I literally cannot believe it’s New Years Eve! Time has a really funny habit of running a way with us, for sure. I don’t think I’ll finish another book today so it’s time for my reading round up of the month. To be honest, I’ve read some excellent books in December. Holidays do provide me with the best time to relax and read and I’ve definitely been doing just that (and eating far too much…) Please tell me you’re all like me!
Anyway in December I managed to read a total of 16 books which I’m super pleased with. There’s been times when I’ve finished a book I’ve started in the same day. It’s been joyous to really get down my reading pile and enjoy reading some of the books from my advent calendar. I’ve got plenty still to keep me going though, that’s for sure! I can’t hold off any longer, I’m just too excited. Let’s check out the shelves!
I’ve written reviews of three of these already and have plans for more so this is going to be quite tricky. Lessons in Chemistry was previous post here– I just love that book. I’ve also reviewed Advent Streethere too along with The Haunting Seasonover here and Slough Houseright there. It makes it a bit easier to pick a top three outside of these, that’s for sure!
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing – Matthew Perry. As a huge Friends fan, I had this on my list as soon as I saw it’s publication date. I hope to review it properly but I found it to be raw, moving and brutally honest.
The Family Remains – Lisa Jewell. Another absolute classic from Lisa Jewell. Again it was quite a hyped up book for me so I took me some time to get to it. However, it was so worth the wait.
The Girl on the 88 Bus – Freya Sampson. This book filled my heart and soul with unrivalled joy. If you’re needing a little pick me up, go for this one. You won’t be disappointed.
What a month! I’ve had one of the best months for reading so I’m feeling quite pleased with myself. I’m really excited for my reading challenge next year which I can’t wait to share with you (I’ve not finished it yet so any categories are welcome!) and to share more books with you too.
Have an excellent New Years Eve and of course, a very Happy New Year. I wish you all the very best for 2023! I’ll see you next year, probably tomorrow (see what I did there?!) for a roundup of the whole year, my favourites and thank yous as well as the future plans for my little blog. Until then…
I hope you’re all well. I must admit, the time between Christmas and New Year is always a bit of a blur. I never know what day it is for starters! But it does give me plenty of time to read and relax which I absolutely love.
Anyway, I’m here to review a book I finished this morning. I had my stubborn head on and wouldn’t get up until I finished it. It shows the power of women and how not to take no for an answer. Of course, I’m talking about the incredible Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.
I have to be completely honest, I was worried about reading this. I always am when there’s such a hype around a book. I always find it adds pressure. No one wants to be the person that doesn’t like the book that is currently being raved about. I’ve left enough time and read it in a couple of days. Let’s start there…
What’s it all about?
Elizabeth Zott is a protagonist unlike any other. Fiercely independent, headstrong and someone who doesn’t take any nonsense, Zott knows exactly what she does and doesn’t want.
Her story begins at the end really, providing a lovely circular structure to the novel. It’s 1961 and Elizabeth is miserable, depressed but the star of a nationally beloved cooking show: Supper at Six. All of this kind of happened by accident after Elizabeth stormed in to speak with Walter Pine about his daughter, Amanda, eating her daughter, Madeline (Mad’s) lunch.
Rewind to 1952, Elizabeth is a chemist at the Hastings Institute. Prior to this, she had been a doctoral candidate at UCLA but this was taken away from her following a sexual assault. It is whilst she’s at Hastings that she meets Calvin Evans. Calvin has everything that she does not: respect, acknowledgement and beakers. They meet after she steals some of his beakers that she needed for her own experiment. Unfortunately, their first meeting wasn’t joyous. In fact, he mistakes her for a secretary, causing great offence. Calvin tries to make it up to her by offering a date but she refuses. Over time, through the pursuit of science, the two begin to work together which leads to them falling madly in love with each other.
“Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun.”
As young lovers do, they share details about their lives. But, despite Calvin repeatedly asking, she refuses to marry him and they also decide to not have any children. Instead, Calvin comes up with the idea of getting a dog. They find a dishevelled but highly intelligent dog and named him Six Thirty, the time he came into their lives.
“Hello, Creature, he transmitted as he pressed his ear into Elizabeth’s belly. It’s me, Six-Thirty. I’m the dog.”
One morning, Calvin takes his usual run but this ends up in tragedy as he slips, bangs his head and dies nearly instantly. Elizabeth is absolutely devastated by the loss and is then completely blindsided by the news of her pregnancy. She is sacked because of this so smashes up her kitchen to turn it into a laboratory and charges other scientists who come to her for information or advice. Harriet Slone, a neighbour from over the road notices that Elizabeth is alone and the two slowly become the closest of friends. She is the one there who helps look after Madeline.
“Every day she found parenthood like taking a test for which she had not studied. The questions were daunting and there wasn’t nearly enough multiple choice.”
After some time and a few bumps in the road (no spoilers!) Elizabeth ends up receiving a phone call from Walter Pine, the same person she rang at the start of the novel, wanting to discuss a potential television show with her. Desperate for an income, Elizabeth reluctantly agrees. However, it isn’t as simple as it seems. There is a distinct clash of ideals; Elizabeth wanting to promote chemistry and get more women into science, the producers wanting her to sex it up a bit. Elizabeth stands firm and refuses to change, much to the admiration of the viewing public. She becomes a popular public figure but she is keen to keep Madeline out of the limelight. This does tend to bring false stories and after a change of history and bitter, jealous people selling their stories, Elizabeth sinks into a depression.
By the end of the novel, the wrongs are all corrected and Elizabeth leaves the television show to pursue her role in chemistry with Madeline, Harriet and all the friends they’ve made along the way. She’s back in a laboratory, where she rightfully belongs.
“Whenever you feel afraid, just remember. Courage is the root of change – and change is what we’re chemically designed to do. So when you wake up tomorrow, make this pledge. No more holding yourself back. No more subscribing to others’ opinions of what you can and cannot achieve. And no more allowing anyone to pigeonhole you into useless categories of sex, race, economic status, and religion. Do not allow your talents to lie dormant, ladies. Design your own future. When you go home today, ask yourself what YOU will change. And then get started.”
There are so many strands to this novel that inevitably and purposely I’ve missed many details out. BUT, I didn’t want to spoil a thing for any potential readers. There’s so much to learn about Calvin and Elizabeth. We see Madeline grow and develop her own personality. It’s just so good for so many reasons.
I love Elizabeth and I admire the way she shows motherhood. I also loved the relationship between her and Calvin. I was bitterly disappointed when he died but it was crucial to the story. After all, it’s not about him, this was all about Elizabeth. I totally understand why this book has won so many awards and so many accolades. It is fantastic for so many reasons: character development, setting, themes, morals, motherhood, relationships and the significance of pets. I really, really enjoyed it. I’m so grateful I managed to get a signed copy and one with sprayed edges. It makes this book even more perfect.
See you next time! Nearly time for 2023 and a roundup of this years reading!
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.
Happy Saturday! I hope you’re having a lovely Saturday. Today I want to share with you a book that I was kindly gifted from @LouiseWalters12 and @LLaaksoWriter for the blog tour for Wildest Hunger (#WildestHungerBlogTour). Those of you who have followed me for sometime will know that I will never say no to a book so I am grateful for being a part of this. I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did.
What’s it all about?
I was attracted to this book immediately because of it’s lovely cover. The blurb on the back was enticing and contained all the elements I love in a work of fiction. Worlds that are familiar but strange. Settings we know and love that have a twist as if they are distorted and warped.
This book is part of a series, which I didn’t realise when I first read it but as with all well written novels you can pick up the threads quickly and the characters come to life in your imagination despite the obvious missing background that would be there if you read them in order.
We follow the movements of an investigator, Yannia. She is living in Old London, away from the rest of her people. Yannia, you see is not human. Humanlike, yes but she is wild.
“Jamie recoils, but I keep following him. ‘I may look human, but I’m not. Nor is anyone who carries the WildFolk blood.’”
There is magic in this world and the non humans can use it, sense it, manipulate it. Yannia is called to consulate for the police when a young boy is abducted. As a member of the Wild Folk, Yannia quickly comes to realise that the perpetrator is one of her own. A Wild Folk like her. This one however has broken the oldest and most important law of the Wild Folk, they have started to kill and feed on humans.
“Of all the laws and traditions that govern our existence, one stands above all others; it is forbidden to consume the flesh of humankind.”
This leads her back into contact with her family, who are far away in a Wild Folk conclave. Yannia is very conflicted about this renewed contact as she left the conclave to get away from her overweening father and his plans to marry her off. In doing so, she has created resentment and ripples of rebellion throughout the Wild Folk community. Could this killing be in some way linked to her own rebellion?
“Most of the conclave has convened around the fires, and the nearer I get, the more hesitant my steps become. I feel unwelcome, though no-one has so much as glanced my way. These are my people, my kind, and yet I am not certain I am theirs. The old mould has been broken, and I have left the pieces behind.”
With the help of her partner, a magical Bird Shaman who works alongside her, Yannia begins to trace the movements of the killer. It soon becomes clear that they have travelled a long way and killed repeatedly. Yannia is forced to enlist the help of Dearon, her father’s heir to the leadership of their Wild Folk conclave. His lack of respect for the human police and her partner quickly causes friction – as does his utter failure to understand that he cannot simply meet out Wild Folk justice, this case must be dealt with by the police.
“Dearon’s nostrils flare as he identifies Jamie as human, and his expression changes to disinterest. I supress a surge of irritation. In Dearon’s world, humans are an inconvenience to be tolerated and avoided as much as possible.”
The plot twists and turns with all sorts of unexpected revelations. The complex relationship between the different characters and their ‘races’ in the story creates some delicious tension as things move to a climax.
The novel is a clever blend of the familiar and the magical. Mobile phones and cars juxtapose portals and bodily transformations. I really enjoyed getting to know the rules and mores of this familiar/strange world. The characters are well written and you quickly become invested in the story.
I think the most telling thing about my reaction to this book is that I immediately went looking for the earlier books in the series – that says everything really. I have found a new author to follow and I’m looking forward to the journey.
Thank you again to @LouiseWalters12 and @LLaaksoWriter for letting me be a part of this. Do check out the other stops on the tour. I’ll see you next time.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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…)