A Forever Story by Cathleen Lynn Boyle 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of A Forever Story by Cathleen Lynn Boyle 📚

I read a digital edition of A Forever Story that I received for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Publisher: BenSky Publishing, LLC

Originally published: April 4th, 2020

Pages: 400 (Kindle edition)

Synopsis by the publisher:

A Forever Story has been a story dying to be told. It is based on real events that were recorded in journals and memoirs. The actual names of the people involved have been changed to protect identities, and situations have been fictionalized.

Fifteen years ago on Easter Sunday, I learned from a stranger’s voice at a hospital emergency room on the west coast where my daughter was attending college, she was dead-on-arrival from GHB poisoning. The men, a local hip-hop rapper, and his band, who brought my daughter to the hospital, admitted in sworn statements to the police she had been at their music studio forty to fifty minutes when she fell to the floor convulsing before entering a coma. The men, despite attempting CPR, quit the effort, and failed to call 911. They waited nine hours before seeking medical attention. To date, my daughter’s case remains a San Francisco cold case of suspected homicide.

Cathleen Boyle lives in Colorado with her son, and can be found blogging on women’s issue at https://daterapeawareness.wordpress.com/about/

My thoughts:

A Forever Story starts with Sofia sharing her life, work, and love interests in San Fransisco. We get to know this young woman trying to make a name for herself in a big city while also trying to figure out what she wants in life. We dive into her life and get to know her before everything changes when Sofia and her friend Bella are drugged at a party, and Sofia never wakes up again.
The second part of the book tells the story of the people that Sofia left behind, mainly her mother and younger brother, as they search for truth and justice 15 years after it all happened.

It is an interesting and heartbreaking story and knowing that real events inspired it makes it even more impactful. And even though the party that Sofia was drugged at was set in 1999, it is still such a relevant subject to this day. It is a scary reminder of how quickly things can go wrong, how easily it can happen without one knowing, and how difficult it can be to seek justice.
A Forever Story gives an insight into the legal procedures of a case like this, and a lot of the story is set in the courtroom. For me, some of those parts felt a bit like I was reading a movie script because of all the back and forth dialogue in the courtroom. At times, this could feel slightly repetitive, although I do understand Boyle’s desire to stay true to how the procedure would go down in real life.

A Forever Story is quite dark and sad, but with some rays of hope and sunshine finding its way through. And although I enjoyed this story, I don’t think it’s a book for everyone. There are quite a few elements throughout that I can picture being triggering for some readers, so that’s something to be aware of.
Other than that, I found this book to be entertaining, interesting, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking. A disturbing but enjoyable read!

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Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 📚

I read a hardback edition of Queenie.

Genre: Contemporary fiction, romance.

Publisher: Trapeze

Originally published: March 19th, 2019

Pages: 400 (hardback)

Audiobook length: 9 hrs and 45 mins.

Synopsis by the publisher:

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

My thoughts:

When I shared pictures of me reading Queenie on Instagram, I got a couple of DM’s from people asking me if it was true that Queenie was a lot like Bridget Jones’s Diary. I wasn’t aware that the two were being compared before that, but when I finished reading it, I saw that mentioned more and more.
I have to say (even though I think Bridget Jones is good fun and all that) that to compare the two is incredibly unfair to Queenie and to Candice Carty-Williams. Why? Because the two characters are so different! And the two stories are so different! Just because both books are about single women in London, doesn’t make them the same kind of stories.

Queenie is such a complex character and what she’s going through in this book when it comes to mental health and racism goes far deeper than the struggles Bridget Jones was facing in the fear of becoming an old spinster. I’m not saying that loneliness isn’t a subject that can be complicated and emotional, but Bridget Jones is not a book about mental health, at least not in my opinion.
And the big difference between the two is also that in Queenie we have a story that goes to some quite dark places, and that was something that I really appreciated with this story.

Dating in this modern age, with people walking around with all their own kind of bagage and own sets of issues, it can be difficult, challenging, hearbreaking and just downright frustrating and (at times) impossible to wrap your head around.
I’ve been there, and I know a lot of people have, and that’s why I think so many fall in love with Queenie and relates to her character so much. Even though you haven’t gone through the exact same experiences as she has, it is still easy to fing emotions and frustrations to relate to.

Queenie and her friends will make you frustrated at times when you read about the choices that they make (like having lots of unprotected sex and choosing dating partners that clearly isn’t a good match), but that is also what makes these characters feel more real. They make mistakes, they are imperfect, and they are trying so hard to navigate through a complicated and weird time in this world and their lives.

Queenie is a book with lots of humor, cringe worthy moments, diversity, exploration of mental health, friendships, love, and relationships for good and for bad.
It explores darkness and brightness and is also extremely entertaining! You can’t help but root for Queenie!

I would highly recommend Queenie to those readers out there who likes more complex and complicated contemporary/romance fiction. But it is not for the faint of heart! It was quite sexually graphic, and as I mentioned, it does go some pretty dark places, so that’s something to be aware of when going into this story.

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Writers and Lovers by Lily King 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Writers and Lovers by Lily King 📚

I read a hardback edition of Writers and Lovers.

Genre: Contemporary fiction, romance.

Publisher: PICADOR

Originally published: March 3rd, 2020

Pages: 256 (hardback)

Audiobook length: 8 hrs and 14 mins

Synopsis by the publisher:

Casey has ended up back in Massachusetts after a devastating love affair. Her mother has just died and she is knocked sideways by grief and loneliness, moving between the restaurant where she waitresses for the Harvard elite and the rented shed she calls home. Her one constant is the novel she has been writing for six years, but at thirty-one she is in debt and directionless, and feels too old to be that way – it’s strange, not be the youngest kind of adult anymore.

And then, one evening, she meets Silas. He is kind, handsome, interested. But only a few weeks later, Oscar walks into her restaurant, his two boys in tow. He is older, grieving the loss of his wife, and wrapped up in his own creativity. Suddenly Casey finds herself at the point of a love triangle, torn between two very different relationships that promise two very different futures.

Lily King’s Writers & Lovers follows Casey in the last days of a long youth, a time when everything – her family, her work, her relationships – comes to a crisis. Hugely moving and impossibly funny, it is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. It is a novel about love and creativity, and ultimately it captures the moment when a woman becomes an artist.

My thoughts:

When I first heard about this book, I immediately felt drawn to it. An aspiring writer struggling with finding her place in the world while coping with her demons. It sounded like a book that I could relate to a lot! And on that point, it definitely did not disappoint!

I fell in love with Casey as a character from the very beginning. Her attitude and the pride she has in her work as both a writer and as a waitress was something that I thought was so brilliantly portrayed. As someone who’s worked a lot in customer service myself, I thought it was a breath of fresh air to read about a character that actually took pride in her work even though it wasn’t the profession she dreamt of having in the long run. King also wrote about the struggle and frustration of working with customer service and questionable management, and I thought she was right on point there as well!

Casey also navigates her way through writing, single life, and trying to cope with the grief of having lost her mother. We get to follow her as she tries to make the best choices for her life and her future, and finding it hard to differentiate between what seems like the best choices are and what the right choices actually are. I think this is something that most creatives can relate to in the process of following a dream as well as building a future at the same time.

I loved how none of the characters were perfect. They felt real and problematic, just like real people.

The way that this story touches on family and grief as well was really interesting to read about and I was so invested in all the emotions that Casey went through in her ups and downs.

“Writers and Lovers” was a fresh of breath air in the contemporary fiction/romance genre, and one that made me (as an aspiring writer myself) want to sit down and work harder and write more.
I have a feeling that this book is one that will easily find its way into a very special place in the hearts of a lot of writers, but I also think that it’s a romance that can be loved and enjoyed by those who don’t have a passion for writing.

It was a wonderful story that felt very easy to read even though it touched on some heavier subjects. A story that has stayed with me and I find my mind drifting back to quite often.

Highly recommend!

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Cake by Nicole Brooks 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Cake by Nicole Brooks📚

I read a digital edition of Cake that I received for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review. 

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Publisher: Erid Press Inc. 

Originally published: May 22nd, 2019

Pages: 263 (paperback)

Blurb by the publisher:

Would you give to someone who desperately needed it, that which you could live without?

