Book Challenge by Erin 9.0 – Preliminary List

Hello! I am back in Switzerland and the categories have been announced for Erin’s next reading challenge, so today I thought I would bring you my tentative list. As always, this is subject to change depending on my mood once the challenge actually starts.

The rules in brief: all books must be 200 or more pages, one re-read is allowed, only books read between 1 July and 31 October 2018 count. And, the most important rule, HAVE FUN!

Now the categories, and my choices.

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages
I will decide this based on what I feel I absolutely cannot wait to read once July comes around.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “N”
This one will be my re-read. I just picked up Needful Things by Stephen King while I was at my dad’s and it’s been about 15 years since I read it. I may change my mind though given it has 790 pages! I don’t actually currently own an unread book that starts with N though.

10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover
I knew I didn’t have an orange book so I bought one at the airport yesterday. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. I have the copy pictured below – I hope it’s orange enough!

history of bees

15 points: Read a book with an unlikeable character
I am trying to read books I already own and The Collector by John Fowles is on this Goodreads list of unlikeable characters.

20 points: Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read”. The list is here: http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/books/#/
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is on both this list and the BBC Big Read list so I suppose it’s about time I read it.

20 points: Read a book with something related to water in the title; i.e. ocean, sea, lake, river, waves, etc.
I have precisely two books with water-related titles on my shelves and both are over 600 pages long! I’ll probably go with The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy (my other option is River God by Wilbur Smith)

25 points: Read a book you’ve owned the longest but haven’t read yet (or that has been on your goodreads “to read” list the longest, or has been sitting in your kindle the longest)…basically, read a book you’ve been meaning to read the longest but haven’t got to it yet.
I can’t remember which book I have actually owned for longest, so I went to my Goodreads “want-to-read” list, arranged them in order of date added and discovered that the very first book only has 109 pages. The second book is Un Lun Dun by China Miéville so I’ll be reading that.

30 points: Read a book with an emotion word in the title; i.e. joy, sadness, grief, love, anger, etc. (submitted by Megan)
I thought I would have loads of books for this category, but I actually only found two on my to-read shelf: Love Always by Harriet Evans. (The other one was Joyland by Stephen King but I’m already reading a King book for this challenge).

30 points: Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter (submitted by Vinay); examples: Magpie Murders, Gone Girl, Peter Pan, Love’s Labor Lost – conjunctions and articles count; for example, if the title has “and” in the title, all of the other words must start with “A” to count; or if the title has “the” in it, all of the other words must start with “T”
I have two options for this one. I will either read Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips or Little Lies by Liane Moriaty (for some reason, my copy misses out the “Big”, making the title alliterative)

35 points: Read a book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one – basically the idea is the character does the same kind of thing as you do day to day – stay at home parent or student counts as a profession; yes, you may need to be creative with this one, stretch it, and make it work for you. (submitted by Bev)
As most of you know, I am a translator. I plan to read The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere. The main character is apparently a children’s book translator so she’s basically living my dream. So much more interesting than translating technical manuals and price lists for dental equipment (yes, really).
I chose this category and I know it’s difficult, so if anyone is doing the challenge and struggling with this one I will be happy to help you find a book featuring someone with your profession!

And those are all my choices. Now I just have to force myself to wait until July to start reading them! Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Are you joining in with this challenge? Let me know where your list is and I will come and have a look. If you think you might like to join in and would like more information there is both a Facebook and a Goodreads group where Erin provides lots of support and encouragement.

And now I’m off to buy milk so I can finally have a cup of tea!

 

Advertisements

What I read in February 2018

In my February recap, I said I had read 16 books but I miscounted and it was actually 17. Yay. Erin’s challenge is still going on, and I started the bonus round in February but didn’t finish it – partly because some of the books I chose turned out not to be long enough so I had to wait for replacements, partly because I kept getting distracted by non-challenge books and partly because Anna Karenina is just so damn long! But let’s just get on with it shall we… this post is going to be long enough without me blabbering on.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

Challenge books first, then the rest.

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel (352 pages, read for “a book originally published in another language”; originally Danish). This can basically be categorised as Scandanavian crime – although I hadn’t read a Danish before. The body of an unidentified woman is found and nobody seems to know who it is, until someone comes forward saying she used to care for her in a state mental institution many years ago. The only problem is the girl and her twin sister supposedly died more than thirty years ago. The case ends up taking Louise Rick who is in charge of the investigation back to her childhood home, which she isn’t too happy about due to traumatic events in her past. I mostly enjoyed this book, although some parts seemed a little disjointed. I wonder if that was a translation issue? I would like to read the next one because there seem to be some secrets relating to Louise’s past that intrigue me. 3 stars.

