Wow, you know I said I had caught the reading bug again? Well I wasn’t fibbing! In May I have read 11 books – granted several of them have been short stories (I have had a Michael Morpurgo splurge) – which means I am now up to 24 out of 36 books for my yearly total. I think I might just make it 😉
On to my reviews of the books I read in May:
A great new release – read my full review here.
Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nicholls 5/5*
A beautifully haunting children’s thriller – read my full review here.
Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas – 5/5*
This was technically a re-read but it’s been a long time since GCSE Drama (12 years… now I feel old…) and I took a lot more in this time round. I love the rhythm of the piece as a whole and the way every story is woven together to create the impression of the town. It is almost dream-like as a whole piece with real laugh out loud moments, moments of sobriety and the odd mystery here and there. I love how I always read Dylan Thomas in a Welsh accent in my head – it just doesn’t work if you don’t!
How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell – 4/5*
As a fan of the films, I decided I needed to read the books that sparked it all off. I loved the illustrations and page design of this book, they were very appealing for the intended audience and brought the characters and story to life. The story itself is very different to the film, although many of the characters were familiar, but it isn’t any less exciting. A good fun adventure full of laughs and dragons – I am going to pass this one on to Tori (6) and I’m pretty sure she is going to love it as much as I did.
The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett – 5/5*
Another Night Watch gem from Mr Pratchett. I love the Discworld novels so much and The Fifth Elephant didn’t disappoint. Focusing on the coronation of the new Low King in Uberwald, Sam Vimes finds himself away from home, Carrot leaves his post to go on a wild wolf hunt and Gaspode the talking dog takes a starring role. I love Gaspode, he makes me laugh out loud all the time. As ever, Pratchett’s wit and dry humour makes you think as well as laugh as he drags you through dwarf politics and diplomacy on the trail of a Scone made of Stone that is all-important, though Vimes really can’t figure out why.
Half A Man by Michael Morpurgo – 5/5*
A beautiful but chilling short story from Michael Morpurgo, Half A Man says a lot in a short space of words. The tale of a young boy learning about his Grandfather’s past brings out the mental and physical scars left behind by war. Poignant and simple, this was a very quick read that left me thinking and didn’t shy away from the horrors of the fighting without being gory or graphic. He said just enough to break your heart and not a word more. The illustrations were a nice addition to the book, the blocky style worked well with the narrative and I think added to the story.
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley – 3/5*
After loving Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves, I was really excited to read this book and I think that is why I found it so disappointing. It wasn’t a bad book but it was merely average at best. There wasn’t much of a plot at all beyond the two main characters Gretchen and Toni leaving High School and going to College – nothing else of note happens in the entire book – it is all about the characters themselves and their development. Which would have been fine if the characters had depth to them, but sadly most of them did not. Gretchen was okay but Toni was unlikable and had nothing about her other than her overwhelming confusion about her gender and sexuality. At first she was interesting but after a while she just felt whiney rather than anything else and I disliked the way Genderqueer was made to sound like an interim term for people deciding whether or not they are transgender – in my personal experience it is not that at all. I could go on about things that bugged me but I have already gone over my 100 word limit, so I won’t. What We Left Behind had plenty of potential to be an interesting and informative book but it fell short of the mark somewhere and left me feeling like I’d read a book on cardboard cut-out characters of varying gender and sexual orientations with no depth to the story or the people.
Storm Front (Tesla Time Travelers #3) by Jen Greyson – 5/5*
I was very pleased to return to this series once more – read my full review here.
Homecoming by Michael Morpurgo – 5/5*
Another haunting short story by Michael Morpurgo, this time from the first-person view point of a man re-visiting his childhood village fifty years after moving away as a child. As he walks the streets he remembers his neighbours and particularly Mrs Pettigrew, a quiet lady from Thailand who lives out on the marshes in a converted railway carriage with her dogs and donkey. The story is idyllic until men from London come and propose the building of a nuclear power station on the marsh, right where Mrs Pettigrew and her animals live. The end of the story is chillingly believable and very sad. Again Morpurgo says a lot with only a few words and the illustrations that go with the story are beautiful. I am currently re-reading this with Tori and she loves to study each picture in detail before moving on.
I Believe In Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo – 5/5*
The third illustrated Morpurgo short story book I have picked up this month, I Believe In Unicorns is my favourite so far. A simple story about a young boy in a mountain village who discovers the magic of books and stories and how they can bring families and communities together. When war hits their sleepy town and everything Tomas knows is thrown into chaos, it is poingant and moving to read how everyone comes together to help restore peace with the library at the centre of it all.
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne – 5/5*
I loved this book. It was funny and silly and heartwarming and yet it was informative, scary and sad at the same time. Evie, the main character has chronic OCD and is trying to be a ‘normal’ teenager at the same time as slowly coming off her medication that helps her manage her condition. The mental health side of the story is handled with brutal honesty that rang true for anyone that has lived or is living with some sort of mental health issue. It had me in tears at a couple of points, but it also had me laughing out loud too. Bourne has the teenage characters down to an art, they are funny, self-depreciating, confident yet terrified of everything all at once – just like how being 16 felt. I think my favourite thing about Am I Normal Yet? was the ending – no spoilers but it felt like a ‘real’ ending. It was satisfying without being a cloying ‘and then she lived happily ever after because love solves all ills’ which happens so often in books that involve teens and romance.
(A couple of those are definitely more than 100 words, aren’t they? Oops.)