Review | Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Title: Conversations with Friends (2017)
Author: Sally Rooney
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Read: 20th – 22nd June 2017
Genre: contemporary; adult
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Set in modern-day Dublin, Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends ostensibly tells the tale of Frances and Bobbi, ex-girlfriends and spoken word poets who find themselves befriending photographer/journalist Melissa and her actor husband Nick and setting in motion a chain of events as they become embroiled with the couple’s social lives and they with theirs. If you like books that are focused on the complicated relationships people can become entangled in, despite their better judgment, then Conversations with Friends is one for you.

Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa ask each other endless questions. As their relationships unfold, in person and online, they discuss sex and friendship, art and literature, politics and gender, and, of course, one another. Twenty-one-year-old Frances is at the heart of it all, bringing us this tale of a complex ménage-à-quatre and her affair with Nick, an older married man. You can read Conversations with Friends as a romantic comedy, or you can read it as a feminist text. You can read it as a book about infidelity, about the pleasures and difficulties of intimacy, or about how our minds think about our bodies. However you choose to read it, it is an unforgettable novel about the possibility of love. (Synopsis taken from publisher’s website)

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Tag | War and Peace Newbies Tag

Folks, I’m doing something foolish – that’s right, I’m going to try to read War & Peace again. I tried back at the start of the year and failed after 220 pages… basically, I hit the war bit and had no idea what the eff was going on or who any of these people were and, well, that tends to put a girl off reading.

Now, as you may or may not know there’s a War & Peace summer readalong happening in the next few months and I’ve decided it’s the final push to get me to try again. I was enjoying myself when I was reading it bizarrely, but I just lost momentum and got stuck. I’m really hoping that the added moral support of a readalong will help me to push through the confusion and make it to the end this time (or at least to make it to further than I got before).

What has this got to do with Tag Thursday, I hear you ask. That is a very good question. In short: Laura from Reading In Bed has planned War & Peace readalong of her own especially for newbies to the Tolstoy tome – like me! It will be starting in the first week of July running through to mid-September (perfect timing for me) and she’s also created the War and Peace Newbies Tag so all participants can get to know one another. All in all, I think it’s a great idea so I’ll be doing the tag today whilst I’m her pledging my allegiance to the flag readalong itself. So, without any further ado, let’s get on with the tag…

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Top Ten Tuesday | Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start

It’s been a wee while since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday due to committing to another blogging schedule (ha, what a fancy word!) but the topic this week has been on my mind for the past few weeks so it seemed downright fortuitous.

But, first things first, for those who are unaware Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the book bloggers and list lovers, The Broke and the Bookish, and each week they post a topic for bloggers to respond to. This week’s topic is Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start. Now, I’m a fiend for starting series, reading the first book, getting super excited about the sequel(s), and then putting off reading the subsequent books for so long that I forget what has happened and I need to re-read and basically start from scratch. This won’t be a list of those kinds of series because there are far too many (though I might just do a spin-off post of those ones)… these will be series that I haven’t started at all, haven’t read a single page of I swear (cross my heart and hope to die). Finally, these are in no particular order or ranking other than how my mind works – just don’t question it, it’s for the best!

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Down the TBR Hole #5

Welcome folks to the fifth round of Down the TBR Hole. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my fourthmy thirdmy second or my first round post or check out Lia at Lost in a Story who is the creator of this wonderful meme/project.

I’m trying to make this a regular feature of my blogging schedule because it’s good to regularly reevaluate if/why you want to read a book – that way you don’t come back to your TBR years later and have no clue why a title piqued your interest in the first place. I’ve also added a summary of results bit at the bottom of each round so I can track how many books I’ve kept and ditched from my TBR shelf in each round and overall.

Just a reminder of how this works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Outside of doing these posts semi-regularly I have also been culling my TBR list at random points when I’m bored – all of this is good in terms of getting my TBR to a reasonable amount of books but it also means that these posts are getting harder for me to do as I’m beginning to really agonise over whether to ditch or keep books on their. Not that any of this is a bad thing! Let’s get going on the 10 books under scrutiny today…

1. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Why is it there? completely miss the boat on this book/series – it was released when I was (what) primary school age and probably the right target audience for it. It’s a young-adult steampunk dystopia-y book about (I think) mobile/train city states that hunt each other and compete for resources. Like… why haven’t I read this already? It’s a mystery, frankly.
Do I own it? N
Verdict? Keep

2. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Why is it there? I’ve never read any Susan Hill, but I think some of my school friends who were in a different English class to me studied I’m the King of the Castle when I did Lord of the Flies by William Goldman. Anyway, the point is, when the film of this starring Daniel Radcliffe started doing the rounds I was reminded again of Susan Hill’s existent so I added this book to my TBR. When it comes down to it, I’m not a fan of scary films or stories, so I’m getting doubtful that I will ever be brave enough to pick this up.
Do I own it? N
Verdict? Ditch

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Discussion | What Do You Use Audiobooks For?

