What I read in November 2018

Hello friends! It’s Show Us Your Books day again with Jana and Steph, and in November I managed to read ten whole books! Slightly better than October’s four…. even if one of them was a picture book. Anyway, let’s just get started…

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Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley. I’ve had this book for a while but for some reason didn’t want to pick it up. This is book 8 in the Flavia de Luce series. I can’t say too much without spoiling the previous books, but Flavia is back from her brief stay in Canada and, as usual, wherever Flavia goes death has usually gone before… This one took me a little longer to get into than some of the others, but once I got past the first couple of chapters it was nice to be back in Flavia’s world. I only gave this one 3.5 stars though… something about the mystery was lacking and Flavia seemed to miss the obvious in her sleuthing. There are two more books to go, so hopefully the next one will be back to the usual standard! And I do highly recommend reading the other books in the series.

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders. I can’t remember how I found this book, but as soon as I did I knew I had to read it based purely on the title. I mean, how fun does it sound? And fun it was! Lily and Oz Spoffard’s family has just inherited a house with a mysterious boarded-up chocolate shop on the ground floor. The twins’ ancestors were famous chocolate-makers and their chocolate was anything but ordinary. In fact, it was magical! Now an evil gang is after the secret recipe, and it’s up to Lily and Oz to stop them. The fate of their family and the world depends on it! This is a fantastic book It has everything my ten-year-old heart would have wanted. Mystery, adventure, talking animals (Demerara the cat is wonderful), magic hiding right there in plain sight. There’s a LOT going on and it almost felt like it needed to be longer to give more time to get to know the characters, or maybe it should have been part of a series and some of the many adventures could have been in a second book. Overall it was a really fun read and I definitely recommend it. 4 stars.

Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones. Ah, now we come to the picture book. I bought this for my little cousin’s birthday present so of course I had to read it first 😉 Izzy Gizmo loves to invent things, but somehow it never works out quite the way she wants. When she finds a crow with a broken wing, she really wants to help. She tries and tries to build him a new pair of wings, but something always goes wrong. Can Izzy overcome her failures and help her new friend? This is a lovely story about never giving up. I loved the names of Izzy’s inventions, and most of all I loved the crow. 4 stars.

Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder. Rebecca is not happy when her mother suddenly leaves her father and drags Rebecca and her little brother to their grandmother’s house in another state. While avoiding the rest of the family, Rebecca discovers a magical breadbox that will give her anything she wishes for… as long as it fits inside. As always with wishes, there’s a catch and suddenly the bread box starts making life more difficult. And anyway, the thing she really wants (her family back together) won’t fit in a bread box… I really liked this book. Rebecca is a believable and relatable character. At times I felt really sorry for her. I enjoyed the combination of magic and everyday – the breadbox story felt like part of the story rather than being a separate adventure. Even with access to magic, Rebecca still had to deal with her real-life problems. 4 stars.

Why the Whales Came by Michael Murpugo. Gracie and her friend Daniel have always been warned to stay away from the Birdman and his side of the island, but when they go there anyway they discover he’s not what they thought and develop a lovely friendship with him. When the children get stranded on Samson Island they don’t know whether to believe the Birdman’s story that the island is cursed. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a child – a story of everyday children doing normal things, but with a hint of suspense thrown in (is there *really* such thing as curses? And who is the Birdman anyway?). Michael Morpurgo is an excellent writer – there are some great descriptions in the book. 4 stars.

The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Deanna Madden hasn’t left her apartment for three years. To earn money, she works for a sex site under the name Jessica Reilly, stripping and performing sexual acts on camera for her clients, who pay $6.99 a minute for her time. The money is piling up in the bank, she’s one of the site’s most popular cam girls and she hasn’t killed anyone in years. But when Deanna sees on the news that a little girl called Annie has gone missing, she realises the scenario is uncomfortably similar to the dark fantasies of one of her clients. She’s convinced he’s responsible for the girl’s abduction – but no one will listen to her. So, she finally decides to leave the apartment… This book is how I was hoping Darkly Dreaming Dexter would be (except obviously without the cam girl part). I didn’t love every single thing but I was gripped for most of it. I will definitely pick up the sequel. 4 stars.

When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman. Ella wakes up one morning to find that she’s not herself. She looks different, her friends are not her friends (and the people she thought were her friends don’t seem to know her), and she’s taking different subjects at college. And yet, nobody else thinks that anything weird has happened. The concept of this book was really interesting, but I found the main character really annoying! Obviously her situation is difficult to deal with, but she was horrible to basically everyone. She clearly thought her original life was far superior to the one she had found herself in and spent the entire book looking down on “other Ella’s” friends. I kept reading because I really did want to know what was going on and the final chapters were interesting, but I found the solution to Ella’s “problem” (for want of a better word) somewhat disturbing. 3.5 stars.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thomson. Every time Molly Southbourne bleeds, a new Molly is created, identical to her in every way and intent on destroying her. Oh yeah, and that includes when she has her period. Molly has to kill or be killed, and her parents taught her well. But no matter how well she follows the rules, eventually the mollys will find her. Can Molly find a way to stop the tide of blood, or will she meet her end at the hand of a girl who looks exactly like her? This is a short and very strange book but surprisingly good. It’s creepy and the brief glimpses into the world Molly lives in are intriguing – there seems to be something dystopian about it? But there wasn’t enough detail to be sure. I enjoyed it anyway. 4 stars.

