REVIEW: All About Us

“I guess none of us turned out how we thought we would at nineteen. We all made mistakes and concessions and wrong turnings.”

Why Did I Read This Book? 

My lovely friend, Lucy @ Drafted Dreams, sent me this book after reading it herself earlier in December. She really enjoyed it and loved how it is kind of like a play on the traditional A Christmas Carol’ story which we were reading with the ‘Let’s Get Classical’ Book Club. 

What Did I Think? 

I read this during a time where I was moving out of my parents’ home and into my first ever home with my boyfriend. So what should have been a quick and easy read, took me several days to finish. However, I found myself not wanting to put the book down and when I wasn’t reading it, the story was often floating around in my head. 

If you don’t know All About Us follows a man named Ben who has been married to his wife Daphne for over 10 years but the magic/love is fading and whilst reminiscing and considering what his life would be like if he had gone for a different woman, he accidentally meets a mysterious time-travelling man/ghost who shows him glimpses of Ben’s past, future and present. 

I loved how the author focused on the ‘what if’ question because let’s be honest we have all considered what our lives would look like now if we hadn’t chosen the paths we have. So it was really interesting to relive Ben’s earlier life and see how those events shaped who he was today, and even more interestingly, Ben reacting differently to past events having lived them once before. 

I also loved the deeper exploration into grief and how it affects the human brain and relationships. Ben is clearly grieving when we meet him in the present day and has allowed his mental health to decline massively as a result, with his relationships with his wife and friends suffering too. 

I really enjoyed the book and the pace and I would love to see it be made into a film. I especially thought the author’s focus on men’s mental health was refreshing because personally, I don’t think male mental health is talked about enough. The depiction of male friendship made me giggle because in my experience, men never really seem to talk about their real feelings with their mates and just brush things off before it gets too deep. So it was funny (and I guess important) to see this explored in the book too. 

A real Christmassy treat! 

All About Us

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: HQ
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 400
Genre: Romance, holiday
Trigger Warnings: Cheating, death, family death, grief, depression, mental health, anxiety
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells 

REVIEW: The Christmas Killer

“The sky remained heavy and grey, and the air felt raw. James wondered if this was the calm before the storm.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was chosen as my local book club read and as someone who hasn’t really ever read any Christmassy books, I was excited to experience my first one.

What Did I Think?

However, this book was not for me and I eventually made the hard decision to DNF the book after about 100 pages. I was recently listening to a new podcast called Off the Shelf by Phoebe at Pause Books where she interviewed a friend and she had this great commitment to giving a book 100 pages to impress you and if it doesn’t and you’re not enjoying it, then to just DNF.

I’m a strong advocate for DNF-ing books that just aren’t doing it for you and sadly The Christmas Killer was that for me. But I cannot stress enough that although I really didn’t enjoy this book, that is my opinion, and you may find that you love it so please still give it a try if it’s one you’re considering reading.

The reason I chose to DNF the book was that it was just too incredibly cheesy for me and included a lot of one-dimensional and ‘simple’ characters that I just found difficult to imagine. One thing I disliked most about it was the relationship between our protagonist and his wife. I thought to myself that marriages are surely NOT this easy and plain-sailing, especially when there is a mass murderer on the loose. The wife just seemed to ‘keep herself busy’ and when she couldn’t, she would sit at home endlessly pining for her husband. I’m sorry but have we gone back to the 19th Century?

There were other reasons why this book didn’t do it for me but instead of droning on about all the reasons I didn’t like it, I’ll stop here.

Not for me but I’ll definitely still try to read the other Christmas books I have planned for this month to see if they are any better.

The Christmas Killer

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Avon
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Thriller
Trigger Warnings: Violence, blood, death, murder, stereotypes, abuse, knife crime 
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: The Switch

“That’s the way with old friends. You understand each other, even when there’s not enough words out there for everything that should be said.”  

Why Did I Read This Book?

After finishing 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, I was on the hunt for a light, easy read. The Switch has been on my TBR since finishing The Flatshare earlier this year. In a previous blog post (Authors I’ve Found in 2020 That I Now Love) I mentioned that Beth O’leary has easily become one of my favourite authors I’ve found this year, so of course I had to give her a second book a read.

What Did I Think?

The Switch was everything I hoped for and more. A heart-warming read that interestingly showed the importance and variance of happiness. What makes you happy, might not make another person happy and that’s OK.

The Switch follows our two protagonists and grandmother/granddaughter: Leena and Eileen Cotton. Both ladies are fed up with their lives and need something that can switch things up. Leena lives in London and has an incredibly busy and stressful life which has led to her developing unprovoked anxiety attacks and a two-month forced sabbatical. Eileen’s husband has run off with a yoga teacher and has left her lost in a world where she feels she no longer belongs.

The two decide to swap lives, with Eileen going to live in London with Leena’s young flatmates in a mission to get her love life back into action and Leena moves to a small town in the countryside and is thrown into festival planning with the local unruly pensioners.

The things I love about Beth O’Leary’s books is her comedy and ability to sum feelings and experiences up in a way that makes you question how you feel and how you react to certain events. For example, Leena is obviously punishing herself and hiding her grief after the loss of her sister to cancer by keeping herself unbelievably busy and distant.

“You were healing. You’re still healing. You’ll maybe always be healing. And that’s OK. It’ll just be part of what makes you you.”

Although I have never experienced grief myself, I could relate to the way Leena behaves when I try and escape my problems by keeping busy and aloof. There was certainly a lightbulb moment whilst reading this book where I could relate to how Leena was behaving and why.

I would definitely say though that I enjoyed Eileen’s story more because it was great to see her adapt to modern dating and the laughs she had along the way. Especially some of her horrific Tinder experiences…

The story reminded me of a non-Christmas version of The Holiday and similar to a book I read earlier this year called The Lido in the depiction of young/old relationships. It was certainly one I enjoyed and one I definitely needed to read.

The Switch

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher:
# of Pages:
Genre: Comedy
Trigger Warnings: Cancer, death, work-related stress, anxiety, loneliness, divorce, family feuds
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: Corrupt

“Things done in the dark hours of the night, behind closed doors, or in the heat of the moment looked a lot different in the morning, out in the open, and with a clear head.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This is far from the usual genres I read but my local book club picked it as the book for this month and I was up for giving it a go. I think the best thing about book clubs is that you can easily challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

What Did I Think?

Personally, I would say that I am a little crude when it comes to the vocabulary used to describe sex scenes and some of the language in this book definitely made me cringe. But by the end of this book, it’s safe to say I’ve got used to the language.

Just to warn you, if you erotica or dark romance isn’t normally your thing, I wouldn’t start with this book. I had no idea that this book was classed as a dark romance until I got about five chapters in and it was evidently clear. There are some pretty horrific scenes in this book and I would like to urge anyone thinking about delving into this genre, to be careful about which books you pick. For me, I’ve read some pretty dark and disturbing stories over the years, but even for me, this book was eye-opening.

Corrupt follows a rich young woman named Erika who, whilst she was at school, got mixed up with the wrong sort of boys and ended up causing a lot of trouble. Since then, years have passed but the group of four men haven’t forgotten the pain she’s caused them and set out to get their revenge. What makes this difficult is that the leader of the group, Michael Crist, and Erika are both irresistible to each other, blurring the lines between love and hate.

I would say that for my first-ever erotica novel, this one was quite a rollercoaster and one that I didn’t feel comfortable reading in a room full of people. However, the ending for me became too dramatic and over-the-top and began to ruin all the drama, suspense and tension that the author had created prior. Safe to say, I can’t wait to discuss this one with book club!

