This week I’ve been reading… Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (and I won’t be sleeping again)

I’ve been on a bit of a thriller hype the past few months. It had always been a genre I’ve avoided because, well, I’m a massive scaredy-cat. But I couldn’t ignore all the clamour being made about Girl on the Train so I jumped on that bandwagon. And loved it.

It seems obvious to say it, but it was so gripping, couldn’t-put-it-down, a-real-page-turner – just all the clichés.

And the more thrillers I read the more arrogant I was getting because I just wasn’t finding them that scary. They had moments that made me tense up but nothing that was actually keeping me up at night. I was really starting to think that I had got over my wimpiness.

Well, Dark Places, I take it all back. Continue reading “This week I’ve been reading… Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (and I won’t be sleeping again)”

Distractions

As I write this Veronica Mars is playing on the TV, I have a half finished jigsaw spread out on the table and several tabs of Sporcle quizzes loading. Dinner is in the oven, I’ve got a load of washing in the dryer and before I go to bed I still need to shower, paint my nails and pack some lunch for tomorrow. Phew.

That has been my problem this week – distractions. Every night I come home with the intention of really knuckling down and writing some blog posts. But there always ends up being something more important – Pancake day, doing the washing up, putting my feet up and eating humongous amounts of biscuits because, uh my day has been so stressful (then being wracked with guilt, then doing the whole thing over again the next day).

But it’s been almost two weeks since my last book review was published and I cannot break my one remaining New Year’s Resolution. I haven’t reviewed my finances, War and Peace has put me well behind my reading schedule, I’m still a slave to the list post, but there has been one book review every fortnight. And by god there will be one this week!

This week I’ve been reading… Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

I cannot tell a lie, most of the motivation for starting this particular book was because I knew I already had a pretty picture of it I could use for the review.

Because as much as I’m finding actually sitting down and forcing out one review a fortnight challenging the toughest bit is always putting together the photograph. Because it’s January and I work 9-5; I can’t remember the last time I was at home when there was some natural light to use.

And wahoo, now I’m 100 words into this review without even having had to mention the title. This reviewing stuff is easy peasy.

Dear Daughter is a thriller released to ride on the Gone Girl bandwagon – not that I’ve read Gone Girl yet, one step at a time. Of the Lindsey Lohan/Paris Hilton set, Jane Jenkins was a professional celebrity – famous for being rich and shameless. Until at age 17 she was arrested for the murder of her mother. A technicality in her court case means she’s released from prison after ten years of her sentence. No one but her lawyer thinks she’s innocent, even Jane isn’t sure, and all she has to go on is one tiny lead, but she heads off to rural South Dakota on the run from the tabloids (in that classic disguise of gawky historian) to try and work out who did kill her mother.

I bought it almost entirely on the recommendation of one poster at Nuneaton train station that I stared at for twenty minutes while waiting for a train. So that ad company can give themselves a pat on the back. I think the ‘Gone Girl meets Mean Girls’ tagline really sold it to me. But looking at that now and it’s a bit misplaced – it’s trying to be Gone Girl and it’s trying to be Mean Girls but like a person stood on one side of a ravine trying to leap to the other side it’s sprawled in the middle flat on its face.

From pages 60 to 200 it was properly, couldn’t put it down even though it was getting to the wrong side of midnight, gripping. But once I did put it down I soon stopped thinking about.

I think my biggest problem was the characters. Jane, of course, goes on a journey from cold hearted bitch to slightly less cold hearted bitch but other than that she’s pretty one dimensional. Which I think is more down to the inadequate information given about her mother’s character. A lot of Jane’s flaws are supposedly traceable to the lack of love from her mother but even now I’ve finished the book I couldn’t start to picture her mother. She was never given a coherent personality.

And almost all of that could have been forgiven if the ending had been properly shocking. That is what this genre of book is all about after all. But although it was very dramatic and everything, I saw it coming from some way off. Of course, once she ended up in that tiny little town the potential for surprise was somewhat limited.

And I’ve just remembered that I paid full price for it (or as close to full price as I get – it was part of buy two get one free offer in Waterstones) which I’m glad I hadn’t remembered while I was reading it. When a book is 100 pages long and cost £1.50 it doesn’t have to do much to give a good return. When it’s 400 pages and £8 I want to have my socks knocked off. But that’s not really what this book does.

This week I’ve been reading… The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The Children Act by Ian McEwan with a cup of tea

The books I’ve read by Ian McEwan can be classed in two categories: bleak period pieces (see Atonement, On Chesil Beach) and modern day tales that take place over a very short period of time and whose main characters are high-flying professionals (see Amsterdam, Saturday, Solar and now The Children Act).

Back in October (when I read this book, drafted this review and then never got round to editing it) I was in a bit of a reading slump. And by a bit of a reading slump I mean I hadn’t even picked up a book in three weeks. But it was the middle of the night and I couldn’t sleep and the one thing that I really fancied doing was getting stuck into a good Ian McEwan novel. I picked The Children Act purely because it was the one I could reach without having to get out of bed.

The Children Act is a strange blend between fiction and non-fiction. The main character, Fiona Maye, is a high court judge in family law and the book follows several cases as she passes sentences, as well as showing the impact they have on her personal life. The characters and their lives outside the courtroom are all the invention of Ian McEwan. But the court cases used to provide plot are all fairly truthful accounts of real court cases that have taken place. Almost in the same way that historical fiction takes the bare facts of what we know happened, and then embellishes a story around it.

The particular case which makes up the bulk of the plot concerns a teenage boy with leukaemia, who is refusing a blood transfusion on religious grounds. Fiona’s role is to decide whether the boy can be classed as an adult – and therefore have the right to refuse treatment – or a child who can be taken under the custody of the law and forced to receive a blood transfusion. One meeting between them sparks an unusual dynamic and a difficult to manage relationship.

Every time I return to Ian McEwan after a long absence I’m struck all over again by just how well he writes. The words just slip down so easily. You can be a third of the way through the book and it have felt like no effort at all, like no time has even passed.

Unfortunately with this particular book once I got a third of the way through I did hit a bit of a bump in the road – recording an entire court case takes a lot of speech and it’s just not that pleasant to read four pages of speaking. But aside from that little blip it was an interesting read, an enjoyable read and one I would definitely recommend.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Ten most recent additions to my TBR list

 
I’m resigned to the fact that when I die it will be next to a massive bookcase full of unread books. But I just can’t read as quickly as I can find new books I want to read.

This is partly your fault, all you book bloggers out there. I was quite happy to never read anything by Rainbow Rowell until I came across Alysyn’s review of Fangirl and Carry On and now I’m hooked. I thought I’d covered all the classic authors I’d ever be interested in until I discovered all the love there is out there for Elizabeth Gaskell. And it never would have crossed my mind to bother with War and Peace before I read all those reviews on The Blue Bore (and the BBC adaptation might have had a hand too).

So what I’m saying is I don’t have to look very far back to find ten books I’ve recently added to my TBR list for this weeks Top Ten Tuesday. 

 

1. Stoner by John Williams

Sometimes a book just catches your eye in a shop for no good reason. This was one of those.

2. Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

This should have been on my TBR list for much longer seen as it’s Seth Cohen’s favourite but until I came across it second hand I didn’t even know what it was about.

3. A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka

This book was a huge deal about five years ago and now I get round to thinking, hmm, maybe I should read that.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Another one that’s hype has had a rather delayed effect on me. But after seeing the second film I’m chomping at the bit to read the books.

5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

There’s been a lot of love for this book turning up on Instagram so I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.

6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

You know what? I’m going to do it, I’m going to read this.

7. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Another impulse buy which I’ve really got to stop doing if I’m ever going to make headway on my TBRs.

8. Generation X by Douglas Coupland

I can’t find the blog post which put me onto Douglas Coupland but it planted the seed and now I’ve got several of his books waiting to be read.

9. This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

I finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette last weekend and it sparked an interest in reading other things by Maria Semple.

10. Glamorama by Brett Easton Ellis

I’m very apprehensive about reading this as my ex-boyfriend read Less Than Zero and even his very brief summary of the plot creeped me out. So why did I buy this? I like the bright pink spine. What an idiot I am.

 

My predictions tell me that We Have Always Lived in the Castle will be finished within hours of getting my hands on a copy whereas Kavalier and Clay will be gathering dust on my shelf for years before I eventually start it.

Have you read any of these? Any I should be starting immediately? Any that won’t be worth the bother?

Top Ten Tuesdays: Eight books that I absolutely no excuses will read in 2016

Selection of books arranged attractively

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is supposed to be ten bookish resolutions but I like Lizzy from My Little Book Blog’s twist on this of books you resolve to read this year (so I’m outright plagiarising it).

I never ever stick to these things. I did an Autumn TBR from which I think I read less than a quarter of the books. In fact I think a large proportion of that list has just been relocated to this list. It’s not that I don’t read; I’m just really bad at predicting what I’ll be in the mood for. And I think I might have some kind of problem with authority which means if a list tells me I have to read something I immediately want to rebel and not read it. But in a whole year surely I’ll want to read most of these? Surely?

I’ve tried to make it more manageable by stopping at eight rather than going all the way to ten because, well, eight seems like, oh a book every other month or so, I can manage that, whereas ten sounds like, why aren’t you reading these books? You’ll never get them read if you don’t start on one right now!

Why not not have a list at all, you ask? Well for one thing, any excuse for a list. And secondly there are some things that have been clogging up my TBR list for so long that if they don’t get read soon my bookshelves will crumble from the weight of all the dust gathered on top of them.

 

  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Been on my TBR ever since it first started getting loads of hype. But I’m so expectant that I’ll get so gripped I’ll want to read it cover to cover in one sitting that I never want to just pick it up when I’m looking for a new book to read in bits at lunchtimes and before bed. Also, I’ve heard it’s quite scary and I don’t deal well with scary.

 

  1. Nineteen Eight Four by George Orwell

I’m so embarrassed in myself every time I have to admit that, no, I haven’t read this yet.

 

  1. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery

I started this book in September, and then stopped. And then picked it up again in November, and stopped again. Maybe finally I’ll actually finish it?

 

  1. Something, ANYTHING, by Ian McEwan

This should be a nice easy one to accomplish. He’s one of my favourite authors and I have five reasonably short McEwan’s waiting expectantly on my shelf; surely at some point in the next 365 I’ll read at least one of them. Side note, Something, Anything would make a really good book title. I might shot gun that for my autobiography.

 

  1. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Around the beginning of December I was having trouble finding any books I was in the mood for and a lot got started but never finished. This is one of them. And if I don’t get it read in the next few months I’ll just have to start at the beginning again when I do.

 

  1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Much the same as Master Pip apart from I got even further with this before abandoning it.

 

  1. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

I’m really excited to read this book, I’m just being put off by the sheer size of it. But 2016 will be the year I get over that.

 

  1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

This is such a cheat addition to this list because I do not need any motivation to read this book. I’m chomping at the bit to get started on it – I just keep forgetting to actually buy it!

 

This week I’ve been reading… Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

IMG_1092

I was on page 63 of this book when, with a massive grin on my face, I put my hand over my mouth and whispered ‘this is the best book ever.’

Ok, so it probably isn’t the best book ever but it is really, really good.

Eleanor and Park sit next to each other every day on the bus to and from school. What starts as a strong dislike soon grows into a silent friendship and an epic love story.

This book has the cute factor of The Rosie Project, the wit of John Green and the family drama you expect from Jacqueline Wilson. Oh and it also references Homecoming. It’s practically perfect. (Apart from the cynical adult in me who gets annoyed at all these YA novels who play your first love as your one true love. That is not how life works.)

I expected this to be a generic YA love story; a bit cliched, a bit cringy with one dimensional characters and an annoying plot. But that was just me being narrow minded, still living in the past of YA fiction when it used to be all girls moping after boys, not readable by anyone over 16. This book – like John Green and E Lockhart novels – is being let down by it’s label and anyone who was put off by the YA genre has missed out on a real treat of a read.

When I finished the book my first thought was ‘wow that was intense.’ Which probably had something to do with the speed at which I read it, barely coming up for air. But it’s also a testament to the writing – your first love is intense and a book should be able to convey that, and boy this one did.

2016 Resolutions Tag

I saw this tag done by Shannon at In a Wonderland They Lie and thought it seemed like a nice way to set myself some (hopefully) achievable goals for the coming year, both bookish and not.

 

READING RESOLUTIONS

In 2016 I will…

  1. Read at least 52 books – I managed 53 this year and I need to keep up that speed if I’m ever going to get through my mountainous and ever growing TBR pile. Or one day I may literally die after I’m crushed by all the books I haven’t yet read
  2. Read more books than I buy – because this year it’s just got out of hand. And my bank balance will be truly grateful
  3. Keep track of what I’m reading – time to actually use that GoodReads account

 

BLOGGING RESOLUTIONS

In 2016 I will…

  1. Post more reviews – I’ve already made a resolution to post a review at least every other week and hopefully with practice they’ll get easier and I can increase this to once a week
  2. Less lists, more actually posts – a properly thought out post may be harder to write but all these lists are just a sign of laziness on my part
  3. Make more of my travel section – I have this travel section, I have loads of travelling experiences and photographs, time to bring the two together and actually make it a fully-fledged feature of my blog

 

PERSONAL RESOLUTIONS

In 2016 I will…

  1. Take more photos – I do so many great things that years from now I’ll never remember because I don’t photograph them. I have this technology at my fingertips so I need to make the most of it
  2. Properly look through my finances – I have no idea where I spend most of my money, I don’t even really know if I’m living within my means. As horrendous as it might be to do it will be such a relief to have a budget to work to
  3. Exercise – Such a cliché I know but in 2015 my laziness levels have become comparable to those of a sloth. Once I’ve taken a look at my finances I might splash out on a gym membership so I can rediscover Zumba classes. Or just do a Ministry of Sound work out DVD in my lounge once a week

Top 10 of 2015

Collage of various Instagram photos of books

This is it, the big one, the ultimate list – the ten best books I’ve read this year.

I have been preparing for this post for months actually. I take list writing VERY seriously and wanted to make sure this really was the definitive list of the best books I’ve read this year.

I think I’ve read 53 books in 2015 which I am very pleased with. I can’t remember how many I aimed for so I’m pretending it was 50 in which case, well done me, pat on my back, I reached my target. Although I also worked out that I have bought 73 books. Whoops.

Of those 53 there’s only a couple I actively regret reading. Both of which were from the Austen Project – Sense and Sensibility by Joanne Trollope and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. So number one lesson learnt this year is however much I will want to buy Emma by Alexander McCall Smith when I see it for sale I must resist the urge! But other than those two books I’m happy with everything I’v read. Which has only served made choosing a top ten an even trickier task.

There were some amazing books that only just missed the cut for top reads of the year – On Chesil Beach, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Longbourn and Middlesex to name but a few. But the below ten are just out of this world incredible. Books that are serious contenders for a coveted place on my Desert Island books.

10.  Looking for Alaska by John Green

9.   Saturday by Ian McEwan

8.   How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

7.   The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan

6.   The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

5.   Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

4.   Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

3.   The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

2.   Wild by Cheryl Strayed

1.   Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

10 Most Popular Instagram posts of 2015

 
Oh look, a completely original 2015 wrap-up post!

I’ve been using Instagram for just over a year now and having great fun doing it. Sometimes carefully posing books, flowers and cups of tea is the perfect way to unwind after a long day at work. Although the perfectionist in me means it’s also incredibly stressful and leaves a huge mess to clear up afterwards.

In honour of my year being active on Instagram I thought I’d do a little run down of my ten most popular posts over the last year. And I was pretty surprised at the results…

10. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Oh to be back on holiday! This photo pretty much sums up heaven for most book lovers so I’m not really surprised this has made the list.

9. Stairway to Classics

I was so thankful this got a lot of love as it was fiddly as hell to put together. And it showcases my favourite editions of all time.

8. American classics

This pictured I threw together in about two minutes while I was waiting for my breakfast to cook. And it made me realise I do not read enough American classics.

7. October TBR

Oh look, a TBR that I didn’t even get 50% of the way through. What a surprise.

6. Phoenix Poetry Collection

Bright colours and fresh flowers – an Instagram home run.

5. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

This turned out to not be a great book but it did make one very pretty picture.

4. Pink books

Sometimes you’ve just got to let your inner Barbie out.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

People just go crazy for Wuthering Heights it would seem.

2. Blue books

Beautiful books + fresh flowers = Instagram gold.

  1. Birthday haul

My birthday was back in June and I still haven’t tucked into those M&Ms. They’re just too pretty to eat.