My Galleython TBR

I have decided to take part in the 2020 Galleython after getting the taste for readathons post-Reading Rush. If you didn’t know the Galleython is a readathon dedicated to ticking some those NetGalley books off your ever-growing list. Like I mentioned in my August TBR, my feedback ratio on NetGalley is truly SHOCKING so this readathon couldn’t have come at a better time. There are four prompts and it looks like within a week, I have given myself the challenge of reading FOUR BOOKS. Thank god I’m still on furlough!

The Prompts:

  • Newest ARC you have
  • Oldest ARC you have
  • ARC you regret requesting
  • ARC you are excited for

Newest ARC You Have: Never Say No – Elizabeth Neep

(Genre: Comedy/Women’s Fiction)

I was recently accepted for an ARC of Never Say No by Elizabeth Neep which has been deemed as the ‘perfect summer read’.

Hailey has always been told she can have it all. And saying yes to every opportunity that comes her way seems like the obvious way to make sure she gets it. When she finds an engagement ring hidden in her boyfriend Dom’s closet, she knows she’ll say yes.

And every time her new boss, the infamous Vivian Jones, asks her to stay late (again) at her dream job, the answer is always yes. But somewhere between saying ‘yes’ to Vivian’s latest demands and still trying to make it home on time for boxsets and burritos on the sofa with Dom, Hailey has lost sight of what she really wanted in the first place.

Published on 4th September by Bookouture.

Oldest ARC You Have: My Darling – Amanda Robson

(Genre: Thriller/Mystery)

This book features on my August TBR so have a look on there for more information on this book. It’s been on my NetGalley shelf for SOO long and it’s about time I ticked this thriller off.

Published on 24th August by Avon Books UK.

ARC You Regret Requesting: The Phone Box At The Edge of The World – Laura Imai Messina

(Genre: General Fiction)

To say I ‘regret’ this book is a bit harsh if I’m honest but the reason I have picked this book for this prompt is because I didn’t realise that it was such a devastating story.

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue. Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people will travel to it from miles around.

Soon, Yui will make her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking. For when you’ve lost everything – what can you find?

This book was published on 25th June by Bonnier Books UK but I still have my ARC sitting on NetGalley.

ARC You Are Excited For: Ghosts – Dolly Alderton

(Genre: Women’s Fiction)

Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love is one of my favourite books because I read it at a time where I was lost and needed some direction. Dolly herself is a queen and I love her so I was over the moon to be accepted to read an ARC of her new upcoming novel, Ghosts.

32-year-old Nina Dean is a successful food writer with a loyal online following, but a life that is falling apart. When she uses dating apps for the first time, she becomes a victim of ghosting, and by the most beguiling of men. Her beloved dad is vanishing in slow motion into dementia, and she’s starting to think about ageing and the gendered double-standard of the biological clock. On top of this she has to deal with her mother’s desire for a mid-life makeover and the fact that all her friends seem to be slipping away from her.

Published on 15th October by Penguin Books UK.

AND THERE WE HAVE IT.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter for all my updates on how my Galleython is going and of course, let me know if you are joining in and be sure to tell me which books you have picked to read.

Wish me luck!

Book Triggers: Why They Are Important & How To Use Them

I recently saw the lovely Bronwen at BabblesnBooks announce on Twitter that from now on, she will include triggers in her reviews. Like me, many of you reading this may have absolutely no idea what book triggers are and why we should be using them. 

So in this post, I will look to introduce what book triggers are and why it’s important that we, as book bloggers and reviewers, should be including them in our posts.

So What Are Book Triggers? 

With more diverse stories finally getting the exposure they deserve, it has become easier than ever to read honest and heartbreaking stories about the struggles within society. Yet publishers are still not including content warnings with their releases. 

Some have argued that to include trigger warnings with book reviews or publications is infantalising readers. Life doesn’t come with trigger warnings and neither should books. I can completely understand this argument but I think that difficult material should come with warnings, just like with films and television programmes.  

Picture this: you have just come out of a relationship where you were victim to domestic abuse. You are on your journey to recovery and you pick up a book in which the main character finds themselves in a violent relationship. All of sudden, those memories, anxieties and difficult flashbacks to the pain you went through come flooding back. 

THIS IS WHY WE NEED CONTENT WARNINGS. 

Trigger warnings should not be there as spoilers to the story, and neither should they discourage readers form reading any book they want to read, but with mental health being such an important topic at the minute, I think it is important that people should know if there is difficult and distressing content in the books they are reading.

You may choose to disagree with me and that is absolutely fine, but from now on, I will be including trigger warnings in my reviews. 

And Here Is How To Use Them:

There are many websites out there where you can find lots of information on different types of triggers, but I will mostly be using BookTriggerWarnings.com which has a whole wiki page on different books and their triggers. 

You can either search for the particular book you are reviewing or head to their list of warnings page. If there are any books missing from their database, you can easily create an account and add the book you have reviewed. This is especially great for new releases and less-known books which need trigger warnings too. Also, if there are any triggers that you feel are missing, you are encouraged to contact them and add your triggers to the list. 

You will find my book trigger warnings at the end of each review and I promise you, they will not spoil any of the books I’m reviewing. 

I hope this post will encourage you to think about the importance of book triggers warnings and to perhaps start including them in your reviews too. 

My #Reading Rush Week

This is my first #readingrush week and I actually only found out about it a few days before it started. Last minute, as always. So to document my first ever reading rush, I’m going to do a weekly run-through of where I got to each day.

Monday

So to kick of the reading rush, I started To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before in order to tick off the following challenges:

~ A book that matches my birthstone
~ A book inspired by a movie I’ve already seen
~ A book that takes place on a different continent

Tuesday

I managed to get through 36 chapters on Monday and by the end of Tuesday, I was well on my way to finishing by getting to chapter 59.

The chapters were short and quick and therefore were easy to devour. As I had already seen the film, I could easily visualise the characters in the story.

Wednesday

I finished Book One and I absolutely loved it. It was a great easy read and something I could easily get lost in. I think I preferred it to the actual Netflix movie but having seen the film before, I think it was easier to imagine the setting and the characters.

Thursday

I started Book Two, The Cruel Prince on Thursday and I managed to get through to chapter 11. This book was totally out of my comfort zone but the story was already gripping and unfolding within chapters. This book is helping me tick off the following challenges:

~ A book that starts with ‘The’
~ Reading a book outside of my house
~ A book in a genre I want to read more of

Friday

So I managed to read up to chapter 18 on Friday as I spent the majority of the day writing and organising my blog.

I was getting further into The Cruel Prince and I was loving every second of it! The more the story was unfolding, the more I found myself really rooting for Jude (the main character) and her sass makes her one of my favourite heroines!

In the evening I went our for drinks with my friends and it was so lovely to be back out socialising!

Saturday

I spent the majority of Saturday in the hairdressers getting my hair blonde again! I spent nearly four hours saying bye to my awful roots and split ends and I celebrated the new hair do by going out for food with my lovely CrossFit family!

We were celebrating the gyms being back open here in the UK, as well as giving one of our members an early send off before her move abroad!

Safe to say I didn’t get much reading done, but I managed to fit a few chapters in here and there which took me up to chapter 25!

Sunday

So on Sunday, me and my boyfriend nursed our sore, hungover heads by going for some well-earned pancakes and waffles for breakfast! It was divine and I managed to finish The Cruel Prince just in time to complete the reading rush!!!!

This was my first Reading Rush and I thoroughly enjoyed getting involved with all the challenges and it was something that kept me motivated throughout the week. I’ve never participated in a readathon before but now I know I can, I will definitely be signing up for more.

Unfortunately, I must address the elephant in the room. I woke up this morning to see #thereadingrush trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. I’m not entirely sure what has happened and I plan to find out more but I believe it was very disrespectful of such a HUGE organisation and a lot of people and fans have been hurt and left disappointed. This may prevent me, you and others from getting involved with further reading rushes as I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that I do not want to be associated with an organisation that does not actively work to promote the BAME authors.

10 Books I Read At University That Will Stick With Me Forever

So today marks three (yes THREE!) years since I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a Combined Honours Degree in English Literature and History. During the past three years, I can’t say I’ve really seen the benefit of my degree but I guess that is how it goes most of the time.

These past three years have taught me so much though and as I come to celebrate being quarter of a century old (oh god!), it is easier than ever to compare where I am in life to those of others. I’ve had a number of sleepless nights where my thoughts have run away with themselves and I’ve compared my life to those of a similar age who seem to have their life together. But I’m a strong believer in everything always happening for a reason, and I’m hoping I’m destined for bigger and better things some day!

Anyway, enough with the sob story…to celebrate my graduation date, I thought I would introduce ten books that since reading them during university, have played on my mind ever since. There may be some here that you’ve read and there may some that you’ve never heard of, but I hope I can give you a taste of the type of books I studied during my degree!

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (A-Level)

OK not off to a great start as I didn’t technically read this book during university, but I read it in college and from that day, I fell in love with the way Khaled Hosseini writes. His novels are some of my favourite reads of all time and The Kite Runner is definitely one of the most moving and heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë (First Year)

Jane Eyre was the first classic I read during my degree and it was the first time reading a Brontë novel too! I loved the character of Jane and I was completely hooked on her story, especially the part with the ‘mad’ woman in the attic…

Turn of The Screw – Henry James (First Year)

If you haven’t guessed by now, Gothic literature is my all-time favourite genre because I love how the authors play upon social norms and anxieties to create a story that very much sits on the verge of being possible. With Turn of The Screw, I loved the horror and supernatural elements and it well and truly terrified me.

The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde (Second Year)

I read this during my second year and I absolutely loved it. I liked Fforde’s play on Jane Eyre and I was a huge fan of being able to take yourself into a book and to live in that world. I mean, isn’t that every bookworm’s dream?

The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark (Second Year)

The Driver’s Seat is one of those books that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I purchased a second hand copy of the book which had come all the way from Menasha Public Library in Wisconsin. Pretty special right? Well the story is one of those modern classics where the story makes you think more than read and I devoured it in one sitting.

Goodbye To Berlin – Christopher Isherwood (Second Year)

OK so when I was reading Goodbye To Berlin in my modernism course, I didn’t initially like it. Yet, after my lecture and my seminar on it, my opinion completely changed and I realised the power this book has. It gives a nod to how ahead of its time Berlin, as a city, is and I loved being able to pick out the secrets that Isherwood hid in the text.

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf (Second Year)

I had to fit a Virginia Woolf book in here somewhere didn’t I and Mrs Dalloway for me is my favourite. My passion for all things history (as well as obviously studying it alongside English Lit) ultimately made me fall in love with Woolf and her post-war fiction and the way she depicts the uncertainty of life.

