Book Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

This is a wonderful book. I was initially drawn to it because it deals with life after the end of the world, which is a subject I find fascinating, but I feel like this book is actually so much more than that.

The novel takes the form of the diary entries of our main character Jon, who takes it upon himself to record the events that happen after the world ends. He is staying in a hotel in Switzerland for a work conference when the nuclear bombs fall, ending civilisation as it currently exists.

After the bombs fall, Jon must adjust to life in this post-apocalyptic setting. He stays at the hotel with a host of other interesting characters and, as they try to carve out their way to survival, they make a grizzly discovery: the body of a young girl in a water tank in the hotel.

Jon becomes obsessed with solving this crime, and the novel does an amazing job of showing his descent mentally as his obsession devours him. Jameson constantly toys with the reader, using the unreliable narrative to twist reality.

As time goes on, tensions rise in the hotel as people turn on one another. The other characters in this book were great; I loved their different personalities and the exploration of how different types of people might cope with this sort of experience. As their society begins to inevitably crumble, characters start to break down, and their slice of civilisation is further tested when it becomes apparent that they might not be the only survivors. Isolated and vulnerable in a lonely hotel, the characters plight is genuinely unsettling.

I adored this novel. I felt Jameson did a great job of writing a twisty, unpredictable narrative that went beyond the constraints of genre. It’s not a light read, but it certainly an addictive one that stays with you.

Reasons to read:

  • A unique take on what life might be like at the end of the world
  • Well written characters
  • Good range of diversity in the characters
  • Unpredictable and unsettling

Possible trigger warnings:

  • Suicide
  • Drug use
  • Mental health topics
  • Death and violence
  • Domestic abuse
  • Discussion of rape

Book Review: Loveless by Alice Oseman

This is an absolutely gorgeous book and I think everyone should read it. Alice Oseman is a powerhouse of a human. Her comic Heartstopper is amazing and she has a real gift for capturing the strange feeling of being a young person.

Loveless is a novel about a girl named Georgia who has never had a crush on anyone. As she begins her university life, she sets out to change this and to find love- after all, she loves love, thinking about it constantly and obsessing over fanfiction. With the help of her seemingly confident and knowledgeable roommate Rooney, and her best friends Jason and Pip, she embarks on her university journey towards true love.

Except- it doesn’t play out that way. As the novel progresses, Georgia has to come to terms with the fact that, actually, she doesn’t experience romantic or sexual attraction at all. With the help of Sunil, the aromantic asexual president of the Pride Society, she begins to accept her sexuality.

One of the amazing things about this novel is the characters- even the secondary characters feel fleshed out and believable, with their own quirks and personalities that make you love them. They are all real, flawed people, who are capable of doing both good and bad things and react in believable ways to the things that happen. Rooney was a particular favourite of mine; she is an absolute treasure and, as the story developed and I learned more about her, I just adored her.

The interaction between the characters felt so authentic; the group starts a Shakespeare Society and a lot of the story involves their attempt to put on a showcase of some of Old Shakey’s most romantic plays. The fact that Georgia is trying to come to terms with who she is around this is really affecting. The core message of the book is that the love between friends is just as important and as authentic as the love two humans can share romantically. This works so well here because the friendships depicted in the book are so raw and real.

In addition to Georgia’s journey of self-acceptance, there is also the absolute treat of the enemies-to-lovers, will-they-won’t-they romance between Pip and Rooney. I love this trope so much, and seeing it done so effectively between two queer female characters is a delight.

There is absolutely nothing I didn’t like about this book. It feels like an important piece of #ownvoices writing and a truly authentic and heartfelt story.

Reasons to read:

  • A heartwarming, authentic story about an aroace character discovering and accepting themselves
  • Diverse characters
  • An amazing cast of characters who feel real and who are delightful
  • Queer women in an enemies-to-lovers extravaganza
  • Wholesome content

Possible trigger warnings:

  • Mentions of past abusive behaviour
  • Acephobic references
  • Some experimenting with a character without them knowing

July 2020

This year is such a blur. I imagine everyone feels exactly the same way about it as I do. It’s almost time to get the Halloween decorations out! It’s almost… dare I say it… Christmas. With some restrictions easing up in my part of the world, I’ve had a slightly more interesting month than last month, but life is still far from back to normal. I don’t love having to plan ahead in such detail to go out.

