Reading with Kat

Working Mother Book Blogger

The Top Ten Tuesday linky, hosted by Artsy Reader Girl is: What books would I want with me whilst stranded on a desert island. At first I thought it would be a list of my most favourite books, which will also feature, but then I thought, if I was stranded on a desert island, some books that might actually come in handy whilst stranded might be a better idea, you know to help me not be so stranded; so that took a lot more thinking. But they have to be books I have actually read, otherwise I would just choose proper survival books.

My list:

1. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

The first book, that I’ve read and love, that came to mind was this one because it is a story about cave people, how they find a new cave home, how they hunt for food and forage for berries, making tools etc. All of these sound like super skills to learn from when you are stranded on a desert island, and would keep me alive long enough to get rescued.

2. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Although I haven’t finished reading this book yet, it is exactly the kind of book you would need if you are feeling isolated, trapped, alone on an island, plus the cover is nice and soft so you could even sleep on it.

3. The Year of Living Danishly

This book I have read many times. Helen shows how you can go native in another country, and even if you do not speak the language, even if you don’t understand the culture or like the weather, you can still thrive.

4. Leap in by Alexandra Heminsley

Alexandra takes on open swimming in lakes and seas, shows us the best ways, the best goggles to wear, how to breathe, how to keep warm and basically do well and seek joy from open swimming. Well if I am on a deserted island, a book about swimming in the open sea might be a good idea, as I might learn to swim my way home.

5. Eat that frog by Brian Tracy

Because I might actually have to eat a frog, and like it (and yes I know its a metaphor!)

6. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Learning what to do and what not to do when stranded on an island!

And now my four books that I want not be able to leave behind, the books that I have re-read many times, that will make me happy and provide comfort:

7. Tara Road by Maeve Binchy

8. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

10. The Other side of the Story by Marian Keyes

Duty of Care: One NHS doctor’s story of the Covid-19 crisis by Dominic Pimenta.

Is it too early and too raw to be reading a book about Covid-19 already? Perhaps. However, Dominic Pimenta has not written this book to discuss in glaring detail the horrific nature of how this virus can, in some people, ravage the body and the lungs; there is actually very little in this book that is upsetting; except for perhaps how slow the PM was at reacting and how different things could have been.

The book begins in January 2020, Dr Pimenta was a Specialist Registrar (SPR) in Cardiology working in a London hospital; he is married and has two young children. It starts slow as the news of Corona trickles slowly from China, across the world and into Italy, and then starts to hit the UK. Dominic talks of his frustration of the Government doing everything incredibly slowly and not preparing enough for what he and other doctors convinced was going to happen. Though he also spoke of his frustration over Doctors not believing it was real, and expecting to go on holiday 2 weeks before the first lockdown started in March 2020.

Dominic does a lot of napkin number crunching, for example, he estimated that we have only 3,500 intensive care beds in this country (that’s not many), he worked out that in the best case scenario if only 1% of the population is infected (600,000 people) that 30,000 will need intensive care. Which is 10 times the capacity we have, and this he found worrying, especially as no preparations were were taking place in his hospital or any others nearby, no upskilling, no cross-training, no movement of beds or ordering extra equipment.

Once lockdown hits in March 2020 he talks about London as a ghost town; how he gets to drive to work every day (when he used to take the tube), because there were no cars on the road. About shops closing, and supermarkets running out of food. About the anxiety of feeding himself, the anxiety of losing fellow doctors to this disease and the fear that he would pass it on to his children.

He talks through how he set up the charity HEROES during the first lockdown in response to the lack of PPE to keep doctors safe – I find this extremely impressive given how long his ICU shifts were and with a young family at home.

He gets thrust into ICU with very little training. He does discuss some of the patients in ICU and how hard it was, and how difficult it was to treat them, but I didn’t find reading about that distressing; and I do cry easily.

Overall I would say this book is eye-opening, very personal, interesting and easy to read. I could not put the book down.

