Literature

Bumper book news: what I read in March and April

So I totally forgot do one of these posts to wrap up what I read in March, so I thought it would be wise to combine it with my April reads. Besides, I didn’t read that many books in each month separately. Let’s just pretend that’s the reason I didn’t do one last month, and not my sheer absent-mindedness, okay?

It’s been a busy few months, what with our community opera, concerts, deadlines and unfortunate happenstances I won’t bore you with, so I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to read, but now that I’ve submitted all my third year coursework, I am free to read to my heart’s content in May – hooray for doing a degree that has basically no Honours exams!

Without further ado, here’s what I managed to cross off my TBR over the past two months.

MARCH

1. Coraline and Other Stories by Neil Gaiman – ★★★★

After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Ocean at the End of the Lane in December, I was keen to get my teeth into some more of Neil Gaiman’s work. He’s a writer that has been on my TBR for a few years, and I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to finally read some of his books; they’re just so me. I decided to pick up Coraline for a few reasons: it’s one of his most well-known works, it can be read by all ages so wouldn’t be too confusing or put me off Gaiman’s writing, I like the film adaptation by Henry Selick, it seemed like it would be similar in tone to TOatEotL, and I can’t resist a good short story collection. All in all, I really really enjoyed it. The titular story is, of course, excellent, but other stand outs include Chivalry and The Witch’s Headstone. The latter became part of The Graveyard Book, which I picked up in Oxfam a few days after finishing Coraline and am excited to read soon!

2. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson – ★★★★★

This was another book that had been on my TBR for absolutely years and years, but I was just waiting for the right moment to pick up. In the past few months, I’ve really had something of a breakthrough with opening up about my sexuality, which is something I’ve always questioned and as a result is a form of happiness I’ve denied myself out of fear. Because of it, I’ve been surrounding myself with as much LGBT+ fiction (books, TV shows, films etc.) as possible, since it make me feel safe; Oranges is one of those books that I picked up at this crucial moment and I’m so glad I did. It honestly moved me to tears. I read Sexing the Cherry last year and wasn’t a fan, but Winterson has well and truly won me back with this one.

3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman – ★★★★

I’d heard lots of good things about Bird Box on BookTube, so being the psychological horror fan that I am, I picked it up as it looked like it would be an easy read. It was, to some extent, but I started it at such a busy point in the month that it actually took me a couple of weeks to finish. In retrospect, I would maybe give this three stars – I’m still on the fence, because while I liked it and gave it four stars at the time, it hasn’t made that much a lasting impression. Still, I thought the premise was fascinating, there was the perfect amount of suspense, and to top it off, there was a bonus short story at the end called Ghastle and Yule that I think I enjoyed even more than the novel itself. I’m intrigued to see what Malerman does next.

APRIL

1. Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark – ★★★★★

This cute lil graphic novel made me squeal with affection. I don’t know, maybe it’s a dog owner thing, but I absolutely love love LOVED this book. It was such good light relief and I read it over two sittings; it would also make a good coffee table book, as it’s made up of vignettes that you can dip in and out of at leisure. The illustrations are beautiful, all the characters have such clear, individual voices and it just gave me a case of warm fuzzies that I’m still recovering from, frankly. I highly recommend to anyone with a heart!

2. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates – ★★★★

As a staunch feminist, I was bound to read this at some point, but as certain chapters came in handy for the music psychology presentation I gave at the start of the month, I just decided to read the whole thing while I had it on loan for research. It wasn’t an easy read by any means – this isn’t fluffy Moran-esque feminism that seeks to entertain as it educates – but it was so worth it. There was a really good balance between statistics, quotes and case studies, and it just hammered home so many important messages. I honestly think that this should be required reading for everyone!

3. The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan – ★★★★★

Okay, not to be melodramatic in any way, but I think this might be the best book I’ve read all year. I ADORED it. It’s funny, because I hadn’t heard of Kirsty Logan until I spotted this in Blackwell’s and decided to buy it on the premise that I like fairy tales and I wanted to support local talent. I mean, I was expecting to enjoy it, but I was completely blown away by the perfect blend of magic realism, queer relationships and idyllic Scottish settings. Like, those are my three favourite things and I’ve been planning a novel including all those elements for the past year! To make it even better, I struck up a conversation with Kirsty over Twitter and she is absolutely lovely. I am buzzing like a second-hand fridge to read her new book, The Gracekeepers.

4. The Girl with All the Gifts by ML Carey – ★★★★

I borrowed this from my mum a few months ago but only just got around to reading it in the Easter holidays. I love a good dystopian novel, so naturally this really appealed to me – it reminded me a bit of Matilda, but set in the future and with zombies and crazed scientists and much more adult content. The central relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineau really moved me, so naturally I was rooting for them throughout the novel, and I’m actually really pleased with how it panned out. Many people, including my mum, didn’t like the ending, but I quite liked the ambiguity of it all and its weird blend of bleakness and hope. It only loses a star because I found myself skimming at some points, especially when it was from the two soldiers’ POVs.

5. Antichrista by Amélie Nothomb – ★★★

Now, there is an awesome story behind how I acquired this book. As you might have noticed, I’m a keen BookTube viewer and my personal BT heroine, Jen Campbell, made a video singing the praises of Amélie Nothomb a few months ago, but noted that her books are quite difficult to find in your average bookshop. However, I added Antichrista and The Book of Proper Names to my Goodreads TBR in the hope that I might find them one day. A few weeks ago, I went to Alnwick and, naturally, had to visit Barter Books. On the bus there, I said to Giulia, “I wonder if they’ll have anything by Amélie Nothomb – I haven’t been able to find her books anywhere”. Lo and behold, they not only had Amélie Nothomb’s books, but the exact two, and ONLY the exact two, that I had on my TBR! I read Antichrista the day after I bought it, and while I enjoyed it, I felt it could have been longer – there was a lot of potential for a longer plot, so it seemed to all be over really quickly.

6. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters – ★★★★

Giulia lent me this because it’s been on my TBR for a while, and as previously mentioned, I’m binging on everything LGBT+ at the moment. This was so nearly a five-star book, but to get five stars, I not only need to love it, but it needs to have a kind of profound effect on me. I did really really enjoy Tipping the Velvet, but it wasn’t quite in the same spiritual way as the likes of Oranges, so four stars it is. I’m also not generally a fan of historical fiction, but I really liked how gritty this book was – I’d like to read more historical fiction that deals with taboo themes in such a headstrong, exciting way. The start was perhaps a bit slow, but once I got past this, I couldn’t put it down – I really felt like I was on a journey with Nancy and I couldn’t wait to see where she ended up next. It definitely ended with the best possible outcome though…I shall say no more!

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I’ve got a few books I really want to read soon, but now that I’m free until September, I’m really looking forward to just seeing where my moods and whims take me with regards to book selection. However, if you have any suggestions for me based on these wrap-up posts, do let me know!

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