The Keeper of Lost Things

The Keeper of Lost Things –  Ruth Hogan

I was sent this to review so long ago that its been out to buy for MONTHS. Sorry. I got distracted by all the things, but I did at least manage to finish it in the year I was sent it, so that’s something at least!

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.
Bone china cup and saucer— Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.
Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.
Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.
As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?
Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs Queen Takes the Train,and The Silver Linings Playbook.

This was an interesting read and something very different to what I’m used to. It is essentially two main stories with a few mini stories interspersed within the pages. We start off with Anthony’s story, wracked with guilt for having lost a prized posession belonging to his late fiance, he begins finding and collecting lost things which he creates stories about and collates in anthologies, some of which are published. He leaves his collection, the house and everything in it to his housekeeper, the somewhat lost herself, Laura. Laura, with the help of her neighbour, Sunshine and the gardener, Freddy take it upon themselves to finish Anthony’s work and reunite the lost items with their owners. This is told alongside Eunice’s story as she starts working at a publishers and finds something interesting on her way home, which she too wants to return to its original owner.

This was charming and warm, especially at this time of the year. Maybe I won’t say that I didn’t get round to it, maybe we’ll say that I was keeping it for when it was cold… Yeah, that sounds better. There is whimsy, humour and interesting characters aplenty with an almost fairytale feel to it, honestly this was so fun to read and such a lovely distraction to the imminent end of the year!

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Here We Are Now

Here We Are Now – Jasmine Warga

After absolutely loving My Heart and Other Black Holes I jumped at the chance to read Jasmine Warga’s next book and this didn’t disappoint!

Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.
Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.
With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

Essentially this book is two separate threads of the same story, we have Taliah’s story of finally meeting the absent rock star father, of going on a trip with him to meet the family she has never known where we see her insecurities and anxieties play out in this situation. Alongside that, we get the backstory, the tale of her parents, how they met, how they came together and how they ended up where they are now, we learned the story alongside Taliah which made me feel like I could really get immersed in the story. Also, much like her first book, which beautifully tackled the subject of depression, this book realistically portrays Taliah’s anxieties and insecurities in a relatable and understandable way and her friendship with Harlow had me nodding along and going SAME every time she examined it further.

This doesn’t have quite the same emotional impact as My Heart, but is still a story that tugs on the heart strings. The book essentially ends, just as Taliah’s story is beginning, creating a wonderful tableau for the rest of her life. There is an argument that this is a bit style over substance, but you really don’t mind when the characters are as interesting as Tal and her family. Also, you’ve got to love a story with a diverse cast, Tal is biracial, having a Jordanian mother and white American father, her best friend Harlow is a lesbian. There were a lot of references to things like Hamilton which I wasn’t sure if I liked, like, I love Hamilton and I love a good reference, but also having it mentioned several times made me feel a bit… odd.

Overall though, this was just very cute and a bit fluffy and on these cold wintery nights, that’s all you want.

Yuki means happiness

Yuki Means Happiness – Alison Jean Lester

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Japan before?
Well… I love Japan. I’ve never been there but I find the whole culture and history of Japan fascinating, I think its because it is so far removed from what life is like in the UK and the fact that they’re so good at making manga and anime and sweets. Also mochi. The food of the Gods. Anyway, because I love Japan so much, I love reading books set there, which is, combined with the cover, why I chose to request this when it was available for review, so thank you Bookbridgr for sending me a copy!

Diana is young and uneasy in a new relationship when she leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura and sets about adapting to a routine of English practice, ballet and swimming lessons, and Japanese cooking.
But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn’t as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way. 
Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman’s journey to discover her true self.

So this is the story of Diana, who after spending time qualifying to be a nurse and falling into a relationship with Porter is offered a job in Japan as a nanny for a baby she helped care for at the time of her birth and as she has no idea who she is or what she’s doing with her life and is terrified of the intimacy that a relationship entails, she moves to Japan. What follows is a journey of self discovery alongside a beautiful friendship with the three year old in her care. There is also a bit of family drama and a hint of child abuse to help keep up the tension.

