Book Reviews

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?!

the-psychopath-test-jon-ronson-book-review

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!

Book Reviews

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.

the-rumour-lesley-kara-book-review

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!

Book Reviews

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.

the-memory-shop-book-review-ella-griffin

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.

Book Reviews · Movie Reviews

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.

memoirs-of-a-geisha-by-arthur-golden

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.

memoirs-of-a-geisha-nobu-sayuri-chiyo

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!

Book Reviews

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

You know when you’re desperate to get back into a fitness regime, and you treat yourself to some new trainers or a new gym top to give you that little bit of motivation and inspiration? That’s what I did over Christmas, but for books. I treated myself to one of the basic Kindle Fire tablets in a bid to get myself reading more. Is mid/late February too late to actually start your resolution?

the-hunting-party-lucy-foley

The Hunting Party is the story of 7 friends who spend New Year’s together (as they have done every year) at a hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands. At the start of the book, we learn that a dead body has been found, but we don’t know whose – and we don’t know how. The book flicks back and forth between present day and a few days prior, until the climax at the very end. It’s quite a fascinating read!

I love a mystery and when I saw the Kindle version on sale for 99p, I bought it faster than you can say ‘whodunnit’. You’d think I would eventually grow tired of the genre or at least be able to work out the twists by now but no! Although it wasn’t perfect, I whizzed through the book quite quickly and I would definitely recommend it.

What I loved the most was how the characters were revealed as the pages went by. With stories like this the pace can sometimes be painfully slow if the reveal isn’t until the end, but I didn’t feel that here. We learn that none of these characters are angels, and so for a long time, it genuinely feels plausible that any of them could be the murderer. It isn’t until the last few chapters that you can confidently cross some of them off your suspect list.

I guess that’s the book’s biggest strength, but it also leads onto the only real criticism I have of it. Because these characters have all done bad things, some of them terrible, I couldn’t help but start to care less and less about them. That ends up leading to a climax that although very cleverly written, doesn’t have the biggest impact. I was left with a feeling of ‘well, they kind of deserved that’ rather than being outraged, if you get what I mean.

Still, it’s a solid read, well worth my 99p!