Things I Watched

Spaced
I missed Spaced the first time around because I was, well, a tiny child. It isn’t perfect, but it is definitely hilarious and feels like a very specific moment in time captured.

Onward
I’m not as into Disney/Pixar films as a lot of people; I think I just didn’t watch enough as a child, so it isn’t a part of my life in the way it is for other folks. That said, Onward was adorable and very worth a watch.

Bad Times At The El Royale
This wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was awesome- really entertaining, very slick, very well-written. A great film.

Things I Read

Happy Fat- Sofie Hagen
I love Sofie, and this is such an affirming, amazing book. I mentioned it last month and just finished the audiobook this month.

The Last- Hanna Jameson
I’m planning on writing a proper book review of this one, but I adored it. One of my best reads of the year. If you’re into post-apocalyptic settings, this is definitely worth a read.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper- Hallie Rubenhold
A really interesting non-fiction book about the lives of the victims of Jack the Ripper. If you’re interested in this period of history, it’s a fascinating read. I loved how this book disproved the myths around these women.

Things I Played

I am still on my Animal Crossing binge. I have also been dipping my toes in the mobile otome game Obey Me but I’m not sold on it yet.

Other Stuff

I have been really getting into walking, and just generally being outside. I spent years of my life thinking that I hated being outdoors, but it seems I was wrong. I have even bought a bike.

Looking Forward

I’m off work until September, so August is going to be about relaxing, catching up with friends, working on some projects and generally having a nice time.

Ranking My Animal Crossing Islanders

Two Animal Crossing posts in a row? On my blog? It’s more likely than you think.

I have finally managed to get my full dream team together on Luna, my lil Animal Crossing island. I feel like it has taken me way longer than other people to get my AC island sorted, in part because I started later and in part because I am well lazy. I am still paving the damn place and I owe Tom Nook a lot of money still (a situation which is not wildly dissimilar from my actual life, in which I need to sort out my yard and pay off my mortgage). Despite this, I have managed to get ten amazing islanders, and I love them all.

Some people are Team Dom, Team Marshall or Team Raymond, but I do not care for these popular cuties. Instead, please find my ranked list of my islanders, and know that I love them all- just not equally, otherwise it wouldn’t be ranked.

10. Olaf

I can’t explain what I like about Olaf. He dresses a bit like a bullfighter, and he is fairly strange to look at. He is haughty and really stands out as different from the general vibe of the island. His hairstyle is great, though. He looks hilarious in glasses, too.

9. Norma

She frequently gives me gifts and has a real ‘drunk aunt at the party’ vibe I’m all about. A bit weird, but always nice.

8. Gonzo

This old man is constantly complaining about being old and looks amazing in a variety of hats. I like to imagine he brings some much-needed maturity to the island. I think Mint has a bit of a crush on him, too, so he’s clearly the George Clooney of Luna.

7. Al

Al is, without a doubt, the islander I have who is most hated by other players. I have seen him on several lists of the worst characters, and I think that, although he is strange looking and has strange banter, he is indeed sort of charming.

6. Pietro

This lad. What is his whole thing? Why does he dress like this? I love him.

5. Ketchup

This absolute babe looks inexplicably like an adorable tomato. Absolute cutie. That fringe would look dreadful on anyone else and you know it.

4. Molly

Absolute queen- she is adorable and loves to read. We stan a literate cutie. Her whole vibe is very cottagecore and I am here for it.

3. Mint

Not going to lie, I think Mint is a bit of a Karen. She has started calling me ‘hun’ which only cements my theory. That said, she is always very pleasant to me (although I imagine she often goes to complain to Tom Nook) and frequently wears the clothes I give her.

2. Muffy

This goth sheep is absolute goals. Her whole look is iconic and she is a friendly queen. I don’t know if I want to be her friend or if I just want to be her.

  1. Peanut

The ultimate. The pinnacle. The angel. Peanut is always delighted, always delightful and exceedingly cute. I love her so much. I want her zest for life injected into my veins.

Rejected: My Animal Crossing Islanders Who Didn’t Make The Cut

Not all islanders in Animal Crossing: New Horizons are made equal. Some are adorable, delightful little critters who fill your heart with joy and love. Some are… well… some are more like this little thing:

Hazel, girl, those eyebrows are not on fleek

Three of my islanders have sadly moved onto better (or at least different) pastures after more cute ones offered to take their places. Sorry, guys.

Jitters

Of my three casualties, Jitters is the one I feel most guilty about. A fairly sweet and kind fellow, but his eyes… I mean, this kid has clearly seen some stuff. 3/10, cannot stand to look into the void every time I make eye contact with the guy living in the house next to me.

Rocket

Fairly sweet and pleasant, but also just terrifying. What is this look? Why is she wearing goggles? What is she planning? 2/10 for being sinister.

Rocco

This guy would kill me, 100%. He lived in a sort of factory, was constantly miserable and definitely had murder in his eyes. -10/10, literally the worst.

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

Firstly, I can’t believe I’ve managed to get to the age of thirty without reading this book. I’ve always had a sort of grumpy avoidance of things other people really recommend; it isn’t snobbishness, it’s more the feeling that when something is built up that much, it can’t possibly live up to it. It’s that awkward moment where your friend is showing you their favourite film and you’re just not feeling it. So I have been aware of The Handmaid’s Tale forever, been told to read it hundreds of times, but just not done so. What a mistake.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. I read Vox a few months ago, and I also read The Power last year, both of which draw heavily on the ideas in The Handmaid’s Tale. (Incidentally, I read all three of these books for the same reason- the Newcastle Girl book club.) This female-focused, dystopian, morally heavy style of story really does it for me.

The thing about The Handmaid’s Tale is that it isn’t overly difficult to imagine a world in which the horrifying reality presented is true; we already know, don’t we, that there are people who live in liberal, western countries who oppose women’s rights to do what they want with their bodies? There are people who oppose feminism. There are people who use religion to push their own beliefs onto the masses. That’s the real power of this book- it’s not a completely alien world that is presented, but one which could fairly easily be reality.

The story itself is very loose; the narrative style is erratic and conversational, flicking back and forward in time, and it works so well. Our protagonist, who we know only by her enforced name of Offred, is a Handmaid, a fertile woman in a world where that is rare. She is forced into a life of horrifying servitude in which she must attempt to conceive the child of a powerful man, a child who will be raised by the man’s wife.

I was absolutely gripped by this book. I can’t imagine many people are reading this who haven’t read this yet, but if you are one of them, you absolutely have to read it. I was furious, heartbroken and horrified by it, and it absolutely deserves the praise it receives.

June 2020

I cannot believe we are halfway through this year. The whole Covid thing has meant that I (and, let’s be honest, millions of other people) have spent months inside. It is absolutely baffling to me how this year feels both extremely long and terrifyingly short.

Anyway! June! I turned 30, so that is the biggest thing really. I had a wonderful time actually, all things considered. I ate lots of good food and drank lots of alcohol.

Things I Watched

Bob’s Burgers
I’ve been watching Bob’s Burgers for months, and I’ve just finished Season 9. (Season 10 is on Prime but it’s not free, so I’m going to pay at some point to watch the rest.) It is up there with my favourite animated shows ever. It is so funny and sweet and well-written.

Look Who’s Back
A truly bizarre German film about what might happen if Hitler suddenly woke up in modern Berlin. I enjoyed this immensely, and it was surprisingly emotive.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
I love Eurovision. This comedy was okay! It was a bit long and silly, but worth a watch.

Things I Read

The Zombie War: Battle for Britain by Tom Holroyd
I listened to this on Audible and it was so good. If you enjoyed World War Z, you’ll love this. A really great read.

Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen
I’m still reading this at the minute but it is brilliant. Absolutely wonderful.

Things I Played

Grand Theft Auto V
In a classic Cole move, rather than playing one of my enormous backlog of games, I have decided to restart GTA V. I love the characters and think the story is surprisingly touching. The writing is hilarious and I just love it.

Other Stuff

For my birthday, I treated myself to a Razer keyboard, and it is honestly amazing. Possibly a fairly tragic thing to be excited about, but I love the way the keys clack.

