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!

Random Posts

What I Watched & Read: November 2019

I know, it’s a little too far into December for a November round-up post to be acceptable but I’ve been behind on so many things! Can we just pretend for a while it’s the very start of December and I still have loads of time to sort Christmas out? Good, thanks. So, as it’s the start of December, as usual here’s a little recap of what I watched last month. I’m throwing in a book I read too, because I’ve let my book review posts slip and it’s a shame not to mention them.

The middle of November sucked, I didn’t watch a movie at all for like, a week and a half, but despite that I still saw 11 movies throughout the month, which isn’t so bad. No TV shows though other than The Mandalorian, which is glorious. Going to be so sad when that finishes!

Anyway, here’s what I watched that I haven’t written a full post for:

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Crawl (2019)

I pretty much dismissed this movie but a whole bunch of you said it was good and I always listen to you so I gave it a go. And yeah! It was a lot better than I expected for a movie about alligators in a hurricane. It felt super claustrophobic at times. Not sure I’ll ever want to watch it again mind, but I’m glad I gave it a chance.

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Stuber (2019)

This started out great. I was all up for a feature-length movie about Stu desperately trying to improve his Uber rating, but then Dave Bautista turned up. Then it turned into more of a buddy cop movie. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that too, but it felt like 2 very different movies mashed together and didn’t work that well in the end. Kumail Nanjiani is one of the funniest guys I’ve discovered in the last few years though, I’ll happily watch whatever he does next!

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A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)

This was a rewatch for me, and I rewatched Bad Moms last night too. I’m struggling with being a Mum these last couple of weeks but oh man, these movies help me to get out of my head. The scene with the mall Santa is too epic!

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The Report (2019)

I still haven’t got around to writing anything for The Report. I really enjoyed it, gave it an 8/10, but it’s tough to write about. It’s a shocking story, but it’s not the most exciting thing to talk about. Adam Driver carries it, without him this would have fallen pretty flat. It was absolutely worth a watch for me for educational purposes if nothing else!

These are the movies I watched in November that I already wrote about, in case you missed them:

Chicago (2002)
Let It Snow (2019)
Last Christmas (2019)
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Frozen II (2019)
Eli (2019)
Knives Out (2019)

Now, books! I read 2 books in November which is better than I normally manage. I set my expectations too high this year, I just don’t have as much reading time as I thought.

The Final Winter by Iain Rob Wright

This sounded like it would be a bit like The Day After Tomorrow with some horror elements in, and it started out well with the introduction of the characters, but it took a real nosedive from the half way point. The characters took on these annoyingly stereotypical traits and to be perfectly honest, I stopped caring about what happened to them. The ending was unexpected, and probably would have been great if I was still interested by then.

Hunted by Darcy Coates

I loooooved this book. A young girl goes missing in the woods after taking a solo holiday, and her brother and friends come looking for her. Her camera was recovered by another tourist, and the girl’s brother and friends try to put the pieces together to work out where she might have vanished to. The photos start out normal, but then get strange, and a dark figure can be seen in them. The local police don’t seem to be interested, they deal with a national average of missing persons cases – so the youths take it upon themselves to find her.

Book Reviews

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!