Coffee Time Tuesdays: 5 Most Anticipated Releases of 2023

Hello, dear readers and happy Tuesday! We don’t say that very much, do we? It’s usually happy Monday or happy Friday, the middle of the week hardly gets any well wishes — maybe because most people are zombie-ing through it.

In true beginning of the year fashion, I’m grappling with a paralysing reading slump. At this point, I just know it won’t go away for a while, so I’ve stopped fighting it. 

This means I don’t have a lot of updates on the reading front — personally. But because the world doesn’t revolve around my big head, the show must go on, as they say, so of course the publishers have plenty of material for me to carry on with the weekly column despite my bookish failings.

If you’re new to the Coffee Time Tuesdays column, what you can expect from me (almost) every week is a little reading check-in which usually prompts some reflections on reading habits, expectations, pressures, or trends. And then I like to end with a new book release of the week.

But today I decided to go all out and give you not one, not two, but five of the most anticipated book releases of 2023. 

1. ‘Spare’ by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

This has been everywhere for the past week, so it’s only fair that it makes this list. I’m actually very intrigued by Prince Harry’s memoir. It’s no secret the royal has taken a bit of a rebel stance in the last few years in order to protect his family, and do you know what? I applaud that.

If nothing else, this should be an intriguing read where we get a — potentially tongue-in-cheek — insight into the lavish lives of the misunderstood royals, the media drama surrounding them, and how they deal with the pressures of their birthright.

Let’s see if H delivers. Spare just came out today.

2. ‘Yellowface’ by R.F. Kuang

The beloved author of Babel and These Violent Delights strikes again, this time trying her hand at the thriller-satire cross-genre. Yellowface is a dark literary thriller with a writing subplot. We love to see it. 

Kuang’s previous books didn’t quite call out to me, but this one sounds right up my street and I’m so excited to finally be able to join the fan club. Because rest assured, readers. I will join. The fan club.

Yellowface comes out on 25 May.

3. ‘Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute’ by Talia Hibbert

The minute I saw this title, I knew it had to go on the list. Because Talia Hibbert can do romance right. 

I used to roll my eyes at most romance novels. I found some decent ones along the way, but the best romance I’ve ever read is of the queer sub-genre. I feel like straight romance has been so overdone, that all the tropes and stereotypes are now dusty and boring.

But not Talia Hibbert’s romance. She just knows her stuff. All I want from a love story is a deep, meaningful connection and some well-rounded characters. And Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series does that exquisitely.

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute is about a content creator (hello?) and an athlete who are testing their abilities to survive the great outdoors. Sounds like a fun ride.

4. ‘The London Séance Society’ by Sarah Penner

For those of you gothic-lovers out there, Sarah Penner, author of the acclaimed novel The Lost Apothecary, is back this year with another historical thriller with elements of the occult.

The London Séance Society follows renowned spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire and her understudy, Lenna, on a quest to solve a murder in Victorian London. Will Vaudeline’s mysterious power and Lenna’s incredulousness be enough to lead them to the murderer?

This sounds like the perfect autumn read. I know we’re only in January, but a girl can dream. Curiously, The London Séance Society comes out on 7 March.

5. ‘Old Babes in the Wood’ by Margaret Atwood

The queen that is Margaret Atwood returns in 2023 with a short story collection of a wild title. Literally. 

Old Babes in the Wood sounds like a convoluted but well curated collection of stories that cover mundane experiences, bringing them under a magnifying glass through the masterful vision of Atwood’s writing.

From best friends quarrelling, a daughter who thinks her mother is a witch, to elderly female academics, cats, snails, and well-known historical figures, the stories have it all. Do we know what exactly to expect? Absolutely not. And that’s the point.

Margaret Atwood’s short story collection comes out on 7 March.

From controversial memoirs, to ravishing romance, heart-pounding thrillers, and contemporary classics, it looks like the publishers will have us in a chokehold in 2023.

What are your most anticipated books of the year?

Coffee Time Tuesdays: New Year, New Reading Habits?

Happy New Year, dear readers! How’s 2023 treating you so far? Did you complete your 2022 reading challenge?

I didn’t. And at first, I was disappointed. In 2021, I set out to read 50 books and I read 55. So when I set my challenge for 2022, I thought 55 would be perfectly doable, even surpassable. But what I failed to take into account was that reading isn’t always an upward hill. 

Even though I’ve been reading more and more each year, that doesn’t mean that in 10 years’ time I’ll be able to complete something ridiculous like 300 books. That’s not how it works.

So, as December was slipping through my fingers, I decided to take a step back and reassess. Initially, I was planning a couple of 24h readathons which would have allowed me to get to 50 books. Still a failed challenge, but at least close enough. I started frantically browsing Scribd for shorter audiobooks that could get me there.

It was at the bottom of this spiral that I decided I was going bonkers and I needed to stop. Reading is not about numbers, I used to declare high and proud not three weeks ago. Then why the struggle? If I couldn’t read 55 books in 11 months and 3 weeks, why would I force the last 12 into a week? It didn’t feel natural and it didn’t suit my style.

I’m an intuitive reader. I like to read when I feel like it and thus enjoy it fully. If I get absorbed in a story, then absorbed I will stay, my nose buried in those pages until the very last one. 

So, I chose to make peace with the fact that my reading challenge would be incomplete. I’m not saying that it was a fail. It was just incomplete. To be continued.

