Hello darkness, my old friend | Thoughts on SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS by Carlo Rovelli


seven brief lessons cover 2

Author: Carlo Rovelli

Publisher: Penguin

Publication Date: 2014

Length: 79 pages

Format I read: Paperback

Rating: 4 stars


Everything you need to know about the beauty of modern physics in less than 100 pages.

In seven brief lessons, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli guides readers with admirable clarity through the most transformative physics breakthroughs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This playful, entertaining and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, already a major bestseller in Italy, explains general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role of humans in the strange world Rovelli describes. This is a book about the joy of discovery. It takes readers to the frontiers of our knowledge: to the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, back to the origins of the cosmos, and into the workings of our minds.


In those moments of life when the grim figures of anxiety, stress, or panic grip me tight and threaten to never let go, I have learned that the one thing sure to scare them off is a nice little face-off with the end of the universe.

That’s my super casual way of saying I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with anxiety recently. Anxiety is a fucker because it messes with my ability to concentrate which is something very necessary for actually reading and enjoying books rather than continually picking them up and putting them down and wandering around the house worrying about the fact that you haven’t read any damn books to talk about on your book-related social media and feeling like you should be doing something productive instead but not actually being able to do it and then worrying about that as well. BASTARD.

But back to the subject at hand: science books!

When none of my fictional favourites can hold my attention I find that often a little non-fiction does the job. And so on my latest foray to the book shops I spotted SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS by Carlo Rovelli and snapped it up. It’s such a wee little thing and yet so intriguing with its evocative title that it seemed perfect. 78 pages of basic science, what could possibly be more innocuous. Little did I know.

The tiny size of SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS belies the size of the utter mind-fuck that is held within.

Allow me to explain. It starts amicably enough:

“These lessons were written for those who know little or nothing about modern science.”

That’s me, right there. Little to nothing; me and Jon Snow are with you. The principle of the book is to give a tiny “overview” of the revolutions in the understanding of physics that have happened in the past century or so. It begins with lesson one – Einstein that fluffy haired moppet, who changed the world by suggesting that space isn’t, well, space. It’s not an empty area populated by waves and forces and things – it literally IS those forces. There was some visualising of rubber sheets which left me a little cross-eyed but essentially getting the gist of it. But then Rovelli happily hopped onwards to lesson two where he calmly announced that quantum mechanics means that reality only sometimes exists.


By lesson five time itself had gone out the window and the entirety of the universe followed shortly thereafter. Physics, it seems, does not fuck around. But it was the seventh chapter that really leaves you staring into the void.

Rovelli uses this final lesson to grapple with the relevance of physics to our lives. Or, more accurately, of the relevance of our lives in the vast and uncaring strangeness of the cosmos. With the same sparse simplicity of words that he used to set out the mind-bending reality that is revealed by physics, he touches on the concepts of thought, learning, philosophy, ethics, and, of course, of death. Like many of the books where science meets philosophy, the wording gets close to religious in its solemn beauty.

We are born and die as the stars are born and die, both individually and collectively. This is our reality….

That’s dark stuff, man. COLD. But actually I found myself weirdly comforted. Rovelli takes pains to explain that however dark and weird the universe may seem, we are not alien to it, but part of it. We are at home in its weird unreality. It’s quite a moment when you can look into the void and the only thing that comes to mind is that old song by Simon and Garfunkel…

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube. 

It reminded me of THE GOOD BOOK, that strange and lovely conglomeration of scientific ideas, literature and philosophy compiled and presented by A.C. Grayling as a secular bible. Like a religious person seeking succour in a religious text I find my calm in the place where science meets philosophy.

Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it’s breathtaking.

The concepts set out in this book are mind-bendingly weird. I’m not sure I really comprehended the full meaning of it all (which is probably the point, temptations to learn more and all that) but it was completely and utterly engaging. My only criticism was, really, its brevity. For some of the more complex concepts just a little more time spent trying to give me a better mental grasp of these slippery thoughts would have been perfect. A page, maybe two. No more.

The writing style is excellent – elegant, flowing, and measured. And a translated text I can only suppose that this is a sign of both an excellent author and some damn fine translators. It balances the need for simple explanations of complex ideas with evocative, beautiful prose – it’s a science book written for readers, not scientists after all.

It’s worth reading for the madness of the physics alone but for my anxious brain it was the strange, warm bath in the restaurant at the end of the universe that it needed. And for that,  Carlo Rovelli, I thank you.

Buy it here: SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS by Carlo Rovelli 

We’re not in Kansas anymore | Thoughts on THE DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book by Connie WillisAuthor: Connie Willis

Publisher: Gollancz (and various others)

Publication Date: Originally July 1992.

Length: Novel (578 pages approx)

Format I read: Audiobook

Rating: 4.5/5


The Blurb

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity’s history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin–barely of age herself–finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history’s darkest hours.

My Thoughts

A really wonderful in-depth story of time-travel and the very real difficulties of trying to survive in the past. Remember that old adage – “the past is a foreign country” – well if nothing else brings that home then this book will. The uncanny similarities and differences of life in the middle ages, the horrible reality of a world without modern medicine – they’re just for starters.

Because then there’s that extra layer of cleverness. In the 1990s Willis wrote this book in an imagined future of the 2050s and we can read with amusement how the comparatively recent years of the 1970s were already becoming misremembered (and fearsome because of it). But through the joys of time actually passing the additional pleasure of a strangely alien future also emerge. Willis’s vision of a future with video phones tied to landlines and almost impossibly small file-sizes seems charmingly naive now but only serves to emphasise the sheer impossibility of the historian’s (and futurist’s) task of understanding another era. It is only Kivrin, who ventures into the 14th century who can understand it, and only then through total, terrifying, assimilation. She does not simply learn about the past, she becomes part of it.

And, damn me, if it isn’t also entirely heart-wrenching.
P.S. If you’re prone to hypochondria I’m going to give you a heads-up: this is not the book for you. I am now totally paranoid about every sneeze and considering investing heavily in antibacterial gel.

Sheldon sprays germs

So you want to watch some booktube?

I was recently asked by the lovely Renay (from the Lady Business blog & Fangirl Happy Hour podcast – both favourites of mine) for some recommendations of science fiction and fantasy booktube channels. I started to compose a tweet of names and then realised that this was something that might take a bit more than 160 characters to get through. And so here, for Renay and anyone else in need of some speculative fiction vlogs, is my hastily put together master list.

Obviously there are channels who I will have inevitably forgotten and I will add them as and when I remember. Or if you want to remind me feel free to comment or tweet me. Remember babies, I love you all very much!

[Addendum – already edited to add a few more!]

