Reading goal 2022

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I only started reading for enjoyment again last year, after years of not really picking up a book. For me this past year of getting into reading again has made me a lot happier, more focused and a lot more reflective. I’ve enjoyed finding a hobby that is relaxing but also uses imagination. I feel inspired and find myself recalling the stories in my head and the enjoyment I got from them. This is why I decided to write about the books I’ve read to recount the experience and also for others to find books to try.

My goal for 2021 was to read 30 books and I ended the year having read 41 which I was so pleased with. The goodreads challenge kept me on track and I enjoyed a variety of books I probably would never have picked up. My new goal for this year is to read more non-fiction. I’ve not been one to want to read anything but fiction as I see reading as a break, I spend my day normally at work and then I have coursework and other things that take up my time, so reading became my hobby but I’ve realised non-fiction doesn’t need to be textbooks or complicated, long winded novels. they too can bring enjoyment, insight and be beneficial for many reasons.

I started this goal by this month reading ‘shy’ by Annie Ridout. First of all this book is eye catching, it has a yellow cover and hot pink words on the front, I know what you’re thinking, ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover’ but we have all done it right? In this case I think not only does the bright cover bring me joy but the comforting words in side brought to me a lot of inner peace that I needed. As a shy person I often feel ashamed and boring, often making me dread social events, even though I enjoy seeing people. I have often felt that shyness is a fault that I need to work on. but ‘shy’ enforces that it is not a fault it does not need to be cured or exorcised from a person and shy people should not always have to adapt themselves for others.

There have been many books and articles written about how to be more extroverted. How to be less shy. How to be more outgoing, I like that this book looks at all these societal ideas and says introverts should not always be the ones having to change themselves and maybe situations should be made with introverts in mind. With the right environment a shy person can thrive and grow in confidence. Shy is not synonymous with weakness or failure.

With shy children it’s so important to go at their pace and to also take them seriously when they do feel ready to try something. Even if we don’t imagine them being able to muster the confidence to do it. They need to be given the opportunity to try. And maybe Succeed. And possibly fail but we can’t say: I don’t think you are ready for this. As thats for them to decide.

Shy

Growing up quiet and rather shy I did often feel like I wasn’t taken seriously or listened to but that has also followed me in my adult life at times, those that give me the time and support I need have seen the real me.

It’s so important that we think about how we can support each other and help each other to thrive in our own way not underestimate someone who is quiet or not listen and help them progress as you feel they aren’t able to. This book is packed with great quotes, tips, research and experiences from professionals from all walks of life. The book discusses the differences between social anxiety, shyness and being an introvert. It is such an interesting read split up into 10 easy sections and whether you read it for yourself or to support your friends, family, your children, your partner or just get a better understanding of how shyness affects people and how it can lead to great success.

My thoughts on: Nothing to see here by Kevin Wilson

book review

A brief Synopsis … doesn’t do the story justice

Lilian attends an elite boarding school as a scholarship student where she befriends the beautiful and wealthy Madison. Despite their differences they form a close friendship and become inseparable. Later during their time at boarding school a scandal forces Lilian out of the school. Madison and Lilian continue to keep in touch writing letters to each other although a reunion is yet to happen. Years later Lilian receives an urgent plea for help from Lilian in the form of their usual letters. Intrigued, Lilian follows up no longer making excuses to not meet.

Jasper, Madison’s husband has twins from a previous marriage and they are now faced with having to care for them full time following devastation. Knowing Lilian will be discreet and keep her secrets Madison knows she’s the only one she can turn to.

You see, children can often have little quirks and they are a big responsibility but the responsibility and need for a lot of care increases ten fold when they can SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST at any given moment. Although they remain unharmed it is not ideal for the senate to have fire children.

The book was published in October 2019 by Ecco press and it wasn’t until 2021 that it caught my attention. I purchased the book and was excited to read it but as with all things for me it took a while to get round to reading it. It is my fourth read of 2022 and I am not disappointed! Not one bit.

