The Trophy Child by Paula Daly

the trophy

Karen Bloom is a Tiger Mother. This is a title she not only accepts, but revels in. Her youngest daughter Bronte’s day is crammed full of activities; piano lessons, harp lessons, dancing lessons and tutoring. Her older son Ewan is her “failure” as he did not succeed in getting enrolled in a prestigious private school and now spends most of his time smoking in his room with his friend Dale. Her quiet, well-behaved step-daughter Verity is enrolled in the school but is currently going through counselling and is being drug-tested at school. Why? Because she violently attacked and tried to strangle Karen. Her husband and Verity’s father has become a borderline alcoholic who has extra-marital affairs. Not at all ironic given that their relationship began as an affair.

Bronte goes missing one day while out with Verity and from here we start to see Karen’s true colours. Rather than immediate concern for her daughter’s whereabouts she turns on the police investigating and turns on Verity for losing her sister. Then, all of a sudden, Bronte arrives home completely unharmed but unwilling to tell anyone where she had been. This is the start of several twists and turns within this story.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in this book. As a fan of psychological thrillers, I expected something more disturbing and, well, psychological. There seemed to be a focus of having lots of twists to the story rather than the actual story itself. The character’s didn’t seem to be very developed and I would love to have learned more about Ewan’s friend Dale and how/why he came to be nearly part of the family, he could have been a very interesting character. That said, if you’re stuck for something to read, this is grand but it’s not what it could have been

—-

You can reserve a copy on our eBook service, Borrowbox, here

 

Our House by Louise Candlish

our house

On a bright morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.

If you handed me a book and told me it was about property fraud I would hand most likely hand it straight back to you! So I’m glad I hadn’t been told what this was about before I started reading it.

Fiona (Fi) Lawson arrives home to see a removal van outside her home. Assuming it’s for the house for sale further down the street she makes her way into her house to be greeted by a stranger who tells her that she has just bought the house. All Fi’s furniture and belongings have been removed, with new items in their place. Logically, Fi thinks there’s been a mistake but it turns out that her house has indeed been sold, apparently by her and her husband Bram. And now her husband also appears to be missing.

This was a great read, written in a unique format. Fi’s side is told through a transcript of a podcast called Victim which she took part in after the loss of her house. Bram’s side is told through a word document that he wrote after his supposed disappearance. The two sides never interact so we, as readers, get to know what each person knows and what the other doesn’t. Fi’s podcast transcript also has comments from social media followers, which I thought was a nice touch. There are a few good twists in this story, although one of them was fairly obvious to see coming. All of them lead to a great ending, which made me literally gasp when I finished reading it.

—–

You can reserve a copy on our eBook service, Borrowbox, here.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

dear edward

Dear Edward is the story of Edward Adler, a 12 year old boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 191 people, including his parents and brother with whom he was travelling. This is an unimaginable loss for anyone, let alone a young boy. After spending much time in hospital for the injuries he sustained, he goes to live with his aunt and uncle who have been through their own struggles. Edward has been dubbed “Miracle Boy” by the media and has to learn to live with this new, unwanted, fame. Continue reading

Gino’s Italian Express by Gino D’Acampo

gino

I loved this latest book by Gino D’Acampo as it details 80 brand new recipes discovered by Gino during his train journeys through Italy.

The recipes are easy to follow and if you are looking to cook up some delicious midweek meals or if you are looking for great ideas for dinner parties, this is your go to book.

This book is perfect for people who like to cook tasty meals but don’t have a lot of time to spare, Gino proves you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to produce flavoursome Italian meals. Learn to make delicious Nutella Ice cream and Panforte fruit cake to name a few. I really loved this book, and would recommend it to Italian food lovers.

The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell

pefect

Roz lives in Dublin, in a flatshare with her best friend Dympna. She becomes pregnant and is adamant she’s keeping the father’s identity a secret. A young, broke Irish woman, having lived through a chaotic childhood herself with an alcoholic mother, Roz decides it’s best to put her baby up for adoption and so registers with an elite adoption website.

Fairly quickly she was gets contact from an Diamond Client on the site. Turns out that they are a super rich celebrity power couple from New York. Within days of being introduced to them via the site, Roz is being flown over to New York to live with Sheridan Sinclair and Daniel until the baby is born and handed over to them. From the get go the set up is suspicious, Sheridan’s mood can turn on the flip of a switch, Michael is always away for work and, little by little, Roz’s freedom is taken away from her.

Roz is being held hostage in Sheridan Sinclair’s basement. On top of this it transpires that previously there was another girl in Roz’s situation, and she has since disappeared without a trace.

I’ve said before that I love Caroline Mitchell’s books and I think this is one of her better ones. It’s fast paced and gripping admittedly with some cheesy dialoge throughout. It’s full of suspense and the character of Sheridan is quite disturbing, you’d be afraid to meet her in real life. There are a couple of well placed twists in the story, and an ultimate betrayal at the end which was a great finishing touch.

Poetry Roundup #4: July – December 2020

We’re back with more poetry recommendations. Here’s a run-down of the very best poetry books I read from July to December 2020.

Recommended:

Jack Straw’s Castle by Thom Gunn [Faber]
Platos de Sal by Matthew Hittinger [Seven Kitchens Press]
Cain by Luke Kennard [Penned in the Margins]
Working Animals by Liam Bates [Broken Sleep Books]
MOTHERBABYHOME by Kimberly Campanello [zimZalla]
Crush by Richard Siken [Yale University Press]
Red Gloves by Rebecca Watts [Carcanet]
The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse [Penguin]
The Rain Barrel by Frank Ormsby [Bloodaxe]
Thank You for Being a Fiend by Matthew Haigh and Alex Stevens [self-published]
The Permanent Wave by Siobhan Campbell [Blackstaff]
After the Miracle Season by Melissa Atkinson Mercer [Seven Kitchens Press]

Queer poets, as usual, feature highly. I have been – very slowly to savour it – working my way through Thom Gunn’s bibliography and Jack Straw’s Castle is one of my favourites (although my absolute faves are probably Boss Cupid and Fighting Terms, his last and first, almost fifty years apart).

A true find earlier this year was The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse. Books Upstairs posted on their social media that they had a copy and I got up and legged it into town to buy it (beating someone else who was apparently gutted), as it’s a legendary text, and very, very out of print. And it lives up to its status. A wonderful, wide in scope, incisive and informative introduction accompanies the most expansive selection of gay poetry, from (essentially) the beginning of writing right up to its publication (the 1980s), and a lot of it was translated by the editor himself. If you can find a copy, do not hesitate (and it absolutely needs to be reissued!).

Crush is the book that made American poet Richard Siken’s name and is one of the likely contenders for gay poetry book to see in a bookshop, and with good reason. This nervy poetic text is a dense treat of anxiety, eroticism and confusion. Leading on from this, in a way, is the more surreal Thank You for Being a Fiend by poet Matthew Haigh and illustrator Alex Stevens. Revolving around The Golden Girls, Matthew’s surreal prose poems are a perfect complement to Alex’s trippy acid-like visuals. Siken would enjoy this, I feel.

Pamphlets/Chapbooks continue to feature highly in my reading, and recommendations. Platos de Sal by Matthew Hittinger, who has gone on the publish many full-length collections is a short, perfectly executed slice of narrative poetry; one to read and re-read. Also published by Seven Kitchens Press, like Platos, is Melissa Atkinson Mercer’s After the Miracle Season and good god, the command and control and variety of her poetry is astounding; a real, genuine talent. Rounding out our chapbooks are the always excellent Broken Sleep Books whose chapbook, Working Animals by Liam Bates was a fantastic meditation on work and drudgery. I still think about the line-breaks in opener, ‘That’s All’ (which you can read here).

Other highlights that stood out this year: Rebecca Watts’ Red Gloves was a quantum leap forward from her first collection, The Met Office Advises Caution, and one I read a few times; Luke Kennard’s CAIN is a tricksy, visually gorgeous collection about a man whose marriage disintegrates and ends up sharing his flat with the biblical Cain – strange, deft and moving; two Irish poets whose collections stood out this year were Siobhan Campbell’s darkly funny The Permanent Wave and Frank Ormsby’s lush collection The Rain Barrel.

Finally, this year I read MOTHERBABYHOME by Kimberly Campanello. An experimental work of poetry collected in a giant 796 page book, based on texts from historical archives and news reports about the Mother & Baby Home scandal. Never has experimental poetry felt so direct, so vital and so moving. I was in tears by the end, overwhelmed by the sheer sense of loss. You can watch Kimberly read the whole collection (all three hours of it) here, and I recommend it immensely.

Highly Recommended:

Boats for Women by Sandra Yannone [Salmon Poetry]
Night Feed by Eavan Boland [Arlen House]
Beethoven Variations by Ruth Padel [Chatto Windus]
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz [Faber] – ROUNDUP PICK 

Nary a man in sight this time! All four of these collections are, frankly, masterpieces and it was extremely hard choosing just one roundup pick – any and all of them could be one.

Sandra (Sandy) Yannone’s Boats for Women is an astonishing collection. At first I thought it would be solely about the Titanic disaster but it is so much more: there is a whole universe in this essential and awe-inspiring first collection (and points for it being the only first collection out of these four).

A confession: I had never read much Eavan Boland when she was alive, but I’m making up for it now. Whilst her first few collections fell short of the mark for me, Night Feed more than makes up for it. Starting with poems about feeding her child at night, it widens out into something miraculous, with the most inventive, multiplicitous and poetic language. Essential.

Beethoven Variations is a collection about the life of Beethoven. Another book that had me in tears by the end, this collection – in the way that only poetry does – seems to hold his entire complicated life in these few lines. A major achievement, and one that everyone should read.

And so, the roundup pick. Postcolonial Love Poem was a book I ended up reviewing for a Poetry Reviewing workshop and as such, perhaps might not have been something I would have picked up, particularly since the title, I feel, doesn’t do the scope of the book justice. But it is, quite simply, one of the best poetry collections I’ve read in years and years. The level of craft and polish on every line is astounding, and it’s clear how she’s been spending the eight or so years since her first collection, When My Brother was an Aztec. A stunning collection about the body, her lover and being other, I could go on about this all day, but I’ve already written a long review of it elsewhere, so I’ll link you to it there!

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed our fourth poetry roundup, and we’ll be back in July with our fifth!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

kiss quotient

It’s high time for Stella Lane to settle down and find a husband – or so her mother tells her. This is no easy task for a wealthy, successful woman like Stella, who also happens to have Asperger’s. Analyzing data is easy; handling the awkwardness of one-on-one dates is hard. To overcome her lack of dating experience, Stella decides to hire a male escort to teach her how to be a good girlfriend.

If I were to describe this book in one word it would be cringy. Stella hires Michael, a male escort to help her become a better girlfriend. Within minutes of meeting, it is clear that Michael is going to fall hopelessly in love with Stella. All her quirks were instantly endearing to him, where they had been seen as weird and annoying by others. Stella in return falls in love with Michael. But both, for some unknown reason, thinks the other isn’t interested in anything past their business arrangement.

What follows is a sequence of very predictable small storylines, some very cheesy self-dialogue, and some extra embarrassingly worded sex scenes. Ultimately this is a step up from a Mills & Boon romance in the terminology and descriptions of the passion scenes. But it’s quick and easy read, great for someone looking to switch off and read something amusing.