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?

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