October & November 2017 Books

October November Books

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody *
I’d probably say that a murder mystery is my favourite type of story, which is very much borne out by my 2017 list – there’s quite a few on there! This is one that I reviewed as part of a blog tour (you can read my full review here); I’ve reviewed the last three Kate Shackleton mysteries, and I’m a huge fan. I think the sense of time is spot on (speaking as someone who didn’t live through the post-war years), and the mysteries always keep me guessing!

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Enger *
This book has been floating around for ages; I follow so many bookish people on Twitter that when a book has a bit of hype around it, I see it mentioned over and over again – this is one such book. It lived up to the hype for me, luckily, despite having a subject matter that it dark and frankly horrifying. Over a decade after leaving grandparents’ vast estate in rural Kansas, Lane returns to look into the disappearance of her cousin Allegra. Being back in the small town brings back memories that Lane has tried to bury, and the narrative splits into two, weaving between Lane’s first summer in Roanoke and the present day, with a bit of old family history thrown in as well. This structure allows the tension to build, so we are left waiting to find out the reason for Lane’s abrupt departure in the past, and what has happened to her cousin in the present. It’s a really great novel, I just loved it.

He by John Connolly
He tells the story of Stan Laurel, famous for his comic partnership with Oliver Hardy. It’s a fictional account, something I had to keep reminding myself of throughout the story. While all the factual major life events are covered – his various marriages, his financial problems, how he came to star in so many films with Hardy – but the rest is a construct. But it’s beautifully imagined, and lends a tragic air to Laurel’s life. It took me a while to get through it, but ultimately I really liked it.

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler
Having recently renewed my Audible subscription, once a month I find myself trying to find a new audiobook to download. In October, I settled on this one, and then ended up regretting it slightly. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fascinating and well-researched list of 100 authors you may never have heard of. Some were prolific, some were incredibly famous for a short time, but most of whom the average reader probably have heard. My problem wasn’t with the book, nor wit hthe narrator (it was read engagingly by the author), but with the fact that I should have read it, rather than listened to it, as it would have made list making a lot easier!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng *
This was another book where I read a lot of the hype about the book before I finally got to read the story itself. I really do love it when I have a lot of good things about a book, and then an email lands in my inbox asking if I’d like to be part of a blog tour for it! You can read my review hereLittle Fires Everywhere is a slow story, but not to its detriment. It just takes time to build the characters, and the setting of Shaker Heights, meaning that everything that happens to them is felt on a deep level.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter *
My iPad is full of books that I have downloaded from Netgalley and not got around to reading or reviewing, so when I was on the Eurostar on my way to Disneyland Paris last month, I decided to delve in and find one. I landed on Bonfire by Krysten Ritter, another book that I have heard good things about, but one that ultimately, I wanted to read because I like Krysten Ritter. I wasn’t disappointed; it’s a great thriller about a corporate cover up that descends into something even more nasty.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
This has been all over Instagram as a festive read, and though I tried to reserve it at the library, I ended up having to buy it as a Kindle download. It’s a World War I story about a young couple who start off as friends, but through their wartime correspondence begin to fall in love. It’s an epistolary novel, which is one of my favourite types of story, and it’s beautifully written. It reminded me a little of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

Books with an asterisk were provided by publishers.

Books in 2017 – 37

36 Before 36

36 Before 36

It’s time to unveil my new birthday list! For the unitiated amongst you, I’ve been writing a birthday list since the year I turned 28. I pick a number of things that I would like to achieve between my birthdays, and inevitably fail to cross a large number of them off…

Unbelievably, this is my ninth list! It gets harder and harder every year, because of course, the number increases by one every time I make the lists! But I’m pretty pleased with this year’s goals.

It’s been a bit delayed, due to the fractured wrist that I have had to deal with, so I now have only a little over 11 months to complete these goals. But I’m nothing if not a tryer!

  • Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library.
  • Watch a film for every year I’ve been alive (1982-2018).
  • Keep a bullet journal.
  • Film a second a day for three months.
  • Record a podcast.
  • Send 12 Postcrossing postcards.
  • Go to Bath.
  • Get a third tattoo.
  • Go to Ballie Ballerson.
  • Get a piercing.
  • Climb the O2.
  • Visit Sky Garden.
  • Give blood.
  • Cook one new recipe a month.
  • Read five from The Book of Forgotten Authors.
  • Work on my family tree.
  • Visit five new museums.
  • Read five Christmas books.
  • Increase my Instagram following by 15% (currently at 518)
  • Send birthday presents/cards to all my family members and friends.
  • Buy five poetry books.
  • Volunteer.
  • Plan something amazing for my sister’s 50th birthday.
  • Have watched 30 from the BFI 100 Thrillers to See Before You Die list.
  • Read all ten from the Guardian Top 10 books on Rural America.
  • Read all ten from the Guardian Top 10 modern epistolary novels.
  • Take a trip to a new town or city every month with Hannah.
  • Bake ten cakes.
  • Meet up with my teenage best friend.
  • Start a newsletter.
  • Take a driving test.
  • Buy no new clothes for an entire month.
  • Ask twenty people to recommend a book, and read them all.
  • Attend a film festival.
  • Leave the country for a holiday or mini-break.
  • Re-decorate my bedroom.

Wish me luck!

 

35 Before 35 ~ The Results

Another year has passed, and we find ourselves here, with me bemoaning the fact that a) I haven’t ticked off many of my birthday goals, and b) I haven’t got around to blogging about most of the ones I did tick off.

