Monday, 26 October 2020

A Weekend of Reading | Cosy Reading Weekend

Over the weekend I took part in Cosy Reading Weekend, hosted by Lauren from Lauren and the Books. Typically Lauren holds this event of an evening, and the occasional afternoon, with three hours of relaxing reading time, however this time she decided to host a bumper event with a cosy reading night (Friday 7pm-10pm), cosy reading afternoon (Saturday 2pm-5pm) and a cosy reading morning (Sunday 7am-10am) - making one lovely cosy reading weekend!

Going into the event I had three books in mind to alternate between - The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange (a historical middle grade fiction & my only physical book), Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (a classic that I'm reading via audiobook), and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (a nonfiction memoir that I had already started, briefly, in ebook format). 

I started the evening with a relaxing bubble bath, listening to the first chapter of Agnes Grey on audio - 25 minutes in total.

I followed this by picking up my physical book - The Ghost of Gosswater - reading the first 55 pages. I have loved both of Lucy Strange's previous middle grade novels, and so far this is proving to follow that same path. 

Although the reading time runs until 10pm... I was tucked up in bed by 9.30pm!

Today is a perfect reading day - the sky is covered with thick clouds and there is a constant rainfall. We did pop into the garden for a little bit of time - for some fresh air and to see the fish in the pond - but other than that, I plan to be indoors all day: under blankets, book(s) in hand, consuming copious amounts of tea.

I picked up both Hillbilly Elegy (reading 25 pages) and The Ghost of Gosswater (reading 30 pages) before the reading event today.

Much like yesterday, I started my cosy reading time with my audiobook, listening to a further two chapters in Agnes Grey, being roughly 40 minutes in length and having passed the hour mark as a whole in the audiobook.

I clearly stuck with the same pattern as yesterday, because after my time with my audiobook I picked up The Ghost of Gosswater once again - reading over 100 pages and passing the half way mark in this book. I have spoken about Lucy Strange and her writing on this blog before, but it is hard to put in to words just how beautifully she writes. 

In the evening I returned to Hillbilly Elegy and read a further 15 pages.

In comparison to my other current reads it seems like I'm getting through Hillbilly Elegy at a much slower pace... Which would make sense as it is denser than a middle grade fiction book, however it is also worth noting that some of the ebooks from the library have this TEENY TINY font meaning there is much more on a page than usual. My ebook for Hillbilly Elegy is just under 140 pages, whereas the hardback edition of this book has near enough 260 pages (according to Goodreads) - so that should given some comparison to the size of the font in the ebook. 

Anyway, the book itself is proving to be a good read - it is exposing me to an environment/community that I am not particularly familiar with being from across the pond in the UK... Despite that, I will say there are elements of J.D. Vance's life (well, childhood so far) that I have found myself relating to through own personal childhood experience.

The clocks changed overnight here in the UK, going back, and so initially when I woke up seeing 7.20am on my phone I thought I was late for the morning portion of this cosy reading event... But I do this every time when the clocks change - I FORGET MY PHONE DOESN'T CHANGE THE TIME AUTOMATICALLY (as I don't have a smart phone) - and so it turned out that I had plenty of time before the morning reading portion as it was actually 6.20am now. Dear me! So I had my morning cup of tea and breakfast before getting stuck into The Ghost of Gosswater at 7am on the dot. 

By 8am I had finished the remaining 100ish pages within The Ghost of Gosswater - my first, and only, book of the weekend complete. And what a pleasure that book was to read! There is something really special, and classical even, about Lucy Strange's books and the way in which she writes. So much so that I didn't even pick up another book within the 7-10am time frame, choosing to sit with my thoughts on The Ghost of Gosswater instead. 

If you are a reader of middle grade books I highly recommend checking out Lucy Strange's books - they are quite gothic in nature, with unfolding mysteries, and settings + characters that truly capture you.

I did think I'd read more outside of the cosy reading morning event today, but I actually didn't as the day just ran its course without me picking up another book. 

So I am going into the new week with time remaining on my Agnes Grey audiobook and also less than half of Hillbilly Elegy left to read... I hope to finish them before the end of the month (fingers crossed).


Happy reading!

Friday, 23 October 2020

Reading Record | Pages & Co: Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James

My reading record posts are a way for me to document all things bookish and reading in my life - I aim to post these consistently, with them most often being in a weekly format, however readathons and certain books will have their own specific reading record.

In this post I'm sharing the thoughts I jotted down whilst reading the third book in the Pages & Co trilogy: Tilly and the Map of Stories. I have shared similar style posts for book 1 and book 2 also.

Much like the other posts, I do aim to keep this post spoiler free... However, being the third in a series, this may include spoilers from the first two books, but I will do my best to avoid these also. 

Having flicked through the book, ever so briefly,  I have seen that Anna James has included a 'Previously in this series' feature at the start of the book - I LOVE and appreciate this.

Other than that, I look forward to seeing where this series goes and how it concludes.

'Tilly ran her fingers along her shelves, trying to summon that faith she had always had in the serendipity of a bookshelf - that you often ended up finding exactly the right book at the right time.'

Lots of familiar faces featured so far. 

Tilly is still set on wanting to find the Archivists by travelling to the Library of Congress in America, with her grandparents, in particular her Grandad, being against this... Is he just trying to keep Tilly safe, or does he know more than he is letting on?!

It also seems like there is going to be building of the relationship between Tilly and her mum, Bea.

Well, things escalated quickly...

'Good bookshops are hard to resist after all.'

PAGE 105
Ooo... Book wandering politics. 

PAGE 131
I love when characters in a book talk about how they AREN'T characters in a book... Is there a word for this?

PAGE 143
Dun, dun, DUN!

PAGE 184
Sesquipedalian - means long words, or the sort of person who loves using long words. 

You learn something new every day eh.

PAGE 235
Book magic is used in a great many ways, so it seems. 

PAGE 237
'"So the Archive is made of magic?" Oskar clarified. 

"Yes - it's made of imagination," Artemis said. "And imagination is pure magic."'

PAGE 250
The inclusion of classic literary writers - genius! 

PAGE 295
Anna James has such a way with words - double meanings, clever word play, and poetic even.

PAGE 375
'"...there isn't a book out there that hasn't meant something to someone at some point."'

Wait... That most definitely does not feel like THE END of a trilogy! I mean, the story of this actual book was resolved, yes, but yet still such an open ending.

Adding the book to Goodreads, I saw Anna James replied to a comment and confirmed that there will be more Pages & Co books, but this is the end of the first trilogy. Hmm... Interesting! I'm very intrigued by this.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Reading Record | Library Borrows + Book Mail

My reading record posts are a way for me to document all things bookish and reading in my life - I aim to post these consistently, with them most often being in a weekly format, however readathons and certain books will have their own specific reading record.

This past week I have been conscious to work through my library borrows, as reserves kept springing up on me and I didn't want to be overwhelmed with due date deadlines; I am currently in a good & manageable place with my library books. 

I'm intrigued to know how the library services are running for you.

Here where I live in Wales, the libraries have been closed since March, so whenever I refer to library borrows they are of the digital format (ebook or audiobook). At the very end of August the local council set up a collect system for books - so you put your order in online and then the librarians gather the books and you just pick up the bundle - but I haven't used it personally... For two reasons, one: it is only at specific library branches and my nearest collect point is a bit of a distance and two: because I am quite content with the selection on the library app for now (as well as my own physical books now and again) and for me one of my favourite elements of visiting the library is the browsing aspect, which of course is not available right now.

So what are the libraries like at the moment where you live?

On to my week of reading... 

I carried my audiobook of Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain into this new week with just under 4 hours of listen time left - today I listened to half of that, two hours. 

Also, I started a new ebook today: The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman. My impressions so far are that I'm in for a fun fantastical adventure with this middle grade read.

This morning I finished the remainder of my audiobook and would say I concluded the book having had a good reading experience overall. I did mention in my last reading record post about feeling detached from the present day timeline of this dual timeline narrative, and I still stand by that. I didn't really take to the characters within that side of the story and found it to be a bit repetitive at times, however I do acknowledge that it had its place and purpose in progressing the story as a whole. The other narrative - Anna's story from the 1940's - I was wholly engrossed in and it made the book for me. 

Further reading in The Silver Arrow, 40 pages.

I started a new thriller today - The Memory Wood - with the first 52 pages being read. It has been a little while since I last read a thriller, and this one has me intrigued.

43 pages read in The Memory Wood and I'm still holding positive impressions about this book. The story is unfolding with three narrators, each with their own timeline but all surrounding the same event of a child abduction - I think this is an interesting storytelling method and I like that all three voices are so distinct from each other.

This morning I finished reading The Silver Arrow - as I said when sharing my initial thoughts, this was indeed a fun fantastical middle grade adventure, and I like the important environmental message that was seamlessly woven in too. One of the things I love about being an adult who reads middle grade fiction is that I can scout out books that I think my son would love, and The Silver Arrow is going on that list of books to share with him.

In contrast to the lightness of middle grade fiction, I did also make progress in my thriller read today too. I have read over 160 pages now in total, which means I have passed the half way mark, and I am gripped by The Memory Wood; very dark & twisty.

To break up the darker read, I did also start a new nonfiction library borrow this evening: Happiness, a Mystery by Sophie Hannah. This book is a short read, at just over 100 pages, and there is such a bubbly tone to the writing... Exactly what I needed to run alongside my thriller mystery.

I found myself wholly engrossed in The Memory Wood this morning and finished the remainder of the book! It has been some time now since I picked up a thriller and found myself to be blown away by it - but that was the case with The Memory Wood. Given that this is a debut novel, it is so well written and incredibly clever... As I mentioned before though, it does feature child abduction at the centre of the plot, so I'd bear that in mind as I know some people don't like to pick up thrillers with children central to the storyline.


Earlier on in the week I ordered some books from Waterstones (one of the main high street book retailers here in the UK), and received three of them today (one was a January preorder). The three books that arrived were: Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James (Book 3 in the Pages & Co series), The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. My preorder, for anyone wondering, is The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll. So three middle grade books and one nonfiction. 

Having just my nonfiction book on the go, later on in the afternoon I picked up one of my new books - book 3 in the Pages & Co series. This series about a girl who can wander in to books and travel through stories and I have loved following along with the other two books. Previously I have written dedicated reading record posts for this series, so of course I will be carrying that on and share my thoughts on this book in that one post (it will probably be my next post after this one), but I will say, the Pages & Co series as a whole is full of imagination, intrigue and warm bookish goodness.... And so far, book three is continuing with that.

Over the course of about three sittings today I finished reading my nonfiction book: Happiness, A Mystery. This is one of those easy nonfiction books, with Sophie Hannah delving into various methods of happiness, attempting to solve the mystery of the much sought after feeling of 'happiness'. It is light, fun, and I flew through it as it is written in such a conversational tone.

Four books finished - this was a great reading week!


Happy reading!

Friday, 16 October 2020

Reading Ambience | Spooky Halloween Scenes

For a little while now I've really taken to putting on some background sounds whilst reading, turning to the plethora of ambience videos that can be found on YouTube. Following on from this, I created my 'Reading Ambience' series, curating lists of ambience videos that share a common theme. 

Today I am highlighting videos that are perfect for this time of year: spooky Halloween scenes. These videos will be great accompanying darker reads of the season - thrillers, mysteries, horror fiction and ghost stories.

All links will take you to YouTube


Monday, 12 October 2020

Reading Record | First Week of October

My reading record posts are a way for me to document all things bookish and reading in my life - I aim to post these consistently, with them most often being in a weekly format, however readathons and certain books will have their own specific reading record.

Well, I haven't actually shared a reading record post since the end of June and we're in a whole other season now! Anyway, here are my notes on the reading I did in the first full week of October.

I am starting the week part way through two books: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (92 pages read so far) and Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (3 hours listened to so far).

What I didn't start the week with however, was any reading. Not a single page read today.

I got my reading going today with 62 pages read in The Bear and the Nightingale; this is the first book in the Winternight trilogy, a series I have been wanting to get to for quite some time now. The story so far has been mostly scene setting, character introducing etc, and I'm quite enjoying it. Over the autumn season I hope to read all three books within this trilogy.

I did also listen to 30 minutes of my audiobook: Big Lies in a Small Town... I haven't formed much of an impression of this book so far, but I am questioning whether Diane Chamberlain's writing is for me in audiobook format. Hmm.

This morning I spent a good chunk of time meal prepping to fill the freezer a little and whilst doing that I was able to listen to an hour and a half of my audiobook.

A little reading in my physical book today - 30 pages.

Another day in which I multitasked house jobs with audiobook listening - 1 hour and 15 minutes read this way, but I did also top up that listen time later on in the day, ending with 2 hours 20 for the day as a whole. Things are getting interesting now in the story...

I continued with The Bear and the Nightingale also, with just under 70 pages read.

My only reading time today was with my audiobook - 1 hour and 20 minutes listened to whilst I cleaned today.

I started my day curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea and my book in hand - 59 pages read in The Bear and the Nightingale. This book is so engrossing and I just love how strong of a character Vasya is.

In the evening I read a further 34 pages of The Bear and the Nightingale, meaning I now have less than 100 pages until I have finished it... I hope I can do that by the end of the week.

I did try to listen to my audiobook today but I was having some technical difficulties with the library app, so that was a shame. 

The library app worked today - yay - and I was able to listen to 40 minutes of Big Lies in a Small Town. I know I briefly touched upon some uncertainties with this book earlier on in this post, but I think the slight disconnect goes beyond the book format itself... I usually love Diane Chamberlain's books, more often than not finding little fault, but with this one I'm finding the present day narrative of Morgan (this is a dual timeline book) kind of boring and repetitive to be honest... But I am loving the 1940's narrative, and all the mystery that surrounds Anna and the town of Edenton. I have 3 hours 45 minutes remaining of this book - it will be carried over into next week - so I'll see how I feel once I've completed it I guess.

Speaking of completing books, I finished The Bear and the Nightingale - HURRAH! This was a joy to read, very immersive, and I look forward to seeing where book two goes. I have a couple of library reserves that have sprung up on me earlier than I had anticipated, but I will definitely move on to book two of the Winternight trilogy after I've worked my way through the library borrows.


Happy reading!

Friday, 2 October 2020

Reading Wrap Up | September

I thought I'd open up this past month's reading wrap up with a little bit of a chat before getting on to the books... 

For the month of September I read quite a small amount, for me, and also produced very little content here on Reading with Jade... The reason being for both of these is, quite frankly, September was a hard month. 

Obviously 2020 as a whole has not been the year we all envisioned back in January - it has been rough, especially with the pandemic. Of course as individuals we all approach things differently, but I do think for the most part everyone is just trying to get on through the days, the weeks, the months, and in turn make the most of the year. However, having said that, I do also think we all have that one month (or specific period of time) during the pandemic where everything was just too much... And for me, that has been September.

Here in the UK, the children returned to physical school for the new school year, and that in itself brought about some big emotions in our household... But coupled up with that, the week Alexander returned to school, our county was the first to go into local lockdown here in Wales due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. New guidelines and measures were put in place, although schools were to remain open. So, it was a lot all in the one short space of time pandemic wise, but on top of that there were other little concerns and issues arising that also just really took it out of me. 

My attention and focus were needed deeper in other areas of life - our household, my family, my own mental wellbeing - and other things did indeed take a backseat because of that.

However, I do feel like I'm striding forward in much better shape and with a positive mindset for the new month ahead, which is amazing!

I have missed finding pleasure in the reading world and of course, the blogging community - I hope you are all well and taking care of yourselves as best you can.

On to the six books I read in September...

Links below will take you to my review of the book on Goodreads

Happy reading in October!

Monday, 14 September 2020

Reading With My Six Year Old | Spring + Summer

Alongside documenting my own reading here on Reading with Jade, I also like to share about reading with my son, Alexander. 

The spring & summer months have looked a lot different to how any of us could have even imagined at the beginning of the year, but as with many other people around the world, we've just been doing our best to muddle through... One thing that has been a constant for us during this time is books and we've found great solace in reading.

I've mentioned in previous posts that Alexander's reading has been progressing at a good and steady rate, however he preferred to be read to rather than read aloud himself, with this being most evident in the school level reading system; the act of reading his weekly school book was very much a chore. Well, when the schools went into lockdown, Alexander's pace of reading and interest in reading aloud himself came on quickly and he has taken great joy in books... It has been wonderful to see him love reading himself, and for it not just to feel like a school work. 

Alexander loves reading in his bed of an evening, with a stack of books under his pillow and mini torch in hand, reading past bedtime... And I am more than happy to let him do so!

With regards to picture books (& honestly all things in life) Alexander is very much a child who sticks with what he knows and loves, so we've seen a lot of familiar faces these last few months with regards to picture books - PERCY THE PARK KEEPER and the MR MENLITTLE MISS books have been firm favourites, along with the occasional PADDINGTON book & THE DINOSAUR THAT POOPED series.

We have reread some of the ZOE'S RESCUE ZOO books, which are still very much loved around here. 

A new series has been enjoyed also - MONSTERS AND CHIPS. This is a series about a monster named Fuzzby who owns a diner that specialises in chips, but chips with some interesting additions. This monster world is uncovered when 'hooman' Joe discovers the diner by chance, and soon finds himself working there and being immersed in the monster world. Alexander finds this series hilarious and loves the whole cast of characters, with Barry (the cat who is most definitely not a cat) and the Guzzelin family (who appear throughout the story, and have funny little side remarks on the bottom of some pages) being his favourites. 

Usborne & DK are our go to publishers when it comes to nonfiction, with DK books being devoured during the last few months; in particular the DK Eyewitness range. 

During our last visit to the library (back very early on in spring before everything was locked down) Alexander picked out DK EYEWITNESS ANIMAL. We worked through reading this book together and absolutely loved it - the layout, the information, all great and engaging (even I learnt a few new facts). On the back cover of this book Alexander noticed others in the range and we ordered the DINOSAUR edition and also the one covering the AMAZON also (two of Alexander's favourite things). We've now read through these cover to cover also, and a request has been put in for the OCEAN and SHARK books.
Reading with Alexander is one of my favourite things to do, and I love that I'm able to document that here.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Reading Wrap Up | August

In the month of August I read 10 books in total... I've found my reading pace slow down this month, however I'm not viewing this as a negative, in fact I've leaned in to it and enjoyed savouring some of the beautiful books I was able to experience in August.

I did DNF one book in August - the newest Emma Donoghue: The Pull of the Stars. I DNF'ed simply because I just don't have the mental capacity to read a book about a pandemic during a pandemic, and apparently this wasn't evident to me until I'd actually borrowed the book from the digital library service... I managed like 20ish pages, and just knew now was not the time for me to be reading it, so swiftly returned.

On to the books that I actually did read...

Links below will take you to my review of the book on Goodreads

Happy reading in September!

Monday, 24 August 2020

A Day of Reading | Thursday 20th August

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare - 32 minutes of 10 hours 38 minutes

My only aim for today is to make progress with these books.

The way my reading has been lately, these books are likely to see me until the end of August - I have been reading at a slow but steady pace. I am in the early stages of all three books, and enjoying them all so far... I'm looking forward to seeing how they all pan out.

7.50am | I wanted to start my day by reading some of Once Upon a River, but I was having trouble loading the library app (this happens often), so I picked up Where the Crawdads Sing instead, reading 30 pages.

There is such a beauty & fragility to this story.

10.30am | I read a further 22 pages in Where the Crawdads Sing, pausing at the start of part 2.

So many emotions when reading this book... And the rawness of Kya as a character is just SO WELL WRITTEN.

11.25am | Got the library app working - hurrah - and read 25 pages of Once Upon a River. 

7.10pm | Yep, a big jump in time, with no reading done all afternoon. 

I listened to 35 minutes of The Iron Trial whilst in the bath, meaning I have passed the hour mark of this audio. 

One thing I'm finding a little bothersome about listening to this book, as opposed to reading it, is the main characters name... He is called Callum, which I would read as 'Cal-lum' but it is being read as 'Call-um', with the nickname 'Call' and it just feels all wrong to me. Random thing to note.

8.30pm | Last bit of reading for the day, spending thirty minutes with Once Upon a River and reading a further 22 pages.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a while now, and was honestly hesitant to pick it up due to the LARGE amount of praise it was receiving (I know I'm not the only one that is a little intimidated by hyped books)... But so far, I can see it was all indeed true & deserved. I know Delia Owens has published some nonfiction works previously, but I'm kind of blown away by the fact that this is a DEBUT NOVEL.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Although less than 100 pages in, I feel like this book really embodies storytelling... I realise this probably sounds a bit weird if you haven't read the book, however I feel like perhaps it would make perfect sense to those who have.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
This is the first book in a five part series (Magisterium) following a boy who ends up attending magic school... I enjoy magic books, particularly those of kids learning to do magic, so I'm enjoying it so far. There are a lot of Goodreads reviews stating this book is a HP rip off - but I mean, there are a lot of books out there within the MG/YA realms of kids going to magic schools, so I don't know... I've gone in open minded.
Some days you read a lot, some days you read nothing, but a lot of my reading days look like this with snatches of reading here & there and that slow but steady pace I mentioned in the opening of this post.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Recommended Reading | Books Featuring Museums

My recommended reading posts have always been a way for me to highlight the books I've read within a year and want to recommend to all to pick up too... I'm keen to expand this series of mine now, featuring throughout the year (not just at the end), to include recommendations based on specific topics.

Today I'm taking a look at three books that feature museums... I have a whole list of topics I'm keen to cover in this series, with this museum topic being one I stumbled upon having read, and loved, a few books during the first half of this year that had museums central to the plot. So whilst this topic wasn't on my original list for this series, it is a post I am happy to have curated with titles I hope others will enjoy too.

All the books featured in my recommended reading posts I have read myself and would, of course, recommend.

In this book we see the unfolding relationship between Tina Hopgood & Anders Larsen, with the two 'meeting' via letter. Tina writes to a professor at the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark, however unbeknown to her this professor is now deceased, and so she receives a reply to her letter from Anders, a curator at the museum. The two initially discuss Tina's letter and the Tollund Man, who plays a prominent role in the story, but soon find themselves opening up to one another more and welcoming each other in to their lives.

This book is told in an epistolary format, with the letter correspondence between Tina & Anders feeling simple, intimate, reassuring and hopeful; they are experiencing similar seasons of life, and it is just precious watching how they help each other and the growth of them both as characters.

Taking place during WW2, Hetty Cartwright is in charge of the evacuation, and subsequent safekeeping, of a number of animal exhibits from the Natural History Museum... These animals are to find refuge at Lockwood Manor, a country house that has opened its doors to the museum. After arriving at Lockwood Manor, it isn't all plain sailing for Hetty as she encounters run-ins with Lord Lockwood and soon finds her stuffed animals going missing.

There is mystery to this historical fiction novel and also a female/female love story.

Whilst the previous two books featured real museums, the one found in Where We Belong is fictional - Hatter's Museum. 

After much hardship and loss, Cate and her son, Leo, are set to stay at Hatter's Museum temporarily; a place that has been in the family for years, but one that the pair of them know very little about... Hatter's is owned by Richard's family - Richard being Cate's husband & Leo's father, a man who is no longer in their life. They arrive to a frosty reception from Araminta (who currently runs & takes care of the museum) with little knowledge of not only the building, but this familial past of Richard's also.

As history and long held secrets reveal themselves, we see a transformation in all the characters - including the museum, as Hatter's feels very much like a character in its own right.
This is a short list for books featuring museums, but one that includes three gems. 

All of the books mentioned make for wonderful reads, with well developed characters, atmospheric settings, and plots that keep you engaged, but it is probably worth noting that I did also find them all to be books best read at a slow pace, savouring the stories and appreciating the finer details.

If you have any recommendations to add to this list, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Monday, 10 August 2020

A Weekend of Reading | 300+ Pages Read

I'm starting the weekend with bookmarks in three books: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (page 133 of 343), The Valley at the Centre of the World by Malachy Tallack (page 198 of 332), and Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (page 180 of 281).

I have been steadily reading these books since the beginning of August, and it would be nice to finish one of two of them this weekend.

During two sittings today I finished reading Endurance, a nonfiction book detailing Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition to Antarctica. Whilst an expedition account, this is also a survival story; the men onboard the Endurance found themselves stranded in the polar region when their ship became locked in ice, eventually being crushed. For over a year they attempted to journey back to civilisation, and an arduous ordeal it was. The story of the crew onboard Endurance is an incredible one and it has been pieced together perfectly by Alfred Lansing. If you enjoy books about polar region travel or survival stories, then Endurance is a must read.

In the afternoon I returned to The Valley at the Centre of the World, reading a further 50 pages. I haven't picked this book up in a couple of days now and so it took me a good few pages to warm back up to the dialect used, however I soon fell back in to the story. I don't usually get on well with dialect in books, but I'm fine with it in this book.

Although I'm attempting to finish up some books, I did also start a new one before going to bed this evening, reading 41 pages of The Titanic Detective Agency by Lindsay Littleson.

Of course it would've made sense to just pick up one of my current reads, but I didn't feel in the mood for them... I'm very much a mood reader, and over the years I have learnt that listening to my mood makes me a much happier reader... Yes, even with multiple books on the go!

This morning I read the remaining 80ish pages I had left in The Valley at the Centre of the World, concluding an overall enjoyable reading experience. I didn't know much about this book going in to it - I hadn't heard others talk about it, and kind of just stumbled across it really - but it proved to be a gem of a read.

The book itself has no real plot, taking a look at the lives of the residents living in a valley on the Scottish island of Shetland. Well written, with fascinating and faceted characters - I didn't want this book to end.

In the evening I spent a little bit of time with Remarkable Creatures, reading to page 172.
Happy to have ended the week with two books finished, and progress made in others.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Reading Ambience | Rain Sounds

Recently I have really taken to putting on some background sounds whilst reading, using the plethora of ambience videos you can find on YouTube. Although not being about books specifically, it is reading related and so I thought I'd share about that a little more here on my blog.

I have a whole list of topics I want to cover within the realms of ambience videos, with the focus today being on rain sounds. One of my favourite sounds is that of rainfall, and I find myself turning to these types of videos often. 

All links will take you to YouTube


Monday, 3 August 2020

Reading Wrap Up | July

In the month of July I read a total of 17 books - 14 fiction and 3 nonfiction. July was a good reading month, especially as I completed my first 7 in 7 reading challenge. 

Looking back on July through my reading it also feels like it has been an incredibly long month... The books I read at the start of July, I found myself questioning 'I read that in July?!?' - it feels like I read them so long ago.

Links below will take you to my review of the book on Goodreads


Happy reading in August!

Monday, 27 July 2020

Reading 7 Books in 7 Days | Middle Grade

One thing I'm really keen to do within my reading life is someday complete the reading challenge of reading 30 books in 30 days... However, that is rather intimidating, and not something you jump in to lightly, so to prepare for this I want to do some 7 in 7 challenges - so here is my first attempt at reading 7 books in 7 days.

I actually didn't start reading for this 7 in 7 challenge until the evening of today, so perhaps not the best start with 72 pages read in my first book of Agatha Oddly: The Secret Key by Lena Jones, but a start nonetheless. I think it is important to remember that yes, I didn't complete a book on the first day, but that doesn't mean all is lost - the challenge is to read 7 books in 7 days, not a book a day... I will catch up.

This morning I got stuck in straight away and finished the remainder of The Secret Key. I thought it was was a fun introduction to the characters and overarching story in this mystery series. I liked Agatha and all her quirks (including her love of Agatha Christie, of course), as well the characters surrounding her. I also love that this book, and I believe whole series, is set in London - I definitely want to continue with the series and see where else is featured.

Having finished BOOK ONE of the challenge, I decided to try and get myself going in two new books today - making a good dent in each of them - intending to then finish them both up tomorrow... Meaning ending day 3 with 3 books complete. This plan may not pan out, but here it goes.

This afternoon I moved on to The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman... Yep, another mystery (I do love a middle grade mystery!). Also, coming off the back of my last book, with heavy Agatha Christie influence, I thought it coincidental that The Highland Falcon Thief opens up with a quote from Agatha Christie: 'As for trains - what can beat a train?... To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers - in fact, to see life.' Love this quote, and quite agree. I read just under 100 pages within The Highland Falcon Thief, meaning I have roughly 120 left for tomorrow.

In the evening I picked up The Faraway Truth by Janae Marks, reading 70 pages, with 100 remaining. I'm enjoying this realistic MG so far; in particular, I really like the voice and overall personality depicted of the main character, Zoe Washington. 

Well, my plan worked! I finished the two books I was part way through yesterday, meaning I have now completed BOOK TWO & BOOK THREE also. 

I picked up where I left off yesterday evening, by spending an hour or so with Zoe Washington in The Faraway Truth, finishing the book. In this book we meet Zoe during summer break, just as she has turned twelve years old... She is experiencing all the usual complications & complexities of being twelve, including friendship issues and wanting to be seen as more than 'just a kid' by her elders, but also she has connected with her biological dad who she has never met, due to him being in prison for the last twelve years. The way in which the two connect feels authentic, with the building relationship between the two via letter being one of the things I adored about this book. Writer, Janae Marks, has written about systemic racism and other prevalent issues in a way that feels true to life, but also delicate and accessible for a younger reading audience. I loved this book and definitely recommend it to all.

Side note about The Faraway Truth, when logging it to Goodreads I came to find that it has a different title in the US: From the Desk of Zoe Washington... I know they change book titles for different audiences, and whilst both titles tie in with the book wonderfully, I do actually prefer the US title to the UK one. But a title is just a title, and the book is wonderful either way.

I dedicated the morning to The Faraway Truth, and the evening to finishing The Highland Falcon Thief.

I love books set on modes of transport - train, boat etc - middle grade, and otherwise, so I thought it was quite likely I'd come away loving The Highland Falcon Thief... And I was correct! This was a great start to middle grade series (Adventures on Trains), one that I am keen to continue with now. 

Harrison Beck (Hal) is on the trip of a lifetime with his travel writer uncle, Nat, journeying on The Highland Falcon's final journey... The Highland Falcon is no ordinary train, it is the royal train that is soon to retire. For the final journey, and last hurrah, a number of high profile characters are aboard the train... And so is a jewel thief. With the help of another onboard, Hal gets to work uncovering who the jewel thief is. This was a fun read, well paced, and I loved the illustrations sprinkled throughout. 

Immersing myself in a slightly more fantastical setting today, picking up Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman... Another first in the series. I don't tend to read a lot of series, unless I can devour them all in the one go, but this doesn't apply to middle grade as I do often read MG series. Having already found two new series I'd like to continue with (Agatha Oddly & Adventures on Trains), I wonder if this series (Elementals) will be added to that growing list also.

I read 100 pages today, which if I'm being honest, is much lower than I was aiming for as a page count, but it is what it is. Although this is a challenge, I do still want it to be fun & enjoyed; I don't want to burn myself out reading wise. 

Book wise, I'm liking the plot of Ice Wolves so far, with the world building being easy to follow and the characters & relationships being presented well. Fantastical fiction isn't always my thing, but I do tend to get on well with it within a middle grade setting. 

I finished reading Ice Wolves today, which was a good reading experience all in all and a good set up for books to follow.

However, I would say I am behind on my book count now having finished BOOK FOUR on day five, meaning I have two days left to complete three books... To be honest, at this point, I'm wondering if this 7 in 7 will actually be successful.

After a some time (far too much time) worrying about failing this reading challenge, I got back to my TBR and started Bloom by Nicola Skinner, reading the first 40 pages - this is a book with magical realism themes, and I like where it's going so far.

I read a book in full today - BOOK FIVE complete! 

I devoured Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson... This is a realistic fiction middle grade following Amara, a young girl who really wants to travel from Oregon to New York for her birthday in order to see her extended family, and the place where her dad grew up. Whilst Amara's parents can't agree on allowing her to visit New York, an opportunity presents itself in the form of a school assignment - 'The Suitcase Project' - and this lends to her being allowed to accompany her dad on a work trip there. Amara is a black female protagonist, and it is wonderful seeing her presented in MG fiction (much like in The Faraway Truth also). I really enjoyed the elements of Amara learning about her family history (the family dynamics were complex and felt true to life) as well as the black history & culture that featured throughout the book. I loved this story, and I also love how Renee Watson added a section at the back for readers to complete their own Suitcase Project.

As well as completing Some Places More Than Others in its entirety, I also read a further 62 pages in Bloom.

