Books that I’m excited to read this year

Last year was great for my reading list, which I posted here. I think reading as much as I did last year helped my mental health and the clarity of my mind, especially some of the cognitive symptoms I suffer from with my chronic condition. I should say I’m not advocating for all chronic sufferers to read as much as possible by no means – that is incredibly damaging. I’m merely saying my reading whether it be a few pages of a chunky book, some light poetry or even an audio book on bad days, when I physically couldn’t read or even hold a book, really helped me get through the year. It’s a mixture of this, the escapism books gave me through the year, and some of the books I have received that have got me so excited for this year of reading; and with that I wanted to share some of them here.

Flower Crowns & Fearsome Things, Amanda Lovelace: I recently received this in the post, have had a brief flip through it and I’m so excited to get into this read. I do love a bit of Lovelace’s work so I can’t wait to see what this book has in store.

Catherine de Medici, Leonie Frieda: This has been on my shelf for some time. Long time readers will know that I love a fierce, trailblazing female from history and I do usually have a history read on the go at any given time. Last year I read a few reads like this but I’d say my last big, chunky ‘fierce-female‘ book was probably The Favourite so I think it’s about time we change that. I also have been holding off reading this for a while too as I listen to a lot of podcasts featuring historical women, like Queens Podcast, Vulgar History, & The History Chicks, all of which I think have done episodes on Catherine de Medici so I needed time for that information to kinda fizzle away in my brain to truly enjoy reading this book. I think now is the time!

Mostly Hero, Anna Burns: I love these little books – they are so perfectly sized for my small handbag and so ideal to just pull out to read whenever. I try to look for these little guys whenever I’m in a bookstore but I do have a few on my shelf I need to catch up on reading: this being one of them.

101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think, Brianna Weist: I have started to read this one. I’m about three or four essays into it and so far it’s an interesting read. The essays do vary in length and subject matter so it looks quite promising.

Pillow Thoughts IV & All Dogs Are Good, Courtney Peppernell: As I have mentioned on this space before, I love Peppernell’s work – especially her Pillow Thoughts Series and I recently read her book Watering the Soul so I’m definitely on a ‘Peppernell-kick‘.

We Can Do Better Than This: 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ Rights, Amelia Abraham (Editor): This was a total impulse buy. I had never heard of this book but found it in the book section of Tkmaxx and it was reduced. I love the sound of it and I think it’ll be such an enlightening read.

The Gift of Everything, Lang Leav: Having read a few more of Lang Leav’s books I’m definitely noticing that I enjoy and relate to her more recent work more so than her work at the beginning of her career so I’m really eager to read this newest addition.

The Story of Beatrix Potter: Her Enchanting Work and Surprising Life, Sarah Gristwood: Beatrix Potter has been the ultimate role model for me since I was about six or seven. My family has friends in the Lake District who we’ve visited throughout my life and been to the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction quite a few times. I’ve also read so much about her life over that time too, so I feel like this might overlap with a lot of the knowledge I already have about her but I simply couldn’t resist this one. I hadn’t heard of this book until the man queuing in front of me at Waterstones had it and I did kinda pounce on him (…in a socially distanced way) to ask what the title was.

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, Paul Koudounaris: Odd, I know. I bought this with a Christmas voucher and I’m already half way through the first chapter. It’s such a fascinating read. The title and visual of the cover make it sound a lot more odd than what it actually is. It goes into the Catholic faith and how these figures, believed to be martyrs, were being used as relics after the protestant reformation. I have to say it has been far more interesting than I expected when I first purchased it.

There we have it. A few books that I’m so so so excited to read this year. These are just a handful I have selected, I do have more strewn around my room but these are the ones that immediately come to mind when I think about the books in my year ahead. I also have my eye on a few titles being released this year such as the impending seventh book in the Frey & McGray Series as well as the final book in the you are your own fairytale trilogy by Amanda Lovelace unlock your storybook heart so no doubt those will be mentioned here soon.

Let me know what you’re excited to read this year – I’d love to find some more for my list!

Cheerio for now!

Books I Read in 2021

2021 was a great year of reading for me. I really hit a great stride with my reading and the books I came across. Like my reading in 2020, I read a fair bit of poetry and discovered some new writers who I already have a list of their books that I want to read for 2022. I definitely delved into a lot of works other than plain old fiction which I am proud of and think I did a really good job of not only hitting my (altered) reading goal of 50 books, but surpassing it by doing 52 – proud bookworm!

So without further ado, these were my reads of 2021…

the princess saves herself in this one, Amanda Lovelace: I loved this book. It is the first Lovelace work I have read and the first in the Women are Some Kind of Magic trilogy. I went into the details a bit more here.

Burning the Books: a History of Knowledge Under Attack, Richard Ovenden: I mentioned this at end of last years reading list – it was a granddad-recommendation and was a really interesting read. I thought it would be good but I didn’t anticipate just how much I would enjoy it which was a pleasant surprise.

The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern: Ugh, this book. I have done a book review here on this one so you can read a bit more detail about it and my thoughts over there but I will just say this book for me was a bit of a let down. There were elements I loved and then ones that just didn’t work for me which was a little disappointing considering The Night Circus is one of my all-time favs.

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, Amanda Lovelace: This book is the second in the Women are Some Kind of Magic trilogy and it was both my favourite and least favourite in the trio. I’ve gone into it in more detail here but briefly, while I loved the female empowerment in it it sometimes overstepped that boundary line into ‘man-hating’ which I’m not a fan of.

The Binding, Bridget Collins: A huuuuge let-down and just overall disappointment. This book had been hyped up to be something that it just weren’t for me but I do have a post coming out soon which goes into the details in more depth.

The Mermaids Voice Returns in This One, Amanda Lovelace: The third in the Women are Some Kind of Magic trio and yes, it’s also detailed in this post here with the other two. While I enjoyed this last instalment to the trio, I would say that I wasn’t as connected to this material as the other two and that definitely clouded my enjoyment of it slightly.

Falling Toward the Moon, R.H. Sin & Robert M. Drake: I enjoyed this second collab but nowhere near as much as the first one, Empty Bottles Full of Stories. It just didn’t seem to be as poignant as the first and definitely stayed on the surface level for me rather than delving into deeper thoughts and feelings.

The Timekeeper, Mitch Albom: This was a good read, a bit of a slow-burner and a bit choppy at times with the pacing but it still made for a good read. It followed three storylines connected by time and the timekeeper, and just held so many nuggets of wisdom that made you stop, think and feel throughout.

September Love, Lang Leav: Beautiful -yet another amazing addition to Lang Leav’s catalogue of published works. Her words are eloquent and personal but yet relevant and relatable. I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future.

2am Thoughts, Makenzie Campbell: This was okay-sh. It had some relatable and interesting entries to it but as a whole was a collection of one-liners and sentences strung together haphazardly rather than thought-out poetry.

within these four walls, mindfully Evie: This was a tough read for me at times. I went into it in more depth in this post here. As someone with the same diagnosis as Evie at times her writing stepped over into the ‘sh!t this is a bit too real for me‘ area and reading is a form of escapism for me, so it probably wasn’t the most enjoyable however I think it would be a great read for anyone. I would especially recommend this to those who are family members of a chronically-ill person because it would truly be enlightening for them.

The Dance of the Serpents, Oscar de Muriel: Right lets try not to overwrite this absolute gem of a book… Now, I have a book post here reviewing it in more detail but all I will say here is 5/5 stars from me. The ending messed with me a little but it didn’t take any enjoyment away from my experience of this book. I cannot wait until the seventh and final book to series (for now) comes out in February this year (…just realising that is next month -eeep!).

The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Ophelia Fields: a very informative and well-researched read but it was quite stiff and dragged in large areas. It was also a bit too long for my liking. There were times when I thought I was reading something that was relevant to what comes next but in reality it was just more information in case you wanted it. I had to finish this through audible or I just wouldn’t have finished it.

break your glass slippers (you are your own fairy tale), Amanda Lovelace: Ugh, this book. This is the first in Lovelace’s you are your own fairy tale trio and this has to be, hands down my favourite of her works. It absolutely oozes female empowerment throughout with its consistent use of fairy tales, princesses and the reoccurring use of fairy godmother says. This is a wonderful start to Lovelace’s new trio.

Long Live the Queens: Mighty, Magnificent and Bloody Marvellous Monarchs History’s Forgotten, Emma Marriott: This book is mentioned in my Favourite Historic Reads Lately post and has a lot more detail about it there. I did enjoy this book. It’s very much like What Would Boudicca Do? (detailed in my Mistresses of Cliveden & Other Historic Great Reads here) with the same short, easy-to-read chunks of info and even some cross-overs with the ladies involved except Long Live the Queens is strictly Queens.

Intimations: Six Essays, Zadie Smith: a bit of an impulse buy at the Waterstones check out but what a wonderful impulsive buy it was! Absolutely beautiful collection of writing full of little vignettes from throughout 2020. Really quite stunning and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of reading it. I went into more detail about it in this post here.

Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes: An interesting read but somewhat too academic for my liking. I did enjoy some chapters more than others and went through it all here, in this post.

Twilight, Stephanie Meyer: ugh. a reread and total journey of nostalgia but so so good. Sometimes it’s just good to reread certain books – this took me back to when I first read it, as a twelve-year-old girl trying to fit into secondary school whilst also trying to figure out if I was team Edward or team Jacob.

New Moon, Stephanie Meyer: another reread of course. I actually have the LP of the movies soundtrack which I absolutely love so I did crack that out whilst reading a few times.

No Shame, Tom Allen: This book was brilliant. I would say it’s up there with my favourites this year and I even had to get it on audible too just to hear Tom Allens voice narrate his hilarious words to me. It was so insanely good and beyond hilarious! Ugh, I could talk forever about this book but I’ll just redirect you to this post here where I got to gush about it a bit more.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern: Another reread but at this point I think I revisit this book annually now. It’s my absolute favourite and I don’t think I will ever get tired of its magic (post here).

I hope you stay, Courtney Peppernell: As you’ll go on to read, I have really enjoyed and fallen in love with Peppernell’s work this year but this one wasn’t as enjoyable as the others I have read. I would still recommend it but it just wasn’t my favourite.

shine your icy crown, Amanda Lovelace: A good second book to the new trio, you are your own fairy tale, but not groundbreakingly impressive. Having said that, this also had the same sense of female empowerment and unity as break your glass slippers; I especially liked the Big Sister Says pieces.

Make Your Bed; small things that can change your life and maybe the world, Admiral William H. McRaven: a reread but still as poignant as my first read. This was enjoyable and gave me a bit of an oomph that I needed around a certain part of the year.

Where hope comes from; poems of resilience, healing and light, Nikita Gill: While there were some gems in this one, I felt like I weren’t ready for this book. It has a lot of pieces wrote and inspired by 2020 and the pandemic that were absolutely beautiful but also heartbreaking; and a bit too familiar and recent for me to enjoy. I went into more detail about this one here.

The Virago book of wicked verse, Jill Dawson: a total fluke of a find (I stumbled upon this at a secondhand bookstore) and a total gem it is. A great collection of poetry from wonderful women.

