What I read in August 2018

Hello! I’m here today to link up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books and tell you about the books I read in August. There are a lot so I won’t bother with too much preamble and just get straight into it. Books for Erin’s challenge first, then the rest. This will be long so feel free to skip parts, or the whole post. Whatever.

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The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy (read for a book with something relating to water in the title). I started reading this one in July but it took a while because it’s nearly 700 pages! This is women’s fiction… I don’t think I would call it chick lit. I feel like chick lit is usually shorter, more frivolous, easy reads I guess. Anyway, it’s the story of Kit MacMahon, who lives in a small village in Ireland. When her mother, Helen, disappears and is presumed drowned her life changes in an instance. A short time later, she receives a letter from a woman named Lena Gray, who lives a tempestuous life in London with Louis, her great love. Who is Lena Gray and why is she interested in Kit? The story then follows Lena and Kit over many years. This book is like a warning to women not to let your entire life centre around a man and how one mistake – however innocent – can change everything for more than just yourself. The story itself is actually pretty good but went on for way too long – I would have been happy with about 200 pages less – so I gave it 3 stars.

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes. I had to change my original book with an orange cover to this one because I just couldn’t get into the other one. This is a YA book about a sixteen-year-old girl named Maguire. Since she was involved in a car accident that killed her father, uncle and brother while she walked away with barely a scratch and then found herself on a rollercoaster when it jumped off its tracks, but again was unhurt herself, she’s convinced that she’s a curse and causes horrible things to happen. So all she wants to do is stay in her room where she can’t hurt anyone, but her therapist has other ideas so she reluctantly tries out for the tennis team. The synopsis goes on to say “then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star who wants to help her break her unlucky streak”, but that makes it sound like she’s “saved” by a boy, but that’s not really how it is. He does help her, but so do her therapist and her new friends, and ultimately she does most of the work herself. I really enjoyed this book. Maguire is a fantastic character and her issues felt realistic. I mean, I’ve never had PTSD but I could totally understand how she would get the idea that she’s bad luck after everything she’s been through. I also really loved her step-dad – he was obviously trying so hard while also struggling himself with a far from ideal situation. 4.5 stars for this one.

The Collector by John Fowles. I read this book for the categroy “a book with an unlikeable character” and it definitely fulfilled that! It’s about a man called Frederick who collects butterflies and is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, an art student named Miranda. When he wins a lot of money, he buys a remote house in Sussex and abducts Miranda, believing she will learn to love him in time. He honestly seems to believe he treats her well… despite the fact that she’s trapped in a cellar with no possibility to leave or contact her family?! This is disturbing and creepy, but somehow addictive – I felt compelled to keep reading to find out how it what happened at the end. Part 2 of the book is written from Miranda’s perspective and I’m ashamed to say that part bored me. I just didn’t like her at all – which feels like an awful thing to think given her situation. 3.5 stars, would have been 4 if it had stuck to Frederick’s perspective.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (read for the “PBS Great American Reads” category). I had been putting off reading this for ages so I finally ended up taking it on the train to work with me… being stuck on trains with nothing else to do generally encourages me to read whatever I have with me 😉 I presume most people know the story (I knew the basics before reading it) so I won’t describe it. I will hopefully not spoil anything with me review though. So, there were parts of this I really, really loved but other parts I didn’t. The Randall character annoyed me… he almost seemed like a caricature of a villain. At some point his chasing Jamie all the way round the country just became unrealistic and slightly ridiculous. There was also a lot of sex. Not that I have anything against sex scenes, but I swear at one point Jamie and Claire were at it on every page!Cutting a few sex scenes would probably have made the book about 100 pages shorter 😉 I really liked the way Claire’s skills as a nurse were tied in with the herbs and equipment that were available in the past and I did like Jamie, although I’m not lusting over him like everyone else seems to be. He seems like a decent guy though, especially given the time period. Overall I liked it but didn’t love it. I would like to know what happens next and where they go from here, but I’m not sure I’m interested enough to be willing to read another 800 pages! 3.5 stars.

That was my last book for the first round of the challenge, then I read two for the bonus round.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (read for the category “a book featuring another participant’s profession). Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life, following the same routine every day, just like he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. Now, a year after her death, he goes to finally start clearing out her things and finds a charm bracelet that he doesn’t remember seeing before. One of the charms has a phone number on it, which he calls, and discovers his wife once lived in India. What follows is a quest to find out more about his wife’s life before the two of them met. This is a lovely book – I kind of want to say charming… too punny? I really enjoyed following along on Arthur’s adventures. Some of the events were a little implausible and a few times the writing felt a little flat, but overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. 4 stars.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (read for the category “a book with an alliterative title”). This is an interesting take on the “Cinderella” story. Eleanor, known as Ella, was inadvertently cursed at birth by a fairy named Lucinda, who bestowed on her the “gift” of obedience. An obedient child sounds like every parent’s dream, right… but it means she has to do whatever anyone tells her to do. If she’s told to eat cake, she has to keep eating until she’s told to stop. Despite all this, she manages to rebel… finding way to do as she’s told but not necessarily in the way the person expected. After her mother dies, she sets out to try and find a way to break the curse, encountering ogres and giants along the way, and of course ending up with a stepmother and stepsisters to order her around… This is a cute, fun read. Despite her curse, Ella has a mind of her own and a rebellious spirit. She’s no weak little princess waiting for Prince Charming to come and rescue her! 4 stars. Apparently there’s a film, but I haven’t seen it.

