It never fails to astound me when I come to sit and write these monthly posts…how can another month have gone by already?!  We are now halfway through the year and I am so not prepared for it to be June!  That said, I do also love rounding up what I have read each month, especially when I have picked up so many great books.  It was always going to be tricky to top April and although I didn’t read as many books, I read some amazing ones in May.  Which more than makes up for it all in my opinion.  Quality over quantity…isn’t that a famous saying?!

stacked books on velvet chair

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

This was, hands down, my favourite book of the month.  It is a YA fantasy book which is the first in a trilogy and has been a highly anticipated read for me for the longest time.  I always had in my head that it was Celtic-inspired and I definitely got those vibes from it which was right up my street.  We follow the story of Finnikin, a young man who is an exile from his country, Lumatere, along with a number of other people after a curse was cast.  The Lumateran royal family has been murdered, an imposter king sits on the throne and half the population of Lumatere are trapped outside the curse, and half are trapped on the inside.  Finnikin is working with an ambassador to try and find a permanent place for the exiles to rebuild but then a mysterious girl shows up who claims that Finnikin is key in the removal of the curse and the eventual freeing of Lumatere.  This is very much a coming of age story but I loved how easy it was to read and how you could just hit the ground running with reading it.  I’d definitely recommend this if you like YA fantasy which has great characters but doesn’t dive too heavily into complex world-building.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

I read The Passenger when I had my wisdom teeth removed and although it served its purpose as I couldn’t have handled any thing more complex, I was a little letdown by this book.  It is a suspense thriller in which a woman goes on the run when her husband falls down the stairs and dies.  She believes that she will be accused of his murder and as the story goes on, we begin to discover that she might be running from more than it first appeared.  The book was easy to read but I found the protagonist hard to like (I’m not a fan of unreliable narrators in general) but what really felt flat for me was the ‘big reveal’ at the end.  I’ll be honest, I was expecting something a little more and I felt it could have been better executed.  I can’t say that I’ve read many suspense thrillers but this one wasn’t for me.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Bookish Mamas pick for the month of May, as a huge fan of The Nightingale, this was another highly anticipated release and read for me.  It is set during the 1970s and is about the Allbright family who move to the unforgiving Alaska to try and create a new life for themselves.  Dad, Ernt, is a POW from Vietnam and suffers from PTSD and there is some abuse between Ernt and his wife and daughter which could be a trigger so is worth bearing in mind.  Kristin Hannah definitely weaved her magic with this story and the characters, which I’m beginning to think is her real strength as an author and I thought the setting was fantastic and definitely reflected the story we follow.  I could say plenty more but I won’t as I think this is a journey worth going on as blind as possible.  The plot overall was a little slow but the last few chapters really pack a punch and are worth waiting for.

books on velvet chair

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This was my first Neil Gaiman book and I picked this one up to dip my toe in the waters of his writing so to speak as I have my eye on American Gods but that is a huge book by comparison! This is a strange little book about childhood memories and not much takes place in the present day.  We meet our protagonist who has returned to his childhood home for a funeral.  Whilst there he escapes to a place not far away, at the end of the lane, and there he is flooded with memories he had somehow buried and forgotten.  This is magical realism at its best and I really enjoyed it.

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

I was sent an ARC copy of this book back in April and it’s one I had really been looking forward to picking up.  Set during the Second World War we follow the story of Emmeline Lake, a young lady who dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent.  Emmy answers an ad in a newspaper to work for one of the biggest publications of the time but once she arrives she discovers that she will actually be answering letters on behalf of a magazine’s stern agony aunt ‘Mrs Bird’.  Mrs Bird doesn’t like anything slightly untoward and certainly nothing modern but Emmy finds herself moved by the letters and decides to start answering them herself.  As you might imagine, this doesn’t quite go to plan and various things unfold from there.  This is an entertaining read which I flew through, and although it does also have a sad story line running alongside, I enjoyed it immensely.

And that is it for the month of May!  If you are a reader and want to know what I will be picking up in the month of June then you can see my TBR video here.

