Happy Sunday. I hope you’re having a wonderfully restful weekend. I definitely am! However, the wind and the rain is disturbing my sleep for sure. I hope you’re all keeping safe, dry and warm.
I seem to have gone off the boil again with my little blog. I’m back at work so that’s the norm really but work is so tough. My flight or fight response is to read, read, read. Writing makes it real but reading means I can hide away and throw myself into someone else’s narrative. I miss the joy of my book advent calendar too. However, book shopping really does take the edge off. I also had my book subscription box delivered this week. Books everywhere!
This weekend I had a lovely day to Beverley which has some of the most gorgeous independent shops along with a Hotel Chocolat cafe. My favourite shop though is the Beverley Book Shop where I often stop by. This weekend was no different. I picked up two gorgeous looking books: Are We Having Fun Yet and We All Want Impossible Things. I also popped to the Oxfam Book Shop too where I used to go as a student to pick up the texts I needed to read. I had a good haul from there too! Have any you read any of these? I’ve no idea when I’ll get to them but I did make a big dent in my to be read pile I’ve the Christmas break.
It’s obvious that people, myself included, spend a lot of money on books. I’m really lucky – I get free copies but I am trying hard to save some pennies this year too. I’ve set up a little savings challenge for myself – 1p for each page I read. It means that I’m making an effort to save as well as spend. It’s really easy to get carried away when buying books. I know for a fact that I get taken in with a gorgeous cover, a signed copy or a sprayed edge. But, if I can save too, I’ll feel much better!
I’ve been working my way through the next Galbraith book too. It’s an incredible 1012 pages (£10.12 in the savings pot!) and has a brilliantly clever plot. I highly recommend it!
I’ll be back for reviews soon! Much love everyone!
Happy New Year! I am super excited to round up on last year and also launch with you my reading challenge for 2023! 2022 was a great year for my little blog because I found that I really enjoyed posting more. I hope you didn’t get sick of me in the process though! I’m on a particular high today because I should have gone back to school but the heating had broken! Yes! An additional day off. More reading time for me!
First of all, I want to round up 2022. I was really pleased to see that I managed to read 145 books in 2022. Definitely down from 2021 but that’s because we weren’t stuck at home! You can remind yourself of last year here, should you wish to. Along the way, there have been some amazing books. I’ll give you my top 5 later but I’ve honestly loved it. It’s all been about trying to get down my to be read pile and I’ve put a dent in it, that’s for sure! It hasn’t been easy, like most readers there have been slumps along the way and the inability to find a book I can get into. There’s so many factors in play at times so I don’t tend to share which books I didn’t finish because I know it isn’t the book, usually it’s me. But, I am ruthless. I do give up and move on because life is too short.
Regardless, let’s check out the books of 2022!
Appanah, Nathacha – The Sky Above the Roof
Tattersfield, Eleanor – Lockdown Secrets
Rauf, Onjali Q – The Lion at the Door
Colwin, Laurie – Happy All The Time
Grisham, John – The Racketeer
Flack, Caroline – Storm in a C Cup
Patterson, James – The Last Days of John Lennon
French, Dawn – Oh Dear Silvia
Jennings, Luke – Codename Villanelle
Priestley, J.B – An Inspector Calls
Tremayne, S.K. – The Assistants
Hazelwood, Ali – The Love Hypothesis
Morris, Heather – Three Sisters
James, Erica – Mothers and Daughters
Wilson, Antoine – Mouth to Mouth
Hitchings, Henry – Love Letters to Bookshops Around the World
McCartney, Sophie – Tired & Tested
Dowd, Siobhan – The London Eye Mystery
Zgheib, Yara – No Land to Light On
Lepionka, Kristen – The Last Place You Look
Halls, Stacey – Mrs England
Prose, Nita – The Maid
Donaldson, Julia & Scheffler, Axel – The Gruffalo
Debona, Katherine – Love Me, Love Me Not
Allen, Anthea – Life, Death and Biscuits
Ware, Jessie – Omelette
Shrager, Rosemary – The Last Supper
Schwab, V.E. – Gallant
Halls, Stacey – The Foundling
Ryn, Jessica – The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside
Logan, T.M. – The Curfew
Maher, Kerri – The Paris Bookseller
Penner, Sarah – The Lost Apothecary
Blackburn, Lizzie Damilola – Yinka, Where is Your Husband?
Hockney, David & Gayford, Martin – Spring Cannot be Cancelled
Mas, Victoria – The Mad Woman’s Ball
Strout, Lucy – My Name is Lucy Barton
Cox, Katy – M is for Mummy
Osbourne, Bella – The Library
Wahrer, Caitlin – Damage
Ireland, Sandra – The Unmaking of Ellie Rook
Gold, Hannah – The Last Bear
Williams, Candice-Carty – Queenie
Keyes, Marian – Rachel’s Holiday
O’Leary, Beth – The No-Show
Grohl, Dave – The Storyteller
Hargrave, Kiran Millwood – Julia and the Shark
Gold, Hannah – The Lost Whale
Steinbeck, John – Cannery Row
Fforde, Katie – Saving the Day
Keyes, Marian – Again, Rachel
Lockhart, E – We Were Liars
Hawkins, Paula – Blind Spot
Buchanan, Daisy – Insatiable
Vine, Lucy – What Fresh Hell
Craven, M.W. – The Cutting Season
McCaughrean, Geraldine – The Supreme Lie
Sams, Saba – Send Nudes
Wilson, A.K. – The Manager
Sims, Gill – The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood
Oseman, Alice – Nick and Charlie
Patterson, James – Honeymoon
Bennett, Alan – The Uncommon Reader
Malik, Ayisha – Sofia Khan and the Baby Blues
Paris, Helen – Lost Property
Wilson, A.N. – Lilibet – The Girl who Would be Queen
Carvan, Tabitha – This is not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch
Hogan, Ruth – The Keeper of Lost Things
Buchanan, Daisy – Careering
Benson, Jen – The Wild Year
Han, Jenny – The Summer I Turned Pretty
Cox, Sara – Thrown
Sutanto, Jesse – Dial A For Aunties
Wickers, Kate – Shape of a Boy
Chen, Kirstin – Counterfeit
Stonex, Emma – The Lamplighters
Candlish, Louise – The Other Passenger
Heydenrych, Amy – The Pact
Sunim, Haemin – The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down
Cha, Steph – Your House Will Pay
Backman, Fredrik – Anxious People
Bly, Mary – Lizzie & Dante
Takhar, Helen Monks – That Woman
Heller, Miranda Cowley – Paper Palace
Campbell, Michele – A Stranger on the Beach
Jewell, Lisa – The Family Upstairs
Corry, Jane – We All Have Our Secrets
Cave, Jessie – Sunset
Han, Jenny – It’s Not Summer Without You
Hui, Angela – Takeaway
Swanson, Peter – Before She Knew Him
Rowell, Rainbow – Fangirl
Han, Jenny – We’ll Always Have Summer
Mulhern, Stephen – Max Magic
Osman, Richard – The Man Who Died Twice
Newson, Karl & Anganuzzi, Clara – The World at Your Feet
Sutanto, Jesse – Four Aunties and a Wedding
Jestin, Victor – Heatwave
Brook, Kate – Not Exactly What I Had In Mind
Bourne, Holly – How Do You Like Me Now?
Bochis, Iulia – The Sun, The Sea & The Stars
Hazelwood, Ali – Love on the Brain
Taylor, Matson – All About Evie
Kay, Adam – Undoctored
Norbury, James – The Journey
Gayle, Mike – The Museum of Ordinary People
Felton, Tom – Beyond the Wand
Kawaguchi, Toshikazu – Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café
Shakespeare, William – Macbeth
Kawaguchi, Toshikazu – Before Your Memory Fades
Murray, Lily & Surplice, Holly – Five Little Penguins
Tucci, Stanely – Taste: My Life Through Food
Osman, Richard – The Bullet That Missed
Sanghani, Radhika – Thirty Things I Love About Myself
Doughty, Louise – Platform Seven
Theroux, Louis – Theroux the Keyhole
Du Beke, Anton – We’ll Meet Again
Moore, Ian – Death and Papa Noel
Donati, Alba – Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop
Kemp, Roman – Are You Really Ok?
Coles, Richard – Murder Before Evensong
Bennett, S.J. – Murder Most Royal
Miller, Madeline – Galatea
Swanson, Peter – Rules for Perfect Murders
Sharma, Nisha – Dating Dr. Dil
Smith, Alex T – The Twelve Days of Christmas
Dickens, Charles – A Christmas Carol
Jewell, Lisa – The Family Remains
Collins, Bridget & co – The Haunting Season
Duffy, Carol Ann – Advent Street
Herron, Mick – Slough House
Grimm Brothers & co – A German Christmas
Pooley, Claire – The People on Platform 5
Taylor-Bessent, Mel – The Christmas Carrolls
Sampson, Freya – The Girl on the 88 Bus
Macomber, Debbie – Jingle All The Way
Ayoade, Richard – The Book That No One Wanted to Read
Herron, Mick – Stanging By The Wall
Du Beke, Anton – Ballroom Blitz
Dean, Will – The Last Thing to Burn
Carroll, Lewis – Through the Looking Glass
Hendricks, Jaime Lynn – His Missing Wife
Lockhart, E – Family of Liars
Perry, Matthew – Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing
Garmus, Bonnie – Lessons in Chemistry
I think we can all agree there’s some incredible books here! Picking a top five is tough but they are:
Beyond the Wand – Tom Felton. When I reviewed it, I called it. I just knew that it was going to take a really special book to beat it.
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing – Matthew Perry. I’m a huge Friends fan so I couldn’t not read this book. It was utterly heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.
Paper Palace – Miranda Cowley Heller. One of my summer reads that I couldn’t put down. I absolutely loved it. It gave me Crawdad vibes that I’d been desperately looking for!
The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex. Another beach read that I reviewed but fell in love with the plot after the first few pages.
The Lost Apothecary – Sarah Penner. A beautiful cover, a wonderful story with strong female characters.
That’s it! There’s so many others that I could have chosen but I decided to stick with these. What do you think? Have you read any of these?
2023: My focus has now changed to 2023 and what exciting books the future holds for me here. I’ve decided I need to continue with my efforts of getting down my to be read pile. Whilst going through my monthly reading challenge last year, I spotted that some of the criteria were quite similar so I’ve worked on it and please let me introduce to you all, the reading challenge for 2023!
I’ve tried to make sure that I’ve got some things that motivate me (e.g. a beach read. Who isn’t longing for summer?) as well as things that will definitely challenge me and broaden my reading horizons. Feel free to join in with this and make suggestions for me! I get a lot of my reading list from you guys so I’m keen for any books you think are good! I really hope you join in with me!
So, onto the next book and preparing myself for the next half term.
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 hope you’re okay! We’re nearly there and I’ve only got one book left on my pile for my advent calendar. But, I’ve opened two excellent books in the past two days that I’m quite excited about too! I’ve got a lovely day with my dad planned today but I think I can safely say, I’m ready for Christmas! 🎄
The Last Thing To Burn looks so good that I’ve picked it to read next. I wasn’t sure which to go for last night so this feels like a sign to me.
I’ll see you all tomorrow for my Christmas Eve book and also the book I was gifted for Jolabokaflod. I also just wanted to say thank you for those devoted bloggers who have been following the Unwrap It! series. You’re all wonderful and it means the world!
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!
This post today comes from London as I’m here this weekend to get some Christmas shopping sorted. It’s been a bit manic at school (one week to go – I can totally do this!) so I’m a little behind with the unwrap it posts but there’s been some excellent books in the advent calendar that I can’t wait to share with you!
So far I’ve not managed to guess any of the books from the clues but that’s ok! I’m really enjoying seeing what’s wrapped up. I’ve taken so much pleasure from it and it’s something I want to do again, for sure.
Sorry there’s so many in this post – I’ve well and truly fallen behind but that’s ok! I hope you’re all enjoying the unwrapping with me. Do continue to let me know which ones you’ve read and enjoyed. It really does help me decide where I should go next on my reading adventures!
With so much festive love from London, until next time…
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 Advent Eve! I love December so I am very excited about it approaching. Have you got your advent calendars and candles ready? I definitely have! I’ve got a very exciting advent treat that I can’t wait to share with you too. However, it’s sat in a Royal Mail depot somewhere at the moment due to the strikes – along with my book choice for October and November… I solemnly swear that I will catch up on my reading challenge in the next week!
Anyway, November has been quite a good reading month for me, despite being mock season at school. I’ve also found the lack of daylight really difficult – I miss the sunshine! I’ve been struggling a little but my books have kept me going – that and getting excited for Christmas to be honest! I’m super pleased that I managed to read 12 books this month. I had a little slump in the middle because I was stressed about my reading challenge but I decided to read anything that takes my fancy and it really did take the pressure off. I’ve neglected my blog a little but I can’t wait to show you these 12 amazing books. Let’s check out the shelves!
November gave me a real mix of titles really and to be honest, I’ve loved it! Picking a top three is always difficult but when there’s been a slump in the month, I’m always grateful to the books that have pulled me out of it. Anyway, here’s my top three – what do you think?
Are YouReally Ok? – Roman Kemp. There’s one main reason why this is the top of the list and that is because it raises the importance of mental health, especially in men, and the need for friendship groups to open those lines of communication to be there for each other. It was really moving and as a teacher in an all boys school, really important.
We’ll Meet Again – Anton Du Beke. Most famous for being on Strictly Come Dancing, I was lucky enough to receive the first few books prepublication. I LOVE them. The setting, the glitz, the characters, the dancing and the wartime background mean these really are the perfect read. They’re usually set in Christmastime too (just saying…) I must admit, if you read this get some tissues ready – I sobbed.
The Twelve Days of Christmas – Alex T Smith. First of all, there is nothing to not love about this book. The illustrations are incredible, each page is a pop of colour and character but also, I just love the premise behind it. We all know the popular Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, but do you remember what each day brought? If not, this quirky, hilarious take on this book is for you. It’s also excellent for little readers too.
There we have it! Another excellent month of reading even though I didn’t get to my book for November. I will make sure that happens this weekend as well as my new post, especially for the advent period. I cannot wait to show you that! I plan to post most days too so stay tuned! I’m genuinely so excited about it.
I hope you all have a wonderful start to December. Thanks for being there with me, even when I don’t quite reach my own goals that I set for myself.