What I read in August 2019

I had a slightly slower reading month in August, mainly because of a couple of books that seemed to take me forever to get through (more on that when I get to them). I managed thirteen books, which I am aware is still a lot by most people’s standards, but it’s a definite drop from last month’s 20! The majority of my reading was, again, dominated by Erin’s book challenge 11.0 – I was on to the bonus round, which meant reading books that had previously been chosen. There was also an extra rule for the bonus round this time: you could change as many books books from your preliminary list as you wanted, but for each one you exchanged you would incur a 5 point penalty… which is the reason I slogged on with a certain book that wasn’t really doing much for me. But anyway, let’s get on with it. As always, I’m linking up with Jana and Steph.

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Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Somer’s is newly married and has started her career as a physician in San Francisco – everything is going perfectly, until she makes the devastating discovery she never will be able to have children. That same year, a poor mother in India makes the heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. It is a decision that will haunt Kavita for the rest of her life. Asha, adopted out of a Mumbai orphanage, is the child that binds the destinies of these two women. We follow the lives of the two families, connected by an invisible thread, until Asha’s journey of self-discovery leads her back to India. I liked this, but it almost felt like it didn’t go deep enough. I think the author was trying to pack too much in with Kavita and Jasu’s story, Somer and Kris’s story and then Asha’s individual story on top of all that. The beginning when Somer was struggling with infertility really resonated with me. There’s a part where she’s wondering whether her inability to conceive is a sign that she’s not supposed to be a mother and honestly if you can find someone who’s struggling to conceive who has never thought that then please bring them to me so I can learn their secret! However, I was really annoyed when during arguments Somer would tell Asha “At least I wanted you, I chose you!” despite having admitted she had no idea who Asha’s real mother was or why she had given her away. Way to give your child a complex! And Kavita did want her daughter. Anyway, 3.5 stars.

Frogkisser by Garth Nix. Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her disinterested stepmother, evil stepstepfather Duke Rickard (what happens when your father dies, leaving you with your stepmother who then remarries), and annoying older sister Morven, who is supposed to be crowned queen when she turns sixteen in three months, but is far more interested in handsome princes than in ruling. When Morven’s latest suitor is turned into a frog, she asks Anya to do the dirty work of changing him back. Meanwhile, Duke Rickard has decided to send Anya on a perilous journey. Tanitha, the senior royal dog, tells Anya that she must leave the palace and seek help from others to defeat the Duke. And so, our princess embarks on a Quest with a capital Q, accompanied by Arden, a young and excitable royal dog. The two soon pick up other allies, including Shrub, a junior thief who’s also been shape-changed by a sorcerer into a huge, bright orange talking newt. And thus adventure ensues. This book is so adorable and fun. I love Anya – a princess who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, saves herself and, once made aware of her privilege isn’t afraid to do something about. Ardent is also a wonderful character. Puppy! I also enjoyed the nods to other stories… the Frog Prince is the obvious one, Robin Hood is in there, and Snow White is not at all what you expect. It felt like it was setting up for a potential sequel and I really hope there is one! 5 stars.

The Girl in the Green Dress by Cath Staincliffe. Teenager Allie Kennaway heads off with for prom night, cheered on by her dad Steve and little sister Teagan. But Allie and her friends get separated, and Allie never comes home, instead being found later that night beaten to death in an apparent hate crime because of her transgender identity. As police investigate the brutal murder, a crime that has appalled the country, one mother is at becoming increasingly concerned about her son’s behaviour. Is what’s going on with him more than just adolescent mood swings? And if her suspicions are correct, then what does she do? Meanwhile, another parent will do anything to save his boy from the full force of the law. But if he succeeds then Allie and her family will never get the justice they deserve. This is a compelling crime thriller with the added “twist” that the victim is transgender. It’s kind of a police procedural in that we get to follow the investigation, it’s also more than that because we also get the perspectives of the victim’s family among others. Some characters are better developed and more believable than others, and I was wavering between a 3 and a 4 star, but decided on 4 rather than 3.5 because the end made me cry.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. Cassie Logan is an eleven-year-old girl black growing up in the Deep South of the 1930s. Through Cassie’s eyes, we see the events of one turbulent year in the life of the family – a year in which the Logans (and their neighbours) face racism and social injustice. A year in which Cassie learns just why having their own land has always been so important to her father. I don’t want to say I “enjoyed” this book – given the subject matter that seems like the wrong word. But it was very compelling and I read it a lot faster than I expected to. Cassie is independent and feisty, but she’s also quite naïve and at times I wanted to slap her, but overall I found it fascinating to see things through her eyes. This is technically middle grade but I think it’s an important book for teens and adults as well. 4 stars.

