Tuesday, 31 May 2016

BOOK TALK | The Use of TBR

 
The above picture is a snippet of the books on my TBR; TBR being to be read and often referred by me as my unread shelf.
 
In my mind, TBR refers to the books that we own but have yet to read - books that are to be read - however, I've come to realise that that isn't the case for all of us within the book community. As well as being unread books, TBR also seems to refer to the books people are hoping to read in the future - what I deem to be my wishlist.
 
I know everyone has their own opinions and perspectives on things, here in the book community and further afield, so it's understandable that TBR means different things for different people, but boy can it be confusing!
 
When I had the idea to write this post, I didn't make any jottings other than the title so I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this one. I think I kind of just wanted to address my thoughts and see how others view the term TBR - what does it mean to you?
 
What books do you include on your TBR? When referring to your TBR, is that just the books you own but haven't read, or also books you hope to read in the future? Perhaps TBR has an entirely different meaning to you all together!
 
Whatever your thoughts on the subject may be, let's get chatting in the comments below!
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Thursday, 26 May 2016

BOOK HAUL | May

It's been a while since I last posted a book haul here on my blog, but I always love having a nosy at what new additions are being added to the bookshelves of others and so I thought I'd bring back monthly book hauls (although sometimes it may be library loot as opposed to a haul of books purchased).
If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that as a family we went away for a mini seaside break this month and in the packing process I decided to only bring my tablet for reading material (eBooks + audio) - we were to be away for just four days total, and despite being a big physical book reader, I thought I could survive four days without an 'actual' book. Well... I was wrong.
On the last day of our trip, which was essentially just the morning, not a full blown day, we made a pit stop at the Waterstones which was less than a five minute walk from our hotel - less than five minutes, it would have been rude not to stop in!
In truth, I knew we had a long journey ahead of us on coaches that day and I was really itching to have a physical book in my hands once more... Because waiting the eight plus hours until we were was home just not doable, okay.
Of the three books I purchased, one was an on a whim buy (The Followers), but the other two were very much books I'd had my eye on for a while. I completed one book the coach - The Library of Unrequited Love - and also made a start on another - The Followers - which I'm still currently reading at the time of writing this post. Of all the three books I am most excited to read The Bees as I really love the concept behind it as well having heard some great feedback, however being someone who has to concentrate a fair bit when reading, the coach didn't seem to be the right time in which to begin it.
If you're interested in hearing my thoughts on the other two books, they'll be included in my end of month wrap up coming next week.
Have you acquired any books this month?
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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Us by David Nicholls

BLURB
Douglas and Connie: scientist and artist, and for more than twenty years husband and wife until suddenly, their marriage seems over.
But Douglas is going to win back the love of his wife and the respect of Albie, their teenage son, by organising the holiday of a lifetime.
He has booked the hotels, bought the train tickets, planned and printed the itinerary for a 'grand tour' of the great art galleries of Europe.
What could possibly go wrong?
PLOT
With their teenage son about to fly the nest, Connie decides it's time to leave her husband, Douglas - she can't imagine it being just the two of them once Albie heads off to university. Their marriage has run its course. But before the separation is to be finalised, the family have a pre-booked holiday to go on - The Grand Tour of Europe; whilst inter-railing through Europe on their last family holiday Douglas hopes to win his wife back.
With a couple of the verge of divorce and a father son relationship in tatters, it's safe to say that it isn't the jolliest holiday ahead of them. In fact, many adventures are to ensue.
I really enjoyed the plot of Us; the overall concept holds your attention throughout as you have a vested interest in this family, the pacing is well done, and the adventures that unfold will have you in stitches one minute and reaching for a tissue the next.
CHARACTERS
Although the Petersen family as a whole are the focus of the story, as a reader you truly get an understanding of Douglas being that he is the narrator. Being able to see a variety of the family's life scenes through his eyes, wholly his perspective on the good, the bad, the mishaps, the joys and so much more, means you get to understand him more as a character and person, rather than the other key players. We learn of his personality, learn what makes him tick, gauge how he would react in certain situations, understand why he is the way he is. I've come away from Us with a deep knowledge of Douglas, but a depth just above surface level of his wife and son.
In many ways, upon ending Us, I felt a great sympathy for Douglas.
I did just want to touch upon the family dynamics within the book. The dynamics within a family are one of my favourite elements when it comes to books of this nature; the dynamics can really make or break a book. David Nicholls has written an amazing family story, spanning over twenty years, and it has been executed perfectly in my opinion.
WRITING
I really enjoyed the writing style within Us, and it is very much akin to One Day in terms of the author capturing life just as it is - not life through rose tinted glasses. It's as if you're welcomed in to the every day lives of these people, warts and all, there is a rawness and reality to the writing.
The story telling format used within Us is unique in many aspects and something I haven't seen done before. Instead of chapters as such, Us is split in to 180 anecdotal snippets narrated by Douglas, spanning his lifetime but alternating haphazardly between past and present. I say haphazardly but there is definitely a method to the way in which the story is told, as all the little snippets piece together perfectly forming this wonderful story. I think this format of story telling is something that draws you in to Douglas as a person because it feels as if he is inviting you into his life. A really clever story telling method.
OVERALL THOUGHTS
Another beautifully written story of love and life in a raw portrayal by David Nicholls.
LINKS
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Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

BLURB
Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She's even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. 'Jess and Jason', she calls them. Their life - as she sees it - is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she's only watched from afar. Now they'll see; she's much more than just the girl on the train...
PLOT
When you catch the same train daily, it's easy to notice the same people day in day out, see familiar sights from your window and waste some time people watching... Rachel, the main protagonist of The Girl on the Train, takes it a little further than that however. The plot of The Girl on the Train is kind of hard to delve in to when wanting to keep your review spoiler free, but I think it's okay to say that all is not what it seems.
The plot as a whole really throws you for a loop, and I never once got comfortable in my knowledge of where I thought this was all going.
CHARACTERS
There are a number of  focal characters within this book, but I'm going to focus on Rachel as I really enjoyed her character development.
Rachel commutes daily from the suburbs to London and on route she passes a row of houses that have significance to her. We learn of 'Jason and Jess', a young couple Rachel doesn't know, but has created a life for, making a story for them from the glimpses she catches whilst on the train. One day an incident occurs which makes her question all that she 'knew' about the couple, whilst wrecking havoc for her own life too.
I really enjoy Rachel as a character. She has an in depth backstory and as the plot unfolds you really get an understanding of her as a person and how she came to be where she is today. Whilst piecing her life together I really felt for Rachel, feeling like she really just needed someone to invest themselves in her in order to help her. Instead it ends up being her investing herself in to someone else.
Being an alcoholic, Rachel would undertake certain actions without thinking - such as bothering her ex husband and his new family - and would be considered very unreliable. The unreliability played in to the narrative of the book, and whilst at times it was a little frustrating, I feel like overall that lent to the reading experience as you could understand just how frustrated Rachel would be with not knowing if what she is thinking to be true or not.
I think Rachel is a really well crafted character, and she isn't the only one.
WRITING
I'm a little late getting round to reading The Girl on the Train, and in fact I avoided reading it when there was so much talk of the book surrounding its release as I thought that would diminish my reading experience. Having read the book now that it's fallen off the radar almost, I feel like I didn't go in with any expectations and that's what I wanted as a year ago I was hearing such mixed feedback.
The writing style within this book is quite interesting as it's told from multiple viewpoints, with each characters narrative being split up in to times of day, so most things that unfold are being reported back by the character in the morning or evening (other times of day are used occasionally). That method of story telling really worked with the plot as we were getting a side of the story as opposed to the actual actions as and when they take place, which is quite important in this kind of book where you as a reader are trying to piece everything together.
With suspenseful writing, The Girl on the Train proves to be quite a page turner - I was addicted, reading whenever I had a spare minute.
OVERALL THOUGHTS
If mystery thrillers are your kind of read, then regardless of what you've heard, I think it's worth checking out The Girl on the Train as its the kind of book that you need to experience first hand.
LINKS
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Wednesday, 11 May 2016

BOUT OF BOOKS | Update #1

Bout of BooksI've been updating my Twitter daily in the way of Bout of Books progress, but I also wanted to do some updates here on my blog. With the third day of Bout of Books coming to a close, I thought now would be a good a time as any. I'm thinking of also updating on Friday, and then concluding on Sunday, that way my updates don't mess with my regular blogging schedule. Anyway, on to the updates!
 
MONDAY
Reading | The Unseen by Katherine Webb (began prior to readathon - 50ish page mark)
Pages Read | 98
Listening | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling (began prior to readathon - was over the 50% mark)
Time | 20 minutes
 
Notes | I didn't go in to Bout of Books with too many expectations, knowing it wouldn't be easy to fit much reading in with a toddler on the go, but I'm happy with how the first day progressed. I was intending to purely just read physical books, but I'm hoping to finish up two audiobooks I started a while back this month so it made sense to include them too.
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TUESDAY
Reading | The Unseen by Katherine Webb (still)
Pages Read | 72
Listening | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling (still)
Time | 2 hours 10 minutes
 
Notes | I made greater progress with my audiobook today than physical book, which doesn't happen often because physical books always win the fight with other formats for me. I spent a greater time listening today than the previous because I had a headache and reading tends to irritate those greatly. I also listened to my audiobook whilst pottering around doing some housework. I'm hoping to potentially finish The Unseen tomorrow, we'll see how that goes.
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WEDNESDAY
Reading | The Unseen by Katherine Webb (finished!!)
Pages Read | 159
Listening | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling (finished!!)
Time | 1 hour 30 minutes
 
Notes | I'm very happy with how the day has progressed - lots of reading :-) Now I just need to decide what to move on to next. I didn't anticipate reading this much, as Bout of Books was going to be quite a low key thing for me, but than I started the readathon and really got in the zone. I should really have created a tentative TBR at least - rookie mistake!

It's a little after 8.30pm here in the UK, so still some of the day left, but I won't be reading any longer today as I want to spend some time focusing on the update posts of other participants.
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Are you taking part in Bout of Books? How is your reading progressing?
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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

BOOK TALK | Only 10 Books...

This post is inspired by another blogger - Alice over at Of Books - who shared a list of ten books she would take if moving country. Alice's post really got me thinking about what ten books I would take from my collection if I were to make a move, and it was no easy feat narrowing it down to just ten - it's kind of like picking your favourite books.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN
I'm not typically one for romance novels, but Pride & Prejudice is so much more than a romance novel. I find it hard to express my thoughts on P&P exactly how I think of them in my mind, but just know that it is one of my all time favourite classics.

JANE EYRE BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Another of my favourite classics, Jane Eyre would have to be packed up along my belongings if I were ever on the move. There is so much that goes in to the story of Jane Eyre, and I love a good gothic classic.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN
If I could only recommend one book for the rest of my life it would be The Night Circus, seriously, if you haven't read it already then you're missing out on a beautifully written story. Like, beautifully written!! There is a lot of description within The Night Circus which allows the settings, surroundings, and circus itself to form before your very eyes.

THE BOOKSHOP BOOK BY JEN CAMPBELL
The only non fiction book to make my list of ten, The Bookshop Book is written by Jen Campbell and showcases a number of quirky independent bookshops from around the world. There are some really touching stories within The Bookshop Book - its a must for any booklovers shelf.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE BY AUDREY NIFFENEGGER
At one point in my life, I would have told you how The Time Traveler's Wife was my favourite book of all time. I've read many a book since then, but it's still up there as an all time favourite. The plot is layered, very complex on first reading, and really quite an emotional read.

THE GIFT BY CECELIA AHERN
I'm quite a mood reader, but also a seasonal reader too, and so I had to have a winter read on this list. There are a number of books that I like to return to during the winter months, but one whose message has stayed with me ever since first reading is The Gift by Cecelia Ahern.

BOOK OF FAIRY TALES BY ANGELA CARTER
I love fairy tales, and whilst there are many compilations out there, Angela Carter's is definitely my favourite. The book is quite a hefty one, but she has taken a number of fairy tales from various parts of the world and compiled them by theme, presenting a wonderfully in depth and well thought out collection of fairy tales.

I CAPTURE THE CASTLE BY DODIE SMITH
I Capture the Castle was one of those book purchase whims, but the minute I delved in I was instantly in love with the story of Cassandra - it is such a whimsical tale.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK BY SUSAN HILL
If you're a regular reader of my blog then you'll know I bang on about The Woman in Black far too much, you're probably sick of hearing about it, but naturally it would feature on this list. The Woman in Black is a subtle but atmospheric ghost story, and a yearly reread for me, hence why it would need to come with me on a move.

ANYTHING BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH
Patricia Highsmith would be considered an author I recently discovered, but her work is renowned within the crime fiction genre. I've only read a handful of her books now, but her writing is amazing and I'd happily take any of her books with me... In fact it was hard to narrow it down to one.

What ten books would you pick?
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Sunday, 8 May 2016

BOUT OF BOOKS 16 | Sign Up!

Bout of Books
I've been seeing the sign up's for Bout of Books for a good few days now and was adamant that I'd be giving this bookish event a miss... And yet here I am signing up. One of my goals for the year is to take part in more bookish events, so why give one I was keen to take part in a miss? Makes no sense.

This will be my first time participating in Bout of Books, and so I'm keeping the event kind of low key for me with no specific goals or expectations. I'm just going to have fun with reading, maybe take part in some of the challenges, and hopefully meet some wonderful new to me bloggers.

If you're unfamiliar with Bout of Books then you can find the general gist of the event below.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

If you're taking part in Bout of Books be sure to share in the comments, so I can check out your posts, and I hope you have fun!!
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Saturday, 7 May 2016

POSTS FROM THE COMMUNITY | Six On A Saturday


The title says it all really... 'Posts From The Community' is simply where I share a number of posts that I've enjoyed from around the bookish community of late.
 
Outlandish Lit | How To Lead A More Whimsical Reading Life; or The Ballad of Tuesday John
I love this little bookshop anecdote shared by Julianne from Outlandish Lit. The story of Tuesday John, a man who reads a new recommended book each week, really gets you thinking about your own reading habits and choices. I don't think I'm quite brave enough to do as he does, but I have been inspired to read more spontaneously.
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Buckling Bookshelves | Reading Winnie-the-Pooh As An Adult
Like Christine, I didn't read Winnie-the-Pooh as child, and enjoyed hearing of her reading experience as an adult of the childhood classic. I've wanted to pick up the original stories for a while now, and it'll be fun to share them with my toddler son.
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Sometimes I'm A Story | I Am Not Big On Digital Copies
Heather has shared a really interesting viewpoint of digital copies - be it books, movies, whatever - and I totally agree with her way of thinking. I know minimalism is such a big thing right now, especially with how digital we have become, but personally I'm very much a physical belonging person - books, DVDs, photos, collections, etc.
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Between My Lines | Guest Post: My Top 10 Crime/Thriller Movies
I love the genre of crime/thrillers, in any format, so this guest post by author Catherine Ryan Howard on Trish's blog was an insightful look into the films loved by a fellow crime thriller lover.
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Nose Graze | 11 Books I'm Hoping To Find At BookExpo America 2016 (plus a floor plan!)
BEA is big business in the book blogging community, and whilst many of us can only sit here and have a glimpse at the beautiful books and connections made, others actually get to be there - lucky buggars! One such lucky person being Ashley of Nose Graze, who has shared the books she has her eye on as well as the handy dandy floor plan for the expo.
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You've gotta love fun quizzes like this - my character is the Cheshire Cat. What's yours?
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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

BOOK TALK | The Ties We Form With Stories

 
For us bookworms, reading is so much more than words on a page, it's an experience, an adventure, and we form ties and bonds with stories and characters. Today I'm going to be sharing about the book I have the strongest ties with, and why, as well as asking you what books you have strong connections with.
 
When speaking of ties with a book, immediately The Woman in Black by Susan Hill comes to mind. I guess it's kind of a funny choice of book - the book is a ghost story and in many ways quite simply written, but the way in which The Woman in Black came to be one of my favourite stories, holding much nostalgia for me, is an interesting one... At least I think, and so I thought I'd share it here.
 
It wasn't actually in word format that I first discovered The Woman in Black. In fact, I was fifteen years old and it was as a show in the West End. During my teenage years I attended a youth group that was specifically for young carers (young carers being children who aided in the caring of a disabled member within their household). We met once a week, but every few months we were taken out on excursions, one of which being a trip to the West End. Initially I wasn't actually going to go and see The Woman in Black, whilst I love ghost stories, I'm not so great when it comes to movies and things of that nature, but my older sister convinced me to go. I'm so happy I ended up going because the story acted out was beautifully done, well paced, atmospheric, and I have such fond memories of the outing.
 
Time passed, and although the theatre show had quite an impact on me, I kind of 'forgot' about it... That is until I stumbled upon the book in a bookshop. The day I purchased The Woman in Black, I devoured it within the one day. Everything fell in to place, all the dots connected, the story played before my eyes, and to this day The Woman in Black remains to be one of my most atmospheric reads.
 
That reading experience is one I remember vividly even now, and each time I return to the story (typically once a year) the experience feels just the same as the first.
 
My story doesn't end here however.
 
A good few years later, after hearing me bang on about just how amazing the theatre show was, my partner gifted me with a second trip to see the show in theatre. If anything, the second viewing was on a whole other level to the first, it was so wonderful and another treasured memory - largely because I got to share one of my favourite stories with my partner, but also because I feel like being older it was kind of like watching an entirely new performance.

If it wasn't for the theatre shows, I know I would not feel as connected to The Woman in Black as I do - my connection is largely based on nostalgia.

