book review: the reader on the 6.27

rail road under gray and orange cloudy sky during sunset
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I’m the kind of reader that needs a quirky main character to get on board with. I need someone who says inappropriate things and doesn’t understand why they have offended; I need a character who loves to just read the final chapter of a book; I need a hero who only eats yellow food.

The more unusual the quirks of a character, the more likely I am to fall in love with him or her. One of my all time favourites is Eleanor Oliphant and any book that likens itself to that masterpiece is going to draw me in.

The Reader on the 6.27 was compared to Amelie and that film warmed my heart until it was almost on fire. So I was very excited to dive in and see what Jean-Paul Didierlaurent could offer up.

The main character, Guylain, works in a recycling plant that basically just pulps books that have not sold so that there is space on the shelves for new books. But Guylain takes any pages that have escaped the pulping machine and reads the short extracts to the people on the train he takes to work each day.

There are a host of other characters that are so outlandish, I felt that they were almost Dickensian. I couldn’t help but smile at the little love story that ran throughout, with a toilet attendant, no less. And Guylain’s friend with no legs kind of reminded me of Leiutenant Dan in Forrest Gump.

I gave this book a big fat five stars because I just fell in love with every character we were introduced to. The book fell somewhere between a romance and a fable/ fairytale. It was beautifully written and left me contemplating what the message behind it was – and there were so many lessons to be learned.

At the centre of it all was love and friendship and what that means to us as humans. It shows that it’s messy and complicated but can also be boiled down to something really simple and delicious.

Much Love

Rachel xx

book review: managing expectations by minnie driver

I find memoirs to be one of my favourite kinds of books. But normally the celebrity memoir doesn’t have quite the same charm as they can sometimes become a bit showy and self-congratulatory. However, this wasn’t the case with this one.

I think that it was the essay format that really helped this one along. Having separate little stories to devour meant that it didn’t feel like we were just aiming for the point where our main character gets famous and we should all clap and cheer because they have made it when us mere mortals are never going to achieve even a smidgen of their success.

In Managing Expectations, Minnie does take a close look at her faults and I loved the essays earlier on in the book that charted some of the key moments in her childhood.

The book was written during lockdown and Minnie’s mother died during the writing of it. This meant that the book had a very sad ending because the final essay is about the death. Reading it was painful and I can imagine anyone who has lost someone will find it even tougher. Her mother sounded as though she had such a way with words and I hope that when I am on my deathbed, I can pass on wisdom like that.

If you get the audiobook, there is an extra interview at the end which is well worth a listen. Minnie chats with her friend who is a novellist herself, and they talk about the art of memoir writing and about being an avid reader.

I loved that they pointed out that being human is never one thing or the other. She describes an audition when she was a child, and her response to her friend who was upset about not getting the part was, ‘there is no best, there is just one that gets picked.’ I liked that because I’m guilty of thinking in black and white; if I don’t get picked, to me, it means that I’m rubbish.

I also loved when they spoke about readers being polite people. I had never made that correlation, but now that I’ve heard somebody say it I can’t unsee it.

So, from one reader to another, have a lovely evening and I wish you the happiest of weeks.

Much Love

Rachel xx

books about books

black tablet computer behind books
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To be lost in worlds

Within another world,

And several hours to bathe

In something different

From this washed out world.

Bit of a book review today. I recently read a five star book and it just reminded me just how much I love books, which is always a nice thing to remember.

The book was Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink and it was a memoir about her life through the medium of books. The chapters alternated between one about her life and then a corresponding list of books that Cathy suggests we could read.

Memoirs are so hit and miss for me. Some I adore (Wild by Cheryl Strayed) and some I just can’t even get to the end of. I did read somewhere that a famous memoirist said that to be good at that genre you have to be prepared for the reader to hate you. You have to be willing to show your ugly side.

Now, Cathy didn’t make me hate her at any point, but she did talk about her lack of confidence and that must ring true with lots of introverted book worms the world over.

There was also a lot about grief as her brother tragically died when they were teenagers and I think that as human beings we all want to see how other people cope with that emotion. We all have to lose people and there is no easy way to get through that pain.

By the end of the book, I just wanted to read some more. And, as an English teacher it was nice to read about someone who was equally as passionate about getting people to read, especially those who have not yet been introduced to reading as something fun.

Much Love

Rachel xx

book review: the stranding by kate sawyer

I haven’t done a book review in a while, but I read a bit of a cracker last week and I thought I owed it to the world to let them know how fabulous it was.

The book in question was The Stranding by Kate Sawyer; a book about the end of the world as we know it. The story is about Ruth, who is a primary school teacher in London. She is really not happy with her life, with a boyfriend who treats her like crap and a colleague who appears to just be using her for sex.

Ruth decides the that only way to fix her problems is to run away, so she books a ticket to New Zealand with the plan of doing a bit of soul searching as she travels.

Bubbling underneath this story are the news stories that the end of the world is coming because the nuclear superpowers are about to press their big red buttons. But like a lot of us, Ruth wants to bury her head in the sand and avoid the stories.

There is a dual timeline, flitting between her life in London before she goes to New Zealand, and then alternating chapters follow her in New Zealand after the bomb has gone off.

I don’t know what made me love this book so much, but something just resonated with me. Perhaps it was Ruth’s need to run away and that reflects the way I often feel in times of panic and stress? Perhaps it was because of the stories of war and nuclear terror that are dominating our own news channels at the moment? Who knows – but something struck a chord.

The writing was beautiful and the story made me fall in love with the characters rather than being swept away with the action. It reminded me very much of the movie, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World which is one of my all time favourites. These stories aren’t about the bomb or the asteroid – they are about the friendships that are formed.

If you’re looking for a good read, then I definitely recommend and it got a big fat five stars from me.

Much Love

Rachel xx

poetry perfection: diary of a somebody by brian bilston

For somebody who writes poetry every day, I’m not much of a poetry reader. I think it’s because a lot of the books I see are too clever for me; or too deep. I don’t know if I’m just a bit too dim to understand what these poets are going on about.

But this….

This book was bloody brilliant. It was like a male Bridget Jones with a poetic twist. I laughed out loud; like proper snorted. I very nearly shed a tear at the end and I know for fact that I will be thinking about it for many days and weeks to come.

It’s nice to know that you don’t have to be deep and dark to be a poet. You can be a little bit silly and just have a genuine love of words and you can still make a success out of it.

If you are ‘sort of into poetry’ and you want something that will just warm your heart, I highly recommend this book for Christmas. I have looked on Goodreads and Brian has a few books out so I will definitely be reading those.

If you can’t get hold of his books then you can always follow him on Twitter (that was how I first came across him).

I’m on the hunt for some good Christmas books now, so any suggestions will be very gratefully received.

Much Love

Rachel xx

how do we talk about grief (a bit of a book review- a monster calls by patrick ness)

It twists us with it’s sharpened claws,

Wringing out the tiny drops

Of feeling left for loves of lives.

But grief is part of daily life

And talking is a cooling balm.

It’s just so hard to find the words

That make that wound feel healed at all.

I got a work email the other day to say that one of the students I work with has had some terrible news. It has long been known that his mum is ill and his behaviour has been problematic to say the least. However, the email said that he would be off school for a little while because she had been given days to live.

My hear sank as I read the words. Selfishly, I wondered how on earth I would ever be able to talk to the poor kid. I could only imagine how awkward it would be to utter the words ‘are you OK?’

Those words always feel so empty when you know that somebody is going through something so unimaginably painful. And so yes, my heart sank.

But interestingly, just one day later I was asked to write and deliver a lesson on bullying using the Patrick Ness book, A Monster Calls. I only had to read one chapter, but I got into it and found that I couldn’t stop.

The book is about a kid called Conor whose mum is dying of cancer. A monster comes to visit him to give him advice and lessons in life that will help him through what is going to come.

I’ve only read one Patrick Ness book before this and I hated it. But this, just blew me away. It was beautiful and sensitive and insightful and everything that I would look for in an adult read. It was perfection.

I don’t know if it will help me speak to this student that I know, but it felt serendipitous that the book fell into my hands at just the right moment. It just goes to show that we really are given all the tools we need, we just need to be open to receiving them.

I loved this book so much that I’m excited, rather than nervous about delivering this lesson. I hope that my enthusiasm for the book can inspire the kids to have a go at the whole book too. And perhaps I can encourage a couple of you to read it too.

Much Love

Rachel xx

i seem to have a bit of a thing for orange themed books

I don’t normally do book reviews on my blog but reading is one of my most favouritest past times and this is my space to express myself, so why the fuck not?

I tend to read 50+ books a year so I have lots of material to choose from when I am deciding which is my favourite.

I’ve just finished a book that I really loved and it’s probably shot into my top 3 of the year so far. The book is Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce and it’s a thriller (my absolute favourite genre, sorry not sorry).

I read some of the reviews on Goodreads and a lot of them were saying that it was really predictable and boring but I beg to differ. I find this a lot though and it puts me off relying on reviews. Art and writing is subjective so it’s impossible to say that I won’t like something that you adore.

The funny thing is that while I was away on holiday in the Norfolk Broads I picked up a book from a charity shop in Norwich. I had never heard of it but it was blurbed as being ideal for fans of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (biggest fan right over here, thanks very much).

So I purchased this book on a whim and I whiled away the hours reading this book called Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller. It was the most perfect holiday read and I just loved how dark it was.

I’d highly recommend either of these books if you’re looking for something good to read. But it just made me chuckle that my two favourite books so far this year are very orange.

My next reads will probably have to include Clockwork Orange, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and Orange is the New Black. Any other orangey recs will be greatly appreciated.

Much Love

Rachel xx