August Reading 

August reading a slower month of reading a result of getting back to routines and the start of Mum’s Taxi again. But I did read this month one of my favourite books of the year. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett which I highly recommend. It took a few chapters to get into it but once I did I just loved it. Such a clever thought provoking book about what your life might be if you had took a different route in life. You see a couple with three views about what life might have been for them. And there are twists and turns all the way.

So the August list is:

1. Where my heart used to beat by Sebastian Faulks.

2. Broken Heart by Tim Weaver.

3. The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner.

4. Whispering Shadows by Jan Phillip Sendker

5. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett.

6. The Butchers Hook by Janet Ellis.

7. Putin’s Russia by Anna Politkoskaya.

My book challenge for August was to read a banned book and I chose Putin’s Russia by Anna Politkoskaya banned in Russia.  I have always been fascinated by Russia and studied it’s history and politics at University. Russia as a country never seems to  change from Czarist times to Communist to “Democracy” they seem drawn to revere their leaders like mini gods. And said leaders rule with an iron fist and a strong secret police force. Putin is one such leader and although this book was less about him personally and more about citizens living in Russia. It was a scary read and I felt nothing has really changed for Russia. And the author was then assassinated for her opposition to the Chechyn war and Putin. I despise Donald Trump for many many reasons. Just when you think he can’t come out with anything worse he does. This week he spoke of his admiration for Putin as a strong leader. Perhaps he might find reading this book changes his mind. Or maybe he does just open his mouth and spout out what comes to mind. Putin is a strong leader if fear is strength but who wants to live in a country of fear? Is this the new America Trump really wants? Anyway a fascinating book from a lady who put her life literally on the line for the strength of her convictions. 

I am really enjoying my 2016 reading challenge as it is challenging my reading and making me read and explore different topics I would never have done otherwise. Next month’s challenge is a book that I previously abandoned which gives me lost of scope and a challenge as I normally abandon a book for a good reason. Life is too short but I will give it a go.

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July and Island Reading

July is holiday time and holiday time for me means reading. We escape each year to the Hebrides. And on these islands in the summer it doesn’t get dark for long so there is plenty of time for reading for a book addict like myself. So the 20 books listed below makes up my holiday reading for 2016.

1. The Girls – Lisa Jewell

2. The Godfather – Mario Puzo

3. The Long Delirious burning blue – Sharon Blackie

4. The Secret Scripture – Sebastian Barry

5. The Storm Sisters – Lucinda Riley

6. The Perfect Daughter – Amanda Prowse

7. The Daughters Secret – A Holland

8. The Forgotten Daughter – Renita D’Silva

9. Tell me where you are – Moira Forsyth

10. Waiting for Lindsay – Moira Forsyth

11. The Forgotten Summer – Carol Drinkwater

12. The Poet’s Wife – Rebecca Stonehill

13. Dixon’s Revenge – Jaycee Brown

14. The Disappearance – Annabel Kantana

15. Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay

16. When I Lost You – Kelly Rimmer

17. The Lavender Keeper – Fiona McIntosh

18. The French Promise – Fiona McIntosh

19. Coffin Road – Peter May

20. A little life – Hanya Yanahiharan
For me it was a varied list of books with a mixture of historical, Scottish, crime and just books that looked ones I’d want to read. Two stand out. One of which was my July book challenge which was to read a book published before I was born. The Godfather was published on the 8th March 1969 and I was born on the 24th so just counts but does count. I’ve never watched the Godfather films they have been on my to watch list for far too long. Naively I didn’t realise they were taken from the original book. I prefer to read first and sometimes watch a film second so maybe it was meant not to watch the films after years of procrastination. I loved it as a novel it was so well written and I was completely absorbed in the world of the mafia while reading it. I will now need to watch the films to compare with the books. Though part of me is now loath to as the characters live in in my mind and what if the film ruins the book?

The second stand out book was A Little Life. This had been recommended to me by my  local bookshop Mainstreet Trading. It’s a long 700 page read and I did start it when I bought it but struggled with it. Knew it had won prizes but just couldn’t get into it. Then I met a fellow Mainstreet customer and she said that it flows after page 80. The goal is to get there and then you will be off. She was right and I re- opened it after my return home. It is one of the most compelling books I have read covering many difficult issues of our time. The main character is one of the most vulnerable yet courageous characters whose life has been marred by horrific incidents that happen to him in childhood. This makes him closed to people and he self harms on such a degree you weep for him but yet through it all he is loved and is the greatest friend. It’s not an easy read but it is one that shreds light on many issues facing people today and though not an easy read it is worth reading to see that through fragility there is courage and love to be found.

July was a bumper month of reading mainly on my kindle. It’s a necessary evil when you read as much as I do on holiday but I still prefer books on paper form. And returned to books with a smile first smelling and feeling my books. You can’t do that with a kindle. August has been a slow reading month perhaps as I am savouring each book as I read. As for me there is nothing as magical as a book waiting to be read.

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Reading in June

June’s reading challenge was to read a book recommended by a family member or friend. I chose my daughter for this who suggested “I am Malala” by Mala Yousafzai. This was a book that had inspired my daughter so I wasn’t surprised at the choice. But it was non fiction and I am increasingly a fiction reader so this was a challenge. But like many things in this disturbing month my views were changed and turned on their head as I read three non fiction books over the course of the month and I’m currently reading my fourth which is part book part poetry so a whole new reading world has opened up for me.

The challenge book “I am Malala” was disturbing very disturbing as you realise as you sit in your cosy house, with your education, your books around you in piles that this is not the case for everyone even in this day and age. I could totally understand why the book inspired my daughter and hope it continues to do so though I can see already the impact it has on her . She doesn’t take her education for granted. She seizes it with great enthusiasm and gives it her all. I believe Malala would find her a comrade.

My other two non fiction books were “Goodbye Sarajevo” and “The Outrun”. The first continues my interest in the siege of Sarajevo. This is the account of two sisters one who is in Sarajevo and one who is in Croatia as a refugee and the impact the war has on their family. It was a very compelling story and like “I am Malala” reminded me of humans inhumanity to other humans. In this disturbing hate filled month it was a telling challenge. “The Outrun” written by Amy Liptrot was an author who I saw at the Borders Book Festival and whose book I bought. A very brave lady who fought her addiction and returned to her home in Orkney. It’s about an Island and how an island repairs and renews you so I related. But more than that it’s about courage and taking your life back.

Fiction wise there was one stand out book which will be probably in my top ten of the year which was “This must be the place” by Maggie O’ Farrell. This was a readers dream I started the book in the afternoon. Saw her in the evening at my local book shop and then finished the book. As ever with Maggie O’Farrell it’s full of deep characters that stay with you long before the books finishes and a story that draws you in from the first page. Highly recommended. Finally a thank you to my son who bought me the audio version of David Walliams “Grandpas Great Escape”. As ever with these books it was funny but the points it was making were profound. Dementia is very sad but this book showed how a boy and his Grandpa still had a strong relationship as the boy never ever forgot that this was still his Grandpa and if he wanted to live in his past the boy would do so too. 

I guess my June reading list showed me the importance of love over hate and being strong in your convictions and integrity and that is something to cling to.

In full my June reading list.

1. Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea.

2. This must be the place by Maggie o’ Farrell.

3. The Officers Lover by Pam Jenoff.

4. Goodby  Sarajevo by Atka Reid and Hana Schofield.

5. City of Strangers by Louise Millar.

6. When the doves disappeared by Sofi Oksanen.

7. I am Malala by Mala Yousafzai.

8. Grandpas Great Escape by David Walliams.

9. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot.

Next month a book that was published before I was born. I’ve chosen it and it was published before I was born just!

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May’s Reading Challenge A Book I should have read at school

When I looked at this challenge in January I was very clear what I was going to read for this Wuthering Heights.  I have always felt that I’d missed out on this book and it was a gap in my reading. So I started. Then I tried to start again. And again but I just found it impossible to really make any in roads to the book as frankly I was bored. I feel awful for saying that given it is a classic but reader it was not for me. This then left me with a dilemma what to read instead? 

My husband came up with “Cry the beloved Country ” by Alan Paton. Growing up in the era when apartheid was in its final death knoll, Mandela in prison then freed I had an interest in South Africa. This book did not disappoint I loved it and wondered why I’d never read it before. The story is about a black South African minister who goes to Johanesburg in search of his son. There he discovers a world he did not knew existed from the small village he is from yet what happens there means life at home and his relationship with the local white landowner can never be the same again either. This is a story of the best and worst of humanity but also of love and the fact that in the end we are all equal black or white. Rich or poor. It’s what we do with our lives that makes the difference and how we deal with adversity. So not the book I was intending to read but one I am glad I did though the mysteries of Wuthering Heights still remain. A greater mystery perhaps as it now ranks as not only a book I’ve never read but also a book I couldn’t read.

My May book reading is as follows:

1. The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall.

2. Tightrope by Simon Mawher.

3. A mother’s secret by Renita D’Silva.

4. Haweswater by Sarah Hall.

5. Luckiest girl alive by Jessica Knoll.

6. The Heart of Betrayl by Douglas Kennedy.

7. Lake House by Kate Morton.

8. Someone else’s skin by Sarah Hilary.

9. Cry the beloved country by Alan Paton.

Of these books special mention to The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall loved this book about bringing back wolves to the UK set in Cumbria. It was topical and engrossing though as much as I loved this book I struggled with her novel Haweswater and wouldn’t recommend it. Tightrope by Simon Mawher is one of the Sir Walter Scott prize winners and I can see why it’s a page turning read. Finally I love Kate Morton as an author and her new book does not disappoint.  I read it on a very hot summers day my idea of total relaxation as the photo shows. 

