I almost only read two books in August because the second one took me so long to finish. But then I snuck in one more over the course of two evenings right at the end of the month.
Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there… and Fred and Sheila Merton are certainly rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. After a fraught Easter dinner with their family, the Mertons are brutally murdered. Their three adult children are devastated, of course. Or are there? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother. Could one of the siblings is more disturbed than anyone knew? Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know… wouldn’t you? I’ve wanted to read this book for a while so I was very pleased to spot it in a free public bookcase! Not a single character in this book is likeable – except maybe the nanny. All the Merton family are liars, and that’s just their good side! The result is a tangled web of suspicion with all manner of twists and turns. I can’t exactly say I figured out who the murderer was because I think I suspected every character at one point or another. One downside is that it gets a little repetitive as things are rehashed from different character’s points of view. I enjoyed the very end – the last line is utterly delightful. 4 stars.
A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe. Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from. She was just a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasures. Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies, found and raised Sante, alongside twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money.During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from a recurring dream she has about the shipwreck. They’ve come for her treasure, but they also have secrets to reveal about Sante’s past. After Sante and Cat rescue a beautiful red-head named Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city, but Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about who Sante really is. some reason I thought this was a children’s book but it’s very definitely YA featuring themes of sex trafficking among others! I really enjoyed parts of the plot. I loved Sante and her golden eagle Priss. But it felt like the author was trying to fit in too many different themes: Sante’s search for her identity, magical realism elements, refugees, sex trafficking, all the circus characters, so it unfortunately ended up being confusing and a lot of the side characters seemed flat. 3 stars.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan. When Leigh’s mother dies by suicide she leaves behind a scribbled note – I want you to remember. Remember what? Leigh has no idea. She wishes she could turn to her best friend, Axel, for advice. If only she hadn’t kissed him and messed everything up between them. The Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, discovers she has grandparents she’s never met and travels to Taiwan to meet them for the first time. There, she retreats into art and memories, ending up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and ultimately forging a new relationship with her grandparents. I really enjoyed this book. The writing is excellent, although the style is definitely not for everyone (I enjoyed it though) and I can’t believe it’s a debut! I really enjoyed the insights into Taiwanese culture and Leigh is a fantastic character. It is a fast read but there seemed to be a lot going on and it almost felt like the main grief plot was being sidelined at times with high school drama (told in flashbacks). Leigh seems to have some form of synaesthesia and while the colour metaphors were interesting at times it was too much. I didn’t need to know the colour of every single word Leigh’s best friend/love interest uttered! That makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy the book but I actually very much did. There is a magical realism element that probably won’t appeal to everyone but it didn’t bother me at all. 4 stars.
Total books read: 3. Books by BAME/BIPOC authors: 2 (hooray, finally more than zero).
So far this month I’ve mostly been cross stitching but I’ve already managed a couple of books and I’m hoping to get through at least two more.
I’m a day late writing this post for what it turns out is the final Show Us Your Books. It really does feel like the end of an era and I haven’t even been around since the beginning! Many thanks to Steph and Jana for all their years of hosting (since October 2014!). I’ve found so many good books through this link up and also some of my favourite bloggers.
Now let’s get to the books shall we?
Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine. When a good-looking boy with an American accent presses a dropped negative into Rowan’s hand, she’s convinced it’s just a mistake. She knows she didn’t drop anything, but he’s adamant it was her. But before she can say anything more he’s gone, lost in the crowd of bustling shoppers. And she can’t afford to lose her place in the checkout queue – after all, the food shopping isn’t going to take itself home! Rowan has more responsibilities than most girls her age. These days, she pretty much looks after her little sister single-handedly – which doesn’t leave much time for friends or fun. But when she finds out that Bee from school saw the whole thing, it piques her curiosity. Especially when it turns out the dropped item does have a connection to her after all… I enjoyed this. Some parts of the story line were predictable but I was okay with it. Stroma is fantastic – definitely one of my favourite little sisters in fiction. I thought Bee’s character could have been fleshed out a bit more – we are told how special and amazing she is but I didn’t really feel it. I did love Harper though. This is the kind of book I would have devoured as a teen. With Rowan’s struggles at home, I would compare it to Jacqueline Wilson, but for older readers. 4 stars.
Another Mother’s Son by Janet Davey. Lorna Parry is the mother of three boys, each one lurching uncomfortably into adulthood. In the claustrophobic loneliness of her own home, Lorna orbits around her sons and struggles to talk to them; she’s still angry at her ex-husband, uncomfortable around her father’s new girlfriend, and works quietly as the only employee left in a deserted London archive. Life seems precariously balanced. Then a shocking event occurs in the stationery cupboard at the boys’ school and her world threatens to implode. This was an incredibly depressing book. I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a pessimistic representation of motherhood. The youngest son, Ross, was just awful. I know teenagers are difficult but I would never have got away with talking to my mother like that! (Constantly telling her to shut up, you can leave now, nobody’s interested in you.) The “incident” wasn’t what I thought it was going to be and in the end didn’t even feel like a main plot point. I did think the writing was good though. It was certainly evocative – I could actually feel how dull Lorna’s live was! 2.5 stars.
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. Because Sophie has a secret, an ability that she’s never been able to share with anybody. She can read the thoughts of everyone around her. When she meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. She discovers that there is a place she belong, but also that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known. There are new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” And the danger isn’t over either. There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory – secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans – that other people desperately want. Would even kill for. It’s up to Sophie to figure out why she’s the key to her brand new world… before someone else works it out first. This was a fun read. It definitely has its flaws and Sophie’s constant perfection (despite being new to the world and school, she’s the absolute best ever at everything except one subject) got annoying, as did her suddenly remembering random things or discovering completely new abilities when it was convenient for the plot, but I stayed up longer than I planned reading and had to force myself to go to bed without finishing it, which anyone who has ever had a young baby knows is a big deal, so 3.5 stars. Also, for some reason I thought this book involved gods but it’s not that at all.
Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer. (Benny Griessel #2) As morning dawns in Cape Town, it promises to be a very trying day for homicide detective Benny Griessel it promises to be a very trying day. The body of a teenage girl has been found on the street, her throat cut. She was an American – a PR nightmare in the #1 tourist destination in South Africa. And she wasn’t alone. Somewhere in Cape Town her friend, Rachel Anderson, an innocent American, is hopefully still alive. On the run, Rachel is terrified with no idea who she can trust or where to turn in this unknown city. It’s up to Benny to find her, in a race against the clock. Meanwhile, he gets pulled into a second case, the murder of a South African music executive. Griessel has been sober for nearly six months – 156 days. But day 157 is going to be a tough one! This is a thrilling book with great characters. I found all the politics and tension between the different cultures – Zulus, Xhosa, and Coloreds (mixed race and South Asian) slightly confusing (despite having read Born a Crime, which explains a lot of the background) but still enjoyed the story. We don’t find out what Rachel has that the criminals want until near the end and I absolutely could not guess what it might be! The book was originally written in Afrikaans but as far as I can tell it loses nothing in the translation to English. Despite being the second in a series I didn’t feel like I had missed anything too vital. I found this one randomly in a free bookcase but wouldn’t be averse to buying other books by this author in the future. 4 stars.
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. Katie – or Cat, as she is known at work – Brenner has the perfect life, with a flat in London and a glamorous job at a branding company… or so her Instagram feed would suggest. Okay, she actually rents a tiny room in a shared flat where she doesn’t even have space for a wardrobe, has a nightmare commute to a lowly admin job and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t actually hers. But one day her dreams are bound to come true, right. Fake it til you make it and all that. But then her not-so-perfect life comes crashing down when her boss, the mega-successful Demeter who she has been desperately trying to emulate, gives her the sack and Katie is forced to move home to Somerset. When Demeter books in for a glamping holiday on Katie’s family’s farm, she can’t resist the opportunity to get revenge. But does Demeter – the woman who seemingly has everything – really have such an idyllic life. Maybe the two women have more in common than it seems? This is a quick read for how long it is (431 pages) and there’s quite a bit of humour in it. Katie is a little annoying at times, but it’s less fluffy than I was expecting and has a good message underneath. The love interest (because obviously there is one) is fairly forgettable and honestly I would have been fine with this being a book about someone finding themselves without any added romance, but it was fine. Ultimately, this will probably be a fairly forgettable book but it was the perfect not-too-taxing read for baby nap times. 3.5 stars.
For my final Show Us Your Books post it would have been nice to say all the books I read were by BIPOC/BAME authors, but alas none of them were. Even Deon Meyer is a white South African – although I feel like the fact that the book was originally written in Afrikaans makes it somewhat diverse? No? Okay. Anyway, I am linking up with Steph and Jana forthe very last time and you really should click on one of those two names and go and check out what the rest of this amazing book community has been reading since the last link up.
Yes I am posting twice on the same day. No I do not expect anybody to read both of them… or even one of them. Today is the first Show Us Your Books link up of the new year and I didn’t want to miss it even though I only actually read four books in December.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up weekly to discuss unsolved crimes. They call themselves the Thursday Murder Club. When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves with their first live case to solve. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? This s a fun read with some quirky characters who I liked a lot. However, overall there are too many characters so it got to little confusing. Also the motive for one of the murders didn’t entirely make sense to me. 3.5 stars.
