Ginger And Me By Elissa Soave – A Review

Publisher: HQ

Publication Date: 21st July 2022

I took a chance on this book and boy am I glad I did! You all know I don’t really tend to enjoy books with contemporary teenage girl friendships but with Ginger And Me it was one of those times when I was so pleased that I went against my usual ‘type’ of book.

Set in present day Glasgow the book opens with Wendy our main narrator being arrested for something, at this point we have no idea what.

From here we then go back in time through Wendy’s eyes and find out the turn of events which led up to her being arrested. Wendy is 19 and lives alone after the fairly recent death of her mother from cancer. Her father is also dead after separating from her mother and ending up homeless. Wendy struggled hugely after the death of her mother and had to spend some time in psychiatric care. We join her at the point that she has been released and is seeing her care worker and has returned to her job as a much loved bus driver.

Wendy is lonely and has no friends, she has let herself go and cares very little for her surroundings and her own self-care. Her care worker Saanvi suggests that Wendy join a club to meet friends so Wendy, a keen writer, joins a local writing group. It’s here that she learns about a local author named Diane Weston and starts to become interested in not only Diane’s work but Diane herself and her personal life.

Wendy trawls Twitter waiting for Diane to tweet and is overjoyed if Diane ever replies. This interest soon turns into an obsession with the author which Wendy sees only as an inevitable friendship.

Meanwhile Wendy also meets Ginger, a 15 year old girl who gets on her bus one day after supposedly stealing from a shop. The girls become close and form a friendship based on their loneliness and lack of mother figures. Ginger lives with her Uncle Tam who is a local ‘businessman’. Her home is quite often filled with people drinking into the night and Uncle Tam’s business partner’ Roddy is getting more and more hands on with Ginger.

The girls start to spend more and more time together. Ginger helping Wendy decorate her house and smarten herself up and Wendy giving Ginger a safe place of refuge.

But the lives of Wendy, Ginger and Diane start to converge and we begin to piece together the events leading up to the arrest.

Believe me when I tell you that Wendy is a character who will stay with you forever. She is quirky and lovely but fails to pick up on social cues and etiquette. She is naive and vulnerable doesn’t quite appreciate some of the tight spots she gets herself into. Some of the one liners of Wendy’s thoughts had me chuckling to myself. There’s one conversation she has with Saanvi about self-love that’s just brilliant! She’s intelligent and super smart when it comes to words and writing and being in her own head. She’s just not very socially adept!

I really did love this book and the characters inside. Wendy is one of those people who will just stay with you! Ps the ending was just so perfect, right down to the last sentence which is a corker!

Thank you to Elissa and HQ for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x


Mother’s Don’t By Katixa Agirre (translated by Kristin Addis) – A Review

Publisher: 3TimesRebel

Publication Date: 14th July 2022

Oh my goodness! This book! I’m writing this review having just closed the book after tearing through it in about 4 hours flat.

I came to get my hands on a copy due to the keen eye of my bookish Two Fond Of Books partner in crime Clare @yearsofreading. Mothers Don’t by Katixa Agirre (translated from the Basque by Kristin Addis) is one of the lead titles of new indie publisher 3TimesRebel who are dedicated to publishing books by women in minority languages.

Mothers Don’t tells the stories of two women who are new mothers. The unnamed narrator (first person perspective) is a writer of a very successful true crime novel and is pregnant with her first child when she hears that a woman has murdered her twin babies, drowning them in the bathtub. This is a huge news story for a while, filled with public outrage but the narrator turns her attentions away from it until she is in labour herself and suddenly remembers in a moment of revelation that she knew the woman concerned, Jade (now Alice) briefly many years ago.

The narrator then decides to take a sabbatical from her job to write another novel, this time about the murders. She becomes slightly obsessed with Alice and the motivation behind the murder, using her savings to fund her writing project and putting her own baby into nursery care to get the job done. She also attends the trial of the Alice and begins to piece together what actually happened and weigh up her own feelings with the feelings of the public and the jury.

This book opened in such a way that it had me gripped from the first few pages! The opening scene is one where the nanny of the twins is returning home to find the dead bodies and Alice nonchalantly sitting in a chair. It is a roasting hot day and the atmosphere is dripping with tension. It’s a short chapter but is so powerful. It gave me real Leila Slimani, Lullaby vibes.

You know I’m a complete sucker for books about motherhood and this one digs deep into what it means to be a mother and how much of yourself as an individual you have to relinquish to become a ‘good mother’. It deals with post natal depression, post partum psychosis and infanticide so is understandably hard hitting and a difficult read in some places.

Aside from the main narrative I was equally impressed with the nuggets of information about subjects relating to motherhood which were expertly weaved in. I felt like I was learning something as I read. There were quotes about motherhood at the start of each chapter which had me going off on a Google mission! There were quotes about being a mother and information about the experience of being a mother by Doris Lessing, Muriel Spark and Sylvia Plath. Lessing said ‘there is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children’.

The section about the history of infanticide in various cultures over many many centuries was fascinating and not an info dump in anyway, it was seamlessly woven into the complete story and gave a solid background to the overall narrative. I do love background information when it’s well thought out, fully researched and well placed.

The obvious emotion of the topics discussed are upsetting and unsettling and you find yourself wondering what actually motivated Alice to do what she did. We as the reader are seeing things through the narrators eyes and are kept at arms length from the perpetrator so we can’t really make a fully rounded judgement. It’s not all neatly tied up in a bow either. It leaves you with thoughts to mull over and conclusions to draw for yourself.

I was completely blown away and this book will definitely be on my books of the year list. It will stay in my head for a long time yet.

Thank you to Anna Zanetti and 3TimesRebel for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x @bookishchat

Blue Hour By Sarah Schmidt – A Review

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication Date: 7th July 2022

I’m almost too apprehensive to write a review for Blue Hour by Sarah Schmidt purely because it’s one of those books that having read it you desperately just want people to read it. Full stop. End of review.

I read Sarah’s debut novel See What I Have Done a few years ago and loved it. I had high hopes going into Blue Hour and let me tell you that all my expectations of this book were met and then some!

Set in Australia, Blue Hour tells the stories of two women, mother and daughter Kitty and Eleanor. Both women are suffering due to the effects of war on their husbands. We have Kitty, a nurse in the 1940’s who meets George and starts a relationship with him. George is then a casualty of WW2 and on his return Kitty helps nurse him. Whilst he’s not exactly the love of her life after returning from war, they make a connection and Kitty falls pregnant. But whilst dealing with pregnancy and a young child, Kitty has to contend with George’s terrible night terrors, changes in personality and odd behaviour which often sends him off to the hospital for long periods of time.

The book opens with Kitty’s daughter, Eleanor in the present day (which happens to be the 1970’s) escaping in the night from her abusive husband Leon, who has returned from the war in Vietnam. She takes their baby, Amy and flees in the car, heading towards the Blue Mountain, a place of solace from her childhood.

The narratives flit between present day Eleanor, Kitty in the 1940’s onwards interspersed with brief chapters from when Eleanor was a child and the perceptions she has of her parents and their strained relationship.

This book deals with so many issues, the ramifications of war and how they can reverberate down through generations. The taught and fraught anxiety of motherhood and what makes a good mother, loss and love and grieving for the things you didn’t realise you would miss. It also deals with trauma and how this can be passed on through the generations, particularly from mother to daughter.

There is a creeping horror in the everyday details. A sense of being unnerved and unsettled by certain moods and behaviours. There are times you want to look away and take a brief respite from the tension but you absolutely can’t.

You are in effect witnessing the very personal and very intimate ways in which these two women come unravelled over the decades.

I cried in places and I don’t cry easily! There is one event that was like a sucker punch to the heart. It made me question what I had already read up to that point and made me return to certain chapters to see if what I thought had happened had actually happened!

The way Sarah Schmidt writes is so beautifully crafted, and it really is just that, a craft. She uses words and sentence construction in such a powerful way. She repeats certain words and phrases to really hit them home and her short, partially formed staccato sentences give way to beautifully detailed prose when the tension and emotion ratchets up.

This book is multilayered in terms of themes and of construction and the building of characters. Characters, especially Kitty who provoke lots of unanswered questions.

Blue Hour just completely blew me away and I will be thinking about it (and desperate to talk about it with other readers!) for a long while.

Thank you so much to Emily Patience and Tinder Press for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x