The Good House by Ann Leary. Middle-aged and divorced, Hildy Good is an oddity in her close-knit, coastal town. But Hildy isn’t one for self-pity and instead meets the world with a wry smile, a dark wit and a glass or two of Pinot Noir – but only when she’s alone. Ever since her daughters staged an intervention and packed her off to rehab, Hildy hasn’t had a drink in public. But honestly, she thinks all this fuss is ridiculous. After all, why shouldn’t she enjoy a drink now and then? But gradually we start to see another side to Hildy Good and learn just how deep her denial goes. Soon, a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, with devastating consequences… It’s difficult to describe my thoughts on this one. It was kind of slow in parts and a lot of the time I was wondering where the story was actually going. Things picked up towards the end though and I did end up liking it, but wouldn’t read it again. 3 stars.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. This is the sequel to Nevermoor. Having passed the trials in the first book, Morrigan is now a member of the mystical Wundrous Society. She can’t wait to start her studies with best friend Hawthorne and the other successful applicants. But while everyone else gets to take cool subjects, all the Society wants to teach Morrigan is how evil Wundersmiths. Meanwhile, someone is blackmailing Morrigan’s unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor? To make matters worse, people have started to go missing. Can Morrigan solve the mystery before she ends up losing her new home altogether? As I expected, I absolutely adored this book. Loved the story, loved the characters. I read it in one go – staying up past my bedtime to do so. And I didn’t regret it for one second. I cannot wait for book 3 – I need to know more about Morrigan’s powers. 5 stars. Also, this book is so pretty – both the dust jacket and the actual book itself. Once again, massive thanks to Kristen for sending it to me ❤

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang. On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. What made Meridian High’s most popular junior girl decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Mass, acceleration, momentum, force: Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she still doesn’t understand it. How do we impact one another? What does it mean to be a daughter, a friend, a mother? Is life truly more just than cause and effect? I had read this book before, but I had forgotten that until after I read the first few pages. But the challenge bonus round had a new rule this time –  a five-point penalty for changing any of your chosen titles. So I read it again. My opinion is the same as the first time. I didn’t find it to be the best written, and in my copy (hardcover) there were a lot of typos. I never really warmed up to the main character she was a complete bitch and I couldn’t bring myself to feel sorry for her at all. It’s a story that’s been done before, although I liked the slightly unusual narrator in this one. 3 stars.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. Eva is cycling when I dog runs out in front of her, causing her to swerve. Jim is walking down the same path. There are three possible outcomes to their encounter, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life. And then there is David, Eva’s then-lover, an ambitious actor. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses all their lives could take following this first meeting. I loved the beginning of this book, but then once it got to the point where Eva and Jim actually have their encounter it just felt sooo slow. It actually took me an entire week to read this book because I kept putting it down and not really caring about picking it back up. There were parts I really enjoyed, but just as I was getting into them it would suddenly switch to another “version” and by the time it got back to the one I had been enjoying we’d skipped several years into the future. I also kept getting confused about which version I was in now, especially when random new characters I’d never heard of appeared and I found myself wondering whether I’d forgotten somebody. I feel like three different versions was a bit much, or maybe the whole thing spanned too many years. However, it’s well written and I would definitely give the author another chance. This one just wasn’t entirely for me. 2.5 stars.

The Long-Lost Home by Mary-Rose Wood. This is the sixth and final book in the Incorrigible Children series. Governess Penelope Lumley is trapped in Plinkst, an awful village in Russia where everyone is miserable and even the beets it’s famous for refuse to grow. How will she ever get back to her beloved pupils and break the curse on the Ashton family? Meanwhile, the three brave Incorrigibles, are worriedly preparing for the arrival of Lady Constance’s baby with no idea of the danger they’re in! I took a break from Erin’s challenge to read this as soon as it arrived – I had been waiting forever for it to come out in paperback. I felt like this one started slowly compared with the other books in the series (or maybe I just don’t remember?) and parts of it fell a bit flat for me. I still loved the children (Cassiopeia is my favourite) and I was happy to finally get some answers. The ending is so sweet. I’m glad I read it and finished the series, but this one just can’t compete with books 4 and 5. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but it’s between 3 and 4 really. I definitely recommend the series though.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens – on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles – the narrator of The Sellout was raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, spending his childhood as the subject in various racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral. Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his home town, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map and he is determined to bring it back. With the help of the town’s most famous resident – the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins – he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court. This book is hard work! It’s totally absurd and I kind of get what it’s trying to do but it just went on and on. Half if it reads as pretentious – like it’s trying too hard to be clever and the other half is really repetitive. I did like some bits but it took me way too long to read and I don’t really feel like it was worth the effort. If this wasn’t part of the challenge I wouldn’t have finished it. 2.5 stars.

