Sunday, 29 April 2018

Books I Took to Mallorca!

I had long decided Mallorca was going to be my 'reading' holiday where I do almost nothing but eat, read and rest. I was determined to get some good pages turned, mainly of review copies since I found myself with a pile of seriously exciting upcoming releases. Unfortunately it ended up being less relaxing then I hoped, but hey- lets talk about the books that made their way to Mallorca with me!



The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver
I planned my packing list of books carefully this time and I still winded up shoving The Coffin Dancer in my backpack on my way out the door. I'm ridiculous! In my defense though, I was about 50 pages in and it's so little. I read a good chunk of this while I was away and finished it soon after I got back!

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon and The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
Both of these were in my 'Required Reading' haul and that's why they were both packed. My next assignment is a choice between the two of them. I started The Emigrants but it's a tough read and I just wanted a week without university stress so I put it down again.

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh*
I missed the initial Flame in the Mist hype but with the new cover and the upcoming release of the second book, I'm hopping on that hype. Plus, the main character in this dresses like a boy and I'm named after a Shakespeare character who does the same thing. I didn't get round to it on the trip but it's top of my TBR.

Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir*
This is one of my most anticipated reads of this year. So delaying reading this when I got it about two weeks before my holiday was killing me. As I pack, I change my mind of what I want to take a lot, but this was the first thing in my suitcase. I powered through this on my trip and I liked it!

The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams*
I really wanted to finish The Ninth Rain before I went on holiday so I could take The Bitter Twins but I didn't. So I brought both along because the idea of ten days without Jen Williams writing seemed like torture. I don't think I can go back to male written fantasy after this, Williams has opened my eyes!

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio*
This is a science fiction book that Gollancz are putting out in July and I'm so excited. I haven't read a good and thick space war book in so long. I didn't end up picking it up but I've since started it and dang, it's going to be an interesting read!

Have you read any of these? What do you think of my holiday picks?

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Books I Read in March!

I didn't do a lot of reading in March! I had a pretty interesting February in reading but it was the beginning of a bit of a slump which continued through March, helped along by a really stressful deadline. I did manage to listen to two audiobooks and read one physical book though, so I didn't give up completely.

American Housewife by Helen Ellis and Blandings Castle.. And Elsewhere by P. G. Wodehouse


American Housewife by Helen Ellis*
So, I read this in a couple hours which is unusual for me. I haven't read a whole book in one day for a while! But this might have something to do with this being big print on 185 pages with 32 being blank or title pages.
Now, I'm not sure I actually enjoyed it no matter how fast I read it. It's a strange mish-mash of twelve stories within the theme of the American Housewife and while I think if any of these stories was fleshed out into an actual book, I could be convinced to pick them up... In short short story form they felt like the flash fiction that would be written from writing prompts of the titles.
On the other hand, her sister is one of the hosts of the podcast One Bad Mother which I adore! I'd reccomend that any day.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
I listened to the audiobook of this because it's read by the author and I adore her YouTube about death positivity. She's taught me a lot about grief over the year or so I've been subscribed and has helped me through grieving in my personal life. With the audiobook though, I actually found her voice quite hard to concentrate on, it's too soothing! But fall asleep to a book about death and expect weird dreams.
As for the actual book, I really liked it. I learnt a lot but it was an enjoyable learning experience filled with personal stories on a topic I don't think I've spent a lot of time thinking about. From the obsessive compulsive rituals she developed as a kid after seeing a young child die, to a suicide attempt, this book doesn't shy away from anything on Doughty's death journey.
I'm definitely going to buy a physical copy of this, and her newer book when I'm not on my book-buying-ban because I think they'll be a good physical read.
Note: There is use of the term 'hermaphrodites', rather than intersex which is really something writers and editors need to pick up on more. This isn't the first time I've read this outdated term in a contemporary book.
If the American optimist led to the 'prettying up' of the corpse... British pessimism led to the removal of the corpse and the death ritual from polite society.


Blandings Castle... And Elsewhere by P. G. Wodehouse
I'm not a big lover of short stories, I don't know why, maybe because I don't get the same sense of immersion. So while P.G. Wodehouse is fast becoming a favourite and these stories were good, I didn't love them as much as I hoped. His mastery of the English language and comedic timing is evident in everything he writes though.
There were six Blandings Castle stories, one concerning Bobbie Wickham who features in two of Wodehouse's other series as a bit of a side character, and five about the Mulliners of Hollywood- telling tales of old Hollywood from the point of view of a rather unreliable narrator. I prefered the Blandings ones as I'm rather fond of the family by now but they were all fun enough.
A ray of sunshine, which had been advancing jauntily along the carpet, caughts sight of his face and slunk out, abashed.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Book Review: Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Weir!

When I finished Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen I was convinced. Yes, she was the true Queen. And Anne Boleyn? Nope, I did not like her and never would, she was the villain of the story. Well- obviously Henry VIII is the villain but Anne Boleyn was a minor villain and while not deserving of being beheaded, wasn't going to get my sympathy. Well, enter Alison Weir and A King's Obsession! By the end of this, I ended up crying for a Queen long since dead. Again.




It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection, he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…


Oh, Anne Boleyn. Did you know that decapitation isn't an immediate death? I went on a Google deep-dive after this and science has some buck wild thoughts on the matter. I totally cannot un-read some of the details of experiments. But, even before this terrible end, I was feeling sorry for Anne Boleyn. She wants to marry for love, against her father's wishes, and ends up with just the worst man so that the family can gain points. Reading her whole story from childhood, you connect with her as a character and it feels all the more brutal when she's treated so badly.

There's also the blending of contemporary ideas with the thoughts of the time. Anne was surrounded by women leaders and was a strong independent woman who thought that women could rule. She was taught- at least in this fictionalised world- that she had the feminine power to flirt and lead men that way. This endeared me to her and I just wanted her to get a happy ending, goshdarnit. The author's note goes into feminism in 16th Century Europe and the women leaders Anne served, and it's so so interesting.

And that Author's Note. Obviously, any historical fiction is going to be that, fiction. But Weir's Author's Note at the end of these books show the detail of research and are often the most interesting part of the read for me- these books are fantastic so this isn't a slight. I just love reading about how she went about writing. There is much less source material to use when it comes to Anne, in comparison to Katherine, and a lot of the material comes from a hostile source. This just makes the depth of the story all the more impressive.

Alison Weir continues to amaze me. She completely turned my opinion on Anne around, my emotions were all over the place and even with 500+ pages, I always want more when it comes to this series.

-she added her name, so that anyone finding the inscription in years to come would know who had written it. By then she would either be famous or forgotten.

Have you read any good books about Anne Boleyn?

Saturday, 7 April 2018

What's your Favourite Book? Feat. Rebecca Reads!

Welcome back to my cruel, cruel interview series where I ask book people the most difficult question of all- what's your favourite book? I've loved seeing everyones reaction to Jenny's answer and I love Beckys answer. I think it's fascinating how people answer this question and the reasonings they have behind their choices.

Becky blogs over at Rebecca Reads with a focus on childrens literature as she is a trainee teacher. I think this is such a wonerfully unique perspective, as most people reading this age group probably don't spend as much time around so many different kids. I know when I read MG, I haven't got a clue what kids these days would think! So, Becky, what's your favourite book?



Becky: As a reader, whenever someone asks me the question, what is your favourite book? I panic. It’s one of the most difficult questions you could ask me. It’s like asking a parent who is their favourite child! So when faced with this question for this blog post, I had a really long think about my answer. So I decided to narrow it down a little more, to just children’s literature. And how could I choose between two?

As a trainee teacher, I love reading children’s literature, and over the past couple of years it’s brought me so much joy! I have two favourites in children’s literature, Wonder by R.J Palacio and The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange.



I first discovered Wonder 2 years ago thanks to Twitter! I thought it sounded interesting and I very quickly added it to my tbr list! It’s about a boy called Auggie, who has a facial disfigurement and is going to school for the first time. The book follows his early experiences in school and how those around him react to this transition. I love this book, because it covers such unique and difficult topics to discuss with children, but in a way that makes it more accessible for them and allows them to connect with a character who is experiencing difficulties. The lessons that can be learnt from this book are immense! You can read a full review here.



The other book, the secret of Nightingale Wood, is a book about a young girl, Henry, in 1919 who has experienced great loss and her father has gone away for work. She is at home with her mother, who is seriously ill. Doctor Hardy wants to take care of her, but Henry suspects that the doctor isn’t treating her mother correctly. Then she discovers that there is a fire lit in the woods just beyond her house, which may hold all the answers she needs. I again loved this book because it dealt with such difficult topics, such as loss and mental health, but in an accessible way. Lucy’s writing style is so lovely and the book flows really well. You can read a full review here

I have never really had favourites in other genres, I don’t know why, I just don’t think I’ve found ‘that book’ yet. The one that really sticks with me and I want to re-read constantly. Obviously Harry Potter is another favourite, and whilst I watch the films all the time, I don’t have the urge to constantly re-read the books, maybe the length puts me off a little!



As a child, my favourites were the famous five series by Enid Blyton, I couldn’t get enough of her books, and constantly re-read them, but now I struggle to get into them as much, maybe it’s because the writing style is quite old fashioned, and I’m used to a more modern writing style. My favourite books are ever changing. Who knows if these two books will be my favourite this time next year?

Make sure to check out Becky's wonderful blog here and her Twitter too! I'm definitely going to have to pull out my old Enid Blyton books, she was such an influence on my childhood so I wonder if I'll still like them now!

What do you think of Beckys choices? Were you an Enid Blyton fan?

Monday, 2 April 2018

Fostering: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall!

I tend to focus on books when it comes to my blog, but today I want to take a minute and talk about something that goes hand in hand with books- Cats! More specifically, the first foster cats that I had for longer than 24 hours. You can read about that experience and what I learned here! But if you love pictures of cats, this is the post for you.



So, let me introduce to you: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall. Gilbert and Esther were named for characters from my favourite book of 2017, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.






I fostered Gilbert and Esther after they were spayed/ neutered for a little over a month before a place opened up for them in the nearby Cats Protection adoption centre. My task was to socialise them because they had been feral for the first six months of their lives. Feral life is not easy. Along with finding food, unless these ferals are TNR'd (trap, neuter, return) they won't be vaccinated and will constantly be reproducing. Not to mention that around 80% of feral kittens die in their first year.

Socialisation is a sooner-the-better kind of deal. It takes longer the longer they're out there and not interacting with humans. And the general idea is that six months is about when it stops being effective. So Gilbert and Esther got taken in just in time, the vet that neutered them aged them at about six months! It's actually pretty lucky that Esther wasn't pregnant as cats can start reproducing at four months.



It was a long and tough journey socialising these two. Esther was much more amiable and loved to play, but Gilbert was frightened half to death by humans. He spent the first few days hidden under a side table in the corner, creeping out for food and occasionally batting at the toys. I even heard him having a nightmare one night, whining in a way that made my heart break.

But persistence, spending every spare second holding and stroking, and even hand-feeding (jelly cat food is gross to touch) softened up both of them to the point where I think both of them could be definied as lap cats! When they were taken to the adoption centre, I'll admit, I shed a tear! I was constantly refreshing their pages on the site, keeping an eye on the centre's Facebook and double-checking my emails. In the end, they were adopted seperately.



Esther is now called Dotty. Her adopter was lovely and sent me a couple updates. She has settling in nicely and they adore her. She'll always be Esther to me though!



Gilbert took a little longer to be adopted. They found a heart murmer at the vet check that happens when a cat is taken in to the adoption centre. You can imagine that a pre-existing condition, unable to be covered by insurance, can be a major consideration for someone! He was eventually adopted, but not before I was seriously considering foster failing (a term for when you just can't give them up).

So that was my experience with the Kittens of Wildfell Hall! I'll be posting a little more about cats I foster but don't worry, lots of book posts too!
Aren't they just the cutest? 

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