Book Reviews | June 2017

As some of you may know, I’m currently doing a reading challenge to read 40 books in a year, after falling way short of my 52 books target last year. To be honest this year is going pretty abysmally too – at the halfway point of the year I’ve read 14 books, about 6 behind schedule, so I have some catching up to do if I’m going to make it to 40 by the end of the year.

In the meantime, this is my 6-month mark review of the best books I’ve read in the last three months (yes I know it’s a bit late – I’ve been busy!). And what I have lacked in quantity, I have certainly made up for in quality…

The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant was not what I expected at all, even though I’m not sure what I was expecting. Set in a mythical version of medieval England, the novel reads very much like a fairytale, full of knights and dragons and humble underdogs determined to fulfil a quest. But underneath the hero tale is a beautiful allegory about memory – about whether we would be best off without or worst memories, or whether losing them would diminish our sense of self. Like Never Let Me Go it’s slow moving at times but beautifully written, and I’m still not sure what to think of the ending. If you have any opinions on it, let me know.

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides

The tone of this book puts me in mind of The Catcher in the Rye – even though the subject of the title are the five Lisbon sisters, the book is really about the group of men recalling their teen years who provide the plural narration of the novel. The boys are painfully predictable, romanticising the sisters as mysterious, ethereal beings who they lust after from a distance. Through the novel they seem to be wrestling with the mystery of why the sisters killed themselves, but the conclusion I took is that the reasons are as complicated as the girls themselves, who the boys never took the time to know.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

I re-read this book literally on the road, flying along Cuban highways in dilapidated retro cars squashed in next to strangers who just happened to be going the same way. I’ve always found On The Road strangely therapeutic; it’s fast-paced, rambling, nonsensical at times, and yet like most Beat literature it is these very qualities that make reading it kind of magical. The characters might be irresponsible, self-indulgent narcissists, but at its core this book captures what it’s like to be young and disillusioned and directionless, and to throw yourself into life regardless.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin has been one of my favourite books ever since I read it for my A-Levels and fell completely in love with it. I hate the blurb of my copy as it undersells the book as some soppy, clichéd story of star-crossed lovers that you’ve heard a million times before, whereas in reality it is so much more. Corelli and Pelagia’s romance is intertwined with the atrocities of the Second World War, hilariously quick-witted jibes at the political figures of the time, and Carlo, one of the most beautifully tragic characters you will ever come across. Seriously, his character introduction is one of the most moving pieces of prose ever written.

The Coma – Alex Garland

I picked this novel by Alex Garland up cheap on Amazon, a couple of years after reading The Beach and loving it. The Coma by comparison is a short story, but packs a lot in to what becomes a seriously trippy novel. The novel begins with the protagonist getting attacked on the tube and beaten into a coma, and we spend the rest of the story following him around his consciousness as he tries to wake up, only ever half-sure if what we are reading is reality or imagination.

Oh, and a little-known fact? The ‘random words’ he screams in his head aren’t really random. Read the first letters of each word…

What have you been reading recently? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Goodreads.

Tapas at Ambiente, Leeds

6 Leeds Restaurants I Always Go Back To

When you live somewhere for a while, even a big city with countless culinary options, you find yourself wandering back to the same places for your dinners, your morning coffees and your after-work drinks. Sometimes I feel guilty for doing it, like I’m being incredibly dull and unimaginative returning to the same restaurants when there are currently new places popping up in Leeds almost every week. Surely I should be trying to get reservations for that launch night, or clamouring to be the first person in the new bar everyone’s talking about?

But there are some places that deserve repeat custom. When you’re in a rush, stressed from a long day or nervously heading out for a promising date, there’s something undeniably comforting about sitting down and knowing that, whatever else happens, you’re going to get a great meal. Here are the restaurants in Leeds I go back to again and again. Continue reading

Certificate from Barista Class at 200 Degrees North

4 Fun Classes to Take in Leeds

Do you ever miss your school days? No, me neither. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss learning, having all that dedicated time when you were not only encouraged but expected to be filling your brains with new skills and information. But learning doesn’t have to stop when you leave school – here are just a few of the ways you can pick up a new talent and have loads of fun along the way. Continue reading

52 Books in 52 Weeks Reading Challenge

52 Books Reading Challenge: 9-Month Review

I’m now nine months into my ‘read 52 books in 52 weeks’ challenge, and I’m still a million miles behind reaching my target but I am so happy that it’s pushed me to dedicate more of my spare time to reading. I’m also really pleased with the book choices I made in the past three months; in my 6-month review I felt like I struggled to find even five books to talk about that I’d really enjoyed, but recently I’ve loved almost everything I’ve picked up. Here are my thoughts on some of my favourite books from the past three months. Continue reading

Hake at Iberica Leeds

An Evening at Iberica Leeds

Last Wednesday I was invited by Emma to be her plus one for an event at Iberica, a fairly new tapas restaurant on East Parade that’s drawn a lot of attention on social media for having the most beautiful bathrooms in Leeds. While I’d heard a lot of praise about the toilets, initial reviews I’d read of the food were not that enthusiastic, but a few weeks ago my Spanish housemate mentioned that she’d been with her parents and thought the dishes were excellent. I figured she ought to know, so I was thrilled to be able to try it out myself. Continue reading

Why Ghostbusters Is The Film All Little Girls Need To See

On Saturday night, I went to the cinema for the first time in god-knows-how-long, handing over the extortionate amount of cash Vue now charges and settling down with a knot in the pit of my stomach and one thought running through my mind.

“Please be good.”

Why? Because I was here to see the new Ghostbusters, which was subjected to huge amounts of criticism, outrage and downright vitriol online after it was announced that the cast would be played by *gasp* women. Legions of whiny men took to the internet to claim that their childhoods would be ruined, apparently sparing no thought for all the girls and women who have grown up accustomed to their gender being sidelined in film since the dawn of Hollywood. I was lucky enough to have a fairly gender-neutral upbringing, but I’ve still put up with years of seeing my gender reflected back at me as one-dimensional, hyper-sexualised secondary characters. I wanted Ghostbusters to be the anti-thesis of all these lazy character profiles, but I also really wanted it to simply be a good film. Continue reading

Gin and tonic at Old Tom's Gin Kitchen, Leeds

Review: Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen at The Hedonist Project

This is just going to be a short appreciation post about my new favourite haunt – The Hedonist Project’s latest incarnation, Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen. I love their idea of a ‘permanent pop-up’; a bar that always exists in the same place but can look completely different from one visit to the next, but their winter venture, a Whisky Parlour, was unavailable to me due to me really, really hating whisky. Gin, on the other hand, is my drink of choice, and I’m already hooked on Old Tom’s. Continue reading