I have been gardening! I’m fairly sure that my flowers are dying, but I’m crossing my fingers.

Looking Forward

July is CampNaNoWriMo, and I’m hoping to finish the novel I started (and failed to complete) in April. I’m also going to be starting my challenge of walking one million steps for Diabetes UK, so I’m looking forward to getting outside a bit more.

Games I Am Most Excited About From The PS5 Reveal Event

I love E3. I really am missing it this year; obviously, it makes total sense that it isn’t running what with, well, everything, but I love staying up until weird times making lists of all the games I am going to be excited about in the next year or two. Luckily, most of the big names are still showing some stuff, and the PS5 event the other day was very exciting. Here are the games I am most excited about.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

The first Spider-Man game is one of the best games ever. (Don’t @ me.) It is so satisfying to swing around as Spider-Man, the writing is great and the voice acting is wonderful. I think the Peter Parker in the game is one of my favourite incarnations of the character ever, so I am beyond excited to see more of Miles in this game. I can’t wait to get my hands on this.

Hitman 3

The purpose of Hitman is to stealthily and cleverly murder your targets, not to run around blindly shooting at everyone and causing carnage, although the latter is the strategy I favour. I love watching people play the game properly and it’s such a clever game. I am excited for more of this. (Apparently this is the conclusion of a 3-game story arc, but if people are playing it for the story, they’re playing it very differently to how I do.)

Resident Evil: Village

I’m too much of a chicken to play Resi myself. (Yeah, I should be ashamed, but I’m not.) However, I do love watching other people play them. The story in Resident Evil is absolutely crackers and I like the creepy vibe of the new game, so I look forward to watching people stream it on Twitch.

Goodbye Volcano High

No idea what this one is- there’s like a hipster furry teen vibe in the trailer. I love the art style, though, and it looks very interesting. The music in the trailer was gorgeous, too. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m intrigued.

Review: The Mandalorian

This review could basically read it’s amazing and you need to watch it and honestly that would be sufficient.

If you’ve been living under a rock (because let’s face it, I am late to this party) The Mandalorian is a series on Disney+. Set in between trilogies, it follows the adventures of, well, the Mandalorian- a masked bounty hunter with the voice of Pedro Pascal and not much of his face.

Of course, nobody really cares about that (although it must be said that he does an incredible acting job given that his face is covered for the vast, vast majority of this show). People are obsessed with the Child- aka, Baby Yoda.

Look at this lad though

Although he’s not Yoda, he’s a tiny green Force-sensitive cutie and is by far the best thing about this show. I have never felt such intense anxiety about the fate of something so physically similar to a snot before.

This show is heavy on the Western vibes, even down to the music choices, and it works really well. It’s aesthetically gorgeous and well-paced.

Other reasons why it kicks ass: Taika Waititi is a robot, Werner Herzog is a bad guy, and Gina Carano is amazing.

First Impressions: Later Daters

Later Daters has been on my radar for a while. In fact, I’ve had it on my Switch wishlist for a bit. The game isn’t finished yet, which was partly the reason why I hadn’t gone for it, but also I’ve got a million games half-finished.

I had £3.50 worth of points on Nintendo after buying Animal Crossing (also, can we talk about how this system slaps? Nintendo games tend to be expensive but I love having money off other games) which was about half the price of Later Daters. So, I finally bought it.

The first thing that struck me about Later Daters is the ridiculously catchy theme song. It has been stuck in my head for two days, and it is a banger.

The game is a dating sim in which you play as an older person moving to sheltered accommodation. There are three looks you can choose from, and you can name your old person. You can also choose their backstory.

What is amazing about Later Daters is how inclusive it is; the characters have a range of races, gender identities and sexualities; there is representation of an HIV positive character and polyamory. So far, all of the characters I have encountered have been positive about this (although bigoted views of other people have been referenced). There is something very pleasant and nice about bumbling about with these open-minded old people.

The writing is zesty and fun, and the characters are rich and entertaining. So far, I’ve managed to get several people to go on a date with Cynthia, my character, and I’m absolutely looking forward to whatever happens next. I’d definitely recommend this game to anyone who likes dating sims.