Sunday, 30 September 2018

September Mini Reviews | Last Time I Lied, The ABC Murders + More



- source: my bookshelf -
In 1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to join an expedition with his brother, Kits. The elite team of five will climb Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain and one of mountaineering's biggest killers. No one has scaled it before, and they are, quite literally, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time - the 1907 Lyell expedition.

Five men lost their lives back then, overcome by the atrocious weather, misfortune and 'mountain sickness' at such high altitudes. Lyell became a classic British hero when he published his memoir, Bloody But Unbowed, which regaled his heroism in the face of extreme odds. It is this book that will guide this new group to get to the very top.

As the team prepare for the epic climb, Pearce's unease about the expeditions deepens. The only other survivor of the 1907 expedition, Charles Tennant, warns him off. He hints of dark things ahead and tells Pearce that, while five men lost their lives on the mountain, only four were laid to rest.

But Pearce is determined to go ahead and complete something that he has dreamed of his entire life. As they get higher and higher, and the oxygen levels drop, he starts to see dark things out of the corner of his eyes. As macabre mementoes of the earlier climbers turn up on the trail, Stephen starts to suspect that Lyell's account of the tragedy was perhaps not the full story...

Although this was the second time I read Thin Air, it was every bit as haunting and atmospheric as the first - which was actually only at the start of this same year. I don't typically reread a book in such a close time frame, however I was looking to pick up a good ghost story and remembered how much I enjoyed being enveloped in Thin Air. The following lines are an extract from when I first wrote about Thin Air: 'If you're looking for a ghost story that chills your bones, captivates throughout, and can be reading one sitting, then Thin Air is the book for you.'

- source: for review -
The Things We Learn When We're Dead is about how small decision can have profound and unintended consequences, but how we can sometimes get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is what appears to be a hospital - but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions. It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN, because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident... or does God have a higher purpose after all?

In HVN, Lorna can at first remember nothing. But as her memories return - some good, some bad - she realises that she has decisions to make and that, maybe, she can find a way back home.

Books of a sci-fi nature aren't really my go to, however after talking to author Charlie Laidlaw, I came to learn that The Things We Learn When We're Dead is much more than just a sci-fi/fantasy book, which in itself intrigued me. I came away from this book with quite a mixed experience, with some aspects I did enjoy, and others not so much. The story itself is quite thought provoking, and for the most part, I found myself quite enjoying the author's writing style. Initially the book was a bit of a slow burner for me, but it did pick up. There is quite the cast of characters within The Things We Learn When We're Dead, however, at times I found myself disconnected from main character Lorna, and I think that impacted on my reading experience a little. I haven't read a book quite like this before, and for that reason alone I would recommend it.

- source: my bookshelf (Kindle) - 
Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

Emma has. Her first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned...

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she's laying old ghosts to rest but really she's returning to the scene of the crime.

Because Emma's innocence might be the biggest lie of all.

Riley Sager has done it again, with a page turning thriller I just didn't want to put down. Last Time I Lied is one of those books that really messes with your head, has a moody atmosphere that envelopes you, with a plot that is so clever and that unfolds perfectly. Many a time in this book I thought I knew what was happening, despite the fact I'd been accusing everyone of everything in my head (lol), and yet I still got it all wrong! Although having only written two books, at this point I would be tempted to say that Riley Sager has a writing stamp in a way - troubled female protagonist, a horrific event that really haunts them from years prior, an isolated location for said event etc - and yet he still surprises me with the story he is telling. Riley Sager has announced another book release for summer of next year, and you can bet I'll be picking that one up too.

- source: my bookshelf - 
Murder is a very simple crime. But at the hands of a maniac, a serial killer, it becomes a very complicated business.

With the whole country in a state of panic, the killer is growing more confident with each successive execution - Mrs Ascher in Andover, Betty Barnard in Bexhill, Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston... But laying a trail of deliberate clues to taunt the proud Hercule Poirot might just be his first mistake.

I do love an Agatha Christie murder mystery, and The ABC Murders is a good 'un. As with other novels by Christie, the crime/murder that takes place isn't the main event as such, it is all about the investigation that follows and unveiling the criminal - with this portion of the story being so well done in The ABC Murders. When I say I had no idea who the killer was, I literally mean NO idea! Agatha Christie weaves wonderful detective stories, and although she draws you in with a cosiness to her writing, you'll be kept on your toes also.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

October Reading Plans (Readathons + TBR)

Of course I love reading all year round, but there is nothing quite like reading in the colder months - spending evenings all cosy and wrapped up in a blanket, hot beverage to hand and nose firmly stuck in a good book. October really kicks off the colder months for me, and I have so many books I'm looking forward to reading, not to mention October seems to be THE month for readathons!

Typically I share seasonal reading lists here on Reading with Jade, however I didn't quite get to pulling one together for the autumn months, and so I thought an outline of my reading plans for October would be a good idea to share - especially as it'll help me to figure out exactly what I want to be reading over the next month, and in lining up books that work for challenges and readathons I hope to take part in also.

As I mentioned above, there seem to be a great number of readathons taking place in the month of October, and I'm hoping to take part in a handful of them. 

All of these readathons allow me to pick up different kinds of books from varying genres and authors, however all the books I hope to read have a pretty common theme of being slightly darker in nature... Exactly what I want to be reading during the month of October.

This is the very first round of Boo To You being hosted, and I am so excited to be taking part - Boo To You brings together two of my favourite things: books & Disney. Hosted by Emma at Bookish Princess over on YouTube, this event runs throughout the month of October, with four challenges that you can take part in. I'm going to be attempting three of the challenges, opting to not take part in the group readalong title. 

My Boo to You TBR
Madame Leota's Library
Read a book that you think belongs in the library at the Haunted Mansion

Your Park-Inspired Costume
Read a book that inspired something in the Disney Parks or that is inspired by the Disney Parks

Candy Cauldron/Pumpkin Spice
Read a book that is sweet and cosy and perfect for fall

Unbeknownst to me, Fraterfest is a readathon that has previously taken place in the book blogging community, and is now being resurrected by host Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer. Running from October 11th - October 16th, the concept behind Fraterfest is to delve into some of those dark books you want to read: thrillers, mysteries, paranormal, horror, supernatural, witchy etc.

My Fraterfest TBR

Initially I was going to wholeheartedly plough all my energy and focus into Victober - where you read books written during the Victorian era by British and Irish authors - however I ultimately decided against that as I thought perhaps only classic literature for the month would be a bit much for me... I did still want to take part in some way though. Victober runs the entire month, and is hosted by four YouTubers: Katie, KateAnge and Lucy. There are five challenges being run alongside Victober, however the main aim is to get more people picking up Victorian literature.

My Victober TBR
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

This readathon is a late (& kind of last minute) addition to my reading plans for the month of October, however when I saw the announcement on Lala's channel I just knew I had to take part. Spookathon is a week long event, running from October 15 - 21st, with five challenges as well as a buddy read - I will be taking part in the group read as well as attempting three challenges.

My Spookathon TBR
Buddy read
Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft (this title doubles up as the challenge in which to read a book with a purple cover)

Read a thriller
Karin Slaughter - I haven't picked a specific title for this, however I have been wanting to read Karin Slaughter for a while, and will see what titles of hers the library carries

Read a book with a spooky word in the title
Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories (edited) by Audrey Niffenegger

I love taking part in this readathon, and try to whenever I can, although it has been a while since my last one! I don't have a TBR for this readathon as of right now, and will share closer to the time - I will likely be finishing whatever I have a bookmark in at the time! Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is taking place on the 20th October.

I'm so excited to read these titles, and perhaps feeling a little too ambitious at the same time. Haha! At least if I'm not sharing here on my blog this coming month, you know it's because I'm busy reading ALL THE BOOKS!!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Blog Posts I've Enjoyed Lately (11)

With so much content being shared within the community - bookish and otherwise - it is impossible to keep up with everything (even your favourites sometimes!), so with no fixed regularity I'll be compiling a list of links sharing a number of blog posts I've enjoyed lately.


Tomes with Tea | Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James (this book is at the very top of my wishlist)
Amy Talks Books | Educated by Tara Westover (I hope to read this memoir soon)


Happy perusing!

Monday, 24 September 2018

BookTubers I've Been Loving (Summer)

Earlier this year I shared a post talking about some of the bookish people I watch on YouTube, aiming to highlight some favourites and just generally chat about another platform within the book community. Today I'm back to do much the same, this time sharing about some of the creators I found myself gravitating more towards during the summer months. 

I have been watching Kayla's (or Lala) channel for years, and as far as content creators within the bookish community go, she is pretty well known, however I just had to talk about her channel in this summer post. The creativity, passion, and dedication Kayla puts into her channel is just astounding, seriously! Alongside working a full time job and having a family, she still consistently puts out quality content that is also pretty unique too. Her reading vlogs are some of my favourites, and I love how her whole family gets involved and on board with her videos also. 

If you were to watch just the one recent video... Husband Runs My Bookstagram For A Month (an incredibly long video, but well worth watching, especially for all the laughs you'll have)
Australian BookTuber Ange is for sure a new favourite of mine - whenever I see a video of hers in my subscription, I jump straight in, especially if its a weekly reading vlog (can you tell I love reading vlogs?!?). In terms of bookish material, Ange reads a lot of classic, literary and historical fiction, and I come away from each video with at least one new book recommendation. Ange also hosts monthly readalongs that you can get involved in via her Goodreads group.

If you were to watch just the one recent video... Bookshelf Tour | Part 1 | 2018 (you can tell a lot about a person by their book collection, and I find it to be a great way to find like minded readers via YouTube)
I actually only discovered Katie's channel this year, but am happy to have done so. Katie reads fairly widely, however what I love her content for the most is her enthusiasm, passion and knowledge of classic literature. During the month of July Katie co-hosted Jane Austen July, and whilst I didn't take part myself, I loved following along with her reading updates via vlogs (of course!). Also, coming up very soon, she will be co-hosting (alongside Ange who I mentioned above, and two other BookTubers) Victober: reading Victorian Literature during the month of October. I used to read a fair amount of classic literature, and I would say Katie's videos have reignited my want (& love) of reading classics.

If you were to watch just the one recent video... Classic and Contemporary Pairs Tag (there are a few of these tag videos on YouTube and they are fun to watch)

NOTE | By sheer coincidence, all of these channels start with a B
If you have any BookTube favourites, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Exploring New Genres | Introduction (Blog Hop)

Today I'm taking part in a bookish blog hop, hosted by Charlotte of Wonderfully Bookish. The Exploring New Genres Blog Hop is all about inviting us as readers to do as the title says - explore new genres. Having a reading comfort zone is pretty common, and a lovely place to be enveloped in when picking up your next read, however I am a firm believer in stepping beyond that boundary every now and again, and challenging yourself with books (& genres) that you perhaps otherwise wouldn't.

High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy

When I decided to take part in this blog hop, I knew straight away which genre I would pick: fantasy. However, I'm stepping further into this genre by picking a subgenre within the realms of fantasy fiction - high fantasy. Bearing in mind that I'm no fantasy expert, I believe high fantasy to be a book (or series) that is set in a world entirely different to our own, with magical elements and characters being on a quest or journey of some kind. Upon looking into high fantasy a bit more, I have learnt that some readers of the fantasy genre would say high fantasy and epic fantasy are interchangeable - again, no fantasy expert, so don't quote me on that!

I have read a fantasy book in my lifetime, so this isn't an entirely new to me genre, however I will admit to being intimidated by high fantasy books - especially those with entire new worlds, an abundance of characters to keep track of, chunky in length, and not to mention the fact that these books also tend to be part of a series. 

So, I'm definitely using this blog hop to challenge myself!

I will admit though, the handful of times I have read fantasy fiction novels, I have come away with a pretty positive reading experience. This is why I'm taking part in this blog hop, and challenging myself, because I want to read more fantasy books, and I do want to complete some series.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (Book 1 of the Mistborn series)

There are a number of amazing fantasy writers out there, with Brandon Sanderson being one I hear a lot of praise surrounding. Brandon Sanderson has quite the backlist of books, which is pretty intimidating in itself! He has an entire universe in which a number of his books are set. Something else Brandon Sanderson has is a super helpful author website, with some great information for someone like me - although I am only just starting out with his writing, I do predict that this won't be my one and only Brandon Sanderson reading experience. 

After much research, I ultimately decided on a series within that universe I told you about - Cosmere (note: not all of his books are set within said universe) - and am starting my Brandon Sanderson journey with the Mistborn series. Of all his titles, I felt the most intrigued by this one, and drawn to the synopsis.

Synopsis in short: 
In a world where ash falls from the sky, and the mist dominates the night, and evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with colour once more?

Synopsis in long:

For a thousand years, the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years, the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Every attempted revolt has failed miserably. 

A new kind of uprising is being planned, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the courage of an unlikely heroine, a Skaa street urchin, who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a mistborn. 

I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into this book (& series as a whole), and am excited to see how Brandon Sanderson builds this world. I will be following up this introduction post once I have completed The Final Empire, with some thoughts on my experience as a whole, and sharing about where I plan to go from here in terms of reading fantasy fiction. 

