What I Read in May 2020: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I read in May 2020: Part 1

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

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

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

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

Platform 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read anything good recently? .

The Make Your Mythtaker readathon

What can I say, another month, another readathon? This month, I took part in Believathon II, and for June I plan to participate in something just as cool.

The Make Your Mythtaker readathon was designed by Ashleigh and Charlotte, the hosts of Myth-Take Reads – an online book club focusing on myth, folklore & fairy tale retellings in fantasy books. I’ve never actually participated in the book club, but I follow Ashleigh’s YouTube channel, A Frolic Through Fiction, and when she announced this readathon I knew I just had to take part. The idea is to pick a type of character you want to be from one of four groups – Warriors, the Royal Court, Rogues and Sorcerers. Within each group are four common characters from fantasy such as a knight, a monarch, a pirate or a faerie. For each character, there are four prompts to choose a book for. Once you’ve read those books in the specified order you will have “made” your myth-taker character. But each character also has a cross-over prompt, so you can for instance start as a jester at court then cross over the the oracle path with your third book and finish your journey by completing the final oracle prompt. Or, if you’re an overachiever like me, you can create a backstory for your character that mashes up three different paths and end up with a plan to read books for all four prompts in all three paths…

… which brings me to…

My Character

Eloria
Image made using https://www.dolldivine.com/historical-witch-creator.php

Eloria Celest Teluma is the daughter of a powerful witch and a minor noble. At the age of five, she had a prophetic dream in which she foretold the death of the queen’s eldest son in a fall from a cliff. She and her mother immediately set out for the castle, but arrived too late to prevent the prince from leaving for his trip. The dream came true, and Eloria thus came to the attention of the royal family, who promptly installed her and her mother in a tower on the castle grounds. Now 21, Eloria spends most of her days making potions for the ladies of court and assisting with births. She has had two more prophetic dreams.

So, my Mythtaker has elements of three different fantasy characters: witch, courtier and oracle. Since Eloria is mainly a witch, that will be primary path and the one I shall be following first. Here are the prompts and my choices:

Read a book featuring an animal: The Bad Luck Lighthouse by Nikki Thorne. This is the Sequel to The Last Chance Hotel and features a talking cat named Nightshade.

Read a book with a foiled cover: A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer. Another sequel, I’ve wanted to read this since I finished A Curse So Dark and Lonely. The writing on the cover is foiled.

Read a book featuring a magic battle: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. Someone on Twitter told me this features a magic battle so I hope it does!

Read a book featuring occult themes: The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams. Coven.. witches. Occult. This is described as ” Adventures in Babysitting meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and I am excited for it!

Next up is courtier, since our Eloria is descended from a family of minor nobles and lives at court.

Read a book with a big cast of characters: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb. Another sequel. The first book had loads of characters so I’m assuming this one does too. It’s also 675 pages, because apparently having a 12 book to-read list isn’t enough for me… I have to have long books in there as well?!

Read a book with one (or more) of the royal colours on the cover – red, purple or gold: The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders is mostly purple with some red.

Continue a series: I appear to be continuing several series, but for this prompt specifically I will be reading Everfound by Neal Shusterman and finally finishing the Skinjacker series. This one has 528 pages. Why do I do this to myself?!

Read a host favourite: Each of the hosts picked six favourites and I picked one from Charlotte’s list that I already had on my want-to-read list, The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge.

Finally, I shall be fulfilling the prompts for the oracle path:

Go into a book blind: The River King by Alice Hoffman. I picked this book up from a free public bookcase for no other reason than I’ve heard of the author (but never read anything by her). I know literally nothing about it!

Read a book with a foiled cover: Twister by Juliette Forrest has foiling on its cover (which, by the way, is stunning!).

Read a book about books. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I’ve had this book for ages and I’m not 100% sure on what it’s about, but there’s a library… and library implies books, yes?

Read a 5-star prediction: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I’ve seen this praised a lot and I am hoping it will be a five-star read for me.

And that’s it. Here’s a picture of all my books together. It’s a big stack!

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To find out more information about this readathon and see the prompts for the other characters, watch Ashleigh’s announcement video where she explains things so much better than me! You can also find loads of information on the Myth-Take Reads Twitter profile. And now I’m off to attempt to finish my current read so I can launch straight into #MakeYourMythtaker tomorrow!

What I read in April 2020

Show Us Your Books day was Tuesday, but for some reason I thought it was next Tuesday so I’m late to the party! Oh well, better late than never, right? As in March, I didn’t read particularly much in April. I’m not really sure why. May is already looking much more promising! I read 11 books in April, which is not that little but isn’t many by my usual standards. But you didn’t come here to read my ramblings… let’s talk books!

I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, obviously.

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The Whisper Man by Alex North. Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start. But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night. As Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumours that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man. And then Jake begins acting strangely. He says he hears whispering outside his window… This was creepy. There’s a little rhyme Jake says and I can just imagine kids freaking themselves out with it! There was a part in the middle that was a bit slow but overall this was a great police procedural/thriller with a hint of the possible supernatural. 4.5 stars.

Girl Friday by Jane Green. A year on from her divorce, Kit Hargrove feels she has got her life back on track. She has the perfect job – working for Robert McClore, the famous novelist – two wonderful children, a good relationship with her ex-husband and time to enjoy yoga with her friends. When her good friend and yoga instructor, Tracy, introduces her to Steve, Kit wonders if he could be the final piece of the jigsaw. But Kit doesn’t know that Tracy is hiding a secret, one that could destroy their friendship, her happiness with Steve, even her new life. I wanted something a bit fluffy after reading two thrillers in row but this was just… too much. Long-lost siblings, conspiracies, neglectful and dramatic mothers. It was a bit like reading the script for a soap opera. I also found the dialogue annoyingly simple. It’s not a terrible book by any means and I did finish it but it was just okay and honestly quite forgettable. Also, this book is supposed to be set in Connecticut didn’t believe for a minute that any of the characters were American! 2.5 stars.

When Mocking Birds Sing by Bill Coffey. Nine-year-old Leah’s invisible friend, who she calls “the Rainbow Man” seems harmless enough at first.  But then she paints a picture she paints for a failed toymaker, and hidden within it are numbers that help him win millions. Suddenly, townspeople are divided between those who see Leah as a prophet and those who are afraid of the danger she represents. Caught in the middle is Leah’s agnostic father, who clashes with a powerful town pastor over Leah’s prophecies and what to do about them. This is labelled as Christian fiction – definitely not my usual sort of read! But it doesn’t feel overly preachy. I found this to be an interesting and well written story. I wanted to know what I’m Earth was happening. I chose to interpret “the Rainbow Man” as neither an imaginary friend nor God but something else – possibly supernatural? Leah in my mind was something like Danny in The Shining. I hated the way most of the characters treated Leah – whatever they thought was or wasn’t happening she’s still just a little girl! I loved her friend Allie though. 4 stars.

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell. Xar is a Wizard boy and Wish is a Warrior princess,in a world where wizards and warriors are mortal enemies. But Xar can’t seem to find his magic and Wish is in possession of a banned Magical Object that she must conceal at all costs. This is the tale of what happens when their two worlds collide. And while the two sides have been fighting could it be that Witches, the most terrifying being to ever walk the Earth, have returned? Wish and Xar are going to have to work together to figure out what’s going on and try to defeat their common enemy. This is a fun book and a quick read. I loved Wish and the sprites and Caliburn but honestly wanted to slap Xar. He’s so arrogant and annoying and just Did. Not. Learn. For supposedly being 13 he acted more like a petulant 8 year old. I also found some parts a little simple – something to do with the writing style maybe. I know it’s meant for children but children really don’t need to be talked down to – they understand quite a lot. It’s still an enjoyable adventure but I’ve read far better children#s books. 3.5 stars.

Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott. Stella Grant likes nothing more than to be in control, despite the fact that her out-of-control lungs have had her in and out of hospital for most of her life. what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions. The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals. Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment. Can they find a way to steal back a tiny bit of what cystic fibrosis has stolen from both of them? Just one little foot can’t hurt that much, right? I listened to the audiobook of this on Scribd and quite enjoyed it. I did find some parts of it unrealistic though – Stella went from thinking Will is arrogant and wanting nothing to do with him to being head over heels in love with him within a matter of maybe three weeks! I’m also not sure they’d be able to run around the hospital all the time however sneaky they thought they were being. But I did mostly enjoy it and it made me cry a couple of times so I gave it 4 stars.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. This is the sequel to Seraphina so I don’t want to say too much about it. Following on from the events of the previous book, war has broken out between the dragons and humans. Now Seraphina must travel the lands to find those like herself (if you’ve read the first one you’ll know what that means). As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another of her own kind, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. With the fate of Goredd and the other human countries hanging in the balance, now she has to make a choice. I didn’t get into this book as quickly as I thought I would. I don’t remember Seraphina being quite so whiny and self-absorbed in the first book (I loved it in this one when Abdo told her not everything is about her!). The result was that it took me a week to read. But I ended up really enjoying it. The world building is spectacular! 4 stars, despite the slow start.

Once by Morris Gleitzman. Felix, a Jewish boy in Poland in 1942, is hiding from the Nazis in a Catholic orphanage. The only thing is, he thinks he’s there because his parents are travelling the world trying to get books for their bookselling business. When Fekix discovers that the Nazis are burning books, he runs away, intent on saving the bookshop – and his parents. Along the way he rescues a girl from a burning building, makes a Nazi with toothache laugh, and refuses to ever give up hope. This book is not enjoyable. Enjoyable is the wrong word. It’s compelling and sad, even horrifying. But strangely uplifting as well. It’s also an extremely fast read (for an adult). I want to continue the series and find out what happens to Felix and Zelda. 5 stars.

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling. Ever since her parents were killed, Posy Morland has spent her life lost in the pages of her favourite romantic novels in a crumbling London bookshop. But when Bookend’s eccentric owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy, she must put down her books and join the real world. Because Posy hasn’t just inherited an ailing business, but also the unwelcome attentions of Lavinia’s grandson, Sebastian, AKA The Rudest Man In London™. Posy has a deadline of six months to get the bookshop back on its feet, and for once she’s pulled her head down out of the clouds and come up with a plan – if only Sebastian would leave her alone to get on with putting it in to practice. As Posy and her friends fight to save their beloved bookshop, Posy’s drawn into a battle of wills with Sebastian, about whom she’s started to have some rather feverish fantasies… I was in the mood got something heartwarming and fluffy and this book certainly delivered. It’s so cute and fun. Obviously it’s predictable – it’s a romance so as soon as a man is described as “annoying and rude” you know the girl is going to end up with him. I really enjoyed their interactions though and it’s set in a bookshop so obviously I was going to love it! It’s definitely not high literature and if I wanted to I could pick many holes in it, but I’m not going to. It was exactly what I needed at the time, and I gave it 5 stars based on sheer enjoyment.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. It is July 1962 and Edward and Florence, young innocents, are spending wedding night at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come – and unbeknownst to them both, the decisions they make this night will resonate throughout their lives. I liked this book. I found it intriguing and, in parts, awkward and disturbing. The cover describes it as “Wonderful, exquisite… devastating” but I wasn’t devastated  – more frustrated at the total inability to communicate and Edward’s seeming callousness. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting little read. 4 stars.

Odd Child Out by Gillian McMillan. Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have been inseparable since the day they met.  But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol’s Feeder Canal, Abdi can’t – or won’t – tell anyone what happened. Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident.  But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle.  Noah is British. Abdi is a Somali refugee.  And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol. Against this background of fear and fury, two families fight for their sons and for the truth. This is a kind of thriller, but you shouldn’t go into it expecting a traditional, fast-paced thriller. Nonetheless, I was hooked from the first page. It’s a story about friendship and being different, and partly also about prejudice. I felt so bad for Abdi. I wasn’t expecting the ending. I hadn’t realised this was book two in a series, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment. 4 stars.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop also offers its customers a unique experience – the chance to travel back in time. There are several catches though – customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold. In this book, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know. I’m torn on this one. I really liked the individual stories of the time travellers, but found I was left wanting more. Why can you go back in time if you sit on “the” chair? What was all the emphasis on how cool the café stayed even in winter all about? It felt like there were hints dropped throughout that there was going to be more to the overall framing story but the book never actually delivered on that – it was more like a series of vaguely connected short stories. I did genuinely enjoy reading the book though. It’s weird and wonderful and I would have been perfectly happy to read another story. And another. 4 stars.

OK, that’s all I’ve got for you today.

TL;DR: If you enjoy thrillers I recommend The Whisper Man. Those who like Children’s books should definitely read Once. Odd Child Out is a great book but be prepared for something slower than your usual thriller. And Five Feet Apart is good if you like YA and are willing to suspend you belief. Read the others if you think they sound like your kind of thing. Except Girl Friday. I do not recommend that one!

And now get thee to the link up for more book reviews.

Believathon II: Journey to the Stronghold

I’ve been looking forward to this readathon for ages,and now I’ve finally finished deciding what I’m  (potentially) going to read.

This readathon takes the form of a “choose-your-own-adventure” story based on a map… this one here:

Believathon II Map

You can find the map in the amazing compendium, which you can download for free here or even buy in book form from Amazon. The compendium features the quest that we’ll be going on as well as recommendations from various bloggers and book-lovers for each of the categories.

This is a two-week readathon that is taking place from 11-24 May and is hosted by Gavin from the YouTube channel How to Train Your Gavin. You can find the Believathon Twitter here.

To allow me to actually follow the choose your own adventure aspect I’ve decided to pick a book for every location then decide spontaneously where to go next after completing each prompt.

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Our journey begins at the Poacher’s Pocket Inn where the prompt is to read the first book in a series. In the tale, you also receive a magic lamp that gives you the chance to skip a location or even go directly to the end so you could potentially read two books for this readathon. Anyway… my choice for this prompt: The Shadows by Jacqueline West, which is the first in the Books of Elsewhere series.

After that, you have a choice of two locations to continue with, then from there another two, etc. Here are the remaining locations and prompts:

The Yellow Brick Road – Read a book you were supposed to read years ago. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Somehow this never crossed my path when I was a child! I had planned to read if for my Master’s dissertation (which I wrote on the translation of children’s literature) but I decided it was too long so it’s been sitting on my bookcase ever since. It’s definitely about time I read it! (Confession: I actually have the original German as well since for my dissertation I would have had to read both, but since it’s long I’m cheating and reading the English translation for Believathon.)

Baba Yaga’s House – Read a book featuring a family relationship. In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll is about a girl being sent to stay with her grandmother while her little brother has a heart transplant so I’m assuming her relationship with her grandma comes into it somewhere.

The Wonderfalls – Read a book featuring a disability. The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti. This features a girl who is losing her sight and it comes highly recommended by Gavin himself.

