Posted in Books, Lifestyle, london

Top Five Reasons Why You Should Join A Book Club

In one of my many attempts to alleviate boredom and broaden my social circle, I joined the Armchair Murders Book Club at Waterstones a couple of months ago. The club meets every first Wednesday of the month at the Piccadilly branch of the well-know bookstore.

When I first started telling people about it, I got a lot of raised eyebrows and funny looks. I think some of my friends had this picture of me sitting with a bunch of old people and knitting while we talk about books. To be fair, I had the same apprehensions going into the first meeting. But I just reached a point where being on the Goodreads community wasn’t enough anymore and I just wanted to meet people who have a similar passion for books. I thought to myself that, if nothing else, I would at least get free wine out of it.

I think back to that first meeting and compared it to the one I attended on Wednesday evening and it really warms my heart to see how much the group has grown in numbers. I think we had about six people in the group when I first joined; on Wednesday there were 15 of us coming in to discuss this month’s book. Half the people in the group were my age or younger, which made for a very lively discussion. Everyone was so into it.

Anyway, if you love books and you love talking about them and analysing them down to the smallest detail, then joining a book club is one of the best things you can do. If you’re having second thoughts because you have pre-conceived notions about book clubs, STOP RIGHT THERE and allow me to tell you why joining one is awesome:

 

Free Wine

You laugh, but this is actually one of the biggest draw for some people. I mean, if you have to be bored out of your mind, its better to be bored with a glass of pinot grigio in your hand right?

(By the way, I don’t know if all book clubs offer free wine, but Waterstones certainly does)

 

Ten Percent Discount on Books of the Month

If you buy books as much as I do, every little discount helps. Of all the perks, I think this is the one I love most. The club often selects books for the next two months and I often just get both because I know they’ll be discounted anyway.

 

You read books that you don’t normally read

I have to admit that I used to be the kind of reader that stuck to certain genres or authors. I mean, I’ve always really loved murder/ mystery and crime fiction, but my choices tend to be more generic or a novel that’s made it to the bestseller’s list. Never in a million years would I have picked up a book like Black Water Lilies, which has been translated from French to English. And that would have been a shame because its now become one of my favourite books.

Because of the book club, I have literally learned not to judge a book by its cover and I’ve discovered so many more books to read. Its also broadened my taste in books in general, as in I now pick up a book because its a good story and not just because its written by an author whose work I’ve read before.

 

A New Perspective

This month’s book was If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. If you haven’t read it already, you can see my review on this book here. I raced through that book because the plot and the characters really gripped me. And you can see from my review that I was really drawn to the romantic part of it, going so far as to say that I felt like love was the overarching theme of the book.

Wednesday night’s discussion really gave me a fresh insight into the book. By listening to other people’s opinions and their own interpretation of some of the scenes, I can see my own naïveté and how my own personality and outlook in life colour the way I see things. Among the key points that I learned last night was that love is different from obsession. Love is not love if it hurts other people and that even if you think you’re doing something for someone you supposedly love, it doesn’t mean that you’re not being selfish and manipulative. I will probably never look at a romance novel in the same way again (lol).

 

Friendly Debates

Of course not everyone loved the book. There were quite a few people who had strong opinions about either the plot or the characters. But the point of the book club is that you have to read it anyway, regardless of whether you want to throw the book against the wall halfway through. I knew from the start that this was the kind of book that would polarise the group and I was right. It was very interesting to hear from both the “lovers” and the “haters” and I really enjoyed debating plot points and character development with people who were as into these things as I was.

 

New Friends

One of my friends told me once that she really envied how I could easily feel at ease with people I’ve just met. I think I’m just the kind of person who’s interested in everyone’s story. I enjoy a good gab session, I really do. So if  you put me in a situation where I meet new people AND I get to talk about books, then you’ll really see me in my element. I genuinely enjoyed the company of the people I met last night and as a result I have more Facebook and Goodreads friends this week than I had last week. Life is good.

 

I know joining a book club doesn’t really sound like a cool thing to do. But in my opinion, we already do so many things just to project a certain image to the world, we should be able to do things for ourselves or just because we love it. And that’s what being in a book club means to me. I hope all my fellow bookworms out there find a similar outlet for their passion as well.

