Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Ship Wrecked (Olivia Dade)

This could have been so much better if it was so much shorter!

★★★☆☆ – CALSPIE 5.64

Title: Ship Wrecked
Author: Olivia Dade
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
First published: 2022
Edition: Kindle e-book

Maria’s one-night-stand–the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note–just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.


So I was in the mood for romance and this one sounded like a good time. And I guess it would have been a good time if it had not been so damn long!

I like a slowburn romance book, I like a romance with some depth to it. This one should have been that. But it was not. For a 400-page romance book, it just kind of waffled a lot without much substance.

Not that there was a complete lack of substance. I actually really liked the main characters and the supporting cast (appropriate term, as you know, it’s about a TV show). The romance at its core was actually quite nice as well. I have no qualms with either the couple itself or the majority of the writing style.

However, HOWEVER, there was a six year time jump that did not quite make sense, because you cannot tell me that there was no character or relationship development during that time, even if it’s longing from afar. I did not like that the author chose to just shift six years and nothing was supposed to have changed during that time… It made no sense! It completely threw off the pace for me.

Sometimes the plot would develop quite nicely and then suddenly there would be this big lull with nothing really happening for pages and pages. And I don’t mean smut wise. I don’t much care about that. There was some of that, but not an awful amount. I did not mind it and did not love it either. It was fine and was not super cringy (that’s a compliment). It was just that the story seemed to get stuck every few pages.

It made that by the end I lost interest almost completely and it left me feeling very disappointed and deflated by at its heart could have been a pretty good romance.

2.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8
  • Ambience: 7
  • Language: 7.5
  • Story: 6
  • Pacing: 2
  • Interest: 4
  • Enjoyment: 5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)


★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 8.00

Title: The Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Narrator: Michael Hordern
Genre: Fiction / Classic / Middle Grade / Childrens
First published: 1908
Edition: Audio & hardback, published by Methuen & Co

Reflecting the freshness of childhood wonder, the story still offers adults endless sophistication, substance, and depth. The animals’ world embodies the author’s wry, whimsical, and unfailingly inventive imagination. It is a world that succeeding generations of both adult and young readers have found irresistible. But why say more? To use the words of the estimable Mr. Toad himself: “Travel, change, interest, excitement!…Come inside.”


I never really thought of reading this novel to be honest. I remember the movie from when I was little, and I was given an old hardback copy of this book after an elderly family member passed away. I liked leafing through it. It has lovely illustrations by Ernest H Shephard.

The audio book was included in my membership, so I decided to listen to it on a whim. First of all, the narrator’s old fashioned voice fits the story very well and I enjoyed listening to him. The story itself… It’s very charming and it definitely was a fun time. At the time it was published, in 1908, Toad’s obsession with cars must have been pretty exciting!

Now, over a century later, the story has not lost any of its charm, but I found it a bit too silly in places. I know it’s ridiculous, but the inconsistent way animals were portrayed throughout the book bugged me. Silly, I know, but obviously the main characters are animals, but then there were also animals that are kept as pets as well and a horse is just… well… a horse.

Anyway, aside from a couple of silly niggles like that, I enjoyed the read/listen.

4 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8
  • Ambience: 8
  • Language: 8
  • Story: 8.5
  • Pacing: 8
  • Interest: 7.5
  • Enjoyment: 8
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Fictions (Jorge Luis Borges)

Was this just a little too literary? For now?

★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 7.57

Title: Fictions
Author: Jorge Luis Borges
Translator: Andrew Hurley (from Spanish)
Genre: Fiction / Short Stories / Modern Classic
First published: 1944
Edition:  Paperback, published by Penguin Modern Classics in 2000

Jorge Luis Borge’s Fictions introduced an entirely new voice into world literature. It is here we find the astonishing accounts of Funes, the man who can forget nothing; the French poet who recreated Don Quixote word for word; the fatal lottery in Babylon; the mysterious planet of Tlön; and the library containing every possible book in the whole universe. Here too are the philosophical detective stories and the haunting tales of Irish revolutionaries, gaucho knife fights and dreams within dreams which proved so influential (and yet impossible to imitate).


This was a peculiar collection of stories and I am not quite sure how to feel about it or how to put together my thoughts on it. I enjoyed it. At least I think I did.

I liked the tone of the stories and I liked how quickly the characters embedded themselves, even if you were mostly just dropped into a story somewhere apparently random. Some of the stories are magical realism of some sort and the overall tone is kind of strange, not quite grounded. I am not sure how to describe it.

This collection does read very literary and although I don’t mind that, sometimes it felt like the author was being too high-brow, even for me. I am not entirely sure what made me feel that way, but something did.

I have to admit that though in general I enjoyed these stories just fine, I could not possibly pretend that I ‘got’ it all. I liked that there was a running theme through both sections (‘Fictions’ and ‘Artifices’). Obviously literature was a big theme in Fictions, as well as writers of all sorts. But religion and existential crises also featured in a big way.

I may well need to revisit this collection in the future to fully appreciate it. I would like to think I will do so.

3.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8
  • Ambience: 7.5
  • Language: 8
  • Story: 7
  • Pacing: 7
  • Interest: 8
  • Enjoyment: 7.5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Gypsy Morph (Terry Brooks)

A solid finale to a strong enough trilogy

★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 8.43

Title: The Gypsy Morph (Genesis of Shannara #3)
Author: Terry Brooks
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Dystopian
First published: 2008
Edition: paperback, published by Orbit in 2010

The last cities have fallen. Demons and once-men swarm the ravaged landscape of the former United States. A small band of survivors – the elves of Cintra and a ragtag group of human children and their protectors – flees northward toward a safe haven promised by the mystical King of the Silver River.


This final book in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy gives a strong finish to this trilogy of books in a long running series of books. I am reading the whole Shannara saga in chronological order and this is the final book in the first trilogy.

I enjoyed this one better than the middle book. The story is stronger and things come together quite nicely. Terry Brooks’ books will never be the best written, but I really enjoy the tone of them. There were a few writing choices that irked me, some pet names people had for each other and the random Spanish words to denote that a person was in fact Mexican (I think that’s right), was a little bit unnecessary, but overall it was absolutely fine.

The stories of this author’s books all kind of follow a similar format and it is a format that, though maybe a bit formulaic, works for me. I always know what I am getting into and sometimes that is exactly what I need.

This series, like another epic fantasy series I love, is set in a future world where civilization is destroyed and gets rebuilt into this fantasy world. I really enjoy that trope and it is nice to get that background in this series before moving on into, eventually, the original Shannara books. That does mean that this series certainly begins more dystopian than fantasy, but it really ends up firmly in fantasy territory.

All in all, I enjoyed this series and this was a solid final book. I am looking forward to continuing this journey into Shannara with the Legends of Shannara duology, which I have never read before.

4.25 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8.5
  • Ambience: 8.5
  • Language: 8
  • Story: 8.5
  • Pacing: 8.5
  • Interest: 8.5
  • Enjoyment: 8.5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Daggerspell (Katharine Kerr)

This was just not the story for me

★★★☆☆ 1/4 – CALSPIE 6.59

Title: Daggerspell (Deverry #1)
Author: Katharine Kerr
Narrator: Ruth Urquhart
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 1986
Edition: Audio & paperback, published by Harper Voyager in 2019

Even as a young girl, Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious Wildfolk, who appeared to her from their invisible realm. Little did she know her extraordinary friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past and a fateful future. Four hundred years-and many lifetimes-ago, one selfish young lord caused the death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he vowed never to rest until he’d righted that wrong-and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill and all those whom she would hold dear: her father, the mercenary soldier Cullyn; the exiled berserker Rhodry Maelwaedd; and the ancient and powerful herbman Nevyn, all bound in a struggle against darkness. . . and a quest to fulfill the destinies determined centuries ago


Going into this, I knew this would be an old school fantasy book and I was actually looking forward to it, but though I liked some of the characters unfortunately the story itself never really grabbed me.

This is very much a classic fantasy book and considering I like the characters themselves just fine I should have liked this novel more than I did. However, for me the interactions between the characters felt quite stale and the plot fell a little flat and was just not that interesting to me. Maybe this type of fantasy with Celtic roots is not my favourite. I have read books in the past in this type of setting that I have enjoyed, but they had more interesting plots than this one. The setting and the lord-and-lady type background was just a little on the boring side.

There were a couple of plot devices I did not really care for. Maybe this whole reincarnation/destiny thing does not do it for me. Then there was the much-discussed incest in this book that I already knew about going into it. To be honest it felt a bit unnecessary, but it did not overly bother me. It is meant to be disgraceful, so of course it is. Did it add anything to this book? Was it needed? No, I don’t think so. Still, I guess it makes for a talking point.

I am well aware that this book is almost forty years old and much has changed in the fantasy genre. Had I read this book twenty years ago, I may well have enjoyed it better. As it stands, it just felt a little on the dry side and I found myself a little bored.

I listened to this one on audio. The narrator suited the story very well and did help me to finish the story.

I have book two and three in this series, but I will not be continuing and the books are going on my unhaul pile.

3.25 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 7.5
  • Ambience: 6.5
  • Language: 7
  • Story: 6.5
  • Pacing: 6
  • Interest: 6.5
  • Enjoyment: 6
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises (Fredrik Backman)

Me and the story did not quite connect

★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 7.64

Title: My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises
Original title: Min mormor hälsar och säger förlåt
Author: Fredrik Backman
Translator: Henning Koch (from Swedish)
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

When Granny leaves Elsa a mysterious series of letters apologising to those she has wronged, her stories come to life in ways Elsa could never have imagined, sending her on a breathtaking adventure of her own…


I had quite high expectations going into this one, as I have absolutely adored other books I have read by this author, but although I still enjoyed this one, I did not love it as much as I had hoped.

My first issue was that Else, although a main character that I liked, definitely doesn’t read like an almost-eight year old. Not even a precocious one. To me she reads like precocious ten-year-old. That bothered me more than it should have done.

Apart from that, I did like the way the author interwove a contemporary story with fantasy elements in the form of a fantasy world that Elsa’s grandmother had created. However, I felt like it didn’t always gel that well with the story the author was telling.

I think this one just was not really for me. Although I definitely liked elements of the story and I enjoyed the slow reveal of the the relationships between all these people in Elsa’s life, I felt it all just took a little too long.

This was one was just a good read to me.

3.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8
  • Ambience: 8
  • Language: 8
  • Story: 7.5
  • Pacing: 7
  • Interest: 7.5
  • Enjoyment: 7.5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Skyward (Brandon Sanderson)

Such a fun ride… I mean flight!

★★★★☆ 1/2 – CALSPIE 9.14

Title: Skyward (#1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fiction / Sci-Fi / Young Adult
First published: 2018
Edition: Paperback, published in 2019 by Gollancz

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.


Me and sci-fi do not have the best of histories and my track record with Young Adult books in the past couple of years has been pretty patchy, but I knew if anyone could make me enjoy a ‘young adult space book’ it would be Brandon Sanderson. I am so glad to say that he did make me enjoy it quite a bit!

The story was engaging, the characters were fun, the plot … well, well-plotted. As always, I enjoyed Sanderson’s writing. It is not overly complicated and pretentious and just reads away so easily. He has that tone to his writing that is kind of comforting to me and I think that, beside his fantastic storytelling, is what makes me want to read his books.

This was a fun read. I wished I got to know Spensa’s flight partners a bit better than I did, but it would have made for a longer book and the book was long enough as it was. Oh, I have to add that there wasn’t enough Doomslug. I just needed more of her!

Seriously though, I am looking forward to continuing this series. Soon hopefully!

4.5 out of 5 stars


  • Characters: 9
  • Ambience: 9.5
  • Language: 9
  • Story: 9.5
  • Pacing: 9
  • Interest: 9
  • Enjoyment: 9
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: An Immense World (Ed Yong)

‘How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us’

★★★★★ – CALSPIE 9.86

Title: An Immense World
Author/Narrator: Ed Yong
 Non-Fiction / Science / Nature
First published: 2022
Edition: Audio book & hardback, published by The Bodley Head in 2022

The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving only a tiny sliver of an immense world. This book welcomes us into previously unfathomable dimensions – the world as it is truly perceived by other animals.


As soon as I read about this book, I knew I was going to love it and I would want to treasure it, so I bought the pretty hardback. In the end I decided to listen to it on audio; the author himself narrates it. I did flick through the hardback as well, as there are a lot of footnotes AND pictures!

It was a fascinating listen. The range of senses in animals is incredibly vast and differs so greatly from one to another (and from our own!). It was an incredible journey through the animal kingdom by sense. Most I knew about, some I didn’t, but the science behind them as far as it is known was so educational to read about and absolutely in a good way.

The author explains things very well and is easy to follow. You definitely come out of this book seeing the world around you in a very different way. Who knew those seemingly silent insects make such a racket?! Or how bumblebees can sense electric fields around flowers. It’s truly fascinating stuff and I absolutely loved learning about it. It is information I will take with me as I experience my world from now on.

If you’re interested in this type of book that deals with the science side of nature, read it! It’s fantastic.

5 out of 5 stars


CALSPIE*: 9.86

  • Characters: 10
  • Ambience: 10
  • Language: 9.5
  • Story: 10
  • Pacing: 9.5
  • Interest: 10
  • Enjoyment: 10

*CALSPIE is designed for fiction, but I can roughly apply it to non-fiction books. I think of characters as subject. Ambience as the tone of the book. Story as the explanation. Pacing as the length and depth to which it goes into the subjects.

Books · Poetry · Read in 2023 · Reviews

(poetry) Book Thoughts: A Fortune For Your Disaster (Hanif Abdurraqib)

Poignant, expressive and soul searching

★★★★☆ 1/4 – CALSPIE 8.50

Title: A Fortune for Your Disaster
Author: Hanif Abdurraqib
Genre: Poetry
First published: 2019
Edition: paperback, published by Tin House in 2019

Hanif Abdurraqib has written a book of poems about how one rebuilds oneself after a heartbreak, the kind that renders them a different version of themselves than the one they knew. It’s a book about a mother’s death, and admitting that Michael Jordan pushed off, about forgiveness, and how none of the author’s black friends wanted to listen to “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It’s about wrestling with histories, personal and shared. Abdurraqib uses touchstones from the world outside—from Marvin Gaye to Nikola Tesla to his neighbor’s dogs—to create a mirror, inside of which every angle presents a new possibility.


Hanif Abdurraqib is one of my favourite modern poets and essay writers. There is something about the way he tells his stories and creates his poems that just connects with me.

I love his work best when he goes into ‘stream-of-consciousness’ mode, when you can almost hear the cogs in his wonderful brain working and I feel like he is working through something for himself and we, as the reader, are just present to receive his poignant truth.

With this poetry collection there was a little less of that. I still very much felt like I was in his head and seeing the world from his point of view. There’s a urgency to the words and their veiled meanings that just works. Even at the moments when I may not quite register what he means, I still get it, somewhere inside. I am not a black man and I will never fully understand the Black experience, because I have not lived it, but when there are is work like this out there, that makes you think and understand a bit better every time, it can only be a positive thing. I guess that is the power of poetry, maybe even more so than other types of writing, because you feel it through the rhythm of the words.

With Hanif’s poetry (and his essays) I always feel like he’s trying to establish his own identity and place in the world as he is writing and that is exactly what I love about it.

Although this is not my favourite work I have read by him, that is not saying that much, as I have literally loved everything he’s written.

If you have not read any of Hanif’s work yet, I would highly recommend that you do. I love the way he expresses himself and what he talks about.

4.25 out of 5 stars

Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Violets (Alex Hyde)

When the words dance on a page…

★★★★★ – CALSPIE 9.43

Title: Violets
Author: Alex Hyde
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Literary
First published: 2022
Edition: Kindle e-book

A young woman, Violet, lies in a hospital bed in the closing days of the war. Her pregnancy is over and she is no longer able to conceive. With her husband deployed to the Pacific Front and her friends caught up in transitory love affairs, she must find a way to put herself back together.

In a small, watchful town in the Welsh valleys, another Violet contemplates the fate she shares with her unborn child. Unwed and unwanted, an overseas posting offers a temporary way out. Plunged into the heat and disorder of Naples, her body begins to reveal the responsibility it carries even as she is drawn into the burnished circle of a charismatic new friend, Maggie.


The thing that made the story for me was the language, the poetic prose. It just worked for me.

It is clear from the start that the author is a poet; the words dance on the page. Then there are the two different stories of two women named Violet. How are they connected?

I honestly thought this was a wonderful short read and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to people who enjoy poetic rhythm in their books. This one was full of it. The words flowed and yet it felt like every word was carefully placed. There’s a poem that runs throughout that works so well with the rest of the story.

Aside from that, the story itself was simple, but interesting and kept my attention throughout. I found I cared about both Violets. It was a story about female lives and motherhood, yet managed to never get overly sentimental.

A beautiful read for sure. Short, but impactful.

4.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 9.5
  • Ambience: 9.5
  • Language: 10
  • Story: 9
  • Pacing: 9.5
  • Interest: 9
  • Enjoyment: 9.5