Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult - Book Review

[ad/gifted - I received a copy of this book to take part in a readalong with Tandem Collective UK. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult - 4/5
Blurb:
"Diana O'Toole's life is going perfectly to plan. At twenty-nine, she's up for promotion to her dream job as an art specialist at Sotheby's and she's about to fly to the Galápagos where she's convinced her surgeon boyfriend, Finn, is going to propose.

But then the virus hits New York City and Finn breaks the news: the hospital needs him, he has to stay. But you should still go, he insists. And reluctantly, she agrees. Once she's in the Galápagos, the world shuts down around her, leaving Diana stranded - albeit in paradise. Completely isolated, with only intermittent news from the outside world, Diana finds herself examining everything that has brought her to this point and wondering if there's a better way to live.

But not everything is as it seems..."

Review:
Wish You Were Here is a book of two halves. I have read a few books now that incorporate the coronavirus pandemic into them but it isn't the main focus. This book is mostly about the pandemic and virus. It is clear that a hell of a lot of research has gone into it, both from a Galápagos point of view and covid one.

Diana is a 29 year old art assistant who works at Sotheby's in NYC and her boyfriend Finn is a surgical resident. The coronavirus pandemic has just hit but Diana doesn't expect it to be a serious thing (much like how we all felt back in early March 2020!). 

The two had planned a trip to the Galápagos but Finn chooses to stay, anticipating a surge in hospital cases and urges Diana to go on without him. This first half is absolutely beautiful. Picoult writes Isabela Island so well that I could imagine myself being there and, although isolated as the island is in lockdown, it still sounds blissful.

We go into the second half and it is very covid-heavy. At the time of reading I actually ended up having to go for a covid test and England's restrictions got tighter. It feels like a very hard read even almost two years on because it's still all so real life. Finn's experiences working in a hospital at the peak of the pandemic are brilliantly written.

Despite my thoughts on it being hard to read, it is a beautiful story about self-discovery after a difficult time. One I would definitely recommend, but avoid if reading about covid or self-harm are triggering for you.




Sunday, 14 November 2021

The Lost by Simon Beckett | Blog Tour Book Review

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

The Lost by Simon Beckett - 4/5
Blurb:
A MISSING CHILD

Ten years ago, the disappearance of firearms police officer Jonah Colley's young son almost destroyed him.

A GRUESOME DISCOVERY

A plea for help from an old friend leads Jonah to Slaughter Quay, and the discovery of four bodies. Brutally attacked and left for dead, he is the only survivor.

A SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH

Under suspicion himself, he uncovers a network of secrets and lies about the people he thought he knew - forcing him to question what really happened all those years ago...

Review:
I can't believe I've never read any of Simon Beckett's books before. This is just brilliant!

Firearms officer Jonah Colley receives a call from old friend and colleague Gavin McKinney, who says that he is in trouble and needs his help. Gavin and Jonah haven't spoken in ten years but Jonah decides to go because he realises it must be serious if Gavin chose him to call.

He goes to the, aptly named, Slaughter Quay to find Gavin dead alongside other people who have been suffocated in plastic bags. Jonah manages to overpower the assailant and escape.

After waking up in hospital injured, DI Fletcher and DS Bennet question Jonah and it becomes apparent that they believe that Jonah has something to hide.

We learn that ten years earlier, Jonah's four-year-old son Theo goes missing from a park. Jonah suspects a "down and out", who he later learns is named Owen Stokes, has taken him. 

Whilst trying to clear his own name, Jonah looks into why Gavin called him that night and is surprised to discover that Owen Stokes may be something to do with it. At the same time, Fletcher and Bennet are investigating Jonah and he seems to just make things worse for himself.  

I was completely engrossed in this story from the beginning and I could not guess where it was going. You can feel Jonah's frustration when everything he is finding out is being turned against him by the investigating officers.

I love a fast-paced thriller and I cannot wait to read more from Simon Beckett.



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A massive thank you to Compulsive Readers for having me on the blog tour and to Orion Books for providing me with a copy of the book. You can find information on where to find reviews by the other bloggers taking part in the graphic below.




Tuesday, 9 November 2021

The 12 Days Of Christmas by Poppy Alexander | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This review was featured on Twinkl as part of their Christmas campaign.

The 12 Days of Christmas by Poppy Alexander - 4/5

Blurb:
"For the first time in ten years, Freya is back in the little village of Middlemass for Christmas. The streets might be twinkling with fairy lights, but after the recent loss of her mother, she's never felt less festive.