When I started reading this I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with it, the narration was very odd, but it was concise and I think it summed up Diana’s character really well. It also created a beautiful picture of Japan and gave a real insight into the culture, and even though we are aware that the situation is an unusual one, I felt like I learned a lot about the setting, I want to read as many things about Japan as possible – send me recs!

Also, can we talk about that cover? The cover is beautiful!

Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daughter – Jennie Melamed

The lovely people of Bookbridgr sent me a gorgeous hardcover of this (seriously the dust jacket is beautiful) right around the time that the Handmaid’s Tale was wrapping up, it’s almost like they knew I would be hunting for something to fill the Offred sized hole that was left behind and this book, dear God this book. It, as the kids say, left me SHOOK.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS tells the story of an end-of-the-world cult founded years ago when ten men colonised an island. It’s a society in which men reign supreme, breeding is controlled, and knowledge of the outside world is kept to a minimum. Girls are wives-in-training: at the first sign of puberty, they must marry and have children. But until that point, every summer, island tradition dictates that the children live wildly: running free, making camps, sleeping on the beach. And it is at the end of one such summer that one of the youngest girls sees something so horrifying that life on the island can never be the same again.

Honestly, I’m a bit lost as to where to begin with this. It was as hard to read as it was to put down.
That doesn’t explain a lot, does it?
Sorry, let’s try again.

This book reminded me of lots of other things, but at the same time it was so original. What we have is a cult like community where the patriarchy rules, each family is given their own profession, couples are paired up and allowed two children and when they become too old to be useful, they are put out to pasture. They are confined to their island and are not told anything of the world outside, much like The Giver, which is one of my faves. The only freedom allowed is for those considered children, every summer they’re allowed to live as though feral, in an almost Lord of the Flies kind of way. The adults remain inside and those girls unfortunate enough to start menstruating have to do their summer of fruition, which, like in Only Ever Yours, is when they’re gathered up and presented to a group of single men to be picked and matched up. By winter they’re likely married and pregnant and the cycle continues. In this society the birth of a boy brings celebration, the birth of a girl brings sorrow for before the girls belong to their husbands they belong to their fathers. Yes that sentence is heaped with innuendo and here’s the part where I chuck you some trigger warnings. This is a society where child molestation and sexual assault are not only normal but are insisted upon. There is also a character with an eating disorder, just fyi.

The story is told from the point of view of four girls aged between 17 and 13 living in this society and one of them sees something they’re not supposed to which throws this whole community into turmoil. Now you can see why it was so hard to read, these girls’ lives are horrific but Jennie Melamed tells it with such subtlety that it creeps its way into your subconscious and haunts you. Her author profile tells me that she’s a psychologist that works with abused children and you can tell that she’s someone who understands the sensitivities and employs them with care. A lot of the incidents in this book are inferred, nothing is gratuitous. The bio also tells me that she owns three shiba inu’s and frankly, that’s brilliant.

Gather the Daughters is a wonderful and horrific book (can that be possible?) that should be a must for anyone who’s into their dystopians or is interested in reading more about cults.

Here’s another thing, this hasn’t been done in a while, but this was so good it gets a Nick Fury Seal of approval.

ARC haul, the reading passport, being a proud big sister? A book video in three parts

Yeah, I’m still doing that YouTube thing even though Dan Howell still doesn’t know I exist and I still don’t have enough subs to get into the YouTube space, but the YouTube thing is fun! And sometimes my love of books bleeds into life over on my channel, so one post spread across two social networks I guess!

Welcome to A book video in three parts:
Part one, a little round up of the arcs I’ve been sent recently, they’re probably the last ones I’ll get this year and a couple of them have appeared here before, but you know!
Part two, the reading passport, a new initiative happening at a couple of my local libraries that I thought was super cool and wanted to share, plus the books I picked up while I was there!
Part three, borrowing a book from my little brother who hated books when he was younger and now loves them and the proud big sister feels I have about that fact!

If you’ve read any of these, plan to read any of these or like the sound of any of these you should let me know so we can discuss! (also, *takes deep breath and prepares for the Philly D spiel* if you liked that video and you like what I do on that channel hit that like button and if you’ve not visited me over on YouTube before hit that subscribe button).  If any of ya’ll live near a library taking part in the reading passport, hit me up so we can discuss which books we’ve picked up and how many stamps we’ve earned!

When the floods came

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When the Floods Came – Clare Morrall

First things first I’mma eat your brains – wait, that’s Nicki, I’m not gonna do that… First things first I’m going to thank Bookbridgr and Hodder and Staughton books for sending this to me. Second I’m going to draw your attention to how pretty this cover is and third, I’m going to tell you all about this book cos reading it was a bit of an adventure. Also the posting of this was kinda appropriate cos Storm Angus was raging and my local Asda got flooded just when I needed a lightbulb.

For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She’s safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he’s a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to Aashay than he’s letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?

So basic premise, in what is one of the more believable dystopian futures, the earth has been ravished by extreme weather and a horrible disease which has wiped out almost everyone, apart from the anti social and the immune, Roza and her family are immune and are pretty much the only people left alive in Birmingham after most of the rest of the UK decided to move to Brighton. I don’t blame them, Brighton is wonderful! Though there is a serious lack of affordable housing, so I hope that in this dystopian future there was a bit more housing to go around. Anyway, Roza and her family hang out in Birmingham avoiding the awful weather, being suspicious whenever they cross paths with another human and working from home using whats left of the internet, which apparently can continue without the aid of engineers or people in IT. She also spends her time skyping a chap called Hector who lives in Brighton and who she intends to marry (they met online, its like Tinder but way more serious) because the disease wiped out almost everyone and very few fertile people are left so marrying random people you meet on the internet and procreating with them is pretty much the only way the humans can continue to exist. The government insist on it actually. This fact, as alluded to in the blurb, is also the reason why so many children do keep disappearing and why Roza’s parents are so right to be wary of any other people they come across.

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Indeed they are Nick Miller. Indeed they are. Especially child stealing ones. Overall, I really enjoyed this. It was a believable dystopia, if there is such a thing, but it was also a great story. There was a lot of intricate world building which is always welcome when describing a futuristic world where things have gone horribly wrong. My only real beef (or tofu for the non meat eaters out there) with the narration is that there was a tendency for the story to go off on a tangent and meander its way back to the original point, by which time I was like, wait… why was that important again?
This was definitely a slow burner, but its one of those delicious ones that you don’t mind waiting for because the scenic route is just so nicely done. Usually when you read a futuristic dystopia its all ACTION ACTION ACTION like Bruce Willis might as well be wearing a vest, packing weapons and reading the whole thing to you very loudly, this was much softer, it allowed you to get really immersed and the meandering nature of the narration allowed me to get to know Roza and her family and the world in which they’ve found themselves before the intensity of the story really began. I think the pacing is one of the key things about this book that made it so enjoyable, dystopias are usually so intense, so it was nice to be eased in gently with this.

I don’t know if its just because the protagonist is called Roza, but I pictured Aashay to look like Pimento from Brooklyn 99…

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Overall, this is an interesting and imaginative story, though similar in places to Children of Men, and is very well executed. The main thing for me with this was that this was completely viable! Without wanting to get preachy or political, the weather is getting a tad cray on this planet and its all down to the way we look after it and honestly, who is to say that random extreme weather patterns won’t at some point in the future cause the mass of destruction seen in this book? How do we know that weird mutated viruses won’t decimate the planet?!

Wow, what a cheery note to end on….

Hot Feminist

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Hot Feminist – Polly Vernon

I really wanted to start reading more about topics that interest me, like gender politics and feminism. Especially because I consider myself a feminist, but very rarely read academic or non fiction texts about feminism. Also because declaring that you’re a feminist on the internet scares the crap out of me, so I would like to be able to get to a point where I am so well read on the subject that I can do it with confidence and take down all the fools who dare question it. Because if you believe that feminism is a hatred of men rather than a vision of equality for everyone no matter what your gender is (which extends to those of many, non specific and transgenders as well as people of multiple races and creeds) then you probably are a bit of a fool. So, I grabbed this when I saw it advertised on bookbridgr (thanks guys for sending it to me) it’s just a shame that this wasn’t the feminist experience I was looking for.

Hot (adj.) : (Of a person) Attractive ‘a hot chick’
Fem-i-n-ist (n.) : A person who supports feminism, the movement that advocates equal rights for women
Polly Vernon, Grazia columnist, Times feature writer (hair-flicker, Brazilian-waxer, jeans obsessive, outrageous flirt) presents a brave new perspective on feminism.
Drawing on her dedicated, life-long pursuit of hotness – having dismissed many of the rules on ‘good’ feminism at some point in the early 90s – she’ll teach you everything you ever wanted to know about being a feminist when you care about how you look. When part of your brain is constantly monologuing on fashion. When you check out your own reflection in every reflective surface. When your depilation practices are pretty much out of control. When you just really want to be fancied.
Hot Feminist is based on a principle of non-judgment (because there’s enough already), honesty about how often we mess this up, and empowerment through looks. Part memoir, part road map, it’s a rolling, raucous rejection of all those things we’re convinced we shouldn’t think / wear/ feel/ say/ buy/ want – and a celebration of all the things we can.
It is modern feminism, with style, without judgment.

Is it modern feminism though? Because like, I always understood that feminism meant equality for all genders and that the point of it was to stop the disrespect associated with ‘feminine’ traits etc. I didn’t realise that people actually found it difficult to enjoy femininity and also be a feminist. Like, if you’re into make up, wear it. Who gives a crap? Are you a guy? Are you a girl? Are you another gender entirely? You think eyeliner makes your eyes poppin’ and you want them to look hella good while also being a pro at your job and stuff – you go for it.  Here’s an example in the form of a story. A little while ago the band Twenty One Pilots performed on TV, one of them, Tyler, wore a long coat and a pair of shorts.  At the end of the performance, Sacha Baron Cohen, who was in character to promote his film, Grimsby (for those that don’t know, he rarely appears at anything as his actual self) criticised Tyler for wearing a dress. People laughed. Yes, it was a joke, all done in jest presumably showing that Sacha Baron Cohen is actually taking the piss out of ignorant people, either way, the fact that someone identifying as a man apparently wearing a dress is funny in any way is exactly why we all need feminism, its not just about women. Apparently though, the idea of enjoying femininity whilst being a feminist is something that troubles Polly Vernon as this entire book is basically her very patronisingly explaining that she likes men, high heels and red lipstick, but she also cares about equality. Like… yeah, fine, but there are many more wider issues that can be discussed here.

Its a shame that the book’s content is so infuriating, because Polly is actually a very witty and engaging writer, even if she does come across as being a little self absorbed at times. To me, this book was just very oversimplified and didn’t really grasp any of the main concepts of feminism and what the movement is striving for as far as I understand it. Yes, it is important that people feel that they can aspire to be conventionally attractive and still care about feminism, but did this idea really need to go on for 364 pages?
There is a major issue with people tearing other people (mostly women) down for wanting to look pretty and trying to attract the attention of men, to me, anyone who claims to be a feminist whilst judging others for the way they live their lives, is someone who does not understand feminism. We should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down, so I do think books like this spread an important message because Polly does explain that feminism isn’t about hating men, or hating girls who want to pretty themselves up for the men in their lives – good, this is something that most feminist texts I’ve read seem to forget. For me, it’s just a shame there isn’t really much else in the book. I came out of it just really wanting there to be more discussion and more topics that come under the umbrella of feminism. A lot of the book read like an issue of Cosmo, there were lots of fashion tips and things like that, which is fine, but I wanted so much more.

I just think being part of the tumblr generation and being into non judgemental equality, (I am one of those annoying people that gives themselves anxiety because they check their privilege at like every single moment of the day) many of the things that Polly was saying weren’t new or revolutionary to me, because seriously, you can dress however you want and behave however you want without judgement. As long as you aren’t breaking the law or causing actual physical harm to other people, you do you. You identify as male and want to wear a dress, you rock the hell out of it, you identify as female and you want to wear make up but also talk about astrophysics, go for it. You identify as a different gender and want to incorporate traits of both in the way you dress, then you do it and you like fly as hell. That to me is sort of the point of feminism. Not judging people or treating them any more or less than anyone else.

Regardless, if you like fashion, lifestyle books and Cailtin Moran style prose, then check this out, just don’t go looking for serious discussions on feminism because you won’t find it here.