Posted in Books, New Books, Reading, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: August

Hello Loves!

Well, I’ve been back at school for three days and my holiday seems like a distant memory… I’m clinging onto it by recapping the glorious month of reading I’ve had. I’ve not taught any lessons yet but I already feel like I’ve been hit by a train but writing this is helping, that’s for sure. Lessons begin tomorrow so I wanted to be kind to myself this evening and share with you my round up for August. August was an awesome month for me because I was soaking up the sun in Cyprus, relaxing and reading. It was absolute bliss. As a result, I managed to read a brilliant 19 books. I’m so chuffed with this really and it has to be one of my best months for reading. I literally cannot wait to share this all with you so let’s check out the shelves!

Picking three favourites from this list is going to be really difficult because there were so many good ones! I’ve read a range as well from my usual crime and thriller to young adult to contemporary. However, after some careful consideration I’ve picked! I hope you love this list as much as I do. I also hope you can see how difficult it was too!

  1. Because of You – Dawn French. Wow. I honestly do not have enough words for how incredible this book is. I am not ashamed to say that I cried my eyes out by the end of it too. It follows the story of two mothers whose lives are linked. I absolutely do not want to spoil the plot here because I hope to review it at some point but it’s a beautiful novel. It’s also a very special book.
  2. The Woman Downstairs – Elisabeth Carter. This book was a really punchy little number and one of those that you stay up all night reading because you can’t put it down. It makes you question everything and will leave you feeling like you really have no idea who lives near or around you.
  3. These Tangled Vines – Julianne Maclean. This book is stunning. I think I had the added pleasure of reading this in a beautifully sunny climate which matched the scene of the story. Set in Italy, it tells the story of a girl who learns a huge secret and gains imaginable assets. It was so well written too that I can’t not recommend it.

I also really wanted to mention my book for my reading challenge: The Island of Sea Women because that was a difficult book to read because it was so harrowing and yet, I really enjoyed reading it. I’ll be reviewing that book for you all at the weekend after some decent sleep! It’s one that I think many of you would enjoy. The history behind it makes it challenging but it’s the resilience of the women within it that inspired me.

Well, that’s it! I doubt I’ll have another month with this many books but you never know! I really hope you enjoy it. Have any of you read any of these? What did you think?

Looking forward to catching up with you at the weekend!

Big love xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Box of Stories, Reading, Thriller

The Pocket Wife – Susan Crawford

Hey guys!

How are you all? I hope summer is treating you beautifully. I’m having the best time – reading, exploring, holidaying. We’re so lucky to be able to experience everything we’ve got on offer right now. It sounds like such a cliche but I’m so grateful for what I have right now. I’ve had some wonderful quality time with my family and I’ve made a big dent in my TBR pile. (They have since been replaced by books purchased from various days out but we won’t say too much more on that matter…)

Today I want to share with you a book that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about. For those of you who have followed me for a while, you’ll know how much I love my psychological thrillers and this one did not disappoint. I got The Pocket Wife in one of my book subscription boxes. I’d never heard of it and didn’t know anything about it. Regardless, I read this book in a few hours. It was that good. Most importantly, it was one of those books where I just had to find out what happened. It kept me guessing until the penultimate chapter. I have to confess, I didn’t manage to work this one out! Don’t worry – no spoilers here! I hope you enjoy reading my review!

What’s it all about?

Centred around Dana Catrell and her husband Peter, we are at once given an unreliable narrator. Why? Dana has bipolar disorder. She lives at home whilst her husband is the high flying attorney. As a result, he hasn’t a clue about the deterioration of Dana because he isn’t there to notice the changes in her mood and character. This change is worsened with their son’s move to college.

We awkwardly see Dana move between the bleakest depression to manic euphoria. There is no way to know which side of that she will fall on each and every day. On a particularly down day, Dana pops to see her neighbour, Celia. The women talk and Celia is only too aware of the mental health issues faced by Dana. Dana discloses to her that she feels like she is treated incorrectly, like she’s a ‘pocket wife’ and that she doesn’t exist. The crux of it is, she feels alone and rejected. Celia understands and listens.

“She and Celia were friends, neighbours, sharing piecrust recipes and gossip and yard-sale outings, an occasional languid conversation over coffee or an afternoon trek through the mall with bags in hand. But not secrets. Not until today.”

On a subsequent visit, Dana tells Celia that she is becoming increasingly convinced that Peter is having an affair. He leaves to talk on the phone and constantly finds excuses to leave the house. Like any good friend, Celia checks that Dana is taking her medication as well as seeing her psychologist. She believes it is best that she talks about those fears with someone who is trained and who can give the best advice. Dana discloses that she has opted for alcohol rather than medication thus adding to the unreliability of her narrative.

“There were times over the years when her demons won out, when she wore her lipstick too dark, her mascara too heavy, her dressed too short.”

Regardless, Celia offers Dana wine and the pair of women spend the afternoon together. They chat and enjoy each other’s company but it isn’t long until Dana is drunk. Celia tries to show her a photograph on her phone but Dana passes out before she can make any sense of it. What does this photograph show? When she wakes up, she sees that she is back within the confines of her own house. More worryingly, she learns that Celia has been murdered.

