Posted in Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: April

Hi Loves!

How are we all? Well, I feel like I blinked and missed April to be honest. Where did it go? Also, how is it now the start of May? Anyway, it is painfully clear that I didn’t have a very successful month with my little blog last month. Work is just absolutely crazy. I don’t have the words for it really. My fellow bloggers in education will know exactly what I am talking about. Just know that I’m right there with you all!

However, I did manage to read 12 books in the month of April. All things considered, I’m still pleased with this. I’m less pleased that I didn’t blog as much but hopefully May will give me plenty of opportunities to do more. There is a half term this month so I am thinking all positive things! Anyway, let’s check out the shelves!

Just like last month, I’ve experienced novels by writers I’d never heard of before. It really is indescribable when you stumble across a writer or book you just absolutely loved. You’ll see that I’ve got more T.M. Logan in my shelves this month. Sadly, I’ve ran out now! Regardless, my top three books for this month are as follows:

  1. Exit – Belinda Bauer. I really enjoyed this book. It centres around Felix Pink and his acts of kindness. However, one act doesn’t quite go to plan. The novel is a fresh and fun take on the crime genre. I really enjoyed reading it and found myself becoming quite attached to Felix. The ending of the novel too gave me just what I needed at the time.
  2. Long Lost – Harlan Coben. I first heard of this writer from The Stranger series of Netflix. Following this, I read the book version (it is different) and really liked Coben’s style of writing. Punchy chapters, thrilling plot line, well developed characters. Perfect! I really want to read some more of Coben’s work now – where to begin?
  3. Pine – Francine Toon. I reviewed this book on my previous post (click here to see) and really enjoyed it. It was so atmospheric and eerie. It felt like I was in the depths of Scotland, not knowing who to trust or what to believe. I said in my previous post that I didn’t know what I think about it and that is still very much the case. It’s interesting that it’s still a book I’m thinking about though!

And that’s it! As I said before, I’m hopeful for a good reading and reviewing month! I think it is only really coming to light now just how much lockdown and the pandemic has affected people. May brings new hope – easing of measures, the chance to see more people, the opportunity to go back outside and back to the places we love and have missed dearly. There are so many more good times to come. For me, it’s the ability to go to the bookshops and top up my ever increasing bookshelves.

Continue to stay safe and well. I will see you next time, hopefully sooner, for another review.

Big love all xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: Pine – Francine Toon

Hello Lovelies!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted and as I am sure many of you guessed, going back to school after the Easter break was like being hit by a train again. So I apologise for the gap in between posts. I’ve been marking a lot and only just barely functioning really. At least I’ve had a restful weekend before the next week of fun… I thought I’d use my Sunday night in the best possible way and share with you all the book I chose to read for my reading challenge this month. The theme of this month was: Read a book with a one word title. Now, this was trickier than I originally had thought. However, I managed to find a sneaky little book that has been sat on my bookcase for a while. I picked it up because I loved the cover and I bought it because I loved the premise. Pine by Francine Toon did not disappoint. (If you’d like anymore details on my reading challenge, as always you can click here.)

What’s it all about?
Set in the Highlands of Scotland, the novel centres around the broken and dysfunctional family of ten year old Lauren and her alcoholic father, Niall. Following the disappearance of Lauren’s mother, Christine, the family appear to be sunk into an existence where each day starts and ends without ever really being lived. Lauren’s life is full of ten year old concerns: her friends and enemies at school, who she will play with and roam the Highland Moors and woodlands with. However, she also has to deal with a home that is cold, damp and ramshackle – a place where her father is often absent, either working or drinking. There is no real sense of privacy here as the local community knows each other and are always involved in each other’s business. Therefore, Lauren has a number of people who look out for her.

‘He said he would build her a treehouse, but he never has. Now he buries all thoughts and potential for thoughts. He has become quite skilled at this over the years.’

On Halloween evening, following an evening of guising (trick or treating), Lauren and Niall come across a strange woman, in the road, dressed only in a white dressing gown. They decide to take her to the safety of their home. The next morning she has vanished. Do they know who she is? Why is she alone in the road? It becomes clear that Lauren has the potential for understanding supernatural events. She uses tarot cards and has a sixth sense for the unseen world. Christine, Lauren’s mother, was an alternative healer and filled the house with healing crystals, salt lamps and often made Niall uncomfortable with her talk of auras and cleansing. As we progress though the novel, the circumstances of her disappearance become murky. The people of the town all throw their suspicions towards Niall. Although no one will discuss anything with Lauren.

“Some girls were talking and it made me wonder. Where do you think my mum went?” ‘Lauren’s words rush out like water. She seems Ann-Marie go still as she continues.’ “I once asked Kirsty about it, but she said I have to ask my dad and my dad doesna want to talk about it.”

As the novel progresses, the deterioration of Niall increases. Holding everything inside, he continues to work as a carpenter until one day, the years of repression come bursting out in a fit of rage and aggression. When he returns to his senses, the cabinet he was removing from the wall is in splintered pieces by his feet and his horrified GP client is standing in the doorway clearly terrified of him. Niall carries with him a sense of total sadness and potential for explosive outbursts. He knows he is failing as a father but is unable to open up to any of the people around him who try to help.

