Why I love Audiobooks

Audiobooks and I haven’t always had such a good relationship. When I first downloaded Audible (yes, with a discount code from a Youtuber; I can’t evenaudiobooks remember which one it was now there’s so many), I used the free book I downloaded to help me go to sleep, which was a great help, but it was pretty hard to keep up with the story because I couldn’t keep up with what was happening in the story from one night to the next.

But, I persevered with it, and eventually got to the end of my first audiobook – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It might have taken me a while – what with having to
keep going back a chapter to find the last bit I remembered and everything – but it was totally worth it.

And now, I’m hooked.

Listening to audiobooks means I can actually have two books on the go at once; something I could never do before, because it was too confusing for my wee brain. The experience is so different that I can keep up with both stories more easily; and I have a better chance of reaching my goal of reading thirty books this year!

Another plus is that now I have a new job which is a forty-ish minute walk away, I can use that time wisely by listening to a book on my way. Sometimes I might look a bit crazy walking along laughing to myself or holding back tears, but that’s a very minor downside I can definitely live with.

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Audiobooks also allow for reading when travelling without causing travel sickness; particularly on Virgin trains between Manchester and London which always make me feel queasy whether I’m reading or not.

Those are some of the practical reasons why I’ve grown to love them, but there are also reasons to do with the listening experience itself. One of these is that with the likes of Neverwhere, narrated by Neil Gaiman himself, you get to hear how he intended the words to sound,and how they are meant to make you feel; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, also ready by the author, Maya Angelou, is especially interesting as it is a semi-autobiographical novel, and therefore hearing it in Angelou’s voice makes it all the more gripping.

I have also listened to books that have been on my to-read list for years: Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. artworks-000157543876-ntnu51-t500x500Firstly, the narrators in both of these audios were fantastic. They took Jonathan’s language and made the whole experience so immersive, it’s probably lucky I don’t have too many busy roads to cross on my way home! One particular part of Extremely Loud that struck me was when Oskar is telling ‘the renter’ about his dad’s phone messages; we hear ‘are you there?’  thirteen times (forgive me if that’s wrong, I think it’s thirteen) complete with the long pauses, and I thought about how if I had been reading those repeated questions, it wouldn’t have had nearly the same kind of powerful effect.

If you haven’t given audiobooks a go yet, I strongly recommend giving them a go, even if you don’t think it’ll be your thing.

P.S. I wish this was sponsored by audible, but sadly, it’s not 😉

P.P.S. Images not my own

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Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf

I have been keeping up with the reading for Banging Book Club (honest!), just not the blog posts. But I have so many feelings about this one, I really had no choice but to make time.

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Firstly, I believe this book, compared with March’s read Bonk by Mary Roach, was much easier to read for someone like me who struggles with the sciencey mumbo-jumbo. I much preferred Wolf’s writing style, which I knew before I began reading, but unfortunately this may also be the book’s biggest downfall. In making the narrative and the language more poetic than the likes of Roach’s, Wolf risks skewing the actual scientific facts in a way that sensationalises them and leads to sweeping conclusions that may not be entirely accurate.

Having said this, so many things in  Vagina rang true and seemed to join up some of the dots for me, that I can’t believe these things aren’t common knowledge or discussed by all members of society, in public and private and everywhere in between.

Within the first ten pages or so my jaw was practically on the floor. I had no idea, like most people, I can only assume, how closely the vulva/vagina was connected neurologically to the brain? Please excuse my lack of technical knowledge, you should read it yourself for what I actually mean, but my brain was just in a constant state of ?!?! for weeks afterwards.

The chapter on ‘The Traumatized Vagina’ was equally horrific and fascinating. Of course the main subject of this chapter was women who have suffered sexual abuse, and the link between the physical trauma, their mental well-being, and their general change in personality as a result of the violation.

On a personal level, it was the second section of this chapter ‘Vulvodynia and Existential Despair’, that gave me a lot of food for thought. I never suffered from vulvodynia, the condition that is primarily discussed in this section, but I have experienced pretty awful pain in that region on a fairly regular basis between the ages of 13 and 16. I would also pinpoint the start of my mental health problems being around the age of 15/16, so the following passage by Nancy Fish, ‘a patient and counselor to sufferers of vulvodynia’, struck a particularly powerful chord with me:

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This whole section of the book simultaneously blew my mind and made me nod so furiously my head nearly fell off my shoulders. I’ve never read anything like this before, and to think that I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way was another ?!?! moment; whilst also feeling as if a weight has been lifted off my chest, and I can breathe a little easier.

I could go on and on about what I loved about this book (being a history nerd I thoroughly enjoyed the vagina through the ages section, for example), but all I really want to leave you with is a plea for you to read this book. If you have a vagina, or if you ever want to be close to a vagina, this should be compulsory reading. It should be on the national curriculum.

