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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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Rachel and Jack met just a few months ago, but fell head over heels in love almost immediately, and are now expecting a baby. Then Rachel spots an email on Jack’s iPad, which causes her to question their relationship and slams home the fact that there is so much that they don’t know about each other and their past lives. She suspects that there is something bad in his history and goes on a hunt for the truth

As Rachel’s interest in the secret in Jack’s past turns to obsession, it becomes clear that she has a secret of her own, and both secrets could cause their fledgling relationship to crumble.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a dual storyline – the present day, and a year ago. In actual fact, not a lot actually happens in the present day storyline, which is largely concerned with Rachel’s search for the truth about Jack, and the toll it takes on their lives, while she also tries to come to terms with her own guilt about her history. For the reader, both Rachel’s history and Jack’s history are drip-fed throughout the book. If I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about the ending (no spoilers here), but I think it was probably the most realistic ending for the storyline that preceded it.

Overall, I think this was a well written book – it certainly kept me hooked throughout – and I would definitely be interested in reading more by this author.

 

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This book revolves around Greg and Zoe Milton, a once-gorgeous couple who are upset with the way they have let their weight creep up through the years, to the point where they are both severely overweight. (Bear with me here, this is NOT a fat-shaming book, and if it were, I wouldn’t be giving it the time of day!) When they enter a radio competition to lose weight – named Fat Chance – they embark on all manner of diets and fitness regimes in their attempts to shift the pounds. This book is their diaries, with each chapter a new diary entry, and the narration alternates between Zoe and Greg.

There’s no doubt that there was a lot of humour in this story, and also a lot of poignancy – both diaries touch upon the fact that even though they are heavier than they used to be, they are still the same people, but yes – society does treat big people differently. Cruelly sometimes, thoughtlessly often, and sometimes downright patronisingly. Overall though, this is a comedy, and the descriptions of Nick’s unfortunate exercise attempts (wait until you get to the treadmill scene!!) and Zoe’s increasingly bizarre diets (I’d never attempt the cabbage soup diet in the first place, but if I had ever been contemplating it, this book would have put me right off!) are indeed funny.

Where I felt let down, was in the one area that wouldn’t have mattered if I had actually read the physical book of this, rather than listened to an audiobook version. The narration didn’t quite click for me. Napoleon Ryan was fine as Nick, but Heather Wilds as Zoe seemed to constantly place emphasis on odd words, and would randomly pause in the middle of a sentence. I did unfortunately find this somewhat off-putting and I think that some of the humour got lost in narration.

Overall though, it’s an enjoyable book and I would probably listen to more by Nick Spalding (or physically pick up one of his books).

 

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In this enjoyable memoir, journalist Phil Hewitt tells how he took on the challenge of running a marathon for charity, and ended up falling in love with marathon running – at the time of writing the book in 2012, he had run 25 marathons, and this book charts his progress (or lack of) in some of his more memorable ones.

Each chapter concentrates mainly on one marathon, and just as in actual life, some days are better than others. Phil Hewitt has run marathons in some amazing cities – London (several times, including his first ever marathon), Dublin, Berlin, Paris, New York, Amsterdam and Rome, to name just a few. In an engaging and chatty style, he discusses the highs and lows of each of these, and also talks about friendships he crafted along the way, as well as lessons he learned about himself and life in general.

As a runner myself, I found his obsession with finishing times entirely understandable – I also totally identified with the way he used little mind games to get himself round the course when the going got tough. I laughed along with him, and felt his pain, and also completely understood why someone would want to put themselves through such a gruelling challenge when, lets face it, there is absolutely no real reason to do so!

I definitely recommend this book, but especially to running enthusiasts.

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Margaret Atwood specialises in what she calls speculative fiction (and what most of us call dystopian fiction). In this book, – the first in a trilogy – she introduces us to Snowman, a man who has survived the apocalypse and is now living in a tree with a few meagre possessions. He is somehow responsible for the children of Crake (I don’t want to explain too much about this as it will give away vital plot points), who in turn do their best to look after him. Stripped down to it’s bare bones, there is not much to the plot – Snowman decides to walk to somewhere where he knows there should be food and weaponry available to him, and then comes back again. However, in between the chapters telling the (future) present, are chapters where the story of what exactly happened to Earth is explained.

Atwood explains the role of Snowman’s childhood friend Crake, and Oryx, the woman they both loved. Their teenage pre-apocalyptic world is one of strange animal hybrids, violence and child porn as everyday entertainment, and communities divided into gated compounds, separate from the dangerous ‘pleeblands’ where everyone else lives.

I think Margaret Atwood is a genius, I really do and I have thoroughly enjoyed other books by her. But somehow this one took me a long time to get into. The story is fine – yes, not much happens, but it still has enough to keep it interesting. But I couldn’t help a small sense of relief when I reached the end, and I think it may be because I couldn’t really identify with – or even much like – any of the characters. Snowman is about the most sympathetic, as you would expect given that the story largely focuses on his point of view. Crake was a hugely intelligent, but revolting example of a human being, and Oryx was cold, cruel in her own way and too far removed from the reader for me to care much about her.

I do have the other two books in the series and will probably read them at some point, but for now I am looking forward to taking a bit of a break from Snowman’s story.

 

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This is the fourth book in the Poirot series, and definitely my favourite so far. It has been heralded as one of Agatha Christie’s finest and anyone who reads it will surely be able to see why. A man is murdered and there are several suspects – Poirot is called in to help the police investigation and naturally uncovers the truth. Unlike the previous books which were narrated by his good friend Colonel Hastings, this one is narrated by Doctor Shepherd, who finds Poirot is his new neighbour.

I’m not going to reveal any spoilers whatsoever, but the ending is ingenious and I was completely fooled. I adore Poirot, exasperating though he is! I also loved Dr Shepherd’s nosy sister Caroline, who was a most comedic character. Apart from the final revelation, one of my favourite chapters was where four of the characters have a game of Man-Jongg – here Agatha Christie’s sharp wit and observation of human behaviour really came through!

I thoroughly recommend this book, especially to fans of a good murder mystery!

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Jenny Kramer is the subject of a brutal rape and in the immediate aftermath her parents make the decision to give her a controversial treatment which causes her to forget the attack. However, the drug does not wipe out the knowledge of the attack or the trauma and fear that the attack caused, and eventually Jenny has to decide whether it would be better to regain her memories so that she can begin to cope with what happened. There is also the question of bringing the perpetrator to justice – without her memories, finding the guilty party is nigh on impossible – and in a small town, nobody wants to believe that one of their own could do this to someone.

I had high expectations for this book – I think it had an interesting premise with a moral dilemma at it’s core…is it ever ethical to remove someone’s memories, even if done with the best intentions? However, I have to admit that while the book held my attention and kept me reading, I was somewhat disappointed. This was largely due to the narrator. The story was told by Dr Alan Forrester, who became Jenny’s therapist – and also therapist to her parents who were struggling with holding their family together. Unfortunately Dr Forrester was condescending and pompous in the extreme; I have no idea if it was the author’s intention to make him so dislikable but if so, it certainly worked. When talking about his wife for example, Dr Forrester makes no bones about stating that he is intellectually superior to her but he loves her anyway. Indeed, he clearly considers it extremely generous of him when he states that he has encouraged her to study for a Masters degree, so that they might be able to enjoy more intellectual discussion!

The other problem for me was that of all the characters in the book, the one who I felt I never got to know at all was Jenny. The narrator ended up telling his own story far more than that of Jenny and it seems a shame that after she was violated in such a terrible manner, the author did not then do her the justice of at least making her into a fully rounded out character.

On the positive side, the revelation of who had committed the violent crime genuinely surprised me, and I thought that aspect of the story was well plotted, although the plot line relied somewhat on coincidence and things that did not strike me as very feasible. I can’t say that it didn’t have any sort of flow to it – the writing was well paced although sometimes the timeline seemed a little confused – Dr Forrester is talking about the events in the book from some time in the future but how far in the future is not really clear.

Overall, this book was not a terrible read for me, but did not live up to the expectations that I initially had for it. If you choose to read it be aware that the rape and another similar event are both described in quite graphic detail.

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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book at Christmas time, and having previously enjoyed ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe, I was really happy to get my hands on this. Essentially it is a collection of observations, memories and a few short stories all – obviously – based around a Christmas theme.

Stibbe discusses such things as how to cook a turkey without it being dry (she has chops instead!), the art of Christmas gift giving, spending Christmas with your parents despite being well into adulthood and more. Just as in Love, Nina, she is an engaging and amusing narrator and provided lots of smiles and giggles while I was reading this.

It’s lighthearted and undemanding – I read it over two days but only because I was stretching it out – and because those two days were Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we had places to be – I would think that it would be an easy book to polish off in one sitting.

I will be keeping this book and revisiting it at future Christmas times. I definitely recommend it.

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