What I read in November 2018

Hello friends! It’s Show Us Your Books day again with Jana and Steph, and in November I managed to read ten whole books! Slightly better than October’s four…. even if one of them was a picture book. Anyway, let’s just get started…

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Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley. I’ve had this book for a while but for some reason didn’t want to pick it up. This is book 8 in the Flavia de Luce series. I can’t say too much without spoiling the previous books, but Flavia is back from her brief stay in Canada and, as usual, wherever Flavia goes death has usually gone before… This one took me a little longer to get into than some of the others, but once I got past the first couple of chapters it was nice to be back in Flavia’s world. I only gave this one 3.5 stars though… something about the mystery was lacking and Flavia seemed to miss the obvious in her sleuthing. There are two more books to go, so hopefully the next one will be back to the usual standard! And I do highly recommend reading the other books in the series.

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders. I can’t remember how I found this book, but as soon as I did I knew I had to read it based purely on the title. I mean, how fun does it sound? And fun it was! Lily and Oz Spoffard’s family has just inherited a house with a mysterious boarded-up chocolate shop on the ground floor. The twins’ ancestors were famous chocolate-makers and their chocolate was anything but ordinary. In fact, it was magical! Now an evil gang is after the secret recipe, and it’s up to Lily and Oz to stop them. The fate of their family and the world depends on it! This is a fantastic book It has everything my ten-year-old heart would have wanted. Mystery, adventure, talking animals (Demerara the cat is wonderful), magic hiding right there in plain sight. There’s a LOT going on and it almost felt like it needed to be longer to give more time to get to know the characters, or maybe it should have been part of a series and some of the many adventures could have been in a second book. Overall it was a really fun read and I definitely recommend it. 4 stars.

Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones. Ah, now we come to the picture book. I bought this for my little cousin’s birthday present so of course I had to read it first 😉 Izzy Gizmo loves to invent things, but somehow it never works out quite the way she wants. When she finds a crow with a broken wing, she really wants to help. She tries and tries to build him a new pair of wings, but something always goes wrong. Can Izzy overcome her failures and help her new friend? This is a lovely story about never giving up. I loved the names of Izzy’s inventions, and most of all I loved the crow. 4 stars.

Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder. Rebecca is not happy when her mother suddenly leaves her father and drags Rebecca and her little brother to their grandmother’s house in another state. While avoiding the rest of the family, Rebecca discovers a magical breadbox that will give her anything she wishes for… as long as it fits inside. As always with wishes, there’s a catch and suddenly the bread box starts making life more difficult. And anyway, the thing she really wants (her family back together) won’t fit in a bread box… I really liked this book. Rebecca is a believable and relatable character. At times I felt really sorry for her. I enjoyed the combination of magic and everyday – the breadbox story felt like part of the story rather than being a separate adventure. Even with access to magic, Rebecca still had to deal with her real-life problems. 4 stars.

Why the Whales Came by Michael Murpugo. Gracie and her friend Daniel have always been warned to stay away from the Birdman and his side of the island, but when they go there anyway they discover he’s not what they thought and develop a lovely friendship with him. When the children get stranded on Samson Island they don’t know whether to believe the Birdman’s story that the island is cursed. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a child – a story of everyday children doing normal things, but with a hint of suspense thrown in (is there *really* such thing as curses? And who is the Birdman anyway?). Michael Morpurgo is an excellent writer – there are some great descriptions in the book. 4 stars.

The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Deanna Madden hasn’t left her apartment for three years. To earn money, she works for a sex site under the name Jessica Reilly, stripping and performing sexual acts on camera for her clients, who pay $6.99 a minute for her time. The money is piling up in the bank, she’s one of the site’s most popular cam girls and she hasn’t killed anyone in years. But when Deanna sees on the news that a little girl called Annie has gone missing, she realises the scenario is uncomfortably similar to the dark fantasies of one of her clients. She’s convinced he’s responsible for the girl’s abduction – but no one will listen to her. So, she finally decides to leave the apartment… This book is how I was hoping Darkly Dreaming Dexter would be (except obviously without the cam girl part). I didn’t love every single thing but I was gripped for most of it. I will definitely pick up the sequel. 4 stars.

When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman. Ella wakes up one morning to find that she’s not herself. She looks different, her friends are not her friends (and the people she thought were her friends don’t seem to know her), and she’s taking different subjects at college. And yet, nobody else thinks that anything weird has happened. The concept of this book was really interesting, but I found the main character really annoying! Obviously her situation is difficult to deal with, but she was horrible to basically everyone. She clearly thought her original life was far superior to the one she had found herself in and spent the entire book looking down on “other Ella’s” friends. I kept reading because I really did want to know what was going on and the final chapters were interesting, but I found the solution to Ella’s “problem” (for want of a better word) somewhat disturbing. 3.5 stars.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thomson. Every time Molly Southbourne bleeds, a new Molly is created, identical to her in every way and intent on destroying her. Oh yeah, and that includes when she has her period. Molly has to kill or be killed, and her parents taught her well. But no matter how well she follows the rules, eventually the mollys will find her. Can Molly find a way to stop the tide of blood, or will she meet her end at the hand of a girl who looks exactly like her? This is a short and very strange book but surprisingly good. It’s creepy and the brief glimpses into the world Molly lives in are intriguing – there seems to be something dystopian about it? But there wasn’t enough detail to be sure. I enjoyed it anyway. 4 stars.

Decked by Carol Higgins Clark. If you’re wondering whether this author is related to Mary Higgins Clark, the answer is yes… Mary is Carol’s mother. Anyway, the book. P.I. Regan Reilly is attending a class reunion in England (from what I gather, she and some other Americans spent a year in some kind of college there? I didn’t really get that part). When the body of her former room mate, who disappeared ten years ago, is found, Regan wants to investigate, but instead is committed to a transatlantic cruise. As it turns out, the clues to the mystery follow her on board. This was an okay book, but just okay. There are way too many characters so parts of it just ended up being confusing. It read like a strange mash-up of a thriller and a traditional cosy mystery. The supposed investigator was a bit useless really – the synopsis made it sound like she was at least aware of the danger she was in but actually she was totally oblivious. A quick read that passed the time alright but I won’t bother continuing the series. 3 stars.

You Can’t Make Me Go to Witch School by Em Lynas. When Daisy Wart’s grandmother drops her off at a boarding school for witches, she is furious. No matter what anyone says, she is convinced she is not a witch but is “ac-chew-ally” an actress who really, really needs to return to her old primary school to perform her Bottom. This is a really quirky, fun book perfect for fans of The Worst Witch. Although the constant “ac-chew-allys” drove me slightly mad (what? You didn’t think I was the one that came up with that, did you?). 4 stars. There are two more books in this series, although I’m not sure yet whether I’ll read those.

I also started three other books but didn’t finish them, so hopefully I’ll get round to those in December. I’m in the office tomorrow, so four hours of train time should hopefully allow me to get at least one book finished!

What have you been reading lately? Anything good?
There will be Favourites of 2018 Special SUYB on 26 December, so I’ll be looking forward to that. In the mean time, go here to check out the last regular link up of the year!

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What I read in September and October 2018

I didn’t read much in October… which isn’t really surprising given how the month started. It took me until the 14th to stop feeling weak and dizzy from a combination of low iron and (I’m told) hormones still going haywire, then I was back at work on the 16th, which was okay but working eight hours left me feeling exhausted for the first few weeks. That said, I didn’t actually take part in Show Us Your Books last time (which is a shame since it was the 4-year anniversary, but I just wasn’t in the frame of mind for it plus the aforementioned dizziness wasn’t really compatible with screen time) so I still have all of September’s books to review. So I’ll just get on with it shall I?

