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

Blog Tour: The Wild Year – Jen Benson

Hi Book Lovers!

I hope you’re all well and had a restful weekend. Today I’m very excited to share with you another blog tour I’m part of. This time, the book really appeals to my restless side. Have you ever just sat back and felt that you want to change jobs or move house or make a big decision in some way? Are you a lover of the outdoors, adventure and camping? Then this book is very much for you! A huge thank you to @jenandsim, @aurumpress, @clairemaxwell and @quartobooksuk for the chance to be a part of this phenomenal book tour! I hope you love the book as much as I do!

What’s it all about?
Starting at home in Wiltshire, the novel is Jem’s voice and narrative. We hear about her husband, Sim and her children, E and H and their experiences in the great outdoors in their ‘Wild Year’ where they completely and utterly changed their lives. The pressure of mounting debt and having a family led the couple to making some drastic decisions. Surely life can be much easier than their current life? And more importantly be able to live by their own rules too. The joy that camping brought during various weeks in the year on holiday, surely that could be replicated and repeated long term? So their journey begins…

‘Camping was a basic way to live, but there was such joy in its simplicity. And such freedom in it being all ours: our warmth, our shelter and privacy, wherever we chose to pitch out tent. It was in that moment that I felt the first tinglings of a thought that made my heart race, and my mind jump at the possibility of hope…’

Having an idea is one thing, what was next needed was a plan. Thankfully, with the help from friends, family and kind strangers, various opportunities were created: book writing, a roof over their heads during bad weather, new friends along the way. The destinations were just as exciting, places like Dartmoor, Jurassic Coast, New Forest, the Cotswolds and the Lakes. They bought the biggest tent and gathered together all the items they would need for their experience. As you read the book, there are many lessons learnt all through experience. I found the honestly quite humbling and refreshing to be honest and supportive for those who wish to try something like this. The biggest barrier was always the weather. There’s nothing as unpredictable as English weather! However, this gave the couple the opportunity to regroup and start again, enabling them to come back even stronger.

‘It was hard not to feel despondent as we dragged everything out of the truck and tried to find places to hang it all out to dry. We were lucky that no rain was forecast for the next week, so we spread the tend out in the little field behind the cottage and spent hours sorting through the kit… In the end, destruction wasn’t as bad as we had feared.’

After the hiccups with the weather and potential damage to the tent, the family finally got going again and Christmas was soon around the corner. The family had a wholesome Christmas together, embracing their new lives and experiences. Despite the setting being dark and cold, it was one of the best Christmases because it was new and exciting. It meant more to them being part of the natural world rather than the commercialised one. As time rolled by, the young children also learnt more about the natural world they live in.

‘I noticed she was becoming fractionally more independent as each day passed, like a flower that starts as a tiny bud, wrapped up within itself, but in time opens its arms to embrace and engage with the world.’

After twelves months of camping, the Wild Year was coming to an end. The emotional pressure, the experiences, the growth in both Jen and Sim as well as their children E and H have been so worthwhile. I found myself gripped to this book because there is plenty that I could do to be more appreciative of the natural world. I found it remarkable and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in not only reading this novel, but being the first stop of the blog tour.

‘…it was a time unlike any other in our lives. One that changed everything.’

Final Thoughts
I really loved this book for so many reasons. I always respect those who want to change their lives for the better and Jen and Sim absolutely did that. They took all the challenges they faced and turned them into learning experiences. I was surprised to learn that it took Jen five years to collate all the experiences together and write this book. I admire her as a mother, a woman and a writer. What this family achieved is nothing less than a lesson in resilience. It was a great read and one that I’ll be sharing with my friends and family.

Reading Round-Up: February

Morning Bookish Friends!
Happy March! Have you noticed it being a bit lighter for a bit longer? Spring is approaching! On this very wet Saturday morning, I woke up thinking it was Friday and that I was meant to be at work. I’ve tossed and turned for a bit but decided to use the time more productively! Therefore, I thought I’d share with you my round up for February. I’ve got a few posts stacked up now so I need to crack on! I’ve got a couple of explorations posts to share and I’ve got my February book choice too but (which was brilliant)!

Reading wise, this month has been fairly good. I have had some moments where I just couldn’t read or focus on reading. These times sadden me the most because reading is just so important to me. Regardless, I got back on track and managed to read 10 books in February which I was quite pleased about. It is down slightly on last year, but I’m okay with that. Reading is a joy, a pleasure regardless of how many you read. (The competitive side of me is raging at myself but you know, trying to be level headed!)

Let’s check out the shelves!

There’s some great books here that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. A couple of them I’ve already posted about: The Maid and Love Letters to Bookshops Around the World, so I’ll keep those out of it. One of these books is also the book choice for my reading challenge (more on that in another post…) so if I take those out, my top three for this month are as follows:

  1. Mothers and Daughters by Erica James. I received an advanced copy of this and it came with a gorgeous bookmark you can plant and wildflowers grow. First of all, I love that! Secondly, the story is just so good. I was taken in by the characters and the whole family drama style story. Being as I’ve never read an Erica James before, this book opened my eyes to her so I’ll be looking for her others works when I’m out and about now too. (It’s due for publication on March 17th in the UK so make sure you get it!)
  2. Tired & Tested – Sophie McCartney. I know about Sophie McCartney because I follow her hilarious Facebook page (check it out here). I’m a huge fan because she’s so human and just so funny. Parent or not, everyone can relate to this book in one way or another. I also LOVE the leopard print binding on the cover. Everyone knows how much I love a print so I’m very much in love with that too.
  3. Three Sisters – Heather Morris. I’ve never read a series of books that have been filled with so much hope. The content is difficult, harrowing and heartbreaking but you always end feeling like it really will be ok and life can only ever get better. I am quite partial to historical fiction too so whenever I see a Heather Morris book, I always buy it. If you’ve read and enjoyed Tattooist and Cilka, Sisters finishes the set.

All in all it’s been another good reading month for me. I am very excited about the approach of spring and seeing what my next bookish adventures will be.

Big love to you all

xx

Letters to Bookshops Around the World – Henry Hitchings

Hello Loves!

Well, isn’t February running away with us! I can’t believe it really. However, I’m still hiding in books and taking solace from them whenever I get a spare moment. This evening, whilst I relax from work, I want to share with you a book that has been on my mind a lot this week – well, ever since I finished reading it really. Letters to Bookshops Around the World opened my eyes to new writers but more than that, it made my heart sing because it made me think back to being a little girl and my own journey with reading and bookshops. It also made me feel incredibly lucky that I have had the reading opportunities that I have had in my life. I knew I had to share this with you all, my fellow book bloggers because it is something that we can all relate to. I hope you enjoy!

What’s it all about?
To review this book has been quite difficult to be honest. I don’t want to ruin anything but also I want to make sure I share the magic of it entirely! This stunning book is a collection of letters all about experiences in bookshops. This called to me because bookshops are my safe havens. Within this book, there are writers like Ali Smith and Elif Shafak. People I thankfully know! However, there are also writers that I very openly admit I’ve never heard of, like Pankaj Mishra, Ian Sansom and Yiyun Li. By sharing these stories, the love of bookshops continues far and wide. Edited by Henry Hitchings, his letter is one that I can relate to mostly I think, but they all follow the same pattern: tales from childhood and how these bookshops and our relationships with them have adapted over time.

“This is not a gazetteer, a guide to the bookshops of the world. Instead it’s an anthology of personal experiences of the book, the most resonant object of the last millennium, and of the special place where readers go to acquire their books…”

One of my favourite letters is from Ali Smith. The focus of this letter is sharing the experiences of secondhand bookshops. In my own experience, I’ve found some real hidden gems in secondhand bookshops. Smith talks about finding notes, dates and personal stories within. She reflects on the bookshop her English teacher told her about which is still a prominent feature in her life in adulthood. You may have all seen my recent post about the telephone box library. This is my favourite thing right now! I completely see why Smith picks the secondhand bookstores to write about.

“The smell of paperback ink and paper was its own intoxication.”

The other letter that I found most compelling was by Elif Shafak. This letter shows the importance of the bookshops from around the world – places like Ankara, Madrid and Istanbul. Wherever you live or wherever life takes you, books will always be there. They are just waiting to be discovered; a thought that absolutely thrills me to be honest. Shark’s reflects upon the difference in the secondhand stores in her own experience. Part of me is slightly jealous… these sound incredible. You just never know what you might find when you’re there.

“Many of these were not exactly shops, but rather ramshackle huts full of mesmerizing range of manuscripts and miniatures and magazines, as well as forgotten – sometimes banned – publications.”

Overall, every letter has the same theme: universal love of bookshops. What is interesting is that they mean different things to different people, from all walks of life, from all around the world. It’s a heartfelt collection that is thought-provoking and gives the reader the opportunity to also travel around the world on a metaphorical carpet ride too.

Final Thoughts
To me bookshops are places of calm, serenity and passion. This book has made me want to reflect upon my own childhood, my experiences of bookshops and write my own letter. Maybe I’ll post that once I’ve drafted it. However, if you’re like me and you’re a book lover and reader, this book is completely for you. It will inspire you to reflect upon your own experiences of bookshops and maybe even write your own. Lastly, I feel so grateful that I have this passion. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a big love in my life.

See you all next time loves.

Big Love 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