Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises (Fredrik Backman)

Me and the story did not quite connect

★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 7.64

Title: My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises
Original title: Min mormor hälsar och säger förlåt
Author: Fredrik Backman
Translator: Henning Koch (from Swedish)
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

When Granny leaves Elsa a mysterious series of letters apologising to those she has wronged, her stories come to life in ways Elsa could never have imagined, sending her on a breathtaking adventure of her own…


I had quite high expectations going into this one, as I have absolutely adored other books I have read by this author, but although I still enjoyed this one, I did not love it as much as I had hoped.

My first issue was that Else, although a main character that I liked, definitely doesn’t read like an almost-eight year old. Not even a precocious one. To me she reads like precocious ten-year-old. That bothered me more than it should have done.

Apart from that, I did like the way the author interwove a contemporary story with fantasy elements in the form of a fantasy world that Elsa’s grandmother had created. However, I felt like it didn’t always gel that well with the story the author was telling.

I think this one just was not really for me. Although I definitely liked elements of the story and I enjoyed the slow reveal of the the relationships between all these people in Elsa’s life, I felt it all just took a little too long.

This was one was just a good read to me.

3.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8
  • Ambience: 8
  • Language: 8
  • Story: 7.5
  • Pacing: 7
  • Interest: 7.5
  • Enjoyment: 7.5
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Shield Maiden (Sharon Emmerichs)

This was just fine.

★★★☆☆ 1/2 – CALSPIE 6.93

Title: Shield Maiden
Author: Sharon Emmerichs
 Fiction / YA / Fantasy
First published: 2 February 2023 by Head of Zeus
Edition: eARC, courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

Having grown up hearing tales of her uncle, the great King Beowulf, Fryda’s one desire is to become a shield maiden in her own right. Yet a terrible childhood accident has left Fryda disabled – thus, she believes, thwarting her dream of becoming a warrior-woman for good. But still, somehow, she feels an uncontrollable power begin to rise within herself.


The reason I wanted to read this book is because I read Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf last year and this novels features Beowulf years after the event. He is a side character in this and yet it made me curious, especially with Beowulf still relatively fresh in my mind.

There were parts of this novel I really liked. I liked Fryda as a main character and the fact that she had to overcome a physical injury that left her arm barely usable seemed an interesting premise. Though a big deal was made of this at the beginning of the book, her arm suddenly did not seem much of a problem anymore. That bothered me a bit for some reason.

I quite liked the over arching plot and I did grow rather fond of Fryda and Theow as a couple, but some o the execution did not quite work for me. The relationships between the characters were a mixed bag. Some were nicely written and others just did not seem to ring true.

I wanted a bit more of the environment, their surroundings and the way these people lived. I wanted more of a sense of time and place I suppose. Much of this read as if it could have been set at any time in any place, which was a little disappointing.

I liked it, but I did not fall in love with this one.

3.5 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 7.5
  • Ambience: 6
  • Language: 7.5
  • Story: 7
  • Pacing: 6.5
  • Interest: 7
  • Enjoyment: 7
Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: A Ghost in the Throat (Doireann ní Ghríofa)

I missed a little bit of connection in the end

★★★☆☆ 3/4 – CALSPIE 7.56

Title: A Ghost in the Throat
Author: Doireann ní Ghríofa
Narrator: Siobhán McSweeney
 Non-Fiction / Memoir / Essays / Biography
First published: 2020
Edition: Paperback, published by Tramp Press in 2020

In the 1700s, an Irish noblewoman, on discovering her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem. In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with its parallels with her own life, and sets out to track down the rest of the story. A devastating and timeless tale about one woman freeing her voice by reaching into the past and finding another’s.


It took me a while to compile my thoughts on this one as I feel quite conflicted. On one hand there was the writing, which I really liked and also the research into Eibhlín Dubh Ni Choniall, which I found really interesting, but there were also passages where I completely lost interest.

It started out really engaging and I was hanging onto every word for the first third of the book, but after that I found my attention waver more often than it should. I no longer felt as connected to the author and I just did not find it as interesting.

Still, there were passages where she was able to pull me back in, especially when she talks about her research into this female poet, whose prose the author is painstakingly translating from Irish to English. her almost obsessive connection to this poet is the most interesting aspect of this book for me. The more personal bits were sometimes interesting, but sometimes felt superfluous.

I did like how it focused on the female narrative, emphasizing how it is exactly that female narrative often gets left out history. There is no deying the writing is beautiful and poignant and I really enjoyed the narration of the audio book. Especially hearing the old poems by Eibhlín Dubh in their original Irish form was a nice touch.

I am happy I read this one and I am sure I will think about it in the future, but it is not one I am likely to read again.

3.75 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8
  • Ambience: 7.5
  • Language: 9
  • Story: 7
  • Pacing: 7
  • Interest: 7.5
  • Enjoyment: 7
Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts – God: an Anatomy (Francesca Stavrakopoulou)

Such a fascinating subject!


Title: God: an Anatomy
Author/Narrator: Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Genre: Non-Fiction / History / Theology
First published: 2015
Edition: Audio book/hardback, published by Picador in 2021

Three thousand years ago, in the Southwest Asian lands we now call Israel and Palestine, a group of people worshipped a complex pantheon of deities, led by a father god called El. El had seventy children, who were gods in their own right. One of them was a minor storm deity, known as Yahweh. Yahweh had a body, a wife, offspring and colleagues. He fought monsters and mortals. He gorged on food and wine, wrote books, and took walks and naps. But he would become something far larger and far more abstract: the God of the great monotheistic religions.


Let me start my thoughts on this fascinating book by explaining what angle I am coming at this book from. I am neither Christian, Jewish or Muslim. I am an agnostic with an interest in religion and the idea of religion. It is not up to me to tell others what they should or should not believe. You do you and I do me. I wanted to say that, because I imagine this book could be quite polarizing for those who hold a particular faith.

To me, this was a fascinating read. I listened to it on audio book, but I was glad to have the hardback on hand to see some of the gorgeous artwork that the author mentioned in her narrative. The author does read the audio book herself. She dissects the history of God through the use of his body parts, starting with the feet and working her way up. It was a wonderful and novel way to talk about the history of the God we know from the Bible, the Torah and the Qur’an to a lesser extent. How did this God start out? How did the idea of him change over the millenia that we have known him?

As is often the case with history, there are a lot of plausible assertions that do not necessarily rely on fact. To be honest, I did not mind that. I read this book as an theory as what God had once been to be people and how he changed from a corporeal being to a nonphysical entity. I thought it was an entirely fascinating read. Maybe I wish there was a bit more ‘oomph’ to it in the end. I am not sure exactly what I was missing, maybe a more assertive conclusion? I am finding it hard to put a finger on it.

This book made me realise I want to read more about the subject of religion, particularly monotheistic religions. I will seek out some more books and information when I feel ready. I imagie that this is a book that I will return to in sections in the future.

If the subject matter sounds interesting to you, you won’t be disappointed.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: State of Sorrow (Melinda Salisbury)

YA fantasy with more of a touch of political intrigue


Title: State of Sorrow (Sorrow #1)
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy .
First published: 2018
Edition: Hardback, published by Scholastic in 2018

By day, Sorrow governs the Court of Tears, covering for her grief-maddened father, who has turned their once celebrated land into a living monument for the brother who died before she was born. By night, she seeks solace in the arms of the boy she’s loved since childhood. But one ghost won’t stop haunting her, and when enemies old and new close ranks against her, Sorrow must decide how far she’s willing to go to win…


I am not sure I have much to say about this YA fantasy novel. It was good, I enjoyed it, but I am not going out of my way to continue the series.

There was nothing I disliked about this novel. The writing was fine, the characters were good enough and the plot was interesting. Very political intrigue based, but not too heavy, and I enjoyed that. For me, it just did not have a special something that made it stand out. The world building was not quite extensive enough for me personally. However, I still feel like want to rate it quite high, as I feel my opinion is definitely skewed because I do not read a lot of YA books these days.

I did like this book and I would definitely recommend this to older teenagers and young adults. There is some mild sexual content and the political aspect makes it more suitable for older teenagers in my opinion.

For now, I won’t be continuing with this series, but I may in the future if the second book happened to cross my path. This book is staying on my shelves for now. Nothing to do with the gorgeous cover of course…

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The City of Brass (S A Chakraborty)

Magical, exciting; a intriguing start to this Trilogy


Title: The City of Brass
Author: S A Chakraborty
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2017
Edition: Paperback, published by Harper Voyager in 2018

When Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary City of Brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.


A fantasy in a Middle Eastern setting? Yes, please! And boy, this did not disappoint. I enjoyed this from start to finish. There were times that I was a bit lost, but overall I loved this first book in the Daevabad Trilogy and I am sure to continue soon.

This is one of those books that reads somewhere between YA and adult fantasy. It reads away really easily, and the story was engaging and interesting. At the end of the first book so much has already happened and yet I have no idea where it is going. There are a number of factions of people opposing each other and misunderstanding each other and their history, which causes a lot of friction. Nothing is as it seems and the characters are constantly thrown off course. I liked that a lot.

The characters, main as well as side, felt layered and complex enough to keep me interested and I felt like I never quite knew what their next move would be. The two main characters seemed as much in the dark of what was going on as I was and that is definitely something that appealed to me. I still do not quite understand the magic system, but at the same time I do not feel I need to.

Of course, there is the Middle Eastern setting and cultural references, which add a layer of exotic fresh air to the story. It was an aspect I much enjoyed. Especially since I have read a few books set in the Middle East recently.

I loved this one and if you enjoy fantasy, I would highly recommend this one.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Girl With A Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)

A quietly atmospheric novel, but something was missing…


Title: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction
First published: 1999
Edition: Paperback, published by Harper Collins in 2003

Griet, the young daughter of a tilemaker in seventeeth century Holland, obtains her first job, as a servant in Vermeer’s household. Through Griet’s eyes we see the complicated family, the society of the small town of Delft, and life with an obsessive genius. Griet loves being drawn into his artistic life, and leaving her former drudgery, but the cost to her own survival may be high. 


This book had been lingering on my shelves for a while and I finally picked it up. It was an easy read. It was well written and atmospheric, but I did not love it.

I think everyone knowns the painting this book is based on. It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. This fictional account of its birth is not based on much fact, as little is known about the painter or the painting itself. However, the author brought the time period to life with skilfull writing. The quiet tension between Griet and Vermeer is well written. Overall, this is a quiet sort of book and generally I like a quiet book, but I found something was missing, like the pearl in the painting. There is something niggling at me.

I enjoyed reading this book, but I did not find it particularly memorable. I am glad I finally read it and I would like to read more from this author.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt (John Cooper Clarke)

Brilliant use of the English language!


Title: Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt
Author: John Cooper Clarke
Genre: Poetry / Punk Poetry / Modern Poetry
First published: 1983
Edition: Paperback, published by Vintage in 2012

Punk. Poet. Pioneer. The Bard of Salford’s seminal collection is as scabrous, wry & vivid now as it was when first published over 25 years ago.

There is something about the rhythms of John Cooper Clarke poems that I really like.

Of course I have seen/heard him perform a poem or two on television over the years, so I am familiar with his style of reciting them, which helps to find that rhythm in myself as I am reading them.

His subject matter is gritty, his delivery is sharp as a knife, and his language choices and (internal) rhyme schemes just work for me.

I did not love each and every one of the poems, but the vast majority I really enjoyed.

If you enjoy modern poetry, I would definitely recommend this one!

(on a side note, the illustrations by Steve Maguire are pretty great too)

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Book of Lost Things (John Connolly)


Title: The Book of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings
First published: 2006
Edition: Paperback, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2007

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.


My thoughts and rating for this book are definitely a question of taste and do not necessarily reflect the quality of the writing. Fairytale retellings are not really my kind of thing. Fairytales ARE not my kind of thing and going into this book I did not know that was exactly what this book is.

It is by no means a bad book. In fact, it weaves a whole plethora of wellknown fairytales into a coherent interesting story. I just did not enjoy it very much. It simply was not my thing. It was not even that the fairytales were very dark and twisted into something else entirely. Many original fairytales were gruesome. I just did not care enough for the story itself and it was the fairytale elements I enjoyed the least.

David, the main character struggles with the death of his mother and fitting into a new family when his father marries another woman and has a child with her. He ends up in a strange dark world and while he is there David grows as a person. I did enjoy his character arc and the ending was satisfying as well, which does help.

The actual writing was fine. The story itself objectively was fine. It just was not for me. If dark fairytale retellings are your thing, you will probably enjoy this a whole lot more than I did.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (Theodora Goss)


Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Author: Theodora Goss
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Fantasy
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes. But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.


This novel was a fun time for sure. It is one of those light-hearted books that takes a lot of the familiar and blends it into a kind of cozy mystery.

The author has taken a number of characters from novels, such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein, the Sherlock Holmes series and Dracula and uses the reader’s familiarity with these characters to weave a new story. This one features an all-woman cast, apart from Sherlock and Watson and a few side characters, and throws them into a big adventure with a mystery to solve.

This was one of those novels that was a joy to read, including the amusing commentary from the characters themselves that are sprinkled throughout, but I am not sure it will stick in my brain for very long. Its tone was quite light and amusing.

I would happily read the next book in this series if it comes on my path, but i won’t go out of my way to continue this series.

5 out of 7 stars