What I Read in September 2020: Part 2

Happy sixth anniversary to the Show Us Your Books link up, and many thanks to Jana and Steph for hosting it! As promised, here is the second part of the books I read in September.

Potkin and Stubbs (Potkin and Stubbs #1) by Sophie Green. Lil Potkin is desperate to be a reporter – not for The Herald, the newspaper run by the mayor of the Peligan City, but for the underground paper The Klaxon. She just needs to find the scoop that will get them to notice her. Little does she know it’s sitting right in front of her at the bus station! Nedly Stubbs needs Lil’s help to solve a missing persons case. Who is this missing person? Well, actually, he is… turns out Nedley is a ghost. When they discover that his death is connected to a series of mysterious murders, Lil and Nedly set out to expose those responsible, with the help of Abe, a down-on-his luck private investigator, who might hold a clue to Lil’s hidden past. It took me a little while to warm up to this book – I think after hearing so many good things about it my expectations were too high. But I did end up enjoying it. I like that there’s an actual adult involved – at one point Lil and Nedley decide something looks too dangerous and they should come back with Abe. Lil is kind of annoying at times but I loved Nedly. 4 stars.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Esther Greenwood is a young girl spending a summer on a dream assignment on a big-time New York fashion magazine. She’s on the brink of her future. Yet she is also on the edge of a darkness that makes her world increasingly unreal. This autobiographical novel chronicles Esther’s descent into a breakdown in a world that refuses to take woman’s aspirations seriously. I had no idea what this book was actually about, other than relating to Plath’s own attempted suicide. I just picked it up from a free bookcase on the basis that it was supposed to be a classic. Honestly, I had been putting off reading it for ages because I expected it to be really heavy and depressing, but while parts of it were obviously sad there were some surprisingly funny moments. I really enjoyed the writing – especially there’s a part about a fig tree that was so well done. 4 stars.

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius. Sally Jones is an extraordinary ape and a loyal friend. In overalls or in a maharaja’s turban, this unique gorilla moves among humans without speaking but understanding everything. She and the Chief are devoted comrades who operate a cargo boat. After being out of work for a while, one day they are offered a job that will pay big bucks, but the deal ends badly, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder. For Sally Jones, this is the start of a harrowing quest for survival and to clear the Chief’s name. Powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their secrets. This book is very long for middle grade (my copy has 588 pages), but it’s worth it. It’s an awesome adventure! Sally Jones is a very well travelled gorilla. I would love to read more of her adventures in the future. 4 stars.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies? In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment centre, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident. A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners – immigrants from South Korea – hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college so she can have a better life than they did? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe? Or was some other unknown person there that day? Wow, this book. So many secrets, so many lies! Was there any character that wasn’t hiding something? I eventually figured out who was responsible but it took me a long time. This is so well written and I absolutely recommend it. One minor niggle: I listened to the audiobook and if I heard the words “it made her/him want to scream” one more time I would have been tempted to scream myself! (I also now know how Americans pronounce “buoyed” – I was so confused the first time it came up.) 4 stars. An excellent debut.

The Train to Impossible Places by P. G. Bell. When a noise wakes Suzy one night, she is surprised to find a grumpy troll building a railway through her house – especially when a gigantic steam train then crashes into her hallway! But the Impossible Postal Express is no ordinary train. It’s a troll-operated delivery service that runs everywhere from ocean-bottom shipwrecks, to Trollville, to space. After sneaking on board, Suzy suddenly finds herself Deputy Post Master aboard the train, and faced with her first delivery – to the evil Lady Crepuscula. Then, the package itself begs Suzy not to deliver him. A talking snow globe, Frederick has information Crepuscula could use to take over the entire Union of Impossible Places. But when protecting Frederick means putting her friends in danger, Suzy has a difficult choice to make – with the fate of the entire Union at stake. A fun adventure with some great characters. It could have done with some more world building though – I’m still completely confused about how the Impossible Places actually work. At times it felt like there was almost too much action and not enough explanation. It’s an enjoyable enough read though. It’s the first in a series so I suppose there will be more explanation in the later books. 3 stars.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. One night, in the midst of a family crisis, blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her babysitter, Emira Tucker, to come and take her toddler, Briar, out of the house. Alix is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living from showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when Emira is confronted while walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket that night,. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping the two-year-old. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix realises she knows next to nothing about her long-time babysitter and resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other. This book wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be more about the actual event in the synopsis but that’s really only a small part of it. I didn’t like Alix, even from the very beginning – she came across as incredibly entitled just from the way her way of life is described. Who even comes up with the idea of writing to companies to get products instead of, you know, getting a job and buying them? I loved Briar and liked Emira, although I felt like she seemed younger than 25/26. This is supposed to be an adult book, but to me it almost read like YA? Overall it’s a good read that covers some important issues but there was something missing that would have made me love this book rather than just like it. I feel kind of bad, but I gave it 3.5 stars.

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds. When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and movies, Jack knows he’s falling – hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. When Kate dies six months later, their story should be over, but her death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind, but if he has any chance to prevent Kate’s death he obviously has to take it. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves. I enjoyed this book. I felt like Jack could have focused more on his other relationships at some point rather than trying to save Kate at all costs (he definitely neglects his friends in some of the go-throughs) but I did like their relationship. I also loved Jack’s friendship group and his parents were awesome. 4 stars.

