Monday, 25 June 2018

READING RECORD | Week 24 + 25


Reading record posts are a look back on the week that has been, with notes regarding what I've been reading and just general bookish goodness.

WEEK 24

MONDAY 11TH JUNE
Minimal reading to start the week, with just a chapter of Cider With Rosie read; I started this memoir at the very end of last week.

TUESDAY 12TH JUNE
I decided to pair a fiction book with my current non fiction read, and picked up The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans. I ended up reading the first three chapters today, and can feel myself falling quite deeply into it.

WEDNESDAY 13TH JUNE
Ending today a quarter of the way through The Butterfly Summer, having just passed the 100 page mark. My thoughts of yesterday remain - I completely love the main character (it is told from a first person perspective, so she is the narrator also), and things are really getting interesting plot wise now with a second story having been introduced.


THURSDAY 14TH JUNE
Further progress made in The Butterfly Summer, reading just over 50 pages during a morning reading session.

FRIDAY 15TH JUNE
No reading completed today - I did turn 27 though.

SATURDAY 16TH JUNE
I took myself off book shopping this morning, coming home with a few new books for my ever growing collection. I also got in a little reading time today too, starting the next book in a seasonal series I've been working through - Summer: An Anthology of the Changing Seasons.

SUNDAY 17TH JUNE
Today I finished reading Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee. Honestly, I have little knowledge of Laurie Lee, and had never read anything by him prior, however I found myself completed absorbed in his memoir. He shares of his childhood, which is a much simpler time that takes places in a small English village, but not without trials and tribulations; it is the kind of read that completely transports you whilst you reading.

In the evening, after reorganising my bookshelves & watching some BookTube videos, I spent an hour reading furthering my progress in The Butterfly Summer.
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WEEK 25

MONDAY 18TH JUNE
Today I started reading The Castle of Adventure - one of the many MG titles on my summer reading list, and the first of two Enid Blyton titles from her 'Adventure' series that feature on my list. I read the first 8 chapters, which added up to 65 pages.

TUESDAY 19TH JUNE
Further reading in The Castle of Adventure; I'm now just a little under halfway through.

WEDNESDAY 20TH JUNE
I finished reading The Castle of Adventure by Enid Blyton, the second book in her 'Adventure' series. Just as with the first, I loved the adventure we were taken on, with Enid Blyton writing fun & captivating stories.


THURSDAY 21ST JUNE
Diverting from my summer reading list, today I picked up One Woman Walks Wales by Ursula Martin (which I picked up when I went book shopping last week). Initially I was pretty adamant about wanting to stick to my list of twenty books for the 20 Books of Summer challenge, however I do also want to make sure I'm still reading freely - so it is great that host Cathy is open to flexibility with the books we include.

In One Woman Walks Wales, Ursula documents her journey of walking through Wales following a cancer diagnosis, with the hope and aim of raising awareness of ovarian cancer. I've read the introduction and first two routes she has taken on this long distance walk of hers - I think this is going to be quite an inspiring read; I like how Ursula writes with such honesty and candidness. 

FRIDAY 22ND JUNE
Today I returned to reading The Butterfly Summer, making really good progress.

SATURDAY 23RD JUNE
Rising early, reading whilst the rest of the house sleeps - I finish The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans. Thoroughly enjoyed my first reading experience with Harriet Evans, and would definitely keep an eye out for other titles in the future. 

Book 5 of 20 complete.

SUNDAY 24TH JUNE
I started a new book today, and not from my reading list once again. I have no idea what books I'm swapping these non list ones for, with just the focus being on the number of twenty and my original list as a guideline of sorts. The book I started was As Old As Time by Liz Braswell - a Disney book from a series that takes the classics as we know them and retells them with a twist, with this title being about Beauty and the Beast.


BOOKS MENTIONED

Happy reading!
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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


BLURB
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threaten to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family - and Mia's. 

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood - and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

THOUGHTS
Opening up Little Fires Everywhere, the Richardson home is on fire, with the suspect being the youngest of the four Richardson children - Isabelle, who is now nowhere to be found. From this point, the story is told backwards, coming back full circle with us as readers finding out exactly why a teenage girl would want to burn down her family home.
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Little Fires Everywhere is so much more than just Isabelle's story however, with it being one of the most intricately woven plots I've ever read. The web that entwines all the characters and their individual stories is really well done and one of the things I've come away admiring from this book.
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Going into Little Fires Everywhere, I hadn't expected it to be as slow paced as it was - especially the first half. Although slow, it wasn't a boring kind of slow, but more a building kind of slow. In the beginning I didn't fall head first into the story as there was a lot of setting up for the story - with key characters (and their backstories) introduced as well as development of the unfolding plot. Despite the pace, I felt invested in all the characters I was meeting, wanting to know where this was all going, and honestly the slowness likely actually played a part in that.
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In terms of characters there are many within Little Fires Everywhere, all of which play a key role in the story somehow. I couldn't possibly sit here and talk about them all, however I will say they were some of the most fleshed out characters I've come across, with flaws in abundance, and all so well crafted.
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Something Celeste Ng has done within Little Fires Everywhere is shine a light on the complexities of relationships (in varying forms), but especially that of motherhood - the good, the bad, and the lengths we go to for the ones we love. I really liked the depths in which Ng delves, combing through motherhood with a fine tooth comb.
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Little Fires Everywhere is an evocative read - playing out in mind as I sat and read. I think this book would translate to the screen really well.
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I'm now super keen to read Celeste Ng's other novel (Everything I Never Told You), even if I am reading them out of publication order.
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Based on my above thoughts I'm sure you've already gathered this, but I loved Little Fires Everywhere, and would definitely recommend giving it a read.
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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Browsing & Book Buying


Yesterday I took myself off on a solo adventure to my local bookshop, with a want of browsing the shelves, and ideally, coming away with some new books that I had no knowledge of prior to going in the shop.

Since becoming a book blogger (so for a good few years now), I've found that I very rarely buy books without knowing something about them - be it a fellow blogger sharing they are currently reading a given book, or perhaps I read a review of a specific title, or even just saw it in passing on Twitter. Whatever the reason, the majority of the books I buy there has been some kind of prior knowledge; whether that be a big piece of information or just a small snippet.

Due to location, it isn't often that I find myself at a bookshop, and so I make the majority of my book purchases online. In doing so, I tend to have a list of books and just add them to my basket before checking out - one swift movement.

I don't even browse when book buying online, much less remember the last time I went to a bookshop and browsed. As I'm sure you can imagine, I had a wonderful time on my recent book shopping outing... But it was definitely thought provoking also.

Going into the bookshop, I thought I would be met with so much choice, being left unsure of what I wanted to come home with... Now, again, this may be a location issue, however I actually found it difficult to find titles I had literally no knowledge of. 

This did surprise me. 

Do I follow a lot of bookish content, and in turn have a vast knowledge on a wide selection of titles? Does my bookshop stock a lot of popular fiction only? Do we in the book community read a lot of the same thing? Or, am I not reading widely enough?

Honestly, I don't know the answer to that...However, it does make me yearn for my simpler days of reading - when I'd go into a book blind, with no knowledge but the blurb & cover, concluding the book having found a gem of a read. 

I'm not entirely sure where these ramblings were going... But I'd love to open the discussion up in the comments. Has book blogging altered how you read & shop? How do you book buy? When was the last time you just browsed a bookshop, with not a single book in mind? Or picked up a book you had no prior knowledge of?

I'm definitely intrigued, and look forward to your comments!

Oh, and in case you were wondering... I left with three titles I had no prior knowledge of, and look forward to reading them in the future.
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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway


BLURB
A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including -

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she's quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family's long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can't help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he's learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can't hurt anyone but him.

