Reading with Kat

Working Mother Book Blogger

So this month (September) I had a family holiday in the Scottish Highlands (wonderful), then my kids started back at school in years one and year five. I was hoping to start going back into the office one day per week, but the rules make it tricky to fit us all in one office. I signed up for my final Masters module, my dissertation, and decided what I am going to do my research on, so I feel like I have made some big decisions. I also joined a local choir, so my nights are becoming pretty busy again.

I have read 7 books (last month it was 6), but for the first time in a long time, I did not finish a single phyical book this month. I think the reason for this is that I have started my Dissertation for my Masters (in Human Resource Management), and that along with working full time and two kids means I no longer have any free time to sit and read a physical book, now I have to read journal articles, this month I have read about 12 journal articles.

These are the seven books I listened to on Audible this month:

  • Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  • Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (book club)
  • Man’s search for meaning by Viktor E Frankl
  • Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
  • Tales from the Farm by Amanda Owen
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • A Better Me by Gary Barlow

Best and Worst

As always it is hard to choose, mostly because there was only one bad book this month. So I am going to say that since I have read Gary Barlow and Eleanor Oliphant before, I will not choose them, so now it’s between Dear Edward and Flatshare. I think I will choose: Flatshare by Beth O’Leary because I found it very easy to read; and it was nice to read a romantic comedy (or chick-lit as some call it – urgh!). Dear Edward was a brilliant book but far more depressing; as its about a boy who loses his whole family and is the sole survivor of a plane crash.

Flatshare however is fun, light-hearted, predictable yes but well-written and funny and the main characters are very likable, laugh out loud funny occasionally:

“Let’s not beat around the bush, says Gerry who has literally never beaten around a single bush in her whole life.”

It has a clever premise too, one that I have never heard of. Two people share a flat but they never meet. The characters work opposite shifts. They do send little notes to each other and eventually they do indeed meet and change each others’ lives. I am looking forward to reading Beth O’Leary’s other two books.

Cinema

Again slim pickings at the cinema, unless you love Bond (I do not).

Respect – loved it so much I watched it twice. A fascinating look at Aretha Franklin’s life story, and what a life it was. She had 2 babies in her teens, first at age 13 (so sad!) And she became a singer with a record label in her early twenties; though it took some time to be successful. She also helped the cause by singing for Martin Luther King Jr (family friend). Jessica Hudson was amazing; she sang Aretha’s hits like no other could; it was very believable and enjoyable.

TV

I have been fascinated by a couple of crime-related shows this month.

Manhunt – The night stalker – ITV (4 episodes)

There are two seasons, the second season is about the Night Stalker and it is absolutely fascinating. It’s not scary and does not show you what the bad guy actually does so it is pretty tame (compared to say Waking the Dead or CSI). There was one episode where I was literally on the edge of my seat – don’t you love it when that happens? Now that is great TV. I was surprised by how well Martin Clunes plays a straight role, meaning not a comedic role, he was very believable. This is based on a true story, and there is a book.

White House Farm – Netflix (6 episodes)

I think this was on ITV originally, but it passed me by. This one is more distressing than the one above, as you see a little more, and it involves children, though you do not see what happens to them (thank God!). This is based on a true story too, about a man who loses his whole family when his mentally ill sister shoots them all. Another compelling show, although I found the 80s hairdo’s a little distracting.

This is just a mini review, and I am writing it because I don’t think I have left a bad review on my blog – as yet. So for the sake of balance, I would like to give a quick bad review of this book.

Now it is an autobiography and it was narrated by the man himself. He has a nice voice, so I do not have a problem with the narration. What I have a problem with is the fact that this guy comes across as the most arrogant, self-serving, self-satisfied, annoying and juvenile men I have had the displeasure to read about – and I read the biography of Steve Jobs! Please do not let any teenage boys read this book, as it kind of gives them permission to break the law and do bad things. I don’t think he realises the power that he has as a celebrity.

