The books I read in July 2018

Hello! My 35 before 35 challenge is now officially over (as of yesterday), but I’m not going to talk about that yet because today is Show Us Your Books day! This post isn’t going to be quite as long as the last one… in my monthly recap, I told you I read 6 books for Erin’s challenge, finished a book I started in June and read 3 full other books. I actually read 4 other books (I had forgotten one), so that gives me a total of 11 books to review this time round. Still a lot, but not quite as bad as 18 😉
I’ll just get on with it shall I?

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Books for Erin’s challenge first, then the rest.

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (read for the category: a book that’s been on your TBR the longest). I actually bought this book for Jan a while ago for his birthday or something. I thought it might be something we would both like to read. When I checked my Goodreads to-read list, this was the book that had been on there the second longest (the first book I added was too short for the challenge). This is a story about an alternative London… “London through the looking glass”, as it’s described in the blurb. Un Lun DUn = un-London, obviously. Un Lun Dun is where all the lost and broken objects from the original London end up – and sometimes people too. Where words are alive, carnivorous giraffes roam the streets, and a talking book tells a prophecy of a hero who will save them all. I loved this book! All the characters are fantastic. I never thought I would end up adoring a smelly milk carton – you’ll have to read it to find out what I’m on about ;-). Deeba is an awesome character and definitely not “just a sidekick” (again, you’ll have to read it). I also love the cover – it’s so delightfully creepy. 5 stars.

Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips (read for the category: a book with an alliterative title). The body of a missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, her hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. When another girl’s body is discovered 24 hours later, the hunt for the killer reaches epic proportions. Criminal psychologist Kate Pearson is called in to help, but the more she discovers about the killings, the more it reminds her of a terrifying event in her own past. Meanwhile, Ellie Brady has been institutionalised for 15 years, for the killing of her twelve-year-old daughter, Amy. After all this time, does Ellie hold the key to finding the killer of the Dublin schoolgirls? I thought this was reasonably good for a debut, but for me it didn’t quite live up to all the rave reviews. Some of the dialogue in the beginning felt a bit stilted, but it got better as the book went on. I really enjoyed the parts from Ellie’s perspective. 3.5 stars.

The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere (read for the category: a character who shares your profession). The second book in this series describes the protagonist as a translator of children’s books. In this one it turns out she’s actually interpreting (but also does translating – just not during this book). Still close enough to my profession, I guess. So, Torrey Turret accepts an invitation from a stranger who spills soup on her at a restaurant to stay at his Irish castle while she’s interpreting for a conference in Dublin. Not long after she arrives, she stumbles on a murdered man in the forest near the castle. When a priceless heirloom disappears and an old secret from her past surfaces, all fingers point to Torrey… and when her host, too, is murdered it doesn’t look good for her. If she doesn’t find out who really did it, she faces ruin… and gaol. An easy read and entertaining enough if you can ignore all the inconsistencies. It’s supposed to be set in the 90s but it feels like a much earlier time period. And why would an American be employed to interpret between French and Hungarian? That’s not how it works! I also found the number and combination of languages Torrey speaks implausible. But the murder mystery aspect was interesting and I didn’t guess who was responsible. A low 3 stars, but I enjoyed it enough not to go all the way down to 2.

Love Always by Harriet Evans (read for the category: a book with an emotion word in the title). The book begins with Natasha Kapoor on her way to Cornwall for her beloved grandmother’s funeral. This trip reunites her with her large and complicated family for perhaps the last time: Summercove, her grandparents’ beautiful house by the sea, is being sold. Along with it go a generation of memories and perhaps the key to the death of her aunt Cecily many years ago at just fifteen years of age. When she finds the opening pages of Cecily’s diary, written the summer she died, she final begins to learn all the family secrets she never knew. But where is the rest of the diary? There is so much intrigue and family drama in this book. Who is doing what with whom and who is guilty of what? Not high literature but fun to read. Not as fluffy as I expected from the cover picture. 4 stars.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (read for the category: title starts with N). Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears and whisks her away to the safety of a town called Nevermoor. There, Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent. But Morrigan insists she doesn’t have a talent… so how will she ever pass the final trial? I loved this! It’s such a fun read. The trials were not what I was expecting. The characters are fantastic – Hawthorne is so fantastic and I adore Fen. I definitely want to read the next book. 5 stars.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (read as my freebie book). This book reminds me of The Secret History in a way, in that there’s a group of friends one of whom has ended up dead – an accident or murdered by his friends? Who knows. As the book begins, Oliver Marks has just served ten years for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day of his release, he is greeted by Detective Colborne – the man who put him in prison. Colborne is retiring, and now he wants to know what really happened a decade before. Oliver agrees to tell him, strictly off the record. Ten years ago, Oliver and his friends/house mates were drama students at an exclusive university. Early on, the friends notice that they are always cast in similar roles that seem to match their off-stage personalities – villain, hero, temptress. When the teachers change the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and eventually tragedy strikes. One of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless. I loved The Secret History, but I think I actually liked this one even more – probably because I can’t relate to ancient Greek studies, whereas quoting Shakespeare is right up my alley (except in my case not as an actor, but a reader). While similar to The Secret History, I found this to be an excellent story in its own right. Some people might find the constant dropping of Shakespeare into ordinary conversation annoying, but I didn’t. 5 stars.

So, that was the books I read for Erin’s challenge… six down in month one, four more to go. Now for the rest of the books I read.

In Wahrheit wird viel mehr gelogen by Kerstin Gier. This book doesn’t exist in English, so my rough translation of the title is “In truth, we tell a lot more lies”. Carolin is 26 and recently widowed. Now, while still grieving, she has to fight over an inheritance with her stuffy ex-boyfriend (who happens to be the son of her dead husband!) and his annoying family. So it’s no wonder Carolin gets drunk for the first time ever, starts seeing a therapist and spends a small fortune on shoes. And constantly feels like she’s surrounded by idiots… because, oh yes, Carolin is a genius! Luckily Carolin is not alone in her darkest hour, and with the help of her family and a new friend she is able to get through it. This was a fun read. I really liked Carolin, and I’m glad she didn’t get over her loss by getting into a new relationship straight away, which is what usually seems to happen in this type of book! 4 stars.

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson. At 12 years old, Emma Freke is almost 6 feet tall with bright red hair – which makes it difficult not to be noticed. And on top of that there’s her name, which her wacky, hippy-ish mother didn’t bother to say out loud before putting it on the birth certificate. She’s certain that if she ever meets her father’s family she will figure out her place in the world – but she’s never even met her father, never mind the rest of them. Then she receives an invitation to attend a Freke family reunion. This is a lovely little book about finding your identity and being yourself. Emma’s mum wasn’t the best – she acted like a petulant teen most of the time – but I liked that she had her back when it actually mattered. 4 stars.

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron. Nadia lives in Canaan, a walled-in city where life is safe, structured… and every twelve years everybody forgets what’s come before. In Canaan, your book is your whole life… the place where you write down everything about yourself: your job, who your spouse and children are, where you live. It’s the only way to know who you are after the Forgetting. For everybody except Nadia, that is – Nadia does not forget. When begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the Forgetting approaches, the two of them need to find a way to battle an unexpected threat to the city. I absolutely loved this. Yes it was confusing at first but after a while it properly sucked me in and I *needed* to know what was going on. I was not expecting what Nadia and Gray found behind the wall, although I did have a suspicion about a certain character after a conversation they had with Nadia. Gray’s constant smirking was kind of annoying, but the story had me enthralled enough not to care. 4 stars.

Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson. This was the book I had forgotten to include in my monthly round-up, so clearly it was very memorable. Leigh Nolan has just started her first year at Stiles College where she is studying psychology. Her high-school boyfriend, the over-achieving, ambitious Andrew, is also there. Leigh is excellent at psycho-analysing herself and everyone around her, but totally misses the obvious.. like the fact that her boyfriend is a selfish jerk and his room-mate, Nathan, is actually rather lovely. It’s a cute book with a fairly predictable romance. There was one scene that made me uncomfortable involving an oblivious and very stereotypical Chinese character named Li Huang – I’m not even sure what the point in him being there was. I guess that part was supposed to be funny, but it just felt racist and unnecessary. Nathan is lovely (of course) and Andrew deserves a slap. My favourite character was Rebekah, who Leigh was mentoring as part of her course. I would happily read a whole book about Rebekah. Overall a fun read but very forgettable. 3 stars.

Katherine by Anya Seton. My final book is one I started in June and managed to finish in July. This is a BBC Big Read book that I’ve been putting of for ages, mainly because I have no interest in the love affairs of royalty, even if it is based on a true story. I eventually forced myself to read it by taking it with me when I had to go to the office – there’s nothing like a two-hour train journey each way to make you happily read whatever’s available! I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It’s an interesting read and now I want to learn about the real Katherine Swynford. 4 stars.

I also started reading The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy, but since I only finished it in August I’ll tell you about it in next month’s round-up.

And that was my reading month of July. A fair few 4 and 5 star books there, so I’m happy.
What have you been reading lately? Check out the link up for more book reviews.

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The books I read in June 2018

Hello everyone. The Show Us Your Books link up is here again, a.k.a the day I discover more books I want to read than on all the other days of the month put together. In June I managed to finish 18 books again, so I won’t ramble on too much but just get on with it…

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Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden. I started reading this book on the plane to England then read the final chapter on the morning of 1 June while everyone else was still sleeping. When Tess Devlin bumps into her ex-she’s furious when he acts like he doesn’t know her. An angry phone call reveals that it couldn’t possibly have been him. Meanwhile Frank Lindbergh is attacked in his home by an intruder with his face. Gradually a whole group of people realise they have doppelgangers… and all of them were once involved in a project at a creepy mansion on a hill. This was an interesting concept and nicely creepy. Parts of the story had me gripped, but sometimes the writing felt a bit clunky. The final page was chilling. A decent enough read. 3.5 stars

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan. I read this book on the way home from England and it was interesting enough to hold my attention through two flights. Margot Lewis is a teacher who also works as an agony aunt for a local newspaper under the name “Amy”. When she receives a letter from someone claiming their name is Bethan Avery and they’ve been kidnapped she assumes it must be a hoax – Bethany Avery has been missing for nearly two decades. But with a girl from her class also missing she reluctantly turns over the letters to the police just in case. Then it turns out the letters are genuine. Unlike most reviewers on Goodreads, I really enjoyed this. I must be slow because I did not see the twist coming until just before it was revealed. Not a perfect book by any means but I liked it. 4 stars.

I Do Not Sleep by Judy Finnegan. Five years ago, Molly Gabriel lost her 20-year-old son, Joey, to a sailing accident. His empty boat was discovered washed ashore on the rocks but his body was never found. Now Molly has returned to Cornwall, the scene of the accident, unable to accept that he’s really gone. Against the wishes of her family, she confronts Joey’s best friend to find out more about what went on that day. The mystery in this book is intriguing, but there are some odd supernatural components I wasn’t expecting. Despite its length, this somehow a quick read. It was 448 pages but it didn’t feel like I read that many words. 3 stars, I liked it okay but wouldn’t necessarily read anything else by this author.

Stitch Head by Guy Bass. At Castle Grotteskew, Professor Erasmus conducts his bizarre experiments on living things. His very first creation – a small, almost-human creature, known only as Stitch Head – has been long forgotten. Poor Stitch Head has spent years trying to get the attention of his creator while also keeping the increasingly bizarre other creations under control. When the leader of a freak show promises to make Stitch Head a star, he wonders whether there is a better life out there for him. But first he has to deal with the professor’s latest creation – a monstrous three-armed creature that’s just smashed its way to freedom. This is a cute, fun little book. I love little Stitch Head and the Creature. I would recommend it for children aged 8+ and all fans of slightly gothic children’s books. It’s the first in a series and I’m looking forward to reading book two. 4 stars.

Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas. Libby Hall never really wanted to be noticed. But after she saves the children in her care from a fire, she finds herself headline news. And horrified by the attention. It all reminds her of what happened nine years ago. The last time she saw her best friend alive. So when she and her husband get an offer to take part in a house swap it seems like a dream come true. But this stylish Cornish home isn’t the getaway they’d hoped for. They make odd, even disturbing, discoveries in the house. It’s so isolated-yet Libby doesn’t feel entirely alone. As if she’s being watched. Is Libby being paranoid or is something strange really going on? This book has so many twists and turns. The moral of the story, apart from how well do you really know somebody, appears to be if something seems too good to be true it probably is. Towards the end, after the reveal, I kept being confused about who was speaking now but other than that I enjoyed this so much more than Local Girl Missing by the same author. 4 stars.

Whisper by Chrissie Keighery. How do you know if your friends are talking about you behind your back or if a boy likes you? They could act innocent, but you’d know from the rumours. You’d hear the whispers. But what if you couldn’t hear those whispers any more? What if everything you took for granted was gone? Being a teenager is hard enough without being deaf as well! This is a lovely book. Demi, the deaf main character, felt so real to me with all her problems – some brought about by her being a typical teenager, being jealous of her older sister and making assumptions about other characters. Yes, people can be mean but I liked how this book showed not everything is about discrimination, although Demi often assumed everything was because she’s deaf. I also loved Demi’s nephew, Harry. He’s so pure and lovely. At one point he says “My auntie Demi can do anything!” Awww. It’s a simple story but really insightful. 5 stars.

Half Life by Shelley Jackson. I’m not sure whether this is supposed to be set in the future or some kind of alternative reality, but either way it takes place in a world where conjoined twins are much more common than in our society because of increased radioactivity. Nora is one such person, and she’s tired of being attached to her twin, Blanche, who has been asleep for the past 15 or 20 years. So she goes to London in an attempt to track down a society that is rumoured to illegally separate conjoined twins (illegal because one always dies in the process). Once in England, Nora’s past begins to emerge and Blanche may or may not be waking up. This book is both fascinating and confusing. I started off enjoying the story and by the end I wasn’t sure which parts had actually happened or to who. The closer to the end it gets, the more bizarre and surreal it becomes. Definitely one that will require a careful re-read in the future. 4 stars.

Der Fremde Gast by Charlotte Link. This has been translated unto English as “The Unknown Guest”. Inconsolable after the death of her husband, Rebecca Brandt has decided to take her own life. But an unexpected visitor keeps her from carrying out her plans, an old friend who shows up at her secluded house in the South of France and bringing two strangers along with him: the students Inga and Marius, who wanted to hitch hike to the sea. Rebecca befriends the two of them and even lets them use her boat. But while they’re out sailing, they get into a terrible fight, and at some point Marius goes overboard. A short time later, his picture appears in the German papers in connection with a murder. Almost all the female characters in this book were weak and annoying, pandering to their husbands’ whims… spending their entire lives trying not to make them angry. Ugh. The plot was intriguing though. There were so many points of view that I was confused half the time, but I had to keep reading because I needed to know how they were all connected. I had a feeling something weird was going on with one person but did not guess the culprit. A high 3 stars but not quite a 4. Would 3.75 be too weird?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Finally I got to read this one! Everyone has been raving about it but I was waiting until I could find a cheap copy. Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, sticks to her routine, and doesn’t really talk to anyone. She has learned how to survive but it’s very clear from the start that no matter what she says she is not completely fine. I honestly don’t know how to review this book. I didn’t really like Eleanor at first – I mean, she really isn’t very likeable to be fair. But I did feel sorry for her. She had totally grown on me by the end and I wanted the best for her. There’s a twist at the end that I did not see coming. I don’t want to say more. Honestly I think it’s best to go into this one knowing very little about it. 5 stars – probably my favourite book of the year so far.

Paperweight by Meg Haston. Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment centre. She doesn’t plan to stay there for long though. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she, too, will end her life. I really enjoyed this book – as much as you can say you “enjoy” this subject matter. Stevie is a hard character to like – she’s so cynical and mean at the beginning. But I kind of get it and she does change/grow as the book goes on. There are some great side characters – I love her room-mate Ashley! I cried towards the end so obviously this book got to me. I can’t comment on how accurate the eating disorder/treatment side to it was having never been in that situation but it felt realistic to me. 4 stars.

Steps to the Gallows by Edward Marston. When the editor of a newspaper that regularly reveals the details of political and sexual scandals and publishes caricatures of public figures in compromising situations is killed, a group of amateur sleuths called the “Invisible Detectives” (according to the blurb – this doesn’t come up in the book) are hired by the man who financed the production of the paper. He wants the killer brought to justice and the scandal sheet revived. Meanwhile the actual police are also on the case, and are not happy that the amateurs are butting in. Kezzie gave me this book when I met up with her last August and I only got round to reading it now. Shameful! I enjoyed the story but some of the dialogue was a little clunky. Nobody uses anyone’s name that much! It’s pretty much a standard murder mystery/amateur sleuth novel in the vein of Agatha Christie, etc. but with weapons experts instead of old ladies. This is book 2 in a series but not having read the first one wasn’t an issue. 3.5 stars.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. As a result she knows things nobody would ever expect… for instance that her family has moved to the island of Vane because her father is fleeing a scandal. And when her father is discovered dead she knows he was murdered. Hunting through her father’s possessions, Faith discovers a strange tree that only bears fruit when she whispers lies to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. Can the lie tree help he find her father’s murderer? I absolutely loved this. It’s dark and twisted and so interesting. Faith is a fantastic character and I just know that one day she’s going to show everyone that women are just as good as men. 5 stars.

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm. It’s 1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But she she’s not allowed to go swimming because her mother’s afraid she’ll catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her dog, Scarlett O’Hara, is sick. Her favourite uncle is living in a car. Her best friend is turning into a criminal. And no one will tell Penny the truth about how her father died. This book is based on Jennifer Holm’s own Italian-American family and it’s wonderful. Heart-warming, amusing, historically insightful. Penny is a great character. After the story, the author has included photos of her family members who inspired the book’s characters. 5 stars.

Cloud 9 by Alex Campbell. If there was a wonder-drug to make you feel happier, would you take it? In this book’s society, everyone takes a drug called Leata. With no side effects, it’s the perfect pick-me-up. Well, almost everyone takes it. Tom’s dad has always been against Leata and the company that makes it… and now he’s dead. Tom begins to suspect it wasn’t an accident and that there’s something odd going on with Leata. Meanwhile, his next-door-neighbour Hope is a YouTube star and blogger who honestly believes in Leata’s power to make the world a better place (her father is also a lawyer for PharmaCare, the company that make the drug, so she may have other reasons for being the perfect Leata advocate…). Tom and Hope used to be best friends, now they don’t talk any more. But they’re going to have to work together to figure out what’s really going on. I really enjoyed this. It seemed believable and really made me think about the influence  of social media as well as society’s obsession with happiness and putting on a positive front to fit in. How many people really want to know how you’re feeling when they ask “how are you?”. I hated Hope at first but it was quickly obvious something more was happening beneath the surface. I had a bit of an issue with the ending, but I won’t go into that here for fear of spoilers. Overall I thought it was a really good story though and a nice introduction to dystopia for teens. 4 stars.

What Came First by Carol Snow. This book is told from the perspective of three women. All Vanessa wants for her 29th birthday is an engagement ring from her boyfriend, Eric. Instead she gets a mix CD and learns that her boyfriend is not interested in having children with her, ever. Wendy and her husband struggled to have children and eventually decided to use a sperm donor. Now her twins are 5 and completely out of control while her husband spends all his time playing computer games. Wendy feels like she got the raw end of the deal. Laura is a single career woman. She never needed a man to have a baby… just an anonymous sperm donor. Now her son, Ian, wants a sibling and she’s determined to grant his wish. Her search ends up bringing the three women together. I liked most of this book but I didn’t love it. Vanessa really annoyed me – I did think Eric treated her badly and I could understand why she was upset but she was just so whiny all the time, about everything. Also I didn’t get the part where Laura had to spend 10 minutes in the toilet every day with an OPK… yes the instructions say to look at it within 10 minutes but the line comes up pretty quickly. She really didn’t need to be sneaking off for 10 minutes every day and being grateful that her assistant was more interested in her phone… that part just felt like an excuse for Laura to get in another dig about her assistant. I gave this one 3 stars.

Der Mann von Nebenan by Amelie Fried. This one hasn’t been translated, but the title means “The Man from Next Door”. After getting divorced, Kate has recently moved to the countryside with her son. Not long after she arrives, she finds a woman lying dead in a field. Not really, the idyllic village of her dreams. Luckily she has nice neighbours… but gradually the man next door gets more and more pushy. Is he really as friendly as he seems? Kate and her new friends decide there’s only one thing for it: the neighbour has to be dealt with. This is such an odd book. The murder at the beginning never actually seems to be cleared up, although there is a detective who shows up at the weirdest times. One of Kate’s neighbours practices what seems to be some kind of voodoo – at one point casting a love spell for Kate (which apparently works?). And the drama with the next-door neighbour takes an unexpected turn. It was a pleasant enough read and quick to get through – kind of chick-lit-ish with a slight twist – but not one I would say people need to rush out and read. If it hadn’t been in a free public bookcase I wouldn’t have picked it up. 3 stars.

Peas and Queues: The Minefield of Modern Manners by Sandi Toksvig. This is literally what the title suggests – a book about manners. How should yo eat peas? What do you do if people are making a noise in the quiet carriage? How to behave when living with other people. It’s framed as a series of letters to the author’s niece, each followed by a section on how to behave in a certain situation. I was intrigued by the title and had seen a good review on it so decided to give it a go. Unfortunately it was fairly useless for me – it didn’t tell me anything about how to behave that I don’t already now. I liked Sandi Toksvig’s writing style and the beginning of the book, about the history of manners, etc., was really interesting. I also found the little asides about the origins of words interesting. Overall it was okay, a relatively quick read, but I’m not really sure who I would recommend it to, if anyone. 3 stars. At least I got to cross another non-fiction book off my list…

The Humans by Matt Haig. When Professor Andrew Martin solves a maths problem, aliens decide he needs to be eliminated because the human race is not ready for this kind of knowledge. One of their number is sent to invade his body so they can also get rid anyone with whom he has shared his findings. But then the alien tasked with taking over his body starts to experience life and discovers he actually rather likes being human. This book disappointed me. I thought I was going to absolutely adore it, but for some reason I didn’t. The perspective is interesting and I found myself agreeing with a few things (humans are absurd!) but overall it just didn’t really do it for me. It’s a good book, but I wouldn’t say it’s a great one. Also, the writing style seems almost but not quite patronising, which may be the point given the narrator but I don’t like feeling as though authors are trying to tell me I’m not clever enough. My favourite part was the list at the end (if you want to know what that means you’ll have to read it). I know other people have loved it, so if you think it sounds interesting I would say give it a go, but for me it was just 3 stars – not the 5 I expected to give it.

