Books I Can’t Wait To Read To My Daughter

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I have a baby daughter. If you follow me on literally any social media, you may have picked this up already. I am obsessed with her.

We’re big on books in my family, and as a result Edith’s already got more books than I have room for. I ordered one of those cool display things that looks like a library book rack to put up on the wall, but I’m not convinced it’s going to be enough.

I’m not too clued-up on kids books – particularly for really young kids – so I’m drawing a lot on my own memories, as well as some I’ve seen on social media in passing. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and by the time you’re reading it I’ll inevitably have found more…

The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson

My mum used to work in a nursery before she retired and she is a huge Julia Donaldson fangirl – she’s already started buying them so Edith can have the full collection. I didn’t know there were so many! I have at least two copies of the Gruffalo that my friends with older kids have given me and we inevitably end up watching it every Christmas morning (even though my sister and I are in our mid to late 20s) so it’s going to be one of Edith’s first stories.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

I am, and have been for some time, an Angry Woman. Before Edith was born my husband joked that every time she she was battering my organs she was practising fighting TERFs, reply-guys on the internet and other assorted wrong’uns.

Okay so some of these have aged terribly (JK Rowling, anyone?) and there are some stories I would have liked to see included (Marsha P. Johnson, for example) but on the whole they’re full of incredible stories and role models. Some of them I know shamefully little about, so it’ll be a learning experience for me too.

Both were a gift from one of my best friends just after Edith was born, and she’s kickass and strong and always beside me whenever I need her. We’re rebel girls, and I know with her help Edith will be as well.

Look Up! – Nathan Bryon

Look Up! appeared on my radar when it was awarded the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year. I was BIG into space when I was younger and I still think it’s incredibly cool, plus I’m all for seeing girls being represented in STEM hobbies and ambitions. Definitely one I’ll be picking up on my next trip out.

Old Bear Stories – Jane Hissey

These books are basically perfect – nice, cosy, wholesome, with adorable characters. There will be books to teach my kid she can do anything, books to teach her about the world and about compassion and humility, but these are the books I’m going to read her when she needs to close the door and be safe for a while.

Plus if you follow Jane Hissey on Twitter she posts adorable illustrations of characters from the series and cute animals.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea – Judith Kerr

A classic from my childhood, and one that was beloved by the kids my mum had in the nursery. It’s just fun, it’s the right level of absurd (a tIger coming to tea and eating ALL THE FOOD IN THE HOUSE) and features the most absurdly exciting thing I could possibly have imagined as a young child: a late -night trip to a cafe for tea.

If you’ve written a children’s book in 1968 and it’s still being read to kids in 2020, I think the general consensus is that you’ve absolutely nailed it.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy – Lynley Dodd

One of the criticisms I saw of this book on Goodreads was that it had “very little plot”. Honestly, who cares? It’s got funny dogs, rhymes – kids love rhymes – charming illustrations and a villain. It’s top tier.


Right now she’s too young to do much more than grab at the pages – we have a soft crinkly picture book that she LOVES – but when she’s able to sit up by herself (thus freeing up my hands for turning pages) I’m going to be reading to her whenever we have a quite few minutes.

What other books should I have on my shopping list? Let me know! I love books that focus on diversity and social issues, as well as rhymes and fun pictures.

Top Ten Tuesday | Ten Books With Colours In The Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.


As it turns out, I don’t have a lot of books with colours in the titles, so I had to work really hard. Subsequently, some of these are from my TBR, some I read a while ago, some I cheated with. Slightly.

Manatee Blues – Laurie Halse Anderson

I’ve mentioned before that Laurie Halse Anderson is my favourite YA author, so it blew my mind a few years ago when I discovered that she’d also writtenn some of my favourite MG books. As an animal obsessed, wanted-to-be-a-vet kid, my auntie used to send me these over from the US and I read them over and over again.

The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while now and have shamefully never gotten round to it. You had me at dragons, but LGBTQ characters? Yes please.

The Green Mile – Stephen King

The Green Mile is one of the only movies I’ve ever cried at. The book didn’t move me quite the same, but it’s still a decent read.

Out of the Blue – Sophie Cameron

This has been on my TBR for AGES. Aside from anything else it’s set in Edinburgh, and if there’s one thing that never fails to turn my head it’s a book set in Edinburgh.

The Black Book – Ian Rankin

It took me an embarrassing amount of time to get round to reading the Rebus series, and I really wish I’d picked it up sooner. Rebus is a miserable bastard of a character but you like him anyway, and his acerbic wit is a TREAT.

