Publisher: Penguin

Essays by George Orwell

Posted August 15, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Essays by George OrwellGeorge Orwell: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
Published by Penguin on January 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Non-Fiction, Political, Short Stories (single author), Social History
Pages: 466
Format: Paperback
View on Goodreads

This outstanding collection brings together Orwell’s longer, major essays and a fine selection of shorter pieces that includes My Country Right or Left, Decline of the English Murder, Shooting an Elephant and A Hanging.
With great originality and wit Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from the moral enormity of Jonathan Swift’s strange genius and a revaluation of Charles Dickens to the nature of Socialism, a comic yet profound discussion of naughty sea-side picture postcards and a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an almost unrivalled mastery of English plain prose style, Orwell’s essays challenge, move and entertain.

I have always enjoyed Orwell’s writing. Like many people, Nineteen Eighty Four is one of my favourite books. But I had never read any of his essays before now. I chose this book specifically for Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a real mix bag of stories. From the short to the long; from diatribes on Charles Dickens to essays on “Bookshop Memories”; this book has it all. Although many of the essays are now 80 or more years old, they still hold a remarkable amount of relevance.

A lot of the writing is founded upon Orwell’s socialist leanings, and many essays cover uncomfortable topics such as war and death. The writing certainly isn’t what you would call “politically correct” in today’s terms, with numerous references to the N-word, C-word and F-word, among others. These are all in context – especially when viewed against the backdrop of the time – however if you’re likely to be offended by such language, then give this book a miss.

It would be a shame to miss out though, as this is a superb collection of essays, which are incredibly readable and still very relevant today.

Spectacles by Sue Perkins

Posted August 11, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Spectacles by Sue PerkinsSpectacles by Sue Perkins
Published by Penguin on July 28th 2016
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 437
Format: Paperback
View on Goodreads

Spectacles is the hilarious, creative and incredibly moving memoir from much loved comedian, writer and presenter Sue Perkins.
When I began writing this book, I went home to see if my mum had kept some of my stuff. What I found was that she hadn't kept some of it. She had kept all of it - every bus ticket, postcard, school report - from the moment I was born to the moment I finally had the confidence to turn round and say 'Why is our house full of this shit?'
Sadly, a recycling 'incident' destroyed the bulk of this archive. This has meant two things: firstly, Dear Reader, you will never get to see countless drawings of wizards, read a poem about corn on the cob, or marvel at the kilos of brown flowers I so lovingly pressed as a child. Secondly, it's left me with no choice but to actually write this thing myself.
This, my first ever book, will answer questions such as 'Is Mary Berry real?', 'Is it true you wear a surgical truss?' and 'Is a non-spherically symmetric gravitational pull from outside the observable universe responsible for some of the observed motion of large objects such as galactic clusters in the universe?'
Most of this book is true. I have, of course, amplified my more positive characteristics in an effort to make you like me.
Thank you for reading.

Praise for Spectacles

'Drama, tears and laughs - Spectacles has got it all. A brilliant, touching memoir suffused with love, it reminds you that life is best lived at wonky angles. I ADORED it' Jessie Burton, bestselling author of The Miniaturist
'Very funny . . . It seems there are two Sue Perkins: the TV one, who gabbles and pratfalls, and the sensitive one who aches. The first of course, exists to protect the second. They can both write. The first writes comedy, the second tragedy; in this sense, reading her memoir is very like meeting her'Sunday Times
'It's a proper book . . . so well written. Tight & bright & full of inspiration'Chris Evans, Radio 2

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since it was published, and although I waited until it was out in paperback, I have to say, it hasn’t disappointed!

This is a very entertaining memoir and glimpse into Sue Perkins’ life. It’s very much written in her “voice” and on occasion feels very much like having a conversation with a good friend over a cup of tea.

Sue comes across on TV as being very energetic and hyper, and this translates into the book with a lot of jumping around between different time periods, and stories left hanging and unfinished. I don’t want to spoil the text for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I did find this annoying and was left with a good few questions at the end of the book.

That said, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read, best enjoyed with a slice of cake and a mug of tea.

Ready. Steady. READ!!!

Liar Liar by MJ Arlidge

Posted April 14, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Liar Liar by MJ ArlidgeLiar Liar (Helen Grace #4) by M.J. Arlidge
Published by Penguin on September 10th 2015
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Pages: 314
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon.co.uk | Buy on BookDepository
View on Goodreads

In the dead of night, three raging fires light up the city skies. It's more than a tragic coincidence. For DI Helen Grace the flames announce the arrival of an evil she has never encountered before.
Because this is no firestarter seeking sick thrills, but something more chilling: a series of careful, calculating acts of murder.
But why were the victims chosen? What's driving the killer? And who will be next?
A powder keg of fear, suspicion and dread has been laid. Now all it needs is a spark to set it off . . .

This is the fourth book in Arlidge’s Helen Grace series. This time Grace is plunged into an arson investigation. Numerous fires are being started every night in Southampton causing damage and putting lives at risk. As the nights go on, and the number of fires increases, Grace is under pressure to bring the perpetrator to justice.

I have enjoyed most of Arlidge’s books – Pop Goes the Weasel, #2 in the series, is the only exception. Liar Liar is another good, fast paced book, but I have to say it’s not quite up there with his best. The storyline is good, but I felt it tailed off a little towards the middle, and limped towards an ending that was pretty obvious way before it should have been. That said, it’s still a great thriller and well worth a read.

The Woman who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes (2/5)

Posted March 29, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Woman who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes (2/5)The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes
Published by Penguin on May 21st 2015
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary, Fiction
Pages: 560
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon.co.uk | Buy on BookDepository
View on Goodreads

'Name: Stella Sweeney.
Height: average.
Recent life events: dramatic.'
One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life.
For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That's okay. She doesn't really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car).
But in this meeting is born the seed of something which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart.
Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad?
For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it?

It’s been years since I last read a Marian Keyes book, so I was looking forward to this which has been on my shelves for quite a while now.

It’s a decent-enough story, following the highs and lows of Stella Sweeney from a seemingly innocuous “fender bender”, through a life-threatening illness and family upheavals, to becoming a best-selling author. This book certainly has a lot going on.

Like most Keyes books, the writing is good and it’s an easy read. I did find some of the characters were unnecessary though. Without wanting to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, I couldn’t really see the point of Georgie or Zoe, and Jeffrey’s idiosyncrasies were annoying rather than adding anything to the story. Stella herself wasn’t particularly likeable. The words “doormat” and “wet dishrag” spring to mind when I think of her. I also couldn’t really see the point of the car accident either. It just ended up being incidental to the overall storyline in the end, and again, didn’t really add to the book in any way. The storyline also jumps around between time periods, and some sections have random headings – “HER”, “HIM”, etc – which makes it tricky to follow the flow of the story.

All in all this is an OK book. Nothing more, and certainly not up to the usual standard of Keyes’ work, which is a disappointment.

The Doll’s House by MJ Arlidge (4/5)

Posted March 20, 2016 in Book Review / 0 Comments

The Doll’s House by MJ Arlidge (4/5)The Doll's House (Helen Grace, #3) by M.J. Arlidge
Published by Penguin on February 12th 2015
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Pages: 434
Buy on Amazon.co.uk | Buy on BookDepository
View on Goodreads

The Doll's House is the new twisting and terrifying thriller in the Detective Inspector Helen Grace series from M.J. Arlidge.
Arlidge is the author of Eeny Meeny and Pop Goes the Weasel, and has been dubbed 'the new Jo Nesbo'.
A young woman wakes up in a cold, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there or who her kidnapper is. So begins her terrible nightmare.
Nearby, the body of another young woman is discovered buried on a remote beach. But the dead girl was never reported missing - her estranged family having received regular texts from her over the years. Someone has been keeping her alive from beyond the grave.
For Detective Inspector Helen Grace it's chilling evidence that she's searching for a monster who is not just twisted but also clever and resourceful - a predator who's killed before.
And as Helen struggles to understand the killer's motivation, she begins to realize that she's in a desperate race against time . . .

I’m rattling through the books this weekend! I have offered my collection of MJ Arlidge books to a friend, so I needed to catch up with books #3 and #4 in the series. After a disappointing experience reading Pop Goes the Weasel, the second book in the series, but loving Eeny Meeny and Little Boy Blue, books #1 and #5, I was pleased to discover that The Doll’s House was true to form and a really gripping page turner.

It follows DI Helen Grace as she tries to solve a series of unusual murders that have gone completely unnoticed for a number of years. The perpetrator is clever, sneaky and leaves few clues behind. Byt Grace is up against the clock as another girl has gone missing and her life undoubtedly hangs in the balance.

The writing is once again superb, and careers along at a furious pace. By the last 40 or so pages I could barely look up as I was so eager to get to the conclusion of the story. This is another fabulous thriller from Arlidge and well-worth a read.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Posted December 9, 2015 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma HealeyElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin on January 1st 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 275
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon.co.uk | Buy on BookDepository
View on Goodreads

‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago...
Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son - not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.
Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.
Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum.
Strange Companions is a debut novel about a mind in the grips of dementia. Simultaneously a fast-paced mystery and a moving meditation on memory and identity and told through Maud's unforgettable voice, it humanises a condition most of us find impenetrable and frustrating.

This story is focused around Maud, an 80 year old suffering from dementia. I had heard nothing but good reviews of this book, so was eagerly looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately it failed to live up to expectations.

Dementia is a debilitating and horrible illness, and writing a book from the point of view of a confused 80 year old means that the story is mixed up, stuttering and slow-going. Maud thinks her friend Elizabeth is missing, so keeps looking for her and trying to find out where she is. The same themes crop up over and over again as Maud repeats the same actions, forgetting what she has already done.

Woven into the story of Elizabeth, is the story of Maud’s sister, Sukey, who went missing in the 1940’s and was never found. Through flashbacks we find out more about Maud’s life as a young girl and what happened when Sukey went missing. The ultimate conclusion of finding out what happened to Sukey though is unconvincing and unsatisfying.

I persevered to finish this book, but it was a disappointing read. I also didn’t think the representation of dementia was accurate as there was too much Maud could remember when set against a background of severe memory loss. Overall this just didn’t do it for me.