Books You Need In Your Life: July – September 2017

Welcome to the third quarterly edition of my Books You Need In Your Life series! I’ve read some absolute crackers over the course of the summer months, including the following…

Notes On My Family by Emily Critchley

‘Dad has made Spaghetti Bolognese…I only have the Bolognese as I don’t eat starch and protein together and Nan only has Bolognese because she thinks pasta is exotic.’

Becoming acquainted with 13 year old Lou, the narrator of this book, was an absolute pleasure. The narrative voice was so distinctive and unique, and the only thing I can really compare it to would be Charlie’s matter-of-fact telling of the world in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Although Lou does appear to be non-neurotypical, and this is something that’s hinted at throughout the book, there are elements that will likely be relatable for many others: a particular favourite moment of mine was her running commentary on a mindfulness exercise where she was asked to imagine she was alone in a deserted forest. Instead of finding this calming, as intended, her humorous justification for her emergency backpack is just brilliant: if I was part of this exercise, I’d be fretting about antihistamine cream too, for sure. Notes On My Family is one of those books that’ll put you directly in the shoes of the storyteller, having you smiling one minute and your heart hurting the next, and it really does stand out as an entertaining and captivating read. Pre-order now or grab your own copy from 15th November 2017; you won’t regret it, promise.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green [re-read]

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

So, I read most of John Green’s books for the first time around 6-7 years ago, and thinking back, Katherines was the one that I seemed to remember the least about. I’ve been really into re-reading some of my old favourites lately, so I was excited to give this one another go.

I’ve always loved Green’s unique take on teenage life, and I firmly believe that he’s the only author who can create a scene featuring floating tampon strings and make it somewhat life-affirming for the reader. Although I’d say this one has probably the most predictable story line of any of his novels, it’s still without a doubt a wonderful read. Colin’s journey and (lack of) eureka moments is thought-provoking throughout, and his friendship with Hassan is the kind that makes my heart happy. It’s an interesting read, and will leave you feeling remarkably glad that you weren’t born a prodigy or genius.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“The thing that irks me most is this shattered prison, after all. I’m tired, tired of being enclosed here. I’m wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there: not seeing it dimly through tears, and yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart, but really with it, and in it… you think you are better and more fortunate than I; in full health and strength – you are sorry for me – very soon that will be altered. I shall be sorry for you.”

To tell you the truth, I’ve always been a little bit intimidated by books written by the Brontë sisters. I’ve wanted to read them in the past, but I’ve felt worried that they’d be *too much*, or go straight over my head, and I’d miss out on the incredible and inevitable effect these works seem to have on people.

I needn’t have worried: this book was a work of ART. Whilst it did take a bit of extra brain power for me to really get into the story, and keep on top of the characters at times, the story was absolutely mesmerising and the writing style was right up my street. I was particularly proud of (mostly) being able to interpret big chunks of Joseph’s strong Yorkshire dialect: it was eye-opening to see phrases that some of my family still use today used by Joseph in a completely different context. Besides that, this book had a strong emotional impact on me, with the lack of justice in particular parts actually giving me angst; I don’t consider myself a violent person, but there were moments where I wanted to actually punch particular fictional characters in their smug fictional faces. I adored this book, and as soon as I finished the last page I turned back to the beginning to experience the story again, knowing what I knew now. Thanks to Wuthering Heights, I definitely won’t be afraid of trying more of the Brontë works in the future.

Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

‘”Oh my God, are you okay? I’m so sorry.” I almost reached out and touched him, but managed to stop myself in time. “I prioritised the tea. I’m sorry.”‘

I’d heard only good things about this book prior to it being released, and knew I’d be purchasing it regardless, but I nearly fell off my chair when I found out that Freshers was based on the two authors’ experiences at the University of York. Not your typical ‘party uni’, you might say, but one where I’d experienced Freshers’ Week myself not so many years ago. I could not WAIT to read these two talented authors’ perspectives on it, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

This book was bat sh*t crazy in the very best way. It completely captured the bizarre social phenomenon that is The Freshers Week, and created characters that had you immediately invested in their storylines and, quite frankly, their wellbeing. The only thing I didn’t love was how often the word ‘mental’ was used as a synonym for chaotic/busy (which I now know to be a tad problematic in terms of ableism), but I suppose it reflects the language a typical student would use, and that’s probably an issue to tackle another time. Regardless, this book gave a better insight into student life than any of the resources universities currently provide, and did so in a way that kept you awkwardly chuckling, mostly out of sheer horror, throughout. I firmly believe that this book should be core reading for anybody waiting to make the big move away, and it’s DEFINITELY one to read if you’re a fellow Uni Of York alumni like yours truly… you’ll spot the Derwent references straight away, and in all honesty, be glad that you made it out alive.

Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivision

‘Lets not beat around the bush: Toby is a dog’s name. I’ve known at least three dogs called Toby (…). I don’t think I’m overreacting when I say that kissing somebody with a dog’s name is bordering on beastiality. It’s only a short step from dating a boy called Toby to marrying a man named Fido’.

A week or so after devouring Freshers, it just so happened that Lobsters called out to me whilst browsing in a bookshop. Immediately after realising the Lobsters title was distantly related to the iconic “he’s her lobster!” scene in the TV show Friends, the book was in my possession and ready to be devoured.

Again, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison did not disappoint: it’s the first story I’ve read set in that horrendously tumultuous time between finishing A-Levels and going to university, and the multiple dilemmas that present themselves to the characters throughout the book are straight up relatable. I saw more of myself in Hannah than I’ve seen in any other fictional character for a long time, and I felt genuine anguish when the two characters I was shipping from the beginning didn’t get together quickly enough for my liking. Despite mentally yelling at Sam to get his sh*t together more often than not whilst reading this book, the writing style was once again genuinely hilarious. Like in Freshers, I did see some problematic ableist language which slightly dampened my love for this book, and I would have preferred it had this not been included. Aside from that, however, I have officially become a super-fan of these two talented authors, and I cannot wait to read more of their collaborative work in the future.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Let me say this right now: the genre of this book is way out of my usual comfort zone, and this is not the type of story I’d usually pick up for myself in a bookshop. However, the blurb of the book and the ridiculously gorgeous cover alone were enough to capture my attention, and I’m so glad they did: this has for sure been one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

It just goes to show that a book set way ahead in the future, and narrated by Romy, a girl literally born in space, can still be somewhat relatable to us ordinary Earth folk. The story grips you right from the start, and keeps you desperately holding on for answers all the way through to the very last page. I love a good stomach-dropping plot twist, and The Loneliest Girl definitely delivered on that front too. Lauren James, your mind is seriously incredible; thank you for sharing it with us readers. Now, when do we get a sequel?!

Last night I finished #TheLoneliestGirl by @Lauren_E_James and… woah. I have only two words: sequel please.
— Pippa (@lifeofpippa_) September 19, 2017

The Spinster Club Series by Holly Bourne [re-read]

‘These words – words like OCD and bipolar – are not words to use lightly (…). People smile and use them, proud of themselves for learning them, like they should get a sticker or something. Not realising that if those words are said to you by a medical health professional, as a diagnosis as something you’ll probably have forever, they’re words you don’t appreciate being misused every single day by somebody who likes to keep their house quite clean’.

I first read the three books forming The Spinster Club series last year, and I really do believe they consolidated my love for YA novels. The series follows Evie, Amber, Lottie and their friends during their two years of A-Levels, as they fight the patriarchy and form their infamous Spinster Club. Holly Bourne’s humorous writing style is right up my street, offering plenty of moments that made me smile to myself, and concluding chapters so brimming with loveliness that they actually made me tear up.

The first book, Am I Normal Yet? is by far my favourite, offering a lighthearted yet harrowing insight into Evie’s life with severe mental illness. The next book, How Hard Can Love Be? is such a heartwarming read, especially for those of us who relate to aspects of Amber; reading it for the first time gave me infinite amounts of hope and reassurance for the future. Finally, What’s A Girl Gotta Do? is the definition of empowerment. Whilst Lottie isn’t my favourite character of all time, she acts as such a motivator for standing up for what you believe in, whatever the cost of that may be. Oh, and don’t forget And A Happy New Year?, set during the girls’ first Christmas at home after a term of uni. It gave me some of the closure and answers I needed, but I can’t help but wish for yet another novel in the series; I genuinely wonder what the girls would be up to now. I really recommend giving these books a go if you’re a fan of comical reads, feminism, cheesy snacks, or a combination of the three… I know I am.

It’s truly baffling that my next one of these quarterly posts will mark the end of the year: my first year of blogging, too. I’ve loved doing these little book reviews and cannot WAIT to settle in for colder months of cosy reading sessions and to *hopefully* replenish my book collection for my birthday/at Christmas. In the meantime, you can see all of my recent bookish conquests on Goodreads here, and, as always, do let me know if you have any recommendations of your own!

Disclaimer: Each of the above reads are linked by the title. I earn a small commission from any purchase made from following these affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. This is also the case for any Wordery orders placed by following this cheeky link. I’m so subtle, I know… I’m also very grateful to receive books from various publishers and authors, some of which are included in my posts. Others are re-reads of old favourites, and most are purchased of my own accord. I’d like to make clear that I’m under no obligation to review any of the complementary books I receive, so do be assured that all of the reads included in this post are genuine favourites of mine!

Find my January- March 2017 favourites here, and my April- June 2017 favourites here!

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