Thursday, 25 February 2021

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley | Book Review

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book in order to take part in a readalong with Adventures With Words. This post contains affiliate links.]

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley - 5/5
Blurb:
"Six strangers with one thing in common: their lives aren't always what they make them out to be.

What would happen if they told the truth instead?

Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project - a small green notebook containing the truth about his life.

Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she'll be inspired to write down her own story.

Little do they realize that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely."


Review:
I love this novel so much! It's like a hug in a book.

A green exercise book is left at Monica's Café with The Authenticity Project written on the front of it. Upon opening, Monica sees a letter written by 79-year-old Julian Jessop who states that he has been lonely since his wife Mary died 15 years ago. The finder of the book is then encouraged to write their own message and pass the book on.

Monica can't get Julian out of her head and after learning that he is an artist, tries to get him to teach an art class in the evening at Monica's Café.

The Authenticity Project book is passed along and we meet other characters such as Hazard; a 38-year-old addict, Riley; a 30-year-old Australian gardener, Alice; a 26-year-old new mum and influencer and Lizzie; a 65-year-old nanny.

All of their stories come together in different ways and it is just a joy to read. We see each character come to terms with where they are going wrong in life while making new friendships and connections. The book changes all of their lives.

I love every single character in this book. They are developed exceptionally well and I especially love Julian and his eccentricity! I can relate to Alice a lot too.

I 100% recommend this book but maybe have tissues for the end! 




Tuesday, 23 February 2021

The Tao Of Bowie by Mark Edwards | 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 Tao Of Bowie by Mark Edwards - 4/5
Blurb:
"Buddhism was central to David Bowie's life, but he was a wide-ranging thinker who also drew meaning from other sources including Jungian psychology, Nietzschean philosophy and Gnosticism. The Tao Of Bowie condenses these concepts - the ideas that inspired and supported Bowie throughout his life and career - into ten powerful lessons, each with a series of exercises, mediations and techniques to encourage readers to apply these learnings to their own lives.

The Tao Of Bowie will help readers understand who they really are, clarify their purpose in life, manage their emotions and cope with setbacks and change. This fresh approach to the search for spirituality and happiness unites the perennial human quest for answers with the extraordinary mind and unique career of one of the most important cultural figures of the past half-century."

Review:
This book came into my life at just the right time. I, like many others, am finding this lockdown particularly hard and I am finding that I'm having more down days than up days.

The Tao Of Bowie is essentially therapy in a book. It is partly about Bowie and partly about you. It shows us how to go on a journey of self discovery using Bowie as a gateway.

Before finding fame, Bowie was about to become a monk, following the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Bowie picked a collection of ideas from the world's greatest spiritual leaders, philosophers, scientists, psychologists and artists and lived his life by them. The author uses these to compile ten powerful life lessons. 

The book is split into ten chapters, each with a sub-chapter; how it fits with Bowie's life, the lesson we can learn and then 'Your Path' which basically puts us in the situation and gives us activities and exercises to do. It teaches us how to meditate and builds on this as the chapters go on.

My personal favourite is "Change your relationship with your thoughts". This is a chapter I will definitely refer back to. I love the advice to see your sadness as a sad child or friend. Don't push that feeling away. It (you) needs love and attention.

Whether you are a Bowie fan or not, this is a great self-help book.




Friday, 19 February 2021

The Twenty Seven Club by Lucy Nichol | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

The Twenty Seven Club by Lucy Nichol - 4/5

Blurb:
"It’s 1994. The music industry is mourning Kurt Cobain, Right Said Fred have re-emerged as an ‘ironic’ pop act and John Major is the country’s prime minister. Nothing is as it should be.

Emma is hurtling towards her 27th birthday, riddled with anxiety that her idols Joplin, Hendrix and Morrison all died aged 27, and now Kurt Cobain has gone too. Will Emma be next to join The Twenty Seven Club?

