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.

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

 

 

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