The Thursday Murder Club – by Richard Osman

3 07 2021

I was so proud of myself for waiting for the paperback of this to come out, I’ve wanted to read it for ages! My parents gave it to me for my birthday, with my mum asking as I unwrapped it, if she could borrow it when I’m done! (Of course I said yes!)

Cooper’s Chase is an upmarket retirement village built up around an old convent in Kent, and four residents (Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim and Ron) meet on a Thursday in the Jigsaw Room and go through old unsolved murder cases to see what they can discover.

But then there’s a murder in the village, and they decide to do what they can to investigate. They’re a bit rebellious, not always keeping the police informed when they discover something, and then wanting to trade information with them!

It’s a lovely bunch of people, all with really defined characters, there’s a decent backstory to each of the police officers involved too. It’s so so weird that a murder mystery could be warm and fuzzy, but it is!

Also, because Richard Osman wrote it, there are obviously some random thoughts he’s thrown in, including an excellent analysis of Escape to the Country which Dave Gorman would be proud of, and insistence on the correct way to work through a double layered box of biscuits, the idea of retirement village developers looking for 60+ year olds in Waitrose cafes, and this highly relatable line: “He had read a headline about Diet Coke once, which was so worrying he had chosen not to read the article.”

My only slight slight niggle? I don’t understand why there’s a dog on the cover – any insight is welcome!





The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden – by Jonas Jonasson

11 06 2021

When I read Jonasson’s books about Allan Karlsson and thoroughly enjoyed them, a friend sent me this one, and I finally got around to reading it!

For the first part of the book it follows two stories separately, starting in 1970s South Africa, and 1940s Sweden respectively. Nombeko lives in the slums of Soweto emptying latrines, but gets run over by a drunk engineer, and as her punishment is taken to work on his compound. Ingmar is completely obsessed with the Swedish royals and desperate to meet the king, but when he manages and is disappointed with what he finds, he takes on a life mission to end the Swedish monarchy either by himself, or any decendents he may have.

It took me a while to see how on other these stories would combine, but that they did! I don’t want to give too much away, but hopefully without context this is enough to whet your appetite: the rest of the book contains: twins registered as one person, a surplus atomic bomb, a pillow warehouse, and a potato farm. It’s maybe a tiny smidge less wacky than Jonasson’s other books, but not much!

Right at the start of the book I struggled a bit as characters got introduced and then disappeared from the plot completely, so it was hard to know who was worth “getting to know”, it happened a few times through the book, but it became easier to identify who these were, and just focus on the characters that stuck around. Once it got into a rhythm I really enjoyed it!





Run Baby Run – by Nicky Cruz with Jamie Buckingham

13 05 2021

Since reading The Cross and The Switchblade last year, which is about David Wilkerson and his work with the gangs in 1950s New York, I’ve been keen to read this which tells the story of one of the most powerful gang leaders he met, and his journey to Christ. I borrowed this copy off my mum, which her friend gave her for her birthday in 1971! Once I had re-taped the front cover so that it was a bit less fragile, I got going!

You kind of think that there at least had to be something in Nicky, some potential for good that would have come out in the end anyway, but from the first half of the book, you really don’t see it. As it’s told from his perspective, you get a real sense of his bloodthirstiness, his real enjoyment of violence, it’s pretty scary! And therefore even more amazing to us mere mortals, that he could come, not only to know Jesus, but to be an incredible witness for Him! The particular focus of his ministry is those still in the gangs and later, those whose lives are being wrecked by drugs.

It’s really encouraging to see that he doesn’t necessarily have a smooth journey, more than once there’s a real crisis of faith, of confidence in what he’s doing – it’s helpful to see that while he has this amazing story, he is still human just like the rest of us!

A hugely powerful and challenging book, just like Wilkerson’s was, and I’d hugely recommend it.





The Last Day – by Andrew Hunter Murray

1 05 2021

I was fascinated by the concept of this book. The year is 2059, 30 years after the Earth stopped spinning, after gradually slowing down between 2020 and 2029. The plant is now in lock-step with the sun, and so half the world is in cold darkness, half is scorching hot, and life only exists on the border between the two – interesting!

The book is set in the UK, where the sun is low in the sky as if just after dawn – this is one of the things I found hardest to keep straight in my mind, e.g. when the character returned home in an evening, in my head it was dark, and I frequently found myself having to completely reimagine scenes as they would have been!

As the author also happens to be a QI elf, the book explains what caused the rotation of the Earth to slow, some of the more detailed affects that has had, which make it much more satisfying for a logistical brained person like me! Things like: how the first day of The Slow, was only 0.144 seconds longer than the previous day, but how that in itself was enough to collapse GPS systems worldwide, how 15 months into the slow, countries were adding Dead Air to their days to cope with them lengthening, but how England updated Eurotunnel timetables daily, and France weekly, so after a while, there was a crash, and how houses have been adapted to simulate day and night with reflective shutters so people still have a chance to sleep properly.

I have one outstanding niggle, which is why the earth stopped spinning and and the deceleration didn’t continue into starting to spin the other way, but that might just be my lack of understanding – hopefully I will lend it to my dad at some point, and then he can explain it to me!

In all honesty, it’s these bits of the book I found most interesting, how it would all happen, rather than the ‘plot’ which involves Ellen Hopper trying to uncover a secret that the government wants to keep hidden, although that was interesting too, just not what gripped my attention and imagination the most!

Just two quotes to share from this book:

At one point, someone who remembers life before The Stop is talking about it and says “I always think it must have been better to be Cain than Adam,. No memory of paradise.”

And later on, “Everyone says they’re opposite endeavours, politics and science, that one deals with truth and the other with perception.”





Such A Fun Age – by Kiley Reid

7 04 2021

I’m a huge sucker for hyped books, I always assume they must be hyped for a reason, so that’s what led me to pick this up.

The book focuses on the relationship between Alix and her babysitter/nanny Emira, and the fallout from an evening where, in a supermarket, Emira is stopped by the security guard as they think she’s kidnapped the white child who she has with her.

Emira is 25, works two part time jobs and is painfully aware that by her next birthday she will come off of her families health insurance, whereas all her friends seem to be doing much better as becoming adults. But she also has a beautiful relationship with the little girl she looks after 3 days a week, and seems to understand her much more than her mother does sometimes.

There were several twists in the book (and so I won’t say much more for fear of spoilers), one or two made me gasp out loud, but one I did see from very early on, which is the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars to be honest!





The Great Divorce – by C.S. Lewis

28 03 2021

I was thinking about what books I should aim to read this year, and having had this set of C.S. Lewis books for several years, I thought I should aim to read at least one each year, and I remember a friend saying how good this one was a long time ago, and at under 150 pages, it seemed like a doable step into “clever” books.

The book is essentially an illustration of Heaven and Hell, expressed in the first person of someone who’s in a grey town, and gets on a bus to a bright country. It feels very much like someone telling you about a weird dream they had, and takes some work to get your head around until they explicitly say what those places represent (around halfway through!), but once that’s happened, it makes a bit more sense!

When he reaches the bright place, everything is so much more solid than those who have arrived, so much so that he describes those from the bus as Ghosts in comparison. There are several stories where Ghosts are met by Solid People who they maybe knew in life, and we see examples of different ways people have lived, which they think are fine and good, but maybe weren’t so much.

Towards the end of the book I think I started to feel out of my depth again, I imagine cleverer people would get more out of it than I did, but certainly I enjoyed it and it gave me plenty to think about from the rest of the book!

A few lines that made me think:

  • “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that pint, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good.”
  • “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them.”
  • “Do not fash yourself with such questions. Ye cannot fully understand the relations of choice and Time until you are beyond both.”
  • “There have been men before now wo got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself. […] There have bene some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”
  • “I am in love. In love, do you understand?”





Once Upon A Tyne – by Ant & Dec

14 03 2021

I’m not going to claim that this was a high-brow read, it only took me five days. It was just reading a chat between friends as they went through the 30 years they’ve been on telly together. I was a bit too young for them in Byker Grove, but from SM:tv Live onwards I’ve watched most of their work and just enjoyed their “company”! And this book was the same, just felt like you were sat with them while they hung out and reminiscied.

I was concerned there might be a fair amount of overlap with their first book, but given how long it had been since I read that, it wasn’t too bad, that one had more of a personal focus, whereas this is mostly their career.

For the most part, each chapter covers a different programme they’ve been in together with a couple of bonus chapters for bits and pieces, and the royal family. I found the DNA Journey chapter interesting, probably because I never saw the programme!

It could have done with maybe one more proof read, there was one point they referred to the Queen as HRH instead of HM, and there was a sentence where I think a word was missing, but it’s not the end of the world.

The book is full of photos, which makes it really enjoyable (and even quicker to read!), and because of this, every page is glossy paper, and because of that, the book weighs nearly a kilo, even though it’s less than 300 pages – madness! Made it a bit tricky to read while falling asleep at night, but worth it to enjoy the photos properly.





The Midnight Library – by Matt Haig

8 03 2021

I was so so tempted to get this book last year, but exercised excellent self-control and waited until the paperback came out last month!

Nora is not happy in life, decides to end it, and finds herself in a library. This library is between life and death, and offers her the chance to try out all the different lives she could have lived if she’d done things differently. If she had or hadn’t done things she had regretted not doing or doing – be that a massive life choice or a tiny one. There is a book for every single life she could have lived – it’s an infinite library. When she enters a life she doesn’t go back to when the decision was made, she goes into what that version of her life is at this point in time.

With any book that has parallel universes, it’s going to be tricky to please everyone. I think this did a good job overall, a couple of bits bothered me, but I think I’m a very logistical person, so my mind goes into the mechanics of it all when maybe I’m meant to be focussing more on the story!

I guess I had two issues with the way it was done

  1. There’s a lot of talk about there being infinite versions of her life, but when she undoes one regret, possibly very early in life, she’s only presented with one version to try out. But there should be another infinite amount of ways it went based on all the other decisions in her life, and there’s never any mention of all the other ways it could have gone.
    There is one point near the end where this is sort of addressed, but the only response given is that “it’s more complicated than that” as something else is going on, which was a little unsatisfying.
  2. I found it very odd that when she went into a life, she had slightly different bodies, maybe fitter, maybe a bit more insulation, maybe some scarring, so her body has all the changes of the life lived, and yet in her memory, in her mind, she has no recollection of anything that’s happened since the decision that took her down another path. This means she often doesn’t know where she is, the names of the people around her, what she does for a living. To me it felt a bit inconsistent, but as I said before, I think this is because I look too much at the detail. And to be honest, without this, I don’t think the story would work, so it’s definitely forgivable!

The only other thing that bothered me a bit that with some of the first regrets that she tried to undo, she was suddenly HUGELY successful in whatever area that was – yes she may not have been happy, but she was the best at what she did, be that music, sport. This did settle down though as the book went on. Maybe, from my first point above, the book the librarian found for her was the most successful version of that subset of universes!

Please don’t see this as a complaint or a reason not to read this book I really enjoyed it! The concept was brilliant, and the ending itself really satisfying. As I said, I’m just picky when it comes to logistics!

As is often the case, and particularly with Matt Haig books, here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • ‘”And I know you’ve got mental-health stuff”
    “Everyone’s got mental-health stuff.”
    “You know what I mean.”‘
  • “There was an old musician’s cliche, about how there were no wrong notes on a piano.”
  • “A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs but the good stuff makes it worthwhile.”
  • ‘”You’re overthinking it.”
    “I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available.”‘
  • “Human brains take complex information about the world and simplify it, so that when a human looks at a tree it translates the intricately complex mass of leaves and branches into this thing called ‘tree’.”
  • “It is easy to imagine there are easier paths, but maybe there are no easy paths. There are just paths. […] Really most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad.”
  • “Nora wanted to live in a world where no cruelty existed, but the only worlds she had available to her were worlds with humans in them.”
  • “When you have worries about things you don’t know about, like the future, it’s a very good idea to remind yourself of the things you do know.”
  • “The prison wasn’t the place, but the perspective.”

There was also a quote that sounded like a retelling of 1 Corinthians 13 verses 1-3, but it contains relatively chunky spoilers, so I won’t post it here!





And Then There Were None – by Agatha Christie

23 02 2021

I recently read the following quote from Val McDermid: “Agatha Christie is the gateway drug to crime fiction”, and am finding this more and more so to be true! Having read Murder on the Orient Express last summer, I asked for another for Christmas – my brother got me this and it was excellent!

I don’t know if this true of all of her books, but in the two I’ve read, they’ve started by introducing a whole load of unrelated characters, and then starting to tell the story, this means they can take a while to get to grips with, but in this one I kept a couple of post-its in pages with info that was helpful to flick back to frequently, eg the character intros, why each of them had journeyed to this tiny island, and the rhyme that gives the structure of the story, “Ten little soldier boys” (although it’s had other names in the past, which have also been the title of the book, but have since been deemed less than PC).

But fairly soon, all of them were familiar, and I was hooked! I kept grabbing it to see who was going to be killed off next (it brings out a very dark side!) and if the people I thought might be responsible really were – completely addictive.

I will certainly be asking for another for my birthday!





Dave Gorman vs The Rest Of The World – by Dave Gorman

11 02 2021

When I was putting together my Christmas list (I can hardly say “writing” my Christmas list when I was pulling links together!) I thought how there was only one Dave Gorman book I hadn’t read, and so it was about time I did!

It’s a very simple concept, one day Dave Gorman put a tweet out into the universe asking if anyone wanted to play a game (real life games, not video games). He got replies, and went to play games with those people! There’s a bit in the middle of the book where someone wants to work with him on this “project”, (he definitely has previous with “Googlewhack Adventure”, “Are you Dave Gorman”, and “America Unchained”) but he says no, it’s no project, just something he’s doing for fun in his time off…. He doesn’t explain how he got from there to publishing it in a book!

The games range from Ultimate Frisbee to an Egyptian laser chess game to Cluedo to a random Cornish skittles game. The book is just him talking about the experience, the places he went, the people he met, the games he played. And just with his eye for detail (enjoying the simplicity of Cribbage having 2 pegs for scoring so you never lose your place), and his gentle chatter, it’s a lovely book to read. He met some lovely people, and some complete weirdos (including people who play Monopoly with REAL money), both of which made for fun reading!

For most of the book he keeps a scoreboard of him vs the rest of the world, though it does seem to go missing for some of the middle of the book (And I’m not sure there was a final total)! And for the less common games he puts an explanation in a handy box so we know what’s going on. As a fan of structure, this was pretty pleasing.

As ever, some of my favourite quotes and observations from the book (the last one is the most beautiful):

  • “There’s something oddly energising about sparking a memory from nowhere like that. I don’t think it’s the memory itself that does it. I think it’s the excitement at discovering your brain is so much bigger than you realised.”
  • “At Stockport bus depot I stood and waited. There were maybe fifteen fellow travellers at the same bus stand, all eyeing each other up carefully. No queue had been formed but we’d all made a mental note of the order in which we’d arrived.”
  • “There’s an unhealthy part of my personality that tends to obsess and collect; that will take things to extremes. I can be a dog with a bone at times. But I didn’t want to let it happen again. Not with this. It wasn’t a treasure hunt. There wasn’t a prize for playing the most games in the shortest amount of time.”
  • “I feel naked if I’m not wearing a watch and yet, when I want to know the time, I sometimes find myself checking my phone first.”
  • “There are no referees in Ultimate. Ever. At any level. Messing around in the park? No ref. Playing a rival club? No ref. World Championship final? No ref. Players call their own fouls and have to settle their own disputes. If you’re going to play Ultimate, you just have to accept that paying the game fairly is more important than winning.”
  • “I would’nt describe Liskeard as a pretty place. It’s more prosaic than that. If you think of all the little villages around and about as gorgeous old vintage sports cars – high maintenance, impractical, but lovely for looking at – then Liskeard is the rusty but trusty family saloon. And while those vintage automobiles are all very well, when you want to do the shopping you know which car keys you pick up. (If you want to stick with this motoring analogy, it follows that Plymouth is, um … a transit van.”
  • “I have grown snobbish about the world world of ‘organised fun’. I suspect I’m not alone. Holiday camps? Karaoke? Guided coach trips? […] I instinctively recoil from such things but I don’t know why, because all empirical evidence suggests I’ll enjoy them.”
  • “When we throw our cynicism aside there’s so much more to enjoy.”