Reading Down My TBR Pile

I’ve read two books this week (well, one was an audiobook but I always count that as reading).

I’m on “staycation” for the next week (although I’ve actually not been to CAB this week due to an issue with the new powerchair) with lots of chill time and fun things that involve train trips planned so I suspect next week’s list will be a lot longer!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwoood.

I first read this years ago when it came up in conversation with one of my CAB colleagues and she lent it to me.  It was both my first Atwood and my first dystopia.  I’ve gone on to read many of both. Recently someone on Twitter posted about reading this and I was inspired to reread it. As I had an audible credit waiting to be used I got the audiobook at that was definitely the right decision, it’s brilliant in audio.

This really stood up to the reread and I think I took different things from it this time.  If you’ve not read this you should. If you’ve never read anything by Atwood you really really should.

High Tide by Veronica Henry

This is a summery fun book.  An enjoyable escapist read and the complete opposite to The Handmaid’s Tale.  I do enjoy a Veronica Henry book now and then but they always leave me hankering to go to the seaside!

 

Reading Down My TBR Pile

I’ve decided that I’d like to start keeping a weekly record of what I read again (more than on Goodreads I mean).  I’ve missed doing so.   I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with the reading down my TBR pile title or not because lets be honest it’s hardly making an impact in the pile.

Here’s what I’ve read in the last ten days or so.

Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson

I’ve read a lot of Milly Johnson books and enjoyed them.  But I had taken a break after getting very annoyed about the ending of the last one I read (it was a bit inappropriate, disability wise and made me want to throw the book across the room.)  Then I won a copy of Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage so I gave it a go.

It was a fun read that I read cover to cover in one day, sitting in the garden (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately).  It’s not taxing and I always know what to expect but it is enjoyable and very relaxing

Song of The Skylark by Erica James

My first Erica James book and it definitely won’t be my last (I’ve had another of hers on my shelf for years following a twitter giveaway and will be reading it soon). Partially set during the Second World War this was chicklit with substance and I loved it.

A Year of Doing Good by Judith O’Reilly

This was a really irritating book.  I wrote more about that here.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addision Allen

I had forgotten just how much I like Sarah Addison Allen’s books.  This is the only one I own as all the rest were borrowed from friends or the library.  I need to have them on my bookshelves though!  I blew through this in one sitting (with just a two minutes break to turn the oven on when I realised how late it had got and was really hungry) and was disappointed when it ended.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.

This was not as good as a Harry Potter book but I did enjoy reading it.  It’s super quick.  I suspect the plays are a million times better than reading the script and I’m really keen to see how they stage it.

Taking One for the Team

Over the weekend I read A Year of Doing Good by Judith O’Reilly.  And although I was mostly unimpressed I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

This is a memoir and the basic premise is that one year Judith O’Reilly set herself the challenge of doing one good deed everyday for the whole year.

It’s a tricky challenge and I’m not sure it’s one I’d like to take on.  My first thought was I don’t do many good deeds if any.  But then as I read it I started thinking about what I do at CAB and how that would count.  So that would be two days a week covered easily.

Some of her good deeds are pretty amazing – she helped start an initiative that raised over £10K for charity and others felt like she was reaching and really to me it seemed like they shouldn’t have counted – ringing a friend who’d been ill to see how they were or cooking a meal for a visiting family member for example.

At which point I realised that I did a really, really good deed for someone last week and forgot to tell anyone about it or blog about it.  And godforbid anyone should do a good deed and keep it quiet.  Because if I’ve learned one thing from reading A Year of Doing Good it’s if you’re vocal enough about these things you can get a book deal. achieve anything

We had a barbecue after sailing last week. One of my friends bought a bottle of wine with her.  I had a glass. And then because it needed using up and she had work the next day and I hate to see a friend struggling I finished the bottle for her.

It was really tough, obviously, forcing down that second glass.  But someone had to do it. And sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and take one for the team.

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

I received a copy of Florence Grace by Tracy Rees to review as a part of Quercus Summer.

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone. But when Florrie is fifteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth. Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Florence Grace is, for me, one of the books that makes book blogging great.  It’s on the face of it a very me book and I really enjoyed it.  But I don’t think I’d have discovered it if I hadn’t been sent it.  Although I like historical fiction a lot my tastes tend to run a little later (post 1900 usually). So I could easily have missed this and I’d have missed a brilliant read that I found hard to put down.  Seriously I spent an entire Saturday morning  in bed finishing this. I got up a couple of times for the loo or a drink and each time I was like “I’ll get dressed and go do my shopping and finish this later.” and each time I ended up back in bed reading more.

One of the best things about this book was it’s twists and turns.  At least twice I was absolutely convinced I knew what was going to happen.  And I was wrong each time.  But it still ended in a way that I loved and thought worked really well.  If you read one historical fiction book this year you wouldn’t go wrong with Florence Grace.

At the moment I’m really trying to make a big dent in my TBR pile of ridiculousness.  It’s mostly going well.  I think reading Florence Grace will cause a bit of a slip up though – Tracy Rees has written another book and I’m a little bit tempted.

 

Geek Girl: Sunny Side Up by Holly Smale

I’ve now reviewed so many of the Geek Girl series of books by Holly Smale that I should probably set up a “geek girl” category on my blog.  What can I say? I love them.

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.”

A brand new summer story from the no. 1 bestselling and award-winning GEEK GIRL series!

Harriet Manners knows many facts.

And she knows everything there is to know about Paris… except what to do when you’re the hottest new model at Fashion Week.

Can Harriet find her je ne sais quoi or will it be sacré bleu! on the runway?

Find out in this hilarious summer special GEEK GIRL novella from the no. 1 bestselling author Holly Smale.

This is going to be a super short review because I’ve raved about these books on my blog so many times before.

Sunny Side Up is a Geek Girl special.  It’s a novella and fits between books four and five in the series.  I really enjoyed it the same as I’ve loved all of the other books in the series.  But I think I may have enjoyed it more had I read it before book 5 as I was a little confused when one or two things that happened in book 5 hadn’t happened yet.

After reading this book I want to go to Paris and see some of the things Harriet did (never mind the fact that I don’t know if they’re open to the public and at least one of them definitely wouldn’t be wheelchair accessible).  Letting Harriet loose in Paris was a genius move.  Madcap, hilarious and just plain geeky with a side of tourist thrown in.  And you know Harriet makes an excellent teenage tourist.

I was sad with this being so short we didn’t get to see Harriet’s Dad very much as he’s a character that cracks me up.  But I loved getting to go back to the world of Geek Girl for a vist.  And as always, I can’t wait for the next one.

Can You Read Without Prejudice?

A few weeks ago on twitter I started hearing about a concept called Read Without Prejudice.  This is a book being made available to bloggers (and publishing 1st October). It doesn’t have a title and the author is given as anonymous. It doesn’t have a cover and it has a two line synopsis:

There are two points in life when we are all equal: at the moment of birth and at the moment of death. It is how we live in between that defines us.

As the publisher put it “We want you to immerse yourself in this dazzling novel, free from any preconceptions that a cover, title or author can bring. We ask you simply to #readwithoutprejudice.”

I was really intrigued by this concept and immediately requested a copy on NetGalley.  And within the first few pages I was hooked.

But it turns out I can’t, actually, read without prejudice.

I started to think that I’d read books by this author before and when I googled it turned out that author is published by the same people as read without prejudice.  I suspected it had to be a well established author you see.  Someone else told me they thought it was the author I did as well.

And then my reading got interrupted right as I hit a rather predictable twist in story.  I suspected I could see where it was going and couldn’t be bothered to pick it up again.  If it was the author I thought it was I’d read loads of their books and they were one of my favourite authors for years before I started going off of them because they all started to feel a bit samey.

It turns out my guess as to the author was correct – for as much as this is being marketed as “anonymous” I saw on twitter that the copyright notice at the back gave the author’s name so I looked. And immediately thought “I knew that’s who it was.”

I would like to pick this up again and finish it because the beginning was so great and powerful. But I know I wouldn’t have picked this up had it been published as by <authors name> as opposed to by anonymous.  And that’s putting me off a little.

As a concept I love it.  But I’m really surprised how much figuring out who wrote this has changed the book for me.  I thought reading without prejudice would be easy. And I really wish I could have made it all the way through before I realised because I think I’d be here raving about it rather than feeling “meh” and trying to get round to finishing it.

 

Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley

I received a free copy of Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley as part of  Quercus Summer.

Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he’s the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro’s army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?

England, 2012. Grace has a troubled relationship with her father, whom she blames for her beloved mother’s untimely death. And this year more than ever she could do with a shoulderto cry on – Grace’s career is in flux, she isn’t sure she wants the baby her husband is so desperate to have and, worst of all, she’s begun to develop feelings for their best friend Theo. Theo is a Cuban born magician but even he can’t make Grace’s problems disappear. Is the passion Grace feels for Theo enough to risk her family’s happiness?

From bestselling author Rosanna Ley comes an exotic tale of love, family and friendship set between England and Cuba.

You know when you read a book by a new to you author and you immediately start wondering why you’ve not picked up any of their other books?  Last Dance in Havana was like that for me.  I’ll definitely be picking up some of Rosanna Ley’s earlier books next time I get to a bookshop.

I really enjoyed this book. It was summery and fun and the perfect way to while away a sadly rare hot sunny evening in the garden. I lost track of time reading this and could almost have been in Cuba rather than my weed infested South Oxforshire garden. It definitely made me long to visit Cuba, somewhere I’ve never considered visiting before.

When I review books I don’t often mention who my favourite character in case it’s a spoiler but I usually try and decide that when I’m reading.  I really couldn’t decide if I preferred Grace or Elisa here.  Both strong women with struggles that made them seem real and relatable.

Over the last few weeks I’ve read a couple of beach read chicklit type books.  They’ve been OK.  I’ve liked them but the best I could say real was they were nice.  Last Dance In Havana was the first in a long while I can say I really liked.

The One We Fell In Love With by Paige Toon

I’m never quite sure how much to write in these reviews. I want to make them long enough that people can get a feel for the book but not too long that they can’t be bothered to read them. So just in case I’ve got it wrong I’ll start with the most important part of this review: I fully expect this book to feature in my Best Books of 2016 blog when December comes and it’s time to write it. It will take a lot to beat this.

Phoebe is caught between a rock and a hard place. Settle down and get married, or return to the French Alps to pursue her passion?
 
Eliza is in love with someone who is no longer hers. In fact, he probably never was… And her dream of becoming a successful musician seems to be vanishing before her eyes.

Rose is out of a job and out of a boyfriend. To make matters worse, she’s been forced to move back in with her mother…
 
But these very different girls have one thing in common. Angus. The one they fell in love with…

Paige Toon was one of the authors at the Books and the City blogger event I went to in March. She read an extract from The One We Fell In Love With and talked about it.  We also received copies and it was the first of those books I read as I was really intrigued.

I’ve read several of Paige Toon’s previous books and I think this may be her besst yet.  It’s certainly the one I enjoyed the most.

Phoebe, Eliza and Rose are identical triplets and the minute I heard that I was sure I knew what was going to happen in this book. I was wrong. In fact I was kept guessing all the way through as The One We Fell In Love With is a complex book full of moments that took my breath away and made me stop and think “what just happened?  But that’s not to say it’s a tricky read.

This was one of those books that I didn’t want to end and it’s one I’d love to read again but also don’t want to because I know what happens.  I’m a little bit jealous of everyone who gets to read it for the first time once it’s published this Thursday.  It made me laugh and it made me smile.  If I was one for crying at books it would definitely have made me cry.

It took me several minutes after I finished reading this to move on and do something else because I was thinking so much about what I’d just read.  That’s unusual for me. And I’ve kept thinking about it in the weeks since which is even more unusual for me.  I can’t recommend The One We Fell In Love With highly enough.

 

 

The Love of a Book

Over the past five or six weeks I’ve not read anything.  I’ve been listening to audiobooks in the background whilst working on a knitting projects – and old favourite series that I know well and don’t need to concentrate on (Swallows and Amazons). But the last time I actually read something was on Good Friday when I managed the first garden reading session of the year and finished The One We Fell In Love With by Paige Toon.  For the week or two before that I wasn’t reading much either.

It’s not like me not to be at least reading something.  I even did three train journeys without a book (although 1 I was with Mum so probably wouldn’t have read but I would have taken one) which is really unusual. No matter how little I’m reading, if I’m on a train I’ve got a book.

I don’t know why I wasn’t reading but it was irritating me that all I could read was fanfic online. I love fanfic, I really do, but it’s not the same and I missed reading.  I just couldn’t do it.  I even dropped my Goodreads challenge from my usual 100+ books to 52 as that felt much more realistic and reduced my stress about not reading.

I don’t really want to admit to it but I suspect my mental health was slipping a bit and that played a part.  The Internet (and fanfic in particular) is always a comfortable thing for me when I’m struggling.  But not being able to read a book is a bad sign.  A long time ago I moaned to a counsellor that all I could manage to do was lose myself in a book. She pointed out that being able to concentrate on a book and do that is a great sign because many people with mental health problems can’t do that. So it’s always been a case of “I’m reading, I’m OK.”

And actually judging by how much and how fast I was mainlining fanfic I probably could have concentrated on a book but I didn’t have the motivation or inclination.

Until on Tuesday I picked up my Kindle. I had about twenty minutes before my Dad was coming to take my sailing and my cleaners were here. They clean either the lounge or the bedroom and I sit in the other then we switch. And when I switched from on my PC in my bedroom to in my lounge I had a little poke at my Kindle and started reading Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain.

I didn’t get far with it before I ran out of time. And then I didn’t read anything on Wednesday.  But on Thursday I took my kindle on the train not wanting yet another journey without the option of reading.  And suddenly it clicked.

I finished that book that evening.  And since then I’ve read a novella (Summer at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn) and the entirity of another novel (Out of Practice by Penny Parkes)

Maybe it was the fact enough time had passed to get it out my system.

Maybe it’s the sunny weather meaning I can get out in the garden again and sit there.

Maybe it’s finishing my knitting and a few other things and no longer having quite so many things I feel I should be doing instead of reading.

Maybe it was just having a short period of time before I had to put my kindle down and go sailing.

Or maybe it was just a case of finding the right book.

But whatever it was I’m reading again and I’m really loving it.

 

An A to Z of Books and Authors: Jane Austen

For the A to Z blogging challenge this year I’ve decided to have a bookish theme and share some of my favourite books and authors – ones that I’ve loved, those I revisit time and time again. Ones that made me laugh and ones that have been influential in other ways.

Blogging from A to Z 2016 A icon
A is for

A is for Austen. As in Jane Austen.

Classics are something I read a few times a year.  Not on a hugely regular basis but enough to say they are a part of my reading loves.  I read some classics as a child – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one I read again and again one holiday – but mostly when I had to.  I can’t remember really reading any classics at school and it was an area of reading I didn’t touch for a long time.

Eventually I set myself a list of goals. Some of them were reading related but most weren’t. And as an adult my love of classics began once I tackled the goal to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

I really enjoyed it and I’ve read all of her books now with the exception of Emma (I’ve partially read that at least twice but never got all the way through it). Part of me thinks I should give it another go but I’m not sure I will.  My favourite remains Pride and Prejudice and I’m considering rereading Persuasion having heard a few people say that was their favourite and not being able to remember much about it.

I don’t have a favourite classics author (Dickens is my least favourite I think) – at the moment I’d say I have a soft spot for the Bronte sisters as I’m still working my way through their books and with the exception of Wuthering Heights which I didn’t understand I’ve loved reading them.  But I enjoy Austen a lot and she’s a bit of a special author for me because she’s the one who got me reading a genre I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I do.