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: 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.

My thoughts on Klara and The Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

book review, Uncategorized

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.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

book review, Uncategorized

4.5 ⭐️

Okay so let’s talk about normal people, I know it’s been discussed by so many before me and is a million copy bestseller but for some reason I had been putting it off for so long. I watched the tv adaption on BBC which I did enjoy, I loved Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Connell and Marianne and for some reason felt I didn’t need to read the book as the tv programme had been good enough for me but I was wrong…which I don’t / won’t often admit, much to others annoyance.

I usually won’t read a book after I have watched the film or tv adaption and now I’m thinking I have been missing out. Don’t get me wrong, the tv adaption was done very well and in keeping with the book but the book delves deeper into the thoughts of Connell and Marianne, we understand the thoughts behind their words and actions and the small details of their personality and coping mechanisms which aren’t easily translated to other media.

My expectations for this book were well, not really existent. I hadn’t planned on reading normal people despite all the good things I had heard, I guess I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it already knowing the story line but I was pleasantly surprised. By having a better understanding of the characters I found I liked them more, I understood some of their difficulties or who they were as a person at the root of it all and it made them less frustrating and oftentimes more heartbreaking.

I relate to Connell’s persistent need to please and conform to societal expectations but I also liked that he was kind, thoughtful and really cared about Marianne although he didn’t always go about things the right way, he was always willing to do anything for her, especially as he got further away from school life back home unlike any other person in her life. I found myself wanting to be more like Marianne in some aspects for example, the freeing feeling of not caring what others think or say about me, a need for knowledge and being opinionated. However they both have their flaws but that is what makes them ‘normal’. Throughout the story they both want to be accepted in many ways, to be loved and to be happy however this was never easy for them and they seem to overcomplicate and overanalyse their relationship and that mixed with poor communication and misunderstanding was a recipe for disaster. The on and off again nature of a relationship is common in the rom-com genre however I found it particularly frustrating in this book. Both Marianne and Connell had feelings for each other from beginning to end and on a number of occasions they used the L word to describe their feelings. They were happy together but through poor communication on both parts it meant that they were both questioning what the other person meant by what they said causing them to break up and make up over and over.

I found myself waiting for moments between Connell and Marianne as they were often sweet, intimate and honest although they didn’t always end well for either of them you could tell that they really cared for each other and truly felt themselves when they could be together.

The ending of the book gave us hope for Connell in the future and maybe hope that something will stay between them both however with the track record over the years, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I was happy for Connell and how far he has come with the difficulties he had faced over the years and was finally going to do something he really wanted and although he still felt guilty (which he shouldn’t) but is common throughout, there was a positive future ahead for him.

Marianne had strained relationships which was highlighted from the start. Her family relationships were cold, abusive and distant and at school she was bullied for the way she looked and for being different. She had better relationships with with her female friends at university however these were sometime not always healthy and there were a few unhealthy relationships or ‘situations’ with Jamie and Lukas and other men treating her badly, being controlling and violent leaving her feeling used and vacant. I found it discussed these issues although not in depth I felt like it approached them quite well and made the reader think about it and look at it differently as we already cared about Marianne and it was difficult to see her open up to being treated badly as that’s what she felt she deserved which is not true under any circumstance.

I always look for the best in people which is maybe why I liked the characters, to other people they may be annoying and uninteresting but I felt they had good parts and bad parts which they knew of both sides and still cared about each other a lot. Although at times they did frustrate me overall they were a lot more likeable than their ‘friends’ at least.

I would recommend this book however it does have some difficult themes such as depression, bullying, abusive family, violence and suicide I found it was written in a way to not be too heavy but if these are triggers then I would not recommend normal people but I enjoyed the story, the writing, the characters and I enjoyed the commentary the book made on class and society expectations but what I’ll hold onto is the lasting feeling of the book and would give it 4.5 stars!

There is so much I could say about this book and is one that I would probably come back to. Let me know your thoughts on Normal People or any other similar books.

Luster, Raven Leilani

book review, Uncategorized

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I finished this book on Sunday, it is a quick read with only 227 pages and an interesting story to follow. Luster is different to other books that I would normally read, after seeing it posted all over bookstagram and reviewed highly on Goodreads and Amazon, Waterstones etc. I added Luster to my recent TBR post and I felt I should give it a go and see what the hype was about.