The Black Book is (I think) as far as I got up to last time, but I’m rereading my way through it again. The whole series is an absolute joy regardless of whether it’s the first time you’ve read it or not.

Also, see above comment RE: books set in Edinburgh.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

“Bone” is a colour. I will not be taking questions at this time.

I remember Book Twitter being ALL ABOUT THIS BOOK when it was first released, and I never actually got round to picking up a copy, but I heard one of my favourite Magic: the Gathering podcasters talking about it recently and it’s reminded me that I really need to get hold of a copy sooner rather than later.

Amber Brown is Not a Crayon – Paula Danziger

One I enjoyed, and one for my daughter when she grows up! If my memory serves I found a copy of this in a house we stayed in on holiday once and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Yes I was the child who immediately found the bookcase in the places we stayed when we were on holiday.

A Darker Shade of Magic – VE Schwab

Okay it sounds like it’s talking about colours. That counts, right?

Good.

I love this book. I had nearly finished reading it when the roof of my front porch – where I’d stored a lot of books while we did the nursery up – started leaking and the book got totally waterlogged.

None of my husband’s books did. Just this one that I hadn’t finished.

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

An obvious classic. I was never a Philip Pullman kid growing up and it still doesn’t vibe with me a strongly as it does for other people for some reason – my mum, on the other hand, ADORES this series – but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Also the editions I have are very pretty.

Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon

The Outlander books are, in my opinion, one of the few cases where the screen adaptation absolutely outshines the book.

At least for the first two seasons.

(I enjoyed the first book well enough, but it didn’t make me want to fall over myself picking up this one, whereas I binged all the episodes on Prime in about two days and BAWLED.)


Well, we got there. On my to-do list: read more fantasy. Those seem to be the books with the colourful names.

Six For Sunday: Winter Colours

I used to really hate winter. My SAD used to go through the roof from about September onward and I have distinct memories of standing in the pouring rain one December at a crossing in my university town, feeling absolutely the most miserable I have ever felt.

Now that I’m in a better place, I really love dark, cosy evenings and the sound of the rain battering against the window. I love when the sun never really gets above the horizon

And I love the colours. Autumn is good but winter is black and gold and blue and silver. Here’s some of the books I pulled out of my bookcase that scream ICE AND COLD AND LONG DARK NIGHTS to me.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky – Lisa Lueddecke

Not only does the title scream “it’s winter, read me in the early evening twilight while the rain batters off the windows”, the cover LITERALLY has snow on it.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

I love Six of Crows. It was one of the last books I read before I completely broke away from books and reading and it’s still one of my favourites.

The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson is my favourite YA author – she tackles tough subjects in a really sensitive way without dumbing them down or patronising her audience. TIKOM tackles PTSD in veterans and having a parent struggling with their mental health.

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

I can’t remember exactly who I saw raving about Persepolis on Booktube, but I found a copy in my local comic store and, after the daughter of the owner confirmed it was an excellent read I bought it. Started reading while I was pregnant, got distracted by Animal Crossing. It’s next on my TBR though…

Faerie Tale – Raymond E. Feist

My husband, although not much of a reader now, used to be a huge fantasy nerd and loved Raymond Feist. I don’t get on hugely well with high fantasy, but he assured me that Faerie Tale was more my thing. It’s been sitting in our porch since we moved into this house in 2016, but I’ve just promoted it to The Bedside Table, so I’ll get to it eventually. Cracking icy-grey cover, too.

The Riddle – Alison Croggon

Did you really think I wasn’t going to fit a Pellinor book in somewhere?


I can’t wait to see other winter picks. Not only do I need to flesh out my TBR, but I’m all about aesthetics – and I’m REALLY in the mood for summer to be over this year!

Welcome Back Me…

Hello!

I used to blog about books, but I haven’t been active in any sort of book community for a long time. Part of the reason was that over the past year my mental and physical health frankly sucked and I didn’t do an awful lot of reading.

Part of the reason was that I accidentally ended up going viral when I wrote a blog post around sexism in the game Magic: the Gathering (which I’ve played for seven years now) and ended up accidentally being A Bit Of A Voice. I’ve been throwing a lot of my energy into trying to make things better for the community by supporting and standing up for women and the LGBTQ+ community.

Also I got pregnant, had a dreadful pregnancy and now I have a baby!

