Saturday 28 September 2019


Title: Cilka's Journey
Series: The Tattooist Of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre, Zaffre, St Martins Press
Release Date: 1st October 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
Her beauty saved her life - and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.


After reading the story of Gita & Lale in The Tattooist Of Auschwitz and reading a little about the character Cilka, I was eager to know more about her story. In fact, I do remember messaging Heather Morris to ask if there would be a book about Cilka, her reply was something along the lines of “never say never” and “it’s a possibility”. As soon as I found this book was available, I knew I absolutely had to read it. The Tattooist Of Auschwitz had stayed with me long, long after finishing reading it and yes we had an end for Gita & Lale, but I kept wondering but what about Cilka? I like the cover of this book and feel it really represents the book well.

The book is a mixture of “present” and “past. The present is based in the Siberian hard labour camp that the now 18 year old Cilka Klein is sent to. The past is in the form of flashbacks to her time in Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The book begins in the present at Auschwitz and the arrival of the Soviet Army. A soldier tries to explain to Cilka that she is free now, sadly that does not turn out to be the case for Cilka. Soon the Army is joined by counter intelligence officers who question all those that remain in the abandoned camp. As the retreating German Army are considered the enemy so is anyone who has helped or worked with them in any way. Cilka is accused of fraternising with the enemy. The “fraternisation” being that she slept with the German Officers. She is charged as a collaborator and sentenced to 13 years hard labour. Of course, Cilka tries to protest her innocence but it is to no avail, it seems someone has reported her and the Russians believe what they have been told. Cilka sets off on yet another long arduous train journey. As before Cilka and the other prisoners are all packed into rail carriages and given the bare minimum. Every time the train stops the heavy door is opened and the dead bodies are passed out and bread is thrown in, water is also given but there is never enough of either for everyone. The women quickly come to a decision and work out a system to share what they have, giving the youngest the first food and water. They then take turns receiving the bread and water. It is on this long sometimes horrific journey that Cilka meets Josie. Josie has dark brown eyes that remind Cilka of her best friend Gita. Josie is with her grandmother but does eventually speak to Cilka. When Josie’s grandmother becomes ill and dies it is Cilka that comforts the young Josie. Josie’s grandmother is by no means the first, nor the last one to die on the train journey. Once they arrive at the Siberian camp, Cilka sort of takes Josie under her wing. Attempting to guide her through the following degradations of being shaved, de-loused, given prison uniforms. They are placed in the same hut that accommodates 20 women. The woman in charge of them introduces herself as Antonina Karpovna and she wastes no time in laying out the rules and what she expects of them. Once again Cilka finds herself at the bottom of the prisoner hierarchy. It soon becomes apparent in the Siberian camp that some seem to think that Cilka had it easy in Auschwitz-Birkenau, that she had better clothes than everyone else, better food to eat and generally an easier time than everyone else.

Sadly, one thing that the Siberian camp has in common with Auschwitz-Birkenau is that the women can be chosen by the male trustees as “wives”, “girlfriends” or basically picked out to have sex with. The women have no choice in the matter, so once again Cilka finds that her beauty attracts her attention she would rather not have. Having said that by being chosen as a “wife” neither Cilka nor Josie are touched by any other men. Still there are women who make snide remarks as if Cilka, Josie and the other chosen women are somehow enjoying being repeatedly raped!
It’s not long until Cilka is offered a job at the hospital, after it is noticed how quickly she reacted and treated her friend Josies burnt hand. At first Cilka does not wish to be “chosen” she doesn’t want the extra food or so- called perks that come with the job. Finally, she gives in and takes the job and manages to smuggle out some of her extra food to share with the women back at her hut.
The book tells of the back-breaking work even the women are expected to do, filling buckets with coal that the men from the neighbouring camp have mined and moving it. It is as if even the weather has it in for the prisoners with its bitter coldness, snow, rain and almost constant night time. Then in summer the continual light preventing them from sleeping. The book covers a lot the harshness, the degradation, hostility and indignities the prisoners had to suffer. It also re-tells the friendships the women make, how they band together to help each other when they can.

Cilka’s beauty really ends up being a mixed blessing as it draws the attention of German Officers in Auschwitz-Birkenau and then the trustees in the Siberian camp. This means she is repeatedly raped, over and over again, whenever the men wish. Cilka is called a slut on more than one occasion. The whole reason she is in the Siberian camp is because the German Officers singled her out in Auschwitz-Birkenau, it wasn’t her choice. She would have been raped either way. Cilka tries to block the repeated rapes out, to go somewhere else in her head whilst it is happening. Cilka also tries to help Josie do the same when she is chosen, she explains if you fight it, you will end up with a beating too. In Cilka’s mind she is not giving the men anything, she certainly doesn’t feel love for them, even though one professes his love for her! Cilka is an extremely brave young women who is made old before her time. With her job she realises that she can use her elevated position to help others, she quickly learns how to help the patients she helps to care for as well as the women that live in the same hut as her.

As it was in Auschwitz-Birkenau Cilka witnesses, death from starvation, from mines collapsing with the prisoners still in them, working accidents, fighting injuries and more. Cilka also see’s new life being born when she works in the maternity ward of the camp hospital. When Cilka has the chance of a favour from the Commandant and his wife, she choses to use it for someone else securing an early release for her friend and the baby she has given birth to whilst in the camp.
I couldn’t believe that Cilka was sentenced to 13 years hard labour for the “crime” of being repeatedly raped in Auschwitz-Birkenau. A weaker minded or weaker bodied person would have either just given up and died or even committed suicide but not Cilka. Not only did Cilka stay strong in her mind, she tried her very best to help all those around her. I adored the way she looked back on the friendship between herself and Gita to draw strength from. The way a small smile during an accidental meeting gave her the encouragement to think there may well be a life for her after her sentence. Cilka survives despite everything the Germans and Russians could throw her way.
I finished reading this book which was very late, late/early hours of the morning as I got to a point, I couldn’t put the book down I had to know how Cilka’s story ended. My immediate thoughts were that Cilka Klien was a brave, brave woman that went through hell at Auschwitz, then Auschwitz-Birkenau and then after surviving that she was given 13 years hard labour at Siberia. An amazing story of what is known of her life.

What more can I say, Cilka’s beauty not only possibly saved her, it condemned her to being repeatedly raped. Having said that I suppose you would have to say that Cilka’s beauty also saved others around her. Cilka learnt early on in her experience that she couldn’t stop the men, so she blanked out her trauma and whatever perks, if any she received, she shared with those around her. She quite literally “turned the other cheek” on many, many occasions.

So, do I have any questions for the author, Heather Morris this time? Yes, please, please tell me there will be more survivor stories? Personally, I would love to know more about Josie and her family? I want to read about more survivors of the holocaust, their stories must be heard, must be told and remembered.

The research done for books such as these must be incredibly interesting, emotionally moving yet harrowing too. When I read a blurb, such as this one, that the book is based on real people like Cilka, Gita & Lale, or even a book with fictional characters based on the real events they seem somehow attract and draw my attention I feel I have to read them. These stories need to be read and handed down the generations so that they are never ever forgotten.

Which one do you prefer?

Tuesday 24 September 2019


Title: The Aviary
Series: The Uncaged
Author: Emily Shore
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Release Date: 5th March 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
Sixteen-year-old Serenity has spent her entire life in hiding to protect her from this exact moment. In a world where beauty is bought and sold on the streets like a corporate commodity, Serenity's natural assets are more like liabilities. Despite her parents' best efforts, she's been taken—ripped from her home and the only life she's ever known—to find herself on sale to the highest bidder. And that bidder? Enigmatic and dangerous, Luc is the director of The Aviary—an elite museum where girls are displayed as living art by day…and cater to the lascivious whims of the highest bidder by night. In this elaborate and competitive world, girls go by names like Raven and Nightingale, and will stop at nothing to become top Bird.

Luc comes to idolize Serenity's purity and aims to turn her into his grandest exhibit of all time—The Swan. In no time, she becomes one of the most coveted exhibits in Aviary history. When she discovers Luc holds the key to finding her parents, she must learn to play The Swan to perfection…to win his heart and earn his trust. But she doesn't anticipate falling for him in the process. Now she faces an impossible choice: escape The Aviary and lose her only chance at finding her parents—or become Luc's Swan for good and lose her identity forever.


I had seen this book cover and fell in love with it quite a few months ago, whilst on a dystopian book group on Facebook. The beautiful ice blue hues of the cover with the silver white blonde-haired female dressed in an outfit made with white feathers, complete with wings made from feathers. As you read the book you realise the image on the cover is in fact the main female character of Serenity, when she is made into the Swan by Luc Aldaine, the director of the museum of birds. Once I read the blurb I knew I had to but it to read as soon as I could.

Serenity has spent all her life so far hiding in various homes or hotels as she travels with her family. IT is dangerous to be female as you risk being captured and sold. She never goes anywhere alone, if her parents aren’t with her Skylar is with her acting as her bodyguard, ensuring she doesn’t get into any trouble. So, it is quite irresponsible of her to sneak out after dark, after closing time to swim in the hotel pool. Serenity loves water and after waiting for Skylar to return she becomes impatient and reckless and decides to go for a swim alone, she really doesn’t see the danger and the water seems to call to her.
Serenity is captured and finds herself in a cage in the Glass District being sold to the highest bidder, which happens to be Luc Aldaine, director of the second largest museum. (The biggest being The Temple and is run by Director Force). The auctioneer wants to start the bidding at one hundred thousand dollars and is visibly shocked when a bid for fifty million is bid. Serenity finds herself sold. Not one to hold back or hide her feelings, when Serenity is removed from her cage and finds herself standing behind the auctioneer who just sold her she cannot risk the temptation of revenge. Serenity brings one leg up and kicks hard, landing a flawless bulls-eye into the auctioneer’s pudgy ass. She hadn’t intended what happened, which was the auctioneer to topple off the stage! Serenity has a sedative patch slapped onto her arm.

Serenity has been sold to Luc Aldaine, a museum director and amateur historian. His museum has girls representing different birds. Serenity is given the immortal implant, that removes any flaws in her skin and heals bodily injuries much quicker to heal. She is also branded with a silver feather on her shoulder.
It soon becomes apparent that Serenity is to be the jewel in the crown for the museum, she is to take up the role of a Swan. Luc has been searching for years for that one girl who would be his swan. Serenity is also valuable as she is a virgin. Her virginity will be something else someone will pay an expensive price for, and she will have no say at all who she will be sleeping with. It soon becomes apparent that Luc is somewhat obsessed with Serenity even though she refuses to give him her real name. As Serenity is such an expensive, envied commodity Luc hires a guard to watch over her. Luckily for Serenity, Skylar has managed to acquire this job, though as he is in the Bird’s Museum his name is Vulture. The girls at the museum call Luc, Director or Owl, which is probably why Serenity/Swan insists on calling him Luc. Serenity has to quickly learn how to put on the character of The Swan as well as what her rank is in the bird museum, there are a few birds only too happy to put her back in the position they think she should be in. All the girls are known by their bird, so Serenity becomes “Swan”.