Just Before I Died by S. K. Tremayne. Kath lives with her husband Adam and daughter Lyla in a desolate stone longhouse deep in Dartmoor National Park. She loves her life, considers herself happy, despite their struggles with money, work and their daughter’s quirks and extreme shyness. But ever since Kath awoke from a coma after a near-fatal car accident, her family have been acting strangely. Adam seems furious with her and Lyla keeps making cryptic comments about a man on the moor. Then Kath learns that the car crash wasn’t what she thinks and her whole world collapses into panic. What really happened that day and why does she feel like someone is out there, watching her? This book was intense! I bought it to read on the train home from work since I had finished my other book and I literally read the whole thing over the course of the 2-hour journey. I’m not usually a fan of twists that rely on withholding information from the user then suddenly revealing that aha… here’s something you did not know that will turn all your suspicions on their heads, but in this case I could live with it because the characters didn’t have that information either. There writing is excellent – very atmospheric and creepy. I wasn’t keen on some aspects of the ending so only 4 stars instead of 5 but I recommend it to fans of slightly spooky thrillers involving isolated settings.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. I could have used the previous book for the “author uses initials in their name” category of Erin’s challenge, but this was the one I had listed and, again, I didn’t want to lose points for switching books, so I still read this one. Anna Fox lives as recluse in her New York City home, her agoraphobia leaving her unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies . . . and spying on her neighbours. Then a new family, the Russells, move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family, a painful reminder of how her own life was not too long ago. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble – and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real and what is imagined? Who’s in danger  and who is in control? Is anyone really what they seem? I guessed part of what was going on in this book, but I had no idea about the final twist. It’s a really quick read but honestly I didn’t particularly care about Anna as a character and I was all set to give it three stars until close to the end, but then the last little bit really picked up and changed my mind. 3.5 stars.

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton. Eighteen-year-old Anna is moving out! Not to go to university, like her parents wanted, but to Liverpool where she’s landed her dream job at a theatre. Finally, in the exciting (if slightly run-down) house with her fun and welcoming house mates, she can be the person she’s always wanted to be… the confident, happy Anna she is when she vlogs for her YouTube channel. She soon realises that although her new friends are great, they’re also a little mixed-up… and it’s not long before she starts using her vlog to talk about her experiences. But when Anna spills a bigger secret than she can handle, suddenly the consequences are all too real. This is a cute little novel. It was a bit confusing at first with all the characters, but once I’d got them all straight I liked reading about them and enjoyed the dynamic between all the friends. One character is gay and I liked that it’s just accepted, nobody makes a big deal about it – just as it should be. Everything wrapped up a little too conveniently for me, with everyone forgiving Anna for her “mistake” surprisingly quickly. I thought there was going to be more drama/adventure with Anna’s move to the city, but it all felt very normal. It was nice to read a book about younger adults leaving home for the first time and finding their feet. I don’t think there are too many of those around – it’s either teens in school or people in their 30s. Overall it was a nice read, very quick to get through, but I’m not sure how much of it will stick with me. I liked the writing style and would try something else from Keris Stanton if I came across it. 3.5 stars

TL;DR. For those who couldn’t be bothered to read it all even though there were fewer books this month ;-). August was a bit of a mixed bag. I very highly recommend Frogkisser for those who like children’s books, fairytales and talking animals. Wundersmith is amazing, but obviously read Nevermoor first. The Girl in the Green Dress is compelling, although some characters are less believable than others and I didn’t love everything about it. Everybody should read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – I think it’s technically either middle grade or YA but I truly believe everyone needs to read it. Thriller fans should definitely read Just Before I Died.

That’s about it for this month. Tell me what you’ve been reading. And if you want more book recommendations, check out the link up.

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What I read in June 2019

It’s book day again! I have a lot to get through this month so no long introduction. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, obviously.

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The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman. At 34, Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all—a cushy job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft she shares with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. She’d forgotten all about the life list she made when she was 14. Then Brett’s mother dies, leaving her utterly devastated. Things get even worse when the will is read – in order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the goals on said teenage life list, some of which seem impossible. How can she build a relationship with a father who’s been dead for seven years? As Brett reluctantly tries to complete the abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places. I looked at this book in a train station when it first came out but didn’t end up buying it. Then Jan’s mum gave me it for Christmas last year. So there’s a not-very-fun fact for you. This is a cute, quick read. Honestly everything works out a little too perfectly and Brett is the very definition of kind and lovely, almost to the point of it being sickening, but it was a nice light bit of escapism that didn’t make me have to think too deeply. 3.5 stars.

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson. It’s bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl without adding in a dad you’ve never met (and who your mum refuses to talk about properly), a new boy giving you weird looks at school and a best friend dealing with problems of her own. So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she’s tempted to hide away and ignore it. But could her strange new powers be linked to her mysterious father?And what will happen when she ventures into the magical world of winter? A beautiful, magical fairy-tale come to life, but with some grounding in the real world. Unfortunately the ending seemed rushed to me – I felt like the book needed to be longer to incorporate both Owl’s everyday life/her best friend’s very much non-magical problems and everything that was going on with the magical part of the book. Somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 stars. 3.75? Sorry, I’m being ridiculous now.

The Hour Before Dawn by Sara MacDonald. In Singapore in the 1970s, Fleur abandoms her dreams of becoming a dancer after falling madly in love with David, a handsome army officer. After their first blissfully happy years together, tragedy strikes and Fleur is left alone, a widow with her young twin daughters, Nikki and Saffie. Grief-stricken, she prepares return to England with her daughters – but then one of them mysteriously vanishes, without a trace. Years later, Nicki Montrose is living in New Zealand, heavily pregnant and still haunted by the loss of her twin. Her mother, who Nicki never forgave for her part in the tragedy, is on the way to visit her. But then Fleur goes missing during a stopover in Singapore and Nikki must travel out there and attempt a reconciliation. But what they discover back in Port Dickson will send shock waves through the entire family. This is written alternately from Fleur’s perspective in the past and Nicki’s in the present day. However, Nicki’s perspective is also written in the past tense, which annoyed me at first. Somehow it just felt weird. But towards the end the story got so gripping that I didn’t even notice any more. Lots of twists and turns and revelations. 4 stars.

