Sunday, 7 May 2017

Reading progress: January-April

Although I'm not officially taking part in Year in Books this time, I did set myself a very modest target of reading at least a book a month. I'm doing much better than that though as I've already managed 6. What I haven't been so good at is reducing my stash which continues to grow and grow. I've also not been very good at keeping you updated with my progress so here goes with my first read of 2017.

I've read several of Carol Shield's books before, with Republic of Love being my favourite, and this meant I had high hopes for the Box Garden. Like most of her books, it's very much character-driven. Charlene - bored and dissatisfied with her life - is on her way to the wedding of her 70 year old mother with whom she has a difficult relationship.

The characters are strong and as well-drawn as always and I particularly enjoyed the 70s setting: her mother was getting married in cocoa-brown crimpeline! However, I found it less absorbing than her later novels and some of the plot lines felt far-fetched. This one will be going back to the charity shop. Don't let that put you off Carol Shields though: it was one of her first novels and I know she gets much better.

My next choice was Hold back the stars by Katie Khan. I saw a review in the newspaper and was intrigued. Max and Carys are floating in space with only 90 minutes of air left in their tanks. The story flits between their attempts to save themselves and flashbacks to their relationship in the future society of Europia.

I found the descriptions of Europia interesting: the continent is divided into vovoides and citizens rotate between them until their 30s when they're allowed to settle in one place and marry. It's a shame then that these aspects aren't explored in more depth as the book could have been so much more. Instead it all felt rather superficial and read very much like a Young Adult novel. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it - I did - but I just wasn't gripped.

After a couple of novels, I moved onto some non-fiction with Knickers Model's Own by Caroline Jones. After her mother died of cancer, she decided to raise money to support the charity that she and her mother had been involved with for several years, volunteering in one of their shops. For a year, she dressed only in clothes sourced from Cancer Research (and other charity) shops (apart from those knickers!) and the book documents the outfits she wore each day. She has a good eye and natural sense of style. Mind you, it does help that she clearly lives in an affluent area where there's a better class of donations. I particularly loved all the colourful shoes she wore! I do enjoy mooching around in charity shops for books and jigsaws but rarely give the clothes a glance. This did make me think I should give them more of a go and, in fact, I've since bought a dress, with original sales tag still on, for £2.49! Caroline still posts her outfits on Facebook if you want to learn more.

Crow Lake is the story of 7-year-old Kate Morrison who lives with her 2 teenage brothers and younger sister in a remote community in northern Canada. Early on in the novel, the family are orphaned and the boys take on the care of their sisters. The older Kate looks back on their struggles and the intense relationships and tragedies which continue to affect her life. It's a slow-burner of a novel which, for me, usually means boring but this is one I could barely put down. I couldn't even really say why except that the characters are so well-drawn you want to know what happens to them. I'll be looking out for more of Mary Lawson's books.

Broken Sky by LA Weatherly has been shortlisted for Lancashire Book of the Year. It's an award for Young Adult fiction, voted for completely by young people, and now in it's 31st year. When I heard about the shortlist, I decided to read a few of the titles.

Broken Sky is set in a future America but not a sci-fi kind of future. Instead, after much of the world was destroyed in a nuclear war, society has had to rebuild itself and is now more reminiscent of the 1940s. Armed conflict has been banned and disputes between countries are contested by aerial dogfights: the heroine, Amity, is one of the best pilots. Gradually, she uncovers a plot by the leader of the neighbouring country, a leader who believes his destiny comes from the power of astrology. There are clear echoes of Nazi Germany as Discordants, born under the wrong planetary alignments, are rounded up and sent to correction camps.

It's the first part of a trilogy which may explain why it's a bit slow to get going. Once it does though, it's tense and intriguing with twists and turns. I only wish there'd been more of a proper ending as even books in a series should be able to stand alone. However, I'll have to look out for the next in the trilogy to find out what happens next.

Another title shortlisted for Book of the Year is The Deepest Cut by Natalie Flynn.

Adam blames himself for his best friend's death. After attempting suicide, he is put in the care of a local mental facility. There, too traumatized to speak, he begins to write notebooks detailing the events leading up to Jake's murder.

It isn't often that I cry when reading a book but this one moved me to tears several times. If I had to be picky, the parts which are meant to be his diary are written more like a novel than how someone would actually write. However, it's still beautifully written and the confusion and pain that Adam goes through is incredibly moving. A wonderful book.

Not a book but grebes! I had my first good look at the new babies today and there are three little grebelings. I sat for ages on the side of the lake watching them, usually tucked up on their parents' backs. There are a pair of moorhens nest building nearby so it looks like more babies are on the way. Oh, I just love spring!

Enjoy the remainder of your Sunday. Next time, I think I might share my latest crafty make. x


  1. Lovely photo of the grebes!

    Some of those books have very enticing covers! I've been having a lazy day at home (I say lazy, I've been cleaning and catching up with things!) but am looking forward to some reading time this evening.

    PS - we love Lucifer too - he is such a brilliant character!

  2. And there's the new American Gods series which started last week in the US too - I expect that'll be good too!

  3. They are so cute, I love spring too, full of new beginnings xx

  4. Oooh, ALL of these sound brilliantly intriguing, it is rare that I'd like to read ALL the books someone reviews!! You should give the charity shop clothes more of a look I'd say as there are some super bargains!!

  5. You certainly read a wide and diverse range of books! I enjoyed following Caroline Jones' daily outfits on instagram and found her very inspiring, although sadly my local charity shops don't have quite the same rich pickings. But it has made me look more closely at what's on offer, and donate a nice item of clothing when I might have previously sold it on ebay, say. x