Category Archives: Reading

RTY: Safe Haven – Nicholas Sparks

Hey Everyone!

Day four of January 2018 and I’ve read two books. I’m quite pleased with this progress but I am well aware my holiday is nearly over. However, I’m reading as much as I can before reality hits!

You may have seen a previous post about the Read The Year Challenge. The focus for January was: start the year with a book about new beginnings. Thanks so much to the lovely Kim at By Hook Or By Book for suggesting this book to me!

 

What’s it all about?

Safe Haven centres around the protagonist, Katie. At the start of the novel she is Erin, a wife who is fleeing in a violent marriage. Kevin is an alcoholic and usually ends up beating her. Erin decided enough was enough and ran away.

“Everyone has a past, but that’s just it–it’s in the past. You can learn from it, but you can’t change it.”

When she arrived in a small North Carolina town, Southport, she appears to be twitchy, afraid and constantly looking over her shoulder. She absolutely does not wish to form any ties or relationships with people. Despite this, she becomes friends with her next door neighbour, Jo and Alex, the owner of the local store. Alex is widowed with two young children and over time goes out of his way to be kind to Katie, stocking up with produce she likes and discussing literature together. Katie was instantly attracted to him. I have to agree, he sounds like a true gent!

“She wasnt exactly sure when it happened. Or even when it started. All she knew for sure was that right here and now, she was falling hard and she could only pray that he was feeling the same way.”

Slowly, Katie begins to let down her guard, helped by an unfortunate fishing incident with Alex’s little boy, Josh. Katie begins to feel closer and closer to Alex and his family. But Katie is trapped by a secret. As time goes by, and Katie and Alex get closer, she reveals her past: the abuse, beatings and fear. Katie firmly believes that if Kevin ever finds her, he will kill her. So to protect herself she created a new identity, or borrowed one based on a dead daughter of her neighbour. After all, they did look fairly similar.

“I’ve come to believe that in everyone’s life, there’s one undeniable moment of change, a set of circumstances that suddenly alters everything.”

Whilst Katie tries to rebuild a new life, the one she’s left behind is raging. Kevin is angry and is drinking more and more. He’s obsessed with Erin and by a stroke of (arguable) luck, works out that she’s got a new identity and searched for her. Eventually he traces her back to Southport via a new drivers licence Katie had recently obtained. He tracks her down and sees that she is with Alex and his two children at the carnival. Katie has a sense of something being wrong, but can’t quite put her finger on it.

“…nothing wonderful lasted forever. Joy was as fleeting as a shooting star that crossed the evening sky, ready to blink out at any moment.”

Kevin decides he is going to kill his wife and her new lover by setting the house on fire. Katie gets the children, Josh and Kristin out safely. Her natural motherly instincts kick in. Kevin attacks Katie, kicking and punching her. For the first time, she fights back whilst the children run for help.

Alex finds his children and takes them to Katie’s house. He goes back to his home and finds Kevin attacking Katie. Kevin pulls his gun but Alex drives his car at him, breaking every bone in his hand. The gun falls to the ground.

Katie is terrified that Kevin is going to hurt the children. They race to her house to find Kevin trying to break in. However, he is unstable: alcohol and blood loss isn’t helping! Yet, he is able to hit Alex with a crowbar, pulling a gun on Katie. As Kevin and Alex fight, the gun fires. Kevin is dead.

“…because the past was always around her and might return at any time. It prowled the world searching for her, and she knew it was growing angrier at every passing day.”

As time passes injuries heal and relationships start to recover. Amazingly, a safe is recovered from the fire. Inside it held personal documents and memories from Alex’s late wife, Carly, one of which is an unopened letter. He gives it to Katie asking her to read it.

When she returns home she is shocked to find that Jo’s house looked abandoned. Katie reads the letter and notices it is signed by Carly Jo. It dawns on Katie that her friend Jo was actually the spirit of Carly, watching over Alex, making sure he found happiness.

The letter is possibly the most emotional part of the novel. She asks Katie to look after Alex and their children, to love them and be the mother she cannot be. Once she’s finished the letter, Katie notices lights in Jo’s house and sees her waving from the window. Yet when she looks again, she’s gone. It looks abandoned once again. The novel ends with Katie and Alex ready to start their news lives together.

“Deep in her heart, she wasn’t sure she deserved to be happy, nor did she believe that she was worthy of someone who seemed…normal.”

 

Overview

This novel kept me absolutely hooked. I felt happiness, sadness, worry, fear and relief. It came over me in waves. The description of the beatings were horribly realistic, almost harrowing. I automatically fell in love with Alex, he’s the perfect guy. I wanted Katie to have a good life. I actively wanted them both to be happy. The sensitive writing and portrayal of Jo was really beautiful. It was the best way to end this novel.

Time to turn my attention to next month. February – Get stuck into a story of obsessive love. I’m looking forward to this. After all, February is the month of love! I’m surprised I’ve got January’s read – 11 months to go!

Big love all xx

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Filed under Book review, Read The Year Challenge, Reading

Read The Year With Penguin

Hello lovely people!!

As the end of December is fast approaching, I have turned my attention and thoughts to reading resolutions for next year. Whilst having a mooch about the sales online, I stumbled across Read The Year With Penguin Books. Naturally, I was curious. It looks awesome!

The aim of this reading challenge is to try something new, to experience new writers and genres. I try to branch out but I think this will really help me to continue the mission of finding more. I’m hoping you can all help me too!

The topics for each month are as follows:

January: Start the year with a book about new beginnings.

February: Get stuck into a story of obsessive love.

March: Read a book about a women you hadn’t previously heard of.

April: Grab a book that will help you explore your creativity.

May: Use a book to get closure to nature.

June: Pick up a book that delves into the experience of fatherhood.

July: Travel anywhere in (or out of) the world with a book.

August: Choose a book which tells a migration story.

September: Dive into a coming of age story you haven’t read before.

October: ‘Tis the season for spooky stories: take your pick.

November: Pick a book about the country you live in.

December: Finish the year with a book that embodies the festive spirit.

As you can see, this looks quite exciting. There’s areas here I haven’t considered before so I’m thinking I need to get planning what I’m going to read. Penguin do offer some suggestions here.

This is where I need you, my fellow lovely bloggers. Do you have suggestions for any of the months? Let me know. My plan is to review the book I’ve read each month for the challenge. I’ll try anyway! Maybe you could take part in this with me? That would be awesome too!

Big love xxx

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Filed under Books, New Year, Read The Year Challenge, Reading

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer


Hey guys! 

Hope you’re all well this beautiful August day. I’m back into the swing of things reading wise so I thought I would post a review of a book I’ve finished reading: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. This was quite a quick read as I managed to finish it in three days. I’ve surprised myself with that one. I was thinking that my brain wouldn’t let me read much! 


What’s it all about? 

The novel is narrated by nine year old protagonist, Oskar Schell. He is grieving the loss of his father, Thomas, who was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001. The consequence of this for Oskar is that he feels angry and depressed as well as being distant with his mother. Essentially, Oskar is afraid of everything. 

“Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.” 

However, Oskar has a terrible secret that he shares with the reader. When he returned home from school on September 11th, he listened to the voicemails left by his father whilst he was inside the burning World Trade Center. On the final call, Oskar fails to pick up the phone as he was too afraid. The line goes dead. Oskar feels so guilty that he hid the answering machine and hasn’t told anyone about the messages. 

“My life story is the story of everyone I’ve ever met.” 

In the not too distant future, Oskar finds a key inside a vase within his father’s closet. Along with the key, there is a little envelope with the word ‘Black’ on it. Oskar deduces that this must be a name and he makes the decision to track down every person in New York with that last name, Black. 

It is whilst Oskar takes this mission that he meets a range of different characters e.g. Abby that I found quite relatable. Yet non of them know anything about the key. A Mr. Black, first name unknown, has not left his apartment for 24 years, agrees to help Oskar on his search. Over the course of eight months, he visits all of the Blacks in all the boroughs. 

Oskar visits his Grandma’s apartment and talks to her allusive renter, who unknown to Oskar, is his grandfather. We are told how years earlier, Oskar’s grandfather had abandoned his grandmother when she became pregnant with Oskar’s father. Following the events of WW2, where he consequently lost everyone he loved, he decided he couldn’t bear loving anyone again. He did write letters to his son throughout his life, yet never posted them. Sadly, he returned to America before September 11th to reunite with his family, but it was too late to meet his son, Oskar’s dad. As a result, he moves back in with his grandma; a relationship that appears as rather strange to Oskar. 

“I missed you even when I was with you. That’s been my problem. I miss what I already have, and I surround myself with things that are missing.” 

Oskar discloses his story about his dad and the search to the renter. Whilst this is ongoing, Oskar checks his phone and sees that he has a message from Abby Black, the second Black he spoke to. Abby knows who or what the key belongs to: her husband’s father’s safe deposit box. This is anticlimactic for Oskar and he is disappointed that the key had very little to do with his own dad. He decides to return the key to William. 

“So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!” 

Whilst this is happening and Oskar’s search is ongoing, his mother never asks where he is going. It is finally revealed at the end of the novel that she has known the whole time. Once she gained this knowledge, she called every person and explained what Oskar was up to, before he got there. 

When his search ended in bitter disappointment, Oskar decides to dig up his father’s empty coffin and asks the renter for help. Together, they go to the cemetery. The renter brings two suitcases with him filled with all the unsent letters he wrote to his son. The renter decides to fill the empty coffin with these letters. This seems to be a turning point for Oskar, who is now able to move forward from his grief and loss. Importantly, he reconnects with his mother. 

To conclude, in a long letter from Grandma to Oskar, we discover that Grandpa and Grandma grew up in Dresden, Germany and both survived the firebombing of the city. However, neither of their families did. Grandma knew deep down that Grandpa was in love with her sister, Anna, but she married him anyway. She accepts that fact when he comes back to her on September 11th because she doesn’t want to be alone. When he tries to leaves her again, they decide to live at the airport together. 

“There were things I wanted to tell him. But I knew they would hurt him. So I buried them, and let them hurt me.” 

Oskar is back to square one. He’s failed to find any conclusions about his Dad. The novel ends with a series of pictures of a man falling to his death from the World Trade Center. Oskar decides to flip them so the man falls up the building. Therefore, imagining his Dad is safe. 

“I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.” 

Overview:

I really enjoyed this book and I was surprised how quickly I managed to get through it. I had a tear at the end because I was incredibly moved by the content and plot. I tried to put myself in Oskar’s shoes; to feel what he felt throughout this novel. I am a firm believer that all novels have the ability to teach us something. This taught me that we can always feel pain and sometimes we are desperate for answers that just are not there. It’s really easy for us to look into things and make assumptions, like Oskar and the key. I’m not ashamed to say that this book broke my heart a little bit, possibly because of Oska’s narration and because I can remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at the time. This gave me some form of personal response or relationship with this book. 
Keep reading guys! Enjoy August. 

Big love xx

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Filed under Book review, Books, Reading

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Hey everyone! 

I hope you’re all happy and well on this lovely Monday morning. August already!! I can’t believe it. One week into my summer holiday as well. Time really does fly. 

Well, yesterday the big day finally came, the day when the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play script was released, on Harry’s birthday nonetheless. 

I’m excited but apprehensive like everyone else I guess. When you grow up with something it becomes a part of you. When something gets changed or adapted or added to, you always wonder whether it will be as wonderful as you expect it to be. Yet, I’ve got no doubt I will fall in love with this. 

However, this is marred with some sadness. It is the end. I can’t believe this is really it. Rowling said herself: 

“He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done. This is the next generation, you know. So, I’m thrilled to see it realised so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

Could this ever really be the end when so many live and breathe Harry Potter? 
Regardless, I’ll see you on the other side. Have you got yours? 

Magic is happening all over again. I can’t wait! 

Big love. Xx


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Filed under Books, Harry Potter, Play, Reading

A Bookish Place

Hey everyone!

I’ve been on another exploration this week, this time with a book focus! I took a little trip to Hay-on-Wye with my lovely dad. It’s a little tradition we have, for the past three years anyway, to go and mooch about. He found out about this place because he knows how much I love books. It’s very special to me because of the memories I have made there. As I know there are a number of book lovers out there, I wanted to share this little place with you. 

Where is it?

Hay-on-Wye is just over the Welsh/English border. It’s a beautiful drive in via the scenic route, as there is luscious green everywhere. Even the car park is perched in front of beautiful scenery. 


What makes it so special? 

Everyone here is very friendly and the majority share a common interest: books. There are a huge variety of quirky little independent book shops. Some span over 3/4 floors. There are literally thousands of books, everywhere. 

Boz Books – This appealed to me because it’s a 19th century book shop. As a massive lover of Victorian Literature, I love going in to see all the cloth bound Dickens that line the shelves. There are other writers and time periods here. I managed to pick up a lovely boxed copy of Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. 

Addyman Books – Firstly, I love the building with the painted window outside. I bought a number of books from here, some I’ve never even heard of. This is the place I go to to find something different. Don’t be deceived by the outside. It’s huge shop! One of my favourite parts is this lovely reading room. I could definitely see myself sitting there engrossed in a good book. 


Murder and Mayhem – The outside of the shop always catches my eye. I think it is brilliant. A shop dedicated to a specific genre only is a brave and rare thing. Also, I love the little cat sitting at the bottom on the right. 


Richard Booth Bookshop – This bookshop is actually my Dad’s favourite in Hay-on-Wye. It’s where we go normally to buy beautiful copies of Folio Society Books. We always leave with one each. Again, it’s another quirky yet beautiful building. I particularly like the animal tiles down the sides. 


There are books on absolutely everything here. The Folio Society books were a little more difficult to get to because of an art display for the Hay-on-Wye festival. It was very interesting actually, but the part that caught my attention the most was the ‘Idiot Compression’. You can see part of it in the image above. In a nutshell, it consists of hundreds of sections of books cut into the spine. These parts can still be opened and read, but the meaning is irretrievably lost. Each part is around 20% of the original. This is to bring to mind the widely accepted idea that we only use 20% of our brain, and maybe only retain 20% of any reading. 

That statistic shocked me a great deal actually. Think about how much we all read, and to only retain a small amount seems a real shame. However, I do think this is quite a realistic percentage. Hmmmm. More thought needed I think. Nevertheless, it was visually stunning. More information here.



What I left with: 

Needless to say, I bought a lot. But, I wanted to get a range of books by different authors from different genres. I miss learning about new authors, so I tried to find books I’ve either never read but wanted to, or books I knew nothing about. I’m looking forward to read The Tale of Beatrix Potter being as it’s been 150 years since her birth this year. 


That’s it! Hay, you’ve been amazing as ever. My purse was much lighter by the end of the day, but my book collection (obsession?) has been increased again. 

Have a great weekend everyone! 

Big love xx

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Filed under Books, Days Out, Photography, Reading

Charley’s 2016 New Years Resolutions

The lovely Melanie @ Melanie Noell Bernard asked me to participate in this New Years blog-a-thon. Now, I’m nothing special or famous. I rarely remember things and I’m a bit of a ‘floater’ because work takes over my life. Therefore, I feel so honoured. How lovely is it as well to have someone promote lots of blogs too! Thank you so much Melanie.

Make sure you follower her and check out my resolutions! 

Resolutions: 1. I always set myself a ‘challenge’ resolution to read 100 books a year. I always try to pick different genres and try to read new things I wouldn’t naturally pick instinctively. Last year I tried to read more historical fiction, something I’ve never read before. This year I’d like to try and read […]
https://mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/charleys-2016-new-years-resolutions/

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The Book Fangirling Blog Award 

  

Hey everyone! 
It’s been ages since I’ve completed an award or tag, so I thought I would take part in this. Thanks so much for all the nominations. I promise I will try and get around to them all – they are written on post its! I was nominated for this award by Arec from Rainy Thursdays. Thank you so much for thinking of me. 

Anyway, the rules for this one: 

  • Create a post to accept your award.
  • Add the blog award button into your post and put it on the side of your blog as a widget. Visit fangirling for the award button.
  • Answer the questions I have below.
  • Nominate between 5-10 book bloggers who you think also deserve this award.
  • Come up with your own 5 questions for your nominees


Arec’s questions:

Is there anything that makes it impossible for you to read (i.e. background noise, poor writing, etc.)?

Not really. When I’m reading a good book I just tend to get lost in it and everything else around me fades to nothingness. However, if I’m not really interested in the book I’m reading, I have been known to fall asleep. I do willingly give up reading books if I can’t get into it. Life is too short to struggle though. You could be using the time to read an awesome book instead. 


What book would you buy 2 copies for (one copy to read, one copy to stay pretty)?

I don’t have two copies of any book actually, unless they’ve been released with new covers. To that means the Harry Potter series. So lovely. If I have two copies I always donate the second to a local charity shop. I’m so proud that my books raised £106.50 last quarter. 


Do your books look nice and pristine, or well read and handled?

I’m not really bothered to be fair. I have all sorts on my shelf. I like my favourite books, or books that have pretty covers to be pristine. At the same time I’ve got books from when I was at school and that are bend and battered. I do get a bit mad when the spines are all damaged and when the cover gets bent. There was a time when I would replace the books that were damaged. Then I gave up! 


What is your biggest reading pet peeve?

When people actively go out of their way to reveal spoilers. Err hello! How rude?! With the blogging community, it’s bounds to happen, but it’s not intentional. It’s when someone knows you’re reading something, but they finished it before you, so they feel the need to tell you what happens before you get there. It’s bad reading etiquette. 


Do you have book buddy (someone you share all your reading with regardless)?

My fabulous followers! Also my friends. My friends are all readers too which is great because we all recommend different books to each other. I talk about books a lot at work as well. I’m desperately trying to get more young people into reading for pleasure. 
Thanks again Arec. This was great and your questions were definitely interesting and different! 


Charley’s questions:

  1. Which is the best book you’ve read in 2015?
  2. Is there a genre that you tend to shy away from? Why is this and what would make you try it?
  3. E-reader or paper book?
  4. What makes you love a book?
  5. Do you have a favourite reading snack? 


My nominations:

Simon @ sfarnell

The Book Club Mom

Ember @ Literary Constellation

Matt @ Matt and His Cats

Jess @ Mud and Stars
Feel free to ignore if you’re busy guys! I don’t mind. Just know I was thinking of you! 

Big love to you all X

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