Reading Challenge 2018!

Back in mid January last year I decided to join some friends in the Pop Sugar reading challenge 2017.  Now, I didn’t quite tick off all of the categories – but I’m quite pleased with what I managed, and you can look at all of my reviews in the ‘2017 Reading Challenge’ category on this blog.

2017 Reading Challenge
A book recommended by a librarian The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell
A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
A book of letters The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
An audiobook Crackanory – too cracked for TV
A book by a person of colour  …
A book with one of the four seasons in the title One Endless Summer by Laurie Ellingham
A book that is a story within a story The Forever House by Veronica Henry
A book with multiple authors Scummy Mummies by Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson
An espionage thriller  …
A book with a cat on the cover Family Ghouls by Alex A King
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym The Summer House By The Sea by Jenny Oliver
A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read  …
A book by or about a person who has a disability Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
A book involving travel The Break by Marian Keyes
A book with a subtitle The Love of the Game:  Parenthood, Sport and Me by Mark Chapman
A book that’s published in 2017 After You by Mhairi McFarlane
A book involving a mythical creature The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile  …
A book about food The Wonder by Emma Donohue
A book with career advice Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
A book from a nonhuman perspective The Bees by Laline Paull
A steampunk novel Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
A book with a red spine Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
A book set in the wilderness  …
A book you loved as a child  …
A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited  …
A book with a title that’s a character’s name The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce
A novel set during wartime To My Daughter In France by Barbara and Stephanie Keating
A book with an unreliable narrator The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker
A book with pictures Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting To The Top by Karren Brady
A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
A book about an interesting woman Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley
A book set in two different time periods The Party by Elizabeth Day
A book with a month or a day of the week in the title  …
A book set in a hotel The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor
A book written by someone you admire There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell
A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017  …
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas A Catered Fourth of July by Isis Crawford
The first book in a series you haven’t read before Watermelon by Marian Keyes
A book you bought on a trip The Postcard by Fern Britton

A friend in the Facebook group we’ve set up to share book reviews and ideas said she’d downloaded the 2018 challenge – and of course, I couldn’t say no – so I’ve had to join in too!  I don’t think I’m going to beat myself up about it so much this year – and will read off piste if I want to. Equally, this year if I’m not enjoying a book I’m not going to persevere! Life’s too short and all that.

You can read more about the challenge itself here – but here’s the summary of topics:

2018 reading challenge

And in a paraphrase of Strictly Come Dancing – keeeeeeeep reading!




Book Review: Anything is Possible by Rob Osborne

I was recommended the book  ‘Anything is Possible’ by Elizabeth Strout by a number of ‘best books of 2017’ lists and by the author Elizabeth Day on Twitter (whose book The Party was one of my highlights of the year.)  I was clearly rushing on Amazon and accidentally downloaded the wrong Anything is Possible without realising:

Anything is Possible




“Matt leads an ordinary life, working at a bank in London. He whiles away the hours at his normal job, fantasising about a soap star, Abbey Jones – and can’t believe his luck when she arrives in his branch to make a cash withdrawal during a visit to London. However, during this once-in-alifetime moment, Matt makes a fool of himself and Abby is somewhat abrupt with him.
Following a stream of events and another chance encounter, Matt and Abbey begin to develop feelings for each other. After all of these years spent yearning for Abbey, Matt does not feel an ordinary man like him can develop a sustainable relationship with someone so famous, which leads to their relationship breaking down.

Will Matt and Abbey find a way to be together? Or will her fame destroy their chance of happiness?

Anything is Possible has been inspired, in part, by Rob’s jobs in banking – from Nationwide Building Society to Alliance & Leicester and then Lloyds TSB.”

On page 1 I was surprised this was such an acclaimed book as it felt like it had been written by someone in the pub whilst reading The Sun or maybe Heat magazine.  I kept reading, expecting it to improve – but after the first chapter wondered what on earth was going on and checked – and realised my mistake.

