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!
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 hope you all had a wonderfully festive couple of days and an excellent Christmas. It was really nice to spend time with my family and I was really excited to see my parents reactions to their gifts. The whole time I was thinking just how lucky I am because they always made Christmas magical for me. It’s also been wonderful to crack on with some reading and get down my to be read pile!
Today I want to share with you what I chose for my final Book Bingo Reading Challenge. The theme was: read a book with snow on the cover. I can not tell you how difficult it was to actually find a book with snow on the cover! I couldn’t find any for ages! Eventually, whilst out Christmas shopping I stumbled across this beautiful Christmas poem by Carol Ann Duffy. The illustrations by Yelena Bryksenkova are stunning too. I’m talking about the glorious Advent Street.
What’s it all about?
Like you would an advent calendar, this glorious little book invites you to open the windows on Advent Street and see what hides inside. As you explore the poem, you see inside a street pub, an old man and his tangerine bird and a ballerina, poised by a Christmas tree. Yet, there is a sense of melancholy for this time to year too, especially if one is alone.
‘That was the year when worse luck heaped on bad brought you to Advent Street…’
Another page, another window. This time a young girl at the piano, readying herself to play O Little Town. The next window shows a boy with nine Hanukkah candles, providing light. TV screens, Christmas trees, lovers, singers and another. Sadness sits with the speaker, the one outside the windows, gazing in.
‘Your heart pined to be whole; heal, like the sorrow sung by the carols towards joy.’
Babies, teenagers, the elderly all feature in this poem and an opportunity presents itself for the speaker – a house for sale on Advent Street. But the sadness is overwhelming until the next window, with neighbours together, welcomed the speaker in with open arms.
‘So you did sit and eat in Advent Street.’
Isn’t this just beautiful? It’s probably one of the shortest books I own but I found the poetry and the illustrations to work perfectly. I love the play with light and dark, happiness and sadness, togetherness and isolation. There is a joy to being together and also an appreciation that some may be alone. I really enjoyed this poem and found it to be quite compelling and a unique little festive read. Each window does provide the reader a gift as well as the speaker. This has also made me realise that I need to read more poetry. A New Year’s resolution maybe! Carol Ann Duffy is a pure talent. I love how she plays with language and I really need to make more effort to read her poetry anthologies.
Well, would you look at that! 12 themes, 12 books, another reading challenge completed. Granted I slipped behind in October and November but I feel like I’ve finished on a high. I can’t wait to create a reading challenge for next year!
Have you read any festively brilliant reads this holiday? Do let me know! Have you completed your own reading challenge? Again, tell me all about it! I’ll get cracking on mine to share with you in the next few days.
I promised recently that I would catch up with all my book reviews and today I am thrilled to be doing just that! I’d fallen really behind in my Book Bingo Reading Challenge but I am pleased to say that I’ve completed it! Hurrah! Today’s post is all about November’s choice: Read an award winning book.
This led me to a lot of research and I’ve found out that there’s so many prizes for books which is incredible! You’ve got the big, prolific ones but I wanted to go for an award that I’d never heard of before. I chose Slough House by Mick Herron. This book won the Theakston Old Peculier crime novel of the year award. I knew the drink because my dad likes it so I wanted to pick this. It also naturally fits with my favourite genre – crime – so it was meant to be! For more information on the Theakston Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, please see here. Let’s crack on!
What’s it all about?
I don’t plan on spoiling anything here but Slough House is book seven. You all know how I feel about a series but as a stand alone book, this was really easy to follow and I didn’t really feel like I’d missed anything (not discrediting earlier work). It’s a book that you can read as a stand alone but I imagine the reading experience is bettered when reading the series in order.
“History has an open-door policy. Any fool can walk right in.”
The boss, as it were, is a character called Jackson Lamb. The book opens with himself and his crew coming to terms with the death of Emma Flyte and their own J K Coe in Wales. However, they have more pressing issues at hand. Roderick Ho (Roddy) has learnt that someone is wiping their records from the service database. Does this impact them? Well, they’re getting paid but it does mean that they don’t exist anymore. Furthermore, when Louisa Guy discovers that she is being followed, leading to the other agents realising the same, things feel more on edge. I found myself gripping the book a little firmer too.
