Some Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) included. They are marked with an *. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Quick-fire reviews of the books I read in January.
Misogynation: The True Scale of Sexism by Laura Bates*
Misogynation: The True Scale of Sexism* is the latest essay collection from Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project. These essays first appeared as columns in The Guardian, so like many collections compiled this way there is a lot of repetition; but repetition is kind of the point here. Women, trans and non-binary people deal with this stuff day in and day out; when we’re catcalled while walking to work, when we’re afraid of how men will react if we ‘don’t play nice’ to their unwanted advances, when we’re described as ‘snowflakes’ for daring to not laugh off sexist jokes as ‘banter’, when we’re constantly made to feel like we’re asking for too much, when we’re simply asking to be treated equally.
Who is this collection for? Short answer; everyone. Longer answer; there is something for everyone, whether you’re new to feminism or a seasoned activist, with a particular focus on men and their understanding of and unlearning of the sexism they perpetuate, oftentimes without even realising it. I want to buy a copy for every man I know and watch the conversations that unfold between them as they read it.
Written on the Body: Letters from Trans and Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence edited by Lexie Bean*
A collection of letters, written by trans and non-binary people to body parts, Written on the Body* is a powerful exploration of gender, identity, people’s experience of sexual assault and domestic violence and the intersections between them. Hearing from people who are so often pushed to the margins of society; this isn’t an easy read, subject wise, but I’m thankful Ieshai Bailey, Lexie Bean, Sawyer DeVuyst, Nyala Moon, Dean Spade, and Alex Valdes are able to share their experiences and truths.
Broken Falls by Derek Flynn
I first wrote about my love of Derek Flynn’s blog, Rant, With Occasional Music, a few years ago, so to say I was excited about the publication of his debut novel is an understatement. Broken Falls doesn’t disappoint.
John Ryan is a cop with issues; issues that mean he is advised to take time off work before he loses his job. When he receives an unexpected package containing letters from a priest addressed to his late father, John, he is intrigued. The priest has recently died and the letters were forwarded on by his lawyer. Confused by the revelation that his father spent some time living Canada, John heads to Broken Falls in Newfoundland in search of answers. But answers aren’t easy to come by, especially in a village where people are wary of outsiders.
Broken Falls is a slow-burning crime novel, where it’s not clear from the outset whether a crime has even been committed. Great character development and a plot with a difference make this a must read!
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
I’ve written about my own complicated relationship with alcohol and the reasons I know longer drink, so it’s hardly a surprise that more than one person recommended The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray to me in a short space of time.
This didn’t affect me in the same way Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget by Sarah Hepola did when I read it a few years ago, but that’s more to do with the headspace I’m in regarding my own drinking now compared to then. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is a thoughtful and honest look at Gray’s own experience and our attitude to alcohol as a society.
The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard*
Reviewing crime fiction is difficult because I want to do my reading experience justice without giving too much of the plot away.
Alison Smith doesn’t talk about her past much, or at all, so when the Gardaí turn up at her door asking her to return to Dublin with them, the last thing she wants to do it help. Yet, she does and in doing so, comes face to face with her ex-boyfriend Will Hurley, who is in the Central Psychiatric Hospital having confessed to the Grand Canal murders in 2007. One of his victims was Alison’s best friends Liz. However, the discovery of woman killed in eerily similar circumstances casts doubt on his confession. Did he have an accomplish ten years ago or is he actually innocent?
Switching between the present and the past, The Liar’s Girl* is a page-turner that won’t necessarily keep you guessing until the end but you’ll enjoy the journey.
The Hoarder by Jess Kidd*
Jess Kidd’s debut novel Himself was one of my favourite books of 2017, so I was equal parts excited and nervous to read The Hoarder*. The nervousness wasn’t necessary because The Hoarder* lives up to all my expectations.
Maud Drennan is a carer with a difference; she spends her days surrounded by the ghosts of saints and being far more psychic than she would like. When she meets her newest client, Cathal Flood, she finds herself drawn to the secrets his house full of junk might hold. But Cathal’s temperament mean it’s best not too ask him too many questions. So, it’s up to Maud and her agoraphobic landlady, Renata, to get to the bottom of why Cathal is living the way he is.
The Hoarder* is a wonderfully strange tale full of secrets, betrayal and humour.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh*
I started the year well by reading The Water Cure* by Sophie Mackintosh, a gloriously written coming-of-age literary debut which explores power, survival and sisterhood.
Grace, Lia and Sky are sisters who are kept away from the outside world. This is for their own protection according to their mother and father, King. The world makes women physically sick and men are not to be trusted, but as long as the sisters do things their parent’s way everything will be alright. However, the arrival of a group of men will change their lives forever.
Mackintosh doesn’t shy away from expecting the reader to do some work; not everything is explained and there are deliberate gaps in the narrative making for a reading experience that is as challenging as it is enjoyable. Go read it!
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch*
Continuing my adventures in rediscovering my love Sci-Fi/Fantasy, I was drawn to The Book of Joan* when I heard it described as feminist dystopian reimagining of Joan of Arc. That sounds right up my street and Lidia Yuknavitch delivers on every level.
It’s angry. It’s feminist. It’s queer. It’s disdainful of those who destroyed earth. It will get under your skin and mess with your head, all in the best possible way.
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