Now, ten years on from the very first exposure to the story, I still recommend The Woman in Black when people are looking for ghost stories and still reread the book on a regular basis. Not only that, but I'm a big fan of Susan Hill's ghost stories in general; I love the simplicity and subtlety in her writing.

I've shared my story, now I'd love to hear yours. What book do you feel a connection with, and why?
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Sunday, 1 May 2016

WHAT I READ | April

The last battle is the greatest of all battles.
During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge - not an invader from without but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear in this, the magnificent ending to The Chronicles of Narnia.
MY THOUGHTS
I enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia greatly, including the conclusion, however it wasn't my favourite of all the books from the series. If you'd like to read my full thoughts on the series you can find that here.
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Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates...
Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has the house been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret's own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield's spell?
MY THOUGHTS
I've been wanting to read The Thirteenth Tale for the longest time now, and it certainly didn't disappoint. I loved the general concept of the story, the entanglement of books and reading, the character building as well as the pacing, however I did only give The Thirteenth Tale four stars out of five. Initially I was going to give the book five stars - it's quite a chilling read at times and so well told - however the fact that there was vagueness to certain aspects marked that down to four. I came away with questions that I would have liked answers to.  
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Celestine North lives a perfect life. She's a model daughter and sister, she's well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she's dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.
But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.
MY THOUGHTS
When it comes to YA, particularly highly talked about YA, I tend to steer clear of it. For me, YA can be so hit or miss, especially when it comes to those of a dystopian nature, but Cecelia Ahern is an auto buy author for me so naturally I had to buy Flawed.
My favourite thing about Flawed was the society that Cecelia Ahern created - I don't want to go super in depth, but there is a lot of judgement within the society and a fair few rules and regulations. On top of that there is corruption within the society, especially from certain people in power, and the main protagonist is set to expose that.
Whilst dystopian fiction is a step away from Ahern's usual story telling, Flawed definitely has her stamp on it and I look forward to the follow on coming out next year.
Without saying too much, there is a particular graphic scene within Flawed that I would say perhaps not all within the YA target audience could / should read. It isn't something that is snuck in, the blurb does indeed allude to the potential of it, but it is well worth mentioning.
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Prison is no place for an innocent man.
Philip Carter has spent six years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. On his release, his beautiful wife is waiting for him. He has never had any reason to doubt her. Nor their friend, Sullivan. Carter has never been suspicious, or violent. But prison can change a man.
MY THOUGHTS
Patricia Highsmith is often highly talked about when it comes to authors of crime fiction, and for the longest time I didn't pick up her work, however in the past year alone I've read four of her books. Her writing style is quite simple and forthright, there isn't mystery as such but her books do tend to be suspenseful - something she is known for. What I personally enjoy about her writing style is 'the chase', the way in which she leads up to the eventual outcome, and that applies to all of hers books I've read.
The Glass Cell is told in two parts almost - Philip's time in prison, and then his adjustment outside of prison. The way in which his personality has altered from his time in prison is well written and lends to the entire story overall. I feel like as a reader we really got to know Philip, got in his head, and in a way, understand his motives for actions.
Another brilliant read from Highsmith.
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I think some small part of me knew I was living an unsustainable life. Every now and then, it would whisper, Sarah, please slow down. You don't need all this.
Sarah Nickerson has it all: the high-flying career, the loving family, the second home. But does she have time to enjoy it? Too busy to pay attention, can she see what's left neglected?
One fateful day, while driving to work, Sarah looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, her chaotic life comes to a screeching halt. In the wake of a devastating accident, it's time for her to choose: what does she really want?
MY THOUGHTS
Much like Highsmith's writing, Lisa Genova is a relatively new author discovery for me, despite her work being highly spoken of for quite some time. I started out with Still Alice, and fell in love with her emotive writing style.
I could be wrong on this, having only read two of her books now, but I feel like Lisa Genova has a formula of sorts. Inviting you in to a family, getting to know them and their life, just as something life changing is about to happen for said family. I could be wrong on that, and if you've read more of her books, feel free to correct me. I have no issue with formulaic writing, and will be continuing to explore Genova's work.
One thing I noticed with my reading experience is that at the end of it all, I compared my experience to that of Still Alice, and that may be why I rated Left Neglected as four stars, not five. It also might not be the reason at all. It's interesting because I feel like none of Lisa Genova's other books will live up to Still Alice, however if I hadn't read that one first perhaps it would be a whole other story.
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All five books I read this month received four stars, however for quite different reasons. My favourite read of the month, and the one that has stayed in my thoughts the most, is Flawed by Cecelia Ahern.
What did you read in April?
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