I read 45 books in 2022, six of which in December alone. Not because I forced myself, but because I enjoyed them. I’d call that a win. I would also call a win that I’m still trying to decide on a top 10, because so many of those 45 books were wonderful, and I simply can’t make my mind up.

One of my main resolutions for 2023 is to become more mindful and live more fully in the moment. And I don’t mean just in my reading time, but in general. I want to enjoy more quiet moments, go out for walks without headphones, and savour each meal without desensitising myself completely by watching a YouTube video while eating.

In Other News

This year, I’m set on the wild option to not start a reading challenge at all, but rather see where books take me. I’m finally moving to Storygraph and leaving Goodreads behind. ‘Better luck in 2023’? No thanks, Goodreads, I’ll have a better time reading without the pressure of ticking off a challenge.

And another exciting update is that I’ve joined a book club. We read modern classics, which makes me slightly nervous but excited to branch out and test the waters outside contemporary fiction. I used to love modern classics, so I’m sure it will be a success. I’m so happy to connect with other readers in this way and I hope my book club reads will make it into this column, so you know how it’s going.

If you’ve been meaning to find a book club for ages, this is your sign to try it out. It’s all part of the rich and rewarding experience of reading.

New Book Release

The New Life by Tom Crewe just came out in the US and is coming in the UK on 12 January. This is a highly acclaimed story of queer love, writing, and resilience, set in Victorian England, where two men come together to change the oppressive landscape against those who love differently. 

What brings them together? One is and one loves a queer person. John is married, but that doesn’t stop his love for Frank. And when Henry’s wife, Edith, falls in love with another woman, he and John take the rogue decision to write a book meant to challenge the laws against homosexuality.

The book explores how far someone is prepared to go to stop injustice and pave the way for future generations to live freely and proudly.

‘Filled with nuance and tenderness . . . charting the lives of men and women who inspired not only political progress but an entire new way of living and loving’ Colm Tóibín

I, for one, can’t wait to dive in.

And that’s it for this week’s column. Can you relate to my reading challenge woes? Are you starting a challenge in 2023? And, above all, how are you? Here’s to a peaceful, mindful, and intentional new year filled with new favourite books!

Coffee Time Tuesdays: My Bookish Christmas List

Hello, dear jolly readers! How’s the last week before Christmas going for you? Are you done with the gift buying? And, most importantly, have you bought something for yourself to slide under the tree on Sunday morning?

I’m a huge promoter of treating one’s self, especially at Christmas, so I went on a little endeavour last Saturday, to find a few bits to wrap and place under the tree just for myself. You know, when you would like certain things but don’t want to buy them because they’re not absolutely necessary, although they’re nice? That’s what I did on Saturday and what inspired the theme of today’s column.

Of course I have a special book to open on Christmas morning, and it’s none other than the latest Waterstones edition of the complete Sherlock Holmes collection — a beautiful, foiled monster of a hardback I had zero hesitation in buying for myself.

But that got me thinking — what else is on my bookish Christmas list? Although I technically can afford to spoil myself a little more, I try to exercise restraint and save up for our planned travels in 2023, so this list will stay a dream for now.

I wanted to share it with you, though, hoping to inspire you to not only spoil yourself a little this Christmas, but also to consider the bookworms in your life. If you still have some last-minute shopping to do, I hope this list will help.

My Bookish Christmas List

  1. A signed or special edition of a favourite book — the Waterstones exclusive edition of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo nearly made it into my shopping basket this year. I received the 10th anniversary edition of The Song of Achilles last year and it’s one of my most prized possessions.
  2. A bookish candle — I once came across a locally-produced line of candles with different bookish scents, like ‘antique library’ or ‘old paper’, and they still live in my heart rent-free.
  3. A bookish subscription — I’m not one for uncertainty, opting instead to be in full control of what I choose to read, but a subscription box sounds like so much fun. The ones that caught my eye the most here in the UK are the Tea Time Bookshop subscription boxes. They’re genre or season-themed, which takes the anxiety factor out of it, while still preserving the surprise. I would love to try their Best Seller box.
  4. A reading-themed notebook/journal — I’ve had my eye on the Bodleian Libraries journals for years, yet I never get around to buying one. Something else always takes priority, and I do have a lot of notebooks already. Maybe one day.
  5. A bookish jigsaw — Waterstones, my favourite weekend place, strikes again, with their stunning new jigsaws of different literary worlds. There’s Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens (although why someone would make a jigsaw of Dickens’s world is beyond me, but each to their own), Shakespeare, and more. Personally, I would love The World of the Brontes the most.
  6. A miniature book nook — I’ve seen these trending on Instagram lately and, even though they’re the most useless, most patience-testing things ever, I want one. No, I need one. They’re so cute. 

Of course the list could go on, but I think I’ve covered most categories that I would love right now. What else would you add?

New Book Release

I’ve been binging some sweet Christmas romance novels this month, so this week’s hot new release definitely reflects that. As you settle down to wait for the festive moment to kick in and the pudding to bake, why not pick up In It to Win It by Sharon C. Cooper?

This is a new romance, on the market only since last week, which sounds wildly entertaining and gripping. Morgan and Drake used to date, until she left him without an explanation. Now that they’re both on the market for the same property, the former couple have to go through a ridiculous competition set by the property’s rich landlord. And of course this will rekindle past feelings and fresh angst.

A property contest at the heart of a romance? Weird, but original, I have to say. This sounds perfect for those who aren’t necessarily into festive books, but still enjoy a good love story.

And that’s it for this week’s Coffee Time Tuesday, the last one before Christmas. I hope you’re all looking forward to a restful and joy-filled day with your loved ones, and don’t forget to spoil yourselves a little, if you can. What are you reading while waiting for Santa?

Coffee Time Tuesdays: Books I Wish I Read in 2022

3 titles on my 2022 TBR I will carry over into 2023 and a brand new book release in today’s column

Well, hello there, dear readers! How’s your December going? Anyone else scrabbling helplessly to get through the pile of books they’ve started and don’t hope to finish before New Year’s? No? Just me, then.

I’m currently at the office (I work in a university, so my office of the day is in an arts building, which is pretty cool), sipping my eggnog latte and organising my day. And as I was going through ideas for today’s column, I realised, maybe not unexpectedly, that my list of 22 must-reads of 2022 will remain tragically incomplete this year.

My chaotic reading habits are no secret, at this point. I read intuitively — so TBRs are pretty pointless for me. I also struggle, despite my best efforts, with weeks’-long reading slumps at least three times a year, and when those slumps strike, the last thing I want is a difficult, sad, or widely acclaimed book that I know very well I can’t focus on and appreciate fully. Yet those types of books always end up on my TBR.

Hence, the backlog of unticked titles on my 2022 to-read list. At this point, I’m fine with it. I’m the first person who will say reading shouldn’t be about numbers or tick-boxes. But that’s not to say I’m giving up on my list altogether. 

I will write a more in-depth article going through my whole list of 22 books I aimed to read in 2022. But today, I decided to share with you three titles I’ll definitely carry over into 2023.

‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara

I’ve been meaning to read this tragic landmark of the bookish world for at least a year now. I never seem to be in the right headspace for it. But I do have moments sometimes when I crave intense emotion and I usually turn to books to satisfy that need.

So A Little Life will be among the first titles I’ll pick up next year. You’ve heard it here first. January is a pretty miserable time anyway, might as well read a book that fits the mood to get through it.

I know this book is incredibly difficult, with a million trigger warnings attached to it. Before I even bought it, I did my research to make sure it wasn’t something I would struggle to get through in an emotionally controlled way. Why do I want to put myself through it, you might ask? Honestly, because of its popularity. Seldom have I seen a book trigger such strong and raw reactions and I’d like to form my own opinion on it.

‘Apocalyptic Swing’ by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Keeping with the jolly theme, this poetry collection was intrigue at first sight — getting me to add it to my TBR as soon as I heard Lauren, the sister of Kat from paperbackdreams on YouTube, talk about it.

Lauren has very similar reading tastes to mine and she’s one of the only booktubers (although, technically, she’s a booktuber’s sister) who recommend good contemporary poetry. 

Apocalyptic Swing covers themes of life, faith, sexuality, violence transcending the physical world, and the role of music and culture in binding life together. 

I’m committed to becoming more familiar with contemporary poetry in the English-speaking world, so this will be top of the list next year. The only reason why I haven’t gotten around to reading it is that it’s virtually impossible to find — but I’ll get it one way or another.

‘Malibu Rising’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid

How could I miss a new, popular release from one of my favourite authors, you’re asking? Well, I may or may not have let the season slip through my fingers, and before I knew it, it was too cold and the leaves were too maroon for me to read a book about Hollywood stars surfing in Malibu.

My summer was jam-packed. I moved house in June, I had my university graduation in July, bearing in mind I also work for the university, so those two weeks were intense with long work days. Then my parents visited, then my birthday came, and then I went home on holiday. That was my summer. I did start Malibu Rising in late August but never got around to finishing it. One for next summer, for sure.

Hot New Release

This week’s new release is a surprising one. Although I try to recommend new books as universally appealing as possible, I do gravitate towards the genres I enjoy the most, because those types of books usually catch my eye.

But this week I’m recommending fantasy, which I almost never read. Anastasia by Sophie Lark made the cut, though, with its magical take on the well-known tragic story of the Romanovs. 

Here’s what the blurb says:

Anastasia is the princess no one needs: the fourth daughter born to an emperor without a son, and the only royal lacking a magical gift. Until she collides with a young Cossack rebel, changing both their lives forever.

Damien is taken from everything he knows and raised as a ward of the Romanovs. Anastasia develops a strange kind of magic shared only by the Black Monk Rasputin. While her power grows in secret, boosted by forbidden contact with Damien, Anastasia makes a mistake with terrible consequences.

I mean, come on. Can you say no to a dark, magical story of royalty, history and love? I certainly can’t, even if it makes me dip my toes into a genre I rarely reach for. Anastasia has been out since last Tuesday, so it’s still nice and fresh off the press.

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday. What books from your 2022 TBR are you committed to reading next year? And if you’re one of the rare creatures who actually read their entire list for 2022, what were the highlights? Let me know in the comments!

5 Books to Give You ‘evermore’Vibes

Back in 2020, Taylor Swift blew our minds with her two experimental albums, folklore and evermore which sounded like nothing her fans had ever heard from her before. 

It’s no secret Taylor’s storytelling always takes the world by storm, but all of her albums up until these two had been autobiographical, describing experiences she’d lived through. The relatability of Swift’s music is what made her dominate our teenage years, as we grew up and matured with her.

But folklore and evermore are pure fiction — and that’s why they’re so good. Written in what Taylor expertly named her quill style (she writes songs in three distinct styles: glitter gel pen, fountain pen and quill), the albums are pure poetry, with fairy tale elements and intense autumnal feels.

folklore and evermore turned me into a dedicated fan of hers. The lyrics, imagery and sound of both albums made them become my autumn and winter soundtrack the minute I heard them.

And seeing as evermore, my favourite Taylor Swift album of all times, just turned two, I couldn’t resist compiling a list of book recommendations that deliver the unique and misty evermore feels. These are five books inspired by the album, each reminding me of several songs from evermore.

1. ‘Small Pleasures’ by Clare Chambers

will remind you of: evermore, coney island

And I was catching my breath
Staring out an open window
Catching my death
And I couldn’t be sure
I had a feeling so peculiar
That this pain would be for
Evermore — Taylor Swift, evermore

This acclaimed story of hopelessness and new beginnings sounds a lot like the feeling of continuous pain and resignation in evermore — the song which closes the album. 

Small Pleasures follows Jean, a London journalist “trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape”, as she sets out on uncovering an unbelievable story, and with it, finds love she never imagined she’d feel again. Similarly, evermore starts with despair and ends with hope — I had a feeling so peculiar/this pain wouldn’t be for/evermore.

The story is set in 1950s London, which also gives a strong sense of place, which can become a character in itself. This reminded me of coney island — another song of sadness and perpetual waiting, where the setting is the overarching key to deciphering the character’s emotions.

And I’m sitting on a bench in Coney Island wondering where did my baby go?
The fast times, the bright lights, the merry go
Sorry for not making you my centerfold

Over and over
Lost again with no surprises
Disappointments, close your eyes
And it gets colder and colder — Taylor Swift, coney island

2. ‘Open Water’ by Caleb Azumah Nelson

will remind you of: ivy, willow

Oh, goddamn
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you — Taylor Swift, ivy

I couldn’t help but include this beautiful, raw, intense love story which strongly reminds me of the all-consuming emotions described in ivy and willow

Open Water follows two young Black British artists who start kindling a strong but gradual love for each other as they try to stay afloat in a world that both supports and tries to bring them down. The poetic writing style and fierce exploration of race, art, masculinity, and the concept of soulmates, fits perfectly with the love stories described in the two songs.

While ivy explores an extra-marital love that the character can’t escape, a similar motif is tackled in Open Water: she starts as his friend’s girlfriend, so there’s that element of falling in love while you’re with someone else, and having no choice but to accept it. Willow describes that feeling of giving yourself up to the one you love — life was a willow and it bent right to your wind — which Caleb Azumah Nelson’s astonishing debut captures perfectly.

3. ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ by Emily M. Danforth

will remind you of: cowboy like me, dorothea, it’s time to go

You’re a bandit like me
Eyes full of stars
Hustling for the good life
Never thought I’d meet you here
It could be love
We could be the way forward
And I know I’ll pay for it — Taylor Swift, cowboy like me

Emily M. Danforth is a master at capturing sapphic love stories in hostile times. The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows lesbian Cameron who lives in Montana with her conservative aunt while she tries to explore her sexuality and make sense of her new, powerful friendship with beautiful Coley. 

But when Cameron’s aunt decides she needs to be ‘reeducated’ due to her sexuality, the protagonist begins a resilient and challenging quest to find love and acceptance, while she tries to discover herself.

This book perfectly captures three evermore stories: cowboy like me, for its metaphors of cowboys and the Wild West hiding an intense and surreal love story the characters want to but can’t fight; dorothea, for the female friendship turned love — hey, Dorothea, do you ever stop and think about me?; and it’s time to go for the self-awareness that, even though it hurts, when someone won’t accept you, it’s best to distance yourself and leave that person behind.

That old familiar body ache
The snaps from the same little breaks in your soul
You know when it’s time to go — Taylor Swift, it’s time to go

4. ‘Hester’ by Laurie Lico Albanese

will remind you of: champagne problems, tolerate it, ivy

“She would’ve made such a lovely bride
What a shame she’s fucked in the head,” they said
But you’ll find the real thing instead
She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred — Taylor Swift, champagne problems

Hester, by Laurie Lico Albanese, imagines who could have been Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original Hester, telling the story of Isobel Gamble, the fictional lover of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who may have inspired Hester Prynne and who deserves a voice.

I reviewed Hester more extensively below:

This book perfectly encapsulates the story of champagne problems — a woman who doesn’t want to be a bride is deemed unworthy of love, and even labelled insane. In Hester, Isobel deals with synesthesia, an ability to see words in colour, depending on who speaks them and whether they’re lying or being honest. And since the story takes place in 19th century Salem, of course anything of the sort would be seen as a mental disorder.

Tolerate it also fits with Isobel’s story — she falls in love with Nat but as soon as she becomes pregnant with his child, he leaves her behind. Being with Isobel is clearly fuelled by a bigger purpose for Nat — he doesn’t love her quite as much as she thinks, he just finds her interesting and wants to know more to inspire his writing. Tolerate it explores a relationship where the love on one side is not strong enough — I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.

And of course, since Isobel is actually married to another man when she has her affair with Nat, ivy, which also talks about an extra-marital affair, captures similar emotions.

I’d live and die for moments that we stole
On begged and borrowed time
So tell me to run
Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become
And drink my husband’s wine — Taylor Swift, ivy

5. ‘Complicit’ by Nicci French

will remind you of: no body, no crime

They think she did it but they just can’t prove it
She thinks I did it but she just can’t prove it
No, no body, no crime
I wasn’t letting up until the day he died — Taylor Swift, no body, no crime

A passion thriller had to be included to reflect the incredibly cinematic no body, no crime, which stands out from all the other evermore tracks through its dark and chilling story of murder, passion and friendship.

Complicit, by Nicci French, had to be the pick for this one. The book follows Bonnie, who finds herself in her friend’s flat with a dead body and not knowing how she was involved in the killing. 

What was meant to be a summer of happiness, music and love turns deadly as lovers betray, passions turn homicidal and friendship itself becomes a crime. — the publisher

The book covers themes of love, friendship, and betrayal, exploring how these strong human connections can unravel in dangerous and uncontrollable ways, exactly the type of tension and mystery so perfectly described in no body, no crime.

These are my top choices for books that give me major evermore vibes. Because I can only listen to my favourite album so many times before I crave more, a TBR inspired by its genius storytelling should satisfy that particular desire. What books inspired by famous songs would you recommend?

Coffee Time Tuesdays: A Mini Reading Wrap-Up and a New Book Release

Hello, dear readers! How are you and what colour are your Christmas lights this season?

I’ve been in a bit of a downfall since losing my phone the other week (you can read about that particular conundrum in my latest ADHD Diary, if you wish), becoming a little emotionally unavailable, extremely tired, and living in a bit of a haze. I don’t know why, but with my phone, a lot of my joy for life has also been taken away.

I’m lethargic, constantly in pain, I find it ridiculously difficult to fall asleep, and with each day that I wake up, a looming deadline appears at work. I feel like I’m hamster-wheeling through life at the moment, not gonna lie.

But, oddly enough, that has meant that my desire to finally finish some books is also back. So, after an autumn-long slump, I’m happy to report I finally have some reading updates.

This Week’s Wrap-Up

It’s been a refreshing reading week, despite everything. I managed to finish three books since I last checked in, two of which I had been reading for a while.

Firstly, I finished re-reading the first book in The Extraordinaries series by TJ Klune, and I’m now on to the second one. My goal is to finish the series by the end of the year, with the third and final book, Heat Wave being a 2022 release I can’t wait to get to. I’ve written about this series a few times already, it’s an uplifting, sweet and incredibly wholesome story of love, friendship and the little things that make us extraordinary.

I got a new phone last Wednesday which means I finally have access to my Scribd library again. So I kicked off my Christmas TBR with The Geek Who Saved Christmas by Annabeth Albert, a festive queer romance I finished in a couple of days. Annabeth Albert is a great author of LGBT books and what sets her apart is the geek elements of all her stories. I gave this one three stars. 

It was nice and festive, but the character development fell a bit flat for me. I also didn’t like that there wasn’t a major conflict to shake things up a little bit — which is always a moment I look forward to in romance books. This is because the breaking point usually strengthens the relationship and makes the happily ever after much more satisfying. 

The Geek Who Saved Christmas didn’t serve that element, opting instead for a small misunderstanding solved by a couple of lines of dialogue. But this was a nice amuse-bouche of a book and definitely one that got me back into audiobooks.

And finally, I finished Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story by Julie K. Brown, a non-fiction I had been listening to for months. This is the first hand account of the journalist who broke the Jeffrey Epstein story and how she managed to do it. It’s an incredibly interesting and almost surreal story of perseverance, integrity and power dynamics. 

My background in journalism made me savour the diligence, courage and dedication Brown showed in her determination to get Epstein behind bars. Trigger warning for description of child sexual assault and harassment. It’s an interesting but hard to digest book. I still think it’s a must-read if you can bear it.

Hot New Release

This week’s new release explores a future decimated by climate change and the uncertainty of tomorrow, spanning one woman’s entire life. The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton follows Wanda, a girl born prematurely in a hurricane, under extreme weather forecasts and a dark prognosis for the future. 

Wanda grows with no choice but to adapt to a collapsing society and the loss of her family, as she tries to find love and adventure in a world slowly reclaimed by nature.

“A luminous and wrenching portrait of a frighteningly possible future,” The Light Pirate is a hopeful, sweeping story of survival and resilience spanning one extraordinary woman’s lifetime as she navigates the uncertainty, brutality, and arresting beauty of a rapidly changing world (Booklist, starred review).

Arguably a dark one to recommend as the festive season is coming at us strong, but I believe there’s always room for a gripping story of what could become of us and where individual stories would fit on that uncertain scale. The Light Pirate comes out today, 6 December.

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday. What are you reading this week? Any new releases you’re eyeing before 2023 comes in strong? Let me know in the comments!

Female Friendships and Self-Love: a Memoir of Lessons

*Content warning: this book contains a chapter on cancer and death.

Irreverently witty, funny, and heartfelt, Everything I Know About Love is an excellent handbook for navigating life. 

With the key cornerstones of friendship, boyfriends, parents, siblings, friends who become family, work, career and university being at the heart of this book, it is certainly one can relate to.  

The memoir, penned by Dolly Alderton (whose writing is quite simply, beautiful), tracks Dolly’s life from her earliest days transitioning into adolescence, her teenage years, life at university, and throughout her twenties, ending with her 30th birthday.  

With much testament to Dolly’s writing, you almost feel like you know her and have lived through these experiences with her. The book is honest, self-reflective and above all provides self-affirmation – that you are enough. 

The first chapter, ‘Everything I Knew About Love as a Teenager,’ highlights the idealistic and romanticised version of love we all envisioned at a young age. Dolly’s writing in this chapter, and subsequently throughout the whole book, is almost shockingly honest.  

No moment in my life will ever be as embarrassing as when I tried to kiss Sam Leeman and he pulled away from me and I fell over.” 

– Dolly alderton, everything i know about love

The tone of relatability and embarrassment that emanate from the pages highlight how Dolly’s writing can and should resonate with everyone.  

The book then progresses with similar and related chapter titles, ‘Everything I Knew About Love at Twenty-One,’ ‘Everything I Knew About Love at Twenty-Five,’ ‘Reasons to Have a Boyfriend and Reasons Not to Have a Boyfriend,’ ‘Twenty-eight Lessons Learnt in Twenty-eight Years,’ ‘Everything I Know About Love at Twenty-eight,’ and an extended version with the chapter, ‘Everything I Know About Love at Thirty.’  

Each chapter is gut-wrenchingly sincere and genuine, with Dolly exposing and shedding light on her feelings during a particular moment in her life.  

It is a book which can and does provide so many lessons for growing up as a woman and finding your way in the world.  

Dolly’s sincerity shines through the page, particularly when writing about her best friend, Farly.  

Nothing luckier has ever happened in my life than the day Farly sat next to me in a maths lesson in 1999.” 

– dolly alderton, everything i know about love

One of the beauties of this book is how Dolly shows that love does not only have to mean romantic love. The love from female friendships, and the friends which have, in turn, become family, drive this story. From reading this book, it was Dolly’s friends from which she turned to for advice and support. It seems that this type of love – the one forged by years of shared memories and experiences – is the one that is always there. 

This is most certainly true when Dolly talks about the displacement she felt when Farly fell in love and had a boyfriend of her own; 

A reminder that no matter what we lose, no matter how uncertain and unpredictable life gets, some people really do walk next to you forever.” 

– dolly alderton, everything i know about love

Dolly doesn’t just talk about romantic love and the foundation of love in female friendships. Self-love and having an idea of your sense of self is a topic particularly laced throughout this book. For me, self-love is the backdrop to this book.  

Carving out your own identity and developing a sense of self-worth is a journey – and Dolly reflects that beautifully.  

“…the love someone gives you will be a reflection of the love you give yourself. If you can’t treat yourself with kindness, care and patience, chances are someone else won’t either.” 

– dolly alderton, everything i know about love

The love you have for yourself is the most important kind you can have. Discovering yourself along the journey of life, love and relationships is key to developing a sense of self-love and worth. 

For me, ‘Everything I Know About Love,’ is a powerhouse of a book. Dolly’s life lessons, advice and tips are written so straightforwardly and in such an engaging way, that it was difficult to put this book down. 

Her years of making mistakes throughout her twenties and teenage years have resulted in a book which has spoken to a generation of women. Learning from these experiences has made Dolly an exquisite writer.  

The popularity of ‘Everything I Know About Love,’ has also led to a BBC drama adaptation. With seven episodes, the series sums up this memoir in its entirety and showcases just how poignant this book really is.  

Personally, this book is an insight into multiple life lessons, for which I am extremely grateful Dolly shared. It shows that love comes in many different forms, from different avenues and unexpected corners of life.  

It is a story, ultimately, of growing up. Through self-deprecation, wit, humour and total honesty, Dolly has created a book which will continue to teach us about the importance of love. Be it romantic or self-love – but most certainly, about the power of love from female friendship.  

Coffee Time Tuesdays: 3 Recommendations for Christmas

Hello, dear readers! What cheesy Christmas song is playing in the background as you’re reading this? Last year, I had my Christmas playlist on from 1 November, but this year I’m trying to be more reasonable, so I haven’t yet hit play on my wintery soundtrack.

While I wait (im)patiently to be able to blast some cheesy festive classics on repeat for a full month, I decided a TBR is a much more laid-back way to get into the Christmas spirit. After all, books take a while to complete, unlike a playlist which can be on loop several times in one day.

You can’t get bored of a Christmas TBR and it’s never too early to start it. Bonus points that you don’t annoy your neighbours. Reading is apartment-friendly, after all.

I’m not usually organised enough to adapt my TBRs to the changing seasons but even the queen of randomness gets a couple of festive books to read in time for 25 December. So here are three recommendations for any and all jolly bookworms out there.

‘The Christmas Murder Game’ by Alexandra Benedict

This has to be my all-time favourite festive thriller. Lily Armitage receives a letter from her late aunt inviting her to Endgame House, the old family manor where her mother died 21 years ago. The letter reveals that all of Lily’s estranged cousins will also take part in the game that will decide who inherits the house.

They have 12 days to solve 12 clues and find the keys that will get them to the deeds for the manor. And of course, Lily soon finds out that the Christmas game is particularly deadly this year.

I thoroughly enjoyed this intense and mysterious family drama that keeps you guessing at every stage. It’s fun, rhythmic, and addictive, dark enough to not be cheesy, but not gruesome enough to take away the festive spirit. The Christmas Murder Game is a real Christmas cracker of a book.

