Category Archives: Reading/reviews

How to be a Heroine (Or What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much)- Samantha Ellis

Synopsis (by me)

In ‘How To Be a Heroine’ Ellis revisits her bookish heroines from the past and evaluates whether they really deserved to be heroines, and why they were her heroines to begin with.


I mentioned in my review of Texts From Jane Eyre that this book has probably overtaken it in terms of book I am most likely to recommend. That’s probably true, although Texts from Jane Eyre may hold a wider appeal.

How to Be a Heroine is part memoir, part literary analysis, part feminist, part religious discussion. I didn’t expect all that. I expected a book simply about books.

It was interesting to see what Ellis got from her re-reads, and what her younger self had got from her initial reads. Sometimes she couldn’t see any heroism in the characters she had once wanted to emulate, sometimes she saw that the real heroines in the books were not the ones you would expect. Of course it all came together. Even if she couldn’t see someone as a heroine now they had helped shape her.

Ellis’ storytelling was what really drew me in. I really got a sense of what life was like for her, maybe because I saw some similarities with myself (whilst also having tons of differences).  I often wanted to read the books she had described when she wrote about reading them for the first time. Sometimes her more recent images made me change my mind, which was a shame in a way, but then maybe that means I’m not in the right stage of life or frame of mind to appreciate the books as she did first time. At other times her changes of mind made me want to read things more, or just the same, but maybe for different reasons.

I thoroughly recommend it, especially for female book readers (although there is no reason a man couldn’t enjoy it).


Buy it from amazon:

Hardback (£13.59)

Paperback (£9.99)

Kindle (£6.99)

Buy from an indie store (via Hive):

e-book (£7.99)

Other Reviews:

Lit Nerd

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Filed under Biography, Feminism, Memoir, non-fiction review, Politics, Reading/reviews

The End of Your Life Book Club- Will Schwalbe

The end of your life book club, will schwalbe, book, book review, cancerSynopsis (from amazon)

Mary Anne Schwalbe is waiting for her chemotherapy treatments when Will casually asks her what she’s reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books so they can have something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. Their choices range from classic (Howards End) to popular (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), from fantastic (The Hobbit) to spiritual (Jon Kabat-Zinn), with many in between. We hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions.


This book is about books, it’s about dying, and it’s about building a relationship. Will uses books to connect with his Mum. Sometimes they just choose books which they enjoy, but other times books are used to communicate with each other. Some things can be said so much more easily in words.

Mary Anne has a great belief in the power of words. She knows books which explain what she has seen during her work for international charities much better than she can see herself explaining. The books are also used for her a lot of the time as an opening to a wider topic. One of the last things she wants to do before she dies is to see the project she has been working on come to fruitation- that is the building of a library in Kabul, I think that says a lot about what she believes about the power of words.

There was something very admirable about Mary Anne. She had spent most of her adult life going to dangerous places, most notably Afghanistan, to help others, she’d been shot at, she’s caught diseases, she’s seen people in great suffering, but she’s not given up. Even when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer she has no self pity. She just worries that she won’t be able to do everything she wanted to do. She still says she is lucky in comparison to others. She is suffering, but she doesn’t complain and keeps trying to do everything she did before.

The book is really one which makes you pause and think, and it added a few books to my ever increasing wishlist. However I did find it was dragging a little in the middle, so if you can cope with two books at a time I’d recommend having something else on the go too (for me it was Dearly Devoted Dexter, which is about as far from this book as you can get!).


Buy it:
Kindle (£3.99)
Paperback (£5.75)
Hardback (£10.87)

Other Reviews:

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Filed under Biography, non-fiction review, Reading/reviews

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree- Nick Hornby

Synopsis (from the back of the book- because it’s what I want to say put more eloquently and the synopsis on Amazon, and on Waterstones, and Wikipedia are rubbish)

This is not a book of reviews. This is not a book which sneers at other books. This is a book about reading- about enjoying books whereever and however you find them.

Nick Hornby is first and foremost a reader and he approaches books like the rest of us: hoping to pick up one he can’t put down. The Complete Polysyllabic Spree is a diary of sorts, charting his reading life over two years. It is a celebration of why we read- its pleasures, its dissappointments and its surprises.

And above all, it is for you- the ever hopeful reader.


First I have to make clear this is not a books of reviews. Despite the synopsis (blurb, whatever you want to call it) saying this I still expected it to be. Yes he talked about how he felt about books but he didn’t so much talk about what they were about. I found this both intriguing and infuriating. When I like the sound of books he was talking about I wanted to know more, I wanted more on the content, or a little synopsis or something, but at the same time I feel if that mystery was gone I might not have been so interested, and this way I may read books I wouldn’t have usually. I like picking up books outside my usual circle, it’s the best way to discover something new you love and to expand your horizons, if you always read the same stuff how much could you be missing that you would love but just don’t look at? In that sense it had made me think about my reading (and as I read it as part of The Rory Gilmore book challenge it was in itself a books I wouldn’t usually read). In particular it made me think about my approach to reading books I’m not enjoying (the first review in this blog, from my blog thread– so before the WordPress blog started) was Rachel Ray a book I struggled with but kept reading because I hate abandoning books. I do already have a rule that I have to read 100 pages before abandoning, because I don’t think you can really get a feel for longer books before then but maybe I should be a bit more strict in what I call enjoying, there are so many books out there and so little time, why waste time on books you don’t enjoy.

I was glad when Hornby actually talked about a book I had read (early on he bought a copy of Norwegian Wood, a book I loved, but he didn’t read it, and I was disappointed) which was Death and the Penguin. It made me value his opinion more because it was a book he loved, and I had enjoyed- it made me feel I might be more likely to enjoy the books he had.

This book has really added to my wishlist. Thirteen books to be precise, plus one more I am unsure about and want to look in to more and one which I know my Mum owns so I can add straight to my To Be Read pile. I can’t decide if this is a good thing or not. Browsing Amazon and adding books to my wishlist is one of my favourite hobbies, and I love discovering new books. But at the same time I am trying not to spend any more money on books, especially as my rule that my TBR pile has to be in single figures before I can allow myself to buy more books has been broken so many times this year. I did find that I had to carry round a notebook with me when reading this book just so I could note down books I was interesting in. I wish I had my own copy so I could mark interesting passages and the books I wanted to read- unfortunately I borrowed this from the library and as I don’t think I’ll want to re-read it it’s not worth buying a copy now. If you are interested though I would say buy rather than borrow.

I have such a love hate relationship with this book that I have no idea what to rate it. I love it so much I want you all to read it, but at the same time I wish there was more, and that there was less so my wishlist wouldn’t have expanded so much! Less than 4 seems too low, but 4 and 5 seem too high. So take the rating with a pince of salt!


The additions to the Wishlist

George and Sam- Charlotte Moore

Old School- Tobias Wolff

No Name- Wilkie Collins (to be looked in to)

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World- Francis Wheen

Not Even Wrong- Paul Collins

True Notebooks- Mark Salzman

Assassination Vacation- Sarah Vowel

Early Bird- Rodney Rothman

Gilead- Marilynne Robinson

The Amateur Marriage- Anne Tyler

A Complicated Kindness- Miriam Toews

Then We Came to the End- Joshua Ferris

Running in the Family- Michael Ondaatje

Persepolis- Marjane Satrapi


Filed under non-fiction review, Reading/reviews