Thursday 31 March 2016

My Favourite Audiobooks

It’s been about a year since I started dabbling in audiobooks and I’ve discovered some real gems. I love getting to read at times when I usually wouldn’t: doing housework, walking, last thing at night when I’m too tired to physically read. And I've actually ended up reading some books I've been putting off for years. Here are some of my favourites.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Read by: Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s incredibly well-loved debut was actually only the second audiobook I listened to and I was blown away. The story of a group of classics students in a privileged university in North America is compulsive, tense and atmospheric and I love, love, loved it. Donna Tartt’s narration is also perfect for the tone of the novel.

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
Read by: David Thorpe

Oh man, this book… Though I'd had a physical copy of this on my shelves for a good few years, I knew it was unlikely I'd get to it anytime soon. Am I glad I decided to listen to it. This novel is beautiful from beginning to end. The story of young Patroclus and Achilles from their first meeting to their tragic ending at Troy is a complete delight and now I want to re-read it…

The Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson
Read by: Michael Kramer

I was 100% intimidated by this huge trilogy. Each books comes in at over 650 pages and though I'd heard nothing but amazing things about this high fantasy where the magic system is based on the powers given by swallowing metals. And I love it. Michael Kramer’s narration is wonderful. Each of the characters has a slightly different accent or voice that reflects their position and origins in the world and quite possibly the best narration I've listened to so far.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Felicia Day
Read by: Felicia Day

I'm a big fan of Felicia Day. She's smart, funny and a bit of a hero for girls and women wanting to strike out into geekdom. This memoir revealed a lot more about Felicia’s mental health struggles and the rocky path to her career that I had never even heard whispers of before. She's brutally honest about everything she discusses without ever sounding dramatic or over the top and I came away from You’re Never Weird on the Internet rather in love with Felicia.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Read by: Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell

I was told to read this years and years ago by my mum and I finally got to it last year. Each of the three main characters – Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny – were read beautifully and it didn’t take me long to become completely absorbed in their story. I fell in love with all of them and their distinctive senses of humour and I was surprised by the violence of 1960s Mississippi.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers
Read by: Patricia Rodriguez

This debut was one of my favourite books of last year. Small Angry Planet is a soft, bumbling space opera about family, friendship, and acceptance in the diversity of Ashby’s crew and the places that they visited. When Rosemary joins the Wayfarer, a ship who builds wormholes, she doesn’t expect much, but she slowly falls in love with her new life, and so did I.

            The Martian, Andy Weir
            Read by: RC Bray

I don’t really think The Martian needs any introduction, but I was a little late to the party, bingeing it only in time to watch the film. It was the first book in a while to genuinely make me laugh aloud. RC Bray has exceptional comedic timing, delivering Mark Watney’s sass and witticisms so perfectly and in a way that I can't imagine it being as successful in print.

What are your favourite audiobooks? Are there any that I need to listen to immediately?


Wednesday 30 March 2016

Jolly Foul Play, Robin Stevens

Pages: 345
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 24th March 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new school term, but nothing is the same. There’s a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and a team of Prefects – and these bullying Big Girls are certainly not good eggs.

Then, after the fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found – murdered.

Many girls at Deepdean had reason to hate Elizabeth, but who might have committed such foul play? Could the murder be linked to the secrets and scandals, scribbled on scraps of paper, that are suddenly appearing around the school? And with their own friendship falling to pieces, how will Daisy and Hazel solve this mystery?

The fourth Wells and Wong Mystery is another stonking case for the Detective Society, with more danger, tension and darkness than Hazel and Daisy have encountered so far.

Jolly Foul Play takes us back to a very different Deepdean in the aftermath of the murder of Miss Bell in Murder Most Unladylike. Most of the teachers have been replaced and there’s a new Head Girl and she has a band of prefects to carry out her horrible deeds. All of the younger years are scared of them and they rule the school. Until the Head Girl is murdered and everything changes.

I loved the tension between the girls at Deepdean. Suddenly the younger girls have just as much power as the Big Girls and the whole school is starting to question whether Elizabeth’s death was actually an accident. The girls started to turn on each other, everyone was on edge and Daisy and Hazel’s friendship started to fracture. I’m not going to ruin what goes on between Daisy and Hazel, but it was the stickiest situation they’ve been in together so far and this sounds strange, but it really brought out their personalities, in a way.

But there were also some really brilliant topics brought into the conversation: the rising unrest in Europe in 1935, the persecution of Jewish people by the Nazis, the pressure on the Deepdean girls to succeed (whether that be in education or in marriage), the taboos of polite society and the unescapable fear of the Head Girl holding your deepest, darkest secrets over your head.

Jolly Foul Play is another amazingly fun, charming and compelling mystery. I could read about Hazel and Daisy and their adventures for ever.

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy!


Tuesday 29 March 2016

2016 Classics Challenge: Jamaica Inn

Originally published in 1936 by Gollancz

My edition: The gorgeous chalkboard YA re-release from last year.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
When I started to see adverts for a new BBC TV mini-series back in 2014. I actually struggled to get into it and never made it past the first episode!

WHY I Chose to Read It
I fell head over heels in love with Daphne du Maurier last year when I read Frenchman’s Creek for the blog tour celebrating the new YA editions of Frenchman’s Creek, Rebecca and Jamaica Inn.

WHAT Makes It a Classic
It’s Daphne du Maurier! Jamaica Inn is a classic tale of an orphaned girl forced to leave her home and move in with her aunt and uncle who run the legendary Jamaica Inn, only to find that there’s something a little sinister going on. Mary also happens to catch the eye of the devilish Jem Merlyn, her uncle’s brother, and begins to wonder if he’s mixed up in all of the murdering and smuggling that is going on along the Cornish coast.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was a bit hesitant about this after loving Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek at it doesn’t seem to be as well-loved, but I still really, really enjoyed it.

As I'm coming to expect from Du Maurier, the atmosphere perfectly drawn; Jamaica Inn is dark, gloomy and deliciously ominous. Atmosphere is one of the places that Du Maurier really, really shines. It builds deliciously and the wild, rugged setting of the Bodmin moors only enhances everything as Mary spends her afternoons walking them and meeting mysterious figures that become very important to her life at Jamaica Inn. Jem is the biggy.

Jem Merlyn is said to be the worst of the Merlyn’s, though Mary can't imagine anyone worse than her uncle, Joss Merlyn. Jem turns out to be ruggedly charming, intelligent and really rather appealing. Mary’s ruminations on her growing feelings for Jem revealed a really interesting take on romance – she doesn’t believe in it. She sees attraction as instinctual and inevitable, and a bit of an inconvenience, to be honest. It's a refreshing attitude and an unusual one for a 19th Century woman. Like Lady Dona from Frenchman’s Creek, Mary feels a little stifled by the constraints of being a young, unmarried woman in her time; she’s trapped by her family and her situation, but unlike Dona, she has neither the money nor the freedom to escape it. I'm beginning to think that this might be a running theme for Du Maurier.

Unlike Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek, I did have a few issues with Jamaica Inn. I didn’t 100% connect with Mary, though I did like her for the most part. It was her reaction to one of the characters that made my feelings towards her shaky. SPOILER! Francis Davey, the vicar of a nearby town, rescues Mary when she becomes lost in the moors and takes her back home to Jamaica Inn. Davey has albinism and Mary becomes a little fixated on him – she constantly refers to him as “an albino” and “a freak of nature”, and then he turns out to be the brains behind the deadly smuggling gang that Joss is a part of. It made me extremely uncomfortable for so much focus to be on his appearance and “unnaturalness” and then he turns out to be a villain. Not cool, DDM.

I was also a smidge disappointed by the ending. There was a big build up with Mary telling Jem that she didn’t want to go with him on an adventure and wanted to go back home to Helford among the people she grew up with and make a go of her parents’ farm. I was cheering her on and maybe hoping Jem would go with her, but not too bothered, and then he works on her and she up and leaves with him instead! It wasn’t out of character completely, but I just didn’t feel like it was really what she wanted. SPOILER OVER!

Though Jamaica Inn wasn’t as perfect as Rebecca or Frenchman’s Creek for me, I did still thoroughly enjoy it and my love for Daphne du Maurier is still going strong.

WILL It Stay a Classic
Yes, it definitely will. It’s one of Du Maurier’s most famous novels and it was adapted for the BBC a year or so ago. It won’t be forgotten!

WHO I’d Recommend it To
- Fans of eerie, historical settings.
- People who love 19th century set novels.


Sunday 27 March 2016

Letterbox Love #127

Letterbox Love is a way to give all of the books I receive for review some exposure. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. All of the books are in exchange for an honest review.

Girl Out of Water, Nat Luurtsema (proof)

I am Lou Brown:
Social outcast,
Precocious failure,
5’10” and still growing.

I was on the fast track to Olympic super-stardom. Now I'm training boys too cool to talk to me. In a sport I've just made up. In a fish tank.

