What I Read in May 2018

Hello! Can you believe Show Us Your Books day has rolled around again? Didn’t I just write about what I read in April? Anyway, I have a whole 18 books to review this month so I’d best get on with it. As always, the books are simply listed as I read them, not in order of preference.

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The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I started this one in April and finished it in May. Honestly, I would never even have picked it up if it wasn’t on the BBC Big Read list but I ended up liking it way more than I expected to. I have never even seen a Godfather film (yeah, I know) but I was still familiar with a lot of the plot… I got to the bit with the horse’s head and thought “oh yeah, this is where that’s from”. I can’t really describe my thoughts on this book but I gave it 4 stars. Obviously there is a lot of violence so if you’re not into that avoid it.

What Comes After by Steve Watkins. When sixteen-year-old Iris Wight’s dad days and the family friends who promised to take her in decide they can’t after all, she is forced to go and live with her aunt and cousin on a farm in North Carolina. The aunt is horrible and mistreats her to the extent that she ends up being taken into foster care. This book is horrible. Utterly heartbreaking. But, in the end, also hopeful. Read it for the goats but be aware that there is abuse/violence. 4 stars.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell. I loved this – it’s so cute and fun! Ada Goth Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth, lots of servants and at least half a dozen ghosts. One night, she meets the ghost of a mouse then makes some new friends, and together they set out to investigate the strange goings on in the old mansion. There are many literary and historical references in this book (the first thing the mouse says is “call me Ishmael”, Mary Shellfish comes to stay…). I think a lot of them would go over children’s heads (the actual target audience) but I loved them. Chris Riddell also illustrated the book and the drawings are fabulous. Plus, in my copy the pages have purple edges. So pretty! Another 4 star read.

Cold Feet by Brenda Novak. This book was not what I was expecting. I thought it was a thriller so I was really confused by the Mills and Boon-esque sex scenes (between people who had known each other all of a day). Turns out it’s a romance. So that may have affected my rating – if you go into it knowing it’s a romance you may like it more. The police suspect Madison Lieberman’s father is a serial killer, but now he’s dead and another woman has died in a similar way. Ex-cop turned crime writer Caleb Trovato is obsessed with the case and now wonders whether there’s a copycat killer or they had their sights on the wrong man all along. He’s sure Madison knows more than she’s telling and he’s determined to get it out of her. The synopsis says “But he doesn’t expect to fall in love – or to lead Madison and her child into danger”. I suppose that should have tipped me off on the romance thing… but just because a book contains romance doesn’t mean it’s a “romance novel”. Anyway, I didn’t expect who the killer turned out to be, so that’s something, but overall this book was nothing special. A kind of mystery/thriller as a frame for some explicit sex scenes. 3 stars.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington. Sixteen-year-old Harper’s older sister June recently committed suicide and Harper doesn’t know what to think or feel. She decides to steal June’s ashes and drive across the country to the one place her sister always wanted to go: California. This book was so sad, which could obviously be expected from the subject matter, but I honestly cried like a baby. It has its flaws, but I read through it all in one sitting and could not give it any less than four stars.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Another sad book, because apparently I like to do that to myself? When Theodore and Violet meet on the ledge of a a bell tower, it’s unclear who saved whom. Violet is still traumatised by the death of her older sister and Theodore, who is labelled a “freak” and has hardly any friends, is constantly thinking up new ways to die. When Violet and Theodore pair up for a project to discover more about their state, what they actually learn is far more important. This is a book about mental health, grief, first love and much more. Parts of it are happy, quirky, hopeful, but the ending is so sad. 4 stars.

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer. For some reason I was expecting this to be a book about political rivals. No idea why! Maybe I vaguely knew that Jeffrey Archer was a politician in the 90s? There is a rivalry, but neither man is a politician. It’s basically the life stories of two men born on the same day – one the son of a Boston banker/millionaire and one a penniless and illegitimate Pole – and how their stories eventually merge with the two of them becoming rivals. I liked this more than I thought I would but it was long and parts of it dragged. 3 stars.

Into the Water by Paul Hawkins. I needed a new book for the train home from work since I was almost finished with Kane and Abel, and this was the only one in the bookshop that interested me. When Jules’ sister Nel dies – having apparently jumped to her death in the place that’s known as the “drowning pool” – Jules reluctantly returns to the village to care for her teenage niece. I’ve seen a few negative reviews of this book, but I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of twists and turns that I didn’t expect. However, I feel like I should admit that part of my enjoyment stemmed from the setting. Why did nobody tell me it’s set in North-East England? Craster kippers and even the tiny Durham village of Pity Me get a mention. Love it! 5 stars.

The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery. This is like an introduction to dystopia for young children. Owen’s family have moved to Barrow because it’s the safest place in the valleys. Children there have to wear bright yellow at all times, walk home from school in pairs, and have a curfew. So Owen and his friends form the Tornado Chasers and set off to get as close to a Grade 5 tornado as possible. I really liked most of this book. It was a fun adventure with an interesting, diverse friendship group. The “twist” was good too. But then I really didn’t like the ending. I think I know what was supposed to have happened but I don’t understand why. Trying not to spoil anything, but it felt like it was saying the dystopia was a good thing/the adults had it right all along. Until the end it would have been 4 stars, but I ended up giving it 3.

