Summer 2017

After 3 months, 4 cities, more than 5 different bedrooms, and lots of trains, buses, and airplanes I’m finally home and ready to enjoy it. Even though I still have some PhD work to do, I plan on taking some time off next month – still to be negotiated with my supervisors – to enjoy my family, cook, go for walks, spend my days at the beach, and read, read, read. As I have received lots of review copies when I was away, I already have a pile of TBR summer books. I do not think any of the books that I have chosen will be in any ‘Summer 2017 Books’ list online, but I think it’s about time to do some backlist reading:

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Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – After the success of Big Little Lies and Reese Witherspoon’s HBO adaptation I can’t wait to read Moriarty latest book. I was reminded of this novel during my visit to England, as the paperback edition is already out.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware – I got an unexpected review copy of Ware’s latest novel while I was away, and it made me really happy as I have only read great things online, all by people whose taste I trust. I also enjoyed Ware’s previous novels, In a Dark, Dark Wood, and The Woman in Cabin 10.

Final Girls by Riley Sager – According to Master of Evil (and proud Human to Molly, aka The Thing of Evil) Stephen King, Final Girls is going to be one of the books of 2017. I love a good crime/mystery focused on young women, and I must admit I’m a sucker for pink covers and editions.

The Mitfords. Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley – I bought this book for a feminist book club I joined last fall, but then they decided to move the reading to Spring when it would be impossible for me to join them. However, the book has been on my radar ever since, and I have kept it at the top of my TBR pile waiting for the perfect moment to enjoy some high-quality non-fiction.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – I saw this book at Waterstones in Bath and I knew I had to read it. It usually comes recommended to anyone who enjoyed Emma Cline’s The Girls, and Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, so it sounds like a winner for me!

Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui – I first heard about this book during my MA, when one of my lecturers brought an excerpt in which the Chinese young female protagonist reflects on her relationship with a German, married man, and compares her feelings to those of Sylvia Plath’s. As you can imagine, I was sold then. I recently found the book at a local second-hand bookshop (in Spanish) and I had to buy it.

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund – This was the book everyone was talking about during my last visit to England last year. It was described as very dark, and twisted. I did not know if it was up my alley, but as I got sent a paperback review copy, I thought it’d be perfect to carry around and enjoy some death, blood, and darkness while travelling this summer.

What about you? Are you looking forward to reading any books this summer?

Change Starts One Book at a Time: A Love Letter to the British Public Libraries

The first thing that I did when I finally settled down in the UK was joining a public library. As I was only in the country for a few months, I didn’t bring any books with me, and I thought: What kind of life can one live without books? Not one worth living for me. So, I walked into the public library, asked a very lovely young woman – who would later become my friend – if I could join, and she gladly gave me my card. It must be said here that I didn’t get a regular card though. As I was a visitor, I could only borrow 3 books at the same time, which is actually the number of books I can borrow from my public library in Spain, so it didn’t bother me.

And then the hectic borrow started. I finally had access to an unbelievable amount of books, some of them recently released. In English. By women authors. There was even a crime section! I couldn’t believe it. I think that during the first weeks I just borrowed books to take a look at them. For the simple pleasure of having them in my nightstand, knowing that I could read them at any time. The massive borrowing became unproductive at one point. I read Ali Smith’s How to be Both and then I decided to borrow 3 more of her books. But did I really want to read more Ali Smith when I could read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff? Or Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman, which I had wanted to read since review copies started showing up on my Twitter feed? So, I made the decision to pace myself and just enjoy the book I was borrowing at the time. And just one at a time, please! OK, maybe two if they were different genres.

Thanks to the British Public Libraries I discovered that like many of you, I am a fan of Ali Smith’s work too. How to be Both was a profound reading, and it still haunts me weeks later. I also got the enjoy the latest in the Marnie Rome series, a personal favourite of mine, by Sarah Hilary. This one was extra special, as Sarah is a friend of Books & Reviews now, and the copy that I borrowed was a chunky and clearly very solicited hardback copy. I also discovered that I will always go for the hardback copy, until I realise that carrying my laptop, its charger, the phone, the mess of personal items that I usually need, my lunch, and a hardback copy was not the better ideas. I learned to find the beauty in battered paperbacks too.

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Bristol Public Library

But my British Public Library was not just a place to visit a few times a week. It also became my office. Thanks to hot-desking and the thousands of sockets available, I was able to spend my days reading and writing in a building that I now consider my second home. Public libraries in Spain are places were silent must be kept, and where eating and drinking is not compatible with reading and writing. Imagine my surprise when I found out not only that I could eat a few feet away from my laptop – we can discuss the benefits of getting some fresh air another day – but that there was also a cosy café where I could buy a hot cup of tea (milk and sugar, please).

As if it wasn’t enough, the Public Library that I visited also had a reading club that met weekly where we were provided with a short story and a poem that we read out loud and commented. The young woman who made my library card suggested I joined the group when I said I had just arrived to the city, I didn’t know anyone, and I needed some friends books to keep me company. There I met women all ages, some with very interesting backgrounds, and all of them with a love and a passion for reading that could rival my own. They made me feel at home by asking me questions about my favourite books, and they welcomed my sometimes inevitable gender and feminist criticism about the works we were reading.

I hope to see the women in my book club one last time before I leave, and I hope to spend as much time as I can at the Public Library. As I write this I only have one book with me, but I’m thinking whether I should borrow more in an effort to make the most of these last days(*) that also happen to be filled with friends and celebrations. But if I don’t, and if I only have time to finish reading my current book, this is my love letter to the British Public Libraries. This is also my plea to all you who live in the UK to visit your local public library today. Keep these wonderful havens open so that people of all races, genders, sexualities, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, and religions can visit them. Because change starts one book at a time.

(*) Barely two minutes after writing this post I borrowed 2 more books from the library that I won’ t probably finish reading in time to return them before I leave.

 

 

Readings of Lately

Before I posted my Dolores Redondo review last week I realised that it had been a month since I had last written anything for the blog. I realised that a few weeks had gone by pretty quickly, mostly reading and writing and trying to read and write a bit more for the blog. However, I just ended up reading lots, and writing lots… for my PhD. My reading patterns have been erratic to say the least, with Saturday afternoon binge-reading sessions, and less than 15 minutes devoted to reading from Monday to Friday. The fact that I love crime fiction but have decided to make a job of my passion is not helping either, as I usually find myself looking for a non-crime read during the evenings. So, here’s what I’ve been trying to do:

I visit my local library every week browsing the Spanish literature section in search for my next read. I am not well-read in Spanish literature. Actually, I’m not well-read in Spanish at all. Even though I have read some feminist classics such as Nada by Carmen Laforet and Las edades de Lulú by Almudena Grandes I can’t really think of more books that I would enjoy (recommendations VERY  welcome!). Last week I borrowed Isabel Allende’s La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits) in an attempt to discover Latin American magical realism and I miserably failed at reading the book. Or even opening it. I’m giving it another try in a week.

Also from the local library I am giving a try to best-sellers in English – now translated into Spanish – that I am not sure I would enjoy. After learning a bit about romance from C, a professor that I connect with during my degree, and from Wallace Yovetich from Book Riot, I decided to give romance a try. I thought it would be a good exercise to try to separate what I have been conditioned to enjoy as woman in patriarchal society and my feminist awakening. I borrowed L.S. Hilton’s Maestra and as I write this, I’m considering returning it to the library…

For my PhD I have been reading American crime fiction and crime fiction theory, as well as working on a few articles and projects which I’ll share in due time.

So, this is what’s been going on behind the silence of the blog. I hope I get to reading crime fiction soon, and meanwhile it is lots of TV, walking the Puppy and sleeping in my little free time.

Halloween Reading

Hi, everyone!

As you know Halloween is just around the corner and although I had planned on joining the R.I.P Reading Challenge, life had other things in mind for me. I finally got a new computer, it’s purple and I’m in love with it. I am also quite pleased Windows 10 has nothing to do with my last experience with Windows 8, and it’s Apple-proof, meaning that if you’ ve been an Apple hardcore fan for the last 7 years like I was, you’re safe! Windows 10 is easy peasy.

But, but! Going back to reading. This does not mean I will not be doing any scary readings this year. I am a sacredy cat and I would rather stay away from horror movies thankyouverymuch. However, I can do some dark reading, or rather, some dark crime fiction reading. So, here are my two choices for 2016. I do not think I will finish them as I will be working this weekend, but I want to have something adequate to read in Halloween.

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  • The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi is the story of 4 friends who get lost in the Northern part of Iceland. I have already started this one and Bragi masterfully suggests there is something off either between the friends or the envioronment, but I can’t guess what it is.
  • Rawblood by Catriona Ward reminded me so much of Crimson Peak and Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ but from a feminine point of view, that I had to give it a try.

Both are review copies, so thank you to Penguin and Orion for them.

And you? Have you joined R.I.P? What are you reading? And, if not, do you have any scary reading/writing plans for Halloween? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Happiness in a Suitcase! Cardiff Book Haul

Remember when I went to the UK for a week and all I could tweet about was food and books? Well, there was a reason! The lovely Lucy – who you can already follow on Twitter for anything on children’s literature and crime fiction – took me second-hand book shopping in Cardiff the three days I was there. One day, we even went into Waterstones three times, much to my embarrassment, and much to Lucy’s delight. But, while I was there I thought: I can get the brand new books that I know about online in Spain, wouldn’t it be better if I used this precious time to browse second-hand book shops? So we did. Here are my purchases:

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From top to bottom:

Darkly Dreaming by Jeff Lindsay.- This was actually one of Lucy’s copies of the first instalment in the Dexter series, but she kindly gave it to me when I said – to her surprise – that I had never read any Dexter.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (*) (£3.5).- This book has been hugely popular online for a while now because it contains one of the most unlikable female main characters in the history of modern literature. Can’t wait to see what I make of her.

