My Top 5 Books Of 2021!

Hi everyone!

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas, if you celebrate, and are staying safe and well through another hard year.  Personally, I have found even more joy in reading this year than in previous years as (I think we can all agree) the need for escapism has been stronger than ever given the state of the world! I’m pleased to say that I have had an exceptional reading year in terms of quality with my average rating being over 4 stars!  As I write this I have read 22 books of my goal of 20, which is admittedly a few less than last year but the quality of the reading material more than makes up for that, and it’s not all about the numbers anyway! Anyone who loves reading knows the joy of looking over the books they’ve read at the end of a year and remembering all the fun they had reading them. So I thought I would share my top 5 books that I’ve read this year in case anyone needs any inspiration for what to pick up next year!  It has been a challenge to narrow it down to just 5, as always, but here they are! I hope you enjoy!

5. Mrs England – Stacey Halls

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 4.75 Stars

My top 5 books of 2020 post from last year featured two of Stacey Halls’ novels and I stated that I would buy and be eager to read anything else that she published in the future.  Well, thankfully I didn’t have to wait long as in 2021 Stacey released her third novel, Mrs England.  This story follows Ruby, a children’s nurse, who moves from London to Yorkshire to be employed by the England family.  The England’s are a wealthy family who own a mill and Ruby is there to care for their 4 children.  However, all is not normal inside the house with the enigmatic Mr England taking charge in making all household decisions and those to do with the children, an uncommon practice for the time.   Mrs England is seemingly reclusive, staying in her room most of the day, saying little when she does emerge and taking unusually long baths.  Ruby struggles to settle in with the other household employees and soon feels isolated despite quickly building a relationship and a rapport with the children.  As the novel progresses we soon uncover more and more secrets both about the Englands and their odd ways and Ruby’s own complicated history.  There is drama, there is atmosphere, there is mystery; what else could you ask for!  The characters in this novel are all well rounded with complex and realistic personalities and each with an interesting story to tell.  This adds so much to the atmosphere of the novel which is totally enthralling and immersive.  Stacey Halls hits the mark perfectly again in regards to the historical detail included and the believability of the setting and story.  Another triumph of a novel that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys or has an interest in historical fiction.  Stacey has well and truly cemented herself as one of my favourite authors!

4. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Genre: Adult Mystery Fiction

Rating: 4.75 Stars

Okay so I know I am seriously late to the party with this one! I had been meaning to read this book for years but just never got round to picking it up, however, when one of my neighbours put a box of books in our stairwell for anyone to take from I spotted this little gem lurking at the bottom and had to pick it! This is the second Liane Moriarty book I have read, the first being Nine Perfect Strangers, and the second one I have thoroughly enjoyed!  Big Little Lies follows three women whose children have all started at the same pre-school.  Jane is a young mum who has just moved to the area with her son Ziggy, hoping for a fresh start.  Madeline is a mum of three with an appetite for drama and gossip who already belongs to the cliquey group of mums at Pirriwee school.  And Celeste is the endlessly beautiful but sometimes vacant mum of boisterous twins.  The story begins with a tragic event happening at one of the school’s annual fundraiser events and then goes back to the beginning of the school year, slowly piecing together what happened in the lead up to the tragedy happening.  One of the main selling points of this novel, besides the mystery of course, are the many relationships that we get to dive into.  There are parents, step parents, husbands and wives, ex husbands and wives, wives of the ex husbands and many more and each is explored in depth highlighting the highs and the lows of each.  Every character is real and believable, almost recognisable to people you may know in real life and the setting is so seemingly mundane and normal that the excitement and intensity of the mystery is almost greater.  This book had me gripped from the start and I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives which really kept you guessing as to who could be responsible for the ‘incident’ at the school event.  If you are looking for a suburban mystery to truly get invested in then look no further than this one, you won’t be disappointed! Now, I must watch the TV series!

3. Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes

Genre: Adult Contemporary/Romance

Rating: 4.75 Stars

Evvie Drake starts over was the first contemporary romance novel I read this year and the first time I had read anything by Linda Holmes!  As can be gathered from my full review of the book – which you can read here, I loved it!  I tend to read a lot of contemporary and I usually really enjoy it but Evvie Drake Starts Over was just pure joy for me from start to finish.  I loved the characters, I loved the friendships and I loved the slow burning romance.  The setting of a small town in Maine provided the perfect backdrop for a romance novel and the descriptions of the town made me want to visit Maine and sit in a cosy cafe with a warm drink!  The main character of Evvie was charming and relatable and I instantly found myself rooting for her in every aspect of her life as she tried to move on (and convince others to move on) following the death of her husband.  Evvie’s lodger Dean, has come into town to get away from everything in his normal life following the collapse of his career as a baseball star and soon finds himself becoming more and more involved in small town life, and in Evvie’s life.  As the two navigate their problems together, after promising not to ask each other about them, a bond grows between the pair and their promise gets complicated.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a sweet and heartwarming contemporary with deeper themes running throughout or anyone who wants to experience sheer joy because that is what this book was! I have recently found out that Linda Holmes is releasing another novel, set in the same town, in 2022 so I cannot wait to get my hands on that one!

2. Crazy Rich Asians (The trilogy) – Kevin Kwan

Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4.75-5 Stars

It is very rare that I read more than one book from a series in one year (I’m more of a standalone kinda girl what can I say) and even more rare that I read a complete series within a year but let me tell you I could not get through these books quick enough!  Kevin Kwan has an unimaginable knack for drawing you into the lives, loves and dramas of every single character he writes about.  The Crazy Rich Asians trilogy starts with the story of Nick Young and his girlfriend Rachel as they travel back to his native Singapore to attend the wedding of his childhood best friend and introduce Rachel to his family.  Let’s just say things do not go as smoothly as planned. Instead Rachel is thrust into the drama of Nick’s crazy rich family and the world they exist in which is full of luxury, tradition, rules and bitchiness.  The drama of the plot continues in every installment of the trilogy with each following a different time in their lives and adding more new and interesting characters to the mix. There is no character that is uninteresting or serves no purpose, each has a storyline and a fortune to explore.  One of the key characteristics of Kevin Kwan’s writing style is the immense detail be adds, describing each outfit, room and meal in decadent detail which totally immerses you and allows your imagination to run wild.  The descriptions of almost every dish had my mouth watering and the detail of each outfit had me googling to picture it just right.  After finishing each novel I could not wait to get my hands on the next one and my only complaint about the series would be that I want more, three books is simply not enough!  It has been years since a series has gripped me in this way and it was heavenly, especially during this trying year, to spend some time feeling like I was involved in the lives of Asia’s elite.  I cannot recommend this series or this author highly enough, I am simply addicted.  As a side note, the movie Crazy Rich Asians (although slightly different to the book) is also amazing and a must watch!

1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 Stars

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a historical fiction novel that follows a young journalist as she gets the exclusive job of documenting the life of reclusive Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo.  The book takes us through Evelyn’s life, as she tells it, with the story being categorised by each of her seven husbands.  Before I had read this book I had heard reviewers say that you forget that Evelyn isn’t a real person and that is so true, at several points throughout the novel I found myself wanting to google Evelyn or look up her films to watch and then realising she’s a fictional character, and that is the power of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing.  This is one of those books where I don’t want to talk too much about the plot as the pleasure of reading it and finding everything out for yourself is such a special experience.  However, I will say that what initially appears to be a classic tale of an old Hollywood starlet and their luxurious life turns out to one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking and evocative stories I have ever read.  With themes of domestic violence, body image and LGBTQIA+ relationships there is never a dull moment.  Add to this the mystery of why Evelyn is deciding to tell her story at this moment after years of silence and why she is telling it to this particular young journalist and you’ve got a winner.  This is a book, a story and a character who will stay with you long after the page is turned and it deserves every comment of praise and appreciation it gets.  Believe the hype on this one, it is well and truly worth it! 

So those are my top 5 books of 2021! I really hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books and what your top 5 books of the year were! Fingers crossed for an equally amazing reading year in 2022!

See you next time,

Shannon 🙂

Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes Review

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Genre: Rom-Com/Romance 

Pages: 289

Hi Everyone!  Welcome back for another review!  Let me start by saying that I don’t intend on reviewing every book I read this year (I don’t think), it just so happens that the first two books I’ve read this year have been very good and I’ve had a lot of thoughts to share!  Evvie Drake Starts Over marks my first rom-com type book of the year and boy was it a great start!  I can only hope that the rest of my reading year goes as well! So, let’s get into it!

Evvie Drake starts over is a rom-com novel that follows Evvie, a semi-recluse after losing her husband a year ago.  Everyone in her small town assumes Evvie doesn’t go out much because she is still grieving, including her own dad and best friend, little do they know it’s because of the guilt she feels over not grieving.  Dean Tenney is a star baseball pitcher who suddenly lost his ability to pitch.  Seeking shelter from the relentless negative press, Dean moves to Evvie’s small town and into the apartment at the back of her house.  As they become friends they decide to lay some ground rules; he doesn’t ask about her husband and she doesn’t ask about baseball.  However, as they begin to know each other the rules begin to get complicated and possibly in the way of moving on for both of them.

The plot of the novel was perfectly timed, there were no slow parts and the exciting little moments between the two main characters were perfectly spaced so it was never too much and I was always anticipating the next little encounter.  As fluffy and fun as the plot of this novel was (a trademark of any good rom-com), I really enjoyed the deeper and more serious plot points such as Evvie coming to terms with the reality of the nature of her late husband and Dean confronting his demons regarding his lost dreams and the loss of his career.  The fact that the characters had these individual struggles to overcome made the story all the more interesting and real and elevated it to more than that of a typical rom-com.  I also enjoyed that the plot was broken up into seasons as it made the timeline easy to follow.  The romance was perfectly written, with a slow build-up and sweet little moments that had me grinning like an idiot on the train to work.  All the major turning points of the plot and particularly the romance were written with such relatable emotion that it would be impossible not the be hooked, at several times I was so engrossed that I didn’t want to stop reading when I had to and now that I’m finished it I’m tempted to start it again straight away!

Evvie was a great main character, she was relatable and strong and kind and the type of person everyone should have in their life.  Her character was written so believably and I really felt like I went through all the emotions of her grief, her shame, her falling in love and her joy in her new life.  I loved reading about her journey and her exploring her own version of being a widow, it felt like watching a friend become their best self again after a rough patch.  I am not someone who knows anything about baseball so it was interesting to learn a little bit through the character of Dean.  I really enjoyed Dean’s character, I loved that he was so accepting of Evvie and her situation straight off the bat (mind the baseball pun) and was so kind and gentle with her.  Similarly, it was great to see him confront his fears over his lost career and come out the other side a better person.  The relationship between the two main characters was excellently written, and I loved that it depicted a real adult relationship in that it wasn’t perfect, they had arguments and misunderstandings but they didn’t let them grow into a big deal, they calmed down, talked about it, apologised and moved on.  Another relationship that I really enjoyed was that between Evvie and her best friend Andy, it was so refreshing to read about a male/female friendship where there was no romantic history and no hidden feelings.  I loved how supportive they had both been throughout the hard times in each other’s lives and my only gripe about the whole book was the change in their relationship, although I completely understand and agree that it was depicted accurately in relation to the changes in their lives.

One of the highlights of the book for me was the dialogue.  The dialogue between all of the characters was so realistic of how you would speak to your friends or someone you were speaking with on a romantic level and it only made me love the characters even more.  The speech from all the characters was witty and funny and completely believable and is a testament to the author’s writing ability.  The whole novel played like a film in my head, and I think it would make an amazing movie, so let’s hope hollywood gets the memo soon!

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars!

3 Word Review: Heart-warming, Joyful, Emotional

Thank you for reading and I’d love to know your thoughts on this book or any rom-com recommendations you may have! 

See you next time!

Shannon 🙂

Black Roses – Jane Thynne Review

Black Roses (Clara Vine 1): Amazon.co.uk: Thynne, Jane: 9781849839853: Books

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 468

Hi everyone! Welcome to my first book review of the year!  I have officially finished my first book of the year (even though I started this one back in December) and it has got my reading year off to a great start!  Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and I tend to read a lot of it so I am sure this won’t be the only review of one you’ll see from me this year!  So let’s get into the review (don’t worry there are no spoilers!).

Black Roses by Jane Thynne is a historical fiction novel set in 1933 Berlin, as Hitler enforces his regime and life is rapidly changing for those in the city.  The plot follows Clara Vine, a young British actress as she moves to Berlin to further her acting career and secure a part in an upcoming film.  Before long Clara finds herself rubbing shoulders with the wives of the Nazi elite, most notably Magda Goebbels.  And then she meets Leo Quinn, a British intelligence agent working undercover in Berlin and she soon finds herself swept up in spying on her new acquaintances and reporting back to Leo.  As the plot progresses Clara begins to understand just how dangerous her new life is as the balance of trusting and being trusted becomes more and more precarious.  Overall, I found the plot to be exciting and interesting, with a few unexpected twists along the way!  The novel begins with a bang, describing a dramatic event that occurs later on in the plot, however from here the first half of the novel can feel a tiny bit slow at points but as this is the first book in a series this is just due to the author setting the scene and introducing the setting.  The second half of the novel speeds up significantly and the characters really come into their own, driving the plot through the dramatic events and building suspense for the ending.  The ending is well thought out and intriguing, encouraging the reader to continue on with the series, which I definitely will be!

As for the characters, Clara Vine, our heroine is extremely well written and rounded, and its great to see her grow and change throughout the novel is such a realistic way.  Clara is everything a good heroine should be, she is relatable despite the situations she finds herself in, she is determined and self assured but still has moments where she really questions her decisions and I really love how passionate she is about facing her fears to stand up for what she believes in.  Leo Quinn is a great character, he is serious and intellectual but also more emotional than he first lets on and the slow process of getting to know him just adds to the joy of the read.  The romance between these characters is lovely to read and a welcome break from some of the darker elements of the plot but I love that it doesn’t become the main storyline.  I hope that we will see more of them together in the next book.  The Nazi wives play a large part in the plot and each is written with great detail, giving a perfect snapshot of the kind of women they were and the part they played in enforcing Hitler’s regime.  Seeing things from the point of view of the wives and girlfriends was such a unique perspective, and as someone who has read a decent amount of historical fiction I found it immensely interesting.

The highlights of this novel were really watching the main characters develop, the unique experience of reading about things from the perspective of the Nazi wives and also the setting of 1933 Berlin pre war.  It was so eye opening to read about how life slowly but surely changed for the residents of Berlin and how swept up most people became in Hitler’s ideas and bought into his plans for Germany.  It was so refreshing to read about this topic before the war actually started and was actually a first experience for me!  I am so looking forward to continuing with the series at some point! 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars!

3 word review: Atmospheric, immersive, exciting

Thank you so much for reading and I’d love to know your thoughts if you have read this book or any historical fiction recommendations you may have!  

See you soon,

Shannon 🙂

My Top 5 Books Of 2020!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about books, or written anything at all for that matter, and I have missed it.  So I have decided to make a comeback with the top 5 books I read in 2020! This year has been a trying and difficult year for us all but one positive I can take from it is that I have had quite a succesful reading year! As it stands, I have read 26 books of my goal of 25 with a good mix of my favourite genres, ones I rarely or never read and some non-fiction making up the numbers! This year has been a good reading year for me in terms of quality as well as quantity so picking my 5 favourites has been tricky, but without further ado here they are!

5.  Kirsty’s Great Idea (Babysitters club #1) – Ann M. Martin

Genre: Childrens

Rating: 4.5 stars

I think I’ve talked before about how I love a good reread of a book I’ve previously enjoyed, and this year brought me an unforeseen but welcome one!  My younger cousin loves to read so for Christmas I always get her a book, this year when thinking of which book to get her I was reminded of the Babysitters Club series which I had been given by my older cousins and loved when I was younger.  Once I had bought the book I decided to read it again and leave little notes in it for my cousin so that it would feel like we were reading it together.  I thoroughly enjoyed this blast from the past!  The characters were well rounded, there was diversity and important discussion about family relationships and how families can differ and, of course, a strong sense of friendship and fun.  I hope that my cousin enjoys this book as much as I did and that we can continue on with the series together!

4. Good Friday – Lynda la Plante

Genre: Adult Detective/Mystery

Rating: 4.5 Stars

A couple of years ago my friend gave me my first Lynda La Plante novel, Murder Mile, as part of my birthday present.  As soon as I started it, I was hooked.  Since then I have read a couple more of the Jane Tennison detective novels (not in order) and this was the one that I read this year!  The Jane Tennison series follows Jane, a female police officer in the Met, as she progresses through her career, rising through the ranks and solving crimes.  The series takes place in the 70s/80s in London and also offers a look at the kind of real life crimes taking place at that time.  Good Friday focuses on terror crimes being undertaken by the IRA at the time and is a suspenseful and addictive read.  The way Lynda La Plante writes just draws you in and completely immerses you in the mystery of the story.  This also extends to her main character Jane, who you really root for in every individual book and across the whole series, willing her to overcome the issues surrounding sexism in the police and rise through the ranks as she duly deserves.  The appearance of familiar characters throughout the series is a nice link between the books, although I wouldn’t say the series has to be read in order.  If you’re in the market for an addictive, exciting detective series then I can recommend none better than the Tennison series by Lynda La Plante.  I’m looking forward to continuing my love affair with it this year by going back to the very first book!

3. The Familiars – Stacey Halls

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

Rating: 4.75 stars

The Familiars is the debut historical fiction novel by Stacey Halls.  For me, this book was one that as soon as I heard the synopsis I knew that I would love it.  The story is set in 1600s Lancashire and follows the young mistress of a large home currently pregnant for the fourth time after three previous miscarriages.  Fleetwood is desperate to provide her husband with an heir and to finally carry a baby full term.  To help her through the pregnancy she employs the services of a local girl, Alice who becomes her companion and saviour whilst guiding her through the pregnancy.  However, Alice is soon drawn into accusations of witchcraft, which are rife in the area, and arrested therefore causing Fleetwood to go to any length to clear her name and have her back for the birth of the baby.  The historical accuracy and believability of this novel is a testament to the enormous amount of research the author must have done in order to write such a compelling novel.  This is further justified when you learn that Fleetwood was a real person and Gawthorpe, the house in which the story is set, a real house.  This story is thrilling and sad and a lovely look at female friendships and loyalties.  After reading this book alone I can say with confidence that I will be picking up everything that Stacey Halls writes from now on! 

2.  Cilka’s Journey – Heather Morris

Genre: Adult Historical

Rating: 5 stars!

Cilka’s Journey is the follow up book to the super popular Tattooist of Auschwitz.  I read the Tattooist of Auschwitz a couple of years ago and was blown away by it.  Cilka’s journey follows Cilka, a young prisoner at Auschwitz as she is singled out for her beauty and brutally used by one of the camp’s commandants.  She is given the horrendous job of manning the hut where prisoners spend their last night before being taken to be executed.  Although in a position where she gets additional rations and other tiny perks Cilka faces magnificent hardship, even seeing her own mother come through her hut and being taken away.  However, Cilka only ever uses her position for good, sharing out extra food and trying to comfort those aware enough to know where they are headed.  In an agonising, cruel turn of fate Cilka is charged by the Russians when Auschwitz is liberated and spends another portion of her life in a siberian prison camp.  Cilka again overcomes hardship and works her way to becoming a nurse and caring for the camp’s sick.  Knowing that Cilka was a real woman and that this horrifying story was real makes the novel undeniably moving but incredibly inspiring. I would recommend that everyone reads both of these books as they are stories that need to be told.

  1. The Foundling – Stacey Halls

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 stars

Following on from reading The Familiars, I could not wait to get my hands on Stacey Halls’ newest novel, and I was not disappointed.  The Foundling is set in 1700s London and follows Bess Bright, a woman who had to give up her only daughter due to poverty.  Bess saves for years to get her daughter back, but when she goes to collect her she is told that she has already claimed her daughter.  The story follows Bess as she tries desperately to track down her daughter, with much more along the way.  There are many other facets to the plot of this brilliant novel but I feel that it’s best to let you discover that for yourselves. What I will say is that this novel is a beautiful portrait of a mothers love and the lengths a woman will go to in order to protect her child.  The descriptions in this novel as so incredible that you feel like you’re there in the story and give you such a bond with the characters that you’re fully invested. I honestly cannot recommend Stacey Halls highly enough and cannot wait to see what she publishes in the future!

So there you have it, my top five books read in 2020.  I hope you enjoyed this post and I’d love to know what your top five books were! Here’s to a good reading year in 2021!

See you soon!

Shannon 🙂

Right Book, Right Time

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Hi everyone! Happy Spring! I hope you’re all having a great year so far and that the weather is finally starting to get warmer where you are (it’s still freezing in Scotland!). Last week I finished reading a book and it occurred to me that perhaps if I had read that book at a different time then I may not have enjoyed it as much as I did. So this post is going to be a kind of discussion of that mixed with a relaxed review of the book, so let’s see how this works!

The book in question is On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. I love Carrie and have reviewed her non-fiction book All I Know Now on this blog previously. I watch her videos on youtube and am even lucky enough to be going to see her perform as Wednesday in The Addams Family Musical next month with my best friend so I was very excited when I heard that she was writing a fiction novel. On the Other Side is a story about a woman called Evie who has passed away in old age and has found herself unable to get into her own heaven without first ridding her soul of three secrets she kept her whole life. The story has elements of magical realism which were subtly done apart from one. In order to avoid spoilers for those of you who may want to read the book I won’t say which part it was but the instance seemed, to me, a bit out of tune with the rest of the magical realism system used and therefore it came across as a tad far-fetched. However, that being said I very much enjoyed the other touches of magic in the book, something that usually I may have found a bit distracting as I tend to enjoy more realistic stories.

The characters in the novel were written excellently, each with flaws and quirks that made them very real and easy to warm to. Evie was a great heroine, kind and unafraid to be herself while also putting the needs of others before her own desires. A shared trait between most of the characters was that they were sweet, again something which may have irritated me slightly in other novels or even if I’d just been reading this at a different time.

This is why I think it is so important to read what you feel like you really want to read instead of what you feel others think you should read or forcing yourself to read your TBR in a pre-set order. Reading and books are to be enjoyed and to enjoy them to their full potential we must read them when we feel the time is right and when we’re in the right head space for them. Do you feel like you want to pick up a book set at Christmas time in the middle of June? Do it! Do you feel like you want to read a fluffy contemporary instead of that non-fiction that’s been sitting on your shelf for months? Do it. Read what makes you happy when it makes you happy.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that maybe it made you pick up something to read that will make you happy like On the Other Side made me happy! Leave your comments below to tell me what you think!

See you soon,

Shannon 🙂

Goals for 2017

Hi everyone, Happy New Year! I hope that you’re doing well and that 2017 is going smoothly so far! As I’m sure you all know, at the beginning of every year many people like to make resolutions for the year ahead to try and improve certain elements of their lives. Personally, I feel like resolutions is quite a strong word that implies that the things you’re going to work on were wrong or bad and that if you don’t ‘fix’ them they’ll stay wrong or bad which seems like quite a negative and strict ideology to place yourself under. However, like most people, I do want to improve myself and certain aspects of my life over the next year so I have set myself some goals to aim towards, and if I reach them that’s great and if I kinda reach them but not quite then it’s great that I tried! So without any further rambling here are my goals for 2017!

1. Read 10 Books

Every year for the past few years I have set myself a reading goal on Goodreads. I love the process of tracking the books I’ve read and seeing how many pages I’ve done and my average rating at the end of the year. However, last year and the year before I didn’t quite manage to reach my goals, in 2015 it was 50 books and 20 in 2016, and it left me feeling a bit deflated. Therefore this year I have set myself a target that I know I will manage to reach (I’m already one down!) and probably surpass so at the end of the year I can feel a little more accomplished in the reading department. I’m also feeling really excited about the books I’d like to read this year so here’s hoping they’ll be great!

2. Write More

I love to write. I particularly like to write about books on this blog and general goings on in my diary. Both of these came to a bit of a halt last year as I found myself really busy with University and all of the things that come with that, studying and an amazing group of friends (old and new) that I love hanging out with. In the last month or two I’ve begun to write again, and read again, and I’ve been reminded how much I love being able to look back at what I was reading or what I was feeling and also how much it clears and calms your mind. So I’d love to post more regularly here and write more regularly in my diary this year so that next year I can look over everything I’ve done and be able to set new goals!

3. Say Yes More . . .

I’m the kind of person that worries a lot, mainly about tiny things that don’t need to be worried about, it’s how I’ve always been. Unfortunately, because of these worries I tend to say no to opportunities or experiences that may have been amazing because I’m scared or worried about them and I think it’s not worth the hassle. For example, I almost said no to coming to Edinburgh (my dream city!) for university because I was too worried. Thankfully I came to my senses and moved but the moral of the story is that it was the best decision I’ve ever made! So this year I want to say yes to volunteering opportunities that might be useful in my career, I want to say yes to nights out even though I can’t really be bothered and I want to say yes to getting out of my comfort zone. Who knows where it’ll lead!

4. Get Up Earlier

If I’m being totally honest when I don’t have to be up for University I rarely get up before 12pm. That’s not to say that I sleep until then, I usually wake up naturally around 9.30am but I can spend a whole lot of time just staring at my phone browsing various social media apps, then when I do get up I feel like I’ve wasted half of the day and get a bit grumpy. So it’s time to break out of this pattern and get up and be productive, even if being productive just means reading my book or going into town to look at the shops its better than lying in bed! So here’s hoping that 2017 Shannon will find the willpower to get up earlier more regularly and see how much she can achieve!

5. Meditate

In the past few years the idea of mindfulness and meditation has become increasingly popular, and for good reason! Just ten minutes of meditation a day can do so much good to both your mind and your body. I’ve tried meditation before but never really stuck to it, however I’ve read up on it and discovered that doing it in the morning works best for me so I’m giving it another go in the hopes of finding a calmer and more creative mind, I’ll let you know how it goes!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed hearing about a few of my goals for 2017 and I’d love to know what yours are, feel free to share!

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Until next time,

Shannon 🙂

Top 5 Books Of 2016

Hi everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the festive season whether you celebrate or not and that you’re looking forward to 2017! At the beginning of this year I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge at 20 books thinking that this was a low number that I’d easily achieve as the year before I had read almost double this, however the truth is that it is much harder to find the time to read when you’re at University, at least it is in my experience. Not only do you always have something that you should be working on but in my case you live with friends and therefore there are long evening conversations, TV show marathons and Taylor Swift singalongs that fill the time that I’d previously spend reading. That being said, I did not reach my reading goal this year. It is 4 days until the end of the year and I’ve read 15 books, but I’ve made my peace with it and ultimately it’s not the end of the world. So many of the books that I read this year were amazing and I really wanted to share that on this blog so without further ado here are my top 5 favourite books that I read in 2016!

5 – Forgive Me Leonard Peacock By Matthew Quick

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Genre: YA Fiction

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock is a great young adult novel that features important issues such as suicide. This was the second book that I read in the year and it has stuck with me for the rest of 2016 due to the haunting writing style and the emotions that it caused me to feel towards the main character Leonard. I feel that this novel tells a very important story while also remaining thrilling and readable and therefore it has made it to my favourite reads list! If you’d like to know more about this book I’ve written a full review here.

 

4 – You Before Me By Jojo Moyes

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Genre: Adult Fiction/Romance

I’m sure that many of you are aware of or have read this novel or maybe you’ve seen the movie (I haven’t yet!) but in case some of you haven’t I’ll tell you about it anyway! The best way that I can describe the contents of this book is that it is a rollercoaster of emotions, as in I shed tears of happiness and sadness more than once while reading! It focuses on Louisa Clark, a quirky young woman as she loses her job and finds a new one, deals with family stresses at home and supports her boyfriend Patrick. However, this story is so much more than just another romance novel featuring a cardboard cut-out female character; the characters and relationships are so real and well-written that it’s impossible not to have real emotions towards them. It is engaging and funny while also managing to break your heart, in short I highly recommend Me Before You, it’d be a great start to your 2017 reading!

 

3 – Code Name Verity By Elizabeth Wein

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Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Code Name Verity is a historical fiction novel set during World War 2 and follows two girls and their contributions to the war effort. I cannot even tell you how much this book blew my mind, the writing is incredible and the plot is so fantastically twisty that you just lose yourself completely. The strange thing about my love for this book is that it needed two attempts to grow, earlier on in the year I had tried to begin reading this book but I just could not get into it, to the point where I thought I would never attempt to read it again. However, I kept it around and when I had nothing else to read I picked it up again and totally fell in love with it which just proves that sometimes you need to give books a second chance. This novel is interesting as it focuses on two young women who are employed by the military which not only helps to shine light on the fact that women were essential to the war effort in more roles than just looking after the children at home but also provides an exciting and elusive perspective to read about. The pace of the novel starts off quite slow but increasingly picks up throughout the novel which builds anticipation and interest. Of all of the young adult historical fiction I’ve read this is without a doubt one of the best, one of those books that I just want to shove at people and shout “Read this please!!”.

