Stream it ~ Review

I’ve watched a few series over the last few months that I’m desperate to talk (or in this case, write) about. Knowing me as you do, for those of you that have been reading DIVAMUM for a while, you’ll know my interest in TV piques and wanes often. My mum asks me every other day ‘did you watch XYZ last night?’ And I’m there like, ‘No mum, you know I don’t watch much TV’ and the reason is not because I don’t love TV, I do! The reason, is because my kids are shit at going to bed and I live with chronic fatigue, and a brain fogged mind that refuses to concentrate on anything. Oh, and also because I’ve been watching Love Island only, for the last however many weeks and falling to sleep immediately after.

Since that ended though, I’ve had to fill the pockets of time I do get with short, sweet and easy, but still interesting (otherwise I really won’t concentrate on it) watches. So what have I been watching? The below paragraphs are, in no particular order.

Everything I know about love

Everything I know About Love. 5⭐️

Dolly Alderton’s best selling memoir of the same name has been transformed and semi fictionalised for TV and I could not wait to review it.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book! I’m aware of the opinion of many bookish bloggers who claim not reading the book before watching a TV adaptation is sacrilegious, but I have to say I’m partial to doing it backwards. A bit like the way I love kindle and don’t obsess over or miss turning ‘real pages’ or reading with a light on. Call me a fraud if you will, but here we are. Everything I Know About Love is, in my opinion an epic watch.

Maggie (played by Emma Appleton) is a post grad, twenty four year old fresh out of uni in the early noughties and looking for excitement. She moves into her first flat with best friend Birdie (Bel Powley) along with two friends from uni, Nell and Amarah in London’s borough of Camden. The episodes are full of exactly what you’d expect… love, but not always or specifically in its conventional romantic sense. Maggie dates many men, has the craziest of nights out, frantically searches for work and her soul, eventually finding both. It’s a beautiful depiction full of warm nostalgia for halcyon days and hedonistic nights. I downloaded the book as soon as I finished watching, but I’m still yet to get past the first chapter. I’m desperately hoping they’ll be another series of this though as Maggie’s story is far from over when the closing credits roll.

Breeders Season 3

Breeders. 5⭐️

If you’re a tired parent prone to dropping the f-bomb, full of parental guilt and rage…. This is for you. A darkly comedic show that shows that side of parenting the majority of instagram’s parental users are trying to shield us from. The bottom line…. It’s fucking hard. Paul (Martin Freeman) and Ally (the wonderful Daisy Haggard) are parents to Luke and Ava whom you see grow from toddler to teens in S 1-3. The show depicts the trials and tribulations of the working parent. Mental health, marriage and menopause also feature, with S3 showing Daisy’s Ally in bits due to the national HRT shortage. A brilliantly executed storyline. Fans of Friday Night Dinner and Motherland will appreciate. For me this show is everything being a parent is, it’s fear, confusion, guilt and an abundance of love, with laughter thrown in for good measure. NB: It’s quick witted and close to the mark, not for the easily offended.

Mood

Mood. 3.5⭐️

Written by and starring Nicôle Lecky, Mood follows the life of Sasha Clay. Sasha is a twenty five year old wannabe singer recently dumped by her boyfriend Anton (Jordan Duvigneau) and kicked out of home by her parents, Sasha finds herself shit out of luck with nowhere to go, before she’s taken under the wings of ‘influencer’ and sex worker Carly Visions. Sasha’s life turns around in an instant but is it for the better? A dark and interesting look at social media and the age of the influencer. Mood also features a soundtrack written and debuted by Lecky. Eye opening if a little exaggerated in parts, Mood is wholly unique with nothing else quite like it on TV.

You Don’t Know Me

You Don’t Know Me. 4⭐️

I liked this show a lot, and the only reason I didn’t give it the full 5⭐️ is because I found it got a little drawn out and hard to follow somewhere in the middle. That being said Samuel Adewunmi who plays main character Hero sold it for me. The show follows Hero’s life and his current trial for the murder of gang member Jamil Issa. I found Hero a likeable character and I loved how the drama flits between present day courtroom and previous events, delving into gang culture and doing the right thing. I’ve read a lot of naff reviews based on the ending but I have to say, I disagree with them. The show is though provoking and the ending gets that thought process going. I thought about this drama long after I finished watching it. If you want something to pass the time before the next series of Top Boy drops; this might be for you.

Have you watched any of these? As ever, leave me a comment or get in touch to let me know what you thought about any of the shows listed in this review. 

Happy Netflix and Chill.

A novel for the migraineur

As someone who identifies as disabled, living with several debilitating chronic illnesses, I am forever searching my beloved books for representation of such characters. Until now I’ve been yet to find a protagonist whom is presented as disabled and humble. A character doing things along side of their disability, as opposed to in spite of. So many portrayals of disability can come across as though everyone living with one should be more productive, and offering accurate representation of invisible yet life limiting chronic illness, is paramount for awareness. Fiction writers are getting better at being more inclusive, particularly with mental health in narratives, but many are still falling short on the disability front. It’s a hard balance to strike when wanting to write exciting plot twists, but including a realistic representation of disabled or mentally unwell characters. What tends to happen is, a disabled character may get a side part in an able bodied person’s story. Or a mentally unwell character might end up being the villain in an attempt to emphasise the extremity of an illness, but I’m pleased to say, not in this book.

Seven Days In June by Tia Williams is a tale, written with grit and heart. Honestly, I devoured it, what a marvel! A book that really inspires the likes of me, a chronically sick, wannabe author.

Eva Mercy is a single mother and bestselling erotica writer who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone's surprise, shows up unexpectedly in New York.

When Shane and Eva meet at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their buried traumas, but also the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. While they may be pretending not to know each other, they can't deny their chemistry - or the fact that they've been secretly writing to each other in their books through the years.

Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect - but Eva's wary of the man who broke her heart, and wants him out of the city so her life can return to normal. Before Shane disappears though, she needs a few questions answered . . .

What the blurb doesn’t tell you, is:

Protagonist Eva Mercy lives with the (often invisible) disability, migraine. The pages dedicated to her illness are raw, heart wrenching and honest, despite their fictional nature. Eva is a complex character and Williams is a perfect story teller. Offering up a window into the life of a young disabled mother. Not only is Eva a disabled person but a talented author, mother and sexual human being, too! Real life with migraine is often painkillers and dark rooms and this book captures that, even down to triggering smells and ‘face melting’ pain. It also tells the full story, the story of a woman with complex emotions, sexual desires, ambition and drive, that is often hindered by migraine attacks. As is her ability to parent and participate in loving relationships. It links trauma which is so often the catalyst to a life of chronic pain. But includes subtext, relating to mental health and teenage mistakes, drug abuse and even parental neglect.

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick

If I had to rate this book in stars I’d give it a full house simply based on the mention of migraine, and the debilitating nature of their attacks. However, I’m giving it a 4.5, and the reason I hold back the full five, is that the plot itself, whilst raunchy, does teeter over the edge into contemporary romance. If happy endings aren’t your bag, this book may not be for you. What I will say, is the road to happiness is portrayed with honesty, stubbornness and heart. Bonus, it’s a relatively short read that isn’t clunky to digest.

Praise for Tia Williams. You have a new fan!

Buy Online at Amazon now

Diva Reads June

So this was a funny old month for me and I spent a lot of it in a not so great, head space. My reading often reflects my mood and can also alter it to some extent. June was also a month that saw me binge watching a lot more TV than usual, to be honest I rarely watch tele but when I do I go in hard. I spent a whole day in June binge watching Station19 and ugly crying. It was pretty epic to be fair.

Back to books.

I finally read June’s House21 book club read of Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare. It was a perfect palette cleanser, and everything you expect from chick lit. The protagonist Tiffy is a typical girl next door, a bit geeky and out there along with utterly likeable. Tiffy shares a flat with Leon, they also share a bed, but not at the same time, at least not initially. Their love affair begins with post it notes in an unordinary, archaic fashion. Later when they finally meet in real life it’s a typical, happily ever after scenario and I loved it.

