The Passengers by John Marrs

Just when I went to give myself a pat on the back for being completely up to date with my movie reviews, I went and realised I’m 2 books behind on book reviews. Argh! It’s a good thing, I guess, it means I’ve been able to find time to actually read recently, although with the book I’m about to talk about and the one I will be soon, it’s more the case that I sacrificed sleep in order to try and read quicker.

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The Passengers is set in Birmingham, UK (my hometown!) in the not-so-distant future where cars are fully automated. On this particular day, eight seemingly random cars are hijacked by a hacker, and live feeds of their cars and a gathering of officials are broadcast to the country. The hacker announces that in just a few hours, all 8 cars are programmed to collide at high speed, but the public can decide just 1 person to survive.

It’s a crazy premise and caught my attention straight away, I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book quicker. The build-up is slow enough to explain just how cars are operating in this future setting but it doesn’t feel long before we’re thrown into the action. To begin with, it was quite confusing suddenly being introduced to all the characters trapped in the cars, and I was frantically trying to remember their names, but the story moves in a way in which you don’t need a perfect memory.

The best thing about The Passengers is the twists and turns that the book makes. Once the characters were introduced I’d already started making my mind up on who I would pick to survive if I had to, but then it’s revealed one by one that all 8 have dark secrets that completely change the way you feel about them. With every new chapter, I couldn’t be certain what direction the story was going to go in next, which is mainly why I ended up reading it so quickly.

Its only letdown was the ending, which I felt turned a little too silly. It was twist after twist and although I’m quite happy to forgo the fairytale ending, I wasn’t satisfied with the conclusion to this story. Still – it’s a solid read and I definitely recommend it!

Another of John Marrs’ books, The One, is going to be a Netflix Series soon so I’m quite keen to check that one out!

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That Guy by Belle Brooks

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Before you judge my taste in books on that cover image, let me explain! As you might already know, all the books I’ve been reading are ones I picked from Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deal. Basically, every day there are 3 books on sale for 99p, and I’ve accumulated a bit of a backlog. I only pick books that sound interesting and have decent reviews! Well, when I looked at the reviews, loads of people said how hilarious the book was, and that’s why I picked it – for a light-hearted break from all the thriller novels.

I actually finished reading this weeks ago, but, embarrassingly, I’ve been sucked into this reality show in the UK called Love Island. It’s absolute trash, but it’s horribly addicted, and it reminded me a lot of this book – hence my review today!

So, in a nutshell, Melinda is a single gal working as a receptionist for an escort agency. She used to be a nurse, but a mistake of hers cost a life and she left the profession. She keeps bumping into this hot guy called Arlie in the most embarrassing ways – think Fifty Shades of Grey – and basically, they wind up on a reality show where they’ve been matched as soulmates and put on an island together to fall in love, or whatever.

My biggest problem with the book is that I didn’t find it anywhere near as funny as others seemed too. Melinda has a gay best friend called Chris who provides most of the jokes but he’s such a stereotype that he came across as cringey to me. If it were a movie, the jokes might translate a bit better. It’s not a dull read by any means, but it didn’t make me laugh out loud or anything like that.

Just like this show I’m watching, this is a really trashy read but it’s impossible to put down. It’s the perfect book to pick up at the airport departure lounge to read on holiday whilst catching the sun. Sadly, I read it in bed at home every night listening to the rain…

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

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If you’ve watched the Netflix series ‘You’ starring Penn Badgley and you’re desperate for more, this book is what you need! It’s the next book in the series and I assume what Season 2 of You will be all about. I almost didn’t read it so I could watch the next season without knowing anything, but I haven’t binged a show so quickly for a few years and I really did want to know what Joe did next.

If you have a quick look at reviews on Goodreads or Amazon it’s quite interesting to see a big mix of 1* and 5* reviews – it’s certainly a book that has divided the fans. I can’t comment on differences between Hidden Bodies and the first book because I haven’t read it, so I only had the show to use as a comparison.

It’s probably because of seeing the show, to be honest, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of how perfect a casting choice Penn Badgley was. I don’t think he’s well known outside of Gossip Girl and I hope this show lands him a few bigger roles. He plays a disturbed character almost scarily well!

Hidden Bodies introduces Joe’s new girlfriend, Amy, who on paper seems like a perfect match for him. She shares his love of books and hatred of social media. She doesn’t even use a normal smartphone – favouring burner phones that she regularly dumps. I guess it was a surprise to no one but Joe when Amy ran away with his most expensive books. Of course, Joe’s got some fantastic detective skills so he’s quickly able to work out that she’s running to Los Angeles, and so he starts his hunt.

I’m firmly in the group of 5* reviewers. I loved every single page of this book and only stopped reading each night when I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. It’ll be interesting to see how the show will differ, in particular with the ending. For me, the end of Hidden Bodies was a definite end to Joe’s story – but if the show has gathered a lot of attention I wonder if it’ll be left open for another season? I certainly wouldn’t put it past Netflix to do that – just look at 13 Reasons Why!

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

I’ve signed up to Amazon’s daily newsletter to let me know which Kindle books are reduced to 99p each day, and it’s become a dangerous game. To begin with, I was finding my next book just as I was finishing the one I was reading, but now I’ve got 3 bought and queued up. Whoops. Genre-wise, this next book is something fresh for me as it’s non-fiction, but it’s also about psychopaths so still very much in my comfort zone. What is it that makes us so obsessed with murderers and psychopaths?!

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Regardless, I found The Psychopath Test a fascinating read, but it wasn’t the book I thought it would be. Jon Ronson takes us on a wild journey as he learns what defines a psychopath and how, if at all, they are treatable.

It’s a story that has a certain flow to it, but meeting one person opens up a completely different perspective and so it also jumps around quite a bit. It means every chapter brings something new but it can be quite difficult to follow at times and there are a lot of names to remember.

I think what I found the most fascinating was one of the experiments in which someone (I’ve forgotten their name already, I’m the worst) sends people to different psychiatric institutions across America with a specific mental issue to report in with. None of these people suffer or have suffered from any mental health problems but after telling officials the line they were given, all were admitted. These people then had to convince the officials they were perfectly sane, but it took them weeks to be released.

When they were found out, they contacted the leader of the experiment and were furious because of the damage done to their reputation, and one demanded that more ‘fakes’ were sent and that they would suss them out. Over the coming months they reported back that (I think) 42 fakes had been identified, and the leader of the experiment admitted that they hadn’t actually sent anyone else.

In college, I studied Psychology for a year and although I failed hard in my exams and had to drop the subject, it still remains my favourite subject I’ve ever studied. There’s just something so riveting about how our minds work! I’m probably sounding like a complete oddball now so I’ll end my rambles here, but if you have an interest in the subject too I highly recommend this book!

The Rumour by Lesley Kara

After stepping out of my comfort zone slightly, for my next book of choice, I dove straight back into familiar waters with The Rumour by Lesley Kara. Joanna Critchley and her young son Alfie have recently moved to Flinstead, Joanna’s childhood home. They’re both finding a hard time settling in and making new friends so when Jo hears about a tantalising rumour she can’t help but share it with her book club, instantly gaining herself attention.

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What is the rumour? There’s a child-killer living in town. Sally McGowan was just 10 years old herself when she killed a 5-year-old boy, and she’s been in the witness protection system ever since with a new identity. The rumour spreads like wildfire among the town with a local shopkeeper targeted as the main suspect, and then Joanna herself begins receiving threatening messages.

This is one of those dangerous books that’s easy to read and so gripping you just can’t put it down. The author is very clever at giving enough clues and hints to keep you guessing and changing your mind all the time, and even when I put some thought into it and came up with a wild theory it turned out wrong.

I was about 70% through the book when I found out who Sally McGowan actually is, and although it was a fascinating part of the book, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at the fact I still had a good chunk of the book left with no more surprises to come. I was wrong though, that last part got read in one go because I had to find out how it ended.

What I love the most about mystery novels is that it’s so much harder to see the twist coming than it is in a movie, I’m always taken by surprise. I do wonder whether the more of the genre I read the more I’ll be able to deduce what’s happening, but for now, I’m going to enjoy it.

The Rumour is my favourite mystery at the moment. It was solid all the way through but it was the final sentence that really did it for me. My jaw hit the floor and I ran downstairs to tell my husband what had just happened because I just couldn’t keep it to myself!

The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin

Continuing my reading mission with the help of Amazon’s 99p daily deals, I found myself reading The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin. It’s a warm a fuzzy piece of fiction and very different to my usual go-to genre, but it sounded quite charming when I read the description and at such a bargain price I couldn’t really go wrong.