The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden. Kizzy is a Diddakoi – half Irish, half “gypsy”. Orphaned when she was very young, she lives in a wagon with her gran and her horse, Joe, and she doesn’t need anything else. Then Gran dies, her wagon burns, and Kizzy is left all alone – in a community that hates her. This is a lovely book. I adored Kizzy, and Miss Brooke and I was glad she got a happy ending. Minus one star because I was annoyed that the horrid, vicious bullying Kizzy experienced was never properly resolved or punished. But I did genuinely enjoy reading this book and wish I had read it as a child, so I can’t go any lower than 4 stars.

The Shining by Stephen King. Do I ned to tell you the synopsis? Really? Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is his five-year-old son, Danny, who has a history of knowing things he couldn’t possibly know… thought this would take me longer to read, but the closer I got to the end the faster it seemed to go. Even though I’ve seen the film (years ago) and knew the vague story – although there are differences – I was hooked. This is definitely Stephen King at his best. 5 stars.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today. I also read 510 pages of Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb in September, but I didn’t actually finish the book until October so you’ll have to come back next month for that review. For more book reviews, get thee to the link up (and congratulate Steph and Jana on six years of running it!). There is also a give away over there, in case seeing what everyone has been reading isn’t enough of an incentive.

TL;DR: Honestly, I recommend all the books here. I didn’t love Such a Fun Age like I wanted to, but I do think it’s an important book that everyone should read. And although I only gave The Train to Impossible Places 3 stars it’s a fun book and kids will love it.

What I read in September 2020: Part 1

Hello! The Show Us Your Books (sixth anniversary!) link up is tomorrow, but I read quite a few books again in September so I’m splitting my recap into two posts, one today and one tomorrow. Here is the first part, with nine books. Most of these books are YA and middle grade (apart from Black Eyed Susans). If that’s not what you’re looking for check back tomorrow – I have a couple more adult books then. In the meantime, I shall get on with today’s reviews.

Solitaire by Alice Osman. Victoria, or Tori, Spring has just started Sixth Form. She likes to blog and she likes to sleep and that’s about it. Apparently “last year” she had friends, although I’m not sure how given she seems to hate everyone. But that was before A-Levels and university applications. And before everything that happened with her brother Charlie. (Trigger warning for self-harm and eating disorders here). Now there’s Solitaire. And there’s Michael Holden. Tori doesn’t know or care what Solitaire are trying to do and she definitely doesn’t care about Michael Holden… honest. is a quick and easy read, which is good because it meant I didn’t waste too much time on it. Maybe I’m just too far away from my teen years but I could not relate to Tori at all. I understand that she’s supposed to be suffering from undiagnosed depression but she’s also just a horrible person. Not that there’s anything wrong with unlikeable characters, but she’s not even unlikeable in an interesting way. She’s just plain mean and looks down on everyone (except her brother and *maybe* his boyfriend). Even when she’s being self-depreciating and calling herself mean it’s clear that she still thinks she’s better than everyone else. Like “Oh, I’m so mean having these bad thoughts but also X really *is* terrible and unworthy of my attention”. I also found the plot pretty predictable. It was kind of obvious who was behind Solitaire and also obvious what was going to happen with Michael. Meh. 2 stars (because I actually liked Nick and Charlie).

The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan. All Prunella wants is to be a proper bog-witch. Unfortunately, her curses tend to do more good than harm. When her mixed-up magic allows a sneaky thief to escape her grandmother’s garden, Prunella is cast out until she can prove herself. It’s hard enough being exiled to the unmagical Uplands, but travelling with the smug young thief Barnaby makes it even worse. He’s determined to gain fame and fortune by recovering the missing Mirable Chalice. And to get what she wants, Prunella has help him, whether she likes it or not. This is fun read with a fairly obvious message about not judging people based on what you’ve been told. The story is a little simple but it was a quick and cute read. 3 stars.

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan. Asha lives on the family farm with her mother in rural India. Her father is away working in the city, and when the money he sends stops suddenly, a ruthless moneylender ransacks their home and her mother talks of leaving. Guided by a majestic bird which Asha believes to be the spirit of her grandmother, she and her best friend Jeevan a pact with her best friend, Jeevan, to find her father and save her home. But the journey is dangerous: they must cross the world’s highest mountains and face hunger, tiredness – even snow leopards. Will they make it? is a gorgeous book full of adventure with a slightly magical aspect. I felt like some parts were rushed through a bit so they didn’t evoke my emotions quite the way I felt they should have. But overall it’s a great little read. I loved all the descriptions of India and especially the food references. 3.5 stars. And the cover is gorgeous!

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk. Autumn always knew exactly who she was: a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan has always turned to writing love songs when his real love life was a little less than perfect. But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered. Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind. This book is sad, but ultimately hopeful. I feel like it was spread a bit thin by focusing on 3 main characters, and I never really connected with the whole Autumn/Dante thing or cared as much about Autumn a the other 2 characters. I liked Shay’s part best, mostly because I absolutely adored her friendship group. 3.5 stars.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. Kyle Keeley is the class clown and a huge fan of all games – board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the construction of the new town library. And Kyle is lucky enough to win a coveted spot as one of twelve kids invited for an overnight sleepover in the library, where they get to spend the entire night playing lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route and win an extra special prize. This is a cute, fun read. A little predictable and of course the “nice” kids who work together win, while the nasty ones get their comeuppance. If I’d read it as a kid I would definitely have been writing down every book referenced that I hadn’t already read to try and track it down at my library. As an adult I was pleased when I understood a reference. 3 stars.

