What I read in January 2018

Hello! I’m back again for another round of Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana… very late to the party given the link up was on Tuesday when I was on a train for two hours then in the office then back on a train for another two hours. No time for blogging! But I am here now and I want to talk about reading.

After only finishing 4 books in December, I did really well in January managing to complete the first round of Erin’s book challenge in 20 days. That’s 10 books read from 1st to 20th January, leaving me with another 11 days for non-challenge reading. So let’s take a look at my January books.

Challenge books first, then the rest. Apologies in advance – this is going to get long!

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The Lost Twin (Scarlet and Ivy book 1) by Sophie Cleverley (288 pages, read for: book with a mostly red cover). I absolutely adored this book. It’s both a boarding school book and a mystery, and it features twins, three things I’ve always loved in a book. Where were all the books like this when I was 10? The basic story is that 11-year-old Ivy is “invited” (i.e. forced) to a prestigious boarding school to take the place of her sister, Scarlet, who has disappeared. Once there, she finds a series of clues planted by Scarlet, which she follows in attempt to get her twin back. I loved Ivy and her room mate/best friend Ariadne, I loved the mystery… basically I loved everything about this book. Five stars and highly recommended!

A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson (528 pages, read for: book with a character name in the title). The basic idea of this book is that the titular Anna Browne starts receiving mysterious packages at work, each of which makes her feel special and encourages her to come out of the shadows and change her life for the better. Most of her friends find it creepy, but Anna thinks it’s nice. Eventually she decides she does want to know who is sending the packages, so she can at least say thank you. Sounds like a fun story, right? I really wanted to love this one. I mean, mysterious packages – it sounds so intriguing! But somehow I just couldn’t get into this one the way I wanted to. Anna is a perfectly nice character, but that’s all she is… just nice. Almost too nice at times. And bland. Except when she’s getting weirdly possessive about her parcels and refusing to open them until she’s own her own. “It’s my gift… why should anybody else get the pleasure of seeing me open it“. My precioussss! When the reveal finally came I was disappointed – it just didn’t make sense to me! (Although I can’t say why without spoiling it). There is also a romance that I just didn’t get at all. They just don’t seem to have anything in common. I gave it three stars because it’s a perfectly nice story, but nothing more than that.

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (368 pages, read for: a book that starts with L). This one is difficult to review. It’s basically the story  of a woman – Francesca or Frankie, whose best friend disappeared, presumed drowned twenty years ago. When human remains are found, Frankie returns to the village she grew up in to face her past. It should have been precisely the kind of thriller I love, but somehow it wasn’t. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t keep me wanting to read it when I should have been doing something else. It’s rare that I can easily put a book down because it’s time to sleep! I didn’t guess what happened, but a lot of people did so I guess I’m slow. There is a rape scene, so be aware of that if that is likely to upset you. I gave this one 3 stars.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold (352 pages, read for: a book that takes place (mostly) on a form of transport). After two mediocre books, this one was a breath of fresh air. I LOVED it! When Mim Malone’s parents divorce, she is forced to move from Ohio to Mississippi with her dad and new stepmother. A conversation she overhears leads her to believe her mother needs her, she sets off on a Greyhound bus, meeting a whole bunch of quirky characters along the way. Mim obviously has issues and is entirely unreliable as a narrator, but I still found myself adoring her and rooting for her all the way. I gave this book 5 stars, although in the interests of honesty I should point out that that may have been a reaction to how “meh” I found the previous books. To an extent, my ratings are always dependent on my current mood though, so it’s really nothing new.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (282 pages, read for: a book from a specific list of books with twists). Okay, first of all I have to say I have no idea why this book was on the list it was on. There wasn’t really a twist, as such. While it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on, the knowledge is imparted gradually throughout the book starting from very early on. Anyway, it’s really hard to review this book without spoiling it. You really need to go in not knowing what’s going on. It’s creepy and dystopian and raises interesting questions about people’s willingness to go along with things. And that’s all I’m saying. Just read it. 5 stars.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (336 pages, read as my freebie). This book has a bit of everything… teenage pregnancy, illegal immigration, first love, a woman who has no idea how to be a parent but is trying her best. But despite all that it somehow didn’t seem too full – all the various issues just seemed to make sense as part of the whole story. Maybe also because – to me at least – it also didn’t seem that deep. It was relatively easy to read despite dealing with some really heavy issues. That spoiled it a bit for me – with all that going on I would have expected to have loads of thoughts about all these issues, but instead I just breezed through it. Which sounds like it should be a compliment, so maybe this is just me being weird? Anyway, Vanessa Diffenbaugh is an amazing writer and I can’t wait to read more from her. I gave this one 4 stars.

