Book Reviews

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

I’m going to get straight to the point – I think I might have just found my favourite book of all time. No, that’s not saying much when you don’t read a great deal but never have I ever had such a wild experience with a book like this. If any of my family or friends happen to be reading this then prepare to receive a copy for your birthday or Christmas!

Trying to describe what Anxious People is all about is so difficult. First and foremost, it’s about people. A group of people who are brought together by chance, all with different stories and struggles. There are heavy themes of anxiety here but they’re woven so intricately through the story that if you didn’t know beforehand, it would just hit you like a ton of bricks on the last page. It’s a story that made me laugh, cry and feel frustrated all at once, and somehow, just somehow, it also features one of the best crime mysteries I’ve ever had the pleasure of losing sleep over.

It wasn’t smooth sailing to begin with. The book opens with a young police officer interviewing one by one a group of people who were recently released hostages. The first to be interviewed is an estate agent and oh my goodness is she irritating. I couldn’t quite believe the way this character was talking after just being let go in a hostage situation, it seemed bizarre. I actually struggled through the first third of the book and then a puzzle piece clicked into place and things made sense, and after that I was almost grateful for my insomnia because it meant I could read faster!

When you read about the problems each character is facing, there’s bound to be something for everyone to resonate with. For me, something was so similar to what I’ve experienced that reading it made my blood go cold. It was to do with being on anti depressants and how they dull out every emotion. The tipping point for this character to want to come off them was that they were unable to cry at movies and as daft as it might sound – that’s 100% how I felt when I was on them. Movies are my passion and realising that you can’t cry when watching something so moving is an alien experience.

I think I’ve rambled enough now so I’ll leave you with this: READ THIS BOOK!

Book Reviews

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Welcome to my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge! Towards the end of last year I rekindled my love of reading before bed, and I’m keen to keep that up throughout 2021. I’ve set myself a reading challenge on Goodreads to read 20 books this year. It should be easily attainable as I average a book every 2 weeks but I didn’t want to set myself up to fail by choosing a goal too high.

I also want to try to step outside of my usual reading comfort zone this year. I did it back in 2018 and tried to cover every genre. Some books I struggled with but others I really enjoyed so It’ll be interesting to do that again. My go-to read is a murder mystery. I find them easy to read and the mystery keeps my mind busy at night instead of worrying about…well, life! So without further ado, here’s the first book I read this year.

Nora is dead. She chose to end her life after suffering one too many terrible events. However, she finds herself at a library, managed by a sweet old lady who just so happened to be the librarian at Nora’s school when she was a child. At the Midnight Library Nora has the ability to read through a book of all her regrets, with the power to change them. Each book contains an alternative life, should Nora have made different choices, giving her the chance to fix all of her regrets and find the perfect life. If she finds a life she feels satisfied with, she can stay and live it out.

First off, I love the premise of this story. Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you made different choices? From the most minor things such as ‘what if I missed that bus last week?’ to ‘what if I went to University instead of going straight into work?’. It would be fascinating to be able to peer into what those lives would be like. And that’s exactly what Nora gets to do. Of course, nothing is ever quite as it seems. One of Nora’s biggest regrets is that she gave up swimming when she was younger, and as it turns out, if she stuck with it she’d end up being an Olympic champion! But other aspects of her life would have ended up much worse.

It’s a book that really gets you thinking about your own life, and that’s what I loved about it. What annoyed me though was that a lot of the time, those small changes that Nora makes end up with her being hugely successful, either an Olympian, or a Scientist on an earth-changing mission, or a famous rock star. I get it, the book needs to actually be interesting and maybe I’m being pessimistic, but that’s just not the way things would go for your average person, right?

All in all, I would still recommend this book, but I’d warn you to not expect something as philosophical as I did.

Book Reviews

Mini Book Reviews: Skyward, Starsight (Brandon Sanderson) and Recursion (Blake Crouch)

I try to write a little about everything that I watch and read but I’ve fallen really behind with writing about the books I’ve read recently. Now that we’ve entered a new year and I’ve started a Goodreads challenge I want to start fresh, so here’s a few words about 3 books I read towards the end of 2020 that I never got round to reviewing properly.

Skyward, Brandon Sanderson – The first book of the Skyward series. I’ve loved the Sanderson novels I’ve read so far but was a little hesitant going into this series as it’s Sci-Fi and I don’t have a lot of experience with that. It was an incredible read though. I might know next to nothing about space craft and war but Sanderson’s style of writing means none of that matters, it’s so easy to picture what he’s describing. I fell in love with the main character, Spin. She’s so headstrong and doesn’t let anyone get in her way. The real star of the show however is M-Bot, the ship that Spin finds with a highly advanced AI.

Starsight, Brandon Sanderson – I got so absorbed by the first Skyward book that I went straight into the second one the very next night, which in hindsight was a huge mistake because the third book hasn’t even been written yet so I’ll be waiting a while. I wasn’t sure about Starsight at first because it takes place in a completely different location and leaves behind a lot of the original book’s main characters, but the host of new ones were very easy to get interested in and I found Starsight just as impossible to put down as Skyward.

Recursion, Blake Crouch – This book is so hard to talk about. If you’ve ever read any of Crouch’s other books you’ll know why. Recursion is all to do with our memories. Imagine right now that you could travel back to a big memory of yours, perhaps a huge regret, and not only re-live that moment, but continue living in that life? That’s what Recursion is all about. It’s less to do with time travel, and more with parallel universes. It was a fascinating read but so complex that I really struggled at times. I wasn’t blown away by Recursion like I was with Dark¬† Matter (a stunning read!) but that’s by no means an insult.

Book Reviews

The Guest List, Lucy Foley

Oh this second lockdown has got me into such a funk. I won’t complain but I’m just not me at the moment. I haven’t been watching as many movies as I’d like to, but I’ve at least been enjoying reading before bed each night. I’ll have to step outside my book-related comfort zone again soon, but the last book I read was The Guest List by Lucy Foley. Last year I read and reviewed another book of hers, The Hunting Party, so it was interesting to compare the two.

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Set on a tiny island off the Irish coast, The Guest List is centered around an extravagant wedding.¬† Jules is the bride, hugely successful but slightly on edge as she’s received a strange warning note about her husband to be – Will. He’s a charming man, famous for his TV show which sounds not too different from Bear Grylls. His past is coming back to haunt him in the form of his best man Johnno. Add into the mix a couple who don’t fit in at all, but whom one of them has a long history with Jules, and an extremely troubled bridesmaid, and it’s a wedding bound for disaster.

The disaster strikes very soon into the book – a body is found. But we don’t know who, we don’t know how, and we don’t know why. The rest then is a slow burn story that enlightens us to the main characters and how they might be linked to this death.

I’ve read some slow burns that have irritated me no end because nothing seems to happen until the twist but this isn’t the case here, there’s always something new to learn and it made the book difficult to put down. There were twists that I never saw coming and although by the time we learn who the body is it isn’t so much of a shock anymore, there are still surprises to come.

My biggest, and maybe only problem with The Guest List is the exact same problem I had with the other Lucy Foley book I read – the characters are so unlikeable! I’m starting to realise maybe this is intentional or just Foley’s signature way of writing her characters. I’m just not used to it? I don’t know. Anyway – it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the book and I definitely recommend it to other fans of the genre.

Book Reviews

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I don’t even want to scroll back through my posts to find out when I last read and reviewed a book. This is definitely the first book I’ve read all year. I haven’t slept well for a really long time now and I hoped that unwinding before bed with a chapter or two of a book would help. It hasn’t, but I’ve at least re-kindled some of my love for reading! This one in particular is a book I’ve been excited about for a while. It’s written by Richard Osman – a name anyone outside the UK will have probably never heard of. He’s most well known for being the creator and co-presenter of one of the UK’s most popular quiz shows, Pointless.

It’s a game which I guess is the complete opposite of Family Fortunes, in which the public has been asked to give answers to a question, but the contestants have to think of the least popular correct answer. It’s particularly fun to watch as a movie fan when one of the questions might involve say, naming cast members of Iron Man 3. (Stan Lee was a pointless answer, for the record). Anyway – Richard Osman has a great sense of humour so when I found out he’d written a novel I was intrigued.

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The Thursday Murder Club is formed of four friends who all live together in a retirement home. None of them are younger than 70 and on Thursday nights, they get together over a slice of homemade cake and attempt to solve closed murder cases. It’s always been hypothetical, until one day when one of the owners of their home, Coopers Chase, is found dead under suspicious circumstances. Together, with the assistance of 2 local detectives who very much wish the Club didn’t have such a strong hold over them, they try to crack the case.

This is very much a character driven story and thankfully the characters are really well written. These pensioners have lived a lot of life and have so much to bring to the table, and I was fascinated by their pasts. It’s just a very wholesome experience this book is, it’s like hearing a grand story straight from an elderly relative, and by the sounds of it this book is just the first in a series. I for one can’t wait to revisit Coopers Chase.

If I could pick one fault with it, and I’m really nit picking now, I got quite lost with the side characters by the end of the book. The main group I knew well, but some of the other residents mentioned I just couldn’t recall who they actually were – which could well be just my own memory letting me down, it’s not to say everyone else would struggle too! All in all, if you’re looking for a detective novel that’s warm and fun rather than cold and gritty, The Thursday Murder Club is definitely the book for you!