April ‘1930s’ Wrap Up and May Plans ‘2018 Reads’

April was a so-so reading month for me, since I let myself get distracted by other things though I had the time to read. So, I didn’t end up completing all of the books that I’d planned to pick up, but I did finish nine books, and a tenth from my list in early May.

The first book I completed this April was one I had started in March, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This is a contemporary Young Adult story of twins Cath and Wren who are starting college where Wren has decided they must start their own lives separately. Wren is outgoing but Cath is an introvert, so much so that she won’t ask the way to the dining hall. She also writes fan fiction, on the Harry Potter-like Simon Snow, which is very popular online. This was a cute story where I could somewhat connect with Cath (since I am kind of reclusive) but still not one that entirely grabbed me. (Review here)

Not quite the order I read them in, but from my 1930s list, I read one British Library Crime Classic, Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston as well as another 1930s mystery, Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, both of which I reviewed on this page as part of a new feature hosted by Mackey at Macsbooks, #MurderousMondays . As I mentioned in those posts, I will be participating in this feature, all about sharing your latest murder read, from time to time. Murder in Piccadilly is the story of Bobby Cheldon, a spoiled twenty-three year old, who is relying only on his inheritance, more so now since he’s met the girl of his dreams. But his uncle has a good long life ahead of him and the girl in question, Nancy Curzon, a dancer, will accept only if he has money now! (review here). Death on the Nile sees Hercule Poirot solve a murder aboard a Nile cruise, where there is an obvious suspect, but she simply couldn’t have done it (review here).

From NetGalley this April, I read three titles. The Forest of Wool and Steel by Natsu Miyashita is the story of a young man, Tomura, who upon hearing the sounds created by a piano tuner at work in his school is so impacted that he chooses to train as one himself. The book, which conjures up a lot of vivid images, sounds, and smells, follows his journey as he starts out his career. (review here). Blue Door Venture by Pamela Brown is the fourth in her Blue Door series of books following a group of children, now young adults, as they try to realise their dream of having their own professional repertory company after training in drama. In this one, they are struggling to get their venture going when trouble strikes and they (or some of them) must turn detective (review here). Finally, from NetGalley was Arnica by Ervin Lázár, which is the translation of a Hungarian children’s story about a good-hearted princess who with her betrothed finds herself part of her curse where only one of them can be human at a time while the other must be a duck. On their journey to find the Seven-headed Fairy who alone can help them, they have various adventures and end up helping quite a few people. It also has some great illustrations (review here).

I also read this April, the Mitford Girls by Mary S. Lovell, which is a bio of the six Mitford sisters, Nancy, Pam, Diana, Unity, Decca, and Debo, but really of the whole family. They certainly led interesting and extraordinary lives, though not always happy ones. This excellent book takes us into their lives, work, writings, and the complex relationship the family shared with each other (review here).

This month I also finished Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, my third (?) revisit of his last completed novel, which I had been reading in instalments with a group on Goodreads over March and April. Once again, a story that keeps one hooked, interesting characters, and a host of themes, money being a central one. (review here). (I now see the cover below highlights this focus very well).

And finally from the 1930s list, two more books, The Priory by Dorothy Whipple, which is set in Saunby Priory and tells the story of its inhabitants, the Marwood family, whose life changes quite drastically when Major Marwood decides to remarry. Each of the characters has a different view of life, love, marriage, and their expectations from this which doesn’t always match with the others which leads to unhappiness, and misunderstanding not all of which can always be resolved. Also, being written in 1939, the shadow of the impeding war loons large over their lives (review here). Then I read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, which rather like the Blue Door books, is the story of three very different sisters who find themselves at an Academy for dance, training for the stage (review here). This was my Children’s Book of the Month.

So those were the books I read this April (Ballet Shoes I technically finished in May). For May, my plans are to read books published in 2018 that I bought and haven’t picked up yet–Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman, Circe by Madeline Miller, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, and the Book Hunters of Katpadi by Pradeep Sebastian. I also have a couple of titles pending from NetGalley, the first volume of a Manga version of the Tale of Genji, and Mr Finchley Discovers his England by Victor Canning. I will also try and catch up on the few 1930s books from my list that I wasn’t able to last month. Let’s see how this goes.

How was your reading month this April? Which books did you love? What do you plan to read in May? Any of my April/May books that you’ve read or plan to? Do let me know what you thought of them!

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March ‘Young Adult’ Wrap Up and April Plans

March hasn’t been my best month blogging-wise but in terms of reading, I ended up doing pretty well, having completed 11 books (I am about a fifth of the way through book 12). This month I picked ‘young adult’ books as the genre I would be focusing on, and of the five books on my list (see March plans here), I finished 4 and also read an additional title. So here’s what I read last month.

I started the month off by reading two historical mysteries I had left over from my February list. A Murder in Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey is a murder mystery set in 1920’s Bombay featuring the first woman lawyer Perveen Mistry (based on two real-life first female lawyers). This one I really enjoyed, but others in the group I read it with, didn’t so much. My full review is here. The other was Sovereign by C.J. Sansom, third in the Matthew Shardlake series, which follows Shardlake to York as he is appointed to deal with legal matters when Henry is on progress (Catherine Howard was his queen at this point), and is also put in charge of a prisoner accused of conspiracy. Much darker than the first two books in some ways, but I still found I enjoyed this one a lot (review here).