This post contains affiliate links.  Use of these links may help to make me a little money at no extra cost to yourself.
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I decided to split this post into two as I really enjoyed all the books I read in April and talking about each one concisely was always going to prove to be tricky!  If you want to see Part One of the books I read then you can find that here.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a really good reading month in April.  I not only liked the vast majority of the books that I read but I also managed to get through a lot more than I expected to, which is always a win.

books read in april 2018

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

This was my first experience of Laini Taylor’s writing.  I have been meaning to start her Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy for absolutely ages but have never gotten round to it.  I actually wanted to read that trilogy first before picking this one up but then a good bookish friend of mine asked if I wanted to read Strange the Dreamer with her so of course I had to say yes.  This is a fantasy book about warring Gods and humans, and it focuses on our main character Lazlo Strange, an orphan who has long dreamed of visiting the lost city of Weep.  One day, an envoy from Weep comes to his city and Lazlo is able to join with them to go back and discover what exactly has happened to this mysterious place.  I know that sounds a little basic but there is SO much more to the story than that. I wasn’t all that hot on Lazlo as our main protagonist but I loved loved loved one of the side characters, Sarai, and I was total heartbroken by the end of the book so Laini Taylor definitely has a way of getting her hooks in you!  This was such a fascinating and whimsical story and I really enjoyed Laini Taylor’s writing, I found it very lyrcial and got completely swept up in it.  A fantastic read.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I actually listened to this on audiobook and it has taken me literally months to get through.  I was quite disappointed to discover that there is an audio version of this narrated by Rachel McAdams which people seem to really love, but that was not the version I bought.  I mention this because I think, for me, the narrator of the audiobook really coloured my experience of this story.  I didn’t enjoy listening to her at all and I struggled to get the motivation to carry on.  I didn’t realise at the time you can return audiobooks but I shall definitely do this in future!  As for the story; the way the narrator portrayed Anne throughout; as a spoilt, self-centred little madam, had a real impact on me and I struggle to see why so many people think so fondly of this book!  I didn’t like Anne as a character at all and although she does come of age and mature by the end of the story, for the most part I just wanted someone to give her a stern talking to (although she’s so precocious I imagine that wouldn’t have done any good at all).  Don’t get me wrong, I did feel something for the story and the emotional last few chapters found me moved to a certain extent but either this just isn’t for me or I need to get hold of a paper copy and read it for myself, without the inflections and characterisation offered by the narrator.

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor was a middle-grade book I had actually planned on reading in March but didn’t get round to.  It was another of my buddy-reads this month and again I found this a really enjoyable way to get through the story.  This is a magical tale of a young girl called Morrigan Crow who is a ‘cursed child’ destined to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.  Morrigan has grown up being blamed for just about anything that goes wrong in her town and as such, is treated fairly appalling by her father and her step-mother.  Then, one day, a man called Jupiter North appears and sweeps her away to a magical land called Nevermoor.  Here Morrigan is given the chance to compete in a number of trials in order to become a member of an elite society, and remain safe in Nevermoor, rather than returning to her home.  I liked so much about this book, I thought it was a very fun and entertaining read and Jupiter North is by far one of my favourite all-time children’s book characters.  I did have a number of issues with it, and thought there were some glaring plot-holes such as the fact that we are given hints but never really told about what happened to Morrigan’s mother, but overall I thought this was a brilliant read and I can’t wait for Meg to pick it up.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham

This was the Bookish Mama’s pick for April and I was a little slow in getting to it, simply because it isn’t the type of book I would normally go for.  Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is Chris Packham’s memoir and it is written in quite a unique style.  If you don’t know, Chris Packham is a well loved naturalist here in the UK and has been on a number of TV shows.  However he also has Aspergers and this is his story of growing up and how he found his connection to life, and death, through the natural world around him.  One of the difficulties I had with the book was that we jump all over the place in time; I understand mixing up past and present but even within the ‘past’ sections of the book, we go back and forth and I found it difficult to place the events Chris was describing.  He also had a very interesting and descriptive way of writing which took me a little while to get used to and he holds nothing back when describing some of his encounters with wildlife (I will never look at frogspawn in the same way again…).  I do also wish there had been a little more of his adult life as I was interested to learn how he got into television but I appreciate that wasn’t the main focus of his story.  Whilst it wasn’t the most comfortable read, I can appreciate how honest Chris had to have been to write this, and I’m pleased I read it.  I also have to say huge kudos to his parents, who constantly went out of their way to help their son engage with the world around him; as the mother of a little naturalist I can’t say that I would be totally onboard with a whole cacophony of live and dead things in Eli’s room so I take my hat off to them!

If you are a reader and want to know what I will be picking up in May then you can see my TBR video here.

This post contains affiliate links.  Use of these links may help to make me a little money at no extra cost to yourself.
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You’d have thought that after my mammoth reading month in March, that I might have taken it a little easy on myself during April but it turned out to not be the case at all.  If anything, it spurred me on to have another great bookish month.  I had lost my routine of switching off my phone and spending a good hour of my evening reading before going to sleep and it is something I have rediscovered in the last month or so.  I often get asked how I manage to read so much and this step is one of the main reasons.  Our phones are rabbit-holes and I have lost countless half hours just scrolling through nothing at all when I could have been lost in a good book.