The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (272 pages, read for: a book with “house” or “home” in the title). I didn’t even manage to write a review for this one on GoodReads because I honestly didn’t know what to say! It’s… weird. A family drama with possibly the strangest set of twins I’ve ever encountered in literature. The book opens with the twins’ father dying by falling off a cliff he’d been living next to all his life… maybe you would be a bit strange after that, but from the back story it seems like they were always strange. And not just because they were weirdly close. The writing is good but the characters are all equally unlikeable… except maybe the grandfather. I can’t really describe it better than this, so all I can say is if you’re intrigued maybe give it a try? 3 stars.

Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann (528 pages, read for: a book originally written in a language that is not your own). As you can see, I’m a show-off so I actually read the book in the original language that is not my own 😉 Other books by this author have been translated into English but apparently not this one. This is a story that takes place in two time periods. In the present, we have Nicole, who is pregnant and has just found out her baby has a probably genetic heart problem. Nicole never met her father and knows nothing about him, but when the doctor asks her to find out about possible heart problems in his family she finally persuades her mother to talk. Then we have Nicole’s mother’s story, which takes us through her childhood to the year she spent teaching in France, where she met the man who was to become Nicole’s father. I enjoyed the past story more, partly because I just didn’t like Nicole that much, but also because it was more interesting. I got through this one relatively quickly, mostly thanks to having to go into the office which meant four hours on trains. It’s not a bad book, but I much preferred Die Schmetterlingsinsel – the only other book I’ve read by this author. By the way, that one has been translated, under the title Butterfly Island. Anyway, I gave this one 4 stars.

After the Fear by Rosanne Rivers (314 pages, read for: a book whose author’s first and last name start with the same letter). This is a dystopian novel set in a Great Britain of the future. Basically, the country has managed to get into loads of debt with other countries and the citizens all have to help pay it back, either by paying to go to “demonstrations” or by being involved in “demonstrations”. Said demonstrations are basically fights to the death between “demonstrators” and criminals. It seems like anyone can be chosen as a demonstrator (some were really young), and of course our heroine, Sola, ends up being chosen. The story itself is quite interesting. I was intrigued by the idea of this society and would have liked to find out more about ordinary life for the citizens. However, the writing isn’t great – if I saw the word “which” one more time I swear I would have started taking red pen to it! Half the time they should have been replaced with “that”, but in some instances there just didn’t need to be anything there at all. Aaah! Where was the editor? Of course, there’s a mean girl who seems almost too mean. Like a caricature of meanness. Even after nearly dying she’s still showing no emotion and trying to manipulate people?And this is a girl in high school – not some super villain! And there’s a romance, but it is kind of intregal to the plot so I’ll let it go. Lots of people compared this one to The Hunger Games. I haven’t read it, so I wouldn’t know. What the demonstrations really reminded me of was the gladiator fights of Roman times. Anywaaay, time to wrap this up. It was good enough to pass the time but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. There are better dystopian YA novels. 3 stars.

Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt (400 pages, read for: a book with a character who has a debilitating physical illness). The illness is leukaemia. So yes, this is a teen cancer book. Given the subject matter, it feels kind of wrong to say I enjoyed this book. When Mia is diagnosed with leukaemia, she doesn’t want anyone to know. She somehow thinks she can go through the treatment, beat it, and get on with her life. But obviously it can’t work like that. In real life, I probably would have hated Mia – cheerleader, popular student with her very own “clique”. But I actually really felt for book Mia. I wanted to shake her at times, then I felt sorry for her, then I cried. There is a love triangle going on, but for once I didn’t mind it. Both boys had their flaws, but it wasn’t just a case of “amazing just-a-friend guy who she should clearly be with” vs. “bad boy who is actually really not good for anyone but of course our main character believes she can change him”. Ryan, the popular “hot jock” really did seem to care for Mia and one thing I loved was a scene where Ryan and Mia are making out in his bedroom and he keeps asking if things are okay, then when she tenses up/hesitates he notices and stops what he was doing. This should not even be a thing that deserves special mention, but sadly it is. So yeah. I’m in the minority here, but I liked this so much more than The Fault in Our Stars.  Not a full 5 stars but very readable.

And that brings us to the end of my challenge reading. Now on to the other books I read in January. Sorry – I did say it was going to be long!

The Whispers in the Walls by Sophie Cleverly (Scarlet and Ivy Book 2). In this book, the twins return to Rookwood School where there is once again a mystery to solve. This time the terrifying headmaster seems to be involved. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first one – possibly because it was written from alternating points of view and I just wasn’t a fan of Scarlet. I loved Ivy in the first one and I wish she had continued to be the narrator this time round. Every time it switched to Scarlet’s point of view I wanted to shake her. She comes across as such a selfish, spoiled brat! That’s not to say I didn’t like the book though – I just didn’t love and adore it like the first one. I’ve since read book 3 and have book 4 waiting for me. YAY! 4 stars for this one. Also, I have to mention the dedicatione:

In Memory of Sir Terry Pratchett
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”

*Sniffle*. Now I miss Terry Pratchett all over again!
By the way, I had to re-buy this book because the cover of the copy I originally got didn’t the rest of the series. Tragedy! So if anyone wants to start reading these books let me know and I’ll send this one to you. I’m afraid you’ll have to get hold of book 1 yourself though.

The Queen’s Nose by Dick King-Smith. I remember watching this TV series when I was about 12, but I had never read the book. I recognised some things from the TV show, but I feel like screen Harmony was older than book Harmony? She’s 10 in this but I seem to remember the girls being about 13 and 16? Anyway, this is a cute little book about a magic 50p coin that grants wishes. It’s set in 1983 and references cables, but other than that and mentions of Harmony being born in 1973 it doesn’t feel too dated to me. Maybe it’s a little slower than modern books? I still think children aged 8-10 year will enjoy it anyway. 4 stars.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. This story is narrated by 12-year-old Jack, whose family is fostering 14-year-old Joseph. Before Joseph arrives, all Jack knows about him is he has a daughter and he’s just been released from a young offenders’ institute. So it’s about teen parenthood, but it’s also about so much more than that – friendship, love and about not judging a person without getting to know them first. And it’s about cows… I loved the cows! (Jack’s family live on a farm). My main issue with the book is that the ending seemed rushed. I felt like I was just getting to know Joseph then BAM… The End! I gave it 3.5 stars, so 4 on Goodreads because I like to round up.

The Witch of Demon Rock by Gabrielle Kent (Alfie Bloom book 3). I am still really enjoying this series. At the start I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy it as much as the previous two, but then I ended up staying up until 1am to finish it sooo… 😉
My favourite thing about these books is still the friendships. Alfie and his cousins/friend are a real team even if they bicker occasionally. I also like that the parents (or in Alfie’s case his dad) are present and the adults are all actually responsible! In this one the children go back in time to visit someone (sounds odd – you have to read it!) and before they do the person they’re visiting insists on meeting with Alfie’s dad and arranging things possible. The dad in turn insists that an adult (the butler) go with them. Of course, the children do end up dealing with things on their own throughout the series, but there’s always a reason the adults aren’t around. I’m really interested to see where the series will go now that what seems to be the main adversary has been dealt with.

Elen’s Island by Eloise Williams. The basic story: When Elen’s parents go abroad, she’s sent to stay with her grumpy granny on a Welsh island. Elen and a new friend she meets there become convinced there’s treasure on the island and set out to find it. This is very much a book for younger readers. It says age 7-9 but I think at 9 I might have found it a little boring. That may just be me though – I was reading Agatha Christie at 10. As an adult I could see the charm in this sweet little book. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I got to the end of this book and my first thought was “what on Earth did I just read?!”. It doesn’t really have a plot as such – it’s just a bunch of guys travelling across the US time and again, getting drunk and high and having lots of sex. Surprisingly, I didn’t hate it, although I didn’t really like it either. None of the characters are particularly likeable and the way women are treated in the book is awful (and don’t try to tell me it’s a product of its time!). How enough people chose it as their favourite book for it to end up on the BBC Big Read list is beyond me! I won’t be reading it again, so if anyone wants it let me know and I’ll post it out to you. 2 stars.

On the Road was my final January read – I actually finished it on the train home from Germany on 31st January so it only just made it into this post! Sooo that’s 16 book reviews in this post. Phew!

Oh, and if anyone’s still wondering how I read so many books, I don’t usually include page numbers other than for challenges (to prove the books were long enough), but just so you know The Queen’s Nose has 150 pages (and large font), Orbiting Jupiter is 183 pages and Elen’s Island is 153 pages (and again large font). So other than being anti-social and spending Saturday afternoons reading, my tip is: read short books that are actually meant for 8 year olds 😉

If you’ve read any of these books let me know what you thought. Do you agree with my opinions? Or just tell me something good you’ve read recently. And of course check out the link up to see what everyone else has been reading.

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What I read in December 2017

Yes, it’s another link-up post. Sorry! I will write something real soon. But it’s Show Us Your Books day and I feel compelled to show you my books.

This will be a relatively short one since I didn’t finish that many books in December.

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The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names by John Wright. I gave my dad this book for Christmas 2016 and he lent it to me when I saw him in the summer, so I wanted to finish it so I could return it when I went over for my sister’s wedding. I started it in November and finished it in December, but technically read it in two train rides – I took it with me when I had to go into the office. Some sections are a bit long winded but overall it’s interesting. You can certainly tell the author is enthusiastic about the subject – his love for his field shines through. A solid four stars.

Missing Rose by Linda Newbery. This one started off strong but ultimately I was disappointed. When I finally found out what happened to Rose it all seemed a bit rushed and anticlimactic. There seemed to be too many subplots all coming together at the end with none really being satisfactorily explained or resolved. It is well written and intriguing for the most part though, just the final chapters let it down. Three stars.

Magician by Raymond E. Feist. At 841 pages this wasn’t even the longest book I read last year but it seemed so long. It was good though… I just couldn’t read loads of it in one sitting. It is fantasy and some of the races seem a little clichéd… elves who hate associating with other races unless they have to because, say, there’s a war on. Sound in any way familiar? I didn’t mind that too much though. I liked most of the characters and mostly enjoyed reading about them. One thing that really annoyed me was the use of “ages ago” to describe basically anything that happened in the past – whether in someone’s use or at the actual start of the world! I assume he was trying to show that although the characters refer to themselves as “humans”, this book is not really set on Earth, but every time I read about something happening “ages ago” I was jolted out of the story by the sheer strangeness of it. Why would anybody use “ages ago” there?! It’s a minor point but it drove me craaaazy! Luckily there wasn’t so much talk of the past towards the end and I finished the last 2 or 3 chapters in one night. It’s the first in a series but if the others are this long I don’t think I’ll bother. I gave it 4 stars though.

Game Changer by Tim Bowler. In essence this is the story of a teen with agoraphobia and anxiety issues who is persuaded to face his fears and actually go out one night by his sister. Unfortunately something happens while they are out and now a gang is out to get him. The book is so action packed that you can’t help but read it in one sitting (it helps that it’s a short book) and Mikey’s agoraphobia and panic attacks seem authentic from what I can tell as a non-sufferer. I found the story really confusing though and once I finally found out what Mikey had actually witnessed the rest of the book felt rushed. Also the brother/ sister relationship was somehow… off. I get that’s she was worried about him but no teenager is that close to their sibling! They seemed almost creepily close. The danger/violence is not the tamest so I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of about 13/14. If you’re looking for something quick it’s enjoyable enough. Three stars.

And that was it… a mere four books finished. Just after Christmas, I started reading The Pillars of the Earth, which I obviously won’t be finishing any time soon considering it’s over 1,000 pages and I’m occupied with Erin’s challenge! And then I started another book on the train to Geneva because Pillars of the Earth was too big to fit in my handbag… so I’m also currently reading On The Road. I may finish that one in January, depending on how I get on with Erin’s challenge.

Did you read anything good in December? Linking up with Jana and Steph, as always. Hit one of the links to see what other people have been reading recently.

The books I read in November 2017

I am a day late for the Show Us Your Books link up! I should have been back on Monday night, leaving plenty of time yesterday to do laundry and write a blog post, but instead we only arrived home at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon… 24 hours after leaving my dad’s house in Northumberland! It’s a good job I had taken yesterday off work as well…

Anyway, today I am talking about the books I read in November plus three that I read in October that weren’t included last time because Goodreads wasn’t showing me them! Interestingly, all of them are either children’s or YA…

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October first:

Dear Whiskers by Ann Whitehead Nagda. This is a charming little book about a school class who has to write letters to children in a younger class pretending to be a mouse who lives in the younger child’s desk. Everyone but Jenny receives a response, then when Jenny does get one it turns out her pen-friend has just arrived from another country and doesn’t speak English. It would be great for helping children understand how lonely it is to move to a new country where you don’t speak the language – a valuable lesson in today’s world! 4 stars.

Mein Leben, mal eben by Nikola Huppertz. My vague translation of the title would be “It’s just my life”, although that doesn’t rhyme nicely like the German. This is a YA book written in the form of a journal. While trying to install a game on her computer (unnamed, but clearly meant to be The Sims), Anouk starts typing. She starts by writing a list of all the things she’s going to do differently in the new school year so that she will finally be “normal” and fit in – including listening to pop music, wearing the right clothes and playing computer games. Unfortunately it’s difficult to be normal when you have two mothers and a father (friend of the mothers who donated his sperm but is also still in Anouk’s life) in a rock band! In the end, Anouk makes a new friend and realises that she’s fine as she is. An amusing book that made me feel glad I don’t have to relive my teens! 4 stars.

The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. I watched the TV series of this for a while in the 90s so I decided to finally actually read the book. It’s well-written and the premise is extremely creepy, but I’m not sure what children today would think of it. Somehow it seemed a bit dated although I can’t point to anything specific that seemed to place in the 80s, when it was written (other than a lack of mobile phones). Also, something that never struck me when I was watching it on TV is that the boys seem surprisingly normal despite everything. They keep saying they’re scared, but nobody seems as terrified as they SHOULD have been in that situation. I obviously didn’t notice as a child though (or the TV series was different) so I’m sure it’s fine for the target audience. Anyway, it was an enjoyable enough little book and nice for some nostalgia. 3 stars.

And now for what I actually read in November:

Purple Class and the Skellington by Sean Taylor. A collection of short stories about a primary school class. A lot of the things in it were familiar to me from my own childhood – wet break time, sitting on the carpet for playtime and there were even rumours that my primary school was haunted (in our case, it was a staircase that people didn’t like to go down alone). This would be a great book for children in primary school who want to read a realistic book about children like them. I think 6 to 9 year olds would find purple class’s antics funny. 3 stars.