Emma, a working-class rock music fan from Hull, with a penchant for a flaming Drambuie and a line of coke with her best mate Dave down The Angel, is troubled. Trev, her whippet, has IBS, and her job ordering bathroom supplies at the local caravan company is far from challenging. So when her dad, Tel, informs her that her music idol, Kurt Cobain has killed himself aged 27, Emma is consumed with anxiety.

Why have so many legendary musicians gone aged 27? Is there a link between the members of the so-called Twenty Seven Club? Is this why her mum had an affair and left them? And could Emma be about to join The Twenty Seven Club too?

The 27 Club is a nostalgic, often humorous, drug and booze-infused tale of friendship, discovery and anxiety as Emma tries, for once, to focus on life, rather than death."

Review:
A funny, laugh out loud read with a deep undertone.

It's 1994 and one of Emma's idols, Kurt Cobain, is dead. A member of the 27 Club. Emma becomes a little obsessive over this. Is it to do with rock music? Pop stars don't die at 27, do they?

Emma herself is 26 and is stuck in a bit of a rut. Her life consists of going to her local pub The Angel with lifelong best mate Dave, having some beers (maybe taking some cocaine on the side) and working a 9-5 job that doesn't challenge her. Her 27th birthday is coming up fast and she is convinced that she will end up in the 27 Club.

We learn a lot about Emma's family, her mum who cheated on her dad when she was a young child and that fact that her dad has been single ever since.

I love the political tone throughout this book and honestly, it seems like nothing has changed in 2021! Quote of the book about Boris Johnson: "Thank Christ he's a journalist and not a politician." Eek!

The reason I liked this book so much is because I can relate quite a bit. I listened (and still do!) to a lot of the bands mentioned throughout the book and it is just so my scene - even if I was only 2 years old in 1994! 

Although it is hilarious and I laughed out loud a lot, it is mainly about Emma finding her place in life, overcoming anxiety and coming to terms with a trauma that she experienced in childhood.




Tuesday, 16 February 2021

The Push by Ashley Audrain | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

The Push by Ashley Audrain - 5/5

Blurb:
"'I think she pushed him,' I said to you quietly. 'I think she pushed him . . .'

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn't right.

I had always known that the women in my family aren't meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I'm imagining it. He tells me I'm nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she's different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?"

Review:
Wow. I'm writing this review seconds after finishing this book and I genuinely have tears in my eyes. What a book. This is one that will stay with me.

The opening sucks you right in it is hard to put this book down for even a second. The short chapters mean that it is easy to fly through too.

Narrated by Blythe and told as though she is recalling the story to her husband Fox, we learn about her and her family. The women in her family are "different" and probably not meant to be mothers. She struggles after the birth of their daughter Violet. It isn't how everyone says it should be. Blythe and Violet have a volatile relationship but can we trust everything that Blythe is saying? Is it the truth or is it HER truth?

Reading this as a parent, it hits hard. I can't imagine how I'd feel reading it if I didn't have children. As a mother, it can be very relatable. The hard times of parenting are written very well, even though Blythe's story is a bit extreme. 

Following the birth of Blythe and Fox's second child, a boy called Sam, Blythe has a completely different experience and embraces that happy motherhood until tragedy strikes.

Interspersed between Blythe's current story, we have chapters recalling Blythe's childhood with her mother Cecelia and Cecelia's childhood with her mother Etta. These stories are absolutely heartbreaking to read.

When I got to that end sentence and flicked to the next page to see 'Acknowledgements', I almost shouted "No!" I did not want this to end.

What a book. It is compelling, raw and visceral.

Trigger warnings for child abuse, self harm, the death of an infant and miscarriage.




Thursday, 11 February 2021

The Art Of Death by David Fennell | Blog Tour

[AD/Gifted - I received a proof copy of this book in order to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]

The Art Of Death by David Fennell - 5/5

Blurb:
"An underground artist leaves three glass cabinets in Trafalgar Square that contain a gruesome installation: the corpses of three homeless men.

