What I read in August 2020

Hello, hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day again… time to link up with Jana and Steph to tell you about the book I finished last month. Considering I didn’t read a single page for the first 11 days of August, it actually ended up being quite a few. Not as many as usual, but a decent amount by normal people’s standards.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. On returning from WWI, Tom Sherbourne is a broken man. He needs a place away from other people, where he can be alone and think.And so he becomes a lighthouse keeper, eventually ending up on the small island of Janus Rock, an extremely remote location off the coast of Western Australia. Before heading out the island, he spends some time in the small town of Partageuse, where he meets Isabel Graysmark. They start a relationship via letter before getting married in 1926, then Izzy joins him on the island. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind… a boat has washed up on the island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. Now they have a devastating decision to make. They break the rules and follow their hearts. This is the story of what happens next. This book is just so sad. It’s obvious all along that there’s no way all the characters can be happy. I did not like Isabel at all. I understood her grief – I have had miscarriages and it is an awful thing to go through – but she was just so selfish. The way she treated Tom was nothing short of emotional manipulation. If he even dared mention that there might be another solution she instantly accused her of not loving him. Just no. That isn’t to say it’s not a good book though. Read it if you want, but be prepared for sadness and frustration. 3 stars.

A Keeper by Graham Norton. Elizabeth Keane returns to Ireland after her mother’s death, determined to clear out the house and then close with that chapter of her life forever. Having spent many years in America, she feels the small town she grew up in holds nothing for her any more. Her childhood home is packed solid with useless junk, her mother’s presence already fading. But within this mess, she discovers a small stash of letters, and ultimately the truth about her mother… and about herself. was very quick to read and I actually quite liked the writing. Elizabeth’s mam’s story was really intriguing although beyond a certain point I guessed what had happened. I didn’t really like Elizabeth though. All she seemed to do was complain about everybody and everything – her aunt and uncle, her ex, how terrible it was growing up in a small town in Ireland. Then there’s a whole side story about her teenage son that seemed kind of unnecessary. It was good enough that I would read another book by Graham Norton though (and for the Brits, yes as in the chat show host/Eurovision commentator!). 3 stars.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. Ever since Anthony Peardew lost a keepsake from his fiancée, Theresa, on the very day she died suddenly, he has collected lost things. In a way, his assistant Laura is one of those lost things. As Anthony nears the end of his life, he tells Laura his life story, eventually bequeathing her his house and – along with it – his life’s secret mission. To reconcile all the lost things with their owners. Together with her new friend, the neighbour’s quirky daughter, Sunshine (this is what the synopsis says – Sunshine has Down’s Syndrome) and the gardener Freddie, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish. Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made. As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest? This is a cute book, but almost a bit too sweet at times. I actually enjoyed the parallel story about Bomber and Eunice more than the main one. Laura kind of annoyed me She’s constantly having tantrums and moaning about being “middle-aged” (she clearly fancies Freddie and is convinced he could never like someone “old” like her). Sunshine is the best character, and I loved Douglas the dog. 3 stars.

Nicola and the Viscount by Meg Cabot. A YA, historical romance. Nicola Sparks, sixteen and an orphan, has just finished school and is ready to dive headlong into her first London Season. A whirlwind of fashionable activities awaits her, although nabbing a husband, ordinarily the prime object of every girl’s Season, is not among them. For Nicola has already decided who she wants: a handsome viscount by the name of Lord Sebastian – who she and her best friend Eleanor refer to as “God”. Lord Sebastian Bartholomew is wealthy, attractive, and debonair, even if the few tantalizingly short moments Nicola has spent with him have produced little save discussions about poetry. Nicola is sure that a proposal from Lord Sebastian would be a match made in heaven. Everything is going well, until the infuriating Nathaniel Sheridan – Eleanor’s older brother – begins to cast doubt on the viscount’s character. Nicola is convinced Nathaniel’s efforts to besmirch Lord Sebastian’s sterling reputation will yield nothing. But when she begins to piece things together for herself, the truth that is revealed has as much to do with the viscount as it does with Nicola’s own heart. is very predictable, a little silly and I’m not 100% sure of it’s historical accuracy but it’s great fun to read. Apparently even in the 1800s teens were unnecessarily dramatic! I did like Nicola though. 3.5 stars.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ is the third boyfriend that her younger sister – the favourite child, the beautiful one – has dispatched in, she claims, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she knows what’s to come. But how can she save one of the people she loves without sacrificing the other? is an odd book. It’s a very quick read and strangely compelling but I didn’t actually like either of the sisters. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to? I initially assumed we were supposed to be on Korede’s side and want her to win Tade for herself before her sister killed him, but she’s so horrible about literally everyone else who works at the hospital that I ended up thinking neither sister deserved a decent man! It’s a surprisingly fun read though given the subject matter. It’s billed as a thriller, but really it’s more of a drama about an extremely dysfunctional family. 3.5 stars

Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan. When Sarah Zoltanne moves from sunny California to a small town in Missouri, she feels like she’ll never fit in. Her mother is dating a jerk, the kids at her school despise her, and she misses her old home. Nevertheless, when a popular boy asks her to tell fortunes at a school fair she reluctantly agrees. But her role-playing takes a sinister turn when she begins to see actual visions that come true and the other students turn on her, branding her a witch and setting off a chain of events that mirror the centuries-old Salem witch trials in more ways than one. This is a very creepy read – it actually got darker than I was expecting towards the end. The adults in this town are the actual WORST. The ending is slightly cheesy and not everything was believable, but this was exactly the kind of book I absolutely devoured as a teen in the 90s. 3 stars.

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (Detective Lottie Parker #1). When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how? The trail leads Lottie to St. Angela’s, a former home for wayward children, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? This is a decent enough police procedural/detective story that takes on the Catholic Church in Ireland and its not exactly savoury past. Not at all bad for a debut, although parts of it did drag. I guessed most of the reveal apart from one twist at the very end. 3 stars.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. Andie had her whole life planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks. But that was all before. When a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all. Working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she ever thought any guy would. Her friends – Palmer, Bri, and Toby – tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control and find the joy in the unexpected? This book is cute, but very predictable (and I’m not even talking about the main protagonist’s relationship!). Also I honestly found it too long. There was a point that felt close to an ending but then there we’re still about 200 pages to go?! I enjoyed the friendship group though. Although – and this is going to sound petty – the fact that Toby was female kept confusing me. Short for Tobyhanna, apparently. What kind of name is Tobyhanna? Or Palmer for that matter? And then people in the book actually have the nerve to mock Clark‘s name? 3 stars.

The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta. Danny has no idea why she picks out Tempest, California when she and her mother try to find a new place to live – a place away from all the trouble Danny has been in recently. When she arrives, she finds the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: Imogen, the most powerful of their group – is lost. And they believe Danny has the power to find her. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. The best description I can come up with for this book is “whimsical”, but not in the fluffy sense – there are some serious things going on as well. I loved the friendship group although I felt like I only got to know a few of them properly. For instance all I remember about Lelia is she’s non-binary (but fine with “she” for now), asexual or aromatic (or possibly both?) and is friends with ravens who bring her gifts (which, honestly, is AWESOME). The characters are almost a little too quirky at times – for instance there’s a scene where one of them goes into the woods wearing shorts and, as afar as I could tell, nothing else? Which apart from just being plain weird also seems kind of dangerous. Woods and nakedness don’t really go together as far as I’m concerned -or maybe I’m just too much of an adult? I also would have liked to know more about the Grays’ powers and how they found out which kind of magic they had. I really enjoyed reading it though – I just felt like it needed to be longer to explain things a bit more and a few aspects seemed to be quirky/weird/”out there” purely for the sake of emphasising how different and “special” the characters are. 3.5 stars

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Jumbies #1). Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her – and certainly not jumbies. There’s no such thing anyway. They’re just myths, a monster tale parents made up to frighten their children. But when Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest she notices a pair of yellow eyes following her. It couldn’t be a jumbie, could it? The next day, Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home. I wasn’t sure what to think of this book at first, but by the time Severine turned up at the market I was hooked! I don’t think I’ve read any Caribbean folktales before, so I found that aspect extremely intriguing. I loved the jumbies – they’re supposed to be the “bad guys” but they’re so well described and I was fascinated by all their different characteristics. The child characters are very well written, but Corinne’s father was a little one-dimensional, which was a shame given what a major part he played in the story. I liked the fact that Corinne is clearly flawed and is forced to learn that she can’t do everything alone and friendships are something to be valued. I will definitely read the next book in the series. 4 stars.

Tell me what you’ve been reading lately, and don’t forget to check out the link up!

August 2020 recap

Hello everybody! Here we are on the first Thursday of another month… is it just me or has September come around fast? As usual, I am linking up with the lovely Kristen to talk about what I did last month.

August was automatically a good month because we spent the first two weeks of it on holiday! We decided not to risk leaving the country, and instead did the Grand Tour of Switzerland (but in reverse – apparently you’re supposed to do it a specific way, which is why all the road signs only point in one direction. How does that make sense?!). We had an amazing time – drove over many mountain passes, saw lots of lakes, avoided people wherever possible. I know some of you are waiting to read all about our trip… by which I mean one person (who just happens to be Jan’s sister – hi!). I promise to get round to it soon. Sorting/resizing photos is just such a pain – but here are a few for now.

It was my birthday while we were away, so that was nice. We spent the night before in a mountain lodge so we got up ridiculously early to see the sunrise then went back to bed for an hour before breakfast. The next (and final) hotel wasn’t that far away, so even with a few stops it ended up being a day without too much driving, so we made it a fairly relaxed day and spent the afternoon in the spa at the hotel. In the evening we had dinner at the hotel, and Jan convinced me that I had to have dessert since it was my birthday. So overall it was a nice day – and in all honestly it kind of feels like the entire two weeks was one long birthday celebration so I can’t really complain!

August also marked the start of birthday cross-stitch season… which leads directly into Christmas cross stitch season (I am already late starting my Christmas cards!). Basically 90% of my free time for the rest of the year will be dedicated to cross stitch!

Other than that I didn’t really do much in August. Work, obviously, once we got home. I mostly had enough to do, but some days were a bit quiet. I finished ten books, which is less than usual but not bad considering I didn’t read a single page for the first 10 days of the month (despite taking two books on holiday with me!). Richard Osman’s House of Games came back on TV (repeats, but I only discovered it relatively recently so they’re still new to me) and we watched that. I love it – it’s the most fun thing currently on TV! I started making Halloween cards to send to Post Pals children. Jan had a socially distanced choir rehearsal/meeting/thing for the whole of last weekend (Friday evening, all day Saturday, most of Sunday – he came home for dinner on Sunday) so I used the time to stock up on craft stuff and then make cards.

That’s about it. Apart from the holiday my life remains as boring as ever. At least I was healthy in August! (Mostly – during my holiday I was still on the meds the doctor gave me so the allergies or whatever it was making me stuffy/dizzy in July and it took a while for them to fully work.)

I hope you’re all doing well. What’s new in your lives? Remember to check out the link up/say hi to Kristen.

A Touch of Whimsy: Adventures Through Wonderland readathon

Hello friends! I spontaneously decided yesterday that I want to participate in the Adventure Through Wonderland readathon in September even though I have nine books to read for another readathon, I’m only halfway through the bonus round for Erin’s challenge (with only one book that overlaps with said other readathon) and I really don’t have time to dedicate to reading at all for the rest of the year because I need to be cross stitching in any and every bit of spare time I can find (oh hi Christmas cards that I should have started already!). But it’s a middle grade readathon and we all know I can’t resist an excuse to escape into children’s books!

The readathon is hosted by A Touch of Whimsy, which is a book club run by Lexi and Kalyn (who I don’t know, but I’m sure they’re very nice), and guest hosts Gavin (who runs Believathon aka my favourite readthon ever) and Jade (who runs the Middle Grade Monthly bookclub with Gavin).

So… categories. Books. Y’know… the important things.

Down The Rabbit Hole: Read a book set in another world. The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan. A story about a bogwitch whose curses just won’t work. It’s definitely not set in our world!

Flower Garden: Read an aesthetically pleasing book. Obviously this is very much up to interpretation, but I’m going to read Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan. I mean, I don’t know about you but I think this cover is p-r-e-t-t-y.

Eat Me, Drink Me: Make yourself a cozy reading snack. As you can see, this prompt doesn’t involve choosing a book. I’m sure I can managed to make myself something yummy to eat while I read at some point during the month.

The White Rabbit’s House: Pick a book for a cozy night in. Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. This book sounds like so much fun and just perfect for a night in – especially if it continues to rain as it has been doing.

The Queen of Heart’s Palace: Pick a book you think you’ll love. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. I’ll be honest, I’m mostly including this book because I’m also reading it for Bookoplathon and if I don’t double up somewhere there’s no way this is going to work! But I also genuinely think I’m going to love this book… which is why I added it on Goodreads in 2017! High time I got round to it…

Cheshire Cat: Pick a strange and mysterious book. Potkin and Stubbs by Sophie Green. This is the Middle Grade Monthly book for September and I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy it for over a year now! Hopefully it arrives soon.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party: Join us for our live costume party. On 3rd October the hosts will be going live for a costume party where they discuss the group book (which I will get to in a second). It’s actually taking place at midnight my time so I most likely won’t be watching, but I wanted to include the prompt for completeness sake.

Bonus: Group book. The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell. This book sounds magical and wonderful and I cannot wait to read it (even if I can’t watch the live show).

So, there you have it. Let’s see how many of these books I actually manage to get to in September…

What I read in July 2020

Hello friends! It’s book day again. Hooray! I’m linking up with Steph and Jana to tell you what I read in July.

The Childfinder by Rene Denfield (Naomi Cottle #1). Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now – if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to a private investigator. Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, she’s the one families call. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience of being a missing child, that allows her to succeed when others have failed. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. As Naomi relentlessly pursues the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce defences that have protected her for so long. If she finds this child, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Haunting is the best word I can come up with for this book. It’s dark in a way that creeps up on you, hidden behind beautiful writing and the power of imagination. The other case Naomi ended up working on alongside Madison’s was so sad. This is not your typical thriller or crime story, but it’s one I highly recommend. 5 stars.

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle (Time Quintet #2). Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi – those who hate – and restore balance and harmony to the rhythm of creation. The very universe itself depends on their success. I really enjoyed the first part of this book. Charles Wallace thinks he sees dragons, later Meg goes looking for said dragons and finds a Cherubim instead. After that it becomes too overtly religious for my tastes – fallen angels, hell, love concurs all and we have to learn to love everyone (including mean teachers). It’s also somewhat repetitive. There was a lot I enjoyed though – I loved the Cherubim and the snake. And Calvin is a great character. Will I continue the series? I’m not sure. 3 stars.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo. Sade and Femi’s father is a political journalist who refuses to stop criticising the military rulers in Nigeria. When their mother is killed, twelve-year-old Sade and her little brother have to flee the country, immediately, with their father promising to follow. Abandoned in London by the woman paid to bring them to England as her children, Sade and Femi find themselves alone in a new, often hostile, environment. What will happen to them and will the family ever be reunited? This book is heartbreaking. I really just wanted to make everything better for Sade and Femi. It shows all the hardships of fleeing to a new country without being too graphic. I feel like this would be a good book to teach in schools. 4 stars.