‘It’s come apart now but he keeps hacking, because it feels too good.’ “Absolute fucking bastard.” ‘He is stamping on wood and tearing plaster, his arms and hands catching against splinters.’

The woman in the white dressing gown is seen repeatedly but no one can remember seeing her after she has gone. All sense of reality is questioned. Strange events happen, rings of stones and rocks, fetid rotten smells and breaths of icy cold air all begin to manifest in and around the people of this remote Highland town. Eventually things come to a head with the disappearance of another local girl. The last person to see her: Niall. Of course, he was drunk…

“As I’ve said before, people talk a lot here, Niall. A lot. Not just the internet, it’s wherever you go. They’ve been telling me you knew her. And people seem to know a lot about you too. Your past.”

The novel rushes to a shocking and unnerving conclusion. Lauren is convinced that the supernatural is at play although her spell to protect her from the bullies at school failed to do just that. By the end of the novel, it is still unclear as to whether or not Lauren has a gift. Is it a childish fancy or does she have hidden talent? It is left to the reader to make their own judgement as to what is real and what is not. Her mother wanted her to be wild and throughout the novel there is a sense of wildness as she roams the dark, pine forests and damp moorlands. This is not the childhood of a normal girl. Everything we know is questioned and challenged.

Final Thoughts
This book was a funny one for me. I definitely know I didn’t dislike it. It’s a book that grapples with our own emotions. It’s written in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable as you read it. That being said, you do feel that things will be better by the end. It’s a book that is very hard to categorise but it is a chilling read. Part of me wishes I’d read it over the Halloween period – just to get into the spooky mood. It’s exceptionally well written because it makes the reader imagine, even if you’re not wanting to. You’re forced down this path and the only way to get off is to keep reading. In that sense, only utter exhaustion made me put it down. It’s a book that has left me with more questions than answers. Despite it being a one word title book, it is multilayered, complex and explores a variety of themes. Its simple title is a mask for the gravity of what is inside.

Posted in Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: March

Morning Book Lovers!

I hope youโ€™re all well and settling into the Spring weather nicely. I say that… I went from wearing a strappy top because of the warmth created by the glorious sunshine one day to snow and a big jumper the next. British weather really is a surprise sometimes! Now I am back by the fire, today’s post is a round up of the books I’ve read in the month of March – a little late, I know. Please forgive me! I’ve spent my Easter break catching up and having the best time really. It’s wonderful to be back with my support bubble.

I managed to read a total of 14 books which is just one less than last month. Considering we have had children back in school and life has become a different kind of hectic, I’m really thrilled with this number. I must confess, the last six books on the list were ones I read on holiday though… Regardless, I’ve experienced some new writers this month and ones where I have already added more of their titles to my book order… Please reassure me that it isn’t just my TBR list that doesn’t seem to go down… Anyway, let’s look at the shelves for March!

Picking a top three for this month is going to be pretty difficult – there’s just so many good ones. This month has been the month for some absolutely brilliant books for lots of different reasons. Sometimes a book comes along at just the right moment. It seems that I fell on my feet so much with regard to this. It’s a real blessing when it happens. I’ve decided for my top three this month, I’ll pick books I’ve not reviewed yet. However, if you’re wanting to see the reviews forย Many Different Kinds of Love, Madame Burovaย andย Oskar’s Questย please clickย here,ย hereย andย here.ย 

  1. Trust Meย by T.M. Logan. Logan has become one of my favourite writers. I literally cannot get enough of him. I received a review copy ofย Trust Meย and I have been recommending it to everyone and anyone that will listen to me. It was thrilling, gripping, frightening, unnerving and utterly sublime. I’m now working my way through the rest of his work too. I really need to review more of his work on my blog so you can see how brilliant he is.ย 
  2. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. Despite this book being about the harsh realities of life in Aleppo, fleeing conflict and the horrors that come with it, I found this book to be more about hope than anything else. I literally couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting. To see the resilience and complete faith in the worst circumstances is really inspirational and humbling.
  3. Your Truth or Mine? by Trisha Sakhlecha is my third choice for this month. A writer I have never heard of before but certainly won’t forget now. This book had me utterly gripped from start to finish. I also didn’t quite work out the twists and turns either. I was so thrilled to have received this in one of my many book subscription boxes and it is a writer that I will keep my eyes out for in the future.ย 

Another successful month I feel, despite the challenges faced in education right now. I thank you all for your patience and interaction with me on my blog. I do try really hard to keep up with you wonderful people. I blame you all for my ever increasing TBR list as well!ย 

Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze another review out before I head back to work next week. I’m embracing the inclement weather and reading opportunities with a hearty gusto, I must say! Next month sees another focus for my reading challenge and hopefully many more wonderful books that I can’t wait to read. Take care everyone!

