Friday, August 14, 2020

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig Book Review

The Mignight Library by Matt Haig book cover
 Nora Seed has hit rock bottom. In the course of a day, her cat is found dead, she loses her job in a music shop, the private piano lessons she teaches are cancelled and her next door neighbour no longer needs her help. Her best friend doesn't reply to her messages, she's still getting over cancelling her wedding (not helped by her ex still trying to contact her) and her brother no longer talks to her or sees her. She has nothing left to live for, no one who will miss her when she's gone and feels like she'd be better off dead. She decides to take her life and wakes up in this mysterious library, between life and death and is faced with the regrets she has about all the different decisions she had in life. She gets a chance to explore these decisions and live the life had she taken a different decision. Will she find a life she prefers or will she decide that she still wants to die?

The premise of this book is very interesting to me, I love the idea of how the slightest decision in life can drastically alter your life. Exploring all the different Noras and their lives was cool and it was fun to see the different versions Haig came up with. This element of the book kinda reminds me of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson but instead of the character reliving life from the beginning over and over, Nora gets to chose the different decisions at key parts of her life which is cool.

Haig's own experiences with mental health really do help the story line and how Nora is feeling, it felt authentic and believable. It's not super heavy though, there are some serious topics but under Haig's guidance the overall tone is positive and hopeful. It's a fun, thought provoking if slightly predictable read. And I really got a kick out of the music shop Nora worked in being called String Theory, nerdy and punny from a music and multiverse point of view!  If you want to see some spoilers as part of my review, you can check out my Goodreads review where I have embedded in my review and hidden, marked as spoilers.

Friday, July 31, 2020

In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk Book Review

After Ros touches back down in the UK after 3 years in US, she’s living in an exact replica of her bedroom in her parents’ shed, in need of a job and reconnecting with friends. She sends out a message to all the contacts in her old mobile phone and receives one back from an ex. Not just an ex but THE ex, the one that got away. As she revisits this romance and readjusts to her friends all having new lives, Ros is about to discover if her 20s really was all that or if things are about to get better.

I really enjoyed this book, Ros is flawed but likeable, you’ll laugh and cringe at her while cheering her on. Kelk does a great job at portraying that awkward stage in your early 30s where some of your friends are moving on and settling down, while some are single, free and want to continue on their 20s carefree lifestyle. There is romance but I think the heart of the story is the friendships and the journey Ros goes through personally. That it’s very easy to miss the past when you’ve got rose tinted glasses on! Another smash from Lindsey. I read this in May during lockdown and it was exactly what I was looking for then in a book. And I really want to go to a roller disco now!

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Confession by Jessie Burton Book Review

Three women. Elise Morceau, her daughter Rose Simmons and the link between them, author Constance Holden.

Elise and Connie meet in the 80s and instantly form a deep relationship together. Rose has been raised by her father, knowing nothing about her mother Elise who abandoned her as a baby. Until one day in her mid 30s her father gives her some books by Constance and tells Rose that she knew her mother and was the last person to see her. The story is told in a duel narrative, we follow Elise and Connie in the 80s when they move to LA as one of Connie's books in made into a movie, as well as present day when Rose pretends to be Laura Brown and takes a job as Connie's assistant in a bid find out more about her mother.

I loved Burton's writing, as I said before with The Muse it just feels so effortless, the descriptions never feel forced or contrived. Every word seems perfectly picked. I had no idea where this book was going as I read it, which just made it even more exciting to read. The book is so much about love, identity and longing, I loved seeing the parallels between Elise's life and Rose's life, from jobs, to relationships, how similarly they dealt with some issues and how different they were with other ones. Everything weaved together lovely, though I'd expect nothing less from Burton! Utterly compelling

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Confessions of a Book Seller by Shaun Bythell Book Review

Follow up to The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop in Wigstown, the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland. We see first hand to the ups and downs of being a second hand bookseller, with a special light on the affect a certain online retailer has on small businesses. I love how blunt and wry Shaun is when it comes to customers and their questions and requests. Having worked briefly in a bookshop myself, you'd think I'd be well versed on some people's stupidity ('I'm looking for a book, can't remember the name but it has a blue cover') but reading this I couldn't believe the added cheekiness that comes with selling in a second hand bookshop! Haggling on already fair prices, spending hours on in shop without buying anything, swapping price tags on books.