River Cartwright, is my favourite character. The fact that they’re being followed doesn’t interest him much to begin with. He is more centred on Sidonie Baker (Sid) who is alive and not dead as presumed. However, she’s turned up at River’s dead grandfather’s house in Kent, needing his help. She thinks that there are two people trying to kill both her and him. Yet, due to the significant injuries she sustained from a gunshot wound from the end of book six, we are never quite sure just how real that threat is.
“Even I’d put me way down on a list of people worth killing. You’d have to be halfway through the Cabinet first. Not to mention whoever invented fruit-flavoured beer.”
Weaved within that plot is the character of Diana Taverner (Lady Di) who has decided to strike back at Russian services in retaliation for the Novichok poisoning attack that happened in Salisbury. But she cannot do this alone. She forms an alliance with the ex-politician, now working in PR, Peter Judd. He managed to put together a group of Patricia lot minded billionaires willing to fund these operations. This doesn’t come without a price and Lady Di soon realises that these people have demands of their own, demands which she isn’t overly comfortable with. An example of this is the YouTube billionaire turned new channel owner, Damien Cantor who would like Lady Di to do an interview on his channel.
Whilst the slow horses try to piece together what exactly is doing on, they find themselves caught up in events outside of their control. There’s absolutely no way I’m going to ruin the ending but when they’re against a ruthless enemy, there’s going to be fireworks. Not being used to Herron’s style, I didn’t see that ending coming at all and that closes the book perfectly.
“Funny thing. When I hear the words “trust me”, I get the feeling someone’s pissing in my shoe.”
I can totally understand why this book is a prize winner. I love the blend of events in our time and fiction. The characters, all deeply flawed, really are lynchpin of the book. I’d have no qualms about reading the other books in the series at all. The weaving of alternative plot threads is expertly done and for a smaller book, each page feels like it packs a punch. I really enjoyed entering this world and the experience it took me on as a reader. I also found it deeply humorous and full of quick, clever wit. This just adds another dimension but it really did work with the plot.
The Christmas countdown is on! I’ll see you soon for an update on my book advent calendar!
Time for me to play catch up and finally after being held up in the post, I’ve got my head down and finished my book choice for October. (I know – I’m sorry…) The obvious choice for October was: ‘Read a story that’s dark and mysterious’. If I’m being completely honest, I actually really struggled with what to read because I am really not a fan of horror or scary reads. But, dark and mysterious is something I could do, I just had to find the right book for it. My Victorian Literature background meant that I went back to ghost stories of that time but, I stumbled across a modern equivalent. Eventually I found this gorgeous little collection, The Haunting Season – Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights. I’m really not very good at reading collaborations but there are some prolific writers in here and the cover was shiny, so I was taken in by it for sure. It includes short stories by Bridget Collins, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Natasha Pulley, Jess Kidd, Laura Purcell, Andrew Michael Hurley, Kieran Millwood Hargrave and Elizabeth Macneal. I can’t wait to share my favourites with you in this post.
What’s it all about?
Before the tales eve begin, the front cover acknowledges the long tradition of the ghost story. Winter nights historically meant that the family would all get together to share the story by candlelight. The most historically prolific writers, Charles Dickens and Henry James, has paved the way for the eight best selling writers to continue the gothic tale tradition for the next generation. For me, I am going to share with you a little snippet from each of them to tempt you to light a candle, sit back and enjoy them for yourselves!
A Study in Black and White – Bridget Collins On the surface, this mysterious house seems like the perfect place to be. The protagonist, Morton, a chess enthusiast, was taken in by the topiary chess pieces but all is not as it seems. Pawns move, an old leather chair that doesn’t seem to be as empty as originally perceived and consequently, minds are being tricked. The fact that this tale is first in the collection means the tone is set and you are right where you need to be; on the edge of your seat.
‘He grabbed convulsively at the stem of the candelabra and went out into the passage; and although the skin beneath his shoulder blades crawled, he didn’t allow himself to glance back.’
Thwaite’s Tenant – Imogen Hermes Gowar This is the tale of a young woman who desperately wants to escape the cruel clutches of her husband. However, her father doesn’t agree at all and sends her to a crumbling estate where she is ultimately trapped. The protagonist, Lucinda, realises that the ghost of a wronged woman in the house is her means of escape… I do think this is one of my favourite stories in the collection!
‘I felt like a drunk, tottering and histrionic, my terror spinning around me. I groped for facts, for rationality, but knew myself capable of nothing beyond an inchoate burst of feeling which would only be grist to his mill. I slumped, and held my tongue.’
The Eel Singers – Natasha Pulley Unlike the other stories in the collection, this one starts off uncharacteristically cheery: a Christmas market. Nevertheless, it quickly becomes atmospheric and haunting. The supernatural elements of this story are vivid and the characters had very distinct personalities. Personally, I didn’t know the characters (you will if you’ve read Pulley’s other work) but it was very easy to get carried away with this story.
‘Thaniel had to pause. He had been about to say, eventful, but now he was thinking of it, he couldn’t remember why he had wanted to say that. It had been the opposite. In fact he couldn’t pin down any particular memory of Christmas at all.’
Lily Wilt – Jess Kidd I really loved this one actually. I found I was gripped straight away. Telling the story of Pemble, a photographer, this short story focuses on the photographs of the dead, not the living. When taking photos of Lily Wilt, something much more eerie and darker happens. This could be seen as predictable but I still really enjoyed it.
‘The lovely little corpse reposes – But wait! Pemble grabs a magnifying glass, turns up the gaslight, scrutinises the image. Leant against the mantlepiece, looking dead at the camera with a twisted grin, stands…
The Chillingham Chair – Laura Purcell Long time followers will know how much I love The Silent Companions so I was really excited to see Purcell in this collection. It did mean that I had high hopes and actually, I wasn’t disappointed. Atmospheric but humorous and unnerving, this short story is really well written. A wheelchair that seems to have a life of its own with the protagonist being stuck in it. Will she survive?
‘The chair didn’t stop. If anything it gained speed, reversing until she felt a bookcase connect with the back of her head. There was a moment of tension, of gathering; like a horse beginning to jump. Then she shot forward.’
The Hanging of the Greens – Andrew Michael Hurley This is a writer I have no idea about which meant that this was a surprise for me. I had no expectations but I did enjoy reading this one. It isn’t my favourite but I appreciate the plot behind it. Telling the story of a homeless man who wants to redeem himself and right the wrongs of his lifetime. If only it were as simple as it sounds…
‘Every year at this time, I’m forced to try and understand it all and I get nowhere. I only know it happened. It happened. And that’s all there is to say. But it’s not enough, I know. To say it happened lays nothing to rest.’
Confinement – Kiran Millwood Hargrave I think this is my favourite in the whole collection! I loved it! Considering the plot, that is a strange sentiment. But, it’s so well written, it’s impossible not to like it. This one is the most victorian in style – a new mother, her confinement and the reality of the restrictions of that time with the added supernatural element. A classic!
‘I will write this record as though it is a testimony given before God, a prayer poured straight into the ears of angels, for there is none now I can trust but myself: my own heart, my own pen.’
Monster – Elizabeth Macneal The final story in the collect and once again, another excellent addition. Its premise is simple: a newly married man takes his bride on the search for a monster that hopefully will give him the fame and recognition he so desperately wants. He also hopes it gives him some validation too…
‘Below him, the mouth of the ocean waits, its tongue clicking back and forth over the stones. Victor hurtles forward, slipping and sliding on the wet earth, his fingers grabbing the creature’s soft red hair and cold blue lips…’
This collection was perfect for the theme of this month, in fact, despite being so late to it, it’s perfect for any winter evening so read it! I’m also really pleased I’ve branched out into short stories too. There’s so much talent into writing something that’s so short and keeping your reader entertained means that there’s added pressure in less words. I’ve said my favourites but the overall story that stands out for me is Confinement. If this collection is the next generation of gothic stories; we have absolutely nothing to worry about for this genre.
I’ll see you next time for an update on my book advent calendar. I’ve got November’s book to read and review too! Keep going all – we’ve got this.
I hope you’re all well and enjoying the run up to the spooky season! It’s time to play catch up and share with you the book I read for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge for this year. For September, I picked ‘Read a tale of overcoming a challenge‘. I wasn’t sure where to go with this but you may remember from my post way back in November 2021, I posted a review of the Big Panda and Tiny Dragon story written and illustrated by James Norbury. You can remind yourself of that post here. I found that story to be a refreshing tale of hope that I desperately needed. Therefore, I could barely contain myself when I saw that there was a second book out! It’s just as delightful and wholesome as the first and fits perfectly with the reading challenge. I really hope you love it just as much as I do.
What’s it all about?
Featuring the wonderfully created Big Panda and Tiny Dragon, this book is all about the journey they are faced with and how they manage to overcome the obstacles along the way. I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my life so this felt like a case of perfect timing really. This book gave me the moment in my life to stop and reflect, just like the panda and the dragon too.
It starts at the temple they call home but it’s worn and needs some work. How it looks doesn’t matter to them because they have each other: friendship and companionship. As wonderful as this is, Tiny Dragon feels like something is missing.
“This place is incredible, Big Panda. The trees, the mountains, the birds and the animals, they are all so magical; we are so lucky – so why do I feel like something is missing? Why do I feel incomplete?”
After identifying the feeling of incompleteness, the friends prepare to embark on a journey together in order to find happiness. They head towards the rocky trail and follow it out of the mountains and down to the river. They have each other and so they have everything they need. Big Panda reassures Tiny Dragon repeatedly – the lesson is for Tiny Dragon to learn. It’s not easy; there are huge challenges along the way and at points it feels like they will never make it.
At the darkest point, the weather is relentless and progress is slow. Tiny Dragon also loses his beloved tea set and is naturally distressed. Yet, Big Panda is this strong, wise force that is still there with him, every step of the way despite being exhausted and sad himself.
“Nothing is under our control, little one…not really. I just trust in life to take us where we need to be.”
The two friends continue their journey, refusing to give up hope or lose faith. Each step they take means that they are closer to their new home, their new futures. It’s terrifying but they can only ever go forwards. Silence falls upon the pair as they trudge onwards. But finally, they manage to see the light and see what potential the future has for them.
Tiny Dragon is so upset that he needs time to himself. He manages to finally see the beauty in the world and realises exactly what his purpose is. He asks the big question, ‘What is the purpose of the universe?’ and is desperate to work out exactly what it means for him and his dear friend, Big Panda. Their journey finally comes to a close. They find a new, blissful and perfect home for themselves. Tiny Dragon is still sad about having to move, the loss of his beloved tea set and leaving all that he knows behind. But, he has learnt to see the beauty of the world in front of him. He also knows what impact it has on his character too.
“I feel a bit like this cup… I’ve been through a tough time and I feel like I’ve been damaged. But these little cracks are what let the light shine through.”
I love this book so much. It reads like a hug that we all so desperately need. I loved the honesty too. How many times have we found ourselves stuck or feeling overwhelmed? How many times have we sat and thought, ‘I just can’t do this’? I know I have and the wisdom from Big Panda for Tiny Dragon resonates with me. It’s the perfect book in so many ways. It fits beautifully with my choice for this month because the two characters need to overcome the challenge of feeling so lost, mentally and physically. This book is the perfect medicine for that. Just to add, the illustrations are beautiful too. I wish I was that talented. And so, there’s another box ticked off on my Book Bingo Reading Challenge. Just three more to go to complete this year! Amazing!
I’m back in the UK after a glorious holiday. I had such a wonderful time and feel more refreshed and recovered which is lovely. I hope you’ve all had a lovely August and have managed to have some form of a break. It’s needed for all of us! Hello September as well! I cannot believe how that has crept up on us!
Today I want to share with you my book topic and choice for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge! For August I opted for Non-Fiction which I do love. I go through a cycle of reading it, loving it, going back to fiction, remembering I’ve not read any non-fiction so then pick one and then the cycle continues. I wish I could understand why that happens but that’s a discussion for another day. I decided to read Takeaway by Angela Hui. Oh my days, I love this book so much. Let’s crack on with it!
What’s it all about?
I picked this book because like many families, mine has a long tradition with popping to the Chinese take away. In fact, it’s something I still do today both with my family and friends – pop to the Chinese takeaway, usually on a Friday or Saturday night. But what about the people behind the food? This book is honest, humble and wonderfully written. It’s a fine piece of non-fiction.
This novel explores, through Angela Hui’s voice, the story of her parents and how they came to be in Wales and their day to day lives of running the takeaway during the 1990s. We see just how different the family were and how they naturally stood out amongst the habitants of the Welsh valleys. Lucky Star was their home and business for thirty years. The rhythm of that life was comforting and joyous. But, it wasn’t always easy.
“The telephone rang constantly and a stream of people would pop in to pick up orders in hot foil containers stacked in white plastic bags. It was a juxtaposition of us being treated like immigrants, but also being keepers of something instinctively British.”
Each chapter focuses around a specific aspect of life within the takeaway: the weekend service, language barriers, summer holiday and competitions, just to name a few. However, there are a couple of anecdotes that really stuck with me. Hui talks openly about the racism she and her family experienced and how isolating that is. It’s an uncomfortable but essential read because I bet it still happens today. The reactions of her parents are contrasting; calmness and defiance from her mother, rage and anger from her father.
“We’ve always held our tongues and erred on the side of caution when confronted by racism. In reality, we’re just cooking to survive. Trying to get through a night’s service smoothly is just basic survival.”
I found myself feeling like I knew both Hui’s mother and father. There’s obvious conflict with the father but that is explored openly. They’re so different yet they work together to provide food for the local area. Hui’s opportunity to do deliveries means that (finally) she can get out of the takeaway and see new places. We can take for granted the childhood experienced Hui wouldn’t have been like yours or mine. Life was the takeaway. Every revolved around that kitchen; serving the community and then having a meal together. The impact on Hui’s own romantic relationships meant that this was strained too throughout her young adult years.
“I’m ashamed that I never gave him a chance to understand my situation by explaining things to him. How the takeaway had a hold on me.”
Time goes by, Hui ages and the little girl is now off to university. Even that is still tied to the takeaway, working weekends to help. But, as things most often do, it’s time for the takeaway to close its doors. The changing climate, the local competition and the stress on the family resulting in her mother’s poor health meant that it was time to finish serving. Their story has come to an end.
“We had some good times, right?” I say to no one in particular. Mum is holding back tears. Dad looks to the ground and pats me on the back. “Well, since Tom’s here I’ll get started on my ribs…”
I love this book. There, I said it. I found it honest, upsetting, humbling, overwhelming, moving and utterly remarkable. It’s made me really think about my own local takeaway and their own stories. What brought them here? The food of my Friday nights, what does it mean to them? Etc. The truth in this book hurts. Times change, people change, poor attitudes towards others different from us are still being displayed. Yet, at the heart of it all is a family wanting a better life and wanting to be part of a community. To sum it up perfectly:
“In these fear-filled times, I hope this book will serve as a refuge of nourishment, a fortune cookie of joy and an education to what goes on behind closed doors in the nation’s favourite takeaway.”
I urge you all to go buy and read this book. If you’re interested in cooking, at the end of each chapter is a recipe so the reader is able to try out some of these signature dishes at home. I’ve got my eye on a beautiful belly pork dish! This added touch is something I’ve really enjoyed reading too. It’s another way of bringing Chinese cuisine into our own homes.
Speak soon loves! (I’ll be back at school by the time I post again! Wish me luck…)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!