Book Reviews

5 STAR REVIEW – Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

I knew this would be a difficult book before going in due to the subject matter and personal experience. It’s a topic that is very rarely addressed in real-life, let alone in novels, so I found this to be a very important book. One that every teenager needs to read, because domestic violence is not necessarily physical, and more awareness needs to be made regarding what’s okay and not okay in a relationship.

We follow Grace and at the start she is full of ambition, reaching for the stars (i.e. New York) to follow her dream to become a famous, successful directer. She loves musicals and Pepsi Freezes (don’t know what they are, but after reading this I want to find out if they exist and what they taste like) and is enjoying life with her friends and drama club. Enter Gavin, who is your typical charismatic, charming, music loving boy. Basically, any teen girls kryptonite, or blue eyed snake.

We see how he worms his way into Graces life. even from the beginning she had no control, it felt like she was under his spell and he was ready to take advantage, which immediately gave me alarm bells. Straight away I saw him as a manipulative narcissist, but Grace was crazy about him, and love is blind from these subtle signs. He wanted Grace and Grace just needed to sit back and watch it happen. The further we go, the more aggressive, controlling, and dangerous Gavin becomes, and it honestly was scary about how far he was going to go. I started getting really scared for Grace, and it was seriously affecting her mental health. Even though I never went through anything as serious as Grace did, but there are still similarities that I was able to relate to. Making excuses for their behaviour, blaming yourself when they got angry, having such a low self-esteem you start worrying that you can’t leave because ‘no-one else can anyone love me’, using ‘I love him’ as an excuse for sticking around and hoping that you can somehow fix everything if you stayed.

I really empathised with Grace. Her family life was terrible, with her mother suffering from OCD and forcing Grace to clean an already clean spot, doing ridiculous chores, and dealing with an equally abusive step-father. It was clever to include this in the novel, as Grace’s need for love and acceptance from Gavin can be linked to her poor home life. At the beginning, Gavin seemed like a break from them, an escape and a chance to feel happy again. This frame of mind is possibility how people get trapped into abusive relationships. The bad relationship at home is considered ‘normal’, and Grace started to realise this further in the novel, she could she herself in her mother, and what could be her life if she doesn’t get out soon.

I loved how Grace had such a positive relationship with her two best friends Nat and Lys. I loved their characters and story arcs. Nat is a sweet, innocent Catholic girl, and Lys is a scene-kid lesbian and they are all such incredible, supportive friends to each other. They help Grace as much as they can, whilst also helping her see the light without being impatient or pushy. They were always there for her which is such a good thing to see. Friends sticking together. It showed how important friends can be in this situation as they can really see how moods change and red flags show.

The story is told in the second person, and Grace is talking to Gavin (i.e. ‘you’) which I thought was a very good way to tell the story. We see Grace’s inner monolgue throughout the entire relationship and how in retrospect she feels she could’ve left after the first red flags, because hindsight is an amazing thing, right? You feel all the emotions that she goes through and how many times to changes her mind and give Gavin ‘one more chance’ and your rooting for her to finally do it. It is so incredibly brave to stop with the excuses and stop with the ‘compromises’ and cut all ties. At the end, we start to see the Grace we see at the beginning. Excited for life, loving her times with her friends. Although the affects of Gavin are still there, haunting. She still worried about whether he’s going to follow her, or find her, and that’s something that might stick for the rest of her life.

The slight critique I had was that it seemed strange how Summer was no longer present in the novel after a few chapters in, and I really thought her perspective and past would’ve really helped Grace. I also would’ve loved to see a bit more of the aftermath, maybe seeing Grace at College and starting her new life? But I understand why the author left it where she did.

Overall, I think this is such as important read for every young person. But there are trigger warning for abuse, suicide, depression, anxiety. So bare this in mind at all times and don’t feel as if you need to push through them. It’s such a difficult read that not everyone can get through, but still incredibly important.

Find out more about this book, and the author’s other works on Goodreads.
Book Reviews

5 STAR REVIEW – The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story by Christie Watson

This book takes a look on the National Health Service (NHS) within the UK. This was such an important and powerful story of a Nurse in the NHS. I was laughing and crying as Christie goes through her Nurse training full of enthusiasm, being overwhelmed once qualified, seeing and doing things you can’t properly explain the experience of, and also seeing the strain on the NHS and how it is affecting the well-being of the staff. The layout worked well with Christie’s time in training in Mental Health and looking after sick children, to going through A&E and elderly care and the mortuary. We also see how it is like to be a relative to a dying patient, and how you could be trained to save people’s lives but have to sit back and watch someone you love die.

Not only that, but it was beautifully written. It perfectly shows the good and bad side of the NHS without seeming patronising; it is delivered with passion, empathy, and honesty. I felt a strong mix of emotions all the way through, and it felt like Christie was telling the story to me personally over a hot drink in a cafe. She also explains the shear state of the NHS and how it desperately needs saving, which something that I feel very passionate about. There is a clear philosophical view that the personalities of the staff, and the amount of compassion, empathy and kindness is what makes the NHS special and is what should be at the heart of health care and recovery rates. This is probably something that is slowly being forgotten about, and putting the NHS in jeopardy as the staffing levels and well-being are dangerously low and parts of the NHS is being privatised.

There was only one critique that I found, which is probably just a personal thing but I still think it needs clarification. Not all Elderly Care wards are as bad as they were depicted in the book. I’m not a nurse, but I am a Health Care Assistant on an Elderly Care ward and, even though it is extremely busy and at full capacity the majority of the time with most of the patients requiring hoisting or two people to assist, patients are not neglected. I understand that other Trusts might be below expectations and patients are sometimes treated less than dignified in some hospitals, but it’s definitely not like that in every elderly care ward. It’s just something I wanted to clarify.

In part I listened to the Audiobook, and it was narrated by Christie herself and she delivers her story with such poise and feeling. In the book, with every chapter there is a quote or a phrase, from philosophers, nurses, authors, and poets which further embeds the philosophy that care and kindness is at the heart of successful healthcare. It is compared how nursing has changed from the early days with Florence Nightingale and where it is now, how the profession does not have a concrete set of attributes, as different areas of nursing require different skill-sets and personalities. She shows how sometimes the staff and what they do within NHS hospitals can be overlooked, how small acts of kindness may be considered as meaningless or disregarded when news stories come out about the further crisis of the NHS. Despite the brutal reality of it all, I still came away feeling proud to be working in the NHS.

“Take my hand, hold my hand tightly. Let us fling open the door and find whatever we find, face all the horror and beauty of life, let us really live. Together, our hands will not shake.”

Find out more about this non-fiction book, and the author’s other works on Goodreads.
Book Reviews

1.5 STAR REVIEW: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

I tried really hard to find the positives whilst reading this book, but I truly struggled. It got to the point where I had to stop myself from detesting it every time I picked it up, which is definitely not something I look for! I must disclaim, these are my own opinions and my own interpretation of my reading experience. If you enjoyed it, that’s great! It just wasn’t for me and really rubbed me the wrong way, so please no hate! Reading is subjective and we can all get along without bitter disagreements.

I was expecting a book full of body positivity and confidence, a book I wish I’d had as a teen but that’s not the feeling I got coming away from it. There was also a lot of judgement towards other people and their bodies from the main character Willowdean, which to me felt counterproductive? Willowdean truly was a horrible character, and her personality (not her appearance as she continuously assumed in the book) made her an ugly person on the inside.

I honestly did not understand the romance as there was so little chemistry between them, and Willowdean probably only liked him because he was tall and athletic… she even pushed away another love interest, who coincidentally had a similar body-type to her? Now I understand if there’s little chemistry, but this other love interest was so nice it felt like Willowdean was deliberately trying to not get close to him because of this strange fascination about Bo. Especially as she mentioned the lack of chemistry between her and Mitch, but there was so little chemisty between her and Bo?

She also treated her best friend awfully. Immediately hated and bitched about this new friend that her best friend made at work, she straight away assumed the worst from her and spoke back-handedly at her, assumed that Callie was staring at her body in the swimsuit (which I highly doubt was happening). There was no need for girl-hate and I despise it whenever I see it. When the other girls wanted to join the pageant to make a statement, Willowdean kept causing a fuss and throwing a tantrum, stating she was doing it because ‘there’s no reason she shouldn’t’.

Willowdean was also so disrespectful towards her mother and her passion. It appears that she only entered the pageant to make a mockery of her mum’s career and the other girls entering, instead of ‘there’s no reason she shouldn’t’. I saw her mother as being caring, encouraging healthy eating is not a sign of her mother not being proud of her, it’s TO BE HEALTHIER.

Another small point, Willowdean referenced her mother’s other job as ‘just wiping old peoples bums’, as someone who works in a hospital and looks after ill, elderly people, this comment really hit a nerve and showed Willowdean as the immature and ungrateful person that she was.

