Oh how I love half term! I’ve had a really super time in London so I’m playing catch up again but I know I won’t finish my book today so I thought I’d check in with you all and post my round-up!
I really do like the month of May because the sun tends to be shining and the daylight hours are continuously extended, little by little. Reading wise, it’s been a joy as well. I’ve managed to read 12 books this month which I’m pleased about. You’ll notice a particular type of book this month too. Let’s check out the shelves!
I did warn you that there’s a particular type of book this month but there’s been some great ones here actually. Here’s my top three!
Humble Pie – Gordon Ramsey. I am a huge Gordon Ramsey fan so when I stumbled across this in a second hand book shop, I just had to get it. I loved this book because it was just so refreshingly honest. He’s got a clear persona for TV but loyalty to his staff shines through. A really great non-fiction read!
A Secret Garden Affair – Erica James. I really do like the writing style of Erica James and I also think she’s the queen of character creating. I found this story completely compelling and I couldn’t put it down. Beautiful cover too!
The Miseducation of Evie Epworth – Matson Taylor. You may remember another Matson Taylor book and that’s because it appears that I’ve read these the wrong way round! It didn’t do any harm though and I loved this just as much as All About Evie.
This month appears to have been good but my brain hasn’t really got to grips with lengthier or complicated plots. In fact, some of these are rather simple picture books. Paris is a beautiful book and I love the affirmations from. She Believed She Could and All on the Board. Sometimes you just need the simpler things. Reading is reading. It’s about the pleasure of it.
Like I said in my previous post, I’ve seen a number of shows that I want to catch up with you all about and of course, my trip to London. It’s been a blast. Here’s to the next half of the week!
How are you all doing? After a restful weekend, I can’t wait to share with you the topic and the book I chose for my reading challenge this month. It was such a difficult thing, I had to go and peruse the bookshelves in town to find some inspiration, The topic I chose was Read a new genre. Now, I really am a creature of habit so this really did push me out of my comfort zone. I knew that if I went too far away, I’d never finish whatever it was I’d end up choosing. Thankfully, I stumbled across a section I’d not quite considered before: philosophy. Thus, I chose The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. I am the first to admit I know very little about philosophy or spirituality really. However, the character I can remember (until Harry Potter fever kicked in) most from my earliest childhood days is Winnie the Pooh. Oh my, I loved that bear so. This would going to be my bridge to a new genre. I actually ended up really enjoying it. I hope you do too.
What’s it all about?
In this lovely little book, Benjamin Hoff uses excerpts from both Winnie the Pooh and ancient Taoist writings. One of the first concepts that Pooh Bear embodies so well is that scholarly thinking and learning can get in the way of inner peace. He exemplifies this by talking about where Winnie the Pooh was struggling to spell Tuesday.
“…you can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”
In other words there is more to wisdom than being correct and Winnie the Pooh exemplifies this in the cutest possible way.
The next Taoist principle is that everything has its place and its function, the idea that square pegs are in square holes and round pegs are in round holes. Pooh Bear never attempts to be someone or something he is not but he is always content and happy with his lot in life. So many of us strive and fight to fit in or to conform. Therefore, it is refreshing to think that maybe it is ok to be who we are.
“We don’t need to imitate Nearsighted Science which peers at the world through an electron microscope. We don’t need to play Abstract Philosopher, asking unnecessary questions. What we need to do is recognise Inner Nature and work with things as they are.”
It becomes clear as you read through this book that Taoism, or The Way, is in fact the Pooh way. In Chinese it is known as Wu Wei, which literally means, ‘without doing, causing or making’. It’s like the idea of water flowing over and around the rocks in its path, not trying to grind its way through the obstacles, or carve a straight line. A famous Taoist writer, Chuang-tse tells a story of a mighty waterfall and an old man caught up in the maelstrom at the bottom of the fall. The old man is thrown about by the water and appears to be drowning but when his rescuers get there, he is climbing out onto the bank. When he is asked what secret power he has he says, “I go down with the water and come up with the water. I survive because I don’t struggle.” In the same way Pooh also does not struggle. In fact, in his own words, he doesn’t do much of anything. But things do still get done, such as the birthday pot for Eeyore, originally full of honey. This simple way of life is actually quite charming and one we can all strive for, or should that be relax into.