While not in the order I read them, next I have the three books I read in March via NetGalley. Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay is a ‘sequel’ of sorts to the Alice books imagining Alice’s story at 15 when she has been placed in a mental institution since she doesn’t give up believing in wonderland. But Alice finds a chance to escape once more into Wonderland where she is part of a conspiracy to do away with the Red Queen Rosamund, who grows more and more insecure and beheads anyone who suits her fancy. This is YA so fit with my reading theme as well. This was an enjoyable read but I didn’t find it as absorbing as I’d expected to (review here).

Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown is the third in her Blue Door series featuring a group of children, now teens, who want to set up their own repertory theatre company. In this instalment, they find themselves in drama school, dealing with real world experiences through summer jobs, and preparing themselves to take their amateur theatre professional. (review here).

Finally, from NetGalley, I read The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh, which is a Dan Brown type (though not the same kind of writing so those who don’t like DB can safely pick it up) thriller set in the Tudor Age when Catherine Howard was queen. This has a dual timeline with part of the story taking place in 2018 when the contemporary character, Dr Perdita Rivers uncovers secrets, and also following Catherine Howard’s story back in the sixteenth century. (review here).

The YA books I read this March were included The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King by Holly Black, the first and second in her Folk of the Air series which follows a human girl Jude, who with her twin Taryn have been brought up in Faerie after her parents were killed. Having faced ridicule and humiliation from various folk who don’t think well of humans, she wants to prove herself by gaining a position of power. But she does this in a way very different from what she had thought and finds herself amidst the politics, power games, and bloodshed in the quest to gain and hold the throne of Fairie. Both books were really exciting, fast-paced, and really engrossing reads, and I can’t wait to read the final instalment. (reviews here and here).

Divergent, the first in a dystopian YA series, once again surprisingly turned out to be really exciting reading. In a future world, where most people are divided into factions (based on their qualities), Beatrice Prior chooses to join a faction she was not born into. This means going through a set of challenging initiation tests. Alongside, there is something strange going on which may affect the future of the factions, and their world, which Beatrice (or Tris as she becomes) finds herself having to uncover. (review here)

Then I read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which was worth all the hype it’s received. This is the hard-hitting story of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old who witnesses a childhood friend being shot by a white police officer, and must take very hard decisions, and also face the fact that even if you do right, life is not always fair. (review here).

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon takes place in New York and tells the story of Daniel a Korean-American who is heading to an alumni interview for Yale (as his parents wish him to do) and Natasha, a Jamaican immigrant whose family is on the verge of being deported, and who is making a last ditch attempt at preventing this. This traces their meeting, and falling in love during the course of one day, and the changes in their lives as a result. What stood out to be about this book was the way it is written–it switches between first person accounts of both these teens but also takes us in a third thread into the stories of people they meet, interact with or even certain phenomena associated with them and their cultures. (review here)

Lastly, I read Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. Once again, a first in series, this is about Morrigan Crow a cursed child who is prophecised to die on Eventide. But when Eventide comes, she finds herself transported by a mysterious character, Jupiter North, to the world of Nevermoor where she is a competitor to join the Wundrous Society, and might finally have a place to belong to. This was a very imaginative story, and while it didn’t entirely grab me at the start, I did end up enjoying it. (review here)

So those were my March reads. For April, I plan to pick up some 1930s books, besides of course my NetGalley reads. I hope to read The Priory by Dorothy Whipple, The Edwardians by Vita-Sackville West, Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston, Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield, and Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell. Before this, I will finish Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell which was part of last month’s TBR. I also hope to do better with my blogging this month (fingers crossed).

So how was your reading month this March? Any highlights you’d like to share? Have you read any of my March or April reads? Do you plan to? How did you find them? Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

February ‘Historical Mysteries’ Lazy Wrap Up: Covers and Links

It’s nearly half way through March, and I realised I still haven’t done a wrap up post for February. For February, my reading theme was historical mysteries, and I had a list of four books that I wanted to pick up (see February reading plans here), besides what I had on NetGalley and what I had left over from January. I ended up reading only two of the mysteries that I had picked (though I have read the other two this month), but I did read four NetGalley books, and finish my pending January reads to make a total of seven books. But two of these were graphic novels, so overall this was a slower reading month.

Anyway, since I am feeling much too lazy to do a proper wrap up, I am just going to post the covers of the books read, with links to my full reviews below.

  • Murder in Abyssinia by Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie (review here)
  • Shelley: Vol 1: Percy Shelly by David Vandermeulen, Daniel Casanave, and Patrice Larcenet (review here)
  • The Porpoise by Mark Haddon (review here)
  • Poland by James Michener (review here)
  • One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters (review here)
  • A Country Rivalry by Sasha Morgan (review here)
  • Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley (review here)

For March, like February, I’ve picked a genre rather than a theme as such and plan to read the young adult books on my TBR pile. First I, of course, finished the books I had left over from my February list, A Murder on Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (review here) and Sovereign by C.J. Sansom (review here).

