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Friday, 19 February 2021

Review: Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake

 I read Melanie Blake's previous novel, "The Thunder Girls", and absolutely loved it. Again drawing from her extensive experience in the entertainment industry, Melanie constructs a fast paced, enthralling, sensual and explosive novel about the world of soap opera. It's a soap opera about a soap opera, if you will. 

There are a lot - and I mean a lot - of characters to get your head around, so make sure you keep a bookmark by the cast list at the front of the book. 

"Falcon Bay" is one of Britain's longest running soaps, but it is falling sharply in popularity. The showrunners know desperately that they need to do some major work to get them back on top. 

Enter the new network owner - Madeline Kane. A glamourous, sharp, clever woman from America, she is there to ensure the show gets back on top. Her ideas include a live Christmas day show, a horrifying prospect logistically, but something that will certainly get everyone's tongues wagging - which is what the show needs. 

There's not too much I can reveal without spoilers - the amount of twists and turns dropped throughout the novel are impressive and rather a lot to keep up with. However, I can guarantee that the dynamics of the characters, both on and off set, make it an entertaining and somewhat suspenseful read as it reaches the finale of the novel. 

However, there is something I should add that is somewhat spoilery but I won't reveal the context of it. One of the characters is revealed to be a transwoman, which I was initially worried about as there are too many instances in which the state of someone's transition is the butt of a joke. However, Melanie handles this situation really well, and the reveal of the character's transition has valid reasoning. It is not treated unkindly - it is normalised. 

If you are a fan of rom coms and soap operas, then this novel is perfect for you. 

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Review: One Chance by Terroll Lewis

 This is the remarkable true story of Terroll Lewis, a young man who grew up in Brixton, London, surrounded by drugs and gang culture. By the time he was fifteen, the reality of being stabbed, shot at, and involved in buying or selling drugs was completely normalised. He was able to live with his nan and granddad, who gave him a secure base but they had no idea about his gang life. 

By the time he was 20, he'd seen and experienced more than most people would see in a lifetime, and he was barely out of his teens. The most gut-wrenching part of the book was when Terroll was accused of murdering one of his best friends, simply because at the crime scene there was another Black man of a similar build. During his time in prison, Terroll thought about what he could do to turn his life around, and make a difference in his community. He had unwittingly groomed the young people on his estate to be part of gang culture, and regretted it. 

There is an important thing about gang culture which I learned from this book. Members are extremely loyal, clever, and protective of their blood and chosen family - traits that we all value. The violence and drugs are a part of it, of course, but what Terroll and his friends put first was their community. 

It was this that Terroll chose to focus on what he was acquitted and released from jail. He founded a fitness class, which grew like wildfire, then got the funding he needed to start a gym. He used the opportunity to mentor young men in his community, and still continues to this day. 

Another thing that I learned from this book is that there are too many communities who are left behind, too many children who have no idea of the opportunities that they can take advantage of, so they turn to what is at hand. It teaches the reader that there is so much more to what we can see in "gang culture". These are young men (primarily) with families and friends they want to protect, and society needs to invest in them so they can turn their energies to more positive things - exactly what Terroll Lewis was able to do. 

"One Chance" is a fascinating, insightful, and ultimately uplifting story that will bring hope to anyone who reads it. 

Friday, 18 December 2020

My Top Ten Books of 2020

 In no particular order, they are:

1) Travellers in the Third Reich, Julia Boyd

2) Surge, Jay Bernard

3) Second Sister, Chan Ho-Kei

4) The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, Eva Rice

5) Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire (Akala)

6)) Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams

7) On The Come Up, Angie Thomas

8) The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

9) Saving Mona Lisa, Gerri Chanel

10) The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern

I hope you'll be able to check these out if you haven't already! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Becky :)

My Books of 2020

I've been lucky enough to read a great amount of books this year. A lot have been reviews by request, and the rest either I've wanted to read for ages or recommendations I've had from Twitter and Instagram. In a first for me, there are more non-fiction books on the list for this year than all my previous years of reviewing put together.

As close to chronological order of my reading them, they are below:


1) The Other You, S. J. Monroe

2) The Widows' Club, Amanda Brooke

3) Carbon Game, Miles Montague

4) Travellers in the Third Reich, Julia Boyd

5) The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, Ken Liu

6) Surge, Jay Bernard (poetry)

7) The Treadstone Resurrection, Joshua Hood

8) Second Sister, Chan Ho-Kei

9) LOT Stories, Bryan Washington

10) Everything Is Going To Be K.O, Kaiya Stone

11) Vagabonds, Hao Jingfang (Translated into English by Ken Liu)

