Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson)

Bryson, Bill - A Walk In The Woods

★★★★★☆☆

Title: A Walk in the Woods
Author: Bill Bryson Audio narrator: William Roberts
Genre: Non-Fiction / Travel
First published: 1997
Edition: Audio book + paperback, published by Black Swan in 2015

In the company of his friend Stephen Katz, Bill Bryson set off to hike the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world. Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing tics, the occasional chuckling murderer and – perhaps most alarming of all – people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.

🐻🐻🐻

I felt like I needed a fun sort of listen and this definitely scratched that itch.

Bill Bryson’s story of trying to hike the Appalachian trail with his friend Katz was a fun time. In true Bill Bryson style I learned all sorts of useless information about the trail and the areas and towns they travelled through.

This was not as wonderfully ridiculous and interesting as some of his other books, but it was still a joy to listen to. The narrator did a really good job as well.

if you do not like Bill Bryson’s observational sense of humour this will not be for you. He rarely speaks about other people in a positive way. I don’t mind that. It’s very tongue in cheek and it did amuse me. The things that annoy him are the same things that would annoy me. There is a fair bit of fat shaming, which at times made me frown, but overall it was an enjoyable listen.

This is definitely not one of his best books, but it was still very enjoyable.

5 out of 7 stars

Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Flatshare (Beth O’Leary) #20booksofsummer

O'Leary, Beth - The Flatshare

★★★★★★☆

Title: The Flatshare
Author: Beth o’Leary
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
First published: 2019
Edition: Kindle e-book, published by Quercus

Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

🥰

Yes, I absolutely get what the fuss is about. This was a very good romance book indeed.

Not only are both main characters absolutely adorable, but their voices are distinctive and the writing of their POV chapters suit their personalities so well.

Although the romance was cute, the thing brought it just that notch above other books in this genre I have read in recent times were the subplots. The emotional abusive ex (unfortunately been there…), Leon’s brother in prison, even the search for the illusive Johnny White. They really elevated the story beyond a simple romance story.

The storyline was definitely a little too convenient times, sometimes a tad implausible, but it did not stop me from really warming to this story and these characters.

If you are thinking about reading this book and you haven’t yet, just do it, it’s fun and it will lift your spirits!

6 out of 7 stars

 

Monthly Reading Wrap-Up

June 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

This has been a pretty good reading month. It was a pretty hectic month, with my daughter back at school and one of my ponies having some health issues that we still have not gotten to the bottom of.

I think what worked really well for me this month is to simply not read much on days when I was busy or feeling especially anxious. I did not force myself to read, which made me much more energized to read quite a lot on other days.

I accepted a few requests from authors for the first time in a while and I actually enjoyed all the books I was sent, with one that particularly stole my heart. I am always meaning to do a post on self-published and indie-published books that I have really enjoyed since I have started my blog. I will try and do that post during July.

Back to the books I read in June. I read 14, but to be honest none of them were particularly long books (the shortest being just 36 pages!) and two were carried over from May.

THE BOOKS

 

  1. Cherry Beats (Vicki James) ★★★★☆☆☆
  2. How To Stop Time (Matt Haig) ★★★★★★★
  3. The Selection (Kiera Cass) ★★★★★☆☆
  4. In the Dark, Soft Earth (Frank Watson) ★★★★★☆☆
  5. Saving Ruby King (Catherine Adel West) ★★★★★★☆
  6. Drift (Clare Littlemore) ★★★★★☆☆
  7. Wild Beauty (Anna-Marie McLemore) ★★★★★★☆
  8. English Animals (Laura Kaye) ★★★★★☆☆
  9. Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen) ★★★★★★☆
  10. Among The Boat People (Nhi Manh Chung) ★★★★★★☆
  11. Witch’s Jewel (Kater Cheek) ★★★★★☆☆
  12. Dear Martin (Nic Stone) ★★★★★★☆
  13. The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavold (Sierra Simone) ★★☆☆☆☆☆
  14. Wild Stallion Whispering (Dawn Westcott) ★★★★★☆☆

