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!

Monday, 29 June 2020

Reading Record | Nature Nonfiction + A Classic

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.

I'm starting the week from where I left off last week, with The Outermost House by Henry Beston - this book was first published in 1928 and details a year in which the writer lived on a beach in Cape Cod. I ended this book on the first chapter yesterday - 18 pages - and continued with a further 62 pages today.

I also started a fiction read, picking up Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim; I read the first three chapters. 

Both of these titles were from my recent book haul... I don't see myself getting to many of the books in my haul immediately, especially as I have a lot of library reserves coming up, however I did imagine I'd get to both of these books sooner rather than later. 

Continued with both The Outermost House and Vera today, surpassing the 100 page mark in The Outermost House and the 50 page mark in Vera. 

The 100 page mark means I am now already half way through The Outermost House. I'm really enjoying this book. I love nature nonfiction anyway, but I am liking the historical aspect of this one - without modern conveniences. There is a lot of bird talk within The Outermost House and the passing seasons make for interesting reading.

Very little reading done today - around about 30ish pages of The Outermost House.

I've finished my first book of the week... I'm guessing there is no surprise in me saying it is The Outermost House, as that book has clearly been my focus read for the week so far. In the pages I finished up today, I read a chapter titled 'An Inland Stroll in Spring' which is my favourite from the book as a whole. 

As I already mentioned, nature nonfiction is one of my go to genres within the realms of nonfiction, and I'd add this to my list of 'must read' nature nonfiction books. I really enjoyed my time with this book.

This evening I jumped in to another nature nonfiction, this time opting for the audiobook of The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. I actually have another book in physical copy by this writer and did already start it after getting impatient waiting on the library audiobook reserve of The Hidden Life of Trees, but then my reserve got bumped up significantly in date, and so I decided to read this one first and save the other for another time... Not that that matters at all as they are standalone reads in their own right. Anyway, just a little backstory there. I listened to 35 minutes this evening and it is already proving to be SUPER interesting.

I have now passed the 135 page mark in Vera, which is just over half way through the book. This felt somewhat slow at the beginning, but is really picking up now. I should clarify, not slow in a dragging way, but slow in order to set up the relationship.

Thirty minutes of reading in The Hidden Life of Trees also.

I read over 70 pages in Vera today and I am engrossed! 

Progress was made in The Hidden Life of Trees too; I have listened to just over 1 hour 50 minutes of the book in total, which equates to ten chapters. Another book I'm really engrossed in... As I mentioned above, this book is super interesting, and I am learning so much.

I finished reading Vera this morning, and what a surprise read it was. 

Briefly, Vera is about Lucy and Everard, two people who meet when they are both experiencing grief and turmoil, but soon fall in love with one another. The happiness is short lived however, when Everard's manner reveals itself to be more sinister. The title character of Vera is not physically featured within the book, technically speaking, as she is Everard's deceased ex wife, however her presence is very much felt.

I went in to this title of Elizabeth von Arnim's after reading The Enchanted April by her, and let's just say they have two different tones, with Vera being much darker in nature - a psychological suspense even. That said, I did really enjoy my second experience with Elizabeth von Arnim, and am already eyeing which book of hers to read next.


Happy reading!

Friday, 26 June 2020

Book Haul | Birthday Book Buys

In mid June I celebrated my birthday, and found myself kindly gifted some money/vouchers... Naturally I used those to treat myself to some books from my wishlist. 

I don't often buy myself books nowadays (using the library as much as possible), especially not brand new books like I have here (I've become more of a second hand buyer over the last couple of years), so this definitely felt like a birthday treat. 

I purchased eight books from my wishlist and look forward to reading these over the coming months. 

All links below will take you to Goodreads



What books have you purchased lately?

Monday, 22 June 2020

Reading Record | Reading Multiple Books at Once

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.

I'm going in to the week with a clean slate regarding reading material, carrying no books over from the previous week.

It is my birthday today, with a gift from my husband & son being a nonfiction coffee table style book: Do You Read Me?. This book is about bookshops around the world - one of my favourite things in bookish nonfiction. I looked through the entire book today, mostly poring over the beautiful photos, and then started to read it also with 73 pages being read. There isn't a massive amount of text in this book and I plan to spread out my reading of it over the next few days. 

As well as delving into my new book, I also started an audiobook & an ebook today (both downloads from the digital library). In terms of audiobook I have begun Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and boy does Olive seem like a piece of work! I have listened to just over an hour of this so far. The ebook I have started is a nonfiction - Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames - and I think it could prove to be a really fascinating read.

'It is the tides that make mudlarking in London so unique. For just a few hours each day, the river gives us access to its contents, which shift and change as the water ebbs and flows, to reveal the story of a city, its people and their relationship with a natural force.'

As a Londoner myself, it'll be very interesting to read about a different aspect of the city; one that I have never thought about, nor deep dived in to.

This morning I made time for progress within all three of my current reads. I listened to two more short stories in my audiobook of Oliver Kitteridge, completed more within Mudlarking and read about more than a handful more bookshops in Do You Read Me?.

When it comes to reading more than one book at a time, I do try to make sure I make each book a priority, however there does always tend to be one that is favoured more than the others... This can change from day to day even. 

Today my focus book was definitely Mudlarking. I read about 60ish pages within this book today, which equated to a good couple hours of reading all in all. That may sound like not many pages within that time frame, however Mudlarking is a book rich in history and detail, and so it is one of those books I'm reading at a slower pace than my typical. The writer is presenting London in many past eras, and it is fascinating all that can be found on the banks of the Thames.

I spent all my reading time today - which was admittedly vey little - with Do You Read Me?: Bookstores Around the World, and finished it. This is a joy of a book that I am happy to now have on my shelves. As with many coffee table books there is more of a focus on the visuals than text, but I discovered some new to me bookstores and greatly admired the photography within.

Managed to carve out a lot of reading time today, including starting a new fiction book too. 

I read further in Mudlarking (40 pages), and listened to a couple more stories within Olive Kitteridge. I also picked up Me You Everything by Catherine Isaac, and wow I have flown through this having already read 255 pages (that's more than half way!) today alone. I think this is a great book for me to read amidst Mudlarking and Olive Kitteridge as they are two heavier reads, in different ways, and so it is nice to have something that you can easily fall in to alongside that - balance.

I made progress in both Mudlarking and Olive Kitteridge today... I'm finding that I'm making my way through Olive Kitteridge a lot slower than I anticipated (just an observation, not a grumble), and I think this is due to the doom and gloom nature of the book - there is a lot of sadness in the plots of these short stories, but also they feel true to life; these things do indeed happen in life. 

Finished two books today - and have now read 51 books so far this year!

Firstly, I finished Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem. Although quite a dense read at times, I did enjoy my time with this book, with Lara Maiklem deep diving in to a fascinating pastime as well as presenting London & the Thames in a different light (including many historical time periods).

After Mudlarking I got stuck into You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac, picking up where I left off last time and completed it early afternoon. The overarching focus of You Me Everything is relationships, in many forms, and all the complexities and complications that come with those - how things go left unsaid, changes as relationships evolve, building trust with another person, the depths of love and more. I pretty much figured out where the book was going from early on, but I enjoyed the unfolding story. Many emotions are run through in You Me Everything, with lightness at points, relatability, and also sadness... In many ways it is one of those 'put yourself in the main character's shoes' books.

This evening I returned to Olive Kitteridge, started with a time of just 6 hours remaining on the audiobook, and ending with 3 hours 55 minutes left. The two stories I listened to today - Tulips & Basket of Trips - have been some of my favourites in the collection so far (perhaps because we are seeing a slight transformation in Olive). Hmm... Will I be able to finish reading Olive Kitteridge tomorrow?

I have finished Olive Kitteridge, and I've got to say, I feel quite glad to be done with that book. Whilst I appreciated the writing, I didn't care for Olive Kitteridge as a character and that definitely dampened the book overall given that she is quite a big part of it. As with anyone, there is good and bad in people but I just felt like there was more bad than good highlighted of Olive. I don't usually need to like a character in order to like the book, however being the title character, I do think that played a bigger role here. Also, it wasn't just Olive - there just felt to be a lot of negativity in this book, and whilst that is life at times, yes, I feel like it bogged me down as a reader. I wanted to love this one, and kind of thought I would, so am coming away surprised and disappointed... Honestly, if I hadn't had such hopes going in, I think I would have DNF'ed Olive Kitteridge.

Not wanting to end my reading week on a negative note, this evening I settled in and read the first chapter of The Outermost House by Henry Beston, totalling 18 pages... A much better way to end the week.


Happy reading!

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Reading Record | My Most Anticipated Book of 2020

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.

Since my last reading record post I have finished three books, however I gave them a dedicated post where I shared about rereading ghost stories. Other than ghost stories in summer, I have also sadly DNF'ed a nonfiction audiobook, and have just begun reading my most anticipated book of 2020: Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon.

In this post I'll be sharing all the reading I did over the weekend... I'm including Friday in this post, which I know isn't technically the weekend, but it just made sense to me to group these three days together all in the one post.

I'm going into the weekend with a bookmark in just the one book: Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon; I'm reading a physical copy of this book, and left off at page 26 yesterday evening.

After absolutely falling IN LOVE with Amy Harmon's What the Wind Knows last year (tied favourite book of 2019), I knew I had to pick up her next release. Where the Lost Wander is another historical fiction romance, this time focusing on a journey of the Oregon Trail.

I am still in the very early stages of this book, ending today on page 59, and am absolutely loving my return to Amy Harmon's writing. There is such beauty in her narrative, and I love the way she writes her characters and human nature as a whole. 

Today I did also start a new audiobook, borrowed from the library digital service: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. This is a middle grade novel, with a boy who has taken himself off to the Catskill Mountains to survive in the wilderness. I honestly didn't know much about this book going in to it (a whim of a borrow), but have since learned that it is actually quite a classic novel, and one that is also (or at least has been) assigned reading in the US school system - please correct me if I'm wrong on that. Anyway, I've listened to an 1 hour 10 minutes so far, and am quite enjoying it; I find it to be quite an immersive read and think the narrator (Michael Crouch) definitely plays a part in that. 

Throughout the day I have read just over 100 pages in Where the Lost Wander, bringing me over the half way mark now. I am still really enjoying the elements I mentioned above of the author's writing and the way she writes human nature, and I am now also wrapped up in the story of Naomi and John.

I did also make further progress in My Side of the Mountain - still gripped by this story. Much like in my historical fiction, there is a relationship that I'm quite engaged in: that of Sam and the falcon, Frightful - it is interesting following how they have come to trust and understand one another. I listened to just about 55 minutes of this book today.

Oh my - I have just finished reading Where the Lost Wander... What a beauty of a book! I was absolutely enthralled in the last half of this book, wholly engaged, and not wanting it to end. Honestly, I didn't want it to end, I appreciated the epilogue, but could have read about the characters for years to come after the time frame of this book.

If you haven't read any of Amy Harmon's books, I highly recommend her historical fiction romance - there is a great balance in the history & romance elements, with characters written some humanly, and backdrops that feel like they are right before your eyes. Amy Harmon's books feel perfectly written for me, with all the things I look for in a book, in the right proportion also. I could rave about her all day, but I shall stop now. 

Later on in the day, and I have also finished reading My Side of the Mountain, which proved to be another wonderful read also. The narrative held me throughout, I loved the nature/outdoors element of this book, and I really quite liked the ending too. Although I listened to this book via library borrow, I very much intend to get a copy for my own bookshelf also.


Happy reading!

Friday, 12 June 2020

Rereading Ghost Stories

I wouldn't usually associate reading ghost stories with this time of year now that summer is here, however with the weather here in Wales having taken a turn from glorious sunshine and blue skies to grey days and howling winds, I just felt in the mood for a good old ghost story... So I read three; returning to some tried & true favourites. 

When it comes to pulling ghost stories off my bookshelf, I always turn to Susan Hill & Michelle Paver.

The first ghost story I settled myself into was DARK MATTER BY MICHELLE PAVER. This book is Michelle Paver's first ghost story... And perhaps my favourite of hers.

Fed up with the way his life has panned out, Jack Miller is in want and need of a change, a challenge, something to take him away from his mundane job and lonely existence. When an opportunity arises for him to join an Arctic expedition working in communications, Jack happily signs himself up; whilst, initially, he feels a class divide and personality clash between himself and the other men on the expedition, he is keen to get himself away from London. Research done, kits acquired, and provisions prepped, the men set up camp in Gruhuken... And this is where the story really gets started, told to the reader through Jack's journal; his personal account.

Dark Matter is an unsettling read: the isolated setting creates a sense of unease, with the atmosphere being chilling before even adding otherworldly elements. The use of a journal as a storytelling method is very clever in this instance, as we are able to see first hand exactly how this environment affects those now inhabiting it - not only is paranoia present in his thoughts, but Jack himself references a change in his writing, and mindset, over the course of the entries.

There isn't a whole lot going on in Dark Matter plot point wise, but not in a bad way... The simplicity is one of the beauties of this book. For me, reading Dark Matter is more about the experience, the feeling that envelopes me as I sit in a darkened room, cosied in my warmest blanket. My reread experience was positive, and as with many books I reread, I discovered appreciation for things I hadn't previously. 

I have another Michelle Paver ghost story coming up  - Thin Air - however, I'm breaking up my reading of Paver's ghost stories with my absolute favourite Susan Hill ghost story: The Woman in Black.
My go to ghost story is definitely THE WOMAN IN BLACK BY SUSAN HILL. I have quite the history with this book and I find whenever I return to it, the experience is heightened each time. As well as having read the book, I have seen the movie (slightly different to the book) and watched the theatre play (twice) of The Woman in Black; I find these other types of media come in to play whilst reading also.

The Woman in Black is the story of Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor assigned to deal with the affairs of Mrs Alice Drablow after her passing. Sent to Crythin Gifford, in order to attend Mrs Drablow's funeral and sort through papers at her home, Arthur initially sees this assignment as a good thing for him, with more responsibility meaning better prospects, however by the time he leaves Crythin Gifford, Arthur sees it quite differently - his life changed in the few short days spent in Crythin Gifford, and in turn Alice Drablow's house, Eel Marsh House.

When arriving in the town, and his business there being known, Arthur already feels a mystery surrounding Alice and her home - people seem concerned when Arthur mentions her, nobody wants to fill him in fully on the hints he is given regarding her - but he was sent there to do a job, and that's what he intends to do.

Despite already having had a shakeable experience, Arthur sets himself up in Eel Marsh House after discovering that working Mrs Drablow's papers isn't going to be a quick and easy task. Eel Marsh House is set back from the rest of the village, with a causeway that is unpassable during high tide - the place is remote, isolated, Arthur is on his own.

The scenes that take place once Arthur has set himself up in Eel Marsh House are some of my most favourite within this book... They are atmospheric, immersive, and so well paced; there are times when I find I'm clutching my book just that little bit tighter. 

For me, The Woman in Black is quite a traditional ghost story in many senses - with sightings, hauntings, secrets best left buried - and Susan Hill pulls that all together wonderfully.
Last, and by no means least, I picked up THIN AIR BY MICHELLE PAVER.

Along with three other friends, Stephen Pearce and his brother Kits set out on a mountaineering expedition to climb Kangchenjunga. The year is 1935 and no one has yet to summit the mountain, despite numerous failed attempts; one of such attempts being the Lyell expedition, in which Stephen and the team are practically following the footsteps of, despite much hesitation from the locals and also a man who was himself on the Lyell expedition, in which a handful of the team were lost.

Much is known about the Lyell expedition, largely in part due to a memoir penned by survivor and leader of the expedition, Sir Edmund Lyell... However, we come to learn that perhaps not all of what Lyell wrote is true.

The story itself is told from the viewpoint of Stephen, with a lot of the narrative including the brotherly dynamics between him & Kits - I like this inclusion and definitely found it had a strong significance to the unfolding story. 

I found the ghost elements within Thin Air unsettling, with the pace being slow and steady before catching us unaware. The backdrop of mountain, and all the superstitions that surround it, really add to that frightened feeling.

Although there is darkness in the plot of Thin Air, largely regarding the Lyell expedition, I do think this book would be good for those who like a more gentle ghost story.
I have taken three things, from these three books, that tend to set me up for success when it comes to the enjoyment of a ghost story: isolated environments, male protagonists and the subtle supernatural. If you have any ghost story recommendations along these lines, I'd love to hear them. 


Monday, 8 June 2020

Reading Record | First Week of June

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 post is reflecting on the week that has been - the first week of June - in which I completed four books; a great start to the month!

I read small amounts in both my current fiction & nonfiction book – these are both carried over from the month of May, with bookmarks in them.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is the nonfiction book I’m focusing on at the moment (I do have a bookmark in another nonfiction also), and read just over 30 pages of that today. My current fiction read is The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold; I have passed the 150 page mark in this book, adding a further 20ish pages from today.

I was able to read a great deal more today than yesterday - reading close to 250 pages in total between both my fiction & nonfiction books - and also finished my first book of June: A Walk in the Woods. I had a good experience with this book (my first time reading Bill Bryson), however I did think there would be more writing regarding the actual hiking element of the Appalachian Trail.

This morning I read the remaining 120 pages of The Book of Secrets – what a book! I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this book, not the content as such as it is a dark and twisted read in place (there is a lot of sadness within the plot), but the experience of the author’s writing was positive… And the book did surprise me with the ending.

Later in the day, well the evening, I wound down my day with a hot chocolate in hand and an Agatha Christie mystery: Death in the Clouds. This is the last remaining Agatha Christie that I have on my unread shelf, so I’ll definitely need to stock up on some more soon. I read the first five chapters of Death in the Clouds, totalling 60 pages; the scene was set, the characters introduced, a crime has taken place, and now the investigation has begins.

I started a new middle grade book this evening: Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. This was a whim of a download via the digital library lending service – I was drawn in by the cover – and although I have only read 35 pages so far, I am thoroughly enjoying the book.

Song for a Whale follows a young deaf girl, Iris, who feels like the odd one out in her school and is also a little lost after the passing of her Grandpa. Of course, she is grieving for her loved one, but she also misses the kinship they shared as she had a wonderful bond with her Grandpa, who was deaf also. When Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale who has a song different to other whales, she feels an affinity and understanding with the whale.

Carved out time to make progress in both of my current reads – I read a further 62 pages in Song for a Whale this morning (I am now over the half way mark) and 88 pages read this evening in the Agatha Christie mystery.

First thing this morning I finished the remaining pages of Death in the Clouds, concluding this mystery novel.

I quite enjoyed the mystery elements of this book – the overall crime, the investigation, the revealing of the murderer (I did not guess correctly myself) – but there were parts of this book that I, as a modern reader, were taken aback on… This largely included the use of what would now be deemed a racial slur. As a reader, I am conflicted on this in the sense of obviously not advocating the use of such words & thoughts, but also not believing in censorship of books. Death in the Clouds was first released in 1935 and is very much a product of its time; I think that is worth noting.

This afternoon I finished Song for a Whale; what a wonderful middle grade book. I don’t read realistic/contemporary middle grade fiction enough (I tend to read a lot of historical and fantastical middle grade fiction).

I already mentioned a general overview of the book above, so there isn’t too much more to say about the plot itself without spoilers, but I can say that I did love how everything was pieced together and I really like how the theme of belonging was woven throughout, in various ways. Once the book has finished, Lynne Kelly shares two pieces: one about 52 Hertz, a real life whale who sings at a different frequency to others, the whale that inspired Blue 55, and another piece about sign language, including the author’s own experiences with sign language and where the concept of writing about deafness came from – I appreciated these add on pieces, and highly recommend the book as whole.

My next digital borrow from the library came through today: Murder by the Book by Clare Harman, a nonfiction book about a murder that took place during the 1840’s. I have the audiobook version of Murder by the Book and was able to listen to an hour of it this afternoon whilst working on my latest jigsaw puzzle.


Happy reading!

Monday, 1 June 2020

Reading Wrap Up | May

It is fair to say that both my reading and blogging have been on bumpy roads this year - I appear to be back on track with my reading now, however not quite there with my blogging... I'm actively working on that though, with one thing I'm implementing being getting back to basics with blogging. How? Well, with reviews.

I haven't actually written a traditional review of a book in quite some time, and to be honest, I don't think I'll ever return to writing full length detailed reviews, however I am keen to start concluding each month with a wrap up featuring mini reviews I've posted to Goodreads.

In the month of May I finished 12 books - 7 fiction novels, 4 nonfiction books, and 1 poetry collection (I never know whether to group poetry in to fiction or nonfiction).

Books are listed in order of completion, and each title will take you to the Goodreads page of the book & my review

I have ended May with bookmarks in the following titles - I hope to finish them in June.

Happy reading in June!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Reading With My Six Year Old | Autumn + Winter

As well as documenting my own reading here, I also love talking about reading my with son, Alexander. Alexander is now six years old and still holds a keen interest in reading... He is coming along with his own reading, but definitely much prefers to be read to, rather than being the reader. 

This post covers (well a general gist of) our reading during the past seasons of autumn & winter. I have also included a week of bedtime stories during this period, as this is one of our favourite times to read together; winding down from the day. Anyway, on to the post...

Alexander has a collection of Mr Men & Little Miss books that were actually passed on to him from Nathan's own childhood - the collection is not a full one, but it is pretty significant, and we have added on to it a little ourselves. 

There was a period of time during autumn & winter where I don't recall us reading ANYTHING BUT Mr Men & Little Miss books! You know when you're at the point of over reading books that you try to subtly suggest others - we were well and truly at that stage! Ha!

Alexander finds this collection of books a lot of fun and loves spotting the characters that aren't the title characters, and remembering their story - for example, Mr Impossible in Little Miss Naughty.

After the slight Mr Men obsession, this then transferred to his collection of Paddington books! Alexander says he loves all the Paddington books, but seems to favour the original story of the Browns and Paddington meeting, as well as one where they go to the circus, and one where Paddington and Mr Gruber take a trip to Little Venice in London. 

Each Christmas we gift Alexander with a bag of books alongside his other presents - this is the main way that his book collection grows. The bag is full of books pertaining to Alexander's interests, with a mix of fiction & nonfiction. This year the bag included more books in the Zoe's Rescue Zoo series (Alexander loves this chapter book series), some books about the continents and also some wonderful large (& I mean LARGE) nonfiction animal books: The Magnificent Book of Animals & The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures. These books feature a different animal on each double page spread, with fact files and the most beautifully detailed illustrations; they are a joy to read.

(Ocean Creatures is the book pictured in the opening image of this post)

During the February half term we were able to take a trip to the library together, with Alexander picked out a bunch of books. Many of Alexander's borrows were rainforest focused (both stories & information), and they inspired him to write his own rainforest book: walking through the rainforest, detailing the sights & sounds. Making his own books is something Alexander has really gotten in to recently.


Reading with Alexander is one of my favourite things to do, and I love that I'm able to document that here.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

A Day of Reading | Sunday 3rd May

7.40am | I start the day with my morning tea in hand and the first page of The Library Book by Susan Orlean.

I have had this book on my wishlist since Nonfiction November 2018 (2018!), and stumbled across it by chance, just last night, when browsing the digital library system - of course I immediately borrowed it!

I spent 50 minutes with The Library Book, reading 32 pages. These opening pages have really set up the book - Susan Orlean's love of books and libraries is very evident, and she has also described the tragic fire that ravaged the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 - the overarching topic of this book. I am enjoying the writing style of Susan Orlean also... It is detailed and descriptive, whilst remaining captivating. Her depiction of the library on an average day, preparing to open up to the general public, was a particularly immersive & powerful piece of narration.

10.00am | Now & then of a weekend, I like to treat myself to a daytime bath - for me, a morning bath is one of those simple little things that feels like such a luxury. A bath & a book are one of the ultimate relaxing combinations, so of course I took one along with me: A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison, reading 46 pages. This book is the first in a magical middle grade series.

12.05pm | I snuck in a little bit of reading time before lunch, picking up The Library Book again.

'In total, four hundred thousand books in Central Library were destroyed in the fire. An additional seven hundred thousand were badly damaged by either smoke or water or, in many cases, both. The number of books destroyed or spoiled was equal to the entirety of fifteen typical branch libraries. It was the greatest loss to any public library in the history of the United States.'


1.10pm | Returning to The Library Book on page 48. 

I read a further 39 pages. Much was covered during this section of reading, and I really enjoyed learning about the various job roles within the library system, in particular that of city librarian, John Szabo.

3.30pm | I spent some time reading I Never Knew That About Coastal England; this is a nonfiction book I have been happily dipping in and out of for a couple of weeks now. As someone who greatly admires the coast here in the UK (obviously the book just focuses on England), it is quite interesting reading about some of the historical aspects of our coastline.

I read 32 pages in this sitting, which covered three areas of the coastline - Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

5.40pm | Thirty minutes of reading in A Pinch of Magic - an additional 50 pages read. I'm intrigued by this book and look forward to reading more of it over the coming week.

7.00pm | Not my own personal reading time, but one of my favourites that I look forward to daily: bedtime story with my son. Today's book was a PJ Masks one. 

8.00pm | I found myself returning to The Library Book one last time - for about an hour - before calling it a day with my reading. Throughout the course of the day I have read 136 pages within The Library Book.

Not always, but often times I read my nonfiction books quite slowly (for example, the coastal book I mentioned above), however I do see myself flying through The Library Book; it is the kind of nonfiction that reads almost like fiction. I am definitely happy to have finally got round to reading The Library Book, and can see why so many people recommend it!!
Not every day looks like this, but today has been a good reading day.
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