Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Green Parent june july 2018.jpg

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

This time I had the enormous privilege of interviewing one of my heroes, the one and only Gretchen Rubin!

We talked about ways to be increase a family’s happiness levels, how to understand your children and yourself and why getting more sleep can make life much easier.

I really had to remember that I was doing an interview and not just having a chat with someone that I have been a fan of for years. Fortunately Gretchen was just as delightful and interesting as I expected her to be – and I just about managed to contain my excitement…

I feel so fortunate to be in a position to get to speak to people I admire, and never take it for granted – even if does sometimes make for a more difficult interview!!

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.


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

I spoke to Rebecca Eanes, who has more than 1million fans on her Facebook page, about her latest release The Positive Parenting Workbook and how moving away from traditional discipline can strengthen and improve family relationships.

We can begin the process of real change rather than staying stuck in old patterns that are limiting us or causing our families to suffer. I know of no better starting point than a mirror.

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.

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The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

I can honestly say that I haven’t read anything like this book before. I’ve seen a lot of commentary online saying that it’s just a retelling of Alice in Wonderland but as far as I can see the similarities don’t go much beyond a girl called Alice finding herself in a form of fairyland.
If it’s important to you to like the protagonists in books you read you might struggle with this one, because Alice is quite hard to warm to – but you do find out why during the course of the book. It’s really a book of two halves, split into before and after Alice (and the reader) find out the truth about the bad luck that has dogged her and her mother Ella for her whole life. At around the halfway point I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it anymore, but I’m glad I pressed on, because it’s a memorable read which raises a lot of interesting questions about fate, predestination and free will. (Thanks to NetGalley for the free copy)

31 Songs – Nick Hornby

A re-read of a much-loved book by the author of my all-time favourite book, High Fidelity (which I’m currently listening to as an audiobook). My affection for the book 31 Songs – Hornby’s meditative musings on meaningful songs for him – actually comes second to my love of the album that goes along with it, which is a great compilation of familiar and more obscure tracks. It not only includes Bruce Springsteen (LOVE Bruce!) but also introduced me to the gorgeous Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne and Hey Self-Defeater by Mark Mulcahy, which would probably be one of my Desert Island Discs. So yes, I enjoyed reading the book again but revisiting the soundtrack CD (which I bought way back in 2004) was even better.

The Griffins of Castle Cary – Heather Shumaker

Can’t say too much as it’s not published until next year, but I had the enormous honour of being a test reader for this one! It’s the first fiction book for one of my favourite parenting authors Heather Shumaker, who I interviewed for The Green Parent a couple of years ago. Here’s her blog post where she talks about her new book, and here’s my interview with her about her book It’s OK Not To Share.

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This was the month I embraced the joys of NetGalley! I’d used it previously to access a book for a Green Parent feature but now I’m all signed up as a Reader and loving the opportunity to preview some great new books! And it’s making me read more, which can only be a good thing. If I can keep up this rate I will burst through my Goodreads reading challenge this year.

The New Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2018 – Lia Leendertz

This was an absolutely fascinating read full of facts about the world around us here in Britain, from tide times and sun rises to seasonal vegetables and countryside lore. It’s the perfect size, whether you prefer to dip in and out or read the whole thing cover to cover as I did. I’m planning to go back at the start of each month and re-read the relevant chapter, to help me tune in more deeply to the turning of the wheel of the year. I’m looking forward to finding the constellations and making all the recipes too. I am happy to confirm that January’s recipe – apricot, date and pecan sticky toffee pudding – was every bit as delicious as it sounds!

Three Daughters of Eve – Elif Shafak

I love books set in Oxford and downloaded this when it was on offer on Kindle, having read an interview with the author a while ago. I think I must have missed the point of this one though – it seemed to take an interminable age to get going, and even when it did, nothing really happened… Even the big mystery of what Peri had done as a student seemed like a huge anticlimax to me when it was finally explained. I kept going until the end but I probably shouldn’t have bothered. Having said that, it was interesting to read a book by a Turkish author and to see into a culture that I know very little about, juxtaposed with the strand of the book which was set in Oxford at the tail end of my own time there.

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind – Shoukei Matsumoto

This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but it wasn’t a disappointment – it just touched me in ways I didn’t expect. I’m clearly not a Zen monk living in a temple in Japan – I’m an English mum with two young sons and a cluttered house, and a cluttered mind to match. Perhaps naively, I didn’t expect this book to be literally about keeping a temple clean, but despite the huge gulf between our everyday situations I found plenty of common ground and thought-provoking reflections. Much of the advice appears basic on the surface, but somehow it’s so basic that you can easily overlook it, for example the importance of noticing and honouring the change in the seasons. I was planning to give this quick and quirky little read three stars, but I’ve gone for four because I suspect I’ll be drawn back to it again in the future, not least because of the charming illustrations and deceptively simple insights in the human condition. (Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy)

The Dark Angel (Ruth Galloway 10) – Elly Griffiths

I’ve been a keen reader of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series since those long nights of breastfeeding my oldest son, who was born in 2011 and is the same age as Ruth’s daughter Kate. Sometimes long-running series run out of steam after a while but this one – now at its 10th title – shows no sign of slowing down. The Dark Angel sees part of the action taking place in Italy, and while I initially longed for the blue-grey of the Norfolk salt marsh rather than the sunny August climes of Lazio, I managed to suspend my scepticism of this plot device and just enjoy the ride. To be honest, I don’t really read these books for the actual plots – it’s all about the tangled web of relationships involving characters that I feel I have really got to know. Just when you think it’s all going to resolve itself, the next twist occurs and throws everyone into turmoil again. I wouldn’t say it is my favourite in the series, but it definitely carries things forward, and I can’t wait for the next one. (Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy)

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Ah, a good book and a matcha latte in Ginger and Co in Shrewsbury – heaven!

So, I slipped horrendously behind with my reading round-ups last year but hey, new year, new start and all! I’m just going to do a straight list of everything from the, ahem, second half of last year and start afresh with January.

The good news is, despite my bad habit of starting books and never finishing them*, I actually beat my Goodreads reading challenge goal of 25 books by one. This year I’ve set my goal at 30 and I know I’m going to do it.

*I don’t mean stopping books I’m not enjoying – I have NO problem doing that! – but I get distracted by ooh all the shiny new books and just keeping starting new ones. I’m really going to try to persevere a bit more this year and just keep adding to the dreaded TBR list instead!

Without further ado, here’s what I finished between July and December 2017.


Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity – Gregory A Boyd and Edward K Boyd

The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch


Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year will Change Everything for You – Brian Hardin


I Think It’s God Calling – Katy Magdalene Price

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – Janet Lansbury

Digitox: How to Find A Healthy Balance for your Family’s Digital Diet – Mark Ellis


The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to be Calm in a Busy World – Haemin Sunim


The Outrun – Amy Liptrot (I LOVED this)

Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

Hurrah for Gin: A book for perfectly imperfect parents – Katie Kirby


All of a Winter’s Night – Phil Rickman

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