Tidelines Book Festival 2017

Yes, The Fourth Month blog still lives. I’m back to write about a book festival taking place in my very own hometown later this year. Forget about the Fringe! Tidelines is North Ayrshire’s only independent book festival. This year’s Tidelines festival (21-24 September) boasts Chris Brookmyre, 404 Ink, drams of whisky, banned books and prohibition cocktails amongst 18  fantastic events which will take place in 4 venues around Irvine’s Harbourside area.

Tidelines Book Festival 2017 is a book festival not just for bookish folk like me. The events range from TV drama to soul music to murder mysteries and fairy stories. A schools programme runs alongside the 18  events so there is plenty for the whole family to enjoy. This includes The McDougalls, who I can now vouch for as being wonderfully entertaining after a lively performance of Ally Bally at this year’s programme launch.

I’ve already booked tickets for Fiona Rintoul’s introduction of Whisky Island. Guests can enjoy three tasting drams as Fiona Rintoul’s new book celebrates the Isle of Islay, its people and eight legendary whisky distilleries. I’m looking forward to the book discussion but Jamie might be more excited about the whisky tasting.

I’m incredibly excited to take part in some of the events at the end of September and I think it’s a wonderful accolade that my hometown is hosting such a varied and inclusive event. Please support the festival by joining in! The full programme details are available at www.tidelinesbookfest.com. Tickets are now on sale from the Harbour Arts Centre and prices range from £5 to £8.


“Tidelines will serve you a feast of exciting authors, ready to enrich your love of reading and your passion for ideas. Get involved. Book your places. And see you there at Tidelines 2017, your very own festival of writing talent on your very own doorstep.” – Andrew O’Hagan

March Reading Round Up

This will be another short round up as I simply haven’t had time to read as much as I would have liked. I’m mostly proud that I’ve only fallen one book behind in my GoodReads challenge. In March, I read Girls Will Be Girls and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and I’ve made a good dent in All The Bright Places. Read on to find out what I thought…

Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently

IMG_0565

I finished this book at the beginning of March. It’s an autobiographical look at gender in modern-day society. I mentioned it in International Women’s Day: Books By Fierce Females because I think it is a fantastic insight into how we perceive and perform gender on an every day basis; from hair removal to the pronouns we use and the assumptions we make about people based on gender. I felt enlightened after reading it and found myself questioning the little things in life. Why is it women ‘do’ housework and men ‘help’? And why oh why does our hair matter so much? O’Toole makes sociological theory very accessible and I loved the combination of humour and light heartedness with a very heavy subject. I 100% recommend this to everyone!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Finally got around the reading the fourth book in the Harry Potter series. I liked it but not as much as I liked Prisoner of Azkaban. I think because I have watched the films and have endured the hype around these books for so many years, I find it difficult to enjoy them in their own right. I just can’t make myself love them as much as I know I should. Having said that, they do provide a great escape after a long, hard day. But seriously, the biggest takeaway from Goblet of Fire is…

Screenshot 2017-04-02 13.02.29

Did Not Finish… Yet

I’ve been listening to Sarah Knight’s The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*** on Audible and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s motivational and there have been some great takeaways. Knight makes you come up with a f*** budget in which you organise the time and energy you spend on certain things in life and how you could put your f*** bucks to better use. It’s making me realise how much energy I put into things that really don’t matter i.e why should I care what people think of me if I don’t want to go out and party every other weekend? But, ultimately, I’m finding it a bit repetitive. It’s more of a series of examples of things you should and shouldn’t give a f*** about and Sarah Knight swearing a lot. I am going to finish it but, like I said, I’m not sure how I feel.

