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.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Reading Record | Bout of Books (27.5)

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 jotting down my reading as part of my participation in Bout of Books 27.5. Bout of Books wasn't due for another event until May, however the hosts decided to put on a super low key mini event: safe at home edition.

I'm starting the week with The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - I heard a fair bit about this book when it was first released, with my knowledge of the book being that it is quite bookish and takes place in a small town. I read the first 48 pages today, which isn't the strongest start to the readathon, but it is a start.

I read a further 69 pages in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend... Honestly, I'm not too sure how I feel about it. I thought it would be a nice, light read - which it is - however, it feels a little cardboard-y.

I often have more than one book on the go, but especially so during readathons, so I started another book also: Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis. I have a number of James Patterson novels lying around as my mum really enjoyed them and shared them with me; I've enjoyed the ones I've read so far - and flown through them - so thought this would be a good book to pick for a readathon read. I read the first 50 pages this evening.

Continued reading Murder House - bookmark left on page 118. I'm having a slightly harder time falling in to this particular James Patterson than others previously, with the flipping between time making it feel a little disjointed for me.

I started today picking up where I left off in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, from page 118 (interesting that I paused my reading of both current books at the exact same stage), and read another 50 pages.

A good chunk of my reading time was spent with Murder House - and I actually ended up completing it! As I mentioned before, I wasn't really connected with the book due to the changing time of plot, but once I fell into that I was totally engrossed. Set against the backdrop of the Hamptons, with a house that has some dark history, it was a good reading, with some interesting twists & turns; what you'd want from a crime thriller really. 

Book two of the readathon complete - I read the remaining 98 pages of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend today. I thought this book would be one I'd love, but it was a bit meh to be honest. The plot was interesting, however the characters felt flat to me, and in turn didn't fully bring the story to life. My favourite element of the book was the letters from Amy; I enjoyed getting to know her character through those.

With just the weekend left of the readathon now, I wonder if I can get another book read in its entirety. I have Jack & Bet by Sarah Butler on my TBR still - a digital download from the library that needs finishing soon-ish, so I think I'll start that tomorrow.

After downloading and opening the library borrow of Jack & Bet I have learnt that the ebook is only 170 pages in length - I'm confident that I can read that this weekend and leave the readathon with three books read.

Well, it isn't even 6pm, and I've finished Jack & Bet; a lovely book. Jack & Bet are an elderly couple, married for seventy years, who live in London. Their son is looking to get them help with assisted living in a care home, however Jack & Bet are having none of it, so after a chance encounter with Marinela, the couple find themselves with some household help. That's the general premise of Jack & Bet, but of course there are layers to the story that I don't want to reveal due to spoilers. I quite enjoy books with elderly protagonists, and this was another successful read in that category.

This evening, wanting to continue with my reading but not start a whole new book, I read a little in the nonfiction book I am currently reading (to be honest, I have bookmarks in a number of nonfiction books right now, but this book specifically is my focal read): I Never Knew That About Coastal England by Christopher Winn - I read 30 pages.

I added a little bit to my page count for the readathon overall, reading a further 38 pages in the nonfiction book.

In total I read 1034 pages throughout the week of the readathon, and completed 3 books; I'm super happy with that.



Happy reading!

Monday, 6 April 2020

Reading Record | Back On Track

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 have their specific reading record.

With all that we are facing as a world right now, I have found my reading to be very off and on, with concentration levels not always being too great... This past week or so, I have found a number of books that captured me, and that I read through nicely, so I thought I'd share those three books and my experiences with them.

I settled into Nest by Inga Simpson today, reading the first 122 pages. We are following the character of Jen, a woman who has moved back to the small town in which she grew up. There are mysteries that run throughout the story, including that of missing children, however the main focus - to me at least - seems to be Jen... Her day to day life, and how she is moving on from her own troubles. I quite like the writing style of Nest so far, with short chapters and descriptive nature writing that really pulls you in.

No reading.

Further reading done in Nest - an additional 99 pages - and I'm still enjoying my time with this book. In particular, I have enjoyed the development of relationships and how twists & turns are starting to appear in the story now.