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (Second Year)

Being from Manchester and also studying in Manchester, I fell very honoured that my city has an Anthony Burgess Foundation Centre just around the corner from my campus. Whilst I was studying the madness of this book, I was able to attend a lecture held at the centre itself and this is where my fascination for both the book and its author began.

Coraline – Neil Gaiman (Third Year)

In my third year, I studied children’s literature and out of all my modules, I think this was my favourite as I got to re-read the books I had enjoyed as a child. Yet one of them which we read was Coraline and it is safe to say, I never want my children to ever read this truly horrific book. It’s wonderfully weird storyline and horrifying characters make me question why this is classed as a children’s book at all?

Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman (Third Year)

Noughts and Crosses was a book I read for the first time during university and it has played on my mind ever since. I absolutely loved Blackman’s writing and her reversal of social norms and expectations. It has recently been adapted into a TV series and the imagery is as beautiful as I imagined it to be. A truly inspiring read and one that made me question the society of which we live in.

So there we have it, a list of all the books I read during university that will probably continue to stick in my mind until the end of time. And I hope they do, as some of them on here are truly inspiring and influential novels and are written by incredibly talented authors who have used their writing skills and creativity to create books that make you question everything you know.

The Great Gatsby: June Book Club Discussion Summary

As there were so many great things discussed during the book club discussion of our June book, The Great Gatsby for my ‘Let’s Get Classical’ Book Club, I thought why not create a little discussion summary. So for those that missed out or for those who want to see the consensus on what people thought, its all here for you!

Between the hour of 8pm – 9pm (UK time) eight questions were posted for book club members to comment their thoughts. Here is what they said:

Q1: What do we make of our narrator? Do you think his character was intentional by Fitzgerald?

Most members viewed Nick as an unreliable narrator and a character who offered a flawed and biased perspective. There were many loose ends in his narrative, as well as contradictory statements.

Nick, in our members’ opinion, was an outsider/observer looking into the world of Gatsby, who was intentionally created by Fitzgerald to act as a mouthpiece for the story. Most members didn’t care much for Nick and viewed him as having the common blissful ignorance of the middle classes, as he chose to only see and believe the things he wanted to be true.

Q2: What do you think about Daisy’s assessment that ‘the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’?

Many viewed Daisy’s assessment as a superficial and outdated way of thinking. The popular opinion stemmed from members not being a fan of how women were represented in this book, and it portrayed a number of gender imbalances withing a male-centric novel.

Yet there were some members who introduced a great point about Fitzgerald using the character of Daisy to play upon the social norms/expectations of the 1920s woman, portraying her as silly, vain and only valued in terms of beauty; all of which were stereotypes created as an anti-suffrage protest.

Yet this statement also implies that Daisy knows what a woman needs to be to survive in a male-orientated world. She knows that ‘ignorance is bliss’ when it comes to living a happy and care-free life, and many members agreed this was probably why she turned a blind eye to Tom’s cheating.

Q3: What is your opinion of Tom? Do you think he truly loves Daisy?

So one thing we all agreed on was how much we hated Tom. His character is controlling, patronising, manipulative and incredibly hypocritical. Tom carelessly uses people to get what he wants, and enjoys baking his cake and eating it.

His arrogance and jealously confirms the old saying that ‘once a cheat, always a cheat’, and most members agreed that he didn’t truly love Daisy. Daisy was his trophy wife; his possession that suited his social status and therefore only suited him for when he wanted to play happy families.

It infuriated readers when Tom got jealous about Gatsby and Daisy, even though he was off doing the same and arguably worse, and we were even more angry at Tom setting up Gatsby with the murder of Myrtle. Yet some were also quick to notice that because our narrator Nick does not like Tom, us as readers, are less fond of him too, at least compared to Gatsby.

Q4: Do you think Daisy makes the right choice? What would you have done, if you were her?

Members did not hold back on their thoughts regarding Daisy. Some believed that Daisy was the end of Gatsby and her carelessness meant that she was never held accountable for her actions. Many members believed that she made all the wrong choices in life and even though she may have loved Gatsby, she would have always ended up with someone like Tom because she cannot stray from her rich and privileged life (hence why she couldn’t marry Gatsby as he was poor).

Yet some members argued that Daisy had little choice in the end and had her power taken from her by men in the book. She may have come across as selfish and careless but lets take into account for a second whether the grass is always greener on the other side. Many members argued that Gatsby represented an idealistic, responsibility-free life, whereas Tom was real. What would Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship had been like if they has eloped together? I can only imagine Gatsby as a jealous and manipulative husband, not so different to Tom.

Q5: Do you consider Gatsby to be this ‘self-made man’? Is he a good portrayal of the ‘American Dream’?

A common theme running through members’ comments on this question was that Gatsby represented the typical 1920’s ‘American Dream’ and was therefore right for its time. Yet, Daisy was his dream. Daisy = happiness for Gatsby, and we noted that as soon as Daisy began visiting his house, the lavish parties stopped.

Most members agreed that although Gatsby had all the materialistic happiness, his life had no meaning without the love of Daisy. Many argued that through the character of Gatsby, Fitzgerald was showing us how the ‘American Dream’ is unattainable and unachievable, and perhaps predicting its downfall.

Q6: How do you think love is portrayed by Fitzgerald in the story? Is this a love story?

