Music To Read To

Music to Read to
I can’t listen to music and read. I can sit for hours on a noisy train, tube or bus reading and never look up. But add music with lyrics and/or TV into the mix? No chance. That is, until I discovered instrumental music, specifically piano music. Here are a few playlists that I listen to when I fancy something to read to!

Peaceful Piano
This is my current favourite playlist, which I’ve had on repeat since Christmas. It’s a large playlist, with 143 songs on it for you to devour.

Listen to: Together We Will Live Forever, I Promise, Wanderlust, Comptine d’un autre été, l’après-midi.


The Theory of Everything OST

This is my favourite movie score at the moment, by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. I’ve listened to over 300 songs – it’s just stunning. I urge you to check out his other work, too.

Listen to: Camping, Epilogue, The Theory of Everything.

Continue Reading

Shelf Swap with Kara Rennie

Shelf Swap with Kara Rennie
I love swapping book recs, so I’m asking one person each month to pick five books from my Goodreads shelves that they would like to read and five books from their own shelves that they think I might enjoy.

I’m happy to welcome Kara Rennie (@karajrennie), digital marketer for Books Are My Bag and The Booksellers Association, to Pretty Books for Shelf Swap!

5 BOOKS FROM STACEY’S SHELVES THAT KARA WANTS TO READ

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Stacey kindly gave me a copy of The Outsiders and I’m slightly ashamed of myself for not having picked it up before, given its cult classic status. The author Susan Eloise Hinton started writing this book when she was just 15 years old and to have such an impact on so many readers, I want to read this at some point during 2017 to see if it has an impact on me. It’s told in the first-person narrative which I tend to enjoy and is about two rival gangs, the Greasers and the Socs in 1960s Oklahoma. I have a feeling I will sort of love it … watch this space.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Another American classic I should have read. I hang my head in shame, readers (but I guess this is the point of the shelf swap?). In Stacey’s Goodreads review of this book she mentions the main character Francie Nolan and describes her as a ferocious-reader-Matilda-type and an inspiring writer – she sounds like my kind of person! It’s classed as young adult and the story is supposed to be simple but heart-warming and the kind of book that stays with you for a long time. By the looks of things – the masses of positive reviews and ratings, this book is very well-loved.

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
I’ve spotted this in Foyles, Charing Cross a number of times but I haven’t yet treated myself or my shelf to a copy (who even am I?). Maus depicts cartoonist Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and survivor of the Holocaust, and is the only graphic novel to have won the Pulitzer Prize. I enjoy reading graphic novels with some of my favourites being Daniel Clowes’ Ghostworld, The Gigantic Beard that was Evil by Stephen Collins and Building Stories by Chris Ware (a real treat) and would love to read more.

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
I know a few people that have read and loved this book and it always seems to have rave reviews online. Nothing to Envy tells the story of North Korea as a closed society from the lives of six North Koreans who defected to South Korea. Through interviews and the author’s own personal experiences, it’s revealed just what it’s like to live in such a repressive Orwellian world where residents do not even have access to the internet. This sounds like a tough book to read but I like to have a non-fiction book on the go and plan to pick this up in the not so distant future …

 A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
I’ve had this book on my desk for a while now – I picked it up for a couple of reasons, one being that it’s from 4th Estate, a publisher of many great authors (Lena Dunham, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hadley Freeman, Sali Hughes and Jeffrey Eugenides to name a few). The second, because of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. The Virgin Suicides is one of my favourite books, if not my all-time favourite book, and the premise sounded similar. The book tells the story of three sisters who have decided to kill themselves, but this isn’t their choice alone – they are part of a long line of people who have done the same. I just want to find out why …

5 BOOKS FROM KARA’S SHELVES THAT STACEY SHOULD READ

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I’ve raved about this book to Stacey before and I think most people; especially women would take something away from it – whether it’s inspiration or life-advice or comfort in knowing that someone at some point may have felt the same way as you. Wild tells the story of a 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed who after her mother’s death and her failed marriage feels like her life has fallen apart. To counteract her loss and grief, Strayed decides to pack her life into her backpack and trek the Pacific Crest Trail to try and come to terms with everything that has happened. I don’t think Stacey reads much non-fiction, particularly memoirs and I’d love to inspire her to pick them up more regularly, starting with this wonderful book.

Stacey says: I do want to read more non-fiction (and I have a few on my TBR). I’ve been unsure about Wild, but I’m willing to give it a shot!

Stína by Lani Yamamoto
Stacey loves cosiness and I feel that she would love Stína – a lovely little children’s book I picked up from Eymundsson bookshop in Iceland. Coincidentally this beautifully-illustrated book takes its title from the main character, a girl who lives in Iceland and is always freezing. Stína feels safe at home, wrapped up in sweaters and a gigantic duvet; she takes comfort in a quiet and simple life and makes a mean hot cocoa. A very sweet book.

Stacey says: I’m embracing all things hygge (all right, wrong country) and so this sounds perfect for me – it’s described as a delightful picture book for cold winter days!

