*Creeps in and clears throat sheepishly* Umm, hello. I didn’t realise it had been so long since my last post… I keep meaning to blog, but by the time I’ve worked in the morning and entertained a
baby toddler (I guess I’m going to have to get used to calling her that) all afternoon, made her dinner, done her physiotherapy and got her ready for bed I can barely form a coherent sentence. Add to that the fact that this week has been maybe the third time this year that Z has had a full week at nursery and my poor little blog doesn’t stand a chance! I am here now, but I’m picking Zyma up in half an hour so we’ll see if I even manage to finish this post… Life updates and other stuff will follow. Maybe. I’m making no promises at this point 😉
I took the first week of January off work in case Zyma needed some time to get settled back into nursery. She ended up doing fine and wasn’t home ill for the entire week so I actually had a chance to get some reading done. (Then it all went downhill.) So in January I read 7 books, which is quite frankly amazing!
Thirty Sunsets by Christine Hurley Deriso. For Forrest Shepherd, getting away to the family’s beach house is the best part of the summer. But this year, her holiday is ruined before it even starts when her mother invites Olivia, her brother’s obnoxious girlfriend, to join them. Forrest is convinced she knows what’s best for her brother… and it isn’t Olivia. But on their vacation, Forrest discovers that everyone has been keeping secrets from her. Maybe she doesn’t know her family as well as she thinks she does? And then there’s Scott, the first cute guy to ever hit on her… but could she be wrong about him, too? This book was extremely predictable. It was obvious (to me) what was going on with Olivia right from scene on the way to the beach house and the second Forrest overheard her parent’s argument I knew exactly what their secret was going to be. Also, as naive and inexperienced as Forrest was, Scott’s lines were so obviously creepy that I’m amazed anybody could fall for them. I kind of understood why Forrest didn’t like Olivia when she thought it was her fault her brother had changed all his plans, but her claims that she hadn’t liked her even before that were… weird. She acted like Olivia was a total bully because she gave her a funny look once (that it turned out Forrest had totally misinterpreted) and laughed when Forrest thought Olivia’s mum was her sister? Weird! I did basically like Forrest though and the book was fine. 2.5 stars.
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of “crazed sheep and dizzying roads,” they might finally find a home. Opening Babylon Café, right in the heart of town, they begin serving up traditional Persian dishes and soon the townsfolk is lured to the new premises by the tantalizing aroma of fresh herb kuku, lamb abgusht and elephant ear fritters, washed down with gallons of jasmine tea from the old samovar. But not everyone wlecomes the three sisters with open arms. The exotic smells coming from the cafe are an affront to the senses of Ballinacroagh’s uncrowned king, Thomas McGuire. After trying to buy the old pastry shop for years and failing, Thomas is enraged to find it occupied – and by foreigners, no less. And he’s not the only one who is less than impressed. But in the stand-up-comedian-turned-priest Father Fergal Mahoney, the gentle, lonely widow Estelle Delmonico, and the headstrong hairdresser Fiona Athey, the sisters find a merry band of supporters against the close-minded opposition of less welcoming villagers stuck in their ways. But the idyll is soon broken when the past rushes back to threaten the Amnipours once more, and the lives they left behind in revolution-era Iran bleed into the present. I had wanted to read this book for years, so I was very excited to find it in a free bookcase. As it turned out, it was fine. The writing style is kind of annoying – it’s like the author took a creative writing course, heard about adjectives and alliteration and proceeded to scatter them throughout. The story itself is reasonably interesting. A lot of things happen that are resolved by the end of the chapter. The beginning hints at magical realism but then that seems to fizzle out. It reminded me a bit of Chocolat, but not as good. 2.5 stars.