BA Paris – Behind Closed Doors.

This book was a real disappointment to be honest. I was expecting great things being a psychological thriller fan but I’m loathe to say it didn’t deliver. Tricked into marrying the worlds most sadistic man, Grace rushes into a marriage before she’s even seen the house she’s going to spend the rest of her life in. There was very little back story on why her psycho husband Jack was indeed a psycho, and it generally failed me as a reader. I also felt like the Author’s reference to the vulnerability of Grace’s sister Millie who has down syndrome was quite misinformed and bordered on offensive in parts. I’ve heard good things about other BA books though, and for this reason I’m willing to try another at a later stage. If you’re interested in predictable badly narrated domesticity this might suit you well. It didn’t me, unfortunately.

Alex Michaelides – The Silent Patient

I loved this book right up until the last few chapters. The protagonist Theo is an interesting and believable character who narrates the book from his point of view. He’s a therapist, married to an amateur actress. He later takes a job at The Grove a hospital for the criminally insane and his patient Alicia is incarcerated for killing her husband. She hasn’t spoken a word since her arrest. I won’t spoil the ending but I devoured this book with speed and ease, then got to the end and though – huh, that’s it? I will say it cleverly increased in suspense but the end was a little anticlimactic in my personal opinion. You can really tell my mood was low in June huh? Probably as a direct result of these mediocre books I read!

Pauline Black – Black By Design

After the death of George Flloyd I knew I needed to further my education into racism, particularly inherent racism and I wanted to go back and start at the Black Power Movement of the sixties. I’m a huge Ska fan and so it was fitting for me to read the work of one of my favourite female vocalists Pauline Black of The Selekter. What I learned from this book has blown my mind and caused me to address my own unconscious bias in a major way.

Pauline Black was a mixed race female adopted by an all white family in Romford Essex. She was the only girl with 4 brothers several much older than her. She grew up being made to play down the fact she was indeed a woman of colour. So much so, that she was ridiculed for her Afro Caribbean hair, and reminded by busybody aunties that she surely didn’t need sun lotion during a heatwave because of the tone to her skin. When she finally formed part of the Selekter with the help of both black and white friends she was part of the infamous 2Tone movement. She was also subjected to further racism at gigs and performances by 1960 Skinheads and National Front facist groups. As amazing as it is to read how Pauline became the woman she is today it left an unfading imprint in my mind of just how acutely racism and prejudice can affect a person. I still have a LOT left to learn and believe me when I say I plan to do just that. But I’m glad I started my learning with this book and would highly recommend it worth a read.

That’s about it really, I’m still feeling a little morose and not quite on top form so I’ve opted for some more lighthearted reads this month, starting with Ruth Jones, Never Greener. What a writer this woman is! This post will also be available to read over on House21 and listen out for myself and Mel who’ll be discussing our favourite reads on the House21 podcast in the coming months.

Diva Reads #4

Diva reads April

So I’ve been busy this month. Busy doing a lot of reading and not much else, but that’s okay, because it means I get to share my findings with you guys.

I stumbled upon this first author mentioned by accident, and the first book of hers I read was so fantastically tragic and twisty that it made me download a second book, immediately after I’d read the last page of the first.

Lucinda Berry

When She Returned – This book set in modern America has an undercurrent of betrayal throughout, building to a crescendo at the end. It’s so good it had me flicking pages faster than I could blink in a desperate bid to get to the end.

It tells a story of a modern marriage and a completely opposing cult lifestyle that are world apart but intricately linked. There’s no happy ending either, which is a surprising relief because sometimes I get to the end of the book and am met with disappointment at its highly unbelievable ending, but this just adds an additional twist making the turning of that very last page all the more satisfying.

Missing Parts – Another exceptionally twisty read. I’ll admit it didn’t surprise me quite as much as the first but the story was quite different.

This one, about a mum who struggled to bond with her daughter who was then diagnosed as critically ill. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but equally demanded I put myself in the protagonist’s shoes. Full of betrayal and tragedy, this book will keep you on your toes until the very last page.

CL Taylor

Strangers – Cally Taylor is one of my all time favourite writers, I read all 7 of her books in a seriously short space of time and she never disappoints. Strangers is set in my home town of Bristol and that only adds to the relatability for me.

There are three main protagonists in the story, I probably related to Alice the most but each had both endearing qualities as well as misgivings, making them believable. It also wraps up well and for a stand alone book I feel that’s important. I don’t think you’ll ever be disappointed as a thriller fan with a C.L Taylor book and this one is no different.

Belinda Bauer

Black Lands – This was pretty dark. It had a classical murder mystery vibe, set up on Exmoor in typical Moors Murder vibes. The difference being this wasn’t your typical whodunnit. In fact it wasn’t a whodunnit at all. Another thing to set this book aside from your average crime thrillers is, the protagonist is a child. It’s very well written and captivates you from the first page. However the actual storyline was a bit over the top tragic and not much excitement, in my opinion.

Rubber Necker – Another Belinda Bauer thriller. She was recommended to me by author C.L Taylor and there’s absolutely no denying she has a talent for writing unusually dark and atypical thrillers. Completely different from backlands Rubber Necker tells the story of a young man with Aspergers who stumbles upon a conspiracy that has tragic consequences.

Tayari Jones

An American Marriage- I cant say too much to give this story away as it’s House 21’s May book club edition. What I will say though, is it really opens your eyes to a poor judicial system, overbearing pride and wavering love. It’s well written informative fiction with several protagonists each with their own endearing and flawed characters.

All of these books were read on Kindle and can be downloaded from your amazon kindle store.

Don’t forget to let me know what you think by emailing me here divamumsteph@hotmail.com

Diva reads #3

So it’s been a while since I’ve written a book review. That’s not to say I haven’t been reading though, because I most definitely have! I’m actually on my 14th book this year already, that’s averaging me at 6 books a month! 

I recently had a weekend in bed unwell. If you read my blogs you’ll know I suffer with a chronic illness and reading can really be a salvation for me as it’s about all I can manage when I’m experiencing a flare up. That, and a little writing where possible. I’m a thriller fan in every sense of the word when it comes to genres. I want to read books that force me to turn pages even when I know I need to sleep! Ones that provoke questions and leave chapters on cliffhangers. It’s very rare for me to veer away from the thriller genre, but whilst I was feeling under par I needed something a little lighter to read, lighter, but just as interesting. I stumbled upon Dawn O’Porter AKA @hotpatooties and what a wonderful writer she is!

I read The Cows in a day, it was so relatable and intriguing, in parts, laugh out loud funny. A true depiction of girl power, resilience and friendship. The Protagonists are exceptionally well portrayed. Tara is a single mum with a sexual appetite and a strong woman stance, who inadvertently becomes tabloid news in the most excruciatingly embarrassing way. Even Stella who is for all intents and purposes a bit unhinged, is relatable in her struggles and it’s a real eye opener turning pages to grief and mental health. It warmed my heart and made me feel like I could take on the world. I loved it so much as soon as it ended I downloaded So Lucky immediately. 
I wasn’t sure the second book was going to have the same effect but it didn’t disappoint and held just as much resonation, albeit in a different way. I related to a lot of Ruby’s parenting struggles and health condition limitations, Beth’s work life balance issues and poor young Lauren with her need to edit everything whilst feeling lonely in an online world full of watchers. It conjured up relatable scenarios with me, and there is not much more you can ask from a good read!

I’m sure I’m late to the party with the Powerhouse Female book catalogue but as mentioned, thrillers are usually my main squeeze to tuck up with at night. Stupid really, for someone who regularly gets nightmares, but I just can’t help it, the ability to pique my interest is found inside the covers of a good domestic noir! 

