Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two

Published March 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone and welcome to my Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two. For my original post, please click HERE and for my Wrap Up please click HERE. I’ve now done individual reviews for all five books that I predicted I would give five stars so you can check them out by searching for them on my blog.

So, if you haven’t been here before, what’s it all about?

One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) NOS4R2 – Joe Hill

Joe Hill is a bit of a special author for me, being the son of my all-time favourite author, Stephen King. I’m slowly making my way through his back catalogue. I gave his first two novels, Heart-Shaped Box and Horns the big five stars and I’m making my way through his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts in my Short Stories Challenge (where I’ve read one story so far and unfortunately, it wasn’t five stars). However, I seem to be a big fan of his novels and I have high hopes that this one is going to be another five star read for me!

2.) The Vegetarian – Han Kang

I’ve already mentioned this book in my New Year, New Books Tag as one of the books I most wanted to get to this year. I’ve heard so many good things about it, I adore that cover and it’s such a short read at 183 pages that I really have no excuse for getting round to it. Will it be five stars? I hope so!


3.) Dadland – Reggie Carew

Dadland walked away with the Costa Award for best biography back in 2016 and I’ve seen quite a few rave reviews about it. It’s quite rare I give a non fiction tome five stars but I’ve got a good feeling about this one and think it’s going to be an emotional read.

4.) My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

This is one of those books I can’t BELIEVE I haven’t read yet and need to remedy that in the next few months! It was on the Costa Shortlist for best first novel in 2016 like Dadland and has been on my TBR a ridiculous amount of time. This needs to happen. I have a sneaking suspicion it might be a five star!

5.) Sing Unburied Sing – Jesmyn Ward

This is the only new release on my Five Star TBR Predictions, it recently won the National Book Award over in America and here in the UK it has been long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction. I’ve heard a few mixed reviews now, some fantastic and some luke-warm but I still have confidence I’m going to love it!

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!



The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) – Alan Bradley

Published March 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

What did I think?:

I have to admit I was first attracted to this novel by the extremely quirky title and the promise of a precocious and determined female protagonist. Essentially, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie provided me with exactly this but I was delighted to get so much more besides. This novel is like a hot water bottle in your bed on a freezing night and the cosiness of the narrative is perfectly complimented with our wonderful female lead, whose endearing qualities and dogged stubbornness to root out the truth is both charming and heart-warming.

Our setting is 1950’s England, where eleven year old Flavia de Luce lives with her father and two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. Flavia has a thirst for knowledge and a keen mind, being particularly interested in chemistry and the possibility of incorporating poison ivy into her older sister’s lipstick when she annoys her!

If Feely only knew that lipstick was made from fish scales, I thought, she might be a little less eager to slather the stuff all over her mouth. I must remember to tell her. I grinned. Later.

However, Flavia’s mind is about to be thoroughly tested after a number of strange occurrences. First, she finds a dead bird with a postage stamp attached to its beak and then a little later, she finds a strange man dying in the cucumber patch in her garden. Rather than being terrified, Flavia becomes set on discovering what has happened to the stranger, why it happened and who is responsible. As a result, her amateur detective skills and intelligent ponderings lead her right into the heart of a rather sinister mystery where she will not rest until it is resolved.

I’ve read quite mixed reviews of this novel on Goodreads, particularly about the character of Flavia who seems to be a bit of a “marmite” individual for various reviewers. I can completely understand this, Flavia can be incredibly annoying, nosey and stubborn and I can see why she might frustrate some readers. However, I adored her. Her sense of humour (as illustrated in the above quote) was so engaging and I loved all the opportunities Alan Bradley took in the novel to make me smile, they were so numerous. If I had to describe this novel to anyone interested in reading it, I would perhaps talk about a miniature, female Sherlock Holmes with the wit of the very best stand up comedian in a setting Agatha Christie would be proud of.

