Looking for Books? Here is a Sustainable Way of Getting Them.

Along with clothes, books are one of the most thrown away items that clog up our landfills each year. An enormous amount of novels get published in a year but the number of them actually being well received and bought, unfortunately, isn’t high.

How can you help solve this? Well, A Box of Stories, have come up with a helpful way in which you can stop a select amount ending up in the landfill.

As the company states, 177,000,000 books get destroyed every year in the UK alone. Purely because only 17% are lucky enough to receive a decent marketing budget. Due to this a large proportion of decent, well written books don’t make the shelves and therefore don’t end up in peoples hands.

As a lover of books and escaping into the world of the next cleverly thought out universe it is a shame that such hard work can be put to waste. That is why when you buy a box of books from A Box of Stories, you are saving 4 from getting destroyed.

So, are you still confused as to what I am talking about? Let me explain…

The company offers a range of different boxes that include 4 different books. The cheaper options are a mixed box of fiction or a general mixed box (of fiction and non fiction), both at £14.99 (£3.75 a book!!!).

Or if you want to hone in on a certain genre they offer boxes of 4 books from these different genres; Crime Thriller & Mystery, Young Adult (YA), light reads, Historical fiction and non fiction.

Each of these boxes which are curated around a certain genre are £21.99 each (£5.50 per book).

Now are you wondering how they sort the books or are concerned you’ll end up with a novel that just isn’t quite up to scratch? Don’t panic, they curate books that have sold in decent numbers and then use an algorithm that sorts them on the basis of book reviews, blog posts and critics reviews etc. so they can put them in boxes to delight book lovers across the globe. So you are getting quality at a great price!

To add to this you are getting a surprise right to your door and allowing yourself to read things that you might have never picked up before. It’s a win win right?

My Experience

I must admit it was my mum who really wanted to order the box, however I was more than happy to share it considering the idea behind it is great! Plus who doesn’t love books!?

The ordering experience was very easy and it didn’t take long to arrive. We chose the mixed box of fiction and I have to say I was quite intrigued by the contents of the box.

*As a quick disclaimer I must say that I haven’t had time to read the books myself, I am currently preparing for uni while trying to sort my business out however when I get the chance (which could be Christmas time) I’ll be sure to give them a read. What I have done however is read the blurbs, asked for my mums perspective on the one she has read and done some research. Either way if I don’t get a chance they’ll be passed onto another book lover.*

Book 1 – The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

Without copying the blurb the book is set in 1838 and tells the story of a young seamstress May Bedloe who is dirt poor and abandoned on the shore of the Ohio River. This is when she takes on work from the famous Floating Theatre, filled with colourful personalities and characters. However, it is not all as it appears to be as she travels the boarder between the slave-holding South and the ‘free’ North. She is duty bound to transport secret passengers across the river and along the Underground Railroad, which not only endangers herself but those close to her.

  • This particular story enticed me the most, a piece of historical fiction with a gripping storyline based on fear, love and bravery, it sounds like it tells much more than just a story of a lost woman. From reviews I have read the novel depicts slavery in a new and interesting way (I do not mean that in the sense that slavery is not interesting in the first place, it’s an issue that everyone should be well versed in). Historical fiction, although not always completely accurate and can often be romanticised for the sake of storytelling, is a good way to learn if you want a starting point.

This is a novel I definitely want to read. A pleasant surprise for Book 1 from the box.

Book 2 – The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

The novel tells the story of Nolan Moore, a ‘rogue’ archaeologist hosting a documentary shunned by the experts but loved by conspiracy theorists. He is retracing the steps of an explorer in 1909 who found a mysterious cavern in the Grand Canyon. When he finds what he assumes is this cavern, it begins to take a nasty turn on him in odd ways. This tale then turns into one of survival, against odds that seem to be well out of his reach. Leaving the reader with several questions. (description based on a blurb from Good Reads)

  • A story that combines both the Thriller and Sci-Fi genre, which is part of a series that is dubbed to be put onto the big screen (yet to happen). From research the author was a bit of a mystery at the beginning. Turns out it is by Michael Marshall Smith, who now also goes by Michael Rutger apparently. He has won several awards under his actual name while also collaborating on several film/TV projects under the Sci-Fi, Comedy and thriller genres.

This is when the box comes in handy. The novel is definitely not what I would reach for in a store however that is not to say I wouldn’t like it. I am all for trying something new and if I didn’t like it, it could easily be turned into a gift for someone who would.

