Studious Saturday: Top books in my immediate TBR list

studious saturdays

As some of you have probably realised by now, I tend to be a mood reader and decide which book to read next depending on how I feel and recent recommendations. However, as my TBR list has increased to over 100 books, I decided to prioritise and pick my top immediate reads. In no particular order, these are the books that I hope to read next…


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I have heard so many wonderful things about All The Light We Cannot See and I bought it during my recent bookshop hopping adventure in Glasgow. Since then it has been sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to pick it up and I really hope to start reading it soon.


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I hadn’t heard of Matt Wesolowski before all the reviews of Changeling took over my WordPress Reader feed. I haven’t seen one negative review so far and this, together with my interest in cold cases, means that this book has jumped right to the top of my list.


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The premise of Vox is so fascinating but I was hesitant to read this book after all the mixed reviews. However, I have decided to try it as it has been a long time since I last read a good Dystopian novel.


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Every time I read a Markus Zusak novel I feel a great need to disconnect from the world and reflect on what I have just read. His books are like no other and his writing is so powerful that I find it extremely difficult to start a new book afterwards because I just know that it would pale in comparison. That is probably the main reason that I have been putting off starting Bridge of Clay for the past few months. However, my lovely hardback signed copy is waiting for me patiently in my bookshelf and I don’t think that I’ll be able to resist much longer!


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There is so much hype surrounding Louise Beech’s books and I am eager to find out what exactly about her writing makes her books so special. I have heard that all her books are very different and decided to start with her newest release, Call Me Star Girl. From the reviews I have read it seems that her writing is very addictive so I may be on the way to hopefully discovering a new favourite author!


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It has been a long time since I last read a heartwarming and emotional book and Fredrik Backman has been on my list of new authors to discover for so long therefore A Man Called Ove seemed like the perfect fit. I am a firm believer of reading the book before watching the movie but I have wanted to watch this movie for such a long time so I have some real motivation to finally read this book!


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I am late to the party it seems because The Silent Patient is everywhere. Every time I walk into a bookstore this book is staring back at me. It is set to be this year’s bestseller in the Psychological Thriller category and I am keen to understand why. I have been reading a lot of Thrillers and Crime fiction lately so may wait until I read some of the books in other genres in this list before starting The Silent Patient but I hope to read this book over the summer break.


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The new (or now not so new) sequel to the Cormoran Strike series has been on my radar ever since its publication date but every time I consider buying it I am put off by how long it is. Some recent reviews also confirm my suspicion that the writing tends to be long-winded which is one of my pet peeves of a Thriller. However, this series is one of my favourites and I really need to find out how it continues after the abrupt ending that we were left on in its predecessor.


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Kristin Hannah blew me away with The Nightingale and I must admit that the premise of The Great Alone sounds even better. I suspect that it is bound to be another emotionally draining read so I am waiting for the right mindset before starting it. However, from looking at the high Goodreads rating and recent reviews, I am sure that it will not disappoint.


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I am in two minds about The Woman in the Window. After reading the full story surrounding A. J. Finn (or Daniel Mallory, the real writer behind the pseudonym) I immediately discarded this book from my list. However, I keep adding it back to my TBR list after reading the never ending list of reviews in the book blogging community. The hype has even reached Spain and I have seen so many people reading this book lately. The generic trend of unreliable female narrators that is the main focus of these Thrillers don’t hold much hope for me but I hope to be pleasantly surprised and not disappointed like I was with The Girl on the Train.

What are some of your top picks on your immediate TBR list? I would love to hear your suggestions and recommendations!

Studious Saturday: exploring bookshops in Edinburgh

studious saturdays

Happy Saturday! It’s been a while since I posted my last bookshop hopping experience in Glasgow and decided that it is time to follow up with some of the bookshops we visited during our day trip to Edinburgh.

Blackwell’s

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Our first stop was Blackwell’s, conveniently located on a main road in the city center. Books are neatly arranged with the bestsellers on one side upon entering and the rest by genre, to the right of the entrance. We spent a long time looking through the contemporary fiction section, recommending books to each other and picking out new ones that looked interesting. The non-fiction area was busy with people hoping to buy some of the more famous books but we still managed to look through these shelves.

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Perhaps the best part of this bookshop was the little Cafe Nero that was set up at the very end, complete with a fun sign that was almost too tempting. However, we decided to carry on with our tour through Edinburgh and move on to the next bookshop.

Lighthouse Bookshop

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Our next stop was Lighthouse Bookshop, a short walk away from Blackwell’s and close to the University of Edinburgh. This was such a delight to visit and by far our favourite bookshop during our visit in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The staff are attentive and the range of books on display are carefully chosen to match their political values and passion for justice and equality around the world. We spent a very long time here, looking through all the shelves and even choosing some rarer books from the Politics section to take home.

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The shop is equipped with comfortable chairs and a variety of eccentric and quirky phrases written out on the notice boards. Lighthouse arranges several events each month, including their own Book Fringe alongside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Radical Book Fair.

Our experience didn’t end here as we continued our walk up to Armchair Books. Unfortunately, the various staircases and hills led to us feeling very tired as we approached the end of our day in Edinburgh and we decided to only quickly browse through the shelves and head back towards the train station. Nevertheless, it was another fun and worthwhile experience and I greatly enjoyed discussing books and authors with family in this beautiful city.

Have you been to these bookshops in Edinburgh? I would love to hear what you thought of them!

If you are enjoying this series of exploring bookshops in different cities, watch out for my next post in a few weeks’ time which will be based in Madrid!

Book review: Watching You by Lisa Jewell


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Title: Watching You

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Cornerstone Digital

Publication date: 12th July 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.
As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenage son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.
One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.
Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…

My review:

Watching You starts with one of the most enticing first chapters I’ve recently read in a thriller; a dead body is found in the kitchen of what appears to be the ideal family, viciously stabbed several times. We first hear from one of the protagonists, Joey, who is being interviewed by the police and Lisa Jewell’s fluid writing style really starts to show here. I was immediately compelled to read the next few chapters but was disappointed to find out that we are instead introduced to several other characters in this community in Bristol and the connections between these characters doesn’t start to become clear until around the halfway point of the book, by which point I was already starting to lose interest.

The main drawback for me was the lack of context behind the spying aspect. At one point it seemed that everyone was watching each other but the reason behind it was vague so I was frustrated that it assumed such a large chunk of the plot. Snippets of the crime scene and day of the death are slowly revealed through the police interviews, a clever backdrop to use, and by discarding characters one by one it is not too difficult to guess who the culprit is behind the murder, which made for a slightly disappointing and predictable conclusion.

Nevertheless, as with many other novels by this author, the best is left until last and her true talent shines in the last chapter. The ending is enough to put into perspective everything that we have learnt so far about these characters, especially one particularly deceitful and malicious character. Few authors are able to deliver such a strong ending despite the predictable murderer and the implications from the final words are enough to justify reading through the slow beginning. I would recommend Watching You to anyone who enjoys a slow burn thriller with a shocking ending, although I encourage others to try Lisa Jewell’s other novels first as the pacing is much stronger and the characters more refined.

Book review: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak


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Title: I Am the Messenger

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: RHCP Digital

Publication date: 1st January 2015

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“Ed Kennedy is just your less-than-average Joe who is hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. But after he single-handedly manages to catch a bank robber, he receives a playing card in the mail: the Ace of Diamonds. This is the first message. Four more will follow. But before this particular card game can end, Ed will be changed forever . . .”

My review:

Markus Zusak at his best! This book’s concept is hard to explain because it deals with so many beautiful and complex life issues that are difficult to summarise without giving too much away. However, just like other books by this author, it sucks you in from the very first page and it is clear from the ingenious first chapter that it will be another Zusak masterpiece.

What made this book so special for me was the perfect combination of friendship and community that becomes evident as we learn the objective of each message. Although at first each character appears to be plain, Zusak’s emphasis on how “sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference” is the key element that triggers such strong emotions and encourages the reader to sail through this book. The storytelling aspect is brilliant and the writing is truly one of a kind. He easily develops the short staccato sentences to fully strengthen the characterisation and his word choice is extremely careful so that the final result is a polished and beautifully written story.

Lovers of The Book Thief may at first struggle with this book because it has a completely different feel, however I strongly encourage to keep reading as the story develops into a unique and beautiful tale of how the most ordinary people can sometimes do the most extraordinary things.

Book review: And Then You Were Gone by R.J. Jacobs


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Title: And Then You Were Gone

Author: R. J. Jacobs

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication date: 12th March 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“After years of learning how to manage her bipolar disorder, Emily Firestone finally has it under control. Even better, her life is coming together: she’s got a great job, her own place, and a boyfriend, Paolo, who adores her. So when Paolo suggests a weekend sailing trip, Emily agrees—wine, water, and the man she loves? What could be better? But when Emily wakes the morning after they set sail, the boat is still adrift…and Paolo is gone.

A strong swimmer, there’s no way Paolo drowned, but Emily is at a loss for any other explanation. Where else could he have gone? And why? As the hours and days pass by, each moment marking Paolo’s disappearance, Emily’s hard-won stability begins to slip.

But when Emily uncovers evidence suggesting Paolo was murdered, the investigation throws her mania into overdrive, even as she becomes a person of interest in her own personal tragedy. To clear her name, Emily must find the truth—but can she hold onto her own sanity in the process?”

My review:

An unreliable narrator and hazy circumstances surrounding a disappearance seem to be a great recipe for success so I naturally had high hopes for this book. The first few chapters with Emily and Paolo at the cabin felt natural, the writing was concise and the plot promising. I was impressed with the great level of care and attention the writer put into Emily’s bipolar disorder as it is not an easy topic to discuss, yet it was still handled with a lot of sensitivity and thought. I rushed through the first few chapters as I was impatient to understand what had happened to Paolo and if he was still alive.

