This book is very ambivalent for me. While the author clearly knows how to employ beautifully crafted language, it is also very long-winded and seems to go on forever. The characters are all unlikeable and it is, definitely (in case anyone wanted to read it because they liked the movie) NOT like the movie with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.
I bought the book because everyone was raving about it being the perfect autumnal read, but it stretches over a long time period and the most distinctly described season is summer. Whenever language stands out it is in sentences like "it was a scorching July day", or something like that - so if you're looking for a cosy autumnal read, you better keep looking.
While the "witchiness" of the book is definitely in place, it doesn't come across as cosy or inviting, but rather sinister and dark.
In summary, the book is very well-written but although it is not a thick book, it feels like a tome and just never ends. There are no real chapters, which adds to the illusion of a never-ending story.
Personally, if you're looking for a good magical autumnal read, you're better of with (re-)reading Harry Potter or the Morrigan Crow series (they're children's books but wonderfully whimsical in their magic).
You can also find a video review on my instagram account @angie_rz_floatingtheboat under the Highlight Book Review
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There are approximately 3 040 000 000 Google results when you type in "pregnancy book", and over 60.000 titles on Amazon. In short, there is a ridiculous wealth on pregnancy and parental preparation books to choose from, which can be entirely overwhelming when you try to figure out what to read when you're expecting.
Obviously, I haven't read them all (I doubt anyone has), but going through my second pregnancy and being someone who reads a lot, there are personal recommendations what to read and whether it's actually necessary to read pregnancy books in advance at all. During my first pregnancy, I immersed myself fully in as many pregnancy books as possible (and you can read why that probably wasn't such a good idea in my post Why Reading Pregnancy Books May Not Be Helpful), but it was not the ideal way to prepare for me, for it only nurtured anxiety and made me scared of the birth and parenting. Other books - few books, in fact - helped me look forward to both birth and parenting, and I will share them here.
Please bear in mind that every woman and pregnancy are different, and while some need full control to feel happy during their pregnancy, others need something else entirely.
Why reading generic pregnancy books can increase fear
Before I was even pregnant, I got the big fat pregnancy book by doctor Lesley Regan Your Pregnancy Week by Week. First up, I think it's a great book with everything you can read about pregnancy you could wish for. However, it was not a great book for me to read during pregnancy. Pregnancy books of that kind - which are informative, objective and medical - have to include everything - also every horrible possible scenario. I remember reading abstracts like "having back pain is completely normal, but it might also be something really terrible so best check out your doctor immediately" (this is me paraphrasing, not a quote from the book). During my first pregnancy I was additionally worried because we'd gone through the horror of hearing we might not have children due to my endometriosis, so I was terrified of losing my baby.
When you're pregnant the first time, it is immensely difficult to differentiate between "normal" and "bad" pain - at least it was for me. So, if you're an anxiety-ridden person, I would not propose to read such a book during pregnancy.
WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND highly is getting a good midwife and a doctor you trust. You can ask them all your questions and trust they will tell you if anything's not going the way it should. This way, you don't have to interpret your findings in a book, but can trust a expert medical opinion.
Which books actually helped me during pregnancy and after
When you have a good midwife and doctor, what you read is actually optional. You get everything you really NEED from the experts around you, and reading can be supplementary and focused on what YOU want from your birth or your parenting experience. Having said this, my list is, of course, strongly focused on what I was looking for, but I hope it helps you as well - especially if you're an anxious person like me.
The book which helped me most during my pregnancy and birth prep was Hollie de Cruz's Your Baby, Your Birth. The book succinctly and understandably outlines Hypnobirthing and the physical processes that happen during birth. Shared birth experiences by women who have tried hypnobirthing and how it changed their birth experience. Compared to the original Hypnobirthing book by Marie Mongan, de Cruz's birth has a more open-minded approach, in my opinion, and she doesn't condemn other birth proceedings than natural births, but sees Hypnobirthing rather as a way to enjoy your birth experience, no matter what how it turns out in the end.
The section at the end about the aftermath of birth is also very encouraging and helpful for young parents. On the book's website you can also download the relaxation hypnosis and affirmations for free.
You can get a copy of the book and download your free mp3s here.