Next month have to read a book chosen for me by a family member. Who to choose for this task?

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April Reading

April’s challenge was a book recommended to me by my bookshop or librarian. And Mid March I was in my local bookshop yes it is on of my favourite haunts. Vivian the manager told me about this amazing book she had read “The Brilliant  and Forever” by Kevin MacNeil. So the April challenge was set.
The Brilliant and Forever is indeed an amazing book it is certainly for me the stand out book of 2016. The front cover states 

“Laugh out loud and funny. It’s so refreshing to read a book that isn’t like anything else.” David Robinson. 

David is spot on but equally the book is one of the saddest books I have read and one of the most accurate about the strengths and weaknesses of the human spirit. So I hear you ask what is it about? It’s about a story telling festival on an inland an annual event much heralded in the literary world. It’s about three friends who are entering the competition one of whom is an Alpaca. The author manages to weave each of the stories of those entering the competition into the story so there are also many stories within this story. This book is magical for so many reasons. The author is from Lewis and it is obvious that the book is set there. I am drawn to the Hebrides like a fly to a spiders web as many of you know.  But that isn’t why I love this book. The location is what it is but it’s the writing and the fact that this book is truly different that made me fall in love with this book.

April proved to be a good reading month. Other book that I read were.

1. Girl at War by Sara Novic

2. The Rat Stone Serenade by Denzil Meyrick

3. Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

4. Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin

5. The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina

6. A special relationship by Douglas Kennedy

7. The illuminations by Andrew o’Hagan

8. The Brilliant and Forevers by Kevin MacNeil

9. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

10. Early One Morning by Virginia Baily
All of the above books were enjoyable reads particular highlights were Girl at War continuing my look at the fictional novels of the Baltic Wars. Career of Evil was also brilliant and I enjoyed the fact that part of the story was set in Melrose JK Rowling had the place just as it is warts and all. Finally just loved The Illuminations by Andrew O’ Hagan about a lady suffering from dementia and the relationship she has with her next door neighbour in the sheltered housing complex, her daughter and her grandson. Set in Saltcoats, Glasgow and Blackpool. Makes you think, smile and cry and if you are from the West Coast brings back so many memories which is essentially the point of the book as the lady starts living again in the past. 

I love books for so many reasons and my April reading list reflects that.

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March Challenge: A Book you’ve been meaning to read

The March challenge was a book that I had been meaning to read.  I chose a book I have been meaning to read since it was recommended to me on the back of my January blog when I highly recommended the book Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini which is set during the siege of Sarajevo. The book in question is “The Cellist of Sarajevo” by Steven Galloway which is also set during the siege and is based on a true story.

This was also a compelling and moving story about a war that I should know more about and feel bad that I didn’t know more or do more at the time.  A siege akin to that of Leningrad (St Peterburg) during the second world war but only 20  years ago.  The book as the title suggests is about a cellist who having witnessed the death of 22 people and seen 70 wounded as they waited in a quae for bread plays his cello each day in honour of the dead despite the fact that he is in danger of being shot by a sniper himself.  The book is less about the cellist and more about those who he inspires who are caught up in the siege and are fighting to survive and his brave act compels them to live.  The beauty of the book is that it brings home to you the reality of the siege of Sarajevo.  I imagined what it would be like if it was Edinburgh.  The Edinburgh that we know but an Edinburgh under siege trams, buses and cars abandoned and full of bullet holes.  Princess Street empty apart from a brave person trying to attempt a run from one part of the city to the other but under danger of sniper fire.  An Edinburgh with no electricity, no food in the shops and limited running water only available from the fire stations that haven’t been destroyed.  An Edinburgh whose major buildings including Edinburgh Castle have been bombed.  Think that is unthinkable?  So did the citizens of Sarajevo but it happened to them.  As this quote shows.

“There is no way to tell which version of  a lie is the truth.  Is the real Sarajevo the one where people were happy, treated each other well, lived without conflict?  Or is the real Sarajevo the one he sees today, where people are trying to kill each other, where bullets and bombs fly down from the hills and the buildings crumble to the ground?”