Big Love xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Children's Literature, Illustrations, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: Oskar’s Quest – Annika Perry

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all well and are getting into the Easter spirit ๐Ÿฃ! I’m thoroughly enjoying my Easter break – reading plenty, spending time with my family (my support bubble), in the garden and spending time soaking up the warmer days. I seem to have got my writing mojo back so whilst I appreciate it is now April, I have a couple of posts I need to catch up with. Today’s post is the book I chose to read for the reading challenge. The focus for March was: Read a book that was gifted to you. If you’d like to catch up or take part in my reading challenge, please click here for more information. I’m sure all my avid reader blogging friends get books for birthdays, Christmas and then when you decide to treat yourself… or is that just me? Anyway, I had the perfect book in mind for this month from my dear friend, Annika Perry. Those of you who have seen my blog will remember that a couple of years ago, I blogged about Annika’s first book, The Storyteller Speaks. You can see this post here. Annika is a blogger who was here from day one of my journey and I’ve been so honoured to be a part of her writing journey. You can find her wonderful blog here. I was privileged to receive a copy of Oskar’s Quest, Annika’s second book. I can’t wait to share this with you all today.

What’s it all about?

This children’s book hits all the right notes. It’s about courage, kindness and friendship – all the ingredients for a meaningful and happy life and all the lessons we teach children and young people today. There is a simple premise behind the book but it stands for so much more which is why it personally appeals to me as an adult. Oskar is a blue bird who finds himself on Roda, a little lost. This mysterious island is filled with beautiful flowers and interesting creatures but Oskar is afraid. He sees the red bell-flowers and notices they look lonely.

‘The flower nodded sadly as one more leaf drifted to the ground. A drop of water followed.’

The reason for all the sadness is because their songbird, Maya has been taken by Drang, the darkest cloud in the sky. What can Oskar possibly do? He’s just a little blue bird. He decides he wants to be brave and help. He makes the decision to go to Drang and ask for her back. After all, the island needs her beautiful music to bring them happiness once again. But he can hear the fear and the names inside his head. This doesn’t deter him, he will get the songbird back. As he gets closer to the cloud, the worse the weather is. He has to really hold his nerve and be the bravest bird he’s ever possibly been.

‘Maya opened her golden beak but stopped, swallowed her screech and hiccuped loudly. Her body trembled with fear and hope.’

Drang booms and bangs and scares both the birds. However, he is misunderstood. He saw the happiness of the other birds and felt left out. He has no friends so he thought that by taking Maya, she could make him happy too. But she stopped singing and cried instead making Drang cry too. It was this that caused the terrible weather! Oskar’s bravery and kindness meant that they could all head back to the island together and be friends there.

‘At her words, all the birds, flowers and trees of Roda sang a song of celebration. The music made Drang so happy he could not help but shed a few tears of joy.’

Oskar has to return home where he hears the calls again, mocking him for being scared. Yet this time was different because he was not scared and because he had new friends. He was a much braver bird than he was before. Rather than act in nastiness towards the birds, he invites them to join them on their new adventures.

Final Thoughts
There’s a real art to writing children’s books and I think Annika has produced an excellent one. It teaches us that we can be brave and we can use kindness to defeat anything. It’s also made me reflect back to my own childhood and how I could have done things differently, if only I were a bit more brave. The illustrations are also stunning and support the story wonderfully. I naturally loved Oskar and Maya’s illustrated beauty was matched perfectly to the writing about her. I am really in awe of Gabrielle Vickery’s drawings.

This book fulfils my criteria for this month perfectly because it is a treasured gift and it always will be. I have read this book three times now and it’s magical with each read. Annika really knows how to keep her audience entertained whilst also teaching them that kindness, bravery and friendship mean the world. Adult or child – read this book. Felling sad or lost – read this book. Gift it to anyone that has ever been afraid fo anything. Thank you so much, Annika. โ™ฅ๏ธ

See you all next time for my round up post. Take care all and HAPPY EASTER.

Big love xxx

Posted in Blog, Books, Reading Challenge 2021, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: February

Hello Loves!

First of all, let me wish you a happy March. March is the month that gifts us with Spring ๐ŸŒป. It’s a month that is bringing us all hope for the future too. We definitely have light at the end of the tunnel after a difficult winter. Nevertheless, the evenings are lighter and there is a lot to celebrate. โ˜€๏ธ

I really enjoyed writing my round-up last month so I thought it would be something I do every month now. February was a shorter month (my excuse anyway?) but I did manage to read 15 books which I’m quite pleased with. It’s a little less than last month but that’s really ok. It is the joy of reading that matters more than the numerical amount. There’s been some personal challenges for me this month so once again the writing left me but the reading remained. Regardless, I’ve read some brilliant books in February and I can’t wait to share them with you. Let’s check out the shelves!

