Tag Archives: books

What I read on Mother’s Day

imageEvery Mother’s Day my husband takes our daughter out for the day so I can settle down and try to read a book in a day. The perfect Mother’s Day treat, peace and quiet and a good book! Yesterday I read Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. It was the perfect Mother’s Day read; light, funny, quick and featuring a really close mother daughter relationship. A lovely relaxing day.


Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite book quotes

It’s been a while but I really want to get back into Top Ten Tuesdays which I discover is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Favourite Book Quotes which is a difficult one as I don’t have good recall for quotes from books. So I’ve looked up some of my favourite books and tried to find good quotes from them.

1. amberFrom The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. This was one of the readings at my wedding so it was the only quote that came instantly to mind for this topic.

“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they wont’ just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…”

2.husband From The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. This quote jumped out at me so much, it struck such a bell with me. I thought that not working would give me the opportunity to stop having to talk to people all the time and found that as a mother you’re required to talk to even more people than you do at work!

“The other mothers, the teachers, the people. I didn’t realize that having a child was so social. You’re always talking to people.”

3. operaFrom The Rainbow Opera by Elizabeth Knox. This sums me up perfectly!

“I have no particular plan in life – and that’s something I rather like. Most things that people do seem to me to be rather dull and silly. In my ideal life I’d be left alone to read”

A Fraction of the Whole

4. From A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

“Sometimes not talking is effortless, and other times it’s more exhausting than lifting pianos.”

5. ciderFrom The Cider House Rules by John Irving

“What is hardest to accept about the passage of time is that the people who once mattered the most to us wind up in parentheses.”

A spool of blue thread6. From A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I could have picked a million Anne Tyler quotes, she writes so brilliantly about life, love, death and family.

“You know how you just have to touch your child, sometimes? How you drink him in with your eyes and you could stare at him for hours and you marvel at how dear and impossibly perfect he is?”

7.kevin From We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

“I realize it’s commonplace for parents to say to their child sternly, ‘I love you, but I don’t always like you.’ But what kind of love is that? It seems to me that comes down to, ‘I’m not oblivious to you – that is, you can still hurt my feelings – but I can’t stand having you around.’ Who wants to be loved like that? Given a choice, I might skip the deep blood tie and settle for being liked. I wonder if wouldn’t have been more moved if my own mother had taken me in her arms and said, ‘I like you.’ I wonder if just enjoying your kid’s company isn’t more important.”

8Atonement. From Atonement by Ian McEwan

“The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse. ”

The Family Fang9. From The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

“What you’ll find, I think, is that the things you most want to avoid are the things that make you feel the greatest when you actually do them.”

10. remainsFrom The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Sums up the beauty of British landscapes beautifully.

“I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.”

Review of ‘A Maigret Christmas’ by Georges Simenon

imageThanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

The title of this book is a bit misleading, it comprises three short stories set at Christmas, but Maigret only actually features in one of the stories. The Christmas settings are also fairly incidental, there is nothing cozy or festive about this book, it mostly dwells on how often people commit suicide on Christmas Eve.

I’ve never read a Maigret book before and on the basis of this book, I don’t think I’ll be reading any again. I found the stories strange and stilted. The first two stories which are sort of police procedurals mostly take place in one or two rooms with the main policeman mostly just using a telephone to solve the crime rather than getting into any action.

Lots of things didn’t make sense, just one example is that department stores are open at 11pm on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day morning. This is key to the plots of two of the stories. I find it really hard to believe that a Catholic country would have such lax opening hours rules in the 1950s. Despite it being Christmas everything seems to go on as usual, except Maigret solves the crime from home rather than the office.

The first story is the Maigret story. He wakes up on Christmas Day with Madame Maigret and is visited by two ladies because a man dressed as Father Christmas has broken into one of their houses overnight. This was a really interesting, exciting premise which devolved into a mixed up, weird, detached story which I can’t even begin to explain and which was incredibly unsatisfying. I also really didn’t like the way poor lonely, childless Madame Maigret doesn’t even warrant a first name.

The second story was my favourite. It features a likeable police switchboard operator solving a crime which involves his family. It was an interesting way to tell a police story and had a sweet ending.

The third story begins with a totally incidental suicide and then follows a prostitute as she tries to look out for a drunk young woman on Christmas Eve. It was strange and bitter and fairly pointless and not at all what I was expecting from the cover of this book.

I was hoping for a festive exciting read but found this book cold and baffling.


Review of ‘The Baltimore Boys’ by Joel Dicker

image.pngThanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for the ARC of this book.

Boy, this book is loooooong and dull. I should have enjoyed it; it features much of what I love in novels: contemporary American setting, teen romance, coming of age story, cute dog. I should have loved it, but it was so long and repetitive and the story is so drawn out that the final reveal is utterly underwhelming.

‘The Baltimore Boys’ is the story of Marcus Goldman, who incidentally is also the narrator of Dicker’s previous book ‘The Harry Quebert Affair’, and his obsession with his richer cousins and the tragedies which befall the Goldman family. It’s a thorough exploration of the dynamics of male jealously between cousins, brothers, friends etc. etc. We get it; even successful, rich, popular people can feel jealous of other people, even people they love. I found everyone pretty unlikable and found it quite hard to empathise with the rich spoiled white people and their problems

We know from the beginning of the book that something bad happens to the cousins who Marcus adores. It seems they are probably dead. I thought I would care what happens to them, that it would be some dreadful tragedy. However, when I got to the reveal at the end I was shocked we were supposed empathise with these characters who have done horrible things to each other and ruined their own lives. I definitely don’t think that was how the book wanted me to feel.

I’m afraid, I can’t recommend this book. I think Dicker’s first book was better but also found that one long, contemplative and overly drawn out, so I guess that’s just his style. They’re originally written in French or German, I think, so maybe something is lost in translation.


Review of ‘To Kill the President’ by Sam Bourne

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC of this book.

Warning: contains spoilers

I really enjoyed this very timely thriller which follows various employees of the White House involved in plotting and attempting to prevent an assassination attempt on a president clearly based on Trump.

The plot is a little far-fetched and too easily resolved; however I really enjoyed the portrayal of the worst case scenario Trump presidency. From almost starting a nuclear war with North Korea, to banning abortion, and deporting pretty much anyone Latino to Mexico; there was so much that rang a warning bell with the real-life Trump presidency. It was really interesting seeing the parallels between the plot and real life and where the author envisions the Trump presidency might go.

You can’t help but sympathise with the Republican insider career politicians who begin to see an assassination attempt as their only option to undermine a president who is dangerously out of control and for whom every scandal seems to slip like water off a duck’s back. Although, in reality assassination would only worsen the problem as it would make him a martyr for his cause. In the end, in some epic wish-fulfilment, the president is felled by a much simpler Nixon-style scandal. I can only hope Trump is brought down by his own actions so easily and America comes to its senses before he can do any more lasting damage.

I’d definitely be interested in reading this author again. Although I did find his lead character Maggie Costello a bit flat. In particular, her sexual desires and feelings seem to be clearly written from a male perspective. At least he tried to have a female lead, which is rare in this kind of political thriller.

It was really fun to read a thriller so rooted in the current political context and so pertinent to our times. The cover is great too!


Review of ‘Hold Back the Stars’ by Katie Khan

Thanks to NetGalley, Gallery and Doubleday for the ARCs of this book.

I really enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting in one day. It’s an incredibly easy read. The concept is basically ‘Gravity’ but with a beautiful love story at its heart. Carys and Max are two astronauts stranded in space with 90 minutes to live and very little chance of survival. Their love story is told in flashback over the course of the remaining minutes while they try to find a way to save themselves.

It’s heartwarming and romantic and exciting. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the last third of the book which imagines what life would be like for Max and Carys if one were to survive without the other. This felt a little bit like it was filling out what is quite a simple story. However, I really enjoyed the concept of the book, liked the characters and found the slightly futuristic setting of Europia very interesting.


Review of ‘How to Stop Time’ by Matt Haig

imageThanks to NetGalley and Canongate for the ARC of this book.

I think Matt Haig is a very talented writer. His books are immediately absorbing and they manage to combine fast-paced story-telling with thoughtful reflections on life and human nature.

‘How to Stop Time’ is a novel about how fear of the future stops us from living in the moment and how despite the fact that fear is sometimes justified we shouldn’t let it prevent us from living life to the fullest. It’s beautifully told and does not hammer home this message in a heavy-handed way, rather it is the pay-off to an engrossing story.

The novel follows Tom Hazard, a man who ages 15 times slower than normal humans and so is over 400 years old. His story is told in the present with flashbacks to his life over the past 400 years covering the loves he has lost and the pain living with the condition has caused.

I’ve come to realise that I love novels that play with the concept of time. It’s utterly fascinating and offers such interesting plot options. This book is another enjoyable addition to this tradition.

My one quibble with this book is that Tom encounters several famous people over his life including Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is my one hang up with books about time; the protagonists always seem to be present at important moments of history and meet historical figures. This might be feasible for someone with the power to travel through time, but Tom does not have this power, he just loves longer, there’s no reason why that should give him the insight to be present at these events. It’s perfectly possible to live one’s whole life without meeting anyone famous. I rolled my eyes when Shakespeare turned up, it’s such a hackneyed trope to feature him in Elizabethan themed books. However, this is a very small point and did not spoil my enjoyment of the book.

I’d thoroughly recommend this and Haig’s other writing for people who enjoy good story-telling, thoughtful characters and reflections on life.


Review of ‘Plum’ by Hollie McNish

imageThanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the ARC of this book.

I love love love Hollie McNish’s poetry. I thought that ‘Nobody Told Me‘ was an absolute masterpiece and I have really enjoyed reading ‘Plum’.

I love McNish’s point of view and wish my brain worked like hers. All her references resound with me and she perfectly puts into words thoughts and feeling I have had and makes me think more deeply about important issues. I love the train of feminism which runs through many of her poems and her poems on parenthood often bring me to tears. She is brilliant!

‘Plum’ is a collection of McNish’s poems cleverly interspersing current work with poems she wrote as a child and teenager. It’s a really thoughtful and entertaining read. I am so jealous that someone could be such a great poet aged 8!

I’d highly recommend this book to everyone.


Review of ‘What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday’ by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

imageThanks to NetGalley and Pan MacMillan for the ARC of this book.

My 2 year old daughter loves Julia Donaldson books, the What the Ladybird Heard series is not her favourite but she does like reading them especially making the animal noises which feature. I read her the new book today, she was quite excited to see Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len again and asked to read it again straight after we’d finished but got bored a few pages into the second read.

I don’t think this is the best in the series. The action is transplanted from farm to zoo and the animal noises aren’t quite as appealing, although my daughter enjoyed the hyena laughing then crying. The initial set-up to the story is similar to the previous two books; the ladybird overhears Len and Hugh plotting to steal an animal and deploys the other animals to help her foil the criminals. I thought the plot in the second half of the book was a bit weaker, less clever, interesting and funny than the other two books and it probably won’t engage children as much as they do, but I imagine kids who like those books will like this. It’s definitely not as successful as Donaldson’s most popular other books like The Gruffalo and Stick Man.

Lydia Monks’s illustrations are colourful and appealing and my daughter enjoyed spotting the little ladybird on each page. The use of mixed media is interesting and a bit different.


Review of ‘Before the Fall’ by Noah Hawley

imageThanks to Hodder and Stoughton, Bookbridgr and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

I was really excited to get the opportunity to read this book as I’ve enjoyed Noah Hawley’s TV work on Fargo and Legion. I think he’s a really talented storyteller and how on Earth does he find the time to work on so many quality projects?

This book did not disappoint. It’s a really well-written suspenseful story with strong treatises on wealth and how the media covers certain news stories. It’s rare for a page turner to take such strong standpoints on social issues and this brings depth to what could be a quite a lightweight story.

The novel starts with a private plane crashing into the sea with two survivors, a painter who hitched a lift at the last minute and the 4 year old son of the plane’s millionaire owner. The book follows these two characters, both of whom I really liked,  in the aftermath of the crash and highlights how they are treated by the investigating authorities and the media. It also relates the lead up to the crash from the perspective of each of passengers and crew members who died in the crash.

It’s very cleverly written let down only slightly by the final reveal of the reason why the plane crashed being a bit trivial and underwhelming. However, I may also have found it marred if it had revealed some big dramatic conspiratorial reason why the plane crashed. There was probably no completely satisfying ending to this kind of book. It’s often the case with whodunnit style books, the pleasure is in the reading rather than the ending which can never live up to all the possible conclusions you’ve imagined along the way.

I’d totally recommend reading this book and I’m looking forward to reading more of Hawley’s books in the future. I think I have The Good Father in my Audible library.