Book Vs Movie: Life After Life

Hi everyone! I know it’s been absolutely ages since I did one of these Book Vs Movie posts, but if you saw my 2023 goals post for Top Ten Tuesday a few weeks back, you’ll know that one of my goals was get this feature up and running again more regularly this year. I am going to try to keep it monthly, but life does sometimes get in the way so we’ll see how things go with it! Anyway, for this month’s Book Vs Movie, I’m actually going to be talking about a TV adaptation and sharing my thoughts on the BBC miniseries Life After Life and the book by Kate Atkinson.

Book Thoughts:

I did read the book after I watched the TV series, so I don’t know how much that impacted my opinion as I already had the one version of the story in my mind and I have found that you do tend to prefer whichever version of the story was the first one you came across. But anyway, I’d not heard of Life After Life until I watched the TV series, so I picked it up because I had enjoyed the show and ended up somewhat disappointed. I found the book very bloated with a lot of unnecessary detail and plotlines that seemed designed merely to extend the story as long as possible past several very natural endpoints. The narrative also felt very stilted and not particularly cohesive, more like we were just moving from one vignette to the next that telling a complete story.

If you’d like to see my more detailed thoughts, you can read my review of the book here:
https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2022/12/24/life-after-life-review-audiobook/

TV Thoughts:

I enjoyed the TV adaptation! I found later from reading the novel that the TV series had streamlined a lot of the more unnecessary sections from the book (like the extended section where Ursula is living with Eva Braun and Hitler in one life!) and I think the TV series managed to keep more forward momentum than the book, the book skips around in time a lot where the TV series, whilst still sticking to the conceit that Ursula lives her life over and over again, the TV series generally moves forward each time Ursula dies with a new event further on in her next life than she left off in her last which gave it a greater sense of narrative cohesion. I also thought Thomasin McKenzie did a really great job as Ursula and made her feel less bland on screen than she did on the page.

TV or Book Judgement:

I think it’s an easy TV for me here. I did like some things about the book, I loved the conceit (obviously as I’d already seen the show) and I enjoyed the narration of the audiobook, but I feel like I just found this particular story more enjoyable in the TV format. The streamlining necessary to bring the page to the screen definitely worked in the show’s favour as it meant some of the more bloated parts of the book got cut, and the presentation of the time loop storyline in a slightly more linear manner was helpful, I felt far less confused about where we were in Ursula’s timeline in the show. If I was going to recommend a way to consume this story, I think I’d recommend the show above the book to be honest.

So there we go, that’s it for this month’s Book Vs Movie. I will be back next month, finally talking about Good Omens and its TV adaptation, like I promised you all I would years ago!

Top Ten Tuesday #404

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these. As I mentioned last time, I had my first Spanish evening class last week and it was so much fun, everyone was really lovely and I hope I’ve made some new friends, I’m really looking forward to going for the next nine weeks. I also have my first 2023 book event on Thursday, I’m going to Leigh Bardugo’s London Hell Bent tour stop and I’m so exciting because it will be my first time meeting Leigh after sadly having managed to miss her every time she’s been in the UK over the past few years. Finally the dates lined up! I was really bummed when she toured for Ninth House that I was working and wasn’t able to get down to London for the event, so I’m so pleased I’ll actually be able to make it this time!

Anyway, as always, today’s TTT is courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today is another annual January topic, we’re talking our Top Ten New To Me Authors We Discovered In 2022. Now I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in how many new authors I read in 2022, and there definitely aren’t enough to fill a whole list (as I count for these lists authors I read for the first time AND would like to read again, as it’s not really worth my while including authors where I didn’t enjoy their books much and likely won’t read them again). So much like last year, I’m going to be splitting my list into two: New To Me Authors I Discovered In 2022, and New To Me Authors That I Want To Read In 2023. Here we go:

New To Me Authors I Discovered In 2022:

  1. Chanel Miller

My favourite book of last year was Chanel Miller’s memoir Know My Name, it was such a powerful, riveting read. She hasn’t published anything since, but she did express in the book that she’d like to write more and she’s a really great writer, so if she ever does write any more books and gets them published I’d definitely be interested in reading them!

2. Heather Marshall

Looking For Jane was another of my absolute favourite books of 2022, it’s one that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about since I read it. It was such a powerful story and highlighted in such a brilliant way just how massively important reproductive rights are at a time when I think many people need a reminder! I also really loved the characters, such brilliant and nuanced women. It was such an impressive debut novel and considering that the debut is usually author’s weakest book and they get better with experience…….woah, I can’t wait to see what Heather Marshall comes up with next. Her website says her next book is due out in 2024, and you can bet I will be waiting incredibly impatiently for it.

3. Lauren Graham

Little unusual maybe to include an actress turned writer in here, but I absolutely loved Lauren Graham’s essay collection, Talking As Fast As I Can last year, it was so funny and I just had a blast reading it. I’ve actually already read her second book of essays, Have I Told You This Already? this year, and I also enjoyed that, though I would say I thought Talking As Fast I Can was better. I know she’s had a novel published as well, so I’m thinking I might try that.

4. Maya Rodale

Maya Rodale was actually on my list last year as one of the new authors I was looking forward to reading in 2022, so I’m glad I enjoyed her book enough that she made it to the other side of the list this time! I really enjoyed The Mad Girls of New York, Maya Rodale captured Nellie Bly’s story beautifully and although her back catalogue of historical romance doesn’t massively appeal to me (not being a romance lover), I would definitely read more historical fiction from her, especially if she decided to write more about Nellie Bly, which given that The Mad Girls of New York is listed as “Nellie Bly #1” on Goodreads, seems like a distinct possibility!

5. Freya Marske

Freya Marske was also on my list of new authors I wanted to read in 2022 when I did this topic last year, so another success! I read 4 out of the 6 authors from that list in 2022, and 2 of them ended up here, so 50% success rate isn’t too bad! I will admit, I didn’t love A Marvellous Light as much as I was hoping to, but I still enjoyed it and I loved the characters so much that I definitely want to see more from them. I’m hoping to get round to A Restless Truth sometime this year.

New To Me Authors I Want To Read In 2023:

6. Kate Morton

Kate Morton’s new release Homecoming was on my most anticipated releases list a few weeks back and so many people mentioned how good they’d found other books of hers in the comments on that post, that it’s made me even more excited to dive into one of her books. I love historical fiction and I love mysteries so this should definitely be a great one for me. Plus after having been to Australia, I’m super excited to read both more books set there, and more books by Australian authors.

7. Lynn Cullen

Okay, I’ll admit, these are all from my most anticipated releases list from a few weeks ago! I absolutely love novels which allow me to learn about women from history who do not get the credit or spotlight that they deserved, so The Woman With A Cure sounds right up my street. I have to admit, I’d never actually heard of Dorothy Horstmann till I saw the synopsis for Lynn Cullen’s book, but I’m super excited to learn more about her and her contribution to the development of the polio vaccine.

8. Mandy Robotham

I’m always looking for WWII novels that take a different angle on the war (as I’ve read a lot about the British/French/German experience) and though Robotham’s upcoming novel The War Pianist does partly take place in London, the bit that intrigued me was the side of the story that takes place in Amsterdam as I’ve never read anything about the experiences of the Dutch in WWII. I’ve also not really read much about the “pianists” (radio operatives) that this book focuses on, so I’m hoping I’ll learn a lot through it. Robotham seems to have written quite a few WWII novels, so if I like this one, it seems like there will be more waiting for me!

9. Brianna Labuskes

Brianna Labuskes’ upcoming release is completely up my alley: my favourite genre niche of WWII fiction is WWII fiction that has some kind of relation to books or libraries and this one definitely fits that bill as the story of three women fighting against censorship of books across three different time periods and in three different cities. I’m particularly intrigued to learn more about the German Library of Burned Books in Paris as this is something I’d never heard of until I read the blurb for Brianna’s book. Her other books seem to be largely mystery-thrillers, so I’ll be intrigued to see how she does with historical (not that I’ve read any of her other books to compare!).

10. Alice Slater

My only debut author this time! As soon as I accidentally came across Death of A Bookseller, I added it to my TBR, it sounded like such a fun read. I love anything to do with books and bookshops and add in a healthy dose of crime and deadly obsession and I think it will be an absolute blast. I’ve seen really good things about this book already, so I’m excited to get my hands on it when April comes around.

And there we have it! Those were my favourite new-to-me authors of 2022, plus some new authors I’m looking forward to reading this year. Have you read anything from any of these authors (aside from Alice of course, since this is her debut year!)? Did you like their books? What new authors did you discover last year? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, and we have a freebie week this time, so as part of one of my goals for 2023, I’m going to be doing Series I Need To Finish in the hopes that having it written down will give me a push to actually finish them this year. I did do the same topic back in 2020, but never fear, because I definitely have 10 more books from series I need to finish that I can include (and to be honest, most of the series I included on the previous list are still unfinished *cries in bookworm*).

Top Ten Tuesday #403

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, mine has been relatively quiet, but I’ve been settling into the swing of things at work and I think I’m starting to get the hang of everything, so that’s been good. I’m also starting Spanish evening classes tomorrow, after my intensive course in 2021, I really want to try and improve my speaking even more so I’m hoping these evening classes will help with that.

Today’s TTT is as always courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl and it’s another of our annual January topics, Bookish Goals For 2023. I had slightly mixed results for my 2022 goals, so I’m hoping that my 2023 goals will go better than they did! Anyway, here we go, the Bookish Goals I Hope To Achieve In 2023:

  1. Complete My Goodreads Challenge

This is always an annual one as I do the Goodreads Challenge every year. I was a little disappointed that I had to lower my goal to 20 last year, so I’m starting again with my usual goal of 24 this year, and as always I’m hoping that I can do a little better than that. In 2020, I managed my best ever reading challenge of 45 books and I would love it if I could get somewhere back up near there, but that might be unrealistic given how my reading has been going for the past few years, so I’ll just aim for the 24 and if I can put it up, that would be a bonus.

2. Complete some of my unfinished series (i.e. those that are completed and I only have one or two books left to read of)

I have an embarrassingly large series-to-finish shelf on Goodreads and quite a few duologies/trilogies where I only have one or two books left to read in order to finish them. This year, I would like to be able to knock at least some of those series off my list, particularly the duologies where I only have the second book to read. I’m not going to put a number on this as I don’t want it to be a too pressurised goal, but if I could at least finish one or two series this year, I would be happy with that.

3. Restart the Book Vs Movie Feature On My Blog

This particular feature has kind of fallen by the wayside in the past couple of years, and it really shouldn’t have because they’re not posts that actually take me very long to do at all! I’d like to try and get back to doing these monthly this year, and I already have one lined up to do this month.

4. Keep a more regular review posting schedule

I had this one last year as well, but I’m really determined to actually do it this time, spending the last few months of the year desperately trying to catch up on my outstanding reviews is not something I particularly enjoy. Once I’ve caught up with my outstanding reviews from last year, I’d like to try and keep a schedule of having my reviews for books done within two weeks of finishing reading them, and if not that then at least have reviewed them by the time I finish my next book. I fully intend not to be cramming to catch up on three or four outstanding reviews from this year by this time next year!

5. Keep up with discussion posts at least every other month

My discussion posts have kind of fallen by the wayside over recent years, so I thought I would try out a new schedule this year and see if that works better for me. These are quite long posts that take me a while to write, so I thought I would try out a bimonthly schedule this year (ie posting them every other month rather than every month) and see if that works out better for me than the monthly schedule that I’ve been trying and failing to keep to for the past two years.

6. Read more new to me authors

I felt like I didn’t read as many new to me authors last year as I would have liked (though counting back, half of the books I read were actually by new to me authors, so maybe this was just me feeling like I read less because I read less books overall) so I would like to try and really make an effort to seek out more new to me authors this year. I love finding new authors and getting to add them to my list of author staples, so I hope that by seeking out more new authors this year, I will find many more new potential favourites!

7. Try and read more of my physical books

Whilst I have loved getting into audiobooks more over the past four years and have no plans to cut back on my listening, I would like to get back into reading physical books a bit more. I felt like in 2020, I had a great balance between reading physical books and listening to audios and in 2021 and 2022, my physical books just fell by the wayside. I have a lot of books on my shelf that I’m really excited to read, so this year, I’d really like to try and carve out more time for reading my physical books and hopefully knock some of the books that have been sitting on my shelf for years off my TBR.

8. Read more diversely

This is another perennial one of mine as I’m always looking to try and diversify my reading. I was a little disappointed last year that my reading didn’t end up as diverse as I would have liked it to, so this year I want to really try and hunt out books by POC authors, LGBTQ+ authors and disabled authors and make my reading list a little more diverse than it has been in previous years.

9. Actually get rid of the rest of the books that I decided to unhaul last year

So last year when I moved, I put together quite a big box of books to get rid of. And I did manage to unhaul some, however the box with the rest is still sitting in my room waiting to be moved. This year, I need to actually make an effort to go to a charity shop and get rid of the rest so I don’t have a random box of books that I’m not planning to read again sitting and taking up space in my bedroom!

10. Use the library more

This one might clash slightly with “Read more of your physical books on your shelf” but oh well! I got a library card for my local library last year, but I haven’t really used it yet. This year I would really like to get into the habit of using the library more, even if it’s just using Libby on my phone for audiobooks, or just going down there once a week to have a browse!

So there we go, those are my Bookish Goals For 2023, I think I’ve got a nice mix of reading & blogging goals. What are your goals for 2023? Do we share any? Did you also have mixed luck on your 2022 goals? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is New To Me Authors I Discovered In 2022, but as I mentioned in Goal #6, I didn’t read as many books by new to me authors as I would have liked last year, so I’m going to do a split list instead and share New To Me Authors I Discovered In 2022/New To Me Authors I Hope To Read In 2023.

The Librarian Spy Review (Audiobook)

Book: The Librarian Spy

Author: Madeline Martin

Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld

BECHDEL TEST: Pass-Both Elaine and Ava talk to named female colleagues about their work.

Content Warnings: War, torture, anti-Semitism, child death, death, genocide, suicide, grief, physical abuse, racism, violence, murder, blood, deportation, panic attacks/disorders, police brutality

As I mentioned in my final review of last year, despite my best intentions to actually keep to some sort of schedule with my reviews last year, I still ended up way behind and with three reviews from 2022 left hanging into 2023. This book I actually finished all the way back in September! Anyway, The Last Bookshop In London was one of my biggest reading surprises of 2021, so naturally, Madeline Martin’s next HF book ended up very high on my radar. I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this one even more than The Last Bookshop: I loved the characters, Saskia Maarleveld was as always perfection as the narrator and Madeline Martin created such a vivid atmosphere that it really felt like I was in 1940s Lisbon and Lyon along with the characters. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Ava thought her job as a librarian at the Library of Congress would mean a quiet, routine existence. But an unexpected offer from the US military has brought her to Lisbon with a new mission: posing as a librarian while working undercover as a spy gathering intelligence.

Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.

As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the face of war.

I loved so many things about this book, but I think my favourite was definitely the settings and the atmosphere that Madeline Martin created within those settings. I knew basically nothing about Portugal’s role during WWII, and I’ve never been to the country, but the way Martin described Lisbon really made it feel as if I could be walking the streets with Ava. She also made it sound so lovely that it really made me want to visit there! She also did a really good job in showing the contrast between the two places: neutral Lisbon was sunny and abundant with food, Lyon under the Nazi occupation was cold and dark and everyone was starving, you really got the sense that Elaine and Ava were worlds apart in terms of how they were experiencing the war.

I also really loved both main characters, but especially Elaine. She was so brave and strong and risked so much in order to free her country from the Nazis, I just couldn’t help but admire her. The fact that she was willing to risk her own life by offering her identity card to help a Jewish woman escape from the Nazis at the very start of the book immediately endeared her to me, and she wedged herself further and further into my heart the more I read. I loved Ava too, I loved how empathetic she was and how much she was willing to put on the line in order to help people. I found I could easily connect to both characters and their goals. I did feel that Ava’s story was the slightly weaker of the two which is why I think I ended up loving Elaine slightly more, her story just had the greater emotional impact for me.

I loved the narration, as always with Saskia Maarleveld, I’ve yet to listen to a book narrated by her that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. Her flair for accents was as ever on full display here, I think she did British, French and German throughout the book. I won’t wax lyrical for the millionth time about how much I love her performances, I’ll just say that if you see she’s narrating a book you’re interested in, even if you end up not being a fan of the book, the narration is guaranteed to be fantastic!

I did find that the book felt more like two separate unconnected stories for much of the book. I was expecting Ava and Elaine’s paths to cross MUCH sooner than they did. It meant that the narrative felt a little disjointed, and didn’t flow as well as it could have done, because it felt like we were switching between two separate narratives as opposed to one continuous one, up until the point where the story crossed over. I do wonder if perhaps Martin had two ideas that might have been separate book ideas and decided to combine them into one? I don’t know, it just felt like the two should have had a little bit more overlap, or at least overlapped earlier. I think that disconnect also somewhat contributed to me liking one POV more than the other, because of the way that they felt like two different stories.

It was a little slow paced to start off with, but I did find that the pace picked up around Chapter 8/9 ish and it maintained well throughout the book, so I never found myself bored which is always good! The chapters were generally relatively short which kept things ticking along at a nice pace.

Martin certainly did her research well, the amount of information she managed to pack into a relatively short book (the audio is about 10 1/2 hours) was incredible. I loved that I got to learn about a different aspect of WWII history here, I already knew a little about the French Resistance, but honestly not a huge amount, and hardly anything about the printing presses and the clandestine newspapers. I knew basically nothing about Portugal in WWII, other than the fact that it was neutral, so I learned a huge amount there, especially the role that the country played in being the access point for many refugees to escape to and get to other countries from. One of my favourite things about reading historical fiction is getting to learn new things, and Martin certainly ticked that box for me.

I found the stories of the refugees to Portugal particularly poignant, I knew a little about how difficult it could be for war refugees to get their visas, but Martin really hammered home how brutal the process could be and I couldn’t help drawing some parallels between the situation back then, and the situation that faces many refugees trying to flee conflict zones today. The story of Otto, a refugee from France who was of German heritage, particularly broke me, but I won’t go into exactly why as that would be spoilery!

Speaking of that though, the story certainly had a real emotional impact. I really felt the emotions of the characters and everything they went through, particularly Elaine as she lives in constant fear and danger as a result of her work with the Resistance, and of course she experiences great loss because of the nature of what she does. There’s one particular moment in her story that really stuck with me and touched me, but I can’t elaborate too much on it as it would be very spoilery about a certain character’s fate. There are a lot of quite brutal moments throughout the book, particularly when it comes to descriptions of the effects’ of Nazi torture, but I’m glad that Martin did not shy away from the harsh reality of war.

Martin’s writing is fantastic, she’s so good at conveying emotion through her words and she really captures the brutality, heartbreak and pain but also the fierce hope & determination of the people in this story through her writing. I don’t want you think it’s all doom and gloom, it really isn’t, friendship and hope and pulling together in hard times is also really evident in this book. There’s also some lovely moments of levity, like when Ava first arrives in Lisbon and her boss picks her up from the airport: he offers to take her suitcase which is incredibly heavy. He asks if she’s carrying bricks, and she responds, quick as you like: “No. Books.”. It definitely had this bookworm cackling!

There is a little romance in this book, though it’s by no means the main focus which I liked. The romance is between Ava and a fellow librarian James, who works for the British Embassy. I did initially like them together, and thought they had good chemistry and was rooting for them, however an event that happens later on in the book did slightly sour their romance for me and I ended up slightly in two minds as to whether I wanted a HEA for them or not. I had my suspicions about James but I was surprised when the event which changed my mind about their romance happened.

I was very glad that she didn’t go down the romance route with Elaine and Etienne though, it seemed at the beginning of the book as if she might, but it would definitely have felt wrong after what happened to Elaine’s husband.

The title is actually a little misleading, as neither woman is actually a spy. Ava is a librarian, but I wouldn’t exactly call what she does in Portugal spying: it’s more just gathering information. Elaine’s work obviously requires a lot of secrecy, but again, not spying. There is quite a bit of espionage in the book, but none really from either of the main characters, so it feels like the title should have reflected what the main characters actually do! Also if “The Librarian Spy” is meant to refer to Ava, then the title misses out on Elaine completely, when she’s half the story!

I loved the author’s note at the end detailing Martin’s real life inspirations for the characters of Ava and Elaine, even if you don’t usually read authors’ notes in books, I will always recommend them for historical fiction books as you get to learn more about the author’s research and the history that inspired the novel.

The ending did wrap up everything pretty neatly, but I couldn’t help feeling a little short-changed! I would have liked to have seen slightly more from the events of the epilogue, it all felt a bit rushed from one event to the next and we didn’t really get a chance to sit with anything. I wasn’t left dissatisfied with the outcome of the story, but this is one part where I wish Martin had taken her time a little more.

Overall, this was a really great read, it packed an emotional punch, had characters I could really root for, two vivid and well realised settings and I learned a lot about WWII that I didn’t know before. Madeline Martin is fast becoming one of my new go-to authors and I’m already super excited for her next book to release in September: The Keeper of Hidden Books is going to take us to Warsaw in WWII this time, which should be good, again I can’t say I know a whole lot about Poland in WWII.

My rating: 4/5

My next review will be another of my 2022 catchup reviews, of another of my 2022 favourite reads, Looking For Jane by Heather Marshall. Only two more reviews to go from the backlog and then I will be caught up and ready to go with my 2023 reviews!

Top Ten Tuesday #402

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. It was my first day back of work on Monday after Christmas and I have to admit it was a bit of a shock to the system, I was worried I wouldn’t really remember much having had an extended break after just starting a new job, but it actually went much better than I thought it would so I was quite relieved by that!

Anyway today’s TTT is as always courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl and it’s another of my annual favourites, Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half of 2023. I always used to think it was the latter half of the year that was bigger in terms of new releases, but for the past couple of years, my list for the first half has been longer. I don’t know if that’s a change in trend in terms of when publishing releases their big books, or just a change in my reading habits meaning I’m excited for different authors who have release dates earlier in the year. Maybe a mix of both? Anyway, these are the books I’m most excited for coming out in January-June this year (as always, these are in release date order, so the numbering is no indicator for level of excitement):

  1. Hell Bent-Leigh Bardugo-Releases TODAY

Cover Designer & Artist: Keith Hayes and Sasha Vinogradova

Is it a bit of a cheat including this book when it came out today? Maybe! But I’m doing it anyway. I’ll admit Ninth House wasn’t my favourite Leigh Bardugo book but it ended in a really exciting place…..and then of course we’ve had to wait a long time to find out what happens next, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what this instalment has in store and I think now that we’ve got past all of the setup that needed to happen in the first book, this second book should hopefully be smoother sailing.

2. The Book Spy-Alan Hlad-Releases 24th January

Cover Designer: Kensington

I will admit that the synopsis of this book sounds incredibly similar to Madeline Martin’s The Librarian Spy which I read last year. However, since I did really enjoy that book, I’m intrigued to read something else with a setting in Portugal during WWII and learn even more about that country’s role in the war. Alan Hlad is a new to me author, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this and find a new historical fiction author’s books to enjoy.

3. The Luminaries-Susan Dennard-Releases 26th January

Cover Designer: Micaela Alcaino

The eagle eyed among you might have noticed that The Luminaries was on my second half of the year release list last year. Yes, that was my mistake, I didn’t realise that the UK edition of The Luminaries (even the audiobook) did not release until this month. But if anything I’m even more excited for The Luminaries now after playing along with Susan Dennard’s latest Luminaries Sooz Your Own Adventure for the past couple of months. Much as I enjoy the Witchlands series, it is incredibly complicated and this series seems like it will be both fun and easier for me to follow! I’m sure Winnie in the books has a little more sense than HiveMind Winnie though!

4. The Last Tale of The Flower Bride-Roshani Chokshi-Releases 14th February

Cover Designer: Will Speed

This is Chokshi’s adult debut (though I would argue The Gilded Wolves trilogy is kind of YA/Adult Crossover as the characters are in their late teens/early twenties), and I’m really excited to see what she does in this space. It definitely sounds like a super intriguing book, a dark and twisted fairytale type story about a marriage and the secrets that threaten to consume it. The excerpts Chokshi has posted so far have been really great, so I’m excited to get to consume the whole story.

5. The War Pianist-Mandy Robotham-Releases 16th February

Cover Designer: Avon

I know WWII fiction is a saturated market, but I swear these stories are like catnip to me! Every time I think there can’t possibly be anything new to cover about that time period, another author releases another book about an aspect of the war I knew nothing about. This one is about two women who work as radio operators in WWII, one in London and one in Amsterdam for the Dutch Resistance and the way their lives intertwine. I have to admit, I know basically nothing about the Dutch Resistance, or much about what happened in Amsterdam during the war, so I’m excited to read this and learn a bit more.

6. The Librarian of Burned Books-Brianna Labuskes-Releases 21st February

Cover Designer: William Morrow & Company

I do seem to have found much success in the genre niche of WWII fiction about books, so when I saw this one, it immediately went on my list. It sounds brilliant, it follows three women in different places and across different time periods (both pre and during WWII) who are all connected via a love of books and shows how they ban together to fight against censorship. I’m particularly intrigued by the German Library of Burned Books in Paris which one of the characters works at, as I had no idea that was a thing! Everything about this book makes it sound right up my alley so I’m excited to dive in when it comes out.

7. The Woman With The Cure-Lynn Cullen-Releases 21st February

Cover Designer: Berkley Books

I saw this one on someone’s blog in our TTT last week actually! I can’t believe I’d never heard of Dorothy Horstmann and the work she did and though I don’t want to read anything about Covid, I think a historical fiction novel about the development of the polio vaccine sounds incredibly intriguing. I always love books that shine a light on women’s contributions in any field, so I’m excited to read this and learn more about Dorothy Horstmann’s work.

8. City of Nightmares-Rebecca Schaeffer-Releases 23rd February

Cover Designer: Lydia Blagden, Illustrator: @Afterblossomart

This actually releases today in the US, but won’t be out here in the UK until next month. I really enjoyed Rebecca Schaeffer’s Not Even Bones (and still need to finish the other two books in that trilogy actually!) so when I saw her new book, I was naturally intrigued. It sounds like a lot of fun, a world where dreaming means you wake up as your worst nightmare? Brilliant. I will admit, slightly apprehensive about the man-eating spider part, but I love that it doesn’t sound like any other fantasy book I’ve read: I think part of why I’ve been less drawn to fantasy in recent years is because so much of what I was reading felt indistinguishable from each other, so it’s great to read a fantasy book blurb and feel: YES, this doesn’t remind me of every other YA fantasy out there.

9. A Day of Fallen Night-Samantha Shannon-Releases 28th February

Cover Designer: David Mann, Illustrator: Ivan Belikov

The Roots of Chaos books seriously have the most gorgeous covers ever. Like I already know I’ll be reading this as an audiobook because it just won’t be practical to carry around at that size, but you best believe I got a ticket for Samantha Shannon’s London tour stop with the book included because it’s just too beautiful not to be part of my collection. Anyway, I enjoyed Priory, so I’m really looking forward to the prequel and seeing the Grief of Ages which impacted so many of the events in The Priory of The Orange Tree. I also love how much these books unapologetically centre women and I can’t wait to meet Tunuva, Dumai and Glorian.

10. The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi-Shannon Chakraborty-Releases 2nd March

Cover Designer: Micaela Alcaino

The cover of this book is just stunning! I loved the Daevabad trilogy, and I’m so excited to see what Shannon Chakraborty has done now outside of that world. This book sounds so completely up my street as well, I love pirates, especially female ones and Amina Al-Sirafi sounds like my kind of woman, a pirate who has had an infamous career is ready to retire…..only to get pulled back in with a job she can’t refuse. It sounds like all kind of hijinks are likely to ensue in this book and I cannot wait for them.

11. The Sinister Booksellers of Bath-Garth Nix-Releases 23rd March

Cover Designer: Rachael Lancaster

I had my issues with The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, but I did love the concept for the book and the world that Nix created so I’m excited to dive back into that world and hopeful that the sequel may have ironed on some of the kinks from the first book. I’m excited for the new setting as well, I’ve only been to Bath once but it’s a lovely city and I look forward to seeing what kind of magical twist Nix will put on it.

12. Hell Breaks Loose-Derek Landy-Releases 30th March

Cover Designer: Matt Taylor

WE HAVE A SKULDUGGERY PREQUEL PEOPLE. Admittedly, I’ve still yet to actually finish the main series, I’ve still got the last two books of Phase 2 to read (and I still don’t trust Derek that this really is the end….), but I’m massively excited for this prequel, we get to see all of the Dead Men together again, it’s set in 18th Century Italy and in order to save the world, they have to save….Mevolent? It definitely seems intriguing and I’m excited to see Skulduggery back in the days before he met Valkyrie.

13. Homecoming-Kate Morton-Releases 13th April

Cover Designer: Mantle

After having been to Australia, I was really excited to see that this book was also set in Australia (though a different part to where I was). It sounds really great, a journalist who comes home after being laid off from her job and gets embroiled in researching this sixty year old cold murder case from 1959. It sounds like just the kind of twisty, suspenseful novel that I love reading, so I’m excited to dive in come April.

14. Mastering The Art of French Murder-Colleen Cambridge-Releases 25th April

Cover Designer: Kensington

I saw this book featured on someone’s TTT a while back and was immediately drawn in by the title, I mean, who wouldn’t want to read that? It sounds like a lot of fun, Tabitha, a fictional best friend of Julia Child moves to Paris from America in the post-war era and ends up mixed up in a murder investigation after a body is found in the cellar of Julia’s building….killed by a knife from Julia’s kitchen and with a note in Tabitha’s handwriting in the pocket. A post WWII setting and a murder mystery? What more could I want?

15. Death of A Bookseller-Alice Slater-Releases 27th April

Cover Designer: Lewis Csizmazia

I actually came across this one by accident whilst I was browsing for books to get in the Waterstones Double Stamps offer back in November and was just immediately pulled in by it. A true crime obsessed bookseller who becomes dangerously obsessed with her new colleague and I’m guessing some sort of murder happens? From the description, I’m kind of getting “You” vibes, so I wonder if Roach is Joe Goldberg level of twisted!

So there we go, my most anticipated releases for the first half of 2023! It’s an interesting mix this year of fantasy, historical fiction and mystery and I think the fact that it’s a bit more of a variety of genres than I’ve had in previous years just shows how my reading tastes have changed in the past few years. Do we share any of these? What books are you excited for that are coming out in the first half of 2023? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, and we’ll be talking about our Bookish Goals For 2023, which is always a fun one to do.

Top Ten Tuesday #401

Hi everyone! Happy New Year, I hope the start to the year has been treating you well. My end of 2022 was a little chaotic, what with a 23 hour flight back from Melbourne over Thursday and Friday of last week, but I did have a very nice New Year’s Eve. I went to the matinee performance of Newsies at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, which was absolutely FANTASTIC. It’s on until April, so if you’re in London and you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend going, the cast are phenomenal, the dancing is out of this world and the in-the-round staging is really cool. I’d seen the filmed Broadway version on Disney+ so it was cool to get to see the live version in London and see how they had made it their own. I had a very quiet evening in bringing in the New Year, just me, a slightly too large plate of party food and the TV, but I’ve never really been one for a big fuss on New Year’s so that worked out great for me.

Anyway, today’s TTT, as always courtesy of Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl, is another Top Ten Tuesday annual classic: our Favourite Books Of 2022. I have to admit, I didn’t read as much in 2022 as I would have liked, so this is going to be a slightly shorter list than usual, as I only read 20 books last year, I decided to do a Top 8 rather than a Top 10 for you all, as I wanted the list to truly reflect my absolute favourites and not just add on two more books to make up the numbers. So here we go, my Top Eight Books Of 2022:

  1. Know My Name-Chanel Miller-5 stars

My only five star read of the year was actually one I read way back in February, so I didn’t have to wait till the absolute end of the year for a five star read this time. Know My Name is one I’d been meaning to read for ages but kept putting off because I knew I would find the subject matter challenging (Miller is the woman who was raped by Brock Turner on Stanford University’s campus back in 2015). I’m so glad I finally read it though, it was an incredibly powerful memoir and it was so great to listen to Chanel’s story in her own words and hear her reclaim her story and identity in such a strong way. It wasn’t always an easy read, but it definitely felt like an incredibly necessary one.

2. Looking For Jane-Heather Marshall-4 stars

This book hit me hard in so many places, it certainly wasn’t an easy read given the subject matter (forced adoption and maternity home abuses in the 1960s and the underground abortion network in Canada in the 70s and 80s) but it was an incredibly timely and necessary one, and was so well done. I absolutely loved the characters Evelyn and Nancy and felt for them so much the whole way through the book, they were so well drawn and you were just rooting for them to succeed. The only thing that slightly let the book down for me was Angela’s parts, which didn’t seem to fit for a lot of the story and she seemed like more of a device to bring Evelyn and Nancy back together in the present day than a well drawn character in her own right, I think without her parts, the book may have been a 5 star read for me. This is one that I’ve been recommending to my friends and family because I thought it was just so well done, and I learned so much about a part of history I definitely wasn’t familiar enough with.

3. The Diamond Eye-Kate Quinn-4 stars

Kate Quinn does it again, is it a surprise to anyone that her most recent release made my top books of 2022? I fell absolutely in love with Lyudmila Pavlichenko, she was such a fascinating woman, it sucks that so many brilliant women throughout history have not been highlighted as much as they should have been! I did find it a bit of a book of two halves, the parts with Mila on the Eastern Front during the war were much stronger than the US tour sections for me, otherwise I think this might have been a five star read. Saskia Maarleveld once again hit it out of the park for me with her narration, I swear, the fastest way to get me to listen to any audiobook now is to see that she is the narrator!

4. The Librarian Spy-Madeline Martin-4 stars

After enjoying The Last Bookshop In London last year, Martin’s newest release was high on my radar for this year and I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this one even more. I loved the main characters Ava and Elaine so much and Martin created such a vivid picture of 1940s Lisbon and Lyon that it felt like you were there. The emotional impact of this book was also huge as the characters, especially Elaine go through so much and it was impossible not to feel for her, and be utterly in awe of her resilience as she kept fighting for the Resistance through all of her painful personal losses. I’m so excited for Martin’s new book next year as it sounds like another incredible one: this one about the Nazi occupation of Poland.

5. Talking As Fast As I Can-Lauren Graham-4 stars

I’ve been saying I was going to read this one for years, and I finally got around to it this year. It was exactly what I needed at the time: as you can see from my list of favourites up to now, it’s been quite a heavy reading year, so a light, fun read was just the ticket for me after a string of wonderful but quite heavy reads! I loved listening to Graham’s stories of her life as an actress and as a Gilmore Girls fan, it was a treat to hear the stories from the set.

6. Dog Days: A Year In The Life of Olive and Mabel-Andrew Cotter-4 stars

I started off 2022 on a fun note, listening to yet more exploits of Andrew Cotter’s Labradors, Olive and Mabel. This one was basically a diary of the year following Olive and Mabel becoming unexpected lockdown superstars and as with his first book, it was an incredibly funny, engaging and quick read and just what I needed to start the year off right.

7. Fix The System, Not The Women-Laura Bates-4 stars

Whilst I didn’t find this one quite as good as her previous book, Men Who Hate Women, it was still an interesting, insightful read about the systemic problems which lead to misogynistic violence, and definitely one that I think a lot of our leaders could use reading before they suggest that things like increased street lighting and undercover police in clubs are going to do anything to change the systemic issues that are causing violence against women and girls. I did feel like though it was interesting, it didn’t necessarily tell me anything I didn’t already know, I feel like this book is honestly something men need to read more than women really to understand the true extent of systemic misogyny that women have to face on a daily basis! But it was still a good read, and I look forward to seeing what Laura Bates puts out next.

8. The Mad Girls of New York-Maya Rodale-3.5 stars

Based on the true story of reporter Nellie Bly and her undercover stint in Blackwell’s Insane Asylum in the 1880s, this was an enjoyable read about a fascinating woman. If you’ve not heard of Nellie Bly or her work, I would highly recommend this book, Nellie was an absolute powerhouse of a woman and she really made this book for me and her story really doesn’t require all that much fictionalising, much of the detail in the novel is taken from Nellie’s own work. I did find it a little slow in places, hence the slightly lower rating, but all in all I really enjoyed the book and hope that Rodale writes more about Nellie in the future.

So there we go, my Favourite Books of 2022! My entire list this year was either historical fiction or non-fiction which doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, given that’s where my reading interests mostly lay this year. I think historical has probably overtaken fantasy as my favourite genre at this point, and I’m going with it since I’ve read so many great books and I’m still really enjoying them. What were your favourite books in 2022? Have you read any of mine? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, it’s another annual topic, we’ll be talking our Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half of 2023. I will admit, I don’t have a huge amount of 2023 books on my radar just yet, so this could be interesting, but we’ll see how it goes! I read six out of 21 books on my most anticipated lists last year, which isn’t a huge amount, but better than previous years, so let’s hope for an upward trend this year. In the meantime, I’ve still got a couple of 2022 reviews to get up, so I’m hoping those will be coming your way over the next week or so.

End of Year Book Survey (2022)

Hi everyone! I totally meant to have this up for you yesterday, but it was quite a busy day and I just didn’t get the time, so you’re getting my annual End of Year Book Survey as a New Year’s Day treat instead! This is a survey created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner which I do every year as a way of looking back and celebrating my year of reading and blogging. You can find the questions on Jamie’s blog here.

2022 Reading Stats:

Number of Books You Read: 20

Number of Rereads: 0

Genre You Read The Most From: Historical Fiction

Best In Books

  1. Best Book You Read In 2022?

It’s another memoir this year, and the third year in a row that my favourite read has been a non-fiction book-I don’t read many but when I do they always seem to top the list! Anyway, my favourite book this year was Chanel Miller’s memoir, Know My Name, such a powerful, painful, hopeful and beautiful book and it’s definitely a book that’s going to stick with me long after reading it. Reading about sexual assault is never something I find easy, but I’m definitely glad I listened to this book and got to hear Chanel tell her story in her own words.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

When Women Were Dragons. Ugh, I’m still so mad about this one. It should have been perfect for me, feminist, historical and dragons? How could that not be a winning combination? Well sadly, Kelly Barnhill did something I didn’t think was possible and made dragons boring for me. It was just such a slow, boring book and there weren’t anywhere near enough dragons for my liking. I’d heard such good things and I was so excited but I just ended up very disappointed.

3. Most Surprising (In A Good Or Bad Way) Book You Read?

Portrait of A Thief surprised me in a bad way (I know in an unusual turn for me, I’m talking about a bad surprise this year), because I was expecting this fast-paced, exciting book with lots of heists and it ended up being more of a slow introspection of identity and diaspora experience. This would have been totally fine if that was what I was expecting, but I was expecting a heist novel and it was kind of light on the heists! I was so excited to be getting five potential heists and felt like I was duped slightly!

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read And They Did?

I don’t think either have read it yet, but I recommended Looking For Jane to both my sister and my friend Nicola.

5. Best Series You Started In 2022? Best Sequel of 2022? Best Series Ender of 2022?

I only read the one series starter in 2022 and I actually wasn’t that big of a fan of it (This Poison Heart), and I’ve decided I probably won’t read the second book of the duology, so it would seem wrong to say it was the best series starter I read in 2022 just because it was the only one. So once again, I have nothing for series starter this year!

Best sequel of 2022, also the only one I read in 2022, was The River of Silver, by S.A. Chakraborty. I’m not entirely sure if this counts as a sequel, as it’s a collection of short stories, and not all of them take place after the end of the series, some take place during and some take place before, and it’s probably really more of a companion book than a sequel, but I’ll count it as a sequel for the purposes of this.

Best series ender of 2022, again I’m going to have to get creative here because I really didn’t read many series books this year, 2022 was all about the standalones! But I suppose the final issue of The Night Of Knives arc of VE Schwab’s Shades of Magic comics is a series ender of a sort, as it’s the end of that particular arc of the comics and it was my favourite comic of the arc as I brought the Night of Knives to a thrilling conclusion, so I guess I’ll go with that!

6. Favourite New Author You Read In 2022?

Heather Marshall! Her debut, Looking For Jane was one of the standout books of the year for me, and I will be eagerly anticipating her next book. Her website says to look for her next book in 2024, so I guess that’s next year now!

7. Best Book From A Genre You Don’t Usually Read/Was Out of Your Comfort Zone?

I’ll say Vol 4 of the Night of Knives arc of VE Schwab’s Shades of Magic comics for this one as comics aren’t usually my thing, I still have only really read VE Schwab’s comics but it’s a format that I never would have tried if it hadn’t been for her comics, and I’ve ended up really enjoying them and comics/graphic novels may be a format that I seek out more in the future now.

8. Most action packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

More for the unputdownable part that the action packed or thrilling, but I’m going to go with Know My Name by Chanel Miller again for this one. I was utterly gripped and flew through it in just over a week and a half which is quite quick for me for an audiobook of that length but I really couldn’t stop listening to Chanel’s story.

9. Book You Read In 2022 That You Would Be Most Likely To Reread Again This Year?

None, I’ve pretty much accepted at this point that rereading is something I no longer have time to do!

10. Favourite Cover Of A Book You Read In 2022?

I’ll be honest and say it’s not been a banner year for covers for me, I’ve read mostly historical fiction this year and much as I love them, they do tend to have rather dull covers. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the actual story, I do still really love the cover for This Poison Heart, I love all the vibrant colours and it’s always great to see Black girls featured on book covers.

11. Most Memorable Character of 2022?

Is it slightly weird if I’m choosing a character who was a real person? Maybe, but I have to go with Lyudmila Pavlichenko. What an absolute firecracker of a woman, if I’d been alive at the time, I would have loved/been slightly scared to meet her!

12. Most Beautifully Written Book of 2022?

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin. Martin describes her settings of 1940s Lisbon and Lyon in such a way that you really feel like you’re there, walking the streets alongside her characters. She also was able to really get across the emotions of the story through her words in such a way that I felt everything that Ava and Elaine were feeling and going through in the story.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/Life Changing Book You Read This Year?

I’ve used Know My Name a couple of times now, so instead I’ll go with Looking For Jane here. I learned a lot about the history of abortion rights in Canada, and the maternity home system which abused so many women and forced them into giving up their babies so it definitely had me thinking about a part of history that I wasn’t all that familiar with, and also if it was possible, entrenched my belief in the need for reproductive rights for all women and people with uteruses even more!

14. Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2022 to read?

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham. It’s one of those books that I’d been meaning to read for years, but I was always distracted by something else new and shiny and didn’t really read non-fiction all that much before about 2019/2020 so despite being a massive Gilmore Girls fan, I hadn’t read it yet. Still, I finally did last year and I’m so glad I did because it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed listening to all her stories from the Gilmore Girls set!

15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2022?

“My pain was never more valuable than his potential.” -Know My Name, Chanel Miller

There are many incredibly powerful quotes/sections from this book, but this is the one line that has really stuck with me ever since reading it.

16. Shortest and Longest Books You Read In 2022:

Shortest Book (comic!): The Rebel Army #2 by VE Schwab-32 pages

Longest Book: Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini-608 pages

Another year with no Sarah J Maas, so I got another different author as my longest read!

17. Book That Shocked You The Most?

There was a twist in Looking For Jane that completely knocked me for six and I actually had to go back and rewind and listen again to make sure I’d heard right because I couldn’t believe it!

18. OTP of The Year?

I’ve really not read that many books with all that much romance in them this year once again, but I guess if I had to pick one, Edwin and Robin from A Marvellous Light probably had the relationship that I was most invested in of the books I read this year.

19. Favourite Non-Romantic Relationship of The Year?

I loved the relationship between Nancy and Evelyn in Looking For Jane, though if I said much more about it, I’d probably be going into spoilery territory, so I’ll just leave it at that.

20. Favourite Book You Read In 2022 From An Author You Read Previously?

The Diamond Eye, Kate Quinn once again knocked it out of the park with her most recent release. I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything I’ve read from her, and I can’t wait for her latest novel, The Phoenix Crown (co-written with Janie Chang) to be released in September.

21. Best Book You Read In 2022 That You Read Based Solely On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Bookstagram/Peer Pressure?

I’m pretty sure Looking For Jane was one that I came across on someone else’s book blog, I’m almost certain it was a Top Ten Tuesday list, but I can’t remember exactly whose it was now. Whoever it was, thank you very much!

22. Newest Cinnamon Roll Character From 2022?

My alternative to the fictional crush question as I decided I didn’t want to do that one anymore. It might be a bit strange to describe Edwin Courcey from A Marvellous Light as a cinnamon roll character as he’s quite prickly but he definitely fits the bill of “character I would protect at all costs” and he has a softer side, so I think he fits the bill here.

23. Best 2022 Debut You Read?

This can’t be a surprise given how much it has already come up on this list so far: Looking For Jane. Heather Marshall wrote such a powerful, emotional book and as I said before, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I mentioned this one in a previous answer, Madeline Martin really made 1940s Lisbon and Lyon come alive in The Librarian Spy and had me desperately wanting to visit Lisbon in particular!

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most Fun To Read?

Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can had me laughing pretty much the entire way through.

26. Book That Made You Cry/Nearly Cry In 2022?

I’m going to sound like a bit of a broken record here, but Looking For Jane had me on the verge of tears multiple times throughout the book.

27. Hidden Gem of The Year?

The Mad Girls of New York. If you’re not familiar with Nellie Bly (and you absolutely should be, she was an incredible woman), Maya Rodale did a fantastic job of telling the story of her infamous stint in Blackwell’s Island Asylum for her most famous articles, a two part series titled “Behind Asylum Bars” and “Into The Madhouse” respectively. It’s not one I’ve seen a lot of people talking about, which I think is a shame because I found it a really enjoyable book. It’s listed as Nellie Bly #1 on Goodreads, so I’m hoping this means Rodale will chronicle more of Nellie’s escapades, as they would be very fun to read about: fingers crossed for her Around The World In 72 Days piece as the focus for the next book if there is one!

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

There were many moments in The Librarian Spy that completely crushed me.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2022?

Life After Life is probably the book that most fits the bill for this one as the premise follows the main character Ursula as she dies and is reborn over and over again, having chances to fix the mistakes she made in previous lives. It wasn’t my favourite book of the year, it was a little dull and repetitive (I actually enjoyed the TV mini-series more) but it’s certainly an intriguing premise.

30. Book That Made You Most Mad?

I’ve already talked about it, but When Women Were Dragons. WHEN I AM PROMISED DRAGONS, I EXPECT ALL THE DRAGONS DARN IT.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life:

  1. New Favourite Blog/Bookstagram/YouTube Channel You Discovered In 2022?

Did I discover any of these this year? I always find it really hard to keep track! Can I say something non-book related and say that Good Boy Ollie is my favourite new Instagram account discovery of the year? What’s not to love about a cute Labrador doing weekly activities? NOTHING.

2. Favourite Post You Wrote In 2022?

It’s always really hard to pick these, but I am very proud that I created my own original book tag for Taylor Swift’s new album Midnights. It was a lot of work but very fun to do!

3. Favourite Bookish Photo You Took In 2022?

It’s not actually of books but it me at a bookish event so I think it counts? Anyway, I love this one of me and my new friend Heather, who I met at YALC back in July (though I didn’t actually take it!)

4. Best Bookish Event You Participated In?

That last one leads quite nicely into this one as the best bookish event this year was obviously the return of YALC in July. I missed it so much and it was so wonderful to be back this year. However, it was sad that Hannah wasn’t able to make it this year, it wasn’t the same without her and I hope we’ll be back there together next year!

5. Best Moment of Bookish/Blogging Life In 2022?

I loved meeting Heather at YALC this year, I was so nervous to go by myself, so finding a new friend really made the weekend much more enjoyable than it would have been if I’d been on my own the whole time.

6. Most Challenging Thing About Your Blogging/Bookish Life This Year?

I’ve not read as much as I’d have liked, it’s just been a bit of a slow year for me, so I’m hoping next year I will be able to read a lot more.

7. Most Popular Post On Your Blog This Year (by comments or views?)

Views are always easier to keep track of, so I’m going with that again this year. In a bit of an odd turn this year, my most viewed post was a discussion post (which are hardly ever my most viewed posts!), it was one from six years ago where I talked about if reading could be an addiction and whether that was really a bad thing which was an interesting post to write. It was reasonably well received at the time, but it seems to have had somewhat of a resurgence recently, which I love, it’s always great to see my older posts still getting some love.

8. Post You Wish Got A Little More Love?

Once again, I’m going to plug my most recent Quarterly Rewind as they always take me an age to write!

9. Best Bookish Discovery This Year?

I got these really cute book stack earrings from Coryographies back in April which got a ton of compliments when I wore them to YALC back in July!

Here’s a link to Cory’s shop if you’d like a pair for yourself (this isn’t sponsored, I just really love these earrings!): https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Coryographies?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=91567095

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year?

Yes! You can find out more details about that in my End of Year Check In post here.

Looking Ahead

  1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2022 But Will Be Your Top Priority In 2023?

I had Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner on several seasonal TBR lists in 2022 but never got to it, so it’s one that is definitely high up on my audiobook list for 2023.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2023 (non-debut)?

The as yet untitled first book in the Threads of Power series by VE Schwab. We’re going back to the Shades of Magic world and I could not be more excited!

3. 2023 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I actually only came across this one in November when looking for books to get in the double stamps deal Waterstones did on Black Friday, but I’m already super hyped for it: Death of A Bookseller by Alice Slater. It sounds so good, a true crime addicted bookseller getting dangerously obsessed with the bookshop’s newest employee? I AM IN.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating In 2023?

Hell Bent, the sequel to Ninth House: it has been a WHILE and I’m looking forward to seeing what misadventures Alex, Darlington and Dawes get up to in the next book.

5. One Thing You Hope To Do/Accomplish In Your Blogging Life In 2022?

I’ve got a lot of series to finish on my shelf so I’d really like to make a dent in some of those if I can.

6. A 2023 Release You’ve Already Read And Recommended To Everyone?

None! I’ve kind of stopped doing Netgalley for the time being and I’ve not really missed it that much? The pressure of getting a book read by the release date, and nearly always failing to do that always felt a bit stressful and I’ve been much more relaxed about my reading since I’ve not been reading arcs, so I’m sticking with that for the moment!

How was your 2022 reading year everyone? What are you looking forward to reading this year? Let me know in the comments!

Well that’s it! Happy New Year everyone, I hope you all had a good New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and are ready to start 2023. I’ll be back with more posts next week, the first is likely to be my first TTT of 2023 on Tuesday.

End Of Year Check In (2022)

Hi everyone! So this is it, we’re almost at the end of 2022. I swear every single year January seems to last about ten years and then the rest of the year goes by in a blur. All in all, this year’s actually been a pretty great one for me, and it definitely feels like it’s ended on a high what with getting a new job and having our first family Christmas with my sister since she moved out to Australia. Hopefully 2023 also has good things in store!

Anyway, since it’s the end of the year, I’m doing as I always do and looking back at the goals I made for myself at the beginning of the year and seeing how I did with them:

  1. Complete Goodreads Challenge Goal-SUCCESS

Again, I haven’t technically completed this one yet as there’s still one more day of the year to go, but as I only have an hour and a bit left of my current audio and a VE Schwab comic to read to round out my year of reading, I’m pretty sure I will have finished both by the end of the day tomorrow. I would have liked to have reached my initial goal of 24 books, but since it’s been a pretty slow year for me reading wise, reaching my revised lower goal of 20 still seems pretty good.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge-FAIL (intentionally)

As I said in my mid-year check in, this just wasn’t working for me this year, so I decided to voluntarily let it go. I’ve been doing quite well not reading to any particular sort of TBR and enjoying just going where the books take me so I think I’m going to stick with that for the foreseeable future.

3. Read more adult historical fiction-SUCCESS

Out of 20 books this year, 9 of them have been historical fiction of some sort (a couple came under the historical fantasy umbrella, but I’m still counting them), so that’s almost half of all the books I’ve read and I’ve loved almost all of them, so I’d say it’s been a big success. I wouldn’t be surprised if historical fiction continued to make up a large chunk of my reading next year too, I’ve been enjoying it a lot more than fantasy in recent years.

4. Catch up on 2021 releases-FAIL

Yeah this one just didn’t really ever gain much traction this year. I read two books that were published in 2021 this year, but that was it and neither were on my most anticipated releases of 2021 list. Those are all still sitting on my shelves judging me. Ah well, there’s always next year!

5. Continue to diversify my reading-Not complete success, not complete failure either

I have read some books by POC authors and LGBTQ+ authors this year, but it has been a largely white cis-het writers year, I’ve not read anywhere near as diversely as I would have liked to. Definitely need to try and stretch myself a bit more on this one next year.

6. Keep up with discussion posts at least once a month-Partial success

Okay, I don’t want to call this one a complete failure as I have done more discussion posts this year than I did last year, I managed seven posts on Jo Talks this year which is an improvement on last year’s three and they were semi-regular at the beginning of the year, things just got a little busy towards the end and I just didn’t have time to do them as often as I’d have liked. I’m thinking I might trial doing one every other month next year and see how that goes, if that’s a bit more manageable than the monthly posts I used to do.

7. Have a more regular review posting schedule-FAIL

Yeah, so this kind of fell by the wayside a little towards the end of this year. I was keeping up fairly well until we moved, then I got behind, caught up on those reviews and now I’m behind again with a backlog that I won’t even try to make up before the new year. I’m hoping next year I’ll be slightly more successful in getting my reviews posted in a timely manner after finishing the book.

8. Do a book unhaul before moving in the Spring-SUCCESS (sort of)

Okay so this was a definite partial success-I did decide which books to unhaul and put them all in a box. Unfortunately, said box is still taking up space in my bedroom. I have got rid of some from the original box, I sent some off to a blogger friend of mine who is a teacher for her classroom and I took some up to The Book Nook, the second hand bookshop/cafe in Stirling. So now I just need to get rid of the rest, I need to just take them to a charity shop or something like that but it’s never at the top of my priority list to do!

9. Get back to working on my novel-FAIL

I would have loved to get back to working on my novel this year, unfortunately I’ve just not had the time! Between working in the vaccine centre at the beginning of the year, moving, doing job applications for new jobs, starting a new job and spending Christmas in Australia with the family, this one just hasn’t gone anywhere this year. Maybe next year? We’ll see!

10. Finish the books I “paused” last year (or DNF if I decide they aren’t for me)-Partial success

I haven’t cleared the on-pause shelf completely as I would have liked to have done. However I don’t want to see this one as a total failure as I did go back to, and finish one of the books on that shelf, and I did move one to the DNF shelf, so there has been some movement, just not as much as I would have liked!

So there we go, that’s how my goals for 2022 went! Overall, a bit of a mixed year, 6 out of 10 were at least partially successful so that’s something but definitely not my best year ever for completing goals. How did you guys do on your 2022 goals if you had any? Do you have any plans for goals in 2023? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back tomorrow with my final post of 2022, the annual End of Year Survey I always do, so keep an eye out for that at some point tomorrow!

Top Ten Tuesday #400

Hi everyone! Welcome to our final Top Ten Tuesday of 2022 and I’m rounding off the year with a very special one, as it’s my 400th TTT post. Can’t believe I’ve done one of these every week for the past seven and a bit years, it’s quite amazing! Anyway, I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I’ve been continuing to have a fab time in Australia. I really enjoyed my trail ride last week, and I’ve had several lovely dinners with my sister and her friends this week, as well as a Christmas Eve barbecue with my sister’s partner’s family. Sadly Hamilton was cancelled the day we were meant to see it due to cast illness, which was a bit unfortunate, but I’ve seen it before in London and the rest of my family will be able to go another time so it’s not so bad. We had a family game night at our flat instead which was just as fun.

We had a very nice Christmas here, it was a lovely sunny day in Australia, and we had our Christmas dinner at my sister’s house, just the five of us which was great. It was so nice to be with my sister and her partner this year as we’ve not all spent Christmas together since she’s been out in Australia so even though having a warm Christmas felt a bit different, it was so lovely to all be together. It’s a very warm day today in Melbourne, so we’ve been to the beach and out for lunch which was very nice. I’m quite sad that I’m heading back to the UK on Thursday and wishing that I’d booked a later flight home, but I’m sure I’ll be back!

Anyway, today’s TTT (as usual courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is a Top Ten Tuesday staple: Most Recent Additions To My Book Collection. Now I didn’t get a huge number of books for Christmas, but I have acquired quite a few books in the last few months, so I’ve got plenty to share with you (it’s not like I’m ever lacking for new books!):

  1. My Tidda, My Sister-Marlee Silva-Got for Christmas

This was my one book Christmas present this year, from my sister. It’s a series of stories about the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and sounds like it will be a very interesting and educational read.

2. Bold Types: How Australia’s First Women Journalist Blazed A Trail-Bought last week

The second of my educational Australian reads. I found this one last week in the Coventry Bookstore in South Melbourne and after watching The Newsreader over the summer (a show about Australian journalists in the 80s), I definitely want to learn more about the experiences of women journalists in Australia so I thought this book would be a good place to start to learn about some of that history.

3. Vicious (Hardback)-VE Schwab-Added in December

I have been wanting a hardback of Vicious to match my copy of Vengeful for years but I’ve never been able to find one. I sadly bought my original copy of Vicious just before the UK got the new edition back in 2017 I think, so the one I have is the paperback with the old, not as pretty cover. However when I saw that VE Schwab was signing books for her local indie The Portobello Bookshop this Christmas and that said bookshop had hardback copies of Vicious, I immediately jumped on the chance to get one. My copy should be waiting for me when I get home!

4. Five Survive-Holly Jackson-Added in December

My copy of Five Survive arrived just before I left for Australia a couple of weeks ago. It sounds like a very exciting read, a one location murder mystery thriller that takes place in real time? Sounds like just the sort of adventure that I would really enjoy. I’d ideally like to try and finish the A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder trilogy before I finish this one, but we’ll see how I’m feeling…after all this is a standalone, so there’s no reason why I have to wait till I’m done with her first series to read it, I’d just prefer to!

5. Demon In The Wood-Leigh Bardugo-Added in November

I got this one as part of Waterstones’ Black Friday Double Stamps offer. I’m not really a big fan of Black Friday here in the UK (where we don’t have Thanksgiving so it makes no sense!) but I do take advantage of Waterstones’ double stamp offers whenever they come around. I’m really excited for this one as I’ve been getting a lot more into comic/graphic novels over the last few years (mainly through VE Schwab’s Shades of Magic prequel comics) so I’m excited to see what Bardugo and her illustrator Dani Pendergast have done with this and I’m always intrigued to learn more about the Darkling.

6. Greywaren-Maggie Stiefvater-Added in November

I also got this, the final book of the Dreamer Trilogy as part of Waterstones’ Black Friday double stamps offer. I actually haven’t read the second book yet, it’s one of many series I need to catch up on/finish, so maybe that will be one of my reading goals for next year? We’ll see!

7. Mad Honey-Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan-Added in November

I’m so excited for Jodi and Jennifer’s book, it feels like the first Jodi book that I’ve actually felt excited for in a while. The Book of Two Ways wasn’t great for me and I skipped Wish You Were Here because I didn’t want to read about the pandemic (still don’t) so it definitely feels refreshing to be excited for one of her books again, and I’m very interested to see how she and Jennifer worked together. Going to the event for this made me even more excited to read it, so it may be high up on the TBR pile for 2023.

8. The Ballad of Never After-Stephanie Garber-Added in September

Have I read the first book yet? Still no (feels like that should be a priority for next year)! Did I still get this one? Yes, because I didn’t want to miss on the hidden covers and knew I would probably want to read this after reading the first book anyway. Fingers crossed I love both when I finally get to them!

9. I Must Betray You-Ruta Sepetys-Added in September

It’s been a long time since I last read a Ruta Sepetys book, I think the last one I read in full was Salt To The Sea (as I DNF’ed The Fountains of Silence). This one sounds really great, it’s about the Romanian Revolution and the overthrow of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu which is another bit of history that I really don’t know that much about. In addition, it’s a very short book, which will be massively helpful to me as I’ve been struggling with longer books over the past few years.

10. Threadneedle-Cari Thomas-Added in July

One of the books that I bought at YALC this summer off the recommendation of one the staff manning the HarperVoyager stand. It sounds really good, an adult fantasy set in contemporary London where magic is seen as a sin to be bound and not used. I don’t really know all that much more about it than that, so I’ll be going into it with fairly little knowledge, which is unusual for me, but might be nice not to have expectations for once!

And that’s it, my final Top Ten Tuesday of 2022 and my 400th one in total! Have you read any of these books? What new books have you added to your shelves recently? Did you get any new ones for Christmas? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for my first Top Ten Tuesday of 2023 (AGH! HOW DID THIS YEAR GO SO FAST?), which will be my annual Favourite Books of The Year post, so Favourite Books of 2022. It’s always one I enjoy doing every year, so I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’ll definitely have a couple of posts up before the year’s end: my annual End of Year Check In post and End of Year Survey which should both come to you once I’m back in the UK. I may have a last book review up for you before the end of the year but we’ll see whether I have the time before I leave Australia on Thursday, I want to spend the time I have left here having fun with my family!

Life After Life Review (Audiobook)

Book: Life After Life

Author: Kate Atkinson

Narrator: Fenella Woolgar

BECHDEL TEST: Uncertain, didn’t keep track!

Content Warnings: Medical trauma, murder, forced institutionalisation, vomit, pregnancy, addiction, animal death, anti-Semitism, toxic relationship, rape, abortion, suicide, domestic abuse, violence, death, war, drowning, child death, genocide, gun violence, bombing/explosions, blood, grief, death of a parent, fire/fire injury

Despite all my best intentions, I’m once again super behind on my reviews, this is actually a book that I read over the summer! I’m about three books behind in my reviews, so I’m going to try and get as many done as I can before the end of the year, but there’s a very good chance a couple may spill over into January! Anyway, I watched the BBC TV adaptation of Life After Life back in the Spring, and enjoyed it so I decided to read the book that it was based on over the summer. Sadly I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed the TV adaptation: I found the book quite bloated and overly long and the narrative a little stilted. It was a very interesting idea but I’m not sure Atkinson executed it as well as she could have done. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can – will she?

As I mentioned at the top of the review, and as is a frequently occurring issue for me with books, my biggest issue here was once again…… yup it’s our good old friend PACING! This is an incredibly slow paced book, not helped by the fact that due to the narrative conceit, we visit events in Ursula’s life several times over. At one point it definitely felt like the book was never going to make it past the Spanish Flu section (I mean I knew it did because I’d watched the show but that section really did feel endless whilst reading it!). It took me forever to really get into the story because it was moving forward at such a slow pace. It was also much longer than it really needed to be: it felt like Atkinson extended it several times beyond what felt like it would have been a natural end point because she just wanted to explore as many lives for Ursula as possible whether or not they really added to the story. As I said before, I watched the TV series first and it was clear from reading the book afterwards that they had cut quite large sections: like the extended bit where Ursula is living with Eva Braun (yes, that Eva Braun) in Germany. To be honest, I found that the sections that were unfamiliar to me from not being in the TV series didn’t really add much to the story, and just served to make it longer. I definitely think Atkinson could have used a little more editing and the book could have done with being a bit more streamlined before going to print!

The length of the overall book wasn’t helped by the fact that the chapters were also incredibly long-there were a couple of chapters that were over three hours long! I definitely find that with longer books, I really prefer them to have shorter chapters as it makes them quicker to get through for me. I would have liked it if some of the longer chapters had been divided into smaller chunks as I just think it would have made for more manageable reading.

The nature of the story obviously means that the book has to be repetitive, but I mainly found this a problem in the beginning, and to some extent in the WWII section, generally the middle section of the book moved along at a fairly good pace and we seemed to keep moving forward quite well with limited repetition of events.

I did find that the story was quite stilted, due to the nature of the concept, it didn’t really feel like a cohesive narrative, more like a series of vignettes of someone’s life loosely joined together. The way that the story jumped around in time, both within Ursula’s lives and from one life to the next didn’t really help with this as it meant that the story felt kind of all over the place and made it a little hard to follow in places as I couldn’t keep track of where we were in the timeline.

I also found that Ursula herself was rather bland as a character. It felt like she had very little agency & that everything was just happening to her, rather than her driving the narrative. She also just had very little personality: I could tell you hardly anything about what she was passionate about, what drove her etc. I was actually kind of surprised by this, because I did enjoy her character in the TV series, it definitely felt like she had passion and fire there. She did get better towards the end of the story where she’s actively trying to change things in her lives, but I still didn’t connect with her in the way I thought I would.

I did like the narrator, I think Fenella Woolgar did a terrific job and I probably would have been less engaged with the book if the narration hadn’t been as good as it was. I would definitely listen to more audiobooks read by her!

Sylvie was the character who seemed the most different from the book to the show for me, she came across as far less likeable in the book than the show, much harsher and less sympathetic, although I do admit I was intrigued by her as it’s clear she was married off very young and I wondered whether she’d had bigger dreams for herself. There were also some hints that she might have had the same ability as Ursula, so I wonder if Atkinson might explore that in a future book maybe?

I did find that there were far too many characters to keep track of: Ursula has a really big family and then there’s a myriad of other characters who come and go throughout her different lives, so it was difficult to keep track of who was who sometimes. I also felt like because there were so many characters, the character development for everyone, even Ursula, the main character suffered and Ursula’s family also felt like they were only very superficially drawn. It might have been beneficial if there had been a smaller cast of characters because then everyone might have been fleshed out a little more.

I did feel like they were all a little hard on Izzie, for all her flaws, she was always there for Ursula when she needed her, with no questions asked and I feel like that wasn’t exactly acknowledged much by anyone in the book, not even Ursula herself!

There’s a rape scene in the book that was quite brutal to read: luckily I was aware of it beforehand because I had watched the TV show, but I always find it difficult to read scenes like that, especially when I’m listening to an audiobook because things just feel a little more real to me when I listen to them vs when I’m reading words on a page, so just a prior warning for anyone who also struggles with that kind of content: it’s about 1.26 into the chapter Like A Fox In A Hole, and last until around 1.29 if you’d prefer to skip through that section.

Atkinson’s writing was fairly engaging, though I did get tired of some of the more repetitive phrases, such as “Darkness fell.” occurring every time Ursula died and got reincarnated, and though the snow falling was an effective image in the TV show, I began to dread its occurrence in the book just because it happened so many times!

I did have some logistical problems with the book, which is probably me overthinking things, but there were a few things I just wish that Atkinson had thought about more. For example, I did wonder if so many details of her life and the lives of those around her would stay the same throughout different lives? It definitely felt like her dying and being reincarnated should have changed more than it actually did, I expected more different outcomes due to the changes she made, but it felt like the same kinds of events would happen over and over again but just with a few tweaks? Like I fully expect that big world events like WWI and the Spanish Flu would happen in multiple lifetimes, but it felt odd that Ursula would end up in the same kind of job, meet the same people, do the same things just with slightly different outcomes in all her lives. It also seemed odd that her dying and being reborn had absolutely no effect on the people around her? Like her sister Pamela always has the same husband? Ursula always has the same siblings in every life? Pamela always has the same kids, both in number and gender (and calls them the same names)? It just felt like this constant cycle of death and rebirth should have had more of an impact on the outcomes for the people surrounding Ursula than it did.

I also would have liked to have known why this happened to Ursula? Like I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s not important, or needed for the plot and it didn’t lessen my experience of the reading the book, but I’m a curious person and would just have liked to have known why she in particular was the one out of her family who was able to do this.

I wish she’d have got hints that she was reliving her lives over and over earlier and started to change things more actively earlier on, I feel like that would have given her more agency in her own story than she ended up having.

Some of Ursula’s lives did feel a little overly grim, particularly in the chapter Like A Fox In A Hole where she basically lives through every tragic and brutal thing that could happen to a person all in the one life. I get the point that the author was trying to make: that because of the rape, many other aspects of her life go downhill and she makes some bad choices as a result of her trauma, but just as a reader, it felt a little too much all at once. This is another reason why I feel like shorter, more divided chapters would have worked better because they would have broken up some of the more traumatic parts of Ursula’s lives into shorter chunks so it seemed a little less brutal all at once.

The ending was so confusing? I think I get that the author was going for something ambiguous, and wanting to show that Ursula would continue her lives in the circular way that she always had, with everything always starting over again, but I feel like the book came to a more natural end after the chapter in 1967, and that the author continued it on past its natural endpoint because she had more ideas she wanted to throw in there! Some people may like more open endings, but I am not one of those people and it felt like the story less ended and more sort of stopped? Anyway, I would have preferred a more definitive end!

Overall, I liked the idea behind Life After Life, but I found the execution lacking. I feel like it would have benefitted from being shorter, more tightly edited and with less characters so that the ones that were there had more room for development. It’s a real shame, because I really enjoyed the TV show and had such high hopes for the book, but alas it was not meant to be for us!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of The Librarian Spy, by Madeline Martin. I’m not sure whether that one will be up before the end of the year or not, as I’ll be taking my usual break from posting over Christmas and it depends how busy I am before I leave Australia as to whether I get to write up more reviews or not (especially as I still have to do notes for that one!).

This is my last post before Christmas, so Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and I hope everyone has a great holiday, however you’re spending it! I will be back next week with my final Top Ten Tuesday of 2022, end of year wrap up posts and potentially some reviews if I find the time to write them.