Coming Up

img_1559

I’m currently reading All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It’s been in my TBR pile since last summer but for some reason there were always other books to read beforehand. I’m about 200 pages in and I love it. It’s just the kind of fun YA respite I needed to get out of another reading slump. If you haven’t heard about it (i.e you’ve been living under a rock), it’s contemporary fiction folllowing two young adults who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. It deals with harrowing subjects like domestic abuse, death and depression without overburderning the reader. It’s going to be a film in 2018, I’m looking forward to that, and it won the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult fiction in 2015. Plus Theodore Finch is such a cute lead character. I like his weirdness and the way he makes up different personas for himself; it reminds me of my own boyfriend.

IMG_0818

Next on my reading list is THE MAKING OF HER by Susan Nott-Bower published by Linen Press – the indie press I’m currently interning for. I was captured by this cover which I just adore. Seriously, it’s so striking and enigmatic. The novel looks at the vulnerabilties of older women in a society which values youth over wisdom and beauty over experience.

A truly intelligent, incisive page-turner with so much to say about women’s lives – a sharp, satisfying treat of a read!
— Kate Harrison, author of The Secret Shopper novels


International Women’s Day: Books By Fierce Females

Happy International Women’s Day!

While I think we should be shouting the praises of our favourite women every day, today is the perfect chance to celebrate fierce females from across the world and in different communities. I’m very proud to work and study alongside some wonderful ladies and I’m also over the moon to be working for the UK’s only independent women’s press, Linen Press. They publish books written by diverse women about a wide range of topics; please check them out.

Honestly, I mostly only read books by women. It’s never been an active decision but I love reading female voices and I studied gender issues a lot in my undergraduate degree so my bookshelves are filled with more or less exclusively female authors. However, for the sake of International Women’s Day, and because my dear friend Eilidh requested this blog a while ago, I’m going to do a top ten of some of my personal favourite books by women.


1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I am starting to impress myself with my ability to include this book in every reading list I have ever written – see My Top 5 Books of 2016The Liebster Award and Classic Bibliophile Literary Designs for more about my love for this book. Jane Eyre is my all-time favourite book. It follows Jane on a journey of self-discovery. She falls in love but refuses to sacrifices her sense of self for a man. It was completely innovative and ambitious at the time and Brontë managed to create one of the most badass women in literary history.

2. Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O’Toole

This is a bit sneaky because I haven’t actually finished it yet. However, I’m confident that it will continue to be awesome so I’m going to recommend it anyway. It was chosen as the Napier Literary Society ‘Book of the Month’ for International Women’s Day and I recommend it to everyone. It’s a non-fiction book looking at the way we perform gender and O’Toole tackles everything from underarm hair to pronouns. I think this should be handed out to every new student at University because it provides a very clear overview of gender.

3. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Another one of my all-time favouritesThe Miniaturist tells the story of a young woman living in 17th-century Amsterdam with her new wealthy husband. Deep secrets are revealed and nothing is as it seems as Burton explores modern-day issues of gender and sexuality in an otherworldly and magical setting. I get really annoyed when people haven’t read this book because it is SO GOOD. Read it now!

4. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of postmodernist fairytale retellings and it is awesome. It’s dark, sexy and sinister and you will never look at the Disney princesses in the same way again once you’ve read it. Carter plays with gender and sexuality and flips classic fairy tales on their head. There are a few Beauty and the Beast retellings in there which is quite relevant considering the impending release of the new B&TB movie.

5. Minaret by Leila Aboulela

I happened upon this book during my final year at Glasgow Uni when I was studying postcolonial literature and it is a hidden treasure. This novel tells the story of Najwa, a Muslim woman living a life of luxury in Sudan until a coup forces Najwa and her family into political exile in London. This book was a real eye-opener for me and I loved that it doesn’t play into the stereotype of Muslim woman as victim. Najwa’s faith is her strength and it’s really beautiful.

6. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

This was the book that made me realise I was a feminist. I read it when I was about eighteen years old when I was just discovering who I was as a young woman. In this memoir, Moran makes you laugh, makes you angry and makes you proud to be a woman. I really recommend it to any young woman leaving school and figuring out where they stand in the big bad world. Moran will sort you out.

7. Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy by Chitra Ramaswamy

When I first found out that I had to read a book about pregnancy for the SYP Saltire Awards I was a bit anxious. What did I know about pregnancy? What did I want to know about pregnancy? But fear not! This book is an utterly charming yet raw memoir about Ramaswamy’s experience of pregnancy, same-sex parenthood and life as a minority. She is incredibly intelligent and has a penchant for “name-dropping” some of the best literature in history.

8. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

My most recent read, Big Magicis inspirational not just because it was written by a very cool lady. It talks all about the anxieties we feel as creative people and how we can learn to overcome them. I wrote a bit more about it in my February Reading Round Up so check that out if you’re interested. I listened to it on audiobook and I’d recommend this format because Elizabeth Gilbert really sells her own stories.

9. Sula by Toni Morrison

All hail Queen Toni. Sula is a novel about two friends growing up in the Bottom, a mostly black neighbourhood in Ohio. Morrison has a huge talent for exploring female friendships and Sula is no exception. The eponymous character, Sula, is a disruptive and dangerous force who challenges gender and moral expectations while her friend, Nel, is an incredibly resilient woman determined to rewrite her own story.

10. Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann

I wrote my dissertation partly on this book. It is relatively unknown in the UK but I’m determined to get more people reading it. Ingeborg Bachmann is the Austrian equivalent of Sylvia Plath – although she is incredibly unique and I probably shouldn’t reduce her to a comparison like that. Malina is a crazy, topsy-turvy novel about an unnamed female writer and her relationship with two different men. Trigger warning: features very upsetting scenes including sexual and violent abuse by the narrator’s father.


There are so many books written by women that I absolutely love but alas I have Uni deadlines and cannot spend my life writing them all down. Comment below with your favourites.

Let’s chat about awesome women on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

February Reading Round Up

This February Reading Round Up blog will be short and sweet because I only managed to read a grand total of ONE book in February (Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert on audiobook). My Read More, Worry Less philosophy has taken a back seat to University and work because I’m making a book and a magazine. I’m one book behind schedule in my GoodReads challenge but I’m confident I’ll catch up in March.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic

Luckily, the one book that I did read was amazing. Big Magic was recommended to me by fellow MSc Publishing student and booktuber, Kellie Jones. I was a huge fan of Eat, Pray, Love so I was excited to listen to this and I wasn’t disappointed. Big Magic is all about creative living and Gilbert shares tales from different points in her life and career as a writer. It is incredibly inspirational and I recommend it to any fellow creatives: writers, painters, filmmakers alike. It’s funny, emotional and completely relatable if you’ve ever made something. Gilbert tapped into a lot of my own anxieties as a creative person.

How do I financially support myself until I make it? Gilbert says: make it work and don’t expect your creativity to support you. Get a shitty job and create in your spare time. Stop putting pressure on your creative work to pay your bills.

What if it’s not good enough? Gilbert says ‘Who cares?’ I loved, loved, loved Gilbert’s attitude towards high art versus low art. As someone who loves reading and writing romantic fiction but also studied English Literature at a prestigious University, I am torn between passion and self-criticism. Gilbert says: done is better than good. I’m going to carry this philosophy around with me. It’s time to stop worrying about whether my next book will win literary awards and just enjoy the creative process. I love writing love stories and I’m going to stop apologising for that.

Overall: I’d give this audiobook a big whopping 5 STARS.

Did Not Finish

Part of the reason I didn’t finish many books in February is because I kept starting books and giving up on them.

  • I was reading The Argonauts for Napier Lit Soc but I really didn’t enjoy how verbose it is. I can appreciate its value and I wanted to love it but I couldn’t relax into it.
  • As for The Falconer, I will come back to it. I like the premise and I was enjoying it at first. I’m just really struggling with YA fantasy in general right now.
  • I picked up Start With Why at work because I really like Sinek’s motivational speeches on YouTube but this book was repetitive and geared towards business rather than general self-help.

Currently Reading

Coming up in March… I’m reading The Goblet of Fire for the FIRST TIME and cherishing it. I may not be a Potterhead but it’s undeniably a brilliant story. I’m also finishing up Girls Will Be Girls for Napier Lit Soc and I’m obsessed with it. It has reignited a spark in the same way that reading How To Be A Woman did back in the day.


As always remember to tweet me and check out my #bookstagram.

Changes

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies – Unknown


Change is scary but it doesn’t always have to be. When I first started studying publishing, we were told that publishers have to be leaders of change so I’ve tried to embrace the changes I’ve faced in the past six months rather than be lead by them. A new home, new friends, new chapters in my relationship and my career.

The reason I’m wittering on about the joys of change is because The Fourth Month is evolving. When I started blogging in Summer 2016 my focus was on three main areas: book reviews, vegetarian recipes and ethical lifestyle tips: shopping and wellbeing. I mostly started blogging because I had broken my leg and couldn’t get off the couch. However, I have become increasingly frustrated with the broadness of the categories and I find it difficult to sit down and write without real focus. For this reason, I decided to give my blog a niche.

But what niche? I have decided that The Fourth Month will now focus solely on the publishing industry and all things literary.

I have loved writing reviews of cruelty-free beauty products, talking about homeware and giving wellbeing tips. If you like this kind of content, please follow Turadh Magazine, a wellbeing magazine with a focus on ethical living and mindfulness, that I am working on with my classmates. I am really excited about the blogs we are writing over there and I can’t wait to show you the finished product. We’ll be vocally supporting a cruelty-free life and independent shopping just as The Fourth Month has done until now.

I hope I don’t lose too much support with this change. I think it’ll be a much more enjoyable reading experience for you all. I plan to blog weekly about the things I’m learning in my degree, my work experience and about the publishing industry; this should be interesting for any writers or wannabe publishers like me! I’ll continue writing book reviews but am moving towards ’round-up’ and ‘to-be-read list’ blogs instead of individual reviews.

Please let me know what you think about these changes on Twitter and stay updated on Instagram.

Sweet Home by Carys Bray

Moving to Edinburgh to study Publishing has changed my life. I’ve worked on so many exciting projects and one of those is launching a Literary Society at Edinburgh Napier University. Myself, Kellie Jones (check out her Booktube) and Sarah Barnard (a fellow book blogger) were surprised to discover that there wasn’t already a bookish society at the University so we teamed up to create one. Shameless plug: if you’re in Edinburgh and want to chat about books, you can join the society here. If you’re not, you can still check out our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages for more info.

We’ve been running monthly book clubs and for our January Book Club, we were reading Sweet Home by the talented Carys Bray. It’s a collection of short stories about family and home life. Here’s my review:

I voted to read Sweet Home for our January Book Club purely based on the cover. You might’ve guessed that I’m a sucker for all things pastel and the aesthetic for Sweet Home is very cute. It also sounded intriguing: a collection of short stories “with psychological insight and a lightness of touch frequently found in fairy tales” and an exploration of “loss, disappointment, frustrated expectations and regret.” I mentioned in my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas that I’m a fan of fairytale retellings so Sweet Home captured my interest.

I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed this book. Magic and nostalgia are tangible in a way that reminds me of Jessie Burton‘s writing. Some of the stories pick away at the small and seemingly insignificant moments in life, like a mother taking her daughter to swimming lessons or a bereaving pensioner whose bra gets caught in the hedge. Carys Bray makes the mundane magical with her elegant prose. Certain phrases would just catch my breath: “tentative, slipper-finding feet.” How can someone make putting slippers on sound so delicate?