My life has gone weird very quickly.

I heard about this back at the end of last year and fell in love with the reading so I squeaked when this arrived through the door! Thanks Walker!

Flamecaster, Cinda Williams China (proof)

Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a powerful healer with a gift of magic – and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can he use his powers not to save a life but to take it?

Jenna Bandelow lives a reckless as a spy and saboteur, striking back against the king. She has been warned that the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would one day make her a target, but she never believed in the curse…until the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers. Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted. She only knows that she can't get caught.

In a twist of fate, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths collide in Arden, where chilling threats and dark magic abound. Ultimately, they’ll come to recue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.

I've heard such wonderful things about Cinda Williams China so I’m excited about this! Thanks Harper 360!

I got to go to a Penguin Random House Children’s Showcase and got some glorious books:

A photo posted by Sophie (@solittletimeforbooks) on


Friday 25 March 2016

Hour of the Bees, Lindsay Eagar

Pages: 360
Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: 3rd March 2016
Edition: US proof, review copy

This powerful debut novel delicately blurs the line between truth and fiction as Carol unravels the fantastical stories of her mentally ill grandfather.

When she and her family move to his deserted ranch in order to transfer him to a care home, Carol struggles to cope with the suffocating heat and the effects of her grandfather’s dementia. Bees seems to be following her around, but the drought means this is impossible. She must be imagining things. Yet when her grandfather chooses her as the subject for his stories – tales of a magical healing tree, a lake, and the grandmother she never knew – Carol sees glimmers of something special in what her parents dismiss as Serge’s madness. As she rethinks her roots and what she thought she knew about her family, Carol comes to the realisation that Serge’s past is quickly catching up with her present.

I’ve heard wonderful things about Lindsay Eagar’s debut and although I had a few issues, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Within pages of starting Hour of the Bees I was captured by the intensity of the writing. I immediately felt the cloying heat, the danger and the life-or-death feeling of the New Mexico desert and that never lets up. It does lessen a little as the summer skips along pretty fast – maybe a bit too fast? I wanted more of the long, lingering summer days reflecting the desert drought, especially as Carol says how much the summer is dragging for her.

Speaking of dragging, I wasn’t a huge fan of Serge’s story of Sergio and Rosa that ran throughout the main novel. I find that flashbacks/stories are a bit hit and miss for me and these ones were just a bit too long as I was genuinely invested in Carol’s immediate story. Being confronted with her ancestral home and the grandfather she’s never met before forces Carol to confront her heritage. She’s Mexican American, but she focuses on the American side. Serge’s stories about his life, the ranch and their history makes Carol think differently about herself and her origins which I really loved.

The relationships throughout Hour of the Bees are so strong and emotive. The painful, tense connection between Carol and her half-sister, Alta; the new, tentative one between Carol and Serge; and the growing distance between Carol and her dad as she learns about his past and relationship with Serge. It’s knotty and fascinating and chock-full of emotion. I even cried at the end…

Hour of the Bees is a gorgeously written magical realism novel about family, identity and embracing your heritage.


Tuesday 22 March 2016

8 Awesome Things About the Scholastic #BloggerBookFeast!

Last Saturday I was invited to go to the Scholastic offices for their #BloggerBookFeast! A Saturday is always good when it involves yummy sandwiches, books and blogger friends. Here are some of the coolest things about it:

1. I got some b-e-a-utiful books!

2. Sue Wallman, debut author of Lying About Last Summer, told us the emotional, touching story of her road to publication and her motivation for writing. We all felt a little teary!

3. Getting a sneak peek at upcoming releases is always a treat. I'm most excited for: Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, Super Awkward by Beth Garrod and, of course, The Raven King.

4. Another debut author, Beth Garrod, introduced us to Super Awkward and revealed just how many of Bella’s mishaps are inspired by her own… If you like funny, English contemp then you need to start looking forward to September right about now.

5. The designers behind the The Sin Eater’s Daughter and the two latest incarnations of The Hunger Games trilogy revealed their processes and all of the super cool drafts that they went through. We all fell in love with at least two of the draft sets…

6. Nick Ostler and Mick Huckerby introduced Defenders of the Realm and talked about their history as screenwriters, what influenced their debut (superheroes and the British monarchy!) and how writing as a duo works.

7. All of the authors – plus Eve Ainsworth and Melinda Salisbury - took part in a panel led by Scholastic editor David Maybury (he has a fancier title but I can’t remember it…). It was HILARIOUS.

