Books · TBR Review

20 for 2020 TBR: Review

I am so glad I have managed to read al 20 books that were on my 2020 TBR. The list included fifteen works of fiction and five non-fiction books. I will likely have a similar ratio for my 2021 TBR. I do think that having this yearly TBR focused my reading and actually made me read the books I wanted to read. That may not make sense, but it really did help me. I will be setting my 2021 TBR shortly.

These were all books I really wanted to read, but there were quite a few I ended up not loving. Of the 20 books three were 7-star reads, ie new favourites, which were How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and Wilding by Isabella Tree. Both will appear in my ‘favourite books I read this year’-list, I am sure. To my surprise beside that I only had five 6-star reads. The rest of the books i rated 5 stars or lower (seven 5-star reads, four 4-star reads and one 3-star read). I had definitely expected to lover more of these books.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett was the first book I read off this TBR and the last one was The Book of Lost Things, which I finished last week. Both of these were disappointing reads at only 4 stars.

I will be taking nine of these books off my shelf to find new homes for.

2021

I have a feeling my 2021 TBR will be looking a bit different, I should be completing and posting that one before the end of the year. Again, all the books on this TBR will be books I actually already have on my shelves.

I am still deciding whether to set a 2021 series TBR or not. I really did not read that many series in 2020. I managed to complete a few, so I am not complaining, but I definitely did not read/complete as many as I had hoped. Still, I would love to get back into reading more fantasy. I may start with reading some standalone fantasy books and completing the ones I am already books into.

What books are likely to be on your 2021 TBR?

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 25 November 2020

This reading week has been kind of slow, but I don’t think I mind too much.

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am about halfway through The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. I am reading quite slowly right now, but I am enjoying it. It’s a light read so far and it’s fun. I love that there are characters from all sorts of classic (monster) literature in there.

I have also started listening to Black and British by David Olusoga. I am a couple of chapters in and it’s so interesting. This is a long audio book (25 hours!) and it may be interrupted by something else, so I may be in it for the long haul. However, I really like it so far. So much information on a subject I sadly know too little about.

I did also pick up Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, but I have not read on yet, favouring fiction for actual reading right now. I will probably pick it back up in the coming week.

What have I recently finished reading?

I finished my previous audio book, which was I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke. I loved that one. He is such good storyteller and his voice is so distinctive. I would highly recommend the audio book. I will be diving into some of his work soon.

I also finished In Lucia’s Eyes by Arthur Japin almost a week ago. It was an enjoyable read, but to be honest it did not really stick at all.

What will I be reading next?

I am really in the mood for some more poetry, so there may be some of that coming. Not sure what yet. I have a few poetry books that I could pick up.

Books · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: I Wanna Be Yours (John Cooper Clarke)

★★★★★★☆

Title: I Wanna Be Yours
Author: John Cooper Clarke
Genre: Non-Fiction / Autobiography
First published: 2020
Edition: Audio book & hardback, published by Picador in 2020

Poet Laureate of Punk, fashion icon, TV and radio presenter, social and cultural commentator. At 5′ 11′ (8 stone, 32 inch chest, 27 inch waist), in trademark suit jacket, skin-tight drainpipes and dark glasses, with jet-black back-combed hair and mouth full of gold teeth, John Cooper Clarke is instantly recognisable. As a writer his voice is equally unmistakable.

John Cooper Clarke is one of those people, who is such a cultural phenomenon, yet I did not know that much about him. When I heard that he was publishing this book I was very excited to read it. I am glad I did. It was a joy to listen to him tell his story. He has such a recognisable voice and way of speaking.

This is a pretty straightforward autobiography, but it is well-told and has a sense of humour that is very on point, but not too overdone. This is a man who has been there done that, but always seems to have been unapologetically himself. I love that. He talks us through his years trying to make a career for himself and gaining some success and recognition. He also talks us through his time as a heroine addict and recovery. Life has clearly not always been sunshine and roses, but though he talks about the low points, he does not linger on the negative.

The title of the book is the title of perhaps now his most famous poem, thanks in part to the Arctic Monkeys, who turned its words into a song, which is on their AM album. But there is so much more to this man than that poem. He is a fascinating individual, but at the end of the book he actually seems like someone you would enjoy having a drink with, who has stories to tell, but who knows life and happiness cannot be taken for granted, who can laugh at himself and root for others.

The book itself never becomes oversentimental, but always stays focussed on telling a life story worth telling and on the positive side of life. This and his wonderful turn of phrase is this autobiography’s strength in my opinion.

I would highly recommend the audio book. It gives you such a sense of who this man is. I am looking forward to (re)exploring some of his work.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass (Lana Del Rey)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Violent Bent Over The Grass Backwards
Author: Lana Del Rey
Genre: Poetry
First published: 2020
Edition: Hardback, published by Simon and Schuster in 2020

“Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass is the title poem of the book and the first poem I wrote of many. Some of which came to me in their entirety, which I dictated and then typed out, and some that I worked laboriously picking apart each word to make the perfect poem. They are eclectic and honest and not trying to be anything other than what they are and for that reason I’m proud of them, especially because the spirit in which they were written was very authentic.” —Lana Del Rey

🌸🌸🌸

I bought this poetry book on a whim. I have been listening to the author’s music quite a lot lately. It always touches me, so I figured maybe her poetry would as well. It did.

There is something very lyrical, but real and heartfelt about her prose. It took me a few poems to get used to the rhythm and feel of her writing, but by the end I really loved it. I loved how her poems are irregular and almost jarring at times. It made sense in the themes of this work, which seems to be an exploration of life and self and maybe acceptance as well, her place in this immediate world she is existing in.

I enjoyed this thoroughly and the photographs scattered throughout and the way her typed pages are printed in the book give it a great feel. The hardback was a joy to read.

I definitely want to listen to her reading this work, but as a poetry book it already hit the right spot for me.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Call Me By Your Name (André Aciman)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Call Me By Your Name
Author: André Aciman
Genre: Fiction / Romance / LGBTQ+
First published: 2007
Edition: Paperback, published by Atlantic Books in 2017

A romance blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.

*

I have only very hesitantly put this novel in the category of romance, because it is not actually a very romantic book. It is about ‘a’ romance, but the way it is presented is not necessarily romantic.

I wanted to read this novel after seeing the movie (which is very good by the way), but I cannot deny that I was slightly hesitant. This appears to be one of those really polarizing books, where people either absolutely adore it, or hate it. As is not unusual, I fall somewhere in between. It is slightly pretentious, but I that is one of the things I happen to like about it. It is pretentious, because our narrator, Elio, is a rather precocious, dramatic seventeen-year-old. It would be weird if it was not pretentious! It made it more believable for me.

Let me start of by saying, despite reviews, there were no scenes in here that made me feel uncomfortable. Yes, there were some rather ‘interesting’ bits, but nothing too offensive or too shocking. I was just slightly bemused at times by the goings-on.

The book is the kind of the stream-of-consciousness novel that I really enjoy, and I am not sure why it did not quite hit the sweet spot (pun possibly intended). I enjoyed the writing, though there were sentences here and that may have caused me to raise an eyebrow. The drawn-out ending was a bit unnecessarily in my honest opion, but it did not bother me too much.

This may be one of those books that gets better on a second reading, so I hope to do that in the future.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(audio) Books: Let Love Rule (Lenny Kravitz)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Let Love Rule
Author/Narrator: Lenny Kravitz (with David Ritz)
Genre: Non-Fiction / Autobiography / Music / Memoir
First published: 2020
Edition: Audio book

“My life is all about opposites,” Lenny writes. “Black and white. Jewish and Christian. The Jackson 5 and Led Zeppelin. I accepted my Gemini soul. I owned it. I adored it. Yins and yangs mingled in various parts of my heart and mind, giving me balance and fueling my curiosity and comfort.”

🎸🎵🔥

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Lenny narrating the story of his youth. This is only a short memoir at under 300 pages and it covers Lenny’s life up till the release and touring of his first album Let Love Rule.

Lenny Kravitz is one of those artists that I have always liked, but that I have never really looked into. When this book came up for a book club I was actually really excited. The choice to go for the audio book was an easy one, as I already knew he had a voice that would work great for audio. I was right. His voice is so soothing to listen to.

He tells his story with a lot of heart and sincerity. He does not shy away from showing the wrong choices as well as the right ones. He paints a picture of a young man, who always knew he wanted to be a musician, but who took a while to find out who he actually was.

The narrative centres around relationships; with his parents and extended family, with friends, with girls, but also with faith. A lot of it centres around love in one way or another and it is this that makes it such a heartwarming memoir.

The memoir ends just when Lenny’s career starts to take off and I am sure there will be another book to tell that story. I kind of wish this was a bigger book that included his future career. On the other hand, the birth of his daughter and his first album makes a good conclusion to a story of a man finally finding himself.

I love that the name of the co-author is on the cover. I do not care who wrote what or who actually wrote the story. It is well told, in writing and in the narration, and I loved it.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Guest List (Lucy Foley)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Genre: Fiction/Thriller/Mystery
First published: 2019
Edition: Kindle e-book

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

💀💔

This was a very easy read, which was just what I needed.

I liked the way the book is written from the points of view of various people attending a wedding on a remote Irish island and how it is mainly written a day in the past with brief glimpses of the Wedding Day itself. I definitely enjoyed the writing and the characters.

The murder mystery and the reveals were a little iffy for my liking. Too many coincidences. It was all just a little bit too convenient.

Having said that though, I sped through the book and I would recommend it as a quick fun read. There’s nothing too gruesome, but it does have a bit of a ominous atmosphere, which I enjoyed.

Did what it needed to do.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Broadwater (Jac Shreeves-Lee)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Broadwater
Author: Jac Shreeves-Lee
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
First published: to be published 3 September 2020 by Fairlight Books
Edition:  e-ARC, courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

Welcome to Broadwater Farm, one of the most well-known housing estates in Britain. A place where post-war dreams of concrete utopia ended in riots, violence and sub-standard housing.

