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: May Edition.

I managed to crack this out by the skin of my teeth. I know we’re almost in June but I hope I can still inspire you with some of my favs from this month. So, what have I been reading this month? For the last week I’ve been dragging my heels with my current read, a Tess Gerritson book, but I’d say it’s nothing to do with Tess and more to do with the fact I’m so tired I just can’t keep my eyes open at night to read it. That probably means I should try doing more day time reading —but you know— kids.

House 21 hosted their first book club in May and as mentioned in my April edition, we read An American Marriage. It was a strange book, not compelling as such, but easily interesting. It depicts the life of an African American man who’s wrongly incarcerated and delves right in to his relationship with his wife. It oozes big cultural vibes and it provoked me to address a few things: The demands of a marriage and the emotional toll on both parties, as well as unconscious bias. I would based on its ability to make me take stock alone, recommend it’s worth a read.

Next month’s book club read is Beth O’Leary’s Flat Share, but I’ve not started it yet, so let me tell you a bit about what I have been reading instead.

Following An American Marriage I reverted to my trusted genre of thriller and picked up my first Karin Slaughter book. What can I say besides WOW. It’s blew my mind. The pace was so elite I felt like I was reading as fast as Usain Bolt runs.

I couldn’t get enough of The Good Daughter – not only is it beautifully written (and it really is, no language or vocab corners cut for Karin.) It was so utterly addictive that I felt somewhat exhausted at the end. That only served to prove it was completely exhilarating. I don’t know what rock I’ve been hiding under, but the moment I finished this book I went on to read two more of hers.

Her Last Breath – which is a Novella prequel to The Good Daughter, equally as enticing, it’s only failure being it’s not a full book. It just wasn’t long enough, I felt robbed by it’s too soon climax.

I then went on to read: Pieces Of Her. Which is set to be made into a Netflix original series. It was a complex read but with equal amounts of explosive content from the very first page. It’s fast and punchy pace keeps up momentum until the end.

I mentioned on this week’s podcast that I’d previously struggled with reading American written books because of the language and dialogue used, however since Karin completely dragged me over to the dark side of American thriller I couldn’t wait to get my hands on more, so I downloaded Shari Lapena’s – The Couple Next Door – another great thriller about a kidnapping gone wrong. A mother’s worst nightmare and full of the kind of characters we all hope to avoid in real life. With shocking twists and American mountain vibes. It was another race to the end. I enjoyed it and would definitely consider many more of her books in future.

All of those thrillers drained me by being so fascinatingly edgy, but afterwards I needed some lighthearted vibes. With this in mind I reverted back to the woman who opened my eyes to genres of comedy and romance, friendship and girl power, Dawn O’porter and sped through Paper Aeroplanes. She hasn’t written a book yet that I don’t adore. I don’t know what it is about her realistic accounts of women and girl power portrayals that get me so emosh, but there’s really nothing not to like. She’s a legend and every woman out there should read at least one of her books, but I suggest reading them all.

That’s it so far this month, so enjoy!!

You can find all of these in local bookstores and downloadable for E-readers. Keep reading and tag me/ message me/ share with me what you think.

You can also read this over at House21 just head to the culture & reading section.

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! 

When losers win.

I have always been the girl, who never does anything extraordinary. Never got nominated for anything in school. Never got a part in the school play even though drama is my forte, because I didn’t put myself forward. I didn’t raise my hand to answer questions even though I knew the answer. I didn’t stay for after school clubs in my favourite subjects because I was more interested in smoking weed and playing spin the bottle (that’s a euphemism for whatever the fuck I liked) When I didn’t know the answers I didn’t seek to learn them. I didn’t like rules and I didn’t get the right kind of attention, any attention I did get was for the wrong reasons. My attitude took a long time to change and I’m still learning from the bad decisions I’ve made, and I’ve made plenty.

When my first stint at secondary school didn’t work out and I moved on to the next one I didn’t get praise for good work, I got chastised for bad work.

When I got my one and only A in GSCE I didn’t get told well done. I got told I could of done better in other subjects, if I’d have only worked harder.

When I went to work and had time off sick because my mental health can’t always be relied upon to remain ‘normal’ enough for me to function at full capacity all of the time, I got told I would never excel in my career if I couldn’t show up. I got told to suck it up and do better.

When I got diagnosed with a physical condition I had to take a lesser paid and much lesser privileged job, because I wasn’t deemed reliable enough to do important work. Suffice to say I left that job.

So when I won this award today, it wasn’t a victory because I was awarded winner status. It wasn’t a cash prize or a holiday to the Maldives. It was just a certificate, but it was a certificate rewarding my effort.

It was a victory because I won it doing what I love (writing) and it’s a potential doorway to another realm, one where hope exists and efforts are recognised. One where I’m good enough. It was a small award for a reasonably well read blog, but one day it might be a big award for a bestselling book (never say never) and even if it’s not, it doesn’t matter, because it’s given me the confidence boost needed to pursue a passion. It was a reminder that you can do whatever you want, we have the power to change our futures if we’re willing to give things a try.

Take a chance on yourself, it might not pay off, but it’s a lovely way to learn more about where your strengths are. We can’t all be good at everything but it helps if we like what we are good at.

So my apologies for milking this day to high heaven, but for the first time in my life I feel like a winner. 🥳

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.