And that’s it for today. 18 books described and reviewed. Sorry it’s so long again! I’ve only read 4 books so far in July, so maybe next month you’ll get lucky and my round-up post will be shorter 😉

Have you read any of these books? DO you agree with my thoughts? Or have you read something good recently that you think I should try too? And if you haven’t had enough book talk, go and check out the link up for more reviews and recommendations.

 

What I Read in May 2018

Hello! Can you believe Show Us Your Books day has rolled around again? Didn’t I just write about what I read in April? Anyway, I have a whole 18 books to review this month so I’d best get on with it. As always, the books are simply listed as I read them, not in order of preference.

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The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I started this one in April and finished it in May. Honestly, I would never even have picked it up if it wasn’t on the BBC Big Read list but I ended up liking it way more than I expected to. I have never even seen a Godfather film (yeah, I know) but I was still familiar with a lot of the plot… I got to the bit with the horse’s head and thought “oh yeah, this is where that’s from”. I can’t really describe my thoughts on this book but I gave it 4 stars. Obviously there is a lot of violence so if you’re not into that avoid it.

What Comes After by Steve Watkins. When sixteen-year-old Iris Wight’s dad days and the family friends who promised to take her in decide they can’t after all, she is forced to go and live with her aunt and cousin on a farm in North Carolina. The aunt is horrible and mistreats her to the extent that she ends up being taken into foster care. This book is horrible. Utterly heartbreaking. But, in the end, also hopeful. Read it for the goats but be aware that there is abuse/violence. 4 stars.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell. I loved this – it’s so cute and fun! Ada Goth Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth, lots of servants and at least half a dozen ghosts. One night, she meets the ghost of a mouse then makes some new friends, and together they set out to investigate the strange goings on in the old mansion. There are many literary and historical references in this book (the first thing the mouse says is “call me Ishmael”, Mary Shellfish comes to stay…). I think a lot of them would go over children’s heads (the actual target audience) but I loved them. Chris Riddell also illustrated the book and the drawings are fabulous. Plus, in my copy the pages have purple edges. So pretty! Another 4 star read.

Cold Feet by Brenda Novak. This book was not what I was expecting. I thought it was a thriller so I was really confused by the Mills and Boon-esque sex scenes (between people who had known each other all of a day). Turns out it’s a romance. So that may have affected my rating – if you go into it knowing it’s a romance you may like it more. The police suspect Madison Lieberman’s father is a serial killer, but now he’s dead and another woman has died in a similar way. Ex-cop turned crime writer Caleb Trovato is obsessed with the case and now wonders whether there’s a copycat killer or they had their sights on the wrong man all along. He’s sure Madison knows more than she’s telling and he’s determined to get it out of her. The synopsis says “But he doesn’t expect to fall in love – or to lead Madison and her child into danger”. I suppose that should have tipped me off on the romance thing… but just because a book contains romance doesn’t mean it’s a “romance novel”. Anyway, I didn’t expect who the killer turned out to be, so that’s something, but overall this book was nothing special. A kind of mystery/thriller as a frame for some explicit sex scenes. 3 stars.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington. Sixteen-year-old Harper’s older sister June recently committed suicide and Harper doesn’t know what to think or feel. She decides to steal June’s ashes and drive across the country to the one place her sister always wanted to go: California. This book was so sad, which could obviously be expected from the subject matter, but I honestly cried like a baby. It has its flaws, but I read through it all in one sitting and could not give it any less than four stars.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Another sad book, because apparently I like to do that to myself? When Theodore and Violet meet on the ledge of a a bell tower, it’s unclear who saved whom. Violet is still traumatised by the death of her older sister and Theodore, who is labelled a “freak” and has hardly any friends, is constantly thinking up new ways to die. When Violet and Theodore pair up for a project to discover more about their state, what they actually learn is far more important. This is a book about mental health, grief, first love and much more. Parts of it are happy, quirky, hopeful, but the ending is so sad. 4 stars.

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer. For some reason I was expecting this to be a book about political rivals. No idea why! Maybe I vaguely knew that Jeffrey Archer was a politician in the 90s? There is a rivalry, but neither man is a politician. It’s basically the life stories of two men born on the same day – one the son of a Boston banker/millionaire and one a penniless and illegitimate Pole – and how their stories eventually merge with the two of them becoming rivals. I liked this more than I thought I would but it was long and parts of it dragged. 3 stars.

Into the Water by Paul Hawkins. I needed a new book for the train home from work since I was almost finished with Kane and Abel, and this was the only one in the bookshop that interested me. When Jules’ sister Nel dies – having apparently jumped to her death in the place that’s known as the “drowning pool” – Jules reluctantly returns to the village to care for her teenage niece. I’ve seen a few negative reviews of this book, but I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of twists and turns that I didn’t expect. However, I feel like I should admit that part of my enjoyment stemmed from the setting. Why did nobody tell me it’s set in North-East England? Craster kippers and even the tiny Durham village of Pity Me get a mention. Love it! 5 stars.

The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery. This is like an introduction to dystopia for young children. Owen’s family have moved to Barrow because it’s the safest place in the valleys. Children there have to wear bright yellow at all times, walk home from school in pairs, and have a curfew. So Owen and his friends form the Tornado Chasers and set off to get as close to a Grade 5 tornado as possible. I really liked most of this book. It was a fun adventure with an interesting, diverse friendship group. The “twist” was good too. But then I really didn’t like the ending. I think I know what was supposed to have happened but I don’t understand why. Trying not to spoil anything, but it felt like it was saying the dystopia was a good thing/the adults had it right all along. Until the end it would have been 4 stars, but I ended up giving it 3.

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. The cover of this book totally reminded me of When Dimple Met Rishi (which I haven’t actually read yet) and the main character in this one is even called Dimple! I don’t really know if the stories are similar though (and this one was published first FYI). Dimple Lala, who is about to turn 17, has spent her whole life resisting her parents’ traditions. She wants to be an all-American girl, like her best friend, Gwen. So when her parents meet up with an old friend and decide they want to set her Dimple up with her son, a “suitable boy”, Dimple is, of course totally against it. Then she realises the suitable boy may not be as goody-goody as she first thought, all things Indian suddenly turn out to be cool, and she no longer knows what to think. I really enjoyed this story. Parts of it were a bit long.winded and complicated, but I liked the characters (except Gwen, who I thought was a total cow. Yes, she has a hard life/neglectful parents but that was no excuse to abandon her friend for boys, refuse to listen, talk to Dimple like she was an idiot, etc.). I especially loved Dimple’s cousin. Every time the food Dimple’s mum cooked was mentioned it made me want to eat Indian food immediately! There’s also a lesbian relationship and a drag queen in this book, which was cool. 4 stars.

Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. Megan hasn’t spoken in months, ever since something bad happened (trying not to spoil anything here). There are things she cannot – must not – say, so it’s best not to speak at all. Then Jasmine starts at her school. Bright, bubbly, talkative Jasmine. And for some reason she wants Megan to be her friend. I really liked this book. It deals with some serious topics but it’s surprisingly easy to read – I got through it really quickly. I wanted to hug Megan – she was clearly traumatised and I wanted to find out who was responsible for her silence and shake them (it wasn’t what I thought though). The relationship between Megan and Jasmine was so cute. It just made me incredibly happy! 4 stars.

As Sure As the Sun by Anna McPartlin. When bride-to-be Harri Ryan ends up at the ER with a panic attack on her wedding day for the second time, her twin brother, George, is sure there’s more to it than a reluctance to commit. His parents are clearly hiding something and he resolves to confront them. Meanwhile Harri and George’s friends are all having troubles of their own, and George is also having issues with his boyfriend Aidan. This is a bit of a weird book. It’s light and easy to read, even though there’s a tragedy at the heart of the story. I found the premise a bit odd/far-fetched though. What Harri and George’s parents reveal is certainly life-changing but I’m not sure what it has to do with Harri having panic attacks on her wedding day. It felt like the author needed some trigger for the reveal and also had the idea of someone unintentionally failing to show at her own wedding so she stuck the two stories together. Some parts of the book were funny, some sad, and others honestly just dragged. I doubt it will be one that sticks with me. 3 stars.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens. I was given this for my birthday last year and I’ve only just got around to reading it. The shame! When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their own secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any exciting mysteries to investigate. When Hazel finds the dead body of their science mistress, Miss Bell, she assumes there’s been an accident, until the body disappears! Now not only do Hazel and Daisy actually have a murder to solve – they have to prove one happened in the first place. This book is so fun – which seems an odd thing to say about something involving a murder, but it really is. A combination of a mystery and boarding school book, which were two of my favourite things as a child. It’s like Enid Blyton’s mystery books (Secret Seven, etc.) and her school books rolled into one… but with an actual murder. 4 stars and I definitely want to read book 2.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. This is essentially a year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, who spends most of his time trying to hide his stammer from his classmates lest they ostracise him and writing poems that he can never, ever tell anyone about because writing poems is “for girls”. It’s set in Britain, specifically a village in the English Midlands, the year is 1982, Thatcher reigns supreme, the Falklands War happens, there are references to things I remember and things I don’t (I was born in 1983). This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Being female, my experience was entirely different, but it felt like an accurate representation of life as a teenage boy in the days before mobile phones, etc. The bullying in the book seemed realistic (some of it was awful, but pretty much exactly what went down at my high school) and I found it really interesting to read about the Falklands War in a novel. Some parts of the story seemed to drag and take forever to get to, but I liked other parts and for the last few chapters I didn’t want to put it down. I didn’t love it enough to give it for stars, so I gave it 3… but it’s a high 3 (better than Kane and Abel, for instance). 3.75 maybe.

Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman. You may know Malorie Blackman as the author of the Noughts and Crosses series (which I still need to read the rest of). This is a totally different book. Dante is waiting for his A Level results, but when the door bell rings it’s not the postman but his ex-girlfriend, who nobody has heard from since she dropped out of school months ago. She has a baby with her, who she claims is hers and Dante’s. Then she goes to the shop, leaving the baby with Dante, and never comes back. This is such a good book. It was so refreshing to see something about teenage pregnancy from the male perspective that actually shows the father in a good light. After some initial reluctance (and anybody would panic suddenly having a small child dumped on them!) he actually steps up and becomes a really good dad to his daughter. A parallel story about Dante’s brother, Adam, is heartbreaking, but again Dante steps up and shows that he’s actually a really good big brother. 4 stars.

Everwild by Neal Shusterman. This is book 2 in the Skinjacker series. Everlost is an in-between world where children go when they have died but didn’t reach where they were going (the end of the proverbial “tunnel”). In book 1 (which I read in February – review here) Allie and Nick were involved in an accident and came to Everlost together, where they gradually learned the secrets of this world that is in the real world, but not quite. In book 2, Allie and Nick have gone their separate ways – Allie wants to go home and see what became of her parents and I can’t say what Nick is doing without giving spoilers for book 1. I enjoyed the first book I’m this series, thought it had interesting themes and a decent story. This one was even better. I was gripped and really wanted to know what would happen with each of the main characters. I am especially desperate to find out how Allie’s story concludes. 4 stars (I gave the first book 3 stars).

The Broken by Tamar Cohen. There is so much drama in this book. Essentially it’s the story of a couple, Dan and Sasha, who split up and another couple who are best friends with them and don’t want to choose sides, but end up being drawn in anyway. It’s a good portrayal of how the breakdown of a marriage affects more people than just the couple involved – children, shared friends, etc. But then it also tries to be a thriller, adding in another mysterious character and having weird things happen – is Sasha going mad? Doing these things to herself to make Dan look bad? Or is somebody really out to get her? In the end there was no proper conclusion – the apparent “plot twist” ended up feeling like a minor sub-plot even though it was the trigger for almost everything, and there was a really abrupt ending that made me feel like someone had got away with things. I gave it three stars because the marriage breakdown part was done well, it’s just the plot twist/thriller aspect that was unnecessary. Not everything has to be a thriller!

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carolo Rovelli. The final book I read in May was actually non-fiction. Shock, horror! Brief is right – I wasn’t expecting the book to be this short. It packs a surprising amount of information into so few pages though. It might be a bit simple for anyone who has more than a basic understanding of physics. Personally, having barely come into contact with physics since school (where I got as far as GCSE level), it was just detailed enough without either being overwhelming or making me feel stupid/patronised. A good starting point for further reading. The last section is a bit odd though. It’s about how people and science interact, not really a “lesson” on physics at all, and it seemed very philosophical and out of place. 4 stars.

And finally I’m done. I won’t write too much more here since this post is already long, just say you can find the link up here.

Have you read anything good recently? And if you’ve read any of the books mentioned here do you agree with my assessment?

Book Challenge by Erin 9.0 – Preliminary List

Hello! I am back in Switzerland and the categories have been announced for Erin’s next reading challenge, so today I thought I would bring you my tentative list. As always, this is subject to change depending on my mood once the challenge actually starts.

The rules in brief: all books must be 200 or more pages, one re-read is allowed, only books read between 1 July and 31 October 2018 count. And, the most important rule, HAVE FUN!

Now the categories, and my choices.

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages
I will decide this based on what I feel I absolutely cannot wait to read once July comes around.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “N”
This one will be my re-read. I just picked up Needful Things by Stephen King while I was at my dad’s and it’s been about 15 years since I read it. I may change my mind though given it has 790 pages! I don’t actually currently own an unread book that starts with N though.

10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover
I knew I didn’t have an orange book so I bought one at the airport yesterday. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. I have the copy pictured below – I hope it’s orange enough!

history of bees

15 points: Read a book with an unlikeable character
I am trying to read books I already own and The Collector by John Fowles is on this Goodreads list of unlikeable characters.

20 points: Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read”. The list is here: http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/books/#/
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is on both this list and the BBC Big Read list so I suppose it’s about time I read it.

20 points: Read a book with something related to water in the title; i.e. ocean, sea, lake, river, waves, etc.
I have precisely two books with water-related titles on my shelves and both are over 600 pages long! I’ll probably go with The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy (my other option is River God by Wilbur Smith)

25 points: Read a book you’ve owned the longest but haven’t read yet (or that has been on your goodreads “to read” list the longest, or has been sitting in your kindle the longest)…basically, read a book you’ve been meaning to read the longest but haven’t got to it yet.
I can’t remember which book I have actually owned for longest, so I went to my Goodreads “want-to-read” list, arranged them in order of date added and discovered that the very first book only has 109 pages. The second book is Un Lun Dun by China Miéville so I’ll be reading that.

30 points: Read a book with an emotion word in the title; i.e. joy, sadness, grief, love, anger, etc. (submitted by Megan)
I thought I would have loads of books for this category, but I actually only found two on my to-read shelf: Love Always by Harriet Evans. (The other one was Joyland by Stephen King but I’m already reading a King book for this challenge).

30 points: Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter (submitted by Vinay); examples: Magpie Murders, Gone Girl, Peter Pan, Love’s Labor Lost – conjunctions and articles count; for example, if the title has “and” in the title, all of the other words must start with “A” to count; or if the title has “the” in it, all of the other words must start with “T”
I have two options for this one. I will either read Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips or Little Lies by Liane Moriaty (for some reason, my copy misses out the “Big”, making the title alliterative)

35 points: Read a book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one – basically the idea is the character does the same kind of thing as you do day to day – stay at home parent or student counts as a profession; yes, you may need to be creative with this one, stretch it, and make it work for you. (submitted by Bev)
As most of you know, I am a translator. I plan to read The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere. The main character is apparently a children’s book translator so she’s basically living my dream. So much more interesting than translating technical manuals and price lists for dental equipment (yes, really).
I chose this category and I know it’s difficult, so if anyone is doing the challenge and struggling with this one I will be happy to help you find a book featuring someone with your profession!

And those are all my choices. Now I just have to force myself to wait until July to start reading them! Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Are you joining in with this challenge? Let me know where your list is and I will come and have a look. If you think you might like to join in and would like more information there is both a Facebook and a Goodreads group where Erin provides lots of support and encouragement.

And now I’m off to buy milk so I can finally have a cup of tea!

 

What I read in April 2018

It’s Show Us Your Books day again – the day that people all over the Internet talk about what they’ve been reading (and I add even more books to the never-ending list of things I want to read some day). Since I finished my reading for Erin’s challenge in March, this time I will simply be listing all my books in the order I read them. I have 13 books to review for you today, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Erin sent me this book ages and ages ago but I never got round to reading it – despite the fact that it would have fit two categories in her latest challenge. Oh well, I’ve read it now. It’s Leonard Peacock’s 18th birthday, and he plans for it to be his last. But first he say goodbye to the only four friends he has in the world. This is the story of that birthday. I felt really conflicted about this book. There were times the main character in this book really annoyed me, even while I felt sorry for him, but most of the time I was totally gripped. The ending disappointed me though… it just felt really bleak, like nothing is going to change. I was left feeling really down when just a few pages before I had felt hopeful. 3.5 stars.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. This is a story about a fifteen-year-old girl named Alice. She wasn’t always Alice… when she was 10, she was taken away from her family. Her kidnapper still has her, but now she’s getting too old for him. The blurb says “This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget“. They’re not wrong about that. It’s a difficult book to review, though. The writing is excellent, the plot is horrific. I mean, given the subject matter it had to be horrific, but I just found it disturbing from beginning to end. No hope whatsoever. It’s realistic, I guess, but too dark for me. 2 stars.

Between the Lives by Jess Shirvington. This is a fascinating book! For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every night, at midnight, she shifts to her ‘other’ life, meaning she lives every day twice. She is exactly the same in both lives, but absolutely everything else is different. In one life she has a sister, in the other two brothers, in one life she’s a rich, popular, straight-A student, in the other she’s considered a reckless delinquent. She assumes that’s the way it will be forever, until one day she discovers a glitch: she breaks her arm in one life but in the other it’s perfectly fine (previously whatever physical things happened in one life also happened in the other). With her new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of experiments to see whether it would be possible to end one of her lives while staying alive in the other. But if she can have just one life, which will she choose? This book is not without its problems. Some of Sabine’s decisions I could not agree with at all. And if you want to read it you should be warned that there is some violence. But overall I absolutely loved this. It’s such an interesting concept and really made me think about what I would do if I had two lives. 4 stars.

Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones. Given that this book is a) only 80 pages (most of which are taken up with illustrations) and b) aimed at 4 year olds I debated not including it here, but it is a book I read in March! This is the story of a little girl called Ava who finds an invisible cat and decides to keep him as a pet. Much mischief ensues (all Squishy McFluff’s doing, of course!). The book is told in rhyme and it’s very funny and cute. I plan to give my little cousin it and the second book in the series for her birthday this year. 4 stars.

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell. This is basically a family drama, full of tragedy and secrets (if you hadn’t guessed from the title ;-)) When Dora Tide finds out she’s pregnant, she returns to her childhood home – scene of much drama – in the hope that she can come to terms with her past and make a fresh start for her and her baby. When I first started reading, the writing felt a little clunky and I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book, but once the story properly got going I was completely absorbed. The ending is a little too neat, but overall a solid read. 4 stars.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. I knew what this was about, of course, and I’ve seen the remake of the film (the one with Nicole Kidman), but I wanted to read the original – get the story straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. This is a short book, but an impactful one. Very creepy. I found it interesting how the husband’s opinions apparently changed dramatically between the beginning and end of the book. 4 stars for this one. I would love to read a sequel to this book, maybe set 10 years or so in the future, focusing on the children being brought up in these Stepford homes. Some of them were female… how did their fathers feel about them having minds of their own?

The Curse in the Candlelight by Sophie Cleverly. The fifth book in the Scarlet and Ivy series, after the last book took place on a school trip, in this one the twins are back at school for a new term. There are some new girls at the school one of whom – Ebony – claims to be a witch and seems to have the younger girls under her spell. When a prank on All Hallow’s Eve goes wrong, Ebony gets the blame, but Scarlet and Ivy aren’t so sure… It was nice to get away from evil teachers and have a slightly different kind of mystery in this one. Gothic and fun – a great addition to the series. I have enjoyed all the books in this series, but this is probably my favourite book since the first one. 5 stars.

The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow. First of all, I originally didn’t realise this was the US version of this book so I was really confused to see things like “sophomore year” being used in a book that’s supposed to be set in England. The original title is In Bloom, but the cover for this version is so much prettier. I mean, just look at it! Amber sunrise

Aside from that, I really liked this book. A lot of reviewers didn’t, which makes me feel like I’m missing something or somehow not as discerning as I should be. This is basically the story of two teenage cancer patients who meet and fall in love. You’re probably thinking “so it’s another The Fault in Our Stars, and maybe it is but I liked this one a lot better The Fault in Our stars – maybe because this one wasn’t hyped as the best/saddest book everrrrrr. It’s told from the perspective of the male half of the relationship. Francis, and while he did annoy me at times I loved his family (mum, brother, nan). It’s also set in North-East England, to which I can only say YAY! More northern books please! 4 stars.

House of Stairs by William Sleator. A lot of the reviews of this book are by people who say they read it as a child or teen and it’s stuck with them even many years later. Having read it, I can see why. It’s the story of five sixteen-year-old orphans in a future society who are brought into a room consisting of nothing but stairs and left to fend for themselves. The only other thing in there is a red machine that will give them food if they perform certain acts. I won’t say more because I really think it’s best to go in knowing very little. Oh, one of the orphans is overweight and the rest of the group frequently refer to her as “fat”. It’s not perfect by any means, but I gave it 5 stars because it really made me think.

Midnight’s Children by Salmen Rusdie. My longest read of the month… I was able to get through it in 12 days by taking it to work with me on both the times I was in the office this month (thank you long train rides) and also not picking up other books in between, which is what I usually end up doing with long books. This is another really difficult book to review. I really, really liked some parts. There’s one passage where he’s delirious with fever and hallucinating that was just amazing. Other parts are really confusing. I feel like I might have benefited from knowing more about Indian history, and specifically Indian independence/the partitioning of India and Pakistan (also a little ashamed of how little I do know given who they gained independence from…). That might have helped somewhat, but not fully. I can say that Salmen Rushdie is an amazing writer and I can see why this is considered his masterpiece. 4 stars – and another Big Read book done.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. About three years ago a friend gave me The Rosie Effect for my birthday, not realising it was a sequel. So when I needed a book for my journey home from work (having finished Midnight’s Children on the way there) it made sense to buy this one. Don Tilman is a professor of genetics, an respected expert in his field. But with his rigidity, adherence to strict schedules and preference of logic over emotion, he doesn’t have many friends… certainly no romantic partner. It has, however, been suggested to him that he might benefit from having a wife, and so, with the help of a questionnaire, he sets out to find one. A funny and cute story. Don Tilman definitely won my heart. This relatively “easy” read was exactly what I needed after Salmen Rushdie and I read almost the entire thing on my train journey. 5 stars.

The Woods by Harlan Coben. Twenty years ago, at summer camp, four teenagers went into the woods. The bodies of two of them were discovered the next day, the other two were never found but are presumed dead, the victims of a serial killer. One of the missing was the sister of Paul Copeland, the prosecutor for Essex County, New Jersey. Now immersed in one of the biggest cases of his career, the past is starting to come back to haunt him and he starts to question whether he really knows what happened that summer. This book has so many twists and turns. I thought I had an idea what happened, but I was wrong… or at least mostly wrong. Somebody I thought had done something actually turned out to have done something else (ha! How’s that for vague?). One thing that bothered me was the way certain women were described, although I guess that was supposed to be how Paul Copeland thinks and not necessarily the author’s views.  Some of the negative reviews for this one say that it follows the “usual Harlan Coben formula”. Luckily I haven’t read enough Harlan Coben to recognise any old materials so I enjoyed reading it. 4 stars.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I loved this book! I could relate to Eliza in many ways (apart from the bit where she’s a fantastically talented artist and I’m average at literally everything). I don’t claim to have anxiety like she does, but I people do scare me and I am mostly quiet in social situations unless I force myself to speak. And I hated the whole social aspect of high school, even if I wasn’t treated as badly as Eliza is in this book. Mostly people ignored me, which was just fine with me, but some of my friends were quite badly bullied. I do have real life friends (although most of them live very far away now), but I appreciated how this book shows that online friends are just as “real” as people you live close to and see every day. I may not have met most of my readers, but I appreciate and care about each and every one of them. Anyway, I digress. Five stars for this book.

I also read Adulthood is a Myth in April. You can read my separate review of that one here.

And that’s it for this round up. I started another two books in April, but one I haven’t finished and the other I finished in May so that will be in next month’s post.

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my opinion on them? Read any good books recently? Any and all comments appreciated! Linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.

Book review: Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen

I will still be talking about all the books I read in April once Show Us Your Books rolls around, but I wanted to dedicate a whole post to this book.

Adulthood is a Myth is a collection of Sarah’s Scribbles comic strips. If you don’t know what Sarah’s Scribbles is, you may have been living under a rock 😉 Her cartoons seem to be everywhere! I really like them and find many of them relatable, so I decided to buy one of her books. It arrived last week and I promptly devoured it. Not all the comic strips apply to me – for instance, she has one about not wanting children and how that won’t change just because people go on at her about it. I do want children, so that’s obviously not me. And the parts about procrastinating to avoid study may have applied in the past, but alas no longer. But I wanted to show you a few of the ones I did relate to.

Adulthood is a myth

But first of all, can we just talk about how the writing and the red stripes on the cover are soft? YAY! Touchy-feely elements aren’t just for five year olds you know! (Or I am actually five years old, one of the two).

One of my favourite panels in the book was this one, at the end of a section on cleaning up:

old stuffed toys

My little buddies whole-heartedly agree!

stuffed toys

We all know I’m slightly addicted to reading. Sarah has a scribble for that, too:

reading in bed

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve not wanted to get up for work in the morning because I was tired from reading too late the night before…

And how about this on the joys of long hair:

long hair

Of course, she forget to mention the part where it regularly ends up in your mouth or trailing in bowls of soup…

And finally, I want to share with you the titular comic strip, on adulthood:

adulthood

I am currently at the mid-30s stage and still find myself looking around for an “adult” to make decisions… before realising I am the adult and have to do everything for myself. *Sigh*

There is so much more I could have shared with you… roughly every other page I found myself thinking “YES, that’s me!”. But I don’t want to give away everything… if any of what I’ve shared speaks to you, if you feel awkward in clouds and feel insecure about people liking you, if you’re pretty sure this whole “adulthood” thing is a myth, then you should really check out Sarah Andersen’s comics for yourself.

I think it goes without saying that I gave this book five out of five stars.

What I read in March 2018

Good morning lovely people. It’s that time of the month again (no, not that time)… today is Show Us Your Books day with Jana and Steph, so here I am showing you my books. March ended up being a surprisingly good reading month – surprising because I didn’t think I would read very much with Anna Karenina to plough through. I guess all the much-needed breaks from it paid off (not that I hated it, it’s just hard work… but more on that below).

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Anyway, I have 16 books to review today, so I’d better get on with it. Starting with those for Erin’s challenge.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (481 pages, read for the category “A book featuring a character with a debilitating physical illness). I feel like people have been going on about this book for yeeeears. When did it come out? *Checks Goodreads* 2012, so it probably has been literally years. Anyway, I had it on my bookcase – although I have no memory of how it got there – and it was the only book I owned that had been previously chosen for this category. Before I start my review, I should say I took a break from Anna Karenina to read this, which may have influenced my opinion slightly. Anyway, this is an easy read and the story really sucked me in. I didn’t cry though, and I am definitely the type to cry at books. The ending made me mad more than anything. Gah! Not without its flaws but a solid enough read. I gave it 4 stars.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (837 pages, read for the category “A book with a character’s name in the title). I have so many books with names in the title, but somehow this was the only one that had been previously chosen for the challenge. It took me over a month, but I actually finished this book! It had to come to Dijon with me and into the office twice, but I got through it. All this makes it sound like I hated it, but I actually didn’t. was more readable than I expected and interesting to read about Russian society. I even enjoyed some parts. But there were parts that just draaagged. In my opinion, it could have been at least 200 pages shorter without missing out any of the actual story. Whole sections dedicated to the act of ploughing a field manually. What was that all about?  And then the Levin character… I quite liked him at first but by the end I was so annoyed with his preachy tone. 3.5 stars. It would have been four, but the last few chapters really annoyed me.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian (352 pages, read for the category “A book that takes place mostly on a form of transport”. The category I got to choose!). Again, this was the only previously-chosen book I owned. What is it with people choosing books I don’t have? 😉 I actually had no interest in this book – the only reason I owned it is because it’s on the BBC Big Read list. Neither war stories nor naval stories are my kind of thing. That said, I liked it more than I expected to. I actually liked the character of Dr Maturin, although I feel like he was mostly in the book to provide someone who knew nothing about ships so that the author could explain things to the reader without patronising them? If that was the case, it actually worked. (Although I recognised some of the terms from my time in sea cadets.) I will definitely not be reading the remaining 19(!!) books in this series though. One’s enough! 3 stars.

And with that I finished Book Challenge by Erin 8.0!

Now for the non-challenge books I read.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop. This is a cute children’s book about a girl who was abandoned in a bookshop when she was 5. The owners – a woman and her son – didn’t manage to find her parents, so she stayed and lived in the bookshop with them. Although she really loves her life there, she has a huge secret: she can’t actually read. They then win a competition and the prize is an amazing bookshop called The Montgomery Book Emporium. Of course, they win the competition, but when they move in all is not as it seems… This is such a fun little book and I really want the Book Emporium to be real! If only my adult brain hadn’t kept asking awkward questions like “how do you just get to keep a girl who gets left in your bookshop without any authorities getting involved?” and “why do neither of those kids go to school or have any form of home-schooling?”. Surely they would have realised she couldn’t read if they’d ever actually tried to, you know, have her do lessons? And it’s not like it’s set in the distant past when these things wouldn’t have mattered! I’m sure children won’t care about those things though. I gave it 4 stars.

Vanish by Tess Gerritson. Dr. Maura Isles is about to leave after an exhausting day at the morgue when one of the “corpses” opens its eyes. Later, the woman who had been presumed dead shoots a security guard with his own gun and then takes a number of people hostage, one of whom is pregnant detective Jane Rizzoli who is about to go into labour at any moment. I was expecting an ordinary crime/thriller, but there was actual a conspiracy theory kind of plot going on, which bothered me a bit. The writing is amazing though! The description claimed that “Only Jane, trapped with the armed madwoman, holds the key to the mystery,” which was misleading – I was waiting the whole time to find out what she knew about the mysterious not-dead woman. Jane did solve the mystery in the end, but not because she “held the key” as far as I could tell. This is the 5th book in a series, but I read it just fine without having read the others. Overall it’s a decent, fast-paced crime/thriller but not one of my favourites. 3 stars.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. I had been wanting to read this book for ages, so finally I just bought it. Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumour that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. But when her best friend’s boyfriend, Drake, kisses her, she actually remembers it! So when an e-mail from Drake seems to suggest she should meet him in Norway, she decides it’s the perfect opportunity for her reclaim her life and sets off on a mad adventure. I love Flora! I love that she’s mostly positive, despite everything. Some people were annoyed by the repetitiveness, but I wasn’t. Hey, enough normal teenagers will go on and on and ON about how they kissed a boy, at least Flora has an excuse 😉 There is a twist, of course – memory loss books always have a twist!  This one has kind of been done before, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected, and didn’t stop me from really enjoying the book. 4 stars.

Wilf the Mighty Worrier Saves the World by Georgia Pritchett. The story itself is cute. It’s about a little boy called Wilf who worries about everything and what he does when the self-proclaimed “Most Evil Man in the World” moves in next door. It would probably appeal to younger boys, especially those who have a tendency to worry about things themselves. But can someone PLEASE explain to me why a book set in Britain by a British author uses “vacation” and “mom”? At first I actually thought it was supposed to be set in America, until it became obvious it wasn’t and I had to look the author up  Did I somehow get hold of a copy that was adapted for the US or does the author think Americanisms will help her book sell faster? Kids maybe wouldn’t notice but it really annoyed me! (I have no problem with books set in America using mom, etc by the way, but British children go on holiday, not vacation!). There’s a whole series of these books but I won’t be reading the rest. 3 stars because the story was quite good, it’s just the Americanisms that put me off.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. The new ship is more modern and much faster, so will be able to catch up with her although she is still moving. Over the months that the new ship is travelling towards her, the two communicate by e-mail and gradually Romy finds herself falling in love. I really, really liked this book. I usually say I don’t like science fiction, but that isn’t strictly true. I don’t like science fiction where the sciency stuff is the entire story. The storyline of this one didn’t go where I thought it was going – or it partly did, I had an inkling about “J”, but only when it was quite close to the end. I’m sure other people would work it out much faster though. Romy is a really believable character and at times I felt genuinely anxious on her behalf. 4.5 stars for this one.

The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen. Sometimes I read a book just to see whether it’s something I could give to my younger brother (who will be 12 this year). This was one of those books – as was the Wilf one, actually. In The Everything Machine’s case, I can definitely say he will be getting it for his birthday in September. I loved it! Basically, a boy called Olly accidentally receives a machine that can make absolutely anything he wants. His siblings quickly find out and hijinks ensue. But is getting everything you’ve ever wished for all it’s cracked up to be? I can’t say too much more without spoiling things, but I will say I really enjoyed the fact that Olly’s 14-year-old sister is really intelligent and into science, and she’s portrayed really positively, showing that a) girls can be scientists and b) science can be cool! The sibling relationship was really realistic too. Olly uses a swear word at one point, which may be something to be aware of before giving this book to your child. A great kids book, 4.5 stars.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. In 1976, when Peggy Hilllcoat is 8-years-old, her survivalist father takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has gone, and her mother and everyone she’s ever known is dead. That isn’t a spoiler – we know this from basically the start. The story is about how and why she makes it home. For some reason, I was under the impression that this book way YA – maybe because of the protaganist’s age? It really, really is NOT though. It’s shocking, heart-rending… and the ending is devastating and awful. Peggy is obviously an unreliable narrator, but I really want her version of events to be real, because I just can’t cope with the ending being true. I gave this 4 stars, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Alice and the Fly by James Rice. This one actually is marketed as Young Adult, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it to most teenagers. Certainly nobody under the age of about 16. I had no idea what to expect from this book when I started and I ended up being totally stunned. The synopsis doesn’t do it justice. It’s about phobias, love, obsession, families, loneliness, being an outcast, mental illness.  It’s dark and disturbing and heart breaking but I honestly could not put it down! 5 stars.

A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. I read this one immediately after finishing Anna Karenina because I needed something a bit easier. A children’s book featuring dragons fit the bill perfectly.  It’s about a dragon named Miss Drake whose human pet Amelia, who she calls Fluffy, has recently died. Now she has a new pet, Amelia’s great-niece Winnie, who seems to be under the impression that Miss Drake is her pet. Ridiculous! As always, where magic is concerned, not everything goes to plan for Miss Drake and Winnie… Aah, this book is so cute. I adore Miss Drake and especially Winnie. She’s a bit cheeky at times, but so bright, mature and resourceful that I just had to love her. I will definitely be getting book 2, and I can’t wait for my godson to be old enough to read it. 5 stars.

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. I ordered this as a potential “debilitating illness” candidate because, at the time, I didn’t feel like reading a book as long as Me Before You. But then I ended up reading the other one before this arrived. Anyway, this book is really well written and I enjoyed reading it, but I’m honestly not sure what it was actually about! Obviously I’m not clever enough for this book? Basically it’s about a woman named Sofia who brings her mother, Rose, to Spain in a final attempt to find out what’s causing her (the mother’s) mysterious illness. But I’m not actually sure whether the mother really was ill, or a hypochondriac, or if the daughter is somehow imagining things? Such a weird book. 3 stars.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I had actually been reading this book on and off for nearly two years, so when I only had about 100 pages left I rolled my eyes at myself and decided to finally just finish the damn thing! I think it’s supposed to be philosophical, but basically it’s the story of a man called Tomas’s sexual exploits with almost everyone but his wife, Tereza, and also the story of his lover, Sabina, and her lover, Simon. All set against the backdrop of the invasion of the Czech Republic by the Soviet Union. It’s all very odd and the narrator keeps directly addressing the reader, explaining things, giving away future events, waxing philosophical. This is another book that I don’t feel “clever” enough for, although I did mostly find it interesting while I was reading. 3 stars.

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange. It’s 1919 and Henrietta, known as Henry, has moved to the countryside with her parents and her baby sister, all of them still reeling from the death of her older brother a year before. This book is just beautiful. Magical, but without any actual “magic”. It reminds me of all the classics I read as a child. Henry is a fantastic character. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

The Guardians by John Christopher. I started reading this book in school in year 9, but then moved before we finished it. I’m surprised I didn’t read ahead actually – I can only assume the book was kept at school so I only got to read it in class with everyone else? I only had a very vague recollection of the plot, and it’s only now, through the power of Google, that I’ve managed to work out what the book actually was! It’s amazing what you can find by searching for “dystopian children’s book where a boy living in the city escapes to the country by crawling under a fence”.  I remember being fascinated by this book when we were reading it in school, and it still was pretty fascinating. In this dystopian future, the world has been divided into a huge city with all modern technologies, known as the Conurb, and the countryside where people have reverted to using horses and carts, known as the County. Only rich people and servants live in the country. I enjoyed reading it,  but the ending was so abrupt… HOW does it just end there? I wonder if the author intended to write a sequel but never got around to it because it seemed to just stop in the middle of the story. Based on the rest of the book it would have been four stars, but I’m disappointed enough to only give it 3.

And that’s it for March. 16 books finished is pretty good, even if 3 were really short, quick children’s books and I only had 100 pages left of another. I think finishing Anna Karenina is my achievement of the year, so far!

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my assessment? And have you read anything good recently? Check out the link up if this massive post wasn’t enough bookishness for you! And if you have a post about what you’ve been reading recently, why not join in?

Okay, I’m stopping. If you’re even still here, I’m sure you’ve had enough by now…