Studious Saturday: Blogger Recognition Award

studious saturdays

Many thanks to Molly and Kaleena for nominating me with this award! If you have the chance then I encourage you to stop by their blogs as they are both a wonderful celebration of books and reading.

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THE RULES

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
  2. Write a post to show your award
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
  5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you’ve nominated them, and provide a link to the post you’ve created

HOW FACING THE STORY STARTED

I have loved reading ever since I was little and wanted to share my thoughts with others, exchange thoughts and opinions and discover new books to read through recommendations. However, I didn’t know much about the technical side of blogging such as choosing a hosted program and using HTML. Luckily my boyfriend helped out a lot with the technicalities (and even thought of the name!) and encouraged me to just start writing and see where it takes me. I wanted my blog to be a platform for my personal views on books I have read and would recommend to others as well as a create outlet for other musings, which is also how Studious Saturdays first began. In addition, I was also hoping to use writing and blogging as extra experience and an introduction to the Publishing industry in Spain as I was originally struggling to look for inspiration. My confidence and desire to write have grown tremendously since starting this blog back in June and I still hope to use it to pursue other opportunities in the creative industries.

MY ADVICE TO NEW BLOGGERS

1. Reach out to others in the blogging community. This is the best way to make friendships, ask for advice when needed and get inspiration. Getting started is the hardest but the community is open and friendly and there are many others who would be willing to help you set up. You will find your own voice as you start to write and you can decide to design your blog based on your personal preferences to make it a platform you are proud of and look forward to checking at the end of your day.
2. Don’t be afraid to take a break when needed. Blogging is hard work and it is especially difficult when life gets in the way and we get busy or stressed. It’s sometimes better to step away and take a much needed break instead of writing when you have no inspiration or no time. Scheduling helps a lot here, and if you’re someone like me, knowing that your post is ready to go live at an especially hectic time of your life is usually a huge relief. However, if you prefer to write when you feel like it, know that your blog and your followers will be here for you when you come back from your break and that your mental health is always more important.

NOMINATIONS

These are some of the brilliant bloggers whose posts I have loved recently and I would like to give this award to:

Krisha

Meggy

Amy

Nicole

Shruti

Jennifer

Katie and Dee

Kristina

India

N S Ford

Inge

Stephen

Sophia

Grace

Sarah

Thank you again to Kaleena and Molly for the award and thanks to everyone who has read this post. I look forward to reading how others got started and their advice to new bloggers. If you have already published a post of this award before please leave me a link, I would love to read it!

 

Book review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

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Title: Then She Was Gone

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publisher: Cornerstone Digital

Publication date: 27th July 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.
NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.
Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.
What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

My review:

To give you an idea of just how gripping this book was, I read it in 2 sittings – the first on a flight and the second as soon as I arrived home. I was already aware of the hype surrounding Lisa Jewell and her books and felt compelled to read it after it was recommended to me by Stephen (many thanks for the recommendation!). As soon as I started it I felt compelled to find out what happened to Ellie and who was responsible for her disappearance. Storytelling is Lisa Jewell’s main strength and I was impressed with the varying changes of scene and narrators, especially as this also presented the perfect opportunity for the reader to understand each character’s motive and involvement in Ellie’s disappearance.

Original and captivating from the very beginning, this book is very different to most recent thrillers because there are many hints of the kidnapper from the start and it becomes more apparent as the events unfold that our suspicions were right. Nevertheless, the author used this technique to her advantage and created a unique story, both character and plot driven, which ultimately delivers in nearly all respects. There was never a chapter where the character’s emotions were not fully analysed and despite identifying the culprit from early on, I felt compelled to carry on reading until the end.

My only complaint about this book, and also the reason to downgrade to a 4-star rating, revolves around the slightly far-fetched events involving Ellie’s disappearance. (I don’t want to give too much away here but if you have read the book you would probably know which part I am referring to.) Despite this shortcoming, I was still able to warm to the characters and appreciate the plot, thick with suspense as Laurel’s story line developed in ways I didn’t anticipate. The epilogue was bittersweet and perhaps the most near-perfect scenario in such delicate and somber circumstances. I greatly enjoyed this mystery and have already made plans to read some of Lisa Jewell’s other books.

Studious Saturday: exploring bookshops in Bath

studious saturdays

During my holiday in the UK last week I visited family in London and friends in Bath, which I also decided was the perfect opportunity to explore a few bookshops in both cities along the way. This week I will summarise my thoughts on two lovely but very different bookshops in the beautiful city of Bath.

Mr B’s Emporium

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Hidden on a side street in Bath’s city center, Mr B’s emporium is a wonderful celebration of books of all genres. I was immediately drawn to the general fiction area upon entering and spent some time looking through the new releases. I already had my eye on several acclaimed novels but the staff were also kind enough to ask if I needed any help in choosing a book, which I really liked.

I was also excited to learn that Mr B’s Emporium would be one of the stops on Markus Zusak’s book tour of Bridge of Clay, although unfortunately several days after my visit when I would no longer be in Bath!

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The ground floor has several fun features including a heart shaped collage of other readers’ favourite books and a guestbook gallery full of recommendations. I loved reading other’s recommendations and was touched to find that I also share the same  tastes as other book lovers who had previously stopped at this shop.

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The top floor is beautifully decorated with a reading nook at the very end and many fascinating non-fiction books as well as an area with books written in different languages. I loved the comfortable armchairs and tray of tea and coffee on the side for readers to help themselves after choosing a book to read. I could have spent the whole afternoon here! Later on I also discovered that the owners hold their book signings, talks and other events on this floor and I can already imagine how cozy this must be, especially on a cold winter’s day.

I really liked the personalised service that this bookseller offers and enjoyed the beautifully decorated and unique interior. If you have a stopover at Bath in the future I fully recommend visiting this bookstore!

Topping & Company Booksellers

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Bright and bold on one of the main streets in Bath, Topping & Company is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a specific book. They hold book signings almost every day and have a wide variety of literature, from poetry to non-fiction. My favourite aspect was the signed first editions, which are highlighted on almost all book covers upon entering.

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I had a great time looking through the various genres and found several books that I had not previously heard of that are now added to my TBR list. The classical music in the background was the perfect touch to a relaxing afternoon. I recommend visiting to anyone looking for a specific signed first edition as a gift to a loved one, as well as those hoping to meet their favourite author, as this bookseller hosts several book signings each week (full list of events available on their website).

Thank you to my friends for their company during our visit to these two bookshops, especially to Ioli for recommending them!

Book review: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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Title: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Author: Stuart Turton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Publication date: 18th September 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

My review:

This is one of those books – the one that you need to finish before you go to sleep, the one that you will think about weeks after finishing and most likely the one that you would end up recommending to all your friends. I am still in awe of the beautifully portrayed scenery, the multi-layered characters and the cleverly crafted plot Stuart Turton has built. He has a gift for storytelling and the rare ability to draw the reader into an engaging and intense mystery right from the first word. I knew how important it would be to stay focused on every bit of information but still I often found myself flipping back several pages just to memorise the little details. Each peculiarity and character trait is of utmost significance and it is astounding how smoothly these pieces of the puzzle fit as the plot unravels. However, despite paying close attention to these details, I never stopped guessing who killed Evelyn Hardcastle until the very end. It is almost impossible to figure out the ending but on reflection, all the snippets of information were relevant to the murder and crucial to understanding the plot.

Besides the exquisite storytelling and intricate plot, I must highlight my favourite aspect of this book: the superb characters which all develop and merge into one host. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this must have been to accomplish yet the execution is brilliant and exudes ambition and courage. Aiden Bishop visits each of the eight hosts in order to solve the murder and not only does Aiden’s character come to life, every occupant he seizes control of is also presented with unique quirks and virtues. A doctor, an artist, a gambler, Stuart Turton explored all possible character profiles with apparent ease. Identity, patience and vindication are the key themes portrayed throughout the book as Aiden wakes up in a different body each time. He struggles to remember who he is and what his mission comprises of and it is here where the author’s marvellous writing really shines as he poses the ever important questions concerning such as finding out who we really are and if we can trust our emotions and gut feeling to lead us to the right path.

Immensely bold and intelligent, Stuart Turton’s first novel does not disappoint and addresses all the right questions in an attempt to lure the reader into a 20s style murder mystery. The multiple timelines and beautiful setting form only one small part of the brilliance that this novel manifests – the rest is split between the elaborate details and labyrinth of a story line. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is by far the best book I have read this year and perhaps even one of the best ever. It deserves all the hype and I will definitely be recommending it to everyone around me.

 

Studious Saturday: meeting Jodi Picoult

studious saturdays

Welcome to another Studious Saturday post! I have been on holiday this past week which meant that I was able to dedicate a lot of time to reading. In addition, I was very lucky to get tickets to the last stop on the Jodi Picoult UK Book Tour which included a pre-signed copy of her latest book A Spark of Light, as well as a Q&A session and photos with her to follow. Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors and I had been looking forward to this event for a long time. I really enjoyed the Q&A session in particular, where she shared some insightful details of her life as an author which I would like to share with you today.

The session started with a brief explanation of how and why this book was written and a short reading of the first chapter (which is also the ending of the book because the story is written in reverse). She revealed the backstory to A Spark of Light – the contrasting views of terminating a pregnancy that a woman may experience throughout her lifetime, justifying that one’s view on abortion may change when reaching 15, 30 and 50 years of age. Coupled with the current political controversies surrounding the topic in USA, she felt that now was the right time to write this book.

I was particularly impressed with the research that she carried out prior to writing the book. She interviewed 151 women who had terminated a pregnancy to find out their motives and analyse their experiences which she would later on use to develop her characters. Most astonishingly of all, no more than 10 of those 151 women agreed to be involved in the book with all of them choosing to be written in using a pseudonym. Jodi discussed the stigma surrounding  in the topic with eloquence and impartiality, something which I highly valued.

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Without going into too much detail of the Q&A session, I wanted to provide a quick summary of some of the most interesting and valuable subjects she discussed:

  • When writing a book, she usually begins by drafting several pages of a summary with a brief outline, although she already has the twists planned out. The outline of A Spark of Light was 48 pages, mostly due to the reverse timeline.
  • She discarded the first person narrative in A Spark of Light, which she used in most of her previous books, because there are 10 characters and she wanted to portray each story without confusing the reader.
  • She has one unpublished romance novel written under a pseudonym of a mixture of her children’s names. The editor’s feedback was that it was too well written for the genre.
  • Her favourite author is Alice Hoffman and some recently published books that she has read and recommends include Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak and Vox by Christina Dalcher.
  • Jodi usually writes about topics concerning society and there is an evident trend when looking back on her novels; she started by writing books where human emotions were explored, then proceeded to analyse relationships upon getting married, and finally decided to delve into controversial topics such as gun control and medical rights after her children were born.
  • She explained that once an author sells rights for a movie adaptation, they are no longer involved in the production of the film. She was deeply upset at the ending of the movie adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper and had previously warned the producers that the film would not perform well if they stray far from the original ending of the novel. She hopes that Small Great Things is a bigger success as soon as a screenwriter has been chosen, especially as there are talks that Julia Roberts and Viola Davis have been cast as the main characters.
  • Her next book will pose the question “Who would you be if you weren’t who you are today?” and hinted that elements of Ancient Egypt may also be included.

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The most exciting part of the event was meeting Jodi at the end and having my photo taken with her. As I read chapter after chapter of A Spark of Light, I realise that I also look back more on the points she discussed and start to analyse them in greater detail. It is another though-provoking and moving book and I am greatly enjoying it so far (review to follow shortly!).

This was her last event in the UK but for any fans based in Canada, her final stop will be Toronto on Monday and I highly recommend going!


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Book review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


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Title: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 16th March 2015

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

My review:

This book was such a joy to read! My principal concern with Science Fiction is the emphasis on the setting and lack of character development but this really was no issue here; each character’s backstory is unique, personal and intriguing and there are many friendships built and relationships developed on The Wayfarer. The crew is incredibly diverse, including humans and several other species, and the result is an entertaining and delightful mix of conversation and events. Each character has their own voice and opinion and is respected by the other colleagues despite their personal tastes and differences, something which I really valued and admired when following their conversations. Apart from supporting each other on board, I also found the crew’s adventures upon coming across other hostile species fascinating and commendable. The appreciation and understanding for one another really shines here, along with their support and teamwork to fight off villains.

Despite my appreciation for each character, I was slightly disappointed with the slow pace and lack of plot which I felt was missing, especially towards the middle of the story. The main adventure that the crew embarks on is the building of a tunnel towards another planet, but it is not until the midway point until this becomes clear. After this, each chapter involves a confrontation with an enemy and the crew’s combined effort in protecting their ship and escaping from the imminent danger. I greatly enjoyed joining the Wayfarer on these adventures but would have preferred more action and a greater focus on the task, which I felt could have been developed more.

After finishing this book I am keen to join the crew on their further adventures in the sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, although I am also curious to explore more of Space Opera in particular. I was not a huge fan of Science Fiction before reading this book but the combination of a fun adventure and unique characters had me hooked from the beginning and laughing until the very end. I highly recommend The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet to anyone hoping to dip their toes in the diverse world of Science Fiction and those looking for a light-hearted and character-driven read.

Studious Saturday: disappointing books and managing high expectations

studious saturdays

Hello and happy Saturday! I am travelling a lot this weekend and have lots of reading planned (at this stage I think I might be more excited about the reading than the travel!). I have recently had incredibly good luck with picking excellent books several times in a row. This has made me think of several books where I had high expectations but was ultimately disappointed for several varying reasons. I won’t be writing full reviews about these books but I wanted to briefly comment on and explain my thoughts on these, along with how I manage my high expectations now.

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The Four Streets Trilogy was a brilliant series and I found Nadine Dorries’ storytelling engaging and compelling. I was surprised and disappointed to find out that Run to Him doesn’t have the same flow and I could not connect with the characters either. Perhaps if it was developed as a full novel rather than a short story the plot could have developed in a different way more suitable to the writer’s style.

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Stieg Larsson is perhaps one of the best storytellers in the crime fiction genre and I was excited to learn that there would be another book in the Millenium series. It is evident from the start that Lagercrantz’s writing lacks the same complexity and variety as Larsson’s so this book was mediocre at best when compared to its predecessors.

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I realise that I am one of the few to dislike this book but unfortunatey it just didn’t meet my high expectatations. Prior to reading it I had heard a lot of excellent comments about its unique nature and was expecting it to shine in the dystopian fiction genre. Many others love it but I could not handle the slang and was driven away by the violence.

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I had read very postive reviews on some of David Nicholls’ other books but decided to start with this one. I felt that the whole story was a continuous game of tag with both characters chasing each other with no progression. Neither of the characters were particularly likeable which also resulted in what felt like a very slow paced plot.

The most disappointing book I have read this year (and possibly ever), Go Set a Watchman failed in all aspects including pace, character progression and plot. It was weak and poorly executed when bearing in mind that one of the most renowned classics, To Kill a Mockingbird, was written by the same author.

Upon reflection, I realise that I am perhaps too critical which stems from my admiration for certain authors and my high expectation to deliver a book just as good, if not better, than the previous one.

So how do I manage my high expectations now? I try to put aside thoughts concerning the author or other readers’ views and focus simply on the novel in front of me. It’s  often challenging, especially with new books written by one of my favourite authors, but I find that I approach these books with a fresh perspective and enjoy the journey more.

Question

Which books did you find disappointing and why?