*BLOG TOUR* Choices Shape, Losses Break – Nia Lucas

Firstly, I just want to thank Nia Lucas and Rachel’s Random Resources for allowing me to take part in the Blog Tour for this book and providing me with a free copy of Choices Shape, Losses Break in exchange for an honest review.

**Please be aware that this book contains challenging themes, very strong language throughout and some strong sexual content. If that’s not your cup of tea, this is not the book for you**

Synopsis:

Shunned and struggling at home and school, teenager Lorna Davies clatters into chaotic and charismatic Shay O’Driscoll and Leon Barrett at an illegal rave in 1995. As Lorna’s talent for dancing sees her unexpectedly employed in the strobe-lit heart of 90’s club culture, her world is turned on its head by her budding friendship with Shay and Leon. For the boys, their high-risk lives endanger all three of them in an association that blurs the lines between friendship and dependency.

As the risks escalate, Lorna’s best friend Hannah, her brother Dan, her bully-turned-protector Nico and her unexpected friend Rosa watch with concern as she is thrust ever closer to harm in an intoxicating new landscape. When life-threatening events threaten to separate them permanently, Lorna, Leon and Shay juggle love, loyalty, sacrifice and exploitation as their lives change beyond recognition. Will the losses they face break them all?

Lorna at the start of the book is 15 years old. She’s at an illegal rave with her current boyfriend, Gary, who ends up ditching her to go throw up and she’s left alone. She ends up becoming acquainted with Justin, who ends up taking her under his wing. It becomes clear that Lorna has a pretty natural talent for dancing and event organiser Nath (who’s friends with Justin) is impressed. He offers her a regular job as a podium dancer in nightclubs, as long as she doesn’t let anyone know her age! At this illegal rave, and through her new found friends Justin and Nath, Lorna finds herself being introduced to a pair of London lads called Shay and Leon.

Lee and Shay have both come from a very broken background, growing up in care without their parents being there for them. They frequently got themselves into trouble with the police. Despite living far away from them, and knowing they can be a troublesome pair, Lorna starts to really fancy them… both of them, right from the moment she meets them. She takes on the work with Nath in the clubs in the hope that she will get to see them again soon.

Lorna’s best friend, Han, knows about what is going on and really isn’t impressed with what Lorna is doing. Not only is she worried for her friends’ safety, there’s also the major concern that their GCSE exams are just around the corner. Lorna’s mum is super strict and quite frankly hates her own daughter. Lorna’s antics are carefully and meticulously planned in order to avoid her mum. Most of the time she says she’s sleeping at a friends house, when really she’s in a city she doesn’t know either at a nightclub doing her dancing job, or staying at Shay and Lee’s flat.

The boys learn that some drug dealers they used to know were being released from prison and they thought they’d go straight back to causing trouble. They were right. Without spoiling too much, there was a pretty major incident involving Lee and Shay that landed them both in hospital with life threatening injuries. Lorna was from a quiet suburban neighbourhood where there didn’t seem to be much trouble and the incident was something that really bothered and traumatised her.

The relationship between Lorna, Leon (Lee) and Shay is an interesting one. Right from meeting the pair, Lorna knew she wouldn’t be able to choose between the two of them, so she chose them both. As time goes on, she develops a sexual relationship with both the boys, completely neglecting to listen to what her friends have to say. There is quite a lot of sex in the book and usually I don’t enjoy reading anything like that. However, I found that in this book, compared to others I have read, the sex scenes aren’t as descriptive and smutty, so I didn’t find it too bad! I also feel it would be impossible for the characters to develop without it.

As the relationship between the three develops, the boys become much more dependent on Lorna. They don’t know how to cook or fend for themselves and Lorna very quickly finds herself looking after them. She’s thrown very quickly from high school student to someone dealing with adult responsibilities very quickly. 

I’ve read a few other reviews from other people on the Blog Tour and they’ve spoken about how the book has made them reminisce of their teenage years going to clubs and such in the 80s and 90s. However, this book was set a few years before I was even born. I have pretty bad anxiety and have never been on a night out, so I really couldn’t relate to any of that! Being born closer to the turn of the millennium, I’ve pretty much always grown up with technology in my life. I loved how this book was set prior to things like mobile phones and computers being in every household. It never even crossed my mind that people used to have to go to phone boxes to call their friends if they didn’t have a landline to their house! (how very millennial of me).

I think the characters are written so well, and you can really see how they develop throughout the novel. Lorna really develops into a feisty little redhead, who isn’t willing to take crap from anyone, including her mum, teachers and the boys. Though there were times I genuinely felt worried for Lorna’s safety (I know it’s a book, I know it isn’t real, but I was worried), I really do love the person she became. Told from Lorna’s first person perspective, the way Nia Lucas writes definitely made me love Lorna more than I think I would if the book was a third person POV. I’m just a sucker for first person, let’s be honest. Having the book first person, allowed the author to add Lorna’s thoughts which weren’t spoken aloud in and I think that definitely made the book funnier, and more witty.