It’s a real feel-good story and although the mystery isn’t difficult to unravel for the reader and in fact, I did guess what was going on fairly quickly, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. The beauty of this book for me is to be had in the character of Flavia and the way she unpicks a very mysterious murder. I can only imagine growing to love this character more and more as the series continues and I simply must make time for the second book, which also has another fantastic title – The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

Published March 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:


Based on the shocking true story of the infamous witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, this haunting and gripping novel is perfect for fans of The Miniaturist, Sarah Waters and The Essex Serpent.

‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

What did I think?:

I’ve been familiar with The Witchfinder’s Sister for a little while now after my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads read and reviewed it as part of a blog tour. So when Richard and Judy picked it for their Spring Reads 2018 here in the UK, I was intrigued to finally discover what it was all about, particularly when I re-read the synopsis and realised it was a work of historical fiction based on events that really happened and people that actually existed in history. I love a good historical fiction, particularly one that is based largely on fact and it promised to be an intriguing read that I was hoping would keep me captivated. Generally, this is a good read, especially for anyone interested in the time period when many women were accused of witchcraft and subjected to horrific tortures in order to prove their guilt. However, by the end, it just didn’t grab my attention as much as I would have hoped and unfortunately, I wasn’t as blown away by the narrative as I had expected to be.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is told primarily from the point of view of Alice Hopkins, who has recently lost her husband in a tragic accident and is forced to return home to her brother’s house whilst in the early stages of pregnancy to beg for his help and shelter. Alice hasn’t seen her brother, Matthew Hopkins for a while and they parted fairly acrimoniously last time they spoke, with Matthew not having many kind words to say about Alice’s choice of husband. However, when Alice is finally reconciled with him, she is surprised by just how much of a difference she sees in her brother. After hearing rumours from the servants, she finds out that Matthew is keeping a list of women in the town that he suspects to be witches. Worse still, he is heavily involved with the apprehension, questioning and indeed, torture of these alleged witches and is so determined to convict as many women as possible, it is frightening. This novel follows Alice and Matthew as the former tries desperately to talk sense into her brother and the latter becomes hell-bent on pursuing this path, for various hidden reasons of his own.

As a piece of historical fiction, The Witchfinder’s Sister is luminous in both detail and atmosphere and this all leads to an instantly compelling narrative. I really felt for Alice at the beginning of the novel, having lost the love of her life and being forced back into a situation that causes her great anxiety. Then we learn a little more about Alice and the number of pregnancies that she had which resulted in miscarriage, a topic which is sadly very close to my own heart. As the novel continued however, I found myself becoming quite frustrated with Alice, mainly because I felt she didn’t stand up to her brother enough (I do note that women were meant to be submissive in this time period but Alice did seem like she should have had enough fire in her belly to dispute Matthew’s goings-on!).

Furthermore, there was a point in the narrative where something quite supernatural occurs which I thought was quite an interesting direction to take the story. However, nothing more really happened in this vein and I wondered what the point was of having it within the tale in the first place. Aside from these minor issues, I did think this was a solid novel and the author sets the scene absolutely beautifully with intricate descriptions and the inclusion of some very interesting parts of Matthew’s notebook which I fully appreciated. I think fans of historical fiction or those that love a good “witchy” story will really enjoy this and I must assure you, I do think it’s a good read, it just wasn’t an amazing one for me, personally speaking.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Witchfinder’s Sister was the twenty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Another Day In The Death Of America – Gary Younge

Published March 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

On Saturday 23 November 2013 ten children were shot dead. The youngest was nine; the oldest was nineteen. They fell in suburbs, hamlets and ghettos. None made the national news. It was just another day in the death of America, where on average seven children and teens are killed by guns daily.

Younge picked this day at random, searched for their families and tells their stories. What emerges is a sobering, searing, portrait of youth and guns in contemporary America.

