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Review: The Push by Ashley Audrain

Ashley Audrain is definitely going to be a very successful writer if her debut novel, The Push, is anything to go by. The film rights have been snapped up even before the novel’s release. Not many authors get that confirmation of their ability so early in their career.

The Push is a tight, doom-laden telling of any parent’s worse nightmare, the death of a child – particularly when that death may have been caused by a psychotic sibling. Was the sibling involved? Or was it just a freak accident as everyone else claims? And was nurture fine and nature to blame, given the matriarchal history?

Excellent, believable characters, and superb writing should make this a solid 5-star review, but I found it slightly frustrating in places, so dipping to a 4.

Chapters were short (there were 85 in total) in the James Patterson style – punchy, in media res, all ending on a hanging or a revelation. This is fine, as is the taught writing, but it was unrelenting. Yep, it created the atmosphere, but even the flashbacks to happier times had the same claustrophobia – it needed an occasional change of gear to create that contrast with the fear and dread. One final thought was that while the story was very good, it was also very thin. It could’ve done with a few more twisty turns to keep the reader on their toes.

A very good book, and an author to keep an eye on.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by B.J. Fogg

I do like the premise of this book – habits can be formed through the repetition of small routines. You don’t have to think big – think small. Completing a marathon starts with putting your running shoes on every day. The book dissects how to create lasting habits, by finding and nurturing behaviours that are easy to do. As he likes to say, Behaviours = Prompts + Ability + Motivation. There are lots of takeaways here, thought the second half could’ve done with a trim as far too much padding with examples.

The only thing that put me off was the constant self-promotion and the labelling and capitalisation of his basic terms – Habiteers, for examples, are people who’ve been to his boot-camp or on his course. Could be my Britishness, maybe this wouldn’t grate Americans.

Still, a good book, an easy read, so a solid 4*.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Night Falls, Still Missing by Helen Callaghan

My review for an earlier novel of Helen’s, “Dear Amy”, is very similar to my review for this book, “Night Falls, Still Missing”. The novel is generally well paced, a decent thriller with a decent cast, but I did find it was longer than it needed to be and the closing chapters were heavily skimmed. A decent book, but I felt it was more functional than exciting.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

Imagine Sixth Sense, Downton Abbey and Agatha Christie moshed up, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect with Anita Frank’s debut novel. It’s a good read, especially for a first book – solid characters, good build up and avoidance of the standard tropes and cliches – but the writing was a tad bloated and could’ve done with a trim, the story didn’t merit the page count.

Very enjoyable – a solid 4 stars.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Crime fiction, especially cosy mysteries, aren’t my thing, but I read this one because it was written by Richard Osman. Whatever he’s on, he comes across as a genuinely caring, intelligent and funny chap, and these attributes made it onto the pages too – the writing is flowing, witty and often contains charming turns of phrases. The diary entries are a good example of that.

The characters were all sensitively handled, few stereotypes, and the plot clever (sometimes a bit too much). Some scenes didn’t quite work, such as Elizabeth interviewing the priest, but given this is his first book, that can all be forgiven. This is clearly setup to be a series, I’m not sure the characters and the location have the legs for it, but I’m sure fans of Mrs Marple would disagree.

A charming book, well written, and an excellent debut. A solid 4* holiday read.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Hope in Hell: A decade to confront the climate emergency by Jonathon Porritt

Most environmental books make for a bleak read – they tend to focus on the failure of previous governments to engage, and due to the ignorant deniers and the political lobbying they prophesize doom and gloom and the end of civilisation. Hope in Hell isn’t immune to this, but it presents a far more balanced outlook, citing improvements in technology and options for climate engineering that could, alongside emission control, help reduce the effects of this climate crisis.

Sir Jonathon Porritt has been in the game for many years. He was a member of Greenpeace in the 70s, chaired multiple environmental organisations, and is a university chancellor, so he knows his stuff This come across clearly in this book. He covers what you’d expect – the inactivity of governments, failed opportunities, Green New Deal, etc. – but this book is broad. It covers historical civil disobedience, how other campaigns in the past, such as the Suffragettes and the anti-slavery movement, garnered public support and how we can learn from their experiences and their mistakes to get better traction on climate solutions.

This was my first audio book, and on whole it was a pretty good experience, but I do feel the medium wasn’t being used effectively. For example, the narrator, Simon Slater, slips into an awful American accent when quoting or reading Americans, I can’t see why (copyright ownership aside) the original recording couldn’t be slipped in instead. The same for Greta Thurnberg’s speeches.

But a very important and very timely book, one that everyone, especially those in industry and government, should be reading.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote, by Jason Fried and DHH (the founders of 37signals/Basecamp), justifies the benefits of home working and offers some sensible procedures and techniques to ensure you and your team remain integrated and productive. The book is written as a series of short essays, all raising issues and skimming over solutions. There’s little depth – if you want that, listen to Matt Mullenweg’s (founder of WordPress) Distributed podcast – but as a quick introduction to the pros and cons of remote working, you can’t go wrong with this short, light read.

See review on Goodreads.

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Review: Metropolis: A History of Humankind’s Greatest Invention by Ben Wilson

Interestingly, after completing Metropolis, I picked up Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, which talks-up home/remote working. Early on in that book, they predicted the working from home movement (greatly accelerated by Covid19) would result in the decline of cities – people would choose to live in cheaper, larger properties out of the city. Being a city person, I disagreed with this statement, and after reading Ben’s Metropolis, I realised why.

It’s easy to label cities as dirty, violent, over-priced, etc, but that’s missing the point. They provide means of collaboration of ideas and resources, social opportunities and much more. Throughout history, cities like Uruk (six thousand years ago) have drawn people to them – to the point now where the majority of people live within them.

This well researched book does have it’s flaws. There are a few odd transitions which seem shoe-horned in, and a few chapters really could’ve used a trim (repeated discussions on the benefits and troubles of walking in a city, too many film plots explained) but otherwise this is an excellent book that I can see myself dipping in and out of in the future.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss

This is the first book by Nicole Krauss I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. This collection of short stories have mostly been printed elsewhere, so fans of her writing may have read them before. The stories, Jewish influenced, explore relationships – the coming together and drifting apart. They’re quirky but intelligent, the writing poetic and lyrical. A lovely read.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Art of Doing Nothing and Something: Pottering as a Cure for Modern Life by Anna McGovern

One of the most silliest, most oddest, most charming books you’ll read. When, in the opening pages, I was given detailed instructions on how to make a cup of tea, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. By the end, I got it. Not one to read cover to cover in one sitting, just pick up and put down when you’re pottering, read a few pages, drift onto something else. I’m off to organise my herb rack now…

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

See review on Goodreads.