The Strangeworld’s Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski (Stranegworld’s #1). Imagine being able to travel to different worlds just be stepping inside a suitcase? When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she discovers that it’s possible to do exactly that. There are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours! Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it. This book is wonderful! It sort of felt like a modern version of the Faraway Tree, except the different worlds are inside suitcases instead of at the top of a tree. Flick is a fantastic character, very much a child but with a good head on her shoulders. She is often forced to look after her little brother while her parents work, and everyone just assumes she’s so responsible and mature. At one point she says she isn’t a naturally grown up person – she was made to be that way – and it reminded me so much of me as a child. As the eldest, I looked after my younger brother a lot and everyone always praised how mature and sensible I was, but inside I felt just as vulnerable and lost as any child would. I can’t wait to read the second book – there are still mysteries to be solved! 5 stars.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare. London, 1950. With the war over and London still rebuilding, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for labour. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s rented a tiny room in south London and fallen in love with the girl next door. Playing in Soho’s jazz clubs by night and pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery – a baby, dead in the pond. As the local community rallies, fingers of blame point at those who were recently welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy that threatens to tear the city apart. This is a very difficult read at times. The way the Windrush immigrants (and black people in general) are treated is awful. The author makes you really care about the characters so reading about what happens to them is horrible. I felt truly ashamed of how my country treated the people they had asked to come (and I wasn’t even alive at the time)! It’s basically a love story set against the background of the post-war years with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The story with the baby really shows just how easy it is to ruin somebody’s life even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Some people have said the plot is predictable, and maybe it is but I still think it’s an important book to read and I really liked it. 4 stars.

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson. May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through – no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving may actually be an option after all. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I expected this book to make me cry, and it did. I really felt for May, even though she wasn’t actually very nice at times. I agreed with her best friend Lucy when she said May was self-centred and refused to even consider how other people might feel – just because May was actually in the room doesn’t mean she has a monopoly on grief. The way she treats Ann is particularly awful. While grieving her brother she never even thinks that maybe Ann could feel just as bad about losing her sister? Lucy was the absolute highlight of this book actually. Such an amazing friend! And despite May’s faults her obvious PTSD and survivor’s guilt broke my heart. 4 stars.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1). A young girl named Rose is out riding her new bike when she falls through the ground into an underground chamber filled with gleaming symbols , shaped like a giant metal hand. 17 years later, Rose is a physicist in charge of a research team struggling to determine the hand’s origins. When another giant limb is discovered, she quickly devises a method for unearthing the hidden pieces, convinced there is an entire body out there waiting to be found. Where did the pieces come from and what are they for? This book is written in the form of interviews and case files, which made it a fast read but meant I didn’t fully connect with the characters, so when something happened to one of them I was kind of detached and not really upset about it. I was fascinated by the story though. Who is the interviewer? And what on Earth was that bit at the end? So unexpected! I have so many questions and I desperately need the second book to hopefully get some answers! 4 stars.

The Emperor’s Babe by Bernadine Evaristo. Meet Zuleika: the daughter of Sudanese immigrants made good sassy girl about town, hellraiser, bored ex-child-bride. Married to a fat, rich absent Roman, she is stranded in luxurious neglect, until, one day, Septimus Severus, the Emperor himself, comes to town, bringing with him not just love – but danger… This is written in verse and some pages only have a few words on so I got through it in a couple of hours. I kind of liked it but at the same time I feel like I was missing something. The modern slang and references to Armani togas or whatever were amusing at first but eventually started to grate. And the whole part with the emperor was over very quickly considering it’s in the title. I loved Venus and the whole little friendship group around Zuleika and I appreciated seeing how truly multicultural Roman London really was but I somehow just couldn’t love it. A solid three stars but definitely no more than that.

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #2). I won’t day too much about this one since it’s a sequel, but Stevie continues investigating the case of the kidnapping and murder that took place at her elite boarding school years before. I liked this one more than the first one. Even though it’s another cliffhanger it didn’t feel as abrupt as the first one. At least we actually got some answers first! I need to know what a certain person’s deal is – I have a theory but I could be very wrong! 4 stars.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (These Witches Don’t Burn #1). Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But when evidence of terrifying blood magic starts cropping up all over town and Hannah’s coven won’t believe her, she’s forced to team up with Veronica to save their coven. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was the perfect mix of supernatural powers and real life issues. I was expecting something quirky and fun, and it was, but it also got quite dramatic at times (in a good way, although there is also plenty of teen drama in there as well!). I will definitely be reading the next book. 4 stars.

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm. A collection of stories about Professor Branestawm – the most absent-minded inventor you’ll ever meet. No matter how hard he tries his brilliant ideas never seem to keep him out of crazy scrapes. I got this book as part of a Puffin 50th Anniversary set as a child. Back then I remember thinking it was vaguely entertaining, amusing in places, but kind of silly. And reading it again now I have to say I agree with child me. It was a quick read with some good stories and some less good ones. Not a bad read but I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. Some kids might enjoy it. 3 stars.

Eric by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #9). Eric is the Discworld’s only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff. But what he gets is Rincewind, and Rincewind’s Luggage into the bargain. This is Terry Pratchett’s take on the Faust legend although I’ve never read the original so I can’t comment on that. It’s not the best of Pratchett’s books – although admittedly the Rincewind stories have always been my least favourite, much as I love The Luggage. There are some funny and clever moments but overall it feels incomplete and not up to the usual standard. It’s a quick read though and not really bad as such. Just not really memorable either. 3 stars.

If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman. Martha Aguas kind of has it all–she’s an accountant who loves numbers, an accident-prone puppy that loves her, and the perfect wardrobe. Yes, she wears a dress size 24, her bras don’t fit and she’s never had a boyfriend, but so what? It becomes a big deal when her perfect cousin Regina announces her engagement to Enzo, the only boy she’s ever loved (he doesn’t know, so don’t tell him!) Suddenly Aguases from all corners of the globe are coming for the event, and the last thing Martha wants is to be asked why she still prefers her lattes with a waffle on the side. Thank god for her best friend Max. Goofy, funny, dependable Max, who finds himself playing the fake boyfriend at the family festivities. But why does it feel like only one of them is pretending? The first half of this read a bit like a teenage girl’s diary but it got better as it went along. I was so happy when Martha and Max *finally* got together! Not really a spoiler – it’s fairly obvious that’s where it’s going. 3 stars.

All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard.

Tragedy came as if so often does: a teenage party, emotions running high, followed by a horrific car crash. A girl is left dead and a boy is forced to leave his home town, with a secret that he will carry with him forever… Years later, when Summer’s mother disappears one day, she is left with her father. Obsessed with an accident from years ago, he slowly descends into mental illness. And as he becomes more disorientated, he reveals small fragments of a secret that has been hidden since his youth, a secret that changes everything. Summer supports her father as much as she can but eventually realises that she has to escape. She finds refuge with her great-aunt, Stella. Feisty, fun-loving, and dying of cancer, Stella holds parts of the family secret. Slowly, things fall into place for Summer – or at least so she thinks… was fine. There were parts I liked more than others. Summer is actually kind of annoying though. She goes through life just assuming things about everyone, making all these sacrifices that honestly to me felt like an excuse not to decide anything for herself. Also despite the synopsis claiming this was Sara Sherpard’s first foray into adult fiction it still read like YA to me. 2.5 stars.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they’re on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days the children survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret. This is a fun middle grade adventure story. There are a few perilous moments that might scare a sensitive young reader buteach time the children work it out. I loved how the all did things that were out of their comfort zones – eating bugs, climbing trees. Max is hilarious, although I think if I’d been stick in the jungle with him I might have been tempted to drown him at some point! The writing is amazing – such vivid descriptions of scenery that made me feel like I was actually there. Even though it’s over 400 pages (admittedly with illustrations) I read it in one sitting. 4.5 stars.