I hate giving up on a  book, so persevered for a few more chapters before deciding it was total dross.  It has full 5 star reviews on Amazon – but admittedly that’s just from 5 people, and I assume all must be friends or relatives of the author.  It really is formulaic and dire.  My 14 year old could write a more nuanced book. The sentence construction, storyline, character development, scene setting, relationships are all pretty awful.

Don’t waste your time reading this drivel.  What a downer to end my 2017 reading!

So I’m hoping the Anything is Possible I should have downloaded is infinitely better – and will feature in my 2018 Reading Challenge some how!!





First Chapter Review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

“Lou Clark is back in the ALL NEW Jojo Moyes novel Still Me, follow-up to the Number One international bestsellers Me Before You and After You.

Lou Clark knows too many things . . .

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to meet someone who’s going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it’ll hurt.

Lou won’t know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.”

Still me

I have loved the first 2 books in this series – and so when I saw on NetGalley I had the opportunity to download the first chapter of the 3rd book in the trilogy, I jumped at the chance!

I was not disappointed!

It was lovely to catch up with Lou again – and now she’s in New York!  We visited New York this summer, so the descriptions were fab.

The first chapter has TOTALLY whetted my appetite – and I have pre-ordered it ready for it to magically arrive on my Kindle next month.  Now, to work out which category I can tick off on my 2018 Reading Challenge (yes, despite saying having not completed 2017 I wouldn’t do another one – I can’t resist – obviously!!)





Book Review: To My Daughter in France by Barbara and Stephanie Keating

This book was recommended to me by a friend in case I was still looking to tick off the category ‘A book with multiple authors’ in my reading challenge – but I’d already got that one sorted – so I used this for ‘A novel set in wartime’ – but it could have slotted into other categories too (a good all rounder!)

To my daughter in France

“”And to my daughter in France, I bequeath the remainder of my Estate.” These words, read from the will of Irish academic Richard Kirwan, come as a complete surprise to his grieving family. In France, 24-year-old Solange de Valnay’s world is equally shattered: she loves the man she calls “Papa” and the Languedoc vineyard in which she had the happiest of childhoods; Celine, her adored mother, is dead. Just as she is about to embark on married life with her fiance Guy, all her certainties are undercut with doubt. She resolves to spurn her new-found Irish half-siblings. But once revealed, the truth of Richard Kirwan’s liaison cannot be so easily buried. The grief and anger of the Kirwan children impels them to ask searching questions – of their vibrant, artist mother Helena, and of Seamus, the saintly uncle whose life in Connemara seems perplexingly loveless. And though Solange might try to run from the past, it lives on in the memory of her remarkable, surprising grandmother, Charlotte. What emerges is an extraordinary tale of an irresistible but impossible love affair, of passion and blind heroism, of sacrifices made for love and honour and of four families whose resistance to the German forces occupying France during Second World War binds them across borders and cultures and through war and peace.”

Having just read a book I didn’t enjoy (The Bees by Laline Paull) – this gripped me from the start – which made a refreshing change, and reignited my desire to read!

It jumps between the present day (albeit the present day is 1970 and thus before I was born!) and the start of the story during the second world war.  However, the change in story keeps you wanting to read on – it doesn’t feel disjointed.  I’m not sure how the 2 authors split the writing – but it doesn’t feel like one wrote one time period and the other another era – it all kind of flows.

Some of it is in Dublin, some in rural Ireland, some in Paris, some in Geneva, some in various areas of rural France and some in prisoner of war camps (I’ve been to visit Dachau and what you see there stays with you forever) – and each of the different locations is described wonderfully.

There are some massive co-incidences – of different people meeting up in random places – and you kind of just have to go with that and accept it’s happened for the story to work!

I have one pet peeve (mostly because I am stupidly anal!) but at one point the story is in Thonon les Bains (somewhere I know well, as my best friend from school lives nearby) and the character in question says that they should return to France – implying it’s in Switzerland, as they’ve gone there from Geneva.  Thonon is actually over the border already in France, and I believe the writers meant Paris rather than France – but careless errors like this in the editing really annoy me.  I should, perhaps, get out more……..

