Book Review: The Five - The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper - Hallie Rubenhold

Book Review: The Five – The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper – Hallie Rubenhold

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

I saw this book advertised and thought it looked intriguing after seeing it on a YouTube channel – a few days later it appeared as an Audible deal so I snapped it up for £1.99 and I’m so glad I did.

The focus in history is always on Jack the Ripper. Who was he? What was his motive? What did these women do to cross his path? There was hardly a mention of them women, who they were and what happened in their lives. I’ll admit that like most people I hadn’t considered more than what I was told.

Learning about these women, about their lives, families and their circumstances was fascinating. The lengths that Rubenhold has gone to to research their stories is incredible and this deserves all of the awards it has won. The book is more than just life stories, we can look at Victorian society and the ever changing landscape of the industrial revolution and the people who were struggling to get by.

I had no idea about the level of addiction at the time for normal everyday people and the impact this had on women in particular. It also humanised these women, that they simply fell into hard times and paid the ultimate price. The suggestion that they were prostitutes were mostly unfounded and another hit at the ‘downtrodden women’.

Of course this is embellished for the book, there is no way of knowing what the women were thinking or their exact movements but this doesn’t take away from the information we are given. I am awestruck by Rubenhold’s ability to really draw us in to these women’s stories and feel for them.

Without a doubt this was a 5 star read for me. Seeing this other side of history feels like we are giving some kind of voice to those women who have been ignored in their own deaths. An excellent book and I would also highly recommend the audiobook.

Livin' The Vida Lockdown: Day Eight - Books To Cheer You Up In Lockdown

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Eight – Books To Cheer You Up In Lockdown

We’ve made it over a week into lockdown and my reading mojo is back! Yippie! When I was looking at my shelves to plan for this post I realised something – I don’t reach for happy or cheerful books first.

Recently though I’ve found myself really liking romance books as a way to escape, which has come in handy during lockdown as they’ve been the books getting me out of my slump.

So these are some of the books I’ve read that I think will make you smile or cheer you up – also I definitely need to invest in some more cheerful books once things are back to normal…

Red White and Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

This was huge online last year and for good reason! The First Son of the USA and the Prince of Wales, enemies to lovers and some steamy chapters. What’s not to love in this? Like the sound of it? You can read my review here.

How To be Champion – Sarah Millican

I’m a big fan of Sarah’s comedy and had planned to pick up her book but it happened to come into my life at just the right time. I’d lost my job and was in need of a little boost and this was perfect. It’s really funny and I’d recommend checking out the audiobook too. You can check out my review here.

The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary

I did warn you I like romances at the moment! This has been everywhere recently and for good reason. It’s an absolutely adorable story with a few twists and turns one of which make me shout ‘oh my god you bastard’ out loud while listening. Thankfully I was in my own home while listening…

Also I adored the audiobook, in which Carrie Hope Fletcher narrated as Tiffy. All of my thoughts are here.

Heartstopper – Alice Oseman

One of my favourites and there are 3 volumes out right now so you can really enjoy it! Two teenage friends who fall in love. It is absolutely adorable.

Although, as a warning, things to get more serious in volume 3. You can read my review of volume 1 here to give you and idea of how damn sweet it is.

Dear Girls – Ali Wong

Ali Wong is hilarious, just watch her stand up and she only went and wrote a book too! Equal parts nose snorting funny and really sweet, I highly recommend…as long as you’re not easily offended. Review here.

The Paper & Hearts Society – Lucy Powrie

A book about friendship and finding your place in the world. The second book is due to come out this year so it’s the perfect time to get started in this absolutely wonderful series. I wrote about it here.

These are some that I thought would make you smile right now, while some might have a part which isn’t as happy I’m sure by the end of it.

Do you have any you’d recommend? Let me know below!

Book Review: Diary Of A Confused Feminist - Kate Weston

Book Review: Diary Of A Confused Feminist – Kate Weston

Kat wants to do GOOD FEMINISM, although she’s not always sure what that means. She also wants to be a writer, get together with Hot Josh (is this a feminist ambition?), win at her coursework and not make a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT of herself at all times.

Join Kat AKA the Confused Feminist as she navigates EVERYTHING from menstrual cups and mental health to Instagram likes and #TimesUp in her HILARIOUS, OUTRAGEOUS and VERY EMBARRASSING diary.

While I was working in a book shop over the Christmas period this was left in a pile of ARCS that we could take home and I was instantly drawn to it. A teenage feminist trying to navigate her life and feelings? Hell to the yes please, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There were times while reading where I wondered if I was too old for the book. Did I speak like this as a teenager? Were teenagers this petty over things? The answer is yes, I remember arguing with one of my friends over something ridiculous and then refusing to sit next to each other in our art class. In fact Weston has completely got the characters right.

