Category Archives: bookclub

Crisis – Frank Gardner

James Bond, but he’s nice and a bit boring. I can’t really write a review for this book. It was for book club and loads of others really liked it, and some people didn’t and I just found it a bit meh.

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I love this about book club – being made to read books I wouldn’t normally pick up. Sometimes it leads me to something I love, and other times it’s just not going to work so well. But I like being made to read away from my comfort zone.

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I’ve struggled so much with this review, that it;s taken me five weeks to write it, and I’ve got four books I’ve read since to review waiting. I realise that I *could* just have skipped it, or wrote the other reviews first… but that is not how my brain likes to do things. So here we are. I can get on with the other reviews now!

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Still Me – JoJo Moyes

I’m not going to say a lot about this book. I am definitely not the right person for the series of books this is part of (though I enjoyed the first one, Me Before You). Many, many people love this series, and that is great. They aren’t wrong, this book just isn’t for me.

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I ended up reading it because it was chosen for book club. I had already read the first in the series, but clearly I couldn’t skip the second book (After You), so this as a book club book, actually meant I had to read two books! Two books I didn’t like….. urrrghhhhhhhh…

Our main character is Louisa Clark. While still grieving for Will, and drifting aimlessly, she takes a job in New York as an assistant to a rich lady. We meet her as she arrives in New York having friendly banter with an immigration officer. Because that’s what immigration is exactly like in the USA.

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I did this one as an audio book.

She becomes the assistant of Agnes. I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but she is concerned about men a lot. Then things happen where she feels sorry for herself, but then magical amazing things just land in her god-damned lap.

I get irked by the number of characters who are basic stereotypes, and I don’t really like Louisa either, though her character develops in this book to be more like I wanted her to be from the start!

The saving grace of Still Me is old lady Mrs De Witt. Fiesty, fashionable, ferocious Mrs De Witt. Thank you Mrs De Witt.

The End.

Conclave – Robert Harris

A book about a bunch of old dudes sitting around and choosing the next Pope. Sorry, a THRILLER about choosing a Pope. What?? I was glad this was chosen for book club because I couldn’t see how this book could possibly be as good as everyone said it was.

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I ended up really enjoying Conclave. It makes a nice change to have elderly people as the all the main characters. I wasn’t so enamoured about the dude level of this story, but I can forgive it because at least there was a clear reason for it! The youngest cardinal in the conclave is a sprightly 62, and all the reeeaaalllly old ones (over 80 years old) are not allowed in to vote.

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I liked how the ‘action’ was centred around these old dudes and them having meals, then being shuffled off the the Sistine Chapel for a round of voting or two, then back for a meal, then a bit more voting, then another meal, and to bed! There were some events that happened in the outside world, but it barely affects our conclave of elderly cardinals.

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Having said all that, there builds a real anticipation over events. I almost cried when the next Pope was chosen. As if! Me, a committed atheist, almost moved to tears by a fictional Pope being decided on. Craziness. And of course none of the events are going to be as straightforward as they could be, even if a few things were a little predictable, not everything was.

I’ve also learned more than I could possible want to know about the choosing of a Pope. I ended up on a Wikipedia adventure after the Pope who exploded is mentioned. And I now know more than I could ever want to know about Cardinal clothes.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

A really engaging read about eight generations of a family, starting with two sisters, Effia and Esi, one sold into slavery, one becoming a slave traders wife. We follow each side of the family by generation, in turn. This means we have what is essentially fourteen short stories about (mostly) new, but connected characters each time.

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Great read.

From the back of the book:

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow: from thr Gold Coast of Africa to the plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem. Spanning continents and generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – an intense, heartbreaking story of one family and, through their lives, the story of America itself.

The first stories take place around 1770, on the African Gold Coast, the final stories take place in modern day United States, and also back on the Gold Coast. One side of the stories follows the family into the United States and into slavery. The other side of the family stay in Africa, and only in the final generation make the journey to the United States.

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Classic book and beer combo.

The book read, to me, very much like a collection of short, connected stories. Almost every story has a new setting, new characters, and a new focus. Each chapter was written so well, I quickly cared for and got involved in the new story. This is almost miraculous to be able to keep this up through fourteen chapters, and is a real testament to the excellent writing and the engaging stories.

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Such a beautiful cover

I have read quite a lot of books about slavery in the United States (notably The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Beloved by Toni Morrison), and I really liked how in parallel to the United States experiences, you get stories of the same time period on the Gold Coast. It’s a perspective I’ve never read about in fiction before.

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What book are in your bag today?

I don’t want to get into describing the individual stories – we would be here for a while! It is a great read. Really interesting to get the different aspects of the slave trade on the two different continents, and I would really recommend it. I read this for a book club I’m in, and it was overwhelmingly loved!

