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cook*create*read: January 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Friday! What are you reading this weekend?

I seem to have hit a bit of a wall in my reading this week - I may possibly have become a little too obsessed with Peter Quinn in Homeland.  But we've now watched all the Homeland there is to watch, so hopefully my reading will take precedence again!

I did go back to Bleak House again and although I'm enjoying it when I'm reading it, I have no urge to actually pick it up.  Two review books did fall through my letterbox though, (thanks bookbridgr.com)  so I'll mostly be reading those this weekend I think!

The Chimes by Anna Smaill comes out on 12 February, published by Sceptre.  This one sounds really intriguing, about a strange world where music has replaced the written word and memories are forbidden.

Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback is also published on 12 February by Hodder & Stoughton.  Set in the beautifully bleak landscape of Swedish Lapland, this is a historical fiction which sounds like it is going to be mysterious, intense and wonderful!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin 2015
Source: Gift

Read more about the author:  Emma Healey

The Blurb
Maud is forgetful.  She makes a cup of tea and doesn't remember to drink it.  She goes to the shops and forgets why she went.  Sometimes her home is unrecognisable - or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.

But there's one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing.  The note in her pocket tells her so.  And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud's damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery.  One everyone has forgotten about. 

Everyone, except Maud ...

I recently bought this book with some vouchers I received a few months back, and was drawn to it because the blurb reminded me of a wonderful book I read some time ago, Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  And while there are similarities between the two books (both main protagonists suffer from dementia, and both books deal with the chaos and heartbreak this disease brings with it) they are also very different.

In Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey weaves in a wonderful mystery/crime story that adds an extra element to the tragedy of dementia.  As we witness Maud's gradual descent further into her illness, snippets of her memory are revealed and the mystery builds. I was a little worried there would be some loose ends, but thankfully everything was tied up in a very neat, if perhaps slightly unrealistic, way.

Maud's daughter, Helen, is a very interesting character as she struggles with the frustration and heartache of slowly losing her mother to dementia.  At times I wanted to shake her, and at others I wanted to cry for her.   I would've liked to read more from her viewpoint, but the story is wonderfully told solely through Maud and her jumbled mind.

A sad and heartbreaking book.  That's two in a row now!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Gone by Rebecca Muddiman

Gone by Rebecca Muddiman
Published by Mulholland Books on 15 January 2015
Source:  ARC received for review via bookbridgr.com

Read more about the author here

The blurb:
250,000 people go missing in the UK every year. 91% of those reported to police are found within 48 hours. 99% of cases are solved within a year. And 1% stay gone. 11 years ago, troubled teenager Emma Thorley went missing. The police assumed she was a runaway. But now a body has been found in woods near Blyth. DI Michael Gardner knows he didn't take Emma's disappearance seriously enough back then, and is determined to make up for it now. But when he and DS Nicola Freeman start to reinvestigate, they discover that nothing is as simple as it seems.

I requested an ARC of this book through bookbridgr.com as I was immediately intrigued by the plot.  I love a good mystery/crime/thriller and this one sounded right up my alley.  I had not heard of the author before, though I now know that this is Muddiman's second novel. I was not disappointed and am excited to have found a great new (to me) British crime author!

I read Gone over three days.  If I'd had my way I would've read it one sitting, but I had the annoying inconvenient interruptions of my children's birthdays and a christening at which I was to be Godmother.  Seriously, all I could think about during the christening was getting back home to finish off this book!  I was hooked and needed my next fix!

The plot has more twists and turns than the best roller coaster   Just when you think you have it figured out, Muddiman throws another spanner into the works.  Along with the main plot of confirming the identity of the dead girl and discovering what happened to her, there is an engaging side story involving DI Gardner (who doesn't love a troubled policeman, right?!) which is interesting and satisfying.

The characters in Gone are perfect.  There is the deplorable, despicable one that you love to hate (and, indeed, made my skin crawl the moment he was introduced), the slightly clueless, seemingly harmless (or is he?!) bumbling one, a handsome, troubled policemen, feisty girls, desperate girls ... all against a sleazy backdrop of drugs and violence - this book has it all.

I would highly recommend this to any reader who enjoys a good, well-written British crime story.  I feel this will be one of my favourite books of 2015!

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Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday Reads

Here's a little wrap up of what I've read this week and what I'll be reading next!

I finished One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, and loved every word of this book.  It has gone straight to my favourites shelf and I'll be forcing everyone I know to read it if they haven't already done so!

I then picked up We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo but sadly I just couldn't connect with this one.  I didn't like the writing style, I can't stand books with no speech marks, and the main character was very irritating to me, so unfortunately I gave up on this one!

I'm now reading Gone by Rebecca Muddiman.  This is a copy I received for review via bookbridgr and is due to be published in the UK on 15 January.  I'm not far into it yet, but so far so good! I think it's going to be gripper!

What are your reading plans for the weekend?

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Belated! My Top 5 Reads of 2014

A few notes about my reading in 2014:
  • I read a total of 53 books. I didn't quite meet my Goodreads target of 72 books, but I'm ok with that.  I know I go through long periods of not reading a thing (something I want to work on this year!) and I should've factored that into my target!
  • Of those 53 books, 36 were written by female authors and 18 by male authors.
  • Page total was 20613
  • Author nationality breakdown is as follows:
    • 23 American
    • 16 English
    • 3 Irish
    • 2 Japanese
    • 1 Alaskan
    • 1 Scottish
    • 1 New Zealander
    • 1 South African
    • 1 Welsh
  • 8 books were either prize winners or nominees (Man Booker, Pulitzer, Costa)
  • The oldest book I read was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, first published in 1959

Two books were huge disappointments for me this year: 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton may have won the Man Booker Prize, but I just didn't get it.  Skilfully written, maybe, but to me it was over-long, tedious and boring!  (Read my full review here)

The second bomber for me was perhaps the most hyped book of the year - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I hesitated in picking this one up for so long, but then I heard the movie was coming out and I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie.  I hated this thing so much.  Read my full review here.  I haven't seen the movie yet, not sure if I will, but I live in hope that it is better than the book.  

On to my top reads of the year! These are in no particular order, because that is just too hard ...

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I gave this book 4 stars because the ending was a bit of a let down for me, but this was such a fun book to read.  I loved the 80s references.  It was fast paced, action packed and filled with great characters.

(Read my full review here)

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

A wonderfully sensitive book dealing with some tough subject matter.  This one has stayed in my thoughts since I put it down.

(Read my full review here)

 Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I think pretty much the world and her dog has read this book, and I've seen it on many people's 'top books of 2014' lists, and deservedly so.  A thoughtful and heart-wrenching read.

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

This book was so much better than I expected, truly one of those that I couldn't put down and devoured in a couple of sittings.  Another tender tale about hope and loss.

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Oh ... this book.  This book would be in top spot and goes down as one of my favourite books of all time.  I savoured every word and did not want the story to end.  This is one of those books I recommend to anyone who so much as mentions reading in my earshot!

Let me know what your top reads of the year were!

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Book Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna Mcpartlin
Published by Black Swan (2014)
Source: Gift

Read more about the author here:  Anna McPartlin's official site

The Blurb:
Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end . . .
Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it.  She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.
But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen. Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

In those limbo days between Christmas and New Year, I found myself browsing the books in WH Smith.  I had been very generously given a gift voucher by my uncle and cousin a couple of months previously but had not yet had the urge to spend it.  I hadn't read a book in weeks so was quite surprised to find myself fondling the books on display!  I ended up buying this and a couple of other books which were on special offer, and I picked this one up almost as soon as I got home.  Something about it was calling to me.

From the title I was prepared for a bit of tear jerker, and I was wise to prepare!  This book had me alternately smiling and wiping my eyes with almost each turn of the page.  It truly is a roller coaster read.  With subject matter so grim and sad, McPartlin manages to lighten the mood with humour without detracting from the seriousness of the subject.  This is a sensitive, heart-rending story about loss and love with such wonderful characters who you wish you could be friends with.  A great big hug in a book, and just what I needed to bring me out of my reading slump.

Anna McPartlin was a new author to me, but I have since discovered that The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is her sixth novel.  I will definitely be tracking down her other works (not until I've read a few more on my existing shelf though! I'm not planning on breaking my reading goals yet!).  

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Obligatory Reading Goals Post!

So here we are, the third day of 2015, and it's about time I posted something here.

I have been in a reading slump for weeks and weeks, but I was very happy when this baby broke through that:

Review coming soon!

As is customary at this time of year, I thought I would share my reading goals for 2015.

  • I have set my Goodreads challenge at 54 books.  For 2014 I had set my target at 72 books (6 books a month) but I know I go through reading slumps and sometimes read nothing for weeks ... I only managed to read 53 books in 2014, so I thought I would aim for just one more and have set my target to 54 for 2015.
  • Read more diversely.  I thought I did read quite diversely but when I looked at my stats for 2014, the overwhelming majority of authors I read were from the UK or USA.  I would like to expand my reading horizons a little this year, and have set the following challenges for each month (I am allowing myself to combine challenges where possible):
    • read 1 classic
    • read 1 book by a male author
    • read 1 book by a female author
    • read 1 book by a non UK/USA author
    • read 1 book that has won or been nominated for a prize
    • read 1 book from my kindle
  • Complete the BookRiot Read Harder challenge. I am allowing myself to combine this challenge with those above!
  • Read more books than I buy!  I'm not entirely sure how many physical books I own as I'm not convinced my Goodreads account is up to date.  I intend to correct this over the next couple of days, and I will update this post with the (shameful!) number of unread books I own.  I intend to finish the year with less books on my shelves.  I don't tend to hang on to books once I've read them, unless they are absolute 5 star keepers, so I will continue to pass read books on to friends if I think they will enjoy them, find somewhere to trade them in or give them to charity.  Ok, I've spent the day sorting all my books and updating Goodreads.  I am ashamed about these numbers, but here goes.  Don't judge me!  I own 437 physical books that I have not read.  This is ridiculous.  Now, I know there is absolutely no point in even pretending that I will not buy any books this year - just not gonna happen.  But I would like to get this number down, so I'll start by aiming to having 400 unread physical books by the end of the year.  I'm really not sure if this is achievable, but we will see.  I'm not good at maths, but I guess if I limit myself to buying one book for every 10 I read, that should help!  I also have 288 unread books on my Kindle.  These don't bother me so much because I can't see them, but I do most definitely need to read more from my Kindle, and so I have added in another challenge to read 1 Kindle book every month.  Here's hoping!
  • Engage more in the book-twittersphere, instagram, youtube and blogging world.  Yes.
And that's it :)

What are you reading resolutions for 2015? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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