The Sun, The Sea & The Stars – Iulia Bochis

Hello Loves!

I haven’t posted anything because what can I say? Isn’t it all just very overwhelming at the moment? School has started and that is overwhelming – lots of changes and on a much larger scale, the death of Queen Elizabeth II has completely thrown me and brought up my own experiences of grief. I am deeply moved daily by the scenes surrounding the death of her. I guess it isn’t a shock but the sense of loss is overwhelming. With work and life I took myself off to a place that brings me great joy and comfort: the book shop. I’m back in a stage of buying many (I am on a ban…so far so good) and not being able to read them. Whilst aimlessly walking and not staring too hard in case I get tempted, I did spot something that felt like a sign from the book gods. That sign was The Sun, The Sea & The Stars – Ancient Wisdom as a Healing Journey. Firstly, it’s a beautifully illustrated book and I knew it would be a manageable and healing read.

What’s it all about?
Small but mighty is the best way to describe this book. It opens with a personal message from the author and illustrator Iulia Bochis where it is revealed that this book was born out of the feeling that everyone is different yet we share so many thoughts and feelings the same. We all face moments in our life that cause us to stop, think and reflect whilst we are navigating our journey through life. It was just the antidote that I needed at this period in time.

Starting in Autumn, we see a season of great change. Bochis wants us to remember that there is beauty in every season and as we are approaching Autumn, it’s perfectly apt now. Whilst the seasons are changing around us, our natural world is also changing and adapting around us too. We need to remember to be at one with the natural world – we help to shape it of course.

“The trees look vulnerable, shedding their past lives.”

We have to remember that time doesn’t stand still. Therefore, we have to keep moving because we can’t stop time. It is only when we continue that we are able to see what actually happens next. Autumn leads us into Winter when our surroundings are naturally darker. Yet, it is within the darkness that the stars and the moon shine brighter for us all to see. The world rests in Winter and time moves us towards Spring – the time of new beginnings and bloom. We have the opportunity to start again. We bloom too.

“Being still does not mean don’t move, it means move in peace.”

The book ends with Summer. Everything is different again, including ourselves. The summer is naturally a happier time for people purely because we see light and for me, this book was like summer because it provided me with more light for our current times. It’s become part of my journey and by sharing it with you, I hope that it is becomes part of your journey too.

Final Thoughts
This book gave me the opportunity to stop and pause just to reflect and recover. When everything is overwhelming, it is really easy to run away or bury our heads. I do both of these things. Yet, it is just delaying the inevitable. It is much better to take time and explore the world around us. There is beauty wherever we look, we just need to remember to look. It is really easy to glance and let it all pass us by. This book gave me the opportunity to remember that. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like it is all a bit much at the moment, take half an hour and read this book. It’s one I am certain I will be dipping in and out of/

“What feels like the end is often the beginning.”

Until next time my loves, thinking of you all. This post dedicated to her majesty the Queen.

Big Love xxx

Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! Takeaway – Angela Hui

Morning Loves!

I’m back in the UK after a glorious holiday. I had such a wonderful time and feel more refreshed and recovered which is lovely. I hope you’ve all had a lovely August and have managed to have some form of a break. It’s needed for all of us! Hello September as well! I cannot believe how that has crept up on us!

Today I want to share with you my book topic and choice for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge! For August I opted for Non-Fiction which I do love. I go through a cycle of reading it, loving it, going back to fiction, remembering I’ve not read any non-fiction so then pick one and then the cycle continues. I wish I could understand why that happens but that’s a discussion for another day. I decided to read Takeaway by Angela Hui. Oh my days, I love this book so much. Let’s crack on with it!

What’s it all about?

I picked this book because like many families, mine has a long tradition with popping to the Chinese take away. In fact, it’s something I still do today both with my family and friends – pop to the Chinese takeaway, usually on a Friday or Saturday night. But what about the people behind the food? This book is honest, humble and wonderfully written. It’s a fine piece of non-fiction.

