Books I’ve Read in 2019 Part 1

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

I found this book frustrating, I just couldn’t enjoy it at all. I feel like I need a medal for getting to the end. I found it complicated and confusing. Evelyn Hardcastle is killed at a family party in the British countryside but all is not as it seems. Aiden must solve her murder or he won’t be able to escape. This crime, fantasy novel re-lives the same day over and over again. Aiden has his own mistakes to make peace with alongside solving a murder that no one wants to be solved. For eight days Aiden finds himself in a different body, all of which give him clues to the murder but that doesn’t mean he is any closes to piecing all the information together. I really didn’t enjoy the flitting back and forth of characters and it took me ages to remember who was who, I almost gave up but was invested to finish so I could at least see if there was closure.

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

After reading This is Going to Hurt, I was on a roll of reading medical themed books and this one sounded super interesting and a little different to Adam Kays. It is about one of Britain’s leading Brain Surgeons who is coming up to retirement and he is reflecting on his career. Henry Marsh takes you on his journey and tries to capture the unbelievable stress, motivation and often tragic consequences of working as a brain surgeon. He is incredibly skilled and is asked to perform surgeries that others think are impossible. His technical ability is thanks to years of practice, successes and many losses. It is a world we don’t often get to see but Henry Marsh brings you along and let me tell you it is one hell of a ride. This is a rollercoaster of a read, I finished it so fast if you’re a bit squeamish (like me) you might feel a bit queasy in parts but it is so worth it.

Books I've Read in 2019 Part 1

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I don’t read a lot of YA books but this one came highly recommended. It is a story of a young black teen who finds herself caught up in the Black Lives Matter movement. It follows 16-year-old Star and her struggle to live two sperate lives. She witnesses a crime and wrestles with what she saw and doesn’t know how to go about doing the right thing. Especially when you’re 16 and your family, neighbourhood and school life are worlds apart. It is a quick read and one I really enjoyed.

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

This was an odd story and I struggled to find the motivation to finish it. The story centres around Bobby, a 12-year-old boy who is pretty much alone. His father is abusive, lazy and neglects even his son’s basic needs. He is a loner until he meets Sunny and they become the very best of friends, the story takes a twist when Bobby meets another friend Rosa who’s Mother Val is everything Bobby never knew he needed. Caring, understanding and nurtures his soul until he is able to come to terms with what happened to his own Mother. It is a story that is a little far-fetched and odd in places but I did finish it and I can’t deny that It’s made me want to go on a road trip in a Mobile Library.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I saw so many people reading this and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I am almost sorry to say I expected it to be a little more gripping maybe more excited. I love Michelle Obama and think she is incredible and so wanted her to run for Presidency, but I just found her book a little dull if I am honest. She is very straight-laced and although parts of her life were without question a struggle and her determination to educate herself and push to be a woman in high-powered man’s world was inspiring there was little excitement. Not what I hoped it would be, maybe it is because I recently read Marylin Manson’s biography and this couldn’t be any further from that.

Books you must read in 2019

An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney

I am not usually one for books that have an element of magic/fantasy, I don’t know why but they never seem to appeal to me. So I must confess that I bought this book entirely because it had a pretty cover (sorry, not sorry) and I have to admit I actually enjoyed it, despite it being quite a raunchy read. I think at times it was too erotic & I am in no way a prude, I just think there were too many sexual references. The story itself was gripping and had plenty of twists and was a real page-turner. It’s set in 1756 and follows the story of a young penniless girl through her highs and lows on the road to freedom and success, but her journey is by no means easy. Described by the author as, Orphan, whore, magician’s apprentice. Murderer?

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

I read this over New Year and I loved it. I couldn’t put it down. I felt it was a more grown-up version of Eleanor Oliphant. A story of social awkwardness, second chances and an unusual family dynamic. The story centres around, Sarah Green a woman in her 40’s who won’t let anyone get close to her, she needs to be in control of every aspect of her life. Until a sequence of events makes her realise we are never fully in control and by letting a select few people know the real you, leads to a much more fulfilling life. I adored Sarah Greens character in this book her stubbornness, naivety and vulnerability make you really cheer her on from the sidelines. If you’re looking for quite an easy but thought-provoking read I highly recommend The Cactus By Sarah Haywood.

The Choice: A true story of hope by Edith Eger

After reading Man’s Search For Meaning last year this book kept getting recommended to me on Amazon & I thought I’d give it a go & I am SO glad I did. Both books are very similar in that they’re about surviving Auschwitz and how the people who managed to survive the longest were the ones who refused to succumb to depression or a broken heart but instead had an attitude of hope which gave their life meaning and purpose. The Choice is written from a female perspective and through her practice as a psychologist the people she councils help her gain perspective, forgiveness and live an authentic life. For years Edith is unable to acknowledge what happened to her during the war and in the years just after it ended, the years that shaped the young girl and women she became. For years it was too painful for her to deal with but her story is a testament that you can become the person you’re meant to be at any age and despite anything the world can throw at you. She is a true inspiration, a survivor and her story although hard to read you will not want to put this book down!

*this post contains affiliate links

Books I’ve Read Lately 2018 Part 2

Books I've Read in 2018 Part 2

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

I kept seeing this book in Waterstones & heard so many people saying how good it was so I knew I had to read it too. It did not disappoint & lived up to every good review I’d read. I loved it and was completely gripped from beginning to end. This book is the diary entries from an NHS Junior Doctor from 2004 until 2010, I laughed (a lot), cried and quite often gasped out loud at almost every page. This is an eye-opening, honest and quite often shocking account of working on the front line in the NHS from a Junior Doctors perspective. I loved the way is written and I won’t give anything away but I cried and laughed in equal measures. It is heartbreaking to think our NHS staff are working almost 100 hour weeks at the expense of their mental and physical well-being. I urge you to add this book to your reading list, I think it should be a mandatory read for everyone.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Another true story and an account of a middle-aged couple who find themselves in a situation beyond their control and completely out of their depth. This book gave me the sobering realisation that we are all only ever one step from losing everything, I found this humbling and inspiring. I felt like I was walking with Ray & her husband Moth every step of their journey. This story will lift your spirits, inspire you to embrace the unexpected and reminds you to be a little kinder to people you meet along the way. I found this book to be a quick read and I recommended it to my Mum who also really enjoyed it too.

Stalins Daughter

Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan 

I am completely fascinated by Russia and always gravitate towards books about its rich history and culture. It’s a country that has been through so many changes and it’s people have so often triumphed over adversity. I couldn’t wait to read this book when I heard about it.

Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan is an in-depth account of the little princess of the Kremlin who never escapes her father’s legacy. Svetlana endures so many tragedies in her early life, most at the hands of her brutal father Josef Stalin but after his death, she learns more about the extent of his reign of terror and makes the decision to defect from Russia.
Then begins a life of emotional turmoil and her constant search for peace that sadly never came. This is an emotional account of Russia’s most important defector. I found it heartbreaking that she wasn’t able to become her true self. The world just wouldn’t allow her to be anything other than Stalin’s Daughter and that was such a heavy burden to bear.

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

This book by Viktor E Frankl who is a Holocaust survivor and a leading psychiatrist explores what keeps people from giving up & what gives a life meaning and purpose. He talks about his time in Auswitch and how the people who managed to survive the longest were the ones who refused to succumb to depression or a broken heart but instead had an attitude of hope which gave their life meaning and purpose. They were the ones that helped people at any cost even if they made the smallest difference, they were the ones that refused to give away their inner fight for survival. You learn a lot about the strength of the human spirit.  It is a very interesting book and one that makes me realise your attitude can have such a positive impact upon everything you do. If like me you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or having a low time of it, this book might help you focus and make some positive changes to the way you think and your ability to focus on the good.

The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

This is a book about solving a crime that happened years before, about understanding family lies and secrets that stop the truth from surfacing. It all centres around what happened to Gabriella 30 years ago and her sister Anna returning to the family home to finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I thought it was a little hard to follow in places but I couldn’t put it down and loved the twists and turns. If you like crime/mystery novels this is one to add to your reading list for 2018.

The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is so out of my comfort zone and not the usual genre I go for, it is what I would call a crime/fantasy/thriller. Most people describe it as a gothic novel and I would agree. Set against the backdrop of post World War II Barcelona and centres around the enchanting Cemetery of Lost Books and what one boy discovers there. The Shadow of the Wind’ becomes a hunger to discover what really happened to its author Julian Carax to save those left behind. There is no quiet moment in this book, my heart was always in my mouth and I couldn’t put it down. It is enchanting, harrowing and the plot is so dark in places that I was scared to read it at night (what a wimp, I know). I enjoyed it from start to finish and want to read more books from Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Bring Me Back by B A Paris

Bring Me Back by B A Paris

Now, this was a book I really did not enjoy, it was disjointed and odd. It is about the disappearance of a young woman 12 years ago & the odd things that start happening that question what really happened to her all those years ago. If she is dead or alive. I found the whole book far-fetched and not very well written. Not a book I would recommend at all!

Love and Other Consolation Prizes

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

I loved Jamie Ford’s debut novel ‘Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweetwhich was a lovely read and I so wanted this book to be as good but although I enjoyed it and loved the main character Ernest Young, I just felt the story wasn’t as gripping. It is set in Seattle and much of the plot centres around the fate of a young Chinese orphan who finds himself in an adult world and all that comes with that life. The story flits between Ernst as a young boy & as an older man and I quite like the way this is done. Although I wouldn’t say this is a must read I would say it is a nice, easy read.

The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans

This was the second book in this roundup which I wasn’t blown away by. It was quite boring in parts and often I felt the story was rushed. This is a story that will leave you with more questions than answers and I struggled to connect with any of the main characters. This is a book to avoid!

If you have any book recommendations please leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear them.

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!

* This post contains affiliate links

Books I’ve Read Jan – April 2017

The Books I've Read in 2017

 The Books I've Read in 2017

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

This is the second book I’ve read from Fredrik Backman and I have to say I was a little worried it wouldn’t live up to ‘A Man Called Ove’, which was my favourite read of 2016. I quickly realised Britt-Marie Was Here was going to be a wonderful read. It is about a lady who after decades of hiding away from the world has developed a strong belief of how certain things should be done. She takes a job in Borg, a very small, run down & neglected town in Sweden where she in fact discovers her self worth. Britt-Marie makes friends with people that challenge her, encourage her and even fall in love with her and in return she gives the entire town hope. This book evokes such a mix of emotions but ultimately it is a story of letting go of the past, rediscovering your dreams and letting people into your heart. I urge you to add it to your reading list.

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

I wasn’t so keen on this book – I found it frustrating at times. It is about a young couple whose son has autism and through trying to learn to cope and navigate through the early years of his life they have stopped communicating as a couple and live very separate lives. The dad also struggles to connect with his son and finds it difficult to understand his world. Through the videogame Minecraft comes a bit of a breakthrough which proves to be the catalyst that helps this family to communicate and appreciate a new side to their son. The Dad Alex also realises that he has been holding on to a lot of pain from his childhood and it is stopping him from moving forward in all aspects of his life. I know this is a bestseller and has been well received but I just found it to have so many Minecraft references that it got a little annoying.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

This story is mainly set in South Carolina and centers around a young girl named Sarah Grimke whose family are very wealthy and much like most wealthy families in America at this time (1803) own quite a few slaves. It follows her defiance to accept her 13th birthday present which is in fact a slave girl of the same age as herself named Handful. Sarah educates herself to a level that is not usual or accepted amongst women in America at this time and she longs to be the first ever female judge but that is a dream beyond what society can allow. Sarah and Handful struggle to understand the world and how cruel it can be, but they both find the strength to make a difference. This is a book about ambition, loss, pain but ultimately on all sides it is about the need to be free.

I was surprised to learn this story is based upon the Grimké sisters who were in fact real-life abolitionists and in a way you could say early feminists. I read this book really quickly and I want to read more from Sue Monk Kidd.

The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George

This is a story about love, loss and friendship. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measures and if you have a romantic soul like me then you will love this story. It is mostly set on board a book barge in the centre of Paris and that in itself was enough to make me purchase this book. I love that the main character, Jean Perdu, doesn’t let people pick their own books, he chooses their books for them almost like a prescription from a doctor. It follows his journey to try and mend his broken heart and you’re taken along for the very scenic ride. I 100% recommend adding this to your reading list for 2017.

Most Recent Books Read in 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This thought provoking novel doesn’t hold back, it brings to the forefront subjects and situations that are still very much part of the modern world.  It talks openly, honestly about racism, discrimination and  privilege in America. I don’t want to give too much away as the story is gripping from the get go but this one book that brings you face to face with some very hard hitting situations that make you feel uncomfortable at times.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

I read this book without knowing anything about it – sometimes that is how you discover some incredible reads although I am not too sure I would class this as one of those. The main characters, Wavey & Kellen, I thought had a very uncomfortable story to tell. At times I really rooted for them but more often than not I was unsure how I should feel about their relationship. For me this was a heartbreaking read and I was left feeling the main character Wavy was let down by almost everyone. If you’re looking for quite a shocking, coming of age novel then add this to your reading list.

In Order to Live by Park Yeon-mi

I’ve watched a few documentaries about people that have escaped North Korea but this account from Park Yeon-mi was so hard hitting. I had no idea that her struggle was going to get so much worse once they’d fled North Korea. This true story follows Park’s desperate, poverty stricken life first living under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-il in North Korea then as her family attempts the dangerous journey into China. It is incredible just what the human spirit can overcome and Park’s account of what her family had to endure in North Korea and then as defectors of the regimes will stay with you for a long time.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This really reminds me a book I read last year called ‘All The Light We Cannot See‘ It is similar in that it is set first in Paris and then in rural France during the German Occupation of the Second World War. It follows two sisters that couldn’t be more different and we get to see the War from a female perspective. You get lost in the details and are quickly transported to the French countryside but the harrowing effects of the Nazi occupation are hard to ignore. The sisters are both trying to get through the War as best they can one desperate to make a difference and the other focused on staying safe. I sped through this and loved it just as much as I’d hoped, make sure you have a tissue to hand, as I think you will need it.

What have you been reading so far in 2017? Let me know if you read any of the books I have mentioned.

  • This post contains affiliate links