Friday, 10 September 2021

Next Of Kin by Kia Abdullah | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Next Of Kin by Kia Abdullah - 5/5
On an ordinary working day...

Leila Syed receives a call that cleaves her life in two. Her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. His son’s nursery have called to ask where little Max is.

...your worst nightmare...

Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot.

Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done.... about to come true...

What follows is an explosive high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses, it becomes clear there’s more to this incident than meets the eye...

Oh my goodness, Kia Abdullah can write a courtroom drama like no other. I gave Take It Back and Truth Be Told 5/5 too and I fully expected Next Of Kin to follow in their footsteps.

The story follows Leila Syed and her sister Yasmin. Their parents died when they were younger, with eighteen-year-old Leila raising eleven-year-old Yasmin. She worked hard to provide for herself and her younger sister, eventually opening her own architecture firm.

Leila is married to Will, they have separated but are on relatively good terms and Yasmin is married to Andrew. We learn that Will and Leila have not been able to conceive and Yasmin has a three-year-old son called Max. Their eldest son Toby died previously due to epidermolysis bullose, a skin condition.

One morning, Andrew calls Leila to ask if she can drop Max to nursery. She accepts but takes an important call and rushes to work, leaving Max in the car on the hottest day of the year. I went into this book without reading the synopsis so I genuinely gasped when I realised what was about to happen.

The main bulk of the novel focuses on Leila's court case. Abdullah has written the witness statements so well that I was doubtful at parts and wanted to know the truth myself. The book explores the sisters' relationship, that sibling jealousy with both of them thinking the other has a perfect life. It is so interesting reading about how words can be turned against you or how a simple, insignificant moment in the past can contradict you. 

I felt so many emotions whilst reading and I changed my opinion on almost every character. Just when I got past one twist, there was another that I totally did not expect. 

That ending too... I need more. What happens next?!

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Did You Miss Me? by Sophia Money-Coutts | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a proof copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Did You Miss Me? by Sophia Money-Coutts - 4/5

"Nell Mason is extremely happy with her life – or at least, that’s what she tells herself. She’s lucky to have a high-powered job as a lawyer, even if it does come with an eccentric set of billionaire divorce clients. And she’s absolutely fine living with her sweet, if slightly dull, boyfriend Gus in their London flat where they have very sensible sex once (OK, sometimes twice) a week. She’s definitely not stuck in a rut.

But when Nell bumps into childhood friend and first love Arthur Drummond who broke her heart fifteen years ago, she’s more than a little shaken. The seemingly perfect life she’s worked so hard for starts to feel, well, less perfect. Maybe Nell’s been kidding herself all these years. Can she ever get over her first love?"

Sophia Money-Coutts is one of those authors that I know I'll read everything by. I loved What Happens Now? and The Wish List and I feel the exact same way about Did You Miss Me?

Thirty-four year old Nell has been with boyfriend Gus for eleven years. Both of them are lawyers, Nell working with high profile divorce cases. They live in London and their routine is sort of monotonous by this stage. They have sex on a Friday morning before work and do the same thing every weekend.

Nell's father has an accident and she is brought back to her hometown of Northcliffe as she needs to look after him for a while. She crosses paths with Art, the boy (now man) that she was enamoured with as a teenager. He is now married and living in New York with his wife and teenage son but is back home for a couple of weeks following his father's death.

I love Money-Coutts's style of writing. We hear about Nell and Art's life together 15+ years ago and what exactly happened between them. The family dynamic between Nell, her parents and brother Jack is great too. She realises while being back at home that she enjoys the slow pace of life there, which is the complete opposite of her life in London. Being back in touch with Art and living this different life for a while makes her reassess things.

This book had me laughing out loud and I really cared about the characters. 

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Backstories by Simon van der Velde | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received an eBook copy for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Backstories by Simon van der Velde - 5/5
Backstories – ‘the stand-out most original book of the year’ - is a collection of stories each told from the point of view of one of my personal heroes, (or villains) back when they were just another Jew or black, or queer – back when they were nobody. Bullied, assaulted or psychologically abused, their road to redemption was never easy, and for some there would be no redemption, only a descent into evil.

These are the stories of people you know. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, the driving themes are inclusion and social justice - but the real key to these stories is that I withhold the protagonists’ identities. This means that your job is to find them - leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who's mind you've been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

I should also add that this is a book that operates on two levels. Yes, there’s the game of identifying the mystery activist or actor, singer or murderer, but there is then the more serious business of trying to understand them. This in turn leads to the challenge of overlaying what you now know about these famous people onto what you thought you knew – not to mention the inherent challenge to your moral compass.

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

This is probably one of the most interesting books I've ever read. It is a collection of short stories, each a backstory on a celebrity or famous figure. Although there are facts included, there has been a bit of creative licence used.

They are told in a way that we need to work out who the story is about with clues peppered in, like a nickname or quote. It is very clever and gives us just enough information to work the person out. I was able to get them all but I went straight to Google to double check - I never thought I'd ever search "What height is Paul Simon in feet?" The stories were sometimes funny, sometimes serious and some made me a little shocked.

I don't want to give too much away because Backstories is such an entertaining read and everyone should give it a go! I loved the concept and the author wasn't afraid to shy away from harder topics.

Monday, 9 August 2021

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey | Audiobook Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey - 5/5

"I've been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life's challenges - how to get relative with the inevitable - you can enjoy a state of success I call 'catching greenlights.'

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it's medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot's license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It's a love letter. To life.

It's also a guide to catching more greenlights-and to realising that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

Good luck."

There is no way I could give this less than 5/5. Firstly, I listened to it through Audible and I loved that is was narrated by McConaughey himself. I know that he doesn't describe it as an autobiography but it does feel that way a little. The idea behind the name is that green lights help us grow and progress. Can we turn red and amber lights into green ones?

I would never call myself a fangirl of McConaughey. He was never my favourite actor but I didn't dislike him either. I love him after listening to this book and grinned like an idiot the whole way through.

I was drawn in at the very beginning when he described his mother and father's relationship. The story follows McConaughey from a child right up to today. We hear his life experiences from his father attempting to sue a skincare company for giving Matthew acne to his life as an exchange student in Australia, being arrested and landing his most well-known movie roles.

Did I quote the Dazed and Confused "Alright, alright, alright!" line with him? Of course I did. It was so interesting getting a bit of insight into these characters he played and backstories of the movies.

Hearing about how he met his wife was wonderful and his reaction to becoming a father. I belly laughed at his mother's reaction to them having a baby out of wedlock.

I did not want to stop listening and I am sad I finished it! Thoroughly recommend!