Book List


2020 Reading List

[24 books so far]

Currently reading: The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron

Films I've watched this year & recommend: A Life On Our Planet // Invictus // Enola Holmes // The Half of It // The Game Changers

TV series I've watched this year & recommend: House of Cards // The Crown // Outlander // Love on the Spectrum // Bodyguard // The English Game // Designated Survivor // Hollywood // Anne with an E

wild swans jung chang

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

by Jung Chang

My thoughtsIt's been many years since it took me this long to finish a book. This falls entirely to the fact that it was dense, vivid, important, deep, moving and mesmerizing and I wanted to read every word with focus and care. Jung's personal account of China's history, spanning nearly a century, is tumultuous, intense and at times hard to believe and absorb. It was impeccably written, opening so much of a hidden past and uncovering so many secrets. Absolutely riveting.

Location: China

Foundpicked up from the Little Free Library on Renall Street, Masterton, New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in Belgium in October & November 2020

Details: 676 pages / published 1991 by Harper Collins Publishers

Rating: 10/10

jana meerman forget me not sue lawson

Forget Me Not

by Sue Lawson

My thoughts: I've read a lot of books about the Titantic and am enraptured by every story I come across, but this one wasn't as great as the rest. The story follows the fictional Gilmore and Worthington families from Southampton in the UK on their second class journey aboard the Titanic and ultimately, it was just too easy to read and over-the-top cheesy. I think it's catered towards a younger audience who perhaps doesn't know much about Titanic's story yet. There were even typos about the timeline of Titanic's sinking, which, truth be told, irked me.

Location: the Atlantic Ocean

Found: purchased at Masterton Hospice Shop in Masterton, New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in Belgium in September 2020

Details: 232 pages / published 2012 by Black Dog Books

Rating: 5/10

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

by Margot Livesey

My thoughts: This book follows the wandering life of Gemma in post-WWII Scotland and Iceland who, as a result of deaths and losses, ends up at various schools, homes and live-in jobs around the country. Along the way, we learn about her upbringing, her roots, her fears and her strengths and the way she always manages to land on her feet. I really enjoyed this book, but didn't like Mr. Sinclair, nor the deflated ending. The rest was captivating.

Location: Scotland and Iceland

Found: purchased at Rotorua Hospice Shop in Rotorua, New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in Belgium in September 2020

Details: 443 pages / published 2012 by Harper Collins Publishers

Rating: 8/10

jana meerman echoes maeve binchy

Echoes

by Maeve Binchy

My thoughts: This book was simple, breathtaking, beautifully written, moving and lovely. The story follows the lives of three young Irish children growing up in the 50s and into their early twenties in the 60s. I felt each painful moment, each celebration, each challenge and each highlight as it was carried out, and was brought to tears in the end. It was a wonderful book.

Location: Ireland

Found: picked up from the Little Free Library in Masterton, New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in New Zealand in September 2020

Details: 555 pages / published 1985 by Century Publishing Co.

Rating: 9/10

jana meerman the seafront tea room vanessa greene

The Seafront Tea Room

by Vanessa Greene

My thoughts: A simple, warm book about a handful of characters who become fast friends over their shared love of tea. All their problems were solved within a few pages, there was no thought-provoking content, it was a bit repetitive and all highly predictable. Having said that, it was a a nice, easy read to get lost in for a few hours.

Location: England

Found: purchased at Whangaparaoa Library in New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in New Zealand in August 2020

Details: 340 pages / published 2014 by Penguin Random House

Rating: 5/10

jana meerman granny dan danielle steel

Granny Dan

by Danielle Steel

My thoughts: I was so excited to read about ballet, my first true love, especially a story set in Russia during the early 1900s. Unfortunately, this novel was way over the top for me with romance, painting ballet as a prison that destroys the lives of young girls by damaging their health and sanity, and preventing from reaching their true potential as women - which is supposedly to be hopelessly in love with men. Danina, the main character, was pathetic; simultaneously the greatest ballerina of her time and also the love interest of a much older (and married) man, who tried everything he could to convince her to quit the ballet and who, in the end, chose his job over her anyway. A disappointing read which I couldn't end fast enough.

Location: Russia

Found: picked up from the Little Free Library in Kuripuni, New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in New Zealand in August 2020

Details: 223 pages / published 1999 by Bantam Press

Rating: 2/10

jana meerman perks of being a wallflower stephen chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky

My thoughts: A very honest and intimate coming-of-age story written through letters by Charlie, who is navigating his first year of high school, a whirlwind of an experience. Love, sex, relationships, family drama, abuse, depression, sexuality - it's a short book covering plenty of intense topics. Some parts felt irrelevant and some could have been explored further. I think it tried to do everything and it was too much.

Location: USA

Found: picked up from the Little Free Library in Schnapper Rocks, New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in New Zealand in August 2020

Details: 231 pages / published 1999 by Pocket Books

Rating: 6/10

jana meerman the zahir paulo coelho

The Zahir

by Paulo Coelho / translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa

My thoughts: I think Coelho's writing is exceptional. His way of explaining things is unparalleled. This book - one that provokes thoughts of travel, truth, discovery, friendship and writing - is ultimately a book about what it means to love and be loved and what it takes to preserve that. A couple of things I didn't like: The whole spirituality thing was pretty overdone; the ending was disappointing following an intense journey of uncertainty only to have the woman fall (dare I say) hopelessly into the man's arms; and, if read as a fictional auto-biography, it becomes pretty self-centred with the significant amount of time spent reminding readers that he's an incredible writer.

Location: France and Kazakhstan

Found: picked up from the Little Free Library in Westmere, New Zealand in July 2020

Read: in New Zealand in July 2020

Details: 339 pages / translated into English and published 2005 by Harper Collins Publishers

Rating: 8/10

jana meerman ache eliza henry jones

Ache

by Eliza Henry Jones

My thoughts: This was a beautiful, gentle book. It was slow and steady, analyzing a small moment in time in careful detail, hanging on to every breath, thought, whisper. For someone who has never had a physical feeling of "home," this was a wonderful insight into a woman's true home and the power that it holds for her and her family.

Location: Australia

Foundpurchased at Masterton Hospice Shop in Masterton, New Zealand in May 2020

Read: in New Zealand in July 2020

Details: 261 pages / published 2017 by Harper Collins Publishers

Rating: 8/10

jana meerman trek paul stewart

Trek

by Paul Stewart

My thoughts: Trek is the incredible (mostly) true story of four "balmy Brits" who attempt to drive from Kenya to London through the Sahara in 1955. If that sentence in itself doesn't already conjure up images of adventure, thrill, fear and disbelief, then let the story draw you in and carry you on a journey through a most respectfully and well-researched telling of this dramatic expedition. The book is compiled based on a collection of cine-films, Box camera photographs, journals and conversations. This is travel at its finest and a spectacular read.

Location: Africa, starting in Kenya and traveling through various then-colonies to the Sahara

Foundpicked up from the Little Free Library in Ngarimu Bay, New Zealand in June 2020

Read: in New Zealand in July 2020

Details: 336 pages / published 1991 by Jonathan Cape

Rating: 10/10

jana meerman the kite runner khaled hosseini

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

My thoughts: This book will hold a special spot on my bookshelf for years to come. Hosseini is a powerful author; this is Afghanistan in a whole new light. Unimaginable scenarios become vivid realities in this tale that crosses both continents and generations.