So it seems only right that I should finish with the absolute rollercoaster thriller by Harriet Tyce that is Blood Orange! It was intensely dark and equally emotional. In wake of the #Metoo movement this book was in parts hard to read. It portrayed women as just that, human beings having sex because they like it. But it showed foibles of men in power succumbing to chauvinism and taking what is not theirs to take. That’s not forgetting the undercurrent of a woman who takes the blame for a crime she didn’t commit. Some lines are morally blurred but they seize to make this book a more compelling read. Contains triggers for DV and sexual assault victims. All of these books can be purchased via your Amazon kindle or any Waterstones bookshop. 

If you read and love the books mentioned I’d love to hear some of your recommendations too. 

You can email me your suggestions at divamumsteph@hotmail.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter @divamumsteph I’m also on goodreads under the same name. I plan to make #Divareads a monthly occurrence so pop back next time too! 

Recommended Reads #3

I promised to keep them coming.

What have I been reading the last couple of months? LOADS! I’ve been reading loads as usual. On average I get through a book in three nights.

I’ve now read all of C.L Taylor’s books and am patiently awaiting her 7th release. My favourites are definitely ‘The Missing’ ‘The Escape’ and ‘The Accident’ I liked ‘Sleep’ as I really related to the characters particularly Anna, but I found Christine’s role a bit far fetched and that kind of ruined it for me a bit. ‘The Accident’ is my most recent favourite and I could relate to Sue as both, a girl in a relationship with a narcissist and a mother, it definitely kept me guessing and I understood her battle with mental health also.

Some other good reads are ‘Watching You’ by Lisa Jewell, set in my home town of Bristol. A good twisty thriller written in a traditional English style, which you don’t come across often anymore and so it makes pleasant reading. Lisa is a powerful story teller and her thrillers always have a great protagonist.

Another of my new favourite Authors is ‘Mark North’ his first book ‘Hold My Hand’ is set between Bath and Oxford and that was what drew me in, having been born and bred in Bath I like books I can relate to in terms of geographical memory. I like to read about streets I’ve walked, I find it helps me connect. His second book ‘Keep Her Close’ is all Oxford based but equally as good. His Protagonist Josie Myers is a good strong female lead and I’m intrigued to see where her story goes in the next instalment. I do find a lot of Crime Thrillers & Cop Saga’s do tend to be samey but if it’s a genre you enjoy I would recommend this writer.

Another author who’s work I admire and I’m currently reading a book of his is Mark Edwards. Im almost at the end of ‘Follow You Home’ I love the way Mark manages to convince you of some supernatural activity before dropping the obvious explanation, making you question your own sanity for a moment or two. He did a similar thing with ‘In Her Shadow’ and I really enjoyed reading that too. Follow you home is dark and gripping making you look at the world at its worst but in an addictive and compelling way that will keep the pages turning until the very last.

Recommended reads #2

My last recommended reads proved popular and useful to some of you, so I thought, hey, I’ll do that again.

Goodreads says I’m on book 15 of my 50 books this year challenge, but that’s an out and out lie. I just haven’t added them all, think I’m definitely closer to 30. After all, I’ve just finished my second CL Taylor book this week and am about to start my third! She is KILLING IT!

If you haven’t checked her out yet you absolutely need to immediately! I read The Fear last week and loved it. The strong stand against paedophelia and the ever present link between predators and their victims was really brought to life in this book. Definitely not a light ’round the pool’ read, but then I am a thriller lover. Main character Lou is both unhinged and likeable, making it easy to follow and equally captivating.

I’ve since just finished The Missing, much like my own WIP manuscript, this book is set in my (now) home city of Bristol and that only makes it all the more relatable. A tale of a mother’s anguish as her son is missing and their family secrets are revealed. South Bristol vibes throughout, the leading protagonist could easily be your best friend, auntie, mum or neighbour. Honest and gritty, this again, not for you if you don’t like graphic realism. However if you’re a thriller fan and love the psychological pull of drama, get involved. You won’t regret it.