With this being a blog hop, there are some other lovely bloggers taking part also, with links to their blogs below.

We all have different genres that we hope to try, so be sure to check them out and share any book recommendations you may have. Also, I'm all ears for any more fantasy recommendations - some standalones would be nice. 

Monday, 17 September 2018

September Mini Reviews | Everything I Never Told You, Only Child + More



- source: my bookshelf -
Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfil the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balance act that has been keeping the Lee family is being destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. 

The book opens up with us learning of a death in the Lee family - middle daughter, and arguably favourite child, Lydia. Everything I Never Told You, initially and on a surface level, gave me mystery/thriller vibes, however it is so very little that and so much more a deep scope and portrait of the individual members of the Lee family, both in the run up, and aftermath, of Lydia's death. Celeste Ng writes family dynamics & the complexities of familial relations in the most amazing way, whilst also delicately, and candidly, tackling prejudices of the time in which the book is set. Everything I Never Told You is the perfect title for the book, and it makes for a  poignant and thought provoking read. 

- source: for review -
The Joy of Forest Bathing is a beginner's guide to forest bathing - or Shinrin-yoku, in Japan - the meditative practice of connecting with nature and disconnecting from the distractions of daily life. 

Reduce your stress and anxiety levels as you enter a nature filled journey. Forest bathe through the seasons while also learning how to deal with difficult situations. Get enthralled in the landscapes around you as you discover the health benefits of reconnecting with the wild.

This helpful guide is useful for all ages and stages of life and will help you incorporate the wonderous world of nature into your everyday life. The Joy of Forest Bathing is both an invitation to take up the practice of forest bathing and inspiration to heal both the planet and humanity. 

As someone who finds a lot of peace, calm and tranquillity in the outdoors, I was really keen to learn more about the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-yoku, which is more commonly known as forest bathing in western countries. The Joy of Forest Bathing is an insightful read; not only did the author teach us a little about the history of forest bathing, and about its many benefits, but also her own experiences as a trained forest bathing teacher. I really liked the little anecdotes and quotes that she shared throughout, as well as safety measures, and how you can forest bath throughout all four seasons. If you're someone who believes, or has an interest, in the healing benefits of nature and the great outdoors, then this book is for you.

- source: for review -
When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she's sure there's been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird's next custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanours, the nest comes tumbling down. 

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona's children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram's not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

I found myself coming away from Our House quite conflicted; on the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of this book (some good twists and an amazing ending!!), but on the other hand, it just felt so long! At times I felt like I was slogging through the book, which isn't something I've experienced in a mystery thriller that I am in fact enjoying. Our House is over 400 pages long, and I just don't think the length of it is necessary. I understand why it is so long, especially with the story telling method of pre & post crime as well as the dual perspective, however I guess I just wanted to be enthralled in a page turning thriller and that isn't what I got from Our House.

- source: library borrow -
Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach's mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter's parents, holding them responsible for their son's actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of book and art. Armed with a newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hour.

Only Child is heavy, heart breaking, beautiful and left me feeling all the emotions. I'm not a crier when it comes to books, but this reduced me to tears. The story as a whole is powerful & poignant, with such a tenderness also. As I mentioned, Only Child is a heavy read, with child narrator Zach sharing the aftermath of a school shooting in which he was present, and his family has been left truly devastated by. We watch on as Zach and his family fall apart, but also as they drawn back together again as a family unit. There is a scene within this book that really sticks with me: when Zach, this little six year old boy, is attempting to understand and process all the many emotions he is feeling at the one time, and they way in which he does this is by painting; assigning each emotion to a colour - painting each colour on an individual sheet as it is easier to process the feelings one at a time as opposed to all mixed up. It is just so pure and yet heart breaking. Blown away by this book and the fact that it is a debut novel; Only Child is my favourite book of the year!

Friday, 14 September 2018

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

- Source: my bookshelf -

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralysed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like death, a loss of true love, a divorce - his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn't moved on. Karina is paralysed by the excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralysed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard's muscles, voice and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it's too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

In Every Note Played, Lisa Genova's newest novel, we are taken into the complicated relationship of divorced Richard & Karina, meeting them at a fragile time, but also an incredibly devastating one: Richard has recently been diagnosed with ALS (or motor neurone disease, as we refer to it here in the UK). Being a pianist by profession, losing the use of his arms and hands is heart breaking for Richard, and as he struggles to comes to terms with this, the disease is progressing all the while. There comes a time where Richard has to face the facts and acknowledge that he needs help - more then the hospital and his home aides provide - and ends up moving back into the home he once shared with Karina, and their now college age daughter, Grace.
What I found interesting in this book is how little conversation and dialogue there is, with a lot of introspection and thought, from both main characters of Richard and Karina. A lot of the narrative follows the things that play on their mind, those unspoken words, what ifs, and more. Not only did I find this interesting to read, but I feel like it made the story all the more genuine - the kind of thing that can occur when a debilitating illness takes hold of a loved one.
The way in which Richard was written as a character was really well done. Although I found him to be an unlikeable man (for many reasons), I connected with him also - sympathising with him & supporting him every step of the way. As a reader, seeing Richard weaken as the story continues is difficult to read at times, especially as Lisa Genova details his care in great length with some very candid moments included.
As with Lisa Genova's other novels, this book is one that hits your emotions - and hard. The way in which she writes is so frank, honest and open; educating at the same time. I think it is amazing the way in which Lisa Genova uses her voice and writing to tell fictional stories that highlight very real, and often hard to confront, diseases.
Whilst this wasn't my favourite Lisa Genova title (Still Alice is likely to hold that place forever), it is a book I am glad to have read and one I would recommend to others.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll

- Source: my bookshelf -

It's November, 1922. In a valley in Egypt the tomb of a long dead pharaoh is about to be discovered. The world watches and waits for news with baited breath. Thirteen-year-old Lillian Kaye is eagerly following the story. One morning the news takes a sinister turn: a man - a famous Egyptologist - disappears. All that remains of him are his feet. Then Lil's grandfather is taken suddenly ill, and when a mysterious package turns up from the Egyptologist, Lil starts to believe there is truth to the rumours of a pharaoh's curse.

As I've expressed time and time again here on Reading with Jade, Emma Carroll is my favourite middle grade author, and an auto buy author of mine also. Given this, I went into her newest MG novel with hope and some expectations I suppose, and as usual, Emma Carroll did not disappoint.
Emma Carroll writes historical fiction with a middle grade audience in mind, however her books are suitable for readers of all ages. In terms of time period and book setting, Emma Carroll varies the background of her stories, with Secrets of a Sun King largely taking place in Egypt during the early 1920's. The way in which Emma Carroll writes her novels - based off of factual events & time frames, whilst placing a fictional adventure at the heart of her story - is great as not only does it raise curiosity in her readers, but also makes history and real life events a whole lot more accessible for younger readers.
Starting out in London, we meet Lil, a girl who is soon to be going on an adventure of a lifetime, returning a very precious package to Egypt in the midst of the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb. Along the way she meets some new friends, learns a few life lessons, and highlights the lengths we'd go to for our family & loved ones.
The focal characters within this book, namely the three children - Lil, Tulip, and Oz - are well written with individual personalities and backgrounds that are well covered in a book that is a little under 300 pages long.
Speaking of page count, one of the things I really enjoy within Emma Carroll's books is how she packs so much into her books. From plot development, to character building, and an ensuing adventure, there is never a dull moment and yet it all works together perfectly well.
There are a couple of themes that run throughout Secrets of a Sun King, with friendship being one of the central ones. I really love this focus, especially in an MG read, and the way the theme is pulled in both Lil's time frame, as well as that of Tutankhamen's youth, is cleverly done.
All in all, another fantastic middle grade adventure from Emma Carroll.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

- Source: my bookshelf - 

When tragedy changes her life irrevocably, nine-year-old Alice Hart goes to live with the grandmother she never knew existed, on a native flower farm that gives refuge to women, who, like Alice, are lost or broken. In the Victorian tradition, every flower has a meaning and, as she settles into her new life, Alice uses this language of flowers to say things that are too hard to speak.

As she grows older, though, family secrecy, a devastating betrayal and a man who's not all he seems combine to make Alice realise there are some stories that flowers alone cannot tell. If she is to have the freedom she craves, she must find the courage to possess the most powerful story she knows: her own.

Opening up The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, we meet Alice, a young girl who lives in the middle of nowhere alongside her parents - including an abusive and controlling father. We are given little snippets of Alice's life up to this point, all of which are just heart breaking. Soon thereafter, Alice encounters a devastating loss in her family, and is sent to live with her paternal grandmother, June, who owns and lives at Thornfield, a flower farm. From here Alice's story really starts to evolve, and as a reader, we follow her into adulthood.
I really enjoyed Alice as a main protagonist, watching as she grew - noting the path in life that she followed, and seeing how this shaped her as a person. Some of her life choices weren't the greatest, and as I rooted for her, I realised that this only heightened the authenticity of her as a character; being flawed, as we all are.
There are many themes present within this book, including grief, love, self discovery, redemption and family secrets.
Set in Australia, I really enjoyed the natural elements and landscapes that were the backdrop of this book. The details regarding the flowers were just amazing - the book itself is visually stunning, and the language of flowers gave an extra special element to the storytelling of Alice Hart and her family.
As a reader, and book reviewer, this is one of those books that I struggle to put into words... There was a feeling as I was enveloped in this book, and Alice's story, that I just can't articulate properly. What I can say though, is that I came away from this reading experience with a new addition to my 'favourite books of all time' pile.
Holly Ringland has taken this harsh snapshot of life, and created a beautiful story from it. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart isn't an easy read (in terms of plot), but it is a gripping read and one I would recommend to fans of contemporary fiction with a focus on family.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

- Source: my bookshelf -
1919. Henry has moved to the countryside with her parents and her baby sister, Piglet - all still scarred by the death of her brother. Alone in her head, she begins to explore her surroundings, encouraged by her only friends - characters from her favourite books. Nobody much notices when she wanders into the woods at the bottom of the garden and meets Moth, a striking witch-like woman. Together they form a bond that could help Henry save her family.

This is a truly beautiful book - both inside & out... The kind of book you read at a savouring pace, not wanting it to end, and it ultimately staying with you for quite some time after.
The Secret of Nightingale Wood explores many themes, and for a middle grade book, many of which are darker in nature - the fallout of war, bereavement, mental health, people abusing their power, loneliness and more. Despite these darker themes, there is also a lightness to the writing, with everything coming together wonderfully in the end. The story feels quite gothic at times, and is one that both breaks and warms your heart.
Main protagonist Henrietta (more commonly known as Henry) is the kind of lead I love seeing in middle grade books - a brave female who is tenacious and determined yet vulnerable, holding strong not only for herself but her loved ones also. Henry is one of those characters that I know will stick with me; looking back upon my reading experience with nothing but fondness.
Something I really enjoyed and appreciated within The Secret of Nightingale Wood is how bookish the story is - with classic children's literature weaved into the tale with ease, and so perfectly well placed too.
The Secret of Nightingale Wood is a debut novel, and this alone blows my mind. Not only is the plot so well crafted, dealing with dark issues so delicately, but Lucy Strange's writing style is just beautiful and evocative - totally capturing a reader and holding you long after the final page.
If you're looking for an emotive middle grade read, then The Secret of Nightingale Wood is for you.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Together by Julie Cohen

- Source: my bookshelf -

This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.

On a morning that seems like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually does. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie's actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret - one they will do absolutely anything to protect.

The first time I saw Together in a bookshop, I was immediately drawn to the cover, and whilst the blurb intrigued me.. I was hesitant. Often times, when a romance or love story is the focus of a book, I tend to steer clear (unless I am familiar with the author, or have heard great things by those who have similar reading tastes). Now, having said this, some of my all time favourite books have a love story front and centre...I know, contradictory. Here's my thing... I adore love stories that are a bit different and unusual.

Having ultimately left Together behind in the bookshop, the next time I purchased books online, I came across it once again and took a chance... Happily so! Having now read Together, it is to be added to that list of love stories that I do in fact adore.
Opening up the book, we meet Robbie, as an elderly man, who is about to take his own life. Naturally this raises a lot of questions, and from this point onwards, the story is told backwards and we come to learn all about the secret that hangs over this couple of Robbie & Emily. 
The unknown and piecing together of Robbie & Emily's story definitely made this book a page turner for me - I read Together in just one day. Not only was I gripped to the mystery, but I was truly invested in Robbie & Emily as a couple. The connection and investment you feel for these two characters definitely impacts on you whilst reading, especially as the book concludes. Together is the kind of book that leaves you unsure of your thoughts and emotions at the end... Not quite sure how you should be feeling as a reader.
This was my first reading experience of a Julie Cohen's writing, and I can honestly say it couldn't have gone any better! Not only is the plot so well done, but the writing itself is really rich and detailed, with a great observational element. The opening scenes of Robbie going about his morning routine is a great example of this. There is also a delicate nature to Julie Cohen's story telling within Together; it feels precious and fragile, and in many ways, this writing style aligns with the unfolding love story.
I realise my thoughts here are pretty vague, and that's simply because the less you know about this book going in, the better.
For me, Together proved to be a hidden gem of a read - I'd heard nothing of the book until seeing it in the bookshop, and having come away absolutely loving it, I just want to shout about it some and recommend it to others.
Together is a powerful and thought provoking story that truly has a lot of heart.

