May Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, I`m going to be reviewing all the books I read in May, of which there were rather a few. Onto the post!


The Burning by Laura Bates

In this contemporary/historical hybrid, we meet Anna, who has just moved to Scotland after a horrific incident at her old school as she begins to uncover the forgotten story of a woman named Maggie, who lived in the village she has just moved to centuries ago during the witch trials and notes the terrifying parallels between their stories. Anna is a great protagonist who I liked instantly, and the way people treated her before the book began and after her past catches up with her made me livid. As such, I was so glad she did have some support to help her set things right, such as her mum (who makes mistakes but is undoubtedly well-intentioned) and her new friends, particularly Robin. I was also gripped by Maggie`s incredibly unjust experiences, and I thought the inclusion of her story alongside Anna`s was a really clever choice on Laura Bates` part because it made the message the book is trying to get across even more impactful. Something else I found really well done in terms of craft was the prose itself- there was something about it, particularly the figurative language, that I really liked and it made this an even better A hard-hitting read that both made me despair of the world throughout and hope that things may start to change 4.5/5

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I`ve been desperate for Aisha Bushby`s full-length debut since I read Marionette Girl in A Change is Gonna Come and even though my expectations were ridiculously high, it somehow lived up to them and more. It`s the story of a girl named Safiya, who amidst difficulties in her friendship group after moving to secondary school must cope when her mum goes into a coma after they had a huge argment, and she starts being transported to snippets of her mum`s past that changes the way Safiya views her mum completely. First off, Safiya is such an incredibly lovable main character and I was rooting for her basically straight away. I also liked the friends she meets a bit later on so much, and the way that their bond added some really cosy, lovely scenes. I was really impressed by how layered a character Safiya felt to me, and also thought that her character development was amazing as well as being so wonderful to read as she changed her views on certain people and things. The writing style was something else absolutely incredible about this book- it`s so evocative and descriptive that every setting feels three dimensional, both in the real world and the dreamscape of Safiya`s mum`s past, and it felt like I was feeling every emotion Safiya did too. The concept of the dreamscape also merits a mention, because it`s such a unique and clever idea, which I really can`t think of anything quite like. It`s executed expertly, as well. The ending most definitely made me cry, but also left me feeling so hopeful for Safiya`s future. I know her first book isn`t even technically out yet, but I already can`t wait to get my hands on whatever Aisha writes next because it will be exceptional if it`s even half as good as this. 5/5

Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

I`m going to be honest- I didn`t know if Vashti Hardy was going to be able to match her debut Brightstorm with her second novel Wildspark, but I was thrilled that this was actually even better. The best way I can describe this is that it combines the best bits of both Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, while simultaneously adding a charm and gripping plot all its own; it tells the story of a recently bereaved girl called Prue as she travels to Medlock and attempts to resurrect her brother Francis via the ghost machines that are being built by the Guild there. I absolutely adored Prue- my heart was breaking for her at so many points and I just wanted to give her the hugest hug. The other characters were also brilliant- Prue`s friends Edwin and Agapantha were so lovely, and Cora is an excellent example of how to write a character readers will love to hate. I was also incredibly impressed by the multi-faceted and layered world building, which was so well described and explained that it felt incredibly real to me as I was reading. The plot is also phenomenal- it was perfectly paced in a way that made me want to devour it in one gulp and savour it slowly in equal measure, I loved the way it explores life and death and the twists definitely shocked me. A thought-provoking and immensely enjoyable fantasy. 5/5

Kat Wolfe Takes the Case by Lauren St John and illustrated by Daniel Deamo
In the second book of the Wolfe and Lambe Mysteries series, we see the detective duo investigate after a suspicious death is uncovered when a landslide reveals a rare archaeological find in idyllic Bluebell Bay, where Kat and Harper live. As ever with Lauren St John, the mystery is constructed expertly- I love the way she builds tension as she introduces the characters and situation, and then gets properly into the mystery after laying groundwork so well and utterly hooking you into the story, and bringing all of the loose threads introduced together to form an incredibly satisfying conclusion. I also love her writing in terms of prose, because I think she just has such a distinct narration style that builds a vivid idea of every character and setting, even if they`re so minor that they aren`t even named- her world feels so real. The characters are also really well done- I like both Kat and Harper lots, and think they work fantastically as a duo since their skills and personalities complement the other`s so well and the side characters all have distinct traits and it was fun to get to know some new people and have others introduced in book one explored further. This is another really great mystery from the author, and I`m already hoping that I`ll see Wolfe and Lambe solve several more cases together. 4.5/5

Anna at War by Helen Peters (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

When I realised that this book began on Kristallnacht, I was fairly sure that I was going to love it, and I was right. When I studied History, I found what life was like in Germany preceding the war such a fascinating and horrifying area, and reading this book- which is the story of a Jewish girl named Anna who must leave Germany on the Kindertransport and begin a new life in England- was so interesting too. First of all, the way in which this book is told in that it`s Anna recounting this tale of her past to her grandson in the present day is so clever, particularly as she is such an amazing character that it was just lovely to see how her life turned out after reading about her experience of discovering a Nazi spy in the barn of the farm she stays on and must decide how to handle the dangerous, complicated situation. I loved her for how intelligent she was, her compassion and how resilient she remains during some really awful things that happen to her. I liked the family she stays with a lot too, the Nazi soldier she meets was utterly chilling as an antagonist and I was such a huge fan of a certain character I don`t want to name because it`s possibly a slight spoiler. The historical period the book tackles is obviously an incredibly upsetting one, but it felt really sensitively handled and overall, this reminded me quite a bit of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit as it was so moving and showed how the Nazis` reign of terror would have impacted real people. I had tears streaming down my face as I finished this, and I highly recommend it if you`d like to see an area of the war that`s not often seen in fiction explored. 5/5

There`s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

In the companion novel to 2017`s wildly popular When Dimple Met Rishi, Sandhya Menon tells the story of Rishi`s brother Ashish- who has just been dumped quite brutally- and Sweetie- a girl from an Indian family who act as if they are ashamed of her, just because she is fat. First of all, I totally fell for both characters and I loved watching them fall in love because I was so totally fond of them as individuals. Much like When Dimple Met Rishi, there are so many cute moments that had me swooning; I think the Holi scene or the big romantic gesture part at the end were my very favourites. Combined with the humour and lovely friendship groups, it made for an incredibly cosy and comforting read. It was so good to see how Dimple and Rishi were doing as well! Additionally, while it shouldn`t be such a big deal in 2019, I am beyond delighted that plus size girls are finally getting to be the protagonists of their own stories and get to be the ones that get the guy. Also, this has one of the best last lines I think I`ve EVER read; it both made me weep and grin like a maniac when I finished it in bed reasonably late at night. There most definitely is something about Sweetie, and I highly recommend her story. 4.5/5

Magic at Midnight by Lindsey Kelk and illustrated by Pippa Curnick (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In her first book for a young readership, Lindsey Kelk reinvents the story of Cinderella and tells it from the perspective of Cinders as discoveries about her family and the infamous prince`s ball change her life forever. Cinderella is one of my favourite fairy tales so I have to admit I was hoping for a few more homages to past versions than what was there, but I did enjoy the ones that were and there were some really great mentions of other fairy tales that I liked a lot. This was a really sweet, short read and I had a lot of fun while reading it. I thought the story was well paced and engaging, and I quite liked the addition of Brian/the mystery surrounding the fairies, which seems like it will continue into books two and three and has me fairly interested in picking them up at some point after they`re out. Finally, I also enjoyed Pippa Curnick`s illustrations throughout, particularly those of Cinders` dog Sparks. 4/5

The Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher and illustrated by Sam Usher

I`ve been looking forward to this since I first learned it was happening, and it was such a lovely book- it tells the story of Pip Hanway, a mouse who is left orphaned and homeless after a V2 assault bomb destroys the umbrella shop she lives in, and what happens when she joins the animal resistance group Noah`s Ark. I adored Pip with every fibre of my being- she was such a sweet character and watching her discover how strong and capable she really was made for a delightful reading experience. The ensemble cast of Noah`s Ark were fantastic too (my personal favourites were Hans and Madame Fourcade), and I was fascinated to learn in the author`s note that they were almost all based on real humans and animals who were vitally important in the Allied efforts to win the war, though not necessarily surprised because they were all incredibly inspirational and courageous throughout the book. I so appreciated the fact that this celebrated how crucial animals were in winning the war. The climax was incredibly tense and thrilling, and I definitely shed a few tears about some things that happen within it, and with happiness during the little epilogue-style section. A gorgeous read full of excellent animals that has huge potential to become a series. 4.5/5

A Good Girl`s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

In her debut novel, Holly Jackson introduces us to Pip, a girl investigating the disappearance of local schoolgirl Andie Bell five years before the book begins for a school project. The way this book is structured is absolutely fantastic- I loved the mix of 3rd person narrative and extracts from Pip`s project such as interviews or other evidence she comes across, especially since having access to the same files she does makes it even more fun to try and play detective alongside her. I was very proud of myself for managing to guess half of the eventual reveal about who caused Andie`s disappearance, because the mystery is super well plotted and I don`t think the outcome was easy to guess at all. I was on the edge of my seat throughout waiting to find who did it, and as such this was incredibly hard to put down from the very start. I also loved the characters- Pip is such a likable and competent heroine (she makes some questionable decisions on occasion, but she`s a hell of a lot less rash than some thriller heroines I could mention!) and Ravi was a delightful Watson to her Sherlock. I also have to mention how much I loved Pip`s level of organisation, because it was honestly goals. The cast of suspects were all plausible, and they were so multifaceted and well-built. Finally, I want to mention the humour of this book, because it was so funny in places and I really appreciated it as I often find thrillers can lack a sense of humour and then they end up feeling incredibly bleak, whereas the humour balanced out somewhat the darkness of the truth and the dangers Pip faces. This is a thoroughly addictive thriller from a hugely talented writer who I can`t wait to read the next book from. 5/5

Jemima Small Versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

If you`ve been following this blog or me for a while, you`ll very likely know who Tamsin Winter is and that her first book Being Miss Nobody was one of my favourite reads in 2017. I was so excited to get my hands on an early copy of her second book which I feel like I`ve been waiting forever on, and I was even more thrilled that I loved it as well. It`s about a girl called Jemima who is grappling with body confidence after she starts noticing the way in which some people treat her because of her size, and also attempting to get to the finals of the TV show Braniacs. Jemima is quite a different character to Rosalind and I loved her in another way entirely, but love her I most certainly did- she is so smart and funny and wonderful, and it made me livid each time people tried to tear her down simply because she happens to be fat alongside all of those things. I also adored her family, who are very complicated and imperfect but loving and supportive too, and while I initially shared the same view of Gina that Jemima does by the end I loved her too, and I think the way she inspired people to feel empowered just the way they are was wonderful. On that note, the body positive message of this book was brilliant and I loved it; I came away from it with a really lovely feeling, even though I did cry at some points too because I was so annoyed about the way Jemima gets treated. I became engrossed in this so quickly and really loved being in its world for a while. Another absolute triumph from Tamsin that has me craving her third book already! 5/5

The Flatshare by Beth O` Leary

Even though I`ve not really dipped my toe into adult fiction much yet, I think this was a brilliant place to start because I really enjoyed reading it. I read it when I really wasn`t feeling well and it cheered me up so much, because even though it tackles issues like emotional abuse and palliative care settings it`s so lovely and cosy and warm. It is the story of Tiffy and Leon, who share a bed despite having never met due to an incredibly unusual flatshare situation, and them falling in love via Post-it notes and sharing the same space. Both main characters were so wonderful, and while I slightly preferred Tiffy`s sections (just because I preferred her sense of humour and tendency to ramble!) I thought the dual narrative that allowed glimpses into their individual lives and thoughts worked brilliantly in that it made me care a great deal about them both from very early on in the book. The side characters are also wonderfully crafted; Tiffy`s friend Gerty was my favourite mostly because I`d quite like to be her, but I also especially liked Rachael and Richie (can I have a spin off about them stat please?), and if you read this and don`t want to call Justin (and Martin, though to a lesser extent) certain expletives I`ll be astounded. The romance plotline is so fabulous too, because there are so many adorable moments and Tiffy and Leon make such a great couple, and I chuckled often whilst reading because this book is genuinely hilarious at so many points (again, can I please be Gerty?). The epilogue made me so happy, and I fully intend to read whatever Beth O` Leary writes next. Also, a film of this would be epic so if any film producers reading could get on that I`d really appreciate it! 4.5/5

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

When I first started this, I thought it was going to be a five star read for me, and I`m so disappointed that this very much did not end up being the case. It is the story of Herbie Lemon, the Lost and Founder of Eerie on Sea`s Grand Nautilus Hotel, and what happens when a mysterious girl called Violet Parma asks him to hide her and they become involved in solving the mystery of her parents` disappearance and investigating the local legend of the malamander together. I really liked Herbie`s unique narrative style, the creepy atmosphere was so well realised and I thought the opening was fantastic, but I really didn`t feel invested in the plot as the book got properly going, and I felt like I barely got to know any character who wasn`t Herbie. I think one of the main reasons that I couldn`t connect with the plot was that I often felt like this book was just laying the groundwork for the rest of the series- while things did happen they weren`t as thrilling as I`d hoped for from the way the book started off and the blurb. Another issue I had was that what I felt the best elements of the book- namely the mermonkey at the Book Dispensary, the Book Dispensary itself and Erwin- were completely underused. Overall, I was just disappointed by this and I`m not sure if I want to read any more in this series. 3/5

Lily`s Just Fine by Gill Stewart (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In this lovely, light romance set in Scotland, we are introduced to Lily and Tom- two teenagers facing different difficult family situations- who learn that they aren`t as different to each other as they`ve always thought and begin to fall for each other. I loved both characters individually even though they sometimes make mistakes and don`t do quite the right thing, and the fact that the dual narrative allowed you to see both sides of the story, especially as their feelings towards each other started to shift from annoyance to attraction- it was so well paced and it was so fun seeing their romance unfold. I also liked the more serious side to the book and how Tom and Lily were so supportive of each other`s issue most of the time, as it made me realise even more how much they cared for each other and it made them seem like such a realistic, well-matched couple. With the fantastic supporting cast, I`m absolutely sure this series is only going to get better as we`ll hopefully get to see their own stories- I`d especially love Gemma or Sarah to get to be protagonists. 4.5/5

Spies in St Petersburg by Katherine Woodfine

I`ve been reading Sophie and Lil`s adventures since they were very first published in 2015, and they really do keep getting better each and every time I read one. This instalment sees the intrepid detectives on a mission for the Secret Service Bureau in St. Petersburg, and between their individual missions, mounting political tension in the city and the Fraternitas Draconum arc that runs throughout the whole series, the stakes have never been higher. As with all the other books I`ve read about them, I really loved Sophie and Lil- I think they`re superb detectives and the bond they share is so wonderful. Another particularly great character in this specific book was Carruthers- I most definitely didn`t expect to end this loving him, but yet I now adore him and he may be my favourite side character in the whole series to date. Also on the theme of side characters, I thought the way the circus characters was incorporated was so clever. The writing was also outstanding, on both a prose and plot level. I adore Katherine Woodfine`s elegant writing style that keeps action ticking along at the exact right pace whilst also allowing you to luxuriate in the fine detail of every setting, and the plot is so intricately weaved and devotes just the right amount of time to the individual mystery and the ongoing series narrative. By the time I reached the end I was already dying to read the next book in the series, but after such a major cliff-hanger was left open at the end. I am even more desperate to get my hands on the girls` next adventure. 5/5

A Girl Called Justice by Elly Griffiths

I`ve been really excited for this book since I learnt about it, and while it didn`t quite meet my expectations I did still enjoy it. It follows the titular character Justice Jones as she starts at Highbury House boarding school and has to uncover the identity of a murderer when a snow storm cuts the school off from the rest of the world and the body count rises. I loved Justice as a character- she was super clever and so brave, and I particularly enjoyed the insights into her journal. I was also a huge fan of the boarding school setting as it felt very reminiscent of Malory Towers and St Clare`s, if a tad less jolly hockey sticks, and the creepy atmosphere was well done. However, the reason that I didn`t adore this as much as I`d hoped to was that the pacing of the mystery felt really rushed to me- it didn`t get properly into the investigation until roughly halfway through and at one point it felt like someone was dying every few pages as a result. I also felt that the reveal of the murderer came slightly out of left field. 4/5

I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I am going to find it incredibly difficult to review this, because it is no exaggeration to say that I now consider it an absolute favourite. It is the story of an elderly golden retriever called Cosmo, and his quest to stop his family falling apart, as well as to learn to dance and eat lots of bacon. The book is from Cosmo`s perspective and it`s such a joy to read; his observations about humans and other animals are hilarious and he`s just one of the loveliest characters I`ve ever read. I couldn`t love him anymore, and it`s high praise when I say that he reminded me so much of Wilbur from Charlotte`s Web and that I loved him even more. I also adored the different members of Cosmo`s family, but especially Max (their bond is indescribably beautiful) and Uncle Reggie. I couldn`t have been rooting for Cosmo and Max in the dance competition more either- I found it such a fun plot to follow and Cosmo`s absolute passion for dance and his determination to do well for Max made me so emotional that I spent most of this in floods of tears. Reading this felt like being wrapped in the comfiest blanket in existence and receiving a cuddle from a golden retriever at the same time, and I highly recommend it. 5/5, but I`d give Cosmo every star in the solar system if it was an option.


What books did you read in May that you particularly enjoyed? Do you have any thoughts on the ones I managed to read? I`d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: goldenbooksgirl@gmail.com | she/her

18 thoughts on “May Reviews 2019”

  1. What a great reading month! I’ve read and enjoyed The Umbrella Mouse, A Girl Called Justice and I,Cosmo from your list. I totally agree re I,Cosmo – such a gorgeous read! I am currently reading Wildspark, and loving it. I’ve got Malamander to read. I’m really looking forward to Anna at War and A Pocketful of Stars.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We’ve talked about Malamander before and although we agree re development and holding back for future books I’m still prepared to give book 2 a go- I was fascinated by the whole setting.
    I’m interested why you thought the killer in A Girl Called Justice came out of left field, I didn’t guess but as soon as the reveal happened I saw it- I thought the path was well seeded but subtly enough to be surprising but not in that stick a pin with eyes shut kind of way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know- the person never seemed very nice but they never gave off I’m a secret murderer vibes and I felt like there could have been more/better foreshadowing for it, which is part of why I thought it should have been longer! I don’t think reading it just after Spies in St Petersburg worked in its favour either as well to be fair to it; that was such a cleverly crafted mystery and it just didn’t quite live up. I was also in love with Malamander’s setting- I may give book 2 a chance but it’s definitely not one I’d be buying full price this time if that makes sense? x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We agree there regarding Malamander!
        I think that Elly Griffiths was seriously nobbled by the word count- her adult books have much more space to build character and plot (like 2-3x this book) so a STRONG editing Hand was applied.
        BUT- to be fair the narrative is from Justice’s perspective and I think the fish out of water nature of this adds to Justice failing to pick up on warning cues that a child used to Boarding school might look for- And then the culture at the school is quite isolating and separate – so by nature this character would be closed and chilly and Justice not pick up on cues because she has no insight because that’s how they operate there?
        (Very hard to say this without giving things away!!!! 🤣)
        I agree though i would have adored another 100 or so pages to really get to grips with this- but then it’s the target age dictating the word count- maybe as Justice ages Griffiths will get a longer word count?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh and there is one section where I did go OOOH that’s a rather odd reaction what’s she up to but Elly Griffiths quickly redirected the plot so I didn’t think on. Massive giveaway of something underfoot looking back.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. There are so many books on this post! As you know, I absolutely loved The Burning. I’m so glad you enjoyed it too. And I’m thrilled you enjoyed AGGGTM

    I am really excited for Pocketful of Stars, Jemima Small and Wildspark. I’ve heard amazing things about both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I honestly have no idea how I read so many 😂😂. I think you’re very likely to lobe those three! Have you read Being Miss Nobody? I can’t remember, but it’s absolutely sensational so highly recommend that too if not x

      Like

  4. You’ve had a fantastic reading month!
    It probably won’t surprise you that of these the one I’d most like to read (that I’ve not already read) is Anna’s War.
    I know very different stories, but did you find Wildspark was similar in style/feel to Brightstorm? I’m inclined to leave that one.
    I’m glad you enjoyed The Umbrella Mouse – I hadn’t realised at first about all the real people that influenced the animals characters, I love that too. I was reading on another blog about the woman Madame Fourcade was based on and it was fascinating.
    Lily posted about A Good Girls Guide to Murder the other day too and I think I’m going to make that one of my ‘read more YA’ books!
    And if course you know I need to read Peril in Paris before book 2!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would say it’s quite similar, I think! Anna at War is AMAZING; it felt like reading an Emma Carroll book (and you KNOW how much of a compliment that is from me!!). A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is definitely fab, and though it’s definitely YA it’s not one of those YAs that’s super tropey, if that makes any sense? I am SO looking forward to catching up on Taylor and Rose! X

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, you had such a great reading month in May! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the Flatshare and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, I can’t wait to see what Beth and Holly come up with next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I was so chuffed with how much I managed to get read, especially since I had exams till the 14th! I know what Beth’s next one is and it sounds great (it’s called the Switch Up I think!), and I’m dying to see what Holly’s will be hopefilly soon 💜

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: