Friday, 25 November 2016

Christmas Book Tag (ORIGINAL)


Christmas is a month away! That's exciting for some and terrifying for others, and I definitely fall into the former category. I love Christmas. I love the atmosphere and the carols and the cheesy songs and the lovely movies and the warm fuzzy feeling it gives me.

So to celebrate I've created my very own Christmas Book Tag. I feel I should say I'm sure there are other such tags out there, but this is one I've made entirely on my own and if there are any similarities to any other tags I promise that's pure coincidence.

I'll tag a few people once I've given my own answers, but whether you're tagged or not please feel free to do this tag and share the festive love!




I have to go with Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan. It's cheesy and festive and lovely; I read it over Christmas a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the experience.




I didn't really like The Great Zoo of China that much - which is a shame because it's essentially Jurassic Park but with dragons - but it was a shamelessly fun, quick read. If you want to know my thoughts in more detail you can check out my review here!



I don't know why, but I feel like Taylor Swift's 'Style' would be a great movie. It's one of my favourite songs from 1989 and something about it always makes me think there must be a bigger story someone can write in there somewhere; the lyrics make me think it'd be a great movie about a pair of doomed lovers who appear in different incarnations every century throughout history.



Sofia Khan is Not Obliged features a heroine who is a practicing muslim, and it's one of the best contemporary novels I've read in a long while. Check out my review here!



I have to go with The Disreputable Dog from The Old Kingdom series, who first appears in Lirael as Lirael's much-needed companion. She's so much fun and I love her, although Mogget is a very close second.



I read Burial Rites over new year a couple of years ago and it was the perfect read for those cold winter months. The setting was one of my favourite parts of Hannah Kent's debut - it was as much a character as all the people within it - and she writes those bleak, Icelandic landscapes beautifully.



Maia is one of my favourite fictional characters from one of my favourite books of all time. I adore The Goblin Emperor, it's like Rivendell meets the Tudor court, and when I was poorly with quinsy earlier this year the thing that comforted me most was curling up in bed and listening to the audiobook. If you haven't picked this up yet, I highly recommend that you do!



There are plenty I could have chosen, but I've always had a soft spot for The Secret Garden. I adored the 1993 adaptation when I was little and I finally read the book for my Popular Victorian Fiction module at university and loved it. I love Mary Lennox; she's grumpy and heartwarming, and a very good gardener to boot!



I'm still not over it.



I'm sure my lovely friend Natalie @ A Sea Change won't be too impressed with my choice, knowing how much she loved this book, but Uprooted was one of those books I really had to struggle through to finish. I liked a lot of things about it but the writing style and I just didn't get along very well which is a real shame, but I'd like to try more of Naomi Novik's work in future.



Okay so The Nutcracker certainly isn't without adaptations. Not only is it one of the most famous ballets around, but it also has numerous film adaptations - I just haven't found one I've completely fallen in love with yet. I want an adaptation that's nostalgic rather than juvenile; I'm a big fan of slightly creepy fairy stories, so I'd love to see someone like Henry Selick direct a stop motion adaptation of it.



I think The Good Immigrant is such an important book right now, so I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of it over the Christmas period! Then again, there are a bunch of other books I want to get my hands on, too...

If you'd like to have a go at this tag then please do! I'd love to know what your answers would be. For now I'm going to go ahead and tag:

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

This Week in Books | 23/11/16


This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!


Now: I'm a little behind on my Non-Fiction November and Native American November reading, though I'm pleased that I have actually been reading this month, and right now I'm reading Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian which I'm really enjoying so far. I'm hoping I can complete my Non-Fiction November reading this month, even if I end up reading some slightly different books to my original TBR. This one shouldn't take me too long to finish, though; it's really easy to read even though the topic is often very upsetting.

Then: I read my very first Donoghue, her latest novel, The Wonder. I enjoyed it but I still haven't decided how I feel about it completely, I think I may have to mull it over a little. Look out for my review!

Next: I still haven't read A Closed and Common Orbit which is ridiculous considering The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one of my favourite books of all time. I'm planning to pick it up soon, though!

What are you reading?

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | My Winter TBR


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!


This week's theme is a Thanksgiving freebie, so because I'm British and therefore don't celebrate Thanksgiving, and also just don't like the origin of the holiday (sorry America!), I'm going to talk about the books on my Winter TBR instead.

The majority of these are 2016 releases I want to read before the end of the year, along with a few seasonal reads!


The Muse by Jessie Burton: I read and loved Burton's debut, The Miniaturist (reviewed here!), last year, so it's pretty ridiculous that I haven't read this one yet. To be honest I just haven't been in the mood to pick it up yet, and I'm very much a mood reader, but I want to read it before the end of the year.

