Peekaboo! We’re back!

Oh, hey there, remember us?  Some time bloggers who’ve been a little *ahem* quiet of late?  Well, we’re back!  A touch apprehensive (and with a new look), we’re getting back in the swing of it, so with that in mind, here’s an old favourite, The Book List Post…

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image via Waterstones

Whilst the kids are climbing on a Saturday morning, aside from watching them dangle off high walls, I’ve decided to take that 90 minutes and spend them on myself, not nip over the road to do a food shop, but to order a coffee and (standard) make a few lists before cracking on with a book.  Mr N chuckles at me most evenings as I have form for smashing myself in the face with a paperback or kindle as I drift off half way through a page (paperback edition of The Goldfinch did me serious snoz damage!!) so I have decided to pick my book up on a Saturday morning instead.  This has some serious non nose related benefits: I am not only reading more than ever – without re reading the same page on umpteen consecutives nights – I have rekindled my love affair with reading after a mini drought, I have had some great recommendations from friends, and I’ve read some things I would not usually have looked at twice in a bookshop but have been passed a copy of and thoroughly enjoyed.  Win win!

Here’s what I’ve recently demolished, with a bit of blurb about each…

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image via Pinterest

The Humans by Matt Haig –  After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself.  Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog…

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel – One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America.  The world will never be the same again.

Us by David Nicholls – Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home. He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.  When Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable – or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.  But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Bruton – Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

And my current read…

The Lie by CL Taylor – I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. Jane Hughes does not really exist. Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women. Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .

So lovely people, whilst I already have ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr and ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins queuing up on the bedside table, if you have any hot recommendations for us, please do leave them in the comments below or tweet them to us @MrsN_MrsW – we would love some fresh ones to add to the everlong list of reads!

Mrs N x

Books I’d like to relish this year….

March is upon us, and already my ‘book wish list’ for this year is bulging! Last year I did quite well to get through a fair few of those I’d wanted to read, though some still languish, neglected on my 2013 list. Whilst I have a fairly sizeable ‘fiction addiction’ (handily concealed by Kindle ownership) my other Achilles Heel is the cook book, of which I have many already and am still lusting after others (but that’s another post!).
Inspired by the premise of Samantha Ellis’ memoir ‘How to be a Heroine’ I might be brave and revisit some of the texts I read for English at school (though not my annotated, highlighted copies – too distracting!) such as Bronte, Eyre, Hardy, Ibbsen, Chaucer and Shakespeare.

Over on the very pretty blog Circle of pine trees, the lovely Laura is inspiring us all to take part in the ‘Year in Books’ which is, in her own words:

The aim is to read a book a month during 2014. At the start of the month, we blog the book that we are planning to read in the month ahead. If we feel inspired to, we could also write a little about the previous month’s book. Not a review, as such, just some thoughts: a recommendation (or otherwise!) for others who might be thinking of reading it. It’s not a traditional book club, so we don’t have to all read the same book. This is just about trying to ensure that we make space for reading in our busy lives, and hopefully a way to discover more lovely books (and lovely bibliophiles)

You can share your books by linking to her blog, or via Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. It doesn’t matter that it’s March, you can still join in now with other book loving souls.
Here are few from my fiction list I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into:  click on the title for the amazon link

A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan – the estate agent who sold you your house all those years ago? He still has a key to your home…and all the others he sold

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer – darkly comic novel recounting the tale of a young man’s fall into mental health issues following the sudden death of his brother

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson – what would you do if you had the chance to live your life over and over again, until you got it right?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – a novel narrated by Death, set in Nazi Germany in 1939 about a 9 year old girl and book thief called Liesel. *Aiming to read this before seeing the Big Screen version!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce – a modern day nod to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Harold pops out to post a letter and finds himself on a quest to walk the length of the country to save another’s life.

The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison – a couple who are both in turmoil, how far will each of them go to protect themselves?

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (out later this year) the second in the Cormoran Strike detective series. A novelist goes missing and his wife calls in Strike, as the investigation deepens, all is not as it first seems.

 

What’s on your reading list for this year? Fancy joining in with Laura’s project too?  All and any book recommendations are always welcome here!

Books, Books, Books!

Mrs N has a hangover, a book hangover! You know the kind, when you finish a really good book and you just cannot stop thinking about it. The characters, the settings, the language, the climax, the plot twists, did it all go down like you thought it would? Or, as is the case with Mrs N this week, was it quite simply so compelling and evocatively written that, despite having been desperate to know the outcome, now that it has in fact ended, you just cannot bear to let it go? It’s a weird feeling.

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Occasionally a film or television series will grip and affect you in a similar manner (think Homeland, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Following…),but, in Mrs N’s opinion, because a book always plays out in your head rather than on a screen (and let’s face it, it is a rarity to find a screen adaptation that doesn’t tear a text apart, take liberties with characters and reassemble it all in a manner most likely to score big at the Box Office) which is why a book gets embedded in your mind, deeper in many ways because it is your personal visualisation of the text, sure the Author described the minutiae of each scene, but your mind added into the picture the way the light glinted off the surfaces, the perfume of the setting, the underlying soundtrack to each chapter, the way the characters move, smells, sounds, noises – all these little things add to make the book resonate with you, the Reader.

We’ve found it’s not necessarily genre specific either, a crime thriller can hold the head equally as well as one of the Classics or a story of human endeavour; autobiographies by their very nature can stay with you long after the final page. Historical novels or real life accounts can sometimes pop back into your head at unexpected moments, triggering emotive responses: recently this happened when Miss N was researching World War 1 poets for a school project, a GCSE English lit class came flooding back with the horrifying words of Sassoon and Owen, detailing war in the trenches echoing around Mrs N’s head – took her mind right back to her old school which was in fact used by the Germans as a hospital during the occupation of Jersey during WW2 *digression, apologies!*– the smell of the old building, the ghost stories repeated at break times, friendship groups, history lessons…a lost half hour ensued and all because of the memory of a book studied in detail over 20 years earlier!
What was the last book that you read and truly lost yourself in? Mrs N has just finished ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt, whilst Mrs W is halfway through reading another Donna Tartt book – ‘The Secret History’. Do you find that once you have finished one of these ‘hangover inducing’ books that you can move on to another one quickly or do you too take time to adjust? Mrs N will quite often zip through something light and fluffy, almost as a palate cleanser, after an epic book, do you do this too? Recommendations for good books to read are always welcome here, any genre, any time! My name is Mrs N and I am 100% a book addict!

Turntable Kitchen

Mrs W stumbled across Turntable Kitchen a little while back – actually, thinking about it, it was on Lauren Laverne’s twitter feed… so it’s got to be pretty good eh?!

Based over in San Francisco, it is the brainchild of Kasey and Matthew and brings together the 2 best things, in our opinion, music and food.

They offer the service of a Pairings Box where, for a monthly fee, you get a box sent to you containing a 7 inch vinyl single, a digital mixtape, 3 themed, seasonal, original recipes and premium dried ingredients, tasting notes and occasional treats.  Plus, good news – for $32  (around £20) a month, they’ll ship it over here to Blighty!

I really love this idea as for me, music and food are the perfect pairing. Music is a big part of both the White & Nicholas households and no food preparation happens without some form of music in the background.  It’s also a great opportunity to try something different in both cases.  Who isn’t always on the lookout for a new recipe or artist/band to listen to?  Just us?!

Of course, you don’t have to commit to the pairings box, hop onto the website as there’s a load of recipes, musical recommendations, interviews and a shop so you can get kitted out.  Their Instagram is worth a follow too if that’s your thing.

Well said Mr Shakespeare...

Well said Mr Shakespeare…

This is not a sponsored post – just a cool thing that we found and wanted to share!

NME Awards

Mrs W loves this time of year musically – all the lists of new acts to keep an ear out for, festival announcements (how good does Coachella look this year?!)  and she gets to vote in the NME Awards!

It’s always so hard isn’t it, choosing between great stuff.  It renders Mrs W almost paralysed with indecision.  (She’s a nightmare to go out to a restaurant with too!)

So, here is the list of what we think might win… *

  • Best British Band – Arctic Monkeys
  • Best International Band – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • Best Solo Artist – Lorde
  • Best New Band – Chvrches
  • Best Live Band -Haim
  • Best Album – QOTSA ‘…Like Clockwork’ **
  • Best Track – Daft Punk ‘Get Lucky’
  • Best Festival – Reading & Leeds
  • Best TV Show – Breaking Bad ***
  • Best Music Film – Sound City
  • Best Reissue – Nirvana ‘In Utero 20th Anniversary Edition’
  • Best Band Blog or Twitter – James Blunt
  • Best Small Festival – Festival Number 6
  • Music Moment of the Year – Pussy Riot freed
  • Worst Band – The 1975
  • Hero of the Year – Pussy Riot
  • Villain of the Year – Vladimir Putin

What do you think?  Are you interested in things like this?  Will you be voting?  Have a look here the full list and let us know….

* Just as an aside – this isn’t necessarily what Mrs W voted for but who we collectively thought would win…

** This was a close call and was between this and Arctic Monkeys AM

*** Another close one, this time between this and Game Of Thrones

Christmas Songs

We’ve put together a little list of some of our favourite Christmas songs – let us know what your favourites are.  So, get your mulled wine at the ready and sing along as loud as you can!

In no particular order…

The Pogues – Fairytale of New York 

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping 

St Etienne – Born On Christmas Day 

Coldplay – Christmas Lights 

Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews – Baby It’s Cold Outside 

Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You 

Andy Williams – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year 

Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime 

Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

The Darkness – Christmas Time 

Music To Get You Moving

Both Mrs W and Mrs N love music as a background to their day.  Mrs N tends to listen to 6Music when she’s busy at home and to her generic mp3 player at the weekends.  Mr N grew up with his Dad playing classical music or opera at mealtimes and, as a consequence, likes to have music on when eating.  The eldest Miss N can often be found drifting off to the sounds of Zane Lowe of an evening.

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The first thing Mrs W does in the morning is switch the radio on to 6Music and it will stay on pretty much all day with a switchover to Radio 1 at 7pm for Zane Lowe.   She will listen to a playlist on Spotify if she’s out in the office at the bottom of the garden but it’s a bit chilly this time of year!

There are certain styles of music that suit specific tasks we think… We like old school rave and hip-hop to exercise to but the comfort zone of 90’s music when we’re feeling in need of a bit of nurturing.  Mrs W will often listen to Sigur Ros if she has a lot of writing to do as the lyrics don’t get in the way of her writing as she doesn’t understand them!  An alternative to classical music I guess.

Are you an avid music listener?  Do you listen to the radio or do you prefer cd’s or a playlist?

Music by Definition

Mrs W loves her music – the radio is often the first thing that gets switched on in the morning, even before the kettle!  *gasp*

Music is such a defining thing isn’t it.  It puts you in a tribe when you’re young and can add you to a collective or alienate you – often on the same day.  It can influence how you dress (90’s grunge anyone?) and make you instantly recognisable as a fan.

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The first physical record collection (on VINYL) that Mrs W had was given to her by her Mum and included Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.  There was a brief dalliance with the boy bands of the day – Bros *blushes* and then Nirvana entered her life in 1991 and she never looked back.  It was the first time that the young Mrs W (Miss H back then!) actually felt that she had found who she was musically, or more importantly, who was her.

Mrs W’s first gig was at the Brixton Academy to see Carter USM – a defining moment as it was her first trip to London without parental supervision!!  This was fairly swiftly followed by her first festival -Reading, which was her first festival as a grown-up 20 years later.

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Music can have the power to heal too.  In 2007, Mrs W had a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy in quick succession which left her in a pretty dark place.  There were a few days where she didn’t  get out of bed and her only companion was her iPod.  Reader, she’s not ashamed to tell you that she wallowed briefly in her grief and only listened to songs that would bring forward the tears she needed to shed.

Just like your sense of smell can evoke powerful memories, music can too. We’ve all heard a song on the radio and been instantly transported back in time or back next to a special someone.

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Being part of that musical tribe, whether it be singing your heart out on your own in the car or being physically lifted off your feet when you’ve fought your way through the crowd to get front and centre, can be the most heartwarming experience.  That feeling when your favourite song comes on the radio or when you click the mouse and get the gig tickets, in my opinion, can’t be beaten.

There have been many defining moments in life and all of them have a soundtrack.  Think of your life as a film, what would the soundtrack be?  We’d love to hear your defining musical moments – do share!

In the meantime, Mrs W would like to share the song that started it all… enjoy