Us by David Nicholls (396 pages, read for “a book with a red cover). This seemed to take me a weirdly long time to read, possibly because of the short “sections2 (not really chapters). I would think I had read loads, then see it was only a few pages. Douglas Petersen’s wife, Connie, tells him she wants a divorce, but she still wants to go ahead with their holiday, touring Europe with their almost-18-year-old son before he leaves for university. This is the story of their relationship and the tour, which Douglas hopes will help him win her back. This book started off slow but I ended up enjoying it. There are some funny moments and some touching ones. Poor Douglas just wants everyone to like him (although there were times I wanted to tell him to stand up for himself). I hated Connie though – she was basically horrible to Douglas all the time. 4 stars.

Everlost by Neal Shusterman (320 pages, read for “a book with a plot twist). Two teens, Nick and Allie, die in a car accident, but instead of going “where they’re supposed to” (presumably heaven) they end up in a sort of limbo halfway between life and death – they’re still in the real world, but the living can’t see them. An interesting take on the afterlife and what happens after we die. The characters were well written and mostly interesting. The writing style seemed younger than the sometimes very creepy and odd themes though, which threw me off a bit. The “twist” involves some of the people they meet and characters maybe not being what they seem. I didn’t love it but I liked it enough to want to know how the story continues. 3 stars.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Blunt (355 pages, read for “a book with house/home in the title). Fourteen-year-old June Elbus feels like the only person who ever understood her was her uncle Finn, so when he dies of AIDS she’s understandably devastated. When she begins spending time with another person who was close to her uncle, she starts to realise she isn’t the only one who misses him. This is a beautiful, emotional book about grief, feeling different and what it means to be a sibling. 4 stars.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner (401 pages, read for “freebie”). A politician has an affair. This book is described as the story of what his wife and two daughters do in the aftermath of the “betrayal”, although really it’s more what his wife does. At least one daughter’s story was shaped by events that happened way before the affair. Anyway. This book was okay. It’s an easy read and I got through it quickly enough, but most of the characters are boring – except the elder daughter, Diana who’s just a total bitch, but at least does something. 2 stars.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. Lina is forced to spend the summer in Tuscany because it was her mother’s dying wish. She doesn’t really want to be there, until she’s given an old journey of her mother’s and starts learning about the year she spent in Italy and various secrets surrounding it. A cute, fluffy YA read that I read in an evening. I loved the descriptions of Florence. Lina was supposed to be 17 but she seemed younger – I would have happily believed it if she was 14! But I suppose then she wouldn’t have had as much freedom to explore on her own and find things out. It passes the time well enough. 3 stars.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (428 pages, read for “an author whose first and last name start with the same letter). This is the second book in the “Peculiar Children” series and I feel like I should have re-read the first book before starting this one… it’s been a while and I had forgotten most of what happened. I liked the way the peculiar parts ate intertwined with the reality of World War 2 and I was definitely not expecting the twist. I will read book 3. 4 stars.

That was all my challenge books for this month. Categories still to go: A book with a character’s name in the title (Anna Karenina… I will finish you!), a book that takes place on a form of transportation and a book featuring a character with a debilitating physical illness.

Now for the non-challenge books.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is a pretty short book and I read most of it while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. It read a bit like a self-help book disguised as fiction, or maybe a biblical parable. At first I was enjoying it and found a few quotes I really liked, but after a while it got too preachy. If it weren’t so short and on the BBC Big Read list I doubt I would have bothered reading it all. 2 stars.

The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff. This is a cute little book about growing up, friendship and how it feels to be “different”. Georgie has dwarfism and the beginning of each chapter there’s a little paragraph that asks the reader to do something and then explains that Georgie can’t do that very thing. This is a great way to gently show children that even people who look different are just the same as everyone else on the inside. Wonder is a better book along the same lines, but this is a nice one for younger children. 3 stars.

Little Wolf’s Book of Badness by Ian Whybrow. This book is so fun! Little Wolf is too well-behaved, so his parents have sent him off to Cunning College to learn the Rules of Badness from his Uncle Big Bad. The story is told in the form of letters that Little Wolf writes home during his journey to school and once he arrives. I enjoyed the references to familiar fairy tales, and I’m sure young children will too. I will definitely be buying this for my Godson at some point. 4 stars.