you and me


In no particular order: 
Just in case you forgot where you were. Youtube is where I’m at.
The person who I see at every convention, super SFF knowledge. The SMOF I wish I was.❤
Nicole – Nicole’s Aventures in SFF –  https://www.youtube.com/user/NicoleBookAdventures
Loads of SFF, prolific video maker and a key organiser of the booktubeSFF community. Actual science ninja as well as science-fiction person. Could probably take over the world.
Reads all genres, kicks all asses. YA librarian by day, badass lady warrior by night.
Probably the most prolific reader you’ll ever meet. Reviews everything, makes more videos than seems humanly possible. Probably has superpowers.
Loves genre fiction, Sanderson, and making videos. Will fight you for talking smack about YA and then school you in the true art of knowing things.
Booktube is just an extension of his long-running SFreviews.net site. Reviewer extraordinaire, maker of mailbag Monday the best bookish unboxing on both sides of the Atlantic.
Paul – Common Touch of Fantasy – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMuiX9vgRtIXtO7NY-zk92g
Fantasy lover with an open mind and open heart. Live catchups with magic picture swapping that I still need to figure out how to do because they’re shiny.
Reads prolifically in literary and genre fiction. Doesn’t judge me when I get drunk and eat all the flying saucer sweeties at publisher parties.
Fantasy, Dr Who, cute puppies and much geeky joy. I want her weekends.
Sanaa – Ink Bones Books – https://www.youtube.com/user/InkBonesBooks
Geek lifestyle goddess – books, gaming, manga and movies. Plus so many gorgeous headscarves it’ll make your head spin.
Sam – Thoughts on Tomes – https://www.youtube.com/user/ThoughtsOnTomes
Flawless makeup, on-point assassin style, and a voracious reader of YA and epic fantasy. Could I want anything more? Well, she’s also making her way into science fiction. *Fans self*.
Brianne – Stories from the Shelf – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmTKGq0LnoybKSMk0PYCF-g/
Sayer of things in ways I wish I’d thought of in my reviews, reader of every book I’ve got in my TBR, general SFF ninja.
Otavio – The Galilean Library – https://www.youtube.com/user/thegalileanlibrary
Happiest lad in all of booktubeSFF, reacts to my favourite SFF books the same way I do. Possible mind twin?
Rachel – Rae of Books – https://www.youtube.com/user/RaeReadsBooks
Actual ray of sunshine, reader of fantasy, haver of many beautiful tattoos.
Very new channel but already making great videos. Smiles for days.
Another new channel making their SFF mark. Urban fantasy fun times, and rocking boob-safety, body positivity videos.
Great SFF content combined with the best tattoos, every geeky accessory you ever wanted, and kitty cameos. Actual dream-time tbh.
Rachel – Kalanadi – https://www.youtube.com/user/Kalanadi
Flawless SFF taste, knows her shit, wise in the way of the books. Strong review game. Everyone loves Rachel.
Actually knows how to pronounce Rajaniemi and will school you in all the Finnish SFF. Has the best scary teacher look but is actually the sweetest human.
Jane – Yes Miss Jane – https://www.youtube.com/user/yesmissjane
So chill, such SFF love!
Says very clever things about very good books.
Wit so dry the Sahara gets jealous.
The comic book master and most precious of all humans.
Owns more than one sword and not afraid of a good costume. Suspect she is queen of a magical realm.
Both reads and writes books. And games. And has amazing hair. Life, it is not fair.
Reads all the books, says good things, makes me laugh.
Aoife – Fred Weasley Died Laughing – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC25ZpRKmmLL7RyopVEOqYgQ
Has the channel name that makes me cry and smile at the same time. Which is really bloody evil.
Master of wit, maker of clever animations, and creator of the reading spreadsheet of doom that gives everyone statistics joy.
A queen of YA with a good SFF quotient. Strong community figure. Rules the kingdom of Top 5 Wednesdays with a benevolent hand.
On an infrequent schedule at the moment but always worth watching. Says clever things with wit and a honesty.
Exploring the depths and breadths of magical realism and literary fantasy and sending out her findings so that us mere mortal readers can enjoy the plunder.
Another new channel full of enthusiasm for SFF.
Bringing a writer’s perspective to booktubeSFF and asking questions that perplex my brain every week.
SFF is in her mix of reads though not the focus. But she is the queen of thoughtful discussion videos, great insights, and self reflection. Plus potentially nicest human being on booktube.
Literary fiction and science fiction mixed together and examined with a critical eye. Just back from a few months off learning how to conquer the world. We await the second coming.
Michael – Bitten by a Radioactive Book – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaqri6yb-dGzmfw8SHMo0yw
The epic fantasy maestro, noticer of every subtle pattern and moment of foreshadowing ever, made a giant guide to fantasy sub genres.
Mostly SFF and literary fictions with occasional dips into young adult/children’s books, romance, non-fiction, comic books/graphic novels and poetry. Strong glasses game.
Reader of so very much SFF, friendliest book tuber you ever will meet.
Your man on the ground for middle grade fantasy, also has the most adorable puppies and does good beer drinking. Good man, good man.
Katherine – The Android’s Conundrum – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoIDm0e3vc9SlKNnZ2_8UmQ
Not your typical book tube channel, more like a podcast with some nice pictures of books as Katherine prefers not to be on camera. But excellent reviews nonetheless. A much loved lady of mystery.
Knower of so very much stuff. Like fantasy that came before Tolkein. Because contrary to popular belief that one old dude isn’t the be all and end all of the genre (a fact for which we are very grateful).

The great grey inbetween | Thoughts about On The Edge of Gone by Corrine Duyvis


On the Edge of Gone coverAuthor: Corrine Duyvis

Publisher: Amulet

Publication Date: 8 March 2016

Length: Novel (456 pages)

Format I read: ARC trade paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: I requested and received an advanced reader copy of this for free from the publisher but all views are very much my own.


The blurb

January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one.

Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

My thoughts

Fast paced, well-written and kept me gripped to the end whilst making me ask some very pointed questions about the value of life. Opening minutes before the big comet hits, this book makes you a very different look at the apocalypse and what it means to survive.

In fact, my overwhelming sense of this book was that it asks you to think beyond the binary of so many disaster stories.

There is no tale of pre-disaster panic and preparation, but nor is it the story of survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is the vast grey inbetween.

This is not a story that ends in fire. This is not the survivor’s tale, spoken in noble but tragic isolation as they leave behind the dead earth and the humanity that was unable to escape. Those stories are easy to tell, easy to cry a poignant tear over the death of millions when you’re boldly going where no man has gone before.

Instead this story keeps us on earth and asks us to imagine that maybe the end of a civilization doesn’t necessarily mean the end of life. It asks difficult questions about the ease with which we accept that the survival of the lucky must come at the price of the complete sacrifice of all others. It asks what it means to survive if there is no place for help, for community, for a middle road. And this large scale struggle is replicated in the smaller story of Denise and her family, and the decisions she must make to stay alive, to protect her family, and to protect herself from her family.

It’s a fascinating book where the plot keeps you flying through but the ideas stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. All in all, a damn fine read.

What I read – November 2015

In this week’s video I’m talking about all the lovely things I read in November. You can watch the video below or keep scrolling to read the text version.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/gAcr9u3dftM

Lets work from least favourite to favourite so I can work my way up to the serious levels of emotion I’m going need at the end!


darkforestTo begin we have The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu.

I was super excited to get to this book – it was in my priority TBR for the end of the year, I’d been told it was even more amazing than the rather excellent first book in the series The Three Body Problem – and I couldn’t read it. Seriously.

I do not know what is up with the writing style in this book but it is jarring as hell and just unpleasant to read. Maybe it was down to a change in the writing style from books 1 to 2 in the original Chinese version or maybe it’s to do with the changed translator but reading this made me sad. Somebody please tell me what’s going on with this. I swear it’s not just me.


House of Shattered Wings - cover The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard.

The story is set in a fantastical version of Paris where fallen angels waged a huge war destroying most of the city. The war is over but the factions remain locked in elaborately polite political power games and the dark deeds of the past are emerging to haunt the angelic houses and destroy everything the hold dear.

You can read my full review in an earlier post:

Room to Grow Into| Review of The House of Shattered Wings 


theawesome The Awesome by Eva Darrows is all about Maggie, a seventeen year old apprentice monster hunter in a world where all the supernatural beasties have come out of the proverbial closet.

Maggie is badass and awesome, or at least according to Maggie she is. The only problem is that Maggie is stuck being an apprentice until she can rid herself of her rather pesky virginity. So now Maggie has to negotiate the rather trickier world of social skills and dating all the while dealing with ghosts, and zombies, and monsters, oh my.

It’s hilarious, honestly I was laughing out loud within a couple of pages. Maggie is the narrator so we see the world through her eyes and it’s a gloriously uncomfortable experience that had me squirming in cringey delight at the memories of my far less awesome teenage self. It’s not perfect, there were a few moments where I felt some of the language was a bit problematic, but it was largely delightful, romping fun.


traitorbarucormorantThe Traitor Baru Cormorant by Set Dickinson

Well damn me. This was clever, cunning, and dark as hell.

It tells of Baru Cormorant whose homeland is invaded when she is a child. She swears to revenge herself on the empire that destroys her country’s way of life but chooses to do this by working her way into a position of power. In order to gain this trust and power Baru is faced with a life of betrayals and lies to her family, her country and to herself.

You can read my full review in an earlier post:

It hurts so good… | Review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant


Long Way to a Small Angry PlanetAnd finally came The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This book is about the crew of a small spacecraft on a long journey. That’s it. And well, I’ve already done a separate review post and I’ll be putting out another review video for this one (extended review) but here’s the the short version of that:


You can read my short review in an earlier post:

Love Wins | Thoughts on A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet



And that’s it for November. What did you read last month?  I’m off to keep reading my December reads starting with His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.



Keep reading, sugarplum.

Love Wins | Thoughts on A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Long Way to a Small Angry PlanetTitle: A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication Date: 13 August 2015

Length: Novel (404 pages)

Format I read: hardback

Rating: 5/5


The blurb: 

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

My Thoughts

I tried to write a coherent review but all I can say is I LOVE IT WITH ALL MY HEART.

I love the universe that has been created, the elegant way it is created through little details of life and habits. I love the food and the soap and wine and small intricacies of life in space rather than just war in space.

I love the interaction of the alien species, the coming together, the falling aparts, and the (mis)understandings.

I love the characters, their complex lives outside the plot, the expansive ideas of what a person can be, and their beautiful, beautiful relationships.

And I love the love; the many ways of different people being together – as friends, as family, a colleagues and collaborators, as lovers, pairs, triads, and more. I love that love so much; that love for the universe, for the potential offered by the future, love for all kinds of love.

This book won my heart. Because, in the end, love wins.



Room to grow into| Review of The House of Shattered Wings

House of Shattered Wings - coverTitle: The House of Shattered Wings

Author: Aliette de Bodard

Publisher: Orion

Publication Date: 20 August 2015

Length: Novel (402 pages)

Format I read: audiobook

Rating: 3.5/5


In a ruined Paris, fallen angels live together in rival Houses – each vying for power in the crumbling, poisonous city that was brought down by their own war. The fighting has given way to politics but the threat to life is still very real. Angels are hunted for their magical essence, the house leaders scheme and plot in elaborately polite power-games, and the dark deeds of the past will not lie quietly in their graves.

House Silverspires stands tremulous. Its magic is ailing; the founder, Morningstar, has been missing for years; and now a murderous presence, seemingly darkness and malevolence incarnate, stalks them inside their own walls.

Of the many characters whose lives revolve around Silverspires, three become central to the struggle against the darkness: a human alchemist addicted to forbidden and deeply taboo drugs that are killing her, a newly fallen angel with immense power combined with innocent naivety, and the man from Annam whose powers and anger toward the angelic houses are alien to the fallen.


Whilst always enjoyable and readable this book never really gripped me in the way I wanted and expected. The story itself is intriguing and clever – a grand tale of murder, politics, and revenge. And yet for all that bigness it somehow felt small and a bit underdeveloped.

Another reviewer very aptly put it that this is an ‘aftermath story’. It tells us what happened after the fall, and after the war, and after the disappearance of a great leader. It’s a bold move for any writer to make and not one that I think was necessarily pulled off to best effect in this book.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a story that expands beyond its frames. A story that suggests that more happens after the last page is turned, that life was going on in the background of every line, just around the corner. But you do need the present moment of the story to hold my attention at least as much as the elements going on out of sight. It needs to fit inside hole that’s been cut out of the bigger picture and I can’t say that this always did. There was too much gap between the story we were told and the story outside it. Maybe there will be more to fill out the gaps in the future but for now it’s like a kid with clothes too big for them: there’s potential for them to grow into them over time but the excess fabric is going to trip them up.

On a positive note I thought that the character of Philippe – his experiences and interactions with the angelic houses during and after the war – did a phenomenal job of demonstrating how the structures of power – race, class, wealth, etc – are often unseen and continue to be upheld by those who benefit from them. Sometimes it’s easier to face a hard truth through fiction, and Isabel and Philippe’s argument about the necessity of the continued existence of angelic houses prompted some serious reflection.

Clever, beautiful, and big in scope this book is very much worth reading but offered me more story than it could give

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard – 3.5 stars.