Decked by Carol Higgins Clark. If you’re wondering whether this author is related to Mary Higgins Clark, the answer is yes… Mary is Carol’s mother. Anyway, the book. P.I. Regan Reilly is attending a class reunion in England (from what I gather, she and some other Americans spent a year in some kind of college there? I didn’t really get that part). When the body of her former room mate, who disappeared ten years ago, is found, Regan wants to investigate, but instead is committed to a transatlantic cruise. As it turns out, the clues to the mystery follow her on board. This was an okay book, but just okay. There are way too many characters so parts of it just ended up being confusing. It read like a strange mash-up of a thriller and a traditional cosy mystery. The supposed investigator was a bit useless really – the synopsis made it sound like she was at least aware of the danger she was in but actually she was totally oblivious. A quick read that passed the time alright but I won’t bother continuing the series. 3 stars.

You Can’t Make Me Go to Witch School by Em Lynas. When Daisy Wart’s grandmother drops her off at a boarding school for witches, she is furious. No matter what anyone says, she is convinced she is not a witch but is “ac-chew-ally” an actress who really, really needs to return to her old primary school to perform her Bottom. This is a really quirky, fun book perfect for fans of The Worst Witch. Although the constant “ac-chew-allys” drove me slightly mad (what? You didn’t think I was the one that came up with that, did you?). 4 stars. There are two more books in this series, although I’m not sure yet whether I’ll read those.

I also started three other books but didn’t finish them, so hopefully I’ll get round to those in December. I’m in the office tomorrow, so four hours of train time should hopefully allow me to get at least one book finished!

What have you been reading lately? Anything good?
There will be Favourites of 2018 Special SUYB on 26 December, so I’ll be looking forward to that. In the mean time, go here to check out the last regular link up of the year!

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What I read in September and October 2018

I didn’t read much in October… which isn’t really surprising given how the month started. It took me until the 14th to stop feeling weak and dizzy from a combination of low iron and (I’m told) hormones still going haywire, then I was back at work on the 16th, which was okay but working eight hours left me feeling exhausted for the first few weeks. That said, I didn’t actually take part in Show Us Your Books last time (which is a shame since it was the 4-year anniversary, but I just wasn’t in the frame of mind for it plus the aforementioned dizziness wasn’t really compatible with screen time) so I still have all of September’s books to review. So I’ll just get on with it shall I?

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September books

Looking for Alaska by John Green. Miles “Pudge” Halter is fed up with his sad life at home and being a total outcast at his school, so he persuades his parents to send him to boarding school, where he meets Alaska who is apparently the girl of his dreams… gorgeous, intelligent, daring… and completely self-destructive. I found this book okay… but just okay. I didn’t particularly like the main character – for someone who had no friends at his old school Miles is awfully judgemental. I was probably supposed to feel sorry for Alaska, and yes her situation was sad, but she was just too clichéd and quite frankly a really horrible person. A quick read and I didn’t hate it, but I won’t read it again. 2.5 stars.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. I suppose most people know this story so I won’t describe it here. Personally, I thought the scariest thing about this book wasn’t the weird goings in but the supposedly caring husband who is willing to do literally anything  for the sake of his acting career. Ugh. It’s well written but I preferred The Stepford Wives. 3 stars for this one.

Of Bees and Mist by Erick SetiawanMeridia grows up in a lonely home, neglected by her mother and hated by her father, who avoids her as much as he can. At 16, she meets and falls in love with Daniel. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family… who turn out to be not so charming after all. This was a weird book. Some parts I loved, others felt odd or pointless. Meridia’s mother in law was like a literal caricature of a villain. She seemed to have literally no redeeming features whatsoever. Very one-dimensional. Overall, this passed the time well and I liked it but I won’t be adding it to my favourites. 3 stars.

What Lexie Did by Emma Shevah. Lexie lives in London with her Greek-Cypriot family, and her best friend is her cousin Eleni, who has a heart condition. After their grandmother dies, Lexie tells a terrible lie that splits the family apart. It’s up to her to bring the family back together, but after everything how can she find a way to tell the truth? is a really enjoyable book. I loved the multi-cultural aspect with a Greek-Cypriot girl growing up in London. Lexie is a fantastic character – flawed but well-meaning – and the friendship between her and Eleni is wonderful. A lovely middle grade book that I thoroughly recommend. 4.5 stars.

Greetings from Somewhere Else by Monica McInerney. Lainey Byrne is an expert at juggling the chaos of a demanding job, her chef boyfriend (who she hardly sees) and her crazy family. But then her Aunt May dies and in order to collect their inheritance one member of the Byrne family has to spend a year running Aunt May’s B&B back in Ireland. They really need the money since her dad isn’t working after being in an accident some time before, and apparently Lainey is the only one who can possibly drop everything for a year. I’d had this book on my shelf for years and couldn’t remember whether I’d actually read it so I decided to give it a go. It turns out I had read it before – at least a few parts seemed vaguely familiar – but obviously it wasn’t very memorable. I didn’t really like Lainey – she really was bossy and self-centred, and hated the idea that anyone other than her could sort out anything. Her best friend in Ireland, Eva, was my favourite character. Overall it’s a pleasant enough read but very forgettable. 3 stars.

The Night Garden by Lisa van Allen. In upstate New York, Olivia Pennywort cares for the family farm and the incredible garden maze at its centre. According to local legend, visitors to the gardens can gain answers to their problems just by walking through them. But the gardens have never helped Olivia, She has spent her entire life on her family’s land, harbouring a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. But then her childhood best friend returns to the valley and Olivia starts to wonder whether she could, at last, let somebody in. This reads like a fairytale for grown-ups – Olivia, who is apparently incredibly beautiful, literally lives in a tower and there is even a scene with an axe-wielding man having to rescue somebody. There were some beautiful descriptions that made me really want to visit the garden, but some parts seemed wordy and long-winded. Olivia’s dad was selfish and annoying. Overall it’s a pleasant way to pass the time but it’s quite “fluffy” and I feel like more could have been made of the story. 3 stars.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Mia Winchell seems like a typical teen, but she’s keeping a secret. Sounds, words and numbers have a colour for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way, but when it starts causing her problems at school Mia is forced to finally reveal her secret and learn to accept her condition. I started off liking this book, then after a certain point I didn’t but at the end I did again, which makes it really hard to review. I enjoyed the story of Mia trying to figure out who she is and embrace her differences, but was annoyed with her parents, who immediately started blaming each other for what they perceived to be “wrong” with Mia. Halfway through, Mia suddenly became boy crazy, which seemed unnecessary to me – the growing up and dealing with being different was enough of a storyline. Some people have said this story isn’t a good depiction of synaesthesia… I wouldn’t know about that and am disappointed if it’s true because I find synaesthesia fascinating and that was one of the aspects of the book I really liked. However, those reviewers who doubted it would be something kids would be teased for make me wonder whether they have ever actually been children? Kids/teens are cruel and will definitely make fun of anything that’s even a little bit different – or maybe that was just at my school? Anyway, I gave this one 3 stars.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. As the youngest daughter, Tita has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to spend her life looking after her mother. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, who in desperation marries her sister so that he can be close to her. Tita, in turn, pours all her feelings into the food she cooks, which has strange effects on all who eat it. This is a really odd book! Not bad by any means, but strange. At times I felt like I didn’t fully understand it. I did enjoy reading it though – it’s well-written and absorbing, very sensual. And I loved the descriptions of food. 4 stars.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. This is the sequel to Garden Spells, which I really enjoyed. It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and as temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women become restless. Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Although they are selling well, the business is costing the everyday joys of her family and causing her to doubt her belief in her gifts. Meanwhile, Sydney Waverley is desperate for a baby, a namesake for husband Henry. But the more she tries – and fails – the more desperate she gets. Finally, Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to. If only she could find a way to make him see it too… In amongst all this, a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family. Somehow, the Waverley sisters need to find a way to hold the family together until first frost, when everything will be okay again. didn’t enjoy this as much as Garden Spells. It was just as well written, but it had a different kind of feel for me. Garden Spells is comforting, like a cosy blanket. This one felt less whimsical and more tense. It was nice to catch up with the Waverley family though and Sarah Addison Allen is, as always, an excellent writer. 3.5 stars.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back. So she’s understandably confused when an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage seems like the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her former best friend. But something goes horribly wrong, secrets are uncovered and the past finally catches up with Nora. I read this in one sitting – I was so intrigued to find out what was going on and who had done what. I was annoyed by almost all the characters though. Especially Nora whose entire life was apparently ruined by a relationship when she was a teenager. Clare I think was actually supposed to be unlikeable, but I’m not even sure what the point of Melanie was. It was very tense though and all the twists and turns definitely kept me interested. 4 stars, but a low 4 stars (too good to be only 3!).

So, ten books read in September, but not the best reading month since the majority were 3-star reads. None of them were really terrible, but the majority were just okay.

October books

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. This book had been on my shelf for ages until I decided to take it with me when I went to the hospital for the second time with spotting. I ended up being admitted, and read this on the Thursday while hooked up to an iron drip. When Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere, so she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money, which will be needed, she invites him along. While hiding out at the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions… or is it? Claudia is determined to find out, a quest that leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the old woman who sold the statue to the museum. This is such a cute, fun book. I loved Claudia and Jamie. Their personalities and concerns seemed very realistic and I enjoyed their adventure. I can see why this is considered a classic. 5 stars.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard. Elvia Carr has a “Condition” (most likely some form of autism) and according to her mother is useless – incapable of interacting with the rest of society or looking after herself. But when her mother has a stroke, Elvira is forced to do just that. In an effort to cope with the world, she comes up with seven social rules to help her fit in. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that most people don’t live their lives according to the rules, leading to awkward encounters and a few unpleasant situations. But through it all Elvira keeps learning about herself and the people around her, knowledge that will help her navigate her way through a confusing world. I loved this book! I adored Elvira from the very first page. She has such a distinctive voice and her descriptions of the way her mother treated her made me want to give her a hug and tell her she’s most definitely NOT useless – as she proved again and again throughout the book. There are some dark moments and Elvira encounters some not very nice people, but there are also some truly wonderful characters – I loved Charlie and Karen. Highly recommend. 5 stars.

