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.
Second Tuesday of the month already! That means it’s books day. As always, I am linking up with Steph and Jana. In April I managed to read a whole 4 books! I am slowly learning how to read while she feeds – although I still end up being forced to stop if she gets too wriggly and distracted.
Beach Read by Emily Henry. January is a hopeless romantic who has always believed that anyone’s life can be wonderful if they just look at things the right way… at least until her beloved father passes away and she discovers he wasn’t the man she thought he was. Spending the summer in a lake house she never knew he owned, she finds herself living next door to none other than her college rival, Augustus. Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale. There’s no way the two of them are ever going to get on. But they actually have more in common than you’d think: They’re both broke. They’ve got crippling writer’s block. They need to write bestsellers before the end of the summer. The result? A bet to see who can get their book published first. The catch? They have to swap genres. The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely… This is cute but at the same time darker than I was expecting. It does go into some deeper issues alongside the cute romance. The writing style was a little odd at times – at one point January describes something as being “atop” something. Who uses the word “atop” when just thinking to themselves?! I enjoyed it though despite little things like that throwing me out of the story and gave it 4 stars.
Damsel Distressed by Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after – in fact, she doesn’t even think they’re possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has been in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status. When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Carmella (aka Ella) Cinder, moves in, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace – the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant – aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time. While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story. And maybe even find herself a happily ever after. As far as I can tell as a non-sufferer, this is a good representation of anxiety and depression. However I just did not like Imogen. It felt like she was hiding behind her mental illness as an excuse for being just not a very nice person. Yes some people are mean to her (make comments about her weight, etc.) but Imogen is horrible to other people as well. She complains that her dad sprung his marriage on her but she literally says she didn’t want to know about his relationship – I guess she wanted him to spend the rest of his life alone and in mourning? So the fact that she lost her mother is obviously a perfectly reasonable excuse to be horrible to/about her stepmother who is nothing but kind to Imogen throughout the book. And this is when Imogen has supposedly been doing well with her mental health – she only starts to spiral during the book when her stepsister shows up. And speaking of the stepsister (Carm)Ella, she’s portrayed as being completely evil just for the sake of it with no redeeming features. But before she even does a single nasty thing Imogen seems to hate her for being pretty and wearing tight/short clothing… i.e. Imogen total slut shames her although at that point there’s no evidence that Ella even acts slutty (and even if there were who is Imogen to judge? Imogen who hates being judged herself). Eventually there are some hints that Ella’s life maybe hasn’t been so perfect but by that time the reader has already been led to believe that poor Imogen is the victim of the nasty stepsister who hated her on sight for literally no reason at all. Most of the other supporting characters are too good to be true: the best friend straight out of Dawson’s Creek, the new girl who is actually nice and doesn’t realise how pretty she is, the nauseatingly adorable gay couple, one of whom just happens to be *amazing* with a needle and thread. And when Imogen messes up they’ve all already forgiven her before she even attempts to apologise. The writing actually isn’t bad and like I said the representation of mental illness seems to be realistic and isn’t glamourised or trivialised. Maybe it’s a me problem rather than a book problem. Either way I found this one just okay. 2.5 stars.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. Almost ten years ago, on the last day of hunting season, Lewis, Ricky, Gabe and Cass, young Blackfeet men, did something they would come to regret. Even at the time they knew it was wrong, but caught up in the adrenaline of the moment, of the hunt, they got carried away. Now, with the anniversary coming up, Lewis, who is now married to a white woman and living far from the Reservation, begins to be haunted by images of that day as an entity tracks the childhood friends hellbent on getting revenge. I really enjoyed the beginning of this book and the final third-ish. Parts of it were really slow though and I didn’t always love the writing style. It’s certainly a good book, just not quite for me. 3 stars.
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin. Seventeen-year-old Lenni is stuck on the terminal ward of a Glasgow hospital, but even while knowing she’s dying she still wants nothing more than to live for as long as she has left. After finding out that patients have to be allowed to visit the chapel for religious reasons, she jumps at the chance to see a new part of the hospital. There, she meets and befriends the hospital priest, Father Arthur. meanwhile, eighty-three year old Margot is in the same hospital. When Lenni and Margot meet in an art class, Lenni realises that their combined age is 100… and so the two of them decide to paint a picture for each year of their lives. As they are painting, each of them tells the story of these key events – from Lenni’s childhood in Sweden and her mother’s struggles with mental health to the devastating loss that led Margot to leave Glasgow for London and eventually meet the two great loves of her life. This book is an absolute joy, which may seem an odd thing to say considering it’s about a terminally ill teenager, but it really is. Lenni is fantastic – it seems so unfair that she’s dying – and Margot’s story is fascinating. I loved the supporting characters as well, especially Father Arthur who is a sweetheart and a great sport about Lenni’s questions. There’s a story involving homeless man that seemed a bit random and I’m not exact sure why it was in there but I absolutely devoured the rest, and yes I cried at the end. 4 stars.
That’s all from me for this month. Don’t forget to check out the link up!
I had forgotten that today was Show Us Your Books, which is why I’m writing this post late in the day after baby bedtime (well, I say baby bedtime but I’ve just put her down for the third time so we’ll see…). Luckily it won’t take too long since I only read three books in March. But that’s one more than in January or February so I’ll take it. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, as always.
The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips (The Beast and the Bethany #1). Beauty comes at a price. And no one knows that better than Ebenezer Tweezer, who has stayed young and beautiful for 511 years. How, you may wonder? Ebenezer simply has to feed the beast in the attic of his mansion. In return for meals of performing monkeys, statues of Winston Churchill, and the occasional cactus, Ebenezer gets potions that keep him young and beautiful, as well as other presents. But with every meal the beast grows greedier, and one day he announces that he’d like to eat a nice, juicy child next. Ebenezer has never done anything quite this terrible to hold onto his wonderful life. Still, he finds the absolutely snottiest, naughtiest, and most frankly unpleasant child he can and prepares to feed her to the beast. But the child, Bethany, may just be more than Ebenezer bargained for. She’s certainly a really rather rude houseguest, but Ebenezer still finds himself wishing she didn’t have to be gobbled up after all. Could it be Bethany is less meal-worthy and more…friend-worthy? This is a fun and very quick read. I loved the characters. They were really well written, even the side characters really came to life. Some of the humour was a little silly for my tastes but the right kind of child would love it. And despite the humour this is a surprisingly dark book so that balances out the silliness a bit. There are also a few things in the book that are obviously catering to adult readers – the most obvious being the reference to The Picture of Dorian Grey (except instead of a painting in the attic it’s a beast) but there were also references to a few other classics that I can’t remember now. Anyway, I gave it 4 stars.
Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders. This is the biography of comedian Jennifer Saunders, most famous as one half of comedy duo French and Saunders and Bolly-swilling Edina from the TV series Absolutely Fabulous. It’s entertaining enough but there seemed to be a lot missing. The part about how she went from being friends with Ade Edmondson to marrying him is *very* brief – I’m still not really sure how they got together. Mainly she talks a lot about her friendship with Dawn French and how her various comedy projects came about while only briefly skimming over anything really personal, which seems to defeat the object of an autobiography. Also, as she herself frankly admits, her early life was fairly boring (which is good for her of course – a childhood free of drama and tragedy is definitely worth having!). It passed the time well enough though and the parts about writing/making Ab Fab were interesting. I read Dawn French’s autobiography a while ago and liked that a lot more (plus it made me cry). Three stars for this one. Read it if you’re a Jennifer Saunders/Ab Fab mega-fan, otherwise give it a miss.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. A cannon. A strap. A piece. A biscuit. A burner. A heater. A chopper. A gat. A hammer. A tool. For RULE. Or, you could just call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans when he enters the elevator in his apartment building. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s heading now, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? With each floor the elevator stops at, somebody else who’s connected to Will’s brother gets on. Somebody who can fill in another, bigger part of the picture Will thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if Will gets off that elevator. I really liked this It’s a really interesting way to tell a story and the story itself is thought provoking. For some reason I didn’t find it as emotional as I expected to but that’s probably a me thing. It was almost like I didn’t know Will enough to feel sad for his loss. It’s a good, quick read though. 4 stars.
That’s all I’ve got for you. Three books. One by a BIPOC/BAME author. For more book reviews make your way over to the link up. And make a note of Tuesday, 10th May for the next one.
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.
Hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day again. Yay! This may come as a shock to some of you, but I actually only read four books in August. Partly because one of those books was long, but also I had a lot going on (I suspect most of you are only interested in the books, so if you care about the other stuff see my previous post).Anyway, as always I am linking up with Steph and Jana. Now onto the books.
River God by Wilbur Smith (Ancient Egypt #1). Ancient Egypt. A kingdom built on gold. A legend shattered by greed…. Now the Valley of Kings lies ravaged by war, drained of its lifeblood, as weak men inherit the cherished crown. Amongst all this is Taita, a multi-talented eunuch slave, owned by Lord Intef. Taita primarily looks after Lord Intef’s daughter, Lostris, but also plays a large role in the day-to-day running of Lord Intef’s estate. Also beside Taita is Tanus, Tanus, a proud, young army officer, who has vowed to avenge the death – at Intef’s hand – of his father, and seize Lostris as his prize. Together, the three share a dream – to restore the majesty of the Pharaoh of Pharaohs on the glittering banks of the Nile. This book is like a historical soap opera, but with more blood and brutality. The good guys are all the bravest, kindest, loyalist, most honourable people ever to have walked this earth. And stunningly gorgeous too of course – can’t forget that. And the bad guys are greedy, sadistic and just pure evil. I did enjoy reading it though, despite having to roll my eyes every time Taita turned out to be good at yet another thing. Without Taita the super slave Egypt would have been lost. Lost I tell you! 3 stars. I read this for the BBC Big Read and will likely not read any more in the series.
Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard. Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable, despite all their differences. But as Caddy approaches her 16th birthday she begins to wish she could be more like Rosie. Confident, funny, interesting. Then a new girl joins Rosie’s school. Suzanne is beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious… and things suddenly get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own. It was quite refreshing to read a teen book that’s actually about friendship and doesn’t end up focusing more on boys (although Caddy is completely obsessed with wanting a boyfriend). I found myself rolling my eyes a lot at some of Caddy’s decisions but it felt realistic – I was a relatively “good” teen but I definitely did some things that were not the most sensible looking back. The teenage jealousy definitely felt real. I felt really sorry for Suzanne and cried at the end. 3.5 stars and trigger warnings for domestic violence.
The Shark Caller by Zilla Bethall. Growing up on New Island, one of the islands of Papua New Guinea, Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller to avenge the death of her parents. Instead, she is charged with befriending infuriating newcomer Maple, an American girl who has come to the island unexpectedly with her father. At first the two girls are too angry and out of sync to share their secrets and become friends, but when the tide breathes the promise of treasure they must journey to the bottom of the ocean to brave the deadliest shark of them all. This is a beautiful book about grief, loss, friendship and forgiveness. I know nothing about Papua New Guinea and I found the insights into its culture fascinating. I did guess the twist (although I also had a second theory about what might be going on) but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment in any way. I highly recommend this book. 4.5 stars.
The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke. When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister, Faith. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister. Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again. This was an interesting book. I thought Faith’s actions and emotions seemed realistic. Some parts felt a bit flat and almost dragged but I did mostly enjoy it. Unfortunately I guessed the twist at the end but that’s fine. 3 stars.
That’s it for today. Check out the link up for more book reviews. And definitely check it out next month for the seventh anniversary – the date to remember is 12 October.
(Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn. In Gardnerville, nobody ever gets sick. Outsiders who come to the town recover from their illnesses (anything from cystic fibrosis to cancer) and can go on to live long and happy lives. Sounds amazing, right? But of course, there’s a catch. Every four years whatever magic fuels Gardnerville infects the town’s teens. In a normal year, a teen might stop speaking to their best friend. In a fourth year they could end up killing them. Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar – whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all. book is bizarre and confusing, but also kind of fascinating. I guessed one twist (the main one I suppose) but not the details. There are some things I still don’t think I really understand but I did mostly enjoy reading it. It’s definitely unique! 3.5 stars.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters #2). Danika Brown doesn’t do romance. he’s been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. Professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension are all she wants. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits – someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. Butthen a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own. Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint? This is such a happy book. Both main characters are dealing with their issues and there are some serious parts, but their interactions are just so heartwarming, as are Zaf’s with his family and best friend. His mum is awesome! Zaf is the sweetest. He always said the right thing and just seemed like such a genuinely kind, caring person. Dani is hilarious and actually really lovely even though she doesn’t realise it herself. I kind of missed her sisters a bit in this book – I was glad to finally get a proper scene with them towards the end. I can’t wait to read Eve’s book! 4 stars.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Everyone knows iconic 70s rock group Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the real reason why they split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now. Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realises the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. I enjoyed this. It reads very realistically and I could easily believe it was a real rock band. The format made it a quick read but meant it was slightly difficult to really get to know the characters or be emotionally invested in anyone since it never really stayed with individual people for long enough. Most of them seemed like terrible people anyway, but I did really like Karen. 4 stars.
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey. Violet Willoughby doesn’t believe in ghosts, especially since her mother has worked as a fraudulent medium for a decade. Violet has taken part in enough of her mother’s tricks to feel more than a little jaded about anything supernatural. The ghosts, however, believe in Violet. Now she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death. Violet must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose. This is an entertaining enough read. At times I had trouble believing Violet was from the 1800s – something about her just felt weirdly modern – but I did like her. The other characters were harder to get to know. There were too many of them and I honestly couldn’t tell you who exactly was even there. The solution was maybe a little predictable, although I was briefly misled in the middle so it wasn’t too bad. Violet’s mother is a horrible, horrible person and I wished she’d got her comeuppance (she kind of did but not nearly enough). Overall it’s a quick and fun read that passed a few hours just fine. 3 stars.
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis. For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mum to cancer has her a little bit traumatised and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known. Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters – and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but feels like she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street,. Marcus McKinney who has had his own experiences with death. But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s actually Tiffany’s real dad – and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realising that maybe family is in the bonds you make. There was a lot I liked about this book. Tiffany is a fantastic character – she’s so strong despite everything she’s been through. Despite her anxiety she’s not about to take her dad’s meanness described as strictness/being a good parent lying down. And her dad is mean – his holier-than-though attitude made me so, so mad. I especially hated the way he treated his autistic daughter – it was basically abuse (I’m not sure the toddler needed to be autistic though and I prefer not to comment on how her autism was portrayed/represented because I don’t know enough). I kind of wanted to slap Tiffany’s step-mum – she had obviously stood up to her husband/set an ultimatum at least once in her life so I would have liked to see her step up again and tell him straight that she was not going to let him “discipline” the autism out of her daughter! Marcus – Tiffany’s neighbour/friend is also awesome. Weird, but awesome. 3.5 stars.
The Case of the Missing Moonstone byJordan Stratford (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1). Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude -but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, when Mary is sent to share Ada’s tutor, she also becomes her first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary. This book is cute. As you probably guessed, it’s (very) loosely based on The Moonstone. It does require quite a bit of suspension of belief (especially the very convenient ending) but I feel like most young children wouldn’t notice, and this feels like it’s meant for relatively young children – maybe 7-9ish. It’s a fun introduction to the Victorian era and while to does take liberties with timelines I found the characters interesting. One thing that irritated me was the constant references to “math” – Ada is British so I’m fairly sure she’s into maths! 3 stars.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai. Tom and Penny belong to a world so perfect there’s no war, no poverty, no under-ripe avocados. But when something awful happens to Penny, and Tom tries to make it right, he accidentally destroys everything, and finds himself in our broken, dysfunctional world. Only here, Penny and Tom have a second chance. Should Tom go back to his brilliant but loveless existence, or risk everything by staying in our messy, complicated world for his one and only chance at true love? I have no idea how to review this book. It was weird and slightly confusing, the main character is annoying and not very likeable – and that’s despite the fact that he’s telling the story and obviously he at least thinks he’s the good guy. But the concept was really interesting and something about it made me want to keep reading so clearly it can’t have been all bad. I definitely didn’t hate it. Honestly, I don’t really have any particularly strong feelings towards it either way. I think I liked it slightly more than I disliked it. I guess that’s what people mean by damning with faint praise… 2.5 stars.
How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss. Hattie’s summer isn’t exactly going the way she would have liked. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to “find himself” and Kat’s in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and working at a local cafe. Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby… Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one previously knew even existed comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery – Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are wiped from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future. I really njoyed this. Hattie and Gloria are both fantastic characters. Gloria’s story was absolutely heartbreaking and I was not expecting parts of it at all. Reuben is a waste of space and an idiot! The side characters are also well fleshed out for the most part – Hattie’s step-dad is a sweetheart and her sister Alice is hilarious. 4 stars.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet. The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect? I feel bad that I didn’t love this book like everyone else seemed to. I liked it and there were certain parts I really enjoyed, but honestly every time I put it down I felt no desire to pick it back up. I found Desiree’s story way more interesting than Stella’s. I thought it would be the other way round, I was really intrigued to find out how Stella passed for white, what advantages it gave her, etc. but when she ended up being a rich housewife I lost interest. I would have been more interested to see how she gained privileges as a normal person, but by marrying a rich man I felt like she just leap-frogged everyone and ended up being super privileged in a way that even most white people aren’t. Also, her refusal to talk about her past meant I never really got a sense of how it was for her to have given up everything in her old life. With Desiree, it was clear that without Stella she felt like part of her was missing but the other way round? No idea.I just felt like none of it went deep enough. I actually would have liked to see more of Desiree’s life back in Mallard and less of Stella falling out with her daughter. Not that I didn’t like the book… I did. But I was expecting to love it and ultimately ended up disappointed. 4 stars.
My favourite book of the month was probably Take a Hint, Dani Brown.
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!).
It’s Show Us Your Books day! May was a much better reading month for me than April, in terms of both quantity and quality. There are some I didn’t love but the ones I did definitely balance them out. There’s a lot to get through so I’ll stop rambling and just give you the reviews, okay?
Ten Things We Shouldn’t Have Done by Sarah Mlynowski. When April’s dad and step-mum announce they are moving, April persuades them to let her stay with her best friend Vi, at least for the rest of the school year. What they don’t know is that Vi’s mum isn’t actually going to be there. After all, what sixteen-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to live parent-free for a while? And she and Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. Turns out that tiny lie was just the first in a list of things they probably shouldn’t have done. This is a light, quick, fun read. Not great literature by any means but just what I needed at the time to get me to actually finish a book after feeling meh about most of the few books I read in April! Some things could definitely have been handled better but generally it was good – a bit like reading the diary of a spoiled, rich teenager (I couldn’t believe it when April claimed she’d never been grocery shopping before?!). 3.5 stars.
After the Fire by Will Hill. Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything – and Father John liked rules. Because Father John knew the truth. He knew what was right, and wrong. He knew what was coming. But Moonbeam had started to doubt. Started to see the lies behind Father John’s words. Then came the fire. This is an uncomfortable read but also absolutely riveting. From my limited experience I think it gives a great insight into life in a cult. Moonbeam is a fantastic character – nobody should have to go through what she did. I also really liked Honey and would have loved to see even more of her. I’d probably give it a 4.5 stars although honestly I’m not sure what the author could have done to make it 5. I just wanted a little more information on a couple of things.
Tilly and the Map of Stories (Pages & Co. #3). Strange things are happening. A man comes into Pages Co looking for a book… then suddenly can’t remember it. Tilly and her family feel like the world is changing – but can’t quite put their finger on why. Meanwhile, the Underwoods are expanding their control over bookwandering. Leaving the safety of the bookshop, Tilly and her friend Oskar head to America to find the legendary Archivists and save bookwandering. Wandering in layers of story, the two of them come up against dangers they could never have expected, team up with an unexpectedly familiar face, and ultimately find themselves taking on the biggest threat to stories there has ever been – with only their courage and ingenuity to help them. As well as some of their dearest fictional friends. Another fantastic instalment in this magical series. Tilly and Oskar are the best team! The stakes are very high in this one and the action never lets up. I was enthralled throughout. I was a tiny bit confused at one point, so I’ve rounded my rating down by one star, but I was definitely not disappointed. I can’t wait for the next book in the series when we will move on from this arc and hopefully learn more about the world of bookwandering. 4 stars.
The Edge of the Ocean (Strangeworlds Travel Agency #2). At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside… Flick is now a badge-wearing member of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency so when an urgent summons arrives at Strangeworlds from Pirate Queen Nyfe, she and Strangeworlds Society guardian Jonathon immediately pack their bags for an adventure to Queen Nyfe’s world: The Break, a place of magic and piracy. Nyfe’s world is falling apart. The Break is used to having ships vanish without a trace, but there has been a sudden increase that can’t be explained by giant squid or mer-people. The edge of their flat world is coming ever closer to them and they need to escape before it collapses entirely. Can Flick and Jonathan find a way to transport the inhabitants of the Break to another world before theirs disappears forever? I loved this sequel just as much as the first one. It’s another high-stakes adventure and this time there are pirates! And mer-people! The tension barely lets up for a minute. At the end there are some interesting revelations about the source of Flick’s abilities and I can’t wait to see where this series takes us next. 5 stars.
The Cut-Throat Café (Seth Seppi #3). Seth Seppi is excited to arrive in Gramichee, one of the few towns where a cluster of magical folk live. But he’s worried that Angelique has only brought him here because she’s desperate to find someone to help him with his magic, which has been nothing but a disaster so far. When he is offered a trial apprenticeship, Seth is keen for the chance to study properly to become a sorcerer. But he is also worried that if someone discovers that his magic is dangerous, he’ll be banned from ever joining the world of the sorcerers. Then he learns he has arrived in Gramichee at the worst possible time – an apprentice has been attacked and it’s not the first incident. This is the start of Seth’s most worrying case so far. Why are apprentices being targeted? Is it an accident? A prank gone wrong? Is one of the apprentices responsible, or is something much darker at the bottom of it all? Once again, Seth will need to keep his wits about him and dig deep into the magical world and his own magic to find answers. Yes, three kids books in a row. Can you tell I was trying to catch up on some series? This book took me a little longer than the others to get into. It started off a bit slow. Things did pick up though. I found some aspects of the plot a bit obvious/predictable and found it a little unbelievable that the actual grown up detective investigating the case wouldn’t have figured things out sooner even if it did take Seth forever! I liked seeing Seth actually start to make something of his magic though. The ending very much seemed to set things up for a book 4 and I think I would probably read it if one does come out. 3.5 stars.
Still Life by Louise Penny ( Chief Inspector Armand Gamache#1). The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force. But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets. This is a traditional style (cosy) murder mystery set in Canada. The type where the detective does a lot of thinking and noticing – your classic Sherlock Holmes or Poirot type, although this one is actually in the police. The solution was a little predictable but I liked the characters and enjoyed the setting. There were also a few unexpectedly amusing parts. The writing wasn’t always the best but for a debut it was very good. I definitely plan to continue the series. 4 stars.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia. (Tristan Strong #1) Seventh grader Tristan Strong has felt anything but strong since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Now Tristan is being sent to his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, for a month to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s notebook. Tristan chases after it – is that a doll? – and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and his new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. I mostly enjoyed this book although parts of it were a little slow and it felt too long. Some of the side characters could have been fleshed out more. Gum Baby is hilarious and honestly made the book for me. There are some great messages and it was refreshing to read about black/African American gods and I learned a few things I didn’t know. I got sick of hearing the phrase “sweet peaches!” – Tristan seemed to say it every 5 minutes! 3.5 stars.
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. Meet Dolores Price. She’s 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi that her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she’s determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before really going belly up. I quite enjoyed this book in the beginning then it all started to get a bit too much. Everything bad that could possibly happen did happen to this character. If there was a way for things to go wrong it did. I also found myself wanting to shake the main character at times – yes horrible things happened to her and I felt sorry for her at times, but she also brought some things on herself with her quite frankly ridiculous decisions. Also, if I was a lesbian I would honestly be offended by Dolores’ brief flirtation with a women. It’s a relatively easy read despite being so long and I actually found myself liking it again at the end (Rita is an awesome character!) so I’m giving it 3 stars.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan. Ruth Young and her widowed mother, LuLing, have always had a tumultuous relationship. Now, before she succumbs to forgetfulness, LuLing gives Ruth some of her writings, the story of her life growing up in China – a past that Ruth knew nothing about. In a remote mountain village where ghosts and tradition rule, LuLing grows up in the care of her mute Precious Auntie as the family endures a curse laid upon a relative known as the bonesetter. When headstrong LuLing rejects the marriage proposal of the coffin maker, a shocking series of events are set in motion. The truth that Ruth learns from her mother’s past will forever change her perception of family, love, and forgiveness. I really enjoyed the parts of this book that were set in China. LuLing’s story is both fascinating and heartbreaking and it wasn’t hard to see why she ended up the way she did. I really, really didn’t like Ruth though. She’s described as a “people pleaser” which apparently means going along with what makes other people happy but at the same time resenting every single thing she does for them and never actually communicating her own wants and needs. Unfortunately we spent most of the story inside her head, listening to her complain. I also found her life and relationship quite boring. The writing is fantastic though. 3.5 stars.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her. But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world – until the unthinkable happens. I loved this book! Parts of it are a little unbelievable and it was slightly slow at times but the writing is beautiful. I can’t believe it’s a debut. I loved Kya – she’s so resilient and still capable of love despite everything she goes through. 4 stars.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files #1). “Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.” Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a – well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. Which is when things start to get… interesting. I enjoyed this book. It’s fun. It’s true what other reviews say about Harry’s misogyny/chauvinism but for some reason that didn’t put me off. Parts of it were repetitive and predictable but other parts were great. There are some fantastic characters. I love Bob – he’s hilarious – and also Morgan, the way he just appears out of nowhere like some vengeful angel. I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to like this but I will definitely be reading the next book. 4 stars.
