June’s Blonde In Grey Book List

This month’s book list is a combination of old and new – a couple of fun re-reads mixed with some exciting new acquisitions…

By Any Means by Charley Boorman

Grabbing whatever local transport he can get his hands on, Charley travels from his home town in County Wicklow all the way to Australia – a trip of over 20,000 miles through twenty-five countries. He drives a lorry through northern Iran, rides a tuk-tuk through the chaotic and colourful city of Varanasi, and becomes the first person ever to wakeboard across the Malay/Singapore border. He sets up his own bus service in Turkey, takes a slow boat down the Mekong, and a very fast one through Borneo to deliver vaccines for UNICEF. And of course he jumps on a bike whenever he can, even if there’s a monsoon on the way . . .

This is a re-read because i forgot I had it! I originally bought this book because I loved watching Charley and Ewan McGregor’s Long Way Down and Long Way Round so I was intrigued to see what happened when Charley took on an adventure on his own. Though the whole trip from Ireland to Australia was filmed for a TV series I much prefer the written version as it has all the insider bits that get skipped over when something is edited down for TV. It’s a witty, interesting travel memoir perfect for anyone with a sense of adventure and wanderlust.

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

Pimm’s, punting and ball gowns are de rigeur. Ursula Flowerbutton, a studious country girl, arrives for her first term anticipating nothing more sinister than days spent poring over history books – and, perhaps, an invitation to a ball. But when she discovers a ghastly crime, she is catapulted into a murder investigation.

Determined to unravel the case – and bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper Cherwell – Ursula enlists the help of her fellow Fresher, the glamorous American Nancy Feingold. While navigating a whirl of black-tie parties and secret dining societies, the girls discover a surfeit of suspects. From broken-hearted boyfriends to snobby Sloanes, lovelorn librarians to dishy dons, none can be presumed innocent.

I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE!! Plum Sykes is one of my all-time favourite authors and the author of my favourite book (it’s tied for first with all of the Harry Potter books except Chamber of Secrets. I’m sure you can understand why…) Bergdorf Blondes. With a background in fashion and Anna Wintour on speed dial Plum Sykes is a master storyteller who creates characters you not only love but also want to be.  It’s been more than 10 years since the release of Plum’s second book – The Debutante Divorcee (which is also amazing) – so I am SO excited to read something new from her. Then I can gush about it on Instagram. BECAUSE PLUM SYKES FOLLOWS ME! #winning

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She’s in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they’re trying for a baby – and she doesn’t want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.

This is another re-read and it seems very appropriate as I’m searching for some enlightenment in my life at the moment. Truth be told I remember the Julia Roberts version of this story better than the actual book so I’m looking forward to diving back in and reminding myself what I loved about it in the first place.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

I’ve heard rave reviews about this one and so am eager to have a read and see what all the fuss is about. (Insider secret: I know an editor who passed on this manuscript…bet she’s regretting it now!)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show. Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

This is one I stumbled across in the ‘People who bought this book also bought…’ section of Amazon. And I’m so glad I did! The cover is gorgeous and there’s an air of The Night Circus to the cover copy which suggests I am highly likely to love it. (Have you read The Night Circus? Do it now! It’s so good!!)

In addition to the books outlined here I’m going to make an effort to get through some of the books from previous book lists which got shunted aside. My goal is to be all up to date by 1 July.

Happy reading, all!

May’s Blonde In Grey Booklist

It’s official. My TBR pile is out of control and there are now books everywhere in my apartment…including filling half my (still not unpacked) suitcase from my trip to Canada a few weeks ago. When your dad offers up anything you want off the family bookshelf you don’t say no!

I now literally embody the Japanese word ‘Tsundoku’, which can be translated as ‘to buy more books than one can read’. The word can be dated back to the Meija era (1868-1912), which is considered the very beginning of Modern Japan and comes from ‘tsunde’ (meaning ‘to stack things’) and ‘oku’ (meaning ‘to leave for a while’). It makes me feel slightly better knowing that I’m clearly not the only one who finds myself in this situation!

The conclusion is that two things are clear:

1. I need to buy another bookcase because I’m out of room
2. I need to step up my reading pace!

With that in mind, here’s May’s Book List:

The Holiday Goddess Handbag Guide To Paris, London, New York And Rome by Jessica Adams

Like a trusted and impossibly cool girlfriend, The Holiday Goddess Handbag Guide reveals the secrets of what women really want in four fabulous cities: Paris, London, New York and Rome. Born in a handbag from scribbled tips shared between goddesses whose adventures scattered them all over the world, it will take you where few women have been before. Follow Audrey Hepburn’s footsteps in Rome, delve into the secret diaries of shopaholics in New York, learn chiconomical secrets in Paris, rock out in London, discover where to eat, love and eat some more.

I love travel guides and this one is definitely outside the box. With the possibility of a trip to New York in the not so distant future I’m intrigued to see if it will share secrets I’ve not heard before.

 

Riders by Jilly Cooper

Brooding hero Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands even the most difficult horse or woman is charmed, is driven by his loathing of the dashing darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black. Having pinched each other’s horses and drunk their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences at the Los Angeles Olympics . . .

Considering the fact that I spent years editing romantic fiction it’s more than a bit shameful that I can’t claim to have read anything by HBIC of romance, Jilly Cooper. Not anymore! I’m going back to the beginning to see what all the fuss is about. Not sure I’ll be reading it on the tube though…

 

Talon, Rogue and Soldier by Julie Kagawa

When forced to choose between the sinister Talon organisation and being hunted by her own kind, dragon-human hybrid Ember fled. Even if it meant losing Garret, the dragon-slaying soldier she shares a deep bond with. Now Garret has uncovered secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragon-slayers alike. Can the danger reunite them?

The final chapter of the Talon Saga has been in my TBR pile since November but I keep skipping past it because I can’t just read it alone – I need to read it’s predecessors to remind myself of the story. Now’s the time though – I’m diving back into this angsty teenage drama about some normal teens who just happen to be dragons on the inside (rather than the normal dragon on the outside teens we all know and tolerate) It’s a semi-ridiculous concept but you can’t say it isn’t entertaining!

 

Henry: Virtuous Prince by David Starkey

Larger than life in every sense, Henry VIII was Britain’s most absolute monarch – but he was not born to rule. In this brilliantly readable history, David Starkey follows the promising young prince – a Renaissance man of exceptional musical and athletic talent – as he is thrust into the limelight after the death of his elder brother. His subsequent quest for fame was as obsessive as that of any modern celebrity, and his yearning for a male heir drove him into dangerous territory. The culmination of a lifetime’s research, David Starkey’s biography is an unforgettable portrait of the man behind the controversies, the prince turned tyrant who continues to tower over history.

With an MA in Early Modern History under my belt I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Tudor era. The scandals, the history-making moments, the questionnable morals – it was one of the meatiest periods of British history! I’ve read other books by David Starkey including Crown and Country and the famous Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, so am looking forward to seeing what he has to say about Henry himself.

 

Still to read from last month’s list: Team of Rivals and How England Made the English. The best laid plans and all that – sometimes you get distracted by other books and the list gets forgotten…

Happy reading, all!

April’s Blonde In Grey Booklist

Another month, another book list! Here’s what I’m excited to be reading this month:

1. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

About: In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

2. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

About: A biographical portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of the men who served with him in his cabinet from 1861 to 1865. Three of his Cabinet members had previously run against Lincoln in the 1860 election: Attorney General Edward Bates, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and Secretary of State William H. Seward. The book focuses on Lincoln’s mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and victory in the American Civil War.

3. How England Made the English by Harry Mount

About: Q: Why are English train seats so narrow? A: It’s all the Romans’ fault. The first Victorian trains were built to the same width as horse-drawn wagons; and they were designed to fit the ruts left in the roads by Roman chariots.

For readers of Paxman’s The English, Bryson’s Notes on a Small Island and Fox’s Watching the English, this intriguing and witty book explains how our national characteristics – our sense of humour, our hobbies, our favourite foods and our behaviour with the opposite sex – are all defined by our nation’s extraordinary geography, geology, climate and weather.

4. Pivot by Jenny Blake

About: In today’s economy the average job tenure is only four years, and falling. Roles change constantly. Even smart, motivated people hit professional plateaus. ‘What’s next?’ is a question we all have to answer more frequently. But how do you advance without getting stuck?

In Pivot, Jenny Blake, co-creator of Google’s Career Guru Programme, shows you how to build upon your assets – your strengths, interests and networks – to create a career with meaning and adventure. You will learn how to redirect your energy, scan for opportunities and identify new skills without falling prey to ‘analysis paralysis’ or ‘compare and despair’.

No matter your age, industry, or bank balance, pivoting is the crucial skill you need to stay agile and keep you moving forward.

5. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

About: In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty – to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty’s lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England’s dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she’s drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries – and she intends to make the most of it.

At his wits’ end, the last thing Zachariah needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.

So many exciting stories to look forward to! In case you’re curious, I’ve popped the list of books I’ve read so far below. As always I’d love to hear what you’re reading too so please do leave me a comment and let me know!

The list of books I’ve read so far in 2017:

  1. The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  2. Rather be the Devil – Ian Rankin
  3. Seating Arrangements – Maggie Shipstead
  4. Techbitch – Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
  5. The Big Four – Agatha Christie
  6. Love, Rosie – Cecelia Ahern
  7. The Marble Collector – Cecelia Ahern
  8. The Residence – Kate Andersen Brower
  9. Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All – Jonas Jonasson
  10. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick
  11. The Girl Who Came Home – Hazel Gaynor
  12. Unrivalled – Alyson Noel
  13. Burning Glass – Kathryn Purdie
  14. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  15. Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
  16. The Thousandth Floor – Katharine McGee
  17. Clean Beauty – the editors of GOOP
  18. Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer
  19. Authority – Jeff VanderMeer
  20. Acceptance – Jeff VanderMeer
  21. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  22. Spark Joy – Marie Kondo
  23. After You – Jojo Moyes

Happy Reading!