The Books I Read in April 2021

The onset of spring, sunny skies, warm weather, a cosy outdoor seat to curl up in: April was ideal for reading. I spent a number of lunch times sitting outdoors with a good book and, indeed, many a morning. I picked up a number of hardbacks, one of my favourite yet rarely read formats, and really got into them. A lot of pottering around the house with spring cleaning and house projects also meant I finished a fair few audiobooks. My favourite book of the month was Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, a book which has confirmed my determination to begin the beast of a tome that is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by the same author. No disappointments either, just some generally solid reads.

As ever, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

Columbine by Dave Cullen (narrated by Don Leslie ) – 4/5

Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh (narrated by Nneka Okoye) – 3.5/5

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex (narrated by Indira Varma & Tom Burke) – 4.5/5

The Original by Brandon Sanders & Mary Robinette Kowal (narrated by Julia Whelan) – 3.5/5

eBook

Shaman King Volume 4 by Hiroyuki Takei – 4/5

Hardback

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – 4.5/5

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood – 3.5/5

This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura – 4/5

Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver – 4.5/5

Going into May, I am continuing to read The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens and The King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, both of which I am enjoying very much. I am also listening to Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, through which I am learning a lot about indigenous culture, in particular the Ojibwe tribe, on top of it being an intriguing story. I have a pretty long list of books which I am excited to read this month (not least rereading the entire Shadow and Bone trilogy now I’ve finished the show, which was brilliant), so I am looking forward to escaping to a whole range of worlds in May.

Q1 Goal Review and Favourites

At the start of the year, I decided that, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I would plan and set goals for the first quarter and then review and update accordingly. After the chaos of last year, there seemed little sense in making goals for the whole year, although I did have three broad themes to weave their way throughout.

So, I went ahead and made some specific goals for Q1. And, after a month and a half, I stopped tracking them. Logging my reading against specific targets took the fun out of it and really proved to me that targeted, number-specific goals for things that should be fun and enjoyable just don’t work for me.

That being said, I do think I did reasonably well at meeting the broader goals despite the odd threat of a reading slump and moving away from specific targets. I read 4 non-fiction books (or rather listened to them, for some reason non-fiction works better in audio format for me) with quite disparate topics (dark web, economics, tidying). I read 10 books by authors who are a different demographic to me (not including those by white middle-aged men), 11 books with a non-white lead, and 12 with LGBTQ representation. A large number had a focus on character friendships and a majority had a non-cis male lead.

These broad themes are going to continue into Q2 where I am planning to take a more relaxed approach to the goals – keeping them in mind but no specific targets to take the fun away.  The main goal is to try and read print every day – I do find I tend to listen more to audiobooks when I am busy, but I miss the written word. Even if I just read a small number of pages, it’ll be worth it if just to get back in the habit. I’ve already managed to finish three hardbacks in a row, which I haven’t done in a while, so going well so far.

In terms of Q1 favourites, well, see below:

Favourite Book: Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

  • Everything about these books just worked for me, from the themes to the general vibe, the plot to the characters. They are incredibly weird (necromancers in space for starters!) and off-kilter, but I really connected with them and could not stop thinking about them. I rarely read books in a series back-to-back but this was a case where I couldn’t help myself. And, on finding out the third book wasn’t out for another year, I ended up just sat staring at a wall not really knowing what to do or read next for a while…

Favourite T.V. Show: Wandavision

  • Another weird but wonderful creation. I thoroughly enjoyed the set-up of this series, from the start of odd sitcom-esque episodes to the more Marvel elements towards the end. I love the Scarlet Witch character and seeing her finally come into her own after such little screen-time in previous MCU films was a delight. I was engrossed in every episode and it was painful waiting a week for the next one. Even if the finale contained one of the biggest disappointments I’ve experienced with the MCU, it was still worth the watch and I would definitely watch it again.

Favourite Movie: Emma

  • Such a short list to choose from and the victor is my first movie of the year. This is the newest adaptation of Emma and I just really enjoy the movie, from the production quality, the costume, the acting, so much of it is brilliant. The slightly quirky style just worked really well for me and this is definitely one of my favourite feel-good, cosy watches.  

