The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

23553419Very creepy and difficult to put down. Far-fetched, yes, but not more than you’d expect. All the markers of a good ghost story, and the bleak Skye scenery was a great choice of setting. It did get a bit Marvin-the-paranoid-android-morose at one point in there, but picked up before too long. I always enjoy a story that’s inconclusively paranormal/psychological and monoZ twins are fascinating.

3.5 stars, recommend 🙂

Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog)

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. JeromeThis is very funny. Very, very funny. Especially if you happen to be the sister of three younger-but-technically-adult brothers whose middle-class antics could easily result in a similar affair (although, to be fair to them, with a little less pompous entitlement). The writing is brilliant and the humour is spot on. It is very British, and there is a timeless quality to it – I could easily see the events in this book happening, exactly as described to a group of unwitting campers (of privileged upbringing) in the current day. The hopeless lack of planning, the canopy construction catastrophes, pineapple shenanigans and unintentional self-harm are essential elements to any holiday-with-the-lads.

I’d be driven to distraction if I came across three such men as these (though I’d make an allowance for the dog), and I think any one with left-wing leanings would be! At the same time, the genuine tongue-in-cheekedness and clear intention of the author to convey his own characters’ buffoonery warms you to the tale. I have to admit I was drawn over to the dark-side for the duration!

Based on the writing and my enjoyment it really should earn the full five stars, but I can’t quite bring myself to give them to a story so entirely lacking in gravitas, moral dilemma or philosophical significance of any kind! I feel that, while it may appeal to a certain chino-wearing, latte-drinking, country-dweller of the southern counties, someone of a different background might not be so amused…

100% recommend it as a holiday read, particularly if you meet the aforementioned stereotype. Chin, chin! 😉

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Haunting. Despite having been diagnosed with depression for many years, I never really identified as having the illness until I read this. Although harrowing, there is some sad reassurance in hearing what felt like such personal thoughts shared by others.  You hear all the time about how we’re a ‘Prozac Nation’ and there are ‘more people in the UK on antidepressants than voted in the X-Factor’. But reading a real, personal account makes it a much more tangible truth.

“I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”

TBJ certainly wasn’t an easy read, but I really appreciated its honesty. Part of me dreaded a self-indulgent trip through artist-angst and melodramatic melancholia. It wasn’t that at all.

What is clever about the book is that you never really get to know or understand any of the other characters. They seem fleeting and two-dimensional. This reflects the fact that, for a depressive, everyone outside of one’s self becomes a bit of a background blur, a dizzying extraneous concern that is dissociated from for requiring too much effort to empathise or interact with.

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my eyes and all is born again.”

I was left with an uncomfortable, dissatisfying feeling that a lot of the interactions were superfluous and uninteresting. But I think that was the point.

It also led me to learn about different types of ‘shock therapy’ (I went on a bit of a Wiki-trawl). It’s unfathomable (shocking…) to read about the sort of practices that became accepted without any real evidence of their efficacy. I guess it’s interesting, from a scientific viewpoint, to see what sort of effect these treatments might have, if my own curiosity wasn’t aroused I wouldn’t have looked into it.  But it sickens me, that I feel that way, especially when I imagine seeing someone I love put through it.


I have since found myself looking up SP’s poetry and found some really thought-provoking stuff. Particularly ‘Daddy’, which is layered with meaning and flaunts some quite controversial themes. I’m glad I read this one.

4.5 Stars. I’d have to have enjoyed the experience more for it to merit the fifth!

Favourite quote:

“I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow, the million moving shapes and cul-de-sacs of shadow. There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people’s eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth.”

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

With this being Women’s History Month, the 2018 ONTD Reading Challenge for March is to read a book written by an ‘influential woman’ and the group suggested visiting The Guardian’s list of “10 Inspiring Female Writers You Need To Read” for inspiration. Number four on that list is Ms. Woolf, and so, having started TTL but lost my copy over a decade ago I decided it was time to revisit it.

