Notes on a Nervous Planet – by Matt Haig

19 07 2018

This is the fourth Matt Haig book I’ve read, but only the second non-fiction. The author describes this book not as a sort of follow on to Reasons to Stay Alive, which was a look at his journey through anxiety and depression, (but is nowhere near as miserable as that sounds!).

This book looks more at the state of our society and all the stress we deal with. But again, it’s not miserable, yes some bits are a bit low, but so much of it is uplifting and helpful. The chapters are very short (one is only about 5 words!) which makes it very easy to read. It’s the only non-fiction I fly through!

Normally when I read Matt Haig’s books, I fold down the corners of pages I want to go back to to put quotes on here, but there just wasn’t any point with this book as I would have folded down most page corners, (like I did in Reasons to Stay Alive) and this blog would be 300 pages long!

All I will say is, please read Reasons to Stay Alive and please read this book, they’re good for you! This has highlighted things I will change to try and help myself!

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Anne’s House of Dreams – by L M Montgomery

9 07 2018

This is now book five in the Anne of Green Gables series. **Spoiler Alert (for previous books)** Anne and Gilbert are finally together, and the book begins with their wedding, sends them off to their new home in Four Winds, and spends the first couple of years of married life with them.

As they’ve moved to a new area, most of the characters are new – but of course Marilla pops in from time to time. There’s a house up the road where another couple live, but circumstances are unusual, there’s Captain Jim who runs the lighthouse, and a few others to get to know and love (including Miss Cornelia who every other sentence seems to say “isn’t that just like a man?!”.

The book has its highs and lows, I got close to tears (but didn’t cry!) twice, but mixed with that is plenty of joy and humour. I wouldn’t recommend joining these books mid series, but if you’ve read the four preceding this, definitely carry on and pick this one up!

Again the book is chock full of quoteable bits – here are some of my favourites:

  • “‘Anne was always a romantic, you know,’, ‘Well, married life will most likely cure her of that,'”
  • “It’s rather hard to decided just when people are grown up,”
  • “I saved his life, and when you’ve saved a creature’s life you’re bound to love it. It’s next thing to giving life.”
  • “God sees no difference between the voice of a crow and the voice of a nightingale.”
  • “Job! It was such a rare thing to find a patient man that when one was really discovered they were determined he shouldn’t be forgotten.”
  • “I even enj’y the disagreeable things. It’s great fun thinking they can’t last.”
  • “A woman cannot ever be sure of not being married till she is buried.”
  • “But it ain’t our feelings we have to steer by through life – no, no, we’d make shipwreck might often if we did that. There’s only the one safe compass and we’ve got to set our course by that – what it’s right to do.”
  • “Hair is deceitful and noses and eyes change, and you cannot tell what is going to come of them, but ears is ears from start to finish, and you always know where you are with them.”
  • “Politics is for this world, but religion is for both.”





The Shock of the Fall – by Nathan Filer

8 06 2018

Matthew is about 19 when he tells us this story, at least, I think he is, but it jumps around a lot it gets quite hard to follow.
When he was younger, his brother Simon died on a family holiday – we don’t get many details until later in the book, but it’s done real damage to Matthew. He’s gone between living on his own, being in psychiatric wards, other care places, to be honest it’s quite hard to follow. He also still sees Simon around… and avoids taking his medication to keep seeing him.

There’s a computer available to him in one of the places and he’s writing his story, which in places is what we read – I think that’s what the bits in typewriter font are meant to be, but I’m not sure, it’s quite hard to follow. You’ll notice I’m repeating myself, he does that a lot too, so I quite liked the idea of adding it in here!

The book flashes back to his childhood with his brother, to that holiday, to the time after, all through to the present day, but not always in any given order, and he can jump somewhere for a paragraph then jump back to where he was just before. It’s quite hard to follow.

It’s not a bad book, but I don’t know that I’d rave about it. I’d probably put it at the good end of average, or the average end of good.

That said, there was a line I really liked: “Reading is a bit like hallucinating”. I’d never thought of it that was before!

He also talked about the worst thing about his illness was that it made him selfish. I think that’s something true of a lot of people with mental health issues (me included) – I think sometimes you have to be selfish, in order to look after yourself, but actually that can be one of the hardest adjustments!

A decent book, but probably not one I’ll reread….!





The Handmaid’s Tale – by Margaret Atwood

22 05 2018

I haven’t seen any of the TV show, but the premise sounded interesting enough to give it a go, and I’m *mostly* glad I did.

