January’s Reading Log

I thought I’d start doing monthly round-up posts, to help keep track of the reading challenges I’m doing this year and also to give a quick shout-out for all the books I’ve been reading (not just those I review).

I won’t give too much detail here (as this kind of post gets long really quickly) – just a quick summary of each book read and some stats. The book titles link to their Goodreads pages for more info.

jan 2015 reads

Rose Under Fire Elizabeth Wein, Egmont (Electric Monkey), 2014, YA historical

Set in 1944-5, this is the tale of a young woman transport pilot.  Beautifully written, direct and unsentimental, I’ve been recommending this at school for Holocaust Memorial Day.

The Ultimate Truth (Travis Delaney Investigates #1) Kevin Brooks, Macmillan Children’s, 2014, 11+ action adventure

A great read; really enjoyed it. Lots of plausible action (well, as plausible as spy/crime thrillers can be! – but I mean that this didn’t feel wrong for the age of the protagonist), together with solid early-teen territory of identity/family issues.

Heroes Robert Cormier, Pearson (Longman), 1998, YA historical

A reread for teaching purposes, and one I did enjoy (again). I’m glad I chose this novel for my class, as it deals with complex ideas and issues without the language being particularly showy or hard to access. The first person memoir-style narration is probably what helps this the most.

Why We Took the Car Wolfgang Herrndorf, Andersen, 2014, YA contemporary

I enjoyed this very voicey road-trip story featuring an unlikely friendship and a truly crazy, twisted story line. At times, however, I found the voice and far-fetched nature of it all got a bit much for me. I think fans of boy-focused, somewhat silly stories would love it.

The Bubble-Wrap Boy Phil Earle, Puffin, 2014, YA contemporary

Fabulous and surprising, this book was both funnier and twistier than I expected, while being just as tender and sweet as anticipated. A very quick read which I was keen to keep returning to.

The Last Leaves Falling Sarah Benwell, Random House, 2015, YA contemporary

Emotional and fulfilling read. Great to read about a different culture (the book is set in Japan) and to learn more about the experience of someone with ALS. Ultimately, it’s about friendship, family and courage. This was my review for both the British Books and Dive into Diversity challenges this month.

Looking at the Stars Jo Cotterill, Random House, 2014, YA contemporary

Moving and often challenging read about a young girl and her family struggling under a totalitarian state. I appreciated the invented and non-specific setting, as I feel it made the presentation of oppression purer.

The Liar’s Chair Rebecca Whitney, Macmillan, 2015, adult crime

Original and tense psychological thriller peopled with a thoroughly unpleasant cast. A really compelling read, and a grippingly accurate portrayal of emotional abuse.

Picture Me Gone Meg Rosoff, Penguin, 2013, YA contemporary

I didn’t really like this gentle mystery combined with a road trip story – I found the lack of speech punctuation completely distracting and the main character unconvincing. I know that some feel the lack of quotation marks makes it more stream of consciousness, so if you’re not as much of a punctuation pedant as I am, you may well enjoy it. The portrayal of relationships, especially familial, is a strength.

Buffalo Soldier Tanya Landman, Walker, 2014, YA historical

Fabulous voice used to convey some hard-hitting and emotional material: the tale of Charlotte, a slave who, when freed in the Civil War, disguises herself as a boy/man and joins the US Army. I knew very little about the history presented here and am very glad to have read it. Brilliantly written, often moving but never sentimental or manipulative.

Now You See Me Emma Haughton, Usborne, 2014, YA thriller

Well-executed thriller which I was compelled to keep reading. Some brilliant characterisations (I especially loved little Alice, who has Down’s Syndrome) and plenty of tension and twists.

Squishy McFluff, The Invisible Cat Pip Jones, Faber & Faber, 2014, children’s animal/family

This delightful story, told entirely in rhyme, is a hilarious and well-told tale in the tradition of stories where younger kids can vicariously enjoy the characters’ naughtiness. The story is complemented perfectly by Ella Okstad’s lovely illustrations. Strongly recommended for older picture book fans and kids who are just starting to read for themselves.

Challenges Progress this month – books read:

UKYA/UKMG titles: Rose Under Fire, The Ultimate Truth, The Bubble-Wrap Boy, The Last Leaves Falling, Looking at the Stars, Picture Me Gone, Now You See Me

All YA this month, but I’m planning to kick February off with an exciting UKMG…

own book: Now You See Me

TBR-escapee: Squishy McFluff

12 personal challenges: Buffalo Soldier (book set in a place or time I haven’t read about before)

Reviews published this month:

Full reviews: Station Eleven, The Last Leaves Falling, The Fearless, The Witch of Salt and Storm

Mini reviews: Chasing Stars, Crushed, Witch Hunt

eligible for British Books Challenge: The Last Leaves Falling, (note that The Fearless is also a British Book but I read it before January so it doesn’t count for the challenge)

eligible for Dive Into Diversity Challenge: The Last Leaves Falling (Japanese setting, MC has ALS)

Plans for next month

February is looking very exciting for books: I’m attending Robin Stevens’ launch of Arsenic for Tea (the follow-up to Murder Most Unladylike) on the 7th and UKYA Extravaganza in Birmingham on the 28th. 35 UKYA authors!! I’m also participating in the blog tour to celebrate this event and will be hosting Alan Gibbons here at the Hearthfire on the 22nd.

In terms of my reading, I plan to kick February off with Arsenic for Tea and I also need to read some fantasy. It’s one of top 3 genres, yet I didn’t read any this month!

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