Another great read during pregnancy and well into parenthood is Philippa Perry's book The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read. Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist and author who is all about gentle parenting and understanding not only the children we nurture as parents, but also the inner child within us. Her book is not your generic parents' guide but also addresses the question why we parent the way we choose to and how our own childhood and parents have shaped the way we care for our own children. I found her book uplifting to read, while giving great perspective and opportunity to reflect on how you want to parent. Her insight into what children need and how to best give it to them is very gentle and loving and was the perfect way for me to chime into motherhood.
You can buy a copy of the book via this link.
A book which is entirely not about advice but a deeply personal take on motherhood is Polly Dunbar's Hello, Mum. The illustrator has created a wonderful storyline of her own life as mother of two sons and it is wonderfully uplifting because you know exactly what she means. With her unique illustrations and short texts, this book is a wonderful read to leaf through again and again, and especially on days where I feel overwhelmed by motherhood and question everything I do, I found it to be the shoulder pat I needed. This book also makes for a wonderful gift to someone expecting a baby.
You can buy a copy of Hello, Mum by Polly Dunbar here.
This book is ESSENTIAL for anyone who plans to co-sleep with their kids (and anyone else, too, I believe, because you will want to co-sleep after reading it). Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family is a guide and advice book about good sleeping habits in babies, published by the renowned La Leche League Association. For me, it was a lifesaver. The book presents fantastic studies and research that show how good co-sleeping is for the entire family, how to safely set up the family bed, and what sleep training can do to your child's brain. Common myths about co-sleeping are debunked and you will wonder how you could ever have contemplated another sleep setup. While most other books on baby sleep are about training babies like animals, this book has a gentle, humane approach, employing methods that aid the entire family.
Whenever I felt frustrated with my daughter's sleeping habits, was unsure whether our way was the right one for us, or whether something was "wrong" with Lily, this book was my bible, my shoulder pat to tell me I was doing alright, and my guide book to better sleep. It is a book about gentle sleep habits for the entire family - and despite the title, it's not exclusively for breastfeeding women. There is also advice for women who bottle-feed and how to make the nights easier. Sleep is a topic for everyone, I have yet to find a mum where sleep isn't a major factor at some point, so it is wise to have a good advice book by hand.
You can get a print copy or Kindle e-book of Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family on Amazon.
And that's it. From the many books I've perused, these are the only ones I felt actually helped me and which I leaf through again and again. If you feel an essential book is missing from this list, let me know and happy reading!
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There are people who read the bible every single morning to get into the spirit of the day. While I've read the bible and didn't find any connection to it for myself, I've still loved the idea of getting up in the morning and dedicating yourself to some kind of scripture to sculpt the right mindset for a day. Morning contemplation has something very meditative in my opinion, but the question was which book would work for me?
With more spiritual books on the market than ever, it is fairly simple to get a compiled list of books to peruse, but finding the right one that works for you is another issue. It took me a while to get the books I like, for I first needed to find out what I wanted my contemplation to be. Should it be short stories that make me think? Philosophical concepts? Do I want to dabble into another religion?
In the end, it wasn't just one book for me - and I must admit I still don't read every single morning. However, the five books you find below are books I love re-reading during the morning, peruse and browse, and which always help me get into a calmer mindset while still provoking thought. Maybe something's there for you too.
"The Child had become enmagicked. there was no doubt about it. and now things were more complicated than they had been before."
Title: The Girl Who Drank The Moon
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Age group: 9+
Brace yourself for a magical ride full or star and moonlight in Barnhill's bestselling children's book. It's been a while since a magical story has really gripped me, but this book is not only wonderfully written and full of emotion and plot twists, it also has an imaginative and new take on magic.
Start is a conspiracy in the sorrow-infested Protectorate, the town close-by an allegedly haunted forest in which an evil witch does her worst. To protect the people of the Protectorate, a baby needs to be sacrificed each year to appease the witch - who, in fact, is called Xan and doesn't murder children. She takes them and brings them to other places into families where they are loved and nurtured. To sustain the babies on their long journeys to their new families, Xan feeds them starlight - until one night she is rather absent-minded and feeds the baby the much more powerful and magical moonlight. Baby Luna - for how could she have a different name - is raised by Xan herself, who can guide her with her magic that seeps through every vein of the child. Helping Xan are a lovely bog monster called Glerk (I presume the sound wellies make when you pull them out of the bog), and a miniature dragon called Fyrian.
