Mini Book Reviews: No One is Talking About This | Like A House on Fire | Homecoming | Life in Pieces

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini book reviews of books I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I’m slowly getting my reading and blogging mojo back but in the meantime I hope you find some books you enjoy from these mini review posts.

Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

I really enjoyed this novel – it’s both light-hearted and a very realistic portrayal of family dynamics! The novel follows a family as they are all about to come together in a murder mystery party organised by the mum. Stella and George and the central characters – they’ve both recently agreed to divorce and are living separately but Stella has yet to tell her parents so persuades George to go to the party with her and to pretend all is fine. Stella is the middle child – her older sister Helen is ‘perfect’. She’s married with two children and always does the right thing. Pete is the youngest and he is very wayward but can do no wrong in his mum’s eyes. I loved the dynamic between the three grown up children – it’s one I know and understand very well and the author captures it perfectly. The murder mystery party begins around halfway through the book and it’s just brilliantly written. I adored how the novel played out and the way the denouement comes about. This is such a fun read and I highly recommend it.

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

I listened to this on audiobook via NetGalley and I really enjoyed it. I finished it a while ago now and have been struggling with how to review it. I don’t really know how to express my thoughts on this one. It follows a woman who is obsessed with the Portal, her posts regularly go viral and she is famous within this social network. She thinks in social media soundbites and her life seems to revolve around what would make a good post and how best to express her thoughts online. She questions this life though and wonders about whether this life online is hell and is it going to be what we’re doing forever. Then one day she gets a text from her mum to say that something is very wrong. All of a sudden she has to confront real life and the potential for tragedy in her own family whilst still feeling very much under the influence of the Portal. The second half of the novel is her dealing with what has happened and the juxtaposition between the portal and the very real situation her family has to confront and cope with. I loved this novel, I found it very thought provoking and it’s one that I keep finding myself musing on. I think I’d like to buy myself a physical copy of the book so that I can read it again in print form as it feels like a book to be experienced in both forms. I definitely recommend this one, particularly if you find yourself obsessively scrolling through social media on a frequent basis!

Homecoming by Luan Goldie

Nightingale Point was one of my favourite books of last year so I was very highly anticipating Luan Goldie’s next book and I’m so happy to say that I very much enjoyed it. This novel follows three characters: Yvonne who has buried her demons and is trying so hard to move on with her life and to ignore her guilt. Kiama who has grown up without his mum and he desperately wants to know more about her. And Lewis, Kiama’s father, who just wants to protect his son and to keep him from the pain of the past. I loved Kiama and Yvonne in this novel and was intrigued at how she had been in his life when he was a young child but then lost touch with him over the last decade. The two end up going back to Kenya to try and resolve what happened in the past. I found this such a beautiful and moving novel. I could understand everyone’s point of view and so felt for all of the characters. The setting of London and Kenya were so vividly written that I felt I was right there along with Yvonne and Kiama. I just adored this novel and keep finding myself thinking about the characters and wondering how they are now. I recommend this one!

Life in Pieces by Dawn O’Porter

I’ve read and loved Dawn O’Porter’s novels so was keen to read her non-fiction book. I got a copy of this one from NetGalley and I read it a little while ago now. This is the author’s diary and blog posts from the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic. I couldn’t read it when I first got it as it all felt too recent but when I finally did pick it up I quite enjoyed it. I like her writing style and could hear her voice in my head as I was reading. There are quite a few sections in the book that I could identify with and found very moving but some of it felt very self-indulgent and unaware of how other people might be feeling as they read her words. It was jarring at times as she complained about being stuck in her big house with her big garden. At the same time I think that the general fears around Covid and grief, and they way our priorities have changed throughout the pandemic and what we want in life has become much more apparent to all of us. These parts of the book I very much enjoyed and could identify with. Ultimately, this was a mixed bag but I did quite enjoy it for the most part.

WWW Wednesdays (13 Jan ’21)! What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading!

Current Reads

The Last Resort by Susi Holliday

I’ve read and enjoyed Susi Holliday’s previous novel so was keen to get to her new one. This is a really intriguing novel where seven people who have never met before are taken to an island where they think they are on a luxury break but actually a tech company has other ideas. I’m so keen to find out what is going on in this book and so I’ll be reading more of this asap!

Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh

This is another intriguing novel! Two sisters each dialled 911 to report their father had been brutally attacked and that the person who’d done it was their sister who had killed him. I’m so keen to know what actually happened and how this novel is going to end!

Recent Reads

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

This was a fascinating read all about the way the world is designed around men and male bodies. I found it anger-inducing but also very interesting reading about things like how cars are designed around males and how medication is based on trials on male bodies. I knew, or had an idea, of some of the things in this book but it was still eye-opening. I’m really glad I read this one.

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew

I bought this book and read it straight away, which I don’t do often enough these days. I really enjoyed this YA novel about a teenage girl who gets her period during her first sexual encounter and what happens after that. I loved the issues explored through this novel and how it looks at how girls can be made to feel shame about such a natural bodily process. I wish this book had existed when I was a teenager but I still very much enjoyed it as a 40-something!

The Island by C. L. Taylor

I was approved to listen to the audio book of this one via NetGalley and I enjoyed it. I love C. L. Taylor’s writing and this was a thrilling YA mystery set on an island where a group of teens have gone for a survivalist experience but what they get is more than they bargained for.

Your Blue is Not My Blue by Aspen Matis

This is such a different book that I would normally stick with but there was something so compelling about the writing and I just couldn’t put it down. I was intrigued by Matis’ life and to find out what would happen to her and her marriage. I really did enjoy this book and I would recommend it.

What I Might Read Next

After the Silence by Louise O’Neill

I’ve had this on my TBR for a little while now and I keep seeing good reviews for it so I’m really keen to pick it up. Hopefully I will get to it over the coming week.

Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies

My husband surprised me with this book for Christmas and I’ve really want to read it very soon so hopefully I can also get to this one this week.

Homecoming by Luan Goldie

I’ve got an ARC of this from NetGalley but I recently bought the audio book from Audible so I think I’m going to part listen and part read this one soon!

Stacking the Shelves with a new Book Haul (8 Aug 20)!

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Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week!

Purchased eBooks

The Other Girl by C. D. Major

I’ve been so keen to get my hands on this book so when I discovered it was part of the Amazon Prime First Reads this month I immediately downloaded it on my Kindle. I can’t wait to read this one!

They thought she was insane. But what if she was telling the truth? 1942, New Zealand. Edith’s been locked away for a long time. She was just five years old when she was sent to Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. Fifteen years later, she has few memories of her life before the asylum, but longs for one beyond it. When she survives a devastating fire that destroys her ward, Edith is questioned by the police and a young doctor, Declan Harris. Intrigued by his beautiful patient, Declan begins to doubt the official reasons for her incarceration. Is she truly mad—or could the impossible stories she told as a child actually be true? Time is running out. With Edie awaiting a new and permanent treatment, soon there will be little of her left to save. Meanwhile intrigue has tipped into obsession—Declan needs to uncover the truth, but in doing so he will risk losing everything. As he sets out to save her mind, will he lose his own?

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while now so I bought it this week and I’m really keen to pick it up. It might even be my next read!

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. Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

I Love the Bones of You by Christopher Eccleston

This is another book that I’ve wanted to read ever since it was first published so when I spotted it on a Kindle deal for 99p this week I bought it right away. I think this will be an interesting and emotional memoir, and it’s one I hope to get to soon.

Drawing on his memories, Chris will describe a vivid life of growing up in a Salford, working-class household in the 1970s with his siblings, a loving mother, and the totemic figure of his hardworking, serious-minded and socialist father – Ronnie. How his life changed from a potential future as ‘factory fodder’ in his native Northwest, to a deep-rooted desire to perform on stage, and what developed into a burgeoning acting career – from his stunning film debut Let Him Have It; to the BBC’s landmark drama miniseries Our Friends in the North; his remarkable relaunch of the iconic Doctor Who franchise; and many more BAFTA-nominated roles over the past three decades such as starring in the current production of Macbeth for the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford; and, playing the role of the grandfather in the BBC1 hit drama series The A Word.
Along this path of fame and fortune also lay a man still bonded to his home city of Salford, his politics, his family, and especially his beloved parents. Chris will discuss openly the loss of his father and his family’s struggle to cope with his condition over the past decade of his life as they watched his health deteriorate. A journey thousands of British families travel on each year. A heart-rending, honest and often touching memoir of a man embedded in his roots and mourning the loss of the father who nurtured those roots. 

