Apparently I’ve signed up for the Reading Rush!?

Because with just one book left to read for Erin‘s challenge I couldn’t let myself get complacent, could I? 😉

The Reading Rush is a week-long readathon, formerly known as Booktubeathon. I had never heard of it until this year, but apparently it changed its name so people who are not on YouTube wouldn’t think they’re not allowed to join in.

This year’s Reading Rush runs from 22-28 July. The books you read have to match seven categories. They can overlap (so you can use one book for multiple categories) but there is also a bonus challenge to read seven books in a week. Here is my tbr:

Read a book with purple on the cover – Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman. I think this cover has purple on it. Let me show you:

I’m not sure if the dark but is blue or purple, but there’s the pinkish bit and then before that merges back into the dark blue(?) there’s a definite line of purple.

Read a book in the same spot the entire timeGil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez. This one from my old, hand-written list of books I want to read and I’m 100% certain it was the title that drew me to it back then! I’m trying to gradually cross those books off my list so I thought I’d include at least one in this readathon. I mostly read either on the sofa or in bed (unless I’m on the train to work but I don’t have an in-the-office day next week) so it shouldn’t be difficult to read all of it in the same place. (It doesn’t have to be in one sitting, you just have to go back to the same place each time you pick it up). This is also this author’s first (published) novel so would count for the first book category.

Read a book you meant to read last yearPax by Sara Pennypacker. Lots of others would fit for this category as well, as you will see.

Read an author’s first bookSomething in the Water by Catherine Steadman. Also, when checking whether this was a debut, I found out that Catherine Steadman is an actress. Huh. I got this for my birthday last year so it could count for the previous category too if I wanted to overlap.

Read a book with a non-human main characterThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Ivan is a gorilla, I believe. Another one that could also count for a book I meant to read last year – I’ve been saying I’m going to read it for ages.

Pick a book that has five or more words in the titleAlex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door by Ross Montgomery. That’s seven words… definitely more than five. Once again, this could be counted for the meant to read last year category. It features a talking dog o I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to pick it up! Also, I think said dog is a main character so that’s another category this one overlaps with.

Read and watch a book to movie adaptationChocolat by Joanne Harris. I don’t have Netflix or anything like that, so I had to choose from films I own on DVD. Not a single book on my to-read shelves matched that description so this is a re-read. I did love this book when I first read it though and it’s been a while.

Is anyone else doing the Reading Rush? If you’re on the website and want to add me, my user name is Confuzzled Bev. Seven books in a week… wish me luck!

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What I read in June 2019

It’s book day again! I have a lot to get through this month so no long introduction. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, obviously.

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The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman. At 34, Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all—a cushy job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft she shares with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. She’d forgotten all about the life list she made when she was 14. Then Brett’s mother dies, leaving her utterly devastated. Things get even worse when the will is read – in order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the goals on said teenage life list, some of which seem impossible. How can she build a relationship with a father who’s been dead for seven years? As Brett reluctantly tries to complete the abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places. I looked at this book in a train station when it first came out but didn’t end up buying it. Then Jan’s mum gave me it for Christmas last year. So there’s a not-very-fun fact for you. This is a cute, quick read. Honestly everything works out a little too perfectly and Brett is the very definition of kind and lovely, almost to the point of it being sickening, but it was a nice light bit of escapism that didn’t make me have to think too deeply. 3.5 stars.

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson. It’s bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl without adding in a dad you’ve never met (and who your mum refuses to talk about properly), a new boy giving you weird looks at school and a best friend dealing with problems of her own. So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she’s tempted to hide away and ignore it. But could her strange new powers be linked to her mysterious father?And what will happen when she ventures into the magical world of winter? A beautiful, magical fairy-tale come to life, but with some grounding in the real world. Unfortunately the ending seemed rushed to me – I felt like the book needed to be longer to incorporate both Owl’s everyday life/her best friend’s very much non-magical problems and everything that was going on with the magical part of the book. Somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 stars. 3.75? Sorry, I’m being ridiculous now.

The Hour Before Dawn by Sara MacDonald. In Singapore in the 1970s, Fleur abandoms her dreams of becoming a dancer after falling madly in love with David, a handsome army officer. After their first blissfully happy years together, tragedy strikes and Fleur is left alone, a widow with her young twin daughters, Nikki and Saffie. Grief-stricken, she prepares return to England with her daughters – but then one of them mysteriously vanishes, without a trace. Years later, Nicki Montrose is living in New Zealand, heavily pregnant and still haunted by the loss of her twin. Her mother, who Nicki never forgave for her part in the tragedy, is on the way to visit her. But then Fleur goes missing during a stopover in Singapore and Nikki must travel out there and attempt a reconciliation. But what they discover back in Port Dickson will send shock waves through the entire family. This is written alternately from Fleur’s perspective in the past and Nicki’s in the present day. However, Nicki’s perspective is also written in the past tense, which annoyed me at first. Somehow it just felt weird. But towards the end the story got so gripping that I didn’t even notice any more. Lots of twists and turns and revelations. 4 stars.

Where I Found You by Amanda Brooke. Maggie Carter loves to visit the park near her home. She knows what time of year the most fragrant flowers bloom and which paths lead you to the bench by the lake. The park is her safe place. Because away from it, in the real world, Maggie is expecting her first baby and is beginning to question whether she’s going to be able to cope. Then she meets Elsa, who is also expecting her first child, and is utterly terrified that her child will be taken away. But all is not as it seems. The secrets of sixty years ago are haunting Elsa and refuse to let her rest. I really enjoyed this book. I loved Maggie and felt so sorry for Elsa. There was just a little something missing that stopped it from being a five star read for me. I think there were too many side characters and little side plots that felt irrelevant. 4 stars.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Seventeen year old Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She left everything behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship, and expects to wake up on a new planet 300 years in the future. But 50 years before Godspeed is scheduled to land, Amy’s cryo chamber is mysteriously unplugged. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship —tried to kill her. Now Amy and Elder – a teenager who is due to take over from Eldest as the next leader of the ship – are on a race to find out the hidden secrets of the ship before more people die. I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I was going to – I read the entire thing on one journey to the office and back (that’s two train rides of 2 hours each). Some people have given it’s bad reviews due to faulty science -but I can honestly say I didn’t notice. I only read it for the plot anyway – I have no interest in science fiction that reads like science fiction (i.e. focuses on the science). I’m all about the plot; the whole happening in space thing is irrelevant to me. Elder is annoyingly slow at times and I feel like Amy would have been a better character if we’d learned more about her past. I just didn’t understand *why* Elder liked her. Because she was the only girl close to his age he’d ever met? But if a book can keep me occupied for that long on a train it will always get a high rating. 4 stars – and I’ve already bought book 2 in the series!

