Friday, 2 April 2021

What I read in February & March 2021 {Monthly Book Round-up}

 I kind of missed February's book update and I think I was just putting it off altogether. I didn't enjoy the two books I read in February as much as I had hoped I would. Things perked up quite a bit by the end of March. 


February

A fair skinned hand holing up a stack of two books against a white background. The Bottom book is a pale blue/ green colour with a drawn pink flower on the left side followed by Carole Matthews in darker green writing, followed by Million Love Songs in script writing in white. There is a small angled Eiffel tower drawing on the right end. The Top book is blue and balck toned with a woman's face looking down with black hair covering the side of her face and subtle make up on, in the left corner The text down the spine reads Gabrielle Zevin with All These Things I've done below in white and red writing.


 I kind of missed February's book update and I think I was just putting it off altogether. I didn't enjoy the two books I read in February as much as I had hoped I would. I drew out the reading process and struggled to just pick them up and get reading so I put it off. I hate leave a book unfinished though so I persevered.


All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin - ★☆☆

A fair skined hand holding up a book with the cover facing forward on a white background. The cover is in blue and black tones. It features a woman's face with black hair and subtle make up looking down with a New York skyline faded out behind the image. The text reads ALL THESE in white witing ontop of THINGS in red writing with I'VE DONE in the right hand below in white.


The first book I read was All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin. A novel set in a dystopian earth in 2082, a time when chocolate and coffee are more illegal than alcohol, water is so rare it is rationed out and life is so very different from now. The narrative is through the main character Anya, a teenage girl and middle child of the former boss of New York's most notorious crime family. Her dad was the one who ran the now illegal chocolate business but he was killed because of it, in front of Anya and her younger sister. Anya is now responsible for her younger sister Natty and her older brother Leo. Their legal guardian is a grandmother, kept alive only by machines after her mother was killed by association to their father. 

Anya falls in love with the new kid at school, a boy who turns out to be the son of the newly appointed assistant DA and ends up in a tangle that is so much more complicated than a typical teenage love story. 

This story summary had me hooked. The general points of the entire book really captured my imagination and while there had been a few points I really did enjoy the book as a whole was disappointing. The first several chapters summed up the world as it is in the timeline, the connections and eventually we got to the point where it felt like we had started to get to the story we saw the brief description of in the blurb. After this initial drawn out back story things got a little exciting and perked up however it died down pretty quickly and things felt drawn out and boring. 

The ending picked up again with an exciting cliff hanger and the events leading up to it got rather exciting. This is the first book in a trilogy and as much as I hate being left on a cliffhanger, I won't find out the rest of this story because I won't pick up the second book. If the other books are similar I think they would have made a much better and more exciting book as one than drawn out to cover all three. 


Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews - ★★




The second book I read during February was Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews. It follows Ruby Brown, who has just split with her husband who'd been cheated on her. She's starting from scratch and is ready for a change with her very own granny annex, a new job as a waitress and a determination to be different and take chances with her life. She wants fun and isn't looking to get into another serious relationship. 

She meets two very different men, Mason Soames who is a free spirit, bold and knows what he wants and how to get it. The problem is, he's her boss. Mason presents the opportunity to give her everything she is looking for or so she thinks. The other is Joe Edwards her new diving instructor and a father of two and divorcee who is kind, handsome and easy to talk to. He offers up something that Ruby is sure she doesn't want. Who will be the perfect man for Ruby and what will happen in the process?

So I liked this book, it was okay but it really wasn't all the exciting. I wasn't enticed to keep reading in the way I prefer a book to suck me in. If I put this one down I had to push myself to pick it up again. It is a feel good romance and the story flows along with a few unexpected turns I didn't see coming.  I even had to stop a few times to think 'wait, what?' which I appreciated. However I did struggle to get through this one and it just wasn't as exciting as I wanted it to be.


March 


In March I felt like I needed to get myself out of a rut and enjoy reading again, the two books during February had me feeling a little out of love. I decided to go with a book I picked up when doing our shopping at the very end of February. 

The Second Child by Caroline Bond - ★★

A fair skinned hand is holding up a book against a cream coloured background. The book has a white crumpled paper texture cover with The Second Child written in foiled blue text. An image of a girls silouette on a swing hangs from the letters in child. The bottom reads Caroline Bond in black script text. The right side has small text saying " Utterly Compelling" Amanda Brooke. The right side also has text saying " Spellbounding" Carol Mason.


The first book I read in March was The Second Child by Caroline Bond. It follows the story woven between two families who are left aimlessly stumbling through a huge life event that none of them even considered coming. Two daughters who'd been switched after birth before ever leaving the hospital with their families. One of which was completely healthy while the other was a child with complex disabilities. 

The narration is told through each of the main characters, mostly staying in the present and moving forward as if the reader is experiencing the whole strange affair themselves but from several points of view and mind sets. It cycles through the events from at least two different characters views. The book begins with the views of Sarah (the mother), Phil (the father) who are the parents of Lauren (the child with RTS) and her older brother. We see the events leading up to and surrounding the discovery that Lauren isn't their child through the eyes of Sarah and Phil. The stories line up with the reality of what this event means to them, their lives and indeed their relationship. 

After a while there is new points of view when you meet the other family a few chapters in. The story flows in a very organic and natural way after that to run through each heartbreaking part of this tale of two girls unknowingly brought together after being separated from their biological parents for 15 years. Each character will follow their own inner turmoil as they all came to terms with this new life. 

I honestly got hooked from the first page, I kept the book on my bedside table and would sit up later into the night than I planned every time I picked it up. It's a story that I don't think any mother could put down without knowing the ending.

