Top 5 Friday – Books of 2021

A little late, but there were so many amazing books that I read last year that I just had to write this post, late or not! Trying to whittle down the 100+ books that I read last year down to a list of my five favourites was incredibly difficult so there may be a part two to this post, but then I will probably want to do parts three, four, five… So, let’s dive in! Just a heads up, these novels aren’t in any particular order!

Continue reading “Top 5 Friday – Books of 2021”

A little late, but there were so many amazing books that I read last year that I just had to write this post, late or not! Trying to whittle down the 100+ books that I read last year down to a list of my five favourites was incredibly difficult so there may be a part two to this post, but then I will probably want to do parts three, four, five… So, let’s dive in! Just a heads up, these novels aren’t in any particular order!

Continue reading “Top 5 Friday – Books of 2021”

Top 5 Friday – Women in Translation

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, as I’ve had a lot of things on my plate of late, but I just had to do it for Women in Translation month! As many of you have probably realised by now, I am very passionate about translated fiction. So, I’ve compiled some of my favourite books by women in translation! See if you can spot the unintentional theme…!

Continue reading “Top 5 Friday – Women in Translation”

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, as I’ve had a lot of things on my plate of late, but I just had to do it for Women in Translation month! As many of you have probably realised by now, I am very passionate about translated fiction. So, I’ve compiled some of my favourite books by women in translation! See if you can spot the unintentional theme…!

Continue reading “Top 5 Friday – Women in Translation”

Top 5 Friday – Shakespeare Adaptations

As today’s Top 5 Friday falls on the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (and allegedly his birth, although it’s more likely he was born before 23rd April), I thought that it would be fitting to go through my favourite adaptations of his plays. I’ve mostly tried to keep to ones that you are able to watch but one unrecorded theatre production snuck its way on here! Also as I have an entire review gushing over the brilliance of Chloe Gong’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet in These Violent Delights I decided to shift my focus to adaptation that can be watched instead as what my University lecturer taught us that sauce with re is that Shakespeare is made to be performed and watched, you will rarely find the source text as enjoyable as a faithful production.

Romeo + Juliet directed by Baz Lurnham

For anyone who has seen this film, or knows me, it won’t be a surprise to see it on my list. When you think of Romeo and Juliet, the classic romance, your mind wouldn’t necessarily immediately jump to 1990s America but somehow it fits perfectly. The performances of the whole cast is just brilliant and I completely adore how exaggerated some of their performances are – it adds humour to so many scenes which are traditionally portrayed in a more serious manner – but Shakespeare did have a flair for the ridiculousness, as well as a sense of humour, which this film does a great job of illustrating that. Additionally, this film has an excellent soundtrack, with each song carefully chosen which just adds a whole new layer to this brilliant play.

Much Ado About Nothing directed by Joss Whedon

Now, I know Joss Whedon is a pretty awful person so feel free to completely skip this entry! As a film is so much more than just its director I wanted to highlight it.This beautifully shot black and white film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing masterfully captures the theatrical humour and drama of the stage. I can remember going to see this in the cinema with mum and we were two of five people in the screen watching it. In particular,  I distinctly remember the scene where Beatrice and Benedick are “eavesdropping” on the others talk about them and doing everything they can to avoid being seen. The reason this sticks out to me was because it was so well done mum and I were in tears and tying our hardest not to laugh as loud as we wanted as everyone else was taking it very seriously. This film is just such a delight to watch and always makes me smile.

Macbeth, Trafalgar Studios, directed by Jamie Lloyd (2013)

MACBETH by William Shakespeare, Director: Jamie Lloyd, Trafalgar Studios, London, UK, 2013 [Photo credit: Johan Persson –]

For my 18th birthday back in 2013 Mum took me to see Macbeth in Trafalgar Studios, a Jamie Lloyd production which saw Macbeth set in post-­apocalyptic Scotland starring James McAvoy as Macbeth. Lloyd immediately had the audience on edge by plunging us into darkness as a crack of thunder filled the theatre. The witches then popped up in random places as more thunder cracked – which was even more unsettling when you saw they were in rags and gas masks. For the rest of the play I was incredibly tense waiting for them to appear again. This was an incredibly done and gritty portrayal of Macbeth – but even with this McAvoy still managed to add some cheekiness to the performance which is unusual for MacBeth. From our show, one moment stands out: there were some seats on the stage (which I’m generally not a fan of but McAvoy made it work) and when Macbeth was covered in blood, dripping everywhere, he decided to lean on the chair of a lady wearing a cream jumper without deviating from his lines, his tones and facial expression made it clear he knew exactly what he was doing as the lady slowly shuffled award which then ended up making this Macbeth strangely endearing. This moment also reminds me of why I love watching live theatre!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Globe Theatre, directed by Dominic Dromgoole (2013)

Don’t get me wrong, I do like A Midsummer Night’s Dream (even though Helena infuriates me) but I feel like it’s rarely done well, especially when the adaptation sticks fairly close to the source material. So, I was very surprised when I first watched this production in the cinema and absolutely loved it. Although it wasn’t a “modern” or unusual take on the play, it still felt so fresh and unique. The entire cast was incredible and a perfect fit for their characters. I especially loved the way Matthew Tennyson portrayed Puck – keeping his classic mischievousness but simultaneously having many childlike qualities to him which made him very loveable. I was also very impressed by the physicality that he and John Light (Oberon) put into the production with the swinging around pillars, lifts and teetering on the edge of the stage. I can’t talk about this production without mentioning Michelle Terry who did a fabulous job as Titania and her scenes with Bottom (who was wonderfully camp) had me laughing throughout their time onstage.

Hollow Crown Part One TV Show, BBC (2012)

Okay, so I’m sort of cheating with this one as the part one series is actually plays of Richard II, Henry VI pt. 1 and 2, and Henry V – however I’m grouping them as one as it’s my list and they, all need to be on it! I’m generally not particularly interested in the history plays but this series totally changed my mind. Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale all do a fantastic job with the portrayal of their characters. I found Whishaw and especially heartbreaking – even though the characters they play aren’t very likeable with how Shakespeare has written them (or in history in general depending on how you view it), which I feel is always illustrative of an actor’s talent. Bren if you’re in me and usually give the history plays a miss, you should definitely give the BBC’s Hollow Crown a chance!

Honourable Mentions…

Sh!tfaced Shakespeare

This is a company who perform Shakespeare plays, the difference between this company and the others is that before the show they draw straws and one unlucky (or lucky) cast member has to perform the play drunk. It is a different actor every night to ensure that it is fair and that it gives time for the actors (and their livers) to recover. I saw a performance of Romeo and Juliet and I was crying with laughter throughout. It was the actress who was playing both Benvolio and the Nurse who was the chosen one for the night and it was both incredible and impressive how she could remember her lines perfectly one minute and then disappear off the stage and come back riding a child’s toy horse which had been left backstage for another performance by a completely different company!


So, this (obviously) isn’t an adaptation of an entire play however, as NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is also out today, which I am very excited about, I just had to include one of my favourite scenes from Nier: Automata. After a quest in a theatre when you go back to the theatre you walk into robots performing Romeo and Juliet. This small tale on it caught me by surprise so much but I still end up in a laughing fit even watching it now!

What are some of your favourite Shakespeare adaptations? Do you prefer a different/modern twist on the classics or for them to stick to the original? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 Friday – Books Which Have Impacted Me

As World Book Day was this week, I thought for this month’s Friday feature I would look at the top five books that have impacted me in some way. A couple of these novels aren’t what I would consider to be favourites of mine, but they are all ones that have stuck with me in some way, or have been an introduction into something I love to see in books now.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with her foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


I remember first seeing this novel in a WH Smiths Bookshop at an airport, the cover and the description both really caught my attention. At the time I didn’t have enough pocket money to buy it so I, unfortunately, had to leave it there. After coming back from my holiday I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about the novel so I was determined to find it! I’m so pleased I did as it was such a beautiful novel and unlike anything I had ever read before. As a child I did read quite a lot of fiction around WWII but this one just stood out to me. I loved all of the characters, especially Liesel and the friendship she had with Max who her family was hiding in their basement. I don’t imagine there’s anyone who hasn’t read this novel now, but if you haven’t it is well worth picking up!

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

Claire and her mother are running out of time, but they don’t know it. Not yet. Claire is wrapped up with the difficulties of her bourgeoning adulthood—boys, school, friends, identity; Claire’s mother, a single mom, is rushed off her feet both at work and at home. They rarely find themselves in the same room at the same time, and it often seems that the only thing they can count on are notes to each other on the refrigerator door. When home is threatened by a crisis, their relationship experiences a momentous change. Forced to reevaluate the delicate balance between their personal lives and their bond as mother and daughter, Claire and her mother find new love and devotion for one another deeper than anything they had ever imagined.

This is either the first book, or one of the first books, that I ever read which made me realise that novels didn’t have to be written in continuous prose in order to be a good book or tell a great story. Whilst it’s been years since I read this novel, I remember enjoying the way the story was told – through a series of notes that a mother and her teenage daughter would leave each other as they rarely saw each other. Whether the novel still stands up now the same as it did when I first read it, I’m not entirely sure, but the fact that I did read this novel so long ago and I can still remember how it was written and how it ended shows that it did make a lasting impression on me. Even now, I seek out novels that subvert the norm in terms of structure.

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the remarkable story of a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Here Haruki Murakami—one of the most revered voices in literature today—gives us a story of love, friend­ship, and heartbreak for the ages.

This novel was my first exposure to Japanese fiction, I had no idea when I picked this novel up that it would spark an interest in the genre which has now become one of my favourites. Even before I understood the nuances of translated fiction and how different Japanese novels are from Western ones, I could tell there was something unique about the way it was written. That this storytelling and characters was very different to what I was used to. This is also a fabulous novel if you have never read a Murakami before!

1984 by George Orwell

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .

When I was in Sixth Form I was really into dystopian fiction, however I had never read 1984 even though it was said to be one of the greats of the genre. So, I knew that I needed to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about. I adored this novel and quickly understood why so many people still talk about it today and why there are so many references to the novel in everyday life. The future that Orwell imagined was a chilling one, that coupled with the complicated and, not always likeable, characters, really packed a punch. So much so that it was this novel that inspired my dissertation looking into dystopian fiction and how I branched out of YA dystopian novels to classic ones and ‘adult’ ones.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son—and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.

But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth—more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.

A few years ago I went through a phase of reading a lot of Stephen King novels, however out of the ones I read there was only one that managed to actually scare me and that was Pet Semetary. I’m not sure what exactly it was about this novel that I found so creepy compared to his others that I had read too. There was just something about the way King described the characters after they had been buried in the Pet Semetary, that was incredibly unsettling. What probably didn’t help was the fact that I was reading this on holiday and where we was staying was close to a cemetery. But the point still stands!

What books have you read that have impacted or influenced you in some way? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 Friday – LGBTQI+ Books I’ve Read

In the UK, February is LGBTQI+ month. In light of this (and the fact I have been single on Valentine’s day for 25 consecutive years) I wanted my features this month to focus on LGBTQI+ literature. So, here are my top 5 novels that feature LGBTQI+ characters.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

Okay, so I know this is a graphic novel rather than a ‘traditional’ novel but I love it so I’m including it! This also is more of a memoir rather than a work of fiction. Not only is the art style fantastic but the way Bechdel depicts her realisation of her own identity is wonderful. This graphic novel has it all, tragedy, here, humour and drama but, ultimately, it is very real and it’s one of the most powerful novels I read at university. As an aside, this has also been adapted into a fabulous musical too!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

I loved this depiction of Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship, especially because it was from Patroclus’ perspective. I especially loved how this novel documented the relationship from the very beginning. We see the boys learn to navigate their relationship and gradually become men fighting a war. Whilst the stories of Achilles often focus on the bravery and brutality of the warrior (which was still present in this novel) but, we also got to see a softer side to him too. Be warned, if you do pick this novel up, make sure you’re got tissues on hand!

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born. It tells of Vietnam, of the lasting impact of war, and of his family’s struggle to forge a new future. And it serves as a doorway into parts of Little Dog’s life his mother has never known – episodes of bewilderment, fear and passion – all the while moving closer to an unforgettable revelation.

This short novel is a lovely letter a son has written to his mother. I loved how raw and poignant his letter was illustrating what he has been through as a gay man. Although he is writing this letter to his mother, he knows she won’t be able to read it which allows him to be honest in a way that is heart wrenching. Not only does this novella cover the struggles he faced as a gay man, but also the struggles of being an immigrant in America. This is a beautiful and fascinating account which I still think about even months after finishing the book.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love…or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.

This fantasy novel wonderfully explored the intricacies of court politics. Our protagonist finds herself holding the mantle of the Winter Duke after her entire family mysteriously falls ill during an event where her brother was to choose his wife. So, naturally, Ekata decides to choose one of the ladies for herself instead of being forced into the marriage that her father’s counsel wants her to. I really loved the dynamic between Ekata and Inkar, seeing them go from being strangers trying to make the best of a bad situation to becoming a genuine and believable couple (not just one for political gain) as the novel progressed.

The Binding by Bridget Collins

Books are dangerous things in Collins’s alternate universe, a place vaguely reminiscent of 19th-century England. It’s a world in which people visit book binders to rid themselves of painful or treacherous memories.

After having suffered some sort of mental collapse and no longer able to keep up with his farm chores, Emmett Farmer is sent to the workshop of one such binder to live and work as her apprentice. Leaving behind home and family, Emmett slowly regains his health while learning the binding trade. He is forbidden to enter the locked room where books are stored, so he spends many months marbling end pages, tooling leather book covers, and gilding edges. But his curiosity is piqued by the people who come and go from the inner sanctum, and the arrival of the lordly Lucian Darnay, with whom he senses a connection, changes everything. 

I was bought this novel as a gift during a time where I wasn’t reading as much as I usually would, therefore I didn’t actually know anything about this novel going into it. I feel like I can’t talk about this one as much as the others because of spoilers, but just know that I adored the two boys in this story and what happened to them in the past to bring them to their situations in the present. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it.

Whilst I was compiling this list I was surprised, but not shocked, at the lack of novels I’ve read that would be considered ‘own voice’ novels. Yes, there are a couple on this list, but not as many as I would like as I think it’s incredibly important to read LGBTQI+ own voices novels. However, I will be discussing this further in my Thoughtful Thursday feature coming next week!

What are some of your favourite LGBTQI+ novels? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 Friday – Most Anticipated Reads of 2021 (Part One)

There are so many amazing books coming out in 2021, so I thought that I would start with five of my anticipated reads of the year that will be coming out in the Spring, I’m going to split this list into parts and post them throughout the year. These parts are grouped by release date so you know what is coming soon and won’t have to wait too long!

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release Date: 2 March 2021

“Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.”

When I discovered earlier last year that Kazuo Ishiguro was releasing a new novel I was thrilled – I was less thrilled to see March 2021 as its release date but the wait is finally nearly over! I adored Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go so much to that it was one of the texts I analysed in my dissertation. The fact that the novel is set around AI (Artificial Intelligence), which fascinates me, has me even more eager to get my hands on it!

Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro

Publisher: Tinder Press
Release Date: 25 March 2021

It’s a lonely life for Stan, at a new school that feels more ordeal than fresh start, and at home where he and his mother struggle to break the silence after his father’s death. When he encounters fearless, clever Charlie on the local common, all of that begins to change. Charlie’s curiosity is infectious, and it is Charlie who teaches Stan, for the first time, to stand on his own two feet. But will their unit of two be strong enough to endure in a world that offers these boys such different prospects?

Naomi Ishiguro actually has two books out this year that I will be picking up, both of which I am looking forward to (Escape Routes came out in hardback early 2020 but the paperback is released on 21 January 2021 which is what I’ve been waiting for!). I decided to highlight this one in particular as, not only is it being published for the first time this year but, I am a huge sucker for stories that focus on friendships, especially the hardships over the years. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a copy of this novel from NetGalley and I can’t wait to get stuck into it.

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Release Date: 6 April 2021

The eight masterly stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music, and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.

One of my favourite authors is Haruki Murakami and I’m slowly working my way through his works. When I was checking out which books I had left to read I discovered that he has a new short story collection coming out this year. So, naturally, this has to make it onto this list. I especially love mysterious form so when it is unclear whether some of the narrators of these stories are Murakami himself – it just makes it even more exciting!

Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

Publisher: Transworld Publishers
Release Date: 22 April 2021

Seven students are avoiding going to school, hiding in their darkened bedrooms, unable to face their family and friends, until the moment they discover a portal into another world that offers temporary escape from their stressful lives. Passing through a glowing mirror, they gather in a magnificent castle which becomes their playground and refuge during school hours. The students are tasked with locating a key, hidden somewhere in the castle, that will allow whoever finds it to be granted one wish. At this moment, the castle will vanish, along with all memories they may have of their adventure. If they fail to leave the castle by 5 pm every afternoon, they will be eaten by the keeper of the castle, an easily provoked and shrill creature named the Wolf Queen.

This novel sounds like the perfect combination of fairytale and mystery all set (sort of) in my favourite city, Tokyo. I’m drawn in just by the description alone, it feels like it will be a magical read but not just because of its fantasy setting. I can’t wait to meet these characters and hear their stories.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Publisher: Wildfire
Release Date: 29 April 2021

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

As many of you may have noticed, last year I was on a huge Greek mythology book kick – especially when it came to the women in Greek mythology. I was already somewhat familiar with the character of Ariadne due to Madeline Miller’s Circe, but I wanted to learn more about her – so when I found out about this novel on Twitter I immediately added it to my Waterstones’ wish list. Since then I have been lucky enough to be approved a copy of the novel on NetGalley – although the cover alone is worth getting a physical copy of this book too!

These are just a handful of titles I’m excited about to start the year off with! What releases are you excited about this year? Which books out of my five are you most interested in checking out?