7 Reasons To Pick Up A Book Right Now

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Whether you are new to reading, or just in a bit of a slump, I’ve come up with a few reasons why you should pick up that next book. I’ve just come out of a reading slump myself, I was feeling a bit uninspired and not sure what to read next, so I’ve decided to compile a list of the best reasons to pick up a book in the first place.

You might learn something new

Even if, like me, you predominantly read fiction, there is always something to learn. Authors have to get their ideas from somewhere and will often research the intricate details of their plot to make the story as real as possible. A good example of this is Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver (and the rest of the books in the series). Paver travels the world, spends months studying wolves and traditional survival skills to write her books, and it shows. Despite these being aimed at a middle grade audience, I learnt an awful lot about wolf communication from them. There is always something to learn from a book.

Expand your vocabulary


There is no question that reading introduces you to new words. There have been may times in my reading that I have had to stop and look up a word I haven’t read before. Sometimes you can infer meaning from context , but I am the sort of person who likes to know for sure what something means, before I adopt it into everyday use

Reading influences your Intelligence

First things first, I am not a scientist and my evidence of this is purely anecdotal. However a quick google search takes me to this article on Bookriot which explains the link between intelligence and reading far more eloquently than I can here. In my experience though, it helps with empathy, problem solving and even memory. We use books to teach children about the world around them, so it must have some impact on brain connectivity and function. While reading may not make your IQ score higher, it certainly wont make it lower.

You can learn about other cultures

This one is particularly relevant today, as we all try to better ourselves and understand the plight of our fellow humans. I personally love to read about other cultures, sub-cultures, ethnicities, genders, orientations and identities. The world is a rich and colourful place, why limit yourself only to what you know? In reading about the people who differ to you, you can begin to understand them better. You gain a profound look at the world through someone else’s eyes when you read. It truly is a gift and only serves to expand your mind.

You can learn about yourself

While we are busy learning about other people, it might help us learn about ourselves too. Aside from all the self help books that are available, reading in general can really help you to understand why you are the way you are. When you connect with a character, its because you see a little bit of yourself in them. Relating to what motivates a character can help you understand what motivates you.

You can mind read!

As I touched on above, a book is really a look into the mind of its author. When you read, you are reading in their voice and tone. You can learn an awful lot about someone from their writing and it is a privilege to be allowed that deep into someones mind. to quote George RR Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Escapism

This is my favourite reason for picking up a book. You can escape into another universe completely different from your own. It’s so relaxing to put your life and problems on hold for a while and escape into a captivating book. You can be transported to mystical lands on the back of a dragon, or fall in love, or go to a school of magic, or save a kingdom from a tyrant, anything is possible, and all from the comfort of your sofa! If you are sick of the humdrum, then pick up a book. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for life when you emerge from behind the cover.

What makes you pick up a book? Leave a comment and let me know!

June Wrap Up

June has been a bit of an up and down month with regard to reading for me. I managed to get through four books this month, one more than last month but nowhere near my teenage records! I fell into a bit of a slump towards the end of the month and struggled to pull myself out of it. Fortunately, I enjoyed all the books I read this month. I’ll list them below in order of my most to least loved.

The Binding by Bridget Collins
I loved this book! It was such an engaging read, and completely unexpected. It turned out to be a completely different story to what I thought I was getting, and I’m so happy about it! I would definitely recommend it. If you want to know more, check out my full review here.

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
This was a lovely book to read. The imagery and message about friendship was beautiful. It is aimed at a younger audience than my usual reads, but I really enjoyed it regardless. Check out the full review here.

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
This was a darkly funny and heartbreaking memoir of an NHS doctor. Its non-fiction, which I wouldn’t usually go for but I found it so engaging and enjoyable to read. Its actually prompted me to try and read at least one non-fiction book per month! You can find my full review here.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
This book was a difficult read given the subject matter. It is a story of love and grief told by a murdered school girl watching her family deal with her loss from heaven. I found it to be moving and profound despite theological differences between myself and the book. See my full review here.

Tea Pairings

As for tea, I have really been enjoying Orange and Lotus Flower by Twinings. It’s a lovely summery flavour perfect for this time of year. The orange comes through first, with the delicate floral flavour of the lotus flower following. I would pair this tea with The Girl of Ink and Stars. The delicate floral undertones and citrus overtones suit the tropical island setting of the book.

I’ve also enjoyed English Rose by Whittard of Chelsea. Its another floral tea and you really can taste the rose. This one is a black tea which I think works well with the rose flavour and gives the tea a deep reddish colour. I paired this one with The Binding because I think the rose flavour and deep colour suit the tone and themes of the book.

I enjoyed Jasmine green tea (also by Twinings) with The Lovely Bones. As you may have noticed, I am a fan of floral teas. I think the delicate floral notes of this tea compliment the delicate nature of the story.

This Is Going To Hurt could only be accompanied by a strong cup of English Breakfast, with a dash of milk. I needed the strength of this tea to bolster me though the sometimes quite graphic medical descriptions and the heartbreaking parts of the book.

I’m hoping to read a few more books in July. I’m out of my reading slump and ready to dive back into another world! Watch this space for more book and tea recommendations and reading inspiration.

Book Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have been thinking of this book all day, having finished it this morning, and wondering how I will go about reviewing it. The issues tackled in the book are delicate and complex and I am not yet sure how I feel about what I have read. What is clear to me is that this book is indeed noteworthy. It deals with a subject most of us go out of our way not to think about, and forces the reader to confront some of their most primal and basic fears.

The book was first published in 2002 by Little, Brown and Company in the USA, and Picador in the UK. It is 323 pages long making it a nice, digestible length. My edition also contained an Afterword from Alice Sebold, which served to give more context to the story in direct relation to the author and her experiences.

As I have mentioned, the book deals with some dark and uncomfortable topics. It is written in the first person, from the perspective of a young girl, Susie, who is murdered at the age of 14. She observes her family, friends and community, dealing with her loss and growing up, from her heaven. It is a story of love, loss, grief and acceptance.

“We both listened together to the rain pour down and smelled the earth rising to greet us.

‘You look invincible,’ my mother said one night.

I loved these times, when we seemed to feel the same thing. I turned to her, wrapped in my thin gown and said:

‘I am.'”

Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones (page 206/207)

As I sit here cradling a hot cup of tea, I am struggling to define how this book made me feel. It did not effect me in the way I thought it would. I expected it to be a tear-jerker for me. By all accounts it has had that effect on many people. I thought I would have my heart broken by this book, but I did not. I found it a profound and moving read, but this was more because of the honest and raw characters rather than the death of a child. It has left me questioning the unthinkable. How would I react if this happened to me? What would I do? Even the hypothetical thought of something like this happening to my child fills me with emotions too strong to describe, to powerful to examine closely when I don’t need to.

I think part of the reason I felt a little distant while I was reading the book, however, is that my theories on life after death differ greatly to those Sebold describes. I personally do not believe in a Heaven as such, and so I did find it a little difficult to connect with this aspect of the book. While religion is not an open theme in the novel, it is obvious that her depiction of heaven is drawn from the christian viewpoint. As I do not identify with this, I found it a little harder to connect with the book. Theological differences aside though, I did approve of how her heaven worked, and how each heaven was personal to each individual.

To stray briefly from the theological and philosophical elements of the book, I enjoyed the writing style. I was easy to read and ever so slightly poetic. She manages to convey the tone of a young teenager without the text sounding immature or simplistic. Despite the story playing out over many years, it doesn’t feel as though you miss anything. This is quite a skill, given the book is only just over 300 pages long.

The portrayal of grief is what makes this book both moving and profound. Sebold does not sugar coat anything. Each of her characters reacts to Susie’s death in their own way, and it changes each person gradually, and shapes who they become. It is the raw honesty of this book that, I think, makes it special. It is difficult to discuss this element of the book without revealing spoilers, but I imagine each person who reads it will be affected differently by it based of their own life experience.

“You don’t notice the dead leaving when they really choose to leave you. you’re not meant to.”

Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones (Page 319)

Frankly, I’m amazed I made it 26 years into my life without reading this book. Perhaps that is down to it not being my usual genre, but, if there is one thing I have learnt since I have started reviewing my reads, its that I should not limit myself. Good books are to be found in all genres. This book is fast become one of those you should read, if you call yourself a reader. It has sold over 10 million copies and seems to divide opinion amongst those who have taken it up. I have certainly come across a host of scathing and glowing reviews since picking it up. I would argue that any book that prompts that sort of passionate response is worth a read.

If you would like a copy, you can pick one up here.

Book Review: This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you purchase an item through the link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me cover the costs of running my blog.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a bit of a wild card for me. I’m not usually drawn to non fiction books but I had heard good things about this and I was not disappointed. The book was published in 2017 by Picador. It is a collection of diary entries made by Adam Kay during his time as a junior doctor in the NHS. He worked for the NHS for six years as a junior doctor, working his way up the ranks in the gynaecology and obstetrics department before finally giving up his career due to the pressures he faced.

I would pair this book with a very strong cup of English breakfast tea. The strong but bright flavour matches perfect with the light but intense tone of the book. There are some heavy themes discussed during the book, so a good strong cup of English breakfast will steel the reader for some eye opening truths and intimate discussions of a medical nature.

Much like most of the population of the UK, I am extremely proud of our National Health Service. They have always been there for me, through childhood illnesses to the birth of my son. I can visit the doctor and not have to worry about bankrupting myself, and that is a freedom we should never take for granted. We must protect our NHS with everything we have because free healthcare, along with free education, should be a basic human right. It was partly my experience of the NHS, particularly my recent pregnancy, which prompted me to pursue this book. I know what it is like to be a patient, so now I wanted to know what it is like to be a doctor.

The book itself is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points while I was reading. The text is witty and darkly humorous, and quite grim in places. Doctors seem to deal with an awful lot of bodily fluid, I shuddered at some of the horrors Kay describes during his time as a doctor. He keeps the tone of the book light for the most part, but there is a clear undercurrent of anger. It is obvious that Kay went into the NHS with all the right intentions. He wanted to help people and was excited at the prospect of working for the NHS. However as the book goes on, it becomes evident the toll working as a doctor takes on your personal life. Not only are you responsible for people’s lives at work, you are expected to work so hard there is no time left for yourself.

This book was a huge eye opener for me. I think most non-medics are guilty of not really seeing doctors as the people they are, myself included. To be fair, its much easier to get your bits out in front of someone if you just think of them as some sort of medical android, but this thought does doctors an injustice. It shocked me just how tough the working conditions are in hospitals. Shifts are too long and the pay is too low, and yet these people still show up to work and try to help you as best they can. The book does not disparage the NHS however, its more a cry for help to protect and improve what we have.

Behind the humour and the heartbreak, the overall message of the book is clear. Protect the NHS at all costs, and don’t forget that doctors are people with feelings too. Ask them how they are every now and again.

You can get a copy of the book here.

Book Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you purchase an item through the link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me cover the costs of running my blog.

The Binding by Bridget Collins, best enjoyed with a hot cup of English rose tea.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Published in 2019 by Borough Press this gothic fantasy novel is 438 pages in length. It follows the story of Emmett Farmer who is sent to become a book binders apprentice when he can no longer work on his fathers farm due to illness. Books in this world are not mere stories, but captured memories entombed in beautifully handcrafted books. Emmett is learning the trade, helping people to forget their secrets and keep them hidden in a vault below his masters workshop, when one day he happens upon a book with his name on it.

I adored this book. It is beautifully written and a sheer joy to read. The language is descriptive and rich with imagery and emotion. I found myself lost in this book and unable to put it down for even a second. This past weekend all I have done is wander around my house with my nose in this book bumping into things. It took me a few pages to get into the flow of the story, but once I was absorbed I couldn’t draw myself back out. I had to know what happened. I found myself heavily invested in the characters and the outcome of their journey.

“Well, knowledge is always a kind of magic, I suppose.”

Bridget Collins – The Binding (Page 89)

The book is set in a world similar to that of 19th century Britain. Emmett is a hand on his fathers farm but it is clear right at the start of the book that his illness has prevented him from fulfilling his duties. After a discussion with is family, he is sent to the book binder to learn the trade. There he meets his new master and begins his tutelage.

The characters are wonderfully written. They are deep, three dimensional people governed by their own motives and secrets. I found Emmett to be deeply relatable and enjoyed watching him grow into himself throughout the novel. His journey of self discovery is something I think we can all relate to in some way.

If you intend to read this book (and I highly recommend that you do), I suggest you do not read any further in this review. Below I will talk in more detail about how the book affected me, but there will be spoilers and I think it will ruin your experience of the book if you know them before you read it. I truly loved this book and I hope anyone planning to read it finds as much joy in it as I did.

Grab a copy here before you read on!

SPOILERS BELOW

This was not the story I was expecting from the synopsis. I am a huge lover of fantasy and magic, and it was that which tempted me to pick up this novel. I was pleasantly surprised then, when about half way through I discovered it was a romance! I was expecting a tale of hardship in learning the magical binding craft, when really that is an aside in a story that is predominantly a tale of forbidden love and self discovery.

I am not usually the romance type. I often find it all a bit contrived and sickly, but this book has prompted me to reconsider my stance. Perhaps I am denying myself an enjoyable reading experience. I certainly enjoyed every second of this love story. It was believable and captivating. It was forbidden and heartbreaking. I was fully invested in it and felt everything the characters were feeling. This is mostly down to the fantastic writing. The way Collins describes her world thought the eyes of her infatuated characters is beautiful. Colours are brighter and the world a more vibrant place when they are together, and their love for each other is conveyed beautifully throughout, even before they realise it.

“We stare at each other. The sun flares behind him, spilling red through a gap between the tenements. It glitters in his hair. His temple and jaw and the tip of one ear glow scarlet. Unexpectedly, as sudden as the flood if sunlight, he smiles at me. It changed his face completely. I cant remember anyone looking at me like that, ever. It makes the sunset redder, the scent of soot and paraffin sharper, the cold ache in my fingers more intense. The wind sings in a chimney somewhere above us. A crumple of paper whispers and swoops across the cobbles. The horn of a distant factory blares.”

Bridget Collins – The Binding (Page 363)

I love Collins ability to convey emotion in her prose without outwardly stating how everyone is feeling all the time. She uses description and imagery to demonstrate the passion and feeling in a situation, leaving it up to the reader to interpret it how they will. It is this technique that gives the writing its extra edge and really allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in the novel.

The book has rocketed to one of my all time favourites and I cant wait to read it again. It is one of those books that is so well written, there will still be new things to discover the second time round.

You can grab a copy here.

Book Review: Haze by Rebecca Crunden

Haze by Rebecca Crunden

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was kindly gifted a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest review. At 267 pages, its a relatively short read. The story follows the life of Eliza, who has recently become engaged to her fiance, Erik. They are very much in love, but she is disturbed when she receives a phone call from a girl called Paige, suggesting her fiance is not all he seems. She is ready to dismiss this information, until her sister tells her she met with Paige a few weeks earlier, which seems impossible as Paige has been dead for years. Accusations fly from all corners, and the ensuing fight has devastating consequences. Erik disappears and life is forever changed for Eliza.

Following his fathers death, Erik returns five years later to find himself confronted with some seemingly unanswerable questions. The crux of the issue being, who called Eliza if Paige is dead?

This was an enjoyable read. Paranormal romance is not a genre I am overly familiar with, however I thought the story was interesting and original. Paranormal fiction is a very popular genre at the moment, and you can often find overused tropes in stories, however the plot of this book is unlike any I have previously read. There was quite a twist towards the end of the book that I was not expecting which certainly kept the story fresh and interesting.

The love between the two main characters, Eliza and Erik was obvious throughout the story. Crunden conveyed it well, including the hurt and betrayal Eliza felt when Erik disappeared, conflicting with the love she had clearly still felt for him upon his return. Erik’s guilt was also conveyed well through his indecision and his own hurt.

“Five years of questions and bereavements, of loneliness and longing, of guilt and rage, bound them together in the cold, rainy night.”

Rebecca Crunden – Haze

Although the story was very enjoyable, I did find the writing style not completely to my taste. I feel the story could have benefited from a little more suspense building, and perhaps some deeper explanation of the paranormal events. I do feel that the paranormal elements of the story went from the background, to the foreground quite quickly and required some adjustment as the focus switched from romance to paranormal events.

Spoilers Below

Overall I enjoyed the story and found the characters relatable. Eliza struggles with addiction throughout the book, understandable given she is dealing not only with the loss of Erik, but with the death of her sister and the subsequent instability within her family. There are several real world issues tackled in the book and Crunden addresses them in a realistic way. Eliza is not just magically cured of her addiction and self destructive behaviour upon Erik’s return. She continues to struggle with it until the end of the book.

“Where she panicked continuously about losing the ones she loved, Erik was forever angry about all he that he had lost already.”

Rebecca Crunden – Haze

The paranormal aspects of the story are hinted at to begin with; the phone calls from a dead girl, glimpses of dead people in mirrors and displays of inhuman strength. Towards the end of the story the paranormal occurrences became the main focus, ultimately culminating with the arrival of ‘Death’. This is where I felt the suspense could have been built a little more. It seemed the story switched gears all of a sudden towards the end, taking the focus away from the romance and grief, and focusing it on the paranormal. While I still found the story enjoyable, it did take a little adjustment to the change of pace.

At heart, this is a love story conveying the message that if it is meant to be, it will, no matter what happens. Love finds a way.

Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

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The Testaments is the follow on novel to The Handmaids Tale and was released last year (2019). It is set 15 years after the events of the previous book and follows the stories of three very different women. Their paths are destined to converge, but to what end? This novel reveals much more about the inner workings of Gilead and its origins.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I realise I may very well be in the minority with this rating, and I wanted so desperately to love this book, but I didn’t. To be perfectly blunt, I feel it is a book that did not need to be written. The Handmaids Tale was fantastic. It was chilling, gripping and eyeopening. Everything down to the way the book was written makes The Handmaids Tale live up to its reputation of a modern classic. I love that book, and think it is a relevant and important read today.

It was not so with The Testaments. I found this book tough going to be honest, which is why it has taken me a while to read it to completion. I struggled with the constant changes of perspective between the women, and it would take me a while to remember what was going on and with whom. I also found the timeline of events confusing, as not all of the stories were told during the same time frame. The timeline does become clearer towards the end of the book however, which allowed me to understand more of what I had previously read.

“Still, I wanted to believe; indeed I longed to; and, in the end, how much of belief comes from longing?”

Margaret Atwood – The Testaments (Chapter 50)

Having said all of the above, the book definitely had its merits. As with its predecessor, it tackles the heavy issues of totalitarianism and religious mania. I think it highlights how easy it is to indoctrinate the masses into your belief system if you have the right tools at your disposal. This is particularly relevant today as we are, rightly, choosing to TEMPORARILY sacrifice some of our hard won freedoms in the name of the greater good. I wholeheartedly support this by the way. STAY HOME and SAVE LIVES, but it serves to show that fear makes people easy to control, a point well made in this book. We are trusting the powerful not to abuse their position and so far, the majority prove worthy of the trust, but this is not so in Gilead. The book certainly highlights the danger of a society formed this way.

The book also highlights the importance of being able to read and write in understanding the world around you. Having this form of communication is paramount to acquiring knowledge. By not allowing the majority of the population the ability to read and write, you severely limit their freedom, without having to use up many resources. It limits communication, the sharing of ideas and indeed the ability to fact check the rhetoric of those in power. As an avid reader myself, I would argue that to remove a persons ability to read and write, is to remove their ability to think for themselves.

“Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories.”

Margaret Atwood – The Testaments (Chapter 51)

Spoilers Below

There are a couple of things I would like to talk about in more detail, including the ending of the book, so this section will contain spoilers. I have also referenced the ending of The Handmaids Tale.

Having read The Handmaids Tale previously, it was fairly easy for me to guess who each of the three women narrating were. I do not think this would be the case, however, if you had not read the previous book. My favourite of the three by far was Aunt Lydia. She was certainly the most complex character. I found the other two to be lacking in substance and I struggled to differentiate between them at points.

The book improved towards the end, but I felt it was a little rushed. It was such a slog to get to the exciting parts, only to have them over in a few pages. We spent the whole book hearing about how dangerous Gilead was and how no one really meant what they said and the Eyes were all knowing and always watching. It seemed remarkable to me then, that the two girls just breezed though the length of the country all the way to the Canadian border with zero problems.

I also had a bit of a problem with how Daisy (or Nicole) reacted to the death of her parents. She was adopted, yes, but she didn’t know that at the time. I mean, they got blown up by agents from another country on her birthday, then she was told she was adopted and her birthday wasn’t her birthday, then she was told she was Baby Nicole, the mascot of Gilead, then they asked her to infiltrate Gilead all in the same breath. She just accepted it and never seemed to grieve at all. Maybe shes a stronger person than me, but that would mess me up, she seemed to hardly react at all. I just didn’t find her character believable I’m afraid.

I understand why this book was written. People asked for closure after The Handmaids Tale, and they got it. I just think it was not necessary. Part of the beauty of that book is the ambiguity of the ending. It is satisfying to know that most of them lived happily ever after, but I really think it detracts from the impact of the previous book. The reason it made such an impression on me was because I didn’t know what happened. Much like in Gilead, its easy to be told what to think, its harder to come to your own conclusions.

You can pick up a copy of The Testaments here if you are interested in reading it.

A Book and A Teacup

Five words that pretty much sum up my ultimate happy place. A good book is priceless on its own, but accompanied with the perfect cup of tea, transcendent.

I have been an avid reader all my life. There is a joy specific to reading that enriches the soul and expands the mind beyond the mundanity of every day life. A good book, be that fiction or non fiction, can shape you as a person, and have a profound effect on how you see the world. This has happened to me on countless occasions. Books have enriched my life and my thinking, and they continue to do so. Which brings me to the reason for starting this blog. I thought I would use it as a way to air my thoughts on a recent read. I love to talk over a novel once I have finished it. To think on its implications and meanings. To digest and discuss the intricacies of a plot line or a character. As sad as it sounds, I always enjoyed writing about the books we would study in school.

As you may have also guessed, I enjoy a good cuppa. I am a self proclaimed (perhaps slightly obnoxiously) tea connoisseur and I enjoy almost all the teas I have tried, with the exception of Lapsang souchong. That just tastes like a forest fire to me. However, nothing can replace a good cup of builders tea in my heart, strong, just a splash of semi-skimmed milk and absolutely no sugar, just as nature intended.