What did I think?:

This piece of non fiction has been on my TBR for quite a long time and I’m delighted (yet still slightly traumatised from the reading experience) that I’ve finally got around to reading it. If you’re a long-time follower of my blog you might remember a post I did on the short piece of work by Stephen King called Guns. If you haven’t read it and feel as passionately as I do about gun regulations, you really should, I found it to be a phenomenal read. But back to Gary Younge whom in Another Day In The Death Of America, takes one 24 hour period, completely at random and catalogues in detail the stories of young people who have died because of guns. Some of the families of the victims he was unable to speak to personally, (understandably some grieving parents found it too difficult to talk to a journalist) but in these cases, he goes behind the scenes and learns as much about the young person that has died as possible.

It’s absolutely shocking to think that in the one day that Gary Younge chose, TEN young people were shot dead, the youngest being just nine years old which was particularly horrifying to me. I’m not sure if it was the age of this victim, a young boy called Jaiden, or the manner of his death which was so abhorrent to me and I really felt passionately angry at the perp. What kind of grown man or to put it better – monster, inflicts that on a child purely to get back at an ex? With Another Day In The Death Of America, the punches just keep on rolling and I had to keep my notebook handy to write down multiple facts as I read them as I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. Did you know that firearms are the leading cause of death in black children under the age of nineteen in America and the second cause of death in children of the same age groups after car accidents? Furthermore, a lot of people justify these figures as being “black on black crime” (a direct quote from a New York Mayor) but the difference between black people killing other black people and white people killing other white people is barely significant.

I just want to mention one more story that had a profound effect on me, although I have to add that all these stories will touch in you in some shape or form. There was a case of two boys, eleven and twelve years old respectively, who were left alone overnight without adult supervision. Tragically, one of the boys was killed by the other accidentally. The father was held as responsible, often leaving his guns out where the children could reach them and in the end, he was charged with the crime of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” Basically, this is the same charge as if the two boys had found his stash of porn!

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book, apart from Gary Younge’s obvious compassion towards all the victims, is that not all of the victims are made out to be angels. He accepts that in fact, some of them made very bad decisions and life choices and illustrates their individual circumstances, situation they were born in to, limited choices, bad schools, the availability of drugs, the lure of gangs etc. He doesn’t make any excuses for them but lays out the cold, honest facts on the table for the reader to scrutinise. At the end of the day however, does anything in the world excuse the fact that they were shot? I don’t think so.

After the horrific Florida Parkland shooting recently, I feel more strongly than ever that there should be more stringent regulations on guns. In this book, Gary Younge could not have illustrated this point any better by including a quote by President Obama who said words to the effect: “if there’s a lock to prevent a child getting into some aspirin, there should definitely be a lock to stop a child pulling a trigger on a gun.” In fact, it’s a sobering thought that 31% of accidental deaths caused by firearms could be prevented by adding child lock/loading indicators. If you’re interested in this topic and have fervent views on gun violence like my own, I highly, highly recommend this book. It will make you think, break your heart and pray that something can be done to stop this madness soon.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge is the twentieth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Clay Girl – Heather Tucker

Published March 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.

Eight-year-old Hariet, known to all as Ari, is dispatched to Cape Breton and her Aunt Mary, who is purported to eat little girls . . . With Ari on the journey is her steadfast companion, Jasper, an imaginary seahorse. But when they arrive in Pleasant Cove, they instead find refuge with Mary and her partner Nia.

As the tumultuous ’60s ramp up in Toronto, Ari is torn from her aunts and forced back to her twisted mother and fractured sisters. Her new stepfather Len and his family offer hope, but as Ari grows to adore them, she’s severed violently from them too, when her mother moves in with the brutal Dick Irwin.

Through the sexual revolution and drug culture of the 1960s, Ari struggles with her father’s legacy and her mother’s addictions — testing limits with substances that numb and men who show her kindness. She spins through a chaotic decade of loss and love, the devilish and divine, with wit, tenacity, and the astonishing balance unique to seahorses.

The Clay Girl is a beautiful tour de force that traces the story of a child, sculpted by kindness, cruelty and the extraordinary power of imagination, and her families — the one she’s born in to and the one she creates.

What did I think?:

I really don’t know where to start with this review and I’m really hoping my ramblings make some sort of sense but we’ll see how we go. The Clay Girl was the last book that I predicted I would give five stars to in my Five Stars TBR Prediction post after I had seen so many positive reviews and couldn’t resist it after reading those powerful first few sentences of the synopsis. It didn’t end up being a five star read for me personally, I had a few teeny weeny little issues with it that prevented me giving it the big five but interestingly enough, it’s a book that has stayed with me ever since I finished reading it. It’s up there with some of the most creative and quirky writing styles that I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across and although the subject matter at points made for a very difficult reading experience, I’m infinitely glad that I put myself through it.

This novel tells the story of Ari (Hariet by birth but her mother made a spelling mistake when naming her) and her imaginary seahorse companion, Jasper. Ari relies on Jasper to keep her company, keep her strong and keep her sane through her traumatic childhood with an abusive father and an alcoholic mother. After her father dies, she is peddled off to her Aunt and her partner to live and she begins to feel she could at last be happy but unfortunately, not for long. Her mother regains custody of her and she is forced to re-enter a world of indifference and neglect with a mother who just couldn’t care less. At first, she has another person in her life to make things a bit brighter but when fate shows its hand again, Ari is once again left in a circle of abuse with another “father figure” to make her and her siblings life a living hell. Ari depends on her seahorse Jasper, her vivid imagination and huge strength of character to make it through the precarious nature of her childhood to a place where she can finally escape back to her aunts and be happy once more.

I think that’s pretty much all I want to say about the plot but I just want to reassure readers that even though it sounds like a cycle of unrelenting misery for our female protagonist (and to be honest, it kind of is!), the gorgeous language that Heather Tucker uses to tell Ari’s story makes this awful story well worth the heart-ache. The things that Ari goes through from childhood right through adolescence and early adulthood are tricky to read about but the journey she goes through as a person makes it well worth your time. This isn’t going to be a book for everyone, I have to say. The narrative can be very strange and confusing at times, even the way sentences are structured and grammar is used and sometimes I felt like I had to go back and re-read whole chunks of it as I wasn’t fully concentrating at the time of reading it. However, if you’re in the mood for something a bit different with a stunning literary edge, I would highly recommend trying The Clay Girl and seeing what you think. The stranger, dream-like, more hazy parts of the narrative didn’t pull me in as much as I would have hoped but I have to admit, I would read anything Heather Tucker writes purely for the beautiful way she uses words.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Look out for my Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two coming soon to bibliobeth.

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – A Child’s Problem by Reggie Oliver from the collection A Book Of Horrors.

Published March 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s A Child’s Problem all about?:

A Child’s Problem focuses on a precocious young boy who is forced to go and live with his rich uncle and undergoes a rather haunting experience in his efforts to try and get to know his uncle a little better.

What did I think?:

Reggie Oliver is a well-respected British playwright, biographer and writer of ghost stories and has received numerous nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Stoker, International Horror Guild and the Shirley Jackson awards. Due to these numerous accolades, I found myself quite excited to discover his work, having never come across him in the past so a short story seemed the perfect place to begin. Now I’ve finished it and had some time to mull over it, I find myself in two minds about the story itself. On the one hand, it’s obvious the author can write and he’s excellent at creating an atmospheric narrative that makes you want to keep on reading but for some reason, this story just didn’t have enough bite for me. There was plenty of potential of course, but the direction it ended up taking just left me feeling slightly deflated.

A Child’s Problem follows a young boy, George who at nine years old is told that he must now live with his wealthy Uncle Augustus whilst his parents decamp to India for a while for his father’s work. At first, this seems like a big adventure for George, the house and grounds are large and there is plenty of opportunity for exploring however his Uncle is a difficult, rather sullen character who seems to have regretted agreeing to take George under his wing. On the interactions that they do have, he tries to get rid of him as soon as possible by giving him various quests around the property and puzzles to solve so that he can have a bit of peace. The puzzles that Augustus gives him however are a lot more sinister than first meets the eye and point to a dreadful history that leads George very quickly to be in terrible danger himself. As well as this, George is starting to see strange, shadowy figures under an old oak tree at the front of the house and he starts to wonder about the secrets that his Uncle Augustus believes he will keep hidden.

