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At Midnight, Edited by Dahlia Adler - Review

Sunday, January 29, 2023

I saw people talking about this book on Twitter - in fact it might have been Jo from Once Upon A Bookcase who first alerted me to its existence. I had followed Jo on Twitter for years and we were friendly, and I loved her book recs which always included the newest and best LGBTQIA+ books that were coming out. I can't tell you how many books I bought because Jo recommended them! So I'm sure you'll understand why I was really upset to hear that she died just before Christmas. She had a bad cold and was tweeting about it, and then apparently it turned to pneumonia and she died from that. It's terrible and shocking! Book Twitter will be a much poorer place without her. I know that Dahlia was shocked by her death too and was tweeting about her. So this review is for Jo <3

So, this is a short story anthology of retellings of fairy tales. I love retold fairy tales - one of my favourite  books of all time is The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. As with all anthologies, I really enjoyed some stories and found others fell flat. I will say that each story here mentions the story it is based on right at the beginning, which I found really good as it helped me to know what to expect. Also, all the original stories are at the back of the book, which is helpful if you're not familiar with them. I didn't read these as I am quite familiar with stuff, but if you're interested it would help. There's the usual suspects - Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, as well as Charles Perrault and E T A Hoffman.

So the stories I really liked included "Sugarplum"  byAnna-Marie McLemore,
"In the Forests of the Night" by Gita Trelease which reimagined "Fitcher's Bird" in colonial India, "Say My Name" by Dahlia Adler which was a very modern interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin, and was absolutely brilliant, "Mother's Mirror" by H E Edgmon which was about a trans boy coming out from under his mother's thumb (this was probably my favourite in the entire book) and "Just A Little Bit" by Roselle Lim which reimagined Hansel and Gretel. I liked others too, don't get me wrong. This is a powerful and positive book, featuring queer kids, kids of colour, kids of all religions, and so on. The editing is brilliant, the stories well chosen with such a range of stories. I am recommending this if you like fairy tales! 

Mrs England by Stacey Halls - Review

Thursday, January 26, 2023

I saw this book in Waterstones just before Christmas but couldn't justify spending the money on it, so I didn't buy it. Then I saw it was 99p on Kindle so I bought it there between Christmas and New Year. I do try to avoid Amazon but I really wanted to read this, so there we are. This was the first book I picked up in 2023, and boy was it a great way to start the year! 

So Ruby is a Norland nanny, trained to be one of the best nannies in the world, and she is working happily for the Radletts in London, looking after baby Georgina and awaiting the arrival of Mrs Radlett's second baby. But then the Radletts announce they are moving to Chicago. They want Ruby to go, but Ruby can't make her family cope without the wages she sends home every month. She returns to Norland College and speaks to 'Sim', her trainer, who offers her a new job in Yorkshire. 

Ruby takes it, despite the misgivings both women have. She arrives and is picked up by the master himself, Mr England, and taken to his home at the bottom of a valley in wildest West Yorkshire. (I'm from West Yorkshire and could all too well imagine exactly where the house was located). Mr England is a mill owner but the house is very isolated. Ruby immediately doesn't get along with the other members of staff - partly, I feel, because she thinks herself above the domestic staff. She is a nurse, not a nursemaid, as she tells us several times. 

There are four children - Decca, Saul, Millie, and baby Charley. The girls aren't educated, something which Ruby brings up with Mr England when he is friendly towards her. Saul is tutored by Mr Booth, who arrives every day between 9 and 12. He is engaged to one of the kitchen staff. 

And then there's Mrs England. Mr England warns Ruby to lock the nursery door at night, but why exactly? Mrs England seems to get easily confused and is distant from her children, but heartbroken when Decca is sent away to school. Ruby's mail goes missing, or does it? Any what does the local blacksmith want with Mrs England? Ruby's family has secrets too - what exactly are they? The ending is ambiguous too, but brilliantly done! 

This is a really well done gothic novel, where everything gets turned upside down more than once. I haven't read anything by Stacey Halls before but I'll definitely read more by her as I absolutely devoured this. I'm giving this five out of five.