That’s all for today. Check out the link up for more book reviews and please forgive any weird formatting – I had to finish writing this post on my phone since I only managed half of it before leaving for my holiday!

July 2020 recap

Hello friends. It’s link up day with the lovely Kristen, so let me tell you about last month.

My July started with a trip to the eye clinic. I had noticed my left eye itching more than usual the week before, but didn’t really think anything of it. Then on the Monday I had a headache after work. When I logged on to the system on Tuesday, everything was slightly blurry (although interestingly reading books and looking at my phone was fine). Luckily I was able to get an appointment at the eye clinic the next day. After a thorough vision test, the doctor decided she wanted to test for latent far-sightedness and told me I would be given strong eye drops first. People, she was not kidding about them being strong! It took until Friday evening for my pupils to be mostly back to normal (bearing in my mind I got the drops on Friday afternoon). It was Cyclogyl, if you’re wondering. Anyway… after looking at my eyes through the machine thingy, I was told to make an appointment with the optics department upstairs to see about getting glasses for reading and/or computer work. They actually had one appointment left that afternoon, so since I already wasn’t going back to work (considering after the drops everything was blurry and it was impossible to read), I took the appointment. First I had a looong appointment with some kind of assistant, who took a thorough history and then had me do various things while she held different lenses in front of my eyes, then I went to see a second doctor. Her verdict was that I do have latent far-sightedness, which my eyes generally accommodate for, and the blurriness was caused by eye strain/dry eyes. I got a couple of sample packs of artificial tears (which I later bought more of) and was told to come back in 2 weeks. If things didn’t get better with the drops I would need glasses now, otherwise she would expect me to need them in a few years, once I reach 40. After using the artificial tears for two weeks I didn’t notice much difference so I now have glasses for working on the computer. Yay!

The day after I dropped off my glasses prescription I woke up with pressure behind my nose and a vague “coldy” feeling. It gradually got worse through the week until I had pressure my ears as well. When I woke up feeling dizzy on the Sunday night then felt dizzy again when I went online the next morning I contacted my doctor. I ended up going there twice that week because I felt dizzy/had headaches every time I tried to sleep, then I got a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist and was luckily able to get in on the Friday. He was pretty sure it was all the result of allergies (no sign of infection, my nose looks a little dry but otherwise healthy and not inflamed) so he proposed treating the symptoms first to give me some relief then doing allergy testing at a later date. The decongestant he gave me worked well enough that I was actually able to sleep for a stretch of more than an hour for the first time in 3 days which was nice, although it makes everything constantly taste of eucalyptus. So that’s where we are now. I’m taking the decongestant and a nose spray and while I still don’t feel 100% fit I’m much better and definitely well enough for a holiday. (For the record I’m not coughing, no fever, my symptoms are sinus related plus itchy eyes and when we’re not in the car we will be keeping our distance and using masks.)

People, I am almost *never* ill (didn’t have a single day off work for illness last year) so I am not loving the irony of having to visit multiple doctors (and not forgetting needing a filling back in May) during a flipping pandemic of all times! I’m not sure who I offended but I’m very sorry and I would appreciate it if you could lift whatever curse you’ve put on me now…

On the weekend after my first eye doctor appointment I decided to try and rest my eyes (so no reading and little phone time) and we drove out to Creux-de-Van, a giant circular rock formation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. I saw a description of it as “the grand canyon of Switzerland” and while I wouldn’t go that far it’s pretty impressive.

The 26th July was my mum’s birthday and since they are moving soon I had flowers delivered to her rather than sending something she would need to pack.

And that was basically my July. I did manage to read quite a few books but other than that and our one day trip it was pretty much terrible – thanks unconfirmed allergies (or whatever you are). Oh, I hung some bunting on our balcony that I bought from Etsy ages ago. We still don’t have balcony furniture, but at least it’s a bit more colourful out there now.

Currently I am on holiday – this post was scheduled so hopefully will have actually posted – which means August cannot help but be a better month! (Right? Please let August be a better month!)

I hope you are all doing well and staying happy and healthy. Don’t forget to check out the link up!

An art tour of my home (Bloggers Art Gallery)

Hi everyone! Kezzie came up with this idea of a kind of bloggers art gallery – basically a link up to allow bloggers to share the art they have in their homes. The interpretation of “art” was left completely open – paintings, sculptures, carvings, glassware, a beautiful patchwork quilt. Whatever art means to you. I thought it sounded fun so I decided to join in.

For my post I wanted to a kind of virtual tour, as if I was actually walking through our flat with you telling you about the things we have on display.

The first thing you see when you come in the door is one of my favourite pieces in the whole flat! My cousin sent me this for Christmas 2019 and she informs me it’s by an artist local to her in Shrewsbury. Regular readers will surely remember it as we got it framed only recently.

If we turn to the right and continue down the corridor, the next thing we come across is two decorative tiles, hanging above the cabinet where we keep towels and other things. I bought both of them years ago on Dawanda – the former German version of Etsy. The cat one is a copy of a piece by Rosina Wachtmeister, an Austrian artist. I think they’re made using serviettes but don’t ask me how!

Appropriately, the fox card is actually from Kezzie herself! It was far too pretty to put away so it lives there. The gap on the left usually contains a framed photo of my godson but I took it down before taking this picture… privacy and all that.

Some of you may remember that where the red panda now hangs used to be home of a fox that was drawn for me by blogger Alison. Never dear, Mr Fox is still around! He’s just moved further down the corridor to be with a second piece of zentangle inspired artwork that Alison sent me in memory of our twins.

Having reached the end of the corridor, we now enter the bedroom, where we only have one thing on the wall (I need to do something about that!). This hedgehog is a digital print made up of lots of triangles. I got it from a charity auction in aid of PostPals.

hedgehog

Next door to the bedroom is the spare room. In there we have something that isn’t art as such, but we found interesting enough to frame. It’s a very cool jigsaw. (It’s also a pain to photograph thanks to the reflection from the window on the other side of the room!)

Exiting the spare room, we find a very important piece of art to our immediate left – a gift from my godson. I’ve removed his name from the photo, but the date shows he was almost 3 when he painted it.

There’s no art in my office so we’ll walk straight past that door and continue down the other side of the corridor. I won this bee in the same PostPals auction as the hedgehog.

bee print

We’re back to other end of the corridor now. To the left of the front door is a shoe cabinet, which houses a watercolour postcard I bought the first time I went to Paris. The little bowl was a gift from a friend in Luxembourg – would you believe it’s made of paper? And obviously the little painted chalice is from Rome.

On the wall above the postcard, next to the living room door, we find a peregrine falcon. My dad’s girlfriend’s dad painted it for me years ago!

Into the living room next, where we turn left along the bookcases and find this poster of Paddington Bear. I’m not sure whether it’s strictly “art” but I love it!

Paddington Bear

Three pieces reside on top of the cabinet that houses our wine glasses. Jan’s sister drew the gorilla. The two cross stitches are mine – Death of Rats was a gift from me to Jan years ago and he gave me the Me to You bear kit, which I then stitched.

Above the TV is a shelf that’s full of DVDs, and also houses two little foxes. Both were painted for Jan by his sister and I adore them!

Below the shelf, to the left of the TV, is a cabinet, and on top of that cabinet there are two cards featuring artwork by my aunt. She does them as Christmas cards, and these two are the most recent. I have others that aren’t on display, including a koala from when they lived in Australia. I wonder if you can guess where they live now?

