12 Book Reviews in 12 Sentences

I can’t believe we are heading towards the end of February already. I’ve managed to read 12 books so far this year and I thought it would be a good idea to review every single one of them! For the sake of laziness brevity, I’ll condense each review to one sentence per book.

1. “Er ist Weider Da (Look Who’s Back)” by Timur Vermes

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Not as funny as I thought it would be, but a great premise and it was unbelievable scary how some of Hitler’s speeches in this novel are Trump-esque.

2. “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler

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I was completely beside myself after reading this novel and did a lot of public crying on Sydney’s trains while reading this novel.

3. “Before I Was Yours” by Virginia Macgregor

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An unexpectedly comprehensive story about adoption that made me feel all of the feelings on the emotional spectrum.

4. “Archie Appleby: The Terrible Case of the Creeps” by Kaye Ballie

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Probably the best example of a kid with anxiety who is prone to jumping to conclusions about the stranger extended family members.

5. “Jamaica Inn” by Daphne du Maurier

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A little bit scary and surprisingly really violent, but a well written story by one of my favourite authors.

6. “Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors” by Peter Acroyd

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Very detailed, comprehensively researched and well written, but unfortunately not enough focus on the “normal” people (those that weren’t royalty or connected to royalty) and their daily lives.

7. “How to Build a Girl” by Caitlin Moran

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All teenage girls need to read this novel – I think I laughed so hard in some places because I related so much to this story.

8. “Lives in Ruins” Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble” by Marilyn Johnson

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This book made me want to become an archaeologist – even though it’s clearly (partly) a warning against taking it up as a profession if you ever want to earn money and have a relatively stable family life.

9. “Foxglove Summer” by Ben Aaronovitch

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Probably my favourite book in the Rivers of London series – a seamless novel with perfect pace and as always in this series, plenty of laughs.

10. “Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice” by Colin Renfrew

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A really good starting point for beginners in archaeology – or just your every day archaeology enthusiasts!

11. “Fifty Shades of Feminism” by Lisa Appignanesi

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Two reasons why this book is worth reading – 1. Feminism and 2. The copy I found in the book story was wrapped up, as if it had some dangerous ideas inside.

12. “Skinny Liver: Lose the fat and lose the toxins for increased energy, health and longevity” by Kirstin Kirkpatrick

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Definitely the self-help book I needed to read on New Year’s Eve.

Let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments section – try to keep it to one sentence!

Trigger Warnings and Sometimes We Just Need to Snort-Laugh in Public

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. Looking at my Goodreads Challenge for 2016 (89 out of 100 so far. Not bad muthafu*&ers!), you would think this sentiment is utter bullshite, but I just feel a little bit over it all.

It might be that end of year feeling. It might be my regret at not taking some annual leave during this odd “After-Christmas-Before-New Year” period. Who knows?

I didn’t realise I felt this way until a colleague at work asked me during some down time before Christmas, “So what types of books do you like” and I literally said “Um… all of them?” in my annoying, shaky, high-pitched liar voice.

Even I wasn’t convinced.

Because the honest to Neil Gaiman truth is, I really don’t love any books out there at the moment. But I’m okay with that. Really, I am.

I’ve been going through a lot of random choices lately. In the past I have tried to read a lot more classics and literary fiction, however 2016 has seen my tastes venturing towards a hell of a lot more self-help books (hello, quarter-life crisis!) and what is usually termed “women’s fiction” (by the way, why the hell is that genre called that? These books can be read by men and women. They just happen to have female protagonists. Ugh!).

I’m a big believer in the right books finding you at the right time. After all, there’s no “right” way to approach reading.

So 2016 was a bit of a year about self-discovery and I read a few heavy books. A Little Life was probably the best book of them all. In saying that, I tend to not recommend this one when people ask me for recs, because I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s nervous breakdown triggered by the amount of self-harm and abuse portrayed in that novel. I’m considerate about my fellow man, and all that jazz.

On the other hand (and on a bit of a tangent) how do you feel about trigger warnings for books? Personally, as a psych undergrad, I think it’s responsible but as a reader I don’t think it has a place in art. In my humblest opinion, you’re meant to be open to feeling all of the emotions as part of the experience/consumption of the piece.

ANYWAYS….

After all of the heaviness, I thought I would end the year off with some light-er reading. Preferably something funny, set in England. I am an anglophile, afterall.

So I found out that Kindle Unlimited is now a thing on Amazon Australia and a couple of novels by Nick Spalding were in the Top 20 and recommended to me.

Usually, if I’m in a reading slump, picking something from the “recommended for you” list is not the best thing to do. I’m only going to end up with the same crap I’m trying to avoid, right?

Wrong. Thankfully, oh so wrong.

I read Nick Spalding’s novels Bricking It, Mad Love and Fat Chance (in that order) within the same week. They were such a hoot, I actually snort laughed on the train going into work. His novels gave me a much needed belly-laugh break from the boring books I’ve been borrowing, DNF-ing and returning to the library.

That last sentence was for the kids with alliteration fetishes.

Spalding’s books reminded me that there really is something for everyone and sometimes they are right under your nose. Or perfectly chosen for you by the Amazon recommendations algorithm.

So a few questions for you, my Dear Reader. What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read? Is there something you do in particular to pull yourself out of a reading slump? Have you found some great books from the “Recommended for you” sections in the possibly many book websites you peruse?

Trigger Warning: All caps incoming…

AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TRIGGER WARNINGS IN BOOKS/ART?

Would love to hear your thoughts, so grab a cuppa and let’s have a chat!

If you have enjoyed this post, please click “follow blog” so you don’t miss my next one.

Review: “The Night Watch” by Sarah Waters

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For some reason this book has been on my To-Be-Read list for 5 years (according to the trusty source that is Goodreads). I can’t even remember why I put it on my TBR list to begin with, since it’s more or less a romance novel set in England during World War 2.

I’ve tried to stay away from novels about World War 2 because it’s just too close for my likingMy grandparents were both from different sides of England and were serving respectively in the ATS and Royal Navy when they met and fell in love during World War 2. They just happened to be at the same pub in Liverpool (again, not where either of them were from) and the rest, as they say, is history. So growing up I had always heard things about World War 2 and as a reflex, my eyes would start rolling out of my head.

Now that I’m older and a lot more aware about the pretty shitty things going on in the world, I’ve begun to appreciate just how much the War meant to my grandparents and their generation. Now it makes perfect sense to me that they would constantly bring it up. It was a pretty big deal and “The Night Watch” really gave me a sense of the fear and uncertainty of that time.

I think that my recent trip to the UK (my second one ever) has also renewed my interest in the War. I spent a lot of time walking the streets randomly, just observing the different styles of architecture, and noticed how there were big scars running through sections of the city. I don’t mean that any part of London that I saw was ugly. I just noticed the bits where bombs had clearly dropped and new buildings were built or old buildings were repaired but not quite blended in with the original structure. For an architecture AND archaeological nerd like myself, I found it a great way to immerse myself in the city’s history.

Back to “The Night Watch”… I was actually quite surprised at the homosexual element of the story. I don’t actively look for novels with lesbians as the central characters and I guess it just surprised me because I’m so biased towards World War 2 novels set in England to begin with. When I think “English wartime novels”, I think of very stereotyped gender roles with perhaps some feminist undertones peeking through (but of course nothing to wild because, you know, they’re English) .Quite frankly, I assumed this would be a novel my grandmother would happily sit down and read on a Sunday afternoon… but I’m not too sure I would give this one to her. She may have a heart attack *touch wood*.

I’m glad I was surprised by this novel though. It’s probably the reason why I kept reading it. The only drawback about it was the structure. I didn’t quite understand why the 3 separate parts were in reverse chronological order and I really think the last bit could have been chopped out altogether. Also, I found myself skimming the parts relating to the only central male character named Duncan. I just didn’t find myself caring enough about him.

So Reader, have there been any novels you have found yourself really surprised by recently? Do you have certain topics/periods in history you just can’t bring yourself to read about? Let me know in the comments!

I hope this week has treated you well.

A x

 

 

So sorry it’s been so long…

Ugh, that thing called “life” happened again and dragged me away from writing things on the Internet. How inconvenient, right?

So it looks like it’s been about 5 months since my last post and I’ve had some thoughts about what I want this blog to BE. I feel like I’m going through this strange inner growth spurt (I’m sure that’s a thing) and certain habits and people just don’t go with this new person that I’m becoming.

And that’s okay.

So in terms of reading and reviewing books… it’s just not going to happen in that structured kind of way that I thought was working for me. Lately I’ve been finding that I’m finishing a lot more books than I’m actually starting.

I even looked at my bookshelves the other night and said to my fiancé, “I’m just so sick of having books. I need to get rid of them.”

He almost fell off the couch and he begged me to let him record me saying that, most likely to use it against me during another moment of weakness in a book shop.

But I think I was serious. I’m afraid this “phase” might be something that sticks.

And again, that’s okay.

I’ve been borrowing heaps of books from my local library and I highly doubt that I will run out of reading material any time soon.

During my hiatus from the blog I’ve also been working on my Goodreads TBR list. I’ve decided to abandon my quest to read the 1000 Books To Read Before You Die and work on my TBR list in a chronological order. I’ve gone back to the first books I put on my Goodreads TBR list waaaayyy back in 2011 and I’m working on reading through what I can borrow from the library (if I don’t own a copy already) and eliminating the books I have no interest in anymore.

This new quest has made me realise that my taste literature has definitely changed over the last 5 years (again, this is okay and only natural of course).

So I’m thinking that I’ll take a different route with this blog and make it more of a relaxed record of what I’ve been reading and scratching off my long arse list.

It will definitely be more aimless than ever.

Heck, I might surprise myself and get rid of the “book” side to this blog completely and just waffle on about random things in my life.

I’m really curious to see how whether other readers out there have these slumps and “inner growth spurts”. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever gone through a bookshelf cull and eliminated masses from your TBR list. What sparked it and how did you feel afterwards?

 

 

 

Review: “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff

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From Goodreads:

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene’s sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.

A book about books, a bookstore, a writer in New York and the lovely city of London. Yes, this one is definitely a book that ticked all of Adrienne the Anglophile’s boxes.

This one had been on my TBR list for a long time. I can’t remember where I heard about it or why I wanted to read it so badly, but I finally checked it out of my local library a couple of weeks ago and read it over the Easter long-weekend.

This book was amazing.

It was very similar to The Potato Peel Pie Guernsey Literary Club, in that it was a collection of letters, but also being oh so English and so lovely all round. The main difference here, of course, is that 84, Charing Cross Road is a non-fiction book and these characters were real people and the events were not fiction. I think this really satisfied my nosy parker self – lately I’ve been craving more stories about “real” people.

I’m going to leave this review as a short and sweet one, just like the book itself. I read this book in one sitting on a comfy Saturday afternoon at home and I strongly recommend that you all do the same!

I would love to find more epistolary novels and non-fiction works of collected letters. Please leave your recommendations below and let me know what you’re reading this week!

Review: “The Lifestyle” by Melissa Giovanna

The Lifestyle is a book that is designed to help you, by shifting your thoughts, words and behaviours through value-based action. Don’t worry, value-based actions aren’t anything scary or overwhelming – it’s as simple as acting on what you value (think kindness, patience and gratitude) and practicing these values consciously in your day-to-day actions until they become habits. We’ve all heard the saying that “Willpower is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes” – this is the same principle for action-based values. The Lifestyle will guide you through recommended value-based actions over a four-week cycle and bring you that much closer to developing and achieving full potential, that is, becoming your “actualised-self”.

I know that this book isn’t meant to be read cover to cover in one sitting, since the idea of it is to work through the “Days of Action” and only read ahead for the next couple of days at a time. But let’s just say I took one for the team and read it in one go anyway.

I’m not one for that fluffy, motivational stuff, (so I don’t say this lightly) but this book was inspirational and gave me goosebumps at the thought of all of the amazing ways it could (and will) change my life.

What I found absolutely enchanting and hypnotic was each example of the “admissions from your actualised-self”. These were great, beautifully written examples of how to incorporate the specific value-based action for that particular day into your everyday life. It also helped to highlight how much your life, and the lives of those around you, will benefit in the long run when these value-based actions become habits and you reach self-actualisation.

I’ll be honest – I haven’t yet embarked on my conscious quest for self-actualisation and followed the Days of Action, but from reading through The Lifestyle, I know a couple of things for certain:

  1. I don’t have anything to lose and so much to gain from exercising these value-based actions as outlined in The Lifestyle.
  2. I am absolutely going to rock it.

Overall, The Lifestyle is a book which will help you live a better way of life and become a better human. So if you need a bit of hand-holding to get you through a rough patch, or you’re not quite sure what it is that you need to do to become a better person right now, you need to buy this book (or at the very least, visit the website for more information).

Review: “Sisters and Lies” by Bernice Barrington

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One hot August night, Rachel Power gets the call everyone fears. It’s the police. Her younger sister Evie’s had a car crash, she’s in a coma. Can Rachel fly to London right away? With Evie injured and comatose, Rachel is left to pick up the pieces of her sister’s life. But it’s hard fitting them together, especially when she really doesn’t like what she sees. Why was Evie driving when she doesn’t even own a licence? Who is the man living in her flat and claiming Evie is his girlfriend? How come she has never heard of him? The more mysteries Rachel uncovers the more she starts asking herself how well she ever really knew her sister. And then she begins to wonder if the crash was really the accident everybody says it is. Back in hospital, Evie, trapped inside an unresponsive body, is desperately trying to wake up. Because she’s got an urgent message for Rachel – a warning which could just save both their lives . . .

I really started this year off with a bang, reading-wise. This was the first book I read in the New Year as I trudged from my door to the train to work and repeated the same miserable exercise during peak hour to come home to an empty apartment. My fiancé was away for two weeks, so I had minimal distractions from reading but when it came to bed time and going to sleep – EVERYTHING was a distraction. I’m pretty sure I had convinced myself every single night that someone was breaking into my apartment. Reading a novel so full of suspense like “Sisters and Lies” did NOT help my paranoia either.

Just from reading the blurb, I knew I was going to like this book. Set in London, the two protagonists/narrators are sisters AND there’s a whodunnit element to the novel? You had me from the very start, Ms Barrington. I loved this novel and it kept me guessing until the very end. Usually I’m a bit hesitant to jump into novels where the narrators switch every so often and I think it may be because some writers out there just have difficulty keeping the momentum and pacing right with each turn. From what I can tell, this is Bernice Barrington’s debut novel (if i’m wrong, please feel free to correct me in the comments) but this book is so well written and unputdownable that I definitely would not have guessed it was a debut. I strongly recommend this one and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!