Hopefully I’ll have more favourites to talk about in Q2, especially now things are starting to open up more and there is more to do. If you have any particular favourites from the start of the year or agree with my selections above, let me know in the comments, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

The Books I Read in March 2021

March was such a good month for reading. I started it on a high note having just finished Gideon the Ninth and starting its sequel, Harrow the Ninth, which is my March favourite read. The following books were all solid reads, with no disappointments. I started a few series, finished none, but also read a few standalones. The great selection of books read combined with the spring weather has made me excited for the reading days ahead of me.

As ever, the way I read is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger (narrated by Moira Quirk) – 4/5

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (narrated by Shayna Small) – 4/5

Graphic Novel/Manga

House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel – 4/5

Shaman King Vol 1 by Hiroyuki Takei – 4.5/5

Shaman King Vol 2 by Hiroyuki Takei – 4/5

Death Note Vol 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata – 4.5/5

Hardback

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 5/5

Tap to Tidy by Stacey Solomon – 3.5/5

Paperback

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus – 3.5/5

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett – 4/5

I have a lot of books I am looking forward to reading in April, from a few rereads to sequels to completely new worlds and authors. But first, I need to finish the books I currently have on the go! Going into April, I am midway through reading This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura and The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens. I have also just started King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (with the new Shadow and Bone adaptation coming up, I couldn’t resist any longer). I am also listening to Columbine by Dave Cullen on audiobook. So far, I am enjoying each of those very much. I just need to start finishing them!  

Rosie Reviews: The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin

Title: The Charmed Wife

Author: Olga Grushin

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Sci-fi & Fantasy / Women’s Fiction

Source: NetGalley

Review

13 and a half years after Cinderella’s happily ever after, we find her standing at a crossroads, making a deal with a witch to kill Prince Charming. Throughout this book we explore the years leading up to that pivotal moment and the aftermath, complete with asides about the lives and drama of her pet mice and their descendants.

This book held so much promise and the first third upheld it. The crossroad scenes established strong characters and blended dark and stormy nights with a touch of humour, and I was so intrigued as to how the story would play out. I kept wanting to come back to it. Then it started to go downhill.

Cinderella proved to be a character with little substance, despite the promise at the start. She was incredibly passive with little personality and while it was intentional within the context of the plot, it was incredibly frustrating to read and I stopped caring about her very quickly. Her story with Prince Charming was also predictable and his character was very one dimensional as well. These were both such a shame as the author proved she could write engaging and multi-faceted characters through the various side characters and, by the end, I was far more interested in them than the main story.

 The story itself does a beautiful job of exploring fairytales, playing with the magic and structure as well as taking a look at them through a feminist lens, and I did really enjoy this aspect of the novel. However, avoiding spoilers as best I can, there was a twist towards the end that completely detached me from the story and I could not get back into it again.

The Charmed Wife has some really strong elements, but ultimately these were too few in comparison to the rest of the book. It says a lot that I was far more invested in the mice side-plot than the main story. I don’t particularly enjoy reading books about miserable people, and the book was not quite what I was expecting from the summary, even if I did thoroughly enjoy the first part of it. While others may appreciate the nuances of this book a lot more, The Charmed Wife was not for me.

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55881578-the-charmed-wife

UK Bookshop.org: The Charmed Wife: ‘Does for fairy tales what Bridgerton has done for Regency England’ (Mail on Sunday) (bookshop.org)

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Charmed-Wife-Olga-Grushin/9781529346374/?a_aid=rosienreads

*I receive a small commission when this link is used to make a purchase

Mini-Reviews: All Systems Red, House of M, The Cousins, Tap to Tidy

Somehow, over the last few months, I have developed a trend of reading more in audiobook format than any other. Audiobook lends itself more to busy life as you can listen while you clean, tidy or just potter about. Rarely do I just sit and read, regardless of format. I have been trying to make an effort to carve out more time to focus on reading books, particularly print books. This mini-review post is a dedication to that effort. The first three books are those that I sat down and had an entire evening or morning spent engaging with the story and not worrying about anything else on my to-do list. The last is a book I read chapter by chapter, over breakfast, every day for a week or so, something I am trying to do more of to make sure I have a moment of non-screen relaxation to start each day and also to move away from just phone-scrolling first thing. Both have been great experiences and ones I am planning to continue doing.

As ever the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

All Systems Red by Martha Wells – 4/5

This is the first novella in a series of novellas about a self-termed murderbot (in reality a security bot) who is tasked with protecting a survey group on a planet, but all murderbot want to do is just watch endless tv shows. Then things o south and nefarious plots are uncovered. This book was just what I needed to read to avoid dipping into a reading slump. It was engaging and I loved the characters, murderbot in particular. The shorter length lent itself to a faster paced story, but I did find I had to reread the resolution twice to figure out what happened. Otherwise, it was great and I look forward to reading more.

House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel – 4/5

After finishing Wandavision, I knew I had to read House of M and, within a few minutes, had it on my kindle. This was an intense story, exploring Wanda’s reality bending powers and a bit more into the minds of mutants and avengers alike. The comics move easily from one to the other and the artwork was really well done both in style and coloration of the different realities. It was interesting to see the world with mutants as the majority, and would have liked to explore more of this world and the House of M in particular (although there is obviously limited space in this format). I’m glad I read this, although now want to read all the comics in the run up to and after this event. It ended on quite the cliff-hanger.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus – 3.5/5

Karen M. McManus is an auto-buy author for me, her works are perfect for a cosy night after a long week where all you want to do is lose yourself in a solid mystery.  In this, three cousins are reunited when their elusive grandmother, who cut their parents off many years before, invites them to the island she lives on. There, they begin to uncover the mystery behind their grandmother’s actions. As to be expected, that mystery took many twists and turns, although I did find the character’s subplots and a shoe-horned in romance took precedence for a lot of the book. Even so, I did enjoy reading this and enjoy Karen M. McManus’s writing style and characterisation. She has carved out a really strong niche for herself and solidified herself as a leader in YA crime fiction.

Tap to Tidy by Stacey Solomon – 3.5/5

As someone who loves crafts and organising, I was drawn to this book. It is a book exploring how the author organises her life and still carves out time for herself despite having children and with a part-time job. It was just a fun read – her personality really comes through and I really enjoyed the blend of top tips, small crafts, and the hint of human reality that filled the book. There were some odd contradictions (Stacey Solomon talks a few times about caring for the environment and trying to be sustainable, yet has a garden filled with face plants and fake grass) and the book didn’t touch on any brand new ideas for organisation. I did enjoy the shout-outs to small businesses at the end though, and this was just a fun feel-good book.

The Books I Read in February 2021

Second month of the year, second month of this latest UK lockdown and first month in which I nearly entered a reading slump (fortunately averted at the last minute). February has been fun… On the reading front, it did not start strongly. I read a few middling books, and one awful one, and then picked up Black Leopard Red Wolf and I really struggled. I ended up putting that on hold in favour of a quick read in All Systems Red and I am so glad I did – that choice averted a potential reading disaster and put me on the path to my first 5-star read of the year (Gideon the Ninth).

As ever the way I read is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

Misbehaving by Richard Thaler (narrated by L.J. Ganser) – 3.5/5

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune (narrated by Michael Lesley – 3.5/5

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (narrated by Moira Quirk) – 4.5/5

Ebook

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn – 1/5 (DNF)

The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin – 3/5

All Systems Red by Martha Wells – 4/5

Paperback

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 5/5

Going in to March, I am currently on the sequels: Curtsies & Conspiracies, the sequel to Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger, and Harrow the Ninth, sequel to Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir. I am loving both so far and am already excited about the reading month ahead of me – there are so many books I am looking forward to starting, although with all the news of the Shadow and Bone Netflix show, a reread of that series may also be on the cards.

Mini-Reviews: Daughters of Nri, Fevre Dream and The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls

Here are some more mini-reviews of recent reads. There is the start of a new series, an older standalone and, unfortunately, a DNF. This has made me consider where I stand on finishing all the books I start, or at least trying to, and I think I am coming round more to DNFing books if I’m not enjoying it. While the ending may be great, there are too many other books out there for it to be worth the slog on just a chance it might pay off. Something I will be considering more going forwards. Regardless, there are two other books here which I did finish and I did enjoy.

As ever, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo (narrated by Weruche Opia) – 4/5

Twin girls, separated at birth and daughters of a Goddess, destined to face the Eze, the man who chased the gods from the world. From the very start I was brough into this book, the descriptions of the two leads perfectly encapsulated their characters and the world they lived in. I really enjoyed their separate journeys an exploration of their potential. While it was slower in build-up, this worked well in both establishing the world and the people within it. The book does feel very much like the beginning of wider epic, with the Eze as just the first obstacle, and the ending was quite rushed. The narration though was brilliant and I will certainly be continuing this series.

