Posted in book review, fiction, gifted

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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Published in the UK by Dialogue Books – June 2020


Synopsis

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


Review

I want to start by saying that this book was a complete surprise to me. I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of the book by Tandem Collective so that I could join in on one of their summer readalongs and it was so much more than I expected it to be. The group I was in a chat with was fantastic and we had pretty similar views and outcomes from the novel.

Brit Bennett has such a wonderful voice and she uses it powerfully in The Vanishing Half – I went into this novel after reading the above synopsis, thinking it was a tale of losing a sister, a twin, a part of your soul but I took away so much more than that. 

Brit tells the story of the twins through their parents and their children and how the events they all lived through affected them – the twins leave their hometown and separate as young women, pursuing different lives and lifestyles. Stella, “crosses over” and chooses to live as white, married to a white man, in a middle class neighbourhood and Desiree chooses to marry a black man, who she leaves and ends up back home, taking her daughter with her to the town she tried so hard to leave.

Between the intertwining narratives, Brit tackles how racism and flaws in society affect its inhabitants and she does this inclusively, representing black people, white people, men, women, transgender and different sexualities. I think my favourite characters in the novel were Reese and Jude, the steps they make towards equality is so wonderfully written and they were such diverse and deep characters I couldn’t help but wish for more of their story as I read the book! 

Ultimately, this novel for me was about identity and how a person can shape their identity to what they want and need it to be, through conscious and subconscious actions; how their relationships mould their identity and ultimately, it is about losing a part of yourself to (find yourself) become that identity. 

I can’t recommend this book enough, while the first few chapters were slow and introductory, it did not take long for me to get sucked in and need to finish! I will be looking out for more of Bennett’s books! You can buy The Vanishing Half now on Amazon for Kindle or in Hardback.

Goodreads Rating 4.5 (5) / 5

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Posted in book review, book tour, fiction, gifted

Book Tour – The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

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Published by Orenda Books – July 9th 2020


Today is my stop on the tour for The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith!

This tour has been organised by Anne Cater and Orenda Books – thanks for my review copy!


Synopsis

Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable: a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms.’ Hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything.
Because Kate is not the only secret that her birth mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern world to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.


Review

Sufficiently creepy, Eve Smith’s debut novel is quite the achievement. In one fell swoop she has created a narrative around a very real issue and totally blown it up to create an engaging and thought-provoking book.

I think the writing was easy going (my favourite kind) – despite using medical and scientific terms I managed to follow along just fine! The story seamlessly weaves together narratives from different perspectives, between pre-crisis and during crisis and Smith manages this with ease which is no mean feat. Although I found the narrative to be a bit of a slow burn, it definitely grew and grew making sure I paid attention to everything that was going on with the protagonists.

The world Smith has created (a real possibility according to the facts) is suspiciously realistic. At the end of the novel Smith includes some facts about antibiotics which throws the novel into some perspective against reality – I would like to say I’ve gone away and read all her resources but I haven’t yet – I’m too creeped out! If YOU want to read up about however, you can find Eve’s website here. The detail Smith has included in her narrative is refreshing – showing she has put a lot of time and effort in to her research and using it well within her writing.

After I finished reading I had a think and decided it’s pretty hard to put this book into a singular genre. There was mystery and thriller aspects, obviously a bit of medical thrown in and a pinch of some sci-fi, not to mention some romantic and family drama! A little bit of action would have helped to move the story along and add some excitement but then it may have lost some of it’s realism.

Overall – Enjoyable but for me, just missing something!

The Waiting Rooms is released on July 9th – you can pre-order it today for Kindle and in Paperback.

Goodreads Rating 3 / 5

Posted in book review, book tour, gifted, non fiction

Book Tour – World’s Apart by Ronan Brady

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Published 2020 by Mercier Press


Hola!

Today is my stop on the tour for World’s Apart by Ronan Brady, organised by the lovely Kelly at Love Books Group. I want to thank everyone for letting me join in on this one – as a budding aerialist, it was great to read about Ronan’s experiences becoming an aerialist  in Ireland even though he does at one point claim that meat hooks are ‘the most basic aerial manoeuvre you can imagine’ … hmm I’ll have to disagree there!


From the Back Cover

‘Ronan is emblematic of how Ireland has changed.’ – Panti Bliss
At just under six foot in his socks and weighing in at fourteen stone, Ronan Brady is a solid slab of rarest Roscommon meat. He has a natural tendency to throw himself about – some would say recklessly, others would say enthusiastically – into whatever he sets himself to. Ronan had a ‘normal’ childhood in Roscommon and knew by the time he was a teenager that when he grew up he wanted to play football for his county and become a teacher. Ronan had achieved his life ambition when he took up ‘Flying’ as a hobby. A hobby that transformed his life and took him to heights he never dreamed of, performing in the smash hit show Riot alongside Panti Bliss, and going on to tour the world. Worlds Apart is an open, humorous account of Ronan’s life journey.


An Extract

There was a house there for him. All he needed to do was show up, reconnect the heating and reconnect the electricity and he could live in his own way, but he could do it near us.
When we did see him, it was hard not to sense a pride emanating from him for having gone this far, for having taken himself so firmly off the grid, for having successfully managed to fall between the cracks and evade the attention of whoever was supposed to be watching him; be that the state, or us, or his own demons chasing him from the past lives he’d lived.

And then he died. And that was the end of all of that. It happened when I was abroad. It shouldn’t have come as such a shock, he’d so obviously fallen so far from anything that could be termed as healthy, but it did. Death is always a shock, and after all, Justin was
only fifty. It didn’t matter that he’d slowly turned into a faintly sighted ghost over the last ten years of his life. He was my dad. I couldn’t believe that he was really dead.
I’d been out on a six-week performance gig in the summer of 2017 for the Islamic Games in Azerbaijan. We’d just done the closing ceremony and were having a wrap party when Michelle rang me. Mammy had been trying to get through to me for hours, but my network reception was faulty, so Michelle had eventually gotten me on a web call instead. I was glad it was her who told me. I don’t know why, but I was glad Mammy hadn’t gotten through first.

The only person that I really knew in Azerbaijan was Aisling, my performing partner.


Mini Review & Some Links

I really enjoyed reading about Ronan’s life and how he managed to turn around his prejudices and really learn about following dreams and achieving those dreams way outside of his comfort zones. Ronan’s words slide of the page with ease, I could hear the Irish accent in my head while I was reading and often his sarcasm made me smile and laugh.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone, it’s only short – about 160 pages but there is so much content that is relevant in society today – how performers are perceived and the fluidity of gender. It really makes for insightful reading – you don’t even need to be interested in the circus!

The kindle edition is only £3.33 and you can find that here.

Ronan’s website.

A Video of Ronan in action.

You can find other tour participants on Twitter and Instagram 🙂

Worlds Apart

Posted in book review, book tour, fiction, gifted, Uncategorized

Book Tour! The Very Real World of Emily Adams by Samantha Rose

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Published by Immortal Works LLC – June 2020


Synopsis

“Be a rebel. In a world of darkness, become light.”

Emily Adams has lost everything. Injured from a fight with her now officially-ex-boyfriend, she’s fled to an unfamiliar city with nothing but the change in her pocket and a broken relationship with her father. As hope slips away, she seeks to put a permanent end to her pain…

Until an enchanting encounter with a magic man in a dress changes everything.

Given a new chance at life, Emily embarks on a journey with her new BFF, a mysterious clairvoyant, and a band of musicians to stop the monsters that threaten the world. And she may uncover something even more impossible-if she can let go of the past and believe in herself enough to embrace it.


Review

Firstly, thank you to Love Books Tours for inviting me on this one and providing me with a copy of the book.

This book was absolutely bonkers. My original thoughts were that Samantha Rose must have had a dream of all this, woken up in the middle of the night and scribbled it all down. I didn’t know where the narrative was leading me at all so it was a complete surprise.  In the beginning I thought I was reading a contemporary novel – here was our protagonist, struggling with her mental health and here was a boy coming to save her but I soon ate my words there were monsters, aliens, mystery and adventure all rolled into one.

Quite quickly into the novel, Emily is involved in the weirdest situation. I don’t think I have ever read a book that flips the story upside down quite like this one. I enjoyed how the characters and narrative kept me guessing and I liked how when it came to saving the world, the human girl didn’t magically get involved and manage to do what the super humans couldn’t. Plus on the opposite side of the spectrum – she didn’t constantly need saving either, sometimes humans need to know when to stay out of the way!

The world today doesn’t make sense and I think that’s the message I got from this story. The world of Emily Adams is that little bit more crazy, but that is what she needed to find herself and settle in a new life. When we first meet Emily, she is lost and looking for a way to end her life. When Lipstick Rick appears and helps her out, she is given a chance and she turns her life around and helps out a lot of people in the process. I think it is just trying to tell us that a little nice can go a long way, sometimes you just need someone to ask if you’re okay.

Throughout the book I was happy with how Emily was represented –  I empathised with her a lot. It is realistic to feel like you’re doing things wrong and it is common to feel like you are always in the way – without shouting and screaming about abusive relationships and how these can cause mental health issues, Samantha Rose uses good descriptive paragraphs to put you in Emily’s mindset, she uses a lot of words to get you there though. It made me a little uncomfortable at times but it was a good discomfort – it gave me hope that Emily would come out the other side and grow as a person now that she had found better people to become part of – I’m sure a lot of us can understand that. The friends that Emily makes in the novel were sassy and I was all for the sarcastic retorts which often made me laugh.

I guess it’s ironic that Emily Adam’s ‘very real world’ is an accurate representation of the actual world. I don’t want to say too much more here and ruin this for anyone who hasn’t read it because while I can admire the strangeness of the story I did feel little bit disconnected at times – the narrative felt like it jumped around a lot – some situations came from way out of left field and I did get a little tired towards the end. Lipstick Rick’s speeches are so long and while it is a joke within the novel, I just don’t think we needed so many words.

I gave this book 3 Stars – it was okay, I’m happy to have read it but I wouldn’t read it again. I am interested to see what Samantha Rose thinks up next though.

Goodreads Rating 3 / 5