After You – Jojo Moyes

I know I have a tendency to think a very popular book might be terrible. It’s a character trait I try to challenge fairly frequently. I read Me Before You last year, the book that comes before After You, and I actually really quite enjoyed it. I read After You, with some trepidation, because the third in the series, Still Me, is the chosen book for book club next month.

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Reader, I did not enjoy this book very much. It is perfectly inoffensive and and not without merit. It is an easy read and there are some moments that had me make an audible laugh noise – this is not something that books make me do often, and I wish more would. It also make me well up in places – another good thing that I sometimes want books to do, sometimes I want them to make me weep. This did not make me cry but it certainly pulled at enough emotions in several places.

The problem I really had was that

**** spoiler alert if you somehow have no idea what happens in Me Before You ***

Will is dead. But this book is still all about his influence on Louisa. It’s about how she copes after he’s gone. How she’s trying to live the life she promised him she would. This whole book is her acceptance and moving on from his death. But clearly, he is dead, so she just thinks about him a lot. Has little chats with him in her head. She considers what he would have said or done at different moments. I don’t know, it just didn’t really work for me.

Then there’s the addition of a troubled teenager. I won’t give any of the plot away here.

It all just felt a bit like, right that book was sooooooper popular, we need another one that’s the same. Oh but Will is dead… well, let’s just refer to him a lot, as though he’s still around. Great!

I’m so looking forward to reading the third one this month.

I actually have quite high hopes for Still Me, because I think it’s far enough removed from the first, that we won’t have to hear about Will every few pages, and hopefully Louisa will have got her shit together a bit more and will start having some fun adventures.

 

 

This Must Be the Place – Maggie O’Farrell

Another book club read. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t completely blown away by it. I think it was just because one of the main characters just irritated me!

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From the back of the book:

A reclusive former film star living in the wilds of Ireland, Claudette Wells thinks nothing of firing a gun if strangers get too close to her house. Why is she so fiercely protective of her privacy, and what made her disappear at the height of her cinematic fame?

Her husband Daniel, reeling from a discovery about a woman he last saw twenty years ago, is about to make an exit of his own. It is a journey that will send him off-course, far from home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

This Must Be the Place crosses continents and time zones, creating a portrait of an extraordinary marriage, the forces that hold it together and the pressures that drive it apart.

I really liked the structure of This Must Be the Place. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. Some main characters get a few chapters, but many minor characters get their own chapters too, and it often gave an interesting perspective on the story.

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book club snacks!

A couple of my favourite chapters were stories that really didn’t have anything to do with the main plot! I loved Ari, Claudette’s oldest child from a former relationship, when he is sent to his school councillor and he just displays maximum intelligent teenage arrogance. He totally owns the councillor in a way I shouldn’t have enjoyed quite as much as I did, being a teacher!

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Ultimately, even with the interesting way it’s narrated by many characters, I couldn’t forgive Daniel for just being a bit pathetic, and Claudette for her wildly over-the-top and unforgiving character. Out of our book club discussion, we think we just don’t quite get the detail of these character’s motivation for some important decisions, just because we are seeing it through other peoples observations, so we didn’t get inside the characters heads enough.

I also found it unbelievable that Claudette could disappear as effectively as she did. Perhaps in the 90s it would have been ok, but getting into the modern day, with the internet, I have no doubt she would be easily found. She still travels on commercial air flights, and her great deception seems to be that she bought her house in her brother’s name. It’s really not that sneaky.

Finally, it’s just over 500 pages long, which is a bit much when you don’t absolutely love a book!

Our Endless Numbered Days – Chloe Benjamin

This was an enjoyable book club read. The story is of 8 year old Peggy who is taken to live in the wilderness by her survivalist Father. It’s also the story of her reemergence into ordinary life at age 17. Until then, she had believed the rest of the world had perished in some big disaster, and only herself and her Father were left.

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The cover of Our Endless Numbered Days is gorgeous, silver and shiny, and is very evocative of fairy stories like Hansel and Gretel. It’s so pretty I took loads of photos of it while I was reading the book. Consequently, this review is mostly going to be pictures. šŸ˜€

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You get the story of how Peggy disappeared, and how she is adjusting to being back, interchangeably from the beginning of the book. I’m glad that you know from the start she makes it back, because otherwise I don’t think I’d have been able to take some of the later events. Lets just say living alone in the woods for 8 years makes people go a bit doolally. There’s some really grim events later in the story.

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At book club, many people talked about how they have thought about running away from it all, and how idyllic that idea seems. I don’t get that at all. I can cope with camping for a week, but no more thanks!

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The story is told from Peggy’s perspective and I think this gives the whole going to the woods thing a great sense of adventure, and it really works for this story. I was itching to know more about the Father’s motivations though. Why he leaves the rest of his family? Such a bizarre decision.

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This is the second book by Fuller I’ve read (the other being Swimming Lessons, which I really enjoyed.) and once the story got going, I didn’t want to stop reading until I’d discovered what happened. A great choice for book club.

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