As the last person to see Celia alive, this puts Dana in quite a difficult position. She obsessively tries to put the memories together of the previous night but she struggles. Her frustration with herself only makes the task more impossible. Ultimately, her biggest fear is that because she has a key, she went back over there and killed her. Dana has very little recollection about where she’s been or what she has done.

The one factor that Dana keeps returning to is the photograph. It is the one image that is returned to repeatedly through the novel. It’s what the plot is hung off. Dana believes (or persuades herself) that the photograph she wanted to show her must have something to do with her death. She doesn’t trust her husband at all so talking with him is out of the question. She makes the decision to try and work this one out for herself. When the lead detective, Jack Moss, arrives to ask some routine questions, Dana sees this as an opportunity to get some help from him.

For Moss, his own personal life is somehow mixed into this case too. When he gets the return back on the fingerprints they ran, he didn’t expect to see the fingerprints of his own son, Kyle, on the report. Both Moss and Dana now each have something they want to hide which impacts the progress of the case. Prosecutor, Lenora White, is constantly applying pressure to Moss to make an arrest and get the case solved.

Following this, Dana discovers Celia’s mobile number stored on Peter’s mobile. In her heightened emotional state she worries because he’s told her that he only knows her in passing. Yet, his phone tells a different story. When she looks at the same phone later the number has been removed. This reinforces to her that something is going on and that Peter is potentially hiding something from her. Let’s not forget her emotional state though. Everything is already heightened and distorted.

“Not only are her memories of Celia’s actions on that afternoon a sham, but memories of her own as well. She gets up quickly, before the ceiling covers her, before the walls enfold her, crush her.”

Meanwhile, Dana manages to remember who was in the photograph on Celia’s phone: another woman. She manages to get Celia’s phone but this time the photograph has been deleted. This leads her to the horror and believe that she could have made the whole thing up or imagined seeing it there. She is certain she’s going crazy. She soon falls into another manic state but this time she chooses to use this to help her solve the case.

During his own enquiry, Moss learns that Kyle knows Celia as he was one of her students. He is certain that there’s a rational explanation for his fingerprints to be at her house. His son isn’t a murderer. But if he isn’t, who is? Celia is still dead. Increasing pressure comes from Lenora who wants the case wrapped up.

Evidence is found which then shows things in a very different light. Moss has a duty to investigate and does so. By the end of the novel, the murderer is revealed as well as their motive. After all, forensics don’t lie.

What about Dana? Well, she accepts that she needs help with her mental illness but also now acknowledges that her marriage is also a sham. Everything is tied up neatly by the end of the novel leaving the reader wholly satisfied.

“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whisper.” ‘No, she thinks, it wasn’t a whisper; it was something else.’

Final Thoughts

For fans of The Girl on the Train, this book is a pacy little number that will keep you guessing until the end. I particularly found the writing surrounding the bipolar incredibly shocking. Psychologists at the time of publication found Crawford’s description accurate and sound. For me, that makes it authentic. We have a character who is clearly flawed but is desperate to know if she has killed someone in a manic state where she has no recollection of it. In that sense it’s incredible emotive. It also means we have a highly unreliable narrator. Can we believe anything she says or is it all a delusion?

Anyway, I loved this little book. It has everything a thriller should have and more. You’ll have to read it to find out who really killed her and why.

I’ll be back next time with my review of my August book as well as my round up for August. I can’t wait to catch up with you all then!

Big love all xxxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all well and enjoying August. I absolutely love the summer. I’ve no idea what it is, maybe the longer summer days, but it always feels like the best time in the year. I also feel much more productive and I tend to get a lot more reading done over the summer. This may have something to do with not being at school! (I’m in complete ignorance of this until the night before we go back so moving swiftly on…)

I wanted to share with you today another book I read from my sun lounger but one I absolutely couldn’t not write about. It’s been a while since I had the urge to blog as soon as I’ve put a book down. That isn’t to say that I’ve not enjoyed books I’ve read, it’s just the reading and the writing really have to marry up and sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Regardless, this time it has and it’s all down to the AMAZING book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. So far this is my favourite book of 2021. It’s a bold statement but I enjoyed it sooo much. I was a little late to the party with this one but I’m so glad I picked it up one day in my local book store. Let’s get on with the review! I hope you enjoy it!

What’s it all about?

Told in two parts, The Marsh and The Swamp, this novel follows the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, nicknamed Kya. At six years old (in 1952) she sees her mother abandon her and her family. Hopelessly, she waits for her mother to return but as time passes she stubbornly doesn’t. Not only that, she also sees her older siblings, Missy, Murph, Mandy and Jodie all leave home too because of their father’s drinking and physical abuse.

“If anyone would understand loneliness, the moon would.”

Being the only child left at home, her father gives up drinking and instead turns his attention to his daughter. He teaches her how to fish and gives her a collection of shells and feathers. Whilst she cannot read or write, she can paint and she enjoys painting the landscapes, birds and coastlines immensely.

“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

One day she finds a letter in their mailbox which is from her mother. She leaves it on the table for her father to find but when he reads it he is infuriated and burns it. Whilst the fire is going he also burns most of her clothes and canvases too. Her father spirals back to alcohol and also takes long trips out for gambling. One evening, he fails to return home at all leaving her completely alone and isolated on the marsh. Kya has to learn self resilience quickly in order to survive. She learns gardening and trading in fresh mussels and smoked fish for money for gas from Jumpin’. Jumpin’ runs a gasoline station for boats and is one of the good guys along with his wife, Mabel. They become good friends with Kya, with Mabel helping to collect clothing donations for her.

Whilst growing up alone, Kya faced many prejudices from the people of Barkley Cove. They called her ‘The Marsh Girl’. She was laughed at by schoolchildren, called nasty and filthy by the pastor’s wife. The one person who does become friendly with her is Tate Walker. As an old friend of Jodie, he is arguably one of the few nicest people to her. When she gets lost one day, it is Tate who leads her home in his boat.

Time progresses and he starts to leave her feathers from rare birds because he knows she will like them and teacher her how to read and write. The intimacy between the two increases and they have a relationship until Tate leaves for college. He promises to return, yet realises Kya cannot possibly live in this more civilised world because of her wildness and independence. He leaves without saying goodbye.

Part Two begins with Kya in 1965 aged 19. Chase Andrews (their star quarterback and playboy) invited her to a picnic where he tries to have sex with her. He later apologises and the two embark on a relationship together. He takes her to the abandoned fire tower and she gives him a gift of a shell necklace. She doesn’t trust him entirely, she wants to, but she has doubts. However, she believes that he will marry her so the two consummate their relationship. Unfortunately, whilst shopping for groceries she stumbles across a newspaper where she sees that he is already engaged to another woman. She ends the relationship, leaving her a tarnished woman.

“Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.”

Meanwhile, Tate returns from college having since graduated and apologises relentless for leaving her. He confesses his love for her but Kya, still hurting from his actions and her previous revelation rejects him. What she does do, however, is allowed him inside her shack and he is impressed by her collected, now much expanded, of seashells.

He persuades her to publish a reference book on seashells. At the age of 22 she achieves this and publishes her own book on seashells and then in seabirds. Following the success of this and the royalties she hires someone to install running water, a water heater, tub, sink, flushing toilets and kitchen cabinets. she also orders soft furnishings to make her place more homely.

Jodie also returns expressing regret that he too left her. He also tells her that their mother suffered from mental illness and died two years ago from leukaemia. Kya decides to forgive her mother for leaving but can’t understand why she didn’t once return. Before leaving for Georgia, he also tries to convince her to give Tate a second chance.

“Go as far as you can—way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

Chase also makes an appearance but ends up as an argument where Kya is attacked. He beats her and attempts to rape her. Kya manages to defend herself and manages to escape. Two men witness the attack too… Kya knows that reporting will be futile because everyone will naturally blame her. She decides to leave it.

Kya has the opportunity to meet her publisher in Greenville which she gracefully accepts. Whilst she’s away, Chase is found dead beneath the fire tower. The sheriff, Ed Jackson, believes it to be a murder on the basis of having no tracks or fingerprints. To make matters more complicated, the statements he receives are all conflicting too. One thing he does learn is that the shell necklace he was wearing the night before was no longer on his body. Evidence does seem to pin Kya there but is it to be believed?

There’s a trial. There’s a verdict. Lives continue to be lived. By the end of the novel, Kya is with Tate in a loving relationship knowing that they were the ones for each other. Also, Kya sadly passes away aged 64 in her boat leaving behind a wealth of secrets and stories.

“Some parts of us will always be what we were, what we had to be to survive…”

Final Thoughts

I loved this book so so much. I was totally taken in with the story right from the beginning. I love Kya and felt for her in so many way. She was a really well written and developed character and I found myself feeling a wealth of emotions about her. This is a book I’ll be giving to friends and family as well. In fact, as soon as I finished it my mum read it and was the same as me – she couldn’t put it down. This book is contemporary and so well written. It absolutely deserves the accolades it has. It’s a stunning read.

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: A Double Life – Charlotte Philby

Hello!

I hope you’re all doing well. Today I need to catch up with you all regarding my reading challenge book for July. You may remember from my previous post that it was the first time this year that I didn’t read this book in the month it was from. Eek! Never mind. I made sure it was the first book I read in August so it’s not too bad…

Anyway, the focus for July was: Read a book where your name is on the cover (title or author) Now for me, there are some really obvious ones: the Charlotte Bronte novels, Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White, Charlotte by Helen Moffatt, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman etc. However, I wanted to go for one I’ve never read before and hopefully never heard of before. The whole point of the reading challenge is to push myself. My final decision was A Double Life by Charlotte Philby. I liked the cover and the blurb was intriguing so it made sense to me. Let’s get on with the review.

What’s it all about?

First of all, my review may not be as long as usual. I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you – so forgive me for the elusiveness of it! However, I’ve given you just enough to tempt you in – hopefully!

The novel centres around two very separate and very different and contrasting women: Gabriela and Isobel. These women are worlds apart but by the end of the novel, we see how there’s ‘two sides to every story’ and then we know the truth too.

Firstly, Gabriela who is a senior operator in a FCO counter terrorism unit, leading a small Whitehall based team. She’s ambitious and is desperate to be promoted and acknowledged with accolades in that field. She’s also the family breadwinner whilst her partner (an interesting character in itself – he comes across as quite feeble) Tom, a freelance architect, looks after their children.

In stark contrast to her ordered life, complicated only by the over familiar FCO creep of a boss, Emsworth, Isobel is a mess. A journalist who has failed to see just how good she could be and as a result, drifts this an alcohol and drug endured haze of an existence. She works for a local paper in Camden, writing local news stories with very little enthusiasm.

One evening Isobel witnesses a horrific attack whilst walking home from a party. She didn’t feel like she could report it because of being under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She made the assumption that no one would believe her or that her statement wouldn’t be reliable. Yet, someone knows she was there and makes themselves known to her in a number of frightening ways. The journalist in her knows there’s a story here so starts to investigate. Little did she know that she would end up in the murky waters of a dark network of human trafficking and exploitation.

‘As I talk him through the details, I feel the events of Saturday morning begin to fade, the woman’s face sweeping in and out of focus in my mind like a figure stepping in and out of the shadows, until, for the moment, she vanished altogether.’

When Gabriela returns from her seven month trip to Moscow, her life begins to fall apart at the seams. The promotion she so desperately wanted eludes her, she actually ends up losing her job instead, and it makes her completely disillusioned, questioning the value of her life and all that’s within it. She loves her children but is adamant she doesn’t want to be a stay at home mum.

Whilst working in Moscow, she meets a very charming and charismatic gentleman, Ivan. She falls for him and they start to have an intimate relationship. She barely knows anything about him and the information she gives him about herself isn’t exactly the truth… She falls pregnant and flees back to Moscow leaving her two children behind with Tom. In Moscow, she decides to have the baby, a little girl, and have a double life. Meanwhile, Isobel is getting closer to finding out what is actually happening. The links between the two women are getting clearer…

‘But she loved Ivan, that was also a fact. He was the antidote to everything she resented about her life with Tom, and so, unlikely as it might seem to some, she reasoned that moving between these two worlds was the perfect solution. As long as no one found out, and maybe they didn’t have to.’

These two women are so desperate that the novel is essentially a story of hide and seek. One is desperate to hide the truth whilst the other is desperate to reveal it. The lives of the two women converge through the auspices of Madeline, Gabriela’s former FCO mentor, now leading a unit at the National Crime Agency, investigating trafficking and prostitution. By the end of the novel, everything becomes clear and the truth is out.

‘For a moment, as Madeline had spoken, she’d felt sorry for him. All along, he was waiting for her to tell him she’d chosen him. Despite all the evidence telling him she would never leave her family, he had still chosen to believe she would.’

Final Thoughts

Well, as books go, this one was quite a good read. However, I didn’t realise it was part of a series. I’ve never read or heard of the first book so I feel like I need to go back there to see if some of the clues are given. By the end of this book, I must say I had many questions. But, it seems there is a third book coming out which I’m sure will answer them. For me, I’m not great with series – sometimes the commitment puts me off. Also, there’s nothing more disappointing than a really good start and a poor finish. (Not that I’m saying this has happened here!) I did enjoy reading this book and found myself not liking the women either way really which was an interesting reaction. You could argue that it takes a while to find out how the two are linked as it isn’t revealed until right at the end of the book but it’s questionable. I guess it’s to keep the sense of mystery. Regardless, I like the mix of Russia and London and found this really helped with the double life ideal of the novel.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read if not frustrating because I didn’t have all the information. Would I have picked this book if I’d have known? Probably not. BUT I am grateful I did because it was a worthwhile read. The writing style is good and as Charlotte’s go, Philby clearly is a talented one!

I’ll see you next time for more reviews from my sun lounger! Long live the summer! Take care all!

Big love xxxx

Posted in Books, Reading, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: July

Hello Loves! ☀️

I hope you’re all well! I’m writing this from a beautiful beach, as I’ve been lucky enough to come away for summer. Summer is a wonderful time of year but the sunshine naturally makes people feel so much better. I feel much more relaxed and zen like now I’ve finally got a break away.

Today, I want to share with you my round-up for July. I managed to read 11 books in July which is around the same amount as I normally read in a month which is pleasing. I do find though that whenever I head towards the end of term, I’m utterly exhausted so end up reading less and much more slowly. I’m quite pleased with 11 really!

I can’t wait to share with you some of these brilliant books. So, let’s check out the shelves! 📚

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that I didn’t read my book for my reading challenge this month. It’s the first time I’ve missed it but it was the first book I read in August. I can’t wait to share that with you and redeem myself. However, let me share with you my top three books for July.

  1. The Maidens – Alex Michaelides. I absolutely loved The Silent Patient so preordered the next book as soon as I possibly could. It is blindingly good. I was gripped the whole time and found it to be a really good plot. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens. I saw a lot of positive reviews and praise around this book and I have to be honest, it is completely deserved. I loved it! I particularly liked the writing style too.
  3. Songbirds – Christy Lefteri. Her first book, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, is one of my favourites so when I got a pre-released copy of Songbirds, I had to have it. It’s similar in style and content but it’s still an incredible book in its own right. I always find Christy Lefteri’s writing hopeful.

And that’s it! More difficult choices for July but I’m so pleased I’ve read some excellent books again. Have you read any of these? Which did you enjoy?

I hope you all have a fabulous evening! Do keep in touch with what you’ve been reading. I’ll keep trying to be on top of you fabulous posts too. I’m all caught up for now anyway! Just before I go, enjoy this picture of a glorious sunset. I’ll share more snaps with you all along the way. (Once I’ve finished playing catch up – of course!)

Big love all! Xxx

Posted in Culture, London, Musicals, Theatre Review, UK

Cinderella – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Hello Loves!

Happy summer! I’ve finally made it to my summer holiday where I can rest, relax, read and catch up with my wonderful blogging friends. I hope you’re all well and enjoying the summer vibes. We’ve been having some beautiful weather but a splash of rain yesterday has been really welcoming.

Today I want to share with you a theatre review. When I say today, I mean, this morning as it’s 4:30 am in the UK. Regardless, I’ve not had the opportunity to do one of these for ages so I’m really really excited to be writing this one today! You may have seen in my previous post that I was lucky enough to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, Cinderella, on the second night of previews. We booked it last year for my birthday but it was one of many things to be postponed. Like everyone, we were feverishly absorbing any pre-released songs, desperate to see when restrictions would change so we could be back in the theatres once again. I really hope you love this review as much as I’ve loved seeing it and sharing it with you.

The Plot

We all know and love the tale of Cinderella. Without spoiling anything for you, this Cinderella is very different. Webber takes the conventional Cinderella and literally turns it on it’s head. Everyone in Belleview is exactly the same: tall, blonde, beautiful, in love with Prince Charming. Cinderella is alternative, different and loud mouthed. Her best friend, Prince Sebastian, has to step up and marry when his brother, Prince Charming, disappears. What happens next is a fairytale but a tale with a difference.

The Cast

The cast for this production have been widely shared. Cinderella is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Prince Sebastian is played by Ivano Turco. There’s also Rebecca Trehern and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the Queen and the Step Mother respectively. I also have a huge soft spot for the step sisters too. The cast are simply wonderful. Carrie Hope Fletcher is a perfect Cinderella and Ivano Turco is a dashing prince. They also have such chemistry between them – they really do come across like best friends. In fact, the whole cast seem like a genuine group of friends which really helps. It was a privilege to see them all on stage together.

Staging

When I was a very little girl, I went to see Cats at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Home to The School and Rock and now Cinderella, I remember how magical I thought it all was. I still do. I don’t want to ruin the surprise but there is a surprise with the stage which means you’re all the most closer to the action. It takes place at the ball as well, meaning the beautiful dresses are closer than ever!

Singing and Dancing

It’s a musical, so singing is an integral part of the show. There are a huge number of songs, all as catchy as the next. You can guy the album now (I’ve had it on repeat ever since it was released…) Bad Cinderella is arguably the song we all heard first as it was released as the show was announced. However, I really love Unfair by the sisters and also Beauty Has A Price. Carrie Hope Fletcher has three solos within the show, my favourite being I Know I Have A Heart. We absolutely have to give credit for Only You, Lonely You which is Ivano Turco’s solo song. It’s tender and moving and sung beautifully. It’s honestly an incredible album. I urge you all to buy this at least! More information can be found here!

Overall

I can’t tell you how much I loved this show. Being back in a theatre was an absolute joy. Being surrounded by likeminded people too really meant that the atmosphere was electric. I have so much awe and admiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber for making this show in lockdown. It’s got everything – singing, dancing, laughter, emotion, a fairytale, modern twists, excitement, love. It’s a show I’d go back and see in a heartbeat. I obviously made full use of the merchandise shop and left with t shirts, hoodies, face masks and key rings. I’ve missed the arts so much.

On the opening night of previews there was a standing ovation. On the second night where I attended, there was a standing ovation. And it was so deserved. Theatres are alive again! It’s such a joy to see, hear and feel it’s heart beating. This show is the perfect antidote to Covid 19, lockdowns and restrictions. It’s brilliant in every way.

Continue to enjoy the summer weather lovelies. Big Love to you all!!

Posted in Books, Reading, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: June

Hello Lovelies!

I’m a little late with this one but I’ve realised that I’ve not got round to doing my round-up post for June. Still, better late than never! I hope you’re all well and enjoying the warmer weather. I have enjoyed the glorious sunshine but have also appreciated the rain – it’s really helped clear the air. Sorry for the absence last week, it’s been a busy one as we approach the end of term. Also, I had my birthday this week🎂. My closest work friends organised a surprise meal for me (6 of us as per regulations) which was really lovely 🥳. June and July have started to feel much more positive and hopeful. I was also lucky enough to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella in London on its second day of previews. I’ll be reviewing that in a future post! I can’t wait to tell you all about that!

Anyway, back to my round-up for June. I managed to read 12 books this month. There were some shorter reads to help with the utter exhaustion I was feeling. I can’t recommend the ‘Quick Reads’ enough. If you’re in a slump or looking for something that won’t take you long to read but that is still a quality book, then check these out. They’re also only £1 which is brilliant value for money. Let’s check out the shelves!

