Welcome to my third monthly reading update! I am shocked that I’ve managed to keep this up to be honest with you. With 20 out of 35 books for my 2017 Goodreads challenge completed so far, I think I am well on my way (hopefully) to smashing that target. This month I read 5 books (!). I’m probably not going to discuss all of them in detail below, but just the highlights!
Before I get started, I want to say that I realise ‘What I Read’ isn’t a particularly catchy title for a monthly blog series, and what I’m doing here is pretty much a ‘wrap up’. But I just hate the phrase ‘wrap up’, for some weird unknown reason, in the same way that I hate the phrase ‘marketing mix’… or the word ‘moist’. (I think everyone hates that word though to be honest.) So I’m sticking with ‘What I Read’, and this is what I read in the month of April…
Becoming – Laura Jane Williams
Am I becoming an LJW fan blog or something? It feels like it. I recently attended the launch party for Laura’s second book, Ice Cream For Breakfast, and am so excited to get started with it. Earlier this month, in preparation for the event, I read her first book, Becoming. I loved it overall. It’s got some definite Eat, Pray, Love vibes, which I love. I remember reading that when I was 18 on holiday in Italy and I just loved reading about Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing experiences. It was a really inspiring read and made me want to head to some new places but, maybe due to the age difference between myself and Elizabeth Gilbert, I didn’t relate as much. Becoming was different though. Laura writes about her life experiences, starting from the age of about 23, and what happens when her long-term boyfriend leaves her to marry one of her close friends. Sounds like the stuff of fiction right? But this really happened, and Laura writes about it with heart and astounding clarity. After her boyfriend leaves her, her life seems to spiral out of control. She tries to fill the hole left in her life with a stream of men and spontaneous experiences. In the final part of the book, she is living, teaching and writing in Italy for a year, and this is where she decides to start a year of celibacy.
There were moments during my reading of Becoming that made me stop and say “Yes” because Laura just gets it. She understands break ups and she understands being a woman, being ambitious and having a dream. She battles through every obstacle and lives to tell the tale. I especially loved her writing style. It’s like someone is chatting to you over a bottle of wine, intimate, honest and friendly. There were some moments that I felt got a little bit self indulgent, and there were a lot of revelations at the end of the book, but overall I think it is a memoir that has the capacity to really reach people. It makes you laugh and cry, what more could you want?
My Giant Geek Boyfriend – Fishball
Bit of a random one! Last weekend, I went to Bare Lit Festival in London to volunteer with The Royal Society of Literature. Because of the way the festival was set out, I didn’t actually have to do much, so the volunteer coordinator at The RSL and I just went to some panels. I ended up talking to some publishers and bought a couple of gorgeous looking books. If you haven’t heard of Bare Lit before, let me say, it is awesome. It focuses on writers of colour, who often get overlooked in the publishing industry. It was amazing seeing so many great books and hearing some talks from diverse voices. I’m white and straight and overrepresented in the media. I think it is so important to support diversity and Bare Lit was an absolute inspiration, helping me add lots of authors to my TBR list.
I picked up My Giant Geek Boyfriend, published by Maple Comics, from the Fixi London stand. It stood out to me because it is so eye catching, with a gorgeous colour scheme on the cover and some really cute illustrations. Over the past few years, the creator, Fishball, has accumulated a pretty large internet following. This is her first book and it is bilingual, with both Chinese and English translations included in each illustration, making it accessible to even more people. The book is not in a novel format but rather, similarly to Soppy by Philippa Rice (reviewed here), shows a relationship through a series of cartoons, illustrating the quirks of day-to-day life. It plays on the fact that the artist’s boyfriend is, as you may have guessed, a GIANT GEEK. With the average Malaysian male’s height being around 165cm, and Fishball measuring 158cm, the geek boyfriend is well above average at 199cm. The couple’s height difference is one of the driving forces behind the book’s jokes and that never really gets old. It just gets cuter. Overall, the book documents the pair’s experiences together as they navigate Malaysian life and the minor inconveniences that comes with having a GIANT and GEEKY boyfriend. It is a super fun read!
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author whose first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published in 2003. I’d been aware of her books for a while but, if I’m honest, I, like many others I’m sure, first started properly following her after an excerpt from her 2012 TED Talk, entitled “We should all be feminists”, was featured in Beyonce’s song, ***Flawless. I finally picked up the essay, based on the TED Talk, this month. I’d been wanting to read it for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. Not only is it a visually beautiful little book, with a gorgeous orange and black cover, it is the perfect shot of feminism for a newcomer. It’s very clear, concise and easy to understand. It refers specifically to Chimamanda Adichie’s experience of inequality in Lagos, with anecdotes about what it is like to be a woman in Lagos. But also includes a lot of wider points that you can relate to regardless of where you come from. It talks about the expectations of women in the home, the lack of women in high powered roles (despite there actually being more women on earth than men!) and dissects the way that girls are policed and shamed. The whole thing fills about 50 very small pages, so I whizzed right through it, but it is definitely a very thoughtful and important read.
This month I also read: Stuck With You by Carla Burgess and The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen (Little Black Classic). I speed read Stuck With You and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I much preferred Carla Burgess’ first novel, Marry Me Tomorrow, as I felt a bit more went on. Overall, however, it was a loveable and engaging bit of women’s fiction.
The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen was a tougher read than I expected it to be. It was very short but, despite enjoying Austen’s novels, I found it quite hard to get into. The Beautiful Cassandra is a selection of Austen’s short stories that she wrote as a young girl, mainly to amuse her family, and never intended to publish. Although I much prefer to read her novels, I think contextually The Beautifull Cassandra is really interesting, funny and daring.