The book is a diary that has an entry of some sorts for every day of the year, including the number of customers and the till taking at the end of the day. Not every day is a thrilling adventure, we see the every day mundane and regular chores (buying and listing stock, cleaning the shop, posting the book club books) as well glance behind the scenes at the Wigstown Festival (I particularly liked the story of the picture that Shaun bought years before at auction).

The stars of the book however are the people. We see the return of part time staff Nicky and Flo, with the new addition of the Italian woman that agrees to come and work for bed and board, nicknamed Granny as well as Shaun of course and Captain the cat. The book is funny but I found it tinged with sadness at times, which just added to the human element of the story and highlighting the fact there's people behind small businesses. Like most people who read and enjoy this book, I hope to one day visit the shop in person.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes Book Review

Marian's latest book Grown Ups is a big family affair, involving the 3 Casey brothers Johnny, Ed and Liam, their wives Jessie, Cara and Nell and an assortment of children and how their lives connect and the secrets they share. We start at a family get together for Johnny, a few hours after Cara has suffered from a concussion, which causes her to start blurting out a bunch of secrets and being very blunt. This has a disastrous effect and we go back in time several months and work through everything that leads to the get together. We see the characters and their sometimes complicated relationships, their interactions and how these secrets grow and build.

Marian is so skilled at writing characters and family dynamics. It's one of my favourite things about her writing. Cara's storyline made me uncomfortable to read at times but I think it's because Marian is just superb at highlighting women's issues and really making the character's voice seem so authentic (something I think really applied well in Rachel's Holiday and The Mystery of Mercy Close). There was something about the book that I didn't connect to as well as those other books I mentioned and I think it's possibly because there's so many characters and some many events. I didn't find it confusing to follow but I felt with all the events and interactions, it slowed the pace a bit. I think if one of the events or story lines was dropped it might have felt a bit tighter. The book is steeped in Marian's signature wit, I especially liked some of the interactions of the younger children. Overall I did enjoy it and the idea and structure of the plot but it wouldn't be one of my favourites by Marian

Monday, May 11, 2020

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane Book Review

Laurie's life comes crashing down when Dan, her boyfriend of 18 years, breaks up with her out of the blue. He says he doesn't want to get married or have kids and needs to find him. Getting over your ex is hard enough, though Laurie has to see him every day at the law company they work at. She's just about holding it together and getting over the pain when she's dealt two more blows: he has a new girlfriend. Who is pregnant. When she gets stuck in the lift with gorgeous womaniser Jamie and he proposes that they fake being an item, Laurie is hesitant. But the chance to make Dan jealous is too much to give up, so she agrees. She gets the satisfaction of causing Dan some of the pain he's caused her, Jamie gets the benefit of looking like he's settled down and is a good prospect for a promotion. With rules outlined and set end date for the 'affair', nothing can surely go wrong?

I love the whole 'fake relationship turns into a real one' trope and with Mhairi writing it you're in good hands! Laurie is such a great character to follow, she's smart, funny, kind and seeing her gain her confidence back just makes you want to cheer her on! Mhairi has a way of making her characters and situations so relatable, which just makes the book so heartwarming.  I loved it, I devoured it in a day!

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Cutting Place by Jane Casey Book Review

The Cutting Place is book 9 in the series Maeve Kerrigan series. Maeve is a murder detective in London who is investigating the death and dismemberment of Paige, a young journalist who had been working on a piece about the Chiron Club, a exclusive members only club. As Maeve works to find Paige’s murderer, she soon learns of the dark and seedy world of the club and the rich and privileged men who hide many secret.

This book had me hooked! I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate and read recently, something a think a lot of us can relate to. I thought this book might coax me out of this reading slump and that I’d finish it over the next few days. Instead I finished it in one day!! The murder and detective element of the story is sublime, Jane Casey always knows how to write a good solid plot. There were moments where I was almost too afraid to turn the page, the fear and tension feel so real. One of the best things about this though is Maeve’s relationships with her colleagues, especially Josh Derwent. While you could pick this book up, and any other from the series, in any order and read as a stand alone, I seriously recommend starting from the beginning and getting to know Maeve and the other characters. One of the joys of the series is seeing them all grow and seeing the changes in Maeve’s personal life. After saying all that, I want to reread the entire series and if this lockdown continues I might just do so!
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