One of my New Year Resolutions for 2024 is to read more. In January I read four books:
1. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone, Benjamin Stevenson.
2. Next in Line, Marion Todd.
3. Atomic Habits, James Clear.
4. Cat Lady, Dawn O’Porter
Here is a brief overview of each (a blurb without spoilers), along with my thoughts and rating out of five.
1. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone
Blurb: I knew our family reunion wouldn’t end well. But I didn’t expect murder. Maybe I should have known better. After all, everyone in my family is a killer. My parents, my siblings, my in-laws . . . even me. The deaths weren’t all deliberate, of course. Accidents happen. So when a body is found in the snow, it’s clear it’s the work of a Cunningham. But which one? And why?
I’ll give you one clue: it wasn’t me.
But a piece of advice? Never trust a Cunningham . . .
My review: Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson tells of a dysfunctional family reunion set in a ski resort in Australia. It is a very well-written and well-crafted book that manages to blend humour and tragedy. The characterisation and back stories are good and Stevenson gives a useful recap part of the way through to remind us who’s who. Throughout the book, we learn how everyone in Ernest Cunnungham’s family has indeed killed someone and the circumstances around each event. Some nice plot and character twists- I made a correct prediction about one character, but didn’t foresee the final twist which really was a twist.
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Somebody was almost unputdownable. I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it quickly. I look forward to purchasing the author’s latest book, Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect. My rating: 4.0 out of 5.
2. Next In Line, Marion Todd
Gabrielle Fox is known to many due to her successful TV career, so when her brother and his pals hire the salubrious Lamond Lodge for his birthday celebrations, it is noted by the St Andrews locals. A ripple of shock goes round the town when Russell Fox is gunned down on the premises. DI Clare Mackay gets to work on uncovering the facts surrounding the death. The guests at the lodge have secrets to hide, but even when Clare begins to unravel the deceit, it doesn’t bring the answers. The detective can’t help but wonder why no one who knew Russell seems capable of telling the truth, and whether there is more than one person with a reason to want him dead…
My review: *Next in Line by Marion Todd is a well-constructured murder mystery without hysteria or hyperbole. The characters are understated and therefore relatable. It makes a refreshing change to have a female DI that isn’t all angst and aggression- she’s someone I’d like to work with. In my opinion, the only criticism is that there was a little too much time spent on superfluities such as DI Mackay’s flu (although I’m sure this was to demonstrate her dedication to the case) and I would like to have found out the final verdict and the consequential sentence.
I enjoyed the book and I’d read more from this author – this is the fifth Clare Mackay book though there is no need to have read the previous four. It would make a great TV series especially being set in Scotland. My rating: 4 out of 5.
3. Atomic Habits, James Clear
Blurb: James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviours that lead to remarkable results.
in Atomic Habits, Clear distills complex topics into simple behaviours that can be easily applied to daily life and work. He draws on proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft.
Learn how to:
– Make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy);
– Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower;
– Design your environment to make success easier;
– Get back on track when you fall off course;
…and much more.
My Review: Atomic Habits by James Clear is a straightforward, no-nonsense guide to understanding how to develop new positive habits and break negative ones. The blurb above says it all really. The premise is that even if you get 1% improvement each day, it will compound so that after one year, over a year, you will end up thirty-seven times better.Each chapter of Atomic Habits focuses on a different aspect of good habit building then offers the converse scenario to help break the bad ones. There are helpful examples and useful summaries in each chapter.
Perhaps very slightly drawn out but lots of take-home advice without psychobabble or judgement. A brilliant book and one I will refer back to over and over. My rating: 4.5 out of 5.
4. Cat Lady, Dawn O’Porter
Blurb: Single, independent, crazy, aloof, on-the-shelf, lives alone…
It’s safer for Mia to play the part that people expect. She’s a good wife and a doting stepmother and she slips on her suit for work each morning like a new skin.
But beneath the surface, there’s another woman just clawing to get out…
When a shocking event shatters the conventional life she’s been so careful to build, Mia is faced with a choice. Does she live for a society that’s all too quick to judge, or does she live for herself?
Fresh, funny and for anyone who’s ever felt astray, Cat Lady will help you belong – because a woman always lands on her feet.
My review: I loved *Cat Lady by Dawn O’Porter. It’s witty, straight to the point, no procrastinating. Credit to O’Porter for managing to combine desperation with chaos with comedy in such a seamless way. I found this book unputdownable and poignant and funny in equal amounts. I have two small criticisms: the ending is too blatantly woke- the points could have been made in a more subtle, nuanced way- it felt a bit immature; and the last few chapters were a bit too predictable. However, I enjoyed it immensely and love the author’s writing style. My rating: 4 out of 5.
Links to the books:
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