8. And as always, the highlight of any blogger event is seeing all of the lovely faces of people I talk to online – publishers and bloggers!


Monday 21 March 2016

The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig

Pages: 343
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 3rd March 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.

Nix Song is a time-traveller. She and her father use maps to navigate not just the globe but time itself. Their glorious old pirate ship, manned by a rag-tag crew of time-refugees, is stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical and takes them wherever their hearts desire.

But for all the adventure such a life holds, there is danger too. A danger that threatens Nix’s very existence. And when fate and a very particular map take Nix back to her origins, everything she knows is thrown into jeopardy. Including, perhaps, the path to the love of her life…

Lush, thrilling, and exquisitely romantic, The Girl From Everywhere will simply sweep you away.

Everything about Heidi Heilig’s debut appeals to me: Maps! Mythology! Romance! Hawaii!

The premise of The Girl from Everywhere is pure magic and I really loved learning about how it works and getting snippets of past adventures Nix has had aboard the Temptation. I love that they can Navigate to mythological places, distant times and distant lands and the endless possibilities made me dream of being a member of the crew myself.

But my favourite element of the novel was definitely the budding romance between Nix and Kashmir. I love the banter, the sizzly tension and the touches of affection and feeling that pass between them as they go about their adventures. Kashmir is cheeky and sweet and I loved the way that he made Nix think differently. Also, they are just plain adorable together.

Though I enjoyed the romance, the mythology, the world-building and the tense history between Nix and Slate, I never felt particularly inclined to pick it back up at all. I don’t know why it was – the writing was so beautiful! – and once I was reading, I raced through it. I even finished The Girl from Everywhere genuinely excited to read more from Nix, Kashmir and the rest of the Temptation crew.

The Girl from Everywhere is a beautifully written debut about magic, myth, love and friendship. A gorgeous start to a super fun series.

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy.


Sunday 20 March 2016

Letterbox Love #126

Letterbox Love is a way to give all of the books I receive for review some exposure. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. All of the books are in exchange for an honest review.

Treats, Lara Williams (e-proof)

“Dance like nobody gives a crap. Drink like you don’t have a family to go home to. Love because what else is the point.”

So says one of the characters in Lara Williams’ extraordinary debut short story collection. Treats is a break-up album of tales covering relationships, the tyranny of choice, and self-navigation. This fresh, beguiling new voice paints a portrait of contemporary adulthood, balancing wry humour with a pervading sense of alienation in the digital era.

Williams’ characters struggle with how to negotiate intimacy within relationships and isolation when single, the pitfalls and indignities when dating, dragged down by dissatisfaction. Meanwhile the dilemmas of life play out, including abortion, depression, extra-marital affairs, infatuation, new baby anxiety, bereavement, hair loss, sexual ethics, cats, and taxidermy.

I’ve heard some seriously amazing reviews for this and I’m excited! Thanks Freight Books and NetGalley!  

Desolation, Derek Landy (e-proof)

Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.

Amber and Milo’s only hope lies with Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night very year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.

And that night is coming…

SO looking forward to this! Thanks NetGalley and Harper Collins!

The Unexpected Everything, Morgan Matson (proof)

Before the scandal, Andie had important plans. And zero of them involved walking an insane amount of dogs, being in the same house as her dad or hanging out with Clark. Now there’s a whole summer stretching out ahead of Andie without a plan. And Andie always sticks to the plan.

But here’s the thing – if everything’s always mapped out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

Yay! I love Morgan Matson’s books so I’m super excited for this.

Cruel Crown, Victoria Aveyard (e-proof)

In a world divided by blood – Red or Silver – two women tell the stories no one else knows.

For Coriane of House Jacos, love comes at a terrible cost. In a secret diary, she recounts her heady courtship with the heir to the Silver throne, Prince Tiberias, and the dangers that lurk at the heart of the royal heart.

Captain Farley is at the forefront of the Red rebellion. As she plans an attack on the Silver capital, she discovers a secret that could sway the balance of power forever.

Two gripping stories. One fight for justice.

Red vs. Silver.

So looking forward to this! Thanks Orion and NetGalley!


Friday 18 March 2016

The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin

Pages: 352
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 10th March 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Suzy is twelve when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it’s not something she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just five. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?

Suzy realises that they must have got it wrong: Franny didn’t just drown, she was stung by a poisonous jellyfish. This makes a lot more sense to Suzy’s logical mind than a random drowning – cause: a jellyfish sting; effect: death.

