ARC Review: Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach

*Thank you to Usborne for the e-ARC*

It’s taken me almost a month to get my thoughts in order about this book and, even now, I admit that this review is pretty much just a stream of consciousness about how much I ADORED it. It’s not uncommon for me to get obsessed with books, but it is actually pretty rare for me to love a contemporary as much as this one, and I’m so excited to finally share my thoughts on it!

Not Here to Be Liked tells the story of Eliza, editor-in-chief candidate for her school newspaper and all round academic perfectionist.

What she lacks in people skills, she makes up for with her desperation to be the best journalist their school has ever seen, and she’s obviously the ideal candidate to run the paper in her senior year…

Eliza’s plan to become editor-in-chief is completely foolproof – that is, until former footballer and reforming jock, Len, shows up and decides that he can steal her spotlight. Eliza is outraged that Len is running against her, and even more outraged that his popularity and masculinity seem to be ensuring he gets the position that she was always destined for.

The story that ensues is angry, feminist, and all too real, as Eliza fights for the position that is rightfully hers – against a boy who may have a little more to him than meets the eye.

This is easily the best contemporary I’ve read this year, and I haven’t stopped raving about it since I put it down. Eliza was sold as an unlikeable, angry protagonist and, whilst this would probably be true if she was in your class at school, she’s a really, really great character. She was very relatable, very real and completely honest with herself, which was so refreshing to read about. So many contemporary protagonists are unaware of their flaws or striving to be perfect, likeable individuals, but Eliza is a conflicted young woman with strong opinions, who is not afraid to admit her shortcomings, and I wish I’d read more protagonists like her when I was growing up.

Eliza wasn’t the only character I loved in this book, though. Len was the perfect love interest too. Not too ‘woke’ and perfect to be real (he definitely made his fair share of mistakes too…), he was still a completely likeable character that was easy to fall for. Serena was a prime example of taking the mean girl trope and flipping it on its head, and Winona was honest, tough, and incredibly relatable in her ambitions, so I found the entire cast to be entertaining and very well-developed.

This book tackles a lot of real life sociopolitical issues and, whilst feminism is becoming more and more prominent in YA, this book is definitely the best I’ve read so far that so openly explored the issue. It’s a masterclass in how to teach young readers about feminism in the real world and how to be an activist about it, without reading like a spoon-fed guide to gender politics and I (a woman who is possibly older than the intended target audience) came away with a refreshed outlook on the topic.

In case it isn’t already obvious, I’m completely obsessed with this book. It’s fun, easy, informative, important, and so entertaining to read, and I will definitely be recommending it to anyone who wants to listen.

Rating: 5/5

PS. If you’ve read it and loved it as much as I did, please let me know, I’d love to hype with you😂

BLOG TOUR STOP: THE ISLAND HOME by Libby Page

First of all, a HUGE thank you to Orion for gifting me a beautiful copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and a spot on this blog tour! If you want to hear more about this wonderful book, I fully recommend checking out the rest of the tour 🙂

The Island Home follows two women, Alice and Lorna, as they are thrown together during Lorna’s visit to her childhood home.

Alice, a yoga instructor and farm-owner on the Isle of Kip, has loved island life since the day she first moved, and very voluntarily got wrapped up in its sense of community and the comfort of knowing that all of her neighbours are there to support her. Lorna, meanwhile, is visiting from London out of obligation and wishes nothing more than to get in and out of Kip, the island she grew up on, full of former neighbours and lost family, as soon as possible.

When Lorna reaches the Isle, though, she starts to remember the good as well as the bad, and decides to use the time to make amends with her brother (Alice’s husband) and some old friends that she left behind. What follows is a moving, heart-warming story about community, belonging and friendship.

The majority of books I read have very dark content and themes, so it was so refreshing to get completely sucked into such a moving, heart-warming book. It wasn’t always happy and some quite difficult themes were explored, but Libby Page’s writing is so consistently positive and uplifting that, despite some of the tougher content, the book had an overall really heart-warming and comforting tone. So many characters were just so kind and good that it was hard not to feel like I was part of their lovely community and feel supported as Alice and Lorna did when things got slightly tough.

Alice and Lorna had fairly similar voices, making it difficult at times to differentiate between the two, but this also made it easy to love and root for both of them on their individual journeys. At the beginning, Alice is a welcoming and kind character who embodies community spirit wholly in a way that I rarely read, whilst Lorna is a strong, independent, self-reliant woman who shows just what you can be capable of alone. As the story went on, however, it was lovely to read about how their mindsets started to become more similar and watch as they formed a really sweet bond.