But Luna turns out to be a bit more of a challenge and she isn't the only trouble bubbling up. Things in the Protectorate are changing with a young man who starts questioning whether the witch really is as bad as everyone says, vowing to kill her, should she be. Also, there is a madwoman in a tower who wants to find her lost child in the woods and knows of a secret about the evil witch that will change the entire Protectorate.
Barnhill's story is full of innovation and she weaves the story skilfully together as the different perspectives intertwine and meet. Although the girl Luna struck me as a rather unlikable character who, for some reason, is beloved by everyone who meets her, it is still a story of complexity and depth and it is understandable why the author won a Newbery Medal for it and the book featured in the New York Times bestselling list. Although the targeted reading list according to Amazon is 9-11, this is a book that can enchant everybody and it brings the right amount of darkness and tragedy to the table to be taken seriously as a book of all ages.
If you're looking for more magical children's books of the likes, you can also read my reviews on Nevermoor Series: The Trials of Morrigan Crow and The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods.
One word description: Moonstruck
"Between life and death is a library. And within that LIbrary, the Shelves go on for ever."
Title: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Age group: 15+
Matt Haig, once more, whips up a truly magnificent story, full of genuine human stories with a magical twist. If you have ever wondered what opportunities slipped through your hands in life or who you could have been in another life, this book takes you on the right journey.
Meet Nora, a young woman whose life has turned for the worse and leaves her unfulfilled in her relationships, career and pretty much every aspect of her life. When her beloved cat dies, she decides enough is enough and wants to end her miserable life - yet there is a magical place between life and death where Nora finds her alternative lives crammed in a magnificent library, waiting for her to explore.
What would have happened if she'd pursued her ambitions as a swimmer or married her previous boyfriend? What would have happened if she hadn't let the cat out or become a glaciologist in Iceland? The infinite outcomes of her own life are the rims of possibility in this place and Nora has a chance to see what would have happened if she'd pursued her band and become a rock star - would she have been happier as a mum or a gold medallist? The answers lie in the tomes that concoct not only her present life but all the other-dimensional lives she has lived in another decision.
Once more Matt Haig takes a unique concept and spins a wonderful and warm story from it, like he does in many of his other books, for example A Boy Called Christmas. What makes this book even more of an unputdownable read is the pace of writing and the short chapters that wrap up the story in exactly as many words as it needs - not more or less. Having wondered about past regrets and possible outcomes uncountable times myself, I found this book very intriguing and a wonderful idea to put to paper. With humour, wit and heart, Haig delves into deeper human issues most of us are far too familiar with, but, as usual, manages to give the reader a feeling of understanding and positivity, rather than pessimism. Showing you can never quite escape yourself, he slowly introduces a new mindset for Nora that does not change the hard facts but how you can look at them - which assured me I can do so as well.
Haig's books brim with life positivity amidst the turmoil and chaos of everyday life and all its minor and major catastrophes and are always a good read to feel better (his non-fiction books are great reads to feel better, too). Although I enjoy most of the books I read from him, this was a particular favourite as the main character was so genuine, vulnerable and yet very strong. Skipping through her possible lives was a great time filled with all emotions from fun to sadness and anger. Especially in these challenging times where many of us find themselves isolated, it's the perfect book to curl up and let the outer world pass by for a moment to be engulfed by the Midnight Library and all its possibilities.
One word description: Manifold.
"She was murdered by a far more skilful killer than you ever were."
Title: Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike 5 Novel)
Author: Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
I am usually not a sucker for crime novels, but the Strike books are so gripping and enthralling that I was glad to get my hands on this little tome (only a few pages short of a 1000 pages). Despite the controversial opinions of Rowling and a "cross-dressing serial killer" (I'll get to that later), the book sky-rocketed on the book market.
I feel that Galbraith (i.e. Rowling) manages to become better and better at setting up gruesome stories, and this little jewel is the most gruesome so far in my opinion. A brutal serial killer in the mix and a cold case, which somehow makes it all the more tragic. Amidst all the conundrum of who-dunnit-it are also the continuous tensions between our main detective Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. Especially their personal stories seem to be even deeper in this book, as Strike struggles with an ailing aunt in Cornwall who requires his attention, as well as mixed feelings he has towards his attractive business partner.
