The Hungry Bookling

A journey through books and the imagination

Ok. I just have a small message before I begin my blog today.  I know we are all experiencing difficult and unprecedented times due to the Coronavirus. I have been reassured by the acts of kindness I have seen and I would like to think that kindness, decency, consideration and compassion for each other are the traits that will shine through the hard times ahead. I would like to personally thank the NHS/medical workers, care/support workers, supermarket workers and all front-line staff, whose handwork and dedication is truly inspirational. Stay safe everyone. 

In my small part I will be posting more over the coming months in hopes that my blog posts will provide some lighthearted relief and company for for you all. 

I hope you enjoy and so on that note I shall begin….

Let me tell you about Jasper. He was not just any cat…yes I know every pet owner will say that about their pets…you will just have to trust me I guess. He was an unusual, fat ginger fluff ball of a cat with a quirky personality. Jasper was not a lap cat by any means, he would grace you with his presence by sitting near you, but he never suffocated you for attention. I always had the opinion that Jasper was an equal, if not slightly superior to me!

‘Jasper’

When I was a kid, the bus stop was only a short walk up the path from my house and so every morning I would walk to the bus stop and wait for the school bus. On occasion Jasper would accompany me. He would trot along behind me and then sit on the wall behind the bus stop staring at me through the glass until my bus arrived. I would often tell him to go home – worried he might run out into the road, but he never did. He simply sat patiently staring at me, with his green eyes, through the glass. Then when the bus arrived and I was in my seat I would watch him through the window, he would turn and casually trot back home. Was he my security guard?…who knows!  But, I often wondered what if one day he got on the bus with me. Just me and my travelling cat and all the adventures we would have together! I think that is what being a kid is all about – a sense of adventure and imagination. 

Let’s face it, I think we all could do with some imagination right now – kids and adults alike. In uncertain times it is good to escape in a good book and so my book reviews this time are some fantastic children’s books that I think adult’s will equally enjoy. Plus, it will keep the kids occupied for a time – you are welcome homeschooling parents! As with any children’s book review I do I always recommend the parent read it first and judge for themselves! I am particularly proud of my book choices as I think I have discovered some real gems! 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying images when using the image links on this site.

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson 

This is a children’s fiction fantasy book aimed at 9-12 years olds and centres around a young girl called Marinka who lives with her grandmother Baba Yaga in a magic house with chicken legs. Yes you heard correctly. Baba Yaga’s purpose in life is the guiding of spirits to the beyond and Marinka is struggling with accepting that it will soon be her future purpose too. 

So, I need to start by saying everyone – children, young adults and adults alike should all read this book! I read this book in one sitting and could not put it down and yes I would happily read it again…and again. This is an incredible work of fiction and is a life affirming, highly imaginative, joyous, emotional masterpiece quite simply there is magic in these pages and it transcends the reader to a highly unusual and fascinating world. The characters are all believable and freshly written. The whole book has such an ease of reading that it is a shame to finish it. I want to shout it from the rooftops about this book, but the rooftop of the house with chicken legs would be even better please… When can I move in? (I would say I travel light but that wouldn’t be truthful!)

To all the parents out there your child will love this book and to all the adults out there so will you! I was surprised at how much I truly loved this book and I cannot wait to read more by this author. 

The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle 

This is a smartly written and highly appealing children’s adventure story. Penelope ‘Nell’ is a young girl who goes on an adventure in Paris in the hopes of tracking down much loved and missed Perrine ‘Pear’ who helped to bring her up. In my opinion, the story flows so easily and is well-plotted. It has all the elements that children will love bought together with a really likeable central character and her misfit bunch of friends all set in the fantastic location of Paris. The author’s love for Paris is evident in her writing and is so enjoyable. I loved making dens and hideouts when I was a kid and this book has a unique take on this! It is aimed at 9-12 year olds but I as an adult loved it too! I think, ‘The Pear Affair’ is a sweet treat of a story that children are sure to love! 

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon by Christopher Edge 

Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny are three kids who following a series of events end up lost in the woods and there the real adventure begins. This is is so much more than a mystery adventure. This is a remarkably told and surprising story at every twist and turn. There are many coded messages within the book with the final message being the strongest of all. This is an incredible, must read to say much more would ruin it (so don’t judge the book by the shortness of my review!) I will simply say this – discover the adventure for yourself! Aimed at ages 9-11 years, but, wow adults have to read this too – seriously, You will see what I mean!

I am so happy to have read the above books, I cannot tell you how much. They are just what I needed!

I would love for your feedback and if you have chosen to read any of the books I recommend I would love to know what you think, as always! 

Just a quick reminder, you are still able to vote for your favourite genre of books for me to review on my previous blog post. For those of you have already voted…thank you!… I will be reviewing all of your genre choices in upcoming book reviews. So stay tuned!

On a final note, I just want to wish all my readers the very best…stay well my fellow booklings and thank you as always for supporting my blog. 

Updating again very soon – watch this space! 

Surprise….

I bet you did not expect to hear from me again so soon!

I was just settling down with a cup of tea and getting ready to start the books for my next post when…

I had a

little

idea.

Yes, I am messing with font sizes again, I can’t help it.

Wouldn’t it be good (i pondered) if I asked you the readers (fellow booklings) what book genres you would like me to review in the near future…

So….(drum roll please)

TA DAH!

Coming Soon
Do you have a book genre you would like me to review in the near future?
Do you have a book genre you would like me to review in the near future?
Do you have a book genre you would like me to review in the near future?

That is exactly what I am doing! ….Ok so that was fun.

Yes, my amazed readers I am asking you to let me know if there are any genres you would like to see reviewed. Now, there is a chance I have missed off your favourite genre. For that I am sorry. I am tired. Do not fret. Just send me a comment!

Sorry for the unexpected interruption…now where is my cup of tea?

Until next time!

Sometimes the smallest and simplest things in life develop into the strongest and dearest of memories without you ever realising it at the time. It occurs to me we have no choice as to which stay with us. 

My grandma liked fish and chips with bits on. For those of you who don’t know, it is chips with crumbs of fish batter. (And for my American friends: think fat fries with crumbs of fish batter!) On occasion, I would deliver them to her wrapped in a vinegary soaked newspaper parcel. (This was obviously a time before the fish and chips shopped stopped the use of newspapers in their wrapping) 

I don’t know why but chips in newspaper wrapping always tasted better to me, or is it just nostalgia?…maybe.

As I kid I remember looking down at the neatly wrapped parcels and at their distorted print with warped photos, wondering if the people in those stories ever realised they ended up as greased food wrapping. 

I spent a lot of Sundays with my grandma, she lived a couple of streets away and it meant I could walk up to her house by myself. A personal freedom I relished.  I never felt like going shopping with my mum and my sister and so staying with my grandma for a few hours was the obvious choice. 

My grandma was unapologetically real and strong willed, gifted with a wry smile. A smile shared by my mum. Grandma had a strength and an unrelenting surety of character that became so reliable to me. I would always find her wedged into her wingback chair the closest position to the horse racing on a crackling television. I would make a cup of tea for us both and then I would sit at her feet, legs crossed, reading my book until her race had finished. She had a small display cabinet in the corner of the room and occasionally my eyes would drift over and investigate all the little ornaments within its grasp. I always hunted out my favourite: a small wire tree with foil leaves. She called it her money tree, but to me it was a wishing tree and every now and again she would allow me to open up the glass doors to the cabinet and make a wish on the tree. A foil leaf trapped hopefully between my fingers. 

No, I am not going to tell you what I wished for…because I honestly do not remember!  

When the horse race on the television had finished and my grandma in turn had finished shouting at the tv, we would chat and the afternoon would run its course with the pair of us greedily watching episodes of ‘Columbo’ and ‘Murder She Wrote’ discussing the plots as they developed.’  She loved a good murder mystery and the television adaptations of Agatha Christie’s stories were also some of her favourites. Perhaps that is why I love a story with a twist. I loved the guessing game and the surprise at the end. 

Still, to this day whenever I see one of those programmes on the television it is an odd comfort to me, it reminds of those happy Sundays spent with my grandma and the wishing tree. 

I don’t know what ever happened to my grandma’s wishing tree, but if I ever found it again, I know  what I would wish for… one more Sunday spent just like that. 

In honour of my grandma and her love for good mystery/thrillers I have reviewed the following thriller fiction books for this post.(Not for children!) One of the books I shared the title of, in advance, in my previous post with hopes some of you would read along with me. Maybe I like the idea of getting to discuss the plot again with someone? Who knows! 

