Reviews

Adults

Jenny McLaine is an adult. Supposedly. At thirty-five she owns her own house, writes for a cool magazine and has hilarious friends just a message away.

But the thing is:

• She can’t actually afford her house since her criminally sexy ex-boyfriend Art left,

• her best friend Kelly is clearly trying to break up with her,

• she’s so frazzled trying to keep up with everything you can practically hear her nerves jangling,

• she spends all day online-stalking women with beautiful lives as her career goes down the drain.

And now her mother has appeared on her doorstep, unbidden, to save the day…

Is Jenny ready to grow up and save herself this time?

Deliciously candid and gloriously heartfelt, ADULTS is the story of one woman learning how to fall back in love with her life. It will remind you that when the world throws you a curve ball (or nine), it may take friendship, gin & tonics or even your mother to bring you back…

I had been wanting to read this book for ages, I bought it, then I forgot about it. This is a sadly, very common occurrence for me. I picked this book up and instantly remembered how excited I’d been to read it and got stuck in. I did find out that this was the lowest rated book on my Goodreads TBR…which I strongly disagree with because I gave this book 5 shiny stars and I think it may be a new favourite. That’s what happens with average ratings though, they can be a guide but should never be the deciding factor of whether or not to read a book.

I absolutely loved the main characters in this book. I loved Jenny, her best friend Kelly, and Jenny’s mother Carmen. I found these characters to be so familiar and endearing. Would I want to be friends with Jenny or Carmen? Possibly not. Maybe Facebook friends, so that I could witness the chaos but not be hurt by it. I very much related to Jenny, she reminded me of a combination of my friends and I. Albeit a way more exciting and dramatic amalgamation.

I absolutely hated the ex boyfriend but I was meant to. I very much felt like I had known men just like him and they’d broken hearts of people o knew and cared about. So much of this book was relatable.

I really enjoyed the format of this book; it was full of short, snappy chapters with some email entries mixed in. This made it so easy to get into the flow of the book and I just whizzed through it! The book was around 360 pages and I finished it in just a few sittings because it was just so consumable.

A very important subject was raised in this novel regarding social media. I dont feel like the negative effects of social media on adults is discussed that much im fiction. This may be because it’s discussed in books that I haven’t read or maybe because it’s something that is still relatively new. I’ve been on social media since MySpace when I was 17 and didn’t really notice the negative impact that it can have until a few years ago. This provided a great commentary on comparing yourself to a cultivated snapshot of someone else’s life. It handled the topic of obsession really well.

I found myself laughing so much while reading this book. It truly was hilarious! The writing was just so witty and I just kept chuckling! I will be referring to McDonald’s as ‘The Scottish Restaurant’ from now on.

As Jenny was my age I found this book to be a relatable story. I absolutely loved it and highly recommend this. I would like to point out a trigger warning for pregnancy loss though, so please bear that in mind and take care of yourself.

Im very excited to read more books from the bottom of my Goodreads TBR in the hope of finding more gems like this

Reviews, Scottish Reads

A History Maker

A tale of border warfare, military and erotic, set in the twenty-third century, where the women rule the kingdom and the men play war games. This is the fictional memoir of Wat Dryhope – edited, annotated and commented upon. History has come to an end, war is regulated as if it’s all a game. But Wat, the “History Maker” himself, does not play entirely by the rules, and when a woman, Delilah Puddock, joins the fray, this ‘utopian’ history is further enlivened. Alasdair Gray cleverly plays with the notion and writing of history, as well as perennial modern debates on war, sexism and society – entertaining and thought-provoking, this is a delightful satire illustrated throughout by the author.

I’d wanted to read something by Alasdair Gray for ages as I just keep seeing their books whenever I’m in the bookshop. This particular book appealed to me because it’s set in a version of the Scottish Borders which is where I’m from. I enjoyed the first half of this book a great deal but the second half, less so. I ended up giving this book 3 stars.

I’ve never read a book set in my home county before so this was really exciting for me. I read a lot of books set in Edinburgh as that was my closest city when I was growing up. finding a book written by a Scottish author and set in The Borders felt like an achievement! The setting was wonderful and felt so accurate to the beauty that is The Borders. I was familiar with the setting which gave me an extra little nugget of enjoyment!

In this world, war was televised entertainment. With remote drones who interviewed the warriors. I really enjoyed this plot as while it felt horrific and just awful, it felt very dystopian. The entire book was laid out as being a memoir by a famed warrior who had grown jaded with his life and had started to question things.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book which was all about the world building, the battle, and the fallout. The second half I enjoyed less. There was a chapter that gave me the ick and I really didn’t enjoy it so I will be avoiding that chapter during any rereads.

This book was set in a a matriarchal society where the women ruled and the men fought in battles for entertainment. It didn’t overly feel like a matriarchy though. It very much felt like the warriors were in charge but that may be due to the book being focussed on a warrior.

There were so many notes at the end of the book which annoyed me. I just thought that maybe if something was important to the story, it should be in the story. A footnote or two is totally fine but there was about 40 pages of notes at the end of this rather short book.

The book was incredibly witty and I really enjoyed the style of writing. After finishing this book I learned that apparently the author disliked this book and thought that it was not their best work. This excited me as I did enjoy this but it implies that I will enjoy their other books even more! I do intend to read more books by Alasdair Gray.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Deep Wheel Orcadia

Astrid is returning home from art school on Mars, looking for inspiration. Darling is fleeing a life that never fit, searching for somewhere to hide. They meet on Deep Wheel Orcadia, a distant space station struggling for survival as the pace of change threatens to leave the community behind.

Deep Wheel Orcadia is a magical first: a science fiction verse novel written in the Orkney dialect. This unique adventure in minority language poetry comes with a parallel translation into playful and vivid English, so the reader will miss no nuance of the original. The rich and varied cast weaves a compelling, lyric and effortlessly readable story around place and belonging, work and economy, generation and gender politics, love and desire – all with the lightness of touch, fluency and musicality one might expect of one the most talented poets to have emerged from Scotland in recent years. Hailing from Orkney, Harry Josephine Giles is widely known as a fine poet and spellbindingly original performer of their own work; Deep Wheel Orcadia now strikes out into audacious new space.

I purchased this book when I was through in Glasgow, I bought it because it was signed, it was written by a Scottish author, and it was a genre I’ve been meaning to read more of. At the time I didn’t realise that it was a poetry novel (this is actually written on the spine of the book, I just didn’t notice/forgot). As someone who hadn’t read poetry for a long time, I was a little wary. However I thoroughly enjoyed this book and ended up giving it four stars. Although this four is really a four and a half, I reserve the right to go back and round it up to a five.

Turns out I love poetry now! I haven’t read any poetry since Higher English back in 2003. I have read some beautiful novels that include poetry amongst other formats of storytelling but this book was entirely poetry and that definitely took me out of my comfort zone. It turns out that I enjoy poetry so much more outside of a classroom setting although I think high school me would also have enjoyed this.

The language of this book was absolutely stunning and it really was a beautiful novel to read. This book included dual language passages so that I could read the Orcadian sections and then the English language parts. I thought that it was really interesting reading prose in Orkney dialect and I loved learning some new words.

The story really was fascinating. I absolutely fell in love with the concept of living in space and popping off to study in Mars. I really liked that returning home from school felt pretty universal even if ‘home’ was space as opposed to a hometown. I found Darling to be fascinating! A mysterious stranger in space just appealed to me. I think the only reason that I wasn’t sure about giving this book five stars was because I wanted more Darling! I wanted to know more about their family and mysterious past.

I felt like the life of the Space Station felt so realistic. As realistic as it can feel to a person who has no intention to ever go to space. I just mean that I bought it. The threats that they faced made sense and I felt that so much was captured in such a small book.

I was so gutted to have to miss Harry Josephine Giles making an appearance at the main library up here in Aberdeen. I was hoping to go and hear more of their beautiful words…and to awkwardly gush about how talented they are. Alas I had to work late and just couldn’t get there on time. Hopefully there will be other options as I’d love to find more of their work. I will be looking for more poetry. Is this my summer of poetry…who knows?

Reviews

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Was it a misstep that sent a handsome stranger plummeting to his death from a cliff? Or something more sinister? Fun-loving adventurers Bobby Jones and Frances Derwent’s suspicions are certainly roused–espeically since the man’s dying words were so peculiar: Why didn’t they ask Evans? Bobby and Frances would love to know. Unfortunately, asking the wrong people has sent the amateur sleuths running for their lives–on a wild and deadly pursuit to discover who Evans is, what it was he wasn’t asked, and why the mysterious inquiry has put their own lives in mortal danger…

This was the April selection for Read Christie 2022. The theme was A Story Featuring Adventure and I think that this was the perfect choice! I gave this book 4 stars but it was one of those times when I wish that Goodreads had half stars. This was definitely more of a 4.5 than a 4. I feel that 4 seems too low but it wasn’t quite a 5, if that makes sense?

The story started with Bobby just enjoying a game of golf and then suddenly finds a man who has ‘fallen’ off of a cliff. It was a foggy day so perhaps this stranger mis-stepped. Bobby remained with the stranger as their friend ran off to get help, the stranger murders their last words of ‘Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?’. Bobby then embarked on a series of adventures with his friend Frances and it really was thrilling.

I really enjoyed the main characters. Bobby was sweet, a little bit lost, and filled with fears of being inadequate. Frances, Lady Frances was so carefree and bold and confident. I really enjoyed this pairing and felt that they complimented each other perfectly. The additional characters were also very exciting and interesting. I enjoyed reading about the grand house and the medical centre.

This book felt like there could either be multiple storylines happening concurrently or, one giant elaborate event. I really enjoyed not being sure (until the end when all was revealed). This very much felt like an exciting ride of a book with so many twists and turns.

I don’t remember if I have read this before, I know I have at least watched the Miss Marple TV adaptation (which was very far from the book). I found myself struggling to guess who did it and why. That’s something that I look for in a murder mystery!

I really enjoyed the side plots with Bobby’s friend and with the ‘interesting’ people in the grand house. It did feel very connected.

The ending of this book was just wild! I didn’t see it coming and found it so exciting to read. I didn’t have any idea what was about to happen. This was such a fast-paced read and I didn’t want to put it down. I will definitely be reading it again but will wait until I’ve forgotten what happens first.

As always with Agatha Christie, I highly recommend this book. It’s a standalone so nice and easy to just hop into.

Reviews, Wrap Ups

April Wrap Up

Thank goodness half my reads were electronic because I have rubbish upper body strength and these were heavy!

Well April turned out to be an excellent reading month for me. I was expecting To get through very little due to being super busy with work but I’m also someone who reads more when they’re anxious or stressed. This resulted in me getting through 20 books in April which is frankly quite ridiculous.

This month I read the following, will add links to the relevant blogs (if they exist yet as some reviews won’t be up for a wee while…because I’ve not finished them yet. But they’re all reviewed on my vlog which is at the bottom of this post.

5 💫

The Dark Between the Trees – Fiona Barnett* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/27/the-dark-between-the-trees/

Six Crimson Cranes- Elizabeth Lim https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/13/six-crimson-cranes/

This Wicked Fate- Kalynn Bayron* ✨ My Book Recommendation of the Month! https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/09/this-wicked-fate/

Young Mungo- Douglas Stuart https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/30/young-mungo/

4 💫

The Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl- Joya Goffney* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/06/confessions-of-an-alleged-good-girl/

Deep Wheel Orcadia- Harry Josephine Giles Review Pending

Hyde- Craig Russell https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/20/hyde/

Life Ceremony- Sayaka Murata* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/16/life-ceremony/

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?-Agatha Christie Review Pending

3 💫

Empress Crowned in Red- Ciannon Smart* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/23/empress-crowned-in-red/

A History Maker-Alasdair Gray Review Pending

Open Water – Caleb Azumah Nelson Review Pending

2 💫 (I don’t usually post reviews about books that I award fewer than 3 stars to)

Grave Importance- Vivian Shaw

Madwoman – Louisa Treger*

The Moon, The Stars, and Madame Burova- Ruth Hogan

The Vexed Generation- Scott Meyer

Widowland- C.J. Carey

1 💫

The Assassin King- Elizabeth Haydon

The Island- C.L. Taylor

Non-Fiction

A is for Arsenic, The Poisons of Agatha Christie- Kathryn Harkup

*#gifted

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Young Mungo

Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars–Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic–and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.

Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022. I preordered it at the start of the year and have been counting down until it was released. When I received this book I tried so hard to take my time reading it, to savour it. I managed for a couple of days but by the time I reached halfway, I just could not put it down and devoured it. I absolutely loved this book! It was definitely a 5 star read.

I utterly adored wee Mungo. He was just a kind hearted and lovely kid. He just wanted to have his family be happy. James was another lovely kid. He was so gentle and patient with his pigeons. I really liked Mungo’s sister and I really felt for her. I also had a lot of love for Mungo’s lovely neighbours, just the lovely ones. They were like an extra family.

The love between Mungo and James was so pure and gentle. It really felt like first love. I read this book just waiting for bad times to happen because these two boys were from different communities that regularly fought each other.

I did enjoy the two different stories throughout the book- the romance and the fishing trip. It was enjoyable reading the events that led to him being on the trip.

My heart broke so many times while reading this book. There were so many points where the book was just so utterly heartbreaking. I genuinely sobbed so hard that I struggled to read the last few chapters through my tears. Yet I didn’t want to stop reading and go and get a tissue, so I just read through the sobbing.