100 Acre Wood – Read a book with yellow on the cover. High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson. There’s not much yellow but it’s definitely there!

High-Rise Mystery

The Deepwoods – Read a book that was published before 2000. Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett combines three books published in 1948, 1950 and 1951. Slightly before 2000!

Mermaids’ Lagoon – Read a book featuring a female bond. Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James. Tsam recommended this book for this prompt in the compendium so clearly it must fit.

The Brolly Rail – Read a book featuring transportation or with transportation on the cover. The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. There’s a train on the cover! (And possibly in the book?)

Platform 13

Orion Found – Read a sci-fi book or a book related to space. I’m actually reading the book that inspired the location for this one, Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm. This is also the middle grade monthly book for May.

Black Ice Bridge – Read a book featuring an expedition or adventure. The Pirates Eye by Guy Bass. The second Stitch Head book. In this one our tiny hero sets sail on a big adventure on the high seas!

Finally, we end up at The Book-Keeper’s Stronghold with the prompt to read the next book in a series. I will finally be reading The Battle of Perfect by Helena Duggan, the third and last book in the Perfect series. I can’t wait to see how it ends!

So I will definitely be reading the first and last books on this list, and in between those… We shall see where my quest takes me. I’m really excited for all of these books so I may just end up reading the ones I don’t get to after Believathon is over.

Have I inspired you to take part in Believathon? Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought!

What I read in March 2020

Hello friends! It’s book day again. I only have one post for you this month because I read way fewer books in March then in January or February. Ironic considering I had an entire week off work when I couldn’t actually leave the house so would theoretically have had lots of time to read. But I actually spent most of that week making Easter cards to send out to Post Pals children so I didn’t read as much as I would have liked. I did manage 12 books though, so let’s get into them.

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The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos. The women in Ruby Chernyavsky’s family,once had great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, until they were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them. Now all that remains of their former power is one thing: when each woman comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies – a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable. Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time -or so they think. Then Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible. But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope. I enjoyed the beginning of this book, then the middle kind of lost my attention and I was honestly bored. Towards the end it started to pick up again and I was racing through it, then it was just kind of over and nothing was resolved. An open ending is one thing but this just felt unfinished. So 2.5 stars, an absolutely middle of the road rating

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual. Trapped in a shared office together 40 (okay, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything – especially when the chance of a huge promotion comes up. If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong. Maybe Lucy doesn’t hate Joshua after all. And maybe the feeling is mutual. Or is this all just yet another game? I really enjoyed this book. It’s so fun. I stayed up too late to finish it and I regret nothing. There are a fair few clichés and Lucy is Just. So. Dramatic. about everything, but I enjoyed the ride. 4 stars.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox. When Katherine Bateson’s father goes off to join the war, and her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, she tries her best to remember her father’s words: Keep calm and carry on. But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear? Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harbouring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbours – and who Lady Eleanor really is – before it’s too late. This is a a creepy book and I found the magic really interesting. Some of the characters were a bit inconsistent – Kat’s little sister Amelie in particular acted like a 5 year old half the time but then had moments of seeming not much younger than Kat. Having two storylines at the same time felt like a bit much at times some parts felt rushed and not properly explained. It was a quick read and I would probably have loved it as a child and not notice the parts that were lacking, but reading it now I gave it 3 stars.

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson. On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father in what the police believe to be suicide. Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way. Who really is his father’s much younger second wife and what does her past have to do with Harry’s present? This book is fast-paced and unsettling but ultimately predictable. There’s a lot of taboo sex and some characters who seem to be not so much evil as just entirely lacking normal human emotions but beyond all that not much of an underlying plot. I didn’t even particularly care about the main character who was supposed to be the good guy! However, the writing was good and I did kind of enjoy the ride. It’s just not a particularly great book in my opinion. 3 stars.

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison.  Betty Widdershins’ greatest ambition is to leave Crowstone, the gloomy island where she’s always lived and find adventure out in the wide world. But instead of an adventure, Betty and her sisters, Fliss and Charlie, are given of a set of magical objects, each with its own powers: a scruffy carpet bag, a set of wooden nesting dolls, and a gilt-framed mirror. And these magical objects come with their own terrible secret: the sisters’ family is haunted by a generations-long curse that prevents them from ever leaving their island—at the cost of death. The sisters are determined to break the curse and free their family. But after stumbling upon a mysterious prisoner who claims to be able to help them, they find themselves in great danger. And in order to break the curse – and stay alive – they must unravel a mystery that goes back centuries. A magical and atmospheric book with a fantastic sibling relationship at its core. I loved Betty, the main character, but I think my favourite sister is actually Charlie, the youngest. Fliss sadly felt less developed than the other two and came across as being boy crazy and not much else, which let the book down for me. But overall I really enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Born a Crime: Stores from a South-African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was illegal, and punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. My friend bought me this book to aid with my goal to read more non-fiction. It’s an absolutely fascinating insight into a world that I know nothing about. I had no idea who Trevor Noah even was before reading this but it doesn’t even matter. I was drawn in to his story from the very first line and I cried at the end. Even if you don’t normally read non-fiction I highly recommend this book. 5 stars.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman, Fitz grows up a lonely outcast. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as With brings him solace and companionship. Until the day King Shrewd is reminded of Fitz’s existence and adopts him into the royal family. Now he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving the people Forged and soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much a risk to himself as it does to his target: Fitz is a threat to the throne… but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom. This is a pretty slow book. There’s very little action for being literally about the training of an assassin! It also took ages to finally explain what the magic known as “Skill” is supposed to be and I was so confused! But the writing is really good and I loved the characters. Especially the Fool. I hope there’s more of him in the next book because I’m so intrigued to find out what’s going on with him. He’s such a mystery and seems to know so much. 4 stars.

The Radleys by Matt Haig. Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anaemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. But as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret. When Clara is attacked one night and finds herself driven to commit a bloodthirsty act, her parents are forced to explain a few things. This book was fine. I can’t really point to anything specific that was wrong with it. But when I put it down I wasn’t excited to pick it up again – which is a large part of the reason I read so few books in March. I didn’t particularly feel anything for the characters. It’s not a bad book, just not for me I guess. 2.5 stars.

A Sprinkle of Sorcery by Michelle Harrison. The sequel to A Pinch of Magic. The family curse has been lifted and the Widdershins sisters: Betty, Fliss and Charlie are finally free to leave the prison island of Crowstone. But when a mysterious girl arrives at the Poacher’s Pocket with a pocketful of hagstones and accompanied by a will-o’-the-wisp, it seems another adventure has landed on their doorstep. And when Charlie goes missing, it’s up to Betty and Fliss to save their little sister. And this begins a journey through misty marches, past wisp catchers and on to a secret island that doesn’t exist on any map. I enjoyed this book even more than the first one. It’s an action-packed adventure full of magic and mystery, pirates and witches. Fliss felt like more of a real person and less of a cliché in this one – but I still like Charlie best. 4.5 stars

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell in love with him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope. Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world. I saw so many people reading and loving this Beauty and the Beast retelling last year and at the beginning of this year. And for me at least it was worth the hype. I LOVED it! Harper is fantastic – nothing gets in her way. I loved Rhen and Grey as well. I will definitely read the sequel. I would love to see more of Noah – he seems awesome! I have the sequel now and I will be reading it very soon. 5 stars.