Hi folks! Today I bring you a somewhat rare post about audiobooks. This isn’t so much a discussion about which audiobooks I chose or when I listen to them; rather, this is more of a word vomit discussion of a tendency I’ve noticed I have regarding audiobooks. You see, I’ve noticed that I predominantly use them to “re-read” books I’ve already read which may seem pointless but let me explain…

handmaidaudiobookRecently I decided that I needed to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in preparation for watching the TV adaptation which finally started airing in the UK on Sunday nights on Channel 4 recently. I decided this on the preceding Friday morning, when I was already in work, so I didn’t have a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale with me, much less the reading time to get through it by Sunday night. It’s not a particularly long book, but it’s also not that quick of a read, so I was very conscious that I probably didn’t have enough hours to physically read the book at the weekend.

However, a quick search of my library’s Overdrive offerings revealed that they had the audiobook, as read by Joanna David, available to borrow. And I was having a slow day in work, where I needed to input fairly monotonous data onto a spreadsheet and do some research via Google to find out some author details. So, I could listen to something. I had tried listening to a new audiobook and I had tried listening to a podcast (I’m currently making my way through Witch Please, why had I not listened to that sooner?!?), but I just wasn’t feeling it. So I popped on The Handmaid’s Tale audiobook and was very quickly swept up in a re-read of the dystopian classic. Not only that, I listened to the majority of the audiobook in the space of my day at work. There’s something quite satisfying about accomplishing that at the same time as being in work.

ravenboysaudiobookMy go-to, prevailing example to explain my relationship with audiobooks is The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. There is just something about this story that lends itself to a slow-burning drawling audiobook that you can sink into, and the narrator Will Patton’s voice has that in spades. I adore Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle (I still haven’t read the final book because I can’t let go yet) and I’m more than sure that I will continue to re-read this series for many years to come. In an effort to not completely wreck my paperbacks, I purchased the series’ audiobooks via Audible and, in the midst of doing a series re-read late last year, I eagerly started to listen to Blue Lily, Lily Blue. That was the beginning of the end, my friends, I’m now hooked on these audiobooks. There’s just something about its narration style that is strangely comforting and familiar and makes re-reads feel so cosy.

By using audiobooks for re-reading past favourites I also feel like I’m not wasting time reading which might not sound entirely logical but stay with me on this one. If I re-read a book (as I am wont to do) I feel as though I’m not reading something new and therefore wasting time. After all, we only have a finite amount of time to read ALL THE THINGS and so many books so little time. My tendency to want to re-read and re-experience my favourite things (it’s a comfort thing, ultimately) clashes with my TBR ambitions. So re-reading via listening to the audiobook makes me feel less guilty, because the only time I listen to an audiobook is when I physically can’t read a book because I’m travelling or doing laundry. It’s all about maximising your free (otherwise dead) time and squeezing reading in with minimal guilt experienced about what you happen to be “reading”.

So that’s what I primarily use audiobooks for but what do you use audiobooks for? Do you use them to “re-read” books like I do? Or do you prefer to listen to only new books you’ve never read before? Please comment below, I’d love to hear your opinions on all things audiobooks.


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Tag | Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

Folks, it’s Thursday again, and we all know the drill by now, right? It’s time for another Tag Thursday! I saw this tag over on (can you guess?) the lovely Thrice Read and, as the middle of the year is quickly creeping up on me, I thought it was high time to do this tag and reflect on how my reading has gone in this first half of the year. All in all, I think this year’s reading has been good so far but let us ponder some more searching questions and see, shall we?

Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2017

Based purely on star-ratings (and discounting re-reads) it would be the following: Wishing for Birds by Elisabeth Hewer, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill. All brilliant for their own reasons and come highly recommended from me. (And no I couldn’t pick just one because that would be like making a parent choose which child was their favourite!)

Question 2 – Your favourite sequel of the year

Definitely A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. As the final book in a trilogy, it made me feel ALL THE THINGS and it was as equally hilarious and heartbreaking as I have come to expect from Schwab’s writing. It all turned out alright though in the end, didn’t it? I’m still not over it but it’s ok, we’ll get through it together.

Question 3 – A new release that you haven’t read but really want to

It depends entirely on what constitutes as a “new release” I think so I will chose two answers: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor which actually was released back in April (I bought it then, I just haven’t got to it yet) and the recently released The Gender Games by Juno Dawson (which I have heard so many wonderful things about but haven’t bought yet).

Question 4 – Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Definitely the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s my favourite of the Harry Potter films and quite possibly of the books (I used to say my favourite was OotP but, on re-read, I think POA has the edge) and I’m really excited to see how it is depicted visually.

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T5W | Side Ships

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Side Ships – tell us your favourite relationships that don’t involve the protagonist! Although I try to hide it, I am just a huge romantic masquerading as a cynic and shipping is when that tendency is given truly free reign. So obviously I have side ships, I have all kinds of ships, but side ships are the best, let’s be real here.

And, in case you’re concerned about this kind of thing, in this post there are (kind of) spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic, Harry Potter, Six of Crows, and Pride and Prejudice (does a 200-year old book still need a spoiler warning?). 

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Down the TBR Hole #4

Welcome folks to the fourth round of Down the TBR Hole. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my third roundmy second round or first round post or check out Lia at Lost in a Story who is the creator of this wonderful meme/project.

I’m trying to make this a regular feature of my blogging schedule because it’s good to regularly reevaluate if/why you want to read a book – that way you don’t come back to your TBR years later and have no clue why a title piqued your interest in the first place. I’ve also added a summary of results bit at the bottom of each round so I can track how many books I’ve kept and ditched from my TBR shelf in each round and overall.

Just a reminder of how this works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Let’s get going on the 10 books… 

1. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Why is it there? I haven’t had that much luck with the Brontes so far. I thought Jane Eyre was just ok (I enjoy the critical theory surrounding the novel more than the story itself) and I wasn’t a fan of Wuthering Heights. Even so, I have been frequently told that Anne Bronte may just be the Bronte for me so I’m willing to give her books a go. That being said, I think I’m going to remove this one from my TBR, just because there’s another Anne Bronte book that interests me more and if I don’t succeed with that one then there’s no point in keeping this one on there. I can easily re-add it later if Anne proves to be the Bronte for me.
Do I own it? N
Verdict? Ditch

2. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Why is it there? North and South is one of my favourite novels and Gaskell’s work really intrigues me so I’m curious about this one. Kirsti from Melbourne on my Mind (one of my new favourite booktubers) always speaks so highly of this book that I have to pick this one of Gaskells up next. And considering I’m much more likely to read this than Cranford, I think this one definitely deserves to keep its place on my Goodreads TBR shelf.
Do I own it? N
Verdict? Keep

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Tag | Summertime Madness Book Tag

Welcome one, welcome all, to another Tag Thursday!

*a moderate round of applause*

This week, I was all excited to bring you a summery tag since Britain was enjoying a spate of bizarrely nice and rather apt weather… the emphasis here is on the word was because, true to form, it has now turned rainy and windy and not at all summery. (Seriously, today, I experienced 3 weather conditions at the same time – blinding sunshine, wind, and storming rain – PICK ONE!) Still, let us all have our delusions as I bring you the Summertime Madness Book Tag. Quelle surprise – I found this tag via the lovely ladies over at Thrice Read so be sure to check out their blog too. Let’s dive into the tag…

1. Show a book with a Summery cover! i.e Sun, Beach etc.

I don’t have very many summery books, since I tend to read fantasy, but I think these contemporaries below do fit the bill for sun-drenched, summery looking covers:

  

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick and We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by e. lockhart – so summery that it hurts that it’s actually raining outside now and I want to dive into all of these books instead.

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T5W | Ravenclaw Books

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Books For Your Hogwarts Houseshow your Hogwarts House Pride, and tell us the top 5 books that represent your house! As I am a very proud Ravenclaw, this week I bring you my top five books that I think represent my house and, moreover, that my fellow Claws would enjoy too! Ravenclaw’s dominant traits include wit, learning, and wisdom, (“wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure” after all!) so I’ve been sure to choose books that champion the pursuit of knowledge, that include wittiness, or that are books which can really sink into and think deeply about.

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