March books

41. Dexter is Delicious – Jeff Lindsay
Story – Dexter’s life appears to be at a crossroads. He’s just become a daddy to his very own little Lily Anne, and is finding to his own surprise that his dark urges appear to have left him, and he is almost becoming human. But then he is pulled into a certain dark part of the Miami underground scene, one that contains vampires and cannibals, and a person from the past resurfaces and Dexter wonders if change is possible for him.
Things I liked – I like the writing. I like the words, and the voice of Dexter.
Things I didn’t like – It’s not that I don’t like this, but although book Dexter and tv Dexter sort of fit seamlessly together inside my head, I find the bookDeborah kind of jarringly different and it sometimes feels weird when I’m reading. I’m also very disturbed by the sociopathic nature of Cody and Astor in the books, and the way it seems to indicate that childhood trauma and abuse will turn people into killers.
Thoughts – I really love the Dexter books. (And the tv show actually- I am STILL waiting for the last season to become available here!) This one wasn’t the best one in the series, but it was still a great story in itself.

40. Bipolar 101 – John Preston
Story- Not a story. Basic intro to bipolar disorder, with a lot of info and ideas on management.
Things I liked – it was a quick, easy read.
Things I didn’t like – that I felt compelled to read it at all.
Thoughts – Fuck my life.

39.Faking Normal – Courtney C Stevens
Story– Alexi has a secret. Something that happened to her over the summer, something that makes her hide in her closet and compulsively scratch bloody wounds in her neck. Something that she doesn’t want to tell, for the storm it will unleash in her formerly peaceful life.
Things I liked– This book grew on me as I read and got to know the character better. Alexi was a lot more than the secret she was keeping hidden, and I thought the way the relationship developed between her and Bodee was well paced and realistic. The rape issue was a little confusing for a while- I worked out that she’d been raped but then what she was describing wasn’t rape because she kept repeating that she’d never said no. By the end it all made sense though. I liked the end though, the way her sister stuck by her and their sibling relationship was strengthened.
Things I didn’t like – the NAMES!!! BODEE!!!!! Bodhi is a perfectly fine name and it’s already unusual enough…why go with the illiterate Bodee spelling??? Even Alexi is a weird name, I get Alexis, and Lexi, and Alexei for a boy, but Alexi for a girl is a little baffling. That spelling of Bodee though, I kept hoping I’d get over it but it irritated me every single time I saw it on the page.
Thoughts – Surprisingly good, touching story about the darkness we hide inside ourselves and how much sharing it can help.

38. Hidden Girl: the True Story of a Modern-day Child Slave – Shyima Hall
Story – Shyima is an Egyptian born girl who was only eight years old when she was sold into slavery to an Egyptian family. She was forced to work for the family without a break and, when the family moved to the United States, Shyima was taken with them. Shyima was kept in bondage, working eighteen or twenty hour days, hidden from the world, until she was rescued at the age of 13.
Things I liked – This story was fascinating. I liked the way it talked about her life in Egypt before she was given to the family as a slave, then her term of bondage, and then her transition to a normal life afterwards. Probably her transition was my favourite part of the book- when she was rescued she was a thirteen year old girl who had never been to school, could not read or write or even speak any English, and yet she had to learn to become an American teenager. I liked the way the book followed her as she sought citizenship and made her own family and life.
Things I didn’t like – I don’t like criticising biographies, especially ones like this where the story is interesting and something that needs to be told to bring awareness to an issue, in this case human trafficking.
Thoughts – This was a really touching story, and I honestly admire Shyima for the way she rebuilt her life after her rescue and even did as much as she could to bring awareness to issue of modern day slavery. I hope as an adult she has the chance to be happy in a way she missed out on as a child.

35. Summer Term at Malory Towers (Malory Towers #8) – Pamela Cox
36. Fun and Games at Malory Towers (Malory Towers #10) – Pamela Cox
37. Goodbye Malory Towers (Malory Towers #12) – Pamela Cox
Story- These continuations tell the story of Felicity Rivers, Darrell’s little sister, as she moves up through the school.
Things I liked – Everything! I always think of these kind of ghost written sequels as practically fan fiction, but I’m hardly going to judge harshly just because of that, and these books were honestly good. The same old Malory Towers stories of friendships and school life and sports and tricks on the teachers.
Things I didn’t like – Nothing specific. Some of the characters are annoying and of course it’s all incredibly unrealistic, but who cares?
Thoughts – Sometimes I worry that I still get such enjoyment out of reading children’s and teenage books, but I try not to let it bother me. It hurts no one if I read it, and it’s nice to be able to talk about books with my kids when they read the same ones! I’m actually just kind of disappointed that I only have all these as e-books and my sisters don’t have e-readers so I can’t lend them out. Hopefully I’ll get #9 soon and be able to read that.

