Our Man in Havana

Our man in havana

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

A friend of mine plonked a pile of books onto his dining room table as we were leaving his house as his “book recommendation”.  I then transferred this vertical stake into a horizontal on my book case as soon as we got home and didn’t think much more about them. Flash forward a few weeks and I was a little dry on the book front so picked the first one from this recommended list.

The only other Graham Greene I have read was The End of the Affair, which is one of the most beautiful reads I have experienced, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this GG was in fact an superbly written black comedy.

It follows a British expat (Mr Wormold) in Havana who has a failing business,  a passively demanding teenage daughter and a few old time friends who are a little questionable in post war times.  He is recruited by MI6 to provide them with some valuable inside information on communist Cuba, which he accepts in order to make a bit of extra cash to fulfil his daughter’s needs….. the only problem being that Mr. Wormold’s mundane life doesn’t know any secrets that he could report back to MI6, so his imagination becomes the source.

It is hilarious! There were a few instances in which I laughed out loud. An episode I am particularly fond of is Mr Wormold’s appearance at a large house of a character he seemingly made up where he witnesses a domestic argument…but not between husband and wife as first believed. He then becomes the centre of the argument….all whilst barely saying a word.

A great book, 5 stars for sure! However, I feel that this book is a fabulous book hiding within a boring one. I started reading it without much hope and it took me a few chapters to really read between the lines and appreciate the style of writing, it is an unassuming comedy.





Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Originally published: April 29, 2009 (my birthday)

I was at a train station, serious delays in every direction and I would not be leaving anytime soon. To top off my bad luck, my kindle had run out of battery. It was time to purchase a real, paper book.

I perused the bestsellers in WHSmiths and found Brooklyn. I had seen the film advertised and as always I prefer to read the book before watching the motion picture. The blurb on the back wasn’t exactly captivating, but it had won the Costa novel award in 2009 and had been short and long listed for a few other awards since. It seemed like an easy read that would help me pass the time.

It is set in 1950’s Ireland and is the story of a young girl, Ellis,  who has grown up in a small rural town with her mum and sister (and a few brothers who have since moved away). She has no real prospects until an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor her in New York where she will be able to live, work and study for a better future.

She travels to New York by ship, and has a bumpy ride. She finds a lodging with some other similar minded women, a job in a department store, an evening course and eventually love. But, as with all soppy stories there is also another man, this one all the way back in Ireland.

It is basically the story of Ellis growing up and having to choose between two boys. I would say it is half interesting and a very tame read. There was one dramatic plot twist which I didn’t see coming and actually upset me a little. But I soon go over it and realized I was back in the monotony of this read. This book is exactly the reason why I tend to avoid the WHSmiths bestsellers.

If you want an easy holiday read about young love, dances and courting then please…be my guest!

3 star

Bite: the most gripping thriller you will ever read



Bite: the most gripping thriller you will ever read by Nick Louth

…Yeah right!!!

I read this a while ago, and every time I reflect on the story I roll my eyes. I hope whoever came up with the strap line “the most gripping thriller you will ever read” received a decent pay cheque because unfortunately…it worked.  The book doesn’t need to be fantastic if you have convinced people to make the initial purchase.

This book is about a missing scientist, her short term boyfriend caught up in the hunt and a whole lot of medical terminology with the added extra of a countdown to the release of a deadly weapon that has the potential to kill millions. It is all very rushed, with chases and amazing feats of survival. The boyfriend goes from zero to hero overnight and relies on some rather tedious friendship ties to help him….not to mention some healing powers to rival Superman.

However, I will give the book some credit, where credit is due, and that is because of the flashbacks to Africa and a guerilla terrorist group. I thought that bit was interesting. Mainly because it opened my eyes to some atrocities that swept through the continent.

Not worth my review time to be honest….best for holiday reads I think. Then don’t bother bringing the book home with you.

3 star


Elephant Moon

Elephant moon


Elephant Moon by John Sweeney

I usually ask those around me for any book recommendations, or do some research online as to which one I should pursue next.  However I finished Daughter late a couple of evenings ago and needed a read for the daily commute in the morning.  So, I saw the cover of Elephant moon, and judged that I would enjoy this animal inspired story.  From the get go, the very first sentence, I was captivated, I fell down the history rabbit hole into the middle of the Burmese town of Rangoon in 1941.

