Title: Alexander’s Relations

Author: Roger Stokes

Pages: 171 Pages

Publisher: Matador

The Blurb

Where would we be without our memories? And what memories would we have without our relationships?

Five friends, five decades.

From the swinging 60s to the early 2000s, five friends explore life and love to the full. Beginning in a nondescript suburb, onto swinging London and hedonistic getaways to the Costa Dorada and Provence, their outlooks on life and relationships with each other change and grow over the years.

An achingly real, nostalgic tale of life, friendship and love that flows from the innocence of flower power to the era of the internet, Alexander’s Relations echoes the voices of a generation.

The author’s first novel, The Good Man’s Daughter, was published in 2011.

The Review

I really wanted to enjoy Alexander’s Relations. I love books with a music base, I love the 60s and I adore coming of age novels. Sadly, I really didn’t enjoy the writing style. So much so that I had to DNF this title.

For me, the side comments by the protagonist were grating. They didn’t seem to happen just once or twice. It felt like it was the end of every section. It made the writing seem conversational which would be fine if that had been set up at the beginning of the story – like if the characters were reminiscing to another character but they were talking to the reader and it just did not sit well at all.

Personally, I think that this novel needed a bit of revision and tidying up. The premise and the story could have been executed better.

Alexander’s Relations by Roger Stokes is available now.

For more information regarding Roger Stokes (@Rstokes_Author) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Matador (@matadorbooks) please visit www.troubador.co.uk/matador

Title: How to Talk to Black People

Author: A. Anon

Pages: 217 Pages

Publisher: Self Published

The Blurb

Can someone break through the boundaries they are subconsciously taught to place on other people?

Ivy wants more from life. She wants more than her double-wide trailer, more than her dead father and drunk mother, and more than her clearance rack clothes. Her one comfort is the quirky and unpredictable Magnus: childhood best friend and member of the Dead Parent’s Club.

New student Alex might be her ticket to graduation. Alex has it all: an award-winning neurosurgeon for a mother, a world-famous athlete for a father, brains, and brawn.

When Ivy and Alex get stuck as Chemistry partners, Ivy rejoices. Alex is her ticket to an easy semester, maybe even college. But high school isn’t enjoyable for any of them.

Magnus is misunderstood, Ivy is poor, and Alex is the first black student in the entire school system.

By prom, their lives will completely change. One will learn who they really are, one will come to terms with their past, and one won’t make it out alive.

How to Talk to Black People is an honest and challenging look at how we subconsciously teach those in our community about race and what we’re willing to believe about ourselves based on those lessons.

The Review

Okay, so I know that writing is difficult and I know that it is easy to fall into writing tropes but How to Talk to Black People by A. Anon takes it to a whole new level.

How to Talk to Black People reads like a paint by numbers. The main character is given some unlikable qualities but we also are meant to feel sorry for her because of her alcoholic mother and deceased father. She is held back in school because of her social status – she is poor therefore she cannot be smart. She is affected by the people around her and doesn’t know any better – vis a vis race. The whole set up was to problematic, twee and due for a moment of realisation to neatly wrap up all of the storylines. However, I cannot tell you if that happens because I had to DNF this book.

It was awful. The narrative was over written – seriously just call a bus a bus not a banana yellow machine to take me to my scholastic destiny – okay I’m potentially exaggerating with my example but there were several times when the writer just didn’t call nouns by what they actually were. It was tedious.

I read about 30% of this book and I realised I have several hundred other books that are worthy of my attention and this was draining me of potentially reading a great book.

I’m sorry but How to Talk to Black People was a big, fat DNF for me.

How to Talk to Black People by A. Anon is available now.

Title: Because of You

Author: Dawn French

Pages: 382 Pages

Publisher: Penguin

The Blurb

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight.

The old millennium turns into the new.

In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters.

Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl.

Anna leaves with empty arms.

Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all.

The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.

Perhaps beyond . . .

Because of You is the remarkably poignant story perfect for every Dawn French fan, told with her signature humour, warmth and so much love.

The Review

Hope and her baby girl Minnie live a contented life. It is jus the two of them, mum and daughter and life has been brilliant. However, when Minnie becomes pregnant at 17 her whole world begins to unravel and the only person who can answer her questions is Hope.

Because of You is the 6th book by Dawn French and I have to say her writing just keeps getting better and better. Because of You hooked me in from the first page. The premise blew me away and the choices that she had her characters make opened a can of worms in my head. It makes you question your own decisions. What would you do in the same situation? Would you do the same? Dawn French has been so very clever in making us empathise with a character that has essentially done something wrong and you accept the decisions that she has made.

Her characters are well thought out and develop well over the chapters. In particular, Anna grows so much and as she comes into her own you cannot help but admire her.

Because of You is a really enjoyable read that deals with some hard issues. It is a must read and it is not surprising that it has recognised by different book clubs and awarding bodies.

Because of You by Dawn French is available now.

For more information regarding Dawn French (@Dawn_French) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Penguin (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: Dead Head

Author: CJ Skuse

Pages: 480 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

Victim. Murderer. Serial Killer. What next?

The third darkly comic thriller in the highly addictive Sweetpea series featuring serial killer Rhiannon Lewis.

‘Think Bridget Jones meets Killing Eve – only with better jokes’ Daily Mail

Can a serial killer ever lose their taste for murder?

Since confessing to her bloody murder spree Rhiannon Lewis, the now-notorious Sweetpea killer, has been feeling out-of-sorts.

Having fled the UK on a cruise ship to start her new life, Rhiannon should be feeling happy. But it’s hard to turn over a new leaf when she’s stuck in an oversized floating tin can with the Gammonati and screaming kids. Especially when they remind her of Ivy – the baby she gave up for a life carrying on killing.

Rhiannon is all at sea. She’s lost her taste for blood but is it really gone for good? Maybe Rhiannon is realising that there’s more to life than death…

The third book in the critically-acclaimed series following Sweetpea and In Bloom featuring everyone’s favourite truly original girl-next-door serial killer Rhiannon Lewis.

The Review

I’m not one for reading book series. I find that they can be too much of a commitment however the Sweetpea series by CJ Skuse is one exception to this rule.

In Dead Head, the third installment, we find our psycho-protagonist Rhiannon Lewis on the lam. Running away from her old life and the chaos that she has caused whilst also dealing with the yearning ache for her child Ivy. We see her travel across the world to escape the storm of drama she has left and the debris of her crimes in the UK but we also know that Rhiannon cannot truly leave herself – her true self – behind. Will she kill again? Probably.

The third installment in this series is different from the first two in that we see a more introspective Rhiannon. This could be that it is told in the past/present tense. So looking back but told in the present tense. It is as though this gives us chance – and indeed Rhiannon – to consider her actions and gives us time to process them alongside her rather than seeing the red mist descend and then the chaos. This doesn’t make them any less bat crap crazy but it does give us time to think.

Rhiannon Lewis will probably be one of my most remembered protagonists in fiction. Her actions and her unshakable belief in vigilante justice has left a lasting impression and I am hoping that there will be more in this series.

Dead Head by CJ Skuse is available now.

For more information regarding CJ Skuse (@CJSkuse) please visit www.cjskuse.com.

For more information regarding (@HQStories) please visit www.hqstories.co.uk.

Title: Queer – A Collection of LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday

Author: Frank Wynne (ed.)

Pages: 620 Pages

Publisher: Head of Zeus

The Blurb

LGBTQ writing from ancient times to yesterday selected by award-winning translator Frank Wynne.

Drawing together writing from Catullus to Sappho, from Arthur Rimbaud to Anne Lister and Armistead Maupin, translator Frank Wynne has collected eighty of the finest works representing queer love by LGBTQ authors.

These pieces straddle the spectrum of queer experience, from Verlaine’s sonnet in praise of his lover’s anus and Emily Dickinson’s exhortation of a woman’s beauty, to Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of her coming out, Juno Dawson’s reflections on gender and Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’.

With stories, poems, extracts and scenes from countries the world over, Queer is an unabashed and unapologetic anthology, which gives voice to those often silenced.

The Review

I read quite a lot of LGBTQ literature but to be honest it mainly comes from a need to educate. I tend to stick to YA books because I want my students to have an outlet that wasn’t necessarily there when I was a student. I picked up Queer because I wanted to make a more informed and mature choice when it came to my reading choices.

What is brilliant about Queer is that it gives you snippets of stories and then you have the option to follow it up with further reading. I did this and bought other books by the contributors. I especially liked the chronology of the book. It showed that LGBTQ isn’t new. Its not something that has only been around for a short amount of time. As long as there have been people there has been LGBTQ people. I think that will be a comfort to the readers of this book.

Queer is a fantastic collection and I hope that it is only the start and that further collections will be collated in the future

Queer – A Collection of LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday by Frank Wynne is available now.

For more information regarding Frank Wynne (@Terribleman) please visit www.frankwynne.com.

For more information regarding Head of Zeus (@HoZ_Books) please visit www.headofzeus.com.