A few days ago, I shared the first part of my mid-year reading wrap-up. The plan was to split it into two parts but I read so many books once lockdown started that writing this post got overwhelming pretty quickly! So it’s now a three-part series instead – woohoo!
Part two covers everything I read in April and May – books #17 to #40. You might already know how I feel about some of these if you’ve read my O.W.Ls readathon wrap-up but those weren’t the only books I read in April and I’ve never shared what I read in May so still lots of new mini reviews to take a look at!
Once this mini-series is complete, I promise I’ll start doing monthly reading wrap-ups. Even if only for my own sanity! I’ll also be introducing a book of the month segment which I’m very excited about and I’ll be reviewing every single book I read on Goodreads and Instagram. For now though, let’s take a look at those books!
Books I Read in April 2020
I AM THAT GIRL: How to Speak Your Truth, Discover Your Purpose and #bethatgirl
by Alexis Jones
A powerful guide to living your best life for young women.
I often find that these personal development type books come across as really preachy or condescending. That was 100% not the case here. In fact, it left me feeling overwhelmingly positive about what I’ve achieved and where I’m at in my life which is a pretty big feat really. It’s so easy to read and is especially relevant to women in their 20s and 30s when you’re expected to have it all figured out.
The Perfect Mother
by Caroline Mitchell
A desperate young woman moves in with a celebrity couple who are adopting her unborn child but everything unravels when she discovers that the last woman who moved in with them has never been seen again.
This one oozed tension, making it a great psychological thriller. You really do sympathise with the main character who kind of feels like she’s in no position to raise a child. But then she finds herself trapped in this nightmare and you’re desperate for her to escape.
Attempted murder/murder, sexual assault, imprisonment, traumatic birth
by Claire Kendal
A young woman is in hiding after she is asked to carry out espionage on her dangerous husband.
Another gripping thriller! Our main character here is a woman who desperately wanted to be a spy but failed her interview with MI5 only to be later recruited to keep tabs on her husband. What makes it stand out so much is that this woman isn’t just in danger, she’s constantly moving closer and further away from it. It’s handled really well and the result is an explosive psychological thriller.
Attempted murder/murder, scenes of violence, domestic abuse
You Let Me In
by Lucy Clarke
A woman becomes fearful for her safety after she rents out her beach-front home on Airbnb.
You’ll never want to list your home on Airbnb after reading this book, I tell you that much. It’s a stark warning about how you don’t know who you’re letting into your home. A lot of disturbing stuff happens once the homeowner returns and it gets intense. Naturally, no-one believes our protagonist.
Sexual assault, violence, attempted murder
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
A man investigates violent crimes and discovers that a well-respected doctor has found a way to physically split himself into two personalities: the “good” Dr. Jekyll and the “bad” Mr. Hyde.
I’d never read this classic until now but obviously I was familiar with the general plotline and its theme of duality. Still, it wasn’t what I expected it to be? In my head it was going to be from the narratives of Jekyll and Hyde, teasing you into the realisation that they were one and the same. But actually it’s narrated by one of Dr. Jekyll’s acquaintances – a lawyer, if I recall correctly?
Murder, assault, violence
Verona: a Ghost Story
by Benedict Ashforth
A couple struggling with infertility take a trip to Verona but find themselves haunted by a centuries-old curse.
I read this on a fluke really because I needed a short story for a readathon and went browsing the Kindle Singles section. It’s pretty dark however it’s absolutely brilliant. I do enjoy a good ghost story and this was one I’ll never forget.
Infertility, abortion, suicide, filicide, child death, murder
by Sophie Draper
As a woman dares to leave an unhappy marriage, her teenage son goes missing and all the family’s secrets come to light.
Now I’d heard a lot of great things about Magpie that sadly it didn’t live up to, in my opinion. None of the main characters were likeable or relatable and what sympathy I could muster up for our protagonist was purely on the basis that I’m a mother too and a missing child, however old, is a pain I hope I never experience. So that had a pretty big impact on my overall enjoyment and investment. But I must admit that the ending makes it all worth it.
Death, emotional abuse, child death
The Near Witch
by Victoria Schwab
On the night that a stranger appears in the town of Near, children start going missing from their beds and the townspeople are quick to point the blame, but was this the work of the stranger or a curse inflicted on the town by the fabled Near witch?
There’s so much that I could say about this book that I have no idea where to start. First of all, it’s another level of magic. The world building is immersive and atmospheric. You’ve got these fantastic characters who compliment each other so well. Witchcraft and curses and children disappearing into thin air. Honestly, it’s one of my favourite books of all time not just this year.
Child adbuction, occult, attempted murder/murder
Little White Lies
by Philippa East
Seven years after her abduction, a girl is found and reunited with her family but everyone is keeping secrets about what really happened that day.
This was a gripping domestic thriller about a young girl re-integrating with her family after being imprisoned for almost a decade. It was really intriguing and I loved all the shocking twists as each family member’s secrets spilled out. However, my only gripe with the book was its ending. I felt that there were more natural endings earlier on in the book and that maybe it just went on a tad bit longer than necessary?
by Louise Candlish
A provocative couple move onto a quiet suburban street and cause a great deal of disruption and animosity which ultimately results in the untimely death of two people.
I expected better if I’m being completely honest. The way that others rave about this book meant that my expectations were sky high and I was ultimately left very disappointed. It’s a slow-burner with the most unlikeable cast of characters I’ve ever read. Still, the need to know what happened does push you through the long chapters where you don’t care all that much about what happens or to who. And I mean, I didn’t hate it? It just wasn’t for me.
Attempted murder/murder, alcohol and drug abuse, harm to children
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
by J.K. Rowling
An illustrated exploration of mythical beasts.
First of all, the visuals on the animated Kindle version are fantastic. The content, however, left a lot to be desired. I consider myself to have an interest in mythical creatures but this failed to hold my attention for more than a few minutes at a time. There was a joke in there about ghosts that gave me a giggle but that was the highlight… and that was right at the start if I recall correctly?
The Gifts of Imperfection
by Brene Brown
An exploration of shame and how embracing our imperfections allows us to see that we are enough, exactly the way we are.
Brene Brown just gets it. I spent the large majority of this book (and Daring Greatly, which I’ll talk about later) nodding along in agreement. Everything just kind of clicked into place in my brain like yes, I needed this book. I needed these exact words. I’ve been trying to incorporate some of these strategies into my life and honestly, I feel so much lighter because of it. Highly recommended!
Two Can Keep a Secret
by Karen M. McManus
Twins move in with their grandmother in a small town – a town that has a history of missing and murdered girls and it’s just started happening again.
This was my second Karen McManus novel of 2020 so in comparison, Two Can Keep a Secret was my favourite. I’d love to see a sequel here because honestly, it was just a million times better than One of Us is Lying – which is saying a lot because that is amazing too. Ellery is a fantastic, down-to-Earth, highly relatable teenage girl who loves true-crime podcasts. So for me, I wanted her to solve the mystery of all the missing/dead girls and I wanted her to live to tell the tale. It’s also fast paced with a lot of action. But my absolute favourite thing? The last page. It left me breathless. Hands down, the best final page of 2020 – so far.
Attempted murder/murder, abduction, references to a hit and run
The Perfect Neighbours
by Rachel Sargeant
A woman moves to Germany to join her expat husband and despite her best efforts to fit in with her new community, she winds up accused of murder.
I really enjoyed reading The Roommates so jumped at the opportunity to read another of Sargeant’s thrillers but personally, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. A lot happens and it flicks between two narratives (Helen and the mysterious student Fiona) so at times it felt very disjointed and hard to follow. I think the biggest problem for me was that the emotional investment just wasn’t there – I didn’t consider any of the characters to be even remotely likeable.
Attempted murder/murder, cruelty to animals, sexual assault, manipulation, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, graphic violence
Books I Read in May 2020
Only the Innocent
by Rachel Abbott
The murder of a famous philanthropist leads detectives to uncover all of his dirty secrets.
I love Abbott’s DCI Tom Douglas series but until now I hadn’t read them in any particular order. (Oops!) So the first book in the series was new to me even though the series as a whole was not.
DCI Tom Douglas is quite possibly the most compassionate fictional detective of all time. He’s by no means perfect but he is an all-round good guy who wants to do the right thing. The story is the polar opposite of Douglas’ character: dark, twisted and full of inhumane acts against other people. It was one big shock fest and when it all the secrets finally came to light, it was sordid as hell.
Attempted murder/murder, domestic violence and abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, rape, incest, paedophilia, human trafficking, mental health, gaslighting
The Independent Guide to Disneyland Paris 2020
by G Costa
The most recent instalment of this Disneyland Paris travel guide range talks about what changes are coming to the park in 2020 and beyond as well as offering advice on how to plan your trip.
I read the most recent instalment of the Independent Guide to Disneyland Paris while planning a future trip. The content is more or less the same in each update with the odd reference to something that’s new for that calendar year for example new attractions, ride closures, hotel refurbishments. Personally, I think that the guide lacks depth and personality so if you’re looking for information ahead of a trip then I’d recommend checking out blogs/vlogs instead.
The Twisted Tree
by Rachel Burge
A girl with a visual impairment runs away to Norway to visit her grandmother but discovers that her grandmother died, her grandmother’s home is now inhabited by a strange teenage boy and there’s a creature on the loose killing people.
This wasn’t a book I’d normally go for but I’d heard great things about it – and it genuinely lives up to the hype! It’s atmospheric and magical while still managing to be immensely creepy. There are some mild horror elements and the odd scene of gore – but not enough to put me off or distract from the beautiful storytelling.
Horror elements, some gore
When I Was You
by Minka Kent
A woman suffering from memory loss starts questioning everything she knows when she discovers that another woman has stolen her identity – on paper and in real life.
When you think of identity fraud, this isn’t it. If someone steals your identity, this is pretty much your worst case scenario which is what I think makes this book stand out most. It’s not so far-fetched that it’s implausible, it’s just a tale of very extreme gaslighting and our protagonist, Brienne, just so happens to be on the receiving end but she doesn’t know it yet. It’s an incredibly tense, fast-paced thriller – one that I strongly recommend!
Gaslighting, attempted murder, mental health, being committed to a mental health facility (sectioned)
The Weight of Lies
by Emily Carpenter
While writing a tell-all about her horror writer mother, a young woman winds up on the mysterious island that was the setting for her mother’s bestselling novel and certain events make her question just how much of the novel was fiction.
This was by far one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read. The island is atmospheric in a derelict mostly uninhabited kind of way and that takes the already ever-growing tension to new heights. It’s told in a very unique way with chapters of the horror novel woven in, giving you the clues needed to put the pieces together yourself. That said, the “clues” went over my head leaving me with the shock of a lifetime at the end!
Scalping, attempted murder/murder, racism, filicide, horror elements
The Doll House
by Phoebe Morgan
A woman is tormented when pieces of her childhood doll house start randomly appearing in her home and workplace.
Let me start by saying that this was not at all what I was expecting – it was better! There was so much tension and suspense that I doubted every single secondary character and hated everyone for being so dismissive of Corinne’s distress. The scenes of maternal distress were the ones that affected me the most so naturally I spent the last few chapters trapped inside the pages of this book unable to do anything else and when I reached the ending, it left me desperate for more.
Attempted murder/murder, drug use and abuse, child endangerment, child abuse, home invasion, cruelty to animals/references to dead animals, infertility
by Neil Gaiman
A young girl discovers a door in her new home that leads to an alternative universe with alternative parents but they don’t want to let her leave.
An enjoyable and quick read but very creepy for a children’s book – though certainly not as disturbing as I was led to believe. In fact, the illustrations were scarier than the story itself. (I found myself avoiding the illustrations for this reason – again, I’m a big scaredy cat!)
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
by Suzanne Collins
The backstory behind Panem’s tyrannical President Snow who, as a teenager was a mentor to the District 12 tribute in the 10th Hunger Games.
Like many other fans of the Hunger Games trilogy, I had very high hopes for this prequel. But I was actually left feeling very conflicted to the point that I generously gave it a 4 star rating.
The thing I loved the most about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes? Sejanus Plinth. That was a book I would have felt satisfied reading. Instead we got this kind of ‘how Coriolanus Snow became a sociopathic jerk’ backstory when spoiler alert: he was kind of a jerk to begin with. Sejanus, in contrast, had so much potential and honestly, he deserved so much better.
I obviously can’t leave this review without discussing the relationship between Snow and the tribute he’s mentoring in the Hunger Games, Lucy Gray. It felt overly performative to me? Like it wasn’t entirely sincere on either side? I guess that’s why Katniss and Peeta were such a sore spot for him later on? So yeah, very mixed feelings about this one but I’d still recommend it to fans of The Hunger Games anyway even if only for a spot of context.
References of cannibalism, terrorist attacks, graphic violence, cruelty to children, attempted murder/murder
by Helen Phillips
A paleobotanist who has uncovered a series of bizarre items in her current dig site realises that there is a deer-masked intruder in her family home.
First of all, I was surprised to learn that this was in the runner for Goodreads’ Best Horror award last year. Surprised because it didn’t feel massively horror-y to me. There were certainly scenes that I was grateful I read in the day, with my husband at home to stop me freaking out and emptying out every toybox, cupboard and the like but these all happened fairly early on and were more thrills than scares?
What did stand out to me about The Need, however, was the way that it portrays motherhood and in particular, maternal loss. It was gut-wrenching. I cried through the final pages and so it took a few days to actually make sense of what had happened at the end of the story. It’s wonderful and raw and yeah, you need to read this book.
Child death, grief, terrorist attacks, home invasion
The Waiting Room
by Emily Bleeker
A grieving wife with debilitating postpartum depression discovers that her daughter is missing but no-one believes her.
I don’t know what I was expecting but this was not it. That said, The Waiting Room is a thrilling powerhouse of maternal guilt, postpartum depression and grief that it doesn’t even matter that it’s not what you thought it would be. One particular moment broke me, literally had me aching inside as the tears poured down my face. Any book that can cause an emotional reaction like that is a winner in my eyes.
Child death, postpartum depression
Phew! We’re done for today but keep a look out for the final part of my mid-year reading wrap-up where I’ll be talking about all of my June reads. All 16 of them! See you real soon!