x Printed Words: 2020

Thursday, 4 June 2020

MAY WRAP UP & JUNE TBR

On The Blog

Black Lives Matter. I stand by the Black community and the anti-racism fight. Systemic racism and injustice needs to be eradicated, and has to be done through collective effort. This point is a compilation of resources, donation sites, petitions, educational sources that I have come across over the past few days. A lot of these have been put together by Black people, which I am highly grateful for because the onus is really on us to seek further information and educate ourselves.

I Discuss:
Is Gendered Reading a Thing? A Discussion on Book Recommendations Based on Gender
Five TV Shows & Movies To Delight Your Inner Kid

"Top Ten Tuesday"

New June releases I am excited for!

Reading Wrap Up



Reviews

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith 

That Was It For May!


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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

How We Can Help The BLM Movement

I felt like before I could make another normal blog post, I needed to use this platform to be able to help in anyway I can. I've tried to be vocal about my support through my other platforms but the more noise we make, the more we can create awareness, engage in conversation and see change.

I definitely do not want to come across as a spokesperson for the Black community. I acknowledge that I cannot and never will understand the experiences of a Black person, from what they have endured to what is happening right now. Instead, I want to be able to echo the Black community's sentiments in their calls for justice and overall recognition that their lives do matter.

I feel the deepest sadness and anger for any human being to be treated in such ways, but these emotions cannot just be felt, it has to be used to advocate for the Black people. I will continue to recognise, listen and actively educate myself about anti-racism. There are layers after layers of history that is conveniently glossed over and minimised, making education, at this point so important for non-black people. To have the knowledge we will then be able to help out more.

Right now, as an ally, there are a number of ways we can help the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a list of resources I have come by online that I have found helpful and are able to assist with the cause.

Donations

Resources

Ways You Can Help
This site lists out petitions we can sign, numbers to call & text, the various fundraisers/organisations we can donate to (including internationally accepted donations) and educational resources. It's been the site I have referred to due to its extensive and thoroughness.

An extensive list created by Indi @botanicaldyke to keep track of bail funds, memorial funds, actions being taken and advice for protestors.

Letters to Your Parents About BLM - translated into numerous languages
I think this is particularly important, especially for myself coming from an Asian background and trying to have conversations with my parents and relatives. We can start pushing for change in our immediate environment with the people we see on an everyday basis.

To Educate

An online library to access resources/readings/information regarding Black people and Black history. 

Books
Books with Shae has just announced Blackout Buddy Read to help allies understand what we can during this challenging time. She has named 2 books that can provide us education and background to continue to support Black people. Watch Shae's announcement video here and visit the Blackout Buddy Read official site here

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale - free to access as an e-book via Verso Books.
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi 
Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race - Reni Edda-Lodge
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
So You Want To Talk About Race - Ijeoma Olou
The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander

For educating younger children, this list of Corretta Scott King Book Award winners includes children & YA books that recognises outstanding African American authors and illustrators.

Essays/Articles
The 1619 Project published by New York Times & New York Magazines

A full list of other resources to seek out, including numerous articles, other books and what to listen to and watch to gain further information and knowledge.

Guides
I have also found these Twitter threads to be super helpful in determining the best ways to be an ally. I am immensely grateful that these guides have been created, despite knowing how emotionally labouring it is for Black people to educate others.

Please take the initiative to learn and use your voice to speak up. 

I also would like to say that whilst supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement, I am not ignorant to the struggles our Indigenous People go through here in Australia. My background in criminology has provided me the privilege to study and be aware of the terrible treatment of Indigenous people by our systems. They may not be as visible but they exist. I would like to hope that the outrage and efforts fellow Australians have shown for the current situation in the US is also reflected at home. 

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Sunday, 31 May 2020

"Lethal White" Didn't Live Up To Its Predecessors

Title: Lethal White
Series: Cormoran Strike #4
Author: Robert Galbraith
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019
Add to Goodreads

"I seen a kid killed...He strangled it, up by the horse."

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike's office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy's story, Strike and Robin Ellacott - once his assistant, now a partner in the agency - set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike's own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been-Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

Review


It took me 8 months of reading Lethal White on and off before I could finally finish it. I would attribute that to how slow the first 500 pages of this book is, as well as a lot of meandering through subplots and minor events that, honestly, didn't have to really be introduced.

Strike and Robin make their reappearance in what I had hoped to be another thrilling and intense crime-solving story. Their investigation takes them into the lives of politicians and ministers, who all seem to be motivated by greed and power. The backdrop to this is strongly focused on corruption and secrets amongst officials who are supposed to be upright and law-abiding citizens. It's definitely a different take to what the first 3 books were like, in that instead of being focused on finding a killer or solving a mysterious death, there's a stronger element of political intrigue and uncovering political corruption, power privilege and issues of sexism, discrimination and forms of sexual assault.

Perhaps because I had an expectation that Lethal White would be similar to its predecessors, I was heavily disappointed in discovering that it wasn't. Rather than being fast-paced and shocking, Lethal White plods its way through the first 1/2 to 3/4 of the book to ultimately arrive at a more exciting and quicker paced ending. I didn't particularly enjoy the first 500 pages, finding the events to be unmemorable and really stagnant for my reading experience. Is it harsh to say that Lethal White could've foregone a lot of what happened in the first half of the story? Is it also harsh to say that I didn't really care for Robin and Strike's personal matters? Only because it was so repetitive and didn't have to take up so much of the story, like it did. I mean, it could've served as an example of how toxic relationships and behaviours can become a cycle, but I wasn't sure if Lethal White was attempting to deliver this message on top of its crime-solving plot.

It also didn't help that Galbraith wrote her characters as though this was the first time we were meeting them, instead of reading about Robin and Strike in 3 books already. So much of their past and what happened in the last three novels was repeated, which I know most sequels do, but it honestly came across as though Galbraith was worried, as a reader, I would have completely forgotten who the characters were.

However, once the story picked up (finally) the focus on the crime kicked in and I sped through the remainder of the book. I will still applaud Galbraith for her crime-writing abilities, in that they carefully and cleverly crafted the crime and the solution to it. When the truth was revealed it was such a satisfying "ah-ha" moment for me and somewhat made up for the time I spent wading through the first three-quarters, almost, of the book.

Anyways, the relief in finishing Lethal White basically told me that despite my enjoyment of the ending, it couldn't fully appease my not as enjoyable experiencing when reading the majority of this book.


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Thursday, 28 May 2020

The Waiting List: All the Books to Look Out For in June

The Waiting List is a feature hosted by PrintedWords&, to highlight some of the new, exciting releases for the upcoming month!

Seems like the month to drop the latest book is June! I was slightly overwhelmed by how many were listed to be released by finally managed to find the ones that I'm most excited for. 

I talk about my top 5 most anticipated books for June in my latest video!




Other books that are also worth keeping an eye out for!



You Don't Live Here by Robyn Schneider
Release Date: June 2nd, 2020
YA Contemporary/LGBTQ+

Sasha Bloom is forced to live with her grandparents after her house collapses, taking her mother with it. Her grandparents encourage Sasha to behave and look a certain way to achieve the perfect life, including dating Cole Edwards. At first Sasha follows along but she starts to question what she wants after meeting Lily Chen. She finds she wants to learn new things and discover new adventures with Lily, but she isn't sure where else it will lead to.



Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Isacho
Release Date: June 2nd, 2020 
YA Thriller

Cassidy Pratt accidentally killed her neighbour when she was a child. Since then the neighbourhood bullies, especially the popular girl Melody Davenport, have not stopped talking about it despite Cassidy wanting to forget about it. Then one day Melody goes missing. Cassidy thinks she can help find Melody but she's afraid of stepping up, having recently joked about killing Melody in the perfect way. To make matters worse, she receives a text saying "I'm so glad we're in this together." Cassidy has to find Melody, and fast. 


Forest of Souls (Shamaborn #1) by Lori M. Lee
Release Date: June 23rd, 2020
YA Fantasy

Sirscha Aschwyn spends her childhood training to be the queen's next royal spy. Amidst this, her best friend, Saengo is attacked by shaman and die. However, Sirscha is able to bring her back to life. This catches the attention of the Spider King, who needs her newly found "soulguide" abilities to help him save his realm or face losing Saengo again. 




Seasons of the Storm (Seasons of the Storm #1) by Elle Cosimano
Release Date: June 23rd, 2020
YA Fantasy 

Jack Sommers finds himself with eternal life after having to choose between life or death under Gaia's magical guidelines. He now embodies Winter, and spends his life chasing after the season that comes before him. However, when he meets Fleur (Spring) their love blossoms and now they must face the dangers of trying to escape Gaia's grasp to live a normal life together.



What's On Your Waiting List?


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Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Opening Lines

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday post in years but I'm excited to partake in this feature again!

Top Ten Opening Lines
(we're talking best, funniest, favourite, gripping etc.)
















What Are Your Favourite Opening Lines?


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Sunday, 24 May 2020

A Full Five Stars For "A Thousand Pieces of You"

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You 
Author: Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #1
Publication Date: November 4th, 2014
Add to Goodreads
Marguerite Caine's physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite's father is murdered, and the killer—her parent's handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul's guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father's death is far more sinister than she expected.

Review


I will admit I am super late to A Thousand Pieces of You having purchased this when it was first published but never attempting to read it. Truth be told, I thought I had tried to read this and ended up DNF'ing. How embarrassingly wrong I was. I say this because of how impressively creative, clever and thrilling A Thousand Pieces of You is. 

I was quickly captivated by Marguerite's journey, not just because of how exciting the storyline is but also because of the writing style and layout of the plot. I have come to love both fast paced reads as well as quick starts, in that the author dives right into the adventure and relies on flashback and character conversation to relay past/off-page events. When A Thousand Pieces of You starts, Marguerite's father has already passed away in the accident and travel into parallel universes happens within the first 20 pages. It's quick, to the point and sets an intensity for the rest of the book. 

Gray also impressed me with how clever and thought-provoking the read is - possibly the main reason why I loved A Thousand Pieces of You. The concept of parallel universe is not a new one, but Gray kept it interesting and somewhat unique in both her theory as well as the scientific invention - the Firebird - that aids in travel between dimensions. In fact, I would say the way she explained the concept, coupled with the device, made for a rather believable read. I liked that she was thorough enough so there wasn't any confusion but didn't overload the plot with just scientific explanations that it turned into a science textbook. The creation of the device also demonstrates how smart and creative Gray is! I will admit I'm definitely intrigued by the idea of parallel lives and time and space in general, so A Thousand Pieces of You does cater towards my interest, which added to my love fort his book. I was actually reeling different theories through my mind whilst reading as well - that's how engaged I was. 

Another factor that I really liked was the simplicity in Gray's writing. She doesn't add flashy, flowery expressions, which I appreciated. It meant that I could focus on the plot and the events rather than be distracted by pretty, whimsical prose. It's clear and succinct yet, still descriptive enough for me to envision each scene. In fact, the different universes Gray creates still remains vividly memorable in my mind. I won't delve into what the parallel worlds are, because that would be spoilers, but each world had its own unique features, which really made me want to go to and discover as well.

I definitely think A Thousand Pieces of You was a super fun, albeit dark, and engrossing read. The fact that I flew through this in less than 2 days says how much I was invested in the story and quickly loved it. I cannot wait to devour the rest of the series!


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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

A Book Haul 3 Years in the Making

It's honestly been some time since I've shared what books I've purchased, mainly because I wasn't reading as much in the last 3 years, which meant a serious decline in the purchase if books. My bank account was happy about it, so I can't really complain, and when I did buy a book it was more because I wanted to read it and not because I felt like I wanted to buy it for the sake of buying.

I had a lot of fun filming this though, forgetting how exciting book hauls can be! If you've read any of the books I've mentioned definitely let me know what you think.


What Books Have You Bought Recently?


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Sunday, 17 May 2020

Kate Morton Continues to Prove Why She is One of My Favourite Authors in "The Clockmaker's Daughter"

Title: The Clockmaker's Daughter
Author: Kate Morton
Publication Date: September 28th, 2018
Add to Goodreads
In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins. 

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river. 

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Review


I honestly believe that a reading experience can be greatly affected by the mood you're in or intentions you have whilst reading, which is to say that sometimes it's not fair to judge a book if I am never in a great mood while reading it or didn't feel like reading but forced myself to. I say this because for the first third maybe, or even half of this read, I wasn't in a terrible reading slump and was not enjoying any of the things that usually made me happy. I felt like I needed to read because if I didn't I was letting myself down and because of this, it caused me to read The Clockmaker's Daughter begrudgingly and very slowly. At first I put this down to the plot not being able to grab my attention and the pacing slow. There was a lot of jumping to and from different time periods and the voices and tense would change, causing me to become frustrated in the inability to understand what I was reading. So I put it down, for a very long time. 

To my surprise, I came back to The Clockmaker's Daughter after a few months and became completely enthralled. I was absolutely captivated by Morton's writing and the story that was unfolding in front of me. I couldn't believe I had doubted her storytelling ability, as there hasn't been one read from Morton I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. Whilst I plodded through the first half of the book, the second book I whizzed through before realising I had already reached the end. The characters began to jump out at me, with their voices drawing me in emotionally and compelling me to stay with them as each of them went through their own personal journeys, ultimately arriving at a somewhat destination, both literally and figuratively. I was also shocked at how much I still retained whilst I continued to read, which meant that even if I felt like I wasn't understanding, Morton still left quite an impression on me through her thorough and vivid writing. 

In fact, the beauty about Kate Morton's books lies in her incredible storytelling. She is able to devise a complex plot, spanning across many years and generations, involving many characters (although not always known to each other) and be able to tie it all together at the end with a flourish. If you ever need a reason to read anything from Morton, it's the shocking endings she drops on you, with absolutely no warning. There is simply no way to deduce what is to come, unless you're a psychic. When I read the plot twist to The Clockmaker's Daughter I realised just how wrong I was in judging the book the way I had previously. It was an immense shock and I immediately put the book down because I didn't want to believe that was had happened in the past. However, as much as I didn't like the revelation, it was more because I found it to be too heartbreaking and was only hoping for a somewhat happier plot progression, not because of Morton's writing and plot. If anything the truth behind the mystery was a lot more impactful, serving to emphasise the importance of not being judgemental and how there are always two sides to a story. Also, that humans are complex. We are a bundle of emotions that can really drive our way of thinking and behaviours, and whilst we may not act in a certain way, the ability to empathise/sympathise would do us a lot better than we think. I also liked the exploration of staying true to one self, how strong our desires can be and that we may not always have control over the situation we're in but rather control on how we react to those situations. 

Again, I can't believe I would doubt one of my favourite authors. Morton has managed, as always, to deliver a beautiful, thought-provoking and genius read that remains as memorable as her other reads.



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Saturday, 16 May 2020

Five Movies & TV Shows That Will Delight Your Inner Child

I'm not sure if it's because I'm still a 12 year old trapped in a 25 year old body, but I absolutely love watching kids movies and shows. These day shows or movies aimed at children are so much more different than what I grew up with, but I love that advancements in technology have made it so that animations are a lot more impressive. Here are some of my favourite kid-friendly and super fun shows and movies.

The Willoughbys (2020)
Netflix

This has been the latest addition to my favourite kid's movies! The Willoughbys is based on Lois Lowry's book with the same name. The story follows the 4 Willoughby children in their quest become a perfectly happy family, by devising a plan to get rid of their selfish and unloving parents. I loved the overall message this movie delivered as well as the animation quality to it. Also Ricky Gervais as the narrating cat was a great addition.

Cinderella - Live Action (2015)
DisneyPlus

Amongst the many Disney live action remakes, Cinderella really does fly under the radar. For me though, it's the most enjoyable of the bunch to watch, mostly because of the direction of the remake and the incredible performance by the cast. It's interesting to see the live action attempt to re-tell Cinderella, a very well known story, without it being a boring repeat but I loved every moment of it. It strips back on the musical element that is a large part in the original animation, which didn't bother me surprisingly, and portrays the stepmother's character through a different lens. I actually quite liked that as it added a layer to the stepmother beyond just being evil and makes her seem human. If anything, Cinderella is beautifully shot and Lily James was a great choice to depict Cinderella in real life.


Carmen Sandiego (2019 )
Netflix - Seasons 1-2

I was absolutely engrossed with the Carmen Sandiego series after discovering it on Netflix. I quickly learnt that it's based on the well-known educational kid's game, that now has a large and ever-growing franchise. The series is based on Carmen Sandiego who has escaped V.I.L.E, the one and only place she's ever known, to use her bad-ass fighting skills to take down the academy. It draws on the franchise's emphasis on learning about geographical locations and facts to not only get kids excited but also teach them about other nation's cultures. Recently, Netflix released a movie, continuing on from the series. It's an interactive experience, which is basically a choose your own adventure.

DisneyPlus
For older viewers, this musical brings together a number of well-known fairytales and intertwine them to build a story on what really matters in life and how to truly find happiness or your "happily ever after". It features a blockbuster cast, including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Cordon and Anna Kendrick, all of whom put on an amazing performance. Seriously Meryl Streep is amazing.

Ever After High (2013-2016)
Netflix - Seasons 1-7

The Ever After High franchise is actually a Mattel production, in line with the Monster High line (which I have never seen). It originally appeared on YouTube before having 7 seasons with 4 episodes each appear on Netflix. Ever After High is a boarding school attended by children of the most famous and infamous fairytale characters. In the Netflix series, the premise revolves around Apple White (Snow White's daughter) and Raven Queen (the evil Queen's daughter) and how each have they, and their friends, struggle to accept their pre-determined stories. Honestly, I wish I had this show to grow up with as a kid and really admire how most children's shows now aim to introduce ideas of determining life goals and finding oneself. It's also just a fun show overall with some pretty cool characters adapted from well-known fairytales.


Notable Mentions: Zooptopia, No Good Nick, Totally Spies, Maleficent


What Are You Favourite Kid's Shows or Films?


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Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Stay At Home Book Tag

I use to love doing tag videos because they were always a great way to think and discuss some things about reading. This was a particular fun tag to do, with the current climate keeping us inside, which is for the better. 

If anything, doing this tag made me realise how much I genuinely miss film YouTube videos and just having fun with it. Also, I have a lot of books I haven't read but need to get too. If you end up doing this tag (written or video) I would love to see it!



I am aware that this situation isn't easy for a lot of people. It is such a strange time and being forced to do things we don't want to - staying at home - is hard to deal with. However, for those who recognise the importance of staying at home and the privilege in doing so, well done on doing your part so that we can all get through this together. 

My opinion about this is that, even though I haven't personally come into contact with the virus or know anyone who has been affected by the virus tragically, I still want to be extra cautious as I have family members who are at risk and do not want to do something that can cause anyone harm. I'm also aware that I have the privilege of staying home being bored. There are people who don't have homes to protect them from the risk or access to items/avenues to relieve them of boredom. Or people whose home conditions poses as a danger to them and now can't escape this toxicity/threat. I also recognise the essential workers who aren't staying at home so that we can, doing their best to ensure that the community is safe. 

Hopefully we are able to re-emerge together stronger than before. Take care everyone!

Hope You Enjoyed the Video!


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Sunday, 10 May 2020

Top 4 Fictional Mother Figures

To celebrate today being Mother's Day, I wanted to highlight some of my favourite motherly figures who were influential on the protagonist and also left an impression on me.

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series
It's hard not to love Molly Weasley for who she is as a person, and how that reflects in her role as a mother. She places her children before her and always wants the best for them, even if that isn't always in her means or she showed it in a different way. The howler that Ron receives in both The Philospher's Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban conveys how great of a mother Molly is, as she isn't afraid to discipline her children to teach them about consequences and responsibility for their actions. I think everyone would pick her face off against Bellatrix Lestrange as their favourite Molly Weasley moment but, albeit that being super badass, I really liked the moment when Molly and Fleur saw eye to eye for the first time in Half-Blooded Prince. It was such a sweet moment between the two women, especially as Molly was able to realise that Fleur would love Bill as much as she does herself.

Myra from After the Flood
If you ever after a read purely about the sacrifice and love that a mother has for her children, this is it. Myra battles against all odds, stubborn and steadfast, in ensuring her younger daughter's survival whilst trying to come to terms with the absence of her eldest daughter. And she does all this in a post-apocalyptic, fully flooded, world. Both Myra and After the Flood has been my recent most influential read for its overall message, but definitely still worth the read to witness Myra in her journey.

Miss Honey from Matilda

Not only the ideal primary school teacher, but also turning out to be an incredible sisterly/motherly figure, it would be a shame not to include Miss Honey on this list. She didn't have a fault besides potentially caring too much but it's her nurturing and encouraging behaviour that makes her stand out. If anything, I just love that despite having such a tragic past, she never let that stand in her way and tried to make the children she taught feel happy and comfortable in a rather terrible school environment. Also, the fact that she did not freak out by Matilda's ability and instead, encouraged Matilda to seek more knowledge and continue to read. Bless her soul.


'Marmee' from Little Women
When you think of Little Women you most likely will remember the 4 sisters that take their town and your reading experience by a storm. However, credit lies with Marmee, who raises her children in the midst of a war and without her husband by her side. She doesn't have a strong presence per se but the values and lessons she teaches her daughters has earned her a spot on this list. In a time where most would be trying to marry their daughters off, Marmee encourages following one's passion and being true to oneself. How refreshing to see in such a setting!

I will say that, amongst my many reads, I haven't come across many characters in a positive motherly role. Instead, I find that most of the time the main character will have a rather traumatising or challenging relationship with their mum or not have a motherly figure, which spurs their story and character arc. So, moving forward, I definitely want to explore more mother-daughter relationship reads just to see what I will gain from them. I also didn't intentionally mean to name all characters starting with the letter "M", it just happened.

Who Are Your Favourite Motherly Figures?

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Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Is Gendered Reading A Thing? A Discussion on Book Recommendations Based on Gender

I’ve loosely titled this idea “gendered reading”, which may or may not be a thing, but was closest to what I had in mind. I’ve actually thought about writing this post for sometime now, possibly going on 2 years, but could never find how to accurately and eloquently express what my thoughts. Here’s me attempting to do so now though.

What really prompted this was the first few times I started seeing guides to purchasing books as gifts, more specifically for Mother or Father’s day. I started to notice a difference in recommendations, more so to do with genre, and whether the differences were pulled from data on what females and males preferred to consume or based on assumption of what each gendered wanted to consume.

Firstly, let’s take a look at some of this year’s Mother’s Day book buying guides.


Have you picked up a theme after looking at these guides? Beyond the fact that there are probably some great reads listed, the similarities between all guides are the inclusion and lack of inclusion of different genres. The recommendations are narrowed down into contemporary fiction, mystery/suspense or longer reads revolving around history or family themes. For guides, like that of Booktopia and Barnes & Noble's, there’s also the addition of lifestyle books, either to do with gardening or cooking. So what isn’t included in these lists? Not once do these guides recommend a fantasy, sci-fi or horror novel (amongst other existing genres). Yet, we see these genres specifically pop up in majority of Father’s Day guides. 

Take a look at the following lists: 

Notice that there is rarely, ever, a crossover between recommendations for mother’s and father’s whether it be genre or author. For men, it seems, there is a huge focus on horror, crime thrillers, politics, sports amongst the other recommended books. 

You could say that the crime/suspense recommendations in Mother’s Day guides are similar, if not the same, as the inclusion of thrillers for Father’s Day guides. However, I argue that whilst they are from the same family of reads, the themes or premises are quite difference. For instance, I noticed that the suspense novels listed for mums revolved around family mysteries (stemming numerous generations) or crime series written by women that are more focused on the why a crime occurs. In New Idea’s Five New Books To Give Mum on Mother’s Day (2020) they include newly released The long Shadow by Anne Buist. The premise is about psychologist Isabel Harris whose sole concern is her toddler and the mother-baby therapy group she’s involved in. However, one day she receives an anonymous note alerting her the fact that the baby killer will strike again. So off she goes as the heroine of the day to save these babies by understanding why a baby’s death 25 years ago could result in more deaths in present day. Authors like Kathy Reichs, Ann Cleeves and Agatha Christie’s name came up quite often. In thriller reads for men, authors included John Grisham, Michael Connelly and Daniel Silva who all write long standing crime series about male detectives who are intent on solving cases and demonstrate the process of investigating or prosecuting, whilst also touching on political or legal themes. 

If there is a list that can convey which genres are targeted at which gender, it is Barnes & Nobles’, albeit very well sectioned and easy to navigate, site. On the left hand side there are the genres listed clearly based on whether you are buying for your mum or dad. Obviously, these are  well thought out selling strategies, intentionally targeting their audience with books they believe their audience will read. 

My questions then, are whether the continuation in recommending certain genres for one gender over another is derived from audience informed or reliable sources/studies? Are book recommendations built to serve its consumers or are they written to reinforce certain beliefs about genders. For instance, whilst women are targeted with books about love and family, or how to tend to their garden and expand their cooking repertoire, men apparently prefer more confronting themes involving horror or crime solving, if not knowledge building books based politics or sports. I definitely believe there are times when people resort to thinking about whether someone would enjoy a certain gift based on their gender, as though women won’t enjoy reading about sports or men can’t appreciate a story about family bonds.

I can’t say that all women and men read only within the confinements of what is recommended to them. That would be rather narrow-minded of me, especially as, from personal reading preference, I definitely read across a range of genres. However, I will say that a major reason for writing this post is to point out that what we’re recommended to us, whether it be books like I’ve mentioned or movies, TV shows, music etc. can really be based on our gender and the stereotypes that come from it. I wouldn’t say there’s anything wrong with reading the genres that are recommended to you, according to whether you define as female or male. Reading preferences will vary for everyone, but it’s up to yourself, as a consumer, to be aware of what is being presented to you and not have it subtly become a restriction or dictate what you can or cannot like.

Book buying lists are still a great source of recommendations though, as you can find a number of great reads. There’s still room for improvement though, in that compilations of book recommendations shouldn’t be based on just gender stereotypes or beliefs (or a definitive split between what women and men like) and should include a wide range of options. If there are any dangers to following a rather strict guideline on what men or women like and what you should buy for them, then it’s creating the sense that a certain gender should not read the genres that are reserved for the other gender. 

I would love to know what your perspective is regarding what I have addressed. Do you also notice a difference in recommendations for women and men and, if so, do you think it is necessary to be aware of or discuss?

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Sunday, 3 May 2020

What I Thought About "Tilly and the Bookwanderers" (Pages & Co #1)


Title: Tilly and the Bookwanderers
Series: Pages & Co
Author: Anna James
Publication Date: September 18th, 2018
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Eleven year-old Tilly has lived above her grandparents' bookshop ever since her mother disappeared shortly after she was born. Like the rest of her family, Tilly loves nothing more than to escape into the pages of her favourite stories.

One day Tilly realises that classic children's characters are appearing in the shop through the magic of `book wandering' - crossing over from the page into real life.
With the help of Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland. Tilly is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago, so she bravely steps into the unknown, unsure of what adventure lies ahead and what dangers she may face.

Review


I am still an avid fan of Middle Grade reads, most of the time seeking a fun and easy reading experience. In most cases, I can say that the middle grade books I’ve picked up have definitely succeeded on that front. So do I also feel the same way about Tilly and the Bookwanderers? 
The synopsis of Tilly and the Bookwanderer was what initially pulled me in. I was rather intrigued by the concept of book wandering, in that Tilly has the ability to converse with her favourite book characters in real life as well as travel into a book world and be a part of the stories. Isn’t this the childhood dream we all had? Or still have, I mean come on, I would love to magically transport in and out of Hogwarts please. So I jumped into this with much excitement on what adventures Tilly would get into and how she would interact with the characters and stories of the books she was travelling to.

I guess my expectations for Tilly and the Bookwanderer set me up for, not disappointment, but also kind of? I found that despite Tilly was able to wander in and out of books, a lot of the story was actually set in the real world, which was a shame. Yes, there are a few moments of seeing Tilly being involved in book stories but I would’ve liked for more of that. If anything, I think the book was able to explain the ability of book wandering really well but by telling us rather than showing. If Tilly was able to travel in and out more it would’ve been a great way of showing us why she can bookwander, what she can do within the books and if there were any effects or consequences from it. I do however, like the logic behind bookwandering, as it really places emphasis on relationships between books and individuals. So many of us readers hold a number of books in our hearts for numerous reasons, including the storyline or characters, and James is able to convey that quite well in Tilly and the Bookwanderer. It really promotes the importance of reading and what people, especially children, can get out of reading.

I did come to realise that this was the 1st book in a duology though, which has me hoping that want I wanted from Tilly and the Bookwanderer might be included in its sequel. Potentially this book was more of an introduction, hence a larger portion of the book reserved to explaining and learning about bookwandering and instead. I will get around to reading the 2nd book, but haven’t really felt the urgency to quickly dive back into this world. I will say though, that I think younger readers will enjoy this. I just expected more due to my reading experience, but wouldn’t say this wasn’t fun overall. I liked that it was set in a cozy bookstore, which created warmth when I was reading and liked the additional themes of family and friendship.



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Tuesday, 28 April 2020

The Waiting List: 5 May Releases I'm Excited For

The Waiting List is a feature hosted by PrintedWordsAnd, where I list some upcoming releases for the month that I'm most excited about!



Expected Publication Date: May 19th, 2020

I'm fairly sure there is going to top many May release lists and honestly, I wouldn't blame them. It's been so long since we were introduced to The Hunger Games and now that Suzanne Collins has decided to revisit the world, the book community is holding their breath in anticipation.
This release is centered around Snow, before he was president. It's definitely not a character we would've chosen to hear from but I think he makes for an interesting character to read about. Feels like I'm 14 again!




2. Burn by Patrick Ness
Expected Publication Date: May 7th, 2020

I will be very honest in saying I have no clue what this book is about, even though I've read the synopsis multiple times. There's dragons involved, hired to help out a farm, during the 1950s. Seriously, what? What I do know though, is that Patrick Ness is a wizard with words and anything he writes is bound to be an experience.





3. Library of Legends by Jamie Chang
Expected Publication Date: May 12th, 2020

A historical novel about a girl named Lian who embarks on dangerous journey across China, escaping Japan's attacks whilst trying to protect a collection of myths and folklore know as the Library of Legends. This gives me Cinderella Sister and Mao's Last Dancer vibes, and if anything, I'm hoping this read gives me a feeling of nostalgia along with a rather fulfilling adventure.





4. The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhader
Expected Publication Date: May 19th, 2020

I truly expect this to be a magical read, and something really out of the blue for me. Zeyn Joukhader delivers a story about 3 generations of Syrian Americans, tied to a mysterious species of birds and what truths lies in their relationships to the birds.





5. The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert
Expected Publication Date: May 12th, 2020

Millie runs the Cloak & Dagger, a swinging speakeasy, in the 1920s. The club's star performer, Marion, the boy in the red dress, finds himself being named the main suspect in the murder of a young socialite. Millie doesn't believe it's true but no one else is willing to help her prove Marion's innocence. Posed as A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Miss Fisher's Murder Mystery I'm expecting an enthralling murder mystery bundled together with the glitz and glam of the roaring 20s.




Other Releases To Look Out For

Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke
Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally
We Dream of Space by Erin Entranda Kelly

What Releases Are You Excited For?


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Thursday, 23 April 2020

10 Books I Want To Read Whilst We're Staying At Home // April/May TBR

I will have to admit that in the last 5 years I have really lost my motivation to read. It's not that I don't like reading anymore, I just have prioritised other things in my life over it. However, now that I have found myself with a lot more time on hand, this really is the time to pick up my love for reading again. 

I have 10 books that I want to read as we continue to stay at home and honestly, this has made me excited to start reading again! There is a mix of YA, Adult and Middle Grade novels to break up my list and keep things interesting. 

What Are You Currently Reading?


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Sunday, 19 April 2020

Michelle McNamara Leaves Behind An Incredible Legacy With "I'll Be Gone In the Dark"


Title: I'll Be Gone In The Dark 
Author: Michelle McNamara 
Publication Date: February 27th, 2018 

The masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer - the serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade - from the late Michelle McNamara. 

I'll Be Gone in the Dark offers a unique snapshot of suburban West Coast America in the 1980s and a chilling account of the wreckage left behind by a criminal mastermind. It is also a portrait of one woman's obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth, three decades later, in spite of the personal cost. 


Review


I’m worried that this review won’t really convey how accurately I feel about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark or do Michelle McNamara’s work justice. I write this with so much respect for what McNamara has left behind with this incredible read. She really has left us a legacy to remember her with. 

It’s McNamara’s writing style, how she sets out the content and facts and overall tone that makes I’ll Be Gone in the Dark stand out. It’s easy enough to head online and search up the details of the killer’s crimes and cases, but McNamara adds to the learning experience by also detailing her research efforts, the connections she made and how much her long-standing fascination with the Golden State Killer really affected her personal life. I loved that McNamara was so upfront and honest as she wrote this. She didn’t mind inviting myself, as a reader, into her daily life as she reflected on how she became interested in true crimes, which then extended into her obsession with discovering who the Golden State Killer is. She admits to her obsession, which makes reading through her much more relatable. It’s well known that we are find fascination in gruesome events or stories, and serial killers are something many people invest their time into reading, watching or learning about. McNamara’s writing also flows in a way that delivers the details of the cases in an immersive way. I could vividly envision what was occurring, which becomes very confronting but also made sure I was engrossed whilst reading. 

Beyond appreciating my reading experience, I think, ultimately, the reason why I hold I’ll Be Gone in the Dark in high regard is because of the feeling I had while reading a book that was completed and released posthumous. Michelle McNamara, sadly, passed away in 2016 - 2 years before I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was finally published. Unfortunately, I was not aware of who she was until picking up this book and so did not have the experience of reading her articles and blog pieces when she was still alive. She didn’t get the opportunity to finish writing this novel or see her work come to fruition but the completion of it, with the help of a number of people in her life, really gave us something special. That’s how I felt, at least, throughout reading it. It was also somewhat saddening to think that what I was holding in my hand had the author’s heart and soul poured into it without her even witnessing its completion, but if anything, McNamara should be proud of what I’ll Be Gone in the Dark has become. 

It’s hard not to get lost in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and find yourself becoming obsessed as McNamara was with the Golden State Killer. I will be honest in saying I barely knew anything about the Golden State Killer when starting this so reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was my first introduction to the killer and the murders he committed. This might have enhanced my reading experience as I cannot speak on behalf of those who are aware and know a fair deal about the killer. 

Ultimately, I want to thank Michelle for being the drive force behind I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and leaving us with something that took up a part of her life.  


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Sunday, 12 April 2020

Why I Both Liked and Disliked "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman

Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: March 4th, 2005
Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the kind of America. 

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a story of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. 

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You'll be surprised by what - and who - it finds there ...


Review


I am going to be very honest and say that I finished reading American Gods in October of 2018. 2018!?! As in over a year ago. 

I put off writing this review partly because I wanted to watch the TV series and do a comparison, but mostly because I was highly confused about how I felt about the read overall. I struggled with whether I wanted to write a review as well as how to write one, but ultimately felt that American Gods is worth talking about to hear what others think about it and encourage people to pick it up as well! 

You’d be hard pressed to find a novel by Neil Gaiman that is not well written. Gaiman has a way with his words, being able to bring to life rich and in-depth characters alongside immersive storylines. I flew through 3/4 of American Gods, engrossed with Shadow’s journey as he transitions from prison life to reality and becomes involved with Mr Wednesday. It was fascinating. That’s the easiest way to explain it. It was like I had been invited into this exclusive, secretive world and the longer I was there the more addicted I became and wanted to be a part of it. A part of me wanted Shadow to leave as he had already dealt with so much in his life, and another part didn’t wanted to continue to see what he got up to so it felt somewhat like a guilty pleasure. It feels weird describing my reading experience as such but it is very much true. Beyond just Shadow and Mr Wednesday’s journey, Gaiman draws on mythological legends of gods that had been previously idolised to create a plot with a fantasy element to it. I found it made the story much more interesting and I liked that I was being educated on a topic that I would never have looked into myself.

Not only was I fully captivated by the storyline, I also appreciated how much effort Gaiman put into creating his characters to make them as realistic and relatable as possible. The characteristics had traits that any normal human being would, not quite black or white. When the different characters are first presented, you easily judge them as good or bad straightaway but those lines begin to blur as you continue to read about them. This allowed the story to explore questions of what is right and wrong, whether behaviours and actions can be excused if the intention is deemed right or good and if good can and should always defeat evil. 

The struggle I had with American Gods was when I reached the last quarter. It really felt like I had hit a brick wall and it took me 2-3 months to really drag myself to the end. This isn’t to discredit the entire novel. If anything, I think it came down to my own reading experience as the plot line became more complicated and I found myself less motivated to endure it. The last quarter really made me realise I had to pay attention and rely on my memory of what had happened previously and the different characters that were introduced. No matter when they were involved in the story, at the end they still had some type of impact and it really came down to myself, as a reader, to try and remember who they were and what relations they had to the Shadow and the story itself. It really didn’t help that I kept picking up and putting down the book, because it made it harder to remember what had happened a few pages back and which characters were which. 

Maybe it’s the fact that I found it hard to finish the book and that ruined my overall reading experience, hence why I couldn’t decide if I liked American Gods or not. Also, I was slightly disappointed in myself for not enduring until the end and read the book within a timely manner. However, not that I have had time to reflect, I can honestly say that American Gods is a story that I would 100% immerse myself back in and see if my initial thoughts will change. 

I love a thought-provoking and memorable read, and Gaiman delivers that with this book. For those who have watched the show or plan to, maybe it will make it easier to follow along, in terms of the characters. Just make sure you’re ready to pay attention and you’ll be treated to a creative and captivating story that is bound to make an impression on you. 

Also, I just wanted to share that this is my favourite passage from the entire book:


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