May & June 2017 Books

MAY & JUNE

I didn’t get around to doing a books roundup for May, so I’ve combined two months again. I love having these roundups to look back on; sometimes books aren’t as memorable as you might like them to be!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman *
You can read my full review of this book here; I devoured in just a couple of sittings, having heard all good things about it in advance of its release. Eleanor Oliphant is demonstrably not fine; she’s still feeling the effects of some pretty awful childhood traumas, and as a result has no close relationships. We join her at the point where her life is about to change, and the journey we take with her is a poignant and powerful one.

The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham
This is a book that has been on my radar for a while, but I’ve never actually got around to reading it. Now that there’s a follow up has been published (The Early Birds), I thought it was about time, and I’m so glad I read it! Stories of friendships that span decades are amongst my absolute favourite; this one follows four women who are thrown together because their husbands serve in the US Air Force together. I laughed and cried my way through this book, and I am really looking forward to reading the new one. 

Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan *
Another one that I have read and reviewed already (you can read my review here) – this is the story of a young woman, Holly, who works for the city as a publicist. She inadvertently crosses paths with Ultimate Man, a superpowered hero, and finds herself thrust into the limelight. In all honesty, this one hasn’t stuck in my memory for very long; I found it a little daft and although it was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously, I won’t be hurrying to recommend it to anyone.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig *
I didn’t realise that I’d read this one quite as far in advance of the release date as I did – I assumed it was already out as I’ve heard so much about it, but it’s due for release on Thursday. Already being developed as a film with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, it tells the story of Tom, a man who was born with a condition that means he ages slower than the average human. He’s over 400 years old when the story begins, but looks like a man in his late 30s. It’s a story of love and loss, and it’s quite wonderful. You can read my full review here.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld *
It’s probably safe to say that Curtis Sittenfeld is amongst my very favourite authors; she just has a way with characters, with plot, and with language that sings to my soul. When I realised that she had written a up-to-date retelling of Pride and Prejudice, I was instantly sold, and I wasn’t disappointed. Liz Bennet is once more our heroine, drawn back home to Ohio when her father is taken ill, and thrust, along with her sister Jane, into the path and social circle of one Chip Bingley, and his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy. There’s no denying that things get just a little bit silly by the end, with the grand finale being played out during the filming of a reality show, but I adored it. All the characters you know and love are there to be enjoyed, with a few tweaks that bring the story bang up to date.

Living the Dream by Lauren Berry *
Emma Derringer is very much not living the dream; she’s stuck in a job she hates, working for a boss she finds ridiculous, and hoping to get a real writing career off the ground without trying too hard, because if you don’t try too hard, you can’t be disappointed, right? Her best friend Clementine is fresh off the plane from New York, where she was briefly considered the next best thing in screenwriting, wondering how she’s supposed to kickstart her career when she’s living in her mum and stepdad’s spare bedroom and working in a bar. This isn’t that dissimilar to the books I used to read about young women living in the city in the early 00s, but the difference here is that the focus is on their work, and not on the men they are sleeping with. This feels completely up to date and fresh in a way that is a breath of fresh air!

Books with an asterisk were provided by publishers.

Books in 2017 – 20

Photo an Hour #44 ~ March 2017

March seems like an awfully long time ago now. I know, I know – that’s because it is. As is traditional, I have got rather behind with Photo an Hour posts, so here, at the end of June, is March’s day in photos.

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7am ~ Reading in bed, which is how most Photo an Hour days tend to start, for a large proportion of the participants!

8am ~ The view from the back of the house. If I remember rightly, I ummed and ahhed over the wording of the caption of this photo on Instagram, because anything with ‘back door’ in it just sends my mind to the gutter.

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9am ~ On the bus, as I so often am on a Saturday morning.

10am ~ Waiting in the opticians for my first eye test in years. This ticked off a 35 Before 35 list item!

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11am ~ Eye test quickly dispatched with, now in Paperchase. I didn’t buy a gift card, but I thought they were pretty.

12pm ~ I so rarely capture a photo dead on the stroke of the hour, so when I was able to, I thought I’d prove it with a photo of a clock!

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1pm ~ Rocking my best ever pin that I had received just prior to this day; I got it as a thank you for transcribing an episode of the podcast The West Wing Weekly, and I wear it with pride on my denim jacket.

2pm ~ Home, and doing a little housework.

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3pm ~ Reading again, with the woodburner on, because though it was March, it was cold. How weird to imagine wanting to introduce fire into your home right now!

4pm ~ Watching Only Connect, which I have spectacularly failed to keep up with in the last couple of series. I really should try harder, because I love it.

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5pm ~ My housemate Hannah had been to Hackney and brought back with her a fair amount of vegan food.

6pm ~ The last photo of the day, a) to keep an even number of photos for this blog post, and b) because this was where I sat and stayed for the rest of the evening. Flicking through Little White Lies, and watching (what else?) Pointless Celebrities.

This is the part where I say that I’m going to try and get up to date really quickly, so that I can join in with the roundup post on time for the next Photo an Hour. But you all know that this probably won’t happen, so what’s the point?

Photo an Hour is a lot of fun, with or without a roundup post, so if you haven’t done it before, please feel free to play next time! We don’t have a date confirmed for July’s fun, but if you sign up for a reminder email (in the sidebar on the right of this page), we’ll let you know in advance. More details about Photo an Hour can be found here, and my previous posts – all 43 of them – can be found here.

