Rebecca McCormick. Powered by Blogger.

Spare by Prince Harry - Review

Friday, March 29, 2024

I listened to this book on Spotify and it took me forever! I was really interested to listen to it, but I don't listen to audiobooks that much - mostly just on the way to work and back just once a week. This is also really long at nearly sixteen hours long! But I persevered and I finally finished it in the middle of March. I've already had some interesting conversations about it and if you've read it I would love to hear your opinion too. 

It's read by Harry which was a plus in its favour because I find him quite personable and it was interesting to listen to him for so long. But I am glad to have finished this!

So I'll start off by saying that I am in no way a Royalist. I would get rid of the Royal Family in its entirety if it was up to me. I don't buy any of the arguments for keeping them, so I'm not a fan. But I do find Harry interesting, to say the least. I think he's done a lot of work on his privileges since he met Meghan and is doing well... but is still a ridiculously overprivileged person with no real idea about the real world. I also sympathise because of course he lost his mum so tragically, and I did already think that the press had just been terrible towards Harry and Meghan and was interested to see what he had to say. I guess I'm saying I like him more than some of his family, but still wouldn't say I'm a fan.

I will also say that in any given situations there are shades of truth. There's my truth and perception, there's your truth and perception, and there's the actual truth, which is probably somewhere in the middle. People bring their past experiences and prejudices to any situation, and they don't always have all the information that they might need to understand the entire truth. So some of this book I think is definitely just Harry's perceptions of many of his experiences.... many of which stem from feeling like he's just the 'spare' and not the heir. 

The book is roughly split into three parts - the first part details his early life and the death of his mother, and his school days. The middle part is his later teens, his time abroad, his military career, his early relationships, and the 'naughty' Harry that the papers kept writing about. The third part is about Meghan and their relationship and the abuse Meghan suffered, and their escape to California, and the birth of their two children. The book ends just as the Queen died, and honestly, if I was Harry, I don't think I would ever forgive my family for that debacle. 

Overarching themes are that Charles is very closed off from his sons and that a lot of issues could be solved if he wasn't, that he tells them to not read the papers instead of like actually doing something, and that he courts the press himself when he wants to, that William is a self entitled douche because he's the heir, that William doesn't like to rock the boat but is resentful when Harry does, that the Queen has to be consulted on literally everything, that Harry and Meghan really should have been given security even now, that they didn't want to leave the family but needed more help and protection, that Harry has just been badly let down since he was a child by a lot of the adults in his life. And I would include Diana there too. She has her own stuff going on when he was just little. It's obvious that Harry has looked for parent figures outside of his own family, maybe just because he is a more emotionally mature person and craves that in others. 

The first part was interesting because there's a lot of stuff about the ways and traditions of the Royal Family that I just didn't know, and that Harry just accepted when he was little. As he grows up he pushes back against some of these because he just wants to know the why of certain things. For example, he has to ask the Queen's permission to keep his beard for his wedding day, and William is angry about it because he wasn't able to. But it's not obvious if William even asked, or if he just took the 'no' from courtiers as an answer and shaved. Harry clearly didn't accept this, and William complained about it. I also felt for Harry as he just clearly felt like the extra part and just not wanted very much. Royal life seems lonely and like you're just shunted from one place to another, and Harry seems to have been thought of as the 'thick' one. It was interesting to hear about where he was when 9/11 happened as that's something that unites all of us of a certain age above. And in fact, Harry is only 8 months younger than me - I turned forty in January and he will turn forty in September. 

The second part was interesting too, because there was all of Harry's rambunctious party ways as well as his military career. I knew he had served but didn't know too much about it. I do think he talks about killing members of the Taliban in a really blase, unbothered way. I would have liked a deeper dive into that. His experiences travelling in Botswana and at the north and south poles were really interesting too - but again, he glosses over the immense privilege he has had in being able to go there in the first place.

The third part is adorable because it's just their love story. It would be hard for anyone, even Meghan haters, to not feel for them as Harry describes falling in love and being besieged by the press. It's obvious that Meghan has suffered disgusting racist abuse and just nonsense because she didn't understand royal protocol - but who of us would? Like for instance closing her own car door - don't we all do that automatically when we get out of the car? We've been doing it since we were small children, for goodness sake. I have to say I wouldn't wait for an aide to do it either!

It's clear that Harry loathes the press, but it's easy to understand why, too. Not only because of his mother but because of what he's suffered through and his wife. I'm not surprised he's suing them; I am surprised that family's reaction seemed to be like, oh well, what can you do? He doesn't seem to like Camilla very much at all. It's easy to believe his version of the truth on most things, but I know that that can't be right. But it's easy to WANT to believe him, too. 

In all I'm giving this four out of five. I'm glad I listened to it all. 

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak - Review

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

This was my book club book choice for March. We previously read Three Daughters of Eve by the same author back in 2020. I did quite like it but didn't love it, but I had liked it enough to give this a go. I ended up loving this and now want everyone to read it so we can talk about it!

So the protagonist of the book is Leila, known as Tequila Leila, a sex worker in Istanbul, who is murdered at the beginning of the book. Her body is put in a dumpster and as her brain shuts down, she thinks back over her life and introduces the reader to each of her five friends, and explains how and why she's ended up murdered and abandoned. The second part documents what happens to her body and the third part documents what happens to her soul, but these parts are much smaller than the first part. 

Leila grew up in a place called Van with her mother, her father, and her father's second wife, who she called Auntie. She learns that she is actually Auntie's daughter when she is around ten I think. Auntie has another baby then, a son, which pleases Leila's father, but he is unwell, and doesn't survive much longer. Leila's parents are pretty neglectful of her. She leaves home when she is sixteen and escapes to Istanbul. I think her parents want to marry her off and she refuses. 

She starts to work as a sex worker on a street in Istanbul with legal brothels on it. It was really interesting to read about the changing fashions of the women and how the country became a bit more conservative over the course of Leila's life. Her first friend worked in a factory near the brothel and then disappeared; when the two reconnect Nalan has come out as trans as is living as a woman. She is the first of the five. There are flashbacks to how they met and stuff, which is repeated with each of the other friends and which is a really clever way of writing this in a novel. Each of the five learns about Leila's death and they rush to find her because they know her family won't claim her body and they want to claim her before her body is taken to an unmarked grave in a dedication cemetery. 

I can't remember all of the friends which is ridiculous because I only finished this book a couple of days ago as I'm writing this, but they are all outsiders in Istanbul's hierachy for one reason or another. Silan was a friend of Leila's from childhood and he lives a respectable life with his wife and children, but he loves her and wants to stay in touch. He just doesn't tell his family that he is friends with a sex worker. There's Jameelah, an African immigrant, there's one who is a little person, and there's another, the details of whom have left me. I really liked the friends and there's a lot in the book about found and chosen family which I really liked. 

I loved Leila and found her story sad, but with joyful parts too. She falls in love with a man called D/Ali (not a typo) and gets caught up in a riot. The story of Turkey sizzles away in the background. I reckon that my book club will have really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to discussing it. I'm giving it five out of five.  

Razor Blade Tears by S A Cosby - Review

Friday, March 22, 2024

This book was given to me in a swap that I joined in with at Christmas. I said I liked crime novels and was sent this. It wasn't the type of thing that I would normally pick up but I was intrigued by it, so I was pleased to receive it. I recently realised that I need to read all my Christmas books before the year gets away from me entirely, so I picked this up. In all I did like reading it, but I didn't love it, so I wouldn't bother picking up something else by the same author. 

For a start it's really gruesome! I'm not particularly squeamish but I found this quite hard to read at points. There's a lot of gore, so I would consider that a warning if it's something you don't like. I won't be passing this on to my mum because she would find it too gruesome I'm sure! I also found it really hard to read the slurs that are used in the book - they do all fit in context and I understood why characters said them, but it's still hard to read. The N word is used a number of times, and so is f***ot for gay people. Neither of these are terms that I would use so I find them hard to read. But I'll get on to their context... 

Secondly, I felt that the book needed a better edit. There's something peculiar to American writers where the paragraphs just don't have the correct grammar and it makes it hard to work out who's speaking at times. This means that I had to read some pages twice in order to get a grip on to who said what. I wish these authors would just use more paragraphs! And understand that is Person A is doing something in one paragraph, that paragraph really belongs to them and their actions and reactions. And then Person B needs a whole new paragraph for what they're doing. Don't tack on what Person B is doing at the end of that paragraph because it's confusing! 

Thirdly, it's just a really dense book. Things keep happening and they just don't stop happening. I really wish we had had a little bit more downtime, but I understand that's the nature of the book. So it's fine. It fits with the genre. It just made it really hard to read. It took me nearly a week to read which was just too long in my book. 

Criticisms over, here's what the book is about:

Ike is a Black man living in Virginia with his wife Mya when their son and his husband are killed, leaving behind their little girl, Arianna. Mya takes custody, therefore, and they both have to live without their son. Ike feels guilty because he didn't treat his son at all well. So when his son's father in law comes knocking, trying to get Ike to find out who killed their sons, Ike is riled up. But he says no - he's going straight now, he's a law abiding citizen - until the boys' graves are desecrated. Then, it's on. 

So yeah, Ike and Mya had a son, Isiah. When Isiah was young, Ike went to prison for manslaughter. I think he served about a decade, maybe a bit less. He was running with a gang beforehand, and in prison too. He leaves prison with gang tattoos on his hands. His gang name was 'Riot', which he has tattooed, but he's not that person anymore. He has gone straight by setting up a lawncare/gardening business, and employs a bunch of people under him. Mya is a nurse. Ike missed out on a bunch of milestones in Isiah's life. Isiah went to college and there he met Derek and came out. When Ike learnt of this, he flipped out and has never accepted his gay son. He refused to go to their wedding, and he's had very little to do with their daughter, Arianna. But when Isiah is killed, Ike realises the error of his ways and realises that he can never undo what he did. But maybe he can make amends? 

Derek, meanwhile, doesn't have much family at all. His mother and her new husband are conservative Christians who don't need a gay son married to a Black man to stop their political careers. His dad, Buddy Lee, is an alcoholic who has also served time and who is just a bit of a loser. Buddy Lee also didn't accept Derek and Isiah - he is a white redneck type who is quite racist and homophobic. But he desperately wants to find out who killed his son and Derek's husband, and the police seem to have let the trail go cold. 

So the two men head off together to try to find stuff out. They come across a white supremacist biker gang who have ties to local gangsters. They visit where Isiah worked - a queer newspaper - where they get an unhappy welcome. They visit the bakery where Derek worked and get some information. And they are visited, too. They go to a gay bar which doesn't end well. They know who they're looking for, but where is she? And how is she involved?

I did guess a couple of the red herrings but I get why Ike and Buddy Lee didn't because they're both kind of idiots. It's interesting actually because they're both really quite terrible people, and yet I still wanted them to succeed and I didn't really care what they did to achieve their aims. They were in the moral right. And they both did learn lessons about themselves, about each other, and about their sons and the world by the end. I also really liked the end - it was like an action film where everything just keeps crashing and burning and the bad guys just won't die. 

In all I'm giving this four out of five, with the above caveats. 

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang - Review

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

I've heard so much about this book and have been tempted to buy it a bunch of times, but then I decided to put it on hold at the library. It took AGES to come through! It's also a book club choice for later in the year so I did wonder if I ought to save it until then but I really wanted to read it, and I also didn't want to miss my chance. I'm hoping to write enough of a review here that means I can remember the book in detail later in the year, but who knows if that will happen or not... Anyway, here we go. 

June Hayward is an author living in Washington DC. She went to Yale, studied Creative Writing, and has had her debut novel published. It was a thinly veiled look at siblinghood and June's relationship with her mother, and it sort of did okay. She's trying to work out what she wants to write next. She is friends with Athena Liu, who she went to college with, and who is a bright light in publishing circles currently. She has written a few brilliant novels about the Chinese diaspora. She is in demand and is just lauded all over. She and June are sort of friends - there's a lot of jealousy on June's part and Athena can be sort of disparaging and just sort of rude towards her. They're hanging out one night and they go back to Athena's apartment, and something happens and Athena ends up dying. June has seen a draft of a new novel that she has just finished next to her antique typewriter, and she ends up taking it. Stealing it. 

She is traumatised by Athena's death, for sure. She reads the novel, which isn't exactly a complete draft. It's about Chinese men who were sent to the front line in France during the first World War and Athena has left a lot of gaps but has outlined the whole thing and shown her research. June decides that she will 'polish' and refine the novel. She sells it amidst huge furore and it is a huge sensation when it hits the shelves. 

Some people are immediately suspicious, although they don't have specific proof that she has stolen it from Athena. But still, it's something like Athena would have written, and a lot of Chinese authors are (rightfully) annoyed that June (who is white) has taken this opportunity from a Chinese author. June begins to be 'cancelled' online. Then a Twitter purporting to be Athena's ghost lets out some information about June, and everything goes wrong. 

She is certain that no one actually has proof - and why shouldn't she have taken Athena's work? She made it better! Athena is dead... isn't she? But then June needs another idea, and there are more ideas in the work she stole... 

The book is a searing look at publishing and how it works, and at cancellation culture, which I liked. It also looks at who "should" be writing books and how Athena had been pushed into a corner too really, only "allowed" to write about Chinese people and their stories. Neither June nor Athena come off well. Neither does Athena's mum, who sort of could have done things that she refuses to do for reasons I'm not quite certain of. The book also looks at trolling and the impact it has on June. It is hard to not feel any sympathy for her even though she's incredibly self serving. There's also stuff about writing and how writers do steal everything and what the ethical lines are there. 

I do wish that we had learned what had happened to June's dad. It's obvious that he died quite shockingly when June and Rory were young, but it's never explained. I think it would have explained more about June and her relationship with her mother. 

I do also think that because June is looking back on the whole debacle later on, the book does a lot of 'telling' and not showing. She barely has any real time conversations with anyone, and she comes across a bit robotic. I did still find the book incredibly compelling and read it quickly, but this did annoy me.

In all I'm giving this four out of five because I did like it, and I do think it deserves quite a lot of its hype. I would recommend it!

Foster by Claire Keegan - Review

Saturday, March 16, 2024


I got this book for my birthday from Lee's brother and sister in law! As you may have seen, I've previously read two others of Claire Keegan's novellas and really enjoyed them. This one was on my wishlist which is where Lee's brother picked it from. It was a lovely present and I picked it up to take away with me on a work weekend where I knew I wouldn't have much time or energy for reading. It was perfect for that because it's so slight but still riveting. 

The protagonist of the story is never called by name, but she is a girl of maybe ten or eleven. She lives with her parents in Wexford, in a family with many siblings. Her mother is expecting again and, unable to cope, her parents have decided to send her 'down country' to some relatives of her mother's. She doesn't know them. They are the Kinsellas and they live on a small farm with a small bungalow. The girl is welcomed in, and given a little room of her own. There is no sign of a child but she is given a boy's clothes to wear and her room has train wallpaper. 

The girl flourishes under the care and attention of the Kinsellas. She spends her days helping around the farm and both John and Edna seem to genuinely care about her. Edna says something about how if she was theirs, she wouldn't be left in the company of strangers. They take the girl to town for clothes of her own and she learns that they did have a son, who died in a tragic accident. They are clearly still sad about it. The girl I think would have stayed there, but all too soon her dad turns up to take her back home and it seems like the Kinsellas will be saddened again by her leaving. 

I'm giving this four out of five; I really liked it.

A Swift Return by Fiona Barker, Illustrated by Howard Grey - Blog Tour and Review

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for A Swift Return. It is a pleasure to welcome you here and I hope you will click around my blog to read some of my other reviews. I don't often review children's books, and I don't often read them as I don't have children, but I signed up to this because I really liked the sound of the book. 

It is written by Fiona Barker and illustratred by Howard Gray. I know that in children's books the illustrations are often as important as the words, because they provide visual cues for early readers so they can grasp the story, and because they add background details. The illustrations in this book are absolutely divine, and I would encourage you to spend some time looking at them if you read this book. 

The story is about a little girl, Aria, who "has her head in the clouds". Yousuf, meanwhile, has his feet firmly on the ground. They live near each other in an apartment block and watch the birds. One falls to the ground, injured. The two work together to nurse the swift back to health and later set her free too. 

I loved the book and would recommend it for your small ones. I'll be passing on my copy to my friend S and her little girl! 

The Djinn's Apple by Djamila Morani

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for The Djinn's Apple by Djamila Morani. It is a pleasure to welcome you here. Please do have a click around and read some of my other reviews. 

I don't often read books in translation but this one was done in a lovely way. Here's to translators the world over! There were certain phrases that were just so beautiful and which added to this book feeling like poetry almost. It definitely feels like a bit of a dream. 

The book is set in Baghdad, in the Abbasid period of time, under that caliphate. This was new to me so I enjoyed learning a little bit about it. At the beginning of the book Nardeen is twelve and she lives with her parents, her two older brothers, and her little sister. Her dad is a doctor and a translator; he teaches Nardeen about healing the sick and so on. She wants to be a doctor too. The caliph doesn't like her family, and one night his men break in and kill all of Nardeen's famile except for her. She manages to escape, unsure who or what they are looking for. She comes round in a hospital and learns she has been captured as a slave and will be sold. 

However, then a man called Ishaq saves her from that. He is known to her and it's not entirely clear whose side he is on. But she trusts him and over the next four years they do build a sort of father/daughter relationship. Then he takes her to the hospital where he teaches, and includes her in the teaching even though the male students aren't too keen on this. But she can do things that the men can't, including treating high class women who can't be seen uncovered by men. Ishaq teaches Nardeen to trust in her instincts. She starts to fall in love. But she still wants to serve justice on the men who killed her family... what will she do when she comes face to face with one of them?

I loved the setting of this book and Nardeen is a great character. I loved the historical background and really I just wish it had been longer because I wanted more of it!

Thank you for reading. Please check out the other stops on the tour! 

Blogger news


Most Read