This reading Vlog covers my read for the last week which includes 3 books from my May TBR pile. I’m very proud of myself for actually attempting my massive TBR pile and for picking up a hefty book of over 500 pages.
I also read Sinister Spring which isn’t featured in the thumbnail but that’s purely due to me not taking any cute photos of that book. I had an absolute blast with my reads this week and I’m excited to share them with you.
I had a truly awful week (at this stage, I think I’ve been saying this every week since March), my week was turned around by Reach for the Stars which was a gossipy trip down memory lane. This was possibly my favourite non fiction of the year so far because I get the warm and fuzzies around British pop music from my childhood.
Rocked by a terrible accident, homeless Kelly needs to escape the city streets of Glasgow. Maybe she doesn’t believe in serendipity, but a rare moment of kindness and a lost engagement ring conspire to call her home. As Kelly vows to reunite the lost ring with its owner, she must return to the small town she fled so many years ago.
On her journey from Glasgow to the south-west tip of Scotland, Kelly encounters ancient pilgrim routes, hostile humans, hippies, book lovers and a friendly dog, as memories stir and the people she thought she’d left behind for ever move closer with every step.
Full of compassion and hope, Paper Cup is a novel about how easy it can be to fall through the cracks, and what it takes to turn around a life that has run off course.
This was my Scottish Bookclub book for the last few months, this book came to me with very high recommendations. So many of my fellow book clubbers had raved about this book. I’d wanted to read it for so long, my mum actually gifted me this for either Christmas or my birthday (June), so I’ve had it for a while. I was delighted to be able to give this book a time to shine!
The book started with a tragic event that took place in Glasgow back in 2014. There was a crash in the city centre that deeply affected the city, I remember it well. The crash happened next to the bus stop I used to use for work (I was nowhere near the accident, it was just somewhere that I used to be on a regular basis) and it was a bit emotional for me reading about in fiction.
I really liked Kelly as a character. She was homeless, an alcoholic, was surrounded by people yet felt alone. In spite of this, I did not pity Kelly. I felt so much empathy towards her but never pity. I don’t think Kelly would have wanted your pity.
I loved the character growth that she went through. She didn’t trust anyone but slowly, she experienced kindness and started to let her guard down. I absolutely loved her relationship with Collieflower, a wee dog that she literally saved.
I enjoyed the side characters from the shelter. They added some much needed lightness. I liked how protective her case worker was of her when people tried to take advantage of Kelly.
Every interaction that Kelly had with the people she met on ber pilgrimage resulted in a little bit more of her character being revealed. She was caring and kind, she was focused, she was determined and just so brave.
Through Kelly’s eyes, her experience as a homeless woman was shown. It made for some very upsetting reading. Every so often, she would meet a character who would treat her like an actual human being and my wee heart broke. There were so many characters that didn’t treat her like a human, like a person who can make their own choices. Some points of this book were very infuriating because of the way that people treated Kelly.
I enjoyed the pilgrimage, the journey that she took. I wonder if she would have taken the journey to return the ring if the owner didn’t live in Kelly’s home town. Kelly was riddled with guilt over an event from her past. The event was revealed ever so gradually and I was so surprised! I had to go back and reread some sections as I feared that I’d missed it. The twist really got me.
I didn’t enjoy the farmer scenes at all. I really wish that she found the dog in a different way because I did consider giving up the book very early on because of him. I hated the journalist storyline too. Leave the woman alone! There was so little to be gained by Kelly meeting the man from the accident, she was a human and not a photo opportunity.
I didn’t love this book but I did like it and I got a lot out of it. It’s important to read about characters who live different lives to my own. However I’m not the biggest fan of what I describe as ‘sad sad books’. I cry at everything already so it’s no great achievement for a book to make me cry. I aim to read more uplifting Scottish fiction as this book left me with a bit of an emotional hangover. I’m glad I read it though!
Teen beauty queens. A lost island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives deep in the heart of every girl, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror!
When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.
As a child, I really enjoyed Lord of the Flies and often wondered how the things would have turned out if the castaways were girls. This book didn’t exactly answer that question as the castaways were teenage US beauty queens, a far cry from preteen public school boys. This book was satire which I think resulted in me absolutely loving this book.
Initially, the book lets the reader know that this world is not our world. There is a somewhat dystopian world with a powerful corporation taking charge. In this world, women seem to exist purely to be beautiful and misogyny is the expectation.
I was the introduced to a whole gang of teenage beauty queens who were someone one dimensional with each taking a very distinct role and a scuffle for power occurred. Miss Texas ended up taking control of the Beauty Queens and was insistant on continuing with their training for the contest. Now, this is where I have to admit that the only name/title that I remember was Miss Texas. Instantly I disliked her because the others wanted to build shelters, find food and water, try to find a way off of the island…but Miss Texas wanted to practice the dance number. I found this annoying initially but it worked as the book was satirical.
I really enjoyed seeing the girls bond after being fierce rivals. A sisterhood was created. I enjoyed reading about the girls growing and gaining confidence in themselves.
There was a discovery on the island that showed the reader that this was no ordinary remote island. Things were a bit off and dangers galore.
Half way through the book, a pirate ship showed up. On this ship we’re the stars of a reality tv show, they were on the run and crashed upon the Beauty Queens’ island. These pirates were arrogant and misogynistic and I hated them. Some later redeemed themselves but this was my least favourite part of the book.
This was such a wild ride of a book. An adventure! It was silly and fun but had a lot of heart. There were some very wise moments hidden between talk of lipgloss and boys. I think I will reread this book when I want a chuckle, I’d like to find more books by this author too.
I wish I knew about this book years ago! I only learned about it recently after reading (and loving) Patricia Wants to Cuddle. I do want to warn that this book includes weights, the weights of the contestants. As a person who received treatment for disordered eating from the ages of 12-30, I found this to take my brain to a bad place despite being 6 years out of treatment. So please be aware of this if you think that this may be harmful to you
After a somewhat lacklustre reading month in April, I started the month with one of my most anticipated reads of 2023. This book also counted for my May prompt for Kayla’s Buzzword (flavours). So I was absolutely delighted to start the month by finding a new 5 star read and book I’m already looking forward to rereading.
This book included a bunch of my favourite themes: a solitary location within a wood, a mysterious girl gang, creepy goings on, psychological confusion. I adored it!
April was a slower reading month for me as I ended the month with 9 completed books. While this is an excellent number of books to finish in one month, this was the lowest number of books that I’d read since February 2020!
I had an excellent amount of books that I really did enjoy.
I also declared my favourite book of the month which I think will be of no surprise to anyone I’ve spoken to recently. I really didn’t shut up about it.
I’m hopeful that I will feel more productive in May but I won’t be too upset if it’s not.
Janet lies murdered beneath the castle stairs, attired in her mother’s black lace wedding dress, lamented only by her pet jackdaw…
Author Elspeth Barker masterfully evokes the harsh climate of Scotland in this atmospheric gothic tale that has been compared to the works of the Brontës, Edgar Allan Poe, and Edward Gorey. Immersed in a world of isolation and loneliness, Barker’s ill-fated young heroine Janet turns to literature, nature, and her Aunt Lila, who offers brief flashes of respite in an otherwise foreboding life. People, birds, and beasts move through the background in a tale that is as rich and atmospheric as it is witty and mordant. The family’s motto—Moriens sed Invictus (Dying but Unconquered)—is a well-suited epitaph for wild and courageous Janet, whose fierce determination to remain steadfastly herself makes her one of the most unforgettable protagonists in contemporary literature.
This book came to me with very high recommendations. I bought this book maybe a year ago but I just forgot about it until my friend basically told me to stop what I was doing and pick it up. My pal was right, this book was excellent!
This is a very underrated Scottish modern classic which focuses on the life of a doomed protagonist. Doomed because the book started with our protagonist, Janet, being found dead at the bottom of a staircase. Not just dead but she was murdered. The book then went through Janet’s life from birth until her death at the age of 16.
Janet grew up in a Scottish castle in the 1940s/50s. We got to read about her family life and the way that the dynamics between her and her family members changed as the family expanded. Janet was the oldest child and, according to the narrative, the least favourite.
Janet rejected the expectations put upon her. She didn’t enjoy socialising and struggled to make friends. She didn’t seem overly concerned about her lack of friends, she didn’t have anything in common with her peers and she just wanted to be left alone to tend to her animal companions and read her books.
I enjoyed the way that this book started with the reveal of her murder as this enabled me to be able to try to work out whodunnit. When the reveal came, I was surprised. I was looking for hints and I hadn’t been able to work out who the killer was. So this really came as a shock!
I really enjoyed the setting. The atmosphere of this book was almost gothic. The castle, Janet’s home, was draughty and a little creepy. The castle wasn’t necessarily haunted but it very much could have been. I loved that some parts were off limits and this made me want more books set in this house.
Janet felt like such a likeable character! I could see why people found her hard to get along with but I liked her. Hi loved her relationship with her cousin Lila. Lila was a loner with an alcohol problem. She kept herself to herself and her only companion was her beloved cat. I felt like those two got on so well because they shared so many characteristics.
I really enjoyed this book and I can see myself rereading this book. I may even annotate the book next time, and I rarely do that! I just feel like this book deserves more love.
While this month has been a bit of a slower reading month for me, I still managed to read some Scottish fiction. I’m super passionate about reading Scottish fiction because we have so many amazing authors and there are so many literary gems just waiting to be found!
I read three pieces of Scottish fiction this month, two of which came to me with high recommendation. I can confirm that these recommendations didn’t lie and those books were fantastic and will definitely be getting read again (and perhaps again and again)!
I did have a book I didn’t love, a rare miss from a beloved author. That’s ok though, we can’t win them all and I do still love that author.
Wendy just wants to be a poet. So how comes she’s on the run after an art heist?
An aspiring writer from the Southside of Glasgow, Wendy is in a rut. She tries to brighten her call-center job by shoehorning as many long words as possible into conversations with customers. But her manager isn’t amused by that and, after a public dressing-down, Wendy walks out.
Jobless and depressed, she finds consolation in a surprise friendship with another disgruntled ex-colleague, wild-child painter Cat, who encourages her to live more dangerously. It’s just what Wendy needs and it’s also brilliant for her creative juices. But a black cloud is about to overshadow this new-found liberation, as well as to put Wendy on the wrong side of the law.
This is a book I have been planning to read for ages and ages but just hadn’t had time. Well I had the time this month! I feel like such a fool, I wish I’d read this book months ago, back when I first bought it because I could have love it for longer.
Wendy was such a lovable protagonist. I absolutely loved her and wanted to give her a big hug and make her some soup. She was very reluctant to reveal parts of herself, instead she would describe moments from pop culture and claim them as her own lived moments.
I really enjoyed how she and Cat complimented each other and brought each other out of their shells. I though that the friendship between Cat and Wendy was so cute and so fun. I really enjoyed their friendship and just enjoyed their interactions. Wee Wendy was clearly hurting and I think that her hurt attracted her to Cat, who was hurting too. This book covered some very tough topics and I got quite emotional at points. The book did a great job of keeping some light within the dark. I heartily recommend this book!
Sometimes, the Wendy and Cat show resulted in some law breaking. This is obviously a bad thing…but it made for interesting reading. The book actually started with Wendy running from the law before circling back to tell the reader about Wendy and Cat. I really liked knowing that the book was going to result in running from a crime. I liked knowing that their actions were going to escalate.
There were a few moments where I wanted to do the dramatic slow clap from 00s teen movies. When Wendy stood up to her awful boss in the call centre (where I’m 95% certain that I used to work in but for a very real company and not a fictional one), I genuinely cheered! When she stood up to her awful sort of boyfriend and her university bully, I whooped and said ‘good for her’. Can I also commend the author for writing such enraging characters in the form of her gentleman friend and her uni bully? Because I hated them so, so much!
I enjoyed Wendy’s relationship with her granny. Her granny was a wee legend!
Five attendees are selected for a month-long writing retreat at the remote estate of Roza Vallo, the controversial high priestess of feminist horror. Alex, a struggling writer, is thrilled.
Upon arrival, they discover they must complete an entire novel from scratch, and the best one will receive a seven-figure publishing deal. Alex’s long-extinguished dream now seems within reach.
But then the women begin to die.
Trapped, terrified yet still desperately writing, it is clear there is more than a publishing deal at stake at Blackbriar Estate. Alex must confront her own demons – and finish her novel – to save herself.
This unhinged, propulsive, claustrophobic closed-door thriller will pull you in and spit you out…
I bought this book earlier this month and just kept thinking about it and how much I wanted to read it but I was saving it for May. I then had a horrible time so I decided to listen to my heart and pick up that book that I was saving because I wanted to read it now (April is my worst month, I’m never in a good place in April). Please do not make the mistake I made; if you want to read a book, just read it. Picking up this book was the right move because I devoured it within 24 hours. I did not want to put it down!
This book is super new, it’s a 2023 release and for once, I got to a book before anyone else I knew. I know I wasn’t the first person to read this but I don’t know/follow anyone else who had featured this book other than in hauls or TBR lists. This meant that I went into this book with no real expectations other than based on the blurb. How weird it felt to read a book without being able to gauge my future enjoyment of a book based on how other people reacted to it!
I loved this book! To the point where I didn’t need to think about my rating because it was a solid 5/5. This book gave me everything I’d hoped for: strong female characters, flawed characters, drama, secluded location, murder mystery, and drama (so much drama that I wrote it twice).
This book was split into four distinct parts which I felt right. The additional part at the end worked!
Part one was the initial set up. The main character was introduced. Alex was struggling in her life, she’d had a friendship breakup and was feeling lost. I loved getting to see her and her ex bestie have a little drama because I love the drama! The writing retreat was introduced and I just thought how lovely it sounded and if my writing ever got anywhere, how much I’d love to go to a writing retreat (not this one though, no retreats with murder! Maybe I just stay at home with my wee pink keyboard?). All of the characters were introduced and I really enjoyed them. I got some spidey sense tingling from a few of them and I was excited to find out whether I was right or not.
Part two had the writing retreat in full swing. The retreat wasn’t exactly what the attendees were expecting. The location was developed and was delightfully creepy and exactly what I wanted! I love a creepy and secluded location with shadows in every corner. This is where it all started to get scary and somebody went missing.
Part three was just pure drama and I loved it! It all happened. Reveals were unearthed ane I did not see these twists coming. I audibly gasped multiple times. This book kept me guessing! There was a finale and part three is where the book could have ended but instead, decisions were made and while I was a bit confused at the time, these decisions made sense!
Part four had even more drama and the extra big finale came. This was not the ending I expected but it was the one I needed.
This book kept me uncomfortably tense just waiting to find out what happened next. I loved everything about this book and I can’t understand how it fit so much into a 300 page book!
In addition to the creepy events of the house, there were toxic relationships galore in addition to genuine friendship. I cannot recommend this book enough! It felt like it mixed together elements from multiple books that I adore (Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth, Bunny by Mona Awad, and Other People’s Clothes by Calla Hankel). I know this book wasn’t made for me but it felt like it was.