8 books that I have read recently

I haven’t done a books post for a while. I started doing them monthly, but if I only managed one or two books in a month, that wasn’t very exciting. So here are my 8 most recent books. It’s an eclectic mix again – personal story, travel, drama, sci-fi and easy reads. Some are things that I’ve been wanting to read, others are audio books that I read with S, whilst others are books that people have recommended. As always, there are no pictures of the books because I read them electronically, and in any event I don’t bow down to the assertion that you need a bunch of images every time you want to write something.

1. Northanger Abbey audio drama

By: Jane Austin
I got this when it was the daily sale purchase from Audible. They have deals on every day, and if something you want to read comes up when you already have a subscription, it’s a good way to get extra books cheaply.

After visiting Jane Austen’s house, I decided I wanted to read more of her books. I love the way that the characters spoke to each other and have adopted “odious man” into my own vocabulary! I think it’s fascinating to see how life was so much different in those days, particularly in relation to the role of women and how finding a suitable match was seen to be so important. The social events may have changed, but humanity hasn’t changed that much. I saw huge parallels with social media nowadays and how people can be so busy constructing the image of themselves as they want others to see them.

I thought the dramatization was really well done and will look out for more.

2.
Twirling naked in the streets and noone noticed – growing up with undiagnosed autism

By: Jeannie Davide-Rivera
I got it as an audio book from iTunes
This is one of the few books that I have read twice. I first got it a couple of years ago when I was doing some research about autism in relation to an adult learner, but although I have never experienced the specific difficulties that the learner was having, I soon realised that I shared some of the traits described in the books and articles that I was reading.

This book follows the story of a child who becomes a teenager, then an adult, and it is only in adulthood that she discovers that she has autism. There’s plenty of information about boys and men on the spectrum, but not so much about women, which is why I particularly enjoyed this book.

I don’t relate to everything she says, but some things really made sense to me on a level that was deeper than just academic understanding, I got it! These ranged from sensory sensitivities (which in my case people thought for years were just a blindness thing), to the way she approaches some tasks, interacted with other children, and responds to people and/or specific situations. Some of the things in the book and on Jeannie’s blog sounded like something I might write, and that felt good to read because most of the time people don’t think that way. I like it because it isn’t a book “about” people by someone with no first-hand knowledge, but a book by someone giving an honest account of their own experiences.

3. The peacock Emporium

By: Jojo Moyes
This was another daily sale book and I picked it up because I’d read some other books by the author.

I struggled a bit with the narrative because I found it really hard to relate to the main character. She seemed so passive. People can’t help you to get what you want if you don’t try to work out for yourself what that is. But I think it also addressed some important issues such as what it’s like for newcomers in small communities, and how or when you should get involved when it’s clear that someone is being treated badly by their partner.

4. Steelheart

By: Brandon Sanderson
This was another of my monthly Audible books.

We got this because it was written by the same author as the Way of Kings series. The idea is that a handful of people have been given superpowers and become known as epics, but the epics want to rule, and in doing so, crush civilisations and fight with each other. One young boy, who saw his father killed, wants to join the good guys, ordinary people trying to bring down the worst band of epics. He has knowledge that they need, but will he be allowed to join them?

There was a twist or two in the plot that I didn’t anticipate. I got a bit bored during the lengthy weapons descriptions, but I liked the idea that with every superpower comes a weakness, which means that nobody is really invincible, and the clever tech was cool. Maybe just a bit less talk about guns?

5. Around the world in 80 days

By: Michael Palin

I seem to remember this was on offer too – in any event I was in the mood for some non-fiction, so I got the audio book from Audible.

The story of this adventure wasn’t new to me because I had seen the TV programme as a child with my grandparents. I didn’t actually know it was a book. But I wanted to revisit all the places again, so got the book when S was away and I wanted something to read – because I know I always go to bed really late if he isn’t around!

Each day is described in terms of the places the team visited, the people they met, and the things that happened as they travelled around the world, following the route that Phileas Fogg had taken around 100 years earlier.

6. Fated

By: Benedict Jacka
Another book that I got from Audible!

We got this because it was said to be similar to the Jim Butcher Harry Dresden urban fantasy series, but this one is set in London. Camden to be specific, and I used to work not far from there! It’s fun to have places like Camden Market and the British Museum popping up in the stories that you read.

It is similar to the Dresden files in that it explains life from the perspective of a magic user in a world where magic is all around you, but most people just don’t notice it. There is friendship, sometimes with unlikely creatures, questions of conscience, hunger for power, fear, and excitement. There isn’t much violence, but the book does touch on issues of slavery and torture. I’m not quite sure which reader demographic the author was going for – the writing style would have also made it suitable for a younger audience, but some of the material was not.

7. Fallen Angels

By: Richard Morgan
This is the second in the altered Carbon series. Another one from Audible.

This is the second book about Takeshi Covacs, set 50 years after the Altered Carbon book (and TV series). It’s a mix of sci-fi thriller and war novel that includes politics, philosophy and action.

I loved the idea of this – all the different characters having to work together whilst discovering technology from a civilisation that was so much more advanced than their own. But some of the scenes were a bit disturbing – I think that because bodies are dispensible as people can be downloaded into new ones, they are treated as mere sleves with quite horrifying results. It kind of shows that whatever changes, whatever advances are made in science and technology, things like greed, the need to be in charge and have the biggest and best stay pretty much the same.

It was still an exciting read though with several points at which you were convinced that everything was lost, only to find another plot twist.

8. The one plus one

By Jojo Moyes

I actually read this in German, but found an English link for you!

Another non-demanding, highly improbable book about a family and the struggles they faced. The sad scene with the dog did actually make me cry. But on the whole I found this too farfetched. Everything isn’t suddenly ok if an absent parent suddenly shows up again, and as someone who has had accessibility struggles, it’s not ok to pretend that your dog is a guide dog just so he’ll be let in somewhere.

I like the idea of bringing people together whose lives are so different – a mother struggling to make ends meet and a successful businessman who made a mistake, but I don’t think this is one of the author’s best books. I did however read on to the end, so it can’t have been that bad because I’m not someone who’ll finish a book just because they started it.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments!

Your chance to get a free audio book from Audible

If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).

Link for the UK
Link for Germany

1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.

Never miss another post!

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping deals or discounts that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links. All views are my own honest opinions.

4 books from March

So, it’s time to look at the books that I read in March. A bit of a mixture again!

As always, I’ll try to provide links to audio books as well, as that’s how I read most of my books. If I read a book in German, I’ll look for the English version too! 3 out of the 4 books were in German this time, but they’re all available in English as well!

Der Krieg der Zwerge – the war of the dwarves

By: Markus Heitz
I read it from the library, but you can also get it in hard copy, ebook, and audible formats from Amazon.

This is the second book in the fantasy series that I started earlier in the year, following the life of Tungdil Goldhand and his friends. Will they be able to protect their land from the creature that is trying to drive out evil, but which also is hungry for power and not bothered about who gets hurt in the process? Is it possible to work with your enemies if you both want the same thing? Whom can you trust when nobody knows what’s going on? Yes, there are scenes of fighting, but there is also a lot about friendship, love, what motivates us to do the things we do, and the need for different races to work together.

For someone who until recently never picked up a fantasy book, I’ve found that I enjoy this genre!

Altered carbon

By: Richard Morgan
This was our March book from Audible. I’ve posted the direct link to the book and if you haven’t tried Audible before, you can get your first book free – details are at the bottom of the post with links for readers in the UK and Germany.

We watched the TV series about this first on Netflix. I think this is possibly one of the few cases in which I actually preferred the series. I’m usually the “book was better” kind of girl. But that’s not because I didn’t enjoy the book – more because I really liked the female police officer’s character in the TV series and she didn’t stand out for me as much in the book.

Anyway – it took me a while to get my head round how things work in this civilisation set in the future, where, as long as their chip is intact, people can be put into different bodies, make clones of themselves, and be put into storage if they commit crimes. So people aren’t always who you think they are and you need to keep track of them. Life takes on a whole new meaning. Physical bodies are disposable, as long as you have the money to buy a new one, and there are some quite disturbing scenes.

Basically it’s about a guy who was contracted by a billionaire to find out who murdered his last body, even though all the evidence points to it being a suicide attempt.

I thought this was a stand-alone book, but on looking up the link found it was the first part of a trilogy. Probably not something I would have picked up if I hadn’t seen the TV series, but if something I’ve watched was based on a book, I like to read the book as well. It goes to show that whatever changes in terms of technology, basic human nature doesn’t change much!

Der Nachtzirkus – The night circus

By: Erin Morgenstern

This was our March book in my book club. I got it from the library, but it’s also available in a range of formats from Amazon.

Where do I start with this book? Basically it’s about two wizards who embark on a horrible contest to see which of their students is the most powerful. The students have no idea what the rules of the contest are, or who their opponent is. They eventually fall in love, which is a problem, because at the end of the contest, only one of the competitors can live.

Only a small number of characters know about the competition. Everyone else just sees the circus of dreams, which appears suddenly and only opens its doors in the nighttime. Then it disappears as mysteriously as it arrives, after people have been captivated by the many unusual and magical tents. For most people it’s a wonderful experience and they are completely unaware that the circus is the stage for something more sinister.

The story is written from different perspectives and jumps around quite a lot, moving backwards and forwards in time. The time shifts did confuse me a bit, but they fit with the general idea of nobody being quite sure what’s going on.

There is a lot of descriptive writing in this book. I think this works, because it really helps you to imagine what everything looks like – but if you just want action or dialogue, this probably isn’t the book for you!

Kein Kuss unter dieser Nummer – I’ve got your number

By: Sophie Kinsella

This was my chick lit for the month – kind of predictable, but still amusing and a light-hearted read! I got it from the library, but it’s also available on Amazon.

Poppy is about to get married, when she loses her engagement ring and shortly afterwards her phone as well. She then sees a phone that someone chucked in a hotel bin, and she decides to “borrow” it for a while. The owner of the phone isn’t happy about that, but rather than calling the police, agrees to let her keep it for a few days in exchange for doing some PA tasks. The old PA had just disappeared without giving notice. After that follows an unlikely but funny series of events involving the two main characters, but also the spoiled fiancé, the in-laws who aren’t what they seem, the evil ex, the crazy wedding planner, and various business associates.

I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to relate to Sophie Kinsella’s chaotic, good-hearted but far-too-open-for-their-own-good female characters! I have to say I related more to Sam, who thinks that not every email needs to be answered and just because someone wants something from you, it doesn’t mean you have to drop everything immediately to go and do it! Anyway, I could see that opposites attract and the characters were good for each other as they tried to help each other get their lives sorted out.

The end was a bit predictable, but who doesn’t love a happy ending?

How about you?

So, have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this month? Let me know in the comments!

Your chance to get a free audio book from Audible

If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).

Link for the UK
Link for Germany

1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.

Never miss another post!

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping deals or discounts that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links. All views are my own honest opinions.

The five books that I read in February

So, it’s time to look at the books that I read in February. A bit of a mixture again!

As always, I’ll try to provide links to audio books as well, as that’s how I read most of my books. If I read a book in German, I’ll look for the English version too!

1. Still me

Author: Jojo Moyes
Available in various formats on Amazon.

This is the third book in the series that started with “Me before you”. I wanted to see what happened, but I began to lose patience with the main character. She finally finds love for a second time, walks away to pursue happiness in another country and wonders why things don’t go well with that?! And even when things finally look as though they’ll turn around, she still doesn’t learn! Is there any hope?

I’m still interested in other books by this author because I like the characters that she creates and the issues addressed in the books (exploitation of staff and coming to grips with a new culture feature in this one), but it’s hard to be invested in a character if you don’t like them very much!

2. 19 Minuten (19 minutes)

By: Jodi Picoult
I got this from the German library, but it’s also available on Amazon.

In contrast to my first easy read of the month, this is a gripping and thought-provoking book that explores gun violence in schools. The reference to 19 minutes is the amount of time it took for a high school student to shoot a number of his classmates and a teacher.

I wanted to read the book because I had read “my sister’s keeper” by the same author and I wanted to find out what else she’d written.

It’s not a detective novel. The suspect is taken into custody afterwards and there is no question that he did it. This book didn’t change my views on ownership of and access to weapons, although recent events have brought this topic to the forefront of discussion again in the US. For me it was more about the relationships between the characters. The pressure to belong and not be seen as different. The consequences that being different can have. How everything spiralled out of control. The people left behind and how they came to terms with the situation. The history from a number of perspectives.

I don’t ever remember peer pressure being so strong in my school. Maybe I missed it. Maybe I just didn’t care enough about what people thought to be affected by it. But as well as the obvious issues around guns, there are other topics here such as bullying in schools, and those who can only feel good about themselves when they are making others feel bad.

3. (The husband’s secret)

By: Liane Moriarty
I read this as “Geheimnis meines Mannes” from the German library, but it’s also available in a number of formats from Amazon.

This was the February book for the online book club that I joined recently. The idea is that we all read the book and then discuss it in the Facebook group at the end of the month.

I hadn’t read anything by this author before. It starts off by being a bit confusing because it keeps switching between the three main characters, but it soon becomes clear how their stories fit together. It portrays small-town life in a way that I would find rather stifling – everyone seems to know each other and have kids or want to be looking after kids, which made me ask the question “is there nobody like me in this community?”

But that’s not the focus of the book. Instead, we follow what happens when a happily married mother of three finds a note from her husband that should only be opened after he has died. He reacts badly to the news that it’s been found – so should she open it? What secrets will come out if she does? Will her marriage survive?

I found parts of the narrative a bit far-fetched, but again I thought it was good to see a book from different perspectives so that we had a better insight into all the characters and how their decisions and actions have an impact on those around them.

4. Oath of gold

By: Elizabeth Moon

I was given this as a Christmas present and read it on iBooks and it’s also available on Amazon.

According to the website: “Paksenarrion – Paks for short – was somebody special. Never could she have followed her father’s orders and married the pigfarmer down the road. Better a soldier’s life than a pigfarmer’s wife, and so though she knew that she could never go home again, Paks ran away to be a soldier. And so began an adventure destined to transform a simple Sheepfarmer’s Daughter into a hero fit to be chosen by the gods.”

