My reading material recently seems to be full of borrowed crime novels (my latest book reviews of The Darkness, and HeadHunters) and this is another! This is how it ends was really popular around the summer of last year and was The Times Crime Book of the month and Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month and had rave reviews. I saw it in Tesco, quite a few times but didn’t get round to purchasing the book. So when my friend recommended the book, I added it to the pile.

The story starts with a man that has been murdered and is found by Ella Riordan. Ella is a social activist, blogger and PhD student researching social activism from Durham but living in London. The body was found at a party celebrating her Kickstarter project to help her fund a book on giving those residents that have been forced out of their homes a voice. Ella calls on her best friend, social activist Molly Fader as she is in shock and doesn’t know what to do. The story is about who is the murderer and becomes an interesting game as Molly becomes more suspicious as to who Ella Riordan really is and her involvement with the deceased man that night.

The story is told through two narratives, Molly’s and Ella’s. Molly is a seasoned campaigner, she used to be a teacher and still does teach occasionally to keep the money coming in. But she is also a photographer and campaigner and has been campaigning or photographing campaigns for decades. Molly meets Ella after a protest they both attended and Ella broke her arm after being hit with a police baton. Molly provides Ella with the contacts that she needs for her PhD and is Ella gets involved with a protest regarding Molly’s flat being pulled down.

The book honestly explores the negative effects of gentrification. Particularly in London how that property developers are ruthlessly developing London for their own gain. How families are having new flats, that they could never afford replace their homes and the social tension that this creates. For those of you reading that live in the UK. We all know the problems about London and other large parts of the UK being unaffordable for the majority of people that work in those areas, particularly if you are a first time buyer.

A quote which stood out for me regarding this was a family that was moving out the block of flats that Ella is campaigning to save. Molly speaks to the family and the young girl, Beth, is at a Russell group University in London which she will leave when she moves to her new area.

“She can take the points from her first year and transfer them to another college,’ Stacey says with the confidence of someone who doesn’t realise the huge gulf between the educational standards of a Russell Group University and whatever her new city has to offer…”

Molly really feels for Beth and young person growing up in the UK today and feels that she did have it slightly easier than young people today.

“My generation ‘stood on our own two feet’ thanks to generous grants and affordable rents and no security tags hidden in the back of expensive textbooks, jobs you could pick up and leave on a whim, knowing the place across the road would be hiring. It’s easy to forget how wide and well sprung our safety nets were.”

I found the narrative at times hard to follow, it didn’t help that I didn’t like either Ella or Molly. The ending did catch me by surprise and was not what I was expecting as I was constantly second guessing on what really happened. If you like a book that is quite a slow burner and an explosive ending than this book would suit.

Image of The Wrong Knickers book by Bryony Gordon

Since at the moment I am spending time either watching telly or reading books. So a book review is the way it is going to go!

Bryony Gordon is a Telegraph Columnist, mental health advocate and author of the famous Mad Girl (which I have written a blog post about) and her latest book which is about running with a mental health condition. Today I am focusing on her first book The Wrong Kickers which she recalls her twenties in absolute hilarity. Bryony Gordon first rose to popularity because she wrote the popular Girl about Town column which ran from …. To …. In all honestly I was too young to read or even know about the column. I knew her from the Mad Girl book but you don’t need to know that history to not enjoy the book.

The Wrong Knickers opens with Bryony round at a a guy’s house, it is the morning after the night before, and he throws her over a pair of knickers – which turns out to not even be hers. This kicks off her adventure of her parents divorcing, the numerous weddings she has gone too, drug taking, experience about her low self-esteem, moving out into dodgy flats, watching her career grow, having an affair with a married man and eventually finding peace.

I loved the book, Bryony tells her stories so vividly and all of the chapters interlink. There are quite a few life events in the twenties that most of us can relate to at least one of them in one way or another. I find that people forget or don’t realise what a rollercoaster being in your twenties can be. Someone said to me that your twenties is where you go through more change then any other decade in terms of work and life, as beyond your thirties you are putting down roots and when you are a child and in your teens you are largely based at home. I kind of agree with that and Bryony puts that across well. The only negative I found is that I do feel that Bryony should have had some kind of self-restraint, it does go from one car crash to another which yes it is part of the appeal of the book but you do think that either at times she just didn’t know where to stop or she knew what she was doing was wrong but didn’t stop anyway- which is just awful.

If you want a good laugh or you are feeling pretty shit about your own and you want to feel better then yes this book is worth a read.

The Cows book

Having been listening to Emma Gannon’s Ctrl, Alt Delete podcast I just so happened to listen to the episode with Dawn O’Porter and it was such a good programme and her latest book sounded so right up my street so I thought, why not! So if you are looking for a new book, that will give you a laugh with strong women that make mistakes and learn a lot about themselves then read ahead!

The Cows is about three women, Tara who is 42 and works as a documentary maker. She is constantly belittled at work by her misogynistic male colleges. Tara also has a 6 year old child from a one-night stand but the father does not know about the child. There is Stella, who is still mourning the death of her twin sister and mother from cancer, also she has the BRCA gene (which puts her at high risk of developing cancer) and is yearning for children although at the same time her relationship is falling apart. Finally there is Cam Stacey, owner of the blog howitis.com. Through the blog she has turned into a bit of a feminist icon as she doesn’t want children, much to the dismay of her mother.

The story really gets going when Tara gets caught masturbating (yes really, I wasn’t expecting that either) on the tube as she is travelling home after a date with a guy called Jason and a nearby passenger films it on his phone. The footage gets put on YouTube and goes viral. Tara becomes the butt of all jokes overnight, she can’t eat, she doesn’t want to leave the house, she got a warning from the police and she has lost her job. Tara finds solace in Cam Stacey who has been the only person to support her by writing a blog post sticking up for her after the tube incident. They soon strike up a friendship and constantly email each other. Stella on the other hand is Jason’s PA, it just so happens Jason is on an internet ban as he tries to finish his book. Therefore Stella goes to great lengths to protect Jason from finding out about Tara. Yes, it does feel very six degrees of separation.

The Cows banner

I am not going to lie this book is a bit bat-shit crazy. There are a lot of themes touched here – feminism, misogyny, whether you should tell the father of your child that he has a child. The fact that women enjoying sex is deemed to be wrong (there is nothing wrong with it, just not on public transport regardless if you are male or female!). The characters are all flawed in some way and that women are just as bad as men. For example Tara is judgement about all the Mum’s at the school gates, thinking that they all stay at home and that they all judge her when she comes to the gates, on her own, from work. Which we find out later it couldn’t be further from the truth. Cam doesn’t see that her fuck buddy has feelings for her and when she does she tries to dismiss them. Stella is probably the most flawed of all- she literally does everything wrong. She lies and trolls all for her selfish gain. What I did like from the book that as the women are older, so you see clearly the impact of their actions unlike books about women in their twenties who are just starting out.

Have you read The Cows? What do you think?

Image of the book

My recent read was given to me by my good friend Sophie (we seem to have a mini book club going on here!) I had seen Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine on the shelves of the supermarkets but it never spurred my interest enough even though it was a COSTA Book Awards Winner 2017. Safe to say it was an unexpected read that I enjoyed.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine tells the story of Eleanor Oliphant, a 30 year old woman who lives and works in Glasgow in an office job with no prospects. She is bullied at work because she doesn’t have anything in common and she has no outside interests, Eleanor drinks and sleeps all weekend to kill time and everything she does outside her office is neatly timetabled. Pizza on Fridays and phone calls with her mum every Wednesday. We learn that her mother is in prison and she was brought up in care.

Eleanor’s life changes when she is walking back from work with Raymond, a guy she met in IT who fixed her computer when a man collapses in the street. This encounter triggers a series of events from falling for a band member she has never met, getting to know Raymond better and finally moving on from what has been haunting her the majority of her life.

At first I thought Eleanor Oliphant was really crazy however as I got further into the book and gained more of an understanding about her background. I realised that Eleanor has been through a lot and you can understand why she acts the way she does. You get to understand a woman who has been through a lot and you feel how debilitating loneliness can be. You see why Eleanor held herself back over so many years.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is Gail Honeyman’s first novel, I learnt that Gail decided to write a novel after her 40th birthday. Reece Wetherspoon through her production company Hello Sunshine has bought the rights to turn the book into a film. At the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair the book was involved in a eight way bidding fair for rights (which eventually went to Harper Collins). I cannot wait to see what the film version is like and I really hope the film is shot in Glasgow and not in America!

Image of the book When Breath becomes Air written by Paul Kalanithi

Where do I start with this beautiful book. When Breath becomes Air is written by Paul Kalanithi who was a recently qualified neurosurgeon  suffering from stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Paul died in March 2015 and he is survived by his wife Lucy and their daughter Elizabeth Arcadia.

This autobiographical book is split into three parts, before and after diagnosis and after he has passed away. Paul talks about his life growing up first in new York but then moving to Arizona and how he developed a love for literature from his mother who gave him very advance books to read at a early age. This love for literature lead him to study literature at Stanford University. Paul had always had an interest in what made life meaningful. Not satisfied in the answers that literature gave him, he wanted to learn from a medical point of view. This lead to a Masters in History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University before he took a place at Yale Medical School.

Throughout Medical School, it was clear that Paul was a high achiever, after Medical School Paul took up residency in neuroscience. Neuroscience is known as been the most demanding physically and mentally, the book details his operations in detail. One particular moment Paul remembers was after an operation he performed he walked out and was eating a cookie cream sandwich and he saw the patient’s relatives being given life changing news. ‘I was making more moral slides than strides’, he noted.

The second part details his his life after the cancer diagnosis. Paul grapples with suddenly becoming the patient. He details one time that a Junior Doctor wouldn’t give him the medication he requested. The Doctor that was looking after him tells him that if he wants to stop thinking like a Doctor and just be a patient he just needs to say. Paul also grapples with whether him and Lucy should have a child. Indeed they do via IVF.

Paul details the missed opportunities, he misses his graduation for completing his residency as he was throwing up very violently. Paul misses out on two very good job offers, one because he cannot bear to move across the country and leave Lucy alone bringing up their daughter and looking after him.

The thread throughout the book is the interest at what makes life meaningful. I feel that Paul does not answer this because the answer is different for everyone.

 

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