The Power by Naomi Alderman

Phil read this book and said that I would like it. He described why pretty well, but despite that, I wasn’t keen on it very much. I recommended it for book group and regretted it, thinking Girl with all the Gifts would’ve been better. I was hugely disappointed with the ending, thinking that the outcome would be a better world for everyone, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. I think the idea for the novel is great and I saw lots of people tweeting about it over Christmas, but it wasn’t really for me. There are parts of it which is quite gruesome, including the bit with the surgery – that made me gag a little bit. That being said, I know lots of people have read it and enjoyed it so it might be worth a read if you’re interested.

Where my Heart used to beat by Sebastian Faulks

I listened to this book on an audiobook for book group, as I didn’t have time to read it and finish off reading The Good Immigrant at the same time. It was my first time listening to an audiobook, which is weird in itself, but did mean I could read it in time for book group. I have to admit, I didn’t really like this novel. It went on and on and on and there were times where I was listening to a story in a story in a story and this was just a little much for me. It jumps between past, present and an even further past, in the blink of an eye and none of the different time frames portrayed the main character very well at all. I found him to be quite unpleasant and just wanted the book to be over asap. The ladies at book group thought that this was not the best Faulks novel and tried to persuade me that other novels by him are better. I won’t be adding him to my must read list any time soon.

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

I’d seen people talking about this book on Twitter so was interested in what it had to say. It is a brilliant and eye opening read. It puts into perspective what it is like to be an immigrant or descendants of immigrants in the UK today. There were numerous shocking stories of some of the hideous things people have to put up with, simply because of their skin colour, where people perceive them to be from or because they think they know what people from different places are like, based on some ridiculous stereotype. This book made me think very carefully about how I interact with different people and students in my classes and it makes me worry for the kind of world we’re building for future generations. This is a vital read, especially of what’s going on in politics today.

The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey

I saw the trailer for the film version of this on IMDB and knew that I had to read it. Phil was reading it at the time and confirmed that it was right up my street. Anything about the apocalypse and I’m pretty much guaranteed to be interested. This book did not disappoint. I really liked the way that the children were seen as the key to the future and thought it was interesting in the way that they were treated initially and how that changed towards the end of the novel. One thing I really liked about this novel was that it was different to anything else I’ve read recently and not your usual apocalypse style novel either. The film was pretty good, it just cut out a lot, so it’s well worth reading the novel before you see the film.

 

The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien

The latest book group choice was one of the least enjoyable books I’ve ever read. Nothing good happens, all the characters are pathetic and the whole scene is incredibly dreary. I found out after I read it that it was banned in Ireland, which goes to show what life was like there when this book was first published. I cannot recommend this book at all. I thought it was bleak and boring. Nothing happens. Nothing at all. When something does occur, it’s nothing good. Nothing good happens to any of the characters ever! A few of the guys at book group thought it was good and were interested in reading more Edna O’Brien but I won’t be doing that. I’d rather clean the bathroom than read anymore! Next!

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

 This was a book group choice, which I was happy to read as a sequel to Life After Life. This book contains the same characters as Life After Life, but it’s set up completely differently, well, maybe slightly differently, which I didn’t realise until the end. A few of the ladies at book group saw the end coming, but I didn’t. I was in love with this book from the beginning. I loved the characters in Life After Life, so it was a joy to spend time with them again in A God in Ruins. It’ll come as no surprise that this book is written really well, with characters you’ll love and love to hate. How Kate Atkinson creates such amazing and different people astounds me. This was a real page turner that had my emotions swinging all over the place. Ideal for reading on a plane, on the beach or curled up on the sofa this summer if you haven’t read it already!

The Bees by Laline Paull

Phil recommended this book to me after reading it himself. He said that I should read it and that there’s no way that I, as a vegan, can eat honey. He wasn’t wrong. Not only is this an amazing insight into the life of bees, it’s also an amazing story. There were so many times when I was worried about the main character, Flora, whether she was under attack from wasps, her own hive, running out of food or the smoke from the bee keeper. There are also lots of heart warming moments, not least the dance that the forager bees do for the other bees so that they know where to get the pollen. It’s an amazing story, one that I would definitely recommend to anyone.

 

 The Dinner by Herman Koch

This was a book group choice and I found it very weird. The whole novel takes place during a meal and what you think about the characters at the beginning are not what you think about them by the end! While I found the storyline interesting, it’s quite slow in places and there were times when I was willing the story on. The main event that the diners are there to discuss is quite horrific, but, sadly, you can see how something like that might happen in this day and age. What should happen next? That’s what the diners are there to decide. I found that by the end of the book, I didn’t really care much about any of them! They are all quite unpleasant in their own way.