I also have four books pending on NetGalley, Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay, Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown (this is the third of the Blue Door series, books 1 and 2, I’ve reviewed here and here), The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh, and The Forest of Wool and Steel by Natsu Miyashita. Of young adult books, my theme, I want to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (this I’ve actually finished), The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and the Cruel Prince by Holly Black. (This is very ambitious I know but I’m not working this month so plenty of free time).

Any books on these lists that you’ve read or plan to? What did you think of them? How was your February reading and what plans for March? I look forward to hearing all about them!

January ‘Oldest First’ Wrap Up and February ‘Historical Mysteries’ Reading Plans

January for me was partly about tacking the oldest (well, some of) books on my TBR pile, in addition of course to reading some of the books that I had from NetGalley. I got off to a fairly decent start this year, with eight books completed and a little way into book 9.

So, to start off with, the four NetGalley books I read this month. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa was the first in a series of a Japanese-inspired fantasy. Yumeko (a half yokai, who can turn into a fox) must set off on an adventure with an assassin of the Shadow Clan, Kage Tatsumi to protect a scroll that the monastery she was brought up in was protecting. This was a fast-paced adventure, light-hearted despite the battles and bloodshed, and with folklore elements that I really liked. (my full review is here). Next was a graphic novel for children Blissful Land vol 1, which I picked up essentially because of its setting–eighteenth-century Tibet. This is a gentle story about a young boy, a doctor in training, who comes home one day to find some guests in his home, one of whom turns out to be his bride-to-be. The story gives us a peek into daily life for a family in Khang Zhipa’s position as it would have been, what they did, what they ate etc., and was a really gentle pleasant read. I loved the artwork, especially the clothes. (my full review is here).

Then I read Murder at the Museum by Lena Jones, second in the series of children’s mysteries featuring Agatha Oddlow, a young school girl, who is also undergoing tests to join the gatekeepers, a secret organisation that keeps the country safe. Alongside she also solves mysteries; in this one the murder of a staff member at the British Museum, which seems to have no motive. This was fun and cute, and rather Sherlock Holmesy. (My review). Finally, I read Maddy Alone by Pamela Brown, the second of the Blue Door series of a group of children who want to go into the theatre and set up am amateur theare company of the own. In this, the older children have gone to drama school while poor Maddy, now twelve, is alone attending regular school. But life has an adventure in store for her when she finds herself the star of a movie. Find my review here.

NetGalley-wise things went well, and I finished all the books I’d planned. Other than these I’d picked six books to fit my theme ‘Oldest First’ or the oldest books on my TBR (January plans here), and on those I haven’t done as well, though not too badly either. The three books (from the list) that I did get read were these: One was Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, the story of the naughty puppet boy, who has to learn the hard way what it takes to be a good human child. This was a really fun read and though a touch preachy (on how one needs to be obedient and such), it also surprised me since it wasn’t simply about Pinocchio telling lies and his nose growing long. There’s plenty that’s imaginative and fun, and Pinocchio gets into loads of trouble, which it is interesting to see him come out of (review here). This was my Children’s Book of the Month.

Also as planned, I read Murder in Foggy Bottom by Margaret Truman, one of her Capitol Crimes series, where what seems to be a random killing in a park in Foggy Bottom, turns out linked with more serious events, with reporter Joe Potamos, and agent Max Pauling investigating the cases. This was an enjoyable entry in the series with plenty of characters we’ve met before in her books, and a focus on the politics and diplomacy that are at play even when security is in issue (full review here).

The final ‘planned’ book that I read was Twice Shy by Dick Francis. Set once again in the racing world, but this time connected more with events on the sidelines–the betting in particular–rather than the actual racing action. This was different from the usual Francis books since it was two connected stories rather than one whole novel. Not my favourite but still an enjoyable and fast-paced read, with some characters that I definitely liked. (review here).

I’d planned to pick up Common Sense by Thomas Paine also this month but then noticed that one of the groups I’m part of on goodreads was reading Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford. Since this was one on my Pile already, and also one that did fall among the oldest ones on my TBR, I picked this one up instead. This one, the story of Noel Foster, who comes into a small legacy and decides to marry an heiress for a comfortable life, poked fun at the author’s Brother-in-Law (to be), leader of the British Union of Fascists, here the Union Jackshirts (somewhat on the lines of Wodehouse’s Roderick Spode and the Black Shorts) and also at her other sister Unity, and was the cause of some rift with her sisters. This was a fun read, had many Wodehousian moments, but wasn’t my favourite Mitford. (full review here).

Finally, the last book I’d planned to pick up this month was Poland by James Michener, the oldest one on my pile. I have started this–the history of Poland told through the story of a fictional village and family, but with real historical events and characters–but am only about 300 pages in at the moment. Am enjoying it, and will continue to read it but this will finish only in February.

For February, I have a pile of four books once again from NetGalley, which I plan to pick up–The Porpoise by Mark Haddon, Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay, Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown, and A Country Rivalry by Sasha Morgan. The Mark Haddon from the description sounded to me a little like the Tempest (a version of it) though I could be wrong; Ever Alice follows Alice back to wonderland at age fifteen; Golden Pavements is the third in the Blue Door series (after Maddy Alone which I mentioned above); and A Country Rivalry is life in a beautiful Cotswolds village when a documentary film crew lands up there.

As for my ‘theme’ this month, I’m picking a genre really, Historical Mysteries, and am planning to read four books (since I still have Poland as well)–Sovereign by C.J. Sansom, the third in the Matthew Shardlake series, One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters (mentioned in my October book shopping post here), from the Brother Cadfael series, Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley (mentioned in a Shelf Control post here), from the Flavia de Luce series, and A Murder on Malabar Hill (also published as The Widows of Malabar Hill) by Sujata Massey.

How was your reading January? Any highlights that you’d like to share? And what (reading) plans for February. Looking forward to hearing all about them!

December Reading Review and January “Oldest First” Reading Plans

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2018 has certainly flown past, hope it was a good one for you all and that 2019 turns out a great year too (reading and otherwise)!

December for the past couple of years has been the month that I read the most, close to twenty books, usually simply trying to catch up with my reading challenge. This year (now last year I guess), I had thought it would be the same, but then I decided not to do the crazy reading sprint. So kind of opposite to the last two years, this turned out my worst or one of the worst reading months for me in terms of quantity as I ended up finishing only five books. But as far as the books themselves were concerned, I actually rather enjoyed them all.

First off, I read Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier which is the story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two remarkable women from very different social strata who made contributions (Mary more so) to paleontology, and also ended up friends and fellow fossil hunters in Lyme Regis (though Elizabeth was also twenty years Mary’s senior). This was an enjoyable fictional telling of their stories, (alternate chapters) told in each of their “voices”, looking into their lives and also their struggles to do what they loved in a world where their interest was seen as strange, and their contributions as not much by the “men” of science. My full review is here.

Next, I read Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. This is the story of eleven-year-old Ben whose parents are hooked to a dancing show and who finds his typical, old granny boring to spend time with. That is till he discovers that boring old Granny is really an international jewel thief who has had adventures all over the world, and is up for one more, this time also involving Ben. While some of the humour in this book was not my kind (rather crass), I enjoyed the plot and many of the things it has to say. Find my review here.

Emperor Mage, which I read via NetGalley is the third of Tamora Pierce’s Immortals series which I’ve been really enjoying, largely because of our “heroine” Daine’s ability to communicate with animals and the relationship she shares with them. In Emperor Mage, she along with her friends from Tortall are in Carthak on a diplomatic mission, but there is treachery afoot and also ill omens indicating tough times for Emperor Orzone. This is a fantasy title of course, but with many reflections of the world we live in. My review.

Then I read Ganga: The Constant Goddess by Anuja Chandramouli, a book I’d received for review from the publisher and author. This tells the story of Ganga the river, and Ganga the goddess who is essentially one with the river. As the goddess, she has a “human” persona but at the same time, her character, her spirit are essentially that of the river. Nothing can tie her down or bind her, she questions stereotypes and challenges patriarchy, choosing her own path in life, yet always being there to bring relief to those, mortal and immortal, who need her, even if life has been unfair to her. My review is here.

Finally, I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, also via NetGalley. This is the story of actress Eveleyn Hugo who has decided to tell her story to the world, but her medium is a young reporter, Monique Grant, somewhere at the bottom of the ladder at her magazine Vivant. In Evelyn’s story we learn of her career, the ups and down she faced, and the hard choices she had to make–all in perfect control of herself and her decisions–but also of her personal life, where her struggles to find happiness throw up the many issues she and others have had to face in a world where glamour and power didn’t necessarily give one the freedom to be who one was, where illusion is everything, and at a time when the truth would not be accepted by anyone. Alongside, we have the mystery of why she has picked Monique to tell her story to, which certainly had me hooked throughout. My review is here.

So that was my reading in December. For next year, I plan to set my goodreads challenge at a much lower number, 85 I think (about 7 books a month) which is doable. If I cross it, all the better. As far as my January plans go, I am going to restart selecting a theme for each month and building my TBR around that. (If you’ve been following this blog, you’d have noticed that I was doing this for most of last year, and this is something that I enjoyed.) But I’ll pick only 5-6 books a month, with the rest left for NetGalley reads and reads for book groups. My first theme this year is the first of my attempts to read the older books on my TBR since they ended up very neglected last year since I joined NetGalley 😛

So my theme for January (I really couldn’t come up with a better name) is simply Oldest First. And the books I plan to pick up include Poland by James Michener (this is literally the oldest on my TBR), Murder at Foggy Bottom by Margaret Truman, Swann’s Way by Proust, Twice Shy by Dick Francis (this one has only been dangling because I simply can’t find where I’ve put it), Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, and Common Sense by Thomas Paine. I also have four titles pending from NetGalley which I will be reading of course–Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa (which I am in the middle of at the moment), Murder at the Museum by Lena Jones, Maddy Alone by Pamela Brown, and Blissful Land, a graphic novel set in ancient Tibet by Ichimon Izumi. Let’s see how it goes.

