If you have read my previous posts (thank you!) you may have noticed in my book reviews that I will often discuss the illustrations or design elements of a book within my review. This is because to me these play an important part. I’m not just taking about illustrations and book covers exclusively here, but layouts and the overall uniqueness of how the book is presented.
‘The Strange Library’ by Haruki Murakami, which I reviewed in an earlier post is a good example of how the design of the book was carefully considered to really indulge the theme. From the library stamp pocket found on the front of the hardback edition to the unusual font layout and illustrations found inside.
this kind of
I see reading a book as an experience and I like to be wowed. Now that I am starting to see a greater consideration towards visually unusual ways of presenting books it makes me happy. Of course the quality of the writing has to match the presentation. I do not want to be let down by the writing, the two should always match. Style and Substance please. I guess what I am saying is I recognise that the author puts so much hard work into writing a book why not present it in a unique and original way too. Put the book’s best foot forward so to speak. Hopefully you get what I am trying to say! Now I am picturing a parade of walking books. I wonder where they buy their shoes? Do they leave bookmarks instead of footmarks? Ha ha.
Anyway. I do enjoy reading books in all formats which includes the odd audiobook too, but I must admit there is nothing nicer than receiving a beautiful book for a gift. It is just something rather special. (Family and friends this is not a hint just a statement!)
While I am thinking about it, just a further note on fonts (and I’m referring to physical books here) If I see an otherwise beautiful book with a tiny, cramped font it immediately puts me off buying it. (It is not because I’m getting older, I have thought this for a long time!) Instead, I will search around for an edition with a font that is larger and easier on the eye. I have in the past bought a book as a gift, only to discover the tiny writing inside. I accompanied it with a magnifying bookmark, but I am not sure if this aided the reading experience or not! Now I am much more careful before I buy.
I will be sharing my selection of uniquely designed books in a later post aptly marked Part 2! However, I first what to get your thoughts on this topic too. Do you agree or disagree with me? Comments are welcome. I’m also including some polls to get things started. Ironically, I could not increase the size of the poll font!
This last couple of weeks have not worked out exactly as I planned. Having been overtaken by the traditional cold and flu, all my plans (and my blog for that matter!) have iced over and there are only two things I have wanted: tomato soup and hibernation.
Tomato Soup is my hero. It just is. Ok so you may laugh at that, that’s ok. What can I say, for me, it’s memories too.
When we were young kids we played out a lot, my dad used to say we could never make our minds up, always in and out of the kitchen traipsing in the leaves or the snow. That was a favourite saying of his “You are either in, or you are out!” He liked to state the obvious! (he still does!) So we used to stay out as long as we could bear it and then gather at the breakfast bar (I am showing my age!) with, on occasion, bowls of tomato soup.
Then there was Charlie.
Charlie was my beloved budgie when I was growing up. He behaved more like a parrot really. He would sit on my shoulder and follow me everywhere. We used to leave his cage door open, he was so friendly. Did I mention his cage was in the kitchen? One day, whilst the family were huddled at the breakfast bar tucking into our bowls of tomato soup, Charlie decided it was the perfect time to fly down to my shoulder. Like me, he wasn’t the best at directions. Charlie’s flightpath landed smack dab in the middle of my mums (thankfully now lukewarm) soup. For an instant we just stared at this charismatic budgie in a bath of soup. He did instinctively hop out. And there we all were, transfixed, watching this tomato dipped budgie, pad his way across the breakfast bar table towards me.
Let me tell you cleaning up a tomato soup stained budgie is not an easy task and thankfully Charlie was no worse for wear. Needless to say, mum did not eat the rest of her soup that day. So, yes, you could say tomato soup holds a lot of memories for me. I have already gone through my fair share of soup in the last couple of weeks and the snow hasn’t even arrived yet.
The mention of snow brings me to my second need: hibernation. I wish it was possible to hibernate, but sadly I have been too busy even with a cough and cold in tow. I have, however, had an overwhelming need to start making my house cozy for winter.
If only my living room was a pop up book of instant cozy. Sadly it isn’t, but I do have a marshmallow mound of throws and winter cushions. Yes you heard me right I have cushions just for winter, do not judge me.
I wish I could say I was warming up by a crackling fire right now, but the closest thing I have to a real fire is one found on my tv, a continuous looping video, which I personally think looks great, but of course no heat! So, outcomes the trusty water bottle. The virtual fireplace is also (surprisingly to me) not a success with all my friends (you know who you are!). Having been asked to turn it off as they found the crackling noise irritating after the first hour. I did tell you I have it on loop!
The one thing that does make me feel instantly cozy is settling down with a hot drink and a good book and you probably have guessed by now that my book choices for this post have a cozy/winter vibe.
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Onto the book reviews….
My Penguin Year by Lindsay McCrae
This is the perfect book to read in the warm. I have always had an interest in marine life (I don’t know where this came from!) and I have seen many documentaries on penguins in the past, but I have never felt the need to sit and read a book on them. Until now. This book struck a chord with me. ‘My Penguin Year’ is a personal account by cameraman Lindsay McCrae on his year living and filming Emperor penguins in Antartica. Right from the outset of this book, Lindsay’s love for the natural world (and his family) was so evident, I found myself sharing his enthusiasm along his extraordinary journey. Lindsay’s passion for his work comes through like popping candy on the page.
I appreciated, his very honest, down to earth approach, with a willingness to share his frustrations as well as the truly memorable moments. The glossy photographs were a real treat. I would have personally, loved to see maps as well and maybe some hand written excerpts just to add to the personalisation of the book. This book is a testament to both the strength of nature and the human spirit, it is also a reminder of how quickly our planet is changing. Thank you for sharing Lindsay! I would highly recommend this book.
Cosy The British Art of Comfort by Laura Weir
I stumbled across this book and it seemed an obvious pick for me given how I have been feeling for the last couple of weeks. This book is just what I needed.
Cosy is an encouraging reminder of the little happinesses in life that we often overlook due to the hectic chaos and responsibilities of everyday life. It’s independent little chapters, with helpful hints, beg to be dipped in and out of and not necessarily to be read in one go. Perfect for those who are struggling to commit to a book and for those of us full of cold who’s attention levels are not what they should be! It’s the kind of book you hang on to and refer back to, whenever you need it.
Yes, you could argue there are many books out there with a similar notion (Hygge is a well known example). In fairness, I could say that point about most books out there! The illustrations in the book are very sweet, but, I think the style of the book, on this occasion, would have benefited from colour illustrations rather than black and white. Perhaps you disagree with me?
I will say, I find the author’s descriptive writing style both comforting and appealing. She also shares my love for tomato soup so how can I not relate to that! I love the little personal touches throughout the book: recipes and book/film suggestions. Excerpts by other writers on the subject of cozy are also sprinkled throughout this enjoyable little book.
Cosy is a little nostalgic nugget of book, perfect for cold months.
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Children’s Book)
Ok, so this is one of those children’s books that is so beautiful I think it would be hard to find an adult that would not appreciate it. It is a book of poetry and stunning colour illustrations that seeks to remind children of the incredible natural world around them. It is a striking, visual encouragement to take long walks and appreciate the nature around you. There is no question, this is a giant book. As a child, I would have loved the size of this book. I would have stretched out on the carpet by my parent’s fireplace and flipped the pages over and over. As an adult, I find the size of the book a little cumbersome, I would have still found it just as effective if the book was smaller in size. You will need to have somewhere special to keep it or a bookcase large enough, because this book is deserving of it. I applaud, the use of poetry in the book. An art in itself that I hope never goes away and I am glad to see it is still encouraged in children’s books.
This is a special keepsake of a book, with a message so beautifully told it cannot be ignored.
It makes me want to go outside now… but first a cup of tea!
Hello!, we are nearing the end of October and I am starting on my second gingerbread latte of the day (it’s getting colder here, that is my excuse!) It is also as good a time as any for the second instalment of my fear and bravery theme. However, this time the book choices are for adults (say sorry to your kids, more children’s book reviews coming soon)
So by now, if you have read my earlier post, you know I am no stranger to being scared and although my fears have changed over the years, I still have them. They keep me company (even when I am very ready for them to leave, but I am too polite to say so) It was only last week when I was convinced that my house was haunted, only to later realise that the spring in my living room door handle had broken. (The door keeps re-opening by itself, after shutting it)
I haven’t got round to getting it fixed yet, but I am no longer panicking that my house has ghosts…well… not all of the time anyway.
