Just Another Monthly #3

Something to think about:

It’s a question that has been posed many times before, but one I have never given much thought to. So, I asked myself, what celebrity guests would I invite to a dinner party. My dinner party is for celebrities that are still alive only (because otherwise, I’d probably only have a table full of dead people) and it’s a dinner party for 8 people (including myself), so I need to invite 7 celebrities. So, the celebrities that would be receiving this very exclusive invite would be:

Sir David Attenborough: ok yes, let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. I mean, who wouldn’t want Sir Dave at their dinner party? He would probably terrify me talking about how messed up our planet is now, BUT we all need that. We all need to be scared about our planet’s health right now.

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Rupaul: YASSSSSSSS queen. Of course. Obvs. He is incredibly interesting, wise and so much fun. Rupaul would be a definite at my dinner party.

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Sir Ken Robinson: Who? The very clever creativity expert, speaker and international educationalist. If you’ve ever watched his TED talk you’d understand why I’d want him at my dinner party. He’s incredibly charming and witty, but that aside he is fascinating. One of those people you could listen to all day. I bang on about my love for Sir Ken in my blog post about the importance of creativity for children HERE

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Michelle Obama: Major girl crush on our Shell here. I can just imagine it: Michelle lining up the sambucca shots at 2am, regaling us all with tales of the White House and slagging off Trump and I am 100% here for it.

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Danny Dyer: Why? Do I really need to explain? Because it’s DANNY FACKING DYER that’s why. He would also be sat next to me, so we can slag off David Cameron together. Twat.

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Rylan: Because, well……Rylan. Also, he would clearly be excellent company, a whole lot of fun and is actually a lot more intelligent than his TV persona portrays.

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Vanessa Feltz: Damn straight, I went there. Come on, she would be absolutely brilliant at a dinner party. I bloody LOVE mouthy, clever women, so Vanessa is right up my street. And if Vanessa can’t make it, I’d invite Kathy Burke.

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This now begs the question, who would you invite to your dinner party?

Something to be cheerful about:

  • Cheerful and delicious, a 64-metre-long “fatberg” in Sidmouth has finally been removed. Workers winched down a manhole wearing special breathing gear, chipped away at the mass of congealed oils and rubbish (mmmm) and filled 36 tankers. The fatberg will now be converted into energy to use at a sewage plant. Good work!
  • The Duchess of York has not only embarked on writing poetry, but her best pal Will.i.am. wants to set her poetic verses to music. Apparently, he refers to her as his “homegirl” and as the “real Fergie”, and the two of them regularly take tea together. Watch out for the music collaboration the world has probably not been waiting for.
  • A wildlife expert, Kate MacRae, has built an adorable bird box that looks like a miniature living room inside for the birds in her garden and has set up live cams inside. It is absolutely gorgeous. You can view this live cam and others that she has set up HERE.

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Something to buy:

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Black Floral Print Tie Sleeve Tea Dress, £28, from Miss Selfridge

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Rock & Pop Icons Tea Towels, £12, full range from Bold & Noble

Something to read:

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Half the Sky: How to Change the World by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn.

This is another one of those books that everyone should be forced to read (I really should do a post on that), it takes you around the world meeting amazing women who have survived or are still struggling in terrible circumstances. Here’s one fact that my mind is still reeling from in the book:

More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they are girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century combined.

It’s not a book to be taken lightly. It’s a difficult read, detailing female oppression across the world. What’s great about the book is that it talks about ways and initiatives that local women in these countries have been able to help themselves (and this seems to be the most effective way as opposed to the “white saviour” method). This book leaves you with a feeling of angry injustice, but also a feeling of respect, awe and hope for these women. Everyone should read this book and read it now. The website for the Half the Sky movement is HERE.

Something to watch:

I have been watching so many good programmes of late and these are the latest that I thoroughly recommend.

Derry Girls

Derry Girls Season 2

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Russian Doll

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After Life

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Fleabag Season 2

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Broad City Season 5 (last ever season whaaaa!)

Something to cook:

Goats Cheese & Walnut Gnocchi

Speedy and very easy dish that you can quickly cobble together for a fresh evening meal.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 pack of gnocchi

1 pack of green beans (or any greens you fancy)

Butter

Couple of fistfuls of walnuts

Garlic Clove

Goats cheese

Half a lemon

Salt & pepper

Method

  • Steam the greens for 6 minutes or so
  • Then fry the greens in a bit of butter along with the walnuts
  • Add the gnocchi to the water you used to steam the greens and boil for a couple of minutes
  • Add the garlic clove (crushed or chopped- whatever you prefer) to the greens & walnuts and fry for a minute
  • Juice the lemon half and chop the cheese
  • Drain the gnocchi
  • Mix the gnocchi, greens & walnuts together along with the goats cheese, lemon juice and seasoning
  • Shove in mouth
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Again, many apologies for the terrible food photography. It’s not my forte.

Something to help save the planet with:

Conscious

I’m bit of a Paperchase whore to be honest with you, so I was super pleased to hear that they have brought out their own Conscious Living stationary range. Everything is made from recycled and ethically resourced materials. They’ve used materials such as old coffee cups, recycled leather, bamboo fibre, sugar canes and old water bottles to make their products. You can view the full range HERE and read about the different materials they’ve used HERE. Prices range from 80p to £20. Well done Paperchase.

Something to enjoy from the Blogosphere:

I’ve mentioned this before, but Christine from I’m Sick and So Are You is a terrible writer and her blog is awful. This particular post of hers left me feeling absolutely nothing and definitely isn’t one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever read. If your body isn’t quite what it used to be, it might mean nothing to you too. Definitely don’t read this post called An Ode to a Broken Body HERE.

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Something to listen to:

Something to laugh at

Louis Theroux reviewing UK rap:

Just Another Monthly #4 will be back in one month’s time.

Don’t forget you can vote for Just Another Blog From a Woman to win a blogging award HERE in the Best Entertainment Blog category.

Just Another Monthly #2

Something to think about:

baby child close up crying

My most hated word in the English language? Just.

“Why are you doing it like that? Just do it like this?”

Just do it”

Just don’t do it”

“It’s easy. Just…”

Just. Just. JUST

Why does such a seemingly inoffensive word rile me so much? It presumes so much. It presumes that the answer to your problem is simple and why haven’t you thought of it? It’s ok, the irony is not lost on me. The word just is in both my blog name and this post’s title. However, it’s the use of the word just when telling someone to do something that specifically gets my goat. Here’s an example:

Some years ago, when I was having terrible problems settling my baby in a cot for the first time, I had a little moan about it at the baby group I regularly attended.

“She won’t settle. She screams. She cries. She doesn’t like the cot at all and was much happier in her moses basket.”

“Ah,” interjected a fellow mum, “just put her in a sleeping bag in the cot”

“I’ve done that. It didn’t make a difference” was my reply

Just put her in the moses basket in the cot, to get her used to it”

“Yep, tried that too. Also didn’t work”

Just comfort her whilst she’s in the cot crying, so she knows there’s nothing to be scared of”

“I mean, I’ve definitely done that….”

Just leave her to cry it out”

“Sure, I’ve done that too, but she seems particularly unhappy…”

“Well, I don’t have any other suggestions. Sorry”

And that was the end of the conversation. The thing was, I wasn’t looking for advice. I merely wanted to have a moan. To get it off one’s chest as it were. And all I wanted in return was a “oh dear, that must be shit. It will be ok though” type response. Instead, I was left feeling even more frustrated than before the conversation.

Here’s the thing, it’s my theory that most of the time when someone is upset about something or having a moan about something, they rarely want or need advice. Chances are if they’re relatively intelligent, they’ve already tried all the obvious solutions. All they need is someone to listen and allow them to vent. We all need this outlet.

In a world where mental health is on the increase and we are encouraged to talk about our problems, we need as much encouragement to ensure people know how to listen and give people space to talk. It’s all very well giving advice and I’m sure people like the mum in my example have good intentions, but we should not underestimate the power of just listening and just letting people talk. Ha. Oh ok, perhaps I don’t dislike the word just all the time.

By the way, my baby got used to the cot. All she needed was a bit of time to get used to it. Nothing else.

Something to be cheerful about:

  • 5,000 people queued up in the rain to see if they were able to help save the life of one little 5-year old boy. Oscar Saxelby-Lee has a very rare form of blood cancer and needs a stem cell transplant in the next 3 months. After an appeal for potential donors, almost 5,000 people turned up at Oscar’s school to register for testing to see if they’re a match. This is over double the amount of people that have turned up for any other appeal for donors from the DKMS blood cancer charity- the previous record being 2,200. A further 1,000 people have since registered to be tested to see if they’re a match for Oscar.

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  • India has opened its first hospital for rescued and abused elephants. The hospital in Uttar Pradesh has already treated 26 elephants. The elephants have mainly been rescued from tourist attractions such as circuses, street-riding and also from private owners. Elephants held in these conditions results in them developing many health conditions and malnutrition. The hospital has plenty of sophisticated equipment such as ultrasound scans, radiology, laboratory testing and a hydrotherapy pool to help nurse the poor elephants back to health. Once they are healthy again, they are sent to elephant sanctuaries to spend their retirement in full health and happiness.

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Something to buy:

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Louche Jude Pooch Pyjama Shirt, £45, from Joy the Store

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Senora Ceramic Vase, £39.99, from Okla

Something to read:

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I’ve already talked about my love of food HERE and mentioned Ruby’s newsletter there, but I implore you to read this book by Ruby. It’s one long love song about food and reasons to enjoy it guilt free. Honestly, you won’t be able to read it without salivating. There’s also the odd recipe sewn in between all the chapters about why food matters and why we should enjoy it. It’s all about the pleasure.

Something to watch:

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Anybody that follows me on Instagram, will know that I’m currently obsessed with the Netflix reality makeover show Queer Eye. It’s so much more than a makeover show though. There’s more focus on making people feel happier with themselves and their lives. The Fab 5 (Karamo, Jonathan, Antoni, Tan and Bobby) spend a lot time sitting down with their heroes (as the participants are referred to as) talking to them and finding out about their lives and pasts. The show is engineered to be incredibly emotive,  but if you’re like me then you’re rather partial to a tearjerker. I’ve become obsessed with the show, binge watching the first two seasons, but for me the best thing about the show is the Fab 5. Their charisma and warmth is infectious. I am desperate for them to be my new best friends. And the good news is that the new season is on Netflix from today. So grab a box of tissues and get watching Queer Eye.

Something to cook:

Shakshouka

Okay so boiling an egg in a frying pan of tinned tomatoes, may not sound the most appealing, but trust me this recipe is delicious. It’s a very comforting and warming dish (and looking out of the window right now, we still need that comfort and warmth) plus the ingredients are usually always at hand. It’s traditionally a North African/Middle Eastern breakfast, but I have it for lunch.

Ingredients (serves 1)

Olive Oil

I garlic clove

Chilli flakes (as much as you like)

Paprika

1 egg (or 2 if you’re hungry)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Salt

Parmesan

Method

  • Fry the garlic in the oil with the chilli flakes for a minute
  • Chuck the tin of chopped tomatoes in and get them boiling
  • Crack the egg in the middle
  • Sprinkle parmesan on top (again, as much as you like)
  • Put a plate or lid over the frying pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 5 mins
  • Serve with a thick slice of buttered bread and more parmesan on top

Tip: you can pad this meal out with sliced peppers and/or onions. Fry them first before you add the tomatoes and egg. You can also add other spices to it that you might enjoy such as cumin and cayenne pepper.

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Sorry my food photos are pretty rubbish, but trust me- this is bloody lovely.

Something to help save the planet with:

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Natural Dental Floss £5

Plastic-free dental floss! I use this regularly (do I get a sticker?) and it’s as good as regular floss. It’s made from natural and sustainable silk, PETA certified cruelty free, 100% natural with no chemicals and it comes in a little reusable glass jar. When you finish the floss in this jar, you can buy refills, which in turns helps limit plastic waste. You can buy it in either mint or cardamon flavour. Oh and the floss is compostable. So what are you waiting for? Get flossing! You can get it HERE

Something to enjoy from the Blogosphere:

Please pop over to Angela’s blog and have a read of her candid and (as always) thoughtful post on co-parenting HERE. She always writes so well and this is an exceptional post on the difficulties of having to regularly wave goodbye to your child.

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Something to listen to:

Just Another Playlist #2- A weekly mix tape of an eclectic collection of tunes (maybe to listen to while you make the Shakshouka)

Something to laugh at:

Imma just gonna leave this here without comment:

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***Don’t forget you can sign up to receive this monthly newsletter straight into your mailbox. Just click the little “Follow” box at the bottom, right hand of the screen and enter your email address***

See you next week for the top The Cure songs and Just Another Monthly will be back in a month’s time!

Just Another Book Club- 2019 (part I)

As you know, I’m running the book club slightly differently. I’m now reviewing and discussing the books we read for this book club on my Instagram HERE and Facebook HERE, usually on the first Monday of the month (following the month a book was allocated to).

As before, there is absolutely no pressure to read all six books and you don’t have to read them during the months I suggest. That’s just there for guidance and also because some books might not be published on paperback until a certain date. And as always, one of the six books will be a non-fiction book. I hope you’ll join me in reading these books. I love to hear what you think about them.

So, the 6 books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2019 will be:

January: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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February: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

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March: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

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April: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

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May: Christodora by Tim Murphy

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June: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

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This chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month.

I’ll post a new list of books for the second half of 2019 in early/mid-June time.

For a list of the books we read during the second half of 2018, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the first half of 2018, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the second half of 2017, click HERE

Don’t forget you can leave a review of any of the past books that we have read at any point.

For my Goodreads page, click HERE

Just Another Book Club- June Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Stay With Me

by

Ayombami Adebayo

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Synopsis

Set in 1980s Nigeria during times of political unrest, Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and her husband Akin and their hope for a child. When a new wife for Akin is introduced at the insistence of his family, it is not view favourably by Yejide.

My Quick Review

Stay With Me covers many difficult subjects including child mortality, extra-marital sex, sexism, grief, infertility and politics. As you can imagine, this makes the book quite difficult to read on a occasion. However, the book is written with a lot of humanity and at times with humour.

The book features many strong female characters, including our protagonist Yejide. What consistently shocked me about the book was the horrific sexism deployed by the mother-in-law towards Yejide. This book is an excellent portrayal of Nigerian family culture and I learned so much from it.

I felt like the title of the book was referring more to Yejide’s children than her husband. When I first started to read the book, I thought it would be referring to their marriage, but it came clearer further into the book that it was the children that she so desperately wanted to stay with her.

This book is well-written and shows a lot of potential for author Ayobami Adebayo. It is a book about the bond of mothers with their children, about female strength, family and love.

Questions to Consider

1. Discuss the early stages of Yejide and Akin’s courtship, from both of their perspectives. What is Yejide’s initial reaction to Akin’s romantic propositions? Consider Yejide’s childhood and past that is revealed over the course of the novel. What does she seek in a romantic relationship? How does Akin provide security for her? How does Akin convince Yejide that he is trustworthy?

2. Consider the family unit as a social force in Stay with Me. How do the opinions of Akin’s family members influence his decisions? Describe the relationship between Akin and his parents. How does Akin both obey and defy the wishes of his family? How does Yejide navigate her role as a daughter-in-law?

3. In the beginning of Stay with Me, the reader is introduced to the central conflict of Yejide and Akin’s life: their infertility as a couple. How is Yejide and Akin’s childlessness seen as a reflection on the family unit? What is the burden of expectation placed on Yejide? How is she treated by Akin’s family as a result of her infertility? By the community? How do attitudes toward Yejide change once she is pregnant?

4. Discuss the road leading to Yejide’s first pregnancy. How do the social pressures to become a mother weigh on Yejide? Once Yejide learns that she is no longer Akin’s only wife, how does the urgency of her mission become more pronounced? Consider the barriers to her pregnancy, and what she learns about herself from the field remedies and the medical establishment. How does the psychological trauma that accompanies her journey weigh on her throughout the novel?

5. The tension between modern attitudes and traditional thought informs much of Stay with Me. How does Yejide and Akin’s early agreement of monogamy conflict with the prevailing social attitude? How does this create tension over the course of the novel? How does Yejide defy the wishes of her husband’s family? How does the eventual shift of parental responsibilities to Akin upend the expectations of motherhood and parenting?

6. Consider the identity of “mother,” and how understanding of that role shifts for Yejide over the course of the novel. How does the story of her mother’s death influence her worldview and her perspective on family? Discuss the relationship Yejide had with her father’s other wives. Which woman in her life, if any, provides her with an understanding of what a loving mother-child relationship looks like? Once she becomes a mother, how does her self-image change?

7. Describe Yejide’s relationship with Iya Bolu. How does Iya Bolu’s attitude toward Yejide shift over the years? When does Yejide seem to earn the most respect from Iya Bolu? When does she earn her sympathy?

8. Consider the political background of Stay with Me. How does the instability of the government undermine the health and happiness of Yejide and her family? How does the political upheaval reflect the emotional turmoil of Yejide and Akin?

9. The reveal of Akin’s medical condition is an important development in the plot. Given this revelation, would you consider Funmi’s death to be purposeful? How did you interpret his reaction to her accusation? How does Akin contend with threats to his masculinity throughout the novel?

10. Discuss the significance of the hair salon in Yejide’s life. How does it encourage her independence? How does it act as a place of gathering within their community?

11. Compare the bedtime story that Yejide tells her children with the tale that Akin shares with Rotimi as she grows. What do these stories reveal about the worldviews of both parents? What lessons are they sharing? How is it a cautionary tale between parent and child? How does it reflect Yejide’s own childhood experiences?

12. Discuss the process of mourning as depicted in Stay with Me. How does the community react to Yejide’s mourning for the loss of her first child versus her second? Discuss the general attitude towards Yejide’s depression from her family and those around her.

13. What is Akin’s relationship with his brother? How do they compete with each other? How do they jockey for the coveted spot of favored son throughout the novel? After their brawl, how does their relationship change? Do you think Dotun possessed real romantic feelings for Yejide?

14. Discuss Yejide’s reunion with Rotimi. Were you surprised by this reveal? How did you interpret Timi’s insistence on calling Yejide “Moomi”?

15. Stay with Me is a novel that challenges readers’ expectations with its surprising reveals, its secrets, and its deception. What plot development did you find to be most surprising? How does Adebayo play with the idea of expectation versus reality throughout the novel?

My order (by how much I enjoyed them), of the 6 books we read in the first half of 2018. Click on the titles for the book club reviews:

6. Sweet Pea by C J Skuse

5. Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

3. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (joint 3rd place)

3. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

2. Slade House by David Mitchell

1. Animal by Sara Pascoe

As you know, I’m dong things slightly differently with Just Another Book Club. I will now only be opening the book club discussion at the end of every 6 months, but I will be leaving a space on my Facebook page and Instagram on a monthly basis for people to discuss earlier if they so wish.

For a list of the books we are reading for the second half of 2018, click HERE

You can view my Goodreads page here

Just Another Book Club- 2018 (part II)

So, for the second half of this year, I’m going to run this book club slightly differently. I’m still providing a list of six books and the months you could read them in. However, I won’t be putting up my review on a monthly basis. Instead at the end of the six months, I’ll put up one post discussing all six books. People can then leave comments as to what they thought of all the books that they read from the list. As before, there is absolutely no pressure to read all six books and you don’t have to read them during the months I suggest. That’s just there for guidance and also because some books might not be published on paperback until a certain date. And as always, one of the six books will be a non-fiction book. I hope you’ll still join me in reading these books. I love to hear what you think about them. I just needed to take a bit of pressure of myself to have books read by a certain date. Oh and also, if you want to discuss any of the books with me before six months time then I’ll be leaving a space to discuss the books on a monthly basis on both my Facebook page HERE and on my Instagram account HERE

So, on with our six books to read for this second half of the year:

  • July: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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  • August: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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  • September: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

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  • October: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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  • November: The Immortalist: if you knew the date of your death, how would you live? by Chloe Benjamin

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  • December: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

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This chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month.

So, my aim is to post my review of all these books around the beginning of January next year. It’ll be here before you know it! In the meanwhile, don’t be afraid to communicate with me as mentioned above if you ever want to discuss these books any earlier. I’ll also post a new list of books for the first half of 2019 in mid-December this year.

For a list of the books we read during the first half of this year, click HERE

For a list of the books we read during the last half of 2017, click HERE

Don’t forget you can leave a review of any of the past books that we have read at any point.

 

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Just Another Book Club- May Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

This Is How It Always Is

by

Laurie Frankel

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Synopsis

This book tells the story of Rosie and Penn and their family of 5 boys. One day their youngest, Claude comes downstairs in a dress and wants to take a handbag to kindergarten. He also wants to grow his hair long and play with dolls. While other boys want to be fire officers or astronauts when they grow up, Claude says he wants to be a girl. This book looks at the complexities of parenthood and how it always is a leap into the unknown.

My Quick Review

This Is How It Always Is is a well written book and one that is easy to read. The two aspects of the book that I appreciated the most was how it looked at parenthood. No matter what issue your child has, no matter how big or small it is, the reader if they are a parent can relate to how we try and parent. The book looks into how parenting is incredibly unpredictable and how none of us as parents know what the future holds for our child. While this is somewhat terrifying, it was also a comfort to read this book and know that as parents we are all going through this unpredictability together. The other aspect of the book that I loved, is how this book raises important questions about gender identity. It’s a book that is incredibly well-informed (whilst the book is entirely fictional, the author’s daughter was once a boy) and as Rose and Penn have conflicting opinions on how to approach their situation, this illustrates the antagonising feelings surrounding transgender children.

The main negative side of the book is that I felt the whole trip to Thailand somewhat contrived. I felt it was a unbelievable coincidence that the mother was offered work in Thailand, was able to take her transgender child and that the main person she worked with also happened to be transgender. I felt the enlightenment that both Rosie and Poppy gained from this trip could have been achieved through other more believable circumstances. The other slightly negative side of the book was the use of fairytales to explain the situation. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a fan of most fantasy, so I was never going to be a big fan of this part of the book. However, as a reader I also found it a tad patronising having things explained to me in the form of a fairytale.

In conclusion, this is a fascinating book that approaches a very difficult subject. It wasn’t the ground breaking, tear inducing novel that I expected, but it is definitely worth a read.

I loved these two quotes from the book:

How did you teach your small human that it’s what’s inside that counts when the truth was everyone was pretty preoccupied with what you put on over the outside too?

You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then to be able to make that happen. You never have enough information. You don’t get to see the future. And if you screw up, and with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call,  well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake. It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative. 

Questions to Consider

  1. How authentic do you think the author’s portrayal of a family and family life is? Do you find her depiction of the children and their sibling dynamics true to life?
  2. How are traditional gender roles explored through the characters of Rosie and Penn? Are they portrayed as conforming to, or defying traditional roles?
  3. Explore the use of fairy tales in the novel and the effects of this narrative device.
  4. When Claude first begins to wear dresses and identifies as female, what contrasts are drawn between how other children react to his transformation and how adults react?
  5. When Rosie and Penn discuss what course Poppy should take before puberty, Rosie says: “When a little girl wants to wear jeans and play soccer, her parents are thrilled, but when a little boy wants to wear a dress and play dolls, his parents send him to therapy and enrol him in a study.” Are young boys more constrained by gender stereotypes than young girls?
  6. “Didn’t you know then, the doctors said later? Weren’t you listening?” Discuss how the role of a parent, and the dilemma of what parenting means, is explored in the novel.
  7. Secrets are a central theme in the novel. Do you think that Rosie and Penn made the right decision in keeping Poppy’s past a secret when they moved to Seattle?
  8. Poppy’s transgender identity mean that Rosie and Penn prioritise her needs within the family, and they decide to uproot their life and move across the country. What other family situations can result in parents having to prioritise the needs of one child over their others?
  9. After Jane Doe’s trauma, Rosie thinks, “Head colds should be tolerated.Children should be celebrated.” What is the difference between tolerance and acceptance? Acceptance and celebration?
  10. Towards the end of the novel we travel to Thailand. Why do you think the author chose to take the characters here and what aspects of the Thai culture were explored?
  11. “You think your generation invented kids who are different?” How does the novel make you question your own attitudes to gender identity, difference and the acceptance of others?

(Questions provided by the publisher)

June’s book is Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Monday 2nd July.

A list of all the books we read for the first half of 2018 can be found here

***I’ll be publishing a new list of books for the second half of the year next Monday 11th June. There will be a slight amendment as to how the Just Another Book Club will run from now on too***

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

Just Another Book Club- April Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Animal

by

Sara Pascoe

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Synopsis

Award-winning comedian Sara Pascoe takes us on an entertaining tour of the female body. She investigates why women do the things they do and what it is that biologically drives them. Sara weaves in biographical stories from her own life through out the book to illustrate female behaviour.

My Quick Review

There are some books that I find funny, but don’t actually make me laugh. Then there are books that are funny and make me laugh out loud so much that I cannot be trusted to read them in public. Animal is of the latter definition. I first heard of this book when Sara was a guest on Adam Buxton’s podcast (if you haven’t listened to these podcasts- do. Adam has the the funniest and most interesting guests on). She passionately talked about the book and I thought it sounded fascinating. I wasn’t wrong. Whilst I knew some of the information about the female body, there was plenty that I was not aware of. Even if you are someone that is an expert on the female body and our behaviour, it would still be a captivating and entertaining read.

Sara’s writing is very engaging and her own personal stories whilst always very funny, have a lot of emotion attached them. I found her stories regarding her grandmothers particularly emotive. Then there was Sara’s story of when she first had her period, which is quite frankly one the funniest stories that I have ever read.

On a more serious note, Sara’s book covers lots of sensitive subjects and whilst at times she approaches them with humour, she is also very contemplative about them. She raises important issues such as consent, sex education and abortion. The chapters on consent were quite hard to read and I found at times upsetting. Nevertheless, Sara makes valid and important points and they absolutely need to be discussed. Much like some stand-up comedy, Sara has a way of luring you into her discussion on a subject with humour and then once she’s got your attention she goes on to empathise her opinions with sincerity. Most of which, I vehemently agreed with.

The only vague criticism I would have of the book, is Sara’s occasional assumptions that the reader of the book is much younger than I am. I think she thought only teenagers or people in their 20s would choose to read the book. However, I feel this book is definitely for people of all ages (and decidedly for both men and women). Who doesn’t appreciate a well-written, hilarious, profound and captivating book?

 

 

May’s book is This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Monday 4th June.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

Just Another Book Club- March Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Slade House

by

David Mitchell

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Synopsis

Slade House is set between 1979 and 2015. There are five sections of the book and each section is set in a different time period. The location of each section always remains the same. As you may have already guessed, it is always set at the spooky Slade House. The book details the mysterious circumstances that a variety of characters are drawn towards Slade House.

My Review

I should probably be honest with you and provide a disclaimer that, I am a huge David Mitchell fan. From reading Cloud Atlas to number9dream to the Bone Clocks. I’ve adored everything of his that I’ve read. Slade House is no exception.

Slade House some how manages to be hilarious, thrilling, haunting, historical and clever all at the same time. The first section (The Right Sort) surrounding young Nathan and his mum is particularly witty and had me laughing out loud. A fine example of Mitchell’s humour in this book would be the line: “he was handsome in a sort of gay model Hitler Youth way”. I’m going to remember that line, so that I can refer to someone as that one day (I might be mindful of my audience though).

This book mainly leaves me reeling. Reeling that someone can be so talented and so clever and have such a vivid imagination to write such a book. As I’ve mentioned before, I generally don’t like fantasy books, but for me Mitchell is the right side of fantasy for me.  It’s the backbone of this story, but it doesn’t dominate so much that it is the whole entire book.

Each section has it’s merits, but I particularly enjoyed the first section and the You Dark Horse You section with journalist Sally Timms. That section left me astonished and had me rereading it as soon as I’d finished it.

Most of the time you liked the main character in most of the sections and had a lot of sympathy for them (even before they learn their fate). Detective Gordon Edmonds from the The Shining Armour section, is probably the least likeable character, but you still somehow feel sorry for him. Inevitably, it’s the characters that continue through each section, siblings Norah and Jonah Grayer, that you despise the most and root for their demise throughout the book.

In conclusion, if you’re a fan of David Mitchell (and in particular The Bone Clocks), you will not be disappointed. It is a short read, that will keep you gripped and interested until  it’s harrowing conclusion. Think Stranger Things mixed with a little bit of Black Mirror.

Questions to Consider

1. Slade House is broken up into five parts and is narrated by five different characters, all in the first person. Which of their voices were you most drawn to and why?

2. Despite their differences, the narrators are all “engifted” and therefore targets of the Grayer twins. What do you think “engifted” means? What might qualify someone as “engifted”?

3. Did you notice any recurring patterns in the storytelling across all five parts?

4. With each new “guest” you learn more and more about Slade House and the Grayer twins. What about their abilities and story was most unsettling to you?

5. On page 146, Freya Timms thinks “Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable hemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed.” Do you agree? In what way is this true for characters in the novel?

6. On page 175, Fred Pink counters Freya’s argument for why immortality wouldn’t be kept a secret. What does Fred’s explanation say about human nature? Do you agree?

7. Throughout his life, many people dismiss Fred and his beliefs and research. What might his experiences say about the way society treats those who are labeled as mentally ill?

8. Norah and Jonah’s history is extraordinary, but also marked by loss. Did you ever find them sympathetic? When and why?

9. You don’t learn much about what Norah and Jonah do in–between each nine–year cycle, but we do know that they have a great degree of freedom and many resources at their disposal. Would you be tempted by their nomadic but gifted existence?

10. Were you surprised by Norah’s actions at the end of the novel?

11. What’s the most frightening book you’ve ever read, and what is the most spine–chilling movie you’ve seen? Are there differences between literary fear and cinematic fear?

April’s book is Animal by Sara Pascoe. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Tuesday 1st May.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

Just Another Book Club- February Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Hold Back the Stars

by

Katie Khan

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Synopsis

Imagine that you only have 90 minutes of life left and you’re spending that time with the love of your life. Oh and minor detail, you’re floating in space in space suits. Hold Back the Stars is a love story set in an utopian future and sees two lovers deliberating over the ultimate sacrifice.

My Review

This book is an excellent debut from author Katie Khan. The story line is incredibly original and I enjoyed that it was set in the future. I thought it was refreshing that Khan wrote the future as utopian rather than dystopian, but like all societies through history it was not perfect.

I found the technical talk specifically in the first third of the book made me lose my interest at times. It sometimes got a bit too heavy or continued for too long for me personally. So, I would at times find my mind wandering and not realise what I’d just read. However, the book picks up after the initial section and I found myself gripped for the rest of the book.

I thought the non-linear timeline where the book alternated from Carys and Max in space to scenes in the past, but on earth worked really well. It was an excellent way to see how their relationship grew.

Reading about the loss of Carys and Max’s baby was very difficult, but I thought it was sensitively written about. Their reflection on their baby was very moving. I loved this quote about the afterlife:

“The afterlife is what we leave in others”

I also enjoyed their analysis of what utopia truly is, whilst they were floating in space:

“In Greek, Utopia means ‘no place’….a perfect place isn’t a political state or a philosophical movement. It’s this, it’s us”

Hold Back the Stars is a very visual book and it makes sense that the author herself works in the film industry. I found myself imagining the book being turned into a film as I read it and my research tells me that it is indeed going to be film (produced by the same people that produce Stranger Things and Arrival and directed by the director of Riverdale).

Whilst, at first I was slightly confused about how the author was continuing the story in the final section, it eventually made sense. The end scene was incredibly moving and possibly one of the most beautiful and stunning endings for a book that I have ever read.

Often, I don’t like to see the film version of a book that I’ve read, but because of the spectacular visions that you imagine whilst reading this book, I cannot wait to see the film.

This is a very promising debut and I would be very interested to read another novel by the same author.

Questions to Consider

1. In Hold Back the Stars, the author uses dual time lines to tell the story of Max and Carys’s journey to space. In what ways does this enhance the story? Which time line did you feel more connected to?

2. Carys and Max had radically different upbringings from each other. How do their philosophies differ on utopian ideals?

3. In Europia, the individual is prized above all else, yet there is a particular irony in a utopian society valuing individualism. In what ways does Carys see that, and how is Max blinded to it?

4. According to the Couples Rule, romantic couples are not allowed to form until an individual reaches thirty-five. How could this rule benefit our own society? How might it hurt it? How would the rule affect your own life?

5. Max says, “We show our true colors facing the end” (p. 75). Do you agree? Why or why not?

6. As part of a Founding Family, what kind of pressures was Max feeling during his relationship with Carys? Do you think he was justified in feeling the way he did in the beginning?

7. How does the author use details to highlight themes or plot points in each time line? For example, the origin of the crumpled daisy in Carys’s ear does not become evident until after the two time lines converge.

8. Max’s parents essentially excommunicate him after he reveals his relationship with Carys. Can you think of parallel examples in our own society of this kind of familial rejection?

9. Which “ending” seems the most realistic to you? What kind of choice would you have made in the same scenario?

10. How did Carys and Max each cope without the other? What did their coping mechanisms communicate about their personalities?

11. Hold Back the Stars confronts the idea of choice—or lack thereof—and the question of whether true freedom can exist in a utopian society. In what ways were Carys and Max free? How did their concept of freedom change throughout the story?

12. Neither Carys nor Max can live without the other in their respective “endings.” Do you think it’s possible that, for some people, time cannot heal certain wounds?

13. How do you interpret the last chapter of Hold Back the Stars in light of the alternating perspectives of Carys and Max?

14. What were the best examples of strong relationships in Hold Back the Stars? What made them strong? How did Europia foster—or hinder—forming relationships?

15. What do you think it means to do something for the “greater good”? Can a utopian society exist without its citizens striving for a common “greater” cause?

March’s book is Slade House by David Mitchell. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Tuesday 3rd April.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

Just Another Book Club- January Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Sweet Pea

by CJ Skuse

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Synopsis

Incredibly bored and ambitious Rhiannon likes to make daily lists. Don’t we all, except her list are “kill lists”. She writes a list every day of everyone she would personally like to kill and at times she is able to tick off that list. A childhood trauma, left Rhiannon a minor celebrity and it is through this tragedy that we learn how Rhiannon has become the person she is today; a foul-mouthed, deadly and dark young woman.

My Review 

What a lovely way to start our book reading year. I thought I’d throw us into the deep end with this shocking and graphic thriller. As the first chapter opens with the protagonist castrating a man and leaving him to drown, I knew I was on to a beautiful, enchanting start to our reading year.

So firstly, I found this book very easy to read. Yep, even with the shocking content of the book, I still carried on turning the pages and reading with ease (does this say more about me or the author?). It was the epitome of a “page-turner” though.

Red magazine described the book as Bridget Jones meets American Psycho. I think this is a perfect description of the book. While I don’t think I need to elaborate on why it’s similar to American Psycho, the diary-style chapters and the humorous references to weight and self-image certainly gave it an air of Bridget.

However, this is where the book falls down for me. With the author’s use of language, I felt she was trying too hard to be funny and shocking. Let’s be honest, I’m not one to be phased by profanity or crudeness. I wasn’t shocked by her use of these things. It just didn’t entertain me. I was a tad arms-crossed-you-think-that’s-shocking-you-should-hear-me-out-with-the-Mums-from-school-on-a-Friday-night about it. You can relax, we don’t go around castrating men or anything (not that I recall anyway). I think the point I’m trying to make is that, it reminded me of a teenager trying to act tough to impress people. I didn’t buy it.

I can’t decide if it was lack of direction or actually a clever ploy by the author, that my opinion of the protagonist was slightly conflicted. Generally, I couldn’t stand her and at times I thought the author wanted us to actually like her in a twisted way. My conflicted feeling about Rhiannon only came into play when I thought about her traumatic past that goes some way to explain why she does the things she does. It enabled me to feel a sliver of sympathy for her, but not for long as not one of the murders she committed was actually justified. In fact, I think her past actually just provided an understanding of her actions rather than feeling actual sympathy. I do feel the author partly wanted us readers to cheer Rhiannon on from the side line as she castrated a man (albeit an absolute wank stain of a man, who deserved a sharp kick in the balls and to be reported to the police), but there is absolutely no way I found myself warming to Rhiannon at any point.

What I do know is that she clearly wasn’t a well person. Now, I understand that a psychopath (and I’m not using that word flippantly), can function quite normally in the world, with many people not having a clue what they’re really like, BUT I’m still not convinced by the way the author portrayed the contradictions within her personality. The whole “just baked a lovey cake, now I’m just going to grab my knife and slice someone up that gets on me nerves” act was unconvincing. Maybe it’s truthful (I’m bold enough to assume I’m personally not a psychopath, so what do I know about how a psychopath thinks). I just wasn’t convinced with the way the author sold Rhiannon’s personality to us.

ALSO, I’m clearly not convinced by a lot of aspects of this book (man, I really am a cynical misery sometimes), but I wasn’t persuaded by the relationship between Rhiannon and Craig. They were so utterly incompatible, I just didn’t see why they got together in the first place. I understand, that the author wanted to show Rhiannon in an unhappy relationship, but I literally couldn’t fathom what they would have seen in each other at the beginning of the relationship. I think she could’ve been a bit cleverer about this relationship.

Now, you can completely judge me on the next point I’m going to make (if you haven’t already), but thank God she killed AJ off. He was such an irritating character, she did us all a favour there.

The ending was very satisfying for me. I would have been very upset if justice hadn’t prevailed. I also figured that the baby may have gone to AJ’s Aunt (as the next closest relative) to look after, which is actually quite nice after all the grimness of the book.

In conclusion, this is a cynical and bleak book. The attempts to make it witty and the protagonist likeable failed for me. However, I couldn’t stop reading it and it kept me gripped until the end. I prefer a book with more substance, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

February’s book is Hold Back the Stars by Kate Khan. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Monday 5th March.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here