BLOG TOUR: Come Join The Murder

Today I’m joining the blog tour for Holly Rae Garcia‘s debut novel, Come Join the Murder. Shout out to Blackthorn Book Tours and Holly for organising this blog tour and for providing me with an advanced copy of this shocking thriller!

The Blurb:

Rebecca Crow’s four-year-old son is dead, and her husband is missing.

Divers find her husband’s car at the bottom of a canal with their son’s small, lifeless body, inside. The police have no suspects and nothing to go on but a passing mention of a man driving a van. Guilt and grief cloud Rebecca’s thoughts as she stumbles towards her only mission: Revenge.

James Porter knows exactly what happened to them, but he’ll do anything to keep it a secret.

James didn’t plan to kill Rebecca’s son, but he’s not too broken up about it, either. There are more important things for him to worry about. He needs money, and his increasing appetite for murder is catching the attention of a nosy detective.

What Did I Think?

I am a huge fan of thrillers and this book did not disappoint. I was hooked from the very start, as Garcia teasingly leaves you wanting more and more.

What I loved most about this book is that we are given an invaluable insight into both Rebecca’s and James’ despair. After the events of the night that Rebecca’s son is killed and her husband goes missing, Garcia eloquently helps us see both of the characters’ struggles; Rebecca must pick up the pieces left behind by this tragic event whereas James must do all he can to protect his loved ones.

Don’t get me wrong, as much as I loved this story, it was difficult to read at times. The horror of a child being killed is never exactly easy reading but what Garcia does excellently in Come Join The Murder is she makes us at readers want to know every gory detail so we can help Rebecca’s quest for the truth.

Author Bio:

Holly’s short fiction has been published by Siren’s Call, The Bookends Review, Rue Scribe, Pen to Print, The Australian Writers’ Centre, and Trembling With Fear along with a few anthologies.

Holly lives on the Texas Coast with her family and five dogs. Be sure to follow Holly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Published: 2020
Publisher: Close To The Bone Publishing UK
No. of Pages: 241
Goodreads
Amazon

10 Books I Read At University That Will Stick With Me Forever

So today marks three (yes THREE!) years since I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a Combined Honours Degree in English Literature and History. During the past three years, I can’t say I’ve really seen the benefit of my degree but I guess that is how it goes most of the time.

These past three years have taught me so much though and as I come to celebrate being quarter of a century old (oh god!), it is easier than ever to compare where I am in life to those of others. I’ve had a number of sleepless nights where my thoughts have run away with themselves and I’ve compared my life to those of a similar age who seem to have their life together. But I’m a strong believer in everything always happening for a reason, and I’m hoping I’m destined for bigger and better things some day!

Anyway, enough with the sob story…to celebrate my graduation date, I thought I would introduce ten books that since reading them during university, have played on my mind ever since. There may be some here that you’ve read and there may some that you’ve never heard of, but I hope I can give you a taste of the type of books I studied during my degree!

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (A-Level)

OK not off to a great start as I didn’t technically read this book during university, but I read it in college and from that day, I fell in love with the way Khaled Hosseini writes. His novels are some of my favourite reads of all time and The Kite Runner is definitely one of the most moving and heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë (First Year)

Jane Eyre was the first classic I read during my degree and it was the first time reading a Brontë novel too! I loved the character of Jane and I was completely hooked on her story, especially the part with the ‘mad’ woman in the attic…

Turn of The Screw – Henry James (First Year)

If you haven’t guessed by now, Gothic literature is my all-time favourite genre because I love how the authors play upon social norms and anxieties to create a story that very much sits on the verge of being possible. With Turn of The Screw, I loved the horror and supernatural elements and it well and truly terrified me.

The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde (Second Year)

I read this during my second year and I absolutely loved it. I liked Fforde’s play on Jane Eyre and I was a huge fan of being able to take yourself into a book and to live in that world. I mean, isn’t that every bookworm’s dream?

The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark (Second Year)

The Driver’s Seat is one of those books that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I purchased a second hand copy of the book which had come all the way from Menasha Public Library in Wisconsin. Pretty special right? Well the story is one of those modern classics where the story makes you think more than read and I devoured it in one sitting.

Goodbye To Berlin – Christopher Isherwood (Second Year)

OK so when I was reading Goodbye To Berlin in my modernism course, I didn’t initially like it. Yet, after my lecture and my seminar on it, my opinion completely changed and I realised the power this book has. It gives a nod to how ahead of its time Berlin, as a city, is and I loved being able to pick out the secrets that Isherwood hid in the text.

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf (Second Year)

I had to fit a Virginia Woolf book in here somewhere didn’t I and Mrs Dalloway for me is my favourite. My passion for all things history (as well as obviously studying it alongside English Lit) ultimately made me fall in love with Woolf and her post-war fiction and the way she depicts the uncertainty of life.

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (Second Year)

Being from Manchester and also studying in Manchester, I fell very honoured that my city has an Anthony Burgess Foundation Centre just around the corner from my campus. Whilst I was studying the madness of this book, I was able to attend a lecture held at the centre itself and this is where my fascination for both the book and its author began.

Coraline – Neil Gaiman (Third Year)

In my third year, I studied children’s literature and out of all my modules, I think this was my favourite as I got to re-read the books I had enjoyed as a child. Yet one of them which we read was Coraline and it is safe to say, I never want my children to ever read this truly horrific book. It’s wonderfully weird storyline and horrifying characters make me question why this is classed as a children’s book at all?

Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman (Third Year)

Noughts and Crosses was a book I read for the first time during university and it has played on my mind ever since. I absolutely loved Blackman’s writing and her reversal of social norms and expectations. It has recently been adapted into a TV series and the imagery is as beautiful as I imagined it to be. A truly inspiring read and one that made me question the society of which we live in.

So there we have it, a list of all the books I read during university that will probably continue to stick in my mind until the end of time. And I hope they do, as some of them on here are truly inspiring and influential novels and are written by incredibly talented authors who have used their writing skills and creativity to create books that make you question everything you know.

REVIEW: Such A Fun Age

Why Did I Read This Book?

Earlier this year when I vowed to kickstart my love for reading and blogging again, I was on the lookout for great books that everyone was raving about. Such A Fun Age was one of them that was everywhere I looked and I soon bought a gorgeous floppy hardback version.

Since purchasing it, I have been determined to read it but other books have taken priority. It featured on my May TBR list but I never got round to reading it so when I was a little bit lost on what to read next, I thought it was about time to tick it off.

What Did I Think?

It is honestly so disheartening when you read a book that has been so hyped up and then when you get round to reading it, you don’t enjoy it. Sadly, this was the case for me with Such A Fun Age. 

I think I have read so many inspiring and heartbreaking books written by POC authors this year that no matter what book I read next, it undoubtedly has to live up to the expectations and the incredible experiences of reading some other great books. For me, Such A Fun Age did neither.

I disliked the majority of the characters, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but in my opinion, I thought the story was lacking real substance. The first scene is incredible and so eye-opening to the casual and systemic racism that exists in our society today, and from the very first scene, I was hooked. Yet from there, I thought the story fizzled away and it came across like the author was struggling to string a story together.

Now I acknowledge that is INCREDIBLY harsh to say but that’s how I felt. I was disappointed in the two-dimensional characters and the unstimulating storyline that I found myself struggling to find the motivation to sit down and read it, as well as rushing through the book so I could finish it and move onto the next book; determined not to DNF.

Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly moments that I loved, for example, the first scene and the depiction of Alix Chamberlain being this rich, white woman who doesn’t realise 1) her privilege and 2) how her ‘thoughtful’ and ‘kind’ actions were racist and derogatory.

It really does breaks my heart when the hype ruins books and I fully understand that this is just my opinion but for me, this book wasn’t one I enjoyed or one I took anything away from. I hate to disapprove of books but I’ve got to be honest and unfortunately, Such A Fun Age has been loved by many but I am not one of them.

Please don’t let me discourage you from reading it because I’ve seen a lot of bloggers and bookstagrammers loving the story, so there is no reason why you won’t love it either. If you have read it and loved it, please feel free to disagree with my opinion!

Such A Fun Age

Rating: 2 out of 5.