I had expectations of the book to a certain extent but I hadn’t thought too much about it, I knew others had enjoyed the book and I knew the general idea of the story but that’s as much as I had processed. I picked the book up and after only a few pages I knew it was going to be an interesting read.

What I liked about this story was how loveable Bessie was. She is ten years old but she understands a lot. Their upbringing had not been easy and it seemed they had to teach themselves a lot of what we all take for granted and Bessie would beat herself up for not knowing things when she had not been given the tools in life to have the chance to learn. She was sweet, honest, funny and wise and she was my favourite character. creating many moments in the book that bought tears to my eyes. I loved The way Lilian interacted with the kids and the way she thought of them. To take on another families children and treat them as your own and love them unconditionally is a strong thing to do and really shows her character. The love in this book was powerful and moving

Even though I actually did not like to be touched, I just let it happen, I allowed it, it was fine

Page 167

Roland and Bessie, the twins, and Lilian really opened up and allowed each other in which was something none of them would have done for anyone before and this bond really made this book memorable. We all want unconditional love and to feel safe and this was captured perfectly throughout the story.

They would always, kind of, belong to me. I had never wanted kids, because I had never wanted a man to give me a kid. The thought of it, gross; the expectation of it. But if a hole in the sky opened up and two weird children fell to earth, smashing into the ground like meteorites, then that was something I could care for. If it gleamed like it was radiating danger, I’d hold it. I would.

Page 168

Although the fire caused the children to be isolated and experience life differently, Bessie confessed she never wanted it to leave she wouldn’t know what to do without it. Roland and Bessie had been treated badly by those who should love them unconditionally and should protect them from harm so when they didn’t have that, they had the fire to protect them. Their innocence and naivety makes you love these children even more and just want to wrap them up and tell them it’s all okay.

I loved this book, I loved Lilian, Roland and Bessie and was invested in their well-being the whole way through routing for them and I think that’s what I want from a book, to connect with the characters and feel for them. the book was comforting, hilarious, bizarre and warming.

I 100% would read this book again and I wouldn’t normally say that so if you take anything from this please give it a try.

What can I say about The last house on needless street by Catriona Ward

book club pick, book review

I read the last house on needless street throughout April for my book club and wow was I impressed. This book has so many twists and turns and really grips you as a reader. I loved this book and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good psychological thriller.

Now I can’t say too much about the story without giving anything away so you will have to read it for yourself but I 100% know you won’t be disappointed.

Goodreads summary:

The story keeps you guessing throughout and is told through a number of perspectives, all of which we are unsure we can trust completely but all I can say is, get your hands on a copy and you will not be able to stop reading.

I know some people have found it strange and have given up at the introduction of Olivia but please please please give it a go.

My thoughts on: Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

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3 stars ⭐️

The concept of this book really intrigued me about the time travel and the stories of the characters, I had heard mixed reviews about this book however I went into it with an open mind not knowing what the there would be in store for me.

Before the coffee gets cold is a relatively short book with only 192 pages so it’s not a big read. The book is set in a small cafe in Tokyo which has been serving specially brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. This coffee shops offers a unique opportunity for its customers to travel in time. The book is split into sections following 4 customers and their decision to travel in time. What made them want to do it and are they willing to risk it? It lets people face their past and allow them to move forward with their life. Although nothing can be changed, they can learn and find peace. However, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold otherwise they will become a ghost, trapped.

I found this book quite difficult at the beginning to keep track of who everyone was, how they were related to the story and the other characters however once I grasped this part I was able to follow the story and each character’s history much more easily.

I liked the concept of this book however I’m not sure it was executed how I was expecting. It may be that I was expecting more than I thought originally but I feel that although people could travel in time there wasn’t that much that happened during these sections. I was more interested at the present time and understanding what drove these people to want to time travel and what they hoped it would bring them. I liked the present time characters and their story’s as they were better developed and weaved the story together.

The stories were heart warming and I liked the connections between the characters and the idea of a magical cafe that allowed you to go back in time. The time travel was well thought out by the author. I liked that there were set rules and that it was treated as a very important responsibility to pour the coffee that was passed down through generations but I did feel like something was missing. It did make me think and I did feel for the characters for the losses they have experienced and the guilt and regrets they had held onto. I think this book is more focused on these ideas than there actually being a storyline to follow.

