And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

This book opens in a small Afghan village with a father telling his son and daughter a bedtime story. It’s not a happy story and sets the tone for a tear-jerking novel.

Abdullah and his sister Pari have a special bond and when life tears them apart, the story branches off into the lives of many other characters, all with some (often very tenuous) link to the children.

There’s no doubt that Khaled Hosseini can set a scene. He brings characters and their worlds to life. And for the first third of the novel, I was swept up in the stories of villagers from Shadbagh. Continue reading

Flowers For Algernon – Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon is a brilliant choice for a book club but not so easy to review. There’s so much to discuss, but I’d hate to give anything away. So please proceed with caution…

This real tearjerker of a read is written in diary entries, or ‘progress reports’, by Charlie Gordon who, at the start of the book, has an IQ of 68 and limited understanding of the world around him. During the day he sweeps the floors of a bakery and in the evening he attends a school for people with learning difficulties. His unflinching desire to learn and be ‘smart’, leads him to be chosen for an experimental operation to increase his intelligence. As he notes down his progress, changes become apparent. At first it’s improved spelling and grammar, but soon Charlie is absorbing new information like a sponge. Continue reading

Theft By Finding – David Sedaris

As a die-hard Sedaris fan, I’ve been excited to get hold of his diaries ever since I heard they were being published. They start off in 1977 in his fruit-picking and hitch-hiking years and take us through his life of drug binges, dodgy apartments and many, many odd jobs before his writing started to get noticed.

It’s interesting to read about some of his pivotal moments as they were actually happening. Whether it’s meeting his long-term boyfriend for the first time, “a guy named Hugh”, who he describes as “…handsome, a nice guy. Gay.”. Or the death of his mother and the first family Christmas without her, “Christmas was hard… When Mom was around, we’d remain at the dinner table for hours, but this year we all scattered the moment we finished eating.”   Continue reading

When God Was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman

I simply adore this book. It appeared as if by magic on my shelf and introduced me to a wonderful, if strange, family and their eventful lives. The writing is delightful, humorous and almost whimsical, but there is a darkness running through the book, allowing the reader to truly feel invested in the characters and their lives.

Starting in Essex in the early 1970’s, we meet narrator Elly as a young child. Her family comes with baggage in the form of dysfunctional parents and a misfit older brother. When a disturbing incident occurs, it’s Elly’s brother Joe that looks out for her. He buys her a pet rabbit which they decide to name ‘God’, much to the disapproval of Elly’s school teacher. Continue reading

Lagom (The Swedish Art of Balanced Living) – Linnea Dunne

Since the popularity of The Little Book of Hygge, I’ve seen a number of similar gorgeous books about the Scandinavian lifestyle. I’ll admit, at first I thought they were a coffee table decoration – to look at and skim through, but not exactly life-changing. And it’s true, that while this little book about Lagom is perfect for the coffee table, it has helped me to improve certain aspects of my life.

It really struck a chord with me when I bought it last autumn. I was going through a busy period at work and was really struggling to keep my life balanced and healthy.

Continue reading

The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to make my way through the wide range of feminist non-fiction out there. I’ve hardly made a dent in the ever-growing list, but I can finally tick off The Beauty Myth.

I found it quite slow going, a problem I often have with non-fiction – it makes your brain work harder than fiction! But I kept at it and it was definitely worth the slog.

Published about two decades ago, it’s not surprising that the book often comes across as dated, but shockingly it is at times still very relevant. However, I found myself very torn while reading.

I didn’t like the sometimes forcible way Wolf tries to get her point across, being especially unfair to men at times. It’s not helpful to write statements such as, Continue reading

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

I so enjoyed John Wyndham’s classic tale set in a post-apocalyptic Britain. It’s such a ridiculous premise – the world goes blind overnight and gets taken over by giant flesh-eating plants – but somehow Wyndham makes it work.

We meet the narrator, Bill Mason, in a hospital bed in London, where he is recovering from an eye operation. He soon realises something is terribly wrong, and it’s a familiar scene, as he goes through the steps of confusion, denial and then dawning realisation that the world will never be the same again.

I have a fascination for this type of story. It’s not so much the monsters or strange supernatural events, but rather the exploration of how people cope with it. Continue reading

The Power – Naomi Alderman

Over February and March, I’ve been participating in the #readforwomen hashtag on Instagram, set up by sarasreadingdiary to celebrate the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote in the UK. This means reading only women writers for two months, which hasn’t been a struggle as I read a lot by women anyway. However, I have been more mindful than usual, trying to find books that might fit into the theme of feminism.

I kicked off with The Power, the book on everyone’s lips at the moment. And what a powerful start to the challenge! The novel explores a grim world where gender roles have been reversed Continue reading

The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

I bought this book purely for its prettiness, but it turned out to be a situation of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.

I read it in November on my mini honeymoon to Český Krumlov, a fairytale-like town in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. I often crave dark, mysterious novels in the autumn and The Silent Companions sounded like just the thing, with reviews promising a haunting Gothic tale.

At first I thought I was in luck. The book was easy to get into with a sinister plot and an atmospheric setting. In fact, it kept my attention all through the train journey. However, after the scene had been set, I was disappointed to find the book was full of clichés and obvious plot twists. Continue reading

My Bookish Highlights from 2017

It seems like only a minute ago that I was writing up my 2016 end of year post! 2017 has been a reasonably eventful year for me. I started a new job, turned 30, and got married. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know the Czech Republic a bit better, travelling further afield than my local hangouts in Prague, which means I’ve done quite a lot of reading on trains and buses!

Most importantly, I’ve read some really fantastic books, even if I haven’t managed to review them all. Here are just a few of my favourites in no particular order: Continue reading