Pillow Thoughts II: Healing the heart, Courtney Peppernell: Not quite as good as the first Pillow Thoughts book but it did have some beautiful pieces and themes to it which I really enjoyed.

Pillow Thoughts III: Mending the Mind, Courtney Peppernell: This is where my enjoyment and love for Peppernell’s work really picked up and gained traction. She just has such a way with her words, both depicting and conjuring emotions which is really quite a beautiful process to read.

Your Heart is The Sea, Nikita Gill: A great addition to my growing Nikita Gill collection but not my favourite by her (post here).

The Road Between, Courtney Peppernell: I enjoyed this book but I think I enjoy the Pillow Thoughts series much more. I did like how this was sectioned into chunks that related to nature though.

Queens: 3,000 years of the most incredible women in history, Victoria Crossman: This one is probably targeted towards a younger demographic than me but I still did really enjoy it. I especially loved how it factored in mythical queens and indigenous chiefs such as Biawacheeitchish but I went into this all in my post here.

The Truth About Magic, Atticus Poetry: Some nice pieces but not up there with my favourites of the year. I would definitely revisit this in the years to come though – it seems like a body of work that would age well.

The Crossroads of Should and Must, Elle Luna (reread): I revisited this book alongside doing a Skillshare course by Elle Luna which made it all the more enjoyable to read.

Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald: A nice collection of some of Fitzgerald’s shorter fictional works. The Tale of Benjamin Button was included which was a really great read, especially given that I had only ever seen the film before.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury: ugh. so. bloody. good. I do have a post coming out with all my thoughts about this beautiful book. It was so much more than I could have ever expected and I anticipate it will be an annual autumn read for me from here on out.

Poems Dead and Undead (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series) by Tony Barnstone, Michelle Mitchell-Foust and various poets: a collection of spooky poems by poets, both known and unknown to me and from a variety of centuries which made it more of an interesting read.

Christmas Light: Ten Poems for Dark Winter Nights by Various Authors, Candlestick Press: a quick, but festive read from Candlestick Press – I mentioned it here, in my Christmas Reads for this Season.

Lamentation, C. J. Sansom: a recommendation from my grandfather. This is the sixth in the Shardlake series (I think) but I had no previous reading or knowledge of that fact. It was a slow burner but had so many plot twists and was a really great historical fiction read.

A Family Under the Christmas Tree, Terri Reed: I mentioned this book in this post and also gave it it’s own review here so I don’t want to repeat myself but I will say that I enjoyed the festive and romantic vibes it gave off.

Shy: How Being Quiet Can Lead to Success, Annie Ridout: I am currently working on a post dedicated to this book. While there was some surface-level stuff in this, it also had so much great information and gems of advice that I really want to highlight and share so stay tuned for that!

Poems for Christmas, (Macmillan Collector’s Library), Various Authors: a beautiful little collection of cozy poems for the Christmas period. I was surprised by the amount of hymns and carols included in its print but of course a lot of songs come from written poetry. I touched on this here.

7,300 Days, Isabella Mente: some beautiful pieces on depression and self-love but outweighed by traumatic and somewhat over-sexualised poetry for my own personal taste. My copy was also a used one with musings scribbled in pencil by the previous owner which made my reading so much more magical.

Magic Lessons, Alice Hoffman: This was an okay-ish read. It had elements that I really loved but there were other parts of the plot line that I could not get on board with at all. I haven’t read the four books that come after this though so maybe I’ll give those a go.

Introducing Marx, Rius: Having visited Highgate Cemetery (post to come!), my grandfather lent me this utter gem. This was such a great read! I felt so enlightened after reading this.

The Space Between Us: Poetry & Prose, Courtney Peppernell & Zack Grey: ugh. This book was amazing. I don’t know how I have never read any of Zack Grey’s work before but I need to get my hands on more of his stuff pronto! I will be going into this more in an upcoming post but it was amazing.

“Why is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” (All The Wrong Questions #4), Lemony Snicket: a long-awaited read of mine – the fourth and final in the All The Wrong Questions series. This is more in the children’s literature demographic but my A Series of Unfortunate Events nostalgic heart had to give this series a read. It wasn’t the ending that I wanted but it was definitely good to tie up loose ends and complete the series.

The Purple Palace and Other Poems, Shayna Klee: Not what I expected – and we’ll leave it at that.

The Society of the Crossed Keys: Selections From the Writings of Stefan Zweig, Inspirations for the Grand Budapest Hotel, Stefan Zweig, Wes Anderson & Anthea Bell: An anthology of pieces by Stefan Zweig, the writer whose pieces inspired Wes Andersons Grand Budapest Hotel – a personal favourite of mine. I will be going into this in more detail in an incoming post but it was very obvious to me what elements Anderson drew on the most for the film.

*Only Dull People are Brilliant at Breakfast, Oscar Wilde: a neat collection of the witticisms of Wilde and all that he embodied. A great little edition to keep on your person for light reading here and there. This was completed a few days into the new year so it is technically for next years list (oops) but I did start it this year.

*A Dance with Dragons 1: Dreams and Dust (A Song of Ice and Fire #5), George R. R. Martin: I started this book at the beginning of the year and I’m still yet to finish it – I know, it’s awful of me. I even got the audible to try make it more accessible and have less of an excuse not to read it but here we are so clearly that didn’t work out as planned. I will say that I am in the last quarter of it so you know, not far off but I really wanna get this done for 2022… and part 2!

I think for 2022 I want to read more books like Shy, the type of ones that help you grow and evolve a bit more but I would also love to read more informative, reference books. I already have a few to hand ready like this Art Nouveau one (I’m seeing the Klimt Immersive experience in August – covid permitting, so this will be a perfect read beforehand) and I also have a book called Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs which yes, I know sounds (and looks) weird but having read the first few pages already sounds absolutely fascinating so I cannot wait to devour that. I’m now wondering if I should write a To Be Read post… we’ll see. Anyways, I hope you all had a good year – particularly with your reading, watching, or whatever your thing is!

Cheerio for now!

Three Books by Nikita Gill

Nikita Gill is one of the first modern poets who’s work I delved into when I first started getting into poetry. I remember seeing some of her work online years ago but it weren’t until I read Wild Embers that I really became entranced by her words. As I’ve mentioned here before, I got into poetry during the very beginning of the pandemic, when the world stopped and emotionally I just felt numb; and consequently didn’t know what to do with myself. Nikita Gill’s Wild Embers: Poems of rebellion, fire and beauty served as a welcome distraction and so I escaped into a new world of modern poetry.

I wanted to share a few books by Gill that I’ve read and fell in love with over the past couple of years

Wild Embers Poems of rebellion, fire and beauty

As I mentioned above, this was my first experience of Gill’s work: a collection of both poetry and prose. There’s a strong sense of validation and empowerment to her work. The language is both gentle and fierce, charged with so much emotion whether it be recognition, anger, rage, love, empowerment… I could go on. I also think her choice of words works beautifully in this work as it’s lyrical and there’s a musicality to the language which is incredibly moving at times. I love the themes she uses, especially those of rebellion and revolution; they definitely light that fire in you which is such a powerful thing. I also really appreciate Gill’s comparisons to nature and universe, an ongoing tool she’s also used in her other works, and how it relates to our acceptance and growth in personal ways. I think I’d characterise this work as very much ‘self-care-poetry‘: I cannot tell you how much solace and comfort that it brought me.

I had such a huge appreciation for her revisited, or should I say rewritten, fairytales and goddesses in her writing. She slightly changes the classic tales from mythology and princesses to show them in a feminist light and highlight how toxic society can be – which was so refreshing and truly enjoyable to read. I hate to leave this section on a bad note but my only little niggle was the fact that it was slightly repetitive in areas. Rather than a growing development and ‘journey’ through the different themes, it became tiresome as it flipped back and forth and dwelled on some of them. Ultimately though, I would say that this is a great first read to test the waters with Gill’s work and I’d definitely recommend it to any avid poetry reader or poet themselves.

Where Hope Comes From: Poems of Resilience, Healing, and Light

This is Gill’s most recent book off poetry and my second read of her work. Written as the world went into lockdown, there’s strong themes of loneliness and mental health throughout it. I found it incredibly poignant as it explores so many emotions that we, as a collective society, experienced to such extremes through this period of time. It explored the moments of isolation, fear and despair, hopelessness and hurt, depression and darkness, and anxiety and exhaustion. As I mentioned previously Nikita Gill’s work always seems to have strong imagery of the universe throughout, but this book also included imagery of constellations and the universe which was a nice change. I think the majority of us had a tough time through the lockdowns especially the very beginning of the pandemic, however I think even if you had an easy time and breezed through it, you’d be hard pressed not to feel touched and emotional from Gill’s work depicting this time. I personally found it a bit too much at times. I read this as they started to slowly ease our third lockdown and while there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel, it definitely didn’t feel like we were out of the woods; so at times I had to put the book down for awhile to recharge before I could continue on.

I only had a few issues with this book. While I did find it inspirational and it created a sense of hope and optimism towards the end, at times it was a bit too spiritual and godly for my liking but I wouldn’t say this ruined my reading of the book as a whole. Also I’d say sometimes it read more so as affirmations than poetry which, while still powerful, wasn’t what I expected or wanted from this book.

Your Heart is the Sea

This is the most recent book of Gill’s work that I have read. I found it quite a cathartic read as it definitely explores a lot of wounds and trauma, especially that of mental health. I felt as though it took me to the darker, more damaged parts of myself and then gave me safe and more comforting words to heal. I definitely felt like this book was more of a journey than the other books above. It had a bit more melancholy to it and was very much a ‘wallow-hollow’; which looking back felt as though it tore you down to build you back up. Having said this, there’s a connection through the trauma and turmoil that these poems explore which I think many could relate to. It deals themes such as trauma, healing, self-care and hope so I think it would appeal to a wider range of readers, across all age-groups.

This book is split into eight sections, The Anguish, The Descent, The Acceptance, The Defiance, The Survival, The Worship, The Wonder, and The Beginning, which makes it a bit easier to pick up and put down as and when you need to. Gill also draws on the classic Greek Gods and mythology in The Worship section of this book too, such as Narcissus, the Minotaur, Athena & Medusa, Orpheus & Eurydice, etc, which is a nice layer to the book. Overall, I loved this book. The language was simple but used with such weighty subject matters and themes that it felt like an extremely profound experience. I think the simplicity of Nikita Gill’s language too adds to an effortless effect; it hits all the right notes without trying.

While I loved all of the books above, and no doubt will return to them at some point, I think Wild Embers was my favourite of Gill’s work so far however, that is probably more so to do with where we all were with the pandemic and how that started my love of modern poetry at the time. I look back on it fondly and even now still have a flick through it’s pages occasionally, reading a piece here and there. I’d recommend any of these works, or any of her other works too – she is truly talented!

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

Cheerio for now!

((If you are a Nikita Gill fan, I’d recommend you listen to her as a guest on the Saturn Returns with Caggie Podcast, hosted by Caggie Dunlop. I love the podcast anyway but listening to Nikita Gill talk about poetry as a form of self-expression and how you can create beautiful things through your more painful experiences was so inspiring. I’d definitely recommend you give it a listen)).

I Am Her Tribe, Danielle Doby

What started as an instagram and hashtag movement, connecting like-minded folk of all walks of life through the storytelling and empowering words of Danielle Doby comes I Am Her Tribe. A collection of poetry drawing on this movement and growing into a safe place to, as Doby puts it on one of her first pages, ‘come as you are. your breath can rest here’.

Doby has created a book of simple moments portrayed with simple words but which has a beguiling affect on its reader. At first glance or even a skim read, these pieces don’t seem to hold much substance but when you take the time to sit with them and truly allow yourself to be taken by each piece, and the language it uses, you allow yourself to be engulfed by the emotion her work can conjure and it’s an extraordinary process. There are moments that a piece requires a slow, more thoughtful read while other pieces command to be read with a sense of urgency, the weight and emotion of the words not truly sinking in until you’ve finished reading it. Doby’s pacing and choice of language is mesmerising, and truly beautiful to behold.

both soft + fierce

can coexist

and still be powerful

I Am Her Tribe, Danielle Doby p. 137

It’s unlike other poetry that I’ve read in that it feels not so much as an individuals voice but very much a collective voice of the masses. The feel of much of her work is one of empowerment and solidarity; especially that for women which feels even more poignant given the social context since the MeToo movement and more recently the case of Sarah Everard. The raw emotion and imagery she employs in her work is moving and, while it covers many themes such as self-love, healing, and personal growth, it’s very much one of inner peace. There’s such an overwhelming sense of peace when you read her works. I personally love the astrological sign ending to the book which for me ends your reading on a more personal note – a beautiful touch.

Now I don’t want to be a Debbie-Downer and end of a negative note but I have one qualm with this book which is the cover. My copy is a matte white cover with a slight embossed title repeated several times and the authors name, all in white. While aesthetically it is somewhat cute to me, it is also becoming kinda dirty and quick to mark/scuff in all manner of ways which is infuriating to me. I love to revisit my poetry collection whenever I feel drawn to delving back into the authors work and I often take whatever book I’m in the middle of wherever I go with me so this does not bode well for this cover at all and makes me a little apprehensive to reread in the future. I also wonder how inclined readers would be to read it if they picked up a copy at that bookstore to find it a little grubby before they’ve even bought it. There that’s my nit-picking over with.

Have you read Doby’s work? What did you think?

Cheerio for now!

A Family Under the Christmas Tree, Terri Reed

Now, I mentioned this book in my Christmas Films post recently. I originally saw the film, Picture a Perfect Christmas on the movie channel in 2019 and loved it. I watched it again last Christmas and recently showed my mom it too – in a bid to get her excited and convince her that we should start decorating in late October. It weren’t until a month ago that I even realised it was based off a book and immediately I had to get my hands on a copy.

This festive tale revolves around Sophie Griffith and David Murphy, along with a few others. Sophie is a photographer whose job takes her all over the globe and while waiting for her next gig to be finalised, she’s helping her injured grandma Louise over the holidays. As she arrives in Washington state to lend a helping hand she meets David Murphy, Louise’s neighbour. Other than being outrageously attractive to Sophie, David is guardian to Troy his six-year-old nephew who Louise often helps with. Throughout her stay Sophie finds herself growing closer to the Murphy men with the help of their festive activities along with the meddling matchmaking of Louise. While they’re both attracted to one another, with Sophie about to jet off with her next assignment and David running his company and caring for Troy, surely it’s a non-starter but can they manage to make it work?

I read this book within two evenings – a personal best, I might add. It is light-hearted and full of all those festive warm and fuzzies. One thing I loved about this book is that it’s told from both Sophie and Davids point of view. That was really refreshing and just gave the story a bit more to it. Reed also does a wonderful job of capturing that chemistry and electricity between two people who are attracted to one another. I thought the ending was cute but a little vague and quick for my liking.

I found the story and characters a bit surface-level. There was a lot of potential to tap into, especially with the themes of grief and trauma which could’ve been explored so much more. I think the instant attraction between the characters made the whole ‘we can’t be together’ conflict a bit weaker especially in comparison to the strength of the attraction. This is something I preferred in the film: Sophie has a boyfriend Brent which is the obvious reason why she can’t be with David, even though something is there between them.

I’m glad I read this book and would definitely recommend to anyone who wants a light-hearted, festive romance but I think I preferred the film and will probably stick to that in the future.

Have you watched the movie or read the book, or both? What did you think?

Cheerio for now!

Things I’ve found solace in lately | pt. 5

While there’s moments when life feels ‘back to normal‘, I find myself feeling in flux still. I’ve enjoyed seeing and catching up with friends again (safely) and I’m so looking forward to the festive season beginning but I’m also enjoying having those safe moments in the comfort of my own home and just chilling out. Maybe it’s the November version of me – I always seem to hibernate a little during November as a way of trying to build up some energy and enjoy the peace before the madness of Christmas begins. It’s a moment of rest and serenity for me although, it is usually littered with a few Christmas shopping trips or some ‘brainstorming‘ for gifts. In these moments of rest I’ve really been enjoying my more creative hobbies/past-times so I wanted to share a few of my favourites with you lovely lot.

Colouring books – Without sounding like a total kid, when it came to my birthday I asked for quite a few colouring books. I really enjoy popping on a podcast or something on audible and colouring for an hour or two. It’s so peaceful and relaxes me so much that I really lent into that when it came to my boyfriend wanting present ideas. He got me a Twilight one (team Edward foreverrr!) and a Schitts Creek one. I love both of them and they’re great additions to the ones I have on my shelf too -like Gilmore Girls, Game of Thrones, and Tim Burton. As it happens, my mother also got me a Beetlejuice one which was such a surprise -I’m a bit of a darker one when it comes to my favourite films so I’m shocked she would even know what to look for.

knit kits – I found a real love of knitting during the pandemic. I learnt years ago but never found the time to pursue the craft properly and then an international pandemic came along and helped me out. I spent most of 2020 knitting, even knitting at least one thing for everyone in my life for Christmas, and now it’s got to the point where I feel a little lost if I’m not working through a project at any given time. In all honesty, I’m usually knitting items for other people so this year there’s been a few things on my list to knit for myself. Lauren Aston does some incredible knit kits, some of which I have done already but I listed some on my Wishlist and was lucky enough to receive the Santa hat one from my boyfriends parents. I have actually done this one before but I did it for my mom and knew I wanted one for myself but never got around to doing it. So after receiving this gem, I stuck on a Christmas film (during Halloween, might I add) and got to knitting it, with hot chocolate to hand too.

Last Christmas I actually made a point of knitting something for almost everyone in my life, which was insanely hectic. Although, I’m not making that commitment this year, I will no doubt be enjoying knitting a few bits leading up to and over the Christmas period… I would actually love to share a few things I’ve knitted with you all so stay tuned for that!

Books! I’ve been spending a lot of time reading lately. Whether it be through audible or curling up with an actual book, I’ve really enjoyed it lately. I think the cooler weather really stirs up the need and desire to just immerse myself into fictional places. I’ve also really been diving into my reading list lately as I completed my Goodreads reading challenge during October and while it was lovely it felt a little disheartening. I should’ve done it far higher. I made my challenge for 36 books for 2021, thinking that 3 books at month will be a challenge -I should say that I think I made it a lower number because I was reading chunkier books at the time like those by George. R. R. Martin. I have since edited it to 45 but I’m already 4 books ahead of schedule and it’s early November as I write this so I think next year I’ll have to take the plunge and just go for the full 50! Anyway, because of all these contributing factors I have been absolutely loving my books lately. The books I’ve been reading will appear on my end of year roundup and no doubt, you’ll see a few reviews here soon.

What have you been enjoying lately? Let me know

Cheerio for now!

Gothic Classics perfect for Autumn and Winter

While I love revisiting Christmas tales like A Christmas Carol and taking comfort in festive poetry over the Christmas period, I also enjoy taking solace in some darker reads too. There’s nothing quite like reading a book from the gothic or horror genre when the weather is often reflecting those gloomy landscapes the writer is also portraying. It’s the perfect mix. Throw in a blanket, some candles and a brew of your choice and you’ve got yourself a winner!

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

A dark classic within the horror genre, with themes such as vanity, selfishness and cruelty, this classic is definitely a tale of corruption and makes for the perfect read during the darker months. The prose and language is incredibly lyrical which, for me, made the plot line so digestible and fast-paced. I won’t go into the plot line too much as it is a classic that many of us know well however, I would like to point out that this isn’t in the horror genre due to it’s relation to monsters or the supernatural (as such), I would say it’s more so in this genre as it showcases the horror and cruel acts at the hands of a human. The display of Gray’s personal traits and how this effects the events that unfold are quite startling, and are what adds to and plays into the horror. I do have an old post on this book here, although it is rather old now so do forgive me.

Dracula, Bram Stoker

The ultimate vampire story of all time – how could I not include this gem here?! I know I recently mentioned this book in my Dark Reads for October post so I won’t ramble on as I’d truly be repeating myself. All I will say is that this is, to my mind, the original vampire story and set against the backdrops of locations such as castles in the middle of the mountains and Whitby Abbey perched upon the hilltop, mausoleums and graveyards, to mansion homes – it’s so eerie and perfect for cozy evenings.

The Hound of Baskervilles & The Valley of Fear, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I personally find a mystery, let alone one set against a creepy location, perfect for this time of year. The Hound of Baskervilles is very similar to that of a Scooby-Doo episode. The structures are identical. A secluded location with little to no inhabitants in the area, some form of monster or evil reeking havoc on the locals, some sort of warning or signal to leave, a couple chance meetings with that monster or form of evil which then turns out to be someone taking advantage of local myths and legends to capitalise on something they can get from it, usually wealth or power. This is the structure of the Hound of Baskervilles story but a bit darker in areas and so much more atmospheric. I’d highly recommend it to anyone, its language is straightforward and it’s not too long a read either. The Valley of Fear on the other hand, while I know that I have read it I can’t remember the plot line for the life of me.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, like Dracula, is seen as the pioneering classic for all ‘creations-come-to-life’ tales that followed. Again, many know the tale of the scientist Frankenstein whose creation comes to life and seemingly haunts him in his quest for purpose. Set against the backdrops of the Swiss Alps and Mont Blanc, the collegiate city of Ingolstadt Germany, the desolate artic landscape, and the wild, sparsely populated Orkney Islands. Shelley’s writing is expertly paced and has such a musical quality in parts. The imagery of the outcast creation is beyond beautiful and the language she uses evokes such emotion in it’s reader you do sometimes have to remind yourself that ‘yes, this is the monster everyone dresses up as when Halloween comes‘. You can’t help but feel heartbroken for the orphaned creation trying to find a purpose in his life as he scours the land in a state of loneliness.

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux

Like Dracula, I did only mention this book recently in my Dark Reads for October so I won’t bore you with my musings all over again, you can find them here. The tale of a lonely phantom-figure terrorising and causing mysterious happenings in a grand, opulent opera house is one that thrills my bookworm heart. The writing and imagery Leroux conjures is exceptional, paired with the backdrops of dressing rooms, theatre boxes and a bustling theatre with secret passageways and mezzanine labyrinths is exquisite. I cannot recommend this book enough for these cooler months ahead.

