before i go to sleep

Before I go to Sleep By SJ Watson

In a :

“Before I go to Sleep” is the story of Christine, a woman in her late forties who every morning when she awakens finds herself suffering from varying degrees of amnesia. Sometimes she believes that she is a child, whilst other times a girl in her late teens or twenties. One factor remains the same however and that is her lack of any recently formed memories, including any of her husband. It is not until she is secretly contacted by a Doctor Nash, a specialist in her condition that Christine discovers that she has been keeping a journal and that this may be the key to finding out why everything is not as it seems. Is Christine really losing her mind altogether or will her paranoia turn out to be justified?

Genre:

Thriller

Number of Pages:

384

Interesting Fact:

Whilst writing his debut novel, SJ Watson worked as an audiologist in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing impaired children, working on his book in the evenings and at weekends.

Been Made into a Film?:

Yes although the film adaption got mediocre reviews for the most part. Here’s the link to the trailer anyhow:

https://youtu.be/I9QNAJm8E5g

What I like about the book:

About two thirds of the way through I thought I knew exactly what was happening only to later discover that I was totally wrong. That’ll teach me to be so smug!

And Dislike?:

It did take me a while to get into and the fact that Christine has to read her journal every morning I found tedious (don’t ask me why as it wasn’t me who had to read it). In retrospect I guess there were some inconsistencies that if you weren’t caught up in the story-line might annoy you but I found myself more frustrated by Christine’s lack of common sense. For example, if you were locked in a room with a potential attacker on the way, would you sit and read a book, even if said book was going to tell you whether or not he was going to kill you? Thought not.

Final Thoughts:

Overall I enjoyed the book despite its shortcomings, it kept me guessing and was an original idea but I wouldn’t read it again.

 

41clh8Uv6hL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

In a   Empty nutshell. Original case for your christmas surprise.:

As it should be, the blurb on the back of this book is so intriguing that it enticed me into buying it and I’m so glad that I did because it turned out to be a veritable roller-coaster of a story. It focuses on the life or rather endlessly revised lives of one Ursula Todd, born into an upper middle class family in the early 1900’s who embarks on her existence only to have it cut short in various different ways and have to start all over again. And again…and again. Not a book that captivates immediately but rather draws one in little by little as we witness the ripple effect that even apparently inconsequential events can have on one’s life. I particularly love the unflinching account Atkinson gives of wartime Britain, a far more wretched portrayal than I’ve ever read before and one which stands in stark contrast to the carefree, archaic (and at times deadly) childhood Ursula spends at Fox Corner, the family home. At times the jumping backwards and forwards in time can be a little jarring but it is clearly necessary and on the plus side keeps you on your toes.

Genre: 

Fiction

Number of Pages:

640

Interesting Fact:

Atkinson had intended Life After Life to be principally a war novel but soon after starting writing realised that it had to be as much about the years before the war as during as the main character was born in 1910  and had to somehow get from that point to the war years.

Been Made into a Film?:

According to The Telegraph Lionsgate have bought the film rights and the script will be written by Semi Chellas (who has written for Mad Men) and Esta Spalding (who has written for the US adaptation of the Scandinavian drama The Bridge). Exciting stuff!

What I like about the book:

Not being able to really second guess where it was going or what type of ending it would have. I have to say I did like the finale, although in many ways it didn’t seem to be the pinnacle of the story. For me it felt as if the journey getting there had been far more important.

And dislike?

The injustice inherant in certain parts of the story rankled a bit, but to be fair, they only made it more like real life, which whether we like it or not, is generally unfair.

Final Thoughts:

Not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination but well worth the effort and gets you thinking.

 

 

9780141334783[1]

Matched by Ally Condie

In a :

By the time I had gotten halfway through this YA novel set in a chillingly sterile future, I didn’t think that I was going to click with it at all, mainly because it centered around yet another love triangle. Young girl destined to end up with handsome but predictable good guy gets her head turned by the outcast, yeah yeah I’ve seen it all before. But once I got over my initial disappointment I found that I did actually like the story-line and the believable world that Condie had crafted. Her main character, Cassia lives in a future where the government controls everything including where you live and work, who you fall in love with and more ominously, when you die. Cassia accepts this system without question because it’s all she’s ever known, that is until a glitch in the system changes everything.  This book reminded me quite a lot of the “Uglies” series by Scott Westerfield but has just enough differences to make it enjoyable in spite of this. (n.b. it’s not that I didn’t like the Uglies books, I just don’t want to read them again)

 

Genre:

Young adult /Science Fiction

Number of Pages:

384

Interesting Fact:

Condie’s husband initially planted the seed for the story when he asked his wife, “What if someone wrote the perfect algorithm for lining people up and then the government used it to decide who you would marry, when you married etc?”

Been made into a film?

Not yet but apparently Disney are working on it with production already under way.

What I like about the book:

It’s well thought out in terms of how the dystopian world works and it’s fast pace will appeal to younger readers.

And dislike?

Perhaps it’s because it’s a YA read and not terribly long but I just didn’t feel that there was enough depth to the characters although it may be that this is addressed in the sequels.

Final thoughts:

An entertaining read that I’d recommend to my kids but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read the subsequent books in the series.

9732831196_7119b19fab_o[1]

Letters of Note compiled by Shaun Usher

In a 

This beautiful book was my Secret Santa present from my brother about two years ago, (my family can’t keep secrets) and is really fascinating to dip into every so often. Having copies of these letters beneath your fingertips even if they are only replicas is a snapshot of history right there in front of you and feels like a much more genuine portrayal of the past because it’s in the writer’s own words. Many of the letters are intensely personal, a few of them humorous and still more of them heartbreaking but all of them are interesting in their own way and this book serves as a glimpse into the past of ordinary as well as incredibly famous people.

Genre

Factual

Number of Pages

384

Interesting fact

Usher’s website of the same name has been live since 2009 and receives more than 1.5m visits every week.

Been made into a film

Nope, not sure that would work!

What I like about the book?

Everything! In fact this post has taken ages to write because every time I glance inside I get hooked again and end up reading on for ages. My favourite letter in the book was one entitled “Our Frank”, penned to the family of Frank Cualla by the Connell family after they found Mr Cualla dead following the Lockerbie disaster. It brings a lump to my throat every time I read it but also makes me feel glad to know that there is such goodness out there in the world.

And dislike?

Well my issue is a hardback so I can’t lie down and read it in bed. That’s about all that’s wrong with it I reckon.

Final Thoughts:

This is a really interesting read and makes for an excellent present. If you are anything like me it will also make you want to write to someone, even if is only your french penfriend who you  never understood anyway.

moag[1]

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

In a    :

 Browsing in my local charity shop a couple of weeks ago, I spotted this book and, recognising the title bought it on the basis that I didn’t think I’d read anything like it before, and I was right. From the opening chapter I was spirited away to a vibrant land, a culture and an era so diverse from my own that I was immediately hooked and remained so throughout the book. Although this isn’t the type of read to have you on the edge of your seat it is unputdownable all the same because the author makes you care so much about the little girl, Chiyo who is seperated from her family and sent to Gion to train as a Geisha in the years just before and after World War 2. Chiyo’s path is anything but smooth as she incurs the wrath of the cruel Geisha, Hatsumomo and we suffer alongside her as she recounts the fascinating, terrible and often beautiful world that the Geisha inhabits. In part I suppose you could call it a love story but it really is so much more than that.  The detail that Golden goes into is amazing, (his MA was in Japanese history) and the story a remarkable one that will remain with you long after you have finished reading it.

Genre

Historical novel

Number of Pages

448

Interesting Fact:

Sayuri (Chiyo’s geisha name) would not allow the manuscript for her book to be published until after her death and the deaths of several men who had figured prominently in her life for fear of embarrassing anybody.

Been made into a film?

Hai, here’s the link:

https://www.google.co.uk/url?

What I like about the book:

That I learned so much about a culture and period in time previously unknown to me, and all through the eyes of an insider. I also liked the fact that Sayuri’s story was told without rancour or judgement, that was just the way it was.

And dislike:

Although I loved the descriptive narrative of this book, sometimes Golden went into a wee bit too much detail about the clothing which at times made me switch off.

Final thoughts:

If you’re looking for a light and easy read or an action packed story then this definitely isn’t the one for you but if you fancy escaping into an entirely different culture and learning quite a bit along the way, then go for it. A fantastic and unpredictable read, Memoirs of a Geisha will have you rooting for little silver eyed Chiyo right up until the end.

Autumn is Upon us

 

..and so it seemed a rather apt idea to take a look at books about people in the autumn of their lives. The three books I’ve chosen I think give a real sense of what life’s like for the elderly and where they fit in, or rather don’t fit in, in our society. And since I’m in charge here, I’ll start with one of my all time favourites, just because I can:

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Ok, firstly what’s not to love about this title ? Anyone who calls their book something like this has got to be a wee bit different right? And perhaps it’s due to the fact that Jonasson is Swedish that this story is so unlike anything I’ve read before. It reminds me a lot of Forrest Gump in that the main character, Allan Karlsson seems so innocent at the outset despite the extraordinary events of his life but as we delve a little deeper into his backstory we see that there’s also a harder side to Allan too,unsurprising when you take a look at his formative years. Allan’s story is so fantastical that you could almost believe it’s real and this is one of those rare treats of a book that you can go back to time and again without ever getting bored of it because there’s so much going on it it. In short it’s a great adventure story that you just won’t want to end,

Been made into a film? Yes, here’s the link to the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-k7DUQPHfQ

 

Marks out of ten: 10…and that’s all I have to say about that.

 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

More of a slow burner this one, though the mystery inherant in the story keeps you hooked right through until the end. I was kind of disappointed by the ending however as it seemed a bit of an anticlimax to me, it’s probably what would have happened in real life but hell, I read to get away from real life! Harold is another great character here, not entirely likeable but very real and in the latter stages of the book, we get to learn about the reasons for his  failings. I’d describe this maybe as an OAP road trip during which Harold finds himself, a very very slow road trip as he is travelling on foot. Rachel Joyce has written a companion novel for this book written from the perspective of Harold’s friend, called “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” which I have yet to read. Has anyone given this one a go yet?

Marks out of ten: 7, although I was dithering between a 7 and an 8, so let’s call it a 7 1/2. I couldn’t second guess this book at all which appealed to me and I do love a good road trip but I did feel kind of a bit deflated by the end.

 

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Out of the three books that I’ve reviewed here, this was the one that touched me the most for it’s telling of Maud’s story in the first person. Maud has lived with dementia for a while now and the world has become a bewildering place but despite all this Maud has retained her tenacity and determination to find out what has happened to her good friend, Elizabeth. But as we join Maud on her quest to decipher the notes she leaves for herself in an attempt to unravel the mystery, we journey back into her past and discover that there is another secret, lurking in the fog of her brain and threatening to break her heart all over again. Healy’s moving debut novel is not only heart breakingly moving but is also punctuated with moments of humour that had me laughing out loud. An excellent read that kept me guessing right up until the end.

Marks out of ten: 9

mr-men-thingy

The next generation of Mr Men

Roger Hargreaves’ army of Mr Men and Little Misses has been delighting children ever since their arrival in 1971 and came about when Hargreave’s son asked him what a tickle looked like. Well, of course Mr Tickle was born and the rest was history but I got to thinking the other day, where did Hargreaves get his inspiration from? Perhaps a logical place might have been  stories that he read himself and so with this in mind, I’ve decided to have a go at inventing a few myself, using characters from famous books to help me along the way. Feel free to have a go yourself, here’s my list, in descending order of my favourites:

10)  Bella from Twilight                             Little Miss Moody

9)    Peter Pan                                                Mr Immature

8)    Grandpa Joe                                           Mr Indolent

(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

7)    Colin (The Secret Garden)                Mr Hypochondriac

6)   Bill Sykes (Oliver Twist)                     Mr Psychotic

5)    Katniss (The Hunger Games)           Little Miss Very Very Unlucky

4)    Piggy (Lord of the Flies)                     Mr Victim

3)   Christian Grey                                         Mr Stalker

(50 Shades of Grey)

2)   Tess of the d’Ubervilles                       Little Miss Naive

1)   Alice in Wonderland                              Little Miss Junkie

 

Books I wish I’d never read

Although reading is unarguably one of the greatest pastimes in the world, we’ve all had books that, given half the chance we would go back in time and stop ourselves from reading, perhaps because they were a  waste of time, or maybe they have haunted us ever since. Here in reverse order of biggest mistake, are the top six reads that I regret:

 

6) The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner:

For some reason I persevered with this series way longer than I should have and managed to get half through book 3 before I finally gave up. Perhaps I’m simply too old for this YA story-line, whatever the reason  I just didn’t click with it and found the constant lurching from one adrenaline filled disaster to the next frankly exhausting. A little too similar to the Hunger Games for my liking too, I definitely preferred the films.

5)Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews                                                              

At the time of reading (aged 12 or 13)  I really enjoyed this book, but then went on to read more Virginia Andrews and looking back realise now that they weren’t at all suitable for a kid of my age. I don’t think my Mum could have known about the story-lines involving incest and rape that I was happily sitting in a corner of the living room reading but hey ho, none of it seems to have scarred me.

 

4) Paradise Lost by John Milton

Whoooooosh, I’m not ashamed to admit that this one went right over my head! I didn’t understand ANY of it when I read it for A-level English and though I’d say I ought to give it another try now I’m actually scared that my brain might melt. Wikipedia describes it as ” An epic poem in blank verse by the 17th century poet, John Milton. The first version, published in 1667 consisted of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse.” Nuff said.

 

3)Any Jack Reacher novel by Lee Childs straight after I’ve read another one.

This is not to say I don’t like Child’s stories about hunky good guy Jack Reacher, I do actually really enjoy them, it’s just that I overdosed on too many of them one after another and put my self off reading any for a while. I’ve done exactly the same with cheese and pesto sandwiches.

 

2)The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson

Now I know that all kids books can’t be about fairies granting wishes and so on but if you’ve never read this believe me when I say, this book is HARSH. I came to read it with my (admittedly sensitive) younger daughter after having watched the Disney film and man, were we in for a shock! Not to spoil things but basically Ariel after an already traumatic love affair ends up with the choice of killing her true love so that she can turn back into a mermaid or face dying with the rising of the sun. Cheerful stuff or what? To be fair I should have known what we were in for after reading The Snow Queen. On the plus side, the illustrations in the copy we read were beautiful. Perhaps a better read for older children who dislike fish?

 

1) A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

I must admit that this is another book on my list that I haven’t read to the end because, to put it quite simply I couldn’t face it. I have in the past managed to finish “We need to talk about Kevin” and that was horrendous enough, actually I wish I hadn’t read that either but this book is all the more heartbreaking because I know that it’s a true story. Obviously burying our heads in the sand doesn’t help any child in an abusive situation and if Pelzer’s book does anything to help then who am I to knock it, but I just haven’t the heart to read it.

 

cell 2

Cell by Stephen King

In a    :

Now I’d gone a pretty long time without reading any Stephen King until having run out of books recently I reread an old favourite of mine and realised anew why I loved his stories so much. And once again, Cell doesn’t disappoint. The basic premise is that a signal, (The Pulse) is sent out simultaneously over the populations’ cell phones so that anyone using theirs at the time loses their mind and tries to kill either themselves or the people around them. Obviously those not infected then reach for their cells to contact the emergency services or loved ones and end up becoming affected themselves. The story follows protagonist, Clayton Riddell, a man who doesn’t own a cell phone, as he tries to survive  the now zombie like population, find his son and ex-wife and band together with the few remaining survivors. What really complicates matters as the story unfolds is that the cell victims gradually evolve from unfocused savages to co-operating “flocks” who, it turns out want to rid their world of any remaining normals.

Genre: 

Horror

Number of pages:

512

Interesting Fact:

A charity auction was held by Ebay, the winner of which, one Pam Alexander, won a role in the novel. Ms Alexander passed the honor onto her brother, Ray Huizenga who, in the story survived “The Pulse” but later died helping to kill one of the flocks.

Been  made into a film?

Yep, here’s the link :https://www.google.co.uk/url

What I like about the book:

As always Kings’ descriptions are so flowing and consuming that you are literally right there in the story alongside Riddell, watching all the horror unfold. The pace is just right all the way through, the action sporadic enough to keep you on the edge of your seat but the descriptions and interactions between the characters  in depth enough to make you really care about them.

And dislike:

The gore. I know I know, it’s Stephen King and that’s just the way he rolls. In fact I’m pretty sure the book wouldn’t work without all the incredibly graphic violence but I can’t help being squeamish.

Final Thoughts:

If you like/love Stephen King, you’ll enjoy this book. Similar to some of his other novels, (The Stand spring to mind), it’s a keeper nonetheless. If you’ve never read Stephen King before this is a good place to start, it’s action packed, fast paced and absorbing but be warned it’s not for the faint of heart.