I finished reading Nest by Inga Simpson this morning. Overall a pleasant read, and a book I would recommend to others. Whilst the plot was multi-layered, it did feel largely like a life study of main character, Jen, with any questions I had being wrapped up in the end, but not all pleasantly. Also, if you are someone who likes nature writing in your fiction, then Nest would be a great one to pick up - the Australian landscape transported me.

After concluding Nest I thought I'd look in to the author's writing a little more, and perhaps see about purchasing another book of hers - Mr Wigg (Inga Simpson's debut). Well, it appears to be mighty hard to purchase Mr Wigg here in the UK, with used copies being £20+ and the only other option of purchasing directly from Australia being double that!

A positive to note though, when adding Nest to my Goodreads account, I noticed that my reading is definitely back on track now, having read 7 books in the month of March (the same amount I read in January, before my February reading slump hit)… Now to get back on track with blogging.

This evening I started reading The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain, a book I have borrowed via the library digital download system and have only seven days left before returning. I read 48 pages to start with, and hope I'm able to finish it before the return date.
Some further reading in The Family Tree, although minimal - 80 pages in total read now.

I read a further 90 pages in The Family Tree today, meaning I have now passed the half way mark. I am enjoying this book so far, however I'm not too sure I like the direction it is going in - time will tell.

No reading.

Today I finished the remainder of The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain... And I came away conflicted. 

The Family Tree follows the life of a Muslim family living in Britain, spanning a number of years: we see children grow, cultural celebrations observed, world events and their impacts covered, and the complexities of family life depicted... Whilst I appreciated the story and writing style, I personally felt like the path of one family member (Saahil) took a turn that I wasn't entirely convinced of. Other than that, I would not have a bad word to say about The Family Tree, and would recommend it to anyone who likes books with a family focus.

I decided to shift my reading gears and step into a middle grade book next, one of a dystopian genre: Where The World Turns Wild by Nicola Penfold. I read 102 pages as a starting point.

Today I read a further 90 pages in my current read.

This morning I finished reading Where The World Turns Wild, coming away having had a great reading experience.

As I mentioned when I first spoke about this book, Where The World Turns Wild is a dystopian middle grade book, following Juniper and her brother, Bear - they live in a walled city where nature has been banned, with everything carefully maintained and managed by city officials. A man-made disease, introduced to protect the wild, is why nature is now banned, however Juniper and Bear are resistant to the disease, and are keen to get back to the wild, and in turn their parents.

There is great depth to the story of Juniper & Bear, and the message behind the book is perhaps more important now more than ever. I loved a lot about Where The World Turns Wild, details that you can't even convey if you haven't read all the finer details of the book, and would say it is in my list of top favourite middle grade reads. Highly recommend!

Next week I'll be participating in Bout of Books 27.5... Bout of Books wasn't due to take place again until May, however they are hosting a little Safe at Home edition - I look forward to taking part.


Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Reading Challenge | The First in a Series

Towards the end of January, I found myself in a reading slump - honestly, probably one of the worst reading slumps I've ever had (I didn't finish a book for 25 days!). No matter what I picked up, I just couldn't get in to it; I missed books, and being cocooned in a story. 

When it comes to reading slumps I have two tips: reread a favourite, or mix it up. I'm a big rereader and love returning to a tried & true favourite, however in this instance it didn't seem like the right thing to do. So I decided to mix it up, have fun with my books, challenge myself in a way... Although having not read books for well over a week before deciding to draw on my own tips, I didn't want to push myself too far outside my comfort zone.

One bookish thing I really wanted to do this year was get stuck in to a long running fiction series... I often struggle with series, especially if they are still being published, and do tend to put series I want to read on the back burner when it comes to what I pick up. However, I decided to use this bookish want of mine to pull myself out of my reading slump, by reading the first book in a number of long running series I have been interested in. I'm mixing it up by adding a fun reading challenge element to my reading, whilst the book selection itself being very much within my reading zone.