Location: based primarily in Afghanistan with travels to Pakistan & San Francisco, USA

Foundpurchased at Urban Ore in Rotorua, New Zealand in June 2020

Read: in New Zealand in July 2020

Details: 324 pages / published 2003 by Bloomsbury

Rating: 10/10

jana meerman the long song

The Long Song

by Andrea Levy

My thoughts: What a poignant and raw, yet humorous and fascinating, book. Written as a rare and refreshingly non-white narrative, The Long Song is about the end of slavery in Jamaica and the early years of freedom that followed. This was an eye-opening read and I feel privileged to have been educated on this topic by such a delightful and talented author.

LocationJamaica

Found: picked up from the Little Free Library in Ngarimu Bay, New Zealand in June 2020

Read: in New Zealand in June 2020

Details: 398 pages / published 2010 by Headline Publishing Group

Rating: 9/10

jana meerman the good mayor

The Good Mayor

by Andrew Nicoll

My thoughtsThis book is totally not what it seems. An innocent love story ends up getting entangled in all sorts of strange events - some dark (including some that touch on domestic abuse; tough), some endearing, some heart-breaking, some like a breath of fresh air. Not what I expected when I picked this one up and while the story itself was a pleasure to read, the ending was not quite what I had hoped for.

Locationthe town of Dot in an unidentified Baltic state

Found: picked up from a free book exchange in Greytown, New Zealand in May 2020

Read: in New Zealand in June 2020

Details: 465 pages / published 2008 by Black & White Publishing Ltd.

Rating: 6.5/10

the elegance of the hedgehog muriel barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

by Muriel Barbery / translated from French by Alison Anderson

My thoughts: This was a surprisingly tough book. Like, really, really complex word choices and long elaborate sentences. The books follows the concierge of a fancy French apartment block who has decided to hide her teeming intellect but is eventually uncovered by a wealthy Japanese man who inhabits one of the apartments. It spends a lot of time discussing very lofty ideas, although when the actual story line was discussed, I enjoyed it.

LocationParis, France

Found: purchased at Minton Booklovers in Napier, New Zealand in June 2020

Read: in New Zealand in June 2020

Details320 pages / published 2006 by Éditions Gallimard, Paris / translated into English and published 2008 by Gallic Books

Rating: 5.5/10

jeffrey eugenides middlesex

Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides

My thoughtsWow. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book is incredible. The vast scope of the topics and geography covered is spectacular. The depth, the originality, the thought-provoking conversations, the manner in which it was written... I could go on and on. The story is ultimately centred on Cal, born a girl but who grows up into a man, yet also narrates the life of a Greek immigrant family to America. I was never once confused in this enthralling tale, rather, I was gripped by every word and fascinated by the life and tales Eugenides has written about.

Locationfirst Greece then Detroit, USA and then Germany

Foundgiven to me by a friend in Carterton, New Zealand in May 2020

Read: in New Zealand in June 2020

Details529 pages / published 2002 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Rating: 10/10

jana meerman change of heart charlotte bingham

Change of Heart

by Charlotte Bingham

My thoughtsWhen I spotted this on the bookshelf in our borrowed flat in Carterton, I was excited, having loved Bingham's The White Marriage. I was disappointed. Written in four parts about a prodigious child violinist, the only part I enjoyed was the second detailing Fleur's life. I found the first part creepy and hard to get in to, the third over-sappy and the final completely baffling, resulting in me feeling like I hardly understood what I had read at all. Interestingly, a similar review online also added they only buy Bingham's books secondhand as you never know what you're going to get - you may love one of her works and despise another. The sentiment rings true here.

LocationEngland

Foundborrowed from friends in Carterton, New Zealand in May 2020

Read: in New Zealand in May 2020

Details627 pages / published 1994 by Doubleday

Rating: 4/10

The Lost Continent

by Bill Bryson

My thoughtsI felt overall that Bryson despised his experience, driving from state to state through towns he hated, feeling each one to be poorer and more miserable than the last. He crossed some 34 states in under two months, spending less than a day in most places, even sometimes skipping major national parks because, well, he just couldn't be bothered. I think going with the expectation of disappointment does not put one in the right mindset to enjoy what makes America truly beautiful. Frankly, if anything, this book makes me want to get in my car and do this road trip - but properly.

