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The Place We Call Home by Faith Hogan - Blog Tour

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Hello and welcome to my blog for today's stop on the blog tour for The Place We Call Home by Faith Hogan. If you've never been here, please do have a click around to see the rest of my blog!

I really liked this book, I liked Miranda and her family and how they came to be. I loved the Irish backdrop and could imagine it really well. I wanted Ada to do well as I felt like she had lived in the shadow of her mother and sister for so long. I would read something else by Faith for sure!

Here's the blurb:

Welcome to Ballycove, the home of Corrigan Mills...

Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Irish countryside the famed mills have created the finest wool in all of Ireland. Run by the seemingly perfect Corrigan family, but every family has its secrets, and how the mills came to be the Corrigan's is one of them...
Miranda and her husband were never meant to own the mills, until one fateful day catapults them into a life they never thought they'd lead.
Ada has forever lived her life in her sister's shadow. Wanting only to please her mother and take her place as the new leader of the mill, Ada might just have to take a look at what her heart really wants.
Callie has a flourishing international career as a top designer and a man who loves her dearly, she appears to have it all. When a secret is revealed and she's unceremoniously turfed out of the design world, Callie might just get what's she's been yearning for. The chance to go home.
Simon has always wanted more. More money, more fame, more notoriety. The problem child. Simon has made more enemies than friends over the years, and when one of his latest schemes falls foul he'll have to return to the people who always believe in him.
Ballycove isn't just a town in the Irish countryside. It isn't just the base of the famous mills. It's a place to call home.
Best-selling author, Faith Hogan returns with a family tale of love, loss, secrets and finding yourself.

Author Bio:

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women's fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.

Faith's latest book, The Place We Call Home is published in January 2020.

She writes crime fiction as Geraldine Hogan - Her Sisters Bones is available now!

Faith gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She's a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger - except of course when it is raining!

You can find out more about Faith on her website

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed - Review

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Where did I get it? Netgalley, after I had seen it recommended on Twitter and had requested it. Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Children's for letting me read and review this book. I was given an electronic copy of this book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

What's it about? The book is set in 1992. Ashley is seventeen, in her final few weeks of high school, and lives in LA with her parents. Her older sister Jo has recently left the family home and got married. Ashley and her family are black. Ashley does however live a privileged life. She goes to a fancy school, lives in a nice neighbourhood, and her parents are both white collar professionals. She is friends with white girls who say things like she is not "blackity-black" to her. To be honest, they are all kind of bitches. Ashley is kind of a bitch too, but I liked her and wanted her to succeed. 

There are black kids at Ashley's school and she kind of thinks of them as different to herself. In her mind, she calls them "the black kids". Then the LA riots start. The police officers who attacked Rodney King are not convicted and people took to the streets in protest. This is a real thing that happened and the LA riots did indeed last for nearly a week. It was very similar to what is happening now after the death of George Floyd and many others at the hands of police officers. 

Ashley is unaffected by much of the rioting, given the predominantly white neighbourhood she lives in. However, her sister is determined to go out and make her voice heard. Ashley and her mother visit Jo, but tensions are running high within the family. Ashley also has a live in nanny, Lucia, who is from Guatemala, and who is thinking of going back now that Ashley is nearly off to college. Ashley wants to go to Stanford, but has been waitlisted. Her friends are totally bitchy about that too, though. 

Then at school the week of prom, Ashley starts a thoughtless rumour about LaShawn and his new Air Jordans. This results in his suspension. LaShawn is the school's star basketball player and is also on a scholarship. Ashley's dad's family store is in an area where there is rioting, so her dad is trying to deal with his brother and Ashley's cousin, Morgan. A girl called Lana starts to talk to Ashley and Ash decides to go back to hers instead of with her friends. 

Then it turns out that Ashley did something really bad to Kimberley. Everyone goes to prom - which was one of my favourite parts - and Ashley ends up learning a lot of things about herself and her family and her community. The book has a really fast, punchy pace to it which I thought was great given the backdrop of the riots. 

Even though it's set nearly thirty years ago, it really doesn't feel like that. The only thing I found jarring in that respect was the fact that Ashley didn't have a mobile phone, and had to talk to her friends on a corded phone! Sadly we haven't come far enough in that time as the issues within the book about racism and police brutatility are still all too common. I thought that the way this was shown was done really well. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Not really. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Obviously. I liked how Ashley got across that she was black but more privileged than some other black people, and how her life was impacted by that in both ways. There's a lot of good discussion around race in LA at the time. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? There's some discussion of mental illness and suicide, so trigger warning. Jo seems to have some kind of mental illness which is undiagnosed. I really liked her, I was on her side! 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I think weed. There's an good bit with a cop where Ashley mentions it would be worse for her to get caught with weed than for her white friends. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, and some violence. It is a little graphic, in line with what you would expect with the subject matter. 

