What can I say about The last house on needless street by Catriona Ward

book club pick, book review

I read the last house on needless street throughout April for my book club and wow was I impressed. This book has so many twists and turns and really grips you as a reader. I loved this book and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good psychological thriller.

Now I can’t say too much about the story without giving anything away so you will have to read it for yourself but I 100% know you won’t be disappointed.

Goodreads summary:

The story keeps you guessing throughout and is told through a number of perspectives, all of which we are unsure we can trust completely but all I can say is, get your hands on a copy and you will not be able to stop reading.

I know some people have found it strange and have given up at the introduction of Olivia but please please please give it a go.

My thoughts on: Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

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3 stars ⭐️

The concept of this book really intrigued me about the time travel and the stories of the characters, I had heard mixed reviews about this book however I went into it with an open mind not knowing what the there would be in store for me.

Before the coffee gets cold is a relatively short book with only 192 pages so it’s not a big read. The book is set in a small cafe in Tokyo which has been serving specially brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. This coffee shops offers a unique opportunity for its customers to travel in time. The book is split into sections following 4 customers and their decision to travel in time. What made them want to do it and are they willing to risk it? It lets people face their past and allow them to move forward with their life. Although nothing can be changed, they can learn and find peace. However, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold otherwise they will become a ghost, trapped.

I found this book quite difficult at the beginning to keep track of who everyone was, how they were related to the story and the other characters however once I grasped this part I was able to follow the story and each character’s history much more easily.

I liked the concept of this book however I’m not sure it was executed how I was expecting. It may be that I was expecting more than I thought originally but I feel that although people could travel in time there wasn’t that much that happened during these sections. I was more interested at the present time and understanding what drove these people to want to time travel and what they hoped it would bring them. I liked the present time characters and their story’s as they were better developed and weaved the story together.

The stories were heart warming and I liked the connections between the characters and the idea of a magical cafe that allowed you to go back in time. The time travel was well thought out by the author. I liked that there were set rules and that it was treated as a very important responsibility to pour the coffee that was passed down through generations but I did feel like something was missing. It did make me think and I did feel for the characters for the losses they have experienced and the guilt and regrets they had held onto. I think this book is more focused on these ideas than there actually being a storyline to follow.

I would recommend reading before the coffee gets cold because it is interesting and a great concept which I’m sure will appeal to many. My rating was 3 stars at this time however I might revisit and see if anything changes.

What I thought about: The Split by Laura Kay

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The split by Laura Kay was released on 18th March 2021, I hadn’t seen much about this book but I was intrigued. The front cover says ‘Ally’s relationship is over, and she’s taking the cat…’ and as a cat lover this inevitably drew me in.

The story is not a romance in a traditional sense but it is very funny. Ally’s girlfriend Emily has just split up with her so ally moves back in with her dad in Sheffield from their bot house on London. Ally’s old friend from primary school, Jeremy, is also suffering from heartbreak from a recent breakup with Ben and they both find comfort in each other after their parents suggest they hang out. Jeremy and Ally soon become the best of friends through the ups and downs of heartbreak and single life. Jeremy believes his ex boyfriend Ben might be running the Sheffield half marathon and convinces Ally to run it with him which is hilarious and I identify fully with them and the hatred they have towards running but the determination they have to complete it. After moping around her dads house in her old bedroom for weeks, Ally needs to find a job and the introduction of these new characters through work is a lovely addition to the already fab friendship Ally and Jeremy have.

I love Ally’s dad and feel like he cares so much and is so supportive of Ally and any decision she makes. He is a very heart warming and funny character that you can’t help but love.

Throughout the book I was increasingly frustrated with Ally and her overwhelming need to get Emily back while trying to prove how far she has come and show Emily she is over it. Although the conversations between Ally and Jeremy are funny and they build a great friendship, Ally does annoy me with all the pining and the emails to try and get her ex back but I guess that’s what a breakup can do to a person.

I feel it is a story about friendship, heartbreak and taking risks. There is also cake, a cat and running. I would recommend this book if you are looking for something funny and light. Although I enjoyed it I would only give it 3/5 but this may be due to my own expectations, I just wasn’t too invested in the character of Ally but I did really like Jeremy.

What books have made you laugh out loud?

My thoughts on: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

book review, Uncategorized

The flatshare has been on my tbr list for a while and so many people have been gushing about it and recommending it so I was overly excited when I got my copy in the post 🥳 & I loved every second of reading it.

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about the book, it is a delight!! Such a feel good book with fab characters that you can’t help but love.

The story does explore emotional abuse in relationships and gaslighting but overall it is a very uplifting and positive book about the strength of friendship and how a relationship should be, although there can be ups and downs the characters support each other and respect their choices, decisions and feelings

I loved that you follow the story from two perspectives both Leon and tiffy and they both bought so much to the story. Leon’s story is about family and the bond you have with a sibling and his job working in a hospice and the difference his patients make to his life and the impact he has on them. Tiffy’s explores toxic relationships, female friendships and her job in publishing and the ups and downs.

I would 100% recommend this book if you want something sweet and uplifting and you enjoy romcoms. It is the perfect read and I would definitely read it again. It had a really good storyline with little ongoing themes to follow throughout which kept me interested. This book made me want to be more positive and not take things too seriously.

What I thought about: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

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I feel a bit like for a while I’ve been carrying ten balls of wool. And one ball fell, so I dropped another to catch it, but still didn’t catch it. Then two more started to unravel, and in trying to save those I lost another one. Do you know what I mean? Sorry.’

This book is another one of those books that I was seeing everywhere. I read so many positive reviews and so much hype that I really wanted to read it as I wasn’t going to miss out, so here I am and I wasn’t disappointed.

Tw: suicide, eating disorder,abuse, sexual harassment, mental health, miscarriage.

When I first started reading Queenie, I wasn’t sure I would love it but once the story began to progress and the characters were formed into more realistic people that I was able to connect with I found it a great story that highlighted so many important themes but I didn’t feel like it was too in your face or a particularly difficult read.

Queenie as a book discusses themes such as race, feminism, friendships, heartbreak, mental health, abuse, family and what it is to try and find your way in life as a young woman. Through all the heartache and ensuing problems Queenie is a strong character who is not afraid to admit she needs help and get the help she needs for her health physically and mentally. Although initially frowned upon by her family.

The road to recovery is not linear. It’s not straight. It’s a bumpy path, with lots of twists and turns. But you’re on the right track.’

I love the friendships Queenie has and her friendship with her cousin Diana, they were supportive and positive relationships and although they all had their flaws they were celebrated and the core group of friends really did care about each other, it’s good to read about women supporting women.

I also liked how the rest of the family interact with each other, while they all have their flaws they ultimately are all there for each other and love and support one another in their own way.

I found myself laughing out loud throughout this book and there were times when I began to tear up. I wouldn’t say it is particularly a hard read but it does tackle some very tough subjects and shows the importance of acknowledging when you or some one needs help and getting the help at the earliest opportunity. I expected Queenie to be a light fun read and although I had fun and enjoyed reading it, there are some serious subject discussed which I loved it even more for.

I would give this book 4.5 stars, I liked the characters, I liked that it explores a range of subject matter that we should be discussing and thinking about. I also feel like the ending was exactly where it should have been and it wasn’t a ‘and everyone lived happily ever after’ it was realistic and true to life.

The starless sea by Erin morgenstern

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4.5 / 5 ⭐️

“Do you have a particular favourite?” Simon asks

Eleanor considers this. It is not a question she has ever been asked, but a book comes to mind.

“I do. I… I do. It’s…” Eleanor pauses “would you like to read it?” she asks instead of trying to explain it. Books are always better when read rather than explained.

“I would very much so” Simon answers.

“I can get it and you can read it and then we could talk about it. If you like it. Or if you don’t, I would want to know why, exactly. It’s in my room, would you come with me?”

I feel like this book is trying to get at something similar to that tenacious D song, if you know it, Tribute. This is not the greatest book in the world, no this is just a tribute. but this is a very good book but I feel like the books discussed in this book must be AMAZING!

This book is one that I don’t think I’d have picked up if I was in a bookstore however I had seen reviews of this book and people loved it or hated it so I was intrigued and thought I’d move away from what I’d normally read and give it a go. I’m not usually a fantasy lover, I tend to go for books that are realistic and easy to relate to. Though I see how there are relatable elements in fantasy I just tend to read about everyday things. I’m not sure if I’m a full fantasy convert now but maybe an Erin Morgenstern convert!

The writing of this novel is beautiful, there is so much care and attention to the world the author is creating to give you the details to create this magical world and it is truly magical.

The story is about a university student, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, an avid reader and gamer studying for his thesis. He stumbles upon a book in the library with no author or any record of being in the library when he checks it out. It is a small book full of intrigue taking him on a journey of twists and turns intertwined with short stories all building up to something bigger.

When I started this book it wasn’t what I had expected, definitely didn’t start as I expected. I thought maybe a different book had been inserted in the cover then I learnt that there weren’t any rules and soon stopped expecting things and let the author take me on this journey.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is the main character in the book but he is not the character that gripped my interest. The characters you meet throughout the story are all there for a purpose and are important to the plot moving forward. The keeper, Mirabel, Dorian, Kat and Allegra were all interesting and not who they first seem, they all have histories, futures, secrets, purposes and all have a part to play. I wasn’t always fully invested in Zachary and his story but it had mystery, magic, fate, love and all the elements you’d look for in a story and I liked the romance between Zachary and Dorian but I wanted to know more about Dorian to better understand him.

I can see why people might not like this book but I loved the short stories throughout, they felt so magical and really developed the characters and linked everything together. Throughout these stories it would keep me guessing and trying to solve the puzzles from the trails they were leaving and I wold get excited when I get a link right or another piece of the puzzle would fall in place. Some of the short stories I’d be happy to just read a book full of them. My favourite one being about the innkeeper and the moon. I would love to visit that inn! I also enjoyed the ballad of Simon and Eleanore.

Love love love the bees and the idea of a magic kitchen & I love the cats. It is a fab story with so many fun elements and it all works well together. There is some jumping around and following different stories but I didn’t find it complicated and I liked the short stories breaking it all up I didn’t find them distracting or an inconvenience I feel they did their job and bought more to the story. I liked the idea of people not always being just that and I would probably re read the book to experience it again.

So what I’m trying to say is, if you’re looking for a bit of escapism to a beautiful immersive world this book is for you and you should 100% read it, it’s like travelling to a new world from the comfort of your sofa or wherever it is you read.

🐝 🗡 🔑

https://www.instagram.com/bookatitagain/

My thoughts on: The vanishing half by Brit Bennett

book review, Uncategorized

⭐️ 4.5/5

This book has been long listed for the women’s prize 2021 and is a goodreads choice 2020 winner. I’d heard so many good things about the vanishing half that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and read it for myself.

It is a story about twin girls from a small town in New Orleans called Mallard, spanning from the 1950s to the 1990s. Mallard is a southern black community that Stella and Desiree Vignes, at the age of 16, decide they need to run from to start a new life. They run away together until they go their separate ways, one living as a white woman and the other living as a black woman. They both experience very different lives but they are ultimately led back to each other. One of the twins ends up returning to the town they had escaped from with her black daughter after escaping her husband/daughters father while the other passes as white, living with her white husband in their expensive estate home. Her husband knows nothing of her past and doesn’t have suspicions of her being anything other than what he knows. However when their daughters’ lives intersect they find they will always be intertwined with each other. The story spans many decades following the twins and their daughters over the years. The Vanishing Half is a beautifully written story about racism, social classes, family and love.

When I started reading this I was trying to get to grips with the characters and where the story was going to go, although I had seen good things about the vanishing half I wasn’t fully aware of the storyline. Once I got reading I found myself really enjoying the book and I am glad I initially pushed through the beginning. Once characters had been established and the story started to open up I found the story was beautifully written and was a really important look into racism and complicated family relationships giving a voice to these women to discuss hardships experienced trying to make a better life where racism is still rife, how black and white are ultimately just that.

“She felt queasy at how simple it was. All there was to being white was acting like you were.”

I did like the book and I would recommend it, I liked the characters and the storyline and the different view points that the story was told from. The story follows the Vignes twins, their daughters and their mother and explores how race affects lives and how although they lead very different lives they ultimately intersect with each other.

All the characters have fears and they are all very real fears to have. Fear of being alone that you lie to keep your life, even if you don’t feel like it’s your own.

‘She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.’

Fears of not belonging

‘There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong’

and Fears of not being accepted as you are and therefore denying yourself the chance to be happy

‘Well, maybe that’s your problem,” Kennedy said, “You tell yourself no before anyone even says it to you’

Although we can make judgements based on the characters actions and maybe think that we would do differently, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in their position and how I would live my life in their shoes. The characters are likeable and you find yourself routing for them and hoping they find their way and are happy and through it all I don’t think we will know but ultimately they have made their choices and they have grown from them and have had some good things and bad things happen but they are strong and just trying to be good people and good to their families.

There are so many beautiful quotes in this novel and I could quote them all day so please give this book a read and let me know what you think. Yes there are some questions unanswered but I think that’s part of it and it is so well written that you will not forget this book anytime soon.

What I thought about: The Push by Ashley Audrain

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⭐️ 5/5 stunning!

The push is heart wrenching, when I was only half way through I could already feel the pain in my chest, the tears welling in my eyes and an intense feeling of dread. This story is so raw and so honest. It explores motherhood and the relationships between mother and child and also how this can affect other relationships. To have your deepest fears actualised in the form of broken, damaged relationships and isolation, when with the ones that you should have the closest bond. To be a family often is synonymous of being a unit that will always be a team but this is shattered and the devastating story explores this so well.

Although at present I do not have children myself, I can imagine that to be a mother is a huge change and will be challenging in many ways. It is difficult to adjust and to have the responsibility for this new life and they look to you for love and support, what if this doesn’t happen though?, what if you feel they hate you?, or don’t want you, what if you can’t connect and you feel like you are going insane and no one can see this or will help you.

This book was a whole journey for me. The book explores 4 generations of women in Blythe’s family. Her grandmother (Etta),her mum (Cecilia),Blythe and her daughter Violet. Although the focus is on these women, it delves into relationships outside of this but also gives us insight into the life of these women and the heartache and battles that they have been through and why their actions may be a reflection of their treatment. Also how their experiences have been similar & how they have handled certain things that have happened to them.

This book is not a light read and I found it quite intense and quite difficult in parts where it can be quite graphic and does not hold back but I also liked that about the book, I felt immersed in this story and intrigued to keep reading. The book explores growing into womanhood and then motherhood. It also looks at relationships and how they can be toxic and damaging and how people can be gaslighted. I would agree with people who say this is not a psychological thriller in some ways, yes it’s fast paced and there are twists and it’s exciting but I feel like it’s much deeper and really trying to explore in more depth the fears and struggles that women face in life. Society norms of growing up happy, beauty, growing into a woman, getting married, having a baby etc.

This book gave me chills, it is a stunning book that is gripping and hard to put down, definitely a book I would re-read and that’s saying something. I would recommend this book if you are okay with darker, more unnerving reads however I definitely need something a bit lighter as my next read. But oh wow! Was it amazing! Breathtaking.

My thoughts on Klara and The Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Sun always has a way to reach us.

Klara and the Sun

⭐️ 5/5

At the beginning of 2021 I read Ian McEwan’s machines like me that explored artificial intelligence and the ripple affects on humanity and ultimately questioned if AI would surpass humanity and become hostile, whereas I feel Kazuo Ishiguro focused on the positive, optimistic side of AI and their loyalty. Whether it would be possible to be living in harmony with artificial friends. I was very excited when I read the synopsis for Klara and the sun and immediately added it to my want to read list on goodreads and pre-ordered it for the release on the 2nd March. The book is beautiful inside and out and I was not disappointed.

Klara and the sun is unforgettable, such a lovely story with so much hope and optimism even at the darkest times. I loved this book and it gave me such a warm feeling. To me this is a story about trying to understand human feelings and actions, loyalty and understanding what makes us all individually special. Whether we are ultimately special or are we replaceable?

I liked that all the characters seemed to be asking the same questions and were on a learning journey together. Klara (an artificial friend) is the narrator of the book and the story is told from her perspective which means we would only know and be able to understand as much as we are told. The AFs ( artificial friends) are powered by solar energy and therefore the sun is so important to them for nourishment and to keep them strong which is a prevailing theme throughout the book However Klara’s generation, the B2s have difficulty with solar absorption which may lead to personality defects which makes the sun even more important. The personification of the sun really gave us this omniscient, powerful character that was our only hope it seemed. Klara worships the sun and believes so strongly in the help and the love that the sun provides making everything better and there is a real belief that the sun understands human behaviours and concepts such as love and loss. Society has been divided into the ‘lifted’ and the ‘unlifted’ which is often the source of tension throughout the story. Although the idea of being lifted or unlifted is not explored in depth, we understand that there are difficulties for both Josie (lifted) and for her best friend, Rick (unlifted) and the guilt of the parents for their decisions.

