Discussion | The Struggle of Reviewing Favourite Books

Well, well, well, what have we here, a post we haven’t had in a while – that’s right, let’s discuss some things. Specifically, let’s discuss the struggle that is reviewing favourite books. Maybe not everyone has this struggle but, in an Internet full of book bloggers, I highly doubt that I am the only one who genuinely finds this such a difficult thing.

Here’s the thing: if I LOVE a book, I have no problem telling everyone I love the book. I’ll post updates about it on Goodreads and Twitter as I read. I’ll rave about it how good it was on Twitter using gifs whilst recommending it to friends and family offline too. I’ll mention it very enthusiastically numerous times on my blog in response to tag posts. I’ll wholeheartedly rate it 5 out of 5 stars and include it in ‘best books of the year’ lists. But, I sometimes struggle to write a review for it.

Case-in-point: one of my favourite books in recent years has been The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s not exactly an obscure book and quite a few people very much enjoy the book in the online book community. But I struggle deeply to articulate WHY I love this book so much, I just know that I do. It’s the same with Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – in fact, I still haven’t been able to write a coherent review after recently re-reading it for the very purpose of writing a review. I can flail about it until the cows come home but, apparently, I struggle to just articulate why I love it in an actual review post. It’s still in the works, months/years late by this point.

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Feature | Favourite Eateries #3 ft. Bakchich, Liverpool

If you’ve seen my previous Favourite Eateries, you will have vicariously sampled the delights of The Tavern Co and Lunya. Today, now for something completely different – Lebanese street food via Bakchich on Bold Street in Liverpool.

“Bakchich vision is to introduce Lebanese Street food to Liverpool and Manchester. It is also to educate and help our customers discover about the Arabic food culture, traditions and heritage that unite communities. Bakchich Cafe is Lebanese street food with a french twist, serving variety of Lebanese Mezza with innovations in the traditional Lebanese dishes from Shawarma to Falafel, and baklawa and a wide variety of healthy fruits cocktails, to meet the taste of our food lovers.” (Bakchich)

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Feature | Favourite Eateries #2 ft. Lunya, Liverpool

In my inaugural Favourite Eateries blog post I gushed at length about The Tavern Co in Liverpool. This time, I bring you something completely different – we’re ditching the tex-mex breakfast food and heading to the Iberian peninsula via Lunya in Liverpool.

With independent, family-owned restaurants in both Liverpool and Manchester, Lunya is Peter & Elaine Kinsella’s homage to Catalunya and Spain. Lunya is a combination of Catalan restaurant, deli, and bar, and they are multi-award winning, with the Liverpool restaurant featured in the Good Food Guide North West as Restaurant of the Year for two years running (2015 & 2016). Located on the corner of College Lane and Hanover Street, opposite Radio Merseyside, Lunya is best experienced when you have plenty of time to eat in Catalan fashion, that is to say: slow and social. If you’re looking for a quick get-in-get-out meal I would not recommend the Catalan restaurant, but if you’re happy to sit back, relax, and have some seriously tasty tapas brought to your table as and when it’s ready, then Lunya may well be the place for you.

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Feature | Favourite Eateries #1 ft. Tavern Co, Liverpool

If you are at all a frequenter of my Instagram, you will find many a picture of breakfast food. The reason for this is twofold: 1) I really love breakfast food, give me pastries and bagels and toast ALL DAY, and 2) I spent a lot of time eating breakfast at The Tavern Company in Liverpool.

Anyone who has been to the Tavern will understand this and I have to say I’m very glad I didn’t go to university in Liverpool because a lot of my student loan would have been “wasted” on said breakfast food. Except when it comes to their food, I don’t really think “waste” is the appropriate verb because oh my god it’s worth every damn penny and every damn calorie.

Is this just really a not-at-all-veiled love letter to one of my favourite eateries? Yes. So buckle in whilst I gush about it.

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Best Books of 2017

Welcome one, welcome all, to the downright obligatory Best Books of 2017 post – my name is Emma and I’ll be your cruise director for today. As you can see, this post didn’t quite make it out into the world on New Years’ Day as I intended, because apparently I took a fortnight to reflect on my 2017 reading and really think about what the very best books I read in the last year were, rather than just picking out all the books that I’d given 5-star ratings. These books are the ones that have stayed with me, for one reason or another, and were the best books that I read in 2017. Obviously, not all of these were published in 2017, but just made it firmly onto my radar (and bedside table) in the last year.

(If you’re looking for my more stats-based wrap up of 2017 then please do pop over to my 2017: A Bookish Year In Review post!)

