the 18 i read in 2018

This year has been pretty full on in terms of books. Along with writing my own (yep, that finally happened) I devoured tonnes – in particular lots of books I’d never think of picking off the shelves myself, which is always a bonus.

I’ve done a round up below of the eighteen which were that good (or bad) they’ve made the highlight reel. Here’s to lots more reading in 2019 (and lots more writing!)

1. Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman

2. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

3. How To Catch A Star – Oliver Jeffers

4. The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig

5. The Chalk Man – C J Tudor

6. A Very Large Expanse Of Sea – Tahereh Mafi

7. The Beauty That Remains – Ashley Woodfolk

8. The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur

9. All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

10. The Queen Of Bloody Everything – Joanna Nadin

11. Some Kind Of Wonderful – Giovanna Fletcher

12. What Belongs To You – Gareth Greenwell

13. The Secret Life Of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

14. Still Me – JoJo Moyes

15. Papillon – Henri Charriere

16. The Man I Think I Know – Mike Gayle

17. The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr

18. How To Be Happy – Eva Woods

 

I hope this gives you lots of inspiration for your tbr piles (or spurs you on to finish the book that’s been sat on your bedside table for the past month.)

love sophie

little books for little loves

I’ve absolutely loved getting to pick out stories every day for our 11am story time at The Little Bookshop Leeds. I’ve been so encouraged by the reactions my *terrible* voices have got from the little children who come to listen. It’s also such a treat getting to read some of my childhood favourites to them, and seeing them follow along with the story, often joining in if they know it well enough.

Along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Comet In Moominland, and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, (my most favourite favourites) I’ve been introduced to some really fab picture books which have all been loved by the little ones who arrive to story time. I’ve picked some of my new favourites out, hopefully to give you some inspiration if bedtime reading is getting a bit repetitive!

1.Florence Frizzball – Claire Freedman and Jane Massey

This is an absolute joy to read at story time and also a story I relate to lots as a girl with untamed and frizzy locks. It’s funny, and a good one for little listeners to follow along with, especially those with curly hair!

2. Here We Are – Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers is a delight. His writing is so beautiful and he is a true born storyteller. It’s a book even the adults will enjoy reading, and his illustrations are stunning. The story follows a child’s journey into the world, punctuated with illustrations of the night sky, and the world.

3. How To Catch A Star – Oliver Jeffers

This is another one of Jeffers’ beauties. It follows a boy who dreams of catching a star, and his journey to find one. It’s full of beautiful spreads, and has some real funny moments and interactive parts which the children love.

4. I Wrote You A Note – Lizi Boyd

This is another beautifully illustrated book which follows a friend who writes a letter to another friend. Along the way, the note gets lost and the story follows who has found the note and where it ends up. A lovely story about friendship, as well as animals and wildlife.

5. Grandma Bird – Benji Davies

Benji Davies is fab. His book The Storm Whale was my first introduction to his writing, and now he has adapted his tales of the sea and families. This one follows Noi who spends the summer at Grandma’s. He gets into a storm, and the beginning of a new friendship is revealed. Davies is a fab storyteller and anyone who loves The Storm Whale will love this.

6. In My Heart – Jo Witek

This is an emotional story about feelings, great to read with children who are maybe struggling with expressing themselves. It is vibrant and humorous, whilst also dealing with hard emotions for children to understand. It is more of a celebration of the many different emotions we can feel, and is illustrated with different coloured hearts which fan out of the centre of the book. It would make a lovely gift, too.

7. Katinka’s Tail – Judith Kerr

Renowned for The Tiger Who Came To Tea and her Mog series, Kerr has put together a beautiful story of a cat with a rather remarkable tail. It’s a great story for children to follow, with gorgeous illustrations to keep the story going from each page. It is a good traditional storybook, with lots of humour and emotion, as well as a lovely dreamy element which includes a trip to the moon.

I hope this list is helpful to you if you’re ever looking for fresh inspiration, and if you’ve come across any of them already I’m sure you’ll agree they’re all great examples.

If you have any of your own favourite picture books, let me know!

love sophie

 

book club: eleanor oliphant is completely fine

I closed the last page on this beauty yesterday, and I was sad. How could a book this good actually come to an end?

From the very beginning I was fixated with the main character, Eleanor, a twenty-nine-year-old, set in the odd ways she goes about her business. Her routines, her likes, her dislikes. The characterisation Gail Honeyman employs is incredible. Eleanor’s voice is sharp and clear throughout the whole story, keeping you with her and routing for her.

She’s far from ordinary, but also so totally ordinary that she’s relatable. Maybe we don’t all sink a few bottles of vodka over the weekend, or go days without a human interaction, but the principles are there and we can relate, along with hard hitting themes. Loneliness. Depression. Social awkwardness. The pages encourage it all. So much so that I couldn’t put it down.

