Hi guys! How are you! I hope November was a wonderful month for you and that you read some lovely books! It was a pretty strange reading month for me. I read a lot of different things: middle grade, romance, fantasy, fairytales, non-fiction. But both of my favorite books of the month were lit-fiction about the Irish troubles. Since that’s not a topic I’ve had an interest in previously, I’m a little surprised (and currently adding 500 similar books to my TBR cause I have a problem)
Milkman by Anna Burns ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Milkman is a coming of age story set in Belfast during the troubles. The protagonist’s being stalked by the milkman, a republic terrorist with high standing in her community and trying to navigate this, while the community, consumed by suspicion and paranoia, assumes they’re having an affair. It’s written in a dense stream of consciousnesses, using no names, referring to people instead simply as Somebody McCSomebody, maybe boyfriend, the milkman and so on, which creates a tense and almost timeless atmosphere. Milkman’s a challenging, original, dark, brilliant and surprisingly funny read. I loved it.
A Goat’s Song by Dermot Healy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book’s title, which is drawn from the Classic Greek word for tragedy, gives you a fair idea of what to expect from it’s pages. Split into four distinct parts it tells the story of the doomed love affair between a catholic playwright and a protestant actress, and it’s aftermath. It also explores her coming of age and her RUC father’s work. It’s bleak, filled with rage, anxiety, alcohol, religious conflicts and grief, but there’s also moments of almost breathtaking beauty, the kind that makes your soul ache a little. I knew the moment I finished it I’d have to read it again.
It’s so hard talking about books in a series without spoling anything, so prepare for vagueness. When we’re reunited with Fitz, 15 years have passed and he finds himself thrown back into the world of conflict and conspiracy he thought he’d left behind. At the center of the first book is a mystery, a missing prince and a conspiracy. Plot-wise it felt quite different from the first trilogy, but I really liked it. The second book however has a strong case of second book syndrome, I finished it a couple of weeks ago and I’m already struggling to remember what happened in it. It did introduce some new and interesting characters though, and since I’m all about characters, I enjoyed it. And the third book? The third book was wonderful, exactly the kind of epic conclusion all fantasy series should have.
“Every weekday, rain or shine, gunplay or bombs, stand-offs or riots, I preferred to walk home reading my latest book. This would be a nineteenth-century book because I did not like twentieth-century books because I did not like the twentieth-century.” Milkman.
Wildwood by Colin Meloy ⭐⭐⭐⭐
When Prue’s little brother is kidnapped by crows and taken in to the Impassable Wild, an area of mysterious wilderness on the border of Portland, she has to go into the woods to get him back. I’ve heard very mixed things about this one and the main complaints seem to be that it’s boring and/or too whimsical. It is very whimsical, but I didn’t think it was boring. I flew through these 500+ pages in less than two days and was charmed by it. There’s just something about a magical forest and talking animals that never fails to delight me. Also, I love Owls.
Paris is Always a Good Idea by Nicolas Barreau ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book was such a sweet surprise. I was skeptical, cause I didn’t like the first book I read by this author, but this was simply lovely. It’s a love story set in Paris about an ageing children’s book author, a young illustrator and an American literature professor, brought together by the magical story of a blue tiger. It’s the kind of story that romanticizes everything, but that’s ok cause so do I. I can picture this as an indie movie, starring some lovely french actress with a long neck and dramatic eyebrows and an American actor with really thick, shiny hair and deep dimples.
Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is the last book about the Moominvalley, it’s set in autumn and follows a cast of odd, little creatures who all decide to pay a visit to the Moomin family, only to discover they family’s not home. Reading Tove Jansson always fills me with so much nostalgic and this was no exception. It’s a lovely, autumnal read with just the right balance of darkness and humor. Jansson has such an eye for details, for the quirks and oddities that make us human. I was immensely relived when I realized I’d skipped a book and still have one more Moomin adventure to look forward too!
Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is a lovely book of stunningly illustrated fairytale retelling, all centered around brave, clever heroines. The stories themselves are beautifully written, but stick very close to the original stories. Forsyth expands upon, rather then re-imagines, the source material. By adding depth and complexity to characters and backdrops most often seen as fairytale archetypes, she bring the stories to radiant new life. I simply have a preference for retellings that take a few more liberties.
“Yellow is Ochún’s color. I remember asking Madrina when she was trying to teach me this tradition why the color of love isn’t pink, or red. Think of the golden sun, she said. It makes everything on earth fall in love – how the ocean kisses land, how land nestles trees, how swaying trees always whisper sweet nothings into our ears.” Pride
Pride by Ibi Zoboi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pride is a modern remix of Pride and Prejudice set in Bushwick, with a Haitian-Dominican protagonist. There was plenty of things I liked about this book, the family dynamics, the strong sense of place and community, the themes of gentrification, race, class and education. But while I felt Zuri’s love for her sisters, her neighborhood, her poetry, even for Howard University – I didn’t feel the love between her and Darius at all. Romance usually isn’t the be-all and end-al of a book for me. But since Pride and Predjudice is one of literature’s greatest love stories, I was expecting a few more sparks.
The Word for Woman is Wilderness by Abi Andrews ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Erin’s fed up with the lack of female-led wilderness narratives, so she travels to Alaska to make a documentary about being a woman in the wilderness. She travels to Iceland from England with a fright ship, to Greenland on a science ship studying whales, across Greenland by dogsled and finally hitchhikes though Canada. Her narrative touches on a lot of interesting topics: feminism, wilderness, space-travel, cetaceans, first nations cultures, the myth of the mountain man. But the protagonist’s philosophical musings eventually overshadowed the rest of the narrative for me, to the point where I struggled to stay invested in Erin’s journey.
Wood Angel by Erin Bow ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is the story of Plain Kate, a woodcarver’s daughter who’s so talented with a blade that people think she’s a witch. After losing her father she’s forced to make her own way in a harsh wold. Where what makes you special, can just as quickly be what makes you other and people will turn on you just as fast. At it’s core it’s a story about being an outsider and the book has a very oppressive atmosphere, from the thick, creeping, fog which follows Kate on her journey to the narrow-mindedness and hostility of the people she encounters.
“Now Catherine pored over books alone… when she’d emerged she would feel transformed. A new dimension had been added to her consciousness. The characters existed more strongly in her mind than real people… The afterglow would make her anxious – anxious enough to read the same book again. Finishing a book was something she never wanted to do.” A Goat’s Song
Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland ⭐⭐⭐
I was charmed by this book’s opening chapters, in which the protagonist finds a lost book on the sidewalk and puts up a found-poster in the window of the bookstore she works in. A poet wearing mismatched doc’s comes in to claim it and she scolds him for being careless with his books. It was the perfect set up for a slightly quirky rom-com set in a bookstore, but that’s not what this book is. It deals with some heavy topics which weren’t explored with the nuance I think they deserve. I mostly enjoyed this, but I dont think the tone matched the content.
How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis ⭐⭐⭐
When Samantha Ellis and her best friend visited the Yorkshire moors, they started arguing about who they’d rather be: Cathy or Jane. Samantha has always been a dedicated Cathy fangirl, but when her friend makes som some compelling points – she starts to wonder what other heroines she might have misjudged. To figure it out she re-reads the books that shaped her and reflects on what she’s learned from their heroines, from Anne of Green Gables to Scarlett O’Hara. This was a quick and entertaining read, and I enjoyed Ellis’s point of view on a lot of these books. Unsurprisingly I found the chapters about books I’m not interested in less interesting.