REVIEW: Home Truths

“No one was immune to the vagaries of fate, any more than they were incapable of making mistakes. Everyone, no matter who they were, or how dire their straits, had to find a way of dealing with the worst-case scenarios life threw at them.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

You probably guessed it but this was the other Beth’s Book Club pick for June and one that when it arrived, seemed pretty daunting. It is quite a chunky book and I had no idea what the book was about before settling into it. As I’m dedicated to reading all of this book club’s picks, I was intrigued to sink my teeth into this one.

What Did I Think?

First of all, as mentioned above, this book was HEFTY. Not that that is necessarily ever a bad thing and some people actually prefer big books that they can spend time reading instead of flying through a small one. Yet for me, it did feel like I was reading this book for WEEKS.

I really struggled with the beginning of the book. Although it was necessary to introduce the characters and the back story, I felt that when I was reading the first third of the book, I was making myself sit down and read. I didn’t have the desire to want to pick the book back up and therefore it began to feel a bit like a chore.

However, after this little hurdle, I became obsessed with the story and I grew attached to our main character, Angie. We as readers, got to witness the very raw and heartbreaking reality for Angie, whilst she pretended to the world that she was ‘fine’. Her whole world had come crashing down, and thank the Lord for her sister helping her, because I don’t know what would have happened to both Angie and her children if her sister wasn’t there to help out.

Yet Angie had to go through some pretty horrendous things, as well as dealing with the council and the insufferable experience of asking for help. It shocked me how the council were unwilling to help this woman (with two children) who had been evicted and could do so unemotionally. If I had to turn away someone desperate for a help, I don’t think I would be able to live with myself. It must be awful for those people working in jobs such as these, who cannot help these desperate people and who I suppose, must have to force themselves to not get upset about these cases. I for one could not do it.

“She felt a burning need to be more proactive, to do something, anything to prove to herself and the children that she was capable of sorting out this terrible mess. But what the hell was she supposed to do when everyone was barricaded behind computers these days, or kept her hanging on the phone for so long that she had to ring off just to remain sane?”

The book club discussion was interesting for this one, as a lot of people thought that the story was too stereotypical and agreed that had it been written in first person, with narratives included from other vital characters, we could have got a more in-depth and complete insight into how poverty affects all those going through it. For instance, from Angie’s sister, we could have understood more about how the effects of having to support Angie impacted her life as well, along with a narrative from her daughter Grace offering a very important message about child trafficking.

All in all, I did enjoy this book and I have often referred to it as being like a BBC drama series. Every time I picked the book up, I felt like I was strapping myself in for another explosive and heart-wrenching episode and I really enjoyed that aspect. As someone who has recently not read that many big, thick books, I enjoyed the experience of reading Home Truths.

What I liked most about this book club pick was that it was a book that I had never heard about and I probably would have never picked this book up had I seen it in a bookstore. I have spoken quite a lot recently on my social media channels about the importance of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, especially when it comes to genres that you hold some sort of unintentional stigma towards. Yet these books/genres that you may think you’ll never enjoy can offer a different perspective/outlook, or a little spark of joy that you would have otherwise missed out on, had you turned away from it.

So my challenge for you is to read a book this month, that is out of your comfort zone and see how you get on with it! I’d love to know whether this particular book changes your outlook on a genre etc. Feel free to reach out and let me know!

Home Truths

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLOG TOUR: The Women Writers’ Handbook

The Blurb:

A revised edition of the publisher’s inaugural publication in 1990 which won the Pandora Award from Women-in-Publishing. Inspirational in its original format, this new edition offers insight and motivation for budding writers from dozens of distinguished authors, celebrating the breadth of women’s writing in all its forms.

The book also includes the original writing workshops from the first edition plus quirky B/W illustrations as well as a foreword by Cheryl Robson, publisher and Managing Editor, who was a recent finalist in the ITV National Diversity Awards – Lifetime Achievement category. Aurora Metro Books was a finalist in the 2019 IPG Diversity in Publishing Awards and has a 30 year history of ground-breaking publishing, featuring both diverse and international authors.

What Did I Think?

I love anything that celebrates and promotes the work of women, and with 30 essays written by talented women does just that. The Women Writers’ Handbook provides women writers with a chance to showcase and share their work and experiences, as well as providing advice on holding writing workshops.

Most of the essays are easy and quick to read, being only a few pages long, making it easy to read essay after essay without even realising. Cheryl Robson states that there is something for everyone in this volume and that couldn’t be more true. Some of my favourites include:

Phillipa Gregory – Early Women Writers

Phillipa argues in her essay that early women writers and Victorian women Novelists were better represented in the Victorian era than 20th and 21st Century women writers have been in these modern times. It was an extremely eye-opening read and confirmed for me that there is still very much a gender problem in society today.

Magda Oldziejewska – The Feminist Library

This was the first I had heard of the The Feminist Library and I’m actually quite ashamed of myself for it. Madga talks about how The Feminist Library is dedicated to collecting and safeguarding women’s histories, as well as creating a community where feminists can gather, discuss and create together.

Kalista Sy – Being A Feminist Writer

Senegalese Screenwriter, Kalista Sy explains why she is a feminist writer and demonstrates how women are still so judged on the choices they make. Kalista works tirelessly to promote women through her work and argues that if we want to make women strong, we must show them images of strong women.

Emma Woolf – Virginia Woolf, 100 Years On

This was the one essay fro me that really stood out. I hadn’t known much about how Virginia Woolf struggled with depression and her mental health, and her great-niece, Emma, speaks honestly about Virginia’s suicide attempts and her struggles in coping with the loss of many of her family members. Emma discusses how Virginia’s sexuality, relationships and mental state are always discussed and studied by scholars and critics in order to understand her work. She beautifully writes that Virginia’s madness was part of her writing, as much as her writing was part of her madness.

Following on from Emma Woolf’s essay, 20% of profits made by The Women Writer’s Handbook will go to the Virginia Woolf statue campaign.

To give a little backstory, a proposed statue of Virginia Woolf has been planned to be located in Richmond on Thames where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived from 1914-1924 and set up the Hogarth Press. A public consultation by the local council was 83% in favour of the statue and planning permission has been granted to site the first life-size statue in bronze of the famous author on Richmond riverside where the author walked her dog daily. Over 20% of the £50,000 target has been raised so far. To find out more about the campaign, click here and to donate to the project go here.

Huge thanks to Aurora Metro Book and Love Books Tours for my advanced copy!

The Women Writers’ Handbook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

ARC REVIEW: The Shadow Friend

The Blurb:

The victim was his friend. So was the murderer.

Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.

For Paul Adams, it’s a day he’ll never forget. He’s never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He’s never gone back home. But when his elderly mother has a fall, it’s finally time to stop running.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul’s mother insists there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder. It was the fact that afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

What Did I Think?

I read Alex North’s debut novel earlier this year and was completely gripped and terrified by the story and the way North writes. So when the opportunity arose for me to read an advanced copy of his latest book, The Shadow Friend, I couldn’t wait to be taken on another terrifying journey.

The way North writes is completely compelling. Whilst reading, the real world ceases to exist and all you can think/worry about it the story you’re reading. Even when you put the book down, the story continues to play on your mind. So much so, I couldn’t read this book whilst home alone and I definitely could not read this book before going to bed.

The story of The Shadow Friend is magnificently written, but it also explores this idea of lucid dreaming. I had a vague idea of what lucid dreaming was before reading this book, but never understood the dangers of it when its used by children. These children were obsessed with the uneasiness and uncanniness of the woods and therefore used lucid dreaming to create a whole narrative about Red Hands.

As always, I was completely hooked on every single page of this book and the story twists and turns seamlessly to keep you craving more detail and answers. Yet again a brilliant crime novel by Alex North and he is definitely becoming one of my favourite authors. I cannot wait for his next book, that is for sure!

If you want to see what all the hype is about, The Shadow Friend (or The Shadows) is available to buy on Amazon here, and I would like to thank Alex North himself and Michael Joseph publishers for my advanced copy.

The Shadow Friend

Rating: 5 out of 5.

ARC REVIEW: The Staycation

The Blurb:

This Summer’s Hilarious Tale of Heartwarming Friendship, Fraught Families and Happy Ever Afters. Two families. One cancelled flight. And a last minute house swap…

Things get desperate for strangers Harriet and Sophie when they become stranded with their families in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Each woman has her own reason for really, really, really needing the family holiday they’ve anticipated for months. But Iceland’s volcano has other plans for them. When their flights are cancelled, the families swap houses and discover that sometimes the best things in life happen close to home.

This ash cloud has a silver lining, even if no one can quite see it yet.

What Did I Think?

This book couldn’t be more relevant. Across the country, due to cancelled flights and holidays because of Covid-19, most people are having to find somewhere in the UK to spend their summer holiday. Some are even camping in their own back garden as a way of experiencing their own ‘staycation’.

So when Michele Gorman contacted me about her new release, I couldn’t believe my luck. Not only do I get to read an advanced copy of a highly anticipated summer read, but I also got the chance to experience my own staycation.

What I loved about this book is the contrast of characters. One mother is so organised and has her own beloved labelling machine and trip itinerary, whereas the other mum just about gets her children to school on time and never has any time to herself.

It really made me laugh how Sophie and her family got the great end of the stick; staying in a gorgeous cottage up north with its own farm and quaint village high street, whereas Harriet and her family ended up staying in one the messiest houses in the middle of London which was also home to a python named Spot.

There are some really funny moments in this book, and I loved how more of the characters’ stories were revealed as the story went on. I really loved getting to know both Harriet and Sophie, but I definitely warmed more to Sophie. She was doing her very best and I felt sorry for her. Her husband was a condescending jerk and I just wanted to give Sophie a huge hug.

I really enjoyed the story and it ironically helped take my mind off what is happening in the world right now. Definitely a great easy read and I could easily see it being made into a film!

The book is available to buy on Amazon Kindle for the bargain price of 99p right now, and I would just like to thank Michele Gorman and Trapeze Books for my advanced copy.

The Staycation

Rating: 4 out of 5.

REVIEW: All Boys Aren’t Blue

“Be bold and brave and queer. I know that’s easy to say and much harder to do. I know that some people will never be able to actually exhibit their queer identity in that way for reasons of safety.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

As part of Pride Month, I wanted to incorporate some queer lit into my June reads. I chose All Boys Aren’t Blue after falling in love with the beautiful book cover, as well as the story/memoir behind it. I had heard great things all over social media, so I thought I’d give it a go.

What Did I Think?

The more I read memoir books, the more I fall in love with that genre. I really enjoy sitting down with a cup of tea and letting these wonderful human beings tell me their life story.

All Boys Aren’t Blue is written by journalist and activist George M. Johnson and from the very start of the book, I was hooked. For me, I could really hear George’s voice whilst I was reading, and therefore I flew through this book in a matter of days. I was obsessed. The book, and especially his story, was playing on my mind all the time and I just couldn’t wait to pick the book back up again and pick up where I had left off.

I think George is an incredibly strong character and I honestly think the way that members of the LGBTQIA+ community deal with the constant abuse and awful comments, makes me put these people of a pedestal. They are true heroes in my opinion, and I think they are so strong and determined to go about their daily life, knowing they will inevitably receive some homophobic backlash for their actions, with their head held high. Honestly, I salute each and every one of you.

What I loved about George’s story is his family. George grew up in a brilliantly big family and one in which he was incredibly loved by everyone around him, especially his grandma. His grandma was an exceptional woman, and I can imagine her as this big woman who made THE best food and gave THE best hugs. Those kind of hugs that make everything OK in the world again. I’m so glad that George had this experience of being part of a loving family, as its often very different in the other queer lit I have read.

It is interesting that even though George knew he had feelings for men, he never really openly admitted to other people that he was gay. He had great difficulty in confiding in those around him, even though his friends and family were quick to realise. George speaks a lot about love in his touching memoir, especially raising the point that if there wasn’t such a stigma and fear attached to ‘coming out’, then maybe relationships and experiences could have been very different for George.

“But despite the obstacles, we have the opportunity to be a blueprint. We get to make the rules and set the terms for what our love will look like for generations to come. Love who you want to love and do it unapologetically, including that face you see every day in the mirror. I deserved that kind of love. Zae deserved that kind of love. We deserve that kind of love.”