 The Second Child brings forward a true motherly fear that I know at least I have experienced during the days when I was in hospital and they took my baby anywhere for any reason. It was totally irrational and I knew that but I still felt the fear and so I can really resonate with the feelings of  story. It took me along for the ride and I laughed, I cried, I was scared and I really felt for every character. 

I was however very disappointed with the ending, I was so disappointed I actually shouted at the book as if it would magically change to the outcome I wanted for all the characters. It didn't take away from the book or the story in any way but I didn't like it. 


The Geography of Friendship by Sally Piper - ★★



The second book I picked up in March was The Geography of Friendship by Sally Piper. This is the story of three women, Nicole, Lisa and Samantha who have been friends since they went to school. 20 years ago they decided to go on a long 5 day hike in the wilderness to prove that they could come back as strong women. Their hike begins with a bit of an incident with another hiker and not far into their hike it becomes clear they aren't alone in the wilderness like they thought they'd been. This one interaction at the beginning of their journey will not only change the course of the hike they hoped for but it will also change their friendship and their lives going forward. 

After 20 years apart from the end of their initial hike the three estranged friends agree to take the hike again. To retrace their own footsteps in an unforgiving trail of wilderness that keeps dragging them back to a past they weren't all ready to relive. 

This book doesn't follow along using chapters, there is no headings at the beginning of each new section. It does however let you follow the views and sections as each character. You see their own stories, their inner monologues of their present lives and the flashbacks of the past they've been running from for the last 20 years. The character changes that are marked instead of chapters bring us forward and back in the story to allow each character to share their experiences of that particular part of the trail. It uses the trail not as a distance the characters cover but more as a timeline of events and pieces to the puzzle of what happened that changed every one of their lives. 

The experience of reading The Geography of Friendship by piecing together each little bit of information to create these two overlapping timelines of past and present is unique. By piecing together the truly terrifying possibility of something that could really happen in an isolated wilderness that is far removed from society and the real world let my imagination wonder to many places and outcomes. It allowed me to consider terrible scenarios of just what was bad enough that it tore three seemingly unbreakable best friends apart. 

At the time I started reading this particular book this was a fear, one that probably all women around the world would consider when heading out into a wilderness for an extended time. However that changed not too far into this read when the news and media brought forward the very real crime against Sarah Everard's who was taken from london and murdered. It brought forward just how close to a reality the events inside this book can be. It brought to life the whole experience in a really terrifying way for me. 

There followed many times during this harrowing story when I had to stop myself from reading. I had to put the book down and breathe deep breaths to calm my quickening heart rate when my fear started to match those of Nicole Lisa and Samantha. For me this did add onto the reading experience in a way but it also forced me to stop myself getting sucked into the story in a way I usually love. Which is why one day I know I will come back and reread this book from a different perspective and without quite so much raw and realness associated with it's events. 

It was an incredible read all the same. 


The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers - ★★



My final book of March was one with the longest title I have ever read, The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This also opened up a new sub genre of science fiction to me, it is the first space based science fiction I have read. 

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet follows the crew of the Wayfarer and their newest crew member, Rosmary Harper. Rosemary is a human who began her life on Mars and has stayed there until now. She left home after a huge event in her family that she wanted nothing to do with. She is trying to out run her past and hide it from everyone around her. She has joined the inter species crew of aliens and humans onboard the small space tunneling ship called the Wayfarer. The other members onboard quickly become more than colleagues with such friendly companions as Sissix, Kizzy, Jenks, Ashby, Dr Cook, Ohan and Corbin there wasn't really any other way it was going to go. Plus she has the help and ear of Lovey, the ships AI.

The Wayfarer crew take on a hug long haul job that is further than any of them have ever gone before. It also comes with a whole host of dangers as they will enter into an open end of space where a war has been raging on for centuries. It is in this end of space where the leaders of the galaxy are trying to broker a new kind of peace that will allow them access to resources but the peace is a very fragile alliance. They will spend a huge amount of time together on the journey. The small ship will leave them with nowhere to hide and the journey will take it's toll in ways they couldn't have imagined. 

I loved this book. It was an incredible read, I was hooked and I stayed hooked throughout. I struggled each night to put this down and sleep! Getting lost inside this galaxy was wonderful, full of species, solar systems and planets was a pleasure. The wayfarer crew had several species from the galaxy onboard, each with their own pasts, customs, traditions and even languages or ways of communicating. Throughout the book you learn more about each custom, abilities and the ways of live all the species have and use. 

The book flows well, it has a natural edge to the way each piece of information is given. Rosemary is new to the world outside mars having never left and it is the character of Rosemary that the reader is experiencing the book through. The information given about each species, their habits and more is told through stories and retelling of the lives of those on the Wayfarer. We learn through the interaction Rosemary has with the other crew members and from the places they stop along their journey. This natural ebb and flow to the story allows the narrative to jump between characters every now and then without it sticking out or feeling awkward. 

The journey of this crew of course isn't easy sailing, it is full of unexpected events that catch you as much unaware as those of the characters within it's pages. I was caught of guard at each and every twist and I loved it!  I was able to feel like I was aboard the Wayfarer and a part of their crew during every page, that is a true testament to the ability of Becky Chambers has to create a whole galaxy of worlds you instantly feel a part of. 

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet is also the first book in a series so the connection to this galaxy doesn't have to end when the pages run out. 


I think March really helped me to find my way back to loving books even more than those I read back in January, I am now finding my way to books I wouldn't have read before and enjoying the experience they are bring along. I am very excited to see what books April will have in store for me, especially since I am already starting book 2 of the month! 

Let me know below what was your favourite read of March?

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