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.

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.

Do you enjoy listening to audio books?

10 reasons why I enjoy listening to audio books, and how readers in the UK and Germany can get a free audio book from Audible.

I love listening to audio books, both in my native language, and In German. I listen to them when I’m running, when I’m cooking dinner, when I want to curl up on the sofa and relax, and when I want to take my mind off work!

When I used to commute to London every day, I had 1.5 hours of time, which I often used for listening to books or podcasts – I just needed to be careful not to listen to anything really sad whilst on the train, or anything that got me so involved in the story that I missed my stop – yes it did happen once! I had to wait half an hour in the freezing cold for the next train to take me back to where I needed to be!

I also recommend audio books for my students who are learning English. People often go straight for the visual media such as films or tv series, and they forget about audio books. However, if you’re going to be listening to a language in real-life situations where there are no visual clues or subtitles, audio books and podcasts are a great way to practice because you have to rely entirely on your ears.

Whether you’re learning a language, or just listening to audio books to relax, here are 10 things that I like about listening to books in this way. Also, if you’re in Germany or the UK, I have a way for you to get a free book from Audible – see the further details at the bottom of the post. I am an affiliate for Amazon, but I only promote things that I love. I am an Audible member and I’m really happy with the service.

1. You can relax and let someone read to you

Did your parents or grandparents ever read to you when you were a child? Even though I could read quite well from an early age, I always looked forward to story time, during which my Nan would read to me. I also had a big collection of audio books, at that time on cassette (that shows my age!, and I enjoyed listening to them as well.
If your eyes are tired from a long day in front of the screen, or you just want to sit back and relax, audio books provide a way for you to do that.

2. You can take your book anywhere

You don’t have to remember to put it in your bag – if the book is on your phone, the chances are that you will always have it with you. It doesn’t weigh anything and you can get it out if you find that you have a spare half hour. It doesn’t take up any more room – apart from the memory on your phone.

2. You can take several books around with you

I love the fact that I can have two or three books on the go at once and I don’t have to decide which one to take with me. As long as I have space on my phone, or a good connection/data package for streaming, I don’t have to decide which books to take on holiday or on a long journey. They’re on my phone, so I can read whatever I want.

4. You’ll improve your vocabulary

Whether you’re reading in your own language or learning another one, it’s always good to learn new words, see how they are used and how different writers use the language to draw you into their world or help you to understand their characters better.

5. Audio books are practical for blind people

I can read Braille, and I think it is especially important for children to read Braille so that they can learn to visualise the words and how they are spelled, but when you’re on a packed train, it’s easier to take out your headphones than a massive Braille book. Braille books often tend to be heavy, so when I’m on the move, I’d rather not have to do some involuntary weight lifting!

6. You can read whilst doing other things

Some tasks are just boring. I don’t find housework mentally stimulating, so I always like to listen to something whilst I’m doing it. My brain keeps occupied with the book or podcast while my hands do the housework. It makes boring jobs less boring!

7. You don’t just have to read fiction

Audio books aren’t just stories. If you want to learn about a hobby or read books for professional development, there are plenty of non-fiction books in the Audible library too.
If you have a list of business books that you would like to read, why not read one of them in English instead. Alternatively, you could subscribe to an audio magazine or podcast that delivers timely news and information about one of your areas of interest.

8. Audio books are not always something that you have to buy

As well as the offer for the free audio book (more details at the end of the post), many libraries also offer audio books that you can borrow, either as a cd, or as a temporary online download. This means you can enjoy the books without having to spend anything, and you haven’t wasted your money if you don’t like the book.

9. The ability to search

Gone are the days of hunting through shelves for something that you might like to read. Services such as Audible provide a good search facility, so that you can find out what else an author has written, or what else a narrator has read, if you particularly like their voice. You can also use book blogs or websites to find the most popular books in the genres that interest you, and Audible will send you recommendations based on the books that you have already bought. Also, Audible and some libraries give you the chance to listen to part of a book before deciding to buy or download the whole thing, so that you can decide whether it’s something you want to read. Some authors write in a style that I don’t like, and some narrators drive me crazy, so I like to try before I buy!

10. It’s fun!

If you can’t wait to find out what happens in the story, or you are really interested in what’s being discussed, you will be motivated to keep listening. There have been nights when I’ve stayed up way too late because of the book that I was reading – I wanted to find out what happened next. I guess this is only true if you enjoy reading, but I can definitely say that I’ve had fun escaping to other worlds for a while so that I could learn what happened to my favourite characters.

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.

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.