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Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe - Review

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it at YALC last year because I'd heard a lot of really good things about it. 

What's it about? Lucy is a lesbian and is a popular YouTuber along with her girlfriend Kaelyn. They had an online relationship before moving in together in 2014. This memoir is Lucy's story of growing up and coming out. I was expecting it to be a lot deeper than it was, and I also felt like Lucy could have explored more about the difficulties that a lot of LGBT+ people face, that she personally didn't face, and acknowledged the privileges she had in having a supportive family and so on.  

What age range is it for? 13 and upwards

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, duh

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Very little and it's not explicit.

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? No

Are there swear words? Not many, if any

What criticisms do I have? As I said, I felt like Lucy has a lot of privilieges in being white, thin, pretty middle class, well-educated, and so on. It's not down to her to write about hardships which she hasn't faced, of course, but I felt like some acknowledgement of her privilege would have been useful. There didn't seem to be much actual substance to the book and I didn't particularly enjoy it. 

Would I recommend the book? Not really, unless you're a big fan of her YouTube stuff. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I suggested it for the non-fiction in my online book club, and it was voted as the choice. I feel a bit bad that I suggested it when I didn't actually like it!

What other books is it like? Oh I'm not sure! 

How many stars? Five out of ten, I didn't particularly enjoy it. 

Where is the book going now? I'll probably donate it, or find someone else who wants to read it!

What She Lost by Susan Elliott Wright

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Disclaimer: Susan did the same Writing MA that I did, so I first heard of her at the launch for her first novel as it was an event I could go to on my MA. I bought her book and friended her on Facebook, and I've bought the next two of her novels too. I really like them - well-crafted plots about feisty women which usually have parts set in the recent past as well as the present. If you like Maggie O'Farrell or Sebastian Barry, I'd say that Susan is an author to check out, for definite.

I think that this is the best of her books so far, but Susan says that it was the most difficult to write, and it's not hard to see why. There's a lot of emotional issues going on, and some devastating events. It really took it out of me just reading it!

In the present, Eleanor is in her 50s and lives on a commune in North Yorkshire. She lost her hair to stress-related alopecia when she was a teenager, and it's just started to grow back. Her mother, Marjorie, still lives in the family home in east London. Her friend Peggy lives upstairs and has been caring for Marjorie ever since she started developing Alzheimers. Eleanor and her mother have always had a strained relationship, ever since Marjorie was in hospital when Eleanor was a small child.

Marjorie is getting more and more forgetful, but she keeps looking for something for Eleanor. Can Eleanor uncover the truth about what happened when she was a child before it's too late?

There were several things I really liked about this book. Eleanor is a particular favourite, and I also liked how her hair loss was dealt with, and the effect it had on her sexual life. I thought this was dealt with really well, very sensitively. Likewise, I felt like Marjorie's Alzheimers was sensitively portrayed. Susan actually wrote a book about Alzheimers (a non fiction book) so it's something she knows a lot about, and that shows. I liked Peggy and the relationship she and Eleanor had, and how this made Marjorie feel. I felt sad that Marjorie and Eleanor couldn't get on, and wanted to bang their heads together more than once.

All in all, I am giving this a well deserved eight out of ten.

Liza's England by Pat Barker - Review

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I read this book for my book club, and it was actually my choice. I've read a couple of her other books, and when I saw this one was a possibility for our choices, I said I'd like to read it and would lead the book club on it. That's tonight, so I'm thinking up some questions to spark discussion, although we don't usually need much encouragement.

The story is set in the North East of England in 1986. Liza was born just after midnight on the 1st of January 1900, so is as old as the century itself. She is living in the house she has been in for years, on an old terrace that is due to be demolished. Stephen is some kind of social worker, and is tasked with telling Liza that she must move. The two become quite close, and we read about the entirety of Liza's life.

She was born into a poor family with many siblings, some of whom died in infancy. Liza starts work aged about twelve, and then sees her beloved brother Edward killed in the first world war. She has a hard relationship with her mother, and then marries Frank, a soldier who was hit in the throat and who holds seances for grieving widows and mothers. We go backwards and forwards in time with Liza throughout her life to her current situation, living in squalor and poverty in the front room of her house.

Meanwhile, Stephen's partner is in America and Stephen misses him, and he's having problems with people and clients at work. He isn't close to his family but has to deal with his aging parents.

I really liked Liza's life story and felt that she endured a lot of hardship and strife. The reader could see how the world changed in the 20th century through Liza's story. I found it harder to get on with Stephen, but I could see why his part was included. All in all, I give it nine out of ten.

Willoughby Book Club

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My friend Janet went to work for Willoughby Book Club last year sometime I think, and I was intrigued by the premise of the club, and the fact that it had so many different genres and types of subscription. I used to subscribe to a beauty box about six years ago when they weren't very well-known, and loved the surprise coming through the door every month. It's a nice surprise to yourself!

So when Janet recently shared a link which said that WBC had 10% off for Easter, I thought I'd sign up and give it a go. I paid just under £27 for a 3 month subscription; normally this would be just under £30. I thought that £9 including postage was pretty fair, so I sat back and waited.

My first book arrived this week! Plus the parcel had some extras in it. I have seen a lot of hype about this book so I'm really interested to read it. Plus the cover is absolutely dreamy, I love it. Here's some photos:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - have you read this yet?

And the extras I got: a bookmark (can never have enough), a book plate, a sticker, and a badge!

I then saw on Twitter that Willougby Book Club run an affiliates programme, so I asked to join it. I got a very nice, positive email back from them. They're a small company and it really shows. They said they'd love to have me aboard! Here's my link:

Now, you can, as my link says, get 10% off any subscription by clicking my link - and if you do buy something, I also get some commission. I want to be clear about this, and I want to reiterate two things, that a) my subscription was paid for with my own money, and wasn't sponsored in any way, and that b) I wouldn't sign up to be an affiliate with a company that I didn't believe in. I believe in ethical spending where possible and I definitely believe in supporting an small, independent, UK company like this. 

If I can work out how, I'll be adding a banner with my link to my site, so that it's available to any new visitor to my site. As far as I know, the 10% off doesn't have an expiry date. 

I hope you'll give them a go too! Buy yourself a book subscription!

Flight of A Starling by Lisa Heathfield - Review

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Where did I get it? I requested it on Netgalley because I love Lisa's writing so much, so thank you very much to Egmont Publishing!

What's it about? Lo and Rita are sisters, aged just eleven months apart, and are travellers. They travel with their parents and grandad, and other families that they have grown up with, and their circus, where they put on shows every night. Lo and Rita are trapeze artists and are both incredibly talented at what they do. Lo is sixteen and she meets a 'flattie' - a non traveller - called Dean, and quickly become infatuated with him, and starts to wonder what she wants from life. Meanwhile, her family is falling apart a bit and Lo is struggling to cope. 

What age range is it for? 15+, let's say

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters people of colour? I am going to say yes, as travellers are an ethnic minority even if they are white skinned, and are often discriminated against. There is an element of this in the novel. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? No not at all

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, and I'm going to trigger warn for drug use too, but I don't want to say more as it's a major spoiler. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes 

Are there swear words? No

What criticisms do I have? I've decided to add this question to my reviews, because I always think of things that I would have done differently or that I just didn't like. As a writer I often think about how I would write things and get the same story across. It doesn't mean that I think the book is bad or that the author is a terrible person. I hope that makes sense. 

So, for this, as with Lisa's previous novels, I think there is a sparseness to Lisa's prose that somewhat frustrates me. This is partly because I would like more of a sense of setting and place - like, for instance, I would have liked more of a description of Lo and Rita's caravan to get my head round things. But, I understand that Lisa is a very different writer to me and I do think the scarcity of prose adds to the immediacy of the novel. I also really liked the bits set in the big top when the girls were performing as I felt they were almost poetic in their beauty. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. Like her previous novels, Lisa has the reader guessing until the very end of the book and totally emotionally hooks us in so that we care deeply about the main characters. I can't wait to see what she writes next. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just wanted to be ahead of the game for once and get this reviewed before publication!

What other books is it like? It is a lot like Lisas's other books, I'm not really sure what else.

How many stars? Nine out of ten, a gorgeous book with the perfect ending. 

Without You by Saskia Sarginson

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

My friend Laura lent me this book when we swapped a bunch of our favourite novels last year. I was mooching around my bookshelves and thought I would pick this up. I found the premise intriguing and although I found it a bit difficult to get into due to changing points of view, once I'd read over half of it I was totally hooked and really interested in how it would end.

Eva is seventeen and lives with her mum Clara, her dad Max, and her little sister Faith. Eva has always felt like the odd one out in her family, but she doesn't know why. She goes out sailing with her dad a lot, and on one trip she goes overboard and washes up on the shore of the island just off the coast. She is rescued by Billy, an ex soldier who hears voices and who believes Eva has been sent to him specially. He won't let her go, though, and imprisons her in abandoned military buildings on the island, where they forage for food.

Meanwhile, Eva's lifejacket washes up on shore, so she is presumed dead. Max can't remember exactly what happened, but Clara blames him for losing their daughter and the two start to grow apart from each other. Faith, though, Faith believes that Eva is still alive and that she is on the island. No one believes her and the family start to think that they should move away from the area. Faith is bullied at school and is generally quite an unhappy child.

The point of view alters between first person parts from both Faith and Eva, both of which are very immediate and draw us into the action, and third person parts featuring both Max and Clara, which delve into the family's history and reveal things drip by drip. It's a really good way of writing a novel.

The book is set in Suffolk, on the desolate coastline which I've visited a couple of times, so I could totally imagine where exactly the family lived. I really like it when that happens - I like a strong sense of place in books I read. All in all, I give this a strong eight of ten. I'd definitely be interested in reading something else by the same author.


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