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The Year In Books – January

First of all I must say that I have loved the last month of joining in with The Year In Books. It gave me such a good motivation to get my teeth into a brilliant, but actually quite lengthy novel and I suspect that if I hadn’t had a deadline of the end of January to read it by I might never have got off the starting blocks with it (which is no comment on the book, but a very big comment on how slack I have got at reading!)


All The Light We Cannot See is set in the years running up to and during the Second World War. It follows the parallel lives of two young people. Werner a German orphan and Marie-Laure a blind French girl. The outbreak of war drastically alters the routes their lives are to take and we follow them as fate brings them closer and closer together.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but I found it a brilliant and very rewarding read. The relationship between Marie Laure and her father is particularly touching. He does everything he can to protect her from the horrors of the war and his bravery in the letters he writes in the second half of the book is particularly touching.

A few people have commented that the plot fizzles out a bit at the end and I think this is partly because the author has resisted giving it a Hollywood ending. It’ll be very interesting to see if that part of the story gets altered in any way when it does eventually get made into a film, as I’m sure it inevitably will be.

If you choose to read the book I would thoroughly recommend reading this discussion on Good Reads about the ending after you finish it. I found it really enhanced my appreciation of the way the author tied the story up and made me think about aspects of the plot in a very different way.


This month I’m reading a book Jim gave me for Christmas, Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper. It’s set on the Canadian prairies, not too far from where we used to live, so I’m enjoying the descriptions of the landscape and the mentions of towns we knew.

If you are looking for novels to read this year, it’s really worth hopping over to Instagram and searching for #theyearinbooks for a quick dip into what everyone else is reading.

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This year my new year’s resolution was more photography, more quilts and more books… and less time wasted on Facebook and reading the Mail Online (don’t judge me!)

So as part of this I have decided to join Laura at Circle Of Pine Trees with her Year Of Books. She originally set it up as a prompt to herself to work her way through her reading list for 2014 and I am going to join her for similar reasons.

All The Light We Cannot SeeMy last book of 2015 was Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey and although many people love it, I’m afraid I fell into the other camp. The story deals with any elderly lady suffering from dementia and trying to piece together two mysteries, one from the past and one from the present. Her confusion and mental decline is portrayed through a lot of repetition and there are some frustrating plot holes and a slow pace. It was shortlisted for several book awards and has been a bestseller, but it just wasn’t for me.

In  contrast I have also been working my way though a Roald Dahl box set with Theo and it has reminded me of the joy of reading a well paced and well written book. We’ve just finished Esio Trot (first time reading it for me!) and moved on to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Clearly adult books have to have a bit more depth to them, but I find too many are completely removed from the kind of wonderful storytelling you get with Roald Dahl and other authors like him, so here’s hoping my next ‘grown up’ book is a better read!

So my book for January is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I originally bought it for my mum and she has passed it on to me with an encouraging note about how she hopes she’ll find another one as good for her holiday.

I started it last night and I am thrilled already that it has very short chapters which I personally find very appealing in a book as it keeps me turning pages without feeling committed to starting a big chunk of prose. I’ll report back on All The Light We Cannot See at the end of the month (the pressure!) and if you have a Good Reads account feel free to follow me over there too.

Meanwhile if you have any recommendations for books you think I should try in 2016, I’m all ears….

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What I have been reading in September…
 (1) A Beautiful Mess by Elise Larson & Emma Chapman (2) Joanna Trollope – Sense & Sensibility (3) The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler (4) The Cabin by Mulfinger & Davis
I thought with the start of my university course looming and the inevitability of my reading becoming far less eclectic, now would be a great time to do a round up of my reading over the last month….
(1) A Beautiful Mess by Elise Larson & Emma Chapman
I recently discovered the blog and by association, the book of the same name. These days I’m much more into photo idea books than I am into technical ones.There’s no doubt this is beautifully put together and does have some great ideas in it, but I haven’t rushed out to execute any of them and I still feel Kevin Meredith’s Hot Shotsis probably a better read. Maybe it’s because I read Hot Shots first and the two have areas of overlap, but A Beautiful Mess seems a little bit style of substance for me…
(2) Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

I love Joanna and I loved The Soldiers Wife (I think it actually influenced a lot of decisions we made in the last year) so I was delighted to be offered a preview copy of this modern reworking of the Jane Austen classic. However the first 40 pages of this have been hard work, really dialogue heavy, lots of weeping and hard to make the leap of imagination that it’s supposed to be modern day and than then suddenly last night I started a new chapter and it’s great!  I will report back when I reach the end…
(3) The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler

I bought this because I saw it mentioned on a blog which was discussing uses for sloe berries. Its opened my eyes to how much stuff there is out there that we can eat for free, but I’m not convinced it’s the best forager book. I’m open to suggestions though if you know any better?

(4) The Cabin by Mulfinger & Davis

This is not a new purchase, but rather something I dug out to look at again with fresh eyes. It’s full of wonderful eye candy of American log cabins both traditional and modern. I’m going through it now trying to absorb details of things that we might be able to use in our own remodel in the spring and it’s a lovely book.
(5) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I downloaded this as an eBook at the beginning of September and it was such an easy and enjoyable read. A bit “airporty” in parts but I personally think it’s the best star-crossed lovers book I have read since Twilight and it’s up there as the “best-rated” on Amazon for a reason.

If you’re reading anything great at the moment, I’m always keen on recommendations so leave a comment below…

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A year of reading

A year of reading

by Clare Mansell

I’ve nearly completed my first full year of my photo a day project and along with documenting everyday events, I’ve also kept track of every book I’ve read this year…

There were good books and bad books amongst my selections this year. Some which were published years ago and which I’ve only just got round to reading, and others (like The Land Of Decoration which I’ve just started) which aren’t published for another couple of months.

If you’re looking for some good reads for the new year, may I humbly recommend a few of my favourites from the last 12 months…

The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls : The true story of the author’s unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents. Eye-opening and page-turning, but not depressing. Both this and The Help were recommendations on another blog I follow.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett : African American maids working in white households in America’s deep south during the early 1960s. Recently made into a film.

Fire Season – Philip Connors : Something different! An autobiographical tale of 10 summers spent at a remote outpost in the Gila National Forest. I got a preview copy of this as part of the Amazon Vine program and would have been unlikely to have discovered it on my own.

No Great Mischief – Alistair McLeod : The first of my Atlantic Canada books to read before our trip in April. Part set in the Scottish Highlands and part set in Cape Breton. It’s beautifully written and incredibly poignant. 

Unsurprisingly my husband thought it a wise idea to buy me a Kindle for Christmas. I’ve still got seven paperback books to read before I can switch formats, but I’m intrigued to discover how I’m going to find reading on it. A wise friend told me that everyone hates the idea of them until they try one!

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A few good reads…

A few good reads…

by Clare Mansell

Vine reads

First of all, thank you for all the kind messages you sent after the last post they really meant a lot. I found out today about a friend-of-a-friend whose husband has just gone to Afghanistan and who is expecting her first baby in a few weeks, so that was a reality check! At least we have had Theo’s first couple of months together as a family…

Today I have decided to add a new page to the blog for books (link is top right.) I’ve always been a voracious reader and it’s the one indulgence I’ve managed to hang on to since Theo’s birth. In fact I’ve found that by reading when he’s feeding, I’m actually getting more time to read than I did before he was born! (But alas less time to sew!)

I’ve also been part of the Amazon Vine program since January and I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on some great pre-release books, most of which I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. So I thought I’d share some of my reading experience with you and perhaps point you in he direction of some good novels. The page is work in progress at the moment, but if you have a book you love, please share your recommendations too…

And finally the titles on the page are linked to the real old-school paper copies of books on Amazon as that’s the way I still read them. However after seeing Jim’s Kindle today, I think I could be wavering…

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