2018 End of Year Book Survey

Today, January 1st, is six years since I created this blog of mine. It never ceases to amaze me that I’ve kept it going consistently over all that time. Every book I’ve read, reviewed here for my own posterity and, hopefully, others’ enjoyment. I always mark the occasion with this end of year survey, and my previous years have been 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017… that list will become unmanageable in a few more years.

As I’m sure most people are aware, this survey was created and is hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner, and as usual, I’ve stuck to only the relevant questions for me, my reading life, and my blogging style.

Please do leave me a comment if you’ve read any of these books, to recommend any blogs or bookish folks to follow, and to link me up to your own survey! Hello 2019—let’s do this!

2018 Reading Stats

Number of books read: 21
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre read most: Science fiction (surprising exactly no-one), closely followed by horror and (surprising at least myself) contemporary.

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2018?
I have to choose Places in the Darkness, because it’s one of my favourite authors writing my very favourite genre. How was I not going to absolutely freaking love this book?

Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
Oh, without a shadow of a doubt The City of Mirrors. After five-star loving the first two books in the series, and even after having heard not-great things about the third, I still went in with high hopes. Safe to say those hopes were obliterated.

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Has to be Milk and Honey. As someone who wants to love poetry, but often finds it difficult, I was so, so happy to find I absolutely adored this book with a fiery passion.

Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?
I definitely prodded a couple of people into reading The Boy on the Bridge, which is good, because that book is brilliant.

Best series you started in 2018? Best sequel of 2018? Best series ender of 2018?
Started… probably The Prince of Fools, the first in The Red Queen’s War series, because I always forget just how much I unabashedly love Mark Lawrence’s effortlessly hilarious and casually genius writing.
Sequel… I’ll have to say The Word for World is Forrest, even if it did take me several bloody years to get around to it—it was worth the wait!
And I think the only series I finished was with The City of Mirrors, so it unfortunately wins by default.

Favourite new author you discovered in 2018?
I think i’ll have to say Celeste Ng, because I was just blown away by Everything I Never Told You and I can’t wait to get cracking on Little Fires Everywhere.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
The Princess Diarist was way out of my comfort zone, because I don’t think I’ve ever read a straight up memoir before… only more diary/anecdotal/story type memoirs. But it was great, especially buddy-reading it with a friend.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
A few strong contenders for this one, but I’m going to choose The Knife of Never Letting Go. Almost every chapter ended with an enticing hook into the next and the chapters were short enough that it was so easy to just… keep going.

Book you read in 2018 that you would be most likely to re-read next year?
Definitely The Outward Urge, and simply because I’m contemplating my second Wyndham-themed tattoo!

Favourite cover of a book you read in 2018?
Oh, so many great covers this year! However, the one that stands out, with my love of simplicity, artwork, and negative space, is Milk and Honey.

Most memorable character of 2018?
I’m going to cheat a little and say the trio of characters—Antonia, Katherine, and Kitty—from Three, because technically they all began as the same person…

Most beautifully written book read in 2018?
Face. Not only is the storytelling and concept beautiful, but so is the art work.

Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2018?
Hmm, I always struggle with this question. Let’s go with Banthology, because not only are the stories well-told and fantastically written, they reflect and represent genuine struggles and political issues.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read?
Don’t know, really, but I guess The Knife of Never Letting Go has been on my shelf for a while.

Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2018?
Having read through my favourite quotes on my tumblr, there were several wonderful and meaningful ones I could choose… but instead I’m going with the one that makes me laugh the most.

Malcolm was bored by the conversation and excused himself to search for something to steal. Finding nothing, he moved to the kitchen to replenish his vodka. He located the bottle in the freezer; just beside this was a hefty, flesh-coloured, frost-coated dildo. He stared at it a moment, then poured himself a vodka and returned to the dining room. Soon Mme Reynard excused herself to use the bathroom; in a controlled voice, Malcolm told Frances, “Go look in the freezer.”

Patrick deWitt – French Exit

Shortest and longest book you read in 2018?
Shortest: Banthology at 70 pages
Longest: The City of Mirrors at 761 pages

Book that shocked you the most?
Maybe Horrorstor, because I didn’t expect it to be so funny, but also so genuinely creepy—and still really good!

OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!)?
Romantic relationships were really not at all the focus of any of the books I read this year and I am super chuffed with that!

Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year?
Okay, this one will have to be a tie between unlikely travel and adventure companions Jalan and Snorri in Prince of Fools, and the magnificent mother/son duo Frances and Malcolm in French Exit.

Favourite book you read in 2018 from an author you’ve read previously?
Quite a flipping few! As I chose it as my favourite book of the year, I suppose I should go with Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre.

Best book you read in 2018 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else?
I’d seen The Vegetarian all over instragram, and after being vegetarian for over 15 years (before becoming vegan) the peer pressure broke me and I picked it up. Worth it, though!

Best 2018 debut you read?
Undoubtedly Everything I Never Told You. I didn’t know what to expect from the book, and it was freaking fantastic.

Best world building/most vivid setting you read this year?
Despite other issues I had with the book, the world and setting in Station Eleven was fascinating and unique and I would read more stories in this world in an instance.

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
Oh, has it be Instruction Manual for Swallowing. A collection of wonderful and bizarre short stories that were just a joy to spend some time in.

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2018?
I just counted and at least seven books made me cry. So, there’s that. Most memorable was probably The Twelve, as it managed to get me invested in a group of people in a historic timeline that I knew would all die.

Hidden gem of the year?
Three—no where near enough people will have read it. It’s really a wonderful book, in concept and writing.

Book that crushed your soul?
Ha. The City of Mirrors, because I had bloody loooooved the first two books in the series, and then that was a flaming pile of shite in comparison.

Most unique book you read in 2018?
For sure it’s Horrorstor. I’ve never read anything like that before, and it is surprisingly very well executed. The details of the actual book and how IKEA-catalogue like it is are incredible.

Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
The Princess Diarist, because it turns out Harrison Ford is a massive wanker.

Blogging Life

New favourite book blog/bookstagram/youtube channel you discovered in 2018?
I’ll be honest, I’ve been pretty bad at the social aspect of blogging this year (not that I was great at it in years previous)… so I really don’t have one. Link me some I should check out in the comments, please?

Favourite post you wrote in 2018?
Stories: Short & Sweet, because I love short stories, but I know a lot of people don’t. I wanted to share why I love them, how they’re different to novels, and what makes them so unique and fantastic.

Favourite bookish related photo you took in 2018?
First place goes to this one of The Word for World is Forest:

But an honourable mention has to go to this one of Face (with thanks to my partner for taking the photo and lining it up so flipping perfectly!):

Best bookish event that you participated in?
Sort of my own event/blog series, but I’ve loved visiting and documenting the bookshops of cities I visit. So far I’ve done Brighton and Edinburgh, and I have a Cardiff one to write and post. It brings an extra level of enjoyment from and reason to visit bookshops (other than buying more books!).

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018?
Oh dear, as simple and flustering as it is… when Christopher Brookmyre liked and retweeted my review of Places in the Darkness.

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
The social aspect. I find it very difficult to find the time to read and comment on as many other blogs and photos as I would like, especially when I’m already scraping together the time to read, review, and write posts myself. I don’t know how other bloggers manage it.

Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
By views: Edinburgh Bookshops, by comments: On Giving Up.

Post you wished got a little more love?
Fifty Shades of Blackout Poetry, because it was so much fun, and I would love to know what other people made of it, and to see other people’s blackout poetry creations!

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Is it a discovery if it’s something I’ve discovered I enjoy doing? Let’s say yes. Because this year was the first time I really bothered posting about my blog on instragram. I’ve been a bookstagrammer for a few years now (amongst my other photos—mine’s an eclectic account!), but hadn’t really bothered to promote my blog there. For whatever reason, that changed this year. And I really love taking photos of the books I’ve read to post there and share my thoughts on them.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Only my goodreads reading goal. Which seems to go down each year, but for me, so long as I read 20 books or more, I’ll be satisfied.

Looking Ahead

One book you didn’t get go in 2018 but will be your number ome priority in 2019?
The second book in the Red Queen’s War trilogy—The Liar’s Key. I meant to get to it this year, but it’s going to be my first book of 2019 and I can’t wait!

Book you are most anticipating for 2019?
Anything written and released by Patrick deWitt, Becky Chambers, Christopher Brookmyre, Rupi Kaur…

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2019?
Setting up some sort of posting schedule. I’m ruminating on it currently, but I’d like to have one to help keep me organised and motivated. I also want to include posting my own short stories in that schedule… eep.

Advertisements

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness

Summary: Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him. And now he’s going to have to run…

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: This book has been languishing on my shelf for a few years now. It found its way onto a shortlist for my chirstmas/new year dystopian read, and honestly I thought I was going to be able to rule it out, because a couple of reviews had mentioned their annoyance with the “hillbilly” narrative voice. I read the first few pages to see how much it would irritate me, except instead of being irritated, I was highly amused and instantly in love.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.
“Need a poo, Todd.”
“Shut up, Manchee.”
“Poo. Poo, Todd.”

If that alone doesn’t make you want to read this book, I don’t think I can help convince you otherwise.

The concept is fascinating, and how the writing deals with the idea of people hearing each other’s thoughts is really well done–people talking, but also answering unasked, but thought, questions and making reference to the not-so-private ideas of others. The entire time I was reading I was also considering what that would be like–the things people would hear and see in my own Noise, and how one might try to hide, confuse, or distract certain lines of thought. Some really interesting things to read and consider.

I loved the characters. Todd is naive, but he’s also very much a product of his environment, and it was wonderful to watch him discover everything he knew was twisted and false in some way, and see how he responded to the truth as it was revealed to him. Ben and Cillian my heart opened to and embraced immediately–their love for Todd and everything they had done for him was so clear. They might not be in the book much, but they are certainly my favourites. Hildy and Tam are also wonderful, and again, though we see them quite briefly, I secretly hold out hope they will return in the next books. And Viola, of course. I warmed to her gradually, as Todd did. But she’s smart and quick and determined, and damn if she’s not awesome.

Setting a quick pace, the story starts moving immediately. It’s that brilliant kind of book that doesn’t give all it’s secrets away at once, only hinting and nudging at missing information and things to come. I had to keep reading–I had to know more, had to see what would happen. Unfortunately this momentum met a lull somewhere in the middle of the book, with there being lots of walking and sneaking and looking, but not much doing. Todd and Viola quickly get into the habit of running away, away from people and places… and plot. This began to drag, and I found myself waiting for the story to pick up again, rather than enjoying what I was reading at the time.

Thankfully the plot does pick up again, and in spectacular fashion in the final few chapters. So much so I was swept up in it all once again. Last night I only intended to read one chapter before going to sleep… instead I was up until gone midnight finishing the book days ahead of schedule. Oops?

The ending is… well, without spoilers I can’t really say how unexpectedly perfect and shocking and tense it was. With everything left teetering, I’ll need to get the next book in the series sharpish. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Banthology: Stories From Unwanted Nations

Title: Banthology: Stories From Unwanted Nations

Author: Various

Summary: In January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – from entering the United States, effectively slamming the door on refugees seeking safety and tearing families apart. Mass protests followed, and although the order has since been blocked, amended and challenged by judges, it still stands as one of the most discriminatory laws to be passed in the US in modern times.

Banthology brings together specially commissioned stories from the original seven ‘banned nations’. Covering a range of approaches – from satire, to allegory, to literary realism – it explores the emotional and personal impact of all restrictions on movement, and offers a platform to voices the White House would rather remained silent.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: Comma Press are probably my favourite publisher. They focus on short stories and delve into genres not commonly published, such as weird, translated, and activist subjects. They also cover science fiction, crime, and horror. Plus they have a few great book series including Refugee Tales and Reading the City. They’re a little niche, but it’s such a me niche, and the quality of the writing they publish is superb. Not to mention their gorgeous cover designs.

So yeah, i love Comma Press and own a small pile of books they’ve published. Surprisingly this is only the third i’ve read. (So many books, so little time!). Unsurprisingly, i loved it.

This book was created in response to the travel ban put in place in America, with authors from the countries included in the ban writing to “explore themes of exile, travel, and restrictions on movement.” I thought this was a brilliant idea, and with only seven stories (one from each country included in the ban), the book isn’t an intimidating read.

