I went to Elfie’s Parents’ Evening last night (is it Parent’s Evening? Parents Evening? Parents Evening?) and I was so proud that I almost came home and posted one of those Facebook statuses about how proud I am of my incredibly clever, insanely creative and knowledge-hungry 8 year old.
But I didn’t, because we all know how annoying those Facebook statuses are. So I just cried some happy-proud tears offline instead.
One of the things that makes me proudest of Elfie is her voracious love of books and creativity when it comes to storytelling, and this was something her teacher raved about. I grew up devouring books, a trait that served me well, and a love of the written word is something I am so happy to have passed down to her.
As a grown-up who has been thoroughly sucked in by the scrolling of Instagram and other mindless Social Media I’m always telling myself I need to read more, and anything I can do to help me in that pursuit is A-OK in my book (literally).
Enter: the Rare Birds Book Club, an online club and subscription whose mission it is to help you read more – for fun. Founded by Rachel, who started following More Than Toast back in the days before Elfie could even read, Rare Birds sends you a gorgeously curated book once monthly and offers a friendly online platform for you to discuss the tome with other subscribers – taking all the stress out of wondering what to read this year.
Each book comes beautifully and brightly packaged, and if you fancy doing a one-book-a-month reading challenge as many of us do, you’ll get a book mark along with stickers to mark off each one you finish reading: heaven for the anally retentive list makers and keepers among us (HI!).
To kick off my reading mission for the next year Rachel offered me a subscription to Rare Birds (I’m already three-quarters of the way through Dear Mrs Bird and am loving it), and she also kindly wrote some words for us on her recommended reads of 2019.
Take it away, Rachel…
What To Read This Year
Party Girls Die in Pearls – Plum Sykes
Take the fashion of the eighties and mix it with the historic spires of Oxford, then add posh parties, colourful characters, secrets, rivalries, and the unexplained death of a glamorous socialite to the mix, and we’ve got the makings of a highly entertaining murder mystery. Party Girls Die in Pearls tells the story of wide-eyed country girl Ursula Flowerbutton as she arrives at Oxford University in 1985. She plans for a quiet year studying history. Instead, on the morning of her first tutorial she finds the body of a socialite on a chaise-lounge.
Together with her new friend, American heiress Nancy Feingold, the two must piece together the mystery and find the killer living amongst them – all while chasing future Dukes, attending society balls and squeezing in late-night study sessions in the library, of course. This is a whodunit to enjoy with a glass of bubbly in hand – there’s plenty of over-the-top decadence and intrigue to be had here, and the detailed descriptions of fashion make it all the more fabulous.
Standard Deviation – Katherine Heiny
Graham and Audra are chalk and cheese. Audra is, to put it mildly, a force of nature; she knows everything about everyone, makes friends wherever she goes, and seems to have a limitless supply of energy. Graham on the other hand, is quiet, ordered – and 15 years Audra’s senior. After a chance encounter brings his ex-wife back into the picture, Graham has never been more aware of their differences.
From courting other parents for playdates to the predictable (and unpredictable) ups and downs of marriage, Standard Deviation covers family life with tender wit and heart.
Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
Take a creepy, crumbling house in the middle of nowhere, unexplained noises, suspicions of witchcraft, the isolating dark of winter and a 200-year-old diary, and you have a gothic ghost story so subtly heart-stopping you’ll want to sleep with the lights on. After her husband’s unexpected death, Elsie Bainbridge trades the glittering lights of London for his family estate to see out her pregnancy.
Life seems rather dull until the discovery of an unsettling painted wooden figure in a locked room sets off a chain of events that threatens to consume the whole household. It terrifically terrifying and great fun to read.
Goodbye Vitamin – Rachel Khong
At a time when she’s meant to have it all figured out, Ruth’s has never felt less together. Her career is at a standstill and her fiancé has left her for another woman. When her mother asks her to move back home to help care for her father, a brilliant but difficult history professor who’s recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she can’t find a reason to say no. What follows is a short and sweet novel about family and how even when things don’t go to plan, life can still surprise and delight you in ways you didn’t expect.
Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce
Set in the midst of the London Blitz, our heroine Emmeline Lake is an aspiring journalist who finds herself mistakenly taking a job at the Women’s Friend thinking it was the first step to becoming a war correspondent. But instead of the glamorous life of a reporter, Emmy finds herself as an assistant to the magazine’s editor and agony aunt, Henrietta Bird, a formidable woman who abhors any kind of Unpleasantness. It’s Emmy’s job to sift through the letters and find questions for Mrs Bird to answer. But with a long list of Unacceptable Topics (including but not limited to: marital relations, pre-marital relations, extra-marital relations, physical relations, all mentions, suggestions or results of sexual relations in general, the war, political activities, and cookery), it’s not long before Emmy finds herself a little thin of material.
While Mrs Bird believes this generation has Badly Let Things Slip, Emmy can’t help but recognise herself and her friends in some of the letters she’s meant to cut up and put in the bin. Wanting to offer advice and comfort, she secretly starts writing back. What follows is a charming novel about friendship and resilience that will tug at your heartstrings.
Rare Birds Book Club is sending me 12 months of books for the purpose of this post. But I think they, and their founder Rachel, are fantastic.