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!)





The Rosie Result – by Graeme Simsion

28 03 2020

This is the final book in this ‘Rosie’ trilogy about Don Tillman.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Don is just a really likeable character (possibly moreso because the books are written in the first person from his perspective). By this book he and Rosie have been married for over a decade and have a 10 year old son, Hudson. Don has a lot of things he’s learned about social interaction, rules and patterns to keep an eye out for to understand things he might otherwise struggle with.

Early in the book there’s a suggestion from the school that Hudson may be autistic and that they should look into having him tested. Don is not keen on this, but the comment has also been made about him. He leaves his job to focus on Hudson, to try and achieve various targets (numbered, of course) to help him to fit in.

A lot of the book questions autism stereotypes, as well as educating neurotypicals in ways they can better help those with autism feel comfortable – one being checking if their preference is to be referred to as ‘autistic’ or ‘person with autism’! There’s definitely a message in the book about how we always think of ‘unable to feel empathy’ as a symptom of autism, but rarely do neurotypical people have much empathy for them – definitely a few challenges thrown in, which is helpful.

I’ve made this sound like a heavy book, it’s not. It’s funny, warm, and interesting! There’s also a whole plot with Don opening a bar given his interest and skill in cocktail making – it’s an easy read, just has a good message to share along with it.





Noughts & Crosses – by Malorie Blackman

8 03 2020

I remember this book coming out when I was a teenager, I remember loads of people reading it, but I never heard what it was about and never got around to reading it myself. With the coming of the new series from the BBC, I thought I’d finally give it a go, so got myself a copy off eBay and flew through it!

The basic premise is a divided society, where black people (Crosses) have all the power, and white people (noughts) are the downtrodden and oppressed in society. Callum is a nought teenage boy and Sephy is a Cross teenage girl. When they were kids, Callum’s mum worked at Sephy’s house and so they were friends, but as he is one of the first noughts allowed into a Cross school, their friendship is tested. Things progress from there as a group of noughts are trying to form an uprising. It’s a little bit Romeo and Juliet in its nature.

The chapters are narrated alternating between Callum and Sephy, and the book itself covers a few years, so things change a lot, but it’s told really well and keeps you extremely gripped. Technically it won an award for children’s fiction, but it’s definitely not suitable for young children, and the new BBC series based on it is airing at 9pm – there’s plenty of darkness in it!

I’m watching the first episode of the TV series as I write this, so won’t comment on that here other than to say it seems quite different so far!





Normal People – by Sally Rooney

5 02 2020

Some people see a book everywhere and think they’re above it. Not me. I see a book everywhere and think, well, if everyone else is reading it, that must mean it’s good! And so I grabbed this in Tesco a couple of weeks ago. I started it Saturday night and finished it tonight, just under four days – not very like me, but I’ve been off work ill, so I had a lot of time!

There are a few things about this book that are a bit different:

  • None of the dialogue is in quote marks, you just have to work out where they’d go.
  • Each chapter starts by jumping forward in time, anything from a few days to a few months (and on one occasion, five minutes). I guess in that sense it had a bit of a feel of One Day about it?
  • The chapters are written in the present tense, apart from the fact that there’s a lot of catching up on what happened in the meantime which is written in the past tense, so it jumps backwards and forwards quite frequently – tricky to start with but you get used to it by the end.

All these put together mean it takes concentration, but I did find it engaging. It’s not often I can read 50 pages of a book without falling asleep, but I did that on three occasions with this book!

Connell and Marianne start the book at high school, his mum is her mum’s cleaner, she’s a bit of a loner, he’s got a load of friends, and they start sort of secretly seeing each other a bit. As usual I don’t want to give too much away, but as we go through the next few years including university, we follow the two of them and, as the blurb says, they “try to stay apart but find that they can’t”.

[There’s a few occasions in the book which get a little graphic, they’re fairly brief when they do happen, but just a warning if that puts you off.]





Northanger Abbey – by Jane Austen

24 01 2020

Before this I’d read two of Austen’s books, but for a long time hadn’t read anymore. But it’s a new year, and I thought I’d give it a go again – picked a shortish one so it was more manageable, and it turned out it was way more readable than I remembered!

I’ve watched the ITV adaptation several times so I had a good idea of the plot, but didn’t remember it being funny! For example, from the very first page: “Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard – and he had never been handsome.”

This is the story of Catherine Morland, who is taken by family friends to Bath and while there meets both the Tilneys and the Thorpes. The first half of the book focuses on the friendships with these, while the second half takes her to Northanger Abbey as a guest of the Tilneys. Catherine has read a lot of Gothic Horror novels and has something of an overactive imagination, which in that environment gets her in a bit of trouble!

I like how Austen on a few occasions in the book takes a breath and talks to the reader; at one point saying how she isn’t going to do something that most novel writers do, at another referring as to how few pages are left and so obviously we’re near the happy ending, and ending with a question for the reader of: “I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.”

It’s an Austen novel, so you know there’s going to be class, romance, drama, and a happy ending, but it was a good read, I really enjoyed it – the idea of picking up another Austen is less scary now!





The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man – by Jonas Jonasson

23 12 2019

This is the sequel to The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared – he certainly enjoys a long title!

Jonas Jonasson actually never intended to write this book – here’s an excerpt from the forward:


“I’d already said everything I wanted to say about what was perhaps the most miserable century ever. The idea had been that if we reminded one another of all the shortcomings of the twentieth century, maybe it would make us better at remembering and less inclined to make at least
those mistakes again. I packaged this message of mine with warmth and humour. Soon the book spread all over the world.

It sure as hell didn’t make the world a better place.”

We start where the last book left off, on an island in Indonesia with Allan and Jules and a fair amount of cash! However around Allan’s 101st birthday things start to get complicated again and before you know it, we’re off on a North Korean ship with a load of uranium…

Where the first book ran two timelines, this just follows from this point onwards, yet we bump into several world leaders and all sorts of trouble. Allan has found himself “a black tablet” which he fast becomes obsessed with, and infuriating for the others he’s with. He’s a brilliant character, ridiculously laid back in even the most stressful situations.

The whole book is just silly funny, even though it sounds so political, it’s all just a bit ridiculous – in a really warm way.