Reviews, Wrap Ups

April Wrap Up

Thank goodness half my reads were electronic because I have rubbish upper body strength and these were heavy!

Well April turned out to be an excellent reading month for me. I was expecting To get through very little due to being super busy with work but I’m also someone who reads more when they’re anxious or stressed. This resulted in me getting through 20 books in April which is frankly quite ridiculous.

This month I read the following, will add links to the relevant blogs (if they exist yet as some reviews won’t be up for a wee while…because I’ve not finished them yet. But they’re all reviewed on my vlog which is at the bottom of this post.

5 💫

The Dark Between the Trees – Fiona Barnett* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/27/the-dark-between-the-trees/

Six Crimson Cranes- Elizabeth Lim https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/13/six-crimson-cranes/

This Wicked Fate- Kalynn Bayron* ✨ My Book Recommendation of the Month! https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/09/this-wicked-fate/

Young Mungo- Douglas Stuart https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/30/young-mungo/

4 💫

The Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl- Joya Goffney* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/06/confessions-of-an-alleged-good-girl/

Deep Wheel Orcadia- Harry Josephine Giles Review Pending

Hyde- Craig Russell https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/20/hyde/

Life Ceremony- Sayaka Murata* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/16/life-ceremony/

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?-Agatha Christie Review Pending

3 💫

Empress Crowned in Red- Ciannon Smart* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/23/empress-crowned-in-red/

A History Maker-Alasdair Gray Review Pending

Open Water – Caleb Azumah Nelson Review Pending

2 💫 (I don’t usually post reviews about books that I award fewer than 3 stars to)

Grave Importance- Vivian Shaw

Madwoman – Louisa Treger*

The Moon, The Stars, and Madame Burova- Ruth Hogan

The Vexed Generation- Scott Meyer

Widowland- C.J. Carey

1 💫

The Assassin King- Elizabeth Haydon

The Island- C.L. Taylor

Non-Fiction

A is for Arsenic, The Poisons of Agatha Christie- Kathryn Harkup

*#gifted

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Young Mungo

Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars–Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic–and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.

Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022. I preordered it at the start of the year and have been counting down until it was released. When I received this book I tried so hard to take my time reading it, to savour it. I managed for a couple of days but by the time I reached halfway, I just could not put it down and devoured it. I absolutely loved this book! It was definitely a 5 star read.

I utterly adored wee Mungo. He was just a kind hearted and lovely kid. He just wanted to have his family be happy. James was another lovely kid. He was so gentle and patient with his pigeons. I really liked Mungo’s sister and I really felt for her. I also had a lot of love for Mungo’s lovely neighbours, just the lovely ones. They were like an extra family.

The love between Mungo and James was so pure and gentle. It really felt like first love. I read this book just waiting for bad times to happen because these two boys were from different communities that regularly fought each other.

I did enjoy the two different stories throughout the book- the romance and the fishing trip. It was enjoyable reading the events that led to him being on the trip.

My heart broke so many times while reading this book. There were so many points where the book was just so utterly heartbreaking. I genuinely sobbed so hard that I struggled to read the last few chapters through my tears. Yet I didn’t want to stop reading and go and get a tissue, so I just read through the sobbing.

This book covered so many hard and upsetting topics which included alcoholism, poverty, abuse, homophobia, violence. However, the book wasn’t a depressing read. Throughout the darkness there were moments of hope. While I was a broken human reading this book, I did feel like there was still some potential for joy.

This was such a beautifully written and emotional read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am so happy that I let myself just devour it because I couldn’t wait. I wanted to know what happened to Mungo and James.

Scottish Reads, Vlogs, Wrap Ups

Reading Scottish- April Wrap Up

Welcome to my Reading Scottish Wrap Up for April! As you may know, last year I decided to make a conscious effort to read more Scottish fiction. Scotland has produced so many amazing authors and I’m on a quest to make sure that I read some of these novels every month.

Having a wee photo shoot with my books. As one does

It’s been a most excellent reading month for me and Scottish fiction and I’m really excited to share my reads with you!

Scottish reads for April include:

Hyde- Craig Russell

Deep Wheel Orcadia- Harry Josephine Giles

A History Maker-Alasdair Gray

Young Mungo- Douglas Stuart

As always, if you’ve read and enjoyed any Scottish fiction please let me know. I love getting recommendations!