It hurts so good… | Review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant

traitorbarucormorantTitle: The Traitor Baru Cormorant (some editions published as The Traitor in the UK)

Author: Seth Dickinson

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: 15 September 2015

Length: Novel (400 pages)

Format I read: ebook

Note: I requested and received this book for free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The short version: Clever, cunning, and dark as hell. Do not fuck with Baru Cormorant.

The long version:

This book hurt me in two ways. The first was a familiar pain so let’s just get it out there: queer characters die tragically. FFS, again?

The other pain, well, some people pay for that kind of thing.

How do you fight the system? That’s really the question this book asks. How do you fight a culture that broke you into pieces and reshaped you in their mould? Is it possible? What do we lose when we hide a part of ourselves? What do we gain with power? So many questions and, really, so few answers. Like the best stories The Traitor tells a story but doesn’t tie it up too neatly. It leaves you thinking, puzzling over its horrible philosophy lesson.

Baru Cormorant is the perfect hero. Or antihero. It’s hard to tell. I sympathise, I ache for her pain, I want to scream at the trap she’s been put in by an empire of heartless masks but, DAMN ME, is she a dark-hearted sociopath.

Why? I was screaming that at her in my head as I read. Why the fuck are you doing this? But you can’t reason with revenge. Everything must bow down before revenge – not love, not loyalty, not family, or self can be allowed to take precendence.

There is nothing here but pain. And you will suffer it beautifully in this book. The slow twist of the plot will wrack you, , the sweet sting of the emotion will flay you, and the betrayals will hurt you. And yet you will turn the page for more.

You kinky motherfucker.

Morticia Addams - Again



The Traitor Baru Cormorant – 4 stars


Baking cake, talking books (Book Cake Tag)

In today’s video I’m baking a book cake!

The idea is to pick books that fit characteristics assigned to each ingredient. I took it a bit further and decided to bake some real cake whilst talking about the books. So if you want to see the baking you’re going to have watch the video. If you just want to read about my book picks and/or see the recipe then skip over the video and keep reading (recipe at the end)!

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ARJ3hWK9r5M

Flour: Slow to start but that really picked up later!

A confederacy of duncesA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is a literary fiction novel that I found really baffling and hard to read at first but then rapidly got sucked in to the wonderous whirlpool of ridiculous horror that is Ignatius J. Reilly’s life and thoughts. It’s a tragicomic tale of wrathful, slothful, ranting behemoth of a man that is truly artful in the telling.

After a life self-indulgent idleness and never-ending study Ignatius suddenly finds himself in the awful position of need to get that most dreadful of things – a job. His (mis)adventures are filled with the beautifully-drawn oddities of New Orleans life and Ignatius is the man you will LOVE to hate; selfish, domineering, and deluded, tragic and comic and larger than life.

Margarine: a rich plot!

His Dark MaterialsHis Dark Materials by Philip Pullman is a a fantasy trilogy like no other. It’s a rich, detailed and marvellously imagined story set across parallel worlds. Epic in scale it combines spellbinding adventure and beautiful writing to create one of the most enduring stories I’ve ever read. 

It tells the tale of Lila and Will, two children in very different versions of Oxford who each find themselves caught up in a web of deception and danger as the old powers of religion and science clash across the multi-verse. It  features armoured polar bears, magical objects, arctic prisons, dying angels, witches and daemons. And to top it off it’s also an audacious and profound re-imagining of Milton’s Paradise Lost. How can you resist?

If you are thinking of reading it soon then why not join me? I’ll be taking part in a readalong of these books in December. It’s being led by author and booktuber, Jen Campbell, along with Holly from the YouTube channel Library at the Edge of the World.

JOIN US…..?😡

never join - star wars gif

Damn you Skywalker


Eggs – assumed it was bad but actually enjoyable!

Goblin Emperor coverI was really reluctant to pick up The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison despite the fact that I heard nothing but glowing reviews for it. I’d be bouncing off a lot of epic fantasy at the time, I think I was a bit done with a lot of the genre tropes and somehow I just felt like this just wasn’t going to be my cup of tea.


It’s the story of a young prince who very unexpectedly becomes emperor of the elvish kingdom despite being exiled and despised by his father and three elder brothers thanks to his half-goblin heritage. This is heartwarming, a tale of learning and finding your place and voice and people who understand you. That whilst there is turmoil and horror there is kindness and friendship and loyalty. It’s a truly lovely story, well written & well executed with characters I came to love. Enchanting, delightful and totally unexpected.


Sugar – a sweet story!

Making of a MarchionessThe Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett tells the story of thirty-something Emily who lives alone, humbly and happily, in a tiny apartment and on a meager income. She’s the one that everyone counts on but no one notices iuntil, in true Cinderella-like glory, she meets the a Marquis and he falls in love with her – just as she is. Plus then there’s a whole murder mystery section and our new Marchioness turns out to be a stone-cold badass! (You may think I am kidding at this point but I am so not. It’s half love story, half deadly intrigue!)

It’s the sweetest, most adorably lovely love story in the world. If you’ve ever read A Little Princess then think of that but for adults. Because it’s literally that – same author!

Icing – everything you enjoy in a book

Ancillary JusticeThere is no other book I could pick. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is my all-time favourite book for a reason. It’s part epic space opera, part intimately written tale of grief and loss. And part adventure, part domestic, part ode to song, part everything.

Broken down to it’s simplest plot it is the story of a warship trapped in a human body and her search for revenge. Formerly the vast troop carrier, Justice of Toren, now simply Breq – a grieving ancillary who we follow as she seeks for a weapon that can destroy her master.  Along the way we learn of her past life and the haunting events that led up to destructive present.

I’m really bad a writing a synopsis of this book. It is beautiful and haunting and clever. It has dramatic and adventure, gorgeous writing, and will make you question the concept of gender to boot.


Sprinkles – a pick me up!

darling buds of mayThe Pop Larkin Chronicles by H.E. Bates are a series of novels which started with The Darling Buds of May. They are a gorgeous romping masterpiece about the joys of living, of love, laughter, family, sex, food, fun and friendship. It starts with the Larkin family arriving home at their idyllic farmstead to find a young man waiting in the yard. He’s the tax inspector and has a few questions for Pop. Instead of answers, Charley-boy soon finds himself one of the family enjoying endless delicious dinners, drinks, sunshine, and life with beautiful Mariette.

It is a joyous series and cannot fail to transport you away from even the greyest days and into the warm fields of an English summer evening.


Cherry on top – favourite book of the year

Female Man book coverThe Female Man by Joanna Russ is one of the great classics of science fiction and earlier this year it blew my tiny mind.

It tells us of four women living in parallel worlds, each with a different gender landscape. When they begin to travel to each other’s worlds each woman’s preconceptions on gender and what it means to be a woman are challenged.

Written in the 1970s you see the gender roles of the time and marvel at their strange and awful imbalance. And then it becomes achingly familiar and fills you with a rage that we’re still, STILL, dealing with this shit forty years later. The writing is unbelievably good, like freaking genius levels good. It burns like lines of fire in my heart, good. READ ITTTTTTTTTT.


Recipe: Vegan Cookies & Cream Cupcakes


Ingredients – cake

    • 1 cup soymilk
    • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar ( or white vinegar)
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup roughly chopped Oreos (chop and then measure)
    • 1/3 cup cocoa powder ( Dutch processed or regular)
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Line muffin pan with baking cups (paper or foil).
  3. Whisk together soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside to curdle. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla to the soy mixture and beat until frothy.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining dry ingredients.
  5. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two batches beating until smooth, with no large lumps remaining.
  6. Pour the batter into prepared baking cups, filling them to three quarters full.
  7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  8. Transfer cupcakes to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Ingredients – decoration

  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer
  • 8 Oreos, finely chopped
  • More Oreos for decoration


  1. Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.
  2. Add the vanilla and soy milk, and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.
  3. Finely chop about 6 Oreos and mix into the frosting.
  4. Frost the cupcakes generously, sprinkle with remaining Oreo crumbs, top with half a cookie.

What I Read – October 2015

Hello lovely humans, today I’m going to be talking about all the things I read in October which I am still failing to believe is already over. Like the hell, when did that happen? As ever you can watch the video or skip ahead to read a text version.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/adx2Dd2yakI

In October I finished three books and two graphic novels which doesn’t sound like much but I’ve been rather ill for the last half of the month so I’m quite pleased with it. If you don’t follow me on twitter you may not already know that I’ve had labyrinthitis for about two weeks. It was entirely not fun but I seem to be all better so Awoohoo.

Goblin Emperor cover

First of my reads was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This is a fantasy book about a young prince who very unexpectedly becomes emperor of the elvish kingdom despite being exiled and despised by his father and three elder brothers thanks to his half-goblin heritage.

It follows him from the discovery of his new position into the first few months of his reign as he come to terms with the memory of a father who didn’t love him, a government that doesn’t believe in him, and court of nobles about as easy to understand or trust as a nest of snakes.
I’ve become so used to fantasy books that are all violence and betrayal and general awfulness. Even when there’s romance or triumph in the end the main thrust is always a protagonist at odds with everyone, misunderstood or downtrodden or alone. And I kept expecting that and it never happened. This is heartwarming, a tale of learning and finding your place and voice and people who understand you. That whilst there is turmoil and horror there is kindness and friendship and loyalty. It’s a truly lovely story, well written & well executed with characters I came to love. Enchanting, delightful and totally unexpected.


Lock In by ScalziThen came Lock In by John Scalzi, a total change of pace to a fast-reading detective story set in a future where a percentage of the population are locked in their bodies because of a disease but are able to operate in the world by using future neural technologies that allow them to control other human bodies, with agreement, or human shaped robots knowns as threeps.
Our protagonist is a Haden starting his first day as an FBI agent and he’s thrown into a mystery that starts with a murder where the suspect claims to have been under the control of another and then gets way more complicated and dangerous when the murder starts linking to a much wider plot of corporate intrigue and somebody hacking the neural technology to take control of people’s minds.
Like all of Scalzi’s books this was a fun read, his writing is consistently good and damn readable. It’s a simple classic detective story with ideas about internet security and privacy and personal integrity and control all woven into a great future concept. It’s not going to blow you away with its complex literary ideas but that is so not the point. It’s damn good at what it wants to be.


Ancillary MercyAnd then, and then, oh my goodness, then came Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. This is third and final book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series and I am both happy and sad to have read it. It’s really impossible to tell you any of the plot without totally ruining the first book but I will tell you that it was a wonderful ending to the series. As a whole they have blown me away.

Leckie has a way of creating characters and worlds that you come to know intimately and that reach far beyond the story that takes place on the pages. It was a relatively neat ending which was not necessarily what I expected but worked in that there was clearly more to come that we won’t ever see.

And that’s the magic of these books – there’s a huge universe of cultures and politics and ideas and people that we learn about and are inspired by and it’s just a taster of the many stories in that universe, it’s a beginning, even though this is the end. Goddamn it’s like Harry Potter all over again. I can’t cope.

Mourning the book

If you want to get schooled in elegant writing that can confront social and ethical issues with grace, and give you all the emotions about spaceships then read these books immediately.


Saga Vol. 5And the first of my two graphic novels was Saga Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples – the continuing epic which continues to be epic. The art is still lovely, still inspires moments of laugh out loud holy shit am I glad I’m not reading this in public like I did that one time because ohmygod that’s a big picture of a….lizard. I still really like it but I can’t deal with having my stories broken up so much. I need to know what happens.



Sex CriminalsAnd then for continued not to be read in public enjoyment there was Sex Criminal Volume 1 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. This is the story of a young woman for whom time stops after she orgasms. And then one day she meets a man for whom the same thing happens and they decided to use this amazing superpower to rob banks. Because of course. It is witty and clever and so so funny. The creators have obviously just taken these ideas of what you might do in that situation and when that situation might come up and it’s just cringingly, hilariously awful and yet amazing and sweet. Definitely worth a read – if you’re over 18.


And that’s it, that’s all she read! Thanks for reading.