Say Say Say by Lila Savage

This book was a lovely surprise in my first ‘Books That Matter’ box, which I was kindly sent by Tiffany for the ‘Lockdown Lit Bookswap’ from Busy Mama Bookclub. The fabulous thing about this swap was that I have been introduced to a book that I would have been unlikely to encounter otherwise.

This book was an interesting read and was making a rather interesting commen on the role of a carer (or caregiver as it is an American novel). Not just the employment but the relationship that they build with the families that they work with.

Ella takes on the role of the caregiver for Jill, whi has been left unable to look after herself after a car accident but whose husband Bryn has been doing his best to look after her at home. Ella is not living the life she was expecting but, as she becomes more involved in the life of Bryn (who she begins to idolise) and Jill, she evaluates the path her life is taking. The love she witnesses also causes her to take a look at her relationship with Alix.

This was an interesting comment on the role of the carer. How relationships build with families, but also the good and bad days that can be experienced – although, ultimately, there was love for the job. However, I found the relationship Ella built (mainly in her head) with Bryn uncomfortable to read. There was clearly a wonderful friendship at a time when they both needed a friend; however, I feel that would have been enough – there was enough to make you think in this book.

Overall, I am glad to have found a book that I would not have read otherwise.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evarista

I am not usually one to pick up a book if it is award-winning. I don’t avoid them; I just don’t seek them out. However, as it is pride month, and there is so much support (as there always should be) for diversity of all kinds in fiction, this book seemed like a great choice. It was also a chance for me to discover a new author.

This book is engaging from the word go and really difficult to put down. It is a really clever tale about 12 women who have stories that interlink, even if ther are not aware of it. However, it is not just their stories that absorbing, but all the themes that are explored throughout this book. There is the exploration of gender and what it means to be a woman – is there a set rule? There is an exploration of racial and heritage identity which was probably the most fascinating to me. It is such a complex issue, which we are fully aware has been thrust to the forefront of all our minds at the moment.

I do not feel that I can give this book the justice it deserves. Especially without spoiling it for others who may like to read it. Yet, it is true that it is a book that will stay with you. It will make you think about the world around you. And you will certainly be reflecting on your relationships, friends, family, acquaintances and lovers. Do you really ‘know’ everyone?

I really do not think I can express how utterly stunning this book is, other than to urge you to read it if you haven’t. I will certainly be seeking out more of Bernadine Evaristo’s books…hearing amazing things about ‘Mr Loverman’.

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

This book was in that I chose to read as June is Pride Month. It is a book that, again, I have discovered thanks to the Bookstagram community.

‘Hideous Beauty’ is quite a book. There is so much amongst its pages to think about – this is certainly not just a story. This is a book that tackles some really complex issues – well, to be honest it should not be complex but sadly for some people it is and it is reality.

This book is clever. It has within its pages a mystery that needs solving – what are the secrets that Ellis has been keeping from Dylan? However, is it just about Ellis’ secrets? This is quie an investigation of relationships. Relationships of all kinds – romantic, family, friendships – all are tackled in this book and, in parts, quite closely examined. Sometime with surprising outcomes and, sometimes, with really tragic outcomes. (There will be tears).

However, as William Hussey says himseflf in a letter to his readers, he has tackled some of the ugly reality faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. For some, that may make for uncomfortable reading, but if it makes for people think and causes them to take responsibility for their education, or re-education that can only be a good thing.

I feel I can do this book justice. It needs to be a book that is read to be fully appreciated. It is a real emotional page-turner that will stay with you for a long time. If you are going to pick this novel up, know that it does contain a trigger warning for some of the issues it tackles.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

Miss W lent me this book quite a while ago and I am ashamed to say it has been sat on the shelf for a while.

If I am totally honest, if I had judged this book by its cover, I would probably not have picked it up. It looks a little like cheesy chick lit, which is not my usual bag. However, I would have missed out on a gem of a book if I had done that – so, as they say, ‘never judge a book by its cover – use Miss W’s recommendations.’

This is a beautiful story of self-discovery about three fabulous characters. Although they may not be your usual trio, together they form a strong bond, mainly revolving around their love of music. As Grace thinks her world is falling aprat (not for the first time) and it has all been fiction, Nadia (a rather headstrong teenager) and Mr Williamson (he is eighty you know) help her realise that maybe she hasn’t really started living. In fact, maybe they can each help other start living.

By the end of the novel, you will be desperate to visit Paris and Italy (mulitple parts). You will wish you could play an instrument (if you do not already), and you will definitely realise you have to appreciate all the friendships you have in your life.

It has been wonderful to discover a new author and I look forward to more from the pen of Anstey Harris.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This novel has been around the bookblogging and bookstagram community for quite some time – and it has probably been on my shelf for as long. I picked it up as I has been reminded I owned it, and thought maybe it is time to give it a go.

Now, I am not sure I share the same love of this book that so many of you do. I understand why so many readers would love it. I am just not one of those readers.

It took me a while to warm to the story. I found it picked up pace about half way through. I was more invested in the loves of Marianne and Conell once they were at university.

I can see the significance of this tale – I can understand the importance of the title ‘Normal People’ to the narrative – and some of the issues it tackles are challenging. However, for me, it was just not a favourite.

I am not even sure what was missing, as I started this book expecting to love it. There was just a little bit of magic missing for me.

The novel is beautifully written and Sally Rooney is a talented author. I would like to read ‘Conversations with Friends’ to see how I find that book. Maybe as reader and book we would be more compatible.

Have you read Sally Rooney’s novels?

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Hayley always seems to pass on the most fabulous books and this was no exception.

I had not heard of this title (clearly my head had been in the sand) but I was intrigued when I read the blurb on the back. I love a mystery novel, so was more than happy to give this book a go.

From the moment I started this book I was hooked. In my first sitting I read 125 pages; I just could not put the book down (pretty sure I should have been doing something else but clearly that was forgotten). I loved how the novel was structured, the narrative came from a variety of characters, which kept my interest in the novel even more. Jewell smoothly transitions between the viewpoints of different characters, bringing depth to the story.

I always find it difficult to blog about mystery novels as I never want to spoil any part of the plot. The twists and turns in this plot are not always a surprise, but this does not take away from the novel as the story is rich enough.

After having finished this novel, I would be keen to read other titles by Lisa Jewell. This was, after all, the perfect summer mystery read.

Have you discovered any new authors this summer? Any recommendations?

The Power by Naomi Alderman

I picked this up in one of my favourite bookshops ever – it is a little Oxfam Bookshop which always has the most wonderful collection of titles, and you feel like you are doing a little bit of good whenever you donate or purchase from this little establishment.

So, on a very cold November Saturday morning, I popped in and found a bargain unread copy of ‘The Power’ and I could not leave it on the shelf. I had been asked by a few friends if I had read it and I had kept saying no so I thought it was about time I turned that answer to a ‘yes’. I had also spotted that Hayley (Hayley from Home) had picked up a copy, so I felt inspired.

I found the idea of this novel fascinating; from the title to the story, there is so much in this book that I am not sure I can do it justice in a blog post. I am not often stuck for words with a book that I have enjoyed but I feel that this is the sort of book that you need to be able to have a very informed discussion about. So, I am just going to give it my version of a review.

Immediately, I was gripped by the idea of the role-reversal in society and, in fact, what an impact that would have on the world. It is ridiculous to think that women having ‘power’ should be such a dramatic tale as we grow up in the 21st century but, sadly, I think it would be a shock to some of those in the world. In fact, ‘power’ was such a significant word throughout the novel because it took on so many different meanings throughout the book, strength and control being just two of them.

I was fascinated by the way that it addressed the interpretations that people can have of the same information. The religious ideas in the tale suggest that if things had been interpreted differently, would it be a woman that would be found to be central to the beliefs and ideas in the world?

The structure of the tale, looking at how ‘The Power’ impacts a variety of different figures, makes the novel a page-turner, as you are keen to see what awaits each character. I did on occasion find that some of the tale was a little longer and my attention was not always focused, but I was still keen to know what would happen next. I have not read many tales like this one, other than ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (which I read earlier this year), but I am ready to seek out more tales like this one as I find that they really do make you think and challenge the world that we are in. I enjoy being made to think about the world we live in and question what we know as fact.

Have you read ‘The Power’? How did you find it? Any other books you would recommend along these themes?