What I read in January and February 2023

*Creeps in and clears throat sheepishly* Umm, hello. I didn’t realise it had been so long since my last post… I keep meaning to blog, but by the time I’ve worked in the morning and entertained a baby toddler (I guess I’m going to have to get used to calling her that) all afternoon, made her dinner, done her physiotherapy and got her ready for bed I can barely form a coherent sentence. Add to that the fact that this week has been maybe the third time this year that Z has had a full week at nursery and my poor little blog doesn’t stand a chance! I am here now, but I’m picking Zyma up in half an hour so we’ll see if I even manage to finish this post… Life updates and other stuff will follow. Maybe. I’m making no promises at this point 😉

I took the first week of January off work in case Zyma needed some time to get settled back into nursery. She ended up doing fine and wasn’t home ill for the entire week so I actually had a chance to get some reading done. (Then it all went downhill.) So in January I read 7 books, which is quite frankly amazing!

January Reads

Thirty Sunsets by Christine Hurley Deriso. For Forrest Shepherd, getting away to the family’s beach house is the best part of the summer. But this year, her holiday is ruined before it even starts when her mother invites Olivia, her brother’s obnoxious girlfriend, to join them. Forrest is convinced she knows what’s best for her brother… and it isn’t Olivia. But on their vacation, Forrest discovers that everyone has been keeping secrets from her. Maybe she doesn’t know her family as well as she thinks she does? And then there’s Scott, the first cute guy to ever hit on her… but could she be wrong about him, too? This book was extremely predictable. It was obvious (to me) what was going on with Olivia right from scene on the way to the beach house and the second Forrest overheard her parent’s argument I knew exactly what their secret was going to be. Also, as naive and inexperienced as Forrest was, Scott’s lines were so obviously creepy that I’m amazed anybody could fall for them. I kind of understood why Forrest didn’t like Olivia when she thought it was her fault her brother had changed all his plans, but her claims that she hadn’t liked her even before that were… weird. She acted like Olivia was a total bully because she gave her a funny look once (that it turned out Forrest had totally misinterpreted) and laughed when Forrest thought Olivia’s mum was her sister? Weird! I did basically like Forrest though and the book was fine. 2.5 stars.

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of “crazed sheep and dizzying roads,” they might finally find a home. Opening Babylon Café, right in the heart of town, they begin serving up traditional Persian dishes and soon the townsfolk is lured to the new premises by the tantalizing aroma of fresh herb kuku, lamb abgusht and elephant ear fritters, washed down with gallons of jasmine tea from the old samovar. But not everyone wlecomes the three sisters with open arms. The exotic smells coming from the cafe are an affront to the senses of Ballinacroagh’s uncrowned king, Thomas McGuire. After trying to buy the old pastry shop for years and failing, Thomas is enraged to find it occupied – and by foreigners, no less. And he’s not the only one who is less than impressed. But in the stand-up-comedian-turned-priest Father Fergal Mahoney, the gentle, lonely widow Estelle Delmonico, and the headstrong hairdresser Fiona Athey, the sisters find a merry band of supporters against the close-minded opposition of less welcoming villagers stuck in their ways. But the idyll is soon broken when the past rushes back to threaten the Amnipours once more, and the lives they left behind in revolution-era Iran bleed into the present. I had wanted to read this book for years, so I was very excited to find it in a free bookcase. As it turned out, it was fine. The writing style is kind of annoying – it’s like the author took a creative writing course, heard about adjectives and alliteration and proceeded to scatter them throughout. The story itself is reasonably interesting. A lot of things happen that are resolved by the end of the chapter. The beginning hints at magical realism but then that seems to fizzle out. It reminded me a bit of Chocolat, but not as good. 2.5 stars.

The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison. Tanya has a secret. She can see fairies. But they’re not the fairies we imagine. These ones cast spells on her, rousing her from her sleep and propelling her out of bed. At her wit’s end with her daughter’s behaviour, Tanya’s mother sends her away to live with her grandmother at Elvesden Manor, a secluded countryside mansion on the outskirts of town. Convinced her grandmother hates her, Tanya is less than thrilled about her “banishment”. But then an old photograph leads her to an unsolved mystery. Fifty years ago a girl vanished in the woods nearby – a girl Tanya’s grandmother will not speak of. Fabian, the caretaker’s son, is tormented by the girl’s disappearance. His grandfather was the last person to see her alive, and has lived under suspicion ever since. Together, Tanya and Fabian decide to find the truth. Soon they are facing terrible danger. Could the manor’s sinister history be about to repeat itself? This is an enjoyable book that gets quite dark in places – the fairies are definitely not of the Tinkerbell variety! A couple of times the writing felt a little awkward – I felt like it wasn’t quite as polished as her later Pinch of Magic series – but I don’t think it was anything I would have noticed when I was the target age. Tanya and Fabian made a great team once they got over their differences and I loved Oberon the dog. 4 stars. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

The Land of Yesterday by K. A Reynolds. After Cecelia Dahl’s little brother, Celadon, dies tragically, his soul goes where all souls go: the Land of Yesterday. Now nothing in Cecelia’s world is as it should be. Her beloved house’s spirit is crumbling beyond repair, her father is imprisoned by sorrow, and worst of all, her grief-stricken mother abandons the land of the living to follow Celadon. It’s up to Cecelia to put her family back together, even if that means venturing into the dark and forbidden Land of Yesterday on her own. But as Cecilia braves a hot-air balloon commanded by two gnomes, a sea of daisies, and the Planet of Nightmares, it becomes clear that even if she finds her family, she might not be able to save them. And if she’s not careful, she might just become a lost soul herself, trapped forever in Yesterday. This is an interesting book – part whimsical, part gothic. The writing is really good but the world building could have been better. Some things confused me. Why does Cecelia have sentient hair and is she the only one? Does every house have a house spirit? There were obvious nods to Coraline and The Little Prince (the latter is even explicitly mentioned as a book Cecelia has read) but Coraline is a better book in my opinion. At times I felt like this one was trying too hard to be quotable or send a message. The story is good though and I got through it quickly, I just felt like it could do with some polishing. 3 stars.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (The Girl From the Well #1). A dead girl walks the streets. She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago. And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan. Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out. Creepy and interesting. I found the use of a Japanese legend really intriguing- I know nothing about Japanese ghost stories so that was something a bit different. And Okiku is a fantastic character. Some might find this a bit slow but I actually liked the way the tension built gradually. I think I would like to read the next book in the series – I’m interested to see where it goes next. 4 stars.

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. During the school holidays, Ellie and her friends decide to go on a camping trip in the Australian bush. On their return, they find things hideously wrong — their families are missing and their animals are dead. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision — run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back. This was a reread because I want to read the first six books again before finally reading book 7. It was obviously written to be part of a series so there’s no real conclusion to the story, but it’s a great start. I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time round. The only very minor criticism is that it hasn’t aged too well – it’s very clearly set in the 90s and I’m not sure how well today’s teenagers will be able to relate to that. 5 stars.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. There, before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard – a growing Red rebellion – even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays the only certainty is betrayal. I picked this up from a free bookcase for no other reason than I had heard of it. I thought it was fine. A little cliched, a little predictable but readable enough. 3 stars. I would probably read book 2 if I happened to find it for free again but wouldn’t spend actual money on it.

So, that was January. 7 books, of which 2 were by BIPOC/BAME authors.

(By the way, the answer to the above was no… I did not manage to finish this post before I had to pick Z up from nursery. I’m typing this part in the evening after putting her to bed.)

February Reads

Beloved by Toni Morrison. In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family; nevertheless, the woman finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved. It took me took me quite a while to get into this book. There were parts in the middle and towards the end that sucked me in, but then it got weird again. I feel like it’s an important book to have read but not one I would pick up again. Maybe I’m just too stupid for it. 3 stars.

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #3). The third and final book in this trilogy. Pip is about to head off to uinversity, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? Soon the threats escalate and Pip realises that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars. The police refuse to act, so Pip has no choice but to find the suspect herself – otherwise she may end being the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle… and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears. I was not expecting how dark this book was or the major twist. Some things Pip did were way out of character for her – even considering the PTSD after the events in the other book. And I was very surprised that neither her parents nor Ravi noticed just how badly she was doing. I did really enjoy reading it even if some parts felt a little too unbelievable to me , but I preferred the first two books in the series. 4 stars.

Never Forget You by When Lili meets Ben by chance one hot summer’s day, it feels like fate. But life is about to take them in different directions, and so they agree to meet next July, in the beautiful hidden garden where they first laid eyes on each other. But one of them never shows up… Five years later, Ben still wonders how he got things so wrong – he let the love of his life slip between his fingers. And then a stranger, Alice, arrives in his tiny Scottish hometown. Alice has no memory of how she got there: she can’t remember anything before that morning. The only clue to her past is the silver bee necklace she wears – the very same one Ben bought for Lili that magical summer’s day. As Ben, Lili and Alice’s stories converge, so begins a beautiful and deeply emotional story of love, forgiveness and second chances. I thought this was going to be a light, fluffy book but it really isn’t. Lili’s story in particular is harrowing and my heart ached for her (trigger warning here for emotional abuse). I did find myself getting annoyed with her at points – if only she hadn’t been so stubborn/immediately jumped to the worst conclusion things could have been so different. Some of it was predictable and at times the sotry felt a little flat despite everything that was happening, so minus one star for that, but I would recommend it. 4 stars.

Three books in February then, one by a BIPOC/BAME author.

And that’s all from me for today. Hopefully I will get round to reviewing my march reads a bit sooner!

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What I read from September – December 2022

Yeah, it’s been a while since I last wrote a review post… Luckily I read so little last year that I can recap 4 four months and still have fewer books to write about than I did in a single month before becoming a mother. And right now I have time, having very cruelly (in her opinion) dropped my daughter off at nursery. I took this week off work in case she needed time to settle in again after the Christmas break, but apart from crying when I leave – a new thing – fingers crossed she’s been fine so far. She even finished all her soup yesterday. She loves soup but she’s never eaten more than 10 spoonfuls at home or in a cafe!

Anyway, if you’re reading this you probably came for books, not babies, so let’s get on with it.

September

Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike #7). Having returned from Hong Kong, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are staying with Daisy’s Uncle Felix (and Aunt Lucy). When Uncle Felix is called away for work, the two girls end up at the beautiful Rue Theatre in London, where they will face an entirely new challenge: acting. But behind the theatre’s glittering facade, the girls soon realise that there is trouble at the Rue. Jealousy, threats and horrible pranks quickly spiral out of control – and then one of the cast is found dead. As opening night looms closer, it’s up to Hazel and Daisy to take centre stage and solve the crime… before the murderer strikes again. I really enjoyed this one. I feel like the series is back to its best after a small blip. I loved that Hazel brought some of her confidence she had in Hong Kong back with her. Daisy is getting better at acknowledging Hazel’s strengths and does seem to be genuinely proud of her friend even if she does still act annoyingly superior at times. It was interesting to see how things are changing for the girls as they grow up and can no longer get away with things because people see them as “just kids”. I can’t wait to see where the series takes us next!

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures but not really fitting into either. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend (she swears they’re just on a break!), Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places— including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”- all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her. This was a difficult book to read. I alternated between wanting to shake Queenie and wanting to give her a big hug. There are some humorous parts, but mostly it’s very dark. Poor Queenie is mistreated by just about every man she encounters, and half the time she doesn’t even seem to notice. Her friends were fantastic. Everybody needs friends like Queenie’s. Apart from Clarissa. F Clarissa!

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman. The only child of a single mother, Nina Hill likes her life exactly as it is. She has her dream job in a bookshop, an amazing trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book. When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all – or almost all – excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is? It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page. This book was cute and quirky, although I don’t remember a lot of what happened now – but I do know it involved books and pub quizzes, which are two of my favourite things. I definitely remember liking Nina and her friends. I feel like it lost me a bit somewhere in the middle? (Can you tell I forgot to write a review at the time?) But overall it was a fast, fun read and I gave it 4 stars.

October

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin. Snow and Rose didn’t know they were in a fairy tale. People never do… Once, they lived in a big house with spectacular gardens and an army of servants. Once, they had a father and mother who loved them more than the sun and moon. But that was before their father disappeared into the woods and their mother disappeared into sorrow. Before they had to move into a cottage in the very woods that took their father from them. Snow refuses to believe their father won’t return, while Rose is convinced he is dead and they need to get on with their lives as best they can. Despite their fear of the woods, eventually Rose and Snow begin to venture out to explore off the beaten paths. They find a friend – Ivo, an unusual boy who farms mushrooms – and an unusual library, but they also come across more dangerous things in the woods – bandits and wolves and a giant bear. Unknowingly, the two sisters have already started along the path that will lead them to their eventual fate. This is a charming little tale and the illustrations are gorgeous. The side characters aren’t really fleshed out which I guess is typical for a fairytale but I would have liked to know more about the librarian and I have unanswered questions about the huntsman. Overall I did like it though and think 7-8 year olds would probably love it. It is fairly true to the original stors of Snow White and Rose Red without being quite as dark. 3.5 stars.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply – but that almost seems beside the point now. Maybe that was always beside the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie announces that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and she thinks she’s finally about to get her big break; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her, but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and actually go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. That night, Georgie plugs in an old landline phone at her mother’s house and discovers that she can use it to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts… Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage had never happened at all? This was fine. It passed the time well enough. I really didn’t understand what young Georgie saw in Neal though, or why it took older Neal so long to get fed up. The best character was Georgie’s sister Heather – I loved her! 3 stars.

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong (Rockton #2). When experienced homicide detective Casey Duncan first moved to the secret town of Rockton, she expected a safe haven for people like her, people running from their past misdeeds and past lives. She knew living in Rockton meant living off-the-grid completely: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. But she wasn’t expecting Rockton to come with its own set of secrets and dangers. Now, in A Darkness Absolute, Casey and her fellow Rockton sheriff’s deputy Will chase a cabin-fevered resident into the woods, where they are stranded in a blizzard. Taking shelter in a cave, they discover a former resident who’s been held captive for over a year. When the bodies of two other women turn up, Casey and her colleagues must find out if it’s an outsider behind the killings or if the answer is more complicated than that… before another victim goes missing. I liked book 1 in this series so much that I immediately bought the second one. I’m really enjoying the unusual setting of these books. This one was maybe a little too long but it was still compelling. The whole atmosphere and what happened to Nicole was chilling. I definitely want to read book three. 4 stars.

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris. Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham… Thirteen-year-old Jasper is not an ordinary boy. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary.. Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder. He’s convinced that something awful has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly. It doesn’t help that he also has face blindness and relies on other clues – like clothes and voices – to figure out who people are. But if his dad is right then where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened… Another book that I forgot to write a review of at the time so I’m relying on my memory. I thought I was going to love this book, but reading things from Jasper’s perspective turned out to be a really frustrating. In addition to synaesthesia and face blindness, Jasper is also autistic and doesn’t really understand the world around him. He’s an interesting character and I genuinely liked him but his various conditions meant the book was very repetitive and it seemed to take forever to move on from one scene to the next. Every time I thought there were going to be answers the story would skip to something unrelated. 3 stars.

Luster by Raven Leilani. Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. When she gets involved with Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist whose wife has semi-agreed to an open marriage, Edie doesn’t expect to end up living in his home, providing advice to the couple’s adopted black daughter, while finally having the chance to do the one thing that means most to her: to finally document her own life on canvas. This book reminded me of Queenie, but I liked Queenie better. Not that this one was terrible. Parts of it were good, but I found the writing really, really odd. For instance, Edie describes her lover’s wife as being “sexy in the way a triangle is sexy” which just makes no sense whatsoever! 3 stars.

November

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone – has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d never realised that wasn’t normal normal. How could she have guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass? When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother. At fifteen, Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do – and who to be – to either win back the only mother she’s ever known… or else defeat her once and for all. I enjoyed this book. It’s quite slow and I can see why some people might find it boring but I didn’t. I liked that the step-mother is not portrayed as simply evil. It manages to recognisably be the tale of Snow White while at the same time turning everything on its head. Mina is an intriguing character and I found the relationship between Mina and Lynet really interesting. 4 stars.

December

Frenemies by Megan Crane. Gus Curtis has been avoiding growing up for a long time. But at almost thirty, official adulthood is just around the corner. It’s okay though – with a strong career, great friends, and a wonderful boyfriend, Gus feels like her life is finally on track. That is, until she walks in on her “Mr Right”, Nate, kissing her former college room mate and so-called “friend” Helen. Determined to win back her man, Gus drinks far too much, indulges in some ad hoc karaoke and loses what’s left of her dignity in a series of public slanging matches. Before long, even her loyal friends have had enough and she’s finding consolation in the arms of the one boy she really should have stayed away from… I found this in a free bookcase and I’m not sure why I took it with me. I thought it would be a quick, easy read and I was at least right about that. It’s fairly typical “chick lit” but the writing isn’t great. I thought Gus was a complete idiot and acted younger than 30 – the way she went on you would have thought she was still *in* college! Like why was she trying to win her ex back while he was still with her supposed friend?! So much unnecessary drama. I did like Henry though. He saved the book for me and bumped it up from 1 star to 2.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem – after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead. And she just can’t bring herself to write another happy ending. When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, refuses to give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father. For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlour, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it. Then her editor turns up at the door of the funeral parlour… just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, but now, apparently, a ghost. And he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is. Romance is most certainly dead.. but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories. This was a lot of fun to read and it quotes The Princess Bride, which is definitely one way to my heart! Some things didn’t make sense – like why was Florence mercilessly teased and ostracised to the extent that she left and never came back in a town that has a golden retriever as mayor and a non-binary person running a B&B where the doors to the rooms features pictures of deadly plants? Surely Florence was the exact right kind of quirky to fit right in? Never mind. Florence’s family was awesome and her relationship with them felt so genuine, but I would have liked to see more of them grieving. Florence was the only one who really seemed to care – the others were almost too much “business as usual” (quite literally considering they owned the very funeral home that was dealing with everything). But it’s fun, quirky (almost too quirky at times) and a fast read. 3.5 stars.

Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie). Returning from a visit to her daughter in Iraq, Joan Scudamore finds herself unexpectedly alone – stranded in an isolated rest house by flooding of the railway tracks. This sudden solitude compels Joan to assess her life for the first time ever and face up to many of the truths about herself. Looking back over the years, Joan painfully re-examines her attitudes, relationships and actions and becomes increasingly uneasy about the person who is revealed to her, and she begins to question everything she has ever believed. It’s a testament to Agatha Christie’s talent that a book where so little happens makes you want to keep reading. I was fascinated by the main character. As someone who is constantly questioning what people really think of me I’m very intrigued by people who can take everything at face value and assume that everyone likes them and everything they’ve ever done has been the right thing! 4 stars.

That’s it. 12 books in four months, a mere two of which were by BAME/BIPOC writers.

Now I can draw a line under last year’s reading and finally move on to 2023. I’m hoping to have a little more time to read this year since I will have roughly an hour and a half each day between finishing work and picking Zyma up from nursery (at least until she inevitably picks up her next cold…)

Have you read any of these? Let me know whether you agree with my opinions!

The book review of 2022

Even though I barely read this year last year (I was hoping to post this before December ended but alas, Goodreads kept logging me out on the 31st so I couldn’t finish it in time), I still wanted to do this post. The original is by The Perpetual Page Turner – although i don’t know whether she still does it – but I got this version from Kezzie.

Best book you read in 2022

Not many stand out to be honest. but I did enjoy The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin so we’ll go with that.

Best children’s fiction:

I didn’t actually read many children’s books this year. We’ll go with Rise of the World Eater, book 3 in the Frostheart series. It was a worthy ending to the trilogy and I genuinely enjoyed it.

Best crime fiction:

I think this may be the least crime fiction I’ve ever read in one year! Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins was very suspenseful and enjoyable overall, although I found the ending very predictable.

Best classic:

None because I didn’t read any…

Best non-fiction:

The only non-fiction book I read in 2022 was Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders (her autobiography). It was entertaining enough but felt like loads was missing and I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as Dawn French’s autobiography (Dear Fatty).

Best dystopian fiction:

I think City of Rust by Gemma Fowler counts as (children’s) dystopian, although Goodreads only has it tagged as Science Fiction and Adventure. In any case I didn’t read anything else that could be considered even vaguely dystopian. I felt like some of the characters could have been fleshed out better and would just generally have liked more but I gave it 3.5 stars.

Best YA:

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine. Again, I felt some of the characters could have been fleshed out more, but I really enjoyed reading this book.

Most surprising (in a good way) book read in 2021:

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer. I picked this up from a free bookcase and had no idea what to expect from it, but I ended up really enjoying it. It’s set in South Africa and was originally written in Afrikaans, and I found all the politics and tension between the different cultures – Zulus, Xhosa, and Coloreds (mixed race and South Asian) slightly confusing at times, but overall this was a thrilling story with great characters.

Book You Read In 2021 That You Recommended Most To Others:

I don’t think I have recommended any books this year.

Best series you discovered in 2022:

The Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong (starting with City of the Lost). I’ve only read two books so far but I’m loving the unusual setting. (Plus this is the only new series I’ve read more than 1 book from so it kind of wins by default).

Favourite new to you author you discovered in 2022.

Usually I reserve this question for a new author I’ve read more than one book by, but that only leaves Kelley Armstrong again, so I’m going to say Candice Carty-Williams. I loved Queenie!

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love But Didn’t:

I was really excited about Holy Island by LJ Ross because it’s set in Northumberland (specifically Lindesfarne) but unfortunately it wasn’t great. It was part detective novel and part romance, with the result that it was neither properly one nor the author.

Best Book That Was Out Of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre To You

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross. This is an urban fantasy with a magic system that’s based on maths. The story itself was surprisingly enjoyable but the maths/computery parts went way over my head!

Book You Read In 2022 That You’re Most Likely To Read Again In The Future:

The original question was “that you’re likely to read again next year” but I changed it last year since I never re-read books that soon. However, if I was including my daughter’s books in my list I would definitely have to say one of them… I think I read Owl Babies every single day in November! As for my own books, I read Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens in 2022 and I will definitely read the whole of the Murder Most Unladylike series again someday!

Favourite Book You Read in 2022 by an Author You’ve Read Previously:

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. I didn’t love it as much as Hyperbole and a Half but I did still really enjoy it.

Best Book You Read In 2022 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

I read Landline by Rainbow Rowell because Kezzie sent it to me, so that’s kind of a recommendation.

Favourite Cover of a Book You Read in 2022:

It has to be A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe. I didn’t love the book itself as much as I expected to – it was a little confusing and had too many themes for its fairly short length – but the cover is gorgeous!

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On You In 2022:

I don’t actually know. Maybe Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, although I felt like I didn’t get to know the main character enough to actually be affected by his story. It was certainly though-provoking though.

Book You Can’t BELIEVE You Waited Until 2022 To Read:

Honestly, there aren’t any.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

I can’t actually think of anything for this one. Wow, what a boring survey this is turning out to be…

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2021 (be it romantic, friendship, etc):

I think it was the relationship between Lynet and her step-mother Mina in Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. I loved that the step mother wasn’t a caricature of evil and selfishness despite the fact that this book is based on Snow White.

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2022:

Leigh in The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan. Although I could have done with slightly fewer colour metaphors for everything!

Genre You Read The Most From in 2022:

Adult contemporary with 11 books, most of those being romance or so-called “chick-lit”. It’s the first time in ages that my most-read genre hasn’t been either crime/thrillers or (children’s) fantasy!

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2022:

I remember The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman being a lot of fun to read, although I’m struggling to remember much of the plot. I know it involved pub quizzes and books though – two of my favourite things!

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2022:

I usually I hate to repeat books, but I definitely shed a tear at the end of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot.

Book You Read in 2022 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out:

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa. I mean, maybe it wasn’t overlooked in Japan where it was originally published but I hadn’t heard of it. It’s quirky and fun – if a little bizarre – and I think fellow book-lovers would enjoy it.

Total books finished in 2022: A mere 38 (plus a gazillion repetitions of various board books!)

The longest book I read in 2022 was Solutions and Other Problems with 528 pages, although that isn’t exactly an achievement given that those pages mostly consist of pictures. The shortest, at 192 pages, was Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott – a pseudonym Agatha Christie used for her non-crime books.

The first book I read in 2022 was Holy Island by LJ Ross – not the best start to the year – and the last book was Absent in the Spring.

One last thing before I go. In 2022 I read 7 books by BAME/BIPOC authors, which is not great and something I really do need to work on in 2023!

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to a year of great reading!

What I read in August 2022

I almost only read two books in August because the second one took me so long to finish. But then I snuck in one more over the course of two evenings right at the end of the month.