George also discusses race and the teaching of history in education. He talks very honestly about his experiences during school, and how the school curriculum in primary school very much focused on how great American history was and held men such as Abraham Lincoln on a pedestal. Even George himself was obsessed with these historical figures. Yet as his education developed and he began to learn less about African American History, he began questioning his teachers on what they were teaching. One poignant moment for me was when his teacher during secondary school claimed that slavery was ‘of its time’ and admitted that he would have probably had slaves back in those days. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, and I was as gobsmacked as George and his classmates probably were when it was said.

So one important lesson to take from this book, which seems very topical following the #BlackLivesMatter protests taking place all over the world right now, is that the best way to fight oppression is to be educated. I’m a firm believer that reading is power, and therefore to fight oppression, we need to educate ourselves on the facts, figures and experiences of people different to ourselves. We need to take the time to learn about different cultures, countries, laws and religions, so when we come up against people who are too quick to spout their racist, bigamist, and homophobic crap, we have all the power and tools we need to prove them wrong.

“The greatest tool you have in fighting the oppression of your Blackness and queerness and anything else within your identity is to be fully educated on it. Knowledge is truly your sharpest weapon in a world hell-bent on telling you stories that are simply not true.”

All Boys Aren’t Blue

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Great Gatsby: June Book Club Discussion Summary

As there were so many great things discussed during the book club discussion of our June book, The Great Gatsby for my ‘Let’s Get Classical’ Book Club, I thought why not create a little discussion summary. So for those that missed out or for those who want to see the consensus on what people thought, its all here for you!

Between the hour of 8pm – 9pm (UK time) eight questions were posted for book club members to comment their thoughts. Here is what they said:

Q1: What do we make of our narrator? Do you think his character was intentional by Fitzgerald?

Most members viewed Nick as an unreliable narrator and a character who offered a flawed and biased perspective. There were many loose ends in his narrative, as well as contradictory statements.

Nick, in our members’ opinion, was an outsider/observer looking into the world of Gatsby, who was intentionally created by Fitzgerald to act as a mouthpiece for the story. Most members didn’t care much for Nick and viewed him as having the common blissful ignorance of the middle classes, as he chose to only see and believe the things he wanted to be true.

Q2: What do you think about Daisy’s assessment that ‘the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’?

Many viewed Daisy’s assessment as a superficial and outdated way of thinking. The popular opinion stemmed from members not being a fan of how women were represented in this book, and it portrayed a number of gender imbalances withing a male-centric novel.

Yet there were some members who introduced a great point about Fitzgerald using the character of Daisy to play upon the social norms/expectations of the 1920s woman, portraying her as silly, vain and only valued in terms of beauty; all of which were stereotypes created as an anti-suffrage protest.

Yet this statement also implies that Daisy knows what a woman needs to be to survive in a male-orientated world. She knows that ‘ignorance is bliss’ when it comes to living a happy and care-free life, and many members agreed this was probably why she turned a blind eye to Tom’s cheating.

Q3: What is your opinion of Tom? Do you think he truly loves Daisy?

So one thing we all agreed on was how much we hated Tom. His character is controlling, patronising, manipulative and incredibly hypocritical. Tom carelessly uses people to get what he wants, and enjoys baking his cake and eating it.

His arrogance and jealously confirms the old saying that ‘once a cheat, always a cheat’, and most members agreed that he didn’t truly love Daisy. Daisy was his trophy wife; his possession that suited his social status and therefore only suited him for when he wanted to play happy families.

It infuriated readers when Tom got jealous about Gatsby and Daisy, even though he was off doing the same and arguably worse, and we were even more angry at Tom setting up Gatsby with the murder of Myrtle. Yet some were also quick to notice that because our narrator Nick does not like Tom, us as readers, are less fond of him too, at least compared to Gatsby.

Q4: Do you think Daisy makes the right choice? What would you have done, if you were her?

Members did not hold back on their thoughts regarding Daisy. Some believed that Daisy was the end of Gatsby and her carelessness meant that she was never held accountable for her actions. Many members believed that she made all the wrong choices in life and even though she may have loved Gatsby, she would have always ended up with someone like Tom because she cannot stray from her rich and privileged life (hence why she couldn’t marry Gatsby as he was poor).

