The Year in Books | May 2016

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Just as I’d hoped, April’s book, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was heart-warming and funny.  My last few books were each wonderful in their own way but for April I was after something light and uplifting and with a touch of romance. This definitely ticked all the boxes for me.

Our protagonist Don is a genetics professor and nearing his fortieth birthday. His friends and colleagues seem to suspect that Don is probably somewhere on the autistic spectrum but we’re not entirely sure if he is aware of this himself. Don is hugely intelligent, likes routine and order, and certainly doesn’t like the unexpected. And he devises a system, complete with a pretty stringent questionnaire, to find himself the perfect wife.

As a character, I really warmed to Don, I think because he was different to any other character I’ve come across in some time. His quirks and his difficulties in social situations were so endearing and I found myself rooting for him throughout the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re after something a bit different, funny and warm, this is the book for you.

And so to May. I’ve chosen something very different,  A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray. Since I’ve become a mother, I find it really difficult to read about the loss of a child because I just don’t want to think about that ever happening. But I’m drawn to this book because I’ve heard so many good things about it. There are bound to be tears,  so I’ll grab my box of tissues and *deep breath* here it goes…

YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ABOUT #THEYEARINBOOKS AT CIRCLE OF PINES.

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The Year in Books | April 2016

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First a few words about March’s book The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down by Andrew McCarthy. Yes that Andrew McCarthy, he of the Brat Pack fame, brooding Kevin from St Elmo’s Fire, swoonsome Blaine from Pretty in Pink. Him. These days, although Andrew still acts and directs he’s made a name for himself as a travel writer and is currently editor-at large for National Geographic Traveller magazine. With credits like that I was bound to be in for a great read, and I can tell you that I was not disappointed.

The Longest Way Home is part travel journal and part memoir and it is wholly honest. McCarthy travels through some very different countries describing his journeys and environments with such skill that at times I felt I was standing right there next to him. He is a natural storyteller.

He is searingly honest about the major relationships in his life – his father, his children, his ex wife and his fiancee. By his own admissions he is avoiding commitment and never feels he can truly give himself to his family, despite really wanting to. This is perfectly illustrated when, in the run up to his wedding, he accepts several successive jobs to far flung countries, leaving the ever-patient D to look after the kids and plan a wedding abroad. I found myself wondering where D found the grace and patience to deal with this and how come she wasn’t falling apart at the seams (perhaps she was?). And yet while to some McCarthy might have come across as self-indulgent and perhaps even selfish, I felt that he was just trying to find the best version of himself. And *spoiler alert* because he was able to to do that, this love story has a happy ending. Thank goodness for that – my heart would’ve broken if I’d found out that McCarthy was really a plonker all along!

So what’s in store for April? Well I’ve had The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion  sitting on my to be read (tbr) pile for some time now. I fancy something a little more light-hearted so I think this will be just the thing.

YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ABOUT #THEYEARINBOOKS AT CIRCLE OF PINES.

The Year in Books | March 2016

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First a few words about February’s book The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. Laura @circleofpines wanted to try something different for #theyearinbooks for one month and suggested that anyone who was interested could read the same book. I was thrilled to win a copy in the giveaway Laura organised and came over all child-like when the parcel arrived with the beautiful, blue tome inside.

Goats and Sheep is set in the sweltering summer of 1976. Mrs Creasey has gone missing and the residents on The Avenue fear the worst so ten-year-old friends Grace and Tilly decide to investigate. Goats and Sheep was everything I could ask for in a book – intelligent, sympathetic, funny, keenly observed and oh-so-beautifully written. So many times I was transported to that street, I could see the neighbours milling and colluding and I could feel that uncomfortable heat. Oddly enough after my choice for January, this too was a book about secrets. But it was also about friendships, relationships, parents, how people can be quick to judge others, and how those judgements can influence others and ruin lives. And I fell in love with Tilly who was patient, sweet, innocent yet wiser than her years.

Laura organised a one-off #theyearinbooks twitter chat to discuss the book and it was such a treat to have the author join in. Joanna was funny and thoughtful and I could totally imagine sitting in a pub chatting with her (as I often do my fellow #ytheyearinbooks tweeters!). I look forward to reading her follow up but for now I hope she’s just enjoying the excellent reaction her debut is so deservedly getting.

And so to March. Although I’m in total denial, I’ll be turning the big four-oh this year (eeep!). To ease the pain a bit I’m re-visiting songs, albums, films, books from my formative years. I was a massive fan of the Brat Pack and John Hughes films so I was interested to see that both Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy (who I had the most mahoosive crush on) have added another string to their bow, that of published writer. I read Molly’s novel last year and loved it so much so that I’m hoping to re-read it this year. But I have chosen Andrew McCarthy’s, The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down for my March read. Part travel journal, part memoir, the reviews promise a personal exploration of Andrew’s commitment phobia, his life in showbiz and his relationships via his love of travel. I’m really looking forward to this one.

YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ABOUT #THEYEARINBOOKS AT CIRCLE OF PINES.

The Year in Books | February 2016

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I’ll start with some thoughts on my choice for January, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This was an excellent book to kick start my challenge for 2016. I read it in mere days, which is no mean feat with two typhoon-like boys running about, and from the moment I picked it up I was hooked. I found myself trying to steal a few minutes here and there, even if only to read a few more paragraphs.

