What I read in May 2022

I’m a day late writing this post for what it turns out is the final Show Us Your Books. It really does feel like the end of an era and I haven’t even been around since the beginning! Many thanks to Steph and Jana for all their years of hosting (since October 2014!). I’ve found so many good books through this link up and also some of my favourite bloggers.

Now let’s get to the books shall we?

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine. When a good-looking boy with an American accent presses a dropped negative into Rowan’s hand, she’s convinced it’s just a mistake. She knows she didn’t drop anything, but he’s adamant it was her. But before she can say anything more he’s gone, lost in the crowd of bustling shoppers. And she can’t afford to lose her place in the checkout queue – after all, the food shopping isn’t going to take itself home! Rowan has more responsibilities than most girls her age. These days, she pretty much looks after her little sister single-handedly – which doesn’t leave much time for friends or fun. But when she finds out that Bee from school saw the whole thing, it piques her curiosity. Especially when it turns out the dropped item does have a connection to her after all… I enjoyed this. Some parts of the story line were predictable but I was okay with it. Stroma is fantastic – definitely one of my favourite little sisters in fiction. I thought Bee’s character could have been fleshed out a bit more – we are told how special and amazing she is but I didn’t really feel it. I did love Harper though. This is the kind of book I would have devoured as a teen. With Rowan’s struggles at home, I would compare it to Jacqueline Wilson, but for older readers. 4 stars.

Another Mother’s Son by Janet Davey. Lorna Parry is the mother of three boys, each one lurching uncomfortably into adulthood. In the claustrophobic loneliness of her own home, Lorna orbits around her sons and struggles to talk to them; she’s still angry at her ex-husband, uncomfortable around her father’s new girlfriend, and works quietly as the only employee left in a deserted London archive. Life seems precariously balanced. Then a shocking event occurs in the stationery cupboard at the boys’ school and her world threatens to implode. This was an incredibly depressing book. I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a pessimistic representation of motherhood. The youngest son, Ross, was just awful. I know teenagers are difficult but I would never have got away with talking to my mother like that! (Constantly telling her to shut up, you can leave now, nobody’s interested in you.) The “incident” wasn’t what I thought it was going to be and in the end didn’t even feel like a main plot point. I did think the writing was good though. It was certainly evocative – I could actually feel how dull Lorna’s live was! 2.5 stars.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. Because Sophie has a secret, an ability that she’s never been able to share with anybody. She can read the thoughts of everyone around her. When she meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. She discovers that there is a place she belong, but also that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known. There are new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” And the danger isn’t over either. There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory – secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans – that other people desperately want. Would even kill for. It’s up to Sophie to figure out why she’s the key to her brand new world… before someone else works it out first. This was a fun read. It definitely has its flaws and Sophie’s constant perfection (despite being new to the world and school, she’s the absolute best ever at everything except one subject) got annoying, as did her suddenly remembering random things or discovering completely new abilities when it was convenient for the plot, but I stayed up longer than I planned reading and had to force myself to go to bed without finishing it, which anyone who has ever had a young baby knows is a big deal, so 3.5 stars. Also, for some reason I thought this book involved gods but it’s not that at all.

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer. (Benny Griessel #2) As morning dawns in Cape Town, it promises to be a very trying day for homicide detective Benny Griessel it promises to be a very trying day. The body of a teenage girl has been found on the street, her throat cut. She was an American – a PR nightmare in the #1 tourist destination in South Africa. And she wasn’t alone. Somewhere in Cape Town her friend, Rachel Anderson, an innocent American, is hopefully still alive. On the run, Rachel is terrified with no idea who she can trust or where to turn in this unknown city. It’s up to Benny to find her, in a race against the clock. Meanwhile, he gets pulled into a second case, the murder of a South African music executive. Griessel has been sober for nearly six months – 156 days. But day 157 is going to be a tough one! This is a thrilling book with great characters. I found all the politics and tension between the different cultures – Zulus, Xhosa, and Coloreds (mixed race and South Asian) slightly confusing (despite having read Born a Crime, which explains a lot of the background) but still enjoyed the story. We don’t find out what Rachel has that the criminals want until near the end and I absolutely could not guess what it might be! The book was originally written in Afrikaans but as far as I can tell it loses nothing in the translation to English. Despite being the second in a series I didn’t feel like I had missed anything too vital. I found this one randomly in a free bookcase but wouldn’t be averse to buying other books by this author in the future. 4 stars.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. Katie – or Cat, as she is known at work – Brenner has the perfect life, with a flat in London and a glamorous job at a branding company… or so her Instagram feed would suggest. Okay, she actually rents a tiny room in a shared flat where she doesn’t even have space for a wardrobe, has a nightmare commute to a lowly admin job and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t actually hers. But one day her dreams are bound to come true, right. Fake it til you make it and all that. But then her not-so-perfect life comes crashing down when her boss, the mega-successful Demeter who she has been desperately trying to emulate, gives her the sack and Katie is forced to move home to Somerset. When Demeter books in for a glamping holiday on Katie’s family’s farm, she can’t resist the opportunity to get revenge. But does Demeter – the woman who seemingly has everything – really have such an idyllic life. Maybe the two women have more in common than it seems? This is a quick read for how long it is (431 pages) and there’s quite a bit of humour in it. Katie is a little annoying at times, but it’s less fluffy than I was expecting and has a good message underneath. The love interest (because obviously there is one) is fairly forgettable and honestly I would have been fine with this being a book about someone finding themselves without any added romance, but it was fine. Ultimately, this will probably be a fairly forgettable book but it was the perfect not-too-taxing read for baby nap times. 3.5 stars.

For my final Show Us Your Books post it would have been nice to say all the books I read were by BIPOC/BAME authors, but alas none of them were. Even Deon Meyer is a white South African – although I feel like the fact that the book was originally written in Afrikaans makes it somewhat diverse? No? Okay. Anyway, I am linking up with Steph and Jana forthe very last time and you really should click on one of those two names and go and check out what the rest of this amazing book community has been reading since the last link up.

Delusions of Grandma by Carrie Fisher.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I decided to read a book by Carrie Fisher. I’d never heard of her, but the back of the book mentioned she’s an actress, which doesn’t necessarily mean she can write books. It often seems like once people become famous they tend to think they can do anything they want, and do it brilliantly. I mean, look at all the soap stars that go on to become singers. (By the way, in case anyone cares a quick Google search tells me Carrie Fisher is most famous for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars. That’d be why I’ve never heard of her then!). The book was cheap though and I’d run out of things to read, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Basically it’s chick lit. Girl meets boy, girl and boy move in together, girl loses boy then then discovers she’s pregnant. Nothing that hasn’t been done before then. Cora, the mother in question, decides to go on with the pregnancy then starts writing letters to the unborn child just in case anything happens to her. Again, nothing that hasn’t been done before. However, the book is actually rather good. Well written and interesting. For example, I liked this: “Even though it was generally accepted that you pressed your genitals together with someone and after a stretch of time and considerable discomfort a tiny human was born, in her heart she could not believe it was so. That babies were a result of sex.”
So, chick lit, but of the better kind. Interesting, well written and while it isn’t exactly life-changing, it was quite nice for whiling away the hours while stuck on a tram going to work. OK, it gets a bit silly towards the end but I’ve read worse books.
That’s my opinion anyway. The Amazon reviewers label it variously as “boring” “stupid” and “trying too hard”, but this is my blog and I say Delusions of Grandma is ok 🙂

Reading for pain and pleasure

I’ve just been looking at UWE’s online area. The summer holidays are over now and my Masters course is starting again. Time to get back to the old grindstone… cos working full time clearly just isn’t enough for me…
So I was looking at the course material for Text Linguistics where I discovered that the nice man running the course has kindly pointed out that the books he wants us to use are available at the UWE library. Umm, has he not realised that this is an online course. The participants are scattered throughout the world… exactly how useful does he imagine a library in Bristol is going to be? So it looks like I’m going to have to buy some lovely expensive books that I have no intention of ever using again once this module is over. Oh, and he wants the first practical exercise in on 10th October. As in this Friday. Remind me why I wanted to go back to uni?

Ooh, speaking of books – I bought myself a present today. I didn’t mean to, but I spotted it while I was in Thalia having a browse at what kids books they’ve got (I need to start buying Christmas presents now if I’m going to afford them all!) And I’ve wanted it for ages as well. Are you all intrigued now? SHould I tell you what I bought?
It’s Thankyou for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern. Yes, I am aware that her books are pretty much Chick Lit, but who cares. I love them. And they’re not half as brainless as some of the stuff that’s out there. Anyway, wooo something new to read. And for only 6 euros as well – bloody cheap for an English book in Germany!

Right, I’m off to do something useful now…. errm, after I’ve caught up on everyone’s blogs that is…

In which I become male and my boyfriend is the root of all evil

My internet is going incredibly slow at the moment. I blame all the people searching for information about the end of the world. It’s going to happen on Wednesday apparantly. We’re all going to be sucked into oblivion by a black hole built by Swiss scientists. I always knew you couldn’t trust the Swiss. Nobody can really be that neutral.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you all about my weekend. So…
The karting ended up being sort of fun, although it was exactly as scary as I was expecting. Luckily I didn’t have to stay in for the whole time (60 minutes!). I only spent about 25 minutes in the car and just from that my arms are aching. While everyone else sped around the track like lunatics I chose to go incredibly slowly, never managing to get all the way round in under a minute. The others were in teams of two, taking turns to drive the kart. Jan was in the team that came first (mostly becasue the person he was in a team with had been before and was incredibly fast). I on the other hand was dead last. Good job I’m not at all competetive!

Later we went to Vögelbräu where we played “what am I”, a variation on the old game where everyone has the name of a person stuck to their head and has to find out who they are by asking questions which can be answered with yes or no. Except in this case it wasn’t just people that were stuck on our foreheads, but could be anything. People, things, concepts… the possibilities were endless. At one point I was “male” and Jan had “the root of all evil” stuck to his forehead.

I’m now exhausted and my arms are too tired to type, so I’m off to relax with a nice cup of tea and a book that will allow me to switch of my brain completely. I’m sure I have some crappy chick lit around here somewhere that will do nicely…

Unpicking when I should be stitching

I wrote two job applications yesterday – one for the job in Gernsbach that I already blogged about and one for a proofreading job in Ettlingen. I’m not really a big fan of proofreading, especially when the translation is a bad one, but I’ll pretty much apply for anything at the moment. And it’s highly unlikely that I’ll get the Etllingen job anyway – they want 2 years of experience and a translation qualification. I have 1 year of experience and am 1 third of the way to a translation qualification. Hmm, not underqualified much. I’m just hoping that there are so few English people in the local area that someone will have to employ me, if only becasue they couldn’t find anyone else. Fingers crossed please!

Apart from writing job applications, I spent a lot of yesterday cross stitching… or at least trying to. I picked up my latest project (a cat) yesterday and started to stitch… 10 stitches in I realised I’d messed up, so out they came. Second time round I actually managed to get that bit right. Then I tried to start another section, only to realise that I’d messed up something I’d done ages ago. And this time I couldn’t just pull the stitches back through with the needle – these were fully formed crosses. So out came the nail scissors. I hate unpicking those little crosses… it’s so fiddly and I have huge fingers. Seriously. I was called “man hands” at school because of them. So by the time I’d manage to unpick the affected section I was pretty frustrated. Then I went to get some thread to redo them and realised there was hardly any of that colour left. Luckily I just managed to restitch the whole area before the thread ran out, but it was incredibly close. I just hope I don’t discover any more mistakes in that colour at any point! After about an hour of stitching I was exactly 10 crosses further than I had been before I started and incredibly annoyed with the whole thing, so I gave up and read a book instead. By the time Jan came in at 1:30am I’d finished the book I’ve been reeading for the past 2 weeks (Die Templerin by Wolfgang Hohlbeing – if you’re into historical fiction, mystery and betrayal and can read German give it a go. I enjoyed). I also managed to read all of one of the books my dad sent me – Not That Kind of Girl by Catherine Alliott. Yes, it’s chick lit, and yes, I do read that kind of thing. It was a good one, so I’ve decided to keep it. One more book for my future library…