March and April: That’s a Wrap!

So it’s fair to say that reading and blogging has felt a bit different over the last few months, like most things! In some ways, it has been quite freeing – since at the moment I sometimes find myself completely struggling to get into a new book, I gave myself full license to just read whatever was calling out to me. After a year or so of book blogging and reading to a schedule a lot of the time, it felt pretty good to just look at my shelves and get drawn to a shiny new book!

This has meant I’ve actually got through quite a few over the past few months:

On the other hand, I’ve felt a bit guilty that I haven’t been sharing as much of the book love as usual – spending more time looking at a screen after work hasn’t felt super appealing, and Twitter is a place I approach with caution at the moment! So even when I do find myself drawn to a proof for an upcoming book, I haven’t been able to keep up with reviewing them. So BIG apologies to all the wonderful publishers who have sent me some fantastic books – I hope you understand!

To go some way towards bringing back the book love – here is a round up of all my lockdown reads so far from March and April!

March

She-Clown and Other Stories, Hannah Vincent

I’ve always loved getting stuck into a short story collection, and they are such a great shout for anyone struggling to concentrate on a full novel at the moment! This collection was right up my street: all about women, and it is fierce, feminist and funny.

It published in March, with Myriad (thank you very much for my review copy). You can read more about this great collection in my review here.

The Other’s Gold, Elizabeth Ames

This novel is published by the wonderful Pushkin Press, and it is simply beautiful. It is about four friends Lainey, Ji Sun, Alice, and Margaret, who meet during their freshman year at Quincy-Hawthorne College. The friends are in many ways quite different from each other – but are bound together through the intense experience of starting university life, away from home for the first time.

It’s the most beautiful representation of female friendship; the close bonds, as well as the undercurrents of jealousy hidden below the surface, threatening to bubble out. Through their friendship, the friends come to learn truths about each other that until now they haven’t even see in themselves.

Stim: An Autistic Anthology, ed. Lizzie Huxley-Jones

I’ve come to fully trust Unbound’s anthologies! There’s something so enjoyable about dipping in and out of these collections – of all sorts of different writing styles and people and stories united by a central theme. I love that they show me all these different ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

This anthology features pieces by autistic authors – mostly narratives, but also some more poetic forms and even some visual contributions. What it really showcased to me is the range of different experiences, traits and characteristics that make up the autistic spectrum. One of the visual essays captures this perfectly – while there is a tendency to think of the autistic spectrum as a linear scale, it is much more accurate to compare it to a spider’s web.

The Switch, Beth O’Leary

I’d been saving this one for a rainy day, as O’Leary’s fiction is so full of heart and warmth. So what fits that better than a global pandemic (even though the sun has mostly been shining..)?!

As soon as I started reading, I knew this was going to be just as brilliant as O’Leary’s 2019 hit, The Flatshare. As with the The Flatshare, there are two absolutely brilliant central characters – this time we get to know Leena and her grandmother Eileen. As hinted at in the title, they are led to switch lives, with Leena escaping her stressful live in London and moving out to her grandmother’s house in the countryside, and Eileen taking her place in London, for a second chance at love.

There’s something so lovely about this book and as with The Flatshare, although there are romantic strands to both them, all sorts of relationships are celebrated. I found the celebration of community and kindness particularly fitting at this time.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

I picked this out on Audible, as I’ve not read any Winterson before and wanted to rectify this right away! As this is a semi-autobiographical book, with a young female protagonist called Jeanette, it felt particularly special that Winterson herself narrates the audiobook.

It’s a coming of age story about Jeanette, who comes to know her lesbian sexuality against the backdrop of her very religious Pentecostal upbringing. Jeanette is such a dynamic protagonist, whose curiosity, drive and innocence guides her through her transition from childhood to young adulthood.

April

True Story, Kate Petty Reed

I’ve been desperate to read this since being lucky enough to be given a proof at a Quercus event last year. I loved the sound of it so much that I think deep down I was a bit worried to start it, in case it didn’t live up to my expectations. But have no fear – it most certainly did not disappoint!!

The novel centres around one life defining incident, when two boys drive a drunk young girl home from a college party. Right from the beginning, several versions of what happened next emerge…the boys proudly tell the story of their wild night to their lacrosse team friends, but yet when the police talk to them about accusations of rape, another story weaves its way into the world.

Taking this theme of the power stories have to shape our reality, True Story is told through a variety of different narrators, different genres and different formats: there are email chains, horror film scripts, college essays; it is at once a psychological thriller, a horror story, a campus novel, a memoir. Really recommend this!

My Friend Anna, Rachel DeLoache Williams

I love listening to audiobooks read by the author – especially non-fiction. Rachel DeLoache Williams reads this brilliantly, and the book is so honest and open about her friendship with fake New York heiress Anna Delvey.

I hadn’t actually seen much about this in the news at the time, but when this was published by Quercus last summer I became very intrigued by this fascinating story!

Our Stop, Laura Jane Williams

This was one of the books that I’ve had on my list for quite a while now, which was just calling out to me on my shelf. It’s such a fun story, of two strangers who catch the same train to work. It becomes clear that they are destined to be together, but all the way through they just keep missing each other.

Our Stop is a contemporary romance and exactly the sort of thing I wanted to escape in at the moment. It’s a perfect summer read (even if we won’t be relaxing on a beach somewhere!) I think this would make a brilliant film!

In Five Years, Rebecca Serle

In the mood for more contemporary romance after Our Stop, In Five Years seemed like the perfect next read. When we first meet Dannie, she has her life all planned out – she has just had a big interview for her dream job, she has the best friend a girl could ask for, and her boyfriend has just executed the perfect proposal.

But then, Dannie has a really strange experience, where she lives an hour 5 years in the future. Instead of the life she had planned, she is in another apartment, with a different engagement ring, and a completely different fiance! This moment (understandably) shakes Dannie, and hangs over the next 5 years.

What I loved about this book was the ending – it was not at all what I expected!

Notes to Self: Essays, Emilie Pine

Although I’d already dipped into one or two of these essays when I first bought this, I hadn’t yet finished them all. It’s a slim book, so one rainy weekend day recently I cosied up and read them all at once.

It’s made up of several personal essays – all so honest, open and brave. A lot of it is centred around experiences as a woman, turning the lens on themes such as family, fertility, addiction, sexual violence. I think the reason it took me so long to read it all was a fear of finishing it, and it being over! But I now know that that’ll never happen – I know that I’ll reread this collection time and time again.

Thanks if you’ve made this far in this bumper wrap up. Here’s to all of us finding whatever reading pattern works for us in lockdown – reading whatever we want, taking the schedule and reviewing pressure off, or perhaps none at all if it’s just not working for ya!

Sophie @Sophie_Jo_Books  📚 🐾

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