What I read in December 2020 + My Book Challenge by Erin 14.0 reading list

Hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day with Steph and Jana and I’m here to talk about last year’s reading for the final time. December is always my worst reading month, partly because Jan and I are both off work so we tend to spend time together and also because it’s the one time that I actually watch quite a lot of TV. Jan switches on the TV practically every time he enters the living room but I’m usually perfectly happy to leave it off and get lost in a book. All the fun, heart-warming films are on TV at Christmas though and I like to indulge in those and really switch off. Anyway, enough about that. You’re here for the books – and despite all the TV and boardgames plus getting my Christmas cards finished in the earlier part of the month, I managed to read nine.

One of Us Is Next A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up in the year since Simon died, but in all that time, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts. Until now. Someone has started playing a game of Truth or Dare. But this is no ordinary Truth or Dare. This game is lethal. Choosing the truth may reveal your darkest secrets, accepting the dare could be dangerous, even deadly. Once again the teenagers of Bayview must work together to find the culprit, before it’s too late. I loved One of Us Is Lying and I’m honestly amazed it took me so long to pick this one up. I was immediately sucked back into the world of Bayview and all their drama. I did guess who was behind everything a bit before the end, but considering I stayed up until midnight to finish it despite having work the next morning I couldn’t not give it 5 stars. It’s probably more like 4.5 but I’m happy to round up in this instance.

North Child by Edith Pattou (also published under the title East). According to Rose’s mother’s superstitions, a child who is born facing North is destined to be wild, a wanderer, always seeking adventures. So she lies to everyone – including herself – and claims that Rose was born facing East. But despite her mother’s best attempts, Rose is a North child through and through, and the old stories say she is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey. Making a pact with an enormous white bear, Rose travels on his back to a mysterious castle that holds a dark enchantment, a darker temptation, and the key to her true destiny… North Child is a retelling of the fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, but I don’t know the original fairytale. I enjoyed this book overall, but it suffered a bit from being overly long. There were a few parts in the middle that felt agonisingly slow so that when I put it down I didn’t feel eager to pick it up again. It is beautifully told but that wasn’t enough to fully hold my attention. I liked the parts told from the white bear’s perspective. The ending felt both too drawn out and rushed – lots of chapters to explain the happy ending but then it went very quickly from “I love you” to two weddings within a few weeks. I do recommend it though, just be aware that it’s not all action, all the time. 3 stars.

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten. Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – or so it seems. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem – she can’t remember anything that happened last summer.When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she finally has to face the truth of what happened last year. This is such a gorgeous book. I loved the small-town atmosphere and the sense of community. You really get a sense of life in a Jamaican village. Rudy is a great character as well and such a lovely friend to Clara. I’ve read the same twist in another book (although handled slightly differently) so it didn’t shock me but I did think it was well done. I would definitely read more books by this author. 4 stars.

Out of Heart by Irfan Master. Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and his younger sister, Farah. His dad no longer lives with them but is still close by. His sister has stopped speaking and his mum works two jobs to make ends meet. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift – his heart. William is the recipient of Adam’s grandfather’s heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam’s family. William has received a great deal, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too. This is a quick read and a decent enough story but I felt like it didn’t go into enough depth. There are a lot of serious topics in there but they all seem to be rushed through a bit. I loved the characters, especially Farah and Laila (a girl from Adam’s school). Overall it could have done with either being longer or concentrating on just one or two issues. 3 stars.

The Unlucky Lottery by Håkan Nesser (Inspector Van Veeteren #6). Four friends celebrate a winning lottery ticket. Just hours later, one of them – Waldemar Leverkuhn – is found stabbed to death in is bed. With Chief Inspector Van Veeteren on sabbatical, working in a second hand bookshop, the case is assigned to Inspector Munster. But when another member of the lottery group disappears, as well as Leverkuhn’s neighbour, Munster appeals to Van Veeteren for assistance. Soon Munster will find himself interviewing the Leverkuhn family, including the eldest – Irene – a resident of a psychiatric clinic. And as he delves deeper into the family’s history, he will discover dark secrets and startling twists, which not only threaten the clarity of the case – but also his life. This was a re-read for me, part of my ongoing attempt to decide which books I actually want to keep. I didn’t remember much about it thoigh – certainly not who the murderer was or why. It’s a fairly typical detective crime novel, absolutely fine but nothing special in my opinion. At times the writing style was a bit disjointed – short, almost clipped sentences. I think it was supposed to represent how one police officer thought but it was a bit annoying. As with most series of this type, you don’t need to have read the earlier books to read this one (I haven’t read any of them). Overall I liked it well enough but didn’t love it. 3 stars – and it shall be departing my shelves.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, moves to Ohio with her dad – a move she is not very happy about – and strikes up a friendship with Phoebe Winterbottom. During the course of a road trip to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents, Sal tells the story of Phoebe who received mysterious messages, who met a “potential lunatic,” and whose mother disappeared. As Sal talks, her own story begins to unfold – the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother. torn on this book. I loved the writing style but I found the story really predictable (I knew what had happened to Sal’s mother from almost the beginning and I had a pretty good guess on what was going on with Phoebe’s mother/”the lunatic” as well) and was NOT impressed with most of the adult characters. The teacher is awful (who reads out students’ private thoughts in class?) and Sal’s grandparents are quite frankly a liability. There were a few parts that had me genuinely invested though and the ending was quite moving. Maybe I would have enjoyed it better if I was 13 years old, but honestly I think there are better teen books out there. I really enjoyed Bloomability by the same author, but this one didn’t live up to my expectations. 3 stars.

