The Humans – by Matt Haig

23 07 2017

Last year I read Reasons to stay alive, and can confidently say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read. That book was non-fiction, but Matt Haig has mostly written fiction, which is also raved about and so I asked for The Humans for my birthday this year.

I’ve tried to explain the premise to a few people, and haven’t done very well so here goes nothing: One day, Andrew Martin manages to prove the Riemann Hypothesis and some aliens on another planet, believing that this is a threat to the cosmos, send one of their kind down to earth to destroy this man and anyone else he might have told. Cheery so far, right? So this alien goes down, Andrew is destroyed and the alien takes on the form of Andrew Martin, and seeks to determine what his wife and son know, and who else Andrew might have told, with the intent of destroying all who are aware so that this never gets out.

But in a way, that’s not the point of the book. This is a creature experiencing humans for the first time. He’s learnt about them in theory, but in practice there seems to be a lot more to them, and he’s keen to spend a bit longer working this out before completing his mission. It’s a reflection on us as creatures, which in some places makes you think, and in others is downright hilarious!

As is often the case with this sort of book, I ended up folding down a lot of page corners, and so some of my favourite quotes are below:

  • “It was comforting to know that even in the most remote corner of the universe the laws of sound and light obeyed themselves, although it has to be said they seemed a little more lacklustre here.”
  • “They placed me inside a small room that was, in perfect accord with all human rooms, a shrine to the rectangle.”
  • “Indeed, it is mathematics itself which is the bedrock of civilisation.”
  • “If God exists then what is He but a mathematician?”
  • “A prime number is strong. It does not depend on others.”
  • “I don’t have a name. Names are a symptom of a species which values the individual self above the collective good.”
  • “It was then that I realised the one thing worse than having a dog hate you is having a dog love you.”
  • “Listening to music, I realised, was simply the pleasure of counting without realising you were counting.”
  • “I was still ‘recovering’, you see. Recover. The most human of words, the implication being that healthy normal life is covering something.”
  • “Our beautiful, warless world, where I could be entranced by the purest mathematics for all eternity.”
  • “Overall, the sensation I was feeling was one of conscious decay. In short, I felt human.”
  • “Mornings were hard on Earth. You woke up tireder than when you went to sleep.”
  • “She knew one day her husband would die and yet she still dared to love him. That was an amazing thing.”
  • “Crossing [the road] at an angle that tried to balance the concealment of fear with rapid avoidance – that angle being, as it was everywhere in the universe, 48 degrees away from the straight line on which we had been travelling.”
  • “Whatever it is, you’re becoming a man of honour. And that’s rare for mathematicians.”
  • “The ‘pub’ was an invention of humans living in England, designed as a compensation for the fact that they were humans living in England. I rather liked the place.”
  • I wanted to put the whole preface down but realised that might be bordering on copyright infringement so I’ll let you find that for yourselves in a shop or library!

    There is also a chapter called “Advice for a human”, but given that that contains 97 points I’ll again leave that for you to discover yourself!

    (If it wasn’t clear from the above – I thought this book was brilliant and already have a list of people I want to lend it to!)





Eligible – by Curtis Sittenfeld

12 07 2017

If you saw this on the shelf in a bookshop/library/supermarket/etc you’d be forgiven for having no idea that it’s part of The Austen Project!

This is the first time one of the authors has changed the title of their book. I’m not entirely sure why they did it, but who am I to judge? I think I’ve enjoyed this one the most so far. Some of the previous books have just modernised by throwing in facebook and mobile phone references, but this one had a full blown revamp.

Liz is 38 and a writer for a magazine, Jane is 39 and a yoga instructor, and they live in New York, but have had to go back to the family home as Mr Bennet has a heart attack. Lydia, Kitty and Mary are in their 20s and still living at home and pretty much just living off of the family money. Chip Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy are Doctors/Surgeons, and Chip has recently become famous on a reality TV show called “Eligibe” which is essentially The Bachelor. The Collins subject is dealt with by changing him from a cousin (which was fine to marry in those days!) to a step-cousin (technically fine, but still a bit weird), which seemed like a really sensible change to make.

They don’t stick religiously to the plot either. I won’t ruin this with spoilers but there are two separate characters that take a story line each of Willoughby’s character from the original, there’s IVF, a LGBTQ subplot, and as already mentioned, reality TV – definitely a long way from Austenland, and yet, while you’re reading it, you don’t feel far off at all.

Mr Bennet is still the same wonderful man, and definitely one of my favourite characters with some of the best one liners.

“My dear,” said Mr Bennet, “if a sock puppet with a trust fund and a Harvard medical degree moved here, you’d think he was meant to marry one of our girls.”

“Plenty of men don’t want children.” Mr Bennet took a sip of coffee. “I’m still not sure that I do.”





Girl with a Pearl Earring – by Tracy Chevalier

12 05 2017

Another recommendation from my Mum, she claimed she read this in a day, and it wasn’t too thick either, so despite knowing zilch about art, I decided I’d give it a go.

The book is about a maid, Griet, who is 16 and works in the house of a painter called Vermeer. Vermeer is a real life artist, you can look him up on Wikipedia and everything! But it’s probably important to say at this stage that the book is a historical fiction. There are elements about it that are true, his patron in the book also existed in real life, but the main storyline was created by the author.

The book isn’t just about the famous painting, that comes later; Vermeer paints a few paintings while Griet works for the family, but what’s great is that if you look up his paintings, you can see that Chevalier was referring to real paintings of his each time as she went through the detail of the compositions.

Throughout the book Griet is wooed by the local butcher boy, but she also has feelings she doesn’t understand for Vermeer as she cleans his studio, and then as time moves on, is allowed to assist him in mixing his paints from their raw ingredients (because, of course, this is 350 years ago, you didn’t just buy paint!).

The story is set in Delft in the Netherlands, which I actually visited when I was 12. I love Holland, I have relatives there and it’s where my name comes from, so when I realised the book was set there, I was excited to read more!

I’d definitely recommend this for a fairly easy read. I like real life stories, and while this isn’t one, the few bits of reality in it make it feel like it is!

Looking forward to renting the film to see what they did with that!





Perfect – by Cecelia Ahern

22 04 2017

I told myself I’d wait for this to come out in paperback, I was definitely going to wait. I went into Waterstones, WHSmiths, just to see if it was there, I wasn’t going to buy it, just to look. But then someone told me it was going cheap in Tesco and that she’d read it in one afternoon…. so I went straight there and bought it!

I’ve been waiting for this book since the second I finished Flawed, which was left on such a cliffhanger! I was worried I couldn’t remember a lot of the detail but fortunately she recaps very well so it’s very easy to pick the story back up.

At the end of Flawed, Celestine had gone into hiding from the authorities, and this book follows her as she tries to find somewhere safe, and then works out a plan to help prove that the system itself is Flawed. There are plenty of twists and turns, I’ve been picking up the book whenever I can to see what happens next! I don’t really want to litter this post with spoilers so all I’ll say is if you’ve read Flawed you’ll love this (and probably be desperate to read it anyway!), and if you haven’t, go and read Flawed first! There’s a link to it in the second paragraph up there Ꙟ.

Some of my favourite quotes which give nothing of the plot away are below:

  • “It can take a lifetime to build up a friendship – it can take a second to make an enemy.”
  • “When you’re a teenager, what makes you different can be the worst thing int he world. The older you get, the more you realise that it’s your weapon, your armour, your strength. Your gift.”
  • “Whenever I’m confused, I look at what I know.”
  • “Every person has a space for every person they meet – sometimes the capacity is deep, sometimes it is shallow. […] People who are loved can eventually be hated in equal amounts. […] If the space is there for us, a we have to do is alter the feelings. […] If they hate us this much, they could love us equally.”





Anne of the Island – by L M Montgomery

13 04 2017

After a year’s break it was about time to read number three in this series. Anne is now 18 and heading off to Redmond University on the mainland. The book covers her four years there. She arrives with three from Avonlea – Gilbert, Charlie and Priscilla, and quickly makes friends with a girl called Phil – Stella from Queen’s (I think) also joins them from second year.

We still spend time in Green Gables in the holidays, and as far as the book goes, maybe half of the narrative! So there are still wonderful quotes from Davy, to keep the childish delights from Anne in the first book alive and well.

Through the book Anne gets a few marriage proposals, and one serious boyfriend – but no spoilers here! You’ll have to read it! Phil is a little boy crazy, and this is the first time the books really cover that side of things to this level, she’s quite a lot of fun! We also cover a death too soon in this book, which I guess you’d pick up from the quotes below… again, no spoilers.

Picking up the book after such a long gap was tricky in places because it doesn’t really recap, (I’m still not sure who Mr Harrison is who they keep referring to), it would have been nice to have a couple of reminders occasionally!

As before, here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • “We are all servants of some sort, and if the fact that we are faithful can be truthfully inscribed on our tombstones nothing more need be added.”
  • “Oh, I’m not afraid but that I’ll go to heaven, Anne. I’m a church member.”
  • “Heaven must be very beautiful, of course, the Bible says so – but, Anne, it won’t be what I’ve been used to.
  • “Do you think we’ll never laugh in heaven?” – Anne
    “Oh – I – I don’t know, it doesn’t seem just right, somehow. You know it’s rather dreadful to laugh in church.” – Diana
    “But heaven won’t be like church – all the time.” – Anne
    “I hope it ain’t, if it is I don’t want to go.” – Davy
  • “All life lessons are not learned at college.”
  • “I love her best when she is asleep and better still when she is awake.”
  • “I could be sorry for it afterwards, couldn’t I?”
  • “Can’t a man laugh and laugh and be a Christian still?”
    “Oh, men – yes. But I was speaking of Ministers, my dear.”
  • “When I was a girl it wasn’t considered ladylike to know anything about mathematics, but times have changed. I don’t know that it’s all for the better.”
  • “Oh, I dare say we all pray for some things that we really don’t want, if we were only honest enough to look into our hearts, I’ve a notion that such prayers don’t rise very far. I used to pray that I might be enabled to forgive a certain person, but I know now I really didn’t want to forgive her. When I finally got that I did want to I forgave her without having to pray about it.”
  • “I love [cats]. They are so nice and selfish. Dogs are too good and unselfish. They make me feel uncomfortable. But cats are gloriously human.”





Lyrebird – by Cecelia Ahern

25 03 2017

If you read this regularly you’ll know I’m a big fan of Cecelia Ahern. The last adult book she wrote wasn’t a favourite of mine but this one is back on form, back to the days of things that are slightly unreal, not fantasy, but not quite normal!

Lyrebird is actually Laura. She’s lived a very sheltered existence to the point that no one knows she exists, she doesn’t even have a birth certificate. When she was 16 her mother died and so she went to live in a run down cottage on the land her father owns. Ten years on she’s discovered by a team making a documentary about her father and his brother and the life they lived on their farm when they visit after her father’s death.

What I haven’t told you is that Laura is a bit unusual. She makes noises. Perfect imitations of any sound she’s ever heard – from her Gaga’s voice to a chainsaw to someone running their hand over their stubble. Obviously the documentary team are intrigued, and with her father gone they try to find a way to support her in her future – they plan to make a documentary about her life and her extraordinary ability.

A really interesting idea, great mix of characters and a wonderfully told story! Definitely one to read!

Favourite one-liner from the book: “Why can’t people just be really good at something? Why do they have to be the best at something?”





The Girl on the Train – by Paula Hawkins

2 03 2017

I didn’t really want to read this book but a friend lent it to me and was about to move away so I thought I should get it done! (In fact, the last three books I’ve read have been once I’ve been lent, next I get to go back to my very long to-read list!)

We first meet Rachel, who regularly watches from the train when it stops at a signal, and follows the lives of a couple who live on her old street. Sadly Rachel has a bit of a bad relationship with alcohol, and after she sees something suspicious from the train one day, followed by a night she doesn’t remember, one half of the couple disappears. Her story is also narrated through the book but starts a year earlier so we have no idea what happened. There’s also a third narrator who is the partner of Rachel’s ex-husband. Sounds very complicated, actually very straight forward!

The book is full of twists and turns, and while I saw the ending coming, I did not see how it was going to get there, it kept me guessing! On Tuesday night I was going to get an early night but I ended up finishing the book instead… woops!

I’m so glad I read it, definitely a lesson in taking book recommendations even when you doubt them!

PS: Couple of great one liners from the book

  • “I can’t help the way I am”, “You can help what you do, though”
  • “I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism.”

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