A love letter to… 2016

copy-of-quinoa

Dear 2016,

It’s been a year since I wrote to your predecessor, and though series on this blog don’t usually last long, I’m pleased that we are here once again, with me writing to you on your last day.

What to say about you as a year? I think everyone agrees that you’ve been eventful at best, disastrous at worst. On a global level, there’s no doubt that you’ve been probably one of the worst of my 34 years on the planet. Right-wing politics has taken a stranglehold on the world, leading to two of the worst decisions (in my opinion) that mankind could have made: Brexit and Trump. The people who support these decisions do not tend to hold views that are in sync with my own, and so I find myself in a position where the things I hold true are not being represented at a political level. But I believe that there are enough good people in the world that hopefully one day we’ll look back on you, 2016, as an anomaly.

But while political storms raged across the world, it’s important to remember the good things that happened on a personal level. I became a great-aunt! I can say in all honesty that my niece’s daughter Peggie is one of my favourite people, and I am so looking forward to watching her grow up. She’s lucky enough to have a middle name that matches my first name (I double checked, it was for me), and while I don’t get to see her quite as much as I would like, any time spent with her is wonderful.

Peggie was (technically) the only new addition to the family, which is odd for a family that grows as quickly as mine. A wedding in October brought the official tally for new additions to two, as Peggie’s mum and dad married in Spain. But Paul has been a part of the family for so long that it was a technicality!

In terms of work, I feel as though you were a good year. I don’t work for a company that has an official structure for promotion. But I like to think that I have been rewarded for my hard work in more ways than one, and I think I’ve finally reached a point where, when someone asks me what I do, I know what to say. I work in marketing!

A love letter to a year on this blog would not be complete without the mentioning of two certain radio presenters. My love for Wittertainment is steadfast, and you, 2016, have brought me some extra friends because of it! Mark Kermode has been in residence, once a month, at the BFI, and I have been to ten of the eleven shows (#superfan). I have been lucky enough to do this with my Wittertainment friend Chloe, who I have known for a while, and Liz and Goldy, two fellow Kermode acolytes. I’m so lucky that I get to spend time with these wonderful women who are helping to set the world alight in different ways.

The other Wittertainer has been a part of my year as well; I met Simon Mayo at YALC in July, where he was promoting his wonderful YA novel Blame. He’s such a gent, it strikes me that this kind of thing isn’t necessarily his favourite way to spend time, but he’s generous and chatty and I love that I have met him in person three years in a row now.

What else has happened? I went to Iceland; my first time on a plane in many years, and though it was only a short trip, it was amazing, and I’d love to return. I visited Glasgow for the first time (another plane trip), though that was for work and I got to see very little of the city. October saw two weddings; the aforementioned Spanish wedding of my niece and new nephew-in-law (another plane trip!), and my university friends Montanna and Ryan in Surrey. Yet again, I went to my friend’s caravan in Camber Sands for the weekend with my best friends, and had a lovely time.

Oh, and I moved! You were the year for a new beginning, 2016, as my friend Hannah and I had to vacate the chilly flat that we were renting, so we found somewhere new, and it’s lovely. It has a name (as well as a number, we’re not that posh), and it’s warmer, cosier, and just generally lovlier than where we were before. I still struggle with the age-old problem of keeping my bedroom tidy, and I no longer have a bath (woe is me), but I love it here.

All that’s left to wonder is what your successor has in store. All good things, I hope. Though with that inauguration and that exit looming, who knows? Let’s just try and make it a good one.

Smell ya later, 2016

Love Jane

A love letter to… is an ongoing series that hasn’t really been ongoing since this time last year, and only has a paltry four entries. So it’s not really a series at all. 

June 2016 Books

June 2016 Books (2)

 

It may seem silly (if you know me at all) to hear me saying that I am really getting back into reading, because I have always loved books and reading so much. But in the last year or so, I’ve just found so many other distractions that have pulled my attention away, and reading feels as though it has taken a bit of a back seat. But in the last couple of months that has changed again, and I find what I want to be doing almost more than anything else is reading. So it was a five-book month in June, and I enjoyed them all!

The Girls by Emma Cline

I reviewed The Girls when it was released; you can read my full review here. It’s a stunningly written book, about a young teenager who gets caught up with a group of dangerous drifters, led by a charismatic man with dreams of fame through his music. It’s heavily inspired by the Manson Family murders, about which I coincidentally happened to be listening to a podcast at the same time as reading The Girls, but the story is more about Evie, and her all-encompassing obsession on Suzanne, another girl in the group. It’s been one of the hottest new releases of the year, and with good reason – it’s a stupendously wonderful novel.

Valley of the Dolls

My full Valley of the Dolls review will follow later this month, to tie in with the 50th anniversary celebrations of its publication. I’ve read it before, a few years ago, and I loved it, so when I was offered the chance to review this brand new anniversary copy, complete with pink edged pages, I jumped at the chance! It’s a gloriously trashy novel about three young women, all looking to make their way in New York City in the mid-40s. Anne, the main heroine, has no dreams of fame, she just wants to experience life and find love. She becomes friends with two young starlets, Neely and Jennifer, and the book follows them throughout the decades as they find and lose love, fame and stability. The dolls of the title refers to pills that the three of them become reliant on throughout the novel. It’s truly wonderful; I love this book so much, and I’ll explain more in my forthcoming review.

Martini Henry by Sara Crowe

I also reviewed Martini Henry here on the blog recently; it was a book that I had a little trouble getting into, but I ultimately enjoyed it. It tells the story of a young woman, Sue, in the late 1980s, who wants to be a writer. It’s an epistolary novel; we learn about her through her letters to her aunt, and her diary entries, and then we get a dual narrative, as we start to learn the story of London Taylor through a book that Sue is reading. You can read my full review here; it’s certainly an unusual book!

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

This is the first inclusion of an audiobook in my book roundups – I have never really listened to audiobooks before, never really thinking that they were for me. But I had a free one to download with Audible, and I loved Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Kaling’s first bookso I thought I’d give it a go. The actual experience of listening to an audiobook was more than satisfactory – they’ll never replace actual reading for me, but I enjoyed being able to do it while I was walking, or travelling. The book itself was also a lot of fun, but I didn’t like it as much as I did its predecessor. That one had me laughing out loud in public places, and while this one was funny, it wasn’t as side-achingly hilarious. It was a bit more contemplative, which is understandable maybe, given that Mindy’s fame has increased hugely since she wrote the last book, and much of her writing here is about how she deals with being ‘a little bit famous’, and what it means to be a body positive role model to so many women. There’s a lot of good stuff about her romantic life, and her best friends (including some great stories about BJ Novak), and there’s one bit about her late mother that made me cry while I was walking down the street.

The House on Willow Street by Cathy Kelly

I haven’t read anything like this for a while; a ‘modern romance’ book, written by a woman for a woman (gender stereotyping not withstanding, let’s not pretend this was written with male readers in mind). The female characters in this are all heartbroken, and all need some sort of redemption before they are happy and need to find love again. These aren’t the sort of books that I want to read all the time; they can be a bit samey, and aren’t *that* imaginative. But every now and again I really crave a nice easy read like this, so I grabbed it from the library last weekend, and finished it just before the end of the month, so it made it into my June roundup! It’s fine, and completely unoffensive, but I need something a bit juicier for my next read!

Books in 2016 – 25

May 2016 ~ Books

 

June 2016 Books (1)
May was a slightly more successful month, reading wise, and not just in terms of numbers  (four in May vs two in April). I really, really enjoyed all four books that I finished last month, and I’m using two of them as a jumping off point to restart proper book reviews on Is That You Darling.

High Rise by J.G. Ballard

I reserved High Rise months and months ago, because I had seen the trailer for the film at the cinema, and had the vague idea that I would read the book before seeing the film. Then, the book took an age to arrive at the library, and I missed the film at the cinema. Despite not having seen the film, I had seen the trailer enough that Robert Laing was Tom Hiddlestone in my head while I was reading it.

It’s the first Ballard I’ve read, and I have to confess that it was almost a little too strange for me. It’s an expertly written book, but it’s so dense that it took me a long time to get through it. If you know nothing about it, it’s the story of a high rise building, populated by residents on a sliding scale of affluence (though no lower class people live here, it’s a tale of middle and upper class people). The residents’ lives gradually descend into chaos as violent breaks out throughout the building, and social conventions begin to break down. I think its absolute genius lies in the fact that it doesn’t feel as though it’s a book that was written in the 1970s – it is completely timeless.

Freya by Anthony Quinn

I have a real soft spot for historical fiction that is set in the 20th century, and that’s what initially drew me to Freya. It starts on VE Day, and follows Freya, and her best friend Nancy, as they navigate life as women in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Both are aspiring writers; Nancy writes novels and Freya wants to be a journalist. We follow their friendship as they meet on a day of celebration, through Oxford colleges and post-university life, with life inevitably complicated by a man. Freya is a modern heroine, eschewing marriage and children in favour of working hard to try and get a foothold on a career that is dominated by men. Ultimately it’s just a really entertaining story with a complex and interesting central character at its heart.

Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi *

A full review of Nina is Not OK will follow, as it’s a book that I really enjoyed, almost despite myself. It really reminded me, in the beginning, of a book that I read earlier in the year called The #1 Rule for Girls. This wasn’t a favourable comparison, as that was a really unimaginative YA novel that didn’t do anything for me. But ultimately, Nina is Not OK crawled out from that similarity, and established itself as a really, really interesting look at a teenager struggling with alcoholism. I’ll talk more in my review about why I enjoyed it so much; for now I’ll just say that it’s out next month, and it’s well worth a read!

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Hot on the heels of many, many other so-called ‘grip lit’ books comes Dear Amy, a debut novel by Helen Callaghan. Amy is actually Margot, teacher and agony aunt for her local paper, who receives a letter one day claiming to be from a young girl who went missing twenty years ago, never to be found. Although at first the police laugh it off as a prank, eventually it becomes clear that something sinister is at work, and Margot has to confront some of her own demons in order to work out what is happening. There’s a full review of  Dear Amy to follow on the blog very soon.

Books in 2016 – 20

Looking Back ~ April 2016

What happened in April? It all seems like a long time ago (not least because it was), but it was a good month!

Most importantly, I became a great-aunt! I’ve mentioned this time and time again, but April 2016 will always be special to me for this reason, and I’m pleased to report that Peggie Jane (middle name for me) is beautiful!

In other news, right at the start of the month, I visited Glasgow for the first time. It was a work trip, so no real time to see the city, but we were staying by the river, and the views were nice! We also got to head into town for some food and had some lovely vegetarian/vegan Indian food at a place called Usha’s.

River Clyde Glasgow

Elsewhere, outside of work, I headed into London for Mark Kermode Live in 3D again. I decided to take the whole day off and do a little exploring this time; nothing too off the beaten track, as I stayed largely on the Southbank. I popped into Tate Modern, somewhere I like to go very sparingly, as I am not a huge fan of modern art. But I do love Mondrian, and I was excited when I chanced upon a couple of his paintings in one of the exhibitions.

Mondrian Tate Modern

The Mark Kermode event was as wonderful as ever – it’s a monthly event but each one is distinct; they follow a similar structure but he covers all sorts of films, and it’s honestly just an honour to get to hear him talk so passionately about films. I also toddled along to Norwich at the end of the month, again to see Dr K (I know), this time presenting Silent Running.

I also ticked off a 34 Before 34 item (Go to IKEA – blog post to follow), went on a course in London, and very much appreciated the first warm days of spring. I am now able to go for a walk in the evenings, because the sun is invariably shining and it stays light for longer, so I load up a podcast, and walk away!

Earls Colne

May has already been pretty exciting, so I’m looking forward to next month’s roundup.