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Another month has passed with another varied selection of books; I definitely like to mix it up a bit.
I’ve exceeded my Goodreads Reading Challenge target now, probably helped by the fact that I’ve been including some short stories, poems, and graphic novels. Ready for some recommendations?
I picked up Haruki Murakami’s Birthday Girl earlier in the year. This stunning short story (the photo doesn’t do the shiny cover justice) called out to me from the till display in Waterstones and I popped it on my TBR shelf for when I needed a quick read. I hadn’t read any of his stories before but have had Norwegian Wood on my list for a while, having fallen a bit in love with the film. This short story centres on a young waitress’ twentieth birthday and has encouraged me to read more of his work.
Now I know we’re not meant to judge books by their covers but I couldn’t resist this one when I spotted it in the library. It’s a bit Me Before You meets How to Fall in Love, but more focused on friendship and self-improvement rather than romance.
Annie has forgotten how to be happy. She’s stuck in a job that makes her miserable, she’s single, and living in a tiny flat with a housemate she doesn’t talk to. While visiting her mum in hospital, she meets Polly, her polar opposite. Polly is outgoing, energetic, positive – and determined to turned Annie’s life around. In 100 days. But Annie doesn’t want to let her in.
Despite being pretty predictable, it was still an uplifting story. It reminded me of Anna Mansell’s How to Mend a Broken Heart, in that you expect it to be pretty ‘chick lit-esque’ but it’s a bit darker and more character-driven. Would recommend.
Last year I reviewed Lana Grace Riva’s Happier Thinking and earlier this year she asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing her first novel: The Existence of Amy. Again, it deals with mental health themes and had serious Eleanor Oliphant vibes.
Amy struggles with OCD and depression, unknowingly to her friends and colleagues. This book beautifully examines how this affects a person’s day to day life, and also how quickly things can escalate. I appreciated that Amy’s symptoms weren’t exaggerated for dramtic effect; she felt relatable and, like Eleanor, the story is ultimately hopeful.
I’d read a lot of good things about Expectation on Instagram and quickly added it to my reservations list at the library. I hate to admit, though, that I felt it didn’t quite live up to the hype.
On paper, this should have been my book of the year: friendship, feminism, and fertility. The reality of adulthood. But, similarly to Dawn O’Porter’s The Cows, as I started to reach the final pages, I realised that I didn’t really like any of the characters. But maybe that was the point? Finding all three relatable in some way and then finding out that they’re all hugely flawed?
All three women are struggling in their thirties: one with new mum exhaustion, one with fertility issues, and one with her career. The story jumps around from their student days to their twenties and thirties, highlighting how our friendships evolve.
I gave it three stars on Goodreads, as you can’t give half stars, but I really want to give it an extra half because there are some really great extracts. I read on the commute and, as so many titles are from the library, I’ve started making notes on my phone when I find myself nodding along to something. I wrote a lot of notes on this book:
“Yes, there’s bugger all between thirty and fifty, not just in Chekhov, but in everything else. Perhaps in life. Perhaps this is it – Womanhood. The Wasteland Years.”
“You must keep hold of your friendships, Lissa. The women. They’re the only thing that will save you in the end.”
“She counts her blessings, she tries to rationalise – why should it matter what her friends are doing? Why should her happiness be indexed to theirs? But it is. Somehow, it is – she cannot help but take inventory of her life; her lack, at thirty-three years old, of any of the markers that constitute real adulthood.”
“What are they going to change? What does anyone ever change? … You know how it is. Young people become older people. They’ll compromise. That’s what we do. We stop fighting. We capitulate. We become part of the problem.”
It was a bit Normal People meets Working Mums; I loved the honesty about parenting and not having the kind of life you hoped for yourself, but the characters became pretty unlikeable before something close to a redemption at the end.
The Umbrella Academy is one of the best things I’ve seen this year. Scrap that, it’s probably one of my favourite TV shows of all time. So I was interested in checking out the source material.
The general gist is the same: super-powered siblings return home for the funeral of their adopted father, save the world, etc. And it’s interesting as a standalone graphic novel. But compared to the TV show (I’ve yet to read the subsequent volumes), it just doesn’t hold up – the characters aren’t fleshed out and didn’t have much of their own identities. The writers did a cracking job with the development for television and I hope they can maintain/exceed that for season two.
Have you read any of these? Or just added any to your TBR?