Forced to sleep under the same roof as her handsome neighbour Finn, Freya realises she's going to need a distraction - fast! So she sets herself a challenge: to cook the '12 Days of Christmas'. Her delicious food soon brings the villagers together, and as each day passes, old friendships are renewed, memories stirred and there's even the flickering of romance...

She was only meant to stay for the holidays, but could Middlemass - and Finn - steal her heart forever?"

Review:
If there is one thing that I am a sucker for, it's a Christmas romance novel. This one is made even better by the running theme of food and honestly had me salivating throughout - props to the author for the recipes at the end too!

The 12 Days Of Christmas follows Freya who goes back to her hometown of Middlemass following her mother's death from breast cancer. She was working in a high-profile restaurant in Paris and lost her job due to having to leave suddenly to be with her dying mother.

She bumps into an old friend from her childhood, Finn, and upon discovering that her Freya's mother's house is inhabitable as she's been in a hospice, he invites Freya to stay with him for a while. The novel is set over Christmas and in order to keep herself busy she decides to cook every day for 12 days, recipes themed on the 12 Days Of Christmas.

Although you go into this type of book knowing a romance is bound to blossom, there are deeper aspects too such as Freya's possibility of also having the BRCA2 gene, just like her mother and grandmother. It is a wonderfully, easy read with a beautiful setting. Perfect if you are a fan of festive romances.

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A massive thank you to Orion Books for having me on the blog tour and for sending me a copy of this book. You can find information on the other bloggers that are taking part in the graphic below.


Saturday, 6 November 2021

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout | Blog Tour 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.]

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout - 4/5

Blurb:
"Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband - and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante. Recalling their college years, the birth of their daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people, Strout weaves a portrait, stunning in its subtlety, of a tender, complex, decades-long partnership."

Review:
Shamefully, Oh William! is the first Elizabeth Strout novel that I have read and although this is the third book in a series, it is perfectly easy to follow without having read the first too. I loved this so much that I definitely will go back and read I Am Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible.

Lucy Barton is 63 and is newly widowed after her husband David dies. Lucy is still connected with her ex-husband, 70 year old William, with whom she has two adult daughters.

Oh William! is written from the point of view of Lucy and the writing style is like nothing I have read before. It is beautifully descriptive and an easy book to fly through.

Lucy and William are obviously tethered together due to their children but we learn that although they are not together as a couple any more, they have a deep relationship. Oh William! explores that relationship, Lucy's feelings towards him (in a platonic way) and it is just stunning. We also delve into Lucy's own childhood and development of herself. 

It is just a beautiful book to read and although at the start I wasn't sure where it was going, I am glad I read this one.



Thank you so much to Viking/Penguin for having me on the blog tour. Check out the graphics below for information on the other bloggers and bookstagrammers who are taking part. Be sure to check out their reviews too!




Sunday, 31 October 2021

Femlandia by Christina Dalcher | Blog Tour Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Femlandia by Christina Dalcher - 4/5
Blurb:
"Miranda Reynolds has lost her home, her job and her husband – all thanks to an economic collapse that has brought America to its knees.

The shops are empty; the streets no longer safe. Miranda and her daughter Emma have nowhere left to turn.

There is one final hope, a self-sufficient haven for women who want to live a life free from men. Femlandia.

For Miranda, the secluded Femlandia is a last resort. Life outside the gates is fraught with danger, but there’s something just as sinister going on within."

Review:
Dystopian fiction was never really my bag until I read 'Q' by Christina Dalcher. I was then very excited for Femlandia to be released. I still have 'Vox' on my bookshelf but I will definitely be reading that soon. 

Femlandia follows Miranda who is in her forties and she has a sixteen year old daughter named Emma. America has suffered a huge economic collapse and right at the beginning of it, her husband Nick commits suicide. In present times everything is shut down, food supplies are limited and the women have lost their home and everything they owned.

Miranda's mother Win Somers set up a women-only commune called Femlandia decades before. Miranda never agreed with her mother that all men were evil and to be avoided, so Win took Miranda's best friend Jen Jones under her wing as she shared the same values.

The idea caught on and lots of Femlandia's were set up all across America. These communes are free from men and are fully sustainable and self-sufficient. Miranda thinks that maybe her only shot at staying alive is to join her closest one. Her mother has since passed but Sister Jen is still there. After getting to Femlandia she realises that maybe this isn't the utopia that it first appears to be.

The chapters alternate between present tense when Miranda and Emma are in Femlandia and also Win Somers' background and Miranda's childhood. These weave easily together and really help build the story.

Dalcher can really paint a picture with words and everything is described in such a way that you can just imagine being there amongst it. It is a very hard read at times with a lot of mention of rape and sexual assault. Femlandia, the commune, is anti-trans women too so that is something to be aware of before reading.