All the stories are wonderful. Not all are happy–in fact it could be argued that none of them are happy–but they are all so wonderfully told. I’m thinking about which ones i enjoyed the most, but i genuinely can’t pick a favourite. The few that stood out the most for me were Jujube, The Beginner’s Guide to Smuggling, and Storyteller. These were all about people looking to move and settle in other countries, but each story was unique in its approach to the character, the history, and the outcome. The other two stories that stood out for their much more unusual and less straightforward approach were Return Ticket (about a cosmic anomaly village called Schrödinger) and The Slow Man (about a conflict between the Egyptians and the Babylonians that changes the course of history).

Though these were stories, authors, and subjects outside of my usual reading matter, I really loved this book. It is a short, but worthwhile read and I would encourage anyone to pick it up and give it a go. Finishing it led me to the Comma Press website once again, and in an unsurprising turn of events i have added several more of their books to my “to buy” list. Oops?

Write or Wrong?

A brand new pristine book—it needs to be kept that way, right? No breaking the spine, no dog-earring corners, no staining the pages, and certainly no writing in it!

But… why?

I mean, I get it. I used to feel exactly the same way. Books are precious and should be preserved. We take pride in our books, how they look, and how much we love them.

Thing is, it’s not the books themselves that are important—it’s the words they contain.

I have always been one to read and reread certain lines and passages in books that—for a variety of reasons—stood out to me. Maybe they struck a chord with me, maybe they amused me just so, maybe they were just perfectly constructed, or maybe they were a wonderful bit of character development. Whatever the reason I loved it, I would stop and read it several times over to absorb a little of the magic and just truly appreciate the writing.

This habit has since evolved.

When I started blogging, I also started properly recording the quotes that caught my fancy. I started pausing in my reading to type them up and post them on my tumblr. I love being able to scroll through the quotes I’ve shared and re-read them at my leisure, or search for specific quotes and from particular books.

This did cause problems, though; I didn’t always like having to stop reading in order to type up and share the quotes. I tried various methods to get around this. I’d wait until the end of a chapter to go back and find them… except I’d get caught up in the story and forget. I’d take a photo of the quote to sort out later… except then I’d take dozens of photos of my cat and the quote would get lost amongst the adorableness. I’d dog-ear pages (don’t shoot me!) to go back to… except by that time I’d’ve finished the book and couldn’t remember or find the specific quote on the page.

No. The best method that worked—and continues to work—is writing in my god damn books. Underlining a line or two, or marking the margin of a particular passage. It’s so much easier to flick back to them, they are clearly denoted, and the act of marking them also marks a memory in my mind to go back and type them up.

I did start with pencil, but it only took a single occasion of not having one handy for me to progress to pen. Really, I like the idea of re-reading a book and seeing all the parts that struck me previously—will they still resonate with me? And the idea of sharing the book with someone else—wondering what they will think of the parts I’ve highlighted.

I’m sure as I continue to deface my books I’ll evolve into leaving more little notes and thoughts and doodles. I look forward to that natural progression.

Because for me, a pristine book is an admired object, but a worn, annotated book is a story the reader has truly engaged with, taken from, and left something of themselves behind in.

That’s what reading is for me. Not a perfect ornament on a shelf, but fully absorbing the words and concepts contained within.

Feel free to leave a comment expressing your shock and despair at my graffiti practises, or share with me your own way of annotating books!

Milk and Honey

Title: Milk and Honey

Author: Rupi Kaur

Summary: this is the journey of
surviving through poetry
this is the blood sweat tears
of twenty-one years
this is my heart
this is my hands
this is
the hurting
the loving
the breaking
the healing

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: I’ve had this book on my self for a while. I’d read a few of the short poems within it, and one in particular that I adore… but still I’ve hesitated to pick it up and fully dive in. I’ve been afraid, as poetry and I have a tumultuous relationship.

I want to love poetry, but i’m not sure it wants me to. A lot of the time, I just don’t get it. But this… this is poetry I get and poetry I love.

The poems are mostly short, two or four lines, but sum up so eloquently the emotions and importance of things that might so easily go overlooked. Love, lust, a kiss, self-love (both kinds), anger, heartbreak, pain, healing… it’s all here and more.

