Whimsical Reading – Birds


We haven’t talked about it in a while, but I’m still plodding away at the whimsical reading challenge (for more info, click on the tab above)… and today I thought I’d share a few more reading suggestions with you, this time on the theme of ‘birds’.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is one of those ‘must reads’ I’ve had on my shelf for a good long while… and my bestest friend in the whole wide world is always raving about it, so it’s inevitable I’ll get there one day!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Number#5 in the Harry Potter series seems to get a bit of a slating… but I love it! It’s not my favourite (that honour goes to the Prisoner of Azkaban) but it is far, far superior to the last two… call me crazy but they were just disappointing!

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

I’ve wanted to read this for years, ever since I saw the film adaptation starring Helena Bonham Carter (who I’ve always adored), I don’t really know why I haven’t got to it yet… especially considering I have a copy on my shelf and on my Kindle. I read another James novel this year, and I found it equally fabulous and frustrating, for my review of Portrait of a Lady click here.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This is the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. I rarely fall in love with book that gets loads of hype, but I just had to make an exception here!

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Every single charity shop I’ve walked into seems to have a copy on the shelves… and every single time I see it I think ‘hmm, I’d like to read that…’ – I love history, and Chinese history is something I really haven’t read a lot about… I just haven’t got to this one yet. Sometimes I think there aren’t enough years ahead of me to fit in all the books I’d like to read.

So have you picked your ‘bird’ book yet? Any recommendations?

D x

The Hunger Games

This trilogy satisfies three categories of the whimsical reading challenge… Toy or Game (The Hunger Games), Things You Don’t Like (Catching Fire) and Birds (Mockingjay).


To to say that I enjoyed these books would be an understatement. It took me about three days to polish off the lot, and considering I’m out of the house about eleven hours a day that’s pretty speedy reading!

Experiencing the unexpected is key to your enjoyment of this trilogy, so I’m going to vague my review up because I really, really don’t want to ruin anything!

Basically, a dystopian world is divided into 12 districts and each year, these twelve districts donate two teenagers to a televised gaming event that combines Castaway and Gladiator (both the film and the ’90s TV show). The game ends when there’s only one survivor. That’s all I can tell you about the content, because I just need you to read it for yourself, and I’m trying not to give anything crucial away!

I’m not going to lie, when these first erupted onto all the bestseller lists I didn’t want to read them. I usually avoid reading the things that ‘everyone’ reads, because these books tend to be underwhelming. Also, YA is not really my genre of choice.

However, I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who ever considers listening to me, you will not regret it!

Because I read the three books continuously, as though they were all one novel, it would be hard for me to pick out a favourite. I love the story, and the landscape that gets set up in The Hunger Games, but as I’d already seen the film I knew what was going to happen every step of the way. Catching Fire had more of the ‘shock factor’, and I really enjoyed that aspect. Mockingjay was good, but probably my least favourite because

a) it didn’t have the gradual build-up of the first two, it was more of a high-speed snowball rolling down a hill forgetting to explain itself properly and

b) it marked the beginning of the end… I was running out of Hunger Games books 😦

Possibly the best thing about reading these books was that I really didn’t expect to like them. They were given to me as a gift, so I gave them a try, and I’m so glad I did. Next time I won’t be so quick to judge a book just because of its genre.

Have you read anything recently that you didn’t expect to love so much?

D x

Whimsical Reading – Countries


Today is the tenth day of Rosalilium’s BEDM challenge and the theme is travel dreams. If you remember, one of the topics of the reading challenge I’m hosting this year is books with a country in the title, so today I decided to share a few reading suggestions that feature countries I dream of travelling to:

Arabesque: a Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon by Claudia Roden.

This is one of the cookery books I’ve downloaded onto my kindle and I can’t wait to have the time to experiment with some of the recipes! I’ve never been to Morocco, Turkey or Lebanon but I adore the food from all three; I spent the night of eighteenth birthday stuffing my face at a teensy Lebanese restaurant in Norwich. Sooo yummy!

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

TO READ. Another kindle purchase of mine. I’m in love with idea of travelling across America so what could be better than a book about travelling across America PLUS the author comes with Grandma’s stamp of approval.

My Life in France by Julia Child

TO READ. There’s something innately glamorous about France. I’ve been a couple of times and I’d love to go again soon. This book tells the story of the timeless Julia Child’s love affair with all things French, a must for anyone who adored Julie and Julia.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

Another three countries I’d love to explore someday. Apparently I went to Italy when I was three, but the only thing I remember is my mum trying to make me a cup of tea out of Typhoo tea granules. Ick. To see my review of Eat, Pray, Love click here.

5. Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

TO READ. I want to read this both because it sounds good and because it has a gorgeous cover. In a nutshell it’s the coming of age story of a half Polish, half Cuban teenager living in America. Also, I’ve been dreaming of visiting Cuba for years… very possibly because it’s such a good Bond location!

6. The Bolter: Edwardian Heartbreak and High Society Scandal in Kenya by Frances Osborne

TO READ. The true story of Idina Sackville, written by her great granddaughter, it has all the ingredients of greatness; the 1920’s, decadence, Africa and scandal. Can’t wait to sink my teeth in!

So, have you come up with any other books with a country in the title? Don’t forget to leave me a link if you decide to take part in my little reading challenge!

D x

Whimsical Reading – Feelings


My reading frenzy seems to have halted slightly- I’ve only finished one book in the past week or so (what’s that about?!).

Here are a few more reading suggestions I’ve come up with for the ‘feeling’ category of the whimsical reading challenge:

1. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Check out my review by clicking the link above.

2. Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth by Edeet Ravel

TO BE READ. This book revolves around the friendship cultivated between two girls who are children of Holocaust survivors. My intuition is telling me not to expect rainbows and kittens with this one, but hopefully the writing itself will make up for this.

3. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I know this is somewhat of a ‘classic’ but I really did find it quite underwhelming. I’d recommend the Tim Burton flick in an instant, but that may be because it’s a completely different story.

4. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

TO BE READ. Why do I want to read this, I hear you ask? Because it sounds like epic literature, or because the movie trailer features a really great Fleetwood Mac cover? I’ll leave that to your powers of deduction.

5. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

(Translated: Hello Sadness). This is so teeny that I suggest (and by suggest I mean demand) you fit it into your life at some point. It’s melancholic, it’s decadent, it’s French and it’s morally ambiguous… in other words, a Gatsbyan treat!

Have you come up with any ideas for books with a ‘feeling’ in the title? Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments below! If you feel like joining in with my little reading challenge, send me a message (in a comment or email, whichever you prefer) and I’ll hop over and follow you.

D x

Whimsical Reading – Space


Today I’m going to share a few more suggestions for my whimsical reading challenge, this time for the ‘something from space’ category:

1. Stars Rain Down by Chris J. Randolph

TO BE READ. This is a futuristic sci-fi, not the genre I usually go for but this was a gift, so I added it to the ever-increasing ‘to be read’ pile… not sure how long it’ll take me to get to it though!

2. New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

Second book of the Twilight Saga. I’m very much torn about Twilight. For starters, I think the films are shockingly bad and that the books are much better. When I first read them I knew nothing of the story, and I did really enjoy them. They’re not highbrow literature but that’s not always what I look for in a book anyway… and I love a bit of something vampirey!

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

TO BE READ. Many people have recommended this to me but after watching the last half of the film I don’t really think it’s for me… apparently it’s funny though.

4. Seeing Stars by Diane Hammond

TO BE READ. This book tells the story of a number of child actors and their Hollywood parents. I’m expecting this book to expose me to some not-so-delightful things but at the same time it sounds quite interesting… I think this is the one I’ll be reading for the challenge.

5. Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland

TO BE READ. The story of an ambitious 1990’s youth raised in a hippy commune. It sounds like a novel of quirky characters (my favourite kind), so I’m looking forward to reading it.

The Draining Lake

This is the book I chose for the ‘body of water’ category of the whimsical reading challenge.


When I first started reading The Draining Lake (by Arnaldur Indridason) I didn’t like it. I couldn’t pronounce any of the character names or any of the place names so whenever I came across one it was a stumbling block, also they sounded like something from Lord of the Rings. I also got the impression that each character had acres of back story that didn’t feature in this novel (I later found out that this book is sixth in a series, so that would be why!). I struggled along for about a quarter of the way through but then suddenly I was gripped! I couldn’t wait for the end of each day, so I could hop on the bus and crack out my Kindle.

If I had to summarise my favourite aspects of The Draining Lake I’d say, firstly, the dysfunctional characters; the hero is a detective called Erlendur, who seems to be an Icelandic version of Sherlock Holmes, but with more pronounced family issues. And secondly, the subtly constructed mystery; in this novel Indridason has created a plot with numerous possible endings so the reader never knows quite how things are going to turn out. I can never decide if I prefer guessing the ending of a book and being right OR being wowed by how things turn out.

