Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

36586697Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London. After a painful breakup from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie goes off the rails, seeking comfort in the arms of men who are all wrong, pushing her friends away, and putting her career at risk.

I really enjoyed the honesty of the narration. Queenie is well aware – throughout the entire book – that she’s making bad decisions. She knows that what she’s doing isn’t good for her and questions why she’s doing it, then does it anyway. It actually took me a long time to warm up to Queenie. I’ve also recently gone through a very painful breakup, but I couldn’t sympathise with her meek, desperate attitude towards her ex. It wasn’t until her deeper, childhood issues were covered that I was able to understand where she was coming from.

I adored Queenie’s family (especially Diana and her grandparents), and the Corgis group chat was brilliant. However, this book isn’t all fun and humour. Queenie is funny, with a witty narrative voice and some entertaining stories, but the book also goes to some pretty dark places. The sexual content was completely unexpected and quite explicit, while the mental-health issues explored are really serious. Queenie is marketed as something along the lines of Bridget Jones’ Diary, but it’s a lot more intense and real than that.

On the whole, this is a reasonably enjoyable, relatable and relevant book, with a strong (but not over-bearing) feminist feel to it. But I’m not sure it’s a book that we “need”. Unlike other culturally important books (I’m thinking The Hate U Give), I don’t think I’d describe Queenie as a must-read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

44025076Augusta Hope has never fit in. As a child, she memorised the dictionary and corrected her teachers. As an adult, she has no interest in the dull, small town her family lives in. When tragedy strikes and severs her connection with her beloved twin sister, Julia, Augusta is more determined than ever to find somewhere she belongs.

I loved this book so much more than I expected. This isn’t a genre I particularly like, though there are always some gems (like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) so I do give a few a try. It took me a while to get into; it wasn’t really until around halfway through the book that I realised how engrossed I was. But this is one of those books where pushing on is really worth it.

Augusta is quite a difficult character, but that’s kind of the point. She’s spiky and weird, but she knows she’s weird and all she wants is to find her place in the world. She and her family are eccentric and challenging characters, not always particularly likeable, but it just works.

The book is also about Parfait, a boy from Burundi who makes his way to Spain (to the exact place Augusta and her family visit). As the narrative alternates between Augusta and Parfait, it is inevitable that they will meet, but getting to that point is an emotional roller-coaster.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope presents a striking comparison between two people from very different worlds, coming together through their own individual tragedies. It is beautifully written and poignant. A surprising page-turner.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Family Trust – Kathy Wang

38359019For years, Stanley Huang has claimed to be worth a small fortune. Now, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and close to the end, Stanley’s true worth is about to be revealed and his family is worried. His two children, Fred and Kate, and his ex-wife, Linda, find themselves at odds with his current wife, Mary, as each wonder what they’re going to get when Stanley dies.

This book really missed the mark for me. The only reason I didn’t DNF it is because I was sent a physical copy and felt guilty about not reading it. But, honestly, the time I spent reading this book was time wasted. There were two major negative factors making me dislike this book: the characters and the plot.

First, the characters: Good Lord, I hated them all. They were all obsessed with money and didn’t really seem to care about much else – least of all each other. This is a book about family, but this family didn’t care about each other at all. They spent literally the entire time worrying about money, calculating costs and trying to get more money. And these people appeared to be quite rich, so they didn’t need more money. It’s a culture that I simply did not get.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the plot: Boring, to put it simply. The official blurb makes it sound like a reasonably intricate family drama but, really, it’s all about money. Stanley Huang is dying and his family all start panicking and making grabby hands at his money. That appeared to be the extent of it. And it’s not even a short book.

Other reviews have talked about the multilayered-ness of this book, but I simply didn’t see it. The best parts were definitely the chapters focusing on Kate and her marriage, but these were too short and too few, squeezed between truly dreadful chapters following Fred’s money-grabbing antics.

