One Minute Book Reviews: What I've Been Reading This Spring

30 Jun 2023

Spring reading

Light-hearted reads? Female friendships? Honest motherhood? Can’t-put-down-brilliance? I got you. Let’s dive in to what I’ve been reading in March, April & May. 

A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers 

Set hundreds of years in the future after humans have left planet Earth, we follow a team of misfits working on a tunnelling ship who are travelling across space to tunnel a wormhole to a distant planet. Along the way, they have to deal with mishaps and danger, and bond together as a family. 

This was a surprisingly wholesome book, full of adorable characters and gentle adventure. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting; I thought I’d be reading a fast-paced plot, but this was mostly character-driven and was perhaps a little cheesy in places. But the level of detail in the world building was very impressive and I’d read the further novels in the series. Also, I loved the cover and the fact this started out life as a self-published novel via a Kickstarter campaign. 3.5/5

Holding the Baby: Milk, sweat & tears from the frontline of motherhood by Nell Frizzell 

Part memoir, part manifesto, this book sets out to understand why we treat parenthood as an individual slog rather than a cultural responsibility. Via extremely honest stories of her own experiences of sleep deprivation, childcare and maternal rage, the author draws on latest research to explore issues such as the effect of parenting on our careers, the affordability of childcare and why, if parenting is so difficult, why does anyone do it more than once? 

Complete with quirky sketches that made me snort, this was one of the most accurate depictions of modern-day motherhood that I’ve come across, delving right into a lot of the unspoken ‘taboo’ topics. I found it immensely comforting and extremely funny. I would recommend this to everyone because I think we could all be better educated on the ways society repeatedly fails young children and those raising them, but I’d particularly recommend to all parents, especially those in the early years. 4.5/5 

Spilt Milk by Amy Beashel 

Ooo this was an interesting one. A story about a mother of a young child who accidentally publishes a blog post about her intentions to have a termination of her second child, without telling her husband, and the subsequent fallout of the post. This novel dealt with some really interesting issues, not-regretting-but-regretting motherhood, the division of labour between couples, the grief of losing a parent, the relentlessness of modern-day parenting, the danger of the things left unsaid, influencer and cancel culture, and media manipulation… to name a few! I thought it was a bold and brave novel, but I did struggle with the likeability of the characters. Ultimately, I found I didn’t really care that much if the couple at the heart of the story worked through their problems and, whilst I liked the intention behind the ending, I found it a touch unrealistic and an indication of the unrecognised privilege of the characters. 3/5 

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page 

Two best friends work in a 24-hour café just outside Liverpool Street station to support their efforts to become a dancer and a singer. Over the course of 24 hours, we learn about the history of their friendship, as well as the potential breakdown. At its heart, this is a story about the intensity of female friendships, but also how these friendships change as we get older, as well as that period of life in your late twenties/early thirties when things start to shift. In between, the novel is peppered with mini stories about the people drifting in and out of the café. Whilst a little slow in places, this was a lovely little novel full of the ups and downs of life. 3.5/5

Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes 

Had my eye on this book but couldn’t justify the full price (£22!) and then I found it for £3.90 on Vinted. What a win! A great read about two women who experience a bag mix-up at the gym which leads to a whole host of hilarity. Nisha lives a globetrotting, wealthy lifestyle until her husband inexplicably cuts her off entirely and she is left standing in her dressing gown and someone else’s shoes. Sam is struggling to keep herself and her family afloat whilst her husband suffers from depression and her boss bullies her until someone else’s shoes give her – and her career – a boost. Loved the hotel setting – think maid-in-Manhattan vibes – although, ultimately, the love story is about female friendships and women banding together. Inhaled this in twenty-four hours and was left with the happy, buzzy feeling of a noughties rom com. 4.5/5

The Odyssey by Lara Williams 

Ingrid works on a huge cruise liner rotating between the gift shop, nail salon, lifeguard duties and wherever else on the ship she may be allocated. On her days off, she disembarks the ship and gets wasted in whatever country she finds herself in. Then one day, she is selected for the captain’s ‘mentorship’ programme where she is pushed to the point that her carefully constructed life starts to fall apart. 

I’ll be honest, the only reason I finished this was because it is a short novel. I think otherwise, I would have given up because it was far too surreal and unsatisfactory for my liking. At first, I thought it was because I have become a little tired of the ‘disenfranchised millennial’ genre but ultimately, I just felt like the meaning was going over my head. I hoped for some kind of clarification at the end and was frustrated when I didn’t get it. A shame because I loved the author’s other novel, Supper Club, so I was disappointed with this one. 2/5

Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang 

A literary heist: young talented author, Athena Liu, dies in a freak accident and her ‘friend’, June Hayward, steals her unpublished manuscript and publishes it as her own under the ambiguous name Juniper Song. What follows is a juicy thriller giving fascinating insights into the publishing world, white privilege and social media cancel culture. This was my first experience reading something by Rebecca F. Kuang and I can’t wait to delve into her other work because this was a treat. What a talent to make such a dislikeable protagonist so compelling. I could not put this down and would highly recommend. 5/5

Happy reading folks x