This is she!

Being stuck under a squishy human who won’t nap anywhere other than in my arms during the day seems like an ideal time to start reading in earnest again, especially as I seem to have a habit of leaving my phone and Switch with about 6% battery and ending up out of options.

Writing has always been an outlet for me, and as much as I love being a mum it can be incredibly lonely and isolating having a baby, especially in the middle of a pandemic when all the resources and groups meant to combat it aren’t on. I’m hoping that blogging will be a chance for me to recharge by letting me put some energy into something that’s just for me, as well as an opportunity to connect with people while I’m in the house being drooled and pooed on!

We’re big on book-inspired outfits in my house.

So, reintroduction: I’m Kirsty, I’m 28, and I live in Scotland with my husband, our baby and two cats. I’m really into being obnoxiously loud on the internet about gender roles, feminism and LGBTQA+ issues. I also like games and angry guitar music.

I primarily read Young Adult fiction, but I also really like si-fi and fantasy so I’m trying to read more widely in those genres. (High Fantasy I struggle with because I have no interest in wading through two pages describing a tree, but my husband used to read a lot of HF so we have a ton of it. I might give it another go.) Inevitably as my daughter gets older I’ll talk about baby books and stuff as well.

You can follow me on Twitter @paperbckpunkrock – I’ll link my Goodreads account to it when I remember – to see what I’m up to or currently reading, or follow the blog to catch my updates. Regardless, I’ll see you around. 🙂

Friends Reunited: The Lost Book

Gather round everyone, it’s time for the heartwarming story of a boy who loved a book, and why occasionally the internet isn’t a total cesspool.

A couple of years ago, while on a weekend away in Peebles with Sean, the conversation turned to a book he’d read and loved as a child. He couldn’t remember the title or the author, just a few fragments from his memory. The front cover, a young boy doing his homework while scenes from the game dance around him. The main characters. Plot points.

“Let’s Google it!” Said I, because obviously Google has all the answers.

We uncovered a plethora of books vaguely matching the description. None of them were the right ones. We spent a long time trawling the internet, me adamently refusing to believe that this book could be impossible to find, but it certainly looked that way.

peebles
You’d never guess we’d been up half the night on a book hunt.

Every now and then in the following months and years it would come up in conversation and we’d look again, dozens of different search terms, wording them slightly differently, scrolling through Goodreads and forums and Google Images. Sean had started to wonder if the book was something he’d made up, a writing prompt that had snaked its way into his subconscious. I wasn’t so sure. The details he could reel off to me were too precise.

It was hugely annoying. I’m a stubborn crow and I have great faith in the internet, both of which were being tested strongly by this bloody nameless, formless book.

After it raised its head again late last year, I suited up and went in. But this time, I had a different plan: Reddit.

There’s a subreddit called r/tipofmytongue, where you post things you can’t remember the name of with a few descriptive details and hope that someone will recognise what you’re talking about and enlighten you. Reddit can be a…questionable place, so I wasn’t sure how well this would work. Or if it would at all. Or if I’d be soundly flamed.

But would you believe it, within a few hours I had a single, solitary response, from a user called GitaTcua.

It must be Gameplayers by Steven Bowkett.

I looked it up. Immediately checks out.

gameplayers 2

If I’d been alone, I would have screamed. As it was, I was with my Granny, and I didn’t want to give her nervous breakdown.

For the grand total of £3.72, I was able to secretly acquire a copy (HUGE shout out to Abe Books and The Children’s Bookshop for stocking it and delivering it so promptly) and present it to Sean as a belated Christmas present. He’s notorious for not doing big emotional displays but the level of carefully contained joy he exuded was high.

Basically, tenacity pays off and I am the best fiancée ever. Happy Christmas Seanathon!

gameplayers
His childhood book with his childhood teddy bear. Glorious.

TTT: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

It might be 2018, but I read so many good books last year that I’m not done talking about them yet, so let’s live in the past for a moment.

This Top Ten Tuesday is going to be an easy one. As I said yesterday, the biggest reading slump ever came to an end, so almost every book I read in 2017 was by an author new to me. The only difficult bit was picking ten!

Alice Oseman

radio silence

Fun fact: I stumbled across Alice Oseman because I was in the process of lightly planning a book that I’d tentatively been calling “Radio Silence”. I Googled it to see what came up, and was quite distraught to discover I’d been beaten to it. I’m OK with it though, because it’s one of my favourite books, and one that I wish I’d had when I was in school. This book was my introduction back into the UKYA scene and I’m very fond of it.

Sara Barnard

beautiful broken things

Want to have your still-beating heart ripping out and solidly wrung? Read anything by Sara Barnard. A Quiet Kind of Thunder spoke to my anxiety-riddled heart and Beautiful Broken Things was so relatable that I wanted to take it out for coffee and tell it everything was going to be OK in the end.

Angie Thomas

the hate u give

The Hate U Give was my favourite book of 2017. Powerful and well-written and unforgiving. The other side of the Black Lives Matter movement, what it’s really like to be black and American. It’s a must read.

Charles Dickens

a christmas carol

I’ve always found the classics to be impenetrably dull. Likely a side effect of learning some of them in school. To christen my new Kindle at Christmas I downloaded A Christmas Carol, so I could be on flavour, and I ended up really enjoying it. Some of the lines really tickled me, particularly the one about the houses playing hide and seek.

Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

You can read my review of A Shiver of Snow and Sky here. I read it before Christmas when the weather was something like -7 degrees, there was frost on the ground so thick it looked like snow and every word was steam in the air, the Skyrim soundtrack on in the background. The ultimate experience.

Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Editing Emma was one of my favourite books on 2017. It was funny, it was brilliantly written and it had me simultaneously cringing for Emma and cringing for myself because, well…we’ve all been there.

Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

I LOVE FANGIRL. So brilliantly written, everything was almost tangible, the characters felt like my best friends by the end and I wanted to move in with Cath and Reagan. It was the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

Alice Broadway

ink

I hadn’t even read the blurb of Ink when I picked it up. I looked at the front cover and the title, went YUP and bought it. Easiest way to my heart is a cool front cover. Really enjoyed the book as well – I’m sure I read somewhere there was going to be a sequel, so I’m looking forward to that.

Cassandra Clare

city of bones

I’d heard of the Mortal Instruments serious because I knew it was a film, and it had somehow escaped me that it was a book too. I picked up City of Bones to give it a go and…I don’t love it. I know that I’ll probably get slaughtered because it’s so well-loved but it didn’t light my fire at all. I’ll restart it at some point in the near future and give it another go, and hope it doesn’t feel like a slog to get to the end.

Raymond Feist

magician

This was a Sean recommendation. Sean loves high fantasy novels, whereas I can’t be doing at all with a book that takes five pages to discuss what the countryside looks like. He tried to persuade me with two books: Magician and Daughter of the Empire. Both of them I abandoned halfway through, but as I hate DNFing any book, like City of Bones I’ll likely feel compelled to have another go. Maybe I can skip the lengthy descriptions of all the trees in the garden…

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This year I’m going to be a book consuming machine, which is great in a lot of ways…but it might make next year’s list harder. Challenge accepted.

Book review | A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way.

And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning.

Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover how to stop the onslaught before so many lives are lost again.

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Buying books based on the cover can be a hit and miss approach. I’ve read some turgid books because they look pretty. Fortunately, A Shiver of Snow and Sky is both stunning AND excellent.

There’s fantasy, there’s magic, there’s heart. Beautiful book, beautiful words. Lisa Lueddecke dumps you headfirst into a crisis and it doesn’t really let up until the end.

The heroine, Ósa, will break your heart and have you punching the air in the same breath. The world is so deliciously chilly and evocative that you can imagine every burn of he snow and boat on the water. The switch between the points of view in the narrative is awesome because it lines up the contrast between Ósa’s surreal journey and the much more grim events in the villages. My only negative takeaway was that I thought the ending was a little abrupt, which was disappointing, but it was a very minor blip in what was a brilliant debut.

There’s still time to pick one up as a gift for a reader you know – it’s the perfect book for a chilly holiday night. It reminded me in a lot of ways of Skyrim, so if you know anyone who’s ever had their life consumed by The Elder Scrolls, why not send them a copy of this for the holidays?

Serving suggestion: Christmas tree lights, hot chocolate and Baileys, gentle snowfall.

asosas pic

My Winter TBR: an update, or “oops I accidentally went Christmas shopping for myself”.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a Top Ten Tuesday blog post on the books I was planning on reading over winter. I went for a day trip to Edinburgh with my mum to hang out at the Christmas market – my motivations had more than a little bit to do with the sloe gin apple toddies – and me being me, I nipped into Waterstones to get some books for Christmas presents.

I wasn’t including myself in that but Y’KNOW WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO.

book blog

These are three books that I’ve been DYING to read for ages, so I’m looking forward to cracking open the bottle of ginger nut liqueur I’ve got and getting stuck in. I’m considering doing some book reviews in the new year – although I might have to work on turning down the sarcasm and bitterness a wee bit – so one of these might be the inaugural entry in the PBPR Book Review series.

I was sliiiiiightly worried when I posted that TTT entry, as I’d forgotten that the new Destiny 2 expansion Curse of Osiris came out on December 5th and I was mentally prepared for it to be a major timesink for me. So many space children, so little time, and I have to fit my colossal TBR in as well!

Much to my dismay, I don’t think that’s a risk anymore…but that’s a blog post for next week.

Have a good weekend folks – and let me know if there’s any other books I should be throwing my debit card at this winter!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Reading Over Winter.

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! This week, it’s the top ten books on my winter TBR list. This list in general is longer than a Disneyworld ride queue, so it’ll need a cold snap of Game of Thrones proportions for me to make a dent in it, but these are the ten books that have come out on top.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

I bought Six of Crows as part of my pre-holiday haul, and promptly fell asleep on the red-eye flight home with the book open. Not a commentary on the book, more a commentary on my ability to handle gin in the middle of the night.

I’ve heard nothing but heaps and heaps of praise for Leigh Bardugo, so I’ll be drinking a few “special” hot chocolates (add Baileys liberally) and getting stuck in.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky – Lisa Lueddecke

a shiver of snow and sky

Oh man, the cover for this one. I judge books by their covers all the time, and just LOOK at it. Have you ever seen a more wintery book? I’m pretty sure if you lick it it’ll taste of brandy, posh cheese and the way pine smells.

I need it, and the next time I bundle myself up in more wool than a sheep and head into town I will have it.

The Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman

northern lights

I’m preparing for everyone to windmill slam the “Unfollow” button, but I’ve never read any of His Dark Materials.

I know. I can hear my mother preparing the emancipation papers as I type.

I’m going to “acquire” them from the bookcase in my parents’ house over Christmas and read them in order to rectify this situation. Plus the Book of Dust hype is real at the moment. My mum has that too. Bingo.

The Gift – Alison Croggon

pellinor

This is a reread, but I’m including it because it’s long overdue. I love these books. I talk about them whenever I can. I’m sure everyone’s sick to death of me talking about them but I don’t care. They’re awesome and I could read them again and again. So I’m going to. Sorry TBR list.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I am slightly ashamed that I’ve never read any of Ian Rankin’s books, given that he’s so local I’m surprised I haven’t bumped into him. Crime fiction isn’t a circle I usually move in, however given my taste in comfort TV (as I talked about last week) I’m starting to think that I should explore it. And what better place to start than a local legend?

Killing Floor – Lee Child

killing floor

My dad’s a massive Lee Child fan and has all the books in hardback. In the spirit of widening my horizons, this is another one I’ve picked up. I read Killing Floor years ago and never got round to getting to the rest of series, so let’s whack on some Slade and go for it.

The Cost of Living – Rachel Ward

cost of living

I was turned onto the Cost of Living through the Sunday YA Twitter chat. Reading everyone’s reviews and hearing (or reading!) Rachel Ward talking about it has hyped me up, plus after years and years in retail I’m so ready for some retail worker sleuthing. Gimme.

Blackbird – ND Gomes

blackbird

Um hello, mystery novel set on Orkney. I am already obsessed. I’ve seen this one all over Twitter and had resolved to read it before I realised where it was set, and as someone who loves Scotland and loves books set in Scotland and thinks there should be more books set in Scotland…

Plus the cover is awesome and I love mysteries. Sold.

Daughter of the Empire – Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts

feist

This is a Sean book. High fantasy really isn’t my thing at all, and I got less than a quarter into Magician by Raymond Feist before I had to admit defeat, but this was recommended to me as being “sort of entry level” by Sean, so I’ll give it a go. I’ve already read a few pages but I sort of…drifted away and read something else, so I really need to go back to the start and slog past the slow start and hope that I can be persuaded!

 

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

dickens

I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m not a fan of the classics. I never have been. I’m trying to read more widely, even though they don’t particularly inspire me. Dickens is a bit too old and dusty for me, but since it’s Christmas, this seems appropriate.

Also the Muppet movie version. Obviously.

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What are you reading over Christmas? If you’re sitting going “Oh my GOD she’s not reading my favourite winter book” let me know. Scotland is cold and I don’t go outside, so I have plenty of time.

A round up of books

I keep thinking “Right, Kirsty, given that you’ve got the word ‘Paperback’ in your blog name, maybe you should talk about books some more”. I keep meaning to review books that I’ve read and liked, but of course I never get round to it. Life and all that.

So to start off a trend of actually talking about books, here’s a quick run through some Books I Have Read And Thoroughly Enjoyed In The Last Few Months And Not Talked About Yet.

Editing Emma – Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Rare is the book that makes me ugly laugh out loud in the middle of the night, but Editing Emma managed it. I won a copy through Twitter after sharing my most embarrassing teenage moment. (My orange stripy hair has finally redeemed itself after over a decade.)

Editing Emma is of the best YA books I’ve read this year. As well as being hilarious, it’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl in the social media age. (I hate writing that, because it makes me feel like an old lady, but it’s true.) It’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl full stop, actually, and there’s things touched upon that are very rarely, if ever, mentioned in YA. I loved it.

There was a particular scene involving a Facebook messenger mishap that made me cringe so hard I nearly turned myself inside out. WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. DON’T TELL LIES.

Hings – Chris McQueer

Hings

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Hings. Having finished, I’m not entirely sure what I’ve experienced. It’s the most bizarre series of stories I have read in a long, long time. I loved it.

‘Korma Police’ features a house raid in a curry-prohibition world. There’s a story where the world wakes up with backwards knees. ‘Bowls’ is a crime saga set against the backdrop of Glaswegian bowling greens. There’s a story called “Pish The Bed”. It’s like a series of Burnistoun sketches on a cocktail of drugs. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated, but I would thoroughly recommend if you like surreal escapades through working class Scottish communities. You probably do. Even if you don’t know it yet.

Plus some stories are written in Glaswegian dialect. Why not leave a copy of Hings on your coffee table to intrigue and perturb any non-Scottish friends or relatives? It’s the ultimate Christmas party game.

Beneath the Skin – Sandra Ireland

Beneath the Skin

Sandra is a fellow University of Dundee creative writing graduate whose writing I always thought magnificent, and it took me a shamefully long time to pick up Beneath the Skin. I went out on a mission at the Edinburgh Book Festival with my plastic glass of wine this year and picked up a copy

It checks all the important boxes. Army vet suffering from PTSD takes a job in a taxidermists. Set in Scotland. Creepy, mysterious characters. Sweet characters that warm the heart. Chilly sense of unease that never really goes away and means you have to keep reading to find out how all the loose ends tie up. Added points for stuffed birds. Everywhere.

Oh, and just in case you thought I was biased, Beneath the Skin has been shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award. It’s marvellous. Ask for a copy for Christmas.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

I knew of The Outsiders before I saw it in Barnes & Noble in Orlando. I’d seen it described as the first “real” YA book – in that it was among the first, if not THE first to deal with realistic teenagers and their peers and surroundings. S.E. Hinton was only fifteen years old when she started writing The Outsiders (and eighteen when it was published), which explains why it’s so authentic – and in the author notes of my copy she says

“At that time realistic teenage fiction didn’t exist. If you didn’t want to read Mary Jane Goes to the Prom and you were through with horse books, there was nothing to read.”

It’s gritty, unforgiving, controversial then and now because of its depictions of violence and gang culture – but I’m a firm believer in “controversial” books for young adults, because teenagers deserve not to be patronised by people telling them they’re not old enough or mature enough to deal with difficult topics in literature, and the controversial books are the ones that often deal with issues that affect young people. They deserve to be read and discussed.

I read The Outsiders in one sitting on the plane back from Orlando. I adore it.

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Fangirl is the first RR book I’ve read, but the first time I heard of Rainbow Rowell was a Tumblr post criticising Eleanor and Park for the way it portrayed minorities. So I picked up Fangirl based on the title – I, a fellow fangirl, can appreciate a kindred spirit when I see one – but not without a little trepidation.

I loved it.

Rowell has a really glorious prose style that’s warm and witty (as horrible and cliché as that sounds, it is!) and so evocative without ever feeling like it’s layering it on thicker than

It was sweet, it was relatable, the characters were so vibrant I felt like they were my friends after I’d finished the book. It’s up there with the best impulse book purchases I’ve ever made.

I’m not sure about E&P, but we’ll see.

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What’ve you read recently? Let me know!

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