The State of Grace by Rachel Lucas. It only occurs to me now that I read two books in a row with autistic characters. Interesting. (I actually started another one in between but still haven’t finished it.). Anyway… Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She has a horse and a best friend who understands her, so what more does she need in life? But when Gabe kisses her and things start to change at home, suddenly life doesn’t make sense any more. Everything seems to be falling apart and it’s up to Grace to fix it. race is a wonderful character – her lovely personality shines through. She always tries to do the right thing even though it’s difficult for her and she often doesn’t understand what the right thing would be. I’m not autistic so I don’t know whether this was an accurate representation of autism, but given that both the author and her daughter are on the spectrum I would imagine it is. Even without being autistic some of Grace’s thoughts resonated with me as a socially awkward introvert, like when she was all peopled out and just wanted to be at home with her familiar things. Grace’s friend Anna is also a lovely character and wonderful friend to Grace. My one minor criticism of this book is that there’s a side story about Grace’s sister that wasn’t fully explored. The book would have been just as complete without it. Apart from that I really enjoyed the book and gave it 4 stars.

The Polka Dot Shop by Laurel Remington. When 13-year-old Andy’s school announces a new no-uniform policy, she is the only pupil who isn’t over the moon. All she wants is to dress like everyone else, but instead she’s forced to wear pre-loved items from her mum’s run-down vintage boutique. The distance between Andy and her mum is growing all the time, and to top it off the shop seems to be doing increasingly badly. When Andy finds a bag of high-quality designer clothes at the back of the shop she suddenly begins to see the potential of vintage clothing. But can she turn things around before it’s too late? I loved everything about this book. The characters are diverse. Andy and her friends are so supportive of each other, and I loved the fact that, despite their differences, Andy really does love her mum and want her to be happy. I also liked the way people took Andy and her ideas seriously and didn’t just dismiss her as a stupid kid. There is a mental health aspect to the book, which maybe have been addressed in more detail, but other than that it’s just a lovely, feel-good book, which was precisely what I needed at the time. 4.5 stars

Despite the fact that I only read four books, October turned out to be a much better reading month as I enjoyed all four of them. One was a children’s book and two were YA, but I think some relatively “easy” reading was exactly right for my frame of mind in October. As November progresses and the dark nights draw in, I’m hoping to get back into my usual varied range of reading materials… if I can find the time in between stitching and making a million Christmas cards!

Have you read anything interesting recently?
If you want even more book reviews, definitely check out the link up.

 

What I read in August 2018

Hello! I’m here today to link up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books and tell you about the books I read in August. There are a lot so I won’t bother with too much preamble and just get straight into it. Books for Erin’s challenge first, then the rest. This will be long so feel free to skip parts, or the whole post. Whatever.

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The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy (read for a book with something relating to water in the title). I started reading this one in July but it took a while because it’s nearly 700 pages! This is women’s fiction… I don’t think I would call it chick lit. I feel like chick lit is usually shorter, more frivolous, easy reads I guess. Anyway, it’s the story of Kit MacMahon, who lives in a small village in Ireland. When her mother, Helen, disappears and is presumed drowned her life changes in an instance. A short time later, she receives a letter from a woman named Lena Gray, who lives a tempestuous life in London with Louis, her great love. Who is Lena Gray and why is she interested in Kit? The story then follows Lena and Kit over many years. This book is like a warning to women not to let your entire life centre around a man and how one mistake – however innocent – can change everything for more than just yourself. The story itself is actually pretty good but went on for way too long – I would have been happy with about 200 pages less – so I gave it 3 stars.

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes. I had to change my original book with an orange cover to this one because I just couldn’t get into the other one. This is a YA book about a sixteen-year-old girl named Maguire. Since she was involved in a car accident that killed her father, uncle and brother while she walked away with barely a scratch and then found herself on a rollercoaster when it jumped off its tracks, but again was unhurt herself, she’s convinced that she’s a curse and causes horrible things to happen. So all she wants to do is stay in her room where she can’t hurt anyone, but her therapist has other ideas so she reluctantly tries out for the tennis team. The synopsis goes on to say “then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star who wants to help her break her unlucky streak”, but that makes it sound like she’s “saved” by a boy, but that’s not really how it is. He does help her, but so do her therapist and her new friends, and ultimately she does most of the work herself. I really enjoyed this book. Maguire is a fantastic character and her issues felt realistic. I mean, I’ve never had PTSD but I could totally understand how she would get the idea that she’s bad luck after everything she’s been through. I also really loved her step-dad – he was obviously trying so hard while also struggling himself with a far from ideal situation. 4.5 stars for this one.