Whiteout by Angie Thomas, Nicola Yoon, Dhonielle Clayton, Ashley Woodfolk, Tiffany D Jackson, and Nic Stone - Review

Monday, January 23, 2023

Can you remember the book Blackout by the same group of authors as above, which I reviewed here? I loved it, so when I saw that the same six amazing authors had written another book I really wanted to read it. It turned out to be 99p on Kindle after Christmas, so I bought it and picked it up over New Year. It is set just a few days before Christmas, but it isn't particularly 'Christmassy', so I'd say you could read it whenever. It does feature a once in a generation snowstorm hitting Atlanta, Georgia, hence the name. 

The book starts with Stevie, who is a very clever scientist who has a dreamy romantic for a girlfriend, Sola. The two of them have been friends forever and then started a relationship. They have their futures all set out: university together, marriage, kids, all of that. Sola plans a special meal with her family - including some from out of town - so that the two of them can come out as a couple. However Stevie messes it up and Sola is left angry and embarassed. Stevie has her phone taken away so can't contact Sola for days. She finally gets her phone back on the day that the book is set, when she finds Sola's ultimatum: Stevie has to apologise by midnight or they're over for good. Stevie asks her group chat for help and then takes off in an Uber to the local stadium, where her friend's brother works, so that she can get her plan underway. 

So first of all there's Kaz and Porsha. Kaz has a massive crush on Porsha and plans to tell her today, when his family will be celebrating Eid late, with a huge breaking of the fast meal. He's got it all planned out. The two of them head to the mall to help Stevie, but while there, the mall shuts because of the snow, and Kaz and Porsha get stranded as their car breaks down. But Kaz does tell Porsha how he feels, and it's adorable.

Evan Rose is Stevie's best friend, but she attends a private school a way away, and is coming home for the holidays. Stevie and Sola have been to the school and considered going, but ultimately didn't. But they did do like a camp there, and Stevie wants a souvenir that Evan Rose has managed to bring with her. Evan Rose is also travelling with Van, who she's been having an on and off thing with. But Evan Rose also had a thing with someone else, who they end up running into at the airport... it's messy and I liked it!

Next there's Jordyn who is driving home from Howard university (which is where Stevie and Sola want to go) (and which I know is historically a black university thanks to the Real Housewives of Potomac, haha). She is bringing home some branded stuff for Sola, from Stevie. She's also driving her friend Omari home. The two of them kissed and haven't spoken since, so maybe 'friends' is a stretch, but... Then they get stranded on the motorway due to the snow and Jordyn feels really bad that she's letting Stevie down by not getting the stuff to her. She isn't exactly friends with Stevie - her sister Jimi is. But as with Blackout, everyone in this book is connected. 

Then there's Jimi herself. She is busking near the stadium by herself. She was in a band with two people called Kennedy and Rakeem, and she had a strict no love songs policy in their band. Then Kennedy and Rakeem revelead they were seeing each other and wanted to write love songs, and Jimi got upset so the band is kind of on a break. She's busking in the snow when her old friend, now known as rapper Lil Kinsey, turns up. It turns out that Jimi wrote him a love song years ago and he never told her how he felt about it, and now he's world famous. The two end up getting involved in Stevie's thing while maybe having a thing with each other...

Finally there's Ava and Mason, who work together at the aquarium where Stevie's mum is the director. They used to be together but have broken up. But does that mean they can't be friends? They're trying to choose a perfect gift for Sola from the gift shop. 

So will Stevie's big gesture work? That's the question! This is a glorious book, filled with Black joy and Black queer joy. It's lovely! I'm giving this five out of five. 

The Books of 2022 - Round Up

Friday, January 20, 2023

How many books read in 2022?

108! I had just one Did-Not-Finish of the year, which was Young Mungo, which was a shame because I LOVED Shuggie Bain, but I just couldn't seem to get into Young Mungo. I am so happy to have read over a hundred books. As I said previously this was helped a lot by the fact I read fourteen books in July! I've set my Goodreads challenge to 90 again for 2023 but I'd like to smash that again. 

How many were on paper and how many electronic?

I read 59 paperback books, 16 in hardback, and 33 electronically. I challenged myself to read only e books in September as I was on holiday for twelve days of it and thought it would be a good challenge to get some of Netgalley books read. That definitely did help! I also tried to read only e books in December, as I was again away, and I managed that for the final few weeks of December. 

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?

I generally read very little non-fiction as it generally doesn't interest me, but I did read I Want You to Know We're Still Here by Esther Safran Foer, Lost in the jungle by Marja West and Jurgen Snoeren, One Track Minds and Kristian Brodie and Adam Shakinovsky, Everything I Need I Get From You by Kaitlyn Tiffany, Threepenny Memoir by Carl Barat, The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, Love That Journey for Me by Emily Garside, and a book about the new remake of All Creatures Great and Small. That's eight I think! All reviews can be found on the blog.  

Male/Female authors?

Of books by sole authors, I read, as far as I know, 19 books by male authors. There's quite a few that had various authors, or two authors, but the rest were women, with I think one nonbinary author. That's not unusual for me - I usually read more women than men.

Most books by a single author?

I read three books by Graham Norton, three by Alice Oseman, but the outright winner is seven books by Elly Griffiths and one she featured in. Wow! 

Favourite book(s) read?

So many, but Brother of The More Famous Jack has got to be up there as a fave 

Least favourite?

I guess Young Mungo since I just couldn't get into it. I may try again in the future, and I'll definitely look at what Douglas Stuart writes next, but I just didn't gel with it. 

Oldest book read?

It's got to be Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald which was published in 1980. 


Probably The Guest by Emma Cline, which won't be published until May 2023. Thank you Netgalley! 

Longest book title?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid has got to be up there, but I felt like I read a lot of books with long titles last year! 

Shortest title?

H.A.W.K.S by M A Bennett 

How many re-reads?

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffths was the only one, I think. I don't tend to reread books at all (always new books to get to!) but someone chose this for my book club and it was actually a pleasure to reread! 

Any in translation?

Just one - The Mystery of Henri Pick, translated by David Foenkinos 

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

I tried hard to request books from the library in 2022, to stop myself from buying so many books, and I think it generally worked. I read twenty three library books which is around a fifth of my total! 

Here Is The Beehive by Sarah Crossan - Review

Monday, January 16, 2023

I've read Sarah Crossan's books for teenagers, told in verse, so when I saw that she had written a book in verse for adults I was intrigued and wanted to read it. I was granted it on Netgalley by Bloomsbury, so thank you very much to them. Here Is the Beehive was published on the 8th of July 2021. I was provided with a free electronic copy of the book for review purposes but was not otherwise compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This was my final book of 2022, the 108th book I read in the year. I really wanted to break a hundred and I'm so glad I did - helped by the fact that I read fourteen books in July! I will write about the books I read in my next post. But this was a really nice book to finish on. I started it while I was away in Somerset for Christmas, and finished it just before New Year. I am just sad it took me so long to get to this book because I really like Sarah Crossan and her poetry.

So, Ana Kelly is a solicitor who deals with wills and such like. She is married and has two small children. She has been having an affair with a man called Connor for three years, on and off. The two are currently on a break when Ana gets a phone call from Connor's wife. She thinks she's been rumbled, but actually, Connor is dead, and Rebecca is trying to sort out his will.

Ana is devastated, but of course she can't talk about it to anyone. Not even her best friend, Tanya, knows that Ana has been having an affair. The only person that knows is Connor's friend Michael, so Ana tries to talk to him but he rebuffs her. She goes to Connor's funeral where Michael tells her off. Ana is just alone. Her marriage is crumbling and her teacher husband accuses her of being a bad wife.

I liked this book just as much as I've liked Sarah's novels for teens. I'm giving this four out of five. 

The Guest by Emma Cline - Review

Friday, January 13, 2023

I was provided with an electronic copy of The Guest for review purposes, so thank you to Vintage books for that. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions are my own. The Guest will be published on 23rd May 2023. 

I requested this book because I was intrigued by the premise. I've never read The Girls by Emma Cline but I know people who raved over it so maybe one day I should get to it. I liked the style of this - it's deeply unsettling and the heat of the book really adds to the claustrophic feel. There's almost a gothic feel to the book, which I really liked. I was reading it in the middle of winter but could so imagine myself in the book.

So the unlike heroine of the book is Alex. She's twenty-three or so, and is running from previous demons in New York City. She has pissed off her roommates so much that she had to leave all her things behind in the apartment, and she's also avoiding calls from a man who she stole many thousands of dollars from. She has been working as an escort, and that's how she met Simon. He's fifty something and she's been with him for a few months, and he asked her to go to the Hamptons with him for the summer. She's been there ever since - it's nearly Labor Day - swimming in his pool, going to the beach, and feeling in the way of Simon's housekeeper. 

However, at a party six or so days before Labor Day, Alex makes a misstep at a dinner party and ends up in the pool, going after her phone. It is broken, full of water. Simon dismisses her from his life, telling his housekeeper to take her to the station and pay for a ticket back to the city. Alex doesn't leave, though. She is determined that if she can just make it to Simon's Labor Day party, she can make her way back into his life, back into the cushiness she's grown used to. I honestly can't blame her here - it sounds like she's had a rough go of it previously and while she is a grifter, I couldn't entirely blame her. She was doing what she needed to to get by.

She first of all gets in with a group of similarly aged young people, and stays in the Airbnb they've rented. Then she gets rumbled when she gets off with someone's boyfriend, and has to leave. She spends one night sleeping in the woods with only her bag as a pillow, and then she meets some kids she's met previously and ends up staying with one of them. Everything goes completely wrong. I read this just before Christmas and it was perfect because it was compelling and distracting, which I like when I'm so busy. I'm giving this four out of five. 

A Girl Called Justice: The Spy at the Window by Elly Griffiths - Review

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

I was granted access to this book on Netgalley, so thank you very much to Hachette Children's for letting me read this. I was given a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A Spy Called Justice: The Spy at the Window was published on the 26th of May 2022, I'm only sorry it took me so long to get to reading it!

You know that I love Elly Griffiths already - both her series for adults, which are among my favourite books ever, and her middle grade series. Justice has really settled into herself now, with a strong sense of self - I love her! She's back at school in Highbury when war breaks out (it's 1939) and each girl is issued with a gas mask. Shelters are built, and the girls must be involved in the cleaning and upkeep of the school (which outrages Rose - she is sure to tell her father!). Furthermore, a boys school is evacuated to Highbury, meaning the girls must share their building! The boys and girls are kept well apart, but Justice makes friends with Henry Anderson. They are put together by Miss De Vere, and told to put together some kind of co-ed sporting event. 

Justice shows Henry round the school and when they're on the top floor they hear a radio playing to itself or something, and what's more, they see a face at the window, two floors up! How could that be? And who is it? And is there a spy in the school?!

I liked this book a lot, I liked the mystery and thought it was done well. I wish there had been a bit more of Stella, but that's my only criticism. I'm giving this four out of five. 

Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones - Review

Saturday, January 7, 2023

I follow Lizzie on Twitter and was so intrigued by their new romantic novel which is set at Christmas. So I requested it on Netgalley and was so thrilled to have it granted. Make You Mine This Christmas was published by Hodder & Stoughton on the 13th of October 2022. I was provided with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I'm not usually much of a rom com fan but I loved the disaster queers nature of this book after I'd read Lizzie talking about it on Twitter. I saved it for just a couple of weeks before Christmas and it was so cosy and cute. I loved it! 

So, the hero of the story is Haf. She has had a difficult year, including a move to York and a new career. She lives with Ambrose, who is a bit of an influencer and is non-binary. Ambrose is off to their family for Christmas, but due to a mix up with Haf's parents she will be alone. She agrees to go to a party with Ambrose (they totally crash it) and while there she meets Christopher. They are outside in the garden under some mistletoe and end up kissing, when they're interrupted by Lauren, who happens to be Christopher's ex girlfriend. She's got her new boyfriend with her, who is insufferable, and the two of them end up assuming that Haf and Christopher are together. The two of them kind of go along with it, and then Lauren says she'll love to see Haf in Oxlea for Christmas with Christopher's family.

Then Haf and Christopher chat and sort of decide it would be good to have Haf alongside Christopher at the family home, because then his parents won't get on to him and stuff. Haf has nothing better to do, so she agrees to her. They arrange to meet in London. Haf travels down by herself, and is at St Pancras station in the bookshop when she has a meet cute with a very beautiful girl. This girl is disabled and they bond over the book Carol, which Haf buys. The bookseller notices how cute they are but they both have to get their trains, so nothing else comes of it.

Haf and Christopher arrive in Oxlea and Haf is surprised by how rich the family is and how huge the house is. Then of course the twist - the meet cute girl is Christopher's sister, Kit! It's all awkward and many, many shenanigans ensue. This book is so daft, with so many funny bits happening. I loved the stuff at the local fair, and I loved the stuff with the black tie ball and Lauren. The ending is so happy, despite everything that happens before it. I really liked this cute, fluffy book. I loved Kit, she was such a good love interest. I liked Christopher, who learns to stand up to his family and who is really well rounded. And I really liked Haf, who is heavily coded as autistic (something which the author mentions at the end). She is excellent. 

I'm giving this four out of five and am so glad I read it! 

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid - Review

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

My friend Janet does monthly posts on her instagram where she posts books that are on Kindle for very cheap, many of which she's read. In November she recommended this book of short stories by Val McDermid, it was 99p so I took the chance and bought it. I saved it for near to Christmas and I also tried to read more e books in December as I knew I would be away and it's easy to take my tablet with me rather than taking a book or two. 

I'm writing this a few weeks later so I don't entirely remember all the stories, but two were using pre existing characters of Val's, police officers that she has already written about, so I'm sure if you were a fan of those characters you'd like these two stories. I'm not familiar with a lot of Val's books so didn't know the officers, but I liked the stories anyway. I also enjoyed the one about the mansion owner found under a tree at Christmas, and the one about someone poisoning people through festive treats. I really enjoyed the different nature to each of these stories - it's such a talent to be able to write short stories well.

I'm giving this five out of five. 

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier - Review

Sunday, January 1, 2023

This book was the December choice for my book club and I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about it. But I requested it at the library and started it anyway, and while I thought the beginning was a bit slow I did enjoy the book. So did most of the book club, although we generally felt the ending was maybe a bit hackneyed. 

So the book is set in 1932 and the heroine is Violet. She is thirty-eight years old and has just moved from Southampton to Winchester. to work as a typist for an insurance company. In Southampton she has left behind her elderly mother, who is cold and smothering, and her brother and his wife and children. Violet's father has recently died, and she lost her fiance and her older brother in World War One. Violet is one of the women after WWI for whom there was a dearth of men, for whom spinsterhood seemed inevitable. 

She works with two young women who look at her sideways for not having a spouse. One of them is engaged and soon leaves. Violet attends a service at Winchester cathedral in which new embroidered items are being sanctified for use within the church. Although initially put off by the woman who turns her away, Violet then joins the group and learns to embroider herself. She makes new friends through the group and meets a bellringer by the name of Arthur.

Violet takes herself on a walking holiday in the nearby countryside, and meets Arthur again. The two begin an emotional affair which consumes Violet and which changes the course of her life. When her mother falls ill, it is assumed that Violet will return to Southampton to care for her, but Violet has too much independence to do that. 

I generally liked the book, and I liked the embroidery focus as I'm a crafter myself. My book club generally liked it, too, although a few of us felt the end was a bit too pat, a bit too happily ever after. I liked the austerity of the era and on how poor Violet was, supporting herself, but how determined she was to do that. It's an interesting era, the inter-war period, and one that I enjoy. I'm giving this four out of five. 

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