Thursday, 16 May 2019

Reading Record | Middle Grade May (Week 2)

My reading record posts are a way for me to document all things bookish and reading in my life - typically you will see these posts on a monthly basis, however readathons and certain books will have their own specific reading record.

Last week I shared the first of many 'Reading Record' posts to come over the month of May, and talked a little about my self imposed challenge to read only middle grade throughout the month - this is week two.

Starting the week with another Enid Blyton mystery by reading the first half (ish) of The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage, which is book number 12 in the The Find-Outers series.

Not too much reading done today; a couple more chapters in the Tally-Ho mystery.

No reading completed today.

I finished reading The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage today. I'm just loving this series as a whole, and can imagine I would have been obsessed with it had I read them as a child.

This evening I started reading Everdark by Abi Elphinstone. Everdark is a short story, written & released for World Book Day back in March, and is an introduction to a new world (& series) that will be released very soon (end of May here in the UK). 

My first experience with Abi Elphinstone's writing was in a short story collection of winter tales, in which I admired the creativity and immersive nature of her writing. Last year I picked up Sky Song, and truly feel in love with her writing style.

Having read the first 5 chapters of Everdark yesterday, today I finished the rest of the book. I know I've already mentioned my love for her writing above, but honestly, I just love the adventures she shares and the characters she crafts. 

Abi Elphinstone champions the 'unlikely' person, and showcases that we all have our own strengths and quirks, with those being what make us unique.  I love this message, but particularly so in a MG book.

Ended the day with 10 chapters finished in the next book from the The Find-Outers series.

I finished reading The Mystery of the Missing Man by Enid Blyton. Another good read within the series, meaning I now only have 2 more mysteries to follow along with before I finish the collection.


Happy reading!

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Reading Record | Middle Grade May (Week 1)

My reading record posts are a way for me to document all things bookish and reading in my life - typically you will see these posts on a monthly basis, however readathons and certain books will have their own specific reading record.

This reading record is the first of many to come over the month of May, in which I'm challenging myself to read solely from my middle grade shelf. I love reading middle grade books, that's no secret here on Reading with Jade, and so I'm looking forward to the month ahead. 

Today I read the first short story within Emma Carroll's newest release: When We Were Warriors. You know when you pick up a favourite author you haven't read in a while, and fall in love with their writing all over again - that's how I felt with this. 

Throughout May, I'm also planning on finishing The Find-Outers series by Enid Blyton. I have been slowly working my way through this middle grade mystery series since last year, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I read the first three chapters of book number 11 before bed.

At just under 120 pages, I read Race to the Frozen North by Catherine Johnson in just one sitting. The book is memoir like in telling, sharing the inspirational story of explorer Matthew Henson. Often times with MG books, when I reflect on keeping it in my collection I consider whether keeping it to share with my son one day, and Race to the Frozen North is definitely being kept for such a purpose.

I started Frostfire by Jamie Smith today, reading the first few chapters before bed. This feels like a book that is more suited to the older end of the middle grade age range, given the scenes that have occurred in the early stages alone - what I would think of as quite violent.

Today I finished reading When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll. I really enjoyed this collection of three short stories, and returning to her writing overall.

A couple of the stories included characters we've seen in previous full length books by the author, and all three of them had a common thread linking them together - I thought this was a nice touch.

Emma Carroll writes historical fiction for a middle grade audience, with this collection focusing on WW2. I think When We Were Warriors would make a great starting point to Emma Carroll's writing.

No reading.

I didn't read too much today; another 20 pages read in the Find-Outers mystery. I'm hoping for a good amount of reading tomorrow, completing this book at least.

Ending the week on three books complete; I finished the last 170 pages (give or take a few) of The Mystery of Holly Lane (book 11 in the Find-Outers series).


Happy reading!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Recently Read Nonfiction Reviews | The Happiest Kids in the World + The Enchanted Hour



- source: library borrow - 
Following on from a 2013 study in which Dutch children proved to be the happiest in the world, writers Rina & Michele decided to take a look at exactly why that is. Both authors of this book married Dutch men, and moved to The Netherlands - Rina from the US & Michele from the UK - and are now themselves raising families the Dutch way.

Through the thirteen chapters in this book, we're enlightened on various topics and the in way in which Dutch parents approach them, in contrast to how Americans or the British do. Subjects touched upon include the birth of a child and those first few months as parents, the school system used in The Netherlands, work-life balance as parents, letting go and the freedom given to children as they get older, the simple fundamentals of being a family, how sex education is taught, and much more.

As you can see, The Happiest Kids in the World encompasses quite a lot really, and I think having the perspective of not one, but two authors, really gave the book an extra depth. As well as their own experience, the book includes snippets from friends & family of both Rina & Michele, meaning you were able to learn & understand how the Dutch parent their children from various age points also.

I'm always interested in learning about different parenting methods, especially with regards to different cultures, and whilst I may not agree with all that the Dutch do, I definitely think there are some elements of their parenting that lead to such well balanced children - family meals, a good balance with work & home life, large amounts of time spent outdoors, less pressure with schooling etc.

