Studious Saturday: It’s Finally Fall Book Tag

studious saturdays

Autumn is here once again (although with a slight delay as always here in sunny Madrid) and so is the perfect weather to snuggle up under a blanket with a book. Amanda tagged me in the It’s Finally Fall Book Tag. Thank you, Amanda! For those of you who haven’t come across her blog before, she recently shared some very insightful tips for bloggers and writes great reviews so go and check out her blog! I am not sure who created this book tag but please comment if you know so I can link back to them.

I am excited to share with you some of my favourites perfect for rainy weather. Enjoy reading!

IN FALL, THE AIR IS CRISP AND CLEAR | NAME A BOOK WITH A VIVID SETTING!
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I just loved the imagery and vivid descriptions in The Night Circus so much. I haven’t read a book that surpasses the setting since this one.

NATURE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT ALSO DYING | NAME A BOOK THAT IS BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, BUT ALSO DEALS WITH A HEAVY TOPIC LIKE LOSS OR GRIEF.
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I recently received The Coordinates of Loss as an ARC and was blown away by how well  the author handled the complex topic of grief.


FALL IS BACK TO SCHOOL SEASON | SHARE A NON-FICTION BOOK THAT TAUGHT YOU SOMETHING NEW.

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Quiet explores how introverts fit in our society and is a thought-provoking and extremely interesting book.


IN ORDER TO KEEP WARM, IT’S GOOD TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH THE PEOPLE WE LOVE | NAME A FICTIONAL FAMILY/HOUSEHOLD/FRIEND-GROUP THAT YOU’D LIKE TO BE A PART OF.

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I have so much admiration for Durell and I would love to be a part of his animal family. I can imagine it being so much fun!


FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME FOR SOME STORYTELLING BY THE FIRESIDE | SHARE A BOOK WHEREIN SOMEBODY IS TELLING A STORY.

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My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologies is a charming story told from the perspective of 7-year-old Elsa. It is unique and the storytelling is just wonderful.


THE NIGHTS ARE GETTING DARKER | SHARE A DARK, CREEPY READ.

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This book was really not what I was expecting after reading the description. It is dark and twisted and hard to take in all at once.


THE DAYS ARE GETTING COLDER | NAME A SHORT, HEARTWARMING READ THAT COULD WARM UP SOMEBODY’S COLD AND RAINY DAY.

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Not especially short but highly entertaining and the perfect heartwarming read!


FALL RETURNS EVERY YEAR | NAME AN OLD FAVOURITE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO RETURN TO SOON.

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Perhaps my favourite book ever written, And the Mountains Echoed is one that I would definitely like to re-read soon.


FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME FOR COZY READING NIGHTS | SHARE YOUR FAVOURITE COZY READING ACCESSORIES!

A warm drink and a thick blanket! I don’t really need much more than that!

I tag:

N S Ford
Katie and Dee at The Brunching Bookworms
Darinda at Nightcap Books
Lily at Sprinkle of Dreams
Jess at Comfort Reads

To those tagged there is no pressure to do the tag but I would love to read your answers so if you decide to post them, please link back to me so I can see your fall favourites. And to anyone not tagged please also feel free to do the tag, it was a lot of fun! Have a great weekend and happy reading!

Book review: The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances


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Title: The Girlfriend

Author: Michelle Frances

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Pan

Publication date: 6th April 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but she hasn’t had the same opportunities as Daniel. And she wants Laura’s life.
Cherry comes to the family wide-eyed and wants to be welcomed with open arms, but Laura suspects she’s not all that she seems.
When tragedy strikes, an unforgivable lie is told. It is an act of desperation, but the fall-out will change their lives forever.”

