An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I loved every minute of this novel. It explores race relations through newlyweds and a wrongful conviction. It flicks between points of view, giving us an insight into the three main characters (Roy, Celestial and Andre) and it makes clever use of intimate letters between several characters. This reveals the heartache of the story in a way that straight-up prose could not.

Jones’ writing reminds me of a contemporary Toni Morrison although it seems a little reductive to compare her to another great black female writer. It’s cutting, difficult to read at times but there’s a slight touch of magic threaded through Celestial’s poupées, which all resemble her incarcerated husband.

I wholeheartedly recommend you get a copy of this book and put it high up your to-read list.

The Confession by Jessie Burton

In January, I finished reading Jessie Burton’s latest novel The Confession. Having been so eager to read it, I am sad to admit that I was disappointed with it. If you’ve read some of my previous blogs, you’ll know I am a huge fan of Burton’s work and, in particular, the way she writes about women and creativity.

In fact, I loved The Muse so much that Burton herself said she wanted to laminate my review and wear it around her neck…

There was lots I did love about The Confession. Rose’s relationship, or rather relationship struggles, with her lacklustre partner Joe and his overbearing family felt very real to me. Burton paints a picture of modern-day womanhood and the perils of chasing an Instagram-worthy life in a way she hasn’t done before in The Miniaturist or The Muse.

But, personally, the plot plodded along too slowly and it took too long for my interest to be piqued. I struggled to invest in Rose, or any other character for that matter. And, at times, it felt too much like feminist theory disguised as a novel.

I look forward to whatever Burton writes next and I certainly haven’t written her off yet.

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2017: Most Popular Posts

How on earth is January almost over? I intended to write up a ‘2018 goals’ post but time has escaped me – maybe I still can. As always, a big goal for me is to keep up the momentum on The Fourth Month. I’ve been posting more regularly on The Fourth Month Instagram account so it’s now time to produce more content for the blog.

The Fourth Month journey began back in Summer 2016 when I broke my leg and was relegated to the sofa for about 5 weeks. Since then I’ve focused on books, interiors, wellbeing and general lifestyle posts. Like I did last year, I thought I’d share the top posts of the year to say farewell to 2017 and hullo to 2018.

5. A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES BY SARAH J MAAS

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This review of A Court of Thorns and Roses was my first blog post in 2017 and you guys seemed to enjoy reading my thoughts. It was a book that left me feeling torn. I loved some of the characters and the magical world they inhabit but a lot of this story is problematic. Its troublesome Beauty and the Beast tropes (Stockholm Syndrome and sexual violence) made me feel uneasy but Maas created such a rich and exciting world full of powerful and mysterious characters with this series. I’ve yet to read ACOMAF and, at this point, I doubt I will. Check out my review and let me know what you think.

4. A PUBLISHING POSTGRAD UPDATE

The fourth most popular post in 2017 was my publishing postgrad update. It’s one of the few, if not only, personal posts I’ve written for The Fourth Month. This makes me wonder if you would like to see more personal blogs (let me know in the comments or send me a message). Since writing this in April last year, things have changed even more. I left my job at the Publishing Bureau to pursue work as a Library Assistant. Working with books and children is really my dream job! And, of course, I graduated with a Distinction in MSc Publishing in October last year, which was a massive achievement.

3. 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE GOING TO UNIVERSITY

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Guest blogger, Zina, makes two appearances in the Top 5 of 2017. This is a witty and in-depth look at the trials and tribulations of University life. It’s a great read for anyone considering going to University but it also resonates with anyone who is at or has been to Uni. This uplifting list hopefully put a few minds at ease last year and I’m sure it’ll stay relevant every year as new students move on to higher education.

2. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: BOOKS BY FIERCE FEMALES

I am so happy that this list of fiercely feminist books made it to the top of my most-viewed posts in 2017. This post was requested by a friend but it has clearly been enjoyed by many readers. The list featured some of my favourite authors from Charlotte Brontë to Jessie Burton. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books or if you would like see more bookish lists on The Fourth Month.

1. VANITY FEMME GLOW DUST REVIEW

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Stealing the limelight yet again, Zina’s review of Vanity Femme Glow Dust has made the top spot for 2017 (it was also the most viewed blog in 2016). This sparkly review of a cult-classic highlighter gets hits almost every day so I’ve asked my gorgeous make-up artist sister to start writing some make-up reviews in 2018. Follow her on Instagram and subscribe the The Fourth Month to make sure you don’t miss a thing.


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A Publishing Postgrad Update

Happy Sunday to you all! It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and written a blog. I recently moved into a new flat with my boyfriend and it’s been hectic! However, I have cultivated the perfect writing spot in my new home: looking out of our big window and watching the world pass by with a big cup of coffee.

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A lot has happened in the past few weeks, asides from moving into our new place, and I thought I would do a little summary blog touching on a couple of the updates in my #publishingpostgrad life.


A New Chapter: The Publishing Bureau

On Friday, I went to an interview in Glasgow for an internship at The Publishing Bureau. As with all interviews, I was incredibly nervous but I felt particularly anxious because I really wanted this job. Being a home bird from the west coast of Scotland, I’ve had my sights set on securing work in Glasgow for a while but I know that opportunities are rare compared with the likes of London, or even Edinburgh. When the job was advertised, I jumped at the chance to do the work that I love in my favourite city! Better still, the role is a great combination of my publishing degree and my work at a medical education company because a lot of the projects are scientific and technical. I was, of course, delighted to be offered the position on Friday afternoon with a start at the beginning of May. I’m really looking forward to it, especially because I’ll be doing a variety of work from design and layout to editorial and writing. Wish me luck!


Video Marketing: Linen Press Books

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m currently doing a remote placement with Linen Press Books, the only indie women’s press in the UK. I have been loving every minute and the best thing about this job is working with such talented women across the world. Lately, we’ve been working on a campaign for Avril Joy’s book Sometimes A River Songwhich is a finalist for the People’s Book Prize. I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and suggested we create ‘Author Confession’ videos similar to those that I edited for Scottish Book Trust (like this video with Sarah J Maas). With the help of my lovely filmmaker boyfriend, I edited together 9 videos for Avril and I’m over the moon with the end result. View them here.

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The Final Countdown

The next two weeks mark the end of my second trimester studying MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University. They mark the end of classes, my job at Perceptive Med Ed and my time living in Edinburgh. I have loved living and studying in the capital city and have met some wonderful and talented individuals, who I hope I’ll be friends with for life. The next few weeks will be chaotic with deadlines – finishing my Burns poetry book and working on other bits of coursework – as well as starting my new internship. I am excited to move into the next phase of my career but I’ll be sad to see the end of this particular chapter. Plus, I still have that ominous dissertation to write!


Follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more updates on my #publishingpostgrad life.

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

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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…

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.