Are there swear words? Not many, if any. 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none. There were a couple of issues with the proof copy, where a couple of paragraphs ended abruptly or got cut off, but that was only due to the proof I'm sure. It's a really good book. I liked Ashley and I can't wait to read something else by the same author. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I have seen buzz about it on Twitter and also thought it was appropriate given the current Black Lives Matter protests. 

What do I think of the cover? Oh it's GORGEOUS! It is so engaging and pretty. I would definitely pick up this book in a bookshop, wouldn't you? 

What other books is it like? It will be compared to The Hate U Give, I am sure, and sure, I get that, there are similar aspects and it deserves the comparison as they're both so good. I am also sure that I've read a book where four girls are friends and spend a lot of time hanging around each other's houses and pools, and Ashley's friendships at the beginning reminded me of that, but now I can't remember what that book was. Let me know if you have any idea what I'm talking about! 

How many stars? Nine out of ten. It's really good. 

The Black Kids will by published on the 4th of August 2020

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo - Review

Friday, June 26, 2020

After I finished The Shepherd's Hut at the beginning of June, it was just as the Black Lives Matter protests were beginning. Many happened, many people showed up in the middle of a pandemic to protest police brutality, and over the weekend so many things happened, like the taking down of the statue of a slavetrader in Bristol. There were so many tweets showing how we could support causes with money, among other things, like how to be a good ally to black people as a white person, and how to be more anti-racist rather than just letting the status quo be. I am very, very against racism in all its forms, and I benefit from white privilege. I have more to learn, as we all do. I donated some money but didn't have a lot to spare - I wish I could have donated more.

Then I was thinking about how racism manifests itself in my life, and what I could do to help that. I realised that most of the books I read are by white authors. I looked back at my stats for last year, and out of over 100 books, only fourteen were by black authors or other authors of colour. That's pretty shocking. I have lots of books by black authors so I have no excuse to not read them. So I decided that for the rest of June, I would read books only by black authors, and I would make a donation to some kind of cause supporting black people each time I finished a book. It isn't much, but it is a way to widen my reading, for sure.

I decided to start with Girl, Woman, Other, which I've been wanting to read for ages. I watched last year as it jointly won the Booker Prize, and I saw a lot of people talk about how good it is. My aunt bought it for me for my birthday and it's been down the side of the bed ever since it arrived. It is an epic novel in terms of scope - in fact I'm not sure I would call it a novel as it plays with the concept a little.

It is a novel about several women and one non binary person, most of whom are black, some of whom are queer. It concentrates on each person at once, separated loosely into groups, but each person has links to most of the others in the book, which makes the whole thing nice and cyclical. We start at the beginning with a woman called Amma, whose play is about to have its debut at the National Theatre, and ends at the after party of the play. In the pages in the middle we go through the lives of many people, and go backwards in time to the late 1800s, to look at the lives of some black and mixed race people at that time. (There have always been people of colour on the British Isles, go google if you don't believe me!)

Amma is 50 something at the time her play goes lives, and has spent many years working in theatre, setting up her own company, at first with her best friend Dominique. She is a lesbian, she has a number of lovers throughout her part of the narrative, which goes from her childhood to her fifties. She has a daughter, Yazz, whose father is an academic. Amma lived in a squat in Kings Cross in the 80s, which was probably the part of her bit that I liked best.

Yazz is up next. She's twenty and a student. She is fierce and passionate about life. I think I struggled with her part the most, and I'm not sure why. Next up is Dominique, who I loved. I'll trigger warn for intimate partner violence in her part. She is also in theatre, like Amma, and also gay. These three are the first chapter of the book, which goes over 112 pages, as the rest do. It's an interesting way to divide a book!

Next up is Carole, who is a lawyer. She grew up in Peckham and did well at school until she was raped as a young teenager (so trigger warning for that too) and lost her way for a while. She then asked a teacher, Mrs Shirley King, to mentor her so she could do well and make a good life for herself. The next part is about her mother, Bummi, who works as a cleaner, and who has a relationship with a woman in her part, which I really liked and thought was brilliantly done. Then comes LaTisha, an old school friend of Carole, and whose part I thought was really encompassing of a whole life, and one of my favourite parts. These three women are Chapter Two.