We all agreed that love was not the main theme in the book, and that The Great Gatsby is more of a social commentary. Love is portrayed as fickle and fragile, with Gatsby’s love being borderline infatuation. Was this infatuation with Daisy herself of the idea of Daisy?

An interesting point made by one of the members was that this book can be viewed as a modern tragedy as the two deaths that occur are of the characters of the those ruining the equilibrium within the story. It was also discussed how the characters’ greed outweighed their love, as they were too prioritised with the lust for material things and social status rather than the real thing.

There’s no doubt that there are elements and discussions of love throughout the book but it is not the main lesson to take away from the book.

Q7: What do you believe to be the true message of The Great Gatsby?

So what is the true message of this book? Most members agreed that money was the real theme. Money can’t buy happiness is what most members took away from this story, as money brought everyone to Gatsby’s parties but once he was dead, no one cared enough to turn up to his funeral. Fitzgerald is obviously implying that money is shallow and hope is pure.

A few members also commented on how the book was Fitzgerald’s way of commenting on the society he lived in. How the rich and powerful were careless and had the privilege to walk away in ignorant bliss, whilst the others in society suffered and were witness to their destructive behaviour.

Another interesting point made was how Fitzgerald through The Great Gatsby predicted how the roaring twenties culture and the ‘American Dream’ would inevitably implode and shatter, which is did after the Wall Street Crash.

Q8: Fitzgerald apparently hated the title The Great Gatsby and begged for it to be changed. Why do you think that is?

Many agreed that once you’ve read this book, Gatsby isn’t so great after all. The ironic title builds this expectation of the mythical Gatsby, which is extremely fitting to Gatsby’s character. The grandeur of Gatsby may have earned him this title but it is in fact a complete facade.

This could have also been a way Fitzgerald played upon how society viewed the rich and famous, as well as emphasising the fact that this story is supposed to be written by Nick, who we all know secretly adored Gatsby, and therefore this definitely would have been a title Nick chose.

‘Under the Red, White & Blue’ was an alternative title, but we all agreed that we’re glad The Great Gatsby has stuck in the end.

And there we have it, I hope you enjoyed reading this book club discussion summary, and if you would like to get involved in the next book club discussion, make sure you join the Let’s Get Classical Book Club Facebook Group! Join us on the 26th July at 8pm (UK time) to discuss Jane Austen’s Emma.

Nama-Stay At Home with Funk&Soul Yoga

Not many of you will know this but earlier this year I injured my back doing CrossFit. I attempted to complete a PB overhead lift of 55kg and failed miserably, resulting in me not being able to feel or move my legs and then a lovely long Friday night trip to the local hospital.

Those were a tough couple of weeks. I couldn’t walk, stand up, sit down or even lay down without being in excruciating pain. For what seemed like a good 4/5 weeks I was so heavily dosed up on all sorts of pain relief, my body didn’t feel like mine. It was a scary time and my poor family and boyfriend had a rough time too, having to help me get dressed, bathe, and cheer me up.

My mental health at the time wasn’t great I must admit, however, because all I did was sleep, I didn’t have time to fully understand/digest what was going on and the repercussions. It wasn’t until I was told by the doctors that my scoliosis has worsened and that lifting any weight over my head is dangerous and something I should refrain from doing, that it hit me. Exercise would be very different from here on out.

So left not knowing what to do with myself or how I would even begin to start recovering, I started physiotherapy. I am very lucky to have private healthcare and therefore was offered some of the best treatment in the business. He gave me set exercises to work on at home in between sessions. He also mentioned that yoga would be a great way to strengthen my back again and to get movement back in my body.

So this is where Funk&Soul Yoga comes in. I am very lucky in the fact that the woman behind this fabulous brand is a close friend of mine. She has always been a fitness fanatic and works as a PT in a gym in Manchester. She recently set up an amazing yoga business but due to lockdown, she has been forced to make her classes available online so people would still be able to get their yoga fix, as well as reaching out to more yoga lovers from across the country.

Her sessions are great and are different every time. We work on specific areas of the body which really helps when you do a few sessions a week. I was able to catch up with her to discuss where the idea for Funk&Soul Yoga came from and the benefits of yoga for all ages and abilities.

Q1: What made you become a Yoga Instructor? 

I have been practising yoga since I was 16, so from the offset I have always had some form of interest in yoga, even if I had no particular reason or desire to practise, I was just drawn to it. I have been a qualified PT for four years now and the one thing I enjoy the most about the job is helping people change their lifestyle for the better, whether that be through exercise, nutrition, or simply changing daily habits to be a healthier person. 

However, what I did notice was that many people around me (myself included) were constantly dealing with niggles and injuries in the body, and if they weren’t in some form of physical pain, there was always the mental strain of things such as stress. This is what made me turn to yoga. I’ve always practised to help me relax and unwind, and move my body in a way that isn’t practised in strength training and cardio, and I wanted to help people do the same. Incorporating yoga into my PT knowledge means I can help people adapt to a healthier lifestyle in different ways. 

Q2: What inspired you to open your own business called Funk&Soul Yoga?

The words funk and soul to me highlight the idea of lighthearted fun, movement and relaxation which is exactly what my classes are about. I think that a lot of people can be intimidated by yoga, either because they think they aren’t flexible enough. Another issue is that sometimes yoga can come across as quite pretentious. Lots of people these days like to post photos of Instagram doing a crazy hard yoga pose on top of mountains, something which isn’t attainable for most people. 

