The 20 Questions Book Tag- Part 1

Although you can gather a bit of information about me as a reader from my other posts, I thought it would be nice to give more insight into my habits and opinions! One thing I love about the online book community is how strong we all feel about how we read and what the right way to treat our books is, it’s so interesting that a group of people who share the same hobby can be so divided. If you agree or disagree with any of my answers, let me know in the comments!

I was looking for a while to find a set of questions that I thought would be fun to answer, and I stumbled across this tag completed by A Book Owl’s Corner (her post can be found here). I’ve split the tag into two because I don’t want this post to be super long, and I don’t want to hold back on any of my answers.

I’m ready to get into this, and let you all get to know me as a reader better!

How many books are too many books in a series?

This is definitely a cheat answer, but it really depends on the series. I think there’s never a set amount, but starting a series that has more than five books is intimidating and probably would put me off if I wasn’t super invested in reading it. In general I’d say I’m a fan of shorter series- I love being emerged in one world for a long time, but I think I get nervous that my favourite characters or plot points would get dropped or diluted somehow as more books are added.

Interestingly, I think the idea of having eight shorter books in a series is more off-putting to me than having six long books. I think that’s just me being strange.

How do you feel about cliffhangers?

If you’ve read my recent review of Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind (you can find that post here if you haven’t), you’d probably think that I don’t. That’s quite a fair assessment, but it isn’t as simple as that.

I don’t mind a cliffhanger, but I often find they tip more into an anticlimax than a super suspenseful and effective ending. Maybe it’s because I do get quite invested in the fictional world and characters as I’m reading, so cliffhangers (especially when they aren’t being used to set up a sequel) kill me a bit because I know I’ll never get closure for that book. If a cliffhanger in used to leave the characters at a certain moment in time and not everything is resolved but the story being told feels complete, I’m more than okay with it. But if the book is very intense and suspense-driven, and then I’m left on a complete cliffhanger with no answers to explain what happened in the book, then it’s a hard no.

Hardback or paperback?

I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I am team paperback all the way. I can count the number of hardbacks I own on two hands, and a lot of them are not full-sized books.

Of course, hardbacks are undeniably more aesthetically pleasing than paperbacks. They don’t crease in the spine, they tend to have beautiful dust sleeves and skins, and they just have an air of refinement about them. The reading experience is just not for me though, and I can’t sacrifice my enjoyment of reading books to have a pretty bookshelf. Paperbacks are just lighter and easier to read in my opinion, and I like to be able to properly manipulate the book I’m reading to suit whatever position I’m in.

Favorite book?

Oh, what a question to ask a book lover. Honestly, this question puts the fear of life in me when someone asks me at a party because I know they’re going to judge what I say based off of the fact I’m a literature student. They expect a classic, or maybe a book they’ve never heard of, and honestly the first place my mind goes to is Harry Potter.

However, swallowing all that fear and anticipation, I think my current favourite book is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet. I have a review for it coming very soon, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants an emotional coming-of-age read. It’s beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down.

Least favorite book?

I think I’ve been quite lucky that I haven’t really ever hated a book to the point where I’ve blacklisted it on my ‘least favourite’ list, because I actually had to think about this for a while.

The first that comes to mind (and I realise my blog is beginning to sound like a smear campaign against this book) is Leave the World Behind. I was just very disappointed in this book, and because of that I wouldn’t recommend it. I won’t say much more.

My other choice would be Moby Dick. I loved the plot about Captain Ahab chasing the white whale, but wow does Herman Melville showboat his whale-related knowledge. I had to study this book last year, and it was a struggle to read. This book put me in a reading slump halfway through reading it, which has never ever happened before. Honestly, the main plot that everyone knows takes up around 20% of the novel, so unless you have an avid interest in out-of-date whale information, maybe give it a miss.

Love triangles, yes or no?

I think when people think about love triangles in fiction, they go straight to an Edward-Bella-Jacob in Twilight situation. That version of this trope is a bit old, and sometimes it feels like an easy, lazy way to create drama in a romance book.

I do like love triangles when they feel more realistic, because we don’t always have a simple journey to romance. It’s nice to see characters being humanly imperfect in the pursuit of love, and I find it comforting to read something other than the ‘love at first sight’ and ‘you’re the only one for me’ classic portrayals of relationships. I want to read messy romances where there might be a love triangle or confusion over who the character should be with, because that’s real life. Sometimes we don’t just love one person.

The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

I don’t remember ever DNF-ing a book. Ever. I have a really weird obsession with completing things, so I think it would bother me more to never finish a book rather than struggling through something that I hated. The only reason I would ever stop reading is if the book was unnecessarily triggering and offensive.

Edit: I have just laid eyes on my secondary bookshelf and I remembered that I have, in fact, DNF-ed a book. It was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Not much more needs to be said on that. If you’ve read it, I’m sure you understand.

A book you’re currently reading?

I’ve had a really productive week in terms of reading and absolutely stormed through my August tbr, and I’ve only just finished the last book I read (all reviews to come soon) so technically I am currently reading zero books.

That’s a boring answer though. The only book left on my tbr list is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, so that’s probably going to be my next current read. Unfortunately, as term creeps closer, I am going to have to start peppering in some preparatory reading for my course, so I might have to divert away from strictly reading for pleasure for a while. If you asked me this question again in a few months, you might get a strange answer.

Last book you recommended to someone?

I recommend The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman to anyone who mentions to me that they want to read something but they aren’t sure what they’re in the mood for. Murder mysteries are always good (especially when they’re well-written and funny), and I just think this book is a great feel good, holiday read. I actually have never spoken to someone who hasn’t already had this book recommended to them by a relative or friend, so I think that speaks to how great this book is and how much anyone would enjoy it.

Oldest book you’ve read?

This is a torturous question for someone who loves historical fiction and who has chosen a lot of historical modules at university. I’m going to have to make an estimation, because I honestly can’t remember all the things I’ve read in the last three years. I’ve also excluded poetry and plays, purely because I really can’t remember every single poem I’ve read, and saying Shakespeare feels like a cop out.

So, I’ve read The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, which was published in 1764. Earlier than that, I’ve read a good portion of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1392). I’ve also read things like Homer’s The Odyssey (8th Century BC), but that technically is an epic poem, and therefore doesn’t qualify here.

So, there are my answers for the first ten questions of the twenty question book tag! I hope you enjoyed reading this, and it’s helped you get to know me as a reader better. Please leave your opinions in the comments, and let me know what you would have answered for this tag!



The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?

The Vanishing Half Blurb

Spoiler-Free Thoughts

Right off the bat, I’m going to contribute to the hype that this book has already received on the internet. If you’re put off by over-hyped books, then please skip this review and cut straight to reading this book.

The idea of this story is really simple and yet Bennett infuses it with complexity because of the themes and topics she addresses. I really liked how it shows the development of two twin sisters’ lives, both together and separately, and how their individual choices impact the family as a whole.

This book is very representative of a lot of different people, and the characters vary in race, sexuality, gender identity, class and relationships. I think Bennett creates a cast of characters who are not only widely diverse, but also are not simply stereotypes of the different groups they represent- we see a real spectrum of personalities within the society that she creates. No character is portrayed as perfect, and this book really shows how our flaws bring us together just as much as our merits.

The plot doesn’t take any major turns that you wouldn’t expect, but this book never feels predictable, and the characters’ actions always have consequences that ripple through the family and those around them. It’s an emotional story that will definitely tug on your heartstrings, and it takes you on the up-and-down journey that we all experience as we go through life. At the same time as it is utterly relatable, Bennett explores really important issues such as colourism, which for me was really eye-opening and educational about the nuances that can exist within this issue that I may not have been aware of due to cultural differences.

There are a lot of sensitive topics included in this book, including racial abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, death, colourism and racism. If you are particularly affected by any of these issues, you might want to consider whether or not this book is the right read for you.

All in all, this is an excellent read, and I don’t want to offer too many thoughts for fear of spoiling your first experience reading this. It is beautifully written, and a truly touching read.

Plot and Characters Review (Spoilers!)

The plot of this book is so cleverly crafted, and I personally really liked the jumps in time as we switched from the twins’ generation to their children’s. I think that by taking this approach, Bennett keeps the reader on the same journey as her characters as they discover how intertwined and yet separate their lives have become. By prolonging this process, the reader becomes more emotionally invested in the story, almost participating themselves in the efforts to retrace Stella’s steps and find out what happened to cause such a rift.

I really liked how the twins were distinguished from each other from the outset of the novel through their personalities, avoiding the stereotypical portrayal that equates identical looks with identical characters. The different motivations that the girls had to leave echoed this as well, but were cleverly similar; both were trying to escape trauma. I liked the fact that the subsequent lives the twins ended up living, with Stella married into a white family and Desiree returning home to Mallard to look after their mother, were the reverse of how each one had reacted to leaving their hometown. I think this shows how much we change as we grow up, and poses an interesting comment on the nature vs nurture debate in terms of showing how our experiences can change us.

In terms of the children, I have to confess that when I first started reading about Jude and Reece I really thought Reece was going to end up being the Stella’s son. Which was of course very disturbing, and I was very glad when I realised that this was not the case. Classic reading misunderstanding moment. I really liked that Jude seemed quite similar to Stella, being more practically minded and wanting to study medicine, and being quieter or more nervous. Then, when we meet Kennedy, she seems more similar to how Desiree is described as a teenager: more confident and outgoing. It was a really clever way to demonstrate how family ties remain regardless of distance and lifestyles. I did get that Kennedy was meant to be a bit spoiled, but the main part of her character to me was just how lost she was. It felt like she was the typical posh girl who was hiding behind an act of confidence how stuck she really was. Maybe that was just because I had built up a lot of sympathy for the characters in general, so I might have been too kind on her in my character assessment.

It was really sad to see how similarly tragic both Desiree and Stella’s lives were. They both felt semi-trapped after running to escape unpleasant situations, with Desiree running from her abusive husband back to her hometown and then staying there for years, and Stella running from her sexually abusive employer and getting stuck in a life pretending to be white. I did think there was going to be a big freeing moment when they reunited, and although I was surprised that this didn’t happen, I think it was better that way. It would’ve felt too false and engineered against how raw and natural the rest of the story felt. There were quite a few moments like that throughout the novel, where Bennett almost dangled the carrot of escape in front of them, whether it be Stella’s friendship with Loretta, when Jude finds Stella at the play, and the ending when Jude tells Kennedy their grandmother has died. They made the book even more beautifully painful.

I really liked the portrayal of relationships in this book. Stella and Blake represent the couple that look perfect on the outside, but are secretly unhappy and suppressing themselves to keep the relationship working. Desiree and Early are the childhood sweethearts, but are far less conventional than this trope tends to be, due to their not getting married and getting reunited under such dubious circumstances. Kennedy’s relationship with Frantz on the surface seems like a rebellious reaction to her mother’s refusal to admit her real identity, but I also think is a way for her to try and connect to her secret family and stop feeling so lost. Jude and Reece were just a refreshing couple, and it was nice to have trans representation in a novel without it being pushed to the centre; this didn’t feel performative in the slightest.

The setting of Mallard was really interesting, and it gave a different perspective of colourism than I’m used to reading. I think most of the literature I’ve consumed that confronts racism and colourism is more similar to the parts where the twins’ dad is killed by white men, or the racist abuse that the Walker family face when they move into Stella’s white neighbourhood. I thought that Bennett did a really good job of showing colourism as well as racism, particularly when Jude enters Mallard as a child and is treated as an object of disapproved spectacle. This is not something I feel particularly educated about, so I really appreciate the chance to understand this issue more.

I’ve seen some reviews that didn’t like how the ending left things unresolved between Stella and Desiree, but I personally thought it fit really well with the story. This book feels really intimate, and it is almost like looking into another family’s memories. For me, although I’d love to have seen more of how their lives unfurled, I felt like I had just reached the end of what I had a right to see. It felt like a natural point to finish the book, and I actually really like Bennett’s choice to do that.

Concluding Thoughts and Rating

This book is just amazing. I think it’s my favourite book that I’ve read this year. If you’re in doubt, read this. It’s beautifully written, emotional and completely captivating.

I’m rating The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett five stars.

Five Stars


The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

‘There are 1.2 million human-sized rabbits living in the UK. They can walk, talk and drive cars, the result of an Inexplicable Anthropomorphising Event fifty-five years ago. 
And a family of rabbits is about to move into Much Hemlock, a cosy little village where life revolves around summer fetes, jam-making, gossipy corner stores, and the oh-so-important Best Kept Village awards. No sooner have the rabbits arrived than the villagers decide they must depart. But Mrs Constance Rabbit is made of sterner stuff, and her family are behind her. Unusually, so are their neighbours, long-time residents Peter Knox and his daughter Pippa, who soon find that you can be a friend to rabbits or humans, but not both. With a blossoming romance, acute cultural differences, enforced rehoming to a MegaWarren in Wales, and the full power of the ruling United Kingdom Anti Rabbit Party against them, Peter and Pippa are about to question everything they’d ever thought about their friends, their nation, and their species.’

The Constant Rabbit Blurb

Spoiler-Free Thoughts

I bought this book mainly because of the wacky cover, and even weirder subject matter. Dystopian isn’t my favourite genre, but I’m up for trying something new if it captures my interest.

For me, this book was definitely a very unique and clever way to make a wider point about traditional communities and resistance to the ‘other’ in the UK, but it was fairly transparent. Fforde draws very intelligent parallels between his world and our own, but in my opinion it was kept very close under the surface, alluding to this ‘hidden’ meaning in a very wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of way. I think describing it as political satire is very fitting.

I really enjoyed the plot, because it didn’t feel too far from what could happen in our reality. Once you accept that there are anthropomorphised rabbits, all the other events feel way less outlandish, and I think that’s why I was able to enjoy this book so much despite my hesitance with the dystopian genre. A lot happens, and there’s a lot of action which helps prevent the pace of the story getting lost in Fforde’s attempts to explain his weird and wonderful rabbit world.

I definitely imagined the characters stylised like Bugs Bunny, and that definitely aided my enjoyment of the book and bought more into the satirical comedy side of this novel. Both the human and rabbit characters are well-written, and although Fforde does lean into certain stereotypes, I think this fits very well with the general tone of the book.

It’s hard to make much comment without ruining the book, and I think preserving the surprise of how events unfold really is essential in ensuring this doesn’t become a boring read, so I think I’ll leave it there. If you scroll to the bottom of my review, you’ll be able to read my concluding thoughts and rating without seeing any spoilers!

In-Depth Review (Spoilers!)

I really liked how the book opened by immediately placing us into the community and showing by example the virtues it holds dear: law and order, unity and insularity. Fforde’s use of past prime ministers as nicknames for the different library staff instantly tells you that this book is making a political message, and I appreciate that pre-warning before the proper satire began. Starting each chapter with a quote or definition and having footnotes throughout also added to this tone, and I think that whilst I wouldn’t necessarily like these choices in other cases, they worked really well with this novel.

The plot in general is very typical of the dystopian genre: a group of repressed people (or in this case, rabbits) rise up against the tyrannical power institution that is trying to control their existence. Of course, when you throw in a load of anthropomorphised rabbits, it spices it up a bit. Fforde’s plot clearly mirrors the idea of immigration or refugee camps, as the rabbits are encouraged to relocate into a MegaWarren, and are already restricted to colonies unless they have a special license. What I really enjoyed was having insight not only into the institution creating and enforcing these policies through Peter’s job as a Rabbit Spotter, but also the people encouraging them through Much Hemlock. I think this is where Fforde departs from conventional sci-fi, dystopian plots, because there is much more emphasis on how the actions of individuals spur on each side, rather than the actions of a big group as a whole.

I really enjoyed how the plot followed the development of Peter’s role as a double agent- through both his dinners with the rabbits and his operations at work, we gain more information along with him and more of this crazy world is revealed to us. I really liked that fact that Harvey was in the book from very early on, and everything seemed to tie together and have relevance. Most of the details mentioned gained greater significance or played a role later on, and I think that that shows just how good Fforde’s writing is. Most of the named characters went on to play a role that extended beyond how they were originally introduced, which really strengthened the world and made it feel a lot more real.

In terms of characters, I’ll deal with the humans first. Peter Knox, our not-so brave hero and narrator, is a likeable and relatable character. We all want to think that we would be the one leading the rebellion into battle against the evil power, but let’s be honest, most of us would settle for being a sympathetic part of a larger, malicious machine. I do appreciate the allusion to Peter Rabbit in his name (and Fforde does reference Beatrix Potter so I would suggest this is purposeful), and I thought his perspective on the events were realistic. His daughter, Pippa, is a classic strong teenage girl, who wants to do what she wants, love who she wants, and represent a moral cause. I was a bit confused why at first she was written as being reluctant to hang out with Bobby because she’s a rabbit, but I guess I would be reluctant if my dad signed me up to go shopping with a human-sized rabbit I’d never met. The Mallets are a classic chauvinistic duo, determined to banish the rabbits from Much Hemlock and reestablish the mundane traditional way of life. They are the archetype of men who support their conservative values with underhand violence and hatred, but I think considering the other villains are foxes and no-eared rabbits we can allow this.

The rabbits are driven by their movement to stop being a suppressed minority and be able to live normally in society. Constance Rabbit, Peter’s long-lost university friend/crush, is a ballsy, independent imagination of Jessica Rabbit if her surname was a more literal representation of her species. Her relationship with Doc, who is a hilarious take on the husband who hides his possessiveness over his wife under unconvincing jokes, is tumultuous and feels like a reflection of human relationships on steroids. Their children, Bobby (who is a member of the Underground rebellion group) and Kent who has a ‘burrowing’ problem), are stereotypical tear-away teens who get themselves into trouble and leave their parents to figure out where they are and what they’re up to. The rabbit family are essentially straight out of a British soap opera. Mr Ffoxe, Peter’s boss, is a great villain, largely because he holds both physical and institutional power. If it’s not enough that he threatens to eat people’s eyeballs if he believes their loyalty is fading, he probably has the power to make you and your family disappear, and never get a job again. I think this manifestation of human ‘big bosses’ is brilliant, and it definitely made me laugh.

One thing I never got comfortable with was the inter-species relationships. I got the idea that Constance was Peter’s crush at university, but the idea that they would actually be together was just a step too far into the weird for me. Harvey and Pippa’s relationship too was very fast and I really thought he was going to end up double-crossing her, because it seemed to come out of nowhere and serve little significance other than giving Fforde an excuse to raise the intensity and place Pippa in the colonies with the rabbit rebellion movement.

The ending also felt a little bit too neat of a solution to the problem. How do you solve a bunch of human-sized rabbits rebelling against their confinement by humans? Make them disappear just as magically as they apparently appeared. It just felt a bit flat to me to put so much effort into world building and establishing this weird reality just to give an ending like that. I also was baffled that Peter let Pippa turn into a rabbit and go off with Harvey. Firstly, how does that even work, and secondly, would you really let your only family member turn into a rabbit and leave you with little to no resistance to the idea? I wasn’t so convinced.

Concluding Thoughts and Rating

I think because I don’t usually like these kinds of books, my opinion might be slightly kinder than I normally would be. This book is very clever and funny, and if you enjoy political satire and weirdness this is definitely for you. Give it a try if you want something a bit different from the conventional.

I’m giving The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde four stars.

Four Stars


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (famous co-presenter of BBC’s Pointless) is set in a retirement home, where a group of 4 friends investigate unsolved cases to pass the time. When the murder happens on their doorstep, the group have to trade in their old case files for real investigative work. The novel follows their attempt to uncover the truth about the crime.

Spoiler-Free Review (Overall Thoughts)

This book definitely didn’t disappoint. When I started reading this I had just finished my degree, and to be honest I went in with a bit of academic snobbery. Is this just another celebrity book that probably wouldn’t have gotten published without their status? Safe to say, I was glad to be proven wrong.

I really liked the idea of setting this book in a retirement village for two reasons. Firstly, I think it puts an interesting twist on murder mystery novels, which has become fairly saturated due to its popularity. Secondly, I think it works to dissolve the idea that people in retirement villages are boring and no longer valuable to society.

Without going into too much depth, the characters were really well-written and really showcased the broad range of personalities that exist within the elderly population. Once again, there’s a strange misconception that when you reach a certain age you lose your personality, which Osman really works against. There are adventurous and shy characters, thriving and struggling characters, angry and happy characters- the novel features a varied and multi-dimensional cast.

Overall, if you want a well-written murder mystery read that has an interesting setting and characters, I’d recommend The Thursday Murder Club. It wasn’t the most shocking whodunit reveal at the end, but it definitely wasn’t too simple or obvious.

If you don’t want any spoilers, skip to the end of this review to see my rating!

In-Depth Thoughts About the Plot and Characters (Spoilers!)

I’ve read that some reviewers found the book had too many murders and suspects, which made for a confusing ending. I do agree that to get the most out of Osman’s story, it’s probably best to read the entire book in a short period of time, ideally in one to two sittings. For me, though, having multiple murders worked well because it cast suspicion on literally everyone, even Joyce and Elizabeth. Rather than having the characters involved in dodgy dealings being the main viable suspects, Osman cleverly shows that absolutely anyone could have been the killer- helping to dispel the idea that the elderly have little impact on society in a slightly more negative way.

There’s quite an unlikely band of killers: Penny, a now-dementia sufferer who used to work for the police, John, her husband, another resident of the retirement village, and Bogdan, a worker who befriends the central protagonists. Once you divert past the actual murders, you have a celebrity son with gang associations, a reverend whose secret affair with a nun ended up in her pregnancy and subsequent suicide, and a man who gave his dead wife’s family fake ashes to scatter abroad because he couldn’t part with them. I really liked how Osman captured the darkness that can hide within normal society, and the ways in which he infused each wrong-doing with complex shades of morality and humanity. There definitely were no straight forward crimes in this book.

The one critique I would make is that the start of the novel is a bit slow. It’s nothing I couldn’t push past, and I’ve seen far worse examples of a slow-opening, but nevertheless Osman doesn’t put as much animation into his scene-setting as the main action. The book really shone when the murder investigation was underway, rather than discussions about the retirement village.

The characters in general were well-written and multi-dimensional, and I especially enjoyed the group dynamics between the Thursday Murder Club and the detectives Chris and Donna. The ways in which the Club were able to use their knowledge and connections in order to make breakthroughs in the case was really interesting, and made a fresh change from detectives solving crimes in other works in the crime genre. It almost had a true crime feeling to me, and reminded me of cases where reddit users or podcast listeners have made progress with cases that previously had been left unsolved.

I also really liked how Elizabeth and Joyce’s characters complemented each other, with Elizabeth’s confidence and gumption aiding Joyce’s social awareness and perceptiveness. They felt like a real friendship duo, which made the plot seem even more authentic. I actually felt nervous when Stephen was playing chess with Bogdan at the end of the novel in case something happened to him, largely because of my investment in these two leading ladies. They also brought a real comedic aspect, especially in the moments where Elizabeth was pressing Chris and Donna for information. Their bribing of Chris with Joyce’s cakes that Joyce springs to mind as a very entertaining scene, and one of the lighter moments within the book.

Concluding Thoughts and Rating

Overall, I think The Thursday Murder Club is a crime book that everyone would enjoy, particularly readers who like the crime genre and are looking for something a little bit different. It’s an easy and entertaining read, whilst retaining enough of the mystery that makes crime literature so compelling. I thought the character writing was where Osman really shone here, and he creates a plot that is complex and multifaceted enough that it would be hard to guess all the different elements to complete accuracy.

I’m giving Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club five stars, and would highly recommend it!

Childhood Favourites: First Series

This week I reorganised my main bookshelf and I found some of the first series that I remember loving as a child. I’ve been feeling nostalgic about these books and my memories of reading them when I was younger ever since, and thought it might be fun to share them on here.

When I think about the books I read and enjoy now, I think my tastes have changed quite a lot since reading these series, but maybe this will show how certain books helped this development to happen. It might even encourage me to revisit certain genres or tropes that I’ve abandoned in recent years.

These are a selection that I enjoyed up to about the age of 12, and I will probably make another blog post that features YA series that I loved when I was a teenager. I think this could be a really nice idea for a series that tracks my main reading likes and dislikes over the years.

Hopefully some of these trigger some nostalgia in you, and maybe even inspire you to take a walk down memory lane and rediscover some of your childhood favourites!

The Harry Potter Series

The Harry Potter Series

You probably guessed that this would be featured on this list, but I couldn’t not include this just to be less predictable. This is the first series that I remember reading that I really immersed myself in the world and the first thing I would’ve called myself a ‘fan’ of (me and my childhood best friend had a secret harry potter club, it was really cute). This cemented my enjoyment of reading as a hobby rather than something that was required by school, and it’s where my book buying habits started (I have 3 copies of each book).

I don’t really read fantasy anymore, but I’d like to start getting back into that genre again. Even if this hasn’t had a lasting influence on my reading tastes, I’m sure I wouldn’t be half the bookworm I am today without this series.

The Percy Jackson Series

The Percy Jackson Series

Another potential obvious selection for this list, I haven’t met many avid readers who didn’t at least read the first Percy Jackson book at some point. I remember finding these books really funny, and I definitely still look for that same sense of humour in the books i read today. It also showed me how much I loved history and introduced me to the idea that the two could go hand in hand (enter historical fiction and the basis of my degree). I also just recently read Stephen Fry’s Mythos (you can read my review here), which is a re-telling of Greek mythology, so clearly Percy Jackson still influences my reading tastes.

Overall, they’re just exciting and well-written, and I refuse to let my memory of how great this series is be tainted by the awful movie adaptions. Speaking of awful things, I’ve included a picture of my copies of the series so you can share the pain of them not matching.

The 13 Trilogy

The 13 Trilogy

Onto a more obscure one now: the 13 trilogy. I don’t remember the general plot of these very well, but what I do remember is that there was a girl who could see fairies and goblins who gets sent to her grandmother’s house that is full of secrets. It was a classic fantasy series, and it helped me to realise I like the genre in general, not just the Harry Potter series. I also became obsessed with charm bracelets for a while (a charm bracelet is important in the first book), so it was probably the first time that reading a book influenced my fashion choices as well.

As I mentioned before, I don’t really read fantasy book anymore, but I do like the Gothic, so I wonder whether reading these books about houses with secret passageways and rooms had any role in that.

The Gallagher Girls Series

The Gallagher Girls Series

I remember the Gallagher Girls series because it was the first time I had read that kind of female character, and it was so refreshing (even at the age of 9). I really loved the school for spies idea and it started to take my interest beyond the magical fantasy bracket and into a more YA/romance genre. It might be cheating to include this because I know there are more books in this series than I’ve read (I’ve only read the five books in the picture above and I think there are two or three more), but I’m counting it.

I think of all the series I’ve included this is the one that’s closest to what I read now, and probably had the most influence on the books I read in my teenage years.

The Animal Ark Series

The Animal Ark Series

I got most of my Animal Ark books from various charity shops, and I don’t think I ever had the complete collection, but getting these books is almost as fond of a memory as reading them. This probably is another cause of my current book buying problem. I love animals, and reading about a young girl getting to interact with all the animals you could ever imagine in often funny and unusual ways was very entertaining. I’m definitely going to give my copies to any children that I or another family member might have, because they’re just so pure and lovely.

I can’t really say that these books are very close to or have influenced my current reading tastes that much, but they helped with my general desire to read.

The Rainbow Fairy Series

I was just going to stick to five series for this list, but I wanted to include these books as a bonus pick. The Rainbow Fairies books were another series I loved to collect, and although they didn’t form a cohesive narrative (as far as I can remember) they were a childhood staple. My sister and I are very different, and she hated reading, but we both loved these books so I have a lot of fun memories because of this series. I was also a very big fan of having my name on a book, especially when a fairy was named after me too!

Once again, I can’t really say that these have influenced my reading tastes more than just sustaining my desire to read. One interesting thing I do remember is choosing which books to buy based on the fairy on the cover, so maybe that’s where my habit of buying books with pretty or interesting covers comes from?

I hope you enjoyed that journey down memory road, and took something from this indulgence in my nostalgia. It’s always interesting to look back on where your reading journey started, and this has shown me that maybe I should take more inspiration from the genres my younger self enjoyed.


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

When Amanda and Clay take their two children for a countryside getaway, they end up being more cut off than they bargained for. After arriving at their holiday home, they quickly realise a disaster has hit New York City when the homeowners, Ruth and G.H., turn up on their doorstep. Without service, internet or connection to the outside world, the families must work together to figure out how to stay safe from the world, and each other.

Overall Thoughts (Spoiler-Free)

Firstly, I think describing this book as a ‘literary thriller’ is misleading. This book works much more on suspense, the fear of the unknown and a suffocating yet terrifyingly detached atmosphere. If you go into this book expecting this rather than conventional ‘thriller’ tropes, I think you’d have a better experience.

Alam really masterfully underpins the normally comforting feeling of holiday isolation with something more sinister, and the characters’ worries and fears are passed onto you as a reader. This book is more of a slow burn, but I think that partially helps to build this atmosphere. You always feel like you’re there with the characters, waiting for something to happen, hoping it’s not as bad as your imagination suggests.

The characters are not particularly likeable, and although I think Alam does this on purpose to add to the suffocating atmosphere of his novel, I did end up getting tired of them by the end of the book. By the end of the book (which is less than 300 pages long) I didn’t really care what happened to the characters, which really killed my investment in the plot.

Overall, I was disappointed with this book. It didn’t really do anything for me personally, but I have seen a lot of positive reviews for it. If you like slow-burn, apocalyptic novels, then it might be worth trying Leave the World Behind.

Also, just a quick PSA, there is a lot of talk about sex and bodily fluids in this novel. It’s not written erotically, but characters do randomly talk about their genitalia and masturbation more often than I would’ve liked.

Id also probably give a content warning for this book. If you have health anxiety or emetophohia, this might not be the book for you.

If you don’t want to see any spoilers, skip to the end of this review to see my rating.

Plot and Characters Review (Spoilers!)

Was there really a plot to this book? Things happen, of course; a family go on holiday; some strangers turn up on the doorstep; they lose power, service and internet connection; Clay gets lost trying to get a newspaper and turns down a crying woman’s pleas for help; animals start to act strange; Archie gets sick; Rosie gets lost in the woods and finds another house. But they stay just like that, a list of things that are connected but never come together to offer a satisfying narrative.

Even considering this as an apocalypse novel, I wasn’t scared because none of the odd events had real consequences. The random deer herd appearing never had any impact, nor did the flamingo. The noise did seemingly cause Archie’s illness but we never get to see the result of that so it’s really diminished. Ruth and G.H. arriving didn’t give me a sense of danger, and they never seemed like a threat to the family. When the children are lost in the woods, we know they’ve gone exploring and so it doesn’t seem that shocking when they’re eventually found and are safe again.

I think my main problem is how little space Alam allocates to the family realising they’re in an apocalyptic situation. Yes, the service is out for most of the novel, but at first the characters aren’t really affected by this beyond an annoyance that they can’t watch. By the time Archie gets ill and all the characters go into panic mode, there is so few pages left that it almost seems like an afterthought. The noise isn’t really considered by the characters, so the suggestion that it somehow caused Archie’s decline feels really flat and a quick way to add more apocalyptic elements into the novel.

I think Amanda might be one of my least favourite characters ever written. I know this is on purpose, she’s an upward-reaching white woman who wants to be in full control of what her family are doing and yet falls apart under pressure. Clay is not much better, and seems more concerned with his genitals and toxic masculinity for most of the novel until the real danger comes and he realises he has none of the necessary skills or qualities to actually be of use in an apocalypse.

G.H. and Ruth at least make the couple tone done their weird sex and perfect family charade. Ruth is similar to Amanda but I think her being older and less brash helps her to be at least palatable. G.H. takes on the figure of a grandad and to be honest he is the only adult with much sense.

I didn’t have many issues with Archie and Rosie, which is maybe because the narrative wasn’t really focused on them or filtered through them. I liked the fact Rosie just went off on her own and tried to find some supplies to save her family at the end of the book, which was probably the most useful thing any of them did.

To be honest, I was just frustrated when I reached the end of this book and none of the building amounted to anything. For all the bad points, it wasn’t an awful read, and it was saved by the fact it was so short. I just wish Alam showed the after effects of the apocalypse.

Concluding Thoughts and Rating

Leave the World Behind wasn’t for me. I’m not the biggest fan of apocalypse novels, so it might be that this book just didn’t gel with my personal tastes. I definitely wouldn’t discourage someone from reading this if the concept made them really excited, but it was disappointing for me.

I’m giving Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam 2.5 stars.


2.5 Stars

My (hopeful) August TBR

So like a lot of avid readers, my book buying habits usually surpass my reading speed. As per usual, I bought a lot of books in June and July that I’m really excited to read, so I’ve compiled a TBR list that I can hopefully get through in August!

The first book (starting from the left in the image above) is Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews about this book in particular and Murakami’s work in general, so this has been a must-read for me for a while. This novel tracks a college student in Tokyo as he negotiates the struggle between new and old relationships that form alongside his transition into adulthood. Described as detailing a ‘young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love’, I think this could be a great coming-of-age novel that deals with the harsh reality of growing up. As a young person myself, I feel like this is the perfect time for me to read this.

The next book is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. About adult identical twins who lead separate lives after growing up in a small, southern black community, this book looks at how the past continues to influence future generations. As their daughters’ fates become intertwined despite their mothers’ different directions in life, Brit Bennett creates a story about family and origin that is both emotional and empowering. This book sounds like a really powerful and important read, which I am excited to start.

The Dinner Guest is by B.P. Walter, and this selection is heavily influenced by BookTok. I haven’t read a proper Agatha Christie-style thriller in a while, and that is just what this book promises to be. When four perfect people go to dinner, no one would imagine the web of secrets that would be revealed, and that one of them would be murdered. The description of this book is fairly short (that’s all the information I have), so it’s very intriguing. The only thing putting me off is that this book is slightly longer than the others, and for some reason I get the sense it might put me in a bit of a reading slump.

The fourth book is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, which is about a couple (a beekeeper and an artist) who live in Syria, until the war forces them to escape. Left blinded, they undertake the dangerous journey to Britain, where a cousin has established an apiary. Having to confront all that they have lost and the unknown future they face, I have heard that this novel is beautiful and moving, and I really want to give myself the time to properly read and appreciate Lefteri’s writing and ideas.

Finally, there is Jasper Fforde’s The Constant Rabbit, which I documented buying in my post ‘Book Buying #1’. I did buy this book partially for the weird cover, but also for the equally as absurd blurb. Peter lives in a quiet, traditional village until a family of rabbits move in next door. As most of the villagers support a political party that are against the rabbit population, Peter faces a hard decision: choose between his job and the acceptance of his community, or confront the moral problems with the active resistance against the peaceful anthropomorphised rabbit population. This is pretty intriguing, and it’s not that long of a book, so I think this is probably quite high up my hit list for this month.

As you can tell, I’m quite excited to get started on my August reading list, and I’m really hoping I get round to these books and preparatory reading for my course in September doesn’t take over.

If you have any recommendations abut which book I should start with based on your own reading experience of any of these books, or from what I’ve just described, please do let me know in a comment below!


Mythos by Stephen Fry

Mythos by Stephen Fry- Hermes’ Sandal Illustration

As a lover of Percy Jackson as a child, any novel that retells Greek mythology has an instant draw for me. Fry states that the purpose of Mythos isn’t to offer a new interpretation on these stories, but merely to retell them in a way that is more palatable and accessible to a 21st Century reader. I think that Fry achieves this perfectly, infusing his own satirical comedic voice into the narration of these age-old tales.

As these stories are age-old, I’m not sure that there’s much merit to trying to offer a spoiler-free section to this review. If anything, as Greek mythology is complicated due to the sheer number of characters, locations and events combined into a complex chronology, I think anything traditionally considered a ‘spoiler’ would potentially be helpful.


So, as stated above, Fry’s novel retells stories from Greek mythology in a rough chronological order, from the creation of the universe, the age of the Titans, the age of the Olympians, and the creation of Man. In the latter part of the novel, Fry abandons the strict chronological approach and starts to group stories based on shared themes and locations. I think this works really well, and although I definitely noticed this switch, it was far better to read a group of stories about, for example, the consequences of mortals challenging gods, then to try and slot these into a linear chronology that ends up losing appeal and relevance.

I think that Fry does a really good job at offering enough explanation early on in the book so that the plot becomes palatable to a modern reader. The concept that the primal gods and goddesses such as Gaia were a personification of what they represented, and therefore could be viewed as both a physical figure and the element itself (e.g. Gaia is the earth itself but can materialise physically as a ‘mother Earth’ style figure). Although I don’t think I’ve explained it well, Fry does a great job. This becomes really important later when explaining how the Titans and gods of Olympus differ from the primal gods, and it really helps to emphasise the significance of the various events that Fry describes. By doing this, Fry is able to create a sense of plot that modern readers can follow, without dramatically altering the plots of the original stories.

Obviously there’s not as much to talk about to do with the plot of this novel because, at the end of the day, the myths are the myths and Fry is simply retelling them. What I can stand testament to is the fact that the way in which these are arranged in the plot of the novel and delivered to readers is very compelling.

Narrative Voice/Storytelling

Another difference from how I’d normally write a book review- I can’t really talk about the characters because they aren’t Fry’s original characters.

What is original to Fry, however, is the way he writes the characters and their narratives. Fry’s voice is so prominent in the book, not in an annoying, I’m-a-celebrity-so-my-books-must-be-good way, but in a way that genuinely enhances the narrative. His personal twists and articulations make the mythology even more palatable to modern readers, using colloquial language and comedic dialogue interpretations to infuse the characters with something that hard to find in ancient figures- relatability.

Of course, Mythos loses some historical accuracy and diverts from the source material in this sense, but honestly I think Fry breathes life into the myths. Zeus, Poseidon, Athena and the like are quite well-known for their personalities, but the less known gods such as Demeter and Hestia really benefit from this updated interpretation, and allows each story to be just as compelling as the last, whether it be about a river nymph or the King of the Olympians.

Overall Thoughts

If you couldn’t tell from all the good points I’ve already listed, I really enjoyed this book. I’d happily read it again, which I think is a great achievement by Fry to tell the sheer number of Greek myths in detail and create a book that is still charming and entertaining. Although I already am interested in Greek mythology, I do think anyone would be able to read Mythos and enjoy it.

If you want to know more able Greek mythology, or like Stephen Fry’s television work, then you’d definitely love this book. However, and arguably more impressively, if you’re just looking for a new read and like fantasy or fiction novels, I can’t say you’d leave Mythos disappointed.

I’d give Stephen Fry’s Mythos an easy 5 stars and would recommend it to absolutely anyone.


5 Stars

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Oh boy, the big one. I mentioned that I’d read this book in my first post ‘About the Blog (and Me)’, and of course I had to give it a review. You have to make full use of the bragging rights that reading this book gives you.

Because of the long nature of this book, I’m not going to structure this review the same as I have previously. The novel is decently familiar to public knowledge, and the title is very self explanatory- this book literally switches between times of war and peace in Russia.

Instead, I think a more productive and entertaining way to talk about War and Peace is to break it down into my feelings about the plot and characters, before giving my overall thoughts and concluding with my rating.


So, as I said before, the title really does give you the most simple overview of the plot. To be fair, although the 1200-odd pages seem excessive, a lot happens on this novel, and I never felt like Tolstoy was doing too much unnecessary padding.

I did enjoy the peace portions of the novel more than the war portions, largely because I kept getting confused with characters’ names (more on that later), which was made worse in the fast paced moments of conflict and really limited their intensity. That’s probably also a personal preference because I’ve read more books set in a domestic setting than those centred around wars. Having said that, I am a self-professed history nerd, so I particularly enjoyed the insight into the politics and tactics of the war, as well as the portrayal of Napoleon.

At times, War and Peace had almost the same feel as a Jane Austen novel, as you follow the members of polite society at different dinner parties and in their homes. These were actually welcomed breaks from the action, almost as if Tolstoy had used them to pace his readers and allow them to process what had happened in the more intense sections before delivering them with another one to dissect and digest.

The romances were also quite developed and complex; it didn’t feel like people were getting married off just so Tolstoy could create a new set of alliances to negotiate. Natasha’s entanglements were entertaining and I felt real sympathy for her in trying to understand her feelings and manage the impact they had on her social circle at such a young age. The links between the Rostov children early on in the book and how these grow more complex as they grow older and go their separate ways adds real depth to the more domestic parts of the book, and shows how moments of peace can be just as damaging and impactful on society as war.

If you want a book that has a lot of war, battles, duelling and ambition, then Tolstoy’s novel will certainly satisfy you. But I think the magic of the book lies in the fact that this is balanced by a strong focus on the domestic, familial and social alliances and relationships, courtship, growing up, polite society and gossip.


My first thought about the characters in War and Peace is that I never truly knew who everyone was. About 75% of the way through the book, I gave up trying to remember exactly how everyone was linked and just pushed through understanding as much as I could. Not only are there an insane number of characters (559 as Google informs me), but they all have similar names that are too Russian to be familiar to me. Not only this, but Tolstoy frequently gives characters nicknames or changes the spelling of their name with little to no warning. My version of the text had a list of all the names that the characters were known by, and I was still confused.

Other than that though, I would say most of the main characters were well-developed. Of all the families I found the Rostov’s the most interesting and compelling (and personally I thought Natasha was as enchanting as Tolstoy described her), but there wasn’t really a group who I dreaded reading about.

Of course when you look at the book from a modern day perspective, a lot of the men are very traditionally masculine (military men, intellects, powerful and assertive) and the women are very traditionally feminine (beautiful, submissive to their fathers and lovers, enchanting and domestic). But I do think that that’s the case for most classics, and like most classics there are some characters that push these boundaries. It’s not the worst example of gender stereotypes that I’ve read, put it that way.

Overall, I feel like Tolstoy created a realistic society for his book to focus on, and I think that’s really impressive. What’s more, although not all the characters were likeable (some of the military generals were horrendous), they were well-crafted and enjoyable to read.

Overall Thoughts

Whilst the book didn’t feel like it had lots of unnecessary parts, it still dragged and was a chore to finish. It’s not an easy read, and this effort to remember all the characters and events did become tiring the more I read.

I was also surprised at how much French was in the book; although I knew it was a courtly language and the book focuses on Russia’s wars with France, I didn’t anticipate parts of the book to be written in French. My version had easily accessible translations, but this made the book harder to read too.

Overall, though, I have to say that for all the difficulties I had with War and Peace, I do understand why it’s such an infamous classic. It is an excellent piece of work, and I was surprised at how much I genuinely enjoyed it. It might sound pretentious and like a not-so-humble brag, but I am glad I read Tolstoy’s novel.

After careful consideration, I’ve decided that I would rate Tolstoy’s War and Peace as a 3.5. Do take into mind that if I wasn’t taking the reputation and the cultural impact of this book, I’d probably be dropping my rating to 3 stars.

3.5 stars