Those were all the books I read for Erin’s challenge in August, so now for the rest. This is already long… I’ll try to be quick!

Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne. Evie has OCD, but all she wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. SGoing to parties, making friends… all that’s left is to find a boyfriend. But teenage relationships are messy at the best of times. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends the truth about herself how is she going to cope when she falls in love? I absolutely LOVED this book. It’s the perfect blend of fun and serious. I love that the teenagers in this book actually act like teenagers with all their flaws and mistakes. This is the first book in a series and I can’t wait to read the other two. 5 stars.

The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster. Eleven-year-old Joe has spent most of his life in hospital. He has an autoimmune condition that means literally everything could kill him. Even his few visitors at the hospital risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his ‘bubble’. But then somebody new enters his world with a plan that will change his life forever. I really enjoyed this. I loved the characters for the most part. oe’s conversation seems really mature for his age – which I suppose it would be if you’d been locked in a room all your life with only adults to talk to. At the same time he’s quite naive, never really seeming to question or think about the consequences of what he’s doing, which again seems realistic… he’s just a child after all, with no experience of the real world. I wasn’t sure about the Amir character… I can’t say much without spoilers, but how did he get onto the ward just like that? This book deals with some heavy topics and isn’t as hopeful and heart-warming as Wonder (the book I keep seeing it compared to), but it’s a great story and I definitely recommend it. 4 stars.

The Door That Led to Where by Sally Gardner. AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy, so when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change – and it does, in most unexpected ways. While tiding up one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. This is the start of an amazing adventure that literally takes him to the past. A brilliant blend of mystery, historical fiction, time travel and coming of age story. I loved the bond between AJ and his friends. My only complaint is that it was too short – it felt like some parts were rushed over too quickly and explanations were given almost as an aside. More detail would have been nice. Because of that I gave it 4 stars.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I feel like I’m the last person to read this, so I’ll be brief. It’s the story of a Havard professor who discovers she has early-onset Alzheimer’s and her life as the disease progresses. This was a hard book to read given that my grandma has Alzheimer’s (not early-onset, but still). We can never truly know what it’s like to be inside the mind of an Alzheimer’s patient, but to me it felt authentic. John (the husband) annoyed me at times – I get that it’s a difficult situation to deal with but he just seemed so selfish. Of her children, I absolutely loved Lydia and thought she coped brilliantly with everything. An emotional read but well worth it. 5 stars.

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel. What is it with me reading dead sister books this year? I think this was about the fourth? Anyway, this book starts with Juniper on the first day of the new school year… and the first school day since her sister, Camilla, dies sixty-five days ago. On that first day, Juniper borrows Camie’s handbag for luck – and discovers an unsent break-up letter inside. It’s mysteriously addressed to ‘You’ and dated the day of the accident. Juniper is determined to find the mysterious ‘You’ and deliver the letter, so she starts to investigate. But then she loses something herself. A card from her daily ritual, The Happiness Index – little note cards where she rates each day – a tradition she started with her sister. The Index has been holding Juniper together since Camie’s death and now there’s a hole in it. And this particular card contains Juniper’s own secret: a memory that she can’t let anyone else find out. I loved this book! Juniper is a fantastic character. It’s clear that she’s grieving but she keeps on trying to live her life anyway. There were a few sad bits but mostly it’s just a lovely book. The expected resolution doesn’t come at the end, but I think that’s okay. I took off one star because Brand, the bad-boy character, seemed a little stereotypical, so 4 stars.

The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell. Lydia, Robyn and Dean don’t know each other – yet.
They live very different lives, but they’re all about to find out a secret and learn just how they’re connected.
I will never fail to be amazed by the many different stories Lisa Jewell manages to tell. All her books are so different! I really like Lisa Jewell as a writer, but unfortunately I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I have been with others of hers. With the subject matter, I felt like this could have had a lot more depth to it. Lydia was the only character I felt like I really got to know. Robyn seemed really snobby and annoying and I never felt like I really found out anything about Dean. The story is interesting though and I did like it – I just didn’t love it. 3.5 stars.

While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green. Lisa Dale is playing hide-and-seek at the park with her four-year-old daughter, Ella. When she opens her eyes, Ella is gone. The police, the media and Lisa’s family all think they know who took Ella. But what if the person who has her isn’t a stranger… and what if they think they’re doing the right thing? This book is a bit odd. It’s not the tense thriller the description makes it out to be. As readers, we know very quickly who has Ella, so there’s no real sense of tension, wondering where she is and what will happen to her. Instead it’s a great look at the effects a missing child has on the other members of the family. The “twist” for want of a better word and the ending felt rushed and weird – the ending especially didn’t feel authentic. It’s well written but if you’re expecting a proper thriller you will be disappointed. 3 stars.

Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter. Rosalind hates her new secondary school. She’s suffered from selective mutism for as long as she can remember, and now she’s labelled as a freak… the Mute-Ant. So with the help of her little brother, Seb (who is suffering from cancer), Rosalind starts a blog – Miss Nobody; a place to speak up, a place where she has a voice. But there’s a problem… Is Miss Nobody becoming a bully herself? Parts of it are heartbreaking, but there are also some wonderful relationships. Ailsa is a fantastic friend and the brother/sister relationship between Rosalind and Seb is wonderful. Rosalind’s relationship with her new therapist is also fantastic – I loved how Octavia was portrayed and how the book showed that finding the right therapist who truly gets you is so important. The school bullying scenes are awful but also realistic – I can genuinely imagine those exact kinds of things happening at my high school. Rosalind really grows as a person throughout the story and is strong enough in the end to admit her mistakes and do her best to make amends. 5 stars. Highly recommend!

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst. Emma Cartwright has just been released from a Psychiatric Institute. Three years ago, her name was Susan Webster and she was imprisoned for murdering her twelve-week-old son… a crime she has no memory of. Then she receives an envelope addressed to Susan Webster, containing a photo of a toddler with the name “Dylan” on the back. What if her son isn’t actually dead? This book was so twisty and convoluted… I almost felt like there was too much going on. It took me ages to work out how the past and present stories were connected… although I did eventually guess who one present-day character was going to turn out to be. Parts of the plot also seemed kind of far-fetched to me. Or maybe I’m just naive and money really can get you out of anything. It isn’t really  bad book, I just feel like I’ve read better thrillers. 3 stars.

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. I don’t want to say too much about this, because I didn’t know much about it going in. Luna and her sister take a trip to Beau Ridge, Brooklyn, to sell their mothers house with their estranged Aunt Stephanie, and maybe find out a bit about their mother in the process.  Then Luuna discovers that she may have a chance to save her mother… but will that mean sacrificing her own life? I loved this! It wasn’t what I was expecting – but then I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting? Luna is a fantastic character and such a caring big sister – she made me wish I was that close to my siblings. The love story is genuinely adorable. I pretty much just liked everything about this book. Just a warning that the storyline does involve a rape. 5 stars.

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker. In this post-apocalyptic novel, Edgar Hill finds himself separated from his family and has to travel 550 miles to get to them or risk losing them for ever. With no other option left, he and a small group of companions start running. I’m not sure what to think of this book. I enjoyed the story, but I really, really didn’t like the main character. Ed is whiny, annoying and a terrible husband. I honestly have no idea why his wife stayed with him never mind procreated with him a second time after he was so useless the first time! But the story was fast-paced and eventful and kept me wanting to know whether the group would ever actually reach their destination. Some of the events seemed a bit far-fetched but I suppose the book would have been a bit boring if they they’d just stopped encountering obstacles after a certain point. I did find it annoying that all the “bad” people were working class/seemed to be from council estates while the middle and upper-class people ended up helping and feeding the group. Overall it is a good read and the running thing makes it a different kind of story. 3.5 stars.

When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster. So apparently the author of this book is the daughter of record producer (David Foster… never heard of him) and her real job is a songwriter, among others for Michael Bublé. I didn’t know this until I read it on the back of the book and honestly I don’t really care. When Autumn learns she’s been promoted to a higher coven, she has to find her own replacement. But who in Avening is in tune enough with her own personal magic to take over the huge responsibility of town witch? Autumn has been given a list of 13 people who just might have what it takes, but how can she get them to open their eyes to the magic in their lives? I bought this because the description sounded interested and it had been compared to Sarah Addison Allen. This is not Sarah Addison Allen! I really liked the basic storyline – it was an interesting concept and could have been great, but the writing was really not for me. It felt somehow juvenile. Also, there were too many characters and I never really felt like I got to know any of them properly, except Autumn herself, of course. It almost ready like a book of short stories that are loosely related. It had potential and at least it was an easy read so I got through it quickly, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I still like the title and the cover is really pretty, but 2 stars.

Phew… finally that is all of them. 18 books! A pretty god reading month with a fair few four and five star books. For anyone who didn’t feel like reading all my reviews I highly recommend picking up Am I Normal Yet? (YA) Being Miss Nobody (middle grade) and The Summer of Impossible Things (science fiction with a bit of romance). And for those who haven’t got their fill of books, definitely check out the link up.