The Beloved Dearly by Doug Cooney. Twelve-year-old Ernie is always looking for ways to make money – the start of the book finds him trying to sell fast-food burgers to his classmates at lunch time. After a conversation with his dad about how much it cost to bury Ernie’s mother, he comes up with his best idea yet: pet funerals! With his pals Dusty (designer of coffins) and Swimming Pool (one of the world’s great criers) Ernie creates a thriving business – until he loses his star employee over a raise. It takes the death of his own dog to bring everyone back together. The description of this story sounds so fun, but the execution is meh. Ernie really annoyed me and all the other characters felt flat and underdeveloped, except Swimming Pool. Admittedly I’m not the target audience but I can’t imagine I would have loved it as a child either. 2.5 stars.

Der fabelhafte Geschenkladen by Manuela Inusa (my translation of the title: Tghe Marvellous Gift Shop). Orchid loves her little gift shop – the fulfilment of her life-long dream. Located in Valerie Lane (the most romantic street in Oxford), In Orchid’s Gift Shop you can buy wonderful scents, home-made candles and creative cards, and Orchid herself is always there with a welcoming smile and an open ear. The only person that hasn’t taken Orchid into his confidence yet is Patrick, her own boyfriend. Surely after all this time she should know more about him? Finally, Orchid gives Patrick an ultimatum but what she learns is something she would never have thought possible. This book is part of a series, but there’s no indication of that anywhere in the description. Maybe if I’d read the others first I’d have liked this one better? The beginning of this book is sweet to the point of being almost sickening. Valerie Lane is the most perfect place on Earth. Everybody loves each other. All the shop owners are the absolute best of friends and always there for each other no matter what. Patrick’s story is very far-fetched and belongs in a Hollywood film. It was also very convenient that immediately after telling Orchid his secret everything turned out to be resolved and he could actually live a normal life again. That all sounds very negative, but it wasn’t a terrible book. I read it quickly and I really did want to find out what happened between Orchid and Patrick, but I won’t be bothering with the rest of the series. 3 stars.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. During a summer party at the family farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has stolen away from her younger siblings and is happily dreaming of the future in her childhood tree house. She spies a stranger coming down the lane, sees him speaking to her mother, Dorothy, and soon witnesses a shocking crime. Fifty years later, Laurel is a well-known actress. As the family gather to celebrate Dorothy’s 90th birthday, Laurel is still haunted by that long-ago day. Realizing that this may be her last chance, she searches for answers that can only be found in her mother’s past. I enjoyed this book – Kate Morton can certainly write – but parts of it dragged. The plot kept going off on tangents that kind of made sense for helping the reader get to know the characters but at the same time made it feel like the book was going to go on forever. At one point I seriously asked myself why it needed to have so many pages! I didn’t guess the big secret (I actually had something else in mind) so when the reveal came I was surprised. If you’ve enjoyed other books by Kate Morton you will probably like this one. She does seem to follow a bit of a pattern but I think the details are different enough to make it okay. 4 stars.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Andrea knows everything there is to know about her mother, Laura. She lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. But when Andrea is caught up in a shocking act of violence at the mall, Laura intervenes and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to her mother. Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down, and Andrea is on the run, trying desperately to find out who her mother really is. This is a good book. It started off slow, but by the end I was gripped. Not the best Karin Slaughter book I’ve read but still an excellent thriller. 4 stars.

What’s a Girl Gotta Do by Holly Bourne. Book 3 in the Spinster Club series, this time we’re following Lottie. After an encounter with some builders, Lottie decides to start a project: every time she sees something sexist (aimed at either gender) she will call it out. Lottie is determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. It’s just a shame the trolls have other ideas. Meanwhile, her parents would prefer that she waited until after she gets into Cambridge. After feeling a slight disconnect with Amber’s story (although it’s still an excellent book) this one reminded me of why I loved this series to begin with. Lottie felt so real – it was like I actually knew her. I love how passionate she is – even if she can be annoying and stubborn at times, and has a tendency to believe that what she would do is best for everyone. And I love how the three girls are there for each other – even when Amber and Lottie fell out at one point, after Lottie opened up Amber was immediately supportive. The feminist message is, sadly, incredibly true to life and so, so necessary. It may not be a perfect book but I still gave it five stars.

Dead Wrong by Curtis Jobling. Book 2 in the Haunt series. In book one, our protagonist Will dies in a hit and run accident only to find himself stuck as a ghost… a ghost that only his best friend, Dougie can see. Together the two of them ended up solving a decades old mystery and helping another ghost move on. In this book, Will and Dougie are still adjusting to their new friendship dynamic – and the fact that Dougie’s new girlfriend is none other than Will’s crush from when he was alive and the first – and last – girl he ever kissed. Meanwhile, Dougie’s dad has been acting extremely strangely since Will’s death. Clearly he’s hiding something. Just as things are beginning to go right for Will, it seems he couldn’t have been more wrong… I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the last one – parts of the storyline seemed a little far fetched (and yes I am aware that the main character is a ghost!). Nonetheless it’s a fun book and Will is a really likeable character. His friendship with Dougie feels genuine and I just love it. Unfortunately this book was a little predictable. It’s still a good book but falls slightly short of the first one. If the series continues I will definitely give the next book a go. 3.5 stars.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor. After something damaged his eyes when he was young, Paul Fisher views the world through glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he insists he can see perfectly fine, and he’s certainly not too blind to realise there’s something very odd about the family’s new home in Tangerine County, Florida. Where else does a sinkhole swallow the local middle school, fire burn underground for years, and lightning strike at the same time every day? And as if that wasn’t enough, Paul is completely terrified of his football–star older brother, Erik, the golden child of the family. Then Paul joins the school soccer team and, with the help of his new team mates, begins to discover what lies beneath the surface of his strange new home town and even gains the courage to face up to some secrets his family have been keeping from him. This book certainly has a lot packed into it and it felt like some issues were glossed over. It made compelling reading though and I didn’t want to put it down. I loved the main character, Paul, and hated the way his parents were all about Erik and his football dream – and that was before I even found out the extent of their neglect. The perfect example of an outwardly normal but actually very dysfunctional family. 3.5 stars.

Basic EightThe Basic Eight by Daniel Handler. Flannery Culp wants you to know the entire story of her disastrous senior year. Between perverts, unrequited crushes, complicated relationships, gossip, cruel jokes, and the hallucinatory effects of absinthe, she and her other friends who make up the Basic Eight have lived through it all. But now, on tabloid television, they’re calling Flannery a murderer, which is a total lie. It’s true that high school can be stressful sometimes, and it’s also true that sometimes a girl just has to kill someone. But Flannery wants you all to know that she’s not a murderer at all — she’s a murderess. Read that description, look at the cover and tell me you’re not reminded me of the film Heathers? Surely it can’t be just me? Anyway… this book is wild. Deliciously dark, quirky, crazy and – dare I say it – even fun. It could have been an amazing book but something in the execution just isn’t quite there. Flannery is very much an unreliable narrator (and she knows it – even seems to take great joy in pointing it out) but I actually quite liked her voice. Some parts just seemed to drag though and I found myself wishing it would just get to the main event already – I mean, we know from the start there’s going to be a murder. At the end, I was left with many questions. Not least of which is what kind of name is Flannery?! I liked it well enough but it’s not a new favourite by any means (although I would probably have rated it very highly at 15). Another 3.5 stars.

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry. Eight years ago, Jane witnessed the abduction of her thirteen year old sister, Julie from their house in the middle of the night. For years there was no trace of her and the family have done their best to move on. Eight years later, the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is, of course, overjoyed but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts. Is this woman really who she says she is? I have another book on my to-read shelf (The Lost and the Found) that I swear has almost the same plot – except that one is YA, the missing child is younger and it doesn’t explicitly say that anyone doubts who she says she is. I’ll be interested to see how similar the two books are. Anyway… This book started off good but then the ending seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn’t so much a twist as the author suddenly revealing that she hadn’t actually told us half the story. And Julie’s reason for not coming home sooner didn’t make any sense to me. As thrillers go this one is pretty average. 2.5 stars.

The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis. Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest dragon there is. And she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving their cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. When the human she encounters tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. But she’s still the fiercest creature in the mountains, and now she’s found her passion: chocolate! Now all she has to do is get herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious) and soon she’ll be able to show them all! I loved everything about this book. Dragons! Chocolate! Aventurine is awesome, as is her human friend Silke who she meets when she reaches the city. This is the first book in a series – because I definitely needed to be committing to reading more of those?! – and I plan to read them all. 5 stars.

The Secret Shopper’s Revenge by Kate Harrison. Single mum Emily wants to get her revenge on the nasty shop assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and make her feel inadequate for not being rich. Store manager Sandie has been working in a department store for years and she loves everything about it, but then she’s set up by a bitchy assistant and loses her job. Glamorous widow Grazia just can’t seem to leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. Together, they are Charlie’s Shopping Angels – a team of secret shoppers who receive assignments from the mysterious Charlie. But when they’re sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the teams loyalties become divided. This is classic chick lit. A quick, easy read – which is precisely what I wanted at the time. I liked the characters and I was especially satisfied with the ending to Sandie’s story. Emily’s ending was a little predictable but that’s chick lit for you. I might give the sequel a go if I find myself wanting a lighter read again. 3.5 stars. Nothing spectacular but fine as a light, fun read.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Three years ago, Jude and her twin brother Noah were inseparable, two halves of one whole. Back then, Noah spent all his time drawing and painting, and was falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while dare-devil Jude wore red lipstick, dived from the cliff top and did all the talking for the two of them. Now, the twins barely speak to each other and Noah never picks up a pencil. Something has happened, changing each of the siblings in different, but equally devastating ways. Then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor, and slowly things start to change again. If Jude and Noah can just find their way back to each other, together they can remake their world. This book is told from two perspectives – Noah tells the story from when they were 13 while Jude gets the aged-16 years. It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but once I did I was hooked. I smiled, I cried. I was desperate for both Noah and Jude to get their happy endings. The writing style definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind a lot of artistic metaphor and very quirky characters I highly recommend it. 5 stars.

Phew, that was 17 books. If you’ve made it to here you’re officially a star! And in case you couldn’t be bothered to read everything, here’s a quick summary of the ones I enjoyed:

TL;DR: I recommend The Hour Before Dawn and Where I Found You. If you like historical fiction, The Secret Keeper is good. If you like children’s books, chocolate and dragons you need to read The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart (probably my favourite book I read in June). Pieces of Her is a decent thriller but not Karin Slaughter’s best. YA lovers should definitely read I’ll Give You the Sun and the entire Spinster Girls series. I liked Across the Universe but if you read sci-fi for the actual science and are likely to notice implausible technology you might want to steer clear.

What have you been reading lately? Check out the Show Us Your Books link up for more recommendations.

June 2019 recap

Hello friends! Can you believe it’s July already? More than half the year gone, just like that. Next month is my birthday! Thinking about it makes me feel a little sick. Another year older and nothing to show for it. But that’s not what today’s post is about. It’s the first Thursday of the month, and that means I’m linking up with Kristen to talk about what’s new in my life (short answer: not much).

whats new with you

On the first day of June, we went to see a Swiss comedian called Emil (I don’t remember his last name, but it’s irrelevant anyway – he performs as just Emil). Some of it was funny, some of it I didn’t understand and some of the jokes might have been funny when he started out (he’s pretty old) but today they came across as… old-fashioned at best (think stereotypical gender stuff). A friend of Jan’s from one of his choirs joined us and stayed the night since she lives in Zurich. On the Sunday she wanted to take an early train, so we got up early too and had breakfast with her. Later we headed into town and ate ice cream shaped like flowers. And then my holiday was over and the Monday was back to work…. which you wouldn’t think would be a problem after two weeks off, but I really, really didn’t wanna. It ended up not being too bad though. I was in the office on the Friday and between the train journey there and back I managed to read an entire book. Woo. Then came the weekend, which was a long one thanks to Whit Monday.

We decided to make the most of the three day weekend and go away for a couple of days. Jan booked us a hotel in Interlaken and we decided on Jungfraujoch on the Saturday and then see what we felt like doing on the Sunday based on the weather. Jan booked train tickets from Interlaken Ost up to Jungfraujoch on the Saturday, choosing 10 a.m. as the time… except it turns out that was the time the train from Kleine Scheidegg left! So instead of leaving Basel at around 8 we had to be on a train at 5:59 a.m. Just let that sink in for a minute… It was a loooong day! At the top we had to acclimatise first – it’s high! 3,466 metres (11,371 ft) above sea level, to be exact. So we explored the things around the station – viewing platforms, ice tunnel with random sculptures. I felt dizzy at first and got out of breath climbing some stairs. The effects of altitude are real! We then decided to hike to the Mönchsjoch Hut. I was slooow, but I made it. We ate some lunch there before making the trek back. Our train back down left at 4:30 p.m., then we walked to our hotel, checked in and went out for dinner before falling into bed completely exhausted.

The forecast for the next day was mostly rain with a chance of thunderstorms. We had been thinking about taking a funicular up another mountain (to Harder Kulm) but there wouldn’t have been much of a view, so instead we took a train to Meiringen and made a second attempt to visit the Aare Gorge… and this time it was open! The rain stopped just as we got there and held off until we reached the other end, so that was nice. Some photos of the very impressive scenery:

Or next stop was the Reichenbach Falls – of Sherlock Holmes fame. We didn’t go all the way to the top – so we didn’t see the exact location of the crime – but we walked far enough up to get an idea. Then we headed back down and sought out a tea room where we could eat meringues (supposedly invented in Meiringen) and an éclair type thing called a Tatzelwurm, named after a mythological dragon-like creature that supposedly lived in the Aare Gorge. By the time we had finished, it was raining heavily so the best course of action seemed to be to take a train home.

The bank holiday Monday was mostly cloudy/rainy. I think we pretty much spent the day unpacking boxes and attempting to get the flat in order. I took advantage of the fact that most of the flats are currently still empty and did some hoovering (on a holiday… I’m such a rebel!). And then it was back to work again. Only a short week, but somehow it draaaagged!

Another weekend arrived, and we basically spent it unpacking boxes. The Saturday was photo an hour. I started late, but you can see what I did for most of the day here. We went into town and bought new pans to replace some of our crappy old IKEA ones. Decent pans… I feel like a real grown up now! Sunday was more of the unpacking, but by the end of it all the kitchen boxes were empty so that’s good. Jan also put the coat rack back up and reattached the shoe cabinet thing to the wall. Almost back to normal!

Week three of June was yet another short one for me – although not for Jan. Corpus Christi may be a holiday in some parts of Switzerland, but neither Basel nor Zurich has one. This time the holiday was on the Thursday, which always completely throws me off. I spent most of Wednesday thinking it was Friday and half of Friday thinking it was Monday! On Thursday, I took advantage of the fact that Basel did not have a holiday and went into town. I didn’t end up buying much though – some shower gel, chocolate raisins,  lunch. That’s about it. I just couldn’t be bothered. Instead I went home, finished a book and read the entirety of another one. Much better use of my time than shopping! I also did some laundry and ran/emptied the dishwasher in an attempt to be at least semi-productive. I also moved most of my picture books from the bookcase into an empty moving box to create more space on the bottom shelf. I’ve rearranged some books and got new ones so obviously most of that space is now full again but at least the bottom two shelves on the middle bookcase look a bit neater. The picture books will stay in the box until I either have a baby to share them with (then they will go on a bookcase in the baby’s room) or I get rid of enough other books to have room for them again.

books
Yes, that’s the *neater* version of the bottom shelf. You don’t want to know how it looked before…

Then came another weekend. Jan had a rehearsal with the Basel Tattoo Choir on the Saturday morning and then he was singing at a church service in the evening. Demonstrations in town resulted in tram chaos, so after trying for a while to get home from the rehearsal, he called me and asked me to gather the clothes he wanted to change into and bring them into town. I obliged and then, since I was in town anyway, went to a supermarket there to buy something for tea. We ate salmon with couscous, in case you’re wondering. What else did I do that day? Cleaned the kitchen. Read. That’s about it. On Sunday Jan had to sing at another church service, then afterwards I met him in town and we went for brunch at a vegetarian restaurant. Afterwards we wanted to check out the Pärkli Jam festival. Unfortunately it turned out all the bands had performed on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was just dance shows. We bought a drink anyway, watched for a while and then went home. Jan cleaned the living room window (very naughty on a Sunday) while I wrote some letters… one was a response to a letter I received in January. Worst. Pen pal. Ever. In the evening Jan was invited to dinner at a friend’s house – said friend is planning a project that Jan will be part of and wanted to discuss it. I had scrambled eggs on toast for tea, and discovered that the spring onion I added to it was only one eighth of a five-a-day portion. Who eats eight spring onions in one go? I had been tired all day so tried to get an early night but of course failed to fall asleep for ages. Grr.

Not much to say about the following week. On the Thursday I had to go into work because we were all going out for a meal in the evening to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary. I also had an appointment in the morning so I couldn’t leave as early as usual and ended up having to take a half day. I just love wasting my overtime to sit on a train [/sarcasm].

The final week of June brought with it a heatwave. It had been hot before that, but for that week we were on a red alert for high temperatures. Umm, yay? Keeping the flat cool enough to work was a challenge. I pretty much had the blinds closed at all times. On the Saturday we ventured out, visiting both zero-waste supermarkets in Basel. I call them supermarkets but neither is very big. We managed to buy washing powder plus a separate water softener, shower gel, shampoo, some vegetables, strawberries, eggs and a glass jar of yoghurt. We didn’t buy any of the staple foods (pasta, rice) since we already have loads. I decided I will go back but you definitely couldn’t do a full shop there! Back at home we didn’t do a lot. I think Jan watched some of the women’s football world cup. Then we ended up taking a two-hour nap. Sunday we didn’t do much. A few of my friends’ children have birthdays coming up so I stitched something for one boy’s card and then stitched and made a card for my cousin’s new baby.

Baby card

And that was my June. I’m still not sure how I feel about recapping my months in this format, so let me know what you think. Is the weekly run-down as boring as I think it is? Should I stick to just highlights and ignore the weekends where we did nothing much? (Does anybody care that I unpacked my kitchen stuff or went to a zero-waste supermarket?). Tell me your thoughts in the comments! And let me know what you’ve been up to lately as well. Also, definitely check out the link up to see what’s new with other people around the blogosphere.

I Dare Ya book tag

I’ve seen this little survey on various blogs – I got it from Kristin, but Tanya and Audrey have also done it. I wasn’t tagged by anyone, but I wanted to play anyway.

What book has been on your shelf the longest?

I have a lot of books I was given when I was little and I obviously can’t remember which one was first, but I’m going to go with The Wind in the Willows. I’ve linked to a random version. Mine has a different illustrator. Also, I’ve lost the dust jacket.

What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

Currently reading The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler. The last book I read was Dead Wrong by Curtis Jobling, book two in the Haunt series. And as for next read… do you seriously expect me to know that already? Let’s just go with it will be one of these:

to-read shelves

Or one of the ones that have crept onto the shelf above because apparently two to-read shelves aren’t enough?

What Books Did Everyone Like, but You Hated?

The Catcher in the Rye – although I am starting to find a few other people who disliked it now. I spent the entire book waiting for the story to start but then nothing ever actually happened. I was in my 20s when I read it so maybe you have to be a teenager to understand? I also hated Wuthering Heights. I read half of it three times before finally finishing it then immediately giving it to a charity shop.

What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?

Most of the books on my non-fiction shelf. I am absolutely terrible at reading non-fiction, even if it’s a subject I’m really interested in.

What book are you saving for retirement?

Um, none. I mean I plan to read as much as possible once I retire but there are no books I’m saving specifically for that time. Maybe I’ll finally get to all those classics that really intimidate me?

Last page: read it first or wait ’til the end?

I have a colleague who always reads the end first then only reads the rest of the book if she likes how it ends. I just don’t get that. I would never read the last page before even starting the book!

Acknowledgement: waste of paper and ink or interesting aside?

Hmm, I don’t think it’s a waste of paper necessarily but some of them are so long. If it’s like a little paragraph I might read it, but an entire page just listing random people? Eh, no thanks.

Which book character would you switch places with?

Lucy from the Narnia books. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but when I was little I was convinced Narnia was a real place and I was desperate to go there.

Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (place, time, person)?

The Chalet School books remind me of my grandma’s house because that’s where I fist discovered them – one of my aunts had left a couple there from when she read them as a child and I found them one visit and devoured them. My grandma then let me keep and thus my collection was born. I have most of them now but there are still gaps. Also, Agatha Christie reminds me of my step-mum but that’s mostly because I inherited her collection. I never actually discussed them with her when she was alive or anything. They’re currently all in boxes at my dad’s house but I will get them over here one day.

Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.

My dad used to work for a recycling plant, specifically on the belt sorting the stuff that could actually be recycled from everything else – you wouldn’t believe the crap people put in their recycling bins! And I don’t just mean as in “yes pizza boxes are theoretically cardboard but we don’t recycle things that are covered in grease and old cheese”. There are people out there who just use them as an extra rubbish bin – many dirty nappies came down the belt and my dad once told a story of a dead rabbit in a carrier bag. Like, what? Anywaaaay… many, many people throw their unwanted books in the recycling bin (😢😢) and my dad “rescued” tonnes of them from the belt. I got my pick of which ones I wanted. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett and Bridget Jones’s Diary are two I remember. Some were in not the best condition but others you could barely tell had been thrown away.

Have you ever given a book away for a special reason/to a special person?

I… don’t know? I give people books all the time. Almost everyone gets books from me for Christmas and birthdays. But for a special reason? Not sure. I was planning to give Jan Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada last Christmas as a silly joke present, but since there were no babies there was also no book.

Which book has been with you to the most places?

Presumably any of my childhood books that moved with us while we were in the army. Ooh, I’ve just remembered I have these two personalised books my grandparents got me – “Beverley and Father Christmas on a Sleigh Ride to the Moon” and “The Pussy-Cat’s Picnic” (I’m not 100% sure on the title of the second, but it’s something like that). My address at the time is mentioned in the stories and it’s the one from before me moved to Northern Ireland so those ones. And those should probably have been my answer for question one too. Oh well. Also I know I picked them up from my dad’s last time I was there but I have no memory of unpacking them or putting them anywhere so now I need to figure out what I’ve done with them…

Any ‘required’ reading that you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?

I actually liked everything we read in high school. There are a few books other people read in high school that my class never did but I have read since and didn’t particularly enjoy – specifically The Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies, but they don’t count since I didn’t read them in school (and also still don’t like them). Ohh, wait… I hated Andorra by Max Frisch, which we read for A-Level German. I’ve never re-read it though so no idea what I think now.

Used or brand new?

I don’t mind, as long as it’s readable. Most of my books are used – I could never afford to buy all the ones I read brand new. Especially living in Switzerland! And I don’t own a Kindle, mainly because 99.9% of Kindle books on Amazon tell me they’re not available in my country.

Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?

My grandma bought Jan four Dan Brown books for Christmas one year so of course I read them all. I liked some better than others. They’re quick reads anyway.

Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?

High Fidelity works so much better as a film!

Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?

The Chocolat books by Joanne Harris always make me want chocolate. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier made me crave Indian food. Basically any book that has detailed descriptions of people making delicious food makes me hungry.

Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

I have one good in real-life friend (who also happens to have a blog) always manages to buy me books I’ve a) never heard of and b) end up loving – one of my favourite books of last year was a book from her. I also always get loads of book recommendations from the Show Us Your Books link-up.

Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g. outside of your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?

I very surprisingly ended up loving The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. It involves boxing. I could not care less about boxing. But I did very much care about the main character in this book. I would never have even picked it up if it weren’t for the BBC Big Read!

That’s all the questions. If you feel like doing this let me know and I’ll come and have a nosy – I would particularly love to see Kezzie‘s answers to these questions.

Book Challenge by Erin 11.0

Hello my lovelies! I promised you my reading list for Erin’s latest reading challenge then promptly went and published two other posts. But now, finally, my list is here. I managed to find a book that was already physically present on my list for every single category, which I’m pretty sure is a first for me. So yay! That definitely won’t be happening for the bonus round though given that for some of these categories I’m using the only book I had that fits. But that’s enough preamble… let’s just get on with it shall we?

challenge books

The challenge will run from 1 July to 21 October 2019 (in whatever time zone you’re in) and as always there are 10 categories and all books must have at least 200 pages.

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages. Lost Boy by Christina Henry. My friend gave me this book for Christmas 2017, which is just ridiculous and it’s beyond time I read it. By the way, she is my actual real-life friend but she also has a blog all about children’s books and being a student teacher. You should check it out.

10 points: Read a book that starts with “F”Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor. This is one of only two unread books I own that start with F and the other one isn’t long enough! This one has 212 so it just sneaks in. I found it in a free public bookcase and was intrigued.

10 points: Read a book with one of the following words in the title: rain(s), thunder, lightning, or monsoonSchwarzer Regen by Karl Ohlsberg. I thought I was going to actually have to buy a book for this category but luckily I noticed that this German book fit. The title means “Black Rain”. Phew. I actually started reading this one about 3 years ago but didn’t get very far so I’ll be starting over and hopefully finishing this time!

15 points: Read a book with a picture of a building (i.e. a house, a castle, a school, a hospital, etc.) on the coverI, Coriander by Sally Gardner. I don’t even know how long I’ve had this book – it definitely moved here with me from Karlsruhe so at least 4 years. This book has multiple buildings on the cover… look:

20 points: Read a book that the published author uses an initial in his/her nameThe Boy On the Bridge by M. R. Carey. I thought this was a sequel to The Girl With All the Gifts, but actually it seems to be a companion or prequel or something? So no Melanie, which is a shame. I’m still looking forward to it though.

20 points: Read a book with an article of clothing or accessory in the titleDer vertauschte Mantel by Jean-Pierre Gattégno. I almost gave up on finding something for this one, but German came to the rescue again. The title translates as “The Switched Jacket”. The book is originally French and there’s no mention of clothing in that title but I’m reading it in German so it totally counts.

25 points: (in honour of our co-admin) – Read a book set in IndiaThe Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye. I have precisely two unread books set in India and both of them are loooong. This is actually the lesser of the two evils at 960 pages. 960! Is that really necessary? The other one was like 1,400 and something and it’s the first in a series. Why?!

30 points: (selected by Lyndsay L.) – Read a book that has won or been short-listed for the Booker PrizeEileen by Ottessa Moshfeg. Wikipedia says it’s been shortlisted. I had one other option, but I chose this one.

30 points: (selected by Deborah D.) – Read a book about a human with superpowers or supernatural powersThe Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. Some of you may notice this wasn’t on my original Instagram photo. I had actually ruled it out because I figured casting magic spells is different to superpowers – ya know like flying, turning invisible, that kind of thing. But Erin’s co-host informed me that hypnotism is not a superpower but Harry Potter would count. If Harry counts then so does this!

35 points: (selected by Lorraine J.) – Read a book that has the same title as another book in a different genreJoyland by Stephen King. The other book with this title is Young Adult, a graphic novel. No idea what it’s about. This is Stephen King so I’m guessing there’ll be some element of horror in it, although it’s published by “Hardline Crime” so we’ll see. It should be good anyway.

So, that is ten. Have you read any of these? Want to reassure me that I’m making good choices (especially with that chunky 960-pager)? Will you be taking part in Erin’s challenge? Talk to me in the comments.

What I read in May 2019

Hello and welcome to one of my favourite days of the blogging month – Show Us Your Books day with Jana and Steph.
May has been my worst reading month of the year so far. – although “worst” is relative and I still read a lot of books by most people’s standards. Turns out when most of your time is spent as far away from the dust-filled construction site you call a flat there isn’t much time for reading. During the day I was elsewhere, working, then I just about had time to walk home and drop my stuff off before heading back into town to meet Jan for food. Then by the time we got home it was usually pretty much bed time, and I couldn’t even read in bed like normal since for most of the time we had no electricity (and thus no light) in the bedroom. I had hoped to get some reading time in while we were on holiday, but every day was packed full with the result that I actually only finished one book and started another (on the plane home). I did finish that book and read a whole second one on my first day back in Basel though. Result! After that reading became more sporadic again as I spent most of my time trying to free our flat of the dust that coated everything. Nonetheless, I managed to read 9 books, which I shall talk about now.

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Nebelkind by Emelie Schepp (original title: Märkta för livet, title of English translation: Marked for Life). When the head of immigration is found shot dead at his home, there is no shortage of suspects – including his wife – but nobody can explain the presence of a child-sized hand print at the scene. Young and brilliant, but cold and aloof, public prosecutor Jana Berzelius is assigned to lead the investigation. A few days later on a nearby deserted shoreline, the body of a young boy is discovered alongside the murder weapon that killed both him and the original victim. A discovery during the autopsy draws Jana deeper into the case than she ever planned to get – the boy has the name of a God carved into his neck… and so does she. This book is mixture between police procedural and thriller. There were some fast-paced parts that made me want to keep reading, but a lot of it is pretty slow. Main character Jana is so mechanical and distant she seems almost robot-like, which I understand is related to her past but it made it difficult to get to know her. What happened to her was horrible and I should have felt more sorry for her but she was so detached from everyone and everything that I had trouble caring. Her “rival”, police officer Mia, is more human with obvious flaws but she’s also really annoying and I didn’t like her at all! I feel like the reader finds out what’s going on too soon so it’s a really long, drawn out wait for the police to get names and start tracking people down. Overall I would say it could have been a great book if it had been roughly 100 pages shorter. 3 stars.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine. After the death of her father, Sophie Taylor is forced to find a job. She’s lucky enough to get a position in the hat department of the new department store that’s opening in London – Sinclair’s. When a precious artefact – a clockwork sparrow – goes missing the day before the grand opening, Sophie becomes the chief suspect and is quickly let go. With the help of he friends Lil and Billy, she’s determined to find out who the real culprit is and clear her name. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected to. It’s well written and I liked the characters. But somehow I just wasn’t fully captivated. All the clues or little mysteries seemed to be resolved very quickly so there wasn’t much tension or opportunity for the reader to try and work things out. Towards the end I started to enjoy it more and as I said I did enjoy the characters so I wouldn’t be adverse to giving book 2 a try. 3.5 stars.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill. Baby is twelve years old. Her mother died when she was a baby and she live in a succession of seedy apartments in Montreal with her heroin-addict father, Jules. While still just about young enough to cling onto childhood, dragging around a suitcase full of dolls on every move, she’s old enough to be tempted by the adult world and feel flattered when her burgeoning beauty draws the attention of the local pimp. This book had been on my to-read list for so long that it never even made it onto Goodreads, so it was about time I read it! I’m not actually sure why I liked this book. It’s absolutely packed with similes to the extent that the writing style should have been annoying. But somehow it spoke to me. I really liked Baby and all I wanted was to take her away from everything and give her a proper permanent home. Jules too, who despite all his problems obviously loved his daughter more than anything. Knowing that there are kids out there who really live like this breaks my heart. There’s a glimmer of hope at the end and I really hope Baby was able to turn things around and live the life she deserved. 4 stars.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. In 1986, Eddie and his friends are twelve years old. They spend their time riding their bikes around their sleepy English village. The chalk men are their secret code; a way to leave messages for each other than nobody else will understand. But then a mysterious chalk man shows up that leads the group to a body hidden in the woods. In 2016, Eddie is 42 years old and thinks he’s put the tragic events of the past behind him. Until an anonymous note turns up with a drawing of a chalk man. Now it seems that Eddie is going to have to face his past, one way or another. This book is creepy and suspenseful, but for me there was something missing that stopped it from being a five star read. Some parts were just too confusing. It is well written though and I would definitely give this author another chance. 4 stars.

Chalk Man

More Than This by Patrick Ness. A boy drowns, his final moments spent desperate and alone. He dies. But then he wakes up. Naked and weak, but alive. How is this possible? He remembers dying, the sound of his bones breaking. And what is this strange, deserted place? It looks like an abandoned version of the English town he lived in as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy struck his family and they family moved to America. He begins a search for answers, hoping that he is not alone and that, just maybe, there is more than this. Aargh! How can a book be this long and still leave me with a million questions? It’s engrossing, bizarre, confusing. Every time you think things are going to be explained it only goes so far then leaves you with even more mysteries. I loved it right up until the end, which left me frustrated. I need to know what happened and who or what is real. I still highly recommend this book though. My first by Patrick Ness and it definitely won’t be my last. 4.5 stars.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus. Ellery has never been to the small, seemingly picture perfect town of Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing years ago, aged 16. And where a home-coming queen was murdered just five years ago. And now Ellery and her twin brother Ezra are being forced to move there, to live with a grandmother they barely know, while their mother goes to rehab. Before school even starts, someone starts leaving notes and threats around town, promising to make home-coming as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then another girl goes missing… I feel like this book took me a tiny bit longer to get into than One of Us is Lying, even though I liked the characters in this one better. But once I did get into it I was gripped and read the entire thing in one go (sitting at the train station waiting to be able to go home). I loved the twins and their friend, Mal. And I did not guess who the killer was. 5 stars. Also, when I went to review this I discovered there is going to be a sequel to One of Us Is Lying and I’m so excited!

There May Be a Castle by Piers Torday. It’s Christmas Eve and eleven-year-old Mouse is travelling to his grandparents with his mum and two sisters. It’s sowing heavily, visibility is bad and they get into a car accident. Mouse is thrown from the car and wakes up in a world that isn’t his own but seems somehow familiar. He meets a sheep he names Bar, who can only say Baaa, and a horse who looks surprisingly like his favourite toy, Nonky, grown huge. Thus begins a quest to find a castle in a world full of monsters, nights and mysterious wizards. A world of excitement, but also of terrifying danger. But why are they looking for a castle? As the book goes on, we realise how this journey has links to the real world and the people Mouse left behind. I absolutely loved this book! It is wonderful, but so sad. I wasn’t sure about Violet’s point of view (it was fine in the beginning but I would have preferred her to stay where she was). The ending is so sad though – I was hoping for a different outcome. I still highly recommend it though, if you’re a fan of children’s books. 5 stars.

Together by Julie Cohen. One morning, Robbie awakes. His wife Emily is sleeping beside him, as always. He gets up, makes coffee and walks the dogs. Then he writes Emily a note and does something that will break her heart. As the story rewinds through their lives, back to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we gradually learn the story of a couple of a terrible secret that they will do anything to protect. This is a really well written and captivating book. It starts on such a shocking note that I could not put it down until I found out why. What was the big secret? Then when it was finally revealed I didn’t know what to think. I was imagining all sorts of things, but not that! (Other people have said they knew, so maybe I’m just naive.) At the start I really liked Robbie. He seemed so loving and caring. But as the story went on it seemed like no matter what happened he was determined to always get his way. I think I was supposed to see him as a charming bad boy type but he just seemed selfish and controlling. No thanks! Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this book and did not see the end coming. 4 stars.

Mr Briggs’ Hat: The True Story of a Victorian Railway Murder by Kate Colquhoun. My first non-fiction book of the year! I started it in April and finished on 31st May so it just sneaks into this round-up. On 9 July 1864, after an evening with relatives, Thomas Briggs walked through Fenchurch Station and entered carriage 69 on the 9.45 Hackney-bound train. A few minutes later, two bank clerks entered the compartment to find blood pooled in the indentations of the cushions and smeared all over the floor and windows of the carriage, and a bloody hand print on the door. There was no sign of Mr Briggs. This book tells the story of the investigation into Mr Briggs’ murder as well as giving lots of detail about train travel in Victorian times. It’s quite interesting read but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought there would be more of a resolution and some information on the crime itself/how it was actually committed. Instead it’s more of an examination of the investigative process in Victorian times – I learned more about how the police went about gathering evidence than the actual crime this was supposed to address. Not that all that’s uninteresting but the title was misleading. It’s worth a read if that sounds good to you but I wouldn’t necessarily make it a priority. 3 stars.

So, while I read less than in previous months (and don’t get me wrong, 9 books is still pretty decent), almost everything I read ranged from good to absolutely amazing. Quality over quantity, yes? I’m not even sure I can narrow it down enough to tell you which books I absolutely recommend you should read. But I’ll give it a try:

TL;DR: The three books I absolutely recommend to everyone this month are More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, I think but definitely interesting for adults. Some kind of dystopian/sci-fi/mystery type thing. Really well written), Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus (YA mystery/thriller. So good!) and There May Be a Castle by Piers Torday (wonderful but sad middle grade fantasy). I also really enjoyed Lullabies for Little Criminals but I hesitate to recommend it because the writing style won’t be for everyone.

Read anything good recently? Check out the link up for more book reviews.

What I read in April 2019

Hello! It’s the second Tuesday of the month, which means it’s SHow Us Your Books time again with lovely hosts Jana and Steph. I read 14 books in April and it’s a real mixed bag – everything from classics to children’s mysteries and even a a spy novel, which is normally so not my thing. Let’s get to the reviews, shall we?

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The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton. Seth is a kitchen boy at the remote Last Chance Hotel. His dad used to be head chef there, until he left apparently under a cloud of suspicion, leaving Seth trapped until he’s old enough to set out on his own. His only chance of escape is to become a famous chef as well. One night a group of special guests turn up at the hotel, who turn out to be magicians participating in a selection procedure to determine the most magical people in the world. Seth finally has the chance to prove himself by making Dr. Thallonius the best-tasting dessert of his life. But then the professor dies and the dessert is blamed – how can Seth prove he’s innocent? This is a wonderful book! Spooky and magical with a murder mystery for good measure. And there’s a fantastic talking cat. I was a little annoyed by Seth’s inability to stand up for himself, but there are some revelations at the end that I hope will make things better in that respect in book two. 4.5 stars.

The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. When the four Stanley children meet Amanda, their new stepsister, they’re amazed to find she dresses in strange costumes, carries a crow in a cage and claims to be a witch. Before long, she decides to make the children her “neophytes” and introduce them to the world of witchcraft. Then strange things start happening in their old farmhouse and it’s not long before they discover that the house was supposed to have been haunted long ago. Is the poltergeist back or is there another explanation for all the strange goings on? This a fun mystery with just the right amount of spookiness for a children’s book. Even though it was written in 1971, it doesn’t seem to outdated – other than the kids being left home alone while their parents go into town, etc. But maybe that actually still happens in areas as isolated as the setting for this book. I would have loved this book as a child! 4 stars.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. When Tess Durbeyfield’s father finds out by chance that they’re descendants of the old aristocratic  D’Urberville family, he encourages her to make use of the connection and try to claim a share of the wealth for the rest of the family. But Alec d’Urberville turns out to be a rich scoundrel who seduces her and makes her life miserable. When Tess meets Angel Clare, she is finally offered a chance at true love and happiness, but her past catches up with her and she faces an agonizing moral choice. I really enjoyed this – although “enjoyed” seems a bit mean for such a tragedy. Poor Tess is surrounded by good-for-nothing idiot men. And I include her father in that. She just could not seem to catch a break. As classics go, the language in this one is actually very readable and Hardy managed not to spend pages and pages on pointless descriptions (as in Far From the Madding Crowd were her spent three pages describing a barn!). Victorian double standards make me angry, but the book is good. 5 stars.

The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton. First of all, thank you to Steph (yes, as in the host of this very link-up) for reminding me of the existence of The Gutenberg Project, which is where I found this book and was thus able to read it for free. I love the TV series so the book had been on my wish list for a while. This is basically a series of short stories all featuring the priest, Father Brown solving various mysteries. Chesterton was a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; interestingly, if I hadn’t known this book was published in 1911 (and there weren’t references to 18–) I would have put it more in the era of Agatha Christie in terms of language. It’s still quite readable over 100 years after it was published. I like the TV series better but the book was still a fun read. 3.5 stars.

The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard. Alice has acquired brain injury after an assault four years ago. Since then, to put it in her own words, “her electrics have been broken”. Her speech is slow and slurred and she has fits. She writes poems to express all the things she cannot say. She lives with her grandmother, who is sick, and her brother Joey, who looks after her but is also growing up and, just maybe, away from Alice. Manny is from Sierra Leone. He seems to be adapting to life in his new country, but at night he runs to try and escape the demons of his past. One night, he sees Alice sitting on the roof of her home and finds one of her poems. This book is beautiful and heart-breaking. The narrative style is disconcerting at first, but once you get into it you stop noticing (or at least I did) and it really does represent the problems with Alice’s brain perfectly. Joey is a wonderful brother. Despite all the awful things that have happened to both Alice and Manny, I’m really glad I read this book. Plus, it has a pretty cover. 4 stars.

Oktober Bend

 

Avalanche Express by Colin Forbes. A a high level Soviet official has been feeding the West intelligence for a number of years. Now he’s been found out and needs to be extricated to the US. With most of the airports in Europe closed due to snow storms, the only option is to take the Atlantic Express from Zurich all the way to Amsterdam. An armed team of British and Americans are on board to protect him, but there may be a double agent on board the train, and the Soviets will stop at literally nothing to kill the defector. Will anyone make it out alive? I acquired this ages ago when I needed a book set where I live for a challenge, but ended up reading a different one. Now I decided it was time to read it so it could leave my bookcase. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it – spy stories aren’t really my thing – but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s action-packed and thrilling right from the first page. It also helped that I am at least a little familiar with most of the places mentioned so it felt more “real”. 3.5 stars.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain. After her father’s death, Riley MacPherson is returning to her childhood home to clean it out. In the process she discovers a shocking family secret – after a life time spent believing that her older sister Lisa died tragically as a teenager, she now finds that she may not be dead after all. What made her go on the run all those years ago and which other secrets have been kept from Riley? This is a surprisingly quick read considering it’s over 300 pages – I started reading it in the bath and was shocked to find I’d read over half when I came out. It started off really well then it became kind of predictable – as soon as I read the words “she told her everything, even the things daddy didn’t know” I knew what the final outcome was going to be, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to read to the end and find out what happened to all the characters. Riley is annoying at times and the final few chapters read a bit like a soap opera with some really cheesy/dramatic dialogue. Along the lines of “one day you will get your comeuppance, but it won’t be me that causes it”. Nonetheless, I mostly enjoyed the ride. 3.5 stars.

A Singing Grave by Tim Wilson. Twelve years ago a little boy was taken from the camp site where he was staying with his parents and killed. Howard Gandy, a man from the village was convicted of the crime. Philip Springthorpe was one of the witnesses who helped secure this conviction, but to the shock of his daughter, Rebecca, he now reveals he lied. Investigative journalist Adam Dowling is running a campaign to have Gandy released and Philip’s new testimony could be the missing piece that will allow the case to go to appeal. But if Howard Gandy didn’t do it, then who did? I picked this up from a free public bookcase on a whim – I had never heard of the author but the description sounded good. It’s an interesting and suspenseful mystery. Parts are really creepy. At one point I thought I knew who the murderer was, but I was wrong. I’m not really sure what I think of the ending though. 3.5 stars for this one as well.

How Hard Can Love Be by Holly Bourne. Book two in the “Spinster Club” series. Amber’s off to America to spend the summer with her mother, who she hasn’t seen in two years. Even before her mum remarried and had a complete change of personality, she was never the caring type, but Amber is hoping an entire summer together will help them make up for lost time – especially since her step-mum and step-brother make her life a misery at home. In California she meets prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Could he really be interested in feminist, anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie advising and encouraging her from back home, Amber can’t escape the fact that love is hard! I really enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as the first one. If I had read this first I’m sure I would have adored it, but I just loved Evie so much in the first book and Amber’s boy troubles seemed so insignificant compared with Evie’s mental health struggles. Sorry Amber! This isn’t just some shallow love story though – there are some deep issues with Amber’s mum being a recovering alcoholic and Amber’s feelings of abandonment. Her family situation really isn’t easy and I felt so sorry for her. And of course the girls still discuss feminism a lot. 4.5 stars. Lottie’s story next. I can’t wait!

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse. Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life with her family in her beautiful, expensive house. But then her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she knew unravels. Left alone with her two sons and eight million pounds worth of debt, Nina is forced to move back to a tiny flat on the estate where she grew up and begins to wonder whether she ever really knew Finn at all. This is an enjoyable enough read but it didn’t blow me away. At times the dialogue seemed somehow… I don’t know… off. Stilted maybe? Also, a few lucky coincidences lead to Nina’s struggles being over relatively quickly – the flat they end up in belongs to a relative and the previous tenants just happen to have moved out just in time, then after applying for job after job that she has no qualifications for, somebody decides to create a job especially for her after meeting her briefly, once, when she turned up asking for a job she obviously could not do. And apparently if she hadn’t pawned her belongings and found a job she and her boys would have immediately been out on the streets starving to death because child benefit and job centres are not things that exist? It’s not a terrible book by any means, but definitely not my favourite. 3 stars.

The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell. After their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to the hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her big brother Seb return home to find it’s been ransacked. Before long, a very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. The two manage to escape, with a little help, but find themselves in an “uncommon” world, a secret underground city called Lundinor where ordinary objects can do extraordinary things – like belts that let you fly. They quickly discover that their family is connected to this amazing world. But evil forces are at large, and they’re convinced Ivy and Seb have something they want. The two need to uncover the family secret before it’s too late. I really liked this book. It’s charming and quirky. Parts of it reminded me of Un Lun Dun – the underground city that’s like the real world, but also not and the ordinary objects that aren’t so ordinary after all. My favourite character is actually a talking bicycle bell names Scratch! One thing that bothered me is Ivy is supposed to be 11 but she often seems much older – and not in a “mature for her age” way, but like there’s absolutely no way she can possibly be only 11. I did really like her but in my head she was much older than the book stated her to be. 4 stars.

Darkhouse by Alex Barclay. This book had been on my shelf for ages but I couldn’t remember whether I’d read it or not. Turns out I had – it just wasn’t very memorable. When a routine investigation ends in tragedy, Detective Joe Lucchesi takes leave from the NYPD  and moved with his wife and son to a quiet village in Ireland. When a young girl goes missing and the village closes ranks , Detective Lucchesi is determined to discover the truth and uncovers a sinister trail that leads right back to the other side of the Atlantic. This was an okay book. There are pretty much two storylines,  one of which is predictable while the other was confusing with too many characters. I don’t regret finishing it but I most likely won’t be continuing the series. 2.5 stars.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. In rural South Africa in the late 1930s, Peekay liveslived with Nanny (his wet nurse), his grandpa and his mother. When his mother has a break down he is sent to boarding school where he suffers horrific bullying by people who hate him for his heritage. After a while his family move home and he’s sent on a long train journey to reunite with them. Along the way he meets train conductor Hoppie Groenewald who introduces him to boxing and teaches him that little can best big,  resulting in Peekay resolving to become the Welterweight champion of the world. The story then follows Peekay for the rest of his childhood until early adulthood. I only read this because it’s on the BBC big read and had no expectations of it at all. In fact,  I put it off for ages. I ended up falling in love with little Peekay immediately and loving the book. A very unexpected 5 stars.

What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford. Twelve-year-old Ethel Leatherhead only wanted to get rid of her acne, not turn herself invisible. But that’s exactly what happened when she combined some dodgy Chinese medicine from the Internet with an old sun bed. At first being invisible is terrifying, but then she discovers it’s not so bad at all, as she tries to keep her new power a secret with the help of her friend Boydy. Meanwhile, Ethel’s Gran is acting strangely and Ethel herself (whose mum died when she was very young) is starting to question who she really is. Then one day the invisibility effect doesn’t wear off and Ethel finds herself in the middle of an adventure. This book is good but a little confusing. There are two stories – one with Ethel turning invisible and all the chaos that causes then a second one involving her family and secrets that have been kept from her – and the two things don’t really seem to relate to each other It felt like there was a disconnect between a fun, whimsical story on one hand and a more serious coming of age/self-discovery story on the other. It’s really well written, it just felt like I was reading two different stories that were both not quite satisfactory – the author would have done better to have stuck with one story, I think. It’s set in the North-East of England though so yay for that. 3.5 stars.

That is all for today. Check out the link up for more book talk. And let me know in the comments if you’ve read anything good lately or what you thought of any of the books I read in April if you’ve read them.