But overall this is a beautiful, well written, interesting book that keeps the reader engaged.  The various different love stories – featuring all different types of love – are fabulously nuanced, and evolve really well.

Definitely a book I’d recommend – whether for a category on a reading challenge or just for an escapist read!







And now a beef with Pink’s lyrics ……

Way back when I first started blogging, I discussed that fact that Ironic by Alanis Morissette was in fact mostly full of annoying rather than ironic things.

Well, I have another issue with song lyrics, which my post op drug addled brain first thought was also with Ms Morissette (due to her having an album called ‘Jagged Little Pill’) – but turns out, it’s actually with Pink and her track ‘Just Like A Pill’!

Turns out morphine doesn’t make me itch – but it does give me really bad constipation.  Although I appreciate that might be harder to lyricise…..






Book Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees

Whilst I have admitted defeat this month and realise I am unlikely to finish my 2017 Reading Challenge, I’m still reading some of the books the various prompts have meant I’ve downloaded (waste not, want not and all that!).  This one is in the category ‘A book from a non human perspective’. As you may guess from the title – this is from the perspective of a bee.  Here’s the blurb.

“Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous.

Enemies roam everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. But Flora cannot help but break the most sacred law of all, meaning her instinct to serve is overshadowed by a desire, as overwhelming as it is forbidden…

Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, ‘The Bees’ is the story of a heroine who changes her destiny and her world.”

Now, I have to confess for the first 20% of this book I struggled to imagine this as anything other than the set of The Bee Movie – which is a fairly rubbish cartoon film that my kids watched in the back of my car for months on end some years ago.  I am completely sure that Laline Paull did not make wonderful descriptions for me to imagine that – but I really struggled to see it in any different way!

In fact I really struggled to get into this book (probably because it’s not really my type of genre – I’m not good at non human / sci fi type books or films for that matter) and because I’d admitted defeat on the challenge as a whole – so was having a bit of a teenage ‘what’s the point in reading it at all if I’m not going to finish the challenge’ grumpy, shoulder hunched kind of mard!

The descriptions are great – and I am sure the research into the inner workings of a bee hive and the life cycle of different types of bees was cleverly incorporated – but I just didn’t really get the point of it.  I don’t particularly like bees, I had no affinity to Flora, and didn’t really care what happened to her or the hive – which I don’t think helped my love of the book – and the fact it took me so long to wade through it.

I think I need to remember that ‘critically acclaimed’ and ‘award winning ‘ don’t necessarily mean a book I will enjoy!!

Still – another category ticked off – and another author I won’t rush to read again – so not a total waste of time!!





There’s a moose*, loose about this hoose…..

Earlier today the 3 youngest kids and one of the boy’s friends were playing hide and seek.  The boy shrieked ‘I’ve just seen a mouse in the spare room’ – which made everyone come out of their hiding places – but he wasn’t that insistent about it, so we assumed he was just being a knob (not unheard of!!)

However, about 2 hours later, middle daughter realised the tube attached to her hamster’s cage was actually not attached any more.  She claimed she’d seen Oreo (he’s brown and white – you’d never have guessed would you?) earlier that morning – so we didn’t think he could have got far.  But the back door had been open quite often – so we feared he could have gone to play with the rabbits and guinea pigs outside (parent code for – disappeared forever….)  Much searching of the family room, where the cage was sited,  ensued – but there was no evidence of an errant hamster.

At this point we thought that maybe the ‘mouse’ sighting from earlier in the day wasn’t such baloney – but that would have involved the hamster covering 20 odd metres – plus a flight of a dozen stairs – all without being noticed.

Some investigations in the spare room found Oreo under a chest of drawers having eaten through quite a chunk of carpet!  Still not entirely sure how he made it up there – I wonder if he had assistance from those cheeky Elves?!?  But he is now safely ensconced back in his cage.


*Actually a hamster