Blog Tour: Thunderstone – Nancy Campbell

Hello Loves!

I hope your Monday has treated you kindly. I’m super excited to share with you today my stop on a blog tour for the amazing Thunderstone by Nancy Campbell. A huge thank you to @NancyCampbell, @eandtbooks and Claire Maxwell for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. You can check out their instagram accounts too here, here and here. I love being a part of this community because it’s where I find out all my next reads. Hopefully, this amazing book will become one of yours! I really hope you enjoy it.

What’s it all about?

The novel opens following the devastation that was lockdown. Facing an ending relationship, it is time for Nancy Campbell to do something for herself for a change, to stand on her own two feet. She decides it is time to own a property of her own. She does this of sorts: she buys herself a caravan and decides to live on a woodland by a canal and a railway. The next chapter and the new journey begins from here.

‘On closer investigation many of the vintage caravans are not just basic, they are burned-out, mouldering wrecks described as ‘good restoration projects’. Those that have been refurbished are blighted by bunting and floral curtains. I set my heart on a tiny but van, round as a button…’

What comes next is almost poetry. There’s description of the surroundings during the summer months, how the plants and animals change, followed by quotations and references to literature and also snippets of the people around her. All these elements are intertwined together to create this book. June brings the morning birdsong and the teething problems with the van. There’s frustrations as well as learning curves. What shines is the kindness of those around and the beauty of the natural world in which we live. It’s touching to see references back to Anna, from the relationship at the beginning too,

“You have to let go. Anna has to get on with her life. You have to get on with yours. Now, what needs sorting?”

June bleeds into July, into August and September. Life is very different but it’s no less simple for Campbell. Anna’s father passes away and Nancy herself has health issues of her own. She repeatedly needs to leave the comfort and solace of her van for various medical appointments. Despite the beauty of her surroundings, there is a sense of urgency, to move quickly to find out what is wrong with her health.

‘On the screen she points out a spherical mass, which dwarfs the shadowy organs surrounding it. “It’s often the way,” she says. “A patient comes in with one concern – and we find something entirely different.”

To find out the full extent of Campbell’s journey, you’ll have to get yourself a copy of this book. As a side note, the cover really is beautiful so you’ll have no issue finding this in your local bookshop! Do check out the other stops on this blog tour too!

Final Thoughts

It’s quite difficult to review this book because there’s just so much beauty to it. It’s for a certain type of reader though, not necessarily me, but I have appreciated it. Like I said before, it’s almost lyrical. There’s pain as well as beauty and in that respect, it feels raw and honest. Personally, it’s honest non-fiction that is the unsung hero of the literature world currently. Finding something you can relate to or think about is what literature is for. I feel truly grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of this tour and for this book becoming back of my own reading experience.

See you next time!

Big Love xxx

Secrets of a Devon Wood – Jo Brown

Hello loves!

There I was, living my best life and enjoying the holiday and then it was over. It went ridiculously fast but I did manage to read plenty. I’m also really pleased because I can now go book buying again following lent! I’m absolutely certain I’ll be making that count.

I hope you’re all well and are enjoying the extended daylight. I must admit, I’m loving seeing more daylight, I feel like it really is a joyous time. Today I want to share with you a book that I saw by pure chance on a shelf in my local Waterstones. Periodically, I stumbled across a book that is just so beautiful that it is just criminal to not share it. It shows our natural world in all its glory. We really do need to preserve and protect it for future generations. I’m talking about the stunning Secrets of a Devon Wood: My Nature Journal by Jo Brown.

I really do love being around nature; it gives me a real sense of calm. So much so that I’ve made my kitchen window into a little window garden! My long term followers know that during term time I live and work in a city. However, holidays is all about the countryside. Jo Brown’s book reminded me of home and of the necessity to look all around us for the wonders of our natural world. I hope you love this one!

What’s it all about?

Artist and illustrator, Jo Brown, decided to keep a nature diary to document everything she saw in the wood behind her Devon home. This published copy is a replica of her drawings from her original hard copy diary. I’m in awe because I cannot draw like this and I also feel really lucky that she has shared this with the world.

It isn’t just the illustrations that are magical, I love the addition of the Latin names and splashes of information about plants, insects and birds.

The depth and the detail is like nothing I’ve seen before. I actually felt inspired to do something like this for myself but I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it! However, it’s given me a number of things to keep an eye out for next time I’m outside.

The perfect book to dip in and out of, the perfect book to absorb and learn from. We don’t know the true extent of what is outside but this gives us a starting point. I also appreciated the few pages at the back to start your own journal. I know I won’t use them but it has got me thinking for sure.

Final Thoughts

We are so lucky to have this world in which we live. I didn’t value it much as a child. But now I’m much more conscious. I like wildflowers and planting things that are bird and bee friendly. I’m actively trying to be better to help. I feel like it’s paying off slightly as on Easter Sunday we had a gift of a fawn in our garden. These moments are magical and to be cherished. Our natural world needs looking after. Hopefully this book will leave you feeling as inspired as I am.

I’ll see you next time for my March and April choice for my reading challenge and an update of what shows I’ve seen recently!

Big love xxxx

Love Letters of Great Men – Ursula Doyle

Hey loves!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Whether you’re a lover of Valentine’s day or not, I had to find something fitting to read in preparation for the day of love. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before so I thought, why not?

What sparked this idea off was on a recent trip to Scarborough, I saw this book of love letters from the war. I absolutely love a letter and find myself saddened that it’s dying out. However, it brought back a memory of the book, Love Letters of Great Men made famous by the Sex and the City film. It was time to give this a read and experience love through the ages.

What’s it all about?

Rather than tell you all of the letters, I’ve picked my favourite three all for very different reasons. The collection covers prolific men in history from the likes of King Henry VIII to Lord Nelson, Napoleon Bonaparte to Oscar Wilde, just to name a few. Devised in chronological order, it really is wonderful to see love and all that is associated with it through time. It made me wonder how much has actually changed over the course of history.

My first pick of the letters is by Ludwig van Beethoven. Written in July to his Immortal Beloved, the full extent of the letter is an impressive ten pages long. The reason why I love this so much is because it’s written on my birthday (many moons before) so it felt like fate. Most importantly though, you can see how it oozes romance and despair.

“Be calm – love me – to day – yesterday. What longing in tears for you – You – my Life – my All – farewell. Oh, go on loving me – never doubt the faithfullest heart

Of your beloved

L

Ever thine.

Ever mine.

Ever ours.”

My next favourite comes from Oscar Wilde. Oscar and I go way back. I discovered him when I was at university and became obsessed with everything about him: his wit, his style, his talent and his life. A soul born before his time, Wilde was a broken man following his imprisonment for homosexuality. I’ve read all of his letters but this one shows love at its most vulnerable.

“My sweet rose, my delicate flower, my lily of lilies, it is perhaps in prison that I am going to test the power of love. I am going to see if I cannot make the bitter wardens sweet by the intensity of the love I bear you.”

Finally, I’ve picked a letter by Robert Browning. Every year I teach Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and I really enjoyed seeing some of his letters back. Their love is something that I think every aspires too: overwhelming, all encompassing, complete joy. My favourite letter is from their wedding day. It makes my heart soar.

“Words can never tell you… how perfectly dear you are to me – perfectly dear to my heart and soul. I look back and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence – you have been entirely perfect to me.”

Final Thoughts

There’s so many other incredible letters in this collection. It’s a joy to see them published. I can only imagine what it was like to receive them. There is a real art to writing a letter – I still write them now. However, there really is something special about these. We’re stumbling into these historical relationships where distance and time were real issues and where communication was by letter alone. It almost feels like a much simpler time.

Whether single, taken or in between, these letters really were something special. Love is an emotion that really has stood the test of time. These great men, all great for different reasons, all evoked the same reaction, acknowledgement of what a beautiful thing to receive. That snapshot into a little moment into these varied lives really is special. It’s a collection that will remain treasured on my shelf.

Sending you all love on this Valentine’s Day.

The Art of Buying Books part 4

Hello loves!

Am I glad it’s the weekend! I’ve got myself in a bit of a black hole. Maybe that’s too deep… but there’s definitely a fog in my head. I’ve really struggled to read, write, focus. Some of it is exhaustion but some of it is that I feel like life is just a challenge. Work is hard, too hard. We don’t live to work surely? Anyway, with good people by my side, I’m trying to find my way through the fog. The weekend always acts as a natural breaker.

As you may know, I was trying to be really good with buying books but actually, today I went on a huge book buying spree and I loved every second of it. It gave me a sense of purpose, it made me want to read again (I’ve been reading the rest of the day) and made me come back to my ever faithful blog. Here I am!

I started my little spree at my local Salvation Army. They are a cause close to my heart so I was there to drop a donation off. Books were not on my mind. However, I saw a sign on the door saying they can’t take any books as they had ran out of room. Well, this really was my time to shine! I had to step up. It was for charity after all. I had the overwhelming need to save as many as I could.

11 books for £2.75. I would have happily paid more but what an incredible bargain. There’s some great looking books here and a good mix too. I also got a stunning copy of The Girl on the Train which is going to dazzle on my shelf.

Isn’t that gorgeous? It means I can also gift the copy I’ve got on. Win-win! I also toddled along into town where it got me thinking about what other books I like. I used to collect fashion books (many moons ago) because I loved the pictures. I really wanted to be a fashion journalist at one point but I found that the books were enough for me. It was a strange thought it coming back to me. I felt foolish for forgetting about it. It dawned on me because I found this beautiful book on Coco Chanel. It’s even got silver sprayed edges.

This then got me onto another train of thought: cookery books. I love everything about food. Another idea for a career I had was a food journalist but that didn’t last long because I’m allergic to fish. It kind of narrows down the market! I did consider just cakes but that’s a hobby, not a job.

Anyway, I do like to collect baking and cookery books. Back in 2019, Penguin published the first five of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks in their classic cover colours for their 20th anniversary. At £26 each, I knew I’d have to save hard. But then they just ebbed from my mind, until today…

At £5.99 each, I couldn’t ignore them. There’s just two more to find but hopefully, one day I’ll get them. However, they’re visually stunning and I can’t wait to see them with my other cookery books in the kitchen. So much so, I’m considering getting a floating shelf to pop them on!

It’s the first time for a little while that the fog lifted. I came home and had all these beautiful books around me and I couldn’t wait to start reading. Then, I just wanted to write about it. I’m sure this isn’t the best post I’ve ever written but I hope you’ve found it to be full of truth, admiration and purpose. If you’re in a fog like me, I hope it helped.

I’ll see you very soon for my reading challenge book for January. I hope you’re all well.

Big Love xxx

Reading Round-Up: 2022

Hello Lovelies!

Happy New Year! I am super excited to round up on last year and also launch with you my reading challenge for 2023! 2022 was a great year for my little blog because I found that I really enjoyed posting more. I hope you didn’t get sick of me in the process though! I’m on a particular high today because I should have gone back to school but the heating had broken! Yes! An additional day off. More reading time for me!

First of all, I want to round up 2022. I was really pleased to see that I managed to read 145 books in 2022. Definitely down from 2021 but that’s because we weren’t stuck at home! You can remind yourself of last year here, should you wish to. Along the way, there have been some amazing books. I’ll give you my top 5 later but I’ve honestly loved it. It’s all been about trying to get down my to be read pile and I’ve put a dent in it, that’s for sure! It hasn’t been easy, like most readers there have been slumps along the way and the inability to find a book I can get into. There’s so many factors in play at times so I don’t tend to share which books I didn’t finish because I know it isn’t the book, usually it’s me. But, I am ruthless. I do give up and move on because life is too short.

Regardless, let’s check out the books of 2022!

  1. Appanah, Nathacha – The Sky Above the Roof
  2. Tattersfield, Eleanor – Lockdown Secrets
  3. Rauf, Onjali Q – The Lion at the Door
  4. Colwin, Laurie – Happy All The Time
  5. Grisham, John – The Racketeer
  6. Flack, Caroline – Storm in a C Cup
  7. Patterson, James – The Last Days of John Lennon
  8. French, Dawn – Oh Dear Silvia
  9. Jennings, Luke – Codename Villanelle
  10. Priestley, J.B – An Inspector Calls
  11. Tremayne, S.K. – The Assistants
  12. Hazelwood, Ali – The Love Hypothesis
  13. Morris, Heather – Three Sisters
  14. James, Erica – Mothers and Daughters
  15. Wilson, Antoine – Mouth to Mouth
  16. Hitchings, Henry – Love Letters to Bookshops Around the World
  17. McCartney, Sophie – Tired & Tested
  18. Dowd, Siobhan – The London Eye Mystery
  19. Zgheib, Yara – No Land to Light On
  20. Lepionka, Kristen – The Last Place You Look
  21. Halls, Stacey – Mrs England
  22. Prose, Nita – The Maid
  23. Donaldson, Julia & Scheffler, Axel – The Gruffalo
  24. Debona, Katherine – Love Me, Love Me Not
  25. Allen, Anthea – Life, Death and Biscuits
  26. Ware, Jessie – Omelette
  27. Shrager, Rosemary – The Last Supper
  28. Schwab, V.E. – Gallant
  29. Halls, Stacey – The Foundling
  30. Ryn, Jessica – The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside
  31. Logan, T.M. – The Curfew
  32. Maher, Kerri – The Paris Bookseller
  33. Penner, Sarah – The Lost Apothecary
  34. Blackburn, Lizzie Damilola – Yinka, Where is Your Husband?
  35. Hockney, David & Gayford, Martin – Spring Cannot be Cancelled
  36. Mas, Victoria – The Mad Woman’s Ball
  37. Strout, Lucy – My Name is Lucy Barton
  38. Cox, Katy – M is for Mummy
  39. Osbourne, Bella – The Library
  40. Wahrer, Caitlin – Damage
  41. Ireland, Sandra – The Unmaking of Ellie Rook
  42. Gold, Hannah – The Last Bear
  43. Williams, Candice-Carty – Queenie
  44. Keyes, Marian – Rachel’s Holiday
  45. O’Leary, Beth – The No-Show
  46. Grohl, Dave – The Storyteller
  47. Hargrave, Kiran Millwood – Julia and the Shark
  48. Gold, Hannah – The Lost Whale
  49. Steinbeck, John – Cannery Row
  50. Fforde, Katie – Saving the Day
  51. Keyes, Marian – Again, Rachel
  52. Lockhart, E – We Were Liars
  53. Hawkins, Paula – Blind Spot
  54. Buchanan, Daisy – Insatiable
  55. Vine, Lucy – What Fresh Hell
  56. Craven, M.W. – The Cutting Season
  57. McCaughrean, Geraldine – The Supreme Lie
  58. Sams, Saba – Send Nudes
  59. Wilson, A.K. – The Manager
  60. Sims, Gill – The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood
  61. Oseman, Alice – Nick and Charlie
  62. Patterson, James – Honeymoon
  63. Bennett, Alan – The Uncommon Reader
  64. Malik, Ayisha – Sofia Khan and the Baby Blues
  65. Paris, Helen – Lost Property
  66. Wilson, A.N. – Lilibet – The Girl who Would be Queen
  67. Carvan, Tabitha – This is not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch
  68. Hogan, Ruth – The Keeper of Lost Things
  69. Buchanan, Daisy – Careering
  70. Benson, Jen – The Wild Year
  71. Han, Jenny – The Summer I Turned Pretty
  72. Cox, Sara – Thrown
  73. Sutanto, Jesse – Dial A For Aunties
  74. Wickers, Kate – Shape of a Boy
  75. Chen, Kirstin – Counterfeit
  76. Stonex, Emma – The Lamplighters
  77. Candlish, Louise – The Other Passenger
  78. Heydenrych, Amy – The Pact
  79. Sunim, Haemin – The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down
  80. Cha, Steph – Your House Will Pay
  81. Backman, Fredrik – Anxious People
  82. Bly, Mary – Lizzie & Dante
  83. Takhar, Helen Monks – That Woman
  84. Heller, Miranda Cowley – Paper Palace
  85. Campbell, Michele – A Stranger on the Beach
  86. Jewell, Lisa – The Family Upstairs
  87. Corry, Jane – We All Have Our Secrets
  88. Cave, Jessie – Sunset
  89. Han, Jenny – It’s Not Summer Without You
  90. Hui, Angela – Takeaway
  91. Swanson, Peter  – Before She Knew Him
  92. Rowell, Rainbow – Fangirl
  93. Han, Jenny – We’ll Always Have Summer
  94. Mulhern, Stephen – Max Magic
  95. Osman, Richard – The Man Who Died Twice
  96. Newson, Karl & Anganuzzi, Clara – The World at Your Feet
  97. Sutanto, Jesse – Four Aunties and a Wedding
  98. Jestin, Victor – Heatwave
  99. Brook, Kate – Not Exactly What I Had In Mind
  100. Bourne, Holly – How Do You Like Me Now?
  101. Bochis, Iulia – The Sun, The Sea & The Stars
  102. Hazelwood, Ali – Love on the Brain
  103. Taylor, Matson – All About Evie
  104. Kay, Adam – Undoctored
  105. Norbury, James – The Journey
  106. Gayle, Mike – The Museum of Ordinary People
  107. Felton, Tom – Beyond the Wand
  108. Kawaguchi, Toshikazu – Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café
  109. Shakespeare, William – Macbeth
  110. Kawaguchi, Toshikazu – Before Your Memory Fades
  111. Murray, Lily & Surplice, Holly – Five Little Penguins
  112. Tucci, Stanely – Taste: My Life Through Food
  113. Osman, Richard – The Bullet That Missed
  114. Sanghani, Radhika – Thirty Things I Love About Myself
  115. Doughty, Louise – Platform Seven
  116. Theroux, Louis – Theroux the Keyhole
  117. Du Beke, Anton – We’ll Meet Again
  118. Moore, Ian – Death and Papa Noel
  119. Donati, Alba – Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop
  120. Kemp, Roman – Are You Really Ok?
  121. Coles, Richard – Murder Before Evensong
  122. Bennett, S.J. – Murder Most Royal
  123. Miller, Madeline – Galatea
  124. Swanson, Peter  – Rules for Perfect Murders
  125. Sharma, Nisha – Dating Dr. Dil
  126. Smith, Alex T – The Twelve Days of Christmas
  127. Dickens, Charles – A Christmas Carol
  128. Jewell, Lisa – The Family Remains
  129. Collins, Bridget & co – The Haunting Season
  130. Duffy, Carol Ann – Advent Street
  131. Herron, Mick  – Slough House
  132. Grimm Brothers & co – A German Christmas
  133. Pooley, Claire – The People on Platform 5
  134. Taylor-Bessent, Mel – The Christmas Carrolls
  135. Sampson, Freya – The Girl on the 88 Bus
  136. Macomber, Debbie – Jingle All The Way
  137. Ayoade, Richard – The Book That No One Wanted to Read
  138. Herron, Mick – Stanging By The Wall
  139. Du Beke, Anton – Ballroom Blitz
  140. Dean, Will – The Last Thing to Burn
  141. Carroll, Lewis – Through the Looking Glass
  142. Hendricks, Jaime Lynn – His Missing Wife
  143. Lockhart, E – Family of Liars
  144. Perry, Matthew – Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing
  145. Garmus, Bonnie – Lessons in Chemistry 

I think we can all agree there’s some incredible books here! Picking a top five is tough but they are:

  • Beyond the Wand – Tom Felton. When I reviewed it, I called it. I just knew that it was going to take a really special book to beat it.
  • Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing – Matthew Perry. I’m a huge Friends fan so I couldn’t not read this book. It was utterly heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.
  • Paper Palace – Miranda Cowley Heller. One of my summer reads that I couldn’t put down. I absolutely loved it. It gave me Crawdad vibes that I’d been desperately looking for!
  • The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex. Another beach read that I reviewed but fell in love with the plot after the first few pages.
  • The Lost Apothecary – Sarah Penner. A beautiful cover, a wonderful story with strong female characters.

That’s it! There’s so many others that I could have chosen but I decided to stick with these. What do you think? Have you read any of these?


2023: My focus has now changed to 2023 and what exciting books the future holds for me here. I’ve decided I need to continue with my efforts of getting down my to be read pile. Whilst going through my monthly reading challenge last year, I spotted that some of the criteria were quite similar so I’ve worked on it and please let me introduce to you all, the reading challenge for 2023!

I’ve tried to make sure that I’ve got some things that motivate me (e.g. a beach read. Who isn’t longing for summer?) as well as things that will definitely challenge me and broaden my reading horizons. Feel free to join in with this and make suggestions for me! I get a lot of my reading list from you guys so I’m keen for any books you think are good! I really hope you join in with me!

So, onto the next book and preparing myself for the next half term.

Big love all xxxx

Reading Round-Up: October

Hi loves!

Happy Sunday! I hope you’re all well rested and enjoying the weekend.

Whilst the rain is lashing down my windows, I thought now would be a good time to share with you all my round-up for October. October was a great month for reading which I’m really pleased with. I’m also surprised because even though I had half term, I was in London so only read one book! Anyway, there were some great books last month and some potential Christmas presents if you’re needing ideas! I do have to admit something though, I didn’t manage to get my book read for the book bingo but that’s ok!

So, I managed to read a thrilling 13 books in October. To be honest, I’m really chuffed! I’m desperately trying to get down my to be read pile and not buy anymore so I’m pleased with the progress I’m making, albeit quite slowly! Let’s check out the shelves.

I’ve already blogged and reviewed a couple of these: The Journey and Beyond the Wand. I absolutely loved both of those books and highly recommend them. However, I’ve picked a top three that lies outside those two.

  1. The Bullet That Missed – Richard Osman. The third book in the series and this was just as witty, thrilling and well developed as the others. Featuring our favourite Thursday Murder Club and another mystery that needs solving.
  2. Platform Seven – Louise Doughty. I received this in my halloween subscription box and it really didn’t disappoint. It’s just as gritty as Apple Tree Yard and I found myself falling into the depths of the murky world of murder. (Do not read if you’re planning on travelling around via train – I read this in London when I was hopping on and off tubes and I became super paranoid.)
  3. All About Evie – Matson Taylor. This book really was a breath of fresh air. It was utterly delightful and charming and I absolutely loved the character of Evie. A feel good read for those times when you really want one!

And there we have it! 13 fabulous books including one I’ve got for the tiny human in my life: Five Penguins. I must admit, it’s got beautiful illustrations and is perfect for the little ones. Who doesn’t love penguins as well?!

All in all, October was a brilliant reading month and I’m really excited about seeing what November brings on the reading front. It’s getting a bit exciting now with all the books being advertised for Christmas. I just need to resist temptation and get my pile down a bit more…

See you next time where I promise I’ll catch up the book I should have read for October and share with you some of the wonderful experiences of London.

Big love all! Xx

Beyond The Wand – Tom Felton

Hi Loves!

I hope you’re all well. I’m back from an incredible few days in London with my family. We have had an action packed time with adventures I’m sure I’ll share with you as time goes by. Just know I carried you all with me with the power of phones and internet! Big statement alert: this is my favourite book of 2022 so far. There, I said it. And that’s coming from a Gryffindor girl! As soon as it was announced that Tom Felton had written a book, I desperately wanted to get my hands on a copy. This book is everything and more and I am proud to say that I read this in just a few hours. I had to share my review with you all. For those of you who are not into Harry Potter, don’t worry. This book is an exemplary example of non-fiction. Let’s do this!

What’s it all about?

The novel starts with a foreword by Emma Watson. What we learn from foreword is the beauty of their friendship and how they are soulmates and will be in each other’s lives forever. It made me reflect upon my own friendships and having that specific connection with someone is truly remarkable. From here, Felton takes us through his childhood in chronological order, with each chapter being linked to the magical world of Harry Potter. It starts off quite humbly, with Felton showing us just how difficult it is to juggle a normal life with being a huge film star on one of the biggest franchises the world has ever seen. In his ever reflective narrative, Felton explains about an incident at HMV and an adult DVD. The incident itself isn’t that dramatic but it’s the fear that comes with it; the disappointment from his Mum and the fear of Warner Bros finding out and taking away his acting career. There’s a fine line between having a laugh with friends and being reckless.

“While the young Tom Felton was no Draco Malfoy, he was no saint either. Maybe that’s what got me the part in the first place.”

We learn about his family, the influence of his brothers and how his early auditions and acting experiences weren’t amazing. However, none of this stopped him and he got a part in The Borrowers. This led to his first film premier where it was all unknown really. His family went with him in another example of lovely family unity. Little Tom Felton had no idea what his future held and if it wasn’t for his mother, he wouldn’t have attended some of the auditions that he did. The next film was Anna and the King and this took Felton to the lights of Los Angeles for an audition, where he was successful, which led to filming in Malaysia. More new experiences for a young Felton who appreciated all the lessons that these experiences provided. From here, the calling of Harry Potter wasn’t far away. Yet, it wasn’t to be as expected. Felton made a bit of a fool of himself quite early on. But, this led him to a different part; one that he could never have imagined.

“Would Draco have gone home to mug up, Hermoine-like, on Harry Potter books? I think not. Would he have blagged his way through a question about which character he was most excited to see on screen? Possibly.”

We are taken through the filming and what life was like for a young Felton and his appreciation of his fellow actors. There’s anecdotes about working with Daniel Radcliffe, Alan Rickman, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Maggie Smith and Zoe Wanamaker, just to name a few. Likewise with Emma Watson, Felton shares his views with the world about her. Their relationship is pure, innocent and utterly compelling. The support they share for each other and the unquestionable loyalty they have for each other means that the two will be connected for life. I also think his appreciation of Daniel Radcliffe is also reflective and kind. It’s always lovely as a reader to see that the friendships on screen are mirrored in real life. We are also aware that some of the cast have since passed away. I too appreciated the acknowledgement of these and of Felton who, now as an adult, appreciates those interactions even more.

“We grew closer and the more I saw and understood what he life was like, the more empathy I had for her. I became very defensive of her, whenever she needed defending. I began to see her not as a little girl, nor as a public-property celebrity, but as a young woman who was doing her very best to negotiate a life where ordinary social situations and interactions were practically impossible.”

For me personally, the part of the novel that made me feel a whole range of emotions was when we saw an older Felton struggling with the reality of life post Harry Potter. Say goodbye to being anonymous and having a sense of real life outside of the public eye. This in itself sounds easier said than done and I found the honesty of Felton humbling. I am not afraid to say that I shed a tear or two! His family felt the need to stage an intervention based on Felton’s alcohol consumption. The end of the book is all about Felton’s struggles with his mental health and his addictive behaviours. He found himself in rehab – something that has a stigma and a label attached to. Like the rest of the novel, it’s unapologetically honest. I was relieved to see by the end of the novel that whilst mental health can still be an issue, Felton is now in a better place, cementing himself as a hero for his generation for being so open and honest.

“I realised that before I had been existing a state of absolute numbness. It wasn’t that I was ready to jump off a bridge; it was that jumping off a bridge and winning the lottery seemed like equivalent outcomes. I had no interest in anything, good or bad.”

Final Thoughts

I cannot deny how much I love this book. I didn’t want to put it down, I’ve recommended it to my friends and also some of my students at school. I think that Felton is a role model for young people and his honesty and reflection throughout this is commendable. As a massive Potterhead, I know I was always going to read this book but I didn’t appreciate how much I come to value this book. The issues around mental health are so key and prominent – I could relate to many things – and that is absolutely acceptable because life happens and things impact our state of wellbeing and equilibrium. People, young and old, Harry Potter fan or not, read this book. It might just change your life. It has mine.

Big Love xxxx

Reading Round-Up: August and September

Hey Loves!

Well, it appears that I’ve dropped a bit of a clanger… I didn’t seem to do my round-up for August! So today, I’m going to share with you the books I read in August and September so we are all back up to date. I cannot believe I’ve done that! I guess life gets in the way sometimes but still I’m super disappointed in myself really. I hope you can all forgive me and hopefully this acts as some form of redemption…

Anyway, let’s start with August. Like the end of July, I spent the majority of August on holiday which was excellent. I had a fabulous time but looking back now, it feels like such a long time ago. In August I managed to read a total of 16 books which I am really pleased with. There were some excellent ones here too. I’m surer you’ve got to them already but I’m still really excited to share them with you. Let’s check out the shelves!

Picking a top three from this lovely bunch is going to be really difficult. I enjoyed the majority of them so much to be honest! I’ll give it my best shot though.

  1. The Paper Palace – Miranda Cowley-Heller. For me, this had real Crawdad’s vibes and I utterly ate it up. I couldn’t put this book down. I loved the characters and the story and found it to be my favourite book of the summer.
  2. The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell. I think I said before that I am relatively new to Lisa Jewell but I really enjoyed this one and cannot wait to progress onto the next one in the series. Long term followers know that I absolutely love a psychological thriller and this was just that. Edge of the seat kind of stuff really!
  3. Takeaway – Angela Hui. I blogged about this book because I absolutely loved it and I’ve decided that this is my favourite non-fiction book of the year so far. It talked about Chinese culture, that food is the language of love and the importance of family. It was an excellent read and one I couldn’t recommend highly enough.

Now onto September. September was a much slower month for me. I was back at work, with the relentlessness of the daily grind and reading went out of the window. Then I was completely thrown by the death of a Queen and finally I got poorly. How the mighty have fallen! Upon reflection, I always tend to read more when it’s holiday time. It’s a shame that during the most stressful times, the one love I have, seems to vanish… Does anyone else have the same issue?

Anyway, in September I managed to read 8 books. This was a real surprise because there was about two weeks where I didn’t pick up a book. Regardless, again there were some good choices here and writers that I know I enjoy so that helps also. Let’s check out the shelves!

It’s a little easier this time to pick my top three because there’s less to choose from and there’s a couple I wasn’t too keen on. I read them but they aren’t books I’d rave about, if that makes sense? I did blog about The Sun, The Sea & The Stars previously, so I’ll leave that out.

  1. The Man Who Died Twice – Richard Osman. I was a little late to the party with this one but they are excellent books. I love the characters, I love the group and I love the mystery. All completely relatable and remarkable. 
  2. How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne. Wow! I’d never heard of Holly Bourne but I absolutely love her writing style. I felt like it was hearing my own thoughts but being voiced much more eloquently. 
  3. Four Aunties and a Wedding – Jesse Sutanto. I got the first book, Dial A For Aunties, in a book subscription box and then I saw that the next one was out. I find the writing style really funny and this book was a easy read. I also love the fact that the characters were larger than life and completely out there. 

The round-up has been really strange for me. I feel like I’ve messed up but I do enjoy looking back and seeing what I’ve read. Bring on October with autumn leaves, scarves and hopefully more books. My aim is to read the book choice for September as soon as possible and get blogging about it. It’s time to prioritise my blog and I again!

Until next time my dears.

Big Love xxxx

The Sun, The Sea & The Stars – Iulia Bochis

Hello Loves!

I haven’t posted anything because what can I say? Isn’t it all just very overwhelming at the moment? School has started and that is overwhelming – lots of changes and on a much larger scale, the death of Queen Elizabeth II has completely thrown me and brought up my own experiences of grief. I am deeply moved daily by the scenes surrounding the death of her. I guess it isn’t a shock but the sense of loss is overwhelming. With work and life I took myself off to a place that brings me great joy and comfort: the book shop. I’m back in a stage of buying many (I am on a ban…so far so good) and not being able to read them. Whilst aimlessly walking and not staring too hard in case I get tempted, I did spot something that felt like a sign from the book gods. That sign was The Sun, The Sea & The Stars – Ancient Wisdom as a Healing Journey. Firstly, it’s a beautifully illustrated book and I knew it would be a manageable and healing read.

What’s it all about?
Small but mighty is the best way to describe this book. It opens with a personal message from the author and illustrator Iulia Bochis where it is revealed that this book was born out of the feeling that everyone is different yet we share so many thoughts and feelings the same. We all face moments in our life that cause us to stop, think and reflect whilst we are navigating our journey through life. It was just the antidote that I needed at this period in time.

Starting in Autumn, we see a season of great change. Bochis wants us to remember that there is beauty in every season and as we are approaching Autumn, it’s perfectly apt now. Whilst the seasons are changing around us, our natural world is also changing and adapting around us too. We need to remember to be at one with the natural world – we help to shape it of course.

“The trees look vulnerable, shedding their past lives.”

We have to remember that time doesn’t stand still. Therefore, we have to keep moving because we can’t stop time. It is only when we continue that we are able to see what actually happens next. Autumn leads us into Winter when our surroundings are naturally darker. Yet, it is within the darkness that the stars and the moon shine brighter for us all to see. The world rests in Winter and time moves us towards Spring – the time of new beginnings and bloom. We have the opportunity to start again. We bloom too.

“Being still does not mean don’t move, it means move in peace.”

The book ends with Summer. Everything is different again, including ourselves. The summer is naturally a happier time for people purely because we see light and for me, this book was like summer because it provided me with more light for our current times. It’s become part of my journey and by sharing it with you, I hope that it is becomes part of your journey too.

Final Thoughts
This book gave me the opportunity to stop and pause just to reflect and recover. When everything is overwhelming, it is really easy to run away or bury our heads. I do both of these things. Yet, it is just delaying the inevitable. It is much better to take time and explore the world around us. There is beauty wherever we look, we just need to remember to look. It is really easy to glance and let it all pass us by. This book gave me the opportunity to remember that. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like it is all a bit much at the moment, take half an hour and read this book. It’s one I am certain I will be dipping in and out of/

“What feels like the end is often the beginning.”

Until next time my loves, thinking of you all. This post dedicated to her majesty the Queen.

Big Love xxx

Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! Takeaway – Angela Hui

Morning Loves!

I’m back in the UK after a glorious holiday. I had such a wonderful time and feel more refreshed and recovered which is lovely. I hope you’ve all had a lovely August and have managed to have some form of a break. It’s needed for all of us! Hello September as well! I cannot believe how that has crept up on us!

Today I want to share with you my book topic and choice for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge! For August I opted for Non-Fiction which I do love. I go through a cycle of reading it, loving it, going back to fiction, remembering I’ve not read any non-fiction so then pick one and then the cycle continues. I wish I could understand why that happens but that’s a discussion for another day. I decided to read Takeaway by Angela Hui. Oh my days, I love this book so much. Let’s crack on with it!

What’s it all about?

I picked this book because like many families, mine has a long tradition with popping to the Chinese take away. In fact, it’s something I still do today both with my family and friends – pop to the Chinese takeaway, usually on a Friday or Saturday night. But what about the people behind the food? This book is honest, humble and wonderfully written. It’s a fine piece of non-fiction.

This novel explores, through Angela Hui’s voice, the story of her parents and how they came to be in Wales and their day to day lives of running the takeaway during the 1990s. We see just how different the family were and how they naturally stood out amongst the habitants of the Welsh valleys. Lucky Star was their home and business for thirty years. The rhythm of that life was comforting and joyous. But, it wasn’t always easy.

“The telephone rang constantly and a stream of people would pop in to pick up orders in hot foil containers stacked in white plastic bags. It was a juxtaposition of us being treated like immigrants, but also being keepers of something instinctively British.”

Each chapter focuses around a specific aspect of life within the takeaway: the weekend service, language barriers, summer holiday and competitions, just to name a few. However, there are a couple of anecdotes that really stuck with me. Hui talks openly about the racism she and her family experienced and how isolating that is. It’s an uncomfortable but essential read because I bet it still happens today. The reactions of her parents are contrasting; calmness and defiance from her mother, rage and anger from her father.

“We’ve always held our tongues and erred on the side of caution when confronted by racism. In reality, we’re just cooking to survive. Trying to get through a night’s service smoothly is just basic survival.”

I found myself feeling like I knew both Hui’s mother and father. There’s obvious conflict with the father but that is explored openly. They’re so different yet they work together to provide food for the local area. Hui’s opportunity to do deliveries means that (finally) she can get out of the takeaway and see new places. We can take for granted the childhood experienced Hui wouldn’t have been like yours or mine. Life was the takeaway. Every revolved around that kitchen; serving the community and then having a meal together. The impact on Hui’s own romantic relationships meant that this was strained too throughout her young adult years.

“I’m ashamed that I never gave him a chance to understand my situation by explaining things to him. How the takeaway had a hold on me.”

Time goes by, Hui ages and the little girl is now off to university. Even that is still tied to the takeaway, working weekends to help. But, as things most often do, it’s time for the takeaway to close its doors. The changing climate, the local competition and the stress on the family resulting in her mother’s poor health meant that it was time to finish serving. Their story has come to an end.

“We had some good times, right?” I say to no one in particular. Mum is holding back tears. Dad looks to the ground and pats me on the back. “Well, since Tom’s here I’ll get started on my ribs…”

Final Thoughts

I love this book. There, I said it. I found it honest, upsetting, humbling, overwhelming, moving and utterly remarkable. It’s made me really think about my own local takeaway and their own stories. What brought them here? The food of my Friday nights, what does it mean to them? Etc. The truth in this book hurts. Times change, people change, poor attitudes towards others different from us are still being displayed. Yet, at the heart of it all is a family wanting a better life and wanting to be part of a community. To sum it up perfectly:

“In these fear-filled times, I hope this book will serve as a refuge of nourishment, a fortune cookie of joy and an education to what goes on behind closed doors in the nation’s favourite takeaway.”

I urge you all to go buy and read this book. If you’re interested in cooking, at the end of each chapter is a recipe so the reader is able to try out some of these signature dishes at home. I’ve got my eye on a beautiful belly pork dish! This added touch is something I’ve really enjoyed reading too. It’s another way of bringing Chinese cuisine into our own homes.

Speak soon loves! (I’ll be back at school by the time I post again! Wish me luck…)

Big Love xxx