12) The Queen's Choice, Anne O'Brien

13) Before I die, Jenny Downham

14) The Amber Keeper, Freda Lightfoot

15) The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, Eva Rice

16) The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Cristy Lefteri

17) The Sideman, Caro Ramsay

18) The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown

19) Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Renni Eddo-Lodge

20) White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

21) Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, Akala

22) How To Be An Antiracist, Dr Ibram X. Kendi

23) Brit(Ish), Afua Hirsch

24) Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo

25) Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams

26) On This Day In History, Dan Snow

27) Life On The Refrigerator Door, Alice Kuipers

28) Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights, Carole Matthews

29) Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal

30) Sepulchre, Kate Mosse

31) Skincare, Caroline Hirons

32) The Hen Who Believed She Could Fly, Sun-Mi Hwang

33) Another Time, W. H. Auden

34) On Writing, Stephen King

35) The Call Of The Wild, Jack London

36) The Happy Prince and Other Stories, Oscar Wilde

37) The Wizard of Oz, Frank L. Baum

38) Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories, Washington Irving

39) Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

40) Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

41) Normal People, Sally Rooney

42) The Railway Children, E. Nesbit

43) Robinson Crusoe, William Defoe

44) The Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

45) The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas

46) A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett

47) The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

48) Hurting Distance, Sophie Hannah

49) On The Come Up, Angie Thomas

50) Playdate, Alex Dahl

51) The Englishman, David Gilman

52) The Puritan Princess, Miranda Malins

53) Set My Heart To Five, Simon Stephenson

54) CrimeDotCom, Geoff White

55) Son of Escobar, Roberto Sendoya Escobar

56) The Interpreter from Java, Alfred Birney

57) Even If We Break, Marieke Nijkamp

58) The Marriage of Innis Wilkson, Lauren H. Brandenburg

59) Psychiatrist In The Chair, Brendan Kelly and Muiris Houston

60) Number 10, C. J. Daugherty

61) Saving The World, Paola Diana

62) The Salt Path, Raynor Winn

63) My Sister’s Bones, Nuala Ellwood

64) The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

65) A God In Every Stone, Kamila Shamsie

66) Black and British, David Olusaga

67) Saving Mona Lisa, Gerri Chanel

68) Last Flight To Stalingrad, Graham Hurley

69) The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern

70) Kiss Me At Christmas, Susan Mallery


 Lockdown and being on maternity leave has certainly helped with giving me lots of time to read! See the next blog post for my top ten. 

Review: Saving The World by Paola Diana

 This book almost breathes fire with how passionate it is. It’s a fantastic and fascinating exploration of gender equality that draws a line throughout history to show how the status of women has changed and somewhat progressed over time. However, as Paola explains, there is still a long way to go. 

The brevity of this book and its whistle stop tour of different facets of the status of women and feminism make it a perfect introduction and primer for those interest in feminism and its history. The author presents her research and her opinions clearly and passionately and, while I didn’t agree with all of her opinions, it certainly gave me food for thought about why I hold the positions I do and how I can progress in my learning in this area. 

One thing, however, seems for sure - if all women were respected and valued as powerful white men, the world would be in a much better position than it currently is. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Review: Number 10 by C. J. Daugherty

 Number 10 is a great crossover of genres between YA and thrillers, set in the seat of U.K. politics without taking a particular stance. 

Gray, the protagonist, is the daughter of the Prime Minister, and as such is of great interest to the press. The fact that she is a teenager doesn’t give paparazzi a moment’s pause in their pursuit of her. 

After she gets photographed leaving a party horrendously drunk, Gray’s mother grounds her for two weeks. However, it’s not long before Gray finds out there’s more at work.

She explores tunnels and corridors in the No 10 complex and, one night, ends up finding herself in the Houses of Parliament, during the time when her mother is leading an important debate. Cornered in an office, she hides and hears important members of the government plotting to kill her mother. Gray teams up with an unlikely ally - the son of the leader of the opposition. 

This is definitely YA genre I can get behind. I feel like I’ve read so much YA fantasy and dystopia, so the thriller sub genre feels fresh and different. The story is pacy and layered, with twists, turns, and unlikely betrayals.

My only question is this: will there be a sequel? A) because I have a lot of questions and B) there’s too much I don’t know that I feel I should at the end. 

Overall, a very enjoyable and quick read that I highly recommend for YA readers. 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Psychiatrist in the Chair, by Brendan Kelly and Muiris Houston

 This fascinating biography dives into the life and work of renowned psychiatrist, Anthony Clare. 

Growing up in Ireland, Clare had two paths expected of him by his parents: law or medicine. Clare didn’t want to do law so went down the medical route, even though he would have excelled at journalism. 

Having specialised in psychiatry, Clare sought to turn the world on its head. From research into mental health and illness, and the need for more community based support, to studying symptoms of PMS in women, Clare’s research was as wide as it was deep. 

Most known for hosting the show, In the Psychiatrist’s chair”, he became praised for interviews that were deft, deep, and insightful.

The authors have done a huge justice to Anthony Clare. I didn’t know who he was but having read this book, I can immediately see both the narrow and wider impact Clare had on the world of psychiatry, both with individual patients, students, and research and writing that still remains essential to this day. 

It’s a fascinating read with interesting surprises about a man who sought to, and did achieve, so much,