“If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls to us with the voice of a child’s mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the forest.”
Like I said at the start, I really enjoyed this little book. It was insightful, charming and completely new for me. The concept of Taoism is complicated but this broke it down to manageable understandings which have been on my mind since. Whilst I might not embody the mindset of going with the flow or keeping calm, I will endeavour to try and be more Pooh – literally! After all, he is the epitome of Tao philosophy, unlike our other friends from the AA Milne classic.
I’ll see you next time loves for more reviews of books and places. I’ve got a couple of shows to share with you too!
I hope you’re all having a really super weekend. The weather here is gorgeous! It’s definitely giving me summer vibes. I’ve been doing a little indoor gardening and making the most of the weather despite being a little poorly. Hmm.
Anyway, I’m super excited to share with you a really quirky book I found when I was in London last weekend! It’s been created by Londonist which is a website showing you all the different things that are on in London and featured events they’re promoting; an online tourist information, if you will. Working with a number of illustrators, the book Londonist Mapped includes a number of hand drawn maps for the ‘Urban Explorer’. This book is an absolute treat!
What’s it all about?
What fascinates me most about this book is the wide range of topics it spans. I also love the origins of the book.
“It’s Monday morning in the Londonist office. Someone sips their first coffee of the week. Then they frown. Scratch their head. Open their mouth. Look around the room. Close their mouth. Pause, as if concerned they might be about to say something stupid. They then say it anyway…”
The collection of maps all stem from curious minds. It ranges from, Secrets of Buckingham Palace, to A brief guide to London’s docks’ and London’s longest roads just to name a few. Spanning the history, length and depth of London, this book is the perfect addition to any book collection.
For me, it’s the 37 illustrators that have taken part in this project as well. I always have a massive respect for anyone who can draw because I am rubbish at it. The appreciation from myself is real. I’ve included my three favourites below.
My first choice is lost London Victorian buildings. I’ve got a huge interest in the Victorian period, specialising in this when I was at university. Without them, we wouldn’t have the London Underground. I always think of those pioneers whenever I’m mooching around London.
Following on from my summery vibes, I picked a map showing hidden gardens in the city. I’m so tempted to try and find these when I’m next there over the Whitsun holiday. I also really love the illustrations and the font of this map too.
My final choice is the most impressive map I think. I’d have this across a whole wall in my house I think. It’s just that good. I’m in awe of it actually. This map features all the unsung museums of London. I hadn’t quite appreciated how many there are! Just look how beautiful that is!
I think for me this book is perfect for finding out about hidden gems within London, the secrets that are there just waiting to be found. I absolutely love it! The illustrators are truly talented and I’m really impressed with the variety of different styles. Each map is unique and you can tell so much work has gone into it. It’s one of my most treasured finds in London.
It’s May! For those in secondary education it’s the time where exams loom and it’s the final push to get our students over the line. I’m definitely feeling the countdown in the background! I really hope for all of you it goes well. It’s also a month of seeing a lot of shows which I’m super excited about.
Anyway, I’m slowly but surely playing catch up with the posts I’m behind on! I just lost my way a bit and time ran away with me. I know we’ve all been there and the support from you all has been lovely. I’m blessed.
Today I want to share with you my book choice for my reading challenge. April is a strange period of time: rain, sunshine, hail, frost. It has it all! The theme from my reading challenge that I chose was: Read a collection of poetry. I have to say, I absolutely loved this and found a theme close to my heart: education. I picked England: Poems from a School edited by Kate Clanchy.
What’s it all about?
Rather than spoiling this collection and revealing details of all of the poems, I’m going to share with you my favourite three. These three stood out to me for a variety of reasons: the content, the emotions and the age of the writers. I said before that I was completely blown away by this and I really hope you can see why.
The first poem I’ve chosen is The Doves of Damascus by 14 year old, Abou Kerech. This poem made me feel really emotional and grateful at the same time. It speaks of missing home, of missing what you’ve ever known despite being in safety now. Simple things we take for granted, like snow, flowers and grapes all feature here. It made me reflect on the fact that the longer you spend somewhere, the more you rely on memories of home. Memories are literally all some of these children have of their old lives.
“I lost my country and everything I had before.
I cannot remember for sure…”
My second choice is by 12 year old Mohamad Assaf called Where Are My Unnumbered Days? The only way to describe this poem is to say it’s a poem all about longing for home and losing what it used to be. Displacement is a feeling that I’d never want to wish on anyone. However, for a 12 year old, I found that this poem really tugged at my heart strings. Imagine feeling like you’re just a number, a statistic. I can’t begin to comprehend it.
“I lived in a house with a name:
And now, I am just a number.”
Finally, I chose a poem by 17 year old Rukiya Khartun entitled Silence Itself. This one called out to me because it just felt like the embodiment of loneliness. The wonder, beauty and yet sometimes pain of silence means that silences are hard to read. Is it isolation? What does silence give to us? Here, the silence is a friend, an opportunity for reflection and acceptance. For a 17 year old to write like this, it’s powerful.
“I know I always felt like a ghost:
observing the world and myself…”
Working in education provides me with such highs and real lows. There’s rarely a day where there’s anything in between. However, it’s really easy to forget that there are places in the world where children do not get the same opportunities as everyone else. There are also children who are displaced, leaving what they know and love for safety. The children in this anthology are real hero’s in my eyes. The collection oozes talent and personality. I’d be really proud to have these students in my class. I’m also really pleased I branched out into poetry too. It’s something I don’t spend a lot of time reading but with children writing like this, the future of poetry is looking really bright.
Whether you’re a royal supporter or not, I really hope you’re enjoying the celebrations and time we can spend together this weekend. For me personally, it’s been lovely to see! It’s also given me some much needed time to catch up on my many late blog posts. Hopefully over the next few days I’ll be all caught up! I’ve also managed to sneak in a trip to Waterstones after a difficult day at work.
Anyway, today I wanted to share with you my choice of theme and book for my reading challenge. I’m so behind that this was the choice for March! Don’t worry, I’ve got April’s choice all reviewed and ready to go too! For March, the theme I chose was: Read a book that’s been translated. I really love reading translated books because I feel like it opens doors to new worlds really. It always makes me wish that I could read books in other languages too! The book I chose was Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami. I found this book by pure chance so I had no idea what I would find within its pages!
What’s it all about?
This really is a strange little story. It’s got two time frames running through it: past and present. The narration is from the main protagonist Tsukiko. For most of her life she’s been happy with her solitary existence. She had an office job and when she wasn’t working she spent her time reading her books, talking to herself and bathing.
One day, she bumps into her former teacher at a bar. She cannot remember his name so calls him Sensei. She does remember eventually but decides that she will continue to call him the name she’s decided upon. Over time the two fall into a comfortable rhythm together. The pair spend most evenings eating and drinking at their local bar, Satoru’s. Despite the age different, the two feel at ease with each other. Tsukiko feels more comfortable with him than she does with anyone her own age. However, one evening the two get into a heated argument about baseball. It is at this point that Tsukiko realises the importance of their friendship. Before him, she lived a life of solitude, trying to convince herself that she liked it.
“Forcing myself to make conversation felt like standing on a cliff, peering over the edge, about to tumble down headfirst.”
After clearing the air, Tsukiko and Sensei is invited on a mushroom hunting excursion with Satoru and his cousin. It is here that she learns the beauty of the world; that maybe she isn’t as alone as she had originally thought. She felt regret for tagging along really but this lesson was worth it. Not long after, Sensei invites her to a cherry blossom party, hosted by her former art teacher. She was reluctant but she found a former friend, Takashi Kojima, and spent a lot of the evening with him. Yet this conflicted her. She couldn’t stop watching Sensei conversing with the other teachers and students. Ultimately, she decides to leave with him, spending the rest of the evening drinking and eating together. Feeling a little disengaged, she was surprised when Kojima kissed her. They continue to see each other over the next few weeks.
Another evening that Tsukiko and Sensei spend together ends with a surprising declaration: love. Tsukiko shocks herself by saying it and Sensei doesn’t respond. Yet the elements do by there being a thunderstorm in the background. He holds her through the whole thing.
“If the love is true, then treat it the same way you would plant – feed it, protect it from the elements – you must do absolutely everything you can. But if it isn’t true, then it’s best to just let it wither on the vine.”
Despite the possible tension, the two take another trip to a nearby island. She had no idea what to expect from him or this trip so was a little uneasy. She soon discovers that he’s visiting his late wife’s grave. This does upset her as she believes that he will never love her. But, as is their normal pattern, they make amends. Following his apology, the two decide to officially start dating.
They only get one year together as Sensei passes away. She missed him greatly and thinks of him often. She opens and closes his suitcase, the only thing of his she has, when she misses him.
“Those nights, I open Sensei’s briefcase and peer inside. The blank empty space unfolds, containing nothing within. It holds nothing more than an expanse of desolate absence.”
It’s been a tricky little book to review because of juggling the timeframes. However, a linear approach makes understanding the short story easier. I’d said before that there is such an art to a translated story. How do you manage to not lose the narrative magic? I did enjoy reading this book, despite finding it tricky to follow at times. At it’s core is two lonely people finding company and joy in each other. It’s a rather simple premise really and something that we all want in our own lives! An enjoyable little read, especially if you like translated work.
Sending you joy and peace for the long weekend ahead. And possibly an umbrella!
I hope your Monday has treated you kindly. I’m super excited to share with you today my stop on a blog tour for the amazing Thunderstone by Nancy Campbell. A huge thank you to @NancyCampbell, @eandtbooks and Claire Maxwell for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. You can check out their instagram accounts too here, here and here. I love being a part of this community because it’s where I find out all my next reads. Hopefully, this amazing book will become one of yours! I really hope you enjoy it.
What’s it all about?
The novel opens following the devastation that was lockdown. Facing an ending relationship, it is time for Nancy Campbell to do something for herself for a change, to stand on her own two feet. She decides it is time to own a property of her own. She does this of sorts: she buys herself a caravan and decides to live on a woodland by a canal and a railway. The next chapter and the new journey begins from here.
‘On closer investigation many of the vintage caravans are not just basic, they are burned-out, mouldering wrecks described as ‘good restoration projects’. Those that have been refurbished are blighted by bunting and floral curtains. I set my heart on a tiny but van, round as a button…’
What comes next is almost poetry. There’s description of the surroundings during the summer months, how the plants and animals change, followed by quotations and references to literature and also snippets of the people around her. All these elements are intertwined together to create this book. June brings the morning birdsong and the teething problems with the van. There’s frustrations as well as learning curves. What shines is the kindness of those around and the beauty of the natural world in which we live. It’s touching to see references back to Anna, from the relationship at the beginning too,
“You have to let go. Anna has to get on with her life. You have to get on with yours. Now, what needs sorting?”
June bleeds into July, into August and September. Life is very different but it’s no less simple for Campbell. Anna’s father passes away and Nancy herself has health issues of her own. She repeatedly needs to leave the comfort and solace of her van for various medical appointments. Despite the beauty of her surroundings, there is a sense of urgency, to move quickly to find out what is wrong with her health.
‘On the screen she points out a spherical mass, which dwarfs the shadowy organs surrounding it. “It’s often the way,” she says. “A patient comes in with one concern – and we find something entirely different.”
To find out the full extent of Campbell’s journey, you’ll have to get yourself a copy of this book. As a side note, the cover really is beautiful so you’ll have no issue finding this in your local bookshop! Do check out the other stops on this blog tour too!
It’s quite difficult to review this book because there’s just so much beauty to it. It’s for a certain type of reader though, not necessarily me, but I have appreciated it. Like I said before, it’s almost lyrical. There’s pain as well as beauty and in that respect, it feels raw and honest. Personally, it’s honest non-fiction that is the unsung hero of the literature world currently. Finding something you can relate to or think about is what literature is for. I feel truly grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of this tour and for this book becoming back of my own reading experience.
There I was, living my best life and enjoying the holiday and then it was over. It went ridiculously fast but I did manage to read plenty. I’m also really pleased because I can now go book buying again following lent! I’m absolutely certain I’ll be making that count.
I hope you’re all well and are enjoying the extended daylight. I must admit, I’m loving seeing more daylight, I feel like it really is a joyous time. Today I want to share with you a book that I saw by pure chance on a shelf in my local Waterstones. Periodically, I stumbled across a book that is just so beautiful that it is just criminal to not share it. It shows our natural world in all its glory. We really do need to preserve and protect it for future generations. I’m talking about the stunning Secrets of a Devon Wood: My Nature Journal by Jo Brown.
I really do love being around nature; it gives me a real sense of calm. So much so that I’ve made my kitchen window into a little window garden! My long term followers know that during term time I live and work in a city. However, holidays is all about the countryside. Jo Brown’s book reminded me of home and of the necessity to look all around us for the wonders of our natural world. I hope you love this one!
What’s it all about?
Artist and illustrator, Jo Brown, decided to keep a nature diary to document everything she saw in the wood behind her Devon home. This published copy is a replica of her drawings from her original hard copy diary. I’m in awe because I cannot draw like this and I also feel really lucky that she has shared this with the world.
It isn’t just the illustrations that are magical, I love the addition of the Latin names and splashes of information about plants, insects and birds.
The depth and the detail is like nothing I’ve seen before. I actually felt inspired to do something like this for myself but I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it! However, it’s given me a number of things to keep an eye out for next time I’m outside.
The perfect book to dip in and out of, the perfect book to absorb and learn from. We don’t know the true extent of what is outside but this gives us a starting point. I also appreciated the few pages at the back to start your own journal. I know I won’t use them but it has got me thinking for sure.
We are so lucky to have this world in which we live. I didn’t value it much as a child. But now I’m much more conscious. I like wildflowers and planting things that are bird and bee friendly. I’m actively trying to be better to help. I feel like it’s paying off slightly as on Easter Sunday we had a gift of a fawn in our garden. These moments are magical and to be cherished. Our natural world needs looking after. Hopefully this book will leave you feeling as inspired as I am.
I’ll see you next time for my March and April choice for my reading challenge and an update of what shows I’ve seen recently!
It’s Easter weekend! I wish you all the Easter blessings in the world and hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend.
Today I want to share with you one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read: Poems in Progress: Drafts from Master Poets published by the British Library. I’m very aware that I teach poetry but don’t actually spend a lot of time reading poetry for myself. With a rich and diverse collection, this book is the perfect anthology. It’s truly inspiring to see the starting points of some of the most influential poems of the world. I really hope you like it as much as I did!
What’s it all about?
This whole collection is structured into different themes: epics, fantasy, the senses, place, the natural world, imbalance and inequality, family and friendship, conflict, death and reflection, love, spanning the history of poetry. You’ve got writers from 500BC to now so there really is something for everyone. There’s also a range of languages too and different formats of poetry. It’s the perfect book to dip in and out of.
Each poet has at least a double page with some historical information followed by an image of the manuscript. I find these absolutely fascinating because I love to see the handwriting (I think it’s the teacher part of me!) and I love to see the edits too. What a fascinating insight into how these poems have evolved from first draft to the ones we know and love now. I said before that a little favourite of mine was written on toilet paper (see below). Sylvia Pankhurst, well known for campaigning for women’s rights along with her family also campaigned in her later life about war too. She spent time in prison to write. The only material she had was toilet paper. You can see the editions too. To feel so strongly about writing that you’d do whatever it takes to continue, really inspires me.
It isn’t just the poems that fascinated me. A number of writers also included little sketches. We’re seeing a really intimate side of poetry here I think. This example from John Betjeman and Evelyn Waugh stood out to me. The poems were found in personal papers and it’s clear that the friends took inspiration from each other. Betjeman has added the illustration of the houses to Waugh’s poem. I personally love the little teddy bear illustration too.
The last example I wanted to show you is of a modern poet I absolutely love: Benjamin Zephaniah. There’s really no reason for me to explain it when he does so much more eloquently than me. However, modern voices in poetry are keeping this artwork alive and books like this mean that we can see, forever more, how poetry has evolved over time.
If, like me, you’re wanting to branch out into more poetry, I’d definitely recommend starting here. From a historical perspective I also love the fact that there’s different languages and also different materials. Any and every writer you can imagine is in this collection from Beowulf to John Milton, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde to Holly McNish and Benjamin Zephaniah. If you’re interested in getting your hands on this beautiful edition, please click here. You can also find out more about the British Library on their website.
I need to review my book choice for March but I’ve misplaced my copy so I’ll get to that and hopefully get through more books and reviews for you after the Easter break. Have a good one everyone!
Well, it’s Easter break so I’m really relieved. It means I’ve got chance to catch up with you all and also get through some books. Everything has come to a halt with me. I’ve properly gone off the pace with it. I’ve been poorly again and work has been really challenging. This is the time now for me rest, recover and read. All the Rs! Thank you for stopping by and sticking with me, even when I’ve been so behind. For the next two weeks I’m hoping to fill up your screens with posts galore.
This month was a slow one for me. I only managed to read 7 books. There’s been a number of children’s books this month which has been lovely. It’s all about inspiring the next generation of readers after all. Let’s check out the shelves!
Poems in Progress – Alexandra Ault & Laura Walker. I got this from the British Library (review coming up next week) and it really is the most fascinating book. It’s all about draft manuscript copies of poetry covering a range of writers and themes. It’s a real treat for any poetry lover.
Me vs Brain – Haley Morris. Haley Morris is someone I follow on Facebook but she’s known from TikTok. She’s hilarious and honest and this book was just so refreshing. As a fellow over thinker, I could relate to so many scenarios in this one.
Strange Weather in Tokyo – Hiromi Kawakami. I picked this for my reading challenge so a review is incoming. I have a real love for translated novels and this really didn’t disappoint either. I loved the ebb and flow of the story.
Well, I’m hoping to read more and catch up with my many reviews in my two weeks off. I can’t wait to get back on top form with both! I’ve missed you all dearly.
Did anyone else blink and miss February? I feel like I did. I know there’s only 28 days but still, I feel like it’s gone super quick. However, it’s been a great reading month. I’ve had half term as well where I spent time pottering around and I noticed that it was getting brighter earlier and for longer. The spring flowers are arriving too. Exciting times ahead!
In February I managed to read 13 books which I’m really chuffed about. I’ve read some absolute crackers too. I’ve just noticed that they’re all similar colours: oranges, reds and yellows. Clearly I’ve been (unconsciously/subconsciously?) looking for some bright colours to perk the season up! Anyway, enough jabber! Let’s check out the shelves!
Love & Saffron – Kim Fay. Food and friendship, what’s more to love? This story is heartwarming and I really enjoyed it. I also loved that it was all letters! Joan and Imogen remind us that friendship and food are the most important things. A gorgeous little read.
The Measure – Nikki Erlick. This book really intrigued me. In a nutshell, small wooden boxes are left outside doors all around the world containing one thing: a string showing how many years you’ll live. Do you open it? What if yours is a short string? Totally captivating and a genius idea of a plot!
The Love of my Life – Rosie Walsh. I love Rosie Walsh’s writing, she never disappoints. It was a safe bet buying and reading this book and I really didn’t see the plot unravelling like it did. There’s lots of twists and turns but ultimately, are you really who you say you are?
What a brilliant reading month and of course, more pennies into my savings account too! I can’t wait to see what March brings. I need to self care because it’s mock exam season so reading hopefully will be the best medicine for this! Have a great reading month everyone! I’ll see you next time for my book choice for my reading challenge for February!