And it is more. Kaur has put words to specific feelings and fears that I hadn’t been able to pinpoint or articulate before. Not every poem resonated with me, but those that did hit hard. I’ve re-read several dozens of times now, and a couple even left me in tears.

These poems show a woman who is in touch with herself, her experiences, and her words. I envy that intensely, but am so glad I get to share Kaur’s words. I’m glad to have her put voice to some of my own emotions and feel calm in the knowledge that I’m not alone in them.

Kaur’s illustrations, as simple and effective as her words, add so much to the poems as well. Line drawings of women, hands, objects, nature… They are a striking accompaniment to the poems, providing emphasis, insight, and a reason to pause—to breathe—between pieces.

I will certainly be picking up Kaur’s second book at the earliest opportunity. I’ve never experienced poetry speaking to me so clearly and meaningfully before, and I look forward to experiencing that again. And again, and again, and…

i am water
soft enough
to offer life
tough enough
to drown it away

you have sadness
living in places
sadness shouldn’t live

i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own
i want to be so complete
i could light a whole city
and then
i want to have you
cause the two of us combined
could set it on fire

you
are your own
soul mate

Places in the Darkness

Title: Places in the Darkness

Author: Christopher Brookmyre

Summary: This is as close to a city without crime as mankind has ever seen.

There has never been a homicide on Ciudad de Cielo. It’s the “City in the Sky,” where hundreds of scientists and engineers live and work in Earth’s orbit, building the colony ship that will one day take humanity to the stars.

So when the mutilated body of a common criminal is found, the eyes of the world are watching. Nearly every government and corporation on Earth has a stake in catching humanity’s first space-bound killer.

One deadly crime threatens our future among the stars.

Rating: ★★★★★ 4.5/5

Review: One of my favourite authors, who usually writes crime/crime comedy, writing my favourite genre, science fiction? Of course I was all over this. I think this is the first time I’ve read a Brookmyre book before my partner (who discovered his books years ago and all but bullied me into reading them)! Now I can’t wait for him to read it too, so we can talk about it!

This book is, in many ways, quintessentially Brookmyre… but in space. I knew i was going to love it very, very early on. Spaceship, zero gravity, time zones, awesome characters, queer representation, suspense, drop of gore, bit of mystery and intrigue, hints at bigger things… and all in the first two chapters. I was invested.

The two main characters are Nikki and Alice. And if there’s one thing Brookmyre never fails on, it’s characters. I want him to do a masterclass on character creation, because he’s incredible at it. Nikki is self-assured and well-connected, helping to keep the seedy underbelly of this spaceship running smoothly and safely. Alice is the new straight-laced head honcho on the ship, looking to stamp out that underbelly. Working sort-of together on a murder case, things don’t go smoothly for either of them. I loved them both, yet they both frustrated me as well. I wanted them to team up from the get-go, but of course that wouldn’t have been as interesting for the plot.

And the plot. It is both a simple idea, and a many-layered beast. I loved it. There are a few things going on that don’t seem connected, but are all obviously important. A murderer, a gang war, some light civil unrest, string pulling, bribery, memory loss… I had no idea how it was all going to tie into the bigger picture, but Brookmyre makes it so simple by the end. And although I knew the general “twists” in the story (the clues are all there, if you’re playing attention), it was the details–the hows and whys–that I was looking forward to in the climax.

Of course, it’s science fiction, so this new and exciting aspect of Brookmyre’s writing was what truly shone for me. This new space-society, the reasons people would want to live there and the reasons they would leave Earth. The three simultaneous timezones meaning it’s morning, day, and night at the same time, for different people. The technological advancements, including lenses and wrist discs, allowing facial recognition, communication, and news feeds to be displayed and interacted with wherever you’re looking. Even down to the small things, such as weapon safety on a spaceship leaving darts and glorified glue guns as the deadliest force available. And most notably–as any decent sci-fi must–it explores ethics, sociology, philosophy, and more. And damn it if that shit doesn’t fascinate me.