Other books read over March were:

  1. The Year of the Runaway – Sunjeeva Sahata
  2. The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George
  3. (The Cellist of Sarajevo) – Steven Galloway
  4. Missing Rose – Linda Newbery
  5. The Story of the Lost Child – Elena Ferrante
  6. Two, One, Three – Denzil Meyrick
  7. Dalintober Moon – Denzil Meyrick
  8. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty
  9. You sent me a letter – Lucy Dawson
  10. Faith and Beauty – Jane Thynne
  11. Heavenfield -LJ Ross

I enjoyed them all with the exception of “You sent me a letter” which was very contrived and unbelievable.  Particular attention has to go to the Elena Ferrante book.  This is the last of the four books in this series of a friendship of two women who grow up in the slums of Naples and have a lifetime relationship I say relationship as it’s not always a friendship.  It took me awhile in the first book to get gripped by these books but once I was drawn in I was really drawn in.  It’s about life and the people who are in our lives that connect with us to make us who we are and at heart the little child is still there despite the fact you are an elderly lady.  Would also recommend Faith and Beauty by Jane Thynne set in Germany just before the Second World War about a British secret agent who infiltrates high Nazi society also a compelling and must read series.

Finally next month’s book challenge is to read a book recommended to me by my bookshop or library.  I have been set one by Vivian of Mainstreet Trading.  The challenge continues.




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Challenge: A Book to be read in a day

The February book challenge was to read a book in a day.  This is not so much a challenge for me as much as an indulgence.  For me reading a whole book in a day is one of those perfect relaxing days when I have the time to do something I enjoy best,  reading.  So I confess I over did it and over the course of the month ended reading 3 books in a day.

As well as my reading challenge for the month I also decided to have a month of crime since we were still in deepest darkest winter which I did bar the last book which carried on with another challenge I set myself to read the Elena Ferrante  family saga over the course of four months.  So my reading list for February taking me up to 24 books for the year is:

  1. No Stranger to Death and 2. Too soon a death by local crime writer Janet O’Kane.

3. Too Good to be True by Ann Cleeves.

4. Follow you Home by Mark Edwards

5. A Game for all the Family by Sophie Hannah

6. The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

7. The Murderer in Ruins by Cay Rademacher

8. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

9. Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris

10. In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

11. In a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware

12. Those who leave and Those who stay by Elena Ferrante

Taking the challenge first.  I confess I cheated in that the first book I read in a day was a short book so I knew I would be able to read it.  It was “Too  Good to be True” by Ann Cleaves a stand alone book with the wonderful Perez but not in Shetland but the Scottish Borders.  I have read all her Shetland novels and was always intrigued by the ex wife living with her new family in the Scottish Borders partly as its where I live but also could never understand anyone divorcing Perez.  As a stand alone quick novel it filled a role and I could relate to the tale of Borders Village life and how it can often feel like living in a goldfish bowl.  But I hated the ex wife she was a social climber and I guessed very quickly who the murderer was.  The other two books I read in a day was Dark Places and Behind Closed doors.  Behind Closed Doors is one of the hyped up novels of this year.  I did enjoy it and enjoyed it so much I had to finish it.   I couldn’t fault the storyline although I tried to figure out how anyone could actually hold someone a prisoner like this but the writer did have all angles covered.  But the book that I loved was Dark Places by Gillian Flynn the writer behind Gone Girl.  I didn’t expect this as I hated Gone Girl.  This is actually one of her previous books now republished but for me far superior and held me all the way through the book as I stayed up till the wee small hours to finish it.  A 6 year old girl see’s her family killed and is responsible with her testimony for sending  her brother to prison for the murders but as she grows up she suddenly realises that she’s made a mistake and sets out to find out what actually happened. It keeps you guessing right to the end.

Two books that didn’t keep me guessing but kept me wondering how they got published were “A Game for all the Family” by Sophie Hannah and “The Quality of Silence” by Rosamund Lupton.  I read both these books when I was ill back to back and neither of them helped the recovery process.  The Sophie Hannah book just was awful I kept reading it thinking surely since she’s a famous writer this will get better but it didn’t.  It’s about a family who move to Devon and the wife starts this conspiracy theory about a family in her daughter’s class which is so bizarre you think can’t be true but then you find the other family are bonkers too at which point I gave up all hope in the book though did manage to finish it but I won’t be reading another.  Rosamund Lupton I had high hopes for as I loved her previous books but this was also far fetched. A mother and child arrive in Alaska to visit the father who is working out there.  They are told at the airport that he’s dead but don’t believe it and then start this mad dash across Alaska in a storm in a lorry that they have effectively stolen.  Quite honestly what Mother would honestly do this and then we are lead to believe that in terrible weather conditions she manages to get over mountains as an avalanche blocks the way back.  I failed to extend belief this was a huge fail for me with a capital F.

Special credit to Janet O’Kane who is a local Borders crime writer who I tweet with.   It’s really because of her that I started my month of crime.  I loved both of her books yes partly as the location I could relate too but also because they were a riveting read and I am looking forward to the next one.

So my challenge for March is to read a book that I have been meaning to read for awhile this gives me endless possibilities with my book pile so watch this space….


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