Also on that cabinet are a painted stone and two postcards, all by Jan’s sister. The stone was a recent gift to Jan, the postcards are older.

Moving around the room, on either side of the window we have two things that we had framed years . Inn the left is a print of a Rosina Wachtmeister painting (she of the cats in corridor – she does a lot of cats, but this one doesn’t feature any).

To the right of the window is something that was actually an advert for an event at a French cultural centre where Jan used to help out. He liked it so much that he wanted to get it framed. I’m not actually sure what it’s supposed to be.

Above the sofa is a poster of a painting by Edward Hopper. Jan has owned it for years, I think since before we even met. He likes Edward Hopper… I’m quite honestly indifferent to him.

Finally we head into the dining room part of our open plan living/dining/kitchen area, where we have a frame containing some mini cross-stitch motifs that I stitched for myself years ago.

And that’s the end of my tour. We don’t have any sculptures or anything cool like that, there’s no wall space in the actual kitchen area and we don’t have any art in the bathrooms.

I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of art other people have in their homes. Once the various posts are up I’ll add the links here in case you want to see them too.

Alison’s post.

Ally‘s post.

Anca’s post.

Hazel‘s post.

Ivana‘s post.

Julia‘s post.

Kezzie’s post (host).

Mike‘s post.

MK‘s post.

Louise‘s post.

Ros‘s post.

Sophie‘s post.

Sheila‘s post.

Thrift Deluxe‘s post.

Vix‘s post.

Wembley‘s post (on Facebook).

What I read in June 2020

I’m a day late for the Show Us Your Books link up – mainly because I forgot it was coming up and I hadn’t pre-written my post – but better late than never, right? I have a few books to get to so I won’t waffle for too long, just get straight into it. I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.

The Bad Luck Lighthouse by Nicki Thornton (Seth Seppi #2). After solving the mystery at the Last Chance Hotel, Seth has discovered a world of magic that he never knew existed. In book 2, he and his cat Nightshade find themselves swept up in a new case at Snakemouth Lighthouse – the murder of eccentric owner Mina Mintencress – where Seth is determined to prove himself. A satisfying second book in the series. I enjoyed seeing more of this world. Nightshade is as “delightful” and funny as ever. I found a couple of things predictable but I’m not 10 years old and it didn’t make the book any less enjoyable. I’m looking forward to seeing where Seth and Nightshade go next. 4 stars.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer (Cursebreakers #2). The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.Meanwhile, Grey is on the run with a secret that he doesn’t want anybody to find out.This book finds loyalties being tested while new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war. The tone of this one is very different to the first book and I found a few parts slow so it wasn’t quite a five stars read but I enjoyed getting to know Grey better in his own right and not just as a guard to be ordered around. The ending left me needing to know where things are going.I want everyone to be happy – I like the characters on both sides and I don’t want to see them pitted against each other. 4 stars.

The Babysitters Coven by Kate Daniels. Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it. And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree. Enter hot new girl Cassandra Heaven. She’s never babysat before, so why is she so determined to get into Esme’s club? The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.” Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home. This was described as Adventures in Babysitting meets Buffy the Vampire and honestly the explanation of how the magic system/organisation work was a little too reminiscent of Buffy (to the extent that “like Buffy but witches and we only banish the demons” was almost the entire explanation). A lot of the pop culture references seemed to be aimed more at people my age than those who are actual teenagers today, which was weird. I did enjoy reading it though and I might continue with the series if I want something fun and a bit nostalgic in the future. 3 stars.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed the technological progress too far, and now magic returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail.In this world – specifically in Atlanta – lives Kate Daniels, a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, she is determined to find out who killed him. Hiding is easy, but the right choice is rarely easy… This book was confusing and honestly I found myself rolling my eyes at times. All the different elements of necromancy, were-beasts and references to random ancient, magical creatures just felt like a bit much for one book, and I found some aspects just plain odd (and a but icky). I did like Kate and some of the other characters and I had a fun time reading this book but it was just a good read for me rather than a great one.I’ve heard they get better so maybe I’ll try book 2 at some point. 3 stars.

The Land of Never Endings by Kate Saunders. What if there exists a world powered by imagination? A world of silliness, where humans and their toys live on long after they’ve left the Hard World . . . and what if the door between that world and this one was broken? Welcome to the Land of Neverendings! When Emily’s sister Holly dies, she is surprised to find that she misses her toy bear, Bluey, almost as much as Holly. Bluey was Holly’s constant companion, and Emily used to make up stories about him and his escapades in the magical (and very silly) world of Smockeroon to entertain her. The only person who seems to understand Emily’s grief is Ruth, her kindly next-door neighbour, who lost her son years before. Then strange things start happening, Emily dreams of talking toys visiting her bedroom, telling her that they have come from Smockeroon, and have a message for her from Bluey. Then she discovers that they may not have been dreaming after all. What if Smockeroon is real?  This was not what I was expecting. The synopsis on my copy was literally just the first few sentences of the description up to “Welcome to the Land of Neverendings!” so I didn’t realise it was a story about grief. I was expecting something magical, and it was, but it was also kind of sad. I really felt Emily’s grief at losing her sister. I loved the toy characters and also Martha who was such a lovely friend. 4 stars.

Everfound by Neal Shusterman (Skinjacker #3). I can’t really say much about this one without spoiling the first two, but all the characters from the previous books (plus some new ones) are pitted against each other in a battle that may destroy all life on Earth. This book was a journey! So much happened and I was constantly kept guessing. I’m glad I finally finished this series. 4 stars.

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb (Farseer #2). Fitz is the illegitimate son of the “King-in waiting” (this world’s term for the heir to the throne). In book one he was dumped at the palace by his maternal grandfather, only for his father to abdicate and move away. Nobody really knew what to do with him, until the king realised he would make a useful assassin. In book 2, Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. After initially deciding to abandon his oath to King Shrewd and stay away, he changes his mind and ends up back at Buckkeep, and embroiled in the deadly intrigues of the royal family. And that’s all I want to say about this one. The first book was pretty slow but parts of this one somehow managed to be even slower. I spent quite a bit of time wondering if it actually was getting towards some kind of point. I still liked reading it though. I really thought things would turn around for Fitz by the end, that someone would see what was going on. But no, his suffering continues. Towards the end things picked up and made me really want to start book 3 immediately, but alas I don’t own it. 4 stars.

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge. Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin and became blind in one eye. Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to Norway to visit her grandmother, Mormor – only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose. Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in. This book is properly creepy! I would not have wanted to meet the thing from the woods let alone battle it. I enjoyed the way Nordic mythology was woven in and I absolutely adored Gandalf the dog. I was left with a lot of questions though, like what actually happened to Martha’s Mormor and Is Stig really who he says he is? I thought they might be resolved at the end but nothing really was. So minus one star for that but I still genuinely enjoyed and recommend this book. 4 stars.

The River King by Alice Hoffmann. For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if by a line drawn down the centre of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the ‘village’ from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. Even within the school, hierarchy rules as freshman and faculty members find out where they fit in and what is expected of them. But when a body is found in the river behind the school, a local policeman will walk into this enclosed world and upset it entirely, changing the lives of everyone involved forever. This book was odd, very slow but strangely compelling. I knew from the synopsis that a body was supposed to be found so I spent half the book waiting for that to actually happen, although I had my suspicions about who it would be (and I was right). It’s not a bad book but I’m honestly not sure who I would recommend it to. 3.5 stars.