Next comes Shirley, Carole's old teacher and Amma's old friend from school. I liked her, but, like Dominique thought she was quite uptight. I loved the stuff with her family, and the next part is about her mother Winsome, who I also really liked. Winsome came from the Caribbean and married Clovis, and the two tried to settle in Plymouth (I think) in the sixties or early seventies but weren't welcomed. They ended up back in London working on the busses. The third person in this section is Penelope, a white teacher who is a friend of Shirley too, although she's quite racist. She's older than Shirley and has an austere childhood with parents who don't show her much affection. She marries twice and then settles down at the end of her part, although she is the person we pick up in the epilogue. No spoilers, though! I feel quite glad I went into this book knowing very little about who was in it.

Chapter Four starts with Morgan, assigned female at birth, who comes to understand themselves as non-binary throughout the course of their part of the narrative. Their family background is a mixture of people and ethnicities, but they grew up in Northumberland, close to their grandma Hattie, who is mixed race and who still lives on the family farm in the middle of the Northumbrian countryside. I loved her part, which went way back in time - she was a fighter, for sure. The last part is about her mother, Grace, born to a white mother and an Abyssinian father in 1895 (Abyssinia is what is now known as Ethiopia and Eritrea). I really liked Grace, too.

There is a twist which I did see coming and liked all the same. There are so many strands of narrative all beautifully woven together, creating something that IS a complete novel, even while it is made up of vignettes. I loved the different black lives that were represented, including families from different parts of Africa and from the Caribbean. It's a really accomplished book, and I will definitely read more by Evaristo in the future.

I am giving this a well-deserved five out of five.

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton - Review

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

This book was the June choice for my book club, and I read it back at the beginning of June. It was chosen by Margaret, an older lady in our book club who used to be a teacher. She is very widely read and she always chooses really good books. You wouldn't think she and I would have very similar taste in books, so I'm always quite surprised when I end up loving her choices. Last year she chose Fire in the Blood which I liked, and a few years ago she chose Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift which I really liked.

So this book is a coming of age novel about a teenager called Jaxie Clackton. He lives in Western Australia and at the beginning of the book he is on a highway in a stolen car. The book looks back in time to show the reader how he got there.

He left home to begin with because he found his abusive dad dead. Jaxie is around fifteen or sixteen - later in the book he tells Fintant he is seventeen, but isn't believed. His mother has already died of cancer, leaving Jaxie just with his dad. He is physically abusive towards Jaxie. Jaxie comes home and finds his dad dead under his car, thanks to a faulty car jack. Everyone knows what kind of man Clackton Sr was, and Jaxie is convinced that the finger will point at him, that everyone will assume he murdered his dad. So he packs a bag and takes off out of their small town, intending to head north (I think) to Magnet, where his sort of girlfriend Lee lives. He avoids the highway, and towns, so that police can't find him. He ends up in basically the outback.

In the first part of the novel he's alone, and he finds an old prospector's shack that he stays in for a while. He hunts kangaroo, and one day, further away from the shack than usual, he happens upon a shepherd's hut. He watches it for a while, then finally meets the inhabitant, Fintan MacGillis. The two end up keeping each other somewhat uneasy company. Fintant is an ex priest and has been abandoned in the middle of nowhere to basically get him out of the way and as penance for sins he never confesses to. This is the second part of the novel.

I won't spoil the third part, but the reader learns a lot more about Jaxie's background, family, and about Lee. She's his first cousin, so while the two of them have been together, they've been stopped from seeing each other by Lee's mother. He doesn't know what kind of reception he'll get in Magnet.

The novel is written in a stream of consciousness way, without direct speech. It's full of bad language, which gives the reader such a good impression of the type of person Jaxie is. You feel for him entirely, I really wanted him to succeed and get free and start a better life. I loved the setting of the Australian wilderness, with prospector's shacks and mining holes and all the wildlife and following tracks in the earth. I don't know too much about Western Australia so I kept looking things up.

While this is not specfically a novel for teenagers, it is a novel about a teenager, and I think it would appeal to teens if they don't mind the bad language. There's a lot of violence, lots of graphic parts, lots of mentions of death, and so on, but that shouldn't detract from what is a brilliant novel, especially for a mature reader. I'm giving this five out of five.

The Holiday by T.M. Logan - Review

Friday, June 19, 2020

I bought this book last year at the new bookshop in Barnsley - which I hope survives the current crisis - because I just saw it on the shelf and the premise intrigued me. I finally got around to it because I was wanting something set somewhere abroad, on holiday, as I've now had two holidays cancelled (one in April, one yet to come) and am desperate to be somewhere that isn't my own house!

The premise is that four families go away together for a week in Provence and lots of secrets come to light, and things turn deadly. Let me tell you first of all: everyone in this book is a terrible human being. The only person worth anything was Daniel, who's nine years old. Possibly his sister, Lucy, who's sixteen - I felt a lot of sympathy for her.

The main narrator of the book is Kate. She is about to turn forty, she's married to Sean, and they have two children, Lucy and Daniel. Her life isn't exactly perfect, but there's not a lot of excitement going on either. She is quite a dull forty year old, to be honest. On the first day of the holiday she is looking at Sean's phone when she discovers some text messages between him and "CoralGirl", which lead her to believe he's having an affair. What's more, the context of the messages means that the woman in question must be one of her friends who she's here in France with. Instead of doing a normal thing and confronting Sean, Kate lets it fester, and begins to suspect each of her friends in turn.

Her friends on the holiday are Rowan, Jennifer, and Izzy, all of whom she met at university twenty plus years ago and has stayed in touch with ever since. Somehow, she and Jennifer live close enough that their children go to the same school, and close enough to Rowan to go over to hers for dinner parties. That is never explained but it didn't ring that true for me when it comes to university friends.

Rowan is married to Russ and they have a little girl called Odette. She's a spoilt brat - she needed to be told to sit down and shut up, to be honest. Rowan's business is about to be bought out by a huge American company, meaning a multi million dollar pay out for her (which no one seems too bothered about? But maybe that's because they're all quite posh and live in London - presumably in houses they own - anyway?). She's definitely acting cagey, so Kate suspects her. Rowan and Russ are pretty one-dimensional and are largely forgotten for most of the book.

Jennier and Alistair have teenaged boys, Jake and Ethan, aged just eleven months apart - they're both fifteen at this point in time. Jennifer gave up a "glittering career" as a physiotherapist to have her children, and now works part time in their school office. Alistair is a therapist, and he was a confusing human all together. Jennifer is a ridiculously over protective mother, following the boys all over and fussing over things that honestly fifteen year olds are old enough to sort out by themselves. She is really not a nice person. There's a bit where Alistair is looking at Lucy's social media and there's an inference that he fancies her - even though she's only sixteen - but then this plot line goes absolutely nowhere and gets forgotten. Terrible. Kate sees something that leads her to believe Sean might be having an affair with Jennifer.

The last person is Izzy. She's been living abroad so arrives into France a bit later than all the others. She's painted as quite exotic and mysterious. She speaks to Kate about someone she might be seeing. She and Sean grew up together in Ireland and are friends outside of Kate, so Kate of course thinks Izzy is seeing Sean and tries to question her about it. Izzy is possibly the least problematic adult in the whole book, but we barely see anything of her.

Kate's children... Lucy is just sixteen. She's doing entirely normal things that sixteen year olds do, but Kate just cannot leave her alone and is pushing way too hard to get Lucy to talk to her. Daniel is trying to impress the big boys and is very sweet in doing so, bless him.

Interspersed with Kate's narrative are little vignettes from everyone else's point of view, some of which give more clues about what's going on and some of which don't. I thought there were too many plot strands and not enough closure on them at the end. I just thought Kate was like a wet weekend. I also thought that the ages were strange - they're all turning forty (except Alistair, who is older for no reason other than a plot point) but Jennifer is supposed to have had a brilliant career before she had children? She would've been 24 or 25 when Jake was born, which doesn't seem like a lot of time after finishing university at 21 to establish yourself? Similar for Kate, too, really. Mid 20s seems like a young age for this demographic to be finding themselves pregnant, but there's no mention of this? I would have bought it more if they were 45 or fifty in the book.

I will say that I didn't know as I was reading the book whether T M Logan was a man or a woman, and I didn't look until afterwards, but I'm not surprised he's a man. There were a few times that Kate did something and I thought, "No woman would ever write another woman doing that". It was very strange.

I'm giving this three out of five because I was compelled to keep reading to see what happened, but honestly, don't bother with it.

Queenie by Alice Munro

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I was buying books recently and I thought I would buy Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams as I've been wanting to read it after several recommendations. When I searched, this title came up too. It was only 50p so I added it to the basket. It's a short story, so it's not huge at all. I read it one Sunday morning while chilling out.

It's a story about Chrissy, a woman in her late teens at the time of the story. She has gone to Toronto to stay with her stepsister Queenie. She has run off with a neighbour, Mr Vorguilla, and got married. When she lived at home with Chrissy and their parents, Mrs Vorguilla was alive and Queenie did jobs for them and was paid for it. Now Mrs Vorguilla is dead and Queenie has run away.

She had to write and ask Chrissy's dad for some money. Chrissy arrives into Toronto for the summer, with the idea of getting a job there. Queenie and Mr Vorguilla - Stan - are living in just a few rooms in a house owned by a Greek couple who lives upstairs. Chrissy has to sleep in a sun porch, and soon gets the idea that Mr Vorguilla isn't pleased that she's there.

It's a very good story about Queenie and what her place is now, about her new life, about the relationship she has with her husband, about how she is trying to be grown up although she's barely out of her teens. I really liked it, I would have read more!

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson - Review

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Where did I get it? My partner bought it for me a few weeks ago for an anniversary. He bought me three books, I bought him a record. That sums us up quite nicely! 

What's it about? It's the sequel to A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (link to my review from last June - weird, because I thought it was much more recently that I'd read this!). In it, it's a few months after the action of AGGGTM and the trial of Max Hastings is underway. Pip has also got a popular podcast, about the murder of Andie Bell and so on. Her recording of Max Hastings admitting he raped Becca was unadmissable as evidence, and Pip has to be really careful of what she says on the podcast. She is still gong out with Ravi, who is a darling. 

Then her friend Connor's brother Jamie Reynolds goes missing, and Connor and his mum Joanna ask Pip for help. She's very reluctant to, given everything that happened with the Andie Bell case and how obsessed she became, so she tries to tell the police. However, Daniel da Silva still hates her, and DI Hawkins basically thinks the family is overreacting. Jamie is 24 and entitled to do what he likes, a view held by his dad Arthur. Arthur thinks he'll be back pretty soon, he's done this before. Connor and Joanna are desperate, though, so Pip agrees to help. She begins to speak to people who know Jamie, and records them for a new season of her podcast. 

It turns out that Jamie had lost his job with Pip's mum, after being caught stealing. There was a memorial for Andie and Sal on the day Jamie went missing, and Pip begins to unravel Jamie's movements at the memorial and afterwards at a party. She enlists the help of the local newspaper to print a missing poster of Jamie, and asks her schoolmates for help in tracking Jamie's movements. 

As in the previous book, the narrative is dotted with transcripts from Pip's podcast, with newspaper articles, messages, other piece of ephemera. I thought that worked a lot better in this book than the previous one, although there's generally less of it too. 

Little Kilton has a lot of secrets that it's holding on to, and Jamie is caught up in them. I found the mystery genuinely engaging. I did guess some of the twists but as I've said before I have read a lot of adult crime fiction and am familiar with crime fiction tropes. I find Pip a really interesting character and want her to succeed. I am CERTAIN this was a middle book of a trilogy - as Jamie Kennedy says in Scream 2, the stakes are higher, the body count is higher, there's always more gore - and you should never assume the killer is dead. It's a perfect middle book in that regard. I will eat my hat if I'm wrong. 

What age range is it for? 14+ if crime fiction is your thing

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? I mean Ravi is, but it's not a thing in the book. I actually really wanted MORE Ravi in this book. I missed him! 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? There's mention of dealing, but it's not really on the page

Is there any talk of death? Yes, it's gory. 

Are there swear words? Yes, they're fabulously used, I liked it 

What criticisms do I have? I do have a few. Firstly, I feel like everyone in Little Kilton is rich and lives in a huge house? I get that it's supposed to be Surrey or somewhere else in the Home Counties, but it still feels a bit inauthentic for me. 

Secondly, there's very little of Pip's family or friends in this book and I think it lacked a bit of... warmth, maybe? A bit of love? At the beginning she has to persuade her parents to let her get involved in something again, but then that seems to fizzle out and they don't mention it again. This is already a LONG YA book at over 400 pages so I really don't know what I would have cut out, but I did feel it lacked something that the first book had. Pip's best friend Cara is in at the beginning, reeling from what happened with her dad in the previous book, but she doesn't feature much and I missed her. As I said, I felt there needed to be more Ravi, too. 

Linked to this is the fact that I felt the last third of the book really raced through getting to the end of the story and I felt like there wasn't a lot of reflection on what was happening. Personally I felt even a few paragraphs would have made all the difference here. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. My criticisms are really me nitpicking because I did really like the book and I think Holly Jackson is a really good voice in YA and I look forward to her further books. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I couldn't wait to get to it as I'd been hearding so many things!

What do I think of the cover? I think it, like the plot, raises the stakes from the first book. I really like it. 

What other books is it like? A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, obviously. 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

Where is the book going now? To live next to its sibling on my shelves!


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