There’s just… a lot to love about this book, okay? If you love crime and science fiction, this one is for you. It’s a crime drama, set in a not-to-distance science fiction future, and I’ve not read that very interesting combo before. (Though maybe Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? counts…) It is a genre crossover I will be looking for more of, though. I really, really want Brookmyre to write more of them, and if Nikki and Alice make an appearance, I wouldn’t be too upset.

French Exit

Title: French Exit

Author: Patrick deWitt

Summary: Frances Price – tart widow, possessive mother and Upper East Side force of nature – is in dire straits, beset by scandal. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s their cat, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral world-class cad whose gruesome tabloid death rendered Frances and Malcolm social outcasts.

The curious trio head for the exit, escape pariahdom and land in Paris – a backdrop for self-destruction and economic ruin, and peopled by a number of singular characters: a bashful private investigator, an aimless psychic and Mme. Reynard, aggressive houseguest and friendly American expat.

Brimming with pathos and wit, French Exit is a one-of-a-kind tragedy of manners, a riotous send-up of high society and a moving story of mothers and sons.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5/5

Review: I am, by this point, a deWitt fan girl. He is one of my few auto-buy authors who are currently still alive and writing. When i found this book available on NetGalley I hit request faster than you can blink. When my request was approved i started reading immediately.

Every deWitt novel is different and new. Observations on life from a barman, crime- and money-focused brothers in a western, love and friendship set in a bizarre fairytale. This time it’s family and loss amongst a comedy of manners. And i loved it.

Our main character is Frances, a rich and hard woman, she has few friends but is generous and affable with unlikely folk. She lives with her son, Malcolm, who often comes across as simple and easily led, but who grew on me immensely throughout the book. They are, at various and increasingly frequent points, joined by an array of characters. I couldn’t help but like them all, really. Joan, Frances’ oldest and dearest friend; Susan, Malcolm’s sweet and patient fiancée; as well as Madeline, Mme Reynard, Julian, and of course Small Frank.

After blowing through all of their money, Frances and Malcolm are faced with selling all their worldly possessions and fleeing to France… where Frances is set on spending the last of their money quick sharpish. There isn’t a huge amount of plot to speak of (in fact i’ve just spoken of it), but it is the characters and that carry the book. Their interactions, their thoughts and feelings, and what they choose to share (and hide) with those around them. I loved how unabashedly these characters just are. They might not talk to each other about important things or share much about themselves, but they are always being themselves.

The writing is wonderful and hilarious. I laughed aloud enough to feel satisfaction and joy, and had to share a few choice extracts with my partner (who humoured me kindly). This might be my favourite deWitt novel yet. Maybe. Just thinking about certain parts and quotes now have me huffing more laughter. But for all its humour, there was depth and emotion to the story and the characters. They throw money around and live it up, but it’s very much at the expense of thinking about things and allowing themselves to feel too much.

I’m certain i can’t recommend this book enough, and deWitt certainly can’t write his next book quick enough.

Save

Save

Face

Title: Face

Author: Rosario Villajos

Summary: Face is a magical autobiography about identity, the escape of oneself towards love and the fight to fit in and be “normal” in our society.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: The cover of this book, and the short blurb on the back, caught my attention very quickly. I couldn’t help but pick it up at my local comic book shop and bring it home. And like most random purchases of this manner, it did not disappoint.

The premise is simple enough: the book is about a young woman with no face. It follows her as she struggles to build relationships and explores how she feels that she doesn’t fit in with everyone else. Sound familiar? It should. I’m sure everyone has gone through similar struggles. Because the concept isn’t about looks–it’s about identity. Face (as the character is known) studies the faces of the people around her and tries to emulate them, she begins a relationship and finds herself becoming them. She looks to external sources to find herself, with poor results.

It was the end of the book that stood out for me, when she begins to notice just how many other people around her also have no faces–as also struggling with their own identity and place in the world. That we’re all just stumbling through life trying to figure things out.

The art work is mostly black and white, with colour used rarely, but to good effect. The style of the art changes throughout, too. The general panels are fairly simply, while the portraits of people the character takes note of and are important to her are rendered with such careful precision. It all blends and works beautifully together, giving so much life and texture to the pages and the story.

My favourite pages were the chapter markers–1, 2, and 3. Their simplicity, but careful detail were stunning, and how they capture the essence of each chapter is perfect. I particularly love the heart of chapter one. That’s frame-worthy.