A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood: I definitely should have read this anthology by now, especially as I love historical fiction about women which is what this collection is all about. I ended up DNFing the other YA anthology I tried this year so I'm hoping I like this one more.

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss: I've heard nothing but brilliant things about this book and this author, and for someone who doesn't usually like covers with people on I think there's something so striking about this one.

The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann: A classic Christmas story I love but have never actually read, which is something I need to change!

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman: I was surprised by just how chunky this collection of Gaiman's non-fiction is when I bought a copy, but I think it'll be a really interesting collection to dip in and out of during the winter months.


The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis: I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this when it first came out, it sounds fairly bizarre, but I've seen so many good reviews that I couldn't resist picking up a copy for myself and I'd really like to read it this year.

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston: I'm pretty sure this is the third year in a row this book has been on my Winter TBR. It's an ideal winter read so I need to get to it this winter.

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney: I read Penney's debut, The Tenderness of Wolves (reviewed here!), back in January and while I didn't fall completely in love with it I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since finishing it. Under a Pole Star is another book with a wintery setting, something Penney wrote brilliantly in her debut novel, and I think it's going to be a brilliant book to read this winter.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi: I have to be completely honest, the only reason I bought this is because it's a gorgeous book. I do love the sound of it, though! I read my first Oyeyemi novel this year and even though I sadly wasn't the biggest fan, I think I'll enjoy her style of writing much more in a story collection.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry: I've started this one, and gotten about a quarter of a way through it, and while I've enjoyed what I've read it just hasn't grabbed me because I've been an absolutely rubbish reader this year. I want to finish it soon!

What did you talk about this week?

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Review | Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones


by Lucy Jones

My Rating: 

As one of the largest predators left in Britain, the fox is captivating: a comfortably familiar figure in our country landscapes; an intriguing flash of bright-eyed wildness in our towns.

Yet no other animal attracts such controversy, has provoked more column inches or been so ambiguously woven into our culture over centuries, perceived variously as a beautiful animal, a cunning rogue, a vicious pest and a worthy foe. As well as being the most ubiquitous of wild animals, it is also the least understood.

In Foxes Unearthed Lucy Jones investigates the truth about foxes in a media landscape that often carries complex agendas. Delving into fact, fiction, folklore and her own family history, Lucy travels the length of Britain to find out first-hand why these animals incite such passionate emotions, revealing our rich and complex relationship with one of our most loved – and most vilified – wild animals. This compelling narrative adds much-needed depth to the debate on foxes, asking what our attitudes towards the red fox say about us – and, ultimately, about our relationship with the natural world.

What's this? A book review? That's right, friends - I've actually read something! In fact, slowly but surely, I'm starting to read more.

As I'm taking part in Non-Fiction November this month I'm on a bit of a non-fiction kick, and I couldn't resist nabbing a copy of this new release.

If you're new to non-fiction (and considering I only really started reading it last year I'm certainly no connoisseur) then this would be a great place to start. Not only is it a fairly short book, but it's also very readable and feels as though it's been written from a place of real love; Jones isn't afraid to talk about her own experiences with foxes, from her childhood to the present day, but they're welcome additions to a book that easily could have become a book about statistics. Instead Jones is very fair; she loves foxes, but she doesn't villainise those who don't and she's not afraid to point out the flaws in those who idolise them.

Before this I hadn't read a non-fiction book about wildlife and now I'm keen to read more. If anyone has any recommendations for books on wildlife, preferably ones that include a bit of memoir or folklore or anything that doesn't make them too dry, please let me know!

One thing I must thank this book for is making me realise how much I love foxes. They really are beautiful creatures and I finished this book completely in awe of them; I'm not sure I know of any other creature that can adapt like the fox can. They're real survivors.

In fact this book taught me as much about myself as it did about foxes. Sounds cheesy, I know, but I went into this book expecting to be fascinated by the first chapter about how foxes have been represented in our stories from Aesop to Roald Dahl, which I was, and expecting to be a little bored or out of my depth with the following chapters, which I most certainly wasn't. I've come a long way considering I'd've been hugely intimidated by a book like this two or three years ago.

Not only that, but Foxes Unearthed helped me to see fox-hunting in a different way, too. Personally I am against fox-hunting; I think (literally) hounding a fox and then letting it be torn to pieces is cruel and completely unnecessary, and if foxes are such a threat to farming, which I really don't think they are, it should be up to farmers to both protect their own animals and deal with a fox problem in a humane way.

That being said, I'd never considered the social aspects of hunting before, or the fact that, for many, fox-hunting became something of a coping strategy after the First and Second World Wars. I'd also never considered that we may actually have fox-hunting to thank for the UK still having foxes now, as they've been kept around to hunt and therefore haven't disappeared like our wolves did. I'll never be a pro-hunting person, but I came out of this book a little less likely to think of those who are as dastardly men in red coats, twirling their mustaches.