Funk & Soul is all about inclusivity, anyone can do yoga, simple as. I play chilled music (no whale noises) and just want my clients to move in a way that feels comfortable for them. No prejudice, no judgement, you’re just here to stretch, move your body and have fun.

Q3: What types of yoga do you offer and what is the difference?

At the moment, I offer Hatha Yoga and Power Yoga. Hatha Yoga is a traditional form of yoga that a lot of teachers practise. It is performed at a slow/medium pace whereby you generally hold poses for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This is a great class for all levels, especially if you want to relax and unwind, whilst still feeling like the body has been worked. 

Power Yoga has more of a resemblance to Vinyasa, a faster pace flowing class. In the Power classes, it’s all about strength and getting the heart-rate up. I tend to do less breath work (Pranayama) in these classes and focus on showing people how yoga can build strength in the muscles.

Q4: What do you think are the benefits of doing yoga regularly?

Well, like any form of exercise, yoga can increase the endorphins in your body, making you feel better. Likewise, the various movements (Asanas) in yoga can help build strength, improve flexibility and also improve core strength, which is a must for most people. 

However, it also has the mental aspect. Taking part in a yoga class in just as much about the mind as it is the body. We are taught to be mindful and focus on the present moment in yoga classes, something we don’t often do in everyday life. On top of this, practising meditation and breathing techniques in yoga can help reduce stress, ease anxiety and calm the mind. 

The thing is, yoga can benefit everyone. If you are looking for a slower paced form or exercise, choose Yin Yoga, if you want to build strength, choose Power or Vinyasa; that’s the beauty of yoga. 

Q5: How often would you advise people to practice yoga? 

Like with anything, practise is how you improve, so the more you practise yoga, the more your postures and breathing will improve, That being said, although of us are running around like headless chickens and struggle to find the time for things such as this. If you can get one session in a week then you’re doing well, two and you’ll really notice the difference. 

Also, these don’t have to be one hour long sessions, just doing 15-20 minutes of practise in the mornings, or at different times of the day can still have immense benefits. 

Q6: What are your top 3 movements that anyone of any age or ability can do?

Puppy Pose: This is one of my favourite postures because it’s just so relaxing. It is similar to child’s pose, except you keep your hips lifted and stacked above your knees, bringing your head and arms out onto the mat. This is a lovely stretch for the spine and can bring a lot relaxation into your life.  

Triangle Pose: If you’ve got tight hamstrings you’ll either love or hate this pose. Triangle allows you to open up the hamstrings, hips and the chest muscles, which is a beautiful feeling. 

Runner’s Lunge: For anyone wanting to stretch their hip flexors, this is a fantastic position. Placing yourself in a low lunge, drop both hands to the inside of the front foot and push the hips forward. Allowing your breath to bring you deeper into the stretch means you can really work into the hip flexors.

Like what you see? Make sure to go check out her website for more details, as well as her Instagram and Facebook pages for details on how to sign up to online classes! I personally love her Power Yoga session on a Thursday evening as it allows me to get in a weekly core workout!

Pride Month: I Asked My Followers For Recommendations And Here Is What They Said

I recently asked my Instagram followers to recommend their favourite LGBTQ+ books and a lot of you asked me to share the answers!

So listed here are the most popular answers that people gave, and I hope they will help you find some great queer fiction to read during Pride Month! Don’t forget to get involved with this celebration of all things love this month!

Boy Erased – Garrard Conley

The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.

Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heartbreaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.

Queen of Coin & Whispers – Helen Corcoran

When Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster–who took the job to avenge her murdered father–they realise all isn’t fair in love and treason.

When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia’s responsibilities and Xania’s plans for vengeance. As they’re drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia’s reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M. Danforth

Cameron Post is now living with her conservative Aunt in small-town Montana, who is determined to ‘correct’ Cameron. Cameron must battle with the cost of being her true-self even if she’s not completely sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (which is now also a film) is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

This is not about being ready, it’s not even about being fierce, or fearless, IT’S ABOUT BEING FREE.

Michael waits in the stage wings, wearing a pink wig, pink fluffy coat and black heels. One more step will see him illuminated by spotlight.

He has been on a journey of bravery to get here, and he is almost ready to show himself to the world in bold colours. Can he emerge as The Black Flamingo?

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974.”

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and her truly unique family secret, born on the slopes of Mount Olympus and passed on through three generations.

Growing up in 70’s Michigan, Calliope s special inheritance will turn her into Cal, the narrator of this intersex, inter-generational epic of immigrant life in 20th century America.

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend’s return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened – while Giovanni’s life descends into tragedy.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born – a history whose epicentre is rooted in Vietnam – and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.

Juliet Takes A Breath – Gabby Rivera

Juliet’s head is spinning with questions.
Will her beautiful, chaotic Puerto Rican family still love her when they find out she’s gay?
Will an internship with her favourite author help her understand what kind of feminist she wants to be? And why won’t her girlfriend return her calls?!

In a summer full of queer dance parties, a fling with a motorcycling librarian and intense explorations of sexuality and identity, Juliet’s about to learn what it means to really come out – to the world, to her family, to herself.

Mirror Mirror – Cara Delevingne

Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn’t perfect, but music unites them, and they’re excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.

Cara Delevingne, the voice of her generation, explores identity, friendship and betrayal in this gripping and powerful coming-of-age story.

A Ladder to the Sky – John Boyne

John Boyne is one of my favourite authors and this book, along with The Hearts Invisible Furies, is one I’m extremely excited about reading.

If you look hard enough, you will find stories pretty much anywhere. They don’t even have to be your own. Or so would-be-novelist Maurice Swift decides early on in his career.

Once Maurice has made his name, he finds himself in need of a fresh idea. He doesn’t care where he finds it, as long as it helps him rise to the top. Stories will make him famous, but they will also make him beg, borrow and steal. They may even make him do worse.

Enigma Variations – Andre Aciman

From a youthful infatuation with a cabinet maker in a small Italian fishing village, to a passionate yet sporadic affair with a woman in New York, to an obsession with a man he meets at a tennis court, Enigma Variations charts one man’s path through the great loves of his life. 

The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

Two boys. Two secrets. David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year 11 is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long.

Lote – Shola von Reinhold

Part of the groundbreaking #TwentyIn2020 programme for Black British writing, LOTE is an exquisite, genre-bending novel set in Scotland.

After discovering a photograph of the forgotten Black modernist poet Hermia Druitt, who ran in the same circles as the Bright Young Things that she adores, Mathilda becomes transfixed and resolves to learn as much as she can about the mysterious figure. Her search brings her to a peculiar artists’ residency in Dun, a small European town Hermia was known to have lived in during the 30s. The artists’ residency throws her deeper into a lattice of secrets and secret societies that takes hold of her aesthetic imagination, but will she be able to break the thrall of her Transfixions?

Poptastic – Victoria Holmes

This is a book I had the pleasure of reading earlier this year and I really enjoyed the story and the characters’ personalities. If you have Kindle Unlimited, this book is free to download.

With the wedding threatening to dominate everything for the rest of the year, a bewildering embrace with a devastatingly attractive pop star offers a welcome distraction. Dating Krisha catapults Julia away from the paltry concerns of dress fittings and hen dos, but it also takes her away from her friends, and directly leads to her most disastrous f**k up yet. Much to her surprise, she discovers that embracing the role she’d accepted so reluctantly might just be exactly what she needs.

Changing The World One Book At A Time With The Secondhand Bookshelf

If you’re anything like me, there is nothing better than a book subscription box! There are a lot of small businesses out there doing really inspiring and powerful things when it comes to books and one of them is The Secondhand Bookshelf. 

The Secondhand Bookshelf allows our old books to have a new lease of life by providing one-off book subscription boxes that can be ordered once every quarter. Each box contains a preloved secondhand book, which has either been donated by a fellow book lover or picked up in a local charity shop. Each box also includes some beautiful sustainable items which have been handmade with love by talented local artists. 

The Secondhand Bookshelf also specialises in recycled stationery, ethical bookish gifts and books about slow living and mindfulness, so you can be sure that all your bookish needs are met in a sustainable manner. 

They also offer you the chance to have a blind date with a pre-loved secondhand book in which a novel will be hand-wrapped with some intriguing clues on what the book is about featured on the front! All of these items are available on their website, so please do go and check out what is on offer! 

This fabulous business allows those who want to ensure they are making a positive impact on the planet to take that initial step, one book at a time. I had the opportunity to discuss everything secondhand books and blind dates with the owner, Giv…

What inspired you to create The Secondhand Bookshelf? 

The short answer: my passion for books and my love for purchasing things secondhand. 

The slightly longer story: It was a complete ‘spur-of-the-moment’ and ‘why-on-earth-have-I-not-done-this-before kind of decision. I work in the e-commerce department of a company that sells calendars, stationery and gift and while that role is so much fun, I’ve always toyed with the idea of having something that is completely my own. I have always loved connecting with people online and bringing them closer to the products they love, but I did question myself a lot and wondered what I could bring to the table that is different to what’s already out there.

During the last year, I watched a colleague pack up her things and go self-employed, and I thought, there has to be something similar that I can do, too! I wasn’t quite as bold as her and still work full-time next to the Secondhand Bookshelf, but it made me think about the things I could possibly achieve. The idea of being in charge of my very own online shop kept growing on me and in the end, I simply couldn’t resist!

I have always been passionate about books and reading, and so, it seemed natural to strive for a product that would incorporate that! I loved the idea of book subscription boxes but often felt that a lot of the gift merchandise included would only lie around and gather dust (at least in my case!). I loved the idea of book blind dates and the surprising and joyous effect they can have on others, and I am a passionate advocate for buying things secondhand, so it just seemed to make sense to combine these aspects! I thought I can’t be the only one that enjoys these things, but I also hadn’t seen something like that around, so I felt like I was entering a niche not many had explored yet.

So, all in all, the Secondhand Bookshelf was born out of the idea to create something meaningful. Something that lets others remember how important it is to slow down and take a minute for themselves in this hectic and fast world. And something that emphasises the small changes we can make and shows that living a greener life can be simpler than we think.

Why is it important to you that all your products are ethical and sustainable? 

This will sound rather extreme in the first moment, but there is only one planet we can currently live on and we should, therefore, take care of it as best as we possibly can. 

We already consume so much, and whether we like it or not, that is to some degree hurting the environment and the people around us (think fast fashion, etc.). Unfortunately, no product can ever be 100% ethical or sustainable – that’s simply not possible. The only ethical or sustainable product there is, is the one you didn’t buy in the first place.

However, by choosing to only purchase more ethical and more sustainable items, we’re trying to show that there are other options out there, that you maybe weren’t even aware of. When you do decide that you need a new bookmark, for example, we want you to consider the impact this will have on the environment and the workers who produce the products and so on.

What makes The Secondhand Bookshelf book subscription box unique? 

The most distinctive aspect is probably that we choose secondhand books rather than brand new books. Why should millions of books go to waste, when they could offer someone else the pleasure you experienced when you read that book for the first time? Also, new books can be quite expensive, and some people simply may not be able to afford much, so secondhand books offer an accessible way to enjoy literature nevertheless.

And then when we think of traditional book boxes, it is common that each theme or release features the same book and gifts. At the Secondhand Bookshelf, however, each book is tailored to the person the box is for, making it a truly unique experience every time. You won’t know which book you will be receiving and also, you will be the only person receiving that title in particular.

I think what else makes the Secondhand Bookshelf unique is how closely we work with local makers and small businesses. As a new and small business ourselves, we know what it can mean to support each person involved in a company, brand or business. And what really makes us happy is when we know that our order might cause someone to perform a little happy dance!

What genre of books do you offer? 

Everything and anything! We don’t limit the choice we offer but do ask customers to give us some ideas regarding their preferences when they place their order. We ask for things like favourite genres and authors to get an idea of who we’re choosing a book for, and in 99% of the cases, we always find something that that person will like and enjoy! 

Our choice of books is also strongly dependent on the variety available in the charity shops, as this is where we mainly shop for secondhand books! At this point, I would also like to add, if you do have any books that you would like to give a new home, please get in touch – we’re always on the lookout for pre-loved books and rely on donations and our charity shop finds to offer the best secondhand books available.

I love your Meet The Maker feature on your website, how do you pick the local artists you work with? 

Thank you so much! It was incredibly important for us, not just to include small businesses in the subscription boxes, but to also show who is actually responsible for packing your orders and replying to your messages. It’s been so much fun to talk to different makers and to hear their stories!

At first, we try to think of products that match the season we’re planning for and that we would like to feature in the box. Then we start to cast out the net and search for local businesses and makers that produce the things we are looking for, and that involves lots of browsing on Etsy! Often, we also stumble upon makers while browsing social media and looking for inspiration. The internet is a great place full of wonderful makers if you know where and what to look for!

Do you have any plans to launch other bookish gifts? 

We choose selected products from our boxes to be featured in the shop, too, but at the moment we mainly focus on the single book blind dates and subscription boxes. 

One thing we are looking at, however, is making an actual subscription service available. This may seem a little confusing, but at the moment, we sell the boxes on a one-off purchase basis as we weren’t sure how popular this idea would be. In the future (soon, fingers crossed!) we would love to offer an array of subscription options ranging from 3 to 12-months.

We’re always open for new ideas, so please do get in touch at shop@theliterarytraveller.co.uk if you would like to work with us.

The Secondhand Bookshelf is dedicated to making vital changes in the way we shop and consume products, and if this is something you are also passionate about, be sure to check them out on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

For all my lovely followers, Giv has kindly created a coupon code for us, which ensures 10% off any order over £25 (excluding sale items)! The code is STUCKINTHEBOOK10 so be sure to check out what they have to offer! I received my first box today and I couldn’t be more happier with all the beautiful gifts inside, and my secondhand book was one I’ve been wanting to read for SO long! You do not want to miss out on this little treat to yourself!

Books To Help You Kickstart Your Love of Running

Ahhh running. Some of us love it, some of us loathe it. Some of us have never even tried it. I can relate to you all. There was a time a few years ago when running was my only exercise and I became OBSESSED with going for an evening run after a full day of studying. It gave me that moment to turn my brain off and let my legs take me on a little journey around the block. Now I think about it, running (or any type of exercise really) is a great way to save your mental health.

Some of you may have been using your 1 hour outside the house to find your love of running. Maybe some of you have never run before lockdown and now you have all the gear; the trainers, the phone armband, the watch, the tracking apps etc.

So if you are currently loving your new hobby or you perhaps need a little push to get motivated again, here are my best picks of books about running that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Jog On and Running Like A Girl have especially helped me, but hopefully there will be some books here that will help you too.

Jog On: How Running Saved My Life – Bella Mackie

Divorced and struggling with deep-rooted mental health problems, Bella Mackie explains, with hilarious honesty, how she managed to get her life back by pulling on a pair of trainers and going for a run.

What I love about this book is that Bella tells the story of someone who has never run before and it is refreshing to see how she deals with the high and lows of being a ‘runner’.

Running Like A Girl – Alexandra Heminsley

Defeated by gyms and bored of yoga, Alexandra Heminsley decided to go for a run. Six years later, she has run five marathons in two continents. But, as her dad says, you run with your head as much as with your legs. So, while this is a book about running, it’s not just about running.

This book highlights that although there may be some days when the world is against you, you can still achieve more than you ever thought possible if you have the right mindset.

Born To Run – Christopher McDougall

McDougall tells this story while asking what the secrets are to being an incredible runner. Travelling to labs at Harvard, Nike, and elsewhere, he comes across an incredible cast of characters that will demonstrate the strength of the human body.

At the heart of this book lies a story about a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world. McDougall explores their secrets, as well as getting involved in a 50-mile run!

Running With Kenyans – Adharanand Finn

After years of watching Kenyan athletes win the world’s biggest long-distance races, Runner’s World contributor Adharanand Finn set out to discover what it was that made them so fast – and to see if he could keep up.

Packing up his family, he moved to the running capital of the world, and started investigating. Was it running barefoot to school, the food, the altitude, or something else? I love this book because it explores a whole different culture and way of life, in which running is a vital element.

Epic Runs of The World – Lonely Planet

This book is basically a runner’s companion. It features 50 of the world’s greatest running routes – from short city runs to must-do marathons, as well as courses around the globe for runners of all abilities.

There was a time where I would have loved to travel the world to participate in running events, and this book allows me to do so from the comfort of my own home. And the pictures inside are MINDBLOWING!

Just as an end note, most of these authors have also written additional books about running and sport, so if you read one of these and enjoy it, make sure you see what other books they have to offer too!

Happy running!

Empowering Women Through Literature With Women’s Writes

Sometimes in life, you come across certain people and businesses doing wonderful work to change society and you think to yourself, ‘how have I only just come across these people?’. Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I came across Women’s Writes, an online feminist book club established to promote women writers. 

Although Women’s Writes is so much more than just a book club. It is a community and you only have to follow them on social media to feel like you’re already part of something powerful. With live author events, book discussions, and a new subscription membership service, Women’s Writes is dedicated to celebrating the work of female authors. 

I had the privilege of talking to the founder and dedicated activist, Sophie McDermott, all about how Women’s Writes can empower women through literature: 

What inspired you to start Women’s Writes?

I did a History and Politics degree, and I was shocked at how throughout history, and now, women’s voices are being minimised, ignored and even erased. We were barely taught about women (something which we can also see in the school curriculum) and I was appalled.

When I went to work after graduating, I tried to use what I had learnt to support women in the companies I worked for and on the projects that I was involved in. However, I still found it hard to educate people, and I couldn’t figure out how to make feminism accessible to everyone.

I was actually on a coding course, and began playing around with ideas to build a website (which then became the first Women’s Writes website…it was awful!). I came up with the idea of an online book club with a feminist angle. I’m a member of a few book clubs and I love them all (and will still be part of them!) but they either weren’t explicitly feminist, or they were at inconvenient times or locations. So I thought a digital solution would help solve these issues.

I began describing the project to people and they would instantly become more interested in the concept of Women’s Writes than in my coding! So I did a bit more research and realised this could definitely be something that people wanted.

Then, COVID-19 happened, and I realised that this was going to be a really, really hard time for a lot of people. I decided to launch straight away and move quickly, because I knew this could be a place for connection, joy and new friendships, as well as a bit of relief from the scary and difficult environments.

Where are your author events held and why do you think it’s important to hold discussions with authors? 

All our author events are held virtually on Zoom, and Instagram Live. We also have written interviews which you can find on our blog. I think it is really important to speak to authors so we can learn more about the books from their perspective. Many of our books speak about feminist issues and we place a lot of emphasis on educating our members. 

I think that it’s not just the book itself we need to understand, but the experience and perspective of the person who wrote it; to understand more about the intentional message of the book. Whatever you take away from a book is amazing and author interviews help to aid that learning process.  

The second reason we hold author events is that we think it’s really important to increase exposure of authors and books in order to help promote them. If we have a platform, we need to use it to help elevate the voices of these women!

You have recently introduced a new subscription service, how does this work and what does it offer? 

I’m really excited about our brand new subscription service. There are several levels to the membership which are as follows:

The top-level is two books and online membership. This means every month you will receive two books, both contemporary new releases (one of which is our book of the month) and access to our exclusive member events and groups. 

The next level is one book and online membership. With this level, we will send you our book of the month and you will be given access to all our member events. 

The final level is the online membership only. This will give you access to all our member events. 

To explain a little bit further, we keep our book club meetings and author events almost always completely free. Our member events are slightly different, in that we invite professionals, from whatever topic we are discussing, to speak. 

So for example, our June book is Real Life Money: An Honest Guide by author Clare Seal. So the author event with Clare is open to everyone (via Instagram Live), but our exclusive member events include a session with a qualified Money Coach, a presentation from an Investment Manager and a presentation on pensions from Scottish Widows.

In addition, we have a Facebook group for members to connect and share books they’re reading, social media links, topics of interest and also a chance to vote for our chosen charity of the month.

Why is it necessary that you provide a platform for supporting female authors? 

I found out recently that over the last 20 years, just six women have won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the same is true of the Pulitzer Prize. The Booker Prize has been won by 31 men but only 16 women since it was established in 1969. 

When I found this information, I was truly shocked. In the 19th and 20th century, it was not uncommon for women to present their work under the pretence of being male in order to be taken seriously. 

Women, non-binary and trans persons have been shown to be overlooked again and again in the literary world, and it’s even worse if you are a woman of colour. 
It is the responsibility of those who can, to act and do.

You have a lot of things coming up for the future, what can members look forward to by being part of this amazing book club? 

Yes, I am honestly so excited about the future of Women’s Writes! We are working on lots of events, exclusive bookish and non-bookish discounts and partnerships with the brands we love, as well as working on a podcast! 

I’m really excited and if you aren’t able to join just yet, please do sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date on all our latest news!

To find out more about what this wonderful book club community can offer, I highly recommend that you follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on their website! As Sophie describes, it is vital that platforms like Women’s Writes exist and we can do our bit by showing our support and getting involved! 

You can sign up to their brand new subscription service via this link, and I’m excited to offer you an exclusive 10% discount off any purchase by using the code INTHEBOOK10