I’ve been blogging on and off for three or four years as of writing but somehow I missed the When Are You Reading Challenge that’s been running since 2014.
The idea behind it is to read twelve books from twelve time periods, and I had made up a reading list before realising that I’ve already signed up to one reading challenge already- but I really want to take part in both, so here we are.
I haven’t started making a list of my favourite books of this year, but both of these will definitely be on it when I eventually get round to reviewing my reads of 2020.
Below you’ll find by thoughts on The Cheerleaders and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, and the link to their Goodreads page via the covers.
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
I loved this book. It had an intriguing mystery at its core, a lot of developed characters who had backgrounds and secrets, and a good character as its protagonist.
The reveal is also worth a mention, because it was satisfying in how it was handled, and I loved the epilogue which takes us back to the very beginning and answers the question of what really happened to the cheerleaders the night they died.
The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes by Suzanne Collins
I was so happy when I heard that there was going to be a new Hunger Games book, and Ballad did not disappoint.
Like everyone else, I was a bit hesitant over how Suzanne Collins was going to get us to invest in the story by having Coriolanus Snow as the main character but she did it well, and his slow-burn development was executed perfectly.
Along with the development of Snow from kid who misses his parents and his old glamorous lifestyle in the Capitol before the war to the beginning of the character we know from the original trilogy, we learn more about how the Games themselves.
There are no fancy apartments for the tributes to stay in before they’re put into the arena, no wardrobe teams, no parades, and no parties- they’re treated as criminals because they’re from the districts, and hated so much by the citizens of the Capitol that when the Games begin, very few people actually tune in to watch the fighting.
But that changes over the course of the book, and it was interesting to have that insight and watch the world of Panem change from war-torn country to totalitarian state we know from when Katniss comes along 60-plus years later.
I’ve been a little absent from this blog over the past couple of weeks, aside from a few pre-scheduled posts. My reading has also taken a bit of a hit, due to a lack of concentration which is a result of burn-out, so I’ve decided to take a break until I’m ready to carry on with my tbr list.
I still have some reviews planned to upload, but those are going to spaced out until I’m back, and hopefully that won’t be too long an absence.
Anyway, below are my June reads, my picks for July, and some bookmail. As usual, the book covers contain a link to Goodreads.
Audio Books Finished:
This was the very first audio book I’d ever listened to, and it was an abridged adaption. Surprisingly, after the initial hesitation over how to spend my time while listening to it, I found myself enjoying it.
It was narrated by Philip Glenister (Life On Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Mad Dogs) and I didn’t find the different voices he did for each character who spoke cringey, which I’ve found in the past with some audio books and the reason why I was so reluctant to try another.
What I’m Currently Reading:
I was impatient to return to the Tudor court with Bring Up The Bodies, and I’m already about a quarter of the way through. Its page count is slightly less daunting than Wolf Hall, but I don’t think that would have stopped me, anyway.
I started reading Domina, the sequel to Maestra, for something a bit less serious in tone, though if it’s anything like its predecessor it will be just as shocking and twisted.
What I’m Watching:
Series 11 and 12 of the BBC’s police drama New Tricks were back on TV in June, so I finally got round to watching it. It follows a team of detectives brought out of retirement to work on unsolved cases, and ran from 2003 to 2015 with Amanda Redman, Dennis Waterman, James Bolam and Alun Armstrong starring from the beginning.
Also started was Hidden, a TV mini-series from 2011, whose cast includes Philip Glenister, Anna Chancellor, Thekla Reuten and David Suchet.
I’m trying not to dwell on how slowly the days are dragging by, and keeping myself busy with working through my tbr list.
My May reads are below, including current reads, and some new additions to my shelves.
As usual, the book covers in this post will take you to Goodreads if you want to add them to your own tbr lists.
What I’m Currently Reading:
I’m loving Wolf Hall a lot more than I expected to. Admittedly in the beginning I was a bit confused with the use of ‘he’ instead of Thomas Cromwell’s name (so it was confusing at times over who was speaking), but I was interested in the story and kept going until I could get past that.
