Reading Regularly

Waiting on Wednesday: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

A very quick post (I’m in the middle of last minute dissertation writing/editing/panicking so unfortunately this can’t be longer) to bring up a book suggestion for the Autumn. If you’re on the look out for a thought provoking and heartbreaking read, add A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult to your TBR pile. I just finished it through NetGalley, and wow!

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Reading Regularly

Review: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Review: Not Her Daughter

If you saw a woman verbally and physically abusing her child while no-one stopped it, what would you do?

This terrible dilemma is the basic premise of Rea Frey’s showstopping Not Her Daughter. Most people would perhaps let someone official know, or just stand by and avert their eyes, but Sarah refuses to do that. Frey’s stunning characterisations mean that the businesswoman’s choice doesn’t appear crazy or criminal, just horrifically misguided. When Sarah ‘rescues’ five year old Emma, it seems like it could almost be the right choice.
Throughout this novel, as we flip back and forth between the lives of Emma Townsend’s mother and the lady who kidnapped her, the complexity of motherhood is laid bare. I loved the use of third person for Amy, her real mother, and first person for Sarah. It meant that we subconsciously root for the kidnapper, an interesting twist.
Amy also has a story of her own to tell though. She’s had a hard life, feels trapped in her marriage, and has made plenty of mistakes of her own. Amy oozes regret and guilt. Her desperate attempt to find excitement through discovering her past lives demonstrated so clearly just how broken she is.
The use of ‘before’ and ‘after’ gave us insight into the lives of these women before everything went wrong. Sarah was highly successful, Amy unfulfilled. Sarah had recently left a long term relationship with a man who she had believed to be The One while Amy has a husband she hates. The contrast between them makes the conflict even more striking.

Sarah would be the perfect mother for an excitable young girl. But she isn’t — Emma is not her daughter. 

There were some plot threads I would have liked a little more detail on, such as why Ethan never proposed to Sarah, or what happens to Amy’s husband after the novel ends. By cutting those threads loose, though, Frey has constructed a world which feels just as real as our own.
A brilliant read that I devoured in two sittings.
Thank you to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and Rea Frey for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel!
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To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Review

First things first, wow.

This book is my favourite of the year so far and I have a sneaky feeling that it might retain that position until December 31st!

It’s incredible. Definitely not what I was expecting when I started reading either.

The novel follows a prince and a siren as they try and achieve their competing goals: the death of the prince and the death of the siren. Of course, as they get to know each other, things start to change. One of the best aspects of this book was its dual narrative, although some of the changes in narrator were slightly confusing. Usually books with two narrators put me off but this time, though Lira was my favourite, I enjoyed both sides to the story.

Every other mermaid/siren book I’ve read has turned the stuff of legend into weak-willed characters. Not To Kill A Kingdom. Even when she is forced onto land, Lira can certainly not be called weak. The depth of the characterisation in this book was wonderful. I would have happily read hundreds of pages more about their journey together.

For me, the one weakness of this book lay also in its strengths. The author knew when the story was told and the book ends accordingly. It was almost a little too abrupt, the ending, as I wanted to know more about what comes next. How all of the characters react to new situations and changes to their lives.

Although, of course, leaving you wanting more is a sign of a very good book indeed!

Having flown through this book in an evening, I’m excited to read this author’s next books. Thank you to NetGalley and Bonnier Zaffre for the opportunity to read To Kill A Kingdom.

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To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Review

First things first, wow.

This book is my favourite of the year so far and I have a sneaky feeling that it might retain that position until December 31st!

It’s incredible. Definitely not what I was expecting when I started reading either.

The novel follows a prince and a siren as they try and achieve their competing goals: the death of the prince and the death of the siren. Of course, as they get to know each other, things start to change. One of the best aspects of this book was its dual narrative, although some of the changes in narrator were slightly confusing. Usually books with two narrators put me off but this time, though Lira was my favourite, I enjoyed both sides to the story.

Every other mermaid/siren book I’ve read has turned the stuff of legend into weak-willed characters. Not To Kill A Kingdom. Even when she is forced onto land, Lira can certainly not be called weak. The depth of the characterisation in this book was wonderful. I would have happily read hundreds of pages more about their journey together.

For me, the one weakness of this book lay also in its strengths. The author knew when the story was told and the book ends accordingly. It was almost a little too abrupt, the ending, as I wanted to know more about what comes next. How all of the characters react to new situations and changes to their lives.

Although, of course, leaving you wanting more is a sign of a very good book indeed!

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Reading Regularly – Books 8 to 11

8) The Taming of the Queen by Philipa Gregory
An exciting look at one of Henry VIII’s most neglected queens, that had some scenes that really made me question the characterisation of Henry VIII that we see in most fictional portrayals today.

9) The Fall by Claire McGowan
Beautifully written, starts off so strong but in the end brought only disappointment after hours spent frantically tearing through the pages to reach the end as quickly as possible.

10) Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
A really intriguing idea that felt like it could have been so much more, but made for an enjoyable, if bittersweet, read anyway.

11) The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
Featuring thinly veiled North East landmarks like Barter Books, this is a book that I really enjoyed and look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

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Reading Regularly 2017: Book 7 [Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan]

Wow. This one was a real shocker for me. I bought it on a whim, after realising that out of the mountain of books I’ve bought this year there wasn’t really anything I was desperate to read. It was chosen because it seemed like the least ‘middle class family in crisis’ crime novel, as I’m really sick of those, and because it was just £3.85 and had a Sunday Times bestseller announcement on the front.

This book really impressed me because every twist and turn was perfectly orchestrated and while it was possible to guess what was coming around half way through, the way it was put together kept you turning the pages. I started reading it in the middle of the afternoon yesterday and by the time I went to bed — much later than I would have liked to — it was done.

Definitely recommend this one.

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Reading Regularly 2017: Book 6 [My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella]

I only realised that Sophie Kinsella had released this book when I saw it in a Costco near my home. It was weird, considering that I was used to following her publishing schedule avidly as I had done earlier in the Confessions of a Shopaholic series.

This book was a great quick read and another one where I did stay up a lot later than I had planned to. The difficulties of affording to live in London while in an entry-level job were something I could definitely relate to, as a soon-to-be graduate who has a keen sense of the challenges that moving to London would bring. There were also some really insightful comments on baby boomers and the generation gap that got me thinking, making me almost believe that Kinsella was a twenty something just like me… Of course she isn’t, but her characterisation was just that good!

One of the difficulties the book had for me was the level of sympathy I was able to feel for the MC as the book progressed. Her Dad and Stepmum ended up opening a glamping resort as they had that much land and spare cash available. This was a great backdrop for the drama of the second half of the book but detached the experience of relatively well-to-do farmers from my own life experience a little too much for me.

I’m usually put off by books that have overtly middle class characters at the centre of them as I like to read about people I personally identify with, but the opening sympathy I’d felt for the main character kept me going.

Avoid reading the inner jacket copy if you don’t want to be spoiled as it took a little bit of the intrigue away from the first half of the book.

It was a fun, quick read. Not really something that has stuck in my head much weeks after I read it, hence why I’m calling the leading lady ‘MC’ rather than her name (as I can’t quite remember it!)

It would be a perfect beach read.

Up Next: I’m about to start reading Dear Amy, which is a Sunday Times bestseller so I have high hopes for this one!

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Reading Regularly 2017: Book 5 [The White Princess by Philippa Gregory]

 

It’s been a while without reading for fun, once again, and that’s been weird. I decided to restart my reading adventures with a book I first bought (hardback, more difficult for my hands/wrists, so never got around to it) way back when it first came out. I’d read all of the earlier books in the series, bar the one about Jacqueta, and was eager to give this one a go. I’d loved The White Queen on TV, as well as the many fanvids and fanfictions about the series, so wanted to read The White Princess before that show comes around next month.

I found this one a little slower to get into than the others, perhaps because it is edging closer to a historical period I know things about. I’ve studied Henry VII at university but have always had an interest in English history from Henry VIII onwards, so I had a barebones idea of how this was going to go even before I started reading. It does take away the thrill a little bit, especially when it is written in straightforward prose rather than the ingenious innovation of my beloved Wolf Hall!

I am very impressed though how the author jumps a little forward in history each time through a different character’s eyes. I started reading Three Sisters Three Queens just before reading this and am going to give it a fresh go having read Elizabeth of York’s story (I found the main character of that one a little whiny in the early chapters, understandable given her age).

The development of Elizabeth’s relationship with Henry over time was brilliant and the threading in of the curse that has plagued the series since The White Queen was great, especially since it provides an answer of sorts to the question of who — in this fictional universe at least — is responsible for the death of the Princes in the Tower.

The ending was perfect, as I came closer to the end I wondered if the book was going to deal with the final heartbreak right towards the end of Elizabeth’s life. As far as I remember, It didn’t. That wasn’t the last scene. And I loved the book for that.

Next Up on Reading Regularly: I have a few books I started earlier in the year during the business of university that I might try and finish soon, especially one of them that I was only a few chapters from the end of back in January or February. I’ve also just started reading the latest Sophie Kinsella novel! If anyone has any reading suggestions, do let me know 🙂

 

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Reading Regularly 2017: Book 4 [Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan]

For those who are new to my blog (hello, by the way!) Reading Regularly is a regular series of blog posts in which I talk about books I’ve been reading pretty soon after turning to the final page. It’s a snapshot of how I felt about each book I’ve read this year, not intended as a review but just a quick working through of thoughts on a title. There’s generally no star ratings, no detailed analysis, only an emotional response. I’d love to hear what you think about the books I’ve been reading too! 

Image resultThis book was an impulse buy, based on the absolutely stunning title and the wonderful recommendations I’d seen for it online. I bought it very late at night quite early on in the week and it’s been the latest in a string of great reads. I’ve been really lucky with my reading choices lately!

Hold Back The Stars was a really well put together book, with the ending really resonating with me. There were lots of ways a story based on two people stuck in space running out of oxygen could have went and the ending was nothing that I was expecting. Not until it was right there in front of me, a few pages away.

It’s great for reading to be magical again, something done to lose yourself in fiction, rather than to analyse some dusty historical facts. This was a quick read, short and snappy, but it was one I enjoyed.

Once it was over, it became a little bittersweet. It’s hard to say exactly why without ruining the plot for anyone yet to read. Strangely, it felt like a perfect summer read for sitting on the beach with. It is, of course, not summer yet but today the sun was shining and the weather a little improved, so I can at least pretend warmth is on its way.

I read Hold Back the Stars over the course of a few nights, at a time when I was very stressed with uni, and it was great to delve into a world made only of words for a few hours at least.

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Reading Regularly 2017: Book 3 [The Burning World by Isaac Marion]

Image result for burning world isaac marionI’ve been waiting to read The Burning World for years, ever since I knew it was a thing. It’s been a weird wait. When I read Warm Bodies I can remember feeling much more hopeful about the state of the world than I do now. Perhaps that’s why parts of The Burning World felt a little… uncomfortably true. I won’t go into it, spoiler alert, but the whole corporate story line made me a bit uneasy. I knew the book was going to be on a bigger scale than the original, but it was still odd to read.

There’s something weird about reading a book that is both something you’ve been waiting for a long time to see and also completely different to anything you imagined it would be. So. It’s difficult to get my thoughts in order on this one. It’s definitely a 4/5, that’s for sure. I enjoyed it enough to sit the day it came out before my lecture and then all the way until I went to bed reading it from cover to cover.

It just felt like there was something missing. I think the main reason for that was probably that the next half of the story isn’t out yet — The Burning World is the first part of a story too long to tell in one book. It made things feel a little bittersweet. There were some revelations, but not all the ones I was hoping for. There were some reunions, but not the ones I’d imagined. Some character development, but not completely realised.

I’ll be waiting the next book eagerly to find out what happens to all the main characters I love. It’s interesting too, how the way the world has changed since 2010 and 2017 is clear in the difference between this book and the last. Seriously, some of the postapocalyptic features (the walls, anyone?) felt a little close to home.

At least there are no zombies in real life though.

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