What I read in March 2018

Good morning lovely people. It’s that time of the month again (no, not that time)… today is Show Us Your Books day with Jana and Steph, so here I am showing you my books. March ended up being a surprisingly good reading month – surprising because I didn’t think I would read very much with Anna Karenina to plough through. I guess all the much-needed breaks from it paid off (not that I hated it, it’s just hard work… but more on that below).

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Anyway, I have 16 books to review today, so I’d better get on with it. Starting with those for Erin’s challenge.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (481 pages, read for the category “A book featuring a character with a debilitating physical illness). I feel like people have been going on about this book for yeeeears. When did it come out? *Checks Goodreads* 2012, so it probably has been literally years. Anyway, I had it on my bookcase – although I have no memory of how it got there – and it was the only book I owned that had been previously chosen for this category. Before I start my review, I should say I took a break from Anna Karenina to read this, which may have influenced my opinion slightly. Anyway, this is an easy read and the story really sucked me in. I didn’t cry though, and I am definitely the type to cry at books. The ending made me mad more than anything. Gah! Not without its flaws but a solid enough read. I gave it 4 stars.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (837 pages, read for the category “A book with a character’s name in the title). I have so many books with names in the title, but somehow this was the only one that had been previously chosen for the challenge. It took me over a month, but I actually finished this book! It had to come to Dijon with me and into the office twice, but I got through it. All this makes it sound like I hated it, but I actually didn’t. was more readable than I expected and interesting to read about Russian society. I even enjoyed some parts. But there were parts that just draaagged. In my opinion, it could have been at least 200 pages shorter without missing out any of the actual story. Whole sections dedicated to the act of ploughing a field manually. What was that all about?  And then the Levin character… I quite liked him at first but by the end I was so annoyed with his preachy tone. 3.5 stars. It would have been four, but the last few chapters really annoyed me.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian (352 pages, read for the category “A book that takes place mostly on a form of transport”. The category I got to choose!). Again, this was the only previously-chosen book I owned. What is it with people choosing books I don’t have? 😉 I actually had no interest in this book – the only reason I owned it is because it’s on the BBC Big Read list. Neither war stories nor naval stories are my kind of thing. That said, I liked it more than I expected to. I actually liked the character of Dr Maturin, although I feel like he was mostly in the book to provide someone who knew nothing about ships so that the author could explain things to the reader without patronising them? If that was the case, it actually worked. (Although I recognised some of the terms from my time in sea cadets.) I will definitely not be reading the remaining 19(!!) books in this series though. One’s enough! 3 stars.

And with that I finished Book Challenge by Erin 8.0!

Now for the non-challenge books I read.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop. This is a cute children’s book about a girl who was abandoned in a bookshop when she was 5. The owners – a woman and her son – didn’t manage to find her parents, so she stayed and lived in the bookshop with them. Although she really loves her life there, she has a huge secret: she can’t actually read. They then win a competition and the prize is an amazing bookshop called The Montgomery Book Emporium. Of course, they win the competition, but when they move in all is not as it seems… This is such a fun little book and I really want the Book Emporium to be real! If only my adult brain hadn’t kept asking awkward questions like “how do you just get to keep a girl who gets left in your bookshop without any authorities getting involved?” and “why do neither of those kids go to school or have any form of home-schooling?”. Surely they would have realised she couldn’t read if they’d ever actually tried to, you know, have her do lessons? And it’s not like it’s set in the distant past when these things wouldn’t have mattered! I’m sure children won’t care about those things though. I gave it 4 stars.

Vanish by Tess Gerritson. Dr. Maura Isles is about to leave after an exhausting day at the morgue when one of the “corpses” opens its eyes. Later, the woman who had been presumed dead shoots a security guard with his own gun and then takes a number of people hostage, one of whom is pregnant detective Jane Rizzoli who is about to go into labour at any moment. I was expecting an ordinary crime/thriller, but there was actual a conspiracy theory kind of plot going on, which bothered me a bit. The writing is amazing though! The description claimed that “Only Jane, trapped with the armed madwoman, holds the key to the mystery,” which was misleading – I was waiting the whole time to find out what she knew about the mysterious not-dead woman. Jane did solve the mystery in the end, but not because she “held the key” as far as I could tell. This is the 5th book in a series, but I read it just fine without having read the others. Overall it’s a decent, fast-paced crime/thriller but not one of my favourites. 3 stars.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. I had been wanting to read this book for ages, so finally I just bought it. Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumour that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. But when her best friend’s boyfriend, Drake, kisses her, she actually remembers it! So when an e-mail from Drake seems to suggest she should meet him in Norway, she decides it’s the perfect opportunity for her reclaim her life and sets off on a mad adventure. I love Flora! I love that she’s mostly positive, despite everything. Some people were annoyed by the repetitiveness, but I wasn’t. Hey, enough normal teenagers will go on and on and ON about how they kissed a boy, at least Flora has an excuse 😉 There is a twist, of course – memory loss books always have a twist!  This one has kind of been done before, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected, and didn’t stop me from really enjoying the book. 4 stars.

Wilf the Mighty Worrier Saves the World by Georgia Pritchett. The story itself is cute. It’s about a little boy called Wilf who worries about everything and what he does when the self-proclaimed “Most Evil Man in the World” moves in next door. It would probably appeal to younger boys, especially those who have a tendency to worry about things themselves. But can someone PLEASE explain to me why a book set in Britain by a British author uses “vacation” and “mom”? At first I actually thought it was supposed to be set in America, until it became obvious it wasn’t and I had to look the author up  Did I somehow get hold of a copy that was adapted for the US or does the author think Americanisms will help her book sell faster? Kids maybe wouldn’t notice but it really annoyed me! (I have no problem with books set in America using mom, etc by the way, but British children go on holiday, not vacation!). There’s a whole series of these books but I won’t be reading the rest. 3 stars because the story was quite good, it’s just the Americanisms that put me off.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. The new ship is more modern and much faster, so will be able to catch up with her although she is still moving. Over the months that the new ship is travelling towards her, the two communicate by e-mail and gradually Romy finds herself falling in love. I really, really liked this book. I usually say I don’t like science fiction, but that isn’t strictly true. I don’t like science fiction where the sciency stuff is the entire story. The storyline of this one didn’t go where I thought it was going – or it partly did, I had an inkling about “J”, but only when it was quite close to the end. I’m sure other people would work it out much faster though. Romy is a really believable character and at times I felt genuinely anxious on her behalf. 4.5 stars for this one.

The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen. Sometimes I read a book just to see whether it’s something I could give to my younger brother (who will be 12 this year). This was one of those books – as was the Wilf one, actually. In The Everything Machine’s case, I can definitely say he will be getting it for his birthday in September. I loved it! Basically, a boy called Olly accidentally receives a machine that can make absolutely anything he wants. His siblings quickly find out and hijinks ensue. But is getting everything you’ve ever wished for all it’s cracked up to be? I can’t say too much more without spoiling things, but I will say I really enjoyed the fact that Olly’s 14-year-old sister is really intelligent and into science, and she’s portrayed really positively, showing that a) girls can be scientists and b) science can be cool! The sibling relationship was really realistic too. Olly uses a swear word at one point, which may be something to be aware of before giving this book to your child. A great kids book, 4.5 stars.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. In 1976, when Peggy Hilllcoat is 8-years-old, her survivalist father takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has gone, and her mother and everyone she’s ever known is dead. That isn’t a spoiler – we know this from basically the start. The story is about how and why she makes it home. For some reason, I was under the impression that this book way YA – maybe because of the protaganist’s age? It really, really is NOT though. It’s shocking, heart-rending… and the ending is devastating and awful. Peggy is obviously an unreliable narrator, but I really want her version of events to be real, because I just can’t cope with the ending being true. I gave this 4 stars, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Alice and the Fly by James Rice. This one actually is marketed as Young Adult, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it to most teenagers. Certainly nobody under the age of about 16. I had no idea what to expect from this book when I started and I ended up being totally stunned. The synopsis doesn’t do it justice. It’s about phobias, love, obsession, families, loneliness, being an outcast, mental illness.  It’s dark and disturbing and heart breaking but I honestly could not put it down! 5 stars.

A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. I read this one immediately after finishing Anna Karenina because I needed something a bit easier. A children’s book featuring dragons fit the bill perfectly.  It’s about a dragon named Miss Drake whose human pet Amelia, who she calls Fluffy, has recently died. Now she has a new pet, Amelia’s great-niece Winnie, who seems to be under the impression that Miss Drake is her pet. Ridiculous! As always, where magic is concerned, not everything goes to plan for Miss Drake and Winnie… Aah, this book is so cute. I adore Miss Drake and especially Winnie. She’s a bit cheeky at times, but so bright, mature and resourceful that I just had to love her. I will definitely be getting book 2, and I can’t wait for my godson to be old enough to read it. 5 stars.

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. I ordered this as a potential “debilitating illness” candidate because, at the time, I didn’t feel like reading a book as long as Me Before You. But then I ended up reading the other one before this arrived. Anyway, this book is really well written and I enjoyed reading it, but I’m honestly not sure what it was actually about! Obviously I’m not clever enough for this book? Basically it’s about a woman named Sofia who brings her mother, Rose, to Spain in a final attempt to find out what’s causing her (the mother’s) mysterious illness. But I’m not actually sure whether the mother really was ill, or a hypochondriac, or if the daughter is somehow imagining things? Such a weird book. 3 stars.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I had actually been reading this book on and off for nearly two years, so when I only had about 100 pages left I rolled my eyes at myself and decided to finally just finish the damn thing! I think it’s supposed to be philosophical, but basically it’s the story of a man called Tomas’s sexual exploits with almost everyone but his wife, Tereza, and also the story of his lover, Sabina, and her lover, Simon. All set against the backdrop of the invasion of the Czech Republic by the Soviet Union. It’s all very odd and the narrator keeps directly addressing the reader, explaining things, giving away future events, waxing philosophical. This is another book that I don’t feel “clever” enough for, although I did mostly find it interesting while I was reading. 3 stars.

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange. It’s 1919 and Henrietta, known as Henry, has moved to the countryside with her parents and her baby sister, all of them still reeling from the death of her older brother a year before. This book is just beautiful. Magical, but without any actual “magic”. It reminds me of all the classics I read as a child. Henry is a fantastic character. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

The Guardians by John Christopher. I started reading this book in school in year 9, but then moved before we finished it. I’m surprised I didn’t read ahead actually – I can only assume the book was kept at school so I only got to read it in class with everyone else? I only had a very vague recollection of the plot, and it’s only now, through the power of Google, that I’ve managed to work out what the book actually was! It’s amazing what you can find by searching for “dystopian children’s book where a boy living in the city escapes to the country by crawling under a fence”.  I remember being fascinated by this book when we were reading it in school, and it still was pretty fascinating. In this dystopian future, the world has been divided into a huge city with all modern technologies, known as the Conurb, and the countryside where people have reverted to using horses and carts, known as the County. Only rich people and servants live in the country. I enjoyed reading it,  but the ending was so abrupt… HOW does it just end there? I wonder if the author intended to write a sequel but never got around to it because it seemed to just stop in the middle of the story. Based on the rest of the book it would have been four stars, but I’m disappointed enough to only give it 3.

And that’s it for March. 16 books finished is pretty good, even if 3 were really short, quick children’s books and I only had 100 pages left of another. I think finishing Anna Karenina is my achievement of the year, so far!

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my assessment? And have you read anything good recently? Check out the link up if this massive post wasn’t enough bookishness for you! And if you have a post about what you’ve been reading recently, why not join in?

