Roald Dahl – Matilda

Matilda

One of my ‘Book Bingo’ challenges this year is to re-read a childhood favourite, and how could it be anything other than Matilda? I read this book so many times as a child that my copy is falling to pieces (as you can probably tell from the picture), and I’ve watched the film more times than I can count.

What I had forgotten since last time I read this book was how many beautiful illustrations were in it.

As I was reading, my husband said to me ‘Do you think they’ll ever re-print Roald Dahl books without Quentin Blake illustrations?’, and I think the answer is honestly no. His illustrations are so perfect for the story and they evoke very particular emotions as you look at them. And I think this one may have been drawn specifically for me:

In fact, when I was younger, I used to think this book had been written just for me, as I loved to read just as much as Matilda did (although not quite as young as she was).

Reading the book again was a great way to reminisce on my childhood, and relive the story without all the americanisation of the film. Trying to pick a favourite part of the story is really quite hard, but it probably has to be the end.

When Mrs Trunchbull finally gets her come-uppance, Mrs Honey finally gets her life back, and Matilda gets a guardian who truly cares for her.

This book definitely is (and probably always will be) my favourite Roald Dahl book, it’s just perfect.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 1988
Number of Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 16th June 2018 – 16th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29
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Anthony Horowitz – Stormbreaker

Stormbreaker

It’s been a while since I listened to an audio-book, but since I’ve been spending so long going out walking or on public transport, I thought that getting back into audio-books would be a good way of getting through more books this year.

I saw the Stormbreaker film when it was released ages ago, but have never read any of the book series, and since the audio book was less than 6 hours long, it seemed like a good fit to get back into it again.

The narrator (Oliver Chris) had a great speaking voice, although his ‘Prime Minister’ voice sounded suspiciously like a bad Tony Blair impression! He kept me engaged through the book and never grated on me like some readers have done in the past.

I think it helped that I had already seen the film of this book as I had visualisations for the characters in my head, but I have to admit that I’d forgotten a lot of the plot!

I thought the book was well paced and the action was well spaced out so it wasn’t non-stop, but likewise it was never boring either. The pace picked up towards the end, to the point where I was so engrossed that I ended up staying in the bath far longer than I should have because I didn’t want to get out until it had finished.

I’m just disappointed that book 2 of this series is reserved on my library app until mid-July, so it might be a while until I can continue on in the series!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2000
Number of Pages: 256
Format: Audiobook
Date Read: 2nd May 2018 – 15th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.97
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Robert C. Martin – The Clean Coder

The Clean Coder

A book about how to be a ‘professional programmer’. I was a bit worried that this book would be a bit ‘dry’ like other techy books I’ve read, but it was written in a way that kept me really engaged. The author added lots of personal anecdotes in his writing which made it easy to relate to, and I’m really glad I was lent/recommended it by my colleagues.

I felt like I learnt quite a lot from this book – even though most of it felt like common sense after I’d read it, some of it I’d never even considered before.  Things like how you should tailor your language when you speak to people to make sure you’re actually on the same page and not just assuming that they know what you mean – saying “I’ll try” for instance means two different things to the sayer and the listener. I’m definitely guilty of using that phrase a little too much in the past.

The book gives tips on how to manage your time, how to deal with conflict, how to avoid burnout, and how to create ‘thriving’ teams. I found the chapter about estimating quite fascinating, I’ve never even considered some of the techniques for estimating that he discussed – much better than a finger in the air!

I’m a little torn between giving this book 4 or 5 stars. For me, the book seemed to end quite abruptly which left me feeling a bit disappointed. One minute I was reading about the authors current choice of ‘tools’, and then I turned the page and it was over. I kind of expected some sort of conclusion perhaps.

At points, some of the recommendations the author makes seem a bit ambitious, but with the way that processes have changed for me at work in the last year or so, the sky is the limit!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 210
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 24th May 2018 – 12th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.27
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Angie Thomas – The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

Beautifully written, raw, passionate and hard-hitting, and heart-breaking that this book is inspired by real experiences, far too many real experiences.

“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, Starr. It means you go on even though you’re scared.”

I don’t even know how to go about reviewing this book, as I’m so far removed from the realities of this story that I would feel kind of like an interloper. I feel this book is (and already has been) such an important book in terms of drawing more attention to these injustices.

When you hear about it on the news, it feels so matter of fact and so distant that it doesn’t always hit you in the way it should, but this book was so full of emotion that I felt like I was with Starr every step of the way and feeling every feeling with her. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried multiple times reading this book.