Corrupt

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Penelope Douglas LLC
Published: 2015
# of Pages: 461
Genre: Erotica, Dark Romance
Trigger Warnings: Violence, abuse, bondage, rough-sex, crime, abusive relationships
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, ” data-type=”URL” data-id=”"www.blackwells.co.uk"“>Blackwells

REVIEW: In Five Years

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was the October pick for Beth’s Book Club and this is one that I have wanted to read for such a long time. When I first joined Bookstagram, this book was just being released so it was everywhere I looked when I was scrolling through my feed.

“This is a love story but not the love story you’re expecting.”

What Did I Think?

I’m glad that Beth picked an easy book to finish October off. The book itself is just over 200 pages, with short chapters and an easy-to-follow storyline and it was everything I needed when I decided to pick this one up. 

The book is about Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan, who has the perfect life; a good career, a gorgeous fiance and the dream flat in New York. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and next to a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

There was fantastic character development in this book and I had really started to bond closely with the protagonist Dannie by the end. I really liked the idea that she saw what was going to happen in five years and the story led us to that very moment with twists and turns along the way. 

I expected a light-hearted love story/rom-com but I got something very different so I would just pre-warn you if you are thinking about reading this book that isn’t your usual romance novel. I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I devoured the book in one day.

In Five Years

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Quercus
Published: 2020 (UK)
# of Pages: 251
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Death, cancer, relationship, breakdown, heartbreak, grief
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: After The End

“When you stand at the crossroads you cannot see each destination, only the beginnings of the paths that will lead you there. All you can do is hope that someone will walk with you.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was a Beth’s Book Club pick for September/October and I’m ashamed to say, this has been the only time I haven’t finished the book in time for the book club discussion…shame on me, I know. 

But I started it on the Friday before the discussion on Sunday and I was determined to finish it. I guess that’s one of the best things about virtual book club discussions, especially Beth’s, I can easily catch up on what was discussed if I couldn’t make the discussion.

What Did I Think?

So I picked this book up after getting some pretty bad news and I did think to myself whether I’d be able to concentrate on the book whilst my head had fallen off. I took a weekend off social media (something I do every weekend now) and dedicated it to doing some feel-good stuff. 

Yet this book is far from feel-good so it probably wasn’t the best pick. If you don’t know After The End is about a couple who have a terminally ill son who need to make a BIG decision regarding his care. The book is slightly unusual in the fact that we follow the two main characters, Max and Pip, in the future and see how the court decision impacted their relationship. The concept was really strange and it took me a while to understand what was happening but, I think Clare Mackintosh did a wonderful job of exploring how parents’ lives are changed/affected when you have a disabled/seriously ill child. 

“No one knows what’s going to happen in the future. The only thing we can do is make our choices on the way we feel right now.”

However…I don’t think I was ever really hooked on the story and that could have been because I was reading it at the wrong time. I would definitely say that After The End wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read but I enjoyed the narrative and I had never really read a story like this before. I also think it was incredibly brave of Clare to write this book based on her personal experience. It must have been hard for her during that time, and to relive that experience whilst writing this book must have been even harder, yet also a kind of healing process for her?

After The End

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Sphere
Published: 2019
# of Pages: 370
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Disability, terminal illness, ICU, intensive care, court cases, life vs death, divorce, grief
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: Fifty Fifty

“Most killers I’d come across I could make a stab at some kind of explanation for their behaviour. I was always able to rationalise it. This time, there was no easy explanation.
No key. This one I couldn’t rationalise.
There was something dark at the heart of this case.
Something evil.
Watching.
Waiting.”

Why Did I Read This?

This was my local book club pick for October and I have to say this book won all but one vote! Everyone was desperate to read this thriller…and I can see why.

What Did I Think?

OK, guys…it’s been a while since I’ve read a thriller and this book reminded me EXACTLY why I love this genre. 

If this is the first time hearing about this book, Fifty Fifty is about two sisters who are BOTH on trial for the murder of their father. Each thinks each other has killed him. But one is a LIAR.

This was my first time reading a Steve Cavanagh novel, but I had heard extremely great things about his other novel, ‘Th1rte3n’. This book had everything a good thriller needs. Intertwining stories. Different narratives. Twists. Turns. Suspense.

