Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Lake House by Kate Morton


BLURB
An abandoned house...
June 1933, and sixteen-year-old Alice Edevane is preparing for her family's Midsummer Eve party at their country home, Loeanneth. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.

A missing child...
Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Detective Sadie Sparrow retreats to her beloved grandfather's cottage in Cornwall. Once there, she stumbles upon an abandoned house, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.

An unsolved mystery...
Meanwhile, in her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family's past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape...

MY THOUGHTS
Spanning decades and entwining stories, The Lake House hooks you from the very beginning and transports you to Loeanneth; family estate of the Edevane's and home to a mystery that has remained unsolved for many, many years.

When police detective, Sadie Sparrow, finds herself on an enforced break from the police force, she leaves London with Cornwall and her granddad, Bertie, in her sights. Twiddling her thumbs, and wiling away the days isn't something Sadie takes to easily, and whilst out running in the nearby landscape she stumbles across Loeanneth; a beautiful but abandoned country home. Sadie soon learns of the history and mystery surrounding Loeanneth, and gets stuck in to a new investigation.

Back in London, crime writer Alice Edevane is working on her newest detective novel, when a letter from Sadie Sparrow draws the author back into a time she had long since been trying to distance herself from.

The unfolding story is told in both past (1930's) and present (2003) with a third person narration, however the chapters are told from varying view points with each character having a distinct and clear voice. I think the story telling method worked well here, with potential discoveries and revelations soon being addressed with a look back in time.

As I mentioned above, each character has a distinct and clear voice, as well as having a believable backstory and personality - I like realistic characters, individual traits, people with flaws, and that's how the characters are written in The Lake House. As well being well written, I felt a connection with the characters and cared for them; wanting conclusions and empathising in certain situations.

There are a couple of themes running through The Lake House, with the main one being the loss of a child, which is highlighted in a number of ways through different plot points. The nature of this subject, and others that are touched upon, make for an emotional read although I didn't find the story to be a tear jerker.

Plot wise, a fair bit is going on within The Lake House, my copy being nearly 600 pages long, however I never once felt lost, with the story flowing smoothly and being perfectly paced coming together in an ending I didn't quite see coming.

Whilst there is a lot to cover in the plot, I think another reason why the story runs so long is because of Kate Morton's wonderful use of description. I know this style of writing puts off a lot of people, however done right I think it pulls a story together nicely, offering an immersive reading experience, which proved to be the case here.

I had such an enjoyable reading experience of The Lake House; meeting the characters, visiting Cornwall and Loeanneth, piecing together the puzzle, and most importantly, returning to the writing of Kate Morton. This was the second book of Kate Morton's that I've read, and I'm super excited to delve into more of her backlist.

If you like family sagas, carefully crafted characters and a mystery that keeps you on your toes, then I highly recommend checking out The Lake House by Kate Morton.

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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

READING WITH MY THREE YEAR OLD | Book Haul (June)


As well as books being a large part of my life, they also play quite the role for all three of the family members in our little family: mummy, daddy and our three year old son, Alexander. Having read with Alexander from day one, he seems to have become quite the bookish child, and so I thought I'd start sharing a bit of Alexander's book journey here on my blog.

Today I'm sharing with you a mini book haul of Alexander's - two new titles for his ever-growing book collection. We're big library borrowers in our household, especially when it comes to books for Alexander, but we do try to take a trip to the bookshop once a month and pick out a new book (or two).

Spinderella has a passion for football, but she's not sure how many spiders should be on each team or how to count the goals! Luckily Spinderella's Hairy Godmother is on hand to help...

Loosely based around the tale of Cinderella, the story follows Spinderella as the learns to count to the number 20. I think Alexander opted for this book as he's interested in spiders (although a little scared of them at times) and was happy to learn of the counting element upon reading as he absolutely loves numbers. This book would be great as an introduction to numbers, especially as it involves counting to twenty, not ten like a lot of counting books do. We love Julia Donaldson in our household, and whilst this isn't our favourite books of hers, we do enjoy the story overall.

Nibbles, the book-eating monster, has nibbled his way out of his own book and now he's causing mischief and mayhem in other people's stories. Look out!

At the time of writing this post, we haven't read this with Alexander, although I did give it a read myself and absolutely loved it! Nibbles is a book monster who escapes the confines of his own book and ventures in to some well known fairy tales wreaking havoc. There are a number of flaps and interactive elements inside this book, which I'm sure will make it a fun read with little hands and curious minds. I'd highly recommend this picture book; one of my recent favourites.
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If you have any picture book recommendations, I'd love to hear them!
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Monday, 12 June 2017

CURRENTLY READING | 024


Last week turned out to be a good reading week - I finished The Lake House by Kate Morton and absolutely loved the story, with a review coming up later on this week. Upon finishing The Lake House, I tweeted about the book having the perfect ending, and have since been recommended The Forgotten Garden to read next of Kate Morton's books. Although I've read just two of her books, I'm definitely calling Kate Morton as a new favourite author.

I gave myself a little reading breather after completing The Lake House, and a day later picked up Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher which is proving to be an adventurous middle grade read. Although I'm still in the early stages of this title - first quarter - I do hope to finish it before the week is out and move on to a review book; I'm currently eyeing Final Girls by Riley Sager as my next read.

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Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King


BLURB
Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled listeners with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.

There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past.

Magnificent, eerie, utterly compelling, these stories comprise one of King’s finest gifts to his constant fan—“I made them especially for you,” says King. “Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”

MY THOUGHTS
Stephen King is an author I've wanted to read more of for some time, however I felt a little overwhelmed by his extensive backlist. I have read a couple of novels by King, a few years ago now, but thought returning to his work with a short story collection would be a great way of dipping my toe back into his style of writing.

As with any short story collection, there are going to be some stories enjoyed more than others; I found that to be the case here, however overall thoroughly enjoying The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.

In total there are 21 stories, with the book running at a chunky 507 pages. The stories all vary in length, ranging from under ten pages to just over sixty, all with an introduction from Stephen King himself sharing a little insight as to how the story came about.

There was one story that I didn't read: Afterlife. My reasons for not reading this particular story are because I have a deep set fear of death (in particular the afters of death) and I tend to avoid certain things that I know will get the thoughts going and such like. I read plenty of books that deal with death, and in fact my favourite story within this collection also involved such a subject, it just depends on the context that it is being addressed. I don't know if that makes sense... I hope it does!

My favourite story within the collection is titled Under the Weather - relatively short in length, the story is well paced and a little bit sad, but a stand out from the collection.

Both of the stories I mentioned involved the sensitive subject of death, but there are a bunch of elements running through the collection, and as with Stephen King's other works, no one specific genre; there is something for everyone.

If you're already a fan of King's writing, then of course pick this up, but if you're like me and wanting to explore Stephen King's writing style a little more before fully committing to reading a bunch of backlist books, then The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is the book for you.

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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

| I received by copy of Secrets of Southern Girls via Netgalley for review purposes |

BLURB
Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What's worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can't forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba's first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie's past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn't the only one who feels responsible for Reba's death.

MY THOUGHTS
I was super excited to read Secrets of Southern Girls, the debut novel of writer Haley Harrigan, however I came away from my reading experience with really mixed feelings... The story itself wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I loved the writing style of the author.

Having lived with the guilt of killing her best friend, Julie agrees to do something she promised herself she wouldn't ever do - return to the town she spent much of her childhood in, the town she accidently killed her best friend in, the town that holds many dark secrets from youth. Julie isn't heading back to Lawrence Mill on her own; she has been convinced to return with her best friend Reba's first boyfriend, August. The two of them have existed since the passing of Reba, but never really had any closure on her death... Closure being in the form of a diary Reba kept during her last year of life.

Overall I thought the general gist of the storyline to be intriguing, not quite as suspenseful or thrilling as I anticipated, but definitely mysterious in nature. There were parts of the storyline I wasn't a fan of though, with some elements being cliché and others kind of clumsy in use. Also, racism is a part of Secrets of Southern Girls, however I think it could have been dealt with on a deeper level than it actually was. Racism is relevant to the story but it was kind of just there.