This book covered so many hard and upsetting topics which included alcoholism, poverty, abuse, homophobia, violence. However, the book wasn’t a depressing read. Throughout the darkness there were moments of hope. While I was a broken human reading this book, I did feel like there was still some potential for joy.

This was such a beautifully written and emotional read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am so happy that I let myself just devour it because I couldn’t wait. I wanted to know what happened to Mungo and James.

Reviews

The Dark Between the Trees

1643: A small group of Parliamentarian soldiers are ambushed in an isolated part of Northern England. Their only hope for survival is to flee into the nearby Moresby Wood… unwise though that may seem. For Moresby Wood is known to be an unnatural place, the realm of witchcraft and shadows, where the devil is said to go walking by moonlight…

Seventeen men enter the wood. Only two are ever seen again, and the stories they tell of what happened make no sense. Stories of shifting landscapes, of trees that appear and disappear at will… and of something else. Something dark. Something hungry.

Today, five women are headed into Moresby Wood to discover, once and for all, what happened to that unfortunate group of soldiers. Led by Dr Alice Christopher, an historian who has devoted her entire academic career to uncovering the secrets of Moresby Wood. Armed with metal detectors, GPS units, mobile phones and the most recent map of the area (which is nearly 50 years old), Dr Christopher’s group enters the wood ready for anything.

Or so they think.

Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was expecting to enjoy it but nowhere near as much as I did. This was an utter delight and I finished it over a weekend as I just couldn’t put it down.

The book was set in a creepy wood which is one of my favourite settings. There’s just something about a wood that draws my interest, both in real life and in books. I think that the woodland setting was just perfect! The woods were so dense and made for an excellent setting.

This novel had dual narrative which is one of my favourite narrative modes. The chapters alternate between an army in the 17th century who, battle weary, found themselves lost in the wood and a modern day academic who is looking into the disappearance of the army. I felt that this narration style provided some foreshadowing and explanation and I thought it was done so well! There were some parallels between the members of the different parties. Even though there were centuries between them, their similarities were very numerous.

Throughout the book there was such a creepy atmosphere of foreboding. I enjoyed the creepy ghost stories that were quoted by each of the parties.

I loved that it wasn’t initially clear whether things were happening or whether it was all in their imagination. I really enjoyed that element of doubt. I doubted myself at times.

I found this book to be creepy and chilling and I just loved it. It was scary but so much of the fear was the fear of the unknown. I already hated camping and definitely won’t be camping after reading this.

I could not see the ending coming at all. I thought it was such a fantastic ending and I really enjoyed it. This was such a compelling read. I highly recommend this book, it picked me out of a slump that I’d found myself in.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews

Empress Crowned in Red

Iraya, her revenge taken and magic unfettered, turns her sights on a bigger goal: freeing Aiyca for the Obeah. But first she must shed the guise of the rogue warrior and become the Lost Empress her people need.

Jazmyne has crowned herself the doyenne and is prepared to go to extreme lengths—and court ruthless danger—to prove to her people she deserves the throne.

But there is more at stake than Jazmyne or Iraya know: a new threat is awakening on the other side of the island that could destroy everything they’ve been fighting for.

Trust is scarce, and betrayal a breath away. But Iraya and Jazmine once again find themselves turning to each other—after all, better the witch you know than the nightmare you don’t.

I had enjoyed Witches Steeped in Gold so was very excited to read Empress Crowned in Red. I must admit that I enjoyed the sequel a little more than the first instalment. This book had pirates, monsters, witches, and an epic battle. It was pretty exciting and I really did want to know how the journey would end.

The beginning of the book set the scene for an amazing sounding quest. I really enjoyed seeing each of the protagonists being set their own tasks in order to meet their goals

The middle of the book was where it fell a little flat for me. I felt that the middle 40% of the book was a little lacklustre. It felt quite slow and at times was a bit of a slog to get through
The last 30% was so exciting though! I genuinely applauded at one point. The battle was really quite epic and so enjoyable

At times I found myself getting a little lost with the volume of characters, there was a character list at the beginning of the book but it only listed 6 characters (4 of whom were deceased before this book started). There were so many new names and loyalties that I would have loved the character list to include more of the characters or at least the ones who featured regularly. Also, some of the names were quite similar I did find myself having to go back and reread parts.

I really enjoyed the dual narrative aspect of the book, I love a dual narrative! I must admit that I preferred Iraya’s chapters to Jazmyne’s. Iraya was always the more interesting of the two. There were times were Jazmyne just annoyed me with her very poor choices.

I also have to acknowledge that this book included a romantic moment that I misread, resulting in so much hilarity. It’s been 2 days since I had to reread that part and I still keep bursting into laughter. I’m not laughing at the book, it was my mistake but I’m grateful for that misunderstanding because I needed it!


I did enjoy this book and I would give it 3.5 but rounding down just due to the slow middle. If the middle were maybe half the length or was a bit more exciting then this would have been a 4 star read. It was just such a large period of the book that felt slow so I needed to round it down. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m very grateful to have been able to complete this duology.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Hyde

Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.

When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.

He must find the killer, or lose his mind.

A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.

I bought this book as it was the winner of the McIlvanney award in 2021 and I’d loved the 2020 winner. This awards goes to the Scottish Crime book of the year so I felt that this felt as good a reason as any to choose a book. I was instantly drawn to the plot as I was very into Jekyll and Hyde as a kid and still am. I was hoping that this would be a creepy and chilling tale. I gave this book 4 stars but it’s definitely more like a 4.5, I really enjoyed it!

I enjoyed the main characters. Hyde had a dark past and he was very sympathetic. He was desperate to understand what was happening to him. My favourite character was the Lady Doctor called Calley (I say this because everyone kept being shocked by her being a lady because it was the past). I didn’t just like her because my name is Caley and what’s an extra ‘L’ between friends? I liked her because she was strong and confident and brave in a time where women were thought of as feeble and less intelligent that their male counterparts.

This book was as creepy as I’d hoped! I don’t like scary but I enjoy gothic horror which this felt like. My fear levels are that of a Victorian with a sickly pallor! I enjoyed the darkness of this book and the sacrifices and cult elements were chilling!

The book was jam packed full of twists and turns. There was a cult, murders, missing people, stalkers, missing memories etc. I loved trying to work out of these were all related or not. I made so many guesses and they were all wrong which I enjoyed.

Despite this book being quite dark, there were moments of lightness and joviality. The comments about the lack of pockets in womenswear was a personal favourite!

I really enjoyed this book and I’m not usually one for books set from the police point of view. Although historical policing is ok, I think I just get annoyed when they do things they shouldn’t. Victorian authorities were pretty loose with the rules so I didn’t get annoyed (I do not think that being loose with the rules is a good thing for authorities, I just mean for plot accuracy). Although, maybe I just like the baddies? I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the shortlist for the 2022 award as I’ve not been let down by it yet!

Reviews

Life Ceremony

With Life Ceremony, the incomparable Sayaka Murata is back with her first collection of short stories ever to be translated into English. In Japan, Murata is particularly admired for her short stories, which are sometimes sweet, sometimes shocking, and always imbued with an otherworldly imagination and uncanniness.

In these strange and wonderful stories of family and friendship, sex and intimacy, belonging and individuality, Murata asks above all what it means to be a human in our world and offers answers that surprise and linger.

I had heard many great things about this author. I’d been told that I would really enjoy their writing as it can sometimes be quite odd or unusual and that’s something I do enjoy in a book. I thought that a collection of short stories co up d be a great way to get to know a new to me author. I think it was! I really enjoyed this short story collection and gave it 4 stars.

I had seen this collection referred to as ‘horror’ which is not usually my thing. I love a good gothic horror but my scare level is similar to that of a Victorian lady, it’s very low. These stories were horrific in parts but not in a scary way. There were moments of horror and of shock and these stories made me really think!

These stories covered topics that I perhaps wouldn’t usually read about such as cannibalism and but in a thought provoking way. This collection of short stories gave me a lot to think about and I will be seeking out more books by this author Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ebook in exchange for an honest review

Often in short story collections there are some weak ones and some strong one but I am struggling to think of a weak link in this anthology. I enjoyed every story. My favourite ones where the ones that seemed linked to other stories, or maybe I was reading too much into things and making links that weren’t there. I also really enjoyed the first story, which was about a woman who was very into ‘recycled’ items made from humans but was marrying a man who was against these items. I feel that this story set the tone for the entire book as I got a grasp of what sort of horror was involved. I did also love the story about the curtain. Like I said, there really were no weak stories in this collection.

Each of the stories involved issues that was quite uncomfortable such as cannibalism or possession. However the way that they were written didn’t make me feel nauseated. The writing was very beautiful and the entire book was compelling and through provoking. This is another occasion where it turns out that I do enjoy an author that my friends thought I would.

I received this book as an ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I am thinking of reading Earthlings by this author next time I read their works.