#BookReview ESTUARY: Out from London to the sea by RACHEL LICHTENSTEIN #nonfiction #LibaryLoveChallenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Thames Estuary is one of the world’s great deltas, providing passage in and out of London for millennia. It is silted up with the memories and artefacts of past voyages. It is the habitat for an astonishing range of wildlife. And for the people who live and work on the estuary, it is a way of life unlike any other – one most would not trade for anything, despites its dangers.


Rachel Lichtenstein has travelled the length and breadth of the estuary many times and in many vessels, from hardy tug boats to stately pleasure cruisers to an inflatable dinghy. And during these crossing she has gathered an extraordinary chorus of voices: mudlarkers and fishermen, radio pirates and champion racers, the men who risk their lives out on the water and the women who wait on the shore.


From the acclaimed author of Brick Lane and Rodinsky’s Room, Estuary is a thoughtful and intimate portrait of a profoundly British place. With a clear eye and a sharp ear, Rachel Lichtenstein captures the essence of a community and an environment, examining how each has shaped and continues to shape the other.


PUBLISHED BY HAMISH HAMILTON


PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon

hive.co.uk

waterstones


MY REVIEW

Having lived next to the Estuary all my life, I found this to be a fascinating, illuminating and detailed look at the evolution of the Thames Estuary and all those who live by it or work on it. The folklore, the role it has played in history, the way that outsiders see Essex and how that differs from those who live there and just how much it has changed over the years.

Being a local I found it so easy to feel connected to the stories told by the author, and the places she visited as she travelled along the Estuary. She stopped off in numerous places to meet people who have lived or worked on the Thames and it was so interesting to hear them share their stories. She travelled on boats and walked alongside the estuary and that really helped her give you a real flavour of estuary life. The use of black and white photos was also really clever as it didn’t make the estuary out to be a glossy, colourful place as most of the time it isn’t!

There are more shipwrecks on the floor of the estuary per square foot than anywhere else along the UK coastline and I loved hearing the stories of those, especially of the London and the Montgomery and those who have dived down to see them. Having recently visited an exhibition of items from the London at the local museum I found these chapters to be most enlightening.

It’s a book I’ve learned so much from about the local area and found it to be brilliantly written and so absorbing to read.

★★★★★

#BookReview INSIDE OUT by DEMI MOORE #nonfiction #LibraryLoveChallenge

ABOUT THE  BOOK

Famed American actress Demi Moore at last tells her own story in a surprisingly intimate and emotionally charged memoir.

For decades, Demi Moore has been synonymous with celebrity. From iconic film roles to high-profile relationships, Moore has never been far from the spotlight—or the headlines.

Even as Demi was becoming the highest paid actress in Hollywood, however, she was always outrunning her past, just one step ahead of the doubts and insecurities that defined her childhood. Throughout her rise to fame and during some of the most pivotal moments of her life, Demi battled addiction, body image issues, and childhood trauma that would follow her for years—all while juggling a skyrocketing career and at times negative public perception. As her success grew, Demi found herself questioning if she belonged in Hollywood, if she was a good mother, a good actress—and, always, if she was simply good enough.

As much as her story is about adversity, it is also about tremendous resilience. In this deeply candid and reflective memoir, Demi pulls back the curtain and opens up about her career and personal life—laying bare her tumultuous relationship with her mother, her marriages, her struggles balancing stardom with raising a family, and her journey toward open heartedness. Inside Out is a story of survival, success, and surrender—a wrenchingly honest portrayal of one woman’s at once ordinary and iconic life.

my review

This was a really fascinating insight into the life of a movie star – from a trouble and very unconventional childhood, through to dealing with fame and the stresses of family life in the public eye.


I love watching her films so to get a glimpse of the life she was living off camera was a real eye opener and
she wasn’t afraid to share the darker side of her life, alongside the good times, and it was so interesting to look back on her childhood and the impact that her warring parents had on her and how she never had a settled home life.


I loved reading about the ‘brat pack’ movies she was part of along with her marriages to Bruce Willis and Ashton Kucher, and how motherhood was the time she felt happiest and content. I never knew about the ill health she suffered as a child and how addictions really plagued her and seeing her childhood you can understand why she often sought comfort in the wrong things.


There are some great photographs as well which I always love to see in a memoir and it was fascinating to read about the good, the bad and the ugly parts of her life. Many shy away from confronting the darker times in their life but she speaks honestly about the self doubt she was plagued by and how she tried, and often failed, as a mother to bring some stability to her children despite the fact she never had that when she was growing up.


It’s always nice to see behind the tabloid stories and get a different perspective on someone  in the public eye and I found this memoir refreshingly honest and quick and easy to read as well!


