June ‘Catch-up’ Wrap Up and July Reading Plans

June for me was once again a slow (very slow) reading month, and I read only five books, and didn’t end up finishing all the ones I’d planned (I didn’t manage to read two from my list–June plans here). Overall I finished three from the original list plus the review book I had planned plus one children’s book.

From the list I’d picked out for the month, I read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, the first in a young-adult mystery trilogy. This is set in Ellingham Academy, a school where gifted students are allowed to study tailor made curricula, focusing on their interests. Stevie Bell has just come to attend the school and her interest is true crime, particularly the mystery that surrounds Ellingham itself, which is that in the 1930s, the founder’s wife and daughter were kidnapped never to be seen again. This was preceded by a mysterious threatening message signed ‘Truly Devious’. The killer apprehended was likely not the real one, and Stevie is determined to solve the mystery. But when things start going wrong in the present, she has more than one murder to solve. This was a really exciting read which keeps one hooked even though the mystery is not solved in this instalment (in fact won’t be till the third). (my full review is here).

Next was a book about books, or rather first editions and book-collecting, The Book Hunters of Katpadi, by Pradeep Sebastian. This is set in what is supposed to be the first antiquarian bookshop in the country in Chennai, which focuses on Modern Indian first editions. The two bibliophiles who run the store, Neela and Kayal find themselves with more than one book mystery, recovering valuable editions for a college library which a retiring librarian has been helping himself to, and a mysterious manuscript attributed to Richard Francis Burton which if real promises to shake the world of Burton collectors. While the storyline focuses on these two aspects plus the daily running of the store, it also goes into the history of collecting and first eds, some literary history associated with India, and also handprinting and paper and such, which makes it an interesting read for any bibliophile (full review here).

The Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is yet again the first of a trilogy, this time a fantasy-adventure but with themes that are very much relevant for our current world. In the kingdom of Orisha, magic has been destroyed and the magi it’s practitioners labelled ‘maggots’ and treated likewise. Here one young magi, Zelie finds herself helping Orisha’s princess Amari escape with the one artefact that can restore magic and with it the magis’ power to fight against those who have tortured, suppressed, and destroyed them. Told from the perspective of three characters, Zelie, Amari, and Amari’s brother, the prince Inan, who is on their pursuit and has secrets of his own this was an exciting read with interesting characters, each of whom is facing dilemmas of their own, torn at times between love and duty. (This one I still haven’t written my full review of, but I will link it here when I do–soonish).

My children’s book of the month was Superstar Tapir by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy, fourth in the Mango and Bambang series, which features teh adventures of a little girl, Mango Allsorts and her friend, a tapir, Bambang. This was a charming collection of stories about friendship but also with some adventure, and I also especially loved the artwork in the book. (full review here)†††††

Finally I read The Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow, again a first in series, which is also a fantasy adventure but one with a definite twist. Her we start by following a few different groups, a motley group including a mage carrying a magic sword to a destination we don’t know, a group of troll bounty-hunters on their pursuit, and alongside, in the same Great Untame, a group of Kingswatch constables in pursuit of poachers. Unrelated are a young goblin heading to the city to try and become a successful minstrel and a young boy, a pig farmer, who finds destiny has much more in store for him, when an attempt to rescue his cousin who is in trouble, throws him into unexpected adventure. When their paths cross, one incident throws the expected course of events completely on its head, leaving us with an unlikely hero to lead the adventure. This one reminded me quite a bit of Terry Pratchett and was a great deal of fun as well (full review here).

Only when writing this wrap-up did I realise that I ended up reading mostly (3 of 5) first in series books last month, and this month’s theme (not deliberately picked) is sequels or next in series books that I have waiting on my TBR pile. I am keeping the list short though I hope to do better than I did in June, but so far I plan to read Winter in Thrush Green and News from Thrush Green by Miss Read (books 2 and 3 in the series), The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice (sequel of sorts) to The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets which I loved; Revelation by C.J. Sansom, the fourth Mathhew Shardlake book, and Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin, the fifth in the Gervase Fen series. Also, from NetGalley, one which I hope to start soon is The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal (This of course is not from my reading ‘theme’).

How was your reading month this June? What were some of your favourite reads last month? Any you’d recommend? What plans for July? Any books on my list/s that you’ve read or are planning to? Looking forward to your thoughts!

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May Wrap Up and June ‘Catch Up’ Reading Plans

May turned out to be different reading month than I had planned. I finished the month thinking I did pretty badly (which I did considering my reading list (May plans here) but I did manage to finish seven books which isn’t so bad. (The recap below isn’t in the order I read the books but in the order easiest to group them).

Starting off with my NetGalley reads, in May I read three books, The Tale of Genji: Dreams at Dawn, Vol. 1, Mr Finchley Discovers His England, and Mary Shelley. The Tale of Genji: Dreams at Dawn, Vol. 1 by Waki Yamato was the first of the graphic novels I read–a retelling/interpretation of the original eleventh-century Japanese classic, The Tale of Genji. This version is a great introduction for readers unfamiliar with the story or apprehensive about diving into the somewhat confusing original. This is the story of Hiraku Genji, the ‘shining price, son of the Emperor Kiristsubo as he tries to deal with his love for a woman who is forbidden to him by seeking the woman of his dreams. I loved the artwork and the author’s efforts at interpreting this story but wasn’t so enthralled by the story itself (full review here).

A second graphic novel read this month was Mary Shelley, the second volume in a series tracing the lives of Percy and Mary Shelley but with a humorous tone and artwork. This one picked up from where the first volume left off which is just after Mary enters Percy Shelley’s life and he falls in love with her. The first part of this one up to the time the Shelleys spend at Villa Diodatti where Frankenstein was first thought up was very enjoyable but the second part, instead of continuing as a biography went off into a fictional thread which while imaginative didn’t make sense in this book (review here).

Next from NetGalley was Mr Finchley Discovers His England, the story of a forty-five-year-old solicitor’s clerk Edgar Finchley, who finds himself getting a holiday for the first time in his life (his previous boss didn’t believe in them) and plans out a conventional holiday in Margate. But life has other things in store as even before he catches his train, he is kidnapped and thrown into one adventure after another which makes his holiday unlike anything he’d ever imagined, and the experience of a lifetime as he traipses around the country enjoying nature and the simple life. This was a charming, funny, and gentle read which I very much enjoyed (review here).

Next I read another book I’d received for review, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq: Tale of a Tyrant by Anuja Chandramouli, which imagines the life of Muhammad Bin Tuglaq, ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in the early-mid 1300s. Remembered for being cruel, even mad, he was actually a man much ahead of his time in terms of his ideas, which meant that they often failed or didn’t bring the desired results. I enjoyed the book, especially the author’s descriptions of the ceremonies and celebrations, and the portrait of a ruler who one comes away feeling a fair bit of sympathy for (full review here).

Next, continuing on with my reading of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers books, I read In the Fifth at Malory Towers, the er… fifth book in the series. This one was more fun and games than lessons and exams as the fifth form is put in charge of writing and producing the Christmas drama. Many of the students get a chance to showcase their various talents, and they must learn to work with all sorts of different personalities. There are also the usual adjustments as new students come into the form/school, tricks are played, and Darrell finds herself games captain for the form. Mam’zelle Dupont manages to take the students by surprise as well (full review here)!

Finally, I read only two from the list originally planned, 2018 books. Circe by Madeline Miller was every bit worth the hype around it I felt, where Miller imagines the life and story of Circe, daughter of the sun-god Helios, born without the looks or voice of divinity like her other siblings and eventually exiled to the island of Aiaia. Miller weaves together the different legends and tales surrounding her into a complete tale. Lovely writing and an ending that took me quite by surprise–wonderful (full review here).

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman is the second in the Arc of a Scythe series. The first Scythe, I read last year and loved. This picks up after the events of the first book where Rowan and Citra, then apprentices have now taken on different roles, Citra as Scythe Anastasia adhering to tradition, and Rowan trying to do justice off the grid by tracking down corrupt scythes. But the conflict between scythes about how things should be runs very deep and more sinister plots are afoot. The Thunderhead, the all-knowing AI mechanism which runs human society pretty much is powerless to interfere in the realm of the Scythes, even though it knows what’s coming. But that doesn’t mean it can’t find a way out, and in that process Rowan and Citra both have roles to play. I enjoyed this one as much as the first book. While the first one has more changes in direction in terms of plot, being also the book that introduces us to this futuristic world, this one too is not without its twists. I liked getting a glimpse into the mind of the Thunderhead and also one of the new characters introduced in this one. (review here).

So this was my reading this May. For June, I’ve decided to push forward the theme I’d originally planned and do a little catching up with the books I have left over from 1930s April and 2018 May. So I’ll be reading (or trying to) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, The Book Hunters of Katpadi by Pradeep Sebastian, Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon and Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell. There’s also a review copy waiting, The Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow.

How was your reading month this May? Any books you’d recommend? And what plans for June? Looking forward to hearing from you. Happy Reading Month!

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!

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.

love and gelato.jpg

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!