Too Close to Home by Linwood Barcley

This was a book I was sent thanks to The Reading Residence’s book swap. To my shame this was a swap last year and was sent to me from The Crafty Lass as something that she had enjoyed and she hoped I would enjoy it too.

The thing I enjoy the most about a book swap is the chance to read a book you would not pick yourself. I am not sure that I would have picked this novel myself, for no other reason than the fact that it would have not been on my radar. I enjoy the crime thriller genre but sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by the choice, so it was nice to have this chosen for me.

Although, to begin with, I found this story a little slow going it did pick up as the story developed. In fact, the story has many different strands to it that knit together to create the main plot. The murder of one family in the neighbourhood creates all sorts of trouble for Jim Cutter, his wife and his son. Secrets of many people in the town are revealed and the road to the conclusion of the tale is bumpy for all involved. I did enjoy predicting what would happen next and was not too far off solving parts of the plot, but I did not necessarily have all the parts in the right order to complete the puzzle.

This has all the ingredients of a good crime thriller and is worth a read if that is your genre of choice. I would read Linwood Barcley again when I need a book of this kind because when the pace picked up it was a page turner.

Have you discovered any new authors through book swaps?

Art

One of my favourite things is to give theatre experiences as presents. Making memories with people you love is so precious, so I grab every opportunity I can to spend time with all the special and important people I know.

So, the trip to Birmingham Hippodrome¬†was a Birthday treat for my Mum. The play was ‘Art’ and the cast was the appeal – Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson. I mean – what a cast that is – one was even in the original Star Wars Trilogy (as well as being Ewan McGregor’s uncle).

I knew ‘Art’ was clearly about…Art, but other than that I had no idea what we were in for as our evening entertainment. However, as the play unfolded I was not at all disappointed. The play studies the relationship between the 3 men, Serge, Ivan and Marc – best friends until a piece of ‘White’ artwork becomes almost the fourth part of the relationship. Their differing opinions of this piece of ‘Art’ leads to a very close and comical evaluation of their friendship.

The chemistry on-stage between the 3 actors is clear from the word go and makes the play even more enjoyable to watch. There is also the joy that the 3 are equal; there is no star but 3 talented actors bringing the story to life. Although, saying that, there is a wonderful moment where Ivan (Tompkinson) recreates a conversation and phone call that has taken place off-stage and it is a moment of pure comedy which had the audience in fits of giggles.

I am so glad that I chose this play to take my Mum to, as we both left with smiles on our faces. And it was worth it for my Mum’s great review – ‘It is very French!’.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

I picked this book because the #bookstagram world was posting so many photos of the beautiful cover. It has one of the most stunning covers I have ever seen!

Now, I have to confess, I have never read the original story of ‘The Little Mermaid’. In fact, my only experience of the story is my favourite Disney film of all time. (Which I still remember going to see at the local cinema with my Dad). So, for me, this was not a retelling but the discovery of Louise O’Neill’s writing.

I have to be honest that the tale was a little slow to begin with. Although, I appreciate that it was setting the scene and allowing us to understand the life of our central character, ‘Gaia’. However, once the tale picked up pace and the surface had been broken, I could not put this book down. The writing was wonderful and engaging, and you do become invested in all that is unfolding in the pages in front of you.

The thing that really struck me about this novel, was not only the strong female lead (once she realises it) but the comment on the patriarchal society. Gaia, and the world of her sisters’, is dominated by men. Not particularly pleasant men at that. Gaia’s independence and realisation that there must be more lead her down a path she would never have expected. In fact, her rebellion against the norm leads to a really rather dramatic change.

So, not only am I inspired to read ‘The Little Mermaid’, the tale that inspired this book, but I want to encourage everyone to read this tale and consider equality on all sorts of levels.

Poirot and Me by David Suchet

As you may have realised, I am a fan of Agatha Christie’s work and, in turn, a fan of the TV adaptation with David Suchet in the role of Poirot. This book seemed it would be a perfect read to offer a little insight into the work of Suchet as the iconic Belgian detective , which spanned 25 years and included all of the Poirot stories being brought to the small screen.

The book starts incredibly emotionally at the end, with Poirot’s final case, ‘Curtain’, and led me to shed a few tears. Suchet writes about Poirot with such love and affection that you are immediately drawn in and almost forget that he is in fact a fictional character. We are then taken back to the beginning of Suchet and Poirot’s story and taken on their journey.

David Suchet explains the process he went through to create the Poirot he believes would do Christie’s work justice. How he stood up for the man he created to ensure that Poirot remained ‘real’. Each story is described as it was made, with anecdotes about those many actors who starred alongside Suchet to bring us these wonderful stories. The dynamics between Poirot and Hastings, as well as Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon, is always spoken of with great affection and is something that I always think is clear when you watch the episodes. Although, I feel that I was always as disappointed as Suchet when these three were not in the stories – but I guess it is always best to try to be loyal to original works.

David Suchet does not restrict his tales to Poirot; he also offers insight into other parts of his work during the Poirot years. In fact, the story about a Duke and a mango was one of my favourites – especially as it made its way into a Poirot.

This book was a lovely insight into the world of one of our best-loved actors playing one of our most-loved fictional characters. It has certainly filled me with a desire to rewatch all the Poirot episodes. This is so much more than the memoir of Suchet – it is the memoir of Poirot!

How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb

This has been on the trusty ‘to be read’ pile since the January sales, so thought I had better pick it up and give it a go (little did I know I made that decision the same week it came out in paperback). I am pleased I finally did pick this book up; it is really quite a good read.

This is not a simple memoir or autobiography by Robert Webb but really quite an examination of what truly makes us who we are – well what made Robert Webb who he is. There is a wonderful honesty throughout this book about his life and those that surrounded him. However, there is a great deal of affection in the writing too. I found it a very emotional read from start to finish, but it does not lack the humour you would expect from a book by Robert Webb. You follow the story of Webb as he struggles to really find his place in the world (although he has some dreams) – what should and shouldn’t he do as a boy from Lincolnshire? What is his place, really? How much do we allow others and society to define us?

Overall, this book is incredibly thought provoking as Webb does tackle the complex issue of gender in society and, however much we think we may be fighting against those roles that time has defined for men and women, do we actually, blindly, still fall into them? It has really made me reflect on how I view being female, especially as I sometimes consider myself not to follow all the stereotypes (although I actually probably do).

If you fancy more than a memoir and something that challenges ‘normal’ then this is the book for you. (Also, there are some amazing quotes used at the start of every chapter – including one from RuPaul!)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A world without books – what is that all about? From the moment I started reading this book, I was fascinated – a world without books is something that I could never have imagined – but as a History teacher I have worried about.

Fahrenheit 451 is a book I always knew I should have read and Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse always rolled his eyes when we discussed how I had never read it. So, finally I have. I do wonder why I have not read it before and I think the reason was I simply never thought to. This book is wonderful, if not a little terrifying. After all a world without books would be my nightmare.

As much as this novel warns what we could face in a world where our knowledge is controlled and limited, it also causes the reader to celebrate books. As you follow Montag, the fireman (although a cause of rather than a fighter of fires), attempt to break away from society as he knows it, you appreciate books more with the turn of every page.

This book is a good piece of prose but, as with many similar novels, it is emotive and thought-provoking. You will finish this book ready to fight for freedom – freedom of knowledge and freedom to be an individual in an ever-changing and mixed-up world. Don’t let books you love be forgotten – ever!