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The Books of 2021 - Round Up

Monday, January 31, 2022

How many books read in 2020?

96. I would have liked to get to a hundred, but I never seem to quite get there. December is busy so I never end up reading as many books as I would like to, so maybe in 2022 I should get ahead of myself a bit. 

How many were on paper and how many electronic?

I read 50 paperback books, thirteen hardback books (which I find hard to read sometimes in bed because of pain in my hands) and 33 ebooks (which means the Kindle app on my tablet). I often read ebooks when I'm on holiday as I find it easier, and I do have a lot of crime novels on there haha. 

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?

Let's see... I read seven non fiction books, which is up on the three I read in 2020. At least half of those were memoirs. 

Male/Female authors?

I read, as far as I know, sixty-two books by women and 31 by men, and three which were anthologies. As far as I know, I didn't read any books by non binary people. I skew towards books by women, but in 2021, I think because I've read more crime novels, I've read more men than I would usually. 

Most books by a single author?

I read three by J R Ellis, all in the series about DCI Oldroyd and all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I really must get to the others soon. 

Favourite book(s) read?

The villa in Italy, After the Party, The Vanishing Half, Summerwater, Boy Everywhere, Concrete Rose, All Among the Barley

Least favourite?

It's got to be Get A Lift Chloe Brown which I didn't finish and which I wrote about why on the blog. 

Oldest book read?

As last year, I tend to read modern books, published after 2010, but skimming through my journal.... It was The Villa In Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson, which was published in 2006. 


It must be We Watch You, which was out just into 2022. 

Longest book title?

How the One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones, which I loved

Shortest title?
Cuckoo by Sophie Draper I think 

How many re-reads?

I don't think I reread ANYTHING, because there's always too many new books to be discovered! 

Any in translation?

Not to my knowledge. 

How many of this year's books were from the library?

Ten! I tried to order some books in that I know I don't need to keep, and once I went back to craft club in September, I went back to browsing sometimes on my way out of the library!

Books I Got For Christmas

Friday, January 28, 2022

As is usual for me at Christmas, I got a bunch of books. Surprisingly though, I didn't get any from my friend Laura! Usually we buy each other books but this time she bought me other (lovely!) stuff instead. I bought her The Silence of Herondale by Joan Aiken though, which I've heard is good; I also bought it for my partner so I can steal it if it's any good! 

I always like joining in with Secret Santas but this year I just joined two, to try to keep costs and stress down a bit in the run up to Christmas. One of them I joined in with was Book Flood by Shuttersandletters, where you send books that your partner can open on Christmas Eve (as is traditional in Iceland). I saved mine for Christmas Day, though. Here's what I got:

Felix Ever After sounds right up my street. Brother of the More Famous Jack isn't something I've ever heard of, but I picked it up early in the new year and will be writing my review soon. Spoiler: I loved it! I'll explain why when I review it. I also got a Joanne Harris book of short stories, which I don't think I've ever read, or if I have, it's a VERY long time ago (I've liked Joanne's books for over twenty years!) I'm thrilled about these books!

I also joined in with The Broke The Bookish's Secret Santa, I've joined in with this for a few years now and also enjoy it. I signed up for 2+ books plus goodies, and I wasn't disappointed by my goodies (although I didn't take a picture, sorry!). Here's what I got:

I haven't heard of the first two authors, but I'm intrigued by the books so am looking forward to getting to them. Tony Parsons wrote one of my favourite books ever - called Stories We Could Tell, it's sort of about his time as an NME jounralist. It's set on the night that Elvis died in 1977, and it's great... So I have high hopes for this one!

I also got a ton of books from other people:

The cross stitch book was from my friend Sarah, and it is so fun and funny. I Know You Did It has been on my wishlist for ages, my friend Sam bought me it and also the one next to it, which is about the Manic Street Preachers album The Holy Bible. Lee bought me Dark and Shallow Lies, I saw it in Waterstones in Lancaster when we were on holiday there in October, along with Ace of Spades, so I asked for him to buy them for me. The next one is a book about Schitt's Creek called Love That Journey For Me; Lee bought me that on request too. The Book of Queer Prophets was from my friends Leanne and Adi - Leanne always chooses books that are right up my street but which I don't already own. My mum bought me The World of All Creatures Great and Small. I'm not sure if you've seen the remake of it on Ch5, but I LOVE it. We were in Grassington when they were filming there in November 2019 which was really cool, so I've liked the series and am looking forward to reading this companion book.

Vegan North was an unexpected gift from my friend Chloe, along with some lebkuchen. It features several vegan restaurants in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, and some recipes from each of those which is very cool. I thumbed through this and was happy to find recipes from some favourite places around me like Bundobust in Leeds. The House on Needless Street was a gift from Lee's mam and stepdad, they also gave it to one of my sisters in law who likes a lot of the same books I do. It's a bit gothic I think, and it sounds great. Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World is a sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe which I read a few years ago. I had heard there was a sequel coming out so when I spied it in a shop while on a weekend away in November I asked my mum to buy it for me. She also bought me Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu which I am so looking forward to!

I try to get through my Christmas and birthday books fairly quickly, so let's see how I get on in 2022!

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas - Review

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Where did I get it? I bought it for myself last summer with an Amazon voucher I had

What's it about? Monica is sixteen years old and is on the dance team at her high school in Sunnybrook, NY. There is no cheerleading team at Sunnybrook High because five years ago, five of the cheerleaders died and the team was disbanded. One of the dead cheerleaders was Jen, Monica's sister, who took her own life after four of her friends had died. The first two died in a car crash and the second two were murdered, supposedly by a neighbour of one of the girls. Two police officers, one of whom was Monica's stepfather, Tom, went to arrest this man and as they did, he supposedly drew a gun and Tom shot him, killing him in the process. 

Monica lives with her overprotective mum, younger brother Pete, and Tom. At the beginning of the book she has had an abortion, which her mum doesn't really understand how to deal with. It turns out that the father of the foetus was a man who is now a teacher at Monica's school, which is obviously quite traumatic for her to deal with. 

It's coming up to five years since Jen and the others died, and while looking in Tom's desk Monica discovers that he has kept Jen's mobile phone. Plus he has anonymous letters from someone saying that everyone needs to know the truth about what happened with all the girls. Monica takes Jen's phone and charges it up, and discovers that just before she died, Jen talked to a number she didn't have stored in her phone. Monica messages this number and the replies make her wonder about what really happened - whether the car crash really was an accident, whether the neighbour really did kill the second two girls, and whether Jen killed herself or not. She is determined to find out the truth. 

She is friends with two girls, Rachel and Alexa, but her investigations mean that she feels like she is falling away from them. She ends up getting close to another dance team member Ginny.

This book is one of those YA books that makes me want to celebrate the genre - it's punchy, it's fast paced, it's got real heart at it, you root for the main character the whole way through and want her to succeed. It has been compared to Karen M McManus and I definitely feel like that's an apt comparison. I will definitely read something by the same author because I loved it. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No I don't think so 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think Monica and her family definitely have some PTSD from what happened to Jen, her mum especially. It's not diagnosed but as someone who has survived the suicide of a loved one, I definitely recognised it. It may be hard to read. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes. It's not graphic but obviously Brandon is a lot older than Monica and definitely took advantage of her. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, there's some alcohol use though. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, it is somewhat graphic. I am pleased to note that the excact method of Jen's suicide isn't mentioned; this is best practice when discussing suicide so I was glad to see it. There is graphic description of the car crash and of the murders, so be careful! 

Are there swear words? Yes. I found them really good actually - they really added to the type of person Monica is and were judiciously used. 

What criticisms do I have? I really wish Monica had confided in her best friends, and in her mum maybe. I hope she and her mum managed to mend things after the end of the book. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. A brilliant YA thriller/crime novel 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It had been by the side of my bed for six months and I needed to move it to make room for my Christmas books, but then I was like, Oh I really do want to read this... So I did 


What do I think of the cover? I realise mine has this "five girls lied, five girls died" bit that some issues of the book don't have. It looks like a prood, but it isn't - it's got an ISBN on the back! I like it, though. 


What other books is it like? Definitely like anything by Karen M McManus

How many stars? Four out of five 


Where is the book going now? I'll keep it unless someone wants to borrow it!

Check Please #1 by Ngozi Ukazu - Review

Saturday, January 22, 2022

I was hanging out with my friend Leanne between Christmas and New Year and she mentioned this graphic novel, about a gay hockey player called Bitty. I don't know why she mentioned it, but it piqued my interest and I also reckoned my friend Chloe would have heard of it. So I messaged Chloe, and she told me where to get hold of the book. I always enjoy the graphic novels I read, so I don't know why I don't make the effort to read more of them. Maybe I'll make that resolution for 2022!

So Eric R Bittle is a figure skater but he's at Samwell University on a hockey scholarship because he can obviously skate. The novel is told in 'episodes', which are as if Bitty is doing a vlog to the reader and is telling you what has happened since he last vlogged. I liked this, I think it's a cute way of telling the story. Bitty joins the team and finds the rough and ready hockey players a bit difficult to understand and get on with, but then he wins them over by baking in the hockey house. 

He also really hates being checked (a hockey thing!) and has to fight with letting that happen in a game without totally freezing. The team captain is called Jack Zimmerman, and he's the son of famous hockey player Bob Zimmerman, and is under a lot of pressure from him to perform. But he and Bitty work really well together as a team, and score points in games.

I really liked the novel, I thought it was very cute and really sweetly drawn, with a lot of humour in it. I'm giving this five out of five! 

The Trawlerman by William Shaw - Review

Monday, January 17, 2022

I previously read Deadland by William Shaw and really enjoyed it, so I got the other books in the Alex Cupidi series on my Kindle and started one between Christmas and New Year because it was easy reading and I needed that after Christmas. This is the fourth book in the series, which I didn't realise, but like most detective series it can be read as a standalone. I really will try to read the others in order, though. 

In this book, Alex is signed off with stress from work due to stuff which has happened in the previous books. She is suffering from PTSD and high anxiety; her fight or flight reflex is extremely heightened. She is having therapy. She lives in South Kent on the beach with her daughter Zoe. Next door lives Bill, an ex police officer who Alex was instrumental in getting convicted in I think the first book in the series. He's out of prison and the two have an uneasy truce, mostly because of Zoe's relationship with Bill and the birdwatching they do together. 

Alex is on the pier one day when she sees two brides getting married and coming for some food on the pier. She starts to feel funny and realises that a nearby lady has a knife. She stops the woman from attacking anyone, and she is arrested by Alex's colleague and close friend Jill. In the car on the way to the station, the woman alleges that one of the brides, Tina, killed her son Frank. 

Frank Hogben went missing eight years ago, when he went out on a trawler and presumably went over the edge of the boat and was lost at sea. But Tina was already seeing her new wife at the time, and Frank's mother is convinced that the two of them had something to do with Frank's death. Alex does some investigating into Frank's death and the trawler involved. 

Meanwhile, Jill and another colleague have been attending two murders which have happened in the vicinity. Husband and wife, Aylmer and Mary Younis, have been found brutally murdered in their home. The couple have a lot of money, and also have a disabled son who requires round the clock care. There are no prints in the house and investigations draw a blank - but someone tells Alex that on the night of the murder, he thinks he saw their souls leave the house. It may sound bonkers, but Alex does some investigating there, too.

She ends up solving two crimes while she is on sick leave, which her DCI isn't impressed with, but that's Alex for you! I like her as a DS, she's easy to like and so is Zoe. I wish the two of them would get on better and open up to each other, but maybe that's for the next book in the series...

I'm giving this four out of five and I'll look forward to the next! 

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf - Review

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

This book was the January choice for my book club, chosen by Margaret H, who, as I've said before, always ends up choosing books that I really love. So I had high hopes for this, which I haven't even heard of, although I have seen that it is now a film starring Jane Fonda. I'll have to watch that soon!

I'm hoping to be away for my birthday when book club is happening, but thanks to Covid who knows if that will actually happen. If it does, I'll email my thoughts about the book to the group. If Covid stops us I'm sure I can attend the virtual meeting! 

The book is a short novel about two older people, Addie and Louis. Both are widowed and live on streets close to each other in Colorado. One day, Addie has a proposition for Louis: that he should come over some nights and sleep in the bed next to her, so that both can be less lonely. 

Louis is somewhat taken aback, but agrees, and thereafter heads over to Addie's at bedtime. Slowly the two get used to each other, and start to talk about their lives, about their late spouses, and about the death of Addie's daughter Connie when she was a child. It becomes obvious that others in the neighbourhood know the two are seeing each other; they come up against some resistance 

Then into their lives comes Jamie, Addie's grandson. He is dropped off at her house by her son Gene, because Jamie's mother has left and Gene can't cope with him. Jamie is six and is at first shy and withdrawn and prone to nightmares. He oftens ends up sleeping in the bed with Addie and Louis. Louis ends up adopting a dog for him, and Jamie seems happier and more settled than he ever has. But Gene disapproves of Louis' relationship with his mother. 

I really enjoyed this, I liked the quiet and unassuming nature of it. I'm giving it five out of five!

We Watch You by N S Ford - Review and Blog Tour

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for We Watch You by N S Ford! If you haven't been to my blog before, then welcome. Please do have a click around while you're here. I review quite a lot of crime novels so I'm sure you'll find something to pique your interest!

