What have you read this week?

weekly reading and book haul wrap up

Read

the moth book reviewMy favourite read of this week was The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories edited by Catherine Burns.  I mentioned this book in my non-fiction recommendations post and it seems this was all the prodding I needed to pick it.

The Moth is a live storytelling event that takes place across America where anyone can pitch to tell their true, first-hand story.  Kind of like a poetry reading, but for true stories.  I’d never heard of The Moth before picking this book up, but now it is on my bucket list to attend one of these events in person.  There is also a podcast which I have just subscribed to but am yet to listen to.

Anyway, back to the book.  The stories in this collection are told by a wide range of people.  I found each one to be engaging, interesting and very readable.  The stories are all very different to each other, but all are moving – several brought tears to my eyes.  In what has been a confusing and worrying couple of weeks, this book restored my faith in the goodness of human beings and secured a place on my favourites shelf.  You can read more about The Moth here.

broken monsters book reviewThe other book I finished this week was totally different and scared the crap out of me.  Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes is a thriller/murder/police story with an eery and very creepy twist.  It is atmospheric and so well written.  This is the second book by Lauren Beukes that I’ve read (the first was The Shining Girls, which was one of my top reads of 2013) and she is well on her way to becoming one of my favourite authors. I won’t lie, I’m a little bit biased as she is South African and it always makes me happy when SA authors make the big time!  I’d definitely recommend this book if you like your crime with a whacky twist!

Acquired

how much the heart can hold book reviewThis week I received one book from the publisher for review, and it is a beauty.  I have a bit of an odd fixation with anatomical hearts, and the cover of this book is just the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen.  How Much the Heart Can Hold is a collection of seven stories by seven authors (only one of whom I’ve read before), all focusing on love; but not the usual romantic kind of love.  The stories each tell of a different kind of love and I can’t wait to delve into them and find out more.  Published by Sceptre on 3 November, the book is tied to a short story competition ending in February 2017.

Earlier in the week I happened to be hanging around waiting for my daughter to complete her driving theory test (she passed!) and stumbled upon a Waterstones.  As we all know, it is impossible to leave a Waterstones book shop empty handed, so I treated myself to four books – I’m just a sucker for their buy one get one half price offer!  I bought:

Have you read any of these books?  I’d love to her your thoughts!  What was the best book you read this week?

The last 3 months

I’ve been a bad blogger these last few months, and a fairly bad reader too!  I think it’s been that time of year when I’m just not really in the mood for anything much!  But now it’s Spring and my mind always turns to clearing out and sprucing up, and I have a few changes planned for the blog.  Which is quite ridiculous as I never seem able to keep up a regular schedule for more than a couple of weeks!  But if at first you don’t succeed and all that …

Anyway, over the last three months I’ve read 14 books.  Which isn’t too bad to be honest.  I’m still 3 books ahead on my Goodreads challenge of 52 books for the year, so all is well.  Here’s a look at what I read in February, March and April.

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February

26165722In February I read a total of 7 books. I started the month with In A Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca Mackenzie, which I received for review via bookbridgr.  Unfortunately, this novel wasn’t for me.  My full review is here, and I gave this 2 stars.  Next up was Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman.  I was really looking forward to this one, but in the end I felt like I was missing something and it didn’t live up to my expectation.  3 stars, and you can read my full review here.  A short story collection was up next, How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer.  I enjoyed this quite melancholic collection and reviewed it here.  This one got 4 stars.  The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer was next, and also received 4 stars.  I enjoyed this unusual take on the ‘missing child’ story.  (Review here).  Then came my most disappointing read of the month, Death of  a Prima Donna by Brina Svit, translated by Peter Constantine.  Another 2 stars, sadly, and my review is here.  Luckily, This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell came next!  This was another copy I received for review from the publisher, Tindegetting-life-9781476756837_hrr Press.  This one is released later this month, so my review will be up soon, but I absolutely loved every single word and gave it 5 stars!  The month ended with A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh, this was fine, I enjoyed it, it was a quick easy read and I gave it 3 stars (review here).

March

I only managed 3 books in March, and was on a bit of a true crime kick!  I began with Life After Death: Eighteen Years on Death Row by Damien Echols.  I knew nothing about this story and while I of course felt empathy for the writer, this just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.   I gave this 2 stars (review here).  Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton, however, had a totally different feel and was my favourite book of the month.  This was fascinating – my review is here.  5 stars.  Back to fiction for the last book of the month, I read Descent by Tim Johnston.  This was 51AbIUrKCHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_a really well written crime novel in a fantastic setting and I’ll have a review up soon.  4 stars.

April

In April I managed 4 books.  I continued on my true crime spree with Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, an absolutely fascinating account of the Manson murder trial about which I knew very little.  So well written and so interesting, a very high 4 stars!  After the trauma of this one, I needed some light escapism and I picked up Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.  This was exactly what I need, a fun, light, quick read with an interesting plot and good, strong female protagonist.  3 stars.  More crime after that, Natural Causes by James Oswald, the first in a new-to-me crime series.  Enjoyable with some aspects that I really liked – more about this my eventual review! 3 stars.  And finally, I wrapped up April with a nice little gentle read … A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.  Goodness me this was a heart wrencher, just like everyone said.  My review of this will be up in a few weeks, but I gave it 3 stars and had some issues with it, but overall I’m glad I read it and it didn’t take me as long to get through as I was expecting.

So that’s the reading wrap up!  As for films and TV shows, we haven’t been watching very much at all.

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In February, we watched Ex Machina, directed by Alex Garland (he who wrote The Beach) and starring Alicia Vikander as the AI girl and Domhnal Gleeson as a somewhat gormless geek.  This was actually a really interesting film that hubby and I both were surprised to enjoy so much.  I gave this 7/10 and hubby’s score was 7.25 (don’t ask!) out of 10.  Also in February we watched Chef, a really lovely movie written by, directed by and starring Jon Favreau.  I wasn’t expecting much from this, but it was funny and heartwarming and made me hungry!  8/10 from me and 8.5/10 from Dave.  I then fell into a bit of a Walking Dead hole and became obsessed with Andrew Lincoln.  We’ll move swiftly on.

In March we binge watched Broadchurch series 1 and 2 with our 17 year old daughter.  We all really enjoyed this series and couldn’t wait to watch the next episode.  Great British drama!  Series 1: 9/10 from me, 8/10 from Dave.  Series 2: 8/10 from me and 7/10 from Dave.

More fabulous British drama came in April with the return of Line of Duty, one of my favourite police series.  This series did not disappoint – the only bad thing was having to wait a whole week for the next episode!  Fantastic, edge of the seat viewing.  9/10 from me and 8.5/10 from Dave.

And that is 3 months wrapped up in a few paragraphs.

Let me know if you’ve read/watched any of these and what you thought!  

 

The Month That Was: January

We’re at the end of January!  The first month of 2016 has flown by.  Thankfully we have avoided snow and flood in our little corner of England … one more month of winter and then we can breathe a sigh of relief!

When it comes to all things bookish for the month of January … I didn’t too badly!  I decided that reading 5 before I buy was not going to work for me, so instead I have set myself a monthly budget of £50 for books.  Here’s a look at all the books that came into my house in the month of January … it looks a lot …

First up, I received one book for review, which I am quite excited about reading and will be picking this up later today:

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In A Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca Mackenzie was published on 28 January by Tinder Press and is set in a boarding school in China.  That’s all I need to know!

Christmas and my birthday brought me vouchers!  I bought these with those (apologies for the awful photos … blame Winter).  Some of these were new and some were from Amazon Marketplace:

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I accidentally went on a charity shop trip, and ended up with these …

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And finally, I bought these new … I’m afraid I just can’t resist that 2 for £7 deal in Tesco!  The Waterstones buy one get one half price deal is easier to resist, but I did cave in once …

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My total spend on books for the month of January was £34.82.

Reading challenge wise, I succeeded in reading one classic and one non-fiction (which actually wasn’t a challenge I set for myself at the beginning of the year, but one I’m adding in now!).  Sadly I didn’t read a translated work or non UK/USA author.  I was supposed to read a book by an author from Bahrain, which I failed miserably at unfortunately.  Here’s a round-up of what I read:

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  1. The Book Collector by Alice Thompson – I gave this 3 stars; it was good and well written, but just wasn’t the satisfying read I was looking for.  You can read my full review here.
  2. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – oh my goodness I loved this one.  If you haven’t read it, read it!  Even if you think science fiction is not your bag.  If you don’t love this book, there is SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU!! (kidding, but seriously …).  5 stars and a place a on my very small favourites shelf.  You can read my review here.
  3. Good as Dead by Mark Billingham – another 3 stars, I liked it, but I’m falling out of love with Tom Thorne (*heartbroken*).  My review is here.
  4. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller – I really enjoyed this story and Ms Fuller knows how to write!  4 stars.  Read my review here.
  5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – oh what a heart wrenching story.  4 stars.  Review coming soon!
  6. Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid – I just finished this yesterday and I found it really interesting. 4 stars.

The only thing we really watched in January was Making a Murderer, and bloody hell did that make me angry!  It terrifies me that this kind of thing happens in real life.  The episode that was mostly about Brandon – the police interviews and all of that debacle – that was just so hard to watch and I keep thinking that poor boy.

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In February, I plan to go to the movies!  Woohoo!

What was your favourite read in January?

 

The Month that Was: September

We’re fully into Autumn round these parts now.  It is chilly, nights are drawing in and Christmas things are beginning to appear in the shops already (grrr).  I read 5 books and watched 3 movies (one of those at the actual cinema!) … kind of  a slowish month, but certainly not my worst!

The books

september books

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My book of the month (and possibly my lifetime!) was Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.  Oh my goodness.  I cannot describe how much I loved this book, and how much of a surprise it was to me.  I mean, it’s a western in which a ramshackle bunch of cowboys drive a herd of cattle from the bottom of the USA to the top, and it’s a doozy at nearly 1000 pages.  But seriously, this book now has a very firm spot on my favourites shelf.  Loved it.  (Review coming soon!)

Other books read this month (reviews coming eventually)

  • After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry – this one started off good, was really intriguing, but then it just fizzled into boringness.  2 stars.
  • The Chimes by Anna Smaill – ugh.  I posted a review of this here.  2 stars.
  • Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – a gorgeous book!  4 stars.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir – another surprise for me.  I absolutely loved this and gave it 5 stars.
  • As far as my reading stats and challenges are concerned, this was not such a great month!  Anna Smaill is from New Zeland, so that’s one more country ticked off my global reading challenge.  And Larry McMurtry won the Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove, so that’s my prize winner for the month.  But that’s it.  I aim to do better next month!

The Movies

september films

Dave and I are a bit late to the party on the Bourne series.  With a new film coming out soon we decided it was high time we watched these, so we made a start this month …

  • The Bourne Identity – this was good.  A little confusing.  But I like Matt Damon.  Dave gave this 7.5/10, and I gave it 6/10. It dipped in the middle.
  • The Bourne Supremacy – Not quite as good as the first one.  I’m still a bit confused.  5/10 from each of us.

Then we decided to treat ourselves and actually leave the house to go see a movie!

  • Legend – I was really not expecting to like this film very much.  I’m not keen on violence for the sake of violence, and all I knew about the Krays was that they were violent gangsters.  But this film went a bit further into the people and I ended up really enjoying it.  How much of that was down to Tom Hardy’s superb portrayal of the twins, I’m not sure.  He was excellent.  We both gave this 7.5/10.

And Elsewhere

  • Dave finished a 42 mile bike ride and it feels like we will never hear the end of it!
  • New schools and school years were started.
  • Strictly season began!  I love Strictly Come Dancing so much!  Early favourites are Peter Andre, Jay McGuinness (don’t judge me people!) and Anita Rani.
  • My thoughts are turning to reading aims for next year – I always get this way in Autumn!  I have a few ideas ticking over in my brain; more to come!

 

The Month That Was: August

August has passed us by and summer is drawing to an end.  I’ve had 6 weeks off work, probably the last time I’ll be able to do this as the kids are now teenagers and don’t need me around as much.  Thank goodness I found my reading groove again!  I managed to read 10 books in August, watched 4 films and 1 TV series 🙂  Here’s a quick roundup.

The Books

I managed to squeeze in10 books for August, the last one ending up  my highlight of the month!

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A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale was an impulse buy.  I went into town to get my haircut at this place where you just turn up without an appointment, but even though I got there 10 minutes before opening I was already 4th in the queue.  So I bought books instead, of course!  I got home and started reading this straight away, and then I pretty much didn’t put it down until I’d finished.  Beautiful writing; I wish everyone would read this book.  This one gets a rare 5 stars from me (my third of the year).

Other books read this month (reviews will be coming … if I ever get my act together!):IMG_7424

  • You by Caroline Kepnes – there’s been a lot of buzz around this book and I had high hopes, but I really didn’t like it very much at all and it was just a 2 star read for me.
  • Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell – I listened to this on audio through Scribd.  I liked it, it was a bit of fluff, easy to listen to with a few chuckles along the way.  3 stars
  • The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler – I feel like this one could’ve been so much better with a little more editing!  Swedish husband/wife duo author, so it fits with my global reading challenge. 2 stars
  • The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (who I keep wanting to call Ron Jonson!) – this was a fun non-fiction read.  His writing style is very conversational and this was an interesting look at the topic.  3 stars
  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink – A German author, so another one for my global reading challenge.  I really enjoyed this story.  4 stars
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – Australian author, another for my global reading challenge.  A quick, easy read with a great plot.  4 stars
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay – I’d been waiting for this one to come out in paperback.  Wow.  This one gets you right in the heart.  4 stars
  • Blue Is The Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh – French author, and also my first graphic novel! I read this on my kindle through Scribd.  A quick easy read was just what I needed after An Untamed State and this fit the bill perfectly, though of course the subject matter is quite serious.  I really enjoyed this.  4 stars
  • Little Face by Sophie Hannah – I think this was my dud of the month.  I’ve heard good things about Sophie Hannah and was really looking forward to this, but sadly it did nothing for me.  2 stars

What we watched:

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  • First up this month was The Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal … Oh my god this movie was awful.  Slow, boring, tedious, confusing – the ending had us both looking at each other with WTF looks on our faces.  3/10 from Dave and 2/10 from me.  Afterwards I read some reviews and most people are of the opinion that it’s better the second time around and has some deep and meaningful message that you’ll only understand if you research the film.  Well, I’m afraid I watch a film to be entertained – if I learn something while I’m watching that’s dandy, but I’m not going to go and do a load of research so I can understand what I’ve just watched, and then waste another 2 hours of my life watching it again!  No thank you 🙂
  • We then watched The Conjuring and holy moly was this film scary!  It really freaked me out.  Thoroughly enjoyable in that way only scary films can be!  7.5/10 from Dave, 8/10 from me.
  • Next was Dog Day Afternoon.  I’m ashamed to say I don’t think I’ve seen any Al Pacino films!  This film was really good – he is such a great actor.  It was a little dated, obviously, but it was fun to see the 70s portrayed authentically and we both really enjoyed this.  8/10 from both of us.
  • Gladiator with Russell Crowe was next.  I’d seen bits of it before and Dave had seen all of it before.  It was enjoyable, but it kind of dipped a little for me in the middle, and could’ve been 30 minutes shorter.  8.5/10 from Dave, 7.5/10 from me.
  • And finally we watched the first series of Peaky Blinders.  I had heard many many good things about this series and Dave bought me the box set for my birthday in January, so I was looking forward to finally sitting down to watch it.  We were hooked straight away and watched the first series over three nights.  Good story and great acting.  7.5/10 from Dave and originally I gave this 9/10, but if I compare it to Breaking Bad, our series barometer, I think I should probably downgrade it to 8/10 – it’s good, but not BB good!

Elsewhere in August:

  • Natasha received her GCSE results and did amazingly well with 7 A*s and 4As.  Her place at 6th Form College is all confirmed and she starts next week
  • A lot of lounging around was completed – outside in the sunshine when possible, or curled up indoors when it was raining (most of the time!)
  • Here’s the rest of August in a nutshell:
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And now I’m looking forward to September!

What was the highlight of your month?

A Mid-Summer Catch Up

So much for plans, hey!  For reasons unfathomable, June and the first half of July were pretty grim, but I bring you now a very quick round up of what went down in literary/filmery (yes I made it up) terms!

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  • I picked up many books in June but just could not get into anything.  In the end, I read a total of one book.  Yes, people.  One whole book.  Out by Natsuo Kirino (Japan).  As books go, it was pretty good.  I gave it 3 stars.  It can be held in no way responsible for the desert that was June.
  • June was also the month in which Dave Grohl broke his leg, thus cancelling what was to be the highlight of my month, the Foo Fighters gig at Wembley.  I think I will hold him responsible for the desert that was June.  For more reasons unfathomable they have replaced the London gigs with a couple of gigs in Milton Keynes of all places.  We are not going.  Sad face.
  • We watched a total of one film in June.  Yeah, we were all totally rocking the month!  The chosen film was Kingsman, starring Colin Firth and a hilarious Samuel L Jackson.  We both really enjoyed this film, it was like a funny James Bond, and scored highly with an 8/10 from both of us.  I highly recommend this one.
  • I did, however, watch a whole lot of Rupert Penry-Jones Whitechapel, Spooks and Silk.  All really good TV serieseseses that I somehow missed when they were actually on TV.  Thank heavens for Netflix.
  • June was also the month GCSEs, so maybe our teenage daughter kindly infected us with all her exam stress and anxiety!  She did work incredibly hard though … results are out this week!
  • In other miscellaneous news, the wonderful payroll department neglected to pay me for a whole lot of extra hours I worked.  Maybe next month, hey?!

July

July had to be a better month, right?!  Let’s see …

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These all qualify for my global reading challenge and reviews will be coming soon, I promise!

  • We watched two films!

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Alexander the The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – this is a Disney family film that we stumbled on one Saturday afternoon and watched with our teenage daughter (our teenage son is not a film fan!).  This was ok, pretty schmaltzy and cheesey … I gave it 5/10 and Dave gave it 6/10 (he likes a bit of cheese!)

As Above, So Below – this was a weird film about the catacombs in Paris.  I really enjoyed some aspects of it and there were a few jump scares and tense moments, but overall it was a bit of a let down.  I gave this 5/10, Dave gave it 4/10.

  • I picked up my crochet hook again this month, which was quite exciting, and also hauled out the sewing machine to begin making a quilt for a baby that will be arriving in the family in October!
  • July was prom month!  N looked stunning, as did her friends, and they had a great time.  The after party involved wine (I scoured the shelves for the lowest alcohol content wine I could find) and an anxious night for the parents, but all was well and from what we can gather they all behaved themselves 😉
  • I went for a bike ride for the first time in years, and fell off ;(  My knee was all grazed and bruised and my foot swelled up to twice it’s normal size … I even went for an x-ray as I was unable to walk properly and thought it might be broken, but luckily it wasn’t.
  • Oh, and that wonderful payroll department I mentioned under June? Repeat for July!  The bastards still haven’t paid me despite them reassuring me that all was in order!  Fuming doesn’t cover it.