Boy, am I glad to see you.
February was pretty tough. The first half passed in a blur of a threatening cold. I still gymmed, but I didn’t get up early, didn’t do my 10 minutes of Headspace, spent too much money buying lunch when I much prefer to make it and take it in with me. Every day I felt a little closer to being trammelled by something fluey, but it never quite blossomed into anything.
Recently back from Ethiopia, where I was lucky enough to see the work of my organisation in action. More about the heat and the dust and the delicious food soon, because I’m knackered now – since I came back I’ve been struck down by a rubbish stomach bug, which is v-e-r-r-r-y slowly abating. I would give many things to be shot of these cramps, and be able to comfortably drink a cup of tea again.
Roll on the weekend, that’s what I say…
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.
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!).
January, that long, depressing, wet and poor month is finally at an end. You probably listened to all the goal-setting podcasts. You charged that gym membership. You bought a nutribullet and juiced ALL THE THINGS.
I didn’t actually write a post about this before the turning of the calendar, but I did do my goal-setting at the beginning of the year. Happily most of them were continuations of things I’d started to put in place in 2015…
This books+brews is dedicated to the storm that has not graced us in the UK with its presence, but I’m living vicariously through my East Coast friends who are literally up to their waists in snow. What do you need when it’s snowy? Real hot chocolate. I’m talking double cream, milk and grated dark chocolate…none of yer cadburys powder here.
And here’s the perfect book to curl up with while the storm rages outside. I’ll always love a ‘what if?’ book – Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life was one of my favourite reads of 2014, so if you haven’t read that either it should definitely be on your list. The Versions of Us is pretty ambitious: three versions of Eva and Jim make their way through their respective lives… and it’s interesting to consider the idea that no matter what, the large events in your life may be fated to happen in some manner, whichever road you chose that leads you there. All three Eva and Jims were at Cambridge, all three ended up in New York at some point, all three in the book are fated to meet. Actually, because of this mirroring in their stories, and the use of so many similar names, The Versions of Us is a little confusing in the beginning – wait, is this the version where Jim does X or is that Version 2? is Eva married in this one? Balls. Flip back a bit, won’t you? There was, I have to admit, an embarrassing amount of re-reading the first few chapters like a table of contents, but as their stories began to diverge more, it became a little easier to keep the strands separate.
So grab a blanket and a mug of something warm, and join me in pretending that there are soft, silent flakes of frozen water vapour falling from the dull London sky. Maybe grab a journal too, because you are no doubt going to fall down a thought wormhole of your own, thinking of choices made and roads untaken. Pro tip: not being able to leave the house is good when you get to the end of this book, because you’re going to want to hide your puffy, red eyes for a little bit. (I for one am glad I chose not to read the last twenty pages or so on the tube. Because that would have been concerning for anyone remotely near me when I started ugly crying).
Next books+brews: will I have managed to get more than 1/4 into The Witches: Salem 1692? Will I just end up reading fangirl for the 20th time, because I need my Rainbow Rowell hit? Will I actually branch out from hot drinks and finally make some fancy cocktails? Whoo knows. You don’t yet, so you should probably come back soon and see…oh and drop me a comment on your way – tell me what you’re reading
PS: the beautiful cover was designed by Sinem Erkas who also did that amazing Where’d you Go Bernadette cover…
Those Sunday nights following weekends when you’re not quite sure how many of these photos that you actually like because the weekend was so lovely and somehow they don’t quite capture it well enough. The icy air that seeps under your wool hat and the salty tang and the miles covered and the tea drunk.
But you’ll post them anyway. Because you have to get past your dumb perfectionism and just…let it go.
Northumberland, you are as lovely and as bracing as ever in January…
A weekend filled with lush, brisk walks along the sand. Just what a January weekend is made for.
Brew: vanilla Swiss Miss hot chocolate
– The Life & Death of Sophie Stark, Anna North
– Into the Woods, John Yorke
– The Final Empire – Mistborn book 1, Brandon Sanderson
– The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett
– The Witches: Salem 1962, Stacy Schiff
– Where my Heart Used to Beat, Sebastian Faulks
– Pistache, Sebastian Faulks
– A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson]
(And cheatingly, Why not Me by Mindy Kaling, which was actually my last read of 2015)
Just finished The Life and Death of Sophie Stark yesterday and ate up every second of it – a really compelling read, and a brutally/wonderfully unsympathetic female lead. A really great one to pick up – devoured this in a couple of days (thank you Christmas break!) Just getting stuck into the Witches by Stacy Schiff, a non-fiction book attempting to unravel the mysteries of the Salem witch trials…and so far I’m loving it. Though I think I should stop reading it before bed… what’s on your TBR pile for 2016 so far? Share away!
Holee crap. What. a. year. It’s hard to put into words just how insanely full it has been…