Other stories are truly fantastical, like the man who carves a baby out of ice, the supermarket that sells live babies in boxes (complete with a reduced section for the less appealing models) and the old woman living in a gingerbread house, a story which is a clear allegory for immigration in modern Britain. These magical tales have a hint of Angela Carter about them, only less sordid and more quaint. Nothing truly leaves the real world.

As the picture of the perfect dollhouse with a burnt roof on the cover suggests, “the real world” and family life are never as perfect as we would like them to be. In particular, many of the parents in this collection are trying to be the best or, at least, better than their own parents, but are continually failing to win the hearts of their children. There is an ocean of misunderstanding between children and their parents in many of these stories and a sense of I won’t turn out like my parents. These are feelings which I’m sure most readers can relate to from God, mum, you just don’t get it! all the way to Why can’t my child see how hard I’m trying? Why can’t I forgive myself for my imperfections? Nobody seems to be winning Mother of the Year award in Sweet Home but it’s the flaws which make these characters so relatable. I found myself nodding along with their struggles not because I know what it’s like to be a parent (not for a long time) or because I’ve ever carved a baby out of ice but because everyone has their own experiences of family that they can draw from.

It is not just the sadness of a mother at the end of her tether that got to me, genuine heartache pervades many of these stories. Death of children, death of siblings, death of spouses; you name it and Carys Bray bravely tackles it in this collection. There’s a story of a young boy and his sister finding a dead bird in the garden and burying it. Later, we discover that the boy’s sister dies and he goes back to uncover the remains of the bird. We see the pain and trauma of death through the innocent and ignorance of childhood and it’s heartwrenching. I finished this book feeling just a little bit sad but hopeful that despite all the horrible things that happen, there is still magic and lightness in the world.

This is a beautiful collection of short stories that captured my heart and started my 2017 reading list off on a high-note. I can’t tell if Bray makes the monotonous more magical or if the magical becomes more grounded in reality? Either way, it is lovely. I’m definitely going to buy and read more Carys Bray because her writing style is very much up my street. Bonus point: she’s really nice and tweeted the Napier Literary Society on the run up to our book club.

Proof of her niceness:

Screen Shot 2017-01-28 at 09.04.33.png


Have you read anything by Carys Bray? If you have, let me know by commenting below or getting in touch on Twitter and Instagram.

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

My 2017 mantra is Read More, Worry Less. 2016 was a great year for me despite all the political and cultural upheaval that was going on but the big changes (graduating, moving to Edinburgh and starting a degree in Publishing) meant I didn’t read as much as I would’ve liked. I just managed to hit my thirty books target on GoodReads and I know that’s a relatively small number compared to some of you bookworms. This year I’d like to read forty books and to help reach my target, I’ve decided to embrace audiobooks. Until now, I had never listened to an audiobook and dismissed it along with eBooks as a poor substitute for the real thing but no more!

Here’s my review of The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo which I listened to on Audible narrated by the author herself.

Recently, I put a plea out on Twitter for advice on audiobooks. Are they good? Worth the money? What kind of books would you recommend listening to? I got a month’s free subscription to Audible, which gives you a free credit towards any audiobook. I had heard The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo was an amazing read from a classmate and I had already proclaimed it as my most anticipated read in 2016 yet never got around to reading it. The lovely @readingandinked recommended it as an audiobook along with Amy Poehler’s autobiography, Lauren Graham’s autobiography and The Power of Habit, which are now all on my radar.

First of all, I am not a big Amy Schumer fan. I’m not not a fan but I’ve only really encountered her in Trainwreck. I’ve not watched her comedy sketches or her TV show so I was fairly in the dark about Amy who seemed to explode onto the comedy scene really quickly. I have friends who love her and I liked that she talks about body positivity and sexuality in a frank and fun way that I can relate to. Although, I am aware that Amy Schumer 100% does not speak for womankind – a point which she makes clear in her book – and that she cannot and does not pretend to represent everyone. However, I personally found myself drawn to her especially after her Pirelli Calander shoot with Annie Lebowitz. THOSE TUMMY ROLLS ARE EVERYTHING!

After listening to The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, I am officially a fan. Having her voice in my ears for eight whole hours made me feel like she’s my best friend. If you’re unsure about Amy Schumer, read this book. Not only is she as witty and self-deprecating as I expected but there were a lot of surprises including her difficult relationship with her parents: a boozy lothario father who becomes a tragic hero when he develops Multiple Sclerosis and a cheating and manipulative mother. She doesn’t hold back about relationships including a rather harrowing account of an abusive relationship with one boyfriend. I had shivers when she talked about her realisation that she was in a violent relationship. Like many women, she thought she couldn’t possibly be a victim. She was a strong, bubbly and intelligent woman yet she found herself in the hands of an abusive lover. Amy makes a plea to her readers to know that this can happen to anyone.

In fact, the whole book feels like a letter to young people (especially women). Each chapter brings another nugget of wisdom: it’s okay to have shitty parents, it’s fine to admit you’re weak, you’re allowed to make mistakes (like a regrettable lower back tattoo) and it’s cool to be a woman and enjoy having sex. Although, Amy surprised me by admitting that she has only had one ‘one night stand.’ I think her celebrity persona plays upon her open sexuality and I had a preconception that she had had a lot more sex than she actually has. Most of her experiences have been in relationships but by no means does she condemn anyone that has one-night-affairs. I liked that. She wasn’t saying GO HAVE SEX WITH EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING nor was she advocating for only having sex with long-term partners. It was more: you do you (as long as it’s consensual).

However, this book is not just a string of hapless relationships. Amy talks emotively about her father’s illness, about her determination to become a successful comedian (that girl put in some serious graft) and about just being happy with yourself:

Love yourself. You don’t need a man, or a boy, or a self-proclaimed love expert to tell you what you’re worth. Your power comes from who you are and what you do. You don’t need all that noise – that constant hum in the background telling you whether or not you’re good enough.

I love her advocacy for body positivity. She talks about being a frustrated teenager realising that she wasn’t the prettiest girl in the class and naïvely wishing she could actually give herself an eating disorder. She talks about going on a crazy diet with her sister and joining boot camps to lose weight. She also discusses her intense love of pasta. I can relate to all of this as someone who eternally struggles with their weight. One of her body positive rants goes a little something like this…

Enough. Enough with these wafish elves walking your impossible clothing down an ugly runway with ugly lighting and noisy music. Life doesn’t look like that runway. Let’s see some ass up there and not just during the specially themed plus size show. We girls over size 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, we don’t want a special day! We want every day and we want you to get out of our fucking way because we are already here. You are living in the past, all you dated, strange magazines representing the weird fashion world that presents bizarre clothing that no one I have ever met wears.

She also devotes a chapter to ending gun violence in America. Yeah, that might not be what you signed up for with Amy Schumer but it is amazing that she chose to shed light on such a massive issue. I won’t go into too much detail here because I recommend you read the book for yourself. It is emotive and empowering and I’m glad Schumer isn’t letting her light-hearted and funny public persona get in the way of some real talk. Here’s some articles about Amy’s stance on gun violence: Amy Schumer rips Senate ‘cowardice’ on gun votes and Amy Schumer Had a Brilliant Take on Gun Violence Last Night.

I could go on to list more of the surprising moments in this book – it’s not at all what I expected but in the best way possible – but I want to encourage you to read it for yourself. I’m not a reader of autobiographies so this was a first in many ways and I’m glad Schumer broke my autobiography/audio book virginity because it was a wonderful experience. I also recommend listening to her narration because it adds a sense of personal to what is already a very personal book. At times, it’s funny, uplifting and hopeful and sometimes it’s sad, informative and emotional. I definitely recommend this one.


Have you got any audiobook recommendations? I have a credit to use on Audible! Let me know on Twitter or Instagram.