Mini Book Reviews / Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Suicide Club, The Sun and Her Flowers & Milk and Honey

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

“I find lateness exceptionally rude; it’s so disrespectful, implying unambiguously that you consider yourself and your own time to be so much more valuable than the other person’s.”

How could I not read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?! It seemed like readers with all different tastes adored this novel and so, without knowing much about it, I jumped in.

Although Eleanor is not what other people consider “normal”, she’s a 30-year-old woman who’s competent at her day job, a Tesco fangirl (home to her weekly frozen pizza and vodka), and, minus the weekly frustrating phone calls with her incarcerated mother, she’s doing perfectly all right. That is, until she becomes friends with Raymond, the new guy from work. He’s a man-child and quite disgusting but they seem to be becoming… mates? And so Eleanor is forced to break her routine. Even if she refuses to admit it, she is lonely. Throughout the novel, we watch Eleanor open herself up to other people and discover that she doesn’t have to do everything alone.

“LOL could go and take a running jump. I wasn’t made for illiteracy; it simply didn’t come naturally.”

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is all about our quirky protagonist. There is an intriguing backstory to Eleanor, but it’s the present that kept me reading. Her life is often mundane and yet Eleanor herself is anything but. I’ll watch the adaptation featuring Reese Witherspoon, even if I can’t see it doing justice to this fantastic character who has the sort of “deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit” that I’ve never experienced before. Her story is emotional and brilliant and warm. Now that I’ve finished reading, I’ll miss E.

“When you’re struggling hard to manage your own emotions, it becomes unbearable to have to witness other people’s, to have to try and manage theirs too.”

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

It’s so much fun delving into science fiction. I used to read sci-fi often, mainly the YA dystopia and post-apocalytic type. I love reading about societies that are similar to our own, but feature advanced technology and despotic governments – although I guess this is becoming more fact, less fiction!

“In near-future New York, life expectancy averages three hundred years. Immortality is almost within our grasp. It’s hell.”

As soon as I read the above tagline, I knew Suicide Club was for me. It’s like an episode of Black Mirror but much less likely to make you feel funny afterwards. It all starts to go wrong for Lea Kirino when she spots her estranged father on the way to work. She’s a “Lifer”, so she’ll potentially live forever due to her genetic makeup, successful career and covetable relationship – if she follows the guidelines, including no fresh food, no running, no heavy music. Upon pursuing her father, Lea’s eventually drawn to the Suicide Club, a group that rejects society’s ambition and strict regulation surrounding immortality. Members are set on a life in which they get to choose whether they live or die, when, and how.

Suicide Club isn’t a fast-paced, action-adventure novel. It’s a slow-burning exploration of Lea’s world and the society she grew up in. As Lea begins to question everything she thought she knew, we’re introduced a variety of fascinating characters, each with their own motivations. What would it look like to live in a world where people lived for more than 300 years? What if only some people did, and others lived for less than 100? Rachel Heng’s near-future NYC isn’t so different to our present, where luck, money and knowing the right people can get you far. Nonetheless, I’m happy Suicide Club is mostly fictional, for now.

The Sun and Her Flowers and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

it takes grace
to remain kind
in cruel situations – rupi kaur

I have a funny relationship with poetry. Whenever I’m asked whether I enjoy poetry, I say “no”. It makes me think of studying school poetry anthologies, when I would’ve much rather have read a novel. And yet I’ve enjoyed Sarah Crossan’s novels in verse. I’d seen so many of my friends talk about Rupi Kaur’s work that I finally bought a copy of The Sun and Her Flowers whilst visiting Pages of Hackney bookshop with my friend Louise last year. I read it over a couple of evenings and instantly saw why people adored it so much. Even if Rupi’s experiences aren’t the same as mine, I could take the poetry as my own, especially thinking about loneliness, sadness and relationship breakdowns. A friend then gifted me a copy of Milk and Honey which I found less relatable than The Sun and Her Flowers but appreciated Rupi’s talent to explore moments in life that many women around the experience, from negative body image to abusive relationships. I’m definitely up for giving more poetry a shot!