Ending today feeling a little more hopeful about the challenge... But also slightly uncertain about finishing a book and a half tomorrow. Eek!

I did indeed finish BOOK SIX & BOOK SEVEN today, meaning I officially completed my first 7 in 7 challenge - YAY!

Starting the day with The Boy Who Flew by Fleur Hitchcock, I finished this mid afternoon, having spent a few hour-ish chunks with it throughout the morning & early afternoon. I came away feeling a little conflicted regarding my thoughts on this book; whilst I did enjoy it as a book, it didn't entirely read as a MG book to me (although, it didn't read as a YA either)... It was quite dark in places, and whilst I've read dark middle grade books in the past, scenes of child abuse as depicted here just did not sit right with me in a middle grade book.

Ending the day on a slightly better note, I finished Bloom by Nicola Skinner, reading the remaining 100ish pages. I quite enjoyed this book, with themes of letting people be their own person and the importance of green spaces. Bloom is narrated by the main protagonist, Sorrel, and the story was told in such a way that includes the reader, with a little aside here & there - I thought that a nice touch. 
Although stressful at times, I had a lot of fun with this challenge; it taught me some things about the pressures & deadlines of reading a specific amount of books within a certain number of days... And I definitely will be doing some more practise runs of 7 in 7 challenges, before moving on to a 30 in 30!

Monday, 13 July 2020

Favourite Books of 2020 | First Half (My Year in Books)

Half the year has now been and gone so I thought I'd sit down and reflect on my last six month of reading... In that time I have read 55 books, however the majority of those were really only in the last few months as my reading year did not get off to the best start.

What makes a favourite book is quite a personal thing, for me though a favourite is more about how I felt during my reading experience, as opposed to the technical qualities and make up of the writing... Also, most of my favourites tend to have the rereadability factor too.

All book links below will take you to Goodreads



What has been your favourite book(s) of the year so far?

Monday, 6 July 2020

A Weekend of Reading | Just Mercy, Agatha Christie, and More

I'm starting my weekend by focusing on Just Mercy - I have read 170 pages so far of my ebook copy meaning I have just under 100 pages left. 

During two sittings today - one first thing in the morning & the other later on in the afternoon - I managed to complete Just Mercy. This is a nonfiction book with a focus on social injustice and racism, written by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who is committed to helping those in need within the criminal justice system. Through his work he has heard many stories and met many people, and done his best to get justice for them. A number of these cases feature in Just Mercy, with the case of Walter McMillian being a constant throughout the book; Walter was one of Stevenson's first cases and through the telling of his story, you can tell that not only was the case life changing for Stevenson as a lawyer, but also that he holds Walter as a person dearly. 

I have been reading this book all week, spending short amounts of time with it daily - the reason I did this was because it is the kind of book I want to digest in small snippets due to the emotional nature of the writing. The stories in this book are heart breaking, the racism angering, and many of the statistics hard hitting.

Learning about Bryan Stevenson himself, and his work, made for really interesting reading also. I am in awe of him and all the work he (& many others) commit themselves to.

Although a hard to read book, Just Mercy is an important book, and one that should be read by the masses. 

This evening I read a further 51 pages within A Murder is Announced, leaving my bookmark on page 92.

I spent this morning and a little into the afternoon with my Agatha Christie mystery: A Murder is Announced, completing it by about 1pm. I really enjoyed this book - I think I say this with all the Christie's I read - and especially like the concept of the murder being announced before it took place; a thrilling aspect almost. There were some good twists and turns along the way with this one, and I once again did not guess the murderer correctly... But it was cleverly done. I will say, I do think I like Marple mysteries a smidge more than Poirot.

This evening I stayed up way later than I should have, and finished reading Where We Belong by Anstey Harris. As I went into the weekend I was at just over the 100 page mark, so in total read 130 pages of this book this evening. Although a slow read at times, I found this book engaging and it was interesting to see the transformations that took place throughout - that of the museum that features, and the family also. 
At the start of the weekend I did wonder if finishing all three books was a tad ambitious, so am happy to have come away with all three books wrapped... And it means I can now go in to the new week with the first page of an unread book.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Reading Wrap Up | June

In the month of June I read 15 books in total; a mixture of fiction & nonfiction. Of these books, 10 were physical books from my own collection, 3 ebook library borrows, and 2 audiobook library borrows.

There was good variety in my June reading including: historical fiction, contemporary middle grade, a psychological classic, murder mystery, nature nonfiction, and more. 

June has not only been a great month for reading, but for blogging also... I posted more times this month than the prior four months combined! Whilst I have been producing content regularly, I will say that I could improve on my blog hopping, so I would like to work on that a little in July.

Anyway, the books...

Links below will take you to my review of the book on Goodreads


Happy reading in July!
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