Have you read any of these? Do you agree with my opinions?

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What I read in January 2018

Hello! I’m back again for another round of Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana… very late to the party given the link up was on Tuesday when I was on a train for two hours then in the office then back on a train for another two hours. No time for blogging! But I am here now and I want to talk about reading.

After only finishing 4 books in December, I did really well in January managing to complete the first round of Erin’s book challenge in 20 days. That’s 10 books read from 1st to 20th January, leaving me with another 11 days for non-challenge reading. So let’s take a look at my January books.

Challenge books first, then the rest. Apologies in advance – this is going to get long!

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The Lost Twin (Scarlet and Ivy book 1) by Sophie Cleverley (288 pages, read for: book with a mostly red cover). I absolutely adored this book. It’s both a boarding school book and a mystery, and it features twins, three things I’ve always loved in a book. Where were all the books like this when I was 10? The basic story is that 11-year-old Ivy is “invited” (i.e. forced) to a prestigious boarding school to take the place of her sister, Scarlet, who has disappeared. Once there, she finds a series of clues planted by Scarlet, which she follows in attempt to get her twin back. I loved Ivy and her room mate/best friend Ariadne, I loved the mystery… basically I loved everything about this book. Five stars and highly recommended!

A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson (528 pages, read for: book with a character name in the title). The basic idea of this book is that the titular Anna Browne starts receiving mysterious packages at work, each of which makes her feel special and encourages her to come out of the shadows and change her life for the better. Most of her friends find it creepy, but Anna thinks it’s nice. Eventually she decides she does want to know who is sending the packages, so she can at least say thank you. Sounds like a fun story, right? I really wanted to love this one. I mean, mysterious packages – it sounds so intriguing! But somehow I just couldn’t get into this one the way I wanted to. Anna is a perfectly nice character, but that’s all she is… just nice. Almost too nice at times. And bland. Except when she’s getting weirdly possessive about her parcels and refusing to open them until she’s own her own. “It’s my gift… why should anybody else get the pleasure of seeing me open it“. My precioussss! When the reveal finally came I was disappointed – it just didn’t make sense to me! (Although I can’t say why without spoiling it). There is also a romance that I just didn’t get at all. They just don’t seem to have anything in common. I gave it three stars because it’s a perfectly nice story, but nothing more than that.

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (368 pages, read for: a book that starts with L). This one is difficult to review. It’s basically the story  of a woman – Francesca or Frankie, whose best friend disappeared, presumed drowned twenty years ago. When human remains are found, Frankie returns to the village she grew up in to face her past. It should have been precisely the kind of thriller I love, but somehow it wasn’t. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t keep me wanting to read it when I should have been doing something else. It’s rare that I can easily put a book down because it’s time to sleep! I didn’t guess what happened, but a lot of people did so I guess I’m slow. There is a rape scene, so be aware of that if that is likely to upset you. I gave this one 3 stars.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold (352 pages, read for: a book that takes place (mostly) on a form of transport). After two mediocre books, this one was a breath of fresh air. I LOVED it! When Mim Malone’s parents divorce, she is forced to move from Ohio to Mississippi with her dad and new stepmother. A conversation she overhears leads her to believe her mother needs her, she sets off on a Greyhound bus, meeting a whole bunch of quirky characters along the way. Mim obviously has issues and is entirely unreliable as a narrator, but I still found myself adoring her and rooting for her all the way. I gave this book 5 stars, although in the interests of honesty I should point out that that may have been a reaction to how “meh” I found the previous books. To an extent, my ratings are always dependent on my current mood though, so it’s really nothing new.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (282 pages, read for: a book from a specific list of books with twists). Okay, first of all I have to say I have no idea why this book was on the list it was on. There wasn’t really a twist, as such. While it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on, the knowledge is imparted gradually throughout the book starting from very early on. Anyway, it’s really hard to review this book without spoiling it. You really need to go in not knowing what’s going on. It’s creepy and dystopian and raises interesting questions about people’s willingness to go along with things. And that’s all I’m saying. Just read it. 5 stars.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (336 pages, read as my freebie). This book has a bit of everything… teenage pregnancy, illegal immigration, first love, a woman who has no idea how to be a parent but is trying her best. But despite all that it somehow didn’t seem too full – all the various issues just seemed to make sense as part of the whole story. Maybe also because – to me at least – it also didn’t seem that deep. It was relatively easy to read despite dealing with some really heavy issues. That spoiled it a bit for me – with all that going on I would have expected to have loads of thoughts about all these issues, but instead I just breezed through it. Which sounds like it should be a compliment, so maybe this is just me being weird? Anyway, Vanessa Diffenbaugh is an amazing writer and I can’t wait to read more from her. I gave this one 4 stars.

