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!
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