The Books I've Been Reading

by - 17:00

Ever since I've been working at my new job in London (it's been over seven months now - how crazy is that?!) I've found myself with an extra one - two hours per day of free time. Sometimes I listen to music or just catch up with social media but getting lost in a book is a good way to speed up a daily commute.
 
Some of the following books are ones that are new, firm favourites of mine - others are less so, though I don't feel I've wasted my time reading any of these picks, and they've all had something that can be gleaned from them.
  

U.S. Road Trips/Self Discovery

 
Wild by Cheryl Strayed ★★★★★
For me, this was a perfect read. Everything is told in an honest, eyes open style and you feel instantly submerged in Cheryl's life and journey. The narrative is easy to follow and descriptions are brief but all-encompassing. I found that there were parts of the book which were difficult to read, as the situations mentioned were sensitive - combine this with the fact that this is, in essence, an autobiography and you really can't help but empathise fully with Cheryl. Similarly you share in her joys and adventures and it definitely made me want to go hiking!
 
How To Be Bad by E.Lockhart ★★★☆☆
Having heard about this book from YouTuber Essie Button, I was expecting something a bit different and more put-together. This was a quick and easy read that allowed you to take on the viewpoint of three young girls, each battling their own issues and with a focus on breaking out of their usual habits. Set in Florida, the book does describe much of the state's defining features as they road trip through it which was interesting. Although I struggled to really get to grips with the characters of this book until almost the end, it does leave you with some questions about your own life and some points that stick with you after you've put it down
 
Where The Road Takes Me by Jay McLean ★★★★☆
 I won't lie, the first half of this book was borderline unbearable to read at some points due to its stereotypical, cringey descriptions of a number of 'All-American' high school students and their endeavours. However the second half was almost a complete opposite and was really rather beautifully written and composed. I feel that the author enjoyed the latter half much more and put a great deal more effort into it - either that or it was written by somebody else!
 

Historic (1600-1945)

 
The Captain's Daughter by Leah Fleming ★★★★☆
A story that follows the life of a Titanic survivor, as well as her families' lives happening on either side of the atlantic ocean. A twisting and intertwining tale that encapsulates the feel of early 1900s America, England and Europe with characters that are diverse and unique. The story did feel dragged out in parts and, although it was interesting, the book felt a bit too long for the story it was trying to tell. I did, however, learn a lot about the Titanic and the years that follow through Fleming's successful integration of the knowledge she had gleaned whilst researching for the book.
 
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton ★★★★☆
This was definitely not what I was expecting! Having read the blurb, I was convinced it would focus entirely on the magic and mystery of the miniaturist who can seemingly predict one family's future, told through figurines. I was therefore surprised when the book's key elements were that of Amsterdam in the 1600s, family secrets and death. A bit of a dark read but intriguing and well-told, I would recommend it even though it wasn't what I had wanted it to be!
 
Elephant Moon by John Sweeney ★★★★☆
Again, this was another book that mislead me with its blurb. Elephant Moon is set in Burma during the Second World War and follows the survival efforts of a group of orphaned/abandoned school children as they try to escape from the invading Japanese forces. This was a simply told, enchanting story that was captivating and unique and although I can appreciate the effect it is trying to have, it's not really my cup of tea.
  

Historic (1935-1965)

 
A Letter From America by Geraldine O'Neill ★★★★★
 O'Neill has become a firm favourite author of mine and I love the homely and calming feel that her books have to them, even in the face of the ups and downs of family dynamics and personal wishes, told through a number of viewpoints throughout the book. The story follows the story of three sisters as they deal with growing up and the struggles of family and was instantly engaging - I found myself trying to pace my way through the book as I didn't want to end!
 
The Lavender Keeper by Fiona McIntosh ★★★★★
Although I can't stand the events and aftermath of the World Wars, there is something about the era, stories and films about that time that is romantic and raw and really appeals to me. The Lavender Keeper is a gripping tale of two members of the resistance effort in France whose lives blend together into a beautifully poignant love story. The description of 1940s England and France is encapsulating and its characters are incredibly admirable and developed.
 
Tara Flynn by Geraldine O'Neill ★★★★★
As I said - I really do love O'Neill's books! This story starts in another Irish village (not too far from the one in A Letter From America) and follows an ambitious young lady named Tara Flynn as she works to improve her financial and social situation in a very unforgiving time and place. O'Neill's stories are excellent at creating familiar, uncomplicated settings and following the routines and rituals of characters like Tara help to instil a real longing and enjoyment of their stability and safety. Tara Flynn deals with many traumatic and life changing events and its story flows effortlessly through the years that it covers. This book is actually the first in a trilogy of the same story - I'm currently on book two! 
 

Chick Lit/Romance

 
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes ★★★★★
I think I can safely say that this was a book that massively changed my perception and understanding of people who are disabled in one way or another. I felt that I learnt so much about the details and difficulties of caring for (and being) a person with physical disabilities and, although upsetting at times, the story really encourages gratitude and living life to the full. I've just seen the first trailer for the film adaptation that is coming out in June and I can't wait! I really hope it does the book justice as it is one of the best novels I've read so far.
 
Somewhere Only We Know by Erin Lawless ★★★★★
This was heavily promoted as the 'love story of the summer' all over Amazon/on posters in London and, even though I was sceptical, I actually really enjoyed it! The description of London experiencing a heatwave-like summer was obviously way off the mark but the sights and events happening in the city were realistic and inspiring. This is the story of a young girl facing deportation and a young man working in the immigration department...can you guess what happens? It's a cute story about summer love and first impressions but it actually had some unexpected depth which made me fall in love with it.
 
Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley ★★★★☆
This book was one that was tame and easy to read but had plenty of developed characters and messages hidden within it to make up for what felt like an under developed plotline, in places. The book follows Sophie, a thirty-something lacklustre office worker, as she pushes herself out of her comfort zone and starts to realise some of her dreams as well as rediscover her determination and creativity. Some of the themes in this book felt a little bit mature and unrelatable for me, which is perhaps why I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have.
 

Sci Fi/Thriller

 
The Martian by Andy Weir ★★★★★
I love this book. I love outer space and since visiting the Kennedy Space Centre when I went to Florida in July last year I have developed an undying love for all things space and interplanetary. The thing about 'The Martian' is, not only does it fully immerse you in Mark Watney's survival on a foreign planet, it also teaches you a fair amount about the theories of space travel, living and problem solving. I loved the journey that this book takes you on and although the film was good, it honestly doesn't compare to the book.
 
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson ★★★★★
This was one of the first books in the 'mystery' genre that I read and it definitely had me hooked. The Kind Worth Killing asks the question: does one person get to determine who should live and who should die? And does a person's actions warrant another's desire to want to end their life? The story follows the experiences of two people as they gradually get to the point where they can answer "yes" to the aforementioned questions.
 
How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst ★★★★★
Again, the mystery/thriller is not a genre I'd usually choose to read but 'How I Lost You' feels like the perfect gateway into it. The book sensitively focuses on Post-natal Depression and the effects it can have on mothers, their loved ones and the child. Expertly written with enough drama to keep things interesting without making it seem unrealistic, 'How I Lost You' follows one woman's journey to the truth of a terrible series of events as well as following the story of a young boy maturing through school and university with the book finally intertwining the two tales.

There are couple of books that I've read which I haven't mentioned here, either because they're autobiographies or more informational books. I find that novels are always the best to lose yourself in though, and they definitely make my train journey feel a lot shorter - I often find myself wishing it were a bit longer so I could read more of a gripping chapter!

I would recommend any of the books that I've mentioned here and the majority of them can be found with 4 and 5 star ratings on Amazon, so I'm obviously not alone!

Stay inspired,
 

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