The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (272 pages, read for: a book with “house” or “home” in the title). I didn’t even manage to write a review for this one on GoodReads because I honestly didn’t know what to say! It’s… weird. A family drama with possibly the strangest set of twins I’ve ever encountered in literature. The book opens with the twins’ father dying by falling off a cliff he’d been living next to all his life… maybe you would be a bit strange after that, but from the back story it seems like they were always strange. And not just because they were weirdly close. The writing is good but the characters are all equally unlikeable… except maybe the grandfather. I can’t really describe it better than this, so all I can say is if you’re intrigued maybe give it a try? 3 stars.

Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann (528 pages, read for: a book originally written in a language that is not your own). As you can see, I’m a show-off so I actually read the book in the original language that is not my own 😉 Other books by this author have been translated into English but apparently not this one. This is a story that takes place in two time periods. In the present, we have Nicole, who is pregnant and has just found out her baby has a probably genetic heart problem. Nicole never met her father and knows nothing about him, but when the doctor asks her to find out about possible heart problems in his family she finally persuades her mother to talk. Then we have Nicole’s mother’s story, which takes us through her childhood to the year she spent teaching in France, where she met the man who was to become Nicole’s father. I enjoyed the past story more, partly because I just didn’t like Nicole that much, but also because it was more interesting. I got through this one relatively quickly, mostly thanks to having to go into the office which meant four hours on trains. It’s not a bad book, but I much preferred Die Schmetterlingsinsel – the only other book I’ve read by this author. By the way, that one has been translated, under the title Butterfly Island. Anyway, I gave this one 4 stars.

After the Fear by Rosanne Rivers (314 pages, read for: a book whose author’s first and last name start with the same letter). This is a dystopian novel set in a Great Britain of the future. Basically, the country has managed to get into loads of debt with other countries and the citizens all have to help pay it back, either by paying to go to “demonstrations” or by being involved in “demonstrations”. Said demonstrations are basically fights to the death between “demonstrators” and criminals. It seems like anyone can be chosen as a demonstrator (some were really young), and of course our heroine, Sola, ends up being chosen. The story itself is quite interesting. I was intrigued by the idea of this society and would have liked to find out more about ordinary life for the citizens. However, the writing isn’t great – if I saw the word “which” one more time I swear I would have started taking red pen to it! Half the time they should have been replaced with “that”, but in some instances there just didn’t need to be anything there at all. Aaah! Where was the editor? Of course, there’s a mean girl who seems almost too mean. Like a caricature of meanness. Even after nearly dying she’s still showing no emotion and trying to manipulate people?And this is a girl in high school – not some super villain! And there’s a romance, but it is kind of intregal to the plot so I’ll let it go. Lots of people compared this one to The Hunger Games. I haven’t read it, so I wouldn’t know. What the demonstrations really reminded me of was the gladiator fights of Roman times. Anywaaay, time to wrap this up. It was good enough to pass the time but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. There are better dystopian YA novels. 3 stars.

Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt (400 pages, read for: a book with a character who has a debilitating physical illness). The illness is leukaemia. So yes, this is a teen cancer book. Given the subject matter, it feels kind of wrong to say I enjoyed this book. When Mia is diagnosed with leukaemia, she doesn’t want anyone to know. She somehow thinks she can go through the treatment, beat it, and get on with her life. But obviously it can’t work like that. In real life, I probably would have hated Mia – cheerleader, popular student with her very own “clique”. But I actually really felt for book Mia. I wanted to shake her at times, then I felt sorry for her, then I cried. There is a love triangle going on, but for once I didn’t mind it. Both boys had their flaws, but it wasn’t just a case of “amazing just-a-friend guy who she should clearly be with” vs. “bad boy who is actually really not good for anyone but of course our main character believes she can change him”. Ryan, the popular “hot jock” really did seem to care for Mia and one thing I loved was a scene where Ryan and Mia are making out in his bedroom and he keeps asking if things are okay, then when she tenses up/hesitates he notices and stops what he was doing. This should not even be a thing that deserves special mention, but sadly it is. So yeah. I’m in the minority here, but I liked this so much more than The Fault in Our Stars.  Not a full 5 stars but very readable.

And that brings us to the end of my challenge reading. Now on to the other books I read in January. Sorry – I did say it was going to be long!

