Book Review: The Disconnect – Keren David

Could you last six whole weeks without your phone? Six weeks without sharing photos, without group messages, without being kept in the social‑media loop?

An eccentric entrepreneur has challenged Esther’s year group to do just that, and the winners will walk away with £1,000.

For Esther, whose dad and sister live thousands of miles away in New York, the prize might be her only chance to afford flights for a visit…

But can she really stay disconnected long enough to win?
 

Out of the three books I picked up at YALC this year, one of them was kindly gifted to me by Barrington Stoke and you’ll be hearing more about them in another post!

I picked this up because I found the concept fascinating – living without your phone, particularly as a teenager in 2019. I mean, I was a teenager between 2007 & 2013 and even then we were pretty obsessed with our phones (rest in peace my faithful iPhone 3GS) but now it’s a totally different world.

I really liked Esther, she felt incredibly real and so did her family. Often in Young Adult books the families of protagonists aren’t that well written but in this case they were integral to the plot. The fact that she misses her sister and Dad really resonated while reading as a motivator.

The plot tackled a lot of themes in a pretty short book (it was only 224 pages in a larger font, specially created for Dyslexic readers) – missing your family, money, a mention of police corruption, technology, bullying and more but at the same time this didn’t feel forced. They naturally fell into the plot because this is what a teenagers life is like – all these things can be going on at the same time and it was refreshing to read.

Additionally, the task and research behind it made me think a lot about my own relationship with my phone. I spend a lot of time on it, partly because it’s my job but I am trying to do better when it comes to leaving my phone across the room and getting off it in the evening. Could I have gone 6 weeks without my phone as a teenager? Probably not, I probably would have cracked.

I gave this book 3.5 stars, I thought this was a positive book and while I’m not the target audience I did appreciate the novel for what it was. Due to the nature of the book and publishers this is meant to me a shorter read with straightforward themes as they are aimed at teens with Dyslexia.

I’m intrigued to know – do you think that you could have lived without your phone as a teenager? Let me know below. 👇

Book Review: The Other Mother – Jen Brister

When Jen falls in love with Chloe they have a great life and eventually decide that having a small person was something they wanted to do. As her wife goes through the process of IVF and pregnancy Jen finds herself as ‘The Other Mother’. There’s also the small matter that Chloe became pregnant with twins, it’s a lot for anyone to handle.

I have to say, I’m not a parent to an actual human child, I currently only have fur babies in my life so I can’t be the judge on how realistic this is but I found it to be a book that shares a lot. Jen is completely honest about her experiences, about how tough she found it at times and how boring looking after kids can be.

I found myself laughing so much while reading this book and now I’m desperate to see Jen perform as a comedian. It just feels incredibly real but also she’s not afraid to laugh at herself, her thoughts and her actions. This isn’t a book telling you how to raise a child or being the perfect parent.

Jen is also respectful of the privacy of her children. Her sons are referred to throughout the book as Twin 1 and Twin 2 and while she shares stories about her life with Chloe raising them, we don’t know their names. It’s clear that Jen wants to protect the identity of her boys and who can blame her? This book is about her experience of being ‘The Other Mother’ it’s not a biography of her children. I respect that.

Also, I can highly recommend the audiobook which is how I absorbed it and I really couldn’t stop listening. Although a note to anyone who does get the audiobook, be ready to laugh out loud at various points and look a bit nuts.

I gave this book 5 stars and have been recommending it to a lot of people recently. It’s funny but also gives a real look at what it’s like to be a non-biological parent in 2019.

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Is this one of my favourite books of the year? Yes. Is it in some of my top books of all time? Also yes. While I read Daisy Jones & The Six first I fell in love with Evelyn and her story to a point of obsession. I needed to know the answers to my questions. Why Monique? Who was Evelyn’s true love? Why does she want to writer her biography now?! I needed to know.

