Books · Reading Challenges

The Reading Rush TBR

This is probably my favourite readathon and one of the few I participate in. Check out the website for more information.

There are 7 prompts. I will choose a couple of books for each challenge, so I can sort of decide to double up or not:

1. Read a book with a cover that matches the colour of your birthstone.
Choice 1: The Dinner (Herman Koch) – I have this one in its original language, Dutch (Het Diner). It appears to be a very polarizing book, but I have been meaning to get to it for ages. It’s on both my 2020 TBR and my 20 Books of Summer TBR
Choice 2: Flames (Robbie Arnott) – I have heard such good things about this book. I keep meaning to read more Australian fiction.

2. Read a book with a title that starts with ‘The’.
Choice 1: The Dinner (Herman Koch) – see challenge 1
Choice 2: The Lost Flowers of Alice Heart (Holly Ringland) – More Australian fiction. I have had this book on my shelf for a couple of years, but have not gotten around to reading it yet,.

3. Read a book that inspired a movie that you have already seen.
Choice 1: About A Boy (Nick Hornby) – Enjoyed the movie and I am curious what the book is like.
Choice 2: The Black Stallion Returns (Walter Farley) – Used to love this movie and this middle grade series as a child and have been meaning to re-read for ages. Maybe I could even watch the movie again!

4. Read the first book you touch.

Will do this to decide what book to read first.

5. Read a book completely outside your house.
Choice 1: Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh) – a graphic novel seems perfect for this kind of challenge! I have heard good things about this one.
NO SECOND CHOICE

6. Read a book in a genre you’ve always wanted to read more of.
Choice 1: Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh) – I always mean to read more graphic novels.
Choice 2: The Black Stallion Returns (Walter Farley) – This is a middle grade book in a series I used to love as a child and I would like to re-read it. I hardly ever read middle grade these days.

7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent from where you live.
Choice 1: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Holly Ringland) – see challenge 2
Choice 2: Flames (Robbie Arnott) – see challenge 1

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Now, normally I would be ambitious and choose a different book for each prompt, but I want to keep things low pressure for myself, so I will probably end up doubling up some of the challenges. I have 6 books on my list! Very unlikely that I will get to that number though. I would be very happy with 4.

The most likely books I will read are The Dinner (for birthstone and ‘the’), About A Boy (movie), Hyperbole and a Half (for outside and genre) and finally The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (continent). I expect the easiest read to be Hyperbole and a Half and the most intimidating read is The Dinner.

Fingers crossed πŸ˜‰

Are you participating? What does your TBR pile look like? Please link your TBR below.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams)

Carty-Williams, Candice - Queenie

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Title: Queenie
Author: Candice Carty-Williams
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary
First published: 2019
Edition:Β Hardback, published in 2019 by Trapeze

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

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I had high expectations going into this novel. I had heard so many good things about it. That always leaves me a bit nervous, but I did not need to be. This book was very good indeed!

What can I say about our main character Queenie? She makes you laugh, she breaks your heart and yet all the way through I rooted for her. She is a very flawed character, with low self-esteem, who makes very bad decisions. She is a frustrating character for sure and you will want to yell at her, but hold your judgement. We get to know her, little by little, throughout the book, and through knowing her past we come to understand her and the reasons why she is the way she is.Β  She may well be one of my favourite fictional characters. Maybe, because in one or another I think everyone can identify with Queenie, or has been able to identify with her in the past.Β 

The book deals with mental health issues, racism (both blatant, casual and subtle), cultural issues and sexual and emotional assault. These are heavy subjects and I could feel the weight through them throughout the book without being brought down. That is a rare book that can balance those scales.

The light in this book comes through Queenie’s friendships. They are so precious.

I would highly recommend this novel. I loved it and I think you will too.

6 out of 7 stars

#20booksofsummer

Books · Reading Challenges

Off The Grid Readathon (17-19 July) TBR

The Off The Grid Readathon runs from 17-19 July and is hosted by Shanah, the Bionic Book Worm and Justine at IShouldReadThat!

Basically the challenge is simple – stay off social media and read some effin’ books! They also encourage you to read a book by a black author. I decided to join this readathon last minute, because, well, why not?

My TBR consists of my current read and one that is on my Summer TBR.

My current read is The One by John Marrs and the other book I really hope to read over the weekend is Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, as I have been hearing such good things about that book.

That is it. I am trying to keep things simple here! I feel there is a possibility that I will manage these over the weekend. I am about a third into The One right now (so I am cheating a little!) and I am loving it so far.

I will try and do a reading diary over the weekend! I will also post my TBR for The Reading Rush tomorrow, which starts on Monday. Yay for back-to-back readathons – here’s fingers crossed that I don’t get burn-out! πŸ˜‰

Are you participating in any readathons? If so, which one and what are you reading?

L x

 

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Lines by Leon (Leon Stevens)

Stevens, Leon - Lines by Leon

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Title: Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose and Pictures
Author:Β Leon Stevens
Genre:Β PoetryΒ  Β Pages: 90
First published: 2019
Edition:Β E-book, kindly sent by the author

Lines by Leon is a selection of poems, prose, and short stories that address the subjects of loss, struggle, and reflection. Inside these thoughtful contemplations are original observations about ego, behavior, human relations, places, and the environment.Β 

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I loved this poetry collection. It is only short and quite light-hearted, even if it deals with some deeper subjects. To be honest, I found it a breath of fresh air and it was a joy to read.

I liked the cadence of the poems a lot. The author is a musician and songwriter as well and I think some of that is reflected in the poems, which sometimes feel like pieces of lyrics in the best possible way. It was easy for me to connect to them and to visualize what the poet was talking about. A lot of them made me smile, mostly in recognition!

There are some illustrations scattered throughout that add a nice touch. At the end of a book the addition of a graphic novel element and some fragments of short stories should feel out of place, but somehow do not.

I will give you a short poem from this collection that made me smile:

Ego
Sorry, I don’t have room for your ego
Maybe, if you got rid of most of it
You might fit
Into my life
– but probably not

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and I will be buying myself a physical copy. I will keep an eye out for anything else Leon Stevens publishes in the future.

Highly recommended!

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)

Mantel, Hilary - Wolf Hall

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Title: Wolf Hall
Author: Hilary Mantel
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction /
First published:Β 2009
Edition:Β Paperback published by Fourth Estate in 2010

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell – a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

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I am so conflicted when it comes to this book. Whilst I recognised it’s incredible construction and the meticulous research that must have gone into it, it left me rather cold and I struggled to get through it.

The subject, Thomas Cromwell, is an interesting character, but somehow I felt I always stayed at arm’s length. I never quite felt that I was in his mind or that I knew what he was about. Maybe that was the intention, but it did not really work for me.

I found the writing impressive overall, but a bit dense and a little confusing at times. This is such a grand book, filled with characters from history we already think we are familiar with, but it is angled at quite a different viewpoint than the one we are used to. I thought I would love it and I am disappointed that I simply did not. I did not quite enjoy the experience of reading it the way I thought I would. At times it felt like a bit of a slog.

I am, however, glad I finally read it. I just wonder whether I read it at the right time. I will keep this on my shelves as it is one of those books I may read again in the future to see whether it will sink in more than it did this time.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I think I would, but with the side note that this is a book that takes quite some reading and will definitely not be for everyone. It was a bit dry and dense at times, but I think the overall story and writing is impressive enough to deserve to be read.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

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

Bryson, Bill - A Walk In The Woods

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Title: A Walk in the Woods
Author: Bill BrysonΒ Audio narrator: William Roberts
Genre: Non-Fiction / Travel
First published: 1997
Edition:Β 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.

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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

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Title: The Flatshare
Author: Beth o’Leary
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
First published:Β 2019
Edition:Β 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 theyΒ stillΒ 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…

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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

 

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:Β 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 β€˜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.

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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.

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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

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Title: Dear Martin
Author:Β 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 Leagueβ€”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,Β  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

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Title: Witch’s Jewel (Kit Melbourne #1)
Author:Β 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.

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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.Β  I would definitely not rule it out!

5 out of 7 stars