Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died

Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Having risen to fame in the hit Nickelodeon show iCarly, Jennette McCurdy recounts her childhood and experience growing up with an abusive and narcissistic parent. All her mother wanted was for Jennette to be a star, and from a young age, Jennette knew she wanted to make her mother happy. McCurdy guides us through her life with great wit and insight, her story is much more than the rumours on the internet, and she has given us an empowering journey of self-recovery. I almost have so much to say about this book and also no words for it at all

McCurdy recounts moments like her mother threatening her dad with a knife in front of her, showering her until she was 16, which included invasive exams to check her body for cancer lumps and leading her daughter to develop an eating disorder in order to keep her body looking young. (Looking young had meant more acting roles) McCurdy retells her story in the present tense, keeping to her age when she is recounting, so without interruption, you witness her go from a naive and hopeful child to a bitter young adult. McCurdy’s voice is dry and sharp, and the moments she chooses to show us are disconcerting. McCurdy’s mother had done a lot of harm to Jennette in her lifetime, but the most significant blow is the damage to her daughter’s body image. She is only 11 when she takes on a restrictive diet; alongside her mother, they weigh themselves almost every day, and if anyone spoke up about it, her mother would simply lash out and leave the room. Rewards for good behaviour (weight loss) would often be zero-calorie ice lollies. Readers would do well to research content warnings before choosing to read this, as the details about weight loss and her recovery were painful to read.McCurdy does not sugarcoat her past, nor does she glamorise her recovery. Every word is raw and honest. The title might be an odd choice for anyone unaware, but after you close the final page, you begin to understand her a little more, even if you can never understand that feeling yourself.

As headlines amplify the dark side of Nickelodeon and McCurdy’s complicated relationship with Ariana Grande, this memoir is so much more than that. Jennette said it best herself, “this book can’t be reduced to any sort of headline,” I’m Glad My Mom Died is a visceral and emotional account of Jennette’s life from childhood to her mid-twenties. Having grown up watching Jennette on iCarly, reading her memoir has given me even more respect for her. Finishing this book and knowing she’s on the road to recovery makes me incredibly proud and happy. Her journey was hard and long, but reading her story of survival will have any reader encaptivated by her voice.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Ky Trans returns to her hometown of Cabramatta in the wake of her younger brother’s death after he was brutally murdered inside a restaurant. Ky discovers that not only do the police have no idea what happened, but every witness in the building also claims they saw nothing. Determined to find out what had happened, Ky is forced to recount her childhood as her own investigation will have her return to the community of Cabramatta, a place so buried in her past that the truth might never be free. 

Ky’s story will resonate with many children of immigrants, families whose lives were uprooted and planted in a foreign nation and left to survive in a community that doesn’t want them. The real Cabramatta is home to many Vietnamese families, and Lien incorporates the history well into this tale of a young woman desperate to find the truth. Her parents can barely speak English, so navigating the system is already a hurdle that only she can help her family with. When she realises finding the truth will be hard as people begin to suspect her brother was involved with the local gangs. She is forced to investigate the roots of her communities and face the harsh realities that she left behind. Intergenerational trauma, racism, addiction and poverty are just some of the hardships that Cabramatta faces. And Ky has to return to the roots of her parents, her brother and her childhood friend, who she had lost connection with years ago. 

However, I did feel like there could’ve been a better distinction between the flashbacks of the past, as those scenes tend to blend into one. The mystery aspect of the story doesn’t hold up well, so in terms of suspense, I felt like it wasn’t strong enough to keep me on my toes. Nonetheless, Ky’s story is still heartbreaking and powerful. 

Overall, All That’s Left Unsaid is insightful and emotional. Lien has a strong writing style that compels me to look forward to future releases. A crafted story that brings forth a touching tale about community and survival while also a snapshot into the lives of the Vietnamese community in the 90s.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Love & Other Dramas

Review: Love & Other Dramas

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Love & Other Dramas follow the lives of three different women. Tania is newly divorced, her mother Helen is recently widowed, and her best friend, Priya, nearly lost her job and then her promotion to a newcomer. Tania struggles to move on from her husband, Helen finds it hard when faced with a new lover, and Priya can’t seem to get her mind off her lost promotion. As all three ladies begin to move on, a series of secrets from the past threaten to bring them back to their knees, and who knows if their relationship will survive?

Having found this by accident after perusing the Netgalley discover page, I am glad to have found this book. It was a fun and refreshing story that was quick to absorb and enjoy. Three distinct voices and intertwining tales about the relationship of these three women, not only with others but also with themselves. They are all dealing with their own issues, having to fight against expectations and learning how to trust in their own instinct. Tania is divorced and finds herself returning to her ex-husband as she struggles to return to her life before marriage. Her mother, Helen, comes to terms with the fact her husband was not the man everyone thought he was and finds difficulty in her new relationship. Priya should hate the women who snatched her promotion from under her, but she cannot help but be captivated by her. 

Love & Other Dramas is a fun and witty debut, a tale of women dealing with life in a realistic and healthy way. There’s something to love in their journeys, all coping with romantic, familial and platonic love. Collings explores their lives in thrilling detail, cultivating their stories and weaving together three distinct stories that still come together into one solid story about starting over and second chances that shouldn’t be missed.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The King is Dead

Review: The King is Dead

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When his father unexpectedly dies, James is suddenly thrown into the spotlight, days away from being the first Black heir to the throne. And the world is suddenly very keen on the eldest son as the papers begin to lash out at his ascension. As a prince, he has had his fair share of terrible tabloids, but when his secret boyfriend disappears, and suddenly everything he thought was private is splashed out on the front pages, can James find out who is betraying him, or will the weight of the crown be too heavy for him to bear?

The King is Dead is meant to be a mystery thriller, and I can’t help but feel disappointed at the lack of energy throughout the book. Although the opening scenes gripped my attention, beginning with the king’s death as James and his family come to terms with what it means for them. The instant action grips you immediately, but after that, it feels lacklustre. 

There are plenty of plot twists and turning points; although only one shocked me, the rest feels uneventful and almost predictable. I never see an issue with guessing the ending; the thrill of reading it is how the story gets there, and The King is Dead just takes you on an underwhelming ride of telling the reader everything that happens instead of showing it. A lot is going on in this as James is trying to find out who is leaking information; he is also dealing with the press, his boyfriend who has disappeared, and his rocky relationship with his twin brother. There is so much going on, but it felt like reading separate stories that haven’t fully been incorporated well into one account. The stakes were undoubtedly high, but the tension was not there, and all the plot points lacked development.

Although I have to say, I mainly did enjoy how Dean used his experience as a celebrity reporter as his portrayal of the British media was quite spot on. You can see the influence of the current Royal family on James and his own family as they face the brunt of the tabloid’s anti-Blackness while his (white) family members remain unscathed. The strength of this book came through in these moments as James came to terms with the relationship between public figures and the media. They claw at any information, even going as far as outing a seventeen-year-old child and attacking his mother, their queen, by the racist comparisons between her and the King’s former wife. It echoes the experience that Meghan Markle faced during her time in the Royal Family. Dean’s writing shines through in these moments, which is why I felt so disappointed at finding the rest of the story somewhat lacking in comparison. 

Overall, The King is Dead wasn’t necessarily a bad book. There is mystery and drama that will satisfy most readers. Dean had some great ideas for this story; with some expansion and rework, I could have seen myself enjoying this a lot more. Nonetheless, it’s still a quick, fun novel, but it wasn’t for me.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One

Review: Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Hazel Hill keeps her head down and her eyes on the ball. This year’s goal? Win this year’s speech contest, and nothing can bring her down, not even last year’s mistake where she accidentally mispronounced hyperbole. And not even Tyler Harris, who made it his life’s mission to talk Hazel’s ear off about every crush he’s ever had, can distract her. Until he says, Ella Quinn has a crush on her. And suddenly, she’s all that she can focus on, and Hazel discovers that the girls in her school are being harassed, and she finds herself amid a plan to take the harasser down. 

This was a surprisingly fun read. I never thought to pick up Middle-Grade books nowadays. Still, after being enticed by the adorable cover, I did not expect to find myself reading a powerful story about three girls standing up against sexual harassment. There is so much to say about this story that it is hard to put my thoughts into words. After reading this, I felt a sense of happiness, knowing that a book like this will be going into the hands of young kids. When the New York Magazine can publish an article defending a seventeen-year-old boy who was ostracised for showing nudes of his girlfriend at a party as a childish mistake, stories like Hazel Hill will be crucial for the younger audience. Inspired by the author’s own experience as a child, she has perfectly captured the spirit of a young girl navigating school life alone who suddenly finds herself defenceless when her classmate Tyler Harris is revealed to be terrorising most of the girls in the school. All the adults she was told to trust brush off his remarks and begin to pin the blame on the girls for acting in such a way. Hazel Hill discusses sexual harassment in a way that I can see be a great tool for younger audiences to understand the topic without going into too much detail. 

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One is a story of empowerment and standing proud. An incredible tale with great bouts of humour that was a pleasure to read. Tackling an experience most girls will sadly face in their lives, this book will, in no doubt, foster discussion in a healthy way.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: You Will Get Through This Night

Review: You Will Get Through This Night

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Written by Daniel Howell, in conjunction with psychologist Dr. Heather Bolton, comes a guide to understanding the human mind’s mess. Split into three chapters, You Will Get Through This Night takes you from preparing for your most challenging moments to figuring out the small steps and helping you thrive for the days after. 

I will start by saying that I was a massive fan of Daniel Howell growing up. From the ages of 13 to 17, I had a Tumblr blog that initially began as a fan blog for many up-and-coming British Youtubers at the time. (danisnotonfire, amazingphil, charlieissocoollike…. you get the gist.) Does this mean anything for this review? Probably not, except for reminding myself of my cringest teenage moments. 

You Will Get Through This Night tackles several topics, such as dealing with anxiety in different situations or finding motivation in places that once sparked joy. For me, everything Dan had mentioned was, quite frankly, nothing new. Written collaboratively with Dr Bolton, this book leans into the bare building blocks when discussing mental health, which made me realise this book is targeted towards his younger teen audience or people who haven’t thought about their own mental health before. And that felt rather odd, but then again, that might be my fault for expecting more of Dan’s own experiences in this book. It also made me aware of how different I am now than I was over ten years ago when I started watching Dan’s content. For example, his self-deprecating humour is definitely something that past me would’ve enjoyed. Still, now in my mid-twenties, this book feels somewhat outdated, and his humour that works well in a video format doesn’t translate amazingly in a written form. However, I appreciate his decision to work with a psychologist on this, as he can bring forward and discuss ways of dealing with mental health using research that might not otherwise be accessible to everyday people. Most of the advice he gave didn’t apply to me, but that is just the mess that is mental health. But for an audience that might not have thought about it before, this guide might be a perfect gateway for further research. 

I don’t want to be too critical in a way that sounds rude because I still hold him dearly as someone who impacted my early teen years. Knowing his reality during the times when he was quite literally helping my mental health, I still finished this book with the same respect I’ll always have. It’s hard not to be happy for him and how far he’s come from those little youtube videos in his room.  

It is clear how Dan wanted to help his viewers and others, and maybe ten years ago, this would’ve helped me then. But the outdated attempts of relatability with early 2010s humour are not my cup of tea anymore. But I do hope this book finds itself in the hands of someone who needs it. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR