The Sky Above the Roof – Nathacha Appanah

Hey Loves!

How are we all? I am here to share with you today my first read of 2022 and it’s celebrating its publication day today too! How exciting. First of all, a huge thank you to MacLehose and Quercus for this early copy. Next, I can’t gush about this book enough. It’s small but, goodness, it is mighty. I hope you enjoy the review!

What’s it all about?
This novella centres around Wolf, a seventeen year old boy who steals a car in order to find his sister Paloma who left home over ten years ago. He’s unlicensed, on edge and veers onto the wrong side of the road, causing an accident. As a result, he is arrested, imprisoned and leaves his mother and sister to deal with the devastation that was caused. From this event – this one moment in time, this small novella reveals various viewpoints and voices all resulting in a novella full of poignancy and pain. In life, every action has a consequence. This novella explores that and the plethora of emotions that are caused by that.

‘She thought this name would bring him strength, luck, natural authority… there he is now, in the back of a police van, as we turn the page.’

The narrative then evolves to describe Wolf who clearly struggles and presents like a teenager who may be on the autistic spectrum. He muddles things up, mixes up time, words and actions. He sometimes listens but is usually observing the speaker to read their face. Yet the medical advice, confirms that Wolf is medically well and perfectly healthy. So why did he behave the way he did? Why steal a car and cause an accident? Why create the utter devastation for his mother and sister to resolve and live with for the rest of their lives?

For me personally, I felt the most sympathy for the mother, Phoenix. The turmoil she faces is arguably the most poignant part of the novella. She clearly is troubled and deeply vulnerable too. I’m also deeply interested in her name: will she rise from the ashes?

‘The day ends with the woman in a white nightdress waking, drenched in sweat. The image of her two children vanishing into the earth is still vivid and the distress she felt in her dream is there, in the pit of her stomach.’

Time doesn’t stop for any of us and with each narrative, time is ticking in the background. The impact on all involved differs and the consequences are also variable. However, what is clear is that everyone, literally everyone, is affected. Wolf, his life will never be the same again. Everything is internal with him – his pain, suffering, reasoning and angst. It’s questionable whether or not he will come back from this.

”Wolf makes his bed, not thinking about anything. Between the moment when he left the van and now, his heart has been closed.’

By the end of the novella though, lessons have been learnt and Wolf realises he isn’t innocent anymore and he will always have to live with the consequences of what he did. Whilst the novella starts with the literal prison, it ends with the prisons that we create around ourselves. It’s almost poetic.

Final Thoughts
This book is complex on so many levels – the time frame, the characterisation, the clear psychological struggles faced by this family. However, for me it’s been so difficult to write about because it’s so beautifully stunning that I don’t quite know where to begin. Hopefully I’ve done it justice. I can confidently say that it is nothing like what I’ve read before. I always have a soft spot for translated novels and this one is no exception. Translated by Geoffrey Strachan with his translator’s note at the start means that we get the explanation of the French title referring to a poem by Paul Verlaine. This too was sublime.

‘What have you done, who weep
Your endless tears?
What have you done, who weep
With youth’s lost years?’

As I say, this book is being published today so Happy Publication Day and enjoy reading!

See you next time for my next review.

Big Love xxxx

Telephone Box Libraries/Book Exchange

Hi Lovelies!

How are we all? I really hope you’re all doing well and taking good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Naturally, I hope you’re all reading amazing books that I’ll want to add to my pile but I absolutely cannot buy anymore books…

Today I want to share with you a very exciting post based on something I stumbled across over my Christmas break. Now, the title of this post gives it away but it’s the first time I’ve ever found myself one. I’ve become so obsessed that before term started I visited three times making various donations too!

I stumbled across this telephone box library in Shrewley, Warwickshire when I was visiting my family over the Christmas break. I didn’t even realise it was there! I spotted it as I was driving past and now I’m desperately trying to find more. I think the thing I love most about it is the sense that my books are sitting there waiting to be discovered and loved by whoever picks them up next. I love the sense of community behind it too and the fact that they are there for everyone. This particular one has a whole range of exciting bits inside: fiction, non-fiction, cookery books, children’s books, DVDs, CDs and jigsaws.

Here I am, perusing the shelves! (Clearly I have no shame…) I did take three novels, one of which I’m reading now and will be reviewing next, and dropped ten off for others to enjoy. I’m really looking forward to going back there and seeing what treasures I find. I guess this is where the beautiful blogging community comes in… where are more of these gems? I’d be so keen to hear about where they are and the delights you’ve got from inside them. Here’s what I got!

If you love books as much as I do, keep an eye out for your own telephone library / book exchange when you’re out and about. You just don’t know what lies inside waiting to be discovered or quite realise what impact this will have on you.

Let me know about your experiences with telephone box libraries.

Big love all xxx

Lockdown Secrets – Eleanor Tattersfield

Hello Lovelies!

After ending 2021 on a high with regard to reading, I found myself feeling so much pressure for this year which has meant that my reading has slowed right down. However, after work yesterday I went to collect a book as a present. My New Year’s Resolution was to not buy any books… but I failed all because of this amazing book I read and wanted to share with you straight away. It’s something I knew absolutely nothing about, the cover just caught my eye. We all know how it is with a beautiful or eye catching cover! They usually end up in our possession eventually. Anyway, I really hope this book gets to you as much as it does me. Enjoy!

What’s it all about?
This book quite simply is genius. If you know London, you may know Marby & Elm in Exmouth or have seen their super cute website here. However, back in February 2021, Eleanor Tattersfield came up with a clever idea following inspiration from a radio show for people to document their own lockdown confessions. After finding some postcards and seeing it as a sign, the project was born. Using the power of Instagram, followers could send their own confessions on postcards to the shop to be shared anonymously to unburden themselves. Literally anything and everything was shared and Tattersfield knew that these had to be seen. Using social media, these are still being shared today as well as within this book.

“As the secrets poured in, prominent themes emerged: food fetishes, masturbation, loneliness, breaking the rules, sex, love and surprisingly, the love of lockdown.”

I think the reason why I adore this book so much is because it is brutally honest. Part of me really wishes I documented my life better (or more) during lockdown. I look back and know that I baked a lot and sent a few thousand emails but I could have done so much more. This book is that. I also love the fact with it being anonymous, people will be absolutely honest and open. It really takes some nerve to share some of these confessions I must admit! The one below made me laugh so much because I had my own animal friends in lockdown. To be honest, they’re still around now! The only difference is mine are squirrels…

“Their wit, sincerity, creativity and diversity are completely and utterly compelling.”

As I was reading this, I just had an overwhelming feeling of pride really. That may sound silly but for people to share their lives with the world, to share their inner most fears and worries really is something. The postcards about family naturally made me think of my own and appreciate how much I did miss them in lockdown. This then led me to think about those people without family and people who were completely isolated from everyone. This one below really hit me…

Final Thoughts
Overall, this book is pure joy. I read it in one sitting and found myself wanting to be a part of this too. I also really appreciated the fact that there is a template in the back of the book to send my own. Maybe, one day, I will consider doing it! If you’re interested in sending your own, you can find out more information here. The next time I visit London, I absolutely will be dropping by this store. I couldn’t not!

“A unique record of the lockdown: sometimes amusing, often surprising, and occasionally heart-breaking.”

It’s relatable, believable and utterly memorable. What an incredible little book!

Until next time everyone!!

Big love xxx

2022!

Hello Lovelies!

I firstly want to wish you all a Happy New Year and welcome 2022 in with a bang! I hope it is full of wonderful experiences, good books, peace, health and warm friendships. None of us know what the future holds but I am going to be positive for the year ahead because I’m certain there’s good books waiting to be read and memories waiting to be made.

Anyway, I’m here today to share with you my thoughts and summary on 2021 and to show you all the books I’ve read in 2021 too. Also, I’m really excited to launch my new Reading Challenge for 2022 as well and I hope you take part in this with me!

2021 was a wonderful year in so many ways but utterly devastating in others. Like the rest of the world, we went into 2021 not really knowing what was going to happen. I decided I would just do what I always do – work on my blog, read plenty, get out there and take advantages of any opportunities that came my way and provide stability to the children in my classroom. I’m absolutely certain I’ll be doing exactly the same now we are in 2022 too!

I remember this time last year in my post I was overjoyed to have read so may books in 2020 – a huge 148. Well, in 2021 I managed to read 161 books. I honestly can’t believe it. I know that sounds so silly because I did my monthly round-ups but it’s still something I’m so proud of and something I never expected to be able to do. Also, how lucky am I to have had the time and the ability to read so may amazing books. It also tells me (not that I need reminding) that reading is definitely a thing of respite and joy for me. I’m still the girl that will read before bed, in the car on long journeys and at any given moment really. My head is usually in a book and I doubt that will ever change!

2021 in books!

  1. Corcoran, Caroline – The Baby Group
  2. Bell, Anna – We Just Clicked
  3. Fennell, David – The Art of Death
  4. Ridpath, Michael – The Diplomat’s Wife
  5. Ryan, Iain – The Spiral
  6. Bond, Caroline – One Split Second
  7. Rankin, Ian – Mortal Causes
  8. Rauf, Onjali Q – The Night Bus Hero
  9. Collen, Lindsey – Mutiny
  10. Watson, Christie – The Courage to Care
  11. Wood, Giles & Killen, Mary – The Diary of Two Nobodies
  12. May, Peter – Lockdown
  13. Turner, A.K. – Body Language
  14. Bailey, James – The Flip Side
  15. Napolitano, Ann – Dear Edward
  16. Rowell, Rainbow – The Prince and the Troll
  17. Potter, Alexandra – Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up
  18. Lee, Krys – How I Became A North Korean
  19. Logan, T.M. – The Holiday
  20. Carr, John Dickson – The Corpse in the Waxworks
  21. Walliams, David – Code Name Bananas
  22. Clarke, Rachel – Breathtaking
  23. Grisham, John – The Rooster Bar
  24. Priestley, J.B – An Inspector Calls
  25. Rowell, Rainbow – Eleanor and Park
  26. All on the Board – All on the Board
  27. Alam, Rumaan – Leave the World Behind
  28. Howells, Debbie – The Death of Her
  29. Cavanagh, Steve – Fifty Fifty
  30. Mackesy, Charlie – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
  31. Michaelides, Alex – The Silent Patient
  32. Hardiman, Rebecca – Good Eggs
  33. Dowling, Tim – How to be a Husband
  34. Charles, Janet Skeslien – The Paris Library
  35. Lefteri, Christy – The Beekeeper of Aleppo
  36. Logan, T.M. – Trust Me
  37. Barnes, Simon – Rewild Yourself
  38. Rosen, Michael – Many Different Kinds of Love
  39. Dowling, Tim – Dad You Suck
  40. Vesper, Inga – The Long, Long Afternoon
  41. Sakhlecha, Trisha – Your Truth or Mine?
  42. Hogan, Ruth – Madame Burova
  43. Hawker, Luke Adam – Together
  44. Morray, Beth – Saving Missy
  45. Logan, T.M. – The Catch
  46. Perry, Annika – Oscar’s Quest
  47. Patterson, James – Murder Games
  48. Swanson, Peter – Her Every Fear
  49. Coben, Harlan – Long Lost
  50. Coles, Richard – The Madness of Grief
  51. McConaughey, Matthew – Greenlights
  52. Moore, Captain Tom – Captain Tom’s Life Lessons
  53. Logan, T.M. – 29 Seconds
  54. Logan, T.M. – Lies
  55. Benedictus, Leo – Consent
  56. Bauer, Belinda – Exit
  57. Toon, Francine – Pine
  58. Cohen, Julie – Together
  59. Redhill, Michael – Bellevue Square
  60. Sher, Abby – All The Ways The World Can End
  61. Kinsella, Sophie – Shopaholic and Sister
  62. Henry, Emily – Beach Read
  63. Kinsella, Sophie – Shopaholic & Baby
  64. O’Leary, Beth – The Road Trip
  65. Schutz, Lars – The Alphabet Murders
  66. Markinson, T.B. – The Setup
  67. Cloke, Nicci – Close Your Eyes
  68. Taggart, Caroline – The Book Lover’s Bucket List
  69. Latham, Martin – The Book Seller’s Tale
  70. Wurger, Takis – Stella
  71. Woods, Carolyn – Sleeping with a Psychopath
  72. Nealon, Louise – Snowflake
  73. Grisham, John – The Associate
  74. Tolkien, J.R.R – The Hobbit
  75. Candlish, Louise – The Skylight
  76. James, Peter – Wish You Were Dead
  77. Liardet, Frances – We Must Be Brave
  78. Hwang, Sun-Mi – Miracle on Cherry Hill
  79. Brandi, Mark – The Rip
  80. Williams, Candice-Carty – Notting Hill Carnival 
  81. Lansdale, Joe R – Cold in July
  82. Earle, Phil – When The Sky Falls
  83. Lefteri, Christy – Songbirds
  84. Kaplinsky, Natasha – Letter from Lockdown
  85. Wharfe, Ken – Guarding Diana
  86. Patterson, James – Mistress
  87. Paris, B.A. – The Therapist
  88. Adimi, Kaouther – A Bookshop in Algiers
  89. Michaelides, Alex – The Maidens
  90. Skördeman, Gustaf – Geiger
  91. Wix, Katy – Delicacy
  92. Owens, Delia – Where the Crawdads Sing
  93. Woolridge, Addie – The Checklist
  94. Craven, M.W. – The Puppet Show
  95. Philby, Charlotte – A Double Life
  96. Carpenter, Elisabeth – The Woman Downstairs
  97. Maclean, Julianne – These Tangled Vines
  98. Bell, Alex – It Started With a Tweet
  99. French, Dawn – Because of You
  100. Berry, Lauren – Living the Dream
  101. Ayrton, Lucy – One More Chance
  102. Rous, Emma – The Au Pair
  103. Baker, Tim – Fever City
  104. Galbraith, Robert – Troubled Blood
  105. Hislop, Victoria – The Island
  106. Hislop, Victoria – One August Night
  107. Patterson, James – The Quickie
  108. Rentzenbrink, Cathy – Dear Reader
  109. Patterson, James – Kill Me If You Can
  110. Crawford, Susan – The Pocket Wife
  111. See, Lee – The Island of Sea Women
  112. Coble, Kaela – Friends and Liars
  113. Dinsdale, Robert – Gingerbread
  114. Christie, Agatha – Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly
  115. Patterson, James – Texas Ranger
  116. Hawkins, Paula – A Slow Fire Burning
  117. Carpenter, Elisabeth – Only a Mother
  118. Taylor, Kathrine Kressmann – Address Unknown
  119. Sharpe, Tess – The Girls I’ve Been
  120. Chaney, Lawrence – Drag Queen of Scots
  121. Pullman, Philip – Grimms Tales for Young and Old     
  122. Natsukawa, Sosuke – The Cat Who Saved Books
  123. Ryan, Katherine – The Audacity
  124. Shakespeare, William – Macbeth
  125. Seuss, Dr – Green Eggs and Ham
  126. Williams, Margery – The Velveteen Rabbit
  127. Frazier, Jean Kyong – Pizza Girl
  128. Peston, Robert – The Whistleblower
  129. Patterson, James – Private Princess
  130. Hope, Lucy – Fledgling
  131. Rowling, J.K. – The Ickabog
  132. Kinsella, Sophie – The Party Crasher
  133. Patterson, James – Texas Outlaw
  134. Walters, Minette – The Swift and the Harrier
  135. Miller, Ben – The Day I Fell Into a Fairytale
  136. Norbury, James – Big Panda and Tiny Dragon
  137. Carr, Jimmy – Before & Laughter
  138. Benjamin, Ali – The Thing About Jellyfish
  139. Grisham, John – Sooley
  140. Page, Alexandra – Wishyouwas
  141. Dickens, Charles – A Christmas Carol
  142. Beaumont, Lucy – Drinking Custard: Diary of a Confused Mum
  143. Stevenson, Robert Louis – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  144. Barnett, Laura – Gifts
  145. Hoang, Helen – The Heart Principle
  146. French, Nicci – Killing Me Softly
  147. Prior, Hazel – Call of the Penguins
  148. Daley, Tom – Coming up for Air
  149. Thayne, RaeAnne – Christmas at the Holiday House
  150. French, Nicci – What to do When Someone Dies
  151. Fletcher, Carrie Hope – Into the Spotlight
  152. Ahlberg, Janet & Allan – The Jolly Christmas Postman
  153. Patterson, James – Don’t Blink
  154. Wilson, A.N. – The King and the Christmas Tree
  155. Kinsella, Sophie – Love Your Life
  156. Perry, Sarah – The Essex Serpent
  157. Fargher, Anna – Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue
  158. Cooper, Daisy May – Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her
  159. Rayner, Jay – Chewing the Fat
  160. Lean, Sarah – The Good Bear
  161. Donaldson, Julia & Sandey, Victoria – The Christmas Pine     

There are so many great books here by brilliant writers. Yet, I am well aware when people post how many books they’ve read, it can be quite overwhelming. Confession time: there are so many books that I’ve given up on. I’m absolutely ruthless as well because I can give up after reading the first page. I just know if it’s a book for me or not. That isn’t to say that it’s a bad book. I’m in no position to judge and never would – it’s more about how I react to it. For example, I struggle when there’s lots of characters because I get confused. I’m less good with books that constantly change time frames. These books are still amazing to other people, but just aren’t the right ones for me. Don’t ever feel like you didn’t do very well because you read less. Reading a book is an absolute joy and honour. Most of all, reading is for you. Don’t ever forget that or doubt yourself when it comes to reading.


And now the bit I’m most excited about… My new reading challenge!

I’ve reflected quite a lot on my Reading Challenge of 2021. I loved doing it and I am so pleased I made it but I want 2022 to be even better. Last year, each month had a different theme. This year I’ve gone for a more fluid approach whereby I’ve made a bingo card and I will tick off one of the twelve focuses each month across the year.

Anyway, I’m proud to introduce to you all Book Bingo: Reading Challenge 2022!

There are some obvious things here where it fits certain months but I think this flexibility means I’ll be branch out into new areas that I haven’t gone into before. I can explore self-published books, new genres and tick off those books that I’ve been meaning to read for years but never quite got round to because a beautiful cover somewhere else caught my eye…

I’d love it if you took part in this with me and shared with me what you pick. After all, my to be read pile grows because of this community – let’s face it! Most of all, I really hope you like it! Happy New Year again and here’s to a booktastic 2022! Until next time…

Big love all xxx

Reading Round-Up: December

Hi Loves!

It’s New Years Eve! I can’t believe it really. I’m fairly certain I won’t get anymore books read this evening so I wanted to share with you the final round-up for this year because I have a glass of fizz and ultimately lose the ability to type. I’m hoping being as it’s only late afternoon in the UK, that I’ve still got plenty of time to wish you all a Happy New Year too! Before all that excitement though, let’s check out what I’ve managed to read in the month of December.

Now, I must say, I am pretty proud of myself this month because I’ve managed to read a total of 19 books. This is the highest amount I’ve ever read in a month and the last time I managed to do that was in August. To be perfectly fair, I think this is down to school holidays because all I do is sleep and read with mealtimes thrown in. Out of these 19 books for this month, I’ve managed 16 during the two week break so it really is down to having that time. Long live the holidays! Anyway, before we get to my favourites, let’s check out the shelves!

I’m so chuffed because I’ve read a real range – some that have been on the shelf for a while, some that I’ve bought and read in one sitting. I’m also really pleased with the range of fiction and non-fiction. I’ve had a bit of a good run with non-fiction. I do find that I have phases with non-fiction but there seems to be some seriously good non-fiction out there at the moment which I’m desperate to read! Lastly, I’m also really pleased with the wintery / Christmassy reads I’ve got through too.

It’s no surprise that it’s been hard to pick a top three here (don’t I say this every month?) but here goes!

  1. Coming Up For Air – Tom Daley. I read this book in one sitting. I’d go as far as to say, I was incredibly rude to anyone that was near me at the time when I was reading this book because I barely came up for air myself. I was captivated, immersed and finished the book praying that I could be best friends with Tom. Whether or not you’re into sports, read this book. Every felt lost? Like you’ve let anyone down? That you want more from life? That someone has judged you? Read this book. What an inspirational young man Tom is. I am in awe.
  2. The Good Bear – Sarah Lean. This book was one I finished this morning. It was so beautifully written and reminds me (not that I need it as an animal lover anyway) how awesome animals are and how we need them in our lives. It’s a story of a bear who is misunderstood and a little girl who tries to save him. A perfect wintery tale!
  3. The Jolly Christmas Postman – Janet & Allan Ahlberg. The reason why this book has to feature is because on Christmas Eve, I read this book with my favourite tiny human. We had the absolute best time and I realised that it would be a memory that I will treasure for ever. Slowly but surely, I am passing the love of reading to children wherever I can. We even read all the letters and did the jigsaw that came in the letter to Humpty Dumpty too. What a magical time.

I’ll be back in the New Year for the launch of my reading challenge for 2022 which I hope you all join with me with and I’ll reveal just how many books I managed to read this year too. All that is left for me to say is, have a very Happy New Year. Have the BEST time and celebrate safely.

Big love all! xxx

Reading Challenge 2021: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Hi Book Lovers!

I hope you’re all well and had a brilliant Christmas. I’m sure you all got plenty of wonderful books that I’ll be keeping an eye out for, that’s for sure. I thought I was making a good dent into my reading pile but then more arrived… I love it though!

Today, I finished my Reading Challenge of 2021! I honestly had the best time with my Reading Challenge reading things that I wouldn’t normally pick, revisiting books that have been living on the shelves for far too long and for finding books that have changed my world. December’s book is no different. I’ve read the wonderful The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. This was gifted to me far too long ago because of its gorgeous cover so I’m glad I’ve finally got around to reading it. The theme for December was: Read a book with a beautiful cover. There are just not enough words for how stunning the cover of this book is. If you’re wanting to review the themes for my Reading Challenge this year, please click here. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got planned for my Reading Challenge 2022, but more on that later! Time to crack on with my review of this brilliant book.

What’s it all about?
This is one of those books where all is not as it seems… Along with that, it’s one of those books where you can’t really give it the justice it deserves because there literally aren’t enough words. Regardless, I’ll give it a good go!

The novel centres around Cora Seaborne who I immediately fell in love with. She’s a widow but her husband, despite being wealthy is also quite abusive. With her new found freedom, she decides to ignore the constraints of her London society life and decides to take up amateur palaeontology. Whilst on holiday in Colchester with her son, Francis, and her companion, Martha, Cora is fascinated by a ruin caused by an earthquake which was rumoured to have awakened the Essex Serpent, a mythical sea dragon. Over time, the children and the locals become increasing convinced that the serpent is real and waiting to attack them. This irritates Will Ransome, the local reverend. The two frequently disagree about his faith and his refusal to believe in the serpent. However, the regular arguing brings them closer together.

“Cora, you cannot always keep yourself away from things that hurt you. We all wish we could, but we cannot: to live at all is to be bruised.”

This doesn’t go unnoticed by Dr. Luke Garnett, Cora’s friend whom she invites (well, begs) him to visit following a disaster at school whereby after Cora visits, the children fall into fits. With permission from Stella Ransome, Luke hypnotises Joanna, their eldest daughter. Unfortunately, Will walks in on this scene and is furious. As a result, a serious rift is caused between him and Cora. As if things aren’t complicated enough, both Cora and Will realise that they are entailed within an emotional affair, as do Martha and Dr. Luke. To make matters worse, Luke has been in love with Cora for some time.

Will decides to confess his feelings to Cora in a letter shortly before he learns that Stella is sick with tuberculosis, where she is rapidly approaching the end of her life. Meanwhile, Luke also confesses his love to her via letter too. Cora, naturally very cautious and wary of men because of her turbulent time with her husband, is angered by both letters. She ignores the letter from Will and writes an angry reply to Luke. Sadly, Luke received the letter the very same day that a knife attack maims him permanently in a way that ends his medical career.

Later, a mysterious stench envelopes the town, making everyone physically sick. Thoughts soon fly to the Essex Serpent and panic starts to rise. Will and some other villages go to look where they find a gigantic fish on the shore that’s dying. The smell comes from that and its death means that the villagers rejoice and celebrate because the serpent was obviously never real. Cora is persuaded to see her friends and returns. This creates an opportunity for Will and Cora to patch things up. This is just the starting point for the both of them.

“We both speak of illuminating the world, but we have different sources of light.” 

Whilst Cora and Will result in consummating their relationship, Joanna discovers that the serpent actually turns out to be an old boat previously thought to have been washed away. This discovery leads to another: Stella, whilst delirious and confused from her illness, has gone to the boat to die. Thankfully, Cora and Will are able to rescue Stella and return her to safety.

The novel closes with the Ransome children living with their friends, the Ambroses, whilst Stella awaits her death. Will finds himself in a sense of flux – he is happy with Stella whilst still in love with Cora. Luke meanwhile finds peace living with his friend Spencer and Core moves to London. She now lives alone as her companion, Martha, has fallen in love and her son has gone to boarding school. Cora is happy living in solitude but she does continue to write to Will, urging him to reunite with her.

“CLEAVE. To cleave to something is to cling to it with all your heart, he said, but to cleave something apart is to break it up.”

Final Thoughts
Firstly, and most obviously, this book is stunning. The cover is beautiful, the flowers ornate and the gold oozes opulence. However, for me it is the writing style that I absolutely love. It flows, it’s seamless and the description is divine. I wish I could write like that. I also thoroughly enjoyed the many letters which make up the narrative too. Letters provide a more intimate experience, we tend to see true emotions within them and these really added to the narrative. As I said at the start of this post, I genuinely don’t have the words to give this book the praise it deserves. But, it is clear to see why this book has won many awards. I urge you all to read it. You won’t be disappointed. What a brilliant way to close my Reading Challenge!

See you next time loves!

Big love xxx

Christmas Eve!

Hi Everyone!

Happy Christmas Eve! Just a short post from me today to wish you all the merriest of Christmases filled with love, joy and all your wishes, hopes and dreams. For me, Christmas Eve has been truly special as I’ve spent the day with my best friend and her daughter, my god-daughter. I love Christmas because of all my own childhood memories and surprises I can now give to my family now I’m older, but it’s a different kind of special now my she can understand. She’s very very excited!

You may also remember that I always take part in the Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition, Jolabokaflod or (The Book Flood) on Christmas Eve. Books are exchanged for gifts so the whole evening can be spent reading. The book I received was The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories edited by Jessica Harrison. I’ve read a few already but I am going to leave some for next year too as it really is a beautiful collection of stories I’ve mostly never heard of. Also, I’m so grateful because it’s a lovely edition. Anyway, the story I have chosen for Christmas Eve is, ‘Christmas’ by Tove Jansson. It reminded me of me as a child, of all the small people I have in my life now for the magic and wonder of Christmas.

For me, it’s the opening and the ending of this story that I absolutely love because it is just so relatable to me. You want to be swept away with joy and wonder as a child. Let’s face it, we all want that as an adult too! For me, this story does that. I’ve read it twice in the process of writing this post as well actually!

‘The smaller you are, the bigger Christmas is. Underneath the Christmas Tree, Christmas is vast. It is a green jungle with red apples and sad, peaceful angels twirling around on cotton thread keeping watch over the entrance to the primeaval forest. In the glass balls the primaeval forest is never-ending; Christmas is a time when you feel absolutely safe, thanks to the Christmas tree.’

‘I crept into the green primaeval forest and pulled out parcels. Now the feeling of love under the branches of the tree was almost unbearable, a compact feeling of holiness…forgiving everything during the year that was past…forgiving everything on earth as long as they could be sure that everybody loved one another.’

Now, I’m going to sit by the fire and read a bit more ready for the big day tomorrow. All that’s left for me to say is have a very merry Christmas and happy reading!

Big love all xxx

Reading Challenge 2021: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

Hello Loves!

I hope you’re all doing ok and enjoying the run up to Christmas. I am well aware there are a lot of unknowns on the horizon but I am doing what I always do: enjoying the holidays, resting and of course, reading plenty. I know I’m still playing catch up on my posts but behind the scenes I have been working on my reading challenge for 2022 which I really hope you get involved with! I can’t wait to share that with you all!

Before that, today I am here to review my book choice for November. The focus was: November – Read a book by an author who died more than 100 years ago. I put this into my challenge so I read another classic. After all, they are classics for a reason and I am someone that sees the new books out in shops and buys them, leaving the classics behind. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get this read in November BUT I did manage to finish it on December 1st so it isn’t too bad… My first choice was the poetry of Lewis Carroll but… we didn’t see eye to eye… Anyway, I then decided to read the gothic Victorian classic The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I hope you enjoy my post!

What’s it all about?
The setting of this novel, heavily influenced by Stevenson’s life in Edinburgh, is set in London with a quintessential Victorian gentleman, Doctor Henry Jekyll. Stevenson contrasts this with the character of Edward Hyde. One evening, Gabriel John Utterson and his cousin Richard Enfield reach the door of a large house. Enfield tells Utterson about the scandalous events of months before. He saw a sinister and terrifying looking man (Edward Hyde) trample a young girl after accidentally bumping into her. Hyde was forced to pay £100 to avoid the public scandal that would have ensued. However, when Hyde bought the cheque, it was signed by the reputable gentleman later revealed to be Doctor Henry Jekyll. Utterson knew the doctor well – he was a client and a friend. Utterson fears the worst and assumes that Hyde is blackmailing him especially as Jekyll changed his will recently in order to make Hyde his sole beneficiary. As his friends, Utterson tries to talk to him about it, only to be repeatedly shut down.

“It is one thing to mortify curiosity, another to conquer it. ” 

On a dark October night, a servant witnesses Hyde beating Sir Danvers Carew to death. All that is left behind is half of a broken cane. The police contact Utterson who takes them to Hyde’s apartment. Upon their arrival, they see how Hyde has vanished but has left behind the other half of the broken cane. Utterson recognises it immediately as one he previously gave to Jekyll. Utterson visits Jekyll who shows him a note. This note has allegedly been written to Jekyll by Hyde but Hyde’s handwriting is similar to Jekyll’s own, resulting in Utterson believing and concluding that Jekyll has forged the note in order to protect Hyde.

Gradually, over time Jekyll reverts to his former self. He’s sociable and back to his status of quintessential gentleman. However, in January the following year, he starts refusing to see visitors. This change in character leads to more suspicions. Furthermore, Dr Hastie Lanyon, a mutual acquaintance of Jekyll and Utterson, dies of shock after gaining some information relating to Jekyll. Before his death, Lanyon gives Utterson another letter to be opened after Jekyll’s death or disappearance. In late February, during another walk with Enfield, Utterson begins a conversation with Jekyll at his laboratory window. Out of nowhere, Jekyll slams the window and disappears, shocking Utterson to the core.

“There comes an end to all things; the most capacious measure is filled at last; and this brief condescension to evil finally destroyed the balance of my soul.” 

In early March, Jekyll’s butler, Mr Poole visits Utterson in a state of frantic worry. He reveals how Jekyll has completely secluded himself in his laboratory for weeks. The pair decide that they have no choice but to break into the laboratory where they find the body of Hyde wearing Jekyll’s clothing. With this and a letter from Jekyll to Utterson, it is assumed that this is suicide. Utterson reads Lanyon’s letter followed by Jekyll’s. Lanyon reveals that his shock was caused by seeing Hyde drink something that turned him into Jekyll. Jekyll’s letter explains how he indulged in unstated vices and feared discovery. Therefore, he found a way to transform himself and thereby indulge his vices without fear of detection. Whilst this was originally under control and under the control of Jekyll, one night in August this happened involuntarily.

Eventually, Jekyll resolved to stop becoming Hyde and go back to his respectful life. Yet, one moment of weakness resulted in him drinking the serum to change. This led to him murdering Carew due to him burying his desires for so long. As a result of this though, Jekyll resolved to stop the transformations. The police were hunting him as a murderer so Hyde needed to help him avoid capture. He wrote a letter to Lanyon in Jekyll’s hand asking for his friend to deliver various chemicals from his laboratory. In Lanyon’s presence, Hyde mixed the chemicals, drank the serum and transformed into Jekyll. The shock of this sight resulted in Lanyon’s death.

Finally, one of the chemicals ran low and new batches failed to work. Jekyll speculated that one of the original ingredients must have some unknown impurity that enabled it to work. Knowing there was no way out, Jekyll wrote out a full disclosure of events and locked himself in his laboratory. Here, he could keep Hyde impressed and Poole and Utterson would find him dead.

“If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also.” 

Final Thoughts
For such a small novel, there is so much to discuss. There have been many many theories and schools of thoughts about the novel but for me, it shows the impact of hiding those desires deep down. Also, I am fascinated by the duality of man – how we are all capable of good and evil. There’s a reason this novel has stood the test of time – after all it’s been around since 1886… I also really enjoyed the letter elements of the novel. Letters are a dying art form so I really like it when they’re within the plot of a story and this is truly the case here – letters reveal the truth. All in all, this is a short novel that you can easily read in a day but one that throws up many questions and thoughts about the behaviours of man and the difference between out outward presentation of ourselves and our true inside.

I’ll be back before Christmas so I’ll wait until then to wish it to you all! In the meantime, enjoy the build up to the big day and stay safe and well.

Big love all xxx

Reading Round-Up: November

Hey Loves!
How are you all? Well, we are progressing our way through December aren’t we? Those jingly bells are definitely in my ears as I cling on desperately for the Christmas break. We just have to hang on in there! Mind you, whilst the world outside continues to turn, I’ve been trying to catch up with everything. Today, I want to share with you my round up post for November. One the one hand, November feels like a long time ago now. However, I did read some great books that month and I cannot wait to share them with you all. This month I managed to read a total of 8 books which I am quite pleased about considering it was mock season. You’ll see that the majority are children’s books. It’s not a secret that I love a children’s book, especially when I’m exhausted and marginally overwhelmed. It’s an easy way to switch off. I am also really pleased about the two non fiction books of this month too!

Without further ado, let’s check out the shelves!

My top three for this month were actually much easier to pick than previous months. Now, I can’t really explain why but I think it’s because I enjoyed all the books this month. It’s also a bit easier because I’ve reviewed two of them already! Check out Sooley here and Big Panda and Tiny Dragon here.

  1. Before & Laughter – Jimmy Carr. I know Jimmy Carr is controversial however, I learnt so much from this book. Inspired to write after becoming a father, it was amazing to see him being so unforgivingly honest. I am a fan of the show 8 Out of 10 Cats so when I spotted this I had to read it. But this book is so much more than the comedy. There’s some really insightful moments from Carr’s youth that I knew nothing about. I really enjoyed reading this and would recommend it for anyone who is into comedy, any fans of Carr and also anyone who wants to branch into more non-fiction.
  2. Drinking Custard – Diary of a Confused Mum – Lucy Beaumont. Another 8 Out of 10 Cats link here but this time focusing on motherhood. Now, I am not a parent but I found this book completely (and strangely for me) relatable. I think that if I were to become a parent, I’d be a bit like this. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found myself laughing throughout really. Love it!
  3. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens. Every year I teach this novella and every year my love for it grows. It makes me believe that we all have the ability to change and I always find myself wanting to do more after I’ve read it. For example, one of my classes are now writing letters to our local rest home for Christmas. Anyway, this is a short for punchy novella with one of the most iconic characters in the history of literature.

Overall, eight books are still a good number but I’m really pleased that I read more non fiction. I do really love non fiction but it’s never my first choice. I know that doesn’t make much sense but I do always enjoy it and then vow to read more. Yet, I end up going to my usual crime/thriller/psychological thriller novels.

I’ll see you in my next post where I’ll be writing my review of my book choice for November and December. I’ll try to get some Christmas reads in there too! See you when I break up for the holidays!

Big love all xxx

Reading Challenge 2021: Sooley – John Grisham

Hey Loves!
I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the fact we are now into December! Last week I woke up to SNOW! I wasn’t expecting it and I was mesmerised! It rarely happens where I live so I loved it. With that and it being December and the countdown to Christmas, I can barely contain myself. I mean, I’ve already got three Christmas trees up… Anyway, I was so taken with my London weekend that I’m really behind with my reading posts! Forgive me… I’m going to start the catching up process now though. Today’s post is my review of my book choice for October: Sooley by John Grisham. Now, I’m not massively into Halloween but I do love to see all the pumpkins (hence my photo of this book to be honest!) The theme of October was: Read a book with an orange cover. I found this book in my local bookshop; it was orange and by a writer I really want to read more of so it was perfect. Thankfully, I also really enjoyed reading it! I hope you enjoy my review!

What’s it all about?
The novel focuses around a topic I know very little about: basketball. If you’re expecting a classic Grisham courtroom drama, then you won’t find it here. However, what you do find is a blend of dreams, ambition, conflict and poverty. As always Grisham weaves his tale effortlessly, the characters are well developed and the plot still remains challenging, without reading like a challenge. The protagonist of the novel is Sooley, a seventeen year old, ginormous human being at six feet two inches. He is from a small rural village in South Sudan. His dream is to become a world famous basketball star. However, his location means that he is hardly living in the land of dreams or opportunities. Regardless, Sooley is lucky enough to get himself onto the under 18s national team to go on a tour of the USA. This is his golden opportunity to get noticed by a talent spotter and therefore get himself a college place in America. Maybe he could even get himself a deal with an NBA team and play in the worlds biggest basketball league.

Meanwhile, back in Sooley’s home town, life is not peaceful. Even on the bus journey to the airport, a gunfight breaks out between government soldiers and rebel bandits. However, Sooley manages to keep himself alive. As the training begins in earnest, it becomes clear that Sooley is very fast and can jump very high but he cannot get the ball in the basket. Nine times out of ten, he misses. Playing in America is a completely different world from the hard dirt courts Sooley is used to in South Sudan. Even though the richer teams have better kit and look smarter, he personally feels like a prince in his sponsored Reeboks and dowdy grey uniform. His coach, Ecko Lam believes that Sooley can become a superstar and starts pushing his case to a scout who he knows.

“Lonnie, Samuel could be the steal of the tournament. He’s not getting looks because he’s not scoring. But he will. When I first saw hi back in April he had the worst jump shot in Africa. He’s come a long way and he’s still working hard. And growing.”

Back home things are continuing to get worse. The guerrilla forces have launched an attack which has overrun Sooley’s village. The loss of life is staggering. His mother, brothers and sisters are all missing. The news that makes its way into the US media is fragmented and unreliable. Sooley has no idea where his family are or if they are even alive. His sister is taken away by the rebel forces and his father is shot dead. The rest of his family are now refugees fleeing the fighting. All they have now is whatever they can carry and keep safe on them.

The narrative switches from the endless stream of mostly unsuccessful basketball games and the horror and harsh reality of the people who are starving and suffering at home. Sooley is torn between constantly thinking about home whilst being thousands of miles away, trying to secure himself a safe future.

‘The water was wretched but it quenched their thirst. The peanuts tasted by chocolate candy. “Eat slow,” Beatrice whispered to James and Cool. “Make it last.” But they couldn’t eat slow.’

Partly due to sympathy for the tragedy that has overtaken him, Sooley manages to secure a scholarship to an American college. As he gets settled into the campus and college life, his new coach manages to make contact with his family in a refugee camp in Uganda. Sooley’s life becomes a bit more ‘normal’ (or normal in our terms) as he shares a room with someone else from the team and gets a job working in the locker room of the football team. Now he has access to the gym in the quiet periods, he starts to practice for as long as he possibly can. His training has officially begun. Nevertheless, he still cannot dribble and he still cannot shoot. As a result, Sooley is likely to spend his first season sitting on the bench. Early one morning, his phone rings with an International call. It’s his mother. Finally, after this wall of silence and doubt, he is able to make contact. It’s taken two months for him to hear her voice again and the news that his sister is missing hits him hard.

Despite working hard and showing some signs of improvement, Sooley is still resigned to the bench. He is still growing taller and he is putting on muscle mass. His shooting is getting better and better. For the team however, things are not going so well. A series of defeats means that morale is low. Finally the coach decides to give Sooley the opportunity to play on the court. This was his opportunity to show just how much he had improved. In that game, all his practice, hard work and dedication comes to fruition.

‘The legend of Sooley began with fifteen minutes to go in the second half. He sprang high and aimed at the rim. It was not a hopeless effort to beat the buzzer. I was not a Hail Mary. Instead, it was a smooth, confident, perfect jump shot from 42 feet that found nothing but net. He glanced at Coach Britt, who stood frozen, his mouth wide open.’

Over the next few games, Sooley establishes himself as the star of the team. Despite his obvious skill, he remains humble and likeable, never letting the adulation of the crowd go to his head. Alongside this success, he starts working with an immigration lawyer to see if he can get his family to safety in America with him. He sends them money and speaks to the at least once a week and whilst their situation is difficult, it is no longer desperate.

But all this wasn’t destined to last. Like any young man, decisions are made that are later regretted and lessons have to be learnt. The ending isn’t what we expect…

Final Thoughts
Grisham strikes again with this book! I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I know very little about basketball. I was taken in with Sooley’s story, felt increasingly uncomfortable with the descriptions of life when you are living in a state of fear and utter survival as well as refugee camps. Ultimately, I was desperate for Sooley to become a success story. I completely appreciate that this novel doesn’t end in the way I expected it to either. That is the skill of Grisham – he creates an ‘easy’ read which is hard-hitting, challenging and thought provoking. Regardless, it was a book that I did enjoy to read and once again, I am grateful for finding this by pure chance on the shelves at the store.

I once again apologise for the fact that this post is very late. I’ve got the round-up and November’s book choice left to catch up on!

Continue to stay safe and well everyone!

Big Love xxxx