Mid Month Mini Reviews – May

Hello bookworms!

Welcome to my a-bit-later-than-planned-mid-month mini-reviews!

I’ve been trying to read more diversely recently and so today I’m focusing on black female authors. All of these books are absolutely excellent and they’ve all made me think about race, racism and privilege (amongst other issues) from entirely different angles. I’d highly recommend them all.

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

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I didn’t go into this book with high expectations but I was blown away by it – not only by the sheer force of Michelle Obama’s drive and ambition but by how well written and engrossing it was. As a British person I don’t understand the system that the US uses to elect its politicians so I had hoped the autobiography wouldn’t get too politically technical and thankfully, it didn’t. What it did do, however, was show what a truly inspirational person Michelle Obama is. Her sheer determination to do well in life was astounding – just the lengths that she had to go to just to get a good education were ridiculous and her constant willingness to defeat the obstacles put in front of her was amazing.

I loved hearing about how Michelle took the role of First Lady and made it her own, with her unique blend of optimism, personality and hard work. I also loved getting a behind-the scenes glance at what life in the White House was really like, especially when you’re also trying to bring up a young family. It was great to hear about what a nuisance the Secret Service were when you were trying to organise your daughter’s sleepover or what it was really like to meet the Queen when you’d only a vague idea of protocol!

Overall, I thought this was a super-interesting look at an amazing woman and her incredible life so far. My only criticism would be her cheese on toast making skills – guys, she used the microwave. Whaaaaat???

    

Four “That’s not how you make cheese on toast, Michelle” out of five.

 

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #2 Read an alternate history novel.

Oh. My. God.

I don’t know that anything could have prepared me for this book – especially with that ending – but safe to say that I loved it, even though it was upsetting and graphic and difficult to read in places.

Noughts and Crosses is set in a world where power has been flipped on it’s head – black people (crosses) are the ruling elite over the just-out-of-slavery whites (noughts). Sephy (a cross) has been lifelong friends with Callum (a nought) but when their friendship begins to develop into something more, the trouble begins.

There’s a lot of adult themes in the book – not just around privilege, power and racism but also rape, abuse and murder. These topics are handled incredibly sensitively though and although in parts it’s a difficult read, the writing is so outstanding that you’re unable to put the book down. The characters are multi-faceted, complicated individuals who often act irresponsibly – entirely how teenagers should behave – and this made the story seem all the more real to me.

Overall, I thought this was a great book with a very important message – I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

 

Four and a half “You can’t do that to a main character!” out of five

 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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This is an odd book to review. On the one hand, I enjoyed reading it but I found that it was only after I’d finished that I truly understood how great it was. I just couldn’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It. And every time I considered the novel from a new angle, I found a whole slew of other issues hiding behind it.

An American Marriage is the story of a married couple, Celestial and Roy, who become separated after Roy is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Roy goes to prison and Celestial is left to build a life on her own, with just the shadow of her husband looming in the background.

It’s the omnipresence of Roy in Celestial’s life that really gives the book some tension. Their marriage is always there in the background, overshadowing every move they both make. The issue of their legal union binds them together and creates all kinds of questions about freedom – it acts as a kind of metaphorical, socially driven prison of their own making. It really made me think about injustice and how punishment of an individual ripples out to affect the whole family.

There’s many things about the book that mean it shouldn’t work – the characters are unlikable, the plot isn’t particularly dynamic, the ending is a bit disappointing. However, there’s something about the writing that compels you to keep reading. I should have hated it but instead I loved it.

 

Four “those dolls sound hella creepy” out of five. 

 

So, have you read any of these books? Do you make an effort to read from a diverse range of authors? Let me know in the comments!