October is the time of year to be scared…right? I mean let’s face it October comes around and there are always horror films on televisions and scary fiction aplenty. Even though I admit to watching the occasional horror movie I tend to avoid the majority of them, they stay in my mind long after watching them. My grandma, however, loved horror movies. She would watch them whenever she babysat (long after me and my sisters had gone to bed of course) I snuck into the living room one night while she was watching a horror film and I never did it again. I did not sleep properly for weeks and as you know from my previous post I was already scared of the dark as it was.
I do enjoy the odd ghost story though and for some reason I feel compelled to read one, but only at this time of year. I read a lot and all different genres of books throughout the year, but ghost stories are the exception. I only want to read them in autumn/winter months. Perhaps I am setting the scene for the book. Do you feel the same or is it just me?
So to go against my own tradition this year, I have avoided reading a ghost story. I might do something random and review a ghost story in April to make up for it. Yes, I am strange. I am also very happy with my book choices below and I would love to know what you think!
On to the first of three book reviews:
‘Her Every Fear’ by Peter Swanson (Fiction)
This is not the first work of fiction I have read by Peter Swanson and he is fast becoming a favourite of mine.
The plot of ‘Her Every Fear’ revolves around Kate Priddy, Kate has suffered a traumatic event in her past and decides to take a chance on an apartment swap with her cousin, Corbin, leading her to Boston. However, her fresh start soon turns sour when things in Boston begin to take a sinister turn. Just a quick reminder that this is adult fiction, definitely not for kids as it deals with some dark subject matter.
I found Kate, as a central character, to be likeable and believable. I did not always agree with some of her decisions, but when do you always agree with the decisions of others?
I must admit to be a fan of Peter Swanson’s writing style. His work is so easy to read. There are multiple point of views in this book, to be honest, this is something I do not usually like – I have a tendency to lose the plot, but not so in this writer’s case. The short chapters help with the pace and I found myself eagerly reading on. Also, the dual settings of the book made for an interesting read.
This is a dark and greedy read for the cold and drizzly nights ahead. I read it faster than I can eat a bar of chocolate. Ok maybe not that quick…but I read it in two nights to be precise. I would have read it in one, but sleep annoyingly got in the way. I highly recommend!
‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers (Self-Help)
Self help books are not a favourite genre of mine. I have read a few and I often find the authors to be, in my opinion, un-relatable. However, there are a few exceptions and this book is one of them.
In her book, Susan Jeffers analyses the root of fears and shows the reader methods so they too can learn ways to not let fear hold them back in their lives. Honestly, I did feel some of the chapters were a little long for my liking and I struggled to connect with a couple of the readers stories at the end of the chapters. Having said that, I found I could connect and relate to the author and her message. There are some real gems of advice and techniques in this book which I will be incorporating into my everyday life. This book serves as a helpful reminder to not let fear hold you back in your life and to live your life fully. It helped me to focus on my actions and on my approach to life. I am clearly late to the party as this book has been published for some time, in some ways I wish I had read it sooner, but I am also glad I have read it at this moment in my life. I can see why it has sold so many copies!
Ok, so I may have avoided the traditional ghost story but I think my next book pick makes up for it.
‘The Strange Library’ by Haruki Murakami (Fiction)
This is a quirky story by Haruki Murakami. It concerns a young boys trip to the library which turns out to be anything but ordinary. Even though the central character is a young boy, I have placed this in the realms of adult fiction purely because of some of the actions that take place in the book and the writing style.
Let me start by saying, if I could buy imagination Haruki Murakami’s would be at the top of my shopping list, but I guess that is what his books are for! This writer takes originality to a whole new level, you could say he is not afraid of it, and I will always admire him for that, he understands that reading a book is an experience.
The plot and presentation of ‘The Strange Library’ with its unusual illustrations and format makes it truly unique. This is one of those stories that I think would make for perfect campfire reading. It is a short story, but it is highly memorable with the most unusual line up of characters I have seen in a long time and with an ending I did not see coming.
Thanks for checking out my post, I hope you enjoyed it! Until next time.
My first book review! (I feel that this warrants some scary or at least suspenseful music, but I haven’t figured out audio so you will have to use your imaginations. You can do it. I believe in you)
But before I delve straight in, just a quick but VERY important and incredibly giant THANK YOU to all of you that have followed me so far and taken the time to visit my site. I am very grateful. Incredibly grateful. It helps me realise that I am not just talking to myself which I do often enough as it is. I do hope to keep you entertained. Ooh that reminds of me of Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator’ – awesome film. Where was I? – Do feel free to comment I am not unapproachable, ok very occasionally grumpy in every day life (I can feel a group nod from my family and friends happening right now) but not with you I promise! It would be nice to hear from you. If only it is to say – ‘Less rambling please and more book reviews!’ On that note…
Ok, so I thought since all this is new to me why not, for the first blog, start at the beginning of my book journey with children’s fiction (don’t panic I will be covering most genres of books as many as I can muster and in no particular order because that is how my fickle brain works)
However, on this occasion I have chosen books that I think children and adults will both enjoy. I have also slimmed this down by picking three books that reflect bravery and scary moments. It is October after all and I am still scared and nauseous from my first post. I am hoping that will eventually go away!
I will also be following on this same topic with some choices in adult fiction.
Being scared is not new to me (big shock), when I was a kid I was scared of the dark…and rats…and spiders…and most insects – they all look like alien creatures to me – I’ve seen a wasp with two sets of wings – is that normal? – What is that?, and do not get me started on spiders, one actually landed on my face once. My face. No it does not just happen in movies. Unfortunately. They actually have no fear of me at all. I think they run towards me on purpose. It’s a game to them.
When I was little, my biggest fear of all of them was a fear of the dark and it got so bad my mum started writing letters to me from my toys and leaving them under my pillow for me to find. The letters went something like this:
We know you are very scared, but there is nothing to be afraid of. If you do not go to sleep we can not play and have parties. Please do not worry we are watching out for you.
Love The Toys xx
There were quite a few letters like this over a period of time. I don’t know whether these letters guilt tripped me to sleep or reassured me. Either way they worked. Plus, my mum had to stop writing the letters because I had started to leave food (mainly Kit-Kats – but other chocolate is also available!) on the shelves next to the toys because I thought they were hungry.
I think this also helped lead to my over active imagination. I would often think if toys were alive, then they must also go to work, because they cannot play all the time, can they? I had to go to school after all. It was only fair. What if they did work. What if they worked overnight at bakeries making breakfast pastries or they may even have a lost toy patrol to look out for lost toys?
I guess we all have different ways of coping with our fears, some more imaginatively then others!…. and yes I did get over my fear of the dark. and no I am not still receiving letters from my toys. They are far too busy for that.
And so to the book reviews.. there are a lot of books out there with bravery as a theme so I was pretty much spoilt for choice, but after much deliberation here are my choices.
So find a quiet spot and settle down its book review time. Ok that sounded better in my head and not at all like the start of a children’s storytelling session. Huh, that’s actually quite appropriate, I will go with it.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
How could my first book review on my blog not be this book? It was just not possible. For me, I have grown up with it and I still love it today as much as I did when I was a child.
For those of you who do not know, Watership Down is a tale of Fiver a young rabbit and his elder brother Hazel who lead a group of rabbits on a journey when Fiver suspects danger is coming to their warren. Nice foresight Fiver. The story follows them and the many challenges and characters they meet along the way. I warn you some characters will not leave you long after the book is read. (In your head I don’t mean literally)
I am going to be very honest (as I will in all my reviews) and say this book is a commitment, but a worthy one. It’s not the biggest book I have read, but it sure is up there and the writing at times can be a little long winded especially for the younger ones. I found some of the stories about El-ahrairah were a little long and therefore broke up the pace of the book. It is suggested for 9 years and up, but I would recommend to parents (aunties, uncles, grandparents.. I don’t want to exclude anyone here) it is always a good idea for you to read the book first to see if its suitable for your little one. Especially this book, it can be quite dark in places (but not as dark as the original 1979 film)
What this book does deliver on is originality. It has a world so intricately created through description and language the likes I have only ever seen matched in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R Tolkien. I felt invested with the characters from the outset, all with their own personalities and abilities that become essential throughout the journey. This book, in my opinion, is must reading within schools. The plot is laden with examples of bravery, the importance of team work, survival against the odds and why you should never give up. It also, in my opinion, does a very good job of showing the different sides to a character or why they are the way they are. This book has a very dry wit that works well mostly in part thanks to ‘Kehaar’ the seagull, (a personal favourite of mine) as well as ‘Bigwig’ the rabbit.
Just a side note, do not judge the book on the films. I have watched both and neither, in my opinion, is a replica of the book. Rarely, films are. They both have altered or missed out certain characters and used a bit of artistic license with the storylines. I personally, did and still do enjoy the 1979 BBC version of Watership Down, but, in my opinion, read the book and see what the author intended you to see in its entirety. Let me know what you think on this.
There is a reason I chose this book as my first review it is one of my favourite books of all time. It is epic and for me it is a must-read. So if you haven’t read it I do hope you look this up and please let me know what you think.
Have you read Watership Down? If so, opinions please?
The Last Unicorn the Lost Journey by Peter S. Beagle
I know unicorns are very popular at the moment, what is with that? I have no issues with unicorns but how did they become such a big thing? Anyway that is not why I picked this book to review. To say I was familiar with the ‘The Last Unicorn’ animation film when I kid would also be an understatement I watched it many, many, many times.
This book, however, is the original story prior to the film being made. In a way it is as though I was revisiting a buried treasure only to find the reality is somewhat different to what I first believed, much like the Last Unicorn and the world she steps into. ‘The Last Unicorn the Lost Journey’, follows the Unicorn as she steps out of the wood – her home into the wide world beyond. She has a need and a curiosity to see if she really is the last of her kind.
If my younger self had read this story I think I would have loved the descriptive language used throughout, for it painted a very visual story and my older self loved the dry humour. This a very short story – this by itself is not an issue for me, but the ending came a bit too abruptly for my liking. Or it could be that I’m just not overly enamoured by how the story ended. There were interwoven messages aplenty in this story, a naive unicorn struggling with her place in the world and not everyone is how they first appear to be. I am quite sad that I did not read this when I was younger, I think my nightmares would have had a field day with the likes of ‘Azazel’ and a few other elements of the story (she says trying not to give anything away)
Reading this story as adult, never has a fantasy book felt more real to me. The reactions and characters if you remove their fantastical nature seem to fit very well in the real world. A real world that isn’t as fairy tale as some of us would hope for it to be.
This is a book that I feel a lot of adults as well as children would relate. I also felt the ‘Afterword’ section at the end of the book gave an interesting insight into how the story was first imagined.
The Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher
Now, to my most recent discovery. ‘The Umbrella Mouse’ written by Anna Fargher tells the story of a brave young mouse called ‘Pip’ and how her life is forever changed due to World War II. This book is aimed at children 9-11 years, but I personally think adults would love this too.
I did want the story to be longer, but that was only because I was so invested in the characters. Also, I would have appreciated even more of the illustrations by Sam Usher as I thought they complimented the story perfectly. Do I sound greedy?
This is a refreshingly clever, surprisingly emotional and heartfelt story. It has a small and feisty main character with a big heart which is only matched by her bravery and made even stronger by the allies she meets along the way. This book has a relaxed ease to the storytelling that makes it a thoroughly engaging read. The author handles a sensitive subject matter with a delicacy and consideration to the audience, but it doesn’t lose any impact because of this.
This story acts as a reminder to us all and is destined not to be forgotten like the many heroes of World War II (animals and humans alike) to which this book is perfectly dedicated.
I also love how this story came about – make sure you read the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end)
PS: I wrote this review on my phone first, something that I think the author would have appreciated. (Read the ‘Authors Note’ and you will see what I mean!)
This book is destined to be a classic and I shall never look at an umbrella the same way again!
First set of book reviews done. Hoorah. More to come. Do let me know what you think. Enough said. I have reading to do!