Luster is about a 23 year old black woman called Edie who is just trying to navigate life, without too many problems. Edie is struggling in her dead-end admin job at an all white office, sleeping with all the wrong men and is failing to succeed at the one thing she loves, painting. Edie meets a middle aged white man called Eric, he has a wife called Rebecca who agrees to some sort of open marriage. Edie becomes entangled in this strange affair and finds herself falling into his world and family. Eric and Rebecca have an adopted black daughter who is having difficulties coming to terms with racism and understanding who she is and what it is to be young and black in America at these times. This book explores racism, sexual politics, work place politics, marriage, affairs, loneliness and also how it feels to be different and not feel a part of the club you feel everyone else is in.

I honestly picked up this book as it was all over bookstagram and lists of books you should read, having finished the book I could see why it has received this attention. Luster is honest and is not afraid to be brutal and bold. Raven Leilani does not hold back and isn’t afraid to write things as they are. The writing is beautiful and I felt I was a part of Edie’s life, that Edie could be a real person not just a character I was reading about in a book. There were times when it was quite difficult to read because of the situations the characters put themselves in. I am empathetic as a person and really felt for the characters at times and the difficulties they were facing. Although Edie is not always likeable I still found myself routing for her and wanting better for her. Edie is flawed however, we all have flaws which makes her relatable. Trying to fill the void any way she can and pining after people who don’t treat her well. Ultimately Edie is alone and wants to be accepted and loved but doesn’t know how to do this so accepts any attention that she can get which in turn makes her feel more alone.

Rebecca is an interesting character throughout the story and I found the parts where she interacts with Edie sometimes quite difficult to read but it helped with progressing the story and gave the book a grittier feeling of sadness and loneliness. I was intrigued by the dynamic of her relationships but also her as an individual.

Imagine living a life so carefully that there are no signs you lived at all

Rebecca

Akila is the adopted daughter in the story. I thought her character was so important to bringing the story to life and also helping us understand the sort of people Rebecca, Edie and Eric are. How people interact with children can often tell us a lot about them as a person. The relationship between Edie and Akila, although difficult at times was sweet and showed a different side to Edie that made her more likeable and helped us understand who she is and maybe what she has been through. Edie is caring towards Akila and wants to be there for her in a way that maybe other people have failed her, mainly due to lack of understanding. I feel the relationship between Akila and Edie is the most caring and real in the book.

Eric is a very unlikeable person and I think Raven’s writing really showcases this character beautifully. Eric is selfish, detached, violent and difficult however he has both his wife and Edie who care about him for some reason or another. I feel like the portrayal of this character is clear, I feel as a reader we really understand what the author is trying to tell us about relationships and how people end up in unhappy or problematic relationships.

This book is very much about loneliness and showcases the difficulties that people face in life and relationships. No matter what the characters want people to think about them, they are all having struggles. whether its addiction, broken relationship, unrequited love or just being lost and stuck, not knowing how to be free. It is a powerful story that explores the harder parts of life, the sadness and loneliness that people experience.

I did enjoy the book. I did think it was written well and really important. I didn’t like the character of Eric at all which I guess made it difficult to read (which I think is the point) it was interesting and gave prevalent issues a voice. I would recommend this book just as it is a different perspective and a honest look at life. I felt like the book ended abruptly but that may just be me wanting to know more.

I’d give this book a 4/5 it tackles difficult topics in an accessible way and is an enjoyable read however I didn’t really like Rebecca or Eric which didn’t help with the reading but I feel the characters aren’t meant to be very likeable so were ultimately written well.

Have you read Luster, what did you think? & do you have any similar suggestions?

How to Stop Time, The Review

book review, Uncategorized

And just as it takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. you just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself; who am I?…

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have now finished ‘How to Stop Time’ by Matt Haig and I have been trying since, to articulate what to say to get across my feelings on the book.

The Midnight Library – loved it, would read it again

The Humans – loved it even more would definitely read again

How to stop time – I’m not a big fan

I really wanted to like this book, having loved Matt Haig’s other books and from the recommendations that people gave me, maybe that was the problem, too high expectations, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

Looking at this book as a standalone and not comparing it to the other works. I have come up with the following:

How to Stop Time has been described as:

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live

However, I did not read it as a love story, yes it is a story with a dusting of love however I wouldn’t describe it as a love story in the traditional sense. to me it a story of a man who is ’41’ (439ish) who is constantly hiding in life, afraid of being found out. afraid of his loved ones being hurt and therefore afraid to live. Before I continue I will give you a short synopsis just so you can follow me a bit easier.

