Review of The Stranger in the Lifeboat

The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Stranger in a lifeboat – cover



📖 I loved this book. I had previously read The Five People you meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and really enjoyed it, so when I saw this new book, I thought I would give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed. Despite the fact, I started reading this late at night, I found myself still sitting up at one in the morning reading this, and completely finished the book within two days.

✍️ These books are unlike any other books I have read. I don’t normally go in for anything religious, which these books feature, but this has such an intriguing puzzling storyline to it that you start thinking “are they really innocent?” or “what would I do in that situation?”. Just when you think you have something sussed out, Albom throws in a plot twist or two to keep you guessing too.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract from a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“The distance between death and life is not as great as you imagine.”
“Really,?” Yannis turned his way. “Then why don’t people come back to Earth after they die?”
The stranger smiled. “Why would they want to?”

👓 This story is told across three main perspectives, Benji, who is on a lifeboat with a group of strangers, Le Fleur a detective called to investigate an abandoned lifeboat and various media reports.

👫 Benji records his journey through a journal, transcribing the events of the stranded survivors on the lifeboat, and questioning what really happened to cause the ship to sink. When they come across a stranger adrift at sea who claims he can save them all, the group soon become divided, questioning everything they know, they trust, and even their beliefs.

🗺 Le Fleur is a troubled detective. After suffering the loss of his young daughter, he finds his marriage is struggling, he drinks a lot and is struggling with life. When he is called to investigate the strange lifeboat, he becomes consumed by the pages of the journal and the puzzle of what happened to the survivors of the shipwreck.

💭 Overall View: A fantastically strange story and an enjoyable mystery. I would definitely recommend and I look forward to reading other works from this author.

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Review of The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn

The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn

The Last Reunion – Cover



Genre: Historical Fiction – WWII – Burma – Strong Females
📖 I loved this book. I love historical fiction anyway but it’s not often that I read fiction set in the 20th century. The blurb on this book had me immediately intrigued. The story is set over two timelines. In the modern timeline, Olivia, an apprentice art dealer is sent to the country to try to convince an elderly widow (Beatrix) to sell her most prized possession, a Japanese netsuke. However, gaining the provenance needed to sell the netsuke could prove tricky as Beatrix has a rather interesting past, one which will need to be brought to light if the sale is to go ahead.

✍️ The second timeline is set in Burma in 1945 and tells the story of Beatrix (then known as Bea) and her friends as they sign up for the Wasbies, the Women’s Auxiliary Service. The girls soon find themselves shipped all over and facing long days serving men on the frontline in very difficult circumstances. They learn how to take care of themselves, each other and the hundreds of men to whom they provide food, services and a friendly smile each day.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract from a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘You can sleep when you’re dead,’ said Plum, throwing a towel at Bea’s head.
Bea groaned and shaded her face with her arm. ‘I didn’t get a wink last night,’ she complained as Plum and Bubbles got ready to go out. ‘Not the one before that.’
‘You heard what Mrs St John said about morale,’ said Bubbles as she shimmied her hips into a tight-fitting silk dress. ‘It’s expected that we’ll go to dances; help cheer up the troops. I hope Charles won’t mind too much; of course, I wish it were his arms around me.’
So, dancing skills were in fact required. Bea sighed. ‘I’m sure that’s half the reason you signed up,’ she said dismissively.
‘Course it was,’ laughed Plum, oblivious to Bea’s sarcasm.

👫 I think most who read this book will fall in love with Bea. Her character arc is very interesting. In the historic timeline, she is introduced as polite, and straight-talking but rather shy (noting others amongst her friendship group are the life of the party). Yet by the modern timeline, she is an old woman, bolshy, brave and strong-willed. The war has changed her, she knows she is strong, adaptable and not afraid to get her hands dirty.

🗺 As mentioned, this book has two storylines, the second taking place in Burma. Burma is often called the Forgotten war because its operations were often overlooked by the contemporary press and remained more obscure than those of the corresponding formations in Europe for long after the war. Although I have read a few books about the war and watched a few war documentaries, I knew little about this time period and location, this book did such a marvellous job of bringing it alive. The author included so much detail, even the changes in the weather and the hardship that could bring.

💭 Overall View: A great historical fiction adventure from the frontline.