I don’t want to give too much away in case you haven’t read the first two books, but this is the most dramatic of the three books in this fantasy series. After everything falls apart towards the end of the second book, Paks has to put her life back together and whilst doing so, discovers some important secrets that could change the history of the world as she knows it.

Introducing new characters and bringing back familiar faces, the book comes to a dramatic and rather violent climax. There are scenes of torture, which some may prefer not to read. I did read on till the end and would like to know what happened next – but although there are other books set in this world, this was the final book in the series about Paks.

5. Sheltering rain

By: Jojo Moyes

Available in multiple formats on Amazon.

I am an Audible member and as well as getting one credit each month, there is a daily deal, which means a book is chosen by Audible and it’s sold for £2 or £3, which is much cheaper than the normal price.

As I’d read some other books by this author, and as this one featured horses, I decided to get it.

It’s a family novel – about broken relationships, generational conflict, learning to understand people whose world is completely different from your own. It’s about how even the perfect love story isn’t perfect, and how you need to work at relationships if you want them to work out. Plus there are dogs and horses!

How about you?

So, have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this month? Let me know in the comments!

Your chance to get a free audio book from Audible

If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).

Link for the UK
Link for Germany

1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.

Never miss another post!

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping deals or discounts that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links. All views are my own honest opinions.

February favourites – book club, Balea, and the beauty box I won

It’s time to tell you what I’ve been enjoying this month. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these things, and if you’ve done a blog or video about what you’ve been enjoying this month, feel free to share it in the comments too.

1. I won a Glossybox – yay!

Do you know about Jamie Gourdon’s Youtube channel? If not, go and check her out! She’s really generous and does subscription box giveaways on her channel! I was lucky enough to win the January Glossybox. Inside there was

  1. Apicia cream blush – this was the thing that excited me the most, as anyone who’s been with me for a while knows that I love cream make-up. I hadn’t seen a blush in a tube before. Neither had I used anything from Apicia. It blends in nicely and it contains bee pollen to nourish the skin.
  2. Green tea primer from Iona Cosmetics – I can’t believe I never used to use a primer! I’ve got a little collection going now. This one absorbs quickly. It doesn’t have that silicone feel like the Porefessional, and it’s not watery, like some of the others I’ve tried recently. It creates a smooth canvas for make-up and contains moisturising ingredients such as green tea and avocado oil. I’ll definitely be using it.
  3. A nail and cuticle energiser from Nail Medic – this is an oil that you paint on with a little brush, which I find easier than the similar products where you have a little pipette thing on the end! I get very dry cuticles, which I then bite and make them worse, so I’ve been enjoying using this blend of oils and plant extracts to strengthen my nails and moisturise the skin around them.
  4. Dr Botanicals superfood facial oil – this is fantastic value and is designed to keep your skin protected and hydrated. It’s infused with Moroccan rose oil which contains vitamins A and C.
  5. Beauty beneath supplements by Boots – I haven’t tried these yet as I’m finishing up some others, but they contain vitamins C and E, as well as nutrients that help produce collagen and reduce fine lines. So it’s looking after your skin from the inside.

After this, I decided to sign up for Glossybox to try it out for myself. If you want to give it a go and get 20% off your first box, you can use my code KIRSTY-RGE when you place your first order on the Glossybox site.

2. Summer is coming – pineapple lip care

This tropical pineapple lip balm from Burt’s Bees was selling out really fast when I got mine! It’s from the flavour crystals range and 100%natural. I was already a fan of Burt’s Bees lip products – I love the mango and grapefruit ones. This range comes in pineapple, orange, and raspberry. They are not as glossy as some lip balms, but I find they need to be reapplied less often and although it’s not why we buy them … it tastes amazing!

3. Grapefruit shower foam

Do you remember my swapbox with Sazzy and Joanie? Well they got me some grapefruit shower foam from Balea and it smells good enough to eat! So fresh and fruity! I hadn’t tried this brand before. I don’t think you can get it in the UK, but if anyone outside of the UK can get Balea products, this is a good one!

4. Online book club

I like the idea of a book club, but having looked around online, there’s not much in my area. In any event, I think I like the idea of an online one more – you can meet more people, and it doesn’t have to interfere with your other commitments because you can just chat about the books online. We haven’t had our February discussion yet, but there are different book-related threads in the book which you can join in with. The actual discussion is set up as a Facebook event and you can take part over a 24-hour period. There will be a different book every month. February’s book was “The husband’s secret” – you can find out what I thought about it in the February round-up.

If that sounds like your kind of thing, visit the online book club on Facebook!

5. Did you know that coffee and sesame seeds go well together?

No? Neither did I until I tried the new dessert from Wagamama! I don’t usually have dessert. If I do, it’s the sorbet, but seriously, if you love coffee, the Wagamama Vietnamese coffee icecream is sooo good!

6. Body Shop Drops of Youth eye concentrate

This drops of youth eye concentrate from the Body Shop is really nice because it massages your skin as you apply it. It’s from the Drops of Youth range, which is aimed at the 25! Range and as well as soothing the area around the eye, it helps to prevent the first signs of aging.
It has a little button that releases the eye cream onto the ball, and then you massage it in with the ball at the end of the container. It’s a bit thicker than the Garnier one that I tried before, and I think the Body Shop one is more nourishing. It doesn’t leave a sticky finish, and another thing I like is that you don’t get too much at a time as you can with some tubes.

7. Ren Beauty shot

I got a little one of these in my advent calendar and I really enjoyed using it. You can get the Ren Beauty shot here. It’s a very lightweight serum that absorbs quickly. It says you can apply it over make-up, although I didn’t. I put it under my moisturiser as you would with any other serum and I loved the way it made my skin so soft. It firms and lifts the skin and claims to give short- and long-term hydration. An expensive treat because it’s Ren, but a lovely product that I enjoyed pampering myself with!

8. New primer

I know I’ve already talked about a primer, but I heard on the Full Coverage podcast (check it out if you love all things beauty and skincare!) that the Maybelline pore eraser primer is just like the Benefit Porefessional, but at about a quarter of the price! So I decided to get some and was not disappointed. I do like the Benefit one, but it is expensive. So if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, I’d recommend this pore eraser one at around a quarter of the price.

How about you? What have you been trying out this month?

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.

The books that I read in January

This is another new feature on my blog – the monthly book review.

Every month I plan to write about the books that I’ve read, what I thought of them, and I’d love to know if any of you have read these books too.

Don’t expect to see pictures of my books because I read them all as audio or ebooks on my phone, but I’ll try to provide links to where you can get them or read more about them – both as printed and audio books. Also, I sometimes read books in German, so in those cases I’ll try to find an English translation to link to as well.

If I hated a book, it probably won’t end up here because I don’t make myself complete books if I’m not enjoying them! There are too many wonderful books out there to waste time on one that’s not fun to read!

I don’t have a yearly challenge in terms of the number of books I want to read. When some are 50 hours and others are 10, the number doesn’t seem to mean much. However I am trying to broaden my horizons in terms of the type of books that I read, although I doubt I’ll ever be able to get excited by horror or detective novels!

1. After you

Author: Jojo Moyes
Available on Amazon in a range of print and audio formats. I bought it as an audio book from iTunes.

I got this on Christmas Day when I was downloading some other books that I’d been given for Christmas. One of my blogger friends Sophie Laetitia had been talking about it because it’s the sequel to “Me before you”, which was also made into a film.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, I’d recommend that you first read that – but not on the train coming home from work like I did. The end is very sad, irrespective of where you stand on the question of euthanasia.

Following the death of the man that she loved, Lou has to decide what to do with her life,, made complicated by a stranger she meets after an unexpected accident, and someone from her partner’s past.

I don’t want to give spoilers, but this is an easy read and I finished it quite quickly. Having said that, I like the way the author makes relatable characters, even if they frustrate you sometimes! I wasn’t happy with the ending, but I guess a happy ending to the second book makes a bad trilogy! Maybe the idea of moving to New York doesn’t have the same attraction for me but still – you only get one chance at life – is it really worth risking everything in pursuit of something else if you think you already have a chance of happiness? It’s one of those books that take you through a range of emotions – happiness, sadness, wondering what will happen next. Ideal for the Christmas break!

2. Oathbringer

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Available as a printed book, Kindle or Audible book from Amazon.

This is book 3 of the Stormlight Archive series, so if you’re interested, again I would recommend adding the first two before starting this one. We got it as one of our monthly subscription books from Audible and S and I read it together.

Before meeting S, I never read any fantasy books. However he introduced me to this genre a few years ago and I think one of the fascinating things for me is the way they explore different cultures and the way that different societies work. For example, in this culture, the men mainly fight, and it’s the women who can read and have the education to understand how things work and develop new items to improve their lives. If you want something to be read, you have to go and find a woman to do it for you. Interesting social concept!

There’s also love, magic, fighting, and soul-searching questions about the right thing to do.

The basis is that humanity is facing desolation by the Voidbringers, assisted by the previously subservient parshmen, who had been enslaved by men.

There is not one main character, which makes the book more interesting. There’s ~Dalinar Kholin, with his violent past that prevents some of his allies from believing he wants to do good. Shallan Davar, who is exploring and developing her illusion abilities, whilst at the same time trying to keep a lid on a secret from her past and stay true to the man she’s going to marry whilst keeping in check her attraction to another. Then we see the world through the eyes of some of the Parshendi, whose take on past events is very different from what the humans have been taught.

It’s kind of complicated, but boils down to people with a range of abilities trying to work together to prevent the end of civilisation as they know it!

3. The deed of Paxanarian

Author: Elizabeth Moon
Available from Amazon in various formats and as an audio book on iTunes.

This is the first of a trilogy that I got for Christmas.

According to iTunes: “Refusing to marry a pig farmer and joining the army, even if it means never seeing her family again, Paksenarrion begins an adventure that enables her to restore an overthrown ruler.”

There is quite a lot in this book about fighting, but it helps you to understand what life was like in this kingdom for the common soldier. Ok, this character becomes powerful later, but everyone has to start somewhere, and I think this book did a good job of setting the scene for her.

Also, it’s a fantasy book, so magic, elves, dwarves all exist, but most of the ordinary people don’t get to see magic at work. In the ordinary towns, life goes on and the farmers or traders are at the mercy of the people around them with the biggest army, or maybe the most powerful magic.

It was good to see a strong female in a world where usually it’s the men who control what will happen next. For anyone who plays Dungeons and Dragons, it’s like when you have a really low-level character – but low-level characters have backstories too and sometimes the things that happen to them later only really make sense if you know where they came from.

4. Horse dancer

Author: Jojo Moyes
Available from Amazon as paperback, kindle edition and audio book.

This was my Audible subscription book for January.

This is the kind of book that filled my shelves when I was a teenager – because one of the main characters was a big horse called Boo! Having read After You, I wanted to try out something else from Jojo Moyes.

What happens when a young girl’s life is torn apart by her Granddad falling ill, and all she has to cling on to is her horse. Who can she turn to when even he isn’t safe from a man who is always used to getting what he wants? How do two people in the middle of a messy divorce cope when they find themselves living under the same roof again with a teenager who won’t open up and who keeps disappearing?

Parts of this book were a little far-fetched – but I loved the way that the relationship between horse and rider was described, and the lengths people would go to in order to protect their best friend! Overall it’s a positive book, but it does explore the way that life can spiral out of control when you feel there’s nowhere to turn, and I think this series of events was described in a believable way.

5. Divided allegiance

Author: Elizabeth Moon
Available in paperback, Kindle edition or as an audio book from Amazon or audio book from iTunes.

This is the second part in the Paksenarrion saga and according to iTunes: “Paksenarrion, once a sheepfarmer’s daughter, now a veteran warrior, meets new challenges as she breaks up a robber gang, dispells an ancient evil possessing an elvish shrine, and is accepted for training at an academy for knights. Clearly, a high destiny awaits her.”

But life isn’t all that it seems – after so much goes well for Paks, it seems like nothing will stop her. That’s not real life though. Nobody is invincible, and when the thing that is most precious is taken away, what will Paks do, and will she survive?

I actually enjoyed this book more than the first – a bit less fighting and more time spent developing the characters, discovering what life is like for the different races, and how people in authority don’t always know best.

6. Die Zwerge

Author: Markus Heitz

This book was originally written in German, and I read the original, but it’s also available in English. Apparently there’s going to be a video game too.

The Dwarves – available as a paperback or Kindle version from Amazon or an audio book from iTunes. I borrowed it from the library.

This book was recommended by one of my blogger friends from The Cozy Den. S said he’d also read it, so I decided to give it a go. I usually have a book going in German because it’s good for my German language skills, and I’ve read so many German books now that it doesn’t feel like a language exercise any more.

According to iTunes: “For countless millennia, the dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom have defended the stone gateway into Girdlegard. Many and varied foes have hurled themselves against the portal and died attempting to breach it. No man or beast has ever succeeded. Until now… Abandoned as a child, Tungdil the blacksmith labors contentedly in the Kingdom of Fifthling the only dwarf in a kingdom of men. Although he does not want for friends, Tungdil is very much aware that he is alone – indeed, he has not so much as set eyes on another dwarf. But all that is about to change. Sent out into the world to deliver a message and reacquaint himself with his people, the young foundling finds himself thrust into a battle for which he has not been trained. Not only his own safety, but the life of every man, woman and child in Girdlegard depends upon his ability to embrace his heritage. Although he has many unanswered questions, Tungdil is certain of one thing: no matter where he was raised, he is a true dwarf. And no one has ever questioned the courage of the Dwarves.”

How do you lead an unlikely team, some of whom hate each other, and convince them all to focus on your common goal? How do you relate to a culture that you belong to, but which you’ve never experienced? These are some of the questions that Tungdil has to answer. Whom can he trust? Can people be your friend, even if they look like your enemy?

I thought there would probably be a happy ending to this book, but it’s not what I had expected. I use German most days at work, but it’s also been good for me to learn some new fantasy-fiction-related vocabulary!

How about you?

So, have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this month? Let me know in the comments!

Your chance to get a free audio book from Audible

If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).

Link for the UK
Link for Germany

1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.

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What subscriptions do you have?

I talk about our subscriptions for beauty, food, and entertainment.

What subscriptions do you have?

When I started thinking about this post and adding up the subscriptions that we have, I was a little surprised. However we do use all of them. One is very new, so we’ll have to see whether we’re going to keep it.

The beauty ones are definitely mine, but the rest are ours as a household. Maybe there are some here that you didn’t know about.

Beauty

I have two beauty subscriptions. The first is Latest in Beauty. The great thing about Latest in Beauty is that you make your own box. You might not love everything you pick – that’s just the way it goes with trying new products – but you make the decisions about what goes into your box, so if there are types of products that you’ll never use, you never have to get them.

There are build-your-own boxes and curated boxes. If you build your own, you can get 3, 6 or 9 products. The more products you get, the cheaper they become. I look through the list once my payment is taken and select the things that I want. First I look for new and exciting things, then I look for things that I need, then I look for things that I’ve had before and really enjoyed. Some months it’s really hard to choose because there are so many things that I would like. Other months it’s a bit harder, like a couple of months ago when there were a lot of nail varnishes and tanning products, neither of which really interest me. But I’ve discovered a lot of cool stuff this way!

My second beauty box is Lovelula – the natural and cruelty-free beauty box. You can sign up for the monthly boxes (there are different pricing structures, so if you’re interested, check them out here.)

I like Lovelula because I want to use more natural and cruelty-free products, and this is a good way to try some new types of product and new brands in a way that’s cheaper than buying them full-price. There are sometimes one or two things in the box that I wouldn’t use, but I don’t feel that these are wasted because they go into swap boxes with other bloggers, into a blog prize draw, or I use them as gifts. If it got to the point where I was using only one or two of the products, that would be a problem, but as it is, I use most of them.

The other good thing about Lovelula is that you get a discount on the brands in the box each month, and if you really like something, you can buy it in the shop. This is different from Latest in Beauty because they have rolling stock, which means once something has sold out, it’s gone unless they bring it back again.

Both boxes provide a range of full-size and sample-size products, and particularly as someone who loves to try new things, they both work well for me.

Entertainment

We hardly ever watch TV in our house. If we watch anything, it’s usually Netflix, Prime video or a DVD. Oh and then there are all the beauty videos on Youtube, but fortunately they’re free!

At the beginning of last year, we weren’t sure whether to go for Netflix or Amazon Prime. Both of them were offering one month for free, so we tried them both out and continued both subscriptions, but for different reasons!

I’d say that we use Netflix more in terms of watching things – either together or on our own. There are some things that S watches that drive me crazy, and I’m sure he feels the same about some of my choices. You can set up individual profiles, so that the suggestions are based on what you actually like, rather than some random thing that another member of the household was watching. The number of people who can watch at any one time is based on the payment plan that you choose.

I usually just listen on my phone because I don’t need a screen. I really like the way that you can filter by audio described content, which is content that has an additional sound track for explaining to blind people what’s happening on the screen. When I’m watching on my own, I’m usually only interested in this type of content, and it’s nice that it can be pulled out into a separate list. I wouldn’t say we’re really heavy users of the service, but it’s nice to have it.

We do watch a few things on Amazon Prime, but there is less audio-described content on there and you can’t filter it as you can on Netflix. If Prime only had the option of Amazon Video, it probably wouldn’t be worth our while, but it gives you a number of other benefits too, which we definitely use:

  • Free next day delivery. This isn’t just cool because it’s quicker, although that is cool! It helps me to plan when the deliveries are coming so that they don’t arrive on a day when I have back-to-back meetings.
  • Free magazines – every month there is a range of magazines that offer one issue for free. You buy them for £0 on your Amazon account and then you can read them on the Kindle app, or presumably on your kindle (I don’t have one!) This doesn’t work if you want to read the same magazine every month, but if you have a more general interest, such as beauty or travel, you can usually find something to read.
  • Amazon music – most of the time I prefer listening to my own music – I haven’t really got on board with the stream on demand thing, but there are times when it’s good to put on someone else’s playlist, such as when I go running and want some upbeat, motivational music.
  • Extra free books on Audible – we’ll come to Audible in a minute, but when I signed up, being an Amazon Prime member gave me an extra 2 books for free.
  • Share with your household – I’m the Amazon Prime account holder, but S gets all of these benefits too because I linked both of our accounts to our household.

If you want to try out Amazon Prime free for a month, you can sign up here.

Finally we have Audible – a service for audio books. I love audio books! I used to read Braille books, but you can’t take a huge volume of Braille on the train with you, so in my commuter days I read a lot of audio books! They’re also good when you want to relax. S likes them too, so we often listen to books together as a change to watching films.

S bought me an Audible subscription last Christmas. I decided to continue it after the gift ran out, and then I got 3 more books because I’m an Amazon Prime member. Now I pay for them, but I think it’s worth it. I tend to go for longer books, so I can have several nights of entertainment for a similar price to, for example, a trip to the cinema.

You have to buy the books on the Audible site and then you can listen to them on the Audible app. You can’t buy books on the app. There are over 200,000 books to choose from, and the player lets you speed them up if that’s your thing!

If you sign up to the service, you are eligible to get one book for free, as long as you haven’t had a free book from Audible in the last year (3 free books if you’re an Amazon Prime member). If you like it, you keep the subscription going and you will be charged for a new credit each month. The credit is used to buy your next book. If you just want the free book, you can cancel your subscription within the first month – you won’t be charged, and you get to keep your book.

If you’re interested, you can use my Audible free trial link (If you are based in Germany, use my German link.

Food

And finally we come to food. We get a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box. There are a number of different options to suit different households and preferences, but you can read about our first three boxes here. I like the way that you don’t have to get anything that you don’t like, but you are introduced to seasonal produce and you might also have to find recipies for things you’ve never tried before, which keeps things interesting.

The other food subscription is the Spicebox. You can read a review about it here. Basically you are sent a box every month with little bags of spices and a recipe for a delicious curry. You have to buy the main ingredients in edition, but all the rare things are measured out for you, so you only buy what you need for the dish, the spice blends are already mixed, and you don’t have to trek round looking for things that aren’t sold in the supermarket.

S and I always cook and enjoy these together – a kind of date night in! You get one a month, and there’s usually an extra sachet with spices for another dish. You can find out more about the company on The Spicery’s web page.

How about you

What subscriptions do you have, and which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments!

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This post contains some affiliate links ß specificallz for Amayon Prime and Audible.

Jane Austen’s house

Jane Austen’s house

During my week off, we went to Chawton in Hampshire, to have a walk and visit Jane Austen’s house. The house is open to the public as a museum, and you can walk around the house, seeing where Jane lived and wrote her books. There is also a learning centre, where you can watch a short video about Jane Austen’s life and books. The video shows you around the house, but anyone who only listens to the video can still understand what is going on.

Outside there is a garden, where you can learn about the herbs that a family living at this time would have used.

Inside the house, all but one of the rooms are open to the public, and there is a selection of 41 objects, which help visitors to understand more about what life was like in a village home over 200 years ago. The objects include Jane’s writing table, (a very low desk – I can’t imagine that she was very tall!), and a bookcase that belonged to her father, George Austen. You may not be able to see all of the objects at once as they are being rotated throughout the year. 2017 is the 200th anniversary of Janes death in 1817. She died aged only 41 years due to an illness.

Downstairs you can see where Jane worked and wrote her manuscripts, and upstairs you can go into the bedrooms, including the one that Jane shared with her sister Cassandra. There are no audio guides, so my partner read the information as we walked around the house.

Following her father’s death, Jane, her sister and mother needed to find somewhere to live. Her brother Edward made the house in Chawton available to them, and this is where Jane spent the last eight years of her life, revising the three manuscripts she had written previously, writing three more novels, and starting one which was never finished due to her health problems.

In many ways, she had a lot of freedom to write and pursue her own interests there, as her sister Cassandra took over much of the work of running the house. The house was shared by Jane, Cassandra, their mother, and a female friend, who was a close friend of the family. They were frequently visited by other family members. Jane had six brothers, one of whom was instrumental in getting Jane’s books published.

Examples of Jane’s work include Pride and Prejudice, (the only one of the books that I have read so far, and one which I would definitely recommend!), Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and and Mansfield Park. Don’t forget that you can also get a free book by signing up for Audible using the link on my audio book page.

I did enjoy the Pride and prejudice film, particularly as it stayed close to the plot of the book and true to the clever and witty dialogues, but I’m generally a “the book was better” kind of girl! I was far less impressed by the recent Pride and Prejudice with zombies film, but then I do usually find anything to do with zombies rather pointless!

Although it’s not thought that characters in the books were based on specific people, the depth to the characters leads me to believe that she drew on her experiences of people around her. It’s believed that some of the close relationships between sisters, such as the one between Jane and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, was based on Jane’s own close relationship with her sister Cassandra. I think everyone has come across someone as irritating as Mrs Bennet, and a long-suffering, strong man of few words like her husband!

After Jane’s death, Jane’s mother and sister lived in the house until they died. After this, it was used for workers on the estate until it was sold in 1947, when the museum was established.

After our walk around the house and garden, we bought some lemon gingerbread from the gift shop, and headed to the nearby café, Cassandra’s, for a late lunch.

If you’re interested in Jane Austen, or you have a more general interest in life in the past, I’d recommend that you visit this house and museum.

You can find more information on the Jane Austen’s house website. This post contains affiliate links.

Listen to the podcast episode

I’ve also produced a podcast episode about Jane Austen’s house. You can look for Unseen Beauty on Apple podcasts (previously known as iTunes), or wherever you get your podcasts. Alternatively, you can listen to it here:

More from Unseen Beauty

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