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin – 3.5/5

Most know George R.R. Martin for the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I have recently been enjoying his standalone novels. Fevre Dream is set in the 1850s in the world of steam boats, New Orleans and the Mississipi.  Abner Marsh enters into a partnership with the mysterious Joshua York to create and run the greatest Steamship, only plans are side tracks as Marsh starts to question York’s strange habits, absences and friends. Martin does a fantastic job of creating memorable characters quickly as well as building up the world they live in. I love steamboats and having them as the main setting was both entertaining and unique, then throw in the vampires and you have an intriguing story. The book did struggle a bit with the pacing side and I felt there was almost too much focus on the steamships, even if this was a key part of Marsh’s character. Still, I did enjoy reading this one and thought it was a good vampire tale.

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn – 1/5 (DNF)

For listeners of Emilie Autumn’s music, this book will be very familiar. It’s a book that mirrors the themes that run through her songs and her album Fight Like a Girl is based on the same story. It also touches on some autobiographical elements, following a modern day ‘Emilie’ who is hospitalised for suicide and a Victorian Emily who is locked up in an Asylum. Unfortunately, I really struggled with this book. I was intrigued at the start, but it gradually descended into a story that I just could not get into. The writing was not strong enough to handle the story being told and there were so many issues from how mental health was handled to the entitled behaviour of the main character to the treatment of all the other characters, I ended up giving up in frustration. It’s a shame as this could have been a really interesting exploration of the mental health system in America paralleled with that of the 1800s, but instead just turned into a lot of, in some cases offensive, ramblings.

Mini-Reviews: Hell Cats, No Office Required, Cinderella is Dead

Here are some recent reads from January. A dramatisation, a non-fiction and a fairytale gone wrong. All quite enjoyable, all very different from one another.

As ever, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Hell Cats by Carina Rodney (narrated by full cast) – 3.5/5

An Audible original drama about the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. This is really well produced, with strong vocal talents and atmosphere generation, and each episode flows nicely into the next. In particular, the voice actors for the two leads were fantastic – they really captured the essence of the pirates they portrayed. The dramatization aspect did make it difficult to follow the story in places and figure out who was speaking, especially at the start. It took a good few episodes before I could fully settle in and appreciate the story and be invested in Bonny and Read, but once I did I was eager to see it through to the end, particularly Read’s journey. This is a great listen for anyone interested in piracy and entertaining characters. By the end, I was ready to set sail and head out on an adventure at sea.

Bruce Daisley: No Office Required by Bruce Daisley (narrated by Bruce Daisley) – 3/5

Bruce Daisley (surprise, surprise) is behind this interesting Audible podcast about working from home life. It covers a variety of different aspects with advice and interviews. What I particularly liked was that is also included different perspectives, from those who love working from home to those who much prefer the office. With the increasing shift to working from home or blended working following the pandemic, it is important to get your work-life balance, and your working set-up, right. This has a lot of useful tips in it, albeit a lot are those we would have already heard before, but it is good guide if you are struggling or just want to pick up some new ideas.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – 4/5

What happens when the fairytale becomes an enforced reality? That is exactly what is explored in this dystopian fairytale. 200 years after Cinderella has died, Sophia is 16 and about to attend her first annual ball where she will have to be picked by a man for marriage or be forfeit, only she is in love with her female best friend instead – something very much unaccepted by this society. I really enjoyed this book. Sophia was such an interesting character especially when we see it contrasted with Constance. The way the original fairytale was explored a few hundred years later alongside the concept of history being written by the victors was intriguing to read. There were a lot of twists and turns and it felt like the Sophia’s story and the original fairytale worked really well together, neither overpowering the other, fitting together nicely to create a whole. I will say I was expecting the book to be for a slightly older audience within the YA spectrum, so it did take me by surprise when I started reading, but once I got used to the younger writing style it worked well. Definitely a book for those who want a slightly different fairytale with excellent female characters.

The Books I Read in January 2021

January proved to be a great start to 2021 with regards to reading. I learnt about the sea-faring pirates and the dark web. I encountered vampires, fae and Greek gods and I visited worlds after the fairy-tale is over and where losing shadows mean losing memories. While I did like each of the books I read, some definitely stood out, with The Book of M being my favourite of the month (and Emily Woo Zeller joining my favourite narrators as well.)

As ever, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd (narrated by James Fouhey and Emily Woo Zeller) – 4.5/5

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (narrated by Caitlin Kelly) – 3.5/5

The Dark Web by Geoff White and Bernard P. Achampong (narrated by Geoff White) – 3.5

Hell Cats by Carina Rodney (narrated by full cast) – 3.5/5

Bruce Daisley: No Office Required by Bruce Daisley (narrated by Bruce Daisley) – 3/5

Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo (narrated by Weruche Opia) – 4/5

eBook

Lore by Alexandra Bracken – 4/5

Hardback

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – 4/5

Paperback

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – 4/5

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin – 3.5/5

Going into February, I have a lot of exciting reading planned. I am starting the month with my first tome of the year: Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James while also listening to Misbehaving by Richard E. Thaler (about behavioural economics). I suspect these are going to be relatively heavy reads so I have some hopefully lighter/less wordy ones planned, including another Cinderella reimaging for after the ever after (The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin). I do really want to get back into the habit of reading daily so that is something I will be working towards in February.

2021 Anticipated Releases – New Books

The last of my 2021 anticipated releases posts, this one looks at seven books coming out this year that are new books from already published authors (previous posts are Debuts and Sequels). There are some new-to-me authors here and some already known authors, but each of these books have caught my attention and I can’t wait to see how they go. This isn’t the complete list of my anticipated releases, but it’s a good sample of those I am looking forward to. Release dates have all come from Goodreads.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron – 6th July

After enjoying Cinderella is Dead, I knew I had to see what else Kalynn Bayron had up her sleeve. In this book, Briseis is a girl with power over plants – she can grow plants from seeds with a touch and has a talent for tinctures and elixirs. When she moves to an inherited estate for the summer with her family, she discovers a secret garden, mysteries and a dark threat. Plant magic, secrets, nefarious enemies, this looks to have a lot of great promise within.

A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson – 31st January

A reimagining of Dracula, with a focus on his brides, this book promises to be dark and haunting. It follows Constanta who is saved from the brink of death and finds herself a bride of Dracula. She soon starts to learn of his dark secrets and finds comfort in her fellow brides. I have no idea where S.T. Gibson is going to go with this book but I am excited to find out.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex – 4th March

Inspired by the real-life events in 1900 on Eilean Mòr, this books follows fictional events in 1972 as three lighthouse keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse in Cornwall, and again 30 years later from the perspectives of the women in their lives at the time. It tackles the emotions, fears and rumours that arise from such an event and may even get to the truth of what happened. This sounds really intriguing, a very human mystery, and I am curious to learn more.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri – 10th June

The start of a new series, and inspired by the history and epics of India, this book follows a princess and her maidservant as they try to save the empire from the princess’ brother. There is forbidden magic, the promise of vengeance and an unlikely alliance. I’ve read hardly any Indian-inspired fiction and am really looking forward to giving this book a go, especially as it seems to have a lot of ingredients that I enjoy!

Under the Whispering Door by T.J.Klune – 21st September

I loved the charm and light-hearted humour of T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea and this book promises to have more of that same substance. It is about Wallace Price, who has died but isn’t ready to cross over, and Hugo, a tea-shop owner who is also the ferryman, and their journey together as Hugo helps Wallace discover everything he missed. It sounds like a sad but gentle book with a whole lot of heart and I know I need to read it.

<The Spare Man cover not yet released>

The Spare Man by Marie Robinette Kowal – 13th July

On a space liner between Earth and Mars, someone is murdered and Tesla Crane’s husband Shalmanseer Steward has been framed for it. Tesla is determined to find out the truth and save her husband. With 1930s noir vibes and themes such as class, privilege and identity theft, this promises to be an intriguing read, not to forget the fact it is also set in space. I do enjoy a murder mystery and having one in space only adds to it.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff – 7th September

It wouldn’t really be an anticipated 2021 releases list without Empire of the Vampire. Jay Kristoff’s next series, this is going to be dark, heart-breaking, and deadly. It is set in a world where the sun hasn’t risen in nearly 30 years and vampires dominate the landscape. Last of the monster hunters, Gabriel is forced to tell his tale as he is imprisoned by the vampires, with hope of bringing an end to the eternal night all but diminished. I am very much looking forward to seeing vampires in all their vicious glory and am also excited for the fact that this book is illustrated.