Fifty Shades of Grey

E. L. James

Favourite Quote: I don’t subscribe to luck or chance, Miss Steele. The harder I work the more luck I seem to have.

Review: A hard to imagine novel reminiscent of Twilight style where the main character – infinitely more “grey” in personality than the titular character – falls in love with someone possessed of the highest abilities across all fields – sporting, aesthetics, career. Despite a history of never falling for those he dates and choosing instead to indulge in domination and submission we can all see the direction this novel is heading for from the beginning. Disappointing for all the notoriety this novel has achieved I did however enjoy the ending . . . nevertheless given there are two sequels I expect the true ending for these characters may fail to achieve such impact.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Greyfriars Bobby

Eleanor Atkinson

Favourite Quote: Bobby does not need a monument, but I think we need one of him, that future generations may never forget what the love of a dog may mean, to himself and to us.

Review: An engaging tale of the famous Skye Terrier those familiar with Edinburgh lovingly walk past. Written in quaint Scots this takes us through the highs – and notable lows – of Bobby’s life as we learn how much this little dog love his owner. Perhaps longer than necessary this novel begins and ends on a high losing its way slightly in the middle. Enjoyable light reading for those who want a refresher on this classic story I heard of many times as a child which never fails to bring a smile to my face when ambling the cobbled streets off Greyfriars Kirk.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Howard Pyle

Favourite Quote: “So passed the seasons then, so they pass now, and so they will pass in time to come, while we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten”

Review: Were I to retitle this novel I would change it to “The Many Adventures of Robin Hood”. When first reading this novel, I enjoyed reading how Robin came to encounter the characters we all know such as Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. However, what soon becomes apparent is the repetitive nature of all these stories. In fact, it felt each chapter was near identical with a different foe who Robin and aptly named merry men will overcome and likely offer to join his troupe. Prepare to read the seemingly most dangerous battle ever fought – only on repeat!

Rating: 2 out of 5.


David Epstein

Favourite Quote: “Learning stuff was less important than learning about oneself. Exploration is not just a whimsical luxury of education. It is of central benefit”

Review: This book starts out incredibly strong with a wonderful comparison of the success of two sporting superstars – Tiger Woods and Rodger Federer. Reading the different approaches these two undertook had me hooked. Nevertheless, as I continued further into the novel, I felt it failed to reach these high standards again. Some interesting tales into chess champions and space pioneering but I felt the essence of the novel was lost as these exemplars felt to be increasingly derailed from the crux of the novel.  Sadly, the most inspired I felt to adopt a generalist approach was lost after several chapters. Perhaps stop after the first few chapters and the author’s message will resonant with you longer.  

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie

Favourite Quote: “Ten little soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were Nine.”

Review: My first plunge into the world of Agatha and certainly not a disappointment. A great story which is beautifully foreshadowed in the poem – a teaser of which is in the favourite quote above. Her ability to build suspense and keep you guessing right to the end have clearly had a strong influence on many successful crime novels and television shows. Well introduced characters with enough time spent with each to allow for character development that does not hinder the hastiness of the plot. Never before has the thought of going on holiday to a secluded island seemed so far from romanticised in my eyes.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger

Favourite Quote: “That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat”

Review: The perfect novel for anyone feeling lost in life. To describe this book in one word I would use the word angsty. Giving us the perspective of a rebellious teenager at ends with those around him and struggling to find his sense of place and identity. Salinger’s novel will engross you from start to finish as you can’t help but connect and empathise with the struggles of this adolescent struggling to leave his childhood and enter the adult world. Well-paced and written in the language of a defiant teenager it is hard to classify this novel as anything other than a classic.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Quaker

Liam McIlvanney

Favourite Quote: “Not everything’s a chess problem, son.”

Review: An exciting thriller set in 1960s Glasgow which will excite all those familiar with the area or for those interested in hearing a sprinkling of Scots in their literature. With a compelling lead character who is sufficiently different to his counterparts to keep you anxious as to how he will work with his new team to investigate “The Quaker”. Fast paced with gritty Glasgow gangsters and coppers a plenty to keep you wanting more till you reach the satisfying conclusion – worthy of the Scottish Crime novel of the year.

No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy

Favourite Quote: “There is no description of a fool, he said, that you fail to satisfy. Now you’re goin to die”

Review: A true cat and mouse tail this novel is one of the most enticing I have come across. All three main characters are provided sufficient detail for us to draw interest to them without being side-lined by the movement of the plot. With each chapter you are left wanting more to come as you follow how our characters stories interweave. Having thereafter watched the critically acclaimed adaptation of this film by the Coen Brothers as deserving of the praise it is – the novel will offer more to those willing to spend the time with it (which won’t be long as you are hooked by the relentless pacing).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss

Rachel Clarke

Favourite Quote: “But what dominates palliative medicine is not the proximity to death, but the best bits of living. Kindness, courage, tenderness – these are the qualities that so often saturate a person’s last days.”

Review: Poignant and a genuine insight into the emotional difficulties of supporting a loved one through a terminal diagnosis through the eyes of a palliatives care specialist who’s daily role is to provide care to those in similar situations. Beautifully and heart-warmingly written it showcases the very human side of palliative care and how the small things that can be done – not necessarily through prescription or complex investigation – can make all the difference to patients and their loved ones. Perhaps most human about this work is the description of the author’s own feelings with her father’s terminal diagnosis and sharing their experiences together. A touching novel worth reading for those both in and out with the medical field that stands out as a passionate note to her father, patients and profession.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner

Chris Atkins

Favourite Quote: “Modern laws would prohibit Harlow from repeating his experiment today, but it’s still acceptable to inflict this terrible treatment on human beings.”

Review: An enlightening read into life in a maximum-security UK prison. Not focused on the facts and figures so much as the diary entries of a one man’s daily struggles. Perhaps most worrying we hear more often the false promises and advertising of what is offered to prisoners to help with their rehabilitation more so than what many imagine as the dangers of other prisoners. Told with light hearted anecdotes as well as some melancholic tales of both the author and other prisoners’ plights this is a novel worth your time to ensure we all have an insight into life in the prison service is like. And for me personally, not what I had anticipated from the novel. Atkin’s rare reference to the costs of the service and how this compares to other countries really makes you connect with his desire to improve the standards of care for prisoners in the UK.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.