Cloud Cuckoo Land (AUDIOBOOK) – Anthony Doerr – 30.10.21

Wow – this is an EPIC book. I mean that in whatever way you want to take it. The book is based around a fictional novel from Ancient Greece, which is based on real characters and stories from actual ancient Greek writings. Each chapter begins with a reading from the cloud cuckoo land story and then follows a set of characters from different periods of history (and the future) for whom the book plays a meaningful part in their lives (it reminds me a bit of ‘The People of the Book’ by Geraldine Brooks). All the stories were gripping and I felt connections with all the characters – the historical fiction parts were really interesting, the modern day story lines had lots of contemporary relevance with climate change issues, and I was blown away by the futuristic story of a girl on an ‘ark’ space ship fleeing a destroyed Earth and seeking a new home.

I was stunned by the ending of the book, and full of unanswered questions (although kind of in a good way?). Anthony Doerr is such a great writer!

The Glass Hotel – Emily St. John Mandel – 30.10.21

I think I was expecting a different kind of book when I started reading this – something more magical realismy but this book is much more grounded in reality than that. Following brother and sister characters and jumping through their chronology with life’s difficulties and challenges we get to know them and piece together their experiences. I also learned quite a lot about Ponzi schemes!

I found the book engaging and interesting but I don’t think I loved it as much as other books by the author.

Rubbernecker – Belinda Bauer – 24.10.21

This is an interesting, thought provoking and readable murder mystery novel. The story is told from three points of view. One character is a man in a coma in hospital who is aware of much of what is going on around him but not able to communicate, who sees someone in a bed near him being ‘helped out of life’ and lives in fear of the same thing happening to him. Another is a nurse on the ward (in my opinion the least interesting of the three characters, but I guess necessary to give some more bits of information), and the third and main character is an anatomy student called Patrick. Patrick is fascinated in the workings of the human body and has high functioning autism. He notices tiny discrepancies in the cadaver that he and his study group are dissecting in his university class which makes him convinced that the man did not die of the cause stated in his notes. Of course nobody takes him seriously, and he lacks the subtlety and social skills to put his point across in a way that doesn’t annoy his teachers and get him into lots of trouble. Patrick is tenacious though, and will not let it lie…..

I really enjoyed the book!

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black – 21.10.21

I loved the beginning of this book. Set in an America after there had been a big vampire explosion and when society was set up to deal with further threat – entire cities are kept as quarantine centres for people infected with vampirism (and others who were either trapped there or chose to live there for some reason). The main character wakes up at a party where most of her friends have been slaughtered by vampires and she was somehow overlooked. She goes on a journey with a vampire she saved from the others and a boy who had been bitten but not yet turned to take them both to the quarantine city (coldtown). As the book went on however I got a bit bored the American Teen stuff – all love and image and what-not, but then I’m a 52 year old Irish woman so probably not the target audience. An interesting and mostly fun and enjoyable and thought provoking take on the classic vampire novel.

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind (The Frost Files Book 1) – Jackson Ford – 16.10.21

As a result of genetic manipulation, Teagan has powers of telekinesis and a traumatic back story that is teased out in this enjoyable action adventure story. I don’t usually go for books with lots of ‘action’ and at times this one was too violent for my tastes, but I still really enjoyed reading it. I liked getting to know the main character as well as some of the subsidiary characters, and the plot was interesting enough to keep me hooked. There was a good balance of humour, tension and relationship stuff. It is the first book in a series, and while I didn’t love it enough to rush out and buy the rest, I have added the other books to my Wishlist so if they’re going cheep on kindle I’ll buy and read them.

The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club book 2) – Richard Osman (AUDIOBOOK) – 15.10.21

When I reviewed the first Thursday Murder Club book by Richard Osman, I said that it was not what I expected, and that threw me a bit. This time around, I knew what to expect, and I had a nice warm cozy feeling upon being reacquainted with the cast of old people sleuths, a bit like getting back into a still warm bed in the night after having to get up to go to the loo (!). I actually really enjoyed listening to this story. I think the writing, which I had felt meandered a bit too much in the first book, was more focussed with better structure and the plot held together well. Once again the book was both humorous and poignant and whilst Joyce’s character is sometimes pushed a little too far into caricature, I still really felt bonded to her and a certain kinship with her!

You do have to suspend belief somewhat – I don’t think that in real life either the police or the secret services would work so closely with these amateur retirees or indeed let them take the lead so much in an investigation of murder, diamond theft and drug dealing gang wars! If you imagine The Famous Five all got old and lived in a retirement village but still had adventures and solved crimes, then this is the book you’d get.

I did really like it thought – apart from the interview at the end of the audiobook between the author and the narrator which was all ‘ I love you, you’re so great…’ ‘no, I love you more, because you’re even greater,’ ‘no you’re the best’ ‘no you are…’ and so on. Puh lease. Get a room.

The Ash House – Angharad Walker – 09.10.21

I loved the first half of this book – the writing is really moody and atmospheric and I loved the mystery and the magical realism of the setting.

A boy with chronic pain is taken from hospital and left at the gates to an old house that seems to be ‘made of ash’. He is met by a child who welcomes him in. It seems that the only inhabitants of the house are all children who don’t actually live in the house but in greenhouses in the grounds.

The boy is given a new name and struggles to remember much of his life before arriving at the Ash House.

The children are secretive about some things, but tell of a benevolent headmaster who used to look after them but hasn’t been seen for three years, and a ‘doctor’ who visits but they are all afraid of.

I was disappointed by the ending of the book. The second half doesn’t really go anywhere and the denouement is very inconclusive. Hmmm.

Should We Stay or Should We Go – Lionel Shriver – 04.10.21

It was interesting reading this book so soon after Exit by Belinda Bauer as both books deal with issues surrounding end of live/suicide/euthanasia. In this book a married couple, who in their fifties have to deal with the terrible decline in physical and mental health of their parents, make a pact to perform a joint suicide on their 80th birthday (or the wife’s 80th as she is a year younger than the husband).

The book then follows a ‘sliding doors’ pattern of exploring various different possibilities of how this might play out in reality – whether one or other (or both) of them pulls out of the pact, and what happens next, or what if they go through with it, or something else….

If I’d have known that this was the structure of the book, I probably wouldn’t have read it, because usually I don’t like this messing with the fourth wall type of storytelling, but actually I thought it was amazing (in a good way!).

Strangely, seeing the different possible endings of these people’s lives made me get to know them and care about them really deeply and even though I guessed how the book would end, that didn’t annoy me because it just felt so right.

56 Days -Catherine Ryan Howard (AUDIOBOOK) – 03.10.21

This was my book group read for October and I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise, but I’m really glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook and I thought the narrator (Alana Kerr Collins) was brilliant – lovely Irish accent and great storytelling with her voice.

The book is set during the first Covid lockdown in Dublin – just reading about the characters’ reactions to the news stories and the deaths and the regulations being imposed that we all lived through over the last 18 months was surreal – so familiar and yet so odd.

It’s a murder mystery with lots of layers and twists and turns and interesting motivations and traumatic backstories. It kept me guessing for a while and I found the ending satisfying.

Exit – Belinda Bauer – 28.09.21

I thought this book was great. It has a sort of lighthearted murder mystery feel and yet it deal with such deep and profound issues as well. Felix lost his wife to a debilitating illness, and with hindsight wished he could have ended her suffering sooner. This motivates him to join a group who ‘help’ terminally ill people to end their own lives with simple dignity and without family members and, more crucially sometimes, insurers, from knowing.

When Felix learns that he accidentally ‘helped’ the wrong person and a murder investigation is opened his life starts to unravel. He is no murderer, and he is torn between going to the police and confessing, and following up himself on a few things that make him suspicious of the whole set up.

I loved the characters in the book, and the moral dilemmas and the mystery as it unfolded was interesting.