Sunny Side Up by Susan Calman

Let me start by saying that I think that this book should be required reading for everyone! It’s fabulous.

Sunny Side Up by Susan CalmanIt’s not an autobiography as I half expected, instead it’s a book about the virtues of kindness and why it’s so important. There are examples of different acts of kindness that have touched people and stayed with them, and Calman’s own story about how kindness has made her life better and more joyful. 

I loved reading this book, in a time when every country seems to be fractured due to views on Brexit, Scottish Independence, Trump, gun reform, racism, homophobia etc etc, this book was a joy to read. The chapter about Brexit was fantastic and I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with everything Calman said. 

Right now everyone seems so angry all of the time and at each other, and yes there is a lot to be angry about, but if we could try to do something kind for someone everyday then I truly believe that the world would gradually get better. If we listened to each other and tried to understand why people held the views they did rather then judging them, cutting them off and staying in our echo chamber, then maybe we might actually get somewhere. 

This book is really well written, you feel like you’re just sat having a chat with a friend, it doesn’t jump about or do anything to interrupt your concentration – it just flows. Read the book! My review just cannot do it justice. Read the book, open your mind and heart and be kind. 

P.S. I’m pretty sure Susan Calman and I would be great friends if we met – so far I haven’t found a single thing that we disagree about!

Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs

Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs is the first book in the Temperance Brennan series which the TV show Bones was based on. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while but kept being put off due to the fact that I’ve watched all of the TV show (ironically this was also the reason I wanted to read the book!). 

Déjà Dead by Kathy ReichsLuckily the book was chosen in a poll in an online bookclub I’m in, so at the beginning of May I started reading the book. 

I was quite surprised to see that the book was nothing like the TV show! Yes the main character is Temperance Brennan, and yes she is a forensic anthropologist, however that’s where the similarities end. The supporting characters are different, the setting is different (in Canada instead of America, and Brennan is working for the police rather than a museum). 

I found that this worked out really well for me. I already liked the character of Brennan (even though she was also different) so I very quickly got absorbed into the book. 

The story itself was a very good read. I had no idea who the perpetrator was and there were a number of occasions where I was tense and eager to read what happened next – I love a book that is able to make things feel suspenseful like in a film, but without all the background music etc. It just proves to me that the writer is really good at what they do. 

The only thing that pulled me out of concentration occasionally was when Reichs was explaining where Brennan was going and the layout of the city. The only reason it pulled me out was because all the place names were French so I kept tripping up over the pronunciation of them (even though it was in my head). I’m sure that once I’ve read a few more of the books I will be more used to them and reading more fluidly. And I will definitely be reading more of the series! The writing was fantastic and I really want to know what happens with Brennan and the rest of the characters. 

If you like a bit of criminal mystery, with some science thrown in then I highly recommend this book for you to read. 

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

The Bone Garden is written by Tess Gerritsen.  It wasn’t what I expected at all.  I had assumed that it would be in the series that the TV show Rizzoli and Isles was based on but it was only very loosely linked.

Image of bookThe Bone Garden follows the story of, you guessed it, some bones found in a garden.  It flits between the present and the early 19th-century.  Sometimes moving between eras can be confusing and cause the reader problems following the story, but in this case I actually found it very easy to move from the present to the past and back again.

There were lots of characters to keep track of but I found that this wasn’t too difficult.  I felt a connection to the four main characters (two in the past and two in the present), and although some of the more peripheral characters were rather two dimensional, the main ones had different facets to their personality and were complicated as all humans are.  The characters were described well, both their physical appearance and also their personality.

The handling of the different classes in Boston in the early 19th-century was also interesting. Nowadays it seems Americans are proud of their Irish ancestry and I was quite surprised to see how Irish immigrants were treated and looked on back then. Although unfortunately this is not dissimilar to how immigrants are treated now in many countries, no matter where they’re from. It was interesting to see how things have changed, yet not changed at the same time.

It was quite graphic in parts, the autopsy training scene and various descriptions, however it felt as though it was required and a natural part of the story.

I found the details around how medicine was in the early 19th-century really interesting, the things that we take for granted now had not even being thought of then.  I also really liked the inclusion of a real-life person, Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes.  It has sparked an interest for me and I will be researching him and his impact on how medicine is practiced now. 

Overall this was a great introduction to Tess Gerritsen and I am eager to read more of her books.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut book by Gail Honeyman, a Scottish author.  It was written after Honeyman read a newspaper article about loneliness and it quoted a woman who said that she rarely spoke to anyone between leaving work on the Friday and returning on a Monday morning.

Book of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineI have to admit that I found this book difficult to begin with.  Not because it isn’t well written, it is.  But because the main character, Eleanor Oliphant, is difficult to connect to.  This is of course the point of the character, but it still meant that I struggled to sympathise with her or like her very much at the beginning.  Gradually you get to know her though, especially through her relationship with others, and you see that she is just a confused, lost person who is trying to fit in as best she can.  It was a little over half way through the book, when we reach the second section, that I finally began to connect and fully empathise with the character.  Watching her grapple with feelings and emotions and facing her past made her more human and relatable.  I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of this book, in fact I read it in one sitting, not getting the early night I had planned but I was just completely absorbed by it and had to read what happened next and then finish it.

The overarching theme of this book is loneliness.  It takes quite an extreme approach to it, but it was effective nonetheless.  It also reminded us that we don’t know what people have experienced in their past or what they are currently going through and we shouldn’t judge a person based on our own preconceptions – something that was addressed well with an encounter on a bus. 

It did feel as though the second half of the book was too quick, the speed at which Eleanor is meant to deal with her past issues when she finally faces them was extremely fast.  Having said that Honeyman was clear that Eleanor still had more work to do, and although the ending was a bit of a surprise (more so how easily Eleanor dealt with a revelation) you could tell that it wasn’t the end of her journey and she still had a long way to go.

I did enjoy this book and am pleased I read it, I can also see why it was a Costa Book Awards winner in 2017.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a novel by Heather Morris.  It follows Lale from his journey into the concentration camp, through his time there and how his story ends.  I was surprised when I saw on the front of the book that this is based on a true story.  Lale was a real person and the book was created after Morris sat with him and spoke of his time in the concentration camp numerous times.  This novel was initially written as a screenplay but, although I’m sure Morris was disappointed, I’m pleased that it didn’t get picked up and was converted to a book, I feel like we heard so much more about Lale’s life than we would have done in a movie or similar. 

It feels wrong to say that I enjoyed a book about someone’s experience in a The Tattooist of Auschwitz bookconcentration camp, but I did.  Obviously there were parts of the book that were harrowing and shocking, I was quite surprised at how naïve I was about what happened in the concentration camps, but overall I found the book uplifting.  It showed the inner strength that Lale, and many others, had and demonstrates what people are capable of, both negatively and positively.

I found the book to be really well written.  In my head the images of the camp and the people were clear, and the characters were written so well that I felt invested in those I read about and truly cared about how they were.

The edition of the book that I read had an epilogue and additional information that told you the outcome of Lale’s life (and those of some of the other main ‘characters’), it had photos from his life which were incredible to see, and there were also diagrams of how Auschwitz was laid out which I found it very similar to how I had imagined it from the book. There was also an afterword by someone who was very close to Lale and Morris wrote about a trip she took to both Auschwitz and his hometown.  All of these came together to bring Lale into the real world, rather than just a character in a book he was a real person, which gave the experiences detailed in the book that much more depth and feeling.

I highly recommend this book to read, to learn more about an important time in our history and get an understanding of what so many people went through (no matter how small that understanding is), it’s inspiring and a book I shall definitely be reading again in the future.