My top three choices for June are as follows:

  1. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved this book so much and I am thrilled I’ve finally got round to reading it. I cannot confirm if that means I’ll read the Lord of the Rings books but at least I’ve ticked this one off! You can read my review here.
  2. Miracle on Cherry Hill – Sun-mi Hwang. To be perfectly honest, this book was really beautifully from cover to illustrations to plot. It follows the story of Kang Dae-su. We learn how his life is a miracle – a true rags to riches story. In his later life, he is diagnosed with a brain tumour. He returns to his childhood home of Cherry Hill where he acquires a house in dire need of repair but some people aren’t too pleased and question the ownership of the property. Who does the house really belong to?
  3. We Must Be Brave – Frances Liardet. Another beautiful book that follows the story of Ellen Parr during the Second World War. This story shows the encompassing love a parent has for a child. As bombs fall in Southampton, people flee to the villages for safety. Ellen stumbles across a child asleep who is separated from her mother. However, as the war comes to it’s end they learn that the child isn’t theirs to keep…

And that’s the lot! Another successful reading month for me and it means that at the half way point in the year, I’ve managed to read a total of 82 books. Considering my target every year is 100, I’m really pleased! Lockdowns have really helped boost my numbers this year, but let’s see what the next six months of reading bring!

I’ll see you next time for the next book review and of course, that theatre review on Cinderella as promised at the start.

Continue to take care and stay safe everyone.

Big love to you all xxxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Hello Fellow Book Lovers!

Happy July! July is my absolute favourite month for a few reasons really – birthday, end of the school year, time for rest and relaxation, time to sit and read all day… I can’t wait! Friday night is usually the time I collapse in an exhausted heap. However, this evening I wanted to share with you my book choice for the reading challenge. June’s focus was: Read a debut novel this month. There are so many excellent debut novels that still stand the test of time. I decided to read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a book I’ve never read (embarrassing – I know!) but it was recommended to me by a few of my friends so I thought I’d take their advice. Google also told me it was Tolkien’s debut novel! Perfect!

What’s it all about?
The novel centres around Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is a hobbit which means he is half the size of humans and has exceptionally furry toes. He loves his food and drink but most of all, he’s quite happy living in his comfortable hole at Bag End. One day, rather unexpectedly, the world as he knows it is shattered by the unexpected arrival of an old wizard, Gandalf. Gandalf manages to convince the rather reluctant Bilbo to go on an adventure with a group of thirteen militant dwarves. They are on a serious quest to get their treasure back from the marauding dragon, Smaug. Bilbo’s role is to act as their burglar. The dwarves are less than impressed with Bilbo and Bilbo likewise really. One thing he does not want is adventure.

“We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.”

It doesn’t take long for the group to get into trouble. Shortly into their adventure, three hungry trolls capture all of them apart from Gandalf. Gandalf, rather fortunately, tricks the trolls into remaining outside when the sun comes up. As a result, they are turned into stone. The dwarves manage to find a whole host of weapons in the trolls camp. Thorin takes the magic swords with Bilbo taking a smaller sword for himself too.

From here the group decide to stop off at the elfish stronghold of Rivendell. Here, they receive advice from the great elf lord Elrond. Following this they decide to set out across the Misty Mountains. A snowstorm means that they are in desperate need of shelter. But, when they find one in a cave, they are kidnapped and taken prisoner by a group of goblins. Gandalf does manage to lead the dwarves to a passage out of the mountain but poor Bilbo is left behind, accidentally.

Whilst wandering through the various tunnels, Bilbo stumbles across a strange, gold ring on the ground. He decides that this shiny item should be his and puts it inside his pocket. Of course, this ring is the link between the other Tolkien novels! This ring gives him the ability to become invisible. He hears a hissing sound and meets Gollum. Gollum is less than keen on Bilbo and decides that he wants to eat him. A battle of riddles commences – the outcome will determine the fate of poor Bilbo. Cleverly, Bilbo wins by asking a dubious riddle.

“What have I got in my pocket?”

Despite winning, Gollum still wants to eat Bilbo. Gollum goes and disappears to fetch his magic ring. However, this is the ring that Bilbo has already found. Amazingly, Bilbo uses this to advantage and manages to render himself invisible to escape Gollum and flee the goblins. He finds another tunnel leading up out of the mountain and discovers the dwarves and Gandalf has managed to escape. Evil wolves, known as Wargs, pursue them but Bilbo and his little friends are helped to safety by a group of eagles and by Beorn – a creature who can change from a man into a bear.

Desperate for the adventure to be over, the group enter the dark forest of Mirkwood. Here, Gandalf abandons them to see to some other urgent business he has. It is in this forest that the dwarves end up all caught in a horrendous spider webs. These spiders are like nothing they have ever seen before and can only be described in one way: horrendous. Bilbo must rescue them and uses his magical sword and ring to do so. From here, there is another issues as the group are captured by a group of wood elves who live near the river. Again, Bilbo uses the ring to help the all escape and manages to conceal the dwarves in barrels enabling them to float down the river. The dwarves at Lake Town, a human settlement near the Lonely Mountain, under which the great dragon sleeps with Thorin’s treasure.

