Tag Archives: book review

Didn’t Get Frazzled- David Z. Hirsch


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Medical student Seth Levine faces escalating stress and gallows humor as he struggles with the collapse of his romantic relationships and all preconceived notions of what it means to be a doctor. It doesn’t take long before he realizes not getting frazzled is the least of his problems.

Seth encounters a student so arrogant he boasts that he’ll eat any cadaver part he can’t name, an instructor so dedicated she tests the student’s ability to perform a gynecological exam on herself, and a woman so captivating that Seth will do whatever it takes to make her laugh, including regale her with a story about a diagnostic squabble over an erection.

Review

The author of ‘Didn’t Get Frazzled’ (whose name isn’t actually David Z. Hirsch, that’s a pen name) is a doctor, and that made me a puzzle a lot of the time over how much was true and how much of this story was made up. I’d like to think that most of the actual medical stuff was true, but with patients and doctors given different names, but that the personal stuff was more made up. I at least would expect medical fact to be true.

It compares fairly closely to ‘The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly’ which I think is part of what confused me. It probably is a bit more accessible though because of the extra personal details given. Although I think I would be perfectly happy with just the medical bits to be honest, they were the sections which interested me the most.

Overall I really did enjoy it, there was just one section, where Seth and his friends went to a sort of sex club which I didn’t like, and found completely unneeded to the plot.

I would recommend it though. It’s an interesting, engaging, sometimes funny, and easy read, You could probably read it in one sitting if you had time.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£3.21)

Paperback (£12.89)

Leave a comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole- Allan Ropper and David Brian Burrell


Synopsis (from amazon)

What is it like to try to heal the body when the mind is under attack? In this gripping and illuminating book, Dr Allan Ropper reveals the extraordinary stories behind some of the life-altering afflictions that he and his staff are confronted with at the Neurology Unit of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Like Alice in Wonderland, Dr Ropper inhabits a place where absurdities abound: a sportsman who starts spouting gibberish; an undergraduate who suddenly becomes psychotic; a mother who has to decide whether a life locked inside her own head is worth living. How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? Dr Ropper answers these questions by taking the reader into a world where lives and minds hang in the balance.

Review

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole was one of my five star reads last year, but my lack of blogging means I haven’t actually reviewed it yet.

In fact I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction drive over the last year. In so far as I’ve been reading this year proportionally I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction.

It’s a little bit like ‘The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly’ combined with ‘House’. Lots of real life medical symptoms which seem to have obscure reasons behind them. That tends to be a lot of physical symptoms which have neurological causes, or neurological or psychological symptoms which actually have a physical cause. It’s part of what I always found interesting about House, so it’s even more interesting to see it in real life.

In other ways it’s a lot like some of Oliver Saks work. However I found it easier to read than the things that Saks had written (and I’ve read).

I also liked that you got to see a bit of the hospital itself and also the authors own learning curve. It added a little something. I guess you could say it’s a human element which you don’t get from standard case studies.

5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£6.64)

Paperback (£6.99)

Hardback (£17.99)

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction review, health, non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)

Some Small Reviews, and Serial Reader


breakfast-serial-iconRecently I’ve been reading some books on an app called Serial Reader. Serial Reader is a free app, which I found out about on thingy thing. It has a number of  books on it (mainly classics) which are sent to the app in small bite sized chunks (of about 10 minutes worth of reading time) with one chunk being sent per day.

It’s really designed for people who don’t have time to read (who I don’t understand) but I find it’s good for when I’m waiting for a little time and don’t want to get involved in a whole book.

So far I’ve only been reading the shorter pieces, which I feel is more ideal, but you can read longer things, it just takes longer.

There is a Serial Reader premium, which allows you to read ahead and highlight, among other things.

So far I’ve read two books, and started two others, so I thought I’d review these. I also started Sun Tzu’s Art of War which I doubt I’ll finish but is on the Rory List

The Monkey’s Paw– W.W. Jacobs

Most people know the barebones of The Monkey’s Paw, at least anyone who has watched a few of The Simpson’s Halloween episodes. The  basic premise is that there is a monkey’s paw which gives the owner three wishes. However it is somewhat of a curse because of the way the stories came true.

It was pretty spooky, but had a little too much superfluous information which made the beginning drag, and the actual wishing bit was more brief than I expected. A quite entertaining little read.

If you would rather read it on your kindle it’s only 49p

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button– F Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the story of a man who ages backwards, he is born as an old man, and dies as a baby.

My own knowledge of the story comes mainly from the film, the film lasts over two hours, so I knew they really must have stretched the plot to make a short story into such a long film. I think I expected a bit more similarity though.

It was an enjoyable read, and I think it did well as a short story (which I often find are lacking in something). I didn’t really feel much for Benjamin, but I think what was more interesting was how others reacted to him.

You can read this one on kindle for free (as part of Tales of the Jazz Age)

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction review, general

Delusions of Gender- Cordelia Fine


Synopsis (from amazon)

This is a vehement attack on the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes – with the scientific evidence to back it up. Sex discrimination is supposedly a distant memory. Yet popular books, magazines and even scientific articles increasingly defend inequalities by citing immutable biological differences between the male and female brain. Why are there so few women in science and engineering, so few men in the laundry room? Well, they say, it’s our brains. Drawing on the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology, “Delusions of Gender” rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, help perpetuate the status quo. Cordelia Fine reveals the mind’s remarkable plasticity, shows the substantial influence of culture on identity, and, ultimately, exposes just how much of what we consider ‘hardwired’ is actually malleable. This startling, original and witty book shows the surprising extent to which boys and girls, men and women are made – and not born.

Review

This book has been on my kindle since 2014 (according amazon anyway), which makes me wonder how long some of my ‘real’ books have been on the shelves unread.

I kind of wish I had read it sooner, but I’ve been on a bit of a roll when it comes to non-fiction recently, so maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind before.

It was a while ago so more exact details are lost to me, but there are certain things which still stand out, and in a way doesn’t that make for a better review? I was helped a little to remember by reading Ruth’s review (which I recommend).

Delusions of Gender did take a little getting into, in terms of a ‘sciencey’ book it was easy to read, and it was interesting, but not necessarily immediately engaging.

I did find some of the arguments a bit repetitive, which makes sense when you’re talking about different but similar studies, but not so much when you are talking about the same one. It is difficult though if you are referring to something said earlier to know how much to say to make sure the person you are writing to knows what you are referring to.

The main thing I got out of it really is about how much difference small things might be able to make, especially when a child is still trying to work out their identity. Would not gendering a child change this? I’m not so sure, at some point the child themselves would want to know what they are, and I’m sure they could work it out.

In a way those little things seem hopeless, because they’re the type of things that you don’t even think about, so how can you hope to have a gender neutral environment.

4/5

Buy:

Kindle (£4.68)

Paperback (£8.99)

Leave a comment

Filed under Feminism, Fiction review, non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)

Juliet, Naked- Nick Hornby


Synopsis (from amazon)

Annie lives in a dull town on England’s bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who’s gone into seclusion in rural America – or at least that’s what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker’s work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.

Review

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this quickly, took me just over a day. I’m not convinced it’s all down to the book, I was phoneless at the time (ok that’s not quite true, I had the boyfriend’s old iphone which is so out of date that apps just aren’t compatible with it) so there were less distractions.

Part of it was the book though. Hornby is very readable, and the story was engaging. It had a bit of a High Fidelity feel about it, although I wouldn’t say it’s up to the same level.

Part of what I liked but also sort of disliked was that the characters were rather unlikeable. I suppose that makes them more real, which is good, but it did mean I didn’t feel that much of a connection with them.

The ending sort of fizzled out too which was disappointing but maybe true to life.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£8.99)

Kindle (£3.99)

Leave a comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Humour

Love Anthony- Lisa Genova


Synopsis (from amazon)

Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a ‘normal’ life was shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn’t speak, hated to be touched, almost never made eye contact. Then, just as Olivia was learning that happiness and autism could coexist after all, Anthony was gone.

Now she’s alone on Nantucket, desperate to find meaning in her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman, Beth, brings Anthony alive again in a most unexpected way. In a piercing story about motherhood, autism and love, two unforgettable women discover the small but exuberant voice that leads them both to the answers they need.

Review

I’m becoming quite a fan of Lisa Genova, and I enjoyed this one, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It still had the sort of knowledge I would expect of Genova, she obviously had more than a layman’s knowledge of autism, but that didn’t really feel like the centre of the story.

The story was more about the two women, and, although that story was somewhat involving, it didn’t have that extra kick that I expect from a Genova novel.

I felt like I was reading the novel waiting for the two stories, the stories of the two women, to intertwine. Part of that was I think because of the synopsis I read (which was the one above) which made it seem like there would be more of a relationship between the two women. The relationship was pretty intense, but it was also a while in coming.

I did enjoy it it just wasn’t a typical Genova.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£5.99)

Paperback (£7.99)

Currently part of amazon’s 3 of £10 promotion

Other reviews:

So Many Books, So Little Time

Reading With Tea

 

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Psychology (fiction)

Ready Player One- Earnest Cline


Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.

Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

Review

I’d been hearing great things about Ready Player One, reviews that almost made me want to read it, but I didn’t really think it sounded like my type of book, so I didn’t seek it out.

Then I was trying to think of a present for my partner. I’d had a fair amount of success with books which sounded good but a little too fantasy or sci-fi for me, so Ready Player One came to mind.

My partner really enjoyed it, so, when my TBR pile wasn’t looking especially appealing, I decided to borrow it.

Oh how I wish I’d read it sooner. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sci-fi- which is the main thing that puts me off, but this book definitely fell on the love side of things.

It had everything, action, romance, intrigue. The geek in me loved it. A lot of people say that they liked the nostalgia element, but most of the things based o the past were from the 80s, I was born i 87 so a bit early for me, and I was’t a console player anyway which a lot was based o. Maybe if I was I would have enjoyed it eve more, but as it was I loved it.

5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.84)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Book Journey

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Silly Little Mischief

Ink and Page

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Leeswammes’ Blog

Words For Worms

Nylon Admiral

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I’ll add it here

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review

Oddjobs- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but someone still needs to do the paperwork.
Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.
In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.

Review

I’ve been really enjoying the Clovenhoof books by Goody and Grant (I’m reading Hellzapoppin’ at the moment) so when they sent me an offer to read the first book from their new series I jumped at the chance.

Oddjobs has the same humourous tone that the Clovenhoof books do but I think it has a bit more of an edge to it.  It’s a little bit political, about work in general and probably a lot about more about government work (I’ve only ever really worked in that sector so I’m not sure how true it would be of other sectors).  Basically about red tape and silly ideas.

It has more action throughout that the Clovenhoof books too, which makes it readable in a different way.

Clovenhoof is probably a bit more easy going, but I think overall this might be a more interesting series, I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£3.50)

Paperback (£6.99)

Leave a comment

Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Humour

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Jonathon Safron Foer


Synopsis (from amazon)

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.

When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.

Review

After loving Everything is Illuminated I had high hopes for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, maybe that’s why I was a little unimpressed. It took me a while to really get going, and it really didn’t have the emotion that I expected. I expected Oscar’s Dad’s death to be a major theme but it was more of a trigger point for the rest of the story.

There was a certain amount of emotion, but I’m pretty sure Oscar was autistic, or at least he didn’t show emotion in the ways most people would. It just didn’t hit me like I expected.

Reading on a kindle didn’t help either, there are pictures in the book, which were in the kindle version, but they were never very well displayed, whether that is just a kindle thing I’m not 100% sure, but I think it probably was.

In the end I did sort of enjoy it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

Other reviews:

Knitting and Sundries

The Perpetual Page Turner

Lit and Life

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, YA

The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps- Michael Faber


Synopsis (from amazon)

Note: I don’t like this synopsis, but it’s the best of a bad bunch and I can’t write a better one myself, so…yeah

Siân, troubled by dark dreams and seeking distraction, joins an archaeological dig at Whitby. The abbey’s one hundred and ninety-nine steps link the twenty-first century with the ruins of the past and Siân is swept into a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a fragile manuscript in a bottle and a cast of most peculiar characters. Equal parts historical thriller, romance and ghost story, this is an ingenious literary page-turner and is completely unforgettable.

Review

This is more a novella than a novel, which suits my reading habits right now.

The synopsis makes it sound more exciting that it really is, it’s more interesting than exciting. The story carried on nicely though, and was quite beautifully written, it’s no Crimson Petal and the White but it fills the gap well enough.

There’s not really that much of a story to it. The letter offers some intrigue, but it isn’t really used to the best it could be, and the romance was a bit everyday.

I did enjoy it enough though to be disappointed when my kindle copy ended at around 60%, and I felt a bit ripped off, I must admit the customer service at canongate were very good when I complained on twitter though.

Both editions listed below also contain the novella ‘The Courage Consort’

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.53)

Paperback (£8.99)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

The Seed Collectors- Scarlett Thomas


Synopsis (from goodreads)

Aunt Oleander is dead. In the Garden of England her extended family gather to remember her, to tell stories and to rekindle old memories. To each of her nearest and dearest Oleander has left a precious seed pod. But along with it comes a family secret that could open the hardest of hearts but also break the closest ties…

Review

I adored Pop Co. and loved The End of Mr Y, but the Scarlett Thomas books which I’ve read since have been a bit disappointing, not not good, just not as good. So I approached The Seed Collectors with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

I think with The Seed Collectors Thomas is getting back to the writer I love, the writer who I was excited to see new books by. I think the gap between this book and her last was bigger, and maybe that shows.

It’s still not as good as Pop Co. It took more time to fall into- more like The End of Mr Y- but I ended up loving it all the same.

It wasn’t exactly what I expected, I expected it to mainly be a book about the seeds, but it wasn’t really about the seeds much at all. I suppose you could say it was a story about a family, but that makes it sound boring. This isn’t some ‘normal’ family, everything is screwed up. Plus some of the people are vile, ok all of the people are pretty awful (so if you like to love your characters, this probably isn’t the one for you).

To be completely honest it’s not really very plot driven, but I really enjoyed it all the same and found myself reading it in the same sort of incessant way that I would normally only read a plot driven book in.

4.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£5.22)

Paperback (£6.74)

Hardback £13.48)

Other reviews:

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link in comments

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

A Tale For The Time Being- Ruth Ozeki


Synopsis (from amazon)

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place – and voice – through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Review

‘A Tale for the Time Being’ marks the beginning of what I am calling my return to ‘normal’ reading, ok still not completely normal for me- I’m reading one book at a time rather than two. I’d had a few single books which have held my attention since my return to blogging, but now I’ve had a bit of a run, and I hope it’s not just due to the books I have chosen. (You can read a bit about my lack of reading here). Is it ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ which made me be able to come back to my old reading levels? I’m not sure, but I do know that I enjoyed it, I do know that I wanted to read it above other activities which require less concentration (and which I had been holding my interest more than reading), and II do know that since reading it I have read a number of other books which have held my attention (which I intend to review in due course).

So, yes, I really did enjoy ‘A Tale For the Time Being’, but actually I don’t know if I have anything significant to say about it.

It did take me a little time to get into, but once I did get into it I didn’t want to stop. I especially wanted to know what had happened to Nao, and Ruth’s story helped fuel that as she got so absorbed in Nao’s story.

I liked Nao’s voice. It made subjects which were sometimes very emotional easy to read, and her story really did sounds like she was telling it to a friend who she was slowly getting to know.

I certainly recommend it. Although if you can go for a paper copy rather than an ebook, I read the ebook and all the footnotes were at the end of the book, which doesn’t really work when you can’t flick through it!

4.5/5

Buy it:
Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.29)

Hardback (£16.59)

Other reviews:

The Relentless Reader

Words for Worms (contains spoilers)

Fay Simone

As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

Furiously Happy- Jenny Lawson



Synopsis (from amazon)

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.

Review

I loved Let’s Pretend This Never Happened so I was excited when I heard Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) had a new book coming out.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was hilarious, so I was expecting the same from Jenny’s new book. It was very funny, but it had more of a serious side than her first book had. I still liked it, but it wasn’t as easy a read.

This one featured a lot about Jenny’s mental illness. That made it less light, although a lot lighter than you would expect of a book which has a high content about mental illness. She had a philosophy of always being Furiously Happy when her illness would allow her. A way to show that she could have a good, happy, time, a way to say that that illness is not her.

Jenny says she wrote this book with people who have the same problems as her in mind. So I wasn’t exactly the target market, but I still found the book pretty uplifting, and I definitely enjoyed Jenny’s sense of humour.

If you loved the first one you can’t go wrong with this, but I think you may be better off starting with the first.

4/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£12.08)

Kindle (£7.49)

Paperback: pre-order (£8.99)

Other reviews:

Alison McCarthy 

Words For Worms

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, Comedy, health, Memoir, non-fiction review

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly- Matt McCarthy


Synopsis (from amazon)

In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

Review

McCarthy’s autobiography is an interesting and eye opening look into the American healthcare system. It would be interesting to see how it differs from a doctor’s experience in the NHS.

I must admit that I expected to see lots about patients who couldn’t afford the healthcare that they need, the idea of no NHS is not one I like, and I never really understood people who are against ‘Obamacare’ in the US. There was a little bit of that, but in was only really a very small part of the book, and I wouldn’t even say it was particularly hard hitting. At one point McCarthy was interning in the medical centre, which seemed pretty much like a drop in centre would be here in the UK, except that the same patients would keep returning. I say like a drop in centre because the treatment seemed rushed, and fairly basic, for example medication over other possible solutions which a specialist might recommend. Plus it seemed like it was mainly run by interns, which suggested a lack of continuity of care. McCarthy found that it was difficult to get to grips with the patient notes because there was a rush and lots of notes to read. He found reading just the latest notes wasn’t enough, but reading further took too much time. Part of this I think was to do with his approach, but it seems that with this patients would end up falling through the gaps.

There was also a section where he went to se and treat the homeless. This bit was too brief I felt, but he only did it for one night. There was certainly enough to give me admiration for people who do it. I think this bit would be pretty much the same in the UK, I imagine homeless people easily don’t see GPs, or go to appointments at hospitals, just because they are hard to keep contact with, and I’m not even sure if you can register with a doctor if you don’t have an address.

Anyway I am going on somewhat of a tangent. I really enjoyed this book. There were plenty of ups and downs and at times you thought that maybe Matt wasn’t cut out for it. After all being a doctor is one of those jobs where a mistake can really cost someone, even to the point of death. But everyone has to start somewhere and it was a real eye opener on how hard things are for doctors, especially those still training.

The hours were absolutely ridiculous. I mean you’d think that you want someone that important to be as sharp as possible when they were working, but the long days meant that was practically impossible. It certainly gave me more sympathy for the junior doctors over here (and I already supported them).

Despite the subject having the potential to be either over emotional or too dry I thought McCarthy did a really good job. There was emotion when it mattered, but it a way you had to be like a doctor and not get too bogged down in the emotions- and the way McCarthy wrote helped with that. He actually made it quite an easy read, and entertaining, which I hadn’t expected. I had expected it to be interesting, and it was, but I did expect it to be so entertaining. I thoroughly recommend

5/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£22.50)

Paperback– preorder (£11.23)

Kindle (£21.38)

Other Reviews:

Sam Still Reading

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

3 Comments

Filed under health, Memoir, non-fiction review

The Radleys- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche Uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

Review

The Radley’s was on my wishlist for years, before I read The Humans, before The Humans was even released. I have a problem, I add things to my wishlist and never buy them, because when I’m in a bookshop (or to a lesser extent on an online store) I get distracted by books which are not on my wishlist, and end up buying them. I think I ended up buying The Radleys because it was on kindle deal.