The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison. Tanya has a secret. She can see fairies. But they’re not the fairies we imagine. These ones cast spells on her, rousing her from her sleep and propelling her out of bed. At her wit’s end with her daughter’s behaviour, Tanya’s mother sends her away to live with her grandmother at Elvesden Manor, a secluded countryside mansion on the outskirts of town. Convinced her grandmother hates her, Tanya is less than thrilled about her “banishment”. But then an old photograph leads her to an unsolved mystery. Fifty years ago a girl vanished in the woods nearby – a girl Tanya’s grandmother will not speak of. Fabian, the caretaker’s son, is tormented by the girl’s disappearance. His grandfather was the last person to see her alive, and has lived under suspicion ever since. Together, Tanya and Fabian decide to find the truth. Soon they are facing terrible danger. Could the manor’s sinister history be about to repeat itself? This is an enjoyable book that gets quite dark in places – the fairies are definitely not of the Tinkerbell variety! A couple of times the writing felt a little awkward – I felt like it wasn’t quite as polished as her later Pinch of Magic series – but I don’t think it was anything I would have noticed when I was the target age. Tanya and Fabian made a great team once they got over their differences and I loved Oberon the dog. 4 stars. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
The Land of Yesterday by K. A Reynolds. After Cecelia Dahl’s little brother, Celadon, dies tragically, his soul goes where all souls go: the Land of Yesterday. Now nothing in Cecelia’s world is as it should be. Her beloved house’s spirit is crumbling beyond repair, her father is imprisoned by sorrow, and worst of all, her grief-stricken mother abandons the land of the living to follow Celadon. It’s up to Cecelia to put her family back together, even if that means venturing into the dark and forbidden Land of Yesterday on her own. But as Cecilia braves a hot-air balloon commanded by two gnomes, a sea of daisies, and the Planet of Nightmares, it becomes clear that even if she finds her family, she might not be able to save them. And if she’s not careful, she might just become a lost soul herself, trapped forever in Yesterday. This is an interesting book – part whimsical, part gothic. The writing is really good but the world building could have been better. Some things confused me. Why does Cecelia have sentient hair and is she the only one? Does every house have a house spirit? There were obvious nods to Coraline and The Little Prince (the latter is even explicitly mentioned as a book Cecelia has read) but Coraline is a better book in my opinion. At times I felt like this one was trying too hard to be quotable or send a message. The story is good though and I got through it quickly, I just felt like it could do with some polishing. 3 stars.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (The Girl From the Well #1). A dead girl walks the streets. She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago. And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan. Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out. Creepy and interesting. I found the use of a Japanese legend really intriguing- I know nothing about Japanese ghost stories so that was something a bit different. And Okiku is a fantastic character. Some might find this a bit slow but I actually liked the way the tension built gradually. I think I would like to read the next book in the series – I’m interested to see where it goes next. 4 stars.
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. During the school holidays, Ellie and her friends decide to go on a camping trip in the Australian bush. On their return, they find things hideously wrong — their families are missing and their animals are dead. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision — run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back. This was a reread because I want to read the first six books again before finally reading book 7. It was obviously written to be part of a series so there’s no real conclusion to the story, but it’s a great start. I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time round. The only very minor criticism is that it hasn’t aged too well – it’s very clearly set in the 90s and I’m not sure how well today’s teenagers will be able to relate to that. 5 stars.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. There, before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard – a growing Red rebellion – even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays the only certainty is betrayal. I picked this up from a free bookcase for no other reason than I had heard of it. I thought it was fine. A little cliched, a little predictable but readable enough. 3 stars. I would probably read book 2 if I happened to find it for free again but wouldn’t spend actual money on it.
So, that was January. 7 books, of which 2 were by BIPOC/BAME authors.
(By the way, the answer to the above was no… I did not manage to finish this post before I had to pick Z up from nursery. I’m typing this part in the evening after putting her to bed.)
Beloved by Toni Morrison. In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family; nevertheless, the woman finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved. It took me took me quite a while to get into this book. There were parts in the middle and towards the end that sucked me in, but then it got weird again. I feel like it’s an important book to have read but not one I would pick up again. Maybe I’m just too stupid for it. 3 stars.
As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #3). The third and final book in this trilogy. Pip is about to head off to uinversity, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? Soon the threats escalate and Pip realises that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars. The police refuse to act, so Pip has no choice but to find the suspect herself – otherwise she may end being the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle… and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears. I was not expecting how dark this book was or the major twist. Some things Pip did were way out of character for her – even considering the PTSD after the events in the other book. And I was very surprised that neither her parents nor Ravi noticed just how badly she was doing. I did really enjoy reading it even if some parts felt a little too unbelievable to me , but I preferred the first two books in the series. 4 stars.
Never Forget You by When Lili meets Ben by chance one hot summer’s day, it feels like fate. But life is about to take them in different directions, and so they agree to meet next July, in the beautiful hidden garden where they first laid eyes on each other. But one of them never shows up… Five years later, Ben still wonders how he got things so wrong – he let the love of his life slip between his fingers. And then a stranger, Alice, arrives in his tiny Scottish hometown. Alice has no memory of how she got there: she can’t remember anything before that morning. The only clue to her past is the silver bee necklace she wears – the very same one Ben bought for Lili that magical summer’s day. As Ben, Lili and Alice’s stories converge, so begins a beautiful and deeply emotional story of love, forgiveness and second chances. I thought this was going to be a light, fluffy book but it really isn’t. Lili’s story in particular is harrowing and my heart ached for her (trigger warning here for emotional abuse). I did find myself getting annoyed with her at points – if only she hadn’t been so stubborn/immediately jumped to the worst conclusion things could have been so different. Some of it was predictable and at times the sotry felt a little flat despite everything that was happening, so minus one star for that, but I would recommend it. 4 stars.
Three books in February then, one by a BIPOC/BAME author.
And that’s all from me for today. Hopefully I will get round to reviewing my march reads a bit sooner!