My excuse this year is that I was on a roll just before my birthday with some posts about the ones I did tick off, and then disaster struck. I fell over whilst rollerskating and fractured my wrist on the day before my birthday, and typing is not the easiest thing in the world right now. But I’m perservering, in the hopes of getting this post written, and a new list up before too much time elapses!

Firstly, a roundup of the ones I completed but didn’t blog about…

IMG_398116123432_2070446779848368_4494628282502742016_n

I dyed my hair! Well, kinda. I wanted to try something like a pastel colour, or maybe go grey, but it didn’t happen. But I did a sort of dip dye on the ends of my hair with a Bleach London kit, and I really like the results! So I’m calling it a win.

I managed to photograph 50 Blue Plaques. It was always a bit problematic as to how I was going to write a whole blog post about all 50 without it being the dullest thing in the world, so I’ll just say here that I did it with a few days to spare, and I’m going to continue on my Blue Plaque quest!

18722246_1930056143945519_1240625716043710464_nCamera

I’m so annoyed that I didn’t get around to blogging about the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – it happened in May for goodness’ sake! I may still write a post about it (I probably won’t), but suffice to say, I went and had a fabulous time (again).

I also saved up for and bought my camera. I saved five pound notes for months, but ended up putting a hefty chunk towards it straight out of my pocket, because I wanted it before I went on holiday.

Theatre Pins

 

I made pin displays, inspired by something I’d seen on Instagram – I bought some cork place mats, spray painted them, and then cut them into cloud shapes. They aren’t hanging up like I wanted them to be, but it’s still a win.

The theatre trip was already in the offing when I made the list, and I ended up going to see Half a Sixpence with my best friends. Very good it was too!20214429_331006903993994_8025098950367248384_n

Finally, another one that I’m really annoyed that I didn’t get to blog about; I visited Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset. Known to many as the Hovis Hill, from the old television advert, it’s where my Granddad was born, so I’ve wanted to go for years. It was just as special as I expected it to be.

Glasses IMG_1554

Then there are the two (!) that I managed to blog about; I got new glasses, and I threw a Gilmore Girls party.

I tried to compile a top 50 songs list – I started it on New Year’s Eve, and never finished it. I failed miserably at reading more diversely, I think of all the books I’ve read this year, only two have been written by people of colour, and I can’t find any other diversity amongst them at all. That’s seriously shocking, and something I need to address.

I started listening to an album a week, but didn’t get very far with it. It’s a series I want to continue with, but I won’t be adding it to my next list. I managed a further six films on the Film4 Musicals list, but was still short of of 40 films, at 27.

So my final tally was a meagre nine out of 35. Not a great result, but the joy is as much in making the list and trying to tick them off as it is in actually achieving them!

 

Birthday Club 2018

The rules of birthday club are simple. You sign up, you get assigned a random partner; on their birthday you send them a present, and on your birthday they send you a present. I started this gift exchange last year, and it seems to have worked well, for the most part, so I’m hoping to get lots of people involved again!

birthday-club

So if you’d like to join in, please fill in this form, and I’ll pair you up with another person. You will then buy a small selection of gifts for that person (based on some information they give you about themselves), and post them off, ready to open on their birthday. A reasonable amount to spend is £10-12, before postage.

Sign-ups will close on 10th December, meaning that anyone paired with an early January birthday should have plenty of time to buy and post a gift. I will endeavour to send a reminder to everyone a couple of weeks before the birthday of your partner, though I am pretty rubbish at things like this, so I make no promises!

Book Blog Tour ~ Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

LRG_DSC01175

Little Fires Everywhere is an engrossing read, set in what at first glance appears to be a surburban paradise. A cast of fully engaging, perfectly rounded-out characters make for a compelling but slow-moving story.

Elena Richardson is a journalist, a homemaker, a wife and mother, and Shaker Heights, the suburb of Cleveland where she grew up and is raising her family, is her perfect habitat. Everything is meticulously planned, and everyone plays by the rules, even when they don’t.

Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist and single mother, arrives to rent a house from the Richardsons, and moves in with her teenage duaghter Pearl. Very soon, the two families, so different in their make-up and outlook, begin to weave themselves into each others’ lives; Pearl becomes friends with the Richardson children, Mia begins domestic work for the family, and develops a relationship with Izzie, the youngest Richardson daughter, long since marked out as the black sheep.

The novel begins with a fire destroying the Richardson house, and from there the action takes us back to the day that Mia and Pearl arrived in Shaker Heights. The story weaves a slow-moving and insightful journey through the six months that elapse between their arrival and the fire, and the reader is left guessing as to what will come next. A custody battle involving a Chinese-American baby provides the catalyst for the drama, leaving Elena and Mia on opposing sides of what they see as a moral battle.

This is the first Celeste Ng book I have read, despite hearing nothing but praise for her debut novel Everything I Never Told You. I just love how absorbing this story is; all the time I was reading it, whenever I had to put it down to do something I else, I just wanted to head back to spend time with these characters. They aren’t all likable, but they are so well written that they feel entirely real. The setting of Shaker Heights feels just slightly oppressive, but is written about with a knowing tone; the idea that you’d get a fine for leaving your lawn uncut for too long is written about humourously and we are encouraged to roll our eyes at this kind of autocratic dictate.

Now that I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for Ng’s writing, I’m going to be seeking out Everything I Never Told You.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Publication Date: 9th November 2017
ISBN: 9781408709719
Little Brown
Provided by publisher

1 2 3 4 5 251