Murder on the Orient Express – by Agatha Christie

25 05 2020

I had always assumed that Agatha Christie books would be a bit stuffy and high brow, and hard work to read. My goodness I was wrong – not that it’s trashy, not at all, but I just read a book in a week, I was completely gripped!

We cover the sleeper carriage of a train which departs from Istanbul and gets stuck in a snowdrift on the same night that someone is killed (this is hardly a spoiler, it’s a murder mystery!), and given that the detective Poirot is already on the train, we work through his investigation, with all it’s twists and turns.

In all honesty, I was completely won over just by the contents page – as a maths and data brain, the structure to this is just beautiful. To some, the idea of this could be off-putting, but don’t worry – even with all it’s organisation, it still flows as one continuous story.

The other thing I really and truly loved about this book was how it helped you keep track of everything going on. There are a lot of characters, a lot of things happening, and so at points in the book we are provided with a labelled map of the train carriage, a timeline of the events we know so far (because Poirot wrote it down to be ‘neat and orderly’, a recap of what we know of all the suspects so far, and a list of questions we still need to answer. I found I had the corner of each of these pages folded down so I could refer back to them easily. It’s just entirely useful!

I hadn’t seen the film, so had no idea what was going to happen, but what was interesting was that while my copy of the book has the film poster as it’s cover (see below), all the characters looked totally different in my head (my Poirot was, of course, David Suchet). I had imDbed to work out who was meant to be who – but that didn’t help at all!

I really want to see the film now!





The Eve Illusion – by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

19 05 2020

I was a huge fan of Eve of Man when it came out two years ago, but due to the gap between the two books, had forgotten a lot of the plot when it came to this! It turns out, the first couple of chapters help recap what was happening in the last couple of chapters, but given that I couldn’t remember how they got to that point, I decided to do a full re-read of Eve of Man, firstly to get me up to speed properly, and secondly, to just enjoy the full story running together. I haven’t re-read a book in a long time as my “to read” list is always so long, but it was a really nice experience 🙂

A third narrator is added to the story in this book, so as well as Bram and Eve, we now have Michael, who we briefly met in the first book, but we see much more of now. It’s a fun way to tell a story, and fortunately as I binged it, it wasn’t too confusing, but on the occasions I did pick it up mid chapter, I did have to flip back to see who was talking!

Avoiding spoilers (though maybe not of the first book) the story continues as Eve and Bram leave the tower, the only place she’s known, and join the Freevers in their hideout. It was another really gripping read, crazy twists I never saw coming, good people stuff, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! As it’s part of a trilogy, it of course left on a massive cliffhanger again, and I can’t WAIT to see how this is going to resolve!

(That said, I do have a couple of technical questions about one of the plot points, and if anyone else has read it, please let me know so we can discuss!)





Letter From Birmingham Jail – by Martin Luther King, Jr

5 10 2018

I picked this up last Saturday having seen it for ÂŁ1 (It’s only 51 pages), and having had a couple of friends recommend it previously.

The book comes in two parts – firstly, a letter MLK wrote from his prison cell to eight white clergymen regarding whether the racial segregation debate should be in the courts or the streets. The second half is a sermon he preached in 1967 called “The three dimensions of a complete life” – inward for ourselves, outward for others, and up for God.

I was worried that although it was short, it might be a bit hard to read, but because one is a letter and one a transcript of a sermon, the style is quite easy to get through. When reading the sermon, you can almost hear him at times.

Some wonderful quotes that you’ve probably heard before (though I’m not sure they’re all originally his!) pop up in this book – here are a few:

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “The question is not where we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?””
  • “Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
  • “The good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question Not ‘What will happen to me if I stop to help this man?’ but ‘What will happen to this man if I do not stop to help him?'”
  • “I do not know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future.”





Boy, Tales of Childhood – by Roald Dahl

1 10 2018

I read a lot of Roald Dahl’s fiction in 2016, but never got round to Boy or Going Solo. After it popped up in conversation a couple of times lately, I thought it was about time I gave this a go.

He states that it is not an autobiography, but I’m not quite sure why given that that is exactly how I’d describe it! Dahl’s parents were Norwegian though he was born and raised in Wales. The book covers his childhood and teenage years at home and boarding school, up until the age of 20. (When I presume Going Solo must pick up the story).

When he was at boarding school he regularly wrote home to his mother, and she kept everything she ever sent – so in a rather sweet addition, all the writing in the boarding school chapters is interspersed with images of handwritten letters from those times.

It’s funny as you read it, you can see the inspiration for some of his characters and stories as he talks. There was a lady who I’m sure has part of Mrs Twit about her, and then when at school the boys were each sent boxes of chocolate bars to test for Cadbury, which is when he first started thinking about the idea of “inventing rooms” in chocolate factories.

It’s really just a collection of stories from home and school (including an awful incident when he nearly lost his entire nose!), but told in such a warm and I guess child-friendly way. As a Roald Dahl fan I’d definitely recommend this as a way to get to know him better!





This Is Going To Hurt – by Adam Kay

24 07 2018

This book is many things: hilarious, revolting, moving, uplifting, motivating, to name but a few.

Adam used to be a Junior Doctor, and at a simple level, all this book is is a collection of his diary entries during that time. But really what this book shows is the state of the NHS. I truly love the NHS, but I also truly hate the state they’ve found themselves in thanks to the government.

This isn’t Casualty, Scrubs or Greys Anatomy, but a realistic look at what life is like for the first years after med school – the lack of sleep, the low pay, the pressure, the lack of social life, the damage to relationships, but also occasionally showing us some joy.

The writing style is light and humourous mostly, since leaving the NHS Adam now writes for TV so it’s clearly a gifting of his, and it’s so easy to read an enjoyable. I read it in 5 days!

His speciality was in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and it gets really gross in some places. What was really well thought through though was all the little footnotes explaining what different conditions, procedures or measurements all mean in laymens terms, so I felt like I learnt a little too!

I’d love everyone in the UK to read this book, so that next time we see a doctor having a bad day, we leave our frustrations to the system, and not the human in front of us who is doing the best they can with what they have.





Still Me – by Jojo Moyes

5 04 2018

Two years ago I read Me Before You, swiftly followed by After You, and said I’d happily read a third if it was ever written – good news, it has been!

Louisa has just arrived in New York to be a live-in assistant for a wealthy lady in society. It’s a huge lifestyle adjustment, alongside trying to manage a long distance relationship.

It’s a combination of warm fuzzy moments one minute, and heartbreaking ones the next. Predictable in places, some of the major plot points I saw coming a mile off, but there are surprises too. With 50 pages to go before the end I had NO idea how it was going to tie together!





Deep and Wide – by Andy Stanley

28 06 2017

A six week read isn’t a great start to my 30 books in a year, but I’ve always been a bit slow with non-fiction! For the first time in many many years, this was a book that I was actually asked to read. I think the last time that happened was school, and that also made me a slow reader!

The book was set for a course our church leadership team is on; the book’s subtitle is “creating churches unchurched people love to attend” which is the book in a nutshell. It’s a great re-focus and reminder, and the book had a load of things to think about and consider. I ended up using a pencil as a bookmark so that I could underline lots of bits and pieces.

That said, the guy is a megachurch pastor. My church is not a megachurch. Sometimes that means things he suggests just aren’t practical (three teams of people to put a sermon together?!), and sometimes he uses terminology that just made me cringe (audience instead of congregation), but there are definite things I got out of this book, some more practical, some more theological, but for a non fiction book, I really did enjoy most of it!





Us – by David Nicholls

1 08 2015

Having loved the idea and the story behind ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls, both book and film, the fact that The Times called this “Even better than One Day” meant I had to give it a go!

Early on in the book we hear Connie (an artist) tell Douglas (a scientist, and the narrator of the book) she thinks she wants to leave him when their son Albie goes to University in the autumn. From then on we follow two stories in parallel: How they met and reached that point, and from that point, how Douglas attempts to save their marriage and the respect of his son during a “Grand Tour” of Europe, seeing all the art galleries, that they already had planned.

The story from that point on mainly revolves around the difficult relationship between Douglas and Albie – Albie being a fairly hipster teenager, and his dad being a slightly awkward, boring and formal scientist. Made all the more difficult by the closeness that does exist between Connie and Albie. I won’t go much further with that as I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s told so well.

I found myself folding down corners of pages as I went when there was a sentence or phrase that I thought was particularly interesting or thought-provoking. I’ve checked them for spoilers and shared a few below:

  • “In short, my son makes me feel like his step-father.”
  • “I’ve got nothing against his dreams as long as they’re attainable.”, “But if they’re attainable then they’re not dreams!”
  • “It was a good joke, though perhaps not enough in itself to save our marriage.”
  • “Was it the happiest day of our lives? Probably not, if only because the truly happy days tend not to involve so much organisation, are rarely so public or so expensive.”
  • “The tourist’s paradox: how to find somewhere that’s free of people exactly like us.”
  • “But the trouble with living in the moment is that the moment passes.”
  • “The great virtue of defeat, once accepted, is that it at least allows one to rest. Hope had kept me awake for too long.”

Knowing that Nicholls doesn’t always write happy endings, I was fairly apprehensive for the last third of the book, but obviously I won’t tell you what happened!

Us





Northanger Abbey – by Val McDermid

24 10 2014

This book was my first venture into The Austen Project, where 6 current authors have been tasked with updating Jane Austen’s most famous novels. This is actually the second part of the project, with Sense and Sensibility being published by Joanne Trollope first, but this is just the one I grabbed in the supermarket to read!

I’m a great fan of Austen, but in all honesty, I’ve only read two of her books: Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The rest are on my bookshelf and to-read list! But I’ve seen TV and/or film adaptations of them all, and love the stories that she writes.

The premise of the original is a girl who loves Gothic fiction and gets this a bit twisted with reality, being invited to join family friends in Bath for the season, and then making friends with people who live in Northanger Abbey, which sounds like something out of one of her books…. and I won’t spoil it with further details.

But that’s Austen, and this is someone else! For the most part I really enjoyed this book. In this edition, we have a home schooled girl who is into vampire novels, and her neighbours offer to take her to the Edinburgh Festival, and the plot follows similarly, we end up visiting Northanger Abbey and wondering what secrets lie within.

I think on the whole the updating of the book worked really well (although, as with any of these re-writes, it wouldn’t be anything without the story it was based on of course). That said, some bits really irritated me. There was a little too much mention of facebook, twitter, phone apps, and trying to get on the WiFi. Yes, this is a modern book, but it was a little too frequent and distracted from what was going on. Similarly some references to the Twilight series, which I worry might not be long term enough to last in this.

But what really bothered me, was references to other Jane Austen books she’d read. I think that if you’re going to write a Jane Austen based novel, you should probably assume the characters don’t know about the other ones – it’s not like the original novels references each other! Maybe I’m just being picky, but it bothered me when this happened!

northanger abbey





An Abundance of Katherines – by John Green

29 09 2014

Colin is 18 years old, and has just been dumped by Katherine IXX (yes that’s right, his 19th girlfriend called Katherine). There’s definitely a couple of parallels between this and The Rosie Project which I read recently – the lead character is a remarkably intelligent man, who struggles a little socially, and tries to find a way to formulate relationships. In the Rosie Project, this was by matching a vast amount of criteria. In this book, Colin is trying to find a formula to predict whether a relationship between two people would work, how long it would last, and who would be the dumper and who the dumpee.

Colin struggles with the fact that while he was a child prodigy, he hasn’t turned into a genius. He wants to be someone who matters. This leads to a lovely quote somewhere in the book: “And so we all matter – maybe less than a lot, but always more than none.”

The book actually follows Colin and his friend Hassan (who has his own issues to deal with) on a summer road trip to try and cheer Colin up, ending up in some random little town and that’s where the story unfolds.

Fairly light hearted mostly, a little confusing until I got used to the flashback stories of previous Katherines through the book, but some great stuff, including a highly mathematical appendix (starting from uber basic and building up) by an actual professor – lovely!

an abundance of katherines