By the end of the challenge, having read all five books, I wanted to conclude by deciding which book series to move forward with this year... I suppose in a way it is kind of like the 'Try A Chapter' tags I see in the book community, but with the first book in a series, as opposed to a chapter of a book.

THE BOOKS with all titles linked to Goodreads

The first book I finished was Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett. Set in the fictional town of Stoneham, New Hampshire, we are welcomed into the book town at a time when change is afoot... And the town finds themselves losing the title of 'Safest Town in New Hampshire' when Doris Gleason, a cookbook shop owner, is murdered. Doris is found by her bookshop neighbour, Tricia Miles, mystery bookshop owner and the main character of this book (& series as whole I do believe). 

The story follows the unfolding investigation of Doris's death, of which Tricia finds herself implicated, as well as side stories of family dynamics and town politics. I didn't necessarily connect with the characters wholeheartedly within this cosy mystery, but the town itself, the pacey plot, and the writing style are what captured me.

I will note though, at one point (without giving spoilers) the author did use a term, in reference to another character, that I don't personally find appropriate - this did lessen my reading experience to an extent.
Next I moved on to one of the children's classics on my series TBR: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. I was vaguely familiar with the story of the Baudelaire siblings prior to starting this book, and I think many of us are, however I thought I'd share the brief summary of the book as given by Lemony Snicket: In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

So this isn't the most pleasant of books, no. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the writing style and the playful tone that runs throughout the narrative of what is a rather sad and unpleasant story.

The Bad Beginning is clever & entertaining, and I look forward to seeing more of the Baudelaire siblings, whose relationship I loved.
Still Life by Louise Penny was the book I picked up next... And, unfortunately DNF'ed at the 90 page mark. 

Going in to this reading challenge of mine, I thought this book would have been a high favourite, and of all the series featured here I did think this would be the one I'd continue slowly working my way through this year, so this DNF definitely did surprise and wasn't done lightly either.

I haven't passed on this book entirely, and I do hope that the next time I pick it up I have a better experience.
Moving on from a crime mystery, I delved right on in to the town of Cedar Cove with 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber. This book, and town, have just stolen me - I felt comfortable and right at home from the very first page.

The focal character of the first book within this series is family judge Olivia Lockheart, resident of 16 Lighthouse Road. Olivia has just made a big decision regarding a couple seeking divorce, and we watch as she navigates the fallout from this, as well as how the couple (Cecilia & Ian) react and come to terms with this decision also. There is also lot of Olivia's every day life featured in the book - family, friendships, romance and more.

Inside 16 Lighthouse Road you'll find a number of stories and a whole cast of characters, but never once did I feel lost or confused; I was drawn to the people and their lives. Resolutions are found for many within, but of course life is ever evolving (& this is a series), so some things were left open ended... Usually this would bother me as a reader, but the nature of knowing I'll be returning to Cedar Cove in another book smooths that over a little.
Last, but by no means least, I read The Little House in the Big Woods. I have heard so much about this children's classic, and am happy to have finally gotten round to starting this series. 

There is no plot as such in this book, but rather following the lives of the Ingalls family as they lead their day to day life living rurally in a log cabin in the Wisconsin woods. Set in 1871 and based on the author's own childhood, The Little House in the Big Woods transports the reader to a much different & simpler time in history.
I really quite enjoyed the four books I did complete, and could see myself returning to them all at some point of other in the future, with the series I'm continuing with this year being...

Cedar Cove by Debbie Macomber

Going in to this challenge of mine I honestly would not have pegged this series as being the one I'd continue with currently, however here we are! Not only did I have such a positive reading experience with the author's writing, but I loved the atmosphere I felt when reading... Prior to starting this challenge I missed being cocooned in a story, and this cocooned me.

I enjoyed the first book so much that I have already started the next book in the series.
I deem this challenge to be a success - it definitely pulled me out of my reading slump - and I stand by my two reading slump tips!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Recommended Reading | Time Travel Romance Books

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 blog series of mine now, featuring throughout the year (not just at the end), to include recommendations based on specific topics.

