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God Save the Teen by Andrew Graves - Review

Tuesday, March 29, 2022


I bought this book of poetry in the Waterstones Christmas sale, it was only a pound or so. I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of poetry but for that money I'll take a chance on it. I picked it up at the beginning of March and ended up really enjoying it. There's a lot of really personal poetry in it, and a whole bit which was originally a stage show and which tells the story of Andrew's work as a social worker, as well as some stories about his own early life, including when his mam left when he was eleven. I really liked the poems about Johnny Cash and punks, and several of the personal ones about his own life. It's a really accomplished collection of poems and I would definitely read something else by the same author. He's a little older than me but several of the poems reminded me of my own life. I'm giving this five out of five! 


The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite - Review

Saturday, March 26, 2022


At the end of February Lee and I went into Barnsley town centre one Saturday and ended up eating in the Market Kitchen, which is a new extension to the market and features several food counters - poutine, Turkish, Thai, curry, cafe, a dessert place - meaning you can all have different things to eat but still sit together. There's also a bar which does nice cocktails. I've been a few times both with Lee and with friends, and I really like it. I've tried the poutine but my favourite is the Thai. So I had massaman curry and Lee had a pizza, which was freshly made and completely delicious. Afterwards we walked through the market and I bought myself some daffodils and two books. The book stall had SO many books and also had a great system - if you take a book back, you have half off the next one you buy! I'm guessing they then resell the one you've brought back as quite a lot were secondhand. This never bothers me, I like second hand books. The owner also showed me the crime section which was huge. I also bought a new Ann Cleeves book and the owner said, "If you like her you'll love Elly Griffiths" and I was like, I do! I've read everything she's written! I was really impressed by the stall and recommend it if you're in the area. I'll definitely go back!

I picked this up as I really enjoyed My Sister Is A Serial Killer so would read something else by the same author. This is just a short story really, but I was immediately drawn into the world and liked the story. It's also the second book I've read set during a Covid lockdown. (The first was The Fell by Sarah Moss). I'm sure there'll be lots more books set during the pandemic, but it is weird to read about something so recent in our history. 

So at the beginning of the story, Bambi is living with his girlfriend in the city. (The book is set in Nigeria, as is My Sister Is A Serial Killer). However, she finds out he's been cheating on her, and throws him out. But lockdown has just hit Nigeria, and Bambi has to go to his grandfather's old house. After the death of his uncle Folu from Covid, the house is inhabited only by his aunt. But when Bambi arrives, in the middle of a powe cut, his finds Esohe there too. And baby Remi. Esohe was Folu's mistress, but Bambi also had a fling with her. But here's the problem: both women are saying that the baby is theirs. Bambi thinks that his aunt has had a baby recently, but as time goes on he becomes unsure about what the truth is. 

I really liked the story and wanted more - I'd have loved a full novel. The atmosphere is oppressive and I could imagine the house perfectly. I'm giving this four out of five, I am so glad I saw it and picked it up!

Disconnect by Keren David - Review

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

 

I picked this up at the library along with my last book. It's one of those Barrington Stoke books that are friendly for dyslexic people with separation between paragraphs, thicker paper, and a friendly font. I love these novellas, they're always so cute to read. Plus this one is set in the same universe as Keren's previous book The Liar's Handbook which I read and enjoyed last summer! River appears as a character in this book and I really liked seeing him.

In this book, Esther is friends with Natalie, Shaq, and Sophie, and like most Year Eleven girls, they all spend a lot of time of their phones. They have lots of WhatsApp groups but Esther feels quite self conscious in them, and often like she is being left behind by her friends. She lives with her mum and stepdad who own a cafe that isn't doing brilliantly, so they're worried about money. Esther spends a lot of time sending texts back and forwards with her sister Rosa, who lives in New York with their dad, and her little son Zack. Esther is desperate to see Rosa and her dad as she hasn't seen them in so long and misses them. 

