Reading Lately – Looking for Alaska, A Monster Calls, The Wisdom of Wolves & Red, White and Royal Blue

Happy World Book Day book fans! And what better excuse to share my latest reading round up? A stormy month of weather here in Caithness meant that February was a perfect month for reading, and I spent many a wintry evening curled up with my nose in a library book (in truth, my very favourite kind of night). People often ask me how I manage to get through so many books – as I’ve said on here before, I think we make time in life for the things that are important to us, and I really don’t think I have acres of spare time compared to other people. I don’t go on social media in the evenings and don’t watch a huge amount of TV either – I really do think that both of those things help! Plus, my kids are getting older and are often occupied with friends at the weekends, which means that these days, I can sometimes squeeze in the odd half hour of extra reading time. It all depends on your stage in life and what interests you, doesn’t it?

And if good books interest you, you’ve come to the right place!


My first book for February was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which caught my eye in the young adult section of my local library. I had watched the film a few years ago, and remembered it being very moving. The book is equally upsetting – readers of a sensitive nature (i.e. me) should be advised that the material is hard hitting, and quite likely to leave you feeling like your heart has left your chest. It tells the story of Conor, who is visited by a monster when his seriously ill Mother fails to respond to progressive cancer treatments. The function of the monster in the story is an important one, and through their relationship, Conor is able to make sense of the emotional burden he’s facing, in a heartbreaking tale of confusion, loss and finding the courage to let go. Books like A Monster Calls are the reason I read so many novels aimed at young people – the issues they tackle teach us so much about ourselves. By the end of this novel I felt wrung out, emotional – and a little bit wiser. A Monster Calls is unforgettable.

It’s also a testament to the power of friendship, love, and finding the strength to say goodbye.

A Monster Calls


My second book for February, To Kill A Mockingbird also centres around a child living in a confusing world and learning to make sense of it. (And yes, I can’t believe I hadn’t read this novel earlier – for some odd reason its magic eluded me till now). Harper Lee’s story of growing up in 1930’s America, with its themes of prejudice and hypocrisy feels as relevant today as it did when it was published over sixty years ago. And the writing feels just as fresh – one of the things that surprised me is just how funny and warm a tale this is. Much of this is down to Scout, the narrator, who is handled so expertly by Harper Lee as to make her absolutely timeless. I loved this book (as the many underlined passages in my charity-shop copy indicate).

Proof that where reading is concerned, new favourites are never far away.


My third book for the month was John Green’s Looking For Alaska which was another novel I picked up on a whim during a foray into the YA section of my local library. I had watched the TV adaption of the book on BBC iPlayer at Christmas and absolutely loved it. The story centres around awkward teen Miles and his entry into Culver Creek Boarding school, where he meets Alaska, an enigmatic fellow student set to have a huge impact on his life. This was John Green’s first book (it was published in 2005) and to date, it’s the best book I’ve read by him. It’s a sharp, searing account of growing up, falling in love and looking for life’s big answers. If you enjoy stories about highly articulate teenagers facing big issues you’ll love it (fans of shows like Dawson’s Creek take note).


My fourth read for the month was something a bit different for me – a book about wolfish wisdom by naturalist and self-confessed ‘wolf-aholic’ Elli Radinger. In The Wisdom of Wolves Radinger debunks many of the myths about these fascinating creatures and explains how we as humans can learn a lot from the way they live. Out are old-fashioned notions of alpha males and horror-story predators, and in are the realities of wolf pack life – grounded in family, co-operation and calm, considered leadership. I took pages and pages of notes from this book (amongst them the interesting snippet that in the event of any doubt, wolf families actually take their lead from the highest ranking female in the pack). Radinger also notes that wolves care for their sick and old, and support elderly pack members as highly prized members – known to make them more successful in hunts and territorial battles with rivals.

It does seem that we humans could learn a lot from wolves.

And that perhaps, we have more in common with them than we think.


My final book for the month was something a bit lighter – Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue – and what happens when the son of America’s President falls in love with the UK’s most eligible (and princely) bachelor. If you like rom coms with big hearts and snappy writing, you’ll love this tale of optimism – it’s the first boy-boy love story I’ve read, and a reminder that we need to see more non-traditional romances on our shelves. It will make you smile, swoon, and by the end, believe that where love is concerned, absolutely anything is possible.

And right now, I think we need a bit more of that kind of hope in our future, don’t we?

I’ll see you again soon for another round up of my monthly life in books.


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