As I say, there’s some fantastic books here and some reviews I really need to post. Picking a top three has been difficult. However, my top three books of February are:

  1. Breathtaking by Rachel Clarke. I don’t have the eloquence or the words really to explain how sublime this book is. Like I said in my previous post, we have all been affected by the pandemic, myself included. This book shows us inside the beating heart of the NHS at the start of the pandemic. What the NHS staff have seen and experienced this time is incomprehensible. My heart broke when I was reading about how they make sure nobody dies alone.๐Ÿ’œ
  2. All On The Board by Ian Redpath and Jeremy Chopra. Based at North Greenwich station two underground workers, Ian and Jeremy, try and make the day a little better by leaving messages and poems on the board for people passing through the station. This collection shows some of their work. It’s a really uplifting book and you can see more on their Facebook page here.
  3. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. This book kept me gripped from start to finish. It’s been doing the rounds recently so it is clearly a popular choice and I can totally see why. It was also a book where I didn’t work out the ending either which can happen with thrillers. A great, pacy book. (Mind you, Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh was just as pacy too.)

Also, there was a new focus for the reading challenge this month and I read my first John Grisham book. Some of you lovely people also recommended other Grisham books that I have added to my ‘never ending and will probably out live me’ reading list. Thank you so much. If you missed it, you can catch up with it here.

I wish you a happy, bright and healthy March. I’m hoping to share with you more books I’ve loved as well and to keep catching up with you all. Happy Spring everyone! ๐ŸŒธ ๐ŸŒบ ๐ŸŒป

Big love all xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: The Rooster Bar โ€“ John Grisham

Hello Lovelies!
Well, January flew by us and now we are into February – the month of love and pancake day. Today I want to share with you the book I chose and read for the reading challenge this month. The theme for February was February โ€“ Read a book by an author who was born in this month.ย I wanted to avoid the obvious theme for this month – love – and wanted to pick something that took me out of my comfort zone. This took some research and I am pleased to report that there are plenty of writers with birthdays this month – happy birthday to you all! So, I opted for The Rooster Bar by John Grisham. I have to confess that before this book, I’d never read any Grisham so when I saw his name on the list for a birthday this month, it was the perfect opportunity to rectify that. I must say, I feel a bit silly to be honest. Grisham is such a prolific writer, I almost can’t believe that I’ve not read anything by him. At least I have now and I am thrilled to also say that I really enjoyed it! As always, if you’d like more information on my reading challenge for 2021, please click here. I hope you like the review.

What’s it all about?
Written in 2017, The Rooster Bar is inspired by real life events happening in America chronicled in the magazine article ‘The Law-School Scandal‘. It centres around Mark Frazier, Todd Lucero and Zola Maal. Each are third year law students at Foggy Bottom Law School, Washington. Unfortunately, this law school doesn’t have a particularly good reputation – they seem fairly lax on standards and the firm is considered to be a place where students don’t get a rigorous education in law. Why would people study there then? Well, it promises the world.

‘She fell for the scam that easy federal money could make law school possible for everyone, and took the first bold steps that would lead to Foggy Bottom.’

At the start of the book we meet Gordon Tanner, Zola’s boyfriend. This character has a few battles of his own, bipolar disorder mainly, but he discovers evidence that Hinds Rackley, the lead investor and owner of Foggy Bottom (amongst other diploma centres) uses a complicated but technically legal scheme to gain millions dollars from unassuming students. Students end up in a cycle of spiralling debt with no job prospects at the end of it. Gordon wants to expose Rackley and show the world how he really is and the reality behind students falling for the glossy magazine adverts for Foggy Bottom and it’s equals. Gordon becomes increasingly more erratic and acting out of character when it is realised that he has stopped taking his medication. The three try and detain him at home so he can rest and recover but manages to leave one night, resulting in an arrest for a DUI. The three manage to get a street lawyer, Darrell Crowley, to convince the judge to release Gordon on bail. Gordon manages to once again sneak out from the watchful eyes of his friends and girlfriend, resulting in his suicide.

‘And now, with one semester to go, Mark was staring miserably at the reality of graduating with a combined total, undergrad and law school, principal and interest, of $266,000 in debt.’

The following pages after this are the most emotional. Mark and Todd are blamed for the death of Gordon because they were the ones who were meant to be watching over him. As a result of this, they each were finding their job prospects dwindling down to nothing. There were no jobs. The jobs they had been promised are withdrawn. They each decide to work for Maynard, the guy who owns the Rooster Bar. They also rent the office space above to set up their own fake law firm: Upshaw, Park and Lane. They sort themselves false identities and forged credentials. They are certain that this is the only way that they will be able to make any kind of money at all whilst avoiding paying any back to Foggy Botton. Zola is the most reluctant out of the three of them but likewise, has little to no options. She joins them.

Like any story, they’re successful to begin with. They have numerous victories in the D.C. courts. Zola suggests that they expand to reach out to personal injury victims. These cases tend to have good revenue but none of them have much knowledge with these types of claims. Mark locates Ramon Taper, who files a lawsuit against the hospital where his son died. The trio branch out to get some legal advice for this type of case and are reassured that the case is sound. However, Mark later learns that the statute of limitations has already passed, meaning there is literally nothing he can do. Unfortunately, what this means for them is that they can be sued by Ramon for legal malpractice and for giving him demonstrably unsound legal advice. There’s not a lot they can do, In fact their only option is to reveal with Ramon’s new lawyer, Edwin Mossberg, that he is not a real attorney. Legal malpractice cannot be filed against a fake lawyer, so remarkably Mossberg drops the case. However, the scheme the trio set up is now revealed to the D.C. Bar Association, meaning that time is going to run out for them, not that they know it…yet.

“These are mistakes, not regrets. Regrets are over and done with and a waste of time to rehash. Mistakes, though, are bad moves in the past that might affect the future.”

They soon realise that the D.C. Bar is aware of their deception, it’s time for a plan B. They hatch another scheme involving Swift Bank, a financial institution associated with Foggy Bottom Law School founder Rackley. It involves a class action settlement and is set to pay billions of dollars to defraud customers. Again, the trio create thousands of fake customers, filling in fraudulent claims on their behalf, with the hope to earn enough money to escape the US and the Bar Association’s investigation. However, they have forgotten the fact that the police will also be investigating them. Mark and Todd are arrested but Zola is forced to return to her parents home country of Senegal, to protect them from corrupt officials. With the money in her account from their previous work, she hires Idina Sanga who manages to get Mark and Todd released on bail.

Using the earlier evidence of the Foggy Bottom fraud, Mark and Todd manage to persuade Rackley to pay out the Swift Bank settlements at a rapid pace, including to those fraudulent clients they created. The result of this is that they accumulate a huge amount of money. They use it to buy fake passports to travel to Senegal. Whilst they are travelling, the news of the fraudulent cases begin to surface but by this point the money the trio have is secured. By the end of the novel, the trio clear their debts and have to live in exile.

Final Thoughts
As I said at the start, I enjoyed this book. It was a great introduction to Grisham and I will absolutely be looking for more of his books in the near future. I guess this is where I miss being able to mooch about second hand book shops – but maybe we will get back to that soon.

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

Big love all xx

Posted in Blog, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021, Reading Round-Up

Reading Round-Up: January

Good Morning Lovelies!

After a good nights sleep and with the rain currently sloshing down my windows, I thought now was the perfect time to share with you what I’ve been reading in January. First of all, how beautiful is my image for this post? I LOVE it. Anyway, this is new to my blog but I thought it would make a good addition because I read a few books but I don’t always review them all. This way, I can share with you monthly the books that have captivated my attention and share with you stories that are too good to miss. I’ve found so many amazing books through the blogging community so I hope this gives you the opportunity to add to your own to be read pile. ๐Ÿ“š

In January, I read a total of 18 books which is a bit of a record for me. There were some absolute page turners in that eighteen too! Let’s check out the shelves!

My Top Three books for this month would have to be:

  1. The Art of Death by David Fennell. This book is the epitome of page turner. I was completely hooked and just had to find out what happened. It will grab you instantly.
  2. The Diary of Two Nobodies by Giles Wood and Mary Killen. Known for being on Gogglebox, these two make me laugh every time I see them. The book was exactly the same. I could hear their voices in my head, that’s for sure.
  3. The Flip Side by James Bailey. You can check out my review for this one here. Sometimes we all just need a bit of fluff and this provided me with a light read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was lucky this month because there weren’t any books that I didn’t enjoy. This is because I tend to stop reading them if I’m not liking them. After all, there’s not enough time to read everything anyway, why waste it on something you’re not enjoying?

This month also saw the start of the reading challenge for 2021. January’s book Mutiny by Lindsey Collen definitely took me to a beautiful geographical setting, but instead gave me the hangover version of that country. Check out the view here.

February brings us the month of love โค๏ธ and we all know my first love is books! I’m excited to see what this month brings and to see what page turners I can possibly read in that time.

Keep safe, dry and well.

Big love all xxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

Reading Challenge 2021: Mutiny – Lindsey Collen

Hi Loves!

I hope you are all safe and well. I cannot believe it is the last day of January today. I guess we are all continuously adapting to whatever the new normal is. As promised in my previous post, I want to share with you today the book I chose to read for my reading challenge this year. (For more information on my reading challenge, please click here. Here you will find the focus for each month and of course, you are more than welcome to join! The theme for January was: January โ€“ Read a book that is set anywhere in the world you want to visit.ย Now, the opportunities are endless and after near enough a year where we haven’t really been able to go anywhere, this decision was quite overwhelming. So, I picked Mauritius – what’s not to love? Sun, sand, glorious beaches…or so I thought. My book choice was set in Mauritius but I didn’t get the gloriousness I expected. My choice was: Mutiny by Lindsey Collen. This provided me with a nightmare version of my beach scene to be fair. Great book though! Here goes!

What’s it all about?
First of all, this is probably the hardest book to review because when I finished it, it left me with more questions than answers. Anyway, it’s set at the turn of the millennium in an all female prison, the back drop is a time of turmoil for the country with high levels of corruption with regard to the government and police. Not exactly a holiday story… What have I got myself into? Regardless, our heroine is Juna who has been imprisoned following a fabricated allegation – politically motivated. She provides the narration for the story and we learn about the women in the same position as her. Her two cell mates, Leila and Mama Gracienne tell each other their stories as their stomachs growl with hunger. Whilst we don’t see much of Mauritius outside of the prison, we feel the ever increasing presence of the cyclone that is heading straight for them. Despite not seeing the beaches, we do see varied and extensive descriptions of the local cuisine. To combat their hunger, the ladies ration out tales of their favourite foods and how best to cook them.

