Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Favourite Books of 2017!

I'm finally getting around to this and being a bit kinder to myself by only doing my top 5 books of 2017, instead of my top 17...mostly because I'm writing this on Blue Monday (if it's actually a thing), I'm exhausted and also because I don't think anyone reads posts that are that long anymore. I do, if it's something interesting to me, like books, but I know not everyone can spare the time, so here's my condensed version of 2017 book faves. 
If yisser lucky (joke) I'll still get around to popping up my fave beauty products, but only if January hasn't forced me into a full-on productivity downward spiral altogether.

Himself by Jess Kidd
This was the first book I read of 2017 so it's apt that I start with it now. I have a thing about the first book of the year being a good one; of course I'd prefer if they all were but that's not possible. That first fresh read of January though. It just has to be a good one because it sets up my entire reading for the year. I'm not superstitious about most things but that's one I do hold stock with. Anyways, the book itself is about a swagger-y young fella called Mahony who shows up in a small town in Co. Mayo in the 70's, on a mission to find out what happened to his runaway teen mother who disappeared almost straight after she gave birth to him. All is not as it seems; the locals are not happy to see him and it looks like everyone has a secret to hide, or tell, depending on how much they fancy Mahony. Thrown into the mix is the sometimes help/sometimes hindrance that is Mahony's ability to communicate with the dead. It sounds strange but it's actually brilliantly written; very witty, clever, extremely Irish, and yes, very creepy. Loved it!! Jess Kidd has a new book out soon that I cannot wait to read.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This is the memoir of neurosurgeon and cancer patient, Paul Kalanithi. Paul had previously studied English and Philosophy so the book reads quite philosophically, unsurprisingly. He describes how drastically his life changed; going from an extremely hard working neurosurgeon, saving lives daily to being vulnerable and fighting for his own life, his marriage and to get back to the person he was before his tumour changed him irrevocably. I know some have felt the book was too sad but I found it positive and uplifting also. Paul lived his life to the fullest, he loved his family and changed how he practised medicine based on his experiences of being a patient himself. On a personal level, I found his comments about his career and how it affects who he was as a person particularly emotive. Because of these reasons, I think this would also be a great read for health care professionals, as well as everyone else.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This is from 2013 and I've seen constant references to it in book blogging circles so I eventually got around to reading it this year and it was a revelation. Ursula Todd is born one snowy night in 1910 but doesn't take a breath and dies. In another 1910, Ursula Todd is born again on a snowy night but lives, which means little as she will continue to live different lives and die different deaths from then on. The varying lives Ursula leads are expertly woven together and left me bereft every time something bad happened to her (which happened a lot). It sounds grim but it was unlike any other book I've read and it has many uplifting moments. I didn't enjoy the sequel, A God In Ruins, however. I found it slow moving and I connected less to the characters but I really loved Life After Life.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This was a late contender and a book club read that I became completely emerged in on our flight to LA.    
Elena Richardson plays by the rules; in her job, her community and her own home, so she's more than a little put out when enigmatic artist Mia and her daughter Pearl arrive in Elena's affluent suburb, looking to settle down. All of Elena's children become involved in Mia and Pearl's life on some level, obsessions starting in some cases. It's not until Mia's role in a local adoption case comes to light, effecting Elena's best friend, that Elena decides they are in fact enemies- she doesn't trust Mia's motives and begins to dig into her history, uncovering long buried secrets which will have a devastating effect on all their lives. This is a really well written book. It's atmospheric and engaging and the characters are easy to visualise and relate to. Looking forward to reading more from Celeste Ng this year. 

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay
I hadn't read Roxanne Gay before and so I was very excited when I saw this collection of short stories on my local library shelf.  Every story has a woman as its protagonist and they're all full, rounded people with flaws and secrets, good and bad traits. I was crying by the end of the first story while others left me completely bereft and others, fuming with anger. I still think about some of the women's stories from time to time. This for me was one of those times when you come across something so new and so different that it floors you a little bit- I'm still not quite recovered. Trigger warning for rape/child abuse if you are thinking of reading it. I need to read everything else she's ever written this year. 