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. Left with three other girls in a grave shrouded by black-eyed Susans, Tessa alone survived, her testimony helping to put a killer behind bars. Sixteen years later, with he execution date rapidly approaching, Tessa is starting to wonder whether she really did the right thing. Because someone is planting black-eyed Susans outside her window. Someone is sending her daughter sinister messages. And there’s a lawyer telling her the man about to be put to death is innocent. I really liked this. It’s more suspense/mystery than true thriller – there are no real scary moments (for Tessa maybe after everything she’s been through but nothing that had me worried as the reader). I enjoyed all the DNA and forensics stuff, and I was not expecting what happened at the end. I was entirely fooled by the path I think the author was trying to take me down, although the clues were there and I feel like I could have known what happened if I was paying attention. 4 stars.

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan. Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England in search of her father, who abruptly stopped contacting them a year earlier. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother’s heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat. This book is told in verse and it’s very quick read – I read it in about 30-45 minutes. I enjoyed it but I almost felt like it was over a little too quickly. I would have liked more of Kasienka’s memories of her life before England. I was really glad when she stood up to her bullies and realised it’s okay to be different. 3.5 stars.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times, being friendly with all the groups but not friends with any of them. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. But then Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel, who has just been diagnosed with leukaemia. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives. I really don’t know what to say about this book. There are a few funny parts but mostly it’s just annoying. Especially Greg. I was hoping he would get better as the book went along, maybe redeem himself by actually being a real friend to Rachel? But nope… right the way to the end I just wanted to punch him. And Rachel was so bland and almost pointless that I literally felt nothing when she died. The only decent character was Earl. I felt like cheering when he finally told Greg exactly what everyone else should have been telling him throughout the entire book Points for being a semi-realistic teen cancer book, I guess. People don’t change their entire personalities overnight and become inspirational philosophers just because they’re dying. It’s just a shame Greg was a colossal idiot whose only personality trait, apparently, was trying not to *have* a personality so nobody would notice him. 2.5 stars.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again. Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who who is struggling to cope with his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all… even without arms. I adored this. Aven is a fantastic character, I loved how positive and proactive she was (most of the time) even while feeling vulnerable and I liked how she was there for Connor. Even if she was a little pushy at times her heart was in the right place. The little mystery was fun. The ending is maybe a little too sweet but this is a children’s book after all. I will definitely be reading the sequel! 4.5 stars. I recommend this one for fans of Wonder.

That’s it for today. Tune in tomorrow for more book reviews! And in case anyone couldn’t be bothered to read the entire post even though there are only 9 books here (and honestly why I you looking for book recommendations if you can’t even read a whole blog post?)…

…TL;DR: I highly recommend Black Eyed Susans if you like thrillers and Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus if you’re into children’s books, and I recommend Asha and the Spirit Bird, The Beauty That Remains and The Weight of Water if they sound interesting to you. I most definitely do not recommend Solitaire or Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

What I read in August 2020

Hello, hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day again… time to link up with Jana and Steph to tell you about the book I finished last month. Considering I didn’t read a single page for the first 11 days of August, it actually ended up being quite a few. Not as many as usual, but a decent amount by normal people’s standards.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. On returning from WWI, Tom Sherbourne is a broken man. He needs a place away from other people, where he can be alone and think.And so he becomes a lighthouse keeper, eventually ending up on the small island of Janus Rock, an extremely remote location off the coast of Western Australia. Before heading out the island, he spends some time in the small town of Partageuse, where he meets Isabel Graysmark. They start a relationship via letter before getting married in 1926, then Izzy joins him on the island. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind… a boat has washed up on the island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. Now they have a devastating decision to make. They break the rules and follow their hearts. This is the story of what happens next. This book is just so sad. It’s obvious all along that there’s no way all the characters can be happy. I did not like Isabel at all. I understood her grief – I have had miscarriages and it is an awful thing to go through – but she was just so selfish. The way she treated Tom was nothing short of emotional manipulation. If he even dared mention that there might be another solution she instantly accused her of not loving him. Just no. That isn’t to say it’s not a good book though. Read it if you want, but be prepared for sadness and frustration. 3 stars.

A Keeper by Graham Norton. Elizabeth Keane returns to Ireland after her mother’s death, determined to clear out the house and then close with that chapter of her life forever. Having spent many years in America, she feels the small town she grew up in holds nothing for her any more. Her childhood home is packed solid with useless junk, her mother’s presence already fading. But within this mess, she discovers a small stash of letters, and ultimately the truth about her mother… and about herself. was very quick to read and I actually quite liked the writing. Elizabeth’s mam’s story was really intriguing although beyond a certain point I guessed what had happened. I didn’t really like Elizabeth though. All she seemed to do was complain about everybody and everything – her aunt and uncle, her ex, how terrible it was growing up in a small town in Ireland. Then there’s a whole side story about her teenage son that seemed kind of unnecessary. It was good enough that I would read another book by Graham Norton though (and for the Brits, yes as in the chat show host/Eurovision commentator!). 3 stars.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. Ever since Anthony Peardew lost a keepsake from his fiancée, Theresa, on the very day she died suddenly, he has collected lost things. In a way, his assistant Laura is one of those lost things. As Anthony nears the end of his life, he tells Laura his life story, eventually bequeathing her his house and – along with it – his life’s secret mission. To reconcile all the lost things with their owners. Together with her new friend, the neighbour’s quirky daughter, Sunshine (this is what the synopsis says – Sunshine has Down’s Syndrome) and the gardener Freddie, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish. Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made. As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest? This is a cute book, but almost a bit too sweet at times. I actually enjoyed the parallel story about Bomber and Eunice more than the main one. Laura kind of annoyed me She’s constantly having tantrums and moaning about being “middle-aged” (she clearly fancies Freddie and is convinced he could never like someone “old” like her). Sunshine is the best character, and I loved Douglas the dog. 3 stars.

Nicola and the Viscount by Meg Cabot. A YA, historical romance. Nicola Sparks, sixteen and an orphan, has just finished school and is ready to dive headlong into her first London Season. A whirlwind of fashionable activities awaits her, although nabbing a husband, ordinarily the prime object of every girl’s Season, is not among them. For Nicola has already decided who she wants: a handsome viscount by the name of Lord Sebastian – who she and her best friend Eleanor refer to as “God”. Lord Sebastian Bartholomew is wealthy, attractive, and debonair, even if the few tantalizingly short moments Nicola has spent with him have produced little save discussions about poetry. Nicola is sure that a proposal from Lord Sebastian would be a match made in heaven. Everything is going well, until the infuriating Nathaniel Sheridan – Eleanor’s older brother – begins to cast doubt on the viscount’s character. Nicola is convinced Nathaniel’s efforts to besmirch Lord Sebastian’s sterling reputation will yield nothing. But when she begins to piece things together for herself, the truth that is revealed has as much to do with the viscount as it does with Nicola’s own heart. is very predictable, a little silly and I’m not 100% sure of it’s historical accuracy but it’s great fun to read. Apparently even in the 1800s teens were unnecessarily dramatic! I did like Nicola though. 3.5 stars.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ is the third boyfriend that her younger sister – the favourite child, the beautiful one – has dispatched in, she claims, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she knows what’s to come. But how can she save one of the people she loves without sacrificing the other? is an odd book. It’s a very quick read and strangely compelling but I didn’t actually like either of the sisters. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to? I initially assumed we were supposed to be on Korede’s side and want her to win Tade for herself before her sister killed him, but she’s so horrible about literally everyone else who works at the hospital that I ended up thinking neither sister deserved a decent man! It’s a surprisingly fun read though given the subject matter. It’s billed as a thriller, but really it’s more of a drama about an extremely dysfunctional family. 3.5 stars

Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan. When Sarah Zoltanne moves from sunny California to a small town in Missouri, she feels like she’ll never fit in. Her mother is dating a jerk, the kids at her school despise her, and she misses her old home. Nevertheless, when a popular boy asks her to tell fortunes at a school fair she reluctantly agrees. But her role-playing takes a sinister turn when she begins to see actual visions that come true and the other students turn on her, branding her a witch and setting off a chain of events that mirror the centuries-old Salem witch trials in more ways than one. This is a very creepy read – it actually got darker than I was expecting towards the end. The adults in this town are the actual WORST. The ending is slightly cheesy and not everything was believable, but this was exactly the kind of book I absolutely devoured as a teen in the 90s. 3 stars.

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (Detective Lottie Parker #1). When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how? The trail leads Lottie to St. Angela’s, a former home for wayward children, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? This is a decent enough police procedural/detective story that takes on the Catholic Church in Ireland and its not exactly savoury past. Not at all bad for a debut, although parts of it did drag. I guessed most of the reveal apart from one twist at the very end. 3 stars.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. Andie had her whole life planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks. But that was all before. When a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all. Working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she ever thought any guy would. Her friends – Palmer, Bri, and Toby – tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control and find the joy in the unexpected? This book is cute, but very predictable (and I’m not even talking about the main protagonist’s relationship!). Also I honestly found it too long. There was a point that felt close to an ending but then there we’re still about 200 pages to go?! I enjoyed the friendship group though. Although – and this is going to sound petty – the fact that Toby was female kept confusing me. Short for Tobyhanna, apparently. What kind of name is Tobyhanna? Or Palmer for that matter? And then people in the book actually have the nerve to mock Clark‘s name? 3 stars.

The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta. Danny has no idea why she picks out Tempest, California when she and her mother try to find a new place to live – a place away from all the trouble Danny has been in recently. When she arrives, she finds the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: Imogen, the most powerful of their group – is lost. And they believe Danny has the power to find her. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. The best description I can come up with for this book is “whimsical”, but not in the fluffy sense – there are some serious things going on as well. I loved the friendship group although I felt like I only got to know a few of them properly. For instance all I remember about Lelia is she’s non-binary (but fine with “she” for now), asexual or aromatic (or possibly both?) and is friends with ravens who bring her gifts (which, honestly, is AWESOME). The characters are almost a little too quirky at times – for instance there’s a scene where one of them goes into the woods wearing shorts and, as afar as I could tell, nothing else? Which apart from just being plain weird also seems kind of dangerous. Woods and nakedness don’t really go together as far as I’m concerned -or maybe I’m just too much of an adult? I also would have liked to know more about the Grays’ powers and how they found out which kind of magic they had. I really enjoyed reading it though – I just felt like it needed to be longer to explain things a bit more and a few aspects seemed to be quirky/weird/”out there” purely for the sake of emphasising how different and “special” the characters are. 3.5 stars

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Jumbies #1). Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her – and certainly not jumbies. There’s no such thing anyway. They’re just myths, a monster tale parents made up to frighten their children. But when Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest she notices a pair of yellow eyes following her. It couldn’t be a jumbie, could it? The next day, Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home. I wasn’t sure what to think of this book at first, but by the time Severine turned up at the market I was hooked! I don’t think I’ve read any Caribbean folktales before, so I found that aspect extremely intriguing. I loved the jumbies – they’re supposed to be the “bad guys” but they’re so well described and I was fascinated by all their different characteristics. The child characters are very well written, but Corinne’s father was a little one-dimensional, which was a shame given what a major part he played in the story. I liked the fact that Corinne is clearly flawed and is forced to learn that she can’t do everything alone and friendships are something to be valued. I will definitely read the next book in the series. 4 stars.

