Tag Archives: book reviews

bedside books

As much as I love my Kindle (it’s revolutionised my reading!), I don’t think anything can really replace having actual, real books to look at, hold and and lose yourself in. I love the sight of bookcases in houses and our sitting room bookcase, which is loaded with wedding presents (we asked for books that meant something to the giver :) ), makes me really happy. I also love having a pile of books on my bedside table and, given it’s about to be the summer holidays and you might be looking for book suggestions, I thought I’d share what’s currently sitting there with you. Maybe you can share what you’re reading with me too?

book pile

Nice looking stack, hey? Here we go – top to bottom:

The Space Between – Poems by Jonathan Barnes

This is a book of my Dad’s poetry. He’s a talented poet and I’m not at all biased in saying that! Oh, ok, I’m biased but I am also right. He has a gentle but powerful way with words. He gets to the truth of things the way all good poets do – his words always speak to me. Last night one of the poems in this collection made me cry. It’s a funny feeling reading the poetry of someone you know so well – you see more of their heart, mind and soul than you otherwise would, but at the same time it’s very much recognisably them too. Anyway, I love having poetry on my bedside table.

Moonfleet – by J Meade Falkner

This is an adventure story for kids (about pirates and smuggling), first published in 1898. It used to be hugely popular and has been made into a film and been adapted for TV and radio several times over the last sixty-odd years. My mum gave it to me recently for my eldest son (who’s just turned nine) to read. She said it was fantastic, that I should read it too and that it has in it the best chapter of any book she’s ever read. I’m hoping to read it soon!

Yes Please – by Amy Poehler

As a huge fan of the hilarious Parks and Recreation (in which she stars), I’ve been really enjoying reading Amy Poehler’s autobiography. She’s a really smart, funny and inspirational woman and it’s the sort of book where you’re constantly thinking ‘oh that’s a great quote!’ (check out this list for examples). I loved the preface where she describes her experience of writing the book (I know – the preface – you could say she had me at ‘hello’) and how hard it was, and not to believe that writing is anything but hard:

“Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.”

Yes, I know that hacking feeling! She’s very straightforward about it, saying that you just have to write, despite the other draws on your time and attention, and despite the voice of self doubt, because “Writing the book is about writing the book”.

The War of Art – by Steven Pressfield

My brother gave me this book for Christmas. It’s all about breaking through blocks and getting your work created. I read the first sections at the start of the year and was all, “Yes! I ‘m going to do this thing! Come on!” and I had a real creative surge for a good few months. Then I stopped reading the book – it was starting to get a bit religious and I couldn’t connect with it as much… even though the publishers pre-empted this possible reaction with a foreword written by an atheist. I haven’t gone back to it, but I will because there was so much in there that made sense.

How to Be a Husband – by Tim Dowling

I was lucky enough to meet Tim Dowling at a blogging conference last November. I can reveal that he is every bit as funny, honest and down-to-earth as his Guardian columns show him to be… and also a lot more handsome in person. I really was thrilled to meet him (could my excitement be any more obvious in this photo OF HIM WITH HIS ARM ROUND ME – I doubt it.) Anyway, sorry sidetracked there… the book… the book is also very funny. As with all non-fiction I tend to dip in and out of it (with a novel I always carry or I’d just forget the storyline) so I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I’m finding it honest, witty and wise.

Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times – edited by Neil Astley

This collection is absolutely what it claims to be: “500 life-affirming poems fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when much in the world feels unreal, inhuman and hollow.” My husband gave me the book last year and, frankly, this year the world has felt more ‘inhuman and hollow’ than ever (is anyone else wishing they could press the ‘reset button’ on 2016?). So this collection feels even more important now. I dip into it when I need to.

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft – by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

This is a graphic novel that my husband recommended to me. I’ve never read a graphic novel in my life and it’s about time I started. I think as a writer and wannabe illustrator it makes a whole heap of sense to explore a new area of writing (as a reader). I haven’t started this yet *feels guilty* but I will, I will, I will!

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes – by Chris Hadfield

Astronaut commander Chris Hadfield spent five months in 2013 aboard the international space station, where he used social media to capture the interest and imagination of millions of people world wide (I’m sure he was doing important astronaut work too… ). This is a book brim full of incredible pictures he took of earth from his vantage point in space, punctuated with his thoughts and observations – it’s amazing. My husband took our eldest son to meet Commander Hadfield last November so this is a special signed copy – a fact which makes me very happy!

So that’s my ‘dip in, dip out’ reading stack! What’s on your bedside book list? I’d love to hear any recommendations!

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Oh, and before I go – I think I’m going to step back a bit from my blog over the summer. I’m already down to just one post a week but time is going to be tight to even get that written, what with having three kids around the place, a diary that is fast (and happily) filling up with meet-ups with friends, and the fact that I want to draw where I can. I’m not saying I won’t post at all, I’m just saying it will be completely ad hoc. I’m going to pause #WhatImWriting over the summer too – I’ll write more about that in the linky post.

Have a great summer!

Writing Bubble

five great books I read in 2015

It’s nearly the end of the year and I’ve just been looking back at all the books I’ve read in 2015 (I do the vast majority of my reading on a kindle so it’s easy to keep track). I’ve had my reading ups and downs, both in terms of how many books I’ve read (some months I devour them, others I barely finish one) and how much I’ve enjoyed them, but there are certainly some gems within the pile.reading books

I’m going to share my ten favourites, but I’m too tired and full of mince pies to write them all up now. That would also make a hugely long post so I’ll stick with five now, and five more in a follow up post next week. Right, here goes:

Five great books I read in 2015

1. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

A funny, sad, frothy yet deep thriller-of-sorts set around the school gates. There’s been a death at a trivia night (I loved that premise – tragic yet ridiculous) and over the course of the novel we gradually learn the back story until finally finding out who died, how and why.

I totally loved this book – It made me laugh and cry. I thought the author tackled a serious issue with a very light touch making the book hugely readable and relatable while also being thought-provoking. You can read my review to find out more, but read it, go on, do!

2. The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson

A factual book which sees its author go in search of what means to be a psychopath, the idea being that they’re not all homicidal maniacs but people we may well meet in our daily lives.  Jon Ronson explores the particular attributes they have – many of which make them more likely to succeed in business and achieve positions of authority. Psychopaths may, in fact, rule the world.

This was a really fascinating book and the author makes a funny and engaging guide. Be warned though – after reading you’ll start seeing psychopaths everywhere… you might even be sitting next to one right now!

 3. The Pact – Jodi Picoult

A devastating love story which begins one terrible night when two families – who are neighbours and best friends – are told their teenage children (Chris and Emily) have been rushed to hospital after engaging in an apparent suicide pact. Only Chris has survived. But was it really suicide?

This was the first Jodi Picoult book I’ve ever read and I found it utterly compelling. The book follows survivor Chris through a court case while observing the impact Emily’s death has on both families. It also looks at the past where we see Chris and Emily as childhood friends who grow up to become lovers with good and bad things happening along the way. Gripping from start to finish.

4. The Quality of Silence – Rosamund Lupton

A chilling psychological thriller about a young deaf girl and her mother who, upon hearing that their dad/husband has gone missing in Alaska, set out to find him. The ice road they follow is dangerous, death could be around any corner, and someone is following them in the dark…

I love a good psychological thriller and this ticked all the boxes because despite the building air of dread, the central characters warm the heart. This book managed to be gripping and touching. To find out more, read this blog post.

5. Touch – Claire North

Kepler is a being who, with no body of his/her own, moves between the bodies of others, sometimes occupying them for years, other times for merely seconds. When someone tries to kill Kepler it triggers a decision to seek out who and why, and along the way a much bigger plot is revealed.

I read Claire North’s debut (under that pseudonym anyway) novel – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – last year and it blew me away. This follow up thriller didn’t hit quite the heights of that book (basically an impossible task) but was nevertheless a compelling read. It was epic yet personal in just the way the first book was. If you’ve not read Harry August, do, and if you have, then read this too!

That’s it for now – I’m going to put my feet up and watch CSI. Another five recommendations to follow soon!

Happy (nearly) New year!