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
This book won the Costa Book of the Year and for good reason, it’s absolutely stunning. The story is narrated by Matthew, a 19-year-old boy struggling with schizophrenia and desperately clinging on to the memory of his brother. The writing is very intelligent – it’s not written chronologically and the reader jumps between Matthew as a child and Matthew as a late teen and his descent into unbearable guilt and mental illness. Despite the tough subject matter this book is highly engaging and easy to read, I believe I read it in one sitting and have been meaning to re-read it for a while.

Stacey says: I have this on sitting on my Kindle, but I’ve never managed to get to it – I’ll push it up my TBR!

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
To continue Stacey’s love of Denmark and the fact that she owns a copy of this book (thanks to me!), I think she would really enjoying reading about Danish traditions and what it’s really like to live in what is known as the happiest country in the world. When the author’s husband is offered a job in Denmark (at LEGO – could it BE *cue Chandler Bing* anymore Danish?), she decides to switch up her chaotic London life for a Scandinavian adventure. The idea of packing up one’s life and moving abroad can be appealing from time to time and being able to live through Helen Russell as she navigates just that is very enjoyable.

Stacey says: I’m actually planning to read this next month (well done, Kara) as I’m in the midst of planning another Scandinavian trip.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Although Stacey’s Classics Challenge is not officially a *thing* anymore (sad times), I thought I would throw in a classic (or what I believe will be a future classic) because The Secret History is just so good. Set in New England, The Secret History tells the story of a close-knit group of classics students who accept Richard, the narrator of the book, into their elite. Reflecting years later, Richard unfolds the events that had led to a murder within the group (this is not a spoiler) and readers are delved into the characters’ secretive and self-centred lives. The prose is absolutely gorgeous, the characters are completely fascinating and it’s a book I think should be read by everyone at least once.

Stacey says: I adore boarding school settings, so I definitely want to pick this up at some point.

Thank you for swapping shelves with me, Kara!

Which of these books sounds great to you?

What I’ve Read / The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, What Light & I’ll Be Home for Christmas

What I've Read / The Twelve Days of Dash Lily, What Light & I'll Be Home for Christmas
Here’s what I thought of three festive books I picked up over Christmas!

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is one of my favourite YA festive novels. I’ve read it three times, over Christmas 2011, 2013 and 2016, so I was elated to discover that there would be a sequel.

Dash & Lily
The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily
is sadder, more melancholy than its predecessor. Lily’s grandfather is sick and she’s unable to appreciate her favourite season. For this new Lily, there’s no magical Christmas tree and no festive reindeer skirt. She is depressed and grieving, insecure about both her relationship with Dash and her place in the world. It was tough to see Lily going through such a hard time – quite different to the bouncing, positive and enthusiastic girl we’ve all come to know and love – but it was important to see a different side to her. And that goes for Dash, too. He joins forces with her older brother to cheer Lily up. It was lovely to see his romantic and thoughtful side (even though he can be a bit clueless at times!).

I cannot say that I preferred the sequel to Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – it didn’t fill me with as much festive glee as the first book did, but it was an unexpectedly complicated journey for the two teenagers. Even though it can be read as a standalone, I’d suggest reading the books in order to get the full experience of how Dash and Lily came to be.

Books On My TBR / Winter

What Light by Jay Asher

What Light is a contemporary story set on a Californian Christmas tree farm, a setting that has intrigued me ever since I discovered that Taylor Swift grew up on one in Pennsylvania (because I know you’re all dying to know that). As it’s set in California, I had to keep reminding myself that the weather probably wasn’t as cold and frosty and picturesque as I was imagining. I’ve seen The OC. I should know better.

Sierra has spent her life living in California for the Christmas season and the rest of her time in Oregon. She’s away from her East Coast friends and back with her other best friend, Heather. And she meets Caleb, who buys Christmas trees for impoverished families and has a family secret that she’s desperate to unravel. As someone who has small friendship groups, it was interesting to see how Sierra was torn between them. (Although I wish she had spent more time with Heather, who only gets to see her a month out of the year!). Caleb was really sweet and I enjoyed his banter with Sierra about peppermint mochas.

What Light is a cute, quick read if you’re looking for something Christmassy!

Behold the Pretty Books! / August Book Haul

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Various

As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a huge fan of short story collections, but I was curious about I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Festive YA is a favourite of mine – and I’m happy to report that I’ll Be Home for Christmas is the best collection I’ve read so far!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas features many of my favourite authors – Lisa Williamson, Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and more – all writing about the theme of ‘home’, with each copy of the book sold supporting the charity Crisis. Because there’s so many to talk about, I’ll pick out four favourites.

Cat Clarke’s Family You Choose – a super cute story about Effie, hiding from her family and discovering a whole new one in the process (plus delicious food) and Lisa Williamson’s Routes and Wings – a bleak story about Lauren, who travels around East London on buses, keeping her homelessness a secret from colleagues. I also enjoyed Juno Dawson’s Homo for Christmas – the cheeky and surprising story about Duncan, who is on his way home to tell his mother that he’s gay – and Tracy Darnton’s The Letter – a short but poignant story of Amber, who is living in care. Tracy was the winner of the short story competition and I’m looking forward to her first full novel in 2018!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a wonderfully diverse collection of stories and one that I’m sure to return to year after year.

Save