This novel explores, through Angela Hui’s voice, the story of her parents and how they came to be in Wales and their day to day lives of running the takeaway during the 1990s. We see just how different the family were and how they naturally stood out amongst the habitants of the Welsh valleys. Lucky Star was their home and business for thirty years. The rhythm of that life was comforting and joyous. But, it wasn’t always easy.

“The telephone rang constantly and a stream of people would pop in to pick up orders in hot foil containers stacked in white plastic bags. It was a juxtaposition of us being treated like immigrants, but also being keepers of something instinctively British.”

Each chapter focuses around a specific aspect of life within the takeaway: the weekend service, language barriers, summer holiday and competitions, just to name a few. However, there are a couple of anecdotes that really stuck with me. Hui talks openly about the racism she and her family experienced and how isolating that is. It’s an uncomfortable but essential read because I bet it still happens today. The reactions of her parents are contrasting; calmness and defiance from her mother, rage and anger from her father.

“We’ve always held our tongues and erred on the side of caution when confronted by racism. In reality, we’re just cooking to survive. Trying to get through a night’s service smoothly is just basic survival.”

I found myself feeling like I knew both Hui’s mother and father. There’s obvious conflict with the father but that is explored openly. They’re so different yet they work together to provide food for the local area. Hui’s opportunity to do deliveries means that (finally) she can get out of the takeaway and see new places. We can take for granted the childhood experienced Hui wouldn’t have been like yours or mine. Life was the takeaway. Every revolved around that kitchen; serving the community and then having a meal together. The impact on Hui’s own romantic relationships meant that this was strained too throughout her young adult years.

“I’m ashamed that I never gave him a chance to understand my situation by explaining things to him. How the takeaway had a hold on me.”

Time goes by, Hui ages and the little girl is now off to university. Even that is still tied to the takeaway, working weekends to help. But, as things most often do, it’s time for the takeaway to close its doors. The changing climate, the local competition and the stress on the family resulting in her mother’s poor health meant that it was time to finish serving. Their story has come to an end.

“We had some good times, right?” I say to no one in particular. Mum is holding back tears. Dad looks to the ground and pats me on the back. “Well, since Tom’s here I’ll get started on my ribs…”

Final Thoughts

I love this book. There, I said it. I found it honest, upsetting, humbling, overwhelming, moving and utterly remarkable. It’s made me really think about my own local takeaway and their own stories. What brought them here? The food of my Friday nights, what does it mean to them? Etc. The truth in this book hurts. Times change, people change, poor attitudes towards others different from us are still being displayed. Yet, at the heart of it all is a family wanting a better life and wanting to be part of a community. To sum it up perfectly:

“In these fear-filled times, I hope this book will serve as a refuge of nourishment, a fortune cookie of joy and an education to what goes on behind closed doors in the nation’s favourite takeaway.”

I urge you all to go buy and read this book. If you’re interested in cooking, at the end of each chapter is a recipe so the reader is able to try out some of these signature dishes at home. I’ve got my eye on a beautiful belly pork dish! This added touch is something I’ve really enjoyed reading too. It’s another way of bringing Chinese cuisine into our own homes.

Speak soon loves! (I’ll be back at school by the time I post again! Wish me luck…)

Big Love xxx

Reading Round-Up: July

Hello Loves!

I hope you’re all well. You may have guessed from my previous post that I’m on holiday now (finally) and I’m getting back into the swing of reading and resting!

Today I want to share with you my reading round up for July. July is my favourite month – my birthday, summer and the days are just a bit lighter and longer. It also means school is finishing. I have to say, I’ve found this July really difficult. I’ve barely read (only since I’ve been on holiday) and work was really a case of surviving and getting the job done. I’m on the road to recovery now but it’s been tough. I’ve had lots of doubts along the way but I’m pleased I’ve managed to read the books I did.

In July then, I’ve read 6 books – all of which have been after the start of the summer holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased with 6. But, it’s only now really that I recognise how much I was struggling before. Never mind! My life for the next month is the sea, sunshine, books and beach donuts! Let’s check out the shelves!

It almost seems silly picking a top three. I’ve blogged already about The Lamplighters – I still adore this by the way – and Shape of a Boy. In the interest of being fair, I’ll put the other four books in order of how much I enjoyed reading them and the narratives produced.

  1. The Other Passenger – Louise Candlish. I’m a huge fan of Louise Candlish. She really is the queen of plot twists and this one really kept me hanging until the very end. Perfect for the summer!
  2. Dial A For Aunties – Jesse Sutanto. This was really funny and I did also love the cover. A touch far fetched by the end (a murder, a freezer and a family trying to hide it) but enjoyable nonetheless.
  3. Counterfeit – Kirsten Chen. This was another good read really with an interesting plot. I picked it because it’s to do with real and fake handbags and the people who get mixed up in that. Really different to what I’ve read before.
  4. The Pact – Amy Heydenrych. Just because I’ve put this one 4th, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I really really did and I had to finish it – it was so compelling. But I did manage to work out the ending in terms of who killed Nicole. Regardless, it was a thriller of a book.

So there we have it! Another 6 books read and more on the horizon. I do like to mix it up with the thrillers and the more chic lit bits. A variety is always better. Plus I do end up getting paranoid if I read too many thriller books!

Here’s hoping for a better reading month in August! But for now, it’s beach donut time!

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

Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex

Hello Loves!

I hope you’re well and enjoying July. Now the summer holidays are here I’m getting my reading game back on and the plan is to clear some of my reading piles! No more book buying until the pile is significantly lower! (Here’s hoping anyway!)

Today I want to share with you the amazing choice I had for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge. For July I decided on picking: Read a best seller. Now, I’m not very good with books that are really hyped up because I always feel the pressure to like it too. However, I can totally see why my choice for is a best seller – it’s absolutely incredible. I’m talking about the debut novel The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. I hope you love this as much as I did!

What’s it all about?

Well, it’s really tricky to review this book without spoiling anything but I’ll give it my best shot! The first thing to know is that the novel alternates between then and now. We start in December 1972 when three men, Bill, Arthur and Vince, have disappeared from a tower lighthouse off the English coast. What makes this more mysterious is the state in which the place is discovered by the relief team; the door barred from the inside, dishes set out at the kitchen table and both clocks stopped at a quarter to nine. Everything was polished and cleaned to perfect – no evidence of a struggle of any kind.

Twenty years have passed and the Maiden Rock Mystery is still a mystery and still remains unsolved. This naturally leads to plenty of speculation and theories developing – ranging from the sublime, grim and ridiculous. What really happened though?

“This isn’t a thriller, this is my life.”

Some of these theories follow the ideas that one man killed the others, then killed himself. The Trident company seem to be pushing this theory quite strongly. Maybe all three were suicidal? Perhaps a monster approached and attacked them. Maybe they were all swept out to see. Some even swore that they have seen a trio of white birds hovering over the lighthouse, believing this to be the men with some supernatural powers.

“I’ve heard it all, over the years. Arthur was abducted by aliens. He was murdered by pirates. He was blackmailed by smugglers. He killed the others, or they killed him, and then each other and then themselves—over a woman or a debt, or a washed-up treasure chest. They were haunted by ghosts or kidnapped by the government. Threatened by spies or gobbled by sea serpents. They went lunatic, one or all of them. They had secret lives no one knew about…”

As time moves back into the now, an author long inspired and naturally curious about the incident begins to interview the women of the lighthouse keepers. After all, these are the ones left behind. Helen, Jenny and Michelle all differ remarkably meaning it’s really easy to follow their narratives. It’s these interviews where we learn the narratives of the men, the secrets the women have too and the personal tragedies that this event caused.

Running alongside this, back in 1972, the men share their own stories following the days before the incident took place. Like their wives, they too have their own stories to tell. The entrapment within the tower is a mere metaphor for the ensnaring of their past mistakes, their sins and regrets. Over time, resentment too increases. The demands of the job and the time away means that this is ever prevalent.

“When I’m ashore I have to pretend to be a man I’m not, part of something I’m not part of. It’s difficult to explain it to normal people. Lighthouse worlds are small. Slow. That’s what other people can’t do: they can’t do things slowly and with meaning…”

It’s here that I struggle because I want to tell you but what I want more is for you to read it and feel the magic yourself. This book made me feel exactly the same as Where the Crawdad’s Sing did and that was my favourite book of last year. It’s haunting, atmospheric, emotional and utterly thrilling. I couldn’t put it down and I doubt I’ll read another book like it this year.

Final Thoughts

I started to summarise this book above but I literally cannot stop gushing about it. In fact, I’ve left my copy for someone else to stumble across and read. It’s incredible and I don’t have the words to really show that.

See you next time my loves!

Big Love xxx

Reading Round-Up: June

Morning Loves!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Love xxx

Blog Tour: The Wild Year – Jen Benson

Hi Book Lovers!

I hope you’re all well and had a restful weekend. Today I’m very excited to share with you another blog tour I’m part of. This time, the book really appeals to my restless side. Have you ever just sat back and felt that you want to change jobs or move house or make a big decision in some way? Are you a lover of the outdoors, adventure and camping? Then this book is very much for you! A huge thank you to @jenandsim, @aurumpress, @clairemaxwell and @quartobooksuk for the chance to be a part of this phenomenal book tour! I hope you love the book as much as I do!

What’s it all about?
Starting at home in Wiltshire, the novel is Jem’s voice and narrative. We hear about her husband, Sim and her children, E and H and their experiences in the great outdoors in their ‘Wild Year’ where they completely and utterly changed their lives. The pressure of mounting debt and having a family led the couple to making some drastic decisions. Surely life can be much easier than their current life? And more importantly be able to live by their own rules too. The joy that camping brought during various weeks in the year on holiday, surely that could be replicated and repeated long term? So their journey begins…

‘Camping was a basic way to live, but there was such joy in its simplicity. And such freedom in it being all ours: our warmth, our shelter and privacy, wherever we chose to pitch out tent. It was in that moment that I felt the first tinglings of a thought that made my heart race, and my mind jump at the possibility of hope…’

Having an idea is one thing, what was next needed was a plan. Thankfully, with the help from friends, family and kind strangers, various opportunities were created: book writing, a roof over their heads during bad weather, new friends along the way. The destinations were just as exciting, places like Dartmoor, Jurassic Coast, New Forest, the Cotswolds and the Lakes. They bought the biggest tent and gathered together all the items they would need for their experience. As you read the book, there are many lessons learnt all through experience. I found the honestly quite humbling and refreshing to be honest and supportive for those who wish to try something like this. The biggest barrier was always the weather. There’s nothing as unpredictable as English weather! However, this gave the couple the opportunity to regroup and start again, enabling them to come back even stronger.

‘It was hard not to feel despondent as we dragged everything out of the truck and tried to find places to hang it all out to dry. We were lucky that no rain was forecast for the next week, so we spread the tend out in the little field behind the cottage and spent hours sorting through the kit… In the end, destruction wasn’t as bad as we had feared.’

After the hiccups with the weather and potential damage to the tent, the family finally got going again and Christmas was soon around the corner. The family had a wholesome Christmas together, embracing their new lives and experiences. Despite the setting being dark and cold, it was one of the best Christmases because it was new and exciting. It meant more to them being part of the natural world rather than the commercialised one. As time rolled by, the young children also learnt more about the natural world they live in.

‘I noticed she was becoming fractionally more independent as each day passed, like a flower that starts as a tiny bud, wrapped up within itself, but in time opens its arms to embrace and engage with the world.’

After twelves months of camping, the Wild Year was coming to an end. The emotional pressure, the experiences, the growth in both Jen and Sim as well as their children E and H have been so worthwhile. I found myself gripped to this book because there is plenty that I could do to be more appreciative of the natural world. I found it remarkable and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in not only reading this novel, but being the first stop of the blog tour.

‘…it was a time unlike any other in our lives. One that changed everything.’

Final Thoughts
I really loved this book for so many reasons. I always respect those who want to change their lives for the better and Jen and Sim absolutely did that. They took all the challenges they faced and turned them into learning experiences. I was surprised to learn that it took Jen five years to collate all the experiences together and write this book. I admire her as a mother, a woman and a writer. What this family achieved is nothing less than a lesson in resilience. It was a great read and one that I’ll be sharing with my friends and family.

Reading Round-Up: May

Hi Loves!

I hope you’re all well and enjoying this changeable last day of May. It’s either brilliant sunshine here or pouring with rain with a big thunder clap thrown in for good measure. I know I won’t finish the book I’m reading today so I thought I’d crack on with my round-up post for May (on time for I think the first month ever…) and share with you some of my favourite reads of this month. I’ve got a couple of reviews I need to get on with so expect those in the next few days too.

In May I managed to read a brilliant 14 books. I’m really happy with that as it’s been pretty full on at work. It’s also been helped by the release of the new ‘Quick Reads’ too which are a godsend for when you’re exhausted. Regardless, a book is a book and reading is reading. Let’s check out the shelves!

I know I say it every month but picking a top three is tough! Anyway, hopefully I’ve done this list some justice.

  1. Again Rachel – Marian Keyes. I loved Rachel’s Holiday and this next book didn’t disappoint. My only regret is that I was so late to this party. This book is all about what comes next for Rachel twenty years later. It was brilliant!
  2. Insatiable – Daisy Buchanan. This book is modern and fresh and shows the need for us to be loved. I really loved the protagonist, Violet, too. I enjoyed the writing style of Buchanan so much that I’ve also got Careering on my to be read pile.
  3. The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett. This was one of the books I bought to celebrate the Jubilee. Small yet mightily funny, this book tells the story of the Queen and her enjoyment of a travelling library.

I’ve got a couple of reviews to put up, one for a blog tour and one for my book of the month: The Manager and Honeymoon respectively, both of which I thoroughly loved. I need to get a wriggle on with those too! Have you read any of these? What takes your fancy?

See you next time!

Big Love all xxx

Blog Birthday – 7 Years!

Hey Book Lovers! 📚

I am so happy to tell you that it is now half term! Thank goodness for that. It means I will be around much more which is good. It also means I’ve got more time to read! I’ve got an ever increasing to be read pile that I am planning on getting down but first I want to celebrate with you all my blog birthday! The official date is the 25th May but that was exam day for my students so I have to admit I didn’t look at my blog until quite late. Regardless, 7 years ago I set up my blog with very low expectations. I just wanted a place to log my favourite books, bakes and places. I’m really proud that I’ve stayed true to my roots these 7 years but also had the best time with the blogging community.

Despite working, I did manage to do a couple things to celebrate my little blog’s birthday. First of all, I went to my local Waterstones. This, as I’m sure you all know, is dangerous because I always leave with a bag of books. I have absolutely no will power so I can never just buy one. Yet, this is what life is about; doing the things you love. Hopefully I’ve got some brilliant ones here so do let me know if you’ve read any and where I should begin! There’s some summery ones that I am planning to leave for my summer holiday but I’m super excited about ‘This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch‘ and ‘The Keeper of Lost Things‘ and ‘Hotel Magnifique‘ is absolutely stunning. I’m also working on making a plan for the Queen’s Jubilee. There’s a couple of books especially for the celebration in this pile too!

Staying true to the second half of my namesake: cake. I also managed to get my hands on three yumnuts from Costa. I swear these are my favourite thing right now. They’re yumyums but in the shape of doughnuts and are blissfully wonderful. I am literally obsessed with them and whenever I’ve gone to a Costa and they’ve sold out, I’ve been a little bit gutted. I urge you all to try them! Go on, do it for my blog birthday 🥳. I’m hoping for more cake this weekend too!

