Thursday 23 March 2017

Mini Reviews: The Bees, Dear Ijeawele & Shrill

I rated The Bees 3 stars and my two latest non-fiction reads, Dear Ijeawele and Shrill got 5 stars each.

The Bees, Laline Paull
352⎟Fourth Estate⎟1st January 2015
Audiobook read by: Orlagh Cassidy

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous.

But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce love that will lead to the unthinkable…

I’ve been curious about The Bees for a really long time, but it’s sat untouched on my shelf for years. I was on the way back from London one evening and downloaded the audiobook on a whim.

I honestly still can’t decide whether I actually liked it or not. The world building of the hive,the characterisation of Flora and the other bees, the ideas and the themes are all brilliant and it should have been something that blew me away, but there was something there that didn’t allow me to fully connect with the story. I still can’t put my finger on what it was. Maybe that I listened to the audiobook? I’m not sure.

But regardless of my own reaction to the story, I can see why it’s revered, I can see why it was shortlisted for the Bailey’s - it’s clever, inventive and loudly feminist. I’ll definitely picking up Paull’s second novel, just out of curiosity.

Dear Ijewele, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
80⎟Fourth Estate⎟8th March 2017

I have some suggestions for how to raise Chizalum. But remember that you might do all the things I suggest, and she will still turn out to be different from what you hoped, because sometimes life just does its thing. What matters is that you try.

In We Should All be Feminists, her eloquently argued and much admired essay of 2014, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie proposed that if we want a fairer world we need to raise our sons and daughters differently. Here, in this remarkable new book, Adichie replies by letter to a friend’s request for help on how to bring up her newborn baby girl as a feminist. With its fifteen pieces of practical advice it goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century.

I didn’t even know this existed until it flooded social media on International Women’s Day. I had to pick it up.

I grabbed the Kindle edition and devoured it in half an hour on the evening of International Women’s Day. I’ve read two other books by Adichie - We Should All Be Feminists and The Thing Around Your Neck - and I never fail to be impressed by the depth, the warmth, the intelligence of her writing. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t touched her novels yet - I know I’ll be blown away by them and I need to make sure I’m in the space to appreciate them fully.

This letter to Adichie’s friend on how to raise a feminist is funny and empowering and I couldn’t have picked a better read for that day. I was so immediately in love that I ordered myself the hardback after only reaching the end of the Introduction in the Kindle edition. Though not all of the topics that Adichie covers in Dear Ijeawele are relevant to me - motherhood, negative influence of the father’s friends etc - the ideas relate to everything. It doesn’t who are you or what your situation, Adichie’s feminism crosses boundaries. It;s clear, concise and obvious.    

Just like We Should All Be Feminists, Dear Ijeawele should be read by everybody. Essential reading.

Shrill, Lindy West
272⎟Quercus⎟9th March 2017
Audiobook read by: Lindy West

Guardian columnist Lindy West wasn't always loud. It's difficult to believe she was once a nerdy, overweight teen who wanted nothing more than to be invisible. Fortunately for women everywhere, along the road she found her voice - and how she found it! That cripplingly shy girl who refused to make a sound, somehow grew up to be one of the loudest, shrillest, most fearless feminazis on the internet, making a living standing up for what's right instead of what's cool.

In Shrill, Lindy recounts how she went from being the butt of people's jokes, to telling her own brand of jokes - ones that carry with them with a serious message and aren't at someone else's expense. She reveals the obstacles and stereotyping she's had to overcome to make herself heard, in a society that doesn't think women (especially fat women and feminists) are or can be funny.

She also tackles some of the most burning issues of popular culture today, taking a frank and provocative look at racism, oppression, fat-shaming, twitter-trolling and even rape culture, unpicking the bullshit and calling out unpalatable truths with conviction, intelligence and a large dose of her trademark black humour.

I’ve wanted to read Shrill ever since I first heard about it. A funny, feminist memoir - what more could you want?

Lindy West’s first book is now one of my favourite books of the year so far - I loved it. Lindy talks about her career in writing about feminism, politics and women online; being fat; love; loss; and everything else in between. The hate this women has received purely for being herself and doing her job is disgusting, but the way she’s pulled herself above it is inspirational. I’ve come away from Shrill not just with respect for Lindy West, but affection too.

I really connected with lots of the things that she wrote about and I found that she articulated things I’ve felt but never found the words for myself, especially around body image and fat shaming. I came out of this book with hope that I could learn to appreciate and accept my body just as Lindy did.

Shrill made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me cheer and it made me rage. I loved it, and I especially recommend the audiobooks - Lindy’s narration is wonderful.


Tuesday 21 March 2017

Are audiobooks the best way to read a memoir?

I think so.

I’d honestly not really thought much about memoirs until I started listening to audiobooks back in 2015. I didn’t think they were for me. I figured they’d take me ages to get through. Maybe they’d even be a little boring. Man, I was wrong.

One of my favourite things to listen to on audiobook now is a memoir. And I’ve listened to some corkers.

Memoirs are often read by their author and those are often the best audiobooks period. The inflections, the emotion, the humour, the realness - you just can’t imitate that that as effectively for real life as you can for fiction in my opinion.

These are a few of the best memoirs I’ve listened to on audiobook:

Shrill, Lindy West
This is a very recent favourite - I finished it last week. I adored it and listened to the whole thing in only two or three days. Lindy talks about her career in writing about feminism, politics and women online; being fat; love; loss; and everything else in between. It’s now one of my favourite books of the year - I laughed, I cried, I raged and I cheered. What more can you ask for?

Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham
I love Gilmore Girls with my whole heart who I wanted to read this as soon as it was announced. I couldn’t even wait for the physical copy to be released, I HAD to read it immediately so I grabbed the audiobook and I’m so glad I did. LIstening to this book is like listening to Lorelai tell you about her alternate life. Brilliant.

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes is a TV legend. With Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Private Practice, How to Get Away with Murder and more under her belt, she knows her stuff. Shonda is wise, funny, warm and switched-on - I fell even more in love with her as I listened to this audiobook. It’s inspiring, empowering and essential reading for fans on Shonda’s shows.

And a few on my to listen list:

Just Kids, Patti Smith
I’m listening to this as I type this and I’m only a few minutes in, but it’s beautifully written and beautifully read. I’m looking forward to learning more about Patti Smith, her adventures and her New York.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, Chris Packham
This wasn’t something that first appealed to me when it came out, but the glowing reviews has got me convinced it’s something I need to try. It sounds sweet and sad and magical as Chris Packham explores his childhood adventures with all of the animals that came along with him.

Where Am I Now?, Mara Wilson
Like most people my age, Mara Wilson’s Matilda is a part of my childhood. I’ve seen it so many times I can recite whole passages along with the movie and Mara will always be that girl to me, but I really want to know who she is as an adult, too. Being a child star must have had a profound effect on her growing up and I’m curious.

Please recommend me your favourite audiobooks!


Wednesday 8 March 2017

Slowing Down

I’ve been a bit absent from the blog world really. My reading has slowed right down and the time and energy I used to have to dedicate to writing reviews has all but disappeared - spending all day writing for another website for my job has started to translate into my blog suffering.

But I AM reading, it’s just nowhere near at the same pace as I have since, well, forever actually. So when I have read a few books, I’ll be blogging about them, but I think that from now on I’ll be grouping them together in mini reviews and I'm planning on getting out at least one blog post a week.

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
This is one that I’ve been working my way through since the beginning of the year. I’m really enjoying it and it's surprisingly easy to read, I’m just struggling to pick it up during the week when I don’t feel like I have the time and level of clear-headedness I think that it deserves.

Dawn Study, Maria V Snyder
I love this series, this world and these characters so I’m taking the final instalment of the Study series nice and slowly. I’m not ready to say goodbye to Valek, Yelena, Ari, Janco and the rest of the gang, but I’m also desperate to find out what happens.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling
Comfort reading at its finest! When I was really struggling to get my reading in, I picked back up with my Potter re-reads on audiobook and I’m loving it. I had forgotten how whiny Harry starts to get in this book and just how quick to anger he is!

The Bees, Laline Paull
This is another audiobook read for me and one I’m only a couple of hours into. I’d been considering it for a few days and then took the plunge on a late train ride home from London after a long work together day when I had too much of a headache to read physically. It’s definitely different!

And next up on my TBR are:

Dramarama, E Lockhart
I love E Lockhart and this is one of her books that’s a little older but wasn’t published in the UK. Hot Key Books’ re-issues of her books make me so happy - I’m super excited to dive into this one while waiting on her upcoming release, Genuine Fraud.

Dead of Night, Michael Grant
We only got two YA World Book Day titles this year: David Almond’s Island and a Soldier Girls novella from Michael Grant. I’m a bit rusty on the details of book one so I’m going to give this a quick read and hope it’ll jog my memory enough to dive into Silver Stars soon.

Tender is the Night, F Scott Fitzgerald
I’m still aiming for a classic a month in 2017 and I think it’s time to read another Fitzgerald - I’ve only read The Great Gatsby and that was back in 2012/2013. As I’ve started collecting the gorgeous Penguin F Scott Fitzgerald Hardbacks I guess I need to start reading them!

I’d love to know what you guys are reading and what’s coming up next!


Wednesday 1 March 2017

My Endless Netflix Queue

2017 hasn't been a particularly strong reading year for me so far. 

It's just coming up to the end of February at the moment and I've read the same number of books in two months that I'd usually have read in one. I'm being picky, resistant, and worryingly resistant at times. Work has been busy and intense with long days and very little free time and it's wreaked havoc on ability to pay attention to a book. But I still need a daily dose of stories. 

Enter Netflix. 

So as the reviews become a little sparse on here, I thought I'd give you a peek into what I've watched recently, what I'm in the middle of and what's on my endless watchlist. 

Watched and LOVED

Santa Clarita Diet

I binged this whole series in a day while working. Whoops. It's gross and funny and I actually wasn't sure if I liked it until about half-way through, but I definitely enjoyed it. 


The lovely Stacey over at Pretty Books was raving about this last year and I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. LOVE. It's clever, witty, funny and just completely brilliant. Also totally different to what you'd expect from a zombie show, so if you're not a fan, give it a go anyway. 

The Shannara Chronicles

I actually started watching this on TV but forgot about it while waiting between airing dates (I am SO impatient now...) and then rediscovered while browsing Netflix. I started it all over again and got sucked in straight away. I binged the whole 10 episodes in a day while working. I may have a problem. 

Currently Watching


I am OB-SESSED. It's like the best mash-up of Pretty Little Liars, Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl and it's glorious. Mystery, drama, romance and wit - what more could you ask for in a teen drama? Oh, bingeability maybe? It's got that in spades. I watched the first episode before there was a second and nearly cried because there wasn't any more!

Brooklyn Nine Nine

I have so much love for the Nine Nine. I like to save it up until I have a chunk of episodes and then binge them when I need something to cheer me up.

The 100

I was completely obsessed by this last year, watching seasons 1 and 2 TWICE in the lead up to season 3 hitting UK screens, and then I just didn't witch season 3? Yeah, I have no idea either. But the US side of my Twitter feed are starting to talk about season 4 and it's got be back in game. Time to get caught up before we get season 4 in the UK. 

True Blood

I am so late to the game with this. I mean, I did watch the first two seasons when they originally aired, but like lots of TV shows airing around this time, I lost track while I was at university. And then I spotted the first season for super cheap on Amazon Prime and I figured why not. Now I'm properly obsessed. Genuinely considering paying £20 for season 5 on Prime level obsessed...

I'm also still watching Pretty Little Liars - I am so ready for the final half of the season and for it all to be over. Same with The Vampire Diaries! I'm only watching it for Caroline and Damon at this point. And Supernatural? I am so behind I can't even.

Endless To-Be-Watched List

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I waited to watch this because my sister also wanted to watch it but was never in the mood. And I waited. And I waited. Now she's decided she doesn't care and I'm way behind the curve. I've only heard amazing things though so I can't wait. 

The OA

I'm not even really sure what The OA is about, I just know that people I trust are in love with it and I want in. I also just trust Netflix to deliver amazing shows. Gimme. 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I've heard how clever and fun this is, and though I wasn't convinced at first, I really want to watch it now. I feel like this could be a really great end-of-day wind down show to binge watch during a busy week. 

Sense 8

So. Behind. I swear I'm the only person left with Netflix who hasn't watched this. One day, one day. 

And that barely even scratches the surface. Good grief...

Have you watched anything good lately? Tell me all about it!