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Review of How to be Champion

How to be Champion by Sarah Millican
My rating: 5 Stars (more if they were available)
Genre: Non-Fiction – Celebrity – Autobiography

Sarah Millican – Cover

📖 I’ve been a Sarah Millican fan for years, I love her style of comedy and I have been lucky enough to see her live a couple of times (and have my prized flower badge to prove it). I’ve had this book lurking on my bookshelves for quite some time and clearly waited far too long to read it as it is a delight!

✍️ This book is an interesting insight into Sarah’s life, including a bit of everything from school, work, marriage, divorce, and of course her career as a comedian. Each chapter has tips at the end on how to be champion, often these are ways to see the positive in an otherwise crappy situation (or just advice on stationery or cakes – which is always a good thing).

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the author’s writing style. One of the things I loved about this book was it has a WHOLE chapter dedicated to the love of stationery (as a stationery addict, this chapter spoke straight to my soul). With so many Instagram-worthy quotes in there (and this book in general). I thought this line from my favourite chapter might make you chuckle too:

My notebooks are like someone you know rubbing your back; ‘It’s okay, I’m still in your handbag/ on your bedside table/ in the car. Here, have a clean page for all those new cock jokes.’

👓 One of the best things I took away from this book (notebooks and stationery love excluded) was Sarah’s honest look at mental health, counselling and body image.

💭 Overall View: A brilliant book, Sarah comes across as funny, sweet, and self-deprecating. It feels like you are sitting down having a cuppa and natter with Sarah. Overall a really positive experience and I’m very pleased I’ve read it.

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Review of Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse

Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Factual – Travel – History

📖 I was unsure whether to write this review or not but I really enjoyed reading this book and thought I should share that. I love to learn about local histories. I do this a lot when I travel so when I came across this little book I was quite excited to see what was around the Tees Valley area.

Cover – Tees Valley Curiosities

👓 This book focuses more on the interesting objects to be found in the region instead of places themselves. The book is really interestingly laid out. Each object has a history about it, details on how to access it, brilliant photographs and then snippets of stories of it appearing in the press or writings (often historical articles).

✍️ There are so many great objects but here are a few of my favourites:

• Darlington yards and wynds – All these wynds have interesting names but there is one with a bull carving. This is said to be linked to the Bulmer family, who at one time owned the nearby Bull Inn. The hostelry was probably named after the mighty beast known as the Ketton (or Durham) Ox that was bred by the Colling brothers at the nearby hamlets of Ketton and Barmpton.

o Reading this story made me want to find out more about the Ketton Ox. The ox was bred in 1802 by Charles Colling of Ketton, near Darlington.

o The beast, weighing 34cwt and 11ft around the girth, was taken around the country and exhibited at fairs.

• The Hitching stone – A former editor of the Northern Echo, W.T.Stead, often used it to tether his pony after travelling to his nearby office from the family home at Grainey Hill Cottage, Hummersknott. In 1880, Mr Stead moved to London to become editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and was drowned in the Titanic disaster of 1912.

o Stead is such an interesting character, he was the first editor to employ women journalists, he campaigned to get the age of consent raised from 13 to 16, he was imprisoned and of course, as listed above, he died on the Titanic.

o There is an interesting article on him here – https://web.archive.org/web/201204131…

👫 I think the thing that I enjoyed most about this book is that it prompted me to want to know more and more (as can be seen in the two examples above).

🗺 Are there any curios in your town? If so, I’d love to hear about them. 😊

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little book with a fantastic collection of interesting tales.

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Review of Notting Hill Carnival by Candice Carty-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – The Notting Hill Carnival


Genre: Romance – Quick Reads – Retellings

📖 This book is pretty much a modern-day remake of Romeo and Juliet. The story primarily follows a girl named Sapphire who once was the leader of a gang called the Red Roses. She’s turned her life around, got a job and is trying to go straight as it were. Unfortunately, the leader of the Gold Teeth Gang has other plans and Sapphire soon finds herself being pulled back into that old world. On her way to the Notting Hill Carnival, Sapphire finds herself forming a friendship with a boy named Apollo but they both soon have their loyalties tested when they find out they each belong to rival gangs.

✍️ This book is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. This book carries a lot of action and a lot of background despite its short number of pages, and I enjoyed that. The romance aspect perhaps could have developed more (as I’m sure it would have in a longer book) but I’m sure the reader got the gist and was willing the couple to triumph.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ he said back, smiling.
Sapphire stifled a laugh. This was the oldest trick in the book, though she hadn’t heard it for a long time. All work and no play in the last few months had made Sapphire feel like nobody would ever be attracted to her.
‘I don’t think so’, she smiled. He was kind of cute. Not as big as the guys she usually went for, but she did like his eyes.