Lost You by Haylen Beck

I bought this Kindle book on a total whim as the cover caught my eye and I liked the sound of the premise. I hope it’s as good as it sounds!

YOU’RE LOOKING FOR YOUR SON. BUT SHE FOUND HIM FIRST Libby would do anything for her three-year-old son Ethan. And after a traumatic year, a holiday seems the perfect antidote for them both. Their hotel is peaceful, safe and friendly, yet Libby can’t help feeling that someone is watching her. Watching Ethan. Because, for years, Libby has lived with a secret. Just when Libby is starting to relax, Ethan steps into an elevator on his own, and the doors close before Libby can stop them. Moments later, Ethan is gone. Libby thought she had been through the worst, but her nightmare is only just beginning. And in a desperate hunt for her son, it becomes clear she’s not the only one looking for him…

Review Books

Homecoming by Luan Goldie

I read and loved Luan Goldie’s previous novel so when I spotted her forthcoming book on NetGalley I had to request it. I was delighted to be approved to read it this week and will definitely be reading this very soon!

For years Yvonne has tried to keep her demons buried and focus on moving forward. But her guilt is always with her and weighs heavily on her heart. Kiama has had to grow up without a mother, and while there is so much he remembers about her, there is still plenty he doesn’t know. And there’s only one person who can fill in the gaps. Lewis wants nothing more than to keep Kiama, his son, safe, but the thought of Kiama dredging up the past worries Lewis deeply. And Lewis doesn’t know if he’s ready to let the only woman he’s ever loved back into his life. When Kiama seeks Yvonne out and asks her to come with him to Kenya, the place that holds the answers to his questions, she knows she can’t refuse. And this one act sets in motion an unravelling of the past that no one is ready for.

Purchased AudioBooks

I’ve had an Audible membership for years and years now and have been paying monthly for one book but I realised that it was much better value to pay for a year’s membership upfront and get 24 credits to spend. It meant I had to use up the six credits I already had or I would have lost them so I decide to buy the following six books from my wish list. I can’t wait to listen to all of these!

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donohue

Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect? Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Lifemagazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced. In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton. But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.

Pain and Prejudice by Gabrielle Jackson

‘Women are in pain, all through their bodies; they’re in pain with their periods, and while having sex; they have pelvic pain, migraine, headaches, joint aches, painful bladders, irritable bowels, sore lower backs, muscle pain, vulval pain, vaginal pain, jaw pain, muscle aches. And many are so, so tired … But women’s pain is all too often dismissed, their illnesses misdiagnosed or ignored. In medicine, man is the default human being. Any deviation is atypical, abnormal, deficient.’ Fourteen years after being diagnosed with endometriosis, Gabrielle Jackson couldn’t believe how little had changed in the treatment and knowledge of the disease. In 2015, her personal story kick-started a worldwide investigation into the disease by The Guardian; thousands of women got in touch to tell their own stories and many more read and shared the material. What began as one issue led Jackson to explore how women – historically and through to the present day – are under-served by the systems that should keep them happy, healthy and informed about their bodies. Pain and Prejudice is a vital testament to how social taboos and medical ignorance keep women sick and in anguish. The stark reality is that women’s pain is not taken as seriously as men’s. Women are more likely to be disbelieved and denied treatment than men, even though women are far more likely to be suffering from chronic pain.

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness–how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people–sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society–went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry’s labels. Forced to remain inside until they’d “proven” themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan’s watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.  But, as Cahalan’s explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?

Me by Elton John

In his only official autobiography, music icon Elton John writes about his extraordinary life, which is also the subject of the film Rocketman. Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was on his first tour of America, facing an astonished audience in his tight silver hotpants, bare legs and a T-shirt with ROCK AND ROLL emblazoned across it in sequins. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again. His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade. In Me Elton also writes about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father.

Library Books (BorrowBox App)

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

This is the next non-fiction book I plan on reading, it’s one I’ve heard a lot about and I think it’ll be a good one to read alongside the others I’ve either already read or got on my TBR stack.

The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality. Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

Have you acquired any new books this week? I’d love to know what you got. Or have you read any of my new books and recommend I get to any of them sooner rather than later? If you’ve shared a book haul post this week then please feel free to share you link below and I’ll make sure to visit your post! 🙂