I would recommend reading before the coffee gets cold because it is interesting and a great concept which I’m sure will appeal to many. My rating was 3 stars at this time however I might revisit and see if anything changes.

What I thought about: The Split by Laura Kay

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The split by Laura Kay was released on 18th March 2021, I hadn’t seen much about this book but I was intrigued. The front cover says ‘Ally’s relationship is over, and she’s taking the cat…’ and as a cat lover this inevitably drew me in.

The story is not a romance in a traditional sense but it is very funny. Ally’s girlfriend Emily has just split up with her so ally moves back in with her dad in Sheffield from their bot house on London. Ally’s old friend from primary school, Jeremy, is also suffering from heartbreak from a recent breakup with Ben and they both find comfort in each other after their parents suggest they hang out. Jeremy and Ally soon become the best of friends through the ups and downs of heartbreak and single life. Jeremy believes his ex boyfriend Ben might be running the Sheffield half marathon and convinces Ally to run it with him which is hilarious and I identify fully with them and the hatred they have towards running but the determination they have to complete it. After moping around her dads house in her old bedroom for weeks, Ally needs to find a job and the introduction of these new characters through work is a lovely addition to the already fab friendship Ally and Jeremy have.

I love Ally’s dad and feel like he cares so much and is so supportive of Ally and any decision she makes. He is a very heart warming and funny character that you can’t help but love.

Throughout the book I was increasingly frustrated with Ally and her overwhelming need to get Emily back while trying to prove how far she has come and show Emily she is over it. Although the conversations between Ally and Jeremy are funny and they build a great friendship, Ally does annoy me with all the pining and the emails to try and get her ex back but I guess that’s what a breakup can do to a person.

I feel it is a story about friendship, heartbreak and taking risks. There is also cake, a cat and running. I would recommend this book if you are looking for something funny and light. Although I enjoyed it I would only give it 3/5 but this may be due to my own expectations, I just wasn’t too invested in the character of Ally but I did really like Jeremy.

What books have made you laugh out loud?

My thoughts on: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

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The flatshare has been on my tbr list for a while and so many people have been gushing about it and recommending it so I was overly excited when I got my copy in the post 🥳 & I loved every second of reading it.

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about the book, it is a delight!! Such a feel good book with fab characters that you can’t help but love.

The story does explore emotional abuse in relationships and gaslighting but overall it is a very uplifting and positive book about the strength of friendship and how a relationship should be, although there can be ups and downs the characters support each other and respect their choices, decisions and feelings

I loved that you follow the story from two perspectives both Leon and tiffy and they both bought so much to the story. Leon’s story is about family and the bond you have with a sibling and his job working in a hospice and the difference his patients make to his life and the impact he has on them. Tiffy’s explores toxic relationships, female friendships and her job in publishing and the ups and downs.

I would 100% recommend this book if you want something sweet and uplifting and you enjoy romcoms. It is the perfect read and I would definitely read it again. It had a really good storyline with little ongoing themes to follow throughout which kept me interested. This book made me want to be more positive and not take things too seriously.

What I thought about: The Push by Ashley Audrain

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⭐️ 5/5 stunning!

The push is heart wrenching, when I was only half way through I could already feel the pain in my chest, the tears welling in my eyes and an intense feeling of dread. This story is so raw and so honest. It explores motherhood and the relationships between mother and child and also how this can affect other relationships. To have your deepest fears actualised in the form of broken, damaged relationships and isolation, when with the ones that you should have the closest bond. To be a family often is synonymous of being a unit that will always be a team but this is shattered and the devastating story explores this so well.

Although at present I do not have children myself, I can imagine that to be a mother is a huge change and will be challenging in many ways. It is difficult to adjust and to have the responsibility for this new life and they look to you for love and support, what if this doesn’t happen though?, what if you feel they hate you?, or don’t want you, what if you can’t connect and you feel like you are going insane and no one can see this or will help you.

