Fuzzy Mud – Louis Sachar (AUDIOBOOK) – 24.03.22

Louis Sacher’s book, Holes is one of my favourite books ever – a masterpiece of structure that doesn’t sacrifice story and character. I’ve tried a few other of his kids books and been underwhelmed, but I liked the sound of this one so I gave it a go.

I didn’t hate it. It’s quite American, which is fine since it’s written by an American and set in America, but for not Americans some things are just a bit culturally different.

It’s a story about bullying and coming of age, and also a sort of sci-fi adventure with a genetically engineered microorganism that escapes from the lab.

One thing that really annoyed me about listing to the audiobook (and this is entirely my problem – it’s not a fault of the writer or the narrator) is that at the beginning of each chapter, to illustrate how quickly microorganisms can reproduce and a small number turns in to a huge number with exponential growth, there are sums: one plus one is two, two plus two is four… and so on, until soon the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands. In the UK we use the word ‘and’ a lot in long numbers: one thousand, three hundred AND ten, or just, one hundred AND one. In American it seems they miss out the AND: one thousand, three hundred, ten or one hundred one. This for some reason annoyed the heck out of me. What does that say about me. I don’t know.

The Broken Cage (Crow Investigations Book 7)

– Sarah Painter – 22.03.22

I was excited for this latest installment in the Crow Investigations series which I had preordered and I really enjoyed it. I know some people on Amazon where complaining about the cliff hanger ending, but I didn’t mind that – it just makes me excited for the next book. I liked the murder mystery locked house puzzle at the start of the book, and the other thing that some reviewers complained about, that Lydia’s relationship with Fleet was getting rocky – hmmm. while I agree that this can be a bit annoying, I guess in a series like this you have to have tension between the love interests otherwise it would get boring, right?

Roll on book eight!

Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo – 17.03.22

This is an interesting Urban Fantasy novel set in America’s Yale University. The main character Galaxy (goes by Alex) is given a scholarship to Yale when leaders of its secret magical societies discover she has the rare ability to see dead people (move over Sixth Sense!). She gets help with her classes in exchange for working for the magical groups, but danger and mystery lurks as she discovers some sinister secrets.

I found it at times a little confusing, and didn’t instantly warm to the writing style, but once I got my head around it, I found it a worthy and satisfying read.

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians (Audiobook) –

H. G. Parry (Author), Andrew Kingston (Narrator) –16.03.22

I loved The Unlikely Adventures of Uriah Heep so much that I bought this second novel by H. G. Perry as an audiobook and couldn’t wait to start listening.

Well, all I can say is that that is 21 hours of my life I’ll never get back! What a different experience. I found it a real drudge to get through. The book takes real historical figures (Pitt The Younger and Wilberforce among others) in the context of the fight for and against the abolition of slavery as well as the French Revolution, and added in the extra element of magic.

In this world, there are vampires and magicians and ghosts, and magical ability is forbidden among ‘commoners’ and given fairly free rein in the aristocracy, furthering the inequalities highlighted and fought against in that period of history.

This sounds like just my cup of tea, so why didn’t l like it? Hmm, I liked bits of it, but it was just so long and lots of it read like a history textbook.

There was plenty of food for thought, but I think it would have been better at half the length.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead – Emily Austin – 03.03.22

I really liked this quirky original book. The main character, Gilda, is an Atheist lesbian with OCD and depression. When trying to attend a workshop on mental health, she is mistaken for a job applicant and ends up working for the Catholic Church. The book has lots of heart and humour while dealing with deep and real issues, and while the plot sometimes stretches credulity somewhat, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.

The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust, Volume Two – Philip Pullman – 28.02.22

I went to see the National Theatre Live recording of The Belle Sauvage which is the stage play adaptation of the Book of Dust Volume one, and it made me want to re-read volume two. I just love the whole world of Lyra and Pantalaimon as told in Philip Pullman’s books and I especially love this darker more serious chapter in the story (like I loved the first part of The Deathly Hallows).

There is lots of political and civil unrest all over the world (sound familiar?) and Lyra and Pantalaimon have separated – they are both on a quest to find each other again and sort out the reason for the rift between them. Travel is dangerous for both of them and they have many scary adventures.

The book ends on a cliff edge, and I’m frustrated that there is still no release date for the much awaited third and final book in the series.

This Charming Man: Stranger Times, Book 2 (AUDIOBOOK) – C. K. McDonnell – 25.02.22

I loved the first book in this series ‘The Stranger Times’ so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, which I used my audible credit to buy as an audiobook.

Strangely I think I would have preferred to have had it as a kindle book, as there were a couple of aspects of listening to he audiobook that put me off. Firstly, and no fault to the recording, I think I wasn’t always paying enough attention to the book. Normally I do most of my book listening when out on a run, which is great because I’m fully immersed in the story with not much else occupying my mind since running is pretty mindless! Sadly, even though I’m finally fully better from Covid, since getting better I’ve had a really bad back (perhaps due to my three weeks lying on the sofa?) but anyway, I haven’t been able to run yet, so I’ve been listening about the house while doing other things and sometimes I’m distracted.

The other thing was the accents. The narrator is Irish (I love Irish narrators) and the book has many characters, all with different accents – various British and Irish regional accents as well as a couple of Afro-Caribbean and Rastafarian accents. The narrator does the accents really well – you can always tell who is speaking, and they certainly bring life and colour (no pun intended) to the reading. I’m just not sure if it’s appropriate for a white person to put on an accent of a black person – I honestly just don’t know. The fact is he was doing lots of accents, not just racial ones, and I don’t think anyone was being made fun of, but still it gave me pause.

Anyway, that aside, I think this was another great book from Ciamh McDonnell. Urban Fantasy (which I love), great characterisation, humour, pathos etc and a great set up for book three, which I now can’t wait for!

The Toast of Time – Jodi Taylor – 17.02.22

Somehow this year I missed Jodi Taylors Christmas Day short story release – I did look for it and thought for some reason she didn’t do one this year! Silly me. Found it now, and after the previous book I read: the beautiful but kind of harrowing ‘The Stranding’ a bit of light silliness and jollity was exactly what I needed. Thank you Jodi Taylor for lowering the tone in such a fun way as always!

The Stranding – Kate Sawyer – 15.02.22

Wow – I thought this book was just gorgeous. A young British woman finds herself on a beach in Australia on the brink of global disaster. She tries to save a beached blue whale in the pathetic but well meaning action of running back and forth from the sea scooping up small bag fulls of water to pour over it. A young man joins her and they watch the whale die. They both know that a nuclear bomb is due to hit near their location in a matter of hours, and they spend that time together, in the last minutes, when they see the missile in the distance they have the to idea to shelter inside the corpse of the blue whale.

The rest of the book hinges on that point – both going forwards and with flashbacks, but it is unlike any other post apocalyptic novel I have read. It is a story of life and love and family when everything else is stripped away (both metaphorically and literally).

As I write this review we are in the middle of the Russia invading Ukraine situation, with people talking about World War Three and Putin boasting about his nuclear readiness, and it all seems a little close to the bone. Now I just need to find a blue whale to hide inside(!)

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep (Audiobook) – H. G. Parry (Author), Calum Gittens (Narrator) – 09.02.22

I loved this book! I listened to the audiobook, and I really liked the New Zealand accent of the narrator. When I was sixteen my family had a year in California, and my best friend was the daughter of a family who moved there from New Zealand just after we arrived. I haven’t seen her since, and I have sadly lost touch even though I truly loved her the way teenage girls love their best friends.

Anyhoo, this book is set in New Zealand, and the main character (or really the brother of the main character, as a lot of the story is told from the point of view of the brother) has the ability to ‘read characters (or objects) out of books’. Which is to say that if he concentrates really hard when reading, his interpretation of something or someone he is reading about starts to exist as a real thing in the ‘real world’. In the world of the book, this is something that happens from time to time but very few people have to ability to do it at will. There is a quite funny thing that there are many manifestations of Darcy from Pride and Prejudice because many people have strong reactions to reading about him!

The brother who can do this is a Dickens scholar, so many of his manifestations are Dickens characters, although he also reads Conan Doyle, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Allan Poe, and Roald Dhal amongst others, and I had great fun recognising much loved characters from my reading past!

There is peril because some bad person has hatched a plot to take over the real world and replace it with a world only for book characters and the brothers and their bookish allies have to foil it.

I loved it so much that a bought another audiobook by H.G Parry, which I am currently slogging through and not loving (sorry) more to follow…