What I read in March 2020

Hello friends! It’s book day again. I only have one post for you this month because I read way fewer books in March then in January or February. Ironic considering I had an entire week off work when I couldn’t actually leave the house so would theoretically have had lots of time to read. But I actually spent most of that week making Easter cards to send out to Post Pals children so I didn’t read as much as I would have liked. I did manage 12 books though, so let’s get into them.

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

The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos. The women in Ruby Chernyavsky’s family,once had great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, until they were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them. Now all that remains of their former power is one thing: when each woman comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies – a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable. Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time -or so they think. Then Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible. But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope. I enjoyed the beginning of this book, then the middle kind of lost my attention and I was honestly bored. Towards the end it started to pick up again and I was racing through it, then it was just kind of over and nothing was resolved. An open ending is one thing but this just felt unfinished. So 2.5 stars, an absolutely middle of the road rating

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual. Trapped in a shared office together 40 (okay, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything – especially when the chance of a huge promotion comes up. If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong. Maybe Lucy doesn’t hate Joshua after all. And maybe the feeling is mutual. Or is this all just yet another game? I really enjoyed this book. It’s so fun. I stayed up too late to finish it and I regret nothing. There are a fair few clichés and Lucy is Just. So. Dramatic. about everything, but I enjoyed the ride. 4 stars.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox. When Katherine Bateson’s father goes off to join the war, and her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, she tries her best to remember her father’s words: Keep calm and carry on. But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear? Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harbouring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbours – and who Lady Eleanor really is – before it’s too late. This is a a creepy book and I found the magic really interesting. Some of the characters were a bit inconsistent – Kat’s little sister Amelie in particular acted like a 5 year old half the time but then had moments of seeming not much younger than Kat. Having two storylines at the same time felt like a bit much at times some parts felt rushed and not properly explained. It was a quick read and I would probably have loved it as a child and not notice the parts that were lacking, but reading it now I gave it 3 stars.

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson. On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father in what the police believe to be suicide. Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way. Who really is his father’s much younger second wife and what does her past have to do with Harry’s present? This book is fast-paced and unsettling but ultimately predictable. There’s a lot of taboo sex and some characters who seem to be not so much evil as just entirely lacking normal human emotions but beyond all that not much of an underlying plot. I didn’t even particularly care about the main character who was supposed to be the good guy! However, the writing was good and I did kind of enjoy the ride. It’s just not a particularly great book in my opinion. 3 stars.

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison.  Betty Widdershins’ greatest ambition is to leave Crowstone, the gloomy island where she’s always lived and find adventure out in the wide world. But instead of an adventure, Betty and her sisters, Fliss and Charlie, are given of a set of magical objects, each with its own powers: a scruffy carpet bag, a set of wooden nesting dolls, and a gilt-framed mirror. And these magical objects come with their own terrible secret: the sisters’ family is haunted by a generations-long curse that prevents them from ever leaving their island—at the cost of death. The sisters are determined to break the curse and free their family. But after stumbling upon a mysterious prisoner who claims to be able to help them, they find themselves in great danger. And in order to break the curse – and stay alive – they must unravel a mystery that goes back centuries. A magical and atmospheric book with a fantastic sibling relationship at its core. I loved Betty, the main character, but I think my favourite sister is actually Charlie, the youngest. Fliss sadly felt less developed than the other two and came across as being boy crazy and not much else, which let the book down for me. But overall I really enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Born a Crime: Stores from a South-African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was illegal, and punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. My friend bought me this book to aid with my goal to read more non-fiction. It’s an absolutely fascinating insight into a world that I know nothing about. I had no idea who Trevor Noah even was before reading this but it doesn’t even matter. I was drawn in to his story from the very first line and I cried at the end. Even if you don’t normally read non-fiction I highly recommend this book. 5 stars.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman, Fitz grows up a lonely outcast. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as With brings him solace and companionship. Until the day King Shrewd is reminded of Fitz’s existence and adopts him into the royal family. Now he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving the people Forged and soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much a risk to himself as it does to his target: Fitz is a threat to the throne… but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom. This is a pretty slow book. There’s very little action for being literally about the training of an assassin! It also took ages to finally explain what the magic known as “Skill” is supposed to be and I was so confused! But the writing is really good and I loved the characters. Especially the Fool. I hope there’s more of him in the next book because I’m so intrigued to find out what’s going on with him. He’s such a mystery and seems to know so much. 4 stars.

The Radleys by Matt Haig. Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anaemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. But as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret. When Clara is attacked one night and finds herself driven to commit a bloodthirsty act, her parents are forced to explain a few things. This book was fine. I can’t really point to anything specific that was wrong with it. But when I put it down I wasn’t excited to pick it up again – which is a large part of the reason I read so few books in March. I didn’t particularly feel anything for the characters. It’s not a bad book, just not for me I guess. 2.5 stars.

