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!

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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

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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.

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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

 

 

Books · Reviews

Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton;

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once.

Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify her killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath.

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When I went to my local Waterstones last week to take advantage of their offers, I wasn’t expecting to be slowly lead into a time-bending, mind-warping murder mystery.

On my way to the counter with an armful of books I was approached by an enthusiastic staff member. We got talking and she eventually mentioned a new release that she had recently read and loved. At the time I didn’t quite catch the title because it was long, and I was tired, but I was enthralled by her description of an Agatha Christie style novel against a Groundhog Day backdrop.

“I loved it,” she told me. “There were so many twists and turns and I didn’t know where it was going to go next. There was a point where it all clicked into place, but I could not have guessed the ending.”

She put my books through the till, printed my receipt and wrote “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” along the top and handed it to me. For the next two days I was unable to get the concept of this novel out of my head. I hadn’t even bought the book yet and Stuart Turton had already gripped me with his uncommon and captivating plot.

I personally think you know you’re in for a real treat when you open a book to find maps, character lists, or family trees. So, I was practically tingling with excitement when I opened the cover to find a map of Blackheath House and its grounds and the invitation to the party with a full list of guests and household staff. I kept eagerly flipping to the map and invitation as I read, searching for clues and doing my best to play detective.

This book has a whole cast of theatrical characters to love, hate, feel pity for and root for. But, for the most part, I felt unable to trust anyone. Every character’s actions and words seemed like a trick. I admire Turton’s ability to handle such a rich array of well thought out characters. He managed to avoid the trap of half-formed or forgotten characters that often comes when you have a large cast involved in your plot. Every character in Seven Deaths was individual, recognisable and realistic.

The premise was unlike anything I had seen or read before and I was eager to understand what was happening to Aiden and the motive behind Evelyn’s murder. I devoured the whole of this novel in two days and still wanted more. Turton has left me greedy for his dark Wonderland world and for that, I’m slightly disappointed that Aiden’s story at Blackheath is over. I wish I hadn’t read it so quickly and had savoured every page and revelation that came my way instead.

Turton kept me guessing, twisting his plot one way and then another with careful precision. I was never able to pin-down the answers to the questions I had or work out the conclusion until the novel’s crescendo. With crime and thriller/mystery novels now the UK’s most popular genre of fiction, this topsy-turvy murder mystery stands out amongst the crowd as something pleasantly different.

Seven Deaths is marvellously written with excellent craftsmanship and intricate details that adds a realistic element to an otherwise beautifully absurdist plot.

His story-telling sucks you in and in such a way that I often found myself forgetting that I was reading a novel. I could see Turton’s words and characters alive in my mind and performing their macabre deeds in front of me. I think the main reason for this is that Turton has used first-person narrative, thrusting the readers into the mind of Aiden and the bodies of his hosts. The reader becomes as intimately and uncomfortably close to the characters as Aiden does. It is strongly immersive prose that puts us closer to the action than if we were a fly on the wall of Blackheath.

This book is dark and strange, full of high-stakes, gruesome murder, beset with tragedy, corruption, and cat-and-mouse chases. Through all this sparkles the glamour of the 1920s, its high society, and the secrets they keep and the lengths they go to in order to maintain their carefully constructed images. It’s wonderfully paced and completely addictive.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a stunning debut novel. Stuart Turton hopes “it keeps you awake until 2am and when you finish it there’s a huge smile on your face” and yes, Stuart, it definitely does that!

 

Lifestyle · Monthly Favourites · Things to make you smile

January Favourites;

Hello all!

January is coming to an end, payday is imminent, and the sun is coming out (or at least, it is here!) So, it feels like an appropriate time to share a bit of positivity and talk about my favourite things this month.

  1. FRIENDS – I don’t mean the people I call my friends, though they are very dear to me, I mean the TV show. After Netflix added all ten seasons on New Year’s Day, I binge watched it almost every day for about two or three weeks. It’s such easy watching over the festive period and still funny. I’m also still of the same opinion as all those years ago when I first watched this show – I hate Ross and Rachel shouldn’t have gotten off the plane. tumblr_own1q6o4bE1raamyno2_400
  2. This jumper from Yours Clothing – Okay, I didn’t buy this green jumper in January, but it has remained my favourite winter warmer. It’s thick, soft and comfortable. I love it so much that I also bought the same jumper in blue.
  3. Candles – For Christmas, I bought myself a Yankee Candle gift box and one of my family friends bought me another Yankee Candle. Then in the January sales, I bought myself some more! My favourites from my little collection are Macaron Treats, Berry Trifle, and Spiced White Cocoa.
  4. And speaking of cocoa, I’m also loving hot chocolate this month. Usually, I hate hot chocolate because it’s far too sickly and sweet for my liking. But Hotel Chocolat’s classic hot chocolate is made of 70% smooth, rich, dark chocolate. It’s perfect for cosying up in bed with, ready for an early night and a movie marathon.
  5. White roses – I love flowers and especially roses. I try to have fresh plants and flowers in my bedroom as much as I can. This month though, I have been particularly drawn to white roses. I’ve bought real ones, fake ones, I’m pressing some in books, I’ve got white rose fairy lights adorning my shelves…I’m a little bit obsessed right now but I don’t care because they’re so pretty!
  6. These Deichmann shoes – They look like your nan’s curtains but that’s just part of their charm! These shoes have velvet laces and feel like your nan’s curtains too. They’re an unusual yet comfortable pair shoes that have gained me plenty of compliments whilst I’ve been wearing them.
  7. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – I adored this book – it was sweet, funny, sad, and poignant. I devoured this book in two sittings and I regret having read it so fast! I had the Chris Riddell illustrated version of this book and I highly recommend it. tumblr_p3df1cVAE91raamyno1_540Haig and Riddell make a damn good story-telling team. I’ll write a more in-depth review of this book over the coming weeks because I loved it too much to leave it at only a few sentences.
  8. Cardamom Coffee perfume – This perfume is my favourite from LUSH’s new fragrance collection. It’s one of their strongest and warmest scents with top notes of cardamom. Once it’s been on the skin for a few hours, the cocoa absolute and rose oil leave a mild, sweet and rich base note. This perfume feels like a winter hug in a bottle.
  9. My pink and blue scarf – I bought a scarf from the Little Barbican Boutique, a shop owned by a good friend of mine. It’s long, soft, and made in my favourite colours – I have worn it every time I’ve gone out this month and I’m not looking forward to when it’s too warm to wear it. I wish winter scarves were fashionable and convenient all year round.
  10. Takeaways – When I come home from work at half seven, tired and achy from standing up all day in a kitchen, the last thing I want to do is stand up in a kitchen and cook dinner. I’ve gotten into the habit of ordering food from Just Eat or Deliveroo on the bus home, so I can spend as much time relaxing as possible. I’ve discovered some great food by ordering in so much this month, but it has taken its toll on my bank account. So, as much as I love it and enjoy the convenience, I’m going to try and curb this habit in February.

What have you guys been loving this month? I’d love to hear about some of things that have made you smile over January so do leave a comment and I’ll see you again soon!

Bethany xo

Books

My 2017 Bookshelf – part two;

Hello all!

Welcome back to the second part of my bookshelf – if you haven’t read part one then you can do so right here!

Let’s jump straight back into the books I’ve read so far this year and those that are still sat on my shelf just waiting to be read.

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21. The Little Breton Bistro – Nina George (3/5)
Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as the end of the world. As the parts of herself she had long forgotten return to her in this new world, Marianne learns it’s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along.

22. Confessions of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella (3/5)
Meet Rebecca Bloomwood. She has a great flat, a fabulous wardrobe full of the season’s must-haves, and a job telling other people how to manage their money. She spends her leisure time … shopping. Retail therapy is the answer to all her problems. She knows she should stop, but she can’t. The letters from the bank are getting harder to ignore. Can Becky ever escape from this dreamworld, find true love, and regain the use of her credit card?

23. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (5/5)
At a glittering society party in St Petersburg in 1805, conversations are dominated by the prospect of war. Terror swiftly engulfs the country as Napoleon’s army marches on Russia, and the lives of three young people are changed forever. The stories of quixotic Pierre, cynical Andrey and impetuous Natasha interweave with a huge cast, from aristocrats and peasants to soldiers and Napoleon himself.

24. The Cake Shop in the Garden – Carole Matthews (3/5)
Fay Merryweather runs her cake shop from her beautiful garden. Looking after the cake shop, the garden and her cantankerous mother means Fay is always busy but she accepts her responsibilities because if she doesn’t do all this, who will? Then Danny Wilde walks into her life and makes Fay question every decision she’s ever made. When a sudden tragedy strikes, Fay’s entire world is thrown off balance even further and she doesn’t know which way to turn. Can Fay find the strength to make a life-changing decision – even if it means giving up the thing she loves the most?

25. The Secret History – Donna Tartt (4/5)
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.

26. The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan (3/5)
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

27. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton (4/5)
In 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of merchant trader Johannes Brandt. Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways. Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. As she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation or the architect of their destruction?

28. The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel (3/5)
The girls of the Roanoke family – beautiful, rich, mysterious – seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them that’s never spoken. Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents’ estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing – and Lane has no choice but to go back. She is a Roanoke girl. Is she strong enough to escape a second time?

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29. The Art of Baking Blind – Sarah Vaughn (3/5)
In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There’s Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife’s death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it’s like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn’t slip. As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants’ problems. For they will learn – as Mrs Eaden did before them – that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it’s very much harder in life.

30. The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller (4/5)
 Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

31. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday (4/5)
What does it take to make us believe in the impossible?
For Dr. Alfred Jones, life is a quiet mixture of civil service at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence and marriage to Mary—an ambitious, no-nonsense financier. But a strange turn of fate from an unexpected direction forces Jones to upend his existence and spend all of his time in pursuit of another man’s ludicrous dream. Can there be salmon in the Yemen? Science says no. But if resources are limitless and the visionary is inspired, maybe salmon fishing in the Yemen isn’t impossible. Then again, maybe nothing is.

32. The Island at the End of Everything – Kiran Millwood Hargrave (To Be Read)
Amihan lives on Culion Island, where some of the inhabitants – including her mother – have leprosy. The arrival of malicious government official Mr Zamora changes her world forever: islanders untouched by sickness are forced to leave. Banished across the sea, Ami is desperate to return, and finds a strange and fragile hope in a colony of butterflies. Can they lead her home before it’s too late?

33. Black Water Lilies – Michael Bussi (TBR)
Jérôme Morval, a man whose passion for art was matched only by his passion for women, has been found dead in the stream that runs through the gardens at Giverny, where Monet did his famous paintings. In Jérôme’s pocket is a postcard of Monet’s Water Lilies with the words: Eleven years old. Happy Birthday. Entangled in the mystery are three women: a young painting prodigy, the seductive village schoolteacher and an old widow who watches over the village from a mill by the stream. All three of them share a secret. But what do they know about the discovery of Jérôme Morval’s corpse? And what is the connection to the mysterious Black Water Lilies, a rumoured masterpiece by Monet that has never been found?

34. My Sweet Revenge – Jane Fallon (TBR)
Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors and Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair. She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing and then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever. Revenge is sweet, isn’t it?

35. Love Potions – Christina Jones (TBR)
When aromatherapist Sukie Ambrose starts using her cottage garden as inspiration – and raw ingredients – for her products, she thinks she’s just hit on a good way of saving money while offering her clients a way of de-stressing and relaxation. However, Sukie lives in a village where strange things have been known to happen. She discovers that her new improved lotions and potions are making her massages distinctly magical – and producing more star-crossed lovers than Shakespeare could ever dream of.

36. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (TBR)
In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together.

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And that marks the end of my 2017 bookshelf! What have you guys read this year? Have you got any recommendations for my 2018 shelf?

Thanks for reading and I hope you found a book you’d like to read soon too!

Bethany xo

Books

My 2017 Bookshelf;

Hello everyone!

This year one of my goals was to start reading again. Studying literature and creative writing sucked the joy of reading from me – I wasn’t reading what I wanted and I was picking apart books to their bare bones. It wasn’t fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my literature and writing courses but I was so relieved when I finished, just because I could read for fun again. As soon as university was over, I got back on GoodReads and collected new books pretty much every time I went out.

So, what have I read this year? How many stars did I give them? And what’s still on my To Be Read list? I’ll share with you all of these over the course of two blog posts this weekend – sit back, browse, and find your new favourite book!

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1. The Killing Woods – Lucy Christopher (3/5 stars)
Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.

2. Victoria – Daisy Goodwin (5/5)
In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone.

3. The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George (5/5)
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened. After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story.

4. Strictly My Husband – Tracy Bloom (2/5)
Laura loves it when Tom takes her for a late night tango around the kitchen after their friends have gone home and they’re avoiding the washing up. That changes when Tom arrives on the doorstep with Carly, a professional dancer, and announces he’s offered her the spare room while she performs in a show that Tom is directing. An outraged Laura doesn’t feel like dancing with Tom anymore but Carly does. It only takes two to tango, and given Tom’s history who knows where it could end? Will Laura be left watching from the sidelines whilst Carly waltzes off with her husband’s heart?

5. Shtum – Jem Lester (3/5)
Ben Jewell’s ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope. When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

6. The Sisters – Claire Douglas (5/5)
Haunted by her twin sister’s death, Abi is making a fresh start in Bath. But when she meets twins Bea and Ben, she is quickly drawn into their privileged and unsettling circle. As Abi tries to keep up with the demands of her fickle friends, strange things start to happen – precious letters go missing and threatening messages are left in her room. Is this the work of the beautiful and capricious Bea? Or is Abi willing to go to any lengths to get attention? When the truth outs, will either sister survive?

7. The Paris Secret – Karen Swan (4/5)
Along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden for decades. High-flying fine art agent Flora from London is called in to assess these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and discover who has concealed them for so long. Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren’t all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock.

8. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty (3/5)
Alice Love is 29, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she wakes up on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time.

9. The French Lesson – Hallie Rubenhold (3/5)
Henrietta Lightfoot trips on her silk gown as she runs for her life along the bloodstained streets of revolutionary Paris. She finds refuge in the lavish home of Grace Dalyrmple Elliott, one of the old regime’s most powerful courtesans. But heads are beginning to roll. Outside, the guillotine mercilessly claims its victims, while inside society’s gilded salons, Henrietta becomes a pawn in a vicious power game. How will she survive in a world where no one can be trusted?

10. A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard (4/5)
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

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11. That Girl from Nowhere – Dorothy Koomson (2/5)
Clemency was adopted as a baby and the only connection she has to her birth mother is a cardboard box hand-decorated with butterflies. Now an adult, Clem decides to make a drastic change and move to Brighton, where she was born. While there, she meets someone who knows all about her butterfly box and what happened to her birth parents. As the tangled truths about her adoption and childhood start to unravel, a series of shocking events cause Clem to reassess whether the price of having contact with her birth family could be too high to pay.

12. The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane – Ellen Berry (4/5)
On Rosemary Lane, Della Cartwright plans to open a very special little bookshop. Not knowing what to do with the hundreds of cookbooks her mother left her, she now wants to share their recipes with the world. But with her family convinced it’s a hare-brained scheme, Della starts to wonder if she’s made a terrible decision. One thing’s for sure: she’s about to find out…

13. The Flower Arrangement – Ella Griffin (4/5)
Every bouquet tells a story and every story begins at Blossom & Grow, a tiny flower shop in the heart of Dublin. Florist Lara works her magic, translating feelings into flower arrangements, changing hearts and lives. Whether it’s bridal posies, anniversary bouquets or surprise deliveries from secret admirers, Lara arranges flowers for all manner of life-changing moments. No stranger to heartbreak herself, Lara knows flowers say more than words ever can. But can the flowers that heal the customers work their magic on her?

14. The Mother – Yvette Edwards (3/5)
The unimaginable has happened to Marcia Williams. Her bright and beautiful sixteen-year-old son Ryan has been brutally murdered. Consumed by grief and rage, she must bridle her dark feelings and endure something no mother should ever have to experience: she must go to court for the trial of the killer—another teenage boy—accused of taking her son’s life. As the trial proceeds, Marcia finds her beliefs and assumptions challenged as she learns more about Ryan’s death.

15. How to Find Love in a Bookshop – Veronica Henry (3/5)
Emilia has returned to her Cotswold home to rescue the family business. Nightingale Books is a dream come true for book-lovers, but the best stories aren’t just within the pages of the books she sells – Emilia’s customers have their own tales to tell. There’s the lady of the manor who is hiding a secret close to her heart; the single dad looking for books to share with his son but who isn’t quite what he seems; and the shy chef trying to find the courage to talk to her crush. And as for Emilia’s story, can she keep the promise she made to her father and save Nightingale Books?

16. The Reader on the 6.27 – Jean-Paul Didierlaurent (3/5)
Working at a job he hates, Guylain Vignolles has but one pleasure in life. Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain reads aloud. It’s this release of words into the world that starts our hero on a journey that will finally bring meaning into his life. For one morning, Guylain discovers the diary of a lonely young woman: Julie, who feels as lost in the world as he does.

17. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barberry (2/5)
Renée is the concierge of a Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society’s expectations of what a concierge should be. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renée lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.

18. The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain (3/5)
Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street, and feels impelled to return it to its owner. The bag contains no money, phone or contact information. But a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

19. Northern Lights – Philip Pullman (4/5)
Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

20. That Certain Something – Clare Ashton (3/5)
Pia Benitez-Smith has her head in the clouds. She’s a photojournalist out to prove herself with her compassionate eye, and although not accident prone, most days trouble seems to find her. On one such day, she literally falls into the arms of the beautiful Cate. Elegant, intriguing and classy, Cate is Pia’s polar opposite. When the two dispute the importance of love versus money, Cate is adamant that her perfect night will always be an expensive one. Working class Pia can’t resist the challenge and with the assistance of a beguiling summer night in London, she begins to enchant her new friend.

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Have you read any of these books, or would you like to after reading this post? Do you agree or disagree with my ratings? Let me know and I hope you’ll join me for part two of my bookshelf tomorrow!