Exes Anonymous by Lauren Henderson. Rebecca split up with Patrick, the love of her life, over five months ago. He’s moved to New York, but she still keeps mistaking other men for him on the street, in restaurants; on the bus, everywhere; as if he were a ghost. However hard she tries, she just can’t get over him. When her best friend Davey discovers that Rebecca has kept her flat like a shrine to Patrick, he decides she needs an intervention. And so the idea for Exes Anonymous is born – a self-help group for people who are having trouble getting over their exes. The seven broken-hearted members soon become friends, meeting at each other’s homes to swap stories, offer support and possibly even contemplate revenge. Rebecca starts to think she might be able to beat her addiction after all. But life – and love – still have plans for her. I picked this up because I was exhausted and wanted something that was a bit fun and easy to read – nothing too taxing for my brain – and it certainly fit the bill. There were some more serious moments amongst the fluff (poor Jim) but even those were somehow easy to read about. I liked that Rebecca didn’t have a cliché chick-lit job (most of them seem to work in TV or write for magazines or something). She works in a male-dominated field and her colleagues/bosses are all men but she definitely holds her own. I did get annoyed when she started talking about how women can’t eat what they like because they have to stay skinny for men though. Grrr. I liked that everyone took the “exes anonymous” group seriously and did their best to work through things and gain their lives back – it could have ended up just being a bunch of people bitching about their exes but the author took it in a different direction that I actually enjoyed. It’s quite cliché in parts but it was exactly right for what I wanted at the time. 3.5 stars.
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriaty (The Colours of Madeleine #1). Madeleine and her mother are living in Cambridge having run away from Madeleine’s father. They used to live an exciting, flamboyant life, but now they don’t have much money so those days are gone. Fortunately Madeleine has her two friends Jack and Belle to take her mind off things. Elliott lives in the Kingdom of Cello, in a small town called bonfire. His father disappeared a few months ago, on the same night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town is that Elliot’s dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. In Elliott’s world, Colors are dangerous creatures that attack people and he’s convinced his dad was taken by a Purple – which also killed his uncle. He is determined to find both his dad and the truth. When Madeleine finds a message inserted in a parking meter, the two teens begin exchanging letters across the worlds – through an accidental gap that hasn’t appeared in centuries. Contact with someone from the World is strictly forbidden in Cello, but Elliot takes his chances and he keeps writing to Madeleine. Over time the two begin to bond and, surprisingly, find that they may even have the solution to each other’s problems. This book is charming but very confusing. Madeleine’s side of the story doesn’t seem to have much of a plot – she just quirkily wanders around being all colourful and quirky, she and her friends have some quirky home-schooling that doesn’t actually seem to involve many real lessons, then she gets into a sort of vague relationship with her friend that doesn’t really work out. She eventually faces some challenges towards the end that are resolved pretty much instantly – all the while exchanging letters with someone who lives in another world. Which brings us to Elliot… his side of things at least has an interesting backstory and a vaguely coherent plot. The beginning is confusing because the author just plunges straight into a “Colour attack” in Cello without explaining what “Colours” actually are, how they’re different to colours with a small c and how on Earth a colour manages to hurt people. If you’re confused now as well I’m afraid I can’t help you, I still don’t feel like I really understand “Colours”. I did end up liking the book but I’d be hard pressed to tell you what it’s actually about and have no interest in continuing the series! 3 stars.
Total books read: 13. BIPOC/BAME authors: 2.Huh, I was sure there were more but nope. Worst ratio of the year so far (not that the other months have been great… unfortunately most of my owned books are by white people and I’m trying not to spend money. I will do better in June though!)
TL:DR. I highly recommend After the Fire, even if you don’t normally read YA books. I also loved Still Life and Where the Crawdads Sing. If you enjoy children’s books I definitely recommend the Pages & Co and Strangeworld’s Travel Agency books but obviously start from the beginning of the series. The rest you can read if they sound interesting. The only ones I wouldn’t particularly recommend are She’s Come Undone and A Corner of White. Not that I hated either, there’s just not much going for them.
Linking up with Steph and Jana. Go check out their blogs for more book reviews.