Monday, 1 March 2021

Reading Wrap Up | February


We were a full week into February before I ended up finishing my first book of the month: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. For me, this was one of those beautiful books that you read a slowish pace, savouring, picking up all the little details within that truly speak to a reader.

The History of Love has four different narratives running through it, with a book (titled: The History of Love) connecting all four characters. The four main characters all have distinct stories and voice, but it does take a moment to get on board with that when first reading (there are icons at the top of each chapter which aid in knowing which character is the current focus). Of the four, my favourite character was, without a doubt, Leo Gurksy... You know those characters that stay with a while, he is one of them; in fact, this whole book is one that will stay with me a while. 

Moving into the second week of February, I finished reading a further two books. The first being The Exiles by Christina Kline Baker, which I read over the course of four days. I was gripped by this story from the very beginning, and what a journey my reading experience with this book was. Christina Baker Kline is a wonderful story teller, not only transporting the reader through her words, but writing in a way that we are also so invested in these characters; I don't want to give spoilers here, but there is a particular time in this book that really hit me.

The Exiles focuses on the colonisation of Australia from the British, with the story being told through female convicts sentenced to transport and exiled to colonies, as well as the unsettling times of aboriginal people being taken from their own lands and being used as entertainment. This book touches upon very hard hitting themes, with some truly horrific scenes, however Christina Baker Kline tells these stories of displacement with such a tender touch.

When I read historical fiction I always hope to come away with a want to further my knowledge on the time period or historical event that is written about, and I definitely found that to be the case with The Exiles. Helpfully, Christina Baker Kline has written some references at the end of the book, so I'll be delving into those at some point in the future... I will also, for sure, be reading more by Christina Baker Kline.

Over the weekend I devoured a newly released middle grade mystery: Murder on the Safari Star. This is the third book in the Adventures on Train series; I absolutely love this series as a whole, and this newest addition did not disappoint. Harrison and his Uncle Nat are off on another train journey, this time travelling through Africa, however as with all their other adventures, complications and crime soon arise. Much like the other two books in the series, I enjoyed seeing the dynamic of main character, Hal, and his Uncle Nat play out, the backdrop of the train journey was captivating, and I did not correctly guess the culprit of the crime. The Adventures on Trains series is one of my absolute favourite mystery series, and I highly recommend it.

My reading slowed down as we continued into February, with other things requiring a lot more of me and also preparing for my son to return to physical school (here in Wales, children within Foundation Phase - Nursery to Year 2 - returned to school the last week of the month). Last September, when the children initially returned to school, I dropped off a bit then too with reading & blogging, and so I did imagine the same thing would occur again - correctly so. I am comfortable with my son being back in the school environment, and his school itself are taking many measures, but it does take me a little while to process all of that and truly get back into the swing of things.

So, the last book I completed in February was Traces: The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator by Patricia Wiltshire. This was a (digital) library borrow for me, and although I worked through it at a relatively slow pace, I was able to have it returned on time. I'm sure you can imagine from the title of this book that it was bound to be an intriguing read; it was just that and more. Patricia is a strong women, with an interesting life story, that she does not hold back from sharing. The main focus of the book is her line of work, although snippets of childhood and such are shared too. I think it is very important to state that this book isn't for the faint hearted, Patricia deals with crime and death, and in turn dead bodies, and she speaks about these things very candidly - including decomposition of the body and such. This book doesn't necessarily make for pretty reading, however, it was pretty fascinating. 

There are two other books (one fiction & one nonfiction) that I began in the month of February, however I have yet to finish them so will talk more about them in my 'In Progress' post later on this week.

BOOKS MENTIONED

Happy reading in March!
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Monday, 8 February 2021

A Weekend of Reading | First Book of February Finished


In which I finish my first book of the month & make good progress with current nonfiction reads.

SATURDAY 6TH FEBRUARY
This morning I sat and read for roughly about two hours (from 8 until 10) and it was just lovely. 

I started by reading 41 pages within The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. This means I've now passed the half way mark; I'm still just as captured as I was at the start. The History of Love is slow and complex, but in a good way, with a nice balance of character/plot focus - it isn't driven more towards one or the other.

Following on from this - perhaps enjoying my reading and copious amounts of tea a bit too much, not wanting it to end (ha!) - I picked up Thinking on my Feet by Kate Humble. I spoke about this book in my last post here on Reading with Jade, explaining how I am reading it as the time passes, what with the book itself spanning an entire year. So in this sitting I read the entries for the month of February - 19 pages in total - and so that'll be my time with this book until I pick it up again in March. 

When I last mentioned Thinking on my Feet, I said how I find myself nodding along with many of the sentiments Kate Humble writes, and so I thought I'd share one such quote from this February reading... 

'This is what I love about experiencing the world at walking pace: the small but significant luxury of having the time and headspace to notice details that make me feel part of my surroundings. A sense of belonging, rather than passing through.'

I know it is still early on in the year (REAL early on), but I do see this book being one of my favourites from 2021.

In the afternoon I read a further 34 pages within The History of Love (steady progress) and also took the time to make some book reservations on the digital library app as I have yet to utilise the system so far this year (some books are due in a week or so, and others not until April time). 

Before bed I once again picked up The History of Love, reading another 32 pages before calling an end on my day.

SUNDAY 7TH FEBRUARY
After coming back from a walk this morning, I fittingly picked up A History of the World in 500 Walks, reading 17 pages from chapter two - The Ancient World.

This afternoon I read the remaining 50ish pages in The History of Love, making this book my first finished book of February. 

I found The History of Love to be a really touching book, with great emphasis on human kind, love, connection and much, much more (all the emotions!). The concept of an item (in this case, a book) bringing together the storylines, and in turn characters, is a plot device I really quite liked - if you have any recommendations of other books that use this plot element, I'd love to know them. 

I will try and talk more about The History of Love in my reading wrap up at the end of the month, but TRY is the keyword there, as I do often find when it comes to the books that truly capture me, I have little to say as I just know my words won't do the story justice.

Having finished The History of Love quite early on in the afternoon, I did anticipate starting a new book by time night arrived, however that wasn't to be. Some books you really need to sit with and process, whilst holding your feelings about it for a while; I'm finding this to be the case for me with The History of Love. 

Perhaps tomorrow I will see myself with a new book in hand, perhaps not...

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Friday, 5 February 2021

In Progress | January - February


Earlier on this week I wrote about the books I finished in the month of January and noted that I'd be writing a separate post about the books I currently have in progress - well, this is that post. I didn't want to make my wrap up too lengthy and so splitting the two seemed like a good idea. 

Moving into February, I have bookmarks sitting partway through three books; two of which I will carry through to the end of the year.

The first book I'm going to be talking about is Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel. Chronicling the year of a specific nature site, I decided I'd take this book month by month and read along in real time, as my own landscape shifts and changes.

As regular readers will know, I love nature writing, and this title is known for being a bit of a must read within the genre, so I'm happy to be finally getting round to experiencing the book for myself.

My next book shares the spanning of one year with Meadowland, and so although not initially intending to read month by month, I decided to give that a go for this title too... The title being Thinking on my Feet by Kate Humble. 

Thinking on my Feet details a year of walking in Kate Humble's life, and whilst I have only read the month of January, there is been great variety in her footsteps and she has voiced some thoughts that I find myself nodding along with. Kate Humble is an advocate for walking, not only for physical health, but also that of mental health too - something I greatly agree with. I look forward to continuing with this book, month by month, over the course of the year.

Lastly, I have a another walking based book on the go, working my way through a pretty hefty coffee table nonfiction book: A History of the World in 500 Walks by Sarah Baxter. The book is split up into time periods throughout history and I am aiming to read a chapter every month or so. So far I am keeping up with this, ending January having finished the first chapter of 'Prehistory'. I love that I am learning more about the history of the land, as opposed to just a guide of certain walks as we'd see them now.

So, based on all that I intend, you'll probably see these books lingering around a while on my 'In Progress' posts.

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Monday, 1 February 2021

Reading Wrap Up | January


I started the year with a fresh new book, picking up The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. I had been wanting to read this book for some time and set it aside a good couple of months prior in order to start the new year with what I thought would be the perfect 'first book of the year' for me... Although I did start the year with it, reading the first 50 pages, it didn't end being my first book of the year completed.

On January 2nd (a Saturday) I received my preorder (placed in October I believe) for The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll, earlier than its 7th January release date; I then finished this short children's book over the course of the day. Much like all of Emma Carroll's books, The Ghost Garden is a historical fiction story, this time set against the backdrop of WWI impending, with family & friendship at the heart.

After The Ghost Garden - accidently - ended up being my first finished book of the year, I thought I would hop back on into The Giver of Stars... But after a week of barely picking up the book, I decided it wasn't my time with this story yet. I'm interested in the characters, the historical backdrop, and the library, however I just wasn't feeling invested enough. Not DNF'ing, but setting aside The Giver of Stars for the right time. 

Feeling like something a little lighter, something I could fall deeply in to, but hopeful for some depth to the plot still, I moved on to Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center; this book proved to be exactly what I was looking for and I flew through it in three days. 

In Happiness for Beginners we follow main character Helen, a newly divorced women who is about to head on a three week wilderness course hiking through the mountains of Wyoming. I didn't initially feel a pull to Helen, in fact she annoyed me a little bit truth be told, but over the course of the book I really did come to like her character - flaws and all. For Helen, the wilderness course is suppose to be her thing, a way to pull herself back together after a messy divorce, strengthen her as a person... So of course she doesn't expect to find love on this course, much less with the unlikely character of her younger brother's best friend! Watching the relationship between Helen and Jake unfold was full of emotions (many frustrating ones even) but wonderful at the same time. 

Katherine Center has a way with words and paces the story perfectly; Happiness for Beginners is a great book to get lost in.

Following on from this I spent the last half of the month with the Ingalls family, reading book three & four in the Little House on the Prairie series (note: my series does not include Farmer Boy, so if yours does, these titles may seem off to you). 

First up was On the Banks of Plum Creek, which for me, has to have been one of the most emotional books in the series so far. Between the grasshopper infestation and the blizzard, there was a lot to take in this book, but one thing you can sure admire in the Ingalls is their strength!

Despite the hardship and devastation in book three, I didn't want to leave Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing just yet and so moved on to book four: By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Well there was much change between book 3 & 4, with a good few years passing - Mary has now sadly lost her eyesight, there is a new child in the mix (Grace), and all the girls are clearly older. This threw me off a little at first, but I soon fell back in to the rhythm of Laura's story telling. Much like previous books, it is all change, with Pa off to work on the railroads now. This element of the story made for interesting reading, seeing how life is shifting and changing. The family have now found their forever homestead it seems, in DeSmet, and I look forward to seeing how this evolves for them over the next three books.

I didn't read The Little House on the Prairie series as a child, but am thoroughly enjoying them as an adult. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder has captured so many important parts of history within the pages of this series, and whilst the books are fictional in part, they are a great foundation to build off learning about this time in history. I would go so far as to say these are some of favourite historical fiction novels due to the detail of the time and the true beauty of Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing - she describes feelings so well and also paints a picture with her words.

With four books finished, this is where I find myself at the end of January.

I did make a start on three other books throughout the month of January, however I will be sharing separately about my 'In Progress' books in the next couple of days.

BOOKS MENTIONED

Happy reading in February!
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Monday, 25 January 2021

Recommended Reading | Read in 2020 (My Year in Books)


With the new year now here (well & truly, this post is going up much later then I intended) it is time to look back at the wide variety of books read last year, and share a list of those I would recommend the most.

In 2020 I did share two book reflection posts, looking at my favourites for the first half of the year and the second half, however my end of year 'Recommended Reading' is slightly different to my favourites. For me, favourites are very feelings based whereas the books I'm sharing here today may not have been a favourite (although many are) but they are titles that I think should be read by others for a whole host of reasons - each reason being individual to the book, of course, however with the overriding point being a powerful story (whether fiction or nonfiction).

I read 116 books in 2020, and of those books, these 17 are the ones I recommend the most.

All books are listed in order of reading, with title links taking you to Goodreads


What book(s) did you read, enjoy, and would recommend, in 2020?
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