I even came to really love Shay and Lee.. Lee in particular, I still thought Shay was a bit of a wild card! The final 20(ish)% of the book swaps from being Lorna’s POV to Lee’s and with this switch, it goes back a few years so you can find out a little bit more about the pair, how they met and things like that. This is mentioned earlier in the book, but I think going back makes it an important reminder that they’re completely broken souls and it’s hard for them to act like ‘normal’ people due to the things they’ve seen and experienced in their past.

Overall, I did really enjoy this book! It was a book I understood right from the very start, which is always a bonus. I often read books and have no idea what’s going on until I’m a few chapters in. I’d say that if you’re like me and aren’t usually a fan of romance and sex scenes in novels, that you shouldn’t let it put you off the book. Like I previously said, it wasn’t as horrendously descriptive as some books I’ve read and the storyline wouldn’t be what it was without it. This book is a little on the longer side, coming in at just under 500 pages, but it was gripping and it kept me wanting to read and read and read until I’d finished. (I read the majority of the book in one day).  I also know it’s been a good book when I get a little bit sad when the book is finished. It was one of those fictional worlds that I’d have loved to continue to immerse myself in!

There was a snippet of “Futures Beckon, Pasts Threaten” which is the sequel to Choices Shape, Losses Break and that will definitely be a book I read once it is released. I can’t wait to get back inside Lorna’s head!!

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆/5

Purchase Links

UK- https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B086JD3JL4

US- https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B086JD3JL4

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MumLife – Louise Pentland

Anyone who has followed me on Instagram for a while will know that I really love Louise Pentland. I’ve followed her on Youtube for many years (I’m truly one of her ‘Oldie but Goldies’) and I’ve read two of the three books in the Wilde trilogy.

I’ll be honest, when she first announced this book, I wasn’t excited and I definitely didn’t jump to be one of the first to buy a copy. This isn’t a problem with the author, this is a problem with 1) My general disliking towards non-fiction. 2) The title of the book – I thought it would be aimed much more at mothers. I’m not a mum, and I’m not sure if I want to ever put myself through childbirth because it sounds grim. 3) I don’t ever really buy brand new copies of books, and tend to avoid hardbacks like the plague. I love buying books for 50p from the local hospice charity shop or getting 3 books for £5 from The Works and don’t like spending lots of money.

One thing I should add about this book whilst on the topic of money is that Louise has donated 100% of royalties from the book to the NSPCC charity, which is a charity close to her heart.

My best friend added me to Louise’s Facebook group ‘Wilde Readers’ shortly after the release date of the book and obviously a lot of people had bought a copy and were leaving a review. The reviews that were pouring in were positive and expressing how much they enjoyed the book. Louise also uploaded a Youtube video talking a little bit more about her book and how despite its name, it isn’t just aimed at parents. After seeing all of these reviews (from people who were and weren’t mothers themselves) and watching the video, I decided that maybe I should give the book a read.

Well I have to say that this was one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. I think I only really enjoyed this because of how long I’ve followed on social media for. She’s one of those people, that despite having never met her, I feel like she’s one of my friends.

The book is essentially an autobiography of Louise’s life. She might be successful now, but it hasn’t always been easy for her and there are some pretty tough topics covered. She lost her own mum to cancer when she was 7 years old, just a few days before Christmas Day. Not long after losing her mum, her dad brought a new woman into her life. This woman ended up abusing Louise pretty badly throughout her childhood, both physically and emotionally. The abuse is something that Louise has very briefly touched on in her videos, but in the book it goes into quite a lot of detail. She also had a pretty traumatic experience when she gave birth to her first daughter, Darcy. After having Darcy, her marriage broke down and she was left to bring her up as a single mum (though she does share Darcy’s custody 50/50 with Darcy’s dad).

When reading other people’s reviews, I thought it would be the chapter on abuse that hit me the hardest, but it was actually the chapter on losing her mum that almost reduced me to tears (I’m pretty emotionally numb due to the horror that was my undergraduate degree). When I was young, my own mum had cancer. At the time I didn’t really understand much that was going on as like I said, I was only a few years old. Thankfully, my mum made a full recovery and is still here to tell her story. Though reading this chapter hit me hard in a way I didn’t know was possible. It started to bring up a series of ‘what ifs’ in my brain. ‘What if this happened to me?’ ‘What if I lost my mum as a child’ etc.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, there’s lots of funny and positive tales Louise has to tell, including her experience whilst dating, meeting a new man and having her second child (which was a much more positive experience than with her first). She also shares a few parenting tips throughout the books, though I skipped through these as anything self help/ advice annoys me immensely.

My favourite part of the book was the final chapter where she wrote letters to her daughters. Though she vlogs some of her life, she mentioned in the book that only around 30% of her life is shared online, and she also tries to restrict a lot of the content she shares of her children for their own safety. She wrote three letters in total, one to Darcy, one to Pearl, and one to both of them, and I loved how these letters provided a little bit more insight into what her daughters are really like and I really loved that.

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆/5

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The Existence of Amy – Lana Grace Riva

“There are endless ways to engage in productive thinking. My brain rejects them all. It simply does not have capacity for those. It will of course argue it is being productive, but I fear it may have a distorted sense of what constitutes productive.”

Amy suffers from various mental health conditions, which late in the book are revealed to be depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. Though it isn’t explicitly said, from the very first page you can tell that something isn’t quite right with Amy. Excessive hand washing, not wanting to touch the seats, pole or bell on the bus, mentally planning any situation that could happen whilst on the bus. Even from the first chapter I was drawn in from how scarily some of this related to my life. Though I’m not so bad anymore, public transport used to send me into a full scale meltdown. I’d be mentally planning any escape routes should the worst happen, and my head would also be running through every horrible scenario that could see me in danger or get killed. Even just thinking back to this is making me anxious.

The book is a true representation of how people with mental health conditions suffer. I myself am a serial canceller. Not just because of my chronic pain (though that is easier to blame), but a lot of the time it’s down to my mental state. When Amy’s colleagues start taking her up on why she’s cancelling again this is something I connected with very quickly, though I can imagine a lot of people reading this who don’t have a mental condition who would, like Amy’s colleagues, just think she’s making excuses or being lazy.

“It’s just not as simple for me as it is for other people.”

The book is told from Amy’s perspective the whole way through. It’s interesting as in some parts there’s very little conversation with other people, and it’s mainly just running through Amy’s thoughts and process of thinking. Some of her thinking process becomes conversation, but with the negative voice in her head who’s trying to hold her back when she wants to break free of her safety net and try something different.

“Am I ever going to be able to properly function as a human being?”

As part of Amy’s job, her and some colleagues take a trip to Sydney, Australia, to their partner office over there. Obviously from England this is a LONG flight and when it was first brought up by her colleague Sally, I thought to myself ‘nah, Amy won’t be going on that trip’, but to my complete surprise she did. I think this was about the time I found myself getting a bit too emotionally invested in Amy and I felt so proud that she was taking this big leap into the unknown and going on the trip.

I think that the change of scenery helped keep her negative demons at bay a little bit whilst they were away. One of the people who I think keeps Amy going is her colleague (and friend), Ed. Ed is just the loveliest friend that I think anyone could ask for and I did at one point think that their relationship would develop into something more serious. I was pretty shocked to find out that Ed was already married! This was about the time when the book started to really mess with my emotions.

When Ed leaves to live in Singapore with his wife, that’s when Amy hits rock bottom. She ends up taking a lot of time off work and completely disconnects herself from the outside world. This is when, naturally, people start to worry about her. Nathan, who she works with, is the person who comes to her rescue – an unlikely character as in Australia she overheard him slagging her off to their other colleagues about how unreliable she is at turning up places.

I don’t suffer from OCD, but I can’t imagine how hard it is for people who suffer with it through this global pandemic we are in. Especially with people like Amy and her excessive hand washing to try get rid of any germs that she might have come into contact with. I feel like the term ‘OCD’ is used quite loosely by a lot of people.. “This makes me a bit OCD”, “Tidying up brings out my OCD”, “I’m really OCD when it comes to cleaning”. People using the term like that really upsets me. They’re essentially belittling those who have the condition – which can be completely debilitating and can ruin your life. Having OCD sounds like an endless and mentally exhausting fight, and I don’t think a lot of people realise just how serious it is.

“I don’t want to cause anyone pain. But the magnitude of pain I feel within myself is so overwhelming. Being in my current existence hurts. It hurts so very vastly there are no words that exist to truly depict its measure. I feel so drawn to just making it stop, regardless of any consequences.”

The Existence of Amy was a powerful and thought provoking book. It’s relatively short – I read it in one sitting and I think it should be read by everyone, mental illness or not, to step into the shoes of someone who’s struggling. I found July to be quite a low point for my mood, which I’m putting down to being fed up with shielding, lockdown and every day looking the exact same and I didn’t realise how much I needed a book like this until I’d finished it. The book has a positive ending and I felt empowered by that to go and look after myself a little bit more. When you’re stuck in the midst of a mental illness, you think there’s no way out, but books like this make you realise that you can always seek help and make a recovery.

The only thing that stopped me from giving it 5 stars was that I was left wanting more towards the end. Everything seemed to happen so fast and I wish the book could have been a little bit longer and go into more depth about Amy’s recovery.

My rating: ☆☆☆☆/5

Disclaimer: Lana Grace River kindly gifted me this book in exchange for an honest review

To follow author Lana Grace Riva on Twitter, click here

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July Reading Wrap Up

It’s the end of month/ start of a new month where you see people who have read 73 books and listened to 30 audiobooks in a month, and let’s be honest, that just isn’t me.

I think this month I’ve really come to the true realisation of how rubbish the coronavirus and lockdown situation is and my mental health has plummeted. Some areas near to where I live have been put on a local lockdown within the last few days, and it really wouldn’t surprise me if where I live will be locked down next. There’s also a looming uncertainty of how I will be completing my Master’s Degree from September. I was fully under the impression that I’d be actually physically attending university (and I really hope that’s the case), but it’s looking likely I will be doing most of my degree from home. As someone who has been stuck inside the house since March due to shielding family members, I’m sick of the sight of this house and I was looking forward to a change of space and scenery by going back to university. But we shall see..

This month I also stopped getting myself out books and adding them to a TBR pile. I did this in June and got myself a stack of 10 books out. When I didn’t read all of them I branded myself a failure. Having those books off the bookshelf and in front of me made me see them as a challenge and ultimately I lost interest in reading them because I knew I wasn’t reading them fast enough. I’m really struggling to engage my brain at the moment and I think it’s because my mental state is so poor. I have a few plans for August to get my brain working again but I’ll explain them after I’ve wrapped up my books for July!

I read a grand total of 3 books this month, two of which I’ve already posted reviews of on both my blog and Instagram. So this is going to be a very short wrap up to say the least!

4 STAR

Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future – Ashlee Vance.

This is a very interesting non-fiction book about a very interesting man. When scrolling through Twitter I see a lot of people slating Elon and just generally expressing their dislike for him, but I quite like him. But I find the things him and his team are capable of doing really impressive and definitely world-changing. I don’t agree with people being billionaires though. I recently saw a post on Facebook about how someone would theoretically spend Jeff Bezos’ money and after eradicating global malnutrition, polio, and malaria, buying everyone in China a Big Mac meal, buying himself supercars, yachts, fighter jets, and clearing the USA’s $81bn medical debt (as well as lots of other things), that he would still have about $26bn left over. WHAT?!?!!?

The reason for giving it 4 stars is because Ashlee Vance is just retelling the story of Elon’s life and I feel it got a little bit ‘and Elon did this’ and ‘and Elon did that’. I struggle with non-fiction, I find I end up reading it really slowly because it just isn’t as captivating as fiction.

5 STAR

My two five star reads for this month were by young authors Kirsten and Aiyven Mbawa. I’ve written in depth reviews on both of their books and absolutely adore the girls. As I’ve said a million times already, you seriously wouldn’t think the books were written by authors aged just 11 and 12. Their writing is sophisticated and there’s so many words I had to Google because I didn’t know the meaning of them (that just goes to show I should have probably read a book through my teens). I’ll do a little summary of each book here but for the full reviews click the links to my review!

Sagas of Anya – Kirsten Mbawa

This is a historical fiction book based in Victorian time Cardiff about a young girl called Anya. She lives a pretty perfect life with both parents until her mother dies. That’s when Anya’s life starts to go a bit downhill. Her father turns to alcohol as a way of coping and mourning the loss of his wife and Anya ends up being quite neglected as her father is always at the ale house and never there to look after her. He eventually decides (not sure if he was drunk or sober whilst making the decision), that Anya should be sent off to London to work as a maid and make a better life for herself. Despite everything that had happened in her life recently, I feel that Anya was quite a privileged child and her becoming a maid was a complete disaster because she didn’t know how to do most of the tasks which she had been set.

Read my full review of Sagas of Anya here

Land of the Nurogons – Aiyven Mbawa

This is a dystopian adventure novel following the life of Hayden Smith who is your regular teenage boy. Everything about his life is pretty normal until he gets sucked down a black hole into a parallel universe called Nurogonia. He is able to leave Nurogonia on the condition that at some point in the future he returns. Sticking to his word, after a little while back in the real world Hayden returns to Nurogonia, but this time with his sister, Canada. They must complete quests whilst in Nurogonia to win over the Nurogons (the little green alien creatures who live there).

Read my full review of Land of the Nurogons here

I’m now officially starting to fall behind with my 2020 Goodreads reading challenge and so I have a few little plans to get that number back up for August. I’m working around 22 hours a week at the moment (from home) so I’m going to start listening to audiobooks again to get me through my days at work. I’ve been listening to podcasts whilst working but I’m beginning to tire of the the same ones constantly, so I’m going to give audiobooks another go!

With the start of my Master’s degree coming up, I have a few academic books I want to read to get my mindset back into ‘university’ mode. These books I plan to include in my Goodreads reading challenge and I will mention them in monthly wrap ups, but they won’t be getting a star rating as I don’t feel like they should be rated when they’re just books to aid me through my degree.

Finally, I have a few books this month and in September that I’ve been kindly sent to review by the authors, one of which I’ll be doing a book tour for so look out for the end of August for that!

I signed up to a read along of Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah with the #perfectstrangersreadalong on Instagram to try kick start my motivation to read some books. I also think I’m going to make a start at the A Song of Ice and Fire series – quite a bold move due to how thick the books are but I’ve been watching Game of Thrones for the first time recently (I’m not really a TV person and didn’t have a TV at all whilst living in student accommodation) and I’m really enjoying it. If I have enough time, I think I would benefit from reading a classic novel this month too

Come back in a month’s time to see how many of these grand plans I haven’t followed through with

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Land of The Nurogons – Aiyven Mbawa

Land of the Nurogons was the debut novel by Aiyven Mbawa, an 11 year old, British author. It is a middle grade adventure novel which follows the life of Hayden Smith, a 13 year old boy. Ihe first 100 or so pages of the book everything is relatively normal in his life. He attends school, meets with his friends and brickers with his sister, like any young teenager would. In these opening chapters, there’s a lot of character development and scene setting which I really liked.

Everything gets turned upside down when Hayden gets pulled down a black hole and ends up in the parallel universe Nurogonia, a land run by the Nurogons – four-fingered, two-toed, freckled muddy green creatures about the size of a toddler. The concept of a parallel universe reminded me a lot of Stranger Things and the Upside Down, however Nurogonia seemed more like a place I’d be happier to visit, rather than something from my nightmares. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but one thing I will say is that I assumed once he first went down the black hole to Nurogonia, that that’s where he’d stay for the remainder of the story. I was quite surprised when he was allowed to leave and return to the real world, but told he must return at some point to complete a quest. Whilst he was in Nurogonia, the real world carried on as normal – so for this time Hayden was missing. I felt quite sorry for his parents really because he just vanished without trace, and returned like nothing had happened (and no one seemed to question it). Whilst he was ‘missing’, one chapter of the book was told from the perspective of Canada, Hayden’s older sister. This chapter was like a diary entry which I found really interesting.

Hayden has to fulfill his promise of returning to Nurogonia, but this time his sister comes along with him. In the first half of the book, the story is very much centred around Hayden, but during his second visit, the focus shifts away from him (though he’s still there), and there’s a lot more emphasis on the other characters. I liked this as you can see how the personality of all of the other characters change, not just Hayden. In Nurogonia, there’s a small team of teenagers who assemble in order to complete the quests set for them by the Nurogons.

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t my usual genre at all – I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it. For me as an adult, it was a nice refreshing change from the usual books I read which tend to contain more violent or adult content. I think for a middle-grade reader it would be a fantastic read. The book has around 330 pages making it quite a substantial read for a younger reader. But there’s plenty of adventure to keep them drawn in from the beginning right to the end!

Also, hats off to Aiyven for publishing a book at such a young age! I can’t believe that she was able to write this book whilst she was still in primary school! You definitely wouldn’t think that it was written by someone so young. The language was sophisticated and varied and there were words in there that even I didn’t know the meaning of! I like the fact that Hayden is a similar age to the author, Aiyven. It means she was able to relate the characters to her own life and own personal experiences with school and friends, which made the story more convincing and that’s something that might have been missed if the author was older.

☆☆☆☆☆/5

You can find Aiyven’s book, along with her sister Kirsten’s book ‘Sagas of Anya’ (a middle grade historical fiction novel) on their website: https://www.mbawabooks.co.uk/collections/paperbacks

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Sagas of Anya – Kirsten Mbawa

Anya is an 11 year old who lives with her Mam and Tad (mum and dad) in Cardiff. The first few chapters of the book really set the scene well and Anya’s life at this point is really good. The only issue with Anya’s life early on in the book is issues with ‘friends’. She spends a week away with her family at a nearby coastal town and this is probably the final ‘high’ point for her before her life takes a very unexpected turn for the worst. Her Mam had a long-term health condition which frequently left her unwell. Shortly after Anya’s twelfth birthday, her mum very suddenly passes away. Now this isn’t a spoiler as it’s mentioned on the blurb of the book so I knew I was expecting it at some point, but when her Mam did die, it honestly broke my heart! I can’t imagine losing a parent at such a young age. I’ve been very fortunate to have both parents very close to me throughout my life and I couldn’t imagine being so young and having to attend the funeral of one of my parents.