This book is the definition of summer reading and would be so perfect as both a beach read and a book to cheer you up on a miserable day. I certainly found myself getting absorbed in the lifestyle of the characters on the Isle of Kip, and would absolutely recommend you do the same.

Rating: 4/5

The Island Home published in HB and ebook on 24th June, by Orion.

ARC REVIEW: Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien

*Thank you to MacLehose for gifting me a copy of this book*

Love in Five Acts is a five-part story that follows five loosely-connected women as they try to navigate life, love and motherhood in the aftermath of traumatic pasts and imperfect relationships. As we see the world through these women’s eyes, we experience every possible angle of their relationships, and witness the various ways in which women find love and cope with trauma.

This is not my usual genre at all so it took me completely by surprise just how quickly this book gripped me. Paula, Judith, Brida, Malika and Jorinde were all completely different characters, each with some relatable and some not-so-relatable traits, and I found myself as invested in every new section as I was in the last. Brida’s story in particular fascinated me, with the focus being on her attempt to juggle motherhood and her dream career of writing, but I found myself in support of every woman in the story as I learned of the completely believable but often upsetting things that they each went through.

Translated fiction can sometimes be fairly heavy to read, but this book was so quick and easy to get through that I found myself reading it in every spare second and finishing it within two days. It was emotional, poignant and, at some points, slightly complex, but it was so readable that it felt like it took no effort to get from start to finish at all. It also really helped that each story flowed well into the next, with the connections between the women obvious but the relationships being often quite complex. Judith, I think, appeared in the most stories, and it was fascinating to see how the different women viewed her compared to how she viewed herself.

Love in Five Acts is a fairly intense read with its occasionally upsetting subject matter and it’s definitely quite adult, but if you have any interest in reading about women’s experiences of motherhood, sisterhood, relationships and grief in the twenty-first century, I would strongly urge you to read it. It’s a current, believable story of life and love, and an entertaining insight into the minds of complex and fascinating women who need to deal with and adapt to the challenges that life throws at them.

Rating: 4/5

Love in Five Acts publishes in the UK on April 29th 2021.

BOOK REVIEW: SEA WIFE by Amity Gaige (BLOG TOUR STOP)

Hi, welcome to my first ever blog tour review! Firstly, thank you so much to Grace Vincent at Fleet for the advance copy of this book, and HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY to Amity Gaige! This was such a fascinating read and I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour.

Seawife tells the story of a woman named Juliet, whose husband convinces her to join him on a year-long trip around the Caribbean, living almost entirely on the ocean. When their voyage is over, and tragedy has struck, Juliet must adjust back into life on land and to parenting their two children in a more conventional way.

All the while, though, her mind is still on their journey across the ocean and her husband’s sailing obsession, and we learn the specifics of their trips through a combination of Juliet’s story, Michael’s logbook and, occasionally, their daughter Sybil’s thoughts and prayers.

It might just be because this isn’t a genre that I’ve really looked into, but I have never read a book like Seawife. The style and subject matter were both so completely new to me that I found myself getting quickly sucked in, and I ended up so glad that I gave this book a go! I was definitely intimidated by all of Michael’s technical terminology at the beginning, but the story is written in such a compelling and accessible way that I was genuinely interested in the technicalities of sailing by the time I finished (something I really never thought I’d say!)

Juliet speaks of the sceptics of her voyage in this book and, I admit, I also didn’t understand the allure of a life on the ocean until the story really got into it. I never would have considered the possibility of abandoning life, school, work, etc, to live in a 44 square-foot floating home, but I was very quickly hooked on learning about their new lifestyle. Their life story is beautiful, fascinating and completely believable, and it definitely made me re-evaluate my initial thoughts. By the end, it seemed strange when the characters were on land, and I wanted to hear more and more about their life on the water.

The characters in this book- primarily Juliet, her husband Michael, their daughter Sybil and their son George- were all really interesting, both in terms of their personalities and their relationships with each other, and I found myself deeply invested in the lives of each of them. I think Sybil may be my favourite character, overall. She was believable as a young child, funny and enthusiastic, but also grown-up in a way that her lifestyle would make her. George was adorable as well. Michael and Juliet were both strong-willed, firm in their beliefs and completely genuine and seeing the complexities of their marriage was fascinating.

Overall, I found this story to be a compelling depiction of the dangers and the allures of a life at sea. It’s thought-provoking, gripping and completely absorbing and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who has ever wondered about life on the ocean, or even just anyone who wants some good, old-fashioned escapism.

RATING: 4.5/5

You can find out more about this book on the Little, Brown site, and I would definitely recommend you pick up a copy from The Hive (support your local indie!) or Waterstones.