Posts Tagged ‘Bookworm’

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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Books I finished in June 2017

This month I rediscovered the joy of audiobooks, thanks to the Whispersync for Voice feature in the Kindle app, and read two very different books which make you look at the world in new ways.

Books read

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging while Wandering the Globe – Tsh Oxenreider

I’ve been a big fan of Tsh Oxenreider for years, reading her blog The Art of Simple (formerly Simple Mom), listening to her podcast The Simple Show, reading all her books and even taking part in her online course The Upstream Field Guide.

Her latest book, At Home in the World, is about the nine months she spent travelling the globe with her husband and their three children and what she learned about the meaning of home.

In a series of vignettes from the road she shows us the good times and the bad times, the times where the family visited amazing places and the times when they drove each other crazy. One of the most striking takeaways is the importance of carrying on ordinary life between the breathtaking experiences, not matter where you are. Home is indeed where the heart is.

Note: I had the honour of speaking to Tsh about world travel with kids for my Green Parent magazine series (forthcoming October/November edition) and managed to keep my inner fangirl girl sufficiently under control to conduct a suitably professional interview.

Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

Station Eleven has been on my radar for a while. I listen to the What Should I Read Next? podcast and I feel like this book has cropped up on there a few times. I didn’t know what to expect other than some sort of post-apocalyptic something or other which is usually more up my husband’s street. He and I have very different tastes in books so when he said he’d read the Kindle sample and didn’t like it, I thought I would give it a try.

I bought the Audible narration along with the Kindle version and listened to it at every opportunity. I probably listened to more of it than I read, and I feel the audiobook format suited the sweeping story. I love a good paper book but reading in this way with the combined power of audiobook and ebook was a great way to get more reading done, something I tend to struggle with in this “young children” season of life.

It features a range of characters who are all connected in one way or another, and flits between the time before and after the Georgia flu wiped out most of the world’s population.

I could see why my husband didn’t like it – it’s not your typical post-apocalyptic thriller.  It was poetic, it was about the importance of art, and it was about the strength and weakness of the human spirit. I was captivated by it.

Also on the go




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I’m not sure what happened to my reading in May but the only book I finished was a short one read on the train to London and back. I must have dipped into lots of others and spent way too much time faffing around.


Book read

The Good Skin Solution: Natural Healing for Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea and Acne – Shann Nix Jones

I’ve had rosacea for years (I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog, particularly when some friends and I were doing the H2Only challenge in aid of the RNLI) and have tried various creams and potions, long-term antibiotics and prescription gels to get it under control. The antibiotics worked to an extent (but who wants to take them indefinitely?), the rest not so much. Since being pregnant with my second child (who is now 20 months old) I’ve been taking an “ignore it and pretend it’s not there” approach but the time has come to wrestle with it again. I’d been looking into the link between rosacea and our gut microbiome and when I saw that this book was on offer on Kindle for less than £2 I decided to check it out.

Shann Nix Jones is the co-founder of Chuckling Goat, supplying freshly made goats’ milk kefir and natural kefir skin care products from her family farm in Wales. Kefir, a probiotic drink made from live culture fermented milk, is said to help restore the balance of the gut microbiome, having a knock on effect on your skin and general health.

The book goes into detail about the importance of the 2kg of bacteria that sit in your gut and I must have been convinced, because I am now a fully signed up Chuckling Goat customer. Apparently rosacea is a very stubborn condition and will take at least six three-week courses of kefir (and some dietary changes) to tackle, but I’m willing to give it a try. And that’s a post for another day.

Also on the go


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