There, those are just a handful of my gothic, slightly darker classics for the winter months upon us. Let me know if there’s any that you would add or what you’re favourite winter read is – I’d love to know.

Cheerio for now!

Women are some kind of magic, Amanda Lovelace

The Women Are Some Kind of Magic boxset of books was something I had wanted for some time when I received it at Christmas from my partner. I’d say while I enjoyed some poetry here and there, I really got into it last year as the pandemic hit. Quite frankly poetry was the only thing that calmed my mind enough to go to sleep after hearing the evening news or weekly briefings from our government, which often included some form of statistically charts. This would have my head on a never ending merry-go-round of anxiety which then would hinder any chance of those sweet zzzz’s.

I had already found the beautiful work of Lang Leav (post to come on that gem of a wordsmith) but it took me awhile to find Amanda Lovelace. Now I could fob you all off and say I was busy with other books but ima be real – I had seen her books before, even had a flick through and really didn’t feel drawn to her material. I go off gut instinct and magnetism a lot whilst looking at books/materials by ‘new-to-me’ authors, and that just wasn’t there. Cut to when everything had opened up and those statistic figures soared again in the autumn/winter, I felt entirely different and that’s how I ended up being blessed with some of her work for Christmas.

Women Are Some Kind of Magic is a trio of books including; the princess saves herself in this one, the witch doesn’t burn in this one, and the mermaid voice returns in this one. Now, overall Lovelace’s work is beautiful. Her words have a rawness and authenticity to the emotion behind them that I don’t think anyone could fake or even try to emulate. I will say also, they are incredibly direct and definitely don’t beat around the bush. Lovelace tells it and tells it straight, and I’m sure that can be a bit jarring for some readers but I absolutely loved it. The three books compliment one another really well yet each brings something entirely different and could stand alone.

the princess saves herself in this one

This was the first book I read by Lovelace. It was a perfect taster of her work to come; just an overall beautifully curated book. I find her work definitely has a darker tone and subject matter but I found this book (like her others) has a narrative journey to follow throughout the course of the book. Her work in this book is very much centred on the themes of pain and healing, love and loss, and the overall idea of female power, or lack there of in certain situations. I will say that the tone lightens towards the end which makes the experience of reading it a bit of an emotional ride but one that has you wanting more of her work.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one

Now this addition to the trio was both my favourite and least favourite all at once. It’s main theme I would say is female empowerment and resilience in the face of judgment, mistreatment and even abuse. The imagery this book conjured in my mind was exquisite. The whole concept of individuals or a coven of women as a whole rising from the flames, even being emboldened by them is an attractive one for me. When I say it is also my least favourite, what I mean by that is that some of the poems are just a tad too angsty and almost man-hating for me. I don’t like using that word at all because I think feminists are unjustly labelled that far too often however there is truly no other way I can illustrate how I feel. Some of the poems just tip-toe on that boundary for me. Having said that, some of her poems in this book are among my favourite pieces of her work and just portray such feminine wisdom; one that I’d love every coven of strong women to possess.

the mermaid’s voice returns in this one

This final instalment to the collection was filled with a lot of pain and scars from abuse, especially that surrounding sexual abuse. As the poems progress, Lovelace takes you through the emotions from abuse and the memories that follow, and then ultimately the healing that comes after. The last section was probably my favourite. Labelled as the surviving, this portion of the book reels in a vaiety of other poets, all women, who’s work comes together to champion the overall message of the book we have a voice and we will use it. This book definitely came at a perfect time in our social culture and I think had so much more depth to the content given the #MeToo movement. I will say that while I enjoyed this book, I didn’t feel as connected to the material in it like I had with the previous books; and I would say because of this, it does not stand out to me as much.

I would also like to point out that while all these books are wonderful, some of the themes are quite grown up so I would give it a read before gifting to a young person or maybe even ask their parents/guardians. All of these books come with a trigger warning at the beginning of each of them so I would be mindful of that. Regardless of all of this, I would definitely recommend this trio of books to anyone interested in poetry, especially modern poetry or free verse.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know.

Cheerio for now!

Favourite Historic Reads Lately

This year I have read quite a few historic reads, which you’ll now doubt get the low-down about in my year round up of what I have read. I’m the type of person that works through a few books at the same time and I always have at least one historic read on the go. I wanted to share a few of the most recent ones here today and a few of my thoughts about them. I do have penchant for those feisty feminist rulers and the women who paved the way for us today so I do think my historical books definitely reflect that -especially todays group of books I want to share. If that sounds like your sort of thing then I hope you enjoy!

Long live the queens: Mighty, Magnificent and Bloody Marvellous Monarch’s History’s forgotten, Emma Marriott.

This book has a very similar format to What Would Boudicca Do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women but strictly Queens and Monarchs. It included some queens I already knew about like Catherine of Aragon, Matilda of Flanders, Zenobia, Queen Anne, etc, but it also introduced me to a whole host of leading ladies who I may have heard their names briefly but never delved into their stories such as Queen Elfrida, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen and Caroline of Brunswick. The layout of this book makes the information super easy to digest in bitesize chunks which is great for giving a brief overview into these ladies lives and what they did, but it wouldn’t be well suited for those who want a detailed account. I’d recommend this a great jumping off point to use almost like a catalog if you’re looking for a new queen to learn about. You can simply have a read through this book and find the perfect queen. I must mention, this book also has a great light-hearted, comedic tone to it which helps keep the information breezy and easy to read.

Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes.

This book is split into sections, with every Greek woman having her own chapter to explore her story and then comment on it. I enjoyed this book but it was far more academic than I thought it would be. What I mean by that is while it was informative and an enjoyable read there were times when it felt a bit too critical, especially when it came to relating to another source commenting on that given woman. I think my favourite chapters in this book were those relating to Penelope, Medusa and the Amazons.

Queens: 3,000 Years of the Most Powerful Women in History, Victoria Crossman

Queens was such a quick, informative read. It’s a lot like Long Live the Queens as it gives bitesize bits of information however, this book has an entirely different layout and gives information from all areas of these fierce women’s lives; accompanied by beautifully, vibrant illustrations.This book covers such a huge range and variety of Queens from world history. It has mythic, majestic queens like Queen Gunnhild and the Queen of Sheba to Royal Rebels and sword-wielding queens like the Trung sisters and Isabella of Castille. It also has ruthless rulers such as Ranavalona I of Madagascar, Mary I and Biawacheeitchish (a name I had never heard of and want to learn so much more about this talented woman). One thing I really loved too is that the book doesn’t just mention what these women did in their lives but it also highlights other elements of their lifestyles such as royal hobbies they partook in, how they were portrayed on their currencies, crowns and jewels of their reign, royal residencies, and even the royal beauty regimes. I especially loved the beauty regimes section. Reading about Empress Dowager Cixi and how she was rumoured to have used a small jade roller to massage her face to maintain her youthful looks was really interesting to me.

I always love these types of compilation books. There’s always some popular names which I’ve read about numerous times but as every author brings a new perspective, there’s inevitably names that I’ve never heard of and love learning about. I will say that this book has such a diverse group of women which I have never encountered before. I think a lot of books focus on Queens and influential figures from the Western world, and this book has really highlighted that fact for me. From this book I’ve now heard of queens like Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba, Razia Sultana the first Muslim female to reign over Delhi, the Jamaican heroine Queen Nanny, the Mayan warrior queen Lady K’abel, The African leader Yaa Asantewaa and the ambitious Empress Myeongseong.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these books.

Cheerio for now!

Dark Reads for October

With the evenings drawing in earlier and the temperature dropping, October is the perfect time to take comfort in something cozy and warm, and preferably a really great book. I personally love darker reads all year round. There’s something about a darker theme that keeps its reader more on edge and enthralled with its plot. While I love finding new reads like this, I have quite a collection that I love to return to around this time of the year and wanted to share a handful of them with you.

The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell.

I won’t go into too much detail with this book as I wrote a review for it here however, this is a great Victorian ghost story that is beautifully written by Laura Purcell. It includes a gothic crumbling mansion, a newly-married/newly-widowed/newly-pregnant protagonist, a locked room with a two-hundred-year old diary within and painted wooden figures who’s eyes seem to follow all around them. This book is full of suspense and suspicion, threat and violence, all cloaked with a grim and gothic atmosphere. A perfect spooky read for around Halloween.

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton.

Again, I have a more in-depth review here for this addition. Newly-married Nella Brandt, finds herself gifted a magnificent dolls cabinet which not only is a replica of her new home but she’s also told to furnish it to her hearts delight. Soon after, an elusive miniaturist starts sending Nella pieces for her cabinet which start to predict the events around her. With each piece of furniture and figurine uncovering secrets of her new life, she soon starts to grasp the peril of the surrounding events that could endanger her and those around her. Set in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam, during the Dutch Golden Age of the seventh century, Burton’s research adds such a grim and authentic tone to the plot lines. While it is in essence a rather sad tale, the mystery surrounding the craftsmanship of the miniaturist is so gripping that I find it perfect for this time of year.

Dracula, Bram Stoker.

Here’s another little review from back in the day. We all know the story -even if we’ve never read it ourselves. Dracula is probably the most well-known vampire story; setting a benchmark for those to follow. I like to think of it as not so much a novel or story but a collection of journal entries, letters and articles; so it’s very much a epistolary form of literature. Each piece serves to create a suspenseful tale of horror and macabre that has lasted the test of time. I personally love the details of the locations; the howling wolves, remote castles, and cryptic strange figures. It’s just overall a wonderfully gothic tale that I think is perfect for this time of year.

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux.

This is one of my favourite books. The idea of a lonely phantom-figure terrorising an opulent theatre bustling with life and culture, causing mysterious accidents and murders along with feats of almost magic is such a beautiful concept to me. Leroux also makes the theatre so vividly enchanting. The descriptions of clandestine meetings, secret passageways, terrified ballerinas, empty theatre boxes, an underground mezzanine labyrinth, and snowy rooftops make for a gothic tale with such a chilling atmosphere. I think the thing that I love the most about this book is the overlap of real locations and real events in history that it was based of, mixed with the fictional tale make it more mysterious.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern.

Now this isn’t as dark as the others above however I’ve placed it here more so for the striking descriptions. It’s a beautiful tale of duelling magicians, bewitching feats and enchantments, red-scarfed rêveurs, set to the backdrop of a Victorian circus clad in black and white and only opens at nightfall. With a whole host of other characters and subplots, you can’t help but be entranced by this work. This book is full of rich details of the circus tents like ‘The Wishing Tree’, ‘The Ice Garden’, and the bewitching carousel complete with breathing gryffins. It has such vivid descriptions throughout. Morgenstern makes use of all the readers senses, setting an atmosphere and ambience full of festivities that feels tangible. It’s imagery is incredibly captivating and just adds something so magical to the story. I wish I could go into the plot more but I now I will struggle not to give spoilers. I do have a review link here – which I probably should update, so you may see a revision of that soon. And yes, I know I have too many copies of this book but I do absolutely love it!

Do you have any dark reads that you think are perfect for this time of year? Let me know

Cheerio for now!