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Calendar Girls May: Favourite Book With A Mother/Daughter Relationship

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls, which I totally forgot to post yesterday! I’m so sorry guys!!!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

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…and my top pick is…

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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When I first saw the theme of mother and daughter relationships I was initially a little stumped. I don’t read a lot of novels that focus on family ties so I had to cast around on google for a bit to see what I could come up with. Then it hit me – I was looking for positive, healthy Mum/Daughter bonds… but what about toxic relationships? That’s when I knew exactly which book I’d recommend – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

In the book, Eleanor lives a life of pared down efficiency. Her meals are one pot, one plate. Her shoes are smart but comfortable, with Velcro for quick fastening (none of those inefficient shoe laces). Her role as a finance administrator requires analysis and ordering of numbers, which can be broken down into repetitive tasks and scheduled accordingly. All of this means that Eleanor creates minimal fuss and requires few interactions with other people. Everything seems to be pretty normal (if a bit lonely) until you realise that Eleanor treats vodka like an essential basic grocery and thinks of a pot plant as her one and only friend.

Eleanor struggles with people, and as the book progresses, you start to guess at what might have happened in her childhood to make her so ill equipped to deal with social situations. Apart from having burn scars across her face and body, Eleanor has a very troubling relationship with her mother (Mummy) who she only contacts via telephone for 15 minutes on a Wednesday (and thank God, because this woman is a BITCH). As the book progresses, Eleanor makes some woeful (often hilarious) attempts to make herself more attractive to her crush and through a freak event is forced to spend time with Raymond, who she knows from work. Through this very off-kilter friendship Eleanor begins to accept herself and deal with her past… and her mother.

I thought that Eleanor was such a great character and although she is clearly odd and her life is terribly sad, the novel is written in such a way that you don’t ever feel that you’re laughing at her, or at least not in a malicious way. When she acts inappropriately you can see it’s because she doesn’t understand social norms and never because she aims to cause offence – but to outsiders I suppose she seems aloof or downright rude. It’s this constant formality and awkwardness that made me empathise so much with Eleanor – you can’t help but be completely on her side.

The ending of the book has a fantastic twist that I half guessed at but the sadness of the whole situation really hit me. I loved how Eleanor’s past was hinted at throughout the novel and that by the end of the book everything had come to light. I really liked how what could have been fluffy chick lit was turned into something much more challenging and emotive by offsetting the lighter elements with something far darker. The book is very well written and a fabulous debut – everyone should read it!

 

Have you read Eleanor Oliphant…? Do you have any favourite books with toxic mother/daughter relationships in them? Let me know in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

TL;DR April Review

Hello Bookworms!

HEATWAVE!!! HAPPY EASTER!!! BANK HOLIDAY!!!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

I can’t believe how warm it was over the Easter bank holiday weekend! We went out on bank holiday Monday in SHORTS and I had to put suncream on! We even sat out at night in the garden with our wood burner going after having a barbecue and it was lovely.

April saw the launch of the library as a full volunteer led community resource, which means we’ll have much more flexibility about the kind of things that we can use it for – we already have a poetry evening, farmers market and various kids clubs but we’ll be expanding even further, which is both super exciting and a lot of work. The launch day itself was really great – the whole community pulled together to create a fantastic atmosphere. I got up at the crack of dawn to marshal a fun run but it was all for a good cause so I didn’t really mind.

I’ve been out quite a lot in April – we visited Snowshill Manor for the non-hubs birthday (getting more usage from our National Trust membership) which is absolutely fascinating as it houses the most eclectic collection of hand crafted items from all over the world. The interior of the house reminded me of Grimmauld Place so it was perfect for a mooch around; this is just one of the many rooms:

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We also had a meal at The Fleece Inn near Evesham which was amazing – a proper traditional English pub with a great beer garden and fabulous, locally sourced food. We even went back there a few days later after we’d been out antiquing at Malvern, where I got a lovely German studio pottery bowl and French vase.

We had my parents over for Easter Sunday lunch which involved loads of hot food, wine and chocolate which was really nice. My Mum had her birthday too so we went to Edingale, the village where she used to go during the holidays (some scheme run by the Church maybe?) to stay with a woman called Miss Abel. She hadn’t been back since the 1950’s and amazingly it hadn’t changed much. It’s a lovely place, still very rural and the house that she used to stay in was still there, looking pretty much the same.

Our other house is slow going – we’re still sanding down the cement like filler round all the door frames but we’re close to finishing the woodwork, so that’s something. Disasters this month have included ants in the kitchen (why? there’s literally nothing for them to eat) water ingress into my lovely new kitchen (I think the upstairs window is leaking) and some more problems with the plasterwork but we’re on top of them now.

In terms of my book blogging life I’m now halfway through the Read Harder Challenge which is obviously ahead of schedule and I’m doing ok in the Goodreads Challenge, although I have slipped back a bit.

This month, I took part in the April Calendar Girls meme where I chose Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough as my favourite book with a surprise ending. I took part in a blog tour run by The Write Reads for After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward and expanded my mini review feature to two postings a month – Mid-Month Mini-Reviews and Monthly Wrap-Up Mini-Reviews.

I also did a discussion post about blogging pressure called Are We Having Fun Yet? and continued with Sorting Out the Shelves #5.

I posted eight reviews despite having a pretty bad reading month quality wise:

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie: A fantastic essay that really cut to the bones of why it’s important to be an intersectional feminist in the 21st Centuy. Loved everything that she had to say. Five out of five stars

Bloodchild by Octavia E Butler: I loved this novella, especially as it felt like proper old school sci-fi. I’m super interested in the rest of the series now! Four out of five. 

After the Green Withered by Kristen Ward: An interesting debut with a great message but a few problems with pacing and structure. Three and a half out of five.

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor: I found that again, a restrained, something-might-happen-but-then-it-doesn’t plot dull as ditchwater. Some characters were brilliant but unfortunately they didn’t feature heavily enough for me.  Three out of five. 

First Love by Gwendoline Riley: One word: depressing. I hate books that don’t have redemptive arcs and this was just one horrible character after another, even though the writing was excellent. Two and a half out of five.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry: I didn’t hate this book but it dragged on and on with very little in the way of plot. It was beautifully written but I needed more action. Average. Two and a half out of five. 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley: I hated this book – the confusing structure of some sentences, the character names, the incongruous details that didn’t sit well within the Victorian setting…urgh. I made it through to the end but my God it was a slog. One out of five. 

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville: I hated every single thing about this book and DNF’d it half way through. One out of five.

So that’s April wrapped up! Did you read better books than me? Are you making plans for the summer? Let me know in the comments!

Viewpoint – Are We Having Fun Yet?

Hello Bookworms!

I realised that I haven’t bashed out a discussion piece in ages, due to the inevitable end of year wrap ups, challenge completion and resolution posts so I thought I’d write about something that’s been on my mind for a little while now. So, grab yourself what looks like a horrible instant coffee, slip on some unattractive slippers, find a fire hazard of a carpeted hearth (is that even legal?) and lets have a chat about blogging and pressure.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I really enjoy blogging (and obviously reading) but there seems to be a darker side to running a blog that I’m just becoming aware of (hilariously, after three years of doing it). I’ve only just joined Twitter (THAT’S where you’ve all been hanging out!) and, well, I’m addicted. It’s far more interactive and faster than blogging, you can find out the latest happenings within the bookish community, you can engage with authors and famous people. That’s all super-smashing-great but the thing is, all of this checking of social media takes time and effort and what with writing posts, blog hopping, responding to comments etc., it’s taking up a lot of my day.

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I’ve seen super organised bloggers who have content scheduled months in advance and I’ve seen bloggers who bash posts out and publish them immediately (guess which one I am) but we all seem to be saying the same thing – sometimes, we just don’t have the time and/or capacity to keep up with it all. And when that happens, most of us beat ourselves up for it.

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Why?

Because there’s a lot of pressure on bloggers to meet various deadlines (ARC’s, blog tours etc.), complete reading challenges, engage in the latest debates… but the thing is, this is meant to be FUN. What started as a nerdy little hobby for most of us can easily get out of hand and turn into a full time job. That’s a lot to take on, so no wonder we frequently hear the terms “burnout”, “blogging hiatus”, “reading slump”… if we didn’t run book blogs, would we even notice that we were in a slump? Would we tone down our use of social media without feeling the need to announce it to the world? Would we have “scheduled reading”? Would we be keeping detailed spreadsheets of any other aspects of our lives?

The best, most addictive thing about social media is the external validation that you get from seeing the number of people who have responded to your content. It’s the most instant, obvious way to see how unambiguously “popular” you are – and when those stats are going up, it feels great. However, what happens when you publish a post that only a few people interact with – or when you realise that someone started a blog three months ago and has ten times the number of followers that you do? It doesn’t feel great, does it – but what can you do?

Look at this awful, shameful display of self promotion…😉

Well, there’s two ways of looking at this. The first is to chase those stats – review popular books, write content that you think other people will find interesting, blog SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, tweet ALL OF THE TIME, read some novellas to hit that Goodreads target, even pay another blogger to promote you. But really, who has the time? And how long can you realistically keep it up for? The instant gratification wears off pretty quickly and you’re left chasing even greater numbers, with a mountain of self-generated work to do in the meantime. Over the years, I’ve seen bloggers explode onto the scene with tons of posts, an immediate number of followers and constant engagement but then the shine wears off and they disappear, never to be heard from again. You have to wonder, what was the point?

The second way is to actively try to manage your expectations. Review what you want, limit your time on social media, try to follow a few blogs consistently instead of checking out random posts based on what pops up on your Twitter feed. You won’t get the numbers in terms of your own stats (although, consistently following a handful of blogs is arguably more beneficial as people tend to reciprocate) but you’ll be setting up a realistic blogging habit that works for you long-term. It can be hard when you’re three years in and still aiming for 500 followers but I really treasure the few proper blogging friends that I have – and isn’t that what this whole blogging thing is all about really? Making human connections with like-minded people?

I know that for most of us, we keep ourselves in check and mostly manage to balance our actual lives with our blogging activities – and that for the majority of the time, blogging is fun – even with all of the additional admin. But it can easily get out of control and I think we (myself included) need to step away from the stats and celebrate what we’ve achieved – content that we love, blogs that reflect our individuality and creativity and a positive, supportive community – regardless of how many people have clicked that follow button.

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So, be honest – how often do you check your stats? Do you do anything to actively increase your number of followers/page views etc.? Do you agree that blogging is about far more than metrics? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

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Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism

Similar to: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Could be enjoyed by: Lots of people, apparently

Publication date: 2nd July 2015

 

First things first – I hated this book.

There.

I said it.

I’m very sorry to those of you who have told me this is one of your favourite novels but I just did not get on with it at all. This appears to be a Marmite book – you either love it or you hate it – as the reviews on Goodreads seem to be either five stars or one star.

If you loved it… well… you might not want to read what’s coming next…

 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – A Rant.

By Lucinda Is Reading, aged 36 1/4 

 

Lets start by describing the story. A man named (urgh) Thaniel (I hated the name – to me it sounded far too modern for someone who was meant to be living in Victorian London) finds a watch in his flat. Six months later, the watch emits some kind of alarm that makes him leave the pub (seems pretty tenuous to me but ok) when suddenly a bomb goes off. Thaniel has been saved by his loud timepiece! He somehow, through his work in the Foreign Office, gets involved in the police investigation because – I think – the bomb was clockwork and he has been given a watch and the clockwork is the same. Or something. I don’t know. So he goes off to live with the watchmaker who he thinks made his watch and maybe the bomb, in order to collect evidence in his official capacity as Home Office admin clerk. He finds out that the watchmaker has special powers but isn’t fazed and just accepts this as though it’s an everyday occurrence. A random scientist called Grace enters stage left. She has to get married to inherit a house, so she marries Thaniel after meeting him maybe twice. Turns out Thaniel likes someone else but we don’t get to find that out until he literally walks up to that person and starts snogging them. On his wedding night. Grace, having given literally no indication that their relationship is anything more than a business deal, is inexplicably jealous. Then there’s another bomb but that doesn’t have anything to do with the first one.

