Book Review: Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon

The blurb

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

 

My thoughts

Having really enjoyed Joanna Cannon’s first novel, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, I was never in doubt that I would enjoy this one too.  It’s like Joanna’s characters, Tilly and Grace from Goats and Sheep, grew old and found themselves wrapped up in a new mystery!

With Florence’s encroaching dementia she really is pitched as the most unreliable narrator…can us readers believe her recollections?  The book very much is about what it is to grow old and be doubted and the author handles these issues with such sensitivity and a necessary amount of humour.

I had an idea of what was happening but not to the extent that was revealed.  Without trying to give too much away, there’s a well-known Bruce Willis movie that this very much reminded me of.  I like that the clues are drip-fed and we have to go back and forth in time to piece events together.

I like Joanna’s style of writing; short, punchy sentences which helped me read quicker and sustain my interest.

One of my favourite quotes (because it often happens to me):

“We’d only been there ten minutes and my mind started to wander. It can’t help itself. It very often goes for a walk without me, and before I’ve realised what’s going on, it’s miles away.”

The ending made my heart ache and gave me all the feels.  It filled me with delight, compassion and empathy for Flo and Elsie and will most definitely tug on your heart strings.  If you enjoyed Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing then this is for you!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 464
Publisher: Borough Press

p.s after meeting Joanna for a second time at Booka Book Shop in Oswestry, we were given some Fortnum & Mason recipe cards for a Battenburg cake.  Now, I had a go at the recipe, followed it to a T and it was a flippin’ disaster! The ‘pink’ sponge was just hideous and rubbery! I do want to have another go at a Battenburg but definitely not this recipe (it wasn’t even finished properly).  If anyone has any top tips for baking a Battenburg, please do share 😉

My thoughts on A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott #audible #bookreview

What’s it about?

An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased, but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two. 

Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Inès Picaut back to 1940s France, where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders. 

To find answers in the present, Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim’s youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way – and who will kill to keep their secrets safe…. 

My thoughts

After hearing Manda Scott on Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast I downloaded this book straight away using a free Audible credit.

At nearly 19 hours long it is a huge investment of time and despite the many weeks it took me to listen to it, the vast amount of characters and dual time line it is a fascinating listen!

When Sophie Destivelle is murdered in modern day France her death is linked back to her time as a WWII Special Operations Executive.  The time we spend back in WW2 is incredibly gripping and tense but not without, of course, the horror.  There are some vicious scenes but it is as you’d expect from a spy novel of this time.  Sophie’s character is awesome; she’s kick-ass and hardcore which I really liked!

I’m not gonna lie I couldn’t put the time into this Audible book as much as I’d have liked which is why it’s taken me around 6 weeks to complete it.  There are also so many characters in the present day and the past that trying to remember who they were and how they played a part in the past I found difficult.  This was entirely down to me and my listening habits.  As much as I do enjoy an Audible book and I liked the narrators in this, I think I would have had a much better experience had I read a physical copy.  I found I was trying to deciphering the names and I would have preferred to see them written down.

Since finishing I’ve since discovered this is the second in a series but wholeheartedly recommend as a standalone as it has such a superb plot.  In all honesty, it’s a book that I’d actually like to re-read.  I think I missed quite a bit and didn’t follow everything and recollect so didn’t really stand a chance of piecing it together.  This is a real treat for fans of historical fiction especially if you’re interested in roles women played as SOEs.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased – Audible
No of pages: 480
Publisher: Bantum Press

What are your thoughts on audio books?

Book Review: The Last Family in England by Matt Haig

The blurb

Meet the Hunter family: Adam, Kate, and their children Hal and Charlotte. And Prince, their Labrador.

Prince is an earnest young dog, striving hard to live up to the tenets of the Labrador Pact (Remain Loyal to Your Human Masters, Serve and Protect Your Family at Any Cost). Other dogs, led by the Springer Spaniels, have revolted. As things in the Hunter family begin to go badly awry – marital breakdown, rowdy teenage parties, attempted suicide – Prince’s responsibilities threaten to overwhelm him and he is forced to break the Labrador Pact and take desperate action to save his Family.

