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





Notes from a Small Island – by Bill Bryson

22 07 2014

From the outset this book had me cracking up audibly.

Bryson is an American writer and journalist, but lived over here for several years. This is written just before he and his wife take his family back to America so that his children can experience life there too, and so he takes one final lap of the UK using public transport. He visits both places he’s been to before and loved, and places he’s heard of and wanted to see before he leaves.

He started in the south, so I loved reading about places I know, and then gradually works northwards. He often goes off on tangents, either old anecdotes, or just thinks he loves, or finds peculiar (or both) about the British. These were probably the bits that made me laugh the most!

I really enjoyed the book, although the last few chapters did get a bit repetitive. He’d arrive in a new city by train, book into a hotel/guesthouse, try and find somewhere for dinner, and comment that all British high streets have the same shops, and some are ruining the original buildings with modern exteriors. But for the most of the book there was so much interest and humour I really did like it!

the complete notes

I’m going to take a break and read something else before reading the Big Country half of the book – but I’ll come back with that soon enough!





How to fall in love – by Cecelia Ahern

26 06 2014

Wait, Ineke finished a book in under a week? I find Cecelia Ahern‘s books just whizz by for me – partly because I struggle to put them down, and partly because they’re so easy to read I just fly through them when I am reading them!

Another of her more “real” books, the basic premise is that our main character, who has a massive addiction to self-help books, finds a guy about to jump off a bridge and to stop him taking the leap, agrees to convince him his life is worth living before his next birthday – which happens to be 2 weeks away.

We delve into all his problems, and discover some of hers at the same time, which she just seems to be trying to ignore. A very engaging and involving book, even right towards the end I couldn’t quite work out where it would end up – which is quite a pleasing quality in it. The overall thread was relatively predictable, which can be quite comforting for chick lit, but the details of how it would happen were a little harder to guess.

Definitely recommended as a heartwarming, easy read!

how to fall in love





Re-read: Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

26 04 2014

The first time I read this I didn’t enjoy it that much, and I read it so quickly so as to find out what happens that I forgot most of it! My housemate would talk about a major plot point and I wouldn’t even remember that it happened, so ready for the first part of the film release later this year, I thought I should read it again!

I enjoyed it much more this time, and I did exactly the same as last time in that I read the last 150 pages (“part iii”) in pretty much one sitting other than stopping for lunch.

I still don’t like the end, I wanted it to end a little differently, but the story is strong, it still twists and turns right up until the end. Definitely a book that hooks you in.

But as we’re due the film soon, I still think I’ll avoid spoilers and just say I misjudged it a little last time, and it really is good!

mockingjay2


Edit: 2nd May 2014

I can’t believe in my re-writing this, I forgot the major bit I intended to mention!

There’s a conversation between a couple of characters relatively early on in the book, which is set in the future. It seems to be to be a very direct comment on us:


“If we win, who would be in charge of the government?” Gale asks.

“Everyone, “Plutarch tells him. “We’re going to form a republic where the people of each district and the Capitol can elect their own representatives to be their voice in a centralized government. Don’t look so suspicious; it’s worked before.”

“In books,” Haymitch mutters.

“In history books,” says Plutarch. “And if our ancestors could do it, then we can, too.”

Frankly our ancestors don’t seem much to brag about. I mean look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet.Clearly they didn’t care about what wold happen to the people who came after them. But the republic idea sounds like an improvement over our current government.

“And if we lose?” I ask.