Book Review · Monthly Round Ups

June 2015 Reads.

Look at how organised I am! We’re only a few days into July and here I am with my June reads round up post all written and published. I’ve got one book that is unfinished so that will roll over to my next round up.

In June I read a total of 10 books. There was a bit of a mixture, a couple of adult books alongside lots of YA. and a few different genres and time settings. One book in particular left me scratching my head, it took me a couple of weeks to even work out what star rating to give it on Goodreads and you’ll see that my review is still on the rambling side (some of my thoughts are impossible to discuss without being spoilery – if you want to discuss this book though feel free to email, I’d love to talk more about it). I’m still thinking about it though so maybe I’ll come back to it in the coming weeks for an expanded post.

Code Red Lipstick (Jessica Cole: Model Spy #1) by Sarah Sky. Scholastic
This book was so much fun! I actually found myself stopping a couple of times to take in how much I was enjoying reading it. It’s the story of Jessica, a teen model who happens to also be the daughter of a former MI6 spy. Her father has had to retire, he has MS and is unable to do everything he formerly did, but instead he works privately and Jessica helps out when she’s needed to. When he goes missing in highly suspicious circumstances she puts all the skills she’s learned from him, and from modelling, to work as she tries to find him and solve the case that seems to have landed him in hot water. This makes for a fast-paced, highly entertaining read – I loved seeing how Jessica brought together the seemingly disparate parts of her life together. She’s a great character, I like the way she has these unusual skills but is still very normal and real feeling – I think young readers will really identify with her.

Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison. MIRA Ink.
I enjoyed this book well enough but I could only say that I liked it, i was far from loving it. It’s a story about friends who are very different, one quiet and studious, the other outgoing and fun. The quieter one suddenly decides to cut loose a little, there’s a party and shenanigans and then the cat is firmly amongst the pigeons. I think this book is supposed to work on the basis that you’re in the dark like the characters but I’m afraid I could see what was going on and what had happened and so the reveals didn’t work and I just got a bit irritated. This isn’t a bad book, it’s just a bit non-descript and didn’t do much for me.

The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery. Hodder Children’s Books.
I started reading this book on my way to work on morning and got completely sucked in to it. Around lunchtime I realised I’d been feeling low level worry all morning, which was odd as the day was all running very smoothly. Eventually the realisation hit – I’d been fretting about the characters and what was going to happen to them!

This is a gritty read, set in our world though with added memory boosting drugs. The main characters get caught up in the underworld of dealers and gangland bosses, quickly you realise that you don’t know who you and can trust and you don’t fully know what has happened between these characters before the events of the book. This adds to the intrigue and the reading experience. The book is tense and twisty, the final sequences in particular are unexpected but fit what’s come before so well. I really enjoyed Carla Spradbery’s debut The 100 Society, having followed it up with this she’s fast becoming one of authors to watch out for.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine. Egmont.
This is a lovely, historical middle grade novel set in a Selfridges-esque department store. Sophie, our main character, is going to be working as a shop girl in the millinery department in this brand new store. Quickly though sinister things begin to happen and she, along with her new friends, get drawn into a world of mystery. This is a real throwback of a book, it’s evocative of the stories I loved when I was young and this made it all the more enjoyable to read. The mystery element is well done, there are moments of real peril and suspense that had me on the edge of my seat. What I loved most of all was the friendship element of this book, from Sophie who has found herself having to adapt to life as an orphan who lost her fine lifestyle alongside her parents, to Lilian who is working as a model in the shop while trying to make it as an actress, Billy who loves nothing more than hiding with a good mystery to read and then Joe who’s fallen into bad ways but is desperate to go good again. The four have not met before the events of the book but they come together so well and form wonderful friendships. This is the first book in a series, sign me up now for book 2 please!

Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes. OUP Children’s Books.
I have always had mixed experiences with Ali Sparkes’ books, there have been some that I’ve loved and some that have left me underwhelmed. I liked the sound of the premise of this book and I’m really pleased that it falls into the camp of love. This book follows the misfortunes of Jack, a child genius, who is accidentally kidnapped when his parents’ car is stolen from the forecourt of a petrol station. The car-jacker, Ross, has unwittingly got far more than he bargained for, and seeing how he and Jack both cope with the situation they find themselves in makes for a really good story. I got very invested in both character’s stories – there were many laughs along the way and also a few tears. My only slight misgiving was in the characterisation of Jack’s mother, she’s an over-protective, over-invested mother who has focused her everything on Jack and his genius and this makes her come across in a manner that is very hard to take. Jack’s upbringing has a definite impact on the plot so I understand why she’s written the way she is I just wonder if maybe she isn’t a little over-done. That said this is a minor quibble in an overall excellent book.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.
This book, well I still can’t make my mind up about it. It’s set in a modern residential setting for children and teens with an incurable form of tuberculosis. We arrive with Lane, a straight A overachiever with the next decade or two of his life planned out. He is our way in to this odd world, we learn about it alongside him and see how it changes him. His development is interesting, while it feels understandable at the same time it had me wanting to roll my eyes periodically. The ending of the book is, as I’m starting to come to expect from books about sick teens, complete with its huge emotionally charged, tear-jerking moments. Well, I could see that’s what they were supposed to be and a quick scan of Goodreads’ reviews of this book suggests that this is the impact they had on most readers. For me however they left me cold, they were entirely unnecessary and if anything verging on the manipulative. I think my overall feeling about this book was that I was let down, seeing illness portrayed in fiction is something I feel strongly about and I had high hopes for this book but sadly they were unmet.

Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell. Jo Fletcher Books.
After reading the first book in this series, Traitor’s Blade, and falling completely in love just last month I was planning on waiting a little before reading this second book. Then I spotted it on NetGalley and found myself compelled to request a review copy, and then start reading it almost immediately. I suspect some magic at work!

This book picks up shortly after the ending of Traitor’s Blade, and continues to follow the Greatcoats as they first regroup and then begin the new fights that have come as a result of what has gone before. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the character development, characters are given the opportunity to breathe and grow and evolve – not always for the better. I loved seeing how some of the characters changed, this never goes against the flow of the book no matter how hard the changes may be to accept. The humour that comes in the relationships between the characters continues as does the more touching side of these friendships. This book brought me to tears on numerous occasions, I felt so deeply involved with the plot and the characters. There are a number of take your breath away moments, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this series throwing surprises at me. This is a brilliant continuation of the story of the Greatcoats, my only sadness is that I now have to wait until next year for the next instalment!

Blueprints by Barbara Delinksy. Piatkus.
I nearly gave up on this book. I got a little way in to it and one character in particular was getting me so wound up that I considered stopping reading because I wasn’t sure I could bear to read much more. Then a huge shift happens in the story and from this point on I got far more invested in what I was reading and ended up really enjoying the book. The story is, on the surface, about a mother and daughter who co-host a home improvement show based around their family firm and the difficulties they face when TV bosses decide the mother might be too old to host. It’s really about so much more, it’s about family and relationships, it’s about finding happiness and about being true to yourself. I’m really glad I stuck with it.

Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt. Orchard Books.
Luke gets the sudden news that his estranged father, a world famous paranormal expert, has died and that he must go and meet his father’s lawyer. Upon meeting the strange lawyer he discovers he’s inherited a huge amount of money, and signs away merrily on each document the lawyer tells him he must sign in order to get said money. Soon after strange things start happening and it’s not long before Luke’s life is turned upside down as he discovers he’s also inherited his father’s collection of ghosts. I must say I haven’t read many paranormal thrillers like this one, and this makes me sad. There’s a great creepiness to this story, it left me so unnerved at times that I had to have a second book on the go that I could switch to – books don’t often get under my skin in this way. The world the author has built makes sense(something I value in books set in other worlds), and while its certainly not one I’d want to experience in person I’m happy that the book has a somewhat open ending that feels like we could easily revisit for a second story. This is an accomplished debut novel, Leo Hunt is going on my ones to watch list.

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Macmillan Children’s Books.
I truly believe you can never go wrong when you pick up a book by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It doesn’t matter the specific subject matter of the plot, it’s going to be written brilliantly and leave you entirely satisfied. Millions is no different. It is the story of brothers Damian and Anthony, they’ve recently moved following the death of their mother, and are trying to find their feet again. They’re slightly unusual children, Damian is obsessed with saints and Anthony with economics, when they “acquire” a hold all full of pounds sterling that will soon be obsolete (the version of England in this book is one where the pound was exchanged for the euro) they decide to spend it all before it can’t be used any more. This certainly helps their social standing but brings its own problems as the money belonged to someone and that someone wants it back. This story is warm and thought-provoking, there were little moments that were touched upon so lightly but actually revealed a real depth to the characters and their situation. This isn’t necessarily as funny as some of the other books I’ve read by this author (that’s not to say it isn’t funny, it definitely has some funny bits) but it’s just as enjoyable.

My copies of The Memory Hit, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Car-Jacked, Extraordinary Means, The Knight’s Shadow, Blueprints and 13 Days of Midnight were all provided in for review consideration. All of the opinions expressed here are my own

Monthly Round Ups

November and December 2014 Reads.

I’m putting the finishing touches on my 2014 reading round up post (complete with statistics and maybe a chart or two, you know how I love a chart) but first I need to round up the books I read in the last two months of the year. They weren’t my best reading months, starting a new job and all of the festive build up meant that my time was pulled in every direction and one of the things that slipped a bit was reading. I read 9 books in November and 5 books in December, a total of 14 books for the last section of the year. In order of reading they were:

  • The Grunts in Trouble by Philip Ardagh.
  • A Home for Mr Tipps by Tom Percival.
  • Daddy Does the Cha Cha Cha by David Bedford.
  • Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton.
  • Grandma’s Saturday Soup by Sally Fraser.
  • Here Be Monsters by Jonathan Emmett.
  • The Sea Tiger by Victoria Turnbull.
  • Ironheart by Allan Burroughs.
  • Finding Harry Styles by G.B. Hope.
  • Mistletoe and Mr Right by Lyla Payne.
  • Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky.
  • Nash by Jay Crownover.
  • Girls Heart Christmas by various.
  • Heist Society by Ali Edwards.

There were some real stand outs amongst these books, notably Starring Kitty, Ironheart, Gracefully Grayson and Heist Society. Next week expect to see a joint review for Ironheart and Gracefully Grayson – two excellent but very different Middle Grade books that I can’t not talk a bit more about!

Monthly Round Ups

October Reads.

Another month, another lot of books to gather together. I had quite a few review commitments this month, this dictated a lot of the books I was choosing to read. I’ve been looking guiltily at my huge number of unread books – I’ve decided for the rest of 2014 I’m going to try and concentrate a bit more on these books rather than agreeing to yet more review commitments. This will of course only work if I stop browsing Net Galley!

I read 17 books in October, half of these were picture books. I had a week away from home so I’m not surprised my total books read is a little lower this month. The books in order of reading were:

  • Iron Sky: Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf.
  • Where the Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey.
  • The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter, and Garry Parsons.
  • Pea’s Book of Birthdays by Susie Day.
  • The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene.
  • The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth by Mackenzie Crook.
  • The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook.
  • Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster and Caroline Pedlar.
  • Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine and Ed Eaves.
  • The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland.
  • Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas.
  • TimeBomb by Scott K. Andrews.
  • Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle.
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.
  • Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well by Elli Woollard and Al Murphy.
  • The Great Balloon Hullaballoo by Peter Bently and Mei Matsuoka.
  • Standing in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh.

My favourite books in October were Pea’s Book of Birthdays and The Geography of You and Me. Both reminded me in their own ways just why it is that I love contemporary fiction so much.

What were your favourite books in October? What are you excited to read in November?

Monthly Round Ups

September Reads.

This has been a bit of weird month, one of those that seems to have gone on forever but at the same time flown by. I had absolutely no idea how many books I’d read until I looked at my Goodreads account, it turned out to be more than I expected – 21 books! 8 picture books and 13 novel length books including only my second non-fiction book of the year.

In order of reading, September’s books are:

  • The Girl Who Walked on Air by Emma Carroll.
  • Chu’s Dayby Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex.
  • Mr Super Poopy Pants by Rebecca Elliot.
  • Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard.
  • The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop.
  • Fantasy League by Mike Lupica.
  • Half My Facebook Friends are Ferrets by J.A. Buckle.
  • A Little In Love by Susan Fletcher.
  • The Dinosaur Games by David Bedford and Dankerloux.
  • A Day With the Animal Doctors by Sharon Rentta.
  • Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan.
  • Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret by D.D. Everest.
  • Revenge of the Zeds by Stewart Ross.
  • Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats and Chris Mould.
  • Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes.
  • Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall.
  • This Book Is Gay by James Dawson.
  • Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster by Joanna Nadin.
  • What If…? by Anthony Browne.
  • Doodleday by Ross Collins.
  • Iron Sky: Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf.

Whew! Looking back over the list like that makes me think it’s been a busier month than I’d thought. I think there’s a pretty good mixture both of genres and age groups again this month. Three books in particular stick out as favourites this month, Shadowboxer, Shadow of the Wolf and This Book is Gay.

What did you enjoy reading most of all in September?

Monthly Round Ups

August Reads.

I nearly matched July’s total of 17 books read this month, but missed by one making it 16 instead. The big difference has been in what I’ve been reading, whilst 13 of July’s 17 books were picture books only 6 of August’s 16 were picture books so I think that means August was a more productive month over all. It certainly involved far more pages!

In order of reading, here’s what I read in August:

  • Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad.
  • The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall.
  • Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie by Jeff Norton.
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe.
  • Has Anyone See Jessica Jenkins? by Liz Kessler.
  • Bug and Bear by Ann Bonwill & Lynn Marlow.
  • Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster by Axel Scheffler.
  • Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard by Steve Cole & Bruce Ingman.
  • Too Hot to Hug! by Steve Smallman & Cee Biscoe.
  • Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardguo.
  • Rome by Jay Crownover.
  • Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian by Jessica Spanyol.
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers.
  • Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando.
  • Spy Dog by Andrew Cope.
  • Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson.

Looking at the list like this August has been a really good month for me in terms of reading. I’ve managed to cover lots of target audience age groups, and quite a few genres. Particular favourites include Far From You, Rome and Roomies.

What books did you love in August?

Monthly Round Ups

July Reads.

Another month gone? Wow, time really flies! June had been my busiest book month of 2014 with 10 books, July has raced ahead with 17 books read. That does feel a little disingenuous though – 13 of them have been picture books. Still, I’ve read lots of lovely books, here they are in order of reading:

  • Belle and Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day by Mandy Sutcliffe.
  • Cats Ahoy! by Peter Bently and Jim Field.
  • When by Emma Dodd.
  • Where on Earth is the Moon? by Ruth Martin and Olivier Latyk.
  • Rule by Jay Crownover.
  • The 100 Society by Carla Spradbery.
  • Jet by Jay Crownover.
  • Captain Brainpower and the Mighty Mean Machine by Sam Lloyd.
  • Black Dog by Levi Pinfold.
  • Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew.
  • Steggie’s Stammer by Jack Hughes.
  • I Want a Mini Tiger by Joyce Dunbar and Lara Jones.
  • Brave Little Owl by Penny Little.
  • What’s in the Egg, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson.
  • Woolly by Sam Childs.
  • The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr.
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Without a shadow of a doubt my favourite books this month were Rule and Jet, the first two books in Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series.

What did you enjoy reading in July?

Monthly Round Ups

May and June Reads.

A double month round up this time because the end of May came and went in a blur of post degree finishing activity. It was also a pretty quiet month reading wise, but I’m very pleased that June was stronger – I think I’m finally getting back in the reading habit.

First things first then, the books I read in May were:

  • Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve
  • Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks by Ellie Phillips
  • Beat the Band by Don Calame

I rated them all with 4 stars on Goodreads so I’m really glad I’ve decided to stop choosing a favourite book of the month. I’m far to indecisive for such a thing, I could spend hours arguing back and forward about why each book should earn the title!

Then came June and all of these books:

  • After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross
  • Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery
  • Double Crossing by Richard Platt
  • The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson
  • Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman
  • 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack
  • Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner
  • The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

June was my best reading month by far this year with 10 books read. It was also a really varied month, I read both fiction and non-fiction, books aimed at most age groups and from a range of genres. I at least liked every book – 2 got 3 stars, 5 got 4 stars and 3 were 5 star reads on Goodreads. It’s definitely a good job I’ve stopped with the favourite choosing!