Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being the ‘book-cover-judger’ that I am, I dived into this thinking I’d be devouring its bookishness with relish. After all, what bibliophile could resist that cover?! The premise of an Indie Bookstore that opens until midnight, and a ‘BookFrog’ who has committed suicide amongst the books.

“Lydia’s skills as a bookseller came mainly, she believed, from her ability to listen. A raging case of bibliophilia certainly helped, as did limited financial needs, but it was her capacity to be politely trapped by others that really sealed her professional fate”.

I really wanted to love this. I so did. But I just felt so detached from it a lot of the time. I knew it wasn’t going to be a barrel of laughs, but there was absolutely no escape from the morbid scenarios at any point, and it started to drag me down.

This is wavering between 3 stars and 3.5 stars. It gets an average three, based on the fact that this was one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read and I was glad when it was over. But I have to squeeze in that extra half a star because it was a cleverly written book that had an intensity to keep me interested. Not gripped or excited. Just interested.

As I headed to the quarter of the way mark, intriguing little cryptic bookish clues started to really pique my interest. But I still felt a niggling distance from it that I just couldn’t shake off.

The story was engulfed with a dark sadness, the characters felt a tad unfinished, and I thought there were some holes that needed to be filled with things other than bleak and slushy weather visuals and people’s grotty clothing descriptions.

It was hard work at times, but I trudged through, because it was no way a DNF. It wasn’t anywhere near bad enough for that.

I enjoyed the way the two narratives combined, Lydia as a thirty-something and Lydia as a ten year old. Her younger self was very well portrayed, the child perspective being very believable and well written.

To conclude, I’d shelve this book ‘on the fence’, because that’s exactly where I’m sat regarding my opinions and thoughts. I can’t say much more about it other than it’s upsetting and violent. It was not at all what I expected.

I’d like to thank the publisher, Random House UK and the author, Matthew Sullivan for the opportunity to read this, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here’s a slightly different than normal review. Because this is a very different from normal police procedural crime novel.
I won’t go through the synopsis because you can read it for yourselves, but I recommend this to ALL MY FOLLOWERS WHO LOVE BRITISH CRIME.

Wow! Was this really a debut?
How can a ‘first timer’ be this good?
How long did it take to establish such awesome characters for a first book? Very impressive.
Is Caz Frear writing another?
And if so, when?
This doesn’t read like a debut.
It must of took some long and deep thought processes to create all these incredible people in the story.
I loved everyone for so many different reasons.
The intricacies of the whole story were simply complex, if that makes sense.
I love Cat Kinsella.
I need more of this kind of stuff.

Ok, the above ramblings needed to be off-loaded, because I absolutely loved this book! I’d reached page 46, and was thinking, this could be an average crime-mystery police procedural read. But then there was this;

Prepping the incident board are man-mountain DS Pete Flowers and blade-thin DC Craig Cooke – aka the Feast and the Famine.’

That alone, made me grin so much! So inventive! Characters that are given a personal and humorous persona from other characters POV’s before we even know them properly. I like that. I like that A LOT.

Caz Frear is a brilliant writer. She really attached the characters and story to my nosyness. I felt as though these people were so real! It gripped me quickly. There was mystery a-plenty, and I was hooked from about page 50. That is good going for me, I can tell you.

I absolutely loved this all the way through. And heading towards the very satisfying conclusion this little beauty of the New Years Eve scenario just grabbed me and had me nodding in agreement;

‘I’ve never subscribed to the cult of New Years Eve. Never grasped the fascination. All that reflecting on the past and hoping for the future always strikes me as a profoundly bad idea when you’ve been poisoning your body for seven days straight, and your nervous system’s shot to pieces by marathon-style boozing and energy-sapping grub’.

Oh how bloody true. I couldn’t agree more. Cat Kinsella, will you be my friend?

A very deserving 4 stars out of 5.

I’d like to thank Readers First and the author, Caz Frear for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review
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Environmentally Friendly by Elias Zanbaka

Environmentally Friendly by Elias Zanbaka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Environmentally Friendly is a fast paced short story that makes quite an impact considering how short it actually is.

The main protagonist is an army veteran suffering from PTSD. He is hell-bent on waging his own personal war against Mother Nature.

When I first started this, I was a little confused by what I was reading as I was thrown head-first into complete and utter mayhem! It took me a couple of pages to get to grips with what was going on. Once I grasped the concept of the story and characters, the full force of the story started to make sense.