Book Review ~ How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

51S6QnZA48L._SY346_Tom is old. He looks as though he is in his early forties, but in reality, he’s over 400 years old. He has a rare condition that slows down the usual human ageing process, giving him an extraordinarily long life expectancy.

It means that he can’t sustain long relationships; not only do the people around him age fifteen times faster, but people get suspicious as the wrinkles appear on their own faces but not on his. He’s lived through four centuries, and now finds himself starting over once more in London in 2017, choosing life as, what else? A history teacher.

Tom’s greatest challenges come from the ‘society’ of a group of similarly afflicted people; they call themselves ‘albas’, and everyone else ‘mayflies’, a reference to the contrasting life spans of albatrosses and the flies that do all their living in a single day. Led by the domineering Hendrich (who in his current guise is doing his best to help ‘mayflies’ stop time in their own way in his career as a plastic surgeon), Tom is expected to fall in with everything the society expects of him that will help keep their existence a secret.

The non-linear narrative allows us glimpses into Tom’s past; we understand how he grew up, distrustful of anyone who discovered his secret, but also see how he falls in love with a woman, Rose, who was always destined to grow old ahead of him. The years bear heavily on him; whenever we catch up with him in the modern day, he is having trouble connecting with people, suffering from severe headaches, and feeling almost entirely hopeless.

How to Stop Time Matt Haig

In the end, the only thing that does keep him going is the smallest glimmer of hope that he might one day be reunited with his daughter, who is an alba just like him. This is a story of loneliness; Tom is a solitary prisoner in his own life; unable to truly connect with people, as he knows it’s only a matter of time before he must uproot his life and move on.

But it’s also a story of hope against adversity; if there’s anyone who should want to give up, it’s a man who has lived for 400 years, and has seen the people he has loved torn away from him.

Matt Haig is an exceptional writer, who sweeps the reader up in the story and doesn’t let go until he has wrung all of the emotion out of you. This is a expertly plotted novel, with cameos from the likes of Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the all-encompassing idea that if there is a way to stop time, it’s probably by falling in love.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Publication Date: 6th July 2017
ISBN: 9781782118619
Canongate
Provided by publisher via Netgalley

 

17 things to do this summer

Summer

Summer might be a little way off, officially, but here in the UK, we have to get our sunshine when Mother Nature decides to smile on us. And as we’re in the middle of our usual pre-summer heatwave, my thoughts have turned to summertime. Here’s a few ideas of things you could do over the next couple of months.

  • Go to a free music festival, or a free open air concert.
  • Go on a city walking tour.
  • Visit a local museum. The tiny little town museums can be really interesting, especially if you are local to the area!
  • Go to a theme park. This might be a good one to do just before or just after the school summer holidays. Or pick a rainy day and go then!
  • Read some YA summer romance books: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, The Moon and More, Someone Like You (basically anything by Sarah Dessen).
  • Have a drink on a rooftop bar.
  • Try this summer photography challenge – if you do join in tag your photos with #itydsummer so I can see them!

 

Summer-Challenge

  • Play tennis.
  • Have a picnic in the park.
  • Go to an animal sanctuary – avoid the zoo and give your love to some animals that have been rescued.
  • Make cocktails.
  • Go strawberry picking.
  • Swim in the sea, or, if like me, you can’t do such things, paddle in the sea.
  • Fly a kite.
  • Have an outdoor boardgame night.
  • Go on a boat trip.
  • Go geo-caching.

What have you got planned this summer?

Book Review ~ Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

27273869Eleanor Oliphant goes to work every day, she wears the same clothes, eats the same lunch, and always buys two bottles of vodka to drink throughout the weekend. As the title tells us, she’s completely fine. People might think she’s a little odd, but she’s lasted this long without any meaningful relationships. She’s fine.

One day she simply helps a man who has collapsed in the street, and everything changes. Gradually, she starts to develop relationships, and in doing so, she has to relearn how to navigate the world. And as her life moves on, she has to confront some of the horrors of her past.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a truly wonderful novel, with a character at its centre who feels instantly real. There’s no denying that she’s odd, and the lines are slightly blurred as to whether she has a condition that causes her issues with social interaction, or whether years of enforced isolation have got her to this point.

At the very start of the story we learn that Eleanor has fallen in love; not with anyone she knows, but with a ‘rockstar’ she has seen on stage at a concert, a rare social outing for her. As the reader, we understand exactly the sort of man that Johnnie Lomond is. He’s a wannabe rockstar, a diva with no reason to be, and absolutely no good for Eleanor, the woman that the reader has already taken to heart, wanting nothing but the best for her.

As the story progresses, Eleanor gradually begins to develop friendships with unlikely people: the IT guy from the graphic design company she works for, the old gent she helps when he suffers a heart attack in the street, even the daughter of this man who couldn’t be more different to Eleanor, with her shiny hair and fashionable clothes.

I was expecting to feel overwhelming sadness throughout this book; loneliness is an affliction that is heartbreaking, and one that is experienced by far too many people. But there’s such a beautiful warmth in this novel, as we watch Eleanor break free of the walls that she has built around herself and engage with people for the first time in decades. It’s also laugh out loud funny, as we watch Eleanor try and navigate this new world.

Eleanor’s background is revealed slowly, and we are left guessing as to the true cause of her isolation until almost the very end of the story. But it’s a life-affirming tale of friendship, overcoming adversity, and joy. I will be recommending it to everyone I know!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
First published: May 2017
ISBN: 780008172114
HarperCollins
Provided by publisher

* This book was provided to me by the publishers for the purposes of review, via Netgalley

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