I hope you all had a wonderfully festive couple of days and an excellent Christmas. It was really nice to spend time with my family and I was really excited to see my parents reactions to their gifts. The whole time I was thinking just how lucky I am because they always made Christmas magical for me. It’s also been wonderful to crack on with some reading and get down my to be read pile!
Today I want to share with you what I chose for my final Book Bingo Reading Challenge. The theme was: read a book with snow on the cover. I can not tell you how difficult it was to actually find a book with snow on the cover! I couldn’t find any for ages! Eventually, whilst out Christmas shopping I stumbled across this beautiful Christmas poem by Carol Ann Duffy. The illustrations by Yelena Bryksenkova are stunning too. I’m talking about the glorious Advent Street.
What’s it all about?
Like you would an advent calendar, this glorious little book invites you to open the windows on Advent Street and see what hides inside. As you explore the poem, you see inside a street pub, an old man and his tangerine bird and a ballerina, poised by a Christmas tree. Yet, there is a sense of melancholy for this time to year too, especially if one is alone.
‘That was the year when worse luck heaped on bad brought you to Advent Street…’
Another page, another window. This time a young girl at the piano, readying herself to play O Little Town. The next window shows a boy with nine Hanukkah candles, providing light. TV screens, Christmas trees, lovers, singers and another. Sadness sits with the speaker, the one outside the windows, gazing in.
‘Your heart pined to be whole; heal, like the sorrow sung by the carols towards joy.’
Babies, teenagers, the elderly all feature in this poem and an opportunity presents itself for the speaker – a house for sale on Advent Street. But the sadness is overwhelming until the next window, with neighbours together, welcomed the speaker in with open arms.
‘So you did sit and eat in Advent Street.’
Isn’t this just beautiful? It’s probably one of the shortest books I own but I found the poetry and the illustrations to work perfectly. I love the play with light and dark, happiness and sadness, togetherness and isolation. There is a joy to being together and also an appreciation that some may be alone. I really enjoyed this poem and found it to be quite compelling and a unique little festive read. Each window does provide the reader a gift as well as the speaker. This has also made me realise that I need to read more poetry. A New Year’s resolution maybe! Carol Ann Duffy is a pure talent. I love how she plays with language and I really need to make more effort to read her poetry anthologies.
Well, would you look at that! 12 themes, 12 books, another reading challenge completed. Granted I slipped behind in October and November but I feel like I’ve finished on a high. I can’t wait to create a reading challenge for next year!
Have you read any festively brilliant reads this holiday? Do let me know! Have you completed your own reading challenge? Again, tell me all about it! I’ll get cracking on mine to share with you in the next few days.
I promised recently that I would catch up with all my book reviews and today I am thrilled to be doing just that! I’d fallen really behind in my Book Bingo Reading Challenge but I am pleased to say that I’ve completed it! Hurrah! Today’s post is all about November’s choice: Read an award winning book.
This led me to a lot of research and I’ve found out that there’s so many prizes for books which is incredible! You’ve got the big, prolific ones but I wanted to go for an award that I’d never heard of before. I chose Slough House by Mick Herron. This book won the Theakston Old Peculier crime novel of the year award. I knew the drink because my dad likes it so I wanted to pick this. It also naturally fits with my favourite genre – crime – so it was meant to be! For more information on the Theakston Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, please see here. Let’s crack on!
What’s it all about?
I don’t plan on spoiling anything here but Slough House is book seven. You all know how I feel about a series but as a stand alone book, this was really easy to follow and I didn’t really feel like I’d missed anything (not discrediting earlier work). It’s a book that you can read as a stand alone but I imagine the reading experience is bettered when reading the series in order.
“History has an open-door policy. Any fool can walk right in.”
The boss, as it were, is a character called Jackson Lamb. The book opens with himself and his crew coming to terms with the death of Emma Flyte and their own J K Coe in Wales. However, they have more pressing issues at hand. Roderick Ho (Roddy) has learnt that someone is wiping their records from the service database. Does this impact them? Well, they’re getting paid but it does mean that they don’t exist anymore. Furthermore, when Louisa Guy discovers that she is being followed, leading to the other agents realising the same, things feel more on edge. I found myself gripping the book a little firmer too.
River Cartwright, is my favourite character. The fact that they’re being followed doesn’t interest him much to begin with. He is more centred on Sidonie Baker (Sid) who is alive and not dead as presumed. However, she’s turned up at River’s dead grandfather’s house in Kent, needing his help. She thinks that there are two people trying to kill both her and him. Yet, due to the significant injuries she sustained from a gunshot wound from the end of book six, we are never quite sure just how real that threat is.
“Even I’d put me way down on a list of people worth killing. You’d have to be halfway through the Cabinet first. Not to mention whoever invented fruit-flavoured beer.”
Weaved within that plot is the character of Diana Taverner (Lady Di) who has decided to strike back at Russian services in retaliation for the Novichok poisoning attack that happened in Salisbury. But she cannot do this alone. She forms an alliance with the ex-politician, now working in PR, Peter Judd. He managed to put together a group of Patricia lot minded billionaires willing to fund these operations. This doesn’t come without a price and Lady Di soon realises that these people have demands of their own, demands which she isn’t overly comfortable with. An example of this is the YouTube billionaire turned new channel owner, Damien Cantor who would like Lady Di to do an interview on his channel.
Whilst the slow horses try to piece together what exactly is doing on, they find themselves caught up in events outside of their control. There’s absolutely no way I’m going to ruin the ending but when they’re against a ruthless enemy, there’s going to be fireworks. Not being used to Herron’s style, I didn’t see that ending coming at all and that closes the book perfectly.
“Funny thing. When I hear the words “trust me”, I get the feeling someone’s pissing in my shoe.”
I can totally understand why this book is a prize winner. I love the blend of events in our time and fiction. The characters, all deeply flawed, really are lynchpin of the book. I’d have no qualms about reading the other books in the series at all. The weaving of alternative plot threads is expertly done and for a smaller book, each page feels like it packs a punch. I really enjoyed entering this world and the experience it took me on as a reader. I also found it deeply humorous and full of quick, clever wit. This just adds another dimension but it really did work with the plot.
The Christmas countdown is on! I’ll see you soon for an update on my book advent calendar!
Time for me to play catch up and finally after being held up in the post, I’ve got my head down and finished my book choice for October. (I know – I’m sorry…) The obvious choice for October was: ‘Read a story that’s dark and mysterious’. If I’m being completely honest, I actually really struggled with what to read because I am really not a fan of horror or scary reads. But, dark and mysterious is something I could do, I just had to find the right book for it. My Victorian Literature background meant that I went back to ghost stories of that time but, I stumbled across a modern equivalent. Eventually I found this gorgeous little collection, The Haunting Season – Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights. I’m really not very good at reading collaborations but there are some prolific writers in here and the cover was shiny, so I was taken in by it for sure. It includes short stories by Bridget Collins, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Natasha Pulley, Jess Kidd, Laura Purcell, Andrew Michael Hurley, Kieran Millwood Hargrave and Elizabeth Macneal. I can’t wait to share my favourites with you in this post.
What’s it all about?
Before the tales eve begin, the front cover acknowledges the long tradition of the ghost story. Winter nights historically meant that the family would all get together to share the story by candlelight. The most historically prolific writers, Charles Dickens and Henry James, has paved the way for the eight best selling writers to continue the gothic tale tradition for the next generation. For me, I am going to share with you a little snippet from each of them to tempt you to light a candle, sit back and enjoy them for yourselves!
A Study in Black and White – Bridget Collins On the surface, this mysterious house seems like the perfect place to be. The protagonist, Morton, a chess enthusiast, was taken in by the topiary chess pieces but all is not as it seems. Pawns move, an old leather chair that doesn’t seem to be as empty as originally perceived and consequently, minds are being tricked. The fact that this tale is first in the collection means the tone is set and you are right where you need to be; on the edge of your seat.
‘He grabbed convulsively at the stem of the candelabra and went out into the passage; and although the skin beneath his shoulder blades crawled, he didn’t allow himself to glance back.’
Thwaite’s Tenant – Imogen Hermes Gowar This is the tale of a young woman who desperately wants to escape the cruel clutches of her husband. However, her father doesn’t agree at all and sends her to a crumbling estate where she is ultimately trapped. The protagonist, Lucinda, realises that the ghost of a wronged woman in the house is her means of escape… I do think this is one of my favourite stories in the collection!
‘I felt like a drunk, tottering and histrionic, my terror spinning around me. I groped for facts, for rationality, but knew myself capable of nothing beyond an inchoate burst of feeling which would only be grist to his mill. I slumped, and held my tongue.’
The Eel Singers – Natasha Pulley Unlike the other stories in the collection, this one starts off uncharacteristically cheery: a Christmas market. Nevertheless, it quickly becomes atmospheric and haunting. The supernatural elements of this story are vivid and the characters had very distinct personalities. Personally, I didn’t know the characters (you will if you’ve read Pulley’s other work) but it was very easy to get carried away with this story.
‘Thaniel had to pause. He had been about to say, eventful, but now he was thinking of it, he couldn’t remember why he had wanted to say that. It had been the opposite. In fact he couldn’t pin down any particular memory of Christmas at all.’
Lily Wilt – Jess Kidd I really loved this one actually. I found I was gripped straight away. Telling the story of Pemble, a photographer, this short story focuses on the photographs of the dead, not the living. When taking photos of Lily Wilt, something much more eerie and darker happens. This could be seen as predictable but I still really enjoyed it.
‘The lovely little corpse reposes – But wait! Pemble grabs a magnifying glass, turns up the gaslight, scrutinises the image. Leant against the mantlepiece, looking dead at the camera with a twisted grin, stands…
The Chillingham Chair – Laura Purcell Long time followers will know how much I love The Silent Companions so I was really excited to see Purcell in this collection. It did mean that I had high hopes and actually, I wasn’t disappointed. Atmospheric but humorous and unnerving, this short story is really well written. A wheelchair that seems to have a life of its own with the protagonist being stuck in it. Will she survive?
‘The chair didn’t stop. If anything it gained speed, reversing until she felt a bookcase connect with the back of her head. There was a moment of tension, of gathering; like a horse beginning to jump. Then she shot forward.’
The Hanging of the Greens – Andrew Michael Hurley This is a writer I have no idea about which meant that this was a surprise for me. I had no expectations but I did enjoy reading this one. It isn’t my favourite but I appreciate the plot behind it. Telling the story of a homeless man who wants to redeem himself and right the wrongs of his lifetime. If only it were as simple as it sounds…
‘Every year at this time, I’m forced to try and understand it all and I get nowhere. I only know it happened. It happened. And that’s all there is to say. But it’s not enough, I know. To say it happened lays nothing to rest.’
Confinement – Kiran Millwood Hargrave I think this is my favourite in the whole collection! I loved it! Considering the plot, that is a strange sentiment. But, it’s so well written, it’s impossible not to like it. This one is the most victorian in style – a new mother, her confinement and the reality of the restrictions of that time with the added supernatural element. A classic!
‘I will write this record as though it is a testimony given before God, a prayer poured straight into the ears of angels, for there is none now I can trust but myself: my own heart, my own pen.’
Monster – Elizabeth Macneal The final story in the collect and once again, another excellent addition. Its premise is simple: a newly married man takes his bride on the search for a monster that hopefully will give him the fame and recognition he so desperately wants. He also hopes it gives him some validation too…
‘Below him, the mouth of the ocean waits, its tongue clicking back and forth over the stones. Victor hurtles forward, slipping and sliding on the wet earth, his fingers grabbing the creature’s soft red hair and cold blue lips…’
This collection was perfect for the theme of this month, in fact, despite being so late to it, it’s perfect for any winter evening so read it! I’m also really pleased I’ve branched out into short stories too. There’s so much talent into writing something that’s so short and keeping your reader entertained means that there’s added pressure in less words. I’ve said my favourites but the overall story that stands out for me is Confinement. If this collection is the next generation of gothic stories; we have absolutely nothing to worry about for this genre.
I’ll see you next time for an update on my book advent calendar. I’ve got November’s book to read and review too! Keep going all – we’ve got this.
I hope you’re all well and enjoying the run up to the spooky season! It’s time to play catch up and share with you the book I read for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge for this year. For September, I picked ‘Read a tale of overcoming a challenge‘. I wasn’t sure where to go with this but you may remember from my post way back in November 2021, I posted a review of the Big Panda and Tiny Dragon story written and illustrated by James Norbury. You can remind yourself of that post here. I found that story to be a refreshing tale of hope that I desperately needed. Therefore, I could barely contain myself when I saw that there was a second book out! It’s just as delightful and wholesome as the first and fits perfectly with the reading challenge. I really hope you love it just as much as I do.
What’s it all about?
Featuring the wonderfully created Big Panda and Tiny Dragon, this book is all about the journey they are faced with and how they manage to overcome the obstacles along the way. I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my life so this felt like a case of perfect timing really. This book gave me the moment in my life to stop and reflect, just like the panda and the dragon too.
It starts at the temple they call home but it’s worn and needs some work. How it looks doesn’t matter to them because they have each other: friendship and companionship. As wonderful as this is, Tiny Dragon feels like something is missing.
“This place is incredible, Big Panda. The trees, the mountains, the birds and the animals, they are all so magical; we are so lucky – so why do I feel like something is missing? Why do I feel incomplete?”
After identifying the feeling of incompleteness, the friends prepare to embark on a journey together in order to find happiness. They head towards the rocky trail and follow it out of the mountains and down to the river. They have each other and so they have everything they need. Big Panda reassures Tiny Dragon repeatedly – the lesson is for Tiny Dragon to learn. It’s not easy; there are huge challenges along the way and at points it feels like they will never make it.
At the darkest point, the weather is relentless and progress is slow. Tiny Dragon also loses his beloved tea set and is naturally distressed. Yet, Big Panda is this strong, wise force that is still there with him, every step of the way despite being exhausted and sad himself.
“Nothing is under our control, little one…not really. I just trust in life to take us where we need to be.”
The two friends continue their journey, refusing to give up hope or lose faith. Each step they take means that they are closer to their new home, their new futures. It’s terrifying but they can only ever go forwards. Silence falls upon the pair as they trudge onwards. But finally, they manage to see the light and see what potential the future has for them.
Tiny Dragon is so upset that he needs time to himself. He manages to finally see the beauty in the world and realises exactly what his purpose is. He asks the big question, ‘What is the purpose of the universe?’ and is desperate to work out exactly what it means for him and his dear friend, Big Panda. Their journey finally comes to a close. They find a new, blissful and perfect home for themselves. Tiny Dragon is still sad about having to move, the loss of his beloved tea set and leaving all that he knows behind. But, he has learnt to see the beauty of the world in front of him. He also knows what impact it has on his character too.
“I feel a bit like this cup… I’ve been through a tough time and I feel like I’ve been damaged. But these little cracks are what let the light shine through.”
I love this book so much. It reads like a hug that we all so desperately need. I loved the honesty too. How many times have we found ourselves stuck or feeling overwhelmed? How many times have we sat and thought, ‘I just can’t do this’? I know I have and the wisdom from Big Panda for Tiny Dragon resonates with me. It’s the perfect book in so many ways. It fits beautifully with my choice for this month because the two characters need to overcome the challenge of feeling so lost, mentally and physically. This book is the perfect medicine for that. Just to add, the illustrations are beautiful too. I wish I was that talented. And so, there’s another box ticked off on my Book Bingo Reading Challenge. Just three more to go to complete this year! Amazing!
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…”
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…)
I hope you’re all well. You may have guessed from my previous post that I’m on holiday now (finally) and I’m getting back into the swing of reading and resting!
Today I want to share with you my reading round up for July. July is my favourite month – my birthday, summer and the days are just a bit lighter and longer. It also means school is finishing. I have to say, I’ve found this July really difficult. I’ve barely read (only since I’ve been on holiday) and work was really a case of surviving and getting the job done. I’m on the road to recovery now but it’s been tough. I’ve had lots of doubts along the way but I’m pleased I’ve managed to read the books I did.
In July then, I’ve read 6 books – all of which have been after the start of the summer holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased with 6. But, it’s only now really that I recognise how much I was struggling before. Never mind! My life for the next month is the sea, sunshine, books and beach donuts! Let’s check out the shelves!
It almost seems silly picking a top three. I’ve blogged already about The Lamplighters – I still adore this by the way – and Shape of a Boy. In the interest of being fair, I’ll put the other four books in order of how much I enjoyed reading them and the narratives produced.
The Other Passenger – Louise Candlish. I’m a huge fan of Louise Candlish. She really is the queen of plot twists and this one really kept me hanging until the very end. Perfect for the summer!
Dial A For Aunties – Jesse Sutanto. This was really funny and I did also love the cover. A touch far fetched by the end (a murder, a freezer and a family trying to hide it) but enjoyable nonetheless.
Counterfeit – Kirsten Chen. This was another good read really with an interesting plot. I picked it because it’s to do with real and fake handbags and the people who get mixed up in that. Really different to what I’ve read before.
The Pact – Amy Heydenrych. Just because I’ve put this one 4th, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I really really did and I had to finish it – it was so compelling. But I did manage to work out the ending in terms of who killed Nicole. Regardless, it was a thriller of a book.
So there we have it! Another 6 books read and more on the horizon. I do like to mix it up with the thrillers and the more chic lit bits. A variety is always better. Plus I do end up getting paranoid if I read too many thriller books!
Here’s hoping for a better reading month in August! But for now, it’s beach donut time!
I hope you’re well and enjoying July. Now the summer holidays are here I’m getting my reading game back on and the plan is to clear some of my reading piles! No more book buying until the pile is significantly lower! (Here’s hoping anyway!)
Today I want to share with you the amazing choice I had for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge. For July I decided on picking: Read a best seller. Now, I’m not very good with books that are really hyped up because I always feel the pressure to like it too. However, I can totally see why my choice for is a best seller – it’s absolutely incredible. I’m talking about the debut novel The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. I hope you love this as much as I did!
What’s it all about?
Well, it’s really tricky to review this book without spoiling anything but I’ll give it my best shot! The first thing to know is that the novel alternates between then and now. We start in December 1972 when three men, Bill, Arthur and Vince, have disappeared from a tower lighthouse off the English coast. What makes this more mysterious is the state in which the place is discovered by the relief team; the door barred from the inside, dishes set out at the kitchen table and both clocks stopped at a quarter to nine. Everything was polished and cleaned to perfect – no evidence of a struggle of any kind.
Twenty years have passed and the Maiden Rock Mystery is still a mystery and still remains unsolved. This naturally leads to plenty of speculation and theories developing – ranging from the sublime, grim and ridiculous. What really happened though?
“This isn’t a thriller, this is my life.”
Some of these theories follow the ideas that one man killed the others, then killed himself. The Trident company seem to be pushing this theory quite strongly. Maybe all three were suicidal? Perhaps a monster approached and attacked them. Maybe they were all swept out to see. Some even swore that they have seen a trio of white birds hovering over the lighthouse, believing this to be the men with some supernatural powers.
“I’ve heard it all, over the years. Arthur was abducted by aliens. He was murdered by pirates. He was blackmailed by smugglers. He killed the others, or they killed him, and then each other and then themselves—over a woman or a debt, or a washed-up treasure chest. They were haunted by ghosts or kidnapped by the government. Threatened by spies or gobbled by sea serpents. They went lunatic, one or all of them. They had secret lives no one knew about…”
As time moves back into the now, an author long inspired and naturally curious about the incident begins to interview the women of the lighthouse keepers. After all, these are the ones left behind. Helen, Jenny and Michelle all differ remarkably meaning it’s really easy to follow their narratives. It’s these interviews where we learn the narratives of the men, the secrets the women have too and the personal tragedies that this event caused.
Running alongside this, back in 1972, the men share their own stories following the days before the incident took place. Like their wives, they too have their own stories to tell. The entrapment within the tower is a mere metaphor for the ensnaring of their past mistakes, their sins and regrets. Over time, resentment too increases. The demands of the job and the time away means that this is ever prevalent.
“When I’m ashore I have to pretend to be a man I’m not, part of something I’m not part of. It’s difficult to explain it to normal people. Lighthouse worlds are small. Slow. That’s what other people can’t do: they can’t do things slowly and with meaning…”
It’s here that I struggle because I want to tell you but what I want more is for you to read it and feel the magic yourself. This book made me feel exactly the same as Where the Crawdad’s Sing did and that was my favourite book of last year. It’s haunting, atmospheric, emotional and utterly thrilling. I couldn’t put it down and I doubt I’ll read another book like it this year.
I started to summarise this book above but I literally cannot stop gushing about it. In fact, I’ve left my copy for someone else to stumble across and read. It’s incredible and I don’t have the words to really show that.
I hope you’re all well and enjoying the sunshine. It’s definitely getting me into the summer spirit and I wanted to use that for my reading challenge this month *ignores the fact that there’s four weeks of school left…* I decided to go with Read a book that’s full of sunshine for this month. Personally, to me there’s only ever going to be one winner: Jenny Han. I absolutely adored the Lara Jean series so I knew I would love the next trilogy she’s written. Of course, I’m talking about The Summer I Turned Pretty. I hope you love it as much as I did!
What’s it all about?
The protagonist of this novel is Isabel ‘Belly’ Conklin, her brother Steven and their best friends, Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. Belly’s mother and Jeremiah and Conrad’s mother, Susannah are best friends and every summer they head to the beach house. All of these summer breaks lead to one thing: love. Belly is just realising how beautiful she is and how she is changing into a young woman. She’s only ever had eyes for Conrad but feelings for Jeremiah occur meaning that we have a love triangle between the three of them.
‘It feels like nothing else exists outside of that world, this moment. There’s just us. Everything that happened this past summer, and every summer before it, has led up to this. To now.’
The mothers, Susannah and Laurel, are best friends. Yet, despite this novel being a coming of age story about Belly, there is an ever increasing sadness and feeling that something is wrong with Susannah. She seems to be asleep more, spending more time in her room and more sadness around her. She promised Belly the summer of her life, seeing how beautiful she was, yet the sadness around her and her mother is hard to go unnoticed. Susannah is the character who seems to have all the answers, who can see things differently. Everyone turns to her and adores her. Her boys are fiercely protective of her.
‘She and my mother hugged first, fierce and long. My mother looked so happy to see her that she was teary, and my mother was never teary.’
Daughter to Laurel, Belly hasn’t really known her own beauty until now. She’s fiercely headstrong and a talent in the pool. But the boys only see her as a little sister, much to her frustration. The older of the two brothers, Conrad is a deep and intense character. There are times when he is thoroughly frustrating because he’s so difficult to understand. However, the moment came when things felt a little different between Belly and him. She’s always been interested in Conrad but he’s so closed off and emotionless that she never really knew where she stood with him. Does he even notice her?
‘The air felt different all of a sudden. It felt charged, electric, like I had been zapped by a thunderbolt.’
What about Jeremiah? He’s presented as the golden boy of the family, the younger of the two brothers and the one who is arguably the most loyal to Belly. However, he does become frustrated about living in the background. He too develops feelings for Belly and she does likewise. What does this mean for the group? To make matters more confusing, one summer they share a kiss, Belly’s first. What does this mean for them? Wasn’t it Conrad who she hoped her first kiss would be with?
‘He took. a deep breath of air and puffed up his cheeks, and then he blew it out so hard the har on his forehead fluttered. I could feel my heart start to pound – something was going to happen. He was going to say something I didn’t want to hear. He was going to go and change everything.’
Also in the mix is Cam. Another summer Belly meets Cam and he tells her how beautiful she is. They have a summer relationship, hanging out together, having fun together and sleeping in his hoodie. Does this work out? After all, he is the only one to notice all the amazing things about Belly and to tell her all of them too. Just the fact he notices her, really makes a difference to the group.
‘Things had been weird with me and Conrad and me and Jeremiah – an impossible thought crept its way into my head. Was it possible they didn’t want me with Cam? Because they, like, had feelings for me? Could that even be? I doubted it. I was like a little sister to them. Only I wasn’t’
So who gets the girl in the end? That’s for you to read and find out!
I loved this novel so much. It made me remember back to when I was younger and summer seemed to give you all the opportunities you could ever want. There’s a reason why YA is a booming genre and that’s because it’s honest and real. Jenny Han is an exceptional writer – I love her books and this one doesn’t disappoint. I cannot wait to get my hands on the other two books in this trilogy because I have to see what happens to the trio. This book gave me all I wanted and needed and more regarding summer vibes. I absolutely loved it.
It’s back to exam marking for me and admiring the summer weather from inside. I hope you all enjoy it! Until next time.
I hope you’re all well and have had a wonderful weekend. Mine has been really restful thankfully and I am thrilled to say that the English exams are now over! I can rest a little before the examination marking begins next weekend. I’m a little bit late in reviewing this but I accidentally left my first copy of the book at my parents house so I had to order another one. Anyway, it was delivered Friday and here we are! So for my reading challenge I decided for May to pick: Read a story written by more than one author. For those of you are devoted followers of my little space on the internet will know that I love James Patterson. Recently, I’ve found more and more books where he’s co-authored with some very high profile people, namely people like: Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton and Dolly Parton, just to name a few. The book I chose (which I found in my beloved telephone box book exchanges) is Honeymoon. All I’ll say to begin with is this is another Patterson classic! I hope you enjoy.
What’s it all about? Nora Sinclair is an interior designer. She is wealthy, talented, beautiful and has an equally talented and handsome partner. So why is Agent John O’Hara from the FBI interested in her life? Typical Patterson, this is a novel where nothing really is as it seems. Shortly after she becomes engaged to Connor, he suffers some unknown fit in his Westchester mansion, leading to his death. Nora plays the part of the devastated girlfriend, visibly distressed, emotional and broken. Yet, what is happening internally is quite different.
‘It was showtime. Nora calmly walked over to the phone and dialled. She reminded herself; the cleverest liars don’t give details. After two ring a woman picked up and said, “911 Emergency.”
Connor has died before their wedding, Nora is nothing more than his girlfriend. She gets nothing from his death. Enter Craig Reynolds, a representative for Centennial One Life Insurance. It appears Connor took out a life insurance policy in her name. Despite this obvious good news, Nora is wary of an investigation or attracting any attention to Connor’s death. Centennial One is a front for the FBI and Nora is being monitored closely. The next revelation takes place in Manhattan where Nora has gone to meet a client except she is no longer Nora, she is Olivia. One person, multiple identities.
‘Nora’s profession was never really in doubt, though. It was the rest of her life that was in question. Her two lives; her secrets. But there was no proof of anything yet.’
A pattern begins to develop. Another city, another name, another man. But the pattern seems to be that the men in her life never seem to live for long. Nora, or is it Olivia, is devastatingly attractive and never seems to have a problem finding a wealthy and attractive man to spend time with. Agent John O’Hara, investigating Nora under cover is no proof against her wiles. He finds himself drawn irresistibly into her orbit.
‘Nora was an absolutely beautiful woman who’d presented me with an amazing offer. It took every ounce of willpower to remind myself why I was with her in the first place.’
Who is the real Nora Sinclair? As the plot unfolds, we find more of her secrets revealing themselves. Each revelation seems to raise more questions rather than providing any answers. The FBI are circling and getting closer and closer but Nora is a woman with a mission and a plan. Will John O’Hara uncover her secrets? Or will her deadly attraction prove fatal for him as well? Unbeknown to him, while he is trying to find the real Nora Sinclair, she is busy uncovering his own secrets which could lead to an uncomfortable confrontation.
Final Thoughts Nothing is what it seems with this book and during the first part I was confused myself about who Nora really is. But, it does work itself out in a thrilling, pacy read. I really enjoyed reading it and I loved having such a powerful, intelligent and attractive female protagonist. This girl really means business! One of the things I love about Patterson’s novels is that you cover a lot of ground quite quickly; there are no spare words. I am loving the collaborations too and finding out new names to keep an eye open for. Overall, a timeless thriller by one of my favourite writers. Loved it!
See you next time for more reading and more exploring.
I hope you’re all well and enjoying this changeable last day of May. It’s either brilliant sunshine here or pouring with rain with a big thunder clap thrown in for good measure. I know I won’t finish the book I’m reading today so I thought I’d crack on with my round-up post for May (on time for I think the first month ever…) and share with you some of my favourite reads of this month. I’ve got a couple of reviews I need to get on with so expect those in the next few days too.
In May I managed to read a brilliant 14 books. I’m really happy with that as it’s been pretty full on at work. It’s also been helped by the release of the new ‘Quick Reads’ too which are a godsend for when you’re exhausted. Regardless, a book is a book and reading is reading. Let’s check out the shelves!
I know I say it every month but picking a top three is tough! Anyway, hopefully I’ve done this list some justice.
Again Rachel – Marian Keyes. I loved Rachel’s Holiday and this next book didn’t disappoint. My only regret is that I was so late to this party. This book is all about what comes next for Rachel twenty years later. It was brilliant!
Insatiable – Daisy Buchanan. This book is modern and fresh and shows the need for us to be loved. I really loved the protagonist, Violet, too. I enjoyed the writing style of Buchanan so much that I’ve also got Careering on my to be read pile.
The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett. This was one of the books I bought to celebrate the Jubilee. Small yet mightily funny, this book tells the story of the Queen and her enjoyment of a travelling library.
I’ve got a couple of reviews to put up, one for a blog tour and one for my book of the month: The Manager and Honeymoon respectively, both of which I thoroughly loved. I need to get a wriggle on with those too! Have you read any of these? What takes your fancy?