I do personally love to read medical books, not sure why, I just find them fascinating. I have read The Secret GP, Life of a Junior doctor, Fighting for your Life (a paramedic’s story), Do No Harm and This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (hilarious). This book is one of the best I have read of this genre.

Or would have, if I had the time. I don’t think I have read a book in one sitting since I was a kid, I simply do not have that kind of free time anymore. However, there are books that I have inhaled – read very fast, because they were so good I couldn’t put them down. And these are some examples, there were (of course) much more than 10! Top Ten Tuesday is run by Artsy Reader Girl.

  1. The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir
  3. A walk in the woods by Bill Bryson
  4. Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews
  5. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
  6. Fault in our Stars by John Green
  7. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  8. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  9. The Woman who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes
  10. The Clock-Makers Daughter by Kate Morton
  1. The Great Alone was probably the best book I read last year, and I read 73 last year so there was a lot of competition. It was my second Kristin Hannah book that our work bookclub had read and we were not disappointed. It is a real rollercoaster ride this book, it keeps you on your toes. A very quick summary would be that a family move to Alaska to start a new life, in the middle of nowhere; they actually have to fish and can salmon ready for the Alaskan winter. But they are trapped in their log cabin with a father who is a little volatile to say the least.

2. The Martian is probably the funniest book I have ever read; it is so my sense of humour, very dry and sarcastic and I love it. It’s a bit technical at times but not off-putting. If you loved the movie you will love this even more. if you’ve never heard of the book or movie (where have you been? Living under a moon rock?) then a quick summary is a mission to Mars goes wrong, leaving one man behind, to fend for himself on Mars, to try to survive without enough food before the next mission will land and save him.

3. A walk in the Woods is a funny book about Bill Bryson going for a c.2000 mile hike on the appalachian trail, my review is here.

4. Flowers in the Attic – ahhh this takes me back. My best friend at school introduced me to this book when I was about 14/15 years old. What a heartbreaking story this is. The Dollanganger family lose their father in an accident, and after his death they move in with their rich grandmother and are forced to live in the attic, the four young children were visited by their mother, but then her visits become less and less frequent.

5. Left Neglected – this is one of my most recent reads, and it absorbed me straight away. I found the main character so relateable (a busy mum). The story is about a high-flyer couple with three children; the mother gets into a car accident and suffers from a head injury which leads to a condition called “Left Neglect” – it is a condition where the brain cannot see, understand or even acknowledge that the left side of anything exists. The mother is in a rehabilitation centre training her brain to recognise the left side.

6. The fault in our stars is about Hazel, a teenage girl who has cancer and is terminal. She finds some unlikely friends in her cancer support group who change her life. I love this book, it is so witty that you forget that it should be sad.

7. Me Before you is a story about Louisa Clark, who loses her job at the cafe she works at, only to end up working at the big house for the family of Will Traynor who is left wheel-chair bound by a terrible accident and needs daily care. Louisa becomes that carer.

8. Eat Pray Love is an autobiographical tale of Elizabeth Gilbert’s life, where in the her thirties she decides to divorce her husband and go travelling to find herself. Eating and learning italian in Italy, praying in India and will she find love in Bali? Another book I have read many times; it is so easy to read/listen to. It is so evocative.

9. The woman who stole my life is probably my favourite Marian Keyes and as I write this I am just realising the pattern of my last few books, it really looks like I enjoy reading books that are medical. I hadn’t realised that, hmmm I don’t know what that says about me, I also love Grey’s Anatomy. Anyway I digress. This story is about a woman who suddenly gets struck down with an extremely rare and serious condition called Guillain Barre syndrome which completely transforms her life.

10. The Clock-makers Daughter – is not medical, phew. This is a historical fiction, actually it was my first. I loved how it jumped through time trying to solve a mystery that had been buried for c150 years.

Did you find any of these books as absorbing as I did?

I am a huge Bill Bryson fan, I’ve been reading his books for about 20 years now, so I thought I would offer up some inspiration for those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading one of his books (where have you been?), or want to know which book to read next.

I am particularly fond of his travel books; and here are my top 5 Bill Bryson:

  1. A Walk in the Woods

So good it’s been made into a movie (starring Robert Redford). I think this was the first book I ever read of Bill Bryson’s and it completely knocked me off my feet. I was so used to reading classics (at school and University) that I forgot that books could be funny. And this book is so very funny. A special shout-out for the audio-book (Audible) version of this book as the narration is so good it actually makes the book even better (if that is possible). The book is a non-fiction tale of Bill and his friend Stephen Katz taking a long trek through the Appalachian Trail (A.T) in America. Their aim was to walk from Georgia to Maine on the trail, covering a distance of c2,100 miles. On the way they meet various characters; some who help them, some who slow them down and they may even encounter Bears. Some of my favourites quotes from the book:

Everything sounds big in the woods” said Katz. “He was right, once a skunk came plodding through our camp and it sounded like a stegosaurus

Katz: “She’s pretty ugly isn’t she?” Bryson: “Well, only compared to other women.”

He looked at me like I had just asked him where I could pick up a bout of syphillis.

What on Earth would I do if four bears came into our camp? Why I would die of course. Literally Sh*t myself lifeless.”

I have to say that I have read this book many, many times, and I have never looked up the map of the appalachian trail until now…and wow it really is immense. I don’t think I quite realised it went through 14 states! I cannot believe people voluntarily walk this far!

2. Down Under (or Tales from a sunburned country)

This book is about Bryson’s trip around Australia, and as well as being informative it is absolutely hilarious. He starts off his journey at Sydney and travels all over, including going through the outback, the most deadly part of Australia, the least inhabited. He talks a lot about everything that can kill you in Australia and it is a long list of spiders, snakes and sea creatures. He visits the Great Barrier reef and Ayres rock and takes an immense train journey, one of the longest in the world. He makes fun of cricket (which I love because I find cricket incredibly pointless and boring). I have read this book many times, and it still entertains me.

Good quotes:

“(Cricket) It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks…It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as the players-more if they are moderately restless.”

“I left Los Angeles on 3 January and arrived in Sydney fourteen hours later on 5 January. For me there was no 4 January. None at all. Where it went exactly I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that for one twenty-four-hour period in the history of Earth, it appears I had no being.”

3. The Road to Little Dribbling

This is Bill Bryson’s second tour around England. His first tour (Notes on a small Island) was written in the 1995, so Road to Little Dribbling (2015) is an updated observation on us Brits and he travels from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath (Scotland), which he dubs “The Bryson Line”. The book is full of his funny observations from an American ex-pat and funnies about growing older. I love his tale about Cows, and how unsafe they are. Cows actually attack more than you would think, not Bull’s…cows. However, growing up in America you would never know this, because there is so much violence in America that a cow attack would never make the newspapers or the evening news, because they have to many shootings to report on. However, in England a cow attack would make the front page of the newspaper; that’s how relatively safe it is here (compared to the USA).

Favourite quotes:

“I love living in a country (England) that when cows attack, word gets around.”

When I cut my toenails, I see sparks.”

“Tips for avoiding a stroke: 1. Die of something else first, 2. Do some exercise. Me (Bryson) – tough choice.”

And this his his final summary of Great Britain, I love this, makes me feel proud:

“Britain has 450,000 listed buildings, 20,000 scheduled ancient monuments, 26 World Heritage Sites, 1,624 registered parks and gardens (that is, gardens and parks of historic significance), 600,000 known archaeological sites, 3,500 historic cemeteries, 70,000 war memorials, 4,000 sites of special scientific interest, 18,500 medieval churches, and 2,500 museums containing 170 million objects.”

4. Notes on a Big Country ( or I’m a stranger here myself)

Even though it is quite outdated (written in the 1990s) it is still an amusing collection of articles that Bryson wrote for a British newspaper. Just like the Australia book, this story has two titles, Notes on a Big Country for us Brits, and I’m a stranger here myself for the American market. It is the same book. I love observations about American appliances, and computers and the way that Americans don’t walk anywhere.

5. Shakespeare

A great and brief book (5 hours) about our fabulous and the most famous of all playwrights. Although a lot of what Bryson’s research shows is how little there is of Shakespeare in the public record, what he looked like and whether he did actually write all of his own work – there was a lot in a short space of time, there has been some speculation. I hadn’t realised how many words and phrases Shakespeare contributed to the English language, many of which are still in use today. For example: assassination, indistinquishable, hereditary, critical, dwindle. And did you know that Shakespeare coined these popular phrases:

“To thine own self be true”

“vanish into thin air”

“cold comfort”

“Tower of strength”

I found it a very easy listen (audio-book) and enjoyed learning more of the lesser-known facts about Shakespeare and the Elizabethan era.

Why should I read Still Alice? It’s probably too depressing for me or maybe you’re thinking I’ve already seen the movie. Well I am challenging you on both counts. Firstly, it is not a sad or depressing book, it is sad at the end but not throughout, I actually found it very enjoyable to read. Secondly, I saw the movie too, it was fantastic; Julianne Moore really did the character justice; but as us bookworms well know, the book is always (or almost always) even better than the movie. I can only think of one example where this is not true, and that is Shawshank Redemption, but the book is actually a novella and the movie is awesome.

The reason in particularly why the book is better than the movie, is not that you get so much more detail than the movie, the book is longer it makes sense; but no in this case, the movie was not able to portray Alice’s thoughts. In the movie you see some of her emotions on her face, and sometimes she says it out loud, but they do not tell you her thoughts, in the movie, her inner monologue. In the book you hear everything she is thinking and it is super powerful. You hear her thoughts at the beginning as she worries about how her menopause it affecting memory, and then her worries that she might have cancer or a brain tumour, you hear her thoughts when she gets lost and does not know where she lives. For me though, the most powerful scene is later in the book when Alzheimers has taken hold of her and she can no longer take part in conversations, but she listens and she reads their body language, she listens to her two daughters and her husband arguing about moving her. Alice’s thoughts are “the mother says this…” and “the actress says that…” she doesn’t even know that they are her daughters any more and by the end of this heated exchange she suddenly pieces together enough information to realise they are talking about her, in front of her.

It does feel sad at the end but the beginning is very interesting as you get to see a high-powered woman, a linguistics Professor at Harvard, you get to see little snippets of her life and it is fascinating. When she has been diagnosed with Alzheimers they perform a lot of memory tests on her; and these tests are retaken, so you are able to observe the changes in her and her test scores; she sets up a support group for those living with early onset Alzheimers and it is wonderful to watch her take charge of her own life.

Now my feelings about the husband; I remember disliking him in the movie and again in the book. I am trying to be compassionate for a man who is losing his wife in degrees, and is her carer and he does not want to lose his own career, but I have to say I do find him selfish to put his career before his ailing wife. That’s just my opinion, feel free to diagree.

Before I share the official blurb, I would also like to recommend that you read Lisa Genova’s other books; in particularly “Inside the O’Briens” which I have read several times – this one is about a Boston cop who finds out he has Huntingdon’s disease (a cruel genetic disease) and his children have to decide whether to take the test to find out if they have it too. It is a really great book, and is also not too sad, just like in Still Alice the book ends way before either character is too far gone. I have also read “Every Note Played” which is about a pianist who finds out he has ALS. This I have only read once because I found it too depressing, this one was hard to read. And finally, I am currently reading “Left Neglected” which might be my favourite Lisa Genova book; it is so easy to read, I found the main character very likeable and her condition “Left Neglect” is fascinating. Her brain does not recognise the left side of anything; left no longer exists, she cannot see or feel her left arm and foot, she cannot see the left side of the room etc and she is going through rehab to try to train her brain to recognise the left. I have never heard of this condition.

Official Blurb:

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what’s it’s like to literally lose your mind…

Have you read Still Alice or any Lisa Genova books? What do you think?

I just finished this fantastic book, it was easy to read and only 7 hours on Audible. The author is the narrator, and she is very good (that almost never happens).

Official blurb:

Today busyness has become a badge of honour. We want to say we’re busy, yet at the same time we feel exhausted. Instead we should start taking rest seriously as a method of self-care and this book can help us to work out how.

The Art of Rest draws on ground-breaking research Claudia Hammond collaborated on – ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey into rest ever undertaken, which was completed by 18,000 people across 135 different countries. Much of value has been written about sleep, but rest is different; it is how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. And, as the survey revealed, how much rest you get is directly linked to your sense of well-being.

My thoughts:

I loved how the book takes you through the top 10 restful activities as voted on by 18,000 people. Not only does she take the reader through each of the top ten restful activities, but she explains what research there is to back this up, why is it restful, how is it restful, who finds it restful, in what amounts is it restful. It was fascinating and helpful. I am one of those busy busy people, I work full time, I have two young children that I drop off and pick up from school most days, I work compressed hours so I am able to do that but it makes for very long busy days; and yes rest does not always form a large part of my day.

TV is Not Toxic

I was reassured that watching TV is not as bad as they make it out to be; not only is it supremely restful, but it is not harmful, except in excess of about 5 hours per day, so that makes me feel better as I binge watch “Grey’s Anatomy” as I write this blog post. It can even help with depression and loneliness.

Alone-time is necessary (and does not make you a loner)

I was pleased to see that spending time alone is restful and restorative and is also in the top ten. Apparently we should be spending 39% of our time alone for our mental health. This explains why I have been finding it so difficult for the last 18 months, being forced to stay at home, to live and work and play at home. I haven’t been to my place of work for 18 months, I miss my colleagues, but I also miss the alone time. I miss being in my house alone (which never happens now) and I miss going out to work alone. I didn’t know that it was okay to want to be alone sometimes even when I am an extravert and I miss my friends and family.

I was suprised to see that walking came into the top 10 restful activities, as I personally do not find walking very restful. However, I know a lot of people do, that’s just me being different again.

Reading is number one!

Finally, I was super, super excited to read that the number one restful activity as voted on by 18,000 people was reading!!! As someone who absolutely adores and craves reading, and wishes that her son loved reading, I was so pleased to see it voted as the number 1 restful activity. According to the research those who read (novels not newspapers) live 2 years longer than those who do not. Whoop! Let’s give it up to us book bloggers.

So Claudia Hammond comes up with some advice for introducing more rest into your daily lives. Firstly she highlights that on average we should be getting about 5 hours of rest per day (on average over the week), some days will be less, and perhaps more on the weekend, but that is what is recommended. As a working mother that seems impossible to me, but a nice thing to aspire to. You have to pay attention to the times when you are actually resting, and note it as rest. For example, going for a walk, being in nature, listening to music, watching tv, reading a book, doing nothing – they are all restful, take note and lean into them.

Box of Rest

Finally she suggests setting up a “Box of Rest” ready for those times when you really need to rest, or when you are feeling a little down or even depressed. This box will be waiting there to remind you what you like to do that will help you to rest and restore you.

My box of rest would contain: a couple of my favourite books (of course) perhaps Tara Road (my favourite book), an album by 112 (my favourite band), a DVD or my cinema card, because I love watching movies (About Time is one of my faves), my painting by numbers work as I find that restful, a jigsaw and my diary to write in.

What would you put in your box of rest?

I’m joining the Top Ten Linky with Artsy Reader Girl this week to give 10 reasons why I love to read.

So here goes…

  1. Relaxation – there is nothing more relaxing than sitting by an open fire reading an unputdownable book. I feel like all my worries and cares are melting away as I am transported to another world. I just read a book (which I will blog about this week) about “The Art of Rest” and after surveying 18,000 people on what activities they find most relaxing, reading comes in first!
  2. Escapism – speaking of being transported to another world, the wonder of reading is that you get to visit Pemberley or the Capitol, you get to live more than nine lives, you live the lives of the protagonists, you get to be Jo March running through the rain to kiss her Professor, you get to walk the Apalachian Trail with Bill Bryson, or you get to take caution peeks at some areas of life you hope you never experience like poor Alice.
  3. It takes me back – I read a lot as a child, sitting alone in libraries, snuggled up in bed, laying in the sun, happy times, and so reading takes me back to a simpler time, a time before work and boys and even before Covid, a time where you only had to go to school for 6 hours, then the day was yours.
  4. Learning – I read a lot of non-fiction because I love to learn and I always want to improve myself, so every book I read, I feel like I have learned a tiny nugget or two, which helps me get closer to that better person I will someday be.
  5. Compassion – when you read about someone who is not you, it helps you to understand people and the world that much better; it puts things into context, it gives you insight into other lands (some of them made up) and shows you what other people are like; you might learn what it is like to be inside Eleonor Oliphant’s head and therefore have more compassion for those around us who may be appear to be a little odd. You may have compassion for the Tatooist at Auschwitz who was only doing his job to save his own life.
  1. Possibility – I love the possibility and anticipation of a new book, with each opening of the first page it is possible that this will become your new favourite book. There are 130 million unique books in the world; and for me to be able to read them all I would have to read 1.7 million books per year. Last year I read 73 books so I am a little shy of that 😉 but there is possibility in that number; there will also be more books and the possibility of beautiful prose and delicious language and fantastical journeys.
  2. Travel – reading enables you to travel (in your mind at least) to every country in the world and to space. I’ve walked on Mars and grown potatoes with Mark Watney, I’ve been rained on in Forks with Bella, I’ve been to Ireland many times to visit the Walsh family and I’ve been to District 12 in Panem.
  3. Fun – reading is fun right?
  4. Bookshelves are beautiful – I love a bookshelf full of books, it is sexy and it is beautiful and it is knowledge and power, I love bookshelves full of books.
  5. Multi-tasking – this is limited to audiobooks, but when I am listening to a book, I am able to multi-task and whatever I am doing, just became less boring. Because I hate being bored, and I hate doing housework, I don’t particularly love walking, or cooking, so when I am doing something boring, I pop in my airpods and off I go…transported to another world.

Which one of these 10 resonates most with you? Why do you love to read?

Since I am new to the book blogging game, I thought I would talk about some of my favourite authors. Starting with the one I last read as it is fresh in my mind. As with all of my favourite authors (Marian Keyes, Bill Bryson, Kristin Hannah etc) I don’t actually love everything they have written – if only! So I am going to choose the top 5 from each author, starting with Jodi Picoult.

These are not necessarily in order but are my top 5 books by Jodi Picoult:

  1. The Pact
  2. Small Great Things
  3. The storyteller
  4. Lone Wolf
  5. My Sister’s Keeper

Now I am cheating slightly because I am still reading My Sister’s Keeper. I am enjoying it though, so I am sure it will make the list. Sadly I tried to read “Spark of Light” but I DNF (did not finish) that book. I may try again.

The Pact was the first book I read by her, and it totally absorbed me from the get-go. It is about a friendship between two neighbours and even more so between their son and daughter who become so entertwined, so in love that the boy does something that lands him in jail, a suicide pact gone wrong. It is a sad tale of how a beautiful friendship can be too much. I wondered throughout if he did it…

Small Great Things made me mad, I think it is supposed to make us mad. The story revolves around an African-American nurse who works in the labour and delivery ward of a hospital in New York. She is sued by a white supremecist when his baby dies under her care; not before they treat her appallingly. Another tale that takes place mostly in court. Like, The Pact, I wondered a little whether she did it, but she was such a likeable character that I never really believed that she could deliberately hurt a baby. I was so mad at the white supremicist that I wished harsh things on him, especially when they reveal his back story – the organised beatings of black people, having a secret website etc. The ending was interesting and I think it made me change my mind a little as to how I felt about some of the characters. This is such a thought provoking book. I hope that Picoult deliberately embellished the racism that is currently taking place in New York, because it seemed like it was the 60s or 70s, but she mentions Frozen and Obama so I know that it is written in our time. I think this is one of those important books that everyone should read.

The Storyteller is another story that makes me mad, but then any story that involves Auschwitz makes me feel that way. This book is a cleverly interwoven tale which is part in the present, told from the point of view of Sage who is a young bread baker who only works at night. She becomes friends with an old German man and then finds out that he was an SS soldier at Auschwitz and that he wants to die. Sage’s grandmother is Jewish and she is an auschwitz survivor. The other half of the story is told from her grandmother’s point of view, she is a writer and her stories kept her alive. This book started out more slowly compared to the two above, it didn’t grip me straight away but once you start hearing the tragic and heartbreaking accounts of auschwitz it is hard to put it down.

Lone Wolf was easy to read (or I should say listen to) with good narration on Audible using different narrators for each of the main characters. Luke is a father who got into a car accident with his daughter and is now in a coma that he is not likely to come out of, his daughter Cara escaped with just a broken arm. Cara lived with her father before the accident and is 17 years old, as she is not old enough she cannot make the decision to keep or withdraw lifesupport, but her older brother who has been living in Thailand for the last 5 years, is now in charge of their dads life. The siblings have to go to court to argue the case for the right to make the decision about their dad’s medical care (Picoult does like her court cases). The very interesting part of this story though is that Luke Warren, their dad was a minor celebrity for living in the wild with wild wolves and getting them to accept him as a member of their wolf pack; a feat no other human had accomplised. The story goes back to show how he assimilated into the wolf pack in canada and then how he set up a wolf enclosure and took care of wolves in a local animal park. You learn a lot about wolf behaviour; I found that fascinating, and what a strange character Luke was; giving up everything to become a wolf. Great book.

My Sister’s Keeper is me cheating a little because I have only just started reading this. But I have seen the movie, which I think is great; but as usual, I bet the book is better. The very idea of a parent conceiving a child just so she could give her parts to her big sister to keep her big sister alive is repugnant to me; it reminds me a little of “Never let me go” by Ishiguro.

Have you read any of these books? Which Jodi Picoult is your favourite?

I’m joining in the Top Ten Tuesday linky about the 10 (or 12 in my case) books on my to be read (TBR) list for this summer. It is a great opportunity to look at the bookshelf and assess what’s been there too long, and what I am eager to read this summer.

On my audible list I have recently downloaded the following:

  1. Still Alice by Lisa Genova – I love her books, although they can be terribly sad and depressing. I particularly enjoyed reading and re-reading “Inside the O’Brien’s” about Huntingtons disease, and “Every Note Played” about ALS was good but I found it depressing. I have already seen the movie of Still Alice (brilliant), so I am sure the book will be even better.
  2. Losing my virginity by Richard Branson – kinda old and random huh? Well I read Alan Sugar’s autobiography in the last lockdown and couldn’t put it down; I do enjoy biographies and particularly love reading about interesting jobs; e.g. like Farming (The Yorkshire Shepherdess).
  3. Room by Emma Donoghue – I’ve seen the movie so I know how disturbing this book will be; which is possibly why I have put it off; but its been on my list for awhile now.

Physical books on my bookshelf to be read:

4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – it seems like everyone has read this book, to where it is almost a classic now. I haven’t watched the TV show yet either, but am eager to watch that too. Another disturbing but dytopian novel this one.

5. Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer – I was a big Twilight fan 10 years ago (Team Edward), so I was pleased that Stephanie finally decided to finish this book. After someone leaked the first few chapters online she swore she would never finish it, but hurrah – Twilight from Edward’s point of view.

6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – This was a present and had been recommended a few times, so I am looking forward to trying this.

7. 15 minute parenting 8-12 year olds – This was recommended by a fellow blogger; I have just started it and already it has some great tips for interacting with grumpy tweens and playing and reading with them; helping with bullies etc.

8. My Sister’s keeper – Jodi Picoult – I’ve read a lot of her books, most of them were brilliant. I particularly loved “Small Great Things” and “The Pact” and “Lone Wolf”, though I couldn’t get into “Spark of Light” her newer book.

9. Failosophy by Elizabeth Day – One of close friend bought me this, I dipped in and looks really interesting, so I am sure I will enjoy it. I am intrigued by the stories of famous/important people who have failed and what they learned from it. Elizabeth also has a popular podcast.

10. Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – because it has been recommended to me quite a few times now.

11. The Marriage by K.L Slater – I haven’t read any of her books before, but this is our current book club book for this month, so i will definitely be reading this. It sounds intriguing – marrying the man who killed your son!

12. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano – this will be next month’s book club book and is one I remember seeing at the bookshop and being intrigued by the blurb. This is a bout a young boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash.

I thought I was the only one fascinated by farming; but now that Jeremy Clarkson is in on the game (Clarkson’s Farm: so funny by the way) it seems that there really are other people reading and watching these things.

I first came across Amanda Owen’s book series “The Yorkshire Sheppherdess” after I read “The shepherd’s life” by James Rebanks (another great book). I enjoyed James’s book about farming life, but I loved Amanda’s stories even more; I think because she has 9 children. My nan had 14 children, so I am always fascinated by other big families.

If you love to read about alternative ways of living and working these are a great series of books.

The Yorkshire Shepherdess is her autobiogrpahy; so this is the best book to start with. It documents her life from a small child in Huddersfield, her short-lived modelling career, to her first shepherdess roles, meeting her husband and giving birth to her 9 children. She lives on Ravenseat Farm in the Yorkshire Dales, in the middle of nowhere, and has the most extra-ordinarily painless and quick births – enough to make the rest of us mothers jealous, particularly the birth of Clemmy – by the fire, all on her own! Who births their own baby?!

I love the way she brings up her children (except for letting them drink Coffee!), the way they all know how to birth a lamb from such a young age and can do so much around the farm.

I love the amazing outdoorsy things the kids get to do – swimming in their own lakes, sledding, quad-biking, horse-riding, picnics on the moors, hide and seek in the barns and more. Its like an adverture holiday but its every day. And they have very little screen time.

Though it all fascinates me, I wouldn’t want to actually do it – like walk a lot, and farm and walk a lot more and work from dusk to dawn and never ever have a holiday or even a day off – they even work on Christmas day! It’s not for me but I do love to watch them do it; and I am grateful that they do.

Amanda Owen has three further books: Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess and A year in the life of the yorkshire sheppherdess and a new mini book: Tales of the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Great books.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that she also has a popular TV show on Channel 5: Our Yorkshire Farm. A friend of mine (Em) told me about it after I had read all of her books – I was so thrilled to see the family I had been reading about. And the newest season has 20 episodes, so it can’t just be me watching! I am particularly fond of Clemmy, probably because she reminds me so much of my 4 year old daughter.

My favourite episode is when a bunch of sheep get into the yard and house; and Clemmy cleverly devises a plan to convince the sheep to move back into the field, all on her own – it’s amazing! I was also intrigued to see how they handled (are handling) Covid, isolation, home-schooling etc.

Is anyone else fascinated by Our Yorkshire Farm or The Yorkshire Shepherdess?