Just fyi, because these posts are long enough already, I won’t be posting synopses of all the books I’ve chosen, since Goodreads can do a much better job than I can about being concise, but I’ll be sure to link to their blurbs and to my review, if I’ve done one! But I will make sure to explain why each book has earned a place on this hallowed list…

Without further ado, let’s do this like the music charts, in reverse order, shall we?

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Top Ten Tuesday | Books I Loved But Never Reviewed

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a Freebie week! I thought I would take this opportunity to revisit one of the Top Ten Tuesday topics I never did because uh it was 2011 and I didn’t know Top Ten Tuesdays was a thing then. So this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, for me, is all about my Top Ten Books I Loved But Never Reviewed.

Now, there are a variety of reasons why I might not review a book – if I don’t have anything more to say than has already been said the world over, if I don’t feel inspired enough to write a review, if I’m feeling super lazy, or if the book is just so.damn.good. that I couldn’t even begin to do it justice in my review. That last reason applies to all of the books I’m about to mention but, regardless, I still truly regret never having reviewed these books because I loved every single one of them. This post goes some way to righting this wrong – for every book I mention, I’ll do my best to do a mini review/gush/why-you-should-definitely-stop-reading-this-post-and-go-read-the-book-instead. Everyone understand? Ok, good, enough of me babbling and onto the books I loved but never reviewed, because I’m dumb.

10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I studied this book in my postgrad Posthumanism class and I didn’t hate it at the end of analysing it to death in an essay so, hey, you know it’s good stuff. I could say a bunch of things about it but basically, if you like dystopia, you need to read this. It takes place in a future, allegedly utopian society featuring genetic engineering, sexual freedom, and liberal drug policies, all of which make its citizens very happy… and very easy to manipulate.

9. The Arrival by Shaun Tan

I constantly struggle to review graphic novels because the whole beauty of the graphic novel is in the artwork, not necessarily the words. And The Arrival has no words, no dialogue, no captions, and yet it manages to convey an absolutely amazing story about immigrant experience. The world is whimsical and mystical and almost dream-like, but it also portrays the gritty reality of life as an immigrant, isolated from faraway family and friends in a new country. The artistry, though, is the real MVP so, in lieu of a review, I should just show you the artwork because it’s stunningly gorgeous. I mean…

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Best Books of 2016

Welcome one, welcome all, to the inevitable and downright obligatory Best Books of 2016 post that isn’t at all subjective or biased in any way. (Disclaimer: that sentence was entirely a lie.)

(If you’re looking for my more stats-based wrap up of 2016 then please do pop over to my 2016: A Bookish Year In Review post!)

I’m sure you’ve seen enough of these lists floating around in the past week or so but, basically, I’ve decided to draw a line under (let’s face it a pretty crappy) 2016 in the most positive way possible – by celebrating some absolutely brilliant books that I’ve read this past year. They may not necessarily have been published in 2016, but all of them were read by yours truly in these past twelve months and, it’s safe to say, if they made this list and have stuck around despite my patchy memory, then they must have been something special. Each of these books has well and truly earned their place on this list and I’ve detailed the not-at-all-incoherent reasoning behind each choice below so that, hopefully, my flailing might persuade you to read them yourself if you haven’t already.

Right, without further ado, let’s do this like the music charts, in reverse order, shall we?

burialritescoverHonourable Mention: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Why?: When people say a story is “haunting”, I finally know what they mean thanks to Hannah Kent’s novel. Set in Iceland, it follows the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be sentenced to death in the country. From the outset we are told what Agnes has allegedly done and this characterisation of her as a “murderess” haunts her every word and interaction from this opening page. Add onto that Kent’s chilling writing style which masterfully evokes the harsh, bleak, but beautiful, Icelandic landscape, and you have an absolutely astounding book that has stayed with me for many months.

“To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.”

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October Favourites

October was a rather lovely month; it usually is. It’s my birthday, so that’s always very nice, mainly because it gives me an excuse to spend money on books and/or food. October brings a proper sense of moving into Winter at last, with all the suitably aesthetically pleasing golden leaves falling off trees, and with Christmas decorations beginning to creep into supermarkets and shops. I adore Christmas, and winter is my favourite season, so I’m very much looking forward to the months ahead. However, this post is not about what is to come but what has been – specifically, these are a few of the things I enjoyed in October. If you want to see September’s favourites post, you can find it here, otherwise read on to find what I obsessed over in October.

