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

Discussion: What do people read on holiday?

Hi loves!

So, I’ve been surrounded by this gorgeous view for a month now and I’m honestly so grateful for that. It’s beautiful, idyllic and a paradise. Yet, I have more pressing matters at the forefront of my mind… books. Whenever I see a book leave a beach bag, I’m looking to see a) what it is and b) if they are enjoying it. I have that genuine fear of missing out on a good read.

This has led me to think about why people read the type of books they do on holiday. How do they make their choices? What leads them to pick those specific titles?

Well, this has been going round in my head for a few days now and has now turned into a little sun lounger activity of mine… First of all, it’s really pleasing to see just how many people, on the loungers have been adorned with towels, start reading. There’s books everywhere! Always a paperback, never a hardback and only one Kindle. I can totally relate to this; I only packed paperbacks, had my Kindle in hand luggage but didn’t actually use it. In fact, it’s still in flight mode. Hmmm.

The hotel had a bookcase in reception which was very pleasing! I had a little look here and it followed the same pattern: paperbacks, no hardbacks at all. However, there were some larger paperbacks. These were all Grisham. I saw a lot of Grisham on the loungers along with James Patterson. These were the top two authors by a long way. (Embarrassingly, I didn’t read any of Grisham or Patterson!)

In terms of books that I saw multiple people read, this was terribly interesting! They were Tyson’s Fury’s Between the Mask and Ant Middleton’s First Man In. Non-fiction! I didn’t expect to see that… In fact, the Tyson Fury book was my mum’s and she felt chuffed that others had taken it from the hotel bookshelf.

Repeat ‘take outs’ gave me another train of thought. I read (and thoroughly adored) The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. When I saw that someone else had picked this off the shelf, I felt exactly like my mum did, like I made a good choice. It made me feel validated and like my recommendations could be trusted. Isn’t that silly? I feel silly writing it…

Overwhelmingly, the main genre I saw was crime and thriller. I totally understand that! It’s my favourite after all. But for summer? Where were all the romance novels? The chic lit?

I read one, Lizzie & Dante by Mary Bly which was stunningly beautiful and had me sobbing on my lounger. But this was the only one I saw. Where are the other people sobbing at a good love story? I did spot that this book was moving further back on the hotel bookcase too. But why is that? I always thought summer was about the soppy love novels that were only bearable because of that very reason – the fact that it is summer. There’s something about the smell of suncream that makes me think this… When you know, you know…

Also, there was a distinct lack of female authors too. I helpfully added to that with my own pile. Writers like Liza Jewell, Jenny Han, Jane Corey and Michele Campbell vacationed with me and are all there waiting to be discovered by the next reader.

So, why do we read the things we do on holiday? What is a typical ‘beach read’ and are they changing? What have you spotted? For me, it was all my paperbacks that didn’t fit on the bookcase. How do you pick yours though?

Until next time, when I’m back in the UK!

Big Love xxx

Reading Round-Up: July

Hello Loves!

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Until my next post, take care all! Big Love! Xxx

Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex

Hello Loves!

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

See you next time my loves!

Big Love xxx

Blog Tour: The Shape of a Boy – Kate Wickers

Hi Loves!

I hope you’re all well. Today I’m here as part of a wider blog tour to share with you a really wonderful book: The Shape of a Boy by Kate Wickers. Thank you so much to @KateWickers and @QuartoKnows for the opportunity of reading this and being a part of the tour! I can’t wait to share this brilliant book with you all! So, let’s get on with it!

What’s it all about?
This book is really a complete joy. To be honest, I’m not the target audience for this: I don’t have children. However, I still found myself really excited by it. Kate, her husband and three children: Josh, Ben and Freddie and the journeys they take over the course of their lives so far. I think it’s really important to show just how crucial family memories are but how they can be made based on the simplest experiences as well as the most incredible ones too. Starting with her own childhood memories, Kate Wickers talks about what she remembers growing up. The simplest things like drinking chocolate milk out of glass bottles, making friends with people who don’t speak the same language and riding a pillion. Therefore, now she has her own family, Wickers is really keen to challenge the belief that young children won’t remember anything. This book is a testament to that.

‘Most experiences were magical and exceptional, and on very rare occasions disconcerting. All were life-defining. I felt sure that there experiences would shape them Ito the adults they’d become, whether they remembered them or not.’

Each chapter is a destination that the family went on and the experience they gained there. Rather than ruining the whole journey, I’ve picked two that are my favourite. My first tells the story of Thailand, when Josh was aged three and Ben was aged two. Naturally, one may assume that this is such a long way to take young children but why not? I don’t blame her! The reason why I absolutely love this experience is because a simple mishearing results in the children thinking they are off to Toyland! What’s even more special is that by being honest and open with the children and sharing historical facts, it meant that they were totally on board. Ganesh, Garuda and Hanuman to the rescue!

‘From Garuda was Josh’s constant companion on our travels through Thailand, and poor Noddy rarely saw the light of day.’

Fast forward a few years; Josh now seventeen, Ben sixteen and Freddie twelve and the destination is Laos. Naturally being older, tensions can arise but this trip taught the family to slow down, relax and let things go. Trying to get the boys to step away from technology and electronic devices is a challenge. But, after some careful coaxing, the boys do it. On a trip to Mount Phou Si, climbing 329 steps to the summit, they spotted a lady selling birds which she’d trapped in tiny pink and yellow cages. The vision is fairly awful: anxious birds in a small confined space, with a cat watching nearby. Moral dilemma approaching… support a business that you don’t agree with for the greater good? Or leave them to more likely die? The boys chose to buy one bird each, consequently setting them free. Wickers isn’t too afraid to see the symbolism of the birds and her boys.

‘Their intentions were good, only for the welfare of the birds, and possibly a little to prove to me that they were now their own people now, free as a bird…’

Final Thoughts
Travelling to different places at different times, from pregnancy to teenage years, this book really does cover it all. I love the gusto that Wickers has and I really love the experiences that are being made or these children. She’s absolutely right – these family memories really matter. I was super jealous that they saw orangutans in Borneo, crocodiles in the Nile and zebras in Tanzania. I think there is so much to learn from this book and it is summarised perfectly by the mantra: ‘Have kids, will travel’. Part of me wishes that I had the travel bug when I was younger but this book gives me the hope that when children come may way, my travel dream might do too and that is possible and wonderful.

Thanks again to @KateWickers and @QuartoKnows. I loved this book and appreciate the chance to read it.

Until next time all!

Big love xxxx

Reading Round-Up: June

Morning Loves!

Today I want to share with you my round-up for June! I’ve read some amazing books in June but I do feel like my progress was slow. For my fellow educators, June is a funny month because there’s still official examinations but they’re coming to a close and you get some gained time from those students leaving but all the jobs you need to do are bigger and more time consuming. Anyway, it’s nice that some of the pressure has gone at least!

June is also the month where I mentally start making the switch to summer vibes. You may have all seen my Book Bingo book for June which was all about summer! I’m right there and counting down to the holidays.

Before I get my flip flops and sun cream out prematurely, let’s check out the shelves for June! I managed to read 8 books in June which is a bit less than normal but still quite acceptable.

These 8 books I really, really enjoyed. I say it every time but picking a top three has been difficult. I’ve reviewed The Summer I Turned Pretty which I loved and The Wild Year which was a complete joy. Hmm. Let’s see!

  1. Lost Property – Helen Paris. This book was utterly adorable. I go through phrases of reading books with city settings (I tend to go through a London or Paris phrase) so this book called to me. It tells the story of the incredible woman who works in Lost Property for London’s transport and the items that are left behind and some of the people who collect them.
  2. Careering – Daisy Buchanan. I’m a huge Daisy Buchanan fan actually. I’ve shared a couple of her books now because her writing style is just incredible. I love how true and raw it is as well. This one is all about a young woman and her demands of work on her life. Very apt for me at this point!
  3. Thrown – Sara Cox. I’ve managed to bag myself a really lovely signed edition. As well as that, I absolutely loved the story. It focuses on four women and how their lives are intertwined through a pottery class. Watch out for Sheila though! She was a bit nosey for me!

And that’s June! The thing that I’m most excited about now is JULY. July is my favourite month in the whole year because it’s the end of exam marking (I’m half way there so far), summer break and my birthday as well! SO HAPPY IT’S JULY. I can hopefully make a proper dent in my TBR pile too.

I hope you all had a wonderful reading month and I wish you lots of reading time in July. Enjoy the sunshine and I’ll see you next time!

Big Love xxx

Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

Morning Fellow Book Lovers!

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!


Final Thoughts

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.

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.

Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! Honeymoon – James Patterson & Richard Roughan

Hey Loves!

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.

Big Love xxx