Now I’m about 200 pages from the end, and I don’t regret sticking with it.
My copy of the prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy arrived at the beginning of the week, and I ignored it for a day before caving and picking it up.
It’s been interesting reading The Ballad alongisde Wolf Hall, because there are quite a few similarities in terms of the power plays and politics made by Thomas Cromwell and Coriolanus Snow.
They both want to better themselves, and are incredibly cunning in how they go about that.
I’m going to continue with the Inspector McLean series, and hopefully get started on My Dark Vanessa or The Chain.
I’m finally onto the third book in the Kim Stone series. Given how Book 2 ended, I’m interested to find out how Kim is coping with everything that happened.
I watched my first ever author interview on Thursday the 28th, which was hosted by Waterstones. The authors being interviewed were John Grisham and Michael Connelly and attendees of the talk were given a discount code for their new books, Camino Winds and Fair Warning.
What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? What do you think you’ll read next?
What are you currently reading?
Progress with Wolf Hall is slow going, but the story is interesting and I like the insight into life at the court of Henry the Eighth.
What did you recently finish reading?
I hadn’t read any Clive Cussler before this, and though the title doesn’t really have much relevance to the story, it was a good private detective story.
There was loads of action and Bell had a similar kind of dramatic flair about him as Sherlock Holmes and Poirot did with their deductions and revealing the killer, and that made his uncovering of clues and suspects interesting, because he’d go about getting them to trip themselves up in a way which managed to catch his audience (both readers and fellow characters) off guard, but without the solution being completely left-field.
Definitely a 4/5, and worth a read if you haven’t already.
I also finished the second Kim Stone novel. I’ll be posting my review soon, but I will say that I’m still sticking with the series and loving Kim’s sarcasm.
What do you think you’ll read next?
I’d wanted to continue on with the Inspector McLean series, but the new Hunger Games novel was just released, so I’m abandoning my tbr until I’ve finished it.
After that, though, I have a few possibilities of what to read next.
I was catching up on some blog posts this morning when I came across this genius book tag, shared via Fortunately, The Book.
Created by Zaheerah over on her blog zaheerahkhalik, the tag uses features from the Great British Bake Off, including the infamous bin gate (still a touchy subject to this day, contestant Diana took Iain’s baked alaska out of the fridge to put her own in and forgot to put his back, resulting in his cake melting, and his disqualification), and the Hollywood handshake (if you don’t know what this is, Google it. I can’t convey the significance in a sentence).
The rules are simple:
Linking back to Zaheerah’s blog is appreciated but optional.
Tag people, don’t tag people, whatever. Just have fun.
Ready, get set, Bake! (or tag)
(Book covers will take you to Goodreads.)
Amateur Baker: A book that is self-published
I’m bending the rules a little here, because James Oswald is no longer self-published, and neither is his Inspector McLean series. But he started out his writing career as an indie author, and made quite a name for himself since then.
Soggy Bottom: A book that had a great start but a disappointing ending
For the most part I enjoyed this book, but the ending left me feeling a bit let down.
I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for those of you who haven’t read this yet, but to me, there was a lot of build up and conflict, and the ending didn’t really fit with where things seemed to be headed.
#Bingate: A book that you grew frustrated with and had to dnf
I don’t know what it was about this one, but I couldn’t make it past the first chapter. Maybe it had something to do with the introduction being all ‘she knew her life was going to change’ and the character hadn’t even made it out of bed yet.
Junior Bake Off: A children’s book
I’m not sure if I’d class this as a kid’s book, but it’s under that category on Amazon, so I’m going to stick with it.
There’s a whole series featuring the characters Daisy and Hazel, so plenty of reading to be had, and they’re a lot of fun.
A Hollywood Handshake: A book that impressed you
I loved Anthony Horowitz’s first venture into the world of Sherlock Holmes, with The House of Silk, but Moriarty exceeded it and then some.
The final twist at the very end still amazes me, and it’s been a couple of years since I read it.
Signature Challenge: A book that you would recommend to your friends & family
I recommend a lot of books to people, but this one has been talked about more because it hasn’t been getting a lot of attention, which it rightly deserves.
Technical Challenge: Books that you read without knowing much beforehand, ranking them from worst to best
I knew absolutely zilch about what to expect from Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, except that the premise sounded interesting. Unfortunately, as you can see from its place on this list, I didn’t end up with a new favourite book series, as I’d been hoping as I started my reading.
Next up, we have A Study in Charlotte.
I love the original Sherlock Holmes series, and the BBC adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but rewrites like A Study In Charlotte don’t usually interest me for the simple reason that I know I’m going to compare it to what it’s based on, and inevitably ruin my reading experience.
With that in mind, the first instalment in the Charlotte Holmes series gets second place in the Technical Challenge round, because I didn’t know how it was going to incorporate either Holmes or Watson in a modern day setting, or what the story was about outside of that.
Which brings us to number 1, and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
I gave it a 4 out of 5 in my review at the beginning of April, and it’s the rightful winner of the GBBO’s Technical, because I had no idea what to expect but loved every page of it.
Showstopper Challenge: A book/ series that is your all time favourite
The whole series is my all-time favourite, but Prisoner of Azkaban has always been number 1.
The Finalist: A favourite trilogy
I’ve picked The Hunger Games, because I’ve read it so many times and it’s the only series I’ve read with sequels I’ve enjoyed as much as the first book.
An Extra Slice: A favourite companion book
As much as I enjoyed Harry and Ron’s commentary on Fantasic Beasts & Where To Find Them, I chose Quidditch Through The Ages as my favourite companion book, because of the little anecdotes we get throughout, like how little patience the neighbour to Queerditch Marsh had as her fellow wizards were playing the game which would later develop into a worldwide wizarding sport, along with the articles from the Daily Prophet.
I’m back with another Top 5 Tuesday, because I enjoyed working on last week’s prompt.
The meme is hosted by Bionic Bookworm, and all book covers I share in my posts have non-affiliate links to websites the books are available from.
#5 House of Silk
There were so many adaptations and interpretations of Sherlock Holmes’ story on Amazon that when I heard Anthony Horowitz was doing an official version, I was sceptical.
But what impressed me so much was how easily he carried on from Conan Doyle, and the only telling factor that someone else was behind the helm this time was the occasional moment of action, standard in his Alex Rider novels, but which didn’t feel out of place in this addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon.
#4 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
It took me a few attempts before I committed to finishing this. Eleanor’s eccentricities and general snobbish outlook on her life and colleagues put me off, but curiosity won over and I kept reading, and in the end I was so glad I stuck with her.
I won’t spoil the ending, but it was definitely 10/10.
#3 Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue
It took me a while to get round to reading The Gentleman’s Guide but I fell in love with Monty and Percy and Felicity in the first chapter, so I had to include it on today’s top 5.
I didn’t know I needed a historical coming-of-age story in my life, but they don’t usually have a main character who is a lord and heir to an estate, and also bisexual and in love with his best friend. (And Monty also has a sister who does not want the only school she attends to be finishing school).
#2 The Hunger Games
I’ve never reread anything so many times as I have The Hunger Games, but when I first bought it, I had no idea what YA meant, or what I was getting myself in for.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m in serious need of getting myself a new set (preferably the anniversary editions which are gorgeous), and impatiently waiting for the new instalment in the series to be released in May this year.
#1 One of Us Is Next
I have a thing for sequels. And by thing, I mean fear. Because at least half of the sequels I’ve ever read didn’t live up to the hype.
But Karen McManus is a genius, and returned to Bayview High with some new characters, a new storyline, and a whole lot of drama, easily keeping up the standard set in One Of Us Is Lying.