While reading I felt like this had Caitlin Moran vibes to it (whos book How To Be A Woman changed my whole perception on feminism) there were important points but at the same time it was incredibly funny. It also took me back to when I was the same age trying to work out my on again off again relationship with feminism, because it is bloody confusing!

What skyrocketed my rating for this was the mental health element. There are some hints early on that Kat was struggling but seeing these explored was really excellent and I feel that it could help young people reading. As well as the anxiety that Kat struggles with the pressure to keep up and be interesting on social media.

This was a 4.5 star read for me. I think Kate Weston is definitely one to watch. When I got to the end I KNEW I needed a sequel which will hopefully happen.

Book Review: The Good Immigrant - Edited By Nikesh Shukla

Book Review: The Good Immigrant – Edited By Nikesh Shukla

Bringing together 21 exciting black, Asian and minority ethnic voices emerging in Britain today, The Good Immigrant explores why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, doesn’t truly accept you – however many generations you’ve been here – but still needs you for its diversity monitoring forms.

If you have read any of my other posts or follow me on any of my social media channels you will know that I am a white woman. I haven’t had to grow up having experiences based on the colour of my skin. Nor have I had to struggle because of racism in my life and the bias that people have.

So, why did I pick this up? Because I want to know more, I want to better understand what others go through and to be more educated on the subject. I don’t think there’s any excuse to be ignorant when we have such easy access to education in this country.

I listened to the audiobook of this collection of personal experiences and I highly recommend it because it made the stories come to life. Hear these from real people reminded me just how many people experience racism in their everyday life.

Of course, there were some parts which were upsetting and anger inducing at the unfairness people face for no reason at all. But, I actually found myself laughing along with some of the more silly stories.

One thing that made me burst out laughing was a slight rant on chai tea – which apparently translates as tea, tea. I laughed while shaking my head because, well, it was hilarious and I wonder how many other things like this there are.

I found myself learning a lot about other cultures, how people within those cultures grow up and some of their experiences. Can I say this really encompasses what it’s like to grow up as an ethnic minority in the UK? No but I do feel as if I’ve learnt from it.

I gave this 4 stars. An interesting read and something I think we need more of. Of course, there were some essays I liked more than others but that’s inevitable Again I’d really recommend the audiobook it was a brilliant listen and I learnt a lot.

Book Review: What Kind of Girl - Alyssa Sheinmel

Book Review: What Kind of Girl – Alyssa Sheinmel

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions: Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true? Some girls want to rally for his expulsion – and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.

As soon as I saw that there was a new Alyssa Sheinmel novel I jumped on requesting it from NetGalley where I was super excited to receive an ARC. I’ve previously read Faceless and thought it was incredibly well written so I wanted to give this a go.

For a chunk of the novel the female characters aren’t given names, instead they’re described by their traits which, although I found it hard to follow initially, I found to be an excellent way of writing. For me, it added to the idea that this could happen to anyone no matter how popular, smart etc – part of me wishes that this could have gone on for longer.

Of course it goes without saying that this is a tough book to read with mentions of violence within a relationship, self harm, Bulimia and mental ill health. If these are difficult for you I’d maybe recommend waiting until you’re in the right headspace.

This is, without a doubt, an important read and one that I hope gets a lot of attention. I think it shows that these things do happen to young people. It also makes you question your own reactions to these kinds of stories, who do you believe and why? Can you separate a person and an accusation? All of these questions will make you think for days after finishing it.

There were point where I struggled to read what was happening, I felt such a range of emotions while reading. For a book to make me feel like that was pretty incredible and I applaud Sheinmel for the writing.

I do wish there was more of a resolution at the end because I feel like it was left quite open and there are also some point where I’m not sure I completely followed who was who and what was happening. That said, the book itself was a good read.

This was a 4 star read from me and I’m definitely going to be reading more of Sheinmel’s books because she can transport me into a story and a person’s hardship.

What I Read In February 2020

What I Read in February 2020

February may be a short month but that didn’t stop me reading. I did find myself in a little bit of a slump in Feb, I think because I read so much in January my brain needed shorter reads. So, here they are – have you read any of them?

On my trip to Brighton I found a copy of Renée Watson’s latest novel What Momma Left Me and I couldn’t leave without it. This is a story about a young girl who’s life changes after the death of her mother. It’s about family, secrets and finding your place in the world. This got 4 stars from me.

Next I picked up an ARC from Netgalley that I was granted. Sincerely, is a sweet collection of poems that was written as part of a proposal. A lovely concept with some sweet poems and a 3 star read for me.

