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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