No God Like the Mother by Kesha Ajose Fisher review

Being in the mood for some short stories when I noticed that Booktasters had a copy of Kesha Ajose Fisher’s No God Like the Mother, I jumped at the chance to read it. As you can guess from the title, all nine stories tackle motherhood in some shape or form, despite taking place in wildly different locations and cultures.

Fisher tackles the subject of motherhood with great aplomb. Either the narrators have children, or a character close to them becomes a mother figure. This allows Fisher to tackle different aspects of the subject, such as the juggling act between a woman’s own dreams and desires and those of her children. The collection is very open about the highs and lows of motherhood, and I found that very refreshing to read about. Another subject that Fisher tackles is immigration. After finishing I discovered she works with African immigrants and refugees which you can tell given how knowledgeable she is. She really goes into depth about the immigrant experience, both in the US and Europe, and the struggles that come with trying to establish yourself in a foreign country, as well as the prejudice people face. The stories that focussed on immigrants were eye-opening and felt incredibly relevant.

It is remarkable how Fisher discusses these complex, heavy subject matters in such a short book (my copy was around 178 pages) and with such rich, beautiful language. Her imagery is very evocative and she is able to successfully capture different places like a suburb in the US, the crowded streets of Paris, both city and country life in Nigeria. There is a real sense of time and place which helps to draw the reader into the stories, which is achieved through Fisher’s carefully selected word choice and wonderfully crafted imagery. Despite the lovely flowing language, No God Like the Mother isn’t necessarily a book for everyone. There is a lot of disturbing content in here, such as death and sexual assault amongst others so caution is advised. These topics never feel exploited or mentioned simply for shock value; Fisher doesn’t tackle them light-heartedly. But they are present if people are wary of reading about subjects like this.

At first glance, No God Like the Mother can appear a bit of a mash-up. The theme of motherhood and having mothers as narrators or important secondary characters is reminiscent of Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. The exploration of Nigerian society and immigration from the country is similar to the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Whilst Fisher is perhaps not as accomplished as the aforementioned writers, there is a lot of promise here. For a debut short story collection, No God Like the Mother is wonderfully executed, with beautiful language and interesting characters. A raw, shattering, honest look at what it means to be a mother and an immigration (or both in cases).  I can’t wait to see what Fisher writes next.

No God Like the Mother is published by Inkwell Press and you can find more information here.  

 

My Top 5 Lowest Rated Books on my Goodreads

A few weeks ago I made my Top 5 Highest Rated Books on my Goodreads which was a lot of fun to find out, and I decided to do the opposite ie. the lowest rated books on Goodreads that I’ve read. I feel a lot of these might be popular books, since more people have heard of them and therefore more likely to pick them up. That’s just my speculation before diving in so let’s see! As previously I will link to my original reviews as I will only be giving a very quick summary here.

 

1. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

see what i have doneThis is a retelling of the Lizzie Borden case which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize when it was released. And right off the bat, my thoughts align with the people of Goodreads. There were aspects that I enjoyed or admired about the writing but the whole reading experience left me cold. The chapters told by the sisters were also well done, but the inclusion of a third, outside narrator seemed utterly pointless. If told strictly from the siblings’ perspectives, it would have been a much tighter novel. I know a lot of people loved See What I Have Done but it just didn’t work for me.

 

2. Tangerine by Christine Mangan

TangerineThis is the story of two friends Alice and Lucy, and what happens when Lucy suddenly shows up in Tangier to visit Alice and her husband John. This is a psychological thriller with undertones of Patricia Highsmith; something that was pushed in the publicity campaign. In a strange way, this is the exact opposite of See What I Have Done; I wasn’t keen on the writing – there were a couple of clunkers in there – but overall it was OK. Some aspects were disappointing but Mangan seems like a promising writer. Maybe because I read it whilst on holiday, but it does seems like a good beach read you could get lost in.

 

3. First Love by Gwendoline Riley

first loveThis is another one I am blaming on the Women’s Prize; it made it to their shortlist in 2017. In this slim volume, we explore the relationships our narrator has had over the years, especially her mother and husband Edwyn. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Not in this case as the more I think of First Love the more it irritates me. The relationship between the narrator and Edwyn felt mentally abusive; it was unbelievable that the blurb was touting this as love. That whole aspect soured the entire book, even if I did think the mother/daughter relationship was interesting and worth exploring. The narrator herself also is nothing to write home about; looking back I can’t remember a single personality trait of hers. How this made the shortlist I’ll never know.

