What I’m Into (Aug 2015)

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Tanya Marlow: Party Storyteller Extraordinaire

August was a blur of fun-making, resting – and rain. (British weather: we want our money back. We are owed a summer).

Storybook Party of the century

The boy aged another year and we threw him a storybook party. I wrote a story where he and his friends met the Sophie from The Tiger Who Came to Tea and they all went hunting for her lost tiger in the worlds of other storybooks. It was a 77-page book, in seven chapters, and it seemed to occupy the kids between games quite effectively. They played Mr Silly Says with Mr Silly, pinned the tail on the Eeyore, and built houses for the three little pigs (with lego bricks, sticks, or drinking straws. (For the last activity, the dads may have got a bit competitive – they were so well-constructed that the wolf wasn’t able to blow any of their houses down…)

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Jon made an epic cake, and I wrote an award-worthy story, and we poured our heart into the party as a love-gift.

Before the party, we were all, “It will be legendary! The kids will be talking about this party when they’re SIXTY! When the other kids hear about this party they will be sobbing to their parents and berating them for taking them to Disneyworld instead of going to our boy’s party!”

After the party, we remembered that only really happens when you’re eight.  When you’re five, you’re still treating each activity like it’s an optional extra, and if you find the bark of a tree more interesting, well, then you’re going to play with tree bark for half an hour. You hardly touch any of the food, and the highlight is the end when all the kids go home and you get to play on the trampoline.

I fear we may have peaked too soon…

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Jon took the boy to his first ever Christian conference, which was a great hit, while I chilled at home and rested from all the birthday excitement. Then we had some special, dear friends to come and stay, and like that – August was over.


wild in the hollow cover


This is a beautiful, lyrical memoir about finding God in brokenness, and searching for a home. I knew this would be theologically thoughtful, and beautifully written, the words of a poet, but I hadn’t anticipated it would make me cry as much as I did. Everyone else was reading it and crying, and I thought, ‘maybe they’re crying in sympathy for Amber’, because I knew something of her backstory, which contains some really hard times. When I read it myself I realised they were crying for themselves. Amber beautifully intertwines her story with Adam and Eve, searching for Eden, in a way that helped me see myself afresh, naked, before God.

For ages I didn’t know how to write this review, except to say I was quite undone by it. In some senses her story is a classic one (lost girl finds God, tries to be good, fails, finds God again), but it is the beauty of the writing, the depth of the truths, and the Spirit-filled energy that makes this a classic. It touched me deeply, and made me want to find God in a fresh way.

Amber is a true poet – she is one who sees. Her insights about American culture and the church towards the end of the book are brilliant. I just kept highlighting it for quotes. I got a Review Copy for free, but when I read it, I went straight out and bought my own hardcover, because I knew I would want to keep it and return to it. I keep telling people about it. Highly recommended. Currently £5.22 for Kindle, £10.99 hardback or $8.01-$10.23 Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com


Jen Hatmaker is known for two things: being insightful about church, social justice, and culture, and being very funny. The best way to know if you will enjoy this book is to read her blog: rather than a typical book with an overarching message, this is a fun eclectic mix of essays – some of which were tongue-in-cheek rants about growing older and having kids, others of which were insightful essays about the church and culture. It reads a little like a magazine, and is very enjoyable to flip through and dip into, laugh and think.

For me, I preferred the insightful parts to the funny parts, and my favourite part was the essay on short-term mission. If you’re new to Jen Hatmaker, but you like what you see on her blog, you’ll enjoy this little collection of blogpost-type essays. Currently £6.02-£14.99 or $9.13-$13.56. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com


This is the novel that everyone is  talking about – Winner of the Pulitzer prize, New York Times Bestseller – and I can see why. It is about the second world war, but told through the perspective of two teenagers: a German orphan boy, and a blind girl. Because we follow the perspective of a blind girl, the war is brought to life through smells, sounds, touch, taste – it’s one of the most vivid books I’ve read in a long time.

The reason it’s a ‘must-read’ is his mastery of language, every other sentence you come across a morsel that you want to savour, and yet it’s written with the pace and plot of a good thriller. The other thing that makes it stand out against the usual war books is that it doesn’t feel sensationalised, despite the subject matter: the real action happens around the two characters, their relationships, and whether or not a priceless diamond will be stolen by the Germans, and it intertwines a love of physics and biology in the midst of a war story.

Like Shadow of the Wind, it felt ‘sweet’ in tone, rather than bitter, and I was gripped. For the last few weeks it’s felt as though I’ve been living in a six-storey house in St Malo as the bombs have come down around me. Highly recommended. Currently just £5.89 or $15.21. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com 


I must be the only person left on the planet who still likes to buy CDs rather than paying for Spotify or Apple Music, but I fear I may be nearing the point where I give up owning my music, and turn to renting it instead. This was what I listened to all summer (links go to Amazon):

If you would like to pretend you’re me in summer (which might be a little weird, but let’s go with it) – here’s the link to my Spotify Summer playlist. (I learnt how to make a Spotify playlist! Check me out! I’m so hip!)


  • Dodgeball – a classic. I’m such a Vince Vaughan fan.
  • Blades of glory – like Dodgeball but men on ice. Worth it for seeing the North Korean ice routine.
  • Life in squares – if you’re a fan of the Bloomsbury set, this mini-series showing the life and convoluted affairs of the Woolfs is well worth checking out. They really wanted to be born in the sixties, I reckon.
  • Partners in Crime – Absolutely love love love this series with David Walliams and Call the Midwife’s Jessica Raine making a fabulous squabbling crime-solving married couple.
  • Empire – The finale!!!! Oh my goodness – I didn’t see that one coming.
  • Still watching Nashville, Jane the Virgin, New Girl. I love the episode where Jess and Cece fight by complimenting each other on their hair.

Miscellany on the internet:

At the end of August, buried on a bank holiday weekend, the government released the statistics for those who had died while being declared ‘fit for work’. Here are two of the best responses:

Sign the petition for a proper assessment into the impact of the budget cuts on disabled people (UK only)

On the reality of severe M.E. (for severe ME awareness day)

Research is being done for first time specifically into the severe ME subset – maybe new hope for all? Donate here 

On the blog

I was in lots of different places, but my post on Wearing a Bikini to Church was popular, as was my post on The Church, Disabled People and Awkwardness, and lots of people resonated with my experience about When Your Holiday is Not Heaven.

Advent Project: 

Readers of my newsletter will know I’ve been plotting an Advent project… Watch this space! And to be the first to get news, make sure you sign up to the newsletter, if you’re not already.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her magnificent What I’m Into Linkup.

I received a free advanced copy of many of the books above in exchange for my honest review, which these all are. This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click through to Amazon.co.uk  or Amazon.com from this site and buy absolutely anything in the worldyou help this site, at no extra cost to you. 

Over to you: 

  • Are you a CD person or a Spotify person?
  • What have you been into this August?

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10 Responses to What I’m Into (Aug 2015)

  1. Simon Fogg 9th September, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    about to ditch all my CDs after making sure each one is in my itunes library

    big listener to Spotify and YouTube

    • Tanya 17th September, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

      Sad times! RIP CDs. 🙂

  2. Rebecka 9th September, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    Oh my goodness! Can you and your husband please plan my next birthday party? I was so impressed with last year’s Pirate Party, but this one seemed even more amazing! (My birthday is in February 😉 )

    I’ve been using Spotify for several years now, for finding out if I like an album enough to pay for it or for music I like but don’t want to buy. My favourite bands seem to have stopped releasing CD’s, so I don’t buy that many anymore, I mostly buy digital albums on iTunes or Noise Trade. Also, my CD-player only works occasionally so I mainly listen to music on my laptop nowadays.

    In August I kept reading Great Expectations (it’s long…) and I listened to Bethel Music. I was introduced to them by Justin Bieber of all people. Probably the last person I thought I’d have the same favourite song as, but apparently we both love No Longer Slaves. I’ve also been trying to paint, but I’m not very good at it. (Unless it’s walls, furniture or fences, I’m great at that kind of painting!)

    • Tanya 17th September, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

      Honestly, I think Jon is more of the expert than me! He has a knack for these things – I think it was all the youth work he did over the years. I’m glad my blog readers appreciated my party, in any case – as you can appreciate, I have decidedly limited feedback from the five-year-olds it was aimed at!

      Actually, like you, I do like listening on Spotify to see if an album is good enough to want to buy it. It’s like hiring a CD, or something.

      I’ve never heard of Bethel Music! I should look them up!

      And painting! That sounds exciting! (and also frustrating. I am very bad at painting…) I’m cheering you on in your art. Show us some pictures sometime!

  3. Mark Allman 9th September, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    I laughed out loud at those parents who would regret taking their kids to Disneyland instead of yall’s party! I think you two have missed your calling…. I think you need to be event and party planners or consultants to Disneyland!! I don’t remember much before I was 10 years old.
    I found this series on AMC called humans that has been good. I think it is set in Britain and two British guys are the writers.
    Reading a great book now called The Martian. Soon to be a movie.

    • Tanya 17th September, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

      Yay! Glad to have made you laugh out loud!

      I have heard of Humans! It is on Channel 4 here, and looked good, but Jon vetoed it as being too sci fi so we watched a period drama instead. What can you do??

      I’m impressed that it’s made its way over the pond, though. 🙂

  4. Elaine 8th September, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    What a fab party. The Tiger came to tea at your house. Sounds spot on and not at all a “peak too soon”. Cheers me up just thinking about it!

    • Tanya 17th September, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

      Oh, I’m so glad it cheers you up! Thanks for your party cheerleading 🙂

  5. Meg Evans 8th September, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    Hi, Tanya, Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I will have to look for Partners in Crime over here, thanks for the tip.

    As for my musical listening preferences, I usually put the free Pandora on my computer when I’m at work. When I’m in the car, my kids tend to take over the radio, and we listen to top 40 pop. I haven’t purchased music (CD or iTunes) in quite a while.

    • Tanya 17th September, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

      Thanks so much for swinging by my place! I think I read somewhere that Partners in Crime is just about to hit the networks in the US, so it may be coming your way sooner rather than later.

      I (embarrassingly enough) had not heard of Pandora before, but have now worked out what it is. I love the convenience of a music library, but feel a bit sad that I can no longer give CDs as good presents!

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