IN REVIEW: 10 BOOKS THAT YOU NEED ON YOUR BOOKSHELF (PT.4)

books

After a short reading rut, I am happy to report that I am now back to reading most days and I have fallen back in love with escaping into a book. We recently bought a house and that process is ridiculously stressful. I’ve been very thankful to have some books to hide inside as we battled the many hurdles to get into our lovely new home and not least, when I felt overwhelmed by being surrounded by boxes. I’m sure I’ll post something about our new house soon but today I wanted to share the 4th instalment of books that you need on your bookshelf. To keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my StoryGraph account.

One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake
My Mum is very good at book recommendations and she recommended me this read. If you are a fan of France, cycling or food then you will probably enjoy this book! Felicity sets off on an epic adventure to taste as many culinary delights as she can whilst also ranking all of the croissants she eats along the way. France is often romanticised and I liked that Felicity gave a really honest account of her experiences. It made me laugh and it also made me very hungry.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

This is a multigenerational novel about a Chicago couple and their four adult daughters. Be warned: this is a loooong book but I found myself totally immersed in the lives of the Sorensons. I thought the portrayal of the relationships between the sisters was particularly good. The story is told in flashbacks, as well as present day, chapters alternating. We witness the story unravelling, how the characters got to the point that they are now for each character as an individual and also for the family unit. I was surprised to see that this is a bit of a Marmite book, some love it and some hate it but I for one, loved it.

Us Three by Ruth Jones

I picked up a copy of this book in the supermarket whilst away for a long weekend weekend and having finished The Most Fun We Ever Had. I took it to the beach with me and gobbled up over 100 pages in a sitting. This story has a lot of heart and I loved joining the friendship of Catrin, Judith and Lana for a while. Spanning decades, we see how these three women negotiate life, love, divorce, betrayal and the changing face of friendship. I preferred the first half to the second but overall it was a warm fuzzy read and perfect for a holiday!

Careless by Kirsty Capes

This was one of those books where I totally believed in the narrative voice. As a debut novel by an author in her 20’s it is particularly impressive. At first, wasn’t sure if I would relate to a YA book about teenage pregnancy, but the wonderful writing style and character development made it a real page turner. It is almost like a more grown up version of a Jaqueline Wilson book and that is said with the greatest admiration for Queen Jaq. As well as enjoying reading this book, I also listened to some chapters via Audible and was pleased that the narrator was exactly as I imagined. I see this book winning lots of awards.

Home Stretch by Graham Norton

Set in Ireland, Home Stretch explores the aftermath of a tragedy on a small-town and how secrets can be carried through the generations. I thought this book was really powerful and I read it quickly. I am so impressed by how well Graham writes and I am only annoyed that I didn’t pick up one of his novels sooner. Although there is tragedy and heartache, the book also carries great hope and I felt satisfied with the conclusion. I love a book that really takes me somewhere else and the setting for Home Stretch did exactly that.

The Course of Love by Alan Bordain

Through a Scottish couple, Rabih and Kirsten, de Botton dissects love and marriage. Part fiction and part guide, I thought this book was really insightful. I felt at the end of this that I hadn’t read a novel but more a case study on what couples need to consider once the honey moon period of their relationship has ended. It was unlike any book I have really read before and after each chapter I needed time to digest. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was written but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of reading it.

100 Years of Lenni and Margot

This book made me very happy. I absolutely love cross generational friendships and this book is a total celebration of exactly that. This novel really is sprinkled with magic as it tells a story of friendship and love that develops between the vibrant, full of life 17 year old Lenni Pettersson and 83 year old Margot Macrae. This book had meaning and it made me want to squeeze as much out of life as I possibly can and grateful for the wonderful friendship with my very own Margot. I can totally seeing this being made into a film and I’ll be first in line to watch it!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Having loved Homegoing, I was eager to pick up a copy of Yaa Gyasi’s latest novel. Firstly, I didn’t think it was as good but I still think it is well worth on your bookshelf. Not least because the cover is absolutely stunning. Transcendent Kingdom is a moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants dealing with depression and addiction and grief but is a novel about love, hope, religion and science. This is a character driven story which is clearly extremely personal to the author. It packs a punch.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Oh man, this book made me want to run! This is an epic adventure story that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, the author sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. The characters in this book are brilliant and I love how differently they approached long runs! It made me think a lot about why and how I run and the benefits of those questions has meant my relationship with running continues to be something I do because I want to and not because I think I should do. Even if you aren’t a runner, I think you’d enjoy this book.

Malibu rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I looooove this author. Daisy Jones & the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo are two of my favourite books and Malibu Rising didn’t disappoint. I’ll be honest with you, I still have 40 pages to read but I am so sure of this being a great book it is being included here. The stories follows 4 siblings who are the children of a famous singer who each year hold a massive party in their mansion. There are two interwoven plot lines, the day of the party, we the reader, are taken through hour by hour leading up to the annual event. The second story line is the history that motivates the characters, how they got to where they were in life before the party starts. The book gives a great portrayal of the lives of the rich and elite but doesn’t shy away from the fact that no matter how ‘sorted’ you are, life is messy. I will happily read anything Taylor Jenkins Reid writes.




In a reading rut

books

I have something to confess. Despite storming through a frankly ridiculous amount of books at the start of the year I have hit a brick wall. I’ve been in a phase where books I have picked up just haven’t captured my attention. Some, I have tried to persevere with, only to abandon them half way through. I used to hate doing this because I thought I had ‘wasted my time’ but really, reading should be something we do for joy and not something we feel pressured to do. Sometimes I can completely lose myself in a book and finish it in a day, other times, I’ll pick up my book and only read a couple of pages and then leave it for a week until I almost sit on it and am reminded of it’s existence and then pick it up again. To try and help things along, I went to the local charity shop to pick up some easy read fictions. Despite having a to-read pile that could potentially now be large enough to start my own private library, I wanted to have that excitement of browsing and just choosing something because I fancy reading it and not because it has been recommended or is currently Waterstones’ #1 book of the week.

The two books I did pick up from the charity shop – Nina is not OK and Oh dear Silvia have done well to get me back into my reading groove. Safe to say that Nina is not OK was not a fluffy fiction and was in fact harrowing and hard to read at times but still, I was gripped. I am about half way through the latter and to be honest, at the start I thought I had found another dud. However, I decided to give it a few more chapters of chance and I’m glad I did because now I am enjoying it. I’ve also decided to re-shuffle my to-read pile and give myself a variety of books to choose from. Here is what I am planning to read next:



‘Through one couple’s story, De Botton explores infatuation, commitment, tenderness and infidelity in an unapologetically realistic way that expands the very idea of the nature of love itself’.



‘Both a fascinating narrative about a tribe of phenomenal runners and a penetrating enquiry into the nature of running. This is an unforgettable read’.



‘A raw, effervescent debut novel about the power of language and speaking your own truth. Written entirely in verse, the book follows the trials and tribulations of Xiomara, a teenager growing up in a tough Harlem neighbourhood, and her creative release in the world of slam poetry’.



‘A luminous new novel which explores the uncharted implications of AI to human relationships and the abiding question of what it means to love.’.

With most things in life, as soon as pressure is applied to it.. it just isn’t fun anymore and I definitely need to remember this when it comes to reading and trying to read X amount of books a year because genuinely.. who cares? I would love to know your approach to hitting a brick wall with something you love. I think for me it’s about giving it space. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Top of the (reading) pops

books

Since giving up all social media for Lent (#hero), I have been storming through my to-read pile and have read 21 books so far this year! One of those reads, Me and White Supremacy, will be getting it’s own blog post soon as I really want to fully delve into my experience of completing this work. I thought it would be fun to rank the other 20 books I have read in 2021, some of these feature in this post but for those that don’t, I’ve included a brief description for you to decide whether it is something you would like to read too. I would love to hear about what you have been reading or if you rate any of these books in the comments.

20. Life’s what you make it, by Philip Schofield
Firstly – Philip, I’m sorry. Secondly – It would be extremely rare for me to rate an autobiography higher than a fiction book, which I genuinely much prefer reading because it is easier to lose yourself in the story. That being said, this was a well written book and I loved learning more about one of the nation’s heroes. Despite ranking at #20, I would still recommend it to fans of Schofe.

19. People like her, by Ellery Lloyd
A pretty trashy thriller but I enjoyed it nonetheless and read it in 2 days. The depiction of Instamums is so accurate but I wasn’t surprised by the conclusion and there weren’t enough twists, which is something I look for in a good book of this genre. Content warnings: Child death, death and suicide.

18. Glorious rock bottom, by Briony Gordon
I have loved Briony’s other books but this one didn’t blow me away. Her willingness to be brutally honest about her experiences is commendable and it did help me to more understand the mindset of an alcoholic. Content warnings: Alcoholism, sexual assault.

17. The Black flamingo, by Dean Atta
This is a beautiful prose book for YA’s about a boy’s journey to drag. It is a quick read and skilfully written – weaving a coherent and gripping story into poetry is no easy feat. Now I feel bad for not ranking it higher.

16. On the come up, by Angie Thomas
Another YA book but this time about a young, black rapper. I thought the lead character was too similar to Star in ‘The Hate You Give’ (Thomas’ other novel) but still, I enjoyed the book. Thomas has created a really realistic world that her characters live in.

15. Concrete rose, by Angie Thomas
Talking of Star in ‘The Hate You Give’ this is the prequel, about Star’s Dad. I thought lots of questions were still left unanswered in this but maybe that was intentional. If you have read Thomas’ other books then you should definitely read this one too. I can definitely see this and #14 being turned into films.

14. The Guest list, by Lucy Thomas

13. Silver sparrow, by Tayari Jones

12. A man called Ove, by Fredrick Backman
This is a really sweet book. It’s a biographical novel about a man who has tried to take his life on numerous occasions but is continually interrupted. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter there are some beautiful, light hearted moments. Ove is possibly the grumpiest man you will ever meet but by the end of the book, you’ll really love him. Content warning: Suicide.

11. The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyles
This is a lush story of 5 women in the mountains of Kentucky who set up a travelling library. What happens to them and to the men they love becomes a story of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion.

10. The Colour purple, by Alice Walker
This book is considered one of the all time greats and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read it! It’s set in South America and tells the story of a young girl born into poverty and segregation. It’s a hard hitting and important book.

9. Clap when you land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

8. The Thursday murder club, by Richard Osman
I am often wary of books with a lot of hype but I honestly felt this one made up for it! I adored the character of Joyce, so much so that I am willing to overlook the slightly confusing conclusion. This book rightfully deserves a place in the top 10 and I am looking forward to the TV show that is being made of the book.

7. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett

6. The Betrayals, by Bridget Collins
After loving The Binding, also by Bridget Collins, I wasn’t sure if this book would live up to it.. it almost did. I loved the fantasy elements of the book but did admittedly find the main character slightly irritating. I didn’t guess the main twist and found that this was a wonderful book for escapism. A definite hit for fans of fantasy novels.

5. All the light we cannot see, by Anthony Doerr
This is a stunning book in every sense. If you like historical novels then I would highly recommend this one. An instant New York times best seller, Doerr tells a story about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II. This is the sort of book that baffles you as to how one mind could have created it.

4. Love after love, by Ingrid Persaud

3. The joy of being selfish, by Michelle Elman

2. The Invisible life of Addie Larue, by V.E. Schwab
This is my unexpected favourite read of the year. I knew nothing about it before a friend leant me it and I didn’t want it to end. Addie is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets until she finds someone who remembers her. This is a a stunning adventure that plays out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

1. A thousand splendid suns, by Khaled Hosseini

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.2)

books

Reading continues to bring me comfort, an escape from my busy every day life and a chance to completely engulf myself in someone’s world. Reading a good book is pure magic. In September, I shared 10 books that you need on your bookshelf and now I am back with the next installment. I am storming through books at the moment and have been lucky to happen upon some right crackers. With libraries closing there doors I have been relying on my bookish pals to provide me with excellent reading material and they have seriously delivered. This may well become a regular feature on my blog. To keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my StoryGraph account.