The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell (£1 ).- When O’Farrell’s latest novel came out some weeks ago, most bloggers who know me pretty well and who have amazing taste in literature were surprised I had never read of her works. I thought of starting with the latest, This Must Be the Place, but Naomi suggested I gave The Hand that First Held Mine a try first. Couldn’t belive it when I found it for one pound.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (*) (£3.5).- Again, yet another well-known and respected author whose works I have never read. This one comes highly recommended to me for the crime fiction elements on the story.

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (£2).- This book came out this year, and I found my copy – slighlty damaged, but with the text intact – at the W&H clearance section. I first heard about McKenzie’s book on Twitter referenced as the new Bernadette.

Women, Health, and Medicine by Agnes Miles (£4).- I was not looking for this book, but I found it at the Oxfam shop and a few chapters seem to perfectly fit my thesis. It was published in 1990 and it covers women as doctors, as well as women as patients, and how gendered the medical practice actually is.

I really, really enjoyed all the book browsing and book shopping not only because it is quite difficult to find good books in English in Spain, but because we have a 21% tax imposed on them, and the only legal discount applied to books is 5%. Imagine my happiness at finding books so cheap!

The books marked with (*) were purchased at TroutmarkBooks, a second-hand book buying and selling shop in the Castle Arcade. They have a wonderful selection of anything from contemporary novels to farming books, all arranged alphabetically by the author’s name. Their general fiction and crime fiction selection is mostly priced between £2.5 £3.5, and they even have Palgrave academic books for £20, when their usual price is up to £150. If you are ever in Cardiff, I highly recommend you spend a few hours browsing TroutmarkBooks, and if you are travelling make sure you leave extra space on your suitcase for the books!

(C) Cardiff Arcades

TroutmarkBooks – (C) Cardiff Arcades

The stationery offer in the UK is quite impressive as well, and I found the perfect planner for the 2016 – 2017 academic year – starting 1st August, ending 31st July – at The Works. Of course, it is pink:

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And last, but no least, I found a border collie cuddly toy at Hamley’s that stole my heart – and my brother’s and my mother’s – and helped me cope with my dog-less days. But, again, I had no space left, and it was quite expensive at £20. (But look at that face! It shall me mine!).

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All I can say is that I had the best of times, and I owe Lucy and her partner a lot for making me feel at home all the time and spoiling me rotten for three days. She even taught me to cook scrambled eggs (UK version!). Cardiff is now my second home and I can’t wait to go back as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I have all these books to keep me entertained.

Quick Personal Update: Summer is Here!

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to post a review per week and visit your blogs as frequently as I could. But it somehow felt cold and distant, because I usually share more than just reviews here. This week I also have a book to review, don’t worry,  but it’s June already and I have realised I had not posted a Personal Update since February. Isn’t it about time?

The first thing I want to tell you is that I finished watching the first episode of Marcella last night and I am in love. I had heard wonderful things about both the TV show as a crime show, and Marcella as a female character. I even read this piece on The Pool about Marcella’s parka, which I desperately need right now even though it is summer and I would probably melt. Also, can we talk long hours about her fringe? It’s just perfect.

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I have been reading and writing lots for my PhD thesis, submitting papers, articles and proposals. So much so, that I have fallen into a writing routine that makes me feel productive and happy. The only trouble here is the 9 hours of sleep I need every night in order to remain nice and not a monster, and my incapability to get out of bed unless I have a train to catch because there is only one each hour and I can’t afford to lose it. Actually, losing that train could cost me a morning’s work. Staying in bed half an hour more? Is it really going to change much, isn’t it? (Yes, it is… I am learning it the hard way).

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Look out! It’s sunny and warm and everyone is passing their final exams – good luck to everyone taking them – and I am still working from morning til evening. I read and write every day, but I have been out of a job since December, so I am also trying to find any kind of job related to editing or writing. No such luck for the moment, I’m afraid. However, I have had some positive feedback on my CV, which is always a nice thing to hear.

A lot of new books have arrived, and I have not told you anything about them, but there is a reason. There is always a reason. Meanwhile, I am reading After You Die by Eva Dolan, the third installment in the Zigic and Ferrera series, and it is even than you could imagine. Dolan is mastering the art of writing diverse, complex and socially responsible crime fiction. No wonder her last novel Tell No Tales is shortlisted for the Theakstones Novel of the Year Award. Congrats, Eva!

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By the end of June I will back in the UK and I cannot wait to reunite with my friends and colleagues. Also, let’s be honest, I can’t wait to spend a few hours in Waterstones. Are there any novels that I should be buying on the spot?

I will be joining Cathy Brown’s #20BooksofSummer this week. Cathy is challenging us to read 10, 15 or 20 books this summer. You can read more about the event here. I am signing up for 10 books, as I don’t usually count what I read for my PhD as ‘books read’.

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So, that’s everything for now. I hope it’s not 4 months until I post a personal update again because I want to keep the blog as updated with my reading and writing life as it is possible. Happy reading x