Favourite Books

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crookedkingdomAnd in a completely predictable turn of events, just as Six of Crows had pride of place on my September Favourites post, so does Crooked Kingdom on this October Favourites post. I inhaled this greedily over the course of the 24-hour readathon a couple of weekends ago, and I was so incredibly sad once it was over. That is the sign of a truly brilliant book. It’s a complete change of pace from the first, though, so if you’re expecting another heist then you’ll be sorely disappointed; rather, it deals with the fall-out of the conclusion of Six of Crows and its action is more focused in on that den of thieves and dubious morals that is the city of Ketterdam itself. I loved it, it’s one of my favourite books of the year, and as a duology these novels have quickly but firmly become some of my all-time favourite YA fantasies.

Favourite Films

Doctor Strange

The latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dr Strange was a film I always knew, from the very first teaser, that I’ve have to see in the cinema, in the best way possible. Having now seen the film I’m fully convinced that if you see it in anything less than IMAX, it won’t be the same film. It’s a film that bends reality, time and space, and matter itself, so obviously depth of frame created with 3D is downright necessary. I hate 3D, it makes my eyes and head hurt, but I’d watch Dr Strange over and over again in 3D. Although I’m always a Benedict Cumberbatch fan (I even ignore the weirdness of hearing an American accent come out of that mouth), I have to say he wasn’t my favourite character at all in the film. Tilda Swinton is epic, as Tilda Swinton often is but, for my money, the cape was easily one of the best characters, second only to Wong.

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September Favourites

Last month’s Favourites post was a reasonably long effort. Either this month I’ve been more discerning, or I’ve had less new favourites to report, or I’ve had less time to procrastinate and so find new favourites. Actually, that last one sounds most likely. What with finally, mercifully finding a job, worrying about starting that job for days, rushing to move all my possessions over to my new home in Liverpool, getting used to having a job again and all the stuff that goes along with it, getting used to living with Liz (not that that takes much/any effort at all)… well, life has been a bit in flux in September. However, there are still some things I have been enjoying a lot, so I thought I’d share them with you today now that October looms ahead.

Favourite Books

sixofcrowsSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

So, this past month I finally got around to reading Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and by gum it’s good! I adored the Grisha trilogy against my better judgement… and by better judgement I, of course, mean that I have some level of awareness that the characterisation and writing quality could be improved a little. However, Bardugo’s stories are compulsively readable, so obviously I knew this duology about a gang of ruffians taking on an impossible heist to break someone out of an impenetrable fortress would be right up my street. And, hallelujah, everyone was so right when they said this was like a huge level-up from Bardugo’s previous books, it was SO GOOD. In fact, the sequel Crooked Kingdom is laid in wait beside me and I will definitely be picking it up in October.

Favourite Songs

Can’t Stop The Feeling! by Justin Timberlake

Yes I know this song has been out for well over two months so it’s nothing revolutionary, not is it at all obscure. But I’m going to go ahead and admit that I first heard this song thanks to the Trolls trailer which played before Finding Dory. And I didn’t really have much/any desire to see the actual film but I love this song. I defy you to not at the very least want to chair dance. I keep hearing this song everywhere in the UK now that Trolls promotion is kicking up a notch over here and I can safely say I am still not sick of this song – surely the sign of an absolute tune.

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August Favourites

The last time I put together a favourites post was back in December 2014 – yep you read that correctly. I’ve always been unsure as to whether I really have anything to contribute by way of monthly favourites type posts, essentially because I’m not a lifestyle or beauty blogger.

However, I do like a lot of things in terms of arts and entertainment and I never pass up a chance to gush about them. So I thought I’d give it another shot in case I accidentally share something someone else finds and likes too!

Favourite Books

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

How can I begin to explain this book? Ok, it’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer still demons and demon slaying meets secret societies meets Jane Austen/Regency society, complete with balls and carriages and paying calls to friends and drinking tea. If you enjoy Pride and Prejudice but think, hey, this would be improved if Lizzie Bennet was a demon hunter (no, not like the and Zombies adaptation) who was introduced to her calling by a brooding Mr Darcy, then The Dark Days Club might have something for you. On a complete separate and more domestic note, the relationship between the main character, Lady Helen, and her maid, Darby, reminds me so much of the relationship between Lady Mary and Anna in Downton Abbey so if you’re here for female friendships, the book is also good for that.

asoscoverA Storm of Swords/ASOIAF by George R.R. Martin

I am now 3 books into my #readasoiaf readalong attempt and, let me tell you, it’s had its ups and downs but I feel like now, finally, with A Storm of Swords, this is definitely a high. The first half of A Storm of Swords is, not going to lie, something of a slog, but it completely makes up for it in the proverbial shitstorm that is A Storm of Swords Part 2. All my patience thus far was rewarded, I got my Red and Purple Weddings I’d been waiting for, and also read some pretty damn amazing character development. Tyrion’s still on fine witty form too, so obviously this volume would make it into my favourites for August.

(I tried to form more coherent thoughts into a review, if you’re interested.)

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