The book focuses on a society where due to some war or radiation poisoning or something, most women are infertile, and so couples often take a woman into their home to conceive a child for them. These women dress head to toe in red other than their white caps to hide their hair, they are not known by their real names, and live a minimal existence – they’re seen as above the servants, but definitely below the wives. Society is such that all reading is illegal, any beautifying is not permitted, and the Handmaids are not allowed to chat, talk or communicate with each other beyond greetings and goodbyes really. It’s not just the handmaids who are uniformed though – wives dress all in blue, servants in green (I think!)

I found the introduction by the author fascinating. She said that when writing the book (in the 1980s) she decided that she didn’t want anything happening in the book which had not already happened somewhere in history. This is bizarre when the novel sounds completely dystopian, but she gives the examples of Jacob and Rachel in the Bible: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”” – Genesis 30 vv 1-3.

Through the whole book we never learn our lead characters name. She talks us through life in the household of the Commander and his wife, whilst giving flashbacks to “normal” life several years before, before everything changed, and everything in between.

The author had a really odd way of only using quotation marks for dialogue when it was “present day”, so all the memories shared, which is a good proportion of the book, take a while to get used to – working out what’s narration and what’s dialogue!

The only bit I didn’t like about the book was the ending, I won’t give things away other than to say it was wholly unsatisfying – a real shame when the rest of the book was so strong!


**UPDATE**
I was talking to a friend of mine after posting this and saying how I didn’t like the ending. She asked if I’d read the epilogue. I asked what epilogue?
It turns out that the “Historical notes” at the back of the book which I chose to skip is actually an epilogue and part of the story…! A bit more satisfied now.





The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett (UNFINISHED)

6 05 2018

I picked up this book in a charity shop because Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are raved about, and this is the first in the series. I got about 100 pages in before I gave up. I’m told later books are better and this one is more scene setting, but in 100 pages barely anything happened, and I just didn’t care about the things that did.

The book is split into four sections, and so when I reached the end of the first one, I admitted defeat, I just didn’t care enough to carry on. If you enjoyed this book, I do apologise – maybe one day I’ll try a different one in the series from recommendations I’ve been given…

For now I’m looking forward to trying something different.





Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – by Gail Honeyman

19 04 2018

The main reason I bought this book is that it appeared EVERYWHERE. Every time I was in a shop I saw it, or at least that’s what it felt like! I read the back and thought it sounded like it was worth giving a go.

Eleanor is a woman of routine. She wears the same clothes, eats the same food, drinks the same vodka. You would be justified for thinking she’s a bit autistic, she certainly struggles with interaction with people, but before long you see that there’s clearly something dramatic in her past which has affected her greatly, but it’s only revealed little by little as you go.

Very funny in places, heartbreaking in others, very engaging overall!

The only thing I will say, I don’t want to put spoilers so I’ll try to keep this vague, but if you find you struggle with triggers regarding suicide attempts, it’d be best to maybe give this a miss.

There was a line, just a throwaway comment that I found fascinating!
“Eyelids are really just flesh curtains. Your eyes are always ‘on’, always looking; when you close them you’re watching the thin, veined skin of your inner eyelid rather than staring out at the world.”





How not to be wrong, the hidden maths of everyday life – by Jordan Ellenberg

30 03 2018

Over 2 months on a book isn’t going to help at all with my 30 books in a year, but I promise it was a good book!

It’s full of interesting thoughts on lotteries, perspective, statistics, music, correlation, voting systems, sports, all sorts! Complicated in places, but he always starts a section at a level we can all understand, and at some points I just had to just read the words to get to the point I understood the next bit, but it’s all written in a way that makes it fairly easy to read!

That all said, it was lovely to delve back into the world of maths, stretching my brain, seeing what I could remember, and enjoying some of the common sense that is shared.

As with any book of this sort it is of course full of gems, so here are some I particularly enjoyed:

  • “Dividing one number by another is mere computation; figuring out what you should divide by what is mathematics.”
  • “Improbable things happen a lot.”
  • “The natural logarithm is the one you always use if you’re a mathematician or if you have e fingers.”
  • “Mathematics as currently practised is a delicate interplay between monastic contemplation and blowing stuff up with dynamite.”
  • “In real life, mathematicians are a pretty ordinary bunch, no madder than the average.”
  • “I’ve found that in moments of emotional extremity there is nothing like a math[sic] problem to quiet the complaints the rest of the psyche serves up.”
  • “I encourage you to write directly in the book, if it’s not borrowed from the library or displayed on a screen.”
  • “An inelegant axiom is like a stain in the corner of the floor; it doesn’t get in your way, per se, but it’s maddening, and one spends an inordinate amount of time scrubbing and scouring and trying to make the surface nice and clean.”
  • “Genius is a thing that happens, not a kind of person.”
  • “[The stereotype is that mathematicians are] determined to compute everything to as many decimal places as possible. It isn’t so. We want to compute everything to as many decimal places as necessary.”
  • “Mathematics, the extension of common sense by other means.”