★★★★

#BookReview VIOLET by SJI HOLLIDAY #LibraryLoveChallenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

When two strangers end up sharing a cabin on the Trans-Siberian Express, an intense friendship develops, one that can only have one ending … a nerve-shattering psychological thriller from bestselling author SJI Holliday

Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

A tense and twisted psychological thriller about obsession, manipulation and toxic friendships, Violet also reminds us that there’s a reason why mother told us not to talk to strangers..

published by Orenda Books

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon

hive.co.uk

whsmith

MY REVIEW

Seeing these characters evolve and show their true colours throughout this book has been the icing on the cake for me in this very twisted thriller, and although it might have put me off ever going off on back packing holiday on the Trans-Siberian express, I’ve loved every single minute I spent on this ‘journey’!!

Carrie is travelling alone around the world and has a spare ticket for the Trans-Siberian Express, so when she meets Violet, another lone traveller, it seems that fate has brought them together. They seem to share the same sense of humour and outlook on life so it seems the perfect plan for both of them! But what should be the perfect trip soon turns to something a wole lot more sinister and that darkness kept me turning the pages to discover just how twisted the outcome would be!

We get to see the emails that Carrie sends to her friend Laura back home, telling her of the experiences she’s having and the new friend she has met along the way. And Violet just seems besotted with her first impressions of Carrie – she seems to have that kind of ‘can do’ attitude that rubs off on all those around her, and even when some of the stops along the way aren’t what Violet imagined Carrie being part of, she goes along with it and there are many very’ interesting’ experiences and characters that they meet along the way!

And then it all starts getting messy! You get drawn in by the darker thoughts that Violet seems to have – past experiences and encounters!, and even she becomes a little shocked when Carrie starts to act irresponsibly so you’re never really sure which girl is the worst influence on the other.

As a fly on the wall with these girls, you are really never sure where the story will take you next and the twists along the way were really shocking! The hints and teases of darker thoughts are really cleverly played and just when you think you’re getting a handle on how the story will play out then bang, you’re wrong!!

If you love your thrillers slightly twisted and a little bit messed up, then this is the book for you! Really enjoyed it!

★★★★

#AudioBookReview FAHRENHEIT 451 by RAY BRADBURY

ABOUT THE BOOK

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television ‘family’. But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people did not live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.

MY REVIEW

Wow!! I listened to the audio version of this, narrated by Tim Robbins, and if there ever was a perfect bit of casting, then this was it! I was hooked on his every word!! It just brought it all to life so vividly and made for a perfect reading/listening experience!!

It’s always been one of those books I’d heard so much about but had never picked up and it was worth the wait! The setting and content made it all feel very relatable in 2019 with books being burned and people being controlled of what they were told,the short attention spans of people and the constant lack of free thinking or joy!

Guy is one of the fireman whose job it is to track down books and burn them! But his way of thinking is changed when he meets the wonderful Clarice, a young girl who questions everything, notices the little things in life and pines for life the way it used to be -the way shes’ been told about. And this begins his journey to find out more of why life is being so controlled and what he can do about it.

I found this book to be terrifying, brilliant, breathless and extremely profound. The use of Tim Robbins to bring it all alive was just the icing on the cake so can highly recommend the audio version! Loved it!!

★★★★★

#AudioBookReview DIARY OF A SOMEBODY by BRIAN BILSTON #LibraryLoveChallenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

Brian Bilston has decided to write a poem every day for a year while he tries to repair his ever-desperate life. His ex-wife has taken up with a new man, a marketing guru and motivational speaker who seems to be disturbingly influencing his son, Dylan. Meanwhile Dylan’s football team keeps being beaten 0–11, as he stands disconsolately on the wing waiting vainly to receive the ball. At work Brian is drowning in a sea of spreadsheets and is becoming increasingly confused by the complexities of modern communication and management jargon. So poetry will be his salvation. But can Brian’s poetry save him from Toby Salt, his arch nemesis in the Poetry Group and potential rival suitor to Brian’s new poetic inspiration, Liz? Worst of all Toby has announced that boutique artisan publishing house Shooting from the Hip will be publishing his first collection, titled This Bridge No Hands Shall Cleft, in the autumn. And when he goes missing Brian is inevitably the number one suspect.

Part tender love story, part murder mystery, part coruscating description of a wasted life, and interspersed with some of the funniest poems about the mundane and the profound, Diary of a Somebody is the most original novel you will read this year.

PUBLISHED BY PICADOR

MY REVIEW

They often say you need to find the right book at the right time, and this is exactly how I felt whilst listening to this book on audio. I was in need of light relief and a book that would make me laugh and smile, and this did exactly that and I loved every minute of it!

Following the trials and tribulations of the character ‘Brian’ on a daily basis, you get a glimpse inside the life of a man who is struggling with work, struggling with family issues and struggling to focus on his writing career! He is easily distracted by the going on in the world, the world of Twitter, the inability of leaving a bookshop with just one book, and will find comfort in eating a custard cream or 6!! I know that feeling well!

He’s dealing with his ex wife and how she’s moving on with her life in the arms of a new man, whilst also trying to be the best part time dad he can to his son Dylan. Throw into the mix the trauma of work related issues, and the rivalry at poetry club with Toby, and I just found this full of great cultural references and so quirky and engaging that it was just delightful to listen to! It was brilliantly read to and all the characters brought to life so well by the narrator which really helped.

As Toby goes missing the spotlight falls on Brian as to whether he might have been involved and he’d share his daily thoughts in a poem or two and this mix of poetry and story telling was an exciting way to tell the story, and he even starts playing detective to get to the bottom of the missing Toby!

This was so much fun and I really connected with the sense of humour and was a real treat of a listen so if you’re looking for a fun and quirky story, then look no further!

★★★★

#20booksofsummer #bookreview Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Guess who went to the library?! Guess who picked up a ‘little’ book she’d think would be perfect for her #20booksofsummer challenge – blatantly disregarding, once more, the list she spent hours putting together before the challenge started?! Yep – me!!  And once more I seem to have discovered another little gem of a book at only around 176 pages long!  Book 8 is done and dusted!!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amelie.

MY REVIEW

Really enjoyed this short but sweet story of Keiko who was sick of people telling her off for being different, so did all she could to be the same as everyone else but still gets people telling her to do things differently! She can’t win!!

Keiko is 36 and has worked in the local convenience store for 18 years. She loves the routine and gets to study people as they go about their daily business, picking up new traits to copy in her bid to ‘be normal’ and fit in! Even as a young child she was thought of as odd – she would do what she thought was necessary in certain situations but that would often lead to her being told off. So her only option then was to conform and be like everyone else.

And her daily routine hasn’t altered much over the years, until a new employee turns up and his disregard for doing the right thing and what is expected troubles and fascinates her! He doesn’t last long at the store but soon finds himself part of her life as his outlook on the world is pretty similar to hers – he’s an outcast because he doesn’t want to be like everyone else and others can’t understand his ways.

This is definitely a quirky read and brilliantly observed. Teaching you to be true to yourself and that being different isn’t a bad thing, despite what society says, thinks and expects! Really enjoyable!

★★★★

#BookReview #20BooksOfSummer Book 1 – The Birds of the Innocent Wood by Deirdre Madden

First book has been read! And was it one on my original list?! NO, of course it wasn’t!! I went browsing in the library and spotted this one and couldn’t resist it for the ‘little’ side of my reading challenge!  So here’s more about the book, and my thoughts!

ABOUT THE BOOK

When James proposes, it seems like an opportunity for Jane to leave her lonely past behind and become part of a family. But the presence of a woman in the cottage near their remote farmhouse threatens Jane’s new-found happiness.

This compelling novel by one of Ireland’s finest writers won a Somerset Maugham Award.

‘Madden’s achievement is to make partial revelations about obscure lives as gripping as a thriller. Her style is passionate, emotional, but never obvious and does not admit a single cliche or badly written sentence.’ Observer (less)

Published by Faber & Faber

MY REVIEW

For a little book (only 148 pages), there is so much going on in this story that I found it totally absorbing, atmospheric, dark and dramatic and really enjoyed every single page, even if it was often very depressing! I found the way that the author split the story worked brilliantly and allowed you to take on board the way that the actions of others impacted on those closest to them. The exploration of family, loneliness and dealing with loss was superbly dealt with and allowed you to feel the pain of each of the characters.

The story starts with Jane who was an only child and very poorly, and while she was in hospital she tragically lost both parents. When well enough to leave hospital she goes to live with her aunt who isn’t interested in the young girl in the slightest and packs er off to a convent boarding school at the age of 5. She settles into this way of life quite quickly and developes a very strong faith which is shaken as the years go by. She then settles into a routine life working in an office where she meets James – two lonely souls brought together by desperation to escape their lives.

We then hear from Sarah and Catherine, 2 sisters who we learn are Jane’s daughters, and their stories of how their lives turned out after their mother’s dies. It’s clear that they have both been affected by how they grew up and it is fascinating to see their different personalities emerge and how the loss of others seems to hang over them all.

The chapters chop and change from different timelines as we go back to look at Jane’s life, alongside events that are troubling her daughters and I loved being shocked by the misery that kept befalling them in various guises. 

It’s definitely not a cheery read but there’s so much going on that packs a punch and I’m fascinated to read more from this author as I’d not heard about her before and intrigued to see how she approaches different subjects!

★★★★

#BookReview The Overstory by Richard Powers #LibraryLoveChallenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us.

 This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

Published by Vintage

Purchase Links

Amazon UK

hive.co.uk

waterstones

MY REVIEW

If I could give this book 6 stars I would!! I adored every page and cannot recommend it highly enough to everyone to pick up and read – do it NOW!!!


It is a beast of a book at 640 pages long, but don’t be put off by this as it never feels too long and, in fact, I didn’t want it to end! That’s how good I thought it was!
It’s terrifying to read at times as it’s a look at what humanity is doing to the planet. And it’s told in a very clever way as it features the stories of different individuals from different walks of life, with their different life experiences that all relates to trees in their life. From trees planted in their back gardens by parents, to trees they see while they’re at work – just that connection that they have with the natural world and how the disappearance of trees affects them and what they can do to try and save them.


As the individual stories are told in part one, we then get to see how their paths cross in part two – the sacrifices they make, the personal costs, the lessons they learn through family – and how the battle to save this natural resource consumes them all.
I thought this book was particularly poignant to read at these times – it shows how much of the world is blase about the resources the Earth has given us and don’t see the consequences of the destruction of so much of it. Watching those who see the damage that is being caused and the despair they feel, plays alongside the greed of those who are choosing to ignore the impact of their actions – and it’s heartbreaking.


There is a great range of characters that each give such a different perspective as to how trees have impacted their life – they all have such fascinating backstories all brilliantly told that you never get confused as to what viewpoint you are reading as it’s all so clear. 


I’m always a little wary of books that win book prizes – this won the Pulitzer Price for Fiction in 2019 – as they often seem a bit pretentious but this book was such a stunning piece of work that it is going to stay with me for a long time to come – and I’ll definitely be hugging more trees in future!!

★★★★★★

#BookReview The Poison Bed by E.C.Fremantle #LibraryLoveChallenge #audiobook

About the book

Elizabeth Fremantle’s THE POISON BED is a chilling, noirish thriller ripped straight from the headlines.

A king, his lover and his lover’s wife. One is a killer.

In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom.

Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake.


Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?

Published by Michael Joseph

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this and have to give thanks to the wonderful narrators – Ross Anderson and Perdita Weeks – for bringing this dramatic story to life and giving an extra depth to the story with the way they portray ‘him’ and ‘her’.

The him and her are Robert Carr and Frances Howard, both pivotal characters at the heart of the court of James I and this story brilliantly captures a troubling and scandalous time in British history. They are accused of poisoning Lord Thomas Overbury and the story plays out as to the motives, means and subterfuge behind the plot and makes for fascinating listening, especially as I knew very little about this period of history and it has peaked my interest to investigate more!

Frances and Robert are both extremely fascinating characters – Robert is very close to the King, but is betrayed by his own lustful thoughts towards Frances which becomes obsessive with his pursuit of her. Frances is no stranger to getting what she wants from life and a disastrous marriage to Lord Essex gets her notoriety but not happiness.

Behind the scenes there are many plots to gain power over the King, and the manipulative behaviour displayed is quite staggering at times – there is no ‘playing fair’ in these high stake games that are being played and it’s all about getting what you want, no matter who you damage in the long run and I loved how devious some of the characters were in their quest for power.

The way the story is told from both perspectives also really worked well – you get to see their lives before, during and after the court case and allows you to get to know both characters even better. 

This is a gripping piece of historical fiction and gives a real insight into just how underhanded life could really be in the Jacobean court!

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#BookReview Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

About the book

Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.

A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.

Daisy Johnson’s debut novel turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as it is moving, Everything Under is a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging that leaves you unsettled and unstrung.

Published by Jonathon Cape

Purchase Links

hive.co.uk

waterstones

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a dark and hypnotic read that is one of those books that gets you thinking and looking at things differently as you try and put yourself in the place of the main narrator as she tries to make sense of the world she knows now, and what she remembers of the past.

With the story following different paths, I did find myself feeling a little confused and overwhelmed at times with the flow of the story and that did take away some of the enjoyment for me.

It’s the story of a mother and daughter, and how the daughter is now coping with her mother who is suffering from dementia and the frustrations that they both feel about the situation they find themselves in. She wants answers about her childhood but that isn’t easy with a mother who is easily confused and dismissive.

There are questions about mysterious names from the past, the relevance of the ‘Bonak’ by the river and a feeling of never feeling settled or part of anything because of how things were – i’m still not sure Gretel got the answers she wanted but she did start to make a little more sense out of her recollections and memories. 

This book had a really strong start but then did tail off a bit as things got a little more involved and confusing for the reader, but still made for an entertaining and thought provoking read.

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