How to convey my thoughts on this book? To start with I suppose I will explain my relatively low rating, by saying that I can rarely bring myself to give a book more than 3 stars if I didn’t enjoy reading it. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate VW’s writing style, in fact I think some of the figurative language in the ‘Time Passes’ section was the most beautiful I have ever read. But…

Ok, let’s start with the positives. The first few chapters I enjoyed immensely. As in life, a lot occurs while nothing much actually happens. The characters, while eccentric (some might say arty-farty) are beautifully portrayed and relatable. From poor young James and sympathetic Mrs. Ramsey, to the unwittingly provocative Mr. Tansy. The writing here is masterful, conveying perfectly the discrepancy between male and female roles of the time and different personalities.

However, after a while I started to feel I was going mad. I recently went to an art show where one the pieces had a constant stream of overlapping voices in the background. The piece was intended to represent the conflicting voices that plague a person with a mental health disorder, and it was amazingly affecting. I was reminded strongly of this throughout TLL, probably in part because I was listening to the audio version. The combination of the descriptive language and the endless sentences are mesmerising to the point where I found myself completely dissociating from reality. I feel sure this was VW’s intention, and applaud the achievement.

I’ve seen reviewers refer to the writing style as a ‘stream of consciousness’. I get that, I can see how the rambling sentences reflected the nature of thoughts as we experience them. Actually I loved that. In particular, Lilly’s vision of the table in the tree, when she is contemplating Mr. Ramsey’s career in philosophy will stay with me as one of the most memorable images I’ve experienced conjured through prose.

Nevertheless, it does become repetitive. A lot of the same musings occur over and over again, with very little added. Once more, I get it! That IS, in reality, the nature our thoughts, and I fully appreciate W’s wit in using this device. That said, for me the book would have been more endurable if, on revisiting the same thoughts, we were given a new perspective or interpretation.

The main issue for me was that it didn’t need to be so long. I know I know, it’s not exactly considered a tome at 200-some pages, but with sentences you could wrap around the world several times over and have words to spare, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a huge effort to get through. The third section was what let the book down for me. It is largely where the repetitions came in, and the loss of a main character left the narrative unfocused and flaky. I think it would be easier to appreciate the genius (because there is genius) behind the writing if you weren’t made to reach a point at which you feel battered around the head by it.

I absolutely don’t regret reading it, in fact on reflection I am beginning to feel better about the experience. Everyone should try reading this or some other of VWs work (I hear that most of her fiction is of a similar style) because it truly is a work of art. It may be awhile before I feel ready to pick up another, but I won’t be removing Mrs. Dalloway from my tbr list.

Favourite Quote:

Half one’s notions of other people were, after all, grotesque. They served private purposes of one’s own.

Star Rating:

3.5 stars

Operation: Hail Storm by Brette Araquette

There are simply too many decent books in the world and too little time to waste any on claptrap like this. OH is going to be my first DNF, despite the fact that the author contacted (rather, spammed) me with a free copy. It’s a definite boy-book (by which I only mean it is aimed at males – no offence guys, I know that none of my male friends would credit this book in the slightest!). There are already too many long boring descriptions about gadgets and technology to bear in the first 50 pages, and all the females are characterised as either vacant bimbos or smart and sexy leaders who wander around a military vessel in short skirts and gossip with each other about clothes, rather than acting in any way to suggest they might merit their status. I would compare the quality to a young lad’s creative writing piece for school. It might have been considered promising by his Year-6 teacher, but is rife with amateurish cliches, repetition, overuse of qualifiers and embarrassingly ‘formula’ characters and relationships.

1 (very lousy and reluctant) star.

Strangely, I’ve never noticed another book on GR with so many well liked 5* reviews. Given the evident proclivity of the marketing spam, I suspect foul play. There’s just no way *that* many people could be *that* enamoured with *this* book!


The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott

Ooooh great ending, there’s a decided chill running down my spine! This had all the fun features of the archetypical detective novel (from the moving bookcase and secret room to the bantering police partnership and appearance of the obligatory creepy-forensics-guy :D) without being cheesy or predictable.
Rachel Abbott is great at plot twists and her stories come with a good balance of grit. She’s right on the money for the current psychological/crime drama trend and manages to do a decent job of it (her characters are interesting but believable, something that many other contemporary authors hopping on the bandwagon fail to achieve). It may not be particularly original but it’s good at being what it is. I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series and highly recommend it to any fans of Robert Galbraith‘s Strike series, Colin Dexter‘s Morse or Caroline Graham‘s Midsomer Murders. A solid 4 Stars.

The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

More Swedish fiction but definitely not up to the standard, which has been driven pretty high by the likes of Stieg Larsson‘s Millenium series, Fredrik Backman‘s A Man Called Ove and even Jonas Jonasson and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

To be blunt, it was naff. It’s carelessly written and needs some brutal editing, the same things having been described over again, ad nauseam. When I read the first ‘League of Pensioners’ yarn, I thought it had a certain charm to it, which led me to venture on. But this was just too much of the same, a prime example of an inadvisable sequel, successful only in forcing the perpetuation of a tired idea.

You also get repeatedly bludgeoned with a wishy washy sort of ‘author’s message’ to do with the politics of Sweden, but it feels all wrong with the tone of the book, like trying to find meaning in an episode of Road Runner. Maybe it translated badly, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

After the long, long lengthiness of Vanity Fair I also listened to the audio version of Sharp Objects for my book club’s January challenge to ‘read something being adapted to the screen’. I felt it was written largely to shock the audience with a lot of explicit sexual encounters intermingled with grotesque slaughterhouse scenes featuring raw, butchered meat and caged livestock. It was quite unpleasant in that respect (as you might imagine!) and there was a lot about the plot (sexual abuse and exploitation of minors, drug use, mental health issues) which was similarly unsettling. Despite the efforts put in to the more controversial, teen-scenes, I thought the portrayal of the mother’s condition, ‘munchausen by proxy’, was actually the most haunting aspect, and her characterisation was the redeeming feature of the book for me.

That said,  I wouldn’t recommend this one. I know it was Gillian Flynn‘s first novel, so maybe it’s understandable that the writing wasn’t perfect, but on top of this I found the plot fairly predictable and unexciting. Written to disturb, and on the whole successful in that aspect, the book is nonetheless, mediocre. I would recommend sticking to Gone Girl if you are a fan of psychological thrillers and want to try some of Flynn’s work.

It will be interesting to see how Amy Adams manages in the TV series, I think the last film of her’s I watched was ‘Enchanted’ (I have a certain soft spot for kids films…), which she was fine in, but if she manages to pull off the oh-so-slightly less singalong-with-bluebirds role, her acting skills will definitely go up in my estimation!

I expect the new series’ creation was sparked off, at least in part due to the success of the television version of Big Little Lies, which, *shock, horror*, I actually enjoyed more than the book, (and I do love a bit of Liane Moriarty). However, I can’t imagine this series will be as good as that, particularly given the comparatively un-flashy lineup. If it gets positive reviews I’ll certainly take a look, but I won’t be counting down the days.

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

I read (well, listened to) Vanity Fair, as it was on the recommendations list for my book club (this month’s theme being ‘books to be adapted for the screen in 2018’) as well as in my as-yet-unlistened-to audible library. Also it is set in my home county, Hampshire, and William Makepeace Thackeray lived in the town where I grew up so that was an interesting touch.

You really have to indulge Mr. Thackeray as it is quite a slog at 30 hours and it could easily be cut to 1/3 of that length. I did enjoy it, despite the length but have to admit I had much more time for the (appropriately named) anti-hero, Becky Sharp and her cunning ways than for poor, dear, simpering Amelia (bleugh!) or even stalwart old Dobbin (more Bleugh!). What can I say? I’m of the take-what-you-can-get from life school of thought.

I’ll definitely watch the TV mini-series if I get the time, as I can imagine the story would transfer well into that medium (cut out the waffly prose!). I also loved the author’s wonderfully witty character names (Sir Huddleston-Fuddleston, Princess Humbourg-Schlippenschloppen and Schlusselback, an old lady with a hump back), which were excellent fun to hear aloud via narrator John Castle, whose reading was top notch!

3.5-4 stars and recommend 🙂

‘The Christmasaurus’ – Bah, humbug, humbug, humbug

The singing, oh sweet heaven how I ABHORRED the singing! Maybe this would have been more tolerable in a non- audio format but it was deep-dish-extra-cheese cheesy either way. I know it’s a kids’ book, but I usually LOVE kids’ books. This was just one bad rhyme and toilet joke too far. Also, I  can’t stand it that people are always harping on to children about how ‘it’s important to believe in things and have faith, even without proof’ (JM Barry started it with all the ruddy dying fairies). Seems like a recipe for another generation of horoscope-reading, alternative medicine brewing morons to me…