Interesting premise right? I was certainly intrigued and the writing was assured and captivating to read throughout the narrative. I was quite surprised that it was a bit longer than I was expecting and perhaps it suffered a bit for this length as about two-thirds of the way into it, unfortunately I began to lose interest. There are a host of unlikeable characters to get to grips with, which I always enjoy in a story but for some reason, even when some are in mortal danger, I still didn’t connect with them as much as I would have liked. Reggie Oliver certainly has a gift for writing eerie settings and some of the scenes, in particular when George finds the family tombs are quite chilling but sadly, by the end of the story, I just didn’t feel like I understood properly what it was all about and why exactly everything played out the way it did. This is just my personal opinion, however and I’m sure other readers would love it for the quality of the writing alone.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.


Book Tag – Shelfie by Shelfie #5

Published March 13, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=””>Frame image created by Jannoon028 –</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

For my very first Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For my second Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For my third Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For my fourth Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For other Shelfie by Shelfies round the blogosphere, please see:

Chrissi @ Chrissi Reads FAVOURITES shelfie HERE.

Sarah @ The Aroma Of Books Shelfie 1A HERE and Shelfie 1B HERE.

Anyway – on with the tag, here is the fourth shelf of my first bookshelf (I’ve chosen to split it up into two separate shelfies because of the sheer number of books, oops!). Here is the back shelf.

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Again, with a lot of my shelves, this one is a little bit random and I’m starting to see the error of my arranging ways. On this shelf we mostly have a few review copies, some books I’ve been hoarding for quite some years but still really want to get around to and my favourite/still to read Tess Gerritsen novels.

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

I’m going to stick with the theme and pick The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen. It was one of the first books I read by this author and it was this novel that made me fall in love with her plots and characters, particularly Rizzoli and Isles. I haven’t read a book by her for a while but read a recent short story called Freaks which has made me quite wary of going back to her. I’m worrying that my tastes have changed but I’m determined to read something else by her this year just to check, probably Keeping The Dead.

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

I think it would have to be Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. I was really excited to read it and it’s been on my shelves for many years now. However, when I read the synopsis, I’m just not as eager to get to it as I once was. If anyone has read it and recommends I get to it soon I’m willing to listen though!

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

This is hard. Perhaps Motherland by Jo McMillan, purely for this gorgeous cover and now I’ve read the synopsis again, I’m very keen to read it!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

I think that could be Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I’ve enjoyed this author’s books in the past so don’t ask me why I haven’t read it yet! I think a lot of the problem with the back shelves is that I don’t see the books that often so sadly, some of them often get forgotten.

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

These books are all sadly well past their prime but I think the newest one would have to be The One In A Million Boy by Monica Wood which I was kindly sent a review copy of but just haven’t had the chance to get round to it yet.

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

Stoner by John Williams. I’ve heard some great things!

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There isn’t any object on this shelf, there’s no room for anything else apart from books (and even then, not enough room for some of them, eek!).

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

Like my other shelfies, I think it shows I have quite eclectic taste, there’s quite a mixture of classics, thrillers, historical, contemporary and literary fiction here so I have quite a lot of variety whenever I feel in the mood.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

Anyone who wants to do this, please feel free, I’d be delighted but please tag me in your post so I can see your shelfie in all its glory. This time round I’m going to choose a question for myself:

Is there any book on this shelf that you’d like to see a review of by a fellow blogger?

I’d love to see a review of There But For The by Ali Smith. I don’t think I’ve quite “got” her writing yet and because this is an older title of Ali’s I haven’t seen any recent reviews. Perhaps reading one would either push me to read it sooner or donate it to someone who might appreciate it more!

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #6