I’ve read 42 books so far this year, so I’m only about six to eight weeks away from hitting my GoodReads target of 50. I smashed it with 64 last year, so we’ll see where we end up in a few months.
I recently reactivated my library card, which has allowed me to catch up on some much-hyped books which I previously missed, including three of the books in this post. So let’s see what all the fuss is about, shall we?
The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
The Cows is the first adult novel from Dawn O’Porter. I loved Paper Aeroplanes and Goose, so was intrigued to see how she tackled more grown up material while I awaited an update on the fate of Renee and Flo. It was one of the most talked about releases of 2017 and I hoped it lived up to my expectations – it did, for the most part. The Cows centres on three women: Stella, who desperately wants children but is stuck in an unhappy relationship and battling health problems, Tara, a single, working mother, and Cam, a successful blogger who doesn’t want children. Although children, and the lack thereof, plays a big part in the lives of each of these women, it’s not their whole lives. Much is also made of their careers and sexuality.
The story follows the lives of each of these characters in turn before their lives start to intertwine. From the moment they were introduced, I fell instantly in love. There was something to love about each character and I found them all relatable in their own way. However, as the story progressed, I began to hate one of the characters so much that it detracted from the rest of the book. I skimmed some reviews on GoodReads to see if other readers felt so strongly but didn’t find much to support my views.
At its heart, The Cows is an interesting take on what it’s like to be a woman, whether you’re single, coupled up, raising a child alone, focused on your career, decide not to have children… Also how society treats you differently depending on your gender, particularly when it comes to sexuality. It’s ridiculous that society is still built on so many double standards.
Would recommend but prepare to not find all of the characters particularly likeable.
How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
This book is well paired with The Cows as it’s another first adult title from a successful young adult writer. The story also focuses on women ‘of a certain age’ and references society’s obsession with social media – but How Do You Like Me Now? handles the themes so much better.
I love Holly Bourne and had been so excited to read her first adult book. I’ve completely devoured all of her other books and recommend them to everyone – yet her first release of 2018 (her latest young adult title has just been released and I’ll be sharing a review early October – hectic reading schedule!) still managed to exceed my expectations.
How Do You Like Me Now? centres on Tori, a 31-year-old writer (think No Fucks Given meets Wild), in a long-term relationship with no sign of a ring on her finger or a bun in the oven. And people are pushing her for her next book. She wrote her last one five years ago and is running the risk of no longer being relevant.
I can certainly relate to the idea of hitting 30 and not knowing where you fit in any more. With friends at different stages of their lives (relationships and careers), it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap and start worrying about where society thinks you should be rather than what makes you happy as an individual.
Recommended reading for all women in their late twenties/early thirties. Bring on the next release!
Ms Marvel Volume 9
Luke bought me the first volume of Ms Marvel for my birthday a few years ago and I’ve been pre-ordering them ever since. I’m a long-time Batman fan and loved Runaways but Ms Marvel has become my favourite comic book series.
Kamala Khan is a Muslim Pakistani-American but she is also a typical high schooler – and a superhero. What makes this series such a stand-out is that it weaves a variety of themes throughout its storylines, such as religion, sexuality, family values, modern politics, etc. It’s refreshing to see these elements built into the narrative rather than feeling the need to draw attention to them and have them exist as their own plot points.
When I read How Do You Like Me Now? I was sure it was going to be my book of the year. Then I read Home Fire. I wanted to give it a read because it won this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and had come highly recommended by two of my favourite book bloggers. Nothing could have prepared me for the impact it had.
It’s a modern retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone, a story that I wasn’t already familiar with. In Home Fire, Isma heads to America to continue her studies, having deferred for years when she had to take care of her younger twin siblings after their mother died. But she’s worried about the family she has left behind: beautiful and strong-willed Aneeka, and Parvaiz, who seems determined to follow in his father’s jihadist footsteps. Then Eamonn enters their lives. The son of a politician, he has his own family dramas to deal with, but he could also be the one to reunite the family and save Parvaiz.
You know a book is good when I have to take it to bed to finish rather than wait for my next bus trip. I had just under 100 pages to go and was determined to stay awake long enough to get to the end. Reading in bed usually makes me sleepy but I was totally hooked. Its portrayal of an immigrant family and the way they are treated is very timely, particularly the opening chapter, focusing on Isma’s treatment by airport security. But it’s also a story of how far you are willing to go for someone you love. The story is told in five parts, following five different characters in different parts of the world building to a final chapter which is nothing short of devastating.
It’s testament to Shamsie’s writing that I could be so heart-broken yet still recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It’s her seventh novel and I’ll certainly be checking out her previous work.
Cornish Short Stories
I requested a review copy of this collection after missing out on attending the Penzance Literary Festival – I definitely don’t know enough about local writers. It first appeared on my radar because one of my favourite bloggers, Anastasia, contributed to it and her ghost story was one of my favourites.
The book is best left on your bedside table so that you can read one short story a day. I read all of them over the course of two days on the bus and wish I had taken my time a bit more. There’s a lot to be savoured and I was really moved by some of them. I wonder what it says about me that I enjoyed the most sad and tragic ones the most?
What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations?
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