Cheers! x

 

 

Posted in Books, Reviews

Review: Black Water Lilies – Michel Bussi: MIND BLOWN.

 

Its 1 am and I’ve just stayed up late to finish this fantastic crime/mystery book. As I said, I recently joined the Armchair Murder Book Club at Waterstones‘, which meets every first Wednesday of the month. You can imagine my panic on Tuesday night when I realised that the meeting was the following evening and I haven’t even started the damned book yet. Nonetheless, I decided to make a start so I could at least have something to contribute to the conversation. At the last meeting, some people didn’t finish and it didn’t really make that much of a difference because there wasn’t really a big reveal to spoil. I honestly thought the case would be the same for this book.

WRONG.

This book had one of the best plot twists I’ve ever read in my life. I don’t know if its because I haven’t read a good mystery book lately, but this one just blew. my. mind.

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What?! 

To my everlasting regret, I unfortunately learned of the plot twist during the meeting when I was still 30% into the book, but my mind was still blown. I was speechless for a good 2 minutes, which for me is a long time. I could not wrap my head around it.

The Blurb

Three women lived in a village. One was eighty year old living in a mill overlooking the river. The second was a pretty school teacher trapped in a loveless marriage. The third was a child progeny with the gift of painting. All three were trapped in the picturesque village of Giverny, famous for being the inspiration for Monet’s paintings. All three longed for escape.

Three women lived in a village. “The first one was mean, the second a liar, the third and egotist”. For thirteen days, the gates of Giverny were open for a possible escape but only one would make it out. The third woman was the most intelligent, the second one was the most cunning, the first woman was the most determined. 

This is a riddle solved against the background of the brutal murder of a prominent businessman who had a passion for Monet and an even greater passion for women.

Things are not what they seem.

The Review

I am not going to give away any plot twists. Suffice it to say that during our book club meeting, one of the other readers pointed out that in the hands of a less brave author, this book would have been written very differently. It takes courage and talent to have written it the way it was written; the plot was tight and there were no glaring holes that would make you say “but what about the time when…?” when the big reveal was finally unveiled.

The story generated a lot of discussion during the book club, even from me and I didn’t even finish the damn thing. I was kicking myself for the entire hour and a half for not finishing this book. Ultimately though, I can’t really say that my reading experience was less satisfactory because of the fact that I’ve already been spoiled. I read it with the understanding and  perspective of someone who already knew what was coming so I could look at certain plot lines and see exactly how the author cleverly placed red herrings deliberately designed to mislead us, but actually the clues to the real story were there all along.

This book is ultimately about the chances you take and the tragedy of a life that is not fully lived. I can’t really say much without unintentionally spoiling it for everyone. However, as tragic as the circumstances may seem, I find upon finishing it that there was no other way for the story to have ended and that things happened exactly as they were meant to. All the victims were victims of their own actions or inaction; one of my fellow book club members pointed out that it was hard for her to sympathise with any of the characters, and I agree. The characters will annoy you to the point of wanting to give up on the book, but DO NOT GIVE UP ON THE BOOK  because the payoff is worth it.

The writing was very fluid. I tend to be biased against books that have been translated from a different language, especially French, because sometimes the translation is too stiff and something inevitably gets lost in translation. However, this was so well done that I forgot that this book wasn’t originally written in English. The prose was seamless and easy to follow. Michel Bussi was very descriptive (almost too descriptive) that it really created a nice atmosphere for the story to unfold. I now want to visit the town of Giverny and see Monet’s pond for myself.

Armchair Murder Book Club

Kudos to the book club moderators at Waterstones’ for the awesome choice of books. I can’t wait for the next one. Readers in London, if you’re interested in joining like-minded individuals geeking out over books, check out the Waterstones website for events at the store nearest you. Usually, the book clubs are at the flagship store in Piccadilly, my happy place, 5 floors of bookworm heaven. There’s free wine involved if you want to check it out. Our next book is The Collin Case by Ferdinand Von Schirack.

Good night and good morning bookworms!

Posted in Books, Reviews

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles 

If you’ve followed my blog since I’ve resurrected it, you’ll know that every review I make will inevitably be linked to some kind of anecdote from my childhood. Far be it for me to disappoint readers at this stage.