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there… and Fred and Sheila Merton are certainly rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. After a fraught Easter dinner with their family, the Mertons are brutally murdered. Their three adult children are devastated, of course. Or are there? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother. Could one of the siblings is more disturbed than anyone knew? Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know… wouldn’t you? I’ve wanted to read this book for a while so I was very pleased to spot it in a free public bookcase! Not a single character in this book is likeable – except maybe the nanny. All the Merton family are liars, and that’s just their good side! The result is a tangled web of suspicion with all manner of twists and turns. I can’t exactly say I figured out who the murderer was because I think I suspected every character at one point or another. One downside is that it gets a little repetitive as things are rehashed from different character’s points of view. I enjoyed the very end – the last line is utterly delightful. 4 stars.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe. Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from. She was just a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasures. Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies, found and raised Sante, alongside twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money.During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from a recurring dream she has about the shipwreck. They’ve come for her treasure, but they also have secrets to reveal about Sante’s past. After Sante and Cat rescue a beautiful red-head named Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city, but Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about who Sante really is. some reason I thought this was a children’s book but it’s very definitely YA featuring themes of sex trafficking among others! I really enjoyed parts of the plot. I loved Sante and her golden eagle Priss. But it felt like the author was trying to fit in too many different themes: Sante’s search for her identity, magical realism elements, refugees, sex trafficking, all the circus characters, so it unfortunately ended up being confusing and a lot of the side characters seemed flat. 3 stars.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan. When Leigh’s mother dies by suicide she leaves behind a scribbled note – I want you to remember. Remember what? Leigh has no idea. She wishes she could turn to her best friend, Axel, for advice. If only she hadn’t kissed him and messed everything up between them. The Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, discovers she has grandparents she’s never met and travels to Taiwan to meet them for the first time. There, she retreats into art and memories, ending up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and ultimately forging a new relationship with her grandparents. I really enjoyed this book. The writing is excellent, although the style is definitely not for everyone (I enjoyed it though) and I can’t believe it’s a debut! I really enjoyed the insights into Taiwanese culture and Leigh is a fantastic character. It is a fast read but there seemed to be a lot going on and it almost felt like the main grief plot was being sidelined at times with high school drama (told in flashbacks). Leigh seems to have some form of synaesthesia and while the colour metaphors were interesting at times it was too much. I didn’t need to know the colour of every single word Leigh’s best friend/love interest uttered! That makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy the book but I actually very much did. There is a magical realism element that probably won’t appeal to everyone but it didn’t bother me at all. 4 stars.

Total books read: 3. Books by BAME/BIPOC authors: 2 (hooray, finally more than zero).

So far this month I’ve mostly been cross stitching but I’ve already managed a couple of books and I’m hoping to get through at least two more.

What I read in June & July 2022

The ending of the Show Us Your Books link up meant I completely forgot to review the books I read in June. Luckily there were only two – followed by five in July – so I can just shove two months into one post.

The Hidden Cottage by Erica James. Mia Channing seems to have the perfect life. A beautiful home, a happy marriage, a job she loves and three grown-up children to whom she’s devoted. But appearances can be deceptive. When the family gathers for her son’s 30th birthday, he brings with him his latest girlfriend who, they are surprised to learn, has a nine-year-old daughter. Then, before the birthday cake has even been cut, Mia’s youngest daughter Daisy seizes the opportunity to drop a bombshell. It’s an evening that marks a turning point in all their lives, when old resentments and regrets surface and the carefully ordered world Mia has created begins to unravel. This was fine. Kind of predictable and the writing style annoyed me at times but it was a fairly easy read for its length. I loved nine-year-old Madison but found some of the other characters a bit underdeveloped. I think there were too many of them. 2.5 stars. Also, is it just me or does The Hidden Cottage sound like the title of a Famous Five book?

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood. For Susan Green, messy emotions simply don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She is in complete control at all times, with a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realised. She is losing control. When she learns that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her immature and irresponsible brother, Edward, Susan is determined that she must do something about it. But as her due date draws near and her family problems become increasingly difficult to ignore, Susan finds help and self-discovery in the most unlikely of places. I actually kind of liked the story in this book and wanted to know what happened at the end, but the main character completely ruined it for me. I assume she’s supposed to be a damaged person who struggles to connect with “normal” people a la Eleanor Oliphant but actually she’s insufferable and honestly just plain mean. Unlike Eleanor it felt like she knew perfectly well she was being mean no matter how much she tried to pass it off as being direct/honest. The romance is ridiculous – it goes from barely even friends to “I’m totally in love with you and want to help you raise your baby” in about 2 pages. I actually liked Rob as a character, just the romance made no sense! 2.5 stars.

So, that was June. A slightly disappointing month… And zero out of two books were by BIPOC/BAME authors. On to July…

Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins. When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, still grieving her dead mother. But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent? Some things didn’t make sense and I found the ending predictable but overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s very suspenseful. I especially liked the character of Linklater and the descriptions of Oxford’s old cemeteries. 4 stars.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Do I really need to write a synopsis for this one? Does anyone not know what it is? Allie Brosh’s second graphic novel in which she again tells stores from her own life including tales from her childhood, the adventures of her very bad animals and merciless dissection of her own character flaws. She also talks about the awful experiences that resulted in this book being delayed for so long. I found parts of the book hilarious – especially the stories about her childhood – while others were heart breaking. It seems so unfair that so many bad things have happened to one person while others seem to live a completely charmed life. Not all the stories resonated with me and I didn’t love it as much as Hyperbole and a Half but I still really, really liked it. 4 stars.

City of the Lost by Kelly Armstong (Rockton #1). Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday her crime will catch up to her. Casey’s best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana’s husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it’s time for the two of them to disappear again. Diana has heard of a town especially for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton, and if you’re accepted it means walking away from your old life entirely, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada. No cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. As a murderer, Casey isn’t a good candidate, but she has something they want: She’s a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realises that the identity of a murderer isn’t the only secret Rockton is hiding… and she starts to wonder if she and Diana might actually be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives. This is a very different kind of police procedural – the setting alone changes things and makes for a very suspenseful atmosphere. And there were at least two twists that I was not expecting. I will definitely be continuing this series. 4 stars.

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa. Rintaro Natsuki loves Natsuki Books, his grandfather’s tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. It’s the perfect refuge for a teenage boy who tends to be somewhat of a recluse. When his grandfather dies suddenly, Rintaro is left devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to embark on three magical adventures to save books from people have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone… This is definitely one for book lovers! It’s very quotable and reads almost like a love letter to the power of books/reading. It’s utterly bizarre in the way only Japanese fiction can be and I feel like I didn’t understand all of it but I did enjoy it. It’s also a very quick read – I finished the entire thing in one day, during two of my daughter’s naps. 4 stars,

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross (The Laundry Files #1). Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. His world was dull and safe – but then he went and got Noticed. Now, Bob is up to his neck in spycraft, parallel universes, dimension-hopping terrorists, monstrous elder gods and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than a full system reboot to sort this mess out… This book is based on the premise that “magic” and parallel universes, demons, etc. exist in our world, but it’s not actually magic… it’s all based on maths and computing. I did actually mostly enjoy the storyk, but the unfortunately the maths parts went completely over my head, which meant it took me ages to finish and spoiled it a bit for me. I would never have bought this book (it was a gift years ago) and don’t intend to continue the series, but it’s not actually bad. Just really not right for me! 3 stars.

In July I read 5 books, one of which was by a BAME/BIPOC author.

We’re now over a week into August and I’ve yet to finish a single book, so we’ll see whether it’s even necessary for me to try and remember to post next month! In the meantime let me know if you’ve read anything good recently.

What I read in May 2022

I’m a day late writing this post for what it turns out is the final Show Us Your Books. It really does feel like the end of an era and I haven’t even been around since the beginning! Many thanks to Steph and Jana for all their years of hosting (since October 2014!). I’ve found so many good books through this link up and also some of my favourite bloggers.

Now let’s get to the books shall we?

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine. When a good-looking boy with an American accent presses a dropped negative into Rowan’s hand, she’s convinced it’s just a mistake. She knows she didn’t drop anything, but he’s adamant it was her. But before she can say anything more he’s gone, lost in the crowd of bustling shoppers. And she can’t afford to lose her place in the checkout queue – after all, the food shopping isn’t going to take itself home! Rowan has more responsibilities than most girls her age. These days, she pretty much looks after her little sister single-handedly – which doesn’t leave much time for friends or fun. But when she finds out that Bee from school saw the whole thing, it piques her curiosity. Especially when it turns out the dropped item does have a connection to her after all… I enjoyed this. Some parts of the story line were predictable but I was okay with it. Stroma is fantastic – definitely one of my favourite little sisters in fiction. I thought Bee’s character could have been fleshed out a bit more – we are told how special and amazing she is but I didn’t really feel it. I did love Harper though. This is the kind of book I would have devoured as a teen. With Rowan’s struggles at home, I would compare it to Jacqueline Wilson, but for older readers. 4 stars.

Another Mother’s Son by Janet Davey. Lorna Parry is the mother of three boys, each one lurching uncomfortably into adulthood. In the claustrophobic loneliness of her own home, Lorna orbits around her sons and struggles to talk to them; she’s still angry at her ex-husband, uncomfortable around her father’s new girlfriend, and works quietly as the only employee left in a deserted London archive. Life seems precariously balanced. Then a shocking event occurs in the stationery cupboard at the boys’ school and her world threatens to implode. This was an incredibly depressing book. I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a pessimistic representation of motherhood. The youngest son, Ross, was just awful. I know teenagers are difficult but I would never have got away with talking to my mother like that! (Constantly telling her to shut up, you can leave now, nobody’s interested in you.) The “incident” wasn’t what I thought it was going to be and in the end didn’t even feel like a main plot point. I did think the writing was good though. It was certainly evocative – I could actually feel how dull Lorna’s live was! 2.5 stars.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. Because Sophie has a secret, an ability that she’s never been able to share with anybody. She can read the thoughts of everyone around her. When she meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. She discovers that there is a place she belong, but also that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known. There are new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” And the danger isn’t over either. There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory – secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans – that other people desperately want. Would even kill for. It’s up to Sophie to figure out why she’s the key to her brand new world… before someone else works it out first. This was a fun read. It definitely has its flaws and Sophie’s constant perfection (despite being new to the world and school, she’s the absolute best ever at everything except one subject) got annoying, as did her suddenly remembering random things or discovering completely new abilities when it was convenient for the plot, but I stayed up longer than I planned reading and had to force myself to go to bed without finishing it, which anyone who has ever had a young baby knows is a big deal, so 3.5 stars. Also, for some reason I thought this book involved gods but it’s not that at all.

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer. (Benny Griessel #2) As morning dawns in Cape Town, it promises to be a very trying day for homicide detective Benny Griessel it promises to be a very trying day. The body of a teenage girl has been found on the street, her throat cut. She was an American – a PR nightmare in the #1 tourist destination in South Africa. And she wasn’t alone. Somewhere in Cape Town her friend, Rachel Anderson, an innocent American, is hopefully still alive. On the run, Rachel is terrified with no idea who she can trust or where to turn in this unknown city. It’s up to Benny to find her, in a race against the clock. Meanwhile, he gets pulled into a second case, the murder of a South African music executive. Griessel has been sober for nearly six months – 156 days. But day 157 is going to be a tough one! This is a thrilling book with great characters. I found all the politics and tension between the different cultures – Zulus, Xhosa, and Coloreds (mixed race and South Asian) slightly confusing (despite having read Born a Crime, which explains a lot of the background) but still enjoyed the story. We don’t find out what Rachel has that the criminals want until near the end and I absolutely could not guess what it might be! The book was originally written in Afrikaans but as far as I can tell it loses nothing in the translation to English. Despite being the second in a series I didn’t feel like I had missed anything too vital. I found this one randomly in a free bookcase but wouldn’t be averse to buying other books by this author in the future. 4 stars.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. Katie – or Cat, as she is known at work – Brenner has the perfect life, with a flat in London and a glamorous job at a branding company… or so her Instagram feed would suggest. Okay, she actually rents a tiny room in a shared flat where she doesn’t even have space for a wardrobe, has a nightmare commute to a lowly admin job and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t actually hers. But one day her dreams are bound to come true, right. Fake it til you make it and all that. But then her not-so-perfect life comes crashing down when her boss, the mega-successful Demeter who she has been desperately trying to emulate, gives her the sack and Katie is forced to move home to Somerset. When Demeter books in for a glamping holiday on Katie’s family’s farm, she can’t resist the opportunity to get revenge. But does Demeter – the woman who seemingly has everything – really have such an idyllic life. Maybe the two women have more in common than it seems? This is a quick read for how long it is (431 pages) and there’s quite a bit of humour in it. Katie is a little annoying at times, but it’s less fluffy than I was expecting and has a good message underneath. The love interest (because obviously there is one) is fairly forgettable and honestly I would have been fine with this being a book about someone finding themselves without any added romance, but it was fine. Ultimately, this will probably be a fairly forgettable book but it was the perfect not-too-taxing read for baby nap times. 3.5 stars.

For my final Show Us Your Books post it would have been nice to say all the books I read were by BIPOC/BAME authors, but alas none of them were. Even Deon Meyer is a white South African – although I feel like the fact that the book was originally written in Afrikaans makes it somewhat diverse? No? Okay. Anyway, I am linking up with Steph and Jana forthe very last time and you really should click on one of those two names and go and check out what the rest of this amazing book community has been reading since the last link up.

What I read in April 2022

Second Tuesday of the month already! That means it’s books day. As always, I am linking up with Steph and Jana. In April I managed to read a whole 4 books! I am slowly learning how to read while she feeds – although I still end up being forced to stop if she gets too wriggly and distracted.