34. What I Had Before I Had You – Sarah Cornwell
Story – Olivia left home at fifteen. Two years later she is newly divorced and back in her old home town as she crosses the country on a road trip with her fifteen year old daughter Carrie, and her newly diagnosed bipolar son, Daniel. When Daniel disappears, Olivia finds herself reliving many of her adolescent memories from the time when she found herself spiralling out of control, memories of her friendships and loves and the fraught relationship she had with her mother and the rest of her secretive family.
Things I liked – I really liked this book. I loved the writing, which really conveyed the emotional setting to me. Olivia was not necessarily a likeable character, but she was sympathetic and I connected with her feelings of restlessness. I liked the different perspectives on bipolar, from Olivia and her mother and her son.
Things I didn’t like– It was a little rambling in parts.
Thoughts – A really good look at relationships, and the things we do to destroy them or just not save them. I liked this book, but I think part of that may have just been the timing…a book about mental illness connected with me in a way it may not have at other times. I’d still recommend it though.

33. Graduation Day (BSC Friends Forever Special) – Ann M Martin
Story – After 212 previous books, the babysitters are finally graduating middle school! But it’s a big step, and the idea of going off to high school and the uncertainty about life after eighth grade brings out some mixed reactions in the girls.
Things I liked – I love the idea. I loved the way Kristy was struggling more with the slow decline of the club than anyone else, and I could see how someone so fierce and self assured could feel extra uncertainty at facing a known change. I thought Mary Anne’s kind of ambivalence about things was also good. I liked the way that all the girls were examining their friendships and realising that things change, and that change can be both scary and god at the same time. I liked the acknowledgement that their relationships probably would change and move in different directions as they head off into high school.
Things I didn’t like – Way, WAY too much handwriting to slog through in this book! I have never found Mary Anne’s handwriting very readable and Claudia’s is practically illegible. Having pages of handwritten diary entries to struggle through really put me off the book to be honest. I also wasn’t very enthused about the time capsule with the kids that was the subplot of the thing. I would have much rather gone into more depth with the four main characters about the changes coming to them.
Thoughts – Who would have thought when I bought my first BSC book from the book club (Kristy’s Great Idea, back in 1987!) that there would be 213 books total in the series, and that I’d one day feel the need to own them all?

32. New Term at Malory Towers (Malory Towers #7) – Pamela Cox
Story – This is the first of the continuation books, so it sees Felicity going back to Malory Towers and taking on new responsibilities as head girl of the third form. The usual boarding school shenanigans go on- friendships and tricks and new girls and lacrosse and teachers and mysteries.
Things I liked – I’m almost embarrassed at how much I did enjoy this one, considering it’s probably written for nine year olds. But it was just good, classic boarding school fun. I liked the way it detailed the friendships, and it was actually quite interesting in regards to the way the peer group dealt with transgressions.
Things I didn’t like – Some of the kind of bullying behaviour that the book promotes. The girls deal with their own dramas, but sometimes what they do would be seen as bullying if done in a modern context. I don’t think it’s appropriate for ‘sneaking’ (telling tales) to be demonised as it is in the books, because it is very important that children know that going to a responsible adult is often the most appropriate (and sometimes even the ONLY) thing to do about a situation.
Thoughts – Okay, maybe I’m reading too much into it? I mean, some of the attitudes and values promoted in the books are excellent, if old fashioned, but there’s also a considerable amount that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Whatever. I’m not reading it to be morally schooled…it was fun and nostalgic and took me back to childhood.

31. Zelah Green – Vanessa Curtis
Story- Zelah life isn’t perfect. Her mother died years ago and a month ago her father just went to work one day and disappeared. Zelah copes by obsessively following her ‘rituals’- counted jumps on certain steps, a ruthless routine of washing and scrubbing, and a total avoidance of germs and dirt – until one day her stepmother packs her off to facility for teenage psychiatric patients.
Things I liked – I was really drawn to this premise of mental illness in teenagers. I liked the matter of fact way it dealt with Zelah’s OCD.
Things I didn’t like – Much as I liked the idea, I didn’t love the way it played out in the book. I thought the progression of Zelah’s therapy sessions was unbelievable, since one day she was freaking out about touching a tap with one finger (she always used tissues to cover her hands when she touched things) and the next day she was sticking her hand down a toilet and then eating gum without washing her hands…just kind of ridiculous. I also didn’t like the plot thread involving Zelah’s stepmother, because I just really couldn’t understand what her motivation was, so she just ended up as a cardboard cut out ‘evil’ character.
Thoughts – Good idea but flawed in the execution. At the same time the simple writing and Zelah herself pulled me in, and I will definitely read the sequel if I come across it.

30. Stop the Clock – Alison Mercer
Story – The story begin in 1999, with three friends meeting up for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Tina is working as a journalist and determined to make to make a successful career of it. Lucy is happily married with a baby and equally determined to make a success of being a stay at home wife and mother. Hannah isn’t sure, having neither the drive nor determination of the other two.
The story then continues ten years later, when everyone’s wishes have come true. Hannah is still the friend in the middle, now married and about to give birth to her first child. Lucy is a stay at home mother of two, with an immaculate home and a vital role in the PTA, but after a betrayal by her husband she finds her whole life beginning to change. And Tina’s career is solid until a one night stand threatens to derail everything.
Things I liked – I enjoyed the different viewpoints of all the women, and the way that they were all dealing with different facets to the same struggle- that of being a woman and a mother and reconciling both roles. I was drawn in by Hannah questioning her sexuality which isn’t something that is often written about in chick lit books at all. I guess you’re supposed to go through that angst when you’re a teenager, now a married thirty something mother?
Things I didn’t like – The story line was pretty clichéd, between the cheating husband and the unexpected pregnancy. This lack of originality didn’t really bother me as I was reading, but it does mean it’s not the kind of book that will stay in my memory for years.
Thoughts – A good, solid woman’s book about friendship and motherhood. It may not have been terribly original, but I really enjoyed the characters and was invested enough in their story arcs to be happy when things were going well for them.

29. The First True Lie – Marina Mander.
Story – As the child of a single mother, Luca has always been terrified of being made an orphan and being shipped off to an orphanage. So when his mother fails to wake up one morning, Luca does what seems to him to be the logical thing- he leaves her dead and decaying body in the bed and begins to pretend to the world that she is still alive.
Things I liked – I thought it was an interesting premise. I don’t mind the occasional child narrator in adult fiction, and when done well it can be amazing (think Room, by Emma Donoghue).
Things I didn’t like – The main character. Luca just elicited almost no sympathy from me and I didn’t connect with him at all. The whole writing just seemed really rambling and pointless.
Thoughts – I was really disappointed with this one. It was just boring, basically, and a bit of a let-down because I really did think the premise was interesting. There must be more to it than I found though, because the book was originally published in Italy and has been translated, which obviously no one would do if the world agree with my “boring” assessment!

28. Secrets at Malory Towers (Malory Towers #11) – Pamela Cox
Story – Felicity Rivers, Darrell’s younger sister, is now in the sixth form and following in her sister’s illustrious footsteps as head girl. Sally Hope’s baby sister Daffy is now old enough to have turned up in the first form, but unlike Felicity she is NOT following in the footsteps of her sensible and well behaved older sister!
Things I liked – This was very much in the Enid Blyton style so all the classic boarding school things were in it- midnight feats and tricks on Mam’zelle Dupont and swimming and lacrosse and Miss Potts and Matron! I also enjoyed that it was quite evenly split between the happenings in the sixth form and the first form so I got to know them both.
Things I didn’t like – Nothing springs to mind really. Some of the plot lines/ characters felt a little recycled.
Thoughts – I’m always kind of ambivalent about these continuations. I read the extra books from the Naughtiest Girl in the School series and really didn’t feel that they were at all necessary. This is the first one of extra Malory Towers books I’ve read and I was impressed at how faithful it was to the original style. I think I’ll try and look out the rest, it’s nice to read something that feels nostalgic at the same time as it feels new to me.

27. The Girl With All the Gifts – M. R. Carey
Story – Melanie is ten years old and ‘special’. Her life consists of her cell, her classroom, the shower room and the people who share these spaces with her. The sergeant and his fellow soldiers, the teachers, and the other children like Melanie.
Melanie is a genius who tries to be a good girl and loves her teacher Miss Justineau, but within her constrained life there is so much she doesn’t know. Then one day Melanie is taken to the laboratory and everything changes…
What I liked – This was a fabulous apocalyptic novel. I loved the simplicity of the writing and the way it really gave the action an impact and immediacy. I was impressed by the concept and the scientific detail, as well as the development of the characters. I liked that it told the story from multiple POVs to give a more rounded view of what was a pretty complicated world. It was an intriguing and believable story, and I thought it was well paced with the reveals and action with good world building.
What I didn’t like – Not much!
Thoughts – I’m glad I didn’t know that this was about zombies (well, a kind of zombie anyway) because I might not have read it and I really enjoyed it! This was a really good story and would go on my recommend list for sure (if I had such a thing!).

26. Cage of Bones – Tania Carver
Story – When an old, long abandoned house is scheduled for demolition no one is prepared for what is discovered in the basement; a child, almost feral, imprisoned in a cage of bones as he apparently waits his ritual murder. The police department begin investigating, threatening exposure of a very deadly and powerful secret society, with a long trail of links to crimes and murders going back years.
What I liked – This was an intricate and well plotted mystery. I like the character of DI Brennan and Marina, the psychologist (his wife) employed by the police department.
What I didn’t like – I didn’t like that there were parts in which, as the reader, I didn’t know things that the characters did. They’d be told something, or read something and then stand there in shock, but it wasn’t elaborated on for the reader. There was also a lot of brief conversations or moments detailed when I didn’t know who was being talked about or how it related to anything. This all adds to the mystery, but I sometimes find it frustrating to have frequent passages in a book that I have no idea how it relates to the plot and the characters I do know.
Story- A good crime mystery really. I’ve read another by this author (The Surrogate) which I liked better, but this one was still worthwhile.

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