Between the Bookends, Image: Sophie Brown

Between the Bookends: 3 Books We Read in December 2018

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Between the Bookends, Image: Sophie Brown
Between the Bookends, Image: Sophie Brown

December is a busy month (no kidding) but Sophie still found time to squeeze in three books for this month’s column. She’s excited to begin her new reading challenges for 2019 and would love to hear about yours too. Happy New Year!

The Siren, HarperCollins Publishers Limited
The Siren, HarperCollins Publishers Limited

The Siren by Kiera Cass

Sophie’s has a love-hate relationship with Kiera Cass. She read her astonishingly superficial Selection series (YA novels set in a future where America now has a royal family who meet their future spouses in a televised Bachelor-like competition) in its entirety several years ago and despite finding every one of the books eye-wateringly ridiculous, she still kept going back for more. Five times. Clearly, she still hasn’t learned because this month she listened to Cass’ debut novel The Siren via Audible.

The Siren has an interesting premise. The Ocean is a powerful being who must feed on human lives in order to sustain herself and the planet. To do this, she creates Sirens from young women who choose to serve her instead of drowning. Each Siren must serve the Ocean for 100 years but is then free to live a full human life. While they are enchanted, Sirens do not age, they cannot be injured or fall ill, and their voices are deadly to humans. Kahlen has been a Siren for 80 years when she meets Akinli. Accio instalove! Within days, Kahlen is changing everything in order to be with this Perfect Boy. This is well-trodden ground and the outcome is painfully predictable, but you knew that already didn’t you?

Sophie felt this could have been a better book if it had focused more on the sisterhood of Sirens rather than Kahlen and Akinli’s romance. Padma’s story, in particular, could have been so much deeper. Sophie has several questions about the mythology too. How did the Ocean sustain herself in the millions of years before humans evolved, for instance?

Of course, she never expected any solid backstory given the author and yet, as with The Selection, something about this story kept pulling her back in. Like The Selection, The Siren is ludicrous, but it will suck you in and keep you coming back for more.

Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin, Image: HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin, Image: HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Scarlet & Ivy: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly

Sophie’s second book of the month was the first in a new series she discovered when hunting for “a book by an author with the same first or last name as you” for the PopSugar 2018 reading challenge. Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly is a middle-grade novel set in the classic surroundings of an English boarding school in the 1930s. She listened to it thanks to Audible.

Ivy Gray, recently devastated by the death of her twin sister Scarlet, has been told she will be taking her sister’s place at Rookwood school. However, when she gets there, she discovers that she will be forced to become her sister, taking on her name and identity so the other girls and teachers won’t realize Scarlet is gone. As Ivy tries to fit in at Rookwood she befriends her charmingly nerdy roommate Ariadne and has to face the enemies her sister made during the previous year. Soon, she discovers that Scarlet has been hiding pages from her diary all over the school in hopes that Ivy will find them. Ivy is quickly breaking rules in order to follow her sister’s clues and put together the diary pages, hoping that she might find out the truth about what happened to Scarlet. All the while, she must avoid the wrath of Miss Fox who loves nothing better than to beat rulebreakers with her cane.

Sophie ended up loving this book so much she has already downloaded the second in the series. There’s ballet, a geeky BFF, midnight feasts, secret clues, and a mysterious old school – what’s not to love? She would strongly recommend the book to middle-grade readers and older readers too as there’s a lot to enjoy here. Fans of Malory Towers and Harry Potter (although there’s no magic here) will love these and Sophie already plans to devour the series ready for the final installment coming out this month.

The Cat in the Christmas Tree, Image: Peter Scottsdale
The Cat in the Christmas Tree, Image: Peter Scottsdale

The Cat in the Christmas Tree by Peter Scottsdale

Finally, Sophie read The Cat in the Christmas Tree, a very short (just 88 pages) chapter book about a mischievous black kitten called Shadow and his owner Nathan. Sophie picked it up because her family has just adopted three cats, including one all black kitten, who have all been a little too fascinated with the family Christmas tree and she thought her son would enjoy reading about a similar situation. She was right. Her son found the story so hilarious she frequently had to stop reading in order for him to catch his breath!

In the book, Shadow is causing mayhem for his new adopted family by attacking the Christmas tree and anything else he can get his paws into. Nathan loves Shadow and is desperate to keep him, but his father is getting increasingly angry with Shadow’s antics and threatens to send him back to the rescue center. Nathan hopes that the magic of the season will intervene which it does when their Christmas tree comes to life on Christmas Eve to show Shadow the error of his ways.

The story is as heavy-handed as that description makes it sound and Sophie struggled to read it without rolling her eyes thanks to dialog like this:

“[Nathan]’s such a sweet boy.”
“He sure is. Thank you Christmas Tree for showing me how to be a good cat.”

This was in addition to the two-dimensional characters like the grumpy father and simpering, placating mother, none of whom made her particularly enjoy the book. However, she is not the target audience and her nine-year-old son absolutely loved it. One to pick up ready for next Christmas if you have young cat lovers in your family (it’ll be here before you know it…!)

Note: GeekMom received all titles this month for review purposes.

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