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The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter - Review

Thursday, November 26, 2020

As you'll already know, I really love Cara Hunter's DI Adam Fawley books, which are set in Oxford and centre around Fawley and his team. I always really look forward to a new book, and this time I was lucky enough to be invited to be an early reader of this one via Netgalley. So my many thanks go to Penguin Random House for letting me read this. I received a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

The book starts just a few weeks after the end of the last one, All the Rage. Alex, Adam's wife, is now eight months pregnant and she feels like someone is watching her. She keeps seeing a white van outside the house, and is convinced it's to do with Gavin Parrie, the 'Roadside Rapist' from previous books who is now out on licence. 

Meanwhile, Ev and Quinn are called to one of the Oxford colleges, where a student called Caleb Morgan makes an allegation of sexual assault by one of his professors. Marina Fisher is very well thought of and very high up in her profession. Caleb has been babysitting her child Tobin, and was there on the night that he alleges he was sexually assaulted.

Fawley's team start out investigating the assault. Then a woman's body turns up on a railway line nearby, and although it is staged to look like a suicide, it soon becomes clear she's been murdered. The team starts to look into her life, but things become more complicated when Adam himself comes under suspicion.

There's so many twists and turns in this book and I loved every single one of them. I did guess a couple but was kept surprised too. I really think Cara Hunter has such a good way of making us love all the characters and of weaving all the storylines together. I think this is the best of her books so far, and I am so excited for what's coming next. 

The Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales - Review

Monday, November 23, 2020

Where did I get it? I bought it a few months ago when I did a bit of a Waterstones splurge. I hadn't even heard of it, but the premise sounded good so I decided to buy it - it was only a few quid I think. 

What's it about? Arden is sixteen and is best friends with Lindsey. They live in Cumberland, Maryland, which is a tiny town basically in the middle of nowhere. Arden lives with her dad and brother and, until very recently, her mum. Her mum has left the family and gone to New York for a while. At the beginning of the book, some pot is found in Arden's locker. The problem is that it's Lindsey's, but Arden takes the rap. This is what she's done for her whole life - been more loyal to people than they have been to her. Arden gets suspended for her troubles, and Lindsey carries on as normal.

Arden is a theatre kid, but backstage. She loves it. Her boyfriend Chris wants to be a Hollywood star but honestly, he's a bit of a douche. He rarely seems to think of her first. Her dad is a workaholic and she's looking after her little brother most of the time. One night, in desperation, she googles a question about why no one loves her the way she loves them, and she comes across a blog.

It's written by a teenager called Peter, who lives in New York and who works in a bookstore. He meets this girl called Bianca and the two seem like soulmates. Arden becomes obsessed with Peter's blog, and eventually, on one crazy night in Cumberland, she sets off to NYC to meet him. 

I love a road trip slash escapism book and this is what I felt this was for a lot of it. I felt a lot of sympathy for Arden and wanted her to succeed. I did not like Chris and felt entirely validated with what happened with him. I liked Lindsey but agreed that she wasn't the easiest person to be friends with. I really LOVED the parties too, I need more teens at parties. 

What age range is it for? 13+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah Lindsey is gay and I liked her subplot. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No, there's some discussion of it 

Are drugs mentioned or used? The pot, obviously. There is marijuana use a couple of times, but it's not bad. 

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No, and I did think they were perhaps missing a couple of times. 


What criticisms do I have? The first half was a liiiitle bit slow for me. It picked up really soon and I ended up loving it, so I'm really not criticising too hard. 

I think some people might criticise the ending but for me, it was really real life and I liked it. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you like ordinary teens doing pretty ordinary but sometimes stupid things. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was down the side of the bed and I kept noticing it. 


What do I think of the cover? I LOVE it! I think it's really appealing. 


What other books is it like? Bits of it reminded me of Unpregnant

How many stars? Five out of five, it's really good fun. 


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

Rick by Alex Gino - Review

Friday, November 20, 2020

Where did I get it? I bought it a couple of months ago from Round Table Books. They are great and I highly recommend them - DM them on Twitter for any children's or YA books you might want. They're really helpful and I like supporting a small bookshop. 

What's it about? It's set in the same universe as George, and in fact Melissa herself is a character in this book! I was pleased to see her back! Rick is about to start middle school, and he's not really sure about who he is. Everyone talks about liking girls or liking boys, but Rick doesn't feel that way. At middle school, he hears about the Rainbow Spectrum Club, and he decides to go along to ask some questions.

The only problem is Jeff, his best friend. Jeff is a bully and a jerk - he's the person who bullied Melissa before, and he doesn't stop now he's at middle school, despite the warnings from his mum. Rick doesn't like what Jeff does, but Jeff is somewhat of a good friend to him. Isn't he? 

Maybe Rick doesn't need friends like Jeff. Maybe he's coming into himself and forging a new path for who he is. 

Rick also starts to get close to his Grandpa Ray, and discovers things about his grandpa that he didn't know before. 

This is an almost perfect middle grade novel. I loved Rick, I loved the plethora of kids in the Rainbow Spectrum Club, I loved how they talked to each other and how respectful they were. I loved that there are difficult parts to the book, but the reader never feels threatened or too sad. I just loved it, I raced through it. 

What age range is it for? Ten and onwards. Every difficult concept is explained in easy terms, but a parent could possibly do some research too for further questions and discussion. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Of course! Including Rick himself! There's a whole spectrum. 

There's also a whole discussion about the acronym LGBTQIAP+, and whether a different one should be used. Now, I am an older queer so I tend to use LGBTQ+, but maybe I need to expand my labelling on this blog. I absolutely DO include EVERY ONE who is not straight or not cisgender. I do not tolerate trans exclusionary people on this blog, I ought to be very clear about that. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Not main characters I don't think, but there are people who are not white in the book. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No. 

Is there any sex stuff? No. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? No, I don't think so? 

Are there swear words? No. 


What criticisms do I have? Almost none! I loved this book a lot. I loved Rick and wanted him to succeed. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I wanted something quick as a reward for getting through Iris & Ruby


What do I think of the cover? It's so cute! We understand immediately what it's about, and it fits with George. 


What other books is it like? It's like George, but it reminded me of Wonder, too (which I read before this blog)

How many stars? Five out of five! 


Where is the book going now? I am keeping it for sure!

Iris & Ruby by Rosie Thomas - Review

Monday, November 16, 2020

This book was the October choice for my book club, and I bought a second hand copy off eBay. I'm not sure I would have ever picked up this book by myself, and the first half dragged a bit for me, but I really liked it by the end. My book club is tonight (as I'm writing this) and I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone else thought about it. 

The book was published in 2007 and is set around then. Ruby is nineteen and arrives to her grandmother's house in Cairo having run away from her family home in Kent. Her mother is back home worried frantic about her, but there's a gap between Ruby and Lesley that neither of them can seem to cross. Iris, Ruby's grandmother, has lived a reclusive life in Cairo for many years. She is beginning to lose her memory, and is quite frail. She hasn't spent much time at all with Ruby before, but she agrees that Ruby can stay in Cairo with her for a while. 

Ruby rubs up against Iris' staff, Mamdooh and Auntie, who fuss over Iris to quite some degree. She also starts to explore Cairo with Ash, a boy that she really likes, who wants to become a doctor but who has to work nights in the hospital to help keep his family afloat. Ruby has had some recent sadness in her life, and is quite raw and still grieving. 

Iris has lived in Cairo for years, but before that she was a doctor in remote parts of Africa doing basic medical care and didn't spend much time at home with her husband Gordon and her child, Lesley. This led to the two of them not having much of a relationship once Lesley was an adult. Lesley in her turn has become an over protective mum and Ruby has rebelled against this.

Iris also lived in Cairo during the Second World War and it's this we see from her point of view throughout the book. She was the secretary to an officer, and she lived with an Egyptian girl, Faria, and another English girl, Sarah. Her life is a whirlwind of cocktail parties and dinner with officers who are never sure when they will head back to the desert front to fight. This makes them reckless men, and the women are tugged along for the ride.

Iris meets Captain Xan Molyneux and starts a relationship with him. The two fall in love and Iris makes many plans for their future. It's obvious that Xan didn't survive the war, and this is the great love that Iris never got over. She is back in Cairo because that's where she feels closest to him. She lives in a huge house that has become very dusty and unloved, and which belonged to a friend of Iris during the war. Iris ended up becoming friends with some medical personel during the war and that's how she ended up a doctor.  

She and Ruby forge a relationship throught the time Ruby is in Cairo. Something happens in the second half of the book that I loved, and which redeemed the whole book for me. It's really long though, and I did feel the first half dragged a lot. I very nearly gave up on the book but really wanted to finish it for book club. 

I loved the depiction of Cairo during the war, which had a lot of information that I didn't know. I enjoyed learning the history. The depiction of the glamourous girls and the parties was so good, too. It was all too easy to imagine, and imagine the personalities of the men who were determined to make the most of all their off time and they didn't know how long they had. I liked Iris but did find her quite cold and didn't quite think that her great love affair with Xan was reason enough to not move on properly latrer in her life. I loved Ruby and felt very sorry for her. I loved a lot of the secondary characters, too, especially Ash. Cairo itself is almost a chracter in its own right. I really want to visit one day!

I'm giving this four out of five. 

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew - Review

Friday, November 13, 2020

Where did I get it? I bought it at Warwick Books, in Warwick, when I was on holiday there a few weeks ago. I had heard about it at YALC At Home, when Lucy was on one of the panels, and I liked the sound of the book so when I saw it I picked it up. 

What's it about? It's a book told in free verse like books by Sarah Crossan or The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. Frankie is a teenager who is really into space and astronomy. She wants to apply to do a special programme in astronomy, along with her best friend Harriet. The two of them have a telescope at the bottom of their gardens, where they spend many a night watching the stars and the moon.

Harriet has recently gone a bit boy crazy, and on an outing for a birthday, she's really into Jackson and trying to get to know him. Frankie meets Benjamin, and the two of them make friends. It turns out they're both into physics and the stars. They end up having a sexual experience together and at the end of it, Frankie gets her period, meaning her blood ends up on Benjamin. The two of them agree that it's nothing to be ashamed of, it's just blood after all. 

But then someone at school finds out and soon everyone knows it's Frankie whose period started. A meme of her and a picture of some blood goes viral. She and Harriet fall out and she obviously doesn't trust Benjamin anymore. Frankie feels ashamed and like she is disgusting, and she spirals into feeling really sad and alone. 

It's time to fight back. It's just blood, after all. 

I loved Frankie and wanted her to do really well. I loved her interest in physics and the stars and liked how this was incorporated. I liked Benjamin and their relationship. Harriet is a total nightmare for a lot of the book but she is a great character too. I liked how the whole thing about something like this going viral was handled, I liked how ashamed Frankie felt when she really didn't need to, and how we saw her fight through that. It's a really good book and especially for a teen audience. It's okay to have sex, you're allowed! Be safe, and make sure the person is around your age - those are my two piece of advice. 

What age range is it for? I'm going to say from 14 onwards. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, but I do want to say that I was worried there might be a bit of "all girls have periods! The only people who have periods are girls!" neither of which are true, and which would be cissexist. But, there isn't any of it, and I was pleasantly surprised and was glad about it. 

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Not really, but Frankie does get to quite a low point and I was quite worried about her at one point, so I would look after yourself there. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, obviously, but it isn't very graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No. There's maybe a little alcohol use? 

Is there any talk of death? Not really. 

Are there swear words? Yes, they're used so well and I really liked their inclusion 


What criticisms do I have? Almost none. This is a great book. 

Would I recommend the book? Yep absolutely. I'll look forward to what Lucy writes next! 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Because I'd just bought it and I love picking up new books!

What do I think of the cover? It's cool, it's relevant to the story. 


What other books is it like? It's like Sarah Crossan's books in terms of emotional impact. 

How many stars? Five out of five


Where is the book going now? Oh I'm definitely keeping it!

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman - Review

Monday, November 9, 2020

Now, I'll be honest, I don't really like reading books by celebrity authors. I think they're saturating the market too much and a lot of them are subpar or ghost written and they mean that genuinely talented writers don't get the chance to be heard as publishers want to concentrate on 'names' that people will recognise and will spend money on. I usually avoid them, so I probably wouldn't have ever picked up Richard Osman's first novel, which is a bit of a cosy crime novel. But then my mum mentioned it to me. She's a big fan of Richard's so she wanted to read it, and then she wanted me to read it so she had someone to chat about it with. So, I picked it up. 

The Thursday Murder Club is a club that meets on Thursdays in a retirement village somewhere near Brighton, that way on in the world. The founding members were Penny and Elizabeth, only now Penny is in a coma and Elizabeth has three other members - Ron, Ibrahim, and Joyce. They pore over old cold cases to see what they think, and whether they can find the culprit. They can do this because Penny was a police officer, and Elizabeth seems to have been some kind of intelligence agent, some kind of spy, although it's not obvious what. 

The retirement village is quite upmarket - everyone lives in their own flats, but there is an upscale restaurant on site and a pool and plenty of other facilities. Most of the residents still have all their faculties, but Elizabeth's husband Stephen is beginning to suffer from dementia. It is owned by a man called Ian Ventham, who is a bit of a cartoon baddie, and who wants to buy land further up from the village to expand it, but the landowner won't sell. He also wants to cut ties with his business partner, Tony Curran, who is a proper baddie, having shot someone in the year 2000. Ian cuts ties, and Tony ends up bludgeoned to death at home. Ian is the obvious suspect, but there's a bunch of other people who may have wanted Tony dead too. 

Detectives Chris and Donna are on the case. Except Donna is not actually a detective, she's an ordinary PC, but in a really contrived piece of storytelling, the Thursday Murder Club manage to get her on the case. Chris is alright, a bit of a nothing detective, but what really put me off him was that he was OBSESSED with calories, and food. It was boring to read and added nothing to the story or to him as a character. He was also desperate to get a woman, which I didn't enjoy reading either. 

Left at Tony Curran's murder scene was a photo of him, a man called Jason, and a man called Bobby Tanner. It turns out Jason is Ron (from the Murder Club)'s son, an ex boxer who had some dodgy dealings and is a suspect. There's a whole load of nonsense around ANOTHER fella called Gianni, a Turkish Cypriot, who cleaned up the fact that Tony shot someone in 2000 and who then disappeared off the face of the earth. 

Someone else is murdered and there's a ton MORE suspects for that, including an old priest (I didn't mention that the village is built on an old convent, because of course it is) and a fella who sits on a certain bench every day. The Thursday Murder Club generally make a nuisance of themselves and even confront several people they suspect of murder, while the police are left in the dark and jetting off to Cyprus to try to track Gianni down. 

So, let me talk about a few positives. I did find the book compelling, and wanted to keep reading until I found out what happened. We get several points of view and one of them was Joyce's diary, which I thought was funny and quite warmly done. I liked Elizabeth and wanted to know more about her past, and I liked Ron and Ibrahim too. 

However, I thought there were quite a lot of negatives too. For one thing, it just plainly isn't brilliantly written. All writers have idiosyncratic tics, and it's an editor's job to iron those out so the reader doesn't notice, and I didn't feel that had happened well enough here. There were 99 instances of the verb 'agrees' being used in place of 'said', which was a lot for a book of less than 400 pages. It grated on me every time I read it. Said is fine! Honestly!

Proof that 'agree' was used faaaaar too many times

There were also FAR too many characters. I forgot who some of them were by the end, like near the end there's mention of a Steve Georgiou and I could not for the life of me remember what he had done and why I had to care about it. There were too many trite coincidences too, like that Jason's dad happens to be Ron, who happens to live in the village. There were also a few storylines that just didn't need to be there, and they didn't work very well as red herrings either. 

The ending wasn't very well explained or put together, I didn't think. It didn't wrap up well enough for me, and I was a bit baffled. I feel like a bit of cutting down of the book and a decent edit would have improved it immensely. But it's Richard Osman, isn't it, so it's going to sell whatever the writing is actually like. 

However, I am giving this four out of five because I DID find it compelling, and I know there's going to be a sequel and I'll probably read that, too. Sigh. 

They Them Their by Eris Young - Review

Thursday, November 5, 2020

I saw a tweet in May by the author about this book, looking for reviewers. I responded, and Eris passed along my details to their publisher, who emailed me the book for review. So thank you very much to Hachette for the chance to read and review this book! I was not otherwise compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Eris is a non binary author who has lived in both the US and the UK. In this book they talk about what being non binary is, what it's like to live outside of the gender binary, what it's like to be a queer person in the LGBTQ+ community, whether being non binary means being trans, what transition might look like for non binary people, and many more things. 

This is the Amazon blurb:

Chosen as one of The List's Hot 100 in 2019.

In this insightful and long-overdue book, Eris Young explores what it's like to live outside of the gender binary and how it can impact on one's relationships, sense of identity, use of language and more.

Drawing on the author's own experiences as a nonbinary person, as well as interviews and research, it shares common experiences and challenges faced by those who are nonbinary, and what friends, family and other cisgender people can do to support them. Breaking down misconceptions and providing definitions, the history of nonbinary identities and gender-neutral language, and information on healthcare, this much-needed guide is for anyone wanting to fully understand nonbinary and genderqueer identities.

I really enjoyed the book. I'm a cis woman, but I have non binary friends so I'm not coming at this from a place of total ignorance. I also think that most cis people have never interrogated gender up to and including their own gender and that that is something we should all do. I 'know' I'm a woman - but how do I know that? How would I feel if everyone else was convinced I was actually a boy at birth, but I knew better? I think it's useful for all of us to keep an open mind here, and this book would certainly help with that. 

It's written in quite an academic way, but it's also really readable and accessible. There's a lot of theory, but interspersed are anecdotes from several non binary people that Eris interviewed, which make the book feel more personal. There's also a ton of resources in the back, if you feel you may need more information or help. 

I'm giving this four out of five, I really enjoyed it and through Eris wrote in a really approachable way about something that is personal to them but which may be new to a reader. I would definitely read something else by the same author, and am really grateful for the chance to read this. 

And remember, there's nothing radical or feminist about transphobia. TERFs have no place in this world in 2020. 

Ghost Story Writing Course with Adam Z Robinson

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Over the past few weeks I've been doing a ghost story writing workshop with Adam Z Robinson. I wanted to just write a little bit about it because I've thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to any writer. 

I actually went to 6th form college with Adam and one of my best friends is a friend of his, and we're friends on Facebook, which is where I saw the link for this workshop. It was a six week course, with a live workshop on Facebook every Monday evening, and it was around £35. I thought that was excellent value so signed up. Each week we had recommended reading and some 'homework' to do. Then in the workshops we had exercises to do, prompts to follow, and had the opportunity to share our work too. Adam was live on Facebook and the attendees could comment alongside. 

The reading list was so good, I am still only about halfway through it and have plans to read lots more. I don't often read ghost stories, but after reading Good Girls Die First I really wanted to try my hand at writing some. I usually write contemporary, realistic fiction with no hint of the supernatural, but I wanted to stretch myself and this seemed ideal. 

Our course ended on the 26th of October and then, for Halloween, Adam was doing a horror writing workshop on the 31st, so I signed up for that too. That was £6 so really good value. It was for 2.5 hours and in that time I wrote over 1700 words, which was great! I really enjoyed myself. 

I liked a lot of the exercises throughout the course and wrote some interesting little bits through them. I also liked the theory about what is scary, and why it's scary, and how to achieve that in writing. I learnt a lot and would definitely do another of Adam's courses in the future. 

I'm actually about to embark on Nanowrimo, where you write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November, which is 1667 words a day, but I won't be incorporating ghosts... Maybe next year! I love my realistic YA too much!


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