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. The cover of this book totally reminded me of When Dimple Met Rishi (which I haven’t actually read yet) and the main character in this one is even called Dimple! I don’t really know if the stories are similar though (and this one was published first FYI). Dimple Lala, who is about to turn 17, has spent her whole life resisting her parents’ traditions. She wants to be an all-American girl, like her best friend, Gwen. So when her parents meet up with an old friend and decide they want to set her Dimple up with her son, a “suitable boy”, Dimple is, of course totally against it. Then she realises the suitable boy may not be as goody-goody as she first thought, all things Indian suddenly turn out to be cool, and she no longer knows what to think. I really enjoyed this story. Parts of it were a bit long.winded and complicated, but I liked the characters (except Gwen, who I thought was a total cow. Yes, she has a hard life/neglectful parents but that was no excuse to abandon her friend for boys, refuse to listen, talk to Dimple like she was an idiot, etc.). I especially loved Dimple’s cousin. Every time the food Dimple’s mum cooked was mentioned it made me want to eat Indian food immediately! There’s also a lesbian relationship and a drag queen in this book, which was cool. 4 stars.

Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. Megan hasn’t spoken in months, ever since something bad happened (trying not to spoil anything here). There are things she cannot – must not – say, so it’s best not to speak at all. Then Jasmine starts at her school. Bright, bubbly, talkative Jasmine. And for some reason she wants Megan to be her friend. I really liked this book. It deals with some serious topics but it’s surprisingly easy to read – I got through it really quickly. I wanted to hug Megan – she was clearly traumatised and I wanted to find out who was responsible for her silence and shake them (it wasn’t what I thought though). The relationship between Megan and Jasmine was so cute. It just made me incredibly happy! 4 stars.

As Sure As the Sun by Anna McPartlin. When bride-to-be Harri Ryan ends up at the ER with a panic attack on her wedding day for the second time, her twin brother, George, is sure there’s more to it than a reluctance to commit. His parents are clearly hiding something and he resolves to confront them. Meanwhile Harri and George’s friends are all having troubles of their own, and George is also having issues with his boyfriend Aidan. This is a bit of a weird book. It’s light and easy to read, even though there’s a tragedy at the heart of the story. I found the premise a bit odd/far-fetched though. What Harri and George’s parents reveal is certainly life-changing but I’m not sure what it has to do with Harri having panic attacks on her wedding day. It felt like the author needed some trigger for the reveal and also had the idea of someone unintentionally failing to show at her own wedding so she stuck the two stories together. Some parts of the book were funny, some sad, and others honestly just dragged. I doubt it will be one that sticks with me. 3 stars.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens. I was given this for my birthday last year and I’ve only just got around to reading it. The shame! When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their own secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any exciting mysteries to investigate. When Hazel finds the dead body of their science mistress, Miss Bell, she assumes there’s been an accident, until the body disappears! Now not only do Hazel and Daisy actually have a murder to solve – they have to prove one happened in the first place. This book is so fun – which seems an odd thing to say about something involving a murder, but it really is. A combination of a mystery and boarding school book, which were two of my favourite things as a child. It’s like Enid Blyton’s mystery books (Secret Seven, etc.) and her school books rolled into one… but with an actual murder. 4 stars and I definitely want to read book 2.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. This is essentially a year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, who spends most of his time trying to hide his stammer from his classmates lest they ostracise him and writing poems that he can never, ever tell anyone about because writing poems is “for girls”. It’s set in Britain, specifically a village in the English Midlands, the year is 1982, Thatcher reigns supreme, the Falklands War happens, there are references to things I remember and things I don’t (I was born in 1983). This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Being female, my experience was entirely different, but it felt like an accurate representation of life as a teenage boy in the days before mobile phones, etc. The bullying in the book seemed realistic (some of it was awful, but pretty much exactly what went down at my high school) and I found it really interesting to read about the Falklands War in a novel. Some parts of the story seemed to drag and take forever to get to, but I liked other parts and for the last few chapters I didn’t want to put it down. I didn’t love it enough to give it for stars, so I gave it 3… but it’s a high 3 (better than Kane and Abel, for instance). 3.75 maybe.

Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman. You may know Malorie Blackman as the author of the Noughts and Crosses series (which I still need to read the rest of). This is a totally different book. Dante is waiting for his A Level results, but when the door bell rings it’s not the postman but his ex-girlfriend, who nobody has heard from since she dropped out of school months ago. She has a baby with her, who she claims is hers and Dante’s. Then she goes to the shop, leaving the baby with Dante, and never comes back. This is such a good book. It was so refreshing to see something about teenage pregnancy from the male perspective that actually shows the father in a good light. After some initial reluctance (and anybody would panic suddenly having a small child dumped on them!) he actually steps up and becomes a really good dad to his daughter. A parallel story about Dante’s brother, Adam, is heartbreaking, but again Dante steps up and shows that he’s actually a really good big brother. 4 stars.

Everwild by Neal Shusterman. This is book 2 in the Skinjacker series. Everlost is an in-between world where children go when they have died but didn’t reach where they were going (the end of the proverbial “tunnel”). In book 1 (which I read in February – review here) Allie and Nick were involved in an accident and came to Everlost together, where they gradually learned the secrets of this world that is in the real world, but not quite. In book 2, Allie and Nick have gone their separate ways – Allie wants to go home and see what became of her parents and I can’t say what Nick is doing without giving spoilers for book 1. I enjoyed the first book I’m this series, thought it had interesting themes and a decent story. This one was even better. I was gripped and really wanted to know what would happen with each of the main characters. I am especially desperate to find out how Allie’s story concludes. 4 stars (I gave the first book 3 stars).

The Broken by Tamar Cohen. There is so much drama in this book. Essentially it’s the story of a couple, Dan and Sasha, who split up and another couple who are best friends with them and don’t want to choose sides, but end up being drawn in anyway. It’s a good portrayal of how the breakdown of a marriage affects more people than just the couple involved – children, shared friends, etc. But then it also tries to be a thriller, adding in another mysterious character and having weird things happen – is Sasha going mad? Doing these things to herself to make Dan look bad? Or is somebody really out to get her? In the end there was no proper conclusion – the apparent “plot twist” ended up feeling like a minor sub-plot even though it was the trigger for almost everything, and there was a really abrupt ending that made me feel like someone had got away with things. I gave it three stars because the marriage breakdown part was done well, it’s just the plot twist/thriller aspect that was unnecessary. Not everything has to be a thriller!

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carolo Rovelli. The final book I read in May was actually non-fiction. Shock, horror! Brief is right – I wasn’t expecting the book to be this short. It packs a surprising amount of information into so few pages though. It might be a bit simple for anyone who has more than a basic understanding of physics. Personally, having barely come into contact with physics since school (where I got as far as GCSE level), it was just detailed enough without either being overwhelming or making me feel stupid/patronised. A good starting point for further reading. The last section is a bit odd though. It’s about how people and science interact, not really a “lesson” on physics at all, and it seemed very philosophical and out of place. 4 stars.

And finally I’m done. I won’t write too much more here since this post is already long, just say you can find the link up here.

Have you read anything good recently? And if you’ve read any of the books mentioned here do you agree with my assessment?

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What I read in April 2018

It’s Show Us Your Books day again – the day that people all over the Internet talk about what they’ve been reading (and I add even more books to the never-ending list of things I want to read some day). Since I finished my reading for Erin’s challenge in March, this time I will simply be listing all my books in the order I read them. I have 13 books to review for you today, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Erin sent me this book ages and ages ago but I never got round to reading it – despite the fact that it would have fit two categories in her latest challenge. Oh well, I’ve read it now. It’s Leonard Peacock’s 18th birthday, and he plans for it to be his last. But first he say goodbye to the only four friends he has in the world. This is the story of that birthday. I felt really conflicted about this book. There were times the main character in this book really annoyed me, even while I felt sorry for him, but most of the time I was totally gripped. The ending disappointed me though… it just felt really bleak, like nothing is going to change. I was left feeling really down when just a few pages before I had felt hopeful. 3.5 stars.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. This is a story about a fifteen-year-old girl named Alice. She wasn’t always Alice… when she was 10, she was taken away from her family. Her kidnapper still has her, but now she’s getting too old for him. The blurb says “This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget“. They’re not wrong about that. It’s a difficult book to review, though. The writing is excellent, the plot is horrific. I mean, given the subject matter it had to be horrific, but I just found it disturbing from beginning to end. No hope whatsoever. It’s realistic, I guess, but too dark for me. 2 stars.

Between the Lives by Jess Shirvington. This is a fascinating book! For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every night, at midnight, she shifts to her ‘other’ life, meaning she lives every day twice. She is exactly the same in both lives, but absolutely everything else is different. In one life she has a sister, in the other two brothers, in one life she’s a rich, popular, straight-A student, in the other she’s considered a reckless delinquent. She assumes that’s the way it will be forever, until one day she discovers a glitch: she breaks her arm in one life but in the other it’s perfectly fine (previously whatever physical things happened in one life also happened in the other). With her new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of experiments to see whether it would be possible to end one of her lives while staying alive in the other. But if she can have just one life, which will she choose? This book is not without its problems. Some of Sabine’s decisions I could not agree with at all. And if you want to read it you should be warned that there is some violence. But overall I absolutely loved this. It’s such an interesting concept and really made me think about what I would do if I had two lives. 4 stars.

Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones. Given that this book is a) only 80 pages (most of which are taken up with illustrations) and b) aimed at 4 year olds I debated not including it here, but it is a book I read in March! This is the story of a little girl called Ava who finds an invisible cat and decides to keep him as a pet. Much mischief ensues (all Squishy McFluff’s doing, of course!). The book is told in rhyme and it’s very funny and cute. I plan to give my little cousin it and the second book in the series for her birthday this year. 4 stars.

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell. This is basically a family drama, full of tragedy and secrets (if you hadn’t guessed from the title ;-)) When Dora Tide finds out she’s pregnant, she returns to her childhood home – scene of much drama – in the hope that she can come to terms with her past and make a fresh start for her and her baby. When I first started reading, the writing felt a little clunky and I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book, but once the story properly got going I was completely absorbed. The ending is a little too neat, but overall a solid read. 4 stars.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. I knew what this was about, of course, and I’ve seen the remake of the film (the one with Nicole Kidman), but I wanted to read the original – get the story straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. This is a short book, but an impactful one. Very creepy. I found it interesting how the husband’s opinions apparently changed dramatically between the beginning and end of the book. 4 stars for this one. I would love to read a sequel to this book, maybe set 10 years or so in the future, focusing on the children being brought up in these Stepford homes. Some of them were female… how did their fathers feel about them having minds of their own?