Convenience Store Woman by Murata Sayaka. Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis – but will it be for the better? I really liked Keiko as a character and I got what the author was trying to do bit something about this story was kind of unsatisfying. I’m happy that Keiko stayed true to herself but I was hoping those around her would also learn to accept her for what she was and stop talking about wanting her to be “cured”. 3 stars.
I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman. Suburban wife and mother Eliza Benedict’s peaceful world falls off its axis when a letter arrives from Walter Bowman. In the summer of 1985, when Eliza – then known as Elizabeth – was fifteen, she was kidnapped by this man and held hostage for almost six weeks. Now he’s on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, and Eliza wants nothing to do with him. Walter, however, is unpredictable when ignored – as Eliza knows only too well – and to shelter her children from the nightmare of her past, she agrees to see him one last time. But Walter is after something more than forgiveness: He wants Eliza to save his life… and he wants her to remember the truth about that long-ago summer and release the terrible secret she’s keeping buried inside. The best way I can describe this book is anticlimatic. I was really intrigued by the premise and wanted to know what the big secret was going to be revealed at the end but it turned out to be meh. No wonder I didn’t guess something so trivial. The writing is good but for a thriller it’s incredibly slow and the main character is so passive she’s actually boring. 2.5 stars.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked.. until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint and meets Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant -along with several other unlikely candidates – to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City – and maybe herself most of all. I wanted to love this book. So many people raved about it. But to me it was underwhelming. It’s an enjoyable enough read with a few interesting characters but I thought it was just good rather than great. The love triangle also kind of annoyed me – I just wanted the author to get to the pageant already. I would rather have read more about the other girls instead of once again being reminded of how hot Bo was. 3 stars.
So a rather disappointing month. I’m hoping January will be better – although so far I’ve only managed to read one book and that wasn’t great! Oh well, onwards and upwards.
Out of the four books I read in December, one was by a BAME/BIPOC author. This year I really hope to do better!
Thanks to Steph and Jana for hosting! Click on one of those links to see what everyone else has been reading lately.
Hello everyone! Quick updated: I spent a week in hospital then was able to come home last Wednesday after successfully switching from IV meds back to tablets for preventing contractions. I have an appointment this afternoon so we’ll see what that brings – hopefully I can stay home until my planned readmission to hospital on 25th November.
Anyway, today I am here to talk books. I actually read surprisingly little in October considering I spent most of it in hospital, where you would think I wouldn’t be able to do much else. But for the first week I couldn’t manage to concentrate enough to read and then I struggled to get through The Name of the Rose until Jan brought me something else. I then finished The Name of the Rose once back home but progress was slooow. But enough rambling – I should get on with the reviews. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana as always.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Reclusive novelist Vida Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself – all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission, and is gradually sucked in as Vida Winter reveals dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden from her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home Remaining suspicious of Miss Winters’ sincerity, Margaret carries out her own investigations as well, and gradually two parallel tales unfold. This was a re-read but I remembered basically nothing from the first time. It’s enjoyable and the writing is truly beautiful at times but parts of it are quite long-winded and it occasionally feels repetitive. I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere though. I had completely forgotten the final twist and didn’t manage to piece the clues together this time either so that speaks for it. I liked Margaret but I did find myself occasionally rolling my eyes at her “obsession” – it sometimes felt like she wanted to be the main character in her own personal gothic tragedy. 3.5 stars.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. The year is 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville has come to investigate. On arrival, he learns of the bizarre death of one of the abbey’s residents and turns detective, only for more monks to turn up dead. What is going on at the abbey and can Brother William solve the mystery while also completing his original mission? I thought I was never going to finish this book and you’re probably wondering why I bothered. The short answer is it’s part of the BBC big read. Anyway, somewhere in this book there’s a murder mystery, caught between the pages of… I don’t know what. A history of the church? A philosophical work? Parts of it are fascinating but others go on forever. Overall it’s very slow and at times I had to force myself to go on reading. I loved the idea of the library and its secrets – the parts where Adso and William were discovering how things worked were fantastic. But all the random breaking into Latin with no translation just made me feel like I was too stupid for the book. 3 stars.
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2). It’s winter in Three Pines and the residents of the picturesque Quebec village are preparing for Christmas… but somebody is preparing for murder! No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter – and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. She managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder – or brilliant enough to succeed? With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. This is an entertaining mystery. I enjoyed being back in Three Pines and I love the villagers – especially Ruth. She amuses me. However I was put off by the way the author talked about CC de Poitiers daughter, aka “the fat girl”. At one point she describes her as “grotesque” – a literal child! And it’s a general description of a scene, not one of the characters speaking. I enjoyed the story though and will likely continue the series. 4 stars.
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deidre Sullivan (Perfectly Preventable Deaths #1). After their mother remarried, fifteen-year-old twins Madeline and Catlin move to a new life in Ballyfran, a strange isolated town, a place where, for the last sixty years, teenage girls have gone missing in the surrounding mountains. Normally close, a distance begins to grow between the twins – as Catlin falls in love, and Madeline discovers… powers? When Catlin falls into the gravest danger of all, Madeline must ask herself who she really is, and who she wants to be – or rather, who she might have to become to save her sister. First of all I have to confess that this was a total cover buy. Look at it though – can you blame me? The story itself starts off pretty slow. There’s a lot of build up and subtle hints about what’s going on. I didn’t mind but I can imagine a lot of people would find it frustrating. Towards the end it gets dark very quickly. Things seem to escalate all at once. There’s also a scene with animal abuse/mutilation that’s described in some detail. While I understand why the character did what she did it would definitely be disturbing for a lot of people. 3.5 stars.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. In this book, we follow the lives – and problems – of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children. After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is slowly losing his sanity to Parkinson’s disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of thier own lives. Desperate for something to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on bringing the family together for one last Christmas at home. This book is quite honestly tedious and I wouldn’t have finished it if I wasn’t stuck in hospital without anything else. All of the characters are unlikable and most of them aren’t even particularly interesting. I did feel some sympathy for Enid but still didn’t like her. The only member of the family who seemed vaguely tolerable was the daughter, Denise. At least her section didn’t bore me to tears! 2 stars.
Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell. When Saffyre Maddox was ten something terrible happened and she’s carried the pain of it around with her ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides from him, invisible in the shadows, learning his secrets; secrets she could use to blow his safe, cosy world apart. Meanwhile, Owen Pick’s life is falling apart. In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn. When Saffyre disappears from opposite Owen’s house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at him. Accusing him. Holding him responsible. After all, he’s just the type, isn’t he?… I found this book little slow in the beginning and I wasn’t too sure where it was going to go but from around the mud-point I was hooked. I think I partially guessed who the bad guy was (or at least what’s implied at the end) but it definitely also took a direction I wasn’t expecting. Not Lisa Jewell’s best but a solid read. 3.5 stars.
So, that’s it for October. Not the best reading month – none of the books I read really stand out as being excellent. I do recommend Invisible Girl and A Fatal Grace though (but you should read book 1 in the series first!).
Unfortunately none of the six books I read in October were by BAME/BIPOC authors.
Check out the Show Us Your Books link up for more book reviews and recommendations.
I am having to type this from my phone again, and yes it’s still annoying. Especially the adding links part. But I refuse to miss Show Us Your Books day just because technology hates me! So here we are. I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, of course. Here’s what I read in June:
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor. It’s New Year’s Eve and a teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called on to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must. This is a hard book to describe. I can definitely see that a lot of people would hate it. The writing style is unusual and it’s very repetitive. I actually kind of enjoyed it though. If you go into this book thinking it’s going to be a mystery about a missing girl you will be disappointed. It’s more a story about a village, somewhat also about the people in it. The missing girl provides the starting point for the story, and she comes up throughout as people remember her, but it’s not really her story at all. I do have to admit to being a little disappointed that we never did find out what happened to Rebecca though! 4 stars.
A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike #6). When Hazel Wong’s beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel’s family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong. But when they arrive they discover something they didn’t expect: there’s a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn’t just the detective.. it appears she’s also a suspect! The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel’s name – before it’s too late. This book is fantastic! I loved seeing Hazel come into her own and be the one who knew what was going on. I was greatly amused whenever Daisy sulked because she didn’t understand something. Petty maybe but she deserved to be shown that Hazel is just as good as her. Hazel’s little sister May is hilarious. And I loved the Hong Kong setting. It’s great to see the series back on track after a disappointing book 4. (Book 5 was great and this one is even better). 5 stars.
Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks. When Charlotte offers to take her best friend Harriet’s daughter to the school fair, she expects nothing more than a fun, care-free day. She swears she only took her eyes off the children for one second. But when her three kids all emerge from a ride safe and sound whole Harriet’s daughter Alice is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame. Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface – and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter. This is a fantastic thriller. I was not expecting the twist (I had actually guessed something else). What I really liked was how the book described the fall out from what happened – it seemed very realistic. I felt terrible for poor Charlotte! I also liked the ending – things didn’t work out too neatly. The characters’ feelings at the end made a lot of sense and I liked that it wasn’t nicely wrapped up with a happily ever after bow. 4 stars.
Where the Light Gets in by Lucy Dillon. While working at a nursing home, Lorna meets Betty. Defiant to the end, Betty encourages Lorna to face her fears… which is how she ends up in Longhampton, the childhood home she swore she would never see again. If Lorna’s learned one thing from Betty it’s that courage is something you paint on like red lipstick, even when you’re panicking inside. And right now, with the keys to the town’s gallery in her hand, Lorna feels about as courageous as Betty’s anxious little dachshund, Rudy, trembling beside her. Lorna’s come home to Longhampton to fulfil a long-held dream, but she knows, deep down, that she needs to lay her ghosts to rest first. As Lorna – and the little dog – tentatively open their cracked hearts to old friends and new ones, facing hard truths and fresh promises, something surprisingly beautiful begins to grow around the gallery. This is a fun, heartwarming read. I was expecting a romance, but it’s more a story about family and friendships really. There are little sprinklings of romance in there with two potential love interests but it’s not really a focus of the book. I loved the doggy characters – anxious little Rudy and Bernard the border terrier, who can be a bit of a handful. Joyce is a real character and I loved the little snippets we got to know of her past. I weirdly kept forgetting the main character’s name though – I just found all the other characters so much more interesting than her! She’s one of those people that’s almost too nice and just lets people walk all over her. Several times I found myself thinking if she’d just open her mouth and communicate occasionally she wouldn’t be in this situation. The other characters made up for it though. 4 stars.
Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean. Things aren’t going great for Archie Albright. His mum and dad are acting weird, and they’re doing a terrible job of pretending they don’t hate each other. All he wants is for everything to go back to normal, to three months before when his parents were happy and still lived together. If only he could figure out what the secret is that they’re keeping from him! When Archie sees a colourful, crumpled flyer fall out of Dad’s pocket, he thinks he may have found the answer. Only problem? The answer might just lie at the end of the rainbow – an adventure away. Together with his best friends, Bell and Seb, Archie sets off on a heartwarming and unforgettable journey to try and fix his family, even if he has to break a few rules to do it. This is a wonderful book. Very wholesome and heartwarming with some funny moments. Archie’s friends are fantastic. I did feel like the story was a bit superficial in some places – it just barely scratched the surface of it being okay for Archie to be upset about his dad being gay and I feel like it could have gone a lot deeper into that. I also would have liked to see Archie have a more serious conversation with his dad – they did eventually talk but it seemed to be over in a few sentences then everything was resolved and they all apparently lived happily ever after. My heart went out to Archie’s mum – she was so supportive of her husband while at the same time obviously struggling with the loss of the marriage she thought she had. 4 stars.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1). While sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song has never had a boyfriend, she has been in love – five times. And she’s written a love letter to each of them, which she keeps in a hatbox her mother gave her. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control. Especially since one letter, the newest one, is sent to Josh – the very recent ex-boyfriend of her older sister, who has just left for college! First of all, full disclosure – I had never intended to read this series. But I was looking for a book by a POC author to read and every single thing I looked up from my to-read list wasn’t available on Scribd. Finally I remembered this series and decided to give book 1 a try. It turned out to be a cute and fun read. I enjoyed that there’s a lot about family along with the romance. Lara Jean’s sister Kitty is awesome – she may be my new favourite little sister in fiction. It’s a very teenage book and a bit overly dramatic at times but that’s kind of to be expected. There were things about Peter (the main love interest, kind of) that I didn’t like but he does seem to be a good person and not your typical popular boy which was kind of nice. The ending annoys me – it’s so clearly contrived to make you want to continue the series! Luckily I actually could read the next one straight away, but I hate it when authors do that. 4 stars.
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2). Don’t read this synopsis if you haven’t read the first book in this series and still want to ;-). Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. All along, they were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t – and now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once? I didn’t like this one quite as much as the first book. I feel like introducing yet another potential love interest on top of everything else going on between Lara Jean and Peter was a bit much – even if the new guy was very sweet. I did enjoy it though. Once again Kitty was the star for me. 3.5 stars.
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3). Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends. Life couldn’t be more perfect! At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks… until she gets some unexpected news. Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans – but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to? I actually read the book I’m reviewing next before this one, but I thought I would keep the trilogy together here. didn’t enjoy this one as much as the others. It’s still cute but it doesn’t really add anything to the series. There’s not much of a plot to be honest – Lara Jean is just kind of living her life: baking, hanging out with her sister and boyfriend, crafting. It was quick and fun to read but ultimately I think I’ll forget most of it very quickly. 3 stars.
I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark (Alvirah & WIlly #8). Two years after the day that her son Matthew was kidnapped in broad daylight, Alexandra Moreland is still torn between hope and despair. Now, on what would have been Matthew’s fifth birthday, photos surface that seem to show Alexandra kidnapping her own child. Her ex-husband blames her and even her good friends Alvirah and Willy seem to doubt her story. Alexander believes someone is pretending to be her. But who could it be… and why take Matthew? This book was fine. It’s apparently part of a series but that doesn’t matter at all when reading it. The premise is interesting but the solution is a bit predictable and some of it is far-fetched – nobody can be that good a makeup artist that someone who has literally met and spoken to them both couldn’t tell them apart. And even if they looked identical wouldn’t they have different voices? I also thought the motive was a little weak. It’s as if the author wanted to write about identity theft but then couldn’t come up with a plausible but still interesting reason why someone would do that. It’s an easy read though and I did like some of the characters. 2.5 stars.
No Way Out by Cara Hunter (DI Adam Fawley #3). It’s the Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his older brother is left fighting for his life. Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone? Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true. Because this fire wasn’t an accident. It was murder. I didn’t love this book quite as much as the first two in the series – possibly because I partially guessed the solution – but I still enjoyed it a lot. There are many twists and turns – another reviewer described it as peeling back the layers of an onion and that’s exactly right. I enjoy the way Cara Hunter always uses things like news articles (complete with comments) and social media in her books – showing how quick people are to judge a situation they know nothing about. DI Fawley is having some issues in his private life and takes a bit of a backseat in parts for this one, which was kind of nice since it allowed us to learn a bit more about some of the members of his team. 4 stars. I highly recommend this series.
And that’s it for this round. Total books read in June: 10. By BAME/BIPOC authors: 4 (yes, 2 were from the same series but it still counts!).
April was very far from my best reading month… I only managed 6 books! None of them are likely to become a new favourite either. Oh well… let’s see what they were.
The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence. Set entirely on a London bus travelling from Hoxton to Highbury and taking place over just 36 minutes, the events of The 392 unfold through a cast of charismatic characters coming from very different worlds. On the 392 are all the familiar faces you might expect to see on any bus ride through inner-city London in the grips of gentrification: delinquent school kids, the high- flyers, the weird, the wonderful and the homeless. These Londoners share two things: a bus journey and a threat. A threat which is ready to blow apart everything they know. This is very cleverly done. I could actually feel the tension. The constant switching between characters made it feels a bit choppy but it made perfect sense to do it that way. The ending was shocking and I’m not sure I liked it. This is definitely a thought-provoking book although I feel like Londoners will get more out of it than most. 3.5 stars.
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. Bridie Devine – flame-haired, pipe-smoking detective extraordinaire- is haunted by her failure to solve her last case in time, resulting in the death of a child. Reluctantly she agrees to take on her most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors in this age of discovery. Winding her way through the sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing secrets about her past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot-tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where nothing is quite what it seems. I really enjoyed most of this book – Bridie is a fascinating character and the mystery was intriguing – but for me the end let it down. I was left completely confused by the resolution to one character’s story. Honestly the resolution made that entire side story feel entirely unnecessary. 3.5 stars.
The Memory Key by Liana Liu. Lora Mint is determined not to forget. Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most importantly, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return. But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would (which also means certain memories fade, just as they would naturally). Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad – burying the truth forever? This is a quick read and at least parts of it were intriguing. Unfortunately the world building wasn’t great – as in there wasn’t really much of it at all – and the characters are pretty bland. I also found the ending anticlimactic. It’s not a terrible book but I feel like a similar kind of thing has been done much better. 2.5 stars
Wilder Girls by Rory Power. It’s been eighteen months since Hetty and her schoolmates at the Raxter School for Girls were put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit – killing most of the teachers one at a time. The students reacted differently, their bodies turning strange and foreign, growing scales and extra spines. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything. But when Hetty’s best friend Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could ever have imagined. I enjoyed this book for the most part. It was creepy and disturbing and weird and I had so many theories about what was happening. Then it got to the end and it just… stopped. I hate abrupt endings that come out of nowhere! Where’s the rest of it? I need to know what happens next! This is a standalone so the end really is the end but there are still too many questions left open.It’s told from two perspectives, Hetty’s and Byatt’s and I felt like Byatt’s part was too short. After the author drops loads of hints about her past, Byatt’s side of the story just stopped (again with the abrupt endings). That aspect definitely needed to be fleshed out more. On the positive side it is well written and very intriguing just the initial intrigue doesn’t pay off with answers. (Although I was confused by the review that wanted to know how they ended up on the island – it’s literally a boarding school. They came there to go to school. That was the most obvious part for me!). 3 stars – which is a pity because until the end it could have been a 4. I listened to this on Scribd and it took me forever, which is part of the reason I read so few other books. Me and audiobooks do not get along!
Last to Die (Rizzolli and Isles #10). For the second time in his short life, Teddy Clock has survived a massacre. Two years ago, he barely escaped when his entire family was slaughtered. Now, at fourteen, in a hideous echo of the past, Teddy is the lone survivor of his foster family’s mass murder. Orphaned once more, the traumatized teenager has nowhere to turn—until the Boston PD puts detective Jane Rizzoli on the case. Jane spirits Teddy away to Evensong, a boarding school for emotionally traumatized children in the remote Maine wilderness. Forensic pathologist Maura Isles already has a connection with the school – Julian ‘Rat’ Perkins, the 16-year-old boy she met during a previous case, is now living there. At the school, Jane and Maura meet Will Yablonski and Claire Ward, students whose tragic pasts bear a shocking resemblance to Teddy’s. Could there be a connection between the cases? Jane and Maura soon discover that even a school protected by locked gates and acres of forest cannot shut out a gathering threat. And when three blood-spattered twig dolls are found hanging from a tree, they wonder if the threat comes from outside the school… or from within. It’s difficult to review this having not read (enough of) the previous ones in the series. There’s a lot of backstory that’s hinted at and semi-explained but I definitely would have needed to start from the beginning to really feel connected to the characters and understand what was going on. I have read a Rizzoli and Isles book before but that one was book 5 and the things I was missing in this one seem to have happened somewhere between that book and this one. Anyway… the mystery itself was fine. There were a few too many character perspectives and it got a bit confusing but I did enjoy the school setting and the writing. Overall, this book was good but not great. Honestly I’m just not sure this series is for me based on the two I’ve read (admittedly out of order). 3 stars.
Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay. David Harwod’s wife, Jan, has been acting strangely recently and he’s been increasingly worried about her, so he’s pleased when she suggests they take their four-year-old son on a trip to a nearby amusement park. But what begins as a pleasant family outing turns into a nightmare after an inexplicable disappearance. A frantic search only leads to an even more shocking and harrowing turn of events. Until this terrifying moment, David Harwood is just a small-town reporter in need of a break. His paper, the Promise Falls Standard, is struggling to survive. Then he gets a lead that just might be the answer to his prayers: a potential scandal involving a controversial development project for the outskirts of this picturesque upstate New York town. It’s a hot-button issue that will surely sell papers and help reverse the Standard’s fortunes, but strangely, David’s editors keep shooting it down. Why? That’s a question no longer at the top of David’s list. Now the only thing he cares about is restoring his family. Desperate for any clue, David dives into his own investigation – and into a web of lies and deceit. For with every new piece of evidence he uncovers, David finds more questions – and moves ever closer to a shattering truth. This is very fast-paced with a lot of twists and turns. It certainly kept me interested wondering what was going to happen next. Some of those twists were less believable than others though. There was a lot going on and a lot of layers to unpick. I definitely found myself rolling my eyes a few times but it was a fun way to pass the time. I don’t regret reading it but it’s not one I would keep/read again (luckily I found it on a public bookcase so I didn’t pay money for it). 3 stars.
Total books read: 6, BIPOC/BAME authors: 3. That means half were by BAME/BIPOC authors. Admittedly the actual number is lower than in any of the previous months of the year (4 each in January, February and March) but I’m calling it a win 😉 (Also, despite reading a book by her before, I hadn’t even realised Tess Gerritson was Asian-American until I happened to see the author picture in the back of this book. I usually pick books because they sound interesting and not because I’m going out of my way to only read white authors…)
Hello! It’s somehow book day again… time is going fast! I forgot to write a draft of this post to add to throughout the month so now I’m having to type the whole entire thing during my lunch break (and partly after work because I didn’t get finished at lunch time). As you can see from the title, I am linking up with Steph and Jana to tell you what I read in February.
Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford. Sequel to Greenglass House. It’s the Christmas holidays again and Milo is looking forward to spending his school-free time with his family, but once again they end up with a whole house full of guests, both familiar faces and new ones. There are fresh clues to uncover as Milo and his friends search for a mysterious map and a famous smuggler’s lost haul. I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as the first one. It’s just as charming and there are some fantastic characters (I would love to see Milo and Marzana’s friendship continue to develop) but it did feel a bit too similar to the first book at times. i really enjoyed the aspects of Nagspeake folklore and getting to know something about the world outside the inn. 4 stars.
The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Mila and her sisters live with their brother Oskar in a small forest cabin. It’s been winter in their village for 5 years – so long that Mila’s youngest sister doesn’t remember anything else. Their mother is dead and their father is gone. One night, a fur-clad stranger arrives seeking shelter for himself and his men. But by the next morning, they’ve gone – taking Oskar with them and, as they later find out, all the other boys in the village. Mila is determined to find her brother and bring him back, so with the help of Rune, the Mage, she sets out to do just that. This is well-written, and the beginning in particular is very atmospheric, but the story felt a bit vague. It’s based on folklore and very reminiscent of a fairy-tale but it lacks detail. It’s all a bit simple and most of the characters felt a bit flat – particularly Mila’s older sister Senna and Rune, the Mage. I would have liked to find out more of his back story and motivations. I did really love Mila’s little sister Pipa though. 3 stars.
The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson. 12-year-old Yanka has always felt out of place in her small village. She was found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby and has always felt drawn towards the forest. When she wakes up one morning to find that her legs have become bear legs, she sets off on an adventure with her house weasel Mousetrap to discover who she really is. Along the way she is joined by a motley crew of animals, all of whom have a lot to teach her about friendship and belonging. This is a wonderful adventure about family, friendship and discovering who you really are. I loved the stories interwoven throughout and the characters Yanka met along the way. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The House With Chicken Legs though. Yanka is a great character but I somehow didn’t feel as attached to her as I did to Marinka. One thing I did like better in this one was the Yaga house – I want it to be my friend! 3.5 stars.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Vasilisa – known as Vasya – the youngest child of Petyor Petrovich, is wild like her mother was. The family lives on the edge of the Russian wilderness (although at that point it’s not Russia yet, but Rus‘), where winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. Vasya spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. But then her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honouring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. In a village caught between a pagan past and the Christian church, Vasya is perhaps the only one who can save her people from what’s coming. This is really well written and I found the Slavic folk tale elements absolutely fascinating. I love Vasya and the various creatures/guardians. However it felt pretty slow at times – it seemed to take forever for the “real” story to get going. I will read the next book because I want to know where Vasya ends up going. 3.5 stars.
Boy, Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. When Boy Novak turns 20, she flees the home of her abusive, rat-catcher father – ending up in Flax Hill, Massachusetts, simply because it’s the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. There she meets Arturo Whitman – craftsman, widower, and father of Snow – a beautiful, cherished child who Boy is instantly smitten by. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that’s simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow’s sister, Bird. When Bird is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart. There are a lot of themes in this book. Identity… what it means to be white/black, male/female. Appearances versus reality. There is a LOT to discuss and I feel like it would be a perfect book club book. It’s also really well written. But the plot kind of lost me. I felt like I was missing the whole point of the book. Then a few serious issues came up at the end that weren’t really explored at all and made me feel like I was missing something. The final twist at the end was handled fairly badly (to say how would be a spoiler though) and the book then ended abruptly without the reveal either being tied in to the rest of the plot or the author explaining what she was trying to do by putting that twist in there and having Boy react so badly. I’m not sure what the comparison with Snow White is about either. Sure there’s an obsession with mirrors and beauty but comparing the plot to Snow White seemed very far-fetched to me. 3 stars – maybe more 2.5 now I think about it.
The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club (various authors including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers). In 1931 Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and 10 other crime writers from the newly formed Detection Club collaborated in publishing a unique crime novel. In a literary game of consequences, each author would write one chapter, leaving G.K. Chesterton to write a typically paradoxical prologue and Anthony Berkeley to tie up all the loose ends. The result was this book. Inspector Rudge does not encounter many cases of murder in the sleepy seaside town of Whynmouth. But when an old sailor lands a rowing boat containing a fresh corpse with a stab wound to the chest, the Inspector’s investigation immediately comes up against several obstacles. The vicar, whose boat the body was found in, is clearly withholding information, and the victim’s niece has disappeared. There is clearly more to this case than meets the eye – even the identity of the victim is called into doubt. Inspector Rudge begins to wonder just how many people have contributed to this extraordinary crime and whether he will ever unravel it… I love the concept of this book and it was interesting to see where each author took the story and what they added to it. Inevitably some chapters were better than others (or possibly more to my taste than others). I found the prologue by G.K. Chesterton surprisingly dull considering I like the Father Brown stories. Agatha Christie’s chapter was good, as could be expected. There were a few other chapters I enjoyed as well, some by authors I didn’t know, and I was impressed with how the last person managed to tie everything together. I had read this before but I was maybe 13 at the time so I obviously didn’t remember the solution! I do recommend it if you’re a fan of classic crime/mysteries – it’s definitely not the greatest detective mystery I’ve read but I still found it fun to see what people managed to do with someone else’s plot. 3 stars.
Cream Buns and Crime by Robin Stevens. A collection of short stories from the world of the Murder Most Unladylike series – including the Detective Society’s first ever mystery, the Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie. There are also tips from Daisy and Hazel on how to found your own Detective Society, a story from “rival” teen detectives (but actually friends) The Junior Pinkertons, and some discussion of real-life unsolved mysteries. It’s cute but ultimately unnecessary. The tips for setting up your own detective agency and writing in code are fun and there are a couple of new stories in there – I enjoyed reading about the Junior Pinkertons case. But ultimately I didn’t think it needed to be a whole separate book. One of the stories is actually included as a bonus at the end of Mistletoe and Murder and I felt like the same could have been done with the rest of the content. Also, I had felt that Daisy was getting better in Mistletoe and Murder, but reading from her perspective in this book she came across as an awful person and horrible friend to Hazel. She’s so possessive of their friendship while at the same time constantly putting Hazel down and treating her like an idiot. And when she’s giving her tips for setting up your own club she also talks directly to the readers as if they couldn’t possibly be anywhere near as clever as the amazing Daisy. Ugh! 2.5 stars.
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole. When Sydney Green takes part in a walking tour of the Brooklyn neighbourhood she’s lived in for almost her whole life, she is frustrated to find that the tour guide prefers to tell stories of the white people who lived there hundreds of years ago rather than the amazing African Americans – some of whom are actually still living there. Challenged to create her own walking tour if it means that much to her, Sydney decides to do just that, finding assistance from an unlikely – and unwanted – corner, one of the many new arrivals to the block – her neighbour Theo. As more and more FOR SALE signs pop up and the people Sydney has known her whole life gradually disappear – even while Sydney herself is literally battling to hold on to her own house – Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbours may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised. When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other – or themselves – long enough to find out before they too disappear? From reading the synopsis I could not figure out what the actual plot of this book was, I just knew it sounded interesting (and I had seen some high praise for it – I think actually through SUYB). It starts off fairly slow but by the end I was hooked – staying up until the early hours of the morning to finish it. I still have a few questions but overall it was a great read. Not a thriller in the traditional sense but certainly chilling and eye-opening. 4 stars.
Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson. When rookie policeman Ari Thór Arason is given his first posting in Siglufjörður – an idyllic (and remote) fishing village in the very north of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel – far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik, he isn’t expecting much beyond routine small incidents. But then a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, and Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. This is very atmospheric – you can really feel the claustrophobia of the small town, basically cut off from the rest of the world by snow and ice. The story itself is verrrry slow, which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing but unfortunately something about the writing style just didn’t jibe well with me. It felt choppy. In fairness to the author it’s possible that something was lost in translation, although I would think the translator would have tried to accurately represent the original style. I also didn’t like Ari Thor very much – he needs to learn to communicate and stop assuming he knows how other people (his girlfriend) feel. Towards the end things started to pick up and there was a bit of action, which bumped this book up from a 2.5 to a 3 star. I probably won’t bother reading book 2 though.
Cinderella is Dead by Kaylynn Bayron. It’s been 200 years since Cinderella found her prince but the fairy tale is over. Siyteen-year-old Sophia knows the story off by heart though. She has to. Just like she and every other teen girl has to attend the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are “forfeit”, leaving the kingdom never to be heard from again. Sophia doesn’t want to go to the ball though. She doesn’t even want to get married – or not to a man anyway. She would rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend. When Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb, where she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all – and in the process, learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew. I enjoyed this book. I do agree with the reviewers who said they would have liked more world-building, but if you view it through the lens of a fairytale of sorts it makes sense in a way for there to just be a kingdom and a forest. I liked Sophia but I would have liked to see her reasons for wanting to change the system developed a bit more. Obviously wanting to defeat the evil and get equal rights for everyone is a good thing – I’m not questioning that. But why does Sophia in particular choose to fight back while others prefer to follow the rules and try to conform no matter how much it hurts them? We are told it has something to do with Sophia’s grandmother, who also rebelled and was taken away, but I would have liked to be shown how her grandmother shaped her thinking. Maybe a scene with Sophia reminiscing about something specific that happened with her grandmother instead of her just constantly telling everybody “my grandmother told me the king is bad and must be stopped!”. The king himself is almost a caricature of evil – towards the end there was a point where I actually had to laugh because it was just getting so ridiculous! (It reminded me of a scene from Death Becomes Her). The twist on the fairy godmother was awesome and she was probably one of the best developed characters in the book to be honest. The romance felt very rushed – I felt like Sophia got over Erin very quickly. I did enjoy the experience of reading the book though and despite its flaws I flew through it, so I’m giving it 3.5 stars.
We Are Giants by Amber Lee Dodds. Sydney thinks her mother Amy is the best mum in the world – even if she is a bit different from other kids’ parents. As Amy explains it, when she was a girl she got to 48 inches tall and then stopped growing right there. It’s the perfect height, in Sydney’s opinion: big enough to reach the ice cream at the supermarket, but small enough to be special. And though Sydney’s dad died when she was only five, her memories of him, her mum’s love and the company of her brave big sister Jade means she never feels alone. When Sydney’s mum is forced to sell her furniture shop and the family moves away from London, things get tricky. Sydney and Jade have to fit in at a new school, make friends, and deal with growing up in a strange town. And the last thing Sydney wants to do is grow up! For such a short book this manages to pack a lot in – family, grief, growing up, dealing with changes and fitting in/making friends – but somehow it doesn’t seem crowded. Sydney’s voice felt authentic (to me – who has no children and clearly hasn’t been a child for a long time!) and I even teared up at one point. Jade’s teenage rebellion felt a bit cliché but still realistic. It’s a great little book for children who are worried about growing up or are struggling to cope with changes. 4 stars.
Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed. Zeba Khan is like any other sixteen-year-old British girl: enjoying herself, waiting for exam results and hanging around with friends. When her parents decide on a family trip to their home country of Pakistan Zeba isn’t exactly thrilled, but she goes along with it. Although she finds it a bit weird that her parents seem very stressed in the run-up to the holiday, she doesn’t really think much of it. It’s been a long time since they went home after all. Then they arrive, and her future is threatened by an unthinkable – and forced – duty to protect her father’s honour. This is a thought-provoking read. I liked that the author made it very clear that arranged marriage and forced marriage are two totally different things, and that forced marriage is actually frowned on in Islam as well (although it still happens). Zebra frustrated me at times – I wish she had just communicated when she had the chance. There is a surprisingly sad part in the middle. Most of the characters were well developed apart from Zeba’s mum, who just follows her husband in everything. I know that was the point – she’s supposed to be traditional and think men know best – but I didn’t understand how she could show literally zero emotion about her own daughter, even when the husband she was supposedly obeying was very obviously upset about what he felt he “had” to do. Zeba’s grandmother was fantastic and I loved how the author showed that the people you would expect to be most traditional in their thinking (the older generation) are perfectly capable of having minds of their own. The ending is a little too predictable and straightforward, but I can’t see how else it should have ended either so I suppose it makes sense. 3.5 stars.
A Wolf for a Spell by Karrah Sutton. Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans – especially witches – but when her family is threatened, she finds herself with no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing, and before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut – and Baba Yaga’s body! Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all. This is an absolutely magical book. The beginning gave me Red Riding Hood vibes, then it changed into something else. It has a definite fairytale feel, which isn’t surprising given it’s based on Slavic folk tales, but it also goes deeper than your traditional fairytale, which I liked. I loved all the characters, but my favourite was actually one of the supporting characters – I loved the raven with all his snark! One thing that didn’t quite work for me was the villain – he felt a bit flat and evil just for the sake of being evil. I guess he wanted power but that didn’t really come through. That’s a relatively minor complaint though – I definitely recommend this book. 4 stars.
Total books read: 14. Books by BIPOC/BAME authors: 4 (not good enough!).
TL;DR: All the children’s books mentioned here are great – I particularly recommend The Girl Who Speaks Bear and A Wolf for a Spell if you like middle grade fantasy. If you (or your children) prefer more realistic stories then We Are Giants is also great. When No One is Watching is fantastic but don’t go into it expecting your typical thriller. I really enjoyed the experience of reading Cinderella is Dead but for me it lacked depth. None of the rest are terrible but they aren’t my new favourites either. Read them if they sound good to you.
Hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day with Steph and Jana and I’m here to talk about last year’s reading for the final time. December is always my worst reading month, partly because Jan and I are both off work so we tend to spend time together and also because it’s the one time that I actually watch quite a lot of TV. Jan switches on the TV practically every time he enters the living room but I’m usually perfectly happy to leave it off and get lost in a book. All the fun, heart-warming films are on TV at Christmas though and I like to indulge in those and really switch off. Anyway, enough about that. You’re here for the books – and despite all the TV and boardgames plus getting my Christmas cards finished in the earlier part of the month, I managed to read nine.
One of Us Is Next A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up in the year since Simon died, but in all that time, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts. Until now. Someone has started playing a game of Truth or Dare. But this is no ordinary Truth or Dare. This game is lethal. Choosing the truth may reveal your darkest secrets, accepting the dare could be dangerous, even deadly. Once again the teenagers of Bayview must work together to find the culprit, before it’s too late. I loved One of Us Is Lying and I’m honestly amazed it took me so long to pick this one up. I was immediately sucked back into the world of Bayview and all their drama. I did guess who was behind everything a bit before the end, but considering I stayed up until midnight to finish it despite having work the next morning I couldn’t not give it 5 stars. It’s probably more like 4.5 but I’m happy to round up in this instance.
North Child by Edith Pattou (also published under the title East). According to Rose’s mother’s superstitions, a child who is born facing North is destined to be wild, a wanderer, always seeking adventures. So she lies to everyone – including herself – and claims that Rose was born facing East. But despite her mother’s best attempts, Rose is a North child through and through, and the old stories say she is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey. Making a pact with an enormous white bear, Rose travels on his back to a mysterious castle that holds a dark enchantment, a darker temptation, and the key to her true destiny… North Child is a retelling of the fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, but I don’t know the original fairytale. I enjoyed this book overall, but it suffered a bit from being overly long. There were a few parts in the middle that felt agonisingly slow so that when I put it down I didn’t feel eager to pick it up again. It is beautifully told but that wasn’t enough to fully hold my attention. I liked the parts told from the white bear’s perspective. The ending felt both too drawn out and rushed – lots of chapters to explain the happy ending but then it went very quickly from “I love you” to two weddings within a few weeks. I do recommend it though, just be aware that it’s not all action, all the time. 3 stars.
When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten. Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – or so it seems. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem – she can’t remember anything that happened last summer.When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she finally has to face the truth of what happened last year. This is such a gorgeous book. I loved the small-town atmosphere and the sense of community. You really get a sense of life in a Jamaican village. Rudy is a great character as well and such a lovely friend to Clara. I’ve read the same twist in another book (although handled slightly differently) so it didn’t shock me but I did think it was well done. I would definitely read more books by this author. 4 stars.
Out of Heart by Irfan Master. Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and his younger sister, Farah. His dad no longer lives with them but is still close by. His sister has stopped speaking and his mum works two jobs to make ends meet. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift – his heart. William is the recipient of Adam’s grandfather’s heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam’s family. William has received a great deal, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too. This is a quick read and a decent enough story but I felt like it didn’t go into enough depth. There are a lot of serious topics in there but they all seem to be rushed through a bit. I loved the characters, especially Farah and Laila (a girl from Adam’s school). Overall it could have done with either being longer or concentrating on just one or two issues. 3 stars.
The Unlucky Lottery by Håkan Nesser (Inspector Van Veeteren #6). Four friends celebrate a winning lottery ticket. Just hours later, one of them – Waldemar Leverkuhn – is found stabbed to death in is bed. With Chief Inspector Van Veeteren on sabbatical, working in a second hand bookshop, the case is assigned to Inspector Munster. But when another member of the lottery group disappears, as well as Leverkuhn’s neighbour, Munster appeals to Van Veeteren for assistance. Soon Munster will find himself interviewing the Leverkuhn family, including the eldest – Irene – a resident of a psychiatric clinic. And as he delves deeper into the family’s history, he will discover dark secrets and startling twists, which not only threaten the clarity of the case – but also his life. This was a re-read for me, part of my ongoing attempt to decide which books I actually want to keep. I didn’t remember much about it thoigh – certainly not who the murderer was or why. It’s a fairly typical detective crime novel, absolutely fine but nothing special in my opinion. At times the writing style was a bit disjointed – short, almost clipped sentences. I think it was supposed to represent how one police officer thought but it was a bit annoying. As with most series of this type, you don’t need to have read the earlier books to read this one (I haven’t read any of them). Overall I liked it well enough but didn’t love it. 3 stars – and it shall be departing my shelves.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, moves to Ohio with her dad – a move she is not very happy about – and strikes up a friendship with Phoebe Winterbottom. During the course of a road trip to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents, Sal tells the story of Phoebe who received mysterious messages, who met a “potential lunatic,” and whose mother disappeared. As Sal talks, her own story begins to unfold – the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother. torn on this book. I loved the writing style but I found the story really predictable (I knew what had happened to Sal’s mother from almost the beginning and I had a pretty good guess on what was going on with Phoebe’s mother/”the lunatic” as well) and was NOT impressed with most of the adult characters. The teacher is awful (who reads out students’ private thoughts in class?) and Sal’s grandparents are quite frankly a liability. There were a few parts that had me genuinely invested though and the ending was quite moving. Maybe I would have enjoyed it better if I was 13 years old, but honestly I think there are better teen books out there. I really enjoyed Bloomability by the same author, but this one didn’t live up to my expectations. 3 stars.
What to Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French. Ellie Falkner is devastated to hear that her husband has died in a car accident. To then learn that he died with a mystery woman as his passenger only makes things worse. Was Greg having an affair? Drowning in grief, Ellie clings to Greg’s innocence, and her determination to prove it to the world at large means she must find out who Milena Livingstone was and what she was doing in Greg’s car. But her actions leave those around her questioning her sanity and motive. And the louder she shouts that Greg must have been murdered, the more suspicion falls on Ellie herself. Sometimes it’s safer to just keep silent when someone dies. This book is rally weird. I thought I had read it before since I’ve owned it for ages but literally nothing about it was familiar so I guess not. It was really quick to get through but it felt like not much really happened until about two-thirds of the way through. Towards the end I was enjoying it but then the resolution was kind of underwhelming. Also Ellie is really annoying and obsessive. I understand that people do weird things when they’re grieving but some of it felt very far-fetched. And since when do babies smell like sawdust and mustard? (I think that’s what it was – something bizarre anyway). Definitely not a patch on the Frieda Klein series, which I love. 3 stars.
Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt. Nicolette, or Nicki, Demere is not your average thirteen year-old. She never knew her birth mother, and she hasn’t heard from her father since he was sent to prison seven years. Having been taught the art of pick-pocketing by her grandmother, before landing in the foster system after he death, Nicki developed kleptomania. And now just happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be exactly what is needed. Nicki, alias Charlotte, swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the spectre of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past. I really enjoyed this book. I loved Nicki/Charlotte and I thought her relationship with her new “younger brother” was realistic. Obviously some suspension of belief is required – I don’t think anyone would actually send a child/teenager into such a dangerous situation even if they did come from the foster system and obviously they would never have given said child a taser – if anyone got one it would have been one of the parents. Basically if you can’t suspend your belief this one probably isn’t for you. But if you can manage that then it’s a fun adventure that I think kids will love. There were a few emotional parts – I definitely teared up at one scene between Nicki/Charlotte and her new “mom”. 4 stars.
Heartbreaker by Tania Carver. After years of abuse, Gemma Adderley has finally found the courage to leave her violent husband, after one beating and humiliation too many. Taking her seven-year-old daughter Carly, she leaves the house, determined to salvage what she can of her life. She phones Safe Harbour, a women’s refuge, and they tell her which street corner to wait on and what the car that will pick her up will look like. They tell her the word the driver will use so she knows it’s safe to get in. And that’s the last they hear from her. Gemma Adderley’s daughter Carly is found wandering the city streets on her own the next day. Her mother’s mutilated corpse turns up by the canal several weeks later. Her heart has been removed. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan takes on the case, and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito, is brought in to try and help unlock Carly’s memories of what happened that day. The race is on to solve the case before the Heartbreaker strikes again. Then another woman is found dead… There is quite a bit of action in this book but oddly it still felt slightly slow at times. It’s part of a series but it doesn’t matter too much if you haven’t read the others (I haven’t) as the author drops just enough hints of what happened before without it feeling info-dumpy. I liked the characters (except DS Ellison – what an odious man) and the writing but the plot was fairly predictable. I knew who had done it long before the end. It’s by no means a bad book though, I just wouldn’t class it as a great one. 3 stars.
That’s it for the reviews, but since I didn’t read as many books as usual this time I am going to tell you my picks for Book Challenge by Erin 14.0, which started on 1 January and runs until 30 April 2021. I have already read some of them.
