Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Sleep (C L Taylor)

Taylor, C L - Sleep

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Sleep
Author: C L Taylor
Genre: Fiction/Thriller   Pages: 350
First published: 2019
Edition: Kindle e-book

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

I sped through this closed circuit mystery/thriller novel. It was a very easy read and it pretty much did what I wanted. Well, almost.

The plot was great, the tension was just right and the though the reveal was not incredible, it was good enough. It worked for me anyway.

I do feel that the book missed a bit of a trick. The author could have created so much more atmosphere by showing the reader this storm that was supposed to be raging instead of telling us about it. The book is set on a small Scottish island in an isolated hotel and we are told the visitors are stranded in this hotel because of this massive storm. The reader is told this several times, but the author never describes the storm. No sense of windows rattling, the wind whistling or rain lashing the building. The only time you notice that it is set during the storm is when the author tells you so or when the characters go outside and get wet. She could have done so much more with this to bring another sense of dread to the story and that is a shame.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this one and if you like the synopsis, just read it, because it’s a good one.

5 out of 7 stars

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Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: A Long Way Down (Nick Hornby)

Hornby, Nick - A Long Way Down

★★★☆☆☆☆

Title: A Long Way Down
Author: Nick Hornby
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary   Pages: 257
First published: 2005
Edition: Paperback, published in 2006 by Penguin

Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year’s Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper’s House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives.

I had to force myself to finish this novel, which is never a good thing. It is not that it is badly written, or that it is a bad plot, but it simply did not do much for me personally.

The premise was interesting. The novel is about four people, who meet on a roof of a tall building, each meaning to commit suicide for a variety of reasons. Now, this is a pretty heavy topic and I felt the book sort of made light of that. I understand that books about suicide do not necessarily have to be dark, but I simply felt like the author used it as a  trope to tell a story about four, frankly, quite uninteresting people.

And that is my main issue. The four main characters were simply not interesting enough. I don’t need to like a person to enjoy a character, but I did not care about any of these people. Maybe Maureen had most of affection, but really none of them were able to carry the story for me.

It was not a bad book, but it was just ‘meh’ for me and this book is going on my unhaul pile.

3 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Tin Man (Sarah Winman)

Winman, Sarah - Tin Man

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Tin Man
Author: Sarah Winman
Genre: Fiction/Literary Fiction   Pages: 213
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Man, this little novel hit me in the feels. Curse you, Sarah Winman, for breaking my heart!

This novel is told in two parts by two men, who were always more than best friends. The first is a third person narrative from Ellis’ point of view and the second is a first person narrative from Michael’s point of view. Even whilst I was reading Ellis’ part, I felt like it would have been much better in first person. I found the third person narrative a little jarring here. I was pleasantly surprised when it came to Michael’s part. I was right. The first person narrative felt much more natural to me and it was the bit that had me in tears. Of course, the author probably used these narrative styles for the two men for a good reason. Maybe to underline the difference between them?

I felt like Ellis’ part was the skeleton and Michael’s tale the flesh.

The relationships in this book are just wonderful and I fell in love with Annie along the way. She was a character that I really connected to, even if we never really got to know her that well. The relationship between Ellis and Michael is uneven, but powerful, and beautifully written.

As the second part was, in my opinion, much stronger, I left the book on a high (but sad) note and I feel glad that I have read it. This will hit you in the feels, but it is so worth reading!

5 out of 7 stars (so close to 6 stars!)

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: A Polar Affair (Lloyd Spencer Davis)

Spencer Davis, Lloyd - A Polar Affair

★★★★★★☆

Title: A Polar Affair; Antarctica’s Forgotten Hero and the Secret Love Lives of Penguins
Author: Lloyd Spencer Davis
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography/Adventure/Natural World   Pages: 400
First published: 2019 by Pegasus Books
Edition: e-Book, courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

George Murray Levick was the physician on Robert Falcon Scott’s tragic Antarctic expedition of 1910. Marooned for an Antarctic winter, Levick passed the time by becoming the first man to study penguins up close. His findings were so shocking to Victorian morals that they were quickly suppressed and seemingly lost to history.

At the end of this book I feel like I have gained all sorts of knowledge in the best possible way. This book is not only about penguin sex (though it tells you a whole lot about that!), it is about the race for the South Pole and polar exploration and the hardships those explorers experienced. I learned that it takes a special kind of person to push those limits.

The author goes from his own research and experience in penguin biology and surviving in Antarctica to that of the first penguin biologist, Murray Levick, and the South Pole race between Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Admundsen.

This is an endlessly fascinating account about those first Antarctic explores and the animals they encountered based on their notes and diaries, but written in a clear and engaging way. Their hardships break your heart. It also looks at their lives (if they lived) after polar exploration. And of course, the author shows us glimpses into the often vulgar lives of the Adelie penguins.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in adventure or natural history.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Walking Home (Clare Balding)

Balding, Clare - Walking Home

★★★★★★☆

Title: Walking Home
Author/Audio Narrator: Clare Balding
Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir
First published: 2014
Edition: audio

This is a story of paths and people, of discovering the glories of Britain and Ireland, and of (mis)adventures with the family. Along the way there are charming diversions and life-changing rambles, including her take on the 2012 Olympics. And, finally, this is Clare’s story of Walking Home . . .

This is the second of Clare’s memoirs I have listened to and I have enjoyed both a lot. I love listening to Clare talk about her life.

This one centres on the walking side of her life, in particular her job as a presenter for a walking program on BBC radio, but also walking a particular long distance walk with her family near their home. She intersperses that with stories of her life, as a sports presenter for the BBC, as a dog lover, and of course of her life in horse racing.

If you go into this expecting a book that would be solely about walking you may be disappointed, but I love how this book seems to be a stream of consciousness. She will start a story about a walk and then one thought will go off on a tangent and she ends up talking her dog, or the London Olympics. I kind of love that about this book. It is like listening to a good friend and I found it very comforting to listen to. Her accents when she talks about other people are quite amusing, and even if they don’t sound quite right, I think that only gives it more charm. I

If you are not familiar with Clare, I doubt this would be of much interest to you, but I have always loved her and her books are very much exactly as she comes across when you see her on the television, warm, knowledgeable and kind. If you are familiar with her and like her, I would wholeheartedly recommend these books on audio.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan)

Kwan, Kevin - Crazy Rich Asians

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary   Pages: 527
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

The outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

I had a fun time with this novel, which in a way is as tragic as it is amusing. It is basically a soap opera about the ultrarich in Singapore and as long as you go along with that it is a good read. I knew what I was getting myself into and it pretty much was what I wanted it to be, which is light entertainment in book form.

I enjoyed the characters and the way the author describes people it was easy to picture them, even without too many specifics. It dug deep enough when it came to our main characters and their circumstances.

The way the author changed point of view from one paragraph to the next irked me somewhat, and though it did not ruin the book for me, I would have preferred it to be  better structured.

As long as you just want a piece of fun light reading, I think you will enjoy this, like I did. This is not a high brow sort of novel, but it is a hell of a fun ride. It would make a great holiday read.

I probably will read the other books in this series at some point, when I need a fun light read.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Eucalyptus (Murray Bail)

Bail, Murray - Eucalyptus

★★★★★☆

Title: Eucalyptus
Author: Murray Bail
Genre: Fiction/Literary Fiction   Pages: 255
First published: 1998
Edition: Paperback, published by Text Publishing in 2000

The gruff widower Holland has two possessions he cherishes above all others: his sprawling property of eucalyptus trees and his ravishingly beautiful daughter, Ellen. 

When Ellen turns nineteen Holland makes an announcement: she may marry only the man who can correctly name the species of each of the hundreds of gum trees on his property. 

Oh boy, this book is quite something. It’s a Marmite book for sure (or should I say Vegemite?). You either read this and love it or absolutely hate it. It is THAT kind of book. It is one of the strangest books I have ever read, but I kind of loved it for that.

The tale has a fairytale quality to it and reading it is like being lost in a very strange world that smells of eucalyptus trees and is covered in the red dust of Australian soil. I love how it evokes the landscape and how it feels incredibly Australian.

The author never tells the reader enough and the writing is often vague, but somehow that works for me in this novel. The fact that events and conversations do not always make sense gives it an air of mystery and an ethereal quality without ever becoming that beautiful or lyrical. The way the story is told feels dreamlike, but in a rugged, harsh kind of way that simulates the environment.  It is hard to explain.

The eucalyptus in its many forms is one of my favourite type of tree. In my early twenties I spent nine months travelling around Australia and everytime I come across a eucalyptus tree these days, it reminds me of the wonderful smells, sights and sounds I experienced there. It was one of the reasons I picked up this novel.

I am not sure who to recommend this novel to. It is so odd and unique. I guess if the synopsis speaks to you, then do give it a go. You might enjoy it, much as I did. Or you may absolutely hate it… Either way, you are bound to come away with some sort of opinion.

5 out of 7 stars