On a good note though, I loved the side characters, so much so that I would’ve loved this book if we focused more on them and completely removed Willowdean. Millie was much more of a positive character that Willowdean could ever dream to be. She knew that her body type was not typical for a beauty pageant, but she still dove in head-first and gave it her all with such immense enthusiasm and strength. I did also like the Dolly Parton references, and the scene at the drag show was really lovely.

Overall, this book was less of a ‘body positivity’ message and more of a temper tantrum from an overweight character. I’m all for body positivity, but if you need to push other people’s body types down in order to feel better about your own, that’s going in the wrong and dangerous direction.

Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW – “Because You Love to Hate Me” by Various

The Goodreads Book Tag – Reading Every Night

INTRO (5/5 stars)

THE BLOOD OF IMURIV BY RENEE AHDIEH/POLANDBANANASBOOKS

(3/5 stars)

With this, as expected, Renee Adheih’s writing was immaculate, and beautiful as always! It’s a shame that the prompt was rubbish; there was not anything to really do with it. And the BookTuber’s piece was really not my thing; I didn’t get the satire at all and it just wasn’t good. Unfortunately this knocked the rating down for the short story. If the prompt was better and there was no BookTuber piece, this could’ve EASILY been 4.5+ stars.

JACK BY AMERIIE/THE LUSHABLES

(5/5 stars)

THIS. WAS. FANTASTIC. I really underestimated Ameriie’s capabilities coming into this as I don’t really know any work she’s done. But my god, I loved this! A classic take on Jack and the Beanstalk, but from the perspective of the giant! And the giant was a PRINCESS! You can really see the moral battles that came from the protagonist, from the development of the relationship between her and Jack, and the responsibilities she has with being the future heir to her kingdom. We also got a look into the Giants’ world above the clouds and how the magic worked. The prompt from the BookTuber was really clever, and worked really well. Also how the BookTuber broke down and explained the story was really good, and was what I was originally expecting with the BookTuber’s pieces.

GWEN AND ART AND LANCE SOMAN CHAINANI/THOUGHTSONTOMES

(2/5 stars)

This had so much potential. The prompt would’ve been good, if it weren’t for the ‘Modern-Day Mash-Up’. It really let me down because a retelling on King Arthur/Persephone-Hades sounded amazing. The characters were not at all likable or relatable. I didn’t really care about the BookTuber’s piece either, nor did I really understand it! The format I really did not enjoy and I think it ruined the story a little bit. I was quite disappointed with this one.

SHIRLEY & JIM BY SUSAN DENNARD/ABOOKUTOPIA

(4/5 stars)

Ah! I really enjoyed this one, as it was a modern take on Sherlock Holmes where Sherlock was actually Shirley. Susan Dennard did a really good job with the development of the characters; they were so immensely complex and intriguing that even though you know who the villain was going to be, you would find yourself second-guessing yourself! There’s a big battle of wits which we see between Shirley and Jim, and certain points it felt like Jim was going to help Shirley, but no! I really wanted more from this, and if a follow on ‘novella’ came out regarding this, I would pick it up in a heartbeat! The BookTuber’s prompt was brilliant however the piece fell short, I didn’t understand the ‘agony aunt’ vibe that came from it, and honestly dropped my rating from what was a really great short story.

THE BLESSING OF LITTLE WANTS BY SARAH ENNI/THEBOOKBASEMENT

(4/5 stars)

I was really intrigued with this one, and I got a Hogwarts vibe from it too (with teenagers learning to harness their magic, and a female protagonist which felt a bit like a villainous Hermione!) Again, this could’ve benefited if it were longer. The twist at the end I really wasn’t expecting, and I really enjoyed it. You see the main protagonist develop and showing villainous traits such as a desire for power. I liked how the BookTuber’s piece broke down the motives and characterisations of the protagonist which I feel really improved the overall story.

THE SEA WITCH BY MARISSA MEYER/READBYZOE

(3.75/5 stars)

I guess I wanted a little bit more from this story for it to have been a 4+ star read. I really wanted to love it because I love The Little Mermaid so much! I still really enjoyed it; it sadly felt a bit rushed and didn’t really have a lot of time to develop. The prompt was good, and the kind of stuff I was looking forward to aswell. The BookYubers piece was okay, it did resemble a teen quiz but I still quite enjoyed it; it was fluffy and enjoyable.

