What I've Been Reading Recently
A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham*
To be published: 30th September
Yes, we're into Christmas-themed book season already. Anybody else got a bit of a weakness for novels full of twinkliness and festive magic? Well, here's one full of twinkliness and... eh... ghosts. Although I wouldn't call it spooky. Ivy and Stuart are finally expecting a baby after years of trying; they've moved to Cornwall where Ivy paints children's books and Stuart sells outlandish jams; and Ivy's dead mother writes her notes on the back of a postcard. In many ways, life is idyllic. But, of course, that wouldn't make much of a novel so there's an overbearing mother-in-law and a few crises along the way. It's a quick holiday-time read and, while I could pick apart some of the "Men, eh?!" cliches if I was in that sort of mood, it's atmospheric and hits several emotional marks. Good with a side of mulled wine.
The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill*
Max was found in a bookshop as a baby and, although adopted, has always wondered about his birth parents and background. Slowly, strangely, Max's search for his past leads him into the Beginning Woods, a place of witches and dragons who don't quite behave like the ones in the story books. This is spellbinding YA, celebrating the power of the imagination, the call of the wild and the importance of courage. It does fall back on overly simplified "there's no creativity in science and all technology is bad" cliches, but that's a fairly minor point. The tale itself is captivating. One for all those who believe in the power of stories.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
I struggled with this one. I wanted to love it because it's exactly the sort of book which starts popping up all over my Instagram feed - it's about Paris! and Books! and Canals! and Love! There were phrases in it so clever I had to stop and reread them over and over and over again, pondering them and applying them to my own experiences. But... no. This is a book which will be loved by its target market: people who think it's romantic to pine for exes for TWENTY-ONE FLIPPING YEARS and who think sweeping generalisations about gender are fine as long as they're French. I'm not one of those people. It irritated me intensely. I left Jean and Max drifting down a canal somewhere and don't really care where they ended up.
Life After Coffee by Virginia Franken*
Coffee buyer, Amy, travels the world for her work while her husband stays at home to look after their two small children. When Amy is made redundant, she suddenly realises how little she knows about her children and about how to parent them. While she's grappling with that, her ex appears on the scene, sniffing around her, and her husband vanishes into a coffee shop to write a screenplay nobody will buy. Light, witty writing (parents of small children will certainly laugh and wince) but asking serious questions about gender norms in modern families and whether it's ever possible for parents to find a decent life balance.
*Provided for review
Hi! I'm a 30-something stay-at-home feminist mother-of-one. I live in Aberdeen, Scotland with my toddler, boyfriend and two black cats. I talk a lot about this stuff: