Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern

| Title: The Year I Met You | Author: Cecelia Ahern | Publisher: HarperCollins |
| Purchase Links: | Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository |

When career driven Jasmine is fired from her job and put on gardening leave for a year she doesn't know what to do with herself - work has been her focus for so long and now that's been taken away. Little does Jasmine know of the year that she is to have, a year in which she literally does a lot of gardening, as well as falling in love, forming unlikely friendships, and adjusting to change.

Change is a big part of The Year I Met You.

I found the narrative of The Year I Met You to be an interesting way in which to tell the story, with Jasmine as narrator telling fellow protagonist, Matt, how he changed her life over the course of the year in which they met - it's less of a story and more of a letter, although not directly so. One of the reasons I say that is because there is very little dialogue in this book, with a large part of the narrative being Jasmine's inner thoughts.

Whilst there are subplots within The Year I Met You, I would say the focal plot is definitely the friendship that forms between neighbours Jasmine and Matt as they both find themselves unexpectedly unemployed. The development of their platonic friendship is really well written, with a dislike turning itself around as they truly get to know one another. They share a raw honesty with each other - something you don't find in everyone - and it is this that helps them with their respective issues and find themselves again.

One of the subplots running through The Year I Met You is Jasmine's relationship with her sister, Heather, who has Down's Syndrome. The relationship that the two share is one of the many things that allows us to see Jasmine grow as a character, as well as a softer side to her. Although Jasmine is the younger sister, she has always felt protective over Heather, especially after their mother passed away, and during this year of change she comes to the realisation that Heather doesn't need her as much as she thinks whilst coming to understand the bond that they share a little bit more. It is worth mentioning here that I think the way in which Cecelia Ahern wrote about Down's Syndrome was wonderfully well done, being realistic and respectful towards the condition.

I realise to some that the story could sound a little mushy, and even cliché, but I didn't find that to be the case with this book and that's many thanks to Cecelia Ahern's writing style. Characters were well shaped, with histories and personality, battling problems that some could find relatable. That's the thing with Cecelia Ahern's writing, in this book and others, she hits the nail on its head with reality, even when parts of the book itself are fantastical (although none of that in The Year I Met You, it is very much a strictly contemporary read). The progression of her stories are natural, her characters feel 3-D, and her words are rich in the every day little details - these are all things that allow you to get lost in Ahern's words.

If you know me at all, you know that Cecelia Ahern is one of my favourite authors, and it isn't exactly unusual for me be raving about her works, however, I will say I only marked The Year I Met You up as a four star read. Why? Because even though the story itself was interestingly told, I felt like this particular novel didn't have that extra something special that typically excites me about an Ahern release.

I would recommend The Year I Met You, as I would any Ahern novel, but I wouldn't make it a starting point.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Recent Non Fiction Reads

I don't read a lot of non fiction books, but it is something I want to delve further in to. Often, when I do pick up non fiction, those books are light in content and something specifically targeted to my interests. In the future, I do hope to expand beyond these realms and step out of that comfort zone, as I have started doing within my fiction picks, but for now I'm just trying to step up my intake of non fiction books. Today I'm going to be sharing a little on three recent non fiction reads.
I'm very much someone who loves routine, probably enhanced when I had a child, but I've always been someone who thrives on routine, naturally when I learnt about this book I was keen to pick it up.
Currey has curated an inspiring collection of writers, artists, musicians and more, sharing the daily rituals of those individuals taken from notes, books, essays and other correspondence compiled in to easy to read passages that are written as observations almost. Some of those featured include Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Haruki Murakami, Agatha Christie, Nikola Tesla, Charles Dickens, Andy Warhol, Stephen King, and so many more - that's just a little sample, there are over 150 featured! There is a table of contents at the start of the book which is nice for if you want to skip straight to some of your favourites.
Reading the ways in which such creatives went about their daily lives, and learning of the things that helped them produce the work that they did, is eye opening, motivating and very insightful. Eye opening may seem like an odd choice of word there, but I had no idea about the amount of substance abuse that took place during certain periods of time, with a number of those featured turning to alcohol, drugs and stimulants in general pretty frequently.
Daily Rituals is the kind of book that you dip in and out of from time to time, perhaps a passage a day whilst eating your breakfast - make it a part of your own routine - but if you're a bit of a nosy one like myself, or perhaps you work from home and find setting your own structure something you struggle with, I'd recommend picking this up as it really does make you think about how you're spending your own time.
- - - - - - - - - -
If you're British, and not following Very British Problems on Twitter, then you're missing out. The observations shared are spot on and give you a little chuckle as you realise the many ways the latest tweet relates to your own life.
For all intents and purposes, the Very British Problem book is just an extension of the Twitter account, but one of those light witty reads that are great for picking up now and again. The book itself is easily readable (I finished the entire book in less than a couple of hours) but one that is sure to put a smile on your face.
Both accurate and amusing, Very British Problems would make a great gifting book.
- - - - - - - - - -
As readers, we all love books, therefore we all love stories and in turn the place we can buy stories - bookshops! The Bookshop Book is a collection of stories from bookshops around the world, so naturally, you'll love it! Alongside the stories of bookshops and booksellers, you'll also find some interesting little bookish facts inserted here and there, as well as interview snippets from some well known authors regarding their own book history.
Some of you may have heard of Jen Campbell before; she is the author of some other wonderful book related content - Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops and its follow on More Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops which are both well worth checking out, as well as being a content creator on YouTube sharing some really wonderful book recommendations (so far she has yet to steer me wrong) and is also a poet on top of that.

If I'd delved in to this book at any other time of year, I'm sure you'd be reading a long and lengthy love letter-esque post with me gushing about how well researched this book is, how passionate about books those featured are, how the stories shared are empowering, motivational, touching, joyful and basically every emotion ever, how I want to visit every single possible bookshop featured, and so much more that I don't even want to think about because I could just talk, and talk, and talk, but seen as it's nearing the end of the year and I'm wrapping up my reviews for 2015, I've had to condense to just a few passages. Really and truthfully, those weren't needed. All you need to know is this - if you love books, you need to read this!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

My TBR | Update #1

Back in October I decided to take control of my TBR by reading predominantly from my shelves. Whilst my intended book buying ban failed, I've still been focusing on my TBR and making sure it doesn't mount to a crazy number of books being left unread. Today I'm sharing an update on my original TBR list, but not including the new additions to my shelves. In the new year I will be sharing an updated TBR list.
I started out with 29 books on my shelf and have now reduced that original count to 21. In all honesty, with new additions, the book count stands higher than 21, but I'm glad to be reading through the books on my shelves regularly, discovering some gems along the way.
(Side note | Ignore the fact that this post is all centred, Blogger was having issues following direction)

Monday, 14 December 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

If you keep up with my blog and weekly 'It's Monday' posts, you'll know that I've been on a bit of a bumpy road with my reading of late... This week changed all that and I feel like I'm back on track. I'm so glad about that, and I hope the improvement stays, because I really want to go in to the New Year feeling on top of my reading and not in a slump.

Last week I managed to read three books and start a couple of others too! That sounds a little more impressive than it is though considering two of those books were pretty light and easy reads. My main read for the week, as many of you may know, was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Alongside that, I also read a couple of other books because quite frankly, I didn't like my main read as something to read just before bed... A little too creepy for my liking! Instead I turned to Very British Problems and a collection of short stories by Patricia Highsmith - Little Tales of Misogyny. Both books were recent purchases of mine.

Although I had a good reading week, we had a little bump in the road when I realised that unfortunately I wouldn't be able to finish the next two books in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. I had borrowed them from the library and so with the return date approaching I went to renew them, only to find I couldn't renew the third one as it was on reserve for someone else. I kind of feel like my reread of the first in order to progress with the series was a bit of a waste, but at the same time it was an enjoyable reading experience and so not something I would complain about really.

Since reading the series all in one go was no longer possible, I decided that both books would just be returned and I'd move on to something else. Seen as all my latest reads have been kind of darker in nature, I'm focusing on some lighter books until the end of the year I think. With that in mind, I picked a Cecelia Ahern book from my shelves - The Year I Met You. If you follow Cecelia Ahern's work, you'll know that this is her 2014 release. One of the reasons I picked up this particular book is because Cecelia Ahern's most latest release is high up on my potential first book of the year list and so I wanted to make sure I was reading in order of release. I know that's not really necessary, given that they are standalone novels, but Cecelia Ahern is the one author I always auto buy and so I like to read the books in that order.
A thoughtful, captivating and ultimately uplifting novel from this uniquely talented author

Jasmine know two things: one, she loves her vulnerable sister unconditionally, and will fight to the death to protect her from anyone who upsets her. Two, she's only ever been good at one thing – her job helping business start-ups.

So when she’s sacked and put on gardening leave, Jasmine realises that she has nothing else to fill her life. Insomnia keeps her staring out of her bedroom window, and she finds herself watching the antics of her neighbour, shock jock Matt, with more than a casual eye. Matt is also taking a forced leave of absence from work, after one of his controversial chat shows went too far…

Jasmine has every reason to dislike Matt, and the feeling appears to be mutual. But not everything is as it seems, and soon Jasmine and Matt are forced to think again…

What are you reading this week?

Friday, 11 December 2015

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

When Catherine discovers a new book on her bedside table, she happily delves in thinking nothing of it, until the unfolding story starts to sound familiar...
Being the book readers that we all are, we've seen the disclaimer that is written at the start of all works of fiction - 'This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.' - except in the book that Catherine discovers, The Perfect Stranger, those lines are crossed out. Because the story isn't technically a work of fiction, it's based on true events. Except there is more to those true events than meets the eye.
As a secret Catherine has kept for years comes to light, we watch how the events change not only her as a person, but those around her too. The way in which this secret is revealed isn't ordinary, it doesn't just get exposed; it is a carefully orchestrated plan by a little old man who is out for revenge. Only that revenge is going to come back and bite him on the bum.
The overall plot of Disclaimer is brilliant - the rate of progression, the short chapters holding your attention, the multi character view point allowing you to see one situation from many angles, the narrative being detail oriented picking up on even the little mundane things... However, I have a gripe; a gripe that marked Disclaimer at a four star rating. Some of the characters felt a little flat to me, not all of them (which I'll touch upon in a minute), but the Ravenscroft family, Catherine's family, I felt no connection to as a reader, and a book of this nature means connection is much needed in order to truly love and appreciate the unfolding story. To an extent I can see why a disconnect was there, most of the book they are disconnected from one another, but I thought as a reader we should have seen a little more life to them... A little more depth to them as people as opposed to just emotions being portrayed.

Speaking of emotion, there was plenty of that well written in to Disclaimer. We watch as Catherine relives a past she worked hard to keep to herself, a past she didn't want to share and didn't want to relive. Her seemingly charmed life soon takes a knock and starts crumbling down piece by piece, all the while she is dealing with this inner turmoil all alone. It's pretty sad to read in all honesty.

Back tracking a little and returning to the characters in Disclaimer, as well as the powerful decline portrayed by Catherine, the mental state of Stephen Brigstocke was also really well crafted. As much as he causes the crumbling of Catherine's walls as author of The Perfect Stranger, he also inadvertently gets the wheels moving in his direction too with some pretty intense consequences. Watching as he shifts from a man who just seems a little lonely, but innocent enough, to a vengeful manipulator is pretty impressive and so tactfully done. Stephen is the one character who really didn't feel flat.

Disclaimer is one of those books I picked up purely because of the book blogging community. It was highly talked about, not necessarily hyped, but most definitely talked about upon its release. The talk surrounding it was very intriguing, with little being said on the plot; having now read Disclaimer, I can see why. As with most mystery / thriller books, the plot is best to be discovered as you read. Disclaimer isn't the kind of book that keeps you on your toes from the get go though, it hooks you, sure, but you get comfortable in the story as it progresses, only to be hit with a curveball when you least expect it - my favourite kind of mystery!
Being that this is a debut novel, I was pleasantly surprised. I found the book to be engaging, a page turner, and the plot well crafted. I would look out for future works by Renee Knight.

| Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository |

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Christmas Reading | The Snow Queen and Other Winter Tales

The past two books shared in this feature were books I had read, but today I'm switching gears and showcasing a book I recently purchased and that would make an amazing gift for other book lovers, especially those who enjoy classic literature and fairy tales.

Isn't she beautiful?
I've been admiring the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics for quite some time. Being that they are a tad pricey, I've put off buying many of the editions that I've really wanted. But if there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I love winter books - reading in winter, books set in winter, books set at Christmas (especially those), ghost stories in winter - you get the picture, and so I just couldn't pass up this edition. I will say, now that I've seen the beauty of this one in physical form (B&N editions are a little hard to come by here in the UK as we don't have Barnes & Noble) I'm kind of tempted to get more....
Although The Snow Queen is its notable story, you'll find a varied collection of one hundred tales inside featuring some you may well have read before from iconic writers including, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott and Alexandre Dumas as well as fairy tales you'll have probably heard of before too. I haven't actually read this particular book yet, but some of the featured stories I have read in other treasuries and there appears to be a story for every kind of mood.
The book itself is just stunning. Weighty and well made, the cover is very sturdy and basically a work of art. The colour scheme of blue and silver is perfect for the winter season, and intricate snowflake pattern that adorns the cover is just beautiful, making the book an eye catcher, but truly highlighted when in the light and wonderfully sparkly. I also like the extra detail of the pages being lined in silver as well as a built in silver ribbon book mark. It's all about the details.

If you, or someone you know, enjoys collecting books of this nature (I call them treasuries, I don't know if that's entirely correct), then they won't be left disappointed unwrapping this on Christmas morning.  

Monday, 7 December 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Much like the week before, this has been a funny old reading week for me. Although I didn't technically read an entire book - from start to finish - I managed to finish up three books, tying up the loose ends on books that had a bookmark part way through them.
As I mentioned in last week's 'It's Monday' post, I wanted to complete reading Disclaimer by Renee Knight, a book that picked me up from an almost slump. I checked that one off my list. After that I hoped to start Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, the entire series, but instead of delving into that I decided all the half read books I had sitting around needed completing first. I say all, it was actually only two. Well, four because I have two collections of short stories sitting around too but I just read those intermittently. So, up first was a nonfiction title that I had been dipping in and out of - Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey - followed by the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Although I didn't read what I expected to, I had a successful reading week and it feels good to not having random half read books sitting about. So, because of that outcome, my upcoming week looks much the same as last week's 'It's Monday!' post, with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, as well as Hollow City and Library of Souls being on the reading docket for the week. I don't see all three of those being read this week, but I would like to make a good dent in them.

In other bookish news... I signed up for the First Book Of The Year: 2016 linky hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. Every year that I've been book blogging (under other domains), I think it will be two years with this being my third, I've linked up. I love the concept behind the linky because like Sheila, I also put a great deal of thought in to the book I'll see the new year in with, and hope it makes a good starting point for the year that follows. As of right now I'm not currently 100% sure what title that will be, but I do have an idea and I may well return to a tried and true favourite author; playing it safe.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Being Honest With Myself About Book Buying

Here in the book blogging community we understand each other - our love of the written word, how great it feels to discover a new author, the joy it brings sharing our thoughts on books with other like minded people, connecting in general with people who feel the same way you do about books, and the thing that this post stems from, book buying habits. And how hard it is to not buy books!
I've been on a 'book buying ban' since mid September. My self imposed ban came when I decided I wanted to invest in a good quality DSLR camera... Around mid October I decided I didn't actually want to fork out the cash for a better camera (various reasons for this, but a main one being my lack of committal when it comes to spending A LOT of money on one item... Goodness knows how picky I'll be when it comes to buying a house!). Although I didn't have an end goal in sight anymore, I didn't scrap my book buying ban, I still wanted to stay on track as it would help me to complete my TBR challenge.

Well, if you're a regular reader here on Reading With Jade, you'll know that I've fallen off track. I've bought books between September and now. In fact, multiple books. And I told myself it was okay because they weren't just your average book, I wasn't amassing 10+ books at one time, you know the drill.

The truth is very simple though; I failed my book buying ban, as I have done with all previous book buying bans. I didn't even make it three months. I recognise that probably sounds terrible... I couldn't go three months without buying a book, and yet I don't feel terrible about it. As much as I tell myself I shouldn't be buying book, I want to, books make me happy, ergo, buying books makes me happy. It's not exactly the worst habit to have.

So where exactly am I going with this?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my book buying, the rate at which I read, what I hope to accomplish with my personal book collection and just a lot of book related things in general. I've come to a conclusion, a resolution to my book collection not getting out of control. Not a ban, but a challenge. I like a challenge.

Wanting to keep on top of my TBR, as well as my book buying, in the new year I aim to buy no more than four books a month. Why four? Well, in your average month I read four books (one a week). Being that I like to borrow from the library too, those four books won't make my TBR for a month, but keeping the amount of books I buy a year to less than 50 means I can keep a hold on my TBR as well as keeping my book collection to just the one small bookshelf I own.

I can get fancy with words, but I know my ban and this challenge are quite closely knitted together, however I think this challenge will work... Scrap that, I know it will. It's feasible, it's perfectly doable, it'll make me think more carefully about the books that I do buy, and I'm comfortable in the knowledge that no more than 48 books will bought next year.

How do you feel about your book buying? Will you be making any alterations to your current method in the new year?

Monday, 30 November 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This past week hasn't been the best in many respects, including my reading habits. I've been all over the place, with the pickiness I mentioned a couple of weeks ago being back in full force. A lot has been going on personally too, so that has played a part in my lack of reading also. I just haven't been in the right frame of mind for reading and so that equals out to very little read.
If you read last week's 'It's Monday!' post then you'll know I was hoping to complete More Than This by Patrick Ness... I started the book, ploughed on through for a couple of days, but then my reading came to a halt. I couldn't continue, couldn't fully connect; that's the second time I've had that experience with that particular book. I'm still not giving up on it though, and I hope to return to it in the future. After that, I didn't read for a good couple of days. Returning to my shelves I picked up Disclaimer by Renee Knight... I'm about half way through that one and enjoying it so far, hooked in fact. The trouble is having the time / clear enough mind to sit and read. I'm hoping this new week will be a good turning point.
Hoping to have Disclaimer finished by the end of today, or at the very latest tomorrow, I'll be moving on to the series that is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I do actually own, and have read, the first book in the series, but as always seems to be the way with me, I haven't got much further than the first book in the series. Whilst at the library near the start of the week I spotted not only the second, but the third book in the series and knew I just had to check them out. I've heard some mixed reviews on the series as a whole, but I recall particularly enjoying the first and being held by the uniqueness of pictures entwined with narrative how they are there, so look forward to seeing how the series progresses. Reading all three books (because my memory just doesn't serve me well and I tend to have to reread when it comes series) in the one week is an ambitious task, and unlikely to happen, but that's how my reading is shaping up of late.

What are you reading this week?

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Legacy by Katherine Webb

Set against the backdrops of 1900's America and a country manor during modern times, The Legacy envelopes us in varying generations of the Calcott family; a family with a deep history and dark secrets.
When their grandmother passes away Beth and Erica Calcott return to Storton Manor, a house that they spent every summer at during their youth until the disappearance of their cousin, Henry. The two sisters have returned in order to make some decisions regarding the house as well as sort through their grandmother's belongings. Younger sister Erica has other motives however, such as getting to the bottom of Henry's disappearance. The summer in which he disappeared was many moons ago, with the now adult sisters being twelve and eight at the time, but whatever happened that summer still haunts Beth to this day. Wanting to help her sister, as well resolve the bee in her bonnet, Erica hopes returning to the manor will answer some long held questions.
In alternate chapters we glimpse the journey of Caroline, the great grandmother of the two sisters. Starting out in America, we follow Caroline as a young woman who falls in love with a country man, a man her guardian doesn't approve of, a man she is to marry and adjust her entire life as she knows it for. Moving to cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere with her husband is quite the eye opener for Caroline, but as she fumbles with the shift in her life, the entrance of a child and some devastating news is to shape the females of the Calcott family for generations to come.
There is a lot going on in The Legacy, with two stories intricately entwined, but they both bounce off one another, and in many ways the complexities of both stories only adds to the book overall, making a seemingly otherwise simple mystery all the more intriguing.
I believe the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Henry would be considered the main plot, but for me Caroline's story is what makes The Legacy. I warmed to Caroline a lot more than I did the two sisters, and whilst I didn't always agree with her choices, I thought she was a well developed character with a story you easily commit to. Caroline has a naivety about her, a rawness, that endears you, pitying her almost.
Caroline isn't the only well developed character in The Legacy, I think there is a depth to all the focal characters in the book as well as descriptive narrative that wraps you up in the surroundings and atmospheres throughout.
Although I invested myself more in Caroline's story, the disappearance of Henry still held my attention, it kept me guessing, my mind wandered piecing together all these conclusions, and yet Katherine Webb still managed to shock me with her revelation at the end. Whilst the outcome did captivate me, I felt at times like the suspense was a tad drawn out, with certain conversations feeling quite repetitive after a while. I understand the need for that though to an extent, with the plotting of the book having to include two stories so of course they had to be equal parts in length almost to adhere to the storytelling format.
The Legacy is a simply written novel, with layer upon layer of family history, spanning the cattle ranches of the USA to the countryside of England, with twists you don't quite see coming - if family oriented dramas and elements of historical fiction are your kind of read, then I'd recommend picking up The Legacy.

| Goodreads | Author's Website | Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository |

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Christmas Reading | The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Stories

When it comes to reading material around Christmas time I think you can't go wrong with a collection of short stories. Not only are they great for dipping in and out of when you have less time and more commitments, but also because of the variety in content. Christmas is the kind of holiday where a lot is going on, family visits are more frequent, and there is generally just a lot of hustle and bustle - all of this is reflected in The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Stories and more! My favourite of the inclusions is the ghost stories that featured here and there, I don't know about you, but I love a good ghost story during the winter time.
The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Stories contains eighteen short stories written by a host of different authors all compiled in to the one book by Dennis Pepper. In the introduction, Dennis Pepper shares that he curated this book in order to present a book of Christmas stories that are 'different', and that they are.
It would be impossible to talk about all the stories that feature within without having the longest blog post known to man, so I'm going to share a few of my personal favourites.
The Night Is Freezing Fast by Thomas F. Monteleone
This is the third story within the collection and the first to hold my attention fully. The story features just four characters, takes place within the space of a few hours (if that), has a slightly darker premise than your traditional Christmas tale, but highlights the lengths you would go to for your loved ones.
Swiftbuck's Christmas Carol by Francis Beckett
Featuring some well known ghosts first encountered in A Christmas Carol, we are reacquainted with the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The story itself is quite light hearted in nature but takes a deeper look in to human behaviour and how people change given the period of time.
The Kissing Gate by John Gordon
Being a ghost story, I was bound to enjoy this one. When a boy and girl meet each other in an expanse of field, we learn that they both think the other to be a ghost... But which one actually is? Mysterious throughout, the piecing together really captures you.
The Carol Singer by Chris Naylor
The shortest story within the collection at just one double sided page, the plot that's packed in to this short story is both atmospheric and haunting, not easily done in so few words.
Not Wanting The Blue Cracker by Dennis Hamley
We join a family on Christmas Day as they are to sit down for their Christmas feast... But all is not going to plan. Not Wanting The Blue Cracker really focuses on families around the festive season, especially the dysfunctional elements of a family. I think this is a story we could all relate to on some level or other.
I could go on sharing beyond these five stories, but these are the ones that still stick with me even after reading.
I picked up this collection of stories at the library on a whim, in fact, it is this book that my Christmas Reading feature has spawned from, and yet I think this particular book is one that could be overlooked when compiling a festive reading list because of its age - being 14 years since it's release, many would turn to newer collections but if you're able to get your hands on The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Stories, I'd highly recommend giving it ago.

Monday, 23 November 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This past week I've spent with the writing of a new to me author, Katherine Webb, and quite happily so; I've come away from reading The Legacy glad to have two more of Katherine Webb's novels on my unread shelf. New to you authors can be so hit and miss, and that's why a lot of the books on my unread shelf tend to be by author's whose writing I have yet to experience, however I think I'll be trying a few more of those in the coming months.
Alongside The Legacy I have also been reading another Christmas orientated book - The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Stories. I'd heard nothing about this collection of stories until picking it up on a whim at my local library, but the stories shared are varied in content and not what you would consider to be traditional Christmas reading.
On to my current read, I'm starting this week with More Than This by Patrick Ness. I tend to avoid chunksters, and that's the predominant reason More Than This has been sitting on my bookshelf for so long. With these colder days and darker nights, I'm finding myself more inclined to waste away an evening purely reading, so what better time to pick up a chunkster, right? I'm not too sure if I'll be fitting in a seasonal read for my 'Christmas Reading' feature this week though because of More Than This being so lengthy - my edition stands at 480 pages!
What are you reading this week?

Friday, 20 November 2015

Before The Storm by Diane Chamberlain

After a fire starts in a local church, with a youth group trapped inside, an unlikely hero emerges in the form of Andy, a fifteen year old outcast of the town. Being born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder means he thinks differently to how you or I would, and so he finds an unlikely way for the occupants and himself to exit the building engulfed in flames. At first he is put on a pedestal, whilst lives were lost in the fire many were saved thanks to his quick thinking, however when the fire is suspected of being arson, Andy has quite a fall from grace.
Spanning twenty odd years, the story being told flip flops from character to character as well as time periods. Stories of this nature can sometimes feel disjointed but with Before The Storm it flows well and the story unfolds in such a way that it leaves you needing to know more, needing to keep page turning - I read the vast majority of Before The Storm in just one day. With a depth to the characters, as well the small town in which the book is set, you feel invested in these people and want to know how it will all pan out.
Whilst the focal plotline is very much about Andy, there is more to Before The Storm than just suspicion of arson. So much is weaved in to this book, with people connected in ways you wouldn't have even thought of. For me, a large part of Before The Storm is learning to live with the mistakes you've made, especially when younger, because that's face it, we all make mistakes. In the heat of the moment, or in the act of love and protection, we do things that perhaps we later regret and wish we could change, yet we still have to live with them, we have to learn from them. Every single character in Before The Storm is doing just that, living and learning.
The progression of the story worked really well in context with the plot, from the little things like Laurel not knowing her son, Andy, and daughter, Maggie, as well as she thought she did, to the big things like the suspicion of Andy starting the fire. The different periods in time featured within the book lend to this progression really well and it gives you a greater knowledge of certain characters, especially Laurel and Marcus (Laurel's brother in law).
The characters themselves are well written and just as layered as the story line. In particular I think the portrayal of mother, Laurel's, post partum depression and how things evolved from that was pretty intense and her downward spiral one that you could envision actually happening. As far as favourite characters go, I really like Marcus, despite his troubles when younger, he turned out to be a pretty stand up guy.
As with many of these family oriented dramas, you often feel like you know where the story is going but continue reading because you've committed to these people now... Well, all is not what it seems in Before The Storm, and I wouldn't go looking for a happy ever after in this one.
Before The Storm is the kind of character driven book that takes you on a ride, one minute I'm hating certain character, then pitying them, then happy for them. If you find that you invest in characters easily, this one's for you. In fact, in my experience so far, any Diane Chamberlain novel is for you!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Snow Sister by Emma Carroll

It wasn't too long ago that I was gushing all about Emma Carroll's writing and how much I, even as an adult, enjoy her middle grade books. Well, I've read her latest offerings, The Snow Sister, a novella set during the Christmas period, and the gushing is only going to continue.
The Snow Sister tells the story of Pearl Granger, a young girl from a relatively poor family who are still feeling the weight of the loss of another daughter whilst scraping by on the father's wage which is dwindling due to a decrease in demand of his expertise. When a piece of mail arrives on Christmas Eve, the Granger family think their luck is to change, with a potential windfall on the cards. This news has put a spring in their step, understandably so, but all is not what it seems. The family are soon to learn there is a lot more to life than money, and how money doesn't equate to happiness - a lesson we can all take note from really. Richness in life isn't measured in wealth, but in love and happiness.
Although short in length - 100 pages including a few illustrations - The Snow Sister is not short in substance with a depth of detail that you wouldn't necessarily expect from a book of this size. One thing I've noticed in any book by Emma Carroll is the little nods to the time period in which she is writing. You always feel enveloped in the era, from the jobs, to the style of dress and especially in the surroundings - in The Snow Sister I liked the admiration of the village's Christmas tree, which until this period in time was not a tradition in England.
I love Christmas books, they are some of my favourite to read, and whilst The Snow Sister holds elements of many traditional Christmas tales (particularly a family focus), I think the story Emma Carroll has told holds a wonderful message that can be appreciated by both young and old.
The Snow Sister would make perfect Christmas Eve reading material, or a great stocking stuffer to be devoured in a cosy corner on Christmas Day whilst waiting for the turkey to cook and consuming far too many choccies.


Monday, 16 November 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Most weeks pass by in the blink of an eye and I barely manage to finish reading my planned book for the week.... This week was an exception. Not only did I manage to finish the book I started the week with - Before The Storm - but I also got in a novella too - The Snow Sister - and have started my illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It's great that I managed to read more than normal, but what's even greater is the fact that all the books proved to be wonderful reads!
I'm finding myself to be in between a lot of books at the moment. I don't know if it's the time of year, or just me becoming more of a mood reader, but I'm at varying points in a couple of books at the moment and pick and choose which to get lost in depending on how I'm feeling on a given day. I used to hate reading like that, not knowing how others were able to do such a thing, and sticking very much to the one book reading from start to finish before moving on to a new one. Oh how things change over time.
Despite being in between various books, I do still have a main book that I try to complete by the end of the week. This week that book is by a new to me author but one who has been on my list to explore for quite some time now - Katherine Webb. I have three of her books on my unread shelf currently and have started with The Legacy, which I believe to be the first of her published works but correct me if I'm wrong on that. I'm currently about 50 or so pages in to the book and it definitely feels like the kind of book you can swept up in.
When they were children, Erica Calcott and her sister, Beth, spent their summer holidays at Storton Manor. Now, following the death of their grandmother, they have returned to the grand, imposing house in Wiltshire, England. Unable to stem the tide of childhood memories that arise as she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings, Erica thinks back to the summer her cousin Henry vanished mysteriously from the estate, an event that tore their family to pieces. It is time, she believes, to lay the past to rest, bring her sister some peace, and finally solve the mystery of her cousin’s disappearance.

But sifting through remnants of a bygone time is bringing a secret family history to light—one that stretches back over a century, to a beautiful society heiress in Oklahoma, a haunting, savage land across the ocean. And as past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two shocking acts of betrayal . . . and the heartbreaking legacy they left behind.
What are you reading this week?


Friday, 13 November 2015

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

It's very hard to write my thoughts on a book that plot wise is incredibly wrong but as written material is so wonderfully told.
Told from a dual perspective, Forbidden takes us into the evolving relationship of Lochan and Maya, brother and sister who fall in love. Teenagers themselves (17 and 16 respectively), the pair have been thrust in to a position of responsibility and authority from a young age, practically raising their three younger siblings since their dad left a good five years ago. Their mum is still on the scene, but barely so, flitting in and out of the home only to doll herself up for nights out with her boyfriend and to begrudgingly provide money to keep a roof over the heads of her children, pay the bills and stock the house of food. Lochan and Maya are essentially surrogate parents to their three siblings; it is this position that builds the feelings between them almost, they are equals, they parent the children - they do not feel like brother and sister.
I first picked up Forbidden because I was intrigued how the subject of incest would be written in the context of the story - consensual incest - but when I looked in to the book a little more I was even more curious as I had heard from many that the author's writing almost makes you forget that Lochan and Maya are brother and sister, and that the feelings they feel for each other are forbidden.
Honestly, those who said that were indeed correct. As the love story between the two begins, you feel a little awkward, reading of these intimate moments and thoughts shared by two whose relationship would be considered by general society as taboo, but the more you read, the more you fall in to their story and their feelings and everything seems right - natural even. But only because you can see how they are products of their environment and life experiences. Being told in a first person narrative only lends to the story as any other narrative wouldn't work, it wouldn't contain the same impact on a reader nor portray the feelings of both involved so effectively.
One of the reasons the story works so well is the detail and depth of all that is going on, whether that be the chaotic home life, the portrayal of a dysfunctional family, teenage life and how all is not what it seems, social anxiety and of course the love shared between Lochan and Maya. You feel for these two teenagers and in many ways pity them too. Although the author's writing felt a little long winded at times, with some passages that could have easily been taken away, her style of writing is one I admire and would like to read more of. Forbidden is a story that is horribly beautiful with tragic circumstances and cannot have been an easy one to construct and write, yet the author has done this so well. Seriously, so well!
Naturally the subject of incest isn't one we approach with ease, in fact many would be put off by this book because of the subject matter, but I think whatever your thoughts or beliefs may be Forbidden is well worth reading. The author isn't trying to sell us on incest being okay, but the way in which she explores the love of these two people who should not love one another like they do does make you think a little more and question certain things... I don't know if that was the intention, but it is the outcome. I would like to clarify, that is not me saying I agree with incest.
'You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.' - Anon (Taken from the opening page of the book).
Before I wrap up my review I also think it is worth noting the audience of this book. I had gone in to Forbidden thinking it to be a YA book, in fact, it is most highly ranked as a YA book on Goodreads, however having now read the book I don't think I would entirely agree with that. YA encompasses a lot when it comes to subject matter, but also when it comes to age range too, and Forbidden is most definitely not suitable for all those that fall in to that category. This is a book for older/mature teens and adults - the back of the book itself states 'Not suitable for younger readers' and with scenes of a sexual and violent nature as well as a darker topic being the focus of the plot, I would definitely agree with that.
If you're looking for a book darker in nature yet realistic in telling, as well as something that will pull feelings from you that you didn't know your reading experience would garner, then Forbidden comes highly recommended from me.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Peek Inside | Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Illustrated Edition

Last weekend, I caved. I nearly didn't, but I knew I would regret leaving the shop without it - I purchased Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Illustrated Edition. I told myself I wouldn't (I am technically on a book buying ban), but then when I saw it in person, I just had to have it! The book is beautiful, seriously beautiful! As soon as we were home I flicked through the pages and was blown away, I sat smiling from ear to ear the entire time. I cannot remember the last time I was this happy with a book purchase. Being the book blogger that I am, I wanted to share!
The images below are just a snippet of those included in the book, but a fair few of my personal favourites. My pictures do not do the images themselves justice (we've been having endless foggy days here so lighting was not at its best, but I wanted to share nonetheless). The illustrations are evocative, vivid, rich in detail and depict the story in the most beautiful way. The art itself is the work of Jim Kay, a very talented illustrator who has interpreted the book in his own way, whilst still remaining true to the story.
Opening Pages
Chapter Headers
Little Details
Closing Pages
My Favourite Of All (it was tough picking!)
If you're a Harry Potter fan, or know a Harry Potter fan, snap this up - it would make a perfect Christmas gift!

Monday, 9 November 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

So, it's been a while since I posted here on my book blog. I took a little break a couple of Monday's ago in order to change my blog name and set up all that comes with that on other sites and such, but intended to be away from the blog no longer than a week. Well... That doubled. I kind of just fell out of the habit to be honest, but I'm back, and with a new name - Reading With Jade. My first title was always temporary, but I'm glad to have settled on a name for my blog that I'm happy with and am so excited to be getting back in to the book community - I've missed it!

I have been reading whilst away though... And I may have made a couple of cheeky book purchases - yep, I've broke that book ban already. I have no regrets in the two books I purchased though. The first book to break my ban was The Disney Book - a non fiction book that takes a closer look at Walt Disney and all the history of the company. If you're a Disney lover, this book is for you!! I'm beyond happy with the purchase. The same happiness is held in my second book purchase - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Illustrated Edition. Again, another beautiful book! So although I've made purchases, that doesn't mean I'm ending my ban, it's still very much on.... Clearly I just occasionally buy pretty amazing books as an exception :-P

Anyway, on to the reading of this week! I'm currently in the middle of two books at the moment, with my minor one being The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane. Initially this was to be my one and only current read but I've found it to be the kind of book I appreciate better reading slowly and savouring the story as opposed to speeding through. For my main read I've returned to Diane Chamberlain.

Fifteen-year-old Andy Lockwood is special. Others notice the way he blurts out anything that comes into his mind, how he cannot foresee consequences, that he’s more child than teenager. But his mother sees a boy with a heart as open and wide as the ocean.

Laurel Lockwood lost her son once through neglect. She’s spent the rest of her life determined to make up for her mistakes, and she’s succeeded in becoming a committed, protective parent—maybe even over-protective. Still, she loosens her grip just enough to let Andy attend a local church social—a decision that terrifies and infuriates her when the church is consumed by fire. But Andy survives…and remarkably, saves other children from the flames. Laurel watches as Andy basks in the role of unlikely hero and the world finally sees her Andy, the sweet boy she knows as well as her own heart.

But when the suspicion of arson is cast upon Andy, Laurel must ask herself how well she really knows her son…and how far she’ll go to keep her promise to protect him forever.

What are you reading this week?


Friday, 23 October 2015

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

An Untamed State is one of the most compelling novels I've read so far this year.
Gripping from the get go, Roxane Gay tells the story of Mireille, an American born woman kidnapped whilst holidaying with her family in her parent's home country, Haiti. For all intents and purposes Mireille has a perfect life, a happy life but it all comes crashing down on that fateful day when she is violently snatched from her husband and young son outside of her parent's home in Haiti.
The subject matter being dealt with in this book is a tough one... Writing about kidnapping can be hard as you don't want to cross a line but at the same time you want to try and make the story authentic. Roxane Gay crossed lines, but in a good way, and the story felt like the most authentic kidnapping I have read. Having said that, there are a number of parts in this book that can be hard to get through, with graphic scenes of both a violent and a sexual nature. Those aren't things people can always read easily, and even if you aren't fazed by those kinds of scenes, they still aren't easily read, so if you fall in to the category who would rather not expose themselves to such scenes then I would say to steer clear of An Untamed State as a large portion of the book is hard to read given those scenes.
I know very little about Haiti, but the book portrays it as a place where kidnappings are basically a regular business transaction. A girl is taken from a wealthy family, the family pay and the girl is given back. Except Mireille's father doesn't pay, he is a man of his own principles and believes if he does not pay his daughter will be returned anyway. He also believes his daughter is strong enough to get through her ordeal; her gut wrenching ordeal that lasts thirteen days.
There is so much emotion that goes in to reading this book. Seeing Mireille fall to pieces, crumble away from the person she once was, forget her loved ones and the life she once had, is heart breaking. Mireille's father is right about one thing, she is strong, and seeing her come out the other side of her kidnapping is what marks this book up in my estimation. I'm glad the author allowed us to see both sides of the story, and kept the experience as real as possible throughout.
Roxane Gay used a really good writing technique throughout the first part of the book where we saw Mireille present day, being held captive and going through some of the worst possible things imaginable, but flitting backwards and forwards between that and Mireille's life before the kidnapping - growing up as a child, learning of the family that surrounds her, seeing her fall in love with her husband, expanding her family. The love that she is surrounded by in these parts are a stark contrast to her current state of life; this contrast only makes her ordeal all the more shocking.
I don't want to say I enjoyed the story being told, given its nature, but I did enjoy the book as well as Roxane Gay's writing. However, the reason I have only given An Untamed State four stars, not five, is because of the dialogue. Whilst I wholeheartedly fell in to the story, believing all the words told, even forgetting it was fiction at points, a lot of the dialogue - particularly between Mireille and her husband, Micheal - didn't feel real. To me it didn't seem like how a husband and wife would interact, especially after all they had been through together, both pre and post kidnapping. That was literally the only thing that let this book down for me, and if I did half stars, An Untamed State would be a 4.5 stars.
A lot goes in to An Untamed State, a lot I didn't even imagine when going in to this book blindly - it is more than a just a kidnapping and a class divide. An Untamed State explores love in a variety of ways, but especially a secretive way - the things we'll do, say and keep from our loved ones in order to protect them. There is more than just that though too, An Untamed State is a multi faceted novel that will stay with me for quite some time.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Ah, what's with all these tough to review books I'm reading lately?! I'll start out by saying Leaving Time is my lowest rated Jodi Picoult book to date, coming in at just three of five stars.... And that was a push at three stars, I was honestly going with a two until I reached the end.
Leaving Time tells the story of Jenna, a teenage girl whose mother went missing when she was just three years old and whose dad currently resides in an institution having done so since the fateful day of her mum's disappearance. Despite her grandma's protests, Jenna is desperate to find her mum and is willing to do anything in order to connect with her once more. Anything, including seeking out a psychic and an ex cop turned private investigator who together make the perfect team, unravelling the mystery that has plagued Jenna for years. 
The general plot of Leaving Time, is good, it's readable, and with Jodi Picoult's conversational style of writing, a page turner even, but what halted my page turning on a number of occasions was Alice, Jenna's mother, scientist and elephant enthusiast. I have nothing against elephants, but at the same time I felt Jodi Picoult was force feeding me a wealth of knowledge about them. There's no doubt she has done her research on the topic, as with any of her other books, but more often than not I felt like I was reading an educational piece on elephants, not a fictional book. In comparison, another of Jodi Picoult's more recent works had the focus of wolves, with them playing just as important a role in the book as the elephants do in Leaving Time and in the case of Lone Wolf, the incorporation of wolf research was done well, whereas in Leaving Time the elephants really were over done.
I kid you not, I was literally dreaming of elephants because I was reading so much about them.
Don't get me wrong, there was definitely a place in the story for all the elephant study, and it didn't entirely take away from the story being told, but it did shift my focus on numerous occasions and I kind of wish it had been kept to a minimum.
Looking passed the elephants, the characters within Leaving Time were well fleshed out with depth and dimension, especially Jenna, Alice, Serenity (psychic) and Virgil (PI). In all honesty, I kind of loved them all as characters, but Serenity is definitely someone I'd like to see more of - I did read an e-book novella that was released in the run up to Leaving Time and I just loved Serenity, her personality and backstory.
Whilst it may seem silly how much the elephant talk bothered me as a reader, what bumped Leaving Time up from a two star to a three was the end - I did not, in a million years, see that conclusion coming. The unexpected element really changed my perspective on the story, turning what could have a run of the mill plot in to something quite brilliant.

Monday, 19 October 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

If you saw my last week's 'It's Monday' post then you'll know I was delving in to a Jodi Picoult novel - Leaving Time. I wasn't too sure what to expect from this book, Jodi Picoult was once my all time favourite author, but as I've got older and discovered more authors, and as her works have progressed, I've found I've enjoyed her books less and less. I admire the way in which she tells a story and the depth she gives to characters, but having changed paths from her original writing, I just find the books to be a good read. Leaving Time was just that, a good read, coming in at three stars. I've written my review already and will be sharing that this coming Wednesday.
After finishing Leaving Time on Friday, I moved on to another library borrow, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. I went in to this one blind almost, knowing nothing of the book prior to reading the blurb in the library - often times this is the best way to go in to a book as you don't have expectations. So far, at close to half way through, An Untamed State is shaping up to be powerful read.
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a wilful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.
What are you reading this week?
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