Well I’m sure you’ve heard of the author Kazuo Ishiguro and you may have even heard of/read his Nobel Prize winning book, ‘Never Let Me Go’! Yet I was always reluctant to read any of his books, foolishly branding them as ‘not my kinda thing’.
Yet here I am not UTTERLY in love with the way Kazuo writes and the stories he creates.
‘Klara and The Sun’ is about a robot (Klara) who, like many other robots, has been designed to be a child’s companion. Yet this is no ordinary robot/science fiction novel. Klara is VERY different from the other robots and is very socially aware and observant. So when she is picked to be the companion of a very sick child, Klara cannot help herself but try to understand the dynamic and history between the child and her unusual mother.
This book took me marvellously by surprise and I found the story easy to follow and gripping. I wanted to try and figure out the back story before it was given and I especially loved all the topics this book explored!
I’m so excited to be joining the 12 Days of @clinkstreetpublishing event that is going on in the lead up to Christmas 😍
As part of this, I was able to read some amazing books which I will be sharing with you over the next few weeks!
First up is Ballroom Fever by George Lloyd.
If you don’t know I’m a HUGE fan of Strictly Come Dancing and anything dancing related really so when I was able to read an ARC of Ballroom Fever I was over the moon!
Everyone LOVES getting the inside scoop on all the gossip and goings-on backstage and what I loved about this book was I got to learn all the secrets behind showbiz!
The book follows George Lloyd’s experience of how he became a rising star in Ballroom during the 1970s. Here’s the blurb:
The dog-eat-dog 70’s Ballroom scene was lubricated with huge amounts of alcohol and sex; and budding ballroom professional George Lloyd was there for every filthy second of it.
Plucked from a life of mucking out hogs, George is snapped up by a London dance school where he becomes a rising star of Ballroom.
The late 70’s signals the death knell for Ballroom dancing across the country. However, the guy who saves the day is none other than George Lloyd, who helps many dance schools by introducing Disco Dancing to his classes.
Through a haze of drink and a coterie of adoring women, George becomes an instant doyen of the British dance scene and is nominated for one of the biggest awards in the industry. But, for every new star on the block, there is always a queue of nasty adversaries, with daggers sharpened, waiting in the shadows.
A moving memoir to say the least but one I thoroughly enjoyed!
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing Published: 2020 Genre: Non-fiction # of Pages: 192 Links:Goodreads, Amazon
If you would like to see what’s happening and who’s involved with the #12DaysOfClinkStreet, you can find more details below.
“I’m right here. We’re right here. I can’t tell you what the point of this is except that I’m so fucking happy I met you, and I can’t tell you what’s going to happen… But I do know that right now, in this moment, on this island, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s with you.”
Why Did I Read This Book?
I was able to receive an ARC of this book through NetGalley and the reason I requested this book was because I had heard wonderful things about Jennifer Niven’s previous book, All The Bright Places. So I decided to give her new book Breathless a try to see what all the hype was about…
What Did I Think?
I read this book after reading quite a few dark, heavy and spooky reads and I hoped that this book would give me something light to read. I hadn’t realised that it was ‘young adult’ novel and I really loved the ‘coming of age’ element of this story.
If you are unaware, Breathless follows Claudine Henry’s final summer before moving to college. But instead of spending this time with her friends, she and her mother head off to a remote island off the Georgia coast. There, amidst the wild beauty of the place, she meets the free-spirited Jeremiah Crew. Their chemistry is immediate and irresistible, and even though they both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, maybe one summer is enough…
What I really loved about this book is the story about how Claudine goes from hating the little remote island to loving it. It gave me flashback to when I used to go to a little Welsh island for the weekends with my grandparents and absolutely hate it until I grew older and it became a place of sanctuary and quietness.
Claudine experiences the teenage dream of having a summer romance whilst staying on the island. This is where she meets the mysterious and island-hottie, Jeremiah Crew, who will make her experience on the island one she won’t forget. I also love the part that Jeremiah plays in the development of Claudine. We go from witnessing a very torn, emotionally distressed young girl to a girl comfortable in who she is and what she wants to be.
Overall, I enjoyed it as it provided me with the getaway I needed (even if it was only fictional) but I feel like the ending was missing something…
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Published: 2020 Publisher: Penguin # of Pages: 400 Genre: Young Adult, Romance Trigger Warnings: Separation, divorce, loneliness, sex Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells
First of all, I must apologise for the radio silence recently. I’ve recently returned to working full-time and found it difficult to find time to fit in everything I was doing during lockdown. However, I’ve decided to join in with Ronah @ Read With Ronah who is running a ‘blogmas’ challenge to blog every day in the lead up to Christmas!
So here are the ones I’m hoping to tick off this month too!
The Twelve Dates of Christmas – Jenny Bayliss
This is an ARC I received from NetGalley a few days ago when I requested a few Christmas novels. I’ve never actually read any Christmas books or rom-coms but you’ve got to love a bit of cheese around this time of year and what better way than to sink my teeth into a feel-good book!
When it comes to relationships, thirty-four-year-old Kate Turner is ready to say “Bah, humbug.” The sleepy town of Blexford, England, isn’t exactly brimming with prospects, and anyway, Kate’s found fulfilment in her career as a designer, and in her delicious side job baking for her old friend Matt’s neighbourhood café. But then her best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. Twenty-three days until Christmas. Twelve dates with twelve different men.
Yet with each new date more disastrous than the one before–and the whole town keeping tabs on her misadventures–Kate must remind herself that sometimes love, like mistletoe, shows up where it’s least expected. And maybe, just maybe, it’s been right under her nose all along…
Christmas Island – Natalie Normann
Another feel-good (I hope) ARC I was accepted for on NetGalley and this one looks super sweet and will hopefully allow me to have a little holiday when I can’t physically go on one myself!
After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.
Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.
The Christmas Killer – Alex Pine
This is the book club pick for my local book club this month and I have to say I’m excited about reading a Christmas thriller!
DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey.
But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half-frozen in the snow.
As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next…can James stop the killer before they strike again?
The Switch – Beth O’Leary
I started reading this one yesterday evening so it had to feature on my December TBR. I’m currently 8 chapters in and loving it and I’m quite shocked it’s taken me this long to get round to reading it if I’m honest!
When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Couldn’t resist the opportunity to plug my classics book club, ‘Let’s Get Classical’, who’ve decided to read A Christmas Carol this December. It’s interesting to hear from members that even though many of them have seen some sort of movie adaptation of this one, they’ve never actually read the original story written by Charles Dickens, so we are excited for this one!
And that’s my December TBR! Let me know what you think and if there are any on here that you’ve read or are thinking about reading. I hope you have a fabulous reading month and enjoy some of the posts I’ve got coming your way this month!
Join me tomorrow when I review Breathless by Jennifer Niven!
“A draught creeps across her shoulder blades and, for a moment, she gets a strange feeling of a hand, reaching out of the darkness.”
Why Did I Read This Book?
My beautiful Bookstagram and book blogging friend, The Bibliomaniac, has set up her own book club and our November pick is Pine. This is one that I’ve seen floating around social media for quite some time now so I was thrilled when it was chosen as our book club read because now I MUST read it!
What Did I Think?
This book is described as a Gothic thriller which if you know me, is RIGHT up my street, so as you can imagine, I was ridiculously excited to start this. I have to say that there were some fantastic moments of horror throughout this book, mostly stemming from the description and appearance of the woman from the woods.
Pine is a story that is set in a desolate highland town and follows a father and daughter (Niall and Lauren) who are coming to terms with the death of the wife/mother. With more people in the neighbourhood knowing more than they let on, combined with the uncanny sightings of a strange woman and the disappearance of a young girl, Lauren, must learn who to trust and who not to.
Although this book ‘on paper’ should have been EXACTLY the type of book I love, I found the story a bit flat and struggled to stay interested in the story. It was perhaps because, in my opinion, the story couldn’t seem to make its mind up on what it wanted to be. Was it a murder mystery? Was it a thriller? Was it a ghost story? Was it a coming-of-age story? I’m not entirely sure.
Overall, it was quite a big disappointment for me because I feel like it should have been everything I wanted…but it wasn’t. I think the only saving grace was that it had some fabulous creepy scenes.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Publisher: Penguin Random House Published: 2020 # of Pages: 322 Genre: Thriller, Horror Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, neglect, bullying Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells
One of the main reasons why I adore Bookstagram is because you get the chance to be involved in some really fantastic projects and I am truly HONOURED to have the opportunity to read and review this pocket-sized paperback all about how to be an anti-racist ally.
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a crazy year but during this year, we have also witnessed racism at the very heart of the justice system through the power of social media making it easier than ever to demonstrate the injustice suffered by marginalised people every day.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that witnessing these videos and stories shared via social media, has driven me to want to do better; to help in any way I can. Whether that’s educating myself on the racial inequalities through reading different accounts, diversifying the type of media I listen/watch or having the courage to question/call out people’s behaviour and thinking…
Being white myself, I will never be able to fully relate to the experiences of BIPOC but what I can do is use my privilege to help raise awareness and make change in the 21st century.
Who is Sophie Williams?
Sophie Williams is an author, and an anti-racism activist in the UK, who loves thinking and talking about intersectional identities (especially race and gender) and how they shape our experiences of the world.
Sophie is also the Co-Founder of Culture Heroes, a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising non-white representation at a senior level in the Advertising and the Creative Industries.
In 2019, she left full time employment to set up Blanket Fort – a micro agency providing high-quality, bespoke Marketing and Production support to businesses. This incredible woman has worked on marketing campaigns for hit TV shows such as, Sex Education, The End of the F***ing World, and The Crown.
Her social media accounts are not only empowering but also her non-bulls**t post and witty humour educates us as followers on how to be an anti-racist ally and that is what her new book Anti Racist Ally: An Introduction to Action & Activism also sets out to achieve:
Anti Racist Ally: An Introduction to Action & Activism
First of all, this book is the perfect little book companion. Being only 176 pages long, you can literally devour this book in one sitting and carry it around with you should you need to.
Themes within in the book vary from intersectionality and becoming an economic ally, to tips on how you can be an ally within your social circles, your workplace, at home and in your community.
“Don’t ever feel like you’ve done your part.”
The chapter that really stood out for me was Sophie’s discussion of what racism looks like now. Sophie highlights how ‘modern-day racism is less black face and racial slurs and more insidious, coded and systemic discrimination.’ I think this is such a potent topic because some may think that just because racial slurs are used less in today’s society, that racism no longer exists. But as Sophie points out, racists now have to find different ways to be racist, and that usually takes form as institutional and structural racism.
I would consider this book as essential reading for those (like myself) who are privileged enough to ‘go through life without thinking about, or being made aware of their race’; who want to help make a difference but feel like they don’t know where to start.
Sophie lists some incredible ways that you can help make a change in how marginalised people are treated/viewed, including choosing to buy from BIPOC creators, making donations, demanding more from brands who have failed to make change and keeping the conversation going.
I agree with Sophie that the fight for racial equality is most definitely a marathon and not a sprint, and that ‘conversations around race and racial injustice can churn up a lot of messy feelings’, and that there may be times where we feel uncomfortable/confused but that’s GOOD. Messy feelings proves that we are playing our part in making a change.
Anti Racist Ally is out on the 15th October 2020 and you can pre-order your copy here. I would also highly recommend following Sophie on Instagram as her posts are so honest and informative and they make perfect reading to remind us daily why the fight for equality continues.
Her second upcoming book is Millennial Black. It’s a look at how black women’s intersectional identities (blackness PLUS womanness) shape their experiences of work, the unique challenges they face, and what can be done to make it better. Millennial Black will be published as a hardback, ebook and audiobook by HQ (Harper Collins) in April 2021.
If you haven’t heard about the Richard & Judy Book Club before this is how it works: Richard & Judy pick six books every season that they believe will get us reading, thinking and talking about exciting new stories.
Their website includes details on each book, exclusive interviews and reviews by both Richard and Judy. I was lucky enough to receive the Autumn 2020 Book Bundle and here are the books which have been chosen for this season:
The Heatwave – Kate Riordan
Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was troubled. Elodie is dead. In Provence, under a sweltering sun, Sylvie returns to the crumbling family home of La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma.
Yet every corner of the house is haunted by the memories of Elodie, her first child – memories she has tried to forget, but whose long-ago death the villagers certainly haven’t. As temperatures rise, and forest fires rage through the French countryside, memories of Elodie spread further through Sylvie’s mind . . .
Because there’s something Sylvie’s been hiding about what happened to Elodie all those summers ago. And it could change everything.
The Confession – Jessie Burton
When Elise Morceau meets the writer Constance Holden, she quickly falls under her spell. Connie is sophisticated, bold and alluring – everything Elise feels she is not.
She follows Connie to LA, but in this city of strange dreams and razzle-dazzle, Elise feels even more out of her depth and makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.
Three decades later, Rose Simmons is trying to uncover the story of her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was a now reclusive novelist, Rose finds herself at the door of Constance Holden’s house in search of a confession.
Can You Hear Me? – Jake Jones
Jake Jones has worked in the UK ambulance service for ten years: every day, he sees a dozen of the scenes we hope to see only once in a lifetime.
Can You Hear Me? – the first thing he says when he arrives on the scene – is a memoir of the chaos, intensity and occasional beauty of life on the front-lines of medicine in the UK.
As well as a look into dozens of extraordinary scenes – the hoarder who won’t move his collection to let his ailing father leave the house, the blood-soaked man who tries to escape from the ambulance, the life saved by a lucky crew who had been called to see someone else entirely. Can You Hear Me? is an honest examination of the strains and challenges of one of the most demanding and important jobs anyone can do.
The Boy From The Woods – Harlan Coben
Thirty years ago, a child was found in the New Jersey backwoods. He had been living a feral existence, with no memory of how he got there or even who he is. Everyone just calls him Wilde.
Now a former soldier and security expert, he lives off the grid, shunned by the community – until they need him. A child has gone missing. With her family suspecting she’s just playing a disappearing game, nobody seems concerned except for criminal attorney Hester Crimstein.
She contacts Wilde, asking him to use his unique skills to find the girl. But even he can find no trace of her. One day passes, then a second, then a third. On the fourth, a human finger shows up in the mail. And now Wilde knows this is no game. It’s a race against time to save the girl’s life – and expose the town’s dark trove of secrets.
Rough Magic – Lara Prior-Palmer
The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km.
Many riders don’t make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families.
Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race.
A tale of adventure, fortitude and poetry, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one young woman’s encounter with oblivion, and herself.
Fifty Fifty – Steve Cavanagh
Two sisters on trial for murder.
They accuse each other.
Who do YOU believe?
‘911 what’s your emergency?’ ‘My dad’s dead. My sister Sofia killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’ ‘My dad’s dead. My sister Alexandra killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’
One of them is a liar and a killer. But which one?
AND THERE WE HAVE IT!
Get in the autumn mood with these fantastic reads! I believe you can buy the bundle for £25.99 from WH Smith right now!
There was one hell of a drama with choosing August’s book as the poll was tied between The Picture of Dorian Gray and Little Women with 91 votes each. So I had the final deciding vote, and I thought we’d go with the one that not many people have read before.
Here’s how the book club discussion went:
Q1: Did you enjoy the story? How long did it take you (if at all) to get into the book?
Most people agreed that it didn’t take them long to get into the book and as it is only short, most people were able to binge it in only a few sittings!
The general consensus was that people were pleasantly surprised with how much they ended up liking/enjoying this book. Some members had tried to read this book once before but found it easier to get into this time around.
Q2: Do you think Lord Henry impacted Dorian’s behaviour?
I think we all agreed that Lord Henry impacted Dorian’s behaviour at some point in the story. Members stated that Henry introduced the darker side of life to Dorian, especially with the yellow book that seemed to be a turning point for Dorian.
Dorian was young and vulnerable and he looked up to Henry, and a few members made the comparison of Basil (angel) and Henry (devil) with their impact on Dorian; however, a few of us did agree that although Henry introduced this way of life to him, it was Dorian’s decision to behave that way and therefore he MUST take responsibility for his downfall.
Q3: Do you think the picture really was changing? How did this impact Dorian’s behaviour?
It was interesting that nearly all the members didn’t even question if the picture wasn’t changing; they took it as fact. Yet when we considered it, it added another level to the story.
We agreed that the portrait allowed him to do what he wanted because he could just hide behind it. That perhaps Dorian wanted/imagined the picture changing so he felt less guilty about his actions.
Of course, he wasn’t alone in seeing the picture’s changes so we wondered whether his encounter with Basil was actually about his actions and the person he had become, and the painting was simply part of his psyche?
Q4: Do you consider Basil and Dorian’s relationship to be more than just friendship?
Our members were torn on this one. Most of us agreed that it was unquestionable that Basil was infatuated with Dorian but we were torn on the reasons why. Some believed that it was purely because of what Dorian offered Basil in terms of beauty/art, whereas some believed it was purely love.
I think one thing we all agreed on was how Basil’s love for Dorian was unrequited, as Dorian definitely didn’t feel the same way. However, it could be argued that Basil loves the Dorian that he paints and not the Dorian at the end of the novel.
As a whole, we thought that this Basil and Dorian’s relationship is down to the reader’s interpretation which was probably intentional by Wilde.
Q5: Let’s consider the female characters in the novel…why are they important?
Members definitely agreed that female characters were practically non-existent in The Picture of Dorian Gray. I think we all agreed that they were used as plot devices and nothing more, which is a real shame.
Some members also argued that the women in the novel were referred to as the ‘weaker sex’, ‘decorative sex’ and as ‘playthings’ and possessions that can be manipulated and used. It’s obvious that they were used to highlight the actions of men.
Q6: Art is mentioned a lot during the novel, what do you think Wilde’s opinion towards art was?
I think we all agreed that Wilde was a Romanticist. Through The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde is playing with the idea that art is worshipped by society. That art can be beautiful and admired, but one must always read between the lines and look beyond the beauty on the surface.
This way of thinking is still kind of relevant in today’s society with social media; that people only post the happy stuff and we shouldn’t take everything we see in art as gospel truth.
Q7: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book,”Why do you think Wilde said this? Do you agree?
Being a book club of passionate readers, there were some GREAT reactions to this question. Many agreed that books are entirely down to the reader’s interpretation.
Take The Picture of Dorian Gray, for instance, some members saw a romantic relationship between Basil and Dorian whereas others didn’t.
What some view as moral others will view as immoral and vice versa, but that is the beauty of literature, everyone’s interpretation is equally important regardless of moralities presented in the literature itself. We all agreed with one of the members who said that ‘books should be accessible to all and should go beyond moral boundaries so that a reader can explore their own views and test their limits.’
Q8: The Picture of Dorian Gray was used against Wilde during his court trial to prove he was having (illegal at the time) homosexual relations with a twenty-two-year-old poet named Lord Alfred Douglas. Can you understand why the book was used as evidence?
As a book club, we were again undecided on this question. We agreed that the book had homosexual undertones, but whether it was substantial enough to be used in court is a whole different level.
A few members stated that art/literature should be kept separate from the author/creator. Yet, there were a lot of similarities with the description of Dorian and the appearance of Lord Alfred Douglas, so it became easy for people to draw similarities between Wilde and Basil and even between Wilde and Henry, in the way Wilde corrupts young and naive men.
It’s Brontë month at the book club and we all voted to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. We will also be doing lots of charity events this month to help raise money for the Brontë Parsonage here in the UK after the news that due to COVID, it was struggling to remain open. If you wish to join in on all the fun, click here to join the Facebook Group.
I was kindly gifted this as part of a Twitter competition I won and I couldn’t believe I managed to get an ARC of this gorgeous and enthralling novel. It was published on June 16th, so my review is a bit late to the party, but this is one that kept me on my toes…
What Did I Think?
When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, an adoring husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous, wealthy, and cherished by those who knew her—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, and maybe even themselves.
The book follows three women who lead very different lives to one another. One is gorgeous and rich, the other has always put her career first and the third had children young and from there, being a stay-at-home mum was her only option.
Imperfect Women is kind of a murder-mystery but also a great depiction of womanhood. As I mentioned before, it follows three very different women and how their careers, children, and relationships have ruled their life. There are a lot of controlling men in the novel and there were numerous times where I was left with my blood boiling.
Although it is fantastically written, I did manage to guess the plot pretty quickly but maybe that’s the beauty of this novel; that you know who did it but you’re desperate to find out HOW. One thing I definitely didn’t guess was all the other exciting and gob-smacking moments throughout the novel.
The novel is split into three different parts and in each part, we are introduced to a new narrator and their story. I found it interesting that I also disliked all three women at some point throughout their stories but I think this was intentional by the author; proving once and for all that not all women are perfect. Imperfect Women is one that was gripping from the start and was extremely easy to read. I thought it gave such a true representation into how there is always one rule for women and another for men in all aspects of society.