Tell me what you’ve been reading lately, and don’t forget to check out the link up!

What I read in July 2020

Hello friends! It’s book day again. Hooray! I’m linking up with Steph and Jana to tell you what I read in July.

The Childfinder by Rene Denfield (Naomi Cottle #1). Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now – if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to a private investigator. Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, she’s the one families call. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience of being a missing child, that allows her to succeed when others have failed. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. As Naomi relentlessly pursues the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce defences that have protected her for so long. If she finds this child, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Haunting is the best word I can come up with for this book. It’s dark in a way that creeps up on you, hidden behind beautiful writing and the power of imagination. The other case Naomi ended up working on alongside Madison’s was so sad. This is not your typical thriller or crime story, but it’s one I highly recommend. 5 stars.

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle (Time Quintet #2). Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi – those who hate – and restore balance and harmony to the rhythm of creation. The very universe itself depends on their success. I really enjoyed the first part of this book. Charles Wallace thinks he sees dragons, later Meg goes looking for said dragons and finds a Cherubim instead. After that it becomes too overtly religious for my tastes – fallen angels, hell, love concurs all and we have to learn to love everyone (including mean teachers). It’s also somewhat repetitive. There was a lot I enjoyed though – I loved the Cherubim and the snake. And Calvin is a great character. Will I continue the series? I’m not sure. 3 stars.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo. Sade and Femi’s father is a political journalist who refuses to stop criticising the military rulers in Nigeria. When their mother is killed, twelve-year-old Sade and her little brother have to flee the country, immediately, with their father promising to follow. Abandoned in London by the woman paid to bring them to England as her children, Sade and Femi find themselves alone in a new, often hostile, environment. What will happen to them and will the family ever be reunited? This book is heartbreaking. I really just wanted to make everything better for Sade and Femi. It shows all the hardships of fleeing to a new country without being too graphic. I feel like this would be a good book to teach in schools. 4 stars.

The Strangeworld’s Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski (Stranegworld’s #1). Imagine being able to travel to different worlds just be stepping inside a suitcase? When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she discovers that it’s possible to do exactly that. There are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours! Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it. This book is wonderful! It sort of felt like a modern version of the Faraway Tree, except the different worlds are inside suitcases instead of at the top of a tree. Flick is a fantastic character, very much a child but with a good head on her shoulders. She is often forced to look after her little brother while her parents work, and everyone just assumes she’s so responsible and mature. At one point she says she isn’t a naturally grown up person – she was made to be that way – and it reminded me so much of me as a child. As the eldest, I looked after my younger brother a lot and everyone always praised how mature and sensible I was, but inside I felt just as vulnerable and lost as any child would. I can’t wait to read the second book – there are still mysteries to be solved! 5 stars.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare. London, 1950. With the war over and London still rebuilding, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for labour. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s rented a tiny room in south London and fallen in love with the girl next door. Playing in Soho’s jazz clubs by night and pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery – a baby, dead in the pond. As the local community rallies, fingers of blame point at those who were recently welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy that threatens to tear the city apart. This is a very difficult read at times. The way the Windrush immigrants (and black people in general) are treated is awful. The author makes you really care about the characters so reading about what happens to them is horrible. I felt truly ashamed of how my country treated the people they had asked to come (and I wasn’t even alive at the time)! It’s basically a love story set against the background of the post-war years with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The story with the baby really shows just how easy it is to ruin somebody’s life even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Some people have said the plot is predictable, and maybe it is but I still think it’s an important book to read and I really liked it. 4 stars.

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson. May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through – no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving may actually be an option after all. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I expected this book to make me cry, and it did. I really felt for May, even though she wasn’t actually very nice at times. I agreed with her best friend Lucy when she said May was self-centred and refused to even consider how other people might feel – just because May was actually in the room doesn’t mean she has a monopoly on grief. The way she treats Ann is particularly awful. While grieving her brother she never even thinks that maybe Ann could feel just as bad about losing her sister? Lucy was the absolute highlight of this book actually. Such an amazing friend! And despite May’s faults her obvious PTSD and survivor’s guilt broke my heart. 4 stars.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1). A young girl named Rose is out riding her new bike when she falls through the ground into an underground chamber filled with gleaming symbols , shaped like a giant metal hand. 17 years later, Rose is a physicist in charge of a research team struggling to determine the hand’s origins. When another giant limb is discovered, she quickly devises a method for unearthing the hidden pieces, convinced there is an entire body out there waiting to be found. Where did the pieces come from and what are they for? This book is written in the form of interviews and case files, which made it a fast read but meant I didn’t fully connect with the characters, so when something happened to one of them I was kind of detached and not really upset about it. I was fascinated by the story though. Who is the interviewer? And what on Earth was that bit at the end? So unexpected! I have so many questions and I desperately need the second book to hopefully get some answers! 4 stars.

The Emperor’s Babe by Bernadine Evaristo. Meet Zuleika: the daughter of Sudanese immigrants made good sassy girl about town, hellraiser, bored ex-child-bride. Married to a fat, rich absent Roman, she is stranded in luxurious neglect, until, one day, Septimus Severus, the Emperor himself, comes to town, bringing with him not just love – but danger… This is written in verse and some pages only have a few words on so I got through it in a couple of hours. I kind of liked it but at the same time I feel like I was missing something. The modern slang and references to Armani togas or whatever were amusing at first but eventually started to grate. And the whole part with the emperor was over very quickly considering it’s in the title. I loved Venus and the whole little friendship group around Zuleika and I appreciated seeing how truly multicultural Roman London really was but I somehow just couldn’t love it. A solid three stars but definitely no more than that.

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #2). I won’t day too much about this one since it’s a sequel, but Stevie continues investigating the case of the kidnapping and murder that took place at her elite boarding school years before. I liked this one more than the first one. Even though it’s another cliffhanger it didn’t feel as abrupt as the first one. At least we actually got some answers first! I need to know what a certain person’s deal is – I have a theory but I could be very wrong! 4 stars.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (These Witches Don’t Burn #1). Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But when evidence of terrifying blood magic starts cropping up all over town and Hannah’s coven won’t believe her, she’s forced to team up with Veronica to save their coven. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was the perfect mix of supernatural powers and real life issues. I was expecting something quirky and fun, and it was, but it also got quite dramatic at times (in a good way, although there is also plenty of teen drama in there as well!). I will definitely be reading the next book. 4 stars.

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm. A collection of stories about Professor Branestawm – the most absent-minded inventor you’ll ever meet. No matter how hard he tries his brilliant ideas never seem to keep him out of crazy scrapes. I got this book as part of a Puffin 50th Anniversary set as a child. Back then I remember thinking it was vaguely entertaining, amusing in places, but kind of silly. And reading it again now I have to say I agree with child me. It was a quick read with some good stories and some less good ones. Not a bad read but I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. Some kids might enjoy it. 3 stars.

Eric by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #9). Eric is the Discworld’s only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff. But what he gets is Rincewind, and Rincewind’s Luggage into the bargain. This is Terry Pratchett’s take on the Faust legend although I’ve never read the original so I can’t comment on that. It’s not the best of Pratchett’s books – although admittedly the Rincewind stories have always been my least favourite, much as I love The Luggage. There are some funny and clever moments but overall it feels incomplete and not up to the usual standard. It’s a quick read though and not really bad as such. Just not really memorable either. 3 stars.

If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman. Martha Aguas kind of has it all–she’s an accountant who loves numbers, an accident-prone puppy that loves her, and the perfect wardrobe. Yes, she wears a dress size 24, her bras don’t fit and she’s never had a boyfriend, but so what? It becomes a big deal when her perfect cousin Regina announces her engagement to Enzo, the only boy she’s ever loved (he doesn’t know, so don’t tell him!) Suddenly Aguases from all corners of the globe are coming for the event, and the last thing Martha wants is to be asked why she still prefers her lattes with a waffle on the side. Thank god for her best friend Max. Goofy, funny, dependable Max, who finds himself playing the fake boyfriend at the family festivities. But why does it feel like only one of them is pretending? The first half of this read a bit like a teenage girl’s diary but it got better as it went along. I was so happy when Martha and Max *finally* got together! Not really a spoiler – it’s fairly obvious that’s where it’s going. 3 stars.

All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard.

Tragedy came as if so often does: a teenage party, emotions running high, followed by a horrific car crash. A girl is left dead and a boy is forced to leave his home town, with a secret that he will carry with him forever… Years later, when Summer’s mother disappears one day, she is left with her father. Obsessed with an accident from years ago, he slowly descends into mental illness. And as he becomes more disorientated, he reveals small fragments of a secret that has been hidden since his youth, a secret that changes everything. Summer supports her father as much as she can but eventually realises that she has to escape. She finds refuge with her great-aunt, Stella. Feisty, fun-loving, and dying of cancer, Stella holds parts of the family secret. Slowly, things fall into place for Summer – or at least so she thinks… was fine. There were parts I liked more than others. Summer is actually kind of annoying though. She goes through life just assuming things about everyone, making all these sacrifices that honestly to me felt like an excuse not to decide anything for herself. Also despite the synopsis claiming this was Sara Sherpard’s first foray into adult fiction it still read like YA to me. 2.5 stars.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they’re on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days the children survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret. This is a fun middle grade adventure story. There are a few perilous moments that might scare a sensitive young reader buteach time the children work it out. I loved how the all did things that were out of their comfort zones – eating bugs, climbing trees. Max is hilarious, although I think if I’d been stick in the jungle with him I might have been tempted to drown him at some point! The writing is amazing – such vivid descriptions of scenery that made me feel like I was actually there. Even though it’s over 400 pages (admittedly with illustrations) I read it in one sitting. 4.5 stars.

That’s all for today. Check out the link up for more book reviews and please forgive any weird formatting – I had to finish writing this post on my phone since I only managed half of it before leaving for my holiday!

What I read in June 2020

I’m a day late for the Show Us Your Books link up – mainly because I forgot it was coming up and I hadn’t pre-written my post – but better late than never, right? I have a few books to get to so I won’t waffle for too long, just get straight into it. I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.

The Bad Luck Lighthouse by Nicki Thornton (Seth Seppi #2). After solving the mystery at the Last Chance Hotel, Seth has discovered a world of magic that he never knew existed. In book 2, he and his cat Nightshade find themselves swept up in a new case at Snakemouth Lighthouse – the murder of eccentric owner Mina Mintencress – where Seth is determined to prove himself. A satisfying second book in the series. I enjoyed seeing more of this world. Nightshade is as “delightful” and funny as ever. I found a couple of things predictable but I’m not 10 years old and it didn’t make the book any less enjoyable. I’m looking forward to seeing where Seth and Nightshade go next. 4 stars.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer (Cursebreakers #2). The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.Meanwhile, Grey is on the run with a secret that he doesn’t want anybody to find out.This book finds loyalties being tested while new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war. The tone of this one is very different to the first book and I found a few parts slow so it wasn’t quite a five stars read but I enjoyed getting to know Grey better in his own right and not just as a guard to be ordered around. The ending left me needing to know where things are going.I want everyone to be happy – I like the characters on both sides and I don’t want to see them pitted against each other. 4 stars.

The Babysitters Coven by Kate Daniels. Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it. And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree. Enter hot new girl Cassandra Heaven. She’s never babysat before, so why is she so determined to get into Esme’s club? The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.” Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home. This was described as Adventures in Babysitting meets Buffy the Vampire and honestly the explanation of how the magic system/organisation work was a little too reminiscent of Buffy (to the extent that “like Buffy but witches and we only banish the demons” was almost the entire explanation). A lot of the pop culture references seemed to be aimed more at people my age than those who are actual teenagers today, which was weird. I did enjoy reading it though and I might continue with the series if I want something fun and a bit nostalgic in the future. 3 stars.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed the technological progress too far, and now magic returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail.In this world – specifically in Atlanta – lives Kate Daniels, a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, she is determined to find out who killed him. Hiding is easy, but the right choice is rarely easy… This book was confusing and honestly I found myself rolling my eyes at times. All the different elements of necromancy, were-beasts and references to random ancient, magical creatures just felt like a bit much for one book, and I found some aspects just plain odd (and a but icky). I did like Kate and some of the other characters and I had a fun time reading this book but it was just a good read for me rather than a great one.I’ve heard they get better so maybe I’ll try book 2 at some point. 3 stars.

The Land of Never Endings by Kate Saunders. What if there exists a world powered by imagination? A world of silliness, where humans and their toys live on long after they’ve left the Hard World . . . and what if the door between that world and this one was broken? Welcome to the Land of Neverendings! When Emily’s sister Holly dies, she is surprised to find that she misses her toy bear, Bluey, almost as much as Holly. Bluey was Holly’s constant companion, and Emily used to make up stories about him and his escapades in the magical (and very silly) world of Smockeroon to entertain her. The only person who seems to understand Emily’s grief is Ruth, her kindly next-door neighbour, who lost her son years before. Then strange things start happening, Emily dreams of talking toys visiting her bedroom, telling her that they have come from Smockeroon, and have a message for her from Bluey. Then she discovers that they may not have been dreaming after all. What if Smockeroon is real?  This was not what I was expecting. The synopsis on my copy was literally just the first few sentences of the description up to “Welcome to the Land of Neverendings!” so I didn’t realise it was a story about grief. I was expecting something magical, and it was, but it was also kind of sad. I really felt Emily’s grief at losing her sister. I loved the toy characters and also Martha who was such a lovely friend. 4 stars.

Everfound by Neal Shusterman (Skinjacker #3). I can’t really say much about this one without spoiling the first two, but all the characters from the previous books (plus some new ones) are pitted against each other in a battle that may destroy all life on Earth. This book was a journey! So much happened and I was constantly kept guessing. I’m glad I finally finished this series. 4 stars.

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb (Farseer #2). Fitz is the illegitimate son of the “King-in waiting” (this world’s term for the heir to the throne). In book one he was dumped at the palace by his maternal grandfather, only for his father to abdicate and move away. Nobody really knew what to do with him, until the king realised he would make a useful assassin. In book 2, Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. After initially deciding to abandon his oath to King Shrewd and stay away, he changes his mind and ends up back at Buckkeep, and embroiled in the deadly intrigues of the royal family. And that’s all I want to say about this one. The first book was pretty slow but parts of this one somehow managed to be even slower. I spent quite a bit of time wondering if it actually was getting towards some kind of point. I still liked reading it though. I really thought things would turn around for Fitz by the end, that someone would see what was going on. But no, his suffering continues. Towards the end things picked up and made me really want to start book 3 immediately, but alas I don’t own it. 4 stars.

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge. Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin and became blind in one eye. Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to Norway to visit her grandmother, Mormor – only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose. Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in. This book is properly creepy! I would not have wanted to meet the thing from the woods let alone battle it. I enjoyed the way Nordic mythology was woven in and I absolutely adored Gandalf the dog. I was left with a lot of questions though, like what actually happened to Martha’s Mormor and Is Stig really who he says he is? I thought they might be resolved at the end but nothing really was. So minus one star for that but I still genuinely enjoyed and recommend this book. 4 stars.

The River King by Alice Hoffmann. For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if by a line drawn down the centre of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the ‘village’ from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. Even within the school, hierarchy rules as freshman and faculty members find out where they fit in and what is expected of them. But when a body is found in the river behind the school, a local policeman will walk into this enclosed world and upset it entirely, changing the lives of everyone involved forever. This book was odd, very slow but strangely compelling. I knew from the synopsis that a body was supposed to be found so I spent half the book waiting for that to actually happen, although I had my suspicions about who it would be (and I was right). It’s not a bad book but I’m honestly not sure who I would recommend it to. 3.5 stars.