The novel is split between three points of view, Erlendur (the lead detective), Thomas (an Icelandic national studying in Leipzig during the Cold War) and an anonymous (until the end) communist. Each narrative perspective performs a specific function; Erlendur creates the pace, Thomas provides another layer to the story and slows down the narrative, prolonging the reader’s journey towards the climax, and then the anonymous communist helps to develop the suspense.

One thing I did notice is that the author writes very much for the Icelandic reader. He assumes that his audience has a much deeper understanding of Iceland’s culture and reputation than I do, but I can’t really blame him for that. I think I could point Iceland out on a map and I know Bjork is from there, but that’s about it.

I would definitely recommend this book to a fellow crime novel enthusiast; it’s very different from the crime novels I usually come across, and who doesn’t love a bit of variety?

What have you guys been reading recently? I’m always looking for recommendations!

D x

Whimsical Reading – Mythical Creatures


For the past couple of months I’ve been sharing some suggestions of what you could read if you fancy playing along with my whimsical reading challenge. Some of these are books I’ve read and some I are still staring at me from my bookshelves. I could never refer to myself as an objective reviewer, but I will always be an honest one… having said that I’m refraining from full-blown reviews in these posts; I’ll save those for when I’ve actually read the books!

So without further ado, here are some ideas for the ‘mythical creatures’ category.

1. Kraken by China Mieville

TO BE READ. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Mievelle, but I’m yet to take the plunge. This one sounds aka right up my street, set in an alternate vision of London filled with criminals, cultists and wizards freewheeling down to the end of the world. Actually that sounds pretty much like real-life London…

2. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Click on the link above to see my review of this book.

3. Nightwalker by Heather Graham

TO BE READ. This is essentially a crime novel with a ghostly twist. What’s not to love? It’s not very far up my ‘to be read’ list though as it’s eighth in the series and my OCD prefers me to read things in order!

4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Erm… Middle Earth is a tricky subject. I have friends who have almost disowned me when I admitted I didn’t like Lord of the Rings. I love, and I mean LOVE, the films but for once the books don’t quite measure up. The Hobbit is my favourite of the lot, it’s much less dense. But I still won’t be reading it again.

5. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

TO BE READ. And this one will be read, hopefully soon. I adored the film (Jack Nicholson is a god), I even adored the short-lived TV series, so I have no doubts that I will adore the book.

There are so many more I could suggest… The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Grimm’s Fairy Stories…. What about you? Any ideas?

D x

The Jewel Box

This is the book I chose to for the ‘precious stone’ category of the whimsical reading challenge:


The Jewel Box tells the story of Grace Rutherford, a copywriter by day and a columnist, known as Diamond Sharp, by night. We see her struggles with balancing her jobs, keeping her secret identity hidden, taking care of her family and trying to find the perfect cocktail (not to mention the perfect man). I think that if the story had been told chronologically I would have detested this protagonist, but the flashbacks to her youth give her much more depth and a history that really tugs at your heartstrings. I still imagine her looking like Velma from Chicago though.

To me the characters seemed very credible, but that could be because they reflect the stereotypical images I have in my head of people from the 1920’s (all gleaned from watching Poirot); we have the eccentric suffragette, the aging flapper, the mysterious American player… I think you could be the most incompetent writer on Earth but if you set your novel in the 1920’s it would still seem glamorous. Fortunately Anna Davis is not the most incompetent on Earth, so she has more to offer than simply the glamour of the age.

There are a couple of themes that recur throughout The Jewel Box that, for me, elevate it from the status of historical chick lit to something much deeper. Most significantly, the woman question; in one household we see a broad spectrum of women in different states of freedom. Catherine, barmy widow and hardcore suffragette; Grace an ‘aging’ single woman who has two careers and has a social life Serena Van Der Woodsen would be jealous of; Nancy, the demure younger sister, stuck in the house with two young children and not even old enough to vote. It’s weird, nowadays we don’t really think anything of popping down the pub, or smoking in public, or having a decent job so I always find it quite bizarre reading about women who couldn’t do any of these things. What’s more bizarre is that they don’t even seem to question this… I have to say though, I took great pride in voting as soon as I was old enough, I’m just glad the age has lowered from 30 to 18!

Now, there are more boyfriend swaps in this book than in an entire season of Gossip Girl but that’s what makes it fun. One of the things I expect from a book is for it to make me think. Even if it’s to think of something as silly as ‘which one will she pick’ or ‘oooh, what if she finds out what they did’. The not knowing, but wanting to know, is what propels you to the end.

I do have one negative thing to say about The Jewel Box. There are little snippets of dialogue that make me visibly cringe… whenever someone says ‘Oh, rather’ instead of ‘Yes’ I want to throw up in my mouth. I know that the author is trying to be authentic to the way people spoke at the time, but I hate it. It’s just a personal thing… the same happened when I read the Famous Five books.

Other than that, it was great fun. It definitely provided me with the respite I’d been craving after all my academic reading. I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys ‘girly’ books, because it is pretty girly, but who cares?!

Enjoy whatever you’re reading this week!
D x

Whimsical Reading – Illness


Hello, hello, and how are you today?

I’m back for my weekly feature of sharing some reading suggestions inspired by my whimsical reading challenge. When I started planning what to read for each category I remember there was one that stuck out to me: illness. Unless you’re going to read a non-fictional book about an actual illness then it’s a bit tricky trying to find one suitable. However, after racking my brains for a couple of weeks, and employing a little poetic license I have come up with a few for you:

1. Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
TO BE READ. This one seems like the most obvious choice for this category (and I say this because it’s the only one I could think of to start with). I bought a copy of this a while ago because it’s supposed to be one of the greats, but I find myself feeling a bit ‘meh’ about actually reading it. In fact, I carried it around in my handbag for a week without getting past the third page.

2. Frank Sinatra has a cold and other stories by Guy Talese
You may or may not have noticed that I generally condemn short stories. Often they annoy me beyond belief. This book, however, is a gem. Although technically these are more like essays or articles, I’m counting the book as a win for the short story movement. For more of my (undoubtedly profound) opinions check out my review.

3. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
This is one great author. He’s down to earth, he’s hilarious, his writing style sucks you in so that before you know it you’re almost done. Fever Pitch is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not my favourite of his books. I loved About a Boy, but my favourite has to be High Fidelity and luckily for me, there are still a decent amount I haven’t read yet!

4. Plague of Hearts by Patrick Whittaker
TO BE READ. This is a book set in Wonderland and I’ve read about a quarter of it. I think I downloaded it for free from feedbooks.com when I first got my Kindle, but I ended up getting distracted by set books and never ended up finishing… From what I remember, the story was pretty good and the characters were great, but the writing style seemed a little iffy in places.

5. That Mad Ache by Francoise Sagan
TO BE READ. One of my favourite books of all time is Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, and this one promises to be more of the same. There’s just something so melancholic, so nostalgic, so FRENCH about her writing… I just can’t get enough! I’m scouring all my favourite second-hand bookshops for this one, if I don’t get lucky soon I may even have to brave Waterstones!

So, have you managed to come up with any book titles with an illness in the title? If you have, or if you’ve been taking part in the reading challenge with me, leave me a comment below. Remember there’s no time restriction wih this, so you can join any time!

D x

Mirror, Mirror

This is the book I picked for the “something metal” category of the whimsical reading challenge.

Mirror, Mirror

This book was written by the brains behind Wicked (Gregory Maguire), which I haven’t read yet, but I do have on my shelf somewhere. I am an absolute junkie for reinterpretations of the classics. This one, as you might guess from the title, is a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I want to start off by saying that I absolutely loved this book. As in loved it. He made some really original alterations (such as casting Lucrezia Borgia in the role of wicked stepmother) and yet still remained faithful to the arch of the story. His treatment of the dwarves can only be described as epic… little stone men that burrow through anything and live forever… Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy and Dopey become Blindeye, Heartless, Deaf-to-the-world, MuteMuteMute, Bitter, Tasteless and Gimpy. Politically correct? Probably not, but still massively entertaining!

My one criticism, and it’s only very minor, is that I found the character of Snow White quite two-dimensional in comparison with the others. She was just a bit…. Nondescript. But in a way, I’m quite glad he refrained on focussing entirely on Snow White, because that’s exactly how the story is usually told. By bringing the rest of the ‘cast’ he highlights different angles in the story, which I found really enjoyable.

His narrative tone takes a couple of chapters to get used to as he alters it depending on who the chapter is about, but once you get stuck in it really just adds more depth to the characters. He has this way of describing things that just transports you to the dusty Italian farm or the creepy woodland or the decadence of Rome. It really is a fairy tale for the modern reader HOWEVER there is a mention of sex with an eel, so it’s not really a book for the younger modern reader.

Hope you’re all having a great week so far! If you’ve got any book recommendations or whimsical reading updates for me, then leave me a comment below,

D x