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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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This is an epistolary novel, told by the main character Balram (who calls himself the White Tiger) to the prime minister of China, who is coming to India for a visit. Balram was born in an extremely poor part of India and was destined to live a life of labour or servitude, but as we find out at the beginning of the story he is a successful business. We also find out right at the beginning that he also murdered his killed his former master Ashok. The book tells Balram’s story and explains why he did what he did.

I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I definitely enjoyed it, in that it was written well and I liked it’s very descriptive chronicle of life in India. (Note: this book does not romanticise India in ANY way, shape or form). It was often witty, and the writing flowed well. I found it an undemanding read that kept me interested – but for all that, I never felt fully engaged with the characters and always felt a slight detachment from Balram.

Nonetheless if this is a genre you like, I would recommend this book and if it is different kind of novel to what you would normally choose, you might like this change of scene.

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I listened to this audiobook, narrated by the author, mainly while out running – maybe I was hoping it would provide inspiration!

In this memoir of sorts, Rich Roll describes how on the eve of his 40th birthday, he realised that he needed to change his health drastically – overweight,  unfit and scared of dying early, Rich transformed himself into an ultra fit, vegan triathlete and this book tells how it did it.

I should have enjoyed this – it had all the hallmarks of a book I would love. I am fascinated by people who find the mental and physical strength to push their body and achieve things way beyond the capability of most of us mere mortals. And running five Ultra-triathlons in less than a week is way beyond impressive by any standard you care to use. But…I never really enjoyed this book.

Having overcome alcohol addiction and some years later deciding to turn his health around, it is difficult not to be impressed by what Rich Roll has done. But for me, there was too much whining – things didn’t always go well for Rich, but that applies to everyone – and he had a distinct ‘why me’ tone to his voice (both literally and on the page). And there was too much spirituality attached to fairly mundane events. For example, in Hawaii Rich is confronted by an angry homeowner, annoyed to find Rich trespassing on his property (to clarify – Rich was not actually trespassing; he thought he had found a quiet place to relieve himself during an Ultraman race). But instead of seeing this as something that could happen to anyone anywhere, Rich decides that this is karma for not respecting the island. And when approached by an alcoholic woman who wants to party, of course he decides that this woman must be some kind of angel sent to show him the kind of life he could have wound up living.

Also, while fully respect the author’s vegan lifestyle choice, I disliked his dismissive attitude to anyone who doesn’t share the same values.

The whole thing just came across as a big ego-trip, and honestly I was pretty pleased to finish it. Oh well, onto the next one…

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Still Alice is the heartbreaking tale of Alice Howland, a Harvard professor with a loving husband and three children, who is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimers Disease at the age of (almost) 50. Although told in the third person, the story is told from Alice’s point of view and it really is heartrending as we witness her memories and cognitive functions degenerate further and further. Her husband, children and colleagues also have to come to terms with losing the woman they love, even though she is still there physically.

Earlier this year, my beautiful, outgoing and vibrant mother-in-law passed away at the age of 67 years, after living for several years with Alzheimers, so this book was in many ways hard to read. I saw first hand what it was like to see someone change from a loving and capable adult into the shell of who they once were, not recognising her own children and displaying vicious behaviour which would have once horrified her. Certainly I recognised from first hand experience certain behaviours described in the book, and it is clear that the author very seriously researched the disease and the effects it can have.

I felt that the writing itself flowed very well, and it was a compelling and absorbing book, difficult as the subject matter is. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has a loved one living with Alzheimers as I think it would give an understanding of what their family member or friend is going through.

I liked that although Alice was losing parts of herself bit-by-bit, she still had a distinctive personality and was still depicted as a fully fleshed out character – that she was, as the title conveys, still Alice.

As sad as this book was, I loved it. It was beautifully written and I would urge others to read it. I will definitely be looking out for more books by Lisa Genova.

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This was an audiobook narrated by Kate Rawson. The three main characters are Maddie, Jess and Lauren, who meet when they all join the local Fatbusters club in an effort to lose weight. They all have different reasons for being there, but they become firm friends and support each other not only through their weight-loss journey but also through other tough times.

Make no mistake, although this book is definitely chick-lit and the cover suggests that it might be a light and fluffy read, the story covers such subjects as bereavement and domestic violence. It is an easy read in that the writing flows so well and the story moves along at a good pace, but it certainly has depth as well.

Lucy Diamond writes female friendships extremely well, and managed to bring together three very different but all very likeable women, as well as an interesting ‘supporting cast’. Maddie was my favourite character but I also really liked Jess and Lauren and found myself rooting for all three.

