Books mentioned and mini-reviews:
Roots by Tara O’Connor
This is an autobiographical comic about the author’s trip to Ireland, following the breakup of a relationship, to investigate her family roots. She flies across the ocean by herself, but finds herself falling in love with the friend who is acting as her tour guide, and her personal story goes in a direction she didn’t expect. It was short but sweet and a great way to start my year of reading!
Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning by Tom Vanderbilt (review copy from NetGalley)
When I saw this on NetGalley I thought it would be right up my street. I am a huge fan of lifelong learning, I am always trying to learn something new and have a huge range of hobbies, and I wasn’t disappointed. The author is obviously a very privileged, well-off man because he can afford to hire people to teach him, but there’s also a lot of useful information that can apply to you even if you have a smaller budget, like me! He meets and interviews various experts on specific skills as well as learning in general, providing nformation about how adults learn in contrast to how children and infants learn. One of the most useful things I learned was that learning multiple things at once is actually easier than learning one thing – I would have assumed it was the other way around!
Miracle on Christmas Street by Annie O’Neil (review copy from NetGalley)
This is a delightful Christmas novel about a woman who moves out of London to a small town, on to Christmas Street where they’re doing a real-life advent calendar, putting on activities for their neighbours. Her new house is number 14, so she’s day 14 and she’s really nervous about this, but people help her out and she slowly learns to love her neighbours and new home. There’s one fly in the ointment – the grumpy old man who lives at number 24, who doesn’t participate in the social life of the community at all. She becomes convinced that there’s something she can do to help him…will she overcome her personal issues and help him deal with his and reunite with his estranged grandson? It is Christmas, after all…
We Met in December by Rosie Curtis
Here we have the reverse of my previous read – this is about a woman who moves to London to work in publishing. A friend of hers inherited a big house in Notting Hill and decided to move in her friends and rent rooms to them for a discounted rate, which is perfect because publishing salaries are not wonderful! When she first meets her new housemates, she ends up having a late night flirty session with one of them, but then she goes off on holiday and he hooks up with one of the others, and she decides it wasn’t meant to be – plus there is a rule that there are to be no couples within the house! Despite this, as the new year begins they become friends, going on regular walks with each other, and slowly, unavoidably, they fall for each other. It’s a very slow-burn slow-building romance, and is quite gentle – if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want your romance reads to be too dramatic and angsty this is definitely the one for you!
The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I’d already read ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, the title story multiple times so I didn’t read it again, skipping straight past it to the rest of the collection. Unfortunately, the others are not as powerful – they’re not very complicated stories, almost all basically “competency porn” (if you’re not familiar with the phrase “competency porn” it’s just that – when characters are really good at their jobs and sorting out their lives). I enjoy watching and reading stories about competent characters, but seeing it over and over again made the collection feel quite shallow, and the collection lacked any class consciousness, but as Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a racist eugenicist this is hardly surprising!
Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by Alice Vincent
I have been savouring this memoir about relationships, gardening, and negotiating a relationship with London, for several months now. It’s a delicate, intriguing blend of personal reflection, travelogue and history, that made me want to read more of all of the above! I don’t think I’d read a memoir by anyone close to my age before, so that was interesting alone, but all the commentary on the history of gardening and the history of gardening in London was fascinating – there are many places she mentions that I want to visit now, and I’m looking forward to the days getting long enough for me to return to my own garden.
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine
I bought this for my partner Nick for Christmas and I saw him laughing at it a lot so I thought I would read it as well! I recognised an amazing number of situations from Nick’s life as a comic writer and our joint trips to conventions, it was really funny. It’s basically a collection of incidents from the author’s life as a cartoonist. I also love the design of the book, if you watch the video I show how it’s meant to look like a moleskine notebook!
Buy: Bookshop.org (affiliate link)
Jem and the Holograms Vol 1-5 and Infinite, written by Kelly Thompson, art by various
I am actually too young to have seen Jem, the cartoon that this contemporary update is based on, when it was originally broadcast – I watched it all online while I was a student in my early twenties! Nonetheless, I was still excited to read the comics, and I really enjoyed them. Jem and the Holograms is about a group of sisters who form a band, only lead sister, Jerrica, is afraid of performing in front of anyone else. The solution comes in a highly unlikely form – they discover their father created an AI that can project holograms. One character-designing session later, and Jerrica makes her debut hidden behind the image of Jem. But although Jem makes her brave enough to perform, this creates a world of new problems for them, as she juggles two identities and the sisters try to keep Synergy, the AI, a secret. I really liked that the comic delved a bit more into these issues, while also keeping up the silly drama of their rivalry with bad-girl band, The Misfits. A lot of fans liked to imagine a romance between one of the one of the women in Jem and the Holograms, Kimber, and one of the women in The Misfits, Stormer, and the comic embraced this and made it one of the central plots, which I loved. But the plot holes and nonsense of the original Jem series are still there, so this isn’t one to think too seriously about!
If you were charmed by the original cartoon, I think you’ll enjoy this. I especially liked the Jem and the Holograms: Infinite book, which features a Jem and the Holograms-themed dystopia in an alternate universe, and I *loved* Sophie Campbell’s character design for Stormer, she was just so adorable!