Nonfiction you’re eager to learn from – Sunday Stack #19

I’m always a sucker for a nonfiction when it comes to impulse buying at the book store. But I have to say, they are also the books that seem to get the least love when it comes to actually reading them. Today I thought I would share the nonfiction read that I am particularly determined to read by this time next year. Most are history, as I always find them the most fascinating, so if you’re looking to dive into all this past, I’m sure there will be some great picks here for you to choose from.

Serhii Plokhy- Chernobyl

On the morning of April 26, 1986, Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine. Dozens died of radiation poisoning, fallout contaminated half the continent, and thousands fell ill.

In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy draws on new sources to tell the dramatic stories of the firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who heroically extinguished the nuclear inferno. He lays bare the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry, tracing the disaster to the authoritarian character of the Communist party rule, the regime’s control over scientific information, and its emphasis on economic development over all else.

Today, the risk of another Chernobyl looms in the mismanagement of nuclear power in the developing world. A moving and definitive account, Chernobyl is also an urgent call to action.

Simon Sebag Montefiore – Catherine the Great & Potemkin

It was history’s most successful political partnership – as sensual and fiery as it was creative and visionary. Catherine the Great was a woman of notorious passion and imperial ambition. Prince Potemkin – wildly flamboyant and sublimely talented – was the love of her life and her co-ruler. Together they seized Ukraine and Crimea, defining the Russian empire to this day. Their affair was so tumultuous that they negotiated an arrangement to share power, leaving Potemkin free to love his beautiful nieces, and Catherine her young male favourites. But these ‘twin souls’ never stopped loving each other. Drawing on their intimate letters and vast research, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s enthralling, widely acclaimed biography restores these imperial partners to their rightful place as titans of their age.

John Guy – My Heart is My Own

A long-overdue and dramatic reinterpretation of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots by one of the leading historians at work today.

She was crowned Queen of Scotland at nine months of age, and Queen of France at sixteen years; at eighteen she ascended the throne that was her birthright and began ruling one of the most fractious courts in Europe, riven by religious conflict and personal lust for power. She rode out at the head of an army in both victory and defeat; saw her second husband assassinated, and married his murderer. At twenty-five she entered captivity at the hands of her rival queen, from which only death would release her.

The life of Mary Stuart is one of unparalleled drama and conflict. From the labyrinthine plots laid by the Scottish lords to wrest power for themselves, to the efforts made by Elizabeth’s ministers to invalidate Mary’s legitimate claim to the English throne, John Guy returns to the archives to explode the myths and correct the inaccuracies that surround this most fascinating monarch. He also explains a central mystery: why Mary would have consented to marry – only three months after the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley – the man who was said to be his killer, the Earl of Bothwell. And, more astonishingly, he solves, through careful re-examination of the Casket Letters, the secret behind Darnley’s spectacular assassination at Kirk o’Field. With great pathos, Guy illuminates how the imprisoned Mary’s despair led to a reckless plot against Elizabeth – and thus to her own execution.

The portrait that emerges is not of a political pawn or a manipulative siren, but of a shrewd and charismatic young ruler who relished power and, for a time, managed to hold together a fatally unstable country.

Rosella Postorino – The Women at Hitler’s Table

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.
Ten women are chosen.
Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?

Lucy Worsley – Jane Austen at Home

Take a trip back to Jane Austen’s world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen’s childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses–both grand and small–of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a ‘life without incident’. 

Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but–in the end–a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.

Lucy Worsley – Courtiers

Kensington Palace is now most famous as the former home of Diana, Princess of Wales, but the palace’s glory days came between 1714 and 1760, during the reigns of George I and II . In the eighteenth century, this palace was a world of skulduggery, intrigue, politicking, etiquette, wigs, and beauty spots, where fans whistled open like switchblades and unusual people were kept as curiosities. Lucy Worsley’s The Courtiers charts the trajectory of the fantastically quarrelsome Hanovers and the last great gasp of British court life. Structured around the paintings of courtiers and servants that line the walls of the King’s Staircase of Kensington Palace-paintings you can see at the palace today-The Courtiers goes behind closed doors to meet a pushy young painter, a maid of honor with a secret marriage, a vice chamberlain with many vices, a bedchamber woman with a violent husband, two aging royal mistresses, and many more. The result is an indelible portrait of court life leading up to the famous reign of George III , and a feast for both Anglophiles and lovers of history and royalty.