Suzy’s journey to acceptance is quiet – she resolves to either say something important, or nothing at all. But it’s also bursting with bittersweet humour, heart-breaking honesty, big ideas and small details.

The Thing About Jellyfish is one of the most beautifully written debuts I've read in a really long time.

Suzy’s sharp intelligence and unique way of looking at the world make The Thing About Jellyfish a real joy to read. She spends a lot of time in her head – mulling over her relationship with Franny and learning as much about jellyfish as she possibly can. There’s a lingering sadness throughout the novel as Suzy reveals the decline of her friendship with Franny and the last moments she shared with her before she died. The pain of losing a friend in middle school as cliques form and Franny drifted away was palpable.

In the wake of losing Franny, Suzy has decided to stop filling space with small talk, only speaking when it means something. I’ve read about elective mutism in a fair few YA novels, but this felt very different to what I've read before. Suzy wasn’t completely silent and she hadn’t been quiet for very long, but it was still pretty all-encompassing in Suzy’s narration.

Ali Benjamin’s debut is a gorgeously written look at loss, friendship, family and the hardships of growing up.

Thanks to Macmillan for the review copy.


Thursday 17 March 2016

Chunky Books: A Story of Intimidation

Ever since I was a kid up until I started blogging I went straight for this biggest books I could find. There was no such thing as a book too long, but now I avoid them.

I get tonnes of review books that need reading as a priority and those reviews need to go up in a timely manner. A book over 450 pages now makes me cringe: do I have time? I won’t have a review for Monday! If I read two short books and get the week scheduled up then maybe I can read that chunker after…

But what about the chunky non-review books I want to read? I recently posted about my Adult TBR – Part One, Part Two and Part Three – and lots of books on there are big ones and none of them are review copies. They’re ones I’ve fancied and bought, fully knowing that it’s unlikely I’ll let myself get to them anytime soon.

I'm really going to try and change that in 2016. The ones I'm planning to start with are:

Wish me luck!


Wednesday 16 March 2016

Zom-B Goddess, Darren Shan

Pages: 256
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 7th April 2016
Edition: UK hardback, review copy

Double-crossed again, B is confused, enraged and broken. But the battle isn’t over. The end is nigh, but there are plenty of horrors to come. And who will survive? The Zombies? The humans? Or worse…?

‘Zachary…’ Dr Oystein murmurs.

‘No,’ Owl Man replies. ‘There has been enough bloodshed. I know there must be more before this is through, but let’s not kill those we can afford to spare. You and I are monsters, but we have to draw the line somewhere. Let’s draw it here.’

Dr Oystein looks troubled, but he nods reluctantly.

Owl Man turns to the girl again. ‘Leave your walkie-talkie,’ he says. ‘Return to County Hall. Tell Mr Dowling that you found me with Becky Smith and Dr Oystein. Tell him it’s over. The outcome has been decided, since we have what Becky stole from him.’

SPOILERS ahead for the first 11 books in the series!

I can't believe the Zom-B series is over!  I feel like I've followed B through a hell of a lot and I’ll be sad to see her go.

When we re-join B for the last time, everything she thought she knew has been turned on its head again. Dr Oystein and Owl Man finally reveal what's really going on, and though there is a hefty dose of exposition and explanation, the tension never dips for a second. I was still on the edge of my seat, waiting for whatever would happen or what bomb would be dropped next.

I’m not going to spoil this epic finale in any way, but Zom-B Goddess eventually climaxes in the big battle we’ve long been expecting. It doesn’t disappoint. We get another huge twist, another big moment for B to shine and a suitably mind-blowing ending to a series that has made me gasp in shock at least once per book. I finished the Zom-B series with a big smile on my face and huge love for B and her story.

I've loved every book in the Zom-B series, and although I’m sad B’s journey is over, I’m really quite excited to dive into Darren Shan’s backlist.

Thanks to S&S and Angel Publicity for the review copy.


Tuesday 15 March 2016

Mini-Reviews: Year of Yes, Modern Romance and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
336|S&S|10th November 2015|Audiobook
Read by: Shonda Rhimes

In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood's most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder, reveals how saying YES changed her life - and how it can change yours too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when invitations arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And to an introvert like Shonda, who describes herself as 'hugging the walls' at social events and experiencing panic attacks before press interviews, there was a particular benefit to saying no: nothing new to fear.

Then came Thanksgiving 2013, when Shonda's sister Delorse muttered six little words at her: You never say yes to anything.

Profound, impassioned and laugh-out-loud funny, in Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes reveals how saying YES changed - and saved - her life. And inspires readers everywhere to change their own lives with one little word: Yes.

