Books April 2023

Book #17 “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. A story of a boy who escapes when his family is murdered, and ends up under the protection of ghosts in a graveyard. Plenty of twists in the plot and some humour. An enjoyable read.

Book #18 “That Night” by Gillian McAllister. A story of a murder and the involvement of tree adult siblings. I found it a bit slow going at the start, with two timelines, and the story told from four perspectives, but it then turned in to a page turner.

Books 19-21 While we were on holiday we listened to 3 audio books with the elder grand children.

“The boy with wings” by Lenny Henry. An ordinary boy living his life, with his foster parents and a small group of friends. Discovers he is in fact an alien, with special powers and he needs to save the earth. An exciting book.

“The legend of Kevin” by Philip Reeve and Sarah Mcintyre. This story is about a Roly poly flying pony called Kevin, and his adventures with a boy Max. A lovely story.

“Loki: a bad god’s guide to being good” by Louie Stockwell. Loki is banished to Earth to live as an 11 year old school boy. The story is so funny all the car was laughing. Great writing.

Book #22 “Insomnia” by Sarah Pinborough. This was from the Sunday Times best seller list. A thriller about a successful woman with a troubled past, her insomnia, and apparently going mad. There was a car crash at the start, but not mentioned again by the point I gave up. I just wasn’t enjoying reading it and felt the plot was getting more complex.

Book #23 “Devastation” by Sapphire Lebesque. Another young person’s fiction, this time aimed at a slightly older audience, part of a longer series. In this book we are introduced to the characters, and their unsuccessful bid to save a forest, it finishes leaving the reader wondering what happens next.

Books March 2023

Book #12 “Stepping Up” by Sarah Turner. A Richard and Judy Book Club choice, highlighted by the local library and available on Libby. I borrowed it on Saturday and had finished it by Tuesday. An engaging tale of a young woman who unexpectedly finds herself caring for a 3 year old and his teenage sister, following a car crash that left her sister in a coma, and her brother-in-law dead. Told with humour.

Book #13 “no one is talking about this” by Patricia Lockwood. A strange book – told in two parts. Each part is made up of bite size chunks – akin to tweets. Wandering around topics. I think the aim is to show us the character is hooked on the portal (the Internet), she mentions the real world incidentally (family and a dictator). The second part continues in the same way in a world where abortion is a criminal offence and centres round a baby who is like the Elephant Man. It may be more interconnected but I just skimmed a lot of this.

Book #14 “The Blackbird” by Tim Weaver. A thriller that starts with a couple who are involved in a serious car crash – but when the rescuers arrive within minutes they are not there. It spirals from there into a complex plot over some 30 years. A real page turner.

Book #15 “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks. A wonderful fictional book centred of a year in the village of Eyam in the year 1665/6. When the real villagers realising there was the Plague in the village shut themselves off from their neighbours to prevent spreading the disease, while many of their number died. The fiction is based on a village woman who helps tends the sick while facing her own challenges.

Book #16 “Someone Else’s Shoes” by Jojo Moyes. I really enjoyed this book. A simple mix up of gym bags leads to significant life changes for the two main characters, both middle aged women. The characters were realistic, and from the first page I was engaged.

Books February 2023

Book #7 “Sea of Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel. A science fiction book set across some 500 years. The anomaly in time is a clever device and links together the times and characters. A great read.

Book #8 “Oh William”by Elizabeth Strout. This was an unusual book, told in a single voice talking about events both in the past and present. There was a lot about it that I usually wouldn’t like – but somehow it engaged me and I read it quickly.

Book #9 “Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan. This book is a short story set in Ireland in 1985. It covers family life but also the lot of unmarried mothers, including the infamous Magdalene laundries. I had to double check the year – it was hard to believe this was happening in 1985.

Book #10 “The Motion of the Body through Space” by Lionel Shriver. An engaging book about fitness fanaticism and aging. Different to her other books and highlighting life in the 60s.

Book #11 “The Atlas Six” by Olivie Blake. I saw this book mentioned amongst best sellers, and it sounded intriguing so I put it on my Christmas list and luckily arrived. I really enjoyed it magic, libraries, time travel and a bit of a thriller had me engaged from the first page. I really enjoyed it. But looking at the reviews there are some good and a few poor – I guess it is not to everyones taste.

Books January 2023

Book #1 “Once There Were Wolves” by Charlotte McConaghy. This book was lent to me by my daughter. It was a great read. With intertwined strands including topics of conservation, abuse, Australia, Canada and Scotland and of cause Wolves.

Book #2 “The Paris Apartment” by Lucy Foley. A whodunit set around a Paris apartment, a missing brother and the strange neighbours of his apartment, written in a page turning way.

Book #3 “The School for Good Mothers” by Jessamine Chan. This seems a bit like a cross between “The Handmaids Tale” and “Orange is the New Black”. Certainly it has dystopian elements. It kept me engaged the ending – definitely worth reading.

Book #4 “Artemis” by Andy Weir. I saw this among second hand books and bought it for my son-in-law (who had “Hail Mary” for Christmas last year. When he finished it he lent it to me. A brilliant read and every bit as good as his other books but quite a different setting (small town on the Moon).

Book #5 “Us Three” by Ruth Jones. A story following 3 small town Welsh girls, from their leaving school through to adult-hood. Each chapter is in a different voice, mainly the girls but others as well. I found it slow to start with – but as the characters developed it became a page turner.

Book #6 “Exit West” by MohsinHamid. I reserved this book on Libby because I had enjoyed two earlier books by Hamid. But this one is not engaging me, I am 25% through and have decided to abandon it and return it early since there are others waiting for it – I hope they enjoy it.

Books December 2022

Book #55″Troy” by Stephen Fry. The story of Troy as retold by Stephen Fry promised to be a good read and provide a bit more information than I remembered from school. I enjoyed reading this but wouldn’t describe it as a page turner. It was interesting to compare this telling of the story with Pat Barker’s “The Silence of the Girls” telling part of the tale from a girl’s perspective, which I read a couple of years ago, and certainly found more of a page turner.

Book #56 “Snow Country” by Sebastian Faulks. I am not sure I would have picked this book myself – but a friend lent it to me and it was a good read. It is set in Austria, starting in a pre-WWI period and ending with the rise of fascism pre-WWII. The story is told from two angles: Anton’s an affluent journalist establishing his writing career and Lena’s a girl born into a world of poverty and an addicted mother. With some of the story taking place in a sanatorium for psychiatric medicine, there are links to Freud’s work. Somehow the characters didn’t seem real to me, but I suspect the author wanted them to have those flaws for the story to work.

Book #57 “Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?” by Julie Smith. I saw this on new books on Libby and put it on hold as it looked interesting. The author is a clinical psychologist and has a large following on social media. It is not a book meant to be read from cover to cover but rather meant to be dipped into to find tools to help with dealing of life’s troubles. I read a few of the sections and found it very sensible and had some of the suggestions were very easy to adopt. Definitely a book that is good to know about.

That will be the end of the book list for this year, but I have a pile of paper books to read, and several ebooks on hold with the local library’s Libby subscription, so there will be more books next year.

Books November 2022

Book #50 “The Quiet at the End of the World” by Lauren James. A brilliant book, set in the foreseeable future. A virus lead to worldwide infertility and the story is about the last two children/teenagers born from stored eggs. Lots of imagination went into this book, and a couple of twists help to make this a gripping book.

Book #51 “The Dark Remains” by Ian Rankin and Ian McIlvanney. A gritty detective story set in Glasgow (probably 40 + years ago). The detectives seem unprofessional but maybe that is a reflection of the setting. There are plenty of potential suspects. And the plot has plenty of action. So an easy read.

Book #52 “Second Place” by Rachel Cusk. I put a reserve on this book as I saw it in a best seller list. It came in as I had finished the previous book so I started it straight away. Unfortunately I really didn’t like the style of writing. It seems to be written in a single voice addressing a third party. Paragraphs ramble on for over a page. So I have decided to return it. There is someone else waiting. I hope they enjoy it.

Book #53 “Chinaman” by Sheehan Karunatilatta. This is a book about a Sri Lanka cricketer and the man who is writing his story. Or perhaps it is the story of the man writing about the cricketer. It is a slow read as the narrator’s back story is revealed along with that of the cricketer’s. But it has taken me a couple of weeks and I am not far through (83 out of 635 e-pages). So I have decided to return it.

Book #54 “The Keeper of Stories” by Sally Page. I bought this book for my daughter-in-law, based on reviews. She then lent to me. It is an easy read, telling the story of a cleaner, who collects stories. It is a clever book, introducing a set of interacting characters, and the plot unfurls in a way that kept me turning the pages.

Books October 2022

Book #47 “Age Proof” by Professor Rose Anne Kenny. This is a very interesting book by a researcher who has studied aging, and led significant longitudinal studies. Not quite the page turner that “Breath” by James Nestor was, but everything that is said is backed up by evidence, and there is no unnecessary description of the appearance of people she interacted with. Definitely worth reading.

Book #48 “Before the coffee gets cold: Tales from the cafe” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. This is the second book about the cafe with a time travelling chair. There are rules about how the time travel works, you never leave the chair and must return before your coffee gets cold. The book tells of different people who wish to use the chair and why. It is quite a restful book and I have dipped into it a number of times. I do like it and it does make me want to return to Japan.

Book #49 “Still Me” by JoJo Moyes. An easy read, following the adventures of Lou in New York. Some interesting characters, and a light plot made this an easy book to read in a busy period.

Books September 2022

Book #43 “Her Majesty’s Royal Coven” by Juno Dawson. I saw this book mentioned in a Saturday paper, and when I looked on Libby it was available so I borrowed it. I was going to finish my other book, but then someone else but a hold on this, so I thought I should read it. It is a book about women, friendship, gender, identity and witches, set in the current time mainly in North Yorkshire and it is brilliant. My only complaint is the last few chapters were there to set things up for a subsequent volume, but I am pleased there will be a subsequent volume.

Book #44 “Breath” by James Nestor. I saw a mention of this book in something I was reading about relaxation, and it was available on Libby. It was very interesting but I found the style irritating. The author decorates his text with minute details of characters and their appearances, it is all very US American in examples and approach. But I know more about breathing than I did, in particular that breathing slowly in and out through the nose is a good thing, and if you type “breathing exercise” into Google there is a little app to guide you to do this.

Book #45 “1979” by Val McDermid. This was an exciting thriller set in 1979 Glasgow. The hero was a young reporter (Alison Burns) and we follow her and another young reporter through a small story and two larger ones. There is a murder as well and we follow Allie (Alison) as she tries to find the truth. A very good read.

Book #46 “The Appeal” by Janice Hallett. I enjoyed the author’s “The Twyford Code” which I read earlier this year – this book had some similarities with it. We start alongside two young legal clerks reading emails and other correspondents between the main characters. There are lots of hidden secrets that are hinted at, while the characters discuss their amateur dramatics, the fund raising for a sick child. About half way through there is a murder (we all expected that). It then becomes clear the clerks’ boss believes there was a mis-carriage of justice and with some additional correspondence the clerks (and reader) try to work out what really happened. I found it slow going at first as characters revealed themselves in their email but then it got very exciting.

Books August 2022

Book #38 “The Castaways” by Lucy Clarke. This was a great read, a thriller told by two sisters one telling what happened 2 years earlier when her plane crashed. The other sister tells the story in the present time, in her hunt to discover what happened, fuelled by the the pilot turning up dying on an island in Fiji.

Book #39 “Family Tree” by Sairish Hussain. A story of a British Muslim family set in West Yorkshire (Bradford) from 1990s to the present day. One of the reviewers says “Invites you in, not as a stranger but as a family friend”, which exactly captures it. There is minute details of family life, and the difficult traumas – the book starts with the death of the mother. I learnt so much reading this. And it was an engaging read.

Book #40 “Silverview” by John le Carre – his last novel. A brilliant story with several strands, linked to long retired spies. Plenty of twists. I could hardly put the book down – I am only sorry it wasn’t longer.

Book #41 “A Slow Fire Burning” by Paula Hawkins. I am less than half way through this and finding it slow going. It is a who dunnit, but I don’t really find myself interested in knowing. The author wrote “Girl on a Train” and I thought I enjoyed it, but this is not engaging me so it can go back to Libby for someone else to borrow.

Book #42 “The Man Who Died Twice” by Richard Osman. I put this book on hold with Libby back at the beginning of February and it took over 6 months for my turn – and that was largely due to Wokingham library paying for 2 more copies. Any way it was worth the wait. The plot was somewhat far fetched, but the separate story lines came together nicely and the retired heroes were most certainly the winners. There is a new book about to be released I wonder how early I can put my name down for it?

Books July 2022

Book #31 “The Island of Missing Trees” by Elif Shafak. A story that starts in the 1970s and the present day, with a young Cypriot couple from both sides of the divide (Turkish and Greek) in the 1970s, and their daughter a 16 year old in London. Linking both times and places is a fig tree. Initially I was unsure of a narrative from a tree, but it really does work and helps explains the problems Cyprus has faced in the near past. Along the way the daughter Ada discovers more about her heritage and her parents. I really enjoyed this.

Book #32 “Voyager” by Diana Gabaldon, the third book in the Outlander series. Claire has returned to the 20th century, where she lived with Frank, raised her daughter, Brianna. Following Frank’s death Claire and Brianna visit Scotland, meet Roger (a historian) and discover Jamie survived Culloden. Claire says her farewells to Brianna and returns to Jamie, following many adventures they arrive in America – laying a path to the next volume. At over 1000 pages this was a lot of reading, I will pause before tackling the next book.

Book #33 “One : Pot, Pan, Planet” by Anna Jones. This is a cook book I spotted on Libby, the blurb suggested it was suitable for me: “In this exciting new collection of over 200 simple recipes, Anna Jones limits the pans and simplifies the ingredients for all-in-one dinners that keep things fast and easy.” In fact it is much more than recipes with lots of text about sustainable cooking/food which was interesting. Unfortunately largely the recipes were not “fast and easy”. Many had ingredients it would not be easy for me to source locally, and alternatives were rarely suggested. So while I enjoyed reading the book – it is not a cook book I would want to  to use for cooking.

Book #34 “Great Circle” by Maggie Shipstead. Another book from The Times best seller list via Libby. A story of an attempt to fly around the world (a great circle) via both poles. But the book is much more than that, telling us the story of the pilot and the actor who will play her. Both having lost their parents and bought up by ill-prepared uncles. After a few pages I was hooked – a really great book so well presented, and well written. I am not usually a fan of a book that is described as “beautifully written” as the writing can distract from the plot. But this beautiful writing enhances the plot.

Book #35 “Whistleblower” by Robert Preston. The author of this book is a TV journalist, who is sometimes seen at press briefings asking questions that are long and complicated, as such I wasn’t sure about reading his book. But his style worked well for a thriller set in the 1990s. With fictional politicians, and hidden secrets. The hero of the story is a reporter who digs deep into the “going ons” of the politicians and those around them. The book is well written and gripping.

Book #36 “The President’s Daughter” by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Another celebrity author – a former president of the USA and a well known thriller writer collaborating to make a gripping story of kidnap and rescue, with some politics thrown in. The plot worked well, but sometimes I found myself skimming the fight scenes.

Book #37 “The Foundling” by Stacey Halls. Set in the 1740s based around a new born baby left at a Foundling hospital. The plot was somewhat predictable, but the book was an easy read, and gave some insight into class divisions at the time.