I’m trying to think how to review without spoiling.

It’s somewhat of a coming of age novel, although not in a classic sense, because the thing which is making the Radley children grow up is not exactly normal. Also that there is a sort of coming of age novel for the parents too- who says you have o be a teenager to ‘come of age’?

At times it was sort of predictable, but that’s ok, I enjoyed it anyway.

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.69)

Other reviews:

Reading With Tea

Leeswammes’ Blog

Knitting and Sundries

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

B Reading

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review

Why Not Me?- Mindy Kaling


Synopsis (from amazon)

Mindy Kaling has found herself at a turning point. So in Why Not Me?, she shares her ongoing journey to find fulfilment and adventure in her adult life, be it falling in love at work, seeking new friendships inunlikely places, or attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behaviour modification whatsoever.

Review

I love Mindy’s show The Mindy Project, when I read her first book last year I adored her even more, I watched The US version of The Office just because I needed a Mindy fix (despite being a bit against American adaptations as a general rule, and yeah actually I was proved wrong on that one). When I heard she had a second book coming out I was excited, but I was finishing buying a house, and was on a self inflicted book buying ban (and well, even on amazon the paperback is almost £10, that’s a lot for a paperback…yeah I’m like that).

In the end I got it as a Christmas present, and it was the first of my present books which I read. I did really enjoy it, but I think I prefered her first. I think the first one was just a bit more accessible. In the first book she wasn’t famous, or becoming well known I suppose. It just meant a lot of what she talked about was a bit more recognisable. In Why Not Me for a good part she was well known, and for some I would go as far as to say she was famous. Her stories, whilst still entertaining didn’t quite have that same sense of reality.

I think it was a bit less thought provoking too. There were still elements which were thought provoking, but not in a way that hit me like the occasion with the dress in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Part of the problem I had I think was that there was so much build up for me. I was excited from back when I knew the book was going to exist. That’s quite a while to anticipate something.

I still love Mindy. I would still recommend this book, I did really like it, but it is less memorable than her first for me, and I don’t think it quite meets up to it.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£9.09)
Kindle (£9.49)

Other reviews:

Bookjourney

Alison Mccarthy

Chris Book-a-rama

 

1 Comment

Filed under Memoir, non-fiction review

Wool Series- Hugh Howey


The Wool series consists of 3 books; Wool , Shift and Dust

Synopsis (written by me, because there isn’t just one)

Years in the future a civilization, the only survivors on earth are living in a silo. Outside the air is poison. The Wool series of books looks at how this came to be, and how things started to fall apart.

Review

Note on the review: Because I read Wool, Shift, and Dust one after the other I have decided to review them all in one go rather than as separate books. Because of this I’ve decided to use a sort of key code. Anything in black refers to all the books and isn’t a spoiler. Anything in red refers to Wool, there may be spoilers for Wool but won’t be any spoilers for previous books. Anything in green refers to Shift, it may contain spoilers for Shift or Wool. Anything in purple refers to Dust, it may contain spoilers for any of the three books.

I bought Wool (and later Shift and Dust) for my partner initially. There were quite a few reviews around at the time (I definitely remember that Ellie reviewed Dust) and I thought the books sounded good, but not quite me. These sorts of sci-fi things are more my boyfriend’s taste. However when he enjoyed it I thought I would give it a read too.

Overall I did enjoy the series although for all the books I found they started slow and after a while became more interesting. I must admit as well that I found my interest in the series overall wavered with each book, so although I fairly enjoyed Dust, it had significantly less pull than Wool did.


By the end of Wool I was really looking forward to starting Shift and seeing what happened next. My boyfriend warned me I would be somewhat disappointed, and he was right because Shift doesn’t continue on from where Wool left off, instead it jumps back to when the silos were new and gradually moves to the same time but in silo one- head silo- and how the events in Wool effect that silo.

I still enjoyed Shift by the end, it was interesting to see another side. It was also interesting how Jules almost became the enemy. Or I suppose I should say how it didn’t seem like the plans we learnt about in Wool were so bad after all. They seemed somewhat good intentioned.

I sort of wish things had stayed that way, where you can see both sides of the coin, but Dust changed it into bad plans again. I think it would have been more interesting to see Jules and silo one discussing her problems with what they were doing and maybe finding a solution.

Dust’s start was rather disappointing. It didn’t start where Wool had left off but jumped a little further forward, and I think partly because of this things were a little confusing. Jules seemed to know a lot but it was difficult to understand how she knew a lot of it. Of course I could have forgotten what exactly had happened in Wool which may have marred my impression of Shift.

 

Would I recommend the series? I don’t know. A lot of promise seems unfulfilled, but I did enjoy reading them, so maybe

3/5

Buy it:

Wool (from £4.99)
Shift (from £4.99)
Dust (from £4.99)

Other reviews:

Leeswammes’ Blog Wool | Shift

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm Wool | Shift

Quirky Bookworm Wool

The Sleepless Reader Wool

Did I miss your review? Leave me a message in comments and I’ll add it here

1 Comment

Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review, YA

The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht


Synopsis (from amazon)

Natalia is on a quest: to discover the truth about her beloved grandfather. He has died far from home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Recalling stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia suspects he may have died trying to unravel two mysteries. One was the fate of a tiger which escaped during German bombing raids in 1941; the other a man who claimed to be immortal. But, as Natalia learns, there are no simple truths or easy answers in this landscape echoing with myths but still scarred by war.

Review

I read the first chapter of this book back in 2011 when it was in the first Waterstone’s Eleven. It went on my wishlist then, but it’s was only towards the end of last year that I actually read it.

There are four stories in this novel. That of Natalia as a child and her relationship with her Grandfather. The story of Natalia now. And the two stranger stories, those of the tiger’s wife, and the deathless man. All the stories are meant to be true, the stranger stories being stories which Natalia’s grandfather told her about his life.

The stranger stories are what make the book really. They have an almost fairytale like quality. I especially liked the tale of the deathless man because it had elements which seemed more real than that of the tiger’s wife, but they were contrasted in the idea of this man who couldn’t die. The idea of a woman falling in love with a tiger was less supernatural I suppose, it’s more how much it was believed I think that was unusual.

I did enjoy the writing in this book, however I’d find I got interested in one story only for it to stop and give way to one of the others, and then I’d stop reading because I didn’t want to read that other story. Even though I liked each story on it’s own I wasn’t ready to leave one for another, and that meant it took me a surprisingly long time to read for such a short book.

(Isn’t the new cover awesome?)

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£7.99)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Word by Word

Lit and Life

Nose in a Book

Page Turners

Literary Lindsey

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

 

1 Comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical, Literary

Look Who’s Back- Timur Vermes


Synopsis (from amazon)

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Review

This book has had some controversy. Mainly focusing about is it right to write a humorous book about Hitler? I think the main problem people see in it is that it sort of makes light of Hitler and in doing so somehow makes light of what he did.

I think the people who say this miss the point somewhat however. It’s a book about Hitler in the basics, but really it’s more about the media and how life now views Hitler. He’s seen as a sort of spectacle. Think of all the tourist destinations which wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Hitler. Is this about the point of not forgetting so it can’t happen again? Or is it more of a morbid curiosity or some sort of extended rubbernecking?

I think it shows how something similar could happen again. Hitler in this book became known and famous. Maybe he would never have been taken seriously as a politician, but the start of it was there. It does make me think somewhat of the popularity of people like Trump, many people are against him, but he also has a certain amount of support- and that could be dangerous.

On the surface this is a humorous book, and it did make me laugh. You could probably read it just as an entertaining read if you wanted to. If you didn’t feel the need to justify it.

It won’t be for everyone. I know it’s something that could offend. I understand why. But I liked it.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.29)

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£13.49)

Other reviews:

Plastic Rosaries

Did I miss your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical, Humour

Double Dexter- Jeff Lindsey



Double Dexter is the sixth novel in the Dexter Series.

Synopsis (from amazon)

Everyone’s favourite serial killer is back and deadlier than ever…

A witness. Such a simple concept – and yet for Dexter Morgan, a perfectly well-disguised serial killer, the possibility of a witness is terrifying. As an upstanding blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police, Dexter has always managed to keep the darker side of his life out of the spotlight. An expert at finding truly bad people – murderers who’ve long escaped justice – Dexter has long been giving them his own special brand of attention.

But now someone has seen him in the act. Dexter is being followed, manipulated and mimicked, leading him to realise that no one likes to have a double – especially when his double’s goal is to kill him.

Dexter is not one to tolerate such displeasure … in fact, he has a knack for extricating himself from trouble in his own pleasurable way.

Review

I’ve recently finished watching Dexter on netflix which made me want to read more of the series (which I hadn’t read so far because of the size of my to be read pile) so I borrowed ‘Double Dexter’ from the library. The TV series is pretty much a completely story to the books, so one doesn’t spoil the other, although if you try to compare them it just makes you annoyed that the TV series is so different, and that I suppose is what made me want to keep reading the books. The TV series is good, as a TV series, just not as an adaptation.

In ‘Double Dexter’ Dexter is, well, different. He gets seen and that puts Harry’s Code under threat, because he has to deal with this new threat.

One thing I really feel shows skill when it comes to Jeff Lindsey’s  writing is how he makes the reader actually feel sympathy with Dexter. It makes some sort of sense in the other books because the people who he murders are murderers themselves, it’s a sort of vigilante justice. That isn’t true in Double Dexter, because the person who he is trying to kill did nothing criminal- he just saw Dexter at his work. However we still feel sympathy for Dexter.

One thing though I tend to get with the Dexter books (and I have mentioned it before) is that sometimes Dexter seems very slow. I’m not sure if that is just that I’m cleverer than Dexter, or if there has become a certain predictability with the books.

This one though is the first time I’ve got frustrated with Dexter for other things. Like how he expects Rita just to have the dinner on the table. Sort of sexist. Except is he sexist or is he just single minded? Because it’s always been like that does he just not question that maybe it shouldn’t be like that?

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.74)

Kindle (£5.99)

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Fiction review

Hallucinations- Oliver Sacks


Synopsis (from amazon)

Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?

Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body. Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them.

In this book, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organisation and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.

Review

Oliver Sacks is probably generally seen as one of the most accessible neuroscientists of modern times.  Considering that, and my interest in psychology it’s quite surprising that I haven’t read anything by him before now. I can see why he is seen as accessible from his writing style, however I did find Hallucinations a little hard-going, more because of repetitiveness than anything else.

The book was split into sections based on causes of hallucinations (e.g. particular illnesses, sensory reasons, drugs), which made sense in some ways, however it also meant that when more than one cause for a particular type of hallucination could be found a description of that type of hallucination would be given in each chapter about each cause. There were different first-person accounts, which was interesting in it’s own way because different people hallucinate different things, even within a set type of hallucination. Even that did have some repetitive air to it though.

Having said that it was very interesting. I think Sack’s main aim was to make hallucinations more acceptable. They are generally seen as a sign of madness, and they can be that, but usually they aren’t, there are many more things that can cause them, and lots of different presentations of hallucinations which many people wouldn’t consider.

In fact he described what one would call a migraine aura usually as a type of hallucination which is interesting. I suppose calling it an aura makes it seem less serious or scary- but is that just because of a sort of stigma put on the idea of hallucinating. I do sometimes find migraine auras distressing- would they be more distressing if I called them hallucinations? Anyway it just shows that hallucinations aren’t all what one’s first thoughts of hallucinations would be. They aren’t always ‘real’ things. They aren’t always pictures even.

I did find it very interesting, and it probably changed my view of hallucinations a bit. It could have done with a bit of editing though. I’ll certainly read more by Sacks, and I already have Musicophilia and Migraine on my wishlist.

Oliver Sacks sadly died this weekend, which is what prompted me to write this review over the others that are waiting to be written.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£7.49)

Kindle (£4.49)

1 Comment

Filed under non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane- Neil Gaiman


Synopsis (from amazon)
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.
His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

Review

Neil Gaiman started off writing ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ as a short story for his wife when they were apart, but it just kept growing. You can sort of tell that he was thinking about her at the time. The narrator keeps speaking about stories or books as a comfort and an escapism, I can see that as being what Gaiman intended this story to be for his wife. I put a few of the most interesting quotes on my tumblr, but I think this one sums it up the best:

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible “

In a way it is more ‘adult’ than the other books I’ve read by Gaiman. I think it’s because it’s narrated by the main character as he looks back. It’s more introspective and that gives us the sort of insight that a present narrator wouldn’t give. Looking bak he could see things which he might not see at the time.

It still had the normal Gaiman fantasy and action-y bits which stopped it being too thoughtful, but actually I preferred the times when the narrator was just thinking. The thoughtful times I suppose.

There’s some interesting messages in it too about an adult’s relationship with his own childhood. About how looking back can be a comfort, and about how we never really loose that childhood part of ourselves, it’s just often hidden by life.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£0.99)

Paperback (£3.85)

Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Under a Gray Sky

Alison Mccarthy

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

An Armchair by the Sea

Words for Worms

Chrisbookarama

Did I miss your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

4 Comments

Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)- Mindy Kaling


Synopsis (from amazon)
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: comedienne, actress, obedient child of immigrant professionals and, now, writer. With a blend of witty confessions and unscientific observations, Mindy writes about everything from being a timid young chubster afraid of her own bike to living the Hollywood life, dating, friendships and planning her own funeral – all executed with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls.

Review

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? has been on my wishlist for so long. I heard about it before I even knew Mindy Kaling existed (oh, sad times). I just heard it was funny, and it seemed like the sort of thing I would like. Then I saw The Mindy Project, and I realised I really wanted to read it. However due to my thing of not actually buying off my wishlist I didn’t end up buying it until it popped up on the kindle monthly deals this month (yay!).

I read it a couple of weeks ago when I was ill. It took me a few hours, less than a day. It’s been a long time since I last read something that fast (of course I was stuck at home with nothing to do). I really loved it. I had to start watching the US version of The Office afterwards to stop me getting withdrawal (I had avoided it so far because usually US remakes are a bit rubbish, and I only occasionally liked the original version of The Office), which I’m now on the seventh series of (so yeah, I am liking it actually).

I love how Mindy blossomed I suppose. She was a pretty shy kid, you could still see a bit of that Mindy quality, a sort of no cares attitude, although it had it’s quivers. She really was a self-made woman. It sort of reminded me of how Stephen Fry and his contempories came up. They started as their own thing and sort of got ‘discovered’. I like that, it’s genuine.

I also like how she tried to use her position to teach girls who might admire her. There was one scene (and, God, I hate People magazine for this) where Mindy was going to a photo shoot, something about beautiful people. Nice yeah? At the time she was a size 8 (which I think is a size 10 in the UK) so about average. The stylist only had size 0s, which is just rubbish, especially when you are showing someone ‘normal’ who was beautiful, and then to suggest they couldn’t wear nice clothes because they were too ‘big’. It just makes me mad. And Mindy is really pretty. It still makes me mad now.

So despite the fact that most of the time it was funny there was a serious side too, and now I love Mindy even more. I just wish I didn’t have to wait all the way until September for her new book

5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.99)

Paperback (£6.29)

Other Reviews:

Alison Mccarthy

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Ink and Page

Words for Worms

Recovering Potter Addict

Chrisbookarama

Silly Little Mischief

8 Comments

Filed under Fiction review

Stardust- Neil Gaiman



Synopsis (from amazon)

Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

Review

This is one of those books where I saw the film first. And I really like the film. It sort of put me off reading the book because I find if I watch the film first I’m just waiting for my favourite bits of the film. It’s part of the reason I try to read books first, sometimes I can still enjoy the film then, but I would rather get the enjoyment out of the book, generally speaking.

I couldn’t help comparing it to the film. I did think it was a little slower to start but I didn’t mind because it meant that a similar atmosphere could be built, and actually it gave me a better idea of the contrast between the village of Wall and the land beyond the wall.

On the other end of the spectrum though one of my favourite bits of the film is the pirate captain. He was still significant in a way in the book but his actual part was less big, we didn’t see so much of him, so we didn’t get as much of a sense of character from him.

Overall I did enjoy it. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t seen the film first. But it was a nice little story, I just don’t really have anything much to say about it.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£3.96)

Paperback (£6.29)

Other Reviews:

Nylon Admiral

Words For Worms

Chrisbookarama

Literary Lindsey

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review

The Winter Guest- Pam Jenoff


Synopsis (from amazon)

Helena and Ruth Nowak are like chalk and cheese: one staunchly outspoken and independent, the other gentle and caring. Caught up in the struggle of Nazi occupied Poland, the sisters have bound together and created an enviable bond that can’t be broken. Or so they thought…

When Helena discovers a Jewish Allied paratrooper, wounded but alive, she risks the safety of herself and her family to hide him. As her feelings for the solider grow deeper, she finds her loyalties torn.

Review

Why yes I have been reading a lot of Pam Jenoff recently (and I have ‘A Hidden Affair’ still to review too). There are things I like about her writing. It’s often set during world war two. It’s exciting. It’s easy to read without feeling ‘fluffy’. This one. Well, I liked it, but it didn’t have quite the same excitement as the others by her that I’ve read.

Don’t get me wrong there was excitement there, but it was a long time coming, and whilst there was always some promise of it most of the time it was unfulfilled.

Actually I would say that this story is less an excitement based story, or even a war based story as a story about people. It’s a story of the relationships between Helena and Ruth, between Helena and Sam, and the girl’s family. It’s also a story of self-discovery. Both girls learn more about themselves.

Both become stronger in their own ways.

It didn’t hook me in the same way as some of Pam Jenoff’s other books have, but I think it showed a more sophisticated writing style and plot than her others have.

The others may have been more enjoyable at the time of reading, but The Winter Guest is more likely to stay with me.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£5.03)

Paperback (£7.99)

Other Reviews:

Silver’s Reviews

Have I Missed Your Review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

 

3 Comments

Filed under Fiction review, Historical

The Thirteenth Tale- Diane Setterfield


Synopsis (from goodreads)

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family–fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates…

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield’s past–and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret’s own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield’s spell?

Review

I read The Thirteenth Tale so long ago now that I had to read the synopsis just to remind myself what happened (I don’t like this synopsis by the way, but I don’t think I can write a better one so I decided to lump with it, it’s the same as amazon’s, except that it doesn’t mention the film). All I could really remember is that I didn’t want to include it as a short review because I felt (still feel) it deserved more than that.

This book sat on my wishlist for a long time after I read lots of positive blog posts about it, then it sat for a long time on my to be read pile. It may have sat their for longer if I hadn’t read Bellman and Black as a review request.

It was better than Bellman and Black too. They both had that gothic element which I love, and a certain mystery to them. Plus a element of the past effecting the future. The main different with this general background was that for William (of Bellman and Black) it’s his own past which effects him, and for Margret it’s more Vida’s past which effects her.

The story takes part during a two time periods, there is the past story of the twins at Angelfield, told in a rather detached way by Vida Winter, and the current story of Margret as she hears Vida’s story and makes her own investigations, as she has been commissioned by Vida to write her biography. At least initially Vida’s story is the most engaging, however the further we get into the story the more the two stories become entwined.

Trapped up in Vida’s big empty house, having nothing to do except listen to Vida’s story makes Margret rather crazy, understandably. (A classic of gothic literature, think Jane Eyre trapped in Thornfield, with all those noises, and the strange maid, and unexplainable fires…you get the idea) But how much is Margret imagining? How much is real? Is she just being effected by Vida’s story? By her own past? Or is there something more to it?

Vida’s own story has the aura of a gothic mystery too. All the way through you are trying to work out what actually happened in Angelfield, just as Margret is.

There was an added little story which I didn’t really think was that necessary to the story. I’m not sure it added all that much either, although it did create a bit of a twist in the tale which I suppose was good, if a little over the top.

It got me guessing right up to the end.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.99)

Kindle (£3.66)

Other Reviews:

The Book Musings

Books at Violet Crush

HeavenAli

The Perpetual Page Turner

Reading With Tea

Alison Mccarthy

Words For Worms (Discussion, contains spoilers)

Have I missed your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Mystery

Moranthology- Caitlin Moran


Synopsis (from amazon)

In MORANTHOLOGY Caitlin Moran ‘gets quite chatty’ about many subjects, including cultural, social and political issues which are usually left to hot-shot wonks – and not a woman who sometimes keeps a falafel in her handbag.

These other subjects include…

Caffeine | Ghostbusters | Being Poor | Twitter | Caravans | Obama | Wales | Marijuana Addiction |Paul McCartney | The Welfare State | Sherlock | David Cameron Looking Like Ham | Amy Winehouse | ‘The Big Society’ | Big Hair | Nutter-letters | Failed Nicknames | Wolverhampton | Squirrels’ Testicles | Sexy Tax | Binge-drinking | Chivalry | Rihanna’s Cardigan | Party Bags | Hot People| Transsexuals | The Gay Moon Landings

Review

I wanted to read Moranthology since it came out, but somehow it hasn’t happened until recently. After all the build-up and how much I loved How to be a Woman it got to a point where I was almost expecting to be disappointed.

I found it interesting and funny, just like How to be a Woman, but less cohesive, maybe because it was actually made up of lots of Moran’s columns from The Times. Some columns were more funny than others, and some more interesting. It was nice to see a variety of topics, even though it did make for a less cohesive book. I think although the book was split into sections it might actually have been better to have as a flick through book than one to read cover to cover, as I did.

I always feel a little cheated when I read a book made up of things which have previously been published, simply because I feel I could have already read them for free online (ok, maybe not so much with The Times), or bought the paper. There was a little original material, and that did contain some of my favourite bits (the conversations with her husband most notably).

All in all a very good read, but not to the levels of How to be a Woman. Which is hard by the way because that basically gave me a girl crush on Caitlin Moran

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.74)

Kindle (£5.98)

Hardback (£7.94)

Other Reviews

Between the Pages

Nylon Admiral

Devouring Texts

Lit and Life

2 Comments

Filed under Essays, non-fiction review

Short Reviews the Third


I’ve decided to do some little reviews again. This time for books that I don’t have a lot to say about, but I still want to mention.

The bold links are amazon affiliate links (the money goes back into the blog).

 

Left Neglected- Lisa Genova

Left Neglected is another book about brain damage by Lisa Genova. This one is about a woman (Sarah) who looses her left after a car accident, basically she can’t see anything to the left of her, it’s as if it never existed.

I didn’t think it had quite the same emotional punch as Still Alice, but it was still very easy to sympathise with Sarah. Where Still Alice was about Alice’s deterioration Left Neglected has more hope and shows how Sarah learns to cope with her injury and how she begins to make things better 4/5

The Apple- Michael Faber


The Apple is a series of short stories about the characters in ‘The Crimson Petal and the White‘. It’s descriptions are less than in Crimson, but they are still rather beautiful. It also was quite as ‘racy’ as Crimson, which I am not bothered about either way but some may prefer. It didn’t have quite as much detail as I would have liked, but was still interesting to read.  3.5/5

Satan’s Shorts- Heide Goody and Iain Grant

Satan’s Shorts is the third book in the Clovenhoof series. It’s a series of short stories based around the characters in the other Clovenhoof books, and you probably wouldn’t get much out of it of you haven’t read any of the others. It is funny like the others but not as engaging. 3/5

2 Comments

Filed under Fiction review

Children’s Hour: It’s Mine


Children’s Hour is a feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

The image (if you were wondering) is taken from Shirley’s Hughes’ Alfie and Annie-Rose books which I loved as a child.
This week we read It’s Mine! for the first time. It’s written by Rod Campbell who is probably better known for his book Dear Zoo. It’s a simple story, not even really a story. You see little bits of the animals (e.g. the elephant’s trunk, the giraffe’s neck) in the jungle and the reader is meant to guess what it is.

The kids really weren’t that great at guessing the animals, or were being shy and didn’t want to speak up. Some of the animals were a bit difficult for the animals to guess, I had to peak at the next page on the bear for example because even I couldn’t tell what it was going to be.

They did however like naming the animals when they saw the whole of them, and they really liked the lion at the end.

Technically it’s a pop-up book, but a bit of a lame one, only the last page pops up

Buy it:

Boardbook (£3.59)

1 Comment

Filed under Children's Hour, Fiction review, Picture books

Godsquad- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimmer: This book was given to me free of charge (by the author) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

The Team:
Joan of Arc, the armour-plated teen saint of Orleans.
Francis of Assisi, friend to all the animals whether they like it or not.
St Christopher, the patron saint of travel who by papal decree has never existed – no matter how much he argues otherwise.

The Mission: An impossible prayer has been received by Heaven and it’s a prayer that only Mary, Mother of God, can answer. Unfortunately, Mary hasn’t been seen in decades and is off wandering the Earth somewhere. This elite team of Heavenly saints are sent down to Earth to find Mary before Armageddon is unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Godsquad:
A breathless comedy road trip from Heaven to France and all points in-between featuring murderous butchers, a coachload of Welsh women, flying portaloos, nuclear missiles, giant rubber dragons, an army of dogs, a very rude balloon and way too much French wine.

Review

Godsquad is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series. However it’s rather differ to Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings and can easily be read as a stand alone novel. It contains some of the same characters as the pervious books but they have been relatively minor characters before. It contains neither Satan or Gabriel.

I always rather liked Joan of Arc in the previous books so I was looking forward to seeing more of her, but on the other hand I found Francis of Assisi annoying- so wasn’t so much looking forward to seeing more of him.

In terms of action and adventure Godsquad did seem to promise more than either of the previous two books, so I found myself a little disappointed that the action didn’t get started earlier. It was somewhat interesting to see the saints adapting to modern life, but we have seen a lot of that in previous books and it might have been nice to have something different.

However when the action did get going I did find in very engaging, and the second portion of the book went very quickly for me.

I still really liked Joan of Arc by the end- more so if possible, and Francis of Assisi had grown on me too- although there are still annoying elements to him, and I liked Christopher too.

I found Mary to be a rather amusing character. Feminist, anarchist, anti-capitalist, but pretty much clueless really- that’s why she was amusing.

In fact on reflection I think it may be my favourite in the series.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Humour

Ajax Penumbra: 1969- Robin Sloan


Synopsis (from amazon)

San Francisco, 1969. The summer of drugs, music and a new age dawning. A young, earnest Ajax Penumbra has been given his first assignment as a Junior Acquisitions Officer – to find the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles upon a 24-hour bookstore and the possibilities before him expand exponentially. With the help of his friend’s homemade computer, an ancient map, a sunken ship and the vast shelves of the 24-hour bookstore, Ajax Penumbra might just find what he’s seeking…

Review

Ajax Penumbra 1969 is the prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, it can be read alone with no problems, but I think those who have read the sequel first would probably get more out of it.

I must admit I actually think I prefered this one to the sequel. It certainly was quicker to get going, but then it was a short story- so I suppose there wasn’t much time for ‘faffing’.

It was interesting to see how Penumbra started, and his job sounded like a great job! I found his adventure more interesting than the adventure in the sequel too, although I would have liked to see more of his early days in the bookstore.

I came out of it liking Penumbra as a character much more too. He had interested me before, but we didn’t really get to know him.

I would like to know if they really did sink ships in San Francisco and build on top of them.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.89)

Hardback (£6.39)

 

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

The Dirt- Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars


This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from amazon, but I’m a bit meh about it)

Ten years ago, Motley Crue’s bestselling The Dirt—penned with rock chronicler extraordinaire Neil Strauss—set a new bar for rock ‘n’ roll memoirs. A genuine cultural phenomenon, this turbocharged blockbuster, with more than half a million copies in print, has now been reissued to celebrate thirty wild years with rock’s most infamous band. No band has ever lived this hard, and lived to tell the tale. You won’t just find sex, drugs, violence, fast cars, and every rock & roll cliche turned on its head inside, you will find uses for burritos and telephone handsets that you couldn’t have even imagined in your wildest dreams. This is the classic book that’s made countless ordinary mortals want to transform into lawless rock stars, and created countless spin-off books for Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars, who hold nothing back in this outrageous, legendary, no-holds-barred autobiography.

Review

Right from the offset Motley Crue make their intentions clear, they are out to disgust and disturb you, for they are the world’s most notorious rock and roll band- and they are going to prove that.

For all of the first few chapters they seem to be out to shock you more and more, even if you think it can’t get worse- except then it does. It even got to the point that it seemed almost normal- which is possibly worse.

I think it was probably planned that way. Nikki in particular seemed so egotistical that I can see him wanting to be the most scandalous band, which makes you wonder if you should believe it all. Indeed at some point each of the members mentioned how it was an expected rock and roll lifestyle- like they had to do it o have any credibility, which is a bi crazy.

Later on things get lighter, as the band members get married and start having kids, and at times it is rather sad.

I don’t really know anything about Motley Crue. I knew the names of the band members, but not in relation to the band. And I don’t think I could name any of their songs, they’re not really my style to be honest. I don’t think that mattered though, I could still read the book, sometimes I got a little confused with who was who and especially who was dating who, but I’m not sure how much easier that would have been if I knew the band.

In a way I would say it’s a bit of a coming of age tale. As the band begins to change and grow, even what they write seems less egotistical and more introspective.

If you can make it though the first disgusting bits then you will be rewarded by the end (and I think the beginning is needed for the balance).

4.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.68)

Paperback (£8.99)

Hardback (£18.94)

5 Comments

Filed under Biography, non-fiction review

Some More Short Reviews


I’ve decided to do some little reviews again. This time for books that I don’t have a lot to say about, but I still want to mention.

The bold links are amazon affiliate links (the money goes back into the blog).

 

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore- Robin Sloan

Wasn’t there a character on some TV programme called Robin Sloan? (Maybe I’m thinking of Diagnosis Murder, but that was Mark… I think).

Anyway Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is about a 24-hour bookstore (believe it or not!), but there’s something not quite ‘normal’ about the bookstore and the new clerk starts to find out what it is. Lots of people have told me that they loved this book because it was about a bookstore. I don’t really see that- it’s more a mystery, almost an Indiana Jones type story. It was strange but rather intriguing and there was a good amount to puzzle out and action towards the end. I got into it well enough to buy the prequel. 3.5/5

 

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared- Jonas Jonasson

Try saying that with a mouthful of toffee! I’m going to abbreviate it (laziness!) to THMCWD.

THMCWD is a book about THMCWD, sounds dull? Well he gets up to all sorts of things which you wouldn’t expect, with the police on his tails all the time. There’s robbery, criminal gangs, murder, and an elephant. When the action was going on I read it quite quickly but when it wasn’t I found I wasn’t too encouraged to read it at all. I did find that despite not being the longest book it took me a long time to read because I lost interest. However at times it was funny, and bizarre, and I really thought that Allan was an interesting character.

THMCWD is in a middle of a lawsuit here in the UK and can no longer be sold by the British publishers, but you may still be able to get your hands on a copy somewhere. Amazon is selling the US version of the kindle edition (by the way what is up with that cover? Allan looks more like 30 than 100) 3/5

9 Comments

Filed under Fiction review

Raven Girl- Audrey Niffenegger


Synopsis (from amazon)

Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven…

So begins the tale of a postman who encounters a fledgling raven while on the edge of his route and decides to take her home. The unlikely couple falls in love and conceives a child – an extraordinary raven girl trapped in a human body

Review

Raven Girl is a graphic novel by the author best known for the fantastic book The Time Traveller’s Wife. It tells the story of a man and a raven who fall in love and have a daughter, she looks like a girl, but inside she is a raven, and is stuck in a sort of hole where she can never truly be either.

Raven Girl is a strange little story, right from the premise really. It’s sort of a sweet story though, and you could almost swap the Raven Girl for anyone trying to fit in, or anyone stuck between two cultures. You can see the style of Niffenegger’s writing which you recognise from her novels- it’s style is probably closer to Her Fearful Symmetry than to The Time Traveller’s Wife- although the story itself is much more simple.

The art work (also created by Niffenegger) fits the story well. It’s a bit mismatched, a bit strange, but still quite pretty. I’m sure Niffeneger designed the pictures to be like this as her other graphic novel which I have read, The Night Bookmobile, has much more realistic pictures (see below)

Image from The Night Bookmobile Source

Image from Raven Girl Source

It’s the sort of book you want to possess as much as read, like a piece of artwork.

I found out during my search for the images above that there is a ballet of Raven Girl which is showing at the Royal Opera House in October, I think i would be quite interesting to see.

4/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£13.59)

Other Reviews:

Alison Mccarthy

Have I missed your review? Leave me a comment in links and I will add it here.

4 Comments

Filed under Fiction review, Graphic Novel

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club- Genevieve Valentine


Synopsis (adapted from amazon)

Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off. The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid.

Review

Girls at the Kingfisher Club is based on the fairytale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and set in the prohibition era in the US. I read about it on somebody’s blog and really can’t remember whose it was (if it was you, sorry! Let me know), and I really liked the premise.

I can’t really say that it was much like the fairytale. Sure there were 12 sisters. And a rather domineering father. That was where the comparison ended though.

Having said that I did like it as a story in itself. I liked Jo (who was actually rather Jo March-esque). She was clever, and obviously cared a lot for her sisters. I would have liked to know more about the other sisters (the story was shown from Jo’s perspective), and I would have been interested to know more about her parent’s lives too.

The speakeasies (is that the right plural?) were written with a good atmosphere, and I’d actually quite like to visit The Kingfisher. (Although how they afford it without actually prostituting themselves I don’t know)

I found the story carried along nicely and got better towards the end.

4/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£15.90)

Kindle (£7.13)

Paperback- pre-order (£10.04)

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction review, Historical

Children’s Hour: Barry the Fish With Fingers and the Hairy Scary Monster


Children’s Hour is a feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday, where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

The image (if you were wondering) is taken from Shirley’s Hughes’ Alfie and Annie-Rose books which I loved as a child.
Last week some of the kids went to the library, one of the books they borrowed was Barry the Fish With Fingers and The Hairy Scary Monster. In it Barry and his friends are playing hide and seek, and one of Barry’s friends finds something scary.

It’s a nice story about friendship. It’s maybe a little long for the younger toddlers but there is plenty of suspense to keep them interested most of the time.

The pictures mean that the kids are instantly interested. They’re lovely and bright, and have sparkly bits! I personally love Barry’s fingers too!

Buy it:

Paperback (£4.00)

1 Comment

Filed under Children's Hour, Fiction review, Picture books

Some Short Reviews


Seeing as I am rather behind on my reviews (I still haven’t reviewed some books I read back in 2014) I thought I would try the quick review thing for books I have partly forgotten or have little to say about.

The bold links are amazon affiliate links (the money goes back into the blog).

Somebody Else’s Kids- Torey Hayden

This one was not quite what I expected, I expected one of those ‘please Daddy, no’ type books, it’s what it looks like. I guess I shouldn’t have judged by the cover because it wasn’t that at all. It was about kids with learning problems (for a variety of reasons) and the teacher who helps them (that’s Hayden). It was more interesting and a better read than I expected. 4/5



Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury. 

This is one of those must-reads, and it’s on The Rory List. About a world where books are banned. It got me thinking about books I’d want to remember, but other than that I found it generally unremarkable 3/5

Expo 58- Jonathon Coe

About the World Fair during the Cold War. Quite funny in parts. I couldn’t decide if the main character was an ass or an idiot, but him being either made me sometimes annoyed and sometimes amused. I especially liked the secret service agents for a laugh 4/5


Leaving Time- Jodi Picoult

I liked the balance in this Picoult novel. It had some of the mystic element that I found too much in Second Glance, the crime/mystery element you get in things like House Rules, and the emotional element like you would get in something like My Sister’s Keeper. Plus there are some interesting facts about elephants thrown in. Classic Picoult. 4/5

2 Comments

Filed under Fiction review

The Guest Cat- Takashi Hiraide


Synopsis (from amazon)

A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.

One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.

Review

The Guest Cat is a beautiful book in the same sort of was that The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly was a beautiful book. It had a simplicity which some may find boring, but the writing made it beautiful.

I liked the descriptions of the cat, she was so playful, and just generally cute.

Hiraide is a poet, and you can tell.

If you’re looking for a story which will race on this isn’t for you. But if you want something more relaxed and everyday, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s the sort of story to read on a lazy Sunday afternoon

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.59)

Kindle (£3.59)

Other Reviews:

Wensend

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

Children’s Hour: Mr Nosey and the Big Surprise


Children’s Hour is a feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday, where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

The image (if you were wondering) is taken from Shirley’s Hughes’ Alfie and Annie-Rose books which I loved as a child.


Mr Nosey and the Big Surprise is one of the books which the children brought to share on World Book Day. It features Mr Nosey from the Mr Men series. In this book Mr Nosey sees a door, so of course he has to go through it! What will he find on the other side?

It’s a fairly simple story, it’s pretty much all about the build up, and our toddlers love build up, especially if you read a book so it builds tension. They did find a it a little on the long side however.

The pictures are of the classic Mr Men style, bright, simple. I’ve always rather liked them myself.

 

Buy it:

Paperback- new (from £500.05)

Paperback-used (from £0.01)

2 Comments

Filed under Children's Hour, Fiction review, Picture books

We Should All Be Feminists- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Synopsis (from amazon)

A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences – in the U.S., in her native Nigeria – offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a best-selling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today – and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Review

I wanted to read this little book, or essay if you want after seeing it around on a few blogs.

For me despite it being so short it still seemed to have things which longer feminist writings have. It said a lot of the same things that Everyday Sexism says, but I didn’t review that because it made me angry for the wrong reasons. We should All Be Feminists talks of some of the same sort of level of sexism, a sort of thing which seems so ingrained that it’s almost seen as normal and therefore acceptable.

She also talks of the sort of attitudes towards feminists which makes feminism into some sort of bad words. I know women who would say that they aren’t feminists, but that’s like saying men are better, that they should get better chances and opportunities. How can you be a woman but not be a feminist?

She talked widely of her experiences in Nigeria- her native country, and made it seem that sexism is worse there, maybe it s, maybe not, it could just be what she is sharing.

It’s a good book for people who wouldn’t really consider themselves as being feminists, women and men alike.

I feel my own review is lacking something, I wish I hadn’t left it so long. Bex’s review is what convinced me, and is much better than mine.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£0.99)

Paperback (£4.00)

Other Reviews:

An Armchair By the Sea

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.

2 Comments

Filed under Feminism, non-fiction review

Pigeonwings- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Pigeonwings is the follow-up novel to Clovenhoof.

Synopsis (from amazon)

As punishment for his part in an attempted coup in Heaven, the Archangel Michael is banished to Earth. The holiest of the angelic host has to learn to live as a mortal, not an easy job when you’ve got Satan as a next-door neighbour.

Michael soon finds that being a good person involves more than helping out at Sunday school and attending church coffee mornings. He has to find his purpose in life, deal with earthly temptations and solve a mystery involving some unusual monks and a jar of very dangerous jam.

Heide Goody and Iain Grant have written a wild comedy that features spear-wielding cub scouts, accidental transvestites, King Arthur, a super-intelligent sheepdog, hallucinogenic snacks, evil peacocks, old ladies with biscuits, naked paintball, stolen tractors, clairvoyant computers, the Women’s Institute, and way too much alcohol.

Review

This book follows on from Clovenhoof but his time instead of focusing on Satan it focuses on the Archangel Michael who has recently been banished from Heaven.

It was my first read of 2014 (and I’m only now writing the review!) and it was a fun way to start the year

I must admit I didn’t enjoy Pigeonwings as much as I enjoyed Clovenhoof, Michael just wasn’t as exciting as a character.

Having said that there were more topics which verged on the serious, as Michael fried to re-establish his relationship with God, something which he had taken for granted before. It was interesting to see him explore faith in different ways, and finding how difficult it can seem for a human to have a relationship with God.

Ultimately though it was still funny, and there waa less dark humour than there was in Clovenhoof, which I personally am not a big fan of anyway. I think it was less funny overall though as well.

There was the mystery side of it which I liked however.

I’m looking forward to the next one which is due out later this year.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.99)

 

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Humour

More Fool Me- Stephen Fry


Synopsis (from amazon)

In his early thirties, Stephen Fry – writer, comedian, star of stage and screen – had, as they say, ‘made it’. Much loved in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, author of a critically acclaimed and bestselling first novel, The Liar, with a glamorous and glittering cast of friends, he had more work than was perhaps good for him.
What could possibly go wrong?
Then, as the 80s drew to a close, he discovered a most enjoyable way to burn the candle at both ends, and took to excess like a duck to breadcrumbs. Writing and recording by day, and haunting a never ending series of celebrity parties, drinking dens, and poker games by night, in a ludicrous and impressive act of bravado, he fooled all those except the very closest to him, some of whom were most enjoyably engaged in the same dance.
He was – to all intents and purposes – a high functioning addict. Blazing brightly and partying wildly as the 80s turned to the 90s, AIDS became an epidemic and politics turned really nasty, he was so busy, so distracted by the high life, that he could hardly see the inevitable, headlong tumble that must surely follow . . .

Review

Having enjoyed Moab is my Washpot and The Fry Chronicles I was rather looking forward to reading the latest instalment of Stephen Fry’s memoirs. Plus The Fry Chronicles had ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger with Stephen taking his first snort of cocaine, which suggested we could expect some excitement.

Unfortunately More Fool Me really didn’t capitalise on those promises, and I found myself rather disappointed.

The first 60 or so pages were a re-cap of Moab is my Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. Fine if you haven’t read either, or if you have the memory of a sieve. I started off reading them thinking that it had been a long time since I read Moab is my Washpot. Turned out I didn’t need such a detailed recap. I got bored around about 20 pages in and spent the rest of the time flicking through just reading a sentence or a paragraph here and there to see if I had forgotten anything, I hadn’t.

The next few pages were probably the best bit of the book. They showed the sort of wit that I would have expected from Stephen Fry, and a certain amount of self-criticism. He told a little of his early drug taking days and explained what attraction cocaine held for him. He promised that by the end of the book we would understand why taking cocaine was such a mistake.

I was really getting into the book when I find the section ended and a new section began, ‘The Diary’.

What followed was basically a copy of his diary for a few months during this time, with the occasional footnote to explain. There are no other words for it, it was dull. There was next to no introspection. It was written as you would write a diary to yourself, semi-note form, no great prose or witty remarks. A lot of the time it seemed to be lists of names and places, and ‘got drunk’ ‘took coke’ type references. There were a few more detailed and interesting entries, which were mainly when he was writing The Hippopotamus, and not doing drugs- maybe that was what he meant by we would know why it was bad- there wasn’t anything else which suggested anything really negative.

Half the time I couldn’t follow who all the people were, they were often refereed to by just first name, which might be fine in terms of Stephen reading his diary ut how was a reader expected to remember after just one explanation who everyone was?

All I really got out of it was an addition of The Hippopotamus on my wishlist.

Skip this one, Moab and The Fry Chronicles are worth reading, this one, not so much.

2/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£11.00)

Kindle (£12.89)

Paperback- pre-order (£7.19)

4 Comments

Filed under Biography, Memoir, non-fiction review

The Diplomat’s Wife- Pam Jenoff


The Diplomat’s Wife is a follow up to The Kommandant’s Girl. However you do not need to read The Kommandant’s Girl to understand The Diplomat’s Wife.

Synopsis

1945. Surviving the brutality of a Nazi prison camp, Marta Nederman is lucky to have escaped with her life. Recovering from the horror, she meets Paul, an American soldier who gives her hope of a happier future. But their plans to meet in London are dashed when Paul’s plane crashes.

Devastated and pregnant, Marta marries Simon, a caring British diplomat, and glimpses the joy that home and family can bring. But her happiness is threatened when she learns of a Communist spy in British intelligence, and that the one person who can expose the traitor is connected to her past.

Review

I really wanted to read this after finishing The Kommandant’s Girl. I’m fairly certain I didn’t even read the blurb (which I always do) before I read it. When I found out that it was about Martha I was a bit disappointed, I wanted to know what happened to Emma next. It’s not that I hadn’t liked Martha in The Kommandant’s Girl, I was just satisfied with how her story had been left, I would rather have known what happened to Emma when she left for the mountains.

I would still like to know what happened to Emma, but it didn’t take me long to get dragged into Martha’s story, and then I mainly forgot that she was even connected to Emma. Her past was important, so in that sense it was good to have the knowledge from The Kommandant’s Girl, but it wasn’t crucial.

The Diplomat’s Wife is less of an overtly political novel than The Kommandant’s Girl, and a lot of the time it felt more…normal. I wasn’t really expecting anything exciting, and the best bits of the story were at the beginning and the end, with the story carrying on well enough in the middle to keep me going.

I liked Martha more by the end of The Diplomat’s Wife than I had at the end of The Kommandant’s Girl. I admired her at the end of The Kommandant’s Girl, but she felt more real by the end of her own story.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.79)

Paperback (£6.99)

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction review, Historical

How to Build a Girl- Caitlin Moran


Synopsis (from amazon)

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes – and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes – but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Review

Some books you want to review as soon as you’ve finished them, you don’t want to wait for all the feelings and thoughts to fall out of your head. How to Make a Girl was one of these books, so I moved it to the top of my review pile (despite the fact that I still have reviews of books I read in 2014 that I need to write). Unfortunately I couldn’t actually write the review straight away, so I hope my thoughts are still clear enough.

I was excited to read something of Caitlin Moran’s after basically having a girl crush on her after reading How to Be a Woman (don’t ask me how I haven’t managed to read Moranology yet, it’s a mystery to me). I must admit though I had my doubts about How to Build a Girl, it seemed basically to be an autobiography pretending to be fiction (a bit like Stephen Fry’s Moab is my Washpot and The Liar, which I still confuse).

There are a lot of similarities between Caitlin’s life and Johanna. They both grew up in Wolverhampton. They both had Irish fathers who were once in bands but now had some sort of problem causing them pain. They both had large families. They both had early jobs writing for music magazines. They even both won awards for writing before they entered the world of work. Oh and they both had a slightly goth look.

So you can see why I was wondering how much more was based on Caitlin’s life. At times it even distracted me from the story itself, especially early on. It didn’t help that Johanna had a very similar voice to Caitlin too.

One thing I like about Moran is that she’s so forthright. She’ll say whatever she’s thinking, not worrying about embarrassing herself or others.  I admire her for it. Johanna is the same. Although I think more with Johanna I didn’t want to know, maybe because for a good chunk of the book she was a teenager. In a sense I would say this is a YA book, I could certainly see myself connecting with Johanna at the beginning of the story, in some ways at least. However I can see it not being a hit with parents due to how frank it is. There’s little in there I don’t think the average teen would know, but I think it’s the way it’s put across too. I don’t really want to go into too much detail here, but if you have listened to Lily Allen’s album ‘Sheezus’ it’s a similar sort of frankness (listen here, beware explicit), you can probably guess just by looking at the titles in fact.

I did really like How to Build a Girl in the end though. I loved Johanna, even if she made me cringe at times at her decisions, and at her cluelessness when she seemed so ‘grown-up’. She seemed fairly realistic, if a bit of a teenagers dream. The ending was satisfying but did seem to lead to more. Apparently there are two more books to come, which I would be interested to read too.

4/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£10.49)

Kindle (£9.42)

Paperback- pre-order (£6.39)

Other Reviews:

Sam Still Reading

Lit and Life

Nylon Admiral –start of a readalong

As the Crowe Flies (And Reads) – also start of a read-a-long

Have I missed your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, YA

The Casual Vacancy- J.K. Rowling


Synopsis (from Amazon)

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Review

It’s taken me a long time to actually get around to buying and reading The Casual Vacancy. I love the Harry Potter books so I had some reservations when it came to J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel. What prompted me to actually read it was the series starting on TV, I wanted to read the book before I watched it (and I managed it, just!).

When it comes down to it you probably can’t get much further away from Harry. You probably wouldn’t even know that The Casual Vacancy was by the same author unless you’re a Potter addict who can spot J.K’s style. I can’t help comparing to Potter but it’s not really comparable. If you are looking for something with magic, or something exciting, or something fast paced you won’t get it with The Casual Vacancy.

The Casual Vacancy, you see, is not plot driven, it barely has a plot at all to be perfectly honest. It is more of a study of the characters. That means that despite the characters being very flawed you come to care at least somewhat, even whilst not liking most of them. Probably the most likeable character was Kay, she cared, but she was weak. Krystal was probably the standout character though, at least for me. She was caustic, but I admired her (note admired, not liked). I can’t imagine being friends with any of these people, but they are real.

It took me a long time to get into the book, you need to be prepared to wait, to take the time. There was enough to keep me going, until I realised that it was sort of like a soap (you know how in soaps there are no ‘normal’ families, they all have these ‘issues’). I suppose it’s meant to be a sort of ‘you never know what goes on behind closed doors’ type of thing, but it did put me off a little.

The ending hooked me though, one of those stay up for just one more paragraph/page/chapter type things. I hear that the TV series has changed the ending. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

A lot of people have criticised how much sex and bad language J.K has used in A Casual Vacancy. There is a lot, but I don’t think it’s completely unnecessary. People have been saying that it’s J.K’s way of saying she can write adult fiction. I think that makes her sound like a former child star who does a nude photo shoot to show that they are ‘all grown up’ (because of course becoming a woman automatically makes you a sex object). I don’t see it like that. People swear, people have sex. Can it be realistic if you make it all family friendly? Life isn’t always family friendly.

I intend to write something about the first episode of The Casual Vacancy later in the week.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£3.85)

Kindle (£3.66)

Hardback (£13.60)

Other Reviews:

Book Jay

Words For Worms

The Eye of Loni’s Storm

Alison McCarthy

Reading With Tea

Recovering Potter Addict

So Many Books, So Little Time

Sam Still Reading

Mama Kucing Reviews and Ravings

Heavenali

Nishita’s Rants and Ravings

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

Humans: An A-Z- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

DO YOU

A) Know a human?

B) Love a human?

C) Have trouble dealing with humans?

IF YOU’VE ANSWERED YES TO ANY OF THE ABOVE, THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU

Whether you are planning a high level of human interaction or just a casual visit to the planet, this user-guide to the human race will help you translate their sayings, understand exotic concepts such as ‘democracy’ and ‘sofas’, and make sense of their habits and bizarre customs.

A phrase book, a dictionary and a survival guide, this book unravels all the oddness, idiosyncrasies and wonder of the species, allowing everyone to make the most of their time on Earth.

Review

Humans: An A-Z is a sort of companion book to The Humans. It’s like a guide book for visitors to earth. Sort of an extended version of the tips for being human at the end of the novel itself.

It was, as I expected, amusing, but it lost most of the heart warming aspects that I liked in the main novel.

I had it on kindle but would personally recommend the hard copy, it would have been nice to be able to flick back and forth, especially as some sections refereed to others, it would have been good to be able to cross reference.

In the music section Haig writes about music for different mood, sometimes songs, sometimes albums. I made a spotify playlist for it, and everything was there (which was nice after my playlist for 31 Songs was a bit of a failure)

 3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.99)

Kindle (£1.79)

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction review, Humour

Tampa- Alissa Nutting


Synopsis (from amazon)

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She is attractive. She drives a red Corvette. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed and devoted to her. But Celeste has a secret. She has a singular sexual obsession – fourteen-year-old boys. It is a craving she pursues with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought.

Within weeks of her first term at a new school, Celeste has lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web – car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods. It is bliss.

Celeste must constantly confront the forces threatening their affair – the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind. But the insatiable Celeste is remorseless. She deceives everyone, is close to no one and cares little for anything but her pleasure.

Review

It feels kind of wrong to get any sort of enjoyment out of Tampa, but I did enjoy it, or at least found it interesting.

Celeste is like no character I have ever read before. You couldn’t get much further away from a likeable character.

It was interesting though. She is like an addict. I suppose you can say she is an addict. She will do pretty much anything to get teenage boys, take all sorts of risks. She knows it’s ‘wrong’ but she can’t help herself, and she doesn’t really care.

It is quite graphic in parts, as you would expect I suppose. It’s interesting her approach to sex though, and the different ways similar events can be written. When she has sex with the boys you can tell that’s it’s pleasurable for her. Whereas you can see that she is disgusted by the same acts with her husband.

It is pretty well written. Whilst not likeable, Celeste is pretty engaging, and believable (which is just whole other reason for the book to make you feel uncomfortable).

It is worth reading, but it’s probably not for everyone.

I noticed when looking up amazon links that the paperback cover of Tampa has changed to something less rude looking (although technically the old cover wasn’t rude). See it over there->

3.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.19)

Paperback (£6.39)

Other Reviews:

Giraffe Days

Roof Beam Reader

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

Children’s Hour: Sometimes I Like To Curl Up In a Ball


Children’s Hour is a feature here at Lucybird’s Book Blog every Thursday, where I’m looking at children’s picture books. As I work in a nursery I get plenty of opportunities to look at picture books, and to see what the kids think of them so it really makes sense to use those experiences.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experiences of the books I review too, and feel free to post me a link to your own reviews, I’d love to make this a bit interactive.

The image (if you were wondering) is taken from Shirley’s Hughes’ Alfie and Annie-Rose books which I loved as a child.

 

Sometimes I Like to Curl Up In a Ball is all about the actions Little Wombat likes to do, from curling up in a ball, to jumping up and down, to shouting really loud. It is told in Wombat’s voice, and we not only hear what he likes to do but also why.

Books with actions tend to be quite a hit with the toddlers, especially if they get to copy the actions, and for some reason talking really, really, fast to show running is hilarious! This is as true for I Like to Curl up in a Ball as for anything else.

This book also has the often popular rhythm and rhyme which helps the kids to stay focused and interested, and makes it easier for them to join in. We only have it as a library book, so we haven’t quite read it enough times yet to know it off by heart- and sometimes that makes us love books even more (case in point, Brown Bear).

 

Buy it:

Paperback Dual Language English and Welsh (£4.99)

Paperback- new (from £0.40)

Paperback- used (from £0.01)

Boardbook- new (from £90.51)

Boardbook- used (from £0.01)

1 Comment

Filed under Children's Hour, Fiction review, Picture books

The Kommandant’s Girl- Pam Jenoff


Synopsis (from amazon)

Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma’s husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city’s decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob’s Catholic cousin, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.

Emma’s already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety–and her marriage vows–in order to help Jacob’s cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma’s relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

Review

Since reading The Officer’s Lover I’d really wanted to read another book by Pam Jenoff. The Kommandant’s Girl seemed perfect, set in the war (and we all know about my penchant for war stories), with Jews, and Nazis, and the resistance, and love.

I really liked The Kommandant’s Girl. I liked Emma, she started off a bit naive, but love made her strong, and made her take risks. A heroine in the end anyway.

There was even a little bit of me that liked the Kommandant. Not the Jew killing bit (obviously) but the bit where he was genuinely caring towards Emma.

It was dramatic, and emotional, really kept me turning the pages (or pressing the buttons I suppose as I read it on kindle).

4/5

Buy it from amazon:

Kindle (£4.79)

Paperback (£5.99)

 Other reviews:

Between the Pages

Have I missed your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

 

6 Comments

Filed under Fiction review, Historical

Trains and Lovers- Alexander McCall-Smith


Foreword

It was National Handwriting Day on Friday, I only found out about it yesterday, so I decided to pay my tribute a little late. I’ve decided to write a review as in actually handwrite it. I like handwriting, it helps me to think. I don’t like how little I do it.

I’m doing copying bits (links to buy, synopsis, hyperlinks) in typing, and I will transcribe afterwards in case you can’t, or don’t want to, read my handwriting.

Oh and I apologise for any misspellings- handwriting has no inbuilt dictionary.

Synopsis (from amazon)

In the words of Alexander McCall Smith: ‘You feel the rocking of the train, you hear the sound of its wheels on the rails; you are in the world rather than suspended somewhere above it. And sometimes there are conversations to be had, which is what the overarching story in this collection is all about. It is a simple device: people brought together entertain one another with tales of what happened to them on trains. It takes place on a journey I frequently make myself and know well, the journey between Edinburgh and London. It is best read on a train, preferably that one.’

 photo review_zpscf65102c.jpeg
 photo reviewp2_zpsa9cd9c7a.jpg

Buy it on amazon:

Paperback (£6.27)

Kindle (£4.87)

Hardcover (£8.99)

Transcript

So here goes. The review.

I decided to write a review of ‘Trains and Lovers’ as my handwritten review because I don’t actually have much to say on it. With the fact that handwriting takes longer than typing, plus me wanting to type it up, I don’t want to have to write lots. (Although I probably will end up writing as much with all this explanation)

‘Trains and Lovers’ is a bit different from the other McCall-Smith books I’ve read. To be fair the others have been detective novels- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and one of the Isabel Dalhousie books. There’s less to figure out- which you would, of course, expect seeing as it’s more of a romance novel. Although McCall-Smith can’t quite resist, there is one story which has a bit of a mystery to it.

It has the same ‘nice-ness’ which I would expect from McCall-Smith, but it’s sweeter. There’s a certain poetry, which probably replaces most of the humour which I would have expected. I liked that.

I also liked that it was real. The stories were not great ‘perfect’ romances, or a rehash of Pride and Prejudice (as so much chick-lit is). They were romantic in an everyday was, no grand gestures. They were romances I could believe, and in a sense that makes them more inspirational than ‘great’ love stories.

I think I likes this more more than I realised. Writing this has made me look at things differently.

3.5/5

 

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Romantic