Tom Hazard has a secret, a dangerous secret that no-one must find out. He may look like any other 41 year old but when Tom hit puberty he found he had a rare condition. A condition that slowed the ageing process meaning for every 15 years he would only age one year. The story cuts through time back and forth, from modern day to various eras through which Tom has lived his life. From Elizabethan England, working with William Shakespeare at the Globe to playing Piano at Ciro’s in 1920’s Paris, during the golden age of Jazz. Tom has managed to survive these 400 + years without being found after being found by the ‘albatross’ society who all also have the same condition. They protect Tom and allow him to change his identity and live a normal (ish) existence. Hendrich is the leader of the group, our main antagonist in the story. Tom is made to change his identity every 8 years to to keep his cover and protect the society. After spending 8 years alone in Iceland, Tom craves a normal life. Tom asks to be a history teacher working in London which brings a whole set of problems. Including finding love which has been prohibited as it is too high risk.

I felt this story was about a man facing himself and overcoming fear. Tom feels a lot of guilt and sadness and has held on to this for a tremendous amount of time, which doesn’t allow him to move on and live a fulfilled life, Always trying to make things right in any way he can. it is a story about family, father and daughter bond and not being afraid to live life fully and love fearlessly.

I thought the story was a great concept and there are some beautiful descriptions throughout the book however, I felt the story was missing something and I felt like it wasn’t as gripping as I had hoped making it quite difficult to read. My favourite character was Omai who we meet in part 5. He is positive, knowledgeable, worldly and kind. Omai brings the warmth to the book I was hoping for and ultimately I feel is the main turning point of the book.

Although I personally didn’t love the book I can see why people do, I liked parts of the book with William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chaplin and Captain Cook However, it did feel a bit like dropping names for the sake of a story line at times. Tom comes across as one of those ‘been there done that’ people and although he has, after being around for 439 years, I felt like everything had to relate back to a time when he had done something or saw something which I felt like a lot of things.

I think the ending was good and no, not in a ‘I’m glad that’s over’ way but I genuinely felt warm and happy with the conclusion to the story.

I am still a fan of Matt Haig’s and enjoyed his other books but you can’t always enjoy everything.

xxx

Perfect, Rachel Joyce a review

book review, Uncategorized

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My friend bought Perfect by Rachel Joyce for me for my birthday after I read The Music Shop last year.

Synopsis: Perfect is about two boys who learn that an extra two seconds is going to be added to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. James Lowe is Byron Hemming’s best friend and the cleverest boy at school, James is the one who tells Byron about the extra two seconds and Byron becomes obsessed, waiting for them to be added. One day Byron’s mother makes a mistake but no one notices except for Byron. This is where his perfect world comes crashing down. If the two seconds hadn’t been added would it still have happened? this leads Byron into a spiral. James tries to help his friend Byron save his mother by setting up ‘operation perfect’. The book is set in 1972 and modern day and moves between the two times following the events of the summer 1972 and how it effects events in the future. In modern day we follow the life of Jim who has been in and out of a mental institute until it’s eventual closure. Jim currently works in a café and is suffering from severe OCD and lives a very solitary life.

There is a twist in this story which when you realise, everything falls into place. I liked the use of the twist as it had me guessing throughout.

I enjoyed the story and the mystery of the two seconds however there were parts of the book that felt slow or were repetitive. Particularly parts with Byron’s father, however I think that is to emphasise his obsessive nature and his relationship with his son and wife as controlling and not very personal. I liked that the story jumped between 1972 and modern day and the characters in each setting were likeable. If the story all took place in 1972 I found it would have been difficult to read. I found the movement between times kept me interested otherwise it was quite intense being stuck in one time.

The character of Beverley I found was well written and I was able to imagine her well and the type of person she was. I thought she added a much needed interesting personality to help bring the other characters out and move the story on. The book revolved around Byron’s mother Diana and we find out about her life and feelings through interactions with Beverley mostly as, although Beverley can be quite blunt, fiery and rude, Beverley was Diana’s closest friend. Diana is a ghost of who she once was and Beverley is trying to figure out who she is and bring that person out of her. I liked the character if Jim and really felt for him too wanting him to be able to communicate and build up a relationship with people. I thought he was well written and bought an interesting dimension to the story.

I thought this story was good and I enjoyed the concept of the story but I sometimes felt like it was slow and it was missing something. I liked the underlying message about time and the concept of time. How everyone follows the clock. waking up, going to work, having lunch, going to bed, is time just a concept that we are all following as that’s just what we know? and the idea of not living by the time and doing what you feel like doing when you want.

I’d give this book 3/5 still enjoyed the book but I struggled to get into the story although it was good once I pushed through

xxx