“it isn’t what we left behind
that breaks me
it’s what we could’ve built
had we stayed” – rupi kaur

What I’ve Discovered / Fresh Flowers, Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations & Who Gives a Crap

discovered1
This is a new feature dedicated to all the things I’ve discovered, loved or enjoyed most recently!

Pretty Vases and Fresh Flowers

I used to think that fresh flowers were a waste of money (they die so quickly), but that was before the realisation that they were an easy way to brighten my day. Now I have a fresh bunch on my desk every week and yellow daffodils are my current favourite. A little vase of joy is a really easy way to make me feel happy in the mornings. I’ve also enjoyed buying them for birthdays and Mother’s Day – and people seem to like getting them!

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Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations

Last year I visited my friend Kat’s home for the first time and noticed she had lots of lovely framed drawings on the wall. I thought this was such a lovely idea. I’ve never been one to buy art, but recently I picked up two stunning prints of Edinburgh (one of my favourite places in the world) and prints by Lucy Fleming, a book illustrator that I discovered on Twitter (she also runs a beautiful Instagram account). I bought two beautiful illustrations from her website: Orionid and Flying, a couple of frames, and put up one in my living room and one in my bedroom. Perfect.

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Who Gives a Crap

No, sadly I haven’t stopped worrying about what other people think about me just yet. I want to talk to you about 🚽’s. I came across Australian brand Who Gives a Crap on Instagram and thought they were pretty awesome. They produce toilet paper, tissue boxes, kitchen roll, etc. made from recycled (“forest friendly”) paper, and 50% of their profits are donated to help build toilets for those who need them – they’ve donated more than £650k so far. I thought that was pretty cool, so I ordered tissues and kitchen roll to last me a year (!). I adore my pretty new tissue boxes and they’re super soft, so I thought I’d share the love.

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Added to My Bookshelves: February & March

Here are the books I added to my shelves in February and March!

I visited Foyles Charing Cross Road with Charlie and we chatted to the lovely Chloe, a children’s bookseller there, about her upcoming novel The Bookshop Girl. After watching an early preview of Love, Simon, I wanted re-read the book but didn’t own a physical copy, so I bought the film tie-in edition (I like Nick Robinson, okay?!). I also bought Francesca Zappia’s Made You Up because I absolutely adored Eliza and Her Monsters (you can read my review here). From Foyles Royal Festival Hall I picked up Dodie: Secrets for the Mad on a whim. It’s a mix of doodles, poetry and prose all about self-care, mental health, life and relationships.

For my birthday, I visited Cambridge and popped into Heffers, an awesome bookshop. I bought the Lonely Planet guide to Budapest as I’m off on holiday with one of my best friends in May. As a birthday gift, my colleague Kara gave me my first Penguin Modern, Shirley Jackson’s The Missing Girl. I also want to check out Daphne du Maurier’s The Breakthrough, and Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer. I was given National Book Tokens for my birthday and I’m super excited even though I work there… ! I’m ready for more book-shopping!

In February, my friend Cathy gave me Milk and Honey and from work I took home Suicide Club and How to Survive the End of the World (When it’s in Your Own Head). Kara and I are buddy reading Suicide Club – we’ll be discussing it over a chocolate brownie and tea this week!

I received some lovely review copies over the past few months. I’ve already read The Exact Opposite of Okay, Skylarks and Out of the Blue so I’ll be reviewing these soon. I also received The Taste of Blue Light, We Are Young, The Wild Folk, In Your Light, and Midnight Sun. What a wonderful two months!

Have you read any of these books?