‘A German Christmas: Festive Tales From Berlin to Bavaria’

Nothing says Christmas quite like a collection of fairy tales. Personally, I prefer individual stories to entire novels around Christmas time. The memories associated with them are kept more vivid and closer to my heart, because they’re so easy to read and you can devour them in portions.

A German Christmas gathers timeless classics by the Brothers Grimm and Thomas Mann alongside more modern tales, for a perfect collection of festive treats all about the famous and enviable German Christmas.

Eine froehliche Weihnachten — A Merry Christmas — made all the more joyful with these literary treats redolent of candle-lit trees, St. Nikolaus, gingerbread, roast goose and red cabbage, tinsel and stollen cakes, accompanied by plenty of schnapps. — Waterstones

‘Kiss Her Once for Me’ by Alison Cochrun

And the third and final Christmas recommendation is also the hot new release of today’s column. Alison Cochrun, the master that wrote one of my favourite romances of all time, The Charm Offensive, is back with a sapphic Christmas romance that sounds enchanting and thrilling.

There had to be a romance on this list. Kiss Her Once for Me follows Ellie who, after a Christmas Eve meet-cute in a bookstore, is left heartbroken when her new love interest betrays her trust the next morning. Soon after, she loses her dream job, leaving her broke and desperate.

She agrees on a whim to a fake engagement which could be the solution to all her problems, but when her fiance’s sister turns out to be her runaway meet-cute, Jack, Ellie starts considering the reality of her feelings, and what pursuing the woman of her dreams could risk.

This sounds incredible and filled with enough angst to keep my distracted little mind interested. It’s already at the top of my festive TBR.

You can read my review of The Charm Offensive here:

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday. Have you started those festive books yet? What are some of your favourite Christmas reads? Let me know in the comments!

The Book That Everyone Needs To Read

*Trigger warning: this review talks about mental health struggles and disorders such as depression, anxiety, grief, and loss. 

**Content warning: this book contains topics on mental health struggles and disorders such as depression and anxiety. The book also contains topics such as suicide, sexual abuse, grief, loss, and trauma.  

Everyone has mental health. That is obvious. But for some people, it can be difficult to look after it properly. With the stresses of day-to-day life, it is easy to be forgetful to look after yourself. Mental health struggles are nothing to be ashamed of, and the stigma surrounding this topic is problematic. Only from having conversations and developing understandings and insights can we really break down these barriers. And that is what Scarlett Curtis’ ‘It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies)’ does perfectly. 

The book, a collection of 74 essays from celebrities, activists, and academics, delves deeply into the world of mental health. It is raw and personal in its entirety. It is exactly the kind of book which is needed if we are to break down mental health shame and stigma.  

When I first read this book, it not only educated me, but it also provided me with a source of comfort. Reading this book in my first year of university provided me with the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. Living away from home for the first time at the age of 18, was daunting. It was a completely new city, with new people and a whole new lifestyle. Thinking back to my 18-year-old naivety, I was not prepared for the change. But then again, who really is at that age? 

This book, and all the 74 people within it, became dear friends, and with each new essay I delved into, the more comforted I felt.  

The end of Scarlett Curtis’ introduction at the beginning of the book sums up its importance in its entirety.  

“Above all, take your time, remember to breathe. And I hope, more than anything, that you get something you need from these extraordinary stories.” 

– scarlett curtis, It’s Not ok to feel blue (and other lies)

And that is the heart of this book. The bravery and inspiration from these 74 essayists help pave the way for future conversations. For me, it was an extremely eye-opening read. Everyone struggles – and that is okay.  

Celebrities such as Alistair Campbell, Sam Smith, Fearne Cotton, Dawn O’Porter, Naomi Campbell, Miranda Hart, and Emma Thompson, just to name a few, write frank and honest opinions and insights into their personal struggles.  

The book is split into six sections, each with a different subheading. Each essay is placed under each section relating to its topic. This, for me, was an extremely helpful layout. If you do not want to read the book in order, its contents are laid out in such a way that you can dip in and out whenever you fancy.  

The subheadings also provide support and advice with titles such as; ‘It’s OK Not to Be OK,’ ‘It’s OK To Shout,’ ‘It’s OK To Be Vulnerable,’ and ‘It’s OK To Ask for Help.’ The penultimate section before the ‘Last Words,’ is ultimately a message of hope. The subheading – ‘It Will Be OK,’ highlights this book’s goal – of showing, through other people, that everything will be okay. Mental health struggles are not something to be ashamed of – they are something which even the most famous of people deal with.  

For me, this book is tailored with the reader in mind. Its tone of relatability, offerings of friendship and insights into others’ lives and minds, is what makes it such an excellent book.  

‘It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies)’ also supports mental health charities. 10% of this books’ recommended retail price goes to the charity SHOUT. It is not only the essays and wordsmiths themselves providing support, but the book itself is helping to contribute to the charitable work people provide to those in need.  

One of the essays which stood out the most to me was from the section of ‘It Will Be OK.’ Emma Thompson’s way with words during her essay, or ‘list,’ as she titles it, is warm, inviting and somewhat familiar.  

She starts out by defining what mental health and depression are to her using Shakespeare. She then goes onto adapt the work of Sydney Smith, curating a list for life.  

The key takeaways from Thompson’s list are that eventually, everything will work itself out. Stop blaming or judging yourself for something that is not your fault, and do not compare yourself to others.  

“Don’t think too far ahead. Evening is fine, but tomorrow can look after itself.” 

Emma Thompson, It’s Not ok to feel blue (and other lies)

Her essay stood out to me from the whole book. It is a simple and straightforward admission of her own mental health struggles and her useful advice.  

Miranda Hart’s essay titled, ‘Hello, My Loves,’ is again another example of the warmth emanating from the pages of this book. Simply from the title, its tone is one of familiarity and comfort.  

“Stop judging yourself. Stop punishing yourself. It’s not your fault.” 

– emma thompson, It’s Not ok to feel blue (and other lies)

If you are searching for a book that is warm and comforting, this is for you. The topics within the book are difficult – with words on grief, loss, depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. But its importance is all encompassing.  

Everyone should read this book – not just for the bravery and inspiration from the writers on the pages, but to truly understand that everyone has mental health. It is not much different from our physical health – in order to survive, we need to look after it properly.

Understanding that, can we then only break the shame and stigma associated with mental health struggles.  

Coffee Time Tuesdays: We’re Back!

Well hello there, dear readers. It’s been an age and a half since I’ve written that. As you may or may not have noticed, the weekly Coffee Time Tuesdays died down for a while.

That’s because I was on holiday all throughout September (and October, a little bit), and coming back to work ended up being quite overwhelming, so I had to drop a few responsibilities and focus on myself for a while.

The other reason why I haven’t written this column in weeks is that my reading has gone downhill completely since our last update. I haven’t finished a book since September. And I’m admitting that shamefully.

I’ve been reading, don’t get me wrong. Just in a chaotic way that has left me with about six or seven current reads, none of which I’m anywhere near the end of.

My 2022 reading challenge will be an enormous failure, but I’ve come to terms with that. Reading shouldn’t be about numbers. I’ve only read 38 books so far this year, my aim being 55. And while I still have time to make that happen, I’m hesitant to say it will.

But enough self-pity. I’m back, and now Coffee Time Tuesdays are a thing again, I’m sure I’ll be inspired to read more. Special thanks to my dear friend, Amanda Kay Oaks, who has recently launched a column herself, for giving me the push I needed to start writing this column again.

If you’d like to read Amanda’s new column, Book News Corner, check out her introduction post on Your Book Friend:

What I’m Reading

My current reads are a bit of a buffet. I’ve started everything, in a desperate attempt to find something that sticks. Firstly, I’m re-reading The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune, the first two books being some of the most uplifting and wholesome books I’ve ever read. The third and final book in the trilogy, Heat Wave, came out in August and I’d love to read it, so I’m refreshing my memory by re-reading the first two.

Then, in desperate need of a moody, autumnal read, I started The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, a dark academia murder mystery I hoped would be the light at the end of my slumpy tunnel. It’s not there yet, but the beginning sounds promising and I am interested to know where the story is headed.

My non-fiction (and audiobook) of choice this month is Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story by Julie K. Brown. The author is the journalist who broke the Epstein story and whose coverage finally got the infamous child sexual predator behind bars. 

It’s an incredibly interesting story — from a purely journalistic point of view, but it’s very difficult to digest. Some of the details are truly harrowing, so if you’re triggered by any kind of mention of sexual harassment and paedophilia, skip this one.

The one book that’s really got me hooked and might be my saving grace is the Forward Book of Poetry 2022. You may not know this, but I’m a poet. Like, a legit one. I have two published collections and I’m working on my third. 

And although I managed to make a name for myself on the Romanian poetry scene, I’m determined to put my foot in the door on the English poetry scene, so I need to familiarise myself with some contemporary poets. The Forward anthology is a gem and one I’ve been savouring this past week.

And finally, I went to a conference in dreamy Edinburgh two weeks ago and that’s where I started Matrix by Lauren Groff. It’s a story of feminism, queerness, female strength and friendship, set in England in the 12th century. Not at all in my comfort zone, but I love the writing style and dark atmosphere.

Shiny New Release

Today’s shiny new release actually came out on 6 October, but bear with, I’ve been absent for a while, so I’m catching up. I could have simply chosen a November release but I really wanted to feature this debut, which looks stunning and sounds even better.

Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli is a debut about love, loss, suicide, race, and coming to terms with grief when you’re the one left behind. Here’s what the publisher says:

Here are three things you should know about my husband:

1. He was the great love of my life despite his penchant for going incommunicado

2. He was, as far as I and everyone else could tell, perfectly happy.

3. On New Year’s Eve, he killed himself

And here is one thing you should know about me:

1. I found him.

Bonus fact: No. I am not okay

Eve is left heartbroken by her husband’s unexpected death, but everyone around her — her friends, her boisterous British-Nigerian family, her toxic mother-in-law — seems to be pushing her to move on. Unable to face the future, Eve begins looking back, delving through the history of her marriage in an attempt to understand where it went wrong. So begins an unconventional love story about loss, resilience, and a heroine bursting with rage and unexpected joy.

I’m writing a novel about a similar female protagonist, who has to deal with the unexpected death of her partner, so this book sounds like it will resonate a lot with me and the story I’m building. I love that it’s called a love story, so we might expect Eve to fall in love again. Finding joy after grief is a difficult feat, so I’m curious to see how this new author will portray that journey.

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday! I’m so happy to get back into writing this column. Let me know what you’ve been reading!