My brilliant friend & the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante
Oh boy I loved these books and felt genuinely heartbroken when I finished the 4th installment. Ferrante is an incredible writer and no one knows who she is. The characters she creates seem so real and I was completely enthralled by the story. The novels follow two central characters – Elena & Lila from childhood to adulthood. I had to keep referring back to the useful character list at the start of the novel to keep track of who everyone was but by the conclusion, they all felt like old friends. It is almost like an incredibly well written Italian soap opera with so many twists and turns that it pretty much took my breath away. Perfection.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing is a historical fiction novel which with each chapter follows a different descendant of an Asante woman. The book starts with her two daughters, who are half-sisters, separated by circumstance. Subsequent chapters follow their children and the following generations. The novel beautifully explores the slave trade and imagines life in Ghana at that time, and as we move forward through time we see what slavery becomes in the US, and how it changes Ghana. I couldn’t put this book down.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
We found this book for 50p in a charity shop just before lockdown, impressed that it had won the Booker prize in 2008. The White Tiger felt different to any book I have read before. I was transported from my sofa to the underbelly of India as I journeyed with the protagonist, Balram. Over the course of seven nights, by the light of a chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life. I’m really pleased this book is set to become a film as the imagery felt so clear in my mind – I hope it lives up the novel!

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
I found this book in a phone box which has been repurposed by the community as a free book shop. I had heard about the novel a while ago but had never got around to reading it. I love books that take me somewhere new and this book captured 1850’s London brilliantly. This is a richly dark and gothic book about art, love and obsession. It is an unsettling immersive read, with its elements of horror, ideal for those who love historical fiction set in Victorian times. Previously, I hadn’t read many novels of this genre but I really enjoyed The Doll Factory. Shoutout to the phone box.

Fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe by Fannie Flagg
Yes that really is the author’s name. This book is full of Southern American charm and made me feel very hungry at the descriptive passages about the food that was being eaten (luckily there is a recipe section at the back for the novel’s signature dishes). It’s a love story, a friendship story and so much more. There’s survival against the odds, murder, and plenty of humour. I did find some of the racist dialogue hard to read but I understand that this is very true of the time that the novel is set. I wish I could visit the Whistle stop cafe.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
At the Port Eliot festival a few years ago I heard an interview with Amy Liptrot about her new novel, The Outrun. I fell head over heels for Amy and knew that I needed to read her book immediately. I was v.sad I hadn’t read it before so I couldn’t ask any insightful questions. I digress. The Outrun is a memoir that at times feels like poetry. Amy leads a hectic life in London and recovery from addiction leads her back to her home on Orkney. Through these new surroundings she comes to terms with what has happened to her and finds new hope in the land around her. This book started my love of wild swimming and I could read it again and again.

The Stationery shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali
I’ll admit it. I haven’t actually finished this book yet but I love it so much that I know that I want to recommend it. This book is a reflection back on a love story that took place in 1953, Tehran. With a country who fought for democracy; for a couple who fought for it within their family. A couple who are destined to be together until torn apart for reasons unbeknownst to Roya, the lead character. Fifty years later, she gets her answer. I am still waiting to find out what that answer actually is but I am completely confident in the author that I won’t be disappointed by the novel’s conclusion. I will edit this if I turn out to be completely disappointed by the novel’s conclusion.

& Now for some of my favourite fluffy books that aren’t too hard on the brain and feel like a hug.

The Flat Share & The Switch by Beth O’Leary
The Flat Share is about two people who share a flat, with one working in the day and sleeping at night and the other sleeping in the day and working at night. It’s a frivolous romanic comedy that I can definitely see being turned into a film. For lots of non-reading friends, this book has got them back into reading. The Switch is about a grandmother and granddaughter who switch lives. The story is slightly predictable but I didn’t mind that because I wasn’t in the mood for surprises to be honest. These books would make excellent holiday books. In a word they are: lovely.

The Summer seaside kitchen by Jenny Colgan

Oh how we laughed when I picked up this book from a charity shop. The cover looked like a classic book for middle aged women to read on a sun lounger and I wasn’t expecting much at all. Then I couldn’t put it down and had to eat my words. The Summer seaside kitchen is the beginning of a series of books set on the fictional island of Mure. The books feel cosy and safe and include delicious food and likeable characters. I have Colgan’s latest Christmas installment which I am very excited to read next month.

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.1)

books

Going to the library has always been a treat. When I was young, it was the first outting I was allowed to do on my own because it didn’t require any road crossing so going to the library made me feel like a strong independent woman at the age of 10. When I was a teen, it was where I could go to play Habbo hotel to my hearts desire which was obviously extremely important to my social development and taught me the importance of good furni and that people on the internet shouldn’t be trusted. The other benefit of the library was of course, the books. I loved reading so much that I genuinely believed that me and Matilda were separated at birth. Although she definitely made better pancakes.

When I lived at home with my family we regularly all sat together and read our books and it’s something that I still look forward to when I go and visit my parents. Reading takes me to another place, it calms my busy brain and it gets me off my phone. Whilst at University that changed, I stopped reading for fun because I was too busy drinking jagerbombs and trying (and failing) to get through the complete works of Shakespeare for my degree. After graduating, my brain felt so full that I couldn’t imagine picking up a book again, so I went on strike.. for 7 years.

Last July a friend said they had a book they thought I’d enjoy and at first I was apprehensive because I was not a reader anymore but then I gave caution to the wind and inhaled it in 24 hours. Once again, I was back in my reading groove. A library card, Goodreads account and 115 books later, I am here to share some of the ones I’ve enjoyed recently, just incase you are in a reading rut too. I hope these books will help to reignite a joy of reading and please share any recommendations you have for me too via Instagram or in the comments. I have also stopped using Goodreads and now use StoryGraph.

Girl, woman, other by Bernadine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. This is a really clever novel which seamlessly links each narrator to the next and is an important book of our time. It is extremely worthy of its many accolades including the Booker prize.

Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Ownes

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Through two timelines that slowly intertwine, the author reminds us that we are shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. This is the best book I have read this year so far.

The Beekeeper of Allepo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper follows the flight of refugees from Syria to Europe and although a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience volunteering at a refugee center. Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, until the unthinkable happens and all that they care for is destroyed by war. The story is moving, powerful and a testament to the power of human spirit.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is about the life of William Shakespeare’s family whilst never actually mentioning that it is William Shakespeare’s family as the other characters are very much at the forefront. This book even made me want to read Hamlet again which I thought was physically impossible after it was my chosen text for A-Level English. O’Farrell is an incredible story teller and I highly recommend anything she writes.

The Salt path by Raynor Winn

Ray and Moth decided to walk the South West coastal path after being made homeless. This is an incredible story of resilience in the face of adversity. Since reading The Salt Path I have walked a large section of the coastal path and loved exploring the places mentioned in this book. I have also listened to this as an audio book which I found really special.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a character whose story is steeped in magic and mystery and Miller finally gives her the spotlight she deserves. In this book, the male centered fantasies of myth are turned into something feminine and real. Never before a fan of Greek mythology, this read completely won me over and has been shared numerous times amongst friends.

The Seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This novel tells the story of the fictional Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo, who at the age of 79 decides to give a final interview to an unknown journalist. The relationship between the two female leads is a testament to Reid’s skill as a writer as they consider what it means to face the truth. The story is heartbreaking and beautiful and I couldn’t put it down.

Daisy Jones & the six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I didn’t want to include two books by the same author but I just couldn’t decide between this one and the previous as they are both fantastic. Daisy Jones & the six follows a band whose music defined an era before they unexpectedly split in 1979 and no-one knows why, until now. Written as a series of interviews this is a compelling read and Reid easily transports you to the 70’s music scene. This book is being turned into a TV series which is currently in production.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to “house arrest” in the Metropol hotel during the Russian revolution. The book spans 30 years as the Count makes the most of his life despite its limitation. I didn’t think this would be my sort of book but I really loved it and genuinely felt sad saying goodbye to the Count when I reached the last page. I now want to go to the Metropol hotel who are making the most of this book’s success by offering book tours and themed afternoon teas. Sign me up!

Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay with me weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, grief, and the bonds of motherhood. It is a story about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak. Set in the politic turbulence of 80’s Nigeria this book gripped me from the get go and didn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful story which packs punch.