Books I’ve Read Lately 2018

Books I've Read Recently

Books I've Read Recently

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

This is based on the life of Lale Sokolov and I think the fact it is an account of real events makes it even more gripping. Books about this time in history are always harrowing and quite difficult to wrap your mind around but what I found different about this account of Auschwitz was the beautiful glimmers of courage, hope and ultimately love that can blossom even in the darkest moments. I read this book in a couple of days, I wanted to know what was to happen to Lale so couldn’t put it down. If you need a quick but thought-provoking read then I highly recommend adding this to your reading list.

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea

I haven’t finished this, I often have a few books that I leave and come back to, for many reasons but the fact I haven’t been able to get to the end of this particular book is because it is just so heartbreaking. This is how Amazon summarise it, ‘The harrowing true story of one man’s life in—and subsequent escape from—North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes’

It really is harrowing, the humiliation, suffering and loss that this man endures during his life in North Korea are unimaginable at times. I found it was so dark and sad in parts that it was hard to read. I feel guilty that I am unable to finish it and can put it down because this is someone’s account of real-life events and they had to live them. I almost feel I have to finish it because Masaji Ishikawa was brave enough not only to survive this ordeal but commit his story to paper.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Yes, yes. I know everyone (literally everyone) is reading this at the moment and I jumped on the bandwagon. It is a slow burner, in the beginning, I was worried that maybe I just wasn’t going to get the hype but about a quarter of the way in the story steps up and you get to know Eleanor a little more and start to will her character on. It is an easy, quick read but the story and characters are endearing, kind and it makes you want to be more friendly and compassionate. If you’re on the fence about reading this, I say buy it & read it. I guarantee you will enjoy it.

BOOKS I'VE READ LATELY 2018

The House at Bishopsgate

The funny thing about this book is I read it without realising that it is, in fact, the last book in a trilogy. Looking back now I have finished this book I think it is important that you read the first two books because they introduce the characters and you’re invested in the story and its history. I am tempted to go back and read them just so I can add some background to the story. Amazon summarises this as ‘Vividly evoking Jacobean society, The House at Bishopsgate is a sumptuous, richly woven story of marital secrets and sexual jealousy, from a master of historical fiction’.

I liked the story but didn’t connect with the main character, I found her a little annoying and meek. I wanted her to act more like the lady of the house. That being said I did like how descriptive it was about the house and London, I often felt like I could hear the comings and goings of the maids and the busy London street. I wouldn’t say this is a page turner, more of a slow read, the final few chapters were a little more lively. Let me know if you have read this trilogy and if I should read the first two.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters

I have literally just finished this book, I found myself racing through it just so I could find out what happens. It is a page-turner and the story reminded me of the Light Between The Oceans. I think it’s because both books are set at a lighthouse on quite a remote Island. This book has so many twists that keep you guessing right up until the very last page. I was completely gripped. I don’t want to give anything away but it is set at a lighthouse station on the Ontario side of Lake Superior and you follow the life of the family who controls the light. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming, a real rollercoaster of life and emotion. I loved it and thought there was something quite magical about the remoteness of the lighthouse and how isolated they were out there.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret 

I saw the film over Christmas and was blown away by the story and the way it was filmed, I didn’t even know it was based on a book, or how beautiful the book was. This is a lovely story but the book has these incredibly detailed drawings & illustrations that bring the characters to life. It is like a graphic novel and it made the book even more special. The book is about an Orphan clock keeper and thief, twelve-year-old Hugo who lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. I urge you to read the book and watch the film, both are fantastic in their own way. Thank you Hayley (hayleyfromhome) for lending this to me, I may have to buy my own copy just to look at the pictures all over again. 

HUGO

HUGO Book

HUGO

If you have read any of the books I’ve mentioned let me know if you enjoyed them & also if you have any book recommendations I would love to hear them.

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Books Waiting to be Read

Books to read in 2018

Books to read in 2018

For me, books make the perfect gifts. I love buying my favourite books for people & the thought that someone else might get as much joy as I did from reading a certain book is such a nice feeling. I also really like discussing my favourite books with people and listening to their take on it. Receiving books is so nice too, adding a book to your collection that you may never have picked yourself but it ends up becoming a favourite read is exciting to me. It is safe to say the book fairies were very kind to me this Christmas and I received quite a few new books to kick off my reading list for 2018.