Unfortunately, the story line and plot were just to weak for me. I quickly started losing interest as more characters were introduced and the attention shifted to Paolo’s co-workers and research the main motive behind his disappearance. It was also around this point where Emily’s character traits started to emerge and I could not connect with her hastiness or impulsiveness to take dangerous measures so she could uncover what she believed to be a conspiracy. I understand that her interpretation of the events of the night Paolo disappeared were distorted due to her mental illness and praise the author on the way this idea was developed but I think this side of the story line could have approached in a different way while still engaging the reader.

The ending where the secrets were revealed was somewhat of an anticlimax because the author gave many hints throughout the book of the suspect so it was not difficult to assume who it was. Despite the strong beginning, this book had too many flaws for me to fully invest my time in reading it in several sittings. Instead I found myself stopping and starting over the course of a few weeks which happens rarely when I read thrillers. I would recommend it only to those looking for a slower paced thriller and would advise not to trust Emily’s reasoning throughout the book.

And Then You Were Gone is out to buy now!

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

Studious Saturday: exploring bookshops in Glasgow

studious saturdays

You may have noticed that exploring bookshops in different cities has become a certain trend on Facing the Story. After posting about my experience in Bath and London, I decided to follow suit with the next city on the list: Glasgow.

Caledonia Books

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Caledonia Books is not only appealing from the outside but also enhances the reading experience with its splendid interior. Books are arranged by genre, with many of the foreign language and non-fiction titles hidden away at the ground floor. I was very impressed with the wide range of second-hand books and spent a long time browsing the fiction section.

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I was even more excited to discover some rare copies of antique books, a feature not so common in the usual high-street book store. Complete with a continuously expanding list of rare finds, this bookshop was definitely an exciting start to our afternoon.

Thistle Books

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Hidden away at the end of a side street, Thistle Books is a real treasure. Although it may appear plain from the outside, the inside is a complete contrast and pleasure to explore. Upon entering we were immediately intrigued by the various shelves of sheet music and array of music related books. There was a noticeboard for musicians to advertise their services and the soft tunes playing in the background created a calming and enjoyable browsing experience.

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Just as in Caledonia Books, I spent a very long time looking through the books out on display in the fiction area. All shelves were very well arranged and it was easy to find books that were high up on my reading list. After much thought and inner discussion of how I would fit yet another item in my suitcase, I settled on All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which I cannot wait to start reading. I highly recommend Thistle Books for any bookworms passing through Glasgow.

Hyndland Bookshop

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Our lost stop was an independent bookseller which not only offers the latest bestsellers in children and adult fiction but also a wonderful selection of beautifully handcrafted cards. Hyndland Bookshop provides the perfect setting for an afternoon spent picking out the next book. I recognised a lot of the bestsellers on the shelves but was also pleasantly surprised to discover books written by local authors and several thrillers set in Glasgow also caught my eye.

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Perhaps my favourite feature of this store was the dog-friendly environment and I was thrilled when a customer with an energetic labrador retriever walked in and delighted to see the treats that the owner offered. Despite our short visit we were pleased with our fun-filled afternoon and happy to have ended our day in this bright and welcoming bookshop.

Have you visited these bookshops or would you like to? Stay tuned to read about my next bookshop hopping adventure in Edinburgh!

Book review: The Last Thing She Told Me by Linda Green


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Title: The Last Thing She Told Me

Author: Linda Green

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Quercus 

Publication date: 7th March 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“Even the deepest buried secrets can find their way to the surface… Moments before she dies, Nicola’s grandmother Betty whispers to her that there are babies at the bottom of the garden. Nicola’s mother claims she was talking nonsense. However, when Nicola’s daughter finds a bone while playing in Betty’s garden, it’s clear that something sinister has taken place. But will unearthing painful family secrets end up tearing Nicola’s family apart?

My review:

I stumbled upon this book on Netgalley and it immediately piqued my interest. After reading other readers’ reviews I was convinced that this would be a brilliant thriller and was excited to start reading it. However, I originally could not connect with any of the characters and was not immediately drawn to the plot either. The pace was slow at first and the interlocking past and present story lines did not seem related. It was Betty’s last words “There are babies at the bottom of the garden” that really motivated me to keep reading.

At around the halfway point into the book the plot started to thicken and new characters were introduced and I found that I suddenly couldn’t stop reading. It is also around this point where we start to understand how the letters and present day story line are linked and the appalling secrets are discovered. The author handles the rainbow of emotions extremely well and provides an excellent insight into each character’s feelings. However, I think that the challenge of addressing these issues over several generations was too demanding even though the impact was much bigger.

Overall, this poignant story was well developed despite the lagging first few chapters. I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a family drama as I don’t agree that this book should be filed under the Thriller category.

The Last Thing She Told Me is out to buy tomorrow!

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