First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from the pen of one of America’s most prolific writers.

It was an unmarked car, just some nondescript American sedan a few years old, but the blackwall tires and the three men inside gave it away for what it was.’  

the Outsider

The Outsider

Would you want to read on?

I’ve not read any Stephen King novels so not sure what to expect. Do you have a favourite Stephen King book?

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe!

Christine x

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

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

The below sentence I feel needs no introduction.

When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

fellowship of the ring

The Fellowship of the Ring

Of course the line comes from the beginning of J R R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It seems such a gentle, unassuming beginning to a book that has a thread of threat and violence throughout its pages. If you have read this book, did you enjoy or dislike it?

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from an international best seller and shortlisted for the Woman’s Prize for Fiction.

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

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Would you want to read on?

Madeline Miller’s book is a modern adaption of Homer’s The Odyssey but from the point of view of sorceress Circe. I’m four chapters into the novel and enjoying the narration of Circe’s unhappy youth and growth into her powers. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

 

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from a novel published in 1903.

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

call of the wild

The Call of the Wild – Jack London

The line is from the beginning of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, recently made into a motion picture with Harrison Ford. I’m intrigued as to what trouble is afoot for Buck. I’ll add the title to my to be read pile.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

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

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 give it a go myself.

The below is from the book I am currently reading.

2013. The bed sheet was twisted as tight as I could physically wrench it and tied off tightly on to one of the beams above. In the absence of rope, or rationality, it would have to do.

A bit of a gloomy start to a book, but it does pick up and as you may have guessed, the content is how bird watching and taking in nature overall, has a positive effect on mental health.

bird therapy

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books. My aim for 2019 was 40 books, however I managed to read 30 over the year. A combination of not so good books made this years challenge hard going. I am still plodding through the last novel of the year.

I’ll be joining in this year’s challenge and aim for 40 books again. Will you be joining in, if so how many books will you aim to read?

The Almanac (October/November/December) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I’ve not enjoyed this book and would not recommend it to others. Do you know of any better almanacs?

New York City – Lonely Planet ✩✩✩
A useful and helpful guide to the culture, food and sights of New York City. It helped me whilst planning our New York adventure last December.

The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩
The Tailor of Gloucester has a terribly important commission to complete for the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding on Christmas Day but is ill and tired! How will he possibly complete the beautiful coat and embroidered waistcoat? Luckily, there lives in the dresser, some very kind and very resourceful mice who set about helping the poor tailor with his work.

I really enjoyed this tale by Beatrix Potter. It was much better than Peter Rabbit in my opinion.

The Woman at the Window – A.J. Finn ✩✩✩✩
Agoraphobic Anna Fox’s only lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

I enjoyed this book. I thought the main character was interesting and I felt engaged with the story until the end. It really made you question what was real and what was imagined. I’ve recently learned that there also has been a film made which is out later this year.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Mackesy ✩✩✩✩
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos.

This is a beautiful book, with touching words and sketches to ease a troubled mind.

365 Days Wild – Lucy McRobert ✩✩✩✩
365 inspirational suggestions for enjoying nature. These ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ will encourage you to fall in love with, learn about or even help wildlife and wild places near you.

If, like me you love The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild then this book is right up your alley. Filled with lots of ideas to keep wild all year round. I’d already completed many of the suggestions but there were a few I hadn’t even thought of.

The Girl at the Window – Rowan Coleman ✩✩✩✩
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from… Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and the characters both past and present were likeable. The ending was a bit contrived but the addition of Emily Brontë as a character was a nice touch. If you like supernatural stories then you’ll enjoy this book.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy ✩✩
This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana jam vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma.

This is the novel I’ve been slogging though. There are some beautifully written passages but none can detract from the boring story even if there is political unease and a family tragedy, getting to that point was long winded. I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters and can’t believe it was a Booker Prize winner! Perhaps I’ve missed the point of this novel, if you think differently let me know in the comments below.

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book that you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Thanks for following my year in books 2019. Here’s to some good reads in 2020 (hopefully)!

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – July to September

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A Year in Books

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

Unfortunately, this quarter my reading has stalled and I am struggling with two novels.

This quarter I have completed four/five books with the said two still ongoing.

The Almanac (July, August and September)- Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I am not enjoying this book and wish it had more in-depth analysis of nature through the seasons.

The Heights – Juliet Bell ✩✩✩
A grim discovery brings DCI Lockwood to Gimmerton’s Heights Estate – a bleak patch of Yorkshire he thought he’d left behind for good. There, he must do the unthinkable, and ask questions about the notorious Earnshaw family.

A story of an untameable boy, terrible rage, and two families ripped apart. A story of passion, obsession, and dark acts of revenge.

I quite enjoyed this modern retelling of the Emily Brontë classic Wuthering Heights. The plot is set during the coal miners strike of the 1980’s and was just as depressing as the original.

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin – Beatrix Potter ✩✩

A rather strange children’s tale. Squirrel Nutkin’s siblings offer gifts to an owl called Old Brown but Nutkin badgers the owl and get’s his comeuppance with the owl taking a piece of the squirrel’s tail. I am enjoying the original Beatrix Potter watercolor illustrations but not the stories that much.

Convenience Store Woman -Sayaka Murata ✩✩✩
Keiko is 36 years old. She’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years. Keiko’s family wishes she’d get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married. But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store…

This book was recommended by the lovely Sharon. I found the writing quirky. The narrative is a satire on modern Japanese society.  Perhaps we should all be a little more like Keiko and be happy in our lives rather than comparing to others and worrying about how successful we are or not.

A New York Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin ✩✩✩

new york

A New York Winter’s Tale

One night in New York, a city under siege by snow, Peter Lake attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks it is empty, the daughter of the house is home . . .

Thus begins the affair between this Irish burglar and Beverly Penn, a young girl dying of consumption. It is a love so powerful that Peter will be driven to stop time and bring back the dead; A New York Winter’s Tale is the story of that extraordinary journey.

This is one of the novels I am still tackling. When I downloaded the book to my Kindle the movie had just been released. This summer, looking for something to read I decided to give this a go. However I never realised how large the book was. I am 45% through and still nowhere near completing it. It is a strange book featuring a love story, a magic horse and many stories spanning through time. Have you read this strange book, seen the film? What did you think?

Thinking on my Feet – Kate Humble ✩✩✩
Thinking on My Feet tells the story of Kate’s walking year – shining a light on the benefits of this simple activity. Kate’s… narrative… charts her feelings and impressions throughout – capturing the perspectives that only a journey on foot allows – and shares the outcomes: a problem solved, a mood lifted, an idea or opportunity borne. As she explores the reasons why we walk, whether for creative energy, challenge and pleasure, or therapeutic benefits, Kate’s reflections and insights will encourage, motivate and spur readers into action.

I quite enjoyed reading this book. It spans a year of musings from presenter and smallholder Kate Humble. She shares memories of her walks and reiterates the benefits of this activity. Her challenge to walk the Wye River was the highlight of the book. I would read more of her books if given the opportunity. Have you read any of her books?

The Horse Dancer – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩
In a hidden corner of London, Henri Lachapelle is teaching his granddaughter and her horse to defy gravity, just as he had done in France, fifty years previously. But when disaster strikes, fourteen-year-old Sarah is left to fend for herself.

Forced to share a house with her charismatic ex-husband, her professional judgement called into question, lawyer Natasha Macauley’s life seems to have gone awry. When her path crosses that of Sarah, she sees a chance to put things right. But she doesn’t know that Sarah is keeping a secret, one that will change all their lives forever . .

This was a spur of the moment purchase whilst I was shopping in Asda. I saw JoJo’s name and thought ‘ohh another book of hers.’ However the book is rather heavy to get into and I am finding the character of Natasha rather tiring. Maybe I shall finish this novel by Christmas? Have you read this book? Any other of JoJo’s?

So that was my rather disappointing quarter of reads. Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – January to March

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Welcome to 2019’s A Year in Books. This is my third year following the initiative run by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, and I have decided 40 books in a year is achievable for me.

A new year means a new batch of books to read. For the first quarter of 2019 I managed to read a total of eight books.

Here’s my reviews below.

Almanac – Lia Leendertz (January/February/March) ✩✩
I don’t know what I expected from this almanac but some of the content in Lia’s compilation just doesn’t inform me enough. I particularly like the history behind the naming of months, stellar events and information from a bee hive but I feel I want more than what I am reading. Do you know of any better almanacs?

The History of Mary Prince – Mary Prince ✩✩
I don’t even know how this book got on my Kindle! It’s a recount of the life of a slave Mary Prince, in the 1800’s. Some of the accounts of torture are difficult to read. Mary finally escaped her brutal enslavement and took up residence in England. She is the first woman to present an anti slavery petition to parliament.

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins ✩✩✩
From the author who gave us Girl on a Train. Into the Water is billed as yet another thriller but it felt more of a detective novel. Just days before her sister drowned, Jules ignored her call. Now Nel is dead, and Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death. But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowning in secrecy. From the reviews on Amazon not many people enjoyed this book, but I enjoyed it even though it was hard to get a grip of all the characters (there were a lot of them!)

The Turn of Midnight – Minette Walters ✩✩✩
I quite enjoyed this book. I didn’t rate the first installment of Minette Walter’s historical plague novel but I found that the pace got better in this second book. Character development seemed more progressive and the novel concluded satisfactorily.

Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon ✩✩✩✩
By far the best book I have read this quarter. I found some of the passages were written so profoundly! 84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she considers the charming new resident who looks exactly like a man she once knew – a man who died sixty years ago. His arrival has stirred distant memories she and Elsie thought they’d laid to rest. Lying prone in the front room, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light … Even though I had second guessed the third thing about Elsie, the narrative and how the story slowly developed had me gripped. The final chapters left me aching with sadness. Have you read a book that left a lasting impression on you?

Still Me – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩
The third and final installment of the Louisa Clark series. Louisa relocates to New York for a job as a Personal Assistant. During her time in the Big Apple she meets many colorful and zany people. However these people are what save her from disillusionment and a miscarriage of justice. At the end of Still Me, Louisa Clark finds her true self worth and ultimately, happiness. I think this was the second strongest novel of the trilogy after Me Before You. Have you read any of these books or anything by JoJo Moyes?

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris ✩✩✩
I had read good reviews about this book so when I saw it in Asda, I decided to buy it. Though the novel is in third person narrative it is told from the viewpoint of a survivor of the Holocaust. In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a jack-the-lad, it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. I found the writing style was easy to read but being third person I felt a lot of the descriptions of death were a little matter of fact, but perhaps living so close to extermination on a daily basis made you see death like that? The Tattooist saw a lot of the Nazi’s Final Solution, of the gas chambers and crematorium to the final destruction of records before the Russian’s arrived. In a time of death it was a story of determination and survival.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson ✩✩
A baby girl is abandoned, banished from London to the storm-ravaged American city of New Bohemia. Her father has been driven mad by jealousy, her mother to exile by grief. Seventeen years later, Perdita doesn’t know a lot about who she is or where she’s come from – but she’s about to find out. Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale vibrates with echoes of Shakespeare’s original and tells a story of hearts broken and hearts healed, a story of revenge and forgiveness, a story that shows that whatever is lost shall be found. I found this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare’s later plays rather hard to digest. I felt the text rather crude and I cared little for the madness of Leo(ontes). The other characters seemed all rather ineffectual to the angst of Leo whose actions shouldn’t have been so easily forgiven. I had waited a few years to read this book. I really wish I hadn’t now.

I’ve felt this first quarter’s reading has been rather mediocre. Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x