Season of Stories: Why Were They Throwing Bricks?

Season of Stories: ‘Why Were They Throwing Bricks?’ by Jenny Zhang

This term has seen a return of the Season of Stories initiative, with instalments of short stories being emailed to readers from Tuesday through to Friday. For the second year, I have found this a really enjoyable lunch-break activity in which I can walk into another world for a few minutes during the day. Last year, I tried to write quite a few short reviews for these but, having been busier than expected this term, that has not been possible this year. Instead, I will simply be taking my favourite two or three stories and writing short reviews for these. Read more

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The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden’s debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, is a book that I’ve seen doing the rounds and, with my current interest in fairy tales, it has been moving steadily up my To-Read list. I was finally able to sit down and read it over the past couple of weeks and I am so glad that I did; this has quickly become one of my favourite books of the year and one that I struggled to put down, even to sleep. Read more

The Lifted Veil

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

A few weeks ago, I was browsing a second-hand bookshop and I stumbled across a copy of George Eliot’s novella The Lifted Veil for 50p; obviously that was too good an opportunity to pass up. I had very little knowledge of Eliot’s writing outside of her novels so this was a really interesting read, introducing me to a different style than I was expecting. I can’t say that I enjoyed The Lifted Veil as much as I enjoyed Middlemarch or The Mill on the Floss, but it was still an enjoyable read that has broadened my understanding of Eliot as a writer. Read more

Stardust

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Generally, I’m the sort of person who prefers to read the book before I see the film: I think that’s quite natural for anyone with an interest in adaptation. When I first saw the 2007 film of Stardust, I didn’t actually realise that it was an adaptation until a few days later when I saw a display of Neil Gaiman’s novels in my local bookshop. Having enjoyed the film, I bought the novel, which has been sat on my bookshelf, unread, ever since. However, since I am doing some research into fairy tales at present, I realised that I would be missing a trick if I didn’t read this popular contemporary fairy tale. It has been weird reading the novel of a film I know very well, but I have enjoyed noting the differences. Read more

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

There is a section of the To-Read list in my mind which I call ‘books I really should have read already’, mostly comprised of the books which prompt people to say to me “didn’t you study literature?” The Bell Jar is definitely one of these books and it has been on my radar to read for a little while now. I actually came into the novel not really knowing what to expect but I ended up enjoying the narrative all the more for that. Although, perhaps ‘enjoy’ isn’t exactly the best description given the dark subject matter; I found it to be an engaging and well-written novel, with intriguing characters and an affecting ending. Read more

The Muse

The Muse by Jessie Burton

The Muse had been on my To Read list ever since I read The Miniaturist earlier this year; over the course of the past few months, several people have also recommended Jessie Burton’s second novel to me, so it kept moving higher and higher up the list. This was an intriguing read that I actually enjoyed more than The Miniaturist as Burton threads one mystery all the way through the seemingly separate stories of Odelle and Olive. This was a perfect read for a busy time of year, although the last few chapters kept me up reading fairly late into the night. Read more

Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life

Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li

There are some books that you read, and you really can’t remember how you came across them or even when you ended up buying them. Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life has been one of those for me. When I found it on my Kindle, I couldn’t remember downloading it at all but I have a feeling that it was the title that originally drew me to it. It is one of those titles that sticks in your head, with layers of meaning lying behind it; it only becomes more so when, in the first chapter, Li describes finding this quote in a notebook of Katherine Mansfield and the impact that it had on her decision to write this book. Whatever the reason for buying it, I’m glad that I did, as it proved to be a very personal and unique look at mental health and creativity. Read more

Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

I should probably say upfront that I have found it hard to be objective about his novel: my Grandmother has dementia and as such there were many aspects of Elizabeth is Missing that struck too close to home. In fact, I found it difficult to read more than a couple of chapters at a time simply because reading the confusion of dementia from the point of view of the sufferer was quite painful. However, this is an incredibly well-written and researched novel that tackles a situation more and more people in this world are facing. Read more

On the Other Side

On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

If you have a glance through the books that I’ve reviewed, you might notice that On the Other Side is not my usual genre. I actually read this on the recommendation of my housemate, who read this first and knew that I sometimes watched Carrie Hope Fletcher’s videos on YouTube; I had seen and heard enough about it to be curious and so I made sure to put it to the top of my TBR list. I will admit that I have found it hard to know how best to review this novel since it is not in a genre I read regularly or particularly enjoy. However, I can definitely see why it has appealed to so many people and why it is such a strong example of its genre. Read more

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I will admit that I had heard very little about The Underground Railroad before I bought it on the recommendation of the lady working in Waterstones. She gave me a brief description of it and the premise intrigued me: I was interested to see how turning the underground railroad that helped slaves escape into free states into an actual railroad would affect a novel set in that period. In actual fact, the railroad is not the major plot point I was expecting: this is a powerful narrative that focuses on the personal struggles of a slave attempting an escape from the Deep South. Read more