Friday, 7 September 2018


I've spent the first half of this week here on Reading with Jade sharing all about my reading throughout the summer, so to conclude the week I thought I'd talk a little about some of the bookish things enjoyed by Alexander over the summer months.

Something I was keen to do this summer holidays with Alexander was take part in the library summer reading challenge again; this was Alexander's third year. The library challenge - which runs throughout the whole of the UK - sets the goal of reading six books during the school holidays (which are usually six weeks long). There is a theme each year, with a fun way in which to chart your progress as well as little knick knacks being given as rewards for each book read (think small, like a bookmark or colour sheet set to the theme). Upon completion of the six books, a certificate and medal is rewarded to the child. 

Alexander is such a little bookworm currently, and we could have easily whizzed through the titles, but the way in which we completed it was by picking his favourite book from each week and counting that as one book - however our library visits were fortnightly, as we now live a fair distance from the library.

I hope taking part in the summer reading challenge will be a tradition that stays in our household throughout Alexander's childhood. 

(Also, there should totally be an adult reading challenge - just saying!)

We've been continuing the small transition from picture books to more shorter chapter books, which we started doing in early spring. This summer Alexander showed an interest in the collection of Roald Dahl books I have on my own shelves - I think largely because of their bright & beautiful colours - and asked to read the BFG. We started The BFG around mid summer, and he has been really enjoying it. We haven't yet finished it, as I let him lead his reading as opposed to telling him what we can/should read, with our bookmark still sitting half way through it. He did also express an interest in another Dahl title, which is much shorter and that we sat and read through in the one sitting: The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me. Giraffes are Alexander's favourite animal, and he loves books about animals, so I'm not surprised he wanted to read this book.

Although slowly graduating from picture books, we are of course still very much enjoying them, with a good few new to us discoveries this summer - Alexander has even proclaimed of one of them being a new favourite book!

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson
Rabbit arrives home one day to hear a loud voice coming from inside his burrow: 'I'm the Giant Jumperee and I'm scary as can be!' shouts the stranger. Rabbit's friends Cat, Bear, and Elephant come to help but they're no match for the mysterious, booming voice. But who is the Giant Jumperee?

We were recommended this picture book by a fellow blogger (Christine), and finally tracked down a copy within our library system. Alexander has experienced many Julia Donaldson books - from his shelves, library borrows and nursery reads - and this title was as well received as all the others; Alexander thought it was a funny read also. Thanks for the recommendation, Christine.

The Shark in the Dark by Pete Bently
The shark in the dark is big, mean and greedy and he enjoys tormenting all the little fishes in the depths of the ocean. Until one day, a squid comes up with a cunning plan to unite the fish and teach the shark a lesson he'll remember forever.

The rhyming and flow of this story really captivates Alexander; he loves animals, ocean life etc, so the characters are interesting to him also. The Shark in the Dark is Alexander's new favourite book. 

From a magical wish-granting cloak to a hammock rocked by jungle animal friends, there's nothing that a patch of night time sky can't become with a bit of imagination, and certainly no need to be afraid of the dark.

A Patch of Black is a beautiful bedtime story that will sooth a little one to sleep. The illustrations are just stunning, as is the story itself. Alexander has wanted to read this book more times than I can recount - day or night!
It has been a great summer of reading.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Summer Reading Highlights

I recently wrote about my summer of reading, having shared a list of all the books I read during the three months of summer. Other than the titles, there wasn't much context, so in this post I'm sharing some of the highlights from my summer of reading and just more in depth details really.

The main bookish event that I took part in over the summer months was 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy of 746 Books. Taking part in this reading challenge definitely gave me the push to carve out reading time during the summer holidays with my son off school. If I hadn't signed up to this, I definitely don't think I would have read 30 books in three months!

I also took part - via Twitter - in two smaller events: August Cosy Reading, hosted by Lauren from Lauren and the Books, as well as the Big Book Weekender which Simon from Savidge Reads hosts on the long bank holiday weekends here in the UK. During the summer I took a social media break, and slowly returned towards the end of August; these two events were a great way to integrate myself back in the bookish community. 

I read books by a number of new to me authors these past three months, with the following being authors I'd like to return to in the future: C.G. Drews, Julie Cohen, Lucy Strange, Holly Ringland, and Celeste Ng (I actually already have my next book of hers ready and waiting).

Catching up and delving into the writing of authors you know and love is always joy, and I found myself doing that with a number of favourites this summer; the most mentionable of all being Kate Morton. Prior to my summer reading, I'd read two of Kate Morton's novels, and found myself keen to explore more of her backlist. Well, I read three more Kate Morton titles during the summer, bringing myself bang up to date now ready to read her newest release (although I am holding out on paperback, so will be waiting a little while longer).

In terms of my favourite Kate Morton novels, The Forgotten Garden holds that place... Very, very closely followed by The Secret Keeper. Both of these books I read this summer.

As well as reading books by authors I love, I also returned to some authors by way of reading the next book in a series.

I picked up the second book in the Aaron Falk series by Jane Harper, an author whose writing I have come to love, and am already eagerly anticipating her next release - although it looks to be a standalone, as opposed to another in the Falk series.

I also continued, and completed, a middle grade series that I started not too long before summer began - the Adventure series by Enid Blyton. I had a blast reading these fun mystery middle grade adventures, and the summer months were the perfect time to get stuck into the series as a whole.

48 pages - The Skeleton's Holiday by Leonora Carrington.

670 pages - The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.

Being under 50 pages, I flew through The Skeleton's Holiday. I also read A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. DrewsTogether by Julie Cohen in just a day each. Two novels that entirely capture you and your emotions; I'd highly recommend both.

The book that took me the longest to read was a non fiction title, as I dipped in and out of it: One Woman Walks Wales by Ursula Martin. The way in which the book is formatted is in walking routes, so I'd read one and put it down for a few days, before returning to Ursula's walking & writing. I found One Woman Walks Wales to be an inspiring book, and one I'm glad to have read.

Coincidentally, three of my most anticipated books of the year all came out during the summer months: Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll (middle grade), A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews (young adult), and Every Note Played by Lisa Genova (adult). Read, enjoyed, and would recommend all three.

For me, a hidden gem of a read is one I go in to knowing next to nothing, and come away with one of my favourite reading experiences of all time... I had two such experiences during the summer.

The first was when I devoured Together in literally a day - I could not put this book down! The second was whilst reading The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland; this was more of a slow, savouring read. I am aiming to have reviews of both these titles up next week.

Honestly, this summer has probably been my best season of reading - ever! Not only did I read a great number of titles, but of such great quality also. Picking favourites is hard! So I'm just going to go with the four stories that are still with me, even long after completing: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland, Together by Julie Cohen, and The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange. These books all hold really powerful stories, and the kind of characters you look back on with fondness.
So that concludes my summer reading highlights. I'd love to hear about your favourite book(s) that you read this summer, so be sure to let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 3 September 2018

WHAT I READ | Summer (20 Books of Summer - Update)

Writing a blog post after being away for nearly two months definitely feels weird... I feel rusty, but so ready to get back to blogging! 

If you don't follow me on Twitter, then you won't have known that I stepped back from social media during the summer months. I tend to produce less content during the summer anyway, but this year I was especially keen to have a break and no 'distractions' during the summer holidays as it was the last before my son started full time school. I wanted to be present, soak up those days, and give myself time to embrace the life change that is coming for us. We've had a great summer, and I do believe that the social media break played a large role in that.

Something else I think it played a large role in is my reading... I've had the best summer of reading ever; not only in the quantity of books read, but the quality also. So as we're here to talk about books, I'll jump right in to what I read this summer. I decided to stack the books I read against the side of my wardrobe, as I was just intrigued to see how high the pile would grow; I took a photo at the end of every month documenting what I read within each month.

All titles linked to Goodreads


Back in June I shared that I'd signed up to take part in the 20 Books of Summer challenge (hosted by Cathy at 746 Books) and as you can see, by way of book count I did succeed in that challenge (diverting from my original list in a number of instances). I haven't reviewed all the books read, however I did share a couple before my break, and am intending to review a handful of titles next week also. In the coming days I'll also be sharing a little more about my summer reading, including my highlights from this season of reading.

I hope you've all had a great summer - reading & otherwise!
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