Roar, Bull, Roar by Andrew Fusek Peters. The story of a Czech family who have come to live in England for a while. The book is told from the perspective of the children, a brother and sister. Some of the local children bully them and the girl can’t understand why they have such a problem with people who are different. It all comes right in the end when the children solve a “mystery” and a nasty person gets him comeuppance. This book would be a nice way to show children that “foreigners” aren’t so different even if they do speak another language and eat different foods. I liked that there were smatterings of Czech throughout and a glossary at the end to explain them (complete with pronunciation). 4 stars.

Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy by Lara Williamson. I absolutely loved this! Adam Butters is adopted – a fact that he’s always known. When his class is assigned a project to make a family tree, he decides he wants to find out about his birth mother – after all, he already knows his adopted family! At the same time, he notices that his mum seems down, so he decides to become a superhero to cheer her up – “everyone loves superheroes, they solve problems and make people happy“. I really felt for Adam. He’s such a lovely, genuine character who tries desperately to do the right thing – even if he isn’t sure what that thing is. The ending is really heart-warming and I love the letter Adam writes to his friend. An adorable book that I definitely recommend. 5 stars.

And that was it for November. I spent most of my time reading Magician but I still haven’t finished it so the review will have to wait until January! With time off for Christmas I will hopefully finish this month… I also started reading The Naming of the Shrew, but didn’t finish until December so that will be in next month’s round up.

Have you read anything good recently? Check out the link up if you want even more recommendations! This was the last regular Show Us Your Books for 2017, but there will be a special edition on Boxing Day (that’s 26th December to non-Brits!) for people to discuss their favourite reads of the year.

The books I read in July 2017

Once again it’s time to link up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books… and I warn you this is going to be a long one! I well and truly got my reading mojo back in July, and not only completed Erin’s reading challenge but even managed to read another four books for a total of 14! This time I’m listing the challenge books all together (in the order I read them) and then the others.

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Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (570 pages, read for the “banned book” category). Uhh, what even was this book? It was more enjoyable than the typical war story I was expecting, but it was really confusing and nowhere near as hilarious as people make out! Some bits were funny, but a lot of the humour just felt forced and ridiculous. It did a good job of showing how ridiculous and insane war is, but I wouldn’t read it again. 3 stars.

Lost DogHow to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M. Martin (240 pages, read for “A book with an animal on the cover” – see photo for evidence of animal). I loved this book! I loved Rose, I loved Uncle Weldon and I wished I had a dog like Rain. I wanted to strangle the dad though, especially when he said things like “why do you have to be like this ” and told Rose to behave herself at school. Grrr. Read if you’re an animal love and like having your heart strings pulled on. 5 stars. (Note: this is the same book as Rain, Reign under a different title).

 

Alfie Bloom 2Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief by Gabrielle Kent (272 pages, read for “A book with a mostly yellow cover” – see photo for evidence of yellowness). Book two in the Alfie Bloom series is even better than book 1… and I already gave the first one five stars, so now what do I do! I’m glad Amy had a bigger role in this book – she’s an amazing character. And it was interesting to find out more about Ashton and Emily. One of my favourite things is that the girls in the book weren’t treated differently because they were girls – at one point Alfie wants Amy to carry out a plan because she’s “the best swimmer out of all of them”. Not like the books I read a child where the girls were always being told they couldn’t do something because “it’s too dangerous” (Famous Five, I’m looking at you!). Everyone should read this series! 5 stars.

A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater (297 pages, read for the freebie category). I enjoyed this, but not as much as this author’s previous book (Smart – reviewed here). Finlay is an likeable enough character and I did feel sorry for him, but somehow his story didn’t grip me in the same way as Kieran’s did. I did enjoy the little titbits of information about Scrabble at the beginning of each chapter. 4 stars.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (336 pages, read for “A book published in 2017”).  I loved this one and read the entire thing in two hours (when I should have been sleeping, but oh well). The characters are all so lovely and I could definitely identify with Molly and all her insecurities. It was also nice to read a book about older teens – most seem to have characters aged around 13-15. I wish this had been around when I was 16! And I also wish my sister and I had the kind of relationship Molly and Cassie do.  5 stars.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (359 pages, read for “Read a book with a non-human main character). This book had been sitting on my bookcase for over a year and I have no idea why I put of reading it for so long. I mean, there are DRAGONS! Dragons who can change their form and walk around looking human no less. There is also intrigue, secrets and a kick-ass main character. I finished reading it and then immediately ordered book two. 5 stars.

