Book Recommendations: March 2021

It’s that time again! I’ve ended up choosing four books again, but this time in a blue colour scheme. It didn’t start out that way, but I realised I picked three books the same colour, and the fourth just had to stay that way too.

The colour scheme has no weight against how good these books are. They’re some of my favourites, hence the picking. There’s a mix of fantasy, young adult, and non-fiction as always.

So, onto my March picks!

My Book Recommendations

Fantasy: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Synopsis:

God is dead. Meet the kids.

Fat Charlie Nancy is not having a good week. His estranged father recently dropped dead on a karaoke stage and has left Fat Charlie with much more than just embarrassment. Because, you see, Charlie has discovered that his dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi the trickster spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and even baffle the devil. No wonder Fat Charlie’s life is about to be turned upside down.

Written by one of fiction’s most audaciously original talents, Anansi Boys is a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that is at once startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny.

Why I recommend:

I absolutely love Neil Gaiman’s work, and I also love anything related to myths and legends, so this book went down a treat. 

Related in part to American Gods – just because Anansi appears in that too, this particular book is all about Anansi God’s son Fat Charlie and his revelation to who he is – or rather, who his father was. Fat Charlie’s brother, Spider, turns up fairly early in the book, and he has to deal with his appearance and the results of which.

I really liked the fun and folklore of this book. To be honest, as someone who loves myths and legends from around the world I just find it frustrating that there’s not enough books about myths that aren’t Viking or Greek or Celtic. I’m glad to see that over the past few years more books are coming out that shine a light on other myths, such as African or South American myths, and I’m truly excited that there are.

Yes, this book is written by a white male writer, writing about African myths, but I still very much enjoyed it. There’s no spoilers here, but I thoroughly recommend anything by Neil Gaiman as he is amazing at writing fantasy.

It’s 5 out of 5 stars from me. [Last read in 2013]

Young Adult: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.

To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

Why I recommend

Oh My God. I adored this book! It was creepy, enticing, and certainly not something I want to read after midnight…!

It’s got a fairytale, almost mythical theme running through it, but you don’t really fully get absorbed into the realities of this fairytale element until later in the book. At the start, you have no idea what’s to come. And there, I won’t spoil it.

Alice is a strong character, and I really liked her as well as her friend Ellery Finch. All you know about Alice at the beginning is that she’s been on the road much of her life with her mother, and that there is an estranged relationship between her mother and grandmother. Then, her grandmother dies and her mother disappears, so what choice does Alice have but to go on the hunt?

The story itself is beautifully crafted and keeps you on tenterhooks throughout. It’s a must read again and again, and now I just need the second book.

It’s 5 out of 5 stars from me. [Last read in 2018]

Fiction: The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

Synopsis

Sally Lockhart’s father was an unconventional man who preferred to teach his daughter how to run a business and shoot straight from a pistol, rather than school her in the social graces expected of a young lady. When he dies suddenly and unexpectedly, on a voyage to the Far East, Sally receives a mysterious letter containing a strange warning – one that is to lead to yet another unexpected death. Soon Sally finds herself at the heart of a deep and dangerous mystery, and one which she is determined to solve at all costs.

Why I recommend

By the author of His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke is a bit of a different genre but no less readable. A mystery spanning years, culminating in the secrets hidden from Sally Lockhart at the beginning of the book, you learn right along with her who her father was. 

There’s a BBC series that was done for this too, quite a number of years ago, but I never quite got on with Billie Piper playing Sally Lockhart. Sally is a strong, independent character even in the time period that she lives, and I loved the other characters throughout. They were distinct and unique, and a testament to Pullman’s writing.

Now, I didn’t enjoy this as much as His Dark Materials, but this book – and the series – are enjoyable reads. If you like a bit of murder mystery, with a feel for Young Adult, then this is right up your alley.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Non-fiction: Ikigai; The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

Synopsis

“Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.” (Japanese proverb)

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai – a reason for living. And according to the residents of the Japanese village with the world’s longest-living people, finding it is the key to a happier and longer life. Having a strong sense of ikigai – the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect – means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning. It’s also the reason many Japanese never really retire (in fact there’s no word in Japanese that means retire in the sense it does in English): They remain active and work at what they enjoy, because they’ve found a real purpose in life – the happiness of always being busy. In researching this book, the authors interviewed the residents of the Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds – one of the world’s Blue Zones. Ikigai reveals the secrets to their longevity and happiness: how they eat, how they move, how they work, how they foster collaboration and community, and – their best-kept secret – how they find the ikigai that brings satisfaction to their lives. And it provides practical tools to help you discover your own ikigai. Because who doesn’t want to find happiness in every day?

Why I recommend:

Ok, ok, I’ll admit – I did not read this all in one sitting. I dipped in and out at my leisure, and that’s one of the great things about this book. Maybe someone could see it as a coffee table book, but if you’re on the hunt for your own Ikigai, this book is for you. 

It’s not a heavy, full-on book either, as the book is set into distinct chapters. I really loved the Ikigai diagram when you first read it and set-to to input my own skills and dreams into it to find my purpose.

Overall the book is easy to digest, and easy to get through. Like I said, you can dip in and out if you wish, or read all the way through. It’s inspiring and potentially life-changing. It honestly is a must-read if you’re feeling stuck in life.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars. [Read in 2019]


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