St Petersburg by Jonathan Miles 

I have always been fascinated with in Russia because I feel like it’s quite a dark, unknown place with a very interesting, rich history. It’s so different from anything I have ever known and I love learning all about its past. This book spans three centuries from Peter The Great right up to Putin. It is a hefty book but I started it on Christmas Day and I’m flying through it at some speed. I’ve read about 150 pages and so far it’s very interesting and quite shocking in parts. It’s described as ‘An epic tale of murder, massacre and madness played out against squalor and splendour. It is a remarkable portrait of a city and it’s people.’ What country sparks your interests?

The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking

I’ve read the first book in this Scandi series, Little Book of Hygge & I have to tell you I’m 100% onboard with the whole lighting candles, drinking hot drinks and snuggling under a warm blanket (even when it’s not Winter). I also read The Year of Living Danishly which is a similar book but it takes a more in-depth look at the reasons people in Denmark are inherently happy. It was fantastic, a real eye-opener to learn what almost simple pleasures and small changes in your life can bring you that sense of happiness. This Lykke book seems to be in a similar vein so I’m excited to read it to learn just what happiness means to the people of Denmark and see if I can adopt some new behaviours to increase my own happiness.

Lagom by Linnea Dunne

This is another Scandi inspired book and although written by a different author to the Lykke and Hygge books is it similar in that is discusses the art of balanced living and just how important that is to our relationships and happiness. It is not about the Danes this time but focuses on the Swedes, who also rank very highly on the happiness scale. It looks like a refreshing take on how to find a healthy balance in life to ensure you have time to relax, be sociable and not let work become your entire life. It sounds very interesting and something I think we all strive to achieve a healthy work-life balance is the dream and Sweden appears to have it all worked out. I really like the simple illustrations in these books, they make so nice to flick through even after you’ve read them.

Berlin Style Guide by Ellen & Petra

I adore Berlin and have visited 5 times over a 30 year period and it is safe to say I have seen Berlin go through some major changes and some more subtle changes. It is a mysterious City and one that nurtures creativity. At face value, it feels very quiet, stark and utterly freezing in the Winter but if you get to know it and take time to seek out its beauty it is a city that welcomes you in and gives your soul doses of creativity and inspiration. I love exploring its city streets and each district is very different. This Berlin Style Guide takes you through 8 of Berlins suburbs and in each you get so many recommendations of delicious places to eat, stylish, quirky places to shop, beautiful places to get coffee and many hidden gems that will get your creative juices flowing. It has been so well curated so that you feel like you’re an honorary Berliner (for a few days at least). I love flicking through this guide and bookmarking places I have to visit on my next trip.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood 

I don’t know much about this book, it was a gift from my friend Hayley (who has excellent taste in books). What I do know is it written by the same author that gave us A Handmade Tale so I am expecting great things.

Orwell on Truth

This was bought for my husband but I will be reading it after he has finished. ‘This selection of George Orwell’s writing, from both his novels and non-fiction, gathers together his thoughts on the subject of truth. It ranges from the discussion of personal honesty and morality to freedom of speech and political propaganda. Orwell’s unique clarity of thought and illuminating scepticism provide the perfect defence against our post-truth world of fake news and confusion.’

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Books I’ve Read This Autumn

Books I've Read This Autumn

Books I've Read This Autumn

If you haven’t seen my last book post of the books I read during the first half of 2017 then make sure you check that out. I’ve been trying so hard to step away from the computer more, especially in the evenings and weekends. I have found reading helps relax my mind and stops me clicking on the internet and filling my time reading endless social media posts. I read not shy of 20 books during 2017 and I thought I would share the latest 8 with you.

The Amber Keeper by Freda Lightfoot

I don’t know why but I love reading books that are set in Russia and The Amber Keeper is partly set in early 19th century revolutionary Russia. It is also set in another of my favourite locations, the English Lake District.

The Amber Keeper is a sweeping tale of jealousy and revenge, reconciliation and forgiveness. Determined to uncover her mother’s past, Abbie approaches her beloved grandmother, Millie, in search of answers. As the old woman recounts her own past, Abbie is transported back to the grandeur of the Russian Empire in 1911 with tales of her grandmother’s life as a governess and the revolution that exploded around her.

At times I found this book a little slow, I loved the parts that were set in Russia, I found them exciting and very descriptive but when it came to the more recent parts set in rural England they were quite dull and not as engaging.

My Lovely Wife by Mark Lukach

This is such a heartbreaking, eye-opening memoir written very candidly about a family living with the crippling effects of mental illness. It is so deeply sad at times but it is also moving and ultimately a love story. Mental illness is not such a taboo subject anymore and the way Mark & his wife let us into the very harrowing and fragile parts of their experience with living with mental illness makes this a very powerful book.

‘A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.’

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

I loved, loved, loved this book. It is a peek inside Scotlands second largest secondhand bookshop. You’re a fly on the wall to all the goings on and the people that come and go (often empty-handed) Shaun is so dry humoured and has the best (often unexpected) responses to his customers and their outlandish requests and observations. We get to see just how hard it is selling secondhand books in the days of eBay and Amazon. You get to know the bookshop staff and I loved seeing what books people bought and also going along with Shaun on his buying trips to old estates and auction houses. This is such a lovely read & I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear 

This wasn’t a page turner for me, even though there were quite a few plot twists, in fact, I found it disjointed and I just wanted to get it finished so I could move on to something else. It is somewhat of a detective story in the midst of a crime that brings up a lot of buried family drama which comes full circle. Cat is quite annoying and I found myself not believing in her character.

‘Cat Kinsella was always a daddy’s girl. Until the summer of 1998 when she sees her father flirting with seventeen-year-old Maryanne Doyle.When Maryanne later disappears and Cat’s father denies ever knowing her, Cat’s relationship with him is changed forever. 

Eighteen years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable with the Met. Called to the scene of a murder in Islington, she discovers a woman’s body: Alice Lapaine has been found strangled, not far from the pub that Cat’s father runs.’

Books I Recommend

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

I adored this book. It is based on the life story of Pino Lella who is a teenager in Italy during the Second World War. This story really brings to life the Nazi Occupation of Italy and just how awful this War was. Pino Lella’s story is captivating and his courage is humbling. I finished this book in a couple of days and even though in parts it is utterly heartbreaking, ultimately it is a story of bravery and love. If you want a quick, engaging read about WWII from a slightly different perspective I highly recommend adding this to your reading list for 2018

 The Girl from Krakow by Alex Rosenberg

Another book which is set in WWII Europe but told from a Jewish woman’s perspective.  This book follows Rita as she struggles to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland and then in Germany, under a false identity. I read this within a week and was gripped from beginning to end.

In an epic saga that spans from Paris in the ’30s and Spain’s Civil War to Moscow, Warsaw, and the heart of Nazi Germany, The Girl from Krakow follows one woman’s battle for survival as entire nations are torn apart, never to be the same.

My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh

Who doesn’t dream of packing it all in & running off to Europe to live the ‘Good Life’?! I picked this book because the Mum of one of my very good friends has done exactly that, she has moved to France to live the rural dream and I thought this book might be an insight into what that entails. It is a true story following Janine’s unexpected journey from London to beautiful (at times) idyllic, rural France.

It’s a funny, light-hearted read and Janine opens up her life to us, the reader and you get find yourself completely absorbed with her highs and lows. It is a lovely calming read and another book I’d urge you to add to your reading list.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I’d heard mixed things about this book & I have to say I found it underwhelming. I just couldn’t seem to get into it. There were parts that were utterly heartbreaking and brutal but on the whole, it wasn’t as well written as I’d hoped.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

Not my favourite read of 2017 but I do know a lot of people that thoroughly enjoyed it.

I love books

I read a real mixed bag of books during the second half of 2017, books set in Russia, Italy and Poland. I reached mainly for fiction but a couple were non-fiction with one being a memoir that was a real eye-opener into a family dealing with the realities of mental health. I seem to be drawn to books set in Europe and that is very much reflected in the books I have already lined up to read in 2018, I just love books that are set with a European backdrop & I find them so interesting. I was disappointed with a few books, namely The Underground Railroad but The Diary of a Bookseller and Beneath a Scarlet Sky more than made up for it.

I was lucky enough to receive so many lovely books as gifts this Christmas and I am looking forward to getting stuck into those in 2018. I have set myself a goal of reading at least 2 books a month, which I think is achievable. If you want to follow me over on Goodreads – it is a great way to see keep up to date with what I’m reading.

My husband bought me St Petersburg: Three Centuries of Murderous Desire which is top of my reading list and I think it will take me quite a while to get through. 

If you have any recommendations for books you read in 2017 leave them in the comments and we can all add them to our wishlists!

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