The New Normal

Well. What a time to find myself itching to blog again. It’s safe to say that the world is more than a little bit scary and confusing right now and, you know what, I don’t really want to dwell on that here. Because you probably don’t need another person’s opinion or think piece on the matter. Suffice it to say, I’m working from home for the foreseeable because I’m fortunate to work in an industry, and for a company, that can work remotely and I am very grateful for that.

Truth be told, I’ve found myself in a bit of a lull anyway due to a mixture of personal circumstances (we had a family bereavement at the start of the year) and a general lack of reading and blogging (the two are definitely a vicious, connected cycle). The upshot of this has meant I’m six books behind my Goodreads reading goal for the year and I don’t even want to look at how my other yearly reading challenges are going.

Despite all this, I want to be more mindful of how I spend my time and set proper time aside again for reading and blogging.  Not having a commute or a proper reading lunch break any more (I know, I need to work on that) in the last week or so has really illustrated to me how much I relied on those designated reading times built into my usual daily routine. Whilst I’m trying to create working routines whilst working remotely, I might as well try to include more specific reading time in my schedule! And I want to stop finding excuses for not reading or not blogging – specifically I want to stop worrying too much about everything needing to be perfect or original before I hit ‘post’ on a blog post I’ve been drafting. Because, right now, the world is far from perfect and it has been great to see the online book community come together even more than usual to keep each other safe and sane in this ever-evolving, scary situation the world finds itself in.

So, what have I been reading whilst the world is (metaphorically) on fire? Well, I’ve mainly been reaching for comforting things. Mainly due to watching Drinking By My Shelf’s reading vlogs where she read The Princess Diaries series and A Series of Unfortunate Events in 24 hours (a phenomenal feat, to be honest), I decided to re-read the first The Princess Diaries book by Meg Cabot and it was a lovely exercise in nostalgia. Mia is such a dramatic 14-year old girl and I just loved it. So fun, so funny, made me facepalm at her questionable teenage decisions – what more could you want from a trip down memory lane in the form of that book? (Thanks to Disney+ arriving in the UK at the exact right time I’ve also indulged how much I love the films and rewatched the first one because Anne Hathaway is a delight and Julie Andrews, a national treasure.)

I also won a giveaway on the author Lucy Parker’s Twitter, where I won ebook copies of her London Celebrities series, so I had to re-read the first book, Act Like It which I listened to on audiobook last year and adored. It’s such a fluffy and fun contemporary and is based on the antics of actors in the West End and involves fake-dating so, obviously, I love it. I highly recommend it, and the audiobook is fantastic and on Scribd for anyone with a subscription.

In a not-at-all comforting vein, I’m also currently reading Libba Bray’s The Diviners, mostly via audiobook thanks to the chilling and perfectly pitched narration from January LaVoy. It’s set in 1920s New York but has a heavy occult/paranormal bent and I absolutely adore the vibe of the book. I cannot believe it has taken me so long to finally pick it up (I’m kicking myself so much) but I’ll be sure to continue on with the series once I’ve finish up this first book.

 

So there we have it – this is the New Normal, I guess, but in the meantime I’m going to return to books and blogging to help maintain that sense of normality in what will hopefully be a temporary world.

How is everyone? Please check in and say hi in the comments and let me know how you’re doing! What was the last really great book you read? Looking forward to any books being published soon? What are you reading at the moment? Let’s chat books!


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20 Books for 2020

If you know me at all, you know I love a good to-do list. The only way I semi-function at work at the moment is because my work diary is just a to-do list for each day and nothing is more satisfying than ticking a box once you’ve finished something. A colleague at my previous job even put tick boxes on my ‘sorry you’re leaving’ card because they reminded her so much of me.

It therefore stands to reason that I quite like a good ‘to read’ list too. Except, here’s the thing – I don’t do great with monthly TBRs, unless it’s for a readathon that has specific challenges, because it’s simply too much restriction and my brain is oddly stubborn and goes ‘well let’s read the exact opposite of that instead!!’. (Really helpful, thanks brain.) But, longer term ‘to read’ lists? Those I can do… which brings me onto the theme of today’s blog post…

Is it a really a nice round number of a year if you don’t take advantage of it by putting together a numerically-matching list of books to read in the next twelve months? I don’t think so, so with that in mind I have put together 20 books that I want to read in 2020. These are backlist primarily and a mix of some of the longest-standing books on my TBR and the ones that I just really feel I will be in the mood for in 2020.


  1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  3. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
  4. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  5. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  7. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  8. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  9. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  10. The Diviners by Libba Bray
  11. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  12. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  13. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  14. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  15. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  16. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
  17. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  18. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  19. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  20. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Yes, I am really going to hate myself later considering the amount of books of 500+ pages on this list but we are starting off 2020 with reckless positivity! We shall see how long that lasts…

Do you have a similar lists of book you want to read this year? Do share it below in the comments, I’d love to hear what books you’ve got on the docket for your reading year!


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Review | Tweet Cute by Emma Lord [Blog Tour]

Tweet Cute_CoverTitleTweet Cute (2020)
Author: Emma Lord
Publisher: St Martin’s Publishing Group
Imprint: Wednesday Books
Read: 20th – 26th December 2019
Genre: young-adult; contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built. As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Wrap Up | December 2019

Welcome one, welcome all, to my December Wrap Up! Yes, it’s a little late, but it’s nowhere near as late as November’s wrap up was so I think we can count that as a win, right?

December was somehow simultaneously a stressful and uneventful month. As I mentioned in my November Wrap Up, we’re having building work done at our house which means that we’ve moved into my housemate Liz’s parents’ house whilst it’s being done. I’m so grateful for their hospitality but, you know how it is, at some point you just want to get back to your own house and home comforts.

Going back to my parents’ place for Christmas was good but the festive period didn’t feel all that festive because my grandma is really unwell in hospital so that’s made everyone a little bit unsettled. Still, it was nice to have a break from work, and now I’m writing this on the eve of having to go back to work tomorrow, I’m jealous of past me who had the holidays ahead of her. Still, let’s see what I got read in the final month of 2019, shall we?


In December, I read a total of 8 books 7 fiction and 1 non-fiction – and 1 was a re-read (marked by *). This amounted to 1826 pages in total.

In terms of format: 4 were audiobook, were paperback, 1 was an eARC, and 1 was an ebook. As for genre, 2 were classics, 2 were children’s, 1 was dystopianwas YA contemporary, 1 was non-fiction/memoir, and 1 was contemporary romance.

Onto the books themselves…

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Wrap Up | November 2019

Welcome one, welcome all, to my November Wrap Up! ‘Emma,’ you may be saying, ‘it’s 23rd December, why are you only just posting your November wrap up?’ Well, that’s a good question and to be perfectly honest, I don’t have a decent explanation or even an excuse. November felt like a blur, as did December for that matter, and it was mostly mildly stressful at any given moment.

A large part of this is because the building work started at our house in the back-half of November, work which has rendered the entirety of downstairs a no-go area – to the point that we ended up moving out to Liz’s parents house, thank god for their hospitality! In the middle of that, it was Liz’s birthday and we went to London for a couple of days to celebrate. We saw Hamilton (again, but for one last time with the cast we have come to know and love!) and Phantom of the Opera and it was great. We also went to The Science Museum, a place which I have somehow managed to never go into despite going to London a whole bunch of times, and saw their From Ciphers to Cybersecurity exhibition which was really good and would definitely recommend! Because we can’t stop/won’t stop, we also managed to somehow squeeze in visiting Dishoom twice in one day. Sorry/not sorry.

In food-related happenings, we also celebrated Thanksgiving courtesy of Liz’s godparents and, guys, frozen pumpkin pie is INCREDIBLE, it turns out. Imma need that recipe and maybe I can try making it once we have a fully functioning kitchen again!

As far as books went, reading was a bit a lot rocky this month. I was still in something of a reading and blogging slump (and I think one doesn’t help the other) and my motivation was just very low, what with everything else going on in the house. So, this will be a very short wrap up, you’ll be pleased to know.


In November, I read a total of 2 books 2 fiction and 0 non-fiction – and 1 was a re-read (marked by *). This amounted to 851 pages in total.

In terms of format: 1 was hardback and 1 was an audiobook. As for genre, 1 was children’s fantasy, and 1 was literary fiction.

Onto the books themselves…

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Wrap Up | October 2019

Welcome one, welcome all, to my October Wrap Up! October proved to be a strange sort of month. I’d hit something of a slump, life-wise, reading-wise, blogging-wise, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve climbed out of that slump and got back on track. (The fact that I’m only just posting a wrap up and it’s already nine days into the next month speaks to that idea.)

October was also my birthday and I celebrated in a relatively low-key, but typical, way by going to eat food (yum yum Mowgli Street Food was a hit) before watching Les Misérables as the musical is touring the UK and stopped by Liverpool. Having already seen Killian Donnelly’s Jean Valjean in the West End, me and Liz jumped at the chance to see him reprise the role on the tour, and we’re SO glad we did as the musical was fantastic. They’re trying out new orchestrations and staging on the tour and I’m pretty sure those are the changes they will be making to the musical when it reopens in the West End in the newly refurbished and renamed Sondheim Theatre. (Let’s be real, no one is going to refer to it as that who has known it as the Queen’s.)

So, for all October felt a bit slump-y there were definitely things of note in the month. I also managed (somehow) to get a few books read.


In October, I read a total of 4 books 4 fiction and 0 non-fiction – and was a re-read (marked by *). This amounted to 1289 pages in total.

In terms of format: were paperback and were hardbacks. As for genre, 1 was a graphic novel, 1 was dystopian, 1 was literary fiction and 1 was fantasy.

Onto the books themselves…

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Non-Fiction November | Sign Up & TBR

Shall we talk about the elephant in the room? The fact I haven’t been around on the blog or in the online book community much over the last month or so? Ok well, in short, I ran out of mojo; my reading and blogging was affected by it and I don’t think I’m actually back to my usual self yet. However, I am trying. And we all know the best way to get yourself back into reading is to take part in a readathon, readalong, or reading challenge, right? Enter: Non-Fiction November.

Non-Fiction November takes place (funnily enough) throughout the month of November and is hosted by the lovely Olive from Abookolive. She is a voracious non-fiction reader and, to be honest, I envy her knowledge of the genre. You can find out more about the initiative in Olive’s announcement video or watch her TBR and recommendations video. It’s primarily run on Booktube but there is a Twitter account, a Goodreads group, and an Instagram challenge, if you’re so inclined. There are challenges to help you pick your TBR if you need some guidance and, of course, checking out the #NonfictionNovember hashtag on any social media will be sure to return a wealth of fellow participants and recommended reads alike.

Non-fiction is always something I intend to read more of – I even put it in my resolutions this year – but I inevitably forget it exists, unless I hear that a particularly compelling memoir has been released on audiobook. In fact, the only non-fiction I’ve consumed all year was Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally’s The Greatest Love Story Ever Told (audiobook gold, to be honest) and Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell’s Art Matters (gorgeous presentation and Liz bought me a signed edition last Christmas!). So, since I’ve pretty much entirely failed to read non-fiction thus far in 2019, I have decided to take part in Non-Fiction November to try to rectify that neglect. But ‘what will you be reading?’, I hear you ask – wonder no more…

 

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
Notes: Will likely listen to audiobook. Also fulfils Around the Year Week 2 challenge.

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson
Notes: Also fulfils Around the Year Week 33 challenge.

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Pérez

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Notes: Will likely listen to audiobook. Also fulfils Around the Year Week 48 challenge.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Notes: Will likely listen to audiobook.

 

So, that’s my TBR for Non-Fiction November. Are you participating? Let me know what you’ll be reading! Or, if you’re not, do you read non-fiction regularly? Got any recommendations? Comment them below, I’d love to add them to my TBR!


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Review | The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Book cover of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. HarrowTitleThe Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019)
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Publisher: Little, Brown
Imprint: Orbit
Read: 2nd – 5th September 2019
Genre: historical fiction; fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place. But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Down the TBR Hole #35

Welcome folks to the thirty-fifth round of Down the TBR Hole! For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the previous posts via the tag or check out Lia at Lost in a Story who is the creator of this wonderful meme/project.

I’m trying to make this a regular feature of my blogging schedule because it’s good to regularly reevaluate if/why you want to read a book – that way you don’t come back to your TBR years later and have no clue why a title piqued your interest in the first place. I’ve also added a summary of results bit at the bottom of each round so I can track how many books I’ve kept and ditched from my TBR shelf in each round and overall.

Just a reminder of how this works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Outside of doing these posts semi-regularly I have also been culling my TBR list at random points when I’m bored – all of this is good in terms of getting my TBR to a reasonable amount of books but it also means that these posts are getting harder for me to do as I’m beginning to really agonise over whether to ditch or keep books on there. Not that any of this is a bad thing! Let’s get going on the 10 books under scrutiny today…

1. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault

Why is it there? Back when I was taking a critical theory course at university, Michel Foucault’s work always seemed accessible, more so than other theorists at least (hello Derrida, I’m talking about you), so I added the full-length text to my TBR of something I’d only studied extracts from during the course. Fast forward several years and it’s still sitting on my TBR, unread, so I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be getting read anytime soon.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Ditch

2. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Why is it there? Neil Gaiman’s novels are some of my all-time favourites but I am yet to really fall in love with his short stories. This is one of the few short stories collections of his that I have on my TBR and I do hope to get to it sometime soon because, like I said, he’s one of my favourite authors and I feel kind of bad I haven’t read any of his shorter works.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Keep

3. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

Why is it there? I love Chris Riddell’s illustration style, especially when he collaborates with Neil Gaiman. (Odd and the Frost Giants is adorable and beautifully drawn!) I really need to get to this one as I have a hunch I’ll really enjoy the story too.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Keep

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Review | My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

sister

TitleMy Sister, the Serial Killer (2018)
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Read: 21st – 23rd August 2019
Genre: thriller
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“Korede’s sister Ayoola is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead, stabbed through the heart with Ayoola’s knife. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood (bleach, bleach, and more bleach), the best way to move a body (wrap it in sheets like a mummy), and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit. Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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