A Year in Books 2020 – January to March

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

During this unprecedented moment of restriction there’s never been a more lucrative time to enjoy reading. Hopefully in the coming weeks I can delve a little into my ever growing library of books to be read.

I’m not setting a target to read this year. I am just going to enjoy the simple pleasures of turning a page. How about you? Will you be joining in the initiative?

The Girl who Lived Twice – David Lagercrantz ✩✩✩

In the pocket of an unidentified homeless man, the police find a list of telephone numbers. Among them, the contact for Millennium magazine and the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Following the scorched trail of her twin sister Camilla to Moscow, Salander nevertheless continues to watch over her old friend. Soon Blomkvist will need her help. But first, she has an old score to settle; and fresh outrage to avenge.

Unfortunately, though this book was easy to read, it had the weakest plot of all the new Salander novels. I have a feeling Lagercrantz doesn’t have a handle on the character of Salander which is why she hardly features in these new stories, it is a shame, as she’s a great character!

The Disappearance – Katherine Webb ✩✩✩

When Frances’ best friend Bronwyn disappeared over twenty years ago, her body was never found. The mystery over what happened has cast a shadow over Frances’ life ever since.

Now, it’s 1942 and bombs are raining down on Bath. In the chaos a little boy – Davy Noyle – goes missing. But bombs conceal, and they reveal – and as quiet falls and the dust settles, a body is disturbed from its hiding place. What happened all those years ago? And can Frances put the wrongs of the past right again…?

I feel this novel was Webb’s weakest to date. I couldn’t gel with the characters and there was an underlying sadness to almost every sentence. It was a good story, it just wasn’t for me.

The Girl you left Behind – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩✩

France, 1916: Sophie must keep her family safe whilst her husband Edouard fights at the front. But when she is ordered to serve the German officers who descend on her hotel each evening, her home becomes a place of fierce tensions. And from the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait – painted by Edouard – a dangerous obsession is born, which will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision . . .

Almost a century later: Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv, a wedding gift from her husband before he died. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and its troubled history. A history that is about to resurface and turn Liv’s life upside down . . .

This was a much better stand alone novel than JoJo’s earlier The Horse Dancer. I felt the character of Sophie was better written than the modern Liv but it was a unique and often emotional story.

The Stranger – Kate Riordan ✩✩✩

Cornwall, 1940: In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall. Each is looking to escape her past. But one of them is not there by choice.

As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.

And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . . In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?

Another book I was rather disappointed in. The narrative I felt was quite fractured and the ending was like a puzzle that the reader had to pick apart themselves. Good writing, just not the greatest story.

Bird Therapy – Joe Harkness ✩✩✩

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended but nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.

This book named a lot of birds, some I knew, others I didn’t. It shows how nature and bird watching especially can have a healing effect on the mind and body.

The 24 hour Cafe – Libby Page ✩✩✩

Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night, Stella’s Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?

I think The Lido was a hard debut to follow, and the 24 Hour Cafe I’m sad to say was rather disappointing. The writing style never really got inside the minds’ of the characters, there was a whole lot of telling not showing and I finished the novel not really caring about any of the characters.

The Call of the Wild – Jack London ✩✩✩

Buck, is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit…

This classic novel was gathering dust on my shelf for years until the release of the film made me decide to give the book a go. The novel is not an easy read, full of violence and dying dogs. I was glad to get to the end and when I did I was left feeling a lingering sadness for hours after.

Circe – Madeline Miller ✩✩✩✩

In the house of Helios, mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.

I studied The Odyssey for my degree and love all things Greek! I thoroughly enjoyed this modern retelling of Circe. The language was beautiful and the story, though slow to start, once it picked up I couldn’t put it down. A really good book!

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by and stay safe!

Christine x

Dry January – Week Four!

The end is in sight!

I must have been out of my mind when I decided to do Dry January 2015.

January is notoriously the most depressing month of the year. During this month, I have had to fight stress and depression. I then hurt my back and was out for a few days last week and then this Monday I had a death in the family to contend with.

Dee

Dee

I had to say farewell to one of our oldest cats. Dee! She had been with us since 1996 and looked fantastic for her age. Recently Mum had noticed that Dee was having trouble with her balance. I told her to monitor it but by Monday things had gone progressively worse, so much so that Dee could hardly stand up!

Mum and I took her to the vets. We waited ages to be seen in a reception area that was filled with other cat patients. Dee was very vocal and cried to be let out, and when another cat started crying the room was filled with meows!

We were introduced to a kind vet called Sarah, who on seeing Dee (trying to get out of the carry case) said, ‘oh little one, something has happened in your brain!’ We coaxed Dee out of the carrier and she stumbled around the table, with her head constantly shaking and a vacant look to her eyes. The vet subsequently said that Dee could have had a bleed or a tumour  in her brain which explained the loss of motor control. They at present don’t treat brain diseases in animals and with Dee’s age, it was ultimately humane to put her to sleep.

With many of my cats in their twilight years, this ‘last journey’ is becoming more frequent. Mum and I stayed with Dee as we said our goodbyes. The vet informed us that Dee probably didn’t know what was happening. I held Dee in my arms as the vet administered the drug and she quickly drifted away. The vet said that she had given Dee a dose of 500mg but she had gone by 200mg, she was that poorly!

It’s come as a shock actually. Dee was the most healthy looking out of the four that lived with Mum. It has to be a blessing that it was a short illness.

Back to Dry January and there is only three days left! I may have moaned and groaned my way through it, but I was up for the challenge! I knew I had the willpower to go without alcohol for a whole month, but I wanted other people to see that I could achieve this too! You can still donate to my Just Giving page.

Here’s to February and that long awaited glass of wine! 😀

Christine x

Dry January – Week Three!

Week three of Dry January has been a real struggle emotionally and physically.

On Sunday I bent down to pick up a toy of Artie’s and I ended up on my knees screaming in agony! I must have pulled a muscle or put strain on my vertebrae as it’s taken days to get better. It is still not fully healed, every now and then I twist awkwardly or I forget my back is weaker and it twinges.

I had to call work on Monday as I could hardly move without pain shooting around my hips. Luckily my boss and agency were understanding and I took two days off!

With not just my back to contend with, I have also been fending off the ‘black dog.’ All I did this weekend was cry! Poor David, he didn’t know what to do with me! During this time I have not thought about having a drink. I think my drinking was more due to habit rather than actual need! I will not go completely dry once January is over, but I will watch my intake. I have downloaded an app for my phone (AlcoDroid) to check on the units ingested per week.

I have already marked out the wine of choice for the 1st of February (which is a Sunday so moderation will be key). It will hopefully be JP Chenet’s Colombard Sauvignon. I can almost smell the pineapple notes! 😀

You can still sponsor me at my Just Giving page for Alcohol Concern. Or you can donate using your mobile. Text to 70070 with the message, JGAC and the £ amount. i.e. JGAC £5 to 70070. Thank you!

I found that keeping active was key to getting over the injured back. So on Tuesday I arranged a coffee morning with Mum at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. I went to see the World War One commemoration statue, All Together Now by Andy Edwards and also spent a nice two hours walking around the cathedral and its chapels.

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Here’s to the last ten days of Dry January 2015!