Oh, and there’s a clockwork octopus.

The End.

Now, obviously that’s me being mean for comic effect but I honestly couldn’t make head nor tail of the plotline of this book. There were so many things that didn’t make sense, so many threads that were left open-ended, and so many situations where characters acted so, well, out-of-character that I almost gave up numerous times. I slogged through to the end – but only just – and STILL nothing made sense. In fact, it just got weirder.

The disjointed writing was majorly off-putting. Several times I had to re-read a paragraph to work out who or what the author was referring to. Some parts of the narrative were extraordinarily detailed; others were completely lacking. The dialogue between characters was wooden and I don’t think there was a single emotion either displayed or explicitly mentioned throughout the entire book. That made it supremely difficult to get a handle on anyone’s motivations and made their actions seem, at times, completely random.

I also found the actual plot of the book… dull. Yes, there’s a super cool clockwork octopus that may or may not be alive but there’s also an awful lot of wandering around, not really saying or doing anything meaningful. I wasn’t engaged in the narrative at all as I felt there was a complete lack of tension or excitement.

One part of the novel which I will obliquely refer to as the wedding night came so far out of left field that I just couldn’t believe it had been thrown in. It felt completely inauthentic and the general reaction was far, far too modern for a novel set in the Victorian period. There were numerous other examples of inaccuracy – Thaniel learning conversational level Japanese in about a month, Grace being forced to marry because she got caught staying out late, jokes by the watchmaker about how shit the West Midlands is (one of the major centres for watchmaking during that period)… I could go on.

However, my absolute least favourite part of the book (which I will have to paraphrase, having already returned the novel to the library) was a paragraph in which a character seemed to jokingly suggest that one of the ways in which you could get out of a marriage proposal was to take a trip alone to Hampstead Heath at night. Now, I might have got the wrong end of the stick here (again, the writing is extraordinarily convoluted) but… is that a rape joke? If not – what the hell did it mean?

Overall, this book was really, really, really not for me. Plenty of people seem to love it so by all means don’t avoid it on my account – but don’t say that I didn’t warn you!

 

One “Did I miss something?”s out of five.

“Not for me” is the nicest thing I can say about this book.

 

 

Mid Month Mini Reviews – April

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Hello bookworms!

The mini-reviews continue! I really enjoy writing these, I have no idea why it took me THREE WHOLE YEARS to try them!

Today, I’m focusing on my most disappointing recent reads that I just can’t bring myself to write proper reviews for. Lazy but…meh!

 

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

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I can’t begin to stress how much I hated this book. I just didn’t get it. The premise was that in wartime Paris, surrealist art came to life and seemingly attacked everyone – for what reason I’m not quite sure. There were other bits of surrealism that didn’t attack people but seemed to be stuck in some kind of time loop. Also there were Nazi’s. To be honest I had absolutely no idea what was going on so I was quite glad that my online library loan expired and the book disappeared from the catalogue – a kind of enforced DNF at around 50%. Oh well.

 

One “What the…what???” out of five.

 

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

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This book wasn’t bad exactly – in fact I started off really liking it – but I quickly lost interest. The book centres around Cora, newly widowed and looking for adventure. When she hears about rumours of a mysterious beast roaming the Essex waterways, she and her son Francis up sticks and decamp to Aldwinter to investigate further.

I totally get why lots of people love the novel as it’s beautifully written with lovely, lyrical prose but unfortunately it just didn’t GO anywhere. All of the characters were restrained by their Victorian morals so there was a lot of “should we… oh” *abruptly turns and flees* and gazing into the middle distance that got on my nerves. It suffered from the same fate as Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield in that respect (the two books are so similar I kept getting the stories confused in my head – even the covers look the same). I slogged my way through to the end to find out if there really was an Essex Serpent (spoiler alert: no) so overall I felt pretty letdown by the whole thing.