Fingers crossed for another excellent month of Scottish reads in May!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Hyde

Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.

When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.

He must find the killer, or lose his mind.

A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.

I bought this book as it was the winner of the McIlvanney award in 2021 and I’d loved the 2020 winner. This awards goes to the Scottish Crime book of the year so I felt that this felt as good a reason as any to choose a book. I was instantly drawn to the plot as I was very into Jekyll and Hyde as a kid and still am. I was hoping that this would be a creepy and chilling tale. I gave this book 4 stars but it’s definitely more like a 4.5, I really enjoyed it!

I enjoyed the main characters. Hyde had a dark past and he was very sympathetic. He was desperate to understand what was happening to him. My favourite character was the Lady Doctor called Calley (I say this because everyone kept being shocked by her being a lady because it was the past). I didn’t just like her because my name is Caley and what’s an extra ‘L’ between friends? I liked her because she was strong and confident and brave in a time where women were thought of as feeble and less intelligent that their male counterparts.

This book was as creepy as I’d hoped! I don’t like scary but I enjoy gothic horror which this felt like. My fear levels are that of a Victorian with a sickly pallor! I enjoyed the darkness of this book and the sacrifices and cult elements were chilling!

The book was jam packed full of twists and turns. There was a cult, murders, missing people, stalkers, missing memories etc. I loved trying to work out of these were all related or not. I made so many guesses and they were all wrong which I enjoyed.

Despite this book being quite dark, there were moments of lightness and joviality. The comments about the lack of pockets in womenswear was a personal favourite!

I really enjoyed this book and I’m not usually one for books set from the police point of view. Although historical policing is ok, I think I just get annoyed when they do things they shouldn’t. Victorian authorities were pretty loose with the rules so I didn’t get annoyed (I do not think that being loose with the rules is a good thing for authorities, I just mean for plot accuracy). Although, maybe I just like the baddies? I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the shortlist for the 2022 award as I’ve not been let down by it yet!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a crucial mission involving Macbeth, the Weird Sisters and a black cat.

Unsure which version of history she’s in, Shona tries to figure out who she’s here to save. But between playing the Fool and being turned into a mouse, things don’t always go her way. Shona’s expertise in martial arts is out to the test as family tensions rise and fingers are pointed to Murder. Can Shona unravel the mystery in time to complete her mission?

… Never underestimate a librarian!

This is the third book in the Miss Blaine’s Prefect series. I absolutely loved the second book so my expectations of this third instalment were high! I can happily report that my expectations were exceeded. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

While this is part of a series, the books can easily be read as standalone novels. All you need to know is that Shona gets sent back in time to correct moments in history and hilarity ensues.

I really enjoyed Shona as a character. She’s so intelligent but she has no common sense or risk awareness which leads to her ending up in some pretty awkward situations. I really enjoyed all of the characters in this book, I loved Duncan and the Hectate the most though.

I have never read Macbeth but do know the basic plot (mainly from Terry Pratchett and The Simpsons). I didn’t feel like that was required reading as the story filled in any gaps.

Neighbour Cat approved

There were a lot of things going on in this book so multiple plots going on. It was easy to keep up with the various plots though as they involved different people and it was very clear what were and weren’t related.

Like with the previous books, this book had a lot of references to historical events. Not just 11th century Scotland but lots of little historical nuggets which I really enjoyed.

This book was utterly hilarious and I laughed so much while reading this. I laughed a lot at the silly situations that Shona ended up in. I also laughed heartily at the terrible jokes within this book. Shona was mistaken for being a fool and with that, came many terrible jokes. However, since the audience of 11th century had never heard these jokes, their reactions made the jokes really funny.

This book was very moreish and I didn’t want to put it down…so I didn’t. I finished it in one day and I regret nothing. Sometimes you just don’t want to stop reading a book and time allows to keep going.

I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend the series. This is possibly my favourite book in the series but closely followed by The Vampire Menace. I received this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish-March Wrap Up

Hello and welcome to my Reading Scottish Wrap Up for March. It’s been another good month of reading and I got through 4 books by Scottish authors- including a long awaited recommended read and two previously enjoyed authors

Rizzio- Denise Mina
The Young Team- Graeme Armstrong
Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz- Ely Percy
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters- Olga Wojtas*

*gifted

I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these! Or if you’ve enjoyed any other Scottish fiction
💕

Reading Scottish- March Wrap Up
Reviews, Scottish Reads

Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz

Enter Vicky Romeo: lover, actor, bullshitter. Romeo is a slick, serial heartbreaker who is determined to land the lead in an all-women rendition of The Importance of Being Earnest. She thinks she has life figured out, but then she falls in love…

Enter Julie Turner aka Joolz: sexy, sarcastic, femme fatale and a cheerleader to boot. Stamping on hearts and traditional stereotypes she plays girls like Vicky Romeo at their own game.

Set in Glasgow in 2001, our heroines and their cohorts take on the world one incredibly gay step at a time.

I picked this book up when I was in Category Is Books, in Glasgow, at the start of the month. I’m still basking in the pride of reading a book in the month that I bought it. This has very much been the month for it but I have no faith in my ability to keep that up. I absolutely adored this book, I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads but it would have been 4.5 if Goodreads allowed halves.

This book was prefaced by a statement from the author who said that the book was written in 2001 which is the year that it was set. The attitudes and terminology used are that of the scene at the time and the book would have been totally different were it written today. I appreciated this because otherwise I’d have probably been a bit put off by some of the attitudes. As this book was about a community that I wasn’t part of in 2001, I’m taking the author’s word.

I absolutely loved that this was a story about a romance between Vicky Romeo and Julia Turner as I loved the nod towards Romeo and Juliet. While there is drama in this book, it’s very much not a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet. It was very much it’s own romance. It was a quite sweet romance which I really enjoyed.

At first I didn’t really like either of the main characters. I thought that Vicky Romeo was arrogant and reminded me so much of an old flatmate who used to boast about never being turned down by a romantic partner…and then one time they were and they were a wreck as they’d never faced rejection. However as the book went on, I could see through their shell and she was a sweetheart who just wanted to love and be loved and really wasn’t as confident as they appeared. Joolz annoyed me at first as they seemed to be playing games with Vicky despite saying they weren’t their type. There was a great deal of her being hot one moment and blanking her the next. Although I had to remind myself that these characters were 20/21 .

I really liked the strong parental role models in this book. I loved Mama Romeo and Sam! There were a lot of side characters that I did get a bit confused with. I enjoyed Kat but I didn’t like the other flatmate.

There were a few twists and turns in this book that I just did not see coming. They were very well done and really helped to make the characters feel real. I feel like I could have been friends with these people, I’d have gone to see their play!

I absolutely loved the setting of 2001 Glasgow. I loved the references to Nokia phones and a whole bunch of scenes in an Internet cafe. It was very nostalgic in places.

This was my second book by Ely Percy and it won’t be my last. I’m adding them to my autobuy author list! I’m so glad that I didn’t wait too long to read this book because I really did enjoy it.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Young Team

2005. Glasgow is named Europe’s Murder Capital, driven by a violent territorial gang and knife culture. In the housing schemes of adjacent Lanarkshire, Scotland’s former industrial heartland, wee boys become postcode warriors.

2004. Azzy Williams joins the Young Team [YTP]. A brutal gang conflict with their deadly rivals, the Young Toi [YTB] begins.

2012. Azzy dreams of another life. He faces his toughest fight of all – the fight for a different future.

Expect Buckfast. Expect bravado. Expect street philosophy. Expect rave culture. Expect anxiety. Expect addiction. Expect a serious facial injury every six hours. Expect murder.

Hope for a way out.

I had been wanting to read this book for a while and I’m so glad I managed to make time for it. I absolutely devoured this book and gave it 5 shiny stars!

This book was split into multiple sections which covered 3 main periods of Azzy’s life: Joining the gang, becoming an adult, and thinking about the future. The book started with Azzy being a young teenager who had been drawn into gang life. He was only 14 and it was totally expected that he would join a gang. It was so much more than a gang though, it was friendship and found family. His youth involved a lot of drinking, casual drug use, and violence. As he grew up, the violence between Azzy’s gang and the rival gang continued. With Azzy being older he became more involved in the beef between the gangs. The violence and the risks increased. The final part saw Azzy considering their future and what role the gang would take in this.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, they felt so real. I found myself really worrying when the kids went off to fight. I actually spent so much of the book waiting for more bad things to happen. I laughed during parts of this book and I cried too. The protagonist, Azzy, was a flawed character but I liked him. He was a fiercely loyal person but he made some bad choices. I absolutely loved his mum and cousin who just wanted him to be safe.

This book really showed how easily Azzy was swept into gang culture. It felt like a normal thing for him to be part of a gang. The book included facts about gang culture in Scotland which helped to bring the story to life. Gang culture wasn’t something I knew a great deal about and this book really opened my eyes to something that was and is something that is still a huge issue in Scotland. The book also included references to drug culture and how that tied into gang life.

This book was set in Airdrie in the West of Scotland and was written all in the vernacular. You don’t need to be Scottish to be able to enjoy this book as it’s pronounced phonetically. I think that this could make an absolutely amending audiobook!

This book was eye opening and full of violence but it was so much more than that. It was a story about trying to fit in, loyalty and friendship, and growing up. There were some really heartwarming parts of this book and I am so glad that I read this! I highly recommend this book!

Vlogs

Glasgow Book Haul

I recently went to Glasgow for a wee trip. My friends and I got tickets to see My Dad Wrote a Porno back in 2019 and after many reschedules, the day finally came to see the show! So I hopped down to Glasgow (by ‘hopped’ I mean, ‘took a 3.5 hour bus trip) and managed to give myself a whole day to go book shopping! I fully intended to buy many books and I did! I ended up bringing back 16 books and I’m so excited about every one!

My vlog where I share my new books

I lived in Glasgow for 10 years but I left so many years ago that I wasn’t sure if any of my favourite book shops were still open. I asked friends for recommendations of where to buy books and the overwhelming majority suggested Category Is Books and Outwith Books, so I had to pay a visit to each of those places.

I went to the following bookshops in Glasgow:

South Side

Category Is Books

34 Allison St, Glasgow G42 8NN

Outwith Books

14 Albert Rd, Glasgow G42 8DN

West End

Oxfam Books

330 Byres Rd, Glasgow G12 8AP

City Centre

Waterstones

153-157 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3EW

WHSmith

Buchanan Bus Station

I think that it will be a while before I do anymore book shopping, other than bookclub books, as I’ve got no space left on my bookshelves and I’ve no idea where to put these new purchases. I regret nothing!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Rizzio

On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This breathtakingly tense novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before.

A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens—and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.

This was my first Denise Mina book and what an introduction it was. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I gave it 4 stars and it’s a high 4, like a 4 and a half.

In primary school, my classmates and I were mildly obsessed with learning about the Scottish Royal Family. When I saw that this book was about Mary, Queen of Scot’s’ best pal Rizzio, I knew I wanted to read it.

The murder of Rizzio was something that I did know about (because of all off my childhood research) and I really enjoyed a book that delved into what happened. I kept forgetting that this book was fiction! The book was peppered with facts that had previously been well documented and that made me forget that I was reading a novel.

I loved the character arc given to Mary. She was so strong and brave. Even when she felt like she had nobody on her side, she didn’t show any sign of weakness. She was truly a queen. Lord Darnley was a drunk, a daddy’s boy who had no thoughts of his own, and a follower. He believed that he was entitled to be king based solely on him being a man. I thought that the characters were written beautifully! They felt real. Obviously they were real people but they felt familiar. It almost read like an episode of Real Housewives of …the Renaissance. I felt so angry towards Darnley and it’s always impressive when an author can make you feel so passionately about a character.

The imagery of this book was amazing. I really felt like I could imagine the castle. It’s a castle that I have only the vaguest of memories of but it really came alive! The perks of growing up in the Scottish Borders was that we had so many historical buildings nearby and got to visit a lot of cool places. This may have fuelled my primary school obsession with the Scottish Royals.

This book was a novella so it was super short and was easily consumed in one sitting. I read this in two sittings though because I had to travel and didn’t want to take a partially read book with me as I knew it was too short to last the journey so I put it aside for later.

I think that this was an excellent introduction to this very well known Scottish author. This definitely won’t be the last book that I read by this author as I’m so keen to find more goodies. Also, on the day that I started reading this book, I went to Glasgow and Denise Mina cycled past me on Sauchiehall Street (she was wearing a glorious green cardigan). That seemed like some sort of sign that I was going to enjoy this book and I really did!