I took part in the Believe-A-Thon for November which, if you’re not aware, was a readathon set around reading children’s books. You can find Gavin, the creator of the readathon, at his YouTube channel, here. I hadn’t read as many children’s books as I usually do before this readathon, so I was very keen to get stuck in and I almost managed to complete all ten of the reading challenges. In total, I read 10 books.
The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend 🌟🌟🌟🌟
I read this one for the read a book with magic in it challenge. I’ve been meaning to read The Trials of Morrigan Crow for the longest time and it certainly did not disappoint. It was just as magical and as whimsical as I thought it would be. The world-building, although very interesting, was a little confusing at times. Trials isn’t set in our world, but there were still many references to it and there were also moments where it felt like aspects were a little thrown in just to make it seem more magical, where this actually ended up feeling like the world wasn’t as developed as it could be. That being said, I absolutely adored this story – the trials aspect of it gives it a simple and solid structure and definitely helped to increase the stakes. I am very excited to see where this series goes, especially with the way Trials ended – there is a lot of potential for the story to go in any number of ways.
The Diviners by Libba Bray 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
This was a re-read for me, in preparation of the fourth and final book in the series coming out early next year. I loved it just as much the first time around and, knowing what I do from the next two books in the series, it made the whole experience even more enjoyable for me. There were also a number of small details I missed the first time around, too. Also, reading this after having visited New York back in September was really interesting – I could understand the atmosphere and the setting much better and this brought the book to life even more. I can’t wait to continue on re-reading this series again – it is by far one of my favourite series of all time.
Song for A Whale by Lynne Kelly 🌟🌟🌟.75
This one hit me hard, emotionally. I read most of this on trains and coffee shops and, let me tell you, it was a real struggle not to cry. Song for a Whale is a very character-driven novel and I felt immediately connected to Iris, our main character. She was such a fully-realised character – her inner monologue and her thought process was so interesting and, at the same time, heart-wrenching to read about. This book discusses, in addition to the Hard of Hearing/Deaf community and the ableism that Iris experiences, themes of grief and loneliness which are so beautifully written. The connection Iris felt towards Blue, the whale, was very poignant. My only issue was the pacing of the novel. There were a few moments I felt that were a little too rushed. This definitely could have been a longer read, at only 303 pages and I think the overall story would have really benefited from about 50 pages more of development and slower pace.
The House With the Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson 🌟🌟🌟
I have a few mixed feelings about this one. Overall I really enjoyed it, but the middle third was a bit slow to get through. This was really apparent to me as I read the first 100 pages in one sitting, when I only intended to read a few chapters – I was really hooked in the beginning. I think it started slogging a little for me when Marinka’s (the main character) inner monologue got a little too repetitive for my liking. I already had a very clear picture of Marinka’s feelings of wanting to carve out her own fate for herself and this was repeated at least once in each chapter, to the point where the story got quite boring, which is such a shame. The world-building was a true highlight for me – I love all stories revolving around death (morbid, I know) and Anderson’s retelling of the Baba Yaga folktale did not disappoint. The illustrations were also absolutely beautiful in this and really added an extra layer of storytelling, making it feel even more magical. I think if there was a little more focus on character development, this could have been a solid four stars.
Malamander by Thomas Taylor 🌟🌟🌟🌟.5
I absolutely loved this one. The main character, Herbie, was an absolute treat. He’s what I would refer to as ‘a bit of a character.’ His thought process and the way he would articulate himself was just so funny to me. This book pretty much sums up my sense of humour – understated, dry and whimsical. It was wonderfully imaginative and very cleverly constructed – just really great writing. My only real issue was the ending. It didn’t quite wrap up the main mystery and, whilst I know this is a series, I feel like we needed a few more questions answered. I don’t need to know everything, but endings like this do make me feel a little unsatisfied. Hence why I couldn’t give this the full 5 stars, but I am very excited to see where this series goes and what new adventures lay ahead for Herbie.
The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson 🌟🌟🌟🌟
I much preferred this one to Anderson’s debut. This was much better written and better paced and there was really great character development, too. It was a little slow-going to begin with and took about 100 pages to really get into it, but I’d rather a slow start than a slow middle. I loved all the short stories/tales interwoven throughout the book and enjoyed figuring out how they all intersected with one another. The wintry atmosphere was really well written and the illustrations added perfectly to the story. I liked the messages taught, also – everyone has their own unique strengths, you’re stronger together, etc. The Girl Who Speaks Bear packed in a lot, whilst still staying magical and whimsical. I’d be really interested to see what Anderson writes next.
Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens 🌟🌟🌟
I really struggled to connect with this instalment in the A Murder Most Unladylike series. I can’t quite place why I didn’t feel as excited about this one as previous novels – it had an engaging plot and an interesting mystery and had all the great elements of the others in the series, too. It just wasn’t clicking with me for some reason. I’m still interested to see where this series goes and following the characters and I would definitely recommend it to others, too. Hopefully I’ll enjoy the next instalment better! I did start to enjoy it a lot more in the last third or so, but overall it was quite a meh read.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis 🌟🌟
I’ve finally made it through another Narnia book! If you’ve been following me for a while, then you will know I don’t like this series. That being said, I’m too far in to stop now, so I’m skim-reading until I complete it. This one was okay. Just very meh for me. This is one series where I would recommend the films over the books. Any day.
Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone 🌟🌟🌟🌟.5
This, with Malamander, were my favourite reads from the Believe-A-Thon readathon. I’m not sure how to explain this marvellously unique little book. It has all the hallmarks of a great children’s story – exciting adventure, unlikely heroes, an intricate story-world. I feel like this book is a masterclass in how to write a Good Children’s Book. The content itself was funny, warm-hearted, whimsical and had a lot of great teachable moments. Technically, it was really well structured, very well paced and the world-building was well explained, without it being info-dumpy (aside from the prologue). The characters were very endearing and their internal plots were relatable and something I think a lot of children would feel understood by. The only reason for this not getting a full 5 stars from me is that I reserve my 5 stars for books that I feel overwhelmingly emotional about, which wasn’t quite the case here. But I have zero complaints about this book and I would highly recommend to everyone.
Cogheart by Peter Bunzl 🌟🌟🌟
I think I liked the ideas of this one much better than the execution. I just feel like I’ve read this story a number of times before – it didn’t really do anything new or exciting and it relied heavily on obvious plot points and character tropes. It was fine but I don’t think I’ll be carrying on with the series. It was also very slow-going and was way too long.
So that’s it for all the books I read in November for the Believe-A-Thon. I had a great reading month overall, full of magic and wonder and I got around to a lot of books that I wouldn’t have without this readathon, so I really hope there will be another round at some point in the future. What was your favourite read of the month?