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!

The Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd

When I spotted the film posters for ‘The Limehouse Golem’, I was immediately intrigued. Reason number one, Bill Nighy (I am a huge fan), reason number two the apparently spooky Victorian setting. However, time passed and I never made it to the cinema – Boo! Then, by luck, I found a copy of the novel in the local Oxfam bookshop and decided that I had to read it before I watched the film. As we bookworms are all fully aware ‘that the book was better’ – still waiting to check if that is true, though.

I was expecting, for some reason, for this book to be a tough read but it is so wonderfully written that it becomes a real page-turner. Every chapter is told in a different style, which keeps the interest of the tale and the mystery of ‘The Limehouse Golem’ alive. The setting of murky Victorian London is ideal for a murder mystery, as many of us are aware, and in this novel it is as much of a character as the people we encounter.

It is always difficult to blog about books that you do not want to reveal too much about. So, all I will say is that there are two twists – well, there were for me anyway – I expected one but only at the very last moment!

I am now so ready to go and watch the film because I am intrigued to see if it does this brilliant novel justice. And if it doesn’t, at least it is a chance to watch a Bill Nighy film.

However, one thing is for sure: I am keen to read more titles by Peter Ackroyd – anybody read any that they would recommend?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I picked this book as my holiday read (I have been on a little trip to Jersey which I will tell you all about soon) as I had spotted it on a lot of social media. I knew nothing about the book and did not even read the back of it to find out. I just had a good feeling about this title and that feeling was correct.

This is a story which really does plant ‘little fires everywhere’ – the title is perfect. It refers not only to one event that draws us into the tale, but is also a perfect metaphor for events that every character experiences in the tale. This novel is an interesting study of human nature and the impact of nurture. It addresses some very difficult questions about family and the ‘rights’ of those in a family – however it may be formed.

Also, secrets and identity engage you in the tale. Secrets lead to misunderstanding and mistrust causing relationships to sour. However, are some secrets kept for the good of those involved? If it seems to those involved that it is not causing any harm?

The novel is engaging and thought provoking. You will like some characters, you may dislike others (I certainly did), but you will probably understand, if not agree, with the actions of those involved in the story.

So, if you are looking for a good story about characters this is the book for you!

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

A second award winner for April. Nevermoor won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2018 for Younger Fiction, so I decided I needed to give it a go.

The cover is wonderful, you are automatically intrigued about the tale as the blue and gold suggests a beautifully magical world. Centre-stage of the cover is our bold heroine, Morrigan Crow. It is lovely to read another tale with a strong female lead. Morrigan is whisked away, on her eleventh birthday, to Nevermoor by Mr Jupiter North, her guide and protector in this new city. She has to face a series of trials to earn her membership of the mysterious Wunderous Society. To succeed in these trials, Morrigan must use her exceptional talent – whatever that may be. Of course it all results in some exciting, and occasionally scary, adventures with a whole load of colourful characters to encounter along the way.

As you read this tale, you are on all the adventures with Morrigan and her friends. You are almost part of the secret city of Nevermoor, avoiding the Hunt of Smoke and Shadows, and trying to gain your place in the Wunderous Society.

This book would be perfect for any bookworm – especially those readers who may have enjoyed books such as Harry Potter and will go on to become fans of stories such as The Hunger Games. Remember some books can be enjoyed by readers of all ages – and this is one. Who knows where Morrigan’s adventures will take her next?

The Hate U Give (THUG) by Angie Thomas

So, I am a little late at picking up a copy of this novel but this is certainly a case of better late than never. Recently the winner of ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize’, and it really is a deserving winner.

I am not sure I can do this title justice in a blog post. There is so much in this novel that deserves praise and recognition that I honestly do not think I have the skill to comment on it all. However, I am going to do my best to share my thoughts on ‘THUG’.

However, first it is another novel with a fantastic female lead in Starr. She may not have an easy ride for a whole load of different reasons but she is someone that you can imagine wanting to be friends with. You root for her from the word go; even if you don’t always agree with some of her actions, you can certainly understand them.

In fact, this whole novel is probably an important lesson for us all. Angie Thomas was inspired to write this because of the #Blacklivesmatter campaign and really shows us why we should use the voice we have been given to speak out for what we believe in. After all, our voice is our most powerful weapon. This is an incredibly thought-provoking book and is essential reading for all of us.

I really do not want to spoil this novel for anyone who has not read it, because it is such a powerful book. However, I will say that it is an emotional page-turner which will probably make you take a long, hard look at the world we live in and some of the actions we witness on a day-to-day basis.

So, whenever I am asked for a book recommendation this will be top of the list. If you haven’t read it, go out and find a copy and dedicate some time to Starr and her friends and family. They might all teach you thing or two.

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

So, I am pretty sure I have mentioned that I am a fan of Poirot. After all, I did do ‘A Murder on the Orient Express’ post last year. (Go and check it out if you haven’t already)

Sometimes I am just keen to read a good old-fashioned crime novel and, based on that I picked ‘Sad Cypress’ from my to-be-read pile. And, let’s be honest, I was not going to be disappointed by some quality time with Poirot and his little grey cells.

I enjoyed this novel because this is a crime that Poirot needs to solve to save Elinor Carlisle from the gallows. Her guilt has been decided by many before Poirot takes on the case with jealousy being given as the main motive, especially, by those who like a little bit of gossip. It is always fun to follow Poirot on his journey to solving the crime. There is always a charm to Christie’s novels which almost makes you wish you were part of the tale. And ‘Sad Cypress’ was no different.

So, if you are a fan of Christie Crime Classics (and if not, why not?) this is the novel for you.

The Scottish Play

First trip to the RSC’s new season was to see ‘The Scottish Play’. This is the shortest Shakespeare play (just a bit of trivia for you) and also one of my favourites. There is something comforting about a good old-fashioned good-versus-evil tale with a sprinkling of madness, ghosts and witches.

Now, I am not going to lie. Christopher Eccleston as Macbeth and Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth were quite a draw. Also, the fact that this is a season of female directors adds an attraction – how will these classic tales be adapted?

So, what was the play like? A bleak and modern setting – with sprinklings of excess – for me really emphasised the greed from the Macbeths but also highlighted the descent into madness of the two leads.

There was something very cinematic about the production as lines from play were projected onto the scenery and a digital clock ticked down to the big conclusion. (A wonderful stage fight between Macbeth and Macduff). And while I do not like to post spoilers, the time theme played a big part in the play’s finale – especially the idea of history repeating itself…

Christopher Eccleston is a really engaging Macbeth. He fully embraces the role – taking us all on the journey of Macbeth’s madness. However, for me the real villain of the piece will always be Lady Macbeth. I am not sure if Shakespeare or this adaptation intended that view but it is certainly how I view the play – and Niamh Cusack convinced me I was correct. Cusack certainly made the role her own and was mesmerising to watch. Macbeth was her puppet until she was too overcome by the guilt of her actions.

Although I name-check the two leads, as always there is not a star. RSC productions are always a team effort. No production would be as wonderful as they are without the whole cast giving it their all and, of course, those who work behind the scenes. (That knocking made me jump each time.)

I am now on countdown to the other productions this season – look out for those posts too as we travel through the season on the words of Shakespeare.