This is the second book I have read (listened to) by Lucy Diamond and I have enjoyed both of them. I look forward to trying more of her novels.

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In this memoir, Helen Croydon chronicles her journey from party girl to Team GB triathlete. When she realises that her typical social activities of parties, alcohol and shopping are not giving her fulfilment, Helen joins a running club in an attempt to find a new hobby and new friendships. She also ends up finding a love of endurance sport, and specifically triathlons – and an eventual goal of qualifying as a member of Team GB.

As a runner who loves competing in half marathons and marathons (I say “loves competing;” in truth I mean I love it after I’ve done it), I was looking forward to reading this book and the first half of it definitely delivered. I myself have been toying with the idea of joining a running club, having always preferred to run solo, and so I enjoyed reading about her experiences in that regard. However, the second half of the book was taken up a lot by her experiences of improving her cycling – I have zero interest in cycling so found this part less engaging. The title of the book led me to believe that it would feature the running quite heavily, although I may have been a bit naive in that respect.

What I did like was that the author openly talked about her struggles with training, her sadness at finding it harder to create lasting friendships than she had expected or hoped, and the sheer exhilaration at discovering what you are capable of if you push yourself.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and would recommend to people with an interest in endurance sport, and especially anyone with an interest in triathlon.

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A year after her husband Zach’s death in a horrific road crash, Lizzie Carter finally feels able to visit the accident site and leave flowers for him. However when she gets there she sees that someone else has left flowers for him with the name ‘Xenia’ in a note, and she wonders if he had another woman in his life. As Lizzie digs deeper into Zach’s past to try and find out who Xenia is, she discovers all sorts of things which make her question whether she ever really knew him at all.

Interspersed with the chapters narrated by Lizzie in the present day, are chapters from Zach’s diary which start from around the time he and Lizzie met. It is clear from both narratives that Zach has anger issues, and is a sociopath. Lizzie starts to question whether or not he is even dead, or whether he has faked his own death and is now stalking her.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was narrated by Penelope Rawlins (Lizzie) and Daniel Weyman (Zach). I thought they both did a good job. Unfortunately however, I did not really enjoy the book. I had previously read Lie With Me by the same author, and enjoyed it, despite it being far-fetched. Based on that, I thought Remember Me This Way would be a good book to pass a few hours while I was out running, but I actually almost gave up on it. The main issue was that there were no redeeming characters at all, except for Lizzie’s dog Howard! I have no issue with unpleasant characters but these were just frustrating. Lizzie herself was a wet blanket who was seemingly incapable of seeing what was staring her in the face and who got walked over not just by her husband, but also by her unbearably selfish sister. The character of Onnie – the teenage daughter of an old friend of Zach – was annoying beyond belief, and I just wanted to shake them all into sense.

I didn’t give up on it and in the end it did keep my fairly occupied, but after it had picked up a bit in the second half, the actual ending turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. I think I am bit fed up of the glut of books about people who turn out not to be who their nearest and dearest thought they were. How many people in recent books have married people with dark secrets in their past? I sometimes feel as though I am reading the same story over and over again, so maybe I need a break from these kinds of stories for a while.

Unfortunately, and based on this book, I would probably not be interested in reading/listening to anything else by this author.

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I’ve never read anything by Jane Fallon before, but there must be something about her book covers that appeals because I have no less than three of her books on my shelves! I’m not a big fan of chick-lit, because it’s generally utterly predictable and fairly bland, but I had a feeling this would have a bit more bite to it, and I was right.

Tamsin and Michelle have been best friends forever, and would do anything for each other. So when Tamsin gets a hint that Michelle’s husband Patrick is cheating, she asks her good friend and work assistant Bea to proposition him in  a ‘honey trap’ situation so that she can catch Patrick out. However – and as we discover from the very first page – things don’t go to plan.

The first third of the book is narrated purely from Tamsin’s point of view, and if I’m honest, it took me a while to get into and I was starting to feel a bit blah about the whole thing. Then the narration starts to switch between Tamsin and Bea, and it picked up a lot. Considerably in fact, to the point where I found myself waiting for when I could pick the book up again.

Some parts are completely predictable and if I’m honest, some the characters are pretty stereotypical – Patrick is a bit of a pantomime villain, while Michelle is almost sickeningly sweet. I found it difficult initially to warm to Tamsin, but she grew on me throughout the book. There is a lot of humour though, and ultimately a lot of heart in this book. It’s a fairly undemanding read, and the ending did surprise me, but in a good way.

Overall I’m glad I stuck with it and I am looking forward to reading more  by Jane Fallon.

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