 

2. Marilyn and Me by Ji-Min Lee

Marilyn and MeAlice works as a translator for American forces in Seoul when her boss announces that movie legend Marilyn Monroe is visiting for a four day tour. The novel follows Alice’s job as Monroe’s translator for her trip, as well as Alice’s life before and during the war. This was a really enjoyable read. Obviously I initially picked the book as I am a big fan of Monroe, though she isn’t in it an awful lot. That was a little disappointing at first, but Alice was such a fascinating character that I didn’t mind by the end. It was nice to see her develop as a person throughout the book. There is a love triangle which didn’t exactly work but overall it was an interesting read about a dark period of time and an interesting take on an icon.

 

1. M for Mammy by Eleanor O’Reilly

m for mammyTaking the top spot for lowest rated book on my Goodreads (undeservedly) is M for Mammy. I say undeservedly as I remember quite liking it at the time and there are plenty more deserving candidates for number one (*cough* First Love). M for Mammy is about the Augustt family; the mother has various health problems, son Jacob doesn’t speak, and father Mickey seems to be struggling with life in general. It did at times feel as though O’Reilly was perhaps trying to cram too much into the novel; there are a lot of characters to wade through. Yet it had a lot of heart in it, and you really connect to the family.  This one is for people who enjoy family dramas.

 

And that is it; my top 5 lowest rated books. Other than First Love I wasn’t expecting any of these; I also thought more popular books would have wangled their way onto the list.  Given more people reading them, I thought they would have a more mixed reception. As it is, out of the 5 I enjoyed 2 of them and they aren’t bad books in the least. Flawed yes, but still worth reading if you like the author and/or genre. I can also understand why some of the books – namely See What I Have Done and Tangerine – have mixed reviews. Again they weren’t necessarily for me, but perhaps others may appreciate them more.

Let me know what is the lowest rated book on Goodreads you have read!

The Top 5 Books of 2020 so far

As we’re now halfway through June and nearing the middle of the year, I’ve decided to look back on the last six months and see what books I have enjoyed the most. The start of the year was a great time for my reading and 3 out of the 5 books mentioned on this list were read in January or February.  Ones that narrowly missed the cut were Claire Macintosh’s I See You, Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. All fantastic books; it was hard narrowing down the top 5. After much deliberating though I managed to make a top 5. As I have reviewed them all I won’t go into huge amount of detail, but I will link to my reviews if any catches your fancy. But without further ado, I’ll kick off with number five:

5. The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

The FiveAt number five is, appropriately, The Five, Hallie Rubenhold’s biography of the five canonical Ripper victims. Through exploring their lives, Rubenhold also dives into life in Victorian London in general as we witness these women traverse different aspects of society. She also debunks some Jack the Ripper myths that have lived for decades, especially the idea that his victims were prostitutes. At times it is a very grim, saddening read, especially knowing the womens’ fates. Yet Rubenhold’s book is always interesting, and the amount of research she has done is incredible, that you can’t help but read on. This is one for people interested in Victorian society, as well as those fascinated by the Ripper case.

 

4. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

PerfumeThe most recent book I’ve read on this list, Perfume is a strange, compelling novel which still lingers long after the conclusion. We follow the live of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man who is born with an incredible sense of smell and whose obsession with scent leads him to commit murders. It is a cleverly constructed novel, keeping the reader at a distance the same way Grenouille is separated from society; despite having a third person narrator you feel like you know the main character, you know his thoughts and feelings. Despite being a horrible person, it is hard to stop reading about him; he’s such a compelling character. It is obvious why Perfume has received the vast amount of praise it has.

 

3. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

How We DisappearedLonglisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, How We Disappeared is a beautiful, haunting work set in Singapore during the Second World War. Our two protagonists are Wang Di, who was a teenager when Japan invaded the island, and Kevin, who lives in modern day Singapore when he discovers a secret his grandma has hidden for years. Both their stories collide in this poignant novel. Lee doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the war – some scenes are particularly uncomfortable to read – and highlights the experience of women both during and after wartime. Yet the book is also beautifully written; evocative of time and place and successfully capturing war torn Singapore. I’m sad this never made the shortlist as it has been my favourite so far out of the longlist, and I think it is a great debut novel.

