Book Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The Man Who Climbed Out of the WindowWhat’s it about?

It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there.

But, as it turns out, Allan is not…Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway.

And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century.

My thoughts

This was our book club read for October, and another one which I wouldn’t have picked for myself and with good reason. I couldn’t help myself but make assumptions of what this book was going to be like from the cover and the blurb and I wasn’t far wrong.

The blurb and the title pretty much cover the plot without leaving a lot more to add other than parts read like a history book, with others reading like a Monty Python sketch (not that I like or watch Monty Python, just from the snippets of clips I’m aware of), so does read like a farce.

There were some humorous elements but for me not laugh out loud, more of a smirk. I’ve said it before in my reviews and I don’t mind admitting it, I just don’t have the right sense of humour or even patience for these types of books – I was right out of my comfort zone with this book!

Other than Allan, the protagonist, there were a few other characters that he encountered along his journey (other than the historical figures) who became quite featured; all with their own agendas and back stories but I didn’t really feel any kind of affinity to any of them.

I’m assuming this book has been translated from Swedish into English, and overall it’s pretty good; however some sentences do come across as a bit long. They could have been written a little more succinctly. Also, the chapters are ridiculously long. As someone that likes to read in chapters I was having to leave them mid chapter, one I counted was around 30 odd pages. I know this doesn’t sound a lot but the pages are rammed full of text; there’s very little actual speech so does feel quite heavy going.

That said, our book club had a very lively, interesting discussion about the book so was ideal for a group read. One of the questions we had was along the lines of which historical character would you have liked to Allan to have met. Now, I suggested the Duke of Edinburgh which everyone thought was hilarious. What with some of the faux pas that he comes out with and the whole farcical feel to the book – would have been a perfect combination!

Fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year should enjoy this book that could possibly could win an award for longest book title ! 🙂

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Book Review: How To Get A (Love) Life by Rosie Blake

How To Get a Love LifeWhat’s it about?BBC 2014

Some people book last-minute holidays, walk barefoot in the grass or party on a week night. Not Nicola Brown. Nicola is the kind of girl who double-locks the front door, leaves the plastic covering on new furniture, sticks to a super-strict diet and definitely, absolutely Does Not Date.

Her colleague Caroline – loopy, warm and exasperated by her, knows that Nicola’s reluctance to lose control means she’s living only half a life. And so she lays down the gauntlet: Nicola must cast aside her hang ups and go on as many dates as it takes to find true love in time for Valentine’s Day.

The pick of local men is, quite frankly, a bit rubbish. And there are only three months until February 14th. Surely it’s an impossible task? But, as Nicola is about to find out on her dodgy dates, letting go isn’t quite as scary as she imagined. In fact, it’s rather a lot of fun…

My thoughts

Firstly, this is the one of the best lines I’ve ever read in a book

“All the characters in this book are fictitious…Except for Chris, who is as big a knob in real life as he is in this book”

– just brilliant!

This debut novel has been very popular over social media so many thanks to Kerry over at Novelicious for sending me a copy to review, it really did brighten up my Sunday when I was poorly in bed!

I found Nicola to be such a relatable character, in fact too relatable she reminds me of myself – the organisation, the routine, the mild OCD, was like looking in a mirror which is why I think I enjoyed it more. The office chat and antics, the routine, the dating mishaps/adventures all are totally believable.

There’s great supporting characters who all bring something , particular Nicola’s brother Mark is fun but I think in real life he’d be totally irritating just turning at her flat out of the blue all the time but that all added to the humour. I’d felt what was coming with the chemistry between the characters and was pleased with the ending even if a little predictable.

I didn’t find it laugh out loud funny (but I’m not like that anyway) but it definately raised a smile.  Overall, this is typical chick lit (nothing wrong with that), nothing new here but nevertheless a light airy fun read!

On another note…I actually think it would be really cool if Nicola could meet Don Tillman from The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. As character match making goes, these two would make the perfect couple.

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About the author Rosie Blake

Rosie spent her university years writing pantomimes based on old classics. The 2003 production of The Wizard of Rosie BlakeOdd: Search for the Ruby Strippers enjoyed critical acclaim. This was followed a year later with a successful showing of Harry Potter: The Musical (complete with moving opening number, In my Cupboard I will Stay).

Rosie went on to write a winning short story in the La Senza/Little Black Dress Short Story Competition and was shortlisted in a few others including competitions run by Women and Home and The Daily Mail. Her first full-length
novel, How to Get a (Love) Life, will be published in January 2014 by Novelicious Books.

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Book Review: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Tales of the CityWhat’s it about?2012 WBN Logo

San Francisco, 1976. A naïve young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests.

The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous – unmistakably the handiwork of Armistead Maupin.

My thoughts

This book was next up on the list for my World Book Night reading challenge and so I picked up a copy from my local library.

Basically imagine that movie Crash where all the characters are linked by someone else;  linked by six degrees of separation but set in the ’70s and that is this book.

When Mary-Ann moves in to a house on Barbary Lane, San Francisco we soon learn about all the tenants; the intermingling lives of themselves,  their friends and associates. There’s characters that you’ll love and some not so much but they do all bring something different to the story.

It’s a book made up of very short chapters and mostly they start and finish in the middle of a page (I really dislike this!) and I think it actually reads like a soap opera in a book which reminded me of Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (see that review here) with the drug use, hedonistic lifestyle and promiscuity. However, there are some really good twists which I quite enjoyed and didn’t see coming.

After tweeting on Twitter that this was my next read I had a few replies with nothing but praise for this book:

@rebecca_mcr1146: “I loved it! Short chapters always make me want to read more. It’s a great escape from dreary England!”

@MiddleAgedCred: “You’ll love it. They become family.

@rspateman: “That’s a fun series. Enjoy.

@DadofChelsea: “you will in for quite the ride. Get ready for falling in love with amazing characters”

@DrKilgoreTrout: “so lucky to start from the beginning!”

So, after all this postive praise, why didn’t I love it? Yes, I enjoyed reading it but I didn’t think it was amazing or anything I’ll probably remember in 6 months. It’s a fun read and quite light hearted, and I don’t think there’s any serious message to be learned here so why the high praise – I can’t actually answer that, you’ll need to read for yourselves!

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Book Review: Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon

Getting Rid of MatthewWhat’s it about?2012 WBN LogoBBC 2014

What to do if Matthew, your secret lover of the past four years, finally decides to leave his wife Sophie and their two daughters and move into your flat, just when you’re thinking that you might not want him anymore . . .

PLAN A: Stop shaving your armpits. And your bikini line. Tell him you have a moustache that you wax every six weeks Stop having sex with him. Pick holes in the way he dresses. Don’t brush your teeth. Or your hair. Or pluck out the stray hag-whisker that grows out of your chin. Buy incontinence pads and leave them lying around

PLAN B: Accidentally on purpose bump into his wife Sophie Give yourself a fake name and identity Befriend Sophie Actually begin to really like Sophie Snog Matthew’s son (who’s the same age as you by the way. You’re not a paedophile) Buy a cat and give it a fake name and identity Befriend Matthew’s children. Unsuccessfully Watch your whole plan go absolutely horribly wrong.

My thoughts

I read this as part of my World Book Night reading challenge and it’s the first Jane Fallon novel that I’ve read. Narrated in the third person it’s an attempt at a funny but realistic account of having an affair and the consquences.

So basically Helen’s pushing forty, rents a flat and has been having an affair with a married man for four years. Not exactly her life plan. So when Matthew turns up on her doorstep having left his wife she feels guilty to let him stay.  Having Matthew with 24/7 Helen realises this isn’t what she wants and sets about plotting how can she get rid of him and here the deception starts and oh the tangled web she weaves!

Some of Helen’s antics reminded me of Bridget Jones and were quite amusing but I didn’t find it hilarious or laugh-out-loud but that’s not to say others might. I actually found Helen to be quite a selfish character with Matthew not being that likeable either, he comes across as a bit wet, needy and totally out for himself so I wasn’t particularly bothered about what happened to him.  I think Matthew’s wife Sophie is the most likeable character and the one you want to empathasise with and in the end she is one that has the better outcome.

It does feel like real life especially the office politics and typical nasty office bullies you hear of with some cringe worthy scenes – the son dilemma for one, that was a bit…inappropriate and weird but I guess that adds to the humour.

Overall, an easy read with an unpredictable, surprising ending but not really anything new or groundbreaking!

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Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

the-rosie-projectWhat’s it about?

Love isn’t an exact science – but no one told Don Tillman. A thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner.

Enter Rosie – ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ – throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos. But what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling?

My thoughts

Graeme Simsion is an Australian author / writer and The Rosie Project is his debut novel. This was our book club read for January and and has been one of my favourite reads.

Narrated by Don the geeky techy narrative took me a few chapters to get used too. It’s very matter of fact and coincidentally reads just as the author Graeme Simsion talks. As I was reading I was hearing his voice!

Predominantly the book is Don’s search for a wife through The Wife Project and his questionnaire, which in itself is quite hilarious. I thought it was a bit like an online dating version really, if we don’t want to date a smoker we don’t send a wink or whatever! Anyway,  Rosie’s the complete opposite of what Don think he wants but hey opposites attract and whilst helping her to discover her biological father’s true identity via The Father Project he starts to realise that perhaps he may have feelings for her. Feelings that are in direct contrast to The Wife Project’s Questionnaire.

Whilst Don and Rosie are investigating  all the candidates in The Father Project, there are some great scenes (the lobster dinner, the ball, the cocktail making) but at one point I was really shocked at who was actually a potential father so there’s a good surprise with a twist at the end I didn’t see coming.

Although never actually confirmed, we’re led to believe that Don sits somewhere on the edge of the Autistic spectrum and I wasn’t quite sure how to react to some of the scenes which seemed to be making fun of Don and his traits. I was chuckling but I wasn’t sure that I should be. Don openly claimed to be the class clown and just accepted that even in adulthood he accepted himself as weird.  I’ve only ever read one other books where the protagonist had Asperger’s and Don seemed to possess similar traits but not knowing much about it you have to go with the flow. I’d imagine others with better knowledge would probably pick it apart and say ‘oh they wouldn’t do that or behave like that’ but I found it believable.

This isn’t a conventional fluffy romance novel which I liked – it’s a bit different, very individual, with the right balance of humour, seriousness and humility and I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

p.s our book club would like to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Don – who would you cast as Rosie?

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