I found value in this book, but I would also say it was written from a place of praise - with everything the Dutch do being amazing & positive, and the American & Brits not so much; through rose tinted glasses almost. Nonetheless, The Happiest Kids in the World proved to be a good base point for learning more about the Dutch method of parenting, and definitely made for fascinating reading.

- source: for review -
I was gifted my copy of The Enchanted Hour for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review -
Going into The Enchanted Hour, I anticipated the book to be all about the benefits of reading aloud to children, and perhaps a couple of snippets of bookish joys the author has experienced with her own children - and whilst both of those things can be found within The Enchanted Hour, it is also so much more than that. The writer of this book, Meghan Cox Gurdon, talks about the history of reading aloud, helps the reader to understand the developmental importance of reading aloud, highlights case studies & personal experiences of reading aloud and also promotes the importance of coming together as a family gathered round a good book - reading aloud isn't just for the young, a misconception held by many.

As I've expressed many times here on my blog, reading with my son is one of my absolute favourite things to do as a parent, so even though books hold a dear place in our household, I feel like The Enchanted Hour opened my eyes a little. I bookmarked a lot throughout my reading experience of this nonfiction title, these marked pages including insightful facts as well as wonderful quotes.

Something I found particularly interesting in The Enchanted Hour is the way in which the author talks about books - you can feel her passion and enthusiasm for the magic of books & reading, and I love how that came across in the writing. Although a nonfiction title, at times I found myself wrapped up in a cocoon whilst reading this, something I often only find in fiction reads; Meghan Box Gurdon has perfectly captured the beauty of oral storytelling in The Enchanted Hour.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

February Fiction Reviews | A Spark of Light + The Dream Daughter



- source: library borrow -
In his line of work as police officer and hostage negotiator, Hugh is trained in attending calls that require his skills in listening, understanding, and of course negotiating, however, the situation at The Center is a little different. The Center is a women's health clinic in the state of Mississippi where abortions are performed, and on this particular day that Hugh is called to the scene to negotiate, he is soon to learn that his daughter is inside the clinic with the other hostages, and of course, the gunman.

As well as the narrative of Hugh, A Spark of Light sees the story unfold through the eyes of gunman, George, and also the hostages inside the Center - they all have their own personal story to tell. Interwoven between the scenes at The Center is the story of Beth, a seventeen year old who finds herself under arrest after taking pills acquired online in order to perform an abortion at home. The stories that run alongside each other are linked, quite obviously so in my opinion, and yet they are wrote as if they are not - a mystery even - with all being revealed at the end.

There is a lot going on in A Spark of Light, with a lot of characters to keep track of also. Although all the characters had their own individuality, with the kind of detailed backstory you'll often find in Picoult's books, I found that I wasn't able to fully invest in them all given the writing style. Chronicled by time, the story is told backwards - starting at 5pm and concluding at 8am, with an epilogue wrapping everything up in the end. I wasn't really a fan of this story telling method, but also I found it to be quite jarring; each time frame is split up into many sections, with different character perspectives, that were too short for me to be fully pulled into their own story. I enjoyed certain characters - Hugh, Olive, Louie - however, I feel like when an author has gone to the length of creating these layered backstories for every single character, giving them place & purpose, I want to be able to enjoy them all. Not necessarily like and connect with all the individuals, but appreciate their presence - I feel like I wasn't able to in this book.

I think the focus of A Spark of Light - abortion in the US - to be a very prevalent and topical one; being the kind of book that opens up discussion and conversation. Also, as a UK reader, I found the topic to be quite eye opening one, what with the laws & views surrounding abortion being quite different to those here. I was genuinely interested in learning more about this subject - as well as reading the 'Author's Notes' to garner more information, I have independently researched to further my knowledge on this matter. I feel like this is the reason why Picoult has written this book: to get people talking & thinking.

Given the focus of abortion in this book, it is worth noting that as well as sharing facts, views, and opinions on what is quite a sensitive topic, there is a scene of an abortion being performed on a patient that is walked through step by step almost. I know some readers would perhaps find this uncomfortable to read, understandably, so I wanted to point that out.

Jodi Picoult is quite well known for honing in on current, and often times controversial subjects, with a careful and unbiased brush... I do think her own personal views were loudest in this book (stating in the 'Author Notes' that she is pro-choice), but that the subject matter of abortion was written in a thoughtful & tactful way.

Usually, in a book by Jodi Picoult, I find myself engaged in the story because of the characters - Picoult's writing style lends to very character driven books - however that wasn't the case for me with A Spark of Light. Whilst her familiar writing style is very much present, I found I was pulled more by the plot than the characters themselves - I wanted to know how the story ended because I was intrigued and committed, not because I cared for the characters as such.

I found I came away from A Spark of Light quite unsure, especially with regards to articulating my thoughts into a review... There were parts I liked about this book, and parts I didn't. I feel like I could sit and discuss A Spark of Light with fellow readers for a long time - it is that kind of book - however I maintain a spoiler free blog, which makes that tricky!

To sum up, for premise alone, I would recommend A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult.

- source: library borrow (but I want my own copy) - 
Having recently lost her husband in the Vietnam War, Carly finds herself with more grief when she learns that the baby she is carrying - all that she has left of her husband Joe - has a heart problem, a complication that could mean her unborn baby will survive for a very small amount of time once born, if at all. With the prognosis bleak, Carly's brother-in-law Hunter shares a long held secret of his own, one that could very well ruin all that he holds dear, but also one that could save the life of Carly & Joe's baby. Hunter gives Carly a glimmer of hope, and after some scepticism, she grabs at it whole heartedly.

Told from the perspective of Carly & Hunter, The Dream Daughter is a book that invites you in immediately, with a warm welcome that wholly envelopes you in the story. From the very first page I found myself invested in the complex, and emotionally charged, journey that Carly finds herself on.

I have previously read a few other books by Diane Chamberlain, and have always admired the way in which she writes family relationships - with heart & depth; the good and the bad. This writing style is very much present in The Dream Daughter, taking a deep dive at the unconditional love a parent has for a child, but with this particular book there is an added theme that I personally haven't seen her write before, but that works incredibly well woven into Carly's story. Although this theme is a large part of the plot, it isn't mentioned in the blurb, and so for that reason I'm not going to specifically state it here in my review. I will say it is something I love seeing in fiction, written in this way, and Diane Chamberlain has executed the use of it perfectly - allowing a level of understanding and simplicity for readers, with a topic that could be hard to wrap your head around.

There are many thoughts I'd love to share about The Dream Daughter, but without alluding to the theme I'm choosing not to mention, that makes writing about this book a little difficult.

You know those books that completely consume you - they hold you throughout, totally blow you away, and you want to treasure forever - well, The Dream Daughter is one of those books for me.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

February Fiction Reviews | The Way of All Flesh + An Unwanted Guest



- source: library borrow -
Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson's patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education. 

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh's underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

In this historical fiction novel, Victorian Edinburgh comes to life with a story that focuses on the evolving (& rather experimental) medical field, more specifically that of midwifery. 

The Way of All Flesh begins with us meeting Will Raven as he discovers the death of his friend, Evie, a prostitute living in Old Town; the circumstances surrounding Evie's death are suspicious. Will had recently lent money to a desperate Evie, and we soon learn that the money Will gave Evie was not his own, having borrowed himself from a unsavoury lender. Will, a medical student, is set to be on the up in terms of prospects, and by lending to Evie he hoped he was helping her also... However, he may have indirectly contributed to Evie's death.

With Evie's death hanging over him, Will is apprenticed to Dr Simpson - a man renowned in the midwifery field. Living under the Simpson roof in New Town (a stones throw away, and yet worlds apart, from the poverty he has previously experienced in Old Town), Will is soon the right hand man of Dr Simpson as he is taken on calls of labour with the doctor, attending to patients at clinic, meeting other medical professionals, and continuing to learn within his profession, including the use of chemicals as anaesthetic agents. 

Will is one of the main protagonists within this book, however there is another also - Sarah, the Simpson's housemaid. It is interesting to see the Simpson household from her prospective, as well as Will's, but what I particularly enjoyed in Sarah's narrative was her strength, curiosity, and want for equality. Sarah has a great interest in the field of medicine, but as a female & housemaid, she is often reminded about not getting ideas above her station, and yet she constantly shows drive and determination. 

As the story continues, it becomes clear that there is a doctor in the city undertaking procedures that are dangerous, and illegal, with the lives of many young women being lost... With their own agendas, Will & Sarah soon team up and become a unlikely, and yet dynamic, crime fighting duo.

The crime is central to plot of this book, however I would say the focus was more on the medical side. Personally, I had no issue with this, however I just thought it to be something of note. I found the medical information to be fascinating, especially with regards to the innovation of anaesthetic. Given the setting of The Way of All Flesh, it is also worth noting that some of the medical scenes are quite graphic & gory - labours that don't quite go as expected, as well as surgery performed without any anaesthetic.

After the opening chapters of this book, I felt that there was a macabre depth to the story that would soon unfold, with that feeling indeed being correct. Whilst the plot is unsettling at times, The Way of All Flesh is a wholly engrossing mystery possessing atmospheric surroundings, engaging characters, and interesting medical knowledge of the time period.

- source: library borrow -
A remote lodge in update New York is the perfect getaway... Until the bodies start piling up.

It's winter in the Catskills and the weather outside is frightful. But Mitchell's Inn is so delightful! The cosy lodge nestled deep in the woods is perfect for a relaxing - maybe even romantic - weekend away. The Inn boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a book and someone you love.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity - and all contact with the outside world - the guests settle in for the long haul. The power's down but they've got candles, blankets, and wood - an genuine rustic experience! Soon, though, a body turns up - surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. 

Within the snowed-in paradise, something - or someone - is picking off the guests one by one. They can't leave, and with no cell service, there's no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it's their first time away. For others, it will be their last. And there is nothing they can do about it but huddle down and hope they survive the storm.

When six different parties of guests head to Mitchell's Inn, a secluded lodge in the mountains of upstate New York, for their respective weekend breaks, they didn't plan on finding themselves isolated and without power due to an ice storm. Friday evening, as the weekend begins, many of the guests try to get to know one another and make the most of being snowed in, that is until murder arises...

An Unwanted Guest is told in chapters, using a diary like method of clocking in, observing what is happening at given times throughout the weekend. Through this storytelling method we're able to get to know all the characters, what led them to this winter weekend away, as well the dynamic they have with their direct fellow guest - for example, we know Henry and Beverley, a middle aged couple, are away on a make or break trip, with their marriage on the rocks and tensions high between the pair. Each set of guests have a unique story of their own, and it is interesting to see how the individuals interact within the group of hotel patrons. A lot of the scenes I felt like I was people watching, and I really liked that.

Spanning the course of a weekend, the pacing of the plot within this book was really well done, and I felt invested in the story from pretty early on. I really enjoyed the writing style - a lot of the narrative was quite short & snappy, but yet there still felt like depth to the story and characters. The author wrote in such a way that I found I was frantically page turning at times, and could empathise with the paranoia and uncertainty many of the characters felt.

One thing that knocked my personal rating of An Unwanted Guest was the actual murderer reveal, which is a little disappointed in a sense as when reading a mystery thriller everything is leading up to the ending pretty much. Without giving away too, I will say that everything was plonked in front of you at the end, as opposed to having been put together through clues found throughout the book. The ending is two parts almost, the murderer reveal, and more - the more definitely redeemed my disappointment of whodunnit.

This was my first reading experience of Shari Lapena, and I don't see it being my last.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Reading Record | January

My reading record posts are a way for me to document all things bookish and reading in my life - typically you will see these posts on a monthly basis, however readathons and certain books will have their own specific reading record.

This reading record covers the entire month of January.

- Note: any books marked with an asterisk (*) I have been gifted for free in exchange for an honest review -

Starting the new year with two fresh new reads - I had been planning this; strategically planning my books around starting the new year on a clean reading slate. Both of the titles I'm starting - When All Is Said* (fiction) and Trekking Beyond* (nonfiction) - are review books, but ones I've been super keen to delve into.

Today I have made time for reading at many intervals throughout my day - start as you mean to go on!

I finished reading Trekking Beyond* - a great book to start the new year with; inspiring adventures... Even if not to the far flung destinations featured within.

Today I placed my first book order through Abebooks - a hub for independent & second hand booksellers - and have ordered three books through two different sellers. I'm keen, and slightly anxious, to see them arrive.

Buying second hand books online means you can't actually see the condition of them, unlike in a store, however I have very few resources locally in which to buy second hand books. 

Fingers crossed!

Finished my first fiction title of the year - When All Is Said by Anne Griffin*; a heavy but poignant fiction book to start the year on. A solid start to my year in fiction. 

Round 24 of Bout of Books begins today. I have a whole reading record post of the week long readathon, which you can find here. The short of it... I read 3 books in total during Bout of Books.

The first of my books from Abebooks arrived today - happy with my experience with this seller. Book was described as being in very good condition, which if I'm honest I was a little dubious about, but I would say it was indeed accurate. I paid £3 and some pennies for a used copy Fire Season by Philip Connors (a nonfiction title I want to read this year), when it would have cost me 4 times that amount new. Such a good saving, and I look forward to reading this book in the near future.

Started the week with a trip to the library - I had a reservation to pick up, and also two returns having completed them during Bout of Books. I came away from the library with 3 books in total, even though I went in for the 1, with one of the borrows being Kate Morton's newest release: The Clockmaker's Daughter.

Without a doubt Kate Morton is one of my favourite authors, and her 2018 release of The Clockmaker's Daughter is a book I have been anticipating reading since publication... However, I own all her other books in paperback, and so have been holding out for the release of that in order to purchase my own copy.

I hadn't even thought about borrowing this book from the library, but after stumbling across it whilst browsing, I happily checked it out to bring home with me... No more waiting until April (paperback release in the UK). Of course I jumped straight into the book once home!

I'm going into the new week with the aim of finishing up some books that currently have lingering bookmarks.

I have had a week of quite distracted reading, so I've been picking up things on & off depending on my mood, resulting in no books finished this week. I wouldn't be too fussed about that, however 24in48 is coming up next weekend and I want to go in with a fresh TBR and not multiple other books hanging over me so to speak. I will be more focused this week.

Today I finished reading The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton. Obviously, I not long ago spoke of my delight at finding this title at the library... However it wasn't until the first 150ish pages that I really got into the book (I do think this contributed to me distracted reading week). I will have shared a review of The Clockmaker's Daughter by time I post this, but I will say it wasn't my favourite Kate Morton.

Finished off the nonfiction title I had been reading - The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker*. I'm trying to keep up my nonfiction reading (which I focused on a fair bit last year) by picking up at least one nonfiction book a month, so I'm happy to have completed two this month now.

Also, today I was approved on Netgalley for the newest Michelle Paver book: Wakenhyrst*. Out in early April, this is one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and I'm so happy & thankful to be able to get an eARC!

I pulled together my TBR for 24in48 today - a readathon taking place over the weekend.

Taking part in 24in48 was so much fun - I read four books (one adult fiction & 3 middle grade mysteries) in just under 14 hours, and found a bunch of new to me bloggers to follow also. You can find my 'Reading Record' post for this readathon here.

Ending the month finishing Roar by Cecelia Ahern. I have been working through this collection of short stories all month, and found I really enjoyed it. Highly recommend!


Happy reading!

Friday, 1 February 2019

January Fiction Reviews | The Clockmaker's Daughter + The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley + Roar



- source: library borrow - 
My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead whilst another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artists sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Although I only discovered her books a few years ago now, I would without a doubt say that Kate Morton is a favourite author of mine; I steadily worked through her backlist books, and having adored those, I would say my anticipation to read The Clockmaker's Daughter was quite high... But it didn't quite meet the same level of feelings as her other novels for me. I did enjoy The Clockmaker's Daughter, however I didn't love it like many of her other books.

Kate Morton definitely has a writing stamp - being well known for historical fiction infused with a mystery, with interwoven timelines of past & present. If you look over her other books, you can see underlying themes and styles throughout them, understandably so (I'm not knocking that - I actually like when an author has a writing stamp; going in knowing what you're getting). The stamp can be found in The Clockmaker's Daughter, but she has also switched things up a little.

Initially I found it difficult to get into The Clockmaker's Daughter, however after the first 150(ish) pages (part 1), I soon found myself flying through and enthralled in the unfolding story - which is complex. The Clockmaker's Daughter isn't the kind of book you just fall into, or one I would deem an easy read; you need to remember the characters (of which there are many), follow along closely, and pick up on the little things, in order to fully immerse yourself in the story.

I enjoyed the plot of the book, and the way in which everything was woven together, however some of the characters fell a bit flat, with the narrative of Birdie and the pull of Birchwood Manor being the main hold for me throughout. 

As well as the characters, I wasn't a fan of the ending of this book; I wouldn't say it was done in the style of Kate Morton's other books - everything tidied up neatly in the end. I feel like each story link had an ending, but not the depth they deserved; some of the conclusions left me pondering.

There were definitely positives and negatives for me, but I do believe they balanced themselves out given that overall I would say I had a good reading experience with this book. I'm happy to have read The Clockmaker's Daughter, however it isn't a Kate Morton title I'd recommend for first time readers of her writing.

- source: my bookshelf - 
After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds word as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Both a coming-of-age novel and literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

I love reading books with familial relationships at the centre, and that's what prompted me to pick up The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley - I knew very little about this book going in, having only come across the book when another blogger shared it in their favourites of the year post.

The story follows the relationship of Samuel Hawley and his daughter Loo, who have lived an unsettled life, but have now set up long term upon us meeting them. The two of them are trying to make a place for themselves in the hometown of Loo's mum (& in turn Samuel's wife), who died when she was very young.

Alongside the present day narrative we also have alternating chapters that allow us to learn more about Samuel - how he came to be a man marked with twelve bullet wound scars, the reason why they have lived an unsettled life, and also how he came to be a single father. Without a doubt, Samuel Hawley is a flawed man, and yet as a reader I came to care for him and felt invested in his life. Whilst a man with faults, Samuel's relationship with Loo, was interesting to watch unfold as you could see he struggled (& thrived) at protecting and providing for his daughter; I like that the author explored this kind of family dynamic, as well as touching upon being a product of your environment.

As we look into Samuel's past, we also follow Loo as she makes her journey into teenage years, and has her own set of trials & tribulations. There is growth as a person, self development, love for another, and also unresolved mysteries surrounding her childhood.

The two storylines meet at the end, with Samuel and Loo truly coming together with a little more understanding also. Hannah Tinti concluded the themes in this book well, however the plot itself was kind of open ended. Often times I don't like when a book is left open for interpretation, however I felt it worked well for The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley.

Much has gone into this book, with a mixture of themes explored, and genres colliding, however at the heart of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley you'll find love, acceptance, and belonging.

- source: my bookshelf -
Have you ever imagined a different life?
Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The woman in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who makes us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realises she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

Short story collections always make for interesting read - with some stories liked and others not so much - but hopefully something for everyone found within: I found this to be very much the case with Cecelia Ahern's newest release, Roar.

Within Roar you'll find thirty stories highlighting prevalent matters that women face in day to day life - these are all told in a creative way, with magical realism running throughout, and all of which are handled in a sensitive manner, even when the story itself is humorous in nature. The collection as whole is all about empowering & lifting women - which the stories themselves definitely put across. There are a variety of themes that run through the book, and also diversity in the characters too.

Speaking of characters, each story has a different woman front and centre, however she has no name; being referred to as 'the woman'. I think this was a brave writing tactic as it could go one of two ways - you'd feel connected to the character as you can put yourself in their shoes more easily, or you'd feel disconnected from the character as she hasn't got the depth & substance we'd be used to in a book. Personally, I found the focal woman of a story having no name didn't impact my reading experience in a negative way.

Naturally there were some stories I enjoyed more than others, with a few of my favourites including: The Woman Who Grew Wings, The Woman Who Ate Photographs, The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged Her Husband, The Woman Who Wore Her Heart on Her Sleeve, The Woman Who Guarded Gonads, and The Woman Who Smiled.

Roar is a wonderful collection of cleverly written short stories that you can dip in & out of (I read my copy throughout the month of January), and would make a good introduction to Cecelia Ahern's writing style.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

January Nonfiction Reviews | Trekking Beyond + The Minimalist Home



- source: for review -
I was gifted my copy of Trekking Beyond for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
A stunning photographic journey to the world's most iconic walking destinations.

Discover the epic drama of mountain trails, windswept coastal paths, dense forest walks and the immense canyons, glaciers and ocean vistas only your feet can take you to.

Vivid essays introduce the world's best trekking regions - from the Himalayas to the Andes, the wilds of the Scottish Highlands to the dusty Australian Outback - exploring the challenges of walking these paths, the history of their formation and the sense of exploration and wonder to be found along these distinctive routes. Each route is accompanied by stunning photography, showcasing the variety of terrains and their magnificent vistas.

Whether you're a seasoned & well travelled walker, or just enjoy exploring via an armchair, Trekking Beyond is the book for you. Sure to inspire and evoke wanderlust, this book strikes the balance between description, information, and visuals perfectly. 

In this coffee table travel book we traverse the world on foot, exploring some of the most well trod treks and trails, as well as those that see barely 100 hikers a year. You'll find 40 walks within Trekking Beyond, with them being split up and grouped together based on location. I found the formatting of this really well done, and was impressed with the variety of destinations included. 

I couldn't share my thoughts on Trekking Beyond without mentioning the stunning photography that runs alongside the text; stunning is an understatement to be honest. My reading of this book was done via an e-galley copy, however I will definitely be adding a physical copy of Trekking Beyond to my own book collection; it is one of those books I see myself picking up and poring over time & time again. 

Full of history, knowledge and expert insight, Trekking Beyond is an amazing catalogue of awe inspiring adventures.

- source: for review -
I was gifted my copy of The Minimalist Home for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
One of today's most influential minimalist advocates takes us on a decluttering tour of our own houses and apartments, showing us how to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. He both offers practical guidelines for simplifying our lifestyle at home and addresses underlying issues that contribute to over-accumulation in the first place. The purpose is not just to create a more inviting living space. It's also to turn our life's HQ - our home - into a launching pad for a more fulfilling and productive life in the world.

Going into The Minimalist Home I was already aware of the author - Joshua Becker - and his approach to minimalism, having followed his online content for a good few years now. He was one of the first minimalists I followed, at the beginning of my decluttering journey, and found his approach to be one that resonated with me - especially with regards to minimalism as a family & with children.

In The Minimalist Home we are introduced to a well thought out and methodical process in which to declutter a home - working room by room (side note: many of the spaces included aren't in your average UK home, especially if you live in an older property, as we do), starting with the easiest and working up to the hardest. I think this process of decluttering would be especially great for someone who is reluctant to declutter, or is perhaps overwhelmed by the amount of possessions they actually own. You aren't thrown in at the deep end!

As well as sharing a successful decluttering method, inside The Minimalist Home you'll also find case studies, tips, and inspirational quotes littered throughout that are sure to motivate you regardless of what stage you're at in your minimalist journey. Speaking of the journey that comes with decluttering, Joshua Becker doesn't just advise you on a method in which to declutter and leave you there, he also talks about how you can maintain all that hard work you've put into your house and the decluttering process - this is super helpful.

The Minimalist Home is a great book for those looking for an accessible and achievable approach to minimalism - it isn't about getting rid of all your things, but asking yourself choice questions in order to cultivate a home that reflects and aligns with your own personal beliefs and values.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Reading Record | 24in48

My reading record posts are a way for me to document all things bookish and reading in my life - typically you will see these posts on a monthly basis, however readathons and certain books will have their own specific reading record.

This reading record is for my participation in 24in48 - which took place between Saturday 26th January - Sunday 27th January.

One of my reading goals for this year is to take part in more readathons and bookish events (something I already love doing), and although I already have a few favourites which I enjoy participating in, I knew I want to give some new ones ago also - 24in48 was the event at the top of my 'new to me readathons' list.

Going into 24in48 I knew I wouldn't be able to read for the full 24 hours, however I specifically blocked out 24 from my weekend, so the possibility was there. I split my 24 hours into 6 blocks of 4, with 3 blocks on each day (Saturday & Sunday). I also decided to run my readathon during my own time zone, as opposed to the official time zone - being in the UK, this makes it easier on myself. So I had a plan, a TBR (see opening photo), and book filled weekend on the cards... Here's how it all panned out.

Block One: 6am - 10am
I got stuck in straight away with what I would deem my main read for 24in48: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, and read 134 pages. 

I also started a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie (titled The Listerdale Mystery). I really enjoyed the first, which is the titled story, and then moved onto the second, which felt distinctly familiar to me - and it very quickly transpired that I had read this short story before. I read another short story collection of hers last year, so perhaps it was included in that also.

In total I read for 3 hours and 5 minutes.

Block Two: 12pm - 4pm
I read a further 150 pages in my main book, with my bookmark now sitting on page 286 in The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. 

Again, to break up my reading, I thought I'd dip back in to the Christie short story collection again... I read the third, then moving onto the fourth - well, I'd read that one previously too. Was this the short story collection I read last year, and just did not realise?! Well, nope. I looked in my reading journal, checked Goodreads, and even did a search of the title on my blog, all of which yielded no results of having read this collection prior. The collection I read last year was titled differently. Interesting...

In total I read for 2 hours and 23 minutes.

Block Three: 6pm - 10pm
I actually didn't even make it to the end of this block, heading to bed before the 10pm mark, however I did complete my main read for the event, with all 475 pages of the Samuel Hawley book read. I quite enjoyed this book, and will share my thoughts in a fiction review post very soon.

I ended up DNF'ing the Agatha Christie short story collection. I'm 100% convinced I haven't read this book before, but I've definitely read many of the stories inside - I moved on to story 5 within the book, which was all new to me, but then story 6 was oh so familiar again. Every other story I have read before. I do enjoy Agatha Christie's writing, but I don't want to continue with a book that I've largely read previously, only just last year. A bemusing situation though.

In total I read for 2 hours 7 minutes.

Block One: 6am - 10am
The plan for today is to read my three Enid Blyton mysteries from the Find-Outers series (book 8, 9, 10 in the series) - one book for each block of time. I think that's pretty doable.

In total I read for 2 hours 16 minutes and completed book 8 - The Mystery of the Invisible Thief.

Block Two: 12pm - 4pm
Going strong, with book 9 of the series complete - The Mystery of the Vanished Prince; not my favourite of the series so far, but enjoyed nonetheless.

In total I read for 2 hours 4 minutes.

Block Three: 6pm - 10pm
I actually didn't start reading until gone 7 in this final block of time, but I still achieved my goal of reading all 3 Enid Blyton books today, having finished book 10 - The Mystery of the Strange Bundle.

In total I read for 1 hour 52 minutes. I find it interesting how as I progressed with these three books, although they technically got longer in length (they are all less than 250 pages though), I sped through them quicker. 

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME READ DURING 24IN48: 13 hours and 47 minutes.
With that as a time, and four books read in total, I'm more than happy with that for a weekend of reading!


You can find more information about 24in48 here. The next event takes place July 20th - July 21st.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Reading With My Five Year Old | Winter

Well... It has been a while since I last documented my reading with Alexander - proof of that being that in my last post he was four, and I'm now reading with a five year old!

Seasonally I sit down and share a little about the books Alexander and I have been reading of late... I love documenting my own reading journey here on Reading with Jade, and I think it'll be great to look back on Alexander's and see how his reading preferences change over time also. For some reason, I honestly have no idea why, I skipped sharing an autumn edition of these posts, but I'm back now with some winter reads.

Since I last spoke about Alexander's books, he has begun reading himself. Now in full time school, Alexander has been delving further than ever before in to the world of phonics and reading, using the books I myself learned to read with way back in the day. We are in the early stages of learning to read, but I am absolutely loving watching Alexander read and form words on a page; although a reluctant reader in a sense (he'd rather be read to than read himself), he can indeed read well. This was one of the many milestones I have been looking forward to as a parent, and I just feel such pride at his progression, knowing all that he is unlocking.

As always, we've been enjoying a good number of picture books, with us reading one every night before bed; often times we're reading the same ones time and time again, which hey, I can't complain - I love to reread also! I wanted to share a few that I don't think I've mentioned on here before, and that were definitely loved: Penguins Can't Fly by Katherine SullyLittle Bear and the Wishing Tree by Norbert Landa, and Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival.

For Christmas one of the things we got Alexander was a big bag full of books, including a boxset of Zoe's Rescue Zoo titles. Alexander loves books with animals being a focal feature, and so these have gone down well - we have steadily been working our way through them. As soon as we finish one, Alexander puts his bookmark ready in the next one he wants to read! Meep, Zoe's lemur best friend, is Alexander's favourite character (he says he is adorable), and he loves guessing what the name of each new animal will be.

I am loving seeing Alexander so engaged and enthused with a book series!

Alexander loves nonfiction books, and learning more about the things he has great interest in. There are two things in particular he is most curious, and knowledgeable, about - polar regions and prehistoric animals. Our recent nonfiction reads reflect these interests greatly, with us having taken from & garnered vast amounts of information from: It's all about... Freezing PolesSea Monsters, and Land Roamers.
And so that concludes a snippet of our reading during these winter months. Reading with Alexander is one of my favourite things to do, and I love that I'm able to document that here.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

January Fiction Reviews | When All Is Said + The Smell of Other People's Houses + More


When All Is Said by Anne GriffinThe Lightkeeper's Daughters by Jean Pendziwol |
All The Truth That's In Me by Julie BerryThe Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

- source: for review -
I was gifted my copy of When All Is Said for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
A tale of a single night. The story of a lifetime. 

If you had to pick five people that sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said and done?

This is the story of Maurice Hannigan, who, over the course of a Saturday night in June, orders five different drinks at the Rainford House Hotel. With each he toasts a person vital to him: his doomed older brother, his troubled sister-in-law, his daughter of fifteen minutes, his son far off in America, and his late, lamented wife. And through these people, the ones who left him behind, he tells the story of his own life, with all its regrets and feuds, loves and triumphs. 

Beautifully written, powerfully felt, When All Is Said promises to be the next great Irish novel.

We begin When All Is Said by meeting 84 year old Maurice Hannigan, a man who has lived quite the life and is about to share snippets of it with us readers, sitting at the bar of a local hotel, ready to raise five toasts to five very important people through the course of the evening. 

The premise of this book sounds simple to an extent, and yet I was engaged throughout - wanting to know more about Maurice's life, and those he loved & trusted. Maurice shares stories of his life with regards to the people he toasts, and talks with such honesty and candidness through it all; the good & the bad. I felt like I knew Maurice, as an old friend, and the feelings he conveyed filled me with emotion. The toasts to his brother, Tony, and his wife, Sadie, truly hit me the most. 

Anne Griffin has written a touching and thought provoking read, with you recalling the own moments and memories that have shaped your life, just as Maurice does. They way in which she writes connects you to the story of Maurice, but your own also.

As you get comfortable in Maurice's story, you know how it is going to end, and yet the ending still hurts; once finished, I put this book down with a heavy heart, however Maurice Hannigan is a man well worth meeting.

- source: my bookshelf -
Elizabeth's eyes have failed. She can no longer read the books she loves or see the paintings that move her, but her mind remains sharp and music fills the vacancy left by her blindness. 

When her father's journals are discovered on a shipwrecked boat, she enlists the help of a delinquent teen, Morgan, to read to her. As an unlikely friendship grows between them, Elizabeth is carried back to her childhood home - the lighthouse on Porphyry Island, Lake Superior - and to the memory of her enigmatic twin sister Emily. 

But for Elizabeth, the faded pages of her father's journals reveal more secrets than she anticipates.

Mystery runs deep throughout The Lightkeeper's Daughters, as the lives of Elizabeth and Morgan serendipitously intertwine. Elizabeth is an elderly lady living in a care home, and Morgan a troublesome teen assigned to community service at the care home in which Elizabeth resides. As the two cross paths, an unexpected bond is formed.

The story itself is, for the most part, told in alternating chapters between Elizabeth and Morgan. This storytelling method is an effective way in which to get to know both main characters individually, as well as seeing the relationship between them evolve from both sides. Once you settle into the book and follow the flow, as well as identifying the two distinct voices of Elizabeth and Morgan, The Lightkeeper's Daughters is a truly captivating read.

Elizabeth tasks Morgan with reading her dad's journals from when he worked as a lighthouse keeper, with Elizabeth sensing some long held family secrets may be being stored within. It is through these journals that the two connect, with life long mysteries slowly being revealed. I really enjoyed the pacing of this book, as well as the overall plot, and the way in which the author wrote surroundings and landscape was atmospheric at times.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters is the kind of book where the little you know going in, the better. I will say though, if you're a fan of historical fiction & family sagas, this would be a great pick for you.

For me, this was one of those books you find yourself  buying on a total whim, but I'm happy to have done so as I've discovered a gem of a read.

- source: library borrow -
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from small town Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who's owned her heart as long as she can remember - even if he doesn't know it - her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.

Going into this book, I knew literally nothing about it other than the short blurb on the back, so reading it definitely came with a few surprises - the first being just how much I enjoyed All The Truth That's In Me. The other surprises include the fact that this book is historical fiction, as opposed to contemporary which I had initially thought it was when borrowing from the library.

All The Truth That's In Me is the story of Judith, who not so long ago returned to her hometown after being missing; when she arrives home she is without a portion of her tongue. The traditional tight knit community, largely governed by religion, doesn't take kindly to Judith's return, especially as she isn't sharing about her time away from the town.

The book is told from Judith's perspective, often flitting between day to day life and the years in which she was missing, in short, sharp chapters. I would say it took me the first 50 pages in order to get into Judith's mind, what with the story telling method, but once in I felt compelled to keep reading.

Judith is a character you quickly come to like - you can feel her love for Lucas, her frustrations at many a thing, the heart & kindness that she has for others. Watching Judith transform over the course of the story is a beautiful thing (in fact my favourite thing within the pages).

Although a dark read at times, there is hope & light in the unfolding story. I'm happy to have stumbled across this book.

- source: library borrow -
Alaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else. 

Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother.
Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive parents.
Alyce is staying at home to please her parents.
Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don't save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves?

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's extraordinary, stunning debut is both moving, and deeply authentic. These intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck and salvation on the edge of America's Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare and wonderful talent.

The Smell of Other People's Houses is four stories in one, with four teenage narrators whose lives all connect in some way or other. We meet all four - Ruth, Hank, Dora and Alyce - at crucial life moments, and follow along as life plays out over the course of four seasons in 1970's Alaska.

I sped through this book in just two days - it is short in length, with my copy being just over 250 pages, and yet the author has packed so much into it... But in a good way! I found myself quickly invested in the lives of these kids, especially that of Ruth & Hank.

Ruth, Hank, Dora and Alyce have such depth to them as characters; they are complex with flaws and vulnerabilities and felt like such genuine people. Not only were the four main characters really well written, but the entire cast were too. The dynamics of various relationships throughout the book were well crafted also - especially the intricacies of familial relationships.

I definitely couldn't review this book without mentioning Alaska - the setting of The Smell of Other People's Houses, with it reading like an extra character at times. The portrayal of Alaska was insightful and explorative; I felt as if I had been transported... You can definitely tell that the author was born & raised within this environment.

I think this quote - taken from the pages of this book - makes for a nice conclusion to my thoughts, and sums up The Smell of Other People's Houses quite nicely...
'Sometimes you can be inserted into another person's life just by witnessing something you were never really supposed to be a part of.'
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