Lastly, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting me, following me, commenting and stopping by. It means so much that people love my blog as much as I do. Bring on the next 7 years and all the books, exploring and cakes it brings! There’s some really special people in the blogging world and I feel so privileged that I am part of it.

I’ll be back very soon with an explorations post, my book for this month and more books that I hope to get through. I can’t wait!

Big love to you all xxx

The Art of Buying Books (and reading them years later…)

Hey loves!

I hope you’re all well. I apologise that it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted anything. It’s exam season, in fact the first English paper was today, and it’s just manic. I’m feeling all kinds of things: pressure, worry, apprehension and excitement.

When the majority of my time is absorbed in work, it always means that my reading is reduced. I’ll look at the page and the words are all dancing around. I read a page and then have no idea what has happened and I also find that I tend to DNF more books when work is full on anyway. It’s not all doom and gloom though because I’ve also spotted another pattern… I’m VERY good at shopping! (To be fair, I never need an excuse to shop.) I’ve become on first name terms with the staff at my local Waterstones, I’m obsessed with the telephone box library and I’m desperate to find more and I talk about books all the time too. It’s all well and good finding these books but I’m sure like the rest of you, your to be read pile is like mine. Mine spans two book cases and I now have three piles on the floor…some of these books I’ve had for years…

So I thought I’d share more book buying posts with you! This may inspire me to read them quicker so I can legitimately buy more. I always find new books to get based on your posts so hopefully I can help you add more to yours too! Let’s kick this one off!

First of all: paperbacks. You know when your arms get tired and the hardbacks are just too heavy? Love the paperback for this reason! The books below are from a subscription box that I receive monthly – all crime and/or thriller. I’ve not heard of any of these before so I feel quite excited about them! I also love receiving post so I do love it when they arrive!

However, I do really LOVE a hardback. I think my heart is with them to be honest. There are some stunning ones at the moment too. I feel like a lot of work has gone into making and maintaining new editions so they are visually beautiful. It sounds really odd but I love how they look on the shelf. Books decorate a room I think so I’m more than happy to have them all around me. I believe I’ve got some gorgeous ones here too. Some of these are signed editions as well! I love the fact that these are much more accessible now. I remember being desperate to meet my favourite writers to get signed copies but it just isn’t always possible as they were usually based in London. Now they are readily accessible to us all which means it’s much easier to get a signed copy. I keep all my signed copies and really treasure them.

The last thing I’ve really got my eye on is books with sprayed edges. This has really taken off in the past year or so but they really do add something. I keep an eye out for these as well because they’re really pretty! Sometimes there’s a pattern but sometimes it’s just colour. Either way, I really like the attention to detail! I’ve only got a couple so do let me know if there are anymore out there at the moment! Answers on a postcard if you know what these two books are…

I can’t wait to share more book buying posts with it. I’m absolutely certain it will be a regular thing because I literally cannot stop myself buying books. Now is probably not the time to confess that it was a New Year’s Resolution to buy less so I could clear my pile. Needless to say, that didn’t last too long. Regardless, have you read any of these? What did you think? Or am I missing out on a book that I HAVE to read? Let me know!

Big Love all xxxx

Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! Cannery Row – John Steinbeck

Hello Everyone!

I hope you’re all okay. I’m back at work now but definitely looking forward to the bank holiday weekend! Hopefully the weather will pick up again and it’ll be glorious instead of chilly… I had heard that May apparently is meant to be the coldest on record! I jolly well hope not… I need some sunshine in my life.

Today I want to share with you my category and book choice for April. I love my Book Bingo and I’m super proud of it. It’s really pushed me out of my comfort zone which is really what it’s all about. For April I decided to pick: Read a classic you should have read by now. I don’t know about you but I always find pressure with the classics, like I’m meant to have read them and I even get embarrassed when someone mentions a classic I haven’t read. That being said, I did study a number of them when I was at university so this category did throw up some challenges. Overall, I decided to read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I love Steinbeck’s work as they really do depict a specific historical time period but I’ve only ever read (and taught) Of Mice and Men. This is becoming increasingly controversial so I have relished the opportunity to reach out into more of his work.

