Hello! Once again I am typing this on my phone from a hospital bed soon apologies in advance for the lack of links and any autocorrect fails.
I was readmitted to hospital on 9th November so theoretically I should have had plenty of time to read. We shall see how many books I actually got through…
Here’s what I read:
The Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody by Kate Gilby Smith. On the day Alex was born, crowds surrounded the hospital. On her first day of school, people spied from the gates. And recently, strangers came to watch her perform in her school play … as the llama. But why? Alex has always been a nobody. Then a mysterious boy named Jasper starts at school and he alone seems to know the answer. But before he can tell Alex, he disappears … into the year 2100. Can Alex brave traveling into the future to discover what’s happened to him and to unravel the secret of her own astonishing destiny … before time runs out? This is a fun read. I enjoyed the friendship story. Jasper is lovely and I definitely related to his preferring books to action. I found the answer to who Alex is predictable and parts of the story felt a little simple but in fairness I’m not a child. 3.5 stars.
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. When Mary Yellan’s mother dies, her last wish is for her daughter to go and live with her sister, Patience in Bodmin. On arrival, Mary finds her aunt a frightened shell of her former self, married to the sinister and drunken Joe Merlin, proprietor of the now disreputable Jamaica Inn. From her first glimpse on that raw November eve, she senses the inn’s dark power. But never did Mary dream that she would become hopelessly ensnared in the vile, villainous schemes being hatched within its crumbling walls – or that a handsome, mysterious stranger would so incite her passions … tempting her to love a man whom she dares not trust. To me this book was just fine. I didn’t hate it but I couldn’t get into it the way I wanted to. The beginning especially was very atmospheric but at times it was almost too dramatic. I loved Rebecca but I guess this one just wasn’t for me. 2.5 stars.
The Key to Flambards by Linda Newbery. Still reeling from her parents’ divorce and a life-changing accident, fourteen year old Grace comes Flambards house, out in the Essex countryside, where her mother has a job for the summer, and which just happens to be where her great-grandmother grew up. A reluctant tag-along at first, Grace gradually finds herself becoming involved with two boys: Jamie, who leads her down a path of thrilling freedom, and the deeply troubled Marcus, who is dealing with his difficult, potentially violent father, as well as uncovering more about her own family’s past. This is enjoyable enough, although a little predictable. All the conflicts/issues are resolved fairly easily without much actual input from Grace but I found the meandering storyline kind of relaxing. I especially enjoyed the parts where Grace was discovering the local wildlife – I would love to see otters in the wild! This is apparently a continuation of an older series that I’ve never heard of (by K. M. Peyton) but it works perfectly well as a standalone. 3.5 stars
The Bewitching of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes (Aveline Jones #2). Aveline is thrilled when she discovers that the holiday cottage her mum has rented for the summer is beside a stone circle. Thousands of years old, the local villagers refer to the ancient structure as the Witch Stones, and Aveline cannot wait to learn more about them. Then Aveline meets Hazel. Impossibly cool, mysterious yet friendly, Aveline soon falls under Hazel’s spell. In fact, Hazel is quite unlike anyone Aveline has ever met before, but she can’t work out why. Will Aveline discover the truth about Hazel, before it’s too late? I didn’t find this quite as spooky as the first one but there were still a few tense moments. I loved that Harold was part of it again – he and Aveline make a great team, and of course it was books that saved the day. Hurrah! As an adult I caught on to what was going on with Hazel fairly quickly but I think it would be less obvious to a child and it also didn’t ruin my enjoyment in way. 4 stars.
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce. The year is 1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need. Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind. This book was fine but I think will ultimately be forgettable. I’ve already forgotten half the characters. The concept is definitely interesting and I enjoyed the parts with Peg (Frank’s mother). Frank’s “past hurts” are glossed over so quickly that I wondered why they were even relevant. They certainly didn’t seem to warrant his complete avoidance of love/commitment. 3 stars.
Bunny by Mona Awad. “We called them bunnies because that’s what they called themselves”. Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny,” and seem to move and speak as one. But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies’ fabled “Smut Salon,” and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door–ditching her only friend, Ava, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies’ sinister yet saccharine world, beginning to take part in the ritualistic off-campus “Workshop” where they conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be brought into deadly collision. This book is bizarre but also compelling. I didn’t want to put it down even though I was confused for most of it. I’m not even sure I can recommend it because I have no idea who it would appeal to! 4 stars.
The Polar Bear Explorer’s Club by Alex Bell. All Stella Starflake Pearl ever wanted is to be an explorer like her adopted father, Felix. But girls are forbidden from joining the various explorers clubs. So when Felix decides to take her along on his next adventure Stella feels like she has a lot to prove. Then she and three fellow junior explorers get separated from the main party. Join Stella and the others as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages. Can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale? This is a cute read and a lot of fun. I loved the characters – and especially the way Stella always stuck up for Beanie. The plot is a little predictable and some parts seemed to be glossed over very quickly without much explanation. The writing is a little simplistic at times and I feel like I don’t fully understand the world but I did really enjoy reading it. 4 stars.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. When orphan Maia is sent to live with distant relatives who own a rubber plantation along the Amazon River, her British classmates warn her of man-eating alligators and wild, murderous Indians. But Maya looks forward to brightly coloured macaws, giant butterflies and plenty of adventure . Sure enough, she soon finds herself smack in the middle of more excitement than she ever imagined, from a mysterious “Indian” with an inheritance, to an itinerant actor dreading his impending adolescence, to a remarkable journey down the Amazon in search of the legendary giant sloth. This is delightful book, if a little clichéd. Our heroine is an orphan who is good and kind and cannot help but make friends with everyone she meets. Only the villains of the story don’t like her – and they seem to hate absolutely everything, including each other. But the writing is excellent and I really enjoyed Maia’s adventures. This is definitely a book I would have absolutely loved as a child. 4 stars.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman, leaving him with a choice to make. This is a weird and depressing book. It reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye in that the main character seems to just wander round aimlessly, having lunch here, sleeping with a woman there, without much really happening. He also seems strangely unemotional given that he’s telling a story involving the suicide of no less than three major characters. Even when he talks about how badly one particular death apparently affected him it was described in a way that I didn’t really feel anything. I also didn’t really get the ending. I didn’t hate reading this though. At the beginning I quite enjoyed it and found the writing style interesting. 2.5 stars.
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. It’s the most wonderful time of the year… but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions. But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world – the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy. The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake… she’s on a plane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop – and finally get her true love under the mistletoe. Absolutely everybody was reading this book last year so I’m not sure my review will really add much! But anyway… This is a cute and easy read that really put me in the mood for Christmas. I loved the main character and was really rooting for her to find happiness. The love interest felt a little too perfect though, to the extent that I had trouble believing in his character. The whole time loop thing also seemed to be abandoned really quickly without any real closure. I did really enjoy reading this book though. It left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. 4 stars.
City of the Sun by Aisha Bushby (Moonchild #2). Farah is a Moonchild with a very special kind of magic and a jinni of her own. But although she loves her magical animal companion – a lizard called Layla – Farah isn’t entirely convinced that she’s cut out for the life of adventure, which seems to bring endless danger!
When it becomes clear that Farah and her fellow Moonchildren – Leo and Amira – have unlocked moon magic that could destroy the Sahar Peninsula, Farah and her friends are thrust into another accidental adventure. And it takes them to a burning desert and another mysterious city which holds deadly secrets of its own… I liked this but not quite as much as the first book. It seemed slower and almost felt like it was trying to hard to “teach” the reader some mind of moral – about finding who you are or the importance of working together/letting people help you. Both fine lessons to learn but I found it a little obvious/forced. I did still enjoy the stories within the story and I really like all the jinn. 3 stars.
So that makes 11 books read in November, 2 by BAME/BIPOC authors.
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