BEAUTIFUL VENOM BY CINDY PON/BENJAMINOFTOMES

(5/5 stars)

This was gets a 5 star from simply how it impacted me and how the under-lying message was so important, and I really praise Cindy Pon for doing so. You look back into the life of Medusa BEFORE she was Medusa, and also what made her become such a terrifying creature. This story was also one of those I was expecting when I heard of the anthology. When I was younger, Medusa scared the $@!# out of me, so I found it interesting reading this and actually feeling sorry for Medusa! The BookTuber’s piece goes more in depth into the story and it’s underlining message which really complimented the story.

DEATH KNELL BY V.E. SCHWAB/JESSETHEREADER

(5/5 stars)

Classic V.E. Schwab and I LOVE IT! This pulled on my heartstrings in so little pages, it was just beautiful. I really wanted this to be a full-on novel now! Following the perspective of Death was very interesting, and you saw what was inevitably going to happen, and yet still tearing up when it happened! God, it was fantastic and I wouldn’t expect anything less from V.E. Schwab; that girl just gets me! Also the BookTubers piece was really good too, it was a very daunting, heartfelt letter to Death and I was really on board. I think a lot of people could relate to this. Simply outstanding, definitely my favourite of the anthology and we’re about halfway.

MARIGOLD BY SAMANTHA SHANNON/PERUSEPROJECT

(4/5 stars)

This story was so mystical and enchanting, and a really good take on the Erl-Queen. It was one of those which convinced me to pick up more from this author (i.e. The Bone Season), and although it was quite short, a lot did happen and twists happen and it was one of those grey areas where you do something bad but not intending to do so. I really felt for Marigold and her fate at the end, it also touched into how not doing anything can be as bad as the main ‘bad’ thing. I really liked how the BookTuber’s piece complimented the story by exploring the folklore and how it tied into her prompt and thus the story. This was a very solid pairing and was a thrill to read!

YOU, YOU, IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU BY ADAM SILVERA/LITTLEBOOKOWL

(3.5/5 stars)

I’m not too sure how to feel about this one, as I love Adam Silvera’s writing so much, this wasn’t in his typical style and I found it quite difficult to follow at times. The main character was interesting and also the types of ‘drugs’ there were in this world. Overall I didn’t really feel much of the story at the end. Although I would admit the main protagonist was pretty bad-ass. The BookTuber’s piece was really good though and it was a bit of a fun ‘what mask would you have’ kind of thing and I actually enjoyed it.

JULIAN BREAKS EVERY RULE BY ANDREW SMITH/PADFOOTANDPRONGS07

(4/5 stars)

Again, another one where I haven’t heard of anything by the author, but will now actively search for more of their work. Andrew Smith has a really unique and talented way of writing/portraying teens and their inner monologues really well, you could see the thought process of this kid who has this huge power of being able to bring death. He struggled to perfect it as by the end he resorts to doing the dirty work himself. It was a very intriguing read and it sucked me in, I think I read this one quicker than most of the previous stories. Sadly, I didn’t think much of the BookTuber’s piece and kind of skim-read most of it.

INDIGO AND SHADE BY APRIL GENEVIEVE TUCHOLKE/WHITTYNOVELS

(3.5/5 stars)

This was an interesting take on Beauty and the Beast, and also from the perspective of a Gaston-like character. He was one of those bad guys that you secretly love, and in this story that was no exception. He was so clearly an arrogant and obnoxious character, but I still wanted to see things work out for him! The twist with the Beast caught me by surprise and the explanation behind it made me feel sorry for the two characters, as you could then see that things were boomed to fail. The BookTuber’s piece was interesting, as it explored how the intentions of villains and heroes are pretty similar, however the outcomes are completely opposite.

SERA BY NICOLA YOON/CUDDLEBUGGERY

(3.5/5 stars)

This came me major ‘creepy-child’ vibes! It was a very enjoyable read and I just love how easy Nicola Yoon’s writing is. Everything flowed, especially with the development of Sera’s character and her childhood/upbringing. You could see she was the outcast and you can’t help but think that may have fuelled the ending. The BookTuber’s piece, however, was quite disappointing; I was expecting something a lot better for the final story and it kind of deflated the overall feeling of the anthology. Ending with a silly quiz-type thing was not a good idea personally. Maybe they should’ve put this one more in the middle?

 

Overall, this was a very enjoyable anthology! I got to experience many new authors, and also fall more in love with some favourites. Honestly I did enjoy the stories which revolved around retellings or back stories the best. My favourite was definitely ‘Death Knell’, with my least favourite being ‘Gwen and Art and Lance’. I enjoyed the stories more than I did the BookTuber’s pieces, however the concept of the anthology was really clever and I hope they do more in the same style!

 

OVERALL = 4 STARS!!

 

THANKS FOR READING!!

Abbie xxxx