The story is set in a near future dystopian America where AFs are being developed and are bought as friends for lonely children. The role of the AF is to protect the child who chooses them and be there for their needs. Klara spends some time in a shop and has a few people interested in her however she holds out for 14 year old Josie who is frail and suffers will long periods of debilitating illness, Josie pre-warns Klara that it may not always be good…that things may be ‘Strange’ but she will always be taken care of and Klara becomes Josie’s AF and spends all her time trying to help Josie feel better and not be lonely. Klara finds herself in all sorts of situations and is always trying to work out what is happening around her and how she can help Josie and what her role is in this new life. There is something dark or sinister happening in the background of this story and we spend the book wondering what it may be and how it affects our characters. the lead up and reveal of events throughout the book are written beautifully, there is unease but the writing is also subtle and draws you in without it feeling over the top. I found it such a good read and was reading through it quickly as I wanted to see what would happen, I had to slow down to really spend some more time in this story.

There seems to be lots of family secrets or things that must not be spoken about which gives the story an air of mystery. However Klara’s innocence keeps us hopeful.

I like Klara. I like her observations and how she uses them to draw conclusions, often in a very human way, as I would assess situations. however we are always being reminded that Klara is an AI and not human whereas in other AI fiction there is a focus on trying to show how human AI are. Klara’s vision is split into boxes just like a CAPTCHA, when the internet tries to identify if you are a robot. It gives the story a surreal feeling and you experience a range of different views in a small grid through Klara’s eyes. There are also times where Klara is experiencing her memories differently and can manipulate them to see them in different ways or happening in different places which also adds to the surreal element. I like that Klara has no desire to become more or feel any superiority over humans or other models of AI. Klara refers to people in third person, again reminding us that there is something not quite right and she is not human. Instead of using names for others such as Klara’s Mum or Paul, Klara’s dad, she refers to them as the mother and the father which gives her a detached feeling to relationships of people to Josie and keeps her removed from them personally.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi or general fiction. A truly wonderful read 5/5.

What I thought about: Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

book review, Uncategorized

Published feb 2021

⭐️ 3/5

I had lots of conflicting thoughts while reading this book.

Where is this going?

I love it!

am I actually enjoying it?

At least it’s well written,

not…exactly what I was expecting.

But all in all it was a thought provoking book but it’s not a book that i feel I’d pick up again. Or maybe that’s why I should.

I didn’t feel the same need to read this book as I have with other books but it was one that I thought about often. It was a different genre than I think I’d normally choose. I was intrigued by how the book would move forward and how it might end but really I can’t say I ‘enjoyed’ reading it very much but it definitely is appealing. I think it’s written well and an in depth look at society and how social media and the ability to easily communicate with each other and easily access information has had a negative impact on society and individual mental health and self- view. Also how social media can make relationships difficult or maybe breed deceit as everyone wants to be someone else to the outside world.

The book begins on the eve of Donald Trumps inauguration, the nameless narrator is at home with her boyfriend (Felix) but things haven’t been quite right between them and she suspects there is something causing Felix to be different. The narrator stumbles on an Instagram account and discovers her boyfriend is an anonymous online conspiracy theorist. The narrator decides to flee from New York to Berlin after having no desire to stay any longer and pursues a life there, having fond memories of her previous trip. The narrator begins her own deceptions and manipulations via a string of OKcupid dates and meet-ups with new friends/ employers.

I wouldn’t say I disliked the book but I did find myself at times struggling to get through it. The book is written like a stream of consciousness which often was difficult to keep track of. I liked the concept of the book and the commentary it was making on today’s society and the impact of social media. There was a lot of focus on dating and the deception she was creating and a more personal look at her thoughts and feelings as opposed to a wider view of how the world has changed.

The writing is dry and witty which I enjoyed but I didn’t think the narrator was very likeable, what kept me going was the few twists that were weaved in. I felt like the ending of the book was a bit disappointing which surprised me that I felt that way, as I didn’t really know what I was expecting

I’d give the book 3/5 rating. I enjoyed the concept and there were parts where I did laugh out loud but unpopular opinion: it wasn’t really the book for me.