And there we have it! I definitely need to make more time to read Non-Fiction and with these picks, I can’t wait !

A September TBR

Hello lovelies and happy September! Having had a bit of a slow reading month in August – a combination of a slump and moving house – I have decided that I am going to set myself a TBR for September to try and encourage myself to read more. I’ve only picked four reads for this month, as to not overwhelm myself too much so that I just end up giving up, but I’m looking forward to seeing just how much I can read. There are two books which will be on my TBR but that haven’t been decided yet: my work book club pick and the Let’s Get Classical book pick for September. I’m so excited to try and get myself back into a reading routine in September. So without further ado, let’s go through these books!

Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales by Norena Shopland.

This is a non-fiction book that has been on my TBR for quite some time. I picked it up last year whilst in Cardiff and it instantly intrigued me. I definitely want to read more non-fiction as we come towards the end of 2020 as I think I have only read two so far this year, and I am determine to rectify this.

Forbidden Lives is a fascinating collection of portraits and discussions that aims to populate LGBT gaps in the history of Wales, a much neglected part of Welsh heritage. In it Norena Shopland reviews the reasons for this neglect while outlining the activity behind the recent growth of the LGBT profile here. She also surveys LGBT people and their activity as far back as Giraldus Cambrensis’ Journey Through Wales in the twelfth century where he reports on ‘bearded women’ and other hermaphrodites. There is still plenty of work to do, as chapters on the responses to Pride in Wales and the first gay play, We All Fall Down, clearly show. But the stories of the people portrayed in the book are less likely to be repeated: the LGBT community has moved from living forbidden lives to a place largely less forbidding. Norena Shopland helps us understand the struggle which achieved these changes.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang.

This is a very recent purchase of mine and, having heard nothing but fantastic things about it, I can’t wait to read this this month. It has been such a long time since I read an epic fantasy and this definitely seems like the best pick to jump back into the genre.

Trigger Warnings: Ableism; Abuse (emotional and physical); Addiction; Assault; Character death; Drugs; Fatphobia (unchallenged); Genocide; Gore; Human experimentation; Massacres; Mutilation; Murder; Racism; Rape; Self-harm; Torture; Violence (including against children); War

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

This is another that I have seen all over bookstagram at the moment and no one seems to have anything bad to say about it. I’m actively trying to diversify my shelves at the moment and I am very excited to try this read.

Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.

As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

This is a reread for me, and a book that I want to reread for an exciting project that I am taking part in in October. Laura Purcell is one of my favourite authors, and this is a fantastically spooky historical fiction, filled with ghosts, and magic, and secrets.

Trigger Warnings: Child murder; Death; Gore; Hitting a child; Miscarriage; Nausea; Psychiatric hospital; Racial slur; Suicide; Vomit

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

And there we have it. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what September can bring, looking foward to things getting colder and more autumnal, and more importantly, it getting closer to October. What read are you looking forward to in September?

Back to Schools: Books set in a School ~ Sunday Stack #18

Happy Sunday Lovelies! As we approach September, it seemed only appropriate for this week’s stack to be all about school. For today’s post I have picked four books set in schools, all with some sort of fantastical element. I will condess that I have only read one of these books in this stack, and even had to do a little money spending to complete the stack, but I have to say I’m very excited to read them all.

Zombies Don’t Cry by Rusty Fischer

Maddy Swift is just a normal girl—a high school junior surviving class with her best friend and hoping the yummy new kid, Stamp, will ask her out. When he finally does, her whole life changes.

Sneaking out to meet Stamp at a party one rainy night, Maddy is struck by lightning. After awakening, she feels lucky to be alive. Over time, however, Maddy realizes that she’s become the thing she and everyone else fear most: the living dead.

With no heartbeat and no breath in her lungs, Maddy must learn how to survive as a zombie. Turns out there’s a lot more to it than shuffling around 24/7 growling, “Brains.” Needing an afterlife makeover is only the beginning of her problems. As Barracuda Bay High faces zombie Armageddon, Maddy must summon all of her strength to protect what matters most—just as soon as she figures out exactly what that is.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Trigger Warnings: Abuse; Bullying; Character death; Murder; Paranormal creatures; Racism; Violence

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Now this is one that I haven’t read but am desperate to. I have heard nothing but good things about this and, with the series coming into full swing, I want to dive straight in.

Trigger Warnings: Ableism; Abuse (emotional and physical); Addiction; Assault; Character death; Drugs; Fatphobia (unchallenged); Genocide; Gore; Human experimentation; Massacres; Murder; Racism; Rape; Self-harm; Torture; Violence (including against children); War.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless
.

And there we have it. I’m desperate to get started reading these, and am already planning on putting quite a few on my September TBR. What school set read is your favourite?

Memory Lane: Childhood Reads – Sunday Stack #17

Who doesn’t love a trip down memory lane? In today’s post I wanted to share four books that I loved during my childhood, and that had a profound effect on me, especially as a reader.

There are many other books that I could have put in this post, and I had so much fun picking which books I wanted to included. There were so many great reads that I absolutely adored, like The Mortal Instruments or the series by she who must not be named, but I have tried to pick the books I found myself turning back to over and over again.

Flambards by KM Peyton

Trigger warnings: grief; orphaned; manipulation; bullying

I’ve mentioned this series before but this has to be one of my favourite books from my childhood. You can probably see from the picture that my copy is well worn and well loved. I was so obsessed with the main character Christina and I loved that it combined my two favourite childhood things: history and horses.

Christina Parsons, who has been shunted around the family since she was orphaned at the age of five years in 1901, is sent to live at Flambards with her mother’s half-brother, the crippled Russell. Her Aunt Grace speculates that Russell plans for Christina to marry his son Mark to restore Flambards to its former glory using the money that she will inherit on her twenty-first birthday. Mark is as brutish as his father, with a great love for hunting, whereas the younger son William is terrified of horses after a hunting accident and aspires to be an aviator. Christina soon finds friendship with the injured William, who challenges her ideas on class boundaries, as well as her love for horses and hunting. William and Christina eventually fall in love and run away from the hunt ball to London, hoping to marry.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I first read this beautiful classic when I was just about to enter secondary school and fell instantly in love with it. It was part of a suggested reading list set out to year 6s before the September start, and being the eager beaver decided to spend the whole summer trying to work my way through it. I loved the sass of Lizzie, had my heart broken by Wickham, and longed for the world of taffeta dresses and fancy balls

Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

Another series that I was completely devoted to was L M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. My original set have long since been lost, having not quite survived too many moves. However, why this series is so nostalgic for me is because of the way I collected these reads. Every year my family used to go away to caravan club sites, each of which always had a little charity book drop, where you paid something silly like 20p and could take a few books. Now, I’m not quite sure why but it seemed like all of them contained a book from this series and so I would try and collect them all across our visits. Now, every time I think of Anne’s adventures, I can’t help but think about our family holidays as well.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This is another read that is heavily steeped in nostalgia for me. Often, whilst we were picking where to go on holiday with the caravan, we would find ourselves gravitating to the New Forest. In the town of Lyndhurst, practically every cafe, gift shop, and town statue is related to Alice in wonderland, my particular favourite being The Mad Hatters Cafe, where we were always allowed a mint hot chocolate. This is because in the church, Alice herself is buried (or at least the woman who inspired Carroll). As the New Forest (and Alice) is something that has been in my life for so long, I am absolutely obsessed with all things wonderland based, and currently have 4 editions of the tales! This Barnes and Noble Bind Up is my particular favourite because – well- isn’t it beautiful!

And there we have it! I absolutely adored this journey down memory lane. What’s your favourite childhood read?

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is one of those books for me that has been sat on my shelves since the beginning of time and, having finally got round to it, I found I should have read it so much earlier. It is such a wholesome story which deals with the tragedy and traumas of human life, yet still somehow retaining an innocence and a wonder which makes it utterly irresistible.

Synopsis:

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.

Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him – allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.

And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.

Trigger Warnings: suicide; grief; trauma; abandonment; addiction

One of things that truly makes this book shine is the character of Harold. In Harold you have a character who on the surface seems to resonate innocence and purity. Recently retired, Harold seems to have lost purpose and a heavy weight of silence seems to have spread between his wife and himself. As Harold begins his journey, both literal and metaphorical, Harold has to come to turns with past trauma and guilt. As he wanders the paths towards Berwick-on-Tweed, he is continually made to confront memories from his life. There is a simplicity in the determination he has to his walk, and the faith he has towards revisiting these key moments of his life. I loved learning more about Harold as a character, especially his past. What is magical about this read is that Harold’s journey causes others to reflect on the past too, including his wife, and it was really interesting to see one event reminisced by two characters so differently.

Harold’s journey leads to him meeting, and having a profound affection different people. To those who have loved and lost to arrogant film stars, there seems to be no one that escapes Harold. The kindness he evokes in others is both endearing to read and at times unbelievable. However Joyce manages to write into reality a world and mentality which we should try to have. There is a rawness and innocence in the way characters confess to Harold their deepest doubts and their sacrificial kindness it seems to bring forth.

Whilst I could spend the entirety of this review discussing the wonder of Harold, I feel like I can’t discuss this book without mentioning his wife Maureen. It would be easy just to paint her as the villain in this tale but Maureen’s tale is much more complicated than that. As she is left behind and forced to deal with how her life has changed as the pair deal with the cruelties of life. While Harold undertakes a physical journey, Maureen’s is truly spiritual and I found it was often her chapters I was desperate to read.

This read is utterly stunning and left me completely astounded with the wonder of these characters. If you’re looking for an intriguing read about human survival and determination, this is one for you.

Summer Cocktails: Books You’re Waiting to Savour – Sunday Stack #16

Happy Sunday Lovelies and welcome to the second #SundayStack of August! I can’t believe that I am on the 16th Sunday Stack so far. This has been such a lovely series to run and it has been wonderful to see people taking part. If you aren’t sure what I’m going on about, I run a #sundaystack challenge over on my bookstagram and always accompany each stack with a blog post going into my picks in a little more detail. I’ll leave the prompts below should you fancy giving them a go.

This week’s prompt was ‘Summer Cocktails: Books you’re waiting to savour’ and let me just tell you that I had a real struggle limiting myself to which books I was going to pick for this stack. I still seemed to limit myself to quite a big stack so I hope you’re prepared for a slighlty longer stack. I will only give a brief description for each book, given the size of my stack, but I shall also include the trigger warnings where I can, as found on BookTriggerWarnings.

Promethean Horrors: Classic Tales of Mad Science and Roaring from Further Out: Four Weird Novellas by Algernon Blackwood.

I’ve put these two books together as they are part of the same series. I have already read ‘Evil Roots: Killer Tales from the Botanical Gothic’ and absolutely adored it, so couldn’t wait to get my hands on the others in the collection. These are both collections of dark short stories, which I seem to be developing a fascination for at the moment.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

This book seems to be everywhere at the moment and has been continually recommended to me. I am ashamed to say it has also been sitting on my TBR for quite some time but I am determined to read it this month.

Mexican Gothic by Silva Moreno-Garcia

This is another book that seems to have taken twitter by storm. I picked this up for my Work Book Club that I organise and we are scheduled to discuss it by the end of August. I can’t wait to read this and am so fascinated by its dark premise.

Trigger Warnings: Attempted rape; Cannibalism; Child birth; Drugged; Eugenics; Fire; Forced marriage; Gore; Hallucinations; Incest; Mind control; Murder (including babies); Racism; Vivisepulture

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Rusell

This is another dark read that I am fascinated by. Inspired by the series of allegations of sexual assaults in recent years, this read examines the pyschological effects of trauma, especially when a victim is struggling to determine herself as one. Not for the faint hearted but I have heard lots of positive things about this.

Trigger Warnings: Emotional manipulation; Pedophilia; Predatory grooming; Rape; Sexual assault; Suicide

European Travels for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

This is the sequel to The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, a reimagining and retelling of many figures from the Victorian Canon, from Sherlock Holmes to Dr Frankenstein. I thoroughly adored the first book, and can’t wait to read the last two books in this series.

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

I picked this up in Tescos not that long ago and, if I’m honest, it was largely a cover buy. However, having read the blurb, it sounds just as compelling as its cover. I’m going to put the synopsis here because I don’t want what to butcher the story trying to explain it:

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.

Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people will travel there from miles around.

Soon Yui will make her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.

So there we have it. I broke my book buying ban when Lockdown began and now have collected many fascinating reads that I can’t wait to get into. What book you most looking forward to starting at the moment?

Bibliothon TBR – August 17th – 23rd

Hello Lovelies! Today I have TBR for you for a readathon that is occuring later in the month. The Bibliothon is a readathon that is happening in the third week in August (17th-23rd) and its aim is to finish those books that have been sitting on your TBR for far too long. I had so much fun taking part in the FinishAthon that I lept at the opportunity to take part in another readathon with a similar aim.

The Bibliothon, which has its own twitter account, is run by Nerea or The Bibliothek on Youtube , and is made up of five prompts. You do not need to complete all the prompts, and you can even double up on the challenges, as the main aim is just to read.

I have picked a book for each of the prompts and, while I doubt very much I’ll be able to finish all the books, I’m going to try my darn hardest. For each book I will include the synposis from Good Reads and the trigger warnings from BookTriggerWarnings.

A Borrowed Book – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I desperately want to watch the TV series of this book but am determined to read the book first. I borrowed this from my friend a couple of years ago who was going to give it away otherwise and still can’t quite believe I haven’t got round to it.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned–from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren–an enigmatic artist and single mother–who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Trigger Warnings: Abortion; Arson; Infertility; Kidnapping.

Recently Acquired – Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This is my work book club pick for the month and I am so excited to properly sit down and read it. I have heard nothing but good things for it … and that cover!

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.


Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Trigger Warnings: Attempted rape; Cannibalism; Child birth; Drugged; Eugenics; Fire; Forced marriage; Gore; Hallucinations; Incest; Mind control; Murder (including babies); Racism; Vivisepulture

A Book recommended to you – Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood.
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

A Book on your TBR because of the Cover – City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves – and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. “At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” she muses. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

Bookternet made me do it! – My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Trigger Warnings: Emotional manipulation; Pedophilia; Predatory grooming; Rape; Sexual assault; Suicide

The real challenge this month is going to be not picking any of these books up before I’m supposed to. What book are you determined to finish this month?

Favourite July Reads – Sunday Stack #15

Hello Lovelies! Happy August! I’m sure like me you are absolutely baffled that we are in August. This year is simultaneously the slowest and the quickest year I feel like there has ever been. July was definitely a much trickier month for me, reading and life-wise, so I’m quite happy to see the end of it. August promises to bring better things, with me moving into a new house, a whole month of holidays (gosh I love being a teacher), and just an opportunity to breathe. I’m not sure what my blog content is going to be like this month (with the move etc) but I am desperate to try an maintain my schedule of Thursday and Sunday for posting on my blog. I may deviate from the usual bookish content a bit as I decorate the house and explore my new area, but I’m hoping that I will catch a bit more of a reading bug this month as, like I said, I definitely struggled in July.

I only managed 6 books this month, and a lot of those books I sadly just did not enjoy reading, despite many that I really looked forward to. In true ‘babblesnbooks’ fashion, I’m not going to dwell on the books that I didn’t enjoy, but instead focus on those I did. Reading is so subjective that I always hate the idea of putting negetive views against something someone has worked so hard on if they are only based on what I do or do not like. I am only one person after all!

What I read this month:

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – ****

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes – ****

Evil Roots: Killer Tales of the Botanical Gothic by Daisy Butcher – *****

Crushed by Kate Hamer – **

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – ***

Emma by Jane Austen- ***

Evil Roots: Killer tales of the Botanical Gothic by Daisy Butcher

I picked up this read for my A Level planning and it completely blew me away. I was only really looking for a copy of ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne but every one of the tales within these collections is fantastics. What I particularly liked about this short story collection is that each story is prefaced with a description about the tale, the writer, and the context in which it is written. My one criticism with short story collections is that I can sometimes find it quite off-putting to jump from one writing style to the next. The great advantage of the prefaces was that is helped bridge that shift, meaning you weren’t plunged into a new writing style but introduced to it slowly. I have just bought the next two books in this series and I cannot wait to dive into them.

The Mid Year Freakout Tag 2020

In true ‘Bronwen’ style, I’m doing this tag a little late. I have seen it floating around the internet and have been loving reading everyone else’s posts so knew it was time to actually sit down and actually write mine. I can’t believe this year is racing past us, that we’re actually already thinking about the second half of it, but at least there have been some amazing books amongst it all.

Question 1: Best book you’ve read so far in 2020.

This is a really tricky one because I feel like there are a fair few books that have really stuck out for me so far. I think I will have to say The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet simply because there is something so powerful about that book. I felt it made me question everything I thought I knew about race and identity and truly is a stunning piece of fiction. I have heard that the rights have already been sold for it to be adapted and I can’t wait to see what they do with this. If you aren’t sure about what this book is about, it follows two twins who grew up in the town of Mallard, which isn’t on any maps. This is a secluded commmunity filled with those who do not fit into the categories of ‘white’ or ‘black’ due to long standing mixed heritage. Outcasts from both soceties, Mallard has become one of its own right, and the citizens within are safe so long as the outside world remains outside. The two twins decide to escape Mallard and try to create their own versions of the world outside of this closed community, with one embracing her ‘blackness’ and the other ‘turning white’. It is a beautiful discussion about how we fetishize race and identity and the problematic importance we have placed upon these arguably social constructs.

Question 2: Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020.

Without a doubt, the best sequel I’ve read this year in The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty. I started The City of Brass series during Lockdown and am quickly speeding my way throurh the series. I think without a doubt The Kingdom of Copper has been my favourite so far, simply because we got to know the characters so much more. It did emotionally destroy me too.

Question 3: New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

I have a few I could put for this one, but the book that stands out for me has to be ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell. I bought this when it came out and have kept meaning to turn to it, but I feel like, given the hard hitting topics within it, I need to be in the right mind set to enjoy it. I am determined to read this book by the end of the year however.

Question 4: Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I don’t actually have on for this one, per se. The thing I am most looking forward to, though don’t have a date for is getting The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty in paperback. I’ve resisted the urge to get it in hardback just because have the others in paperback and know I wouldn’t be able to cope with that on my shelves haha. Until I have it in my hands, I will just have to settle with the audiobook.

Question 5: Biggest Disappointment.

For me this would have to be The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. I had heard so many wonderful things about this but I just found it confusing and overwhelming. I may have another go at it because, now I know what happens, I wonder if I will get more out of reading it because it seems very reliant on you being able to make connections with obscure bits of information which seems irrelevant at the time. I have to say that the writing style was beautiful, but I think maybe the intricateness of this was a bit too much and the plot got lost in it.

Question 6: Biggest suprise.

For this I will have to bit The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. This book ruined me! I knew I would enjoy it but didn’t aniticpate just how much it was going to blow me away. It is so beautifully constructed and the characters are so well developed. I’m not sure that there will be a single point in this year when I’m not harping on about this book!

Question 7: Favourite new Author (debut or new to you).

For this, I wanted to pick Madeline MIller but feel like she is an author I might have singled out last year just for how much I loved Circe. So, instead, I think I am gong to go with either S. A. Chakraborty or Taylor Jenkins Reid. Having read books by these authors this year, I feel like they are authors I would pick up time and time again simply because of the impact their writing had on me.

Question 8: Newest Fictional Crush.

I don’t think I necessarily have anything for this. I feel like I have definitely found characters this year that are precious to me but none that have made me fall hopelessly in love with.

Question 9: Newest Favourite Character

For this, I am going to go with Beatrice from Theodra Goss’ ‘The Strange case of the Alchemist’s Daughter’. I found her a really interesting and tragic character, especially when set next to the penny dreadul background of the novel.

Question 10: Boks that made you cry.

Song of Achilles. Need I say more?

Question 11: Books that made you happy.

For this I will go with The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag. This is such a heartwarming and emotional tale about acceptance and finding purpose in your life and blew me away.

Question 12: Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or recieved)

Recently I purchased three bookishly editions of the classics ‘Emma’, ‘Jane Eyre’, and ‘Tess of the D’Ubervilles’. These are three of the most stunning books I have ever seen and I know now I will be slowly collecting the whole lot – much to the unhappiness of my purse!

Question 13: What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

At the moment, the only books I need to read by the end of the year are the texts I am teaching which is good as that’s fairly manable. I need to reread Frankenstien and read Never Let me Go – but that’s it!

Question 14; Favourite Boook community memebr.

I couldn’t possibly pick one, so I have picked a few who I really appreciate.

Ellie @ Eleanorsophiewrites

Amy @ Read.Dream.Live

Beth@ ReadbyBeth

Eva @ Eva’s Book Corner

Jessica @ Stuck In A Book

I always look forward to the content these lovely people put put into the world.

And there we go! It’s barmy to think that we are halfway from 2020 and it is such an unconcievable year. Here’s hoping the next months are a little bit more recognisable.

One Stack, One Colour – Sunday Stack #14

I can’t believe I have been doing these Sunday Stacks for 14 weeks now! What started out as a fun little project I made to help me get through lockdown has blossomed into a series in its own right over here on my corner of the internet. I’m very happy to say I have another fun month of prompts to share for August and my head is already spinning with the books I can pick for them! August will see me moving into a new house (hopefully!) so things may be a bit haphazard whilst my life is in boxes, but it also means all my books will be reunited under one roof for the first time since I was 18 which is exciting.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s focus on today’s stack. If you weren’t aware, this is a series I run over on my bookstagram and (in more detail) here on my blog, and is a great opportunity to share some truly wonderful reads. It’s been lovely to see other people get involved too, which is something I never really imagined when I started it. Today’s prompt was quite liberal, being just ‘One Stack, One Colour’. For my stack, I have picked the colour blue, which seems the most predominant on my shelves at the moment. There’s a wide range of picks here from a range of genres and I can’t wait to share them with you today!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

I feel like all I have done since I’ve read this book is rave about it! In this book, Miller creates a heartbreaking retelling of the Battle of Troy, all centred around the character (and infamy) of Achilles. Yet, the stoic, cruel, violent Achilles of lore is not the one you meet in these pages. Instead, you are presented with a loyal, innocent, naive boy who is burdened by destiny, who is viewed by people not as a person but for what he represents. This is definitely one of my favourite reads of 2020, and we’re only half way through!

The Corset by Laura Purcell

Laura Purcell is one of my favourite writers of all time. She creates intricate, gothic, dark mysteries that combine my favourite elements of Neo-Victorian fiction. In The Corset, readers are presented with a mystery of deadly proportions. Ruth Betterman is in prison awaiting trial for murder, a murder she claims she didn’t commit, but that her needle and thread did. Left to debate whether a criminal mastermind is at work, or perhaps more devious, supernatural forces, this book will absolutely chill you! I’m definitely due a reread and may save this for the spookier months of the year.

Something to Tell You – Lucy Diamond

From the spooky, to something a little more light hearted. In this read, Lucy Diamond takes you on an absolute emotional rollercoaster. On the surface, this read is about Frankie, as she tries to track down her – married – birth dad after her mother’s death. However, the book as a whole follows the repuccussion of this dark secret as it comes into the light, looking to see how it affects each of the family members. I absolutely adored this read and think it is so entirely important. It emphasises the importance of family, including the family you make for yourself.

The Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare.

This is one of my favourite shadowhunters books. The second in the Dark Artifices series, this book is full of secrets and discovery. I loved how character driven this read was and grew completely obsessed with each of them. This was definitely my favourite book of the series!

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Glass Town is the first ever graphic novel I’ve read and I adored it. Greenberg reimagines the world created by the Brontes when they were children, recasting it in an almost Narnia-like narrative. As you travel between the adventures in Glass Town and the tragedies in the Brontes’ lives, you are taken along a story of survival, determination, and discovery. I adored this and thought it was such a clever read.

So there’s my ‘One Stack, One colour’ post for today! Each of these books has such a special place in my heart and I’m so happy to have shared them with you. Now all that’s left is to share the prompts for August!

August is definitely the month of summer for me, what with a whole month without school and instead with the potential for adventure! I tried to pick prompts that reflected this as best as possible, but also with those that I like reading during this time. Don’t forget to take part and make sure you tag me if you do so I can check them out (I’m @babblesnbooks on everything). You can also be as liberal with the prompts as you want.

Until August then!