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September books

Looking for Alaska by John Green. Miles “Pudge” Halter is fed up with his sad life at home and being a total outcast at his school, so he persuades his parents to send him to boarding school, where he meets Alaska who is apparently the girl of his dreams… gorgeous, intelligent, daring… and completely self-destructive. I found this book okay… but just okay. I didn’t particularly like the main character – for someone who had no friends at his old school Miles is awfully judgemental. I was probably supposed to feel sorry for Alaska, and yes her situation was sad, but she was just too clichéd and quite frankly a really horrible person. A quick read and I didn’t hate it, but I won’t read it again. 2.5 stars.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. I suppose most people know this story so I won’t describe it here. Personally, I thought the scariest thing about this book wasn’t the weird goings in but the supposedly caring husband who is willing to do literally anything  for the sake of his acting career. Ugh. It’s well written but I preferred The Stepford Wives. 3 stars for this one.

Of Bees and Mist by Erick SetiawanMeridia grows up in a lonely home, neglected by her mother and hated by her father, who avoids her as much as he can. At 16, she meets and falls in love with Daniel. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family… who turn out to be not so charming after all. This was a weird book. Some parts I loved, others felt odd or pointless. Meridia’s mother in law was like a literal caricature of a villain. She seemed to have literally no redeeming features whatsoever. Very one-dimensional. Overall, this passed the time well and I liked it but I won’t be adding it to my favourites. 3 stars.

What Lexie Did by Emma Shevah. Lexie lives in London with her Greek-Cypriot family, and her best friend is her cousin Eleni, who has a heart condition. After their grandmother dies, Lexie tells a terrible lie that splits the family apart. It’s up to her to bring the family back together, but after everything how can she find a way to tell the truth? is a really enjoyable book. I loved the multi-cultural aspect with a Greek-Cypriot girl growing up in London. Lexie is a fantastic character – flawed but well-meaning – and the friendship between her and Eleni is wonderful. A lovely middle grade book that I thoroughly recommend. 4.5 stars.

Greetings from Somewhere Else by Monica McInerney. Lainey Byrne is an expert at juggling the chaos of a demanding job, her chef boyfriend (who she hardly sees) and her crazy family. But then her Aunt May dies and in order to collect their inheritance one member of the Byrne family has to spend a year running Aunt May’s B&B back in Ireland. They really need the money since her dad isn’t working after being in an accident some time before, and apparently Lainey is the only one who can possibly drop everything for a year. I’d had this book on my shelf for years and couldn’t remember whether I’d actually read it so I decided to give it a go. It turns out I had read it before – at least a few parts seemed vaguely familiar – but obviously it wasn’t very memorable. I didn’t really like Lainey – she really was bossy and self-centred, and hated the idea that anyone other than her could sort out anything. Her best friend in Ireland, Eva, was my favourite character. Overall it’s a pleasant enough read but very forgettable. 3 stars.

The Night Garden by Lisa van Allen. In upstate New York, Olivia Pennywort cares for the family farm and the incredible garden maze at its centre. According to local legend, visitors to the gardens can gain answers to their problems just by walking through them. But the gardens have never helped Olivia, She has spent her entire life on her family’s land, harbouring a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. But then her childhood best friend returns to the valley and Olivia starts to wonder whether she could, at last, let somebody in. This reads like a fairytale for grown-ups – Olivia, who is apparently incredibly beautiful, literally lives in a tower and there is even a scene with an axe-wielding man having to rescue somebody. There were some beautiful descriptions that made me really want to visit the garden, but some parts seemed wordy and long-winded. Olivia’s dad was selfish and annoying. Overall it’s a pleasant way to pass the time but it’s quite “fluffy” and I feel like more could have been made of the story. 3 stars.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Mia Winchell seems like a typical teen, but she’s keeping a secret. Sounds, words and numbers have a colour for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way, but when it starts causing her problems at school Mia is forced to finally reveal her secret and learn to accept her condition. I started off liking this book, then after a certain point I didn’t but at the end I did again, which makes it really hard to review. I enjoyed the story of Mia trying to figure out who she is and embrace her differences, but was annoyed with her parents, who immediately started blaming each other for what they perceived to be “wrong” with Mia. Halfway through, Mia suddenly became boy crazy, which seemed unnecessary to me – the growing up and dealing with being different was enough of a storyline. Some people have said this story isn’t a good depiction of synaesthesia… I wouldn’t know about that and am disappointed if it’s true because I find synaesthesia fascinating and that was one of the aspects of the book I really liked. However, those reviewers who doubted it would be something kids would be teased for make me wonder whether they have ever actually been children? Kids/teens are cruel and will definitely make fun of anything that’s even a little bit different – or maybe that was just at my school? Anyway, I gave this one 3 stars.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. As the youngest daughter, Tita has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to spend her life looking after her mother. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, who in desperation marries her sister so that he can be close to her. Tita, in turn, pours all her feelings into the food she cooks, which has strange effects on all who eat it. This is a really odd book! Not bad by any means, but strange. At times I felt like I didn’t fully understand it. I did enjoy reading it though – it’s well-written and absorbing, very sensual. And I loved the descriptions of food. 4 stars.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. This is the sequel to Garden Spells, which I really enjoyed. It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and as temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women become restless. Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Although they are selling well, the business is costing the everyday joys of her family and causing her to doubt her belief in her gifts. Meanwhile, Sydney Waverley is desperate for a baby, a namesake for husband Henry. But the more she tries – and fails – the more desperate she gets. Finally, Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to. If only she could find a way to make him see it too… In amongst all this, a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family. Somehow, the Waverley sisters need to find a way to hold the family together until first frost, when everything will be okay again. didn’t enjoy this as much as Garden Spells. It was just as well written, but it had a different kind of feel for me. Garden Spells is comforting, like a cosy blanket. This one felt less whimsical and more tense. It was nice to catch up with the Waverley family though and Sarah Addison Allen is, as always, an excellent writer. 3.5 stars.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back. So she’s understandably confused when an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage seems like the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her former best friend. But something goes horribly wrong, secrets are uncovered and the past finally catches up with Nora. I read this in one sitting – I was so intrigued to find out what was going on and who had done what. I was annoyed by almost all the characters though. Especially Nora whose entire life was apparently ruined by a relationship when she was a teenager. Clare I think was actually supposed to be unlikeable, but I’m not even sure what the point of Melanie was. It was very tense though and all the twists and turns definitely kept me interested. 4 stars, but a low 4 stars (too good to be only 3!).

So, ten books read in September, but not the best reading month since the majority were 3-star reads. None of them were really terrible, but the majority were just okay.

October books

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. This book had been on my shelf for ages until I decided to take it with me when I went to the hospital for the second time with spotting. I ended up being admitted, and read this on the Thursday while hooked up to an iron drip. When Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere, so she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money, which will be needed, she invites him along. While hiding out at the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions… or is it? Claudia is determined to find out, a quest that leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the old woman who sold the statue to the museum. This is such a cute, fun book. I loved Claudia and Jamie. Their personalities and concerns seemed very realistic and I enjoyed their adventure. I can see why this is considered a classic. 5 stars.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard. Elvia Carr has a “Condition” (most likely some form of autism) and according to her mother is useless – incapable of interacting with the rest of society or looking after herself. But when her mother has a stroke, Elvira is forced to do just that. In an effort to cope with the world, she comes up with seven social rules to help her fit in. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that most people don’t live their lives according to the rules, leading to awkward encounters and a few unpleasant situations. But through it all Elvira keeps learning about herself and the people around her, knowledge that will help her navigate her way through a confusing world. I loved this book! I adored Elvira from the very first page. She has such a distinctive voice and her descriptions of the way her mother treated her made me want to give her a hug and tell her she’s most definitely NOT useless – as she proved again and again throughout the book. There are some dark moments and Elvira encounters some not very nice people, but there are also some truly wonderful characters – I loved Charlie and Karen. Highly recommend. 5 stars.

The State of Grace by Rachel Lucas. It only occurs to me now that I read two books in a row with autistic characters. Interesting. (I actually started another one in between but still haven’t finished it.). Anyway… Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She has a horse and a best friend who understands her, so what more does she need in life? But when Gabe kisses her and things start to change at home, suddenly life doesn’t make sense any more. Everything seems to be falling apart and it’s up to Grace to fix it. race is a wonderful character – her lovely personality shines through. She always tries to do the right thing even though it’s difficult for her and she often doesn’t understand what the right thing would be. I’m not autistic so I don’t know whether this was an accurate representation of autism, but given that both the author and her daughter are on the spectrum I would imagine it is. Even without being autistic some of Grace’s thoughts resonated with me as a socially awkward introvert, like when she was all peopled out and just wanted to be at home with her familiar things. Grace’s friend Anna is also a lovely character and wonderful friend to Grace. My one minor criticism of this book is that there’s a side story about Grace’s sister that wasn’t fully explored. The book would have been just as complete without it. Apart from that I really enjoyed the book and gave it 4 stars.

The Polka Dot Shop by Laurel Remington. When 13-year-old Andy’s school announces a new no-uniform policy, she is the only pupil who isn’t over the moon. All she wants is to dress like everyone else, but instead she’s forced to wear pre-loved items from her mum’s run-down vintage boutique. The distance between Andy and her mum is growing all the time, and to top it off the shop seems to be doing increasingly badly. When Andy finds a bag of high-quality designer clothes at the back of the shop she suddenly begins to see the potential of vintage clothing. But can she turn things around before it’s too late? I loved everything about this book. The characters are diverse. Andy and her friends are so supportive of each other, and I loved the fact that, despite their differences, Andy really does love her mum and want her to be happy. I also liked the way people took Andy and her ideas seriously and didn’t just dismiss her as a stupid kid. There is a mental health aspect to the book, which maybe have been addressed in more detail, but other than that it’s just a lovely, feel-good book, which was precisely what I needed at the time. 4.5 stars

Despite the fact that I only read four books, October turned out to be a much better reading month as I enjoyed all four of them. One was a children’s book and two were YA, but I think some relatively “easy” reading was exactly right for my frame of mind in October. As November progresses and the dark nights draw in, I’m hoping to get back into my usual varied range of reading materials… if I can find the time in between stitching and making a million Christmas cards!

Have you read anything interesting recently?
If you want even more book reviews, definitely check out the link up.

 

A Photo an Hour: 27 October 2018

On Saturday, I took part in a Photo an Hour, hosted by Jane and Louisa. Jan had a concert in Bern, so once he left in the afternoon I was home alone. Here’s what i got up to:

9:30 a.m. Starting the day with iron drops… can’t have tea yet as it inhibits absorption.

10:30 a.m. Breakfast with the boyfriend! Scrambled eggs, bread rolls and jam.

11:30 a.m. Freshly showered… and now I can have a cuppa!

12:30 p.m. Working on some Christmas cross stitch (so much to do, so little time left…)

1:30 p.m. Which colour do I need next?

2:30 p.m. I didn’t want to go out in the rain, but I needed to pick up a repeat prescription, so when Jan headed to the train station I went with him. At least my new boots are doing their job of keeping my feet dry!

3:30 p.m. Back home in the dry, drinking apple and mint tea from a very autumnal mug.

4:30 p.m. Supposed I’d better do some housework at least… hoovering the kitchen.

5:30 p.m. Once you start it never ends! Now emptying the dishwasher.

6:30 p.m. With dinner in the oven, I lit some candles to mark the fact that I would have been 20 weeks pregnant with my twins that day. Life goes on, but we haven’t forgotten ❤

7:30 p.m. Pointless Celebrities!

