Review: A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

lovely way to burn

This book sounded right up my alley – pandemic wipes out the city of London, everyones dying AND there’s a murder.  Yes.

Turns out this is a quick, easy read with nothing too taxing for the brain to handle – and just what I was in the mood for, but nothing mind-blowing.  The tension promises to build and sizzle, but ultimately it just fizzles.  The descriptions of London falling apart in the wake of ‘the sweats’ are interesting and scarily believable – it really feels like this is a thing that could happen, people.  But much of it was just a bit too convenient to be truly exciting.  This won’t scratch your apocalyptic itch but it may just hit the spot if you’re looking for an easy mysterious read.  The first of a trilogy, and as I have the second book already, I may as well continue and see how it goes … when the mood strikes.  3 stars.




Review: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

signs preceding

Translated by Lisa Dillman

I have to admit, booktube made me buy this one.  A couple of months ago, just about every booktuber I follow (a blog post about which will be coming soon …) had read this book, and the vast majority of them were raving about it.  And second confession … I adore this cover.  So with those two things combined, I had no hope of resisting buying this book.

Maybe I’m just not clever enough, because unfortunately I just didn’t get it.  I mean, it’s an engaging story, and the writing/translating is interesting. The main character has some struggles to overcome (I guess that’s putting it mildly!) and I did feel for her.  Herrera creates a vivid picture of the grim life of Mexican immigrants crossing the border into the USA, and he sure knows how to write a beautiful sentence.  But the whole way through this (very short!) book, I felt like I was missing something … it was almost there but I just couldn’t grab it, and this saddens me because I think I have missed something great.  Perhaps this is one for the ‘re-read’ shelf as I think I would get a lot more out of it on a second read.

All this is not to say I hated the book – I didn’t.  I enjoyed the story, the characters were well drawn and the writing almost poetic.  The translator’s note at the end of the book was very interesting and insightful, and it is clear that Lisa Dillman was diligent in her translation, and did a wonderful job.  An author to watch, I think.  3 stars.




Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

mice and men

This was a first time read for me – I’d never read any Steinbeck before, but he is on my list of authors to read in 2016.  Of Mice and Men was not on my school reading list and I have never had the urge to pick it up before.  My daughter studied it for her English Lit GCSE, and she kind of spoiled the ending for me (I knew the what, but not the how – and I don’t blame her, I bugged her til she told me!).  So going into this, I knew very little, and it really took me by surprise.

I loved the atmosphere in this book – the scene setting is incredibly vivid.  A heartbreaking story with overarching themes of friendship, hope and dreams, Steinbeck deals with subjects that are just as relevant now as they were in the Great Depression era – racism, sexism, prejudice.  It is a short, quick and depressing read that really packs a punch and leaves you gasping.  If you haven’t read this classic, I urge you to pick it up it is very accessible, readable and a great place to start.  Steinbeck is definitely now on my ‘read more of’ list!  4 stars.






Review: Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov

book review: gamily by chintz aitmatov

I came across this book while researching for my global reading challenge.  Chingiz Aitmatov was born in 1928 in Kyrgyzstan and his literary works have been translated into more than 100 languages.  He died in 2008.

Jamilia is a very short book at less than 100 pages, and I really don’t want to give anything of the plot away, so this will be a succinct review!  This book is a masterfully written but simple love story.  The atmosphere evoked within these few pages is stunningly vibrant and the characters are warmly and beautifully crafted.  Thoroughly engrossing, if you can get your hands on a copy of this, DO IT! And also … cover love! 4 stars.


Review: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

Publisher: Penguin Classics (2006)

First Published: 1970

From Goodreads:
Described as ‘a metaphysical shocker’ at the time of its release, Muriel Sparks’ The Driver’s Seat is a taut psychological thriller, published with an introduction by John Lanchester in Penguin Modern Classics.

Lise has been driven to distraction by working in the same accountants’ office for sixteen years. So she leaves everything behind her, transforms herself into a laughing, garishly-dressed temptress and flies abroad on the holiday of a lifetime. But her search for adventure, sex and new experiences takes on a far darker significance as she heads on a journey of self-destruction. Infinity and eternity attend Lise’s last terrible day in an unnamed southern city, as she meets her fate. 

One of six novels to be nominated for a ‘Lost Man Booker Prize’, The Driver’s Seat was adapted into a 1974 film, Identikit, starring Elizabeth Taylor.

It is quite hard to review this novella without giving anything away, but I will try!  At just over 100 pages, I flew through this in a couple of hours.  It is a cleverly woven tale of a woman bored to death by her mundane life, and is a dark and compelling tale.  The reader knows from the first couple of pages what the outcome will be for Lise, and the journey to the conclusion is at times as funny as it is tense.  And then you feel awful for laughing at this poor woman who clearly has issues.  A very clever tale, told so succinctly and tightly with not a single wasted word!

This was my first read of Muriel Spark’s work and I will definitely be seeking out something else by her.  This was was shortlisted for the ‘Lost Man Booker Prize’ in 2010 and anyone who likes a tense psychological thriller would love it.

Review: No and Me by Delphine De Vigan

Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend called Lucas who gets her through the school day. At home her father cries in secret in the bathroom and her mother hasn’t been out of the house properly for years. But Lou is about to change her life – and that of her parents – for good, all because of a school project she decides to do about the homeless. Through the project Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou cannot bear that No is still on the streets when she goes back home – even if it is to a home that is saddened and desolate. So she asks her parents if No can come to live with them. To her astonishment, her parents – eventually – agree. No’s presence forces Lou and her parents to finally face the sadness that has enveloped them. But No has disruptive as well as positive effects. Can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together? A tense, brilliant novel tackling the true meanings of home and homelessness.

One of the reviews on the back of this book describes it as being “funny and tender” (Yorkshire Evening Post). While I agree wholeheartedly with the “tender” description, I did not find it funny as a whole. There were some amusing moments, but there was always a slightly sinister feel in the background (perhaps “sinister” is too strong a word) and overall I found this to be a sad tale of homelessness, dysfunctional families and painful adolescence. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book – it is a touching story and I raced through it, hoping for a happy ending …

Delphine De Vigan draws wonderful characters with her words. I felt great sympathy for homeless No and desperately wanted things to turn out well for, though perhaps it says more about me than No that I was waiting for her to “slip up”. Lou, the genius who doesn’t fit in, is infinitely likeable even through her mistakes.

Oddly, this book reminded me of Eve Green by Susan Fletcher in the way it was written, although Eve Green is not one of my favourite books by a long shot! No and Me is a lyrical and thought provoking novel and one I would highly recommend. The fact that it is set in Paris is a happy bonus!

My Rating: 4/5