Book 3 – The Moon Pool by Sophie Littlefield

A tale about the loss of two boys from the perspective of their mothers. Colleen lost her boy to the snowy, oil filled landscape of North Dakota which she describes as both beautiful but disastrous. In the same town, another mother is out searching for her boy, who also disappeared in the oilfields which he worked at. Alone they are both lost in grief without answers but together they could help each other and find out the long-awaited answers they’ve been searching for.

  • A Crime novel which from the blurb describes both the landscape and grief with a deep sense of sensitivity and kindness. Although, from reading the blurb and what you might have gathered form my rewritten description, the oil industry appears to take centre stage but from reading reviews actually has little importance to the narrative. Which is a shame.

A book which goes into themes of motherhood, crime and grief which I must admit is not something I’d jump at reading and will probably have to be in a certain mood for. However, I do like the crime genre, in particular in TV, so it’s not to say that I won’t like it.

Book 4 – The Secrets of Primrose Hill by Claudia Carroll

A story detailing the lives of those behind the doors in Primrose Hill, Dublin. A mother is grieving for her child as she waits silently outside the house of the boy she thinks is responsible. Across the street, a young woman has just moved in. She is an aspiring director who is running away from a scandal while simultaneously possibly running into another one; her landlord is absent and doesn’t quite add up. Then a few doors down a widow sits alone in her bedroom. She has just told her family something rather surprising, meaning her life is about to change forever.

  • A heart-warming story about neighbours, their difficulties and how they come together to support each other. One reader, who stated on Good Reads, said the novel was usually not for her as she labelled it a ‘chick-flick’ before reading it. However, it surprised her with its tenderness and how there were moments for humour but also for sadness.

This was the book my mum has started and although she isn’t anywhere near finished it, she has said she’s enjoying it and is going to carry on reading. I must admit this is also a book I would pick up for some easy, light reading. I like escaping into the normality of other people lives, so I will definitely give it a read when I get the chance.

General Notes on the books we received: They are all paperback and in pristine quality. Actually, what surprised me is how big the novels are. They aren’t the typical size of those on the shelves, they appear to be longer. Probably hardback in size, so not the most portable.

To buy your own box or find out more info on A Box Of Stories click here.

So if you are looking for some new books but don’t know what to go for or are stuck for inspiration why not get surprised. The boxes are also great for gifting to someone, either as an individual book or a whole box.

Alternatively, if you are new to reading (welcome!) and don’t know what genre to go for or get a bit overwhelmed in a book shop then this is perfect for you!

I might add that if you are looking for a specific book or want to try one of the ones mentioned above why not go on Amazon or eBay and buy them second hand, this way you are using ones already in circulation and looking to be rehomed. This can also be done in a charity shop if you’re looking for a new read but don’t have any idea of what you want. You can also go to your local independent book store and support them in this much needed time.

Let me know if you end up ordering a box or if you have any thoughts on the initiative.

Much love,

Sophie x

Read with Me: Notes on Normal People by Sally Rooney.

As an English Literature student I think it is important to get back to the roots of things when reading. To take pure enjoyment out of the task and instead of looking for absolutely every metaphor, hidden meaning and plot twist, purely soak in your thoughts and enjoy the book.

I decided when reading Normal People that I would jot down on my phone the thoughts and feelings I had when reading it and attach the page numbers so you can go find how I felt exactly when I encountered it. This, I think, provokes a feeling of intimacy when reading and maybe if you are also reading the novel/have read it, it may also appear somewhat like a book club but without the face to face contact. So please leave me any of your thoughts below!

As a general overview I thought I’d give some context into how I started reading Normal People and how I felt going into reading it. I feel like if this was me writing a novel I’d be setting the tone if you get me? If you haven’t read my previous review of the show then you wouldn’t know I have already encountered the turbulent relationship of teens Marianne and Connell. The show was great and I thoroughly enjoyed it however I did wonder if there was more depth to their characters/events through the original text (which usually there is – who would deny the chance to get the original curation of such popular characters). As a general rule I don’t particularly like watching the adaptation then going to the original but I wouldn’t say this hindered my experience, I was more just apprehensive whether the show did it justice.

Anyway, here are my thoughts as I read the novel…

P20 – By this page you are fully immersed in the chemistry and tension between two teenagers who you are yet to know to any degree. However, at the same time it feels like you’ve known them for years, that you understand the characters without knowing the intimate details about them. Rooney not only makes you feel like you are connected to the characters and their inner workings but also to every word on the page. Since turning page 1 it is impossible to sit the book down. A true highlight of the authors capability to do what a lot of writers find the most difficult; gripping their audience from the very beginning. If you thought the tension and emotion you felt towards Marianne and Connell in the show was a lot, you are yet to experience anything.

The chapters are split into months/varying time periods and change between both perspectives seamlessly. (*interjected thought – this makes a lot more sense after finishing it considering Connell always refers to Marianne as the only one that can understand him. Therefore, it is fitting that their thoughts and dialogue fit perfectly amongst each other.*) So far, the jumps appear non existent in that Rooney gives you enough information to know exactly what will happen in between; she gives the reader a certain amount of expectation. Within a few pages you are already subconsciously aware of the routine set out for each character.

P70 – ‘she has never believed herself fit to be loved by one person.’

A sad reality for Marianne and I think a lot of people. Everyone deserves to be loved.

P91 – The jump to uni is one that is extremely important in the novels narrative in that it signifies the shift in the central characters social standings. What Connell always feared is now a reality (he has limited friends, is self conscious and I guess doesn’t have the same immediate respect from his social position) and surprisingly what Marianne always shunned seems to have become her new environment (loads of friends, being ‘popular’, known about widely for the right reasons). It is very much like they have switched, something which Connell clearly can’t quite grasp.

P94 – I think the book is better than the adaptation mainly due to the fact you are connected to the book through overlooking such intimate moments. You’re part of everything going on and therefore feel everything at a more intense rate than what you would watching it from a distance. I think this is largely what novels are good at, imparting choice on the reader and their imagination. No two people when reading will probably view the characters in the same way, they most likely will never look the same to two different individuals. This way you are more invested because although it is someone else’s writing, it is still asking you to be involved, you are always going to be apart of the creative process as a reader.

With any novel you see more of the characters thoughts, little details of locations and perceptions of other characters which you don’t receive in a TV show, not to say the TV show did a bad job however.

P97 – Sense of romanticism is imparted not just around their relationship but also the surroundings and their day to day activities.

P.98 – It is rather refreshing and inviting to see a male teenager/young adult being so connected with his emotions in the sense of his anxieties and insecurities surrounding their relationship. All too often I feel that male characters in novels and film/TV are made to feel indestructible or emotionless in terms of the affects of loss, grief, relationships (of any kind) and just day to day feelings. He doesn’t fully understand them but he acknowledges that they are there.

P.111 – At this point I’ve realised there is no certainty to a single thing in their life, especially in their relationship. They don’t commit to labels and in some ways that is their downfall because if they shared half of how they felt they’d feel more rooted and comfortable in their relationship. Very much stresses the importance of communication. (*Can you tell at this point I was most likely frustrated at the impending parting of them AGAIN*)

P.166 – Sorry about the large jump between notes, Marianne is now in Switzerland and clearly has an eating disorder and mental health ‘issues’ (not entirely sure if I like calling them issues). As a character her complexities are rather interesting but also harrowing. Someone who always claimed she didn’t care, especially about what other people thought about her, in fact, I think does. She has now lost all sense of care for herself and on top of this no one seems to care for her, especially when she needs it the most.

P.199 – Reading about the emotions Marianne faces on-top of the abuse she gets in Switzerland is difficult to read. It fully epitomises the point in life she has gotten to and how fed up she is with her life. Relating to my previous point, the affects of friendship and her disconnect to the world around her is felt with force in this chapter. Yet the glimmer of hope in the end , when Marianne stands up for herself and I think, realises the gravity of her situation is reassuring. It is poignant in that she feels insulted that Lukas suggests they love each other and that this ‘awakens’ her – it is almost saying no love will compare to Connell’s and that she is still in love with him. This situation is nothing like what she has with him and it is disrespectful to suggest it is. However, it is concerning that it is this that pushes her over the edge and not the manipulative relationship she is in.

P.238 – At this point it is even more evident the scale of Marianne’s trauma revolving around violence and abuse, she is a lot more complex than what was evident at the start of the novel. I guess in some ways it mirrors the evolvement of Connell’s views of her because he too, now understands there is more than meets the eye when it comes to her family. However, in this particular chapter it is hard to even distinguish if Connell fully understands her because no one else did.

P.239 – ‘While she herself has been degenerating, moving further and further from wholesomeness, becoming something unrecognisably debased.’

P.240 – her brother is a manipulative character and at this point in time there would be various words I’d like to call him. In other news I find it very interesting that Marianne mentioned her mum only as ‘Denise’ and not something more familiar. I feel this fully summarises the current state of their relationship.

P.248 – ‘That’s the very part of himself he wants to protect, the part that exists inside her.’

P.262 – It has now come full circle. Back in their hometown they are fully comfortable in their own skin and with each other to fully embrace the idea of them being seen as a couple. I think it highlights this idea that you don’t know what you’re missing until you leave it behind; this idea that what they imagined really wasn’t that bad in reality.

P.266 – Just when you think things couldn’t be better and they appear settled, they decide to go their separate ways. Even worse because it is stated in such a nonchalant way. The novel ends on such a tone that everything is up for question; does he leave? Will they remain together? Will they both cope? Will they find someone else? However, annoyingly it is probably well suited in the sense the frustration you feel all through the book never even leaves you in the end.

I’m not sure if this is particularly relevant to the novel or if it’s a printing mistake or they just chose to leave a lot of pages blank at the end (I swear more than what is usually there) however I think it is very fitting for the novel. It is a story about coming of age, the transition between a teen and an adult, exploring their sexuality, their careers and aspirations, and most importantly each other. But that doesn’t just stop then. There is so much more to their story, just like the pages suggest. No one ever figures everything out by the time they reach 21.

Well. That was a journey. I hope you enjoyed getting an insight into my thought process while reading Normal People. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I guess as a young adult it was quite nice to hear the inner workings of other people my own age when currently I can’t quite do that.

I respect Rooney’s writing a lot and was rather impressed just by the first few pages. I’m very intrigued to read Conversations with Friends (her first novel I think) which I hear is also getting turned into a TV show.

I think you can learn a lot by just writing some thoughts down while reading. Everyone has different ways of doing it and even if you aren’t doing it for coursework, you can surprise yourself with your thoughts and how they may transition to other aspects of life.

Let me know if you liked this way of ‘reviewing’ a novel and If you have any other thoughts on Rooney’s ‘masterpiece’.

If you want to check out my review of the show it is available here.

Much Love,

Sophie x

Review: Bernadine Evaristo’s ‘Girl, Woman, Other.’

I’m not sure this book exactly needs an introduction seeing it was the winner of the Booker Prize 2019 and became one of Barack Obama’s 19 favourite books of 2019. However, here I am, telling you about the fantastic novel Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.

I’ve been a bit lost when it comes to reading over isolation (I’m currently isolating at home because of Covid-19) because I’ve gone from reading books 24/7 for my degree to having all the time in the world to read leisurely but not having a clue where to start. Yet, this book might have reignited my passion for reading.

For a start, who ever designed the cover of this book (yes that is important) needs commended because it is visually stunning and also very important. You definitely won’t be able to miss it in your local book store (for those wondering – it should be available in your local supermarket, I got mine from Tesco – so grab it during your essential shop!)

The book focuses on a range of black women, from all walks of life and all ages. It is an important telling of how women, importantly African women, feel in British society and how racism, sexism, homophobia, sexual and verbal abuse, transphobia and a whole load of other factors affect women in this day and age.

Evaristo manages to effortlessly intwine the stories of twelve women while making the reader feel entirely connected to their stories.

Not only that, the writing style is unique but fits perfectly with the story. Yes at points I did need to stop and think about what was happening because sentences ran onto each other and paragraphs were abruptly jolted by uncommon spacing.

However, it is this chance to stop and think that is so important. It would be rude to not think about what was happening – these women need care and attention, their stories have depth and are very complex – even in the short space of time that Evaristo grants them. The book is that well written you’d think you were reading stories of women who have ventured the earth before.

Most importantly, and what grips the reader right through the novel, is her ability to connect the women together. The novel is separated into chapters, each containing several women who are either related or close friends. The women explored in each chapter, also connect to someone previously mentioned in a different chapter. To me, on a simple basis, this made the novel special. The reader gets to continually connect the dots and figure out the complexity of the relationships, which mirrors the complicated relationships we have as humans.

It must be acknowledged that yes, I am a white straight female, however this does not mean I do not relate to the stories Evaristo has created. Of course I do not relate to all of them and that is why it is so important to read this novel because every women can relate to at least a part of this and if you are reading this and do not identify as a female, think about what you can learn from such a novel.

I promise there is something for everyone in this and wholeheartedly hope you will read it.

If you’ve already encountered Evaristo’s fantastic novel I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and if you have any book recommendations send them my way.

Thanks for reading and see you soon,

Sophie x