What’s it all about?
On the surface, the plot is really simple: a group of men want to throw a party for their friend. However, this book is so much more than that. Its role is to capture the feelings and the people all located in one place: the cannery district of Monterey, California. The people there are down on their luck, lacking opportunity and those who choose for other reasons to not live in the more respectable area of town.

“The inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing.”

The first character we meet is Lee Chong, the owner of the Lee Chong Grocery. On the surface, it appears like he values profits over people however, the actions from Chong that he values people more than money. Steinbeck uses Chong to show how things aren’t as they seem and people can have different personas. Following Chong, we are then introduced to Mack and the boys. Again on the surface they are known to be pleasant guys and good hearted. But, they do have a tendency to take advantage of people and situations to benefit themselves. They refuse to live according to the conventions of society to become ‘successful’ in terms of the world view.

‘A little group of men who had in common no families, no money, and no ambitions beyond food, drink, and contentment.”

Arguably, the most important character is Doc. He is different to the others and is viewed which such high regard. He’s unlike the others too as he is educated and cultured. He is the one that the others look up to. He is always there to offer help and support. He gives advice to those who need it and also provides medicine or other medical services should they be required too. His nature inspires Mack and the boys to try and give Doc a party to thank him for everything he does for them all. There is one issue though: money. The boys take up odd jobs with none of them quick to take up anything long term. The main job is to capture some frogs.

‘He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him.’

Unfortunately, the party doesn’t quite go to plan to begin with. Sadly, Doc returns home to find his place trashed – the door hanging on its hinges, the floor littered with broken glass, phonograph records – some broken, some stolen, mostly littering the floor. Doc naturally is furious and doesn’t really understand what has happened to cause this. After he’s calmed, Doc apologises to Mack for his reaction. Mack reveals the intentions of the men and how it went wrong. Mack does seem to be someone who has regrets himself and is quite a reflective character. He promises to pay for the damages that was caused during a lengthy speech. But, Doc stops him because he knows him too well and Mack knows he is completely right.

“You’ll think about it and it’ll worry you for quite a long time, but you won’t pay for it.”

This turn of events mean that the atmosphere is awkward and uncomfortable. There’s friction and tension but when Darling, the beloved puppy becomes poorly and close to death, Mack and the men are forced to make a change. Darling is eventually saved and this gives the men a new lease of life. It is joy and not despair that is running through Cannery Row. As a result, the men decide to throw Doc another party – this time a proper one like he deserves. It. becomes an effort of all the people of Cannery Row with each of them working hard to give Doc a gift. Steinbeck uses this to show that these men, despite their circumstances have good within them and they have the ability to consider others as well as themselves. Doc finds out about the party and decides to make his own contributions. He brings his best records and also orders copious amounts of food for them all. The party ends up being a huge success – one filled with life and joy. The next morning brings quiet and stillness. Whilst cleaning up from the party, Doc remembers a poem that evoked such emotion from his guests the night before. He is in a state of equilibrium and calm. Life is fragile but so so valuable. The people around you make it count.

‘There are two possible reactions to social ostracism – either a man emerges determined to be better, purer, and kindlier or he goes bad, challenges the world and does even worse things.’

Final Thoughts
Short and powerful, I find Steinbeck just an utterly honest writer. He focuses on the men of the time period and shows how the context shapes them. I found Doc delightful but I actually really liked Mack and the boys too. I really need to devote more time to reading more Steinbeck because I do really enjoy it. I’m also really pleased about getting another classic under my belt too! American Literature is one of my favourite things so I really need to devote more time to American writers too. Lots of room for improvement here…

I hope you’re all well. I’ll see you next time for another book related post, I’m sure! Roll on the bank holiday weekend too!

Big Love all xxx