The Whispers in the Walls by Sophie Cleverly (Scarlet and Ivy Book 2). In this book, the twins return to Rookwood School where there is once again a mystery to solve. This time the terrifying headmaster seems to be involved. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first one – possibly because it was written from alternating points of view and I just wasn’t a fan of Scarlet. I loved Ivy in the first one and I wish she had continued to be the narrator this time round. Every time it switched to Scarlet’s point of view I wanted to shake her. She comes across as such a selfish, spoiled brat! That’s not to say I didn’t like the book though – I just didn’t love and adore it like the first one. I’ve since read book 3 and have book 4 waiting for me. YAY! 4 stars for this one. Also, I have to mention the dedicatione:

In Memory of Sir Terry Pratchett
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”

*Sniffle*. Now I miss Terry Pratchett all over again!
By the way, I had to re-buy this book because the cover of the copy I originally got didn’t the rest of the series. Tragedy! So if anyone wants to start reading these books let me know and I’ll send this one to you. I’m afraid you’ll have to get hold of book 1 yourself though.

The Queen’s Nose by Dick King-Smith. I remember watching this TV series when I was about 12, but I had never read the book. I recognised some things from the TV show, but I feel like screen Harmony was older than book Harmony? She’s 10 in this but I seem to remember the girls being about 13 and 16? Anyway, this is a cute little book about a magic 50p coin that grants wishes. It’s set in 1983 and references cables, but other than that and mentions of Harmony being born in 1973 it doesn’t feel too dated to me. Maybe it’s a little slower than modern books? I still think children aged 8-10 year will enjoy it anyway. 4 stars.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. This story is narrated by 12-year-old Jack, whose family is fostering 14-year-old Joseph. Before Joseph arrives, all Jack knows about him is he has a daughter and he’s just been released from a young offenders’ institute. So it’s about teen parenthood, but it’s also about so much more than that – friendship, love and about not judging a person without getting to know them first. And it’s about cows… I loved the cows! (Jack’s family live on a farm). My main issue with the book is that the ending seemed rushed. I felt like I was just getting to know Joseph then BAM… The End! I gave it 3.5 stars, so 4 on Goodreads because I like to round up.

The Witch of Demon Rock by Gabrielle Kent (Alfie Bloom book 3). I am still really enjoying this series. At the start I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy it as much as the previous two, but then I ended up staying up until 1am to finish it sooo… 😉
My favourite thing about these books is still the friendships. Alfie and his cousins/friend are a real team even if they bicker occasionally. I also like that the parents (or in Alfie’s case his dad) are present and the adults are all actually responsible! In this one the children go back in time to visit someone (sounds odd – you have to read it!) and before they do the person they’re visiting insists on meeting with Alfie’s dad and arranging things possible. The dad in turn insists that an adult (the butler) go with them. Of course, the children do end up dealing with things on their own throughout the series, but there’s always a reason the adults aren’t around. I’m really interested to see where the series will go now that what seems to be the main adversary has been dealt with.

Elen’s Island by Eloise Williams. The basic story: When Elen’s parents go abroad, she’s sent to stay with her grumpy granny on a Welsh island. Elen and a new friend she meets there become convinced there’s treasure on the island and set out to find it. This is very much a book for younger readers. It says age 7-9 but I think at 9 I might have found it a little boring. That may just be me though – I was reading Agatha Christie at 10. As an adult I could see the charm in this sweet little book. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I got to the end of this book and my first thought was “what on Earth did I just read?!”. It doesn’t really have a plot as such – it’s just a bunch of guys travelling across the US time and again, getting drunk and high and having lots of sex. Surprisingly, I didn’t hate it, although I didn’t really like it either. None of the characters are particularly likeable and the way women are treated in the book is awful (and don’t try to tell me it’s a product of its time!). How enough people chose it as their favourite book for it to end up on the BBC Big Read list is beyond me! I won’t be reading it again, so if anyone wants it let me know and I’ll post it out to you. 2 stars.

On the Road was my final January read – I actually finished it on the train home from Germany on 31st January so it only just made it into this post! Sooo that’s 16 book reviews in this post. Phew!

Oh, and if anyone’s still wondering how I read so many books, I don’t usually include page numbers other than for challenges (to prove the books were long enough), but just so you know The Queen’s Nose has 150 pages (and large font), Orbiting Jupiter is 183 pages and Elen’s Island is 153 pages (and again large font). So other than being anti-social and spending Saturday afternoons reading, my tip is: read short books that are actually meant for 8 year olds 😉

If you’ve read any of these books let me know what you thought. Do you agree with my opinions? Or just tell me something good you’ve read recently. And of course check out the link up to see what everyone else has been reading.

Book challenge by Erin 8.0: Bonus round

Good morning friends! It’s now February and that means time for the bonus round of Erin’s challenge! The rules are basically the same as for the first challenge (one book per category, all books must be 200+ pages) with the addition that 5 of the books must have been previously chosen by another participant. You also get 5 extra points for each book you read that was previously chosen. And now, here is my list – with a few gaps that I have yet to fill.

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10 points: Freebie –TBD
15 points: Book that starts with the letter “L” – TBD
15 points: Book with a (mostly) red cover – Us by David Nicholls (hopefully – have ordered it so I’ll see if it shows up with a red cover!)
20 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title – TBD -> I have about four unread books with character names in the title but were any of them previously chosen for this challenge? Of course not!
25 points: Read a book from this list: Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
25 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title – Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
30 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter – Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (book 2 of the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Pecuilar Children series)
35 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own – The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel
35 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation – Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brien (mode of transport: ship – this is apparently book 1 in a 20 book series. What?!)
40 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

So, those are the books I shall be reading in February… once I’ve finished The Alchemist, which I started last night. Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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 6.0: Bonus round

I know, I know… you were hoping for a break from book challenge posts now that I completed Erin’s challenge within a month. Unfortunately for you, there’s a bonus round, and I’m here to share my preliminary list. I do have some travel posts planned as well (need to tell you about New Year!) and I promise they will be coming soon, but for now it’s back to books.

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The categories are the same as for the initial round, but you get an extra 5 points per category this time. Here are my picks. I’m fairly sure I won’t get through them all again, but it’s worth a try.

10 points: Freebie – I’ve already started reading American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, so that’s my freebie. Apart from being generally disturbing (which I was expecting), it’s full of references to Donald Trump. What’s that all about? I’d never even heard of Donald Trump in 1991, which is when this book came out. Although to be fair I was only 7/8 in 1991 and hadn’t heard of most people 😉

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W” – I have two choices for this. Either Where She Went by Gayle Forman (sequel to If I Stay) or We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa DIffenbaugh.

15 points: Read a book with six words in the title – I’m trying to read books that are already on my shelves this time round, so my choices seem to be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which the lovely Kerri sent me) or All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry.

20 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green coverThe Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson is the only green book on my shelves.

25 points: Read a book with a homonym in the titleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Homonym is obviously tale/tail. Imagine a book called “The Handmaid’s Tail”? I would definitely read that!

25 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author – As I said last time, I don’t have a favourite author! And a good job too, otherwise I would have to read another book by Tana French and I’ve read all hers now. This time round I’m choosing Stephen King, who is definitely up in my top 5, and tentatively saying I’ll read The Stand. No promises though – much as I love King’s writing, this book is long!

30 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live – Hahaha, this is just hilarious. I couldn’t even find a book set in Basel the first time round! I’m going with just Switzerland again as the closest I can get and plan to read Banner in the Sky by James Ramsy Ullman. It sounds ridiculously cheesy, but what can ya do? I hope it will at least be a quick read.

35 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book – Again, I have two choices. Either The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. neither sounds like a particularly easy read though.

35 points: (Submitted by Stef) Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read)The Day of the Jackal is a spy thriller, apparently. Since I didn’t even know that was a genre, I think it’s safe to say I rarely read books from it 😉

40 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel – Maybe I’ll finally get round to reading Outlander? A second option is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

And that’s it for this round. Have you read any of these? Any suggestions for what to read once I’m done with American Psycho?

 

Book Challenge By Erin 6.0: Complete

I woke up early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to make the most of my time and read the last remaining book I needed to complete Erin‘s latest reading challenge. My preliminary list was here, for those who are interested. I did end up changing my picks for one or two categories…

challenge-books

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

The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria (382 pages). I guessed most of the twists in this one before the end, well kind of at least… one event didn’t go down exactly as I thought it had. Parts of the story felt vaguely familiar as well, which spoiled my enjoyment a bit. I ended up giving this one 3 stars.

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

Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse (406 pages) – which I forgot to include on the photograph with the others. I quite enjoyed this, although it wasn’t as good as other books I’ve read by the same author. Everything seemed to come out too well in the end. It was an intriguing mystery though. 4 stars.

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

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (434 pages). I’m not sure I’d call what I was reading about here “love”… obsession maybe? And – trying not to give too much away – there was one extremely disturbing aspect of the storyline. The writing was good though. 4 stars.

green-book

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

I was stuck on this one, but then the lovely Alison who blogs at View from the Teapot sent me a green book – The Conjuror’s Bird by Martin Davies (305 pages). Part love story, part mystery, part historical fiction, this is not a book I would have picked up myself but it turned out to be really enjoyable. My only complaint is that there were three stories within the book and I felt like none of them got the attention they deserved in such a short book. 4 stars. Photo to the left to prove it’s green 😉

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

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas (410 pages), with the homonym being by (buy/bye). I really wanted to enjoy this book. It was spooky and atmospheric with a family tragedy and a mystery from the past… but somehow it didn’t really suck me in. I got through it quickly enough but ended up feeling unsatisfied. And I guessed one of the big things that was going on way before the end. A rather meh 3 stars.

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

I don’t have a favourite author (although I might say Terry Pratchett if absolutely forced to choose), so I read a book by one of the authors I can’t get enough of: The Trespasser by Tana French (468 pages). I have enjoyed all of her books, although the first one disappointed me slightly, and each one seems to get that little bit better. I LOVED this one and gave it 5 stars.