Meanwhile Robin is still in the messy parts of disentangling her short-lived marriage while dealing with sexism, work overload and, of course, her share of confusing feelings towards her business partner (Rowling has a gift of setting up long-term teases - just think about Ron and Hermione).
But where is the crime in all this? Well, in this book Strike is approached by a desperate woman who wants to find out what happened to her mother forty years ago when she just disappeared when walking from her office to a pub, never to be seen again. Strike's first cold case leads him down a lane of serial killers, confusion, a deranged cop who handled the case back then, and many layers of old guilt, all not making it necessarily easier to find out the truth - or the woman who went missing.
The fact that a brutal serial killer was making his rounds at the time and refuses to relay all the victims he's tortured and killed in his basement makes Strike's and Robin's case probably the most delicate, difficult and gruesome yet.
As for the "transphobic" criticism, it is utterly ridiculous. There is only a known serial killer who sometimes dresses up as a woman to lure women in, and some people from forty years ago saying he was effeminate in some ways, that's it and surely not a reason to flip out - so don't let that non-existent issue deter you.
If you love fast-paced novels with a genuine background story for the detectives and don't mind some grisly details (I honestly couldn't read the book at night), this crime novel is a fantastic read for you and so far my favourite Strike novel.
One word description: Gruesome.
One of the upsides of the corona virus lockdown is how much time I find for reading books now. For my birthday, my lovely husband surprised me with a long-time wish - a Strandmon armchair from IKEA in yellow - which has swiftly become my designated reading space.
I surmise that many people now have got plenty of time on their hands - and what better way to spend it than to relax and read books, delving into magical worlds or learning more about something new. Reading, for me, is still the most relaxing and fantastic activity, but sadly I often don't make time for it, and I can imagine many people face similar issues, but there is no excuse anymore!
In the past months as I was struggling through another depressive episode and the turmoil of pregnancy, I found particular support and joy in reading non-fiction autobiographical work in which people like you and me tell about their lives - sometimes as part of a "guide book", sometimes just to impart their story. Reading other people's stories fascinates me immensely, as you learn you're not alone with your thoughts and troubles. Regardless how successful someone has been in their lives, they may still have had periods of hell and now share their insights and stories to relate and support.
Some of the books on this list are more fun reads than deep transformative pieces, but I feel a little fun can never go amiss - especially not in times like these. Others gave me the feeling they were only written for me in a particularly difficult time of my life - and maybe they can give you perspective, too. Others tell of everyday life and how "normal" people made something magnificent with their lives by trusting in their abilities.
So let's delve in and give you something to read until the stores finally open again and we can all indulge in mindless consumerism once more :-)
Do you sometimes read a book and feel it's only been written for you? A book so uniquely shaped to your situation you have to doubt your atheist attitude and can only feel a greater being sent it your way to help you cope?
Or maybe you just enjoy a really good roll with your books and seemingly everything you pick up is great literature? Recently, I have felt that way. In the past weeks I have read so many incredible great books that varied in narration, content and quirkiness that I cannot help feeling I am jinxing it by writing about it - the next drought will certainly come.
If you are amidst a reading drought at the moment, maybe reading through this list can help you get back on track. For this list I am considering books that have a unique way of telling a story and bend the rules of narration, which I always love for no one should writers tell they can or cannot do this or that - it's your book and you can do whatever you want!
So let's get into it.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Yes, I know I am late to the party but I only recently bowed to social pressure and finally read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Although I am usually not a fan of Holocaust fiction, I must say I really enjoyed reading the book. Not only because of its in-depth characters and how Zusak sheds light on how German citizens experienced the Second World War, but predominantly because of its unique narration.
The book is narrated by Death itself and he doesn't mind jumping back and forth, spoiling the plot in advance for the reader (and knowing about it), and inserting little facts and thoughts in embellished boxes. I love when authors just narrate their stories without worrying too much what is considered "normal narration". I loved how Zusak gave Death a gentle voice and made the tragic topic invariably sadder, but also more hopeful, somehow. One of my most favourite parts is the beginning was where it says,
First the colours.
Then the humans.
That's usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.
HERE IS A SMALL FACT
You are going to die.
