The books I read in July 2018

Hello! My 35 before 35 challenge is now officially over (as of yesterday), but I’m not going to talk about that yet because today is Show Us Your Books day! This post isn’t going to be quite as long as the last one… in my monthly recap, I told you I read 6 books for Erin’s challenge, finished a book I started in June and read 3 full other books. I actually read 4 other books (I had forgotten one), so that gives me a total of 11 books to review this time round. Still a lot, but not quite as bad as 18 😉
I’ll just get on with it shall I?

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Books for Erin’s challenge first, then the rest.

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (read for the category: a book that’s been on your TBR the longest). I actually bought this book for Jan a while ago for his birthday or something. I thought it might be something we would both like to read. When I checked my Goodreads to-read list, this was the book that had been on there the second longest (the first book I added was too short for the challenge). This is a story about an alternative London… “London through the looking glass”, as it’s described in the blurb. Un Lun DUn = un-London, obviously. Un Lun Dun is where all the lost and broken objects from the original London end up – and sometimes people too. Where words are alive, carnivorous giraffes roam the streets, and a talking book tells a prophecy of a hero who will save them all. I loved this book! All the characters are fantastic. I never thought I would end up adoring a smelly milk carton – you’ll have to read it to find out what I’m on about ;-). Deeba is an awesome character and definitely not “just a sidekick” (again, you’ll have to read it). I also love the cover – it’s so delightfully creepy. 5 stars.

Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips (read for the category: a book with an alliterative title). The body of a missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, her hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. When another girl’s body is discovered 24 hours later, the hunt for the killer reaches epic proportions. Criminal psychologist Kate Pearson is called in to help, but the more she discovers about the killings, the more it reminds her of a terrifying event in her own past. Meanwhile, Ellie Brady has been institutionalised for 15 years, for the killing of her twelve-year-old daughter, Amy. After all this time, does Ellie hold the key to finding the killer of the Dublin schoolgirls? I thought this was reasonably good for a debut, but for me it didn’t quite live up to all the rave reviews. Some of the dialogue in the beginning felt a bit stilted, but it got better as the book went on. I really enjoyed the parts from Ellie’s perspective. 3.5 stars.

The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere (read for the category: a character who shares your profession). The second book in this series describes the protagonist as a translator of children’s books. In this one it turns out she’s actually interpreting (but also does translating – just not during this book). Still close enough to my profession, I guess. So, Torrey Turret accepts an invitation from a stranger who spills soup on her at a restaurant to stay at his Irish castle while she’s interpreting for a conference in Dublin. Not long after she arrives, she stumbles on a murdered man in the forest near the castle. When a priceless heirloom disappears and an old secret from her past surfaces, all fingers point to Torrey… and when her host, too, is murdered it doesn’t look good for her. If she doesn’t find out who really did it, she faces ruin… and gaol. An easy read and entertaining enough if you can ignore all the inconsistencies. It’s supposed to be set in the 90s but it feels like a much earlier time period. And why would an American be employed to interpret between French and Hungarian? That’s not how it works! I also found the number and combination of languages Torrey speaks implausible. But the murder mystery aspect was interesting and I didn’t guess who was responsible. A low 3 stars, but I enjoyed it enough not to go all the way down to 2.

Love Always by Harriet Evans (read for the category: a book with an emotion word in the title). The book begins with Natasha Kapoor on her way to Cornwall for her beloved grandmother’s funeral. This trip reunites her with her large and complicated family for perhaps the last time: Summercove, her grandparents’ beautiful house by the sea, is being sold. Along with it go a generation of memories and perhaps the key to the death of her aunt Cecily many years ago at just fifteen years of age. When she finds the opening pages of Cecily’s diary, written the summer she died, she final begins to learn all the family secrets she never knew. But where is the rest of the diary? There is so much intrigue and family drama in this book. Who is doing what with whom and who is guilty of what? Not high literature but fun to read. Not as fluffy as I expected from the cover picture. 4 stars.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (read for the category: title starts with N). Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears and whisks her away to the safety of a town called Nevermoor. There, Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent. But Morrigan insists she doesn’t have a talent… so how will she ever pass the final trial? I loved this! It’s such a fun read. The trials were not what I was expecting. The characters are fantastic – Hawthorne is so fantastic and I adore Fen. I definitely want to read the next book. 5 stars.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (read as my freebie book). This book reminds me of The Secret History in a way, in that there’s a group of friends one of whom has ended up dead – an accident or murdered by his friends? Who knows. As the book begins, Oliver Marks has just served ten years for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day of his release, he is greeted by Detective Colborne – the man who put him in prison. Colborne is retiring, and now he wants to know what really happened a decade before. Oliver agrees to tell him, strictly off the record. Ten years ago, Oliver and his friends/house mates were drama students at an exclusive university. Early on, the friends notice that they are always cast in similar roles that seem to match their off-stage personalities – villain, hero, temptress. When the teachers change the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and eventually tragedy strikes. One of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless. I loved The Secret History, but I think I actually liked this one even more – probably because I can’t relate to ancient Greek studies, whereas quoting Shakespeare is right up my alley (except in my case not as an actor, but a reader). While similar to The Secret History, I found this to be an excellent story in its own right. Some people might find the constant dropping of Shakespeare into ordinary conversation annoying, but I didn’t. 5 stars.

So, that was the books I read for Erin’s challenge… six down in month one, four more to go. Now for the rest of the books I read.

In Wahrheit wird viel mehr gelogen by Kerstin Gier. This book doesn’t exist in English, so my rough translation of the title is “In truth, we tell a lot more lies”. Carolin is 26 and recently widowed. Now, while still grieving, she has to fight over an inheritance with her stuffy ex-boyfriend (who happens to be the son of her dead husband!) and his annoying family. So it’s no wonder Carolin gets drunk for the first time ever, starts seeing a therapist and spends a small fortune on shoes. And constantly feels like she’s surrounded by idiots… because, oh yes, Carolin is a genius! Luckily Carolin is not alone in her darkest hour, and with the help of her family and a new friend she is able to get through it. This was a fun read. I really liked Carolin, and I’m glad she didn’t get over her loss by getting into a new relationship straight away, which is what usually seems to happen in this type of book! 4 stars.

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson. At 12 years old, Emma Freke is almost 6 feet tall with bright red hair – which makes it difficult not to be noticed. And on top of that there’s her name, which her wacky, hippy-ish mother didn’t bother to say out loud before putting it on the birth certificate. She’s certain that if she ever meets her father’s family she will figure out her place in the world – but she’s never even met her father, never mind the rest of them. Then she receives an invitation to attend a Freke family reunion. This is a lovely little book about finding your identity and being yourself. Emma’s mum wasn’t the best – she acted like a petulant teen most of the time – but I liked that she had her back when it actually mattered. 4 stars.

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron. Nadia lives in Canaan, a walled-in city where life is safe, structured… and every twelve years everybody forgets what’s come before. In Canaan, your book is your whole life… the place where you write down everything about yourself: your job, who your spouse and children are, where you live. It’s the only way to know who you are after the Forgetting. For everybody except Nadia, that is – Nadia does not forget. When begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the Forgetting approaches, the two of them need to find a way to battle an unexpected threat to the city. I absolutely loved this. Yes it was confusing at first but after a while it properly sucked me in and I *needed* to know what was going on. I was not expecting what Nadia and Gray found behind the wall, although I did have a suspicion about a certain character after a conversation they had with Nadia. Gray’s constant smirking was kind of annoying, but the story had me enthralled enough not to care. 4 stars.

Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson. This was the book I had forgotten to include in my monthly round-up, so clearly it was very memorable. Leigh Nolan has just started her first year at Stiles College where she is studying psychology. Her high-school boyfriend, the over-achieving, ambitious Andrew, is also there. Leigh is excellent at psycho-analysing herself and everyone around her, but totally misses the obvious.. like the fact that her boyfriend is a selfish jerk and his room-mate, Nathan, is actually rather lovely. It’s a cute book with a fairly predictable romance. There was one scene that made me uncomfortable involving an oblivious and very stereotypical Chinese character named Li Huang – I’m not even sure what the point in him being there was. I guess that part was supposed to be funny, but it just felt racist and unnecessary. Nathan is lovely (of course) and Andrew deserves a slap. My favourite character was Rebekah, who Leigh was mentoring as part of her course. I would happily read a whole book about Rebekah. Overall a fun read but very forgettable. 3 stars.

Katherine by Anya Seton. My final book is one I started in June and managed to finish in July. This is a BBC Big Read book that I’ve been putting of for ages, mainly because I have no interest in the love affairs of royalty, even if it is based on a true story. I eventually forced myself to read it by taking it with me when I had to go to the office – there’s nothing like a two-hour train journey each way to make you happily read whatever’s available! I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It’s an interesting read and now I want to learn about the real Katherine Swynford. 4 stars.

I also started reading The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy, but since I only finished it in August I’ll tell you about it in next month’s round-up.

And that was my reading month of July. A fair few 4 and 5 star books there, so I’m happy.
What have you been reading lately? Check out the link up for more book reviews.

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Book challenge by Erin 5.0 – month 3

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In the third month of Erin’s challenged I managed to read a grand total of two books. One of those books had over 1,000 pages though, so I feel no shame! Also, for one of the categories I ended up reading a book that was not included as a suggestion on my preliminary list. Sorry Erin! Here are the categories I completed in September:

25 points: read a book set in a country that you have always wanted to visit.

I literally just finished reading Shogun by James Clavell about half an hour ago! It’s a good job I had this week off otherwise there’s no way I would have got through it this month. My copy has 1,210 pages… that’s a lot of reading for just 25 points! It’s set in Japan, which is maybe not a place I’ve always wanted to visit (did I care about visiting anywhere when I was 5?), but I’ve definitely wanted to go there for a long time. I was reluctant to start reading this epically long book, but by the time I’d read the first chapter I was hooked. It did get tedious at times and I felt like it could have been a lot shorter, and the author’s obvious love for his main character also grated occasionally (yes, Blackthorne is sooo well endowed and so clever and can learn Japanese faster than anyone, ever. I get it!), but overall it’s a really good book. I gave it 4 stars (although I will never read it again… that is far too many hours of my life that I won’t get back!).

30 points: read a historical fiction book.

I originally suggested two tentative possibilities for this, but what I actually ended up reading was The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. It’s the story of a clan of Neanderthals who adopt a little Cro-Magnon orphan girl – you can’t get much more “historical” than that! There were a few things that annoyed me about this book – most notably the weird things the author felt the need to explain, like what hypothermia is – but I got through it quickly despite it being pretty long (495 pages) and I was always interested to find out what would happen next so I gave it 4 stars.

That’s five out of ten books read, and this month’s 55 points brings my total up to 90 points. One month, five books and 110 points left to go!

Both books are also on the BBC Big Read, so that’s another two books closer to completing that category for my 35 before 35 list.

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…