I love a good time travel book, and in particular, I've found I tend to enjoy time travel books that feature romance... I think there are a number of reasons for this, but with perhaps the prominent one being that connection grounds time travel books for me, allowing them to feel more realistic and relatable. Today, I'm sharing five time travel romance books that I've read & loved over the years.

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

This book sparked my love of time travel romance... I went out on a limb when first picking up The Time Traveler's Wife, as it just didn't sound like my kind of book at all; I was wrong. I fell head first in to the love story Clare & Henry, and have returned a number of times with that same feeling still present.

The thing I particularly enjoy about The Time Traveler's Wife, that sets itself apart a little from the other books featured on this list, is that the plot not only follows them as they grapple with the time travel element of their relationship, but that as readers we are able to follow them as they grow, evolve, and attempt to normalise their relationship - with jobs, a friendship circle, marriage, starting a family, and so on.

The Time Traveler's Wife is a chunky book, it requires commitment, but well rewarded with a wonderful story unfolding.

The Summer of Impossible Things was the first book of Rowan Coleman's I read, and since then I have consumed close to a handful more of them - she has a beautiful way with words, and captures characters and feelings so perfectly. 

After the death of their mother, sisters Luna & Pia travel to New York to settle some loose ends regarding their mothers estate. Whilst there, they visit their mother's hometown of Bay Ridge, including the house she grew up in, and whilst there, Luna finds herself transported back to 1977 - a pivotal year in her mother's life. With newfound knowledge and abilities, Luna sets out to potentially change the course of history. 

The romance in this book is not the main plot line, as you can probably tell from my shortened plot explanation above, however it does play a large part in the story. Love as a whole is central to the plot of this book.

Katrina leaves the home she has made for herself in California, and returns to Cornwall where she and her family spent many happy summers, with plans of scattering her sister Eva's ashes there. 

In Cornwall, Katrina situates herself at Trelowarth House, the home of family friends of their youth but who also still live there now; with Trelowarth as her base and familiar people around her, Katrina is soon settled... That is until she finds herself in an 18th century Trelowarth House, occupied by Daniel Butler.

You'll find elements of romance, time travel and historical fiction within the pages of The Rose Garden, with romance being the focal point for sure. Of all the books on this list I'd describe this as the 'lightest', but a great story nonetheless.

Lux is a single mother, living in San Francisco, doing the best she can for herself and her son... But she needs a break. Taking herself off for a little retreat, camping in the Sonoma Valley, she stumbles across a community (Greengage) that she instantly connects with - the location, the people, the lifestyle... The only trouble is Greengage is living in the early 1900's and Lux has come from the 1970's. 

I don't want to say too much about this book, as it would be so easy to spoil the plot... I will conclude by saying that this is a story of wonder, responsibilities, and belonging.

Also, I loved the community of Greengage.

I have saved the best for the last... I only read this book last year (it was only released last year also), but I can confidently say it is a firm favourite of all time.

What The Wind Knows follows Anne Gallagher, an American woman who journeys to Ireland in order to scatter the ashes of her recently passed grandfather. Whilst doing just that - scattering the ashes - in the middle of Lough Gill, Anne finds that she is no longer in modern day Ireland, but the unfamiliar setting of 1920's Ireland - a time of turmoil for the country whilst they battle for independence. 

There is so much beauty in What The Wind Knows, and I was entirely wrapped up and captivated throughout my time with this book... You are in for a treat with this one!
So that concludes my list of time travel books featuring a romance... Whilst writing up this post I did reflect on my own reviews of these books, with two of them including quotes from the books; I thought I'd end this post by sharing them below.

'"Love outlasts even death. It's present in every moment, even those filled with darkness; it's never exhausted, it never gives up or waivers. It's the one force of the universe that will never be captured by an equation or your science."'

'"Someone very wise told me that we keep the people we love in our hearts. We never lose them as long as we can remember how it felt to be loved by them."'

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

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Reading Record | I Finished 5 Books + Off The Grid Readathon

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 have their own specific reading record.

