Ah, now this is exactly the sort of book I love to pick up. A creepy, energetic thriller with just the right balance of horror, intrigue and fantasy.
The beginning of the novel was similar to many haunted house stories – a young woman must visit an old house in the middle of nowhere. When she arrives, she discovers that it is decrepit, mouldy and its occupants decidedly odd. There are silent servants, lecherous men and a cousin who is acting anything but normal.
The protagonist is Noemi, a character that you can’t help rooting for. She is bright and fun and the perfect antithesis to the bleak surroundings, high in the mountains where the mist is a constant companion.
About halfway through, the plot veers away from that of a traditional haunted house tale and becomes something very different. It surprised me, but I loved it. The plot is imaginative and brave, and I am now looking up Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other books (Gods of Jade and Shadow next, I think!)
When I heard that a new book by Kazuo Ishiguro was being released, I was extremely excited. I love Never Let Me Go (you can read my review of that book here), and had very high hopes for Klara and the Sun. My excitement was just tinged with a hint of concern that perhaps it could not live up to those expectations.
Well, I am delighted to announce that it did. As always, the depth of detail in Ishiguro’s world was incredible. Klara and the Sun focuses on an artificially intelligent being who is sold as a companion to a child. I won’t say much more about the contents, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone wanting to read it, but I was blown away by the insights into how an artificially intelligent robot might think. You are party to the learning process, as she becomes more socially aware following exposure to varying events. There are countless curiosities – what would a solar powered robot think of the sun? How would a robot’s programming affect what it thought about humans, their emotions and the hierarchy of problems they may have?
As with Never Let Me Go, you do not get any more information than Klara herself has. This naturally leaves many questions unanswered at the end of the book – which is frustrating but, equally, perfect.
I found the novel intensely moving, thought provoking and a genuinely delightful way to spend a weekend. Highly recommended.
I wasn’t able to head to any exciting book shops or restaurants or bars for my birthday this year (and I usually like to spend my birthday PROPERLY enjoying myself), so a little retail therapy was certainly on the cards.
I do love collecting books. The ones I bought will add to some of my favourites sets. I did want to purchase one other book that I’ve had my eye on for a while – Mexican Gothic. However, my process is that I purchase newer releases (read: anything that’s not a classic) second hand, and I then pass them on to friends and family when I’ve read them. Mexican Gothic seems to be too new at the moment for me to pick up a second hand copy online, so I’ll just have to wait.
So, here we go, my birthday books:
1. This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
A beautiful Barnes and Noble leatherbound edition by one of my favourite authors. I love collecting these big, chunky books and I adore the quality- it’s exceptional.
Last winter, the publishers Thomas Nelson released the Winter Seasons Editions, a set of four books with glorious laser cut cover designs. They are limited edition, with just 10,000 copies of each book available to buy. You can see in the picture above that I managed to get my hands on three of the collection – Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and A Tale of Two Cities. I missed out on the fourth! Little Women sold out very quickly and, although I have alerts everywhere for a copy, I haven’t been able to find a second hand one for under £200. That’s how special they are.
So when I received the news that the Summer Seasons Editions were on their way, I was determined not to make the same mistake again. Thomas Nelson were kind enough to send me this copy of Jane Eyre to feature on my Instagram, and let me tell you that the Summer Editions are even better than the winter ones, so I think they will sell out quickly. They have listened to feedback from their first set and these ones have a thicker protective wrap. They also each come with a laser cut bookmark. As with the winter books, they’re all individually numbered too.
The Summer Seasons Editions are being released on 30th June, so you can preorder the set now and make sure you don’t miss out. Although I’ve preordered the rest of the set from Amazon, and they won’t be delivering to here in the UK until 23rd July. Still, the wait will make the anticipation even greater!
Blood appears black in the moonlight. Don’t ask me how I know that. There are many things I’ve done and many things I’ve seen that I’d prefer not to tell you. But I suppose, now I’m here, that I should share.
It is freeing, in a way, to be able to tell you anything. To feel like I can tell you anything. I trust you. I haven’t trusted many people in my life, but you – I feel like we have a connection. Don’t you?
So, where to begin? I suppose you want to know everything, don’t you? Perhaps I should start with my childhood. How little there is to tell about that though. I was a loner – I imagine you guessed that already, from how I am now. An only child, distant parents. I can’t pretend that my difficulties, the trials and tribulations I’ve felt during my life, haven’t stemmed from then. In fact, until I found you, I was drifting. I had no anchor, despite my wealth. Oh, how I do now!
No, don’t worry, my parents weren’t cruel. But I can’t say that they showed me love either. They were busy, I felt like an afterthought. I found my own ways to entertain myself. I won’t bore you with them, ordinary childhood things that they were. Games.
I went to University a year early. I always was bright, but numbers come naturally to me. I was confused by how others struggled in those lessons, perhaps that goes some way to explain my lack of friends. I hoped things would be different at Oxford University. Surely there, there would be people like me?
As you know, I was disappointed. They had all of the benefits of a socialised childhood and they gathered in groups that I couldn’t infiltrate. I just didn’t know how – they weren’t like me. Instead, I went from lecture to lecture, head down, books in hand, talking to no one. I was invisible. I kept my eyes on the ground and studied in my room. I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me and that was that.
This may sound like I want your pity. I don’t. You know that since then, my life has become an apparent success. I have friends, fans even. My money. Status. But I’ve always wanted more. I’ve always been hungry for more. Now that we’re together, I’m content. You have changed that side of me, at least.
Yes, I know why we are here, having this conversation. Yes, I can tell what that expression on your face means. You want more. Well. I don’t know whether delving any deeper would be helpful. You already seem disappointed in me. What can I do? It is more difficult than it seems, peeling back the layers. As painful as removing a layer of skin. I’ll try. I’m flattered that you want to learn more about me. I feel there is something I’m missing though, something urgent that you want. You are tense. But you feel as though you can’t ask. Ok, that’s fine. I want you to believe in me.
A heart is like an apple, you know. When it’s healthy and happy it is fresh and juicy and red – filled to bursting. Have you ever bitten into an apple and left it on the side? Straight away it starts to wilt, brown, rot. There’s no healing it. That’s my experience, anyway. Give it an hour or two and there’s nothing you can do to save it, you may as well just toss it in the bin.
You could say that’s been my life’s work.
You don’t get the connection? You look confused, but trust me, it is a good metaphor. I can see your micro expressions now, flitting across your face, you are struggling to understand. It will become clear. I want what you want – I want the two of us to be happy and I want you to know me. I know that’s important for us to move forward.
Shall we move on to your reservations about me? I can see that you have them. People have had reservations about since I was a child. Perhaps it’s something about the way I hold myself. I’m so used to being alone that others sense that they are unnecessary around me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I need you as much as you need me. I’m sorry that I can’t be different.
Perhaps talking about my career will help. You know that I’m successful and – well, you’ve seen my office. You perhaps don’t know quite how hard I had to work to build my company. From the ground up. Starting with nothing – no loans, just a computer in my bedroom. Am I proud of what I’ve achieved? Yes, of course I am. Wouldn’t you be? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to undermine your own career. I know you work hard. But yes, to get to the bottom of what you want to know, I did trample on people on my way up. To be a success, you have to. Kind people don’t get anywhere in this life. Oh, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but you understand – to make millions, to become a someone, you have to stand on top of a pile of bodies. Excuse my crude phrasing. It was harder for me than those Eton boys with their connections readymade. I had to rely on pure talent and guts. You think I’m cold, and I don’t deny it. But you can see why I would be, with a life like mine.
Now I’m confused because you still seem to want more from me. There are no more relevant things that I can share about my life. I said it was freeing to be able to tell you anything and I stand by that, but your reaction is frankly quite disappointing. You have a strange look on your face. What is that look? If you came closer to me, maybe I would be able to decipher it. As it is, I am drawn to your glinting eyes in this gloomy room.
I see what you want. I understand now. You want to know about my past relationships. Are you alright? I noticed a subtle change in you. This is what you were waiting for. Well, I’m afraid there’s really nothing to tell you. I have never been much of a one for long relationships. They don’t tend to work for me.
I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear.
Interview adjourned at 13.49. The accused remains unwilling to disclose the locations of the other bodies.
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Bright, light books should grace everyone’s shelves. These are six of my particular favourites. The Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice are part of the glorious Thomas Nelson Seasons Paper Cut series. These fall under winter – the summer set is available for preorder now. They are some of the most gorgeously intricate designs I’ve ever seen. Also included are my incredibly special Anna Karenina and the Knickerbocker Jules Verne collection.
Here’s where you can find them (starting from the bottom):
Late spring is perhaps my favourite time of year. The anticipation of summer and long, warm days ahead, bright flowers bursting onto the scene and chirruping birds. Throw in some glorious sunshine and I don’t think you can beat it.
This is the mood I was trying to convey with this image. Here are the links to the books that I featured (starting from the bottom):
Ah, this is one of my favourite photos that I’ve taken in a long time. I love the colours, they remind me of spring. Here’s where you can find the books to brighten up your bookcase. They’re a variety of publishers and editions, and I’ve done my best to locate them all for you. Here they are, from bottom up:
These four black books contain some of my favourite works. The one novel – Dracula – is close to the top of my list of classics I enjoy the most. It is always a delight to read (and the recent BBC adaptation was a delight to watch – amazing for binging!). The other three books contain short stories and novellas from some of the very best authors. The Flame Tree short stories in particular are fantastic value for money.
I don’t know about you, but since the pandemic started I’ve spent a lot more time in my kitchen. Homemade food is not only good for the body, it’s good for the soul too and cooking never fails to calm me. I’ve used cookery as therapy for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s a quick, whipped together meal or a long, slow cook, the preparation of food has a power that is often overlooked in our usual fast paced world.
My first foray into blogging was a food blog. On What To Have For Dinner Tonight, I shared my favourite recipes. For me, cooking is and always has been cathartic.
If you’re just beginning your cookery journey, or are looking for some inspiration to shake things up, here are my favourite cookery books to bring some fresh ideas.
1. Greenfeast – Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater’s food philosophy is very similar to my own. Good ingredients, treated well to create delicious meals. His recent offerings are two vegetarian books, one focusing on ingredients in season in spring and summer, the other autumn and winter. These books celebrate vegetables, and make their delicious, varied flavours sing. Even the most dedicated meat eater will enjoy these!
You can find Spring, Summer here and Autumn, Winter here.
2. Persiana – Sabrina Ghayour
If you are hankering for travel abroad, these recipes will transport you to the Middle East. Persiana is packed full of fragrant, moreish recipes which can bring some sunshine into your life. From meaty meals to light salads to sweet desserts, there is something for everyone here.
3. 15 Minute Meals – Jamie Oliver
People love to hate Jamie Oliver, and both this book and his preceding 30 minute meals book received a lot of criticism about how long the recipes actually take to make. And yes, in real life these recipes do take more than 15 minutes (although I tidy up as I go, and factor that into the time). Despite this, the book is packed full of easy, quick and delicious meals which the whole family will enjoy. You can find it here.
4. SIMPLE – Yotam Ottolenghi
Although cook books which include delightfully complex recipes are great to have around for one-off occasions, SIMPLE has an enormous amount of utility. These are the sort of meals that you won’t just cook once – you’ll make them weekly, add them to your repertoire and enjoy them over and over again. The recipes are simple in various ways – time taken, or amount of pots used, or ingredients, or you can make them ahead of time. If you’re looking for a way to build your skills and become a better cook for the future, have a look here.
I hope you enjoy these books and the recipes they include. Share your favourite cook book in the comments!