My love of detective novels sprang from the days when I used to rummage through my older cousins’ collection of Nancy Drew novels. I loved how she would collect clues, make deductions and ultimately unmask the culprit and it would turn out to be someone that I wasn’t expecting. I always tried to play the game of whodunit but Nancy was always one step ahead of me. I loved those books. Every time I got good marks in school, it was a toss-up whether I would ask for a new Nancy Drew novel or the latest Sweet Valley installation. Sometimes I was able to sweet-talk my mum into buying me both.

From The Mystery of The 99 Steps to the books where she collaborated with The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew was a constant companion during my teenage years.

And that was a good thing because I think she influenced me to take pride in my intelligence, never mind the fact that she was also a leggy strawberry blonde. Anyway, I grew up loving whodunit and crime/mystery books. I bought all 45 installations of JD Robb’s In Death books for more than just the Eve and Roarke storyline, I genuinely love a good mystery. I am still waiting with bated breath for the next installation of the Cormoran Strike novels.

Dear JK Rowling, I know you’re probably busy with the Harry Potter prequels and being a scriptwriter and such but I need you to write the next Cormoran Strike novel please.

I was looking up things to do last month because I was really really bored and I wanted to participate in something that I can be passionate about. So I thought I’d join one of the book clubs that meet regularly at Waterstone’s Piccadilly. There’s an Armchair Murders Book Club that meets once a month and it was after one of those meetings that it came out that I, bookworm extraordinaire, have never read an Agatha Christie novel.

Seeing as I live in Britain and was attending a book club whose members were primarily British, you can imagine the looks of incredulity and aghast that I received after I let that little fact slip out. Agatha Christie is a British national treasure; I think she might have been made a Dame or something. She’s so famous that even though I’ve never read any of her works, I do know of her. So the manager at Waterstones decided we’d remedy this little affliction of mine then and there and proceeded to place Agatha Christie’s first published work in my hands with the strictest instruction to buy it. Like immediately. I was pretty sure I would be refused entrance to my favourite bookstore if I didn’t comply, so buy it I did.

So I’ve only just finished the book last night and boy, was it an experience. Have you ever watched an episode of Sherlock? Yeah, the feeling is the same. Halfway through the book I gave up on trying to pretend I had a brain and decided I would just let Hercule Poirot solve the mystery for me and enumerate the ways in which I have been too obtuse to see the clues to the murderer’s identity. I would enjoy the book far better that way.tumblr_nr92xgTYYd1uzk74go1_500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is set in a country house in Essex. Emily Inglethorp has been poisoned in her own house and all evidence seemingly points to her new husband, 20 years her junior. Hercule Poirot has been brought in by his friend Hastings to help solve the mystery. Did the husband do it? Could it be either one of her stepsons? Or perhaps, the butler? I’m kidding.

The book took me on a wild ride of seemingly innocous instances that turned out to be significant and events that were made a big deal of but turned out to be inconsequential. There was a point when I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was that I was thoroughly entertained. Hercule, like many men who are too intelligent, is also a little bit crazy I think. He reminds me a little bit of Sherlock as portrayed in the tv series. giphyPoirot would go off on tangents that would turn out to yield frutiful information, he would notice everything, he’d already anticipated how each person would react and had forestalled it with a countermove of his own. Seriously, if I didn’t know better, I would think the current incarnation of Sherlock was influenced by the Dame rather than Sir Arthur.

There were no high-tech gadgets involved; Poirot used good old-fashioned observation and powers of deduction. Ok, so some of the plot twists were a little too contrived and convenient. But they weren’t far-fetched. In fact, I suspected one of the plot twists halfway through the book but there were a lot of red herrings that led me astray.

All in all, I found it a really great book, a real page turner, unputdownable. I really liked her prose, it was easy to read and the writing was elegant. I particularly liked how she used her experience of being a pharmacist (not to sure if it was a pharmacist or a nurse) during the war in the use of poison as a murder weapon. I was also really intrigued by the insight into the approaches to medicine during that time period, it makes me appreciate just how far we’ve come.

I’m surely going to read the other Hercule Poirot and maybe the Miss Marple books as well if this book is any indication of the rest of the series. Thank you Waterstones for the recommendation!