Mini Book Reviews / Eliza and Her Monsters, Moxie & Stargazing for Beginners

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters isn’t published over here and yet I’ve seen so many of my bookish friends rave about it on Twitter. I loved so many things: the slow romance (in a this-is-basically-a-friendship kind of way), the fandom chat, the discussion of online friendships vs. making new “real life” friends, the excellent family dynamic (Eliza’s parents actually play a huge role!), and the realistic portrayal of anxiety and depression, to name a few. I mean, Eliza attends a party in a bookshop for goodness sake. What’s not to like?

Eliza Mirk is shy in real life, but online she’s the super famous webcomic artist, LadyConstellation. And no one knows. But when Wallace joins her school and Eliza discovers he’s a huge fan, there’s a risk that her identity might be revealed… I finished Eliza and Her Monsters in two days (quick for me!). I hated having to put it down. Like all wonderful books, I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. I’m a child of the Internet and it will always mean something much deeper to me than to my parents and grandparents – and in that sense I related to Eliza, who is quite similar to teenage me.

Eliza and Her Monsters is Fangirl meets Radio Silence. I genuinely think if you loved them (as I did), you’ll love Eliza – I want more books like this! Francesca, please may we have a sequel with Eliza at college?

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie was one of last year’s most popular feminist YA novels. Viv Carter has had enough of how girls are treated at her school: the sexist dress codes, the harassment, the disgusting comments. Viv has always kept to herself, but now it’s time to recreate her mum’s Riot Grrl past – she designs a feminist zine and slowly begins to start a girl revolution.

At first, I couldn’t understand why Viv was so anxious about getting into trouble, but it’s easy to say that as an adult who knows that it isn’t the end of the world. And then I found myself getting angrier and angrier. At the boys, at the school, at the parents. Maybe I’m fortunate because I don’t think my school would’ve reacted the same way; I don’t think girls were targeted when it came to the dress code, and I like to think that they’d have dealt with sexual assault severely. But maybe I was oblivious. Maybe I didn’t see it because it didn’t happen to me.

Viv’s character development was fantastic. She never did anything out of character but was a different person by the end of the book. Moxie shows healthy, strong female friendships. It’s a brilliant book for teenagers, especially those who shy away from the word “feminist”. I want so many people to borrow Moxie off me!

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

Jenny McLachlan’s stories make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and Stargazing for Beginners was no different. From the lovely opening scene describing a young Meg sitting in a cardboard spaceship that her grandfather made her, I knew it was going to be a powerful story – I love YA novels featuring female characters with a passion for science.

15-year-old Meg is forced to grow up fast when her mother takes off on a somewhat charitable trip for ten days, leaving Meg to take care of her baby sister Elsa alone. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, she needs to work on her competition entry – the prize is a visit to the NASA headquarters. Meg. Must. Go.

Stargazing for Beginners is a stunning story. It’s exciting to see a teenage girl so determined to become an astronaut, fighting everyone who laughs at her ambition. I couldn’t help but feel angry at Meg’s mother. She’s selfish! And irresponsible, under the guise of being helpful. As for Meg’s grandfather, you can’t help but love him, even if he’s a little reckless. He encourages Meg to be a better version of herself, one who cares less about what people think and allows herself to shine.

Stargazing for Beginners even encouraged me to vote for Valentina Tereshkova – the first woman in space – in this poll of fantastically great women who made history.

Harry Potter Merch Review: Magic Alley

A few weeks ago Nathan from Magic Alley – a UK-based online shop that sells official Harry Potter merchandise – got in touch to ask whether I’d like to review some of the magical products they sell. They sell everything from Butterbeer and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans to scarves and ties. I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour back in December for Hogwarts in the Snow and coveted a few goodies from the gift shop but it being Christmas, I couldn’t really justify buying fun things for myself. So thank you, Nathan! I picked out a gorgeous Dobby the House Elf Wrist Watch (£24,85, currently £17.95 in the sale) and a Golden Snitch Necklace (£9.95).

I’m super happy with both the necklace and watch! I own a bunch of Ravenclaw stuff, but I wanted something that was pretty/delicate and that I could wear all the time. Let’s look at them a little closer…


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