5 points: Freebie – The Unadoptables by Hanna Tooke 10 points: Read a book you have been meaning to re-read – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult 10 points: Read the first book of a series you have never read before – Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters #1) 15 points: Read a book with a mostly green and/or pink cover – The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta 20 points: Read a book with a male relationship word (son, father, etc.) in the title – Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror but Chris Priestly 20 points: Read a book set in a place that’s on your bucket list of places to visit – Emily of New Moon by L.M Montgomery (Canada) 25 points: Read a book that reminds you of 2020 – Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel (the majority of the population is wiped out by a deadly flu) 30 points: Read a book written by an LGBTQIA+ author – Birthday by Meredith Russo (transgender author) 30 points: Read a book with the name of a bird in the title, or the word bird/birds in the title – Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman 35 points: Read a book where the protagonist has a questionable profession – Do Not Disturb by A. R. Torre (Deanna Madden book 2, the main character works as a cam girl)
That’s all from me. Have you read anything good recently? Don’t forget to check out the link up for more book reviews!
Hello my lovelies! It’s my favourite day of the month – when I add even more books to my never-ending to-read list and try to fool myself into believing I will actually get to them soon 😉 But first let me tell you what I read last month. It’s slightly less than usual (although still a lot by most standards) because I was very busy making items for a Christmas auction (see my previous post if you’re interested).
Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. This is the third book in the Farseer Trilogy so I don’t want to say too much about it because it will definitely spoil the other two. But Fitz (of Fitzchivalry Farseer) is the illegitimate child of king-in-waiting Chivalry. His maternal grandfather brings him to the palace as a young child, where King Shrewd has him raised as the king’s assassin. In this book, as the title suggests, Fitz goes on a quest to save the kingdom. I started this book in September, but it is long and I read the last 200-ish pages in October. It’s really well written, the beginning is excellent and I love, love, love Nighteyes (Fitz’s wolf) but I just couldn’t seem to get into this book in the same way as the other two. I enjoyed it until about a third of the way through but then it started getting repetitive. Fitz stumbles onto some kind of danger/is captured or betrayed, manages to escape (with the help of Nighteyes or occasionally another character), continues his journey only to stumble into more danger. Lather, rinse, repeat. Also I was annoyed that after everything he’s been through he still wasn’t allowed any happiness. I sometimes get the feeling Robin Hobb hates Fitz – all she seems to do is pile more misery on him. I loved the development of Fitz and the Fool’s relationship and finding out more about the Fool’s background. So a mixture of good and not so good things that ultimately add up to 3 stars. I do plan to read the next book that’s set in this world though.
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are staying at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbours are more than two miles in either direction. As Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young and friendly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologises and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Then three more strangers arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out, “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.” Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwine. feel like I must have been missing something with this book. I didn’t find it “terrifying” or “glorious” (according to the blurbs by, among others, Stephen King). I enjoyed the beginning and I really liked Wen, but then there was what felt like pages and pages of the intruders saying “let us in” and the family saying “no, go away, you can’t come in” until they finally, inevitably, get in. After that the pacing was weird, alternately fast and slow. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any character other than Wen, the random bits of back story made me want the author to just get on with it and the ending felt cliché and clunky. Obviously this one was not for me. 2 stars.
Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson. (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2). Having solved the murder case in book one, Pip Fitz-Amobi released a true-crime podcast about the murder with the help of Ravi Singh, and now it’s gone viral. Yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her – she promised her parents. But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time EVERYONE is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late? I didn’t love this book *quite* as much as the first one, I think I found the mystery more interesting in the first one, but this is still an excellent read. I adore Ravi, and I still think Pip and Cara have the best friendship. At one point Pip stays awake to watch Netflix with Cara via the phone since it’s the only way Cara can manage to fall asleep after the events of the first book. Could you actually ask for a better friend? I still think Pip’s dad is amazing and I love that her parents worry about her and try to keep her safe while at the same time treating her like the adult she (almost) is. I was actually suspicious about someone but couldn’t figure out who her would have been involved. It turned out I was right but didn’t have all the information. And I was also suspicious of someone who turned out not to be involved so I guess my detective skills aren’t all that after all 😉 4 stars, maybe even 4.5.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. “The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their live.” In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters- beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighbourhood boys – commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence. I don’t know what I thought this book was going to be, but definitely not what it actually is. I thought it would be darker, but the way it’s told I felt totally detached from the actual suicides. I really liked the writing, but I didn’t love the story itself. I liked this book okay, but it wasn’t amazing. I do want to give the author another chance though because the synopses of his other books sound really intriguing. 3 stars.
Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke. At first glance, Phil Pendleton and his son Adam seem to be a perfectly ordinary father and son. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat together overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to set his own bedtimes and eat candy whenever he wants. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined. What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life. This is such a weird little novella. Very creepy and the writing is excellent but I found the reveal somewhat lacklustre. I don’t really know what I was expecting instead though. Anyway, I liked it well enough and it was a quick read at only 82 pages. 3 stars.
The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. The only person who might have the answers to a baffling murder case is the victim’s seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died – but she’s not talking. Newly promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja and the Children’s House for their expertise with traumatised young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn’t best pleased. But she’s determined to keep little Margret safe. It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues: warnings in text messages, sums scribbled on bits of paper, numbers broadcast on the radio. He’s telling a dark and secret story – but how can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next? Fair warning: the murders in this book are BRUTAL! Not in a particularly graphic way – the actual deaths take place “off screen”, so to speak, but you find out how they were killed and it’s not nice to imagine. From the prologue I thought I knew what the motive was going to be and maybe which of two characters was doing it but I turned out to be wrong. This dark, compelling story is my first by this author and I definitely intend to continue the series. 4 stars.
Beartown by Frederick Backmann. Beartwon is a tiny community deep in the woods that doesn’t have much going for it – besides hockey team. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Then something happens, something bad that leaves a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. I had been minorly spoiled for this book before I read it so I knew what the bad thing was before I got to it (although for some reason I thought several people were involved – maybe I’m thinking of a different book?). I expected this book to devastate me but instead it made me ANGRY! So many characters I wanted to shake. But also a few who surprised me. This is an excellent book that deals with some every heavy topics. Highly, highly recommend. 5 stars.
The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Hermann. After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York – the town where her mother grew up. She soon finds out that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much – a fact that causes most of the other residences to regard her with respect and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid. The town is home to the Gray – a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. And the founder’s descendants are the only ones who can keep the monster at bay. Now the Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, she Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper must band together to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities and save the town.I absolutely devoured this book (ha, I know, that was terrible). I loved the main character Violet, and also Harper. Justin was annoying but kind of grew on me. The atmosphere is great, very creepy. I’m still a bit confused about what the thing in the Gray actually is and where it came from but maybe book 2 will help with that. 4 stars.
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega. Many people would like to think that ghosts exist, but Lucely Luna knows they do. The spirits of her deceased family members live in her house, appearing as fireflies to everyone else. When something odd starts happening to her ghost family shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout their town. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on, reverse the curse and save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late. This book is great fun. At times it gets quite intense for a middle grade – I would have loved it as a child but others might find it too scary so maybe bear that in mind. I loved the cats named after Goonies characters and also that adults got involved and helped. I am always a fan of adults who aren’t totally oblivious to what’s going on with no good explanation to get them out of the way! The ending felt a little rushed and everything was wrapped up pretty quickly but overall it was a cute, fun read that was perfect for October. 3.5 stars.
The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup. A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen. His calling card is a “chestnut man”, a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts, which he leaves at each bloody crime scene. Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery – a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who was kidnapped and murdered a year ago. A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted? To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues. Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over. This book is pretty gory and quite dark. There are a few clichés of the genre in there – two cops reluctantly working together, at least one of them “troubled” with a tragic past. I figured out the culprit but but only fairly late in the book so it wasn’t a big deal. Overall it’s a pretty solid police procedural, but something about it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. 4 stars.
Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle. Unlike her recently devout parents, seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. When a clue leads her to California, Vivian, her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, embark on a desperate cross-country road trip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivian Apple isn’t looking for a saviour. She’s looking for the truth. This is a fast read and I really liked some aspects of it. I love the characters, especially Harp. But there were some aspects that I had trouble believing or would have liked some explanation for – like where on Earth are all the other countries? Did nobody even notice that the US had been taken over by a doomsday cult? Also the ending was kind of anticlimactic. Trying not to give spoilers but after everything she went through and found out the way Vivian just eats breakfast then leaves without saying anything was just weird. I would definitely have a lot more to say! Will I read book 2? I’m not sure yet. 3.5 stars.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. England, 1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbours blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren’t convinced. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God – they believe that if they find Him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and keep the rest of the avenue’s residence safe. As spunky, spirited Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door to door in search of clues, the cul-de-sac starts to give up its secrets, and the amateur detectives uncover much more than ever imagined. As they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. It seems everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in. was a fun read. The writing is good and I loved the two girls most of the time – although Grace got a bit annoying with her constant hair flicking and insinuating that Tilly is too immature to understand anything because she’s something like a whole two months younger. Some of their misunderstandings were hilarious – I loved their conversation in church. I felt like there was a bit too much going on at times though – one mystery turned into everyone having half a dozen secrets. The only decent person in the whole street was the poor man everyone hated for absolutely no reason! Not quite as good as her later book, Three Things About Elsie, but still a decent read. 3.5 stars.
So, 12 books. A reasonable amount if not quite as many as other months. In case anyone couldn’t be bothered to read everything…
TL;DR: If you like YA I recommend both The Devouring Gray and Good Girl, Bad Blood (it can theoretically be read as a stand-alone but I would say read book 1 first). Beartown is not an enjoyable book but it’s a good one. The Chestnut Man and The Legacy are both decent – but dark – police procedural type thrillers. Most of the others are fine. The only one I personally do not recommend is The Cabin at the End of the World.
What have you been reading lately? And if you’ve read any of these what did you think – do you agree with me?
Don’t forget to visit the link up for even more book reviews!
Hello, hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day again… time to link up with Jana and Steph to tell you about the book I finished last month. Considering I didn’t read a single page for the first 11 days of August, it actually ended up being quite a few. Not as many as usual, but a decent amount by normal people’s standards.
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. On returning from WWI, Tom Sherbourne is a broken man. He needs a place away from other people, where he can be alone and think.And so he becomes a lighthouse keeper, eventually ending up on the small island of Janus Rock, an extremely remote location off the coast of Western Australia. Before heading out the island, he spends some time in the small town of Partageuse, where he meets Isabel Graysmark. They start a relationship via letter before getting married in 1926, then Izzy joins him on the island. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind… a boat has washed up on the island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. Now they have a devastating decision to make. They break the rules and follow their hearts. This is the story of what happens next. This book is just so sad. It’s obvious all along that there’s no way all the characters can be happy. I did not like Isabel at all. I understood her grief – I have had miscarriages and it is an awful thing to go through – but she was just so selfish. The way she treated Tom was nothing short of emotional manipulation. If he even dared mention that there might be another solution she instantly accused her of not loving him. Just no. That isn’t to say it’s not a good book though. Read it if you want, but be prepared for sadness and frustration. 3 stars.
A Keeper by Graham Norton. Elizabeth Keane returns to Ireland after her mother’s death, determined to clear out the house and then close with that chapter of her life forever. Having spent many years in America, she feels the small town she grew up in holds nothing for her any more. Her childhood home is packed solid with useless junk, her mother’s presence already fading. But within this mess, she discovers a small stash of letters, and ultimately the truth about her mother… and about herself. was very quick to read and I actually quite liked the writing. Elizabeth’s mam’s story was really intriguing although beyond a certain point I guessed what had happened. I didn’t really like Elizabeth though. All she seemed to do was complain about everybody and everything – her aunt and uncle, her ex, how terrible it was growing up in a small town in Ireland. Then there’s a whole side story about her teenage son that seemed kind of unnecessary. It was good enough that I would read another book by Graham Norton though (and for the Brits, yes as in the chat show host/Eurovision commentator!). 3 stars.
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. Ever since Anthony Peardew lost a keepsake from his fiancée, Theresa, on the very day she died suddenly, he has collected lost things. In a way, his assistant Laura is one of those lost things. As Anthony nears the end of his life, he tells Laura his life story, eventually bequeathing her his house and – along with it – his life’s secret mission. To reconcile all the lost things with their owners. Together with her new friend, the neighbour’s quirky daughter, Sunshine (this is what the synopsis says – Sunshine has Down’s Syndrome) and the gardener Freddie, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish. Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made. As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest? This is a cute book, but almost a bit too sweet at times. I actually enjoyed the parallel story about Bomber and Eunice more than the main one. Laura kind of annoyed me She’s constantly having tantrums and moaning about being “middle-aged” (she clearly fancies Freddie and is convinced he could never like someone “old” like her). Sunshine is the best character, and I loved Douglas the dog. 3 stars.
Nicola and the Viscount by Meg Cabot. A YA, historical romance. Nicola Sparks, sixteen and an orphan, has just finished school and is ready to dive headlong into her first London Season. A whirlwind of fashionable activities awaits her, although nabbing a husband, ordinarily the prime object of every girl’s Season, is not among them. For Nicola has already decided who she wants: a handsome viscount by the name of Lord Sebastian – who she and her best friend Eleanor refer to as “God”. Lord Sebastian Bartholomew is wealthy, attractive, and debonair, even if the few tantalizingly short moments Nicola has spent with him have produced little save discussions about poetry. Nicola is sure that a proposal from Lord Sebastian would be a match made in heaven. Everything is going well, until the infuriating Nathaniel Sheridan – Eleanor’s older brother – begins to cast doubt on the viscount’s character. Nicola is convinced Nathaniel’s efforts to besmirch Lord Sebastian’s sterling reputation will yield nothing. But when she begins to piece things together for herself, the truth that is revealed has as much to do with the viscount as it does with Nicola’s own heart. is very predictable, a little silly and I’m not 100% sure of it’s historical accuracy but it’s great fun to read. Apparently even in the 1800s teens were unnecessarily dramatic! I did like Nicola though. 3.5 stars.
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ is the third boyfriend that her younger sister – the favourite child, the beautiful one – has dispatched in, she claims, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she knows what’s to come. But how can she save one of the people she loves without sacrificing the other? is an odd book. It’s a very quick read and strangely compelling but I didn’t actually like either of the sisters. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to? I initially assumed we were supposed to be on Korede’s side and want her to win Tade for herself before her sister killed him, but she’s so horrible about literally everyone else who works at the hospital that I ended up thinking neither sister deserved a decent man! It’s a surprisingly fun read though given the subject matter. It’s billed as a thriller, but really it’s more of a drama about an extremely dysfunctional family. 3.5 stars
Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan. When Sarah Zoltanne moves from sunny California to a small town in Missouri, she feels like she’ll never fit in. Her mother is dating a jerk, the kids at her school despise her, and she misses her old home. Nevertheless, when a popular boy asks her to tell fortunes at a school fair she reluctantly agrees. But her role-playing takes a sinister turn when she begins to see actual visions that come true and the other students turn on her, branding her a witch and setting off a chain of events that mirror the centuries-old Salem witch trials in more ways than one. This is a very creepy read – it actually got darker than I was expecting towards the end. The adults in this town are the actual WORST. The ending is slightly cheesy and not everything was believable, but this was exactly the kind of book I absolutely devoured as a teen in the 90s. 3 stars.
The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (Detective Lottie Parker #1). When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how? The trail leads Lottie to St. Angela’s, a former home for wayward children, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? This is a decent enough police procedural/detective story that takes on the Catholic Church in Ireland and its not exactly savoury past. Not at all bad for a debut, although parts of it did drag. I guessed most of the reveal apart from one twist at the very end. 3 stars.
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. Andie had her whole life planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks. But that was all before. When a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all. Working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she ever thought any guy would. Her friends – Palmer, Bri, and Toby – tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control and find the joy in the unexpected? This book is cute, but very predictable (and I’m not even talking about the main protagonist’s relationship!). Also I honestly found it too long. There was a point that felt close to an ending but then there we’re still about 200 pages to go?! I enjoyed the friendship group though. Although – and this is going to sound petty – the fact that Toby was female kept confusing me. Short for Tobyhanna, apparently. What kind of name is Tobyhanna? Or Palmer for that matter? And then people in the book actually have the nerve to mock Clark‘s name? 3 stars.
The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta. Danny has no idea why she picks out Tempest, California when she and her mother try to find a new place to live – a place away from all the trouble Danny has been in recently. When she arrives, she finds the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: Imogen, the most powerful of their group – is lost. And they believe Danny has the power to find her. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. The best description I can come up with for this book is “whimsical”, but not in the fluffy sense – there are some serious things going on as well. I loved the friendship group although I felt like I only got to know a few of them properly. For instance all I remember about Lelia is she’s non-binary (but fine with “she” for now), asexual or aromatic (or possibly both?) and is friends with ravens who bring her gifts (which, honestly, is AWESOME). The characters are almost a little too quirky at times – for instance there’s a scene where one of them goes into the woods wearing shorts and, as afar as I could tell, nothing else? Which apart from just being plain weird also seems kind of dangerous. Woods and nakedness don’t really go together as far as I’m concerned -or maybe I’m just too much of an adult? I also would have liked to know more about the Grays’ powers and how they found out which kind of magic they had. I really enjoyed reading it though – I just felt like it needed to be longer to explain things a bit more and a few aspects seemed to be quirky/weird/”out there” purely for the sake of emphasising how different and “special” the characters are. 3.5 stars
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Jumbies #1). Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her – and certainly not jumbies. There’s no such thing anyway. They’re just myths, a monster tale parents made up to frighten their children. But when Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest she notices a pair of yellow eyes following her. It couldn’t be a jumbie, could it? The next day, Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home. I wasn’t sure what to think of this book at first, but by the time Severine turned up at the market I was hooked! I don’t think I’ve read any Caribbean folktales before, so I found that aspect extremely intriguing. I loved the jumbies – they’re supposed to be the “bad guys” but they’re so well described and I was fascinated by all their different characteristics. The child characters are very well written, but Corinne’s father was a little one-dimensional, which was a shame given what a major part he played in the story. I liked the fact that Corinne is clearly flawed and is forced to learn that she can’t do everything alone and friendships are something to be valued. I will definitely read the next book in the series. 4 stars.
Tell me what you’ve been reading lately, and don’t forget to check out the link up!