Okay, I’m stopping. If you’re even still here, I’m sure you’ve had enough by now…

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Ten books that intimidate me

Hello! This is (obviously) a bookish post, so if that’s not your cup of tea feel free to ignore it and come back another day. Those of you that are still around can pull up a pew and we’ll talk books…

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All of the following books area actually sitting on the bookshelves in my living room right now – some of them actually moved to Switzerland with me – but, for whatever reason, I haven’t yet got round to reading any of them. Some I bought just because, a few are on the BBC Big Read and at least one was a gift. What they all have in common is that they intimidate me… which you of course knew because you read the title. *Sigh* I’ll just get on with the list shall I?

1 It by Stephen King

I absolutely love Stephen King. Whenever I rattle off my favourite authors, he’s always right there on the list. I even wrote an essay about Needful Things back in school, and if forced to list my favourite books (an almost impossible task) I would definitely include The Green Mile. So I actually really want to read It. But every time I see it sitting on my shelf with it’s more than 1,300 pages I freak out and grab something else.

2 Ulysses by James Joyce

A BBC Big Read one. Technically so is It, but I would have put that on my list anyway whereas I bought Ulysses purely for the sake of the list. I’m not actually 100% sure what it’s about, other than somehow being somehow related to The Odyssey? At just over 900 pages it’s slightly shorter than It but somehow even more terrifying! What if I don’t understand it and end up feeling like an idiot?  Aaah!

3 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

My grandparents gave me The Man in the Iron Mask, also by Dumas, for my birthday when I was something like 14 and I really enjoyed it, so you would think I’d be excited about this one. At over 1,000 pages, once again it’s the length that scares me. I actually like big books though, so I have no idea what my problem is…

4 The Godfather by Mario Puzo

This one is also on the BBC Big Read list – I doubt I would ever have picked it up otherwise. I like thrillers and I like crime, so this one should be right up my street. And it’s not even that long in relation to the three I’ve mentioned so far. But something about the Mafia just doesn’t really appeal. (I’ve never seen the films either by the way, in case anyone was wondering.)

5 H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction

Jan and I picked this up from the John Rylands Library gift shop in Manchester a few years ago. It’s leather bound with shiny page edges and it’s just gorgeous. This one is novellas and short stories, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to at least start it, but something keeps putting me off.

6 Map of a Nation by Rachel Hewitt

Ah, the first non-fiction book on my list. This is essentially the story of how the Ordnance Survey map came to be. I bought it for Jan as a Christmas gift years ago because he’s really interested in maps and then later also bought it for my dad, who reported that it was fascinating (Jan still hasn’t read it!). I’m always useless with non-fiction though, and where 400 and odd pages would be nothing in a novel, every time I think I might read this book I put it back because it seems really long.

7 Tintenherz by Cornelia Funke

A German one now – you will know it as Inkheart, book one of the Inkworld series. This was a Christmas gift from Jan’s mum way too many years ago… I remember lending it to our very first English intern at work when I’d only been there a couple of years myself! This is a book about books, and about characters in books coming to life. It really couldn’t be any more perfect for me. And I’ve read enough adult books in German for a children’s book not to be an issue… so why do I back off immediately when I happen to spot this one on my shelf?

8 The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

I bought this a few years ago intending to read it for a book challenge, but I ended up switching to something else instead. Since then, I’ve had this one in my hand a few times, but always put it back thinking I would prefer to read something shorter. Ironically, this one is only 560 pages – certainly not long enough to be scared of!

9 Ukraine’s Orange Revolution by Andrew Wilson

More non-fiction. At only 256 pages, this one should be a quick enough read and I genuinely do want to read more about my granddad’s country (even if the events of the book happened long after he left, and in fact many years after his death). Alas,  choose fiction over politics and history almost every time!

10 Blasmusikpop by Vea Kaiser

Finally, another German one. I actually went to a reading of this book, and enjoyed the extract so much that I bought a book at the event and had the author sign it. I’m pretty sure I will love this book when I finally actually get round to reading it, but every time I see it staring accusingly at me from the shelf I hastily choose something else to read. Maybe my reluctance to read this one is precisely because I’ve left it so long?

I have more intimidating books on my shelves, but ten is quite enough for one post! So, have you read any of these? Care to reassure me that they’re not as scary as I’ve built them up to be? (Or alternatively tell me that they’re really hard to read my reluctance is justified!) Do you own any books that you find intimidating but actually really want to give a chance? Answers in the comments! Or, you know, just write your own post and I’ll come and have a nosy.

Book challenge by Erin: bonus round complete

Yes, believe it or not I have actually finished my reading for the bonus round of Erin‘s book challenge! I thought I was going to finish sooner, but I had overlooked the rule that 5 of the bonus round picks have to have previously been chosen by somebody else doing the challenge, so I had to go back and change some categories that I had already finished (and then read the replacement books, of course). But last night I really, truly did read my final book! So here goes my final check in:

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10 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.

I am changing this from American Psycho (see my review of that in last month’s check in post) to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (306 pages; previously chosen). I absolutely adored this book! First, it’s about books and people who love books. It made me want to live above a book shop! It made me want to go and say hello to my books. But more than that, it is so heart-warming! There are sad moments, but overall it’s just a lovely, lovely book. I finished it with a huge smile on my face, which sounds cheesy, but it’s true! 5 stars. Recommended for everyone who considers books friends.

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W”.

I am changing this one from Where She Went (again, my review is in last month’s post) to Wonder by R. J. Palacio (315 pages; previously chosen). Another heart-warming book that I absolutely loved! I’ve owned it since some time last year and now I’m wondering why I didn’t get round to it sooner (I suspect I prioritised reading for a previous challenge and then forgot I had this one). I loved Auggie and Summer and Via, and the book made me wish more people would “choose kindness” in real life. 5 stars.

15 points: Read a book with six words in the title.

All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry (274 pages, 4 stars; previously chosen). This is a really hard book to review! I was confused by the setting – was it about a cult or was it set in an older time when extreme obedience to religion was just “normal”? There was no hint of anyone outside the community having more advanced technology, so maybe it wasn’t a cult but just set in the 16th century or something? Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot more than The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by the same author. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.

25 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title.

Another change! I’m dropping The Handmaid’s Tale (review in last check in post) and moving Where She Went to this category (homonym = where/wear. Previously chosen, etc.). I reviewed it last time, so moving on…

30 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live.

Please nobody ever pick this category again! There are no books set in Basel! I ended up reading Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman (288 pages), which is set in a fictional Swiss village but mentions real places as well. It is incredibly cheesy, constantly going on about “destiny” and how climbing was “in (main character’s) blood”. He is compelled to leave work and go climb a mountain, nothing to do with him! However, it does get suspenseful towards the end and I think 11-12 year old boys who are into realistic adventure stories would like it. Personally I gave it 2 stars.

35 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book.

In my preliminary list, I gave myself two choices, but I ended up reading neither of those. When The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgarov arrived and I read the synopsis I just had to read it straight away! Previously all I knew about it was that it somehow satirised the Soviet Union and was set in Russia and Jerusalem. Oh, and it was surprising that it made it through the sensors to be published. I wish somebody had told me sooner that it was about witches and vampires and the devil running amok in Moscow! It was completely and utterly bizarre and way more readable than I was expecting. I loved most of the Moscow parts and was bored by some of the Jerusalem parts. And I didn’t recognise most of the subtext until I read the notes at the end (clearly they were too subtle for me!). 4 stars.

35 points: (Submitted by Stef) Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read).

Since Erin is the most accommodating host ever, I was allowed to count plays as a genre and read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for this (343 pages; previously chosen). Considering the last time I read a play was for my German Culture course at university it’s safe to say I rarely read this genre! And now I remember why… I don’t see the point in reading plays, unless you’re planning to act in them. Most plays work better on stage – the thing they’re intended for! And this one was no exception. While it was kind of nice to revisit the Harry Potter world and see how the author imagined their lives to have turned out, I honestly thought this addition was unnecessary. It was really a book about family issues, and the rest of the plot felt kind of contrived. That said, I bet it would be amazing to watch on stage if only for the scenery and special effects! As a book, I gave it 2 stars. Now can we please let Harry Potter rest and move on to other books?

40 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (405 pages; previously chosen). This book took me longer to read than I was expecting. It was good, but not so gripping that I couldn’t put it down and go to sleep. Parts of it were slow, but towards the end it picked up and then I did want to finish it in one sitting. Overall I thought it was an interesting take on the idea of “time travel” (of a sort) and reincarnation. Thought-provoking. 4 stars.

And that, as they say, is that! Phew. I read a few good books this time. None that I wouldn’t have picked up anyway at some point (if only because they’re on the BBC Big Read list!), but I did get round to a couple that have been on my list for a while. And now I have two months to read whatever I want before the next challenge starts in June.

Have I inspired you to read any of these books? Or, if you already have, did you agree with my opinions?

Book challenge by Erin 6.0: bonus round check in 1

Today I am checking in for the bonus round of Erin‘s current reading challenge. Don’t worry, I haven’t finished already 😉 Although I am quite impressed that I got through my choice for “favourite author”…

Here’s what I read for the challenge in February:

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10 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (399 pages). I had absolutely no idea what this book was about – had never seen the film and somehow had never heard anything about it. Turns out there is no real story. Not one with a beginning, middle and end anyway. Instead we just follow the titular psycho around while he socialises and shops and eats in New York City. Oh, and occasionally kills someone… brutally, graphically, violently. Obviously I was expecting it to be disturbing and graphic, but it was so much more disturbing than I was expecting. Especially towards the end. What I was not expecting was constant references to Donald Trump. Even in fiction I can’t escape him! I gave it 4 stars but I will never, ever read it again!

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W”.

I had two choices for this one, but I decided to read Where She Went by Gayle Forman (264 pages) because it had been on my list longer. Also there are extra bonus points for choosing books that someone had already chosen for the challenge. I must have loved If I Stay because as soon as I finished it I knew I needed to read the sequel, but by the time I got round to reading this one I only had a vague recollection of the story. I still know the main outline, obviously, and I remember crying a lot, but the details are gone. Hmm. Anyway, I really loved this one. I was devastated for Adam and once Mia came back on the scene I really felt for her as well. It made me think about what I would have done in her situation. 5 stars.

20 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green cover.

green-coverThe Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson (434 pages). This book was not at all what I was expecting! I thought it would be some kind of chick lit/romantic comedy, and in a way it is, but it’s also so much more than that. There is romance, but there’s also a mystery and parts of it are very dark. It deals with mental health and there is a twist that I truly was not expecting. I don’t really know how to review this any further without giving things away, so I’ll just say you should definitely give it a chance. It got 4 stars from me anyway. Photo to the left to prove the cover is green 😉

25 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (324 pages; homonym = tale/tail). I had literally zero idea what this book was about. All I knew was that it’s some kind of classic and people seem to rate it highly. And it’s number 131 in the BBC Big Read list so I would have had to read it no matter what. It turns out that it’s really good, and also incredibly relevant right now given the current political situation in various countries. The story is a bit disjointed and vague, which would probably annoy some people, but I actually thought that was quite a clever tactic – it let you fill in the blanks yourself (potentially with even worse things than the author was imagining) and reinforced the fact that the narrator was very much kept in the dark. At the time it was written this book probably seemed extreme and nobody believed it could ever actually happen. I might have thought that myself if I had read it 10 years ago. But now, in 2017, I’m not so sure. 5 stars.

25 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author

I could never pick just one favourite author, so I chose from among the few I always list when asked. Stephen King has been a favourite ever since I read Insomnia when I was far too young to actually understand what I was reading. For this challenge, I read The Stand (1439 pages). Although I love King’s writing, my one problem with him is that he has a tendency to go on and on, long past when he should have stopped. This book is definitely one that could have done with being shorter. Admittedly it’s partly my own fault for reading the uncut edition, but even the original was 817 long, long pages. On the positive side, the writing was, as always, excellent, as was the characterisation – King always makes me feel like his characters are real, and it’s amazing how different he makes them all. How does he manage to get into the minds of such a variety of people? The story of the plague that destroyed the world and the struggles of the few survivors made a really compelling story. However, the supernatural element felt out of place in this one. The whole good versus evil, or God versus the devil (or someone like him) sub-plot made no sense, especially given the ending. Trying not to give too much away, but in my opinion “good” didn’t even defeat “evil” in this book – a few good guys turned up where the good guys were and then something accidental happened and the day was saved… but not by the people who had trekked all that way to save the day. What? It almost felt like King had got that far with the story and had no idea how he even wanted to end it. Minus one star for that. I still gave it 4 though because I really did enjoy reading it – and got through all those pages surprisingly quickly.

And that’s it. I’m halfway through the bonus round with two months to go.

Are you taking part in this challenge? Read anything good recently?

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 – complete

I actually did it! I finished Erin’s book challenge.

At the end of last month, I had read five out of ten books. This month I didn’t have any Shoguns to read so I got through the final five relatively quickly. Here’s what I read in October:

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5 Points: Freebie

I was originally going to read Outlander by Diana Gabbaldon, but I ended up changing it (sorry Erin!). I just couldn’t face historical fiction right now after the epic that was Shogun! Instead I read Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, which was mysterious and magical and somehow very English (with its bluebells and woods and a cup of tea for any and all problems). The continuous switching of viewpoints without warning was annoying though, so I gave it 3.5 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Barbara A. Wild; she’s a twin and is a mother to twins.) Read a book with twins as characters.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is beautifully written and very readable, but very, very dark and also very confusing. I felt like I didn’t really “get” it the way I was supposed to, so while I liked it well enough I only gave it 3 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Christina Mapes) Read a book from the following list of books made into movies: http://www.popsugar.com.au/…/Books-Being-Adapted-Movies-327…

I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was much easier to read than a lot of classics and I powered my way through it in two days (thank you two-hour train journey!). Jan had already warned me that Victor Frankenstein spent most of the time whining , so I was at least prepared for that, but Captain Walton was just as bad. Ohhh, poor little me, I have no friend to love me and sympathise with me. And then I finally found a friend but he’s been through so much and I can’t persuade him not to want to die. Ohhh.. woe is meeee! Even the damn creature was whiny on the few occasions we actually got to hear from him – admittedly he had a good reason for it, but still, So. Much. Whining. Plus, whatever else this book may be, it isn’t horror! I enjoyed it though, despite all that, and gave it 4 stars. Also, I’m impressed that Mary Shelley was only 19 when she wrote it. I wanted to be an author at 19, but the drivel I produced doesn’t bare thinking about!

30 points: (Submitted by Ericka Blankenship) Read a music related book.

I read I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne and really, really enjoyed it. Some of it I knew already from watching documentaries about Black Sabbath/Ozzy, but a lot was new. Somehow Ozzy seems very down to earth despite his fame. And credit has to go to Chris Ayres for turning Ozzy’s drug-addled memories into something coherent, readable and compelling. 4 stars – not perfect but really good!

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne Merrylees) Read a book originally published over 100 years ago.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling is surprisingly readable despite the fact that I felt like I was missing something. The language was really hard to understand at first, but it gradually got easier. 4 stars.

I certainly read a range of books for this challenge, and with The Diary of a Nobody, Artemis Fowl, The God of Small Things, Frankenstein, Shogun, The Clan of the Cave Bear and Kim I managed to make quite a dent in the BBC Big Read as well! And now I have a few days to read whatever I want before Megan‘s next challenge starts.

Previous check in posts for this challenge are here, here and here.

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…).