I’ve read many books this month (July 22), giving the majority a five-star rating. What links them is their exploration of relationships. How we are treated as children, as adults, and then as we deteriorate with age can profoundly impact the quality of our lives.
In these books, there are horrific acts, humour, kind deeds and everything in between. They cement my belief that you can only truly judge someone when you have walked in their shoes or at least listened to their life stories. It’s a reminder to be kind, always.
Book of the month: A Normal Family by Chrysta Bilton – *****
The quote on the back says, “Absolutely riveting from beginning to end,” and I completely agree. This memoir is about chaos, addiction, and two little girls brought up in an unconventional household. Chrysta’s father was a sperm donor, and as an adult, she discovers that she has more than 35 siblings.
Her childhood was even more astonishing and gripped me from the beginning. Her mother, Debra, is unlike anyone I have ever come across or read about. She even asked Warren Beatty to father her children! I struggled to keep up with events in the first few chapters but later realised this adds to the narrative. It gave me a glimpse into the chaotic lives of Chrysta and Kaitlin as children, their mother pulling the carpet from under them on numerous occasions, all in a bid to stay loved, sober, solvent and alive.
It’s shocking, heartfelt and even amusing in parts. It could have all ended badly and nearly did on several occasions. I love reading books which give me an insight into a world different to my own, and at times it was so jaw-dropping that I felt I must be reading a brilliant fiction title.
It’s my book of the year and is a wonderful read. The publisher gifted me the book in return for an honest review. As memoirs go, it’s right up there with Educated, the highly-rated survivalist memoir by Tara Westover and Certified, the comedy-drama by Roger Wilson-Crane.
Wild Egg by Jennifer Flint – *****
A book that needed to be written to challenge expected norms for women and to remind us all that we have choices. Throughout Hollie’s journey, I was reminded of how powerful and liberating it can be to share experiences and open up to complete strangers! I loved the interaction with the characters Hollie found to help her along the way and could feel her emotions – from desperation and agony to certainty and enlightenment – pouring off the pages. Society often encourages us to walk a well-trodden path, and sometimes we must find a way to step off. Wild Egg is a celebration of women in all their guises and will be a shining light for many.
I have a daughter, and I love being a Mum. So, why did I find this book so relatable? I went through similar internal wrangling when I was deciding whether to have a second child or not. The expectation that we would have a second child felt huge. People I hardly knew would ask when or if I was having another one. I felt myself needing to explain and justify our choices. Inside I was grieving for the baby I would never have. I remember someone telling me her friend felt this sense of grief even after having five children. It made me feel so much better, and I felt less isolated in my quandary.
An Extra Pair of Hands by Kate Mosse – *****
Kate takes us through the decline of three relatives – her parents and mother-in-law – and shares some of the ups and downs in caring for them. It’s a short memoir but so heartfelt and tender. I found it incredibly moving in parts, particularly when Kate writes about the grief she feels following her mother’s death.
Kate zooms in to look at the general state of care, and the plight of carers, in the UK. She also zooms in to immerse us in the daily details that carers have to deal with. Much of this happens behind closed doors, so for Kate to give us a glimpse into her world as a carer over the years will be helpful to many. Carers will feel seen, and those of us not caring for anyone might gain empathy and understanding for those who do.
Three Sisters: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Book 3 – *****
I’ve read all three books in the series, and each has been profoundly moving and educational. They are based on true stories from within Auschwitz, which makes them all the more important. Heather combines the horror of the concentration camps with moments of hope and human connection. The tale of the three sisters is almost unbelievable, and it’s very hard to comprehend what they suffered and endured at the hands of the Nazis. I wiped away an awful lot of tears, and it’s a book which will sit with me forever.
Threadneedle and The Hedge Witch (a novella) by Cari Thomas – **** each
I love a good fantasy series and look forward to reading more by Cari. She takes us into an alternative world, where witches live alongside cowans (the normal humans). It’s a coming-of-age book, and I could so relate to the feelings of awkwardness and feeling like you don’t fit in at school. It was everything I need and want from a good fantasy book – intrigue, humour, fierce friendships and strong female characters.
The Sister Returns: A Stitch in Time, Book 3 – ****
It has more twists and turns than a scary rollercoaster. I didn’t read the first two books in this series, but it works as a standalone novel. We are taken to New York, Los Angeles and the UK, entering the diverse worlds of finance, movies, clothing design and manufacturing in the early 1900s.
You’ll have to read the book to find out who gets what they wished for and who goes home empty-handed – or worse. Joanna is a great author who keeps you turning the pages. In each of her chapters, the main characters reveal more and more of their true character. My early impressions were frequently flung out of the window as the plot developed, and I had no clue as to where it would eventually end up. In summary, The Sister Returns is an interesting, fast-paced historical romance.
It was gifted to me by Pan Macmillan in return for an honest review as part of A Random Things Blog Tour.
The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron – ****
Elaine tells us that 15-20% of children are born highly sensitive. They are intuitive and reflective but easily overwhelmed. It’s a fascinating book and helpful for families who think their child might be highly sensitive. There is a lot to take in, and it’s a book to keep coming back to. I’ve filled my copy with post-it notes and folded over corners (sorry, I can be that kind of reader!) and hope it will be a valuable resource for many years.
Lastly, I also read a book which I really didn’t enjoy. I don’t diss authors on my blog, but if you want to know, email me to find out! It’s a bestseller, but I had to stop reading, as I realised the subject matter made me feel very uncomfortable and just wasn’t enjoyable. Full marks to the author for taking a risk, it’s nicely written, just too dark for me.