31 January 2016

January 2016 Book Haul


Very rarely does a month pass by where I don't pick up at least one new book, and January has been no exception! These were all slightly guilty purchases - after welcoming so many new books to my shelves in December I had no reason to go out and buy more but what can I say? It's an addiction.

I resisted for as long as I could but eventually the January offer on Wordery.com got the better of me - 10% off any two or more books, well it just had to be done! I did manage to limit myself to just the two and I chose this beautiful Puffin in Bloom edition of Little Women, and St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. I've been meaning to read Little Women for years and this year I finally will as part of the 2016 Classics Challenge. I decided on Karen Russell's short story collection after seeing it featured on a few blogs. I think it sounds really interesting! I'm a fan of stories that are a little bit out of the ordinary and involve magic and fantasy so I'm looking forward to reading that.

January is the time of year for a lot of bookish awards and new book club lists to come out, so this month I've also picked up a couple of things from Waterstones 2016 Book Club selection. I chose The Little Paris Bookshop firstly because I love Paris, and secondly because I thought it sounded like a nice gentle read. I also love the idea of a 'literary apothecary' who prescribes different books depending on what is troubling his customers as the main character of this story does! In the same trip I bought Our Endless Numbered Days which is a thriller about a young girl who lives in a remote cabin with her father, who leads her to believe that the world has ended. Thrillers are one of my favourite genres to read and this one definitely sounds like a page turner!

That's everything I picked up in January. What books have piqued your interest this month? Have you read any of my picks, or plan to?
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27 January 2016

Black Beauty


I am never afraid of what I know.
As a young colt, Black Beauty gallops in the fresh green meadows with his beloved mother, Duchess, and their kind master. But when his owners are forced to sell him, he swaps a life of freedom and happiness for one of work and toil. Bravely he works as hard as he can, suffering at the hands of men who treat animals cruelly. But Black Beauty has an unbreakable spirit and a strong will, and is determined to survive.

Rating: ★★★

A short but sweet book review for you today! It's been a resolution of mine for a while to read more classic children's literature that I didn't get around to when I was younger, so I was really pleased to find this beautiful Penguin Threads edition of Black Beauty. The cover image has been embroidered by hand to give it a embossed texture which is absolutely gorgeous.

I picked Black Beauty up to read after Christmas and read it in the space of a couple of days. It was a really gentle and easy read. The story follows Black Beauty through the different stages of his life and I think he made a good narrator. I also enjoyed that each new character was given a well-developed back story, particularly his fellow horses. Often there would be a few pages of solid monologue from one of the new introductions where they were telling their own stories which did slow down the pace of the story quite a bit, but a lot of thought had been put into explaining how each character came to be the way they are.


The major theme of Black Beauty is animal welfare and it was clear that this was a subject Anna Sewell was passionate about; in fact, her goal in writing this book was to encourage the kinder treatment of horses. I definitely found it to be an educational read and I learned a lot in particular about how the fashions of the time dictated some of the more cruel practices in the treatment of horses.

I'd recommend this as a great starting point for anyone wanting to read more classics or children's literature, and I would definitely say it's a must read for anyone with an interest in horses. A simple yet engaging story with memorable characters and a strong message.

Too long, didn't read? Here's my Goodreads review:

  Black BeautyBlack Beauty by Anna Sewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A simple yet engaging read with memorable characters and a strong message, I found Black Beauty to be very enjoyable and an insightful look into animal welfare in the Victorian era.

View all my reviews
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24 January 2016

The Big December Book Haul #2

So, ignoring the fact that we're more than halfway through January now, today I want to show you all the books I got last month! Having my birthday and Christmas within two days of each other means that December is a great month in terms of new additions to my shelves and this year I received some wonderful books.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Illustrated Edition


I had to try very hard to resist the temptation to buy this for myself when it was released in October but I did so because I knew I was quite likely to receive it for my birthday or Christmas. Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart so I was so excited to unwrap my own copy of the illustrated edition of The Philosopher's Stone on my birthday - thank you Mum! Every bit as gorgeous inside as I thought it would be with wonderful illustrations on lovely glossy pages. Currently taking pride of place on my bookshelf alongside:

Pride and Prejudice Illustrated Edition from The Folio Society



This was my birthday present from my dad and it's absolutely stunning! If you haven't heard of The Folio Society I would definitely recommend checking them out for their unique editions of popular books. They make great gifts! As Pride and Prejudice is one of the only classics I can truly call a favourite, I'm so excited to own this beautiful cloth bound copy. Even the spine is pretty!

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20 January 2016

Latibule


Latibule (n). a hiding place; a place of safety and comfort.

My favourite hiding place is my bed, especially just after I've put new bedding on and if I have my hot water bottle. I love to pull the covers right up under my chin and curl up. But last week, I found a new hiding place in the form of the empty office next door to mine. There was a meeting going on in our usual break room and I didn't want to sit at my desk, so I took a walk to get some food. On my way back, I passed the empty office next door. I've known it was empty for a while but on this day, the door was open and before I even really knew what I was doing, I walked inside and sat down. That hour of complete peace and quiet was bliss. It's hard to completely relax in our break room because you can still hear the phones ringing, or you can't escape forced conversation with other colleagues on their lunch too. 

I'm quite content with my own company - cut me in two and you would find the word 'introvert' written through me like a stick of rock - and in my new found hiding place, there's no one else to interrupt the quiet, or make me feel like I'm being antisocial for wanting to just read and not talk. I've always been okay on my own, but I'm finding myself especially reluctant to be around people at the moment; my confidence has taken some big knocks in recent months and I just find it easier to be by myself. I think it did me some good to take that time out in the middle of the day for a real breather - not sat in a noisy coffee shop, or wandering around outside. I don't know how long that office will be empty for but as long as it is, I'll be using it as my lunchtime latibule.

Image via Unsplash.
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14 January 2016

Always


Another light went out in the world today, and it was a bright one. I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Alan Rickman's passing. I could not believe what I was reading. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Paul and I visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour and while I was there, I found myself thinking that if only I could bottle the feeling I have whenever I visit. It is one of my happiest happy places, there where my favourite stories came to life. That feeling is thanks in part to Alan Rickman.

You only need to have a quick scroll through any social media today to see that he was admired by many people for many different reasons and roles, but to me he will always be Severus Snape. Anyone who holds Harry Potter as close to their heart as I do will understand how special and important those stories and characters are. We grew up with them and their on-screen incarnations. One of the greatest gifts an actor can give is to bring a beloved character to life, and to do them justice. Snape was in safe hands, always.

Rest in peace, Mr Rickman. I raise my wand to the sky for you. Thank you for being our Snape.
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12 January 2016

Tea - A Haiku


Tea should always be
Quite strong, not very milky
Failing that, coffee
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5 January 2016

2015 Reading Challenge Recap & 2016 Reading Goals


2015 was a pretty good reading year for me. It's the first time I've ever signed up to the Goodreads reading challenge and as a result, I've read more in 2015 than any other year previously. I set myself a goal of 30 books and I just managed it, finishing my thirtieth read on 30th December. So, what did I read and how did they rate?

1. The Girl With The Glass Feet by Ali Shaw - ★★★
2. You're The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher - ★★★
3. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith - ★★★★
4. The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide - ★★★
5. Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey - ★★★★★

Elizabeth Is MissingElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Both a gripping mystery and a thoughtful look at the effects of dementia - Maud is a delightful heroine and Emma Healey does a wonderful job of weaving together sensitivity, poignancy, humour and suspense. A wonderful book.

6. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor - ★★★★★
7. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor - ★★★★
8. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer - ★★★★
9. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - ★★★
10. The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault - ★★★

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely PostmanThe Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quirky tale about a lonely postman trying to bring some meaning to his routine life. Not groundbreaking, but a gentle and enjoyable read with likeable characters and an interesting theme.

11. The Tinder Box by Hans Christian Andersen - ★★★★
12. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - ★★★★
13. Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling - ★★★★★
14. Us by David Nicholls - ★★★★
15. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North - ★★★★★
16. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey - ★★★★
17. The Sun In Her Eyes by Paige Toon - ★★★★
18. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult - ★★★
19. All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman - ★★★
20. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks - ★★★★★

BirdsongBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A tense and deeply affecting story of the atrocities of WW1, with an important message about the senseless nature of war. This book will stay with you long after you finish reading.

21. Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes - ★★
22. Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins - ★★★★★
23. Stardust by Neil Gaiman - ★★★★
24. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang - ★★★
25. The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton - ★★★★
26. Career Of Evil by Robert Galbraith - ★★★★★
27. A Faraway Smell of Lemon by Rachel Joyce - ★★
28. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - ★★★★
29. The Little World of Liz Climo by Liz Climo - ★★★★
30. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell - ★★★

Some Reading Stats for 2015:
9719 total pages read
1 non fiction book
18 books written by women / 12 by male authors
3 books translated from a foreign language
Longest read: Dreams of Gods and Monsters at 624 pages
Shortest book read: The Tinder Box and A Faraway Smell of Lemon, both at 64 pages

I'm pleased with the mixture of books I read this year, but I feel like I only just scraped my goal of 30 books. A couple of the books I've read were only tiny little ones and whilst I enjoy reading short stories and novellas, it does feel a little bit like I cheated! I would have liked to read 30 longer books as well as a couple of short ones to really feel like I reached a target.

As you can see, I've given 5 stars to a few books this year but if I had to pick a favourite, it would have to be Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks - I'm so glad I finally read it. I reviewed it in full here on the blog. Two others that stood out from the rest this year were We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey; both are very unique in their own different ways and will stay with me because of that.

I also wrote a full review of my lowest rated book of the year: Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes.

Reading Goals for 2016:
I've set my Goodreads challenge goal at 30 books again, but I'm interested to see if I can surpass it. For one reason or another I read less often in the first half of 2015 than the second. The addition of a whole lunch hour into my daily routine from June may be to thank for this, but I'm hoping to keep up a more consistent pace this year and this should hopefully mean I read more. I'm sure I'll still read some shorter books, especially the Penguin Little Black Classics as I was very lucky and received the boxed set of the full 80 piece collection for Christmas (more on that in my upcoming December haul), but I'm aiming to read these more as a filler between longer reads. A literary palate cleanser, if you will.

The longest book I read this year was 624 pages as I mentioned earlier, but this year I'd like to challenge myself to take on something really hefty. I've had my eye on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for a while so that's very likely to be my choice, but I'm open to recommendations too!

My final reading resolution is one that I've already made a start on, and that is to read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy. I know, I know! I absolutely should have read them before now. I did start Northern Lights when I was younger and I can't quite remember why I didn't finish it, but I'm making up for it this year. I also recently disappointed a good friend of mine by saying I've never read The Millennium Trilogy, but I might save that one for 2017!
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