Bethany xo

 

Books · Reviews

Top 5 books in ’17

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Ever since I learned to read I wanted to consume every book I could get my hands and eyes on. In order to fulfill that wishes, I decided to study English Literature for my GCSEs and A-Levels, then study Creative Writing for my degree. Of course, in those subjects, I got to read a LOT. But after a while, I stopped reading completely.

I think I read one book in my GCSEs and A-Levels combined, and read one book for my degree over the entire three years. My passion dried and shrivelled. Reading because I had to took all the enjoyment out of it for me; I didn’t like being told what I could and couldn’t read.

Once I finished studying, I joined Goodreads, took advantage of the sale season, and before I knew it I was back into the reading swing of things!

It might only be September, but I already have a list of books I’ve read this year that I want to share my love for!

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Hear me out on this one! Never be put off by the title or the length of this story. It’s one of the most wonderful, touching, funny, and dramatic things I’ve ever read and I adore it.

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The characters are so realistic and natural that following their lives over the course of the eight years the novel is set, I found myself wishing the novel was longer! I was itching to know more, to stay with these characters for longer. For the time I was reading this book, they were friends and I was rooting for every single one of them.

Sure, there were moments that were hideously tedious, you would expect that from a book that’s 1.4k pages long, but those tedious moments were few. War and Peace is a classic novel for a reason and I absolutely implore anyone to read this book and discover that reason for themselves.

It’s an intrinsically human story that explores relationships, love, the value of war, and spirituality and I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed by it!

Victoria – Daisy Goodwin

Oh, Daisy…What have you done to me?! Honestly, this section of my post is purely an open love letter to her…

Most of you will probably be aware of the ITV drama series Victoria that’s currently airing its second season. Well, the lovely Daisy Goodwin who wrote the drama also wrote a novelisation of the series.

I loved the first season of the show so when my parents bought me the novel for Christmas last year, I ended up reading the whole book shortly after new year in half a day. I absolutely could not put it down!

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Daisy’s writing is gorgeous, emotive, and refined. She managed to portray emotional nuances between Victoria and Lord Melbourne with great care that still gives me writing envy today, whilst setting up the burning love of Victoria and Prince Albert – evoking the youthfulness and vitality of the characters and what is to come for them.

Victoria is a novel that explores the private lives, thoughts and feelings of real people and fictionalises elements in such a way that doesn’t lose historical integrity whilst making it relatable to a modern audience. It’s an elegant balance between fiction and non-fiction that has been ruining my life for the past year.

This book and series, aside from being one of the most stunning things I’ve read and seen, has also helped me make new friends, so it’s a book and show that will always stay with me for many reasons.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Daisy! Now excuse me whilst I run away to buy all your other books…

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

This book was a treat for the soul!

It’s a charming story about the blossoming love between Steffi who is a selective mute, and Rhys, who is deaf, and their shared desire for independence.

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The book explores serious themes about mental health and disability without becoming heavy and difficult to read. It remains light and optimistic – something I find so rare in media about such subjects. More than once I had to put the book down to take a breather because I found Steffi and Rhys’ relationship and their way of communicating too cute to handle all in one go.

Once I finished reading, I felt incredibly light and refreshed as though I had woken from an invigorating nap. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a refreshing read and even thinking about it to write this post makes me want to read it again!

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Reading this novel felt like sitting barefoot on a pier, feet dangling over the edge so the sea tickles your toes, with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face.

The Little Paris Bookshop is probably one of the most life-affirming books I’ve read this year. Every character seemed to have their own problems, secrets, and foibles that could be easily recognisable in the everyday.

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People in this book make mistakes and assumptions and it’s okay because they’re human and so are we. Personally, I saw this book as a story about embracing life and it’s little things. I felt as though no matter what happens in the future, or what happened in the past, it would never be too late to make a change or do something different.

It’s a stunning, sunny, sometimes sad little book about love and life and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after finishing it!

The Sisters – Claire Douglas

READ. THIS. BOOK.

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If you like thrillers and mysteries, this book is definitely for you. I was kept guessing at every turn of the page – it threw me this way and that – I never expected anything. By the time I expected a plot point, I was thrown into the thick of it so quickly that I felt like I had whiplash!

There is a definite crescendo to The Sisters and a shocking ending that left me feeling winded, stunned, and mildly horrified. I was telling my friends to read it for ages after because I needed someone to talk to about it!

It’s rare that a book makes me feel somewhat unsettled and for that reason I don’t think I’m going to get over how much I love it.

What books are you loving this year? Are any of these on your TBR list? Are there any books similar to these that you think I’ll love? Let me know and thanks for reading!

Bethany xo