So how was your reading month? Any books that you’d like to recommend? And what are your reading plans for January, and for 2019 generally? Looking forward to hearing all about them!

Another (Not so) “Lazy” Wrap-Up: November Reads

I’m going to try not to make a habit of this but for the second time in a row, I’m only ending up doing a lazy wrap-up which is essentially that I’m not going into very much detail about each book read (but, I’ll try and do better than October and give some description, at least) and will simply link my reviews with each book read. November, for me was a pretty good reading month. I managed to finish eleven books in November, but of course two of these were only “technically” completed in the month, most part/s of them having been read in October. So here goes:

So, I’ll start with the ones I finished in November but had actually read in October. The first was my Halloween read, The Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotson. This I read most of on Halloween itself. This is the story of a ghost family who find themselves without a home since humans can never leave any place alone and must destroy and “develop” everything. Luckily they find a friend in a young boy Rick, who is at school and who helps them secure a sanctuary. But that isn’t the end of their troubles. Find my review here.

Next was The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown, which I got through NetGalley. This is all about a group of seven teens and kids (the youngest is nine), who set up their own theatre and put up almost professional shows, all of them wanting to take up one or the other career in the theatre. But their parents don’t quite approve. Can they convince them? My review is here.

After the Pamela Brown I read another NetGalley book. This was a children’s/middle-grade fantasy, and a first in series which I enjoyed very much. The Last by Katherine Applegate, is about Byx, a dairne (a dog-like creature) whose pack is killed and who is herself kidnapped by a human, who she later finds is actually a friend. She sets off an a journey to look for a legendary place where others of her kind were once said to live. This one had an enjoyable plot, great fantasy elements, and very likeable characters. (review here).

Then there were two mysteries (four actually). Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz was one I was really looking forward to reading having heard many good thinks about it, and it definitely turned out to be an excellent read. A book within a book and not one, but two murders to solve, worlds Poirot and Miss Marple like as well as modern day, I really enjoyed this. (Review here). Then from NetGalley, I read All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth, a mystery but different from ones I usually read. This was a young adult mystery set amidst the rich kids of Manhattan, partly in a posh prep school, and is centred around the disappearance of the main character’s mother. I did figure out parts of this one, but it was still pretty enjoyable. Find my review here.

For Guy Fawkes day, I also read another short mystery (not part of my overall book count) which was ‘Murder in the Mews’ by Agatha Christie. This was once again fairly enjoyable, and the opening on Guy Fawkes night made it a good fit for the day. Since it was a book I’d read before I did know whodunit etc., but I hadn’t guessed it the first time around. (review here).

And before I forget, I did read a fourth mystery as well; this was actually my last read this month. Treasure at Poldarrow Point by Clara Benson is the third in her Angela Marchmont series set in 1920s England. For a change, I’ve been reading these in order. In this one Angela has been ordered to the seaside (near Penzance) by her doctor after a bout of the flu. Here she is soon joined by her cheeky, yet likeable goddaughter Barbara. At one of their neighbours’ homes, Poldarrow Point one evening, they are told of a hidden treasure in the house which Barbara is immediately interested in finding. But the mystery turns out to be deeper than simply a hidden treasure with more than one person seemingly targeting old Miss Trout, who lives there. This was a touch like a children’s mystery, Enid Blytonish (unlike the other two I’ve read so far in the series) but still very enjoyable. (My review is here).

The Book of Indian Dogs was my only non-fiction read in November, and this was one I was really looking forward to reading for quite some time–infact ever since I noticed it in the new releases last year. And while this does have a lot of interesting information on the history of dogs in the country and on various indigenous breeds, including a little encyclopedic section and pictures/illustrations, for its approach and its appendix in particular, this turned out to be probably my most disappointing read this year. Read my review here.

This month, via NetGalley, I also read the first two of Tamora Pierce’s Immortals Quartet, which I enjoyed very much. This series is about Daine, a thirteen (in book 2 fourteen)-year-old girl who has wild magic, the ability to not only communicate with animals but get them to obey her and even more. Since this is unlike the “gift”, magic which others in her world possess, she doesn’t attach much value to it till she comes to the country of Tortall. Here with her new friends and mentor Numair Salmalin, she learns to hone her magic and also use it to help her friends, new and old (human and animal). The first book Wild Magic, introduces us to Daine and others in Tortall, where she has her first adventure against the immortals, creatures of legend, part-animal, part-human who were for long banished to the divine realm (review here).  In the second Wolf-Speaker, she is summoned by her old friends, the wolves to help sort out the trouble that has hit their new home which humans are fast destroying with incessant mining and tree-cutting. But the problem is far more dangerous as they discover. (review here).

Then I read another NetGalley book which was a lot of fun, Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up by Christine Keleny. This as I’m sure you can guess from the name is to do with the Nancy Drew mysteries, a favourite with me as a child/teen. This is the story of Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer syndicate, responsible not only for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys stories but also the Bobbsey Twins, Dana Girls, Tom Swift, and many many others, and also of the writers, particularly Mildred Wirt who wrote the stories based on Stratemeyer’s ideas. My review is here

Lastly, also in the children’s category I read Upper Fourth at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, fourth in the series which I am reading/rereading through chronologically. In this one Darrell’s sister, Felicity has also begun to attend Malory Towers but things are not turning out as Darrell expected them to. Meanwhile there are new students as usual, but the older ones must also face their own issues and problems and deal with them. Of course, there is also the lighter side of school with feasts and picnics which is great fun. Find my review here.

And so my wrap-up turned out to be not as lazy as I thought it would be after all!

So those were the books I read in November. How was your reading month? Any recommendations? And what plans for December? Looking forward to hearing all about them!    

October Lazy Wrap Up

We’re two-thirds of the way through november and I still haven’t gotten down to writing my wrap-up post for October mostly because I keep feeling too lazy to do it, at least not the slightly detailed one that I try and do every month.

So, I’ve decided to take the lazy way out and simply list out my reads with links to the reviews, rather than write a description for each. For October, if you read my September Wrap Up and  October Reading Plans post (here), you would have noticed I hadn’t decided on a “theme” as I’ve been doing in previous months, nor did I make up a specific TBR list.

Ultimately, I ended up reading seven books. (I’d nearly finished two more but those got done technically in November and I’ll count them for this month.) My October books were:

Of these, Bleak House was one I only technically finished in October, though I’d been reading it in serial over the past few months. So here are the links to my reviews of each of these

Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer (review here)

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (review here)

Third Year at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton (review here)

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (review here)

Listen O’King by Deepa Agarwal (review here)

The Pilgrim of Hate by Ellis Peters (review here)

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (review here)

And while it is a little late to ask, how was your reading month last month? What did you read? What would you recommend? Looking forward to hearing all about your reads!

September A Little of This and A Little of That Wrap Up and October (no) Plans!

September turned out a really good reading month for me, with me managing to finish 11 books, the record (so far) for this year. [December is usually my record reading month when I read like crazy to finish my reading challenge, so its usually something like 20 books that month :)].

furthermore

So, I kicked off the month finishing Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi, which I really loved. This is the story of a twelve-year-old girl, Alice, who is born milk white from top to toe, in a land where colour determines your worth and your magic. She ends up having to go on an adventure with Oliver, a boy she doesn’t like very much, to rescue her father from the magical land of furthermore. The descriptions and writing were really beautiful, and while the plot was may be not that extraordinary, I still liked it very much. My full review is on this page here.

This month I also read three mysteries (one of my favourite genres).

Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh was a read for the Reading the Detectives group on goodreads. This is the ninth in the Roderick Alleyn mystery series by Marsh and sees the Inspector head off to South Devon where at a small village, a London Barrister, on holiday with his cousins, has been killed. This was a routine set up as far as mysteries go, but I didn’t guess whodunit, and the characters were pretty interesting so I enjoyed it a lot. (review here).The second Dissolution, is the first of the Matthew Shardlake books by C.J. Sansom. Set in Tudor England, this one introduces us to Shardlake who has been entrusted by his mentor, Thomas Cromwell, with solving a brutal murder at an abbey in Scarnsea. The background is the unrest in the country at the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII after her declares himself head of the Church of England. This was again a really enjoyable read, though having read a later title in the series before, this was may be a little less satisfactory than the later one. (review here). The third was my first Hamish Macbeth mystery, Death of a Snob by M.C. Beaton. This one sees Hamish head off to a health farm to spend Christmas as the owner fears that she is going to be killed, and Hamish can’t head home since an aunt who dislikes him is coming. Great fun. (review here.)

 

Harry Potter Philosopher's Stone Illus.jpg

Then I read, or rather reread Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, having acquired the illustrated edition finally. This is in some ways my favourite in the series, as that first introduction to the wizard world has a certain special magic about it. Jim Kay’s illustrations really bring the story to life, and even the pages without actual illustrations are beautiful. A gorgeous gorgeous book.

From NetGalley this month, I read two titles. The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner is a retelling of Christina Rosseti’s Goblin Market but also with elements of Jewish culture and Ukrainian folklore, myth and magic. I enjoyed this one, especially the cultural and folklore elements, and that alternate chapters are in prose and verse. (my full review is here.) Also from NetGalley was James Hartley’s The Invisible Hand, another fantasy-adventure, where a young boy Sam is sen to a boarding school where on certain days, he finds himself transported to Macbeth’s world, where a plot is being hatched to kill the King. I loved the idea of this book, but felt there was too little Macbeth, and too many unexplained things in the story. (review here).

 

Further fantasy titles. Scythe by Neal Shusterman takes us to a world in the future where humans have solved most of their problems, there is no hunger or politics or government or death, but the population must still be controlled, and here is where the scythes play a part. Two teens Citra and Rowan are taken on as apprentices to a scythe and must face several challenges, some of which test their character to its limits. This was a really exciting read full of plot twists, I can’t wait to read book 2. (review here) Although also a fantasy, Eva Ibbotson’s Dial-A-Ghost, for much younger readers, was a fun read as well. It tells of a little boy Oliver Smith who is the only one standing between his (wicked) uncle Fulton Snodde-Brittle and the family property. Fulton hires some ghosts to go live in the mansion to drive poor Oliver mad, but fate has other plans in store. This one is perfect for the season. (review here.)

Dancing Bear

Last month, I also read the Dancing Bear by Frances Faviell, which is the author’s memoirs of her time spent in Berlin just after the second world war when her husband was posted there. This is told mostly through her interactions with a family the Altmanns, who she befriends there and the struggles that people in that city had to go through, and the injustices they had to suffer. My review is here.

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Finally I read a light teen romance of sorts, Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch, which is about this girl Lina, who is sent to Florence to live with her father, when she loses her mother to cancer. Reluctant to go there, and eager to escape, things change when she is given her mother’s journal from the time she spent there and begins to discover the city, and her mother’s life there, and some secrets of her own life. This was a light and cute read. My review is here.

So this was my reading this September. For October, I had a theme in mind but decided finally to not choose a TBR list in advance for a change, and pick up whatever I’m in the mood for. Let’s see how that goes.

What books did you read in September? Any you’d like to recommend? And what about October, lots of spooky reads in store or are you planning to read something different? Looking forward to hearing all about them! Happy Reading Month!

August ‘Clear the Table’ Review and September Reading Plans

This is a quick review of my August reading.  I’ve been feeling much too lazy to write this post, so am going to just write it now before it gets worse and I end up skipping it altogether. So for August, I’d simply planned to Clear the Table of all the doorstoppers and other books that I didn’t end up reading in July despite planning to, but it turned out somewhat of a repeat of what I did in July. I did read 9 books in total which was great considering I did have a lot on the work front last month as well, but of these, only four I think were ones originally on the list, and the rest were either new acquisitions or books that I got approved for on NetGalley. So I read only three books of my original August TBR in that month (Clutch of Constables, The Elf and the Amulet, and Syren) plus one more from my NetGalley pile (No Fixed Address) which I only finished in August (started in July).

Most of these books I have reviewed on this page so I won’t be going into any details but will link the reviews here. The rest as always, I’ve reviewed on goodreads, so I will link those as well.

No Fixed Address is the story of twelve-year-old Felix Knutsson who’s been living with his single mother in a van since she lost her job and they lost their home. His and his mother’s horror of social services means they can’t let anyone find out, and Felix pins all his hopes on winning the junior edition of his favourite game show. This was a book I really liked very much and definitely recommend. My full review is here.

The Elf and the Amulet by Chris Africa is the story of three teens Chassy, Nita, and Andrev, who are thrown into adventure when they decide to eavesdrop on the conversation of two guests at Nita and Andrev’s parents inn. This was a fun enough read, but not one that stood out to me particularly. Here is my review.

Next I read one of my newer acquisitions, Turtles all the Way Down by John Green. This was my first John Green and I liked it very much–not saying anything about it here since I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard of/read reviews of this one. My review.

 

This next bunch had two off my original list and one new one. Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh is the twenty-fifth in her Roderick Alleyn series, and sees his wife Troy on a river cruise where some strange events have been taking place. The story is being narrated by Alleyn as he discuses his cases at a police training course sometime later. This was a book in which I enjoyed the setting very much, but not the mystery and characters as such. My review is here.

Next was Murder in the Happy Home for the Aged by Bulbul Sharma, where a body found in the garden of an old-age home sets the residents into action as they decide to solve the mystery themselves, to prove the policeman who thinks it pointless even to speak to them wrong. I really enjoyed this one, and my review is here.

Then I read another off my original list, Syren by Angie Sage. This is the fifth in a fantasy-adventure series of seven books featuring Septimus Heap, seventh son of a seventh son and thus in possession of extraordinary powers. In this one, when Septimus’ dragon Spit Fyre is injured, he and his friends find themselves on a beautiful but mysterious island where something strange seems to be reaching out to Septimus. This was a really fun read with artwork which I also enjoyed. My review is here.

 

Then I picked up on my Malory Towers project/challenge again, reading the second book in the series Second Form at Malory Towers, where the girls deal with new students, lessons, and their own problems and insecurities. My review is here.

The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick is a book I received through NetGalley and had put in a request for because of its theme of creativity, writers and writing, and monsters, all inspired by and revolving around Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This was certainly an interesting read, one that is hard to really classify, but also one that I’m not sure I made complete sense of. My review is here. Reminded by this read of 2018 being the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, I also reshared my old post on the book earlier this week. Find it here.

Finally in August, I read my second graphic novel this year, The Wolves of La Louviere by Flore Balthazar, also via NetGalley. This is set in World-War-II Belgium and describes how the Balthazar family (the author’s own) coped with the challenges the war threw up, and alongside tells the story of Margurite Clauwaerts, the teacher of one of the younger Blathazar children and a resistance member. This was a very impactful read, bringing out not only the cruelty of the conquerors but also that the conquered were not that much better when they came out ‘victorious’. My review is here.

So that was my August reading. My September plans are very very ambitious, much more so than August as I have some free time at the moment and am hoping to get some reading done. I plan to read among others, The Riddle of the Sands, The Dancing Bear, Don Quixote, Scythe, Dissolution, and the Invisible Hand (which is an interesting children’s title about time travel and Macbeth which I came across on NetGalley) (my theme here simply being A Little of This and A Little of That). I have already finished Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (review here), Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh (review here), and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (since I finally bought myself the really gorgeous illustrated edition; review here). I am also in the middle of the Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner which I will be reviewing either later today or tomorrow.

winter wood

 

So how was your August? Any favourites or new discoveries (or even revisits) that you would like to recommend? And what are your plans for September? Looking forward to hearing all about them! Happy reading month!

July Reading Review and Plans for August

This one, if you notice, is simply title ‘July Reading Review’ and not ‘Theme Review’–because I didn’t end up reading or rather finishing even one single book from my theme reads (Doorstoppers) this month. So very very embarrassing. But I did read a total of 9 (8 and 1/2 to be honest, I finished book 9 only in August) books this month, so as a reading month, it wasn’t bad at all. Only the books I read turned out to be group reads and netgalley reads for the most part. So here’s a quick review of how this month went for me reading-wise.

Six wives

I kicked off the month with a non-fiction read which I had started in May but couldn’t pick up in June for one reason or other. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir takes us into the reign of Henry VIII, but told from the point of view of his six wives and their stories, and the parts of his life that were concerned with the women who became his wives. This is a long read so it did take me some time but it kept my attention throughout and I ended up learning a lot that I didn’t know about some of his wives and also about Henry himself, besides ‘meeting’ all six Tudor monarchs, who appear in the book. My review is on this page here.

Next were three very different titles, all of which I got through NetGalley. The first My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih is the heart-wrenching, and culturally rich story of a Jewish family in Ukraine, which must first put up with the hardships of Russian rule, but then, far worse, with the Nazi invasion. Told in the voice of fourteen-year-old Hanna Slivka, it tells of the family’s struggle living first in the woods and then in a cave for over two years, each day spent in perpetual fear of what if. A book I cannot recommend highly enough. My review is here.

Next up was another book I enjoyed very much, Isabella of Angouleme, part 2 by Erica Lane. This is the story of Isabella of Angoulême, second wife of the cruel King John (of the magna carta and Robin Hood fame), after his death. Her her son Henry III is now on the throne while she herself returns home to France to begin to achieve her own ambitions for power. This leads to a somewhat happier second marriage and the beginning of a career where her relationship with her children is tested, and she must make difficult choices (although she doesn’t have many qualms). An easy read, and about a time in history that I knew very little about so informative as well with plenty of details that I enjoyed. My review is here.

Then also from NetGalley I read my very first Manga comic, Tokyo Tarareba Girls, Vol 1 by Akiko Hagashimura. I had a few minor struggles with reading when I started being unused to manga. Overall, the plot was something I liked the idea of but I couldn’t really connect with the main character so it was over all an ‘ok’ read. My review is here.

midsummer

In July I also wrapped up A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, which I have been reading act-wise and positing about on this blog as I went. In July I read Acts III (my post is here) and IV and V (my post is here). My review (of sorts) in on goodreads here.

Men at arms

Then there were a couple of books that I read as group reads for different Goodreads groups. One was Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett, the second of his City Watch series and number 17 of the Dicworld books. This one had humour, murder, a mystery, a werewolf and also reflected some issues that we face everyday in our lives–people not being able to along with other communities, those who are different from them, and I thought had a positive message to give about that. I enjoyed this, perhaps even more than Guards Guards (first of the City Watch books). My review is on goodreads here.

Up next was another mystery, but this time a mystery proper–The Mystery at Underwood House by Clara Benson. This is the second of her Angela Marchmont series set in the 1920s. In this one, Angela who has a more prominent role than she did in Book 1 is called by a friend to look into a series of mysterious deaths in her family, each taking place at a dinner/meeting that the patriarch had required his family to have as a condition in his will. An Agatha Christiesque atmosphere (though not as strong), and an interesting enough mystery where I didn’t guess whodunit. My review is here.

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Finally, two more NetGalley reads. First was Illusion by Stephanie Elmas which tells the story of Tom Winter who’s friend Walter Balanchine has returned to England from the east after three years and involves Tom in performances of magic/illusion that he gives. When a young woman (whom Tom has fallen for) appeals to him for help in one of these performances, as she is to be married to the much older and sinister Cecil Hearst, Walter and Tom must come up with a plan to rescue her. My review is here.

Lastly, the book I finished only at the beginning of August, No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen is another I recommend very highly. The story of twelve-and-three-quarters-year old Felix Knutsson, who is living with his mother Astrid in a van, circumstances having rendered them homeless,  Felix’s one hope lies in winning the junior edition of his favourite TV show. Cute, humorous, and heart-breaking, this was a wonderful read. My review is here.

In August what I basically plan to do, is clear the table. One read the few books I still need to read for different group reads: The Dancing Bear by Francis Faviell, The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, and Death at the Bar and A Clutch of Constables, both by Ngaio Marsh. I shall also be reading my NetGalley books–currently The Elf and the Amulet by Chris Africa, and attempting to catch-up with my theme reads for last month, Don Quixote, Poland, and Syren.

What are your reading plans for August? Looking forward to hearing them. Happy reading month!