Category Archives: Books


July 24, 2016

TBR Pile

When it’s a nice day outside and you should be enjoying it but you have wifi and a TBR pile and cold brew…

In an effort to not spend yet more money on books (having realised I had so many still to read anyway) I pulled all the books off my shelves that I’d either optimistically bought and never read (likely culprits: anything non-fiction) or presents that I really want to read but are hardback, so I had put off reading out of sheer laziness in having holding the things up to my face. Also dangerous: I rediscovered my library card recently, so I’ve been on a library book rampage…

On the TBR list (in no particular order):

Mud, blood and poppycock – Gordon Corrigan
Hack Attack, how the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch – Nick Davies
We remember D-Day – Frank & Joan Shaw
John Yorke – Into the Woods
Animals – Sara Pascoe
Far from the Madding Crowd – Hardy
A History of the Middle East – Peter Mansfield
The Witches – Stacy Schiff
The Post-Birthday World – Lionel Shriver
Where my heart used to beat – Sebastian Faulks
A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

Plus on reserve at the library: Maureen Johnson’s Burmudez Triangle, Sophia Amoruso’s #Girlboss and Station Eleven by E. Mandel.

So essentially I shouldn’t be buying any more books for a good three months, right!? Right?! What are you reading at the minute? Give me more recommendations for my library card…

books + brews: the Valentines pile

February 14, 2016

I am not a fan of Valentines day. At all. BUT I love love, and reading books about love…so I’m not about to miss the chance to scribble pink and red hearts all over everything and throw down my favourite reads. They’re all old, but that’s not the point. I heart them greatly.

pouring champagne |

In fact, one the greatest things about not giving myself a Goodreads book challenge target this year, has been the headspace to re-read favourite books if I want to. I never had any problem with it as a teenager, but that’s probably because I hadn’t set reading lists of 30, 40, 50 new books in a year.

And it turns out, because I’m have ‘upholder’ tendencies, that would greatly explain why I can’t make a list and then ignore it, no matter how arbitrary. Oh, I just said I’d read more new books this year than last? Better get on it… or not, this year, because no such list (for me) exists. And that’s a relief. Because I’m about to re-read these favourites…

1. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
Maybe I love this one because it has good memories of being dragged to Barnes and Noble by my friend Maggie (who is a children’s librarian and has great taste in books) and essentially had my love of YA legitimised by this wonderful person. Or maybe it’s because this book is excellent, and Rainbow Rowell is the shizz. A bit of both, perhaps? Or maybe because we’re all sort of Cath and we all grew up writing fanfiction (oh sure you didn’t), and following twins Cath and Wren through their College coming-of-age is being fulfilled a little…somehow.

2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Do I even have to explain this? I’ve been in love with Mr Darcy and his haughtiness since I was eleven. The dancing, the wit, the empire waist necklines! The bitchy Bingley sisters, the manners, the longing looks over pianos! In the words of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail, “read it, I guarantee you’ll love it.”

3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green & David Levithan
I get that this isn’t most people’s favourite John Green love story, but the idea that two very different Will Graysons exist, and will meet, is so much fun to watch unfold. Didn’t everyone know a Tiny when they were in school? Or were you not that lucky? A high school YA love story, it was a great introduction to LGBT YA…and frankly, I need more of it in my life (feel free to suggest any of your favourites in the comments…)

4. On Green Dolphin Street – Sebastian Faulks
Shot through with my favourite jazz songs, a certain smokiness and the tug between diplomat and journalist, this Faulks novel (narrowly) won out over the Girl at the Lion D’or for a spot on this list. It’s set after the second war (as most of his books are – or during or between two…). Mary van der Linden, her diplomat husband and journalist Frank Renzo meet against the backdrop of the 1960 election, lingering McCarthyism, the cold war and burgeoning race relations in the US. Nostalgic and a bit heartbreaking.

5. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffeneger
When I first read this book, I couldn’t have loved Claire and Henry any harder. Everything that I had ever felt about longing and love in our (then transatlantic) relationship had been condensed into this perfect, terrifying, gorgeous story about what happens when someone you love can be thrown through time – and away from you – without warning. Planes aren’t time machines, but god, did I get it. My copy is dog-eared and thoroughly well-loved, though not as dog-eared as the several I’ve already given away through the years. Also, I have never wanted to live in Chicago more than when I read this book.

“Do you ever miss him?
Every day. Every minute.
Every minute, she says.
Yes, it’s that way, isn’t it?”

Isn’t it. Let me know your favourite reads about l-o-v-e in a comment below (or on instagram!).

Books + Brews: 2015 shelf

December 29, 2015


Books (in reading order January – December):

The Geography of you and me – Jennifer E. Smith
The Manifesto on How to be Interesting – Holly Bourne
Murder Most Unladylike – Robin Stevens
Geek Girl (Geek Drama) – Holly Smale
How to Survive your Sisters – Ellie Campbell
The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
A Possible Life – Sebastian Faulks
Singling out the Couples – Stella Duffy
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
Arsenic for Tea – Robin Stevens
Death Keeps His Court, the Rule of Richard the II – Anselm Audley
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson
Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey
Home – Toni Morrison
Trains and Lovers – Alexander McCall Smith
Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen – Susan Gregg Gilmore
The Most of Norah Ephron – Norah Ephron
Me Before You – JoJo Moyes
Asking For It – Louise O’Neill
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
Essentialism – Greg McKeown
The Humans – Matt Haig
We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Because You’ll Never Meet Me – Leah Thomas
My Own Story – Emmeline Pankhurst
Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull

2015 has been an interesting year in books for me. This year I let myself get back to reading whatever I wanted, just for me, which probably sounds odd to most people (don’t you always read books just for you?) but makes sense in light of some interning and work I did in the last few years before 2015, which meant I read a lot of things for other people. I was obviously more than happy to do at the time, but it certainly made this year (and getting back to reading whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it) feel fresher and better than ever.

This year there were a lot of great, funny reads (Geek Girl, The Wells & Wong books) and gut-punching reads (Asking for It, Elizabeth is Missing, and to an extent, Me Before You) and some others that were just okay, a solid 3 stars-wouldn’t-read-again. There were a surprising number of non-fiction books in the form of productivity and management reads (The Power of Habit, Essentialism, Creativity Inc), all of which I know I’ll keep dipping in and out of, and one of which lead me to my now favourite podcast. There were also a few essential feminism texts that I can’t believe I had left until now to actually read (We Should all be Feminists, My Own Story, The Bell Jar). There were surprising disappointments (The Goldfinch – nothing but a downward, irredeemable spiral of misery for 700+ pages – The Humans, Modern Romance and The Miniaturist, which I thought was fine, but not the amazing book everyone portrayed it to be). Books I’d enjoyed, but knew I would, because I already have many books by the authors on my shelves (A Possible Life, Home). And ‘That One That Was Pure Poetry, Picked Up On A Whim In Dar Es Salaam’ (Singling out the Couples).

And then. My stand-out favourites of the year: Big MagicThe Bone Clocks, Everything I Never Told You, Because You’ll Never Meet MeCreativity Inc. Each one so very different, but I loved and possibly needed right at that moment. So while I was one book shy of my 33 book aim for the year, I’m still content. I’d chosen the number at random after reading 36 books in 2014 (and feeling as though I rushed a few just for the sake of ticking off a number). I read more widely this year than I probably have ever done (given that I’ve always been more obsessed with novels and plays). I brought physical books back towards the end of the year after being obsessed with my kindle (the price! the ease!) but then realising I wanted to a) take photos of and enjoy the physical books and b) didn’t feel like I was retaining too much from reading on the kindle. (Not a problem when it’s a forgettable mid-range novel, more frustrating when it’s something you want to be able to reference again).

What did you read this year? What were your standout favourites? Can’t wait to get stuck into the TBR pile for 2016…

books + brews: the most of norah ephron

October 11, 2015


Books + Brews: Nora Ephron |

BREW: dirty chai, Damson & Co
BOOK: The Most of Norah Ephron – Norah Ephron

Ah Nora. The Nora. Screenwriter, Director and Producer of some of my favourite films…Do I know You’ve Got Mail backwards? Why, yes, yes I do, because Tom Hanks carrying a goldfish in a little bag is the cutest thing ever, and I desperately wanted Meg Ryan’s hair. And bookshop. Was the soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally teenage-me’s gateway jazz album of choice? Absolutely. She could make you fall in love with cities you’d never before wished to go to, and her people who inhabited them. So when this book came my way on twitter after a casual competition RT (thank you @alisonbarrow!), that pretty much made my week <3 Wellesley alumna, wit, word wizard…someone who always ended an article with the perfect sentence. Nora Ephron was everything I wished to be as a writer and creative woman.

So while I knew the more recent articles and commencement speeches and films, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed dipping into this book on the commute and on coffee stops, and learning more about her early days in journalism at the New York Post, her navigation of feminism and Wellesley-related hang-ups. Admittedly, some of the early stories can be as frustrating as they are tantalising. Like being at a dinner party with a table of guests, half of whose names you didn’t catch and it’s now just a liiiittle too late to ask them because it would be rude, and half the time you have no idea who they are and what they’re referring to. What I mean to say is, even though I studied American politics and history, a quarter of the cast of her early political columns are unknown to me and that can be a little vexing with a style so familiar and knowing as hers.

That said, there are about 50 turned down ‘remember this quote’ page corners, and it pairs excellently with a decaff dirty chai and a few moments to yourself. Dip in, put down, dip in, put down. If you’re in soho, Damson & Co froth the world’s most perfect milk. ☕️? 10/10, would drink again, etc, etc.

Books + Brews*: Arsenic for Tea

August 16, 2015

BREW: Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate

BOOK: Arsenic for Tea – Robin Stevens

When I think of summer reading, I think of cycling to the library, loading up on Asterix, Jane Austen and books with first names for titles and dragging them, blankets, snacks, and half the series of Mallory Towers into a teepee in the garden. My mum could whip up a teepee in minutes. And you’d usually find me there, all snack carcasses and finished books, come rain or shine. So when I started reading the Wells and Wong series, and realised it is basically Mallory Towers with murder (but you know, better than my description), and that it is technically summer even though you’d never know it from the weather, I thought…why not bring out the teepee…?

It may not surprise you to learn that I am now much too big for a bamboo stick teepee. This was disappointment number 1. Disappointment number 2 is realising that Keurig cup hot chocolate does not taste the same if it hasn’t been made with a Keurig machine. This is my plan for drinking all the Dunkin Hot Chocolate whilst not in the US scuppered, I tell thee. But back to the books. I am in utter love with this series: Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are schoolgirl detectives extraordinaire, running around Deepdean School for Girls attempting to solve crimes and forming a secret detective agency. Narrated by Hazel, an international student from Hong Kong, it’s as much a wonderful study of the absurdities of British people and their education system in the 30’s as it is a romp of a read. They’re also fantastic books for when you decide you really should have read the Bell Jar by now, and frankly things look a bit bleak afterwards until there are more shrimps and bunbreaks in your life. If you’re a fan of mini female Watsons and Holmes’ mixed with a tiny dash of Enid Blyton, then these books are absolutely for you.


* Books + Brews: a new, hopefully-regular bit on the blog where I talk about what [books] I’m reading now and accompanying [brews]. Brews loosely termed here to mean some sort of tea/coffee/cocktail/beverage. Because what is a book without a brew, yes? Also, it was probably odd to start off with hot chocolate. Oh well.

book roundup

September 10, 2013

So, about that resolution to read more non-fiction…yeah. About that. See, I want to read more non-fiction. I do. It’s just. I like fiction. A lot. And despite the librarian looking at me and pointedly saying “but that’s for young children” when I enquired as to a particular YA novel recently, it’s still the first genre I reach for when I think of picking up a new book.

So recently, to the detriment of the two books about dense and difficult wars I fully intend to read, I’ve been loving:

1. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
This novel sparked a bidding war and it’s really not difficult to understand why. Honestly, I loved this book, so I’m kind of gutted that my review of it for For Book’s Sake was a little…stilted. Sorry, gang. But despite my terribly-written review, Burial Rites is just a brilliant, taut novel about a woman convicted of murdering her lover and forced to await her final sentencing in the farmstead she grew up in. In 1800s Iceland. It’s icy to the core, with this wonderful pull between the harsh earth-bound lives and everything else that’s believed in. Oh and it’s been longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. So you should go read it. Right now.

2. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
I haven’t loved an epistolic novel this much since we were reading The Color Purple in school…one to rip through, Where’d You Go Bernadette is wonderfully fluid despite so many switches in voice. The very fact that each voice is so distinct is a real tribute to Semple’s talents. 15 year old Bee is the overall narrator and collator of the emails detailing the lead-up to, and disappearance of, her enigmatic mother Bernadette. Who exactly is this woman? McArthur grant genius architect? Agoraphobic, scatty wife? Mom? I have to say at times it stretches the suspension of disbelief too far for me, but I loved the characters so much that I kept reading anyway (in a kind of -oh-it’s-midnight-I-should-sleep-one-more-chapter …way).

3. The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
A spell is being cast of the female inhabitants of Stellar Plains High School: one by one they feel the cold wind that brings an instant death to their desires and relationships. Simultaneously, the new drama teacher (waltzing in from out of town) decides to stage Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ comedy of women withholding sex from their menfolk in order to bring about the end of the seemingly endless war. Again, the ending made me feel a bit like…oh well, that’s a bit…contrived. Or a giant cop-out. But I loved her prose and her female characters, despite there being an abundance of them, had just enough depth to make each twist of the rubix cube engaging. So of course, now I can’t wait to pick up The Interestings

Also on my list…I’m obsessed with Jeeves & Wooster books at the minute. Seriously. We even have tickets to the Steven Mangan/Matthew Macfadyen production at Richmond before it transfers to the West End and I’m SO excited! Other than that, I read Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth and wasn’t entirely sure where I came down on it, even though he is my favourite author. He does display that wonderful elasticity as usual…that way of encompassing everything and nothing all at once, whatever the subject matter is. Perhaps I was a little disappointed that the lives of his characters seemed so small, even as they played out against this amazing backdrop of MI5 and the cold war and new struggles in Northern Ireland and the manipulation of writers and artists by their own government…but then again, it was a wonderful foil at the same time. So you see, I loved it, but it did make me wonder what part of me wasn’t satisfied. I haven’t quite figured that out yet…

So. What are you reading now? What should be on my Goodreads list? I have a zillion Audible credits to use too, so if you can recommend any well-read audiobooks…fire away!

Wednesday snapshot

July 31, 2013

Up. Workout. Dress. Breakfast. News (twitter). Read (twitter). Bus, train (podcast), desk. Tea.

I’d like to still be reading/watching all the Noir films; Ella Fitzgerald’s theme is even better now I understand the book/story it’s attached to. It’s the right weather for it anyway… a day or two of rain and cool weather is actually quite welcome when you’re a fitful sleeper in the warmth.

PS: The BBC says there’s 7,000 vacant shops in London but Merton Council still want to close Wimbledon Library to use it for a ‘retail/commercial use’. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE sign this petition: it’s a brilliant, vibrant library and one of the best I’ve used in London. To see it disappear would be absolutely awful and for no bloody good reason other than greed. If you’ve ever been to Wimbledon, you’ll know it’s well-stocked with places TO BUY STUFF. It’s not, however, well stocked with places you can go, read a book, have a one-to-one languages tutorial, use the computers, use the facilities, see mother-and-baby groups, knitting groups…and so on ad nauseum. It’s a real community hub, so please help save it!

June avec jumpers

June 23, 2013

Yep, those are brand new sandals, tags still attached, waiting for the moment when it stops raining. Because it will…won’t it?! It’s June and ‘meeting a friend for a wander in the park’ swiftly became ‘hiding out indoors with a hot chocolate becauseWHYSOCOLD?’.

Oh well. At least I got an hour on my board yesterday, and this afternoon was spent indoors with tons of tea and amazing home made cake and people celebrating the return from Nepal of one of my favourite/oldest university friends.

Oh, and I finished Admission, which is brilliant and I read on a whim. It’s brilliant and dense and despite an overuse of the word ‘myriad’ and a tendency to rant on about the actual Princeton admissions process/applicants, it’s a beautiful, winding exploration of admissions in every sense of the word. And apparently now a film…that seems to bear little-to-no resemblence to the book. In fact, the entire apex of the novel is revealed in the first 2 minutes of the trailer, so…yeahhh. But hey, Tina Fey’s the lead, and Tina Fey is awesome, so you know I’ll probably be watching it next week anyway.

Monday comes all too soon…

Book roundup

June 13, 2013

A round-up of the books I’ve been reading lately:

1. The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria: An easily-digestible overview of what the world would look like post-American domination…in 2008. Doh. Despite its eminently readable style (though Zakaria is potentially a little too even-handed when it comes to China’s political maneuverings, especially in Africa ) had to put this one down half way through due to my idiocy in not picking up the more relevant 2nd edition and everything in the book being pre-world market implosions, pre-Mumbai terror attacks…pre-everything, really. I persisted for a little while thinking it would be interesting context, but in the end it was just too irrelevant. Still, it ensured The Post American World 2.0 is firmly on my list of to-reads.

2. Shift, Kim Curran: Ever since my favourite Boston children’s librarian put a copy of TFiOS in my hands a year and a bit ago, I’ve been properly loving YA.  In Shift loser Scott Tyler discovers he has the power to undo any decision he ever made. (oh but really, any decision? You’ll see…). It was a fast-paced, enjoyable blend of sci fi & realistic fiction, excepting an exposition dump in the early chapters that grated a little. For me it definitely hit its stride a little further in when we meet particularly disgusting villain…

All in: strong female characters? Check. Philsophical undercurrents about free will and determinism? Check. Enough plot twists and fake-outs to satisfy even the most experienced of ending-guessers? Indeed. Speaking of,  the ending definitely felt like a set-up for a sequel, so I’ll be interested to read that when it arrives…

3. The Help, Kathryn Stockett: After five million, billion reading years had passed (and committing the cardinal sin of watching the film before reading the text) I finally picked this up. I’ve already gushed a little about how much I enjoyed this, so you should probably read this post. Because cookies.

Currently reading: Zadie Smith’s NW. It’s utterly delicious and I can’t wait until I’ve finished, if only to be able to pick the idea of it up as a complete little box and muse on it from all angles.

What are you reading at the moment? Leave me a comment and give me some things to add to my to-read list!