8:30 p.m. In my pyjamas already, drinking hot chocolate.

9:30 p.m. Off to bed with a new book. I love this cover!

10:30 p.m. Final photo of the day. Still reading… I finished the book in one sitting and loved it!

That was my Saturday. How was yours?

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?

Recent doings #31

Hello lovely readers. I don’t know how it was for anyone else, but for me August went fast! I can’t believe it’s September already and time for another round-up of what I’ve spent the past month doing. As always on the first Thursday of the month, I’m linking up with Kristen for What’s New With You? So, here’s what I did in August.

whats new with you

Eating. This is really bad, but I ate so many plain (as in just salted) crisps in August. So many. I’m not proud. Also tinned soup.

Drinking. Ice tea… the shop bought kind that’s full of sugar. Again, not the most nutritious. But it’s refreshing and it’s been too hot for normal tea. I’ve also been drinking Rhubarb juice – I found it when we went to a supermarket in Germany and I was intrigued so into the basket it went.

Reading. I read a lot in August, and managed to finish Erin’s reading challenge. The longest book I read was probably Outlander. Unnecessarily long if you ask me…

Watching. We went to the open air cinema and watched the new Jumanji film. I really enjoyed it. I liked how they made it recognisably related to the first one but a different concept so it didn’t feel too repetitive. And I thought the brief mention of Alan Parrish (Robin Williams’ character in the first film) was a nice touch.

Cross stitching. Birthday cards for my brother and my godson. Both have their birthdays in September, so their gifts needed to be sent off in August to make sure they arrived on time.

Making. A pattern I stitched in July into a birthday card for a friend’s son – sometimes I stitch things then take ages to actually do the card-making part!

bear birthday card

Seeing/hearing. The original Blues Brothers! They were at a free music festival in Basel so obviously I had to go and see them.  Then Jan and I went to a performance on Friday (31 August – so just about last month) featuring someone Jan is in a choir with. Even when Jan isn’t directly involved I have to go and support his choir members 😉 It was bizarre but very cool.

Celebrating. My birthday! I was working during the day and in the evening Jan had his first choir practice after the summer break the day of my birthday so he couldn’t really miss it, but I treated myself to cake and we went out for a meal the following evening. I got some lovely gifts and enjoyed relaxing and having control of the remote for a change 😉

Winning. At mini-golf… as you will know if you read my last post. One item off the 40 before 40 list already. Woo hoo!

Buying. All the books…. I’m so bad. And soup… I placed an order with British Corner Soup and the day it arrived I immediately had Scotch broth for lunch. YUM!

Also, a few updates ago, you may remember me hinting about something else that was going on around here that I couldn’t tell you about yet. Well, after multiple rounds of interviews with various increasingly higher up people, I can now reveal that Jan has a new job! He starts in November and it will be in Zurich, but we have no plans to move – at least for the moment. We both love living in Basel and he thinks the commute will be similar to his current one so we’ll see how it goes.

I don’t know what else to tell you about August. Jan was away one weekend for a choir practice weekend. I was pretty much just here and mostly working. As I mentioned in the intro, I feel like the entire month went by in a flash… but I’m okay with that. Next Friday we have visitors coming and I have the last two weeks of September off work so I’m very much looking forward to the next few weeks.

How was your August? I hope you all had a good one! Check out the link up to see what’s new with Kristen and all the other participants.

35 before 35 – the results

6-tea+candles

It has been three whole days since I turned 35 so I suppose you could say this post is late. I’ve been trying to think how to write it. After all, there’s not much point in just re-listing all the things I had planned to do when you can just check the master list here and see all the things I have an haven’t done. So, instead, a summary:

Out of 35 goals, I completed 18. That means I did not complete 17… so I did just over half. Of those I didn’t complete, I only read 21 out of 50 non-fiction books, so less than half for that one, but I read 69 out of 132 books for the BBC Big Read, meaning I managed more than half for that one and only have another 63 left to read before I turn 40.

