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Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Hepperman - Review

Friday, April 29, 2022


Where did I get it? I bought it a few years ago when I was looking for YA books which featured abortions. I must have had it recommended or googled it, and bought it. I had completely forgotten about it and it was on a shelf, but then about two months ago I pulled it off the shelf and added it to the huge pile of books next to my bed. I'm not sure why! But I did! By which point I just couldn't remember what it was about at all, so it was a total surprise. 


What's it about? It's a novel told in verse (which you already know I love) starring Addie, who is in high school in Minnesota. She has a boyfriend called Craig but he's cheating on her. She then starts seeing his friend Nick and they have sex multiple times. Addie is on the cross country run team and is very good, she's one of their best athletes.

She realises she is pregnant and tells Nick, and then her parents. She doesn't want to tell her parents because she's afraid of letting them down, but she has to because an abortion in Minnesota requires parental consent for minors. The actual abortion is barely touched upon, which I liked. But Addie goes to a Catholic school and in one of her classes is a girl who think abortion is a terrible sin. Addie also writes poems and Nick, who is in a band with a terrible lyricist, wants her to write some lyrics for him. 

She doesn't regret the abortion at all. She does start missing running practice though. She starts to go to a different coffee shop while pretending to her parents that she's at practice, and while there she meets Juliana, who used to be on the running team but is now at college. The two start to get close, and there's a bit of a relationship/crush between them. Addie is pulling away from everything she knows - but can she find herself again? 

I loved the poems, they were just lovely and really got across the whole novel in such a good way. I read this quickly because it was just so nice. 


What age range is it for? 15+ 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah kind of, definitely there's something between Addie and Juliana even if it's not explicitly labelled by the end of the book 


Are any main characters people of colour? I don't think so 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Juliana has mental health problems 


Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's a bit explicit (in a very good way!) 


Are drugs mentioned or used? No, the abortion drugs are barely mentioned either 


Is there any talk of death? There's a little bit about an attempted suicide, it's not graphic 


Are there swear words? No 

 

What criticisms do I have? I wished it was longer! I wished we'd seen more of Addie and Juliana falling in love! 


Would I recommend the book? Yes especially if you like books told in verse.


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I pulled it off the shelf to get to it, so I did! 

 

What do I think of the cover? I like it, it's cute 

 

What other books is it like? Well anything by Sarah Crossan definitely 


How many stars? Four out of five 

 

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


The Five by Hallie Rubenhold - Review

Tuesday, April 26, 2022


I've heard of this book, which does deep dives into the lives of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper in autumn 1888, but I probably wouldn't have ever picked it up to read. I know people who have raved about it, but I don't know a lot about Jack the Ripper in general so I never thought to pick it up. But then someone chose it for my book club, so I picked up a copy on eBay for just a few quid. I read it at the beginning of April and now want everyone who considers themselves a feminist to read it. 

You've probably heard the same as I have, that Jack the Ripper killed sex workers. Here, the author looks very closely at the lives of each of the women - Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate, and Mary Jane. The overriding thing I came away with was that nearly all of them had problems with alcohol, and honestly it's hard to blame them. Their lives were hard, filled with tragedy, and they had all lost many people close to them. I think I would have turned to alcohol too. 

Each of them also seemed to have like a turning point in their lives where it meant that they ended up in the East End, in poverty, far away from where their lives began. Polly Nichols's marriage dissolved and she ended up in dosshouses the workhouse. Annie Chapman lost a child and may have had another with foetal alcohol syndrome due to her drinking. Her marriage also broke down and she ended up in dosshouses and the workhouse. Elizabeth Stride was born in Sweden and ran a coffee house in London with her husband, until her marriage broke down and she took up with someone else and again lived in the dosshouses and a workhouse. Catherine Eddowes tramped for a lot of her life, living an itinerant life for a long time; her body was found with many things she could have sold on it. Mary Jane was known to have worked as a sex worker, firstly in the West End, but then she was trafficked to Paris and on her return ended up in the East End. Rubenhold argues that there isn't much proof that the other women DID work as sex workers. I can see why some people have criticised her for that, as if she is arguing that their lives meant more because they weren't just "common prostitutes". I don't think she was saying this, but I think it's a valid criticism. I do think she was a bit snotty about the women's use of alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease like any other, first of all. Second of all - all these women had suffered tragedies that we would find hard to cope with. They nearly all lost children, they had nearly all lost their parents in their teens, and they lived in poverty that is so deep it's hard to fathom. I think I would have turned to drink, too. In context, I think it was easy to understand. 

I did feel like the book painted an excellent picture of the sheer poverty that many people lived in at that time in the Victorian era. It was shocking at times, and Rubenhold definitely drew upon contemporary accounts to prove her point. 

I think you definitely get a good study of each of the women, instead of just the macabre details of their deaths. I ended up feeling sorry for all of them, and honestly, if all of them had turned to sex work in order to make a living in a time and place where it was difficult for women especially to make a living, I would have completely understood it. I would now like to read more about Jack the Ripper (which is useful as it turns out I've got a book about him), but I'm glad this came first so that I can understand the women before trying to understand anything about him. I'm giving this four out of five. 

I Couldn't Love You More by Esther Freud - Review

Friday, April 22, 2022



I was reading something and this book came up and I was intrigued, so I requested it at the library as I'm trying to not buy books at the moment. I actually got the notification that it had arrived while I was in the library at craft club, which I go to every Monday morning. That was useful because it meant I picked it up on my way out and didn't have to wait until the next week!

I will say at the start that I did enjoy this book but I do feel like I've read very similar before. It features a young woman who is unmarried and pregnant and who heads to one of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. Her story does differ to some because she voluntarily puts herself there, but she definitely doesn't understand exactly what she's signing up to; she doesn't know she'll have to stay for three years to pay off her "debt" of having been "cared for" by the nuns through her pregnancy. The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland and the harm they inflicted is a massive scandal, and I'm glad that books do exist which detail the horror, but I've read quite a few and if I had realised that's where this book went, I might have swerved it. But I didn't, so I did read, and I did enjoy it. But I wil lstart with the caveat!

The book takes places in several different time periods. Firstly there's Aoife, who sometimes has first person narration and sometimes has third person narration, and who's husband, Cashel, is dying. The two met in London in the war, and got married and had a little girl, Rosaleen. Because of the war she was evacuated to Harrogate, where she was fostered. They pick her up towards the end of the war, when they have had another girl, Angela. They run a pub in the East End, but Aoife, who is Irish, somewhat dreams of returning home. They have another little girl, Kitty, and buy a farm in Ireland. The girls go to boarding school in England and Rosaleen always has somewhat of a chasm between herself and her parents. She disappeared from their lives shortly after Christmas around 1960 when she was nineteen. Aoife knows that Cash knows more about this than he's ever let on and she wants to get it out of him before he dies. 

Meanwhile, we're in the late fifties with Rosaleen, in London. She meets a man in a pub and starts an affair with him. He is an artist, a sculptor, and he introduces her to many of his bohemian friends. He lives in poverty and sometimes ignores her when he's trying to work. She finds herself pregnant and heads home for Christmas, concealing it. When she gets back, something happens that means she ends up in the convent. 

Then we're also in the early nineties with Kate. She is an artist and is married to Matt, a musician who is also an alcoholic. Their marriage is falling apart. They have a little girl, Freya. Kate knows she is adopted and sees her mother everywhere - in a woman at the station, in a homeless woman nearby, and so on. 

The Whitby Murders by J R Ellis - Review

Tuesday, April 19, 2022


I fancied something light to read so turned to the next in the DCI Oldroyd series. I actually read the 5th book first, then went back to the beginning, so I missed out the fifth one and went on to this, the sixth in the series. I have the 7th in line to read too and I don't think it'll be long before I get to it! When I've got a lot going on in my life I like to read easy books like this because they keep me turning the page and, being crime novels, I know everything will work out by the end. 