 

2. The Cut Out Girl by Bart Van Es

The Cut Out GirlVan Es’ memoir/family history follows a young girl Lien as she moves from family to family during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands. She stays with Van Es’ family, and though she claims to have liked it there, a spat with his grandmother meant she ceased all contact with them. Van Es sets out on a journey to discover why. The book cleverly flits between the 1940s and the present day, where we see Van Es visiting locations Lien mentions and discussing issues in the Netherlands now. This helps make The Cut Out Girl a very timely read; what it mentions is incredibly relevant to today and comparisons can be made to different countries. It won the Costa Book of the Year in 2018 and it thoroughly deserved it; it is a very powerful read.

 

1. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium GirlsIs it a bad thing that the very first book I reviewed this year happens to be the best one so far? That’s what happened to Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls, which follows two sets of factory workers in the US. Their job is to paint clocks, dials, etc with radium paint, and their practice of pointing their brushes with their mouths eventually causes them to become seriously ill. Determined to seek justice, they sue their employers who refuse to acknowledge radium as harmful. This was such a riveting read: despite being a nonfiction, at time it read like a courtroom drama or thriller. Some of the chapters ended on twists that I wasn’t expecting. Moore effortlessly explains the events and breaks down the medical and legal jargon, making the book very accessible. Yet the girls themselves always remain at the heart of the book. You get to know them; their personalities, aspirations, and hopes and really care for them and their plight.  An absolutely fantastic book, and one I recommend to everyone.

 

And there it is: my top 5 books of 2020 so far! Similar to last year, non-fiction dominates this list, and I can see it happening for my ‘Best of’ come December. It’s weird as I normally read fiction, yet it is the nonfiction books that are particularly memorable to me for the past two years. But who knows, it might all change in the next six months.

 

What has been your favourite book this year so far? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Books of 2019

Hi everyone! I hope everyone has been enjoying the holiday season and that your families and friends have spoilt you. For my last post of 2019, I am will be looking back at my favourite books. This was a hard list to put together; midway through the year I had a bit of a reading slump and wasn’t particularly reading anything great. Thankfully, I have had some brilliant books at the beginning and end of the year, so that’s where the majority of them are coming from. As always my “rules” for the list are that I need to have read them for the first time in 2019 regardless of publication date and I cannot include rereads. I have also linked my original reviews in case you want to hear more about the books mentioned, as I will only be briefly summarising them here. But without further ado, let’s get into the books:

10. Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym

Some Tame GazelleKicking the list off is Barbara Pym, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. Some Tame Gazelle is her debut novel and it revolves around two middle-aged sisters, Belinda and Harriet Bede. Belinda still has feelings for University sweetheart Archdeacon Hoccleve, whilst Harriet is happy to turn down Count Bianco every year. However, when two strangers visit their village, the sisters’ world is about to turn upside down. Funny and charming, Pym’s knack for social commentary is on full display, capturing village life in the 1950s perfectly. Belinda and Harriet are a joy to read about and I could have happily continued reading about them in a much longer novel.

9. Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

Swan SongThe first of the Women’s Prize longlistees to make this list, Swan Song explores the relationships between author Truman Capote and a group of socialites that he calls his ‘swans’. I might be biased because of my love of Capote, New York, and this time period in general, but I really enjoyed this. The swans are like a Greek chorus in the novel, speaking as one. This was quite an unusual technique but one that really worked for me: it highlighted the importance of their voices which had been robbed from them by Capote. For them to tell their own story was quite empowering. The novel became all the more poignant as two of the swans – Lee Radziwill and Marella Agnelli –  passed away this year.

8. Circe by Madeline Miller

CirceThe novel follows the Greek witch Circe, from when she is shunned by her family to meeting Odysseus and his men. This was a lot of fun. I was only vaguely aware of Circe at the time but Miller did a great job of developing her character arc. It was fascinating watching her grow up. The cameos from more famous faces of Greek mythology was also a nice touch. It was interesting to see how many tales Circe is involved in, and Miller combined them all really well. It felt like a retelling of The Odyssey from a woman’s perspective at points. I can see why it garnered huge acclaim when it was first released.

 

7. Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss

Signs for Lost ChildrenSet in the Victorian period, the novel follows married couple Tom and Ally Cavendish. Yet, weeks after their wedding, Tom sets off for Japan to design and build lighthouses. Ally meanwhile, begins working as a doctor at an asylum in Truro. As they spent more and more time apart, they begin to wonder if their marriage will survive. This is a very quiet novel which seems almost like a character study. Admittedly, I preferred Ally’s chapters, mainly because I found her relationship with her parents really compelling. They appear in other novels by Moss which I will check out. Moss’ descriptions of 19th century Japan were also extremely beautiful, and it was clear how much research she had done.

6. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told YouI had read Little Fires Everywhere by Ng last year and really enjoyed it, so picked up her debut. This one might be my favourite of the two. Lydia, the middle child of the Chinese-American Lee family, is drowned in the lake. Her father suspects it was suicide; her brother is suspicious that her friend might have something to do with it. But what really happened? Ng tackles hard-hitting subjects, such as sexism and racism. She doesn’t shy away from portraying the uglier aspects of society. Yet, the novel at its heart is about family, and the differences between what we say and what we mean. Ng weaves all these themes effortlessly, and she captures middle-class America with stunning accuracy. I can’t wait for her third novel.

5. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 

My Sister the Serial KillerI read this very early in the year yet it still makes it into the top 5. Most people probably know the plot by now, considering this book has been everywhere: nurse Korede often has to help younger sister Ayoola in times of need, such as when she keeps killing her boyfriends. However, when both women get caught in a love triangle with a young doctor, Korede will have to make a tough decision. Despite the subject matter, I loved this book and zoomed through it. It was such an entertaining romp that I didn’t want it to end. Braithwaite throughs in a couple of twists and red herrings to keep you guessing, but what she does so well is develop the relationship between the sisters. That aspect was brilliant to read about and the fact this novel is a debut makes it all the more impressive.

4. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

BlondeSet to be a feature film starring Ana de Armas, Blonde is the fictional account of the life of Marilyn Monroe. It is principally written from Monroe’s perspective (there is one chapter from Ava Gardner), letting her the readers her version of events. This is a harrowing, devastating read. Oates talks about the sexual abuse and harassment Monroe suffered throughout her life – making the novel seem all the more relevant in the wake of news of people like Harvey Weinstein. Oates’ language is beautiful, and there were many passages I wanted to underline, and it often contrasted with the grim content. Yet I couldn’t put the book down.

3. Goddess by Anthony Summers

GoddessYes, another Marilyn Monroe book. But whilst Blonde was fictional, Summers’ book is a biography, tracing Monroe’s career and sudden death in 1962. He also addresses the rumours surrounding her demise and poses his own theory on what happened that fateful night. Summers normally writes crime fiction, a fact clearly evident when he discusses the star’s death. The book is researched meticulously, with Summers speaking to witnesses, obtaining phone records and documents, and having modern experts look over the case in order to piece it together. Yet, Marilyn’s life has also been carefully and thoroughly researched, and it is fascinating hearing from those who knew her. A must for all Monroe fans.

2. The Big Screen by David Thomson

The Big ScreenThis is a history of cinema itself, from Eadweard Muybridge and George Melies in the 19th century, to films such as Melancholia and Hugo by Martin Scorsese. Any film fan should read this. Thomson’s passion for cinema clearly shines through, and he makes a witty and engaging narrator. The little titbits and background information about the movie industry was really enlightening. He summarises periods of film and groups of filmmakers incredibly well, so people unfamiliar with them will have some grasp of their work. It also gave me a new appreciation of the films I had watched before reading, and made me want to watch all the films mentioned that I hadn’t.

1. Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy by Serhii Plokhy

ChernobylThis book is very much what it says on the tin. Plokhy looks back at the Chernobyl disaster, what caused Reactor 4 to explore, and the wider-reaching implications of the meltdown. Plokhy writes incredibly well, explaining succinctly complex scientific topics. Whilst not completely understanding every single thing, I came away with a lot of knowledge concerning nuclear energy. Yet, he also looks at the human cost of the accident and it is his ability to never lose sight of humanity whilst discussing major events that is truly impressive. It is also fascinating to catch a glance at how the Soviet Union operated in this period, and how Chernobyl helped lead to its downfall.

 

And there you have it! My top 10 books of 2019. It has been a great year for nonfiction for me: the top 3 slots all going to them. I have started to slowly get into nonfiction in the past couple of years, a trend I can see continuing into 2020. In fact, my first review of the new year will be a nonfiction work: Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls. Plus, there are 4 debut novels in the top 10 which I am happy about. However, compared to last year there are virtually no classics on the list, something I hope to rectify.

Let me know your favourite books this year in the comments below, and I shall see you on the 6th January 2020 with more reviews. Until then, hope you have a happy new year!

3 Books Set in WW2 You Should Read

Hi everyone! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know it is the 80th anniversary of the start of World War Two this week. I’ve read quite a few books set between 1939 – 1945; perhaps because my grandparents were in the war I feel more connected to it in some way – or I’m just more interested in that period of history. I thought I would talk about 3 novels, as if I went through all the ones I’ve read then this blog post would be super long. And no one wants to hear me ramble for ages. But without further ado, let’s get into the books. I have left reviews to the books where I can.

  1. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky
    Suite FrancaiseThough sadly unfinished – Némirovsky was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1942 – Suite Française is still a remarkable piece of work. Originally planned as five novels, only the first two were completed. While the first focuses on a handful of characters, the main plot in the second centres on Lucile Angellier, who lives in the French town of Bussy with her mother-in-law. German commander Bruno von Falk is billeted to their house as it is considered one of the grandest in the area and Lucile finds herself falling for Bruno as the other residents come to terms with the German Occupation. Némirovsky’s imagery is beautiful, capturing both the horror of war and the hope of this blossoming love affair. As the plot of the third novel only exists as an outline, we may never be able to see the conclusion of Lucile’s story. But what we do have is a startling, heartfelt portrait of life in wartime France.

 

2. Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian
goodnight mr tom    Willie Beech is evacuated from London to the countryside, and he goes to stay at the home of Tom Oakley in the village of Little Weirwold. Oakley is a curmudgeonly widower who has few friends and it is clear the two are total opposites. But slowly a friendship starts to blossom, and Willie begins to thrive in his new home. That is, until he learns his mother is sick and he must return to London… Poignant yet life-affirming, Goodnight Mr Tom explores the world of evacuees, highlighting the strange circumstances the children had to confront. Although dealing with difficult topics, Magorian’s novel is still beautifully written, with kindness and wit on every page. One for children and adults alike.
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows  
Although not technically set during World War II, the novel certainly deals with events during the war. Writer Juliet Ashton is struggling to come up with an idea for her next booGuernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyk when a letter from Guernsey arrives on her doorstep. Farmer Dawsey Adams has discovered her address in a second-hand book and wrote to her to see if she can send more novels and biographies. The two begin a correspondence and when Dawsey mentions the eponymous Society, Juliet is soon bombarded with letters from other members, slowly revealing life under Nazi-occupied Guernsey. Written by aunt and niece team Schaffer and Barrows, this is a very sweet, light-hearted novel with plenty of laughs. The characters are very charming and likeable, revealing an amazing strength even in dark times. A lovely, cosy read to warm even the coldest of hearts.

 

Do you have any favourite books set during the Second World War? Let me know in the comments below!

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill review

Hi everyone! Today is another first for me – my first review of a play. I don’t normally read plays, but as it is a category in the Reading Women challenge I thought I would give it a go. The one play I have always liked the sound of – and having never seen it live, would like to at some point – is Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls. Before going in, I only knew about the opening magic realism sequence, where our lead character Marlene is at a dinner party with historical or mythical women e.g. Pope Joan. After this, we follow Marlene at her new job at the Top Girls agency, as well as supporting characters in the office. There is also the tense relationship between sixteen year old Angie and her mother Joyce.

Despite being written and set in the early 1980s, Top Girls feels startlingly relevant. Churchill explores women’s roles in society, and how women juggle having a successful career and a family/social life. We witness different characters make the difficult choice between the two, and the consequences of their decision. However, Churchill doesn’t judge them, or try to suggest one lifestyle is better than the other – she simply shows the effects of the choice, and it is up to the reader/audience to decide whether it is the right one. Churchill also tackles the idea of internalized sexism, as clear when a woman called Mrs. Kidd visits Marlene in her office. Mrs. Kidd’s husband was passed on the promotion that Marlene was given, and has arrive at the agency to ask Marlene to step down so her husband can have the job instead.  The lack of a forename for Mrs. Kidd, and the language used in this scene (should Marlene really be doing a man’s job?) combine to highlight how sexist attitudes affect how women see each other, and the toxicity that comes with that. Top Girls is incredibly successful in dealing with the themes at hand, and it is sad that the play still feels fresh more than 30 years later.

The characters as well were also a joy to read about. Marlene in particular was fascinating – at times she can be downright unlikable yet I always wanted her to succeed. Out of all them, I think Angie was the character I had the most problems with. She is a teenager but I felt she was so unnecessarily angry and hateful at the world (and particularly to Joyce) that I struggled to sympathise with her. In the final act of the play you do get a sense of where this anger is coming from and you feel sorry for Angie, but at that point I was more interested in other characters. I would have liked to have seen more of Joyce, as I don’t feel she is as fleshed out as some of the other characters. But that might have been a deliberate choice on the part of Churchill.

Overall, I really enjoyed Top Girls and am more keen than ever to see it performed. I always have mixed feelings reviewing plays – they are meant to be performed and seen, rather than read like a novel.  Yet sometimes reading them is as close as I can get – location, money, and time restrictions all affecting my ability to get to the theatre more. So, I simply have to take what I can get. But Top Girls was a really interesting, thought-provoking play, and I think one a lot of women could relate to.

Top Girls is published by Bloomsbury and you can find more information here

Morgan: The Family by Sadie Beckenridge review

Hi everyone! So today I’m reviewing Morgan: The Family, the debut novel of Sadie Beckenridge, and which I kindly received from the author. The story follows the titular Morgan, who lives with her parents and brother Richard. However, her father Harold’s obsession with her causes her life to spiral out of control.

Beckenridge deals with a lot of heavy topics in the novel. Rape, incest, alcoholism, and mental illness are all touched upon in some form. Beckenridge does handle them sensitively – certainly nothing is glamourised here. The situation that Morgan finds herself in is truly heart-breaking, and whilst you can’t applaud many of her decisions, you know why she makes them. She is a deeply flawed character and works well as the main figure in the novel, as she shows the effects of childhood trauma in adult life.

The writing I have mixed feelings about. Beckenridge is telling a very long, harrowing story but it didn’t feel fleshed out. The supporting characters are giving a couple of traits but that is it, and almost feel caricature-ish as a result. There is also no dialogue in the novel. This is an interesting technique as it keeps a distance between the characters and the reader. We don’t see how the people interact with one another; their speech also sometimes betraying aspects of character. Yet we don’t have it in Morgan: The Family. It could be Beckenridge’s way of highlighting the helplessness Morgan feels, she is powerless that she is robbed of speech. But it served to put up a barrier between the characters and myself which meant sadly, with the possible exception of Morgan, I didn’t connect to anyone in particular.

The book also feels like it is breaking the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule. Some scenes felt like they could be more subtle in their execution, rather than Beckenridge telling the reader how the characters feel in that scenario. The book is relatively short – 140 pages – and I think the story would benefit if it was fleshed out more. The plot could easily cover two books’ worth, which might be enough room for the story to be fully explored. There is certainly potential within Morgan: The Family. The characters and plot are all there, they just need some more attention to detail and more time to develop. But this is a promising debut from Beckenridge.

Morgan: The Family is published by Archway Publishing and you can find more information here.

 

Reading Slumps and How I Get Out of Them

Hi everyone! This is a different post from me – a more chatty one than the usual reviews (which are coming back on Thursday). In the month of June, I had a reading slump. I just could not find the interest to pick up a book. And when I did crack open the pages, I found myself unable to be immersed in the story or engage with the characters. What had happened? I have no clue. The traveling I was required to do? The job applications I was writing? My other jobs becoming busier? Or I had read so much previously that I burnt myself out? Perhaps a combination of them all. Whatever way, I wasn’t reading, and I felt tremendously guilty about that.

I have debated whether or not to post this for the last couple of weeks; after all, this is a book blog, and who wants to hear of a book blogger who has spells of not reading books? People will think I’m weird, or not ‘good enough’ to review work. Eventually I reckoned  other bloggers must feel the same way as I from time to time. They could be busy with other commitments, they could be struggling to enjoy the book they’re currently reading. Heck, even that massive TBR pile could put people off. Whatever the reason, reading slumps happen. So I thought I’d share a couple of tips that helped me beat the burn out (and hopefully will help you too).

1. Stop Reading

I know, I know – you’re already not reading much. Shouldn’t you at least attempt 5 pages? That’s better than nothing, right? This idea of forcing yourself to read a set number of pages – or just forcing yourself to read in general – never worked for me. In fact, it made me feel guiltier as I didn’t want to read, so I beat myself up about not even wanting to pick up my book, which eventually meant I wouldn’t pick it up at all. It was a vicious cycle in a way. So I stopped reading. If I didn’t want to read, I didn’t read.

This not only benefitted me, but also the authors whose work I’m reviewing. If I’m forcing myself to read, it is harder to write about the book and the writing/themes/characters etc. I think negatively about the book, not because of the book itself but my attitude at that precise moment. My feelings reflect in my thoughts on the novel, which isn’t fair to the author. Now, when I want to read I do, and authors and their work get the reviews they deserve. The book gets judged on its own merits, not on how I’m feeling on that particular day. Which leads me rather nicely to my second piece of advice:

2. Do Something Else (and don’t feel guilty about it)

Want to watch a film? Bake a cake? Hang out with friends or go on a hike? Do it. It may seem silly, but I used to feel guilty for wanting to do these things – shouldn’t I be reading and writing reviews instead? Isn’t that the point of a book blogger? I would have those thoughts lingering in the back of my mind whilst I was off to the cinema or the great outdoors, meaning I couldn’t really enjoy those activities either because I was thinking I should be somewhere else instead.

But I remembered – I have many hobbies. I don’t blog about all of them no, but they are still my hobbies and still important to me. Why should I feel bad for wanting to indulge them? If they make me happy, then why do I feel so guilty for wanting to do them instead of picking up a book?

3. Your blog ≠ You

The reason I was feeling guilty for having reading slumps was because of my blog. I felt that I should be posting regularly – after all, that’s what many people say when they give advice to newbies about starting. Work out a schedule and stick to it. It’ll make blogging easier. You’ll get readers and followers quicker that way. The more content, the better.

I remember I would read blogs during my reading slump and think, ‘Wow, they’re posting 4 or 5 times a week, I should be doing that! Why am I not doing it?’ The true was because that’s not me. That never will be me. Twice a week is more my thing, I post regularly but don’t feel like I’m spamming peoples’ inboxes. I would also feel guilty that these bloggers were able to read so much more than me. This meant I was trying to read as quickly as I could, which in turn meant I wasn’t enjoying the books I was reading. There was no time to digest it, really think about what I liked or disliked the book. Which, again, is also not fair to the authors. This lead to me not wanting to read at all, feeling like it was becoming a chore rather than something I enjoyed.

So I took a wee break from blogging. I didn’t log in or plan posts (or indeed panic when I needed something scheduled that week but I hadn’t read anything). Instead, I just indulged in my other hobbies. It gave me time to unwind, and also remember I’m not those bloggers – I can’t post 4/5 times a week nor read as fast as they can. And that’s fine. I’m myself and go at the pace I feel comfortable with. Will I have the most followers or show up at the top of everyone’s dashboard? No, and I’m ok with it. As a result, my reading slowed considerably down, and I was able to appreciate and love literature again.

 

This post is pretty much a long-winded way of saying, ‘Just chill out and don’t worry about it’. Which is true. The more I worry about reading slumps, the further down the rabbit hole I go. Sometimes it is better just to not overthink it, go and do the things you like to do, and come back to reading later. The books and the worlds that they contain will still be there when you return.

Has anyone else experienced reading slumps? Got more advice? Leave them in the comments down below!