Widely Read: Books I Have Been Reading

As I mentioned in my 2014 post, I have been reading widely about the changes taking place in my life. I have avoided writing a massive post about pregnancy and baby books and will instead provide a select round up of what I have been burying my nose in so far this year.

Bellagrand, by Paullina Simonsbellagrand

I was so lucky to catch this book almost as soon as it was available at the library by early reservation. It was perfectly what I craved to read. This was a beautifully written, but heart-breaking story, about the slow disintegration of a woman who fell in love with a radical socialist. Her life is plotted with so many downs and just a few magical ups – her love; for her husband, mother, brother and son.

I really enjoyed this story and the protagonist’s strength in the face of so much tragedy. But, by covering so much time, it felt like Gina’s life was mostly summarised, honing in on a few key moments or periods.

City of Fallen Angels, by Cassandra Clare

This is the fourth instalment of The Mortal Instruments series by stunning Young Adult author, Cassandra Clare. Like the previous three, it was an addictive, plot-driven read with a cast of characters I’ve come to love. These books seem so hard to sum up into a sentence, or even a paragraph, but this one follows Clary (now training to be a Shadowhunter), Simon (Clary’s best friend, a newly turned vampire) and Jace (Clary’s Shadowhunter boyfriend) as they follow three different paths that intertwine at the climax. It was a great read!

Chronic Resilience, by Danea Horn

chronic resilienceAuthor, Danea Horn, suffers from a few serious chronic illnesses, including kidney disease, but has not let this rule her life. She is a certified life coach and speaker with a great blog, In this book she teaches 10 strategies for coping with chronic illness, featuring women dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses.

I found it to be a great book, well written and ultimately useful – particularly the activities she prescribes for helping you to articulate your own values so you can use your precious energy on the things that matter to you.

The Signature of all Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

This was a big read. It followed the life of a remarkable woman born in the early 1800s. She is a special protagonist and it was a great journey to see the world through her eyes, the eyes of a naturalist. It was sad a great deal, but Alma managed to carve out a good life for herself doing what she loved. This book was exquisitely written, rather different from my usual reads and I enjoyed it.

In Brief

The Magician’s Nephew, by C. S. Lewis

The story of the beginning of Narnia seemed appropriate for the first book that I read aloud to my bump. It is a gorgeous story and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to my baby.

On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzobaby wise

This has been my favourite book around early parenting routines. It advocates a flexible routine, based on the feeding and sleeping needs of infants and babies. It is written in a very accessible manner.

The Thrift Book, by India Knight

This was a very cute read with lots of great ideas for tightening your belt, from home to fashion to entertainment. Written in a funny, off-hand, but passionate manner.

Babyproofing Your Marriage, by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill, Julia Stone, Rosario Camacho-koppel

An amusing read by four mums who tell both sides of the story in the mum vs. dad warfare that takes place in many homes. From sex to housework, to a(n amusing) table of parents’ time charted by the number of children they have, they approach the subject with honesty, humour and courage.

the fall of fiveThe Fall of Five, by Pittacus Lore

The fourth book in the I Am Number Four series was just as addictive and well written as the others. This one takes a spin and finds one of the garde (sent to protect earth as children from the invading Mogadorian aliens) on the wrong side.

At the moment I am concurrently reading four great books, including an Audrey Hepburn biography that I am zooming through for my book club next week. I am trying to squish in as many books pre-baby as I can as I am not sure my brain will be up for reading when I lose more sleep than I already have been!

Happy reading!

Adventures, Books, Movies/TV series

Mortal Instruments and Fatigue

Never judge a book by the movieWhen I’m super tired and struggling with my neck I tend to crave “quiet” weekends and retreat into other worlds.

Last Saturday, I went to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones with my brother, Luke. It was a great movie of itself, but movie adaptations are rarely a good translation of the book. Especially where there are complex storylines that span several books, things are left out or altered for time and end up falling flat.

In saying that, they did portray the world/setting admirably. I adored the two main characters and I look forward to seeing Lily Collins in Love, Rosie, the movie adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was based on the first book of the same name, in a six book series by Cassandra Clare. I picked up the third book right after, wanting to be transported, in the way only YA Urban Fantasy seems to be able to do.

mortal instruments city of bonesClare has created a fantastic world filled with delicious characters. She weaves the subplot and main story together building toward an inexorable climax. Her protagonist—a young, powerful girl whose journey of self-discovery leads her to the centre of the action and the solution—is delightfully flawed. The conclusion was satisfactory in the kind of way that leaves you pleased and settled. When I told Luke how I felt—not compelled to read book four right now—he informed me that Clare originally intended book three to be the conclusion of the trilogy.

I don’t thoroughly hide during periods of increased fatigue; I’ve still walked the dog everyday and carried on, with a slightly reduced schedule. But I find inhabiting another’s psyche to be a nice holiday from my foggy brain.


Melissa’s Review of Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess is the long awaited final book to the Infernal Devices trilogy, the prequel trilogy to the Mortal Instruments series (the first of which, City of Bones, has a movie adaptation out in August).Clockwork Princess

Clare has created an exquisite world, set within the confines of our world and history but populated with a complex world (and underworld) of demons, vampires, werewolves, Shadowhunters (the people defending the world and the order of the demons) and mundanes (humans).

Clockwork Princess continues the story of Tessa Gray, who has made a home with the Shadowhunters at their London Institute (the local area head office). She has a complex relationship with the inhabitants due to her half-known origins (the Shadowhunters are a closed, religious bunch), but not half as complex as the romantic tangle she is in by being in love with two best friends.

This 570-page book finishes Tessa’s journey. Unravelling the mystery to her origins, facing the evil Mortmain (who plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters), realising the potential within herself and settling the love triangle once and for all.

The appeal of this series (and a great many other Young Adult novels) is that, despite the protagonists being just shy of 18 years old, their age is not over reinforced. The story is suitably complex and multifaceted, there are a great number of older characters (of equal importance, not just token adults) and the writing is outstanding. Though, the magic of this series is that it is set in the late 1800s, so the concerns of these young people are much the same as those at current times in their twenties.

Where the Young Adult genre tends to appeal to me (when the writing is not juvenile and the characters are suitably mature) is that fantasy is more acceptable for characters of that age and that the characters – who often feel more like they could be my age – are not solely concerned with careers, getting married and having babies (it’s not that I am not interested in these things, I just don’t want to read a book about a protagonist solely focused on these). I find this is the biggest barrier keeping me from reading chick lit. It is also thoroughly acceptable and often encouraged, to follow their passions and go on a journey of self-discovery. Things that shouldn’t stop just because you turn 18.

Clockwork Princess hinges upon Tessa learning that she is capable of saving herself – and the world. A thrilling journey of self-discovery, family, love and loss that will keep you guessing until the end.

Without giving anything away, I don’t think I’ve ever been so satisfied with an ending of a book. It is a beautiful conclusion to an amazing, epic, heart-wrenching story.

Books, Top Ten

Melissa’s Favourite Ten Authors

Note: Not in exact order. Except for Jane Austen, of course. 🙂

1. Jane Austen

Must re-read every year!

Pride and Prejudice

Six truly classic novels that can be for any mood or stage, incisive and witty, and insightful.

2. Jodi Picoult

Will follow her anywhere!

Lone Wolf

Around twenty novels of all different subject matters, all treated with equal tenderness, intelligence, and insight.

3. Belinda Alexandra

Favourite historical novels set in the war period!

Golden EarringsBeautiful, sweeping tales from a range of different contexts  experiencing the war, i.e. China, Russia, Australia, France, Italy, etc Continue reading “Melissa’s Favourite Ten Authors”


Reading Round-Up March 2013

City of AshesI have a confession to make, I often read more than one book at a time. Historically I have been known to read one non-fiction and one fiction concurrently, then I added a classic to the mix – because there is always a classic to read, right? Currently, I am in the middle of reading five books, so next month there will surely be more books in the round-up!

Below are the four I read in March:

Within the first two days, I had devoured the second Mortal Instruments book, City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. Clary, Simon, Jace and company face grave dangers, and by the end, they’re in a nasty, supernatural war. This book was just as addictive as the first in the series and the first two in the prequel trilogy The Infernal Devices. Clare is an expert storyteller who is able to simultaneously transport you to a historical world and craft the hidden world within the story.

From the contemporary urban fantasy to pre-Austen literature, I eagerly began Evelina by Frances Burney. It is an epistolary novel, much like Dangerous Liaisons (Pierre Choderlos de Laclos) and Where Rainbows End (Cecelia Ahern). Evelina is a young woman of sheltered upbringing who is thrust into London’s bustling social world. She flounders in the social mores of the city’s etiquettes. Burney has created amazing characters through only journal/letters, it’s staggering. For my full review of Evelina and Frances Burney, click here.

Me Before YouBack at this end of the chronological pool, I read Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. What a heartbreaking, heart-warming story. It was such a holiday to inhabit a character so unlike myself. No plans, even with the boyfriend of seven years. The family set up of sticking together to help one another resonated with me. Moyes details the life of Will, a quadriplegic who once lived a big life, with heartfelt truth.  The black and white of  the situation is all smudged into gray. I want to re-read it immediately, to soak up the detail, now I know what’s happened. What writing! What a master scene setter, here’s one example:

I could have told you what Alicia’s parents’ house would be like, even before I got there… A large, Georgian rectory, its tall windows partly obscured by showers of pale wisteria, its drive a caramel pea shingle, it was the perfect house for a colonel. I could already picture her growing up within it, her hair in two neat blonde plaits as she sat astride her first fat pony on the lawn. –P333

This truly deserves 5/5 for its storytelling, its illumination of such a difficult topic and the characters who I grew to love.

A Made Up PlaceIn the non-fiction category this month, I read A Made Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction by Jackson et al. I picked this up from the library because almost all of the authors were my tutors at university. I love this sort of engagement with the text and enjoyed the analysis of nine different representations on outlining the portrayal of New Zealand in NZ young adult literature. It has prompted me to add a few novels to my to-read list:

  • The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy
  • The Salt trilogy by Maurice Gee
  • The 10pm Question by Kate di Goldi
  • Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox

I am burning to get back to my current read, The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult). But I am interested in other people’s reading habits, do most people start one book a time and finish it before starting another?