THOUGHTS
Recently I've been trying to get back more in to YA - I read a fair amount of YA previously, but then found a lot of what I was reading just wasn't sparking a love and connection of the book for me... Knowing more about myself as a reader now within the YA genre - what I do & don't like - I was keen to find more contemporary YA books with a focus on family. Enter: Far from the Tree by Robin Benway.
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The story centres around three teenagers - Grace, Maya and Joaquin - who come to learn that they're biological siblings, having been given away by their mother when very young and ultimately having been separated. Grace and Maya were adopted into families, whilst Joaquin remained within the foster care system moving from family to family, although when we meet him in the story he is settled with a family.
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All three of the main characters within Far from the Tree have their own individual stories. Grace has recently had a baby and gave her daughter up for adoption, which is what prompted her to want to know more about her biological mother and in turn siblings. Maya is having a hard home life, with an alcoholic parent and divorce for her parents on the cards. Joaquin struggles with his past, and the way in which his life has unfolded, with feelings that he isn't good enough and in turn is pushing those who love him away. As you can see, the three stories are quite heavy in their own individual right, but as the three siblings come together with bonds forming, they are all able to help one another, be there when needed, and work through their own hardships with thanks to the newfound connection formed by the three of them. The dynamic between the three siblings, and seeing how it blossomed, was my favourite things about this book.
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Speaking of dynamics, I also really enjoyed the family dynamics that played out throughout Far from the Tree. No two families are the same, and this was very much highlighted in the book. It also shows the strength in family ties, and how life experiences can change and shape you as a person.
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All the characters within this book were well written - even those who only played a surface role - with Grace, Maya and Joaquin each having their own authentic voice and personality. There was a good amount of teenage angst, drama and more within the book, but it didn't feel written in a theatrical way, but realistically and in a relatable manner.
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Whilst reading, I definitely found myself caring for the characters - rooting for them, wanting the best for them, feeling invested in their life in many ways. Although I felt this way about all three main characters, I do feel like I favoured Grace and Joaquin more than Maya. There were elements of Joaquin's story that I could relate to from my own teenage years, and Grace had a really strong voice in my opinion. Also, I quite enjoyed the relationship that formed between Grace and Rafe - the banter was good.
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Far from the Tree deals with some hard hitting topics that require sensitivity, compassion and understanding... Robin Benway tackles these themes perfectly, and has written a beautiful (& at times heart breaking) story.
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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

READING RECORD | Week 23


Reading record posts are a look back on the week that has been, with notes regarding what I've been reading and just general bookish goodness.

Before jumping right into this past week, I have missed a couple of weeks worth of 'Reading Record' posts, so I just want to address that (for you as my blog readers but also myself as this is how I document & track my reading now).

Week 20 - I didn't complete a 'Reading Record' post as I was taking part in Bout of Books and so have a master post for the readathon instead.

Week 21 - I did make notes for my reading - which is how I pull these posts together - however, I lost the papers some how.

Week 22 - I went away with my family to the Welsh coast and actually did no reading whilst there, even though I packed two books with me. I did read some on the weekend (when home) but no post for the week as a whole.

So now we're all caught up!

WEEK 23

MONDAY 4TH JUNE
Starting the week by signing up to a summer reading challenge - the 20 Books of Summer challenge, to be specific. The aim of this challenge is to read & review twenty books during the summer months; this will be quite the challenge for me with regards to book count, as well as full on reviews for each book... In fact I already know each book won't be reviewed, which is why I'm more focusing on the reading aspect of the challenge. You can find my summer reading list (& challenge sign up) here.

Reading wise today, I read a further 150 pages in Far from the Tree by Robin Benway, a book I started reading on Sunday. I'm branching out of my comfort zone a little bit with this book, given that it is a YA contemporary and I haven't read any of those in a good while, however I'm feeling confident in this title. There is a big emphasis on family in Far from the Tree, with it often being spoken about as a hard hitting YA, and those are kinds of books I like to read.

TUESDAY 5TH JUNE
Finished my first book of the summer challenge - my thoughts on Far from the Tree were correct, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a YA contemporary to read. This is one of the books from my summer reading list that I do intend to review.

When I finish each book from my summer reading list, I'm going to stack it up against the side of my wardrobe; given that only one of the books is an ebook, I'm interested to see how tall the stack gets.

In the evening I started reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, with fifty pages completed... That seems to be the go to for me when reading a book, committing to the first fifty pages in order to get a feel for the story and writing style. Do you have a certain amount of pages you like to get through in your first sitting with a book?


WEDNESDAY 6TH JUNE
Continued reading Little Fires Everywhere.

I know it won't work for me all summer long, as I'm just not that kind of reader, however with the challenge in mind I am trying to do more concentrated reading as opposed to the toing & froing I have been doing with books lately.

THURSDAY 7TH JUNE
Not too much reading done today... Which led me to doing some calculations regarding the 20 Books of Summer challenge - I would need to complete a book every 4-5 days in order to complete all the books on my reading list. Of course there are variables in this, but at this stage I think that's doable... Ask me again in 6 weeks when my son has broken up from school. Hehe!

FRIDAY 8TH JUNE
I managed a good chunk of reading in the evening, breaching the 300 page mark in Little Fires Everywhere. The second half definitely has me more gripped than the first.

SATURDAY 9TH JUNE
Waking early, sitting in bed with tea and book in hand, I finished reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Again, this is another of the books I intend to review from my reading list, but I will say here as a little mini review - the book itself was slower than I expected it to be, but a powerful story.

SUNDAY 10TH JUNE
I started off today by saying I was going to have a little personal readathon day of sorts... Well, that didn't quite pan out. In the morning I made some good progress in my next book: Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee, but then I got sucked into BookTube. I spent more time today watching people talk about reading, rather than reading myself!

BOOKS MENTIONED

Happy reading!
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Monday, 11 June 2018

READING WITH MY FOUR YEAR OLD | Spring


Today I'm back to talking about children's books... However, I'm also sharing some updates to this series moving forward. 

At the start of the year, I intended to showcase the books my son acquired within a given month as well as occasionally share a week of bedtime reading,  but now that is set to change. We're half way through the year and I'm finding myself really recognise what works for me (& what doesn't) when it comes to sitting down and writing on my blog. I do love having Alexander's reading journey documented here, just as I do with my own, however moving forward I'm going to be just wrapping up at the end of every season, such as I am today; highlighted some books he has gravitated towards, and that we've loved reading together.

SPRINGTIME STORIES
During the season of spring, Alexander and I started our first non picture book together when I picked up a collection of short stories based around the season written by Enid Blyton. I've recently gotten in to Enid Blyton's children's stories myself - being part way through two separate series - and I initially intended to add Spring to my own personal book collection. When the book arrived, as I had ordered it online, I thought why not read it with Alexander - they are short in length & appropriate in plot - and I have been able to share the beauty that is Enid Blyton's writing with my four year old. The stories are a lot of fun, with outdoor adventures, animals being prominent (Alexander LOVES animal stories), fantastical elements in some, and humour that both Alexander and I have enjoyed.

MR MEN
On his bookshelf Alexander has a number of books that could be seen as childhood reading staples, with the Mr Men & Little Miss collection being one of those. I remember these from my own childhood, as does my husband - in fact a good chunk of Alexander's collection is formed of Mr Men & Little Miss books from Nathan's own childhood - and now we get to share them with our son. We still haven't worked our way through all of the titles he has (which isn't a complete collection), however at bedtime he has often been picking these to read.

DISNEY INSPIRED
Lastly, I want to share about a boxset of Disney books we have read a lot recently. We've had this set a while, and every now and then (typically after watching the film that the story tells), he'll pick one up to read, however there was a good chunk of time within spring where Alexander picked up multiple of these books to read in just the one sitting alone. The boxset doesn't include every Disney film ever, obviously, bit it does have some great classics included as well as some of the more modern stories too. Alexander loves Cars, Planes and all the Toy Story films adapted into story form also.

Reading with my son is one of my all time favourite things to do, and I'm so happy to be able to document that here.
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Monday, 4 June 2018

My Summer Reading List (20 Books of Summer)


With each new season I pull together a list of books that I hope to read over the next three months, and compile them together in a post here on my blog. For the season of spring, I actually didn't get round to doing this - there was a lot of slumping going on (reading & blogging), and so it just didn't happen. However, I'm here today to continue with my seasonal reading lists and share the books I'm hoping to read this summer.

I'm actually signing up to take part in a summer long reading challenge - 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. I'm a little late in sharing my book list for the post, with the event running from June 1st until September 3rd. My seasonal reading lists tend to have 10ish books on them, so it'll be interesting to see how I do with twenty titles; I'm looking forward to the challenge of not only reading twenty books this summer, but also reviewing them all too.

All titles below have been linked via Goodreads

Summmer: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons (edited) by Melissa Harrison
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
The Castle of Adventure by Enid Blyton
The Valley of Adventure by Enid Blyton
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara
Fire and Rain by Diane Chamberlain
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan
A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews

So that concludes my summer reading list - Cathy is totally flexible when it comes to the list, so some titles could change, although I do feel like I've picked a good mix of books.

I'd love to know what books you're looking forward to reading this summer.
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