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!


  1. I have very mixed feelings about that Lorna Barrett series. While I like the basic premise for the series I have a harder time liking the main character as it goes on and there have been several issues that just seemed odd. I didn't love Still Life as much as everyone else but I did read it. I listened to it which I think helped quite a bit. I need to pick up that Debbie Macomber series.

  2. Congrats on getting out of your slump! I struggle with series because they’re a big commitment, but there are a few that I love. I should probably get braver and try more of them.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!


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