The Collector by John Fowles. I read this book for the categroy “a book with an unlikeable character” and it definitely fulfilled that! It’s about a man called Frederick who collects butterflies and is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, an art student named Miranda. When he wins a lot of money, he buys a remote house in Sussex and abducts Miranda, believing she will learn to love him in time. He honestly seems to believe he treats her well… despite the fact that she’s trapped in a cellar with no possibility to leave or contact her family?! This is disturbing and creepy, but somehow addictive – I felt compelled to keep reading to find out how it what happened at the end. Part 2 of the book is written from Miranda’s perspective and I’m ashamed to say that part bored me. I just didn’t like her at all – which feels like an awful thing to think given her situation. 3.5 stars, would have been 4 if it had stuck to Frederick’s perspective.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (read for the “PBS Great American Reads” category). I had been putting off reading this for ages so I finally ended up taking it on the train to work with me… being stuck on trains with nothing else to do generally encourages me to read whatever I have with me 😉 I presume most people know the story (I knew the basics before reading it) so I won’t describe it. I will hopefully not spoil anything with me review though. So, there were parts of this I really, really loved but other parts I didn’t. The Randall character annoyed me… he almost seemed like a caricature of a villain. At some point his chasing Jamie all the way round the country just became unrealistic and slightly ridiculous. There was also a lot of sex. Not that I have anything against sex scenes, but I swear at one point Jamie and Claire were at it on every page!Cutting a few sex scenes would probably have made the book about 100 pages shorter 😉 I really liked the way Claire’s skills as a nurse were tied in with the herbs and equipment that were available in the past and I did like Jamie, although I’m not lusting over him like everyone else seems to be. He seems like a decent guy though, especially given the time period. Overall I liked it but didn’t love it. I would like to know what happens next and where they go from here, but I’m not sure I’m interested enough to be willing to read another 800 pages! 3.5 stars.

That was my last book for the first round of the challenge, then I read two for the bonus round.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (read for the category “a book featuring another participant’s profession). Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life, following the same routine every day, just like he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. Now, a year after her death, he goes to finally start clearing out her things and finds a charm bracelet that he doesn’t remember seeing before. One of the charms has a phone number on it, which he calls, and discovers his wife once lived in India. What follows is a quest to find out more about his wife’s life before the two of them met. This is a lovely book – I kind of want to say charming… too punny? I really enjoyed following along on Arthur’s adventures. Some of the events were a little implausible and a few times the writing felt a little flat, but overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. 4 stars.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (read for the category “a book with an alliterative title”). This is an interesting take on the “Cinderella” story. Eleanor, known as Ella, was inadvertently cursed at birth by a fairy named Lucinda, who bestowed on her the “gift” of obedience. An obedient child sounds like every parent’s dream, right… but it means she has to do whatever anyone tells her to do. If she’s told to eat cake, she has to keep eating until she’s told to stop. Despite all this, she manages to rebel… finding way to do as she’s told but not necessarily in the way the person expected. After her mother dies, she sets out to try and find a way to break the curse, encountering ogres and giants along the way, and of course ending up with a stepmother and stepsisters to order her around… This is a cute, fun read. Despite her curse, Ella has a mind of her own and a rebellious spirit. She’s no weak little princess waiting for Prince Charming to come and rescue her! 4 stars. Apparently there’s a film, but I haven’t seen it.

Those were all the books I read for Erin’s challenge in August, so now for the rest. This is already long… I’ll try to be quick!

Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne. Evie has OCD, but all she wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. SGoing to parties, making friends… all that’s left is to find a boyfriend. But teenage relationships are messy at the best of times. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends the truth about herself how is she going to cope when she falls in love? I absolutely LOVED this book. It’s the perfect blend of fun and serious. I love that the teenagers in this book actually act like teenagers with all their flaws and mistakes. This is the first book in a series and I can’t wait to read the other two. 5 stars.

The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster. Eleven-year-old Joe has spent most of his life in hospital. He has an autoimmune condition that means literally everything could kill him. Even his few visitors at the hospital risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his ‘bubble’. But then somebody new enters his world with a plan that will change his life forever. I really enjoyed this. I loved the characters for the most part. oe’s conversation seems really mature for his age – which I suppose it would be if you’d been locked in a room all your life with only adults to talk to. At the same time he’s quite naive, never really seeming to question or think about the consequences of what he’s doing, which again seems realistic… he’s just a child after all, with no experience of the real world. I wasn’t sure about the Amir character… I can’t say much without spoilers, but how did he get onto the ward just like that? This book deals with some heavy topics and isn’t as hopeful and heart-warming as Wonder (the book I keep seeing it compared to), but it’s a great story and I definitely recommend it. 4 stars.

The Door That Led to Where by Sally Gardner. AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy, so when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change – and it does, in most unexpected ways. While tiding up one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. This is the start of an amazing adventure that literally takes him to the past. A brilliant blend of mystery, historical fiction, time travel and coming of age story. I loved the bond between AJ and his friends. My only complaint is that it was too short – it felt like some parts were rushed over too quickly and explanations were given almost as an aside. More detail would have been nice. Because of that I gave it 4 stars.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I feel like I’m the last person to read this, so I’ll be brief. It’s the story of a Havard professor who discovers she has early-onset Alzheimer’s and her life as the disease progresses. This was a hard book to read given that my grandma has Alzheimer’s (not early-onset, but still). We can never truly know what it’s like to be inside the mind of an Alzheimer’s patient, but to me it felt authentic. John (the husband) annoyed me at times – I get that it’s a difficult situation to deal with but he just seemed so selfish. Of her children, I absolutely loved Lydia and thought she coped brilliantly with everything. An emotional read but well worth it. 5 stars.

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel. What is it with me reading dead sister books this year? I think this was about the fourth? Anyway, this book starts with Juniper on the first day of the new school year… and the first school day since her sister, Camilla, dies sixty-five days ago. On that first day, Juniper borrows Camie’s handbag for luck – and discovers an unsent break-up letter inside. It’s mysteriously addressed to ‘You’ and dated the day of the accident. Juniper is determined to find the mysterious ‘You’ and deliver the letter, so she starts to investigate. But then she loses something herself. A card from her daily ritual, The Happiness Index – little note cards where she rates each day – a tradition she started with her sister. The Index has been holding Juniper together since Camie’s death and now there’s a hole in it. And this particular card contains Juniper’s own secret: a memory that she can’t let anyone else find out. I loved this book! Juniper is a fantastic character. It’s clear that she’s grieving but she keeps on trying to live her life anyway. There were a few sad bits but mostly it’s just a lovely book. The expected resolution doesn’t come at the end, but I think that’s okay. I took off one star because Brand, the bad-boy character, seemed a little stereotypical, so 4 stars.

The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell. Lydia, Robyn and Dean don’t know each other – yet.
They live very different lives, but they’re all about to find out a secret and learn just how they’re connected.
I will never fail to be amazed by the many different stories Lisa Jewell manages to tell. All her books are so different! I really like Lisa Jewell as a writer, but unfortunately I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I have been with others of hers. With the subject matter, I felt like this could have had a lot more depth to it. Lydia was the only character I felt like I really got to know. Robyn seemed really snobby and annoying and I never felt like I really found out anything about Dean. The story is interesting though and I did like it – I just didn’t love it. 3.5 stars.

While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green. Lisa Dale is playing hide-and-seek at the park with her four-year-old daughter, Ella. When she opens her eyes, Ella is gone. The police, the media and Lisa’s family all think they know who took Ella. But what if the person who has her isn’t a stranger… and what if they think they’re doing the right thing? This book is a bit odd. It’s not the tense thriller the description makes it out to be. As readers, we know very quickly who has Ella, so there’s no real sense of tension, wondering where she is and what will happen to her. Instead it’s a great look at the effects a missing child has on the other members of the family. The “twist” for want of a better word and the ending felt rushed and weird – the ending especially didn’t feel authentic. It’s well written but if you’re expecting a proper thriller you will be disappointed. 3 stars.

Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter. Rosalind hates her new secondary school. She’s suffered from selective mutism for as long as she can remember, and now she’s labelled as a freak… the Mute-Ant. So with the help of her little brother, Seb (who is suffering from cancer), Rosalind starts a blog – Miss Nobody; a place to speak up, a place where she has a voice. But there’s a problem… Is Miss Nobody becoming a bully herself? Parts of it are heartbreaking, but there are also some wonderful relationships. Ailsa is a fantastic friend and the brother/sister relationship between Rosalind and Seb is wonderful. Rosalind’s relationship with her new therapist is also fantastic – I loved how Octavia was portrayed and how the book showed that finding the right therapist who truly gets you is so important. The school bullying scenes are awful but also realistic – I can genuinely imagine those exact kinds of things happening at my high school. Rosalind really grows as a person throughout the story and is strong enough in the end to admit her mistakes and do her best to make amends. 5 stars. Highly recommend!

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst. Emma Cartwright has just been released from a Psychiatric Institute. Three years ago, her name was Susan Webster and she was imprisoned for murdering her twelve-week-old son… a crime she has no memory of. Then she receives an envelope addressed to Susan Webster, containing a photo of a toddler with the name “Dylan” on the back. What if her son isn’t actually dead? This book was so twisty and convoluted… I almost felt like there was too much going on. It took me ages to work out how the past and present stories were connected… although I did eventually guess who one present-day character was going to turn out to be. Parts of the plot also seemed kind of far-fetched to me. Or maybe I’m just naive and money really can get you out of anything. It isn’t really  bad book, I just feel like I’ve read better thrillers. 3 stars.

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. I don’t want to say too much about this, because I didn’t know much about it going in. Luna and her sister take a trip to Beau Ridge, Brooklyn, to sell their mothers house with their estranged Aunt Stephanie, and maybe find out a bit about their mother in the process.  Then Luuna discovers that she may have a chance to save her mother… but will that mean sacrificing her own life? I loved this! It wasn’t what I was expecting – but then I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting? Luna is a fantastic character and such a caring big sister – she made me wish I was that close to my siblings. The love story is genuinely adorable. I pretty much just liked everything about this book. Just a warning that the storyline does involve a rape. 5 stars.

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker. In this post-apocalyptic novel, Edgar Hill finds himself separated from his family and has to travel 550 miles to get to them or risk losing them for ever. With no other option left, he and a small group of companions start running. I’m not sure what to think of this book. I enjoyed the story, but I really, really didn’t like the main character. Ed is whiny, annoying and a terrible husband. I honestly have no idea why his wife stayed with him never mind procreated with him a second time after he was so useless the first time! But the story was fast-paced and eventful and kept me wanting to know whether the group would ever actually reach their destination. Some of the events seemed a bit far-fetched but I suppose the book would have been a bit boring if they they’d just stopped encountering obstacles after a certain point. I did find it annoying that all the “bad” people were working class/seemed to be from council estates while the middle and upper-class people ended up helping and feeding the group. Overall it is a good read and the running thing makes it a different kind of story. 3.5 stars.