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

After sneaking into the mountain, Bilbo meets the dragon. They have a chat where the dragon reveals a secret – he has a weak point in his scales near his heart. This information is crucial for the group to get the treasure back. Bilbo manages to steal a golden cup which results in the dragon being furious and vengeful. The dragon heads to Lake Town with the view of burning it to the ground. However, Bard knows how to shoot and arrow and manages to kill him, not before the town is burnt though.

The human population of Lake Town and the elves of Mirkwood march to Lonely Mountain to seek their own share in the treasure which they see as fair following the destruction of their town. They see it as their rightful compensation. But, Thorin completely refuses to share. The humans and elves begin to besiege the mountain, trapping the dwarves and the hobbit inside. Bilbo manages to sneak out to join the humans in order to try and bring peace. When Thorin learns what Bilbo has done, he is furious with him. Luckily, Gandalf appears to save Bilbo from the wrath of the dwarf.

Then, an army of goblins and Wargs marches onto the mountain and the humans, elves and dwarves are forced to work together in order to defeat them. At one point, the goblins nearly win but the arrival of Beorn and the eagles help them ultimately win the battle. After the battle, Bilbo and Gandalf return to Hobbiton where Bilbo continue to live. Sadly, he is no longer accepted by respectable hobbit society but he really isn’t bothered by that. He is quite happy to seek communication from the elves and the wizards. He is back to being completely contented and much happier surrounded by his comforts of home.

“May the hair on your toes never fall out!”

Final Thoughts
I have so much love for this book. I feel like I can relate to Bilbo on many levels – the want to be at home, the comfort of home, the love of cake. All big wins for me. But this book is actually really special. It’s written in such a way that makes you feel like you’re part of it. I felt like I was being transported to another world. Just like Bilbo’s reluctance to be on the adventure, I found myself completely understanding why he would rather be in his hole with his things all around him. It is only the second Tolkien book I’ve read and I genuinely really enjoyed it. I am really looking forward to rereading this one again actually which is something I don’t really say often!

I hope you all have a lovely, restful, bookfilled weekend.

Big Love xxx

Posted in Book review, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: Stella – Takis Würger

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all safe and well. As always, I am still playing catch up but that’s ok. I’ve bought a lot of books this week which is always exciting but now I just need to find the time to read them all. Evenings and weekends are not enough. If only we could have a five day weekend and a two day working week… now that would be useful!

Anyway, I am here today to share with you the book I read for the Reading Challenge for May. The focus for the month of May was: Read a book that is based on real life events. Now, in the current situation we find ourselves still living in, I wanted to avoid anything related to the pandemic. I’ve read some brilliant books centred on this during this but I think I’m just desperate for this all to be over now really. Therefore, I went for a war related story of which there are many! Stella by Takis Würger was heartbreaking in many ways but so well written it was bordering sublime. This book is dedicated to the great grandfather of the author, so it feels personal too. This novel was released back in March and I finally managed to get my hands on a copy. It fits the theme of the month perfectly being as it is a blended approach of fact and fiction, incorporating excerpts from witness statements documented at a postwar trial of the real-life Stella Goldschlag, who continued to inform for the Gestapo throughout the war. I knew little about her so really wanted to learn more from the novel and to have my eyes opened just a little bit further.

I can’t wait to share this with you now. This will probably be much shorter because I don’t want to spoil anything for you. The magic behind this book needs to be experienced when reading it, not by me now. Don’t forget, if you’d like to take part or find out more information on my reading challenge, please click here. Here goes!


What’s it all about?
Set in Berlin during World War II, the novel focuses around Friedrich, a Swiss national who is travelling through Europe. To begin with, the war seems a distant thing happening to others elsewhere and not something to be mindful of at this stage. Whilst in Berlin, Friedrich meets Tristan, an affable Berliner who takes him under his wing. He meets him in a jazz club on evening which has become illegal under the Nazi morality laws. He is obsessed with a singer at the club called Kristin. The trio then form a friendship together and start to attend a variety of different social events together. They socialise more often than not and appear to be very much a unit. Then, it is through these social events or parties that the the spectre of Nazi Germany begins to rear its ugly head. At a party attended by SS officers and other Nazi party officials, Friedrich sees both his friends joining in with anti-semitic songs and jokes. He begins to wonder who his friends are and how they can have such monstrous views.

‘Every day in Germany I had been going through this, acting as if I could live with what was happening to the Jews in Germany. I’d put up with the flags with swastikas and with the people greeting me and roaring at me with their right arms outstretched. At this moment, I felt how wrong this was.’

Over time, there is a growing sense that there is something hidden, something not quite known about Kristin. We know that she is a Jew and we know that she has to keep her identity hidden from everyone. Friedrich has fallen in love with her and couldn’t care less about her background or religion. They spend hours together but she never stays over night with him. However, there is unease throughout the whole narrative whereby we hear new rules specified by the regime as a constant reminder that war is ever approaching; coming one step closer to them each and every day. The narrative splits to give us police reports, representing a later period of time, where people are being questioned about what was happening at the time. This blended structure means that we are torn between the past and the present as the narrative evolves. Regardless, the war creeps closer and the rules become much tighter and the lives of the Jewish people are constrained further.

‘The eight commandment of Dr. Joseph Goebbel’s Ten Commandments for Every National Socialist is issued: “Don’t be a rowdy anti-Semite, but beware of the Berliner Tageblatt.”.’

It is really difficult to explore the plot further without revealing the secrets hidden within. However, we were right to feel that things are not as they seem regarding Kristin. Whilst Kristin returns Friedrich’s affection, she also disappears for days at a time with no warning or explanation. It becomes clear that she has another, hidden life where she is working for ‘undesirables’ who have some kind of hold over her. This doesn’t seem to be a choice she would make willingly, but it shows the corruption of the human soul in order to make people do atrocious things to others. We are much more used to reading books about the heroes of the war, who fight and stand up for what is right. Nevertheless, this book tells us a story which is more likely to be common which challenges a reader still today.

‘Her cheeks were sunken; she had a scarf wrapped around her head. She had bruises under both eyes. One of her eyeballs was also dark – blood had seeped into the vitreous body… “I thought you left me.” “I wasn’t careful enough,” she said again. “Not careful enough.”‘

Unfortunately, there is no happy ending in this book. That is the nature of life sometimes and especially during a period of time like this. One thing that is clear though, is that by the end of the novel all the mystery and elusive strands all come together to complete the narrative. We learn the truth about Kristin and the extent of her own story. Friedrich, Tristan and Kristin all make individual choices that lead them to very different experiences. They are tied or linked together as this trio of friends but they each ultimately have a different ending. This novel gives you a eyeopening, heartbreaking insight into what it would have been like during this period.


Final Thoughts
In many ways, this book was difficult to read and challenging to write about. I’ve made a very conscious effort to not ruin anything at all. One thing I can and will repeatedly say is that it is incredibly well written. The writer’s own personal links with this mean that, like I said at the start, it feels more real. It’s always problematic to say you enjoyed reading a book like this but the honest reaction of mine is that it was uncomfortable, unnerving and horrifying. It explores the nature of love and betrayal. It also gets us to challenge what we think is real or right. It’s a powerful piece, structured in months with an opening summary of the Nazi atrocities. When you become wrapped up in the characters, this serves as a reminder that it is built up on real life events. Friedrich serves as a moral compass – he thinks and notices – but he’s also a fool in love. To repeat, this book needs a read but it will be harrowing along the way.

I hope you enjoyed this review. I apologise that I didn’t manage to get this done in May but I’ve been sitting on it and the uncomfortable nature of it. I’ve also been battling with what to reveal and what not to.

I’ll be back next time to share with you the book I read for June and hopefully sharing some other excellent reads along the way too! Stay safe and well everyone!

Big love xxx

Posted in Books, Reading, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: May

Morning Loves! ☀️

I hope you’re all enjoying this beautiful weather we are having. I must say, the heat and a multi-story tower block of a school isn’t quite the best mix but we are going with it and embracing the utter joy that the sunshine brings. After a lengthy working week, it’s time for us all to sit back with a book and enjoy the luscious weather. I went for a walk in the city centre last night to my local Waterstones (came out with two bags full which doesn’t help my bookshelves at all…) but it was great to be able to share amazing books of 2021 so far. What is does also mean for me is that I can catch up on a couple of posts that I’ve been meaning to do. My post today is my reading round up for May. I really hope you find some books here to add to your own TBR piles.

May felt like a bit of a slow month for me. Historically, it is the month that starts the examination season and things tend to feel like they are coming to a natural close. With the cancellation of exams this year, it does mean that that feeling hasn’t quite happened. In fact, we were still evidence gathering and sorting this week. Nevertheless, I manage to read 11 books this month which is still pretty good going I think. One thing I did notice was that I opted for ‘lighter’ reads because I was utterly exhausted. Anyway, let’s check out the shelves!

As I said above, this month was where I saw a slight change in my reading choices but there are some brilliant books here. My top three books for May are:

  1. Stella – Takis Würger. This book was what I had chosen for my reading challenge and is the next post that I will be writing about. I don’t want to spoil it for you but it’s a love story (but not as we know it) set in wartime Berlin. It’s an incredibly beautiful, torturous and powerful book that I can’t wait to share with you all.
  2. The Road Trip – Beth O’Leary. I have enjoyed Beth O’Leary’s book and this new release was no different. She has a really unique style of writing I think and she’s also very relatable and funny. I managed to bag a signed copy which is also very lucky. It’s a merging of past and present – all in the hopes of making a wedding on time. It’s a great read for the summer if you’re planning your summer reading list!
  3. The Alphabet Murders – Lars Schütz. This was my only crime thriller book this month and it was such a pocket rocket of a book. It’s really hard to describe this without giving anything away but basically the race is on, after finding numerous murders with letters from the alphabet next to them, to try and work out who would be next and if the murderer could be stopped at all.

And that’s it! Another vaguely successful reading month in the context of life and work. I always find that I get frustrated when I am too tired to read though! Never mind. It’s the weekend and I’ve plans for not very much else.

Have a lovely weekend all. Stay safe and cool.

Big love to you all xxx