Yet some members argued that Daisy had little choice in the end and had her power taken from her by men in the book. She may have come across as selfish and careless but lets take into account for a second whether the grass is always greener on the other side. Many members argued that Gatsby represented an idealistic, responsibility-free life, whereas Tom was real. What would Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship had been like if they has eloped together? I can only imagine Gatsby as a jealous and manipulative husband, not so different to Tom.

Q5: Do you consider Gatsby to be this ‘self-made man’? Is he a good portrayal of the ‘American Dream’?

A common theme running through members’ comments on this question was that Gatsby represented the typical 1920’s ‘American Dream’ and was therefore right for its time. Yet, Daisy was his dream. Daisy = happiness for Gatsby, and we noted that as soon as Daisy began visiting his house, the lavish parties stopped.

Most members agreed that although Gatsby had all the materialistic happiness, his life had no meaning without the love of Daisy. Many argued that through the character of Gatsby, Fitzgerald was showing us how the ‘American Dream’ is unattainable and unachievable, and perhaps predicting its downfall.

Q6: How do you think love is portrayed by Fitzgerald in the story? Is this a love story?

We all agreed that love was not the main theme in the book, and that The Great Gatsby is more of a social commentary. Love is portrayed as fickle and fragile, with Gatsby’s love being borderline infatuation. Was this infatuation with Daisy herself of the idea of Daisy?

An interesting point made by one of the members was that this book can be viewed as a modern tragedy as the two deaths that occur are of the characters of the those ruining the equilibrium within the story. It was also discussed how the characters’ greed outweighed their love, as they were too prioritised with the lust for material things and social status rather than the real thing.

There’s no doubt that there are elements and discussions of love throughout the book but it is not the main lesson to take away from the book.

Q7: What do you believe to be the true message of The Great Gatsby?

So what is the true message of this book? Most members agreed that money was the real theme. Money can’t buy happiness is what most members took away from this story, as money brought everyone to Gatsby’s parties but once he was dead, no one cared enough to turn up to his funeral. Fitzgerald is obviously implying that money is shallow and hope is pure.

A few members also commented on how the book was Fitzgerald’s way of commenting on the society he lived in. How the rich and powerful were careless and had the privilege to walk away in ignorant bliss, whilst the others in society suffered and were witness to their destructive behaviour.

Another interesting point made was how Fitzgerald through The Great Gatsby predicted how the roaring twenties culture and the ‘American Dream’ would inevitably implode and shatter, which is did after the Wall Street Crash.

Q8: Fitzgerald apparently hated the title The Great Gatsby and begged for it to be changed. Why do you think that is?

Many agreed that once you’ve read this book, Gatsby isn’t so great after all. The ironic title builds this expectation of the mythical Gatsby, which is extremely fitting to Gatsby’s character. The grandeur of Gatsby may have earned him this title but it is in fact a complete facade.

This could have also been a way Fitzgerald played upon how society viewed the rich and famous, as well as emphasising the fact that this story is supposed to be written by Nick, who we all know secretly adored Gatsby, and therefore this definitely would have been a title Nick chose.

‘Under the Red, White & Blue’ was an alternative title, but we all agreed that we’re glad The Great Gatsby has stuck in the end.

And there we have it, I hope you enjoyed reading this book club discussion summary, and if you would like to get involved in the next book club discussion, make sure you join the Let’s Get Classical Book Club Facebook Group! Join us on the 26th July at 8pm (UK time) to discuss Jane Austen’s Emma.

REVIEW: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope.”

WARNING: There are images in this blog post that some may find upsetting and distressing. I contemplated whether or not to include them, but I personally think they should feature, as a way of reminding ourselves about what is happening in the world and that we should not shy away from things that upset us, and instead let it fuel us to help make change.

Why Did I Read This Book?

This book was Beth’s Book Club pick for May/June and I was so glad when it was announced because I have seen this book everywhere and it is often suggested as a next read for me on Amazon and Goodreads. So reading it for the book club meant I HAD to read it.

What Did I Think?

Some of my favourite books are those written by Khaled Hosseini because his books concentrate on the devastating impact war and conflict has had on a once beautiful country and community. I am never one to shy away from narratives that are heartbreaking and eye-opening, and I find books like these to be completely compelling in the way that they honestly depict the suffering of everyday people in countries that have been consumed by war. 

The Beekeeper of Aleppo follows refugees, particularly a husband and wife, in their journey to the UK. For me, Christy Lefteri offers an important refugee story that focuses on a range of different experiences, with each story bonding strangers together through pain and understanding. We meet Nuri and Afra in a refugee safe house in England, and through Nuri, we learn about their journey to ‘safety’, from Syria to Europe.

Notice how I write the word ‘safety’ in quotation marks. This is because although they have made it to the UK in one piece, they are not exactly safe yet. They are seeking asylum and their application is yet to be approved. I found it astonishing to learn about the process of seeking asylum in the country I call home, is one that is unwelcoming and dismissive. The questions they were asked during the interview were completely random and I cannot see why these questions would need to be answered at all, never mind by someone who has undoubtedly seen the very worst of humanity. 

The book really focuses on the devastating loss of life and the inhumane treatment of humans to other humans. I have to say that the story played on my mind for days after reading, and I couldn’t help but start noticing stories and treatment of asylum seekers in this country. Following the tragic events of the stabbings in Reading, one tweet that stuck in my mind was one that stated:

You might have had the same thoughts at some point too. Yet what this book really highlights is that these European countries like Italy and France, although they may be deemed ‘safe’ from the outsider, life as a refugee in these countries is extremely terrifying and dangerous. Refugee camps are rife with disease, abuse, drugs and gangs and in my opinion, that is definitely not what I would call safe. I remember coming back from Normandy on a University trip and seeing thousands of refugee tents by the side of the Calais port. It was truly shocking and an image that has evidently stayed in my mind years later.

You may also remember stories from the European refugee crisis a few years back. One horrific story, in particular, was of a Syrian baby who was found dead on the shores of a Turkish beach. The image shocked the whole world and seemed to make everyone wake up and realise what was actually happening across the waters.

These innocent people were not coming over here to ‘steal’ our jobs. They were not coming over here for free health care. The majority were not coming over here as terrorists. They were coming over here to escape the poverty and the dangers of war. Just like when our grandparents and great grandparents were evacuated during the war, these people were on a journey to seek safety. It angers me that refugees are treated with hostility and aggression when they reach the UK. These people (and they are actual human beings too, in case we forgot) have had to leave their whole life behind, put themselves in extreme danger, risk their lives, experience some of the worst in humanity, to arrive in a country where they will, most likely, never be accepted. 

Credit to Christy Lefteri for creating a book that highlights all the above. A book that makes you question your thinking and opens your eyes to what is going on in the world. It is too easy to turn a blind eye to events like these and to these narratives. Yet we must do all we can from our position of privilege to help these people finally find safety in a country that is not rife with war. 

At the back of the book, there are some charities that you can research if, like me, you would like to do your bit to help. I have also included some others which I have found that are doing incredible work too.

If You Would Like To Help

Charities Mentioned In The Back of The Book: 

Open Cultural Centre – www.openculturalcenter.org 

Faros (The Lighthouse) – www.faros.org.gr

Salusbury World – www.salusburyworld.org.uk

The Buzz Project – https://www.facebook.com/BuzzinginKirklees 

Other Charities: 

Save The Children – https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/

Al Mustafa Welfare Trust – https://www.almustafatrust.org/

Refugee Action – https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/

Help Refugees – https://helprefugees.org/ 

The UN Refugee Agency – https://www.unhcr.org/uk/supporting-refugees-in-the-uk.html

Refugee Council – https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/ 

The British Red Cross – https://www.redcross.org.uk/ 

Manchester Refugee Support Network – http://mrsn.org.uk/

Refugee Support – https://www.refugeesupport.eu/

Care 4 Calais – https://care4calais.org/

The Khaled Hosseini Foundation – https://www.khaledhosseinifoundation.org/

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Rating: 4 out of 5.