Foxes Unearthed separates fact from fiction, studying the evolution of foxes in our stories and the cold hard facts, and delves into the worlds of the people who want to hunt them and the people who want to save them, both of which are worlds with pros and cons. Whether you're fascinated by foxes, wild for wildlife or completely new to the realm of non-fiction, I recommend picking up this book!

I've come away from Foxes Unearthed feeling like I've really learned something new, and I'll definitely be looking out for more of Jones's work in future.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Books to Encourage Acceptance and Equality

America has decided, and in doing so the country has taken one step forward and two steps back, electing a man who is a sexist, racist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic, power-hungry, nasty little man who, despite being a very wealthy businessman, can't afford a more natural looking toupee.

First Brexit and now this. 2016 is looking more and more like the beginning of a dystopian novel. I feel very disheartened today, and I'm frightened for the kind of world we now live in, where it's more acceptable to sexually assault women than it is to use the wrong email address, but I refuse to stop fighting, in the little ways I can, each and every day. If someone says something inappropriate I will forever call them out on it, however annoyed it makes them, and I will always shout out for what I believe to be right. I refuse to let hatred win.


And to all of my American friends, and all American people, who have woken up today feeling unsafe in the country they call home, I can only say I'm here for you - as are the rest of Britain's 48%.


So I'm not going to be gloomy today, instead I'm going to turn to what I always turn to when I'm feeling low: books. Today I'm going to share ten books with you, five I've read and five that are on my TBR, that encourage equality, acceptance and love above all things, because heaven knows we need it today of all days.



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: A classic, yes, but a book we can still learn from. I only read this for the first time last year and I fell in love with it, I can understand why so many teachers get their students to read this in school. If more people were like Atticus Finch, the world would be a better place!


Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Talley's heart-wrenching debut takes place in 1959, when black children were first admitted to previously all-white schools in the US, and focuses on the relationship that develops between two girls, one black and one white. It'll make you think, and given the current racial issues in the US I think it's an important book to read.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: One of my favourite books of all time and one of the most hopeful books I've ever read. Chambers uses her sci-fi setting to explore race, gender, sexuality, war, peace, family units and what it means to be human. It's exquisite and you need to read it if you haven't already.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Various Artists: A wonderful graphic novel series starring an American-Muslim girl written by an American-Muslim woman. Read it!

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is such a quick read that I think it should be required reading in schools worldwide. It's a wonderful introduction to feminism, particularly for anyone out there you know who keeps confusing feminism for misandry.


The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King: I'm planning to pick this up next, once I finish Lucy Jones's Foxes Unearthed, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm sure parts of it are going to be heartbreaking but I think it's an important book to read because I know so very little about the history of North America's indigenous people, and I'm very eager to learn.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: A novella I'm hoping to read very soon. It's giving me The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet vibes; I've heard wonderful things about Okorafor's stories and I'm really looking forward to the kind of cultures she's imagined in her sci-fi universe.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla: I had the pleasure of seeing Nikesh Shukla speak at the London Book Fair this year and this edited volume of essays written by immigrants has never been more necessary than it is right now. I've seen fantastic reviews and I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy soon.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson: A novel that takes place in a small English village where a retired British Major strikes up a friendship with a Pakistani shopkeeper over their shared love of literature. When their friendship turns into something more, it's up to him to stand up to the racism and xenophobia in their village. I've heard lovely things about this one.

Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios: An anthology of diverse YA sci-fi and fantasy stories, featuring characters who are transgender, disabled, LGBT+ and poc.

Stay positive but be sad if you need to be sad. Ultimately, just remember that love trumps hate.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Non-Fiction November TBR

My reading's been rubbish this year, especially my non-fiction reading, so as this November sees the return of Gemma @ Non Fic Books and Olive @ abookolive's Non-Fiction November I figured it was best I join in!

Like last year there are four categories, but this year's categories are a bit different and a bit more open to interpretation.

New

This could mean you read something about a topic that is new to you, you read a recently published book or you read a book you've recently bought.



I've decided to go with Lucy Jones's Foxes Unearthed for this challenge. I bought it very recently and I believe it was published this year, but the main reason I picked it is because I've yet to read a non-fiction book about wildlife. This book sounds super interesting and I'm really looking forward to reading it.


Fascinating

Essentially the complete opposite of the New category. Fascinating is a chance for you to read a book about a topic you're already interested in or already know a lot about.



For me that's history books, so I'll be reading Fiona Maddocks' Hildegard of Bingen. I've always been interested in Hildegard so I'm looking forward to this biography and to learning a bit more about Medieval history.


Controversial

This is a category for books which can be deemed controversial, but aren't necessarily controversial. I guess to me controversial simply means a book about a topic that gets people talking, or at least gets them thinking.



For this challenge I'll be reading Mona Eltahawy's Headscarves and Hymens, which I've owned for a while now and still haven't read. Whether I agree with everything Eltahawy has to say here or not, I think this'll still be an interesting, eye-opening and important book to read.


Important

This category is for books which you deem to be important to read, a book you think you must read. 



I'm also challenging myself with Native American November this month, so my book for this category is Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian. This is a book which discusses the history of North America's indigenous people, as well as the way Native Americans and First Nation Canadians are still being treated now. I think it's going to be heartbreaking, but so important to read.

Those are the four books I really want to get through this month, but I also have some other non-fiction books that I'd like to get to this month if I can:



by Margot Lee Shetterly

by Kameron Hurley

by Diana Wallace

by Azar Nafisi

by Kate Bolick


by Eluned Gramich

by Tim Smit

by Melaine Keene

by Jasmine Donahaye

by Bill Bryson


by Alison Weir

by Alison Weir

by Tracy Borman

by Tracy Borman

by Ruth Goodman

Have you read any of these, and if so are there any in particular you'd recommend? Are you taking part in Non-Fiction November this year?

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Native American November | Announcement + TBR!


November is Native American Heritage Month!

I've been fascinated by Native American history since I read Celia Rees's Witch Child when I was around fourteen, and the older I grew the more I realised just how much western, European societies completely screwed over indigenous people around the world.

The worst thing is indigenous people are still being treated poorly; in fact one of America's most popular holidays is celebrated because Native Americans helped starving colonials and the settlers then repayed them by slaughtering them. Ah, good times.

I know very, very little about Native American history but it's something I'm constantly eager to learn more about. I've been meaning to do a reading challenge like this for a while now and there's no time like the present!

If you'd like to join in then please feel free! If you would like to join in, I've created three 'rules' to encourage reading that doesn't encourage oppression, white-washing or victimisation. Naturally books that feature horrible moments in history are likely to be read during a reading challenge like this, but I'd like it to be a primarily positive and eye-opening experience.

1) Read a book written by a Native American author. Someone like Sherman Alexie or Thomas King, for example! Someone who's as white as milk but whose great great grandmother was Native American doesn't count.

2) Read a book with a Native American protagonist. Something like Celia Rees's Sorceress or Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

3) Read a book with Native American characters. These are books in which the protagonist may not be Native American, but there are characters in the book who are Native American and who also have agency. The Twilight books would fit into this category, as would Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves.

You don't have to do any of these challenges to take part, I don't want this to come across as some strict reading challenge if it is something you want to do, I can only suggest that, if you do want to take part, you read books that don't exoticise America's indigenous people or treat them as punching bags with no agency. Don't do what Joe Wright did when he cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily...

So what'll I be reading? Well there are a few books I own I've yet to get to, and now seems like the perfect time to gobble them up! I don't know if I'll get to all of them, though I hope I do, because I'm going to try and take part in a few other reading challenges this month too, but I'm certainly going to try.


I'd be a hypocrite if my TBR didn't match my own rules, so I've got a book for each. I've been meaning to read more Geraldine Brooks since I read and enjoyed Year of Wonders which, like Caleb's Crossing, is a fictionalised account of a true event. Caleb's Crossing is based on the first Native American student to graduate from Harvard in 1665; while the student himself isn't our protagonist he's still a very important character, and instead our protagonist is Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Puritan minister whose childhood friendship with Caleb, a local chieftain's son, ends up with her following him to college as his housekeeper. It's Bethia's father who sends Caleb to college, intending to prove that 'savages' can be 'civilised', and Bethia's forced to watch her friend receive the education her own sex deprives her of.

Joseph Boyden's The Orenda has three protagonists, two of whom are Native Americans. Or I suppose I should say Native Canadians, given that Canada is actually the setting of this novel, but I'm still going to count them as part of this challenge for no other reason than that it wasn't actually North America's indigenous population who decided Canada and the United States were separate countries so... Anyway, I've yet to read any Joseph Boyden but I've heard nothing but good things, particularly about this novel. It's quite chunky but I'm looking forward to diving into it!

I mentioned Thomas King above and unlike the other books on my TBR The Inconvenient Indian is a piece of non-fiction, and another book I've heard nothing but praise for. Thomas King is a Native American writer who, through this book, explores the history of North America's indigenous population, the way indingeous people are still treated now, and even how Native Americans are portrayed in the media. I think it's going to be a heart-breaking read, but an importand and informative one. If I can only get to one of these books this month, I hope it's this one.

I'll be back in a few days with some recommendations for anyone interested in joining me for this reading challenge, and if not I hope you look forward to any reviews or discussions I post throughout November!