So, DCI Oldroyd's daughter, Louise, is in Whitby for the goth weekend in October, with some of her friends. There's Dom and Andrea, who are a couple but who argue sometimes, Maggie, and Ben. Maggie's boyfriend Mark is on his way too, but a day later than the first part of the book. There's another person who arrives later too. But the five have booked to do a Dracula themed escape room, while all dressed up in goth clothes. 

They are shown into the room by a Romanian woman called Elaine. She explains the escape room and also that a Dracula will follow them and if he catches up to them the game will be over. The five manage to escape the first room but once into the second everything goes wrong. Dom and Andrea have been rowing, and he suddenly pulls out a knife and stabs her. Then he says something like, oh god what have I done, and disappears through the emergency escape door. 

Ben falls to Andrea, trying to save her life. Louise goes back to reception to get help. But Andres dies before help can get to her. Dom is missing, but police are certain they'll find him before long, especially as he has no known links to Whitby. 

But Louise isn't sure. She feels like something felt wrong in what happened, even though everyone agrees that Dom stabbed Andrea before escaping. She phones her dad in Harrogate, and he manages to get himself seconded to Whitby to work under one of his old mentees, Alice Granger. Oldroyd believes his daughter, and presses the investigation to go further, utilising his current underlings Stephanie and Andy to do so. Of course there's more to the story. I really liked the mystery and how it unravelled, and the chance to get to see a bit more of Louise and her life. 

I would probably have given this five out of five but what annoyed me was some of the names of the children! There's no reason to believe that this series of books isn't set right now, as it's published, but for some reason Alice's children are called Ian and Lesley. Am I supposed to believe that a child born in around 2003 is called Lesley? Because I don't. And there's a few things like this, and they annoy me, and just smack of a writer that can't be bothered to do some proper research and find what children are actually called these days. 

The Lighthouse by Fran Dorricott - Review

Friday, April 15, 2022


I got this book on Netgalley, so thank you very much to Avon Books for granting me access to it. I received a free electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. 

I haven't heard of this author before, but the premise of the book intrigued me. I would read something else by the author, as I found the book pretty good, if a little predictable in parts. It's a pretty standard thriller but there are some genuinely chilling parts. I had to stop reading at one point as I was alone in the house and got too scared!

A group of six friends are heading to a remote Scottish island for a weekend. Kira is a photographer and has been asked to photograph the new accomadation on Ora. There is a lighthouse and adjoining cottage, which have been recently renovated. She takes along her friends - Moira and Jess, a couple who have a small daughter, James, Lukas and Genevieve. James, Moira, Jess, and Lukas met when they started uni; Kira joined them in the third year when she started going out with Lukas. The five were very firm friends, but a few years ago Kira and Lukas split up, acrimoniously. Genevieve is Lukas' new girlfriend and Kira is dreading meeting her. The six are taken to the island in a small boat, which will return on Monday to pick them up, but should make a couple of trips in the meantime too. 

The six disembark and take all their supplies up the slope towards the lighthouse. They all love the accomadation - the cottage has nice bedrooms and a small kitchen, but the real wow is saved for the lighthouse, where there is a big entertaining space and sunroom, and the lighthouse rooms themselves. They explore to the top, where the lamp is, but find that one room on the first floor is locked. Then Jess decides to cook, and discovers that a bottle of wine is missing. It's later found, outside, empty. 

The six eat, and start to drink, and later decide to go down on to the beach. They think about building a fire, and James goes back to find matches. He doesn't return. The other five spend hours looking for him, finding an abandoned shack further up the island. They have no phone signal, and are considering trying to get the coastguard or otherwise, but eventually return to the cottage, where they find James. He is clearly shaken, but won't tell them where he's been or what happened. 

Weird things carry on happening, but there's plenty of tension within the group too. Moira and Jess are finding it hard to be away from their daughter, and keep coming up against each other. James seems withdrawn. Kira has issues with him and with Lukas, and is quick to judge Genevieve because she is Lukas' new girlfriend. Genevieve is trying hard to fit in with the group, but she's got to work with over ten years if history between them. The novel is told from the points of view of Kira, Genevieve and Moira, in turn, and each of them thinks that either Lukas or James may be playing pranks. 

But are they really alone on the island? And if they're not, are the others real, or paranormal? I liked the scary things, they were well written. I did think some of the interactions between the six didn't always ring true - sometimes someone would be really angry and would then quickly lose it, for example. I did like it though, and I'm giving it four out of five. 


Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido - Review

Monday, April 11, 2022


After I read Brother of the More Famous Jack right at the beginning of this year, I went on to the Barnsley library website to search for other books by her and placed a hold on one. I was patient about it arriving, but it didn't, so when I was in Penistone library for craft club I asked the librarian what was happening, and she realised the book in question was missing. The only other copy was one in the readers group lots - these tend to be collections of at least 7 copies of the same book that are loaned out to the readers groups. My own book club started out as one of these so we sometimes do get these collections to read, so I'm familiar with them. The librarian said she could reserve one for me, I just had to promise to get it back to the library quickly. As I go fairly often, this wasn't a problem. It does explain the strange label on the book though!

This book is a total saga, it encompasses forty years of the lives of several people. It's one of those where you follow several people and then it all comes together in clever ways at the end. I love books like these because I think it's so clever of the writer to keep threads alive and to weave them all together at the end. I am a writer but I don't write like that at all so I'm always in awe of people who do! The actual action takes place over only a few weeks in 1995, but as I say the story encompasses years and years and many people and families. 

Now, before I review properly, I do have to say that a couple of things really jarred with me given that the book is mostly set in 1995. I was eleven years old then, just a year younger than Zoe, one of our main characters, so I remember it well and remember being her age. Firstly, Zoe is "the last in her class" to have a mobile phone because her parents won't allow her to have one. This doesn't ring true at all to me. The first person in my class to have a mobile didn't have one until 1999, and when I left school in 2000 was when I had one for the first time. So this kind of annoyed me because I just didn't believe it. Secondly, Zoe's mother Caroline is looking for her sister some way into the novel, and finds her church newsletter on the internet. I know people were using the internet in 1995, but I'm just not sure that a pastor's wife would have been uploading her church newsletter for the world. I felt like these were more like 2010 happenings (when the book was published) and they did annoy me. 

But! Those things aside, I did really like the book. At the beginning, Caroline and Josh meet. They are both graduate students in England, but Josh has grown up in South Africa and Caroline is Australian. They start a relationship and have modest plans for their future - Caroline wants to buy a small Victorian terraced house and have four children. On their wedding day, Caroline's mum and sister come for the occasion, and insist that the newlyweds give up their bed in a decommissioned double decker bus for them. Caroline and Josh end up in a tent, Josh beginning to understand the type of person his new mother in law is. Their baby Zoe is born and they're about to buy a house when Caroline's father dies and her mother moves to England. She demands a house and a monthly allowance from Caroline, having apparently been left no money. Janet, Caroline's sister, has cut off all contact. For the next twelve years, Caroline and Josh live on the bus and scrimp and save to keep Caroline's mum happy. They are on the cusp of finally being able to afford a house when Zoe goes off to France on a French exchange and Josh goes back to South Africa for the first time in nearly thirty years for a conference.

I'm telling you this in linear fashion, but the book doesn't do that at all. At the beginning Zoe is heading to France, where she is staying with a boy, Gerard, and which goes horribly wrong right from the beginning. I didn't enjoy either of my French exchanges so I definitely felt for poor Zoe here. I think then we head to South Africa with Josh. He is the adopted son of two secular Jewish people, Bernie and Ida, who fought against the apartheid laws and who had to leave South Africa very quickly when Josh was leaving for England. He was in love with a girl called Hattie back then, who gave up her dream of being a ballet dancer because of her wayward brother. They happen to meet in South Africa, where Hattie is married to a rich man and who she has three children with, the youngest of whom is still at home and completely baffling to Hattie. 

I did guess where the book would end up but there were still a couple of things I didn't guess at all. I loved how it all came together, and it was easy to feel sympathy for most of the characters. I'm giving this five out of five and I'll definitely read something else by her. She's such a good storyteller!


The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves - Review

Friday, April 8, 2022


This book is the sequel to The Long Call which I read last February. That one is the first in a new series by Ann Cleeves, about DI Matthew Venn and set in north Devon around Barnstaple. It was also made into an ITV series last year, which I watched. I liked the first one and enjoyed the TV show, so when I saw this book for sale on Barnsley market I bought it immediately. I think I mentioned the stall - if I take this one back I'll get half off the next one. This is ideal for crime books like this for me. I don't reread them and am not bothered about keeping them, so I'll probably get Lee to swap it for me at one point when he goes into town. There's plenty of the Vera books I haven't read. 

I am glad Cleeves has written a sequel to the first one - I actually think it's lots better than the first one. It felt like she had settled into Matthew Venn a bit more, which I liked. I also really like his DC, Jen, and her inner thoughts are always welcome chapters to read. 

So in this book, Jen is at a party that her friend Cynthia is throwing when a man called Nigel wants to speak to her. Jen is a bit drunk so arranges to speak to Nigel soon. However, she's awoken the next morning by Matthew calling her to say there's been a murder. She heads over to a big house called Westacombe. It's owned by a man called Frank. He has two lodgers in the house, Wesley and Eve, who is a glass maker. A relative of Frank's and her family live in a cottage on site and run the farm. 

Eve is Nigel's daughter and she has found him dead in her workshop on the site. He has been murdered with a piece of glass from one of Eve's pieces. Nigel had been a doctor but when his wife was ill, had taken a job on some kind of advisory panel where patients could complain about treatment received. Matthew and Jen think this was why he wanted to speak to Jen, so they start to investigate people he was dealing with. 

Matthew's mother visits him and Jonathan, which I'd have liked to see more of, but I get that there are constraints to books. Matthew was brought up in a religious sect which he left as a teenager and was estranged from his parents, and at the beginning of the first book his dad has died, but he does speak to his mother. I felt like I understood Matthew a bit more here. I will say that I feel like Jonathan remains a bit of a one dimensional character; he's there as Matthew's husband but you never get a full sense of who he is as a person. 

I also need to trigger warn for suicide and discussion of suicide. This is one of my main triggers (I lost my dad to suicide) and it was quite a lot for me. There's discussion of suicide methods and a couple of characters are very unsympathetic towards the issue. I did enjoy the book and this won't put me off reading any more in this series, but by the end I was a bit like, well I'm glad that's over and I don't have to read anything else about suicide for a while. Your mileage may vary on this so be careful if this is a trigger for you. 

I did really like this though, I'm giving it four out of five! 


The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos - Review

Monday, April 4, 2022

 

This was our March choice for my book club. I'm not sure who chose it, but I was a bit apprehensive about the book but ended up really enjoying it. It is a bizarre book though! I think most people will like it but I bet there's a couple in my book club who don't!

So this book is a translation of the original French, so of course there may be some things that aren't exactly as the author intended, but I quite like that. It's also a very meta book, it self-references several times. It's also very tongue in cheek, which I liked. The narration is a little odd too, at several points there are footnotes in the book where the narrator becomes completely omniscient and tells the reader something that will happen later. I don't often read books like this, but I don't mind it. 

The book is set in Brittany, near Dinan, which is somewhere I've been so I could imagine it perfectly which I liked. There is a library in a town called Crozon, and the librarian there has set up a library for writers' discarded manuscripts. Based on something American author Richard Brautigan really did, the librarian, Gourvec, has set up a place for authors to drop off their unpublished manuscripts. His only rule is that they must be dropped off in person. Courvec dies, and his assistant, who I think is called Marion, takes over the library.

Meanwhile, an author called Frederic has written an underwhelming book and is feeling despondent about it. His girlfriend Delphine is an editor for a publishing house; she is who published him. He is determined to write a better novel. He accompanies Delphine to Brittany, where she is from. Her parents mention Gourvec's library, so Frederic and Delphine head across. 

There they find a manuscript that they think is brilliant. It has the name Henri Pick on it. Some digging finds that he is dead, and that he was the owner of a pizzeria in town, which he owned with his wife Madeleine. Delphine wants to publish the book, so they visit Madeleine to ask her permission. 

Madeleine is surprised that her husband wrote a book, as she never saw him read anything and spent most of her time with him. She agrees that he could have written in the early mornings. She and her daughter Josephine, owner of a lingerie shop in Rennes, decide that the book can be published. 

It is, and both women appear on TV and in newspapers to talk about the book. The book is a huge success and the library grows extensively as more and more people visit it. But some people wonder whether Henri could have written such a masterpiece at all. A journalist called Rouche heads to Brittany to investigate. He is in the middle of breaking up with his girlfriend, which is an interesting plot point but ultimately not relevant to the story. That's NOT the only plot point like that, but I liked it!

It took me a day or two to get into the book but once I did I really liked it. It's boggling and it changes direction a lot, which I also liked. I would recommend it for sure, and I'm giving it four out of five. 

Dread Wood by Jennifer Killick - Book Tour and Review

Friday, April 1, 2022


Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the blog tour for Dread Wood by Jennifer Killick. It is a pleasure to welcome you! I don't read a lot of middle grade but I was so intrigued by the premise of this book that I just had to sign up for the tour. I know I've got another of Jennifer's books somewhere, so I'll have to dig it out soon as I enjoyed this one so much. 

The book is suitable for ten year olds and older, but be aware there are parts that are genuinely scary and horrific - I am very much a grown up and still found some parts shocking! I want to warn as well for some parts of animal cruelty, which I know some people and kids especially can find difficult to read. 

So, the book is narrated by Angelo. He has got into trouble at school, and must now serve a Saturday detention. Joining him are Naira, Hallie, and Gustav. The four of them had some kind of riot in the dining room, and have to serve their punishment with Mr Canton. Mr Canton insists on taking their phones from them, but before he can get them to start doing what they're doing, he disappears. 

The school has some animals on site, including some pigs and their piglets, and chickens, as well as lots of insects, spiders, reptiles and all kinds of others inside the school. Angelo, who is a bit of a loner, particularly likes the pigs and spends a lot of time with them. 

The kids see some strange behaviour from the caretaker, Mr Latchitt, and his wife, and go to their house to see what's happening. They shockingly see Mrs Latchitt throw a live chicken down the well, and realise that she is feeding something down there. They start back towards the school and find Mr Canton - only then a hole opens up on the field below him and he disappears. Angelo tries his best to save him, but can't. The hole then reseals itself, taking Mr Canton with it. But Angelo is pretty sure that there was something else in the hole with Mr Canton, something with hairy legs, something which is kind of familiar...?

The kids realise something funny is going on. They try to unravel it, getting themselves into quite some danger as they do. They each have a secret too. Angelo doesn't have many friends; his parents work two jobs each to keep the family afloat and Angelo doesn't always have enough food to feed himself and his brother properly. I loved this bit - I really appreciate it when working class families are shown in books because that's reality for a lot of kids. The four aren't particularly friends at the start of the book but they definitely are by the end. I loved how tough the girls were too, how they got stuck in to every fight and showed no fear. I also really liked Gus' secret, but I won't spoil it. 

I think this book left itself open to a sequel, which I would love to see! I am giving this five out of five as I thoroughly enjoyed it! 
 

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