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Nora’s Grandmother has recently passed away and with her mother off traveling around the world, it’s left to her to sort through the house in Dublin and its treasure trove of belongings. Just before Nora leaves she finds out her partner has been cheating on her, so she arrives in Dublin in quite a state. In her 6 month stay, she sets up a shop to sell her grandparent’s belongings, using her artistic talent to create beautiful shop window displays. As she meets more people as they visit the shop, she learns more about her grandmother’s mysterious past.

Yes, there’s a mystery involved. I just can’t help myself, but at least it’s not a murder amongst friends that’s being written about for a change. I hope I haven’t made the book sound boring because it’s anything but. It’s a beautifully charming read and I enjoyed it from start to finish. Nora is a wonderful character who I think almost anyone could relate to or look up to, and there’s a wealth of side characters with interesting stories of their own.

In fact, that’s my only criticism of the book. There are so many characters thrown in that sometimes I had to go back and re-read a few pages to try and work out who I was reading about. Eventually, though each one is linked to either Nora herself or Nora’s family in some way, so it all makes sense eventually.

The ending does find itself at risk of being a little too melodramatic and ‘romcom-y’ but by the time I got that far I found myself so invested in the characters that I didn’t mind too much. In fact, I was actually kind of gutted when I reached the end because I wasn’t ready to leave Nora behind, I wanted to stay with her!

I definitely recommend The Memory Shop, if it’s your usual kind of read or even if it isn’t, I’m sure there’s some element here you’ll enjoy.

Memoirs of a Geisha: Book Vs Movie

Let me start by briefly explaining how I came to read Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden. I was talking about books with a work colleague – and we asked each other what our all-time favourite book is. Hers was Memoirs of a Geisha, which she said was an odd choice because she would never in a million years have picked it out of a book store herself. It was a random gift years ago from a friend of hers, and she’s since read it cover to cover many times. I didn’t give the book another thought until it was one of Amazon’s 99p Kindle Book deals of the day – but gave it a chance to see if it really could be that good.

It’s taken me 3 weeks to read, not because I haven’t had the interest. I couldn’t fill a post-it note with what I know about Geisha so there’s so much content and so many words that are unfamiliar to me, my reading pace was as slow as it’s ever been. With any other book, it would have been enough to make me give up, but I was completely absorbed in the life of this incredible character, and I was gutted when I finished it – which is what led me to watch the movie.

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Little Chiyo and her older sister are sold by their Father after their Mother falls gravely ill. Chiyo’s beautiful grey eyes land her a place at an Okiyo, a Geisha house, but her sister is much less fortunate and ends up in the prostitute district. Working as a maid whilst also hoping to become a Geisha, Chiyo suffers many a misfortune and almost loses it all, until a chance meeting with a man known only as the Chairman turns her luck around. Over the years, Chiyo becomes one of the most famous and respected Geisha in Gion.

Maybe it’s because I was taking extra care when reading, but I loved the style of writing when it came to describing not only Gion but everything to do with the life of a Geisha such as their hair, kimonos, and how they entertain at teahouses. It’s a beautiful, yet sad life, and it was fascinating to learn more about it.

The ending of the book was particularly powerful, and what made me decide that I wanted to watch the movie. I wasn’t ready to leave that world behind me quite yet, so it seemed like the best thing I could do. We all know that the movie is rarely better than the book, and that’s the case here too, but it’s a very good adaptation at least. I’m planning on doing an actual review this weekend but for now, let me share a few thoughts.

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One thing I enjoy when watching a movie adaptation of a book I’ve read is seeing if my vision of how characters and locations look match the movie. In most cases they did – although the character Nobu looked nothing at all like I pictured him. Also, the Geisha Hatsumomo is such a hateful character that although she’s described in the book as being beautiful I struggled to picture her so – but the casting choice was perfect and made her character feel all the more dangerous.

Apart from one scene that was vastly different from the book, everything else was very much the same, albeit with a lot of the story cut out. That’s my main complaint about the movie, but I know it can’t be helped. The movie is already 2 and a half hours long, but with so much of Chiyo’s/Sayuri’s relationship with Nobu cut out the romance arc and the eventual ending didn’t have the same impact on me.

That said, it’s a fantastic movie that is definitely worth watching if you haven’t already. What I recommend more, however, is the book!