Broken Silence by Danielle Ramsay (408 pages, read for “A book that starts with the letter B). I had been looking forward to reading this book for ages because it’s set close to where my family live, so I was incredibly disappointed to discover that the author apparently hates Whitley Bay. Seriously, is there any need to mention every two pages that it’s “a once bustling seaside town” that’s now run-down and seedy with kids doing drugs on every corner? If you hate the place that much then sod off back to Scotland! Also, the main character is a total cliché and the entire book read like the author had done a creative writing course and learned to vary her writing style, with the result that she sprinkled adjectives around like confetti. Nobody could just “say” anything, ever. They always had to demand, instruct, state and order. Or even question sceptically, answer coolly or whisper hoarsely. Every. Single. Time. However, I did like the basic crime story that was hidden in there somewhere and persevered because I wanted to know who the murderer was (I guessed correctly slightly before the detective). right towards the end the writing suddenly got better and there was a fantastic interview scene, which is why I gave this book 3 stars instead of the 2 I had originally intended.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (256 pages, read for “A book with a cardinal/compass direction in the title). This book was strange. I actually really enjoyed it but I can’t quite explain why. The writing is amazing, almost poetic, but the story is strange, not particularly realistic (so many coincidences!) and, based on the ending, I don’t think Clarissa learned anything from her experiences. And yet I gave it 4 stars.

Thirteen Hours by Narinder Dhami (272 pages, read for “A fictional book featuring mental illness”). The mother of the main character has agoraphobia, so there#s the mental illness connection. I really liked this book. It’s gripping from start to finish (the beginning in a different way to the end). I felt for Anni and her mum and even liked the intruders. The “secret” was entirely different to what I had expected. I also liked that the author included an explanation of young carers and agoraphobia after the story. It could have been a lot more detailed, but for the young age group it’s aimed it I thought it was really good. 4 stars.

Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Stalten (272 pages, read for “A book that’s related to a Disney film”). Obviously this book is nothing like the Disney version, but I was expecting that. It’s quite graphic at times and not really a book for young children – I wouldn’t give it to anyone under ten. It’s a nice enough story and wonderfully written, but I felt like the author went a bit overboard on the portrayal of man as totally evil. 3 stars.

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher. I meant to read this for my “mental illness” book, but it turned out the main character’s refusal to speak was on purpose and not true selective/ elective muteness after all (rather than being unable to speak, at one point she has to force herself not to!). I enjoyed this book and read the entire thing in a morning while waiting for some people who were visiting us to wake up. I felt sorry for Tess, and although the way she handled her situation wasn’t the best, it felt realistic for a teenager. The heart to heart between Tess and her parents at the end really made me smile. Not perfect, but really good. 4 stars.

Toten Stille by Daniela Arnold. Read in German, the title literally translates as Deadly or Deathly Silence. A serial killer is keeping women prisoner for months and torturing them before killing them and leaving the bodies for the police to find. At the same time, a woman is involved in an accident and her husband, child and friends then claim she’s not who she says she is. When the evidence points to her being the murderer of the other women she needs to figure out what’s going on. This book was fast-paced and thrilling, the action never let up for a minute. The ending annoyed me though – somehow the detective working on the case managed to work out who the culprit was based entirely on her intuition despite the fact that they had never come across this person in the course of the investigation and his name had not once been mentioned in the book. Umm, okay then. It passed the time well enough and was a quick read but I’m not sure I would read anything else by this author. 3 stars.

Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson. In the interests of disclosure, I should say I wouldn’t have read this book if it wasn’t on the BBC Big Read list. I don’t think this is one of Jacqueline Wilson’s better efforts. While it is interesting to see a book for pre-teens and younger teens that deals with death/grief, it seemed a bit simplistic even for the target age. Also, I just could not like Vicky, even though I was probably supposed to feel sorry for her being dead? Actually I thought Jade had a lucky escape – at least now she can get on with her life without her bullying so-called “best friend” putting her down all the time! 2 stars.

Bang, Bang, You’re Dead by Narinder Dhami. After Thirteen Hours, this book was a bit of a disappointment. I really felt for Mia and was worrying about Jamie right along with her, but then the ending went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting and I wasn’t sure what to think.  It was all a bit odd. The “twist” was a bit too abrupt and it felt like there wasn’t enough time left to handle it properly. The mum’s bipolar disease is handled well though. 3 stars.

And that’s it… 14 reviews. If you’ve got this far you deserve a medal (I did warn you though!). One day I will learn to review books more succinctly. Head to the link up to see what everyone else has been reading and – if you’re anything like me – add even more books to your never ending want-to-read list! And if you’ve read any of these books let me know in the comments whether you agree with my opinion 🙂

The books I read in May 2017

Oh my goodness you guys… I had so much on my mind yesterday that I completely forgot about the Show Us Your Books link up! Me. Forget about books. How mad is that? Luckily it’s still open today. (Not that I actually read much in May, but it’s the principle!)

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I read a grand total of three books in May. Wow. I’m not sure I’ve read so few books in a month since I learned to read! I was busy with cross stitch, but also I was attempting to read Sophie’s World, which took forever. So I eventually decided to take a break from it and read some quick books. And here they are:

Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent. I absolutely adored this book. There just aren’t words to express my adoration! It has all my favourite ingredients: a mysterious benefactor, a surprise inheritance, good friendships, magic, intrigue and a sprinkling of myths and legends. The parents are not absent/oblivious to what their kids are up to (there is a lot of sneaking around and comments like “if our parents knew we were going to do X, they wouldn’t let us go where we’re going!). And, the cherry on the top for me, partway through the book I found out that the fictional village of Hexbridge is located in the north-east of England (they mention Newcastle being half an hour away). A little piece of home – yay! I am dying to read book 2, but I’m reserving it for Erin’s next challenge. 5 stars for this one. Highly, highly recommended for anyone aged 10 years and up.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die by Sara Shepard – Book 5 in the Lying Game series. By this stage the series was starting to drag. It was nice to find out more about Becky in this book, but other than that it wasn’t as good as book 4. In this book, it became entirely obvious who the murderer was (no spoilers here though!). 3 stars.

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Sara Shepard – Book 6 in the Lying Game series. I read this book immediately after the last one because I wanted to finally get to the end! I actually really enjoyed this one, despite being annoyed by the solution (again, no spoilers here!). I felt really sad for Sutton in this one, having to watch her family find out she was dead and then attend her own funeral. I am not ashamed to admit I cried at the funeral and the Christmas scene at the end. Poor Sutton, poor Mercer family. *Sniff* 5 stars for this book. As for the series, all in all it was okay but it really didn’t need to be a whole six books long! I’ll give it 3.5 stars because, while a few of the books were excellent, others were not.

And that was it. I also continued reading Sophie’s World and The Sense of Style in May, and finally finished them earlier this month, so I will be able to review them in the next link up 🙂

Linking up with Jana and Steph. Check out their blogs to see what everyone else read in May.

The books I read in April 2017

One of these days I will get round to writing a post that isn’t part of a link up. Today is not that day… I am linking up with Jana and Steph to tell you what I read in April.

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I read ten books in April, which is actually one more than I read in March. That surprises me considering I didn’t finish a single book after 20th April! So somehow I managed to read ten books in twenty days. Some were pretty short though.
The books are listed here in the order I read them, not according to any kind of scheme.

Carbonel: The King of Cats by Barbara Sleigh –  This is a cute little book from the 1950s about a girl called Rosemary who wants to help out with the family finances by cleaning houses, so she buys a broom… and with it comes a cat. To her surprise, she finds out that she can understand the cat when holding the broom. The cat turns out to be a prince and Rosemary spends the rest of the book trying to help him get his throne back. It’s a very cute, quirky little book. There isn’t a huge amount of action, and it’s kind of old-fashioned, but it’s the kind of book I would have loved at age 9 or 10. Four stars.

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. This book sounded really good and I expected great things from it, but it turned out to be just okay. A lot of it was totally unrealistic – particularly the friendship at the centre of the plot. Having an instant friendship connection with someone? Okay! Immediately abandoning everything else and only being there for you new friend from then on? Yeah, right! At least it was a quick read. Two stars.

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – The further I get into this series, the more preachy the books seem to become. This one seemed to be full of “God is watching you! ALL THE TIME!! He already knows you’ve been naughty, probably before you even knew you were going to be naughty, so you’d just better say your prayers and ask for forgiveness RIGHT NOW young man!!” As an atheist, the idea of a God who is just sitting there waiting for you to make a mistake doesn’t sit well with me – and I’m sure that isn’t the God most Christians believe in! I preferred Anne when she was still a schoolgirl and did silly things occasionally. Now she’s far too good. All the proposals got a bit much as well… I lost count in the end. Obviously Anne is perfect and every man who sets eyes on her wants to marry her! I did enjoy it though – I wish I had had friends like Anne’s when I was studying! And I loved the part where she went back to the house where she was born – it was nice to see a bit of a connection with her pre-orphan past. Four stars.

A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler – This had been on my shelf for so long that I had almost forgotten I had it! It’s an interesting take on a “time travel” book – what would you do if you were taken forward in time by a year only to find that tragedy had struck and you relationship with your best friend was ruined? From an adult perspective, it’s all maybe a little simplistic, but it’s perfect for the 10-13 age range. I also felt that Jenni was portrayed realistically. She matured over the course of the book (as you would with so much going on!) but throughout I could believe that she actually was a 12-year-old girl and not a much older teen. I often find that 12 year olds in books read more like 15 or 16 year olds! 4 stars.

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R. J. Palacio – After loving Wonder, I couldn’t wait to revisit that universe with this short story collection. However, while Wonder was amazing, this book was just okay. The first story, from Julian’s perspective, was good. It was nice to see events from his point of view and see him portrayed as something more than just “the nasty kid”. The Charlotte and Christopher chapters seemed unnecessary though and didn’t really add anything to the story. Three stars. (The Julian chapter alone would have been a four, the others probably a 2 or 3).

Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wendelken – Need to up my German reading game 😉 This is a typical crime novel. A body turns up at a lake, which turns out to be that of a deaf girl who disappeared from near her boarding school four years earlier. She turns out to have died of untreated appendicitis (so no “murder” as such), but the police need to find out who took her and kept her hidden for so long. Overall, it was a decent enough detective story and I didn’t guess the whole story of whodunnit. The main character annoyed me though – I wanted her to stop thinking about men/when she had last had sex and get on with her job! Three stars.

Two Truths and a Lie by Sara Shepard – Book three of the Lying Game series. They are getting better as they go along. There is less suspense in this one, but a few interesting things come to light. At the end of this one I still had no idea who the murderer is! Four stars.

Hide and Seek by Sara Shepard – Book four of the Lying Game series. I actually enjoyed this one, but how long can the author keep dragging this out… picking a “suspect” for Emma in each book only for her to end up being wrong, again! Immediately after reading this, my GoodReads review said “I’m starting to wonder whether Sutton was even murdered at all. If the solution to this whole thing turns out to be a tragic accident I will be so mad!” I’ve now changed my mind… it’s clearly not one of her close friends or family, and I feel like Ethan would be too obvious a choice. So I’m saying right now: Ethan’s mother is the murderer! Same motive as him, with the added bonus of revenge for her little boy. (But maybe I just don’t want it to have been the one person who Emma can interact with as herself and not Sutton?). Five stars.

Märchenwald by Martin Krist – More German, the title means “Fairytake forest”. It’s hard to say what this book is about, since there are various stories that eventually become interlinked. It’s a crime thriller with plenty of action – no time to get bored! Even though it was book 5 in a series, it could easily be read as a standalone and I didn’t feel like I had any trouble understanding what was going on with the detective and his family. I did guess who the culprit was, but that was okay because I was enjoying just reading everyone’s stories. Five stars – best book of the month!

Take My Word for It by John Marsden – I have been waiting to read this book for years, but could never manage to find a copy. Finally it appeared on Amazon for cheap. Yay! It’s a companion novel to So Much to Tell You, which is one of my all-time favourites. This one tells Lisa’s side of the story, and gives another perspective of some of the events in “So Much…”.  This is nowhere near as good as So Much to Tell You, but I didn’t expect it to be. Lisa’s problems seemed petty and silly in comparison, and honestly I just didn’t like her as much as a person – she was kind of boring. I did like the different perspective though, and it was nice to have some blanks filled in. I also liked that this one went on for slightly longer, so we got to see a little of what happened next. Not as fantastic as SO Much to Tell You, but I’m glad I read it. Four stars.

And that was it for April. I started reading Sophie’s World but still haven’t finished it, and I’m still trying to make my through A Sense of Style. It’s interesting, but slow going.

April pretty good reading month overall, lots of high ratings and only a couple of duds.
We’re already 8 days into May and I haven’t started a new book yet, but I have a couple waiting that I’m really excited to read so hopefully I’ll get through Sophie quickly so I can make a start on those.

So, if anyone is actually still here after all that…

Read anything good lately?

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

This is the third book I read for the Semi-Charmed 2014 Winter Reading Challenge. I read it for the category “Read a book with a food in the title“, which is worth 10 points.

The plot:
Jerry Renault is a first year at Trinity High School, an exclusive, all-boys Catholic school. Each student at the school is “encouraged” to sell fifty boxes of chocolates at the annual chocolate sale. Although selling the chocolates is supposed to be voluntary, when Jerry refuses he soon finds out that it’s not, really. And so the bullying and coercion begins. When Jerry also runs up against the school’s group of thugs, a secret society, called “The Vigils” things start to get very ugly indeed…

My review:
I can’t really say I “enjoyed” this book, because the subject matter does not make for an enjoyable read! It does, however, make for a good one. This was one of those books that made me wish my commute was longer so I wouldn’t have to put it down – I then proceeded to read the rest in bed the following night, not stopping until it was done even though I was oh so tired. The story is told mostly from two perspectives, Jerry’s and that of Archie Costello, chief school bully and head of the secret society. I don’t always like stories that are told from multiple perspectives, but in this case it seemed to fit. The glimpses into the mind of Archie Costello were sometimes disturbing… in fact, a lot of the book was disturbing. I’m not going to claim this was an easy read! And I have no idea how I would have reacted to this as a teenager (especially as one who was generally ignored in school because almost nobody liked me). Also, there are some fairly explicit sexual references – although no actual sex. In fact, my one complaint about this book would be that it seems to imply that all teenage boys are obsessed with sex and view girls as sexual objects, not real people. Admittedly that’s probably true of a lot of boys, but is the stereotyping really necessary?! But as a book that deals with the corrupting influence of power, human cruelty and the results of peer pressure. The ending of the book was shocking but, unfortunately, somewhat realistic (I think a lot of teenagers have had the experience of bullies going unpunished – although this book exaggerates how far these things tend to go). Overall I thought this was a really good book and I would certainly recommend it. Although it was written in 1974, the themes it addresses are still relevant today. I want to give this one 4.5 stars, but I’ll be generous and round it up to 5.