This is Now by Ciara Geraghty. It was just an ordinary Monday at an ordinary bank, in an ordinary town. There was no way of knowing what was about to happen. Then a group of masked robbers rushed in. Afterwards …The first thing Martha thinks about is having a drink. There are six reasons why she shouldn’t; she wrote them down over a year ago. Two of the reasons are the same. A name. She didn’t think she’d ever see him again. Roman, a fourteen year old Polish immigrant, is on the run. From the police. From Jimmy and his gang. He understands now, what it means to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Tobias, old and alone, lies in a hospital bed in Dublin where the memories of Dresden are insistent visitors. And for Cillian, the detective investigating the robbery, the past is like a current, pulling him back, reminding him of all he’d had. All he’d lost. Each of the four is running from the moments that brought them here. To a place where the past cannot be undone and the future cannot be known. A place called now. I really liked the characters and the writing style of this book, although it felt like there were maybe a few too many characters and storylines. There were a lot of hard-hitting issues and it felt like some of them were glossed over a bit and not dealt with in enough depth. Particularly Roman’s story seemed to be resolved very simply, it was almost a side-issue that was slotted in alongside what seemed to be the main plot – a will they/won’t they romance. I did enjoy reading the book though. 3.5 stars – no masterpiece but passed the time just fine.

The Scent of Death by Simon Becket. It has been a good summer for forensics expert Dr David Hunter. His relationship is going well and he’s in demand again as a police consultant. His life seems to be on an even keel. Then a call comes from an old associate: a body has been found, and she’d like Hunter to take a look. Empty and abandoned, St Jude’s Hospital has been slowly rotting for years, silently awaiting demolition. The vast, oppressive building’s only visitors have been society’s outcasts, addicts and dealers. And it’s here that the partially mummified corpse has been discovered. Hunter is not sure how long the body has been hidden in the hospital’s cavernous loft, but he’s seen enough to know it’s a young woman. And that she was pregnant. As the remains are removed for closer examination, a floor collapses revealing a previously sealed off part of a ward. Bricked up inside this hidden chamber are three beds. Two of them are occupied. What other grisly secrets will St Jude’s reveal? The local community is alarmed and the police need answers. For David Hunter, what began as a challenging if straightforward case is about to become a twisted nightmare threatening him and those around him. This is book six in a series, but as with most series of this kind, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the previous books. I guessed some of what was happening but not everything. I’m not sure I will go out of my way to pick up the earlier books in the series (I already have a long to-read list!) but if I came across one I would read it. It’s a decent crime/procedural novel. 4 stars.

TL;DR. If you’re into romance – or rom coms – read The Hating Game. And read A Curse So Dark and Lonely if fantasy romance is your thing. Children and fans of middle grade should definitely read the two Michelle Harrison books – A Pinch of Magic and A Sprinkle of Sorcery. I also highly recommend Born A Crime even if you don’t usually read non-fiction. Assassin’s Apprentice is good if you don’t mind slow fantasy with lots of world building and little action, and The Scent of Death is a decent crime novel in the police procedural genre (although the main character is not actually a police officer so there isn’t too much detecting going on). The rest are fine… none are terrible. If they sound interesting to you read them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend any of them.

That’s it from me. Let me know if you’ve read any of these.

I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, of course. You should go and check out the link up and what everyone else has been reading recently.

What I read in February 2020: part 2

Hello hello! I promised you the second half of my February reading re-cap today so here it is. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books of course.

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Malice by Keigo Higashino. Best-selling author is found brutally murdered in his home the night before he’s planning on leaving Japan for Canada. His body is found in a locked room in a locked house by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have seemingly rock solid alibis. Police Detective Kyochiro Haga immediately recognises the dead man’s best friend Osamu Nonoguchi as a colleague from years ago when they were both teachers. As Kaga investigates, he discovers that Nonoguchi’s relationship with the deceased was far from being as amiable as he claims. But in this tale of cat and mouse, the question Kaga has to answer isn’t necessarily who or how, but why? This is interesting. I don’t think I’ve read a mystery quite like it before. We find out relatively early on who the culprit was, with the rest of the book being dedicated to why. It ends up being almost a puzzle within a puzzle. The writing style is fairly simple and straightforward, almost irritatingly so at first although once I got into the story it didn’t bother me do much and I can’t say how much of that was down to the translator. 3.5 stars.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. This book is exactly what it says it is – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Princess Bride by the actor who played Westley. I found it fascinating and loved every page of it. 5 stars.

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially now her senior year is about to start. She’s looking forward to spending lots of time with her friends and finishing off her college applications. And maybe she’ll even finally tell her best friend Sebastian that she’s been in love with him for years. But then one night she makes a simple mistake that has devastating consequences. Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow any more. Not when nothing is ever going to be the same again. Not when nobody, including Sebastian will ever be able to forgive her for what happened. For what she let happen. I found this kind of boring and cliché. As soon as I heard the prologue, I knew what the “decision” was going to be (and by the way, I hate it when prologues are literally just an extract from later in the book). The message is important and I loved the character of Sebastian, but Lena really annoyed me. The whole first half of the book is about how she’s “different” because she reads books and the fact that she reads must have been mentioned about 80 times… including descriptions of the book she’s reading (that makes her oh so quirky and different because even if other people do read, they’re reading other things). There were some parts I really enjoyed but ultimately this felt like something that’s been done before and done better. I don’t expect it to stick in my memory for long. I should add that I listened to this on Scribd and the person reading really annoyed me. She made Lena sound like this breathy, annoying teen which surely is the opposite of what was supposed to be implied? Regardless, 2.5 stars.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. Born in a Soweto shack in 1961, Nombeko Mayeki was destined for a short, hard life,. until she was run over by a drunken engineer and her luck changed. Alive, but blamed for the accident, she was made to work for the engineer – who happened to be in charge of a project vital to South Africa’s security. Nombeko was good at cleaning, but brilliant at understanding numbers. The drunken engineer wasn’t good at anything, except drinking, and so he made a mistake. A big one. And Nombeko is the only one who knows. Now she finds herself on the run from the world’s most ruthless secret service – with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden – and the world – rests on her shoulders. I don’t even know what to say about this book. It’s utterly bizarre. I enjoyed roughly the first half, but then it just got more and more ridiculous until I found myself wishing the author would get to the point already. The writing style is strangely reminiscent of a children’s book, which I actually didn’t mind. Three stars because I did like quite a bit of it, but I felt like it went on for far too long. Even when it seemed to be coming to a conclusion the author just had to keep adding more and more random details!

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald. When Abi receives a phone call in the middle of the night, she knows it can’t be good news. But she isn’t expecting to hear that her teenage daughter has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s also pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. Then Abi sees the bruises around Olivia’s wrist. When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, it’s up to Abi to try and find out what happened to her daughter. Was it really an accident? Or something more sinister? enjoyed this book. It’s very suspenseful and full of twists. More mystery/family drama than thriller but that’s okay. It’s marketed as an adult book but honestly it read like YA to me. But again, I’m okay with that. I did not guess what happened although in retrospect I probably should have. If you often guess the outcome of thrillers you may find this one too predictable. 3.5 stars.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she doesn’t mind. She’s happy to go to school and work towards her dream of becoming a teacher one day. A spanner is thrown in the works when Amal’s mother falls ill after giving birth and Amal has to stay home to look after her siblings. But she still finds a way to learn anyway. Until she accidentally annoys the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, and is forced to work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt. Life at the opulent Khan estate ishard  for Amal – especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams. This is a powerful and thought-provoking book. Some of the characters felt a little flat but Amal and her sister are awesome (I loved the part where her sister brought lessons home and wanted to teach Amal so she didn’t have to miss out). Amal is so brave. I think this is an important topic for children to read about but parents or teachers should be ready to discuss it and answer any questions. I wouldn’t just leave them on their own with it. 4 stars.