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

Yeah, it doesn’t say country anywhere here, but I’m hoping Erin will let this count anyway. I did find one book that was set in Basel but it turned out not to be long enough, so I read And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle (238 pages). It is set in Switzerland, but in the French-speaking part, somewhere near Lake Geneva. It’s a boarding school book, and I do love a good boarding school book (I’m still trying to collect all the Chalet School books!). This one is quite a sweet one and has all the “traditional” ingredients – awkward or unlikeable girl realises things aren’t so bad and manages to make friends. It takes place just after World War 2 and I felt like the events of the war were glossed over a bit, despite being a major plot point, which is why I only gave it 4 stars.

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

I read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (245 pages) just this morning. It was a quick and fairly easy read, full of fun pop culture references (I’m sure you all know the story). However… and pay attention to this  next bit because I doubt I will ever say/type it again… the film was better! Something about the story just seemed to work better on the screen… Only 3 stars for this one.

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

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat (444 pages) is a war story and I really don’t like war stories… usually. This one surprised me by actually being quite readable! It’s basically a story of the British navy’s part in World War 2, focusing on a particular ship that had the job of escorting non-navy ships to their destinations. 4 stars.

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

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terril (360 pages). I absolutely loved this book! The writing style, the characters. And even though it’s about time travel, it wasn’t too sci-fi-ish (if that makes any sense?). It was basically an action/adventure/romance that just happened to involve travelling back in time. Highly recommend! 5 stars.

And that’s all. I’m amazed that I actually managed to read all my books within the first month of the challenge! And 3 of them also count for the BBC Big Read, which is nice. Now I shall await the bonus round…

Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge complete!

Hi all! I hope you all had wonderful holidays (whether you celebrate Christmas or not) and made it to the new year healthy and happy!

For my first post of 2017, I am checking in for the Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Reading Challenge, which I completed yesterday, managing to finish my final book while waiting for a delayed flight. Here’s what I read since the last time I checked in:

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20 points: Read a modern retelling of a classic.

I read Splintered by A. G. Howard, with the classic being Alice in Wonderland. This book is kind of a mixture of sequel to Alice in Wonderland (the main character is a descendant of Alice who goes back to Wonderland) and a retelling of the original (the story discusses the original book as if it were real and C.S. Lewis had just misunderstood/got things wrong, and so retells the story as it “really” happened in this particular world). I thought this book was just okay. The discussion of mental illness was awful – for a supposedly modern-day story the treatment seemed very old-fashioned and harsh. The love triangle was unnecessary, Morpheus was such a caricature  of “bad guy” that I couldn’t take him seriously most of the time and Jeb annoyed me from the very start. But the actual writing was good and the reinterpretation of Wonderland was imaginative and interesting. I gave this one 3 stars.

30 points: Read a book with a character that shares your first or last name.

Thanks to fellow blogger Jamie I was actually able to find something for this! I read Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen. Interestingly, the character named “Beverly” (not my spelling, but oh well) is actually male in this book, which Beverley was before someone, somewhere decided it sounded more feminine. This was a quick read and nothing particularly special. I liked the descriptions of the scenery on the island and the changing relationships between the four main characters. The storyline with the two husbands annoyed me though – both couples had been having problems, but the minute the husbands appeared on the island all the wives wanted to do was have sex and forget anything else had ever happened. Uhh, no! Apparently this is a modern retelling of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin (which I had never heard of!) so I may give that one a go. Enchanted August gets 3 stars from me.

30 points: Read two books: a nonfiction book and a fiction book with which it connects.

I had started reading The Once and Future King for this, but I realised that will be one I need to pick up and put down a lot over a longer period of time so I changed my mind. Instead I read The Asylum by John Harwood (fiction) and Bedlam: London and Its Mad by Catharine Arnold (non-fiction). The connection is asylums, or mental illness, or treatment of mental illness in Victorian times. You pick!

I really enjoyed The Asylum. It’s a little sensationalist maybe and there are a lot of events crammed in at the end with lots of complicated links between characters and weird coincidences. But while reading it I had no problem with suspending my belief and taking all the action at face value. Despite the subject matter (person incorrectly imprisoned in an asylum), it’s a surprisingly fun read and I got through it pretty quickly. 4 stars.

Bedlam had some interesting information and provides a starting point for people who want to know about Victorian treatment of mental illness and the history of asylums, but overall I felt like the author had tried to fit too much subject matter into a short book. Just as I started to get interested in something that topic was finished with and it was on to the next one. Particularly the final case studies and discussion of madness in literature section felt rushed and incomplete. 3 stars.

And that’s it. Done! Erin’s latest book challenge started on 1 January so I will be moving on to that now, starting with The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas.

Oh, and speaking of reading challenges, I’ve set my Goodreads goal for this year as 78.

What reading goals have you set yourself for 2017? Will you be taking part in any challenges?