It is a very pretty book though.

 

Two and a half “it’s a fucking fish” out of five. 

 

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor (not that one)

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I own a very beautiful Virago Modern Classics Designer Edition of this book and although I have really enjoyed almost every single VMC offering so far, I really struggled to connect with this one. The main problem is that NOTHING HAPPENED.

The story starts out well enough, with an innocent young teenage crush that occurs between Harriet and Vesey. Their fledgling holiday romance is cut short (nothing happens) after Vesey is made to return home and their lives take them in very different directions – Vesey to the stage and Harriet into a comfortable middle class marriage (where nothing happens). However, once Vesey makes a return to Harriet’s life, the cracks in her seemingly solid, dependable life are exposed and what I hoped would be the ensuing torrid, sexy love affair…DOESN’T HAPPEN. Yawn.

I found Harriet and Vesey extremely distant as characters and couldn’t empathise with them at all. I much preferred to hear about Harriet’s shop worker friends running rings around the management, waxing their upper lips in the staff room when they were meant to be on the shop floor or the beautiful, Rubenesque Kitty wafting around in a gin soaked bubble of privilege. It’s a shame that these peripheral characters don’t get more of a look in.

I suspect that the novel is intentionally depressing to showcase the trappings of a “comfortable” life but that lack of passion left me cold.

 

Three (just) “dufferish attempts at lovemaking” out of five.

 

So, have you read any of these books? Are you a fan of Elizabeth Taylor (not that one)’s other works? Could you make any sense of The Last Days of New Paris? Let me know in the comments!

 

TL;DR March Review

Hello Bookworms!

Oooh, for the first time today I went out without a coat! I mean, I was quite cold but nonetheless I survived! The central heating has had to go back on again at night so it’s not THAT warm but it definitely feels like Summer is on it’s way. Check out the Hummingbird Hawk Moth that arrived in my garden last week:

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March has been a month of library admin. I’ve got myself involved in three different committees (Fundraising, Social Media and HR) as well as generally helping out. We’ve got a launch date set up for the 6th April (when we officially become a community library) which is going to involve all kinds of fun stuff so there’ll be lots to do for that too. I’m even marshalling a fun run! It’s been really heartwarming seeing how great the local community has been at supporting our cause – people have been so generous.

Going out in March has mostly consisted of a library social event in the pub, a family trip out for Mother’s Day, a brunch meeting in a cafe (again with new library friends) and for a family meal for my non-hubs Uncle’s 80th.

We’ve slowly been cracking on with the other house, finishing lots of odd jobs that needed doing. I’ve befriended a local cat called Marmaduke who is SO floofy and always comes in for a nose around.

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I’m way ahead in the Read Harder Challenge and, despite initially loving Don Quioxte I’ve officially DNF’d the book. It’s just one long farce and for me, the joke got old pretty quickly. I’ll pick the challenge back up again for the next book – The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m also ahead in my Goodreads Challenge so overall doing pretty well!

This month, I took part in the March Calendar Girls meme where I chose Skyward by Brandon Sanderson as my favourite book with a strong female lead. I continued Sorting Out the Shelves, I wrote an A-Z of me Part One and Two, I did a fun recommendations post for Books to Get You Through Brexit and I did the Good Reading Habits Tag. I was also Blog of the Day again for my review of Circe (which boosted my stats sky high) so thank you to everyone who participated in reading and sharing my post! Somehow, the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction found the review and contacted me on Twitter to ask if I want to take part in a Q&A with the author, Madeline Miller 😯😯😯 which was a huge honour, even if I didn’t have long to prepare my question:

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I posted six reviews (and also some more mini reviews!) this month:

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: A brilliant, if slightly confusing book with a thoroughly engrossing plotline. Couldn’t put it down! Four and a half out of five.

Circe by Madeline Miller: Such an original concept, which sounds stupid for a re-telling but her perspective and lyrical prose felt totally fresh. I’ve already got hold of her previous book! Four out of five.

Golden State by Ben H. Winters: I loved the old school sci-fi feel to this book but was badly let down by the ending. Such a shame! Three and a half out of five. 

Lucky Star by Holly Curtis: Quite an enjoyable look at some nostalgic, realistic YA but I thought that the overall structure of the novel needed some work. Three out of five. 

Notes to Self by Emilie Pine: An interesting, if somewhat depressing read, I struggled to emotionally connect with the author. Three out of five.

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett: DNF’d at 60%. I REALLY gave this one a good go but the meandering storyline went precisely nowhere and I got bored. No idea why this is such a long book! Two out of five. 

So that’s March wrapped up! Is Spring definitely in the air where you are? Are you looking forwards to Easter? Let me know in the comments!

Blog Tour: After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward

Genre: Dystopian, YA

Similar to: It had something of a Hunger Games feel

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of environmental disaster dystopias

Publication date: 13th May 2018

 

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #3 Read a book by a woman and/or author of colour that won a literary award in 2018

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“They tell me the country looked different back then.

They talk of open borders and flowing rivers.

They say the world was green.

But drought swept across the globe and the United States of the past disappeared under a burning sky.”

 

After The Green Withered begins like a hellish version of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – except instead of warning about the potential devastation of our planet, the worst has already happened. Enora lives in a world post-climate change; a world where the relentless heat has caused desertification of the land and salinization of the oceans. Water is now the global currency and is severely rationed by the shady controllers of this fundamental resource – the DMC. Enora is shocked when she’s picked to join their elite ranks but when the true nature of her “Pathfinder” role becomes clear, she is forced to confront a painful reality. Who are the DMC? What are their true aims? And why do they need Enora?

I have to begin by saying that I’m so glad that I actually enjoyed this book. I am notorious for moaning about how much I don’t like YA fiction but I’m pleased to say that although the characters in the novel were teenagers, the overall tone was fairly grown up. There were some scenes later on in the novel that were quite upsetting so it’s definitely not a book for younger readers.

I loved how the scene was set in the first chapter regarding the state that the world was in. Yes, it was a bit of an info-dump but it was a powerful summary of everything that could (and probably will) go wrong if we continue to ignore climate change. The fact that the world-building was rooted in actual science made it hit home even harder.

The writing was good, even though I felt like the pacing was a little off in places. Some parts were a tiny bit slow, whereas others were heart-in-your-mouth exhilarating. However, I did like how easily I was able to visualise even the most complex, technical parts of the novel, such as Enora’s Pathfinder display or the kit that she used.

I liked Enora as a character but felt a little ambivalent towards some of her male counterparts – a couple of them popped up so infrequently that I struggled to emotionally connect with them. There’s clearly something fishy going on with every single one of them, so hopefully the next book will allow readers to get to know them better.

The book finishes on a total cliff-hanger and I have SOOOO many theories as to what happens next but I’ll keep them to myself for now. I’m absolutely dying to know though!

Overall, I thought that After the Green Withered was a good debut – really thought-provoking and engaging. I had a few issues with pacing and character development but I think that it’s a great set up for the second book in the series. I liked the overall theme of climate change and I hope that it might make people think more seriously about what action we need to take right now to prevent this awful world from becoming our future.

 

Three and a half  “OMG I think I know what happens next!?!”s out of five.

Well written and scarily prescient. A good debut with a fantastic message!

 

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Kristin Ward is on Twitter and has a website – click to follow the links.

After the Green Withered can be purchased from Amazon and Books 2 Read

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Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of  The Write Reads blog tour. Thank you to Kirsten for giving me a copy of her novel and to Dave for putting the tour together!

 

Calendar Girls April: Favourite Book with a Surprise Ending

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

…and my top pick is…

Behind Her Eyes by Sara Pinborough

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As soon as I saw the theme for this month’s Calendar Girls, I knew straightaway that there was one book whose surprise ending completely blew me away – and that was Behind Her Eyes. The publishers even started the hashtag #WTFthatending because so many people were talking about it!

The book is about a psychopathic wife, an edge-of-breakdown husband and a nice-but-slightly-dim friend/colleague who gets embroiled in their dysfunctional marriage. As we explore the web of lies that the couple have created, the nice-but-slightly-dim friend/colleague uncovers more and more of the truth until things eventually come to a head. However, instead of the expected showdown you get a completely left-field ending that’s so unnerving I’m still thinking about it two years later. Seriously, this is quite a long book and although it trails off a bit in the middle (the wife is mentally ill, we get it) it is so worth it to get to the ending. Trust me.

Although on paper the book does sound a bit like Gone Girl, there is nowhere near the level of creeping tension where each scene in the book is relevant, the next scene builds upon it and everything is tied up in a neat bow at the end. This is more like you have a fair idea that the wife is psychopathic, you’re not sure about the husband, you uncover bits of the past and have an idea of what’s going on and then out of nowhere comes the ending.

There were a couple of weird ideas introduced in the novel that I initially struggled to get to grips with (lucid dreaming anyone?) but after reading the whole book I think the concept actually worked really well – even if it did seem a little incongruous at first.

Minor negatives aside, Behind Her Eyes is a fabulous read and thoroughly deserves all the buzz that was created – WTF that ending indeed!!!

 

Have you read Behind Her Eyes? Do you enjoy books with twists that you don’t see coming? Let me know in the comments! 

 

Review: Lucky Star by Holly Curtis

 

 

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Genre: Young Adult

Similar to: Like a mixture of a grittier Ferris Bueller and a tamer Kidulthood

Could be enjoyed by: I think adults aged 35+ would appreciate the nostalgia

Publication date: 25th April 2018

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #23 Read a self-published book

Finally – FINALLY – someone has written a realistic portrayal of how teenagers ACTUALLY talk to each other and what they ACTUALLY get up to i.e. drinking, hanging around on street corners, shoplifting and driving too fast in crappy cars. Ahhh, memories.

Lucky Star is the coming-of-age story of Ben, set on the South Coast of England during the 1980’s. Like a lot of teens, Ben has to cope with a number of problems, from raging hormones to peer pressure and an inability to converse with the opposite sex. He also discovers a dark secret from his past regarding the death of his parents that he struggles to come to terms with. Living in Thatcher’s Britain affords Ben and his aunt with few opportunities for money, so he has to make a choice – stand out as a loser or fit in with the cool kids and obtain decent threads by the only method available to him – shoplifting.

I really enjoyed how realistic this novel was. Some of you may remember my previous post called “I Don’t Like YA, Please Don’t Hurt Me” where I bemoaned the fact that all teens in YA books were holier than thou middle class try-hards with money and cars and zero interest in smoking and drinking and sniffing glue. Fortunately,  Lucky Star does not fall into that trap.

I liked the colloquial phrases used throughout the dialogue and I loved the way that Holly Curtis captured the aimlessness of hanging around doing nothing and the weird way that teenage boys interact with each other (basically taking the piss and lightly thumping their friends as a way of expressing emotion). It gave me a real sense of nostalgia for my own teenage years, even though they occurred somewhat later on.

However, I did feel like the plot meandered quite a lot and I thought that there was some surplus fat that could have been trimmed down to make the focus of the novel sharper. For example, I really wanted to know more about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ben’s Mum and Dad and thought that a lot more tension could have been wrung out from those scenes, instead of reading about odd plotline offshoots like Ben going to a club with a random minor character.

Those issues aside, I enjoyed reading Lucky Star for the realistic portrayal of teenage life in the UK pre-2000 (good God – last century – that makes me feel so old!). With a little more revision this could easily go from being a good to a great read.

Three “YOU’RE GONNA GET CA…too late” out of five.

Realistic, good dialogue and characters but the novel’s structure needs some work.


Please note that I was sent a copy of this book for free directly from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Holly for giving me the opportunity to read her work!