January + February Books

Number of books read in January and February = 9

This year I’ve set myself the task of completing the #OneBookAWeek challenge. This is where I will ~obviously~ be hoping to read the equivalent of one book a week. Although this certainly will be a challenge, even for a bookworm like me, I’m off to a good start with 9 books read in January and February. Here’s a run down of what I read, from memoirs to young adult fiction to captivating novels.

Everything I Know About Love By Dolly Alderton

★★★★★

1

This is one book I have been craving to read as soon as it was released in January of last year. Unfortunately I couldn’t track it down at all while I was living in Australia, so I popped in on my Christmas list and waited patiently. The wait was definitely worthwhile – from the moment I read the first line I was completely besotted with this book. Dolly’s writing is fun, punchy and has an air of romanticism makes you feel like she is plunging into your soul. From speaking about her days at her all girls’ school and her obsession with MSN messenger (something which I can really relate to) to her wild tales of running around London and getting up to all sorts of mischief with her friends (this I can’t relate to so much) it’s just a joy to read. It’s got all the highs and lows of life peppered with hysterical anecdotes and excellent writing. I will definitely be reading this over and over again.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

2

My initial impressions was: “What the hell is going on with the lack of quote marks?” Everyone has been going on and on and on about this book since it was released, and luckily a friend of mine gave it to me. It wasn’t a novel that I was desperate to read, and even the world’s obsession with it didn’t have me set on flicking through it, but nevertheless once it was in my hands I thought I should give it a shot and see what the fuss was about. It took me a while to really understand who the characters were, how they knew each other and how their lives were intertwined. The lack of quotation marks also can make it confusing as to who is saying what to whom, and where the speech ends. To me, it came across as a rather hackneyed love story and I really had to force myself to get through it. If it wasn’t for my need to read every book in full once I’ve picked it up, I probably would have given up and moved onto something else about half way through. In conclusion, I think I’m the only person in the world who didn’t completely fall in love with this book. If anyone can explain its charm to me, I’m all ears.

This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

★★★★★

3

When I say I’m squeamish, what I really mean is that I’m sick in my mouth at the slightest mention of blood or cannulas. I wish I was joking; a doctor friend of mine once almost made me pass out when she was telling stories of her stint on an obs & gynae ward. I’m not proud of it. Now considering all this, it may seem rather odd that I chose to read a book entirely about the weird and disgusting things that go on in NHS hospitals, but I’d been told it was both hysterical and heartbreakingly accurate, so I just had to have a go at it. Despite the fact I’d almost passed out by the time I got to page 30, I can honestly say this is brilliant. It really proves just how difficult, stressful, overwhelming and just generally shit being a doctor for the NHS can be, and how we need to cherish and preserve our health care system (and make sure we don’t end up like the USA…).

Florida by Lauren Groff

★★★

4

Barack Obama hailed Lauren Groff’s previous novel Fates and Furies as his book of the year in 2015, so it’s safe to say that Groff’s writing is loved by many. While I wasn’t 100% sold on F&F, I had heard great things about Florida, the short story format and central themes did pique my interest. Obviously, the main vein running through each tale is Florida, land of alligators, swamps, hurricanes and headlines such as “Florida Man attacks nephew over undercooked noodles.” No, I’m not joking; that really is a real headline. Even though Groff’s writing has an almost lyrical quality to it, I did find myself needing to reread paragraphs because I didn’t know what had happened in it, and I was just ploughing through the last couple of stories just to get to the end. I can normally read a book in about 3-5 days (depending on length, obvs), but this took me over a week, partly because of the innumerable amount of times I had to go over what I’d already read. If I was to pick this up again, I’d focus on each individual story at a time and read something else in between, as I found the stories often blended into one. Some of my favourite stories were: For The God Of Love, For The Love Of God; At The Round Earth’s Imagined Corners; Flower Hunters.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

★★★

5

Ever since I read Ng’s second novel “Little Fires Everywhere” last October, I have been obsessed with her writing. She weaves powerful stories through interesting and through-provoking prose that is both enthralling and easy to read. This book ticks all the boxes for me. Both her novels are constructed in the same way – we begin with the end result, and then skip back to the beginning and follow the story until we wind up where we were at the start. It’s genius. This story focuses on a mixed-race Chinese-American family whose middle (and favourite) daughter Lydia is found drowned in a lake, and dives into the intricacies of a family struggling with an untimely death (that the police aren’t too bothered about solving) and the difficulties of being mixed-race in ’70s in the US. While I did have to put this one on hold for a few days – I dropped it in the bath and had to let it dry out before reading the final three chapters – I still did really enjoy this novel and couldn’t wait to get back to it.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

★★★

6

This novel is one that I’d seen be hyped like crazy by the #bookstagrams. The premise is incredibly intriguing. Named after the strip club that the protagonist worked at, the novel tackles the intricacies and difficulties of a woman freshly sentenced and in the first years of her life-long prison sentence. Chopping and changing between the protagonist Romy, a teacher at the prison and several other characters (which I found spoiled the flow and broke the tension somewhat) the story delves in the concept of being “foredoomed” – as in, she found herself in prison because of the difficulties and absurdities of her fragmented and soul-destroying childhood and the stalker that plagued her every waking moment. It’s sometimes slightly difficult to follow, but nevertheless an excellent look into modern female prison life. Imagine Orange Is The New Black (if it was a well-written novel and not a TV show) but on steroids and without the gags.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

★★★★★

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Now that I’m enrolled in a Writing Fiction for Young Adults online course at Oxford University, (which I start in May, FYI!) I’ve started reading more YA fiction to prepare and learn more about the genre. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (known as Love, Simon if you’ve watched the film adaptation) is my first foray into the genre for a long time, and it was a great novel to start off with. The novel follows the story of teenage closeted gay kid who starts on email relationship with another closeted gay kid at his school – but they don’t know who each other are. It’s a very easy read, which is something I always appreciate, and the story is heart-warming and really funny. I can image this helped so many kids who are at that weird (horrible) stage of not knowing who they are and trying to find their way in a world that doesn’t seem to approve of anything they do, so props to Becky Albertalli. I can’t wait to read the next instalment of this world – Leah On The Offbeat.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

★★★

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My next voyage into the world of YA fiction was this little novel. Set in a parallel world where a war is raging on the shores of modern Britain (and none of the characters know who is fighting who and for what reason), the protagonist Daisy is sent to England to live with her wacky, unschooled cousins when the war breaks out and her aunt is stuck in Oslo. The tales weaves through Daisy’s experience living with her cousins and her and Piper’s mission to reunite the family (as well as her incredibly weird relationship with cousin Edmond, but I’ll leave it to you to find out what that’s all about). While the lack of speech marks and slightly rambling prose did bother me a tiny bit (although it’s an incredibly accurate way to write the voice of a 15-year-old girl), the pace is fast and the story addictive.

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

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When I saw the film adaptation of this back in December I found it heart-breaking, challenging and cathartic, which is the same words I’d use to describe this book. The classic “my son is an addict and I don’t know what to do about it” story is one that’s been told many, many times over, but I felt that Beautiful Boy supplied a fresh perspective on the impact that a child’s addiction can have not only on themselves but their family and wider community. Written by The New York Times writer David Sheff (who was once listed in Time magazine’s Time 100), it is a chronological tale of his son Nic’s life as he navigates his way through his parent’s divorce, adolescent experimentation and the relentless torture and struggle of the rehab-relapse-rehab-relapse circle that shows the realities of addiction and just how far parents are willing to go to protect their children.