The Empty Bed: A Novel (The Burial Society Series)  by Nina Sadowsky : Thriller/Fiction

The ‘Empty Bed’ is the second book in the Burial Society Series by Nina Sadowsky’. However, this is the first book I have read of the author (and of the series) and in my opinion this book stands for itself, so feel free to be a rebel like me and read out of series order! You should also know I chose to listen to this book as an audiobook as I am trying out different formats. So whilst I do say I have read the book, I actually mean I ‘listened’ to the book. I will talk more about the audiobook version later, but I will say this: whether you choose to listen to or read the book, in my opinion, this story is worth it in whichever format. 

Catherine is the leader of ‘The Burial Society’, a witness protection programme, who’s team is called into investigate the disappearance of married American woman: Eva Lombard. Eva has gone missing overnight during a romantic holiday with her husband in Hong Kong. 

I must admit the plot appealed to me on this one, it just seemed my kind of book and I am happy to say this book had me hooked from the first line. There is something about Nina Sadowsky’s writing style which I instantly enjoyed. There is an intricate web of well thought out characters. As this book is part of a series Eva’s storyline shares centre stage with the already established back story of the ‘Burial Society’ however, I think this works well. I found the author’s description’s fresh and original and the story is engaging with a clear style of its own. It has made me want to read more of the series and perhaps I will invest more time in ‘series’ fiction which as a genre is new to me.  I would certainly not ‘bury’ this book to the bottom of the pile – get it? 

In regards to the audio book version of the book, I am new to audiobooks, but my eldest sister is a big fan so I thought I would give them a go. For me I tend to find with audiobooks that I can be occasionally be put off by the narrator’s voice and this can impact on my enjoyment of the book, however I am pleased to say on this occasion I thought the narration was well delivered and not off putting.

Deep Dark Secrets by Keri Beevis: Thriller/Fiction 

‘Deep Dark Secret’s by Keri Beevis is the book I shared in an early post,  in the hopes that some of you would read along with me. 

The book’s central character is Nell, a middle-aged woman haunted by both an abusive relationship and a tragedy that occurred when she was a teenager: Nell’s best friend Lizzie was murdered during a night’s babysitting gig that Nell should have been babysitting for. What is prevalent in this book is the consequences of actions and how those actions impact massively on not just the person, but those around them. Occasionally, in my opinion, I felt the pace dropped slightly in places within the story, but I thought the storytelling shone through with well developed and realistically unique characters that were well expressed. This is an interesting, thought provoking romance thriller with many intriguing characters and enough to keep you guessing. I would read this author again. I am keen to know, for those of you who did read with me, what are your thoughts on the book?

The Donor: Quick Reads 2020 by Clare Mackintosh: Fiction, Thriller/Short Story

Want a quick read on your commute to or from work? In my opinion, I think this short story will fit the bill. Lizzie Thomas’ daughter Meg has a heart transplant and needless to say the family are incredibly grateful. Then the donar’s mother Karen gets in contact and events begin to spiral. This is a brilliantly written short story, told in the main from the perspective of Lizzie, I found it to be a fast paced and exciting read, which I would eagerly recommend. These quick read books are a fantastic idea, perfect for those readers with little time on their hands and also a great mini introduction to the authors – I will be definitely picking up more books from Clare Mackintosh after reading this well crafted short story.

As always I would love to hear from you, comments welcome and if you do read any of the books I have blogged about I would love to know what you think of them too!

I can’t believe I am actively and blatantly encouraging this but here goes…

Subtle huh…

I couldn’t put up a neon flashing sign.

Some of you may have already noticed the ‘Imagination’ tab on my blog, this is where some of my poems and short fiction are stored for your amusement. Granted, I haven’t being updating it as much as I should, (no surprise there) but that changes now. I have just updated one of my pieces of short fiction ‘The Swimming Pool King‘ and there will be more poems and short stories to follow.

What I have quickly come to realise is that it is so much easier commenting on other people’s stories than the mere thought of other people commenting on mine, but you have got to put yourself out there right? Even if it is slowly but surely! I have always written stories and poems since being very little and I have always dreamed of being a writer. So, I guess in some small way this blog is giving me the opportunity to do just that.

So I guess this is my giant leap.

Ha ha I just like using the big font. I welcome any comments ( I can’t believe I am typing this!) No seriously I do.

Also, just to change things up a bit. I decided to share early one of the books I am reviewing in my next post, in the hopes that some of you may want to read along with me?

Just a note, for those of you viewing my blog in America, when you click on the book images it should now take you to Amazon.com, for you UK viewers it should still take you to Amazon.co.uk. I am not a whizz kid at this stuff so let me know if you have an issues with this!

And lastly, just a thank you to all you readers out there, your likes, comments and support means the world to little me!

**Update** Ok so there may be the slight chance that some of your genuine emails to my contact@thehungrybookling.co.uk email have been enthusiastically eaten by my ambitious spam folder and I too have enthusiastically deleted them in error. If you have emailed me and I have not responded please do get back in touch. Unless of course you are spam, then please don’t. It is bad for my digestion.

Bookling by design II

Ok so I promised that part two of this post would follow shortly and that was at the end of last year. And now we are close to February. Err, I have the best of intentions, but perhaps I’m slowing down with age…eek. So, if you are like me and feeling your age you may like to remind yourself of Part 1 of this blog.  I will give you a few minutes to catch up. 

Tick. Tock.

Ok times up. Ha ha. 

So, check out the results of the poll…

Thank you for those of you who voted, that was awesome of you and it is always interesting to hear what other people think too. It did surprise me just how many of you voted for ‘hardback’ as your preferred book format. I thought a lot of you would pick the ‘E-reader’ option, but it appears in this little corner of the bookling universe, it is not yet the end of the line for the traditional book after all. Hoorah.

I mean I love books in any format, but, as I have said before, I will always have a soft spot for an actual book whether it be paperback or hardback.  It is also geekily reassuring that some of you out there are like me and look at the font size of a book before purchase. Ha, ha I am not alone. Tiny fonts give me a headache.

It is also clear that we love an illustration, but clearly not just any illustration will do! (That makes me nervous for my little sketches) At the end of the day, it comes down to personal taste and I for one am glad that we have so many books to choose from!

So, as I have just said there are a lot of beautiful illustrated books out there and below I’ve picked three that (It think) are special books of the bunch. I will say that there are those books you will read once, thoroughly enjoy and never revisit. These books below, in my humble opinion, are not the ‘one-off read’  kind of books, I personally want to revisit them again and again. They will befriend your bookshelf and look good too. 

And so to the book reviews…

S (Ship of Theseus) by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (Adult Fiction) Hardback 

If you are looking for a beautifully designed hardback, look no further than S. 

It is clear that visual design was an intense priority with this book. It feels like you are delving into an immersive adventure and I have to admit to being in awe of this book for a while. I wasn’t quite sure where to start, it all felt a little overwhelming. 

It is difficult to describe, it is multiple stories in one. The book itself is designed as though it is a library book, of  a dark story named ‘Ship of Theseus’ but then written in the margins is a second story made up of conversations between two people that discuss the book and the mysteries surrounding the author. The attention to detail in the book is truly incredible with its array of additional inserts hidden like treasures amongst the pages: from a drawn on napkin to handwritten letters and postcards. The authors have created a separate universe with this book. With all this said, I did find reading the book difficult, for me it was visual overload. It took me a while to figure out how I was going to read it. In the end I decided to read a chapter of the ‘Ship of Theseus’ first and then go back over the comments in the margins. I don’t know whether this was the best approach or not, because I have to admit I often got distracted from the plot: my eyes kept wondering to the conversations in the margins.

Overall, it is has left me with the sensation that I must read this book again. I feel like it is as close to a living book as you are going to get because there are so many angles to it, it certainly is an experience. The concept reminds me of the approach to the ‘Never-ending Story’ – (just the approach not the story!) And it also feels along a familiar thread to those ‘choose your own adventure’ stories I read as a kid, although there is no choices here as such…hopefully you get what I mean! I certainly got the feeling I was pulled into an adventure of sorts.  I do think this book is only for adults though and I would say this is a needy book, it demands your attention and is not a light read by any accounts. I do feel this does warrant a post to itself, it is that intense!  It is  therefore very likely I will revisit it again at a later stage as I don’t think it is a book you ever truly put down. On a final note, if you buy this, you must buy it in hardback to get the true experience of it. Just my suggestion. 

Wonderbook – The Illustrated Guide to creating imaginative fiction by Jeff Vandermeer (Creative Writing Reference) Paperback

Ok, so the title kind of gives it away and you will have to have a love for creating writing to enjoy this book or at leas a love of beautiful artwork. It is a book, in my opinion, at the top of its field. It is the perfect writers companion, a book with a visually stunning and engaging approach, encompassing a very individual style that left me truly inspired. I think this is an all-rounder of a reference book and will meet your needs whether you are a creative writing hobbyist or take it more seriously. I also think it is perfect for adults and children alike. I know I would have loved this when I was younger too, but to the parents out there, read it first and judge for yourself!

