July – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

When you are busily writing the July blog post on the night of the meeting, you know this is a book that you want to shout about! All the ugly and Wonderful Things is that book! Also, I am totally aware that I am a little behind with my blog, so yes, I probably will post July before May & June, but that’s not the end of the world, is it?

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things – Bryn Greenwood

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What an apt title this book has, I mean it is just perfect. The book is indeed ugly and wonderful, as is the relationship it refers to. It was one of those books that you just can’t put down, I had to occasionally, but if I had a couple of days free and could just get stuck into a book, this is the kind of book that I could easily get lost in. Alex read it in two days, Steph read it in three days, it is easily done, you just want to know what is going to happen next.

The book tells the story of Wavy (Wavonna) from the time when she is 5 years old until she is twenty-one. When she is first introduced, we are certain that she is unusual, but not sure why. Wavy doesn’t talk, she doesn’t eat, unless she is alone in the middle of the night and the food is stolen from a neighbour’s house or from the bin and she doesn’t like to be touched. The book begins with narration from Wavy’s cousin Amy. Amy explains why Wavy is staying with them, she describes Wavy as a skinny, odd little girl, but with an adult way about her. Amy is the only member of the family that accepts Wavy into her home and into her life fully, the others all have their misgivings and feel awkward around her.

Throughout the book, we learn about Wavy’s home life, her family and their failings, and her relationship with a man called Kellen. Ths story is told by everyone in her life, with each new chapter being narrated by a different character. This works really well because it gives the reader insight into how each of the characters view her behaviours and their understanding of Wavy’s situation. She does not have a happy family life, being raised by a junkie mother most of the time, and by her father, her Aunt, her grandmother and other people when it suited. The constants in Wavy’s life are her brother Donal, her cousin Amy and Kellen. The others are less reliable.

The book is a tough read, but beautifully written, it would not be such a tough read if it was not written well. Whilst I did not agree with all of the actions or perspectives of all of the people surrounding Wavy, it was easy to understand them, they made sense as fully rounded characters and nobody was undeveloped. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting something that they can really get stuck in to. I gave the book 4.5* and the rest of the group gave it 4*- 4.5*, it is not lighthearted, it is not an easy read, but it is a bloody good book!

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

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As a teenager I wasn’t that much of a reader, I read occasionally, and when required to for school, but rarely just because I wanted to read, then I discovered Agatha Christie and I was hooked. I devoured her books, and also watched all of the films, which fast became some of my favourites,  second only to Hitchcock.

Murder on the Orient Express is not new to me, but I last read it 30+ years ago, so there was no way I could get away without updating myself on the story, and I am so glad I did.  In spite of having read the book in the past, and having seen the film several times, I still could not remember ‘whodunnit’. The beauty of Christie’s writing is that there are many credible outcomes, and as you read the book you change your mind several times before eventually coming to (usually the wrong) conclusion. There are formulas in Christie’s writing, but not so obvious that the story becomes predictable.

The range of characters on the train is interesting, each character is well developed, and each could easily have been involved with the murder, what more can you want from a murder mystery? For me, I would have liked a last-minute twist on the twist, but maybe that’s because it’s 2018 and we are so used to being overstimulated by a story. I was not disappointed at all by the book, in fact, I really liked it, but I wasn’t challenged when reading it. I’ll try and explain, the whole ‘OMG somebody’s dead’ storyline is great, but there is no description of the murder, nor is there any recounting of the event by the murderer from their thoughts. It’s kind of like the films where a couple kisses, then they are in bed, the meaty bit is missing. That said I gave it 4*, I think Christie is fabulous and I  really love the naivety of her writing. The other members of the groups gave the book between 3.5* and 4*.

Happy Reading!

Mel xx

 

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January – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I remember my Mum watching ‘Hitchhiker’s’ on TV when I was quite young, it was big, everyone knew about the book, the TV show and the Radio play version. Quotes from the book were part of my growing up, I KNEW that the meaning of life, the universe and everything was 42, people often said ‘so long and thanks for all the fish’, and I KNEW that Marvin was a paranoid android, but I never read the book until now….

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

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The book started well; the bit on Earth was witty, and I had high hopes. I loved the way that Ford Prefect manipulated those around him, without seeming to be manipulative, or smarmy, he just knew how to achieve his desired outcome. This is seen early on in the story when the builder is trying to destroy Arthur’s home, and Ford has an unusual request. There are things that I liked about the book, it was easy to read and the characters, although not fully developed in this book are at least interesting. I loved the justification for ensuring that you pack a towel above all else when hitchhiking through the Galaxy, and I loved how resilient Arthur was given the circumstances.

Overall, I was disappointed! I remember it, I never read it, never heard it, never saw it, but it was there, pretty much all my life. I remember the names Arthur Dent and Trillion because it was HUGE, MASSIVE, everyone knew it, everyone quoted from it, it just was! SO I was sure I’d love it… I didn’t, it was okay, but not okay enough for me to want to read on! It did not live up to my expectations, and that makes me sad! I gave the book 3* and the rest of the group gave it an average of 4*, which makes it worth reading if you’re looking for something light-hearted and humorous.

Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

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Brighton Rock is a book that I first read when I was just 17 years old, at the time I loved it, I raved about it, I told everyone to read it, I have not read it since. I was a little concerned that it would not live up to my own hype, but it was only the 2nd book, so it’s not like I was forcing people to read it. I do remember it being pretty dark and that Pinky’s character was really well written, and I have read other Graham Greene books, and I know that he is pretty good at creating tension. I thought I remembered the end but was unsure whether I was misremembering, and worried that it wouldn’t be as powerful as I thought it was.

As soon as I started reading this book again, I was hooked. I love how well the characters are written, Ida is a force to be reckoned with. I love that the book has strong, female leads, as well as the obviously strong male gang members. I believe that Ida is inherently good, yes, of course, she is on a little adventure, but it is fueled by the need to uncover the truth. Something happened to someone that she connected with, however briefly, and she wants to make sure that justice is served, and that makes her morally superior to the other characters.

Brighton Rock is not a light read, it is gritty, it is dark and it is brilliant. I still love this book, I gave it 4.5* and was yet again blown away by the ending (no spoilers). The rest of the group rated it between 3.5* and 4*, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but it is definitely a beautifully written and emotive book.

Happy Reading!

Mel x

March – I Let You Go

The March meeting has literally just finished and I am buzzing with excitement. Firstly, I am really touched that Steph chose to be with us on her Birthday, it shows how fantastic our wee group is, and how much of a bond we have built over the (almost) 2 years that we have been meeting. Secondly it was a big meeting with lots of members in attendance, and plenty to talk about.

I let you go – Clare Mackintosh

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I knew ‘I let you go’ was a thriller, and I do like a good thriller, the problem is I rarely find a good one. On the back of the book it said ‘If you liked ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on a Train’, you’ll love…’ the problem is I didn’t, I really didn’t enjoy either of those books at all, so at that point I lost all hope. I picked it up anyway, because I always give the books a fair shot, and I was pleasantly surprised, the first few chapters were pretty good, so I read on.

This is a tough review to write, because for the first time in years of trying I found a thriller  that was not predictable, and I do not want to say anything to ruin that for potential readers. The story was beautifully written and totally floored me with a magnificent twist, I actually stopped reading and said ‘wait?……wtf?’ and then readjusted the plot in my mind and carried on. I literally could not put this book down, I was taken on an emotional rollercoaster and I did not want to get off.

I am actually not even going to mention the plot, the characters, the twists or anything about the actually content. What I will tell you is that with 9 members of the group that were at the meeting the book was rated a strong 4.5*, the lowest rating being a 4* and several giving it 5*. This book was a huge hit with everyone and that is rare, so I implore you to go and get a copy and give it a go, I seriously doubt that you will be disappointed.

Cinderella Girl – Carin Gerhardsen

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I got myself in a muddle and read this a month early, so had to try to remember enough about it at the meeting to join in the discussion properly. With so much going on in the book that was tough, but I soon remembered the main storylines, if not all the character’s names. I struggle with thrillers, because I love reading them, and I want to feel all of the emotion involved in murder investigations, but usually I finish the book and am unimpressed. This was definitely not the case with Cinderella Girl, I read it over two days, I did not put it down for long and I was, again taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotion.

Cinderella Girl, I discovered after reading it is the second in a series of books by this author, this did not matter, the book stood alone well, although a couple of the stories running through this book look likely to carry on through the next. Was it totally believable? Not always, but there are several stories running through it and each had me hooked. At times I found myself yelling at the book, then feeling a little bit sick at some of the descriptions, and in the end, welling up with emotion (yes I very nearly cried at a thriller of all things).

There are several characters in the book that had my sympathy; Barbro, Petra & Joakim mainly, though I really wanted someone to offer some wisdom or guidance to Sandén, Elise and Jennifer, and I was terrified for Hanna right the way through the book. I have read so many books where I just don’t care what happens to the characters, to care so deeply about so many shows that this author has a great skill. I gave Cinderella Girl 4* and would definitely recommend it as an ‘edge of your seat’ thriller. The three other members of the group that read it gave it 4*, 3.5* and 2* so it didn’t appeal to everyone, but if thrillers are your thing, give it a go!

Happy Reading!

Mel x