Edinburgh Bookshops

Whenever I travel, one of the most important things I do is research and plan a little bookshop itinerary. Earlier this year I wrote about all the bookshops I visited while I was on holiday in Brighton. When I spent a few days in Edinburgh at the end of July, it was only inevitable that i’d do the same thing again.

Edinburgh was lovely, with some (very welcome!) rain and cooler weather, delicious vegan food, great craft beer, and wonderful old buildings and architecture. There were also a boat load of bookshops! So many, that I couldn’t get to them all in the three full days I was there. But here’s a run down of the ones I did get to.

My first stop, and one of the few I really wanted to get to, was Lighthouse Bookshop. This is a radical bookshop selling all sorts including politics, history, fiction, travel, and more. The shop is light, bright, and airy. All the books were fascinating to browse and I could have spent a while there. I left feeling motivated and upbeat—with three new books!

Next door to Lighthouse is Deadhead Comics, which on the day we stopped by didn’t open on time. Talking to the person in Lighthouse, we were told the owner is actually who the character Bernard Black is based on. We decided to photo and run, not waiting for it to open—I didn’t want to meet him and ruin the illusion.

Next up was Till’s Bookshop. This is a one-room secondhand bookshop and it’s just lovely. That perfect old-and-friendly vibe, with so many great books packed into one room. I thought I was done, but managed to swiftly snatch up another book on my way to the till!

I thought I was going to miss Main Point Books, as google has the wrong opening hours, but thankfully I made it. Another single room, this time with piles of books all higgledy piggledy. It felt like a treasure hunt, searching through all the books. I didn’t get anything here, but enjoyed the rummage all the same.

Edinburgh Books (not to be mistaken for The Edinburgh Bookshop) is around the corner from Main Point. I loved this one a lot. There were old and new books, side-by-side on shelves reaching all the way up to the very high ceilings—this shop has step ladders. There were also several beautiful special edition hardbacks that tempted me, but I resisted. If there’d been any of my most favourite books i’d’ve snapped them up without hesitation. There was also the intimidating presence of a large bull’s head…

Across the road and down the street from Edinburgh Books is Armchair Books. This one was, for me, the quintessential bookshop. Narrow aisles, crammed bookshelves, weaving up and down the entire space of the shop. I had to limit myself to only properly looking at the sci-fi section, or I literally would have been there all day. There was a disappointing lack of armchairs, though.

The single bookshop I didn’t want to miss out on was Transreal. (Though I very nearly did; thankfully google was once again wrong on the opening hours.) Transreal specialises in science fiction and fantasy books, and it was wondrous. I looked at every book on every shelf, and then did another lap of the whole shop. I had expected it to be dark and claustrophobic—moody and eerie. Instead, it was as light, airy, and welcoming as Lighthouse. I loved it. I limited myself to a single book, though I was tempted with many!

I find all Oxfam bookshops have a similar vibe, and Edinburgh’s one was no exception. I love a good Oxfam bookshop—they never fail to have something of interest. I left with a couple of books.

I haven’t been in many Amnesty bookshops, but this one was large and well-stocked. Spacious, it was lovely to wander and browse the books lying face up on tables and filed neatly on the large shelves. After turning down a gorgeous copy of Vonnegut’s Siren’s of Titan in Armchair because I already have a copy, I saw the same beautiful edition here—in better condition and at a lower price. I felt it was the universe telling me I should definitely buy it, and who am I to say no to the universe?

Being a cat guardian I couldn’t not poke my head into the Cat’s Protection charity shop, and while not exclusively a bookshop, I did find an interesting-sounding Margaret Atwood book for a measly £2!

There was also a Barnardos bookshop, which i’d never come across before. Of course I popped in, though didn’t find anything to bring home.

There were at least three or four bookshops a little further from the city centre that I didn’t manage to get to, so i’ll definitely have to have a trip back in the future to tick them off my list. But all told, between my partner and I, we came home with 21 books. Not too shabby.

Have you been to any of these bookshops? Do you know of any towns or cities with a great selection of independent bookshops? I need ideas for my next bookish holiday destination!