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!





Quite – by Claudia Winkleman

6 01 2021

I feel the best way to set the tone of this book is to put up the first and last pages:

When this book was first announced I assumed it was the standard celebrity Christmas autobiography given it was an autumn release. As a big fan of Claudia and the way she talks, that would be probably enough of a selling point for me. In actual fact it’s really just her sharing her thoughts on all sorts of things without really telling any of her story, but in doing so, you really feel like you know her better, she chats away (and you can literally hear her voice) and it’s like you’ve been hanging out.

The first chapter is all about napping (a subject very close to my heart!), how good it is for your brain, how to achieve a good nap, how she likes to nap even at Strictly, all sorts! From there the topics go all over the place, from her fringe to fine art to picnics. It’s definitely an eclectic mix, and much as a lot of it is excitable chatter, there’s a lot of depth in some areas too, how high expectations can be a killer, imposter syndrome can be a good thing, and how brilliant it can be to be wrong.

It was such a nice read, something easy to pick up on Boxing Day and, as I’ve said, just feel like you’re listening to a mate talking (I’m aware she’s not my mate, do not panic). If you like Claudia on TV, Radio or wherever, then I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this!





Turtles All The Way Down – by John Green

24 11 2020

I think this now means I’m up to speed with John Green’s books! He writes very readable books, so I got through this pretty quickly – same as nearly all his books. I knew I was onto a good thing when I’d folded down the first two page corners as something to come back to when I did my favourite quotes from the book!

I don’t know what it is lately with me picking up books not realising that the main character has significant mental health problems – Aza struggles with intrusive thoughts and thought spirals to a major degree that at times really limit her ability to function. It’s written so brilliantly. As someone who can get stuck in a bit of a loop of anxiety sometimes, some of it did resonate (though mine have never been this extreme!), and it felt like the person writing it really understood what it feels like. At one point there’s a two page monologue of a thought spiral, and I totally saw where she was coming from. Technically this is a sub-plot while she and her friend try to work out why a friend’s billionaire dad went missing, but I think it’s this sub-plot that stays with you afterwards.

I would say that if you are in the middle of struggling with your mental health, it may not be the most helpful book to read, but if you know someone who is, or are in a good place at the moment, you may well find it really helpful. There is also a page in the back with a list of websites to visit if you are affected by what you read, so it’s keeping an eye out for its readers, which is good.

Again, I fear I’ve made this sound miserable and heavy, and yes there is weight to it, but her relationship with her best friend Daisy is beautiful, their dining habit is hilarious, the support she has around her is uplifting, and there’s a lot to be said for a book that I read the majority of in just five days!

As is (fairly) normal, here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • “I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.”
  • “To be honest, I find the whole process of masticating plants and animals and then shoving them down my oesophagus kind of disgusting, so I was trying not to think about the fact that I was eating, which is a form of thinking about it.”
  • “The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”
  • “I don’t mind worriers, worrying is the correct world view. Life is worrisome.”
  • “I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”
  • “The weather decides when you think about it, not the other way around.”
  • “It’s so weird, to know you’re crazy and not be able to do anything about it, you know? It’s not like you believe yourself to be normal. You know there is a problem. But you can’t figure a way through to fixing it.”
  • “Those seat belts will hurt ya while saving your life.”
  • “The biggest, most important part of the body is the part that hurts.”
  • “The problem with happy endings, is that they’re either not really happy, or not really endings, you know? In real life, some things get better and some things get worse. And then eventually you die.”





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 £1 (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!