I didn't connect with main character Julie, however I did want to know where all of this was going, and wished closure for both her and August.

The diary of Reba was interspersed within the narrative of the book, and whilst I enjoyed this inclusion, at times I didn't feel like I was reading the diary of a teenage girl - there was a distinct voice to the character of Reba, but not one I imagined from all that the reader knows of her.

As I mentioned above, I enjoyed the writing style of the author, and would definitely be on the lookout for more work from her. I rated Secrets of Southern Girls 3/5 stars on Goodreads and would recommend this title to others who enjoy this genre of book.

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Monday, 5 June 2017

CURRENTLY READING | 023


I'm starting the first full week of June with Kate Morton's 2015 release - The Lake House. I started my reading adventures with Kate Morton last year, really enjoying The House at Riverton, and knew I'd find myself working through her backlist of novels. The Lake House is my second book of hers, so as you can see I'm not actually working through them in publication order, but I'm really enjoying it so far; an intriguing story that I'm currently a little under half way through.

As well as The Lake House, I'm reading a travel guide focusing on The Cotswolds here in the UK. I read travel guides quite frequently, even if I know I won't be visiting the destination anytime in the near future, however I don't actually track them on Goodreads. I've decided to start mentioning them in my 'Currently Reading' posts, however I still won't add them to Goodreads. If you're curious as to why that is, I don't feel like I read them the same as I do a novel or other non fiction titles, more of a browse or leaf through. If you're interested, the travel guide I'm reading is from the Slow Travel range by Bradt and is a great guide for those of us who are non drivers - I'm keen on reading others from the range as exploring the UK more is high on our family travel bucket list.

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Thursday, 1 June 2017

WHAT I READ | May


I'm ending the month of May having completed four books total, however some of them were started before the month itself began - I managed to clear up some books that had bookmarks sitting in them for a while. Yay!

I started May on the right footing by reading a review book that is due to be published this month, in June: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan. My experience whilst reading this title was a mixed bag, ultimately rating the debut novel 3 out of 5 stars. I'll be sharing a full review next week.

Having thought by starting the month in a productive manner, feeling like I was over my reading slump and also getting ahead with review books, I imagined May to be a great reading month for me... However that turned out not to be the case, as I didn't pick up another book for a week or so after completing my first read. I thought my reading slump had returned, which wasn't a great feeling, however ultimately I think I just needed to relieve myself of some pressure. I didn't push myself to blog here, despite wanting May to be my month of returning and consistently blogging, and I also decluttered my bookshelves for the third or fourth time this year. I was brutal with this declutter and my minimal book collection is now even smaller. I felt better for it though, and happily returned to reading the very next day.

I know I've been going on about this slump of mine - reading & blogging - for a while now, and I am sorry for harping on about it so often. Not only the slump but also the negativity I've been feeling with books and my own book collection, however I think it important to document these thoughts for my own record, as well as acknowledge when something you know and love just isn't feeling right for you in a given moment.

Anyway... Back to the other books I managed to read in May.

The next book I completed was Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs. I was drawn to this book and its stunning book cover in a bookshop, and was a little hesistant about buying it having not finished the series of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, but those worries were not warranted as this book is readable even if you have next to no knowledge of the series. The stories were short but well told and are akin to the fairy tales we know from childhood, with beautiful illustrations peppered throughout. Overall I rated Tales of the Peculiar 4 out of 5 stars.

Another short story collection I read in May was The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King - I'd had a bookmark in this title for a couple of months now, picking it back up at the 80 page mark (so very little read). As with any short story collection, some of the stories were enjoyed more than others, and I do hope to write a full review in the coming weeks. Another 4 star read.

I ended the month, and by ended I mean literally finished this yesterday evening, with The Secret Library by Oliver Tearle. This is a non fiction title that I've had a bookmark in since February, but one I wish I had finished a lot sooner. Much like other books mentioned here, I do intend to share a full review of this title, however if you're keen on books about books then this is one for you. 5 out of 5 stars.

Happy reading in June!
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