LocationUSA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Marion Hostel, Wellington, New Zealand in January 2020

Read: in New Zealand in May 2020

Details293 pages / published 1989 by Martin Secker & Warburg Limited

Rating: 2/10

jana meerman the summer garden

The Summer Garden

by Paullina Simons

My thoughtsThis was a massive book, not only in size but also in scope. Covering years and miles, I adored some parts and despised others. It's the final book of the trilogy that follows the love story of Tatiana and Alexander which began in The Bronze Horseman (review below) and provides a highly detailed look into their life in America after their struggles through the Soviet Union. It's dark, it's hard, it's panic-inducing and it's frustrating yet it's also fresh, pleasant and fulfilling - the success story of the true American dream.

LocationUSA and Vietnam, with flashbacks to the Soviet Union

Found: purchased at St Vincent de Paul Op Shop in Petone, New Zealand in February 2020

Read: in New Zealand in April 2020

Details839 pages / published 2005 by Harper Collins

Rating: 6/10

jana meerman the white marriage

The White Marriage

by Charlotte Bingham

My thoughtsThis book was delicious. Based in darling England just after the Second World War between quaint Rushington of cottages and simplicty and bustling London of wealth and high society, we follow delightful young Sunny as she finds her place and, alongside, you find yourself within it. Besides, any book that references (frequently!) Enid Blyton and her Famous Five series is a winner to me!

LocationEngland

Found: picked up from the free book shelf at Dave Parker Eco Lodge on Upolu, Samoa in March 2020

Read: in New Zealand in April 2020

Details479 pages / published 2006 by Bantam Press

Rating: 8.5/10

Trip of a Lifetime

by Liz Byrski

My thoughts: A wonderfully realistic insight into family and work life on Australia's sunny east coast. A bit of love, a dabbling of crime, a healthy dosage of family and a leaves-a-sour-taste-in-your-mouth relationship or two - this book made me cry, cringe and laugh. Refreshing, realistic and honest.

LocationAustralia

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at The Savaiian Hotel on Savai'i, Samoa in March 2020

Read: in Samoa in March 2020

Details343 pages / published 2008 by Pan Macmillan Australia

Rating: 7/10

Seed

by Lisa Heathfield

My thoughts: This book is an equally uncomfortable and enthralling read into life at Seed where Nature guides all actions through Papa S, their idolized leader. This book, written in the simple manner you would expect from a cult-raised 15-year-old, provides an insight into the mentality behind a cult and makes your skin crawl with disgust. It's creepy and intensely insightful all at the same time.

LocationUSA

Found: picked up from the free book shelf at Olivia's Accommodation in Apia, Samoa in March 2020

Read: in Samoa in March 2020

Details331 pages / published 2015 by Electric Monkey

Rating: 8/10

jana meerman the pact jodi picoult

The Pact

by Jodi Picoult

My thoughts: This book gripped my heart. Jodi Picoult's books are exquisitely researched, succinctly written in a manner that holds you on the edge of your seat and heart-wrenching in their choice of topics. Suicide is a tough one to tackle, especially when trying to understand why, when and how, after the fact. Absolutely brilliant - and one that has heavied my heart for its honesty and rawness.

LocationUSA

Found: picked up from the free book shelf at the Marion Hostel in Wellington, New Zealand in January 2020

Read: in New Zealand in February 2020

Details451 pages / published 1998 by William Morrow and Company Inc.

Rating: 9/10

bryson, bill - a walk in the woods

A Walk in the Woods

by Bill Bryson

My thoughtsPerhaps the finest book about hiking I've ever come across. Written in Bill's well-known humorous tone, with anecdotes and one-liners leaving me with tears of laughter, I felt every painful, longing, exasperating and fulfilling step of the Appalachian Trail that he covers in this book.

Locationthe Appalachian Trail in eastern USA between Georgia and Maine

Foundgiven to me by my mother whilst in San Francisco, California, USA in January 2020

Read: in New Zealand in January 2020

Details274 pages / published 1998 by Broadway Books

Rating: 8/10

nineteen minutes - jodi picoult

Nineteen Minutes

by Jodi Picoult

My thoughtsIf for some reason you still need to be convinced that guns should be banned, this book is for you. Even if you already know this, this book is a heart-wrenching reminder of it. A difficult and incredibly well-written book on a highly controversial subject.

LocationNew Hampshire, USA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Auberge de Jeunesse in Nouméa, New Caledonia in September 2019

Read: in New Zealand in January 2020

Details503 pages / published 2007 by Atria Books

Rating: 9/10


2019 Reading List

[21 books]

Films I've watched this year & recommend: Cast Away

TV series I've watched this year & recommend: Our Planet // Black Mirror // Stranger Things

vinegar hill - a. manette ansay

Vinegar Hill

by A. Manette Ansay

My thoughtsWoah. This was a tough read, not for difficulty of language but for content and subject matter (divorce, religion, abuse, relationships, children, marriage). Ansay writes of complex and harsh truths that make the reader uncomfortable enough to want to know more and understand. Beautifully and carefully written.

Location: USA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Bamboo Travellers Hostel in Nadi, Fiji in September 2019

Read: in New Zealand in November 2019

Details: 240 pages / published 1994 by William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Rating: 7.5/10

perfect match - jodi picoult

Perfect Match

by Jodi Picoult

My thoughtsThis is a compelling book to read dealing with a number of intense subject matters. I am consistently impressed by Jodi Picoult's writing and attention to detail. I find I always finish her books wiser and more educated and aware of the difficulties in the world around me. This one centres on sexual assault and the lengths a mother would go to protect her child. A brilliant yet heart-wrenching read.

Location: Maine, USA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Gold Coast Inn in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji in September 2019

Read: in New Zealand in October 2019

Details368 pages / published 2002 by Simon & Schuster

Rating: 8.5/10

the memory garden - rachel hore

The Memory Garden

by Rachel Hore

My thoughtsThe details in this book, based in lovely southwestern England, are pure magic. I delighted in every page, the careful writing weaving pure and beautiful tales, those of both present and past all surrounding an old garden full of mystery and wonder. It has a sense of longing and of belonging. I loved this book.

Location: England

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Oarsman's Bay Lodge in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji in September 2019

Read: in Fiji in September 2019

Details419 pages / published 2007 by Simon & Schuster UK

Rating: 9.5/10

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light

by Sarah Rubin

My thoughtsIn this book, led by young sleuth Alice, we delve into the world of theatre and mystery following an intriguing story about a missing diamond necklace. An easy but appealing and enjoyable book that holds on to you throughout the tale.

Location: Pennsylvania, USA

Found: picked up from the free book shelf at the Nabua Lodge in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji in August 2019

Read: in Fiji in August 2019

Details283 pages / published 2017 by Chicken House

Rating: 6.5/10

one of us is lying - karen mcmanus

One of Us is Lying

by Karen M. McManus

My thoughts: I don't tend to read mysteries or murder novels but on a remote island in Fiji with few other options, I picked this one up and I am glad I did! I got through it in one afternoon, unable to put down the exciting if easy-to-read story of four students who all may or may not be co-conspirators in a fifth student's murder. A satisfying and unpredictable end; an enjoyable and clearly written read.

Location: USA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Nabua Lodge in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji in August 2019

Read: in Fiji in August 2019

Details358 pages / published 2017 by Delacorte Press

Rating: 7/10

44 scotland street - alexander mccall smith

44 Scotland Street

by Alexander McCall Smith

My thoughtsThis book was a whimsical and lovely read. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Pat and her father, the delicacy of a second gap year (her first having taken her where mine has taken me: New Zealand and Australia), the stories of a gifted childhood and the underlying sense of adventure, honesty and discovery. I perhaps lost a bit the ultimate connection between all of them, aside from their shared address and felt many stories began but left unanswered questions (especially in Bertie's case); I suppose I will have to continue the series to find the answers!

Location: Scotland

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Wayalailai Island Resort in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji in August 2019

Read: in Fiji in August 2019

Details: 326 pages / published 2005 by Polygon

Rating: 6/10

the lost book of the grail - charlie lovett

The Lost Book of the Grail

by Charlie Lovett

My thoughtsThis book was written with careful attention to detail and history. I enjoyed discovering so much about the myths and legends of the Holy Grail, something we all seem to know about but not to really understand. Not a book I would normally read - it's highly religious - but I genuinely appreciated the love of books and of mystery wound through the tale, if nothing else.

Location: England

Found: mailed to me as a gift by mother whilst traveling New Zealand in June 2019

Read: in Indonesia in August 2019

Details317 pages / published 2017 by Viking Penguin

Rating: 7/10

the storied life of a.j. fikry - gabrielle zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

by Gabrielle Zevin

My thoughtsThis book was a pure delight. I read it in one sitting taking just 2 hours whilst traveling across an island in Indonesia stuffed into the back of a bus and I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a bus ride as immensely as I did this one. Everything about the book offered joy and a fond reminder as to why we read, why we share, why we appreciate the little moments and most importantly, why we love. A tender, dear book.

Location: Massachusetts, USA

Foundmailed to me as a gift by mother whilst traveling New Zealand in June 2019

Read: in Indonesia in August 2019

Details258 pages / published 2014 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Rating: 10/10

the jane austen book club - karen joy fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club

by Karen Joy Fowler

My thoughtsWhile this book had good intentions and beautifully entwines Jane Austen with the day-to-day lives of six wonderful characters, more than once I found myself lost in the complex web of stories. At times I felt that parts were skimmed over and at other times I read details I found redundant. If you like Jane Austen, you'll like this book simply because it brings her to life in yet another way, but I'm not sure I quite enjoyed the read simply because of the confusion.

Location: California, USA

Found: picked up from the free book shelf at the Albatross Hostel in Kaikoura, New Zealand in June 2019

Read: in Indonesia in August 2019

Details257 pages / published 2004 by Penguin Group

Rating: 4.5/10

the long forgotten - david whitehouse

The Long Forgotten

by David Whitehouse

My thoughtsA lovely, heartfelt book with a gorgeous use of the English language, this book is a complex tale entwining the stories of a handful of different people each on a journey of understanding, discovery and love. An easy read, this uplifting tale leads to the final conclusion in an unpredictable way.

Location: London, England & New York, USA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Packer Box Hostel in Nusa Penida, Indonesia in August 2019

Read: in Indonesia in August 2019

Details: 289 pages / published 2018 by Picador

Rating: 8/10

9 months in tibet - rupert wolfe murray

9 Months in Tibet

by Rupert Wolfe Murray

My thoughtsThis book is inspirational. Rupert writes about his experiences hitchhiking from Scotland to Tibet in the 80s, pre-internet and pre-cell phones and pre-social media travel crazes. A highly dense book, I was thrilled by every paragraph, feeling as though I was in every country with Rupert every step of the way. He set a goal with this book to "encourage people to overcome their fear of travelling alone by sharing [his] story and explaining how [he] did it." Well, mission accomplished. I'm off to keep exploring the world with a renewed vigour in my step.

Location: Tibet, plus the hitchhiking journey to get there overland from Scotland

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Albatross Hostel in Kaikoura, New Zealand in June 2019

Read: in Indonesia in August 2019

Details368 pages / published 2016 by Scotland Street Press

Rating: 10/10

Those Faraday Girls - McInerney, Monica

Those Faraday Girls

by Monica McInerney

My thoughtsWhile I disregarded this book in the early stages, I quickly found myself unable to put this one down. It's written warmly and smoothly, with unexpected twists and intricate plots that leave you desperate to understand what happens in this jumble of a complex family.

Location: Australia, then New York, USA and Ireland

Found: picked up from the free book shelf at the Albatross Hostel in Kaikoura, New Zealand in June 2019

Read: in New Zealand in July 2019

Details634 pages / published 2007 by Penguin Group

Rating: 8/10

the bronze horseman - simons, paullina

The Bronze Horseman

by Paullina Simons

My thoughtsThe Bronze Horseman is an epic book filled with so many fascinating and quite heart-wrenching details about the Soviet Union during the Second World War. It shines light on a part of the war I didn't know nearly enough about, down to the smallest yet most important details and moments. There's an intense love story woven in and, while I don't believe that we need a partner to save or complete us, it brings a sense of hope and purpose.

Location: the Soviet Union

Found: picked up from the free book shelf at the Albatross Hostel in Kaikoura, New Zealand in June 2019

Read: in New Zealand in June 2019

Details637 pages / published 2000 by Harper Collins

Rating: 8.5/10

the secret life of bees - monk kidd, sue

The Secret Life of Bees

by Sue Monk Kidd

My thoughtsThe Secret Life of Bees is, in short, profound. Indirectly covering difficult and important topics - love, racism, abuse, death - this book is gripping, fascinating, intense, beautiful and poignant. Seen through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Lily Owens who was raised by a single father, this story twists and turns with hard truths and a powerful lesson in life and in love.

Location: South Carolina, USA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Albatross Hostel in Kaikoura, New Zealand in April 2019

Read: in New Zealand in May 2019

Details274 pages / published 2002 by Headline Book Publishing

Rating: 10/10

the girl who saved the king of sweden - jonasson, jonas

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

by Jonas Jonasson / translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles

My thoughtsThis book was a fantastically witty and highly detailed recounting of some of the most bizarre events that the mind could conjure as they played out throughout the joint history of Sweden and South Africa (and some bits of China sprinkled in) in relation to the life of one very extraordinary woman, Nombeko Mayeki. I found the humour to be the perfect amount, following characters who were so unapologetically themselves.

Location: South Africa then Sweden

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Albatross Hostel in Kaikoura, New Zealand in April 2019

Read: in New Zealand in April 2019

Details419 pages / published 2013 by Piratförlaget / translated into English and published 2014 by Harper Collins

Rating: 9/10

Plain Truth

by Jodi Picoult

My thoughtsA gripping narrative that details the highly complex and mostly unknown day-to-day life of the Amish and how an unthinkable crime disrupts everything they know. A very well-researched book in which you never know what's coming next.

Location: USA

Foundpicked up from the free book shelf at the Albatross Hostel in Kaikoura, New Zealand in March 2019

Read: in New Zealand in April 2019

Details504 pages / published 2000 by Allen & Unwin

Rating: 9/10

The Elephant Keepers' Children

by Peter Høeg

My thoughtsA brilliantly witty novel that keeps you in fits of giggles while unraveling a highly complicated tale chasing policemen, terrorists, religious fanatics and all sorts of other fascinatingly believable characters around Denmark.

Location: Denmark

Found: picked up from a free book exchange in Punakaiki, New Zealand, February 2019

Read: in New Zealand in March 2019

Details390 pages / published 2013 by Vintage Books

Rating: 9/10

cooper, jilly - riders

Riders

by Jilly Cooper

My thoughtsA long and gripping novel that details almost a decade of romance, horses and the drama between the top athletes in the field of Great Britain's horse-jumping team leading up to the Los Angeles Olympics. Sex, horses and drama - what else could you want? Perhaps some clarity to make it a bit easier to follow the intensely complicated tale...

