When 2 Become 3…

So, the secret is finally out! Not that we’ve been able to keep it much of a secret at all… not drinking over Christmas and New Year definitely tips people off, and I’m a terrible liar at the best of times. We’re very excited (and also a little bit terrified) to announce that our first baby is due in July 2017. 

I should probably have titled this post when 3 become 4, because technically we already have an extra member of our family in Tuna but I don’t think she’ll mind on this occasion. In fact, she’s been indifferent to the whole thing (like she is about most things, really…). 

I found out pretty early on, so despite only being 14 weeks along I really feel like I’ve already been pregnant for years but we’re only just getting to the good bit. That is, the bit where we can actually buy stuff for a nursery and think about names. I’ve got some thoughts to share about being pregnant more generally next week, but suffice to say it’s not been my favourite experience so far. The nausea! The exhaustion! The blood tests! The constant worry! In fact, you might even have guessed that something was up by my inability to blog for about three months straight. I’m hoping I’m out of the woods with some of that stuff now, although I’m just about to tackle the fun of maternity dressing now that I actually have a tiny bump (!). It’s all very surreal, let me tell you. 

So, if everything goes to plan, a tiny Paul or Amy (or, more likely, some mix of the two) is on their way this summer. It’s all about to get a little crazy around here… 

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The Friday Five

I always forget how tough January is. I go into it thinking I will try to enjoy rather than endure this month (especially since my birthday falls at the end of it!) but the constant cold weather, the dark days and the lack of Christmas sparkle have already started to get to me. What’s the answer? A better winter coat so that I don’t dread going outside so much? One of those light-up alarm clocks? Mulled wine?! If you’ve got ideas, then let me know. That said, this week I’ve finally been feeling better after weeks of colds and sickness, and I have some fun plans for the weekend – hen dos, friends staying and brunches are all on the cards. It’s not all doom and gloom (is it ever?) despite what the weather and the news cycle might insist. So here’s a bonus list of five things that have been saving my life this week: 

  1. My new water bottle infuser thing. Feeling virtuous about drinking more H2O now it’s on my desk. 
  2. Fresh orange slices. Like delicious, delicious sunshine. 
  3. My favourite sausage and bean casserole. Cannot get enough. 
  4. Giant blanket scarves. Stylish and good for huddling under in our freezing office. 
  5. Nest. Being able to turn the heating on/off from bed/the office/the car is a dream. 

And now on to the Friday Five… 

  • Two lovely Vogue interviews that I enjoyed this week: Victoria Beckham and Roxane Gay
  • Pretty sure that this chicken wonton soup could cure anything that ails you. 
  • Newly obsessed with the Buffering podcast – a new-ish podcast on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that you’re going to want to get involved with. There’s a lot of love for Cordelia, regular mentions of the patriarchy and an original song in each episode. It’s pure gold. 
  • I need this recipe for happiness right now (also, if you’re not following Sophie’s blog, you’re not doing it right). 
  • Interested in where blogging might lead in 2017? I think Hayley’s predictions will be spot on. 

 

 

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Rhubarb & Orange Muffins

Rhubarb & Orange Muffins from How to Hygge by Signe Johansen // Amy Elizabeth

Rhubarb is well-documented as one of my most favourite things, so when I saw a photo of those pretty pink stalks on my local greengrocers’ Twitter (yes, I realise that sentence is a bit ridiculous…) I had to grab some immediately. Like my other favourite food season, British asparagus season, the time for Yorkshire rhubarb is too short for my liking, so I’m intending to make the very most of it whilst I can. 

Starting with these rhubarb and orange muffins from Signe Johansen’s ‘How to Hygge‘, whipped up for me to enjoy for breakfasts all this week. And this is just the beginning of my rhubarb baking, with these blondies firmly on my list, and Harry Style’s Dutch Baby from Ruby Tandoh’s Flavour for starters. I’d love any other rhubarb recipes you’ve got up your sleeves! 

Rhubarb & Orange Muffins from How to Hygge by Signe Johansen // Amy Elizabeth

A note on ‘How to Hygge’; I know that some people are getting a bit fatigued by the hygge trend but I am certainly not one of them. It’s not so much a trend, as a way of life, and I love the philosophy on food (and Nordic life) that Signe lays out in her book: ‘work efficiently, be active, eat what you love, and make the most of those convival moments of downtime during the day’. I need to work on the active part, but I definitely have the eat what you love part down. 

‘How to Hygge’ is more of a lifestyle book that covers a wh0le array of ‘hyggelig’ things, but there’s a big section of beautifully shot recipes right in the centre, ranging from Scandi salads and morning porridges to comforting bakes like these muffins, perfect for enjoying a little ‘Fika’ – a moment in your day to switch off, enjoy the company of your friends or colleagues, and tuck into a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. I tell you, those Nordic folk have got it right. The zingy rhubarb and orange in these muffins make them feel surprisingly light and summery, whilst still having that comforting carby-ness that you need on winter days. When it’s dreary outside, I’m pretty sure these will bring you a spot of sunshine to your day. And if you’re looking for a lovely present for a friend, this book would be perfect! 

Rhubarb & Orange Muffins from How to Hygge by Signe Johansen // Amy Elizabeth

Rhubarb & Orange Muffins
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 200g rhubarb, cut into 5mm slices
  2. 2 unwaxed oranges
  3. 250g plain flour
  4. 185g golden caster sugar (plus extra for the rhubarb)
  5. 1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  6. 1/4 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  7. 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  8. 150g Greek yoghurt
  9. 100g butter, melted
  10. 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  11. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases. Place a shallow tray with water on a lower shelf in the oven.
  2. Place the rhubarb in a bowl and mix with the zest and juice of one orange, and a spoonful or two of sugar. Stir to coat the rhubarb.
  3. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and and stir through so the raising agents are evenly distributed. Stir in the zest of the other orange.
  4. Make a well in the middle and add all the wet ingredients.
  5. Stir the mixture in a figure-of-eight pattern, making sure the scoop up the dry bits around the edges of the bowl. After about a dozen stirs, add the rhubarb, along with some of the juices from the bowl for extra flavour.
  6. Stir the rhubarb through a few times and then use a large spoon to dollop the mixture into the muffin cases.
  7. Bake on the middle shelf for 20 minutes, or until the muffins have risen, look golden brown and feel firm to the touch.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack (although they're pretty good when still a bit warm, too!)
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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2017 Books You Need To Pre-Order Now

There are so many books published every year, and only just so much time to read them in (not forgetting the ones you didn’t get around to from the years before…), so it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s some of the reads that I’m most excited about getting my grubby mitts on this year. It’s in no way an exhaustive list (this is a better bet for you, if you want comprehensive!) but hopefully it’ll give you a little inspiration. One thing I’ve been noticing from my reviews and book lists, is that I’m not reading as diversely as I’d like, with very few authors of colour, LGBT and international authors making my lists. So that’s something I’ll be working on this year, for sure. But for now, these are a pretty good starting point if you want to find some good books to preorder… 

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay 

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed this book on my previous ‘books I’m excited about’ lists; the publication date has been postponed a couple of times but I’m hoping that this year is the year that I finally get my mittens on it. Roxane Gay is one of my favourite writers (look out for a review of her newest work, Difficult Women, next week) and this ‘searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself’ promises to be my favourite of hers yet. 

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell 

This is another book that I feel like I’ve been waiting to be published for years. I’ve actually had a little sneak peek at this one and, oh boy, was it worth the wait. Cat Marnell is an ex-beauty editor and sort-of-ex-drug addict with a witty & irreverant but emotionally honest style that will have you tearing through this memoir. Seriously, you’re gonna want to get a piece of this. 

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

If you’re not already in love with Dawn O’Porter, then make this the year that you start following her – she’s just a delight. Her podcast about fashion is particularly good (and will make you want to be her best friend). But it’s her books I’m here to talk about. Her first two YA novels surprised me (in the best way) with their frank and emotional portrayal of teenage girlhood and friendship, and The Cows is her first adult offering. The blurb reads: 

It’s about friendship and being female.
It’s bold and brilliant.
It’s searingly perceptive.
It’s about never following the herd.

Yep, I’ll take three copies, please. 

How to Be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan 

I’ve heard Daisy Buchanan described as the Internet’s big sister, and I think that’s probably a very accurate description. She’s a wonderful writer, a thoughtful and empathetic agony aunt, and an excellent Twitter follow. Her first book, How To Be A Grown Up, is a ‘comforting, witty, supportive handbook for real twenty-something women’ on how to negotiate a difficult decade. I think this is a book that we might all need to read. 

 

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this YA novel is already getting people talking. Starr is torn between two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born & raised, and her posh high school in the suburbs. When she becomes the only witness to the fatal shooting of her best friend by a police officer, her whole world is turned upside down and what she says has power she can only guess at. This is going to be an important read, for sure. 

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard 

Okay, I’ll admit that this isn’t the best ever YA series, but after reading the previous two instalments, I’m dying to find out what happens to Mare and Cal in their fight against Maven. Will the rebellion succeed or, with allegiances being tested like never before, will everything crumble around them. You’ve still got time to read the first two if you’re after a bit of fantasy action this winter. 

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The Friday Five

[Photo by Kai Oberhäuser

I’ve been writing my Weekend Link Love posts for years now, so I’m thinking it might be time for a little shake up! So this year, I’ll be sharing much of the same stuff, with just five of my favourite posts from the previous week – all on a Friday (hence the name, of course!). We’ll see how it goes, shall we? 

I hope you’ve all had fantastic first weeks of the year! I started off with a rather nasty cold that left me useless for three days, but now I’m back to almost full health and getting ready to get stuck into all my good intentions. I haven’t eaten a vegetable in weeks (or at least, it feels like it) so I’m ready to get back into the kitchen, for sure. I’m quite glad all the Christmas decorations are down, and the presents are put away – it’s time to get back to a little bit of normalcy. And to start planning what I want to do for my birthday at the end of the month! 

  1. Gem’s Halloumi Rainbow Salad is exactly what I want to be eating right now. 
  2. 2016 might go down as the year that the feminist bubble burst. God, I hope not. 
  3. 10 blogger bedrooms to give you serious interiors inspo. 
  4. Ghosbusters ‘failed’ because of angry men. Passengers is failing because women are sick of misogynistic storylines. We need to talk about that
  5. As someone who has lived in Yorkshire for five years now, this list is pretty damn accurate

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My Favourite Books of 2016

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood*

This is the book that I think will stick with me for a very long time. I was surprised that it didn’t get more pick up in the bookish press this year, but perhaps that is due to the controversial subject matter (or perhaps the sheer volume of books out there). The story follows eight year old Wavy, daughter of a meth dealer and only ‘adult’ in her household, and twenty-one year old Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold. After a chance meeting, the two form an unlikely friendship – and begin to fall in love. It’s shocking and complex and thought-provoking and ugly and wonderful, just as the title suggests. 

The Girls by Emma Cline* 

Quite the opposite of ‘All the Ugly and Wonderful Things’, this book seems to have been in every ‘best of 2016’ list going – and was hyped from the very start of last year. And whilst some have questioned its popularity, I would definitely say that all of the praise for this book is very much deserved. The lyrical, lilting writing is evocative and beautiful, capturing the heady summer of 1969 and that liminal moment on the cusp of girlhood and teenagedom that characterises the life of protagonist, Evie Boyd. Based on the true story of the Manson Family, Evie is captivated by the girls who come to town, living on a ranch in the hills under the leadership of the enigmatic Russell. As Evie grows closer to the girls, and, in particular, the bewitching Susan, she finds herself pulled into life at the ranch, until something happens that changes everything forever… 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 

Another heart-wrenching and heart-breaking novel – this is not a light beach read, but it is an absolute masterpiece and another book that will stay with me for a long time. After college, best friends Jude, JB, Malcolm and Willem move to New York to pursue their dreams. They are more like brothers than friends, but whilst they are close, none of them know the true pain of Jude’s past and present. As they make their fortunes, you learn more about Jude’s history and it is more painful and horrifying than you can imagine. You will need a million tissues when reading this book, for sure, but it will also bring you moments of lightness and hope, and one of the most touching portrayals of male friendship that I have ever come across in literature. 

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney* 

A family drama that’s whip smart, funny, and surprisingly touching. The Plumb children have been relying on ‘The Nest’ – a trust fund payment that will pay out when the youngest turns 40 – to help solve their self-inflicted problems. However, just before the pay out, eldest brother Leo – notorious rogue and failed businessman – gets into a car accident whilst under the influence and the resulting fallout depletes ‘The Nest’ that they were all relying on. As the siblings struggle to find a solution, they must battle with old conflicts and the very particular pain that your family can bring. It’s entertaining, a little madcap with a very lovely ending. 

The Brothers Sinister Series by Courtney Milan 

2016 was the year I discovered historical romance novels – and I am so glad that I did. I devoured this series, which follows a group of friends (the eponymous Brothers Sinister, and their honorary members) as they each fall in love. This is feminist romance at its very best, with heroines that defy expectations and stand out from the crowd – and I loved them all. And I loved the male protagonists more because they could see how wonderful these women are, which is the right way round in a romance, I think. The stories were full of intrigue and feminist badassery, as well as the obligatory kisses and marriage proposals. 

Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi*

This debut from comedian Shappi Khorsandi is absolutely stellar. Seventeen-year-old Nina has a drinking problem, and her life begins to unravel after a rather traumatic evening that she doesn’t quite remember. This book is darkly funny, very powerful, emotional and brave. Nina is a fantastic protagonist; although she acts like a bit of an asshole to her family and friends, she goes on a real journey and you are rooting for her all the way. This book pulls no punches when it comes to the reality of alcoholism, and there are some pretty big roadblocks for Nina to overcome, but you find yourself rooting for her all the way. 

What’s a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne’s whole Spinster Club series is absolutely excellent, but the third one, which focuses on Lottie and her #Vagilante campaign to call out every instance of sexism she encounters for a full month, was my favourite. This is a really excellent look at the struggles of being a modern feminist, and Lottie is such an amazing character. The scenes of sisterhood in this novel had me welling up, and I’m sure I punched the air a few times as Lottie got down to some serious feminist business. We need more books like this in the world! 

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven*

If you need a book to uplift you, then you definitely need to pick this one up. Libby was once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’ and had to be cut out of her own house. That was years ago, and now she’s ready to embrace every possibility that life has to offer. Jack is one of the popular kids at school, but he has a secret. He can’t recognise faces – including those of his own family. Every day is a struggle to play it cool. When the two get tangled in a cruel high school game that ends them in group counselling, they come to realise they have more in common than they’d first imagined and they start to change each others’ worlds. This is a gorgeous love story, and if you don’t adore Libby and her fat-positive, grab-life-by-the-balls attitude then you maybe don’t have a heart.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult*

This book is a punch in the gut, especially given the current political climate. Ruth is an experienced labour and delivery nurse, but during a routine shift she is abruptly told that she can no longer care for a particular newborn. The parents are white supremacists and they don’t want Ruth, which is African American, to touch their child. When an unfortunate incident leads to the baby’s death, the parents accuse Ruth of a serious crime and the life that she has built up around her starts to crumble. Kennedy, a white public defender, takes the case and the two struggle to see eye-to-eye as they confront racism, privilege and prejudice in order to win Ruth’s freedom. I was hooked on this interesting and emotionally smart book, and I think it would make a great book club read if you’re starting one up this year! 

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS AND BUY SOMETHING, I MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION. BOOKS MARKED WITH A * WERE PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. 

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New Year’s Resolutions

So, here we are. 2017. It feels like it’s been a long time coming but I’m glad that we made it. This year will mark my 10 year anniversary of ‘blogging’ in one form or another; a hobby that has changed my life in so many ways. Without blogging I wouldn’t have my Masters degree, my job in Leeds, or my husband, as well as a whole host of online friends and interests that have come from hanging out online for years. It’s funny to think about that, really. How different my life would be. And, whilst, it’s not a resolution as such, I would like to blog more regularly this year. I go through spurts where I’m inspired and I have the time to spare for this little space, but then it all goes awry as it did so spectacularly at the end of last year (although it was for good reasons that it went awry – but hosting five sets of guests in four weeks doesn’t leave much time for tapping out thoughts here). This is a constant goal of mine, and one I am trying not to beat myself up for constantly failing – but with January looking at least a little quieter than December I’m hoping to start off on a good footing. 

In the few short years that I have been making resolutions, I have found that it is much easier to stick to goals and challenges when they add something to my life, rather than take it away. Reading 100 books in 2015 changed my life, although in a small way, and it was a resolution that, whilst tricky at times, added joy and relaxation to my life – so why wouldn’t I want to do it? Resolutions that have been more about subtracting things, particularly vague ‘healthy eating’ ones, have fallen at the first hurdle because they’re just not really any fun – particularly in January, the most joyless month of all. Which is why I love Rachel’s 2016 resolution to make use of her extensive cookbook collection by cooking a new recipe every week – and I’ll definitely be trying to do something similar (although it may be more like fortnightly than weekly). I’ve been neglecting baking, in particular, over the past couple of months, and we’ve got into a bit of a meal planning rut so I’m hoping a little inspiration from my cookbook stash will put paid to those issues. 

There are so many little things I’d like to achieve this year. Sorting the last few bits of house renovation. Buying some cushions. Maybe trying out some new knitting patterns. Baking more bread. Getting outside more. Going on a proper holiday. But none of them feel big enough for resolutions. I guess they’re all just part of an overarching life resolution of making the most of things, and not wasting time (unless wasting time is exactly what you plan to do). And I guess you can’t argue with that one. 

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2016

[Photo by Tom Joy]

2016 has been a funny old year. On a personal level, it’s been as great as any other. We bought and mostly renovated our first house, which allowed us to welcome so many of my favourite people to Leeds for weekends, and let me indulge my greatest passion of hosting (and feeding) friends and family. We have already had so many wonderful times in our new house, and I’m sure there are many more to come in 2017. I have been happy this year, content in my life and satisfied with where I am. Which is totally at odds with how the world at large feels; I’m sure I don’t have to rehash the events that have made us all feel worried, scared and concerned for the future this year. I think we’ll all be glad when 2017 rolls around; yes, it is an arbitrary marker of time but a fresh start is always welcome. But for now, I want to have a little look back at what I’ve been up to this year… 

Bought our first house

Lived without a kitchen for two months… not something I want to repeat! 

Spent our weekends doing DIY

Learnt how to strip wallpaper and sand skirting boards. 

Indulged my inner fan girl at The Cursed Child

Hosted Christmas Day for the first time. 

Celebrated with friends at two weddings. 

Ran a slightly faster Abbey Dash time than last year. 

Crocheted my first cuddly toy (a bunny!). 

Ate our weight in French food to celebrate our first wedding anniversary

Read 120 books. A personal best, and one that is unlikely to be repeated! 

Fell in love with romance novels. 

Helped choose two wedding dresses and started to fulfil my first ever bridesmaid duties. 

Threw a big Friendsgiving party – the first of many, hopefully! 

Bought my first real Christmas tree

Moved my sister into University halls. 

Went apple picking

Felt very inspired by Hillary Clinton, regardless of the outcome. 

Relaxed at the spa on my very first spa weekend! 

Attended three surprise parties. 

Discovered loads of great new podcasts (Oh, Witch Please and All Killa No Filla were particular favourites). 

Started (and maybe finished) a new book blog. 

Blogged a lot less than I would like – something to sort in 2017! 

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November

november

Neglecting my blog, somewhat! 

Hosting 5 guests in 3 weeks. 

Throwing our first annual (dare I say it?) Friendsgiving shindig. 

Running the Abbey Dash and considering embarking on some #adventrunning next month. 

Toasting marshmallows and eating chilli on Bonfire Night. 

Crocheting the start of a little purple rabbit. 

Trying baby food at a friend’s baby shower. It’s… not so great. 

Eating my body weight in cheese at the Homage to Fromage pop up. 

Watching Gilmore Girls, as often as I can. 

Craving strawberry pop tarts as a result… 

Taking a walk by the sea on a work trip. It was, as they say, bracing! 

Obsessing over Dorshi dumplings at their all-too-brief stint in Sheaf St Cafeteria. Come back soon!

Feeling ever so Christmassy at Bettys

Buying Christmas presents (but there always seems to be more to buy!) 

Planning my Christmas decorations and Christmas menus.  

Reading yet more Jilly Cooper – I’m obsessed. 

Wearing my thickest jumpers and still feeling chilly. I’m not about this winter weather. 

Working on my Instagram game

Relaxing with a week off work – much needed! 

Baking pumpkin pie for Friendsgiving. Needs some work, but a good first try! 

How about you? 

 

 

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November Book Reviews

november-books

No Virgin by Anne Cassidy* 

I’ll admit I was a little cynical when I picked this up; I think it’s important that young adult fiction (or any fiction, really) addresses issues of sexual assault and rape but after reading some very hard-hitting books of this ilk recently, I was worried that it was becoming a bit of a trope, a way to short-hand deep feelings and trauma into a novel without always acknowledging the realities of such a traumatic experience. I needn’t have been so worried; this is an stark portrayal of sexual assault and the ways that class and power allow perpetrators to get away with it. Stacey Woods is your typical teenage girl; she worries about her best friend abandoning her for someone else, about her prying younger sister, about her Dad getting serious with someone new, about exams and finding a career she’s passionate about. When it all gets too much one day, she finds herself in a café being chatted up by a posh boy, who takes her on a whirlwind adventure. It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to Stacey, until it all takes a dark turn. Stacey’s experiences of rape are raw and unflinching, without being gratuitous, and highlight some important issues that I think it would benefit everyone to think about more. 

Small Great Things: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century’ by Jodi Picoult* 

This book is a punch in the gut, especially given the current political climate in the USA. (I’m sure the publisher couldn’t have planned it, but now more than ever are books like this important). Ruth is an experienced labour and delivery nurse, but during a routine shift she is abruptly told that she can no longer care for a particular newborn. The parents are white supremacists and they don’t want Ruth, which is African American, to touch their child. When an unfortunate incident leads to the baby’s death, the parents accuse Ruth of a serious crime and the life that she has built up around her starts to crumble. Kennedy, a white public defender, takes the case and the two struggle to see eye-to-eye as they confront racism, privilege and prejudice in order to win Ruth’s freedom. 

I think this book will make for some pretty interesting book club discussions; I’d be interested to see how others have read it. I admit to fluctuating between being completely hooked by the story, compelled by the characters’ journeys and also a little reticent at the sometimes simplistic way that the novel laid out the realities of racism in America. At times I felt it was spoon-feeding the morality of the tale, but that may have just been my reading and, as I mentioned, I’d love to know what others thought. It’s difficult to talk about a book like this without becoming mired in a lot of history and politics (don’t get me wrong, that’s exactly where I like to be mired, if I am to be mired at all, but it’s not always great to be mired). I think it’s an important read, as well as one that is interesting and emotionally smart. However, at times it felt very black and white, if you’ll excuse the pun; I loved Ruth and wanted only the best for her, and she felt like a very rounded character to me, but the white supremacist couple were almost cartoon-ishly bad to me. They were consumed by their obsession with white supremacy; it infected everything they did, even the ordinary mundane things, and whilst I don’t doubt (having seen the evidence in the coverage of Trump rallies) that people like that exist, I thought it made it almost too easy to draw a line between right and wrong. Perhaps the hope is that white people reading this book will identify more with the white lawyer, so sure that she is not racist until her own privilege and prejudice are presented to her starkly by Ruth and by the facts of the case. Either way, whilst I think it would be hard to do, there is room for a little more nuance on each side. 

I am maybe biased because when looking up some facts about the book, I stumbled across the sub-title given to it by Amazon: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird for the 21st Century’. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked this book; maybe even loved it. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year and will stick with me for a long time. But to compare it to To Kill A Mockingbird, which is very subtle, and therefore perhaps more powerful and long-lasting, in its messaging is mis-leading, I think. I know those were not Picoult’s words, but I think it’s worth thinking about nonetheless. With everything that has happened, are we ready now for a more heavy-handed portrayal of racism in America? Is subtle no longer going to work on us; do we need something more to hit the message home? I urge you to read this book and find out for yourself (especially since it’s just £4 on Amazon at the time of writing – you’ve got no excuse not to!). 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han 

What a contrast to the other books on this list! If you spend any time on bookstagram, you’ll probably have spotted the cover of this sweet book. When it popped up on Kindle for just 99p, I couldn’t resist and I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s heart-warming in the best way; if you want to lose yourself in a teen romance then this is an excellent one to pick. Lara Jean is one of three sisters; after her mother died, her older sister Margot took on a lot of the responsibility but now she’s off to college in Scotland and it’s Lara Jean’s turn to pick up the slack. In a year that’s already going to be full of change and turmoil, something disastrous happens; the letters that she wrote to each of her previous crushes and stashed under her bed have been posted and everything has gone awry. As her crushes start to confront her about the content of the letters, Lara Jean starts to learn a little something about love… Whilst the romance in this book was touching and definitely had me squealing with joy at the end, it was the relationship between the sisters, and with their father, that I really loved the most. Definitely one to pick up on a dreary day! 

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

In Tally’s world, sixteen is the age when you are turned from an ‘Ugly’ into a ‘Pretty’; when you’re a Pretty, everything is wonderful and you can forget all of your problems. Your only job is to have fun and hang out with other Pretties. Tally can’t wait to join her best friend Peris across the river after her operation, but when she meets Shay everything is turned upside down. Shay isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty and when she runs away, Tally begins to learn more the ugly truth about being Pretty. If you’re into young adult dystopia, then this could be one for you but it didn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. Tally was a bit of a nothing character; somehow she managed great feats without previously demonstrating any particular drive or intelligence, which made it difficult to care about her eventual fate, and there was something a little bit obvious about the big reveal (if you’ve read any dystopia before, you can probably guess pretty quickly…). There were a few action scenes, but they were not as exciting as others I’ve read, and a bit of a romantic storyline that, again, didn’t capture my imagination. It ended on a cliffhanger, and I’m in two minds about picking up the next one; I hate to leave a story unfinished but I find myself not caring all that much about what happens to Tally and her gang.

 

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