My review:

I am sure that we have all stumbled upon a book where we are continuously waiting for a big event to happen and when it does, we want to shake the characters in an attempt to wake them up and make them realise the situation they are facing. Without giving too much away, this book was exactly that. A disastrous accident involving the two main characters, Daniel and Cherry, takes places and Daniel’s mother, Laura, quite understandably becomes attached to her son and pushes Cherry after many hard facts about their relationship are slowly revealed. I didn’t feel frustrated by the accident itself but rather with all three characters at their inability to understand the events occurring around them and appreciate the various lies spread and told with no end. My interest peaked straight after the tragedy took place and I was curious to see how each character would evolve but was unfortunately left feeling disappointed at the lack of growth in both character progression and plot.

On a different note, I wanted to express my thoughts on the beginning of the story which I thought was brilliant and very well paced. Here, the author provides just the right amount of detail to encourage us to continue reading without giving away too much of Cherry’s malicious plans for her future with Daniel. It was slow burning but the level of suspense gradually increased to the moment where disaster strikes and did not disappoint up until this point. Although I was not too fond of how the events unfolded after this turning point, the introductory chapters provided a solid background of where each character is emotionally – something which I really enjoyed exploring.

This book would have been excellent if there was a deeper focus on the plot following the accident as well as a stronger and memorable ending. Ultimately, it disappoints with several of the implausible events and lies coupled with the slow building tension after the main twist. I also believe that it could be classified as a family drama rather than a psychological thriller, particularly due to the lack of suspense after the halfway point and the passive ending. I would recommend this book to fans of domestic dramas but not to those looking for a fast-paced and engaging psychological thriller.

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce


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Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Author: Rachel Joyce

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Transworld Digital

Publication date: 15th March 2012

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.”

My review:

Oh, what a treat this book was! I had come across many positive reviews before starting it but I didn’t realise what an adventure I was in for and could not have imagined how much I would enjoy the journey. It is one of those books to be read slowly, each moment treasured and savoured with the need to stop and reflect on the story unfolding before us after finishing each chapter. Filled with both lighthearted and heavier elements, it is a true reflection of one’s journey from a quiet and simple life to the contrasting sudden need to embark on an adventure, although somewhat accidental, and let fate decide how each moment unfolds.

My favourite aspect was by far the varied and conflicting characters that Harold stumbles upon during his pilgrimage. From dogs to strangers hoping to use his newfound fame for success, the story really explored every possible character you can imagine meeting during such an endeavour. The circumstances Harold finds himself in are equally diverse and it was a joy following his pilgrimage across the country. Perhaps the most poignant feature is that with each blister and drawback, he never once gave up and continued the journey believing that he could still save his friend.

This book is a great example to others showing how the enthusiasm and willingness to change life’s course can truly make a difference to both ourselves and our surroundings. Despite the uneventful life that Harold led, a sudden change of heart was enough to push him into an exciting and adventurous journey inspired by his desire to help a friend in need. I would truly recommend this book to anyone wishing to read a captivating book with a dash of joy, friendship and dedication.

 

Studious Saturday: Why we should read books in a different genre

studious saturdays

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  – Dr. Seuss

Welcome to another Studious Saturday post! This one is based on genres and why I think it’s a good idea to for us bookworms to step out of our comfort zone and try a book in a different genre. If you read my previous post, Three Bookish Things Book Tag, you may remember that this was one of my goals for this year and I can safely say that I have achieved it by recently finishing one of my Science Fiction choices, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading something completely different to what I usually choose and wanted to share my views on why I think you should do the same.

• Understand your preferences better

Even if we leave the new book half-way through or decide it is not for us, it would still work in our favour because we would now have a much better understanding of our likes and dislikes and the types of books we have no interest in reading. The perfect example is Classics – many of us were forced to read at least one Classic at school and we may have decided that we have no interest in this genre based on the book we read years ago. However, we may be surprised upon reading a different Classic at a later age that we appreciate the characters and plot much more. Alternatively, we may choose a Classic or any other book in a genre we are not used to and soon leave it. It might not mean that we should completely discard this genre based on just one book but at least we would be in a better position to analyse what didn’t work and why we may or may not return to this genre at a later stage.