Shonda Rhimes is a complete powerhouse and I loved her before starting Year of Yes, but by the time I had finished? I now worship at the shrine of Shonda.

This book is completely hilarious. Shonda is glorious self-deprecating, sharp, witty and she delivers everything perfectly. Listening to her tell me her story felt like watching one of her shows. There was a heft of emotion, laughter, silliness, the celebration of friendship and a whole heap of fist-pumping feminism. This woman is a born storyteller.

During Shonda’s Year of Yes, she enabled herself to talk about all of the things that mattered to her: her shows, her children, motherhood, relationships, her social anxiety, fear of live TV and her discomfort with her body. There wasn’t a stone unturned, but it never felt over the top in anyway. Shonda learnt so much during her year of yes that I just couldn’t help re-evaluate my approach to life and the world and my life; it's entirely possible I need to find my equivalent of Year of Yes (because I don’t get invited to galas and talk shows to say no to…).

It’s real and raw and completely wonderful. I can’t recommend it enough.

Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
288|Penguin|18th June 2015|Audiobook
Read by: Aziz Ansari

In the old days, most people would find a decent person who lived in their village or neighbourhood, and after deciding they weren't a murderer, get married and have kids - all by the age of 22.

Now we spend years of our lives searching for our perfect soul mate and, thanks to dating apps, mobile phones and social media, we have more romantic options than ever before in human history. Yet we also have to confront strange new dilemmas, such as what to think when someone is too busy to reply to a text but has time to post a photo of their breakfast on Instagram. And if we have so many more options, why aren't people any less frustrated?

For years, American comedian Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at dating and relationships, and in Modern Romance, he teams up with award-winning sociologist Eric Klinenberg to investigate love in the age of technology. They enlisted some of the world's leading social scientists, conducted hundreds of interviews, analyzed the behavioural data, and researched dating cultures from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to New York City. The result is an unforgettable picture of modern love, combining Ansari's irreverent humour with cutting-edge social science.

Everything about Modern Romance intrigued me from the moment I heard about it, and the second I saw that the audiobook was read by Aziz himself, I had to have it. 

Aziz and Eric used focus groups in several different cities across the world to ask a whole host of different people about their opinions and experiences about dating in the modern day and used them to paint a portrait of then and now. Everything Aziz uncovered was fascinating: the differences found between ages, sex (but not sexuality, unfortunately), location, and some of them were genuinely scary. The way that men treat women in South America is actually horrifying, but even though the women don’t like it, it’s normal and expected. 

I did find it a little stats and fact heavy at points – I think Modern Romance was most successful when sharing stories and anecdotes from the people Aziz interviewed, and from his own life, rather than just reeling off figures, however significant or impressive they are. Stats and figures will always shout textbook to me! But Aziz Ansari’s narration was completely perfect. His comedic timing is spot on, his side notes to the listener, everything. It was his narration that made me want to carry on even when the content got a little dry with numbers. 

Modern Romance is super interesting, and definitely worth a look for those interested in cultural and social approaches to women and relationships.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
208|Audible Studios|23rd February 2016|Audiobook
Read by: Scarlet Johansson

Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring) brings a palpable sense of joy and exuberance to her performance of Lewis Carroll's enduring classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. From the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter to the Cheshire Cat and Queen of Hearts, she imbues each madcap character with a distinct voice and personality that will leave a lasting impression long after the adventure is over.

One hundred and fifty years after its original publication,
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland remains one of the most widely read, deconstructed, referenced, and reinterpreted works of Western fiction. It tells the story of the young and imaginative Alice, who grows weary of her storybook, one "without pictures or conversations", and follows a hasty hare underground - to come face to face with a host of strange and fantastic characters.

Before I even start on Lewis Carroll’s classic story, I have to gush about Scarlet Johansson. Her narration is complete perfect. She doesn’t just read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, she performs it. There are distinct, wonderful voices for so many characters that never feel cringey or anything but completely authentic; everything that comes out of her mouth that carries the magic of Wonderland.

Now, story. You can’t make it to 23 without knowing the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by heart: I’ve seen the Disney animation and the Johnny Depp remake so many times it’s a little bit ridiculous, references to the story are part of our daily language and it’s being reworked and reimagined in every possible way all of the time. But I'd never read the original text before. It’s so odd to hear something so familiar and it feel so nostalgic when you’ve actually never read it before, but it was really nice.

I loved listening to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and I’m crossing my fingers that Johansson will narrate Alice Through the Looking Glass.