This is where life starts to go wrong for Anya. Her life before was pretty perfect (well as perfect it could be for a working-class Victorian), and the death of her mother affects her Tad, really badly. He quite quickly descends into alcoholism as a way of coping. Anya is left alone a lot of the time whilst her father spends his life in the local alehouse, drinking away his sorrows.

Her father eventually reaches breaking point. He’s out of money and can no longer cope. He thinks that the best thing for Anya is to send her off to London to become a maid at Tippets House in the hope she could make some money for herself. For Anya, this transition is horrendous. When her mother was still alive, she was surrounded by a loving and supportive immediate and extended family, and now she was expected to be the maid for another family. Mrs Axton, who was incharge of the maids, was horrible to Anya right from the moment she stepped through the front door for the first time. Anya was pretty clueless as a maid and it really did make my heart ache for her! She’d been shipped off to a new city in a new country, didn’t know a soul, and was expected to work as a maid when she was used to a pretty comfortable working class life. Back at home, the family didn’t have any staff, but Anya wasn’t expected to do all of the chores – so this was a whole new life for her and she had to learn fast. It always shocks me how back in the Victorian era, it was perfectly acceptable to ship your young children off to start working at such a young age!

I’m not going to spoil the ending of the book, but it was an ending I didn’t expect. I really did enjoy this book and I was a little bit sad when I got to the end of it. I loved Anya and just wanted to keep reading about her and her life. I also find it so interesting how it’s a first person perspective – so the story is told through the eyes of Anya. With historical fiction books I’ve read, the protagonists have always been adults and so seeing the Victorian world through the eyes of a young girl completely fascinated me. Anya is such a brave character considering everything she went through. I know in the grand scheme of things, Anya didn’t have it too badly when comparing her life to the lives of some other Victorian children. Any time I read anything to do with the Victorians, I always count myself very lucky that I was born in the 1990s rather than the 1890s!!

At the start of the book, there are a few illustrations of each of the characters, but I think that it’s so well written that these illustrations might not even be needed! Obviously, the book is more middle grade and would suit someone of a similar age to Anya. I do really like the illustrations and think that they’d be super helpful for some younger readers to help them set the scene in their heads. Right from the first page, the book is simple to understand, yet so descriptive and well written. I sometimes find the first chapters of books can be a bit of an information overload but this entire book was easy to understand and follow and I enjoyed it so much. You can also tell that the author, Kirsten Mbawa, took a lot of time to research into the more minor details (things like what Victorians would eat, what toys they’d play with, how they’d dress etc), which made it all the more believable.

There’s one very important thing I’m yet to mention about this book, which is one of the reasons I found it so incredible. Kirsten Mbawa, the author, started writing this book when she was only 11 years old. She’s now published her debut novel at the age of twelve. HOW INCREDIBLE?!

I was originally sent some sample chapters of this book and Kirsten’s sister Aiyven’s book before they were first published and when I saw how old they were, I wasn’t expecting much. HOW WRONG I WAS! You wouldn’t know that the authors are so young if there weren’t their photos/ descriptions in the books. I’m yet to read Aiyven’s book ‘Land of the Nurogons’ but that’s up next on my TBR and if her sister’s book is anything to go by then I am SO excited to delve in to it. After finishing Sagas of Anya I sat there in complete awe and disbelief that the author of that book is barely in secondary school and she’s got a published book. Not only that, the book is REALLY good (and I’m not just saying that!).

Here’s some links to buy Sagas of Anya!

Mbawa Books: https://www.mbawabooks.co.uk/collections/paperbacks

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/sagas-of-anya/kirsten-mbawa//9781916226210

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June Reading Wrap Up

This month has been a really interesting month for me. At the end of May I finished my Undergraduate degree and so this is the first month in a very long time that I haven’t had anything to do. I did anticipate at the start of June that I’d read at least 10 books, but that didn’t quite happen. I rather enjoyed just sitting and doing absolutely nothing… because I could.

This month I finished 5 books and I’m part of the way through another. There was also one book that I chose to DNF (for now) but I will explain why in a second. Here’s my little wrap up of the books I’ve read this month!

Currently reading:

Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance.

This is a non-fiction book looking at the life of Musk, right from childhood and his teens to where he is today. I find Elon a completely fascinating person – he’s a complete genius, but he also has so much wit about him that just makes him more of a great guy. I’m not a great deal of the way through this book yet, I’ve been distracted by other things like getting my degree results and a 3 day bout of anxiety on the run up to that (I got a 2:1 by the way!!), but I’m hoping to finish this book before the month is over.

DNF:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

I started this book during the 3 day bout of major anxiety that I just talked about. I managed to read 3 chapters before having to give it up as a bad job, for now at least. I haven’t completely abandoned the book – it’s gone back on my shelves and I do intend on picking it back up at some point in the near future. I had to stop reading it due to the subject matter. It’s obviously a book with quite a deep and dark topic and my anxious little brain just wasn’t prepared for it at the time. The bits I did read I thought were good though!

I didn’t have any books this month that I rated a one star or a two star.

Three Star:

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

I wrote a review on this earlier in the month, but if you haven’t read that yet, then I’ll give you a quick overview of what I thought. This is the second book I’ve read by Jewell – the first one was The Family Upstairs and I really loved that book! I really do enjoy her writing and psychological thrillers in general but I found myself constantly comparing this book to the Family Upstairs, which I enjoyed a lot more. I just want to say that there was nothing wrong with Then She Was Gone, it was an alright read! A lot of people over on my Instagram have said that my three star review has made them a bit reluctant to read it but I definitely think people should still give it a go. A few people I’ve spoken to said that they preferred Then She Was Gone to the Family Upstairs – it’s all just a thing of personal preference! You can find my full review here: https://theverybookish.com/2020/06/23/then-she-was-gone-lisa-jewell/

Four Star:

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

This is another book that I’ve written a review for and if you want to check out my full review, you can find it here: https://theverybookish.com/2020/06/23/get-a-life-chloe-brown-talia-hibbert/ . I read this as part of the Chronic Illness Book Club on Instagram and it was a book I really enjoyed. Chloe Brown suffers from a chronic illness herself and the book is about her ‘getting a life’ after she realises her life is pretty dull and controlled by her fibromyalgia. She comes up with a to do list of lots of new and exciting things that she wants to do to spice up her life a bit. She ends up finding love with her apartment’s superintendent, Red and the story develops into a romance. This is the first proper romance I’ve ever read, I usually avoid this genre and for the most part I did enjoy it. The reason I didn’t give it a 5 star was because some of the more smutty scenes made me feel a bit uncomfortable as they were pretty cringe-worthy. I loved the fact that Talia Hibbert used a main character who had a chronic illness, though! It felt nice to be able to relate to a character for once, and I also think that for people who don’t suffer from a chronic illness that it really does draw attention to some of the symptoms us Spoonies can have on a daily basis.

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

Back in December, I buddy read Adam Kay’s Christmas diaries Twas the Night Shift Before Christmas and I thought that was a 5/5 read, it had me laughing out loud at pretty much every single page. This book did not disappoint. The majority of the stories Kay had to tell had me asking myself ‘is this for real?!’ – I seriously cannot believe some of the things that NHS employees have to witness and deal with!! The reason for giving this four stars was because I felt it started to go on a bit. I only have so much tolerance for a non-fiction book before I start to get bored and this book started to cross over into that territory. This is just me being fussy and it is a fantastic book.. Maybe I’d have preferred it if I listened to it as an audiobook. Generally speaking I prefer non-fiction as an audiobook and fiction as a physical copy.

Five Star:

Wonder by R J Palacio

This book tugged on every single heart string I have. August (Auggie) is a 10 year old born with a severe facial disfigurement. Up until this stage in his life, he had never been to a normal school, he had always been home schooled by his Mum. This book is probably more of a middle grade to YA book, but I think that everyone should read it. My heart absolutely ached for Auggie. He was (understandably) so shy and school was such a big mental step for him. He had to face bullies and many stares, but in the end he managed to get himself a really lovely group of friends. I cried many times throughout this book!!

Wilde About The Girl by Louise Pentland (book #2 in the trilogy)

This book was by far my favourite book of the month and it was right up there with being one of my favourite books of the year. I read it right at the start of June and it genuinely feels like an eternity since I read it! I read book 1 in the trilogy Wilde Like Me back in October and I enjoyed it but it wasn’t my favourite, which is why I put off reading the second book for so long. This book though I just completely adored from start to finish. Robin Wilde starts to really develop as a person in this book and I spent the entire time reading it wishing that she was one of my friends, I just love her!! In the first book I thought she was a bit annoying, so I’m glad that wasn’t the case throughout this book too. After finishing my degree, I really needed a feel-good book like this! It’s easy to follow and although nothing too major happens, I just thought it was an absolutely fantastic read!

So that’s it! This had been a really good month of reading and it’s definitely ended on a major high for me with my university results and also being offered a part job over summer! I’ve still not received the final details on my job, but hopefully I will still have enough time to read plenty in July. There are three books I’ll be starting with next month which are Educated by Tara Westover, Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott and The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. These were all books I planned on reading in June but didn’t quite get round to!

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Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell

Ellie Mack was a 15 year old about to sit her GCSEs when she vanished without trace after not returning home from the library. The police find nothing for over 10 years and begin to give up the search for Ellie. The story follows Laurel, Ellie’s mum, for the most part. 10 years have passed since Ellie went missing, but Laurel is hesitant to move on with her life. Her two other children are now grown up and have moved into their own homes and she has separated from her husband Paul.

Without giving too much away, Laurel meets a chap called Floyd in a coffee shop and before long they are seeing each other frequently. Floyd has two children of his own, both with different mothers. Sara-Jade who is in her early 20s and Poppy who is 9. When Laurel is introduced to Poppy, Laurel thinks that Poppy is a spitting image of Ellie when she was that age and that’s something that really plays on her mind. It turns out that not long after Ellie disappeared, Poppy’s mum also vanished without trace – a bit suspicious, eh?

The book goes about finding the truth of what happened to Ellie which slowly unwinds and the pieces of the mystery start to fit together as the book progresses. It’s quite hard to write a good review for this book without giving anything away!

In January, I read The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell and I read the majority of that book on a train journey down to London, so I knew before I started reading Then She Was Gone that it would likely be a book that I flew through. I was right. I read the entire book in one evening. I’ve only ever finished one book in one sitting before and that was Esio Trot by Roald Dahl when I was about 8 – I refused to go to sleep until I had finished (it was a school night too. Oops)

What I liked about this book:

I love the way Lisa Jewell writes. I don’t know what it is about her books but I find them so gripping and I just can’t put them down. As I previously mentioned, I also FLY through her books!

Another thing I loved about this book was how it was told from different perspectives. The majority of the book is told in third person following Laurel. There’s parts of the book written in the present and then there’s parts in the past which delve more into Ellie’s story. Towards the end of the book, there are also parts written in first person which are almost the confessions of certain characters (I’m not saying who!).

What I didn’t like about this book:

My problem with only having read one other book by Lisa Jewell is that I keep comparing it to The Family Upstairs, which was a 5 star read for me. The Family Upstairs had me guessing right until the very end. With Then She Was Gone, I figured out what was happening quite early on. There seemed to be fewer twists and turns in the plot and I felt like I was reading the second half of the book just to validate my own guesswork.

My Rating: ☆☆☆/5

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Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert

Chloe Brown is chronically ill. She suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic pain. As a result of her illnesses, she’s become a bit of a recluse. She doesn’t want to go out with her sisters or do very much at all. In order to get her life back on track, she came up with a to do list she called the ‘Get a Life List’. On this list were things way out of her comfort zone like go camping, ride a motorcycle, have meaningless sex etc. She moved herself out of her family home and into an apartment. As a website designer, Chloe was able to work from home – so this helped a lot when she was having a bad chronic illness flare up.

In the first few chapters of the book, I really, really disliked Chloe. The superintendent of the building, Redford Morgan (Red) was just trying to be nice to her and she was a complete arse back to him. At the start of the book she comes across as being so snobby. When she lived in her family home she was used to people doing everything for her and I think she still expected this when she moved out (even though she lived on her own). I disliked Chloe’s personality so much at the start of the book that I said to myself that I’d have to abandon the book if she didn’t change her ways. Luckily, she did.

Chloe had a strange encounter with Red when she decided to rescue a cat from a tree. She managed to get herself up the tree but then her chronic illness kicked in and she couldn’t get herself back down. Red had to get Chloe and the cat out of the tree. This was a turning point for Chloe (thank goodness), and though she was reluctant to be nice to Red, she did very slowly start to evolve into a better person from this point on.

After the cat (and Chloe) rescue, Red is enlisted to help Chloe tick off some of the things from her list, starting with riding a motorcycle – something Red conveniently owns. This is done in exchange for a website for Red to list his art work on.

As the relationship between Chloe and Red develops, Chloe definitely develops as a person and at the end of the book she is actually quite a nice person!

What I liked about this book:

I loved the fact that Talia Hibbert used a protagonist with a chronic illness. This is something I’ve never seen in a book before. As someone with a chronic illness, it felt nice to know that I’m not alone with how I feel. Chronic illnesses can be very isolating and I do often feel like I’m the only person on the planet feeling the way I do, so it’s really nice to know I’m not the only one. Obviously this isn’t something that everyone can relate to, but I like how it draws awareness to chronic illnesses and symptoms that us spoonies feel on a daily basis.

What I didn’t like about this book:

This a personal preference and it didn’t affect the read in any way.. But I’d have preferred the story to have been written in first person (multiple POV) rather than third person. However, I think that Talia Hibbert did a fantastic job at expressing the emotions of both Chloe and Red using the third person.

I will also add that this book contains some intimate and sexual scenes. So if this is something you’re uncomfortable reading, then I wouldn’t recommend this book for you!

My rating: ☆☆☆☆/5

I would definitely recommend this book!

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