The books I read in March 2017

It’s hard to believe I’ve never actually participated in this link up before! Usually I would have some other opportunity to list recent reads and I wouldn’t want to have too many book posts. But I’m currently between reading challenges and the next one isn’t starting for a while, so I might as well tell you about the non-challenge reading I’ve been doing recently. I know some people break things down into categories, but I’m just listing my books in the order I read them.

I am linking up with Jana and Steph.

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

First of all, in case anyone hasn’t already seen my final check-in post, I read all these books in March for the bonus round of Erin‘s challenge.

And now on to the other books I read in March…

The Lying Game by Sara Shepherd – For some reason I didn’t realise this was part of a series, then I was really confused when the end came (especially because my copy contained a preview of book 2, so I thought there was more left than there actually was…) then just as it started getting interesting it ended. Aargh! Most of the plot wasn’t really believable to me (how could anyone not realise that their daughter wasn’t, in fact, their daughter – especially after she literally told them at the start!) and 90% of the characters just weren’t likeable. But once I suspended ALL my belief it was actually kind of interesting. 4 stars.

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood (book 2 of the Incorrigible Children series) – This one was even better than book one, and I really liked book one! The first book spent a lot of time setting the scene though, whereas more seemed to happen in this one. I was slightly annoyed by all the entirely unsubtle references to book 1 – it was like the author assumed I hadn’t actually read the first one! But apart from that it was great. 4 stars.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix – This book has been on my wish list since about 2008! The idea sounded so intriguing – the life of a family’s third son in a world where the law forbids people to have more than two children. Unfortunately the book was a lot shorter than I was expecting and took ages to really get going. In such a short book I would have expected the action to start sooner! There are about a million books in the series though (well, 7) so I suppose it gets going properly later. Also, I think it’s aimed at younger children than I thought – I was expecting YA but it seems to be more for 11-12 year olds. 3 stars for this, but I will probably still give book 2 a chance.

Smart by Kim Slater – I loved this book, enough that I read it in one sitting even though it was pretty long and I ended up reading way past my bedtime. It reminded me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but I loved that book as well. I loved Keiran, the (presumably autistic) narrator and was really glad things worked out for him in the end. An added bonus was the setting – it takes place in Nottingham, which is where I studied. 4 stars.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – I initially intended this to be my “genre you rarely read” book for Erin’s challenge (science fiction), but I had to rearrange things after I’d already read it. I enjoyed this one more than I expected. It’s one of the more interesting disaster/end of the world books. For some reason I was under the impression that the “Triffids” were alien plants that came to Earth on a comet and started attacking/blinding people, but actually they are very much man-made… 4 stars.

Never Have I Ever by Sara Shepherd (book 2 of The Lying Game) –  I decided to give this series another chance, and I’m glad I did. This book was much better than the first one. Finally the “mean girls” are starting to show that they do have some personality under all that nastiness. I will have to keep reading because I really want to know whodunnit! 3.5 stars (4 on Goodreads because I tend to round up).

The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood (book 3 of the Incorrigible Children) – Still enjoying the series. I think they are getting better as they go along. This one still referred back to the previous two, but in a much less annoying way. More secrets are coming out, and I think I am starting to guess some connections but I need to keep reading to be sure. 4 stars.

The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood (book 4 of the Incorrigible Children) – I had an evening to myself so I read this immediately after the previous one. This has been the best installment yet! Finally we got one or two answers, although I wish Miss Mortimer would reveal what she knows already. Only two more books to go (and book 6 isn’t even out yet!). How will I cope? 5 stars.

Super Awkward by Beth Garrod – Just snuck this one into March, as I read it on the 31st! I thought this was going to be like the Georgia Nicholson books, and in a way it was, but Georgia is much funnier – or maybe it’s just that I was younger when I read Angus, Thongs, etc. and could relate to it more? Anyway, at first I found this book really annoying. I kept thinking do teenagers really talk like that these days? In text speech? Do they really say things like “obvs” OUT LOUD? Am I old? Honestly, I thought about not finishing it, but I was reading in the bath so I didn’t really have another option to hand. Then things started to pick up more and I decided I did kind of like it after all. I would probably have loved this book to death at 15, but at almost 34 I’m afraid I’m too old for it. *Sigh*. 3 stars.

And that’s it. March was a most excellent reading month!

In case anyone is actually still here and interested, I  am currently reading The Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. It’s really good so far, but I’m useless at reading non-fiction so I’m getting through it at snail’s pace!

Have you read anything good lately?

Book challenge by Erin 6.0: bonus round check in 1

Today I am checking in for the bonus round of Erin‘s current reading challenge. Don’t worry, I haven’t finished already 😉 Although I am quite impressed that I got through my choice for “favourite author”…

Here’s what I read for the challenge in February:

books-feb-2017

10 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (399 pages). I had absolutely no idea what this book was about – had never seen the film and somehow had never heard anything about it. Turns out there is no real story. Not one with a beginning, middle and end anyway. Instead we just follow the titular psycho around while he socialises and shops and eats in New York City. Oh, and occasionally kills someone… brutally, graphically, violently. Obviously I was expecting it to be disturbing and graphic, but it was so much more disturbing than I was expecting. Especially towards the end. What I was not expecting was constant references to Donald Trump. Even in fiction I can’t escape him! I gave it 4 stars but I will never, ever read it again!

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W”.

I had two choices for this one, but I decided to read Where She Went by Gayle Forman (264 pages) because it had been on my list longer. Also there are extra bonus points for choosing books that someone had already chosen for the challenge. I must have loved If I Stay because as soon as I finished it I knew I needed to read the sequel, but by the time I got round to reading this one I only had a vague recollection of the story. I still know the main outline, obviously, and I remember crying a lot, but the details are gone. Hmm. Anyway, I really loved this one. I was devastated for Adam and once Mia came back on the scene I really felt for her as well. It made me think about what I would have done in her situation. 5 stars.

20 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green cover.

green-coverThe Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson (434 pages). This book was not at all what I was expecting! I thought it would be some kind of chick lit/romantic comedy, and in a way it is, but it’s also so much more than that. There is romance, but there’s also a mystery and parts of it are very dark. It deals with mental health and there is a twist that I truly was not expecting. I don’t really know how to review this any further without giving things away, so I’ll just say you should definitely give it a chance. It got 4 stars from me anyway. Photo to the left to prove the cover is green 😉

25 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (324 pages; homonym = tale/tail). I had literally zero idea what this book was about. All I knew was that it’s some kind of classic and people seem to rate it highly. And it’s number 131 in the BBC Big Read list so I would have had to read it no matter what. It turns out that it’s really good, and also incredibly relevant right now given the current political situation in various countries. The story is a bit disjointed and vague, which would probably annoy some people, but I actually thought that was quite a clever tactic – it let you fill in the blanks yourself (potentially with even worse things than the author was imagining) and reinforced the fact that the narrator was very much kept in the dark. At the time it was written this book probably seemed extreme and nobody believed it could ever actually happen. I might have thought that myself if I had read it 10 years ago. But now, in 2017, I’m not so sure. 5 stars.

25 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author

I could never pick just one favourite author, so I chose from among the few I always list when asked. Stephen King has been a favourite ever since I read Insomnia when I was far too young to actually understand what I was reading. For this challenge, I read The Stand (1439 pages). Although I love King’s writing, my one problem with him is that he has a tendency to go on and on, long past when he should have stopped. This book is definitely one that could have done with being shorter. Admittedly it’s partly my own fault for reading the uncut edition, but even the original was 817 long, long pages. On the positive side, the writing was, as always, excellent, as was the characterisation – King always makes me feel like his characters are real, and it’s amazing how different he makes them all. How does he manage to get into the minds of such a variety of people? The story of the plague that destroyed the world and the struggles of the few survivors made a really compelling story. However, the supernatural element felt out of place in this one. The whole good versus evil, or God versus the devil (or someone like him) sub-plot made no sense, especially given the ending. Trying not to give too much away, but in my opinion “good” didn’t even defeat “evil” in this book – a few good guys turned up where the good guys were and then something accidental happened and the day was saved… but not by the people who had trekked all that way to save the day. What? It almost felt like King had got that far with the story and had no idea how he even wanted to end it. Minus one star for that. I still gave it 4 though because I really did enjoy reading it – and got through all those pages surprisingly quickly.

And that’s it. I’m halfway through the bonus round with two months to go.

Are you taking part in this challenge? Read anything good recently?

Book Challenge By Erin 6.0: Complete

I woke up early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to make the most of my time and read the last remaining book I needed to complete Erin‘s latest reading challenge. My preliminary list was here, for those who are interested. I did end up changing my picks for one or two categories…

challenge-books

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.

The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria (382 pages). I guessed most of the twists in this one before the end, well kind of at least… one event didn’t go down exactly as I thought it had. Parts of the story felt vaguely familiar as well, which spoiled my enjoyment a bit. I ended up giving this one 3 stars.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W”.

Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse (406 pages) – which I forgot to include on the photograph with the others. I quite enjoyed this, although it wasn’t as good as other books I’ve read by the same author. Everything seemed to come out too well in the end. It was an intriguing mystery though. 4 stars.

10 points: Read a book with six words in the title.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (434 pages). I’m not sure I’d call what I was reading about here “love”… obsession maybe? And – trying not to give too much away – there was one extremely disturbing aspect of the storyline. The writing was good though. 4 stars.

green-book

15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green cover.

I was stuck on this one, but then the lovely Alison who blogs at View from the Teapot sent me a green book – The Conjuror’s Bird by Martin Davies (305 pages). Part love story, part mystery, part historical fiction, this is not a book I would have picked up myself but it turned out to be really enjoyable. My only complaint is that there were three stories within the book and I felt like none of them got the attention they deserved in such a short book. 4 stars. Photo to the left to prove it’s green 😉

20 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title.

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas (410 pages), with the homonym being by (buy/bye). I really wanted to enjoy this book. It was spooky and atmospheric with a family tragedy and a mystery from the past… but somehow it didn’t really suck me in. I got through it quickly enough but ended up feeling unsatisfied. And I guessed one of the big things that was going on way before the end. A rather meh 3 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author.

I don’t have a favourite author (although I might say Terry Pratchett if absolutely forced to choose), so I read a book by one of the authors I can’t get enough of: The Trespasser by Tana French (468 pages). I have enjoyed all of her books, although the first one disappointed me slightly, and each one seems to get that little bit better. I LOVED this one and gave it 5 stars.

25 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live.

Yeah, it doesn’t say country anywhere here, but I’m hoping Erin will let this count anyway. I did find one book that was set in Basel but it turned out not to be long enough, so I read And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle (238 pages). It is set in Switzerland, but in the French-speaking part, somewhere near Lake Geneva. It’s a boarding school book, and I do love a good boarding school book (I’m still trying to collect all the Chalet School books!). This one is quite a sweet one and has all the “traditional” ingredients – awkward or unlikeable girl realises things aren’t so bad and manages to make friends. It takes place just after World War 2 and I felt like the events of the war were glossed over a bit, despite being a major plot point, which is why I only gave it 4 stars.

30 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book.

I read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (245 pages) just this morning. It was a quick and fairly easy read, full of fun pop culture references (I’m sure you all know the story). However… and pay attention to this  next bit because I doubt I will ever say/type it again… the film was better! Something about the story just seemed to work better on the screen… Only 3 stars for this one.

30 points: (Submitted by Stef Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read.)

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat (444 pages) is a war story and I really don’t like war stories… usually. This one surprised me by actually being quite readable! It’s basically a story of the British navy’s part in World War 2, focusing on a particular ship that had the job of escorting non-navy ships to their destinations. 4 stars.

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terril (360 pages). I absolutely loved this book! The writing style, the characters. And even though it’s about time travel, it wasn’t too sci-fi-ish (if that makes any sense?). It was basically an action/adventure/romance that just happened to involve travelling back in time. Highly recommend! 5 stars.

And that’s all. I’m amazed that I actually managed to read all my books within the first month of the challenge! And 3 of them also count for the BBC Big Read, which is nice. Now I shall await the bonus round…

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 – complete

I actually did it! I finished Erin’s book challenge.

At the end of last month, I had read five out of ten books. This month I didn’t have any Shoguns to read so I got through the final five relatively quickly. Here’s what I read in October:

challenge-books

5 Points: Freebie

I was originally going to read Outlander by Diana Gabbaldon, but I ended up changing it (sorry Erin!). I just couldn’t face historical fiction right now after the epic that was Shogun! Instead I read Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, which was mysterious and magical and somehow very English (with its bluebells and woods and a cup of tea for any and all problems). The continuous switching of viewpoints without warning was annoying though, so I gave it 3.5 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Barbara A. Wild; she’s a twin and is a mother to twins.) Read a book with twins as characters.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is beautifully written and very readable, but very, very dark and also very confusing. I felt like I didn’t really “get” it the way I was supposed to, so while I liked it well enough I only gave it 3 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Christina Mapes) Read a book from the following list of books made into movies: http://www.popsugar.com.au/…/Books-Being-Adapted-Movies-327…

I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was much easier to read than a lot of classics and I powered my way through it in two days (thank you two-hour train journey!). Jan had already warned me that Victor Frankenstein spent most of the time whining , so I was at least prepared for that, but Captain Walton was just as bad. Ohhh, poor little me, I have no friend to love me and sympathise with me. And then I finally found a friend but he’s been through so much and I can’t persuade him not to want to die. Ohhh.. woe is meeee! Even the damn creature was whiny on the few occasions we actually got to hear from him – admittedly he had a good reason for it, but still, So. Much. Whining. Plus, whatever else this book may be, it isn’t horror! I enjoyed it though, despite all that, and gave it 4 stars. Also, I’m impressed that Mary Shelley was only 19 when she wrote it. I wanted to be an author at 19, but the drivel I produced doesn’t bare thinking about!