The Curse in the Candlelight by Sophie Cleverly. The fifth book in the Scarlet and Ivy series, after the last book took place on a school trip, in this one the twins are back at school for a new term. There are some new girls at the school one of whom – Ebony – claims to be a witch and seems to have the younger girls under her spell. When a prank on All Hallow’s Eve goes wrong, Ebony gets the blame, but Scarlet and Ivy aren’t so sure… It was nice to get away from evil teachers and have a slightly different kind of mystery in this one. Gothic and fun – a great addition to the series. I have enjoyed all the books in this series, but this is probably my favourite book since the first one. 5 stars.

The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow. First of all, I originally didn’t realise this was the US version of this book so I was really confused to see things like “sophomore year” being used in a book that’s supposed to be set in England. The original title is In Bloom, but the cover for this version is so much prettier. I mean, just look at it! Amber sunrise

Aside from that, I really liked this book. A lot of reviewers didn’t, which makes me feel like I’m missing something or somehow not as discerning as I should be. This is basically the story of two teenage cancer patients who meet and fall in love. You’re probably thinking “so it’s another The Fault in Our Stars, and maybe it is but I liked this one a lot better The Fault in Our stars – maybe because this one wasn’t hyped as the best/saddest book everrrrrr. It’s told from the perspective of the male half of the relationship. Francis, and while he did annoy me at times I loved his family (mum, brother, nan). It’s also set in North-East England, to which I can only say YAY! More northern books please! 4 stars.

House of Stairs by William Sleator. A lot of the reviews of this book are by people who say they read it as a child or teen and it’s stuck with them even many years later. Having read it, I can see why. It’s the story of five sixteen-year-old orphans in a future society who are brought into a room consisting of nothing but stairs and left to fend for themselves. The only other thing in there is a red machine that will give them food if they perform certain acts. I won’t say more because I really think it’s best to go in knowing very little. Oh, one of the orphans is overweight and the rest of the group frequently refer to her as “fat”. It’s not perfect by any means, but I gave it 5 stars because it really made me think.

Midnight’s Children by Salmen Rusdie. My longest read of the month… I was able to get through it in 12 days by taking it to work with me on both the times I was in the office this month (thank you long train rides) and also not picking up other books in between, which is what I usually end up doing with long books. This is another really difficult book to review. I really, really liked some parts. There’s one passage where he’s delirious with fever and hallucinating that was just amazing. Other parts are really confusing. I feel like I might have benefited from knowing more about Indian history, and specifically Indian independence/the partitioning of India and Pakistan (also a little ashamed of how little I do know given who they gained independence from…). That might have helped somewhat, but not fully. I can say that Salmen Rushdie is an amazing writer and I can see why this is considered his masterpiece. 4 stars – and another Big Read book done.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. About three years ago a friend gave me The Rosie Effect for my birthday, not realising it was a sequel. So when I needed a book for my journey home from work (having finished Midnight’s Children on the way there) it made sense to buy this one. Don Tilman is a professor of genetics, an respected expert in his field. But with his rigidity, adherence to strict schedules and preference of logic over emotion, he doesn’t have many friends… certainly no romantic partner. It has, however, been suggested to him that he might benefit from having a wife, and so, with the help of a questionnaire, he sets out to find one. A funny and cute story. Don Tilman definitely won my heart. This relatively “easy” read was exactly what I needed after Salmen Rushdie and I read almost the entire thing on my train journey. 5 stars.

The Woods by Harlan Coben. Twenty years ago, at summer camp, four teenagers went into the woods. The bodies of two of them were discovered the next day, the other two were never found but are presumed dead, the victims of a serial killer. One of the missing was the sister of Paul Copeland, the prosecutor for Essex County, New Jersey. Now immersed in one of the biggest cases of his career, the past is starting to come back to haunt him and he starts to question whether he really knows what happened that summer. This book has so many twists and turns. I thought I had an idea what happened, but I was wrong… or at least mostly wrong. Somebody I thought had done something actually turned out to have done something else (ha! How’s that for vague?). One thing that bothered me was the way certain women were described, although I guess that was supposed to be how Paul Copeland thinks and not necessarily the author’s views.  Some of the negative reviews for this one say that it follows the “usual Harlan Coben formula”. Luckily I haven’t read enough Harlan Coben to recognise any old materials so I enjoyed reading it. 4 stars.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I loved this book! I could relate to Eliza in many ways (apart from the bit where she’s a fantastically talented artist and I’m average at literally everything). I don’t claim to have anxiety like she does, but I people do scare me and I am mostly quiet in social situations unless I force myself to speak. And I hated the whole social aspect of high school, even if I wasn’t treated as badly as Eliza is in this book. Mostly people ignored me, which was just fine with me, but some of my friends were quite badly bullied. I do have real life friends (although most of them live very far away now), but I appreciated how this book shows that online friends are just as “real” as people you live close to and see every day. I may not have met most of my readers, but I appreciate and care about each and every one of them. Anyway, I digress. Five stars for this book.

I also read Adulthood is a Myth in April. You can read my separate review of that one here.

And that’s it for this round up. I started another two books in April, but one I haven’t finished and the other I finished in May so that will be in next month’s post.

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my opinion on them? Read any good books recently? Any and all comments appreciated! Linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.

What I read in March 2018

Good morning lovely people. It’s that time of the month again (no, not that time)… today is Show Us Your Books day with Jana and Steph, so here I am showing you my books. March ended up being a surprisingly good reading month – surprising because I didn’t think I would read very much with Anna Karenina to plough through. I guess all the much-needed breaks from it paid off (not that I hated it, it’s just hard work… but more on that below).

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Anyway, I have 16 books to review today, so I’d better get on with it. Starting with those for Erin’s challenge.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (481 pages, read for the category “A book featuring a character with a debilitating physical illness). I feel like people have been going on about this book for yeeeears. When did it come out? *Checks Goodreads* 2012, so it probably has been literally years. Anyway, I had it on my bookcase – although I have no memory of how it got there – and it was the only book I owned that had been previously chosen for this category. Before I start my review, I should say I took a break from Anna Karenina to read this, which may have influenced my opinion slightly. Anyway, this is an easy read and the story really sucked me in. I didn’t cry though, and I am definitely the type to cry at books. The ending made me mad more than anything. Gah! Not without its flaws but a solid enough read. I gave it 4 stars.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (837 pages, read for the category “A book with a character’s name in the title). I have so many books with names in the title, but somehow this was the only one that had been previously chosen for the challenge. It took me over a month, but I actually finished this book! It had to come to Dijon with me and into the office twice, but I got through it. All this makes it sound like I hated it, but I actually didn’t. was more readable than I expected and interesting to read about Russian society. I even enjoyed some parts. But there were parts that just draaagged. In my opinion, it could have been at least 200 pages shorter without missing out any of the actual story. Whole sections dedicated to the act of ploughing a field manually. What was that all about?  And then the Levin character… I quite liked him at first but by the end I was so annoyed with his preachy tone. 3.5 stars. It would have been four, but the last few chapters really annoyed me.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian (352 pages, read for the category “A book that takes place mostly on a form of transport”. The category I got to choose!). Again, this was the only previously-chosen book I owned. What is it with people choosing books I don’t have? 😉 I actually had no interest in this book – the only reason I owned it is because it’s on the BBC Big Read list. Neither war stories nor naval stories are my kind of thing. That said, I liked it more than I expected to. I actually liked the character of Dr Maturin, although I feel like he was mostly in the book to provide someone who knew nothing about ships so that the author could explain things to the reader without patronising them? If that was the case, it actually worked. (Although I recognised some of the terms from my time in sea cadets.) I will definitely not be reading the remaining 19(!!) books in this series though. One’s enough! 3 stars.

And with that I finished Book Challenge by Erin 8.0!

Now for the non-challenge books I read.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop. This is a cute children’s book about a girl who was abandoned in a bookshop when she was 5. The owners – a woman and her son – didn’t manage to find her parents, so she stayed and lived in the bookshop with them. Although she really loves her life there, she has a huge secret: she can’t actually read. They then win a competition and the prize is an amazing bookshop called The Montgomery Book Emporium. Of course, they win the competition, but when they move in all is not as it seems… This is such a fun little book and I really want the Book Emporium to be real! If only my adult brain hadn’t kept asking awkward questions like “how do you just get to keep a girl who gets left in your bookshop without any authorities getting involved?” and “why do neither of those kids go to school or have any form of home-schooling?”. Surely they would have realised she couldn’t read if they’d ever actually tried to, you know, have her do lessons? And it’s not like it’s set in the distant past when these things wouldn’t have mattered! I’m sure children won’t care about those things though. I gave it 4 stars.

Vanish by Tess Gerritson. Dr. Maura Isles is about to leave after an exhausting day at the morgue when one of the “corpses” opens its eyes. Later, the woman who had been presumed dead shoots a security guard with his own gun and then takes a number of people hostage, one of whom is pregnant detective Jane Rizzoli who is about to go into labour at any moment. I was expecting an ordinary crime/thriller, but there was actual a conspiracy theory kind of plot going on, which bothered me a bit. The writing is amazing though! The description claimed that “Only Jane, trapped with the armed madwoman, holds the key to the mystery,” which was misleading – I was waiting the whole time to find out what she knew about the mysterious not-dead woman. Jane did solve the mystery in the end, but not because she “held the key” as far as I could tell. This is the 5th book in a series, but I read it just fine without having read the others. Overall it’s a decent, fast-paced crime/thriller but not one of my favourites. 3 stars.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. I had been wanting to read this book for ages, so finally I just bought it. Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumour that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. But when her best friend’s boyfriend, Drake, kisses her, she actually remembers it! So when an e-mail from Drake seems to suggest she should meet him in Norway, she decides it’s the perfect opportunity for her reclaim her life and sets off on a mad adventure. I love Flora! I love that she’s mostly positive, despite everything. Some people were annoyed by the repetitiveness, but I wasn’t. Hey, enough normal teenagers will go on and on and ON about how they kissed a boy, at least Flora has an excuse 😉 There is a twist, of course – memory loss books always have a twist!  This one has kind of been done before, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected, and didn’t stop me from really enjoying the book. 4 stars.

Wilf the Mighty Worrier Saves the World by Georgia Pritchett. The story itself is cute. It’s about a little boy called Wilf who worries about everything and what he does when the self-proclaimed “Most Evil Man in the World” moves in next door. It would probably appeal to younger boys, especially those who have a tendency to worry about things themselves. But can someone PLEASE explain to me why a book set in Britain by a British author uses “vacation” and “mom”? At first I actually thought it was supposed to be set in America, until it became obvious it wasn’t and I had to look the author up  Did I somehow get hold of a copy that was adapted for the US or does the author think Americanisms will help her book sell faster? Kids maybe wouldn’t notice but it really annoyed me! (I have no problem with books set in America using mom, etc by the way, but British children go on holiday, not vacation!). There’s a whole series of these books but I won’t be reading the rest. 3 stars because the story was quite good, it’s just the Americanisms that put me off.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. The new ship is more modern and much faster, so will be able to catch up with her although she is still moving. Over the months that the new ship is travelling towards her, the two communicate by e-mail and gradually Romy finds herself falling in love. I really, really liked this book. I usually say I don’t like science fiction, but that isn’t strictly true. I don’t like science fiction where the sciency stuff is the entire story. The storyline of this one didn’t go where I thought it was going – or it partly did, I had an inkling about “J”, but only when it was quite close to the end. I’m sure other people would work it out much faster though. Romy is a really believable character and at times I felt genuinely anxious on her behalf. 4.5 stars for this one.

The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen. Sometimes I read a book just to see whether it’s something I could give to my younger brother (who will be 12 this year). This was one of those books – as was the Wilf one, actually. In The Everything Machine’s case, I can definitely say he will be getting it for his birthday in September. I loved it! Basically, a boy called Olly accidentally receives a machine that can make absolutely anything he wants. His siblings quickly find out and hijinks ensue. But is getting everything you’ve ever wished for all it’s cracked up to be? I can’t say too much more without spoiling things, but I will say I really enjoyed the fact that Olly’s 14-year-old sister is really intelligent and into science, and she’s portrayed really positively, showing that a) girls can be scientists and b) science can be cool! The sibling relationship was really realistic too. Olly uses a swear word at one point, which may be something to be aware of before giving this book to your child. A great kids book, 4.5 stars.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. In 1976, when Peggy Hilllcoat is 8-years-old, her survivalist father takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has gone, and her mother and everyone she’s ever known is dead. That isn’t a spoiler – we know this from basically the start. The story is about how and why she makes it home. For some reason, I was under the impression that this book way YA – maybe because of the protaganist’s age? It really, really is NOT though. It’s shocking, heart-rending… and the ending is devastating and awful. Peggy is obviously an unreliable narrator, but I really want her version of events to be real, because I just can’t cope with the ending being true. I gave this 4 stars, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Alice and the Fly by James Rice. This one actually is marketed as Young Adult, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it to most teenagers. Certainly nobody under the age of about 16. I had no idea what to expect from this book when I started and I ended up being totally stunned. The synopsis doesn’t do it justice. It’s about phobias, love, obsession, families, loneliness, being an outcast, mental illness.  It’s dark and disturbing and heart breaking but I honestly could not put it down! 5 stars.

A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. I read this one immediately after finishing Anna Karenina because I needed something a bit easier. A children’s book featuring dragons fit the bill perfectly.  It’s about a dragon named Miss Drake whose human pet Amelia, who she calls Fluffy, has recently died. Now she has a new pet, Amelia’s great-niece Winnie, who seems to be under the impression that Miss Drake is her pet. Ridiculous! As always, where magic is concerned, not everything goes to plan for Miss Drake and Winnie… Aah, this book is so cute. I adore Miss Drake and especially Winnie. She’s a bit cheeky at times, but so bright, mature and resourceful that I just had to love her. I will definitely be getting book 2, and I can’t wait for my godson to be old enough to read it. 5 stars.

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. I ordered this as a potential “debilitating illness” candidate because, at the time, I didn’t feel like reading a book as long as Me Before You. But then I ended up reading the other one before this arrived. Anyway, this book is really well written and I enjoyed reading it, but I’m honestly not sure what it was actually about! Obviously I’m not clever enough for this book? Basically it’s about a woman named Sofia who brings her mother, Rose, to Spain in a final attempt to find out what’s causing her (the mother’s) mysterious illness. But I’m not actually sure whether the mother really was ill, or a hypochondriac, or if the daughter is somehow imagining things? Such a weird book. 3 stars.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I had actually been reading this book on and off for nearly two years, so when I only had about 100 pages left I rolled my eyes at myself and decided to finally just finish the damn thing! I think it’s supposed to be philosophical, but basically it’s the story of a man called Tomas’s sexual exploits with almost everyone but his wife, Tereza, and also the story of his lover, Sabina, and her lover, Simon. All set against the backdrop of the invasion of the Czech Republic by the Soviet Union. It’s all very odd and the narrator keeps directly addressing the reader, explaining things, giving away future events, waxing philosophical. This is another book that I don’t feel “clever” enough for, although I did mostly find it interesting while I was reading. 3 stars.

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange. It’s 1919 and Henrietta, known as Henry, has moved to the countryside with her parents and her baby sister, all of them still reeling from the death of her older brother a year before. This book is just beautiful. Magical, but without any actual “magic”. It reminds me of all the classics I read as a child. Henry is a fantastic character. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

The Guardians by John Christopher. I started reading this book in school in year 9, but then moved before we finished it. I’m surprised I didn’t read ahead actually – I can only assume the book was kept at school so I only got to read it in class with everyone else? I only had a very vague recollection of the plot, and it’s only now, through the power of Google, that I’ve managed to work out what the book actually was! It’s amazing what you can find by searching for “dystopian children’s book where a boy living in the city escapes to the country by crawling under a fence”.  I remember being fascinated by this book when we were reading it in school, and it still was pretty fascinating. In this dystopian future, the world has been divided into a huge city with all modern technologies, known as the Conurb, and the countryside where people have reverted to using horses and carts, known as the County. Only rich people and servants live in the country. I enjoyed reading it,  but the ending was so abrupt… HOW does it just end there? I wonder if the author intended to write a sequel but never got around to it because it seemed to just stop in the middle of the story. Based on the rest of the book it would have been four stars, but I’m disappointed enough to only give it 3.

And that’s it for March. 16 books finished is pretty good, even if 3 were really short, quick children’s books and I only had 100 pages left of another. I think finishing Anna Karenina is my achievement of the year, so far!

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my assessment? And have you read anything good recently? Check out the link up if this massive post wasn’t enough bookishness for you! And if you have a post about what you’ve been reading recently, why not join in?

Okay, I’m stopping. If you’re even still here, I’m sure you’ve had enough by now…

What I read in February 2018

In my February recap, I said I had read 16 books but I miscounted and it was actually 17. Yay. Erin’s challenge is still going on, and I started the bonus round in February but didn’t finish it – partly because some of the books I chose turned out not to be long enough so I had to wait for replacements, partly because I kept getting distracted by non-challenge books and partly because Anna Karenina is just so damn long! But let’s just get on with it shall we… this post is going to be long enough without me blabbering on.

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Challenge books first, then the rest.

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel (352 pages, read for “a book originally published in another language”; originally Danish). This can basically be categorised as Scandanavian crime – although I hadn’t read a Danish before. The body of an unidentified woman is found and nobody seems to know who it is, until someone comes forward saying she used to care for her in a state mental institution many years ago. The only problem is the girl and her twin sister supposedly died more than thirty years ago. The case ends up taking Louise Rick who is in charge of the investigation back to her childhood home, which she isn’t too happy about due to traumatic events in her past. I mostly enjoyed this book, although some parts seemed a little disjointed. I wonder if that was a translation issue? I would like to read the next one because there seem to be some secrets relating to Louise’s past that intrigue me. 3 stars.

Us by David Nicholls (396 pages, read for “a book with a red cover). This seemed to take me a weirdly long time to read, possibly because of the short “sections2 (not really chapters). I would think I had read loads, then see it was only a few pages. Douglas Petersen’s wife, Connie, tells him she wants a divorce, but she still wants to go ahead with their holiday, touring Europe with their almost-18-year-old son before he leaves for university. This is the story of their relationship and the tour, which Douglas hopes will help him win her back. This book started off slow but I ended up enjoying it. There are some funny moments and some touching ones. Poor Douglas just wants everyone to like him (although there were times I wanted to tell him to stand up for himself). I hated Connie though – she was basically horrible to Douglas all the time. 4 stars.

Everlost by Neal Shusterman (320 pages, read for “a book with a plot twist). Two teens, Nick and Allie, die in a car accident, but instead of going “where they’re supposed to” (presumably heaven) they end up in a sort of limbo halfway between life and death – they’re still in the real world, but the living can’t see them. An interesting take on the afterlife and what happens after we die. The characters were well written and mostly interesting. The writing style seemed younger than the sometimes very creepy and odd themes though, which threw me off a bit. The “twist” involves some of the people they meet and characters maybe not being what they seem. I didn’t love it but I liked it enough to want to know how the story continues. 3 stars.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Blunt (355 pages, read for “a book with house/home in the title). Fourteen-year-old June Elbus feels like the only person who ever understood her was her uncle Finn, so when he dies of AIDS she’s understandably devastated. When she begins spending time with another person who was close to her uncle, she starts to realise she isn’t the only one who misses him. This is a beautiful, emotional book about grief, feeling different and what it means to be a sibling. 4 stars.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner (401 pages, read for “freebie”). A politician has an affair. This book is described as the story of what his wife and two daughters do in the aftermath of the “betrayal”, although really it’s more what his wife does. At least one daughter’s story was shaped by events that happened way before the affair. Anyway. This book was okay. It’s an easy read and I got through it quickly enough, but most of the characters are boring – except the elder daughter, Diana who’s just a total bitch, but at least does something. 2 stars.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. Lina is forced to spend the summer in Tuscany because it was her mother’s dying wish. She doesn’t really want to be there, until she’s given an old journey of her mother’s and starts learning about the year she spent in Italy and various secrets surrounding it. A cute, fluffy YA read that I read in an evening. I loved the descriptions of Florence. Lina was supposed to be 17 but she seemed younger – I would have happily believed it if she was 14! But I suppose then she wouldn’t have had as much freedom to explore on her own and find things out. It passes the time well enough. 3 stars.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (428 pages, read for “an author whose first and last name start with the same letter). This is the second book in the “Peculiar Children” series and I feel like I should have re-read the first book before starting this one… it’s been a while and I had forgotten most of what happened. I liked the way the peculiar parts ate intertwined with the reality of World War 2 and I was definitely not expecting the twist. I will read book 3. 4 stars.

That was all my challenge books for this month. Categories still to go: A book with a character’s name in the title (Anna Karenina… I will finish you!), a book that takes place on a form of transportation and a book featuring a character with a debilitating physical illness.

Now for the non-challenge books.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is a pretty short book and I read most of it while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. It read a bit like a self-help book disguised as fiction, or maybe a biblical parable. At first I was enjoying it and found a few quotes I really liked, but after a while it got too preachy. If it weren’t so short and on the BBC Big Read list I doubt I would have bothered reading it all. 2 stars.

The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff. This is a cute little book about growing up, friendship and how it feels to be “different”. Georgie has dwarfism and the beginning of each chapter there’s a little paragraph that asks the reader to do something and then explains that Georgie can’t do that very thing. This is a great way to gently show children that even people who look different are just the same as everyone else on the inside. Wonder is a better book along the same lines, but this is a nice one for younger children. 3 stars.

Little Wolf’s Book of Badness by Ian Whybrow. This book is so fun! Little Wolf is too well-behaved, so his parents have sent him off to Cunning College to learn the Rules of Badness from his Uncle Big Bad. The story is told in the form of letters that Little Wolf writes home during his journey to school and once he arrives. I enjoyed the references to familiar fairy tales, and I’m sure young children will too. I will definitely be buying this for my Godson at some point. 4 stars.

The Dance in the Dark by Sophie Cleverly. Book three in the Scarlett and Ivy series, in this one someone is sending nasty letters to pupils and staff, and then “accidents” start to happen. Is somebody out to get the school? This book was better than the second one. I found Scarlett less annoying this time round. She came across as feisty and determined rather than spoiled and stubborn. After starting off slow, the middle and end of the book were action-packed. I wish a series like this had been around when I was 10! 4 stars.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I wanted to read this as my plot twist book for the challenge, but it turned out not to be long enough. I decided to still read it anyway though. I absolutely loved it! It’s so wonderfully creepy and gothic. 4 stars.

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach. This book is so strange! I read it while waiting for a train – it didn’t take me long since half the pages are just photos of seagulls. Jonathan Livingston is a seagull who believes it is every gull’s right to fly. In doing so, he ends up being ostracised by his flock, who claim a gull’s entire purpose in life is to find food. It’s 95 pages of pure weirdness. 2 stars.

Sunday Morning Coming Down by Nicci French. I thought this was the last book in the Freida Klein serious – after all, Sunday is the end of the week – but it seems there will be another one, which really will be the last. That’s good because I still need answers and I’m not ready to say goodbye to the characters yet! I can’t really say much about this book without spoiling the others, so I will just say read this series! Book one is Blue Monday. 5 stars for this one.

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles. This one had been on my to-read list for a while so I finally decided to just read it. A boy named David has committed suicide, and his brother, Kyle, decides to take revenge on the person he perceives to be responsible (Cass) by burying her in a box underground. The only way for Cass to survive is to keep Kyle talking. This was an incredibly intense story and I could not stop reading! Not perfect, but certainly gripping. 4 stars.

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long. Sophie Nieuwenleven is English, but she came to live in Belgium with her family when she was four or five years old. Now she’s 14 and still isn’t quite sure why they moved to Belgium in the first place. One day she discovers something so shocking about her family that she can’t put it into words, so instead she uses a special “language” to tell her story. The aforementioned “language” actually just involves replacing some words with others – so people are pigeons and parents are parsnips, for instance. At first I found that really confusing, and I actually thought Sophie had something wrong with her that made her mix up her words. It was quickly obvious that even people she met for the first time weren’t confused, so I soon realised that was her supposed “language”, and once I got used to it I could read it fine. I really liked this book and loved the character of Sophie. Her parents need a good shake though – her dad at least ends up paying for his actions, but in my opinion the mother is just as bad. No spoilers here, so if you want to know what they did you’ll have to read it 😉 4 stars.

Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey. Gabriella, or Elle, has been moving around the country constantly for as long as she can remember. For her senior year of high school she finally convinces her dad to let her go to boarding school, but then weird things start happening and Elle wonders whether she’s losing her mind. I enjoyed the plot of this one. I guessed some of what was happening before the end, but not everything. I didn’t particularly like the characters though. Gabriella/Elle alternates between boring and ridiculously naive. I did want to know what was happening though and read it all in one sitting. 3.5 stars.

And that was all for February. As mentioned above, I started Anna Karenina but I’m stillll not finished. We’ll see if I get to include it in my March review.
Sorry this post is so long – I tried to keep my individual descriptions/reviews brief but I didn’t succeed as I would have liked! I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, of course. If you still need more book talk, check out the link up.

Have you read any good books lately?

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.

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.