.

The setting of London is fantastic for this book. It is so immersive and I can imagine for somebody who lives in London and is familiar with these places that it is incredibly atmospheric and nostalgic. I also loved the interactions between Detective Nightingale and other branches of the London Metropolitan Police. There is so much humour in the interactions between branches, it is brilliant.

rivers of london 2

Overall I found this book addictive, entertaining, funny, observational and irreverent. I am definitely going to continue on with this series, as for a fantasy series (of sorts) the books are not ridiculously long and are hopefully going to be very entertaining!

2) Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Tessa Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood15 tales of women and witchcraft

Summary synopsis: This is a short story collection of 15 stories written by a number of brilliant authors. 

*CONTENT WARNING: SOME OF THE SHORT STORIES MAKE MENTION OF RAPE, DOMESTIC ABUSE AND OTHER DARKER THEMES*

I tend to have an aversion towards short story collections because I always get frustrated when I begin to really enjoy a story and have to come to terms with the fact it is finished. I still feel this way about them, and this collection was no exception. I enjoyed every story (to varying extents), but my main take away was that I was frustrated at the stories which I found fiercely addicting, because after 30 ish pages they were over and I knew I wouldn’t see those characters again.

toil and trouble 1.5

That being said, I did really enjoy this collection. I loved the diversity in the stories, with some being set during historically significant periods such as the Salem witch trials, and others being extremely contemporary. They were also all incredibly diverse in the way they told stories of different ethnicities, sexualities and classes. There was a lot of LGBTQIA+ representation in this book, which I thought was really great.

I loved that each story had a different understanding or perception of witchcraft, with some witches doing very little ‘magic’ for instance. I also enjoyed that the collection had running themes of acceptance, girl power and strength throughout. It really struck me as several good pieces of feminist, YA fiction.  Each story was uniquely and beautifully written, and while I definitely enjoyed some a lot more than others, I would really recommend this. Also, for a YA novel I think it is a good bridge between YA and adult.

toil and trouble 1.5

My favourite stories were The Truth About Queenie by Brandy Colbert, The Well Witch by Kate Hart, Love Spell by Anna-Marie McLemore and The Gherin Girls by Emery Lord. Definitely give it a read if you are a fan of short story collections, feminist fiction and witches (obviously)!


So those are my reviews of the two urban fantasy novels I read for the blog hop!

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience. It has allowed me to get in touch with some really great bloggers, and it has opened me up to a genre I would probably have left alone otherwise. Reading is normally such a solitary activity, but the internet and things like this make it such an interactive and social activity, and I truly love that. I definitely will continue to read books from this genre, and I am going to try and be more open minded in my reading in general. If I am ever weary of a book because it is of a certain genre I am going to look back on this experience and remind myself that I should just give things a go, because it could become my next favourite read!

As for urban fantasy, I am unsure where I want to go next with this genre. I have a few books in mind that I would like to read in the future, and I thought I’d end this post with them!

1) The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang

the impossible girl by lydia kang

2) The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

the sisters of the winter wood

3) The Radleys by Matt Haig

the radleys

4) The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo

the deepest roots


I hope you guys enjoyed this post! I have really enjoyed this little project, it has really inspired me to get more involved in the book blogging community. There are some gooduns here!

Please check out the lovely ladies who did this with me!

Charlotte from Wonderfully Bookish

Fleur from Fleur’s Makeup Box

Ellie from Foxy Travels UK

Jade from Reading With Jade

Kelly from This Northern Gal

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Books I’m excited about reading.

Hi!

As an avid reader of book blogs and watcher of BookTube videos, I am constantly adding new books to my to be read pile. My shelves are teeming with books I can’t wait to get stuck in to and I thought I’d share some of them with you!

1/ Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor

A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate. (Goodreads)

If you guys (like me) watch a lot of BookTubers, you may have noticed that everybody is absolutely raving about this book. I am always apprehensive about books which are compared to the Harry Potter series, because I don’t feel that anything would top it for me. HOWEVER, I have heard that – rather than being similar to HP – this simply captures the feeling that first time HP readers will fondly remember. It sounds so magical and imaginative and (seeing as my copy is arriving tomorrow) I am desperate to curl up with this. At the moment I am really craving completely immersive books and escapist fiction, and I think this will be an easy but incredibly entertaining read!

2/  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

a gentleman in moscow

When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. (Goodreads)

This book came up on my Kindle as a suggested purchase, and after reading a quick sample I was immersed and am really looking forward to continuing. I’m not quite sure how to explain it but I love books that are written with elderly men protagonists. I also realised that – despite favouring historical fiction from the early to mid 1900s – I have never read any fiction about the Bolsheviks or Russia at this time. When I began reading this I was struck by a very subtle humour, and I am just really looking forward to this.

3/ Vengeful by V. E. Schwab (sequel to Vicious)

vengeful v.e schwab

*THIS IS THE DESCRIPTION FOR VICIOUS, THE FIRST BOOK IN THIS SERIES, AS I DIDN’T WANT TO SPOIL ANYTHING*

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. 

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? (Goodreads)

This is the sequel to Vicious, which I was surprisingly obsessed with when I read it! It was thrilling and complex and the characters were so bad they were good! I whizzed through this when I first read it as I found it so compelling and different to the kind of books I normally read. The sequel only just came out and I really want to pick it up. I am not a massive reader of series of books but this one is an exception. Probably a pretty fun and thrilling read for October too!

4/ The Radleys by Matt Haig

the radleys

The Radleys are an everyday family who juggle dysfunctional lives. Except, as Peter and Helen Radley know, but their children have yet to find out, the Radleys happen to be a family of abstaining vampires. When one night Clara finds herself driven to commit a bloodthirsty act, her parents decide to explain a few things. (Goodreads)

It is no secret that I love Matt Haig’s books. Reasons to Stay Alive is one of my favourite books of all time, so I knew I needed to dabble into Haig’s fiction a little more. This seems like a good read for October especially, as it is marketed as being a bit creepy and has vampires (obvs). I have already mentioned in my blog hop post that I am trying to read a bit more urban fantasy, and so I think this is definitely continuing on the streak!

5/ Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

crazy rich asians

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich. (Goodreads)

Ordinarily this wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but I have heard so many good things about this book and the movie looks hilarious and so much fun. I have heard a lot of hype about this on YouTube (again, BookTubers are such enablers) and my favourite Instagrammer as of late (Laura Jane Williams) has described it as addictive and a must read, so there you go!


I hope you guys enjoyed this post. I am definitely hoping to have a few more book reviews up on the blog in the coming weeks as I have been reading a lot of great books recently. The next one will probably be reviews of the two books I read as part of my genre blog hop! Stay tuned for that!

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Crudo by Olivia Laing: Book review.

crudo olivia laingKathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart.

Olivia Laing radically rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse. A Goodbye to Berlin for the twenty-first century, Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker.

From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her forties trying to adjust to making a lifelong commitment as Trump is tweeting the world into nuclear war. But it’s not only Kathy who’s changing. Political, social and natural landscapes are all in peril. Fascism is on the rise, truth is dead and the planet is hotting up. Is it really worth learning to love when the end of the world is nigh? And how do you make art, let alone a life, when one rogue tweet could end it all? (Goodreads)

So I read this book with the hopes that it would be a relatable  (somewhat) examination of what it is like living in today’s climate, with the searing anxiety we all feel when we turn the news on, watching as the political world crumbles to shit. While this book did deliver on that, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

For me personally, the book felt like it had no direction. I get that this may have been a way of showing a jumbled up stream of consciousness, or it may represent the madness of the world we live in, but it just made it a less enjoyable read for me. While I did enjoy the writing, I found it flitted from thought to thought so quickly I didn’t really have time to process it.

crudo quote 1

With that being said, I did find that there were some passages that really capture how I feel about the world. These were written beautifully and eloquently in my view, but there were not quite enough of them to really convince me.

I’d recommend this book if you are a fan of the likes of Ali Smith and her writing style, or if you like books which are more about commentary than plot. I don’t think this is a bad book and I did enjoy reading it, it just isn’t the book for me.

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Blog hop: exploring new genres

Hi! Back again.

I’m sorry for the radio silence. I started my masters degree last week and so things have been a bit mad. However, I am so excited to be taking part in something I have never done before as a blogger, and that is a blog hop!

A blog hop?

Yes, a blog hop! The lovely Charlotte, from Wonderfully Bookish (please check out her blog and her socials, she is great) came up with the idea of a group of us trying to broaden our reading tastes by reading and exploring new genres, or genres that we rarely read from.

The idea behind this blog hop is to encourage us as readers to engage in different genres, in the hopes that we will be pleasantly surprised by what we pick up! Also, for me it has already allowed me to discover some new bloggers, whose posts I can’t wait to read too!

So…what genre?

When looking at my bookshelves and my Goodreads shelves, I noticed a distinct lack of urban fantasy novels. I am not a massive fantasy reader, as I find the plots somewhat intimidating. I also tend to stay away from fantasy as I do not often partake in reading series of books, as I am very non committal. However, I have been trying to rectify this recently and have been reading some more fantasy, however none of it has been set in an urban setting.

What is urban fantasy?

Essentially, urban fantasy is fiction which takes place in an urban (or primarily real world) setting. Examples would include Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series and even Harry Potter. Urban fantasy sails the line between contemporary and fantastical fiction. While urban fantasy does not need to exclusively take place in a contemporary, modern or real life world (for example in Harry Potter the wizarding and muggle worlds were quite separate), it is expected to hold some place in the world as we know (or have known) it.

The books I’m reading

So I have decided to try to read two different novels, the reviews for which I will post in the coming weeks. I have chosen these books based on the fact that Goodreads has categorised them as being of the urban fantasy genre.

I have tried to pick a relatively new urban fantasy release, alongside one which I have heard lots about in the past!

1) Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic. (Goodreads)

This book has always intrigued me, but when I tried to pick it up a few years ago I couldn’t quite get into it. I’ve heard it be referred to as “Harry Potter for grown ups”, and while I think if you compare anything to Harry Potter it’ll never meet your expectations, and while I also do not see myself as a GROWN UP, I’m really excited to be try this if it will immerse me in a magical world.

2) Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Tessa Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood

15 tales of women and witchcraft

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored. (Goodreads)

I picked this book for a few reasons. Firstly, I do love a bit of witchy fiction (I’ve enjoyed reading historical fiction novels about Salem Witches and such in the last year or so). Secondly, I never read short story collections as I always get too attached to a story and I always want more! However, from reading the synopsis of this book (which came out at the start of this month), it sounds like it has a good mix of fantasy and contemporary themes, which I am excited for. Also, it is geared towards YA readers, and YA is another area of fiction I have been eagerly exploring this year. If I have time, I plan to read this as my second book for the blog hop.

What happens next?

Each of the bloggers taking part will have made a post (like this one) today. The next step will be for all of us to read the book(s) that we have chosen and to report back with book reviews at a later date. There is no set time for this, as we all have different schedules, reading speeds and commitments. Personally, I have some other book reviews to post in the coming weeks while I read these books, and so I am hoping to have reviews up by the end of the month. If not, expect them at the beginning of September! In that post I shall link my fellow blogger’s reviews also, in case you would like to follow up on their progress too!

Who else is taking part?

There are 6 of us taking part in this event, and I am extremely excited to read everybody else’s posts. As someone who is new(ish) to book blogging and the community I have not met or made many blogger friends (I would love to start chatting to new people!) and this is such a great way to get to know other people and interact with other bloggers. Yay! Please check out their posts about this blog hop, these are some great bloggers!

Charlotte from Wonderfully Bookish 

Fleur from Fleur’s Makeup Box 

Ellie from Foxy Travels UK 

Jade from Reading With Jade 

Kelly from This Northern Gal 


So! That’s that! I hope you guys will stick around for the eventual book reviews from this blog hop. I am immensely excited and I really hope that I enjoy these books!

Also, please bear with me on the scheduling front. Once I fall into the swing of my masters and my new work pattern I will find a way to fit my posts around. I have so many posts coming!

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Educated by Tara Westover: Book Review.

Tara Westover was seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom. Instead of traditional lessons, she grew up learning how to stew herbs into medicine, scavenging in the family scrap yard and helping her family prepare for the apocalypse. She had no birth certificate and no medical records and had never been enrolled in school.

Westover’s mother proved a marvel at concocting folk remedies for many ailments. As Tara developed her own coping mechanisms, little by little, she started to realize that what her family was offering didn’t have to be her only education. Her first day of university was her first day in school—ever—and she would eventually win an esteemed fellowship from Cambridge and graduate with a PhD in intellectual history and political thought. (Goodreads)

*TRIGGER WARNINGS: THIS BOOK MAKES REFERENCE TO PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL ABUSE, NEGLECT, MENTAL HEALTH, GAS LIGHTING AND SPIRITUAL TOXICITY*

educated tara westover

I picked this book up after hearing a couple of YouTubers mention it and due to an interest in the psychology behind survivalism and the way that this can impact a child. This memoir is a fantastic discussion of not only living in a survivalist household, but living an isolated life with a narrow minded family, the pain and difficulty in separating yourself from your family, challenging the thought processes and beliefs that have been ingrained in you and seeking to better yourself.

This book was such an interesting and beautifully written read. It is essentially loosely split into two parts: the first recounting the bulk of Tara’s childhood and recapping a lot of the moments that Tara remembers as being pivotal in her upbringing, the second recounting Tara’s experience of getting into education and going to college and distancing herself from the life of her childhood.  Tara recounts so many troublesome experiences from her childhood in this book, but during the first half of the book her narration is such that it almost seems that she does not see these experiences for what they were. I found this a really interesting adjustment between the two parts of the book, where in the first half she is almost writing with that same childhood innocence or lack of understanding of situations. Overall, the writing style and narration in this book is eloquent and well constructed and so intriguing.

educated 3

What I really enjoyed about this book was that Tara is writing a memoir while still in the midst of a relative separation from her family, which is a very hard and traumatic thing to go through. While many people choose to write memoirs in later life or years after a pivotal event, Tara is still going through and processing the separation and distance from her family. In addition, as much as some of the experiences Tara has had with her family are despicable and alarming, it is reiterated that Tara does not hate them and that she is very understanding and passive when she considers their way of life. There was no “cutting ties” moment, but the experience has been an ongoing process.

This book has a lot of  important comments to make on family and parental relationships in particular. It really challenges the notion that parents know best and illustrates how parents mould and shape their children. However, in Tara’s case, it also illustrates how there is still hope for people in situations of control to break out and become their own people.

educated 2

I also really appreciated some of Westover’s commentary on feminism, mental health and other topics which everyone can widely relate to. In particular, I absolutely adore her discussion about finding feminism in her time at university and reading John Stuart Mill and finding a quote which brings her enlightenment in regards to women’s rights. Overall, the part of the book where Tara is becoming educated and learning about the world at the college, where she finally begin to understand her talents for academia and finds her home in this world really touched my heart. I can really relate to the passion for learning and social sciences and academia and such, and I loved reading her becoming a part of it.

educated 1

This book is really captivating and different from any memoir I’ve read. The way in which Westover shares her experiences will have you hooked from start to finish and give you hope. Her story goes from being what her family have predetermined to being her own, truly remarkable journey and you really end up routing for her success, while at the same time grieving with her for the loss of her family.

I hope I have maybe convinced you to read this, but if you don’t want to take my word for it, take Barrack Obama’s, who stated:

“Tara Westover’s Educated is a remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind.”

And with that, I shall see you next time!


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