Book Reviews: The Liar’s Daughter – Megan Cooley Peterson

Piper was raised in a cult.
She just doesn’t know it.

Seventeen-year-old Piper knows that Father is a Prophet. Infallible. The chosen one.

She would do anything for Father. That’s why she takes care of all her little sisters. That’s why she runs end-of-the-world drills. That’s why she never asks questions. Because Father knows best.

Until the day he doesn’t. Until the day the government raids the compound and separates Piper from her siblings, from Mother, from the Aunts, from all of Father’s followers–even from Caspian, the boy she loves.

Now Piper is living Outside. Among Them.

I can’t help but find myself intrigued by these kind of books about those who are raised in cults and don’t know any better, because they have had no choice. This is a story about Piper’s discovery of herself and questions about the world around her.

The novel is told before and after the raid. In the time before the raid we see Piper and what she believes to be her siblings being raised under strict rules by the Aunts with visits from her mother and father – the heads of the compound. All she wants is to care for her younger siblings and prove herself to her father. Although she is starting to question memories and practices in the house.

In the after sections, however, Piper is struggling. She doesn’t trust anyone and thinks that this is the real kidnapping, living with a woman who claims to be her mother. She also starts therapy which was incredibly interesting. Seeing her attempt to unlearn years of lies and pressure.

There is also a romantic element which, at first, I was unsure about whether it was necessary in terms of the wider plot, but the more I read the more I understood. When there is a lack of people around, it isn’t surprising that you would have feelings for one of the people who show kindness.

I really wanted to know more about what happened after the children were rescued, how they coped and while we do see some of this I found myself wondering if they ever saw each other again. That said, I understand that wasn’t the intent of the book.

This was a 4 star read for me. I read it incredibly quickly and found myself absorbed in the story and even through I knew that Piper and the other children would be rescued at times I forgot while reading – that’s how absorbed I was in the story.

Book Review: We Are Okay - Nina LaCour

Book Review: We Are Okay – Nina LaCour

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun.

Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart. 

I’d heard so much about Nina LaCour’s books, so I added We Are Ok to my to read/to buy list, then I got a copy for Christmas and I didn’t know I’d find a new favourite author. Fast forward to the UK lockdown and I picked it up…then I couldn’t put it down.

This is not a story that is full of action, movement and adventure. It is a quieter novel, something that fully wraps itself around you and lets you see a life rather than a spectacle. A glimpse into grief, sadness and becoming an young adult for the first time.

The novel is written incredibly well and has a beautiful lyrical quality that I haven’t seen in a while. I read this in less than 24 hours, only stopping to sleep. I needed to know what was going to happen between Marin and Mara (although I will admit I did get the two names confused at times). What had happened in the past and how it impacted the current story.

There is also an LGBT element to the story which came across as very well done, particularly because it wasn’t the main focal point of the novel, it was simply there. Additionally, I felt the pain of losing a friendship and not knowing how to put it back together.

I would happily have read a book that was double the length because I wanted to know what happened after the last page, I can’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

This was a 4.5 star read for me. I absolutely adored it and felt for Marin the whole way through. Beautiful writing, a thought provoking novel and one that I absolutely adore. Keep your eyes peeled for my review of Hold Still, LaCour’s first novel, coming soon.

Book Review: Letters On Motherhood - Giovanna Fletcher

Book Review: Letters On Motherhood – Giovanna Fletcher

Giovanna Fletcher is a best selling author, award winning podcast host and is known for her down to earth social media channels. As well as all that she’s raising three small humans alongside her husband Tom (yes, Tom Fletcher from McFly). She writes letters to her sons, her family and her husband in this beautiful collection.

I love the idea of writing letters to children while they’re growing up, it’s something I’d like to do for children that I have in the future. While I’m sure there are so many more that aren’t published (because privacy!) this gives an insight into motherhood that I feel will bring light to others who may feel like they’re alone.

This isn’t Gi’s first book about being a Mum, her previous non-fiction book Happy Mum, Happy Baby was also a firm favourite of mine. That book birthed an incredibly popular podcast as well. What works well is that in no way does she pretend she knows it all or even knows what she’s doing half the time.

There is a kindness within the pages of this book and a calming nature. Giovanna doesn’t make out that motherhood is all sunshine and rainbows, she shares the moments of self doubt, times when she felt overwhelmed and what it is like to raise 3 little boys who are so different.

As well as warming my heart there were a few times where I really, really laughed – which I often do as Gi share’s her musings on her Instagram page. It really does feel like a light that shines. I intend to get these books out again in the future, as well as buying them for friends who have little ones/are expecting.

