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The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta - Review

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Where did I get it? Round Table Books, which is a place I would really like to visit one of these days. Before lockdown started properly, they were offering to post books that you ordered with them, so I ordered three of the Carnegie longlist as I'm determined to read most of the list this year. I desperately wanted to read The Black Flamingo - I've heard so many amazing things about it and my friend Lucinda said it was the best book she read last year. I was going to buy it at Northern YA Lit Fest as Dean was going to be there and I could have got it signed, but that was of course cancelled. So I ordered the book from an independent bookshop - when this is all over, they're going to need our help more than ever. I DMed them and they couldn't have been more helpful. I'm not sure if they're still able to take orders, but do ask them if you're after something, they can only say no!

What's it about? It's about Michael, who is gay and mixed race. His mum is Greek-Cypriot and his dad is Jamaican, although he's not in Michael's life for very long. The book is told in verse and takes place over twelve years of Michael's life. At the beginning he's a kid who wants a Barbie for Christmas and by the end he's at uni, about to make a debut performance as the Black Flamingo. In the middle Michael comes out, struggles at school, struggles with his identity both in terms of sexuality and race, and the intersection where those identities meet. This sounds like a rubbish write up because really it's like the whole entirety of a life from child to adult. It's expansive, and told in really gorgeous verse. Dean is a poet and it really shows. I've heard that the audibook is read by Dean and I would love to listen to this to hear how it was supposed to be. 


I'm not much of a poet or a poetry critic, but there were some really interesting choices in the words, and in where lines cut off, which added to the poems and to my understanding. There are also some social media parts, chats between Michael and his friends. 

I read the last half of the book in just about an hour because I was so desperate to know where it ended. I loved Michael, I thought he was a great character, and I liked his mum and best friend Daisy too. 

What age range is it for? You know, I'm going to say from aged about fourteen right up to adult. This doesn't feel like just a YA book to me - it's so expansive that it deserves to be really widely read. If you're a queer adult I would recommend this. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, obviously. Michael seems to know he's gay from quite a young age, but still struggles with self-acceptance and acceptance from those around him. There are people with other genders and sexualities too, and I thought how Michael interacted with these people was really nicely portrayed. 



Are any main characters people of colour? Obviously. Michael doesn't have a relationship with his father, but has somewhat of a relationship with his dad's Jamaican family. When he first goes to university, he cooks Caribbean food. He has a younger sister, Anna, whose dad is also Jamaican. The family also goes to Cyprus to see his mum's family - this was one of my favourite parts of the book actually! I liked how Michael felt as a multi-ethnic person and how conflicting he found it at times to know where he fitted in. I liked the people he was friends with - Lennie is really underrated in this book I felt! - and how some of the racism Michael encountered was shown. It felt very real and brilliantly shown. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, a little. It's not graphic and there's safe sex which I am always in favour of seeing in a YA book. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Weed, it's not graphic. 

Is there any talk of death? No. 

Are there swear words? A couple, not many 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! I loved the book - everyone else was right when they said this is a must read book. I do wish we'd seen more of Anna as she grew up, but that was literally it. 

Would I recommend the book? God yes. I can't wait to see what Dean writes next! 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It arrived and I was just so desperate to get to it. 

What do I think of the cover? It's gorgeous. It's so eye-catching and enticing. It's definitely a big part of the book. 

I should also mention that the illustrator for the book was Anshika Khullar. The book has illustrations and also pages that are black with white writing, and I like Anshika did so well in adding to the content of the book with their illustrations. It almost reads a bit more like a graphic novel because of the illustrations, and I LOVED it even more because of that. It is a really gorgeous book in tactile turns, and I am glad!

What other books is it like? I found it quite similar to The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. 

How many stars? Five out of five! Seven out of five! 

Where is the book going now? Oh, I'm keeping it. I'm still hoping I'll meet Dean somewhere!

Hackney Central by Michael K Foster - Blog Tour

Saturday, April 25, 2020


Hello! Welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for Hackney Central by Michael K Foster. If you've never been here before please do click around to read more of my reviews!

