book recommendations

It's the final day of August, a lovely sunny Bank Holiday Monday, as I write this. I'm laid on my bed with no plans to leave the house and/or do my hair and make-up; a much needed chill day after a hectic week. Well, it's been a busy ole month of getting back into the world of full-time work with a shiny new job! But I'm feeling pretty content for the first time in a long time and more than happy to write some little book reviews. As I predicted last month, my new job did result in me reading far fewer books than the months throughout lockdown, but I still managed 5 which is more than I was managing last year. In fact, as I finished the last book of this month, I hit my goodreads 2020 challenge which I set in January at 40 books for the year! I'm now hoping to get to 50, which isn't all that much more for the next four months really, but I'm determined to make a dent in my pile of classics which always take a lot longer to read.

So what are the 5 books I've read this month? Well, I thought I'd start with my least favourite and build up to my two(!) 5 star reads.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary ★ ★ ★

I've seen this book all over social media for the past year and I was never really intrigued by it, but I picked it up for a bargain in the supermarket when I got some others as it was the August read for the book club I recently joined. 

"Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they're crazy, but it's the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy's at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven't met yet, they're about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window..."

It wasn't a bad book, I definitely enjoyed it and smiled a lot, but there was nothing groundbreaking to it. It's the typical romantic, chick-lit (I hate that term, but don't know how else to describe it!) that you'd expect. And it actually turned out to the be the nice light-hearted, easy read that I needed after struggling with my previous read, but every part of it was just so predictable. Very sweet and heart-warming, definitely a good choice if you're in a reading rut!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley ★ ★ ★

I decided it was finally time to read this simply because it's been sat on my TBR for the longest time. I picked it up a few years ago alongside The Catcher In The Rye and The Secret History in a bid to read some more modern classics. I read (and loved) the others immediately, but this seemingly got forgotten. And turns out it was really hard to get into!

"Largely set in a futuristic World State, inhabited by genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that are combined to make a dystopian society which is challenged by only a single individual: the story's protagonist."

I don't know what it was, maybe simply that 2020 isn't the ideal time to be reading dystopian novels(!), but I just couldn't get into this book until I got to the last few chapters. It was one of those where I found myself reading a page, realising I'd not taken anything in and then having to read it again. I do love the plot, it was interesting, odd and the characterisation well executed,I think I simply need to read it again when I'm in a different headspace.

Love In Colour by Bolu Babalola ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I've followed Bolu on Twitter for the longest time and when she announced she was writing her first book I just knew I would love it. After pre-ordering it on Hive so I had it upon release, it immediately jumped to the top of my TBR and boy am I glad I didn't wait!

"From the homoromantic Greek myths, to magical Nigerian folktales, to the ancient stories of South Asia, Bolu brings new life to tales that truly show the vibrance and colours of love around the world. The anthology is a step towards decolonising tropes of love, and celebrates in the wildly beautiful and astonishingly diverse tales of romance and desire that already exist in so many cultures and communities."

With a combination of mythical retellings and original stories, Bolu really knows how to engage the reader. Beautiful imagery and stunningly poetic writing, I definitely think the retellings were my favourite as they felt much more vibrant. My most favourite story, however, was that of Alagomeji, of course. The personal touch truly added to how beautiful the final piece in the book was. This is a great display of how Black women and women of colour should be centred in romantic stories more.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

An incredibly written book that was brought to the forefront of my attention during the latest wave of the Black Lives Matter protests, this is absolutely one of the most important reads that I would recommend to everyone. It made me cry multiple times, but I simply couldn't put it down.

"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and decide to stand up for what's right."

When you find a book that combines being an important read with a political/social message, and being well-written, gripping and emotionally charged, it's rare. But boy is it good when you find them! With light-hearted moments of joy to make you smile among the often heavy themes, The Hate U Give really covers everything you could want in such a book. It's a truly eye-opening look into racial bias in the justice system in America with phenomenal characterisation and heart-warming family dynamics that I simply adored.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I'd been considering this book for a while, so when I saw it on The Works website for a mere £2 I couldn't resist. And I am so so glad because it was absolutely the most beautiful book. A very important read about love, loss and hope; another one I'd recommend to everybody!

"Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo - until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of an unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all - and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face - they must journey to find each other again."

When I say this book stole a piece of my heart, I'm not even being dramatic. It was heavy, heart-wrenching and even stomach-churning in parts but that only made it even more gripping. The writing seamlessly transitions between past and present, cleverly done with single word pages, which I thought was a beautiful way of tying their story together. With wonderfully descriptive language, every part of this story feels all too real, but the brief glimpses of beauty with Nuri and the bees are the small pockets of joy essential in such a read. Nuri and Afra's story may be fictional, but knowing there are so many like it makes it even more important.

Loves. Emma.

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