Fancy a cuppa & some good company? Come join our book club!
On the 18th of June, Bird & Blend co-founder, book lover & Chief Tea Mixologist Krisi will be sipping tea and chatting with Stacey Halls, author of Mrs England, Tahmima Anam, The Startup Wife, Charlie Corbett, 12 Birds to Save Your Life: Nature’s Lessons in Happiness, CJ Carey, Widowland and Kate Sawyer, The Stranding.
Want to know a bit more about the books? You can find out more about them and check out an extract below & buy your tickets here.
Tickets cost £2.40 & all proceeds go to our ChariTEA of the Quarter; Stonebridge City Farm.
We can’t wait to see you there. Put the kettle on!
12 Birds to Save Your Life: Nature's Lessons in Happiness
At a time of great anxiety and uncertainty, while coping with the untimely death of his mother, Charlie Corbett realised his perspective on life was slipping. Through twelve characterful birds, Charlie shows us there is joy to be found if we know where to look, and how to listen. By reconnecting with the wildlife all around him and learning to move with the rhythms of the natural world, Charlie discovered nature's powerful ability to heal.
This book is about coping with being human. It’s about how unexpected events smashed and bashed their way into my life without permission. And how a reinvigorated love of the natural world – in particular its birds – helped me to cope with the death of my mother and anchor myself at a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. There is nothing new about death and change, anxiety and melancholy. And yet for some reason, as a species, we have become worse at dealing with these traits than ever before.
We have become dislocated from our natural environment. And it is this dislocation, I believe, that is a major reason why so many of us now find it hard to cope with what the modern world throws at us. We’ve lost the perspective that nature provides.
And until recently I too knew next to nothing about the wildlife around me. After many years of living in cities at home and abroad, I returned to the small farm where I grew up and felt like an alien. I walked along the lanes and byways of my childhood and found I was surrounded by strangers. Random birds in unnamed trees singing songs I couldn’t understand. I realized that my store of knowledge, garnered from a childhood in rural England, had largely disappeared. I could barely tell the difference between a sparrow and starling. And as for the dawn chorus it baffled me. I felt ashamed, and set out to put things right.
In this journey of rediscovery I came to realize that if you take note of the nature around you, try to under- stand it, watch it, and grow to love it, then not only will this make you a happier, more content human being, but it will help nature too. It will move it from the realm of the abstract into the world of the tangible.
And I want you, through reading this book, to feel the same unadulterated joy I feel when I hear a blackbird’s song on a fresh spring morning, a song thrush singing at the end of the longest night, or when I watch the house martins arrive from Africa in April. It is life-saving.
The Startup Wife
Halfway through her PhD and already dreaming of running her own lab, Asha has her future all mapped out. Then a whirlwind romance with her high-school crush, Cyrus, changes everything…
Dreaming big, together with their friend Jules they come up with a revolutionary idea: to build a social networking app. While Asha creates an ingenious algorithm, Cyrus’ charismatic appeal throws him into the spotlight. When the app explodes into the next big thing, Asha should be happy, shouldn’t she? The Startup Wife is a blistering novel about big ambitions, speaking out and standing up for what you believe in.
Cyrus and I got married exactly two months after we met the second time, which was thirteen years after we met the first time. The first time, I was in ninth grade and Cyrus was in eleventh. I knew his middle name, what classes he took, when he had free period, and which afternoons he stayed late for swim team or jazz band practice. In other words, I was in love with him. Cyrus did not know any of my names or that I had recently moved to Merrick, Long Island, from Queens, that I had skipped fourth grade and was in possession of one friend, a girl called Huong who occasionally sat beside me at lunch, that my parents were immigrants from Bangladesh and that was why my lunchbox contained rice and curry, something I was perpetually ashamed of, not just because of the curry smell that stuck to my clothes but also because my mother never closed the Tupperware properly, so there were always little bits of chicken and rice plastered to the insides of my backpack.
For fifteen years my parents lived above the Health Beats pharmacy in a one-bedroom apartment with two narrow windows and a view of Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. My sister, Mira, came along, and then me. They worked long hours and sent regular Western Union payments to Bangladesh, but because we ate dal and rice most nights and never went on vacation and I only got to wear hand- me-downs, they managed to save a little every year, until they could put a down payment on the pharmacy, then on another one in Woodside. By the time I met Cyrus, my parents owned a mini-chain of three Health Beats, and we had moved out of the old neighbourhood and into a shiny new housing development on Long Island. After a summer of unpacking boxes and sticking stars to the ceiling of my room in the pattern of the Messier 81 galaxy, I arrived at our new school, Washington High. Mira was a freshman at Columbia, already busy finding her new tribe, the climate activists and the radical new leftists and the Students for Yemen. I was left to fend for myself with my smelly lunches and my complete inability to engage in small talk. My only refuge was math class, where I skipped two grades and landed in AP Geometry, with Cyrus. I spent the year gazing at the back of Cyrus’s head and wishing he’d turn around and say something to me, but he never did. I just stared and stared at that glorious blond hair, so wavy it was actively greeting me.