Here's the description of the book: 

Gripped by gang wars, London’s East End is plunged into an endless reign of terror. . .
Walk these streets at your peril!
When newly appointed Detective Sergeant Jack Mason steps through the doors of Hackney Central Police Station, he is tasked with his biggest nightmare. A pensioner lies dead, his flat has been ransacked, and no one is willing to talk.
But why pick on a vulnerable old man?
No stranger to London’s East End, Mason is under no illusion that the chance of finding the killer is slim. Gripped by notorious drug gangs, knife crime runs rife, and nowhere appears safe.
With time rapidly running out, it soon becomes clear that he’s dealing with a version of justice terrifyingly different to his own. . .
You’ll be hooked from the start by this gripping crime thriller. There’s tension, suspense, and a plot full of twists and turns. Why not find out more about Jack Mason’s early career, and order your copy today.

And here's the author bio:

Michael K Foster has been writing crime thriller novels since 2006, all of them based in and around the North East of England. His bestselling debut novel, ‘The Wharf Butcher’, was released in 2015 and offers a unique insight into this rugged landscape. He has now written six full-length novels featuring the hard-hitting DCI Jack Mason and local criminal profiler David Carlisle. His latest book in the series, ‘Hackney Central', is scheduled for release on 23rd April 2020.
Michael was born in Plymouth, England. After ten years’ service in the British Army, he moved to Newcastle where he gained an MBA degree from Sunderland University. A former Magistrate, he now writes full time and lives with his wife Pauline in County Durham.

I haven't read any other books by Foster, but I was intrigued by this standalone novella which introduced his main characters Jack Mason and David Carlisle. I liked the premise of the East End setting and it does stand up in the book - it's full of estates, petty crime, hardened criminals. 

The book starts when an elderly man has been beaten up and left for dead in his flat on the tenth floor of a high rise block. Some of his posessions have been taken, including a gold watch, but it doesn't look like mere burglary. The attack seems professional and pre-planned - the attacker wore gloves and left very little trace of himself. 

Mason becomes sure that if they can find the watch, they'll find who attacked the elderly man. But on the estate, no one's talking. Two different young men control the north side and the south side respectively, and they even come together to try to keep the police out of their business. 

Mason also has a baby on the way, so his mind is kind of elsewhere for a lot of the book. I liked him, but I didn't find him a 'hard-hitting' detective. Maybe he gets to be that way later in his career, but he just comes across as quite nice and a bit naive in this book. I liked the story, but found some parts written a bit oddly. Some of the speech jarred a bit, too, but in all I thought Jack Mason was an interesting character. 

The Grandpa Killer by Dan Petrosini - Blog Tour and Review

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for The Grandpa Killer by Dan Petrosini. I am really thrilled to welcome you to my blog! If you're new here, please do have a click around to see what else I review mostly Young Adult fiction and crime fiction. 

The premise of the book appealed to me, so I signed up to the blog tour. Detective Luca lives in Florida with his wife Mary Ann (also a cop) and their daughter Jessica. Luca is looking at a spate of burglaries in the area when he hears that his friend's dad has died. Although elderly, he was in god health and the death was unexpected. His son mentions to Luca that another elderly man has died recently in the same facility that his dad died in, and that there was some financial arrangement that means the facility has made money out of both men dying early. Luca isn't sure if there's a case to be answered, but goes to his boss with it anyway. His boss orders an exhumation, and it turns out there is definitely a case... Luca goes to Palm Shores, the high end facility both men lived in, and starts asking questions. 

If anything, I felt like the book wasn't expanded enough. There's a lot of parts which are just speech, and it's sometimes hard to follow as to who is speaking. There needed to be some bits of self-reflection and connections too, but overall this didn't detract from the story and I quite liked the mystery. 

Here's the blurb:

Two eighty-year old victims…
…had roofies in their system.
Why would someone give the victims a date-rape drug?
Luca has heard the rumors and now there’s an official complaint. A high-end assisted-living community’s ownership has been accused of abuse. It seems like a straightforward matter to investigate, but is there something more sinister going on?
Is this about euthanasia or greed?
Luca thinks there may be a third option.
With a plate full of burglary investigations, one of which, led to the victims being pistol-whipped, Luca is swamped. Will he be able to unravel the clues and get to the truth?
His gut says there’s a connection…
…but who is behind it?
Is it only about a payday?
You’ll love this next installment in the Luca Mystery series, because of hard-nosed, relentless, detective work and his mind for unraveling the lies and deception.
Get it now.


Author Bio:

Dan wrote his first story at age ten and is still at it.  Married, with two daughters and a needy Maltese, Dan lives in Southwest Florida. A New York City native, Dan teaches at local colleges, writes novels, and plays tenor saxophone in several jazz bands. He also drinks way too much wine.
Dan has his own view of the world and culture, or lack thereof. He passionately believes people can realize their dreams if they focus and act, and he encourages just that.
His favorite saying is – ‘The price of discipline is always less than the cost of regret’
Dan also reminds people to get negativity out of their lives. He feels it is contagious and advises people to steer clear of negative people.
Dan has written over fifteen novels and has an active blog at http://danpetrosini.com

The Silent House by Nell Pattison - Review

Friday, April 17, 2020

My friend Kate recommended this book to me on Goodreads and it did sound like something I'd like. It was only 99p on Kindle so I bought it - lockdown requires Kindle spending, I'm sure. I mentioned to Kate that I'd bought it and she said that she is friends with the author, Nell Pattison, and that Nell had seen many of her book tours cancelled because of the pandemic, so was trying to promote her books in other ways. That makes perfect sense, and from what I've seen on Twitter she's far from the only author who will suffer from loss of income. Please support authors if you can - I've been buying books from indie bookshops, I've been retweeting like mad, and I paid to do a workshop on Editing with Robin Stevens and Non Pratt, which was £15 and which I thought was definitely worth it! I'm self-employed myself and will probably see a drop in income as there'll be less bookkeeping for me to as the charity I work for has had to cut back on its activities a lot. It's a scary time for a lot of us.

Anyway, I really liked the premise of this book and for 99p I'm often willing to give something a go. I've bought far worse things for a quid that I ended up not liking! The premise is that a little girl is murdered in the house belonging to her dad and stepmum, and no one knows who's done it, or heard anything, because they are all Deaf. Nell herself is Deaf, having lost her hearing in her twenties. The main character in the book, Paige, grew up as the only hearing one in a family of Deaf people, and she's now an interpretor. She is hired by the police to interpret as they interview the family, the little girl's mum, and so on.

Paige ends up getting involved in the case quite heavily, because this is a crime novel, and that always happens. In the house that night were Lexi, the murdered little girl, her brother Jaxon, and her half-sister Kasey. Her dad Alan was asleep on the sofa downstairs, and her stepmum Elisha was asleep next door. Alan cheated on Lexi's mum, Laura, with Elisha and both women were pregnant around the same time, meaning the two little girls are very similar in age. Because of the small nature of the Deaf community in the area (the book is set in Scunthorpe and there's quite a lot about the poverty of the area, which I liked!), Paige knows Laura - she's her sister Anna's best friend. Anna comes to stay with Paige so she can support Laura, and she ends up getting involved too.

There's two detectives on the case and Paige ends up quite friendly with one of them, DC Singh. His boss, DI Forest, is really horrible to Paige for the most part, and I didn't think her reasons really stacked up. Paige also had an experience in her teens which explain why she feels quite guilty over the case and wants to help find Lexi's murderer. She starts to be threatened and there's a suspect list of quite a few people...

I will say that I really liked the story of this book. I liked Paige and her sister, and I liked the detectives. I liked Max, too, although I won't tell you who he is. I liked the setting of the Deaf community and how that meant that the police couldn't communicate directly with witnesses and suspects and what that meant to the investigation. I fell for some red herrings, and the ending kept me guessing nearly all the way to the end, which I like. For the story itself, I'd give the book four out of five.

However, I felt like the writing let it down somewhat. I felt like it could have done with another thorough editing. There were small inconsistencies that annoyed me. Paige's friend Gem seems to disappear halfway through the book - Paige doesn't look to her for support. Then there's parts that I just felt were overwritten to death, to the detriment of the story. Some bits go really slowly because there's so much use of description and adverbs that it takes away from the action. For instance, there's a bit where Paige's car is run off the road by a van that's been following her. The action here should be fast and direct. But there's sentences like "Suddenly, the..." We know it's sudden! The whole thing is sudden! It takes away from the action. In the same bit, a person is standing by Paige's car threatening her, and then they "jump" back into the van and drive away - how? What? I couldn't get past these issues and more to give this a four out of five, so I'm giving it a three.