People will argue that because the science isn’t exactly spot on then we shouldn’t be promoting it this way, but it’s books like this that open up this kind of discussion. I, someone who is a participator in the Banging Book Club so clearly has an interest in this stuff, would have had no introduction to these topics had it not been for Vagina.

So, in a concluding nut shell… PLEASE READ VAGINA!

 

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

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I had been meaning to read this book for a while seen as I had heard so much about it; but it is thanks to Leena, Hannah and Lucy, co-founders of the Banging Book Club, that I actually got round to it. And I am so glad I did. I think everyone should read this book.

Warning: discussion of rape, spoilers

There is so much stuff packed into these 346 pages that it is hard to know where to start. It was horrific reading, but I felt as if I had to carry on, like I couldn’t leave Emma (the protagonist) in this position alone. You get to be inside of her head from the beginning, and  she is just not a very nice person. You’re not meant to like her, and that is such an important factor in the way the reader processes the story and its impact on themselves personally. Emma being unlikable makes you as the reader check yourself and your own reactions.; knowing what’s coming you don’t want to judge her, but can’t help yourself because she’s such an awful person. She is the kind of girl we’ve all come across; arrogant, self-centred, conceited; and probably all hated.

This familiar character is one of the factors which makes the whole story incredibly realistic and believable, which is what I believe makes it so shocking. Another is the reactions of the media, the public and the people in the town; we’ve all read articles, and comments on news stories, and seen the twitter trends that Emma is exposed to in the year after the event. It’s certainly going to make me think twice about how this kind of attention can affect the victim next time there’s a #ISupport campaign etc.

The hopelessness, and helplessness, that you feel as the reader in the second half of the book is possibly harder to read than the pretty graphic sex scene directly previous to it. Everything leading up to the party and the rape itself just seemed so fast-paced compared to the sudden slowness of Emma’s life a year later. The narrative itself is so slow it is almost painful to read, as it reflects the monotony and hopelessness of a life not being lived. The frustration that nothing is happening, no justice is being done, and things haven’t gotten any better, is horrendous. The abrupt ending is a bit like a slap in the face, kind of like an awakening even though I thought I was pretty enlightened on the whole idea of rape culture.

I want to just take a minute to talk about the character of Paul, because I feel like I know him. He could be any one of the ‘lads’ that I went to university with. They wouldn’t think twice about plying a girl with drink and drugs in order to have sex with her, and care nothing about her feelings whatsoever. That’s just ‘lad culture’ at university. (You can read my post on lad culture here for more examples). What makes it even more disgusting to me is the fact that he’s so much older than her, and he is still painted with the same ‘they’re good boys really’ brush, despite him definitely being a man rather than a boy.

Oh there’s so much more to talk about like the fact that it’s set in Ireland that’s pretty backwards in terms of abortion being illegal and Catholicism and judgment etc. and the reactions of her parents being so heartbreaking but I feel like I should stop there cause this is getting pretty long.

Let me know if you’ve read this book what you thought of it! I’ll definitely be putting Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill on my to-read list; I think she’s a fantastic writer.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

 

 

To Read in 2016

I’ve seen quite a lot of posts and videos on this subject and was very interested in everyone’s lists, so I thought I’d have a go myself.

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I reached my goal of 20 books in 2015, and want to increase that in 2016 to 30. I’ve read three so far so I’m doing alright, but these are some books, some that I’ve had on my bookshelf for too long, some that have been on my Goodreads to-read list forever, others that have been very popular with Booktubers and bloggers in 2015; that I am determined to get through this year.

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

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I began reading this autobiography whilst in my second year at university, when I took a History module all about Britain in the First World War, and I, of course, chose to write about women’s roles for my essay (Gender, Women’s and Feminist Histories are my jam). It’s prettty long, so I only got a hundred or so pages in before having to move on, but I have finally got around to picking it up again and I am determined to finish it this time. It is super inspirational, Vera Brittain was an amazing woman and had such a talent for writing I don’t think it’ll be difficult for me to get through it.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

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Sticking with the WW1 theme, whilst I was studying it it happened to be 2014, the 100 year anniversary of the breakout of war. Lots of books were on offer, so obviously I stocked up, having fallen in love with the writing of and about that era. I also want to get through ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ as well, but ‘Birdsong’ is the big one.

How to be Both by Ali Smith

Something totally different now, this is one of the books I got for Christmas, because I’ve heard so much about it since it winning the Baileys prize for Women’s Fiction.

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American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

My friend did slightly put me off embarking on this one when she said she had to put it down because she was going to be sick… but I’m determined to read it this year.

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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

This has very recently been added to my to-read list on Goodreads just after seeing it spoken about by a couple of Youtubers. The tag line ‘a funny book about horrible things’ and the fact that it’s about mental health has me intrigued, and that’s all I really know about it. Other than that the cover is a taxidermy raccoon. Which is obviously a huuge attraction.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I believe this is just a book everyone should read? That’s what people say, isn’t it? I had to get some 19th century classics on the list, there’s always more to be read; especially ones by Victorian women.

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I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

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This is part of my plan to read more autobiography, especially by inspirational women, and I don’t think you can get more inspirational than Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala. I cannot wait to read her story.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes

I am very, very excited about Luke Cutforth (LukeIsNotSexy) making this into a film. I pledged £10 towards it, I’m that proud of the guy. So I figured I should read the book first and get even more excited about the whole project!

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I should probably stop writing this now and get on with the actual reading… even though my list is growing longer and longer, any recommendations would be gratefully received!

Christmas prezzies!

Happy new year to you! I may do a look back on my 2015 in the next few days, but for now I’m just going to share a few of the presents I received for Christmas this year 🙂

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Tanya Burr lipgloss, nail file and nail polish set in this adorable gingerbread house!

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A few books that I am very excited to read. 30 books is my goal for 2016, only 9 more than I managed in 2015. Baby steps. Got to account for my procrastination… Before I read these I have to finish the books I got last Christmas so…yeah. 20151228_183541.jpg

New watch! So pretty, and I needed a backup considering I’ve butchered the strap on my other one.

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Is a (sideways) fox slipper sock. Enough said.

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Aaaaand finally. My pride and joy. My baby. A Charlotte Tilbury matte lipstick. *drools*

And of course I got some socks and some pajamas because what is Christmas without new socks or new pajamas?!

That’s all from me now, expect more regular updates now the Christmas season is over and I’m not living at work and get some actual free time.

Toodles!

Recent Reads

Since finishing my degree back in June, I’ve been on a bit of a reading spree, only made easier by the fact my parents bought me a Kindle for my birthday in March. I’ve been making a list of books for a long time of what I would read once I was free to choose (I love Oscar Wilde but my god he’s all I read for months and I was desperate for a change), and seen as the list is so long I should probably get back to reading and not spend too long writing this blog, so here’s my thoughts on a handful of my faves:

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My Kindle

We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Both fantastic reads featuring some of my favourite and most realistic characters in young adult literature. The Disreputable History is haled by many as a feminist YA novel;  it is a wonderful depiction of a teenage girl’s growing awareness of the barriers put in front of her by society and the academic world in which she is a part. I’ve seen people criticise the character of Frankie because she’s ‘obsessed with boys’ and ‘only cares about her boyfriend’s approval’, but isn’t that just a realistic teenage character, trying to find out where she fits in? Also, you can be independent AND a feminist AND want boys to like you, believe it or not.

We Were Liars has a twist to die for. That’s all you need to know; read it.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

I’ve seen and heard so many people raving about this for so long now I couldn’t wait to read it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the story itself surely wasn’t it. I’ve read so many novels based around mental illness in the past few years I’ve tried to stay away from them in recent months, but I’m glad I knew very little about what this book was about so I didn’t give it a miss, because it was a subtle depiction using beautiful language and storytelling.  I loved it.

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

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On the cover of the copy of this that I read there is a quote that says ‘If you liked The Help, you’ll love this!’, and even before I started reading it I found it very patronising and a sweeping statement about two books about race relations in the southern states of America. I do love them both, but they are two very different books with two very different stories. They are also set two decades apart, with The Secret of Magic being set in 1946, and therefore post-war America provides the backdrop to the race hostility presented in this novel, compared with the tensions of the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s which is the setting of The Help. Basically, it seems insulting to compare them in such a way when they explore very different issues and subjects under the broad theme of racism.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

It goes without saying that, as a huge To Kill a Mockingbird fan, I was insanely excited about this release. Having read a few initial reactions from readers online, I knew that I had to detach this new novel from TKAM in order to enjoy it fully. However, after finishing the novel, I realised it wasn’t entirely necessary, as I feel as that I know the characters better, and they feel more human and fully recognisable. Atticus is not the hero everybody, including Scout, thought he was, and I think that, despite it not being Harper Lee’s intention, it is an indication of Scout and the reader’s mask being lifted. Nobody is perfect, and I feel like we all learned that the hard way through this novel.DSCF1180

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

The main character and narrator is gross. I hate him. He disgusts me. But I read this book almost in one sitting, it was so compelling. DSCF1179

All I Know Now by Carrie Hope FletcherDSCF1172

I’m so proud of Carrie. This book is a wonderful guide to growing up for youngsters and teenagers, and for people who have been through those years of their life and made it out the other side, it is a lovely way to 1) be grateful those years are behind you and 2) empathise and reminisce. Carrie’s writing style really is like you’re having a conversation with her, or watching one of her YouTube videos, making it a personal experience, which just adds to the list of reasons why I wish I was as talented and amazing as Carrie Hope Fletcher.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I’ve literally just finished this book and my gosh did it rip my heart out. From the beginning the twists and turns will have you hooked, and the beautiful language draws you in even further. I read this on my kindle, but the cover is so pretty I’m going to have to get myself a copy…18047651Thanks for reading!