Rose Ransom belongs to the elite caste of women and works at the Ministry of Culture, rewriting literature to correct the views of the past. But now she has been given a special task…
Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country. Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run-down slums where childless women over fifty have been banished. These women are known to be mutinous. Before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony, Rose must infiltrate Widowland to find the source of this rebellion and ensure that it is quashed.
Monday, 12th April 1953
A biting east wind lifted the flags on the Government buildings in a listless parody of celebration. All the way from Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall they rippled and stirred, turning the dingy ministerial blocks into a river of arterial red. The splash of scarlet sat savagely on London’s watercolour cityscape: on the dirt-darkened Victorian facades and dappled stone of Horse Guards, the russet Tudor buildings and ruddy-bricked reaches of Holborn, and around the Temple’s closeted, mediaeval squares. It was a sharp, commanding shout of colour that smothered the city’s ancient greys and browns and obliterated its subtleties of ochre and rose.
The big day was approaching and there seemed no end to the festivities. All along the Thames decorations were being hung. Bunting was entwined between the plane trees, and
ribbons twisted through the Victorian wrought-iron railings of the Embankment. The House of Commons itself was decked out like a dowager queen in a flutter of pennants and flags.
Every shop had its royal picture posted in the window, tastefully framed, and every taxi that passed up Whitehall had a patriotic streamer dancing on its prow.
Flags were nothing new in the Protectorate. When the Anglo-Saxon Alliance was first formed, its emblem – a black A on a red background – was displayed in front of every building. No sooner were they run up the poles, however, than the flags were vandalized, ripped to ribbons and left in puddles in the street. Disrespecting or damaging the flag was swiftly made an act of treason, punishable by death, and the order came down that people found guilty of tampering should be hanged from the same flagpole that they had attacked – a deterrent that was as grisly as it was ineffective. After the first shock Londoners took as much notice of the bodies suspended above them as their forebears had taken off the heads that used to be stuck on spikes on London Bridge.
But that was then.
A lot can change in thirteen years.
Ruth lives in the heart of the city. When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, she chooses to leave behind the failing relationship, but also her beloved friends and family, and travels to the other side of the world in pursuit of her dream life working with whales in New Zealand. But when Ruth arrives, the news cycle she has been ignoring for so long is now the new reality.
She finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before.
The Stranding is a story about the hope that can remain even when the world is changed beyond recognition.
Ruth sits with her back against the whale. She is bone-tired. When she closes her eyes, she can feel her body sliding into sleep, but then ‒ a pulse ‒ she remembers: it’s unlikely she’ll ever sleep again.
How sad. She has always loved sleep. She opens her eyes and is immediately aware of the man, his boots in the sand close to her feet. She had forgotten he was there. She looks up at him, her eyes still stinging with tears.
He is tall, broad, with wide cheekbones and a shaved head. She can see tattoos creeping across his chest and arms, just visible at the edges of his T-shirt. Nik looks down at the woman, the pile of limbs heaped on the sand before him. Her upper lip is wet with mucus. She wipes at
it with the hem of her vest, revealing a soft, curving stomach. There is a mark in her belly button where once there was a piercing.
He averts his gaze, stepping beyond her and towards the whale, and places his hands on its skin. It feels warm under his palm, the last vestiges of life still present. It makes him feel sad.
‘It’s been days, you know.’ Nik takes his hand off the whale and wipes it on his jeans.
‘Not a nice way to go. They’re designed to be in water.’
‘I just wanted to try and do something.’ She sighs. ‘I feel so helpless.’
When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.
Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the 'angel of the house' Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception.
The woods at night were far from silent. Nightjars and owls called their strange solos, and my boots crunched on the stones littered across the track. All around was the sound of water: noisy little brooks and streams made their ceaseless descent to the river, bubbling, chattering, murmuring. The rain had stopped, and the moon peered out from behind her misty veil. I pulled my cloak more tightly at the neck, closing my shawl around my face.
The way was easier without a lamp, which rendered everything beyond its range even darker. The glimpses of moon were guidance enough, and my eyes adjusted without difficulty. I left the mill yard and paused on the bridleway that passed the outbuildings, looking left to the moors and right towards town. I turned left, passing the millpond, its surface smooth and glassy, like a mirror held up to the night. Pines climbed the hillside above the track, which wound like a ghostly ribbon along the valley, and I tried to remember how to reach the low, lonely cottage on the moor.
I’d locked the children in the nursery; this time there would be no escapes. All being well, I could slip inside, unnoticed. If I returned after the master . . . No, I told myself, don’t think about it. Just keep walking. My legs carried me upwards, the crags looming like a spectre to my left.
‘Ruby?’ A whisper, unmistakable.
The shock almost tripped me. I froze, looking out at the slim trunks and black branches. I could hardly hear above the blood pounding in my ears. Seconds later it came again.
‘Ruby? Is that you?’