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.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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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.

My thoughts on Writers and Lovers by Lily King

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4/5 stars ⭐️

I love romance and I love comedy and literally cannot get enough, ever. Writers and Lovers filled that void I felt, perfectly. When I wasn’t reading it I was pining after it, all I wanted to do was sit and read this book.

Writers and Lovers is set in 1997 about Casey Peabody who is 31 years old and waitressing tables while in her spare time writing a novel that she has agonised over for 6 years of her life. This story has it all, love, loss and loans. Casey is struggling to get by on her waitress wage, living in a rented potting shed, trying to get her novel published while still paying back thousands of dollars worth of student loans and dealing with the cost and worries of health.

It is as much a story about finding your way in life and accomplishment as it is a story about relationships and the different kinds of relationships you will experience in life.

Casey as a character I find likeable as well as relatable. She doesn’t have her life at all together but she is trying to work towards discovering what she wants and what makes her happy. I like that Casey isn’t afraid to feel things and is able to articulate those feelings and make decisions despite all her unknowns. We learn a lot from Casey about her past and her relationships with family and love interests. Casey is dealing with the sudden loss of her mother, which is spoken about throughout the book with some heartbreaking moments. One part where she momentarily forgets the loss of her mother and feels excited to talk to her mum and then reality sets in, that she can no longer do this. For me family is important and it’s often my parents I want to tell any exciting news, to not be able to do this is a devastating thought, not being able to talk to the people closest to you for any reason. Although Casey grew up with her father it was often difficult and is still strained as an adult which we find out about throughout the story which also adds to her feelings of failure and her need to be successful.

I’m not always a big fan of a love triangle however I feel the way it played out in the book was better than others I have read before. Although there is stereotyping I didn’t feel like it was too cheesy and I still liked the male counterparts. Oscar has dimension which I felt through his relationship with his young children who he is the sole carer for that gives him a softer side, he had also lost his wife to illness which gives him a different outlook on relationships and life. He is older, knowledgable and kind. Oscar is not afraid of telling Casey how he feels which feels refreshing. Silas is young, in a similar situation to Casey, struggling with trials and tribulations of what it is to be an author and dealing with grief too. He wears a leather jacket which is described often, emphasising an air of coolness. Silas seems more impulsive and exciting trying to discover who he is and also who he is as a writer. All the characters have flaws but I like that the flaws are not exaggerated or overly referred to, they are subtle which adds to the realness of the story and the characters.

Writers and lovers is a feel good book and a great read in my opinion. Although there is sadness there are lovely moments of happiness in this story. The characters are realistic and the relationships are positive as opposed to being exaggerated and creating unrealistic expectations. I loved the friendships Casey had at work, the support that she had from people in her life and her positivity and endurance to carry on and succeed even when things are not going right. Casey is able to overcome her fears and get to a better place. I knew the ending would be happy and uplifting and that’s exactly what I was looking for as typical with Rom-coms. The book will be one that I will definitely remember with a smile and would recommend to anyone wanting a feel good story and for anyone who loves books or has or had dreams of being an author.

Next I will be reading Normal People by Sally Rooney which I loved on tv so I am very excited.

Luster, Raven Leilani

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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?

A Few Books On My TBR List

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Being a bit of a newbie to reading there are SO many books I want/need to read however not being superhuman I’m not sure I will be able to read them all in 10 months or so. But I will try to read as many as I can. Wish me luck!

Here are 6 books on my TBR list, just a small selection. Please let me know any thoughts on them or any suggestions for books you have read and loved, or that you want to read. In no particular order:

1. Writers and Lovers – Lily King

This book has had so many wonderful reviews which initially drew me in. The art work on the cover is also another factor of why I looked into this book. The story follows 31 year old Casey who is trying to navigate life and also write a novel. A story of love, loss and trying to find your way in life to the next phase. Really excited about this one! I think this will be the next book I read.

2. The starless sea – Erin Morgenstern

Again another highly regarded book amongst readers and another stunning cover. I don’t know too much about the story but it stems from the main character, Zachary, finding a strange book in the university library that sends him on a quest. The story has mystery, adventure, puzzles and twists and turns to keep you gripped. It sounds like a fun story and I’m definitely in need of an adventure.

3. When all is said – Anne Griffin

This novel is a highly praised Irish novel. I stumbled across this book when looking for recommendations to read in 2021. This story follows Maurice Hannigan on a single night at the Rainford House Hotel. Maurice orders 5 drinks throughout the night to toast 5 different people in his life who are vital to him. Through these people, the ones who have left, Maurice tells his story. There are themes of love, highs, lows, regrets and feuds. I would like to read this book as it sounds like it will be moving, interesting, funny and sad at the same time. A journey to really get to know our main character and how he got to where he is today.

4. The push – Ashley Audrain

This is a psychological drama about family and choices. A story of motherhood and those feelings and fears of a new mother. Blythe Connor wants nothing more than to be a warm, comforting mother and be everything to her new baby that she never had but as the difficulties and struggles of early motherhood set in, Blythe feels as though there is something wrong with her daughter. Or is it all in her head? Blythe’s husband Fox dismisses these thoughts and Blythe begins to question her own sanity. I feel this book will be an exciting, gripping journey where we question what’s real and is our narrator reliable and what can we believe.

5. The heatwave – Kate Riordan

This is a thriller about mother and daughter set in France in the 1990s. There are unusual fires across the countryside and Sylvie receives a letter calling her back to the old family home in the south of France. Sylvie returns with youngest daughter Emma, filled with dread on returning to this place. Sylvie tries to protect Emma from family secrets and the truth of what happened here, what happened to Elodie, Sylvie’s other daughter, her mysterious death at 14. it looks to be about family secrets, manipulation, dysfunctional relationships and it’s all a mystery. Again lots of good reviews for this book.

Luster -Raven Leilani

Edie is in a dead-end job and finds her self struggling to succeed at what she enjoys, painting. Edie is feeling lost and that no-one cares that she doesn’t know what she is doing with her life. She then meets Eric, a white-middle aged man with a suburban family, including a wife – who has agreed to a sort of open-marriage. they also have an adopted black daughter. In a world where she is constantly navigating sexual and racial politics. Edie finds herself falling into Eric’s world…and family. This book examines the life of a young black girl and the longing for a sense of belonging and fitting in. this book has been described as funny and provocative and has been well received. this book would be something ive not really touched on before but would be really interested to read and find books with similar themes.

If you have any thoughts let me know I’d love to hear from you and what books are on your TBR list this year!

Keep reading 🙂

Xxx

The Humans, Matt Haig Review

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book! I mean this book was surprising, in a good way. At the beginning of the book I was happily reading away chuckling at the comical words of Matt Haig or in this case our unnamed Vonnadorian alien narrator, known to most now as professor Andrew Martin. The humour used was down to earth and relatable and any human would find themselves at least smiling at the pages.

As I read on, I found the story had more depth than I originally expected I was not only reading a funny book about an alien coming to earth but a novel about fitting in, unconditional love, mental health, mortality and power of knowledge. I liked the relationship between our protagonist and Newton which gave him a more human feel, it’s good to know even aliens adore dogs. Having fell utterly in love with ‘The Midnight Library’ which I focused on in my first post, I was super excited to see what ‘The Humans’ had in store and I was not disappointed. I feel there were many themes throughout ‘The Humans’ which were also throughout ‘The Midnight Library’. The weird feeling of not knowing any details about a life you were living and trying to find connections, the colour green = knowledge, philosophy and also touched on body image and how we perceive ourselves and others. I like that in both stories the protagonist was surprised by decisions they made and made decisions they never thought they would make but were ultimately satisfied. I am definitely now a Matt Haig fan! Maybe this should just be a Matt Haig fan blog…I promise it won’t be but I will have at least another review to do when I read ‘How To Stop Time.’

‘Love is what humans are all about, but they don’t understand it. If they understood it, then it wouldn’t disappear’…’it makes you do stupid things – things that defy all logic. The opting for anguish over calm, for mortality over eternity and for earth over home.’

The humans, Matt Haig (2017)

Overall this book was a dream to read, really easy to fall into, surprising and hard to put down. I thought the ending did the book justice and I was happy with the direction of the story. I thought there was a really nice message behind the story and enjoyed the advice to humans towards the end.

which is to say: don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. you are moving through the galaxy. wait for the stars.

The Humans, Matt Haig (2017)

Probably the quickest I’ve read a book and for someone as distracted as me, it’s a real achievement. I would definitely rate it 5/5.

what is your favourite story about being an outcast? any suggestions for what I should read next after ‘How to stop Time’ would be great 🙂

thank you for reading

xxx