Review: Body Tourists by Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers’ Body Tourists made me think of Kate Mascarenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel. Both are traditionally male written genres, and the woman’s perspective gives it twists where a male author would be less likely to go. In Kate’s book, she dipped into what time travel would mean to relationships, how would you be paid, or copy with family deaths, interesting ideas. Body Tourists, likewise, explored relationships – what would you do if you could resolve that dispute you had with somebody who died? The tourists were varied, each bringing something different to the story, but I did feel the end was rushed, and could’ve done with a bit more expansion. A good read nonetheless, and recommended.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I was torn between giving this 4 or 5 stars. I loved Station Eleven, Emily’s previous novel – and many of the same ingredients are used in this latest outing, The Glass Hotel. Multiple narratives twisted over numerous timelines, held together with beautifully poetic writing. Emily is expert at weaving threads and foreshadowing plot lines, while keeping the story moving forward. My only issue was that I felt some sections were bloated and could’ve done with a trim, but a minor gripe for an otherwise excellent novel, so 5*!

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t, and Why by Stephen Martin and Joseph Marks

We all think we’re a good judge of people and aren’t easily influenced, but numerous studies have shown this isn’t true. We’re likely to be more patient if the car in front that doesn’t move when a traffic light turns green is executive, and we’re more likely to listen to Ian Botham tell us how to survive a nuclear attack than a scientist or someone from the military.

Messengers, by journalist Stephen Martin and psychologist Joseph Marks, discusses who influences us most, and why. The personal attributes of a messenger, as with a leader, aren’t particularly surprising (socio-economic position, competence, dominance, attractiveness, warmth, vulnerability, trustworthiness and finally charisma) but the book explores each of these, with plenty of examples from scientific studies.

An interesting book, full of anecdotes and case studies, well worth a read.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde

The End of the Ocean is an interesting book – giving a glimpse of how the world could be after devastating droughts caused by climate change. I did struggle with this book for a couple of reasons. First, it was hugely over-written, especially anything involving sailing. I suspect Maja loves sailing and wanted to incorporate every single nautical reference possible – these sections were massively skimmable, whole pages adding nothing to the narrative. And secondly, I’m not convinced the future would ever be that bleak – yep, there’s going to be significant changes, even if we do change course, and these will cause some pain but I can’t see Europe turning into refugee camps. Still, some nice writing, solid characterisation, so better than a three, so giving a four.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Lessons of History by Will Durant, Ariel Durant

Fantastic. 5000 years of history condensed into a 100 pages – not the dates, the changing borders, or the winners and losers, but what history means and how societies evolve. Although written in the 60s, in many ways the topics and conclusions are very current (“Inequality is not only natural and inborn, it grows with the complexity of civilization”) but others are dated, such as his concern that communism may spread westwards throughout Europe. A short book, but every word-perfect sentence offers insight.

See review on Goodreads.

Review: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen

This is an impressive book. It’s flawed – many chapters could be significantly reduced without damaging the message, the message is often lost amidst rambling anecdotes – but by golly, this is a man who knows how to research. Facts, quotes, conclusions – it’s all here. Kurt Andersen is a journalist by trade, and the quality shows: the writing flows, the arguments are there, though bloated in places, but I’d rather have a skimmable well written book like this than something inferior.

The book starts with the Founding Fathers, skims through the Wild West, and ends with the 45th President of the USA (by both chronology and ranking). With the verbosity, I did feel the thread was often lost but given the history lessons were still interesting, that’s not at all a bad thing. The conclusion was that unkempt religion, unlike the European churches which are reigned in by the controlling powers, allowed people to express themselves uniquely, accepting their own truths and realities.

A fantastic book, highly enlightening for both those within Fantasyland and those who are out.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

I’m a bit torn with this book. I read it to the end, and did enjoy it, but the second half was a struggle and I skimmed a fair bit towards the end. The problem is that this is a first person psychological thriller, so you’re close to the thoughts of the antagonist, and those thoughts became very repetitive and predictable very early on. Another down vote for me was the final third turned into a courtroom drama, something not mentioned at all in the blurb.

Still, some nice writing, better than a three, so rounding up to a 4.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2) by Elizabeth Strout

I wasn’t aware that “Olive, Again” was a sequel until I came to write this review – I thought the “, Again” was because Olive Kitteridge appears in each chapter of this connected collection of short-stories, sometimes the focus, other times just passing through. I didn’t feel I’d missed anything by not reading the first book, this sequel is perfect standalone. 

Elizabeth Strout comes from the Anne Tyler school of writing – small town America, every day characters, and perfect observations of their habits and foibles. This book is marvellously understated. The writing is basic, no frills, but says just what it needs to say – and like Anne Tyler, what isn’t said is equally as important.

Wonderful, charming, highly recommended.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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How to Have Meaningful Conversations by Sarah Rozenthuler

This book doesn’t discuss day-to-day conversations, what I was expecting, but the Big Conversations (used by Sarah throughout the book) – those chats where the outcomes can save marriages, get that promotion, or start a new way of life. The book started slow, a few too many anecdotes from Sarah’s past, but once it kicked into gear there are some interesting themes, all clearly explained with case-studies. An interesting read, a good 4*!

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

This book has all the cliches of prison books and films – the framed innocent, the beatings and sexual abuse, corruption and murder – but the most alarming is that this is based on true events over a 100 -year span at Florida’s Dozier School for Boys. Various reforms outlawed certain abuses, but corrupt regimes are always able to find new forms of torture.

This is an excellent book, mixing the messages of Martin Luther King with the protagonist’s sufferings, well crafted and very good at capturing time&place. My only complaint, hence the four stars, is the ending. The twist was unnecessary and seemed very disjointed, especially after meeting the old friend in the bar after the marathon. I felt it didn’t add to the story, it was just a distraction.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

See review on Goodreads.