A November Reading List

It’s been so long since I’ve written a reading list. As ever, I’m tearing through books at a horrifically expensive rate but if I’m honest, I’ve had a bit of a poor reading spell lately. Throughout October I picked up three (three!) books by authors that I love, to find them just a bit disappointing. And every time I have visited Waterstones I’ve just felt overwhelmed. There are so many books, how on earth are you meant to pick?

So here’s hoping that November is a better reading month. It’s a fairly mixed bag this month. I’m back on career reading, something I never thought I would enjoy but it is fascinating when you get the right book. I have a light hearted read all about dogs (what’s not to love?) and a family drama you won’t be able to put down. Happy reading everyone!

img_4096-2

*For a fascinating career read: Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year, Alexandra Shulman. If you have read my post on Magazine Career Must Reads, you will know that I love memoirs by magazine editors. As I work in magazine publishing myself, I just find it fascinating. With British Vogue celebrating their centenary this year, I was so excited to discover the BBC had done a two part documentary on the magazine. But, to be honest, it wasn’t that great. The memoir by editor in chief, Alexandra Shulman though, is fantastic. It is essentially a collection of her thoughts over the year the magazine celebrated its 100th birthday. You get a real insight into how the magazine works and it doesn’t get bogged down in the glamour of her job (which is hugely glamorous). No name dropping or obsession with big parties and budgets. In fact she is very honest about how much they have to reign in spending. If you watched the documentary and felt a little underwhelmed – read this.

*For a light-hearted doggy romp: Peggy and Me, Miranda Hart. If you don’t find Miranda Hart funny, I wouldn’t recommend this. And I completely understand why people don’t find her funny, but her sitcom always particularly tickled me. I read her first book, Is It Just Me?, a couple of summers ago and could not stop giggling away to myself like a loon. This book centres on her dog, a Shih-Tzu Bichon Frise cross called Peggy. It’s simply a hugely entertaining recounting of their adventures together and her thoughts on being a dog owner. The perfect light-hearted read for dog lovers as the evenings are getting longer and darker.

*For an addictive domestic drama: Three Wishes, Liane Moriarty. I love Liane Moriarty with her larger than life characters and completely addictive story lines and plot twists. I would say that Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret are her two absolute best books, but Three Wishes is also brilliant if you have already devoured those. It centres on the Kettle triplets, Lyn, Cat and Gemma, focusing on their relationship and the various ups and downs they have to deal with in their own lives. As with any Liane Moriarty book, there is plenty of drama to keep you reading furiously and the characters are so vibrant you feel almost like their fourth sister by the end.

Advertisements

Recent Reads

I spent my summer either lounging in the sun reading, or crammed on a train reading. In short, I did a lot of reading.

I went through a sad phase where I couldn’t seem to pick a good book, but fortunately that has passed. I’ve been making a real habit of hitting 4 stars on Goodreads lately. Not quite 5, because 5 is a really big deal. But 4 is pretty good too. And today I’m going to share all of that reading love with you.

img_3861-2

*The Forgetting Time, Sharon Guskin: I picked this up because I saw adverts for it on the tube. Genuinely, I was that low on reading inspiration. And a good job too, because it was great. It’s about children remembering previous lives and ideas about reincarnation (quite heavy for the morning commute). 4 year old Noah can remember a previous life, and the story centres on what exactly happened to the previous personality. This book could be a thrilling page-turner, but strangely it isn’t. The author doesn’t throw you any red herrings and you don’t have to work for the answers, they simply get revealed as the story moves along. That said, it is hugely enjoyable and manages a big topic without getting too mind-boggling about it.

*I See You, Clare Mackintosh: Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go was one of my favourite books from last year, a page turner to wear the skin off your thumbs. This is her follow-up, based around women doing their daily commutes and how the predictability of their movements can allow men to stalk them, rape them, murder them…(which makes for slightly alarming reading when you are doing your own commute). It follows one woman at risk during her commute, and a police officer investigating the case. Mackintosh was a policewoman herself, so the insights into how the force works are some of the best bits of the story. I didn’t find this as believable as I Let You Go, and there are so many red herrings that I feel it stops being clever and just annoyingly masks what’s actually going on. That said, I still loved it. Even though I can’t quite relax on my commute anymore…

*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling: I was so sceptical about this. I’d go as far as saying I was mildly appalled by the whole idea. There can be no eighth Harry Potter. It stopped at seven and we should leave it at that. Also I hate reading plays (just what is the point? You’re meant to see them, not read them, I mean honestly). But in the end I (predictably) got a bit curious and picked it up. And I’m so glad I did. No, it’s not the same as the books. But it’s still a great story line in itself and it’s fun to see our favourite witches and wizards all grown up. I’m desperate to see the play now but seeing as tickets are sold out up to December 2017, it’ll take a small miracle for that to happen…

*Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson: This summer I have fallen in love with Bill Bryson and his travel books. He is hilarious, and reading about his travels makes the morning commute that bit more exotic. I’ve read almost all of them, but I particularly enjoyed his jaunts to Australia. My mum is Australian and I had to keep relaying back to her all of the many ways you can die a horrible and painful death in Australia (as if she didn’t already know).

*Little Lies, Liane Moriarty: I loved this. Liane Moriaty has this incredible way of drawing characters. By the end of the story, I felt like they were all my friends and I was part of their small community. Little Lies is based around a primary school and three of the mothers. At the beginning of the story, you know that someone has died – but you don’t know who or anything about it. You just know it happened on the school charity night. The story builds and builds and the tension is increased as you know when you’ll find out what happened, but you have to keep waiting for that critical moment. Liane Moriarty also doesn’t have the annoying habit of throwing a million red herrings your way. Everything is relevant and it all comes together so cleverly.

*The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman: I was a bit disappointed by this one, mainly because I thought it would be like The Night Circus and it wasn’t. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a sideshow of ‘natural wonders’ (or freaks) in Coney Island. It follows the daughter of the leading showman, as she becomes a mermaid for the show, and a photographer, who takes to New York’s underworld and records everything that goes on there. It was fine, but not extraordinary, as the name would have you hope. And, to be honest, I don’t remember much about it which I always think says a lot.

*The Bridget Jones Omnibus, Helen Fielding: I’m twenty years late to this bandwagon, but better late than never. Who doesn’t love Bridget Jones? I have seen the films a million times, but the books are far better and much, much funnier. I sat on my sun lounger giggling away at this, reading out the best bits until I annoyed everyone. If you haven’t read Bridget, read it. And go see the new film while you’re at it.

*Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online, Emma Gannon: This memoir is for all of us who grew up putting on cheap make-up just for webcam chatting, sharing the ‘luv’ on Bebo and having enormous fights over MSN. And making complete fools of ourselves while we were at it. Emma Gannon’s honest and completely hilarious stories from her time growing up online are so recognisable and relevant to all us nineties and early noughties babies. And after all of the horribly cringey moments, her insights into the role of the internet and social media today are really interesting and so well put. I don’t often read memoirs, but this is definitely one to add to your reading list.

A May Reading List

This month’s reading list is quite a mixed bag. What with all the commuting I’m doing, I’m getting through roughly a book a week (it’s becoming a very expensive pastime!) With the amount of time I now have for reading, I’ve been making myself pick up books that I would never usually consider. It’s such a great way to discover new favourites and the variety means you can never get bored. Here are my latest discoveries.

P1030907 (3)

*For a read that feels like a chat: Wildflower, Drew Barrymore. I never, ever read memoirs. But Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower did the rounds on Instagram (with that gorgeous cover) and my attention was caught. This is not a tell-all autobiography, but that’s why I loved it so much. Each chapter tells a different anecdote, fronted by a relevant snap. Some are funny, such as her skydiving experience with Cameron Diaz, some are touching, such as the chapters dedicated to her two daughters and some are quite tragic, such as the stories from her childhood. I’m not a particular Drew Barrymore fan, but you don’t need to be to enjoy her memoir. Curling up with this book feels like catching up with an old friend.

*For a real surprise: We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. This is a Young Adult read, another genre I rarely dip into. I didn’t expect much from this (unfortunately, I’m always a little snobby about YA)  and was proven completely and entirely wrong. I loved it. We Were Liars centers around the beautiful, blonde and very rich Sinclair family. They put up a perfect front but as the narrator, eldest Sinclair grandchild Cady, tries to piece together an accident that she cannot remember and her family refuses to discuss, the cracks start to form. The general confusion builds into an explosive twist which will have you immediately flip back to the beginning to work out how the author had you so fooled.

*For a much needed sweet fix: Life is Sweet, The Hummingbird Bakery. If you’re ever in London, don’t miss The Hummingbird Bakery. Famed for their red velvet cupcakes and rainbow layer slices, this American-style bakery always hits the spot. My sister and I always turn to their original cookbook when we want to whip up something sweet, but Life is Sweet is the newest addition to our collection. With red velvet brownies and pancakes (!), a tunnel of fudge cake and pink champagne cupcakes, it’ll be keeping us very busy over the May bank holiday weekends.