Location: England, mostly

Foundpicked up from the Little Free Library in Anakiwa, New Zealand in February 2019

Read: in New Zealand in February 2019

Details919 pages / published 1985

Rating: 7/10

open house - mansell, jill

Open House

by Jill Mansell

My thoughts: A whimsical love story with all the qualities of a family rivalry turned on its head by the young heir and heiress' attraction to each other thanks to brilliant brains, wit and dashingly good looks. An easy read with a satisfying, if predictable, ending.

Location: England

Found: picked up at the YHA Hostel free book shelf in Canberra, Australia in January 2019

Read: on the plane from Australia to New Zealand in February 2019

Details448 pages / published 1995 by Headline

Rating: 6.5/10

the bookmans tale - lovett, charlie

The Bookman's Tale

by Charlie Lovett

My thoughtsA riveting book delving into the history and truth of William Shakespeare and his plays. While sometimes confusing to keep up with all the different eras in his writing, this book is a wonderful analysis of the truth of Shakespeare with an almost too-good-to-be-true romance wound in.

Location: England

Foundlent to me by my mother in San Francisco, California, USA in January 2019

Read: in Australia in February 2019

Details368 pages / published 2014 by Penguin Random House

Rating: 7/10

first impressions charlie lovett

First Impressions

by Charlie Lovett

My thoughtsA beautifully written love story that unites the old and new with Jane Austen's witty writing and passion for friendship and words. Some characters could have been further developed but a wholly wonderful tale.

Location: England

Foundlent to me by my mother in Vancouver, Canada in November 2018

Read: in Australia in January 2019

Details308 pages / published 2014 by Viking

Rating: 8/10


2018 Reading List

[incomplete]

Films I've watched this year & recommend: Love Actually // The Danish Girl // The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

TV series I've watched this year & recommend: The Good Witch // The OA // When Calls The Heart // The 100 // The Good Place // Riverdale // Atypical // Making a Murderer // 13 Reasons Why // Pretty Little Liars // Suits

lord, walter - a night to remember

A Night to Remember

by Walter Lord

My thoughtsA fantastic, gripping account of the night the Titanic sank - every moment re-crafted and the tales of the survivors and those lost with the ship woven to such precision, it feels like you're on board.

Location: Atlantic Ocean

Foundpurchased at Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, USA in August 2018

Read: in Vancouver, Canada in November 2018

Details209 pages / published 1955 by Holt Paperbacks

Rating: 10/10

heading out to wonderful - goolrick, robert

Heading Out to Wonderful

by Robert Goolrick

My thoughtsA dark, draws-you-in, can't-put-it-down sort of read. Thoroughly deep characters with tales that tug on your heart in ways you didn't know it could.

Location: Virginia, USA

Foundpurchased at Bookshop Santa Cruz, California, USA in July 2018

Read: in Vancouver, Canada in November 2018

Details304 pages / published 2012 by Algonquin Books

Rating: 9/10

wilson, frances - how to survive the titanic, or the sinking of j bruce ismay

How to Survive the Titanic or the Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay

by Frances Wilson

My thoughtsOne of the best accounts of the Titanic I have yet read, focusing around the life of White Star Line chairman and Titanic ship-owner. The book is full of gripping details and a fascinating description of the aftermath which is not so widely covered.

Location: England, the Atlantic Ocean and New York, USA

Foundborrowed from Vancouver Public Library, Canada in July 2018

Read: in Vancouver, Canada in July 2018

Details329 pages / published 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Rating10/10

shaffer, mary ann & barrows, annie - the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

My thoughtsA compelling and truly lovely book written entirely in letters between characters. More than anything, this book makes you want to give up everything for an idyllic island life among friends. PS. The movie sucked in comparison, I turned it off less than half-way through.

Location: England and Guernsey

Foundsaved from the dump pile in my apartment building in Vancouver, Canada in May 2018

Read: in Vancouver, Canada in June 2018

Details274 pages / published 2008 by Dial Press Trade Paperbacks

Rating: 9.5/10

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