This is a 5 star read, there is no doubt. There is so much honesty, love and warmth through these pages. While I may not have children myself, reading this made me feel so much towards my own mother, towards the children I hope to have in the future.

Book Review: The Near Witch - V.E Schwab

Book Review: The Near Witch – V.E Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

Lexi has grown up with the stories of the Near Witch with little thought to them other than to scare children. But not long after a mysterious stranger arrives and children start to go missing from their beds, Lexi needs to find out the truth – and make sure her sister doesn’t become one of the missing children.

I meant to pick this up a while ago but it slipped my mind, it was only when I saw the gorgeous sprayed edges edition that I knew I needed to buy and read it. I also managed to persuade my book club to read it too!

Lexi is an excellent character, she’s intelligent but also has a softer side, it’s great to see a character that has both. While she’s dealing with the death of her father and what is expected of her in her village she’s also fiercely determined and wants to do the right thing.

I was also fascinated by Cole (this edition also included a short story about him at the end which I wish had been a whole book in itself), the element of mystery really kept me reading. Who was he? Was he the Near Witch? Could he be trusted? So many questions.

I’m not entirely clear when or where in the world this is meant to be set but it gives me a old worldy vibe because of the way the town acts and the types of jobs that are mentioned – which I enjoyed.

When you consider that this is her debut and something that she was writing while at university it’s even more impressive. I lost myself in this story and this world once I started reading.

This was a 4.5 star read for me. An engaging story and while at the beginning it was slightly slower than I’d have liked, when it picked up it was an enjoyable read. I’d actually quite like to know what happened after.

Book Review: Roomies - Christina Lauren

Book Review: Roomies – Christina Lauren

While Holland has watched her favourite street musician for months with deepening feelings she’s never had the courage to talk to him, until he rescues her from a drunken attack and disappears. She decides to find him again after her Uncle is desperate for an incredible musician and she knows that Calvin could fit the bill. While everyone falls in love with his talent there’s one catch – he’s in the US illegally after overstaying his student visa.

Fed up of being a second character in her own story Holland decides to take a risk and marry him – even though he has no ideas of her feelings. They’re going to have to put on the show of their lives, but at one point does it stop becoming an act?

I’d heard about Christina Lauren a few times and this is the second book of theirs that I’ve picked up and I’m so glad I did. This is a romance that includes music, theatre and a protagonist that isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. That ticks a lot of boxes for me!

I listened to the audiobook of this on Scribd and it was a really enjoyable experience, particularly as the narrator has a knack for the variety of accents that this story needs. It’s worth nothing as well that the characters lend themselves to the diversity that a city like New York would have.

While you cannot hear the music and performance that is being discussed, it didn’t matter – it was as if I could feel it through the page. The heart and the soul that these characters were connected by felt second nature to me. Now, I don’t know if this is the case because I have a passion and love for music myself but it touched my heart.

I also found myself feeling connected to the characters – I cared deeply about their lives and wanted the very best for them. I felt like I knew them. I was constantly rooting for Holland and Calvin to find love in each other and have a shot at happiness together. It’s safe to say I was wrapped up in this book from the first page.

This was a 5 star read for me. It’s a fantastic romance that I could not put down. I needed to know what was going to happen, was the relationships going to stick? Would Calvin fall in love with Holland? Would the law catch up with them? Of course, I won’t spoil anything for you but I really enjoyed this book. I’d also recommend the audiobook as a fun read.

Book Review: Clap When You Land - Elizabeth Acevedo

Book Review: Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

After reading Acevedo’s novel With The Fire on High I knew I needed to read Clap When You Land. I was fascinated by the idea of a tragedy bringing together unknown family members and the difficulties they have after learning the truth. 

This is ultimately a story about grief, family and secrecy. While both Camino and Yaharia share a father, their lives couldn’t be more different. One is used to living in New York in reasonable comfort, while the other is keeping her head above water with her aunt in a struggling neighbourhood. 

As with Acevedo’s other book I read there are a number of diverse characters in terms of race and sexuality as well as looking at forms of intimidation women may face around the world. 

The way in which this is written is beautiful, I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the Dominican Republic and Camino’s sense of community and love for those around her. Overall I think I felt more connected to Camino, simply because I was rooting for her the whole time. That’s not to say I wasn’t rooting for Yaharia, it was just a different kind of connection. 

For me this was a 4.5 star read, I can’t talk about the ending without risk of spoilers but I wanted to see more of that happened after the endpoint. I would definitely read a second book about the girls. I wish I could say more but I refuse to spoil this wonderful book for anyone. 

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for review. 

Book Review: The Black Flamingo - Dean Atta

Book Review: The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

*I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.*

This book is definitely a coming of age novel with a twist. I, personally, have never read a book about how someone becomes a drag queen. Personally, I think it is an amazing creative art form and the make up skills? Damn.

A few people I know have pushed back from reading this because it’s written in verse, which I understand. When I read my first novel in verse as a teenager I didn’t get it BUT now I see it as a really creative way of telling a story. If you’re new to novels in verse this is a great place to start because it flows so well and it’s easy to just read it and forget because you’re so absorbed in the story.

This is a story about finding who you are, about balancing expectations and family with your own truth. It looks at the LGBTQ community and drag but I think this could speak to anyone who has struggled with working out who they are and who they want to be. I could relate because I also started to work myself out at university and found confidence I didn’t know I had.

The story also follows Michael’s realisation that he is gay and what this meant for him as well as his crushes, relationships and the like. I’m pretty sure all of us can relate to teenage crushes.

The poetry within the pages were absolutely beautiful! Also the flow from around the middle to the second half seemed effortless, even though I know it must have taken a long time to put together.

This was a 4 star read for me, incredibly interesting, well written and, for me at least, very original in both the way it was written and the story it told. I will say that towards the beginning I struggled a little bit, particularly with Michael’s younger years but found as he got to university I could relate.

Book Review: Once Upon A River – Diane Setterfield

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Once Upon A River is an intriguing read and I’m really pleased to have picked this up for book club and that I was able to discuss with with a group of people because this is the kind of book you will want to talk about the whole way through, there’s a lot to cover.

I will admit that in the beginning I wasn’t sure about who everyone was, their part in the story it can be quite confusing pulling all the threads together and I did have to go back. That said, I actually ended up loving the fact that so many strands ended up coming together in the end and it added to the mystery element of it all.

While it might sound strange, the pace of the plot felt like it followed the path of a river. Some parts were slow and winding while you felt that other parts were rushing through and you couldn’t stop reading. It was an incredibly clever way to write and I give props to the author.

This is the kind of novel that creates a lot of theories. I was chatting and debating with my friends about who the girl was, where she came from, who I wanted her to be. I was immersed in this mystery and while the ending wasn’t what I expected I can understand it.

I think my favourite character of the whole book was the midwife of the town – she was incredibly interesting and her use of science and love it was a welcome addition to a book that is full of folklore and whispers of magic. It’s impressive how the author was able to combine these aspects.

I gave this book 4 stars. I think it’s a good read, but it does take a little bit of getting used to particularly in the beginning. I feel that it’s worth it and most of the people I’ve spoken to agree!

Book Review: Carrie - Stephen King

Book Review: Carrie – Stephen King

A modern classic, Carrie introduced a distinctive new voice in American fiction — Stephen King. The story of misunderstood high school girl Carrie White, her extraordinary telekinetic powers, and her violent rampage of revenge, remains one of the most barrier-breaking and shocking novels of all time.

Make a date with terror and live the nightmare that is…Carrie

I have a confession to make – before Carrie I’d never read a Stephen King book. I’d always wanted to but all of the ones I’d been interested in looked really long, also I’m a total scaredy cat…I won’t be reading IT any time soon or possibly ever.

That said, I’ve been intrigued by the novel for a while and even tempted to watch it. I managed to pick up a copy of the book discounted and thought 2020 is the year that I finally read a Stephen King book…and I thought it was excellent.

The story centers a teenage girl in small town USA. She’s seen as quite strange by her peers and is controlled by her ultra-religious mother. But Carrie knows something that they don’t…she has a kind of talent. After an incident of bullying goes too far the whole town will see what happens when she’s push too far and humiliated by her classmates.

The novel is broken down in ways that I didn’t expect with interviews of people who witnessed the incident, papers from the investigation after and police reports etc. While at first I was a little confused by this I grew to enjoy the style and found I could build up a much better picture in my head. Having never seen the movie, it was great to come into this book with only my own imagination to guide me.

What I was particularly impressed by is how King has managed to portray a teenage girl in a way that most grown men couldn’t have. I didn’t feel like I was reading a guy writing a teenage girl which was a relief. Instead I felt an overwhelming sadness for a young woman that pretty much never had a chance.

This was a 4.5 star read for me it’s incredibly well written and while it might be considered a horror I think it also makes some crucial points about how much a person can take. Also it takes a lot to feel sorry for someone who kills as many people as possible and I really did. I’m already looking forward to my next Stephen King read, 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.