A Year in Books 2020 – January to March

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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

First Line Fridays

Taking inspiration from Cathy’s post, introducing First Line Fridays. A weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author. I decided to join in myself.

The below is from the book I am currently reading.

The city never sleeps, and neither does Stella’s. A glowing red sign marks out the cafe that serves fish and chips, bangers and mash and American pancakes to Londoners and visitors at any time of day or night. While buses pull up and drift away outside the window, the coffee machine hisses and administers caffeine to the sleepless.

I enjoyed the debut novel of Libby Page so have high hopes for this novel too.

the 24 hour cafe

The 24 hour Cafe – Libby Page

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

I Believe in Book Fairies!

As no one took up my offer of a free book, Libby Page’s The Lido gifted to me by Sharon. I decided that the best way to pay the book forward was to join The Book Fairies.

The Book Fairies is a worldwide initiative inspiring people to share their love of books by leaving copies in public places for others to find. So during a recent trip to the Lake District with book in hand David and I sought to find a suitable spot in which to place my book.

I wonder who will find it?

Do you believe in Book Fairies? Have you tried something similar?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – April to June

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

This quarter I have read a total of ten books, bringing my total to 17.

The Almanac is a book I’ll dip into throughout the year and I end this quarter and begin next’s with Kate Morton’s, The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

Almanac (April/May/June) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩

I really wish this almanac had more information on the natural world. It seems to focus too much on cheese and folk songs. The only information I’m learning is what is going on in the night sky i.e. meteor showers and life inside a bee hive.

Winter – Ali Smith ✩✩

It seems such a long time since I read this book! I enjoyed Autumn but I have to say Winter was a disappointment. Displaced heads and pretentious characters made the reading of this book a chore. Perhaps, if you’ve read this boo, you think differently?

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame ✩✩

After watching The Wildlife Trusts’ add featuring Ratty, Mole, Badger and the mad Toad, who face a world encroached by mankind, I decided to read the book. It was a hard narrative to get into. It is definitely a book from its time! I am glad I have read it but would not read it again. Perhaps a film version would be more accessible? What do you think?

Whistle in the Dark – Emma Healey ✩✩

I loved Elizabeth is Missing, so when I heard Emma Healey was writing a second novel I was eager to purchase a copy. Unfortunately, I was not blown away by the plot of a girl who goes missing in the Peak District only to resurface days later reluctant to say where she went. The story is narrated by the mother who is neurotic and annoying. I did not enjoy the story at all. Have you read this book? What did you think?

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker ✩✩✩✩

I devoured this book in a week. Pat Barker’s narrative was easy to read and I enjoyed following the fate of Briseis and her fellow captives during the Trojan War. There seems to be a resurgence of fiction from the Greek Myths and this book was just one of them. Have you read any of the others?

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde – Eve Chase ✩✩

This book was featured on a few online book clubs so I downloaded a Kindle version. However, I was not that impressed. Though the premise was interesting enough (an unsolved missing girl mystery), the style of writing did not engage me in the narrative. I felt there was something lacking. It would make me think twice to pick up another book by this author.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩

For Christmas, David bought me the complete collection of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books. I thought I would read book 1: The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Mainly for children I enjoyed the tale and illustrations. (Poor Peter’s dad became a pie!!) I can’t believe it’s taken me over 30+ years to read it!

The Lost Words – Robert McFarlane/Jackie Morris ✩✩✩✩

I read this book during the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild. It is a beautiful book, full of lush art work (goldfinches are prevalent) and the poems can be read again and again. One to put on display on the coffee table I think.

The Lido – Libby Page ✩✩✩✩

Thanks to Sharon who sent me this book. I really enjoyed Libby Page’s first novel and look forward to reading more of her work. The story revolves around the proposed closure of a lido and the campaign to keep it open. During this time a friendship kindles between a young journalist, Kate and a regular of the lido, Rosemary. This friendship not only brings Kate out of her shell but highlights the sense of community. As a pay it forward – if anyone would like this copy of The Lido, let me know and I will send it to you!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton ✩✩✩✩

I’m an avid reader of Kate Morton and have read all her publications. Though I’ve found this novel a little slow to get into, I am enjoying the narrative and it is an easy read. The plot has a colourful collection of characters and the going back and forth through time periods could be confusing to some readers, but I’m finding it ok at the moment. Have you read Kate Morton? If so what is your favourite book of hers?

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x