A Sprinkle of Sorcery by Michelle Harrison. The sequel to A Pinch of Magic. The family curse has been lifted and the Widdershins sisters: Betty, Fliss and Charlie are finally free to leave the prison island of Crowstone. But when a mysterious girl arrives at the Poacher’s Pocket with a pocketful of hagstones and accompanied by a will-o’-the-wisp, it seems another adventure has landed on their doorstep. And when Charlie goes missing, it’s up to Betty and Fliss to save their little sister. And this begins a journey through misty marches, past wisp catchers and on to a secret island that doesn’t exist on any map. I enjoyed this book even more than the first one. It’s an action-packed adventure full of magic and mystery, pirates and witches. Fliss felt like more of a real person and less of a cliché in this one – but I still like Charlie best. 4.5 stars

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell in love with him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope. Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world. I saw so many people reading and loving this Beauty and the Beast retelling last year and at the beginning of this year. And for me at least it was worth the hype. I LOVED it! Harper is fantastic – nothing gets in her way. I loved Rhen and Grey as well. I will definitely read the sequel. I would love to see more of Noah – he seems awesome! I have the sequel now and I will be reading it very soon. 5 stars.

This is Now by Ciara Geraghty. It was just an ordinary Monday at an ordinary bank, in an ordinary town. There was no way of knowing what was about to happen. Then a group of masked robbers rushed in. Afterwards …The first thing Martha thinks about is having a drink. There are six reasons why she shouldn’t; she wrote them down over a year ago. Two of the reasons are the same. A name. She didn’t think she’d ever see him again. Roman, a fourteen year old Polish immigrant, is on the run. From the police. From Jimmy and his gang. He understands now, what it means to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Tobias, old and alone, lies in a hospital bed in Dublin where the memories of Dresden are insistent visitors. And for Cillian, the detective investigating the robbery, the past is like a current, pulling him back, reminding him of all he’d had. All he’d lost. Each of the four is running from the moments that brought them here. To a place where the past cannot be undone and the future cannot be known. A place called now. I really liked the characters and the writing style of this book, although it felt like there were maybe a few too many characters and storylines. There were a lot of hard-hitting issues and it felt like some of them were glossed over a bit and not dealt with in enough depth. Particularly Roman’s story seemed to be resolved very simply, it was almost a side-issue that was slotted in alongside what seemed to be the main plot – a will they/won’t they romance. I did enjoy reading the book though. 3.5 stars – no masterpiece but passed the time just fine.

The Scent of Death by Simon Becket. It has been a good summer for forensics expert Dr David Hunter. His relationship is going well and he’s in demand again as a police consultant. His life seems to be on an even keel. Then a call comes from an old associate: a body has been found, and she’d like Hunter to take a look. Empty and abandoned, St Jude’s Hospital has been slowly rotting for years, silently awaiting demolition. The vast, oppressive building’s only visitors have been society’s outcasts, addicts and dealers. And it’s here that the partially mummified corpse has been discovered. Hunter is not sure how long the body has been hidden in the hospital’s cavernous loft, but he’s seen enough to know it’s a young woman. And that she was pregnant. As the remains are removed for closer examination, a floor collapses revealing a previously sealed off part of a ward. Bricked up inside this hidden chamber are three beds. Two of them are occupied. What other grisly secrets will St Jude’s reveal? The local community is alarmed and the police need answers. For David Hunter, what began as a challenging if straightforward case is about to become a twisted nightmare threatening him and those around him. This is book six in a series, but as with most series of this kind, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the previous books. I guessed some of what was happening but not everything. I’m not sure I will go out of my way to pick up the earlier books in the series (I already have a long to-read list!) but if I came across one I would read it. It’s a decent crime/procedural novel. 4 stars.

TL;DR. If you’re into romance – or rom coms – read The Hating Game. And read A Curse So Dark and Lonely if fantasy romance is your thing. Children and fans of middle grade should definitely read the two Michelle Harrison books – A Pinch of Magic and A Sprinkle of Sorcery. I also highly recommend Born A Crime even if you don’t usually read non-fiction. Assassin’s Apprentice is good if you don’t mind slow fantasy with lots of world building and little action, and The Scent of Death is a decent crime novel in the police procedural genre (although the main character is not actually a police officer so there isn’t too much detecting going on). The rest are fine… none are terrible. If they sound interesting to you read them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend any of them.

That’s it from me. Let me know if you’ve read any of these.

I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, of course. You should go and check out the link up and what everyone else has been reading recently.