There’s been so much hype given to this book in the press and in the awards, and usually that would make me reticent to pick it up, but I really feel like this book needs to be read by as many people as possible. I’m not saying it can change the world, but it sure can make people think differently and be less quick to judge.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 438
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 6th June 2018 – 6th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.56
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Milly Johnson – The Birds and The Bees

The Birds and The Bees

I read a blog post that Milly wrote this week about how so-called ‘chick-lit’ is always overlooked by celebrity book clubs, in favour of ‘proper literature’. And I really don’t know why. I love Milly Johnson for the fact that you can completely lose yourself in the story and it becomes a movie in your mind.

Yes, you can pretty much always tell how the story is going to end, but I honestly don’t care, because for me it’s all about the journey of how you get there, and Milly’s books are never predictable.

I loved the characters of Stevie and Adam, and Jo and Matthew were so well written that it was really easy to hate them. Milly definitely has a knack for writing characters that are so up themselves that they just can’t see how horrible they’re being to the people around them.

I was on tenterhooks for the entire book waiting to see if Adam and Stevie would see through the lies that they had been fed by their delightful ex-partners and see how perfect they were for each other.

I binged this book in one day, the first day of our holiday. I was up 3 hours before anyone else so enjoyed the peace and quiet and binged almost the whole thing before breakfast. Another book really well written by Milly, I’m just disappointed that I’ve almost read them all now – good job there’s a new one coming out just before my birthday!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 440
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 3rd June 2018 – 3rd June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.16
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Liz Flanagan – Eden Summer

Liz Flanagan

So first of all, Eden Summer was maybe not the best name to choose for a book – I just searched on Waterstones website to get a link to the book and it turns out Eden Summer is the name of an erotic fiction writer – so if you tell people you’re reading Eden Summer and they give you a funny look, you know why!

I picked this book because it was set in Hebden Bridge and I like reading ‘local’ books. I’ve been going through a bit of a Young Adult spell at the moment so this kind of appealed to me for that reason too.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t really get on with the book, the style of writing was just not for me. The book starts off with Eden going missing, and then most of the rest of the book is told via flashbacks, and sometimes flashbacks from within flashbacks. I felt like it really affected the pace of the story for me – we were getting so much information of the history of the book, but none of the drama of Eden actually being missing.

I got to the end of the book and I was a little bit disappointed that nothing more happened, it just felt like a complete anti-climax at the end. Probably more a fault of it being aimed at teenagers rather than more dramatic novels I’ve read like The Girl on the Train, but I was expecting more.

I’m not going to say don’t read it as I can see how other people would enjoy it, but it just wasn’t for me.

My Rating: 2/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 289
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 13th May 2018 – 19th May 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.68
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Milly Johnson – A Summer Fling

A Summer Fling

Ah Milly Johnson, I could read you forever. As usual, this book was brilliant from start to end. The kind of book that I start reading and it turns into a lovely film inside my head, and I don’t realise how long I’ve been reading until I’m 200 pages in and my back is hurting from sitting in one place for too long!

One of my favourite things about Milly’s books is that they’re set in Yorkshire and all her characters are so lovely and relateable. Sometimes when I’m reading ‘chick-lit’, I find the characters so different from me that I can’t empathise with them at all, but I always feel like I could be best friends with the characters that Milly creates.

This book was no different. Despite the 5 main ladies being such different characters, I could imagine sitting with them in The Rising Sun and having a drink and a gossip.

The other thing that Milly has a complete knack for is creating the perfect ‘bad guys’. The men who are complete idiots and don’t deserve the lovely ladies they’ve got. The men never seem exaggerated, but you despise them all the same.

But that just leaves room for the nice guys like Vladimir or Niki to come in and sweep the lovely ladies off their feet, when they finally realise how lovely they are.

This book was like literary girl-power. All the ladies teaming up together and having each other’s backs to get them out of the bad situations they were in and make them finally happy again.

Love love loved it. Devoured it in less than a day because I just needed to know what was going to happen.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2007
Number of Pages: 484
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 13th May 2018 – 14th May 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.21
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Diksha Basu – The Windfall

The Windfall

Right up to the very end, I was loving this book, but the ending left me feeling a bit cold which really changed my impression of the whole book, dropping my overall rating from a 4 to a 3.

The book felt to me like Hyacinth Bouquet and Keeping up Appearances on steroids. I’ve never known someone so desperate to appear like he has more money than his neighbours than Mr Jha. To go to the point that you will openly insult your son and call him useless and his work rubbish just so that you look better to your neighbours makes you pretty sad to be honest.

Mr Jha and his wife have recently come into a lot of money, and Mr Jha has decided that they need to move from their family home surrounded by their friends, so to a nicer house on the other side of Delhi, surrounded by other wealthy people. Mrs Jha is not so certain, and you can tell as the book goes on that she would just much rather be back in her small apartment (despite its foibles) and have her friends near her. Money can’t fix loneliness.

Without giving away too many spoilers, one of the funniest things for me was when Mr Jha realised that his insane competition to look richer than his neighbour might have all been a waste of time. I mean, getting a sofa that was studded with crystals might have looked nice, but if you can’t sit on it without inflicting pain, what is the point?!

As well as Mr and Mrs Jha, the book splits perspective between their son Rupak who is at school in America, and Mrs Jha’s friend Mrs Ray. I loved that we could see the story from multiple sides, as it meant that you got a better feeling of how ridiculous it all was.

Unlike most books I’ve read with multiple perspectives which devote a chapter at a time to one character, this book seamlessly switched from one character to another, sometimes mid sentence. It was a bit jarring at first, but once I got used to it, it was great. It meant that you could see the exact same events from multiple perspectives without splitting the book up into tiny chapters.

As I mentioned at the start, I knocked a point off this book for the ending which was just a total let-down for me, I was expecting something more and it felt a bit like it fizzled out. I still can’t decide how exactly I would have preferred the book to end, but just with a bit more of ‘something’ than it actually did.

My Rating: 3/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 306
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 9th May 2018 – 12th May 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.56
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Nick Page – A Nearly Infallible History of Christianity

A Nearly Infallible History of Christianity

So if you look at the Goodreads data on when I started and finished this book, you’ll see it has taken me a ridiculously long time to finish reading it. I’d like to point out that this definitely isn’t a reflection of the book, it’s just that I started off only reading the book when I was in the bath, and I don’t get to spend much time in there!

However, over the past week I’ve finished the last half of the book and it has been fantastic. The author has a way of blending the history with comedy to make the book entertaining as well as full of facts. I never really got on with history at school as I found it a bit boring, but this book made sure I was never bored and I learnt so much from it – if school history lessons had been like this, I might have paid more attention!

The book starts 2,000 years ago (as you may have guessed), and covers everything from the Nicene creed, through to the reformation, the abolition of slavery and the ordination of female priests. How the author managed to pack so much information into so few pages is beyond me, but I never felt ‘short-changed’ on information.

Interspersed throughout the book are little ‘fact files’ about important people in Christian history, along with little cartoon sketches which added to the ‘comedy’ side of the book without taking away from the seriousness of it too.

Nick Page - A Nearly Infallible History of Christianity

I would really recommend this book to anyone interested in learning a broad overview of Christian history, you will most likely find areas that you want to learn about in more depth – I certainly did. I’m now reading ‘A Nearly Infallible History of the Reformation’, in part because of how interesting I found the reformation part of this book, and in part because I want to read more by this author.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2013
Number of Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 13th September 2016 – 9th May 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.28
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Sarah J. Maas – A Court of Frost and Starlight

A Court of Frost and Starlight

I was really quite excited about this book coming out having read the first three in the series over the new year. But when I started reading the first reviews coming through on Goodreads, I was a little apprehensive and the reviews weren’t great.

The reviews did prepare me for the fact that this is a novella between the original trilogy and the planned new trilogy to connect the two plots together, so at least I wasn’t expecting a full novel, but I was still left wanting more at the end – less than 300 pages just didn’t seem like enough.

Saying that, I didn’t feel like there was a huge amount of plot in this book compared to the first three – now that the war is over, there wasn’t too much action – it was a lot more focused on relationships than fighting. Not that it was a bad thing, I did enjoy seeing relationships develop more in many ways, even though not all relationships went in the direction I had hoped.

A word of caution – this was the first book in this series that actually had a warning on the back about mature content not suitable for younger readers (which I think really should have been on the others too), but I would definitely agree that the book was quite adult in places. In fact, I think it would be pushing it to include this in the young adult genre which is usually applied to books aimed at 13+ it seems.

Some reviews weren’t happy with this content, but I did feel like it fit quite well in the story-arc, I mean Feyre and Rhys are now mated/married and it seems like a natural turn for the book to take, especially given other decisions they make towards the end.

I can’t wait for book number 5 now, I’m just hoping it will be a bit more action-packed than this novella.

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2018
Number of Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 6th May 2018 – 8th May 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.2
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