The books I read in June 2017

Exciting news everyone… I am just over halfway through Erin‘s latest book challenge! (Thank you train journeys!) But I’m getting ahead of myself… clearly books read for the challenge come under my July reading and I’m here to talk about June.

The Show Us Your Books link-up was technically yesterday, but it was one of my days to be in the office in Germany, which meant I was out of the house all day (from 6:20 a.m.) and had no time for blogging. I’m still allowed to add my link today though, and so I shall.

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My June reading looks a little better than May’s, mainly because I finished two books that I had started previously… As always my books are simply listed in the order I read them.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. This one took me forever to read! I started it in April and battled with it for the whole of May. At first I really liked the story but had to force myself not to skim the philosophy bits – they just read too much like a textbook for me! Later, when Sophie actually met the philosopher and it was more of a conversation, I got more into the philosophy bits – at least until Sophie started explaining the philosophical concepts back to him in a way that I can’t imagine any 15 year old speaking (and totally differently to her “voice” throughout the rest of the book). Then right after showing she had understood a difficult philosophical concept she would ask the meaning of a relatively simple word. What? (That probably sounds confusing – I wish I had written down an example). Overall I liked the book and it does provide a good introduction to philosophy and give you something to think about (are we really living our lives? How can we be sure?). I wavered between 3 and 4 stars and eventually gave it 4, but I don’t think I would read it again.

The Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. Another one that took forever, but with non-fiction I expect that. I actually read this one for work because I was hoping it would help me with style in my translations – although this is more a guide for writers some of the concepts can be applied. It’s an interesting and engaging read. I didn’t enjoy every single part, but any non-fiction book that can actually more or less hold my interest right to the end (other than a biography) is great in my book! I want to go back and copy out some of his example sentences for future reference. Four stars.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. I adored this. It’s so cute and heart-warming – I want Jonah to be my best friend and Biscuit to be my dog! Some people may find it a little too sweet and get annoyed by all the quirky characters, but personally I like quirky characters. Recommended to anybody who likes words and magic (and ice cream!). 5 stars.

The Last Academy by Anne Applegate. Trying not to give any spoilers… I have read a few reviews by people who said it was obvious what was happening/what the school is as soon as the man on the plane said his name. I don’t agree – it wasn’t obvious to me and I don’t think it would be to teenagers either (unless they are experts in Greek mythology). I did get an inkling of what was going on with Camden and her classmates, especially after a scene between her crush/boyfriend and his mother, but I never figured out Barnaby/Mr Cooper’s role. It was a quick read and passed the time well enough. Three stars.

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban. A lot of reviewers loved this book, but I honestly found it quite boring. I think I would have liked it at 7 or 8, but then all the maths and science would have gone over my head. The best friend is selfish and annoying, wanting Ruby to constantly be there for her, never listening to a word she says then getting mad that she didn’t tell her a secret (uhh, when should she have done that when you wouldn’t SHUT UP!) and being annoyed that she dared find a new friend. There is a kind of apology near the end but it was too little for me. There is a scene where Ruby is crying in the art room that was fantastic and the conversation with her dad towards the end was genuinely touching. If the rest of the book had been like that I would have loved it. As it is, those two things are what pull it up from two stars to three. Wouldn’t really recommend.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. My grandparents bought me a million classics when I was a child but somehow I missed out on this one! How? Why? I looooved it! In some ways it reminded me of Charlotte Sometimes (an all-time favourite). It’s old-fashioned and sweet and… I don’t know. Just read it! Five stars.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. Technically, I haven’t finished this book yet since the copy I am reading (see link) is two books in one. I did finish the Two Men in a Boat part though, which is the one that’s on the BBC Big Read list, so I shall review that one here. I found this a lot more readable than I expected, although definitely not as hilarious as other reviews seem to suggest. Strangely, it read a bit like a blog from before there were blogs. Maybe I should say it’s like a diary from a holiday, but written by somebody who expects others to read it and keeps throwing in touristic references and recommendations for places to eat. Oh, and that somebody also has ADHD and keeps getting distracted and going off on random tangents. Slightly bizarre but surprisingly good. Four stars.

So, seven reviews (although only four full books read). Slightly better than May’s three!

Linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.

Show Us Your books will be back in July, when I will have lots of books to review thanks to Erin’s challenge and my new resolve to prioritise reading (I didn’t realise how much I had missed books until I forced myself to make time for them again).

The books I read in May 2017

Oh my goodness you guys… I had so much on my mind yesterday that I completely forgot about the Show Us Your Books link up! Me. Forget about books. How mad is that? Luckily it’s still open today. (Not that I actually read much in May, but it’s the principle!)

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I read a grand total of three books in May. Wow. I’m not sure I’ve read so few books in a month since I learned to read! I was busy with cross stitch, but also I was attempting to read Sophie’s World, which took forever. So I eventually decided to take a break from it and read some quick books. And here they are:

Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent. I absolutely adored this book. There just aren’t words to express my adoration! It has all my favourite ingredients: a mysterious benefactor, a surprise inheritance, good friendships, magic, intrigue and a sprinkling of myths and legends. The parents are not absent/oblivious to what their kids are up to (there is a lot of sneaking around and comments like “if our parents knew we were going to do X, they wouldn’t let us go where we’re going!). And, the cherry on the top for me, partway through the book I found out that the fictional village of Hexbridge is located in the north-east of England (they mention Newcastle being half an hour away). A little piece of home – yay! I am dying to read book 2, but I’m reserving it for Erin’s next challenge. 5 stars for this one. Highly, highly recommended for anyone aged 10 years and up.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die by Sara Shepard – Book 5 in the Lying Game series. By this stage the series was starting to drag. It was nice to find out more about Becky in this book, but other than that it wasn’t as good as book 4. In this book, it became entirely obvious who the murderer was (no spoilers here though!). 3 stars.

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Sara Shepard – Book 6 in the Lying Game series. I read this book immediately after the last one because I wanted to finally get to the end! I actually really enjoyed this one, despite being annoyed by the solution (again, no spoilers here!). I felt really sad for Sutton in this one, having to watch her family find out she was dead and then attend her own funeral. I am not ashamed to admit I cried at the funeral and the Christmas scene at the end. Poor Sutton, poor Mercer family. *Sniff* 5 stars for this book. As for the series, all in all it was okay but it really didn’t need to be a whole six books long! I’ll give it 3.5 stars because, while a few of the books were excellent, others were not.

And that was it. I also continued reading Sophie’s World and The Sense of Style in May, and finally finished them earlier this month, so I will be able to review them in the next link up 🙂

Linking up with Jana and Steph. Check out their blogs to see what everyone else read in May.

The books I read in April 2017

One of these days I will get round to writing a post that isn’t part of a link up. Today is not that day… I am linking up with Jana and Steph to tell you what I read in April.

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I read ten books in April, which is actually one more than I read in March. That surprises me considering I didn’t finish a single book after 20th April! So somehow I managed to read ten books in twenty days. Some were pretty short though.
The books are listed here in the order I read them, not according to any kind of scheme.

Carbonel: The King of Cats by Barbara Sleigh –  This is a cute little book from the 1950s about a girl called Rosemary who wants to help out with the family finances by cleaning houses, so she buys a broom… and with it comes a cat. To her surprise, she finds out that she can understand the cat when holding the broom. The cat turns out to be a prince and Rosemary spends the rest of the book trying to help him get his throne back. It’s a very cute, quirky little book. There isn’t a huge amount of action, and it’s kind of old-fashioned, but it’s the kind of book I would have loved at age 9 or 10. Four stars.

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. This book sounded really good and I expected great things from it, but it turned out to be just okay. A lot of it was totally unrealistic – particularly the friendship at the centre of the plot. Having an instant friendship connection with someone? Okay! Immediately abandoning everything else and only being there for you new friend from then on? Yeah, right! At least it was a quick read. Two stars.

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – The further I get into this series, the more preachy the books seem to become. This one seemed to be full of “God is watching you! ALL THE TIME!! He already knows you’ve been naughty, probably before you even knew you were going to be naughty, so you’d just better say your prayers and ask for forgiveness RIGHT NOW young man!!” As an atheist, the idea of a God who is just sitting there waiting for you to make a mistake doesn’t sit well with me – and I’m sure that isn’t the God most Christians believe in! I preferred Anne when she was still a schoolgirl and did silly things occasionally. Now she’s far too good. All the proposals got a bit much as well… I lost count in the end. Obviously Anne is perfect and every man who sets eyes on her wants to marry her! I did enjoy it though – I wish I had had friends like Anne’s when I was studying! And I loved the part where she went back to the house where she was born – it was nice to see a bit of a connection with her pre-orphan past. Four stars.