Unless you’re particularly a fan of these kinds of books (compared by many to Crazy Rich Asians), I would advise a wide berth. Finding something better won’t be hard.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Home – Amanda Berriman

38457392Jesika is four and a half. She lives in a flat with her little brother, Toby, and her mum, who is struggling to make ends meet. Jesika struggles to understand everything that’s going on, and has to deal with a lot when her mum and Toby get ill. All she knows is that she loves her mummy and doesn’t want to live anywhere but with her.

Home is a very special book. It is written entirely from Jesika’s point of view, which is brilliantly done. Her thoughts and feelings are entirely realistic and it’s really easy to understand why she reacts to things the way she does. The writing really feels like it’s coming from the mouth of a 4-year-old. I loved the touch of misspelled words to enhance the experience of reading from a child’s perspective.

I loved Jesika’s personality. She is a sweet and brave little girl, and impossible not to love. At times, it was kind of frustrating to read because, being so young, Jesika doesn’t understand everything that’s happening and doesn’t tell the adults. She comes so close a few times and I was practically yelling out at the book when she forgot or got too scared. I can’t remember the last time I was so emotionally invested in a story.

Trigger warning: this is a very emotional story and one thread involves child sexual abuse, but it isn’t graphic or descriptive and, though upsetting, I didn’t find it too difficult to read.

Home is completely addictive and fantastically well written. Quite possibly the best book I’ve read this year.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchage for an honest review.

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Sal – Mick Kitson

34215676.jpgAfter a year of planning and preparation, Sal is ready. Ready to protect her sister, Peppa, and take matters into her own hands. On the run after killing her mum’s abusive boyfriend, Sal takes Peppa to survive in the Galloway Forest.

This is a really special book. I loved Sal, and was really impressed that a middle-aged man was able to write from the perspective of a troubled 13-year-old girl so perfectly. Because the book is written from Sal’s point-of-view, it goes off on random tangents and we get important parts of the story bit by bit, as she thinks of them. It’s a really interesting style of writing that I really enjoyed.

A lot of heavy subjects are featured in this book: abuse, murder, alcoholism, neglect. But they’re approached in a way that isn’t too hard-hitting, while also not making light of them.

Laced with humour, this is the moving and brilliantly written story of a young girl taking control.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

34108705Starr is sixteen years old, living in a rough neighbourhood but attending a posh (mostly white high school in the suburbs. One night, Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend, Khalil (unarmed), by a police officer (white). As the only witness, what Starr says could make her a target by both the police and her own community. But, it could also help to make a change.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s funny, current, and moving. The characters are fantastic and relatable, especially Starr. Our lives are nothing alike and yet, because she’s such a well-written character, I was able to connect with her. I loved Starr’s narrative voice, and the way the book is written in her accent. The writing was very easy to read and very well done.

The Hate U Give is an important and eye-opening story. It was particularly interesting for me as a white, British reader because we definitely don’t hear as much about the kind of issues addressed in this book as maybe we should.

As far as teen fiction goes, I’m not sure this book actually deserves the amount of hype it has received. Honestly, I feel like the main reason it’s been so popular is because it deals with such an important topic. It’s a good book, but it’s not the best. That being said, I still think it should be read, especially by teens who don’t get much exposure to the real issues behind #BlackLivesMatter.

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The Betrayals – Fiona Neill

35567742Rosie and Lisa were best friends, raising their children together and sharing everything. But one summer everything changed. Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband, Nick, destroying Lisa and Rosie’s relationship, and tearing apart the rest of the family. Years later, Rosie receives a letter from Lisa asking for her help. As the rest of the family recall their version of what happened that summer, who should you believe?

What I liked about The Betrayals was getting the story from four sides. Rosie, Nick, Daisy and Max all remember the past differently, and it was really interesting to see what aspects some of them remember and others leave out. It was also interesting to see how what happened effected each of them.

What I didn’t like about the book was the characters. Like, any of them. Rosie was okay, but a bit bland. Daisy and Max were just really annoying and unlikeable. Nick was an absolute bastard and I can’t even cope with him. I hated every chapter written from his point of view because I just wanted to hit him. And don’t even get me started on Lisa and Ava; selfish, nasty people. Rex was actually alright but we didn’t get to hear that much about him.

The story itself was quite good, well-written and unpredictable. Unfortunately, the characters were all just so awful that I couldn’t enjoy it properly.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

34200289Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. She goes to work, she goes home, and every weekend she treats herself to a couple of bottles of vodka and a frozen pizza. Everything is fine. Until an unlikely friendship and an unhealthy crush start to dredge up memories from the past, and a childhood trauma she has thoroughly suppressed.

This book is amazing. I loved everything about it. The writing style is strong and easy to read, while the story is perfection. I loved the characters: Eleanor and Raymond in particular. It took a little while to warm up to Eleanor, but once I got to know her better she really grew on me. The relationship between Eleanor and Raymond was a pleasure to read, and I found myself really genuinely caring about them, as though they were real people.

One of my favourite things about this book is actually the lack of romance. The story is about Eleanor, the way she lives, and her eventual recovery. Although the relationship between her and Raymond is charming and integral to the story, that isn’t what the book is about. It isn’t a romance novel, and is all the better for it.

The balance between humour and tragedy was very well done. Taking serious and sad topics and turning them into a warm, witty and enjoyable story takes some serious skill, and Gail Honeyman clearly has oodles of skill.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is full of emotional and impact, but none of it is forced or sentimental. It is a thoroughly enjoyable book that I would recommend to everyone.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Standard Deviation – Katherine Heiny

26198476Graham lives a cosy life, with his talkative second wife, Audra, and their son, Matthew. Audra is the complete opposite of Graham’s first wife, Elspeth, and although he loves her very much, their life is full of challenges: Audra’s lack of tact, their constant rotation of house guests, infidelity, and raising a child with Asperger’s. In the middle of managing day-to-day life, Elspeth re-enters Graham’s life and he finds himself questioning his life choices, and those of the people around him.

The main thing to note about this book is that the plot isn’t particularly eventful or exciting. We follow Graham’s day-to-day as he navigates his relationships with Audra, Matthew, Elspeth and everyone else. But by no means does this make the book boring. Standard Deviation is beautifully written, and I was completely sucked in despite there not actually being an awful lot going on.

I really loved the story being from Graham’s point of view. His thoughts are relatable and amusing, which really made the book easy to read. I also loved the other characters – Audra in particular is fabulous and Graham’s devotion to her, despite everything, was really sweet and nice to read. All the supporting characters make their own little impacts, my favourite being the origami club because they are, quite simply, adorable weirdos.

The one and only thing I disliked about this book is that there were a couple of unanswered questions at the end (what was Audra doing at that hotel?) which was annoying but also kinda reflective of real life, so maybe that was intentional.

I was genuinely upset when the book ended. I could have read about Graham and his life forever.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Cows – Dawn O’Porter

32594947This novel follows the lives of three different women, living very different but connected lives. Cam is a successful and single lifestyle blogger who chooses to do what she wants, when she wants, without the ties of a husband or children. Tara is a single mother who’s life takes a dramatic turn after she is filmed masturbating on a train. Stella’s mum and twin sister have both been killed by cancer, and she is left facing the choice between life-altering surgery or facing the same fate. The whole premise revolves around being female, and examines the intricacies of women’s life choices in family, careers and friendship.

The three storylines are equally engaging and link together in an understated but completely plausible way. The narrative voices of the three women could have been more different. They were all a bit too similar which made them blend into one and made the book slightly harder to follow, but they each had a good story nonetheless.

The message of this book is not even remotely discreet, but it’s not pushy or intrusive either. Dawn O’Porter manages to make a clear point about feminism in the guise of an engaging and entertaining story, which is, frankly, very effective.

I was attracted to this book because of the cover and the title, and I’m very pleased to say that the inside is almost as good the outside.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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