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Fiona Barton’s The Suspect was published on the 24th January 2019 and is the fourth crime novel from The Sunday Times and New York Times best-selling author.

The Suspect: The Story

Alex had been planning her trip to Thailand with best friend Mags for months.  It was meant to be their trip of a life time before embarking on university studies but at the last minute Mags pulled out and she was persuaded to travel with Rosie instead.

With very little in common Alex was unsure.  She didn’t want to miss out on her trip but didn’t have the confidence to travel alone and therefore needed someone. Rosie may have been annoying and not really someone Alex would naturally gravitate towards but with such little time to rearrange things, options were limited.  How bad could it really get?

To begin with it looked like things were going really well. Alex frequently posted on social media saying how incredible everything was and had contacted her parents to not only arrange a time for them to open her A-Level results together but also to let them know that they would soon be moving on from Bangkok; heading for the beaches down south.

Unfortunately things aren’t always as they seem.  Alex and Rosie had bickered since arriving; Rosie complaining about the heat and the state of the hostel they were in while Alex complained constantly about how much Rosie drank and the drugs she had started taking.  Clearly, they were two girls that, under normal circumstances, would never have travelled together.

Then things get even worse.

Having missed her prearranged call home to get her exam results, Alex’s parents begin to worry.  Their daughter would not have forgotten about such an important call and after a couple of days the panic reaches boiling point and they call the police.

At the same time, the papers get hold of the story – two teenage girls missing in Thailand – it could be nothing but then again…

Journalist Kate Waters is the one that decides to delve further into the story after she starts thinking once again about her son Jake, who has been working in Thailand for a couple years.  She very rarely hears from him and all she knows that he is working with a Turtle Conservation Programme down south – or is he?  Little did she know at the beginning how involved she would later become.

It soon becomes evident that things are not ok and as the police ask more questions of their Thai colleagues a situation comes to light that involves the death of two European girls.

With the news that a fire has destroyed a hostel on Khao San Road in Bangkok the parents of Alex and Rosie panic.  It wasn’t the hostel that Alex had originally booked into but it seems they never kept that booking, so who knows where they were staying.

Fraught with worry, the parents of both girls quickly book flights and head out to Thailand, praying that it is not their children’s bodies’ currently awaiting identification.  Kate, always wanting to be at the heart of any big news story, books herself onto the same flight knowing that she is already favoured by Alex’s mother, Lesley.   When they finally land in Bangkok however, it is not only Lesley that receives devastating news – it seems that Jake to may not be where he says he is, or doing what Kate believes he was.

As the story unravels, the lives of Alex and Jake seem to further collide with devastating consequences for both families.

Will anyone come out of the tragedy unscathed? It seems very unlikely.

Will Kate ever uncover what really happened on the day of the fire? Is the suspect in custody the true offender?

Why I think others should read this novel by Fiona Barton

While this is a work of fiction, the events that unfold are on the whole very believable.  We have all heard news stories where teenagers have gone on a gap year and ended up getting into trouble.  Of course, it could happen anywhere but with Thailand being such a popular place for younger people to visit it at the moment, it does seem like an appropriate location.

The story focuses not only on tragic events but also how the press and the police, when working together, can sometimes uncover far more than when working in silo of one another.  It also brings to light the difficulties the authorities face when working with law enforcement of a different country to try and get to the truth.

Fiona Barton has written a book that I struggled to put down; The Suspect is a real page turner that took just hours for me to consume it was that good.

Have you read any of Fiona Barton’s novels? Perhaps you have also read The Suspect and would like to share your thoughts. Maybe you have read similar books by a different author that you think we should know about.  If so, please leave your suggestions below.

For those thinking of heading to Thailand on a gap year and after some inspiration perhaps Katy Colins, Destination Thailand, would be a good place to start!

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All you book lovers and bookworms, this one is for you! While most of us can just not associate the city of Singapore with literature, the fact is there are umpteen places to visit and surprising amount of books to read, when in Singapore. Yes, if you are looking for some cozy place to indulge in reading without distraction, the good news is Singapore offers several such spots.

Image provided by David Russo

There are neighborhood cafes, pay-and-read hangout spots, artsy libraries, and lots more. But you might not know about all these cool hangouts as not all of them are possibly listed on internet. Well, the easy way out is to take help from a reputed travel marketplace such as Withlocals. They have a group of locals in different countries who can help you with some of the best known book cafes, historical museums and other hang outs for reading your heart’s content. After all, who would know the city better than the locals!  You can also embark on exciting food/city tours with them.

Where Should Bookworms Head in Singapore? #1 Looksee Looksee

Looksee Looksee, a pastel themed café, is one of the best places to be in Singapore. Located on the beach road, this café is a joint venture by a local tea company and The Lo & Behold Group, ensuring you get the best tea in town while you browse through some interesting books.

#2 The Moon

Another cool place to lose yourself in the world of books, The Moon is a multi-concept space located in Chinatown of Singapore. If you are looking for a comfy place with plenty of light and great coffee, The Moon should be certainly your pick. Plenty of leather-bound classics and limited edition books – what else can a bookworm ask for! So, if you have found what you are looking for, you can take your book straight to the inhouse café to enjoy your read with cake and tea.

#3 Wheeler’s Estate

If you are looking for something unique, Wheeler’s Estate is surely going to impress you with its off the grid concept. What can be better than reading while basking in sun, soaking yourself in some fauna and flora! Well, all of this makes the Wheeler’s Estate one of the best reading spaces for that lazy weekend. It not just has plenty of outdoor sitting space but the estate is also aesthetically stunning. So, pair your favorite book with coffee and delicious food, and of course the sun.

#4 Lowercase

Yes, the place is as interesting as its name. Lowercase can be defined as a cozy space with large windows – perfect for light munching and great reading. The space comprises of several power plugs and seats, ensuring it can accommodate book lovers and laptop gluers. There is also free wifi, so feel free to browse or chat with your bestie while you grab that interesting book.  

#5 Kinokuniya Orchard Road

This one certainly requires bit of your time. Kinokuniya Orchard Road, the largest bookshop in Singapore, has an enormous range of books belonging to every genre. While one side is dedicated to the local authors, the other half consists of extensive collection of books in different languages.

#6 Library at Orchard

Image provided by katrina.alana

This stunning library located on the busy Orchard Road of Singapore keeps well with the vibes of the city. There are no wooden shelves, the library is made all-white with latest technology used in the walls. The bookshelves are designed in a way that they make waves along the floor – a truly next-gen library that sticks to the classics. Isn’t it a perfect fusion of antique and the hi-tech!

Have you visited Singapore? What other bookish locations would you recommend? 

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From the author of The Couple Next Door, An Unwanted Guest is the third novel by Canadian author, Shari Lapena.  Once a lawyer and a teacher, I think it is fair to say that Shari is making big waves in the crime writing world with her inventive, gripping stories, and this one is no different.

 An Unwanted Guest: The Story

There are times where everyone wants to get away from modern day living.  It seems like we can no longer survive without a good internet connection or a mobile phone signal but there are occasions when even the most hardened of business men need a break. 

In the latest novel by Shari Lapena, however, the lack of modern communication abilities seems to be the downfall of the guests at remote Mitchell’s Inn.

In this exciting new whodunit it feels like we are going back in time slightly to the golden era of Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels, when a murder is committed in a hotel cut off from the outside world due to a snow blizzard. 

Everything starts well, but as a reader, from the opening pages, you know something sinister is going to occur.  The guests arriving at the hotel believe they are all in for a restful weekend where they can enjoy good food, fine wines and perhaps a bit of outdoor exploration and to begin with everything seems to be going to plan.

Yes, the roads to reach the hotel are a bit treacherous but once the guests have all arrived and evening cocktails are being served by the open fire in the lounge everyone seems to be in good spirits, but will this happy mood remain?

The guests themselves are an eclectic mix – Ian and Lauren, a young couple still getting to know one another; Matt and Dana, a wealthy pair planning a lavish wedding; Gwen and Riley, journalist friends from University; Henry and Beverly, a married couple on the brink of divorce; David the criminal defence attorney; and Candice a writer who prefers to be left alone. 

Everything seems to be on track until the following morning when Dana is found dead at the bottom of the grand staircase.  With no menacing threats being made the question is raised – was it an accident? Did she wander down the stairs in the dark and loss her footing? David, the attorney is not convinced and insists the body remains at the foot of the stairs until the police can assess the situation for themselves.  There is just one problem – due to the aggressive storm, all phone and power lines are down, leaving them with no way of contacting the outside world.

While this unnerves people, the thought of an accidental death helps them all to continue on with their weekends although in a much more subdued manner.  That is until a second victim is claimed.

With nerves fraught, accusations start to fly. It seems that no-one can be trusted and with bodies beginning to pile up the decision is made that everyone will remain together in the lounge area until contact with the outside world can be made, but will that stop the murders?

Has someone else being staying at the hotel without their knowledge? Could a member of the group be callous enough to kill their fellow guests? Only time will tell.

Why I think others should read An Unwanted Guest

Unlike many other whodunit novels of recent years, An Unwanted Guest really does keep you guessing. Just when you think you have identified who is responsible, something happens that throws your theory completely out of the window.  It is a novel full of twists that even the most savvy crime fiction readers would struggle to predict.

It is also extremely refreshing (well as refreshed as a murder tale can be). It is not gruesome or graphic. It is a novel that I would describe as more of a Sunday afternoon, coffee in hand, relaxing kind of read.  At one point I even started to imagine it as more of a Cluedo type of game – thinking about who would be killed off next, where and with what?

For crime fiction lovers looking for a gripping thriller without the harrowing descriptions this is the perfect book.

Shari Lapena

Have you read An Unwanted Guest or any of Shari Lapena’s other novels? Have you read any other crime novels recently that you would recommend to others?

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I hope that you were one of 76% of American adults who read at least one book last year. As for me, I was one of 21% those who read more than ten books in 2018. As you can imagine, I am a great fan of the written word, and literary landmarks are always important destinations on my numerous journeys.

There are over a hundred homes of famous American writers all over the US, museums dedicated to their lives and writing, and much more places connected with our favorite books. Discover all the details about your favorite literary icons’ lives, smell the air they breathed, and feel the atmosphere of their creative processes.

Come with me on this beautiful voyage and discover the places that will inspire you and give a new sense to books that you love so much.

The World of Best American Writers of All Times

Image provided by Kelsey Ray

#1 Ernest Hemingway

Have you ever read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’? If the answer is YES, and you love this book (and others, of course), you shouldn’t miss some crucial places connected with Ernest Hemingway. Visit the 19th-century house at Key West, Florida, where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote his novels ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro‘ from 1931 to 1939. Take a peek into his studio and admire the original manuscripts which are still placed near his Royal typewriter.

However, the real gem worth visiting is definitely Oak Park in Illinois. His birthplace is nowadays a museum and a home for forty or so descendants of his beloved six-toed cat given him as a present by a captain of a ship. Come here on July 17th and spend a weekend celebrating the birthday of the best novelist the US probably ever had.

Tennessee Williams said that New Orleans, Louisiana is ‘the last frontier of Bohemia’ while was drinking his beverage here in Carousel Bar, in the excellent company, including Hemingway’s. Come here, order a martini and read a page from his book ‘A Farewell to Arms’ where he described this club and left the memory of his nights spent here for eternity.

After that, go to the hotel Monteleone. It became popular thanks to the story ‘Night before Battle’. Hemingway mentioned his favorite place in this city and helped it to become an official American literary landmark from 1999.

Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Image provided by Jared

#2 Margaret Mitchell House

This famous house in Atlanta, Georgia was home for this exceptional Lady from 1925 to 1932. In that time she was writing my favorite novel ‘Gone with the Wind’. As soon as you enter this house, you will have the feeling that Scarlett and Rhett are still dancing around. Anyway, I wanted to dance there while heavy lace dress rustles around my hips and to remember that KISS.

Her home is a historic house museum now and an inevitable tourist destination, a place where creative writing classes take place and an attractive exhibit devoted to the memorable movie from the period of American Civil War.If you have time, don’t miss the Georgian Terrace Hotel, where the main actors spent nights during the filming.

#3 William Faulkner

William Faulkner was both, a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner. Can you imagine walking through Rowan Oak where he wrote most of his best novels? Come to Oxford, Mississippi, visit his home, and feel that inspiring atmosphere.

Rowan Oak, Mississippi. Image provided by Mike Norton

Admire his handiwork you can find on the walls of the house, see an armchair he used, and pay attention to the Underwood typewriter which he wrote on. Also, you can see his handwritten outline novel ‘A Fable’ on the study’s wall. Yes, he won the Pulitzer Prize for a book written on the wall. Entirely outstanding if you ask me!

Do you know that more than 1,800 pages of poems and short stories, he wrote in his early years, were found in 1962, after he died? Unfortunately, these pages are not in the house. They are a valuable part of the writer’s collection at the University of Mississippi.

This extraordinary man spent a part of his life in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where he finished ‘Soldier’s Pay’, his first novel. Let this be one of the destinations on your way throughout this wonderful city.

Mark Twain’s boyhood home. Image provided by Ron Cogswell

#4 Mark Twain

In the National Register of Historic Places have been noted precisely six places in Hannibal, Missouri connected with Mark Twain’s childhood, including his early home and two museums. This top-rated American writer lived here in his early ages. When he was seventeen years old, he moved from this lovely town.

During the 1870s and 1880s, he lived in Hartford, Connecticut. His house there is a witness of the process of creating stories about quick-witted Tom Sawyer and fearless Huckleberry Finn. Nowadays, there are rotating exhibitions here where you can learn a lot about the writer’s life and an auditorium for special events. Since 1962, his house is a National Historic Landmark.

#5 John Steinbeck

If you ever visit Salinas, California, don’t forget about the ‘must see’ place for every literature lover here – the John Steinbeck House. This town is the birthplace of the best-known novelist in the US and Nobel Prize winner, who left us impressive 27 books, including his cult book ‘Grapes of Wrath’, he got the Pulitzer Prize for.

His house has been in the National Register of Historic Places since 1989, but it is a restaurant now. If you are a devotee of his work, find the National Steinbeck Center two blocks away.Also, don’t miss visiting Cannery Row, a waterfront street in Monterey which was named after the most popular writer’s novel.

#6 Jack London

Every lover of Jack London’s books will want to go to California at least once in their life and visit Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen. Come to feel the vibe this fantastic, self-educated novelist enjoyed while writing his stories for eternity.

Also, discover 46 acres of Jack London State Historic Park in the Sonoma Valley where he retreated and created his own world. You can choose to explore the museum, the novelist’s legacy, a cottage where he was writing, and other historic buildings.

Enjoy walking, hiking, riding a bike or a horse, or just spend time in nature while relaxing, admiring a 2,000-year-old Redwood Tree, and organizing a picnic. I highly recommend you to visit a 19th Century Winery ruins there. Simply amazing!

Special Places of American Literature

The Emily Dickenson Museum. Image provided by Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism

#1 The Emily Dickinson Museum

When you think about Amherst in Massachusetts, you think about a magnificent poetess Emily Dickinson. Come here to visit the Dickinson Homestead (her birthplace) and the Evergreens (her brother’s house). Feel the intimacy of Emily’s poems undiscovered before her death and take a look at the way this wonderful woman lived.

#2 Powell’s City of Books

Can you imagine one million books in one place? WOW! It is everything I have ever wanted to see in my life! Come to Portland, Oregon and visit the most significant world’s bookstore. This place with nine different rooms occupies an entire city block in Pearl District. Take a seat at the Basil Hallward Gallery and listen to writers who come here to read their books.

The Little Red Lighthouse

#3 The Little Red Lighthouse

Find this lovely lighthouse below the George Washington Bridge when you come to the Big Apple. It was on the list for auction, but it was saved thanks to a children’s book, Swift’s ‘The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge’. Since 1979, the old lighthouse has become a historic place and a part of the Historic House Trust of NYC. After..

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How do you want to experience India? Do you seek the classic tourist spots? Or do you long to explore its rural landscapes?

However, you plan your trip, where you stay can be just as important as what you do. With the right accommodation, you’ll be able enjoy your vacation thoroughly.

Find a place that caters to your needs, and you can achieve your dream holiday. To help with this, our guide matches the main types of traveller to their ideal lodgings.

Types of Accommodation in India

#1 Backpackers and Young Travellers: Hostel

With its tigers, ancient ruins, and bustling cities, backpackers typically travel through Northern India to feel this mesmerising country completely.

Expert tours provided by the likes of Jules Verne also make it a hotspot for backpackers and groups. As a result, this area hosts hostels for various tastes.

If you are a solo explorer, hostels can help you to make friends during your trip. Should you need alone time, most will provide private accommodation at a slightly higher price.

Alternatively, shared dorms are great for large teams. Which hostel you select is up to you, but we underline that they could be perfect for young adventurers.

Restored accommodation in India doesn’t always look so luxurious from the outside, but inside…

#2 Wedding Anniversary: Luxury Hotel

Do you plan to spend a special anniversary in India? If so, lucky you! A happy marriage should be celebrated – and where better for this than at a luxury hotel?