With the artist promising more to follow, newly-promoted Detective Inspector Grace Archer and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must race against time to follow what few clues have been left by a savvy killer.

As more bodies are exhibited in London landmarks and live streamed on social media, Archer and Quinn's pursuit of the elusive killer becomes a desperate search. 

But when Archer discovers that the killer might be closer than she originally thought - she realises that he has his sights set firmly on her...

He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

Review:
What a brilliant debut.

Grace Archer has taken a new Detective Inspector position at Charing Cross Station, the same position and workplace of her late father. On the first day of her new job three glass cabinets show up, each displaying a murdered homeless person floating in formaldehyde. 

The anonymous "artist" claims that there are more of their "art installations" to come so Archer and her colleagues must work fast to find out who is responsible before more people die. But is our killer getting too close for comfort?

This is such an easy read and it is so fast paced. I didn't want to put it down! Told from the perspectives of both Archer and the killer, Fennell really builds suspense and honestly scares you a little. How easy it is to find out information about someone through social media is very unnerving. Hearing about the victims, their lives and how they came into the killers crosshairs was unsettling to say the least.

I loved the character of Grace Archer and her colleague DS Harry Quinn. Hailing from Belfast, I loved seeing a Belfastian written in and particularly enjoyed the colloquialisms of "so it is", "what's the craic?" and "beamer". The addition of a transgender character was great too and it really showed the realities of life with a particular officer refusing to acknowledge it and referring to her by her deadname. 

The Art Of Death really delves into the back story of DI Grace Archer and it makes the reader want to come back and follow on with the story. I really hope we get to see more from Archer and the team because I imagine that this could be a fantastic series.

~

About The Author
David Fennell was born and raised in Belfast before leaving for London at the age of eighteen with £50 in one pocket and a dog-eared copy of Stephen King's The Stand in the other. He jobbed as a chef, waiter and bartender for several years before starting a career in writing for the software industry. He has been working in CyberSecurity for fourteen years and is a fierce advocate for information privacy.

To find out more, visit his website www.davidfennell.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @davyfennell

~

A massive thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for organising the blog tour. You can find information about the other bloggers that are taking part in this tour in the graphic below.






Tuesday, 9 February 2021

The Appeal by Janice Hallett | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

The Appeal by Janice Hallett - 4/5
Blurb:
"Dear Reader - enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What's more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players' staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick's life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?"

Review:
This is a very cleverly written book that puts us, the reader, in the position of a law student.

The novel opens with Roderick Tanner sending a message to two of his first year law students, Olufemi and Charlotte. He sends through all of the correspondence between a group of people to do with a case he is working on. It is written entirely in emails, WhatsApp messages, police interview transcripts, police notebook entries and 999 calls.

We read about a drama group called The Fairway Players, Issy being one of them. She works at St Ann's hospital and introduces new nurses, married couple Samantha and Kel Greenwood into the group. Samantha and Kel previously worked in Africa but why did they come back?

The drama group is very family orientated and the granddaughter of one of the co-founders is diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. Everyone rallies round to create an appeal to raise money for a pioneering treatment from the USA. 

Everything is not as it seems. Someone ends up dead. A lot of people have a reason for the murder.

I have never read a book like this and it is very interesting to basically become the law student trying to find out the truth. There are a lot of red herrings and each one is written so plausibly. You are fully submerged in the story and want to work out what has happened for yourself. 




Monday, 8 February 2021

Locks by Ashleigh Nugent | Blog Tour

[AD/Gifted - I received a copy of this book in order to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contain affiliate links.]

Locks by Ashleigh Nugent - 5/5
Blurb:
"Aeon is a mixed-race teenager from a middle-class English suburb. 

At sixteen, he has already been arrested three times for crimes he did not commit. Aeon is desperate to understand the Black identity foisted on him by others. 

For want of Black role models, Aeon has immersed himself in gangsta rap, grown dreadlocks, and bought some big red boots. And now he’s in Jamaica. Within days of being in Jamaica, Aeon has been mugged and stabbed, arrested and banged up. 

Aeon has to fight for survival, fight for respect, and fight for his big red boots. And he has to fight for his identity because, here, Aeon is the White boy. 

Aeon’s cousin, Increase, is from a Birmingham ghetto. He has lived with Aeon’s family since his dad, a Yardie gangster, died during the ‘81 riots. In a bid to be his father’s antithesis, Increase has immersed himself in conservative Christianity, anti-Black ideology, and plaid tank tops. Now Increase is alone in Jamaica. He is being extorted by a criminal gang because of Aeon, and he thinks the owner of their hotel is in on the plot. 

Once back together, the cousins must attempt to stay alive, atone with their ancestors, and escape from Jamaica illegally."

Review:
This book is just wonderful and I am in awe that it is based on a true story.

The novel follows Aeon, a mixed race 16 year old from Searbank (a fictional suburb of Liverpool). Growing up in England with a Black father and white mother, he was subject to racial abuse but he was never really in tune with that part of his heritage. He decides to embrace it and visits Jamaica, where his father is from, to see if he can learn more about his culture, but in Jamaica he is seen as the White boy.

He travels with his (reluctant) cousin Increase who is eight years his senior. Increase has shunned his heritage after his father (Aeon's uncle) died in the 1981 riots. Jamaica is not kind to Aeon and within a matter of days he is mugged, stabbed, arrested and jailed. Whilst imprisoned, someone he had a run in with is wanting money, going after Increase to get it.

Once Aeon is bailed, they decide they need to get out of Jamaica as quickly as they can, illegally.

Honestly, I couldn't put this down. Ashleigh Nugent is a storyteller, that's for sure. I was so immersed in the story and felt like I could picture everything so clearly. I think having the Jamaican patois and Scouse dialect really helped - I could hear every "like" and "la"! The scenes of the prisons Aeon was kept in and his relationships both in there and with Increase are fantastic. It is a wonderfully descriptive story about a boy trying to find himself.

Aeon thinks back to his teenage years with his mates, Kissy Sunshine (the only girl he ever liked) and his teacher Miss Elwyn and everything that she taught him about being a hero.

It made me want to cry, I felt shocked, I laughed out loud, it educated. It gave me everything. I know it is only part fact but reading this after knowing that Nugent himself fled a Jamaican jail at the age of 17 just blows my mind. The Q&A with Nugent at the end of the book is massively insightful.

I must add that there are a lot of racial epithets used throughout the book that would have been the norm in the 80s and 90s. Just to make readers aware in case that is something that they'd like to avoid.

~

A massive thank you to Rachel's Random Resources for organising the blog tour and Ashleigh Nugent for sending me a copy of the book.

Author: Ashleigh Nugent

You can find information about the other bloggers taking part in this tour in the graphic below.





Thursday, 4 February 2021

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson | Book Review

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson - 5/5
Blurb:
"Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years."

Review:
This book is a work of art.

Caleb Azumah Nelson writes an achingly beautiful tale about falling in love against the backdrop of trauma, and harsh reality of living life as a Black man in London where racial profiling is a regular occurrence.

Written in second person narrative, it puts us, the reader, in the position of the unnamed main male character and we learn a lot of his inner psyche this way. We never find out the female characters name either. He is a photographer, she is a dancer.

We discover that both characters are young, Black and have both gotten scholarships to private schools. They developed their own things to keep sane in schools that were predominantly White; hers dancing, his basketball. It tenderly and poeticly shows the two of them slowly falling in love but his inner traumas threaten to tear them apart.

"Which came first, the violence or the pain?" His sadness is heart wrenching and having it written in second person narrative makes it all the more emotional.

I don't think I have ever read anything as beautiful.