Emma – by Jane Austen

17 09 2021

I’ve watched so many adaptations of this book, but never got around to reading it (though I did read the Alexander McCall-Smith version for the Austen Project a few years ago). But under my new goal of reading one Austen a year (among other things), I chose this as it’s the one I knew best of the ones still unread, so it was the obvious choice!

For those unaware, Emma is about 20 and lives a life of comfort and ease to the point of being somewhat spoilt, with her hypochondriac father. She has a habit for matchmaking, though doesn’t intend on marrying herself. She’s not someone you’d like in real life, but goes on quite a journey throughout the book. It’s a story about class and relationships, and looks at several pairings of people as you work your way through.

I really enjoyed it, but for some reason it took me 10 weeks to read! I didn’t realise it was broken up into three volumes, but at nearly 500 pages, I guess that makes sense! The other thing that really surprised me was that for a book that’s only just over 200 years old, how different some of the spellings are, I tried to note some down as I went:

“stopt”, “chuse”, “shew”, “dropt”, “staid”, “Swisserland”, “Surry”, “surprized”, “every where”, “every thing”, “what ever”, “&c”.

I quite like some of those, but they’d all be seen as wrong these days!

It feels like a warm hug of a read, probably because it’s just such a familiar story to me, but then again, there’s a reason why it’s a classic!

I will leave you with trailers for three of my favourite Emma adaptations if you want to dip your toe in:

Firstly, the BBC version from 2009, this is a 4 part series so gets in a lot more detail. I think Romola Garai is my favourite Emma in an adaptation.
Then the film that came out a couple of years ago, I always like to have a film and a series version incase you don’t have time for a full series! Bill Nighy is excellent in this as Mr Woodhouse!
And finally, one of my favourite films of all time, Clueless – the story of Emma, but redone for a 90s US high school – and including the never-aging Paul Rudd.




The Thursday Murder Club – by Richard Osman

3 07 2021

I was so proud of myself for waiting for the paperback of this to come out, I’ve wanted to read it for ages! My parents gave it to me for my birthday, with my mum asking as I unwrapped it, if she could borrow it when I’m done! (Of course I said yes!)

Cooper’s Chase is an upmarket retirement village built up around an old convent in Kent, and four residents (Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim and Ron) meet on a Thursday in the Jigsaw Room and go through old unsolved murder cases to see what they can discover.

But then there’s a murder in the village, and they decide to do what they can to investigate. They’re a bit rebellious, not always keeping the police informed when they discover something, and then wanting to trade information with them!

It’s a lovely bunch of people, all with really defined characters, there’s a decent backstory to each of the police officers involved too. It’s so so weird that a murder mystery could be warm and fuzzy, but it is!

Also, because Richard Osman wrote it, there are obviously some random thoughts he’s thrown in, including an excellent analysis of Escape to the Country which Dave Gorman would be proud of, and insistence on the correct way to work through a double layered box of biscuits, the idea of retirement village developers looking for 60+ year olds in Waitrose cafes, and this highly relatable line: “He had read a headline about Diet Coke once, which was so worrying he had chosen not to read the article.”

My only slight slight niggle? I don’t understand why there’s a dog on the cover – any insight is welcome!





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!





The Last Day – by Andrew Hunter Murray

1 05 2021

I was fascinated by the concept of this book. The year is 2059, 30 years after the Earth stopped spinning, after gradually slowing down between 2020 and 2029. The plant is now in lock-step with the sun, and so half the world is in cold darkness, half is scorching hot, and life only exists on the border between the two – interesting!

The book is set in the UK, where the sun is low in the sky as if just after dawn – this is one of the things I found hardest to keep straight in my mind, e.g. when the character returned home in an evening, in my head it was dark, and I frequently found myself having to completely reimagine scenes as they would have been!

As the author also happens to be a QI elf, the book explains what caused the rotation of the Earth to slow, some of the more detailed affects that has had, which make it much more satisfying for a logistical brained person like me! Things like: how the first day of The Slow, was only 0.144 seconds longer than the previous day, but how that in itself was enough to collapse GPS systems worldwide, how 15 months into the slow, countries were adding Dead Air to their days to cope with them lengthening, but how England updated Eurotunnel timetables daily, and France weekly, so after a while, there was a crash, and how houses have been adapted to simulate day and night with reflective shutters so people still have a chance to sleep properly.

I have one outstanding niggle, which is why the earth stopped spinning and and the deceleration didn’t continue into starting to spin the other way, but that might just be my lack of understanding – hopefully I will lend it to my dad at some point, and then he can explain it to me!

In all honesty, it’s these bits of the book I found most interesting, how it would all happen, rather than the ‘plot’ which involves Ellen Hopper trying to uncover a secret that the government wants to keep hidden, although that was interesting too, just not what gripped my attention and imagination the most!

Just two quotes to share from this book:

At one point, someone who remembers life before The Stop is talking about it and says “I always think it must have been better to be Cain than Adam,. No memory of paradise.”

And later on, “Everyone says they’re opposite endeavours, politics and science, that one deals with truth and the other with perception.”





Such A Fun Age – by Kiley Reid

7 04 2021

I’m a huge sucker for hyped books, I always assume they must be hyped for a reason, so that’s what led me to pick this up.

The book focuses on the relationship between Alix and her babysitter/nanny Emira, and the fallout from an evening where, in a supermarket, Emira is stopped by the security guard as they think she’s kidnapped the white child who she has with her.

Emira is 25, works two part time jobs and is painfully aware that by her next birthday she will come off of her families health insurance, whereas all her friends seem to be doing much better as becoming adults. But she also has a beautiful relationship with the little girl she looks after 3 days a week, and seems to understand her much more than her mother does sometimes.