With this kind of accommodation, you can sample all of India’s delights and relax in style,whenever you want. Many hotels are situated near wild countryside and areas of natural beauty. Depending on where you stay, therefore, you can very easily travel to intriguing visitor sites.

Even better, several are restored royal retreats, some of which date back as early as the 16th century. If you love history, you may very well find a place that fascinates and accommodates you. 

#3 Soul-Searchers: Houseboat

If soul-searching is what you seek, look no further than rural India. Whilst its northern cities are currently undergoing rapid change, its southern areas largely present a more laid-back pace of life.

Kerala, in particular, is one of its most peaceful regions. Here, backwaters expand into great lakes, on which wicker houseboats have sat for generations.

To experience traditional Indian life, why not stay in one of these lodgings? Designed like rice barges, they are comfortable, compact and can often be luxurious. And they could help to make your holiday even more authentic.

Once you know what you need in accommodation, you needn’t worry about it. With these tips, you may be able to pinpoint the perfect place for you to stay in India. And so, you could make the most of your holiday.

Have you visited India? Where did you stay? Would you recommend it to others?

Did you enjoy this article? Then why not PIN it for later…

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Why would anyone want to set fire to a library? Surely, nothing can be gained by causing such damage?

In The Library Book by Susan Orlean she tries desperately to uncover what happened to the Los Angeles Library back on the 29th April 1986, when a fire swept through the building destroying more than 400,000 books.

The Library Book: The Story

There was only ever one suspect, Harry Peak, an odd-jobs man who was desperately trying to break into acting.  There was just one problem – there was no concrete, physical evidence that put Harry at the library when the fire started.  There was a witness who said she was knocked down my Harry as he rushed out of the building but it could never be corroborated and therefore remained circumstantial. 

The fire burnt for more than 7 hours that day and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees so it is a miracle that people did not die, although several were injured.  Even today, after all of these years, there are books dotted around the shelves that were saved but still smell of smoke.  In fact, more than 700,000 books were damaged that day and it took years to repair some of them – the same amount that you would find in roughly 15 average sized libraries.

The Los Angeles Library fire was the biggest fire in American history but timing meant it was overshadowed in the news.

“The biggest library fire in American history had been upstaged by the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. The books burned while most of us were waiting to see if we were about to witness the end of the world.”

From reading this account by Susan Orlean though it does sound like it was a ticking-time bomb; a complete fire hazard and once one stack caught alight it was only a matter of time before the whole library went.

Susan has spent years trying to uncover what really happened that day, trying to ascertain the truth and in doing so she has also learnt an awful lot about library life and why libraries are still a valuable asset today.

It seems that the Los Angeles Library provides more than just a book-borrowing service.  It is where vulnerable individuals can go to gain help, get warm and perhaps even get back on their feet.  It is a social hub for youngsters not wanting to hang out on the streets. It is a place where people attend talks, complete their homework or simply seek refuge in a peaceful environment and without The Library Book a lot of this would be unknown to the wider world.

Why I think others should read The Library Book

It may not sound like the most exhilarating topic to some but this is an account of a real-life arson case that has never been solved.  It uncovers what actually happened and why the case against Harry Peak never stood up in court.  Was he to blame for the fire? There is compelling evidence to suggest he was but for some reason he was able to confuse people enough into thinking he was nowhere near the scene of the crime – or was he? I am not sure after reading this that even Harry Peak knows where he was or what he was up to at the time the fire started.

Susan Orlean has provided not only an account of the fire that ripped through the library but highlights the important role that libraries still play in modern day life. She writes about how the initial library came about and how it has evolved to become something that is still important to the wider community.

However, even with all Susan’s research one question still remains – why would anyone want to set fire to a library?

Who is Susan Orlean?

Before writing books, Susan was a writer for The New Yorker, Probably her best known book, The Orchid Thief, written in 1998, was made into a film adaptation starring Meryl Streep.  Since then she has written many other books including My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and The Floral Ghost.

For anyone completing the 2019 Travel Reading List Challenge, this would be ideal for the book with a red cover prompt.

See our other book recommendations for the Travel Reading List Challenge here.

Have you read The Library Book? Would you recommend it to others? Have you read other true-crime books that you think others should know about?

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Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? I don’t mean learning a few words here and there perhaps for an upcoming trip, although that is always appreciated by locals, I mean learning to fluently speak a language. 

We have tried and are still trying in fact, and I have to let you into a secret – it is not that easy.

Of course, if it was easy more people around the world would be at least bi-lingual but with only 43% of the world able to speak more than one language (only 13% are tri-lingual) it seems that I am not alone in my struggle.  In fact, for Brits the stats are even more dire, with only 38% of the popular being able to speak a second language.

Many Brits however don’t see this as a failing and have come to believe that it is ok not to try with languages because after all ‘everyone speaks English abroad these days’.  This may be the case on the Spanish Costas but if you decide to travel further afield to more remote places, the lack of languages may be your downfall, which is why it is so important to try.

As I have already said, we understand how difficult learning a different language can be.  We have lived in Italy for three years, have been to night school and have spent time with friends trying desperately to learn Italian but we are still not yet fluent.  However, we are not prepared to give up just yet.

There are so many different programmes out there, teaching people how different languages that you can now learn how to speak French, German, Italian, Portuguese or even Mandarin from the comfort of your own home.  You just need the desire and willpower not to give up when things appear to get too difficult. From phone apps through to face to face skype training like that provided by Language Trainers there are many different options, catering for all learning styles.

5 of the Best Ways to Learn another Language #1 Duolingo (free)

Probably best known as an app you can download on your phone, Duolingo is a good place to start when looking for a new language to learn.  It starts with the basics and uses repetition to help you learn.  It is a programme that promotes learning a language in just 5 minutes a day so for those short of time, it could be the perfect way to start out.