In this post I share about some lingering books that I finished, and also my participation in the Off The Grid Readathon which place between Friday 17th - Sunday 19th.

Starting the week with 5 hours and 57 minutes left on my audiobook of The Five, and just under 150 pages left in The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Today I made progress in both of my current reads... I have returned to Evelyn Hardcastle after my short break, as I had hoped, and read just over 50 pages today. I also listened to The Five audiobook; we have moved on to third woman killed by Jack the Ripper, and I have 4 hours and 44 minutes of listen time left. I’m happy with the steady pace I am working through The Five, and am really enjoying the book itself, which I will of course talk more about when I’ve finished.

One book finished and a new one started today.

I finished The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle! Whilst I appreciate the book for what it was – an original and well crafted murder mystery – it just wasn’t the book for me. I have seen universal praise for this book, and so hoped I would have a similar experience myself... There are a couple of things that dented my personal reading experience: the lack of likeable characters (at all) and also the fact that I always felt like an observer, never fully falling into the story. I wasn’t whisked away by this book, and reading it felt like a chore at times, however I am happy I stuck with the book and was able to complete my experience.

The new book I have started today is Outpost by Dan Richards, a nonfiction title with a focus on the outdoors, wilderness, and remote places on this earth. The book is split into a number of chapters, with each chapter representing a different location visited by the writer. The reason I have picked this up to read is because since finishing After The End on Sunday, I have not had another ‘read in the bath book’ – I know some people have strong views on bath reading, but I personally love a good relax and read in a hot bubble bath, HOWEVER, I only ever read my own physical copy books in the bath... Occasionally I’ll listen to an audio book, but for the most part I like to keep bath reading to personal physical copy. As you know, I am currently reading a nonfiction book (on audio), and don’t tend to read more than one NF at any one time, however I know the next fiction book I pick up having now finished Hardcastle will be a library borrow, which of course I would not have as a ‘read in the bath book’, so I looked at my unread books and settled on this title; I don’t think it will conflict with my other current NF as they are vastly different topics being handled. Outpost should work great for the reason I am picking it up now, as I can read one or two chapters at a time, dipping in & out. I will likely only mentioned this book again once I have finished it, as I imagine my bookmark will slowly meander through the pages.

I started my next current fiction read today: The Escape Artist by Diane Chamberlain. I know that this is one of her backlist books, very early backlist at that, but it was recommended to me when searching for her newest release on my library reservation system. I’ve read more than a handful of Diane Chamberlain’s books now and have always had a good reading experience, so I hope for the same with this one... I read just under 40 pages.

I did also listen to more of my audiobook today: The Five.

I finished reading The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper today; the book is by Hallie Rubenhold, and my audio version was read by Louise Brealey.

Hallie Rubenhold has done a phenomenal job with this book, using extensive research to show the real lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper, as well as depict what the Victorian era would have looked like – visually, morally, and more. I also really felt a sense of care in the writing, care for these five women – Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary; their stories were told with tenderness and love even. If you enjoy historical or true crime nonfiction, then I highly recommend The Five.

Today begins my participation in a readathon (my first of the year): Off The Grid Readathon. The idea behind this readathon is to read without distractions. I like the idea of switching off, disconnecting, and focusing on books, which is why I take part in this readathon whenever I can.

My TBR consists solely of library borrows, being backlist books by authors I’ve enjoyed previously, 

I decided to start my readathon experience with The Death of Mrs Westaway, simply because it is the book I need to return the soonest of the three... And I managed to read the entirety of it today! It picked it up multiple times today and flew through it.

With an isolate country estate and family secrets central to the plot, I will admit I did have some hopes for this Ruth Ware novel as I do love both of those things in a book... However, something just didn't work out for me with this title, and actually other Ruth Ware titles also. I find her stories interesting - this being my 3rd book of hers now - but with all the books I have read of hers, I find there is a disconnection between me & the story... And I can't pinpoint what exactly it is.