Keely is the epitome of a self-made woman, her ability to make the right choices her superpower. She doesn’t believe in looking back and has the drive, ambition, and financial means to create the exact life she wants to live–regardless of what her kids and her husband, Andrew, want or need. Michelle lives in stark contrast to Keely’s life. She believes she was doomed from the start with a heartbreaking, poverty-stricken childhood. A string of bad choices in adulthood only intensifies her lack of faith in herself. With her daughter safely away at college, she is left alone with her abusive husband, Ray. As the days drag on, she struggles to find a reason to continue. Until she meets Andrew. 

The two women’s worlds eventually collide, courtesy of their daughters, and both are forced to contemplate a time-worn question: is the comfort of a familiar self-constructed prison safer than the risk of trying to live a life of true freedom and potentially failing?

Cake asks how much the world has really changed for women–and for which women–by evaluating the progress of modern feminism. This novel examines privilege, the haves and have-nots, the ideals we choose to embrace, and the facts we forcefully decide to not see. This story entices the reader to contemplate whether our material and emotional conditions arise from childhood environments, personal choice, systemic inequality, or a combination of them all.

My thoughts:

I was drawn to Cake because of the absolutely beautiful cover. Stunning! 

Then I read the synopsis of the story, and it had every ingredient from the looks of it, to serve an emotional and powerful piece of story. And that’s exactly what it did. 

We follow two women who live incredibly different lives but are both constricted because of the daily abuse they experience. 

Michelle has a mentally and physically abusive husband. Keeley is putting herself under the amount of unhealthy pressure to live the perfect life and the perfect look that she herself inflicts pain on herself and her family.

It is two very different stories of pain, love and mental health, but both are equally as powerful and important. 

I loved reading about how these two people, and those who were closest to them, lives intertwined throughout the story. I was a bit worried when more and more characters were introduced with their own chapters and perspective, that it would get confusing and overwhelming. But because all the stories are as tightly connected as they are, it just added depth to the story and made it even more powerful. 

I got very invested in the two main characters. Michelle as the one I wanted to hold, rescue and comfort. Keeley as the one I wanted to shake and talk sense into. Keeley to me started out as a character I just disliked so much, but when we started to reach the ending of the book, I definitely felt a whole lot more sympathy towards her and her situation.

I think Cake is a beautifully written story and a very important one. It shines the light on different kind of abuse that is everyday life for so many women AND men. It’s a good addition to the mental health issues that can go too far, and a reminder to be kind and not judge people too quickly. 

We really have no idea what goes on in other people’s lives when they are behind closed doors, or alone with their own thoughts. And I thought Nicole Brooks did an amazing job of telling a story that reminds us of that fact. 

I thought the whole story wrapped up incredibly quick at the end and I kind of wish that we’d gotten to know a little bit more of the story from between the big climax and the wrap up at the end of it all. But other than that, I thought it was a brilliant book with an incredibly important message. 

I felt for these characters, but even more so, it made me emotional and heartbroken for the people out there who deal with abuse on a regular basis in their real lives. 

Highly recommend!

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Sleeping Together by Kitty Cook 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Sleeping Together by Kitty Cook 📚

I read a Kindle edition of Sleeping Together that I received for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review. Sleeping Together is the first novel in the Perfect Drug series.

Genre: Science fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Publisher: Brass Anvil Books

Originally published: March 6th, 2019

Pages: 310 (paperback)

Blurb by the publisher:

Vanessa Brown is having nightmares: about babies. Ever since her husband, Pete, mentioned he wanted to start a family, Ness has been trying to convince herself she’s stoked to spawn despite her inability to keep a cactus alive–and a decade-old secret she doesn’t like to remember. So when she catches her slacker-cool coworker, Altan Young, stealing sleeping medication from the pharmaceutical company they both work for, she decides to try the pilfered pills to finally find some rest.

But side effects of Morpheum include headaches, nausea, and possible mind melding–a fact Ness and Altan stumble upon when they share the same freaky sex dream. (Awkward.) Now these two colleagues are joined at the brain by night, experiencing dozens of fantastic sleep-staged adventures courtesy of a little imagination and a whole lot of drugs.

With the stress of being caught between the men of her literal and figurative dreams (not to mention her nightmare of a boss), Ness starts to enjoy snoozing more than being conscious–and the company of her work husband more than her real one. If she doesn’t wake up and smell the coffee soon, her dreamy escape could become a dirt nap in this feisty debut novel about the dark side of dreams’ coming true.

My thoughts:

What first caught my attention with this one was the beautiful cover. Yes, I am an absolute sucker for a pretty cover. Well done on the beautiful cover design! And then I read the synopsis of the book, and I was immediately intrigued. A story about a drug that makes it possible for two people to meet and connect in their dreams. Interesting premise!

The whole story starts off with Vanessa’s baby/pregnancy nightmare, and I thought that was a good way to have that character’s anxiety and uncertainty come across to the reader. Vanessa’s dilemma of being in a relationship where the love is strong, but they want different things is oh so relatable to many.

I loved the fact that Altan is an Asian character. Yay for diversity! And the relationship and dialogue between him and Vanessa were one of the key elements to this story that made it so enjoyable to me. There was humor that had me giggling, sex (not very graphic) that made it slightly steamy, a horrible boss that made I want to jump into the book and punch the guy’s face, mental health issues that are important to address, romance that wasn’t too cheesy, and a pageturner of a plotline that had me up later than I should have been.

Kitty Cook has written the dream state of the characters so well that it all comes very easily to life as I was reading.

The characters are relatable and we do get to know both Vanessa and Altan quite well throughout this story. I didn’t find myself completely obsessed with them, but I was very invested in their story and with the mystery of how the Morpheum drug was actually working, and how it would impact the people using it.

Sleeping Together is an incredibly creative, intriguing and interesting story that touches on some sensitive subjects and has a slight element of science fiction to it that I really liked. I feel like I still have a lot of questions, and that these characters still have a lot more story to tell, so finding out that this is the first book in a series was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Highly recommend if you want to read a different kind of romance. And now, the waiting for book two begins.

Click on the Reedsy Discovery logo below to get to know more, maybe get your own copy, and let me know what you think of it💛

The Humans by Matt Haig 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My thoughts on The Humans by Matt Haig 📚

I read a paperback version of The Humans.

Matt Haig

Genre: Science fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd.

Originally published: May 9th, 2013

Pages: 320 (paperback)

Audiobook length: 8 Hours 10 Minutes

Blurb by the publisher:

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME. OR IS THERE? 

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where he is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, Professor Andrew Martin is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst an alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog. 

Who is he really? And what could make someone change their mind about the human race . . . ? 

My thoughts:

The first time I got to enjoy Matt Haig’s writing was when I found How to Stop Time at an airport while traveling, and that one was told so brilliantly that I knew that Matt Haig would potentially be another author to add to my favorites list. But before he could end up on that list, I had to find out if it was just the one book that I enjoyed, or if it was his writing and storytelling that would captivate me more than once.

So, when I saw The Humans while I was on another trip (maybe Matt’s books and I are destined to be travel buddies?), I had to give it a go.

The Humans is one of those books that got my attention not just because of the author, but also because it just sounded magically quirky and just up my alley. What can I say? I love weird books!

Little did I know just how weird and wonderful it would turn out to be, and what a special place in my reader’s heart it would find.

In the very beginning of the story, we find out that Andrew Martin’s body has been occupied by an alien (so not really a spoiler), and what I thought would be a big mystery of why Martin had changed, was more a wonderful story of an alien trying to navigate itself on earth.

The best thing about this story is definitely how the alien experience and reacts to the utterly weird things that we humans do. I laughed out loud and almost felt a little embarrassed when recognizing some of the human actions for just how weird they are.

There were so many moments where I thought to myself: “Yep. We do that and it’s so stupid!”.

Matt Haig touches on a lot of the ways we humans seem to be unable to change, how we can be way too self-destructive, but also the wonderful little things that make us the weird humans that we are.

This is the true magic of The Humans and what made it such a unique and wonderful read.

There are other elements to the plotline that makes this story a quick and exciting read. The alien’s mission is definitely one that makes it into a pageturner.

So, the big question is: did Matt Haig make it to the favorite authors list?

Absolutely!!

If you’re looking for a different kind of science fiction read, I would highly recommend The Humans.

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