Where I Found You by Amanda Brooke. Maggie Carter loves to visit the park near her home. She knows what time of year the most fragrant flowers bloom and which paths lead you to the bench by the lake. The park is her safe place. Because away from it, in the real world, Maggie is expecting her first baby and is beginning to question whether she’s going to be able to cope. Then she meets Elsa, who is also expecting her first child, and is utterly terrified that her child will be taken away. But all is not as it seems. The secrets of sixty years ago are haunting Elsa and refuse to let her rest. I really enjoyed this book. I loved Maggie and felt so sorry for Elsa. There was just a little something missing that stopped it from being a five star read for me. I think there were too many side characters and little side plots that felt irrelevant. 4 stars.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Seventeen year old Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She left everything behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship, and expects to wake up on a new planet 300 years in the future. But 50 years before Godspeed is scheduled to land, Amy’s cryo chamber is mysteriously unplugged. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship —tried to kill her. Now Amy and Elder – a teenager who is due to take over from Eldest as the next leader of the ship – are on a race to find out the hidden secrets of the ship before more people die. I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I was going to – I read the entire thing on one journey to the office and back (that’s two train rides of 2 hours each). Some people have given it’s bad reviews due to faulty science -but I can honestly say I didn’t notice. I only read it for the plot anyway – I have no interest in science fiction that reads like science fiction (i.e. focuses on the science). I’m all about the plot; the whole happening in space thing is irrelevant to me. Elder is annoyingly slow at times and I feel like Amy would have been a better character if we’d learned more about her past. I just didn’t understand *why* Elder liked her. Because she was the only girl close to his age he’d ever met? But if a book can keep me occupied for that long on a train it will always get a high rating. 4 stars – and I’ve already bought book 2 in the series!

The Beloved Dearly by Doug Cooney. Twelve-year-old Ernie is always looking for ways to make money – the start of the book finds him trying to sell fast-food burgers to his classmates at lunch time. After a conversation with his dad about how much it cost to bury Ernie’s mother, he comes up with his best idea yet: pet funerals! With his pals Dusty (designer of coffins) and Swimming Pool (one of the world’s great criers) Ernie creates a thriving business – until he loses his star employee over a raise. It takes the death of his own dog to bring everyone back together. The description of this story sounds so fun, but the execution is meh. Ernie really annoyed me and all the other characters felt flat and underdeveloped, except Swimming Pool. Admittedly I’m not the target audience but I can’t imagine I would have loved it as a child either. 2.5 stars.

Der fabelhafte Geschenkladen by Manuela Inusa (my translation of the title: Tghe Marvellous Gift Shop). Orchid loves her little gift shop – the fulfilment of her life-long dream. Located in Valerie Lane (the most romantic street in Oxford), In Orchid’s Gift Shop you can buy wonderful scents, home-made candles and creative cards, and Orchid herself is always there with a welcoming smile and an open ear. The only person that hasn’t taken Orchid into his confidence yet is Patrick, her own boyfriend. Surely after all this time she should know more about him? Finally, Orchid gives Patrick an ultimatum but what she learns is something she would never have thought possible. This book is part of a series, but there’s no indication of that anywhere in the description. Maybe if I’d read the others first I’d have liked this one better? The beginning of this book is sweet to the point of being almost sickening. Valerie Lane is the most perfect place on Earth. Everybody loves each other. All the shop owners are the absolute best of friends and always there for each other no matter what. Patrick’s story is very far-fetched and belongs in a Hollywood film. It was also very convenient that immediately after telling Orchid his secret everything turned out to be resolved and he could actually live a normal life again. That all sounds very negative, but it wasn’t a terrible book. I read it quickly and I really did want to find out what happened between Orchid and Patrick, but I won’t be bothering with the rest of the series. 3 stars.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. During a summer party at the family farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has stolen away from her younger siblings and is happily dreaming of the future in her childhood tree house. She spies a stranger coming down the lane, sees him speaking to her mother, Dorothy, and soon witnesses a shocking crime. Fifty years later, Laurel is a well-known actress. As the family gather to celebrate Dorothy’s 90th birthday, Laurel is still haunted by that long-ago day. Realizing that this may be her last chance, she searches for answers that can only be found in her mother’s past. I enjoyed this book – Kate Morton can certainly write – but parts of it dragged. The plot kept going off on tangents that kind of made sense for helping the reader get to know the characters but at the same time made it feel like the book was going to go on forever. At one point I seriously asked myself why it needed to have so many pages! I didn’t guess the big secret (I actually had something else in mind) so when the reveal came I was surprised. If you’ve enjoyed other books by Kate Morton you will probably like this one. She does seem to follow a bit of a pattern but I think the details are different enough to make it okay. 4 stars.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Andrea knows everything there is to know about her mother, Laura. She lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. But when Andrea is caught up in a shocking act of violence at the mall, Laura intervenes and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to her mother. Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down, and Andrea is on the run, trying desperately to find out who her mother really is. This is a good book. It started off slow, but by the end I was gripped. Not the best Karin Slaughter book I’ve read but still an excellent thriller. 4 stars.

What’s a Girl Gotta Do by Holly Bourne. Book 3 in the Spinster Club series, this time we’re following Lottie. After an encounter with some builders, Lottie decides to start a project: every time she sees something sexist (aimed at either gender) she will call it out. Lottie is determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. It’s just a shame the trolls have other ideas. Meanwhile, her parents would prefer that she waited until after she gets into Cambridge. After feeling a slight disconnect with Amber’s story (although it’s still an excellent book) this one reminded me of why I loved this series to begin with. Lottie felt so real – it was like I actually knew her. I love how passionate she is – even if she can be annoying and stubborn at times, and has a tendency to believe that what she would do is best for everyone. And I love how the three girls are there for each other – even when Amber and Lottie fell out at one point, after Lottie opened up Amber was immediately supportive. The feminist message is, sadly, incredibly true to life and so, so necessary. It may not be a perfect book but I still gave it five stars.

Dead Wrong by Curtis Jobling. Book 2 in the Haunt series. In book one, our protagonist Will dies in a hit and run accident only to find himself stuck as a ghost… a ghost that only his best friend, Dougie can see. Together the two of them ended up solving a decades old mystery and helping another ghost move on. In this book, Will and Dougie are still adjusting to their new friendship dynamic – and the fact that Dougie’s new girlfriend is none other than Will’s crush from when he was alive and the first – and last – girl he ever kissed. Meanwhile, Dougie’s dad has been acting extremely strangely since Will’s death. Clearly he’s hiding something. Just as things are beginning to go right for Will, it seems he couldn’t have been more wrong… I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the last one – parts of the storyline seemed a little far fetched (and yes I am aware that the main character is a ghost!). Nonetheless it’s a fun book and Will is a really likeable character. His friendship with Dougie feels genuine and I just love it. Unfortunately this book was a little predictable. It’s still a good book but falls slightly short of the first one. If the series continues I will definitely give the next book a go. 3.5 stars.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor. After something damaged his eyes when he was young, Paul Fisher views the world through glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he insists he can see perfectly fine, and he’s certainly not too blind to realise there’s something very odd about the family’s new home in Tangerine County, Florida. Where else does a sinkhole swallow the local middle school, fire burn underground for years, and lightning strike at the same time every day? And as if that wasn’t enough, Paul is completely terrified of his football–star older brother, Erik, the golden child of the family. Then Paul joins the school soccer team and, with the help of his new team mates, begins to discover what lies beneath the surface of his strange new home town and even gains the courage to face up to some secrets his family have been keeping from him. This book certainly has a lot packed into it and it felt like some issues were glossed over. It made compelling reading though and I didn’t want to put it down. I loved the main character, Paul, and hated the way his parents were all about Erik and his football dream – and that was before I even found out the extent of their neglect. The perfect example of an outwardly normal but actually very dysfunctional family. 3.5 stars.

Basic EightThe Basic Eight by Daniel Handler. Flannery Culp wants you to know the entire story of her disastrous senior year. Between perverts, unrequited crushes, complicated relationships, gossip, cruel jokes, and the hallucinatory effects of absinthe, she and her other friends who make up the Basic Eight have lived through it all. But now, on tabloid television, they’re calling Flannery a murderer, which is a total lie. It’s true that high school can be stressful sometimes, and it’s also true that sometimes a girl just has to kill someone. But Flannery wants you all to know that she’s not a murderer at all — she’s a murderess. Read that description, look at the cover and tell me you’re not reminded me of the film Heathers? Surely it can’t be just me? Anyway… this book is wild. Deliciously dark, quirky, crazy and – dare I say it – even fun. It could have been an amazing book but something in the execution just isn’t quite there. Flannery is very much an unreliable narrator (and she knows it – even seems to take great joy in pointing it out) but I actually quite liked her voice. Some parts just seemed to drag though and I found myself wishing it would just get to the main event already – I mean, we know from the start there’s going to be a murder. At the end, I was left with many questions. Not least of which is what kind of name is Flannery?! I liked it well enough but it’s not a new favourite by any means (although I would probably have rated it very highly at 15). Another 3.5 stars.

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry. Eight years ago, Jane witnessed the abduction of her thirteen year old sister, Julie from their house in the middle of the night. For years there was no trace of her and the family have done their best to move on. Eight years later, the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is, of course, overjoyed but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts. Is this woman really who she says she is? I have another book on my to-read shelf (The Lost and the Found) that I swear has almost the same plot – except that one is YA, the missing child is younger and it doesn’t explicitly say that anyone doubts who she says she is. I’ll be interested to see how similar the two books are. Anyway… This book started off good but then the ending seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn’t so much a twist as the author suddenly revealing that she hadn’t actually told us half the story. And Julie’s reason for not coming home sooner didn’t make any sense to me. As thrillers go this one is pretty average. 2.5 stars.