A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler – This had been on my shelf for so long that I had almost forgotten I had it! It’s an interesting take on a “time travel” book – what would you do if you were taken forward in time by a year only to find that tragedy had struck and you relationship with your best friend was ruined? From an adult perspective, it’s all maybe a little simplistic, but it’s perfect for the 10-13 age range. I also felt that Jenni was portrayed realistically. She matured over the course of the book (as you would with so much going on!) but throughout I could believe that she actually was a 12-year-old girl and not a much older teen. I often find that 12 year olds in books read more like 15 or 16 year olds! 4 stars.

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R. J. Palacio – After loving Wonder, I couldn’t wait to revisit that universe with this short story collection. However, while Wonder was amazing, this book was just okay. The first story, from Julian’s perspective, was good. It was nice to see events from his point of view and see him portrayed as something more than just “the nasty kid”. The Charlotte and Christopher chapters seemed unnecessary though and didn’t really add anything to the story. Three stars. (The Julian chapter alone would have been a four, the others probably a 2 or 3).

Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wendelken – Need to up my German reading game 😉 This is a typical crime novel. A body turns up at a lake, which turns out to be that of a deaf girl who disappeared from near her boarding school four years earlier. She turns out to have died of untreated appendicitis (so no “murder” as such), but the police need to find out who took her and kept her hidden for so long. Overall, it was a decent enough detective story and I didn’t guess the whole story of whodunnit. The main character annoyed me though – I wanted her to stop thinking about men/when she had last had sex and get on with her job! Three stars.

Two Truths and a Lie by Sara Shepard – Book three of the Lying Game series. They are getting better as they go along. There is less suspense in this one, but a few interesting things come to light. At the end of this one I still had no idea who the murderer is! Four stars.

Hide and Seek by Sara Shepard – Book four of the Lying Game series. I actually enjoyed this one, but how long can the author keep dragging this out… picking a “suspect” for Emma in each book only for her to end up being wrong, again! Immediately after reading this, my GoodReads review said “I’m starting to wonder whether Sutton was even murdered at all. If the solution to this whole thing turns out to be a tragic accident I will be so mad!” I’ve now changed my mind… it’s clearly not one of her close friends or family, and I feel like Ethan would be too obvious a choice. So I’m saying right now: Ethan’s mother is the murderer! Same motive as him, with the added bonus of revenge for her little boy. (But maybe I just don’t want it to have been the one person who Emma can interact with as herself and not Sutton?). Five stars.

Märchenwald by Martin Krist – More German, the title means “Fairytake forest”. It’s hard to say what this book is about, since there are various stories that eventually become interlinked. It’s a crime thriller with plenty of action – no time to get bored! Even though it was book 5 in a series, it could easily be read as a standalone and I didn’t feel like I had any trouble understanding what was going on with the detective and his family. I did guess who the culprit was, but that was okay because I was enjoying just reading everyone’s stories. Five stars – best book of the month!

Take My Word for It by John Marsden – I have been waiting to read this book for years, but could never manage to find a copy. Finally it appeared on Amazon for cheap. Yay! It’s a companion novel to So Much to Tell You, which is one of my all-time favourites. This one tells Lisa’s side of the story, and gives another perspective of some of the events in “So Much…”.  This is nowhere near as good as So Much to Tell You, but I didn’t expect it to be. Lisa’s problems seemed petty and silly in comparison, and honestly I just didn’t like her as much as a person – she was kind of boring. I did like the different perspective though, and it was nice to have some blanks filled in. I also liked that this one went on for slightly longer, so we got to see a little of what happened next. Not as fantastic as SO Much to Tell You, but I’m glad I read it. Four stars.

And that was it for April. I started reading Sophie’s World but still haven’t finished it, and I’m still trying to make my through A Sense of Style. It’s interesting, but slow going.

April pretty good reading month overall, lots of high ratings and only a couple of duds.
We’re already 8 days into May and I haven’t started a new book yet, but I have a couple waiting that I’m really excited to read so hopefully I’ll get through Sophie quickly so I can make a start on those.

So, if anyone is actually still here after all that…

Read anything good lately?

Friday letters

It’s the last Friday of April today! How?! Why?! Surely it hasn’t really been an entire month since we flew back from New Zealand?!

This week has been looong. I spent all of Wednesday being convinced it was Friday. Clearly it was not! It really is now though, which means it’s time for some letters!

Mailbox

Dear postman. If you have something you want me to sign for, here’s how it works: you ring the bell, I answer, you speak! I am not coming down unless you tell me who you are and what you want!

Dear weather. Cycling between sleet and bright sunshine every half hour is just weird, even for April!

Dear godson. Your mammy keeps posting photos of you on Facebook and I’ve decided you’re getting far too big. It’s going to be ages before I can see you again so I’m going to need you to stop growing up now, okay?

Dear cross stitch. I have lots of ideas right now! I just wish I had the time to implement them.

Dear children’s books. I’m amassing quite a collection of you. Now all I need is a child to read you to… 😉

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you have an amazing weekend.

Top ten fictional places I would like to visit

Recently Metal and the Geek posted her top 5 fictional cities she would like to visit. Later I mentioned it to Jan and we had a fun conversation about the places we would like to visit (we changed it from cities because that was just too limiting!). And now I want to share my top ten list with my blog readers. I had to expand it from top 5 because I just couldn’t narrow it down!

10. The Inn of the Last Home from the Dragonlance Chronicles.

It’s an inn in a tree, how could anyone not want to visit! Also, I want to try the spiced potatoes. And hopefully meat some of the heroes of the lance, stopped by for a visit to chat about old times (obviously I would time my visit so there wasn’t a war going on!)

9. Many of the lands at the top of the Faraway Tree

Not the nasty ones though – I’d prefer to stay away from Dame Slap! The land of Birthdays would be nice. And of course I would like to meet all the characters on the way up – Moonface and the Saucepan Mana and Silky the Elf with her pop biscuits.

8. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

I seem to be all about the children’s books, don’t I? That’s because those were the first ones that influenced me and got me imagining all these things in the first place. But who wouldn’t want to visit Willy Wonka’s factory, try all the goodies on offer (only with permission, of course!) and see the square sweets that look round?

7. Lancre on the Discworld

Partly because, in my imagination, it’s all gorgeous and green and hilly, but mostly because I want to meet the witches.

6. Rivendell

I love waterfalls, and what could be more magical than the waterfalls in J.R.R Tolkien’s Elven city?

5. Staying with a theme… The Shire

The scenery! The hobbit holes! I bet it’s even more beautiful than Switzerland. And of course I would have to pay a visit to Hobbiton and check out Frodo’s home for myself.

4. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Not to be confused with the Bar at the End of the World; that’s in Paris 😉 The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, or Milliways to give it its proper name, is a five-star restaurant located at the end of time and matter… but then you knew that, didn’t you? I would love to meet all the patrons, view the extravagent decor and see (but not necessarily consume) talking food.

3. La Céleste Praline

That’s the chocolate shop from Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Because Vianne would know exactly what my favourite is and if I was lucky I might even get to sample her yummy hot chocolate. Plus, I want to see Pantoufle (and yes, of course I would be able to!)

2. The Unseen University library

Well, the rest of the university too, of course, but my first stop would definitely be the library. So. Many. Books! I would never get tired of browsing its shelves. And then there’s the librarian to make friends with. All you need is a bunch of bananas and to make sure you never call him a monkey!

1. Narnia

I may have told this story on my blog before, but as a child I honestly believed Narnia was a real place. I spent hours trying to devise ways of getting there! If I was offered the chance to go to just one fictional place I wouldn’t even have to think about it – Narnia wins every time!

So, there you go. I also want to add that Night Vale almost made the list, but then I decided I probably wouödn’t survive two seconds there without breaking a law and being taken away by a vague yet menacing government agency, or accidently getting too close to the dog park and looking at a hooded figure. Nope… I think I’ll stick to listening to Cecil’s voice from a safe distance 😉

Which fictional places would you visit if you had the chance? Join in in the comments or write your own post – I know there are many more amazing places, but my post had to end some time!

Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge – Month 2

Hi all! Wow, I haven’t written a blog post since Monday! Poor bloggy. Today’s is going to be a short one, too, as we have our first overnight visitors since the move coming later and I have a tonne of things to get done before that. And my lunch break is already half over (thanks to that pesky actually having to eat thing!). But it’s check-in day for the Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge, so I wanted to at least get a quick post in.

Last month I managed to read a whole two books, and I’m afraid I can’t say I’ve done any better this month! In fact, it was another two-book month, at least as far as the challenge goes:

  • Read a novel with a kickass female character. The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden. This is the third book in the Tomorrow series, and if Ellie and her friends aren’t kickass then I don’t know who is! Also, forget about John Green, it’s John Marsden everyone needs to be raving about!
  • Read a suspenseful book – a mystery, a thriller, a book about revenge. Without You by Saskia Sarginson. The blurb says “In a captivating blend of mystery, thriller and emotional family drama, Without You will leave you unsettled, even as it touches your heart”. Well, I can’t say I found it particularly thrilling, but there is a mystery and the story should have been thrilling, in theory, so it counts. The category didn’t say whether it had to be a particularly good thriller…

I have actually read other books since the last check in, but either they were too short to count even if I had been able to shoehorn them into a category or I just couldn’t see a way to fit them in. Here are some of my other recent reads:

  • The Twins, also by Saskia Sarginson and much better than Without You!
  • Anything But Typical by Nora Baskin Raleigh – excellent story told from the perspective of an autistic boy (and too short to count for the challenge at only 195 pages)
  • The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg  – weird, in future I’ll stick to his books for younger children
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz – an interesting take on fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel star in other Grimm tales), but I was annoyed by all the comments to the reader. Just shut up and get on with the story already! Also, very gory/violent so I’d be careful which kids you give this one too!

I am currently reading Zorgamazoo, which will definitely be my one-word title book for the challenge, but didn’t finish in time for the check in. I’m only two chapters in so far but it’s already excellent!

2014 Winter Reading Challenge – Month 1

It’s the first day of December today (how did that happen?!), which means it’s also time for the first monthly check in for the Semi-Charmed 2014 Winter Reading Challenge. You’ve probably already noticed that I’ve reviewd a few of the books I’ve read, but this post is the place for a roundup of the categories I’ve completed so far. And points, of course. Points are important!

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books.
Coastliners by Joanne Harris – Joanne Harris has written 16 novels (plus 3 cookbooks). I always enjoy her novels, so I knew I would like this on as well. It’s not as good as The Lollipop Shoes or Blue-eyed Boy though, so I’m giving it 4 stars.

10 points: Read a book of short stories
St. Lucy’s Home for for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell – I was originally going to read Different Seasons by Stephen King for this, but I was worried a book of four novellas might not quite count as short stories, so I chose this one instead. All the stories in this book are set on the same strange island, and all are surreal/not quite normal. I really enjoyed some of the stories, a few just confused me – it seemed like they ended too soon. 4 stars, because the good ones were really, really good but I can’t justify giving 5 for stars when a few of the stories bored me.

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – I’ve already written a full review of this one, so I won’t say too much here. it’s shocking and disturbing and well worth a read – not only for the teens it’s aimed at. 5 stars (rounded up from 4.5).

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you.
The Various by Steve Augarde – I’ve already reviewed this one as well. It’s basically a children’s fantasy adventure along the lines of Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood/Faraway Tree series, but more modern and much better written. A full 5 stars for this one – I LOVED it!

20 points: Read a “bookish book” (in which books play an important role).
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows – Hey… it looks like I’ve already written a review for this one, too. I’m on a role here! Another book that I really enjoyed… 5 stars.

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title.
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea – Ah, no review for this one yet 😉 This is the story of nineteen year-old Nayeli who works at the taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to “the beautiful North” – the United States – to find work. When it dawns on her that almost all the men have left, Nayeli decides to go North herself and recruit some men who are willing to come back to the village with her. I found this story really interesting, mostly because I know nothing about Mexico and life there. It was also interesting to read about crossing the border (illegally) from the perspective of the person trying to cross. Some parts of the story were a bit far-fetched and my Spanish unfortunately isn’t good enough to understand all the Spanish interjections that cropped up (and not all of them were explained!), but overall this was a pretty good read. 4 stars.

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster – Part 1 of this book is the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a young English woman visiting Italy for the first time with her older cousin as chaperone. While out there, she meets two young men, one totally unsuitable for her and one who she has been acquainted with for years. In part two, she gets engaged to one of the two men, but then has to decide which of the two to actually marry. I had mixed feelings about this book. I found the first half of the book fairly boring (with one or two more interesting moments), and half the time I wanted to slap Lucy (the main character), but then in the second half things picked up and towards the end I really enjoyed reading this. By the way, if you pick up the version of this book with a foreword/description of the novel, do not read it! The one in my copy contained a major spoiler for the plot. I’m giving this one 3 stars.

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams – You can read my full review here, but basically there are Norse gods, exploding check-in desks and a strangely intelligent eagle… what’s not to love? Five stars for this one.
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements – I mostly found this book boring, although it did have some funny moments.Admittedly it is a children’s book, and 10-12 year olds might like it, but it was not to my personal taste. My full (although not much longer than this) review is here. Three stars.

And that’s all I’ve read so far. If I’ve calculated correctly, that leaves me on 140 points so far. It would have been more, but the book I read for my local author turned out to only have 190 pages so it’s back to the drawing board with that one!

Finally, here’s the song that the lyric “a room with a view” was taken from. It’s by Danish singer Tina Dico and bears the same name (I hope this works…).