Books · Updates

Update & 2018 bookshelf July-December;

Hello, everyone!

It’s been a LONG time and I’m very sorry for the radio silence on this blog.

This past summer my mental health took a bit of a nose dive and I didn’t feel like myself for quite a while.

After taking a break over July and August and enjoying the autumn & festive season with my family and friends, and starting on a course of antidepressants and counselling, I’m feeling much better! I’m finally ready to throw myself back into writing and blogging.

So, without further delay, here is the final part of my 2018 bookshelf! (If you haven’t read part one then you can find that right here)

  1. How To Be Champion – Sarah Millican (3/5)
    My verdict: Funny and insightful. This is a fab feel good read with just the right amount of personal emotion thrown in for good measure. I’m also pleased to know that I’m not the only one who’s sort of in love with Philip Schofield.
  2. Together – Julie Cohen (2/5)
    My verdict: I was super intrigued by this book when I first came across it. Unfortunately, it became predictable and tropey in terms of plot, had characters that were bordering on uninteresting, and it reminded me too much of similar books that came before it. The thing that makes this book a two star rather than a one was the unique way in which the story was told: from the end to the beginning.
  3. The Greek Escape – Karen Swan (4/5)
    My verdict: Whilst this is probably my least favourite of Swan’s summer novels, it was still a bloody good read! It’s as stylish and heart-warming as The Rome Affair and The Paris Secret and as indulgent. I am still incredibly envious of Swan’s way with weaving plots and I’m already hungry for her Summer 2019 book.

    37734911_2110141222579023_6767993466283622400_n

  4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote (3/5)
    My verdict: It’s pleasantly different from the 1961 movie and does away with the fairy-tale ending. It’s certainly a story of its time and that made the racism and sexism quite off-putting. I can see why it is often on “must read novel” lists but it isn’t going to be a favourite.
  5. The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas (5/5)
    My verdict: This book had it all for me. There was mystery, murder, time travel, lesbian representation, discussions of mental health, betrayal, sleuthing, the importance of friendship, great romance, and barely a male character in sight! I loved it.
  6. Stardust – Neil Gaiman (2/5)
    My verdict: I really didn’t like this book at all. It was so description heavy that reading it felt like wading through treacle. For a fantasy novel, it had so little magic about it that I almost abandoned it. The movie did a great job of injecting life, joy, and charisma into it. I hate to admit it but the movie was 1000% better.
  7. Vox – Christina Dalcher (4/5)
    My verdict: This novel swept up my imagination as soon as I heard about it. It went down a more scientific route than I was expecting but I enjoyed it nevertheless. There was a touching and emotional end and is a perfect criticism of modern politics. Apparently it is incredibly similar to The Handmaid’s Tale but I haven’t read that so I could not say one way or the other whether that’s true.
  8. One Enchanted Evening – Anton Du Beke (4/5)
    My verdict: Perhaps I’m biased because of my inordinate love for Saturday night show Strictly Come Dancing (there’s a reason this blog is called StrictlyBethany!) but I loved this novel. For a debut from someone who is so far removed from a writer by trade, this book is incredibly well thought out, plotted, and beautifully erudite. There are elements to this book that do fall short and there are unnecessary writing choices (like constant repetition of full names), so it doesn’t get full marks. Whilst this novel contains a romance plot, I would not call this a romantic novel. It’s more of a social, political, and economical tale and I preferred this approach much more than I perhaps would have done if the romance had taken centre stage.

    46595220_387441685360191_3903490697604897245_n

  9. The Vintage Tea Cup Club – Vanessa Greene (2/5)
    My verdict: This began as a promising story about newfound friendships but I found the pacing too quick to form any sort of lasting attachment to the characters. In the end, finishing the book felt like gulping down a mouthful of stone cold, forgotten tea.

And that concludes my 2018 bookshelf! If you want to keep up to date with my reading adventures then feel free to add me on Goodreads and recommend anything you’ve loved!

Thank you for reading and for being patient with me. I love you!

Bethany xo

Books

2018 Bookshelf: January-June;

Hello!

Today I would like to share with you the books I’ve read so far this year, what star rating I’ve given them and my brief verdict. Each entry on this list contains a link to that book on Goodreads if you would like to check any of them out!

tumblr_inline_p7nfixku2J1s7ng86_250

Current reading stats for this year:

Avg book length: 371 pages.
Highest rated on Goodreads: Thirteen – Steve Cavanagh
Most read on Goodreads: The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Least read on Goodreads: The Foster Husband – Phillipa Wright
My favourite book: If We Were Villains – M.L Rio
My avg star rating: 3.5

tumblr_inline_p7nfixku2J1s7ng86_250

1. Black Water Lilies – Michel Bussi (3/5)
My verdict:
This is a promising novel with a clever plot that sadly gets lost amongst the often-clumsy French to English translation. I felt that the translation left some moments feeling hollow, but it was surprisingly enjoyable nonetheless.

2. My Sweet Revenge – Jane Fallon (3/5)
My verdict:
This novel might be more suited to somebody in their 30s or 40s since I found myself unable to relate to Paula. Even so, it’s an easy read that plays out like soap opera which means it’s comfortable reading on lazy days when you don’t want to do too much thinking.

3. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (4/5)
My verdict: I’ve loved this novel since the first time I read it many years ago. I keep coming back to it because I find the characters fascinating and there’s always something new to discover about them. But mostly because I love Nick Carraway with all my heart.

4. It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne (3/5)
My verdict: I think I’ve officially grown out of YA novels. The last handful I’ve read I haven’t been entirely gripped by, and this is no different. I did however enjoy that this is a little different to usual romance novels because it actively highlights the messy parts of relationships that can be ignored in mainstream media.

5. How to Stop Time – Matt Haig (5/5)
My verdict: I completely and utterly ADORED this book! Romance, tragedy, history, fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, mystery…it’s everything a book can be and is perfectly balanced between each genre. I couldn’t put it down. The only criticisms I have are that I wish it had been longer, so I could’ve learned more about Tom’s life, and that Tom’s romance subplot with Camille seemed arbitrary.

6. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick (4/5)
My verdict: This is a lovely little book that is uplifting, hopeful, and touching. It’s a sweet novel about embracing life regardless of circumstances and ages, and explores the complexities of the people around us.

7. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds – Alexander McCall Smith (2/5)
My verdict:I was drawn to this book when I saw that it centred around an art theft. However, this was not the exciting, fast-paced, heist-and-ransom style novel I was expecting. Admittedly, this was the ninth Isabel Dalhousie novel and I hadn’t read the others, so I wasn’t familiar with the style. Fans of McCall Smith and Isabel Dalhousie may have a totally different view to me since they knew what to expect. The ending was disappointing and limp.

8. The Paris Wife – Paula McLain (4/5)
My verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about the marriage of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson. It was an interesting look at the intricacies of marriage and how fame can change a person without them even realising it. I’m looking forward to reading McLain’s second novel about Ernest Hemingway ‘Love and Ruin’.

9. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman (4/5)
My verdict: Eleanor is a fantastic character and it’s incredibly easy to fall for her and her awkward charm, and for the story itself. I wasn’t as taken with it as many others were and I thought it was predictable in places. It was a pleasant and heart-warming read.

10. The Rome Affair – Karen Swan (4/5)
My verdict: After reading Swan’s ‘The Paris Secret’ last year, I was excited to sit down with The Rome Affair. I wasn’t disappointed! There’s plenty to get your teeth stuck into with Swan’s plots since they’re so impressively layered. The Rome Affair is the perfect summer read.

Bethany West Photoshoot-4
Photo by Paul Hopkins Photography

11. The Comet Seekers – Helen Sedgwick (2/5)
My verdict:
This was an interesting premise for a novel with an equally interesting layout. The lack of speech marks could often cause confusing and awkward prose. The book had a constant air of telling rather than showing.

12. Love from Paris – Alexandra Potter (3/5)
My verdict: Another charming and light summer read that’s set in Paris. Generally, a little forgettable but does have loveable characters – one of whom I wanted more from. The lack of Xavier’s presence in the novel made me wonder why he was introduced as a character in the first place.

13. The Muse – Jessie Burton (3/5)
My verdict: I must admit that I was a little disappointed with this novel. Throughout I was waiting for a big reveal or a novel defining moment that never actually came. It forever seemed to be working towards a crescendo that ended up falling flat by the end.

14. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton (5/5)
My verdict: If you read my review of this novel then you’ll know that I enjoyed this book immensely. It was unique, addictive, and beautifully written. You can read my full review here.

15. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng (2/5)
My verdict: I felt as though I was being told this story by a friend more than I was experiencing it. This book told too many details, but the themes of culture and ethnicity provided an important message.

16. The Foster Husband – Pippa Wright (3/5)
My verdict: An often-humorous look at relationships of all kinds that doesn’t shy away from the trials of love. An easy read for if you’re stuck on what to read next.

17. Circe – Madeline Miller (3/5)
My verdict: Circe had some stunning imagery and evocative language, however I felt it was missing some of the charm that Miller’s first novel ‘The Song of Achilles’ had. Even so, it was a rich and powerful story focused on womanhood.

18. Less – Andrew Sean Greer (4/5)
My verdict: I can certainly see why this novel won a Pulitzer prize. Many books with gay protagonists now are about teenagers or young adults, so it was nice to read about a middle aged gay man for a change! It didn’t shy away from the impact of the AIDS crisis and provided an optimistic look at love later in life.

19. If We Were Villains – M.L Rio (5/5)
My verdict: This book absolutely ruined me. I couldn’t read anything else for a while after because I couldn’t stop thinking about this! It has intriguing characters, brutally elegant prose that Shakespeare himself could be proud of, and it pulls at every emotion. As soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to read it again. This book was all I talked about for at least a week.

20. The Fourteenth Letter – Claire Evans (4/5)
My verdict: Honestly, this didn’t end up being the book I thought it was going to be when I read the blurb. I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns it took! For a few chapters I wasn’t sure what was going on or how the characters related to any of the others, but once it all clicked into place, it was brilliantly exciting.

21. Thirteen – Steve Cavanagh (4/5)
My verdict: I love a good courtroom drama, and this was no exception. It was thrilling, exciting, and twisty. It’s also a murder mystery plot that I haven’t seen before which made it feel fresh and original.

Have you read any books on this list or do you have a favourite book you’ve read this year? Comment with your thoughts and if you have any recommendations!

I hope you guys will come back in December for the second instalment of my 2018 bookshelf.

Bethany xo