“How often can I talk about food then?” She is so rude. “Only rarely. Accept?” “Aubergine… Aubergine and potato smothered. I’d do anything for some, even the smallest little bowl of it.”

Word reaches them that they need to prepare to lead a mutiny, an uprising not just against the oppression of their gaolers, the Blue Ladies, but part of a wider revolt against the power of the corrupt government. The story flicks between a tight focus on the minutiae of their day: reciting the recipes, looking out the window whilst standing on each others shoulders. The utter tedium of being locked up away from the rest of the world then shifts to a focus towards the sight of rebellion and danger linked to the approaching cyclone. The eye of the cyclone is the time appointed to mutiny. Juna goes to great lengths to record a diary using hoarded scraps of paper/tissue, illegal and prohibited materials. These materials and the pencils she needs are expensive items in prison currency and she has to pay using her precious allocation of bananas. Every prisoner is entitled to two bananas a day – a privilege hard won by a previous prison generation.

‘And I’ve got my stub of pencil and a few sheets of paper. Yellowed and mustard smelling. I tried to smell where is has been. Forgotten in a bonded warehouse? Stolen by a storekeeper, sold to a dhall-puri vendor, turned up in prison, in exchange for.’

As the story unfolds we gain an insight into the past lives of each of the ladies. At first all talk of the past or the future is forbidden. Far too dangerous to get lost in the injustices that landed them there in the first place or the hope that one day they might leave. Their stories are the things that unite them as they each have their own. Juna, imprisoned for an Allegation, is a computer expert. She works with electronics and programming languages and is constantly trying to create a system, a code, that makes sense of prison life. Leila lands herself there after the Effusion of Blood from a policeman. She comes across as young, childish and her actions scream out for attention from someone. But she puts aside her self obsessions and becomes one of them – part of the mutiny. Mama Gracienne is consumed with guilt. She blamed herself for the death of her daughter. This was the character that pulled at me the most, I genuinely felt for her despite the challenging circumstances. The reference to her being the Confessor possibly adds to that feeling being created.

“We have come to arrest you, I am afraid.” “Me? What for?” “Oh, it’s just an allegation.” “What do you mean just an allegation? Where’s your warrant? You come here shouting someone else’s name, and now you say you are going to arrest me?”

Messages are passed in and out of the prison right under the noses of the ever watchful Blue Ladies. Plans are made and Juna works out how to disable the electronic systems in the prison when the time comes to mutiny. Carefully, word is passed throughout the prison population that the time to strike for freedom will be in the eye of the cyclone. The Blue Ladies can smell the scent of rebellion and defiance. They attempt to provoke a response so they have an excuse to lock the prison down. Will they all stand together, this disparate group of women all imprisoned for different causes? Some violent, aggressive, selfish, spiteful criminals.

“Only one banana each!” ‘We all start to mill around ever so slightly, to wander and be furious…Rein it in. Hold it in. Wait until the eye…The big woman at the front of the queue casts a long look along the line…She puts her hands out and reaches for one banana. There will be a mutiny.’


Final Thoughts
Whilst this book didn’t give me beach vibes, it did make me value the power of women – a group all down on their luck, some of which is their own fault, making the best out of a bad situation. I wasn’t really sure what I felt at the end of this book – mostly confused, somewhat conflicted too. It shows us that these picture perfect places also have the failings of the rest of the world too. Based on a true story, the mutiny is a foreshadowing of real life events. I’d definitely read more by Collen – she truly has a unique style but I literally don’t have the words to explain it. It’s one of those you will have to read for yourself (and then try and explain with me!) What this has done though is given me an opportunity to read something I would never even have heard of or picked up and for that I am truly grateful.

February brings a new theme: Read a book by an author who was born in this month. Once again, research has made the decision quite overwhelmingly near impossible. But let’s see what the month brings. If you’ve any ideas, do let me know!

Until next time, my dears.

Big love xx

Posted in Books, Reading, Reading Challenge 2021

2021!

Hello Lovelies!

Happy New Year to you all. We can all agree that 2020 challenged us in so many different ways – ways that we just didn’t expect. What 2020 did give us was time to read some amazing books. I know last year gave me the opportunity to really lose myself in books. I read more than I think I’ve ever done before. It gave me the release from the real world that I know we all found necessary at times. When my school closed and we went into a lockdown, I felt really lost for a while. I’d gone from seeing hundreds of people every day to seeing no one. It had been a really surreal year but one I doubt we’ll ever forget. Regardless, there’s nothing I love more than reading a good book and then sharing it with you amazing people. ๐Ÿ“š

2020 was also the first year I wrote my own reading challenge and I’m so proud to say that I completed it too! A different theme each month really encouraged me to broaden my horizons and read things that had either been sat on my shelf for years or branch out into new writers and genres I’d never considered or knew about. I joined various book subscriptions which also gave me new and exciting reads. I’m so chuffed with it that I’ve written a fresh new challenge for 2021 which I am exceptionally excited about.

Naturally, 2020 wouldn’t have been the same without you. I say it regularly but the blogging community is the gift that keeps giving. You’re all so inspiring and lovely. It’s such a privilege to be a part of it. ๐Ÿ’– I’m sure I’m not the only one who really felt that despite the world being in isolation, we were really more together than ever before. Thank you.

So, let’s round up 2020 and launch the reading challenge for 2021!

2020 – Books read: 148

Dr. Nick Edwards โ€“ In Stitches: The Highs and Lows of Being an A&E Doctor
Gillian Flynn- The Grownup
Mark Haddon -The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Lee Child โ€“ Past Tense
Meg Rosoff โ€“ There Is No Dog
Nicci French โ€“ Beneath the Skin
Antoine de Sait-Exupery โ€“ The Little Princeย 
Ruth Sepetrys โ€“ Between Shades of Gray
Lindsay McCrae โ€“ My Penguin Year โ€“ Living with Emperors โ€“ A Journey of Discovery
Mitch Albom โ€“ For One More Day
Vanessa Curtis โ€“ Zelah Green โ€“ One More Little Problem
David Walliams โ€“ The Midnight Gang
Terence Frisby โ€“ Kisses on a Postcard
Annie Spence โ€“ Dear Fahrenheit 451
Greta Thunberg โ€“ No One is Too Small to Make a Difference
Val Emmich โ€“ Dear Evan Hansen
Sara Pennypacker โ€“ Pax
Tayari Jones โ€“ An American Marriage
Onjali Q Rauf โ€“ The Day We Met the Queen
JP Delaney โ€“ Believe Me
Laure Ellen Anderson โ€“ Amelia Fang and the Bookworm Gang
Mona Awad โ€“ 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
Jack London โ€“ The Call of the Wild
Kate DiCamillo โ€“ The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Graeme Simsion โ€“ The Rosie Project
Hazel Prior โ€“ Away with the Penguins
Harlen Coben โ€“ The Stranger
Margarita Montimore โ€“ The Rearrange Life of Oona Lockhart
Peter James โ€“ The Secret of Cold Hill
Claire Pooley โ€“ The Authenticity Project
David Walliams โ€“ Slime
Beth Oโ€™Leary โ€“ The Flat Share
Isabella Wilding โ€“ Wilding
Lia Louis โ€“ Somewhere Close to Happy
Chloe Coles โ€“ Bookshop Girl
Brian Bilston โ€“ Diary of a Somebody
Jo Middleton โ€“ Play Groups & Prosecco
Harper Lee โ€“ Go Set a Watchman
Michelle Harrison โ€“ A Sprinkle of Sorcery
Rory Dunlop โ€“ What We Didnโ€™t Sayย 
Beth Oโ€™Leary โ€“ The Switch
Katharine Arden โ€“ The Winter of the Witch
J.K. Rowling โ€“ Harry Potter and the Philosopherโ€™s Stone
Phil Earle โ€“ Mind the Gap
Nick Spalding โ€“ Fat Chance
Alice Munroe โ€“ Queenie
J.K. Rowling โ€“ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K. Rowling โ€“ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Freya Lewis โ€“ What Makes us Stronger
Graeme Simsion โ€“ The Rosie Effect
Claire Hutson โ€“ Art & Soul
Chloe Coles โ€“ Lifeโ€™s a Beach
E Lockhart โ€“ Again, Again
Emma Carroll โ€“ Letters from the Lighthouse
Fredrik Backman โ€“ My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologies
J.K. Rowling โ€“ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Graeme Simsion โ€“ The Rosie Result
David Foenkinos โ€“ The Mystery of Henri Pick
Stephanie Green โ€“ The Heathrow Doctor
Sophie Kinsella โ€“ Finding Audrey
Beatrix Potter โ€“ The World of Peter Rabbit (1-23)
Annika Perry โ€“ Oscarโ€™s Quest
J.K. Rowling โ€“ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Durian Sukegawa โ€“ Sweet Bean Paste
J.K. Rowling โ€“ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Elisa Shua Dusapin โ€“ Winter in Sokcho
Claire Chambers โ€“ Small Pleasures
Michael Connelly โ€“ The Black Echo
Patrick Hoffman โ€“ Clean Hands
Zoe Folbigg โ€“ The Distance
Katherine Heiny โ€“ Standard Deviation
Nadia Marks โ€“ One Summer in Crete
Holly Seddon โ€“ Love Will Tear us Apart
J.K. Rowling โ€“ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Sophie Kinsella โ€“ The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic
Robin Sloan โ€“ Mr Penumbraโ€™s 24 Hour Bookstore
Sophie Kinsella โ€“ Shopaholic Abroad
Laura Imai Messina โ€“ The Phonebox at the Edge of the World
Rose Black โ€“ The Unforgetting
Dorothy Strachey โ€“ Olivia
Mhairi McFarlane โ€“ If I Never Met You
Sophie Kinsella โ€“ Shopaholic Ties the Knot
Taylor Jenkins Reid โ€“ Evidence of the Affair
Lynda Le Plante โ€“ Buried
Olivia Beirne โ€“ The Accidental Love Letter
Sarah J Naughton โ€“ Mothers
Phaedra Patrick โ€“ The Secrets of Sunshine
Kate Bradley โ€“ I Took You to Keep You Safe
Alex Quigley โ€“ Closing the Reading Gap
Katerina Diamond โ€“ The Heatwave
Sanjida Kay โ€“ One Year Later
Ayisha Malik โ€“ Sofia Khan is Not Obliged
Helen Moffett โ€“ Charlotte
Michelle Campbell โ€“ The Wife Who Knew Too Much
Sam Carrington โ€“ One Little Lie
Jessica Jarlvi โ€“ When I Wake Up
Christian White โ€“ The Nowhere Child
Johnathan Swift โ€“ Gulliverโ€™s Travels
Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn โ€“ 102 Minutes
Matt Haig โ€“ The Midnight Library
Ayisha Malik โ€“ The Other Half of Happiness
Dominic Pimenta โ€“ Duty of Care
Lisa Unger โ€“ Confessions on the 7:45
Gill Sims โ€“ Why Mummy Drinks
Hong Ying โ€“ K: The Art of Love
John Boyne โ€“ The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
William Shakespeare โ€“ Macbeth
Chris & Rosie Ramsey โ€“ Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed.
Nicola Yoon โ€“ Everything Everything
Ferdinand von Schirach โ€“ The Girl Who Wasnโ€™t There
Deryn Mansell โ€“ Tiger Stone
Gill Sims โ€“ Why Mummyโ€™s Sloshed
Anton du Beke โ€“ A Christmas to Remember
Stacey Halls โ€“ The Familiars
Christopher Skaife โ€“ The Ravenmaster
Carmel Harrinton โ€“ The Woman at 72 Derry Lane
Vanessa Tait โ€“ The Pharmacistโ€™s Wife
Karen Dionne โ€“ Home
Vicky Zimmerman โ€“ The Woman Who Wanted More
Mark Roberts โ€“ Blood Mist
Romesh Ranganathan โ€“ As Good as it Gets
Chan Ho-Kei โ€“ The Borrowed
S.J. Bennett โ€“ The Windsor Knot
Heather Morris โ€“ Cilkaโ€™s Journey
Brad Parks โ€“ The Last Act
Shaun Bythell โ€“ Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops
Maria Timon โ€“ City of Spies
Deborah Bee โ€“ Every Move You Make
Marilyn Shimon โ€“ First One In, Last One Out
Anton du Beke โ€“ One Enchanted Evening
Anton du Beke โ€“ Moonlight Over Mayfair
J.R.R. Tolkien โ€“ Letters From Father Christmas
Helley Acton โ€“ The Shelf
Charles Dickens โ€“ A Christmas Carol
Dr Seuss โ€“ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Giovanna Fletcher โ€“ Youโ€™re the One I Want
Peter Swanson โ€“ All the Beautiful Lies
Grace Dent โ€“ Hungry
Andreas Pfluger โ€“ In the Dark
Katharine Kirlalea โ€“ Ok, Mr Field
Sarah Franklin โ€“ How to Belong
Elly Griffiths โ€“ The Postscript Murders
Gill Sims โ€“ Why Mummy Swears
B.A. Paris โ€“ Behind Closed Doors
Tara Moore โ€“ Victorian Christmas Ghost Storiesย 
Tom Allen โ€“ No Shame
Christopher de Vinck โ€“ Ashesย 
Richard Osman โ€“ The Thursday Murder Club

Looking at that list, I feel immensely proud. Reading the titles again where some jump out at me – gifts from friends, amazing stories that I’ve finally read etc. Whatever the context, I’m so glad I’ve got books. ๐Ÿ“–

Time to look to 2021! I’ve thought hard about this reading challenge. They’re meant to be fun and achievable and that’s exactly what I’ve gone for. If you’ve got any book suggestions based on these themes let me know!

January – Read a book that is set anywhere in the world you want to visit.ย 
February – Read a book by an author who was born in this month.ย 
March – Read a book that was gifted to you.ย 
April – Read a book with a one word title.ย 
May – Read a book that is based on real life events.ย 
June – Read a debut novel this month.ย 
July – Read a book where your name is on the cover (title or author)
August – Read a book which takes you to the beach.ย 
September – Read a traditional fairy tale.ย 
October – Read a book with an orange cover.ย 
November – Read a book by an author who died more than 100 years ago.ย 
December – Read a book with a beautiful cover.ย 

Ta-da! And there it is in all its glory. I didn’t want to repeat previous themes and I wanted it to be as open as it could be so I could read plenty. I hope you accompany me on the reading journey of 2021.

Have an amazing 2021. I’ll be right there with you!

As always, big love to you all. xxx