Ok, so maybe I have always thought a little too much about books. I admit it. I am the personification of the hungry bookling. I am constantly on the hunt for the next book even when I already have a bookcase full of them. You see I buy a book for future me, I never know what mood I will be in, so when I pull a book from the shelf I need to know that I have a choice of them. So, I guess books are like a good bottle of wine. I need to let them age to perfection before use…well, I guess that is dependent on the kind of day I have had! Anyway books are a reliable comfort for me.
I was a lucky kid, my mum always wanted her daughters to be readers and to have access to books that she never did. I was three years old and my mum had already bought a second hand collection of Charles Dickens in the hopes that me and my sisters would one day read them. I still have that much loved collection today.
It was inevitable that I grew up always with a book nearby. If I ever asked my mum for help with my homework she would simply smile and say “ Look it up – that’s what encyclopaedias are for!”
That encyclopaedia set was heavy.
When I ask my mum about it now she admits it was because she did not know the answers, but I like to think of it as she was teaching me to think and find the answers for myself. Thanks Mum!
I was definitely brought up with an appreciation for books. I still remember the very first book I bought for myself from a school fair – ‘Matilda’ by (the genius) Roald Dahl. The first author who made me laugh out loud. I wish I could have met you Roald!
And so my journey with books began.
Over the years I have had many ideas involving books…even owning my own bookshop one day. I have had thoughts of taking over an old abandoned subway and putting a bookshop in there.
I would call it ‘End of the Line Books’ – what do you think? (FYI – I thought of that before the Kindle was invented)
Then there was the restaurant idea.
Picture a restaurant where as well as food you would be handed a book menu with your coffee.
Not to eat books of course. To read them. Just so we are clear. Somehow I can’t see it taking off – you would sit there with your coffee and book and take an age to leave the table, not really profitable is it?
How about filling a disused swimming pool with books and having just a few wingback chairs in there as well. You would have to wade your way through the books to get to the chairs of course…oh and watch out for the book shark. Ok so maybe that idea is a little far fetched. Anyway you are starting to understand my thought process now.
And so we come to this blog. It was not my idea in the beginning, far from it. A best friend of mine (you know who you are!) suggested I start a blog, an idea that I quickly dismissed, for many reasons:
Reasons I had not to start a blog:
One: I had no idea where to start or what to write.
Two: I had become so familiar with writers block it was planning to move in with me.
Three: It was on the internet – scary.
Four: Strangers would judge me. Family and friends would judge me. Everyone would judge me.
Five: I’m really quite anti-social in my personal life. A lifelong ambition of mine is to become a hermit. Hermit’s don’t use social media. Oh no…I would have to learn about social media.
Six: It was a bad idea.
Seven: It was a very bad idea.
Eight: The worst idea ever and I have had a lot of bad ideas.
But my friend did not give up, last Christmas she bought me the book ‘Blogging for Dummies’, 6th Edition, by Amy Lupold Bair. My friend was clever, she knew I had to read it and read it I did.
I began to have ideas, silly ideas. I know I thought…I could start a blog, but what could it be about?
So here I am, many months later (it has taken this long to build up the courage to do this, after all I do feel all the points in the above list still apply) I am about to embark on a book review blog, sharing my weird imagination, my love of books and my own poetry and writing (when my writers block steps aside) with the world.
What could go wrong?
I can see the book shark circling now…
To all the ‘Hungry Booklings’ out there wish me luck!!
PS: I don’t know what I am doing so kind of like me there may be a few links not working right, please be patient I am new to this and I am discombobulated (look it up it’s my favourite word..oh I’m turning into my mum)
Hungry Bookling Book Reviews
My book reviews do not use a rating system, personally, as a reader I go very little by these. I find they add little to a review and they are hard to make a consistent and fair judgement on. Therefore I like to try and be as fair to the author as I can be, they worked hard after all.
Do you disagree with me on this? – Let me know what you think.
I hope you enjoy reading my reviews and they are helpful to you. At the end of the day, they are just my opinion and I would love to know your thoughts on them too! All stories like art are not for everyone and where some of us may think a story is tedious others may love it.
Therefore I am happy to discuss the books I review and I would love to know what you think. Also, feel free to critique my own writing and poetry too which is found on the Imagination page. (I have to overcome my fear of judgement or at least become numb to it)
Before leaving comments make sure you check out ‘The Disclaimer’ section on the About page. Thank you!