Having finished The Death of Mrs Westaway, I have now moved my focus to The Escape Artist by Diane Chamberlain. As mentioned above, I did briefly start this book on Wednesday, but made some significant progress today, reading around 230 pages... Meaning I am more than half way through.

I like the story so far... I mean you can tell it is of its time (1990's) technology wise and such, plus I also have a suspicious as to the mystery plot elements unfolding, however I am enjoying the writing and the progression of the main character.

This morning I finished the remainder of The Escape Artist... I would say it was a good reading experience – I’m enjoying reading some of Diane Chamberlain’s backlist titles, but as with any author, when you’ve read more recent works of theirs, often times the backlist ones aren’t comparable. The things I do enjoy in a Diane Chamberlain novel – a dilemma that wants the reader to project themselves in to and characters that you easily invest in & commit to – where present within The Escape Artist, and so for that reason, as I said, it was a good read.

Having finished The Escape Artist in the morning, I did ponder whether I should pick up another book or not... More specifically, if I pick up another book will I finish it within the readathon time frame. 

I did indeed pick up another book, opting for a middle grade title sat on my unread shelf: The Somerset Tsunami by Emma Carroll. If you're a regular reader of my blog then you'll know I do enjoy a middle grade here and there, and in particular, Emma Carroll is one of my favourite MG authors, so of course I was super keen to get stuck in to her most recent release.

And yes, I did finish it in the readathon time frame - concluding the story early evening! 

Emma Carroll writes historical middle grade fiction, often times with adventures ensuring, strong female characters being central to the plot, and wonderful relationship dynamics between both family & friends; all of these things combine perfectly in my opinion. There was also a Q&A with Emma Carroll at the end of the book which I quite enjoyed also.

What a reading week - 2 books carried over from the week before finished, and concluding the week with 3 books finished in 3 days!



Do you have specific books for specific reasons? 
For example, the bath like me, or perhaps a commute book, or a bedside table book etc.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Recommended Reading | Books with Cold Settings

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 blog series of mine now, featuring throughout the year (not just at the end) to include recommendations based on specific topics. 

Today, with winter well and truly here now in the northern hemisphere, I wanted to share some books that all have cold settings. This time of year is perfect for curling up with a good book, and being a mood + seasonal reader myself, I do like my books to reflect what is going on outside. I have seven books to share, with a number of genres represented.

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

We're starting off this list with one of my favourite books of all time - The Snow Child is a historical fiction novel with elements of magical realism interwoven. The story follows Jack & Mabel, a childless couple who decide to take on a homestead in Alaska. Although they have no children, they do long for one, and after building a snow child together one evening, they find themselves greeted by Faina, a mysterious wild child who takes a hold of the couple in many ways. 

The Snow Child is beautiful, raw, magical and harsh, much like the backdrop of Alaska that is presented.

For me, winter is the perfect time to get wrapped up in a spine chilling ghost story, with Thin Air being one I return to time and time again. 

Thin Air is the story of a mountaineering expedition, with a group of men attempting to scale the third highest peak in the Himalayas, told from the perspective of expedition doctor, Stephen. The history of the mountain, as well as the isolated environment, lend to an eerie atmosphere felt throughout. The book itself is quite short, and best enjoyed in the one sitting.

Continuing with books set in isolated environments, I'm talking about one of my more recent reads. The Terror by Dan Simmons is a historical fantasy novel with thriller elements. The story draws on the 1845 Franklin Expedition, a exploration of the Arctic, with the ships being stranded in the Arctic Circle. The men on board are doing all that they can with the provisions they have, but after a great length of time stranded there, things are getting desperate... Especially with the fear of a deadly predator stalking the ship. 

I won't lie, The Terror is a long book (my edition was a total chunkster at over 900 pages) but it is well worth the commitment if you're looking for a horror that takes place in a cold setting.

Sci-fi isn't a go to genre of mine, but earlier on this year I read (& loved) this post apocalyptic novel.

