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

Reading Challenge 2021: Grimm Tales for Young and Old – Philip Pullman Collection

Good afternoon lovelies!

How are you all? I hope you’re well and enjoying the beauty in the change of nature right now. Outside my window I can see leaves dancing and their colours changing. Autumn is a really beautiful time of year – it’s so important that we notice it. In fact, I’ve been worried recently that I’m missing all of this happening around me so I’ve taken time this weekend to relax, read and observe. We are so lucky to have our natural world in all its beauty. We need to take care of it.

As promised in my previous post, I’m here today to share with you my book choice for my reading challenge. September’s theme was: Read a traditional fairy tale. Now, this is where I have to admit that my knowledge of fairy tales really only extend to the Disney versions I spent my childhood watching. I knew a couple of tales from growing up too but these really were quite hazy and the more modern fairy tales or the modern adaptation of them I knew also fell into that category. Therefore, my choice for this month came at the right time as these were an easy read (helps massively with school) and also thoroughly enjoyable… if that’s the right word! I’m really looking forward to sharing my favourite three with you all!

What’s it all about?
First of all, I just have to say that my edition here, the Penguins Classics edition, really is stunning. There’s something truly magical about owning a clothbound book I find. This collection contains the classics: Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel to name a few but also some that I’ve never even heard of. However, I have to start with my favourite: Cinderella.

Cinderella
Written in 1812, the tale begins with the death of a young girl’s mother, leaving her with the lesson of being good and praying faithfully. The following Spring the girl’s father marries an evil woman with two daughters of her own. They turn the young girl into a servant and make her sleep on the floor in the fire cinders, hence the name Cinderella. She remains true to her beloved mother and remains humble despite the years of abuse and suffering she suffered.

Meanwhile, the King announces a three day festival so that the prince can pick his bride. Cinderella is desperate to attend but her step-mother has different plans. She purposely throws lentils into the ashes and forces Cinderella to clean them up instead of attending. However, Cinderella gets a helping hand from her trusty birds and the mess is quickly cleared. The magic tree, one which has helped her often, gives her a dress and slippers of the most beautiful gold, silver and silk. Once she’s at the ball, she is the most stunning girl there! Under her disguise, nobody knows it’s her and rather fortunately, the prince sees her and falls in love.

At the end of the festival, Cinderella escapes leaving one slipper behind. The prince knows that the woman he loves can fit into that shoe and so the search begins to find her. The step-sisters are desperate for him to think it’s one of them. One decides to cut off her toe to enable her foot to fit and the other cuts off her heel. Yet, it’s the birds who show how the shoe rightfully belongs to and punish the evil step-sisters of their behaviour towards Cinderella.

“Roocoo-coo, roocoo-coo
No blood in the shoe!
It’s not too tight,
This bride is right!”

The Elves
Written in 1806, this little collection of tales all feature one thing: elves. In the first tale, we see a hardworking but poor shoemaker struggling to make shoes due to his lack of leather. In fact, he was only able to make one single pair. He left the pair unfinished, for the morning, heading for bed to commend himself to God. After waking the following morning, saying his prayers, he returns to his workbench. What he sees is a miracle! A completed pair of shoes in perfect condition.

A customer entered the shop and offered a huge sum for the shoes, more than they usually sold for. Following this, the shoemaker decides to stay up and see exactly who had helped them. Hidden in the corner of the room, they waited patiently. What they saw were two little men working quickly and nimbly on a pair of shoes, running away once they were completed.

The wife decides that they have to show thanks to the little people because they truly have changed their lives. Noticing they have no clothes, she makes them little clothes for them and the shoemaker finishes each outfit with a pair of shoes. Once they had finished the clothes and shoes, they left them for the men and saw how happy it made them. They danced out of their home, never to be seen again. However, the shoemaker prospered in his business.

The second tale centres on a girl this time. A poor but hardworking servant girl was sweeping out the house when she found a letter. She couldn’t read so instead took the letter to her masters. They told her the contents of the letter – that she had been invited to an elf baptism and asked to be a godmother. She hesitated not really sure of what she should do but her master manages to persuade her to accept.

Upon arrival the girl saw just how beautiful it was where the elves lived. They did everything to keep her comfortable and happy but she wanted to leave. The elves continued to work hard but after three days she was desperate to return. They ave her gold but let her leave. Once she got back home she learnt that it wasn’t three days but seven years that she had spent with them.

The final tale shows a woman who had her child taken from the cradle by elves and substituted with a changeling. She was advised by a neighbour to set the changeling on the hearth, make a fire and boil water within two eggshells. This should make the changeling laugh and he would leave. The woman did everything in her power to follow her neighbour’s instructions. Finally, the changeling laughed and a band of elves appeared to swap the child and changeling back.

“We’re finer than before –
We shan’t be cobblers anymore!”

The Golden Bird
Every year, a king’s apple tree is robbed of one golden apple during the night. Frustrated with this regular theft, the king sets his gardener’s sons to watch to find out who it is. The first two sons fail in their mission as they both fall asleep. However, the youngest son manages to stay away to see that the thief isn’t a person, but it is in fact a golden bird. He tries to shoot it but only manages to knock a feather off. The king decides that this feather is so valuable that he must also have the bird that it belongs to.

The king sends the sons again onto their next mission – capture the bird. On route, they meet a talking fox who gives them some advice. The first two sons ignore the advice but the third doesn’t. He obeys the fox so the fox further advises him to use the wooden cage from the castle and not the golden one. However, this he disobeys and the bird rouses the castle, resulting in his capture. The fox offers further advice – to use a grey leather saddle, not a gold one, but the son disobeys too. He now has a bird and a horse. He is sent after the princess from the golden castle. The fox advises him not to not her say her farewell to her parents but he disobeys again. As a result, princess’s father orders him to remove a hill for eight days as the price of his life.

The fox removes it and then they set out together again. He further advises the prince on how to keep all the things he has won since then. It then asks the prince to shoot it and cut off its head. When the prince refuses, it warns him against buying gallows’ flesh and sitting on the edge of rivers.

On route back home, he finds his older brothers who have been living in sin throughout this ordeal. Because of their actions, they are to be hanged on the gallows. He buys their liberty and they find out exactly what he has been up to. When he sits on the river’s edge, they push him in. They steal all of his things and the princess and begin back to their father. Nevertheless, the bird, horse and princess all grieve for the youngest son. The fox also rescues the prince. When he returns to his father’s castle dressed in a beggar’s clock, the bird, the horse and the princess all recognise him as the man who won them and become cheerful once again. The older brothers are punished for their deeds and he marries the princess.

Lastly, the third son cuts off the fox’s head and feet at the creatures request. The fox is revealed to be a man, the brother of the princess who had been enchanted by a witch after being lost of may years.

“And from then on nothing was missing from their happiness as long as they lived.”

Final Thoughts
I think there is (obviously) rather something magical about fairy tales. I found reading this a complete joy really. The majority are cautionary and I do wonder how younger audiences would find them now. Some are fairly barbaric and brutal but all have their own lessons. We all are desperate for good to overcome evil, for light to beat darkness, for kindness to be rewarded and that’s really what these tales show us. I’m so glad that I had this as a theme on my challenge because without it, I’m sure I wouldn’t have got to them! The reading list is forever growing, let’s face it. But I’ve loved reading them! No regrets.

I’ll continue catching up with you all whilst getting through my final week before half term break. I feel like I’ve been counting down since week two to be honest but it will be good to switch off and recover. The reading pile isn’t going to read itself, is it? Until next time my loves.

Big love all xxx

Posted in Blog, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: September

Hello Book Lovers!

How are you all? I’m taking full advantage of the gloriously summery weather today to catch up on reading and blogging. Let me start off by owning that September was a really poor reading month for me. I felt very much sucked into the daily stress of school and the repeated discussion and implementation of the ‘Covid Catch Up Curriculum’. I’ve never experienced a start of a term just as difficult as this one. As Coldplay once sang, “Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be so hard.” Naturally, this had a knock on impact on my own free time – gone went the gym, reading and blogging. I noticed that my mental well-being suffered as a result of this too. This weekend I needed to take proactive steps to ensure that I could recenter myself and restore some of that harmony that I much needed. Part of that is reconnecting with you wonderful people.

As a result of September being so full on, with the distant sunshine, sun loungers and endless realms of time, I only managed to read 9 books. On the one hand, 9 is better than not reading at all! Regardless, these 9 books were really enjoyable! I knew I was struggling so I stuck to my ‘go to’ writers. So, let’s check out the shelves for September!

The only problem with sticking with my ‘go to’ writers is that picking a top three becomes very difficult. I love the thrill and the pace of Patterson, the mystery of Carpenter. Decisions, decisions…

  1. Gingerbread – Robert Dinsdale. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know how The Toymakers is one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve discovered now I’ve cleared some of my TBR pile, that I have more books by him. Gingerbread brings together reality and folklore again with a young boy heading into the forest with his grandfather to scatter his mother’s ashes. The story goes from here.
  2. Grimms Fairy Tales – collection by Philip Pullman. I’ve always wanted to branch out into the world of fairy tales. I’ve dabbled and like any young child, grew up watching Disney, but I’ve never actually got around to reading some of the classics. This collection looks beautiful and was a really enjoyable read. You’ll see my review of this for my reading challenge.
  3. A Slow Fire Burning – Paula Hawkins. I managed to bag myself a signed copy of this book which I was thrilled about! Also, I really enjoyed seeing Hawkins back with another exceptional novel. A young man is found dead and so questions are asked about the three women who knew him. A great read!

Whilst the start of this post sounded like a mix of woe and excuses, I’ve always prided myself on being honest. It wouldn’t be fair to leave that and not acknowledge the amazing things that have happened. I have a great family – we celebrated my Mum’s birthday last weekend which was an absolute joy. I have a brilliant team around me at school and I continuously strive to be their leader which creates a warm and supportive community and I have you guys on here who leave me wonderful comments and shower me with kindness. I hope I give you guys the same feeling back. ♥️ I also got a free hot chocolate, carrot cake and a hug from someone who works in my local coffee shop. I even managed to grab myself an excellent book haul from Waterstones, chatting with the staff there about the amazing books that are out at the moment. Life is good. We just need to remember to keep a balance of the good and the bad.

I will strive to be more consistent and blog more frequently! I’ll see you next time for my review of Grimm and any other wonders that have come my way.

Big love all xxx

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

Reading Challenge 2021: The Island of Sea Women – Lisa See

Hi Loves!

Well, term time began and that’s really when my free time ended. I didn’t expect the start of the new term to be this hard but it’s been nothing like I ever imagined. The words ‘Covid Catch-Up’ are haunting my ears and my zen like state from the summer seems a little less zen and a little more bleugh. I can only apologise for my absence and hope that you all forgive me. I’ve tried to keep up with you all, something I will endeavour to keep on doing. I’ve fallen behind in my own reading and blogging which frustrates me but I’m here now! Hopefully I can make up for it.

Today I am here to share with you my book choice for August for my reading challenge. The focus was: Read a book which takes you to the beach. Now, my default position would be to pick a sunny skies book, with beach vibes and the hint of suncream in my imagination. However, I opted for something more harrowing, more gritty than you’d probably expect. I read The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. I hope you enjoy the review and the book!


What’s it all about?
Set in Jeju, you enter the matriarchal world of these fiercely independent women skin divers. In a culture where the men stay at home to look after the children, to discuss the latest gossip in the village square. These women head out into the sea day after day to provide food from the sea for their families. The book covers several decades, from 1930s right through to the modern world today. Mi-ja and Young-sook are two young girls in the 30s with ambitions to be a part of the diving collective. Their backgrounds are very different. Mi-ja is the daughter of a collaborator with the hated Japanese Occupation Forces whilst Young-sook lives at the heart of the collective, born into a long line of haenyeo (sea women) divers. Despite Mi-ja’s damaged reputation Young-sook befriends her and together they learn to dive.

‘From that day on, I believed I could trust her with my life. So did my mother. All of which meant that by the time Mi-ja and I turned fifteen – we were as close as a pair of chopsticks.’

The opportunity came for Young-sook to join her mother and the haenyeo diving for the precious abalone. These creatures are extremely valuable but can be incredibly dangerous to try and catch as you can easily become trapped against the rocks. Young-sook gets her abalone and surfaces triumphantly but soon realises that her mother is trapped under the water. Lacking the experience, she fails to free her despite repeated attempts and at the moment of her success she faces the bereavement of her mother, the breadwinner for her entire family.

She grabbed my knife and tried to slice through the leather. In her rush, she slit a deep gash in her forearm. Her legs began to kick frantically. I pulled on her arm, trying to help. I couldn’t last much longer…’

The death of Young-sook’s mother puts a massive strain on the family and on her in particular as she is now expected to provide for the whole family, including her father. So when the girls have the opportunity to participate in ‘Leaving-Home Water-Work’, Young-sook jumps at it. This is when they haenyeo were hired to dive in other countries. In this instance, Mi-ja and Young-sook were hired out for nine months in Vladivostok. On their days off, the girls would take rubbings of anything that caught their eye as a way of collecting memories and telling their stories. This opportunity would have been a great adventure for the girls as they were away from home in a strange country and had the opportunity to meet young men. At one point they were walking through the town when they were approached by two Russian sailors. The boys bought them ice cream which was an extravagance that they would never have been able to purchase for themselves. However, despite some serious flirting, the girls returned to the Korean district, leaving the boys disappointed.

‘I stuck my tongue out all the way – like I’d seen other people do – and took a big lick. The air was already cold, but this was so cold! It froze the top of my head just as intensely as diving off the boat into icy waters, but while the ocean was salty, this was sweeter than anything I’d ever tasted.’

On their return to Jeju the girls have a life changing encounter. In the port they are struck by the enormous number of Japanese soldiers, sailors and guards. Both girls feel unsafe and threatened by all these leering men. But, salvation comes in the form of Lee Sang-mun who helps them get themselves and all their luggage safely to the truck which will take them back to their village. Young-sook is convinced that there is a spark between them and her thoughts turn to weddings. However, it transpires that he is interested in Mi-ja and Young-sook feels rejected and for the first time, resents her friend. Lee Sang-mun is a wealthy man but works with the Japanese. Young-sook’s grandmother is pleased to see the back of Mi-ja as she is married off to a collaborator.

“He’s a collaborator and he has too much Japanese thinking in him.” ‘This was about the worse thing she could say about anyone since she so hated the Japanese and those who helped them.’

Young-sook isn’t left behind as her grandmother also has her married off, this time to a school teacher called Jun-bu. This brings some stability to her life and a measure of settled calm. Her sister has joined the haenyeo which brings more income to their household. Inevitably, Young-sook becomes pregnant. During this time it becomes clear that the Japanese are fighting a desperate end to the war against the American forces. The build up of war materials on Jeju is intense and their lives are disrupted by the constant passage of planes overheard and war ships through the sea. Upon her return to the summer work in Vladivostok, four of the girls from Jeju give birth. In typical haenyeo style, this barely stops their work and the newborns accompany them on the boat from birth, as the women continue to dive.

‘In mid-June, Mi-ja went into labour in the sea. She kept working until the final hour, when In-ha and I joined her on the deck for the delivery. After all her foreboding, that baby practically swam out of Mi-ja.’

At the end of the war, the Japanese were driven out by the victorious American forces but as far as the people of Jeju were concerned, they just replaced one set of occupiers with another and worse, the American suspicion of communism meant that they were hostile to the naturally communal approach of the haenyeo. As tensions grew on the island, it culminates in an American strategy called ‘The Ring of Fire’. This is an attempt to trap the ‘insurgents’ and remove them entirely. Young-sook, her husband and her children are caught in this ‘Ring of Fire’. As the atrocities committed by the militia mount, the risk that they will kill everyone to hide what they have done is very real. However, Mi-ja and her influential husband have the power to save them but faced with the choice, Mi-ja turns her back and leaves them. Her son and her husband are murdered before her eyes in an event called the ‘Massacre at Bukchon’.

‘Sang-mun grabbed Mi-ja’s arm and began to walk away. “Mi-ja!” I screamed. “Help us!” She kept her face turned, so she didn’t see what happened when the soldier decided to stop wasting their time with Yu-ri… Her agony was my agony. Then she stopped screaming.’

The novel ends in a way that should give us a sense of hope. Things aren’t always as they seem and this is a prime example of this. But, can we really forgive or even acknowledge seeing things in a different way? That’s something that is explored as the novel closes. No spoilers here – you’ll need to read it to find out…


Final Thoughts
I did enjoy reading this book. Don’t get me wrong, it is harrowing, horrifying and a completely alien culture to what we are used to. It is nothing like our every day lives and so my eyes were opened to a new experience completely. It isn’t a traditional beach read – no summer vibes here! Regardless, this book is one that I am so grateful to have read. That’s the beauty of these reading challenges – reading something you wouldn’t normally read. This book is exactly that.

Thank you all so much for your patience, care and love. I’ll be back soon – I promise!

Big love all xxxxx

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