Honourable mentions go to The Princess Bride by William Goldman (the book of the famous film, the book is also well loved and for good reason), The Break by Marian Keyes (Marian at her absolute best. Loved this story of a marital break, a family in crisis and a woman holding it all together), Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (a sucker punch of a thriller- main character Gwen is in hiding from her serial killer ex but must use her considerable talents to protect herself and her kids from a copycat killer) Eleanor Oliphant is completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (a funny, poignant, tragic and sweet story of Eleanor; not really socially capable but in need of love), Final Girls by Riley Sager (a horror movie within a thriller, with a twist), Under the Dome by Stephen King (classic King- an epically long read that'll keep you gripped throughout) and The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (a creepy, atmospheric read about family secrets).

Dishonourable mentions go to The Breakdown by B.A Paris (extremely predictable and slow moving), Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (I didn't care about any of the characters and stopped reading halfway through. It was pretty blah), Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (a drawn out thriller with a preposterous ending), Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan (a complicated and muddled mish-mash of depressing stories in one, a terrible book to read in January).

And that is my lot. Did any of these make it into your top books of the year? What were your least favourite?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Audiovisual Favourites 2017

This is my chance to reflect on all things film, TV, and podcast that I loved from the last year.
Books and beauty will get their own posts, fear not!

This was the year I properly got into podcasts, having previously loved Serial in 2016. During the Summer I happened upon My Favourite Murder and quickly caught up on all the previous episodes I had missed. 

I love this because it combines an interest in True Crime with witty and fun female presenters that are endlessly listenable to. At times, it can be a bit bleak and yes, I have shed a tear but Karen and Georgia have also made me chuckle warmheartedly, not something you can usually say about that genre. They have a huge fanbase, doing live shows, one of which is coming to Dublin this year (I missed out on tickets, like a fool). There's also a cat called Elvis who pops up at the end of each episode, meowing for cookies. It's heartwarming really.

I also tuned in to My Dad Wrote A Porno for a while but after starting the second series, it got a bit samey and I tired of it. It's still fun though, if you're looking to both laugh and cringe on your commute to work. General premise is one guy's dad wrote a terrible porno and him and his two friends decided to read it out loud and laugh at the ridiculousness, which is great for the rest of us.

A few of my favourite youtube/bloggers started podcasts this year too, including Estee Lalonde doing The Heart Of It With Estee Lalonde where she discusses a whole host of topics, including tattoos, feminism, travel and strength, amongst others. She always has a special guest per episode that is an expert in that topic, which makes it even more interesting. Looking forward to season 2!

I also enjoyed At Home With... by Lily Pebbles and Anna Newton, two of my favourite beauty bloggers. They go to a different person's home each episode and discuss everything from their home decor to their wardrobe, work life etc. Depending on the interviewee it's interesting and the two presenters are really pleasant to listen to.

I've also enjoyed tuning in to the Banging Book Club, presented by three book Youtubers, they take a different book about sex or where the storyline involves sex in some way and review it. There's a big variety of books but unfortunately they haven't posted in a while so I stopped listening around June.

I actually kept a list of all the films we watched this year so I could keep track and make this post a bit easier! I won't go into too much detail cause you can really easily look these up but these are my top 17 films of 2017. I narrowed it down to 17 like a champ except that I had a leftover space in my grid, so I made it 18...cause I'm adaptable like that! Some of these came out in 2016 (like Rogue One) but I only got around to seeing them this year. 

Moonlight (beautifully made, touching and unique), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (a late contender), La La Land (the perfect antidote to the January blues), Thor Ragnarok (extremely good fun. Plus Jeff Goldblume), Logan (not your average comic book movie), John Wick 2 (Not as good as the first but still brilliant fight scenes. Plus Keanu Reeves), Girls Trip (absolutely hilarious, I watched on the flight to LA and laughed so hard that I then put it on again for the flight home and made Himself watch my favourite scene with me), Trainspotting 2 (nostalgic, funny and sharp), Get Out (very clever and very terrifying), Hidden Figures (inspiring, emotional and infuriating), It (everything I wanted it to be- true to the book, scary, funny, smart. LOVED IT), Atomic Blonde (it's here for several reasons- Charlize, the 80's Berlin setting, the soundtrack, the clothes and THAT fight scene. G'wan Charlize, you ledge), The Invitation (a tense, slow-building, unexpectedly shocking horror), Baby Driver (fast paced, great soundtrack, adrenaline filled car-chases and Jon Hamm. The storyline goes off the rails somewhat but it's still enjoyable), Dunkirk (I spent the entire thing on the literal edge of my seat. Every scene is beautifully shot and you become completely invested in the characters. Plus, Cillian Murphy), Manchester By The Sea (leaving aside the terrible human that is Casey Affleck, this is an absolute punch to the gut of a film. Brilliantly made but very bleak),  Spiderman Homecoming (a reboot that's actually worth watching. It's fun, self-aware and has a decent Spiderman), Rogue One (a Star Wars story so not part of the official series but it does some explaining along the way and it left me extremely emotional. Sob). 

TV shows
There was lots of good TV this year, mostly via Netflix to be fair!

Westworld (a truly brilliant sci-fi. A must-watch), The Handmaid's Tale (nauseating, true to the book, terrifying, excellent drama/dystopia), It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (it's on series 11 or something ridiculous but we somehow only got into it this year. All of the characters are terrible so you feel no pity for them when it all goes wrong. So funny), The Crown (I think we all watched this one this year! True story period drama with excellent actors and fascinating storylines), Stranger Things 2 (I preferred this to the first series actually, it's as creepy, funny and entertaining as the first series but a bit less upsetting. Poor Barb), Mindhunter (more true crime- this is the story of how the FBI's behavioural analysis unit was set up. Also true stories and I read the book after watching it cause it was so intriguing), Master of None (DEV, COME BAAAACK!!! Perfect television, we had to hold ourselves back from binge-watching the entire thing), Riverdale (pure trash teen drama that makes no sense a lot of the time but has a cool vintage comic vibe thanks to its origins. The murder storyline is nicely creepy and Luke Perry is playing someone's Da, so basically he's only slightly older than he was in Beverly Hills 90210), The Keepers (a traumatising documentary about the evil and depravity of some members of the Catholic Church. It's deeply upsetting and infuriating but an important watch), The Good Place (hilarious and unique- this is like no other TV show around. The storyline flips every so often, totally unexpectedly), This Is Us (we only dipped in and out of this one but we both liked it so will restart it again soon. Great cast of characters with two different timelines to keep things interesting), Game of Thrones series 7 (DRAGONS!!!!), Rick and Morty (I avoided it for a while cause it can be seriously gross sometimes but it also has full-on belly laugh moments), Peaky Blinders (I feel a fool, a fool I tell you for not watching this 'til now! We're just about to start series 3 and we are obsessed!!! Brilliant TV!), The Sinner (very creepy, sinister mystery that we spent a week binge watching, trying to look away from but desperate to know what the resolution was), Big Little Lies (a really refreshing book adaptation focusing on female friendships, domestic violence and that perfect Big Sur coastline), The Defenders (a combination of all the other Marvel superhero Netflix shows- Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage and the Iron Fist. Snooze on the last one, the rest are great), Catastrophe series 3 (as hilarious as ever and featuring the amazing Carrie Fisher in her last episodes. Sob). 

Special shout-outs to the Youtube videos of one of my fave authors, Marian Keyes, John Oliver and his extremely sarcastic and satirical late night political show which I catch up on when I can, and ASMR, a calming series of soothing sounds, whispers, etc to help you relax and sleep. 

What did I miss?!
Let me know what your favourite TV, film and podcasts of the year were!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Body Shop | Spa Of The World Firming Ritual

Last minute Christmas-shoppers, I'm here to help! 
Here is the perfect set for the environmentally conscious gal in your life who also happens to like having smooth and soft skin (there are many of us!).
The Body Shop has done it again with a covetable and properly useful Christmas gift; behold, the Spa of the World Firming Ritual.

Inside a lovely presentation box you have; a full 350ml size of both French Grape Seed Body Scrub and Ethiopian Coffee Body Cream

The Spa of the World range is one of the more popular and luxurious from the brand so if you're looking for a sure-fire people pleaser, this is it. Both products are organic and 100% vegan and contain Fair Trade ingredients. 

The scrub is packed with grape seed powder from France and Community Trade organic sugar from Paraguay. This fella will invigorate, exfoliate and refine your skin plus the gorgeous fresh scent will wake you right up in the shower! 

The body cream is enriched with caffeine, hand harvested from the Kaffa region, known as the home of coffee. Caffeine is known for its stimulating properties, while Community Trade olive oil from Italy softens leaves your skin, leaving it feeling firmer and smoother

One 350ml tub on its own costs €39.00 so the fact this set is €59.50 for the set is great value. Both tubs feel really large in real life so they'll last you for ages and they both smell incredible as well as being effective, which is a win-win. 

You can find the set online, HERE or in store now if you're in town frantically hunting for a Christmas present over the next few days!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

(Not So) Recently Read; August & September

I know. It's December and I am very late with this but I promise I'll be better next year!*
By now I'm well on my way to reaching this years reading goal of 60 books read but for the last couple of months, I did step it up a gear. One of the things I'm trying to do at the minute is actually finish the books I've started. Sometimes I'll start a book, like it, but end up starting another and it gets forgotten about. I've also gotten back into audiobooks and I've kept up my library borrowing too. Use your library, folks! I can't say it enough!


Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine
I had a £10 voucher for Audible and spotted this, within the budget and went for it. Well, was that a good move on my part! I figured this would be your average thriller but it was way better than that! Gina Royal is a Midwestern housewife with two kids, a husband and a seeming normal and idyllic life. That's all shattered however when her husband is revealed to be an active serial killer and has been using their garage to torture and murder women. The book shifts from that reality to another- now known as Gwen, Gina and her two kids have had to change their names innumerable times and move from place to place when there's been any hint that someone might find out who they are. They're being hunted by Internet trolls who believe that Gina knew what her husband was doing and was even his accomplice. Now they're settled at Stillhouse Lake and all is going well until the body of a woman is found near their home, and it appears that she was murdered in a strikingly similar fashion to Gina's husband's victims. Gina/Gwen is such a great character. She's strong and fierce and the story is absolutely gripping from start to finish. The sequel is out soon which I cannot wait to read!

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Another great thriller and surprisingly, my first ever Karin Slaughter book! Samantha and Charlotte Quinn are estranged sisters. Charlotte, now known as Charlie still lives in their home town and works with her father, Rusty. He's known as the "lawyer for the damned" because he will represent anyone- drug dealers, murderers, rapists. Charlie is also a lawyer now with a failing marriage and several traumatic miscarriages in her past. She becomes embroiled in a school shooting in the town and immediately her father chooses to represent the shooter, a vulnerable young girl. Her dad too becomes a target for this choice, as he has before and Charlie is forced to contact her sister Sam to come home. Sam hasn't been home since they were teenagers when a violent incident changed all of their lives forever. It left her with many physical scars and Charlie with mental ones. Their past is about to get dragged up again in the worst possible way. This was a non-putdownable gripper of a thriller! I loved Charlie and Sam's characters and although the story was disturbing at times, it was really well written and atmospheric. If you like thrillers, you'll enjoy this. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
This was the second book from Paula Hawkins, after Girl On The Train was a big bestseller last year. I read that one too and didn't love it but I was in the minority there so I said I'd give this a go. Jules's estranged sister Nel has just killed herself and Jules now has to look after her niece.
There's loads of flashbacks to when Jules and Nel were teenagers and hated each other cause Nel was a terrible person. Nel's daughter also seems awful. There's a police investigation going on in the book and the female detective is the only vaguely interesting character, even though she doesn't get a backstory, at least not up to where I read anyway. If that all sounds incredibly vague it's cause I stopped reading it about halfway through and returned it. Because it was going nowhere and I didn't care about any of them.

Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit
I love Rebecca Solnit, whenever I see a new essay by her I get really excited; I really enjoy her style of writing. This is a collection of essays, kicking off with Men Explain Things To Me, which was how the term "mansplaining" came into use. All the essays have an element of feminist thinking to them so are really interesting if that's your thing too. I started this one ages ago and just dipped in and out of it whenever I felt like it- something I love about essay collections. I've two more of her books on my to-be-read shelf, waiting to go! Next years books are already looking good!

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay
This goes into my favourite books of the whole year, maybe of all time. A collection of fictional stories, this was my first Roxanne Gay book but most certainly won't be my last. Every story has a woman as its protagonist and they're all full, rounded people with flaws and secrets, good and bad traits. I was crying by the end of the first story while others left me completely bereft and others, fuming with anger. I still think about some of the women's stories from time to time. This for me was one of those times when you come across something so new and so different that it floors you a little bit- I'm still not quite recovered. Trigger warning for rape/child abuse if you are thinking of reading it. 

Dear Ijeawle, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
I love Chimamanda! This is a list of suggestions for her friend on how to raise her newborn daughter in a feminist way. Some are obvious but others, I hadn't thought of. I'd be intrigued to see would she write the same or something similar for a baby boy? Well worth a (quick) read for anyone, regardless of your parent status!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
It's been several years since I read a Jodi Picoult book and my lasting impression from then was that her novels tend to focus on ethical or moral dilemmas that forces the protagonists into an impossible situation, which in turn asks us to think what would we do ourselves in that position? Small Great Things is no different to that but while you could at times describe her writing as formulaic, I felt there was so much research and depth to this book that it really stood out from her other work. Ruth is a labour and delivery nurse (midwife to you and I ) working in a maternity hospital in Connecticut, where she's worked for over twenty years. On a regular day she takes over the care of a mother, her husband and their new baby but is horrified when they demand she be removed as their nurse- they're white supremacists and Ruth is black. Things go from bad to worse when the baby becomes unwell and laden down with grief, the couple take their wrath out on Ruth, bringing her to court for negligence.
The book examines racism in America and not just the extremely obvious situation that Ruth finds herself in but the everyday inequalities that Ruth and her sister must live through that us, and Ruth's lawyer in the book, as white people of privilege have no real concept of.  One of my main issues with this book is that it really feels throughout that it's been written for white people to learn about their privilege- its a book about rather than for people of colour. This comes across pretty heavy handedly at times, especially in her note at the end where she basically says...examine your privilege, all you middle class white people who are reading this. Her intention here seems to be coming from a good place but I feel a little uneasy about a white woman writing about racism from the perspective of a black woman..maybe that's just me. It is still an intriguing and well written story, if you can look past those issues, which isn't always easy. 

The Break by Marian Keyes
I got this on Audible as soon as it came out; if there's a new Marian Keyes out then you best believe I'll be reading it. In this case, listening to it. Amy and Hugh are a married couple with teenage daughters, living in Dublin. She think they're happily married until Hugh announces that he's off travelling the world for 6 months or longer and that she's not coming with him. He wants to go on A Break and he's planning on being with other women while he's at it. This means that Amy will now have to juggle a full time job, three teenagers (one of whom is a blossoming Youtube star), a father with dementia and a mother who is struggling with caring for him. Add to that the realisation that she has to go back into the world of dating after a fairly lengthy gap. Lads, I loved Amy. It was a joy to listen to her. She's loveable and strong and vulnerable all rolled up into a big realistic package. I looked forward to listening to this- when I had to make myself leave the house to go to Pilates I'd entice myself to go by remembering I had Amy to listen to on the way there and back. I know some have said that they felt it was slightly long in places; I see where they're coming from but honesty, I just really enjoyed all of Amy's trials and tribulations. A great read for sure. You'll also find it in my Book Gift Guide 2017, HERE

Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling, the Novel by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
In case you were unaware, there is a whole "Aisling"movement on Facebook that came before this book. Aisling is your classic Irish country girl; she wears runners to work and carries her heels in a Brown Thomas bag, she brings her lunch with her too cause those Dublin prices are mental. She's against anything that could seem like "notions", enjoys a night out at home in the local disco like nothing else and she never wastes the opportunity to get up for a hotel breakfast, no matter how drunk she is. We all know an Aisling, is what the basic gist of the book is and you know, I do! I also know lots of the other characters in the book; Sadbh and Majella for sure, as well as Aisling's Mammy and Daddy. Aisling has been with her fella for a few years now and as everyone they know is getting married and settling down, she assumes the same thing is on the cards for them. Unfortunately, he has other ideas and so Aisling is forced to reevaluate her plans. She moves in with cool new housemates, up to the Big Smoke and starts seeing someone new..but is she being true to herself?
I loved this one too, it's a really fun, enjoyable read, although it did make me bawl at one stage. We passed this around in work and everyone who read it loved it (and knew an Aisling) so you've got lots of recommendations for this one!

Paper Girls Vol.2 by Brian K. Vaughan
This is the second in the series of graphic novels about four young girls on Halloween night in the 80's, doing their usual newspaper round and somehow finding themselves thrown into a post apocalyptic world full of creatures they must fight while at the same time trying to come to terms with time travel and meeting their future selves. If it sounds a bit weird, it's cause it is but it's so much nerdy sci-fi fun. It's also beautifully drawn and I love the colours, dialogue and general kick-assery. 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The film version of The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films of all time. I'm seen it far too much and it was really about time I read the book. Himself bought this for me a few Christmas's ago but unfortunately this is one of those books I started reading and put down and forgot to go back to until recently. I'm annoyed that I didn't continue with it at the time because I absolutely loved this. So it's written by William Goldman but the book is actually his version of S. Morgenstern's original book...or so I was led to believe. I'll say no more but one important thing I will say is; read the epilogues!! If you think you've seen the film and you don't need to read the book, you're so wrong! There's loads of great extra bits in here missing from the film and it has all the same humour, adventure and romance as the movie does but in book format- which is almost better, I haven't decided yet! I also think this would be a great one to read to little'uns, just like in the film!

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
It's 1981, Leon is an 8 year old boy who loves The Dukes of Hazard and his newborn baby brother, Jake. We learn most things from his perspective, including all the conversations her overhears. Unfortunately for the family, Leon's mum has postnatal depression and can no longer look after him and his brother, so they're taken to stay with a lovely foster lady until they can be adopted. Almost straight away, a young couple start to visit Jake, with a view to adopting him, but not Leon. Because Leon is black and his baby brother is white. Now with an influx of anger and frustration in his life, Leon struggles to cope with all the changes that don't make sense to him. Thankfully there are some things that van still make him happy; getting a new bike and riding it really fast, learning how to grow a garden, as taught by a kind black man in the local allotment, the love of his foster mum and his plan to save enough money to go and rescue his baby brother...which may or may not go all that well. This was a difficult read. I felt so sad for Leon and his family. At times it was hard to keep reading as it felt like things were never really going to get better for him, especially if he grew up holding on to that anger. It's an interesting perspective to read from though and a dramatic time in history with the race riots in the UK as the background story in the book. 

The Child In time by Ian McEwan
I'm a big Ian McEwan fan but somehow had never read this one until it was recommended to me on Twitter. Stephen Lewis is a successful writer of children's books. His life is going well until the day he brings his three year old daughter Kate to the supermarket, where she is snatched without a trace. This massive trauma sets Stephen and his wife, Julie, on devastating paths, separate from each other. Stephen's life unravels, essentially. This book is devastating, I don't have children but I could so intensely feel his distress that it made it a very difficult read and several times, I wanted to just put the book down. I love McEwan's writing though, as I've mentioned, so I ploughed on. The ending is beautiful and did bring some solace but honestly, I'm not sure I can recommend this one!

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson
This was an audio book produced exclusively for Audible. I'm not sure if you can actually get this in paper/Ebook format but it would seem unlikely as this is mostly interviews with people and Jon Ronson talking in his languid voice (which I love). Jon Ronson is a journalist, he has written a good few books now, exploring lots of unusual topics. This time he's looking at the butterfly effect that took place following the availability of free pornography online. A "butterfly effect" in case you're wondering, is the knock-on effect that can take place from even the smallest of actions, like the beating of a butterfly's wings. Here, Ronson interviews those involved in making porn available for free and those involved in the making of it and how porn is now produced following this turn of events. I found this absolutely fascinating and was glued to it. 

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This is another one of those ones I started a couple of years ago and put down, intending to finish but never did...until now! I've read a few Hornby's and I think this was the first that really puts the reader into a man's brain, which is an unusual place for me to find myself! Rob and Laura have just broken up. He's decided he's cool with that; he can do all the things he couldn't do while in a relationship, like listening to his music and see new girls and generally act like Laura was never in his life. But that gets him thinking about his previous relationships and being the self-obsessed ass he is, he's compiled a list of his top 5 breakups, who he then has to contact and obsess over, all the while thinking about how he can get Laura back and if he really wants to be with someone at all?
This is a weird one for me, I've liked other Hornby books but Rob is quite difficult to relate to. I mean, he's not likeable at all. I know that's the point of his character but it doesn't make it a more enjoyable read by being aware of that. It's still a good read and parts did make me chuckle but the fact this is part of a genre called "dick-lit" (I'm not joking, look it up), maybe says it all.

And that's the lot!
I will of course eventually be back here with my October and November reads so stay tuned!
Have you read any of these?
Tell me what you're reading right now, I'm nosey like that!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Christmas Book Gift Guide 2017!

I say this every Christmas but books really do make the best presents. I've limited the selection this year to just fiction, non fiction/autobiographical/celebrity books and thrillers. Mostly because these are the main genre of books I've read myself this year so I can easily give my opinions but also because I'm smothered with a head cold and can't think straight. If there's anything glaringly obvious that you think I've missed, do let me know (I'm still buying one or two last Christmas presents and I always welcome help!).
I've tried to include only books that I've read myself but there's one or two in there that I've bought, haven't started yet but have heard that they're excellent.


Eleanor Elephant Is Completely Fine
This was a big seller this year. I read it during the Summer (full review HERE) and loved it. It deals with complex issues like child abuse and mental illness but with a truly endearing and loveable protagonist that will make you want to reach into the book and give a big hug to. This is an emotional roller-coaster of a book; I cried and laughed many times. 

The Break
This is the latest from everyone's fave, Marian Keyes. It just won the best fiction award at the Bórd Gáis Irish Book Awards and rightly so. I've read this one but I'm way behind on my book reviews so I'll lay out the general idea here; Amy and Hugh have been married for years. They have teenage children and are happy. At least that's what Amy thinks. Hugh decides he wants a break from their marriage and plans to go travelling around the world. Without Amy. Free to sleep with other women. Amy now has to work full time, look after the family on her own (including her own full-on parents and siblings) and come to terms with effectively being single all of a sudden. This is a great read, Amy is a lovely, personable character and this is classic Marian Keyes. A lovely gift to find under the tree!

Oh My God What A Complete Aisling
Another I have yet to review, I wasn't even aware of the Facebook page with the same name (I joined it after reading the book and then swiftly left again; too much squabbling) but there was already a big following for the Oh My God What A Complete Aisling way of life. This is the novel; Aisling is a country girl, working in Dublin. She loathes notions and wants nothing more than to settle down at home with her boyfriend and get married, at last. He, unfortunately has different ideas and Aisling has to build a new life for herself with new flatmates, old friends, a stressful job situation and a family illness to deal with. This is a really pleasant read; everyone I know that's read it has enjoyed it and identified with one of the characters. it's very well written. 

Little Fires Everywhere
This was my book club choice for this month. I read it mostly on the plane to and from California and found it a really well written, easy to read and interesting book. It flows beautifully and Celeste Ng is an author I definitely want to read more from- I love her style of writing. The Richardsons are a relatively normal family living in an affluent suburb of Cleveland. Elena is the matriarch of the family and lives her life very much by the rules- she thinks that's how you succeed. Single mum, artist and free spirit, Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive into town and shake everything up. All the Richardson kids fall for Pearl and her mum but Elena turns on Mia when she gets involved in a local adoption and Elena decides to do some investigating into Mia's murky past, with dire consequences for everyone. 

Small Great Things
I haven't read a Jodi Picoult in years so this was a surprisingly enjoyable and gripping read. Ruth is a delivery nurse in a maternity hospital in the US. She's experienced and good at her job and arrives into work as usual to take over the care of a new mum and her baby. The couple instantly demand a new nurse- Ruth is black and they are racists. Things go from bad to worse when the baby has a medical emergency and Ruth is blamed. She finds herself in court, defending not just her actions, but also her skin colour. This is a really interesting and thought provoking read. 

The Alice Network
I just bought this for 99p on Kindle, I'm pretty pleased with myself cause this was a bestseller this year and may well be a future book club read. This is an ideal choice for fans of historical literature. Jumping between 1915 and 1947, focusing on female characters going into world war one and coming out of world war two and the secrets that connect them.

Non Fiction

When Breath Becomes Air
The story of a neurosurgeon who had to come to terms with being a patient himself after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. A surprisingly uplifting book. Full review HERE

What Happened
The 2016 US election from Hillary Clinton's perspective. I just finished this one on Audible, read by the woman herself and I enjoyed it- it's obviously politics heavy but that along with feminism interest me so it's not surprising I liked it. It may be a bit full on otherwise!

The Gospel According To Blindboy In 15 Short Stories 
This is actually a collection of short stories that I haven't read yet but knowing the madcap humour of the Rubberbandits, this offering from Blindboy Boatclub should be brilliant!

Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body
I haven't read this one but I did read my first Roxanne Gay book this year and I loved it- she's an amazing writer. She released Hunger this year; a memoir about food, weight and self-image. This sounds depressing but honestly, her writing is so worth it. I can't wait to read this one.

Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions
This is a short read but one of those books that you could dip in and out of again and again. This is a letter of advice from author and feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to her friend on how to raise her baby daughter to be a strong, independent woman. I feel like every new parent (and everyone else too) should read this. 

David Sedaris: Theft By Finding
Author and comedian David Sedaris is hilarious. This is a collection of diary entries of his from 1977 to 2002. There's plenty of laughs in here, full review HERE.

Bonus suggestion; Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (yes, THE Tom Hanks)


Magpie Murders
I've only started this on Audible but loving it so far. Susan Reyland is an editor, just given the new manuscript by a bestselling crime writer to read. It's an homage to Agatha Christie; old school big country house, disturbing murder in a sleepy English village. So far, so in-keeping with the author's style of writing but as Susan reads on, she's convinced there's a real life murder detailed in the manuscript. 

Stillhouse Lake
This one took me by total surprise this year- Gina is a normal housewife, with two children and a loving husband. Her life gets completely turned upside down however, when it's revealed that her husband is a brutal and sadistic serial killer. Although Gina knew nothing about it, the internet does not believe her and her and her kids are forced to go under cover and live their life on the run. They start to settle somewhere until a young woman is found dead near their home. It starts to look like a copy-cat of her husbands has caught up with them. This is a serious thriller that you won't be able to put down!

Final Girls
This is part horror, part thriller. I loved this one and read it in record time! Full review HERE

Roanoke girls
Another brilliant thriller, disturbing at times but again, another proper page turner. Review HERE

The Kind Worth Killing
I loved this one. Perfect for anyone who really enjoys psychological thrillers. There's lots of books claiming to be psychological thrillers but that don't quite meet the mark- not the case here! Full review HERE.

The Dry
I also just got this one for 99p on Kindle (absolute book bargain hunter) and is another bestselling thriller released this year. FBI agent, Aaron Falk is called back to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend, Luke, who 20 years ago was his alibi when he was accused of murder. It looks like there's more to Luke's death than first appears and with that, long buried lies from Aaron's past start to come to the surface. 

Bonus suggestion; All The Missing Girls. Another great thriller, review HERE!

And that is the lot! 
Have you read any of these?
Have you any other good suggestions?
To the comments!