What’s on my Bookshelf?

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in a world surrounded by books. Growing up I had a bookshelf packed to the brim with books and I’ve got fond memories of my dad reading my brother and I bedtime stories every night from our favourite collection of books and in later years, I can remember spending hours with my nose buried in the latest adventure of Nancy Drew or The Pony Club girls. That love of reading has only grown as I’ve gotten older (even if my tastes have changed!), although I definitely don’t have as much time as I used to to while away the hours but I try to make sure that I read a few pages of my book before bed at night – even if I can only manage two pages before the book hits my chest! I find it the perfect way to unwind and relax, especially when I have way too much on my mind. The last 3 months have probably been the toughest I’ve ever had work wise with a never ending onslaught of craziness (which hopefully explains my absence from blogging and intermittent social media posting!) but through all the madness and stress, I still ensure I have a book on my bedside table and unwind with a cup of chamomile tea before I go to sleep. In the past few months, including December when I was on leave, I’ve read some real gems and picked a few authors that I don’t usually read and I have been blown away and completely emerced in the characters lives that I’ve entered. That’s probably the best part of a good book for me – when you get so completely absorbed in a story that you feel sad when you turn that last page, almost like you are saying goodbye to another world. In my last few ‘season favourites’ posts I’ve been including books I’ve read but as I’m so behind on that (don’t worry, autumn is in the works!) I thought I’d round the top five that I found to be absolute must-reads.

 “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book” – JK Rowling

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1. Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

This is the first of two Jodi Picoult books on my list and I really grown to love her writing. This was one of the most phenomenal book I’ve read and stuck with me for a long time. It is incredibly thought provoking, intense, unsettling and challenging all at the same time. Small Great Things is the story of an African American labour and delivery nurse is blamed for the death of a newborn baby by his white supremacist parents. What unfolds is an entangled web of courtroom drama which Picoult is SO good at describing, as well as three voices throughout the story, that of the accused, the white supremacist neo-Nazi and the well-intended public defender who firmly believes she does not see race at all – by the end of the book not only do the characters have to face their own prejudices and privilege but also leaves the reader with much to think about. This book has been highly debated and Jodi Picoult has received both criticism and praise for her writing but what ever you standpoint, you will certainly take something away from this novel!

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2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

This book was recommended to me by a colleague of mine and is unlike any book I have ever read – it completely threw me. This is an extremely difficult book to sum up without giving away the astonishing, jolting moment of realization that the reader experiences abut a quarter of the way though but in a nutshell this book is about siblings and sibling loss as told by 22 year-old Rosemary Cooke who begins her story in the middle (that too will make sense if you read the book). What unfolds is a a funny, intricate and emotionally resonant account of family and sibling loss. I laughed and cried throughout this book and a heads up for sensitive animal lovers – there are some tough spots that I wasn’t prepared for. It is a completely beguiling book, beautifully written and again leaves one with a lot to think about that I think many people would prefer to ignore when it comes to our relationship with animals.

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3. Two By Two – Nicholas Sparks

The only good thing about my monthly trips business trips, is that I always make time for a quick wander through Exclusive Books at the airport and see what new books are out. I’m always drawn in and I just love the smell of a new book! While quite often I look for titles to download on my Kindle, there is nothing quite like turning the pages of an actual book (and sometimes I feel like a fraudulent bookworm) but my Kindle has become so much more practical for me. Anyway, I digress… It was on one of my trips late last year that I spotted this new Nicholas Sparks books and although I know I am guaranteed to cry like a baby, I absolutely love his writing.  This beautifully written story illustrates the unique bond and unconditional love between a father and daughter and the ups and downs that come with it. Russel Green has it all, or so it seems until beneath the shiny surface of his perfect life, the cracks begin to appear and his world is turned upside down and he finds himself without a wife and out of a job. The story delves into the power of unconditional love between family members and the harsh reality that life doesn’t always go according to plan but how you pick yourself up and dust yourself off well and truly defines your future.

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4. Grey – EL James

Now, I will admit, this is not one of my top 5 picks but, I had to throw in something to lighten the mood a little since my list was getting a little heavy and every now and then you need a little bit of easy-ready cheese so bare with me here! When the Fifty Shades trilogy came out, I too got caught up in the hype and had to read all three books. Say what you want about them, (and I will agree that the writing is far from eloquent but lets be honest, who actually read them for their literary brilliance??) the series is easy reading, perfect for a beach day and once you get beyond all the sex, the love story is actually quite special (I think anyway) So when the second movie came out and they left out so much of the book, I reread the whole series again to remember what happened and then came across Grey which was published in 2015 after readers begged EL James for more Fifty. It’s basically a retelling of the first installment, Fifty Shades of Grey, but told by Christian Grey and what I liked was getting more insight into events, what unfolded before and after and all from a different perspective. With books such a these there will always be a fair amount of opinion and controversy but my philosophy is don’t over-analyse them or take them too seriously and just enjoy them for what they are (and the same goes for the movies!) 🙂

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5. Leaving Time – Jodi Picoult

This was actually one of my first Jodi Picoult books and was also recommended by a colleague of mine – I love having a colleague who shares my love of reading and enjoys similar books to me! What I absolutely loved about this book was the amount I learnt about elephants – when Jodi Picoult writes a book she really does her research and it was truly astonishing the amount I learnt from reading this book. As with many of Picoult’s books, the narrative is shared by four characters, Jenna Metcalf, the daughter of missing-scientist Alice who mysteriously disappeared after a tragic accident at the New England Elephant Sanctuary, Alice herself, Virgil Stanhope an ex-police detective and Serenity Jones, a once famous clairvoyant. This story is beautifully and intricately woven and tells an entertaining and powerful tale of parental love, loss and friendship and a mesmerizing twist of an ending that took me by surprise.  This is a deeply moving and humerous real page-turner that you’ll really struggle to put down – perfect for a cold, rainy day snuggled under a blanket!

I realised when putting this list together that I’ve read so many more books than I thought over the last few months and it was actually really hard to choose just five! So I will definitely be putting together another list of books soon (if you’ve enjoyed this of course) and may make it a regular column.

Happy May and almost winter! While not my favourite time of the year, there is something abut cosy fires and fluffy blankets that makes it all a little more bearable!

xxx Cat

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