The Dance in the Dark by Sophie Cleverly. Book three in the Scarlett and Ivy series, in this one someone is sending nasty letters to pupils and staff, and then “accidents” start to happen. Is somebody out to get the school? This book was better than the second one. I found Scarlett less annoying this time round. She came across as feisty and determined rather than spoiled and stubborn. After starting off slow, the middle and end of the book were action-packed. I wish a series like this had been around when I was 10! 4 stars.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I wanted to read this as my plot twist book for the challenge, but it turned out not to be long enough. I decided to still read it anyway though. I absolutely loved it! It’s so wonderfully creepy and gothic. 4 stars.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach. This book is so strange! I read it while waiting for a train – it didn’t take me long since half the pages are just photos of seagulls. Jonathan Livingston is a seagull who believes it is every gull’s right to fly. In doing so, he ends up being ostracised by his flock, who claim a gull’s entire purpose in life is to find food. It’s 95 pages of pure weirdness. 2 stars.

Sunday Morning Coming Down by Nicci French. I thought this was the last book in the Freida Klein serious – after all, Sunday is the end of the week – but it seems there will be another one, which really will be the last. That’s good because I still need answers and I’m not ready to say goodbye to the characters yet! I can’t really say much about this book without spoiling the others, so I will just say read this series! Book one is Blue Monday. 5 stars for this one.

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles. This one had been on my to-read list for a while so I finally decided to just read it. A boy named David has committed suicide, and his brother, Kyle, decides to take revenge on the person he perceives to be responsible (Cass) by burying her in a box underground. The only way for Cass to survive is to keep Kyle talking. This was an incredibly intense story and I could not stop reading! Not perfect, but certainly gripping. 4 stars.

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long. Sophie Nieuwenleven is English, but she came to live in Belgium with her family when she was four or five years old. Now she’s 14 and still isn’t quite sure why they moved to Belgium in the first place. One day she discovers something so shocking about her family that she can’t put it into words, so instead she uses a special “language” to tell her story. The aforementioned “language” actually just involves replacing some words with others – so people are pigeons and parents are parsnips, for instance. At first I found that really confusing, and I actually thought Sophie had something wrong with her that made her mix up her words. It was quickly obvious that even people she met for the first time weren’t confused, so I soon realised that was her supposed “language”, and once I got used to it I could read it fine. I really liked this book and loved the character of Sophie. Her parents need a good shake though – her dad at least ends up paying for his actions, but in my opinion the mother is just as bad. No spoilers here, so if you want to know what they did you’ll have to read it 😉 4 stars.

Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey. Gabriella, or Elle, has been moving around the country constantly for as long as she can remember. For her senior year of high school she finally convinces her dad to let her go to boarding school, but then weird things start happening and Elle wonders whether she’s losing her mind. I enjoyed the plot of this one. I guessed some of what was happening before the end, but not everything. I didn’t particularly like the characters though. Gabriella/Elle alternates between boring and ridiculously naive. I did want to know what was happening though and read it all in one sitting. 3.5 stars.

And that was all for February. As mentioned above, I started Anna Karenina but I’m stillll not finished. We’ll see if I get to include it in my March review.
Sorry this post is so long – I tried to keep my individual descriptions/reviews brief but I didn’t succeed as I would have liked! I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, of course. If you still need more book talk, check out the link up.

Have you read any good books lately?

Book challenge by Erin 8.0 – preliminary list

As you can tell, I ever did get round to writing a photo an hour post. I’ve just been sooo busy lately. So busy that even though Erin announced the categories for book challenge 8.0 on Friday I’m only just getting round to posting my preliminary list now. Shocking!

As I’ve mentioned, this is preliminary and thus subject to change. I have a few options from some categories and will decide which one to actually read based on what I feel like at the time. I’ve tried to pick books I already own, but for two categories I actually didn’t have anything so I will need to buy books for those ones…

5 points: Freebie (any book with 200+ pages). We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh has been on my shelf for too long! Although I may need to actually try and read something from the BBC Big Read, so this one might change.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “L”. Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas. I’ve been wanting to read this one for months! (I also have two other unread books that start with L, but I’ll stick with this one for now).

10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover. Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly seems to be the only red book on my shelves that interests me right now.

15 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title. A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson. I don’t remember why I bought this, but it’s there and it fits the category.

20 points: Read a book from this list: https://bookriot.com/2017/04/11/100-books-with-plot-twists/ I have read some of these books, and somehow do not own any of the rest! So I’ve chosen Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

20 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title. The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester was a birthday gift from Jan’s sister last year! It’s about time I read it!

25 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter. I checked my shelves, and I have two options here. After the Fear by Roseanne Rivers or All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard. We’ll see which I feel like reading when the time comes.

30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own. It feels a bit like showing off, but I plan to actually read a book in German for this. Either Die Holunderschwestern by Teresa Simon or Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann.

30 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation i.e. bus, boat, car, plane, etc. Heh, I chose this category! I plan to read Mosquitoland by David Arnold, which takes place on a Greyhound bus.

35 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness. This was the second category that I didn’t already own a book for (actually, I own two but they would be re-reads. For anyone else taking part, I highly recommend The State of Me by Nasim Marie Jafry, which features a main character with M.E). I want to read The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff, but I’m not sure whether dwarfism is “debilitating”. Just in case, I have Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern as a backup – cerebral palsy definitely counts!

That’s all the categories this time. Have you read anything here? Have I made good choices? Let me know if you’re joining in and I’ll come and check out your list!

The books I read in October 2017

It’s that time of month again where I link up with Jana and Steph to tell you all about what I read in the previous month, in this case October 2017. I completed Erin’s book challenge 7.0 and also read three other books. As in previous months, challenge books are listed first.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (592 pages, read for the category “A book with a non-human main character”). I found this book hard to get into at first, and lots of times I actually managed to put it down after finishing a chapter, just like I had promised myself, but by the end I was invested. The storytelling is amazing! I was rooting for Shadow all the way and it was really interesting finding out where he came from along with him. Wednesday was a difficult character to like, but I think maybe that was the point? Honestly, I preferred Neverwhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to give this one less than 5 Goodreads stars. Probably I would give it 5 and a half, but they won’t let me!

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (495 pages, read for the category “A book with a cardinal/compass direction in the title”). Lots of Goodreads reviewers seem to have hated this book. Maybe I’m too easily pleased, but I really enjoyed it. I liked Elphaba and thought it was interesting to read about her childhood and get an explanation for why she was green. It was nice to see her treated as a human being and not just some caricature of evil. I also liked that, in this book at least, she wasn’t really wicked. Towards the end she started to go crazy, but most of the time she was trying to do the right thing, in her own way. It’s not a perfect book and there are things that I would have liked more explanation of, but for the most part I enjoyed reading it and in my world that counts for a lot. 4 stars.

And, with that, I completed the bonus round of Erin’s challenge. Woo!
I probably would never have actually read the Wicked book if it hadn’t been for needing a new previously chosen book for my final category (I changed it from East of Eden because there was just no way I was going to be reading that in the final weeks of the challenge!),  so that was nice. Of all the books I read for the challenge this time, I think my favourite was Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief. And now I’m looking forward to the next challenge… categories to be announced in December. I’m so excited!

Now for the other books I read in October.

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. This book had been sitting on my bookcase for over a year and I have no idea why I hadn’t read it before! I absolutely loved the Snow Spider trilogy by this author when I was a child (I must have read it at least 20 times), which is part of the reason I bought this one, but somehow I never got round to reading it? I finally picked it up when I needed something nice and quick that wouldn’t task my brain too much. And I LOVED it! The one thing that slightly annoyed me is that, despite being the main character, Charlie didn’t seem to do anything much. His name is in the title, yet it seemed like other people were constantly making all the decisions, doing all the dangerous things and generally saving his backside. And two of those people didn’t even have any special powers/gifts! His friends are awesome though, so I can’t really complain too much about them having a large role. I just hope Charlie gets more proactive in book 2! Oh, and lots of the reviews called these books a rip-off of Harry Potter… just because it’s set in England, involves children with special powers and involves a school doesn’t automatically make it a Harry Potter rip-off! The school isn’t even for magic as such – it’s a school for the gifted (musicians, artists, etc.) that also takes people with “magical” gifts. Anyway, I gave it 4 stars.

The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt. I really liked this, probably because the stories reminded me of the type of ghost stories we used to tell each other as children (the babysitter and the heavy-breathing phone calls anyone?). I liked that it’s short stories, but with an overarching storyline tying them all together (basically a boy gets on the wrong train and while he’s waiting for the right one, on a dark, creepy platform, an old man starts telling him scary stories). Most of the stories were the perfect blend of “is this all in the protagonist’s head or could it, just maybe, be real?”, but the final one was a bit weird and silly and, in my opinion, let the whole collection down. This would be a great book for teens who like to creep themselves out… way better than the Point Horror books I adored at that age! 4 stars (without the final story it would have been 5).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is a weird little book. It’s well written and very clever, but I didn’t find it particularly spooky – more confusing. Was any of it really happening or was the narrator just mad? Maybe that was the whole point? Maybe I’m just too stupid to understand? 3 stars.

And those were all the books I finished in October. I then started reading Magician, which has eleventy billion pages (okay, 841). Maybe I’ll finish it it time to include it in my reviews for November… or maybe it will have to appear in the January’s “Show Us Your Books”. We’ll see. I’m enjoying it so far anyway, but I can only read it at bedtime because it’s too big to take on the train!

That’s it from me. Read anything good recently? Check out the link up if you want to fill your to-read list with even more lovely, lovely books.

The books I read in September 2017

This episode of Show Us Your Books marks the three anniversary. I am a day late to the party thanks to having to be in the office yesterday, but congratulations Jana and Steph!

Let us take a look at what I read in September. There were 7 books, four of which were for the bonus round of Erin‘s reading challenge. As in previous months, I will list the challenge books first followed by the others.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (376 pages, read for the category “a book relating to a Disney movie”). This basically takes the Disney version of Aladdin but changes one key feature, namely what if Aladdin had not kept the lamp but given it to Jafar like he was supposed to?  The beginning of the book was literally a retelling of the Disney version of Aladdin, even down to repeating parts of the dialogue word for word! The remainder is definitely fast-paced and there are a few good moments. The characters’ personalities never seemed to be properly developed – I felt like the author was relying on readers knowing them from the film. It passed the time okay and was entertaining enough but I think I’ll skip the rest of the series. 3 stars.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Krause (264 pages, read for the “starts with B” category). Well, this was basically complete and utter trash… but entertaining trash! A YA werewolf book that somehow manages to make the transition from human to wolf form sound sexy. I wish I had found it back when it first came out because I’m sure I would have lapped it up then (ha, pun totally not intended but I’ve seen it now and I’m keeping it). Reading it as an adult I give it 3 stars.

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith (352 pages, read for the “animal on the cover” category). I feel like I was missing something with this book. Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the first book in the series? It took me ages to figure out that all the characters with their little mini stories were somehow vaguely connected. And the poor dog, who is in the actual title, barely even features. Parts of it were quite good, others were really boring. 3 stars.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (320 pages, read for the “book featuring mental illness” category). I can’t say I enjoyed this book exactly – that isn’t the right word. It is really, really good but quite disturbing in some ways. It’s supposed to be for children, but I would definitely recommend an adult reading it first then deciding whether it’s suitable for the child in question! The mental illness concerned is never actually spelled out, but one of the main characters is a war veteran who is obviously suffering from some kind of PTSD. Betty (the bully) is a real nasty piece of work – far more than just an ordinary school-girl bully, and Annabelle (the main character) is far braver than I ever would have been. Sorry if this is confusing – it’s a difficult book to review! 4 stars anyway – read it!

That was the four challenge books, now on to the rest.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Technically I didn’t read this one, but listened to it. Aaalso, I started listening to it over a year ago so I didn’t really “read” it in September 2017 at all. But I finished it! I would have been finished ages ago but I had to keep waiting for Jan to listen with me. Anyway, I can’t objectively review this one because I’m 90% sure I loved it because it was Night Vale and I got to listen to Cecil’s voice for HOURS, not just one measly little episode of the podcast (I mean, I never actually listened to only one episode, but that isn’t the point). Whether it actually works as a print novel? I have no idea. Whether anyone who doesn’t already know and love Night Vale and all its characters would enjoy it? Maybe not. So my 5 star rating is very, very biased, but I don’t care. Recommended to anybody who loves the weirdness that is Welcome to Night Vale.

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry. I interrupted my challenge reading for this one because I couldn’t resist reading it the day it arrived. It kept my attention and made me want to keep reading long after my bedtime. I really liked the different perspectives, especially the chance to get inside Kitty’s head. Towards the end it almost felt like there were too many twists and the final one just made me go “hmmm”, but overall I enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Bogwoppit by Ursula Moray Williams. I read Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by this author when I was about 8, and now I’m sad that the big box of books my step-dad brought home for us one day didn’t contain Bogwoppit as well. This book is adorable. Basically it’s the story of Samantha, an orphan who is packed off to live with her spinster aunt when he guardian (another aunt) moves to America and decides she doesn’t want her any more. At the spinster aunt’s house, she discovers a creature that nobody else knows exists – the Bogwoppit – and various adventures ensue. I love the Bogwoppit (The One and Only), even if he is trouble at times. I love Samantha, she is mostly polite and kind, but knows how to stand up for herself and the way she spoke to adults would have amazed me as a child (I would never have dared!). It’s a little dated now but I think 7-10 year olds would still love it. 5 stars.

And that’s it for September. Quite a satisfactory reading month.

Have you read anything good lately? This is a link up, so scroll back up and follow the links (I’m too lazy to put them in again. Sorry!)

The books I read in August 2017

It’s the first Tuesday of the month again, and that means it’s time for Show Us Your Books. In August, I read six books (or really read five and finished a sixth) – four of which were for the bonus Erin‘s reading challenge. I am listing the challenge books first in the order I read them, followed by the the two books I read that weren’t part of the challenge.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (358 pages, read for the “published in 2017 category). So, the basic idea is that five students walk into detention, but only four walk out. The fifth dies and the other four are all under suspicion of murdering him. I loved this book so, so much. All the characters had something to hide and in the beginning not all of them were likeable (particularly Addy who was basically a puppet with no mind of her own!), but by halfway through I liked them all and didn’t want any of them to be the murderer! I actually guessed who did it before the end, but with so many twists and turns I doubted myself and changed my mind several times. I kept going back to the same theory though and in the end I turned out to be right… sort of. I didn’t guess the entire story. My only small issue with the book was that the ending came too suddenly. It would have been nice to see the why explored a bit more. After everything that went on I feel like the ending should maybe have been a bit darker. Oh, and Nate, the bad guy, drug dealer, was kind of a cliché. Despite those few issues I gave it 5 stars. Such a fun read!

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes (217 pages, read for the “banned/challenged books category). Olive is a girl who died in an accident. Martha was in her class at school. The synopsis says there were “eerie connections” between the girls and they “share a secret”. Given that, I was expecting something much more dramatic, but the connections are tenuous at best. One of them is Olive always wanted to go to the ocean, Martha goes every year. Wow, so eerie! I’ve always wanted to go to Japan.. do any of my readers go regularly? Wow, such an eerie connection between us! And the “secret” wasn’t much of one at all – maybe I read too many heavy books so when something tame comes along I don’t expect it? Anyway, overall this is a quick little read, the baby sister is cute and Martha’s relationship with her grandmother is sweet and touching, but honestly the best description I can think of is “nice”. Pleasant enough to read but basically forgettable. 3 stars and zero idea why it was challenged!

Gracefully Grayson Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (256 pages, read for the “yellow cover” category. Photo as evidence). For as long as Grayson can remember, he’s been keeping a secret: he’s trapped in the wrong body – inside, “he” is a girl. Telling anyone would mean, rejection, ridicule or even worse. Then “he” tries out for a female part in the school play… This book is totally adorable! I just wanted to give Grayson a big hug and tell him everything was going to be okay. Parts of the book felt a bit repetitive and in places it seemed almost too simple/lacking in detail, but maybe that’s just because of the target audience. But basically it’s a quick and lovely read. 4 stars.

The Posionwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (526 pages, read for my freebie book). I had zero idea what this book was going to be about when I read it. I chose it because a) it’s on the BBC Big Read list and b) it had previously been chosen for the challenge. It turns out to be the story of an evangelical Baptist family who go on a mission to the Congo in 1959, their time there and the aftermath, told from the perspective of the minister’s four daughters and his wife. Some parts of this book dragged and I wanted to skip them. Other parts were fascinating. I really liked the different points of view and different attitudes to colonialism, westernisation, religious missions, etc. It’s a looong read but overall worth it. 4 stars.

And that was my four books for Erin’s challenge. Here are the other two books I read.

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. I had started this in July then when I had to go into the office, I forgot to put a challenge book in my bag so this was all I had to read. This was another one that was fantastic in places but dragged in others. I actually slightly preferred the first book in the series – Titus Groan. There wasn’t enough Fuchsia on this one! But especially towards the end I got sucked in and didn’t want to stop reading. 4 stars. I don’t think I will bother with part 3 though – this is the one that’s on the BBC Big Read list.

One by Sarah Crossan. This one has a yellow cover, so if anyone is doing Erin’s challenge and still needs something to fill that category I can recommend. This is the story of Tippi and Grace, co-joined twins. It’s written in verse, which I hadn’t realised when I bought it and at first it was a bit off-putting. The style actually turned out to be perfect for this story though. It’s a gorgeous book: emotional, affecting, moving and somehow just beautiful. (So many adjectives!) I would have liked to hear from Tippi as well – the story felt a bit one-sided with only the one twin’s point of view – but overall it was a really good book. I think having co-joined twins as the main characters is probably unique in YA literature and I thought Sarah Crossan did a good job of handling the topic sensitively. To me, it read like she had really done her research. Another 4 star read, but a very different 4 stars to the last two. Probably more like 4.5. Not perfect but I 100% recommend.

And that makes six. Have you read anything good recently?

Linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.

The books I read in July 2017

Once again it’s time to link up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books… and I warn you this is going to be a long one! I well and truly got my reading mojo back in July, and not only completed Erin’s reading challenge but even managed to read another four books for a total of 14! This time I’m listing the challenge books all together (in the order I read them) and then the others.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (570 pages, read for the “banned book” category). Uhh, what even was this book? It was more enjoyable than the typical war story I was expecting, but it was really confusing and nowhere near as hilarious as people make out! Some bits were funny, but a lot of the humour just felt forced and ridiculous. It did a good job of showing how ridiculous and insane war is, but I wouldn’t read it again. 3 stars.

Lost DogHow to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M. Martin (240 pages, read for “A book with an animal on the cover” – see photo for evidence of animal). I loved this book! I loved Rose, I loved Uncle Weldon and I wished I had a dog like Rain. I wanted to strangle the dad though, especially when he said things like “why do you have to be like this ” and told Rose to behave herself at school. Grrr. Read if you’re an animal love and like having your heart strings pulled on. 5 stars. (Note: this is the same book as Rain, Reign under a different title).

 

Alfie Bloom 2Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief by Gabrielle Kent (272 pages, read for “A book with a mostly yellow cover” – see photo for evidence of yellowness). Book two in the Alfie Bloom series is even better than book 1… and I already gave the first one five stars, so now what do I do! I’m glad Amy had a bigger role in this book – she’s an amazing character. And it was interesting to find out more about Ashton and Emily. One of my favourite things is that the girls in the book weren’t treated differently because they were girls – at one point Alfie wants Amy to carry out a plan because she’s “the best swimmer out of all of them”. Not like the books I read a child where the girls were always being told they couldn’t do something because “it’s too dangerous” (Famous Five, I’m looking at you!). Everyone should read this series! 5 stars.

A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater (297 pages, read for the freebie category). I enjoyed this, but not as much as this author’s previous book (Smart – reviewed here). Finlay is an likeable enough character and I did feel sorry for him, but somehow his story didn’t grip me in the same way as Kieran’s did. I did enjoy the little titbits of information about Scrabble at the beginning of each chapter. 4 stars.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (336 pages, read for “A book published in 2017”).  I loved this one and read the entire thing in two hours (when I should have been sleeping, but oh well). The characters are all so lovely and I could definitely identify with Molly and all her insecurities. It was also nice to read a book about older teens – most seem to have characters aged around 13-15. I wish this had been around when I was 16! And I also wish my sister and I had the kind of relationship Molly and Cassie do.  5 stars.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (359 pages, read for “Read a book with a non-human main character). This book had been sitting on my bookcase for over a year and I have no idea why I put of reading it for so long. I mean, there are DRAGONS! Dragons who can change their form and walk around looking human no less. There is also intrigue, secrets and a kick-ass main character. I finished reading it and then immediately ordered book two. 5 stars.

Broken Silence by Danielle Ramsay (408 pages, read for “A book that starts with the letter B). I had been looking forward to reading this book for ages because it’s set close to where my family live, so I was incredibly disappointed to discover that the author apparently hates Whitley Bay. Seriously, is there any need to mention every two pages that it’s “a once bustling seaside town” that’s now run-down and seedy with kids doing drugs on every corner? If you hate the place that much then sod off back to Scotland! Also, the main character is a total cliché and the entire book read like the author had done a creative writing course and learned to vary her writing style, with the result that she sprinkled adjectives around like confetti. Nobody could just “say” anything, ever. They always had to demand, instruct, state and order. Or even question sceptically, answer coolly or whisper hoarsely. Every. Single. Time. However, I did like the basic crime story that was hidden in there somewhere and persevered because I wanted to know who the murderer was (I guessed correctly slightly before the detective). right towards the end the writing suddenly got better and there was a fantastic interview scene, which is why I gave this book 3 stars instead of the 2 I had originally intended.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (256 pages, read for “A book with a cardinal/compass direction in the title). This book was strange. I actually really enjoyed it but I can’t quite explain why. The writing is amazing, almost poetic, but the story is strange, not particularly realistic (so many coincidences!) and, based on the ending, I don’t think Clarissa learned anything from her experiences. And yet I gave it 4 stars.

Thirteen Hours by Narinder Dhami (272 pages, read for “A fictional book featuring mental illness”). The mother of the main character has agoraphobia, so there#s the mental illness connection. I really liked this book. It’s gripping from start to finish (the beginning in a different way to the end). I felt for Anni and her mum and even liked the intruders. The “secret” was entirely different to what I had expected. I also liked that the author included an explanation of young carers and agoraphobia after the story. It could have been a lot more detailed, but for the young age group it’s aimed it I thought it was really good. 4 stars.

Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Stalten (272 pages, read for “A book that’s related to a Disney film”). Obviously this book is nothing like the Disney version, but I was expecting that. It’s quite graphic at times and not really a book for young children – I wouldn’t give it to anyone under ten. It’s a nice enough story and wonderfully written, but I felt like the author went a bit overboard on the portrayal of man as totally evil. 3 stars.

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher. I meant to read this for my “mental illness” book, but it turned out the main character’s refusal to speak was on purpose and not true selective/ elective muteness after all (rather than being unable to speak, at one point she has to force herself not to!). I enjoyed this book and read the entire thing in a morning while waiting for some people who were visiting us to wake up. I felt sorry for Tess, and although the way she handled her situation wasn’t the best, it felt realistic for a teenager. The heart to heart between Tess and her parents at the end really made me smile. Not perfect, but really good. 4 stars.

Toten Stille by Daniela Arnold. Read in German, the title literally translates as Deadly or Deathly Silence. A serial killer is keeping women prisoner for months and torturing them before killing them and leaving the bodies for the police to find. At the same time, a woman is involved in an accident and her husband, child and friends then claim she’s not who she says she is. When the evidence points to her being the murderer of the other women she needs to figure out what’s going on. This book was fast-paced and thrilling, the action never let up for a minute. The ending annoyed me though – somehow the detective working on the case managed to work out who the culprit was based entirely on her intuition despite the fact that they had never come across this person in the course of the investigation and his name had not once been mentioned in the book. Umm, okay then. It passed the time well enough and was a quick read but I’m not sure I would read anything else by this author. 3 stars.

Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson. In the interests of disclosure, I should say I wouldn’t have read this book if it wasn’t on the BBC Big Read list. I don’t think this is one of Jacqueline Wilson’s better efforts. While it is interesting to see a book for pre-teens and younger teens that deals with death/grief, it seemed a bit simplistic even for the target age. Also, I just could not like Vicky, even though I was probably supposed to feel sorry for her being dead? Actually I thought Jade had a lucky escape – at least now she can get on with her life without her bullying so-called “best friend” putting her down all the time! 2 stars.

Bang, Bang, You’re Dead by Narinder Dhami. After Thirteen Hours, this book was a bit of a disappointment. I really felt for Mia and was worrying about Jamie right along with her, but then the ending went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting and I wasn’t sure what to think.  It was all a bit odd. The “twist” was a bit too abrupt and it felt like there wasn’t enough time left to handle it properly. The mum’s bipolar disease is handled well though. 3 stars.

And that’s it… 14 reviews. If you’ve got this far you deserve a medal (I did warn you though!). One day I will learn to review books more succinctly. Head to the link up to see what everyone else has been reading and – if you’re anything like me – add even more books to your never ending want-to-read list! And if you’ve read any of these books let me know in the comments whether you agree with my opinion 🙂