An April Reading List

This month’s reading list is filled with adventure stories and beautiful editions. They say “never judge a book by its cover” – but sometimes you just have to have that beautiful book. And they make amazing gifts. I have had more than my fair share of stunning books as presents, they sit proudly on my shelf and I love them. All hail beautiful covers, we need more of them around.

P1030871 (2)

*For a timeless story: The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. I rarely write about a book that I haven’t actually read here on the blog, but I feel pretty safe to do so with this one. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read the classics I’ve never got round to picking up. It’s not going that well, to be honest. The Wind in the Willows seemed like a safe one to start with – I’m excited to follow the adventures of Mole, Rat, Mr Toad and Mr Badger! Also, quick note on just how beautiful this edition is. The Penguin Threads covers are made to look like a work of embroidery, with the threads running through the inside cover. There are loads of classics in the collection, so take your pick and treasure it.

*For a dark, nineteenth century New York: Church of Marvels, Leslie Parry. I have just finished this book and it is such a unique story. I picked it up thinking it would be like The Night Circus but it ended up reminding me more of Les Miserables. It follows three separate narrators – Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler who discovers an abandoned newborn baby, Odile Church, who’s twin sister Belle has disappeared following a devastating fire and Alphie, who wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. These three lives become entwined through the events of one night, and the story gradually unravels the secrets that bring the narrators together. The plot twists and turns and keeps back the biggest surprises right until the very end. Definitely worth a read.

*For the original greats: The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Everyone should read the original fairy tales. We all know and love the Disney versions, but did you ever realise the liberties they took with the original stories? Ariel didn’t just lose her voice, she had her tongue cut out. In Snow White, the Queen is forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes. Sleeping Beauty is raped! You can understand why Disney had to exclude these elements from children’s films, but now it’s time to grow up and find out what really happened. We’re always on the search for a horrifying thriller, but really we need look no further than the original fairy tales.

A March Reading List

Supposedly spring is on its way. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still freaking freezing outside. There may be daffodils and even some lambs about, but they are hardly basking in the spring sunshine. So I’m continuing my winter hibernation and, if you are too, these are the books I suggest you occupy yourself with…

P1030781 (2)P1030789 (2)

*For something a little special: When God Was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman. I’ve just finished Sarah Winman’s new book, A Year of Marvellous Ways, and to be honest I didn’t love it. The prose is completely beautiful, to the point of being poetic, but the story was lost in the words and I didn’t feel anything for the characters. Happily though, I was reminded of how much I loved her debut – When God Was a Rabbit. Set in two halves with the protagonist Elly as first a child, and then an adult, it follows the lives and loves of her, her brother and their family and friends. The story is  beautifully told and completely captivating, Elly’s voice will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

*For a slice of history: A Dangerous Inheritance, Alison Weir. Anyone searching for historical fiction will be directed straight to Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. I love Philippa Gregory, but after devouring her entire Cousin’s War series, I was left wanting more – which lead me to Alison Weir. A Dangerous Inheritance follows both Lady Katherine Grey, rival to Queen Elizabeth I’s throne, and Kate Plantagent, bastard daughter of Richard III, who are linked by history’s most famous murder mystery, the Princes in the Tower. It’s a completely absorbing story and you just might find yourself learning something along the way.

*For a bit of excitement: The Bones of You, Debbie Howells. I have just finished this new(ish) psychological thriller and I’m still reeling. Set in an idyllic village, The Bones of You is told from the point of view of Kate, a local mother, as she comes to know the Anderson family following the disappearance of their eldest daughter. Debbie Howells creates and tears apart her characters in a complex story of twisted minds and destructive relationships set against a beautiful landscape. The cleverness of the story and her characters is what makes it such a thrilling read, rather than constant action. But, believe me, there’s still plenty of fast-paced action to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Magazine Career Must Reads

Journalism careers are always a topic of interest. From the big screen world of The Devil Wears Prada, the retelling of great investigative journalism such as All the President’s Men and, more recently, Spotlight, TV documentaries taking you inside Tatler’s offices and the phone hacking scandal hitting front pages, journalists inspire stories as much as they actually write them.

I’ve wanted to work as a journalist since my Year 5 teacher mentioned the idea to me aged 9, and I’ve wanted to work in magazines since my first work placement at Horse magazine aged 14. But even when you are on a placement it’s hard to get a sense of what it is really like to work there, and films like The Devil Wears Prada are more drama and nonsense than anything remotely real.

P1030771 (2)P1030776 (2)

But I have discovered the best way to delve into magazine offices, learn about publishing history and hear stories about the greatest parties with the biggest names is through memoirs by magazine editors. These books are almost impossible to track down. All three I have here I discovered pretty much by accident. I’m still on the search for more, and I promise to report back if/when I find them…

*Mama Mia, by Mia Freedman: Mia became editor of Australian Cosmopolitan at just 24. Her memoir documents her rise to the editor’s chair, her highs and lows as editor and her departure from the world of magazines alongside an intimate glimpse into her personal life. My aunt gave me this book for my birthday, and I became completely absorbed by it. Mia is witty and honest, and gives us a very real look into what it is like to work in magazines. We see the glamorous side of her career but she doesn’t allow it to overwhelm the book and she isn’t a name-dropper, you learn more about her co-workers than the celebs. I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in magazines.

*A Diary of The Lady, by Rachel Johnson: This couldn’t be funnier even if it tried. Rachel Johnson’s memoir of her time as editor of The Lady takes on the form of a diary, with almost daily entries documenting the havoc at Lady HQ. I particularly loved this one because I have done placements at The Lady (they are always looking for workies!), so I was familiar with the offices, the setting and many of the characters. She includes hilarious email chains trying to secure cover girls and columnists, past covers (including the one her beloved dog, Coco, “guest-edited”) and daily updates on her in-tray (in which she always laments the lack of chocolate). We don’t see much into her personal life, but I don’t think the book misses this. She is so funny and engaging, you just want to hear about each fast-paced and nutty new day at The Lady.

*The Vogue Factor, by Kirstie Clements:  Kirstie Clements was editor in chief of Vogue Australia for thirteen years when she was unceremoniously fired in 2012, and this is where the book begins. She then goes back to tell all on her career at Vogue, from answering the phones to the editor’s chair. You don’t see as much into the magazine offices in this book as you do with the other two. I felt it was all famous names, luxury travel and big parties, but that wasn’t balanced up with what it is like to produce Vogue every month. Having said that, she has some great anecdotes. I loved the chapters about Karl Largerfeld as guest editor, and when she managed to shoot and interview the royal couple of Denmark (the princess being an Aussie). It doesn’t quite have the lightness of touch of the other two and takes itself a little too seriously at times, but if fashion journalism is more your thing, this is definitely one to read.

If you guys know of any more memoirs like these, then please, please share – I’m desperate to get my hands on them!

A January Reading List

Got a New Year’s resolution to read more? Yeah, me too.

Reading is such a funny thing. It is so wonderful when you actually get round to doing it, but most of the time there is something else to occupy your attention. Today I’m offering up some inspiration to hopefully get your nose in a book this month and kick start those resolutions!

P1030607 (5)P1030608 (2)

*For city inspiration: Eat Like a Londoner, Tania Ballantine. This is a book to dip in and out of rather than read cover to cover, but if you live in London or are planning a trip (or just want to admire from afar!) you need to get your mitts on this. It suggests the perfect place for every occasion, whether you are popping out for after work drinks or planning a full blown birthday surprise. You will never be stuck for ideas again! Be warned though, you’ll be left with a ‘to visit’ list as long as your arm.

*For a thrill: I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh. If you struggle to pick up a book, choose one that won’t let you put it down. This book is as good as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, but it (undeservedly) hasn’t received the same hype. The book starts with a horrible accident in which a little boy gets hit by a car on a rainy night. It then switches into Jenna Gray’s narrative as she escapes to the Welsh coast to start afresh after the accident, but it all too quickly starts to catch up with her… This book is so addictive and, just a heads up, it has the best twist I have ever come across (and I’ve read a lot of these books).

*For a health kick: Deliciously Ella, Ella Woodward. Everyone has heard of Deliciously Ella at this point. She has a blog (that I occasionally read) and an app (that I haven’t downloaded) but it’s her book that I love. Not only is it filled with inspiring recipes (some I’ve tried, most I haven’t if I’m being honest) but it is packed full of nutritional information which is so interesting and, most importantly, not preachy at all. She’s bringing out her second book this month, Deliciously Ella Every Day, and I can’t wait to get hold of it!

*For a classic: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll. If your resolution stipulates reading more classics, start with something short and fun. I love this book because of how inventive it is, and you should always remember that most of these classics (particularly the Victorian ones) are loved because they are great stories. Don’t get bogged down by what everything means, just enjoy the characters and the plot lines, because they are what make these novels wonderful.

Favourite Reads: Rebecca

When I first started this blog, I was sure that the reading part of it would be huge. Reading has always been such a massive part of my life but, for some reason, other content has been inspiring me more. Today I’m going to start putting that right!

As I suggested in my How to Spend December post, Christmas is the perfect time to revisit an old favourite. For most bookworms like me, choosing an all-time favourite is no easy feat. For me though, it’s easy. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is my favourite book.

P1030152 (2)

P1030154 (2)

I actually first read Rebecca six years ago while I was spending Christmas in Devon. It was lying around the cottage so I picked it up, and I’ve never looked back! So I thought this was the perfect time of year to talk about it, as it always brings back memories of a cosy, family Christmas in Devon.

When I read a book, I like for there to be a good story. A few twists, some memorable characters and an incredible setting are key. Rebecca has all of those elements, which is why I love it so much. There’s a fast-paced plot with an air of mystery about the elusive first wife, Rebecca, and some brilliant characters: the charming Max de Winter, the mousey second Mrs de Winter, the ghoulish Mrs Danvers and, of course, Rebecca.

The story is narrated by the second Mrs de Winter, whose name we never discover (which we could discuss for hours in an English seminar, but I’ll spare you that…!) While working as a lady’s companion she meets a handsome widower, Max de Winter, who proposes to her out of the blue and whisks her off into a new life. But when they return to his country estate, Manderley (thought to be set in Cornwall), Max is a changed man. The memory of his first wife, Rebecca, starts to haunt everything the second Mrs de Winter does as she struggles to discover who Rebecca was, and what happened to her…

It’s just brilliant. If you’ve got some time over Christmas or are planning on making a new year’s resolution to read more, start with this one. An easy romp of a read that will get you thinking, what more could you ask for?!

Book Reviews: Young Adult Fiction

IMG_0887

Now, before I start this book review (or in fact any book reviews), I have a confession to make. I am a book snob. It’s what spending three years doing an English Literature degree does to you.

I used to be a real snob, and would only read classics. I got over that once I went to uni, but still completely avoided the ‘Young Adult’ section of any book shop that I went into. I don’t care what other people choose to read, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pick any YA up and take it seriously. I read so much of it as a young teenager that I simply felt too old for it.

I then finished my degree. The one thing that an English Literature degree does is completely exhaust you of reading. The summer began, the time that I usually read as many books as I can squeeze in, and I just couldn’t read anymore. So I went on a hunt for an ‘easy’ read and this finally pushed me towards to YA section.

My first stop was Amy Alward’s ‘The Potion Diaries’. To be honest, I was attracted by the cover (it’s just so pretty!) This was an unusual choice for me because not only was it YA, but it’s also fantasy. The story follows a young alchemist called Samantha Kemi, who joins the kingdom’s Wilde Hunt to find a cure for the princess, who has poisoned herself with a love potion.

It’s a fun read and the tale bounds along, keeping up a high pace but it’s nothing major. I found the characters to be a bit flat and there’s no real sense of time – they just jump from one expedition to the next. However, it was exactly what I was looking for. While the conclusion isn’t exactly surprising (three guesses for how the love interest part of the plot turns out…) it’s an easy read and the story line bursts with imagination. I really enjoyed the magical parts of the plot and the fact it was focused on alchemists – I don’t usually read books like it so that made it really fun and a bit different.

IMG_0889

Next up, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Another YA of course, but this one is more realistic and takes place in a school. It follows the love of Violet and Finch, who meet on top of the school’s bell tower as they both consider taking their own lives. As the front cover says, it’s ‘the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die’.

This book was amazing. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so strongly about a book, and felt really sad when I finished it (that’s when you can tell it was great!) While I thought Violet was a bit of a drip, Finch’s character really made this book for me. He was such a well written character and I could really imagine interacting with him in real life.

I’ve seen really mixed reactions to this book, as it deals with mental illness which is always a tricky and emotionally charged subject. I can see other people’s points that Finch is defined by bipolar, suggesting that he is his illness which is a terrible way to consider people that actually suffer from it. I tried not to get too caught up in this though and just enjoyed the book and Finch for what they were.

So there was my experimentation with YA this summer. I really enjoyed both but I can’t decide what to read next… I know that The Fault in Our Stars is the really obvious choice, and I’ve never watched the film but I’m not really one for super sad books. Once I’ve made up my mind, I will keep you posted!