🗺 This book takes place in London (probably obvious by the title) but I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the areas. You really got a feel for the turf was between the gangs and the busy carnival bringing it all to a head.

💔 Any Negatives: Possibly could have done with a little more romance but to be honest the amount of story packed into such a short book it would have been difficult to achieve this.

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little story and a great tribute to a classic. The story felt sassy and strong-willed. The main character was well portrayed, and you did find yourself willing her to triumph. Overall, very enjoyable.

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Review of Music To Make Friends By

Music To Make Friends By: Quick Reads 2019 by Hayley Long

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – Music to Make Friends By




📖 This is a really intriguing little book. I initially purchased it as I enjoy the quick-reads series to which it belongs to. I don’t think there are many autobiographies amongst it (that I am aware of) so this seemed fun and a little different and at £1 worth a go.

✍️Well I wasn’t disappointed. This is a sweet little book about a woman going through life, told through music. The excitement of buying her first album, the sharing of common music with friends, joining your first fan club, getting a first job, having a boyfriend (who is sweet enough to create her a mixtape), travelling Europe, becoming a teacher and attending school dances. Quite a lot of life story in 99 pages, mostly told through the medium of song.

👓 This little book brought back quite a lot of memories for me too (who doesn’t remember the exciting times of visiting a woolies store with your eagerly saved pocket money). Everyone has special songs that can instantly bring back memories (good or bad) and that’s what this little book captures.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘The music?’ I crossed my fingers. ‘Can I choose it this time?’
Jeanie was silent for a moment and then she gave a snort of laughter. ‘Of course you can, love. You can choose anything you like as long as it’s Elton John.’

💭 Overall View: A light-hearted, funny, sweet little book. Full of nostalgia (particularly around how music shapes and inspires us). I’ve now added Marlena Shaw’s – Let’s Wade in the Water to my playlist too, such a brilliant little song to much this fun little book.

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At the time of reviewing this book it is on sale for £1.00 at Amazon (affiliate link):

https://amzn.to/3CgHY3E

Review of Six Foot Six

Six Foot Six by Kit de Waal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – Six Foot Six

📖 This is a really cute little book. A fun and easy read.

✍️Timothy flowers is six feet six inches tall. The story follows Timothy as he goes about his day on his 21st birthday. However, when he is in the midst of his day he meets Charlie who is a builder and offers him a day’s work. It becomes clear that Timothy has some kind of learning disability and is more childlike than an adult. In many ways, Charlie takes advantage of Timothy using his size for both menial labour and for a bit of intimidation. Yet the friendship between the two flourishes into a heart-warming tale.

📖 I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Charlie parks outside the house with the basement and tells Timothy to get out.
‘I’ll be back in a bit. You just carry on.’
Timothy doesn’t move.
‘What you waiting for?’ Same job as before. Go on.
‘I don’t want to go down on my own.’ Timothy is thinking of the broken room and the Brute hiding in the corner.
Charlie looks up at the ceiling of his van and shakes his head. ‘Christ. Come one then. But I’m not paying you to be sitting on your arse all bloody day.’ He starts the engine and drives off. ‘When we get back, you’ll have to work twice as hard and twice as quic. Got it?’

👓 This book covers some really complex issues (disability, vulnerability, domestic abuse) but the author handles them in a subtle, gentle way. I became invested in Timothy (and Charlie) and I really wanted the day to go well.

☠️ Any Negatives: Not a negative as such, and I have never read Kit De Waal’s work before so this may already exist, but I would love to see this story in a longer works or a sequel.

💭 Overall View: It is well worth the £1 cover price to read this. An unexpected but pleasant little tale. Another “quick reads” win which I would highly recommend it to any (mature) reader.

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Review of The Donor – 5 Stars

The Donor by Clare Mackintosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Premise: Fourteen-year-old Meg is in recovery, six months previously she had a heart transplant. She has been given a second lease of life and is desperate to live it to its fullest. Her mother Lizzie is somewhat nervous, after years of living with the worry of Meg’s illness, she can’t help be cautious. When the bereaved mother of the donor, Karen, makes contact and asks to meet Meg, Lizzie worries, but she feels obligated to her for giving her daughter this new lease of life, begrudgingly she agrees. Soon Karen’s motives come into question and Meg’s attitude begins to change. Has Lizzie made a huge mistake allowing Karen to get to know Meg, worse still, is her daughter in danger?

