And then suddenly it’s March again tomorrow. Oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ February was also my birthday month! On the 16th I turned 26 and I got a bunch of books, some from a friend, some from my parent and some I bought myself. I might do a kind of haul next week but I might not, I don’t know yet. Let me know if you’re interested!
“There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference, and those who make the world better. Be one who makes the world better, if you can.”
Veronica McCreedy has lived in her mansion by the sea for a very long time, alone, except for her housekeeper who comes by every day. She likes a good cup of darjeeling and a nature documentary, and picks up litter on her walks. For a long time this was enough, but then the loneliness and the boredom start to nag. A new documentary series about penguins remind Veronica of her former fire and set her on the biggest adventure of her life.
This was such an enjoyable read. Veronica is a grumpy and rigid old lady, but as you get to know her throughout the book she defrosts and you realize there is so much depth to her character. I also really enjoyed the perspective of her grandson, such a complex character. He has his demons and traumas but is also a really lively and cheerful guy. The secondary characters are all also really complex and full of layers, the whole book is a really interesting study of characters.
The story, too, is amazing. An old lady throws her whole life around (for a while) and does something truly unexpected, and everyone around her gets all in a panic about it, but she’s stronger than people take her for. We go back into her past through diary passages, we see her work through old trauma. The story gets quite dark at times, mostly because of the flash backs, but all in all it’s a message of hope, of wonder, of that you’re never too old to change things. It’s heartwarming without ever getting cheesy, funny without ever getting annoyingly so. Definitely a great read if you want a fun story that’s also profound somehow.
Such a heartwarming but also sometimes dark novel about finding love and family and the things you’re passionate about.
Content warnings (might contain spoilers): sexual harassment in a flashback (but no rape), death, illness, second world war, teenage pregnancy, forced adoption
~ Follow Me ~
“I felt safe and secure like I’d never been before and so I promised myself that I’d experience that sense of comfort and contentment at least one more time in my life – even if it took me for ever to find it again.”
Roisin O’Connor and her son Ben say goodbye to their beloved neighbor Mabel, who recently died of cancer. Mabel was more than a neighbor, she was family, and their savior when they first came to live in Ballybray. Her nephew Aiden comes to Ireland to sell the house and pack everything up, a handsome man who Mabel was constantly praising, making life only more difficult for Roisin..
This is a really cozy read. It’s about a super slow burn romance, about family, about figuring out what you want from life, about not letting yourself push into a direction you don’t want to go by people who don’t really care about you. A nice story set in the countryside of Ireland with a cool plot that does take the story into surprising directions. It’s about delving deep into the past and finding connection and your true home.
The characters are what I liked most about this book. Although we follow Roisin’s POV, all of the characters are very rich and specifically, very realistic. I was especially pleasantly surprised by Aiden, I was really expecting him to be snarky and mean half the book (like most with this enemies to lovers trope) but he got over himself pretty quickly – which seems way more realistic than how it’s usually done. But I also liked how Roisin’s trauma wasn’t just resolved easily, and came back with a vengeance just when she thought it was gone (just like in real life), but manages to climb out that dark hole again. These people won’t sweep you off your feet, but they’re gently realistic and really fun to read about.
The reason I am only giving it three stars is that it was really, really slow. And I like slow books, but I really felt about a fourth could be cut out. Not necessarily a fourth of the plot, but paragraphs here and there that were just doing anything for the story and only repeated information. I got frustrated by the repetition and I think a heavy editing round would have improved it all a lot.
But all in all it’s a cozy book with interesting and realistic characters, great to curl up with on a winter’s day.
Content warnings (might contain spoilers): death, cancer, abusive marriage in the past, flashbacks to abusive marriage
~ Follow Me ~
First month of a New Year done! Last weekend I finally dismantled the Christmas tree and the first snowdrops are already appearing (although they’re a bit early). After a busy December I read and wrote a lot less this month, so this’ll be a short post! I’ve actually been watching a lot more Netflix. Finally finished The Witcher (pretty bad but also pretty good somehow) and I’ve been catching up on Virgin River (LOVE THAT SHOW). Yesterday I watched The Dig, which is a really cool historical film based on true events about archeology. But I read a lot less, but that’s okay!
I hope everyone’s hanging in there ❤ Let’s get into it!
It’s finally actually cold here where I live. We don’t have very cold winter, even less so the last decade or so, but last night the puddles froze, and that might be the most winter we’ll get this year. But at least there are always fictional winters! Here are my favorite books to curl up with during the darkest days, when I wish it would actually snow instead of just rain icy water, that are perfect to disappear into when you’re longing for snow and ice.
“We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.”
To be honest I’d picked up this book because of the beautiful cover. It perfectly expresses the winter country scenery, that seems colorless at first glance, but actually is full of that more subtle muted color that only seems to come out in the depths of winter when there isn’t any snow. I’ve had my own fair share of winters, and have always struggled against them, so I thought this might be an interesting book to read.
I was taken aback by it’s gentle wisdom. It’s a collection of the author’s own experiences and some of her friends’ experiences about literal winters and metaphorical winters. Those times in life when either by external or internal influences, have to retreat. When you can’t join in with life as you’re used to or as you’d like to. In our society we often see these periods as failures, as something to be ashamed about, but May argues that these fallow times aren’t just inevitable, they’re necessary. They’re periods for reflection, quiet growth, rest.
It’s a beautiful book, wonderfully written, full of anecdotes. It’s never preachery, doesn’t try to convince you of a new way to be happy or productive or perfect, but rather tells you it’s okay to not be okay sometimes, and that these times might even be beneficial if handled well. She follows a winter full of stories of her own winters, of her retreating, but also her reemerging. With honest, poignant and healing storytelling, May shows us that we don’t have to struggle against the natural tides of life, but accept them, and ourselves, with a gentle kindness like the soft touch of snow.
Content warnings (might contain spoilers): illness (appendicitis), hospitals, being in an emergency room but getting no help from staff, very small mention of someone’s father dying of suicide, cancer scare
~ Follow Me ~
Happy New Year everybody! We’ve made it! I know nothing will literally change because the date has changed but it feels good to sort of shrug off the stress of the year and start afresh (or at least attempt to). I hope everyone has managed to get some rest and peace to start the new year in xx Anyway, here’s my recap of what I read and wrote in December.
Well, the year is finally almost over. I’ll not dwell on what a year it was, we all know, but right get into what you’re on this blog for anyway: books. I had quite a good reading year, about 65 books read, and a lot of them were really good but there were only a few that really stood out. These were the books that were just drop-dead amazing, that I still think about regularly, that are my new favorites.
By the way, these are not books that necessarily came out in 2020, just ones I read for the first time this year, and no rereads. I actually reread a lot of my favorites, so if I counted those we’d see a lot of repetition every year when I make this post 😉
But anyway, here, in no particular order, are my absolute favorite reads of 2020.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
This was a books that took the book world by storm when it came out in hardback (it’s a real BRICK) back when, but it took me a while to read it. I’d gotten it for the summer of 2019, but somehow never got to it. But this January, I finally did. I was blown away. By the characters, the plot, the world, the writing. I think it might be the best fantasy epic I’ve ever read. Also, it’s such a relief to read a feminist fantasy, I never realized how exhausting it is to read fantasy written by not super woke men, Priory was a breath of fresh air. Honestly, if you’re a women or non-binary person and you like the concept of fantasy but can never really enjoy any fantasy books, you want to try this one. I’m still working on a longer review because I truly want to do this book justice but, my god, it is epic.
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
I think this may be one of my favorites because there’s a lot in it that feels personally really relatable to me in smaller ways. Perhaps not always literally like the characters, but some form of it. Anyway, I read it twice (!) this year, and it’s just so good. It gives such a good image of chronic illnesses, not only the ~drama~ but especially day-to-day life with it. It’s also a story about two people just really finding each other, really clicking. The writing is almost like a film, and very funny. You can read my full review here.
Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour
A beautifully haunting tale, about a young girl ageing out of the foster system, who has a secret. She goes to work on a farm, to be a kind of homeschool teacher to a young boy. What struck me most about this book isn’t necessarily the story, though that’s beautiful as well, but the raw and haunting atmosphere LaCour manages to create with her writing. The heartbreak that hangs over everything like gossamer thread. It’s only a short book, and definitely worth the read. You can find my full review here.
Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem
This one I love because it’s such an interesting subject, and beautifully written. It’s about Maiklem’s finds and adventures as a mudlarker (someone who looks for things in the mud of the Thames at low tide) but it’s so much more than that. Maiklem weaves daily history and big historical events with the present day. She shows what a piece of pottery might have been and paints such a realistic picture it’s like you’re there. But she also describes the very act of being out on the river, of being so close to history, with such detail it’s like you’re looking over her shoulder, following her muddy footsteps. Absolutely worth a read if you’re at all interested in history!
A Gift in December by Jenny Gladwell
I read a lot of Christmassy books this December, and a couple others that I really loved as well, but none of them managed to hit that sweet spot as much as this one did. It helps that it’s set in Norway, a country I’ve always been mesmerized with, but it’s so much more than that. It’s such a cool mix of romance and mystery and historical, with a great cast of characters. It didn’t go places I expected it would. Honestly, this is a great book to read any time of the year, not just as a Christmas book. You can find my full review here.
So that was it for this year. As I said, there were more books I loved, but these really, really made a big impression on me.
Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? What are YOUR favorite books of 2020?
And a happy New Year 🙂
~ Follow Me ~
So I have some really cool news, I won the Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest this year with my story ‘Ice’!
I also got to read my own story for the Weird Christmas podcast (you can find the podcast here, my story begins at 61:00) which was both cool and scary as I’m not a native speaker, but I think I did my best.
But you can just also read ‘Ice’ here (scroll down a little) together with 2nd prize winner and all the honorable mentions (all such great quality!) so please check out my story and all the other stories and the podcast and the rest of the Weird Christmas site. If you like dark folklore and strange Christmas things, I promise you’ll enjoy the podcast and the rest of the blog (I know I do).
And if you enjoy the stories, I have more creepy Christmas flash pieces on my writing blog as well.
*insert me doing a happy dance because I’m so excited*
“Finding herself was going to be a lot harder than she’d first thought.”
Holly Devine just had her heart well and truly broken. She flees to her Aunt Clara’s cozy cottage to hide away and recover. But Aunt Clara has other ideas, together with her friends she makes Holly an advent calendar, challenging Holly to try new things and discover who she is again. Soon, she finds Finn Jackson, the handsome and carefree pub landlord, to help her with the tasks. Slowly Holly finds herself again, and challenges Finn to do the same. But is he ready?
I enjoyed this book. It was fast and cute, the characters interesting. The little world of Sunflower island with its inhabitants was a nice place to be for a while. I really liked the friendship and clear sparks between Holly and Finn. The whole idea of the advent calendar to encourage Holly to find herself again was an interesting idea and I think it really did deliver.
I got a little impatient towards the last third of the book, as things felt a little stretched out. The characters needed to change, but when they did it felt a little unnatural. I can’t really explain it, but there was something odd about how they suddenly talked about their feelings, especially Finn. A little stiff, when it was supposed to be heartfelt. Dialogue was often a little expository, a little unnatural.
But all in all, it’s a cute and enjoyable romance for the holiday season!
Trigger warnings (contains spoilers): cheating, death of a loved one in the past, man abandons woman who is pregnant with his child in the past