Another thing I detested was his continued references to his wet dreams! I mean how gross is that? I almost switched off after the third wet dream. I am sure that Matthew knows he has a lot of female fans; since he talks a lot about how much money he made from romonatic comedies. He does not know women at all if he thinks we are willing to listen to men talk about their wet dreams. So I am moving on.

I did persevere with the book though, it was compelling in its disgustingness and I still kind of wanted to find out how he managed fatherhood etc. The book became less obnoxious after he had kids (in the book) although there are still too many “bumper stickers”.

There is almost nothing about his movies, or the other actors that he acted with, again this leads me to think he wrote the book for himself, rather than his fans.

I read a lot of autobiographies and this is the first time a famous person has come across as annoyingly arrogant and has made me like them less. In almost every case, I tend to like the person more after I have read their books. If you are looking for some good autobiographies, here are some of my favourites: Kris Kardashian, Rob Lowe, Steve Jobs, Dawn French, Demi Moore, Gary Barlow, Andrew Ridgeley/George Michael, Sue Perkins, Gordan Ramsey, Lamor Odom, Amanda Owen, Melanie Brown, Sally Field, Kevin Hart and Freddie Mercury (biography).

I have to say straight off that I am not a fan of Take That, except for a brief period when I was about 10 years old. I don’t dislike them at all, it’s just not my kind of music. However, I have found with autobiographies that it doesn’t really matter if you like the person or not, most people in the public eye have a fascinating life, and Gary is certainly no exception.

I really really enjoyed his book and I definitely like him now (still not my music though). If you are a big Take That fan or a Gary Barlow fan, be aware that a large part of this book is about food and his weight issues. As someone who is equally obsessed with food and equally if not more so overweight, I was fascinated and enlighted to hear about his food journey. If you were hoping to read all about the early days of Take That, then I am afraid you will be disappointed, as there is only a little of that. However, there is a lot of detail about their re-unions and later album creations and tours. He doesn’t dish the dirt on Robbie Williams, but he does explain (from his point of view) why it all fell apart, and how they got back together.

He also discusses his family, his four children (including Poppy who sadly died at birth, stillborn), and his and his wife’s struggles coming to terms with the death of little Poppy. I was so very sad to read that bit; I cannot imagine losing a child.

I was facinated to read that after Take That split up in the 90s that he had put on a lot of weight. I had no idea (though I don’t read gossip magazines). He also had an eating disorder and was utterly obsessed with food (I hear ya!). And he went on every diet imaginable. I was amazed that someone who has millions of pounds was not able to find a good diet and lose weight, and its amazing all the fads they have out there. It is sad for me because I think if a rich person cannot lose weight, what chance do I have?

I digress because he does manage to lose weight and eat healthily and maintain that lifestyle when he meets the Helmsley sisters, and they introduce him to clean eating. He then moves away from the restrictions of that and just starts cooking everything from scratch and that appears to be his aha moment. I wish I had the time to do that; but alas I am not rich.

Absolutely fascinating book that I would highly recommend if you enjoy autobiographies of famous people and/or are a foodie or struggle with your weight. I should also say that I listened to this book on Audible; and Gary reads it himself. He is a pleasure to listen to (unlike some authors!). Louise Nurding/Redknapp is case in point here (sorry), but listening to her book was actually painful.

Yes this one is terribly late, due to our family holiday in the Scottish Highlands, and my kids going back to school, so I am a bit behind, but I haven’t stopped reading, I read 8 last month, this month it was a bit less as it was the school holidays, so we were out and about, I read 6 and this was my August reading round-up…

What I’ve listened to this month on Audible

Physical Books I read

  • Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
  • Sinatra: The Life by Anthony Summers

Books I read on the “Serial Reader” app

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Best and Worst

It is always difficult to choose a favourite, I loved Green Mile, and really enjoyed Circe but Left Neglected just really resonated with me, it was one of those books I really didn’t want to end, which is weird based on the subject matter. Left Neglected is about a woman who suffers a brain injury in a car crash and suffers from an injury called ‘Left Neglect’ where her brain does not see the left side of anything. It is fascinating.

The book I enjoyed least this month was ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, which is so disappointing because that is another Dickens book I have not enjoyed. This was really incredibly boring and so hard to follow. Even though I did not enjoy reading ‘Great Expectations’ last month, I enjoyed it far more than this one. I do like the serial reader app though, so I can highly recommend that at least.

Cinema

I have not been to the cinema much this month, definitely less than usual and I did not take the kids at all, which is strange for the school holidays; but there were simply no movies for them.

Herself – I watched that one recently and was terribly disappointed by this British movie; don’t get me wrong it was well made but so depressing with a terrible moral. A woman runs away from her abusive husband, with her kids and because they are not being rehomed any time soon she decides to build the house herself. I won’t ruin the ending for you but I was disappointed.

TV

This month I have been rewatching some classics mostly.

CSI Las Vegas – what a great show, still good now even after all these years. (DVD)

Friends – You can’t go wrong with Friends; I have always been a huge fan, but I try not to watch the same shows over and over, so it has been about 8 years since I watched it; still so so funny and it seems like my 10 year old is enjoying it (though I select the episodes that are not too sexual). (Netflix)

Worth – This is a netflix movie, great but sad movie about the 9/11 attacks and how the government tried to work out how much money to give each of the victims’ families, by using an equation to work out what peoples’ lives are/were worth. I found this movie compelling.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book, though I find mythology interesting, I tried reading Stephen Fry’s Mythos and didn’t finish it. Perhaps because Mythos was a bit heavier being a non-fiction book, whereas Circe is fiction. Though the story of Circe is told with non-fictional elements, the story created around what is known about Circe and her family (assuming these were real, of course it is mythology) is created by Madeline and I found the story well written and fascinating.

The book was a little slow to start with (for me), so hang on in there at the start, but once she gets shipped off to her own island, I found from then on it got more interesting and the story was pacier. It’s interesting as she comes across famous creatures from mythology, it’s almost like name-dropping all the famous people she knows. She comes into contact with Helen of Troy, Minotaur, Odysseus, Icarus and so many more. It is great to read little bits about these other Gods and how they relate to Circe and her story.

The general storyline is that Circe is the outcast in her family, her father Helios and mother (sea-nymph) Perse as well as her many siblings ignore her mostly and tell her how unremarkable and ugly she is her whole life. Eventually Zeus banishes her to a deserted island and it is here she learns to become a witch, a super powerful witch who can turn men into the pigs (and yes they definitely deserved it), be aware that something happens to her that may trigger you (abuse), though it goes into very little detail. Eventually she has a child who she struggles with during his childhood but then he brings her a lot of joy and her love for him helps her to become even more powerful. I love the character arc of Circe, from the outcast, forgotten and down-trodden daughter to the one with all the power, able to battle the most powerful Gods.

Though she is not liked by most of her family through the book, I found Circe very likeable, and the narrator on Audible has a good voice, very pleasing to listen to. I haven’t read Madeline Miller’s first book “Song of Achilles”, however now I would like to.

I would definitely recommend this book.

I wasn’t going to write this review, because once again I am awed by famous books, famous novellists (The King!) and famous movies, which this book is all of those. But then I sat next to my colleague at lunch talking about the book, and she had never heard of it – the book or the movie. I could not have been more surprised. The movie – I thought everyone had seen it. I told her that the book was equally good, if not better, but she said, oh no I don’t read horror. So once again, if you’ve never heard of this book – it is not horror. Most of his books are horror, but this one is not. I would classify it as fantasy/mystery/crime and it is not scary, though it does have one disturbing scene, but nothing too offputting for those of you who do not like horror.

If you have never seen the movie or read the book, boy are you in for an enthralling tale, a real page-turner. The story is about a prison officer (Paul Edgecombe) who works on death row in the 1930s. In the book he is an old man writing the story of what happened in the 30s, so it jumps from him as an old man in a retirement home to the story in the 1930s. And what happens during these few years is a remarkable story. John Coffey (like the drink only spelt different) is an extremely large black man (6ft 8inches!), soft and sweet and described as slow. He is accused of murdering (and the R word) two young white little girls (sisters). The police find John Coffey with the two blonde girls dead in his arms as he cries “I couldn’t help it”. A pretty compelling scene, and of course he goes down for the murders and is sentenced to be executed by the electric chair (Old Sparkey). This is where he meets Paul Edgecomb “The Boss” of the Green Mile. But Paul begins to see that not everything is as it seems.

I cannot say much more because if you haven’t seen the movie then you should be surprised and delighted by the magical elements within this story. However, also be prepared to cry.

I was surprised to learn that when this book was released, back in 1996, Stephen King decided to do a Charles Dickens and released the book in instalments. What a great idea. I wish I had known about it then, I would have loved to have read the book in instalments, waiting anxiously for the next part of the book to be released to see what happens next, that’s what TV used to be, one episode at a time. Now with Netflix you tend to get an entire series in one go.

If you have seen the movie, I highly recommend you read the book, as it is pure brilliance.

Now onto Stephen King, this is the first novel of his that I have finished, I tried to read “It” but it freaked me out. However, I have watched many of his movies and loved them all – It (old and new versions), Misery, Pet Sematary (though I almost didn’t make it through that one, boy is it gory!) and The Stand TV series. I think I need to read more of his books because this one was amazing, maybe not horror though, unless I can make room in the freezer (aka Joey from Friends).

What a beautiful tale this is; I don’t know if it’s the lulling sound of the narration as she speaks of the Elephants but I feel like I am gently being rocked back and forth in the warm and safe arms of my mother as she reads me this story.

I love how Picoult has mingled together a fiction story with large non-fictional elements about Elephants; though it does not read like non-fiction, except that I feel like I am at Elephant University, learning everything there is to know about these beautiful creatures.

The story is about tennage Jenna who lives with her grandmother because her father has alzheimers and lives in a “home” and her mother is a mystery. Jenna has spent her whole life trying to find her mother and find out what happened to her. All she knows is that she went missing one night, but it is unclear whether she left of her own volition, or she ran-away from something or someone, or if she is dead. Jenna goes to a psychic to find out – Serenity (who was once a real phychic but seems to have lost her “powers”). She also enlists the help of a private detective who just so happens to be the cop who investigated her mothers case 10 years ago.

I love how the story above is intermingled with the stories of her mother (from her diaries) working in Botswana with African Elephants. According to the book elephants grieve, they visit the grave site of an elephant they love and pay their respects, they are fantastic mothers (the best in the animal kingdom), they never forget (as the addage says) and they can be surprisingly gentle given their size. At the end Jodi explains that everything she has written about elephants is true and comes from recent research from those working closely with Elephants.

This is the kind of book where it is important not to give too much away so I won’t say a lot more, only to say that the book takes a different trajectory to what I had imagined, and the book is so much the better for it. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time, it made me really feel, it was magical.

I wasn’t going to review this seminal book, I thought, who cares what I have to say, I won’t be saying anything new and I probably don’t really understand all the intricacies and all the symbolism that makes it amazing – but you know what, I told myself, this is my blog and I’m writing it for me. I love to read but I also enjoy writing reviews, so I am going to say what I think anyway.

I loved the book, I always knew it was an important book, and I knew it was going to contain racial discrimination, which I always find upsetting, but I think its important to know how and appreciate how people are treated by other people – just because they are different. I am a woman so I have experienced discrimination first hand, but I do not have dark skin so I guess I will never fully understand.

I found the book easy to read, the characters were likeable and believable for the time and location (deep south in America in the 1960s). Even though Scout is not the typical 8 year old girl, I liked her a lot, and I felt that she was intelligent beyond her years. Of course the most likeable of all the characters would have to be Atticus Finch. In bookish circles Atticus Finch is as or almost as famous as Mr Darcy and Heathcliff, so it was nice to put a face to the name, so to speak. I finally got to meet the famous Atticus Finch and I was not disappointed; what a special man he is. He fought for what was right even though it put himself and his family at risk. He always said that he had to be able to look his family in the eye and that is why he took the case on. His level of compassion is simply beyond.

The case was a helpful black man (Tom Robinson) who was working (for free) for a white family the Ewell’s who are very unlikeable – poor, dirty, rude and the eldest daughter accuses Tom Robinson of rape. The court case is viewed by the entire town, including Finch’s young daughter Scout and his son Jem.

I won’t say what happens, as I don’t wish to spoil the ending, but it is a great book, and an important American treasure that everyone should read.

I remember when I watched the movie “Just Mercy” (such an amazing movie) when they quoted the book “To Kill A Mockingbird” I realised then that I really needed to read this book.

Books similar to this that you may enjoy include: The Help, Just Mercy (it is a book too) and Small Great Things.

So exciting, this is my first end of the month round up! I feel good about this month; I think I’ve read a bit more than I usually do, and I have definitely bought more books than I should have – a few charity shop hauls! I’ve read 8 books this month. I am also going to include what I have watched too (even though this is a book blog).

What I’ve listened to this month on Audible:

  1. The Art of Rest by Claudia Hammond (non-fiction)
  2. The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (non-fiction)
  3. The Marriage by K L Slater (fiction) – this months bookclub book
  4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (classic)
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (classic)
  6. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (fiction)
  7. Still Alice by Lisa Genova (fiction)

Physical books I read:

  1. Duty of Care (Covid-19) by Dominic Pimenta

It takes me a long time to read physical books, partly because I always have so many on the go at the same time, but also because I work full-time, and have two young children, so I have very little free time to sit and read a book. I listen to loads of books though as they are easier to fit in, I can listen when I am cooking and cleaning and walking etc. So don’t judge me for reading so few physical books.

It is very dfifficult to choose a favourite, as I read a lot of good books this month, however, I think my favourite would have to be:

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

This was a 5 star book, it was fantastic, it was magical. This is about a teenage girl who aches for her mother every day and so decides to employ a psychic and a PI to help find her mother who left when she was 3 years old. But did her mother leave willingly, was she forced to go and is she even alive? A beautiful book where stories about elephants are interwoven with the story of a missing woman.

The book I liked least this month was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (2 stars). I’m not sure if I am meant to love Dickens, I just struggle to read his books. I absolutely loved David Copperfield and enjoyed A Christmas Carol but everything else, I don’t know.

My Book Reviews in July (not above)

The Yorkshire Shepherdess (biography)

Jodi Picoult (mini reviews)

Bill Bryson (mini reviews)

What I have watched at the cinema this month:

The Suicide Squad – saw it last night, can I just ask, why is it called “the” suicide squad and not Suicide Squad 2? Weird! I loved the first movie, but this was was unnecessarily violent, seriously it was grotesque and entirely not needed, so I did not enjoy it as much, even though Idris Elba was in it!

The Croods 2 – took my kids to see this and it was hilarious! Soooo good.

Old – This is a M. Night Shymalan movie so I knew it would be weird, and weird it was. A few families are taken to a deserted island, and they quickly find out that they are aging at a rate of about 1 year every 15 minutes – crazy. I won’t ruin it and say why, but it was strange.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife – I loved this, almost as much as the first one, so funny! The first movie was one of the funniest movies I have seen, I love this kind of sarcastic dry humour and I love Ryan Reynolds.

What I have been watching on TV:

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics – of course!

Grey’s Anatomy – series 17 – this season is so real because it is all about Covid! We lost a bunch of our long-standing actors though, which made me sad.

Our Yorkshire Farm – series 4

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