A bit late going up but not too late! Here’s what I managed to read in February.
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
If you think you’re not familiar with Pygmalion by name, then you might know it better as the music and film My Fair Lady, which were adapted from this play by George Bernard Shaw. I haven’t seen the film starring Audrey Hepburn but I had idea about it so I kinda knew what to expect before reading this. Henry Higgins is a professor of phonetics who makes a bet with his friend that he can transform Eliza Doolittle, a common street flower seller, into a lady, just by changing the way she talks. It makes for an interesting read (at the beginning Shaw writes how the characters speak phoentically so we can get an idea of how the character talks but also probably to point out that it would be exhausting to read the entire play in this way. But it does make it fun to speak the lines outloud!). Higgins is not a nice character, he’s horrible in fact, but I liked Eliza and I liked the ending too.
Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger
Book 4 (and the final book) in The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger. This is a fun YA series, I first heard of it when my friend Brandy from Undrinkable Brandy recommended it to me. It’s set in an alternative Victorian England, where vampires and werewolves are just accepted parts of society. Sophronia and friends go to school on board a floating dirgible which not only teaches young girls to be ladies but how to be spies. This book definitely helped redeem the series for me (I felt the previous book was a bit of a let down), Sophronia is a kick ass female lead and the world is such a fun world, great steampunk vibe. I’m looking forward to picking up Carriger’s other series (The Parasol Protectorate and The Custard Protocol) which are also set in the same world. While I liked this series, I think I might enjoy the other series even more as the characters are slightly older.
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel
Dancing at Lughnasa is set in 1930s rural Ireland that follows one family living under the same roof. 5 Mundy sisters (Kate, Maggie, Agnes, Rose and Chris), 1 brother who has recently returned from being a missionary in Uganda and the 7 year old son of Chris, born out of wedlock to her on/off again partner Gerry. The play is set in two acts, 1st before the Lunghnasa Festival and the 2nd set after, though the timeline does jump around a small bit. While I did enjoy certain elements of this play like the interactions of the family (who annoy each other, act silly with each other and everything in between) and how this play highlights keys issues in Ireland at that time, I did find some things were left unanswered and it is a bit maudlin, it left me sad. I think I would enjoy this a lot more on stage but it was still an interesting read.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
I decided to read this book after seeing a lot of hype about it (and I was curious about the goats and sheep!). Mrs Creasy has gone missing, with no word or warning. The entire Avenue is talking about it and so 10 year old Grace and Tilly decide to investigate. They go house to house in search of God, because the vicar told them God is everywhere and if they can find God, they He will know what happened to Mrs Creasy and keep her safe. Slowly we discover the secrets the Avenue holds, big and small and that Mrs Creasy was probably aware of all of them.
I enjoyed Grace and Tilly, they were innocent and naive at times but other times their observations were astutely wise and observant like kids can be. Cannon does a great job of creating the atmosphere of the time it's set in (1976, during a heatwave) without being too nostalgic or cheesy, as well as building up the dynamics and secrets of this small community. I loved how the flashback story is told in reverse so we can see how Mr Bishop becomes the outcast of the neighbourhood and how the mob mentality built up. The only thing that let me down was the disappearance of Mrs Creasy, I felt like it lacked something or just wasn't believable. Overall I found it warm, humorous and well paced, well worth the read! (eARC from NetGalley)
Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Parker Grant thinks she has her life sorted. She has her friends, her running and is not afraid to speak her mind. Until one morning she finds her father dead. Her aunt moves into Parker's house with her family and things haven't gelled. And then to top it off the two high schools merge and Parker finds that boy who betrayed her and brokeher heart a few years ago is back in her life. Oh and Parker's fully blind.
This book deals with a lot of issues that YA books typically deal with. Family problems, friend problems, new love interest troubles, old love interest troubles. All big problems for teenagers in the first place without being blind on top of this. Parker annoyed me at times. I like her bluntness but she came across as overly angry at times and she's pretty self centred, especially when it comes to her friends. But it didn't stop me from rooting for her, by the end she has come to realise that she's self centred and is trying to fix this. And I liked the fact that she's this complex character, which sometimes doesn't happen when the main character is sick or have a disability. Parker is trying to deal with her blindness which wasn't from birth, it happened when she was 7 after her mother drank a bottle of wine and crashed the car. Parker is also dealing with the deep grief of losing her father and this is also central to the story, so there is a big coming of age theme to the story.
Other things I liked about the book is the friendships and how they're portrayed. I especially liked Molly and quickly she got to be friends with Parker. Overall it's a cute contemporary, a quick read that hooked me from the go! (eARC from NetGalley)
Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes
Making It Up As I Go Along is a collection of articles, both previously published and unpublished. They’re divided into different sections like Health and Beauty, Travels, and Things I Love. You can easily dip in and out of different sections if you like but I chose to read it through from the beginning. Marian has a chatty style of writing, reading this book is like talking to a friend. She has a unique vocabulary at times,some of it is very much Irish slang which made it feel even more familiar and cosy for me. But don’t worry, Marian provides a glossary of words at the beginning as well as a who’s who of her friends and family so you can check back who they are if you forget. I posted a full review last month which you can check out here (eARC from NetGalley)
What Goes Around by Emily Chappell
Emily Chappell took up cycle couriering in London as a stopgap while trying to figure out what 'real' job she wants to peruse. 6 years later and Emily is still cycling. What Goes Around is part memoir, part day in the life of a courier and part ode to London. Chappell tells us what it's like to be a cycle courier, the pain, the exhaustion, being subjected to the elements, how reckless drivers and pedestrians are towards cyclists. We get a sense of the community of cyclists and especially couriers in London. I like Chappell's writing and thoughts on things, especially the idea that certain parts of London trigger certain memories whenever she passes them. 'The unlikeliest street corners will have some tattered threads of memory fluttering from them like a flag'. I like the idea thatour memories lie scattered around the places we've visited and that revisiting these places can bring these thoughts and memories flooding back to us when we revisit these places.
I enjoyed the book, I always find it interesting to learn about people who have unusual jobs. The fact that I'm familiar with London definitely helped, but I don't think it's essential to enjoy this. book. I was a bit lost at times between the technical elements of bicycles (it wasn't until I had finished that I discovered there was a glossary of terms at the back of the book), so I do think that I would have enjoyed this book more if I had even the tiniest amount of interest in bikes and cycling (eARC from NetGalley)
The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore
The Poison Artist starts off with our main character Caleb, who has just had a massive argument with his girlfriend Bridget, which resulted in her throwing a glass at his forehead. As a result Caleb goes to stay in a hotel to drown his sorrow. He meets this mysterious lady (E) and quickly becomes obsessed with her. His best friend Henry, a medical examiner, keeps receiving bodies that have died in mysterious circumstances with chemicals and asks Caleb, a toxicologist, to help him. Caleb gets wrapped up in obsession, with finding E and these murders, and add in this mysterious past that is consistently hinted at, Caleb's state rapidly declines.
Moore does a great job of building up this atmosphere in this book. Mystery women E adds a touch of a film noir feel to this book, with that she wears, her perfume, where she brings Caleb and all the absinthe. He also does a good job of setting the book in San Francisco, with his rich descriptions of the Bay Area. While overall I enjoyed the book and the plot, I didn't connect to Caleb or the mystery woman. Thinking about it, with the whole plot twist, I can see why this might actually work for the story in one sense, but I think the heavy focus on Caleb and his obsession had the story lacking something. It takes 3/4 of the book for us to learn about what happened with Bridget and start to learn what happened in Caleb's past, which annoyed me at times as I wanted to know more before then but it does keep you reading as it's keeps the suspense going. Overall it was an enjoyable mystery thriller, that has a great atmosphere and good twist (eARC sent to me by publisher)
The Home Crowd Advantage by Ben AaronovitchIt’s not secret that I love the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. And that I’ve been waiting since last year to read the latest installment (now due out June. Fingers crossed it doesn’t change again!). So I was delighted to find that I had missed this short story, set in London during the 2012 Olympics. Peter Grant gets called out to a sort a magical incident which he needs to deal with himself because Nightgale is away. This is literally too short to review properly, it feels kinda cheaty even adding it here! But if you too are waiting for The Hanging Tree then this might help tide you over a bit! You can read it here on Ben Aaronovitch’s blog.
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I read A Darker Shade of Magic last month and LOVED it! It’s a clever world, has great characters and was just a fun read. The second I finished it I read the preview for A Gathering of Shadows on NetGalley and then had to wait a month to finish it. Agony! Now second books in series can be a bit of a let down. Usually there’s a lot of world explaining and building of the plot for final book. And this book had this, but it did it so well. We got to see a bit more of the characters, learn a bit more about the world and there was a slow build up for the next book. But that build up did not distract from the story of this book, which was a solid enough as it is. I love the character of Delilah and I’m looking forward to the next installment!
Number of Books Read- 10
Ratio fiction to non-fiction- 9:1
Ratio female to male- 5:5
Number of eBooks- 8 (Manners and Mutiny, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, Making It Up As I Go Along, Not If I See You First, What Goes Around, The Poison Artist, The Home Crowd Advantage and A Gathering of Shadows)
Number of Books Borrowed from Library- 2 (Pygmalion and Dancing at Lughnasa)
Book Riot Challenge Completed
Read a collection of Essays- Making It Up As I Go Along
Read a Play- Dancing at Lughnasa
So quite a eBook heavy month. Like last month I was trying to get through my NetGalley ARCs, though I always end up adding to that list faster than I can get through it! I will be trying to make a more conscious effort in the future to read the physical books that I own. Which I’ve probably said a million times before but seeing round ups like this just highlights how bad I can be at times!