When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster. So apparently the author of this book is the daughter of record producer (David Foster… never heard of him) and her real job is a songwriter, among others for Michael Bublé. I didn’t know this until I read it on the back of the book and honestly I don’t really care. When Autumn learns she’s been promoted to a higher coven, she has to find her own replacement. But who in Avening is in tune enough with her own personal magic to take over the huge responsibility of town witch? Autumn has been given a list of 13 people who just might have what it takes, but how can she get them to open their eyes to the magic in their lives? I bought this because the description sounded interested and it had been compared to Sarah Addison Allen. This is not Sarah Addison Allen! I really liked the basic storyline – it was an interesting concept and could have been great, but the writing was really not for me. It felt somehow juvenile. Also, there were too many characters and I never really felt like I got to know any of them properly, except Autumn herself, of course. It almost ready like a book of short stories that are loosely related. It had potential and at least it was an easy read so I got through it quickly, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I still like the title and the cover is really pretty, but 2 stars.

Phew… finally that is all of them. 18 books! A pretty god reading month with a fair few four and five star books. For anyone who didn’t feel like reading all my reviews I highly recommend picking up Am I Normal Yet? (YA) Being Miss Nobody (middle grade) and The Summer of Impossible Things (science fiction with a bit of romance). And for those who haven’t got their fill of books, definitely check out the link up.

Have you read any of these? Do you agree with my opinions?

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?

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?

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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.

What I read in February 2018

In my February recap, I said I had read 16 books but I miscounted and it was actually 17. Yay. Erin’s challenge is still going on, and I started the bonus round in February but didn’t finish it – partly because some of the books I chose turned out not to be long enough so I had to wait for replacements, partly because I kept getting distracted by non-challenge books and partly because Anna Karenina is just so damn long! But let’s just get on with it shall we… this post is going to be long enough without me blabbering on.

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Challenge books first, then the rest.

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel (352 pages, read for “a book originally published in another language”; originally Danish). This can basically be categorised as Scandanavian crime – although I hadn’t read a Danish before. The body of an unidentified woman is found and nobody seems to know who it is, until someone comes forward saying she used to care for her in a state mental institution many years ago. The only problem is the girl and her twin sister supposedly died more than thirty years ago. The case ends up taking Louise Rick who is in charge of the investigation back to her childhood home, which she isn’t too happy about due to traumatic events in her past. I mostly enjoyed this book, although some parts seemed a little disjointed. I wonder if that was a translation issue? I would like to read the next one because there seem to be some secrets relating to Louise’s past that intrigue me. 3 stars.

Us by David Nicholls (396 pages, read for “a book with a red cover). This seemed to take me a weirdly long time to read, possibly because of the short “sections2 (not really chapters). I would think I had read loads, then see it was only a few pages. Douglas Petersen’s wife, Connie, tells him she wants a divorce, but she still wants to go ahead with their holiday, touring Europe with their almost-18-year-old son before he leaves for university. This is the story of their relationship and the tour, which Douglas hopes will help him win her back. This book started off slow but I ended up enjoying it. There are some funny moments and some touching ones. Poor Douglas just wants everyone to like him (although there were times I wanted to tell him to stand up for himself). I hated Connie though – she was basically horrible to Douglas all the time. 4 stars.

Everlost by Neal Shusterman (320 pages, read for “a book with a plot twist). Two teens, Nick and Allie, die in a car accident, but instead of going “where they’re supposed to” (presumably heaven) they end up in a sort of limbo halfway between life and death – they’re still in the real world, but the living can’t see them. An interesting take on the afterlife and what happens after we die. The characters were well written and mostly interesting. The writing style seemed younger than the sometimes very creepy and odd themes though, which threw me off a bit. The “twist” involves some of the people they meet and characters maybe not being what they seem. I didn’t love it but I liked it enough to want to know how the story continues. 3 stars.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Blunt (355 pages, read for “a book with house/home in the title). Fourteen-year-old June Elbus feels like the only person who ever understood her was her uncle Finn, so when he dies of AIDS she’s understandably devastated. When she begins spending time with another person who was close to her uncle, she starts to realise she isn’t the only one who misses him. This is a beautiful, emotional book about grief, feeling different and what it means to be a sibling. 4 stars.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner (401 pages, read for “freebie”). A politician has an affair. This book is described as the story of what his wife and two daughters do in the aftermath of the “betrayal”, although really it’s more what his wife does. At least one daughter’s story was shaped by events that happened way before the affair. Anyway. This book was okay. It’s an easy read and I got through it quickly enough, but most of the characters are boring – except the elder daughter, Diana who’s just a total bitch, but at least does something. 2 stars.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. Lina is forced to spend the summer in Tuscany because it was her mother’s dying wish. She doesn’t really want to be there, until she’s given an old journey of her mother’s and starts learning about the year she spent in Italy and various secrets surrounding it. A cute, fluffy YA read that I read in an evening. I loved the descriptions of Florence. Lina was supposed to be 17 but she seemed younger – I would have happily believed it if she was 14! But I suppose then she wouldn’t have had as much freedom to explore on her own and find things out. It passes the time well enough. 3 stars.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (428 pages, read for “an author whose first and last name start with the same letter). This is the second book in the “Peculiar Children” series and I feel like I should have re-read the first book before starting this one… it’s been a while and I had forgotten most of what happened. I liked the way the peculiar parts ate intertwined with the reality of World War 2 and I was definitely not expecting the twist. I will read book 3. 4 stars.

That was all my challenge books for this month. Categories still to go: A book with a character’s name in the title (Anna Karenina… I will finish you!), a book that takes place on a form of transportation and a book featuring a character with a debilitating physical illness.

Now for the non-challenge books.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is a pretty short book and I read most of it while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. It read a bit like a self-help book disguised as fiction, or maybe a biblical parable. At first I was enjoying it and found a few quotes I really liked, but after a while it got too preachy. If it weren’t so short and on the BBC Big Read list I doubt I would have bothered reading it all. 2 stars.

The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff. This is a cute little book about growing up, friendship and how it feels to be “different”. Georgie has dwarfism and the beginning of each chapter there’s a little paragraph that asks the reader to do something and then explains that Georgie can’t do that very thing. This is a great way to gently show children that even people who look different are just the same as everyone else on the inside. Wonder is a better book along the same lines, but this is a nice one for younger children. 3 stars.

Little Wolf’s Book of Badness by Ian Whybrow. This book is so fun! Little Wolf is too well-behaved, so his parents have sent him off to Cunning College to learn the Rules of Badness from his Uncle Big Bad. The story is told in the form of letters that Little Wolf writes home during his journey to school and once he arrives. I enjoyed the references to familiar fairy tales, and I’m sure young children will too. I will definitely be buying this for my Godson at some point. 4 stars.

The Dance in the Dark by Sophie Cleverly. Book three in the Scarlett and Ivy series, in this one someone is sending nasty letters to pupils and staff, and then “accidents” start to happen. Is somebody out to get the school? This book was better than the second one. I found Scarlett less annoying this time round. She came across as feisty and determined rather than spoiled and stubborn. After starting off slow, the middle and end of the book were action-packed. I wish a series like this had been around when I was 10! 4 stars.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I wanted to read this as my plot twist book for the challenge, but it turned out not to be long enough. I decided to still read it anyway though. I absolutely loved it! It’s so wonderfully creepy and gothic. 4 stars.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach. This book is so strange! I read it while waiting for a train – it didn’t take me long since half the pages are just photos of seagulls. Jonathan Livingston is a seagull who believes it is every gull’s right to fly. In doing so, he ends up being ostracised by his flock, who claim a gull’s entire purpose in life is to find food. It’s 95 pages of pure weirdness. 2 stars.

Sunday Morning Coming Down by Nicci French. I thought this was the last book in the Freida Klein serious – after all, Sunday is the end of the week – but it seems there will be another one, which really will be the last. That’s good because I still need answers and I’m not ready to say goodbye to the characters yet! I can’t really say much about this book without spoiling the others, so I will just say read this series! Book one is Blue Monday. 5 stars for this one.

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles. This one had been on my to-read list for a while so I finally decided to just read it. A boy named David has committed suicide, and his brother, Kyle, decides to take revenge on the person he perceives to be responsible (Cass) by burying her in a box underground. The only way for Cass to survive is to keep Kyle talking. This was an incredibly intense story and I could not stop reading! Not perfect, but certainly gripping. 4 stars.

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long. Sophie Nieuwenleven is English, but she came to live in Belgium with her family when she was four or five years old. Now she’s 14 and still isn’t quite sure why they moved to Belgium in the first place. One day she discovers something so shocking about her family that she can’t put it into words, so instead she uses a special “language” to tell her story. The aforementioned “language” actually just involves replacing some words with others – so people are pigeons and parents are parsnips, for instance. At first I found that really confusing, and I actually thought Sophie had something wrong with her that made her mix up her words. It was quickly obvious that even people she met for the first time weren’t confused, so I soon realised that was her supposed “language”, and once I got used to it I could read it fine. I really liked this book and loved the character of Sophie. Her parents need a good shake though – her dad at least ends up paying for his actions, but in my opinion the mother is just as bad. No spoilers here, so if you want to know what they did you’ll have to read it 😉 4 stars.

Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey. Gabriella, or Elle, has been moving around the country constantly for as long as she can remember. For her senior year of high school she finally convinces her dad to let her go to boarding school, but then weird things start happening and Elle wonders whether she’s losing her mind. I enjoyed the plot of this one. I guessed some of what was happening before the end, but not everything. I didn’t particularly like the characters though. Gabriella/Elle alternates between boring and ridiculously naive. I did want to know what was happening though and read it all in one sitting. 3.5 stars.

And that was all for February. As mentioned above, I started Anna Karenina but I’m stillll not finished. We’ll see if I get to include it in my March review.
Sorry this post is so long – I tried to keep my individual descriptions/reviews brief but I didn’t succeed as I would have liked! I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, of course. If you still need more book talk, check out the link up.

Have you read any good books lately?