Top Ten Tuesday | Books I Loved But Never Reviewed

The plus side of being an absentee book blogger means that I have a list. The downside of being an absentee reader means there’s only nine I read recently that are on it. Here’s my top nine:

Mary’s The Name – Ross Sayers

I loved Mary’s the Name. Told from the perspective of eight year old Mary Sutherland, it’s sweet, funny and emotional all in one go. Ross Sayers has done an absolute belter of a job with the writing – the dramatic irony created by an eight year old narrator is brilliant, and the voice never falters.

Fault Lines – Douglas Johnstone

A thriller set in what’s basically AU contemporary Edinburgh, Fault Lines‘ protagonist is a volcanologist who discovers the body of her married lover who also happens to be her boss. Then the text messages start…

Bone Deep – Sandra Ireland

Sandra is a Creative Writing MLitt cohort of mine. I loved her first thriller Beneath the Skin, and Bone Deep didn’t disappoint either – I had to scrape my jaw off the floor at the end.

Editing Emma – Chloe Seagar

It’s rare that a book actually sends me into fits of giggles (I can appreciate when something is funny when I’m reading, but rarely do I actively laugh) but Editing Emma managed it. I’m well overdue a reread.

Hings – Chris McQueer

“Limmy meets Irvine Welsh” is just about right. Surreal and full of black Scottish humour, it’s almost like The Fast Show on acid and set in Glasgow. Love it.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

I will wax lyrical about Sara Barnard’s books every chance I get. She does contemporary YA so well, with relatable characters that I recognise from my school days, never mind now. As someone who struggled with anxiety and talking to people when I was in school, AQKOT broke my heart.

Blackbird – ND Gomes

Contemporary YA mystery Blackbird first came to my attention when someone pointed it out it was set in Orkney, and we all know I love a Scottish book. I felt a little let down by the ending, but I enjoyed the journey!

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers

This is, unsurprisingly, incredibly heavy and emotional reading. I knew the outcome – as everyone will – but . Harrowing, but definitely worth it.

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

Radio Silence is top tier YA. It’s the book I wish I’d had when I was a teenager. I don’t even want to say any more in case anyone hasn’t read it yet. You absolutely should.

(Fun fact: this is the book that got me back into being bookish, and it’s because I suddenly though that “Radio Silence” would be a great book title so I googled it and found UKYA Twitter. I’m glad I did.)

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. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for when I’m sick of reading.

Nobody’s ever sick of reading, really, but the term “reading slump” makes my teeth grind involuntarily so…

Anyway, as I’ve spent god knows how many weeks now reading nothing but fanfiction, this seems appropriate. If you’re also a victim of this particular pit, my sympathies.

Since I’m rusty I’ve only done five books that I can pick up to get back into the game. I suggest reading it twice.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I can’t remember the last time I became so heavily invested in a series and a character. The only thing stopping me from reading this again right now is that there’s a whole series of them I haven’t read.

It definitely helps that the books are set in Edinburgh. As someone who works in the city I love trundling past places I’ve read about

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

This is the most deliciously dark and all-consuming and evocative story I’ve read for a long time. Leigh Bardugo has created such a grubby yet gorgeous universe and set of characters.

The Disaster Artist 

the disaster artist

I’ve read this account of the filming of cult movie sensation The Room several times, and it’s still one of the few books that makes me actually wheeze with laughter. Knowledge of the movie isn’t necessary but strongly recommended.

Additionally, if you haven’t seen The Room, I’d thoroughly recommend gathering some of your closest friends and watching it. It’s the only time in my adult life I’ve come close to peeing myself.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson is my ride or die. She’s my idol. Speak is a book that not only shuts me up for at least a day, but it also reinforces my belief that YA is the most vital of all genres.

The Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

the singing

Everyone’s heard me screaming about this series by now, but I love it so much and it’s my go-to when I really can’t be arsed reading anything else. I always have time for Maerad and Cadvan.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

Jack Kerouac typed the manuscript for On the Road on a single, continuous piece of paper. In three weeks. Goals.

Because of this, the language feels like it’s dropped straight out of Kerouac’s brain into the pages, and it’s so authentic and glorious that every time I read it I feel completely alive with how great writing can be. Hugely pretentious sounding, but true.

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What other books are good for when I hit the wall? GO.

Books I Need to Read: Part One

I’ve been off the grid for a while, doing stuff. To get back into the swing of things, I’ve been thinking about what books I’m probably going to need in my life in one form or another. Some are new releases, some are old ones I haven’t gotten round to.

This was originally one blog post and then while I was uploading the images I thought of LOADS more so look forward to my bank account sobbing in a part two at some point.

Every Rebus book I haven’t read yet

knots and crosses
Not this one. I’ve read this one. It was excellent.

Even though I’m enjoying other stuff at the moment, I miss Rebus. I love his Edinburgh, and his take-no-shit attitude, and trying to work out whodunnit.

Ian Rankin has ruined other books for me though. All I want to do is read Rebus. And watch the TV versions. Help.

The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

priory of the orange tree

Fantasy? Yes. Magic? Yesss. Dragons? YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

blood and bone

This is a funny one. I like the sound of it, but I’ve been burned so often by super hyped books that I almost…don’t want to read it. But I do. And I will. But I don’t.

If you see what I mean.

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

amber spyglass

My mum bought me the full set of the HDM 20th anniversary editions at the Edinburgh Book Festival because I was salivating over it. I’ve just finished with her slightly battered copy of The Subtle Knife, so when I’m emotionally stable again (two words: Alamo Gulch) I’ll crack on with the last in the trilogy.

Fault Lines – Doug Johnstone

fault lines

I asked for book suggestions on Twitter and picked one at random, which is how I was introduced to this book. I hadn’t heard of Doug Johnstone or Fault Lines, but it’s set in Edinburgh (score), albeit a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh (score) and it’s got a murder in it (score). All my boxes are ticked.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? – Holly Black

lemmings and snowflakes

I’m saving this one for last because I haven’t read any Holly Black before and if I mention that too early I risk shame.

I’ve been meaning to get to the Spinster Club, but in the meantime this book sounds awesome and I have high expectations.

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What else should I be reading? What’s on your TBR? How much trouble am I in for going back to the book festival tomorrow? (Lots, probably.)

Book Talk | My First Ever Unhaul!

I’ve never done a book unhaul before. If you could see the bookcases in my parents’ house this would be immediately obvious.

Unfortunately as we have a ton of Magic: the Gathering and gaming stuff I don’t have the option to line the walls in my own house with bookcases. Most of these books aren’t ones I hated, just ones that I feel I can bear to part with, and that will be better off in a school library rather than languishing on my spare room.

Most of them.

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

truth and lies

I hated this fucking book. I hate DNFing but oh boy did I come close. I know that it’s probably not aimed at my cynical 26 year old ass (and that’s the only reason I’m donating it instead of binning it) but 16 year old me would have hated it as well.

The Square Root of Summer

square root of summer

This book was…fine. It was just fine. I haven’t got room in my house for Just Fine, I’m afraid, and thus it’s off to be consumed somewhere else.

The Fandom

the fandom

This was one of the most highly anticipated books of last year, but because of this it ended up not lighting my fire at all. But I know how much fandoms can save lives and carry afloat the miserable, so this is going to reach someone at exactly the right time.

The Sun Is Also A Star

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd

Really enjoyed this, but if I’m going to be harsh with myself I’m probably not going to read it again. Sorry Natasha and Daniel. You live in New York though, so someone is going to love you they way you deserve.

The Art of Being Normal

art of being normal

This is absolutely not a bad book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But as a book with some sensitive and important trans representation, I feel like it’s better off in a school library than sitting on my bookshelf.

Far From The Tree

tree

I liked this, but it ticked so many boxes that I feel like it is could tick those boxes for someone else. It’s wonderfully and sensitively written, and deserves a wider audience.

Blackbird

blackbird

This disappointed me. I think my crime-y tastes are too strong for YA. It’s not a bad book in itself though, so I’m sure someone else will enjoy it.

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Someone please tell me how to get rid of the crippling guilt that comes with taking books OUT of my house instead of the other way round.

Book Spotlight | Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorised by a baffling series of murders…and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain’s elite SAS. Now he’s an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer, he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle… 

As someone who’s spent most of her life living in Fife, I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to read an Ian Rankin book. In my defence, I’d have done it sooner if I wasn’t a stickler for chronological order and the first book wasn’t the only one that my parents didn’t have in their house.

Never mind. Better late than never, and I LOVED IT.

I loved Rebus. He’s a cynical, divorced Detective Sergeant who drinks and smokes and is generally pretty sardonic. Should be so far, so cliche, but Ian Rankin’s writing of him makes him an absolute revelation.

I loved Rebus’ Edinburgh. It’s not the tourist’s Edinburgh, with the castle and the Mile and the Old Town. It’s Lothian Road and the seedy bars you only go into if you’re local, and the difference between the upper crust and the grotty bits.

I loved the story, which was intense and dark and full of unsavoury characters, but so clever and evocative that it was an absolute joy to read. Rankin’s writing style is gloriously dry and witty and Scottish I actually audibly snorted on the train.

See possibly my favourite line in any book ever:

“If you buzz down to him, I’ll come back up and kick that telephone so far up your arse that you really will be able to make internal calls. Do you get my drift?”

Magnificent stuff. I’ve not read a lot of crime fiction, but this has set the bar pretty high. You could have set it in any city and it would have been great, but the fact that it was set in Edinburgh, on streets that I see on my way to work every day, made it even more fun

Also Ian Rankin was only 25 years old when he wrote this. Man’s a genius. I am suitably intimidated.

Book Spotlight | Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.

Yes! Rejoice! I’ve finally read this book after buying it last October. I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to get into, but OH BOY was my initial disappointment blown away.

It’s an edge-of-your-seat story about a heist, about feuding and crime, but that’s not even the best bit. The more I found out about the six characters – criminals, a barbaric hunter, a privileged boy – the more my heart grew and broke at the same time.

 

It had love, it had drama, it had a world so dark and grubby and evocative that I wanted to have a bath at multiple points. The characters shine through it like diamonds.

Basically, I loved it. I’ll be buying the sequel for my holiday.

Oh and also, “I will have you without armour, Kaz Brekker, or I will not have you at all.” Hold me.

Rating: *****