However! I did like it and I saw that there's another in the series coming out in October, so I've pre-ordered it. It may be that the writing issues are ironed out or improved on, and I'm willing to give the author and the series that chance!


Letting Go by Cat Clarke - Review

Monday, April 13, 2020

Did you see that Barrington Stoke put all their ebooks on sale at 99p on Amazon? I went through and bought ten of them - for less than a tenner I don't think I could complain at all! I love the Barrington Stoke books as they're all such cute novellas. They're easy to read for an adult like me especially in the current climate when I was struggling to get into what was my next book club book. I gave up on it, which almost never happens. It was late on Sunday night and I dipped into the first of the books I'd bought, Letting Go.

I've read a couple of Cat's books before, but not for a long time. I like her characters and when I read that this book was about queer teenage girls I knew I wanted to read it.

It's about Agnes, and at the beginning she's on her way up a mountain with her ex-girlfriend Ellie and Elli's boyfriend Steve. They are going to go and scatter the ashes of Ellie's mum, Janice, as it's her birthday. This is a promise that Agnes made to both Ellie and Janice before Janice died, and she doesn't feel like she can break it now, even though she really dislikes Steve. The feeling is entirely mutual, and all the way up the mountain Ellie is trying to keep the peace between them.

I really liked this, it's a cute little story. Four out of five!


Toffee by Sarah Crossan - Review

Friday, April 10, 2020


Where did I get it? I had an Amazon voucher a few weeks ago so bought this among some other things. I read a sampler chapter of Toffee a few months ago via Netgalley, and was intrigued and definitely wanted to read the book. 

What's it about? It's told in verse like Sarah Crossan's other books, and it's about Allison. She's fifteen/sixteenish and at the beginning of the book she has run away from her abusive dad. She's heading to Bude, in Cornwall, where her sort of stepmum Kelly-Anne has moved to after also leaving Allison's dad. However, when she gets there, Kelly-Anne isn't living there anymore. Allison ends up losing her phone so can't get in touch with anyone even if she wanted to. She sleeps one night in the shed in a woman's garden and in the morning meets the woman, Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is her old friend Toffee. She talks about the two of them going dancing. Allison sneaks into the house and stays there, helping Marla, hiding when Marla's carer Peggy or son Donal turn up. 

Through the book we learn more about Allison's past, about her abusive dad, about what happened to Allison that injured her face. We learn more about Marla and her past too. 

I actually think this is the most complete of Sarah's books. The ending was really well done, bittersweet but very real and lovely. I liked Allison a lot and really wanted her to succeed. I felt for her, too. I'm really glad I read this. 

What age range is it for? 14+. There are some tough themes but they're very appropriately done. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Marla has dementia, so yes. There are some upsetting scenes thanks to her dementia. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I think weed, and some alcohol. It's not graphic. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, and injury and violence. Be careful if these are triggers for you. 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none, I really loved the book. Plus, reading a book in verse really makes me want to write one of my own. I've been seriously thinking about it and maybe even plotting... 

Would I recommend the book? Yes 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? As I said, I'd read a sampler and wanted to read the rest of the book. Plus, it was just hanging out next to the bed which is one way to make me listen to things faster! 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute, it's from a specific part of the book and I liked that. 

What other books is it like? Sarah's other books, but I think this is the best one. 

How many stars? Ten out of ten, it's so good

Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it!

Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal - Review

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


Where did I get it? The library, it was the third of the three Carnegie longlist books I reserved at the library before the country went into lockdown. God knows when I'll be able to take it back to the library, but I would rather that than library staff be put in danger because libraries remain open. It's better they're closed. 

What's it about? At the beginning of the book we meet Dinah, about to shave off her long black hair. She's about to run away from the commune where she lives with her mum. She's got a bit of money saved, and she's feeling distraught over something that happened between her and her friend Queenie. 

However, Ahab, who is the kind of leader of the commune, needs her help before she can make her getaway. Someone has stolen a white VW campervan from him, which has inside it his prosthetic leg, and he wants both back. He persuades Dinah to drive him in another van, The Pequod, even though she can't officially drive yet. Ahab is grumpy, angry, and bad-tempered, but he offers Dinah £400 for her troubles. So the two set off south from somewhere around Newcastle, and throughout the book the reader gets to know all about Dinah's past.

We learn about her parents, her dad, her kind of brother Jonah, why her parents split up, why Dinah first went to school, what happened with Queenie, how Dinah describes her sexuality, what happened to Ahab's leg, why he's so angry, and why Dinah decides to get him to call her Ishmael.

I didn't realise until I finished it that it is a version of Moby Dick, kinda. I thought the names were all just biblical references at first, but Kit notes at the back of the book that it is a modern retelling of Moby Dick with women in. I thought it was really cleverly done and I enjoyed picking up on bits from Moby Dick. 

What age range is it for? Usually, I'd say only a couple of years younger than the main character, and Dinah is seventeen, but the book on a whole skews a bit younger I think. Maybe it's because it's quite short. It's not that I don't think older teens would enjoy it, because I think they absolutely would, but I think any teen from 13 years up could read and enjoy it. Although there are quite sophisticated themes involved, they're told in very safe and accessible ways, which I really liked. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Dinah. And some others, too... 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Dinah is mixed race. Her dad is from Benin and her mum is white. There's a lot about it, which I liked. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Ahab is physically disabled, having lost one leg below the knee. He probably has some trauma related stuff going on too. I don't think Dinah does, per se, but she's been through some stuff. 

Is there any sex stuff? No not at all. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Painkillers, I think, but that's all. 

Is there any talk of death? No, but there's some graphic injury stuff, it's not too bad though. 

Are there swear words? No, very few (which is one of the reasons why I think it skews a bit younger)

What criticisms do I have? Almost none, although I would have liked the ending to have been expanded a little bit more. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'm still trying to make my way through the Carnegie longlist. I've got a couple more on their way to me, I ordered them from Round Table Books before they closed for the foreseeable. I can reserve some more at the library when it's open again... 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute, isn't it? I love the bright yellow colour. Plus it shows Dinah cutting all her hair off at the beginning. 

What other books is it like? It has similar themes to After the Fire by Will Hill, as that's about a cult who live in a commune, although this is much less intense than that. 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

Where is the book going now? Back to the library, when it can... 

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish - Review

Saturday, April 4, 2020

I requested this on Netgalley and was kindly granted permission to read it by Simon & Schuster, so thank you to them. I was provided with an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I really enjoyed Our House by Candlish, so was eager to read something else by her. I liked the twists and turns so assumed this novel would be similar. There's a similarity in social class, which I kind of liked - I like reading about posh people getting into trouble.

So the book is about Jamie, who is forty-eight, and who lives with his partner Clare. She owns a very beautiful huge house in east London and is a partner in an estate agents. Jamie had a white collar job but after an incident of claustrophobia on the tube lost his job and took one in a cafe.

The book starts just after Christmas in 2019. Jamie is going to work and so gets on the river bus from his house into central London. As he disembarks, two policemen meet him. They tell him that his friend Kit has gone missing, and as he was the last person to see Kit on the 23rd of December, after a night out drinking, he is obviously an important part of their investigation. He goes with them for an informal chat in a cafe, and through flashbacks we get to know the whole story.

Clare's work had employed Melia just before the previous Christmas, and Clare invited Melia and Kit over for dinner in the January. They're both just about thirty and are working in jobs they seem to believe beneath them and are in lots of debt. Kit and Jamie decide to start getting the river bus together, and on there meet another guy, Steve, and a woman, Gretchen. Throughout the year, Jamie and Clare and Kit and Melia become friends, although there's always a tension between them. Kit in particular is jealous of Clare and Jamie's house, lives, wealth. He is spiralling into cocaine use and getting more and more into debt.

Jamie tells the police all he knows, and the beginning part of the story takes up half the book. I wasn't sure exactly where it would go then, but it raced through the second half. As I had read Our House, I was expecting some twists, and I did see some of them coming, but I also fell for a couple of red herrings, and some bits blindsided me totally. I did feel like there were some bits that stretched the realm of possibility, but I was willing to go with it because I liked the story so much. It's very deftly woven together, and almost no one comes out of it well.

I can't say I really liked Jamie, but I did sympathise with him. I didn't like Kit or Melia and found them irritating, which I think is part of the point. I wish we'd seen a bit more of Clare and understood a bit better what had kept her and Jamie together for ten years prior to the book. I do think Candlish is good at throwing bright light on bad parts of every human, and I like that.

I'm giving the book four out of five.


 

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