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.

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35 before 35: Progress report #8

I would have liked to do this yesterday, when it was exactly 6 months until my birthday and thus the end of the challenge. But I was in the office yesterday so by the time I was back in Switzerland and had eaten there was no way I was switching the computer back on! So today it is. My last progress report was seven months ago. Let’s see what I’ve achieved since then…

Number 6: Travel round Britain again

Technically we only spent time in England and Scotland and it wasn’t a round trip (we flew into Gatwick and left from Edinburgh), but we spent two weeks travelling within Great Britain so I’m counting it as completed in August 2017.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

Last time I was up to 19… now I am on 20 (and the time before it was 18). This does not bode well! I read The Naming of the Shrew by John Wright. There’s a short review here.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 24, now I’m on 27. So three read. The three were Toten Stille by Daniela Arnold (fairly meh), Mein Leben, mal eben by Nikola Huppertz (really enjoyed it), and Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann (good, but not as good as the other book I’ve read by her). And now I have another three to go – should be doable.

Number 18: Bake ten different kinds of biscuits

It’s been a while since I’ve baked biscuits. Last time I didn’t even mention this category! The time before I had been on 7, and now it’s 8. I recently baked coffee shortbread. (I actually baked chocolate brownie biscuits at Christmas, but I’ve done them before so they don’t count).

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Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

Last time I was up to 56 and now I’ve made it to 63! That leaves another 69 to read in 6 months. Hmm. I’m not going to mention you all the ones I’ve read since last July in this post, but you can find the entire list here. I will say I read the last one, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, yesterday while waiting for my train home and it’s possibly the weirdest book I’ve ever read!

And that’s everything this time. Only one challenge actually completed, but a bit of progress made on some others.

19 items remain incomplete. Some I can finish fairly easily, others will not be happening. I may try to check in one more time before August, but I’m not promising anything. This may well end up being my final progress report. And now to try and complete as many things as I can before August… Wish me luck!

Ten books that intimidate me

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

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

1 It by Stephen King

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

2 Ulysses by James Joyce

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

3 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

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

4 The Godfather by Mario Puzo

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

5 H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction

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

6 Map of a Nation by Rachel Hewitt

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

7 Tintenherz by Cornelia Funke

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

8 The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

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

9 Ukraine’s Orange Revolution by Andrew Wilson

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

10 Blasmusikpop by Vea Kaiser

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

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

The books I read in November 2017

I am a day late for the Show Us Your Books link up! I should have been back on Monday night, leaving plenty of time yesterday to do laundry and write a blog post, but instead we only arrived home at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon… 24 hours after leaving my dad’s house in Northumberland! It’s a good job I had taken yesterday off work as well…

Anyway, today I am talking about the books I read in November plus three that I read in October that weren’t included last time because Goodreads wasn’t showing me them! Interestingly, all of them are either children’s or YA…

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October first:

Dear Whiskers by Ann Whitehead Nagda. This is a charming little book about a school class who has to write letters to children in a younger class pretending to be a mouse who lives in the younger child’s desk. Everyone but Jenny receives a response, then when Jenny does get one it turns out her pen-friend has just arrived from another country and doesn’t speak English. It would be great for helping children understand how lonely it is to move to a new country where you don’t speak the language – a valuable lesson in today’s world! 4 stars.

Mein Leben, mal eben by Nikola Huppertz. My vague translation of the title would be “It’s just my life”, although that doesn’t rhyme nicely like the German. This is a YA book written in the form of a journal. While trying to install a game on her computer (unnamed, but clearly meant to be The Sims), Anouk starts typing. She starts by writing a list of all the things she’s going to do differently in the new school year so that she will finally be “normal” and fit in – including listening to pop music, wearing the right clothes and playing computer games. Unfortunately it’s difficult to be normal when you have two mothers and a father (friend of the mothers who donated his sperm but is also still in Anouk’s life) in a rock band! In the end, Anouk makes a new friend and realises that she’s fine as she is. An amusing book that made me feel glad I don’t have to relive my teens! 4 stars.

The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. I watched the TV series of this for a while in the 90s so I decided to finally actually read the book. It’s well-written and the premise is extremely creepy, but I’m not sure what children today would think of it. Somehow it seemed a bit dated although I can’t point to anything specific that seemed to place in the 80s, when it was written (other than a lack of mobile phones). Also, something that never struck me when I was watching it on TV is that the boys seem surprisingly normal despite everything. They keep saying they’re scared, but nobody seems as terrified as they SHOULD have been in that situation. I obviously didn’t notice as a child though (or the TV series was different) so I’m sure it’s fine for the target audience. Anyway, it was an enjoyable enough little book and nice for some nostalgia. 3 stars.

And now for what I actually read in November:

Purple Class and the Skellington by Sean Taylor. A collection of short stories about a primary school class. A lot of the things in it were familiar to me from my own childhood – wet break time, sitting on the carpet for playtime and there were even rumours that my primary school was haunted (in our case, it was a staircase that people didn’t like to go down alone). This would be a great book for children in primary school who want to read a realistic book about children like them. I think 6 to 9 year olds would find purple class’s antics funny. 3 stars.

Roar, Bull, Roar by Andrew Fusek Peters. The story of a Czech family who have come to live in England for a while. The book is told from the perspective of the children, a brother and sister. Some of the local children bully them and the girl can’t understand why they have such a problem with people who are different. It all comes right in the end when the children solve a “mystery” and a nasty person gets him comeuppance. This book would be a nice way to show children that “foreigners” aren’t so different even if they do speak another language and eat different foods. I liked that there were smatterings of Czech throughout and a glossary at the end to explain them (complete with pronunciation). 4 stars.

Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy by Lara Williamson. I absolutely loved this! Adam Butters is adopted – a fact that he’s always known. When his class is assigned a project to make a family tree, he decides he wants to find out about his birth mother – after all, he already knows his adopted family! At the same time, he notices that his mum seems down, so he decides to become a superhero to cheer her up – “everyone loves superheroes, they solve problems and make people happy“. I really felt for Adam. He’s such a lovely, genuine character who tries desperately to do the right thing – even if he isn’t sure what that thing is. The ending is really heart-warming and I love the letter Adam writes to his friend. An adorable book that I definitely recommend. 5 stars.

And that was it for November. I spent most of my time reading Magician but I still haven’t finished it so the review will have to wait until January! With time off for Christmas I will hopefully finish this month… I also started reading The Naming of the Shrew, but didn’t finish until December so that will be in next month’s round up.

Have you read anything good recently? Check out the link up if you want even more recommendations! This was the last regular Show Us Your Books for 2017, but there will be a special edition on Boxing Day (that’s 26th December to non-Brits!) for people to discuss their favourite reads of the year.

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!

35 Before 35: Progress report 7

A blog post two days in a row? What is this madness? I hear you cry! Well, it’s exactly a month until my 34th birthday (HELP!) so I thought I’d better check what progress I’ve made on my 35 before 35 list since my last check in – which was in January, apparently.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I was up to 18 last time, and now I’m on a grand total of…. *drum roll* … 19. Yeah. I read A Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. I reviewed it yesterday.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 22, and now I’m on 24. So a whole 2 for this category.  Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wenken (okay) and Märchenwald by Martin Krist (really good!).

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I’d read 46 last time and now I’m on 56! Finally some real progress. I’m not going to list them all, so you can see all the Big Read books I’ve read here. I have 67 left to read… theoretically it’s possible, as long as I stop reading everything else!

Number 30: Learn to crochet or knit (or both)

I haven’t written a post on it yet, but I did loom knit a bunch of tiny hats (too small for even a newborn, but recognisable as hats) and one and a half socks for myself. Loom knitting isn’t exactly knitting, but the items are made of wool and look knitted so I’ve decided it can count.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before

I had made it to 29 last time… and now I’m finished! I’ve actually managed to watch all six of the films I still needed this year. I completed this item by watching Kajaki. You can see what else I’ve watched here.

Number 34: Drink champagne in Champagne.

Woohoo! I actually did this. Thank you Germany and your ridiculous amount of public holidays in the spring! I wrote about it here.

So, I have made some progress on the reading front, discovered a new hobby in loom knitting (because I totally need even more sedentary hobbies with the way the scales are looking!), crossed off one more travel item and actually managed to watch films for a change. With one year and one month to go, I obviously won’t manage everything (especially not all the travel-related items) but hopefully I will at least get all the reading crossed off. Wish me luck!

The books I read in April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read anything good lately?