The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. TW in this book for mentions of abuse, transphobia, homophobia, death and suicide.

I wasn’t sure about this book after reading the blurb as it centres around a girl from a very typical white church background, but I thought hey it’s Emery Lord it can’t be that bad. And it wasn’t the description is so deceptive. This book is about a kid meeting new people and cultures which she has never really been exposed to before which isn’t exactly a novel idea but I feel like Lord’s take on it was a good read.

Lucy’s mum has been in remission but her cancer has reappeared and her wish is for Lucy to go to the camp across the lake from the camp she normally goes to. Lucy isn’t exactly keen on the idea but wants to do it for the sake of her mum. She starts off with some prejudicial thoughts but gradually begins to get to know her fellow counsellors and makes friends with them all and learns that just because they’re different to her doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with her.

If there is one thing to say about this book it’s CHARACTER PROGRESSION ON POINT. Like I didn’t like Lucy to begin with and I felt uncomfortable with her character, I was expecting her to be a typical white, but she learned so quickly and adapted so quickly. If you want to do a book about something growing up in a privileged background and learning to see the world different this is how you do it not like how The Black Witch did it. Which I’m not going to go into but if you haven’t seen the deal with that book where have you been?

This book really struck a chord with me because I grew up in a very white place, obviously I knew people with different skin colours existed because of TV but in my school there was 2 kids of colour and they were from the same family so when I moved to Glasgow for uni it was a huge change not just because I was moving out from home on my own but because there was so many cultures living around me that I’d not really experienced before. I am completely aware of my privilege now but when I was 17 I had a lot of learning to do and it was interesting to read that in this book.

The side characters are what made this book, they were all so wonderful and diverse and I fell in love with each of them. And honestly even if this is a daunting book for you because you’re worried it’s either going to annoy you or upset you it’s worth it for the side characters.

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Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Thank you to netgalley and for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you want a steamy summer read with some characters who aren’t your typical romance book types then this is the book for you. Our two main characters are a chubby Grenadian American woman and a bearded mountain man and their chemistry is just so good.

The book kicks off with our MCs meeting when Claudia is on a camping weekend with her brother and her brother gets murdered by a serial killer and Claudia is running away from the same fate and finds Shep who rescues her from the murderer. When Claudia tries to get back to her real life after the horrible events she can’t stop thinking about Shep.

Now obviously based on that synopsis you can tell that there are some triggers with this book. Claudia’s brother is murdered and Claudia herself nearly meets the same fate and is attacked so whilst it isn’t gone into too much detail, if you are triggered by these kind of things I would be weary, especially as it is continuously mentioned throughout the novel as Claudia is still dealing with the trauma. BUT the way the author dealt with that trauma throughout the book was really respectful I thought, and I felt like the way she wrote how Claudia dealt with the grief and trauma was really real and believable.

The erotic parts of this novel, which there were a lot, were so steamy. I had to make sure I read this book when I was in bed as I knew if I read it in public I would get very uncomfortable. There was some exhibitionist aspects in this book which I haven’t read much of in erotica and my god it got me a bit hot and bothered. There’s also a lot of bdsm parts of their relationship, which from what I’ve read Rebekah Weatherspoon includes of lot of her books, which were really good to read, as I find bdsm in books can be really awkward if the writer doesn’t know what they’re doing.

I loved the characters in this book, I need to get myself a Shep because they way I imagined him was just so perfect. And Claudia was just such a good person to read the POV of, I felt like she made a lot of decisions that I would.

So, yeah, get this book because god damn it’s so hot.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

What is there to say about this book that hasn’t been said already? Honestly it’s such an important book and I feel I shouldn’t really be reviewing it because it’s not my place as a white woman. However I want to write a review to try and put my feelings into words really.

I thought I understood Black Lives Matter pretty well prior to reading this but now I feel on a whole other level. I’m always going to be learning about the struggles black people, and black women more specifically face on a day to day basis and I could never truly understand it because i come from a place of privilege.

What really struck me with this book was that it dealt with such horrible issues and would have a scene that would shock the daylights out of you or make you feel really affected then the next you would be laughing your heart out. Angie Thomas really has a knack for making you think whilst laughing at the same time.

I honestly feel like this book should be required reading for every person especially kids in their formative years to really understand privilege and race issues. Like I just feel like my life has been changed by reading this book that’s how much of an affect is has had on me.

I absolutely adored Starr, our MC, she’s feisty and smart but not scared to learn. She’s loyal and proud and I feel like a lot of young black girls will be able to see themselves in her. She doesn’t have the typical “sassy” personality that black women are always portrayed as having she feels real, which isn’t to say sassy black women don’t exist but they’re not as common as the media portrays.

I cannot wait to see what Angie Thomas writes next because I feel like whatever it is it’ll be magic. This book is going to sit with me and resonate for a long time, and when I’m a teacher I’m going to recommend it to all my students.

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Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Thank you to bookbridgr for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In Harmless Like You we follow two stories, Jay in modern day who has just lost his dad who was the only parental figure he ever had, and his mum in the 60s as she tries to figure out what she really wants from life.

I’m not really sure what to make of this book. I found the story really interesting and a take on displacement that I’d never read or thought of before but I found both Jay and his mum just not likeable, and whilst characters don’t have to be likeable I just found myself getting more annoyed the more I read.

Yuki was in an abusive relationship for the majority of the book and it was good to see the victims point of view of a relationship like that to see how people can be manipulated and they can’t just get themselves out of it. But it really annoyed me how Yuki got into a relationship with this man despite seeing him be abusive with another woman, I just didn’t get it?

