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!
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