Based loosely on a true account of an Elephant regiment of 53 beasts, rescuing a school mistress and her band of merry orphans from the terrors of the Japanese invasion during the second world war. Altogether, men, elephants, children and one woman trekked through the Jungle up to the safety of India, witnessing unimaginable horrors as well as beautiful animal relationships and experiencing love and loss. A truly remarkable tale that had my mind racing back to the great war as well as having me in tears on the tube,

Since finishing it earlier today I have done a little background reading on the book and have come across some great reviews, but I have also read some which are very negative. I understand and recognise the flaws frequently mentioned, such as weak characters and a loose writing style, and I certainly didn’t miss the pathetic love references.  This book is certainly not written with the same kind of depth you experience from the likes of the more seasoned author, but in my opinion the story outshines anything Sweeney could have written.

I don’t think that you should rush out and read Elephant Moon, but I do feel that if you don’t read it at some point you will be missing out on something special.

4 star

Starting Over

Starting over



Starting Over by Evan Grace

The book opens with a cutesy just turned 18 year old girl named Bellamy, dressing herself in preparation for losing her virginity with the guy she has been in love with like forever *yawn*. On reading the first couple of pages I did not have high expectations, especially after being introduced to other characters such as  ‘Lola’.  Just another trashy book that has somehow managed to claw itself onto the kindle most downloaded list.

In every sense I was correct, always follow your instincts. It was rubbish, a terrible story line which produced so many more questions than it could answer, but I was addicted and couldn’t put the book down! Yeah it was a trashy love story which could be predicted from the outset and yeah the names were terrible and the discourse appalling……but my god it’s addictive.

I would also like to mention that the book digresses on several occasions into a more intimate scenario. Perhaps not a book for the pure?

Four stars simply for being addictive

4 star

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant



Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

When you run, you aim to run negative times, always trying to beat your previous lap. So why can this concept not be applied to literature…we should all endeavour to be better the next time, shouldn’t we?  There are so many book series that seem to get worse as you read; Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent….

I enjoyed Divergent, the concept wasn’t unfamiliar with a very Hunger Games vibe; society sectioned off and conforming to set standards and expectations. It was also definitely a young adult read with the standard strong female lead, action, betrayal and secret love, so nothing new basically.  Having said that, a great read which I finished quickly.

Insurgent was a little odd for me but I kept reading simply to know more, although I wasn’t addicted to it like I was the first. It was pretty much the same as Divergent but with an added twist of some killed off characters returning.

Allegiant, well, it is a means to an end I guess. It reminded me of the Hunger Games trilogy in that the first two books were strong, exciting and addictive and then along came the third which saw the protagonist as a quivering mess doing odd things to save everyone but themselves. Starting strong then gradually getting worse.

I sound like I am being too harsh, I did mention that it is aimed at young adults so maybe I am being too critical. I read all 3 after all.  Actually, the books made me feel like I was watching some dystopian Barbie world come to life, dolls being controlled by humans……ooo that is a spoiler by the way!

4 star



There is a film, the reason for my reading the books in the first place. It doesn’t look that bad actually…

Unchartered by Tracey Garvis Graves




Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves

Read here about how I absolutely LOVED On the Island. I found this book about 2 days ago and as with her first I could not put it down. Tracey is a wizard when it comes to making her characters addictive, desirable, relate-able.  I was gripped to her every word and needed to keep reading.

The story behind the skeleton ‘Owen Sparks’ found in a cave whilst T.J and Anna were On the Island. Simply yet amazingly entwined within the first book’s events, a happy ending overall.

I only award 4 stars as there clearly was not enough!!

4 star


A Respectable Trade




A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory

I think this must be one of Gregory’s heftier books, perhaps even a novel. I mention this as most of her books are fairly short and easy to digest.  In a way this is one of her best, mostly down to her encapsulating method of description. I could really picture myself standing along side the protagonists, watching their story unfold thanks to all the details Gregory inserted. But, this was long! Such a long read, at first I struggled to really want to continue to read, then it got sort of interesting, but then it returned to borderline dull and dramatic.  Perhaps I could better describe this book with an oxymoron, interestingly dull or dramatically plain  (is that one?!)?

I really enjoyed the slave perspective, it was clear that Gregory had worked really hard to get traditions and history correct.  The western characters were much more vulgar, exaggerated and on reflection I believe this was done deliberately. A way for me to empathize with the African natives…….thinking about it more I love that she did this.  Historical fiction can be so biased, that is what they say isn’t it, history is only written by the winner!

I award this 4 stars, for her efforts and details.

4 star




Inferno by Dan Brown

If you have read all the books from an author, the news of a new book release will without doubt excite you. Fact.

As soon as I learnt of Dan Brown’s Inferno, I didn’t stop and question the quality or possible storyline I just thought ‘I need to read that book!’ I was exactly the same with his last, The Lost Symbol, and despite the awfulness of that book….here I am reviewing the next one. Funny how people often forget a previous bad experience if a ‘new’ and ‘better’ product emerges.

I have to admit at this point I didn’t have high expectations, in fact I assumed the plot will follow his previous tried and tested Langdon sagas in that, to cut a long story short, he saves the world against all odds. There was nothing extraordinary about this book, the girl, the deadline and the normal thrill of fact entwined with fiction that enables you to regurgitate a few facts after finishing the book, my favourite being the origin of the word Quarantine.

As a fan of Dan brown you have to read this, as any other reader, you won’t miss much. If I am honest, it would have been nice to see some sort of exciting twist to the story (aside this), but I was hooked, it was easy to read and I enjoyed it like I enjoy a nice pub lunch. Safe.

3 stars, perhaps could have been 4 had it involved something  new.

3 star







Little Girl Lost




Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway

Currently the number 1 on the Top 100 paid on Kindle storefront. Not sure why I bought this, I think it was because after reading the Confession I assumed I would begin a crime binge. But alas! This book stopped me dead in my tracks.

The story of a girl who is found lost in the woods, bare footed in the snow by a police woman. The police woman has her own troubles, the police force is corrupt, there are kidnappings and fires and murders rah rah rah. One of those stories that is a maze of entwined story lines that seems to incorporate the whole of Northern Ireland and all the problems one small police force could possibly have, drama.

An ok book, not difficult to read and you can understand how this is in the charts, people these days seem to flock to the bad examples of literature (the diabolical 50 shades series to name one). Why is modern literature gradually falling into this pit of (ironic) shallowness!!! Where have all the good writers gone?

I gave this book 3 stars, it has a fairly good plot, a bit too busy at points and I found it quite hard to follow as the writer just seems to miss out points or maybe assume the reader is on the same thought train…either way, for such a simple read it’s baffling.

Has anyone else read this, or another of Brian’s? I can’t decide whether I like this.

3 star

The Innocents

The Innocents

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Winner of the 2012 Costa First Novel award

I was attracted to this book because it won an award, yes I can be that shallow.  Sometimes we just need a large corporation to say this is a good book…buy it!  Although, I wish I hadn’t bought this! I paid the full 7.99 for this book on Kindle because I had the trust in Costa to suggest, well no, to give awards to decent books.

It sounds like I hate this book, I don’t. I read it continuously so it cannot be that bad. My problem with this book is that it I can only liken it to reading a few Episodes of Eastenders, or any soap in that there was lots of half-arsed drama, no beginning or end. This book is just strange, why would we want to be a fly on the wall to a rather placid family drama that never climaxes. There was plenty of gossiping and work dramas and endless Jewish references but can somebody please tell me why this book was written? I think it needs a prequel, or a sequel. What’s more, the title and the front cover have nothing to do with the story….a girl running through a garden…did I miss that bit in the book? The Innocents, huh? Don’t get me wrong I have studied English Literature and I would like to think I am perfectly capable of deciphering meanings within literature…..but this book I do not get.

Perhaps I should read The Age of Innocence to appreciate Segal’s new novel?

“In this impressive first novel, Francesca Segal transports The Age of InnocenceEdith Wharton‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of scandal among the upper classes in 1870s New York, to the Jewish community of modern-day north-west London.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/06/innocents-francesca-segal-review)

This is a good book (said loosely), but I just think she should;

1. change the name

2. change the front cover to relate to the story…not be some cryptic reference to an inner self trying to run away type thing

3. Use less descriptive words. Francesca has the typical new writer syndrome where she feels she needs to write an adverb for every second word in the book…..this style of writing doesn’t demonstrate talent except for the ability to use a thesaurus.

Bah, what a rant!!

I don’t think I would suggest this book, and I wish I had ordered a sample before buying the full version.

3 star

If you want to read more about the Innocents, and probably some reviews that liked the book (we are all different);

The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No

The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No by Tracey Engelbrecht

A quick Kindle download to pass the time. An interesting book, clearly a good story to be told, and I respect her bravery in deciding to put life story to paper. However, the very colloquial writing style irritated me.

The story of a 15 year old mum taking on the world and it’s judging looks.

My heart tells me I should recommend the book because of her hard work and determination, but my brain says………..don’t do it. (sorry)

However, I have given this book a 3star (as opposed to my previous 2) because I did enjoy it and read it quickly. I think I am being harsh and reviewing the book against the classic literature that I enjoy. So, Tracey, I have upped your stars!


The Confessions of Katherine Howard

The Confessions of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

I don’t need to repeat my love for historical fiction, however I will briefly explain how I came about this book, an actual book! I lent my good friend (Sara) a few of my Michelle Moran books, albeit several years ago, but she returned them to me recently after having thoroughly enjoyed them! So much so in fact that she then went and purchased another historical fiction, namely The Confessions of Katherine Howard, and then lent it to me in return.

The story itself was enlightening, I would like to consider myself an amateur Tudor enthusiast and I had never considered Katherine Howard particularly interesting, but she was/is. She was just a young girl, with no ambition, caught up in the fancies of an old King.   I honestly felt sorry for the fate that beheld her, and in fact all those around her were subsequently caught up and also suffered….how times have changed.

In terms of literature and writing style, it was ok. I thought Dunn over used punctuation and she wrote in an informal, modern tone,  perhaps that is her signature? I also found it hard to get into the book (potentially because of her writing style)  at first and only when the personalities were getting steamy (yes in that sense) did I actually have more than a vague interest in the book. That isn’t to say I pined after a Mr.Grey scenario, I simply felt that the sudden gossip in the young girls’ lives made for a good read.

I am tempted with another of her books.

I have decided to introduce a rating system, therefore I give this book 3 stars. It was light and enjoyable but not addictive or in fact written particularly well.

On the Island

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

WOW!! I read this book in a day! Literally could not put it down, in bed, at breakfast, on  the train, at lunch and at dinner. Then when it was finished I felt lonely and empty, feelings that have not stirred in me because of a book since Harry Potter.

The storyline is deep, quick and full! The story of two people washed up on the shore of a small Island and the tale of their survival and relationship. Although this story is not a new concept, I enjoyed Graves’ take with a third of the book dedicated to the after effects.  I can honestly say that I fell in love with Anna and T.J……I think I am speechless.  I think that authors should take heed from this book, it’s not simply about a great idea, the characters must be likeable too, this book is incredible.

I have seen the film The Blue Lagoon which I am sure must have been inspiration for the book. What I enjoyed most was that the Blue Lagoon follows the lives of two children maturing into inquisitive teens and then adults, who still retain their childhood innocence and simply have no clue as to why they have these feelings. Whereas, On the Island features an adult and a teen who are fully aware of actions and consequences, both stories trying to figure out sexual desire.  I think this makes for a nice contrast between the two, as similar as they may be.

I LOVE this book, even cried at the end….out of happiness!

Better Days Will Come

Better Days Will Come by Pam Weaver

A lengthy book that I have just finished in a couple of days, usually that means that I was utterly hooked.  Which I was, but not in the typical ‘can’t put this down’ way.  This book has a great storyline with many characters that are developed thoroughly, but in my opinion this book is not challenging or written in a style that leaves you wanting more.  That is not to say that this isn’t a great read, I feel it’s the complexity of the characters and the social restrictions of the time that carry this book.  However, I did cry all the way through the final chapter.

The story of a mother and her two daughters set in 1947, in post war Britain.