This is set in the golden age of Hollywood and once again Jenkins Reid has created a cast of characters that feel so real you forget that it’s fiction. I wanted to watch Evelyn’s movies, read the book they’re working on. In my mind she’s a mix of Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor – and isn’t that incredible?

Personally, I listened to the audiobook and it was an incredible experience. Of course, I’m going to be picking up a physical copy because I need it represented on my shelves but the audiobook really made it come alive. Listening to ‘Evelyn’ and ‘Monique’ was a real treat and I was plugged in at every opportunity – so much so I made my fiance listen to it while I put it on through my speaker on the evening so I could relax.

While you might not expect it this novel has great LGBTQ rep and what it meant to hide who you truly were in this era when all of your success depends on your outward persona. There is also violence, lies and deceit but it really works within the world it is set in.

Evelyn isn’t always a likeable character but that definitely adds to the novel because despite the fact she does some questionable things I still loved and cared deeply for her as a character. This is also added to when you see Evelyn through Moniques eyes.

There’s no doubt that Taylor Jenkins Reid is incredible at researching and writing about past time periods in a way that transports you into that setting so much so you feel like you are there.

Obviously I gave this 5 stars. I adore this book and after finishing it I went and got other TJR books to get through. I’m a big fan of her style and completely understand the hype behind Evelyn Hugo.

Book Review: Eat, Drink, Run How I Got Fit Without Going Too Mad – Bryony Gordon

Bryony Gordon was not a runner. A loafer, a dawdler, a drinker, a smoker, yes. A runner, no. In April 2017, less than a year after she had weighed herself at over 16 stone but stepped off the scales and started training anyway, Bryony Gordon ran all 26 and 3/4 miles of the London Marathon.

If you’re friends with me on Goodreads you’ll know that I’ve adored every book I have read by Bryony Gordon – she’s funny, intelligent and just gets it. Although, this is the one I took longest to pick up. It was about running, something I can’t stand at all – would I really enjoy it? Read on friend, but I think you’ll work out pretty early on what the answer is.

One of the things I like most about Bryony is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She knows how to laugh at herself and it’s a relief, you feel like you can laugh along too. Calling Prince Harry Hazza? Classic Bryony. Signing up the London Marathon without knowing how long it was? I laughed a lot while reading this and I think most people will.

This is more than a story of just running a marathon, it’s about battling your mental health, finding comfort in others and not giving up. Bryony started something called Mental Health Mates (more about it here) where a bunch of ‘mad’ people could have a get together and walk which is a bloody brilliant idea.

Again, Bryony covers another section of her life and health with unflinching honesty. She talks about the toll that writing Mad Girl had on her mental health and how walking and running gave her a little bit of sanity. Also, if you’re a fan of her other books, there are plenty of Harry’s brilliant reactions to Bryony’s shenanigans too.

If you’re worried this will be a prechy and self righteous book about the power of exercise, don’t be. Yes, Bryony found a love for running but she doesn’t try and force it on the reader at all, she simply writes about the joy and the many challenges she faced.

I found this to be funny, relatable and because of that I gave it 5 stars. Another excellent and honest book by Bryony – she truly is a wonderful human and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to next. Also, I listened to this as an audiobook and can highly recommend!

Book Review – Vicious – V.E Schwab

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Well, this was a bit bloody brilliant wasn’t it? Vicious was the first V.E Schwab book I read and I’m more than a little bit in love with the novel and plot. Victor and Eli are both stand out characters and, more so, I was just knocked sideways by how smart the plot was.

When I first started reading the novel I did get a bit confused, there’s quite a few characters to start with quite early on, we’re going between modern day for the characters and 10 years ago. That took quite a bit of getting used to and I had to really concentrate at times to make sure I knew what was going on. However, once I got past that I was obsessed with this book.

Personally, I love Victor he was definitely my favourite character, even if he wasn’t always likeable. I feel that all of the characters were interesting but there was just something about Victor that I found so interesting, possibly in his way of thinking, his motives. I didn’t quite connect with Eli the same way but I might in the next novel, who knows?

This is a book that really kept me reading, I needed to know what what going to happen – how the ‘game’ was going to play out and more importantly who was going to survive. And I was completely hooked. I also had a huge soft soft for Sydney and needed to know what was going to happen to her.

Also, no spoilers but that ending, THAT ENDING. I absolutely loved it and I’m quite glad I picked up both novels after Vengeful was released because while I am taking time to process between books I can go to the next one without that much of a wait.

I gave this 5 stars, I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. I am kicking myself for not picking up a V.E Schwab novel sooner. She is clearly an incredible story teller and I can’t wait to see what happens in Vengeful.

Book Review: The Hormone Diaries: The Bloody Truth About Our Periods – Hannah Witton

If you haven’t noticed, I think Hannah Witton is a great YouTuber and also seems like a lovely person. I’ve watched her channel for a few years now and loved her first book, Doing It so when she announced a book tied to her series The Hormone Diaries, I was in.

The book is a great mix of informative and funny with some great notes from Hannah around the edges. While this is definitely aimed at an older audience (hooray!) I still learnt so much, and this is from someone who’s been having periods for about 12 years at this point. There was so much I didn’t know!

Covering letters from Hannah’s followers around the world they addressed to things you might not expect like, ‘Dear my period’, ‘Dear my pill’ and ‘Dear menstrual cup’ . While it is amusing it’s also great to see so many experiences of hormones, contraception and the like. I found myself laughing, sympathising and nodding along the whole way through this book.

What I didn’t expect to feel when reading was powerful. I wanted to get up and shout I AM A MENSTRATOR because, if you think about it, we’re pretty badass. And although, in my opinion, periods are shit, most contraception is a nightmare and the thought of giving birth makes my vagina scream in protest – our bodies are bloody marvelous.

This is probably the most inviting book I’ve read in a long time in regards to the gender spectrum. Hannah doesn’t just assume that everyone who has a period identifies as a woman. She has used inclusive language throughout which is definitely the way forward. While I’m a cis female I can understand how this can be a big thing for others. Go Hannah!

It’s worth pointing out that thanks to Hannah and her book I’m now part of a wonderful group on Facebook where we all talk about hormones and periods. It’s fantastic and I’m so glad so much conversation has come out of this book – and will continue to!

Is it any surprise that I gave this 5 stars. A great book and, once again, Hannah has pulled it out of the bag. I highly recommend this to anyone who gets a period or has to battle with estrogen on a regular basis.

Book Review: The Sun Does Shine – Anthony Ray Hinton

As a poor black man in the deep south, Anthony Ray Hinton, didn’t stand a chance when the police accused him of multiple murders. Despite the fact he had a solid alabi, the gun they claimed he had used hasn’t been fired in decades and didn’t match the bullets used. Despite his innocence he spent decades on death row inching closer to death before finally being declared a free man.

Throughout the pages I found myself getting angry, frustrated and upset with the lack of care that the justice system had towards this man. The fact that they would not acknowledge the racist actions of the people within their institution is, frankly, disgusting. But that in itself is the power of this memoir.

It was important that Ray showed that he does have his own flaws. It would have been easy to portray himself as squeaky clean, instead he owns up to the dodgy checks or the stolen car in his youth. Should he have done them? No. But he did and he admits it. Those actions, however, do not make him a murderer, simply an easy target for injustice.

There were times that I felt conflicted Ray spoke with kindness about the men around him, despite the fact that some were rapists and murderers but, he reminded the reader, not all were guilty. Some of them yes, but not all. At the end of the book there is a list of all of the people on death row, I read every single one of them and broke down in tears. There will be people in that list who are innocent – who may die.

I gave this memoir, 5 stars, I felt so emotional while reading it as well as angry. The fact that it took so long for Ray to be freed, how much of his life he missed is disgusting. That said, this is an incredibly important read because these are stories that need to be heard. I urge you to read this to really learn about the injustices.