If you want my absolute top tip for getting more reading done then there it is.  Put down your phone and pick up a book instead.

stack of books april 2018

But lecture over, here is part one of the books I read in the month of April:-

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This book was an interesting one to pick up because it had a whole lot of hype.  It had been featured as a mumsnet book club pick I think and I’d also just seen it all over Insta and Youtube with people praising it to high heaven.  So trying to go in with low expectations was tricky.  We follow the story of Eleanor; a woman in her early 30s who lives a life of routine.  She wears the same clothes, eats the same food, goes to her job and comes home almost every day of the week apart from at the weekends when she drinks herself into oblivion waiting for Monday morning to roll around again.  It is essentially a book about kindness and loneliness, about learning to let go of our pasts and about self-discovery.  I really enjoyed it, although the writing style is a little quirky and took a while to get used to.  It is very moving and I particularly fell in love with a couple of the side characters. There was a twist at the end which I thought was a tad overdone but in terms of characters and overall story-line, this is one I’d definitely recommend.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This was a book which I picked up as part of a buddy-read with a fellow booktuber and getting to read and discuss with another bookworm added a really fun element into the book reading experience.  This is YA fantasy about two sisters who live with an oppressive father.  Their mother has ‘left’ and their father is extremely violent and controlling.  One of the sisters dreams about going to an event called ‘Caraval’ which is an immersive opera slash circus slash game type experience (it’s hard to define!) and then one day is given the chance to escape with her sister to take part in Caraval.  When they arrive however, her sister is kidnapped and the aim of this year’s game is to be the first to find her.  There were a lot of obvious plot holes in this story but I thought the whole thing was so much fun that I was happy to go along for the ride.  One of my favourite parts is that you are told repeatedly at the beginning that not everything which happens in Caraval is real so you spend the whole story not knowing what to believe, changing theories about what is happening and who is who and I just thought this added a really fun dynamic to the story.  This is also one of the main criticisms of the book so if you don’t enjoy reading unreliable narration then I’d possibly give this one a miss.  Personally I loved it and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out!

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

I knew hardly anything about this book going into it; the synopsis on the back cover was extremely vague and other than having it recommended to me a number of times, I just didn’t know what to expect.  I am actually very glad that it turned out that way as I think this is a book best read blind.  I will tell you the basis premise; which is that it is a magical realism book set inside a maximum security prison.  We follow the perspective of a prisoner on death row but we also follow the stories of a number of side characters including a death row investigator and a priest.  This is not a book about the rights and wrongs of death row but a simple exploration of what makes people monsters.  I found it to be a very moving book and I found myself surprisingly emotional at the end of it.  It isn’t always a comfortable read and it does touch on some dark subject matter but if you can handle that then I do think this is a book worth reading. And that is literally all I am going to say!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Another really hyped book which I had owned and planned to read for the longest time but had simply never gotten round to. This is about a teenage girl called Starr who lives in a rough part of her city, but goes to school in a more affluent part.  She finds herself behaving as two separate people, depending on who she is around, but this all comes to a head when she is coming home from a party with a friend and they are pulled over by the police. Her friend is shot and killed and Starr has to decide who she is, who she wants to be, and how she is going to speak up in a world which is still, for all the ‘progress’ we have made, so unjust.  I really enjoyed this book, as I suspected I would, and I’d highly recommend it, especially if you want to read a book which is perhaps out of your comfort zone a little bit.

Find the second part of this post here.

This post contains affiliate links.  Use of these links may help to make me a little money at no extra cost to yourself.
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Despite the fact that March was a heck of a lot busier than I had been expecting, when it came to reading I had a stellar reading month finishing 9 books in total.  Part of the reason for that was because I joined in with a Youtube read-a-long called ‘Middlegrade March’ and Middlegrade books do tend to be a lot shorter, or just less complex to read, so it is mostly because of my choices for that read-a-long that I managed to squeeze in so many books.

books read in march 2018

Gangsta Granny by David Wallaims

This was an audiobook I listened to with the kids on the way down to my parents house at the start of the month.  I’ve not read any of David Walliams books before so I was interested to see what his middlegrade offerring would be like and I was suitably impressed.  He narrates the audiobook too which I think was the perfect choice and the kids spent the whole time in hysterics over what was happening.  The story is basically about a young boy who is forced to stay at his Granny’s house every Friday night and he despises going.  Until one day he discovers that his Granny may just have had a secret past as a jewel thief.  Lots of amusing things happen as a result and it was a really great choice.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

I went into this book with semi-high expectations.  The Nightingale by the same author is one of my all-time favourite books so I was expecting big things from Firefly Lane.  It is basically the story of female friendship following two girlsl who become friends as teenagers unexpectedly as they are from opposite walks of life, and it follows their friendship through the next 30 or so years.  I didn’t love the story as much as I thought I would but I do think it is testament to Kristin Hannah’s writing that, despite the fact I thought the story was a little on the weak side, I still found myself crying at the end.  Kristin Hannah has a way of creating characters which just manage to get under your skin and that was very much the case here.

Magic Study by Maria V Snyder

This is the second book in a fantasy series called The Chronicles of Ixia.  I read the first book and loved it at the tail-end of last year so I was keen to jump back in.  I can’t say too much about this book as it would spoil the first one but this is a series set in a world where magic has been outlawed.  Our protagonist, Yelena, discovers that she has magic and has to keep it hidden whilst also working as the king’s food taster. It’s a very easy to read fantasy series, which I have really enjoyed falling into and I can’t wait to see where the third book goes.

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

OH.THIS.BOOK! This was my favourite book I read this month and I have literally not stopped talking about it since I finished.  It was the perfect example of how a whimsical middlegrade book should be written and I will definitely be on the lookout for any other offerings by Barnhill in the near future.  We follow the story of an old witch who lives in a forest, on one side of the forest is a dark and grey village and every year this village sacrifice their youngest baby to the witch in the hope that she will take the offering and not terrorise them.  Unbeknownst to the villagers however, the witch Xan actually rescues the babies and takes them to a village on the other side of the forest where they are raised in loving families.  As she travels across the forest she feeds the babies starlight in order to sustain them.  Except one year she accidentally feeds the baby moonlight, causing her to be filled with magic.  Xan decides to keep this baby and raise her, teaching her the ways of magic.  And the story unfolds from there.  I have to say though, that it is about so much more than that.  It’s about love, hope, loneliness, sorrow and trust.  It has dark moments but also truly beautiful moments and the writing in just GORGEOUS.  To put it simply.  I adored this book and I don’t think any small snippet will do it justice.  You should just read it!

Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant

This book would be the perfect option for a holiday read.  It is fast-paced and pulls you right into the story.  It’s a thriller but isn’t too spine-tingly and was the ideal choice for me in a busy month.  We follow the story of Tom who is a forty-something year old and a bit of a loser.  He had some mild success with a book he wrote in his twenties but has been mostly sponging off friends and family since then, pretending at a life he doesn’t have.  When he bumps into an old university friend and finds himself invited on a family holiday to Greece, events start to spiral out of his control and we begin to discover things about Tom’s past that he has managed to bury very, very deeply.  I think if you want something straightforward and quick then this is a great read.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

This is a middlegrade book written in verse, and it’s the first book I’ve ever read in this style.  It is a beautiful and moving story about a young Vietnamese girl who is forced to flee from Saigon with her family.  They travel across the sea and end up in America where she has to acclimatise to a whole new way of life.  The style made it a very quick book to read but it was nonetheless a very worthwhile book about a culture that I am not massively familiar with and I’m really glad I went for it.

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

This was the Bookish Mamas pick for the month and it was my first Matt Haig book.  Having heard great things about his writing, I tried not to go into this with too high expectations.  How To Stop Time is about Tom, a man with a secret.  Tom ages differently from other people in that he ages a lot slower and so in our present day has actually been alive for centuries.  He is part of a small group of people like him, and in order to protect themselves they never stay in one place for more than 8 years.  On top of this, to avoid ‘complications’, the society has one rule which is to not fall in love.  Suffice to say that when the book begins, Tom is beginning to feel dissatisfied with his life and this is an interesting look at humanity, what we need as people, the loneliness that can come from living with a hidden ‘illness’ and so much more.  I really enjoyed it and although I wish it had expanded on a few more areas, it was a good choice and I will look to pick up more by Matt Haig in the future.

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

A classic from my childhood which I haven’t read for many years I was excited to pick this up again.  If you aren’t familiar with this story then it is about five children who discover a sand fairy whilst they are on their summer holidays.  This sand fairy, or psammead can grant wishes and so the children go on a journey to discover that sometimes the things we think we want the most, are actually not in our best interests.  I found E.Nesbit’s writing a little tricky to get into at first but once I had picked up the gist of it I flew through the book and it’s one I look forward to reading with Meg and Eli in the future.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

This was the final book I read in the month of March and what a gem to end on.  Again, this was a much loved book from when I was a child but one I hadn’t picked up for a long time.  It is told entirely from the perspective of a gorgeous black horse and follows his life from its beginnings as a colt in the fields of a country manor house right through to his retirement.  He is treated well, and poorly, and we meet characters from all different stations and walks of life.  I don’t know what Anna Sewell’s hope was in writing this book but what always sticks out to me is the references she makes to the fact that animals may be ‘dumb’ but that doesn’t mean they are stupid.  I know I’ve said it about many of the books I read this month but I’m very glad I picked this one up to round off a great reading month with. 

If you are a reader and want to know what I will be picking up in the month of April then you can find my TBR video here.

 This post contains affiliate links.  Use of these links may help to make me a little money at no extra cost to yourself.
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Ah, February.  I can’t say that I’ve ever really felt the impact of a month being shorter than the others before, apart from this February when I only managed to read four books.  Six is usually my average and I feel like I might have just squeezed in completing two more if only I’d had those extra days.  But perhaps that is just wishful thinking!

I also can’t really say that I loved the books I read this month, apart from one.  Most were okay, and averaged around 3.5 stars on Goodreads but none really blew my socks off.  Whilst that doesn’t sound like the most enticing way to get you to read on, you never know, you might find that you love the books for the very reasons that I didn’t.

books read

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This was a reread for me and I picked it up primarily because I needed a good dose of morally grey characters in a solid fantasy world.  I hadn’t been getting that from the books I had been reading recently but I knew that Leigh Bardugo would deliver.  And she didn’t let me down.  I don’t usually reread books but I’m so glad I did this time as I picked up on details I had overlooked the first time round in my race to find out what happened and I got to savour the characters and the moments so much more because, ultimately, I knew how it would all turn out in the end.  I gave this 5 stars the first time I read it and that rating has not changed.  If you like rich characters, magic, fantasy and seemingly impossible challenges, then I would highly recommend giving this book a go.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

I read this book with a couple of other bookish friends from Youtube and I always find that reading books with other people is a really interesting experience, especially when a book leaves us all with different thoughts and feelings.  White Oleander is a book about a mother and daughter; Astrid is just a young girl when her mother goes to prison for murdering her lover in a crime of passion.  Astrid is placed in the US foster care system and we follow her story as she goes through some really troubling experiences whilst also learning that her mum is perhaps not as magical and ethereal as she always believed.  It is a moving and dark story but ultimately, I felt quite detached from Astrid as a protagonist and this really coloured my reading journey meaning I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I had hoped to.

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

This book was the Bookish Mamas choice for February and when I first picked it up, I didn’t actually realise it was a middle grade book!  It was only after puzzling over the simplified language that I did a little digging and discovered that it wasn’t a book aimed at adults.  Having said that, this book is quite tricky to place age-wise as it does cover some darker themes which would perhaps not be suitable for all 8-11 year old children.  The Secret of Nightingale Wood is about a young girl called Henry, whose family have moved to the country following the tragic death of Henry’s brother.  It is set in 1919 and, as you might expect, each member of the family is struggling to deal with this tragedy.  Henry has chosen to cope by retreating into the world of her favourite bookish characters and then one day, she spots a trail of smoke coming from the woods near to her home.  Curious, she follows the trail and comes across a woman living in the woods.  From there the story unfolds.  This is a story which touches on a number of issues from women’s rights to mental health as well as looking at how much children can observe and take on themselves.  I enjoyed it to some degree but I felt that it was a little simplistic and I felt that some of the plot points were too convenient, although I appreciate this is often the case in middle grade literature.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

I am a huge fan of Anna Kendrick so I was really looking forward to picking this up.  Pitch Perfect 1, 2 and 3 are some of my all-time favourite guilty pleasure movies.  Written in the form of essays, it was an interesting look at Anna’s early career, how she started and how she felt once she became a household name.  It wasn’t quite as funny as I had hoped it would be and I felt a little like Anna tried too hard to pretend she wasn’t affected by fame and was really just ‘one of us’ but I think it you like autobiographies and are an Anna Kendrick fan, then you’ll probably enjoy reading this.

If you are a reader and want to know what I’ll be reading in the month of March, then you can find my TBR vlog here.

This post contains affiliate links.  Use of these links may help to make me a little money at no extra cost to yourself.
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