She’s a complete creature of habit, so seeing her unhinge throughout the story keeps you turning the pages for reactions and her awkward emotions.

With her unusual appearance, including an eczema glove and a scar on her face left by her mother, she’s perceived as a loner. The only contact she has, other than with the people she’s always worked with and the man in the local off license, is a weekly phone call with ‘Mummy’, who’s in prison for an unknown crime.

Then we meet Raymond, someone Eleanor works with.

Slowly and surely, the cracks of the past start to fill, and Eleanor – with the help of Raymond – addresses her childhood, and the reasons why she is the way she is.

It’s a book that will no doubt speak to introverts, those who are unsure of themselves and their quirks, and those looking for someone just like them.

The book is bold, moving, and original.

With such skilled writing, you can’t help but follow Eleanor’s journey and feel familiar with it from the off. To say it’s a debut is insane. Hats off to you, Honeyman. You are ace. Eleanor is ace. I blooming loved it.

love sophie

book club: northern lights

There’s something so spectacularly magical about the way Philip Pullman writes. His lyricism and imagination work so well together and the images he conjures are stunning. His Dark Materials make me want to read children’s books forever.

Set in a completely parallel universe, the book follows Lyra as she journeys to the Arctic in search of her missing friend, Roger, and Uncle Asriel who becomes imprisoned. It’s the first book in the trilogy and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to pick up the next book as soon I’d shut the back cover.

The idea of human souls manifesting outside of our bodies is a major plot point, and these dæmons embody a sentient animal, bringing aid, comfort and companionship to their humans. The idea is genius, and one I loved as soon as I started reading. Lyra is intrigued after overhearing a controversial lecture on Dust from her uncle, Lord Asriel, and this leads her on her adventure.

Often fantasy novels take me a while to get into, but from the end of the first few pages I was hooked with Lyra’s character, and the idea of her dæmon.

Set initially in Oxford, Pullman uses varying forms of description to indulge the reader in the setting and life of Lyra. He does it so well it’s annoying. Pullman includes only what’s needed, and the scenes are visual and vivid, so much so that you can imagine them, and feel the atmosphere. Top writing, done well.

Along her journey, Lyra meets and interacts with many other people. There are themes of theology – particularly with the Gobbers – as well as abandonment and loss, which Lyra deals with both internally and externally. She’s a lot more than just her blonde hair, blue eye exterior, and this is developed throughout the novel and her journey, and the obstacles she has to face.

She’s crafty, brave, and equally curious. With Pan by her side, she manages to steer through the troubles and challenges until…

If you haven’t yet discovered Pullman and His Dark Materials, go and buy them. This introduction will leave you wanting more of his indulgent writing.

love sophie

i canuary

I had one of those ‘head in hands’ moments this week.

It’s January, which means I’m tired, broke, deadlines are looming, and all I want to do is eat the treats I got for Christmas (those that made it this far…) and snuggle up in bed with an extra large cup of tea.

But, I’ve got a Masters to finish, and a novel which needs editing.

My mind is also away with the fairies so I’ve been trying some different ways to get my mind back on track to what I’m actually supposed to be doing… and telling myself that I’ve got this. Because sometimes life is just a little bit overwhelming.

Anyone who knows me will know I’m a list queen. I like everything written out (a million times) so that I can see it and know what I have to do and when I need to do it. So, in the amongst the essay writing, I made a couple of lists to lull me out of my stress-head state. And, although some of them got my mind wandering off piste, (I am also the queen of procrastination) I was able to get on with my reading and managed to make lots of notes which I am going to magic up into the essay.

Here are a few examples of lists I’ve made when I’ve been super stressed…

  • Blog post ideas (because blogging counts as productive procrastination)
  • Best bits of the year (this could be what you enjoyed most about last year or what you’re looking forward to this year)
  • Bucket List (of places I want to go to/things I want to see etc.)
  • Book list (books I want to read this month/year)
  • Inspiration List (people/things/ideas that inspire me – Pinterest is great for this)
  • What I’m grateful for (a nice way of reflecting on something you already have)
  • My five year plan (enough to scare anyone back into an essay)
  • A shopping list (of things I can’t actually afford)
  • Meal plan for the week (especially good for anyone doing veganuary etc.)
  • Words of wisdom (for when life really does get tough)
  • Songs to listen to (usually whilst writing/working)
  • My to do list (always include a couple of things you’ve already done and tick them off so you don’t stress out even more)

So they are all just ideas which have helped me to get my mind back. Sometimes when I’m stressed I get so wound up with myself that if I don’t take five minutes out I want to give up.

These lists are a good way of bringing you back from stress island and hopefully will help you as much as they’ve helped me.

(They’re nice things to do anyway if you get the chance. It’s often quite nice to just reflect on what you’ve done/are going to do.)

Let me know what you think!

love sophie