When Skylar manages to be alone and not recorded in any way, he tells Serenity he needs to continue to act as if she is going along with everything, to give hm time to find out where her parents have disappeared to and rescue them. He also gives Serenity her mother’s journal saying she needs to read it as there are certain things, she now needs to know that her parents were keeping from her. Serenity already knows her father, Kerrick rescued her mother from the largest museum, The Temple which is run by Director Force who was a violent and cruel master to her mother who was his Unicorn. There are many revelations contained in the journal that Serenity hides in her wardrobe to read away from the camera’s and recording devices that are in the museum both openly and overtly.

I could honestly go on and on about this book, I truly loved reading every word of it. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the other girls/birds at Luc’s museum. It’s interesting to learn how the girls/birds ranking effects some of their personalities. So, the former top three positions belonged to Nightingale, Peacock and Blackbird. Serenity/Swan is warned quite quickly who she needs to stay away from if at all possible, by the caretaker she has been assigned, Dove, who also tells her that all the girls have a good life here at Luc’s, though Serenity thinks it is bad enough being stared at in the exhibitions and thinks it abhorrent that the girls/birds have to take private clients in rooms to make money for the museum. Despite promising Skylar that she will play along with being the Swan until he has freed her parents she is determined to escape before she has to go in a private room with clients.

Now onto my favourite characters, of course I instantly loved Serenity/Swan and Skylar/Vulture, I enjoyed their familiar relationship that at times allowed them to communicate without words. Hmmm, I sort of warmed, up to Luc Aldaine/Owl the director of the bird museum, I certainly didn’t instantly like him, I was more wary and waiting for him to do something awful and unforgivable to Serenity/Swan. It’s bad enough he bought her, a man thinking its acceptable to own women! Then you learn about the other museums and the fates that the “free” girls in the Glass District face on a daily basis. I did instantly want to protect the character of Finch, a hatchling, a young girl in training who takes a liking to Serenity/Swan. Finch is quite happy to sit next to Serenity/Swan at meal times they all attend together happy to steal food from her plate. It amuses Serenity/Swan and she adores the hatchling, tirelessly answering all her questions. At one point in the book, Finch is about to get punished and Serenity/Swan flings herself down some stairs as a distraction, which works when the other girls/birds then push Finch behind them out of sight. This does go some way into the girls/birds accepting Swan as one of them.
I also liked Blackbird, Mockingbird, Dove and Flamingo. I grew to like Nightingale throughout the course of the book too.

I found this book really easy to read, it is written in a way that it just flows beautifully. I was very keen on the world building and how the author introduced the girls as different birds, their characters, and personalities. I enjoyed the “mean girls” aspect that was in the book, with Nightingale as former head girl being surpassed by Swan. The descriptions and depictions of Finch made you cherish her as much as the other characters in the book do.

I really enjoyed reading this book, the society created, the world the characters created are living in and the different girls as birds is brilliant! I enjoyed learning the girls, different temperaments, looks and backstories as well as how well they matched the birds assigned to each girl. Seriously I hated having to put this book down to do chores or go to sleep! I found the book to be an amazingly different dystopian. What would I compare it to? The Lone City by Amy Ewing, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and also a little of the Perfected Series by Kate Jarvik Birch. I have added the rest of The Uncaged series to my “Want To Read” list and am looking forward to reading more when I get the chance.

Saturday 21 September 2019


Title: Us Against Alzheimers
Author: Marita Golden
Genre: Non-Fiction, Mind, Health & Body
Publisher: Sky Horse Publishing Arcade
Release Date: 21st September 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
This groundbreaking multicultural anthology shares moving personal stories about the impacts of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

An estimated 5.7 million Americans are afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease, including 10 percent of those over sixty-five, and it is the sixth leading cause of death. But its effects are more pervasive: for the nearly 6 million sufferers, there are more than 16 million family caregivers and many more family members. Alzheimer’s wreaks havoc not only on brain cells; it is a disease of the spirit and heart for those who suffer from it but also for their families.

This groundbreaking anthology presents forty narratives, both nonfiction and fiction, that together capture the impact and complexity of Alzheimer’s and other dementias on patients as well as their caregivers and family. Deeply personal, recounting the wrenching course of a disease that kills a loved one twice—first they forget who they are, and then the body succumbs—these stories also show how witnessing the disease and caring for someone with it can be powerfully transformative, calling forth amazing strength and grace.
The contributors, who have all generously donated their work, include Edwidge Danticat, Julie Otsuka, Elizabeth Nunez, Meryl Comer, Greg O’Brien, Dr. Daniel Potts, Sallie Tisdale, and Nihal Satyadev. Reflecting the diversity and global nature of the dementia crisis, this anthology is published in collaboration with UsAgainstAlzheimer’s

Goodreads Link

Amazon US
Amazon UK

I’d like to think I approached reading this book with an open, unbiased way but feel I should point out that I do have experience of dementia within my family. First of all, with my Uncle who was diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia & Alzheimers. My Uncle’s immediate family placed him in a care home that has experience with caring for dementia patients. He has been there, bed bound for many years, he cannot do anything for himself and he basically drifts in and out of sleep. I also have a closer experience with my dad. He was finally diagnosed with Mixed Dementia, consisting of Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s in January 2018. I moved my dad to my home from his bungalow as it wasn’t safe for him to continue living there alone. I cared for my dad along with help from my daughter until 7th December 2018 when he died. I believe my dad had dementia for many years before he was diagnosed. I had been actively trying to get him a diagnosis and some treatment for at least 18 months prior to his diagnosis.

This book consists of information and stories about dementia from all angles. From those with dementia in care homes, to those with professional carers attending daily, to those like myself and my daughter who care for their loved one at home themselves. As the blurb states, the book has fictional stories as well as real factual ones. Be prepared to feel a whole range of emotions, sometime tears of sadness, other times tears of laughter.

The book begins with a story told by Jane Bandler and her husband Don. Don has lived in an assisted living community for a year and a half. Their story begins with an 8am telephone call from the director of the facility informing Jane that Don has become extremely angry and agitated, his behaviour had become aggressive and they thought he should be moved to the nearby hospital. Jane expressed that she didn’t know why this would happen and asked the director to wait until she has travelled the 25 miles to the facility. Jane had heard many horror stories of what happens in hospitals with dementia patients. Jane was around half way to the assisted living centre when the director called her again saying that Don was already at the emergency room but they wanted her to go see them at the facility before going on to the hospital. When Jane arrived at the home, they told her that Don had become so violent that he had to be sent to hospital for the safety of the other residents. The home had to call the Police to escort Don in an ambulance to hospital. The home had wanted to explain the situation to her face to face. Jane had been a caregiver to Don for 9 years, and during that time she had learnt to take one obstacle at a time as they rose. Jane then has to take a rather scary drive to a hospital using verbal directions given to her by the staff. Jane doesn’t know where the hospital is and has to find it alone whilst stressed herself as staff cannot accompany her. When Jane arrives at the hospital and walks through the door’s she can hear her husband shouting obscenities at the top of his voice. A security guard stopped Jane and she explained who she was. The guard advised her not to go into the room as Don was violent and the hospital staff were trying to get him under control. Jane goes into the room whilst staff are attempting to put Don in arm and leg restraints. Jane actually says within her story it was as if the hospital staff didn’t know Don had dementia, the way he was being handled and treat. Jane squeezes into the room with the guards etc and gets in front of Dons face so he can see her and hear her when she talks to him. He immediately relaxes and stops shouting. The guards etc let go of him and Don remains calm and looks at Jane with relief. Jane goes on to say she realised she was Dons security and they had a bond of love that could not be broken.

The book also contains facts such as;
Every 68 second another person falls victim to dementia
Over 50% of those who have dementia remain undiagnosed.
There are over 15million caregivers

The book gives other examples such as a daughter caring for her mother who has dementia. The mother is quite religious and that helps them cope together. Being a caregiver is extremely stressful. The book also tries to show the funny little quirks and mistakes that can be laughed about as well as other loved one’s reactions to dementia. There is also a story where the daughter of the loved one with the dementia, recites the Lords Prayer to her loved one until she calms down.

Elizabeth Nunez remembers, seeing her father putting butter in his tea believing it to be sugar. Her mother becomes annoyed saying he is only doing it for attention. Elizabeth realises that her father’s dementia is getting worse and that her mother doesn’t want to accept that fact so she says he is just doing it for attention etc.

Vicki Tapia shares the poignant, heart breaking moment she sat holding her mothers hand saying that it was ok, that she could go if she wanted, that everything would be okay before her mother passes.

A lot of people, fellow carers I have spoken to online myself say they have gone through the dementia and into the palliative care stage and told their loved one it was okay for them to go now prior to them passing.

The book has opinions of son, daughters, spouses, and family of those with dementia who care for them in either their loved one’s home, or the carers own home. Then there are those with dementia who are placed in various types of assisted cared facilities. The book also has stories and information’s from the point of view of professional carers that go into the dementia patient’s home, or they work in a care home.

I don’t know what I expected from the book, some sort of acknowledgement that I had done the best thing for my dad taking him into my home to care for him until the day he died. Or maybe something that would tell me that the best place for my Uncle is the care home he is in. I felt a kind of kinship with some of those that have shared their stories but at the same time irritated and annoyed with some of the stories. Is this book like a handbook of what to do and not to do? No, Does, it compare options via stories about what its like have a relative with dementia? Yes. Are there stories about care homes good and bad? Yes.

After reading the book and in some cases feeling I wanted to shout at those telling the stories that their loved one wanted to be home with them etc. I came to the conclusion that the best option for one family & loved one with dementia may not be the best option for another. Those with dementia are still individuals, yes they may share a diagnosis of dementia, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. In the same way as some families, can keep their loved one at home and do everything that needs to be done themselves, others can keep their loved one at home with some outside carers coming in to help, ad finally other choose to place their loved one in a facility such as a care home to care for them.

Would I have found this book helpful to me when caring for my dad? In one way some of the stories shared were uplifting whilst remaining realistic on how much work is involved, but on the other hand no as it would have irritated me. As soon as my dad was diagnosed, I moved him into my home and I promised him I would care for him myself (with the help of my daughter) and I would never put him in a care home. Sure, there were times when things were particularly bad, when he was violent, times when I doubted myself, asking myself if I was doing enough for him etc.

I think this book is suited to those who want to know more about dementia and the options for caring for loved ones with this awful disease. I had books recommended to me and books I came across as a blogger that I have found useful. They all fill different needs. Did I enjoy reading this book? I can’t honestly, truthfully say yes because at times I hated it, rather like dementia itself. I did find some parts of it interesting though, and other parts felt a kind of camaraderie with some of the story contributors. I guess it all depends on what you want from the book. Also, the book is told by those in the US and I am in the UK so there may be differences on caring and dementia treatment etc. 

Tuesday 17 September 2019


Title: The Grace Year
Author: Kim Liggett
Genre: Teens, YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian 
Publisher: Wednesday Books, St Martins Press
Release Date: 17th September 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.


A Society that sends all it’s 16 year old's off for a full year alone, to fend for themselves had me fascinated. After reading the blurb of this one I really wanted to read the book. I had seen another book that is coming our soon being called “a female version of Lord Of The Flies” and wondered if perhaps this book may be something similar too.

The society in this book is definitely run by the males, their word is law. Women are there to serve their husbands every need and to accept any punishment that is doled out as thought necessary by the men. The men believe all women are born with inner magic, that rises and becomes more powerful around their sixteenth birthday. So, all sixteen year old females are cast out of their village settlements and are escorted to a special fenced of place a few days away. This year away is referred to as The Grace Year. Going away for “The Grace Year” is not negotiable you have to go! The reason for the banishment is so these girls on the verge of becoming women can release their magic into the wilds surrounding them during their “Grace Year” The girls are expected to return meek and quieter and ready to marry the person who has chosen them. When the women return from the Grace Year, that is if they return, they are not allowed to speak about it. So, each set of Grace Year Girls walks off into the unknown every year with no help, or advice on what to expect. They are given a back pack each with approved items in it so no one has an unfair advantage. The girls are however told that there are poachers all around the area they will be living for a year.

There’s lots of excitement for the upcoming Grace Year and all the pomp and ceremony that happens prior to it. The first ting that happens on the day is putting on your new dress. Tierney’s parents work hard in their respective jobs but are not well off enough to be able to afford a brand, new dress just for Tierney. June brings Tierney her own dress that she wore many years ago to her veiling ceremony when she was chosen by her now husband. Tierney is happy to have her older sister June’s dress, it’ll be fine enough for her, she doesn’t expect to be chosen as a future wife anyway. Tierney wants to remain single, which to her means being free. She also wants to work in the fields, a job that is thought as a low, not so good job as it’s hard work day in day out. Tierney is happy and hopes that when Michael becomes the head of the council, he might pull a string or two to make sure she is assigned to work in the fields. June’s dress is a deep blue raw silk dress with beautiful river clam pearls on a shawl neckline. The dress still smells of lilacs and fear. A white lilac was the flower that June’s suitor, which is the symbol of early love and innocence. All flowers have their own special meanings.

There are twelve eligible boys tasked with choosing their future wife. There are thirty -three girls to be chosen from, which to be honest Tierney is quite happy about as she thinks that means there is an even lower chance of being chosen. The girls are expected to wear their pretty dresses and parade around town to give the boys a last chance of viewing them before the choosing ceremony. The boys are expected to go into the barn with the men to barter the futures of the girls, rather like they would barter or bid for cattle. Tierney compares herself to cattle in more that one way, as at birth they are branded on the bottom of the foot with their fathers special sigil. It is an identifying mark from then on, especially if something happened to them. It has often been the only way to identify a dead grace year girl. When all the boys have made their claims and choices, the fathers go to the church where the girls are waiting to take the veils to their daughters and silently place them on their heads. The girl’s suitors are not revealed until the next day, when they will lift the girl’s veils and then they will learn who they are.

The following day the girl’s mothers and already married sisters prepare the grace year girls. The girls hair is plaited and a red ribbon attached to the bottom of the plair to signify the wearer is in their grace year. They are all given a travel cloak as when the veil lifting ceremony is over, they will head straight out for their grace year. Once the girls are suitably dressed their fathers give them a flower, chosen by their suitor.  This society places a lot of emphasis on the flower each girl has too. As many years ago when people could not speak the same language, they would use flowers they were the common language everyone could use and understand. It’s not long before Tierney finds herself lined up dressed for travelling, veil in place, holding a gardenia. A Gardenia is considered an old-fashioned flower but it is the sign of purity and secret love. All the girls are in line clutching their flowers wondering who is going to lift their veil. Once all that is out of the way, regardless about how the girls feel they leave for their grace year. When they return, their red ribbon will be pulled away and replaced by a black one. They will then marry their suitor and begin a married life and be expected to have children. Once the girls know who their suitors are. They girls are then hustled away to do their grace year. Friends and family watch all the girls trudge away, not really knowing what state they will be coming back, or even if they will make it back. Despite the grace year not being allowed to be spoken about there are plenty of tales, such as poachers kidnapping girls, killing them, chopping them up and then selling their body parts back to the alchemist in Garner County.

Other than the tall tales the girls are quite literally blind to where they are going, where they will be staying, how they will manage together for a year alone. To say some of the girls are petrified is an understatement with one girl throwing herself overboard from a canoe as she couldn’t bear the thoughts of what was to come. There are plenty of prejudices, dislikes, and petty bullying going on within the fenced compound the girls have to live in. This is where Tierney is quite in her element all those things her father taught her, like starting a fire, and building things. Tierney soon realises that some of the little things different members of her family have shared with her, talked about or taught her have all be in preparation for her own grace year. Sadly, as is usual with groups there are always outcasts, nastiness and bullies. Tierney finds herself alone fighting the weather and terrain around her. This grace year really is survival of the fittest both in the physical and mental capabilities.
One of the main scare stories is that of the poachers who surround the compound they girls are living in. Tierney does meet and befriends a poacher, she even considers not going back to Garner County. Tierney attempts many times to help the other girls who are ruled by the self-appointed leader Kiersten. A lot happens within the compound and those there come to learn why this grace year is not talked about.

The seasons pass and the girls just have to get on with living as best they can. When the time comes for the girls to return, the majority of them have secrets to keep, some small harmless ones, others horrific and Tierney has a secret that she will find very difficult to hide. Will her suitor still want to marry her? Will he still have feeling about her? Will he still accept her opinions on the changes that need to be made for Garner County to progress or will he resort to the old-fashioned methods of everything having to be done by the men of the county. Tierney finds herself reflecting on what she learnt throughout her grace year. To say Tierney is “before her time” would be an apt description. When she looks around Garner County, she begins seeing small signs, things she had thought she could only dream about, small signs from the other women who are also ready for some changes. Maybe life and old-traditions and ways won’t change as quickly as Tierney wanted and dreamt about but she cannot deny there are some little signs that herald small changes, that will turn into larger and larger ones over time.

My favourite female characters were Tierney, her eldest sister June who provided her with a dress when a new one couldn’t be bought. I even grew to like Tierney’s mum who appears to live the life she has been told by previous ancestors without questioning anything at all. I enjoyed disliking Kiersten, the bossy, stuck up, head mean girl that knew everything about everyone and put herself in charge, even professing she had magic that could make anyone do as she wanted them to.
My favourite male character was Tierney’s dad who had taught his daughter the tom-boy of the family lots of useful survival, hunting and gathering techniques. Tierney had actually thought he had taught her these things as he had really wanted a male child to do those things with and she was the substitute. When you read the book there’s a possibility you may wonder what I thought to a character called Michael, to be honest I did like him some of the time but I felt I wanted more from him. I guess I should stay the jury is still out on him, I kind of did like him but then there were occasions in the book I really wanted to slap him or shake some sense into him! I did love the character called Ryker too, he showed a softer more caring side to himself as well as the toughness and strength he needed to survive.

I have been quite detailed on all the traditions around the preparation for the veiling ceremony, but this book is difficult to review without spoilers, though I am doing my best not to reveal too much. Once I started reading this book, I seriously hated having to put it down! It really is genuinely addictive reading, from some of the archaic traditions, the traditions the girls love to be part of to the rather horrifying prospect of the grace year. I have purposefully not said a lot about the grace year that Tierney and her fellow 16yr old girls endure because to start revealing small things they would begin to reveal larger things. It’s a part of the book you really need to read and have what happens slowly revealed ad the author intended it to. This is as far as I know a standalone book, which it does really work well. Though I wouldn’t say no to a catch up with the Garner County society a few years down the line to see if they have progressed in the way both Tierney and myself as a reader would wanted them to have done. I’d love them to have more contact with those that live in the outskirts and find out who is related to who. As well as wanting a catch up with the grace year girls we met in this book. It would be interesting to learn if Garner County would still be sending its sixteen year old girls away for a grace year too.

I honestly loved this amazing book. There's a really heart warming, tear jerking scene towards the end of the book. Some amazing characters and a fantastically well written unique plot.

Friday 13 September 2019


Title: Mother Know Best
Author: Kira Peikoff
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Release Date: 10th September 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
A mother’s worst nightmare, a chance at redemption, and a deadly secret that haunts a family across the generations.

There’s only room for one mother in this family.

Claire Abrams’s dreams became a nightmare when she passed on a genetic mutation that killed her little boy. Now she wants a second chance to be a mother, and finds it in Robert Nash, a maverick fertility doctor who works under the radar with Jillian Hendricks, a cunning young scientist bent on making her mark—and seducing her boss.

Claire, Robert, and Jillian work together to create the world’s first baby with three genetic parents—an unprecedented feat that could eliminate inherited disease. But when word of their illegal experiment leaks to the wrong person, Robert escapes into hiding with the now-pregnant Claire, leaving Jillian to serve out a prison sentence that destroys her future.

Ten years later, a spunky girl named Abigail begins to understand that all is not right with the reclusive man and woman she knows as her parents. But the family’s problems are only beginning. Jillian, hardened by a decade of jealousy and loss, has returned—and nothing will stop her from reuniting with the man and daughter who should have been hers.



It was the cover of the book that originally caught my attention, the long red-haired plait, coupled with the title “Mother Knows Best” just made me curious. Then I read the blurb which had me even more curious! The genre is a bit different to my usual ones that I read but something about this book just held my attention.

The book begins by introducing Abby with her cool, glacier ice eyes, freckled nose and shiny red hair. The redness of Abby’s hair upsets her mother Claire, even more so since a stranger once made an offhand comment of, Are you sure she is your daughter? Since then it has obviously played on Claire’s mind. Then Claire goes on to describe their annual trip to the Natural History Museum. They go every year as a way to remember Colton, who was Claire’s son who sadly died due to a hereditary genetic condition. To be honest Claire has never really gotten over the loss of her son Colton, who would have been twenty one. They don’t go on outings to busy or crowded places normally, as Abby’s parents, Claire and Michael have a secret that they don’t want any one to discover. If found out it could mean prison for Claire and Michael, then who would care for Abby. Usually Abby isn’t overly excited for the Natural History Museum but this year she can’t seem to get there quick enough. When Abby reminds them of the school project Map DNA and that she has spoken someone online who is related to them via the site, both parents panic.

The book then goes back to the past to tell us the story of how Abby’s birth came about. Originally Claire was married to Colton’s father Ethan, after losing Colton they decide to try for another baby via IVF. Though Ethan disagrees with the genetic research and experiments that Dr Robert Nash does, he eventually gives in to Claire choosing him to help them. Though unbeknownst to Ethan a deal is struck between, Dr Robert Nash, Jillian Hendricks his scientific researcher and mum to be Claire. What the trio decide to do is unheard of, in fact some would say should never be done, no matter what the circumstance. Dr Nash creates a child using the genetics of one father, Ethan and two mothers, Claire and Gillian. Dr Nash and Jillian remove the hereditary part of the gene from which Colton died. Ethan is totally oblivious to the genetic engineering that is happening. Ethan simply thinks that eggs are being tested and the best one is being used in the IVF. Everything seems to be going well with Claire’s pregnancy until, Ethan finds Claire secretly messaging Dr Nash and jumps to the wrong conclusion thinking his wife has been having an affair with him. Which isn’t true as Dr Nash and Jillian Hendricks are in a relationship, though Jillian see’s more of a future in it than the Dr does. Claire ends up telling Ethan the whole truth about the experimental genetic experiment and being in the medical field he reports what has happened. In a panic as she flees from her home, Claire calls Dr Nash to warn him and Jillian but they are arrested. A date for the trial is set and things don’t look good for the scientific geniuses. When Claire becomes ill, once again she calls on Dr Nash and after some squabbling with Jillian he goes to Claire’s aid. Time goes on in the hideaway home that Claire and Dr Nash are in and just as he should return for his court date Claire goes into labour so he stays with her. Leaving Jillian Hendricks to take to the stand in court alone. Jillian is sent to prison, though she vows she will find Claire, Dr Nash and the baby the three of them created.

There comes a point in the book that Michael and Claire have to explain and reveal the details of the experimental genetic procedure to Abby. They had always planned on telling the unique child but perhaps when she was much older herself. Things take a drastic turn for the worse and Abby ends up reaching and receiving help from an unlikely source.

Jillian is the “evil genius” character in the book that I guess you could say causes all the trouble and strife. It is her scientific ambition and the way she urges on Dr Nash that is a decisive factor within the genetic engineering done. Then you also kind of feel sorry for her, she loves Dr Nash and though she agrees he should go help Claire, she truly trusts he will return to her and they will continue with their relationship until the trial. Jillian expects them to stand united in court, to end up being lauded as the first geniuses to come up with the techniques of ruling out hereditary conditions. Jillian is even expecting Dr Nash to come rushing into the court to rescue her at the last minute, but instead he stays hidden away with Claire and their genetically engineered baby. Jillian see’s Claire as having everything. In her mind Claire has taken both her man and their baby! I think Claire and Jillian were both desperate, and slightly flawed by life characters. In other circumstances they perhaps could even have been friends.

As a woman that has lost a child via late term miscarriage, I felt I could to an extent identify with Claire and Ethan’s desperation for another child, yet at the same time being afraid it could all happen again. The way they couldn’t bear thinking about losing another child. Would I have gone as far with all the genetic engineering behind the back of the father, I don’t think so. Though unless you are in that exact position how can you really know? I think perhaps if Claire had been honest with Ethan he may have eventually come around to the idea of the genetic engineering and interference as he looked at it.

The book is revealed with alternating sections of past that covers creating Abby, and the present with Claire and Michael worried as to who this relative is that Abby has contacted, could it be that Jillian is back for revenge? All this makes for a thrilling read and keeps you on the edge of your seat. All the careful secrecy, staying hidden away and it’s a school project that brings their secret out into the open. However just when you think it’s all over, there’s another super twist in the whole genetic engineering experiment revealed, as well as the past and present coming crashing together. This book really kept you guessing right to the end. I had a couple of times I wondered if I would read all way to the end of the book but after the first third of it, I really didn’t want to put it down. It’s also one of those books where you wonder if it’s ever really happened. Is there already an “Abby” out there some-where. The book also had me thinking about any possible side effects or problems the genetically engineered children would or could suffer in their future lives.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that I found this book to be such an interesting look at genetics and what can happen when someone is so desperate for a healthy child that ethical lines become blurred. I loved the brilliant twist in part four.
A lot of people/characters in the book eventually end up having to rethink their stance on the ethics and practices of genetic engineering. It is extremely easy to judge and make a decision when there are no parental emotions involved. 

So to sum up if you like a thought provoking read, then this one should be on your “to read” list.

Tuesday 10 September 2019


Title: UNpregnant
Author: Jenni Hendricks & Ted Caplan
Genre: Contemporary, Teens, YA
Publisher: Harper Teen, Harper Collins
Release Date: 10th September 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she would wish she’d failed a test until she finds herself holding a thick piece of plastic in her hands and staring at two solid pink lines. Even the most consistent use of condoms won’t prevent pregnancy when your boyfriend secretly pokes holes in them to keep you from going out-of-state for college. 

Veronica needs an abortion, but the closest place she can legally get one is over nine hundred miles away—and Veronica doesn’t have a car. Too ashamed to ask her friends or family for help, Veronica turns to the one person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark—and Veronica’s ex-best friend. Once on the road, Veronica quickly remembers nothing with Bailey is ever simple and that means two days of stolen cars, shotguns, crazed ex-boyfriends, truck stop strippers with pro-life agendas, and a limo driver named Bob. But the pain and betrayal of their broken friendship can’t be outrun. When their fighting leads to a brutal moment of truth, Bailey abandons Veronica. Now Veronica must risk everything in order to repair the hurt she’s caused.


The bright cover was the first thing I noticed about this book, then it was the title “UNpregnant” that is written as though in the style of graffiti with a black sharpie on a school toilet cubicle wall! Then there’s the hand with the less than perfect chipped nail polish in it holding the pregnancy test. I also thought the byline of “she never thought she would want to fail a test - until now” fit the situation of the main character of the book perfectly. All these things easily had the desired affect and made me really want to read the blurb to see what the book was about.

The genres I have seen listed for this book were YA and Contemporary which fit well, though the book also covers some social issues that many teenagers may find themselves going through, such as teenage pregnancy and peer pressure.

The main character of the book who finds herself pregnant is Veronica Clarke, or Ronnie as most people call her. She has her future all mapped out and has been accepted to Browns University and she has every intention of going. Her boyfriend Kevin Decuziac is the star of the soccer team and will be attended a more local University. Veronica finds herself in a toilet cubicle at school alone doing a pregnancy test, hoping she is not pregnant. When someone comes into the school bathroom the door bangs and Ronnie jump’s and drops the pregnancy test which skitters along the floor under the cubicle space and out into the main space. Ronnie is anxious about who is out there but has no choice but to come out of her toilet cubicle to retrieve the pregnancy test. The girl who has come into the girl’s bathrooms is Bailey Butler, the girl described as a whole bundle of darkness and anger. The two girls had been best of friends when they were younger. When Ronnie started high school, she decided to re-invent herself and became part of the “popular girls” group, leaving Bailey behind and alone.

Ronnie decides there is only one way to handle this “situation” and that’s to get an abortion, to become “UN-pregnant”. It’s not that Ronnie’s parents wouldn’t be supportive, after all Ronnie’s older sister Melissa got pregnant straight out of school and their parents helped. Ronnie does some research and finds a place two hours away in Missouri where she could go but when she calls them, she discovers she would need a parent with her. However, she is informed there are other places teens can go for abortions and not need their parent with them. Ronnie finds out the nearest one to her is in Albuquerque, it’s just nine hundred and ninety- four miles away!

Ronnie is due to go to on a girl’s weekend for last minute revision for exams and decides she could use this trip as cover to go get the abortion. So now Ronnie has to come up with a believable story for Emily, Jocelyn and Kaylee. Then it’s as if everything falls into place as when she begins to mention she may not be able to go on the trip with them they just assume she is sneaking off with boyfriend Kevin and offer to cover for her! When Ronnie finally plucks up the courage to discuss the “accidental” pregnancy with Kevin she is in for a shock. It seems Kevin had a plan all of his own that involved Ronnie becoming pregnant, getting married and staying home instead of going to Brown University! He even gives Ronnie an engagement ring and proposes! Ronnie walks away from Kevin leaving him at the hotel he had booked them a room in. Ronnie is shocked, disgusted and horrified that Kevin actually planned all this and walks away from him but now it leaves her stuck for transport to get her to Albuquerque. Who can Ronnie ask and/or rely on to keep her secret and get her to the abortion clinic, her boyfriend Kevin, her popular girly friends Emily, Jocelyn and Kaylee, or the friend that up until earlier she hadn’t spoken to for the whole four years of high school?
So, Ronnie turns to the one person that knows about her pregnancy that she feels she can trust to help her, Bailey.

The book then covers the journey that Ronnie and Bailey make with Kevin in pursuit trying to make Ronnie change her mind about the abortion. There are some really funny conversations and scenes between the two girls who go on to prove that your best friend may not be one you hang out with every day. I loved the moment Ronnie asks Bailey about the vehicle they are using for their road-trip. Bailey says she has helped to do up the El Camino with her mum’s boyfriend and it was better than going in her older car. It’s not until later that it is revealed that, yes Bailey helped fix up the car but it isn’t really hers to drive, they are in fact driving round in a stolen vehicle! The two girls discuss Ronnie’s choice in boyfriend material and the lengths he had gone to trying to prevent Ronnie leaving him behind when she goes on to University. Bailey thinks of suitable weird names, phrases etc about Kevin and gets Ronnie to shout them out of the vehicle window etc. There are so many scenes I’d love to mention that seriously make you laugh out loud! There’s a scene where Ronnie has locked herself in a roadside toilet block, whilst Bailey has made a run for their vehicle as Kevin has caught up with them. He suddenly pops up quite a lot. This particular occasion he has bought Ronnie red roses and she has slammed the door and locked it and he is sliding roses through the gap between the door and floor. He tries his best to talk Ronnie into returning home, them getting married and living happily ever after with their baby! That particular scene gets even funnier but I don’t want to spoil the book. The relationship between Ronnie and Bailey is at first awkward and they seem to want to keep each other at arms distance but as their clothes get dirtier, their escapes from weird situations become harder they get closer. Bailey reveals things about herself she has never told anyone before. There’s a poignant, tear jerking scene where she visits her dad who now has a new girlfriend and asks him if they can have dinner etc. Sadly, Bailey’s dad is not interested in the fact his daughter is stood in front of him and doesn’t want her to hang around. Ronnie see’s all this play out and though she is normally the more reserved, quiet girl of the two she goes crazy and ends up giving Bailey’s dad a real painful shock.

I ended up reading this book in just two reading sessions, I just didn’t want to put it down. I think the book handles the subject of abortion quite well, without going too deep into details of the procedure. Both arguments, pro and anti-abortion are put across in a subtle non-judgemental manner. The book also delivers advice written within the story which covers the sexual orientation of one of the characters, peer pressure, everyone expecting Ronnie to be valedictorian. Boyfriend pressure from Kevin wanting her to get pregnant so she will stay home with him, and get married.

I really enjoyed the book the pace was constant and there was always something happening. You wouldn’t think the two girls could get up to so much mischief or so many close scrapes but they do, and the way they are written they are totally believable. Without revealing exactly what happened at the end I have to say I was on the edge of my seat wondering if Ronnie would go sit with the “popular girls” or with Bailey.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that I had really enjoyed it. The book covers a difficult subject in a laugh-out-loud funny way. It shows us what being best friends really means, and how shallow the 'popular' girls & boys truly are. Both main characters rediscover their friendship, learn about the times they needed each other but weren’t there for each other, a friendship that they had thought long lost turns out to be stronger than either of them thought. The girls come back from one hell of a journey, a lot smarter, a lot closer and much wiser, ready for whatever life can throw at them!