The writing was descriptive and very action-driven. The author has the ability to capture the high speed nature of events, using expressive language and punchy dialogue. I felt that I hardly took a breath whilst reading it, to the point of when I’d finished, I let out a sigh of relief because I felt quite worn out!

This isn’t my usual choice of genre. Action adventure, dare I say, is possibly more popular with men, as testosterone-fuelled characters aren’t my favourite. Considering its overall length, the author certainly included everything that was required to lead to a satisfying conclusion. However, further detail and background of the characters would certainly enhance the experience, so I feel this could well be something to build upon with a part two, or even incorporate this into a far longer read.

Overall, I enjoyed this mainly because it was completely different to my normal choice. It’s nice to mix things up a bit sometimes. I would recommend this to readers who fancy a short, sharp read, who enjoy ballsy male characters where there’s lots of chaos and fury going on.

3.5 stars out of 5.

I’d like to thank the author Elias Zanbaka for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk In The Woods: The World’s Funniest Travel Writer Takes a Hike by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Appalachian Trail is the longest, continuous footpath in the world. It stretches along the east coast of the United States from Georgia to Maine.

At 44, Bill Bryson and his friend, Stephen Katz decide to set off on this hike. What lies ahead is almost 2200 miles of mountain wilderness, filled with bears, bobcats and occasionally, other trekkers.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bryson invites the reader to accompany him and Katz into a breath-taking adventure. I took him up on his offer from the comfort of my sofa. And it was quite a journey!

“When I awoke it was daylight. The inside of my tent was coated in a curious, flaky rime, which I realized after a moment, was all my night-time snores, condensed and frozen and pasted to the fabric, as if into a scrapbook of respiratory memories”.

I chose to read this for two reasons, firstly, I recently watched the movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte and I liked it so much, I watched it twice. And secondly, I’m a trekker too, and I knew I’d enjoy the story. Ok, I say I’m a trekker, but compared to this, I’m just a walker or rambler, covering, at best, 10 miles on an occasional Sunday. My partner and I often pack up a rucksack with a picnic, flask and binoculars and go off for some fresh air in forests or along the coast. Clearly, the Appalachian Trail is not for beginners like me!

Bills writing style is chatty, very English and incredibly funny. He portrays his relationship with Katz in such a way that you really get a feel of the humour, the understandable tension and the touching comradery between them. I lost count how many times this book gave me hearty belly-laughs.

I loved the characters that Bill and Katz bumped into on their travels. Other (more experienced) trekkers, who couldn’t wait to question them about their poor choice of packs and their inadequate tents. Not to mention how obviously unfit and unprepared they actually were.

I read this with a continuous smile, an occasional sympathetic aww, and with a brain being fed with mind-blowing facts and figures about this stunning part of the world.

After reading this, it actually dawned on me just how ignorant about America I was. I used to instantly visualise the USA as a jam-packed, concrete jungle, squeezed to the max with people and traffic and stress. And obviously, in some places this is very true. But vast areas of the United States are beautiful, and the Appalachian Trail is just one of them.

What I found difficult was trying to see the real Bryson and Katz in my minds eye. I googled pictures of both of them just to try to remove Redford and Nolte from my vision. But I struggled to see beyond the movie. I’m not complaining, because had I of not watched the film, I would never of read the book, so its a small gripe. The movie covered about 65% of the book, the rest being various chapters on American history and how the Appalachian Trail came about. Rarely does it happen, but I liked the movie just slightly more than the book.

As a lover of woodland walks, this book has taught me one very valuable lesson. Always keep to the main path. No matter how tempting a shortcut may seem, it can be dangerous out there, and these places truly belong to the animals.

Bill Bryson is passionate about conservation, and conveys a very clear message; start loving this planet more and stop destroying it. It’s very unsettling to think that perhaps my great-grand children, or even just my grand-children may not see the things that I see now on my weekly treks.

“I had come to realize that I didn’t have any feelings towards the AT that weren’t thoroughly contradictory. I was weary of the trail, but captivated by it; found the endless slog increasingly exhausting but ever invigorating; grew tired of the bound-less woods but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts.”

I give A Walk in the Woods 4 stars out of 5. And I’ve added lots of other Bill Bryson books to my TBR because he’s a nature lover like myself. He’s also a really funny and likeable guy, who writes with an honesty and passion that I can connect with.

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