This book was a whole journey for me. The book explores 4 generations of women in Blythe’s family. Her grandmother (Etta),her mum (Cecilia),Blythe and her daughter Violet. Although the focus is on these women, it delves into relationships outside of this but also gives us insight into the life of these women and the heartache and battles that they have been through and why their actions may be a reflection of their treatment. Also how their experiences have been similar & how they have handled certain things that have happened to them.

This book is not a light read and I found it quite intense and quite difficult in parts where it can be quite graphic and does not hold back but I also liked that about the book, I felt immersed in this story and intrigued to keep reading. The book explores growing into womanhood and then motherhood. It also looks at relationships and how they can be toxic and damaging and how people can be gaslighted. I would agree with people who say this is not a psychological thriller in some ways, yes it’s fast paced and there are twists and it’s exciting but I feel like it’s much deeper and really trying to explore in more depth the fears and struggles that women face in life. Society norms of growing up happy, beauty, growing into a woman, getting married, having a baby etc.

This book gave me chills, it is a stunning book that is gripping and hard to put down, definitely a book I would re-read and that’s saying something. I would recommend this book if you are okay with darker, more unnerving reads however I definitely need something a bit lighter as my next read. But oh wow! Was it amazing! Breathtaking.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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4.5 ⭐️

Okay so let’s talk about normal people, I know it’s been discussed by so many before me and is a million copy bestseller but for some reason I had been putting it off for so long. I watched the tv adaption on BBC which I did enjoy, I loved Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Connell and Marianne and for some reason felt I didn’t need to read the book as the tv programme had been good enough for me but I was wrong…which I don’t / won’t often admit, much to others annoyance.

I usually won’t read a book after I have watched the film or tv adaption and now I’m thinking I have been missing out. Don’t get me wrong, the tv adaption was done very well and in keeping with the book but the book delves deeper into the thoughts of Connell and Marianne, we understand the thoughts behind their words and actions and the small details of their personality and coping mechanisms which aren’t easily translated to other media.

My expectations for this book were well, not really existent. I hadn’t planned on reading normal people despite all the good things I had heard, I guess I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it already knowing the story line but I was pleasantly surprised. By having a better understanding of the characters I found I liked them more, I understood some of their difficulties or who they were as a person at the root of it all and it made them less frustrating and oftentimes more heartbreaking.

I relate to Connell’s persistent need to please and conform to societal expectations but I also liked that he was kind, thoughtful and really cared about Marianne although he didn’t always go about things the right way, he was always willing to do anything for her, especially as he got further away from school life back home unlike any other person in her life. I found myself wanting to be more like Marianne in some aspects for example, the freeing feeling of not caring what others think or say about me, a need for knowledge and being opinionated. However they both have their flaws but that is what makes them ‘normal’. Throughout the story they both want to be accepted in many ways, to be loved and to be happy however this was never easy for them and they seem to overcomplicate and overanalyse their relationship and that mixed with poor communication and misunderstanding was a recipe for disaster. The on and off again nature of a relationship is common in the rom-com genre however I found it particularly frustrating in this book. Both Marianne and Connell had feelings for each other from beginning to end and on a number of occasions they used the L word to describe their feelings. They were happy together but through poor communication on both parts it meant that they were both questioning what the other person meant by what they said causing them to break up and make up over and over.

I found myself waiting for moments between Connell and Marianne as they were often sweet, intimate and honest although they didn’t always end well for either of them you could tell that they really cared for each other and truly felt themselves when they could be together.

The ending of the book gave us hope for Connell in the future and maybe hope that something will stay between them both however with the track record over the years, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I was happy for Connell and how far he has come with the difficulties he had faced over the years and was finally going to do something he really wanted and although he still felt guilty (which he shouldn’t) but is common throughout, there was a positive future ahead for him.

Marianne had strained relationships which was highlighted from the start. Her family relationships were cold, abusive and distant and at school she was bullied for the way she looked and for being different. She had better relationships with with her female friends at university however these were sometime not always healthy and there were a few unhealthy relationships or ‘situations’ with Jamie and Lukas and other men treating her badly, being controlling and violent leaving her feeling used and vacant. I found it discussed these issues although not in depth I felt like it approached them quite well and made the reader think about it and look at it differently as we already cared about Marianne and it was difficult to see her open up to being treated badly as that’s what she felt she deserved which is not true under any circumstance.

I always look for the best in people which is maybe why I liked the characters, to other people they may be annoying and uninteresting but I felt they had good parts and bad parts which they knew of both sides and still cared about each other a lot. Although at times they did frustrate me overall they were a lot more likeable than their ‘friends’ at least.

I would recommend this book however it does have some difficult themes such as depression, bullying, abusive family, violence and suicide I found it was written in a way to not be too heavy but if these are triggers then I would not recommend normal people but I enjoyed the story, the writing, the characters and I enjoyed the commentary the book made on class and society expectations but what I’ll hold onto is the lasting feeling of the book and would give it 4.5 stars!

There is so much I could say about this book and is one that I would probably come back to. Let me know your thoughts on Normal People or any other similar books.

My thoughts on Writers and Lovers by Lily King

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4/5 stars ⭐️

I love romance and I love comedy and literally cannot get enough, ever. Writers and Lovers filled that void I felt, perfectly. When I wasn’t reading it I was pining after it, all I wanted to do was sit and read this book.

Writers and Lovers is set in 1997 about Casey Peabody who is 31 years old and waitressing tables while in her spare time writing a novel that she has agonised over for 6 years of her life. This story has it all, love, loss and loans. Casey is struggling to get by on her waitress wage, living in a rented potting shed, trying to get her novel published while still paying back thousands of dollars worth of student loans and dealing with the cost and worries of health.

It is as much a story about finding your way in life and accomplishment as it is a story about relationships and the different kinds of relationships you will experience in life.

Casey as a character I find likeable as well as relatable. She doesn’t have her life at all together but she is trying to work towards discovering what she wants and what makes her happy. I like that Casey isn’t afraid to feel things and is able to articulate those feelings and make decisions despite all her unknowns. We learn a lot from Casey about her past and her relationships with family and love interests. Casey is dealing with the sudden loss of her mother, which is spoken about throughout the book with some heartbreaking moments. One part where she momentarily forgets the loss of her mother and feels excited to talk to her mum and then reality sets in, that she can no longer do this. For me family is important and it’s often my parents I want to tell any exciting news, to not be able to do this is a devastating thought, not being able to talk to the people closest to you for any reason. Although Casey grew up with her father it was often difficult and is still strained as an adult which we find out about throughout the story which also adds to her feelings of failure and her need to be successful.

I’m not always a big fan of a love triangle however I feel the way it played out in the book was better than others I have read before. Although there is stereotyping I didn’t feel like it was too cheesy and I still liked the male counterparts. Oscar has dimension which I felt through his relationship with his young children who he is the sole carer for that gives him a softer side, he had also lost his wife to illness which gives him a different outlook on relationships and life. He is older, knowledgable and kind. Oscar is not afraid of telling Casey how he feels which feels refreshing. Silas is young, in a similar situation to Casey, struggling with trials and tribulations of what it is to be an author and dealing with grief too. He wears a leather jacket which is described often, emphasising an air of coolness. Silas seems more impulsive and exciting trying to discover who he is and also who he is as a writer. All the characters have flaws but I like that the flaws are not exaggerated or overly referred to, they are subtle which adds to the realness of the story and the characters.

Writers and lovers is a feel good book and a great read in my opinion. Although there is sadness there are lovely moments of happiness in this story. The characters are realistic and the relationships are positive as opposed to being exaggerated and creating unrealistic expectations. I loved the friendships Casey had at work, the support that she had from people in her life and her positivity and endurance to carry on and succeed even when things are not going right. Casey is able to overcome her fears and get to a better place. I knew the ending would be happy and uplifting and that’s exactly what I was looking for as typical with Rom-coms. The book will be one that I will definitely remember with a smile and would recommend to anyone wanting a feel good story and for anyone who loves books or has or had dreams of being an author.