One thing I loved about this book was we get a narrative from the killer herself but Steve Cavanagh does an incredible job of keeping her identity under wraps right until the VERY end. That’s what I love so much about a good thriller, you’re kept guessing right until the final pages and this was certainly the case with Fifty Fifty.

Cavanagh also did a great job of giving us a perspective from a female lawyer within the industry. Kate’s perspective and the experience was one of my favourites throughout the novel because all the odds were against her. She starts the book by being controlled by a horrible, sexist, and pervy boss. Cavanagh was clever and brave to address the sexual abuse and biased behavior within the legal system.

I loved both the lawyers (even though they were fighting on different sides) because they each had their quirks but worked extremely well together. 

There wasn’t anything I didn’t particularly not enjoy about this book because like I said before, I thought it included everything a good thriller should, but when my boyfriend asked me if it was a 5-star, I had to think about it. And for me, if I have to question whether a book deserved 5 stars, then it probably didn’t. However, my opinion might change once we discuss it with the book club because those discussions either go one of two ways; I either end up loving it more or loving it less! 

Safe to say though, I have added a few of Steve Cavanagh’s other books to my TBR!

Fifty Fifty

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Orion
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 349
Genre: Thriller
Trigger Warnings: Violence, blood, murder, abuse, graphic scenes, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, inappropriate behaviour at work
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: Expectation

“I think the pressure for women to have a perfect home is one of the greatest heists of capitalism.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was the September pick for Beth’s Book Club and I luckily had a brilliant copy due to it being one of Richard and Judy’s Summer 2020 Book Club picks too! 

I had heard very good things about the book and whilst I was reading it, it seemed that everyone else on my social media was too! 

What Did I Think?

What I liked the most about this book was that it portrayed the modern woman’s life perfectly. There was no beating around the bush that Anna Hope wanted to create a story that shows the pressures of womanhood in these modern times. 

If you are unaware, Expectation follows Hannah, Cate, and Lissa who are young, vibrant, and inseparable. They live on the edge of a common in East London, and their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each is hungry for what the others have. And each is wrestling with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

Expectation honestly depicts female friendship and how it changes with age and milestones. All three women lead different lives but each woman has something in her life that she wishes she could change. One is desperate for a child, one is regretting ever having a child and the other is desperate to for that BIG break in her dream career. I think throughout the story, you feel for each character but you find yourself disagreeing and becoming angry with the choices they make. 

It feels like each woman is having a mid-life crisis and is questioning whether the life they are leading was what they wanted. It was extremely refreshing to hear the problems that these women were facing are problems that we all face from time to time. Questioning whether you’re leading a meaningful life is something I suppose everyone questions at some point in their life and it was refreshing to see this from a female perspective. 

Anna Hope does a fantastic job of playing with societal ‘expectations’ (excuse the pun) of what women need in their life to be considered ‘successful’ or ‘happy’. I think the title works fabulously in a bunch of different ways, whether that be society’s expectations or the expectations that each character holds when they are young and fresh out of uni with their whole lives ahead of them. Each character ‘expected’ their life to be completely different from the one they eventually end up leading but is that always a bad thing? 

I enjoyed this book, but I feel like the first part of the book is a lot more enticing than the second part. I did find myself losing interest towards the end but I think that also may be because I started to dislike one of the characters in particular and reading her narrative did become unbearable. Apart from that, I did enjoy it and I enjoyed discussing it with Beth’s Book Club too as it was extremely poignant discussing the expectations that we as women feel we are bound to. 

Expectation

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: 2019
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Black Swan
# of Pages: 324
Genre: Contemporary/Women’s Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Miscarriage, IVF, depression, sexual scenes, post-natal depression, adultery, job rejection
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: Half A World Away

“Small movements make life worth living…cherish each and every moment, good or bad, whether joyful or painful, as the precious fleeting gifts that they are.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

As a newbie to my local book club, it was my turn to pick the book of the month and it was a toss-up between Saltwater and Half A World Away. As we read Educated last month and it was quite a tough read for everyone, we decided we needed something a little easier and uplifting to read this month and therefore Half A World Away was the chosen pick.

What Did I Think?

I had heard mixed reviews of this book, with some people on social media loving it and others not convinced. So I was excited to finally get around to reading it myself, as it’s been one on my TBR for quite some time now. 

I was thrilled to read that the author, Mike Gayle, studied at Salford University which is just around the corner from me and it isn’t often that you see authors who studied in the North get the recognition they deserve. 

If you didn’t know, Half A World Away is about two people who were separated when they were young and put into care. One of them went to a lovely and wealthy family, whereas the other stayed in care until she was legally classed as an adult, and left to fend for herself. 

After some years, the two are finally reunited, but it’s clear that their history and different experiences have had a long-lasting effect on the both of them and they must go against everything they’ve ever known to make sure they don’t lose everything they love. 

What I loved most was the difference between Noah and Kerry’s life as it added to the story. The two characters were strong for different reasons; Kerry because she had to be a mother to Noah when she was a baby herself as well as deal with being in care her whole childhood and Noah, because he had to continue (and succeed) with his life despite the demons inside his head that he had never fully addressed. 

For me, Half A World Away was a really easy read and was full of loveable characters, especially the children who offered a breath of fresh air and elements of comedy to the story. 

I guess the one thing I probably didn’t enjoy was I found Kerry’s character voice quite exaggerated and forced. I feel like the author included old and not-that-common colloquialisms to differentiate between her and Noah but it wasn’t necessary in my opinion. But once I got over her character voice, I just settled into the story and enjoyed every bit of it.

Half A World Away

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 2019
# of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary
Trigger Warnings: adoption, drug & alcohol abuse, broken families, long-lost relatives, cancer, death, grief, miscarriage
Links: Goodreads, AmazonBlackwells

REVIEW: Educated

“You could call this self-hood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

The other month I bumped into a fellow book lover when out walking my three dogs with my mum, and was informed about a local book club that met once every month in the park across the road from me…WHAT A RESULT! I joined them in time for their August discussion which was Educated by Tara Westover.

What Did I Think?

I have to say that I had seen this book everywhere but never really delved into what it was about until my friend told me. Then when it was picked for book club, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

It took me a while to get into and throughout the whole of the book, I found it difficult to read. There are some extremely graphic scenes in this book and I don’t know whether it was because I was reading in the car but I felt quite nauseous when reading about Tara’s experience on the farm.

Educated is a memoir based on a young woman’s experience of growing up in an extremist Mormon family in America and we follow her on her journey to education, even if it means that she loses everything that was important to her growing up.

I had never really known about Mormons and this book does a great job of educating people on how other religions/societies choose to live. Obviously not all Mormon families are extreme like Tara’s was, but I’m so glad she shared her story and her experience so people can understand how hard it was for her to get to where she is now. She is one of the strongest people out there; there were so many chances and opportunities for her to just give up but she didn’t. She fought for her freedom and chance of a new life and I’m so glad she did.

Tara always believed in the best in people but was always let down by those around her. In my opinion, she trusted too many people but I have never been in her situation so I guess it is hard to comprehend how I would respond to the things she was experiencing. The more I read this book, the more I found myself getting angrier and angrier at her family, her mother, her father, her siblings and sometimes even Tara herself.

I think this story shows how family love and loyalty can make you put up with awful treatment and situations because they are your blood. They say that blood is thicker than water but sometimes, you have to cut all ties for a better and happier life.

“You’re at least 20. Aren’t you?
I turned 16 in September.
Oh. Well, don’t worry about it then. You can stay…hard to keep track of how old you kids are.”

Educated

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Published: 2018
Publisher: Windmill Books
# of Pages: 384
Genre: Memoir
Trigger Warnings: Violence, graphic scenes, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, religion, paranoia, cult, domestic abuse
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells