books

September Reading Wrap-Up: Black, Female Authors

In light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and many other Black people in the world due to the racism that is so ingrained in society, both now and for generations, I decided that it was time to further educate myself. I looked at my bookshelves and realised that 98% of the works I owned were written by white writers. It was time for a change, and so I decided to dedicate September to reading novels by Black, female authors. I feel it is important to note before I begin writing that the experiences and sufferings of Black people should not be white-centric: white liberals should not be painted as heroes for their allyship with the Black Lives Matter Movement. That is no way my intention for this blog post. But, I think it is important for myself and for white people and Non-Black people to read, listen, watch, learn and educate themselves. As an avid reader, I decided that my bookshelves were a great place to start. I decided to read a mixture of books, and it is important to note that Black writing is not a monolith. The authors I chose to read this month come from many different places, they write in different styles that fit in with their genres and they deal with issues of race in many different ways. This diversity expanded my knowledge and as Black authors’ lived experiences inform their writing in different ways, the novels I chose took me to new places and gave me new insights which I heavily value. Whilst I discovered new authors and even added a couple of new books to my ‘favourites’ shelf on GoodReads, I also explored an old favourite of mine, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and was extremely happy to revisit her writing. With all of this said, I believe it is important to recognise that my reading material in the past has not been diverse enough, if at all, and moving forward I aim to make a conscious effort to read more Black writing. Reading Black writing and blogging about it, posting on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement and similar should not, in any way, be performative. This support and proactiveness of white and Non-Black people should continue even after the media reports are silent. I am keen to continue my education, and the diversification of my reading. If anyone has any recommendations, I’d really appreciate you leaving them in the comments.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Reading time: just less than 1 day
GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

After reading ‘Queenie,’ I am absolutely not surprised that it is a Sunday Times Bestseller and has been longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. I absolutely loved this book – it made me laugh, cringe and cry. It is quite rare for me to find books that make me physically laugh out loud but I found Carty-Williams’ character of Queenie to be absolutely hilarious. I was particularly fond of Queenie’s friendship with Kyazike, which was both endearing and amusing. Carty-Williams’ depiction of racial micro aggressions in friendships, relationships and the workplace was particularly eye opening and shed light on the challenges faced by Black women every single day. Through Queenie’s everyday life and the culmination of many challenging events that ultimately impact on her mental health, Carty-Williams demonstrates both the conscious and unconscious racial bias ingrained into our society, from within the medical services to Queenie’s place of work. 

A quote I found particularly interesting was ‘I wished that well-meaning white liberals would think before they said things that they thought were perfectly innocent.’ Whilst we all must keep fighting the fight and speaking out on the Black Lives Matters movement, this particular part of the book reminded me that we should keep educating ourselves – there is always a lot more to learn, especially for non-Black people, and we need to continue to read, listen and understand the correct ways to speak on the matter.

I have spent many years writing about the problems faced by women in society, in the economy and in a political climate, amongst many other circumstances, and it’s extremely important to recognise that it is impossible to be a feminist unless you are an intersectional feminist. Carty-Williams’ harrowing writing relating to Queenie’s sexual relationships and in a broader sense, Black women’s experiences with men, broke my heart and educated me on the importance of recognising not just female struggles, but Black female struggles.

Arguably, my favourite part of the book was Queenie’s relationship with her grandparents, particularly her grandmother. The balance between matriarchal affection and tough love made an endearing read and as someone who is extremely close to my own grandmother, it resonated with me a lot. I absolutely adored their relationship and the resolution of Queenie and her mother’s strained relationship at the end of the novel.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Reading time: 3 days
GoodReads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Where do I start? I had been looking forward to reading Smith’s work for a very long time, and had to start with her debut. Please don’t get me wrong, I found this book to be amazingly witty, with clever quips galore that had me laughing out loud. Smith uses her quick wit to create a whole world, spanning three generations, and depicts the nuances of the differing cultures within the novel. Smith encapsulates the meeting of different ethnicities, cultures and demographics to detail the lives of Archibald and Samad, and their respective families. Smith writes with constant reference to varying iconographies of popular culture which is an element of White Teeth that I absolutely loved. Archibald himself gave me Humbert Humbert vibes, marrying Clara when she was quite young and in all, seemingly being a little bit dense.

The strange thing about this novel, whilst witty and clever, is that it forms no cohesive plotline. With a deviance in timeline and a wealth of characters to be narrated, I found the lack of cohesive plot difficult to engage with, which is one of the reasons that I was limited to three GoodRead stars only. I felt the length of the novel was unnecessary, the book is split into four different parts and, by the final part, I was willing the ending to come, finding that Smith unnecessarily deviates from the plot onto tangents that add nothing to the story for my personal liking. The parts dedicated to both Samad and Irie were my personal favourites, and read them with the most speed. The lack of cohesiveness for me, makes me think that this novel may be slightly forgettable for me, though the characters themselves are memorable enough.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy this novel – whilst I felt no attachment to the characters, I thought the character development was excellent and Smith’s strong narrative voice made for an amazing debut novel. The quirky characters and their diverse and creative family histories made for some amusing reading and I would not be discouraged from picking up another Zadie Smith novel in the future.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Reading time: a few hours
GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Bluest Eye is novel that follows Pecola, a young Black girl in 1940s Ohio that wishes more than anything to have blue eyes, a feature on many young white girls her age that is considered beautiful. The novel follows both her desire and the traumatic events that happen in her life, and also pertains to her family and their background. Morrison alternates between writing from Claudia MacTeer’s point of view, Percola’s point of view and sprinkles in third-person, omniscient narration to tell the tragic tale of Percola’s life. 

Firstly, it is impossible not to mention Morisson’s writing style. Though writing about hard hitting, heartbreaking topics, her prose is soft and fluid and almost feels as though the book is one long, beautiful poem. Morrison’s skill of writing so beautifully of something so heartbreaking only makes the book that much more tragic. Her words and descriptions are reminiscent of the era, the book quite literally taking the reader back to Lorain, Ohio in the 1940s. Every time I picked up the book, I was transported. 

I quite literally have no words for the beauty of this book, it left me with a broken heart and is a story that will stay with you forever. Exploring not only the general racial oppressions of the Black people in 1940s America, but also the tragedies and oppressions faced by Black women. From beauty standards devised from white features, to the abuse and violence imposed on Black women by men. The bluest eyes in the novel represent the beauty of the white, middle-class in Lorain, Ohio but, (*spoiler alert*) as she finally obtains the bluest eyes that she has for so long desired, she loses her sanity in exchange. An ironic, beautifully told tragic tale that I will carry with me forever. I can’t wait to read more of Morrison’s work.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Reading time: 2 days
GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have very few words for this book other than utterly incredible. Americanah tells the tale of Ifemelu and Obinze, childhood sweethearts from Nigeria, whose lives change during many years apart during their respective UK and USA hiatuses. The novel details the course of their lives when they meet again in Lagos during adulthood. 

I have always been a huge fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, her novels on feminism (namely ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ and ‘Dear Ijeawele’) are those which introduced her to me, and I relied on them heavily to support my thesis during my undergraduate dissertation. I now attribute Purple Hibiscus to being one of my favourite books of all time, so I was keen to read Americanah. I was not disappointed, and now may dare say that I loved it even more than Purple Hibiscus.

The character development in this book is incredible, Adichie leaves the reader actively rooting and hoping for the characters. I loved Ifemelu, and was completely enraptured in her relationship with Obinze. This element of character development and thus reader attachment is what I found to be missing in Zadie Smith’s writing, picking up Americanah which, for me, was a huge page turner, was largely refreshing. 

The book is rife with dialogue, conversations in the UK, USA and Nigeria, with both Black and white people, of varying ages in varying social settings, and this together paired with the inflection of time throughout the novel really made clear the continuation of racism, micro aggressions and prejudices. Adichie raises the idea of ‘being Black’ in the USA vs. being Nigerian in Nigeria, and I really learned a lot about Nigerian and more widely, African experiences of expatriation. Adichie skilfully worked the topic of racial injustice and prejudice into a novel that was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Whilst the ending was not entirely sad, it still left me sobbing. I can’t recommend Adichie’s works more to anyone, wanting to learn and educate themselves more on issues of racism, or simply to someone who wants to read an incredible novel.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Reading time: 2 – 3 hours
GoodReads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Renni Eddo-Lodge’s ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ (2017) is arguably the most important book in my entire list. This book taught me more information about Black British history than all of my years in education. If you’re looking to learn and be educated on matters and motivations relating to the Black Lives Matter Movement, this is the book for you. It’s the book for everyone. It taught me how revisionist and reductionist the British education system’s portrayal of British history really is, and I felt that I walked away with a wealth of knowledge that is essential for all to know.

Eddo-Lodge humanises the issues that Black people face in British society. She puts a name to the children who suffered under the racial discrimination of the social care system, the parents who suffered under the prejudice of the British healthcare system and the people who suffered under the brutality and negligence of the British criminal system. Eddo-Lodge makes it impossible for Brits to say ‘it isn’t as bad in the UK as in the USA,’ something which has been circulating around social media for months now. She humanises and showcases the racial injustices and micro aggressions ingrained in all aspects of Britain’s institutions for every reader to see and understand with her poignant words. It is impossible to read this book without feeling ashamed of the UK and without feeling to need to further educate yourself and understand that the UK is an extremely racist country. Whilst it isn’t written into the GCSE curriculum or A Level specification, it is our history, and we need to learn and understand it if anything is going to change.

This book made my heart ache and imposed shame and disgust on me, but in the best way. I put it down feeling more educated and motivated to really understand more of my own country’s history and the ways in which our society needs to change. I couldn’t give this any less than 5 GoodReads stars, I would have given it 10 if I could. If there is any book in this list that you choose to read, I’d argue it should be this one.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Reading time: 1 week
GoodReads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

There were many things that I loved about this book and many things that I didn’t love, hence the 3 star rating on GoodReads. I feel as though a 3 star rating isn’t going to be very popular, given that the book won the 2019 ManBooker Prize! I can totally see why she won the prize, and appreciate the skill of her writing. However, my reading preferences meant that I wasn’t blown away by the novel. I feel separating my loves and my dislikes into two paragraphs is the best way to explain this…

Evaristo’s intersectionality in this novel is incredible. I feel it is so rare to read about, for example, non-binary identifying people in modern day fiction as a whole. So to have a non-binary character in the novel was so refreshing, it added a new dynamic to the plot and I loved learning about it through a fictional tale. In general, Evaristo’s inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community is something I really loved too. She didn’t stick to the rigid character type of cisgender, heterosexual women with a wealth of men-related issues. It was great to see diverse characters with different life experiences, and actually made the plot so much more engaging. I felt that whilst the book was fictionally enjoyable, I was learning too, which is something I really value in a novel.

The novel also has little-to-no punctuation. At first, I found this so strange and really quite difficult to engage with, but, as the novel went on, I actually found that the book flowed beautifully due to this grammatical element and it made it more of an enjoyable read for me. It made the ease of picking up the book and quite literally flowing through the pages incredible, and felt it was a representation and reflection of the fluidity of characters within the novel itself.

However, I am very much a reader of plot-driven novels. I love when a book is driven by the plot rather than the characters, I feel it makes for much more of a page-turner and keeps me engaged throughout. Evaristo’s chapters focus on a different character each time, whilst they are seemingly all linked in some way. I found it difficult to keep engaged and saw myself oftentimes losing interest in the story. As the book is character driven, I hoped it would be a novel I would be able to dip in and out of, however I didn’t feel this way and found it difficult to pick up once I had put it down.

Having said this, I did enjoy the book on the whole and am keen to read more Evaristo novels. I also thought the cover art was beautiful and love how the novel looks on my shelves. The cohesiveness in art work between all of her novels is so visually pleasing. Perhaps I’ll get on better with more of her work but for this particular novel, I was not blown away but did enjoy the book.


The fight for racial equality continues, and reading/educating ourselves is the bare minimum of work that needs to be done. For more information on how we, as a human race, can help, please see the links below.

Support #BlackLivesMatter
Ways to Help
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter Links
Black Mental Health Matters
Black Minds Matter UK
M4BL – The Movement for Black Lives

books

The Best Books I Read in 2019

2019 was my book-ban year. I had hundreds of books on my shelves that I just hadn’t gotten around to reading, and I decided that in 2019, I wouldn’t buy any books but rather read everything that was outstanding on my shelves. It’s been great, and whilst I’ve read books that I didn’t necessarily like or love, I’ve equally read books that have quickly become my favourites. I loved many of the books that I’ve read this year, but in this post I’ve listed six that I now consider some of the best books that I’ve ever read. Whilst it is now February 2020, it’s never too late to write about books you love!

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
This is a book that had been sat on my shelf for a while. The only other Picoult book that I had read was, predictably, My Sister’s Keeper. I really enjoyed it and thought her writing style was great – I love the way each chapter focuses on a different character’s perspective and think that it adds real depth and character development to her stories. I decided it was time to give Salem Falls a go and I really didn’t regret it. At first, I wasn’t too sure about the Wicca element of the story, I felt it could take away from the realism of the tale. In the end, I found it only enhanced the story and it became a real page turner. I was invested in the fate of the characters, particularly Addie and Jack. I thought it was a different approach to a harrowing tale and in the end, it really worked. I’d recommend this novel to those people who like both page turners and romance. I’ll definitely be picking up more Picoult novels in 2020.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I’d heard great things about Salinger’s work and had always wanted to read The Catcher in the Rye, and couldn’t resist picking up this beautiful Penguin copy when browsing in Waterstones. A seemingly superficial novel but when read with deeper focus, becomes an intriguing comment on American society in the late 40s/early 50s, particularly what it means to be a youth at that time. Holden is full of angst and his story epitomises the true feelings of alienation, identity and youth-hood. A coming-of-age story that is definitely worth the accolades and prizes it has received, and also a relatively short novel that could be read in one sitting. For anyone looking to dip a toe into contemporary classics, I would argue that The Catcher in the Rye is the way to go.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
There is nothing surer than the fact that this book was my ultimate favourite from 2019. I couldn’t resist the absolutely gorgeous Virago Modern Classics edition, the cover is beautiful and compliments my book shelf perfectly. At first, I found this book to be a little bit slow on the uptake – du Maurier is extremely descriptive, the intricacies of this book make you feel as though you’re genuinely stood in Manderley with the characters, as though you’re a part of their conversations, of them readying the morning room, as though you’re experiencing the memory of Rebecca first hand. As the mystery grew, I became more intrigued but the one thing that made this book my favourite of 2019 was the plot twist. I really was not expecting it at all, and I think that’s where du Maurier’s description and intricate detail is important. Without this, I don’t think I would have been so shocked at the plot twist. 10/10, could not recommend this book more.

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez
My only collection of short stories of 2019, I thought it was brilliant. Twelve stories that relate to the strangeness of living in a foreign land, I found a lot of it, whilst largely symbolic, to be heavily relatable having previously lived in two different countries (Spain and Portugal). What is means to be ‘foreign’ is the common theme and something which I haven’t read about before, so it was refreshing to read something new. My two personal favourite stories were ‘I Sell My Dreams’ and ‘Maria dos Prazeres.’ I found a lot of the writing to be dream-like, whimsical and more fitting to a fantasy theme, yet still portraying a realistic, societal issue. For this reason, I found García Márquez to be such a talented writer and I can’t wait to read more of his work.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
At some point in their lives, everyone should read this book. It took me a while to get around to it but when I finally did, I didn’t regret it! A philosophical novel but still a page turner, I loved following the protagonist’s journey. It really made me think about my approaches in life and being more positive/prioritising myself and my goals. It’s also a relatively short novel and can be read in one sitting. I’m not the biggest fan of the edition that I have but Waterstones and Blackwell’s sell beautiful, hardback editions of the novel for anyone interested in buying it. I’m looking forward to reading more of Coelho’s novels, I feel they offer great lessons of life but also amazing page turners.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I would argue that this is possibly one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, and considering the premise to the plot, I’m almost ashamed to say that I enjoyed it. Hubert Hubert is pathetic and honestly one of my least favourite characters I have ever come across, but nevertheless, I loved the book and can see why Lolita is so popular. Nabokov has influenced me to delve deeper into Russian literature, despite the very strange storyline and I can’t wait to read more of what Russia has to offer. I particularly love the Penguin Classics copy of Lolita that I own, it was relatively well priced and I picked it up in Waterstone’s. I know it’s a common debate when Lolita is discussed but I personally do believe that Hubert Hubert is a monster, nevertheless I really enjoyed the book and would say it is definitely worth the read.

I can’t wait to lift my book-ban this year and read brand new, current books. Hopefully I’ll come across some that are just as amazing as this year! For any avid GoodReads users out there, I log and review everything that I read and also make lists of books that I still need to read, you can find and follow me by clicking here.

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books

Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

The first time I wrote about Milk & Honey was in the first ever edition of my Wishlist series, which you can read by clicking here. There was much hype surrounding the book, the implications and meanings of the poetry and almost every female within a 30 mile radius had this book in hand. Shortly after writing my wishlist post, I actually went on to buy the book. I’ve had it for a few months now, and read and re-read it I would say over ten times. I have completely fallen in love with Kaur’s prose, but I didn’t want to write a post on the book until I felt completely compelled to: until I understood the meanings and intentions behind her work, and until I felt like I could do the book justice. I think the time has come!

Firstly, I want to comment on the appearance of the book, how beautiful is the cover? I suppose it’s arguable that the book itself doesn’t affect the content: ‘do not judge a book by it’s cover’ etc, but it just looks so super pretty on my bookshelf. It had a matte black cover which feels so luxurious, and the monochrome colour scheme with a hint of honey-gold is both appropriate and gorgeous. I know it doesn’t affect the skill of Kaur’s words and the effect they have on the reader, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as a beautiful, well constructed book.

While on the topic of appearance, I’d also like to comment on the illustrations of the book. They aren’t the epitome of art; they aren’t super detailed, but they are functional, simple, and through this, become skilful and almost beautiful. The way in which the images seem to be hand-drawn almost with a ballpoint pen, makes the words even more relatable to everyday life, makes the pages adaptable to your own personal situations. Much like her words, the images are so simple that they take on their own beauty.

But now for the actual book itself: the ‘poetry.’ I quote the word ‘poetry’ because I’m not sure how far to argue that Kaur’s words do classify in this genre. Of course, the words themselves are not a novel, they do not progress into a storyline of such, but they do not seem to follow a metric, they do not form a conventional form of poetry. I’ve read much critique of Kaur’s work because of this, but isn’t this what makes the book unique, beautiful? The simplicity of her words and the uncomplicated nature of the structure, for me, is what makes the book so special. She is unapologetically brutal, she doesn’t miss a beat, and she talks of her themes with the utmost candour. For this, I have the utmost respect for Rupi Kaur. Anyone who is planning on reading this book should be aware of triggering topics such as sexual abuse and rape, topics of which she is very frank about. Her frankness and openness about such topics, are what make her a bold and incredible writer.

The book is split into four parts: The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking and The Healing. It becomes almost a process; a cycle that I’m sure every woman has experienced or will experience at least once in her life. I love every part just as much as each other but I would say that The Healing is my favourite, it’s both empowering and reassuring. Below I have left some of my favourite quotes from each section. I fully recommend purchasing this book and giving it a read, you won’t be disappointed.

The Hurting

‘A daughter should not have to beg her father for a relationship’ (28)

‘I was made heavy: half blade and half silk, difficult to forget and not easy for the mind to follow’ (30)

‘the thing about having an alcoholic parent is an alcoholic parent doesn’t exist, simply an alcoholic who could not stay sober long enough to raise their kids’ (39)

‘you tell me quiet down cause my opinions make me less beautiful, but I was not made with a fire in my belly so I could be put out’ (30)

The Loving

‘I want to be so complete I could light a whole city and then I want to have you cause the two of us combined could set it on fire’ (59)

‘You might not have been my first love but you were the love that made all the other loves irrelevant’ (63)

‘you look like you smell of honey and no pain, let me have a taste of that’ (66)

‘how do you turn a forest fire like me so soft I turn into running water’ (65)

The Breaking

‘don’t mistake salt for sugar: if he wants to be with you he will, it’s that simple’ (85)

‘I didn’t leave because I stopped loving you, I left because the longer I stayed the less I loved myself’ (95)

‘I am a museum full of art but you had your eyes shut’ (100)

‘I had to leave, I was tired of allowing you to make me feel anything less than whole’ (107)

‘You cannot leave me and have me too, I cannot exist in two places at once – when you ask if we can still be friends’ (136)

The Healing

‘Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself’ (153)

‘If you were born with the weakness to fall, you were born with the strength to rise’ (156)

‘fall in love with your solitude’ (161)

‘your body is a museum of natural disasters, can you grasp how stunning that is?’ (173)

‘the world gives you so much pain and here you are making gold out of it – there is nothing purer than that’ (185)

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books

5 Great Books I Recently Read #2

  1. The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan: The structure of this book is something which caught my eye and part of the reason I picked it up. Written from the point of views of various students, this book is an insight into the world of high school, and an insight into the minds of the modern adolescent. Being a modern adolescent myself (although I could technically be classed as an fully grown adult now, sob!), I found the book relatable. I found the description of the high school atmosphere nostalgic: the gossip, the friendships, the arguments. It’s a book that discusses the struggles of high school but isn’t a book that dismisses them, Levithan conveys the importance and struggles of young people, and for this I think the book is brilliant.

  2. If I Stay by Gayle Foreman: I had high hopes for this book, as I’ve wanted to read it for a long time; I wasn’t let down! Truth be told, I wanted to read this book in desire for wanting to watch the film. I hate watching films that are based on a book, without reading the book, is that just me? So I picked up a used copy from a charity shop, and I loved it! The style of writing and the plot very much reminded me of ‘The Lovely Bones,’ which is a book that I’ve read over 20 times, (if you have never read this book, I highly recommend it, its super special to me!). The character development in this book is really good, and the story too is gripping. Would highly recommend!
  3. After You by Jojo Moyes: I’ll start by saying the obvious: it wasn’t as good as the first book. But I really don’t hold it against Moyes, ‘Me Before You’ was a masterpiece, and super hard to follow, and for all other soppy romance novel lovers like me, I think you’d all agree that a sequel wasn’t even really needed to this book. I say that with the greatest of intentions, because ‘After You’ was still a brilliant book. I still found myself encapsulated in the lives of the characters, which seems to be something that Moyes does really well. While I think a sequel wasn’t wholly necessary, I simultaneously think that Moyes rounded off the story of Louisa Clark’s life really well, and I’m super glad I read this book.
  4. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: Okay, so this book was a little out of my comfort zone, I’m known for reading either as many tear-jerking, soppy romance novels as I can get my hands on, or a classic, a book from years ago which is studied in English Literature classes all over the world. But I decided to pick up this book because I’d heard it was highly acclaimed and praised as being a masterpiece. The praise wasn’t wrong, I read this in a day, and I found myself completely attached to Craig! It reminded me of ‘Girl, Interrupted’ a little bit, which is one of my favourite books and films. I liked how Vizzini took a taboo subject, and made it relatable, he wrote about suicide in such a way that it took away the fear of asking for help, as Craig did – a review on the cover of my copy says ‘this is an important book,’ and for my generation, and generations to come: it truly is.
  5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: this book gives me vibes of ‘The Virgin Suicides’, in that the style of writing seems to be voyeuristic like that of Jeffrey Eugenides, the book is confined to one space, and we see the unfolding of events through the eyes of Cadence. The thing about this book was that it was a short read, but it was a read that had me turning page after page until an hour later, I was done. I couldn’t put it down. By the end of the novel, my jaw had hit the floor! The ending was completely unexpected! Giving an insight into both the world and the prejudice of the rich, this book truly transports you.

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books

5 Great Books I Recently Read

On reflection, 2016 was a year full of amazing books. Entering into the first month of 2017, I wanted to write a post about some amazing books that I read in the past year. As a languages student, I love reading books in all three languages that I speak, and in 2016 I discovered some really great stories by some really great authors. I didn’t necessarily read new releases, but just books that I personally discovered myself. Here are five of my favourites from the past 12 months:

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: maybe I’m a little behind with this one, as I feel I might say a couple of times in this post, but I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this book. This book, for me, was a charity shop find. I’d heard good things about it, and saw it sitting in a charity shop at the start of the year for around £2, so decided to pick it up. It sat on my shelf until the end of the summer, when I read it in around two days. A book historically situated in 1939 Germany, shortly before World War II, I couldn’t believe how gripped I was. Cleverly narrated from the point of view of death, the book tells the story of Liesel Meminger, and her struggle to live within the Nazi regime. It describes her passion for reading, the written word and her determination to read even the books prohibited to her. In all, it’s a book that I couldn’t put down and a book that made me laugh, cry and learn a lot.
  2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: speaking of books that made me cry, I feel like Me Before You is a book which was in every woman’s hands at some point during 2016. It seems this book needs no introduction, nor any synopsis, but Me Before You is the story of Louisa Clark, a woman who falls in love with Will Traynor, for whom she cares, after he became paralysed in a motorbike accident. I read this book in less than 24 hours and was in tears by the end of it, but it was so worth it. I am a sucker for a romance novel and this tug on all the heart strings possible; if you’re a fan of the romance genre this isn’t a book you want to pass up. There were chapters that had me in tears of laughters and others that had me crying with sadness but in all, the book was amazing. I also saw the film, but was disappointed: the book is definitely better. I received the sequel, Me After You, as a Christmas present this year and I’m excited to read it.
  3. Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis: this is a book I actually read for a class I took at university this year, Brazilian Literature. I read it in Portuguese, but I do believe there is an English translation, but this book was absolutely amazing. It was written in 1889 but is a book that could easily be placed in modern day, and a book that can be read with ease. It is a novel narrated by Bento, who looks back on his life and his fascination and love for a girl named Capitú. My favourite thing about this book is that it really situates the reader in Rio de Janeiro, it completely took me away from rainy old England and I was captivated by the setting of the book. Aside from this, I was speculating over the ending of the book until I finally finished it. I won’t drop any spoilers in this post, but if you have interests in Brazilian literature or even just extremely well written books, Dom Casmurro is definitely one you will want to pick up.
  4. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides: this is another book which sat on my shelf for months before I finally picked it up. I would go as far as saying that this book has been on my shelf for years, and I’m so glad that I finally read it. Eugenides writes in a style that I’ve never read before, almost voyeuristic. The book tells the accounts of the lives of the Lisbon girls, from the point of view of the boys who lived in their neighbourhood. Each one, tellingly commits suicide: as the book title suggests, but the story is not sad, is not dramatic, yet is simply a recall of what happened through the boys’ eyes. The boys’ fascination with the Lisbon sisters left me with the same fascination, I put the book down thinking about the reasoning for their suicides, the reasoning for the restrictions in their lives, the reasoning for their differing characteristics. It’s a book that stays with you for weeks after you’ve put it down.
  5. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: I’ve saved the best for last, because this book has become one of my favourite books of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. It takes a lot for me to consider a book to be my favourite, but this book had all the right elements. The book is written from a Oskar’s point of view, a nine year old boy who’s father died in the 9/11 attacks. Immediately I fell in love with Oskar, the cutest, smartest character I have ever read about, I just wanted to scoop him up and give him a cuddle. Oskar finds a key in a vase which he accidentally smashed in his father’s closet, which is with an envelope with the name ‘Black’ on it, and the story follows his journey throughout New York City to find what the key leads to. It was such a beautiful story, another story which had me laughing and crying, but most of all I love this book because I grew so attached to the characters. Safran Foer is a genius and I can’t wait to read more of his books in 2017.

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