This month has been a bit of a slow one for my reading but I think I have read my favourite book of the year so far. I have been really lucky to win a book competition as well as get the opportunity to review some fantastic books. I hope you enjoy this month’s round up and please let me know what you have loved reading in March in the comments below.
Sunflowers In February by Phyllida Shrimpton
For fans of John Green and The Lovely Bones
Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. and very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance arrive, and she sees her own body, that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.
But what is she supposed do now? Lily has no option but to follow her body and see her family – her parents and her twin brother start falling apart.
And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .
A moving, startlingly funny yet achingly sad debut novel from a stunning new talent.
What I Thought
I requested this book after reading the blurb and was excited to be accepted to read and review. Reading it however, was not the experience I expected. It didn’t let me down but I wasn’t as big of a fan of it as I thought I would be. I found it all rather odd.
The story begins with the main character, Lily, waking up in a field and realising she was dead. At first she follows her friends and family around and I did worry it was going to be a bit too close to The Lovely Bones as she makes a distressing discovery about her killer. However, instead, this book takes a different turn when she manages to communicate with her brother, and he ‘lends’ her his body so she can say goodbye, tie up loose ends etc. The tricky part is giving it back.
Like I say, I didn’t not enjoy this book but it was a bit weird. It explores the possibility of what happens when you die and the author had an interesting take on this, but I feel that we didn’t get to see enough of what happened to Ben and it never went really deep enough. The character of Lily was likeable and a typical teen, I think this would appeal to it’s most intended readers of YA. I enjoyed the first part of the book, exploring the feelings following death (both from Lily and her family and friends perspectives) and the effect it has, but I think the twist was just a little too far fetched and strange for me. Overall was a decent read but just not quite enough for me.
Bookworm by Lucy Mangan
The Cat in the Hat? Barbar? The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Whoever it was for you, it’s very hard to forget the vivid intensity of your first encounter with a book.
As a bespectacled young bookworm, Lucy Mangan devoured books: from early picture books, to Swallows and Amazons, Enid Blyton to Little Women, and from trashy teen romances to her first proper ‘grown-up’ novels. In Bookworm, she revisits this early enthusiasm; celebrating the enduring classics, and disinterring some forgotten treasures.
This is a love letter to the joys of childhood reading, full of enthusiasm and wit, telling the colourful story of our best-loved children’s books, the extraordinary people who created them, and the thousand subtle ways they shape our lives. It also comes packed with brilliant recommendations to inspire the next generation of bookworms and set them on their way.
This impassioned book will bring the unforgettable characters of our collective childhoods back to life – prompting endless re-readings, rediscoveries, and, inevitably, fierce debate. It will also act as an invaluable guide to anyone looking to build a children’s library and wondering where to start, or where to go next.
What I Thought
After Sunflowers In February leaving me feeling a little disappointed I couldn’t have moved on to a better book.
Lucy took me on a journey that I could have written and evoked so many happy memories of past, childhood reads. She shared a brief, interesting history about children’s publishing, along with some humorous family memories.
This book stirred up memories of old favourites as well as some books I had forgotten about. She also shared a couple I haven’t read and intend to seek out if I can. An absolutely brilliant read, especially for self-proclaimed bookworms like me. Highly recommended and easily my favourite read of the year so far.
“Leave us be. We’re fine. More than fine. Reading’s our thing”
“‘Pallid’ says my sister, peering over my shoulder as I type this. ‘Bespectacled, Friendless.’ Which is also true.And yet, who needed flesh-and-blood friends when I had Jo March, Charlotte, Wilbur and everyone at Malory Towers at my beck and call?”
“you simply never know what a child is going to find in a book (or a graphic novel, or a comic, or whatever) – what tiny, throwaway line might be the spark that lights the fuse that sets off an explosion in understanding whose force echoes through the years”
“‘He’s reading!’ More often than not, I tiptoe back to watch. I can practically see the stream of glittering words flowing into his mind, giving him new names for things, teaching him in some fundamental way that nothing else can manage”
“At most they will spend a few days tapping the backs of wardrobes hopefully (yes, I did – well, only the old wooden one in the spare room. All the others in the house were white-melamine-covered chipboard)”
“Sendak’s favourite fan, though, was a little boy who sent him a card with a little drawing on it. Out of respect for a fellow artist, Sendak went to some trouble with his reply and included a little drawing of his own – of a wild thing – to the boy. He got a letter back from the boy’s mother which said ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ Sendak considered it the highest compliment he had ever been paid. ‘He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.'”
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Audible – narrated by Cathleen McCarron)
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
An astonishing story that powerfully depicts the loneliness of life, and the simple power of a little kindness
What I Thought
My first impressions were that this book may not be my cup of tea. It has been very popular and spoken about a lot, which is why I chose to download it, but I was concerned I was not going to enjoy it, or even possibly get to the end.
Eleanor was a strange character who I just couldn’t warm to. But then, as the story continued, I really did grow to love this odd, simple, lonely lady. I found myself willing her on, cheering from the sidelines for her and hoping things would all turn out better for her. I wanted her to do well, to find love and to banish her awful mother from her life.
This story is a real journey and you see this woman grow in front of your eyes. It tackles the topic of adult loneliness and it is shocking to think that many people really do live this way. There is a lovely interview with the author at the end of the story in which she talks about developing the character and what prompted her to write this story.
I also really enjoyed the narration of this story. The soft Scottish accent was really how I envisioned Eleanor to talk and it bought the story and it’s location alive. I hear Reese Witherspoon has bought the rights to make the film and I am sure it will be brilliant. I found myself imagining the characters of Eleanor and Raymond to be played by Jayma Mays and Chris O’Dowd and really hope my ideas of the book aren’t ruined by a film version.
I would definitely recommend giving this one a read, or a listen. I really enjoyed this as an Audible book with it’s great narration and think it helped me enjoy it even more than if I had read it.
I hope you enjoyed my March reviews, as I said at the top of the post, please let me know what you have enjoyed reading this month in the comments below. You can still sign up for the Reading Challenge monthly newsletter by dropping me your email address. I am attempting to read 50 books this year and hope you will try it with me!
Thankyou to NetGalley, Vintage Books and Bonnier Zaffre for my ARC of Sunflowers In February and Bookworm. I was given these books in return for a review but all opinions are my own