I read six physical books, seven e-books and one audio book. I really enjoyed the variety of books I read this month. The three non-fiction books I really enjoyed. Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run was a great listen on audio book and I would thoroughly recommend it, even if, like me, you’re not a huge fan. Among The Boat People was a book I absolutely adored. It shows that sometimes telling a story in your own voice means a thousand times more than having it heavily edited or ghostwritten. The poetry of In The Dark, Soft Earth made a nice change. I did not always quite ‘get’ the poems, but I enjoyed it anyway. Both Saving Ruby King and Dear Martin felt very apt right now. I loved them both. Wild Beauty was wonderfully whimsical and both The Selection and Drift took me to a dystopian world, but were very different. when I felt like reading something different I picked up The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavold, which is rather raunchy historical adult romance. It was only 36 pages and sort of an epilogue to the Markham Hall series. I did not care for it really. At least it’s another book off my Kindle. Witch’s Jewel was a fun urban fantasy that was plenty enjoyable. English Animals was an interesting contemporary with a f/f romance, but was a bit disappointing in the end. Finally, Wild Stallion Whispering was a horsey non-fiction book that was very interesting to me, but would not be for anyone non-horsey.

Which leaves…

Haig, Matt - How To Stop Time

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH

I found a new favourite book, which is How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. I absolutely loved this book. It is a rather quiet book about the exciting subject of people who live for hundreds of years. The more books I read by Matt Haig, the more I love him. I will treasure this book for all eternity!

 

JULY READING PLANS:

Not really setting a TBR, though I will try to tick off some books from my 20 Books of Summer list. I will probably also participate in The Reading Rush readathon, which takes place 20-26 July.

Books that I am already reading that I will carry into July are:

  • Mo’ Meta Blues (Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson & Ben Greenman) e-book
  • A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson) – audio
  • Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel) paperback
  • The Flatshare (Beth O’Leary) e-book

 

 

Reading Diary

Sunday Reading Diary: 28 June 2020

08.53 – I have already listened to some of A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (narrated by….) whilst clearing out the pony paddock. It’s a fun listen for sure. I am on chapter 8. I never get tired of Bill Bryson’s dry humour, but to be honest it has been a few years since I read one of his books. We have a few on our shelves, including this one I am listening to.

I am about to pick up Mo’ Meta Blues by Ahmire ‘Questlove’ Thompson. Yes, he of Jimmy Fallon’s band. I randomly saw someone mention this book and I thought it sounded fun. Plus it has a funky cover – though I am reading it on my Kindle. I am only on page 20 or thereabouts, but I like it so far. It’s about music, so it’s easy to like!

The physical book I am reading right now is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which is a book that I have owned for years, but that I have always felt intimidated by. Since I have been having a really good reading month, I felt now was the time to pick it up. I am about 50 pages in and though I like it, it has not won me over yet. I do tend to like books set in the Tudor time period, so I am pretty sure it will grow on me.

I don’t have an awful lot to do today (besides going to visit my parents as they have a new puppy that we need to meet) and felt today would be the perfect day to try and read as much as I can. It’s a Sunday after all!

If I can read about 200 pages in total I would be very pleased. I will update you as and when I feel I have made some progress.

This was my starting point this morning:
A Walk in the Woods: page 118
Mo’ Meta Blues: page 23
Wolf Hall: page 58

***

12.15 – I haven’t made the progress I had hoped for and there will be no reading for a few hours! I have made it to page 141 of A Walk in the Woods and page 63 of Mo’ Meta Blues.

Pages read so far: 23 + 40 = 63.

I had hope for more, to be honest! I have not even touched Wolf Hall yet. I am enjoying Mo’ Meta Blues quite a bit. I like Ahmir’s way of telling his story. I love music, so seeing someone as passionate as obsessive about music as it is possible to me is a true joy!

Bill Bryson is Bill Bryson, a light listen and a lot of fun.

More reading after playing with my folks’ new puppy!

***

18.13 – We were away longer than we meant to! The new puppy was way too cute and we stayed at my parents for way too long!

I did listen to a bit more of Bill Bryson’s book when I got back whilst doing some chores.

So I am on page 153 of A Walk in the Woods and page 70 of Mo’ Meta Blues.  No progress on Wolf Hall so far!

37+ 47 = 84 pages read. Not as good as I wanted, but not too shabby either! Hopefully I will make a bit more progress tonight once the child has gone to bed.

***

21.00 – Read a bit of Wolf Hall. I think my hubby is going to watch some television together soon. I am having a bit of trouble concentrating as well. I am not quite sure how I am going to get on with this book. I like it, but it is a bit drier than I expected, which makes it a little hardgoing. I read about 25 pages of it, so definitely not quick progress.

***

23.43 – I am going to call it a day. Not quite the reading day I had imagined (as usual), but I made some decent progress.

Final count:
up to page 155 = 37 pages
Mo’ Meta Blues: up to page 79 = 56 pages
Wolf Hall: up to page 107 = 49 pages

Total= 142 pages

I have just decided to pick up another (4th book), as I want to read a little bit in bed, but I don’t fancy any of these books for bedtime reading. I need something light and fluffy.

Good night!

Books · Reading Challenges

Book Cover Challenge

To make things a little interesting for myself for the second half of the year, I have added a little challenge to see how many of these I can fulfil by the end of the year. This is a list inspired by one in the Fantasy Buddy Reads group over on Goodreads. I think it’s a fun thing to do. I will run my challenge from 1 July until 31 December. Please join if you fancy!
*
Red cover
Orange cover
Yellow cover
Green cover
Blue cover
Purple cover
Pink cover
White cover
Black cover
Metallic cover

Cover with the author’s name in the biggest font
Cover with the title in the biggest font
Cover with a photograph
Cover with an illustration

Cover with a building
Cover with a boat/ship
Cover with a vehicle

Cover with a tree/forest
Cover with a flower
Cover with a mountain
Cover with a night sky

Cover with a man
Cover with a woman
Cover with a mammal
Cover with a bird
Cover with a magical creature

Cover with a weapon
Cover with a crown
Cover with a cloak
Cover with a dress

*
I will see how I go with these. I will allow myself to double up challenges. So, say if I read a book with a black cover with a sword on it, I will count it for two categories.
Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Wild Stallion Whispering (Dawn Westcott)

 

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★★★★★☆☆

Title: Wild Stallion Whispering
Author: Dawn Westcott
Genre: Non-Fiction / Horses
First published: 2016
Edition: Hardcover, published by Halsgrove Publishing

The real-life story of a wild and tempestuous Exmoor colt foal who was rounded up from his moorland home and – after being weaned and multiple hot branded – found himself unwanted and facing a bleak future. He was offered a lifeline by Dawn who faced the formidable challenge of taming him. This is the story of how ‘Bear’ becomes a magnificent registered stallion – taking the showing world by storm, winning two world championships in horse agility – and how he conquers his fears and learns to build a bond of trust with Dawn.

🐎🐎🐎

I received this book from my mother-in-law as a gift. We have two ponies of our own and I am interested in a lot of the training the author does with her ponies. Like her, I am training my ponies to ride bitless.

I really enjoyed reading Bear’s story from rejected moorland foal to a Champion Exmoor and Agility superstar, through Dawn’s (mostly) expert guidance. She also highlights mistakes she has made in his training and how she corrected those mistakes.

Gentle training and true connection with your equine is at the heart of this book and I hope to apply some of her knowledge to my own ponies and my mare’s colt foal, which will come back to me in a year or two’s time.

She also highlighted the plight of the endangered Exmoor pony and the welfare issues that unfortunately still exist.

IMG_20200627_165831_1

If you are not interested in horses, this book won’t do much for you, but for someone like me it was a nice treat that made a bit of a change from my normal reading.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Dear Martin (Nic Stone)

Stone, Nic - Dear Martin

★★★★★★☆

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: Fiction/YA/Contemporary
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

I read this novel in one day, very rare for me! I just needed to continue reading. It felt important and all too relevant.

This novel deals with topics that unfortunately are all too current; racial profiling, police brutality, injustice and white privilege. It does so with elegance and conviction. The main character Justyce is easy to like. He tries so hard and yet he is always confronted by the fact that no matter what he does, he is black and therefore people, white and black,  will be prejudiced.

I really enjoyed the way this was written. Some as letters that Justyce right to Rev. Martin Luther King diary style, some as scenes from a play and some as a normal novel, in present tense. It really worked well. I loved the friendships in this book and the slowly developing relationship. I was also impressed by the way race and racism was handled with a careful hand that (unfortunately) most likely spoke from experience.

I would whole-heartedly recommend giving this book to your teen sons/daughters, cousins, pupils to read to get a better understanding of what it is like to be a black teen in a white man’s world.

I only wish it was longer and I will definitely look into other books by this author.

6 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Witch’s Jewel (Kater Cheek)

Cheek, Kater - Witch's Jewel

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Witch’s Jewel (Kit Melbourne #1)
Author: Kater Cheek
Genre: Fiction/New Adult/Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
First published: 2020
Edition: E-book, kindly sent by the author

Kit Melbourne longs to quit her brother’s coffee shop to pursue her artistic dreams. And despite the temptation to sell the sought-after enchanted gem she inherited from her uncle, she promises her family to protect it at all costs. But when her brother’s tea-leaf reading predicts her imminent death, she’s terrified to discover those who want it will kill to make it theirs.

😈🦇🐻

I do not read paranormal/urban fantasy that often, but when the author contacted me I thought it sounded like a fun read. And it was!

This novel, the first book in the Kit Melbourne series, sits somewhere between YA and New Adult. Our main character inherits a bindi from her uncle and craziness ensues, as several parties try and get their hands on this bit of bling. I really enjoyed this take on witches, monsters and vampires and it did not really felt forced or overdone anywhere. This book does not take itself that seriously and I really appreciated that.

There is some sex, but unlike in too many other books in this genre, love is really not the centre point of the story. It is more a side plot as Kit grows as a person.

There is enough drama, action and fun to keep you reading and I ended up really enjoying the read. Is it really my kind of jam? No, not quite, but it was well enough plotted and written for me to enjoy the ride.

If you like your paranorma/urban fantasy books light hearted andones that do not sexualize every vampire they come across, you will likely enjoy this book. Will I personally continue the series? To be honest, probably not any time soon, but you never know.  I would definitely not rule it out!

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 24 June 2020

It  has  been  a pretty good reading week so far.

I am enjoying my reading and the variety of the books that I have been picking up.

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

Cheek, Kater - Witch's JewelWhat am I currently reading?

I am reading Witch’s Jewel by Kater Cheek. The author kindly sent me the book in exchange for a review and though I do not accept urban fantasy books that often, as they can be VERY hit or miss, this one just sounded like fun. I am almost halfway and it’s a pretty easy read and I am liking it well enough so far. I don’t think I am quite the target audience, but there is nothing particularly wrong with it so far.

Bryson, Bill - A Walk In The WoodsI have also started a new audio book. I decided to choose one that I have the paperback on my shelf of that I was not likely to pick up to read anytime soon. I went for A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson. I kind of felt like something light and fun and Bill Bryson should scratch that itch! I have listened to the first chapter and I know I will have fun with this one.

What did I recently finish reading?

I actually had a pretty good reading week. Since last week I have finished three physical books, which were Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore, which I really enjoyed (6/7*), English Animals by Laura Kaye, which was pretty good (5/7*) and I just finished Among The Boat People (Nhi Manh Chung) today, which was a really interesting read (6/7*). I also finally finished my audio book, which was Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography. That one was pretty fantastic as well (6/7*). All in all, the standard has been pretty high this week!

What do I think I will read next?

I will probably try and finish a series, so Our Dark Duet by V E Schwab is on the cards this month. I am also kind of feeling like picking up a random trash mystery of the Dick Francis variety for reading in the sunshine, as there is a bit of a heatwave going on the rest of the week. I even entertaining the idea of picking up a big book, like Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel. I haven’t really decided yet. Who knows what I will end up reading?!

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Among The Boat People (Nhi Manh Chung)

Chung, Nhi Manh - Among The Boat People

★★★★★★☆

Title: Among The Boat People
Author: Nhi Manh Chung
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Autonomedia, courtesy of the author

Nhi Manh Chung lost her mother Lieu, her brother Kwok Chieu, and her younger sister Bao to the ravaging dark sea while trying to escape Vietnam. Finally settling in New York, her hardships gradually ease as she works her way through college, marries and works as a bilingual teacher. Here she writes her own story, revisiting her past. 

When I was contacted regarding this book, I knew immediately I wanted to read it. There is something about first person experiences that I love to read about. In a way, I feel like every time I read a memoir like this, my world expands a little bit and I love that feeling.

This is only a short book, but it tells a rich story of a life ever evolving. Nhi tells us about growing up in post-war Vietnam, escaping the communist regime and losing close family members in the process, her arrival in New York and the life she built for herself there, teaching immigrant children. She does so in very much her own voice. This is not a particular eloquent polished memoir, but I think that is exactly what lends it its character and power. It is what I loved about this. It reads like you just met an incredible person and they are now relaying the story of their life to you. As in conversation, her memories flow from one into another. Recounting one experience will remind her of another and so she builds the picture of her life and those whose life touched hers and whose lives she touched herself.

This book highlights the plight of refugees and the perilous lengths a person would go to in order to find a better life. It also touches on the Amerasians, children born from US soldiers and Vietnamese women, that arrived in the US, ostracised in their own country, in the hope to find their home in the USA.

Is this a really well-written book? No, the author is not a natural writer, but she does not need to be. Had it been heavily edited, I think it would have lost something. I really enjoyed reading this book and I hope others will as well.

6 out of 7 stars