Twister by Juliette Forrest. Twister’s father has gone missing and as she’s searching for him she stumbles across a witch living in the woods. She is given a magical necklace that holds the souls of living things and can turn the wearer into a wolf, or a rushing river, or a rainstorm. But there’s a dark foe on the hunt for this necklace, a baddie who wears a coat crawling with creatures and who might have something to do with her father’s sudden disappearance… oved the characters and the story but I was slightly put off but the writing – I understand that Twister is supposed to sound childlike (hence the constant use of “catched” and weird grammar constructions) but then she would use words and phrases where I would think you know that but nobody’s told you the proper past-tense of catch? There was one scene that absolutely broke my heart. 4 stars.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Irene is a professional spy, working for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. Along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen, and London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find it. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option with the very nature of reality itself at stake. This was… confusing. There were parts I really liked but a lot of it was all over the place and not properly explained. It was an enjoyable read and I mostly liked the characters but I’m not sure I’m interested enough to continue with the series. 3 stars.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, they go to a dinner party next door taking the baby monitor with them but leaving Cora home alone. While they’re gone, the unthinkable happens – the baby disappears. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. Pretty much everyone in this book is just awful – horrible, horrible people. I enjoyed reading it even though it was very far-fetched and I guessed a few things part way through. The ending was slightly overkill though and felt really unnecessary. 3 stars.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother to teenage Pearl. The two of them rent a house from the Richardsons, but soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. mostly enjoyed this book but there was a lot packed into it and I felt like I wanted more detail on some aspects. I felt like I didn’t know some of the characters as well as I should have. It is a good book though and I would read more by this author. It’s definitely one that makes you think. 3.5 stars

Shine by Candy Gourlay. Suffering from a condition called “The Calm”, thirteen-year-old Rosa lives on the island of Marisol, where she is forced to hide herself away from the superstitious population who believe people with the condition are monsters. Rosa seeks solace online, where she meets Ansel95, and as the friendship moves from virtual to real, Rosa discovers that she’s not the only one with something to hide. This is pretty dark for such a short book (I think I read it in about an hour). I thought I had guessed who Rosa’s friend was going to be, but I was wrong. I was slightly uncomfortable with the way one character’s mental illness was portrayed but other than that I enjoyed this book and really liked the writing. 3.5 stars.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Solomon Rivers. Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. Obsessive and withdrawn, Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the ship. When the autopsy of the ship’s sovereign reveals a link between his death and the suicide of Aster’s mother, she begins sewing the seeds for civil war, and learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it. This book was dark! Think of something you might need a content warning for and it’s probably in here. The abuse that’s inflicted on the lower class characters (who are all black) is horrific. The ruling classes literally see them as animals – and the way one character talks about horses makes it clear they’re not exactly nice to actual animals either. I loved the characters. Aster is awesome. Poor Giselle is infuriating but also clearly unhappy. The world building is also fantastic, if a little slow. What makes it 4 stars instead of 5 is the story. It seemed to get lost along the way only to rush to a conclusion at the end that left me feeling underwhelmed. Also every single white person felt like a caricature of a bad guy – the leader is a stereotypical megalomaniac and the guards all seem to be utterly sadistic and actually enjoy doling out punishments. I have no issue with white people being portrayed as horrible oppressors – I mean, it’s basically the truth – but I felt like giving them some humanity would have made the impact greater. Nonetheless it’s a good read but definitely go into it expecting to be horrified.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S King. Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone – the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to? I loved this book. Vera is flawed and judgemental (she spends a lot of time going on about sluts as if having sex is the literal worst thing a girl could do) and not always likeable but somehow I liked her anyway. Charlie infuriated me half the time, but then I would find myself liking and feeling sorry for him again. And I cried. For Vera, who will always have to live with what happened, and for Charlie who’s death just seemed so pointless in the end. If only someone had done something sooner. 4 stars.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. Keeping her head down at school, trying not to get caught up with new boy Malachi. The one place she can let everything go is in the kitchen, where she has magical hands – whipping up extraordinary food beloved by everyone. Emoni wants to be a chef more than anything, but she knows it’s pointless to pursue the impossible. So when her high school offers a new culinary arts class, she knows she shouldn’t take it – she doesn’t have time, and her family can’t afford the trip to Spain. But even with all the rules she has for her life – and all the rules everyone expects her to play by – once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free. This book is fantastic! I loved everything about it. It’s so well written. Emony’s love for her daughter is tangible, and her relationship with her best friend is GOALS. I was rooting for her the whole way through hoping she would find a way to follow her dreams. Highly, highly recommend. And I also want someone to cook all of Emony’s dishes for me. 5 stars – ending the month’s reading on a high.

TL;DR. My favourite book of the month was With the Fire on High, so obviously read that. DOn’t let the fact that it’s for teens put you off. Read A Heart So Fierce and Broken if you liked the first book. The Twisted Tree and Please Ignore Vera Dietz are both YA and I enjoyed both. The Land of Neverendings is cute but sad. Honestly, none of these books were really bad so if they sound interesting to you read them. Do be aware that An Unkindness of Ghosts is very dark and full of triggers though!

Tell me what your favourite book you’ve read lately was and don’t forget to visit the link up!

What I Read in May 2020: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I read in May 2020: Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read anything good recently? .

What I read in April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I read in March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I read in February 2020: Part 1

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

The Toymakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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