Next I will be reading Normal People by Sally Rooney which I loved on tv so I am very excited.

Luster, Raven Leilani

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

I finished this book on Sunday, it is a quick read with only 227 pages and an interesting story to follow. Luster is different to other books that I would normally read, after seeing it posted all over bookstagram and reviewed highly on Goodreads and Amazon, Waterstones etc. I added Luster to my recent TBR post and I felt I should give it a go and see what the hype was about.

Luster is about a 23 year old black woman called Edie who is just trying to navigate life, without too many problems. Edie is struggling in her dead-end admin job at an all white office, sleeping with all the wrong men and is failing to succeed at the one thing she loves, painting. Edie meets a middle aged white man called Eric, he has a wife called Rebecca who agrees to some sort of open marriage. Edie becomes entangled in this strange affair and finds herself falling into his world and family. Eric and Rebecca have an adopted black daughter who is having difficulties coming to terms with racism and understanding who she is and what it is to be young and black in America at these times. This book explores racism, sexual politics, work place politics, marriage, affairs, loneliness and also how it feels to be different and not feel a part of the club you feel everyone else is in.

I honestly picked up this book as it was all over bookstagram and lists of books you should read, having finished the book I could see why it has received this attention. Luster is honest and is not afraid to be brutal and bold. Raven Leilani does not hold back and isn’t afraid to write things as they are. The writing is beautiful and I felt I was a part of Edie’s life, that Edie could be a real person not just a character I was reading about in a book. There were times when it was quite difficult to read because of the situations the characters put themselves in. I am empathetic as a person and really felt for the characters at times and the difficulties they were facing. Although Edie is not always likeable I still found myself routing for her and wanting better for her. Edie is flawed however, we all have flaws which makes her relatable. Trying to fill the void any way she can and pining after people who don’t treat her well. Ultimately Edie is alone and wants to be accepted and loved but doesn’t know how to do this so accepts any attention that she can get which in turn makes her feel more alone.

Rebecca is an interesting character throughout the story and I found the parts where she interacts with Edie sometimes quite difficult to read but it helped with progressing the story and gave the book a grittier feeling of sadness and loneliness. I was intrigued by the dynamic of her relationships but also her as an individual.

Imagine living a life so carefully that there are no signs you lived at all

Rebecca

Akila is the adopted daughter in the story. I thought her character was so important to bringing the story to life and also helping us understand the sort of people Rebecca, Edie and Eric are. How people interact with children can often tell us a lot about them as a person. The relationship between Edie and Akila, although difficult at times was sweet and showed a different side to Edie that made her more likeable and helped us understand who she is and maybe what she has been through. Edie is caring towards Akila and wants to be there for her in a way that maybe other people have failed her, mainly due to lack of understanding. I feel the relationship between Akila and Edie is the most caring and real in the book.

Eric is a very unlikeable person and I think Raven’s writing really showcases this character beautifully. Eric is selfish, detached, violent and difficult however he has both his wife and Edie who care about him for some reason or another. I feel like the portrayal of this character is clear, I feel as a reader we really understand what the author is trying to tell us about relationships and how people end up in unhappy or problematic relationships.

This book is very much about loneliness and showcases the difficulties that people face in life and relationships. No matter what the characters want people to think about them, they are all having struggles. whether its addiction, broken relationship, unrequited love or just being lost and stuck, not knowing how to be free. It is a powerful story that explores the harder parts of life, the sadness and loneliness that people experience.

I did enjoy the book. I did think it was written well and really important. I didn’t like the character of Eric at all which I guess made it difficult to read (which I think is the point) it was interesting and gave prevalent issues a voice. I would recommend this book just as it is a different perspective and a honest look at life. I felt like the book ended abruptly but that may just be me wanting to know more.

I’d give this book a 4/5 it tackles difficult topics in an accessible way and is an enjoyable read however I didn’t really like Rebecca or Eric which didn’t help with the reading but I feel the characters aren’t meant to be very likeable so were ultimately written well.

Have you read Luster, what did you think? & do you have any similar suggestions?