Monday, 27 July 2020

Reading 7 Books in 7 Days | Middle Grade

One thing I'm really keen to do within my reading life is someday complete the reading challenge of reading 30 books in 30 days... However, that is rather intimidating, and not something you jump in to lightly, so to prepare for this I want to do some 7 in 7 challenges - so here is my first attempt at reading 7 books in 7 days.

I actually didn't start reading for this 7 in 7 challenge until the evening of today, so perhaps not the best start with 72 pages read in my first book of Agatha Oddly: The Secret Key by Lena Jones, but a start nonetheless. I think it is important to remember that yes, I didn't complete a book on the first day, but that doesn't mean all is lost - the challenge is to read 7 books in 7 days, not a book a day... I will catch up.

This morning I got stuck in straight away and finished the remainder of The Secret Key. I thought it was was a fun introduction to the characters and overarching story in this mystery series. I liked Agatha and all her quirks (including her love of Agatha Christie, of course), as well the characters surrounding her. I also love that this book, and I believe whole series, is set in London - I definitely want to continue with the series and see where else is featured.

Having finished BOOK ONE of the challenge, I decided to try and get myself going in two new books today - making a good dent in each of them - intending to then finish them both up tomorrow... Meaning ending day 3 with 3 books complete. This plan may not pan out, but here it goes.

This afternoon I moved on to The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman... Yep, another mystery (I do love a middle grade mystery!). Also, coming off the back of my last book, with heavy Agatha Christie influence, I thought it coincidental that The Highland Falcon Thief opens up with a quote from Agatha Christie: 'As for trains - what can beat a train?... To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers - in fact, to see life.' Love this quote, and quite agree. I read just under 100 pages within The Highland Falcon Thief, meaning I have roughly 120 left for tomorrow.

In the evening I picked up The Faraway Truth by Janae Marks, reading 70 pages, with 100 remaining. I'm enjoying this realistic MG so far; in particular, I really like the voice and overall personality depicted of the main character, Zoe Washington. 

Well, my plan worked! I finished the two books I was part way through yesterday, meaning I have now completed BOOK TWO & BOOK THREE also. 

I picked up where I left off yesterday evening, by spending an hour or so with Zoe Washington in The Faraway Truth, finishing the book. In this book we meet Zoe during summer break, just as she has turned twelve years old... She is experiencing all the usual complications & complexities of being twelve, including friendship issues and wanting to be seen as more than 'just a kid' by her elders, but also she has connected with her biological dad who she has never met, due to him being in prison for the last twelve years. The way in which the two connect feels authentic, with the building relationship between the two via letter being one of the things I adored about this book. Writer, Janae Marks, has written about systemic racism and other prevalent issues in a way that feels true to life, but also delicate and accessible for a younger reading audience. I loved this book and definitely recommend it to all.

Side note about The Faraway Truth, when logging it to Goodreads I came to find that it has a different title in the US: From the Desk of Zoe Washington... I know they change book titles for different audiences, and whilst both titles tie in with the book wonderfully, I do actually prefer the US title to the UK one. But a title is just a title, and the book is wonderful either way.

I dedicated the morning to The Faraway Truth, and the evening to finishing The Highland Falcon Thief.

I love books set on modes of transport - train, boat etc - middle grade, and otherwise, so I thought it was quite likely I'd come away loving The Highland Falcon Thief... And I was correct! This was a great start to middle grade series (Adventures on Trains), one that I am keen to continue with now. 

Harrison Beck (Hal) is on the trip of a lifetime with his travel writer uncle, Nat, journeying on The Highland Falcon's final journey... The Highland Falcon is no ordinary train, it is the royal train that is soon to retire. For the final journey, and last hurrah, a number of high profile characters are aboard the train... And so is a jewel thief. With the help of another onboard, Hal gets to work uncovering who the jewel thief is. This was a fun read, well paced, and I loved the illustrations sprinkled throughout. 

Immersing myself in a slightly more fantastical setting today, picking up Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman... Another first in the series. I don't tend to read a lot of series, unless I can devour them all in the one go, but this doesn't apply to middle grade as I do often read MG series. Having already found two new series I'd like to continue with (Agatha Oddly & Adventures on Trains), I wonder if this series (Elementals) will be added to that growing list also.

I read 100 pages today, which if I'm being honest, is much lower than I was aiming for as a page count, but it is what it is. Although this is a challenge, I do still want it to be fun & enjoyed; I don't want to burn myself out reading wise. 

Book wise, I'm liking the plot of Ice Wolves so far, with the world building being easy to follow and the characters & relationships being presented well. Fantastical fiction isn't always my thing, but I do tend to get on well with it within a middle grade setting. 

I finished reading Ice Wolves today, which was a good reading experience all in all and a good set up for books to follow.

However, I would say I am behind on my book count now having finished BOOK FOUR on day five, meaning I have two days left to complete three books... To be honest, at this point, I'm wondering if this 7 in 7 will actually be successful.

After a some time (far too much time) worrying about failing this reading challenge, I got back to my TBR and started Bloom by Nicola Skinner, reading the first 40 pages - this is a book with magical realism themes, and I like where it's going so far.

I read a book in full today - BOOK FIVE complete! 

I devoured Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson... This is a realistic fiction middle grade following Amara, a young girl who really wants to travel from Oregon to New York for her birthday in order to see her extended family, and the place where her dad grew up. Whilst Amara's parents can't agree on allowing her to visit New York, an opportunity presents itself in the form of a school assignment - 'The Suitcase Project' - and this lends to her being allowed to accompany her dad on a work trip there. Amara is a black female protagonist, and it is wonderful seeing her presented in MG fiction (much like in The Faraway Truth also). I really enjoyed the elements of Amara learning about her family history (the family dynamics were complex and felt true to life) as well as the black history & culture that featured throughout the book. I loved this story, and I also love how Renee Watson added a section at the back for readers to complete their own Suitcase Project.

As well as completing Some Places More Than Others in its entirety, I also read a further 62 pages in Bloom.

Ending today feeling a little more hopeful about the challenge... But also slightly uncertain about finishing a book and a half tomorrow. Eek!

I did indeed finish BOOK SIX & BOOK SEVEN today, meaning I officially completed my first 7 in 7 challenge - YAY!

Starting the day with The Boy Who Flew by Fleur Hitchcock, I finished this mid afternoon, having spent a few hour-ish chunks with it throughout the morning & early afternoon. I came away feeling a little conflicted regarding my thoughts on this book; whilst I did enjoy it as a book, it didn't entirely read as a MG book to me (although, it didn't read as a YA either)... It was quite dark in places, and whilst I've read dark middle grade books in the past, scenes of child abuse as depicted here just did not sit right with me in a middle grade book.

Ending the day on a slightly better note, I finished Bloom by Nicola Skinner, reading the remaining 100ish pages. I quite enjoyed this book, with themes of letting people be their own person and the importance of green spaces. Bloom is narrated by the main protagonist, Sorrel, and the story was told in such a way that includes the reader, with a little aside here & there - I thought that a nice touch. 
Although stressful at times, I had a lot of fun with this challenge; it taught me some things about the pressures & deadlines of reading a specific amount of books within a certain number of days... And I definitely will be doing some more practise runs of 7 in 7 challenges, before moving on to a 30 in 30!

Monday, 13 July 2020

Favourite Books of 2020 | First Half (My Year in Books)

Half the year has now been and gone so I thought I'd sit down and reflect on my last six month of reading... In that time I have read 55 books, however the majority of those were really only in the last few months as my reading year did not get off to the best start.

What makes a favourite book is quite a personal thing, for me though a favourite is more about how I felt during my reading experience, as opposed to the technical qualities and make up of the writing... Also, most of my favourites tend to have the rereadability factor too.

All book links below will take you to Goodreads



What has been your favourite book(s) of the year so far?

Monday, 6 July 2020

A Weekend of Reading | Just Mercy, Agatha Christie, and More

I'm starting my weekend by focusing on Just Mercy - I have read 170 pages so far of my ebook copy meaning I have just under 100 pages left. 

During two sittings today - one first thing in the morning & the other later on in the afternoon - I managed to complete Just Mercy. This is a nonfiction book with a focus on social injustice and racism, written by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who is committed to helping those in need within the criminal justice system. Through his work he has heard many stories and met many people, and done his best to get justice for them. A number of these cases feature in Just Mercy, with the case of Walter McMillian being a constant throughout the book; Walter was one of Stevenson's first cases and through the telling of his story, you can tell that not only was the case life changing for Stevenson as a lawyer, but also that he holds Walter as a person dearly. 

I have been reading this book all week, spending short amounts of time with it daily - the reason I did this was because it is the kind of book I want to digest in small snippets due to the emotional nature of the writing. The stories in this book are heart breaking, the racism angering, and many of the statistics hard hitting.

Learning about Bryan Stevenson himself, and his work, made for really interesting reading also. I am in awe of him and all the work he (& many others) commit themselves to.

Although a hard to read book, Just Mercy is an important book, and one that should be read by the masses. 

This evening I read a further 51 pages within A Murder is Announced, leaving my bookmark on page 92.

I spent this morning and a little into the afternoon with my Agatha Christie mystery: A Murder is Announced, completing it by about 1pm. I really enjoyed this book - I think I say this with all the Christie's I read - and especially like the concept of the murder being announced before it took place; a thrilling aspect almost. There were some good twists and turns along the way with this one, and I once again did not guess the murderer correctly... But it was cleverly done. I will say, I do think I like Marple mysteries a smidge more than Poirot.

This evening I stayed up way later than I should have, and finished reading Where We Belong by Anstey Harris. As I went into the weekend I was at just over the 100 page mark, so in total read 130 pages of this book this evening. Although a slow read at times, I found this book engaging and it was interesting to see the transformations that took place throughout - that of the museum that features, and the family also. 
At the start of the weekend I did wonder if finishing all three books was a tad ambitious, so am happy to have come away with all three books wrapped... And it means I can now go in to the new week with the first page of an unread book.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Reading Wrap Up | June

In the month of June I read 15 books in total; a mixture of fiction & nonfiction. Of these books, 10 were physical books from my own collection, 3 ebook library borrows, and 2 audiobook library borrows.

There was good variety in my June reading including: historical fiction, contemporary middle grade, a psychological classic, murder mystery, nature nonfiction, and more. 

June has not only been a great month for reading, but for blogging also... I posted more times this month than the prior four months combined! Whilst I have been producing content regularly, I will say that I could improve on my blog hopping, so I would like to work on that a little in July.

Anyway, the books...

Links below will take you to my review of the book on Goodreads


Happy reading in July!
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