Monthly Archives: February 2013

Book Review: Before I go to Sleep by S J Watson

Before I go to Sleep - SJ Watson

Before I go to Sleep is the super-successful debut novel from SJ Watson, that has wowed fans across the world.  Set in the UK, it tells the story of Christine, a woman with severe amnesia who wakes up each day knowing nothing about who she is, and has to rely on loving husband Ben to fill in the gaps.  She is also seeing a specialist psychologist, who encourages her to write a journal to help her try to regain her memories.  When she starts doing so, it leads her to wonder who she can trust in her sheltered life, and what the truth really is.

This is a tense thriller that didn’t take me long to finish as I wanted to find the truth almost as much as Christine did.  There are plenty of hints and plot twists to keep you guessing, and this makes it an exciting read.  I do have a tendency when reading books similar to this to figure out the truth prior to it being revealed, not because I’m especially smart, but because I over think things and imagine all sorts of weird and wonderful scenarios.  And because sometimes the big plot twist is so obvious – I’m talking to you The Sixth Sense!  But with this book, I was kept guessing until almost right before the big reveals.

Although I really did enjoy this novel, it’s not quite as good as all of the hype suggests, but it is an easy-to-read, enjoyable thriller and I do recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers or crime fiction.  The movie rights have been bought, and the film has been cast, but avoid finding out who the stars are until you’ve read the book or you’ll picture them while you read!  For what it’s worth though I do very much approve of the casting choices.  Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher it certainly is not.


The Literary Owl rating: 7.5/10

Read with: plenty of time, as you’ll likely want to read this in one sitting


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Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark is an average girl who has a steady boyfriend, slightly eccentric family, and a job she loves in a local cafe.  She has never ventured much further than her own village and is content to keep her life simple.  This changes when she the cafe she works in closes down and she is forced to look for a new job during a recession where her skills and education don’t open many doors.  She eventually secures a job working for Will Traynor, a former hedonistic high fligher who is confined to a wheelchair following a freak accident.  Louisa’s happy-go-lucky personality clashes with Will’s moodiness and negativity, and she has to work hard to try to break down his barriers.  When she learns that Will has a shocking plan to escape his current position, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

The story is very much about Will and Louisa, with less emphasis on the supporting characters around them, but the supporting characters are believable and I could empathise with each of their stories and viewpoints.  The character of Louisa is initially fairly typical of the usual lead female character of a chick-lit novel, but as the book progresses you learn more about her back story and the reasons why she is so sheltered, and these revelations are realistic and truly heartbreaking.  Despite the cover and first few chapters of this book suggesting an easy, chick-lit read, nothing could be further from the truth.

The issues that Jojo Moyes raises in the book are contemporary and controversial and she does well to handle them so sensitively and respectfully.  She has clearly done her research and taken seriously the responsibility of fictionalising such emotive scenarios.  This certainly isn’t your average love story, and it made me cry while reading it, although it does have moments of humour to break up the sadness.  It is thought-provoking, and the story stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading it.  It would make a great movie if the subject matter could be handled as well as Moyes did in the book.  But of course read the book first!  I recommend this book to anyone.


The Literary Owl rating: 8/10

Read with: an open mind, and at least a couple of tissues for your tears!

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Book Review: The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

The Importance of Being Seven

The Importance of Being Seven is the 6th book in McCall Smith’s ’44 Scotland Street’ series, but the 1st one I’ve reviewed, despite having also read books 1 t0 5.  The reason for the lack of previous reviews is mainly because as soon as I have read one, I have been so desperate to start the next one that I’m afraid the review time has been eaten up by more reading time!  I have only fairly recently start reading Alexander McCall Smith’s books, but this has meant that I have been able to read several back to back, both from this series, and the Isabel Dalhousie series, which has helped sate my addiction!

The 44 Scotland Street series of books follows the lives of the eccentric residents of the flats within an Edinburgh townhouse, and their friends in the city.    The novels were originally serialised in the newspaper The Scotsman, and the relatively short chapters in the novels are the same as what appeared each day.  One of the most popular characters among readers of the series is Bertie Pollock, who is the young son of demanding mother Irene, and it is he who believes in the importance of being seven, hoping it will lead to more freedom from his mother’s pressure to attend psychotherapy, learn Italian, and play the saxophone.  I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of this particular book because I would encourage you to start from the beginning; the first book helpfully being entitled 44 Scotland Street.

What I love most about these books is McCall Smith’s exquisite writing, in particular his subtle humour and observations about everyday life that are just perfect.  Since reading them, I have developed a bordering-on obsession with wanting to go to Edinburgh, and hunt out the places referred to.  I know the characters are fictional, but they are so convincing that I feel sure that Edinburgh must be full of intelligent, amusing, cultured people ready to entertain me!

So please do read 44 Scotland Street and the other books in the series.  If you enjoy it then you’ll definitely also enjoy The Sunday Philosophy Club, which is the series about Isabel Dalhousie, an Edinburgh based philosopher.  I think Alexander McCall Smith’s writing really is unique amongst contemporary authors and he is deserving of readers’ support.


The Literary Owl Rating: 8.5/10

Read with: A glass of Scottish whisky on the rocks of course.

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