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.

Nordic noir books seem to be very popular at the moment (in case you were wondering what Nordic noir is (yes I had to google it too) it is a type of scandinavian crime fiction featuring bleak urban settings and dark storylines). I am a bit late jumping onto the bandwagon having unintentionally got on as my friend gave me a few books to read which happen to be from that genre. One book which landed in my lap and I love is The Darkness.

The Darkness is a story about Detective Inspector Hulda Hermansdottir. Hulda has been working for the Icelandic Police for most of her life. She is due to retire at the end of the year and although often she has been frustrated at work as she felt her talent has been overlooked and that she has never been popular at work. It is better than the alternative which is sitting in her flat alone.

Hulda finds from her boss Magnus (who like every other male has risen through the ranks quickly) that Hulda’s retirement is being brought forward to make way for another male high flyer. Hulda determined to finish the week out and to prove a point (more to herself than her boss) chooses a cold case where a russian refugee, Elena died. It was written down as a suspected suicide but Hulda wasn’t convinced. Especially as the person in charge of the case, Hulda felt was incapable.

Hulda opens the case and on discovering another young woman is missing. The reader finds themselves on a journey through Iceland, seeing how small and isolating it is. But also on a journey through Hulda’s life as we understand why she makes the decisions she makes.

The book has a really good plot and the ending is such a surprise but completely logical. I genuinely did not know who killed Elena until right at the end because there were potential suspects with possible motives.

The geographical descriptions of Iceland with me being a huge Geography geek, I really enjoyed and I felt that it easily transports the reader away from the train/chair/bed location of where they are reading the book to wherever Hulda is or where an unnamed narrator is in every other chapter of the book. Those descriptions are a very important part of the book and really help set the scene.

Ragnar has two more books in his ‘Hidden Iceland’ series both of which I will get round to reading at some point! Have you read any Ragnar Jonasson books?

World War Two literature (both fiction and non-fiction) I really enjoy reading. I got Home Front Girls from the free bookshelf at the local gym so was really excited to get stuck in.

Home Front Girls tells the story of three women, all who have lived completely different lives meet after taking roles at OwenOwen a department store in Coventry. Dotty, a woman who has spent all of her life living in an orphanage and at the age of 18 has moved into a flat on her own and is standing on her own two feet for the first time. Lucy who lives in a house with her little sister Mary and her older brother and finally Annabel, a spoilt girl who has always have everything she wanted. She throws tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants and is gutted that her mother forces her to get a job and ‘make do and mend’.

Set in the backdrop of Coventry just before and during World War Two, the story interweaves true events such as the Coventry Cathedral bombing through the story. The story has many twists and turns for all of the women. Poor Dotty doesn’t get a break as she gets bombed out of her house twice and writes stories in her spare time as she used writing as a way to escape when she was at the orphanage. Her talent of writing stories gets discovered and through this she finds love.

Annabel was my least favourite character, she had been spoilt as a child and the way she comes across in the book (and Rosie is persistent at presenting Annabel as a spoilt brat) almost makes you want to chuck the book at the wall. However she does become a Red Cross Voluntary Aid Worker, partly I feel as a repent for being a selfish woman.

Lucy is the most unique character, both her parents have died but she has this dark secret, which almost suffocates her as she keeps herself to herself. We see throughout the book this deep friendly relationship with her next door neighbour Mrs Price (Mrs P). Mrs Price has three kids, two that have been evacuated and one that has gone to war (the banter between her and her husband is quite sweet).

The book does get a bit silly after a while. It feels like every truly awful thing that can ever happen to a person (because being set in WW2 just isn’t enough) happens. If you want a book to kill some time whilst on the holiday or train (like the one I take to work everyday) then you can do much worse than pick this one.

Image of the book Happier Thinking Lana Grace Riva

I recently was sent Happier Thinking* to review. In the past I have reviewed self help books such as How to make a decision and The Defining Decade and I do love a good self help book so was looking forward to reading this book. Happier Thinking is a short book (50 pages!) providing techniques and tips to help turn negatives into positives.

Happier Thinking is not a scientific book, and Lana does not claim to be a scientist. The book is written from her experience attending mindfulness classes, therapy and reading. The techniques she shares are techniques Lana has found helped her. The chapters are short and succinct, I like this, as other self help books can get so bogged down in the science you have to read half a chapter before a point is made. The book is handbag sized as well which is handy if you want a pick me up in the middle of the day or when you are out and about.

All the chapters are based on rewiring negative thoughts that may occur from everyday things such as not writing off the day if you have had a terrible time getting to work to acting on what you can change and not worrying about the things you can’t.

The don’t compare compare your life to imagined others really resonated with me. Lana talks about how you could be sitting on a train, looking at someone else and thinking they are having a great life but you don’t know them and this type of thinking is unhelpful. I am incredibly bad at always comparing myself to others to the extent that I make myself miserable, so to read what I do on paper did put it into perspective for me that I need to work to change my thinking regarding this.

The disadvantage of the book is that I found a lot of the examples to be too simplistic that they seemed unrealistic that the average person would stress over them. One example, Lana mentions, in the book is about you could get stressed over discontinued washing detergent. Another being what happens if the wrong food order arrives in a restaurant, therefore you now think the whole evening is ruined. You could argue that those examples are more relatable to everyone but it doesn’t work for me.

Overall the book didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know but it is useful as a starter book into self help or as a quick reminder.

*This book was sent for me to review but views, as always, are my own.

Image of the Aaru book

Aaru is a fantasy sci-fi story written by David Meredith and the first book in the Aaru series. The book is about 16 year old Rose who is currently in the final stages of cancer. A Doctor from Elysian Industries comes in and offers Rose the chance for her to live in the afterlife and still be connected to her sister by taking a scan of her brain which she takes. Rose lands in Aaru where she can have whatever she wants and do whatever she wants, she meets new friends and has fun.

Meanwhile, Rose’s sister Koren is devastated but after a representative from Elysian Industries talks to Koren and her family a screen is installed where Koren can speak to Rose at any time. Gradually Rose becomes the spokesperson for Elysian industries and is paraded around at these parties and in the press to prove that Aaru is real. It starts to go wrong when Koren gets an admirer who is hell bent on breaking into Aaru and take her away from her sister…

Aaru is a good book with potential, I did notice a few spelling errors and there were a lot of words I didn’t know (that isn’t a bad thing!) however with the book being aimed at the young adult audience it could disturb the flow. I certainly didn’t think the romance story with Rose added anything to the story and I felt that as Rose is 16 the author really didn’t need to add a sex scene in!

I enjoyed the idea of science and the idea that there is a afterlife which certainly was what interested me in the book in the first place. It certainly wasn’t believable but I love the use of technology especially as the idea of maintaining an active social media presence after you have passed is becoming a reality (something which I wrote about a couple of years ago).  It also shows the disadvantage that the technology has had (one example being with Koren’s and Rose’s father heavily drinking because he cannot cope with the exposure that Koren is receiving). However there were too many characters are in the book and with the too many storylines it just got too much for me to the point that I didn’t read the last thirty pages and it could have finished a lot sooner. I do think I will go back and read the book again and hopefully read the second instalment.

* I was kindly gifted this book, however as always my views are my own.

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