It is an interesting one because it could so very easily be true and that is what I love and Dalcher's novels. I am a thriller reader and she kind of merges thriller and dystopian fiction together. I love a twist and this one has them!



Friday, 15 October 2021

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza | Blog Tour Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received an ebook copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza - 4/5
Blurb:
"Not every story is black and white.

Riley and Jen have been best friends since they were children, and they thought their bond was unbreakable. It never mattered to them that Riley is black and Jen is white. And then Jen's husband, a Philadelphia police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager and everything changes in an instant.

This one act could destroy more than just Riley and Jen's friendship. As their community takes sides, so must Jen and Riley, and for the first time in their lives the lifelong friends find themselves on opposing sides.

But can anyone win a fight like this?"

Review: 
This is a thought provoking book that delves into some really deep issues. 

Jen and Riley have been best friends since they were babies and are now in their 30s. Riley is an upcoming journalist and is Black. Jen is white and is married to Philadelphia police officer Kevin. 

The book opens with a shocking prologue of a fourteen year old Black boy named Justin being shot by police officers. One of those police officers being Kevin. 

The chapters alternate between the points of view of Riley and Jen and explores the issue of race in depth, making them completely reanalyse their friendship following this incident. Riley covers the story of Justin's death, interviews his mother and covers the funeral, all of which makes Jen think that she is taking their side. Jen claims to be saddened by the situation but Riley knows what it is like to live as a Black person and has very little sympathy for Kevin. 

Jen's chapters are interesting, especially at the start when the shooting is just revealed. They humanise the police, she's afraid that every time Kevin leaves for work he won't come home. She is adamant that he is a good guy and this was a simple mistake.

It definitely feels very real life and it evokes a lot of emotion. This is a book that makes for a really great discussion and one that I would recommend a lot. 


Wednesday, 13 October 2021

In The Book Personalised Books | Review

[AD/Gifted - I received this item for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I have always been massively into reading and it's one thing that I am glad that the kids have ended up loving too. The lovely team at In The Book very kindly sent E a little gift in the post recently.

In The Book specialise in personalised books for both adults and children. When it comes to the children's books there are lots to choose from. You can opt for educational books like encyclopaedias, character themed ones and loads more in between.

E received the My Personalised Unicorn Adventure Book. You can add your child's name as well as message for the title page and you have the option to upload a photograph too.

Upon opening, E was delighted to see her own name on the front cover of this very special book. The addition of unicorns was perfect for her too.

The story itself is super cute with your child's name being the unicorns name! The unicorn then travels to different places and we follow along the way. The pages are bright and colourful and really engaging. E has even sat by herself a few times reading it again because she loves it so much.


You can choose to add a protective gift box with 'Just for you' on the front. E always makes sure to put it back because she wants to keep it forever.

This book starts at £19.99 for a softback but you have the option to upgrade to hardback, classic hardcover or add a gift box.

These would make beautiful Christmas gifts for the little ones in your life and it is something they would treasure.



Saturday, 9 October 2021

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger | Blog Tour Book Review

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

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger - 4/5
Blurb:
"When Wren Greenwood meets a good-looking stranger from a dating app, she expects a casual fling – but they connect immediately. Adam Harper is her perfect match.

She falls for him.

She confides in him.

And then he disappears… his profiles deleted, his phone disconnected, his Manhattan apartment emptied.

First, Wren blames herself. Then she hears about the other girls – girls who fell in love with Adam, and are now missing.

Wren needs answers, but as she follows the breadcrumb trail Adam left behind, it leads back to her own dark past. Suddenly, she’s no longer sure if she’s predator or prey.

She only knows one thing: whatever it takes, she’ll be the last girl he ever ghosts…"

Review: 
I was in such a reading slump for around a month and this book was just what I needed to pull me out of it. It was my first Lisa Unger book and now I am excited to read the rest.

The synopsis doesn't even scratch the surface with what this book is about and how deep it is.

Wren Greenwood is a blogger-cum-"agony aunt" style writer with her own podcast. She keeps herself anonymous. In fact, Wren Greenwood isn't her birth name. Upon encouragement from her best friend Jax, she signs up to a dating site called Torch, has a couple of dates that go nowhere until she meets Adam. She is completely smitten and they see each other every day. One night, she tells him something she has never told anyone before and then she never hears from him again. 

It turns out that Adam has form and Private Investigator Bailey Kirk shows up at Wren's house, claiming that Adam had met his client's daughter Mia and she had now been missing for nine months. The two team up together to try and get to the bottom of it.

The book flits between past and present, the past delving into Wren's childhood and relationship with her father but also backgrounds to other women that Adam has had encounters with. I felt completely invested within the first 10 pages and I was desperate to know the outcome. It is written in a way that builds a lot of suspense early on and you feel like you just need to keep reading.

I am never a fan of COVID-19 being written into a book but it isn't the main focus of this one and it makes complete sense given Wren's father's theories when she was a child. It is a book that makes you think, especially about personal data and what can be found about you online. Nothing is ever really deleted and no matter how careful you are, things can still be found out. 
 



Wednesday, 6 October 2021

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary - 4/5 

Blurb:
"Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend's wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.

But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie's ex, Dylan, who she's avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.

Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they've totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four-hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can't avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship...

Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly, is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?"

Review:
I devoured The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary then really enjoyed follow up novel, The Switch. I was excited for the next book and decided to listen to The Road Trip as an audiobook this time round.

The Road Trip follows five characters on their way to mutual friend Cherry's wedding to fiancé Krishna. Dylan is travelling in one car with his best friend Marcus and Addie is in another car with sister Deb and Rodney, a man who was in the wedding group on Facebook and needed a lift.

The two cars get into an accident with Dylan and Marcus's car essentially written off, so they have to travel in the girls' car. This is awkward as Dylan and Addie haven't seen each other since they broke up two years ago.

The chapters are told from the points of view of both Addie and Dylan but we also move from 'Now' to 'Then". The 'Now' chapters felt a bit long-winded at the start, but I loved the 'Then' flashbacks, getting to experience their developing relationship and subsequent break up. 

There was a little comic relief by way of the Rodney situation but The Road Trip still focuses on harder hitting topics such as depression, sexual assault and consent. It is heartbreaking at times and made me feel a lot of different emotions.

Beth O'Leary's books are like a warm hug for me and although I enjoyed the audiobook, I feel like I need to read it too!




Friday, 24 September 2021

The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams | Book Review

[The post contains affiliate links.]

The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams - 3/5

Blurb:
"One cancelled wedding

When the day finally comes for Annie to marry Alexander, the last thing she expects is to be left standing at the altar. She was so sure he was Mr Right. Now, she has no idea how she could have got it so wrong.

One unexpected encounter

After a chance meeting with Patrick, an old friend who reminds her of who she used to be, Annie takes a vow of her own: she’ll say yes to every opportunity that comes her way from now on.

One spare ticket for the honeymoon

Could a spontaneous trip with Patrick be the way to mend Annie’s heart? She’s about to find out as she embarks on her honeymoon – with a man who’s not her husband…"

Review:
I have read two of Laura Jane Williams' books before, Our Stop and The Love Square, and I really enjoyed them both. The Lucky Escape was great but, for me, not really on the same level.

Firstly, the story was a little bit predictable. Annie is due to get married to Alexander and he leaves her at the altar. His parents tell her to still take her honeymoon that they paid for and she debates it. 

After being on a bit of a downer, understandably after the break up of a serious relationship, she joins a bootcamp class to try and shake herself out of it. There she reconnects with Patrick, a friend who she knew from a drama group as a teenager. The two become friendly and she invites him along on the honeymoon to Australia.

The diversity feels a little bit too forced and I would have loved more fleshing out of the characters. I really liked the development of Annie's relationship with her mother and the exploration of how she felt following Alexander leaving her. 

Also, the main character's name is Annie Wiig and I couldn't help but constantly imagine Kristen Wiig's character of Annie in Bridesmaids!

Although predictable, it is a nice, easy to read romance!



Monday, 20 September 2021

Early Years Learning Resources from Teacher Play

 [AD/Gifted - I received this item for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]


Our little ones have had a tough time of it when it came to their education these past few years. E is in Primary 3 now and her last two school years were interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that she didn't spend a lot of it actually in school. Most of it was home learning but hopefully we won't have any interruptions this year.


Emma Anderson, an assistant headteacher from Peterborough has set up a business called Teacher Play which sells products that aim to help children flourish in their early stages of life by assisting their language, reading, writing and numeracy skills.


The products are targeted towards children aged 1-7 and are great for helping with vocabulary, phonics and conversational skills. E is at the upper end of the age limit but I thought they would be a great help for her considering her past two school years were a little unusual to say the least.


We were very kindly sent the Common Exception Words: Set 2. E is very good at reading and can read phonetically well but these have been great for helping with her "tricky" words.


Inside the pack, you get 64 double-sided cards, each with a question or mini story which helps your child understand how we use that word. You can either choose to read this to your child or, like E, they can attempt to read it on their own. The child then uses a dry erase marker to trace over the word to help them learn it.


When we first opened out the pack, E said "Oh, this isn't a fun toy!" but once we began with the first couple of cards, she kept asking to do more! She gets set homework each day and we also add a couple of these cards in as extra. Sometimes we will even do a little test to see if she can create different sentences using the word on the card. The illustrations are beautiful too.


We also received a Phonics Mat, a Capital Letters Mat (I LOVE the addition of the countries and flags - an extra little learning tool), a list of all Common Exception words, an Alphabet Mat and a Numbers mat. All of these we have used during homework time so E can do the majority of it independently, without needing to ask me for help.


The Common Exception Words cards, I feel, have helped E lots of the past couple of weeks and I can see her becoming more confident with more difficult words. The full range at Teacher Play look fantastic and I wish they were around when my children were younger!


You can browse the range at Teacher Play or follow them on Instagram.



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
Blurb:
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....

...is 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...

Review:
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

Blurb:
"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?"

Review:
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
Blurb:
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.

Review:
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

Blurb:
"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."

Review:
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!




Thursday, 5 August 2021

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris | Blog Tour Book Review

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

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris - 4/5

Blurb:
"Now I'm in charge, the gates are my gates. The rules are my rules.

It's an incendiary moment for St Oswald's school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls.

Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered.

But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She'll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all...

You can't keep a good woman down."

Review:
This is the first book by Joanne Harris that I have read and it surely won't be my last.

A Narrow Door is the third book in a trilogy. I was unaware of this but I will be reading the other two. It can work as a standalone as I didn't feel lost but I definitely want to read more about this world.

Rebecca Buckfast, née Price, has taken the role of Head at St Oswald's Academy. Previously a school solely for boys, not even with any female staff, they are merging with Mulberry House meaning that they will now have female students and staff.

Remains are found on the school grounds by The Brodie Boys, students at St Oswald's and they report it to teacher Roy Straitley. He informs Rebecca Buckfast and thus ensues our story.

Rebecca begins to tell essentially her background story to Straitley and therefore us, the reader too. We discover that Rebecca's older brother Conrad was a pupil of a nearby school, King Henry's, that was very similar to St Oswald's. 

He went missing at the age of fourteen, when Rebecca was five years old. Her parents kept the home a shrine to him and gave Rebecca less attention.

As Rebecca tells these stories of her childhood, the birth of her daughter at aged 16, finding husband Dominic when her daughter was six years old and then becoming a teacher at King Henry's, the very school her brother attended when he went missing, we discover that she may know something regarding his disappearance.

This book is wholly atmospheric and masterfully written. The stories from Rebecca's past are weaved brilliantly into her storytelling to Straitley. You shouldn't like Rebecca Buckfast but she is the perfect anti-heroine.

--

A massive thank you to Compulsive Readers for organising the blog tour and Orion for the copy of the book. You can find information on where to find blogger reviews from the other tour participants in the graphic below.


Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Underbelly by Anna Whitehouse | Blog Tour Book Review

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

Underbelly by Anna Whitehouse -
Blurb:
"Lo and Dylan are living parallel lives, worlds apart.

Lo is the ultimate middle-class mother, all perfectly polished Instagram posts and armchair activism.

Dylan is just about surviving on a zero-hours telemarketing job from her flat, trying to keep food on the table.

But when they meet at the school gates, they are catapulted into each other's homes and lives - with devastating consequences..."

Review: 
I was in a bit of a reading slump before I started Underbelly and this is just what I needed to pull me out of it.

Underbelly is told from the points of view of two women; Lois and Dylan. Lois is a middle class mother to four-year-old Scout and is married to Johno. She boasts an Instagram following of tens of thousands of people and makes a living from ads on social media.

Dylan is a single mother to four-year-old son Noah and in stark contrast to Lois, doesn't share her life online in the same way. She has escaped a violent relationship and is keeping under the radar. She does however, write an anonymous blog about her past.

These two ladies are thrown together after their children start school together and their lives change completely.

I started my "blogging life" as a parent blogger but moved into book blogging when I decided I didn't want to share my children online as much anymore. I still follow a lot of parent bloggers and online influencers so I am well aware of what goes on when it comes to trolls and negative comments. 

Lois (and eventually Dylan) fall victim to these online keyboard warriors with devastating consequences, from both comments on their personal posts but also threads about them on a specific message board solely for gossiping about influencers (no prizes for guessing what that is based on!) 

Honestly, I could not put this book down and my emotions were all over the place! It does describe the reality of living your life online, how people think that they know every single thing about your life and think that because you put yourself out there, they can say what they like.

I must also add trigger warnings for domestic abuse, baby loss and self harm. 

A massive thank you to Orion for having me on the blog tour. You can find information on the other bloggers taking part in the infographic below.