• Getting out of a reading slump

We all know the dreaded feeling of being unmotivated to start a new book or carry on reading the book we recently started. In these tricky situations I would advise to try a new genre. Changing to something fresh and distinct is always advised in many other circumstances in life so why can we not apply it to reading? In fact, I believe that experimenting with a completely unexpected reading choice is a healthy way to restart our motivation and put us on the right path back to our bookcase/library/book shop. Personally, I was feeling frustrated with some of the Thrillers that I had read before I decided to embark on the new adventure of Science Fiction but shortly after finishing it I realised that I was ready to return to my favourite genre and attack it with a newfound enthusiasm that I was lacking before.

• Different genre, different perspective

For me, the main advantage of switching genres is the fresh perspective we would encounter, a concept that I realise is difficult to grasp if we are used to always reading the same kind of books. New characters, a change in pace and a completely different setting are just some of the aspects we may face and of course there could be many more depending on the degree of the change in genre. In my case, jumping from my usual choice of Thrillers and Crime to Science Fiction felt like a huge step because the setting is  completely contrasting to that of the usual Thriller. However, I would not be surprised to see less disparity between Thrillers and Horror or Romance and Young Fiction, for example.

Question

Is switching to a new genre something that you may consider or do you prefer to stick to genres you know you enjoy?

That’s all for this week! I will spend the weekend looking through my feed and reading all your blog posts as I was not able to follow your posts as usual because of a very hectic and busy week. Have a relaxing weekend and happy reading!

 

Book review: In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards


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Title: In Her Shadow

Author: Mark Edwards

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication date: 4th October 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“Isabel’s life seemed perfect. Successful business, beautiful house, adoring husband. And then she was dead.
For four years Jessica has never doubted that her sister Isabel’s death was an accident. But when Jessica’s young daughter seems to know long-forgotten details about her aunt’s past, Jessica can’t shake the feeling that there’s a more sinister truth behind the tragedy.
As Jessica unearths disturbing revelations about her sister, and about the people she loved and trusted most, it becomes clear Isabel’s life was less than perfect and that Jessica’s might also be at risk.
Did someone murder Isabel? Are they now after Jessica and her family? The key seems to lie in the hands of a child. Can Isabel reveal the truth from beyond the grave, or is the answer closer to home?”

My review:

I decided to request an advance reader’s copy of this book after finishing The Retreat by Mark Edwards which I found exciting and wanted to analyse his writing in greater depth. He has the ability to combine intense and dramatic moments with hints of paranormal activity in a unique and gripping way and I admire his bravery to incorporate this method in his books as a way of peaking the reader’s interest. Unfortunately, I felt that the plot lost focus for me due to the emphasis on the supernatural elements which I think were too excessive here, especially when Jessica’s daughter, Olivia, claimed to know the details surrounding Isabel’s death without ever having met her. I was impressed with the way Jessica was portrayed as a multilayered character with secrets and regrets but simultaneously I would have liked to explore the other minor characters such as Darpak further.

The other drawback from my perspective was the intense change in pace halfway through the book. It starts off at a relatively slow pace and quickly picks up after one of the many secrets is revealed. I realise that this was perhaps done intentionally to draw the reader’s attention back to the main suspects while discarding several others but I also felt that it disrupted the natural flow. Further on this note, I found the ending exhilarating and was kept on the edge of my seat until the last few chapters which I believe was partly due to the fast pace and plot twists disclosed at the very end. Exposing the murderer was a complete surprise and I appreciated the flashbacks leading up to this point to reveal Isabel’s killer as a different and fresh writing technique.

Overall, I found this book more difficult to follow and dig into in comparison with The Retreat but liked the fast-paced unexpected ending. If there had been a deeper focus on the characters and less of an emphasis on the paranormal elements from Olivia’s perspective I would probably have enjoyed this book more.

In Her Shadow is available to all this Thursday 4th October!

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

Studious Saturday: The impact of books in a series

studious saturdays

 

Happy Saturday! I have stumbled upon several reviews in the Book Blogging community this week on Lethal White, the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. They made consider the impact of books in a series and the key techniques used by authors to create a well perceived series. I have decided to explore these thoughts on this week’s Studious Saturday post and analyse these methods in further detail…

• Continuity in the story line

Something we all look for, perhaps even subconsciously, upon starting the next book in a series is the continuity in the story line. Many authors decide to disregard this aspect, especially those in a detective series where the crime scene changes each time. Nevertheless, continuity is a key technique used to remind the reader how the last book ended and flow into the story line of the new book. If a series doesn’t have any degree of continuity the plot may seem uneven and rushed.

• Character development

Most series include the same characters with perhaps a few new characters introduced in each new book. If there is no character development the plot appears stagnant and the reader may lose interest. However, that is not to say that characters must always be likable; in fact the most disliked characters are often unpopular because of the events leading up to a plot twist or milestone which indicates character progression. As characters grow and their traits are gradually revealed, the story line also matures and progresses to create a rich and engaging plot and advance the story line to the next book.

• Changes in pace

Pace has a crucial impact on how readers perceive a book and if they decide to read the complete series. In particular, pacing is often difficult to master depending on the genre. Adventure or fantasy series such as The Hunger Games usually have significant changes in the pacing throughout each book to encourage an element of surprise. In contract, the pace in a mystery or crime series often doesn’t change much until the very end where a plot twist is revealed to evoke tension and suspense. It is also important that the pace doesn’t change drastically between each book in a series to ensure that it doesn’t break up the continuity, although this arguably also depends on genre and I realise may affect certain genres more than others.

• Ending

Also linked to continuity, I believe that the ending of each book should reflect the writing and story line so far. It may not be justified to end a book in a series on a cliff hanger if there have been few hints of plot twists or surprises. On the other hand, an expected or neutral ending may not be as memorable and the reader may not be as willing to continue the series. However, depending on expectations, genre and other factors, a certain kind of ending may create a greater impact and interest the reader more.

• Does it measure up to the previous book in the series?

I think this is perhaps the most important point and something we all reflect on. Very often the first book in a series is considered the “best” for a variety of reasons. We may decide to skip the next books because they don’t measure up to the first one or even the previous one. This point consists of all the previous ones – continuity, pace and character development. If one aspect falters it could have a huge influence on our perception and therefore may not be as willing to set time apart to read the whole series.

Question

What traits do you think contribute to a successful series? Do you compare books in a series to each other and does this have an impact on the series as a whole?

If you have read this far then thank you for taking the time to consider this week’s reflections. I realise that this discussion post is more subjective and is not as balanced as it may be but I decided to post it anyway and open up this discussion to the community.

Book review: The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse

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Title: The Coordinates of Loss

Author: Amanda Prowse

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication date: 25th September 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✰

Summary:

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.
In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.
Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

My review:

I decided to read this book after finishing Anna by Amanda Prowse which I really enjoyed. Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. She chose a very complex subject matter and explored it through Rachel and James’ relationship after their son Oscar disappears at sea. Grief is a particularly difficult topic to discuss which I believe she handled well with a lot of carefully chosen words and phrases. Most notable of all were the different stages of loss that Rachel struggled through which I felt were especially well documented through the first person narrative.

Character development plays an important part in books written in this style and I must say that we saw all characters grow through expressing their thoughts and reflecting on the past. Cee-Cee was a very pleasant character, often driving the plot forwards and supporting Rachel with the healing process. Her empathy and kindness is so comforting and she quickly became my favourite character.

The Coordinates of Loss is an emotional and poignant book, perfect for readers who are after a true to life story and are keen on exploring family dynamics. However, it should also be noted that this book lacks a fast-paced plot and does not provide any relief until the very end, which is something I believe many readers may also be looking for.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.