The Year in Books: April

My book for April is going to be Going Out by Scarlett Thomas.

A friend lent me her copy and her birthday is coming up: I'm hoping I can read this quickly so I can post it back to her with her birthday present!  It comes highly recommended.

I have read quite a lot in March - there have been many train journeys and also I did quite a lot of invigilating.  When invigilating 'small rooms' there may only be a handful of students (perhaps if they had a clash in their timetable, or for whatever reason require a different environment) and so the invigilator is allowed to read discreetly (long live my Kindle!) as it's not hard to keep an eye on two individuals when they are already sitting at opposite sides of the classroom and couldn't really communicate even if they wanted to!

My book for March was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton which was great.  Of the people I know who have read it, most enjoyed it, although for several it took them a while to get into it.  It's well-written, a good story that moves along at a decent pace (once you get into it).  There were a few times when I wanted the plot to move in a slightly different direction but overall it's a book I've been happily recommending to people.

Crash and Burn* by Lisa Gardner was dreadful.  That is all I can remember about it.  It kept me occupied for an hour or so: as it was a crime/thriller book I wanted to find out what happened, but not enough to actually read it properly.  If I edited these posts throughout the month, I might be able to include a bit more information!

Girl At War* by Sara Novic and Burnt Paper Sky* by Gilly MacMillan I can't write about yet due to the publisher's restrictions, but they were both great.

Edited 25th May: Girl At War I absolutely loved.  In 1991, Ana is ten years old and living in Zagreb, Croatia, playing with her friends and looking after her baby sister, normal every day things.  Then civil war breaks out and in a matter of just a few pages, there is complete tragedy and Ana's only chance of survival is to escape to America.  A decade later, Ana returns to Croatia to try and learn more about her past.  It's not a book I would have chosen for myself, as it's not an era of history I know much about, or, if I'm honest, particularly interested in.  But I was offered it for review and I am so, so pleased I have now read it.  I've been recommending it to everyone.  Definitely an author I'll be looking out for in the future.

White Gardenia* by Belinda Alexandra I loved.  One of those books I'd had for a while, but always chose something else.  I was on my way to school to invigilate an exam and so needed a Kindle book rather than a physical book.  I read it in just a couple of days.  When I was just a few chapters from the end I was in an exam and thought I'd be able to finish the book in the time allowed for the exam.  The student then finished early and I had just three pages left.  Could the student go back to class? Yes, of course they could, but ohmygoodness I wanted to finish this book!  Anya is a young Russian lady living in China around the time of the Second World War and her mother makes a decision in the hope that she, Anya, will be able to survive.  As Anya grows up, she makes it her mission to find out what happened to her mother.

I admit that my knowledge about this period in history is a bit vague - I stopped history before GCSEs and so the only knowledge I have is a general overview of the main events (which is a bit bad to admit, I know).  I had no idea that so many Russian citiziens were living in China, or the difficulties they had to escape, and the huge numbers who later emigrated to Australia, Europe, America.  This book is beautifully written, with characters I genuinely cared about and I thoroughly enjoyed finding out what happened to them all.  It's made me want to learn a little bit more about this era of history, which is so relatively recent and yet feels so long ago.

The Lost Concerto by Helaine Mario* starts with a tragic death and a missing child.  The child's godmother, a classical pianist, subsequently becomes involved with criminals, secrets and plots as she tries to establish what happened to her husband, her best friend, and the child.  I found it a tad far-fetched in places, and wasn't particularly interested in the characters.  It did make me want to play a piano, though.

Nowhere To Be Found by Bae Suah* is a novella and I read it in one sitting.  The narrator (the reader never learns her name) is living in relative poverty in South Korea, in a low-paid job with unhealthy relationship..  It's all quite depressing and overwhelmingly sad, but beautifully written.  Whilst it works as a novella, I would happily have continued reading a few more hundred pages.

Having read quite a few books this month which didn't really stretch me or require much effort on my part, I found Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates and this definitely did make me think.  I've been following @EverydaySexism on Twitter for a while and it has made for harrowing reading sometimes.  This book has chapters focusing on different areas of modern day life (such as work and media) and how sexism can frustratingly still be found pretty much everywhere without a great deal of looking.  It's not all negative, though, there are great examples of how individuals and groups are fighting back and hopefully making change happen.

Having seen television adaptations of some of David Walliams' books, I've wanted to read them for a while but they're always checked out at the library.  This month I managed to get The Boy in the Dress and Ratburger.

Both books reminded me massively of Roald Dahl (helped especially by one book being illustrated by Quentin Blake) and I loved his books as a child (and now - Matilda will forever be one of my most favourite books).  The stories are really engaging and I did laugh out loud in a few places.

I'm glad I've finally been able to read some of Walliams' books and will keep an eye out for any more in the children's section at the library!

What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy** made me want cake.  Lots of cake.  Marie is the mother of nine year old twin daughters and 15 year old son and has been asked to make a showstopper for the cake stall at a school fair.  She fails miserably in an attempt to be as good as her neighbour Lucy is who apparently brilliant at everything.  Finding a Mary Berry recipe book, Marie then decides to ask 'what would Mary Berry do?' and apply that advice to her life, both baking and otherwise.  It's well-written, moves at a good pace and whilst the ending wraps everything up just a little bit too neatly for my liking I did enjoy it.

Crossing The Line by Kerry Wilkinson** is the first book I've read which declares itself to be the start of the 'second season' of the series.  Who knew that books could come in seasons? Very American.  Anyway.  Apparently it's a good place for new readers to start without needing to read the first 'season' (which I think contains seven books).  Whilst I followed the plot well, it being about a detective and her colleagues and an individual going round attacking people in an apparently random fashion, I think it would have been useful had I known a bit more about the background of the characters.  Also, I know quite a few people who work in the police force, in various roles, so I know a bit about police procedure.  This book has quite a few inaccuracies which I'm sure a bit of more detailed research could have addressed.  Things like that annoy me.  I'm afraid I didn't enjoy this book enough to read the previous books, or to read any more in the future.

Quite a busy month reading-wise.  Might need to find some more challenging books for April though.  Everything in moderation!

Joining in with Laura.

*Thank you to the publishers via NetGalley for giving me a copy of these books.  All thoughts, opinions and photos are, of course, my own.
**Thank you to Natasha, via Pan Macmillan, for giving me a copy of these books.


  1. I've had Everyday Sexism on my Kindle for ages but haven't yet read it because I know it will make me depressed/angry. Maybe one to leave for the summer holidays, when I'm less in need of relaxation in my reading!

    1. Sounds like a plan - it's definitely not a relaxing read! But it is a good read, though.

  2. I've just been given a copy of The Miniaturist so will get around to reading that soon. Everyone I know who's read it has given it the thumbs up. I like the sound of 'White Gardenia' so will be looking in the library for a copy.

    1. Yes, The Miniaturist has been very popular, and deservedly so!

  3. "White Gardenia" sounds like the kind of book that I would enjoy reading and I've put it on my to read soon list. I've heard lots of good things about "The Miniaturist" as well and am looking forward to reading that soon as well.

    1. I was pleasantly surprised by White Gardenia - not too sure why I hadn't read it sooner, but I'm so pleased I have now read it so I can recommend it!


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