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.
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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.
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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?
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