There were several twists in the book (and so I won’t say much more for fear of spoilers), one or two made me gasp out loud, but one I did see from very early on, which is the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars to be honest!





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.”





Queenie – by Candice Carty-Williams

9 11 2020

Another of the books I picked up over the summer from recommended reading around the Black Lives Matter movement. This book is fiction, which I find easier to read, so thought I’d give it a go. Queenie is a 25 year old of Jamaican descent living in London; she and her boyfriend are ‘on a break’ and she’s not taking it that well.

I guess it was a decent book, but I only gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. This was really because (more in the first half of the book), there are several sex scenes that were just a bit more detailed than they needed to be, particularly one that was violent. It really got me thinking about how books don’t have ratings in the same way DVDs do – seeing this book cover on the shelf, there’s no indication as to what age it would be suitable for. That part of it did calm down and then the book did cover mental health issues in a really helpful way, though again for some, reading it without a heads up could be difficult! I know on my friend Ceri’s BookTube channel she will always share content warnings, and I think this is such a helpful idea, but would be so much better if it was on book covers.

None of this makes it a bad book, I think the mental health stuff that was included was important, and even some of the stuff the character went through in the sex, but that aspect could have been done without being described as graphically as it was in places, that’s all.

Ultimately it’s giving you perspective of life of a young black woman in London, and some of the trials that come with that, that from a position of white privilege, we may never have even considered. I really enjoyed her relationship with her friends and family. It’s not primarily a mental health book, that’s just one element of it, but I was reading this after a (much more minor) blip, and so some of it really resonated, particularly the support she had around her.

I heard someone describe her as a bit of a Bridget Jones character, and I guess she does have some things in common with her, but it has a pretty different feel about it than that.

I will leave you, as I often do, with some of my favourite quotes (and yes they’re mostly mental health related, but just ‘cos they’re the bits that stood out to me!):

  • “So what if something is wrong with you? There’s something wrong with al of us.”
  • “I think that we all need to scrap this idea that normality is something to strive towards. I personally cannot pinpoint or prescribe what it is to be normal.”
  • “Thank you for being my friend, even though I didn’t make it easy.”
  • “As for the anxiety, and the head feeling weird and then the stomach following, even if you do go back to how things were, you made it out before, you’ll make it out again.”





And The Mountains Echoed – by Khaled Hosseini

25 10 2020

I think I set my expectations too high for this book. Having just read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and reading this as a follow up, I was expecting greatness, but I guess there’s a reason it didn’t end up on all the ‘books you must read’ type lists that the other two have. It probably wasn’t that bad at all, just comparatively!

The thing I found most odd about it was that the story alluded to in the blurb is over very quickly, and the book jumps through different people’s stories who have maybe been mentioned as an aside in a previous persons story, to the point that you get pretty far removed from the original but then sometimes it jumps back to one more central, but then goes off to someone else who was mentioned before. I just found that most of the time, I found that I just wanted it to get back to the point, and then the ending was relatively predictable from very near the beginning. There were some decent enough stories in it, it just didn’t felt like it flowed properly at all. It also varied throughout between present and past tense, and first and third person. All very odd.

I feel this has been very negative, but as with most books, there were still bits that would normally make me turn down the corners (but it was a library book so I had to settle for taking a photo on my phone!).

  • “When you have lived as long as I have, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same colour.”
  • “She said there was comfort to be found in the permanence of mathematical truths, in the lack of arbitrariness and the absence of ambiguity. In knowing that the answers may be elusive, but they could be found.”
  • “In my experience, men who understand women as well as you seem to rarely want to have anything to do with them.”
  • “Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift, given randomly, stupidly.”
  • “James Parkinson, George Huntington, Robert Graves, John Down. Now this Lou Gehrig fellow of mine. How did men come to monopolise disease names too?”
  • “I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret.”





Hope Never Dies – by Andrew Shaffer

3 10 2020

I bought this book as a gift for a couple of people a year or two ago, it sounded hilarious and like it would suit their tastes, and then this year I finally got a chance to try it! The thing that made me get it as a present, was the last paragraph of the blurb:

“Part action thriller, part mystery, part bromance, and (just to be clear) 100 percent fiction, Hope Never Dies imagines life after the Oval Office for two of America’s greatest heroes. Together they’ll prove that justice has no term limits.”

If that doesn’t sell it, I don’t know what will!

I finally picked it up now as with the election coming up, it felt timely. Joe Biden narrates the book, and does occasionally ponder on if he’d ever run for office again, but mostly the book is digging into the death of his favourite Amtrak (train company) conductor in suspicious circumstances.

This was by no means great literature, but it was a fun read if you’re looking for something light and escapist!





Elizabeth Is Missing – by Emma Healey

22 09 2020

The final book in the stack from Mum!

Before I read this, I knew it was about a woman with dementia who was convinced her friend was missing. What I didn’t know was that she narrates the book.

I’ll be honest, I really struggled with the first few pages as I adjusted to it – it was almost upsetting to read stuff that is so familiar and close to home, from the perspective of the person who is confused. You can feel her deteriorating through the book, which is tough, but laced with humour as well.

Once I got used to the style though, it was an excellent book – the narrator suffering from dementia is such a clever idea. Maud switches between struggling to work out what’s currently going on (other than being sure that her friend Elizabeth is missing, there’s a note in her pocket that says so), and flashing back to when she was a child and her older sister went missing. Essentially it’s two stories being told in parallel, but one reliably, and one not.

I guess it’s really a mystery book, and that’s what had me hooked, trying to work out what’s happened in her past, and what on earth is going on in her present. It really was a good read, I read it in seven days, crazy fast for me!

It turns out that there’s an adaptation of it on iPlayer at the moment, so hoping to watch that this week, trailer below!