It’s pretty safe to say that reading has completely overtaken my life at the moment. Whether it’s a good book or a brilliant blog post, I’m constantly at it. I also secretly LOVE the January rush of blog content, just when everyone commits to new posting goals. This year, I’m hoping to share more of what I do read. I’m a fairly committed Goodreads user but I don’t tend to leave reviews on there, and yet I’m constantly asked for my opinion on titles. So, let’s loosely commit to sharing more mini reviews on here – I’m not going to promise that they’ll be monthly!
I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller
Apparently, I’m starting a trend for reading one non-fiction book per year and making it the first one of said year…! Last year it was Lauren Graham’s very Gilmore Girls-heavy memoir and this year it’s Kelsey Miller’s one about Friends. I gobbled this book up in a matter of days. As a massive Friends fan that watches at least two episodes a day, I knew I’d enjoy this one. In it, Miller delves into Friends history and uncovers nuggets of trivia that any enthusiast would be pleased to know.
From the actors’ humble starts to the behind-the-scenes moments informed by current scenarios, I found it thoroughly engrossing and it really hammered home just how clever and of-its-time the series was. Of course Friends doesn’t come without its controversies; to that I must just say that I personally view Friends now as a brilliant enigma of its time. It captures something so perfectly that we are now able to look back and see just how far we’ve come.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
As part of the Blogger’s Bookshelf Book Club this year, I chose to reread Northern Lights to tick off ‘a book by an author you love’. I of course watched the BBC adaptation ‘His Dark Materials’ over winter and was pleasantly surprised, mostly, by it. But I found myself struggling to remember huge parts so I wanted to reread the series, and now I realise it’s because the adaptation took a different timeline entirely!
Northern Lights takes place in a parallel multiverse, starting in Oxford. Lyra’s Oxford. Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra embarks on a wild rescue mission where she must encounter witches, armoured bears and other darknesses. I totally forgot just how much I adored this multiverse and the way in which Pullman so gently threads a plot together. His forays into religion, fantasy and otherworldly beings are just epic, and I loved reading this just as much as I did when I was a kid, stealing a copy from my younger brother.
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
I picked up Swimming Lessons on a whim after being unable to find Fuller’s Bitter Orange, which I was originally visiting the library for. A beautiful, slow look into parent-child and marital relationships, Fuller’s writing captures a sense of longing and dark realism that I don’t think I’ve seen before. The book opens with a crisis, and slowly it unravels into a stunning story of loss, discovery and hope.
Flora is a haphazard woman who deals with life… badly. Having lost her mother some years before, she’s bombing it through her days when she hears that her father is unwell, and he’s ‘seen’ her mother. Along with her boyfriend of an indeterminate time, she heads home full of hope. I don’t want to say much more about this book because I think the magic is in joining Flora (and her mother) on her journey. The story untangles in both current time and through the eyes of her missing Mum’s letters, each written to her father and wedged in books around their home. It’s truly breathtaking.
The Confession by Jessie Burton
Oddly enough, I read another parent-child relationship-themed book this month. The Confession had been on my radar for ages, especially because I adored Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist so much. This work is very different from that but I loved it all the same. I’m a big fan of historical fiction and this had just enough of a throwback to pique my interest. Rose is 34 and unhappily in a dead-end relationship. The disappearance of her mother has greatly affected her. But then she learns of the last person who could’ve seen her mother: Constance Holden, a reclusive author. Soon, Rose finds herself risking everything in search of answers, hope and a future. The Confession is a warm embrace in ways that Swimming Lessons wasn’t. Whilst the themes are similar, the devices differ perfectly and left me able to thoroughly enjoy both books.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Much-hyped about across the book community, I read Such A Fun Age for a book club this month. It is author Kiley Reid’s debut novel, tackling the issues of race and privilege through the story of Emira, a young black woman and babysitter of Briar, the daughter of Alix, a white female blogger. Emira is accused of kidnapping Briar, whilst out at a grocery store and what unravels is a tangled mess of (white) privilege, complicated love relationships and a searing insight into what it means to be othered.
However, I felt let down by this book overall. The plot felt incredibly linear, although there were a few twists, and any twists that did occur left a little to be desired. Almost none of the characters were likeable: I of course enjoy a flawed character as much as the next person, but the cast of characters were just so… not nice. Alix totally didn’t redeem herself by the end of the book, and it felt like a very surface level dig into race and privilege. That being said, I’m thoroughly excited to see what’s next from Kiley Reid.
The Book Ninja by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus
I almost don’t want to include The Book Ninja because I am so disappointed in it (and myself)! What started out as a fun, romantic-led bookish YA ended up being a voyeuristic look into characters doing despicable things for no good reason, random plot lines stopping oddly and little bits of misogyny, racism and homophobia thrown in. The first third was a delight to read; author Frankie Rose is in a funk with love and decides to find love by leaving her favourite books on trains around Melbourne. What ensues is a string of interesting dates, and a dating blog to go with it.
I don’t want to say much more on the novel as, of course, it was a big disappointment to me, and I don’t want to ruin the plot for anybody that does want to read it. I usually enjoy books-about-books and a little YA, but this could be one of the hugest letdowns I’ve had in quite some time.
What did you read in January? Share your favourite books with me, so I can add them to my list!