Twister by Juliette Forrest. Twister’s father has gone missing and as she’s searching for him she stumbles across a witch living in the woods. She is given a magical necklace that holds the souls of living things and can turn the wearer into a wolf, or a rushing river, or a rainstorm. But there’s a dark foe on the hunt for this necklace, a baddie who wears a coat crawling with creatures and who might have something to do with her father’s sudden disappearance… oved the characters and the story but I was slightly put off but the writing – I understand that Twister is supposed to sound childlike (hence the constant use of “catched” and weird grammar constructions) but then she would use words and phrases where I would think you know that but nobody’s told you the proper past-tense of catch? There was one scene that absolutely broke my heart. 4 stars.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Irene is a professional spy, working for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. Along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen, and London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find it. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option with the very nature of reality itself at stake. This was… confusing. There were parts I really liked but a lot of it was all over the place and not properly explained. It was an enjoyable read and I mostly liked the characters but I’m not sure I’m interested enough to continue with the series. 3 stars.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, they go to a dinner party next door taking the baby monitor with them but leaving Cora home alone. While they’re gone, the unthinkable happens – the baby disappears. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. Pretty much everyone in this book is just awful – horrible, horrible people. I enjoyed reading it even though it was very far-fetched and I guessed a few things part way through. The ending was slightly overkill though and felt really unnecessary. 3 stars.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother to teenage Pearl. The two of them rent a house from the Richardsons, but soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. mostly enjoyed this book but there was a lot packed into it and I felt like I wanted more detail on some aspects. I felt like I didn’t know some of the characters as well as I should have. It is a good book though and I would read more by this author. It’s definitely one that makes you think. 3.5 stars

Shine by Candy Gourlay. Suffering from a condition called “The Calm”, thirteen-year-old Rosa lives on the island of Marisol, where she is forced to hide herself away from the superstitious population who believe people with the condition are monsters. Rosa seeks solace online, where she meets Ansel95, and as the friendship moves from virtual to real, Rosa discovers that she’s not the only one with something to hide. This is pretty dark for such a short book (I think I read it in about an hour). I thought I had guessed who Rosa’s friend was going to be, but I was wrong. I was slightly uncomfortable with the way one character’s mental illness was portrayed but other than that I enjoyed this book and really liked the writing. 3.5 stars.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Solomon Rivers. Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. Obsessive and withdrawn, Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the ship. When the autopsy of the ship’s sovereign reveals a link between his death and the suicide of Aster’s mother, she begins sewing the seeds for civil war, and learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it. This book was dark! Think of something you might need a content warning for and it’s probably in here. The abuse that’s inflicted on the lower class characters (who are all black) is horrific. The ruling classes literally see them as animals – and the way one character talks about horses makes it clear they’re not exactly nice to actual animals either. I loved the characters. Aster is awesome. Poor Giselle is infuriating but also clearly unhappy. The world building is also fantastic, if a little slow. What makes it 4 stars instead of 5 is the story. It seemed to get lost along the way only to rush to a conclusion at the end that left me feeling underwhelmed. Also every single white person felt like a caricature of a bad guy – the leader is a stereotypical megalomaniac and the guards all seem to be utterly sadistic and actually enjoy doling out punishments. I have no issue with white people being portrayed as horrible oppressors – I mean, it’s basically the truth – but I felt like giving them some humanity would have made the impact greater. Nonetheless it’s a good read but definitely go into it expecting to be horrified.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S King. Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone – the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to? I loved this book. Vera is flawed and judgemental (she spends a lot of time going on about sluts as if having sex is the literal worst thing a girl could do) and not always likeable but somehow I liked her anyway. Charlie infuriated me half the time, but then I would find myself liking and feeling sorry for him again. And I cried. For Vera, who will always have to live with what happened, and for Charlie who’s death just seemed so pointless in the end. If only someone had done something sooner. 4 stars.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. Keeping her head down at school, trying not to get caught up with new boy Malachi. The one place she can let everything go is in the kitchen, where she has magical hands – whipping up extraordinary food beloved by everyone. Emoni wants to be a chef more than anything, but she knows it’s pointless to pursue the impossible. So when her high school offers a new culinary arts class, she knows she shouldn’t take it – she doesn’t have time, and her family can’t afford the trip to Spain. But even with all the rules she has for her life – and all the rules everyone expects her to play by – once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free. This book is fantastic! I loved everything about it. It’s so well written. Emony’s love for her daughter is tangible, and her relationship with her best friend is GOALS. I was rooting for her the whole way through hoping she would find a way to follow her dreams. Highly, highly recommend. And I also want someone to cook all of Emony’s dishes for me. 5 stars – ending the month’s reading on a high.

TL;DR. My favourite book of the month was With the Fire on High, so obviously read that. DOn’t let the fact that it’s for teens put you off. Read A Heart So Fierce and Broken if you liked the first book. The Twisted Tree and Please Ignore Vera Dietz are both YA and I enjoyed both. The Land of Neverendings is cute but sad. Honestly, none of these books were really bad so if they sound interesting to you read them. Do be aware that An Unkindness of Ghosts is very dark and full of triggers though!

Tell me what your favourite book you’ve read lately was and don’t forget to visit the link up!

June 2020 recap

Happy July friends! We’ve actually made it through half of this messed up, unpredictable year. As always on the first Thursday of the month, I’m linking up with Kristen for What’s New With You.

Honestly, June wasn’t the best for me for reasons that I will not go into now. Maybe one day. Also, my mum was supposed to visit but obviously couldn’t so I have no idea when I will see her (or any of my family) again.

But anyway, what did I actually do in June?

I made cards for two friends who had babies 15 days apart. One boy, one girl. The second child for each of them.

I’ve blurred out the name on the second card. Even if none of you know who my friend is, there’s no need for her daughter’s name to appear on my blog. (If you can actually manage to read it despite the blurring, please keep it to yourself.)

Switzerland relaxed the rules a lot more. Basically everything is open now. The border with Germany opened again on the 15th, but I haven’t actually been into the office yet. Jan went into his office once because he had to pick something up, then he went for lunch with some colleagues (keeping the appropriate distance apart) including someone who is relatively new, as in started working there during lockdown, so he thought it would be nice for her to actually meet some people in person. I haven’t actually been to any shops yet (other than supermarkets/pharmacies) but we did pick up take away sushi from a local place that doesn’t do delivery. Theoretically, events with up to 1,000 participants are allowed now, but I don’t expect there to actually be any since as far as I know everything that was originally going to be in July or August has already been pushed back to the autumn or next year.

We walked into town a couple of times, avoiding people as best as possible. On one of those walks, we had a drink by the river – staying on “our” side because the other side was packed! Some people seem to think this whole thing is over – and yes, Switzerland is doing pretty well, but at the end of last week there were 69 daily cases compared to just 18 at the beginning of the week, so even here where numbers are low we’re far from out of the woods!

Jan went to his first choir practice since the beginning of March! He says they put the chairs an appropriate distance apart and not many people were actually there anyway. Their next practice will be in August, provided Switzerland doesn’t end up having to restrict things again by then…

I finished 17 books. You will find out what they were on on Show Us Your Books day. There were a few I really enjoyed but only one I gave five stars, which happened to be the very last one I read in June: With the Fire on High.

That’s it I think. I don’t have anything else to tell you. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

Don’t forget to check out the link up. And tell me what’s new with you.

What I Read in May 2020: Part 2

Hello friends! As promised, here is the second part of my May reading round up. The first part was all children’s books, and this one is mainly children’s and young adult books, so if that’s not what you’re into sorry. Come back next month. For the rest of you, let me tell you what I read that wasn’t for Believathon. I’m linking this up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books.