Another NetGalley ARC I received, The Voice Of My Mind, came next and this one just wasn’t for me. It was also a poetry collection (I’ve been pretty into them this month) but I just couldn’t connect with the tone of voice. A 2 star read for me.

I read Always Here For You as part of a book tour I took part in, you can read the post here. This is for younger teenagers and looks at who you’re really talking to online and how young people may find themselves in this situation. A good read that would do well in schools. 4 stars from me.

This Soul Estranged was sent to me by the author for free in exchange for my thoughts. I enjoyed this collection and felt that I could connect with the poems and the tone of voice. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. A 3 star read for me.

Next up another Netgalley ARC, this time it was a graphic novel/information type book. A Quick & Easy Guide To Sex and Disability was a really interesting read and had a good message. I would be interested in a longer guide but obviously that doesn’t match the title! A 4 star read for me!

I got an ARC copy of Diary of a Confused Feminist while working over Christmas but only just got around to it! I wasn’t sure at first because I felt super old (I’m 10 years older than the protagonist eeek) but the second half of the book I was hooked. If you like Holly Bourne I think you’ll like this. Another 4 star read for me.

A bit of a light read (note the sarcasm), Fascism and Democracy is super short but I thought it was incredibly relevant in today’s world. Now, I’ve read a bit of Orwell before and I stand by my earlier assessment that his non-fiction work is long winded. That said, this had interesting ideas and was good to see it through the lense of the 1940s while Hitler was in power. 3 stars from me.

I received an ARC of What Kind of Girl and also bought a physical copy because I really enjoy Alyssa Sheinmel’s way of writing. This looks at domestic violence in young adult relationships. It’s pretty heavy and there’s also details about mental illness and methods of self harm so know that going in if that’s something you struggle with. Another very well written book. 4.5 stars from me.

I also read Letters On Motherhood incredibly quickly because it was such a sweet and wholesome read. In this Giovanna writes letters to her three sons, her husband, parents and herself about motherhood. While I don’t have children I fell in love with this collection and felt it was so honest about the highs and lows. A great read.

I read the poetry collection Surge for a post that you’ll find out about soon! It’s a collection that looks at race in Britain starting with the New Cross Fire, also known as the New Cross Massacre in which 13 young black people were killed. Political, personal and a new perspective this is a really interesting collection. 4 stars and you’ll find out more about it soon.

And finally I picked up a copy of You’re Crushing It by Lex Croucher which I’ve been meaning to get to for ages. It’s a quick book which made me laugh out loud more than a few times while reading. It was a 4 star read for me and a nice pick me up.

And finally, thanks to the extra day in the month I also finished A Danger To Herself and Others also by Alyssa Sheinmel which I’ve had on my TBR for a while. It’s an exploration of mental illness and it can be quite a tough read but another excellent book. This got 4.5 stars from me.

I haven’t listened to an audiobook this month – for some reason I’ve struggled getting into them but I’m sure I’ll come out of that soon. Did you read anything good in February? Let me know below!

Book Review: Dear Girls - Ali Wong

Book Review: Dear Girls – Ali Wong

‘Ali Wong’s heartfelt and hilarious letters to her daughters (the two she put to work while they were still in utero), covering everything they need to know in life, like the unpleasant details of dating, how to be a working mom in a male-dominated profession, and how she trapped their dad.’

After watching Ali Wong’s two Netflix specials and her recent interviews I can say that I am a fan (so much so I am gutted I can’t afford tickets to her London show in June!). So when I heard she’d released a book for her daughters – and the rest of us I knew I needed to read about life and the world according to Ali.

This is absolutely hilarious, and would you expect any less? When picking it up I knew I had to listen to the audiobook that Ali herself narrates because it felt like a 3rd Netflix special and I am so here for that! I had to stifle quite a few laughs while listening because her signature humor is there!

There is a mix of truly hilarious stories that she makes clear her daughters aren’t to read until they’re MUCH older and really heartfelt pieces. I was particularly touched by her vulnerability about her miscarriage and how she felt. I really hope after reading more women can feel able to open up.

It’s clear from this book that Ali Wong is much more than a stand up comedian, she’s an absolute boss. You can see that’s she’s worked hard, stood up to misogyny and is balancing being one of the funniest comedians and a good Mum at the same time. Also, the chapter by her Husband is adorable, absolutely bloody adorable.

This was a solid 4.5 starts for me. Incredibly funny, well written and I think Ali’s daughters will really love reading this as they get older. Also, as I said before, if you get a chance listen to the audiobook because it really is a treat.