 

2 – The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Just in case you hadn’t guessed, I think it’s fair to say that I love historical fiction! I just feel that there are so many amazing books in this genre that don’t get the attention and praise that they deserve, also history is so interesting! The Nightingale is set in France during World War 2 and follows two sisters and their different experiences and approaches to the war. I can honestly say that this is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve ever read, everything from the descriptions of the houses to the food was gorgeous but the relationships featured in the story take the crown for the most beautiful aspect. Whether it is a friendship, a romantic relationship or that between a mother and daughter Kristin Hannah writes it perfectly. Due to the time period of the novel there are a lot of events that cause the reader to feel a wide spectrum of emotions giving the book a very realistic tone. I cannot think of enough good things to write that would do this novel justice, purely a stunning read.

 

1 – A Man Called Ove By Fredrik Backman

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Genre: Adult Fiction

A man called Ove is a fiction novel set in Sweden following an elderly gentleman named Ove and his experiences with his new neighbours. If you’re looking for a heart-warming novel full of warm and real characters then this is a story for you. This book gave me such a warm feeling in my chest while I was reading it (and when I remember reading it) but that’s not to say that this is a sugary sweet read because it certainly is not. There are sad moments in the novel that are so real and relatable that you feel as though the story could be set in your very own neighbourhood. As with all of the books on this list I cannot recommend it enough and I’m so excited to hopefully read more from this author soon! If you’d like to read more about this novel I have a full review here.

 

Phew that was a long post! I really hope that you enjoyed it and that you’ll want to check out some of these amazing books! Please feel free to comment your favourite books of the year, I’d love to hear them!

Until next time,

Shannon 🙂

A Man Called Ove Book Review

 

 

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Published by: Washington Square Press

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 337

Hi everyone! I hope that you’re all well and that at least some of you are still interested in reading this blog! So, last night I finished an amazing book, so amazing in fact that it inspired me start writing about books again! Over the past few weeks I’ve read this book on the bus on the way into uni while the sun is rising over Edinburgh (It’s beautiful, trust me!) and before I go to sleep and I can honestly say that every page induced so many emotions, it was a rollercoaster for sure! The book that I’m talking about is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. It is a heart-warming tale of an elderly Swedish man named Ove and I can honestly say that it is without a doubt going straight into my all-time favourites!

There are so many elements of this novel that are exceptional but the one that stood out to me the most was the characters. Every single character in this book is so realistic with good and bad qualities; there are no cardboard cut-out characters in this book! Of course we have to talk about Ove, the main character, on first appearances he is a stereotypical grumpy old man who harasses his neighbours about driving in their residential area and is stuck in his ways but as the novel progresses we discover that he is so much more complex than this. It could be said that the reason that Ove is such an endearing character is that he is certain to remind us of someone in our own lives, he certainly reminded me of my own Grandad in more than one way! The hidden qualities to Ove’s character are revealed through his relationships with those around him, namely his neighbours. One neighbour who has a particular impact on Ove is Parvaneh, a pregnant Iranian woman who brings out all aspects of Ove. The whole cast of characters in this novel have a fantastic range of diversity, featuring characters of differing nationalities, sexualities and body-shapes which I think we can all agree is how all books should be!

The writing style of Fredrik Backman is exceptionally warm, with the words somehow managing to give you the comforting feeling of being at home while also inspiring a whole range of emotions with the turn of every page. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this book had me laughing out loud and crying in the same chapter such is the beauty of the authors writing. Similarly to the creation of his characters, the settings and situations in the novel are so realistic and reminiscent of so many suburban lives that it is bound to provide something that every reader can relate to. I would encourage everyone to pick this fantastic novel up and give it a read as I really believe that we can all learn from the love, kindness and light it holds within its pages.

I hope that you all enjoyed this book review and that it won’t be long until I am posting here again. Thanks for visiting and have a great day!

 

Shannon 🙂

Summary

Rating: 5/5

Recommend? YES

 

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick Book Review

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Published by: Headline

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Pages: 273

Hi everyone! Today I’m back with my first book review of 2016, how exciting! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year and are looking forward to all of the good times this year is sure to bring. This book is one that I received as a gift for Christmas (I gave my mum a huge list of books I’d like so that she could pick a few and it would still be a surprise for me on Christmas day) and I was so excited to read it, and I’m really glad I did. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is one of those YA books that I feel are just so important. It contains themes of suicide, mental health, sexual assault and parental neglect but these issues are dealt with in an appropriate and sensitive way by the author, and I commend him for this.