Prior to starting on my CL Taylor binge, and after patiently awaiting its arrival; I read Victoria Selman’s second novel Ziba Mackenzie Book Two: Nothing to Lose. I have to regretfully say it didn’t blow my mind like the first book. As often with sequels characters become predictable and I personally found Ziba particularly annoying in this book. She’s known for her quirkiness and love of abbreviations, but when she abbreviated ‘my house gets cold often’ to MHGCO I almost stopped reading. She also repeats her favourites often like BFO A.k.a Blind fucking obvious. Just a little irritating if I’m giving it an honest critique.

Whilst the storyline still has a perfect thriller ideal, it kind of gets a bit jumbled towards the end, with two huge dramas weakly intertwining. Leaving you, or in my case me (the reader) feeling a bit anti climaxed and frustrated. I think I could be at fault here as a reader too, as I just get irritated by over the top personalities (irony isn’t lost on me) but maybe when book three comes out I’ll give Ziba a final chance. Third time lucky and all that!

Whilst I’m binging books till my literary heart is content, I’ve been neglecting my own work and writer’s block is a concrete embedded chicane in my peripheral vision at the moment. I need to get back in the zone, even the blogs are some how land sliding away from the top of my to do list. So if you’re reading this, please…. send motivation.

A big thanks to one of my besties, sending me a boost this morning and a much needed kick up the ass to carry on. I now have a self imposed January 2020 deadline for finishing Book1. Watch this space.

Recommended reads

So I started a book read challenge this year. It’s to read 50 books during 2019. Considering I’m already on book 10 and it’s only February, I think I’ll be fine. I know what you’re thinking, she has too much time on her hands, right? Well some would argue yes, but I am trying to write my own novel so it’s important I read a lot for ‘research’ I also suffer terrible insomnia so most of my reading is done in the deep dark of the night when I’ve given up on tossing and turning.

Since I announced I’d started my own novel a lot of people message me about books. I’ve even got chatting to established authors and have been given some great advice and book recommendations. I’m going to list my favourites books that I’ve read this year so far and why I love them. My favourite genre is psychological thriller, but that’s not all serial killers and detectives as people very often think. It’s whatever keeps you guessing, on edge, turning pages right to the end. You know that phrase ‘couldn’t put it down’ that’s what I get from thrillers. That need to keep reading even when your eyes are struggling to stay open. The below list is not in order, it would be too difficult for me to decide on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so I’m just going to list them in no particular order.

  • Little White Lies by Lucy Dawson – This was the first of Lucy’s books I had read and I’d come across great reviews. The reviewers weren’t lying. It was gripping. From start to finish I was constantly questioning the characters and their motives. You read this from a first person protagonist only to then start reading from a different perspective. It’s extremely well written and the storyline is believable and in parts, quite chilling. I would highly recommend!
  • The Daughter by Lucy Dawson – Again this is another great and gripping book by Lucy, written in the first person. The story begins with a mother losing her child and the events that follow are scary and also emotionally traumatic, being a mum myself I could really empathise with the main character. Another 5* ending too and one I didn’t see coming.
  • Bad Blood by Victoria Selman – This is Victoria’s first novel and introduces the larger than life character that is Ziba McKenzie, a detective profiler. Victoria has clearly done her research as throughout the book Ziba’s character was relatable and interesting, again mostly written in first person you really got to know her character right from the first page. It’s the right amount of chilling and graphic. It did keep me up a few night’s and some weird dreams followed. I have recently learned that Victoria is due to release book two in March with Ziba as the protagonist again, I’ve already got it on pre order.
  • You let me in by Lucy Clarke – I am a huge fan of Lucy and have read all of her books to date but this was definitely up there with the favourites. She manages to combine normalcy with spine chilling and this book is no exception. Any Claire McIntosh fans out there definitely need to get behind Lucy Clarke. Picture English seaside meets Bates Motel, quite brilliant in it’s own right.

Well I hope that’s enough for you to be going on with. I am currently reading ‘Behind Closed Doors‘ by Kathryn Croft. I was up until 2am desperate for just one more chapter so I hope for a hell raising conclusion. It’s my first Kathryn Croft book, but if the ending is anything like the beginning it definitely wont be my last.