Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Guest List by Lucy Foley


"A wedding day is a neat little parcel of time in which I can create something whole and perfect to be cherished for a lifetime, a pearl from a broken necklace."

An easy read that is well paced. The format takes a little getting used to. Each wedding guest / participant gets their own narrative voice with duelling chapters. A picture perfect Irish island wedding provides an intriguing setting for a modern murder mystery.

Ignore the Agatha Christie references on the blurb, this one has a lot more adult content than Christie would envisage. It is chock full of unlikeable characters with horrible secrets and basically anyone could be the murderer.

Not the best murder mystery I've ever read, but entertaining, this one would make for a good holiday, beachside read. All families are a bit crazy.

4/5 - Weddings sometimes bring out the worst in people

The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine


“In a close-up, choose just one eye of the actor you’re playing opposite, don’t skip between the eyes or you will just look shifty;” 

Michael Caine is not just a fantastic actor, but an amazing raconteur. This autobiography is one of many that he has penned and begins at the beginning and goes through to prior to the commencement of filming of The Dark Knight Rises.


Are you keen for some name dropping and tantalising behind the scenes stories? Then this my friend is for you! It was recommended to me by my brother who thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook version with Caine’s voice narrating. Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery, Sydney Poitier, the pages are a literal who’s who of Hollywood and the entertainment industry in an entertaining and enlightening memoir. There is the sense that you’d like to corner Caine and get just a little bit more out of each story, the details that legal probably wouldn’t clear. Nonetheless, this is a delight.

5 out of 5, I just love Michael Caine.

Room At The Top by John Braine

 "Susan was a princess and I was the equivalent of a swineherd."

I read this what seems an age ago and am ridiculously behind in consolidating my thoughts about novels read to date. My chief takeaway from this book, that I selected due to its inclusion in the David Bowie list, was something along the lines of 'really well written' but ' this protagonist is a dickhead'.

Joe is everything I hate. He reminds me of my womanising Uncle (who might just share the same name). Not particularly bright, ruled by his pants and over-inflated sense of self, gets away with appalling behaviour.

The blurb describes it as the tale of the "original angry young man", clearly I am over that kind of voice. Joe Lampton is the kind of guy that makes you wonder why you aren't a lesbian, he is two-faced, untrustworthy and unlikeable. The strength of the writing is in the fact that these aspects are felt so keenly.

4 out of 5 - young, dumb and full of....

Home Stretch by Graham Norton


"No one was at home to answer the knock at the door when it came."

It is quite astounding to me that a man who effuses such joy in his public persona, can deliver such deeply moving trials in his fiction. That speaks to the talent of Graham Norton, the loveable TV host and exquisite author.
His latest offering is chock full of alienation and shame in a way that is moving, while feeling essentially truthful. One can't help but imagine some of the inspiration for Connor's experiences away from Ireland are drawn from Norton's experiences.
My writing at the moment is a little perfunctory and that is the polar opposite of Norton's. He appears to be growing in strength as an author with each novel and this one, in particular, is so effective. The story arc embraces so many deep feelings that will taunt your emotions and yet leave you feeling like you've had a short, meaningful stay with a long lost branch of your family.

5/5 - Norton is a treasure.

Because of You by Dawn French


 "It was fairly exhausting to be a constant smokescreen for his blatant idiocy, but she persisted. It was an exercise in damage limitation in which she failed to realize that she herself was the most damaged. The relationship was broken, but they were both clinging to the wreckage."

This is one of those occasions that warrants buying up a few extra boxes of tissues because you are going to need them. The subject matter somewhat surprised me.Not having had children, I was shocked at how visceral a reaction I had to the stillbirth and the almost instinctive understanding of Hope's actions.

French is unrelenting in her depiction of the toxic relationship between Anna and her husband, to the extent that it should come with a trigger warning — or perhaps that's just me.

Ultimately, this story is a journey that celebrates the love and beauty that can come of despair and it is at its best when exploring relationships between women, and more specifically mothers.

5/5— nature or nurture, or both.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir


"Soon, I’m sitting on my butt-tube. Not the most comfortable sensation, but when is a tube up your butt ever comfortable?"

Is it possible to convey my unbridled joy at having read this latest book from the author of The Martian?  Probably not. I'm almost certain I fist-bumped the air in triumph upon completing my reading, this is so good!!! Weir puts the science in science-fiction, while evoking emotions and challenges beyond the purely cerebral.

 While the title might have given away a little of the plot — a hail Mary pass being a desperate attempt to score a goal in the dying minutes of a football game— this tale had my undivided attention from the get-go. Each page was devoured with the voracity of a dieter tempted by a dessert buffet. Over 400 pages and the pace never faltered.

Hopefully without giving away too many spoilers, the sense of desperate alienation Ryland Grace experiences out in space is so spectacularly mirrored by the lifeform he encounters that the reader experiences a complete emotional rollercoaster. At the same time, the reader can’t help but feel a sense of relief and connection with both characters. Weir delivers a reassuring universe with connection at its centre.

5 out of 5 - Science can be beautiful.

Interior Chinatown by Charles You


“This is it. The root of it all. The real history of yellow people in America. Two hundred years of being perpetual foreigners.”

A fantastically novel approach to the novel which is equal parts entertaining and disturbing. The use of stereotypes and the movie script format effectively communicates the barriers that Willis Wu experiences in his life.

When the best role you can expect is Asian Action Man, and you'll never be the romantic lead, what does that say about the opportunities available to you in life. Everyone needs a mother who encourages them to 'be more' and to dream bigger. A great novel takes you beyond sympathy, beyond empathy, and conveys real, emotional experiences and this one did it for me.

A well-deserved winner of the 2020 National Book Award, a unique approach to storytelling.

 5 out of 5 - defy expectations, the world is your oyster.

The writing is utterly enchanting and