At it’s heart this book is about secrets. You can think you know someone but there are always tiny fractures where secrets and thoughts are hidden. You can never really know someone. But it’s also about family, about wanting to fit in, and to please your loved ones. I loved that the pace of the story didn’t falter at all and that the author was able to depict events, places and even emotion with such precision, such care and without wasting any words. It’s intelligent and witty and heartbreaking and it’s sure to join the handful of books which I so love that I re-read from time to time.

Because I finished my January choice so quickly I was able to go back to a book that I started last year but didn’t quite finish. Admittedly I ran out of steam last year, for one reason or another my reading fell by the wayside and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson was one of the books I neglected. It often pops up as a favourite on the monthly #theyearinbooks twitter chats so I was keen to read it. Although I found myself getting confused (easily done!) at times with the flipping between lives, it didn’t disappoint. It was a clever and brave book and I think I’ll have to add the follow up to my list for 2016.

And so on to February. Please forgive me if it sounds like gloating, it’s not! But I was one of the lucky winners of Laura @circleofpines giveaway to win a copy of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. Laura wanted to try something different for one month and suggested that anyone who was interested could read the same book. I was pretty amazed when I received Laura’s email but I was genuinely excited when I received my copy in the post. It’s such a rare treat to receive real post these days instead of the endless leaflets and bills and invitations to apply for a credit card.  I’ve already started and so far so very good…I’m really looking forward to chatting about it with my fellow #theyearinbooks tweeters.

The Year in Books | January 2016

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I love words, I love books, I love writing and I love stories.

As a child I would spend hours writing whimsical stories of fantastical worlds inspired by The Never Ending Story or children who discovered a mermaid whilst rockpooling and as I grew into an Americana-obsessed teen these stories turned to topics of school life and that holy grail – love. When I wasn’t writing stories you’d find me reading. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a book in my hand just in case I found a few minutes spare to read a few more pages.

I continued to devour books as an adult and I had a pretty successful blog for a few years which sated the writing itch. And then I met my Husb and we had two boys and life got so busy that reading and writing took a backseat.

My younger son is two and a half now and is discovering his independence and my elder son is in his second year of school and I’m finding that I can spend an hour or two, here and there, doing my own thing. I’ve started blogging again and last year I decided to join in with Laura from Circle of Pines and her excellent reading project The Year in Books (#theyearinbooks). It’s a kind of reading group but instead of everyone reading the same book at the same time, you aim to read at least one book a month. You can then tell others about it via your blog, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter using #theyearinbooks. And once a month you can join a friendly bunch of fellow bibliophiles chatting about books on the Twitter chat that Laura hosts. There’s no pressure, no judging and although I didn’t manage to hit my target of twelve books last year (Younger son’s night time antics might have something to do with that!), it thoroughly reignited my passion for books and stories. And besides, I read more than the year before, as a fellow Year in Bookster reminded me when she tweeted ‘As always, so many books, never enough time…but I read more in 2015 than the year before. :)’.

So here’s my book for January, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. It was on my wishlist for Christmas and my lovely Husb made sure it was one of the pressies waiting for me under the tree. I have high hopes that I’ll manage twelve books this year!

Here’s to a Happy, bookish, creative New Year y’all xxx

Books with my boys – The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)

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I’ve been coveting this book for years now so imagine my delight (and the squeal which escaped from me) when I found it in a charity shop for the princely sum of 20p!

I’ve read this to both of my boys a few times now but Snr Son decided he wanted to read it to me today. He’s in year 2 now and his reading is coming along so well and I’m really keen to encourage his (and Jnr Son’s) already firm love of books.image
Peter wakes up one morning to find that it has snowed.image
He gets his snow gear on and goes out on a little adventure. His feet crunching through the snow as he makes tracks and patterns. image

Peter finds a stick to play with and ends up with snow on his head!imageimage
His little adventure continues, he sees some older boys but decides not to join in with their snowball fight and instead makes a snowman and snow angels. image
He pops a snowball in his pocket for tomorrow and then he goes home to his mum who gives him a lovely bath. Of course when he checks his snowball at bedtime it has melted and he’s sad. But all’s not lost because tomorrow is a new day with fresh snow!

This book was written in 1962 and was ‘awarded the Caldecott Medal by the American Library Association for being the most distinguished picture book for children in its year of publication’.  Despite its age I think the endearing illustrations and the story itself have helped it to remain a favourite with so many kids and parents around the world. It taps into that child-like excitement of seeing snow blanketing the world we know, and it does it so well. It’s definitely a firm favourite in our house anyway.

Which books about weather do you and your kids like to read? Do they capture the excitement of the moment or do they conjure up different reactions/emotions? Do you have any favourites from your childhood?

The year in books | July 2015

June’s book was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. It was an unusual premise and one which I will not go into because it will be too difficult not to drop spoilers along the way. Let’s just say that I enjoyed reading it but that I also wanted more from Rosemary, the protagonist. I wanted to like her more. Now this might seem like a bit of a theme with me, and I realise that in some stories this just isn’t possible, but in this case I don’t think it would have hurt. That said, I would urge you to read it as you probably won’t read another book like it.

July’s book is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I don’t read much ‘chick fiction’ these days and I know I shouldn’t use that term as it’s a bit derogatory but I haven’t yet found another name for the genre!  From all the things I’ve heard about it, I’m sure it will be a guilty pleasure.

You can find out more about about #theyearinbooks at Circle of Pines.