I also just didn’t understand Jay, of course I get that people don’t always feel connected to their children and babies but he was just so unhelpful towards his wife. She was clearly having a tough time since giving birth and having to deal with the baby on her own plus her husband’s dad just dying is a lot and he just didn’t care. He was also a cheater so I don’t exactly have any patience for him.

The writing was good though, I could feel distinct differences in the times of the characters. I felt like I was in the 70s when reading Yuki’s chapters, there was a good feel to them. And I think Buchanan will do well with further novels.

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Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Thank you to netgalley and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is set in the 20s during the time of prohibition, but that’s not the only thing banned; people who have powers to manipulate people using art are also banned.

The biggest part of this book that I liked was the sisterhood. There was no girl on girl fighting for the sake of it, the 2 MCs were really close friends and loved each other and you could feel that throughout the whole book. They had really distinct personalities and I liked them as characters, however I felt like the book maybe should’ve been told from just one perspective because they all just rolled into one and it kind of felt like more of an omniscient narrator than separate character’s points of view in a way.

I also really loved the magic system, everything was related to art, some people could do magic with music, some with painting, some with poetry which I just found really cool. Though at times they would start to use their powers at moments where I just felt like it didn’t make sense to the situation, like surely someone would’ve stopped them before it actually took hold of them. Would it not be obvious to you that someone was Iron Cast if they started just randomly singing?

The world building could have done with some work. I found myself confused a fair amount of the time about just what was really going on. It felt a bit wooly at times and I think that was partly to do with the pacing which went from being really slow to really fast that I couldn’t really concentrate wholly on what was actually going on.

There was some really good points about racism and sexism that were brought up that are often swept under the carpet in historical fiction. Just because things were different doesn’t mean people were happy to just be treated like second rate citizens because of their gender or skin colour and this book was a reminder of that. Not only was one of the MCs facing difficulties in her life due to her magic but she was also black and whilst it is set in Boston where racism wasn’t nearly as bad as places in the south there was still a clear racial divide. It also raised some thoughts on the anti-Russian sentiments in the states, which not as strong as the narrative about racism against black people it was still there and mentioned.

I’d definitely be interested in what this author will come out with next as I can tell that she’s going to improve the more she writes.

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You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

Thank you to netgalley and Penguin UK/Michael Joseph for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This was a very odd book. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this and I probably won’t for the very foreseeable future. This books is all written as the written files of a person on trial for murder as he gives his final argument for himself.

I’m not the biggest fan of books told in nuanced language, like if it’s told from a characters dialect or it has a different style of writing to the norm. But I was able to read this despite the MC’s voice being written exactly as it would sound. I think that’s what made the book work though, reading it the way it would’ve been spoken.

It felt like Mahmood did his research, he’s pakistani and the characters in this book are all black, so obviously a different racial background and upbringing. But it did feel like he wrote their stories very well with a good insight into how gang culture for black young people works in London.

There was some moments where there was some really sensitive topics, like rape and murder and drug dealing, so trigger warning for that, and at times I felt like it was dealt with well and other times it felt too casual. And of course that’s because the novel is all told through speech, but it was a little too blasé at times and I wasn’t too keen on that.

It was quite slow, when we got to the midway point where the story started winding up it moved a lot faster but I felt like the MC spent just a bit too long on the back story, and had I been a juror I probably would’ve fallen asleep.

I liked the MC, his attitude to his girlfriend kind of annoyed me. It felt like he thought he owned her at times, not like in an over the top way but there was some elements at times of him being a bit too protective. But he read well and I could feel his need for the jury to really hear his story, even if it meant messing up his life.

I looked up the author and he’s a lawyer so I assume he would know the legal system like the back of his hand but it was like a 10 day final argument which I didn’t even think could happen. It felt a bit unrealistic, like surely the judge would tell him to wrap it up?

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History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

I’ve had Adam Silvera on my TBR for a while now and just never got around to reading anything. But then I saw History in the airport on my way to Italy so I just though I would get it, especially since the only other physical book I took with me was SOC. Like all of my reviews, but specifically the ones which have sensitive topics, if I say something wrong or offensive let me know please.

Griffin’s first love has died in a tragic accident and Griffin has to navigate the world without Theo in it suddenly. On top of that Theo’s new boyfriend is constantly trying to make friends with Griffin when all he wants to do is hate him, since he was the new boyfriend.

I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read much books involving gay male teens written by gay male writers. For some reason all the kind of popular gay books are written by women, which is another discussion for another day about sexualisation of gay guys. It was refreshing to read something like this, where it was just about these kids trying to live their lives after such a bad experience.

Theo was honestly really annoying. He thought OCD was a “cute quirk” and he moved on immediately to some guy who looked exactly like his ex. And then jerked his new boyfriend about because he still liked said ex, which just made me very uncomfortable.

Something I really liked about this book, well not necessarily liked, was that it had a good representation of grief. How people do silly things when they’re grieving. It showed the different reactions people go through which I thought was done really well, a lot of books just show a person being sad and miss out on the whole slew of emotions that a person will go through. There was a couple of twists because of the grief all the characters go through that really had me quite shocked, and that takes a lot.

To add to that it also had good representation of OCD. I don’t know if Silvera has OCD, I don’t know his life, but if he didn’t it still felt real. There was some stereotypes and some lesser known OCD related habits. I could tell that he’d done his research into it.

At the moment I have this book as on my faves shelf on goodreads, but I’m not really sure about it. Like I really loved it but I feel like it wasn’t quite up there with other books I’ve read recently. I don’t know.

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