Before I Go To Sleep – S. J. Watson

I finished reading this book earlier tonight but decided to go to bed and write this in the morning. How fitting that I find myself unable to sleep and am therefore combating my night of insomnia with writing this review. Before I Go To Sleep is a story about Christine, who wakes up in a strange bed next to a strange man. Confused, lost, she has no idea how this has happened. Turns out that Christine has amnesia brought on by an accident years before. This she all learns from the strange man, her husband Ben. Over the course of the book Christine starts to remember flashes of memories, which she documents in her journal as encouraged by her therapist, Dr Nash. Over time not everything adds up with Christine coming to some  chilling conclusions about her life and amnesia.

 

This book is an intriguing example of what it is truly like to have amnesia. You start the book with little information, going in blind, just as Christine does. The only information available to you comes as she slowly discovers piece by piece of the puzzle. The reader is privy to no extra tidbits. You are just as lost as Christine is. Throughout the book you experience Christine’s highs and lows as she try to put her faith in her husband, Ben. You can appreciate how frustrating, how scary, life would be for people suffering from amnesia. Repeatedly being told that the strangers in front of them are actually their nearest and dearest. I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel. Christine’s conflicting thoughts about her husband and the ethics of the situation were really interesting and gave a unique aspect of the book.

 

My only criticism was the pace of the book. As much as I read the book in one day I felt it could have been a little shorter to keep the pace moving. I found at times the journal entires got a little repetitive and perhaps could have been cut down a little to add a bit more urgency to the plot. The last part of the book moves very quickly with the plot twists and turns that you have been anticipating being revealed and I found myself flying through the last part of the book just to find out what the ultimate twist was. I was not disappointed. It was a pretty simple twist, I’m sure others could have goes at it, I had not and felt that the book ended well.

 

Overall I give Before I Go To Sleep three of Christine’s journals, that help switch the light on in her life. Read this is you enjoy a thriller with a unique perspective, where you can truly immerse yourself in the character’s shoes.

 

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The Midnight Watch – David Dyer

A book about the night the Titanic suck? Yes, please. The Midnight Watch tells the story that fateful night from the perspective of the crew of the Californian, the boat closest to the sinking Titanic that failed to come to their rescue. The ramifications of their actions were huge in light of this bi-continental disaster. Dyer tells the story of the men of the Californian. His well researched novel tells the story as truthful as can be ascertained from an event occurring over 100 years ago. The novel containing excerpts of verbatim transcripts from the official inquiries in both London and Washington. Ultimately the motivations, personalities and different events are a work of fiction, however, most of the characters are based on the historical figures. The book follows John Steadman (one of the few fictional characters), a reporter who is on a quest for a story, but it becomes much more than that, it becomes a quest for the truth, for the 1500 lives lost that night.

 

The book starts in such a way that completely took me by surprise, especially as what hooked me in had nothing to do with either the Titanic or the Californian. The back story of Steadman is confronting and unique. His motivations for pursuing the story are introduced early so they reader can understand what keeps him searching for the whole story, rather than just doing his job, which is writing a story to see papers. The creation if this character to help tell the story was well thought out and really sets the scene for pondering the real questions: what really did happen that night? What went through the mind of the crew members of the Californian? How did everything end up such a mess?

 

What I enjoyed most about the book was the complexities of the relationships and delicate balance of a ship at sea. The pecking order, how people relate to each other, all the rules and regulations, both formal and informal. Dyer did a great job of giving the crew members such vivd colour and life. Their motivations, decisions and actions all made so much sense thanks to the rich descriptions given that I have a hard time thinking that anything different could have happened that night. Captain Lord and Second Officer Stone were intriguing characters and in particular their relations and interactions was what drove a lot of the suspense throughout the novel.

 

The Titanic will forever be one of those events that people obsess over and can’t seem to let go. In Dyer’s case it turned out very well as he wrote a great book out of it. Anyone who has an interest in the events of that night back in 1912 will find this book highly fascinating. I definitely recommend picking it up if you get the chance as an quick-paced interesting read awaits. I give The Midnight Watch thee white whales representing Second Officer Stone’s fixation with Moby Dick.

 

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Reassessing Goals.

This year has been the first year I have taken my reading seriously. When I say seriously I mean I set myself a goal at the beginning of the year, I have kept track of what books I have been reading and also started writing about the books I have read. Almost 6 months in and I am loving it! Although I find myself at an end. I have all but finished my 2016 reading goal and I’m not even 6 months in. Oops.

 

When I set my reading goal at the beginning of the year I thought that 60 books was pretty reasonable. That is a little over a book a week, a pretty realistic yet not too easy goal. I can do that. I guess I have found out I can certainly do that! Turns out with this whole “taking it seriously” business worked and I have been ploughing my way through it (not that my TBR piles is getting much smaller).

 

A good portion of this I attribute to having a few weeks off here and there. At the beginning of the year and the week just gone I have had stretches of time off work allowing me to read about six books a week. Without this I doubt I would have steamed so far ahead. Regardless of the reason, it is time I reassessed my goal.

 

For the rest of the year  I plan to make my goal a total of 100 books. Much more than I originally believed I could. I could have doubled my goal, challenged myself to read as much in the second half of the year as the first. However, I’m not likely to have as many long stretches ahead of me allowing myself to get ahead again and I don’t want to overcommit myself. Also considering I haven’t had any reading slumps so far I think it is reasonable to expect that it will happen in the next six months. This new goal allows for that.

 

There we have it. Crisis averted. A new reading goal has been set. Can I do it? I have faith I can. Do you set reading goals? What is your goal? How are you travelling with it at the six-month mark? I would love to hear your thoughts and process. Happy reading! x

 

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The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

I just finished this book. Like, just finished it, made myself a pot of tea and sat down to contemplate my review. I want to write this now, full of all my feelings about this beautiful but heart-breaking book. The Light Between Oceans follows Tom, home from the war and sailing off to his new job manning the lighthouse on Janus Rock, an island off the coast of Western Australia straddling the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean. The story follows his courting of Isabel, the Headmaster’s daughter, who he eventually marries and they settle happily into married life on the solitary island. Time passes by until the fateful day when a dinghy washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Isabel convinces Tom that the best thing they can do is keep the baby and raise her as their own, what are the chances her mother still survives? What follows are the consequences of their actions.

 

The first half of the book sets the scene beautifully. You are introduced to the characters and settle into their daily lives. Tom is a great character. He is steadfast, loyal and has the kindest heart. I instantly warmed to him and loved him throughout the book. In fact I was so attached to his character I found myself feeling incredibly frustrated and angry at times throughout the book with certain plot points. Always hoping for the best for him I took it personally when he experienced injustices. Who is not to love the distinct aussie-ness in his tone? When we meet Isabel she is bright, fun and has such an infectious personality that you can see how Tom falls in love with her. Her character experiences much over the course of the novel and my opinions of her shifted back and forth throughout the book. The host of supporting characters are loveable and unique: Bluey, Ralph, Hannah, all are well-developed and memorable.

 

The second half of the book picks up the pace considerably. In fact you could almost think of the book in terms of the two oceans that straddle Janus Island. The first half is the warm, calm Indian Ocean. Everything going along (fairly) swimmingly. The second half is like the Great Southern Ocean: wild, harsh and unpredictable. Basically the plot gets going sending our beloved characters lives into turmoil and all we can do is sit back and watch them try and navigate the waters as best they can (see what I did there??). The rest of the book moves quickly with some great plot twists and turns leaving you with just the right amount of suspense. All culminating in an ending that was beautiful and gives you faith in the human race.

 

This book left me in tears contemplating the intertwined lives of all the characters. Life is hard and deals you swift blows that can knock you off your feet. All you can do is react and the choice is yours as to how you proceed. The actions of the characters shows human nature on all its levels, the highs and the lows. I applaud Stedman in creating such an intricate, layered story that is truly is about “right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same”. I give The Light Between Oceans four lights to guide the way.

 

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About Grace – Anthony Doerr

I finished reading this book late last night, in fact I stayed up purely just to finish it. After I read the last page I sat there for a bit, not really sure what I thought about it. Most of you probably have heard of Doerr’s fifth novel, All The Light We Cannot See. I read it earlier this year and became entranced with it. It is a beautiful story full of eloquent, vivid language. I saw this book in the bookshop and became interested in reading another of Doerr’s novels, especially as the concept sounded so interesting. After having a peek at other reviews it became clear that it was a polarising book, readers tended to love it or hate it.

 

The book follows David Winkler, a man who dreams  things. Things that come true. A sense of dejavu. He sees himself falling in love with his wife, Sandy. He does, they eventually move from Alaska to Ohio and have a baby girl called Grace. All goes well until David dreams of a flood, of trying to save his daughter but of ultimately failing. Dreaming of killing his daughter David eventually flees, desperate to escape his fate. Flash forward twenty-five years and David is living on an island in the Caribbean still wondering if Grace and his wife are alive. Finally he begins his journey to find out the truth.

 

Sounds like a great concept doesn’t it? The idea had me hooked and initially I moved through the beginning of the book rather quickly. Although finishing it last night I think I’m sadly in the category of not loving it. Don’t get me wrong, in no way do I hate it. I don’t even think it is a bad book. It just did not quite work for me. The story is fully of Doerr’s eloquent and entrancing prose. The way he writes is a real highlight. The way he can describe the simplest of  objects is amazing. I loved the main character’s interest in snowflakes and water throughout the story in particular due to the way Doerr describes it. The concept of the story, as I mentioned is great. I do personally feel that the plot was lost at times in the meandering parts of the story. I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more if it was a lot shorter and there was al little more urgency, a little more focus on the story at hand, rather than the peripherals. I do understand how others can love this style, it very much represents how life really can be, paths are not direct. Actions take time, even decades. My interest just waned a little through the middle of the book.

 

The characters were intricate and loveable. David is a beautiful soul struggling with an impossible condition that is difficult to explain to others, let alone have them believe it. I found myself having sympathy for his situation. The most distinctive thought I had about him though was how much he could come across as a stalker. The way he went about things with other characters was passive and patient and it was all I could think of through most of the book. I did enjoy this perspective because I feel it gave the other side of the story, how one perceived to be a stalker can actually have the most pure intentions. I don’t know if Doerr intended this, but this was the strongest reaction I had to the book.

 

Giving this book a rating is quite hard as in someways I really enjoyed aspects of this novel, while I also don’t feel it is on par with other books I have read and I doubt it will be a book I revisit in the future. With all this in mind, I give About Grace two and a half of Winkler’s snowflakes. It just didn’t quite entrance me enough.

 

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Reading slump? No worries.

Found yourself in a reading slump? Can’t seem to motivate yourself out of it? That’s okay! Where there is a will, there is a way and I am here to provide some suggestions to pull yourself out of your slump.

 

I know, I get it, the lure of Netflix/TV is just too tempting. Sit there, zone out, enjoy all the action from the latest Game of Thrones episode, binge watch episode after episode of New Girl. I’ve been there, I mean haven’t we all? I’m not even suggesting it is a bad thing. Nothing wrong with a little couch comfort and relationship with your TV. But saaaaay you want to get a little extra reading in, give the Netflix a break for a bit, look below for a few of my suggestions to get your reading juices flowing.

 

Make an achievable goal.

There is nothing worse than setting yourself up to fail, bold statements like “I’m going to read three books a week” sound inspiring but more often end up a little too daunting and end up discouraging you more than anything. Instead, break it down. Small steps. Achievable goals. Aim for reading a chapter a night or even not every night, maybe week nights? Every second night? Make it work for you. Maybe you are a slow reader? Give yourself a time limit. Twenty minutes, half an hour is quite reasonable. Make sure you stick to it too.

 

Set aside a specific time.

Make reading a habit. Read before you go to bed each night. In fact this idea works on several levels. We should all know by now that the blue lights emitted by computer/tablet/mobile phone screens are detrimental to your sleep  as they trick your brain into thinking it is daytime and end up delaying your body clock (Trust me, I’m a Sleep Technician). A great way to combat this is to have some screen free time before bedtime. Reading is a great way to do this, which in turn helps to relax your mind creating a environment conducive  to sleep. Two birds with one stone! A good nights sleep and some reading. Who could say no to that? Alternatively, if you are a morning person set your alarm 20 minutes earlier than normal so you can snuggle in bed, read for a while. Start your day in a relaxed, positive way setting yourself up for a great day!

 

Carry a book every where you go.

Get some incidental reading going. Ladies, make sure your handbag is big enough to carry a book in at all times. It is surprising how much reading you can get done on the fly. When you’re meeting someone for coffee and waiting for them to arrive, read your book (or do as I do, turn up early just so you can read your book). When waiting at appointments, rather than scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, get some reading in while you can. Have a screen-free lunch break once a week or fortnight and bring your book along.

 

Plan a book date with yourself.

One of my favourite things to do is to take myself out to my favourite cafes, treat myself to a coffee and maybe some brunch and take my book along. Nothing like putting yourself in  situation where you need to read to actually get down to it and focus. Conversely, set yourself up at home in your bed, your favourite reading chair or even your bath (but beware the curse of wet book spines). Give yourself a night in with your book. Open a good bottle of wine or make yourself your favourite pot of tea. Don’t forget the snacks either. Light a scented candle and give yourself some quality time not only to read but for you.

 

Try an audiobook.

My last piece of advice if all else fails is give an audiobook a go. I was sceptical myself at first but found myself enjoying the experience more than I anticipated. Particularly if you are someone with a decent commute to work, I definitely suggest giving it a shot. I even found it helped make me a calmer driver. Road rage, be gone!

 

Thanks to my friend Amy, who suggested I write this post. I found it quite enjoyable to write and I hope it has been helpful to someone out there. Have any suggestions yourself to beat the reading slump? Would love to hear your thoughts! x

 

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Desert God – Wilbur Smith

Here is a brand new historical fiction era I haven’t tried before! Ancient Egypt. A new and exiting place for me to be transported. This book I picked up as part of the Dymock’s Top 101 Books for 2016. As a younger person I was fascinated by the idea and culture of the Ancient Egyptians so couldn’t resist the idea of this book. I had also previously read some of Smith’s book from the Courtney series and found them hard to put down. Ultimately I quite enjoyed this book and was excited to realise that there are four other books in his Egyptian series that I can now add to my TBR list. Never fear though, the book does stand alone and can be read without previous knowledge of the others.

 

This book follows Taita, a trusted advisor to the Pharaoh and his sisters, the two princesses Tehuti and Bekahti as they face navigating life in Ancient Egypt. The story is rich in intrigue, politics, love and action. As much as the book is described as a historical fiction I don’t think the story has an basis in any actual historical event. More it provides a snapshot of what day to day life would have been like back in that time while incorporating the superstitions and beliefs of the time. The books crosses into the intangible at times but I feel it matches the beliefs of the time and therefore flows with the story.

 

A highlight of the book was the main character Taita, with the story told from his perspective. Taita is all knowing, smart, incredibly gifted and extremely arrogant both in himself and his civilisation. Usually a character like the would irritate me to no end, however, it just worked. Again, I think it reflected their thinking of the era and the arrogance was completely founded. Despite his arrogance Taita is ultimately caring, thoughtful and just. His decisions are measured and intelligent and it is extremely interesting reading his thoughts throughout the book. The other characters are vibrant, if a tad cliche of what you would expect from the types of legends that came form the period.

 

The plot is full of adventure and actions. There is deception, acts of heroism and a whole host of different nations of the time vying for power. My only issue with the book was it seemed to come to quite an abrupt end. I would have liked a little moe follow up at the conclusion rather than ending without a lot of explanation. If you are at all interested in Ancient Egypt I would definitely recommend this one. It give a good insight into what you imagine life would have been like back then. Harsh and deadly needing all of your wit to stay alive. I give Desert God three volcanic eruptions.

 

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