Non Fiction

All posts in the Non Fiction category

October 2017 – Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC month

Published October 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Chrissi Cupboard Month where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (and that’s a lot!). Then there’s Real Book Month where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves (also a LOT!) Finally, there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (A LOT!) October is going to be one of the latter months and here’s what I’m looking forward to getting to this month:

Stranger – David Bergen

(courtesy of Duckworth Overlook Publishers)

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky – Lesley Nneka Arimah

(courtesy of Tinder Press via NetGalley)

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead – Charlie Laidlaw

(courtesy of author)

Rivals Of The Republic – Annelise Freisenbruch

(courtesy of Duckworth Overlook Publishers)

The Art Of Hiding – Amanda Prowse

(courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley)

Is Monogamy Dead? – Rosie Wilby

(courtesy of author)

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Five Star TBR Pile Predictions

Published August 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on my blog today. One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me came across my radar when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year. I was lucky enough to attend an event where I got to hear the short-listed authors read from their books and answer some questions. I had already heard brilliant things about this book from reviewers whose opinions I really respect and trust but hearing the author speak on the night had me determined that this book was going to be great. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly because people with very similar reading tastes to my own have praised it to the heavens and I’m anticipating I’m going to feel exactly the same way.

2.) The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

Mercy from Mercy’s Bookish Musings is responsible for my interest in this little beauty. She raved about it in a recent video and after hearing her review, I knew I had to have it. I mean, check out this opening:

“Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.”

Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Again, a great review from a person with similar reading tastes to my own, the dark content and that opening is just too intriguing to resist.

3.) The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

This book has been languishing on my TBR for a ridiculous amount of time and it’s about time it gets read! I’m a big fan of Michel Faber, especially after his beautiful novel, The Crimson Petal And The White and I’ve been looking forward to reading this for the longest time. I feel like it’s going to be a bit like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, both of which I loved. I understand Michel Faber is either taking a break from writing or has said that he’s not going to write any more novels at all and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off reading this book – I just don’t want to admit to myself that I’m never going to read anything new by him again! Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly due to the premise which immediately pulled me in and I have to say, that gorgeous cover. Okay I know, never judge a book by its cover! (But I do!).

4.) The Bear And The Nightingale – Katherine Arden

I’ve been coveting this book ever since I first saw it in a bookshop – I mean, just look at that cover! There’s a few buzz words that will guarantee I’ll buy a book and some of them are “fairy tale,” “Russian,” “with a dark edge,” and this book has all these things, I’m certain it’s going to be gorgeous. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? It looks to have everything I would want from a novel and yep…..that cover again!

5.) Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts And Daring To Act Differently – Emer O’Toole

I love a bit of non-fiction, especially when it’s a topic that fascinates me, in this case gender stereotypes and feminist issues. There have been some brilliant reviews of this book and I can’t wait to get to it. I think it’s going to be interesting, eye-opening and I’m hoping to learn a lot too. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Probably because of the subject matter which I’m always hungry for and the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things.

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!

 

Animal: The Autobiography Of A Female Body – Sara Pascoe

Published August 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Take a funny and illuminating tour of the female body with award-winning comedian Sara Pascoe.

Women have so much going on, what with boobs and jealousy and menstruating and broodiness and sex and infidelity and pubes and wombs and jobs and memories and emotions and the past and the future and themselves and each other.

Here’s a book that deals with all of it.

Sara Pascoe has joked about feminity and sexuality on stage and screen but now she has a book to talk about it all for a bit longer. Animal combines autobiography and evolutionary history to create a funny, fascinating insight into the forces that mould and affect modern women.

Animal is entertaining and informative, personal and universal – silly about lots of things and serious about some. It’s a laugh-out-loud investigation to help us understand and forgive our animal urges and insecurities.

What did I think?:

I am so happy that I finally got round to reading this book. I had it on my Amazon wishlist for so long, eventually bought it then it stared at me from my bookshelves for months before I gave in to its demanding “read me!” pleas and cracked it open. Now I had an inkling before I started that I was going to love this wonderfully funny piece of non-fiction but I couldn’t have anticipated just how much that would be. Sara Pascoe, a British comedian hits the nail on the head every single time when she talks about the female body, sexuality and gender inequality and I found myself nodding along on multiple occasions completely enamoured with every tidbit of information she shared with me, some of it incredibly personal things relating to her own experiences.

The tagline for this book is “Autobiography Of A Female Body,” and that’s the perfect way to describe it if you’re wondering what this book is about. After an entertaining, short and snappy little introduction about Sara and her reasons for writing the book it is divided into a few different sections – love, the female body and the very important issue of consent. Each section has a wealth of useful and often hilarious information, some of which Sara has researched for the purpose of the book and knowledge that she has amassed from her own life experiences. Filled with Sara’s trademark wit and down to earth approach it’s an honest, uplifting and at times, incredibly poignant look into what life as a woman is really like.

I honestly can’t believe it took me so long to pick up this book and I’m so glad it lived up to every single one of my (very high) expectations. I have seen Sara live before and really enjoyed it but felt I got to explore her personality at a much deeper and more intimate level with Animal. It was side-splittingly funny, sure – that’s to be expected from a comedian surely? However, I wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would also make me feel, particularly in the final section when Sara explores consent, rape and the (hugely flawed in my opinion) British justice system for rape victims. I finished the book filled with a strange sense of pride for being a woman and a tentative hope for the future where women will be on a more equal footing with men.

Please don’t shy away from this book thinking it might not be for you if you are a man as well, this book does not discriminate on gender (unlike the world we live in today!) and I think it’s a hugely important read for both men and women. I laughed my head off, felt instantly more empowered and learned a few things too. For example, did you realise that modern technology is leading to the death of the glow bug population? Apparently, the male glow bugs keep trying to mate with the street lights thinking it’s a female glow bug and are obviously unsuccessful! Thank you Sara Pascoe for that fantastic little nugget of information that I can pull out at random moments! Personally, I think this is such a vitally important book that needs to be read by as many people as possible and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It has recently been announced by Faber that Sara will be writing a follow up book about masculinity and considering the brilliance that was Animal, I’ll be first in the queue!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Owl At The Window – Carl Gorham

Published June 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘She is dead. She was here just now and she was alive. How can she suddenly be dead? People in history are dead. Old people are dead. Grandparents are dead. Other people are dead. Not people like me. Not this person. The person I was married to. Had a child with. Not the person who was standing next to me. Chatting. Laughing. Being.’

Shock is just one of many emotions explored in award-winning TV comedy writer Carl Gorham’s account of his bereavement which is by turns deeply moving and darkly humorous.

Part love story, part widower’s diary, part tales of single parenting, it tells of his wife’s cancer, her premature death and his attempts to rebuild his life afterwards with his six -year old daughter.

Realised in a series of vivid snapshots, it takes the reader on an extraordinary journey from Oxford to Australia, from Norfolk to Hong Kong through fear, despair, pain and anger to hope, laughter and renewal.

The Owl at the Window is a fresh and original exploration of what it means to lose a partner in your forties, and how Carl learned to live again.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Coronet publishers via Book Bridgr for sending me a copy of this moving memoir of grief and loss in exchange for an honest review. I’m usually quite tentative about reading books like this as I seem to have become a more emotional reader over the last few years with stories like this affecting me more and more each time I read one. I’ve had my own personal experiences with loss and I was concerned that I would find it quite difficult to read, comparing it with my own situation, but as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to give it a chance.

You may be familiar with Carl Gorham as the creator of the cult animated show Stressed Eric which was shown on BBC 2 here in the UK and he has also written many sketches for radio and television and adapted the well loved children’s books Meg and Mog for ITV. What I hadn’t realised about Carl was the struggles he has been through as a widower and single parent when he sadly lost his wife, Vikki to a long and torturous battle with cancer. This book was told is such a delicate, gentle and occasionally quite humorous way in alternating chapters where Carl talks about his life with Vikki from their first meeting, the early days of their marriage and the adventures they went on all over the world to the present day and how he and their daughter are coping right now with the sorrow of her passing.

It’s almost guaranteed, this book is going to be heart-breaking. However, I was surprised at points by how uplifted and hopeful it made me feel. Carl is unashamedly real and raw about his feelings which I greatly appreciated but at the same time he realises that he has a responsibility to his daughter to carry on and accept the future, (despite it being not at all what they had hoped and dreamed of) for the good of both of them. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him for the way he deals with his wife’s death and continues to raise their daughter with honour and deep love for what they both created as a couple. Of course, it’s unbelievably sad and the addition of photographs, although lovely to see, reminds the reader that we are dealing with real lives and very real tragedy that someone has had to go through. I really hope the process of writing this book was therapeutic and helpful for Carl and I want to thank him for sharing it with the world, I’m certain it will help other people going through the same thing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Jane Austen At Home: A Biography – Lucy Worsley

Published June 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

What did I think?:

I have to admit to having a bit of a tentative relationship with Jane Austen when I was younger. I studied her novel Mansfield Park for English Literature A Level here in the U.K. and didn’t relish the process when I was doing it! However, it was only afterwards when I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility that I realised what a brilliant novel it actually was and it gave me a newfound respect for her writing. I now consider myself a devoted Jane Austen fan and was delighted when Hodder and Stoughton sent me a copy of Lucy Worsley’s new biography of Jane and the homes that she lived in throughout her life to celebrate the 200th anniversary of her death, bringing fresh insights into her character, family, hopes and dreams and how passionate she was about getting her work published.

Jane Austen At Home is a tremendous piece of non fiction. It’s obvious that the author is, in turn, also passionate about her subject and has carried out meticulous research in uncovering things that may have otherwise remained hidden from the general public. It was interesting to discover that a lot of things about Jane Austen were deliberately erased, like certain letters by her sister Cassandra or various tidbits of information about Jane’s personality – goodness knows why as it was perfectly obvious to me that Jane was a normal (albeit incredibly talented!) human being just like anyone else. She had multiple suitors and marriage proposals rather than being the lonely spinster that has been occasionally portrayed historically. Jane made the decision herself not to marry/have children in the end which was hugely brave at a time when marriage would have given her financial stability especially when at times her family was at risk of becoming impoverished.

I was also fascinated to learn about her work and her struggle to get published in more detail – how long it took, the difficulties she faced etc and was filled with admiration for her determination not to give up and the way she continued writing, in her own unique manner, refusing to change her style to conform with fashion. Of course, an author must draw a lot of inspiration for her characters from those around her but it was quite eye opening to discover who may have influenced some of her most beloved (and not so beloved!) characters in her real life situation. One of my favourite things about this biography was learning how much hardship Jane and her family went through i.e. being forced to move from her childhood home and sell her things, living in unsuitable places where she did not feel comfortable and constantly felt uprooted and their fight for financial security that was denied over and over again purely because they were the wrong sex.

If you’re an Austen fan like myself, Lucy Worsley has written a brilliant, captivating biography that really gets to the heart of what Jane Austen was all about as a person and as a writer. I was hugely compelled all the way through and even bitterly sad towards the end. Although we know Jane Austen died at a ridiculously young age it seems so unfair, being a writer of such promise that didn’t receive half the recognition she deserved in her lifetime. This was actually my first experience of Lucy Worsley’s writing and not only am I excited to see what she does next but I’m determined to re-visit her back catalogue. Thank you so much to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Mini Pin-It Reviews #7 – Four Random Books

Published March 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four “random” books for you that I simply couldn’t categorise – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) Everything I Needed To Know About Being A Girl I Learned From Judy Blume – edited by Jennifer O’Connell

What’s it all about?:

“”I wonder if Judy Blume really knows how many girls’ lives she affected. I wonder if she knows that at least one of her books made a grown woman finally feel like she’d been a normal girl all along. . . .”” — FROM Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.

Whether laughing to tears reading “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great” or clamoring for more unmistakable “me too!” moments in “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” girls all over the world have been touched by Judy Blume’s poignant coming-of-age stories. Now, in this anthology of essays, twenty-four notable female authors write straight from the heart about the unforgettable novels that left an indelible mark on their childhoods and still influence them today. After growing up from “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” into “Smart Women,” these writers pay tribute, through their reflections and most cherished memories, to one of the most beloved authors of all time.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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2.) The Girl In The Red Coat – Kate Hamer

What’s it all about?:

She is the missing girl. But she doesn’t know she’s lost.

Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 four-stars_0

3.) The Accidental Apprentice – Vikas Swarup

What’s it all about?:

From the author of the book behind the blockbuster movie Slumdog Millionaire, a brilliant novel about life changing in an instant.

Life pivots on a few key moments. This is one of them.

Sapna Sinha works in an electronics store in downtown Delhi. She hates her job, but she is ambitious and determined to succeed, and she knows without the money she brings in, her family won’t be able to survive. Little does she know it but her life is about to change forever.

As she leaves the shop on her lunch break one day, she is approached by a man who claims to be CEO of one of India’s biggest companies. He tells her he is looking for an heir for his business empire. And that he has decided it should be her.

There are just seven tests she must pass. And then the biggest lottery ticket of all time will be hers.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: The Surprising Science of Animals Inner Lives – Karen Shanor and Jagmeet Kanwal

What’s it all about?:

“Amazing, moving and enlightening. Bats Sing, Mice Giggle presents the latest findings on the intimate lives of animals with great elegance. I recommend it wholeheartedly.”—Larry King

“Did you know that spiders taste with their feet, that a decapitated cockroach can live for two weeks, that a certain type of parrotfish wraps itself in a sort of foul-smelling snot before taking a nap, and that ants play? I didn’t until I read Bats Sing, Mice Giggle.” New Scientist

“Full of interesting facts . . . presented in a friendly, readable way that will appeal to most young adult and adult readers with an interest in the world around them. The authors discuss a remarkably wide range of topics [in] an easy general-reading text that introduces readers to interesting avenues of scientific research and observation.”—SB&F

“In the delightful process of discovering the secret skills of our living cousins, so crisply and clearly described in this book, each filled with their quirky spectacular capacities (which we can envy but not duplicate) that sense of our place in the scheme of things has been infused with . . . joyful awe.”—Stuart L. Brown MD, Founder and President, The National Institute for Play

Bats Sing, Mice Giggle is the culmination of many years of cutting-edge scientific research that reveals how animals have secret, inner lives of which until recently—although animal lovers will have instinctively believed it—we have had little proof.

The authors show how animals communicate; how they warn and help each other in times of danger; how some problem-solve even more effectively than humans; and how they build, create, and entertain themselves and others.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four YA Books.

Mini Pin-It Reviews #6 – Four Random Books

Published March 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four “random” books for you that I simply couldn’t categorise – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ – Giulia Enders

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What’s it all about?:

A cheeky up-close and personal guide to the secrets and science of our digestive system.
For too long, the gut has been the body’s most ignored and least appreciated organ, but it turns out that it’s responsible for more than just dirty work: our gut is at the core of who we are. Gut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Underrated Organ gives the alimentary canal its long-overdue moment in the spotlight. With quirky charm, rising science star Giulia Enders explains the gut’s magic, answering questions like: Why does acid reflux happen? What’s really up with gluten and lactose intolerance? How does the gut affect obesity and mood? Communication between the gut and the brain is one of the fastest-growing areas of medical research—on par with stem-cell research. Our gut reactions, we learn, are intimately connected with our physical and mental well-being. Aided with cheerful illustrations by Enders’s sister Jill, this beguiling manifesto will make you finally listen to those butterflies in your stomach: they’re trying to tell you something important.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) – How To Be A Good Wife – Emma Chapman

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What’s it all about?:

I know what my husband would say: that I have too much time on my hands; that I need to keep myself busy. That I need to take my medication. Empty nest syndrome, he tells his friends at the pub, his mother. He’s always said I have a vivid imagination. Marta and Hector have been married for a long time – so long that she finds it difficult to remember her life before him. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife. But when Hector comes home with a secret, their ordered domestic life begins to unravel, and Marta begins to see things, or perhaps to remember them. In the shadows there is a blonde girl that only Marta can see. And she wants something…

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Blood Red, Snow White – Marcus Sedgwick

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What’s it all about?:

Russia wakes from a long sleep and marches to St Petersburg to claim her birthright. Her awakening will mark the end for the Romanovs, and the dawn of a new era that changed the world. Arthur Ransome, a journalist and writer, was part of it all. He left his family in England and fell in love with Russia and a Russian woman. This is his story.

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Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Daughters Of Rome (The Empress Of Rome #2) – Kate Quinn

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What’s it all about?:

A.D. 69. Nero is dead.

The Roman Empire is up for the taking. With bloodshed spilling out of the palace and into the streets of Rome, chaos has become the status quo. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything—especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome….

Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister, Marcella, is more withdrawn, content to witness history rather than make it. Even so, Marcella has her share of distinguished suitors, from a cutthroat contender for the throne to a politician’s son who swears that someday he will be Emperor.

But when a bloody coup turns their world upside down, Cornelia and Marcella—along with their cousins, one a collector of husbands and lovers, the other a horse-mad beauty with no interest in romance—must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor … and one Empress.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP SOON ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS – Four more books from my “random” category!