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker. Three years ago, Alice’s identical twin sister took a gun to school and killed seven innocent kids; now Alice wears the same face as a monster. She’s struggling with her identity, and with life in the small Australian town where everyone was touched by the tragedy, and many have now turned against Alice. Just as she thinks things can’t get much worse, she encounters her sister on a deserted highway – except it can’t be her, because after killing the other kids, she turned the gun on herself. Soon Alice discovers that she has stepped into a different reality, a dream world, where she’s trapped with the nightmares of everyone in the community. Here Alice is forced to confront the true impact of everything that happened the day her twin sister took a gun to school … and to reveal her own secret to the boy who hates her most. I read this entire book in one sitting, and I cried. Imagine not only being related to a school shooter, but actually having to share her face? It’s bizarre and I can see how some people might find it confusing but I absolutely loved it. 4.5 stars.

Fire Girl by Tony Abbott. From the moment Jessica arrives, life is never quite the same for Tom and his seventh-grade classmates. They call her “fire girl” because she was in a fire and was badly burned, and is now attending St. Catherine’s will receiving medical treatments. Despite her appearance and the fear she evokes in him and most of the class, Tom slowly develops a tentative friendship with Jessica that changes his life. This is a quick read about kindness and what it means to be different. I felt like it could have gone a bit deeper – probably it was a little too short – but it wasn’t bad and didn’t seem preachy, which can happen with this kind of topic. 3 stars.

Indigo’s Star by Hilary McKay (Casson Family #2). This is the sequel to Saffy’s Angel. It takes place a few years later and focuses on Indigo, the only boy in the family. After missing a whole term of school with an illness, Indigo is about to go back, but only younger sister Rose knows that he was being bullied before he was off. When Saffy finds out, she’s determined that nobody will be allowed to mess with her family. And with new boy Tom joining Indigo’s class, things might just be different this term. It was nice to read more about this family, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first one. Rose’s letters made me laugh. The parents annoyed me though! I’m not sure who was worse – distracted Eve who found going shopping so her children could, you know, actually eat such a chore or Bill who knows his wife is like that but still doesn’t come home or even try to check up on the things in Rose’s letters with anyone who isn’t eight years old! 3.5 stars. (If you’re wondering, I gave Saffy’s Angel 4 stars.)

The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton. Neena’s always been a good girl – great grades, parent-approved friends and absolutely no boyfriends. The perfect Pakistani daughter. But ever since her brother Akash left her, she’s been slowly falling apart, partying, drinking – and uncovering a new version of herself who is freer, but altogether more dangerous. As her wild behaviour spirals more and more out of control, Neena’s grip on her sanity begins to weaken too. And when her parents announce not one but two life-changing bombshells, she finally reaches breaking point. enjoyed this and it was a very fast read for me. It’s confusing and disjointed in parts, but that makes it feel like an even more realistic portrayal of what’s going on in Neena’s head. She’s very much an unreliable narrator but it was still clear that something was very wrong and what she was telling us couldn’t be right. I found myself genuinely worrying about her and spent half the book thinking noooo Neena please don’t do it! Emma Smith-Barton is British-Pakistani and has suffered from mental health problems so this is own voices for both of those things. 4 stars.

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park. Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it? Then Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works, approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize, and she needs someone to team up with. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and Kate needs the money too, to escape from her controlling father. If the two of them team up, Nate has a true shot at winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact. This is cute and fun. I loved Jeeves the slightly inept robot. I expected more from the romance – they were both apparently immediately attracted to each other but never actually communicated about it until they shared one kiss and then ended the book as… I’m not sure what. Sort of friends who might maybe be something more? It was fine though. 3.5 stars.

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike #4). Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new school term, but nothing is the same. There’s a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and she and her team of Prefects are nothing but bullies. Then, after the fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found – murdered. Most people at Deepdean had a reason to hate Elizabeth, but who would have stooped so low? Could the murder be linked to the secrets and scandals, scribbled on scraps of paper, that are suddenly appearing around the school? And with their own friendship falling to pieces, how will Daisy and Hazel solve this mystery? I enjoyed this book but it seemed to have a different tone to the previous three – far too much bickering. Even Hazel and Daisy spent a large chunk of the time not speaking to each other. They’ve always had their disagreements, but this seemed excessive! It’s still a good read, but after the sheer genius that was book 3 it was a bit of a let down. 3.5 stars

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered, and everyone knows it was her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who did it. The police know it. Everyone in town knows it. But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth? I LOVED this book! It was everything I wanted from Truly Devious but didn’t get. I loved Pippa and Ravi (Sal’s brother, who she teams up with), Pippa’s friendship with Cara, her awesome (step-)dad. It was a little unbelievable that a school girl could get away with so much but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all. Highly, highly recommend! 5 stars.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. A tale that increasingly seems to intertwine with her own story. Could this be the key to unlocking the secrets of her past? This is a wonderful, imaginative and adventurous book. I loved January – even if she made a few stupid decisions. I found a few parts of the story a bit slow, which lost it a star, but it picked up again and overalls ended up being a really good book that I definitely recommend. A quick note: January is mixed race (black father, white mother) and experiences racism. I know there has been some controversy about whether a white author has the right to a) write about black/mixed race people at all and b) write about racism from the perspective of those characters. It’s not my place to comment on that or on whether the representation was well done (or, indeed, can be well done by an author who has never experienced not being white) but I wanted you to know that I am aware of the issues. Nevertheless, I gave it 4 stars.

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary. Tiffy Moore has just been dumped by her cheating husband and needs a place to stay, fast. But earning minimum wage at a quirky publishing house means that her choices are limited in London. Enter Leon Twomey. A palliative care nurse working night shift, he has a flat that he only uses 9 to 5, and he needs money to fight his brother’s unfair imprisonment. Tiffy works 9 to 5 and needs a place to sleep. The solution to their problems? To share a bed of course! As Leon and Tiffy’s unusual arrangement becomes a reality, they start to connect through Post-It notes left for each other around the flat. Can true love blossom even in the unlikeliest of situations? Can true love blossom even if you never see one another? Or does true love blossom when you are least expecting it? I was a bit sceptical about the premise of this book. Sharing a bed with a stranger? Really? Eew! But I had heard good things so I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did. This book is actually adorable! I loved Tiffy and her friends, and I really enjoyed the way Tiffy and Leon initially built up a relationship through notes and the author managed to make the sharing a flat at different times thing sound plausible. I had to take a star off because I found Leon’s chapters annoying at first – I know he’s supposed to be a man of few words but I just kept thinking “full sentences are allowed you know!”. It was very distracting. But eventually it either got better or I just stopped noticing. And I looooved the epilogue/ending. 4 stars.

I’m not going to do a TL;DR because 1) there are only 9 books here and I’m sure you can all read that much and 2) while I enjoyed some of these more than others, there are none here that I wouldn’t recommend (Fire Girl and Indigo’s Star perhaps a little less than the others) so you’ll have to see for yourself which ones fit into your preferred genre.

Have you read anything good recently? Don’t forget to check out the link up for more recommendations! And also read my last post for more of mine.

What I read in May 2020: Part 1

Hello friends! My reading was back on track this month and I managed 21 books so I’ve decided to split my recap into two again. Usually I just review them in order from the first book I read during the month to the last, but this time I’m doing things a little differently. This post is all the books I read for Believathon and my second post will be all the rest. If you don’t know, Believathon is a middle grade readathon so if you’re not interested in children’s books you can close this post now and wait for my next one (although there are a few children’s books there too). I will be linking this post up to Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana on Tuesday.