The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis. Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest dragon there is. And she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving their cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. When the human she encounters tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. But she’s still the fiercest creature in the mountains, and now she’s found her passion: chocolate! Now all she has to do is get herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious) and soon she’ll be able to show them all! I loved everything about this book. Dragons! Chocolate! Aventurine is awesome, as is her human friend Silke who she meets when she reaches the city. This is the first book in a series – because I definitely needed to be committing to reading more of those?! – and I plan to read them all. 5 stars.

The Secret Shopper’s Revenge by Kate Harrison. Single mum Emily wants to get her revenge on the nasty shop assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and make her feel inadequate for not being rich. Store manager Sandie has been working in a department store for years and she loves everything about it, but then she’s set up by a bitchy assistant and loses her job. Glamorous widow Grazia just can’t seem to leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. Together, they are Charlie’s Shopping Angels – a team of secret shoppers who receive assignments from the mysterious Charlie. But when they’re sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the teams loyalties become divided. This is classic chick lit. A quick, easy read – which is precisely what I wanted at the time. I liked the characters and I was especially satisfied with the ending to Sandie’s story. Emily’s ending was a little predictable but that’s chick lit for you. I might give the sequel a go if I find myself wanting a lighter read again. 3.5 stars. Nothing spectacular but fine as a light, fun read.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Three years ago, Jude and her twin brother Noah were inseparable, two halves of one whole. Back then, Noah spent all his time drawing and painting, and was falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while dare-devil Jude wore red lipstick, dived from the cliff top and did all the talking for the two of them. Now, the twins barely speak to each other and Noah never picks up a pencil. Something has happened, changing each of the siblings in different, but equally devastating ways. Then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor, and slowly things start to change again. If Jude and Noah can just find their way back to each other, together they can remake their world. This book is told from two perspectives – Noah tells the story from when they were 13 while Jude gets the aged-16 years. It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but once I did I was hooked. I smiled, I cried. I was desperate for both Noah and Jude to get their happy endings. The writing style definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind a lot of artistic metaphor and very quirky characters I highly recommend it. 5 stars.

Phew, that was 17 books. If you’ve made it to here you’re officially a star! And in case you couldn’t be bothered to read everything, here’s a quick summary of the ones I enjoyed:

TL;DR: I recommend The Hour Before Dawn and Where I Found You. If you like historical fiction, The Secret Keeper is good. If you like children’s books, chocolate and dragons you need to read The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart (probably my favourite book I read in June). Pieces of Her is a decent thriller but not Karin Slaughter’s best. YA lovers should definitely read I’ll Give You the Sun and the entire Spinster Girls series. I liked Across the Universe but if you read sci-fi for the actual science and are likely to notice implausible technology you might want to steer clear.

What have you been reading lately? Check out the Show Us Your Books link up for more recommendations.

What I read in May 2019

Hello and welcome to one of my favourite days of the blogging month – Show Us Your Books day with Jana and Steph.
May has been my worst reading month of the year so far. – although “worst” is relative and I still read a lot of books by most people’s standards. Turns out when most of your time is spent as far away from the dust-filled construction site you call a flat there isn’t much time for reading. During the day I was elsewhere, working, then I just about had time to walk home and drop my stuff off before heading back into town to meet Jan for food. Then by the time we got home it was usually pretty much bed time, and I couldn’t even read in bed like normal since for most of the time we had no electricity (and thus no light) in the bedroom. I had hoped to get some reading time in while we were on holiday, but every day was packed full with the result that I actually only finished one book and started another (on the plane home). I did finish that book and read a whole second one on my first day back in Basel though. Result! After that reading became more sporadic again as I spent most of my time trying to free our flat of the dust that coated everything. Nonetheless, I managed to read 9 books, which I shall talk about now.

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Nebelkind by Emelie Schepp (original title: Märkta för livet, title of English translation: Marked for Life). When the head of immigration is found shot dead at his home, there is no shortage of suspects – including his wife – but nobody can explain the presence of a child-sized hand print at the scene. Young and brilliant, but cold and aloof, public prosecutor Jana Berzelius is assigned to lead the investigation. A few days later on a nearby deserted shoreline, the body of a young boy is discovered alongside the murder weapon that killed both him and the original victim. A discovery during the autopsy draws Jana deeper into the case than she ever planned to get – the boy has the name of a God carved into his neck… and so does she. This book is mixture between police procedural and thriller. There were some fast-paced parts that made me want to keep reading, but a lot of it is pretty slow. Main character Jana is so mechanical and distant she seems almost robot-like, which I understand is related to her past but it made it difficult to get to know her. What happened to her was horrible and I should have felt more sorry for her but she was so detached from everyone and everything that I had trouble caring. Her “rival”, police officer Mia, is more human with obvious flaws but she’s also really annoying and I didn’t like her at all! I feel like the reader finds out what’s going on too soon so it’s a really long, drawn out wait for the police to get names and start tracking people down. Overall I would say it could have been a great book if it had been roughly 100 pages shorter. 3 stars.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine. After the death of her father, Sophie Taylor is forced to find a job. She’s lucky enough to get a position in the hat department of the new department store that’s opening in London – Sinclair’s. When a precious artefact – a clockwork sparrow – goes missing the day before the grand opening, Sophie becomes the chief suspect and is quickly let go. With the help of he friends Lil and Billy, she’s determined to find out who the real culprit is and clear her name. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected to. It’s well written and I liked the characters. But somehow I just wasn’t fully captivated. All the clues or little mysteries seemed to be resolved very quickly so there wasn’t much tension or opportunity for the reader to try and work things out. Towards the end I started to enjoy it more and as I said I did enjoy the characters so I wouldn’t be adverse to giving book 2 a try. 3.5 stars.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill. Baby is twelve years old. Her mother died when she was a baby and she live in a succession of seedy apartments in Montreal with her heroin-addict father, Jules. While still just about young enough to cling onto childhood, dragging around a suitcase full of dolls on every move, she’s old enough to be tempted by the adult world and feel flattered when her burgeoning beauty draws the attention of the local pimp. This book had been on my to-read list for so long that it never even made it onto Goodreads, so it was about time I read it! I’m not actually sure why I liked this book. It’s absolutely packed with similes to the extent that the writing style should have been annoying. But somehow it spoke to me. I really liked Baby and all I wanted was to take her away from everything and give her a proper permanent home. Jules too, who despite all his problems obviously loved his daughter more than anything. Knowing that there are kids out there who really live like this breaks my heart. There’s a glimmer of hope at the end and I really hope Baby was able to turn things around and live the life she deserved. 4 stars.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. In 1986, Eddie and his friends are twelve years old. They spend their time riding their bikes around their sleepy English village. The chalk men are their secret code; a way to leave messages for each other than nobody else will understand. But then a mysterious chalk man shows up that leads the group to a body hidden in the woods. In 2016, Eddie is 42 years old and thinks he’s put the tragic events of the past behind him. Until an anonymous note turns up with a drawing of a chalk man. Now it seems that Eddie is going to have to face his past, one way or another. This book is creepy and suspenseful, but for me there was something missing that stopped it from being a five star read. Some parts were just too confusing. It is well written though and I would definitely give this author another chance. 4 stars.

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More Than This by Patrick Ness. A boy drowns, his final moments spent desperate and alone. He dies. But then he wakes up. Naked and weak, but alive. How is this possible? He remembers dying, the sound of his bones breaking. And what is this strange, deserted place? It looks like an abandoned version of the English town he lived in as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy struck his family and they family moved to America. He begins a search for answers, hoping that he is not alone and that, just maybe, there is more than this. Aargh! How can a book be this long and still leave me with a million questions? It’s engrossing, bizarre, confusing. Every time you think things are going to be explained it only goes so far then leaves you with even more mysteries. I loved it right up until the end, which left me frustrated. I need to know what happened and who or what is real. I still highly recommend this book though. My first by Patrick Ness and it definitely won’t be my last. 4.5 stars.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus. Ellery has never been to the small, seemingly picture perfect town of Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing years ago, aged 16. And where a home-coming queen was murdered just five years ago. And now Ellery and her twin brother Ezra are being forced to move there, to live with a grandmother they barely know, while their mother goes to rehab. Before school even starts, someone starts leaving notes and threats around town, promising to make home-coming as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then another girl goes missing… I feel like this book took me a tiny bit longer to get into than One of Us is Lying, even though I liked the characters in this one better. But once I did get into it I was gripped and read the entire thing in one go (sitting at the train station waiting to be able to go home). I loved the twins and their friend, Mal. And I did not guess who the killer was. 5 stars. Also, when I went to review this I discovered there is going to be a sequel to One of Us Is Lying and I’m so excited!

There May Be a Castle by Piers Torday. It’s Christmas Eve and eleven-year-old Mouse is travelling to his grandparents with his mum and two sisters. It’s sowing heavily, visibility is bad and they get into a car accident. Mouse is thrown from the car and wakes up in a world that isn’t his own but seems somehow familiar. He meets a sheep he names Bar, who can only say Baaa, and a horse who looks surprisingly like his favourite toy, Nonky, grown huge. Thus begins a quest to find a castle in a world full of monsters, nights and mysterious wizards. A world of excitement, but also of terrifying danger. But why are they looking for a castle? As the book goes on, we realise how this journey has links to the real world and the people Mouse left behind. I absolutely loved this book! It is wonderful, but so sad. I wasn’t sure about Violet’s point of view (it was fine in the beginning but I would have preferred her to stay where she was). The ending is so sad though – I was hoping for a different outcome. I still highly recommend it though, if you’re a fan of children’s books. 5 stars.

Together by Julie Cohen. One morning, Robbie awakes. His wife Emily is sleeping beside him, as always. He gets up, makes coffee and walks the dogs. Then he writes Emily a note and does something that will break her heart. As the story rewinds through their lives, back to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we gradually learn the story of a couple of a terrible secret that they will do anything to protect. This is a really well written and captivating book. It starts on such a shocking note that I could not put it down until I found out why. What was the big secret? Then when it was finally revealed I didn’t know what to think. I was imagining all sorts of things, but not that! (Other people have said they knew, so maybe I’m just naive.) At the start I really liked Robbie. He seemed so loving and caring. But as the story went on it seemed like no matter what happened he was determined to always get his way. I think I was supposed to see him as a charming bad boy type but he just seemed selfish and controlling. No thanks! Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this book and did not see the end coming. 4 stars.

Mr Briggs’ Hat: The True Story of a Victorian Railway Murder by Kate Colquhoun. My first non-fiction book of the year! I started it in April and finished on 31st May so it just sneaks into this round-up. On 9 July 1864, after an evening with relatives, Thomas Briggs walked through Fenchurch Station and entered carriage 69 on the 9.45 Hackney-bound train. A few minutes later, two bank clerks entered the compartment to find blood pooled in the indentations of the cushions and smeared all over the floor and windows of the carriage, and a bloody hand print on the door. There was no sign of Mr Briggs. This book tells the story of the investigation into Mr Briggs’ murder as well as giving lots of detail about train travel in Victorian times. It’s quite interesting read but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought there would be more of a resolution and some information on the crime itself/how it was actually committed. Instead it’s more of an examination of the investigative process in Victorian times – I learned more about how the police went about gathering evidence than the actual crime this was supposed to address. Not that all that’s uninteresting but the title was misleading. It’s worth a read if that sounds good to you but I wouldn’t necessarily make it a priority. 3 stars.

So, while I read less than in previous months (and don’t get me wrong, 9 books is still pretty decent), almost everything I read ranged from good to absolutely amazing. Quality over quantity, yes? I’m not even sure I can narrow it down enough to tell you which books I absolutely recommend you should read. But I’ll give it a try:

TL;DR: The three books I absolutely recommend to everyone this month are More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, I think but definitely interesting for adults. Some kind of dystopian/sci-fi/mystery type thing. Really well written), Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus (YA mystery/thriller. So good!) and There May Be a Castle by Piers Torday (wonderful but sad middle grade fantasy). I also really enjoyed Lullabies for Little Criminals but I hesitate to recommend it because the writing style won’t be for everyone.

Read anything good recently? Check out the link up for more book reviews.

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.

 

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Very little has been going on in my life recently – certainly nothing that would be worth blogging about – and I think posting about German towns two days in a row may be overkill (plus looking for and uploading the photos takes so long. I can’t be bothered with that again already! ;-))
However, when I am in the mood for blogging I won’t let a little thing like my lack of a life stop me. Here’s a review of a book that I read at the end of 2012.

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Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

From the back cover: There is a fire and they are in there. They are in there…

Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and rush. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her.

Afterwards Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her children from the person who’s still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.

I bought this book after having read and enjoyed Sister by the same author last year. Amazon recommended it to me, the description sounded interesting, and so I thought “why not?”.

First of all, I feel I should warn you that the majority of the book is written from the perspective of someone who is in a coma and having some kind of out-of-body experience. You find this out on the very first page of the book, so it’s not too much of a spoiler (I hope). I think it’s something you should know, though, before reading the book. If you’re not the kind of person who can suspend your belief and accept that someone who  isn’t even awake can still experience what is going on then this is not the book for you. Personally, I quite liked this aspect. It makes the book more than just another thriller (not that I have anything against conventional thrillers – I like them! But a bit of originality never goes amiss).

The style of writing takes a while to get used to. The story is told in the present tense and the second person with the narrator (Grace) talking to her husband, Mike, who cannot actually hear her, which seems a bit odd. It didn’t take me long to become accustomed to it (and work out who “you” and “I” were) though and after that I really enjoyed the book. I can imagine people might get irritated at Grace – surely no mother is as perfect as she makes her self out to be? And she doesn’t actually seem to know any of the people in her life that well. To me, though, her flaws just made her seem real, and throughout the books she does realise that she has been judgemental in the past and accknowledges that maybe what she sees isn’t always what’s actually happening.

The book is, for the most part, a mystery/thriller and the main question – as stated on the back of the book – is who started the fire at the school? Quite early on it becomes clear that the fire was deliberate, and the police are called in to find out who it was that wanted to harm Grace’s family. This aspect is handled very well, in my opinion. There are many twists and turns and while I had many theories as to who done it, in the end none of them were correct! I was quite surprised when the culprit was revealed.

The start of the book is quite slow – it takes quite a while before the police discover anything really significant – but it managed to keep me interested enough to keep reading anyway. And once the action does start it just keeps on coming! I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite book of all time, but it kept me engrossed all the way to the end and I was quite disappointed when it finished. I would recommend it.

And in case you don’t think this one’s for you, here are some other book reviews I’ve written in the past. Maybe you’ll find something to read there:

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins (Photo credit: Jeni Rodger)

Three book recommendations

A review of Delusions of Grandma by Carrie Fisher

A review of The Door in the Lack by Nancy Butts

Some of my favourite children’s books