What I read in September 2019

What I read in September 2019

A couple of re-reads this month, and a long book which I couldn’t put down….

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury

The first of my re-reads! I felt in need of a reset with my three-year-old and was hoping Janet could help me with this. I’ve been a huge fan since I interviewed her for the Green Parent and I always think “what would Janet do?” when faced with a parenting conundrum. In short, she advocates respectful parenting, treating babies and children as people from the very beginning and trusting their innate abilities. She’s got a super podcast too.

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M Graff

Like everyone old enough to remember, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the 9/11 attacks. But there was so much I didn’t know about what happened that day, and this book paints an incredibly picture from multiple perspectives in an “oral history” presentation style. You’re hearing from people directly, in their own words – some who lived to tell the tale, and heartbreakingly, others whose last words were captured on answer phone messages or phone calls with their loved ones. I was so gripped by this 512-page book that I read it in just four days.

Angel is Airborne: JFK’s Final Flight from Dallas by Garrett M Graff

Still buzzing from The Only Plane in the Sky, I downloaded another Garrett M Graff book linked to one of my specialist subjects, the assassination of JFK. At just 61 pages, this Kindle Single naturally had a much narrower scope, and while I did learn some new information, I found it a bit repetitive.

Candlenight by Phil Rickman

Another re-read, although this time I listened to the audio version. I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment in Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series and decided to go right back to the beginning with his first novel. It was……OK. I really enjoyed listening to the spoken Welsh and it had plenty of spooky moments. But you can certainly see how Phil’s talents as an author have developed over the years!

Interview with Bernadette Russell, author of The Little Book of Kindness (The Green Parent)

Interview with Bernadette Russell, author of The Little Book of Kindness (The Green Parent)

Bernadette Russell Sept 2019

The October/ November edition of The Green Parent magazine includes the latest in my series of interviews with parenting authors and experts.

I spoke to writer and performer Bernadette Russell, who spent a year doing random acts of kindness for strangers.

I found it quite thought-provoking – there are so many little things we can do easily that make the world a nicer place to be, even down to just giving people our full attention and listening to them properly.

As she explains in our interview, “you just never know what effect the smallest thing can have”.

You can read the feature here (PDF).

Bernadette’s website also introduced me to the word thaumaturge (“a worker of wonders and performer of miracles; a magician”), and for that I am most grateful!

Don’t forget, you can get £5 off a subscription to The Green Parent when you use my code HHILES. More details here.


Books I finished in August 2019

Books I finished in August 2019

Apparently I’m particularly susceptible to Facebook advertising – and the algorithms have completely got me pegged – because the two books I finished in August both originally popped up as ads in my feed.

Make Time: How to focus on what matters every day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

I’ve recently stepped down from a demanding volunteer role and found myself suddenly with extra time on my hands. Make Time helped show me ways to prevent this precious commodity from just running through my fingers, with down-to-earth, sensible advice that is generally easy to put into practice. I particularly liked the idea of the daily highlight to help with focus and a feeling of momentum. The two Google alumni authors seem to genuinely like each other, and I often felt like I was listening in to a conversation between friends. It’s an easy read and I found it gave me a boost when I was feeling a little adrift.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

I love a good YA novel. I “devoured” this one (sorry) quite quickly but ultimately didn’t find it completely satisfying. The basic premise is this: four founding families of a small town surrounded by spooky woods somehow trapped some sort of bloodthirsty monster in a kind of “Upside Down” and since then the members of said families have (or in some cases, don’t have…) various supernatural powers which they use for good or ill. The writing style was quite jarringly “woke” in some places and I wanted to see more loose ends tied up instead of just setting it up for the sequel, but I suppose the tactic has worked because I will almost certainly read The Deck of Omens when it’s published next year.
And because I’ve been procrastinating on Twitter instead of typing this post (apologies to the authors of Make Time……) I have just seen that Christine Lynn Herman describes the series as “ensemble cast novels about angry teenagers in the woods with messy magic” and my 40-year-old self is here for that!


Books I finished in July 2019

Books I finished in July 2019

I used to do a regular round-up of the books I finished every month, but I’ve really fallen out of the habit of writing/ blogging over the past 18 months. But I am back!

Without further ado, these are the books I finished in July 2019:


The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook

I bought this as a Kindle cheapie (at the time of writing this it’s 99p on Kindle or £2 for the paperback) because I fancied reading something easy which didn’t need much thought. The premise looked interesting – the mystery at the heart of a village requisitioned by the Army during World War Two, and the modern woman who decides to solve it – and I was glad I downloaded it on a whim. The present-day heroine, Melissa, was very likeable and I was really rooting for her relationship with Guy. In fact I found myself far more invested in the story than I expected and ended up reading up about real-life requisitioned villages. The resolution was suitably satisfying and I’d give it a solid four stars.


The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Another Kindle bargain, but this one wasn’t a gamble because I’m already a huge fan of Elly Griffiths and her Ruth Galloway series. The Stranger Diaries is a standalone thriller with well-observed characters, multiple narrators and plenty of red herrings along the way. I thought I’d cracked whodunit but at the denouement the real villain of the piece came rather out of left field and didn’t strike me as believable. Maybe I need to read it again forearmed with the knowledge. It’s a very atmospheric book and would probably suit a dark and stormy winter night more than a summer read. Recommended!


Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

I came across this one in a charity shop and picked it up somewhat against my better judgement – I either love or hate Jodi Picoult’s books (see Books I Finished in January 2017 for one I REALLY loved). This book had lots of twists and turns as it tackled rumours, lies, rape and witchcraft, and you aren’t always sure who you should be sympathising with. I guzzled it down but somehow it hasn’t really made that big an impact on me. Warning: don’t do what I did and read the last page early. Big mistake!

Also on the go (I have a terrible habit of reading too many books at once):

Interview with Emma Pickett, author of The Breast Book (The Green Parent)

Interview with Emma Pickett, author of The Breast Book (The Green Parent)

The Breast Book July 2019

The August/ September edition of The Green Parent magazine includes the latest in my series of interviews with parenting authors and experts.

I spoke to breastfeeding expert Emma Pickett about The Breast Book, which aims to help demystify breasts for nine- to 14-year-old girls and challenge some of the messages ingrained in society.

It’s very British to snigger about breasts and I’m asking young girls to start challenging society’s norms – Emma Pickett

You can read the feature here (PDF).

Don’t forget, you can get £5 off a subscription to The Green Parent when you use my code HHILES. More details here.