Especially if you want to complete the bleakness of the winter months, this book is a great choice - and don't cheat and watch the movie before you read the book.
With the Christmas season kicking in it's time for our favourite vomit-inducing Netflix Hallmark Christmas movies. After major successes (but why?) with movies like A Christmas Prince, The Holiday Calendar and The Princess Switch, they've now taken to ruining fantastic books for their lazy movie adaptations. All their cheesy Christmas movies have a sub-par cast in common with a story line that reekes of cliches so much you can still smell the lingering stench at Easter.
Don't get me wrong, I am a sucker for Christmas movies and enjoy binge-watching them, but there are simply some that let you regret that Christmas is coming. If you're looking for a good selection (in my humble opinion), you can check out past blog posts about it here and here.
But now to this week's movie Let It Snow, directed by Luke Snellin and based (my ass) on the short story collection of acclaimed YA authors John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. Although the movie garnered predominantly positive reviews, it is only plausible that it did so because the reviewers were unfamiliar with the book - for it surely is one of the worst adaptations they could have made. Before I delve into the book and the movie adaptation, be warned that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead, as I will give account on how different the stories are.
Title: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Book 1 of the Nevermoor Series)
Author: Jessica Townsend
Are you ready to be swept away into the magical world of Nevermoor? Because I was more than ready. There are books galore on magical worlds, but many are not well-thought out or have uncarved characters - if you've been looking for another book to whisk you into a magical world you don't want to leave like the Harry Potter books did for me, you'll love this gem by Jessica Townsend.
Accompany quirky, black-clad and cursed Morrigan Crow when she, contrary to her belief, does not die on her eleventh birthday, but it whisked off to the magical Nevermoor by her new, and undeniably ginger-haired, patron Jupiter North. Wait, what, was that too fast? Alright then, let's recap, but try to keep up, for this fast-paced story will demand you to do so.
It all starts with Morrigan Crow. She's on the brink of her eleventh birthday, knowing she must die, for all children born on Eventide must die on their eleventh birthday. When the new year is rung in quite earlier than she'd expected and wished (for who would want to speed up their time till death), she thinks that's her story told. However, the boisterous Jupiter North has come to cheat death and saves her by bringing her to Nevermoor - the Free State, where the Wondrous Society recruits the brightest and most talented - those with a special "knack" - to join their forces.
So far, so good. Instead of being dead, which would have been a most undesirable state, Morrigan has a shot to join the most prestigious and acclaimed society there is; however, first she must pass all the tricky trials the society sets their recruits to find out who is worthy and who is not. And if a trial weren't enough, Morrigan has to battle with arrogant and full-of-herself Noelle, a co-competitor for a spot, as well as a weird, hair-braided girl we shall learn more about later in the series (just to let you known on whom to keep an eye).
Thankfully, she doesn't only make enemies in Nevermoor. Her sprightly and ever-supportive patron Jupiter takes her to his own hotel, the Hotel Deucalion, where she meets the magnificent Magnificat Fenestra and many nice people like opera singer Dame Chanda and the vampire dwarf and party planner supreme Frank. The cheeky dragonrider Hawthorne also befriends her on her first day (is there such a thing as friendship at first sight? If there is, consider this a prime example of it) and then there is the mysterious Mr Jones who pops in regularly and who also made a bid on becoming her patron. Should Morrigan trust him or may he keep more than he says, and what about evil Baz Charlton, Noelle's patron, who's threatened to call the immigration police on Morrigan?
Let's not spoil this wonderful story for you by exploiting the content here, but snatch your copy and be engulfed by the magic of Nevermoor, ripe with wonderful details and quirky elements and embark on the trials with Morrigan. And, remember, it's Christmas soon, so if you're still undecided on what to put on your wish list, here's something to enjoy.
This book is the perfect fusion of breathtaking adventure, complex characters you want to stay friends with forever and an escape from everyday life whenever you need it - regardless your age. I admired the witty banter and dialogue-centred writing, as well as the beautiful details that strike you as insignificant to tell the plot, but invaluable to create a story. Morrigan is a likeable, yet flawed, character, and you'll wish a dragonrider like Hawthorne to be your friend, too. And the best about the book? There's more to read once you've turned the pitiful last page.
One word description: Wondrous.
Here you find book reviews, and sometimes also things about films. Enjoy reading.