I really enjoyed this short story, part of the “quick reads” collection which I love to intersperse with longer reads. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. I’m proud of authors who take on the challenge of writing these books so that they can be enjoyed by all even those who aren’t keen readers.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘She’s taking a lot of pills already,’ I say. The bottles are in the bathroom, their labels filled with long names I can’t pronounce.
‘These are supplements. They’ll help Meg stay healthy.’
‘She is healthy. She’s doing really well. The consultant said so.’ I don’t mean to sound so abrupt, but Steve turns to look at me, a shocked expression on his face.
‘Lizzie!’

The story is told from Lizzie’s point of view. She has felt so much strain from her daughter’s illness over the years. Her guilt and stress are palpable through the page and it’s pretty easy to picture yourself in her position, what would you do? How would you react?

The story of course captures the concept of organ donation (for a real-life insight into this I highly recommend Dan Walker’s book Remarkable People, there is a chapter on organ donation that is both heart-breaking and inspirational). The author also dabbles with the theory of cell memory, a really interesting concept that really adds to the story.

Overall View: Fast-paced, well-written, character-driven short novel. A really good read. A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Extract – The Donor

Review of The Auschwitz Violin – 5 Stars

The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Àngels Anglada

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The book opens with a meeting between an older lady violinist and a charmed young man instantly captivated by her, her playing and her instrument, a friendship blossoms and he asks the story of the violin. This leads us to the extraordinary story of Daniel, and his imprisonment at Auschwitz.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

’Occupation?’
The question had seemed inoffensive enough, but not everyone had the good fortune to be asked. Those who were selected immediately to die – children, old men and women, the infirm – stood in another line.
Daniel was quick to reply;
‘Carpenter, cabinetmaker.’
It was a half-lie. The answer had risen from deep within the recesses of his mind; only later would he reason it out. It was as if someone had dictated it to him.

This book has it all. Sometimes it is soft and gentle and it beautifully captures the love that violin makers have for their craft. It also has many harrowing details of the treatment and suffering of those at Auschwitz. It sweeps you up and you find yourself desperately hoping that Daniel both completes his beloved violin and more importantly lives.

This is a truly haunting tale that stays with you after you finish reading it. Indeed, despite being an avid reader, I found myself taking a break after reading this book, not yet quite ready to leave it behind and enter another world.

Any Negatives: The book is a translation and at times it can feel a little out of sequence. However, this really did not detract from the fabulous storytelling and intent of the author.

Overall View: This is a great story, capturing both the brutalities of the holocaust and the hope that all humans have that things will one day get better. The book is an easy, enjoyable read, and it certainly makes you stop and think.

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Extract – The Auschwitz Violin

Review of Remarkable People by Dan Walker – 5 Stars

Remarkable People by Dan Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Dan Walker reflects back on his career so far and the many remarkable people he has had the opportunity to meet. Unlike other celeb books, this is not a story about Dan, but their story told through his eyes. Each story is broken down into separate chapters with a lovely collection of images on the central pages.

This book had it all for me, several pages when I really just wanted to sob my heart out, some just really uplifted and inspired me. Some stories I already felt connected to remembered watching and being captivated by others were a fresh revelation, but both were equally captivating. So many of the stories stay with you long after you have stopped reading the pages.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. There were so many I could pick from for this book, but I have chosen the following as it’s a form of bravery I admire so much and equally hope never to be in a position to have to replicate. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

At her funeral, a few weeks later, Ilse read out a thank-you letter from one of the families.
The family received another letter later that month to say that two other transplant patients were alive and well because they had Georgia’s heart valves.
Two young men can now see because Ilse and James decided to donate their daughter’s eyes. Georgia’s death was unexpected, painful, brutal and heartbreaking but, in dying, she had changed the lives of six other people she never met.

Overall View: I think everyone has had a difficult year over the last 12 months, in one way or another, for some every day has been difficult just to get through. This book, full of inspirational stories of remarkable people could be just the tonic. Another reviewer wrote this line, and it is so very true:
You will laugh, you will cry, you will be inspired, you will have a whole new outlook on life and you won’t want it to end.

If you are still on the fence, Dan also revealed in the comment section of a post on social media that a portion of the proceeds from sales of the book would go to a charity or cause related to the stories in the book.

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Extract – Dan Walker: Remarkable People