Sunday, 1 May 2016

Year in Books: May 2016

This year I'm taking part in the Year in Books organised by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, with the aim of reading at least one book per month. I surprised myself in April as I actually managed four books! Well, we did have Easter at the beginning which helped. Anyway, here's what I read.

When I first started reading When God was a rabbit, there was a sense of deja vu. Like Goats and Sheep which I read in February, it's set in the 1970s and narrated by a young girl. However, there the comparisons end as it's a much richer and more complex read. I loved it.

It's the story of Elly and her family told in 2 parts. The first part follows her up to the age of 10 as she makes friends and experiences highs and lows and life-altering events. The second catches up with her 15 years later. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, such as the auditions for the nativity play, and some heart-rending ones too. And it's all beautifully written. I will definitely be reading more of Sarah Winman's work.

Lady in the Van came free with the DVD. Usually I'm not keen on reading books if I've seen the film first. However, I was going on a train journey and it was a handy size to fit in my bag as it's only 100 pages long. I'm glad I did as it included a few events which didn't make it into the film. It was also interesting to see how Alan Bennett had restructured the screenplay to give a more linear narrative.

Just in case you're not familiar with Lady in the Van, it's the true story of Miss Shepherd, a cantankerous and eccentric old woman. At first, she lives in her van in Alan Bennett's street but, when the council serves her with a removal order, he offers her the temporary use of his garden: she stays there for 15 years! There are times in the book when he's quite hard on himself over his relationship with Miss Shepherd but I couldn't help admire his compassion and humanity in caring for her over all those years. I'd recommend both the book and the film. He's such an amusing writer and I'm going to look out for other things he's written, particularly his diaries.

Having read one of the books shortlisted for the young adult award, Lancashire Book of the Year, last month, I decided to read a couple more. The first was The 100 Society by Carla Spradbery. It's set at Clifton Academy, a boarding school, where Grace Becker is aiming to become one of the elite 100 Society. To be a member she has to 'tag' (or graffiti) 100 locations around the city with her mark and, at the start of the book, has only a few to go. But then her tags keep getting overwritten by the tag of the Reaper and one of her friends dies in a tragic accident, or is it...

I did enjoy this even if at times it was rather melodramatic and far-fetched. Saying that, the ending did have genuine tension and I didn't guess the culprit. Overall though, I'd rate it as average.

The second of the shortlisted books is One of Us by Jeannie Waudby. It's set in a future where society is divided between Citizens and the Brotherhood. When K narrowly survives a bomb attack on a train, she agrees to go undercover to spy on those suspected of being responsible. However, nothing is black and white and who can she really trust?

I really liked this and I'm not sure why! It was pretty predictable: she'll fall in love with one of the bad guys, and the good guys will turn out to be bad guys etc. Still, I found it a page-turner and really liked the character of K. An easy and enjoyable read.

And so to my reads for May. Actually I haven't completely made up my mind yet but, at the moment, I think it might be these two. The Rotters' Club was given to me for World Book Day and is probably something I wouldn't have picked up. Julie and Julia, on the other hand, is something I've been debating reading having seen the film (but see comments about books and films above!). I'm probably going to read another of the Lancashire Book of the Year shortlist too if I can pick up a copy of one of them.

Whatever I end up reading, I will say that this challenge has really got me back into the reading habit and enjoying books again. Now I just have to decide which is next...x


  1. Thanks for your comment on my latest YIB post, I was pleased to hear you think my reviews are good as I actually really struggle to put my thoughts into the write words (I write rubbish then refine it, haha!).

    Regarding Freya North, I've particularly enjoyed her Derbyshire set books, Cat, Fen and Pip (they're three sisters) and also Chances though really I've loved them all! My least favourite ones were The Turning Point and Pillow Point but they were still good. I loved Chloe too as it was set in Cornwall mostly and was a good story and Polly was partly set in Vermont which I loved. I also really liked Secrets.

    I'd actually recommend starting with Sally (her first book) and if you like that (though again, it's not her best), reading her books in order as characters do sometimes appear from previous books (especially with Cat, Pip and Fen but Sally appears briefly in Chloe and I like getting that little bit of extra follow up that way, if that makes sense!).

    I guess what I'm saying is they're all good books! You can start with any as they are all stand alone books, but I do like to read in chronological order and there are appearances from previous characters which makes that handy. Hope that was helpful but perhaps FN's bibliography where you can click on each books for a synopsis and make your own choices would be more helpful! --

  2. hehe, I've just realised I typed write words instead of right words, doh! It was also mean to say Pillow Talk, not Pillow Point

  3. I was looking forward to seeing what you thought of When God was a rabbit, really drawn to this book.
    We are going on holl in June and was looking at taking a book to read.
    Amanda xx

  4. Glad you had a good months reading. I hope you enjoy what you read in May!