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Summer and Self Isolation Reading List…

May 11, 2020

A week prior to the official UK lockdown my work sent us home, and I had big ideas on reading a lot.  Truth is the first couple of weeks of lockdown were scary here, with daily changes to rules and more and more people getting ill.  I haven’t read any of these books, once I felt mentally better I stuck my nose into Harry Potter.  It has been decades since I read those books and rereading them has been so enjoyable.  There are so many differences between the books and movies with huge sections missing that make a great story.  To read these books I have been using my local libraries digital access.  If you have a local library membership, then it is likely the library has access to an online version too.  There are a few different ones worldwide, and most run on phone apps.  All I had to do was put in my membership number and pin and away I went.

If you are interested here are the books I panic bought and plan to read over the summer!  I’ve realised that putting this list together all the authors are female.  This wasn’t a deliberate act, but I am finding the stories more authentic then the ones I have read by men.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

Recommended by a friend, this story is based in New York about a thirteen year old boy who’s circumstances result in them being left with a wealthy family friend.  Determined to own a small painting that reminds him of his mother, he is drawn into an criminal underworld.

Character Breakdown – Zawe Ashton

I listened to Ashton speak on Jessie Ware’s podcast, Table Manners, and instantly had a crush.  Ashton mentioned she had written a book about her experience learning characters and acting so I bought it!

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

This one is all over the internet as a popular read and it was on offer when I saw it.  The story is about a cove haunted by the ‘marsh girl’, a local murder and being loved.

Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman

I first read about this because the BCC have done an adaption and it broadcast just as lockdown happened in the UK.  The first of five books that portray a world where Africa were the conquers and white people became the slaves.  The series is praised for showing how subtle racism can be and arrogance towards others.

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

This one has been on my to read list for a long time.  Queenie is based in London and has been praised as a very honest view on black living today.

The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

I have previously loved reading Marian Keyes short story collections but her main books hadn’t appealed.  I have realised now I just wasn’t ready.  After reading Grown Ups I added this one to my pile for social isolation.  I have also got Watermelon on hold with the library as all Keyes fans recommend starting with this one.


The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton…

April 13, 2020
Picture of the book.  The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton…

Published in 2014, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, is based in Amsterdam in 1686 and follows the marriage of Nella Oortman and Johannes Brandt.  This book debut to critical acclaim and continues to be in the top 10 or recommended lists.  I avoided it at first as the blurb really did not sell the story to me.  At the time I was working long hours in the advertising industry and looking for lighter reads.

Nella marries the wealthy merchant Johannes in a country side wedding and later travels to his home.  The house is dark and imposing and is the living space for her new husband, his sister and their two staff, Cornelia and Otto.  Johannes virtually ignores Nella who becomes consumed with negative thoughts as she wishes he spend any time with her.  To make amends Johannes gifts Nella an exquisite dolls house that replicates the rooms of their own home.  To furnish the home Nella engages a Miniaturist who sends her tiny gifts that seem to prophesise the future.

I enjoyed reading this book except for the explanation for Johannes lack of attention for Nella.  The reason felt a bit forced and put me off.  I continued to read the book thinking it was just a note about his character, but it soon became the main storyline.  I realised upon reflection that I must be a bit pedantic when it comes to historical telling.  The reason (and I am deliberately not saying to avoid ruining the surprise for you) just wouldn’t have been dealt with such lack of care in the 1800’s.  Johannes would have known that this secret would have consequences and would have been much more careful.  I did love how the story was able to bring Amsterdam alive and having visited I found myself walking the streets too! I can see why at the time this story got such a response and the BBC turned it into a miniseries.

Have you read The Miniaturist?  What did you think?  Jessica xo

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Books To Read In Spring…

March 9, 2020
Books to read in spring.

I’ve been carving out my life recently and it has allowed me to get back to reading books.  I’m trying to read before I go to bed as it does make me sleep better.  Often on weekends I can be found curled up on the couch reading a book.  I’ve started swapping books with friends widening my reading circle.  This is good as I always want to explore new stories and I know at least one of these books I would not have picked up myself.  Reading also has a knock on effect to my writing and words seem to come onto a page easier.  Here are some books I have read recently that you can read in spring.

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

Celestial and Roy are from different backgrounds, but their love for each other brings them together in marriage.  A year on a crime is committed, and Roy is found guilty.  Celestial and the reader know he is innocent.  We are then shown the next 10 years through letters and various first-person accounts.  Their marriage is challenged as Celestial’s art becomes popular whilst Roy sits in prison serving his sentence seemingly paused in life.  When he is released can they resume their marriage as if nothing has happened?  This is what Roy wants…

Grown Ups By Marian Keyes

One of my favourite authors, I recently went to a live session with her being asked about her work and she is fabulous.  One of my favourites to follow on twitter and Instagram.  Keyes is delivering books every 18-24 months, so I really tried to read Grown Ups slowly.  It was a fool’s errand!  The story is so enticing.  About one Irish family whose secrets all come out when one gets a bump to the head and tells the truth.  Keyes has created some great characters who have depth and flaws including the men.  I did find some of the men trash and their behaviour awful.  That is the great power of her books!

Save The Cat! Writes A Novel

I’m trying to write my own novel because we all have one in us!  The first 10,000 words were easy but now I am at a sticking point as to what is next.  This book gives guidance on how to work through plot and characters and is incredibly helpful.  Here’s hoping I can get another 70,000 words down.  I am encouraged by my sister who messaged me after reading the bits I have and said she wants to read more.  No pressure!

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Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella Book Review…

January 6, 2020
Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.  Picture of the book and a plant on my table.

I first started reading the Shopaholic series years ago following the life of Becky Bloomwood a financial advice writer with a dark secret.  Truth was she was a shopaholic with significant debt and her life was spiralling out of control.  Christmas Shopoholic is number 9 and a bit of catching up for anyone new to the series!  Sophie Kinsella did write the series frequently but understandably the time between books as become longer.  I don’t mind as each book is well thought out and a joy to read.

Becky is married to Luke, looks after their only child Minnie, and they live outside London near her family.  This year her parents have decided to move to Shoreditch for a ‘gap year’ and hand over the responsibility of Christmas lunch to Becky.  Immediately stressed to emulate her mother’s amazing meals, Becky does what she knows best, list making and shopping!  Except it isn’t working and Becky can’t find anything perfect for the day.  There are so many demands.  Jess, Becky’s sister wants a low waste vegan Christmas.  Her best friend Suze is desperate to come to avoid her husband’s family.  Layer in an ex-boyfriend turned Rockstar to the mix, and Becky’s head is all over the place. 

I loved this book!  Kinsella has updated the series and successfully incorporated current social technologies like Instagram and Whatsapp into the storyline.  Fantastic!  Like all the previous books it is a joyful, easy read.  There is a little frustration with Becky as she hasn’t really grown up in the last ten years but there were some signs of maturity.  There is no wondering if there will be another book as the ending answers this.  If you are looking for a new series to get hooked, find Confessions of a Shopaholic at your library or bookstore.

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The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion Book Review…

August 12, 2019
This picture is of the front cover of The Rosie Result.  It is plain white with black text and a seagull with a scarf on it.  The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion Book Review.

The third and final book in the Don Tillmans story, The Rosie Result, is set in Melbourne, after the family have spent years in New York.  Rosie has started work on a project that requires private funding to continue.  Don sparks a racial row at his university, referred to as the ‘Genetics Lecture Outrage’, and is currently suspended.  But the real focus is Hudson, in his last year of primary school, lacking in friends and the school reporting meltdowns

I loved reading The Rosie Project for its finely tuned character of Don who see’s the world through his potentially autistic brain.  The second book The Rosie Effect felt a little rushed and didn’t pack as great punch.  The Rosie Result is meticulous in its storyline and I am sad that it is the last in this series.  Set eleven years later, Don realises the move from New York to Australia has disrupted Hudson and the family stability.  He decides that there are three projects he must complete to regain harmony in their lives.

The Hudson Adjustment Problem has Don spending time with Hudson, explaining social rules and behaviours, in a bid to stop his school requesting autism testing.  Simsion carefully navigates the world of autism and within a school information night shows the reader both sides of the coin when it comes to autism diagnosis.  Should we diagnose autism?  Should children be drugged? 

Hudson’s one and only friend is Blanche, a person who has albinism and impaired vision.  This character allows Simsion to show that there is a lot to consider for those with impairments and how to help them.  There is a part at the beginning of the book where on a ski trip both Judson and Blanche require a little more time to adjust to the snow.  I loved the fact that despite the extra thought that had to be done, Don never sees these as issues or annoyances and works through them.  It is a great way to show that with a little bit of extra thought everyone can enjoy every activity!

I can’t finish without mentioning that Don opens his cocktail bar!  The location is unusual, you can order on an app without having to speak to anyone, and the bar is completely quiet.  It is a hit within the autism community and for those who are a bit socially awkward!  We all knew he would do it!

If you haven’t read any of the books in the series I highly recommend them.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the third book in the comments.  PF xo

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The Flatshare By Beth O’Leary Book Review…

May 20, 2019
A picture of bouquet of flowers next to The Flat Share book by Beth O'Leary.  This article is a book review.

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

I’ve been trying to set up a night routine and this has meant I am reading more.  I saw The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary on Laura Jane’s Instagram account and instantly purchased!  The premise of two Londoners sharing a bed intrigued me.  This is a situation that some people do to afford to live in this expensive city.  Our female lead Tiffy finds herself in need of a place to live urgently and Leon, a night shift worker, needs funds to help his brother.  Having never met they share the one bedroom flat, communicating through notes, so many notes!

Strict access times are put into place, wardrobes are cleared out and Tiffy is moved in.  Tiffy is a craft book editor whose latest author loves to crochet clothing.  Leon works nights as a palliative care home and is a bit of a loner.  His girlfriend Kay is not that supportive of the flat share situation, and their relationship seems doomed from the start.  Tiffy and Leon have a fantastic mix of support characters, perfectly formed and help answer all our questions about the flat sharing situation!  The drama of the story comes into play with Tiffy dealing with Justin, an ex-boyfriend turned stalker and Leon trying to help his falsely accused brother get out of jail. 

Hi Leon,

Would you mind putting the toilet seat down please?

I’m afraid I was unable to write this note in a way that didn’t sound passive-aggressive – seriously, it’s something about the note form, you pick up a pen and a Post-it and you immediately become a bitch – so I’m just styling it out. I might put some smiley faces to really hammer the thing home.

Tiffy x

I absolutely adored O’Leary’s story as she has incorporated lots of modern references including her characters use of Facebook messenger and conversations about gaslighting.  There is a great tension created around Justin. I knew he was going to suddenly appear but never knew when!  He always had a way of making contact or turning up just as Tiffy had a breakthrough in her life.  We can all relate to this! 

The cover says ‘the next Jo Jo Moyes’ however I disagree.  Moyes books have a depression about them where as O’Leary’s book has a more positive light.  O’Leary writes of Tiffy’s counselling sessions with empathy, showing us how slowly her character is regaining her confidence after being emotionally abused.  I was really impressed with the overall tone of the book and how it dealt with quite serious subjects without losing the sense of romance and comedy.

If you only have budget for one book this year buy The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary.  Or request it from your local library.  Did you know authors get recognised and paid for library loans too?  Happy reading, PF xo.

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