With society no longer as we know it, we find ourselves on a journey of survival with the McBride family, cocooned with them in the little community they have formed in the Canadian Yukon. This book was an all round good read, with a story that flowed well, characters that capture you, and a backdrop that chills.

A genre that you will often see me reading is mystery thriller - I love a good page turner whilst trying to piece together a mystery.

The idea of a cosy lodge in upstate New York during winter time is appealing, a place to get away from it all and take a break. That image turns unsettling when a blizzard occurs, shutting down power at your remote lodge... And absolutely nightmareish when dead bodies start turning up!

If you're more of cosy mystery reader, then Murder on the Orient Express is the book for you. Although the tenth book within the Hercule Poirot series, it is easily read as a standalone also. 

The passengers on board the luxury Orient Express train find their journey halted during the middle of night, due to bad weather and snowdrifts along the route. A delayed journey is the least of their worries though when a passenger on board is found dead... Murdered!

Agatha Christie is of course a treasured author within the crime genre, and personally, one of my favourite things about her writing style is the way in which she writes the investigation and pulls it all together in the end... I don't think I have yet to read a Christie novel and been correct in my deductions.

Last, but by no means least, on this list of books with cold settings is an adventurous middle grade novel with a backdrop of historical Russia.

Feodora and her mother are wolf wilders, living in the woodlands, taking care of & taming wolves that were once kept as pets by the wealthy. Due to unfolding events, the pair are separated, and Feodora has to pull on all her strength and fight - not only for herself, but her country also. 

So that concludes my list of books with cold settings... I have read others, however these are the stand outs to me. If you'd like to read more about the books mentioned, the titles are all linked to Goodreads.

If you have any recommendations yourself based on the topic, be sure to leave them in the comments below.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Reading Record | First Fiction & Nonfiction Book of the Year

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 have their own specific reading record. 

In this post I'm sharing my reading from the last week or so - since the start of 2020 - including the first fiction book I finished, and first nonfiction also. 

The first day of the new year and I’ve gone in with a clean slate, no lingering books being carried over, starting the new reading year with the first page of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. I have wanted to read this book for a while, and after borrowing it from the library late December, decided to hold off delving in and kept it in mind as my first book of the year. As the new year approached, many other readers started sharing their favourites of the year, and this book kept cropping up, so I thought it was definitely a good choice to be my first book of the year.

I picked up The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle on two occasions today, finishing my reading day being at the 72 page point – so still very early on in what is a 500 page book.

Also today I started my first nonfiction of the year too, deciding on the newest nonfiction release from Erling Kagge – Philosophy for Polar Explorers. I really enjoy the writing of Erling Kagge – a Norwegian explorer, among many things – and find his books to be both thoughtful & meditative.

Further reading in Philosophy for Polar Explorers this evening, whilst enjoying a relaxing bubble bath; the two were a good combination. I am now at the 87 page mark, having read 8 of the 16 chapters. Each chapter focuses on a life lesson of sorts, with Erling Kagge sharing examples and relating it to his own experiences in life. Many of these are things we’ve all heard before, but the way in which Erling Kagge presents them is unique in many ways and gives a different perspective.

Today I have returned to The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and have read to the end of page 159.

I continued a bit in The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle today, getting to just under the 200 page mark. My progress in this book is definitely slow going, but I’m okay with that – I think sometimes as book bloggers we fall into the mindset of ‘read all the books, as quick and fast as humanly possible’. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about speeding through a gripping read (I hope I’ll experience that this year also), but I do want to be a bit more mindful & purpose driven with my reading this year.

There isn’t too much to tell you about The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, the blurb pretty much sums up all you should know going in plot wise I believe, however I will say it is the kind of book that requires concentration. I don’t feel like I’ve truly fallen into the story, as I’m more observing the goings on, however I am intrigued to see where this is all leading, as I honestly have no idea at this current point.

Further reading in Philosophy for Polar Explorers; another three chapters read.

This morning I finished read Philosophy for Polar Explorers, making it my first book of the year to be completed! It was a great one to start with also; one of those books that makes you consider things and see them in a different light. In general I would recommend Erling Kagge’s writing, with this being my second favourite of his (Silence would be first, and Walking third).

Read to page 274 in Hardcastle today – now passed the half way mark.

Today I started my second nonfiction book of the year – The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold – which I have borrowed in audiobook format via the digital section of our library service. I’ve had my eye on this book for a good while now, hearing so much about it within the book blogging community, and I bumped it up my list after seeing it feature on many end of year wrap up posts in a positive light. My local library currently only carries this title via audiobook and I was bit unsure if that would be right for me, having never listened to nonfiction on audio before, however I need not worry as I have absolutely loved listening to this book... The audiobook is just over 10 hours long and I’ve already listened to an hour and 45 minutes today. I didn’t want to stop!

I am at the 350 page mark in Evelyn Hardcastle.

Further reading in The Five today means I have now listened to just over 3 hours 30 minutes in total, and the focus of the book has shifted onto the second of the five women.

Hmm... After much pondering (probably far too much pondering spent on a book decision), I have decided to set aside The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle for now and start a new fiction book; I have been thinking about this for the last couple of days really.

Whilst I am steadily making my way through Evelyn Hardcastle, I am feeling like it is more of a chore than for the pleasure of reading... I think starting The Five, and feeling how enthused I am to sit and read that, has allowed me to further realise how I feel with regards to Hardcastle. I am not DNF’ing: I just want to get lost in a fiction book that is truly capturing me, which sadly Hardcastle isn’t that for me right now. I do intend to return to Hardcastle after my next fiction read; I want to see how the plot comes together and concludes, although more out of curiousity than actual investment in the book and the characters... I’ll be honest, I think the lack of likeable characters is one of the things putting me off Hardcastle.

Anyway, so this evening I started After The End by Clare Mackintosh... I have read just 37 pages, and I already feel more pull to it than Hardcastle. I can tell it is going to be a sad story, but one that will be a positive reading experience... It is reminding me almost, at this very early stage, of early Jodi Picoult books.

Today I read further in After The End and also made progress in The Five. 

I now have just under six hours listen left in The Five; I predict I’ll have this nonfiction audiobook finished by the end of next week.

With regards to After The End, I was speaking with a fellow blogger on Twitter today about it, and she mentioned that it is drawn from the author’s own experience, which totally makes sense now, as all throughout reading (I am only 100ish pages in) I have been thinking about how strong the narrative is – knowing the author has sadly experienced such a tragedy herself makes sense with how the book feels.

More reading done in After The End... Things have taken an interesting turn, and I’m unsure if I like it or not.

I made it a priority to read at any possible opportunity today, and in doing so I managed to complete After The End by Clare Mackintosh. It is going to be hard to share my full thoughts on this book as I do maintain a spoiler free blog... Hmm... I found After The End to be a very emotionally charged book, which at times was quite hard to read, but at the same time I did not want to put it down. The story itself takes an interesting path, and the ending wasn’t quite to my usual reading tastes, however it worked well in this book and with the way this story had been told. Although this is my first completed fiction book of the year, I see After The End staying with me long after the year’s end.


What was your first book of the year?

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Recommended Reading | Read in 2019 (My Year in Books)

The new year is now here (wishing you all a happy one) and so it is time to look back on my entire year of reading and compile a list of books that I read in 2019, and recommend to others. 

I have already put together favourites posts (first half & second half) for the year, however, as explained in those posts also, for me there is a distinct difference between my favourites of the year & the books I include on my recommended reading post. For me, a favourite is more about all that the reading experience encompasses, it is largely feeling based, whereas the books on this post are the ones I want to shout about to everyone for a specific reason - it could be because the character has stayed with all year (& still so), the way in which the plot unfolded was just so well done, the book surprised me in some way, or the message of the story is strong and well worth hearing, or for a number of other reasons. 

The bottom line being: I read 104 books in 2019, and of those books, these 16 are the ones I recommend the most.

All books are listed in order of when I read them, and all title links will take you to Goodreads

What book(s) did you read, enjoy, and would recommend, from 2019?
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