 

 

My thoughts

Just a quick 5 minute book review from me today as this was our book club choice for September so I am somewhat behind!!

As I said, I read this in September and as I’m not a dog lover I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it as the whole story is told from Prince, the dog’s, perspective.  However, I was quite surprised.

The first thing I thought was isn’t Prince an intuitive, well spoken, intelligent dog!!  His narration and observations of his family’s everyday and not so everyday activities will amuse but there also mysteries to be solved.

I found the story often sad and a bit depressing, watching the decline of the family through their pet’s eyes, but it isn’t without the occasional laugh out loud moment.  One scene in particular, I very nearly spat out my tea!

An enjoyable read and if you have a dog then you should read this book – you’ll never be able to look at your dog in the same way again!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Library
No of pages: 304
Publisher: Canongate

My friend’s dog, Scarlett!

Book Review: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

The blurb

Some things never change.

New York City, 1896. Hypocrisy in high places is rife, police corruption commonplace, and a brutal killer is terrorising young male prostitutes. Unfortunately for Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, the psychological profiling of murderers is a practice still in its infancy, struggling to make headway against the prejudices of those who prefer the mentally ill – and the ‘alienists’ who treat them – to be out of sight as well as out of mind. But as the body count rises, Roosevelt swallows his doubts and turns to the eminent alienist Dr Laszlo Kreizler to put a stop to the bloody murders – giving Kreizler a chance to take him further into the dark heart of criminality, and one step closer to death.

 

 

My thoughts

Here’s another book that I bought on a 99p Kindle deal and really had my money’s worth!

Although the beginning is very heavy on the psycho babble, which did put me off somewhat, this is like the mother of all psychological thrillers!  It’s very dark and disturbing and certainly not for the faint-hearted as they’re graphic images of child murders which will not be to everyone’s taste.  Once I got past all the psychiatry stuff it’s a gripping and race against time murder mystery!

I loved the setting, the period in which it was set and Sara’s character and her dogged determination to the first woman working in the New York police department.

If you need any more convincing to read (or watch) this, a modern day equivalent would be The Mentalist but soooo much darker!

Since reading the book I have watched the Netflix adaptation which is very good too and apart from the ending stays very true to the book, loved the cast selection!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 544
Publisher: Sphere

Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The blurb

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies . . .

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

My thoughts

This book had been on my TBR for years, not quite sure how many, but more than 4! I’d been chatting about it with my brother so I thought I should just pick it up and give it a go.  I’d heard that it was a challenging read so I must admit I was intimidated it which is probably why I’d put it off for so long.

Well it took me just under 2 weeks to read.  This was due to the time I had available and not the book, but I really don’t why I felt so intimidated.  It wasn’t what I expected and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought it would.  I’ve summarised the stories included below and my thoughts on them:

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing – I found this story to be the most challenging which wasn’t due to the subject matter because that was very good but because of its language, which as it’s the first story in the book, can seem rather off-putting.

Letters from Zedelghem – bit of a 1930s humourous romp told as a series of letters.  I love letter-writing in books!

Half-Lives – The First Luisa Rey Mystery – my favourite of all the stories.  This I estimated to be set mid-late 1970s and was a tense murder mystery conspiracy thriller.  Would have loved a whole book based on this short story.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish – reads like a Monty Python sketch, really rather amusing and laugh-out-loud!

An Orison of Somni-451 – futuristic, sci-fi.  I pictured i-Robot on trial.

Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin After – vicious and tribal but hopeful.  Also has some odd language which needs deciphering!

These stories then develop in the next round as we make our way back to Adam Ewing.  Now, as I said, I enjoyed this book very much and thought it has great entertainment value but I can appreciate how other readers might think well what’s the point of it, yes each of the 6 have a link to the others/previous in some way but what else are we to take from this book – empathy, acceptance, what it is to be human or just a great piece of writing with an incredible amount of sticky notes to keep track! 😉

With these short stories, it really is a cross-genre book and one therefore sparks various emotions for the characters within.  If you haven’t read it and have been put off by what you’ve heard, give it a try, it really is worth the read!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 529
Publisher: Sceptre

Example of language in Sloosha!