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan. When twins Arthur and Rose were little, they were heroes in the Land of Roar – an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their granddad’s attic, filled with dragons and mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure. As well as things that scared them… especially a very creepy scarecrow names Crowky. Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory – especially for Rose who considers herself too old for games. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Granddad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or could Roar actually be real? It’s up to the twins to return to Roar one last time to save their granddad. I flew through this book in two hours so I must have liked it! The world is fantastic – so magical. It reminded me of Narnia crossed with Peter Pan. The pictures are also amazing. Crowky, the evil scarecrow/bird mixture looks genuinely creepy! I would *not* want to bump into him! However, I really did not like Rose. She was supposed to have turned into this horrid girl who just wanted to grow up and worried about what people thought of her, but it didn’t sound like she was a nice person when she still played with Arthur either. It is definitely enjoyable and I do want to read the sequel when it comes put but it’s just a little weaker than some of the excellent children’s books I’ve read over the past few months. 4 stars,

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks it will be an easy way to make some money – show up, answer a few questions and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly. For some reason I was under the impression that Jess and Dr. Shields knew who each other was from the start and were manipulating each other, but that’s actually not the case at all, so I’m not sure where I got that from. Anyway, the beginning of this was quite slow but from about the halfway mark I was hooked. Parts of it are genuinely creepy and I found myself actually afraid for Jess’s safety. Some parts are unrealistic and I wasn’t sure about the ending, but overall I enjoyed the ride. 3.5 stars.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. Fifteen-year-old Ellie was her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone. Now it’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter. And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet, making her think that maybe she can actually move on – at least until she spends the night at Floyd’s house and meets his nine-year-old-daughter. Poppy is precocious and pretty – and the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back. What happened to Ellie? Where did she go? This is very suspenseful and full of twists and turns. I guessed some of the twists but there were a few things I wasn’t expecting, and it didn’t matter anyway because the writing alone made me want to keep reading. The ending made me really emotional – poor Ellie (and Poppy too). 4 stars.

Poppy Mayberry, The Monday by Jennie K. Brown. Imagine if your teacher could read your mind just because she was born on a Thursday? Or the kid next to you in class could turn back the clock just because he was a ‘Wednesday’? In the town of Nova, all of this is normal. Poppy Mayberry is a Monday, which means she should be able to move things with her mind… but her Monday telekinesis still has some kinks, and that plate of spaghetti she’s passing may just end up on someone’s head. And if that wasn’t bad enough, practically perfect Ellie Preston is out to get her, and Principal Wible wants to send both of them to summer school – Poppy to work on her powers and Ellie to learn when not to use hers. It’s enough to make a girl want to disappear…if only she were a Friday! This book is so cute and fun! I love the idea of having powers based on the day of the week you were born on (although I was born on a Saturday so I wouldn’t get any powers in Nova. Boo!) I did guess where some of the story was going – there were enough hints throughout! – and it was obvious that Poppy and Ellie would end up being friends, but it was a really enjoyable read. I definitely want to read book 2 and see how things continue to develop. 4 stars.

And that’s it. Ten books here plus ten from part 1 makes 20 books read in February. Not bad for a short month. I also decided to give up on a book I started two years ago (!). Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark is a book I started reading with the intention of seeing whether it was something my brother might like, but said brother is 13 now, I put this book down in April 2018 after 120 pages and I have no desire to pick it back up. I felt like it was trying too hard to be quirky and funny and nerdy and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters. So off to the free bookcase it goes.

TL;DR. If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride definitely read As You Wish! Then She Was Gone is really well written but don’t go in expecting a traditional thriller. And I recommend all three middle grades: Amal Unbound, The Land of Roar and Poppy Mayberry, although none was a five star read for me. The rest are mostly fine – read them if you like the sound of them – except If There’s No Tomorrow. I don’t recommend that one.

Tell me what books you’ve been enjoying recently, and don’t forget to check out the link up if you haven’t already.

What I read in February 2020: Part 1

Hello friends! Even though February was a short month, I managed to read a lot, so I am splitting my book round-up into two again. As you can tell, this is part 1. I will publish part 2 next week, on Show Us Your Books day and link both up with Steph and Jana. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

The Toymakers

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver. Liesl lives all alone in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother, with only the shadows and mice for company. But then a ghost named Po and his pet, Bundle, appear from the darkness. That same evening, an alchemist’s apprentice named Will, accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable. That innocent mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey. I found this book randomly on Scribd and thought it sounded cute. I ended up really liking it. It’s a story about grief but it’s magical and adorable. I loved the characters – Bundle is my favourite ♡. There are some cliché elements and the good and bad characters are very much black and white, but nonetheless it’s an enjoyable and fast read. 3.5 stars.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn’t help it – Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn’t fit anywhere else. Then one day, after a silly argument, Jack stops talking to Hazel. Then he disappeared into the forest with a mysterious woman in white. Now it’s up to Hazel to go into the woods too and rescue him, because that’s what friends do – even if Jack doesn’t want to be friends any more. This is a retelling of The Snow Queen, but because of the title I kept thinking it should be Hansel and Gretel! Anyway, this is such a sad book. I felt really bad for Hazel, not fitting in and not being able to understand why (it’s because the rest of them are sheep and you are awesome!). Once Hazel entered the woods/other world, I loved all the references to other fairytales and stories, and how the author turned them on their heads and nothing was as it seemed. 4 stars.

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter… It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment. The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into the midst of this family business comes young Cathy Wray, a girl with a secret, running away from a shameful past. But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own… My friend gave me this book for Christmas 2018 and it took me way too long to get around to reading it. When I finally did, I was expecting something magical and wonderful and escapist. And the first half truly is . I felt so nostalgic for my own childhood. Then it gets darker… war comes and some people end up changed forever. The second half of the book absolutely devastated me. There is also a theme of sibling jealously running throughout, and I honestly may never forgive one character for what he did. Nonetheless, I 100% recommend. 5 stars.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson. When daydreamer Clementine discovers a mysterious house standing in the middle of town that was never there before, she is pulled towards it by a powerful sense that it has something to do with the mother who left when she was very young. Inside, she finds the house full snowglobes, each containing a trapped magician, watched over by Gan, the bitter keeper of the house. Inside one of the globes is Dylan, a boy who teases her at school but now needs her help. So Clem ventures into the snowglobes, rescuing Dylan and discovering her own powerful connection to the magic of these thousand worlds. This is very magical and I loved the parts where Clem and Dylan were journeying through all the different snowglobes. Clementine’s relationship with her father is lovely. But Dylan’s story felt somewhat lacking, like it had been tacked on to provide a reason for Clem to enter the snowglobes in the first place. It’s still an enjoyable read, I just feel like more could have been made of it. 3.5 stars

Greenglass House by Kate Milford. It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his Christmas holidays relaxing. But on that first icy night, the guest bell rings. Then rings again, and again. Soon Milo’s home is full of mysterious guests each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and his new friend Meddy must untangle the clues and investigate the mystery to discover the truth about Greenglass House. I absolutely adored this book. It’s so fun! Milo is a fantastic character and it was great to see his confidence develop throughout the book. I also loved that his (adopted) parents are there throughout the story, albeit busy trying to run an inn. There’s no conveniently getting the parents out of the way so the kids can investigate like in so many children’s books – Milo has to sneak around a lot and he does end up getting in trouble a couple of times! This would have been a perfect Christmas read. If I wasn’t on a book buying ban I would definitely have devoured the sequel by now. 5 stars.

Nevertell by Katherine Orton. Twelve-year-old Lina was born in a Soviet labour camp, a place of hunger, cruelty, and deprivation, and has never known the world outside. Then one night she escapes with her best friend Bogden, into the frigid Siberian winter, vowing to find her way to Moscow and her long-lost grandmother who she hopes will help her rescue her mother. But out in the snowy wilderness, the pair are soon pursued by a vengeful sorceress and her pack of shadow wolves. The children will need every ounce of courage – and a whisper of magic – if they are to survive. This is a fast-paced and magical adventure. I felt like some of the characters could have been developed a bit more but I loved Lina. The atmospheric writing is excellent – I could really picture the snowy conditions. I wasn’t sure about the ending though. 3.5 stars.

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. Fiftenn-year-old Zoe has a secret. A dark, terrible secret that she can’t tell to anyone she knows. Then one day she hears about a criminal, Stuart Harris, who is on death row in Texas. Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder. So Zoe starts writing him letters, telling her story and confessing the secrets that keep her awake at night. I enjoyed reading this book. There is an issue with consent at the beginning that is never actually resolved and Zoe makes a lot of stupid decisions. So many things could have been resolved if she had just communicated with people. Lots of typical teenage drama that could have been avoided. But despite that something about it kept me reading. And honestly the drama is very realistic – I know my friends and I had a lot of drama as teens that could easily have been resolved if we weren’t all so ridiculous. I absolutely LOVED the glimpses into Zoe’s family and her sibling relationships. I don’t think this book would be for everybody, but despite the few issues I had with it, I’m giving this 4 stars.

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens. It’s the school holidays and Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are taking a trip on the famous Orient Express. From the moment the girls step aboard, it’s clear that everyone in the first-class carriages has something to hide. Then there is a scream from one of the cabins, and a wealthy heiress is found dead, But the killer has vanished – as if into thin air. Daisy and Hazel are faced with their first ever locked room mystery – and with several other sleuths on the case, they are determined to be the ones that solve it! I’m really enjoying this series. This is book 3, and I think it’s my favourite in the series so far. It’s great fun and a wonderful tribute to Agatha Christie. I enjoyed seeing Hazel’s father in this one and I liked how it incorporated some of the background issues of the political situation in Europe at the time without getting bogged down in too much detail. I also like how this book addressed xenophobia and the way people who are different are treated – it was a bit of a theme in the first two books, but it really comes into play here. I’m looking forward to continuing the series. 4.5 stars.

Nooks and Crannies by Jessica lawson. She, sweet Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, although her horrible parents think the only thing she’s good at is being a nuisance. Her only friend is her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom. Then one day Tabitha and five other children receive a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere. None of them sure why they’ve been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed. When the children start disappearing, all Tabitha’s investigative skills are put to the test as she attempts to solve the case and rescue what just might be her first ever real friends. This is such a fun mystery! I loved the descriptions of the house – especially the library. I want it! Tabitha is a fantastic character (with truly horrible parents – think Roald Dahl style). Her pet mouse is awesome and I really enjoyed all her detecting. There was at least one Americanism that threw me out of the story briefly (I don’t think “trash” was British English even hundreds of years ago) but that’s a minor detail. I also guessed part of the reveal and I thought the ending was a bit too happily-ever-after but I had so much fun reading it. A fully deserved 4 stars.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. It doesn’t matter that Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma’s already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care – the new book club is scheduled to meet every month and the girls will attend. But what begins as a mom-imposed ritual of reading Little Women soon helps four unlikely friends navigate all the drama of middle school – from stolen diaries to fashion-fiascos. This is a cute read. I enjoyed the facts about Little Women and Louisa May Alcott interspersed throughout the books. There were a couple of things I wasn’t happy about – remarks are made about one character based on her weight, including by adults. This particular person isn’t very nice but I feel like making fun of her size instead of calling out her meanness is a bad message. There’s also a totally cliché environmentalist character. Even as a non-vegan I know it is actually possible to make food that is both healthy/vegan and tasty! However, it is a fun and fast read. If you want to give it a go, I recommend reading Little Women first otherwise you will be spoiled. 3 stars.

So, that is 10 books and somehow 8 of them are children’s/middle grade books (Ketchup Clouds is young adult). Not intentional, I promise! For those who couldn’t be bothered to read all of the above:

TL;DR. I highly, highly recommend The Toymakers. It is magical and wonderful and devastating all at once and I loved it. I also highly recommend Greenglass House for fan’s of children’s books (and actual children, of course). And if you haven’t discovered the Murder Most Unladylike series yet and you’re into mysteries check that out. None of the books I read this month were really bad though, so if any of them sound like your thing then do check them out.

I shall return next week with reviews of the other ten books I read in February.

What I read in January 2020: Part 2

Hello! As promised, I am now going to recap the rest of the books I read in January. And of course I am linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books.

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Jemima Small Versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter. Jemima Small just wants to fit in. But it’s hard when she’s the exact opposite of her name – she#s sick of everyone at school calling her “Jemima Big”. Being forced to join the school health group – aka Fat Club – doesn’t exactly make things better. And she can’t even apply for her favourite TV show without worrying everyone will laugh – even though she knows she has a good chance of winning. But Jemima also knows that the biggest stars in the universe are the brightest. So maybe it’s her time to shine. I loved everything about this book! Well, I didn’t love the bullying, obviously, but I did love how Jemima dealt with it and realised what was important. Some of the other characters aren’t as well fleshed out (like the others who are singled out as being overweight/forced to join the so-called “fat club”) but Jemima herself is fantastic. I also loved Jasper, her big brother – despite being annoying and occasionally joining in on the teasing he did seem to love her and want to look out for her, and her friend Miki is amazing. 4.5 stars.

Pog by Pádraig Kenny. David and Penny’s strange new home is surrounded by forest. It’s the childhood home of their mother, who’s recently died. But other creatures live here too. Magical creatures – like Pog. He’s one of the First Folk, charged with protecting the boundary between the worlds. As the children explore, they discover monsters slipping through from the place on the other side of the cellar door. Meanwhile, David is drawn into the woods by something darker that lures him in with promising that there is a way to bring his mother back. This is a story about grief and monsters that’s surprisingly creepy at times (for a children’s book) but also heart warming. I would love a friend like Pog! 4 stars.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.” It’s also famous for being the scene of a crime – shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed “Truly, Devious.” Now true-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan. She intends to solve this cold case. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. Now Stevie finds herself investigating two mysteries. After seeing many rave reviews of this book I was expecting to love this book. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it – enough to read about two thirds in one sitting then finish it in my lunch break the next day – but I wasn’t completely bowled over. I liked Stevie a lot, and also some of her fellow students. And I’m intrigued by the mysteries but parts of the book were pretty slow. Also, I’m annoyed by the ending. Cliff hangers are one thing but this felt like the author had run out of time or something. It was just so abrupt! I wish someone had warned me not to start this one unless I could read book 2 immediately. Nonetheless, 4 stars.

Tilly and the Time Machine by Adrian Edmonson. When seven-year-old Tilly’s dad builds a time machine in the shed and asks her what time he should take her back to, there’s really only one answer. She wants to go back to her sixth birthday party, when she ate too many cupcakes and her mummy was still here. But then something goes wrong! Tilly’s dad gets stuck in the past and only she can save him! Thus starts an exciting journey through time. Will Tilly and her dad make it back in time for tea? This book is so cute and fun (but also emotional). Tilly is very resourceful – she reminded me a bit of Kevin from the Home Alone films, but nicer and better behaved. A fantastic time travelling adventure children at the younger end of middle grade (probably around 6+). 4 stars. (Oh, and apparently those with more cultural awareness than me will have heard of Adrian Edmondson from his role in the TV series The Young Ones.)

Tilly

Wormwood Gate by Katherine Farmar. Aisling and Julie are bickering, as usual, when they are almost run over by a white horse with a red mane. Suddenly, they find themselves somewhere else… in a city that’s Dubmin, but not quite. Three castles for three Queens blaze on the horizon and pigeons and seagulls are at war with one another. Can Aisling and Julie find the Wormwood Gate and get back to Mortal Realms? And could it be possible that they like each other more than they first thought? This book has a few bad reviews on Goodreads (although in fairness it currently only has 12 reviews total), but I actually quite liked it. The world building could have been more detailed but it was a quick, fun read with nods to folklore and other stories (I liked the white rabbit). It’s not exactly a fantasy masterpiece but not everything has to be! A high 3 stars.

So Long At the Fair by Christina Schwarz. Is it possible to be in love with two women at the same time? This is a question Jon has been asking himself frequently these days. He’s loved is wife Ginny ever since they were back at school together and he was afraid to even talk to her. But recently, he’s been becoming increasingly infatuated with his Freddi, his colleague at the ad agency, where late-night brainstorming sessions devolve into giggles and sexual attraction. This book covers one day in Ginny, Freddi and Jon’s lives, while also weaving in stories from their families’ past. This book is quite honestly boring. I finished it because I was in a train with nothing else to read and the writing is decent, but I honestly couldn’t have cared less about the story. The affair is totally cliche and the story from the past seemed entirely unnecessary. The original synopsis says ” Ginny is getting closer and closer to a thirty year olds secret” but there’s never even the slightest hint of her finding out anything about the past. Only the reader realises what went on! 2 stars.

Still Falling by Sheena Wilkinson. Luke falls. He’s new in school, and on his first day, he has an epileptic fit in front of the whole class. As it turns out, he has much bigger issues too. Esther falls. In love. It’s wonderful – but there’s a shadow that she can’t identify and she can’t make go away just by loving Luke. Luke’s experience has taught him to despise himself; Esther’s self-belief is fragile. And love is not as easy as it looks. Will they be still falling at the end of term? I liked this book well enough but I didn’t love it. The two main characters are interesting but I didn’t like how a particular situation was resolved, or not really resolved to be honest. Part of the reason I picked this book up is because it’s set in Belfast and that part I did like – it’s a nice change to read about teens who are neither American nor English! 3 stars.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry. This was a reread – I read it for the first time five years ago. Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part-time as a delivery girl at Pete’s Pizza. One night, Kayla – another delivery girl – goes missing, having swapped shifts with Gabie. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working. Unable to get past the thought that she was supposed to be the actual victim, Gabie becomes obsessed with finding Kayla and teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete’s. Together they set out to prove that Kayla isn’t dead – and hopefully to find her before she is. This is a fast-paced book that had me hooked from the very beginning. I didn’t remember most of what happened from my first read. I really liked the mixed media approach with interviews, newspaper articles, etc. I feel like some parts could have gone into more depth but overall it’s a good read. 3.5 stars.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to move into their minivan… again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s Jackson’s old imaginary friend. Now he’s back in Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything? Considering this book is literally called Crenshaw, the imaginary cat features surprisingly little. Instead it’s a sweet but sad book about a boy who is terrified of becoming homeless again and feels like he has to be the adult in his family because his parents won’t take anything seriously. It seemed to dwell on the past a lot with Jackson’s memories of when the family had to live in a minivan before – I would have liked to have seen more of the present day situation and especially of his friend Marisol who seemed awesome! Not as good as The One and Only Ivan but still a good read. It would be a good way to introduce topics like homelessness and poverty to children. Also, I listened to this on Scribd while cleaning so I do wonder if I might have got into it more if I actually read it? 3 stars anyway.

Chances by Freya North. When Vita’s relationship with Tim ended, they both knew they had to move on but Vita’s struggling to come to terms with Tim’s new girlfriend. And the fact that she and Tim own a gift shop together doesn’t exactly help matters! Meanwhile, active and outdoorsy Oliver runs his tree-surgery business as calmly as his home – but his love life is intensely private. When Vita and Oliver’s paths cross at a pear tree, he seems to her to be the perfect man. But  will she ever be able to compete with the memories of his late wife? As spring turns into summer, both Vita and Oliver are given choices and chances. But will they take them – or walk away? I have enjoyed Freya North books in the past but this one was just okay. The main character, Vita, is supposed to be this amazingly sweet human being who everybody loves (literally there’s a scene where someone shouts at her on the phone and it’s all “she didn’t know how to react –  nobody ever shouted at Vita”), but for the first half of the book I honestly just found her annoying. Things improved once Vita and Oliver finally got together and I loved Jonty, the teenage son, but overall this book is distinctly average. 2.5 stars.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby seems to have it all. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life, Gatsby is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon, this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel. lot of people seem to love this but for me it was meh. I just didn’t care about any of the characters or what they did. The writing is good but the story is boring – as evidenced by the fact that it took me 3 days to read (and my copy was only 192 pages long). I honestly only finished it because it’s on the BBC Big Read. Meh. 2 stars.

TL;DR. Again, I don’t have loads that I would wholeheartedly recommend, but this half is definitely better than part 1! Jemima Small Versus the Universe is fantastic if you’re into middle grade/YA (it’s kind of between the two… older middle grade and younger teens). I also recommend Pog and Tilly and the Time Machine if you’re into children’s books – or have kids to share them with. Maybe Crenshaw as well. Truly Devious is a decent enough mystery but make sure you have book 2 on hand to avoid being completely disappointed with the lack of any sort of reveal at the end!

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for you. Check out the link up for more book reviews!

What I read in January 2020: Part 1

One month of reading is done already and it was a good one in terms of quantity. Quality… I shall let you see for yourself. There were a couple of gems in there but also some duds. Since I managed a whole 22 books, I’ve decided to split my recap up again, so this will be part one and part two will be published tomorrow (hopefully!), which also happens to be Show Us Your Books day. I will then link up both posts with Jana and Steph. Sounds good? Okay. Let’s get on with it then.

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Into the Forest by Jean Hegland. Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbour, sisters Nell and Eva experienced a near-idyllic childhood. Despite the fact that their happy world is rocked when their mother dies of cancer, they and their father are determined to carry on even as society gradually decays and collapses around them. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas and groceries are nowhere to be found. When their father is killed in an accident, and a dangerous stranger arrives at their door, the girls are forced to confront the fact that they must find some new way to grow into adulthood. I loved the writing style and really enjoyed the beginning, then there’s a disturbing event in the middle (*SPOILER* and I’m not even talking about the rape scene that occurs randomly out of nowhere!). Then the end is just bizarre. I still enjoyed the experience of reading it, I’m just not convinced about the events of the story. 3.5 stars.