#2  Babbel (various monthly subscriptions available) 

Everyone learns in different ways.  Some people are visual learners while others learn by listening or doing.  The great thing about Babbel is that it tailors its programme to you and your particular way of studying.  Babbel is a fantastic tool for those just starting out with a new language because “instead of drilling abstract sentences, vocabulary or grammar rules, the app teaches through real-life dialogue.”

#3 Rosetta Stone (various monthly subscriptions available)

While this is one of the more expensive language learning options, it is known globally and has been around for more than 20 years which makes me think that they are doing something right.

You learn through pairing images and words together and practicing your pronunciation.  You will gain instant feedback while also having access to more than 200 hours worth of tutorials, online sessions with tutors and language-learning games, all of which is designed to help you learn a language with ease.

#4 Future Learn (free, with options to pay for upgrades) 

Unlike other online courses, Future Learn provides random online courses.  That means that you will need to sign up for email notification of new courses being added.  You will find that the language courses offered here are geared more towards a holiday or perhaps a work situation and vary in length and knowledge gained.  What it does do in a short amount of time is highlight whether or not a particular language (or subject if you look at the wider course list) is right for you.

#5 Fluent in 3 Months ($116.40

The fact that Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Work Week , rates Benny and his ability to teach people languages in a short period time perhaps means that this is one of the best programmes out there. He boasts that with his course you will be able to have a 15 minute conversation in your chosen language after just 90 days, which is quite an impressive statement.  For your money you will get an array of different tools – a step-by-step language guide, a language journal, master class videos, immersion tools to build routine and daily habits plus much more.

The English Perception

From experience, learning a new language may be difficult but it can also be extremely rewarding.  Being able to converse with people in a language other than my native English is fantastic and often startling to others – after all I am English and therefore should I not have the same attitude as some of my fellow countrymen that everyone should speak my language.  We have, over the years, become a laughing stock of other nationalities because of our lack of abilities or perhaps our desire to learn something new.  Therefore, when we do speak to someone in their native language there is that element of surprise and their respect quickly shines through.

Learning a new language used to be something we did for a couple of years at school and therefore in a way we cannot be blamed for our lack of skill however, with the development of new apps and programmes we no longer have an excuse.

Perhaps this should be the year that you start learning something new; something that will help you whether travelling or moving abroad. Time can no longer be the justification; after all you can start to learn in just five minutes a day.  The location or courses is not a barrier anymore because you can now learn in the comfort of your own home at a pace that suits you – so what is your excuse?

Have you tried to learn a new language? Which programmes or apps did you use? What tips do you have for others wanting to develop their language skills?

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The motivational book market is growing exponentially, with those that are excelling in business either writing their own or creating articles listing their favourite books that everyone should be reading if they want to get ahead.

No one is immune to this type of book.  If you haven’t picked up an explicitly open motivational read, I am pretty sure you have glanced at a biography written by someone successful.  I for one have been known to read books by Warren Buffett , Sir Alan Sugar and most recently Richard Branson’s latest autobiography – Finding My Virginity.

Knowing that more than 1,000 business and motivational books are published each month I decided that I wanted to learn more about what makes these people feel that they are an authority on success.  2019 is therefore the year that I have decided to start reading more from these people starting with Amber Rae’s Choose Wonder Over Worry.

 Who is Amber Rae?

Known as a Millennial Motivator, Amber states on her website that “I write, speak and make art to encourage emotional wellness and personal growth.”  So, probably the easiest way to describe her is as a life coach; someone that will challenge others to unpick themselves so that they can grow and succeed in whatever it is they choose to do.

Unlike some people who write books of this nature, she has had her fair share of knockbacks and suffered from severe bouts of self-doubt, so part of me does think she must know a bit about how others feel when they are struggling to achieve their dreams; which is one of the reasons I decided to pick her book up as my first motivational read of 2019.

Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential

I know that some people will argue that by reading about other peoples’ success and how they achieved it, I am still somewhat hiding away from what is stopping me. That I am prolonging the fact that I do not want to delve into whatever barriers I have created but actually, sometimes these barriers are so hidden you actually need to use the wise words of others to uncover them, which is what I was hoping when I started to read this particular book.

WONDER is what we’re born with.
WORRY is what we learn.

Choose Wonder Over Worry examines why we hold back.  Amber wants us to connect with our inner voices – both that of worry, the cautious voice that always puts barriers in the way and makes us think we will always be rejected versus wonder, the voice that gives us permission to think ‘what if…’

She wants us to start thinking positively, to think that we are good enough and that we can achieve whatever we desire.

The majority of people have been brought up to worry about things and have a natural default to think more about how others will react to our ideas rather than wondering whether, if we give it a go we might succeed.  We have developed a fear of other peoples’ perceptions.

“What will they think about me?”

Unfortunately, it is this inner voice of worry that is causing us to fail before we even start.

Amber highlights that we want to remain safe; we don’t like to ruffle feathers.  We want to remain comfortable at all costs.  But do we really?

The more I read Amber’s words the more I could hear my inner voice screaming out at me to take action.  I needed to change my attitude to myself and stop worrying about others.

“I’m committed to living a life that is true over one that is comfortable.”

However, it was this quote from Todd Henry that really got me thinking about things:

“In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow’”.

I needed to start thinking about myself rather than living a life others expected of me.  I wanted to make sure I don’t die with my “gifts still inside”.

It was only then that I decided I needed to act because you just never know what will happen in the future.  I realised at this point that I needed to start stepping out of my comfort zone, to gain a bit of confidence and finally admit to myself as much as everyone else what it is I wanted to do with my life and start to come up with a way of achieving it.

It might sound silly, or like I am simply saying wonderful things because that’s what book reviews are meant to be about, right? (Very wrong – book reviews should always be honest no matter what). It is one of the first books I have read that has actually motivated me to want to change – and that want is probably the thing that stops most of us from putting ourselves out there.

Why I think others should read Choose Wonder Over Worry

This is a book that anyone struggling with self-doubt should read.  It makes you challenge not other people and their perceptions of you, but your own.  It is emotive and thought-provoking.  If read right it will leave you drained, but in a good way.  It is a book that makes you think that feeling vulnerable is actually a good thing if you want to grow and teaches you how to explore that vulnerability with an end goal in mind.  In actual fact, I would say it is a book that teaches you to love yourself and forget about what others think.

Of course, you have to put what you read into action but why would you be reading a book like this if you didn’t feel it was time to change?

Have you read Choose Wonder Over Worry? What business or motivational books have you read that have left you mentally drained but have forced you to challenge yourself?

The post Review: Choose Wonder Over Worry by Amber Rae appeared first on .

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Where the Crawdads Sing was a Reese Witherspoon top pick for her book club, Hello Sunshine, back in September 2018 and is still, at the time of writing this review, at the top of the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best Sellers List so I almost have to question why it took me so long to pick up a copy. 

Maybe my unwillingness to pick up Where the Crawdads Sing comes from the fact that so often I read something that has been highly recommended; a book that has received so much publicity, that I then feel disappointed.

On this occasion however, I have to admit that my reticence and stubbornness nearly led to me not reading what has to be one of the best novels released in 2018.

Where the Crawdads Sing: The Story

This is a story starting back in the 1960’s, in Barkley Cove on the North Carolina Coast, when racial segregation was still rife.   This is not a tale about racial differences however, but about a young girl who from a very early age was left out on the marshes to fend for herself.

Kya Clark was once part of a large, loving family with brothers and sisters and a mother who spent her days cooking, drawing and painting the toe nails of her daughters.  Unfortunately their father was a drunk who eventually chased everyone away – everyone accept Kya.  For a while, things didn’t seem too bad, she slowly learnt how to cook his meals and remembered to stay out of his way when he came home after a drinking bender, avoiding his wrath.  Life ticked by.  Then one day, he too left.

With no money, no education and no friends, Kya learnt how to survive. She made a small amount by trading goods with Jumpin, a local man with an extremely kind heart.  Very few other people in town would ever consider talking to the ‘Marsh Girl’, opting instead to watch from afar the strange girl who trusted no-one, who instead would spend her days feeding the gulls.

Her only other friend, is Tate, a local boy who desperately wants to reach out to Kya.  Slowly, gaining her trust, he teaches her how to read and write.  Over time, a relationship begins to flourish and she begins to feel like she is no longer alone in the world. That is until Tate heads off to college and appears to forget all about the shy, sensitive girl who hides out in the marshes.

Devastated by Tate’s sudden departure and lack of contact Kya withdraws once again.  Then things get even worse.

One morning, while two kids are playing around at the edge of the marshes they find the body of Chase Andrew, a popular individual with everything to live for. To begin with the police can’t quite work out whether it is an accident or not but soon the townspeople automatically turn towards Kya believing that the freak who lives alone in the marshes must have murdered him. 

An arrest and trial follows where every little detail of Kya’s life is pulled apart in front of a crowd that have never accepted her.  Barkley Cove is after blood, and regardless of whether she committed the crime or not it seems that many are ready to condemn a young woman because she is different.

Why I think others should read Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens story is so powerful that you can physically sense the loneliness and utter despair felt by Kya. It’s a narrative that makes you think about how you treat others.  Have you ever caused anyone pain with the way you have spoken to them, or the way you have shunned them because you are concerned about how others may in turn perceive you?

Where the Crawdads Sing highlights how society can be cruel sometimes and how we are all too quick to judge. It is an emotive story that has you championing Kya regardless of whether she is guilty or not. 

Filled with suspense and intrigue, this is a murder mystery novel wrapped up in romance.  It is a story that delves into how resilient people can be when faced with constant judgement and prejudice from those around them.  

It is a haunting, heartbreaking novel that you will not be able to forget in a hurry.

My biggest regret is that it took me so long to read.  I am always nervous about picking up a book surrounded by so much hype as I often feel let down by it.  Where the Crawdads Sing however, is no such book. Beautifully written with a unique plot, it is a compelling, original book that will keep you up until the early hours of the morning: you simply won’t be able to put it down once you have started.

Where the Crawdads Sing was first published in August 2018 by Penguin Random House but has already been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon who is currently looking to produce a TV adaption of the story for FOX 2000.  My suggestion would be to read it before you see it as I have a funny feeling that, while the film may be good, the book will most definitely be better.

For anyone completing the 2019 Travel Reading List Challenge, this would be ideal for the debut novel prompt.

See our other book recommendations for the Travel Reading List Challenge here.

What other debut novels have you been impressed by? I would love to discover some new authors, so please let me know which recent books have wowed you.

Did you enjoy this article? Then why not PIN it for later…

The post Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens appeared first on .

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Whether you are the adventurous type, looking to explore all Sri Lanka has to offer – from its many tea plantations, scenic train journeys and its numerous temples – or prefer to simply relax on one of the Island’s beautiful beaches, finding out a little bit about the country’s history before visiting is something that many people find extremely worthwhile.

Over time, Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon, has moved away from British rule, has survived a civil war and has learnt to thrive again after being hit by one of the world’s most deadly natural disasters: it is a country bursting at the seams with stories to tell.

From historical novels to travelogues and contemporary literature there is plenty of reading material available,  allowing everyone the opportunity to gain insights into the teardrop island before they even leave the comfort of their own armchair.

Whether you prefer fiction or non-fictional reads this epic list will give everyone an insight into a stunning country fortunate enough to be surrounded by the Indian Ocean.

Books on Sri Lanka Everyone Should Read #1 The Tea planters Wife (Dinah Jefferies)

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected.

The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous, and there are clues to the past, a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds, that her husband refuses to discuss.

Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever.

#2 Island of a Thousand Mirrors (Nayomi Munaweera)

Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families. Yasodhara tells the story of her own Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for.  As a child in idyllic Colombo, Yasodhara and her siblings’ lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents’ ambitions, teenage love and, subtly, the differences between the Tamil and Sinhala people, but this peace is shattered by the tragedies of war. Yasodhara’s family escapes to Los Angeles. But Yasodhara’s life has already become intertwined with a young Tamil girl’s.

Saraswathie is living in the active war zone of Sri Lanka, and hopes to become a teacher. But her dreams for the future are abruptly stamped out when she is arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers and pulled into the very heart of the conflict that she has tried so hard to avoid,  a conflict that, eventually, will connect her and Yasodhara in unexpected ways. 

#3 Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka (John Gimlette)

 Gimlette’s travels reveal the country as never before. Beginning in the exuberant capital, Colombo, he ventures out in all directions: to the dry zones where the island’s 5,800 wild elephants congregate around ancient reservoirs; through cinnamon country with its Portuguese forts; to the tsunami-ravaged southeast coast; then up into the great green highlands and Kandy, the country’s eccentric, aristocratic Shangri-la.

This is a story of friendship and remarkable encounters. In the course of his journey, Gimlette meets farmers, war heroes, ancient tribesmen, world-class cricketers, terrorists, a former president, old planters and survivors of great massacres.

#4 The Teardrop Island: Following Victorian Footsteps Across Sri Lanka (Cherry Briggs)

Cherry Briggs discovers the writings of an eccentric Victorian writer and explorer, James Emmerson Tennant, and decides to follow his footsteps before she leaves her teaching job in Sri Lanka. The unmarried, and childless Briggs is the object of mirth and pity of the Sinhalese as she journeys around the Teardrop Island on public transport. With the civil war recently ended and the effects of the devastating tsunami as ever present context Briggs entertains and educates. Her hapless inability to select decent guides or drivers results in her taking us vicariously to places we would never reach otherwise.

#5 The Village in the Jungle (Leonard Woolf)

This novel, set in Ceylon, follows the lives of a handful of villagers hacking out a fragile existence in a jungle where indiscriminate growth, indifferent fate and malevolent neighbours constantly threaten to overwhelm them.

#6 Growing: Seven Years in Ceylon (Leonard Woolf)

Growing is the autobiography of a young man sent straight from university to help govern the British Empire.

Rarely has an empire had such an intelligent, dutiful, hard-working and incorruptible civil servant. Woolf was determined to do what was good, but discovered for himself that colonial rule was fated to do what was wrong. Growing is a deeply affectionate portrait of the mystery, magic and savage beauty of Ceylon at the beginning of the twentieth century.

#7 This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War (Samanth Subramanian)

In the summer of 2009, the leader of the dreaded Tamil Tiger guerrillas was killed, bringing to a bloody end the stubborn and complicated civil war in Sri Lanka. For nearly thirty years, the war’s fingers had reached everywhere: into the bustle of Colombo, the Buddhist monasteries scattered across the island, the soft hills of central Sri Lanka, to the curves of the eastern coast near Batticaloa and Trincomalee and the stark, hot north. With its genius for brutality, the war left few places and fewer people, untouched.

What happens to the texture of life in a country that endures such bitter conflict? What happens to the country’s soul?

Samanth Subramanian gives us an extraordinary account of the Sri Lankan war and the lives it changed. Taking us to the ghosts of summers past and to other battles from other times, he draws out the story of Sri Lanka today – an exhausted, disturbed society, still hot from the embers of the war.

#8 The Cage: The fight for Sri Lanka & the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers (Gordon Weiss)

In the final days of the thirty-year Sri Lankan civil war, perhaps tens of thousands of civilians were killed as government forces hemmed in the last remaining Tamil Tiger rebels on a tiny sand-spit, dubbed “The Cage.” Gordon Weiss, a journalist on the scene as the UN spokesman in Sri Lanka, pulls back the curtain of government misinformation to tell the full story for the first time.

Tracing the role of foreign influence as it converged with a history of radical Buddhism and ethnic conflict, this is a harrowing portrait of the root causes and catastrophic consequences of a revolutionary uprising caught in the crossfire of international power jockeying.

As Weiss relates the tale of an island paradise torn apart by war, he raises critical questions: Were war crimes committed? Was this the Obama administration’s first “human rights failure” (as suggested by “Time” magazine)? Does China’s central role in the Sri Lankan government’s victory sound a warning for democratic progress? #9 Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War (Frances Harrison)

The tropical island of Sri Lanka is a paradise for tourists, but in 2009 it became a hell for its Tamil minority, as decades of civil war between the Tamil Tiger guerrillas and the government reached its bloody climax. Caught in the crossfire were hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, doctors, farmers, fishermen, nuns and other civilians.

The government ensured, through a strict media blackout, that the world was unaware of their suffering. Now, a UN enquiry has called for war-crimes investigations. Those crimes are recounted here to the wider world for the first time in sobering, shattering detail.

#10 Anil’s Ghost (Michael Ondaatje)

This book transports us to Sri Lanka, a country steeped in centuries of tradition, now forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of civil war. Into this maelstrom steps Anil Tissera, a young woman born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, who returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island.

What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity, about the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past – a story propelled by a riveting mystery.

#11 The Road from the Elephant Pass (Nihal de Silva)

An army officer’s routine assignment to pick up a woman informant near Jaffna turns into a nightmare when the Tigers launch a massive attack on the peninsula and the camp at Elephant Pass. The two adversaries are forced to escape together through the rebel held Wanni and later, cross the abandoned Wilpattu National Park on foot.

Bitter enemies at the start of their journey, Captain Wasantha and the activist Kamala face innumerable threats from wild animals and a gang of deserters who make determined and violent efforts to capture the woman. The constant external danger, and their enforced dependence on each other, gradually erodes their enmity and distrust.

But a shocking revelation confronts Wasantha when he finally reaches Colombo. He is now compelled to choose between his friend and his country.

#12 Mosquito (Roma Tearne)

When Theo Samarajeeva returns to his native Sri Lanka after his wife’s death, he hopes to escape his gnawing loss amid the lush landscape of his increasingly war-torn country. But as he sinks into life in this beautiful, tortured land, he also finds himself slipping into friendship with an artistic young girl, Nulani, whose family is caught up in the growing turmoil. Soon friendship blossoms into love. Under the threat of civil war, their affair offers a glimmer of hope to a country on the brink of destruction.

But all too soon, the violence which has cast an ominous shadow over their love story explodes, tearing them apart. Betrayed, imprisoned and tortured, Theo is gradually stripped of everything he once held dear – his writing, his humanity and, eventually, his love.

Broken by the belief her lover is dead, Nulani flees Sri Lanka to a cold and lonely life of exile. As the years pass and the country descends into a morass of violence and hatred, the tragedy of Theo and Nulani’s failed love spreads like a poison among friends sickened by the face of civil war, and the lovers must struggle to recover some of what they have lost and to resurrect, from the wreckage of their lives, a fragile belief in the possibility of redemption. #13 Reef (Romesh Gunesekera) A single lighted match banishes Triton from his father’s home to the employ of Mister Salgado, a marine biologist obsessed by swamps, sea movements and a Sri Lankan island’s disappearing reef. Stranded in London years later, Triton plumbs the depths of his childhood memories – a period of brewing political, ethical and religious turmoil – and brings us to understand how he has navigated this brave new world, which once lost will haunt him forever. #14 The Flower Boy (Karen Roberts)

In the colonial society of 1930s Ceylon, the separation between servant and master is clearly drawn. Young Chandi, however, knows that the baby born to his mother’s mistress will be his friend. And, indeed, their friendship blossoms in the lush gardens of the tea plantation on which they live. Many, English and Ceylonese, are troubled by the friendship, but the English planter is charm ed by the children’s bond, and ultimately by Chandi’s mother, Premawathi.

This is a tragically romantic story of people from two cultures, one ruling the other, and the human passions that defy and nearly overcome social taboos.

#15 The Hamilton Case (Michelle  de Krester)

The place is Ceylon, the time the 1930s. Set amid tea plantations and corruption.  This is a world teetering on the edge of chaos.

Sam Obeysekere is a Ceylonese lawyer, but his family, which once had wealth and influence, starts to crack open as political change comes to the island, and Sam’s glamorous father dies leaving gambling debts.

At the same time a murder scandal shakes the upper echelons of island society and Sam’s involvement in it makes a name for him but it also sets his life on course of disappointment.

#16 Not Quite Paradise (Adele Barker)

Adele Barker and her son, Noah, settled into the central highlands of Sri Lanka for an eighteen-month sojourn, immersing themselves in the customs, cultures, and landscapes of the island – its elephants, birds, and monkeys; its hot curries and sweet mangoes; the cacophony of its markets; the resonant evening chants from its temples.

When, having returned home to Tucson, Barker awakes on December 26, 2004 to see televised images of the island’s southern shore disappearing into the ocean and she decides she must go back.

Travelling from the southernmost coasts to the farthest outposts of the Tamil north, she witnesses the ravages of the tsunami that killed forty-eight thousand Sri Lankans in the space of twenty minutes, and reports from the ground on the triumphs and failures of relief efforts.

#17 Tamil Tigress: My Story as a Child Soldier in Sri Lanka’s Bloody Civil War (Niromi de Soyza)

Two days before Christmas in 1987, at the age of 17, Niromi de Soyza found herself in an ambush as part of a small platoon of militant Tamil Tigers fighting government forces in the bloody civil war that was to engulf Sri Lanka for decades.

With her lifelong friend, Ajanthi, also aged 17, the teenagers become part of the Tamil Tigers’ first female contingent. Equipped with little more than a rifle and a cyanide capsule, Niromi’s group managed to survive on their wits in the jungle, facing not only the perils of war but starvation, illness and growing internal tensions among the militant Tigers.

#18 Monsoons and Potholes (Manuka Wijesinghe) Monsoons and Potholes is a mad, bad, irreverent account of growing up in Sri Lanka.  This is a story of the trials and tribulations of a heroine in tandem with the country’s slippery progress on the road to nowhere. #19 Tea Time with Terrorists: A Motorcycle Journey into the Heart of Sri Lanka’s Civil War (Mark Stephens Meadows)

Armed with a map, a motorcycle, an infectious sense of humour, and a dim understanding of Sri Lanka’s war, adventurer Mark Stephen Meadows arrives in the country intending to have, as it were, afternoon tea with terrorists. Figuring that the first step to solving a problem is to understand it, he journeys north into the war zone, interviewing terrorists, generals, and heroin dealers along the way.

He discovers an island of beauty and abundance ground down by three decades of war. As he travels north through Colombo, Kandy, and the damaged city of Jaffna, Meadows gives his riveting take on the war. Known for child conscription and drawn-out torture methods, he explains, the Tamil Tigers also invented suicide bombing and were the first to lace together terrorists and financiers into international networks of militant uprising.

In Sri Lanka, Meadows discovers a deep view into an ancient culture. Along the way, he learns to trap an elephant, weave rope from coconut husks, and cast out devils, and he actually has tea with a few terrorists.

#20 Noontide Toll (Romesh..
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