Attempting a comeback to book-blogging! (plus some mini reviews)

Hi everyone!

Sooo, it’s been a long time since I last posted on this blog, and even longer since I posted anything book-related. By this point, I doubt anyone in the book community remembers me, but if you do, hiiii! I really missed you guys.

I attempted to start blogging again in 2020, but it didn’t really work out. The last few years have been a weird time (for everyone), and reading has been difficult for me to concentrate on. I have been reading, but nowhere near as much as I used to, and although there have been books I’ve enjoyed, I haven’t been blown away by anything. I haven’t felt completely absorbed by anything I’ve read, and that’s really sad, because I used to get so squealy and excited about books.

This year I decided my new year’s resolution would be to read more, and so far that’s going really well. Whilst I haven’t loved every single book I’ve read, I’ve felt more involved and present whilst reading. I’ve decided I’d like to start blogging again, because I want to share my thoughts on stuff I’ve read, but I imagine I’ll be posting about other things from time to time too, because during the time where books stopped being my whole life, I became obsessed with a whole bunch of other things, and I’d like to use this space to talk about anything and everything I’m interested in!

It’s strange to me that I used to be able to read 100 books a year whilst working full time, yet I’m currently unemployed (apart from a tiny bit of freelance work), and am rarely able to read more than one book a week. I know it doesn’t matter to anybody but me, but I miss having the mental capacity to do that, and I hope it starts to come back now I am feeling more into my reading.

I wanted to write mini reviews of everything I’ve read so far this year in one post, but for some I had wayyyy too many thoughts, whereas others I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Therefore I’m going to split the mini reviews up into my next few posts, so you don’t have to read a whole dissertation today, and skip anything I’m feeling uninspired by, because nobody wants to read a bunch of reviews containing zero thoughts!

The Haunting Season (short story collection by multiple authors)3 stars

I picked up this collection over the Christmas/New Year period, as I was struggling with a short attention span and couldn’t sit down and focus on a full length novel. A few of the stories stood out to me, but the rest were unfortunately a bit forgettable.

A stand out story for me was Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, about a woman who is confined to her room for rest and recovery after giving birth, and becomes convinced that a witch (who local legend tells has murdered hundreds of children) is trying to steal her baby. This story gave me Yellow Wallpaper vibes, was heart-poundingly tense, and was the only story in the collection to give me genuine chills.

My other favourite was The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley. I loved the evocative writing style and the characters, especially a girl named Six who is autistic-coded. (If you happened to read the post below this one, you’ll know I was diagnosed with autism in 2021, and I’m on the waiting list for an ADHD assessment. Since discovering my own neurodivergence, I can’t help noticing neurodivergent characters everywhere! Some of this is just my own interpretation, although I did some research and it seems Six was deliberately written this way, and it’s done well, so yay!) The story follows the characters from Natasha’s novel ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ (which I had not previously read) as they embark on a getaway trip to a strange village, where the locals who greet them behave oddly and keep singing an eerie song which none of them can get out of their heads. Not much happens in this story, and the ending was a little anti-climatic, so it’s hard to explain why I loved it so much, but I felt instantly at home with the characters (probably because I recognised myself in them), so after reading this I bought the other novels they appear in.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley3 stars

Unfortunately this book didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I still enjoyed aspects of it. The story is set in Victorian London and follows a government clerk named Nathaniel who finds a mysterious watch left in his apartment, which ends up saving his life. This unlikely turn of events leads Nathaniel on a journey to track down the person who made the watch and find out how and why they saved his life.

Within the short story format, I had loved the rich detail of this author’s writing style, but within a novel which was already slow-paced, it made the story drag a bit. The writing was also a little clunky in places – although this was a debut – with some sentences being difficult to visualise. I found myself getting bored at times in the first half of the book, although the pace definitely picks up in the second.

I enjoyed Nathaniel and Mori (the Watchmaker) as characters, however I think I’d have gotten more out of the mystery and tension surrounding Mori’s uncannily clever clockwork had I not read the short story first (as I already knew all of his secrets). One thing I didn’t like was the way racism towards Mori was never challenged within the text. Mori is Japanese, and I understand historical context plays a part in how he is perceived by other characters, but there is no real discussion or exploration of racism, it’s just *there* and accepted by everyone. I felt the racist comments could at least have been challenged in Nathaniel’s private reflections, but despite his affection for and connection with Mori, he seems to just accept the racist remarks without question.

Six, the autistic character I mentioned, hardly appears in this book, but I think she features more heavily in the sequel, so I’m contemplating reading that at some point. Despite other characters not being as explicitly autistic-coded, I felt like a lot of them had neurodivergent traits, so I still found myself feeling at home with them. My favourite character, however, was Mori’s clockwork octopus, Katsu. He was adorable and mischievous and kept stealing everyone’s socks, and basically I would die for him. I will be very disappointed if he doesn’t make an appearance in the sequel.

Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton3 stars

I decided to read this book before diving into Prince Harry’s memoir, because I wanted to learn more about Diana. I am not a monarchist, in fact quite the opposite, but the institution of the monarchy weirdly fascinates, and Diana is someone I’ve always felt drawn to, not only because of her work, but because of the candid way she spoke about her mental health in interviews.

This book intrigued me because the way it was put together was quite remarkable: Diana gave interviews for the book in secret, whilst still living in Kensington Palace. Whilst it isn’t quite a memoir, working with Andrew on this book was Diana’s way of sharing the truth behind the public image of her life and marriage, taking control of her own narrative in a situation where she had none.

This edition contains transcripts of the interviews Diana gave, which are inserted before the main text of the book. I was gripped by this part – her own story in her own words – and felt desperately sorry for her given the neglect and, in my opinion, emotional abuse, she experienced within her marriage and within the royal system, as well as the incessant stalking she experienced from the paparazzi, who ultimately hounded her to her death.

Diana is obviously someone who comes from enormous wealth and privilege, yet her suffering behind closed doors is undeniable, and her manner of speaking and her life-long devotion towards others who are suffering, mean you can’t help but come away charmed by her and wishing you had known her. This book left me feeling so angry towards Charles and Camilla, the institution of the monarchy itself, and of course, the British tabloid press (who, given how they have treated Meghan and Harry, have clearly learned nothing from Diana’s death.)

I enjoyed the book itself, which gives more of a narrative structure to Diana’s words, adding context with quotations from friends and family members, and diving into her experiences in more detail. However, the book did feel repetitive in places, having just read a lot of the same information through Diana’s transcripts, and towards the end I felt it kept going round in circles, drawing the same conclusions about what a good person she was, and repeating these sentiments over and over again. I gave the book an overall rating of 3 stars, but this was based on the way the book was structured, rather than the content of Diana’s story, which I found fascinating. I wish that she had lived to write her own memoir.

And that’s all the books I have room to talk about in this post! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

I’ll be back soon with more reviews, and I’ll try not to leave it so long this time! Lots of love, Jess xxx


2 thoughts on “Attempting a comeback to book-blogging! (plus some mini reviews)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s