My Mum Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson. Jess and Tracy Beaker are the perfect team. Jess thinks Tracy is the best mum ever (even when Tracy shouts at her teachers). Tracy is fun and daring, but she also works hard to give Jess the family home she desperately wanted when growing up in the Dumping Ground. Their flat may be small and a bit mouldy, but they’ve made it a home anyway. But when Sean Godfrey –Tracy’s rich new boyfriend – comes onto the scene, Jess is worried things are going to change. What if Sean wants to turn Jess’s brilliant mum into a new person altogether? Sean’s superstar mansion and fancy cars might have been Tracy’s childhood dream, but maybe the Beakers’ perfect home was right in front of them all along. I loved watching the Tracy Beaker TV series back when I was at university (yes I was too old for it; no I didn’t care), and I enjoyed the original books when I read them for the BBC Big Read a few years ago. So when I saw that there was a new one, I both wanted to find out what had happened to Tracy and was apprehensive that it might ruin the originals. As it turned out, I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as the earlier Tracy Beaker books but it was nice to revisit her as an adult and learn what she’s up to now. The book is written from Tracy’s daughter’s perspective and I kept being thrown out of the story when she used words and phrases that I couldn’t imagine any ten year old saying – no matter how intelligent. It was a nice quick nostalgic read though. 3.5 stars. (But a better 3.5 than the last one. Hmm. Ratings are hard.)

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone. Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s exactly the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes – meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. But plain Jane is not all she seems, and nothing can distract her from going straight for Steven’s heart. She will allow herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, insinuate herself into his career and his family, and expose all his dirty secrets. Then she will take away everything that matters to Steven – just like he did to her. This is such a great book. At first the narrator’s voice reminded me of the main character from the Girl in 6E, but Jane quickly became very much her own distinct person. I absolutely loved this and will definitely read the sequel at some point. 5 stars.

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson. Once it had been the great forest of Lythe – a vast and impenetrable thicket of green with a mystery in the very heart of the trees.  And here, in the beginning, lived the Fairfaxes, grandly, at Fairfax Manor. But over the centuries the forest had been destroyed, replaced by streets named after trees.  The Fairfaxes had dwindled too; now they lived in ‘Arden’ at the end of Hawthorne Close. Here, sixteen year old Isobel Fairfax awaits the return of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared when she was a child, and occasionally gets caught up in time warps. Meanwhile, she gets closer to the shocking truths about her missing mother, her war-hero father, and the hidden lives of her close friends and classmates. This book is odd. I really loved the writing style, but I found parts of it very confusing. It’s kind of fairytale-esque, with a mystery and a coming-of-age story thrown in. It’s sad in parts, shocking in parts, and half the time it’s not even clear what’s real and what isn’t. I’m not selling it very well, but I actually quite enjoyed reading it. 3.5 stars.

The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh. When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. After spending six glorious days together, Eddie has to leave for a holiday, but promises to call from the airport, and Sarah has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call. Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened – there must be an explanation. As time goes by, Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth. I liked this more than I was expecting – I kind of enjoyed the romance with added mystery format. I thought I knew where it was going until the author threw in another twist. Sarah, the main character, was annoying at first and I couldn’t believe someone would be *that* upset about a man not calling after such a short time, but I did get into the mystery and find myself wanting to know what happened. And after the reveal I found myself feeling sorry for her. Another 3.5 star read.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmen Rushdie. Haroun is a 12-year-old boy whose father Rashid is the greatest storyteller in a city so sad that it has forgotten its name. But one day something goes wrong and his father runs out of stories to tell. Haroun is determined to return the storyteller’s gift to his father, which leads him on a quest to another world to turn on the storywater tap. This s a really hard book to rate. I enjoyed the beginning and I loved the end, but there was a part in the middle that barely held my attention and I was honestly unsure whether to continue. I like whimsy but it became almost too fantastical or something. I don’t know. Overall I liked this book but didn’t love it. 3 stars.

The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella. In 1895, impoverished poet Robert Wallis is sitting in a London coffeehouse contemplating an uncertain future when he meets coffee merchant Samuel Pinker and accepts a commission to categorise the different tastes of coffee. He meets Pinker’s three daughters, Philomenia, Ada and Emily, and falls in love with spirited suffragette Emily, but is soon separated from her. Sent to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the coffee trade, he becomes obsessed with a slave girl, Fikre. He decides to use the money he has saved to buy her from her owner – a decision that will change not only his own life, but the lives of the three Pinker sisters. This is an interesting book. It immediately grabbed my attention, quickly became a little dry, but then picked up again. The Africa parts were fascinating and I enjoyed reading about the suffrage movement, but every time I got interested in one aspect of the story it skipped to something. To me it felt like too much was packed into one book. I did like it but not enough that I would read it again. 3 stars.

Off With His Head by Ngaio Marsh. The village of South Mardian always observes the winter solstice with an ancient, mystical sword dance – complete with costumed performers. But this year the celebration turns ugly when one of the performers is murdered. Now Inspector Alleyn has to perform some nimble steps of his own to solve the case. The beginning of this was quite frankly weird and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. But once the murder had happened (which did, in fact, involve a beheading, so the title was pretty apt) and the detective turned up I started to enjoy it a lot more. In hindsight, I should have been able to guess who did it, but alas I did not. I did work out what the murder weapon was though. Not on the level of an Agatha Christie mystery but a decent enough read. 3.5 stars.

Beneath the Skin by Nicci French. Zoe. Jenny. Nadia. Three women of varying ages and backgrounds. They don#t know each other and have little in common, except one thing. Someone has sent them each a note informing them that they will be killed. Invisible and apparently unstoppable, the letter-writer delights in watching the women suffer, thrilled by his power to destroy their lives and their faith in those closest to them. And now, with no clear suspect and amid the growing threat of violence, the victims become the accused as authorities dig into their backgrounds for clues as to why they might have attracted the unrelenting attention of a killer. This is good but not amazing. It’s surprisingly escapist for a suspense thriller. A little predictable in parts. I liked Nadia best of the three women. There are better Nicci French books though – this one isn’t a patch on the Frieda Klein series. 3 stars.

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. In 1963, after the last conventional attempt to assassinate President de Gaulle has failed,  an anonymous Englishman has been hired by the Operations Chief of the O.A.S. to murder General de Galle. Known only as The Jackal this remorseless and deadly killer must be stopped, but how do you track a man who exists in name alone? I admit I was not expecting to like this book, and I was bored for roughly the first 200 pages. Far too much politics/detailed descriptions of French history that read more like non-fiction. Once the investigation into who the Jackal was actually started things picked up and I started to enjoy it a bit more. The political stuff at the beginning is probably fascinating for the right kind of reader, but it’s not for me. 3 stars.

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook. Chaya has just stolen the queen’s jewels. She promises she had a good reason for it, but unfortunately she got caught… and her friend is being blamed. One thing leads to another, and soon she is escaping into the jungle with her friends. And the King’s elephant. This is such a difficult book to review. On the one hand I loved the setting and descriptions – it was great to read about an entirely unfamiliar culture. It’s also fast paced and you never get bored. But as a result the story felt a little simplistic and rushed, and there was never any real sense that Chaya learned any lessons or actually changed. Even if she thought she was doing the right thing she came off as kind of a brat and honestly not a very likeable person. I loved Ananda the elephant though. 3 stars.

TL;DR. I mean, this post is already a kind of tl;dr by virtue of me splitting my reviews across two posts, but okay. The only book from this section that I fully, wholeheartedly recommend is Jane Doe. Other than that none stand out as being amazing. Human Croquet is a fairly enjoyable read and if you like political thrillers I can imagine The Day of the Jackal would appeal to you much more than it did me. But for most of the books I truly enjoyed in January you will have to wait for part two.

Did you read anything amazing last month? And if you’ve read any of these did you enjoy them more than I did? (Or even just as much in the case of Jane Doe.) Stay tuned for more reviews!