Thursday, 6 July 2017

What I Read In June.


Ever since I was a young 'un, reading has been one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon. In my opinion, there's nothing better than curling up on a sofa (or, as is usually the case with me, in a bed) and spending a few hours in a completely different reality. Reading is so good at calming me on panicky, anxiety-ridden days, at helping me to see another person's perspective, and at letting me experience thousands of different existences, all from the comfort of my own home. 
I noticed that over the last few years, the amount I was reading for fun significantly dropped off. I found myself glued to screens instead, but I've been desperate to stop spending so much time on Netflix and Twitter. I decided to take up a challenge on Goodreads and set myself a goal of reading 52 books in 2017. So far I've read 34, so I'm not doing too badly - I'm 8 books ahead of schedule!

books

In June I became addicted to my local library (hence the fetching covers on these books!) and I found myself really engrossed by a number of novels for the first time in a while, so I thought I'd share what I read with you!

All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
★★★★★

Even just thinking about this book is giving me goosebumps. It was by far my favourite read over the past few weeks, and I'd encourage absolutely everyone to give it a go.

All The Light We Cannot See follows the story of Marie-Laure, a French girl who's been blind since she was six, whose father is a locksmith at the Natural History Museum. When Nazis invade Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee to the town of Saint-Malo for refuge with her great-uncle, carrying with them a priceless, but highly dangerous, jewel. While Marie-Laure struggles for survival in France, in Germany Werner Pfenning, an orphan, finds himself attracting the attention of the German Army due to his skill at building and repairing radios. He is sent to join the Hitler Youth, where he struggles with the sadistic treatment of his fellow students.

The book not only jumps between the two characters' perspectives but also jumps back and forth in the timeline, as the stories work towards the moment where they converge. This is not a linear, beginning-middle-end, kind of novel, but as soon as I was used to the structure I loved that about it. The writing is so beautiful, and the imagery throughout the book is haunting and breathtaking. My all-time favourite book is The Book Thief, and although the stories are very different, this definitely reminded me of it. This book is a moving, heartbreaking and unforgettable story about the darkness of war, and the lightness in each human who suffers through it.

The Girl Before - J.P. Delaney

The Girl Before - J.P. Delaney
★★★☆☆

One Folgate Street is a sleek, modern, minimalist house, the prize design of architect Edward Monkton. Tenants are afforded low rents and personalised technology (such as auto-adjusting lights, water temperature etc), as long as they agree to a long list of rules and monitoring. Jane moves in, devastated by the loss of her stillborn daughter, and seeking solace from the mysterious and controlling Edward. But the house holds a secret - it's the scene of the death of Emma, the previous tenant. Jane starts to piece together similarities between Emma's life and her own and starts to wonder if Emma's death was the accident it was portrayed as...

The Girl Before is marketed as a psychological thriller, but I'll be honest - this didn't really have me questioning anything or on edge at all really. The story was readable, and far from the worst I've read, but I actually found it predictable and a bit disappointing. I am always on the lookout for a good thriller though, so if you have any recommendations please let me know!

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
★★★★☆

I was told not to read too much about this before I picked it up, and I'll be offering you the same advice. This book is a young adult book, but it is probably the cleverest piece of young adult writing I've read for a while (although All The Bright Places is also exceptional). I read this in two hours - it's an easy read but the story is gripping, and the writing is poetic and full of beautiful imagery. I really can't say much about this, but that it's worth trying for yourself.

A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson The Girl You Left Behind - Jojo Moyes

A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson
★★★★☆

Wow, this book took a while for me to get into. This is the story of Teddy Todd, who was an RAF bomber pilot in WWII. It's actually a companion book for Atkinson's Life After Life - that book focuses on Teddy's sister, Ursula and her own experiences in the war. This is another book where the timeline shifts back and forth, with insight into Teddy's life pre-, during, and post-WWII. It charts not only Teddy's work as a bomber pilot, engaging in dangerous missions over Germany, but also his struggles as a widower and father later in life.

I cannot get over how beautiful and evocative the language throughout this book is, to the point where I was fully enraptured by the details of the RAF - a subject that, despite both granddads' best efforts, had never gripped me before (in fact, I spent most of this book being reminded of my own wonderful grandad who was in the RAF during WWII).

 I began to really engage and empathise with the characters so that when the ending hit, it was like being run over by a steamroller. I audibly gasped, I felt like my breath had been snatched from me, and even now, writing this, tears are forming. It's stunning, I was completely taken aback. The only reason I gave this four stars is that the beginning was somewhat slow, and there were a lot of names that distracted me somewhat.


The Girl You Left Behind - Jojo Moyes
★★★★☆

Yet another book set in a war, although this time WWI. It's also another book that plays with time, as it follows two women living 100 years apart.

Sophie Lefevre is a French woman living in a town occupied by German troops. Her artist husband Edouard is fighting on the Front, and his portrait of her, named 'The Girl You Left Behind', hangs on the wall of her hotel, where she is forced to cook and wait on members of the German army. When the German Kommandant takes an interest in both the painting and the subject, rumours start to fly throughout the neighbourhood. Sophie risks everything to try and ensure her husband's safety, desperate to be reunited with him.

In 2006, Olivia Halston lives alone, struggling financially, in a house designed by her late husband, David. Sophie's portrait hangs on her wall, bought by David as a honeymoon present. Olivia finally begins to move on with charming stranger Paul McCafferty - until she discovers he works for an organisation that recovers artworks stolen during periods of war and returns them to their rightful owners. When Paul's organisation threatens to take 'The Girl You Left Behind' from her, Olivia has to fight with everything she has to hold on to this last piece of her husband.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The two storylines were very different - I definitely preferred Sophie's story, as it was so much more vivid, but I found myself sympathising with Olivia's seemingly impossible situation. There are some quite cliché parts to Olivia's story though, and I felt like the characters weren't quite as fully formed as in the historical setting.

The storyline was intriguing and something a bit different, which I very much enjoyed. Although there were no real surprises, I found this heartwarming, moving and with a satisfying ending!

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled - Ruby Wax The Potion Diaries - Amy Alward

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled - Ruby Wax
★★★☆☆

I really wanted to like this book - I really, truly did. Even though I only faintly remember Ruby Wax from tv as an irritating personality, I love that she is now such a passionate campaigner for mental health awareness. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into this at all.

This is a self-help book, based around the concept of mindfulness. This is a bit of a buzz-word at the moment, but I'll admit I had no idea what it meant. This book did explain the concept well, but it felt very repetitive. I felt like most chapters were a minor twist on what had already been covered, and that the 6-week course included was just the same thing over and over. Perhaps it's just me, but I didn't feel like this was worthy of a 260-page book. As a psychology graduate, there were attempts to explain brain behaviour that pained me, and it felt as if Ruby wasn't always entirely sure what she was talking about.

The bits I did really enjoy were when she spoke of her own experience. I loved this dropping of her guard - it felt so much more relevant to me to know that other people feel how I've felt, and to relate to her on that level than to read what felt like lectures.

The book taught me a little more about the concept of mindfulness, but I'm not sure it gave me much more than that definition.


The Potion Diaries - Amy Alward
★★★☆☆

I think I picked this up mainly because I'd seen Zoella talk about how Amy Alward is her editor. I'm very much outside the age range this is probably based at, but actually, it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read.

The Potion Diaries is about Samantha Kemi, who comes from a family of well-respected and talented alchemists whose livelihoods have been damaged by the success of megapharma company ZoroAster. When the Princess of Nova accidentally administers herself with a love potion, a Wilde Hunt begins - a worldwide search for the ingredients needed to find a cure. The Kemi family need to win the hunt to restore their reputation, but they're up against some formidable opponents.

This is a fun, silly story that I raced through in a couple of hours. It's very light-hearted, very easy to read, and very predictable. There's the usual teenage love story, the struggles against evil, and an ending you probably could predict before you opened the book. It's fine, it's just not that memorable - and teenage me probably wouldn't have been that impressed.

books

Wow, that was a lot of typing. Overall, June was a pretty good month for books - albeit accidentally World War themed. I'm already reading an absolute cracker of a book that I'm looking forward to talking about next month!

What have you read recently? Do you have any book suggestions for me?
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9 comments

  1. Love this post. We have such similar book taste! Apart from the Kate Atkinson book. I read Life after Life but it just fell flat for me. We Were Liars is so good. I still think about it loads and I read it at least 2 years ago. I'll definitely be checking out your other suggestions!

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    1. Oh, I have Life after Life and haven't read it yet so I hope it's not rubbish haha! And yesss We Were Liars is great! xx

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  2. I love the sound of we were liars, I'll have to add that to my reading list! X

    Kate// itskaterose.com

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    1. I hope you get round to reading it, it's really worth it! xx

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  3. I finished All the Light We Cannot See in June too and I'm so happy to find someone else that has read it and enjoyed it! Thriller-wise I would recommend Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train (if you haven't read them already) or Before I Go to Sleep. With all of these PLEASE read the book before you see any of the films!! xxx

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    1. I loved All the Light We Cannot See, I still think about how beautifully written it was even months later haha! Oooh I've not heard of Before I Go to Sleep - thanks for the recommendation! xx

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  4. Beth your progress through all these books is amazing!! I set myself the challenge of reading 20 books this summer so I need some of your reading motivation to reach that goal! I've heard loads about the Ruby Wax book, it's a shame it didn't live up to expectation for you! The Anthony Doerr book sounds gripping, definitely one to add to my TBR!

    Abbey 🌸 www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

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  5. I feel like I really need to read All the Light We Cannot See now after reading your review :)

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  6. Fantastic blog post. Really motivated to get stuck back into my own reading list I'm way behind on my 2017 Goodread goal but now also want to read your list.

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