This is a glossy book, crammed full of techniques and advice, which manages to get the topic across in a totally interesting and refreshing way. This is most definitely not a one time read. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Illustrated Hardback Edition by Neil Gaiman. 

I am so glad I discovered this book. I was immersed in ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ from the first to the last word and perhaps a part of me lingers there now not wanting this beautifully crafted story to leave my mind. This fictional story begins with a man’s nostalgic retelling of a distinct memory of his childhood which slowly develops into unique, sometimes dark but fantastical story. Pure, undiluted imagination stirs within this book like sugar but it’s the viewpoint through the child’s eyes that kept me captivated and grounded within this fictional world. I do think that adults and older children alike will enjoy this book, but there are some sections in the book that are on the dark side so parent’s discretion is advised. 

Ok, so this is an unusual point to admit, but this book also made me hungry. No question about it. This story was buttered throughout with memories and description of good food, a lot of memories are entwined with those of food so this helped solidify the story for me. I read the hardback illustrated version of this story and yes I do think it is worth it. The black and white illustrations threaded throughout the book are a welcome addition and help make this book a treat to keep and treasure. It also made me want to add a few items to my food shopping list and yes it made me hungry to read more of Gaiman’s works as well. Highly recommend! 

I hope 2020 is going well for you all and if you do decide to give any of my book recommendations a try, I would love to hear from you. Even if it is just to tell me that‘ The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ made you hungry too! 

Now I need cake. 

I believe my New Year blues started their tour earlier then scheduled because I was amongst the first in the queue to wear the t-shirt and it is already faded and shrunken. I should have bought a bigger size. With nothing particularly exciting planned in my diary and December proving to be overflowing with responsibility and routine (rather than excitement) I could see no change ahead of me, things were not working out as I had envisioned and quite frankly it was making me miserable. I was regularly feeling misunderstood and things just felt all a little bleak. 

Then I received a surprise gift from my sister and things began to change. Wait, I know how this sounds and I can’t believe I am saying this, but  please hear me out. You may have guessed the gift was a book, but to me in that moment it was so much more. I flicked through the pages and began to read aloud little excerpts and as I read each phrase was exactly what I needed to hear. It was as though the author already knew what I was thinking and knew exactly what to say to me. It felt like it was written just for me. I cannot remember reading a book before that has struck such a strong personal and emotional chord with me and I never, ever thought I would be blogging about it to the world, but here I am doing exactly that, because not to blog and tell the world about it would be an injustice. Yes I am that dramatic. It made me laugh and cry in the same breath and it made me re-evaluate the way I was thinking. This book is alive with poignant quotes of humour, hope and happiness and is truly a beautiful heartfelt book.  The quality of the book is exceptional, written like an artist notebook on thick pages, laden with quirky sketches and the unusual music scores lining the inside of the book cover, there is clearly an incredible amount of thought gone into this book. It is almost like it was designed to be reassuring. 

Everyone needs to read this book, because I think we all need to be reminded of the positive messages within its pages. It truly is for all ages and for all people. I think we all know someone who would benefit from this book including if we are honest, ourselves. 

So I guess I want to say thank you. Thank you to the author for writing this book, a book I will treasure and return to for a lifetime. And thank you to my sister (if you are reading this!) for recognising this book was just what I needed and ultimately for making me feel a little less misunderstood. I can’t believe I did not find it first! 

And the name of this book that warrants a post all to itself?

The Boy, The Mole. The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

I feel like I am starting the New Year as I mean to go on – with hope. My wish is that you start it that way too! 

Now, is it too late to return my t-shirt? Ha ha.

Finally, thank you to everyone for reading my blog and wishing you all a very….

Happy New Year – I hope it is the best yet !!

Amongst the pin-board of traits that make me, well me, I always thought I was reliable person. Or at least I thought it was, but it turns out it is a while since I have blogged. 

Now I could hand you a virtual bouquet of excuses and watch them wilt in the open and very cold air. Or I could just say life happens, apologise and get on with it. I choose the latter. Plus I do not want the risk of virtual paper cuts. They are nasty.

Something I have been pondering lately, amidst the usual tick box of December activities is my thoughts on tradition and the festive season.  

When I was younger, if it had been a difficult year I knew December would make everything ok. It just did. December was always so crammed full, I practically burst through into January like I had launched happily, head first out of a Christmas cracker. I remember bundling in through the kitchen door, to a familiar smell of Christmas cake, and the sight of my red plastic toy box been turned into a giant mixing bowl (my mum said it was the only thing in the house large enough) – she did wash it first though, I feel the need to point that out. I would sit crossed legged on the kitchen tiles scooping out the batter into oven tins for baking and this process would go on for hours, all happily cheered on by my mum’s ‘Mario Lanza’ Christmas album. Other Christmas music is also available. Lots of it.

But December does not always make everything ok. I was wrong. 

Sure, it was a great memory for me, but what I have noticed as I have grown (a lot) older (and what I never saw when I was a kid) was the immense pressure that this time of year brings, the expectations to continue to recreate those fond Christmas memories and the disappointment that is caused when you can never quite match up to them. It has got to be amazing….right?

And  yet I realised (whilst I was ticking off the December list) that it is ok not to recreate those memories. What makes that memory great for me is that it is unique and it those type of memories that last the longest. I dislike repetition anyway. I always have, so why am I (and many others) busting a gut every year to make things just right and putting pressure on myself only to be left disappointed?

Not anymore. I say it is ok not to be perfect, I say if avoiding tradition makes you happy then do it. No expectations, just be you. Don’t let the season get you down it will soon pass. Instead find your own unique brand of happiness, don’t worry ‘pressure’ and ‘perfection’ are not invited. They don’t make great dinner guests. 

And so, in the spirit of uniqueness and as I too am very unique! I have always been drawn to books with totally original characters and my following book choices have just that. I would love to know what you think. 

Plus, there is still time to vote in the polls of Hungry Bookling by design: Part 1. Don’t worry Part 2 will be posted shortly. I am back on schedule. I hope. Otherwise, I will be offering that virtual bouquet of excuses after all.

And now to my book reviews:

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

‘Convenience Store Woman’ is a work of fiction, told from the perspective of Keiko, a single woman, working in a supermarket who struggles with both relationships and society. 

This is an instantly engaging piece of fiction, told from an unusual perspective which makes it both a fresh and absorbing read. I found the pressures of society to be well told and often relatable. It clearly highlights how people can spend so much time focusing on how they are viewed by others. I do this too. The book is short, but I found it to be well paced and not rushed. 

‘Convenience Store Woman’ is a very thought provoking read and I would happily read another book by this author.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh 

‘Eileen’ is a fictional story of a flawed woman who spends her time caring for her alcoholic father and working at a local prison. She is stuck in an unwanted but familiar routine until she meets Rebecca and her life takes a dark, but interesting turn. The character of Eileen makes for a very intriguing storyteller, the way she speaks about herself and others pulls you into the story, but there is a sharpness and an unreliability to it that always makes you slightly on edge. I applaud the originality of the plot and the character interactions. I did find that at times I struggled with the pace of the book, in parts it felt a little slow and then sometimes even a little rushed, which left me feeling a tad disorientated with the plot, but on the whole due to the original characters and descriptive scenes alone it is well worth the read.

Sheer Blue Bliss by Lesley Glaister

If you want  a book with interesting, well -rounded characters, you want to read a book by Lesley Glaister. I have read many of her books and have not been disappointed. ‘Sheer Blue Bliss’ focuses around ‘Connie Benson’ an elderly artist with an intriguing backstory which is now coming back to haunt her in the form of ‘Tony’ an obsessed fan of Connie’s late love interest Patrick. Lesley has a very distinctively descriptive and raw approach to storytelling. She does not hold back and that goes for the characters too. Both the characters of ‘Tony’ and ‘Connie’ are so well envisioned you instantly become engrossed in the story. I find the movement between the viewpoints of the characters fluid and not distracting. This is a well written thriller which I would recommend and one of those rare books I would be happy to read again. 

I would be interested to know if you would recommend any books with unique characters, I am always happy to hear from other booklings out there! 

Book design

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.

I like

this kind of

attention to

detail.

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!

But please take part….

That WOULD

be AWESOME.

 

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. 

The Tomato Soup Incident

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.

Please be aware I am now an Amazon associate. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. By clicking on the image links provided below and making a qualified purchase on Amazon.co.uk I will earn a fee as a result.

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. 

Getting over fears

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.

Is it too soon to put up fairy lights?