Four books in January might not seem a lot but when you’ve got plenty of other things going on, it’s actually a fairly decent amount!  I’d say six is an average number for me so I was just behind that, although I am also making time to listen to Anne of Green Gables on audiobook which did also affect how much I read.  Regardless…here is what I read in January.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

I went into this book expecting something very different from what I found.  I had picked up from somewhere that this was a dystopian and I was not at all prepared for how dark and uncomfortable a read it would turn out to be.  It is indeed in the dystopian category but is written as though it is a historical piece of work.  In our world, girls suddenly discover that they have the ability to generate electrical currents in their bodies and as such there is a shift in power with women becoming the dominant gender.  We follow four characters who become significant figures during this time and each play a different role in the changing of society.  There were a lot of things I didn’t enjoy about this book, predominantly the fact that women so quickly became power hungry, evil pieces of work subjecting men to all forms of physical and mental torture but as I said above, it did get me thinking and it did get me talking to people.  How would women behave if they were given more power.  Would they have more compassion or would they immediately become power hungry moguls, as this book suggests.  Overall it is one I would definitely recommend but you have to go in prepared to find the plot slow until the last 100 pages or so, and to know that there are a number of scenes which are not pleasant to read.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

Why do I do these things to myself?!  I mentioned that one of my goals this year was to finish reading series that I had already started but given the way I felt about A Court of Mist and Fury, ACOWAR wasn’t a book I was planning on picking up any time soon.  Yet…I decided that there had been enough time passed that I could try and pick it up and read it as though it was a completely individual book and I’m glad I did.  I think that I enjoy Sarah J Maas’ writing enough that I need to make my peace with some of her writing flaws.  So, she might have a limited book of adjectives and she might prefer to write longer sexy scenes than the politics of a society but when she does write about things of interest such as fight scenes or politics it is enough to hold my interest.  Although she is writing more books in this world, ACOWAR is the final book in the original trilogy so I can’t go into too much detail.  Suffice to say it is a dark YA fantasy about fae.  And it wasn’t half bad.

The Widow by Fiona Barton

After the heaviness of The Power and ACOWAR, I felt the need for something quick and straightforward to read so I decided to pick up The Widow.  This is a psychological thriller about the widow of a man who was accused of abducting a 2 year old girl.  At the start of the book we discover that her husband has just died and she has decided to give her side of the story to a reporter.  It wasn’t the most complex thriller I’ve ever read and I saw the ending coming a mile off but it was quick and easy to read and exactly what I needed.

Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff

I read The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff last year and really enjoyed it’s originality so when I spotted this second hand, and knowing it was one of the books which Jenoff was best known for, I immediately snapped it up.  It is the story of a young 19 year old Jewish girl who must live a double life during the second world war in Nazi occupied Poland.  Her husband leaves her after just six months to go into hiding as he is part of the Polish resistance.  Due to her husband’s connections she is provided with false papers and must live life as a gentile and in a turn of events she ends up working for the Kommandant, one of the most powerful men in Poland at that time.  In order to help the resistance, she begins an affair with the Kommandant and events unfold from there.  I honestly didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted or expected to.  I felt the characters were very difficult to connect with and the only one who had any depth was the Kommandant.  Our protagonist was wishy-washy and just didn’t sell the story for me.  I would say that this is a great entry level world war historical fiction if you are looking for something which isn’t too complex to read.  It doesn’t break any new ground in terms of the story line and the ending is rather convenient but it isn’t terribly written and is pretty easy to follow.  Compare it to the likes of The Nightingale and All The Light We Cannot See and I think you will be a little disappointed but it is okay for what it is, in my opinion.

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I love picture books.  They are classic and timeless and can appeal to children (and adults) of all ages.  Even now, though Meg and Eli are pushing the age bracket I have suggested above, they still find enjoyment in sitting down with myself or James and discovering a great picture book together.

It was difficult to whittle this list down to 5 as there are many books we have enjoyed as a family over the years, a number of which I remember from my own childhood but I have managed to select just a few which I think will appeal to a wide audience.

1. A Squash And A Squeeze by Julia Donaldson

I said last week that Julia Donaldson’s name would be cropping up a lot in these posts and no surprise, here she is again.  I could have listed a large number of her books including (but not limited to) The Gruffalo, The Smartest Giant in Town, The Highway Rat, Stick Man and Zog, all of which have been loved and enjoyed by Meg and Eli but A Squash And A Squeeze was one of the first Julia Donaldson books we ever bought as parents and for that reason it holds a particularly special place in our hearts.  It’s a silly story really, of a little old lady who lives by herself in a house and complains that it isn’t big enough for her.  So a wise old man decides to show her just how much smaller it could be by introducing a whole host of bothersome farm animals into the mix.  As with all Julia Donaldson books, this is a mastery of rhyme and rhythm and themes which will appeal to children of all ages.

2. Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy

Jill Murphy is another name which crops up often when discussing children’s books.  She is the author of the likes of The Worst Witch books as well as the series of picture books featuring the Large family (i.e. Peace At Last) but this is one which I remember being read as a child and I was very excited to read it to Meg and Eli.  Baby Bear wants to go to the moon before bedtime and to do that he finds a cardboard box rocket and heads off on his adventures.  It is a lovely and quaint story about children’s imaginations and one which is just sure to become a bedtime classic.

3. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

If your children are slightly older but still interested in picture books then Oliver Jeffers is the perfect author to turn to.  Again, and I know I sound like a broken record here, but I could have listed a number of his books in the place of Stuck.  Stuck is a charming story about a little boy whose kite gets stuck in a tree.  How does it decide to knock it down again? Why, by throwing a whole host of items including both his shoes, a boat, an orangutan and his front door up into the tree in an effort to get back his pesky kite.

4. Kipper’s Beach Ball by Mick Inkpen

The Kipper stories are fantastic if you have a little one who loves the idea of having their own cuddly dog and best of all, they cover a range of topics which will appeal to children from a sleepy puppy who just wants to create the perfect bed such as discovering hidden treasures in the form of a beach ball!  There are simply and interesting illustrations to accompany all of the books and just enough story to hold the attention of younger listeners.

5. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

This has to be one of my all-time favourite picture books and one which I never tired of reading to the kids.  It is the story of Gerald, the giraffe, who just wants to perform with the other animals at the Jungle Dance but everyone knows that giraffes can’t dance…until, Gerald finds his own rhythm and all the other animals come to admire as he dances to his own tune.  It is such a cute story and I’m actually pretty sad that Meg and Eli are too old to read it nowadays!

What do you think of my choices? Are there any you would add into the mix?

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In my post last Wednesday I talked about why I think it is important that we encourage our children to read and some tips on how we can raise readers.  Today I am going to begin a series of posts where I recommend some favourite books of ours for different age ranges, starting with board books which are great for babies.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think it is important to start reading to your children from a very young age, incorporating it into your bedtime routine as soon as you are able.  We have always read to Meg and Eli and we read a variety of books from age appropriate books to those above their age range.

Board books are great because they are sturdier than paper books, usually very brightly coloured with interesting textures or features and the stories are generally the perfect length for little attention spans.

Today I am just going to concentrate on some of the board books we have read and loved over the past 8 years of our parenting journey:-

1. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

A classic lift-the-flap board book which I can remember from my own childhood (it was first published in 1982!) and one which I absolutely loved reading to both Meg and Eli.  The basis of the story is that the Zoo is sending the ‘perfect’ pet and children must lift the flap to see which animal has been sent next.  There are so many layers to this story from simply reading it through to practising and discovering animal sounds along the way.

 

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Another absolute classic which I’m sure many parents will remember from way back when, The Hungry Caterpillar is a bright and exciting story about a caterpillar who eats his way through a monumental amount of food before creating a chrysalis and turning into a beautiful butterfly.

 

3. Ten Little… by Mike Brownlow

We came across the ‘Ten Little…’ series quite late but they are such good books that I have since bought them as presents for various friends and family members who have young children.  There is a whole host of different themed books from dinosaurs to pirates, princesses to monsters and they encourage counting and rhyming as well as just being a little bit on the silly side.

 

4. ‘That’s Not My…’ by Fiona Watt (Usborne)

These books have come under a little fire in recent year but I think they are pretty classic as board books go.  They use simple language, have different textures for children to touch and explore as they get a little older and come in a variety of themes so whatever your child is into, there will no doubt be a ‘That’s Not My…’ book to capture their interest.  The books work on the premise that the duck or puppy or tractor etc are not the right one because of different reasons until finally alighting on the correct one.  We have had a number of these books over the years and they were always enjoyed and well loved.

 

5. What The Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson is a name which you will see pop up a fair few times over the next week or so as she is undoutedly a favourite in this household.  From a very young age we have read her books to the kids with favourites being the likes of A Squash and a Squeeze, The Smartest Giant in Town and of course The Gruffalo.  What the Ladybird Heard is a lift the flap book which is brightly coloured and full of recognisable and much loved farmyard animals.

 

Of course there are many more books I could have chosen to include here but this is just a starter point.  Do let me know though if you have any recommendations or books you would include.  And pop back next Wednesday for my favourite books for children aged 4+.

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I’m going to open this blog post by acknowledging that reading for pleasure isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  We don’t all always want to reach for the written word when we need to escape from the craziness of every day life and that is perfectly alright to admit.  For me, and thousands of other people, it will always be our chosen pastime and I know that reading has been something which has formed a huge part of my life from childhood right through to the present day.

I think that this is partly why I feel so strongly about instilling in our children a desire to read.  Whether they become adults who constantly have their noses stuck in a book or they only read as a means to an end, developing those skills early on will result in them having a skill which will only serve them well as they grow and change.

Whether you personally read for knowledge or leisure, and/or whether you want your children to form the same habits, raising readers is an important part of parenting. But, I figure if you are here looking for tips on how to raise readers then I’m already preaching to the converted!

Both myself and James are big readers so this was always going to influence the way we handled reading around the kids; they have seen us reading books from day dot and you’d think that would mean they also quickly developed a thirst for reading.  However that hasn’t been the case.

With both Meg and Eli we introduced a bedtime story from around 3 months old.  These books were sometimes age appropriate (think board books, touch-and-feel etc) and sometimes for a slightly older age bracket (i.e. Julia Donaldson’s work) but from a very early age we did the Three B’s: bedtime, bottle (later on becoming simply a drink) and a book.

Perhaps you would automatically assume therefore that both our children would love to read and certainly this was true when they were younger.  Brightly coloured board books, rhyming words, and silly stories all formed part of their younger years with both often reaching for a book and coming to curl on our laps as they went into through their toddler and pre-school years.

Then it began to change.  Meg has always been more capable of sitting still and engaging in an activity so reading by herself was a natural progression once she went beyond Reception age and she has the same sort of interest in it that I have always had, reading books which are way beyond her age range in her desire to escape into that world.

Eli, on the other hand, quickly began to lose interest in being read to once he started school and it has been a learning curve and a journey for us all, in finding those books which capture his imagination and encourage him to read.  I believe it has much to do with his personality, and the fact that once he started school, he was taught to read and ‘told’ to read…unfortunately  he is very like me in the regard that once he believes he is being corralled into doing something, he will try to do the very opposite!

So that is where we are coming from when we begin this journey encouraging others in how to raise readers.  We have two avid readers for parents, one child who loves the written word and one who has had to find his own path into the wonders of books and stories.

There is the very well known quote from Dr Seuss which says:-

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’

I think that this captures, in a nutshell, why I think it’s important to encourage our children to read for pleasure.  I know that it can get tiresome with school reading books having to be read x number of times a week and that finding time to listen to your child read can feel like yet another thing on the never-ending list but I honestly believe that it will become something you won’t regret.  And the first time that you wander into your child’s bedroom and come across them reading on their own, out of choice…or the first time you catch them reading by torchlight under their duvet because they simply had to know what happened next…those will be special moments indeed.

I wanted therefore, to create a series of posts recommending books for all different ages and I will be doing that over subsequent weeks.  If you are also trying to #raiseareader then feel free to join me!  But for this first post I wanted to gather some quick thoughts on places to begin:-

1. Lead by Example

We all lead busy lives and this one can be particularly tricky if you don’t enjoy reading much yourself but I 100% believe that readers are raised in the laps of their parents.  If you still have young children then introduce a bedtime story into your nightly routine.  If you have older children then lead them into being inquisitive about reading by introducing it into your own life.  You never know, you might rediscover a lost love!

2. Read To Your Children

Another great way to develop a thirst for reading is to pick a book which you can read with your children.  For example, at the moment we are reading a chapter book called ‘Jack Fortune and the Search For The Hidden Valley’ by Sue Purkiss and Meg and Eli are loving discovering what adventures Jack gets up to.  We don’t read a chapter every night, just as and when we can fit it in but I am always surprised at how much they have remembered from the last time we dipped into it and how well they listen when both James and I read to them.  I’d choose a book which is perhaps slightly out of their reading range and make a big deal out of it.  It’s a lovely way to spend the final minutes before bedtime as well, especially as your children become older and don’t need your assistance as much.

3. Let Them Choose Their Own Books

Another key one as your children get older and begin to read independently and this was a real pivotal point in us finding what Eli liked to read.  Support your local library by going along and letting your children choose some books to read.  Not only is this free (yippee!) but you might be surprised at the type of book your children go for.  Let them know that it’s okay to choose a book and not enjoy it, and that they can try lots of different types of books to see which ones appeal to them most.

4. Don’t Give Up!

Your child might not automatically want to read, even if you do all of the above, but don’t give up.  There are a multitude of things people can read and novels and chapter books just might not suit.  Magazines, manga, comics and graphic novels are all great alternatives and shouldn’t be ruled out!

Keep your eyes peeled for my recommendations, coming next Wednesday.

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Towards the end of last year I decided that I wasn’t going to attempt monthly TBR (to be read) lists any more as it’s something I am just not good at sticking to.  I am, hands down, 100% a mood reader, preferring to approach my shelves and have a browse before pulling out a book which appeals to me at that time.

I think there is a lot to be said for reading a book at the wrong time.  My own personal experience has been that I simply don’t enjoy a story if I didn’t feel like reading it but was making myself plough through for the sake of it.

Of course that doesn’t mean that I want to wander aimlessly through my reading life in 2018 with no thought or purpose.  I do want to read the books that I want to read, without worrying about how it will appear when I record videos or have discussions but I also want to set myself a couple of loose goals.

books to read in 2018

The first is that I want 2018 to be the year I finish series’.  I have so many that I’ve started and never got to the end of, even when I own all the books, so if I have begun to read a series in the past couple of years then I want to read those to completion.

The second is that I want to re-read some books.  You can see I have pulled out Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin.  Six of Crows is a re-read because I simply LOVED the books and I know for a fact that I raced through the second, Crooked Kingdom, just to know what happened in the end.  I’d like to take my time with reading them a second time around.  Re-reading the Song of Ice and Fire books is a BIG commitment but prior to having children every time a new book in the series was released I would go back and re-read all of the previous books.  I haven’t read the very last book, A Dance With Dragons: After The Feast and I feel like it has just been too long now.  We will have to see how that one goes.

The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley and Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb both fall into the completing series task although Lucinda Riley hasn’t yet finished writing all the books in her Seven Sisters sequence.  The Robin Hobb book is (wait for this…) the second book in her final trilogy about Fitz and the Fool.  The third book was released last year and I already have the paperback on pre-order…hurry up March!  I have heard nothing but great things about it and I am honestly preparing myself to be utterly ruined by the final chapter.  I have cried at the end of every one of her trilogies featuring the Fool and Fitz and I have no doubt this will be the same.  If you’ve never picked up anything by Robin Hobb and you are into fantasy then I would highly recommend it.

The final two books which feature here, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng are recently acquisitions but both are books I have been waiting to read for a long time and which have been recommended to me on countless occasions.  When the time feels right in 2018 I am aiming to pick them up.
Reading this back it does seem like I am committing myself to reading an awful lot of books in 2018, so we will just have to see how it actually turns out!
And, as always, I’d love to hear your recommendations if there are any books you are particularly looking forward to picking up this year.
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