What to Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French. Ellie Falkner is devastated to hear that her husband has died in a car accident. To then learn that he died with a mystery woman as his passenger only makes things worse. Was Greg having an affair? Drowning in grief, Ellie clings to Greg’s innocence, and her determination to prove it to the world at large means she must find out who Milena Livingstone was and what she was doing in Greg’s car. But her actions leave those around her questioning her sanity and motive. And the louder she shouts that Greg must have been murdered, the more suspicion falls on Ellie herself. Sometimes it’s safer to just keep silent when someone dies. This book is rally weird. I thought I had read it before since I’ve owned it for ages but literally nothing about it was familiar so I guess not. It was really quick to get through but it felt like not much really happened until about two-thirds of the way through. Towards the end I was enjoying it but then the resolution was kind of underwhelming. Also Ellie is really annoying and obsessive. I understand that people do weird things when they’re grieving but some of it felt very far-fetched. And since when do babies smell like sawdust and mustard? (I think that’s what it was – something bizarre anyway). Definitely not a patch on the Frieda Klein series, which I love. 3 stars.

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt. Nicolette, or Nicki, Demere is not your average thirteen year-old. She never knew her birth mother, and she hasn’t heard from her father since he was sent to prison seven years. Having been taught the art of pick-pocketing by her grandmother, before landing in the foster system after he death, Nicki developed kleptomania. And now just happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be exactly what is needed. Nicki, alias Charlotte, swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the spectre of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past. I really enjoyed this book. I loved Nicki/Charlotte and I thought her relationship with her new “younger brother” was realistic. Obviously some suspension of belief is required – I don’t think anyone would actually send a child/teenager into such a dangerous situation even if they did come from the foster system and obviously they would never have given said child a taser – if anyone got one it would have been one of the parents. Basically if you can’t suspend your belief this one probably isn’t for you. But if you can manage that then it’s a fun adventure that I think kids will love. There were a few emotional parts – I definitely teared up at one scene between Nicki/Charlotte and her new “mom”. 4 stars.

Heartbreaker by Tania Carver. After years of abuse, Gemma Adderley has finally found the courage to leave her violent husband, after one beating and humiliation too many. Taking her seven-year-old daughter Carly, she leaves the house, determined to salvage what she can of her life. She phones Safe Harbour, a women’s refuge, and they tell her which street corner to wait on and what the car that will pick her up will look like. They tell her the word the driver will use so she knows it’s safe to get in. And that’s the last they hear from her. Gemma Adderley’s daughter Carly is found wandering the city streets on her own the next day. Her mother’s mutilated corpse turns up by the canal several weeks later. Her heart has been removed. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan takes on the case, and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito, is brought in to try and help unlock Carly’s memories of what happened that day. The race is on to solve the case before the Heartbreaker strikes again. Then another woman is found dead… There is quite a bit of action in this book but oddly it still felt slightly slow at times. It’s part of a series but it doesn’t matter too much if you haven’t read the others (I haven’t) as the author drops just enough hints of what happened before without it feeling info-dumpy. I liked the characters (except DS Ellison – what an odious man) and the writing but the plot was fairly predictable. I knew who had done it long before the end. It’s by no means a bad book though, I just wouldn’t class it as a great one. 3 stars.

That’s it for the reviews, but since I didn’t read as many books as usual this time I am going to tell you my picks for Book Challenge by Erin 14.0, which started on 1 January and runs until 30 April 2021. I have already read some of them.

5 points: Freebie – The Unadoptables by Hanna Tooke
10 points: Read a book you have been meaning to re-read – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
10 points: Read the first book of a series you have never read before – Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters #1)
15 points: Read a book with a mostly green and/or pink cover – The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
20 points: Read a book with a male relationship word (son, father, etc.) in the title – Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror but Chris Priestly
20 points: Read a book set in a place that’s on your bucket list of places to visit – Emily of New Moon by L.M Montgomery (Canada)
25 points: Read a book that reminds you of 2020 – Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel (the majority of the population is wiped out by a deadly flu)
30 points: Read a book written by an LGBTQIA+ author – Birthday by Meredith Russo (transgender author)
30 points: Read a book with the name of a bird in the title, or the word bird/birds in the title – Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
35 points: Read a book where the protagonist has a questionable profession – Do Not Disturb by A. R. Torre (Deanna Madden book 2, the main character works as a cam girl)

That’s all from me. Have you read anything good recently? Don’t forget to check out the link up for more book reviews!

17 thoughts on “What I read in December 2020 + My Book Challenge by Erin 14.0 reading list

  1. Happy New Year to you!

    I’m really intrigued by When Life Gives you Mangoes. Also, about “I thought I had read it before since I’ve owned it for ages but literally nothing about it was familiar so I guess not.” – have you ever had the opposite happen when you read a book before but it was so forgettable that you forgot and then you go back and read it again? This happened to me a lot before Goodreads.

  2. I really enjoyed when life gives you mangoes too, so I am glad to know you did! And it sounds like one of us is next was a solid follow up in the series ^.^

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