Then an entrepeneur comes to school. She is offering any student who can give up their smart phones for six weeks £1000 for it. Esther realises that with that she could buy plane tickets to New York so she's determined to do it. She'll be given an old type of phone so she can text and call someone in emergencies, but that's all. Natalie joins in and so does River and his friend Tommy. 

At first Esther feels a lot of FOMO, but then good things start to happen...

I really loved this little novella, it's just such a good story. I'm giving it five out of five. 

Win Lose Kill Die by Cynthia Murphy - Review

Sunday, March 20, 2022


Where did I get it? The library! I walk past the teen section every week when I go to craft club, and often look at the new books. I was the first person to take this out!


What's it about? Liz is in her senior year at an exclusive boarding school called Morton. As far as I can tell, it's just two years, junior and senior, and students do something akin to A levels with a view to going to university. The school runs on scholarships, and kids are picked from sometimes difficult lives to attend the school. Liz is a member of the secret society Jewel and Bone, which means she will meet sponsors and donors and will be able to choose from the top universities. Jewel and Bone has some frankly weird history and also some bizarre rituals. But Liz is thrilled she's in. It means she is a prefect too. 

At the end of last year, though, there was an accident at school and the new head girl, Morgan, drowned in the lake, and Liz sustained a head injury that means she is still having a few health issues. But she's glad to be back at school and glad to meet new boy Cole. Jameela is now head girl, and Liz's friend Taylor's boyfriend Marcus is head boy. The kids all have a party on the roof, and Jameela has an asthma attack, but when she takes her inhaler she collapses and dies. 

Taylor is now head girl, but weird things keep happening, and she's not taking it well. Taylor and Liz's friend Kat starts to wonder what's going on. 

It's got everything you'd want from a boarding school book. Murder! Lies! A secret society! Parties! A cute love story and kissing in the back stairs! I really liked how much FUN it was as a book. I did guess some of the twists, but as usual I think that's partly because I'm an adult and have read a lot of books!


What age range is it for? 15+ 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Kat is bisexual, but it's not a big part of the story


Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Cole is Chinese and I think some other characters are people of colour, but again, it's not a big part of the story. But I did feel like Morton was a diverse place to be. Plus the headmistress is Indian! 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Liz has got some residual issues from the lake incident, but they're not mentioned too much


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes - not illegal ones but poisons definitely 


Is there any talk of death? Yes, lots, and some of it is graphic 


Are there swear words? No. You may be wondering why I'm sayinf 15+ for this book - it's because of the deaths, which I found quite graphic 

 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! It's a fun book. I would read something else by Cynthia and am looking forward to seeing her Northern YA Litfest


Would I recommend the book? Yes 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well I saw it in the library obviously! 

 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute, I like the listiness of it (totally a word)

 

What other books is it like? Well, I don't think it's unfair to compare it to the STAGS books by M A Bennett, although this one begins with the main characters on the 'inside', which I liked 


How many stars? Four out of five 

 

Where is the book going now? Back to the library when I'm next going!


The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah - Review

Thursday, March 17, 2022


I heard about this book somewhere (possibly Twitter), thought it sounded good, and added it to my wishlist. My aunt then sent me it for my birthday, and as I'm trying to read all the books I was gifted in a timely manner, I got to it in the middle of February. It's one of a series featuring a detective called Kate Daniels. It's set in Newcastle, which I liked. Kate has her underlings, as all detectives do, including Hank Gormley, who I did like, and Lisa Carmichael, who again I liked and was pleased when she did well. She is close to her superior, DCI Bright. Bright has a wife who is disabled after a car accident, and I didn't like how this was portrayed (it was as if Stella had no quality of life now she was disabled...). He also comes on to Kate at one point, which I really didn't like. 

At the beginning of the book Kate is travelling to a church to light a candle for her deceased mother, on Christmas Eve. When she gets to the church she is shocked to find the body of a young girl and the body of the parish priest. He has a prayer card next to him, which Kate finds odd. She follows some leads but ultimately comes up blank. The murders remain unsolved. 

Eleven months later, a man called Alan Stephens has been shot dead in his flat. His second wife has an alibi of being at the airport with a friend, but his first wife, Jo, and his sons don't have alibis. Stephens raped Jo and is estranged from both his sons, so they all have motives for killing him. The problem is that Jo is a psychiatrist who has worked with the police, so she's friendly with them. Furthermore Jo and Kate had a relationship, which Kate wants to keep hidden from all her colleagues. But the net is closing around Jo despite anything Kate does. 

Plus there's also some issue with Stephens and the Assistant Chief Constable, which I utterly didn't understand and couldn't find it in myself to care about. I found the book quite baffling entirely, actually - there's far too many people to keep all the names straight, and a few subplots that I couldn't get on board with. I did like the resolution of the book, but due to the confusing nature I wouldn't read anything else by the same author. I'm giving it three out of five. 

Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne - Blog Tour and Review

Sunday, March 13, 2022



Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the blog tour for Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne. I am thrilled to welcome you here today! If you haven't been here before, please do have a click round and read some of my other reviews. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this book so signed up for the tour. I'm not sad I did and I would definitely read the next in the series. The book is set in Liverpool and it's such a love letter to the city - to the people who have made it home throughout the years, including immigrants from all over the world, to the working class people, to the unions and dockers, to the ordinary people who have made Liverpool their home, to the culture and history that it has. I've only been to Liverpool a few times but I've loved it each time. I really liked the bits set at Albert Dock because I could picture them perfectly! 

At the beginning of the book a man called Michael is working on a building site when the digger his mate is in picks up a few bones. Work stops, and more bones are found, including a skull which indicates that the person didn't die from natural causes. The police obviously step in to investigate.

Meanwhile Anne, who is mixed race, whose dad was an immigrant to Liverpool from the Caribbean, works for the local paper and is sent to go get some copy about the story. She wants a proper story to get her teeth stuck into, and she soon finds there's more going on. She interviews Michael, and a few other people, and starts to uncover things about when Michael was first in Liverpool after his arrival from Wicklow in Ireland. 

Her friend Vinny, son of an Irish immigrant that he barely knew, is trying to get on to a PhD programme at the university, to look into the history of a certain part of Liverpool and the identity of its inhabitants. He joins Anne on her search. He works a zero hours contract at a shoe shop in the city centre, and I think it's fair to say he's unhappy about it. He's also representative of millions of people in this country! 

The book then flashes backwards in time to firstly 1955, when Michael was newly arrived, and focusses on Michael's somewhat criminal background, and the people with whom he associated. It also looks at striking dockers, and their union men (one of whom I understand from the back of the book was a real person), and the clashes between the two. We also see 1965 and then the mid 70s, when the murder is thought to have taken place. 

I liked the book a lot. I thought Michael was a very complex character but it was easy to be charmed by him. I liked both Vinny and Anne and their 21st century stories. I am giving this four out of five and as I say, I'd definitely read the others in the series!

Fools In Love edited by Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos - Review

Thursday, March 10, 2022


Where did I get it? 

Amazon. It was chosen for my online book club and although I hadn't heard of it it was right up my street. I bought it on Kindle for ease of reading. 


What's it about? 

Its subtitle is "fresh twists on romantic tales", it is a collection of romantic stories but set in wildly different worlds and featuring a whole bunch of people. I loved the diversity shown, there were queer teens and teens of colour and stories set in the past, in space, in a time travelling dimension. I didn't like the first story, so skipped that, and didn't like the one about the boy band either (no contract in the world can stop you falling in love with a bandmate, and it would be a violation of your human rights if it tried to...), so skipped that. But some of the authors featured are amazing - it was lovely to read Amy Spalding again, for example. I like anthologies like this, where there's sure to be something that piques your interest, even if some of the stories just aren't for you.

I wouldn't say I was much of a romance reader, but I liked all these cute, short stories about people falling in love, or getting that feeling, or sharing a first kiss. 


What age range is it for? 

13+, there's nothing unsuitable for a teen of that age 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? 

Yes, lots! I liked the diversity of characters and there were plenty of queer teens represented. I liked the story where two girls from a magical school have to go and try pass an exam, because one of them was bisexual, which I always like to see. 


Are any main characters people of colour?

Yes, again, there's plenty of diversity. I particularly liked one of the last stories which was set either on a very futuristic earth or in space, in which a girl working in a phone shop meets a girl who sounded very much like a k-pop idol. 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? 

I feel like yes, but I can't remember specifically, and for that I'm sorry. 


Is there any sex stuff? 

No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? 

One story uses flowers to travel back in time, which I guess may come under this, but that's all. 


Is there any talk of death? 

Yes, it's not graphic but yes a couple of stories featured death in a small way 


Are there swear words? 

No 

 

What criticisms do I have? 

As I said above, one story annoyed me because it was factually inaccurate, and maybe I'm just not into boyband members falling in love anyway, and while the first one was very well written, the setting of it just didn't float my boat. 


Would I recommend the book? 

Yes, definitely. Especially if you like romance! 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? 

For book club, obviously 

 

What do I think of the cover?

It's cute, but I'm not sure it really gets over the book so well. Your mileage may vary 

 

What other books is it like? 

Generally I felt it gave me that same happy tummy vibe as anything by Amy Spalding


How many stars? 

Four out of five, I generally really liked it


The Royal Baths Murder by J R Eliis - Review

Monday, March 7, 2022

As you know, I've enjoyed three of J R Ellis' DCI Oldroyd books previously, and knew I had two more to get to. I needed an easier book to read recently so started this. I find crime novels easy to read, especially if I know the main characters already. Plus you know I love a bit of Yorkshire in my novels!

This one is set in Harrogate. The local Crime Fiction festival is on (based on the real one) and at one event, a famous author called Damien Penrose comes up against some other writers. No one much likes him, and there's a group of writers who think he's plagiarised them and stolen plots from them. The confrontation carries on in the bar after the event, but then everyone settles down and goes to bed.

However, early the next morning Damien goes to the Royal Baths to swim and use the steam rooms, and he is then found dead in the hot room, strangled. The police are quickly called and they secure the area. The masseur and the receptionist are adamant that no one has come past them, but there's no way out of the baths below. Carter and Oldroyd start to investigate, finding that Damien had no shortage of enemies, including two ex wives and all the aforementioned authors. But it seems like while everyone had a motive, everyone also had an alibi. 

Oldroyd does his typical thing of spending a lot of time thinking about the case. He is also encouraged by his daughter to try online dating, and he ends up meeting a woman called Deborah. The two get on really well, but Oldroyd does then find himself in the middle of live crime scenes while she's about. 

Meanwhile, Stephanie Johnson, Oldroyd's other protege, is seconded to work under a DCI Fenton. She knows him of old, and his underlings, known as Cock and Bull. Fenton has a fondness for trying it on with women and it take him no time to try it on with Johnson. The two of them are sent to investigate an allegation of corruption within the local council, but Fenton quickly shuts down the investigation. Johnson is determined to find out why... 

I really liked this book, I read it really quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it and the mystery. For that, I'm giving it five out of five. 

The Song of the Stork by Stephen Collishaw - Review

Friday, March 4, 2022


Okay, so, I don't generally read books about the Holocaust that are written by people who aren't Jewish, because I think they're taking away the voices of Jewish writers (who are a minority) and also I think a lot of them are really exploitative. Like ones where Jewish campmates fall in love with Nazi soldiers? You can miss me entirely with those. The Jewish people lived in fear of their lives so any relationship entered into wouldn't be consensual, to say the least. I'm actually quite disturbed by the new fashion for Holocaust literature because it just seems to use something as tragic as the Holocaust and exploit it. 

(I will also say that while I'm speaking about Jewish people above, it equally goes for LGBTQ+ people, Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller people, and anyone else who was put to death in the camps. As I write this, petitions are flying around to try to get Netflix to take down Jimmy Carr's latest comedy special, which included a frankly horrific "joke" about the deaths of GRT people in the death camps.)

So, with that caveat, I will say, I wouldn't have chosen this book for myself. But I got sent it, so I picked it up. And I have to say, I felt like it was very well researched and didn't feel exploitative. That goes in its favour. But it also needed a good proofread and copy edit, which did bring my star rating down.

Apparently it's set in Lithuania, which I didn't realise because everyone in it speaks Polish to each other - was Lithuania part of Poland at that point? I don't know. 

Anyway, Yael arrives at a small farm in the autumn of 1942, I think. She has been travelling with a woman called Rivka. Yael is only fifteen. They are Jewish, and on the run from where they lived, and have been hiding in the woods. Rivka dies, and as the winter draws in, Yael seeks shelter in the henhouse of the farm. It belongs to a man called Aleksei, who is mute, and who is a lot older than Yael. He realises she is there, and eventually invites her in to the farm house. She is able to bathe, and sleeps on the floor. Eventually she and Aleksei start a relationship (which I found really icky, taking another star off my score) but of course there is always the threat of the Nazis arriving and finding her, plus the threat of the Russians coming from the other side. Eventually Yael has to take off and join the partisans in the woods. 

I liked Yael a lot and I liked a lot of what happened to her. It was interesting to see a book set in the Holocaust which wasn't set in the death camps, but in an ordinary part of the countryside, but still with the threats of death. However, for the reasons stated above, I'm only giving it three out of five. 

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville - Review

Tuesday, March 1, 2022


This was February's book club book, chosen by Rae. I hadn't ever heard of the author so picked this up without much expectation. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the book and would read something else by the same author. 

The book is about Elizabeth Macarthur, wife of John Macarthur, one of the first settlers in Australia. I hadn't heard of either of them, but I understand that John Macarthur is well known in Australia and appeared on a bank note there at one point. John was in the British Army and in 1790 sailed to Sydney to be an officer there. He had to come back to England twice as he was court martialled, and while he was gone, Elizabeth looked after their farm. 

The book is written from her point of view, and purports to be her memoirs, written when she is an old woman and found much later on. Several of her letters really still exist so quotes from them exist in the book. 

Elizabeth was born in Devon and lost her father when she was just four. When she was eleven, her mother remarried and Elizabeth went to live with her grandfather. Later, the local vicar and his family take her in, where she shares a bed with Bridie, who remains a lifelong friend. The two are courted when they are young women by Captain Someone and John Macarthur (I can't remember the captain's name, and anyway he doesn't stick around so it's fine). Elizabeth ends up falling pregnant to John and a wedding is quickly arranged. Her son Edward is only tiny when they travel to Australia (which took six months) and on board ship John makes an enemy of the Captain and Elizabeth delivers a baby, who doesn't survive. When they arrive in Sydney, it's no place for a lady and her child, but she has to make the best of it. John manages to get them a better house than most, and two convicts as servants to help. 

The book mostly focuses on the couple's early years. John is cruel and often dismissive towards Elizabeth. There's no genuine love between them. He is nasty and manipulative and prone to challenging people he's come up against to a duel. Elizabeth learns how to play him and how to mostly get him to leave her alone. 

I liked the book, and I liked the imagining of giving a voice to a woman who may not otherwise have one. I did think that Elizabeth's meetings with the indigenous people of Australia and her feelings towards them may not actually ring true - it's probable she was just as racist and horrible towards them as most white settlers were. It'll be interesting to see what everyone else in my book club thinks about that. But I was entertained by the book and am giving it four out of five. 
 

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