Beach Read by Emily Henry. January is a hopeless romantic who has always believed that anyone’s life can be wonderful if they just look at things the right way… at least until her beloved father passes away and she discovers he wasn’t the man she thought he was. Spending the summer in a lake house she never knew he owned, she finds herself living next door to none other than her college rival, Augustus. Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale. There’s no way the two of them are ever going to get on. But they actually have more in common than you’d think: They’re both broke. They’ve got crippling writer’s block. They need to write bestsellers before the end of the summer. The result? A bet to see who can get their book published first. The catch? They have to swap genres. The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely… This is cute but at the same time darker than I was expecting. It does go into some deeper issues alongside the cute romance. The writing style was a little odd at times – at one point January describes something as being “atop” something. Who uses the word “atop” when just thinking to themselves?! I enjoyed it though despite little things like that throwing me out of the story and gave it 4 stars.

Damsel Distressed by Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after – in fact, she doesn’t even think they’re possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has been in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status. When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Carmella (aka Ella) Cinder, moves in, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace – the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant – aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time. While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story. And maybe even find herself a happily ever after. As far as I can tell as a non-sufferer, this is a good representation of anxiety and depression. However I just did not like Imogen. It felt like she was hiding behind her mental illness as an excuse for being just not a very nice person. Yes some people are mean to her (make comments about her weight, etc.) but Imogen is horrible to other people as well. She complains that her dad sprung his marriage on her but she literally says she didn’t want to know about his relationship – I guess she wanted him to spend the rest of his life alone and in mourning? So the fact that she lost her mother is obviously a perfectly reasonable excuse to be horrible to/about her stepmother who is nothing but kind to Imogen throughout the book. And this is when Imogen has supposedly been doing well with her mental health – she only starts to spiral during the book when her stepsister shows up. And speaking of the stepsister (Carm)Ella, she’s portrayed as being completely evil just for the sake of it with no redeeming features. But before she even does a single nasty thing Imogen seems to hate her for being pretty and wearing tight/short clothing… i.e. Imogen total slut shames her although at that point there’s no evidence that Ella even acts slutty (and even if there were who is Imogen to judge? Imogen who hates being judged herself). Eventually there are some hints that Ella’s life maybe hasn’t been so perfect but by that time the reader has already been led to believe that poor Imogen is the victim of the nasty stepsister who hated her on sight for literally no reason at all. Most of the other supporting characters are too good to be true: the best friend straight out of Dawson’s Creek, the new girl who is actually nice and doesn’t realise how pretty she is, the nauseatingly adorable gay couple, one of whom just happens to be *amazing* with a needle and thread. And when Imogen messes up they’ve all already forgiven her before she even attempts to apologise. The writing actually isn’t bad and like I said the representation of mental illness seems to be realistic and isn’t glamourised or trivialised. Maybe it’s a me problem rather than a book problem. Either way I found this one just okay. 2.5 stars.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. Almost ten years ago, on the last day of hunting season, Lewis, Ricky, Gabe and Cass, young Blackfeet men, did something they would come to regret. Even at the time they knew it was wrong, but caught up in the adrenaline of the moment, of the hunt, they got carried away. Now, with the anniversary coming up, Lewis, who is now married to a white woman and living far from the Reservation, begins to be haunted by images of that day as an entity tracks the childhood friends hellbent on getting revenge. I really enjoyed the beginning of this book and the final third-ish. Parts of it were really slow though and I didn’t always love the writing style. It’s certainly a good book, just not quite for me. 3 stars.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin. Seventeen-year-old Lenni is stuck on the terminal ward of a Glasgow hospital, but even while knowing she’s dying she still wants nothing more than to live for as long as she has left. After finding out that patients have to be allowed to visit the chapel for religious reasons, she jumps at the chance to see a new part of the hospital. There, she meets and befriends the hospital priest, Father Arthur. meanwhile, eighty-three year old Margot is in the same hospital. When Lenni and Margot meet in an art class, Lenni realises that their combined age is 100… and so the two of them decide to paint a picture for each year of their lives. As they are painting, each of them tells the story of these key events – from Lenni’s childhood in Sweden and her mother’s struggles with mental health to the devastating loss that led Margot to leave Glasgow for London and eventually meet the two great loves of her life. This book is an absolute joy, which may seem an odd thing to say considering it’s about a terminally ill teenager, but it really is. Lenni is fantastic – it seems so unfair that she’s dying – and Margot’s story is fascinating. I loved the supporting characters as well, especially Father Arthur who is a sweetheart and a great sport about Lenni’s questions. There’s a story involving homeless man that seemed a bit random and I’m not exact sure why it was in there but I absolutely devoured the rest, and yes I cried at the end. 4 stars.

That’s all from me for this month. Don’t forget to check out the link up!

What I read in March 2022

I had forgotten that today was Show Us Your Books, which is why I’m writing this post late in the day after baby bedtime (well, I say baby bedtime but I’ve just put her down for the third time so we’ll see…). Luckily it won’t take too long since I only read three books in March. But that’s one more than in January or February so I’ll take it. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, as always.

The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips (The Beast and the Bethany #1). Beauty comes at a price. And no one knows that better than Ebenezer Tweezer, who has stayed young and beautiful for 511 years. How, you may wonder? Ebenezer simply has to feed the beast in the attic of his mansion. In return for meals of performing monkeys, statues of Winston Churchill, and the occasional cactus, Ebenezer gets potions that keep him young and beautiful, as well as other presents. But with every meal the beast grows greedier, and one day he announces that he’d like to eat a nice, juicy child next. Ebenezer has never done anything quite this terrible to hold onto his wonderful life. Still, he finds the absolutely snottiest, naughtiest, and most frankly unpleasant child he can and prepares to feed her to the beast. But the child, Bethany, may just be more than Ebenezer bargained for. She’s certainly a really rather rude houseguest, but Ebenezer still finds himself wishing she didn’t have to be gobbled up after all. Could it be Bethany is less meal-worthy and more…friend-worthy? This is a fun and very quick read. I loved the characters. They were really well written, even the side characters really came to life. Some of the humour was a little silly for my tastes but the right kind of child would love it. And despite the humour this is a surprisingly dark book so that balances out the silliness a bit. There are also a few things in the book that are obviously catering to adult readers – the most obvious being the reference to The Picture of Dorian Grey (except instead of a painting in the attic it’s a beast) but there were also references to a few other classics that I can’t remember now. Anyway, I gave it 4 stars.

Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders. This is the biography of comedian Jennifer Saunders, most famous as one half of comedy duo French and Saunders and Bolly-swilling Edina from the TV series Absolutely Fabulous. It’s entertaining enough but there seemed to be a lot missing. The part about how she went from being friends with Ade Edmondson to marrying him is *very* brief – I’m still not really sure how they got together. Mainly she talks a lot about her friendship with Dawn French and how her various comedy projects came about while only briefly skimming over anything really personal, which seems to defeat the object of an autobiography. Also, as she herself frankly admits, her early life was fairly boring (which is good for her of course – a childhood free of drama and tragedy is definitely worth having!). It passed the time well enough though and the parts about writing/making Ab Fab were interesting. I read Dawn French’s autobiography a while ago and liked that a lot more (plus it made me cry). Three stars for this one. Read it if you’re a Jennifer Saunders/Ab Fab mega-fan, otherwise give it a miss.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. A cannon. A strap. A piece. A biscuit. A burner. A heater. A chopper. A gat. A hammer. A tool. For RULE. Or, you could just call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans when he enters the elevator in his apartment building. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s heading now, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? With each floor the elevator stops at, somebody else who’s connected to Will’s brother gets on. Somebody who can fill in another, bigger part of the picture Will thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if Will gets off that elevator. I really liked this It’s a really interesting way to tell a story and the story itself is thought provoking. For some reason I didn’t find it as emotional as I expected to but that’s probably a me thing. It was almost like I didn’t know Will enough to feel sad for his loss. It’s a good, quick read though. 4 stars.

That’s all I’ve got for you. Three books. One by a BIPOC/BAME author. For more book reviews make your way over to the link up. And make a note of Tuesday, 10th May for the next one.

What I read in January 2022

Good morning! It’s book day again with Steph and Jana. Before I get on to my reviews can I just say I have no idea how other parents of young children manage to read! Currently baby still takes caffeine citrate in the morning and she gets that together with a bottle that her dad gives her meanwhile I am pumping the milk for the next day’s bottle and I generally use that time to read. Other than that any time I’m not breastfeeding, winding, changing, comforting or just holding the baby is used for things that need to get done – like organising my COVID booster jab (this Thursday if you’re interested). Anyway, by reading while pumping I managed to get through two books.

Holy Island by L. J. Ross. Forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a homicide detective, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island off the Northumbrian coast. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory. When former local girl Dr Anna Taylor arrives back on the island as a police consultant, old memories swim to the surface making her confront her difficult past. She and Ryan struggle to work together to hunt a killer who hides in plain sight, while pagan rituals and small-town politics muddy the waters of their investigation. I was excited for this book because it’s set in Northumberland (I’ve been to Lindesfarne or “Holy Island” many times, although not for years) and I definitely enjoyed the setting.The detective main character is a total cliché. Of course he has a tragic backstory! And I found myself rolling my eyes every time yet another woman on the island talked about how gorgeous he was. The blurb describes this as a detective novel but there’s a romance aspect that reads like it’s trying to be a Mills and Boon. Not that I have a problem with romance as a genre but here it feels it feels out of place and like the author should have stuck to one or the other. Plus the main character is pretty sexist and should not have been sleeping with that person in the first place. The actual crime/detective story is somewhat predictable but not bad – I was intrigued enough to read to the end. The epilogue ending is pretty far-fetched though. 2.5 stars.

Rise of the World Eater by Jamie Littler (Frostheart book 3). Ash faces his greatest challenge yet as the evil Wraith leader Shaard unleashes the dreaded Devourer from its centuries-long imprisonment. Only by uniting can the peoples of the Snow Sea hope to stand against the monster’s wrath, but as the Devourer targets the stronghold of Aurora, the tribes remain as divided as ever. In a last desperate move, Ash and the crew of the Frostheart journey to the yeti lands, where humans are forbidden, in search for the truth about the Devourer’s origins, and the one weakness that may prove its undoing. This is the third and final book in this series and it was definitely a worthy ending. It was great to learn more about Tobu’s past and I really enjoyed seeing Ash coming out of Tobu’s and Lunah’s shadows and learning to take action by himself. The Frostheart’s crew were as awesome as ever and really showed that they are there for each other no matter what. I was a little frustrated at times at just how many things had to go wrong along the way but overall I thought this was another fantastic book. 4 stars.

Neither of the books I read in January was by a BAME/BIPOC author so I haven’t got off to a great start on that front but oh well. The year is still young. Check out the link up for more book reviews from people who have more time than I do!

What I read in December 2021

Yes I am posting twice on the same day. No I do not expect anybody to read both of them… or even one of them. Today is the first Show Us Your Books link up of the new year and I didn’t want to miss it even though I only actually read four books in December.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up weekly to discuss unsolved crimes. They call themselves the Thursday Murder Club. When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves with their first live case to solve. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? This s a fun read with some quirky characters who I liked a lot. However, overall there are too many characters so it got to little confusing. Also the motive for one of the murders didn’t entirely make sense to me. 3.5 stars.

Convenience Store Woman by Murata Sayaka. Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis – but will it be for the better? I really liked Keiko as a character and I got what the author was trying to do bit something about this story was kind of unsatisfying. I’m happy that Keiko stayed true to herself but I was hoping those around her would also learn to accept her for what she was and stop talking about wanting her to be “cured”. 3 stars.

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman. Suburban wife and mother Eliza Benedict’s peaceful world falls off its axis when a letter arrives from Walter Bowman. In the summer of 1985, when Eliza – then known as Elizabeth – was fifteen, she was kidnapped by this man and held hostage for almost six weeks. Now he’s on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, and Eliza wants nothing to do with him. Walter, however, is unpredictable when ignored – as Eliza knows only too well – and to shelter her children from the nightmare of her past, she agrees to see him one last time. But Walter is after something more than forgiveness: He wants Eliza to save his life… and he wants her to remember the truth about that long-ago summer and release the terrible secret she’s keeping buried inside. The best way I can describe this book is anticlimatic. I was really intrigued by the premise and wanted to know what the big secret was going to be revealed at the end but it turned out to be meh. No wonder I didn’t guess something so trivial. The writing is good but for a thriller it’s incredibly slow and the main character is so passive she’s actually boring. 2.5 stars.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked.. until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint and meets Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant -along with several other unlikely candidates – to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City – and maybe herself most of all. I wanted to love this book. So many people raved about it. But to me it was underwhelming. It’s an enjoyable enough read with a few interesting characters but I thought it was just good rather than great. The love triangle also kind of annoyed me – I just wanted the author to get to the pageant already. I would rather have read more about the other girls instead of once again being reminded of how hot Bo was. 3 stars.

So a rather disappointing month. I’m hoping January will be better – although so far I’ve only managed to read one book and that wasn’t great! Oh well, onwards and upwards.

Out of the four books I read in December, one was by a BAME/BIPOC author. This year I really hope to do better!

Thanks to Steph and Jana for hosting! Click on one of those links to see what everyone else has been reading lately.