Welcome to another book round up! I’ve been in somewhat of a slump these past few weeks – the majority of titles I’ve read have left me feeling a bit ‘meh.’ There have been a few that I’ve enjoyed but no five stars. If you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments!
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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them…
I know this book is very popular and has received rave reviews online but unfortunately I couldn’t get on board with it. It took me weeks to finish as I found it so dull and repetitive – it was as if I was reading the same chapter over and over. I failed to connect with any of the characters and I found the plot a little too far fetched.
Not much else to say about this one. It had some beautiful descriptive writing and I actually managed to make it to the end – hence the two stars – but overall I was left disenchanted.
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin
As a licensed clinical social worker, college psychology instructor, and psychotherapist, Amy Morin has seen countless people choose to succeed despite facing enormous challenges. That resilience inspired her to write 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, a web post that instantly went viral, and was picked up by the Forbes website.
Morin’s post focused on the concept of mental strength, how mentally strong people avoid negative behaviors–feeling sorry for themselves, resenting other people’s success, and dwelling on the past. Instead, they focus on the positive to help them overcome challenges and become their best.
Like physical strength, mental strength requires healthy habits, exercise, and hard work. Morin teaches you how to embrace a happier outlook and arms you to emotionally deal with life’s inevitable hardships, setbacks, and heartbreaks–sharing for the first time her own poignant story of tragedy, and how she summoned the mental strength to move on. As she makes clear, mental strength isn’t about acting tough; it’s about feeling empowered to overcome life’s challenges.
I don’t read self-help books often but I do like to visit them from time to time. This was recommended to me by a friend so I decided to download the Audiobook. I finished it in a few days and really enjoyed it.
I’ve always struggled with positive thinking, and even though I’ve noticed a drastic improvement in my mental well-being these past few years, books like this always provide me some much-needed encouragement. I could identify with all 13 points in some way, and while I didn’t agree with everything the author said, I found her approach very relatable. Some self-help books can be a bit sanctimonious (in my opinion) but this made for a refreshing change.
I’d recommend this to anyone needing a bit of a lift during lockdown! I’m planning on buying a physical copy, too.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.
But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.
After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.
That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision…
Do you ever finish a book and think, what on earth did I just read? Because that’s how I felt about In Five Years. I thought the blurb sounded intriguing but a couple of chapters in I knew it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. I persevered as I was curious to see how the story unfolded but unfortunately it never redeemed itself.
There were so many things I disliked about this book: the one-dimensional characters, the cheesy dialogue (I felt as if I was reading a YA novel at some points) and the drawn-out descriptions of what everyone was eating/wearing. However, the real ‘wtf’ moment was the fact that the ending completely contradicted the true meaning behind the story.
I’ve given it two stars instead of one as it was a quick, easy read.
Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins
When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.
But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent?
Roaming Oxford’s secret passages and hidden graveyards, Magpie Lane explores the true meaning of family – and what it is to be denied one.
This was a beautiful book – atmospheric, wonderfully written and full of carefully crafted characters. I loved the rich descriptions of Oxford and the anecdotes about its famous former residents. Magpie Lane had all the ambience of a 19th century gothic novel – I had to keep reminding myself it was set during the present day.
I listened to it on Audible and the narrator did an incredible job. I finished it in two days as I was desperate to untangle the mystery. I actually took myself on a 2 hour walk in order to squeeze in more listening time!
The only thing holding me back from giving a higher rating is the fact I found the ending a bit anticlimactic. The story was also a little slow in places. Despite the negatives, however, it was an enjoyable read overall.
What have you been reading recently? x