Number 27 on my list, spend the night in a wine barrel, I’m just not that bothered about any more and number 3, learn Spanish, was a silly goal anyway. What does “learn Spanish” even mean… how much would I have had to learn in order to consider it complete? For number 33, have a poem published, I can say I tried. I submitted three poems to a competition and not one of them got through. Not even an honourable mention. I was quite proud of one of them as well! Oh well, their loss… right? 😉

Overall, I am very pleased with what I did manage to do. The main goal was to be able to look back when I turned 35 and be able to say I have done things with my life… I have read, learned, travelled and had experiences. And I can certainly say that! I may not have managed to see the Northern Lights (yet) but I did visit not just one but two new continents (overachiever ;-)) having travelled to both Taiwan and New Zealand in the past 5 years. Drinking champagne in Champagne and seeing three World Cup rugby matches were fantastic experiences and 69 BBC Big Read books isn’t bad considering the length of some of them (looking at you Anna Karenina). Now on to 40 before 40! I have a feeling the next five years are going to be interesting whatever happens with my list 😉

Taiwan
View of Sun Moon Lake from Wen Wu Temple, Taiwan

Recent doings #30

Hi friends! Can you believe it’s August already? That means I will be turning 35 this month! And with so much of my 35 before 35 list left undone 😉 I have done a lot of the things on the list though – and also quite a few that weren’t even on there so I’m fine with it. Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves… today I’m here to talk about what I’ve been doing in July.

whats new with you

 

Eating. Lots of salad – it’s been far too hot to cook! Trying to eat fish twice a week. And before you start thinking how virtuous I am, a  lot of ice cream has also been consumed 😉

Reading. I didn’t manage to read as much this month partly thanks to work being crazy busy and also because I had a lot of cross stitching to do and also I feel like work has been trying to drown me in translations…. I did so much overtime in July! I managed to read 6 books for Erin’s challenge though, plus 3 other full books and I finished one I had started in June. I also started 2 other books for Erin’s challenge but one I couldn’t manage to get into and the other is long so I haven’t finished it yet.

Watching. Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars… which means we’ve actually finished a whole series. Woo! Also football because World Cup and Young Sheldon.

Cross stitching. Birthday season has begun! Actually, it started with my mum’s birthday on 26 July but I didn’t stitch her a card this year so the first cross stitched card was one I started last month for my friend’s son’s 1st birthday. I then stitched a card for another friend’s son, whose birthday is on 27 August. Next up are my brother’s birthday (1 September) and my godson’s birthday (13 September). And I also started my Christmas stitching in July… yes, I know that sounds crazy but past experience tells me if I don’t want to be stressed in December I have to start now.

Going. Up mountains. As I mentioned last month, we took an overnight trip to Vitznau on Lake Lucerne on 30 June. On 1 July we took the cable car from Vitznau up to the Wissifluh – part of Rigi – then drove down to Stans and went up the Stanserhorn. We saw loads of butterflies on both mountains. I’ve never seen so many different types outside of a butterfly house! It was pretty amazing. Then last Sunday we spontaneously decided to drive to French-speaking Switzerland last week – St Ursanne and Neuchâtel.

butterfly

Seeing/hearing. The Basel Tattoo! Jan was performing with the tattoo choir again and I had a ticket for the first Saturday. It’s definitely an experience I can recommend.

Buying. Too many books, as usual. Also a bird necklace from Etsy. Anything else? A birthday present for my friend’s son, which also happened to be books 😉

Wishing. Things would cool down just a little. This is Switzerland – there’s no need for it to still be 28°C at 9 o’clock at night!

And that was basically my July. Work, boil to death, prepare food that preferably doesn’t involve generating more heat, attempt to sleep even though I apparently live in an oven, wake up, repeat. With a little trip at the beginning and end of the month to balance things out.

How was your July? Anything new you want to share? Check out the link up to see what other bloggers have been up to lately.