I signed up for this tour because I was really interested by the premise of the novel and it didn't disappoint me. The book is set in a sleepy English town where many people seem to know each other. The main character is Lauren. She is autistic. She lives on her own in a flat and has done ever since her ex, who was bad news, and she split up. She works in an estate agents and she likes to run. She has two best friends, Jess and Claire. 

They tell her that a girl they know, Tina, has gone missing. The four of them were friends as teenagers but fell apart after something happened and something bad happened to Tina. But Lauren finds that she really cares what has happened to Tina so she goes to visit Tina's mum and sister. She tries to get into Tina's room to see if she can find any clues, but Tina's sister stops her. But Tina's mum is convinced that Tina is still alive. 

There is also a man following Lauren around. At first she doesn't realise she's being followed, but she sees him everywhere, always typing on his laptop. The reader is given some parts of what he's typing, and it's obvious he's some kind of private investigator. We don't know who he's been hired by, but he's obviously not on Lauren's side. 

Then two things happen, one to Jess and one to Claire, and it is obvious that someone is targetting the girls. The things that happen involve maliciousness and someone knowing a lot of secrets. Can it really be Tina? Is she still alive? Lauren's flat gets broken into, and she knows exactly what the person is searching for...

I liked the mystery and the writing. I liked how Lauren was autistic and how this was explained in the book. I liked the crux of the mystery. I thought the end of the book set up for a second in the series, so I'll be interested to see if that happens! I would definitely read something else by the same author. 

The Very Merry Murder Club, edited by Serena Patel and Robin Stevens - Review

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

I have to show you the front cover of this book but also the cover of the hardback under the dust jacket, and the beautiful end papers! This book was a joy to hold and would make a lovely gift for the middle grade reader in your life! I saw it promoted on Robin Stevens' twitter and pre ordered it immediately. I saved it for just before Christmas because all the stories are set at Christmas or in the winter. 

There's a mixture of stories, featuring a mixture of families and diverse kids, which I liked. I liked the spooky mystery stories and my favourite was the murder mystery set in a hotel where a family has to stay when their car has broken down. There was a couple of stories I didn't like as much, but that's what happens with anthologies. I found the book a bit hard to read, but I think that's because it was the week before Christmas when I'm always humming with anxiety anyway. But, I do think this is a lovely gift for a tween/middle grade reader, and I recommend it for that. 

The Fell by Sarah Moss - Review

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year! I'm a little bit behind on book reviews as I did very little writing for the entire month of December and I now have about five books to write about, plus I want to share the books I got for Christmas (a record breaking eighteen!). My blogs are probably feeling a little bit abandoned, but now it's a new year so I'm ready to get back in the saddle! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Year. 

I bought this book in an independent book shop in Thirsk when I was there in November. It is signed by the author which is really nice, I like to collect signed books. I've read a couple of Sarah Moss books this year and I'll definitely be keeping a look out for more as I really like her simple and uncomplicated prose. 

This book is set in Derbyshire, in the Peak District, in November 2020. It is the first book I've read set in the pandemic and it's interesting, isn't it, to see how it will be depicted in books and films in years to come. Kate lives with her son Matt, and they are currently having to isolate as they've had contact with someone with Covid. They have to isolate for two weeks and they're in the middle of that when Kate can't take it anymore and leaves the house to walk up the fell. 

Alice, their next door neighbour, sees her go. Alice has breast cancer and must shield during the pandemic. Kate and Matt have been bringing her shopping. Kate is furloughed from her job as a waitress and is going slightly mad stuck in the house. It's not exactly a surprise that she breaks the rules and goes for a walk, but Alice doesn't feel able to go to and stop her.

Matt is in the house by himself. Kate is a somewhat chaotic mother but the two get on okay. It takes a while for Matt to realise that Kate has gone out and not returned for several hours. He asks Alice for help, but of course they have to communicate through a closed door. Alice is worried about him but can't do much to help. 

Kate falls and injures herself and when she comes round she's pretty sure something is broken. She tries to help herself, but can't. Matt, realising she is missing, phones the police, even though he knows she's broken the law and is concerned that she will get a fine that they caqn't afford to pay. The police arrive and also have to speak to Matt through a closed door. They send mountain rescue to find Kate and that's the fourth point of view in the book - volunteer rescuer Paul. He must leave his daughter Ellie, for whom it's his custody weekend, to go out in the dark to try to find Kate. 

The book swaps between points of view. It's short but so well done. I felt sympathy for all the characters and understood how Kate felt. Four out of five!


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