30 points: (Submitted by Ericka Blankenship) Read a music related book.

I read I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne and really, really enjoyed it. Some of it I knew already from watching documentaries about Black Sabbath/Ozzy, but a lot was new. Somehow Ozzy seems very down to earth despite his fame. And credit has to go to Chris Ayres for turning Ozzy’s drug-addled memories into something coherent, readable and compelling. 4 stars – not perfect but really good!

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne Merrylees) Read a book originally published over 100 years ago.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling is surprisingly readable despite the fact that I felt like I was missing something. The language was really hard to understand at first, but it gradually got easier. 4 stars.

I certainly read a range of books for this challenge, and with The Diary of a Nobody, Artemis Fowl, The God of Small Things, Frankenstein, Shogun, The Clan of the Cave Bear and Kim I managed to make quite a dent in the BBC Big Read as well! And now I have a few days to read whatever I want before Megan‘s next challenge starts.

Previous check in posts for this challenge are here, here and here.

Summer reading challenge completed!

I finally finished Megan‘s 2016 summer reading challenge… just now! I read the final page of The Potato two minutes ago. Phew! At the end of month 2 I was on 135 points. Here’s what I read in month 3:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long.

I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for this category. It was… not what I was expecting. I thought it was a dystopian novel, but it turns out it’s utopian. Also I was surpised by all the free sex – mainly because one of my classes in Austria read it. One of my classes of 13 year olds that is! I can only imagine how the immature boys in my school would have reacted to that… Anyway, the book started off okay but mostly I found it kind of weird. I gave it 2 stars.

10 points: Read a collection of short stories or essays. (Sincerely hoping novellas count as short stories here!).

I read Different Seasons by Stephen King. This book almost would have counted for the film category – three of the four novellas have been turned into films and I’ve seen two of them! The novellas are Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (filmed as The Shawshank Redemption), Apt Pupil, The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) and The Breathing Method (not a film as far as I know). None of these books are actually horror, although the events of Apt Pupil can certainly be viewed as horrific! But all of them confirmed for me why I believe Stephen King is a master storyteller. 5 stars (although The Green Mile remains my favourite Stephen King book).

20 points: Read a book that you have previously only seen the film (movie) of. (Subitted by me so not completing this category would have been embarrassing!)

I read Papillon by Henri Charrière. Despite the fact that I had read the film, I only vaguely remembered the story as “something about Steve McQueen escaping from prison by jumping off a cliff??”. You can tell the film made a great impression on me! SO I went into the book with some trepidation – honestly I was only reading it because of the BBC Big Read! So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really, really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t always the best written (or maybe that was the translator?) but it didn’t matter because it felt like I was sitting down to chat with the author. Actually, I bet this would be brilliant as an audio book! I gave this one 5 stars as well.

30 points: Read a microhistory.

And finally we come full circle… as mentioned, I read The Potato by Larry Zuckerman for this. As the title suggests, it’s all about the humble spud. But actually it’s more than that… it’s a social history of Europe (and briefly of America) with chapters explaining why the potato was so slow to gain popularity (first superstition about root vegetable, later it was known as a food for the poor and as a “lazy” food… and English peasants wouldn’t even eat it for decades because the Irish did, and although they were poor they weren’t that desperate). I enjoyed reading this but I would have preferred more information on the actual potato itself alongside all the (fascinating) history stuff. Also, it kept making me crave potatoes! 4 stars.

So, overall this was my best reading month of this challenge, with only Brave New World being not that enjoyable (although short enough that I should have got through it quicker than I did… if only I hadn’t got bored part way through!).

My next task is to complete Erin‘s challenge – for which I read precisely one book in August!

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 Month 1

Yes, two posts in one day… and both are about books. Sorry! If book reviews aren’t your thing go and guess what I’m stitching instead.

So, you may remember that I was taking part in two book challenges in July. I’ve already checked in for month 2 of Megan’s summer reading challenge, now I want to tell you about month 1 of Erin‘s challenge. My preliminary list was here in case you want a reminder of the categories.

I only managed to read two books for this challenge during July, one of which was on my original list. Here’s what I read:

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “R”.

I accidentally changed the book I planned to read for this category (ahem. Sorry Erin!). What do you mean, “accidentally”? I hear you ask. Welll… after all the heavy/long books I’d read for the summer reading challenge, I felt the need to read something slightly easier. Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell had been waiting patiently on my shelf for over a month so I picked it up, read it, and only realised when I got to the end that the title starts with an R! Since I haven’t got round to tracking down my original choice yet I decided to use this one for the challenge.

This book is beautiful somehow magical – but without actually involving any magic. My only problem with it was the ending, which seemed a bit abrupt. Things were moving along nicely, pace picking up then suddenly I’d reached the last line and it was just… over. I gave it 4 stars for that reason (although it’s really more like 4.5).

15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) blue cover.

ArtemisYou may remember (or have just read) that I was hoping to read Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer for this category, providing the copy I had ordered actually turned out to have a mostly blue cover. Well, as you can see from the picture, it did.

This book was okay. It was fairly entertaining and a quick read. I think this particular one would appeal mostly to young boys (how many jokes can you make about flatulence?!) but it’s well written and the characters are mostly believable (as much as fantasy creatures can be believable anyway ;-)). I gave it three stars on Goodreads. I probably won’t go out of my way to read the rest of the series, but if book two happened to fall into my hands I would give it a chance.

That makes 25 points, which isn’t much but not bad considering all the reading I was doing for the other challenge. Bring on month 2!

Winter Reading Challenge 2015: Month 1

DSCN4529

It’s time for the first monthly check in for Megan’s winter reading challenge. I’ve made some decent progress, but ended up changing a few things compared to my preliminary list, mainly because books I had ordered arrived and I couldn’t resist reading them straight away. Where they fit the categories, I’ve used them as my challenge books. Here’s my progress after one month:

10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence – Every single book I’ve read this month would work for this category, but I stuck with my original choice for this one, Summer’s Child by Diane Chamberlain. The premise was good, but the story was a bit blah and there were too many coincidences for my liking. Everything seemed to come together a bit too neatly in the end. I gave this one three stars.

15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these words) – Again, I stuck with my original choice and read Man and Boy by Tony Parsons. I only chose this because it was on the BBC Big Read list and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. It’s a fairly easy read, but it’s touching in places and has some funny bits. The writing isn’t always great, but overall I enjoyed it. Four stars.

20 points: Read a book with a person’s first and last name in the title (e.g. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle) – I used Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis for this category (also published under the title Zelah Green: Queen of Clean). This is the story of a teenager who is sent to a kind of hospital when her OCD gets out of control. It’s a little simplified and Zelah seems to make progress suspiciously quickly, but the reading age is 11+ which explains it a little. I thought the author did a good job of showing that OCD isn’t just wanting everything to be clean and needing to line things up in a precise order. You can read a full review of this one on my blog here. I gave it four stars.

20 points: Read a food-themed book. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of! – This was the first category I completed for this challenge. I read Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. I love Joanne Harris, and while this wasn’t one of her best books, her descriptions of food were amazing as always! Full review here. Four stars.

20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title. (For any grammar nerds out there, I mean “verb” in the most general sense, so gerunds count. For non-grammar-inclined people, just use any book that appears to have a verb in the title!) – I read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh for this one. Spot the verb(s) 😉 This was an intense thriller with a twist that I didn’t even come close to guessing, which rarely happens. It’s a very difficult book to review without giving away the plot, so all I will say is that there are two heartbreaking stories that are connected by one tragic event. Also, it involves domestic violence so don’t read it if that’s likely to upset you. Five stars for this one!

30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher bevchen @ Confuzzledom. – My category, so of course I wanted to finish it in the first month 😉 I read two books called The Missing, by Chris Mooney and by Andrew O’Hagan. The former is a crime/thriller. It was fast-paced and I read it in one sitting. The story was pretty good and I wanted to know what was going on. I should have really enjoyed this book, but something about it annoyed me. It’s the first in a series so I might give the author another chance, but for this particular book: three stars.
The second book was theoretically about people who disappear without a trace, both those who are reported missing and those who nobody ever notices have gone (including people with no family who die at home and are only discovered by accident). Actually, the entire first half was about the author’s childhood and the second half mainly concentrated on the women who were killed by Fred and Rosemary West. There were some interesting facts, but overall it was disappointing. Two stars.

That’s all for this month, so that’s 115 points down.

I’m also part way through both my one word title book and the first of my two books on the same subject, so I’m hoping I might actually finish next month 🙂