In this collection, Tottenham-born Jac Shreeves-Lee gives voice to the people of Broadwater Farm. With evocative language and raw storytelling, she compassionately portrays their shared sense of community. A community with a rich cultural heritage, comprising over forty nationalities, generations old.

I like this type of short story collection, where the stories are loosely connected. The main character of one story may be a side character in another, showing you a fleeting glimpse of an outside perspective.

I think the author did a good job of showing a diverse range of people living in or connected to Broadwater in some way. Some stories touched me in some way and others didn’t, as is often the case with short stories. A few of them were a bit too bleak for my tastes. There was a lot of sadness and longing for a better life. However, there were also some stories I really enjoyed, especially the closing story. That one leaves the collection on an interesting note, which I appreciated.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection and it provided me with a slice of life of a random bunch of fictional people inthe Tottenham area. It sometimes left me wanting a bit more, but I guess that is what short stories do!

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Just Around Midnight (Jack Hamilton)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination
Author:  Jack Hamilton – Narrator: Ron Butler
Genre: Non-Fiction / Culture / Music
First published: 2016
Edition: Audio Book

By the time Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the idea of a black man playing lead guitar in a rock band seemed exotic. Yet a mere ten years earlier, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley had stood among the most influential rock and roll performers. Why did rock and roll become “white”?

I am not sure what I expected from this book and I am not sure what I got from it was as enlightening as I had hoped, but it was interesting for sure. This book was particularly interesting to me as I do tend to listen to a lot of rock music.

I thought the subject was endlessly fascinating. The fact that rock and roll was made popular by mostly black artists such as Chuck Berry, but is now an almost entirely white affair is a peculiar shift.

As far as books on culture and music go, this one leans towards the academic side. In fact, at times it reads like a long research paper. It basically looks at the rock and roll music of the 1960s and juxtaposes black and white artists active at the same time. For example it looks at Bob Dylan in relation to Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin to Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin.

The author talks a lot about authenticity and how authenticity for white artists is different from what it means for black artists. The author claims that for a white artist authenticity is writing your own songs and being original as an individual. For a black artist authenticity means being true to your roots, so to their race and not an individual. I thought this was such an interesting point, because it does ring true to this day.

However, I felt like the book told me a lot without actually making real inroads into what it was trying to say. I felt just taking the 60s was not quite enough to really make the point properly. I understand that during time this shift was most prominent, but there is so much to say on this subject and I felt the author may have made a better point if he had included a longer time period. I also felt like the author could have expanded on race in relation to gender much more and I was disappointed that the book did not go into that more.

So, in short, I did enjoy this book. It made some interesting points and I learned a lot about black and white musical culture at that time, but I felt so much was left unexplored that I simply wanted it do more. I definitely want to read more on this subject, as I feel there is so much left to talk about, but I am happy to have read this book.

I would encourage you to read this book if it sounds interesting to you. It is definitely worth reading, but it is not the definitive book on the subject.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: A Scot To Remember (Angeline Fortin)

Fortin, Angeline - Something About A Highlander 1 A Scot To Remember

★★★★★★☆

Title: A Scot To Remember (Something About A Highlander #1)
Author: Angeline Fortin
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction/Romance/Time Travel
First published: 2019
Edition: Kindle e-book

A life of love lost and heartbreak has cursed the women in Bronte Hughes’s family for generations. When she discovers a device that allows her to slip through time, Bronte decides the key to obtaining true love for herself lies in mending the tragedies of the past and restoring a legacy of love fate has robbed from her family…beginning with saving her great-great grandfather from setting sail on the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic.

♥♥♥

Clearly, you really can’t (always) judge a book by its cover.

I love it when a book surprises you and this one certainly did that. I kind of went in blind, as I had not even read the synopsis, expecting it to be a simple historical romance, judging by the title and cover. Hence my surprise when it opened in the present day! Turned out it was so much more than a simple historical romance and I kind of ended up loving it. The

I immediately liked the characters and the contrasts the author painted between present day and a century earlier. Brontë was a pretty uncomplicated character and I kind of loved her for that. Tris was kind of the perfect love interest. His early twentieth century sensibilities and sense of propriety were not taken too far and he felt very believeable.

This is the first book in a series, but reading the afterword by the author, I think it would have been good to read earlier series by this author first as they tie into this one. It would have given me some background on some of the side characters. To be honest, this book works pretty well as a standalone.

The romance itself was not too heavy handed and the actual steamy scenes did not come until later in the book and were spaced out enough not to take away from the story and the plot.

I really enjoyed the writing. My only complaint is that it was a bit dragged out in places. There were times I wished the story moved a long a bit quicker, especially when we were stuck in some of Brontë’s inner dialogue. At the same time I missed a bit of description here and there of the setting itself. None of that stopped me from enjoying the story.

I will definitely read more by this author. I have the second book in this particular series on my Kindle, and I think I will read it sooner rather than later.

I do really dislike the cover though. It really does not suit this novel. Just saying… I think a new cover is much needed!

6 out of 7 stars