The main character, Leonard Peacock, was well-written and interesting. He was a teenage boy with mental health issues but also so much more than that (as all people who suffer from mental issues are) which is another accomplishment of Matthew Quick’s writing as many authors tend to zoom in so far on these traits that their character ends up having no other qualities. Leonard is in a seemingly hopeless situation and portrays himself as having no hope but throughout the novel we repeatedly see this ever-present fragment of hope in his actions, that someone will stop him from committing suicide or even just wish him a happy birthday and this characteristic is one of the things that made me love Leonard. My favourite character in the novel is Walt, Leonard’s next door neighbour who is obsessed with Humphrey Bogart movies and smokes like a chimney. Walt is one of the only people who seem to really care for Leonard and he’s just such a sweet old man that you’d be strange not to love him. Besides this, the relationship between Walt and Leonard is one of the only things keeping them both alive; they are kindred spirits despite their difference in age. Then there is Herr Silverman, Leonard’s holocaust class teacher, one of the most well-written and caring teachers that I’ve ever read in YA. Herr Silverman’s character is one that will resonate with anyone that reads this novel, we all have that one teacher that went the extra mile and changed our lives for the better, and it warmed my heart that this character represented all of those wonderful teachers so well.

The plot of this novel is fast paced and exciting with everything leading up to the murder-suicide that Leonard has planned to carry out on his 18th birthday but despite the fast pace you don’t feel that anything has been missed out. The plot is well thought-out and an emotional rollercoaster – you may need tissues and a cup of tea to help with both happy and sad tears. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book; however, I did feel that the ending could have had more detail and information as we are so emotionally invested in the storyline but apart from that, an excellent and important read for fans of YA fiction.

Hope you enjoyed!

Until next time,

Shannon x

Rating: 4/5

Recommend? YES

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The Real Neat Blog Award

Hi Everyone! Here I am with the first of my catch-up book tags! I was nominated for this award way back when by the very lovely Audrey @ ForwardsAndBookwords, thank you Audrey! I am still so humbled and excited when I get tagged to write anything! Now let’s get on with it, shall we?

The rules of this award are:

1. Thank and link the blogger who nominated you.

2. Answer the seven questions your nominator provided.

3. Nominate seven other bloggers.

4. Create seven questions for your nominees.

Audrey’s Questions for me are:

  • What author would you most like to have as a best friend? 
  • I have to go with the clichéd answer of J.K Rowling; not only does she seem up for talking about Harry Potter at pretty much any time but she is super knowledgeable and full of wisdom which I think would make her a very compassionate best friend and someone you could really learn from.

 

  • What’s the biggest goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?  
  • The biggest goal that I would like to achieve in my lifetime is to be truly happy and fulfilled and to make as many other people as possible feel this way too. I feel that in the materialistic world that we live in happiness is underrated and often overlooked but what is better than making others happy and being happy in the process? For me, nothing.

 

  • Would you rather be the published author of an incredibly successful book or be best friends with all of your favourite authors of incredibly successful books? 
  • This is a tough one but I think I’d rather be an author. It was always a dream of mine when I was little to write and publish my own novel someday and I was always starting novels that never got finished so it would be amazing if one day I had an idea good enough to write a whole novel on! Also my best friend Eilidh @ Turning The Faucet On is going to be an incredibly successful author one day, it’s inevitable, so if I were to be an author too I’d have the best of both worlds!

 

  • Do you prefer paperbacks or hardbacks? 
  • Ooh another tough one! I love those really floppy paperbacks that you get because they’re just so floppy y’know? But then I always feel that hardbacks are so luxurious and fancy because we don’t generally buy hardbacks that often here in the UK so I guess I see them as a treat? However when it comes to actually reading them I find hardbacks quite tricky to read and also they’re heavier.   Do you see my struggle? So basically I love both, any book will do for me!

 

  • Do you collect anything (beside books)? 
  • I guess you could say that I collect photographs, I am always looking through old photos when I’m at home or my granny’s, I absolutely love that you can catch a moment in time and keep it forever like how amazing is that?! So I love photos and keep even silly ones. One day I hope to have the funds to collect guitars because guitars are beautiful and I need them all, thank you very much.

 

  • When is your favourite time to read? 
  • My favourite time to read is just before bed when I am snuggled up in bed, with the only light being my lamp that casts a warm glow over my whole room. I feel like this is such a magical time to read and it makes me feel really calm and happy. That being said I like to read anytime and anywhere!

 

  • How many books would you estimate you’ve read in your lifetime? 
  • This is something I would absolutely love to know, imagine being able to know exactly how many books you’ve read in your lifetime and what each of them were! I would estimate that I’ve read between 200-400 books in my lifetime which I know is quite a wide range but I’m just not sure!

 

Thank you to Audrey for the awesome questions!

I nominate:

Eilidh @ Turning The Faucet On

Simon

Erika @ Erika In Bookventureland

My 7 Questions for you are:

  1. What is your favourite word?
  2. If you could go on holiday anywhere on earth or somewhere in space where would you choose?
  3. What is your favourite type of cake? (a tough one I know)
  4. Tea or Coffee? Explain your choice.
  5. What is the last film you saw in the cinema and did you enjoy it?
  6. Do you write in your books?
  7. What do you love most in the world besides your friends and family?

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Until next time,

Shannon 🙂

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