Where The Crawdads Sing – by Delia Owens

12 08 2022

It was one of those books that everyone seemed to be reading, that was on the shelves at Tesco every time I went, that they were making a film about; and yet every time I read the blurb, it just sounded a bit dull. But so many people were raving about it and recommending it to me, I gave in, got a copy at my next food shop, and gave it a go.

The story is told as two parallel timelines across the 1950s and 60s, meeting up at the end of the book.

  • In the first, Kya lives in a shack in the marshes, just outside a small town. As a small girl, her family gradually leave, and she lives an isolated life, selling mussels to get by, and collecting feathers, shells and all sorts of things from the marsh.
  • In the second, a body is found by the old fire tower by two young boys, and the challenge is to work out if it was an accident or murder, and if so, who did it?

I really enjoyed that she included a map of the area inside the front cover, to help you keep track of things, I always appreciate a diagram in a book!

It’s beautifully told; to repeat the NYT Book Review quote from the back cover: “Painfully beautiful… At once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature.”

A strange combination of keeping you guessing, but being warm at the same time. I guess the lesson is, don’t judge a book by it’s blurb!!!

The Man Who Died Twice – by Richard Osman

16 07 2022

Yes it’s another murder mystery, but it was so nice to spend time with the guys in the Thursday Murder Club again!

More murders this time around, and some stolen diamonds too, as well as involvement from MI5 – plenty of drama! That said, it’s still the lovely heart-warming group of friends living in a retirement village, with all their eccentricities and quirks, alongside some very British references! There are many twists and turns as the book progresses, that kept me guessing ’til the end.

I really don’t want to say any more, to avoid spoilers, but there is so much to enjoy, do give it a go!

The Windsor Knot – by S.J. Bennett

25 06 2022

Two years ago I started reading Agatha Christie, and since seem to have got well into the world of murder mysteries, including Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club, and currently binge-watching Death In Paradise on BBC iPlayer. When I found one out there was a murder mystery with Her Majesty The Queen as the person trying to solve the crime, I couldn’t resist!

The morning after a “Dine and Sleep” at Windsor Castle, the visiting pianist is found dead in his room. Of course there is immediately an investigation by the appropriate authorities, but the Queen isn’t sure they’re going down the right path, so on the down-low and with the help of her assistant private secretary Rozie, she makes some enquiries of her own.

It was quite endearing, though I wish maybe the Queen had had a little more air-time than she did. There was there was a fair amount of time given to Rozie as obviously the Queen herself couldn’t be making contact with sources without attracting attention. That said, Rozie, was a good character, and it didn’t detract from the plot at all, just as someone who is a big fan of the Queen, I clearly just wanted to read more of her.

It’s set in spring 2016 so covers events like her 90th birthday, a brief visit from the Obama’s, mentions the upcoming Brexit referendum, and of course, Prince Philip is still on the scene, which made for some excellent moments. There were some lovely references to the respect the Queen gets from the military and her staff, “not because of what she is, but who she is”, which was a nice reflection on her

It was a bit of an easy/trashy read, and I enjoyed it, that said, I’m not sure I’d read a sequel. Much like the Obama-Biden mysteries, it’s fun, but one is probably enough.

Girl, Woman, Other – by Bernardine Evaristo

1 06 2022

Another book I picked up in 2020 after George Floyd’s murder, in an attempt to educate myself and read more widely. But as a slow reader, and wanting to mix the books in with my other reading, I’m still working through them.

I’m sad to say, I was not fond of this book. My main issue with it, which was also an issue with Normal People, The Colour Purple, and Freckles, is that none of the speech has quote marks. I do not understand what this achieves other than making the book really hard to follow what’s happening, and to get into in general, which makes it take much longer to read. This one didn’t even have full stops; the only breaks were paragraph breaks where the narration just flowed through. It did have commas, thank goodness, but to be honest I felt lucky to get even them!

The story is broken into four sections, each of which has three subsections, each about a different woman. The groups of three are people who are linked to each other, but each story is quite separate. Then there are a few looser links between some of the women across the four sections. In a way it felt more like a set of short stories than one continuous one, which maybe explains why it just felt a bit like it didn’t really go anywhere. There is then a section at the end which I thought might tie it all together, but just visited in on some of the characters who happen to be at the same party, some of whom I struggled to remember their back story as there had been so many in between. After the end section there is an epilogue which ties two more ends together, but again I hadn’t been desperately wondering what happened to them.

I wonder if it’s just too high brow for me. It’s a Booker Prize winner, so clearly is deemed to be excellent. I’ve only ever read one other Booker Prize winner which was Life of Pi, and I truly loved it, which is why I wasn’t completely put off trying this one, but I may take a moment before deciding to try another. I’ve had slightly more success with the Costa Coffee Book Awards and the Books Are My Bag Readers’ Awards, so maybe they’re more my level!

Fishbowl – by Bradley Somer

3 04 2022

I tried to read this a couple of years ago, but got so bored with the first chapter that I gave up and put it back on the shelf. But before it went into the charity shop box, I decided to give it one more go.

It seems that if you can get through the first chapter, which is an extended, metaphorical description of an apartment building, then a story actually begins and it’s readable!

The entire book takes place over a half hour period, during which we follow the stories of several people in the building (some of which overlap a little – a la Love Actually style). At the end of the half hour, Ian the goldfish falls from the top to the bottom of the building, and sees little snippets of all the stories, though his fall is weirdly spread throughout the book, so you have to keep an eye on the order of events occasionally.

Once I got into it I did get invested in some of the stories (though not all), and did enjoy it, but gosh, just scrap that first chapter. There were also some random bits in the middle where the author takes about a page to tell you the entire future life story of someone in one of the apartments who has no links to anyone else and isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the entire book, and to be blunt, I don’t care about at all!

There was a quote near the end: “It’s said that everything happens for a reason, but it’s never said that reason is always a good one.”, which I thought was worth sharing.

My favourite thing about the book, and probably the reason I tried again, is that down the side is a flick-book of a goldfish falling from the top to the bottom. I’ve found a video on YouTube of someone doing it, albeit incredibly slowly, enjoy!

One Of Us Is Lying – by Karen M McManus

23 02 2022

I’ve been describing this book as The Breakfast Club meets Agatha Christie: five kids from five different American high school stereotypes, all in detention together, one of them dies, whodunnit?

The book is narrated by the four other kids in turn as they try to work out what happened, who did it, and why. Is it one of them, or someone else? The boy who dies had a gossip blog which has a reputation for always being accurate, and had been about to post stories that would ruin each of the other four teenagers lives, so there’s a lot to dig through.

I did guess the solution, but not with all the detail that was revealed, so still enjoyed it as it worked its way through. And now that I’ve finished it, there’s a series of it that has just arrived on Netflix, so I’m ready to see what they’ve done with it!

And it has the added bonus of putting an Abba song in your head every time you look at the cover, even if it’s not exactly the same words!

The Flat Share – by Beth O’Leary

23 01 2022

The premise of this book made me pick it up, plus people seem to say good things about her books, so I thought I’d try one.

It’s rare I read a 400 page book in a week – it either means it’s addictive or easy to read. I’d say this was more on the easy to read side of things, but it was enjoyable!

Leon needs some extra income to pay for his brother’s solicitor; and as he works nights in a care home, decides to advertise for a flatmate who would have the flat evenings and weekends, and he’d have it in the day, so they’d share a bed, but never meet!

Tiffy, who works in publishing hobby books, answers the ad as she looks to get away from from her ex, who she’s starting to realise has been pretty controlling. The only other place she could afford is full of mould and mushrooms, and so she takes the risk to live in this unconventional way with a stranger.

So each has their own stuff going on, but what sort of a book would this be if they didn’t meet? It’s chick-lit after all…

Death on the Nile – by Agatha Christie

31 10 2021

My third Agatha Christie and my second Poirot!

I’m starting to notice a pattern now (unless it’s just coincidence with the ones I’ve read so far), which is why I’ve struggled to get into each one, and that’s that she opens the book by introducing an absolute shedload of characters with maybe a couple of pages each, and then the story properly starts, at which point my head is spinning, trying to work out who’s who.

That said, it then doesn’t seem to take long after that, and always gets better once a diagram is thrown in. This time it was a plan of the cabins on the boat with all the names of the occupants, though it didn’t appear until about halfway through the book.

The early character confusion aside, I really enjoyed the book, the further I got in, the faster I read, and the less I was able to put it down! Obviously, it’s a murder mystery, so I’m not going to give much away as that’s the fun of the book (if you can call books about murder “fun”, but given Christie’s insane success, I think it’s ok to enjoy it!), but it’s got all the twists and turns and red herrings you’d hope for, and Poirot’s brilliant lines, as well as a couple from Christie herself!

As I was borrowing my mum’s copy I didn’t turn down pages to remember the quotes I really liked, but it turns out that this was time wasted since I fell asleep on the book last weekend and totally creased the cover – what a fail!

Anyway, there’s a Kenneth Branagh film of this coming out next year, the cast includes Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Brand and Adam Garcia, so naturally I’m intrigued and excited to see that! Trailer below:

Freckles – by Cecelia Ahern

11 10 2021

I’ve read everything Cecelia Ahern has written, but normally try to wait for paperback, so when my friend got the hardback copy and then passed it on, I was thrilled to not have to wait!

Allegra Bird is a traffic warden just outside of Dublin, and is unnerved when an angry driver tells her that people are the average of the five people they spend the most time with, and so hers must be awful. She realises that she doesn’t know who her five people are, and that’s the focus of most of the book. There’s also a storyline about her trying to meet her mum who gave her up when she was born.

It was ok, but definitely not my favourite among the other books she’s written. I have two main frustrations:

  • She decided not to use speech marks, which she hasn’t done before, but I’ve found a couple of other books do recently. I don’t get the point of this, all it really seems to do is make it harder to read!
  • The ending wasn’t strong. It was anti-climactic, convenient and just a bit twee. I was disappointed to be honest.

I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads, not awful, but low for me I guess.

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.