Believathon-tbr

The Shadows by Jacqueline West (The Books of Elsewhere #1). When eleven-year-old Olive and her parents move into the crumbling mansion on Linden Street and find it filled with mysterious paintings, Olive knows the place is creepy but it’s only when she encounters three talking cats that she realises there’s something darkly magical afoot. Then Olive finds a pair of antique spectacles in a dusty drawer and discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside the house’s spooky paintings to another world. But in entering Elsewhere, Olive has become involved in a mystery darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. With only the cats and an unusual boy she meets in Elsewhere on her side, it’s up to Olive to save the house from the shadows, before the lights go out for good. This is a fun little read, a bit creepy in parts. I like Olive and the cats. A few bits could have been explained better but overall I enjoyed it and want to know how the series will continue. With the bad guy defeated at the end of this one I’m wondering where things can possibly go from here.

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll. When Alice’s little brother finally gets the news that a new heart has become available, Alice is packed off to stay with Nell, the grandmother she’s never met. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of the garden. But for some reason, Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice liked the woods. It’s the only pace she feels at peace when she thinks about her brother, and she even finds a friend there – Flo. But Flo doesn’t go to the local school, and no one in town has heard of her. After Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice wonders: What is real? Will saving the wood help her brother recover? And can one little girl defend something so despised and feared? This was so cute. Fairies and family secrets combine to give a magical and touching read. I adored it! 5 stars.

High-rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson. Summer in London is hot, the hottest on record, and there’s been a murder in THE TRI: the high-rise home to resident know-it-alls, sisters Nik and Norva. Who better to solve the case? Armed with curiosity, home-turf knowledge and unlimited time – until the end of the summer holidays anyway. Can they figure out whodunnit? This is an enjoyable mystery. Some of the teen speak (or possibly it’s specifically London teen speak?) confused or occasionally annoyed me, but really I’m not the target audience. I am old and I’ve been out of the UK for too long. I’m sure it will appeal to children reading it.  The two sisters are very different and disagreed occasionally but you could tell they genuinely care for and look out for each other. A solid 4 star read.

Platform 13

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. Under Platform 13 at King’s Cross Station there is a secret door that leads to a magical island …It appears only once every nine years. The last time it opened, the island’s baby prince was kidnapped, snatched right from under the noses of his nursemaids. Now a wizard, an ogre, a fey and a young hag have come to find their prince and bring him home. But the prince has become a horrible, spoiled rich boy called Raymond Trottle, who doesn’t understand magic and is determined not to be rescued. This is cute and fun, but also a little simple and predictable. I can definitely see where Rowling took some inspiration for the Harry Potter books – a King’s Cross platform that isn’t all it seens, two boys – one spoiled and horrible, one mistreated but still managing to come out the other end pretty nice. Hmm. My favourite character is Odge the hag! 3.5 stars.

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm. After a catastrophic Unknown Event leaves the colony ship Orion stranded deep in space, and Ship is unable to wake any of the adults, it’s up to thirteen-year-old Beth and her friends to navigate through treacherous and uncharted territory and reach safety. But with the ship heavily damaged, a mysterious alien species out there, space pirates, and a number of discrepancies in Ship’s accounts, getting home may not be so easy. I haven’t read much middle grade sci-fi and this was certainly my first one that was set in space, and let me tell you it set the bar HIGH! It was amazing! I had so many theories about what was happening but they were all wrong. A thoroughly deserved 5 stars. It’s categorised as middle grade/children’s but I would say it crosses over to the younger YA age range as well. I could certainly are 13/14 year olds still enjoying it.

The Pirate’s Eye (Stitch Head #2) by Guy Bass. Since this is the second book in a series I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I’m brief Stitch Head discovers he might be part pirate then has to tap into his inner adventurer when he realises his master has been kidnapped. This was such a quick, fun read. These books are clearly for younger readers (around age 8-10 I would say) but I love them too. Stitch Head is so cute and his pessimism is nicely balanced out by Creature’s excess optimism. The adventure is short but great fun to read about. I will definitely continue the series. 4 stars.

Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James (Pages & Co #1). Eleven year-old Tilly has lived above her grandparents’ bookshop ever since her mother disappeared shortly after she was born. Like the rest of her family, Tilly loves nothing more than to escape into the pages of her favourite stories. One day Tilly realises that classic children’s characters are appearing in the shop, and that she fab even enter into the books herself through a magic known as “bookwandering”. Could all this somehow be related to her mother’s disappearance? With the help of her new friend Oskar, Tilly is determined to find out. This book is absolutely delightful. If only bookwandering was real! I absolutely adore the idea of getting to meet your favourite characters. I slightly guessed one aspect of the story but not the details, but that wasn’t a problem. Oskar and Tilly have such a wonderful friendship. I will definitely be continuing this series. 5 stars.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti. Ten-year-old Mafalda keeps a list of all the things she cares about. Like, counting the stars in the night sky, playing soccer, and climbing the cherry tree outside her school. But soon she won’t be able to do them anymore – because she’s going blind. Every morning on the way to school, she counts the number of steps from when she first sees the cherry tree to when she reaches it. Even as the distance gets shorter,she can already see that people are already treating her differently – and that’s the last thing she wants. So, she hides the fact that her vision is deteriorating faster than anyone predicted, and she makes a plan: When the time is right, she’ll go live in the cherry tree, just like her favourite book character. This is a sweet but also kind of heart-breaking little book with a message about finding what’s really important to you. I could definitely feel Mafalda’s frustration about being treated differently and people talking about her instead of to her. 3 stars.

Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. As you can probably guess, this is three books in one. The first is the story if Elmer who goes in an adventure to rescue a baby dragon. In the  second the dragon flies Elmer home and they have more adventures along the way, and in the third the dragon needs Elmer’s help to save his family. I liked the first story best but I also enjoyed the third one. The middle story wasn’t quite as interesting I gave it 3.5 stars overall. 4 stars for My Father’s Dragon, 3 for Elmer and the Dragon and 3.5 for The Dragons of Blueland.

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. This book us a classic in Germany and the film at least is well known in the English-speaking world but I had neither read nor seen it. When 10-year-old Bastian happens upon an old book called The Neverending Story while trying to escape his bullies, he’s swept into the magical world of Fantastica – so much that he finds he has actually become a character in the story! And when he realizes that this mysteriously enchanted world is in great danger, he also discovers that he is the one chosen to save it. Can Bastian overcome the barrier between reality and his imagination in order to save Fantastica? The first half of this book is a straight up magical fantasy adventure and I mostly enjoyed it. The second half seems to be more moralistic – all about letting power go to your head and forgetting who you really are. I still mostly enjoyed it but parts of it dragged – at times it truly seemed like a never-ending story. I can see why it’s a classic but I feel like it could have been around 100 pages shorter. And I didn’t like how Bastian I’d described as fat and weak and everything a hero is not then becomes strong, handsome, etc. once he’s in Fantastica as if his real self is unworthy of being a hero. But despite the issues I gave it 4 stars.

The Battle for Perfect by Helena Duggan (A Place Called Perfect #3). Since this is the third and final book in a series I can’t say much about the plot, but in this one an old nemesis returns and Violet and Boy find themselves working to solve the mystery of some missing scientists. I loved this book! I was wondering where the author could possibly take things after the last one and this certainly didn’t disappoint. The stakes were much higher and I was actually scared for some of the characters at times. A worthy ending to the trilogy. 5 stars.

The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix by Kate Saunders (Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop #2). Another continuation of a series meaning I can’t say much. Twins Lily and Oz are the descendants of chocolate makers who just happen to also be magic. In this book Lily and Oz and their friends have to help the magical authorities Shaun when one of their evil uncle’s inventions falls into the wrong hands.  This is a fantastic book. I liked it better than the first one. I really enjoyed the adventure in this one and Silver is a great new character. I need there to be a third book with even more character development for the twins and Cayden

That’s all I’ve got for you today. The second part of my round up will be online soon.

Have you read anything good recently? .