Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

43666435._SY475_.jpgThis is the story of two neighbouring families, the friendship between their children, and a tragedy that tears them apart. Kate and Peter live next door to each other and were born six months apart. They are best friends, but their families just don’t get on. One horrific night, their bond is pushed past its limits. But can they move on from the events of the past when they meet again, years later?

Books of this genre aren’t rare. They’re full of drama and explore the darker side of family, but what makes this one stand out if that the catalytic event is truly shocking, while the fall-out is well considered and realistic. Issues around mental health and alcoholism are quite well (though not very sympathetically) explored, and suicide and sexual abuse are touched upon. Quite a lot of ground is covered, but it failed to keep my interest throughout.

Firstly, I would say that the pacing isn’t brilliant. The early portions of the book progress very slowly, and then things pick up speed as things start to happen later on. Because of this, the beginning of the story dragged a little and the end portions felt a bit rushed.

I did like the exploration of Peter and Kate’s marriage, and Kate’s commitment to Peter despite his problems driving her away and her family telling her to leave him. However, very little else stood out to me.

I would recommend Ask Again, Yes to fans of dark domestic dramas. The characters are well developed and their relationships are interesting, but I would steer clear if this isn’t your genre.

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

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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 Food of Love – Amanda Prowse

30333119.jpgFreya and Lockie live a charmed life: 19 years of happy marriage and two lovely teenage daughters, Charlotte and Lexi. They are the perfect family, until Lexi develops severe anorexia and everything falls apart.

The Food of Love has good point and bad points. Freya is annoying I didn’t like her. She seemed to be far more concerned with not upsetting her daughter than with helping her get better. And everything is about her, about what she’s done wrong as a mother, rather than about her daughter who is ill, or her poor other daughter who she is neglecting. And she won’t let her husband help which is stupid because they’re his children too. Basically, I disagree with everything Freya does, which stopped me from loving the book because it’s written from her perspective. The turmoil the family are put through is quite moving, but the story is repetitive and I didn’t find Lexi very relatable, which made it hard to understand or sympathise with her.

FORTUNATELY the story is pretty engaging despite Freya’s narrative voice being so annoying. I don’t know much about eating disorders and it is a very interesting read. It is clear that the author did a great deal of research for this book, which I respect. It’s a hard book to judge because I wouldn’t say I particularly liked or enjoyed the story, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Something to be said for the quality of writing: it’s quite a feat to engage your reader so much into a story they don’t really like.

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

The Spiral Cage – Al Davison

3390365I’ve never reviewed a graphic novel before (I’ve actually never read one before this either) so this will be short but sweet.

The Spiral Cage is an autobiographical graphic novel in which Al Davison explores his struggle to overcome the disability he was born with: spina bifida. It is powerful and thought-provoking (if a little confusing at times). As someone so unfamiliar with graphic novels, this might not have been the best one to start with, but I certainly found it interesting. A lot of pages contained no words at all and I found it difficult to follow, especially as there are a lot of time-shifts and a lot of emotional expression.

I did enjoy reading this book (and appreciating the illustrations) but there was a serious disconnect for me which was mainly down to a lack of comprehension.

Fell – Jenn Ashworth

cover88658-mediumAnnette Clifford returns to her childhood home to find the building falling apart, undermined by two huge sycamore trees. Her arrival has awoken the spirits of her parents, Jack and Netty, who watch over her as she tries to organise the house. But when Jack and Netty start to remember the past, when Netty was sick (dying of cancer) and a strange man with seemingly magical healing powers moved in and stole all their attention from Annette, they become desperate to make amends in any way they can.

Fell is quite well written. Some scenes are very vivid (particularly when Netty is throwing up seawater – don’t ask), with strong imagery. However, a lot of this didn’t seem to add anything much to the plot, which was mainly about Netty’s illness and the stranger’s apparent resistance to give her any actual help.

I usually love a ghost-based story, but the ghost thing didn’t really work here to be honest. We follow the story from Jack and Netty’s perspective, but it jumps awkwardly from present to past which was abrupt and confusing. The story itself left a lot to be desired and, though I’m sure some people will say it’s marvellous (it’s one of those books where you can see that others would love it), it really just didn’t do it for me. I found the whole thing uncomfortable to read, and rather boring.

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