 

The Good Girl by Fiona Neill

I chose this book for book group. It was recommended to me by Phil’s mum. I struggled to find anything remotely redeeming about any of the characters until quite a way into the book. By then, I really wanted to find out how everything would unfold. Pretty much everyone in the family has an issue or a back story and how they all relate to each other and interlink is quite something. The novel makes a very interesting point on the impact of social media, the internet and how we can all be defined by our online profiles, which is very true. The Good Girl can make for uncomfortable reading at times, but it’s still well worth a go.

That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson

I am fast becoming a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson. She tackles different issues in such an intelligent and delicate way that keeps you wanting more. This novel is no different. It draws you in straight away, wondering what has happened to Smitty, why she’s moved to Brighton and how she’s going to cope with her mum in tow. What follows is an unbelievable and amazing story of lies, deceit and family. There’s quite a few twists, which I did not see coming at all, always good I think, when an author keeps you guessing. You want everything to turn out well for Smitty. With everything she’s been through, you really want her to have a happy ending. A definite must read, perfect for curling up with on a damp and grey afternoon.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

This was a book group choice, but I had already seen people talking about it on Twitter, mainly because the author had been based at Oxford Police Station. I thought the book was a real page turner. There are a few twists, some obvious, some not so much, but they all make for a good read. I thought the first half of the book was slightly better than the second half, mainly because I was able to predict a few things in the second half, where as I wasn’t in the first half of the novel. Either way, it’s still worth a read and I’d definitely read more books by Clare Mackintosh in the future.

Love in a Torn Land by Jean Sasson

This novel was a real eye opener. I thought I knew a fair bit about what life was under Saddam Hussein’s rule and the fact that he was cruel dictator with horrendous human rights abuses. Love in a Torn Land opened my eyes a lot to how horrific it was, not just for people living in Iraq, but also for those who considered to be enemies of Iraq. It’s such an inspirational true story and I would definitely recommend it.

 

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I couldn’t put this down. I was initially intrigued to see if the main protagonist could get their life together, then I was keen to see whether she had been involved in the disappearance of Megan/Jess. I thought the memory loss due to black outs was a brilliant way of keeping us guessing as to what had happened on the night Megan disappeared. Rachel is definitely one of those characters who you’re rooting for, in the hope that things turn out alright in the end. Every wrong choice she made had me almost shouting at her, as they always seemed to make her situation worse. This is an excellent novel if you like thrillers. Perfect for a holiday too if you’re heading off on a jet plane in the next few weeks!

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

This novel is one of those where part of the chapter looks at the present and another part of the chapter looks at the past. I’m not always a fan of that, as I often want to spend more time in one over the other. This was true of this book for me. I wasn’t overly interested in the past or what had happened to her sister. I was only really interested in the present, mainly because I have a family history of dementia and remember my Nana suffering from it as if it was yesterday. I thought that it was dealt with care and consideration for all parties involved. It gives clear insight into what it’s like for sufferers of dementia, the frustration and confusion they feel, as well as what it’s like to love someone who has the disease. This is a truly lovely, heart warming and heart breaking novel.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I really, really struggled with this book. I didn’t really care about any of the characters for most of the book. It was only until the last few chapters, when everything has come to ahead that I wanted a good outcome for everyone. (Spoiler alert – that doesn’t happen!) This book also divided us at book group, with some of us giving up early on. Those of us who persevered felt like we’d achieved something great! It’s not an easy read, which doesn’t help. I found I was only reading a page or two at a time, as it’s quite wordy. I didn’t find any of the characters endearing at all, with the only exception being the dog. I also didn’t feel like much was resolved at the end of the novel, which is really annoying.

The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore

A very kind soul on Twitter send this to me and it’s taken me ages to finally get round to reading it. I didn’t really think it was my kind of thing, but it had me gripped. It was a great story, very gentle and a million miles away from my usual crime/thriller novels. It had a good mixture of the both stories that it tries to tell, plus it’s about an amazing garden, which I am completely envious of (never mind the French gardener!) It was an easy read and would be perfect for a rainy weekend or when lying by the pool this summer.

We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This was a book group choice and it turned out to be quite a marmite choice. While I found the animal aspect very interesting, I didn’t really care for any of the human characters. I had known about some of the forms of animal experimentation that are included in the novel, but I still found it quite challenging to read.  Most of the main characters are annoying, self involved and completely unaware, it’s still an interesting read.

 

The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson

This novel was given to me by my OH’s mum. It’s been sitting on my pile of ‘to read’ books for ages, but I’ve been really slow reading my book group books that I’m a little behind. One night, I didn’t have anything else to read and picked this up. I am glad I did because it’s an excellent novel. I’ve not read anything by Koomson before, but I will now. This novel had me gripped from the beginning and wanting to go to bed just so I could read more of it! I took it with me when I gave blood recently and the nurse commented on it, saying she’d not read that one yet, but she’d read all the others and loved them! Another great page turner!

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

This was another Book Group choice and it was very successful. While it took me quite a while to get through it, I loved every minute I spent reading it. It’s an excellent story, superbly written and it had me trying to work out whodunnit at every turn. Crime novels are my favourite genre, next to a good thriller and this had an element of both. The main protagonist, Cormoran Strike, has so many different elements to his character that you keep reading to find out more about him as much as you do to find out who murdered the famous and complex model. Definitely worth curling up on a winters afternoon on the sofa for.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I’ve been wanting to read this novel for a while now, so was really pleased when of the ladies at Book Group chose it for us. I’ve only read one of Kate Atkinson before but I remember really enjoying it. Life after Life didn’t disappoint either. It’s an incredible story, or stories, I should say, as it’s about one character who is reincarnated into the same life, again and again. For me, it’s a bit like Reincarnation/Sliding Doors. You know, what if I went left instead of right down the road. Who knows what could happen! And that’s why this was so great – it showed so many different possibilities from even the simplest of choices. I would definitely recommend this novel, but be warned, it’s a chunky ol’ book! It had to renew it at the library three times! I didn’t finish it in time for book group, but I persevered and I’m glad I did.

The Island by Victoria Hislop

I’d heard lots of people talking about this book but hadn’t thought much about it. However, when we went on holiday to Cornwall, there was a copy of the book in the cottage so thought I’d give it a go. I was gripped straight away. It’s such a beautiful tale of sadness and loss and just when you think there can’t be anymore, yep, there’s more sadness and loss. I cried a number of times reading this and while I didn’t finish it on holiday, I’ve tracked down another copy and finished it this week, reminding me of our lovely holiday in Cadgwith. Perfect for a summer read.

Orange Is the New Black: My Time in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

Like a lot of people, I binge watched series one of Orange is the New Black (or OITNB) and loved it. I couldn’t wait for series two to come around so thought I’d read the story of Piper Kerman and her time in a women’s prison that inspired the hit show. While it differs from the show, especially the timeline, it’s an incredible insight into the US prison system. Much like the prison system in the UK, it’s failing in quite a dramatic style, something that Piper is incredibly vocal about on Twitter. There’s a much stronger bond between the inmates in the book, which is highlights the strength of the women involved. Well worth a read, whether you’ve seen the show or not.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

I struggled to get into this one a bit, another Book Group choice, and even though I didn’t finish it in time for book group, I have finished it since. It’s not easy reading, as it again deals with mental illness and was quite interesting to read it after reading both The Rosie Project and The Other Side of You. Once I was a few chapters in, I was completely hooked and gripped by the story of Matt and how he and his family deal with the death of his brother, Simon. I welled up towards the end of the story, as his courage is admirable. A fantastic book.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This was a Tuesday Treat recommendation. That shows how much I liked this book and it will quite possibly be my choice at Book Group when it’s my turn, unless I read something better. Highly unlikely! The story is a little bit fantasy, with a pinch of family drama and a touch of childhood reminiscing. Plus, it’s not too long, which was quite refreshing, especially as I seemed to have three other books on the go! This one, however, got all my attention and I found I kept sneaking off to read a page or two at any given opportunity. You won’t be disappointed if you read this.

Looking Good Dead by Peter James

If you’re a bit squeamish, don’t read this book. If it was a TV series, it would most definitely be on after the watershed (does that still exist?!) Following on from Dead Simple, James brings more gruesome horrors in Brighton. What I love about the way that James writes about Roy Grace, the detective, is that not only is he constantly dealing with his own personal tragedy, but he’s also trying to move on and live a decent life while solving some of the most horrific crimes. Again, a real page turner from James. Brilliant!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This was a Book Group book and I was a little bit aware of it, from people talking about it on Twitter. I have to say, I was bitterly disappointed with it. To all intents and purposes, it was a romance novel, or that’s how it seemed to me. I loathe romance novels. While the main character is interesting, he’s unique characteristics seem slightly over egged, and the ending is just a bit too Disney for me.  I was in the minority at Book Group, so it’s a bit of a controversial one. Read at your peril!

Dead Simple by Peter James

I downloaded this on to my OH’s Kindle after reading a recommendation from someone on Instagram (I forget who, but thank you if it was you!) I can honestly say I’ve found my new favourite author. This is the epitome of a page turner – the kind of book that keeps you reading way after you know you should’ve put your light out. As being buried alive is one my all time biggest fears, this had my gripped. And it had me downloading the second in the series. A must read!

The Other Side of You by Sally Vickers

This was a Book Group book, and while I found it heavy going to begin with, I wanted to finish it to see how everything turned out. Now, it’s not an easy going read, as it deals with mental illness from the perspective of a psychiatrist. But it is interesting too, as it deals with different relationships and why some people continue to stay in a situation where they’re not happy. Are they weak? Is it easier? Do they fear the fallout of those who might be hurt? Who knows. I have to admit, I enjoyed this, once I got into it, even if the main characters are frustrating at times.

The Light Between Oceans by M L Steadman

This is my choice for bookgroup this month. I can’t remember where the recommendation came from, but it was on my list of books to read so I picked it, mainly because it was available at the library. It was a bit slow to start with and I do feel that there was a bit of ‘over writing’ or lots of sections which didn’t need to be there. However, after a certain point, I found I couldn’t put it down and have had a few late nights just because I couldn’t believe what I was reading and wanted to find out how it was all going to play out. Whoever mentioned this on Twitter or recommended it to me, thank you! A fab book!

Restless by William Boyd

This is a really interesting book but for some reason it took me ages to read. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I did, very much, but I had to concentrate it! Not always easy at bedtime! It’s another one of those books which changes perspective with each chapter, which I quite like. And it’s kind of like Spooks, just set in the Second World War. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I definitely prefered the chapters which focused on the spies, as I found the modern day characters a bit wet. The life of the spies seemed much more exciting. But definitely worth reading if you haven’t already.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

This was one of our book group books and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As we’d recently read The Great Gatsby, I had imagined this would be similar, but it isn’t at all. It’s a really interesting read, with characters that have very difficult relationships. The story is full of twists & turns that keep the story interesting & kept me glued to it while on holiday.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

I decided to read Jamaica Inn after our holiday in Cornwall, as we passed it on the road down to Cadgwith. My OH had bought this beautiful edition of the novel a few months ago too. The story is really interesting, especially as one of the restaurants we ate in had tunnels down to the beach for smugglers to use. There’s a reason this book is a classic – it’s really well written & a great story.  A must read if you haven’t already!

Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

As soon as I picked this up from the library, I knew that I would enjoy it. It’s my kind of book because for starters, it’s quite a meaty topic, but its dealt with in a really sensitive and intelligent way. Plus I really liked the way it was written, with flashbacks every other chapter. The book tells two very difficult stories an a really interesting way. I would heartily recommend this book. Couldn’t put it down.

 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Despite the slow start and unusual narration, once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. It has a great twist, that you don’t see coming and you don’t know who to believe. Towards the end, you don’t know who to feel more sorry for – Him or her! The book tells a great story about relationships, which is dealt with really well. And from the outset everything looks great, but you never know what goes on behind closed doors, which is so true! An excellent read – Definitely worth adding to your list if you haven’t read it already!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I really enjoy stories about vampires & the supernatural. It’s the only part of the Fantasy genre that I’ll read. While I really enjoyed the story, this book is far too long. The narrator waffles & waffles needlessly. If there’s a long winded way to say something, she will. I was so disappointed & it’s put me off reading the rest of the trilogy. It’s such a shame too, as you don’t really get much of a resolution at the end of the first novel. It’s set in Oxford, which is cool too, as I used to live there and it’s a really good story. Just too longwinded for my tastes.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

This is a great easy read. All about vampires, werewolves and preternaturals (the soulless), the story takes you through Victorian London and the relationship between the main character, Alexia, who is soulless, and Lord Maccon, Alpha Werewolf. It’s really enjoyable story, easy on the mind and a real page turner. It didn’t take me long to read and I’m not a particularly fast reader! I’d definitely read more Gail Carriger’s work. I love the Victorian era and always enjoy a good vampire/werewolf tale!

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I really struggled with this book. I felt uncomfortable about what was happening to the main character, Kambili. It was difficult reading, knowing that her father was behaving in a way he thought was appropriate, even though it so isn’t! It was interesting to see the differences between the two main families and the impact that religion had on everyone.
I would recommend this book, as it’s written very well. I’m keen to read some more of her books, as she has a beautiful style of writing.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

I really liked this book. It was great reading about magic in a grown up setting. The twists and turns were really unexpected and it’s a great & imaginative story. There were a few bits that I found quite difficult, mainly the rivers and how they could be people. That was a stretch of my imagination too far! Well worth a read though.
This book is the first in the trilogy but it can be read as a stand alone book if you wish.

In the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

This book is not for the faint hearted. It is a well written book that explores the impact of domestic violence. The main character, Catherine, is struggling with PST and OCD. Not only that, she’s convinced her ex is coming after. This is a very well written account of one woman and her struggle to overcome her past and not let it interfere with her present or her future.A very moving and thoughtful book.

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