I’m impressed with how many books I got through in November, especially given that it was a busy AF month with work and pretty much everything else. So, rather than attempt to fill out this intro paragraph as I’ve been doing for the last half an hour, I’m just going to crack on – here’s what I’ve been reading in November. As always, let me know what you thought of these reads and leave your recommendations in the comments!
The Eve Illusion – Giovanna & Tom Fletcher (Michael Joseph, Penguin, 2020) ★★
From the Back:
“Eve is the last girl on earth.
For the last sixteen years, Eve has been a prisoner. Guarded by the Mothers. Trapped by her fate. Watched by the world.
Until she took her chance, and escaped.
Eve finally has the freedom she has wanted for so long, and with Bram she has the love. But both come at a price. In this dangerous new world beyond the Tower, the regime is only ever one step behind. And together with the desperate rebel group fighting against them, Eve has found herself in more danger than she ever could have imagined.
With everything stacked against them, can Eve and Bram survive?”
The Eve Illusion is Giovanna and Tom Fletcher’s second instalment of their Eve trilogy, following on from 2018’s Eve of Man, a dystopian novel telling the story of Eve – the first girl born in fifty years – and how she’s to become the saviour of mankind. Very heavy Handmaid’s Tale vibes to an extent.
Now, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Eve of Man (one Iread way back in 2018), however I was drawn to it because I love Giovanna Fletcher’s novels and she and Tom are just pure couple goals.
It became quite clear that the overall genre of this type of series isn’t quite my cup of tea, but I was sucked into the cliffhanger ending and, as I’m sure you all know, I’m anal AF and couldn’t not read the next instalments in the trilogy because that’s essentially like taking several blocks out of my mental Jenga.
Anyway, The Eve Illusion follows on immediately from where the last book left off, so as a reader you were pretty much thrown into the deep end. In hindsight, I think I instantly fucked up in that I didn’t re-read the first book to refresh my memory on what happened – that probably would have meant I scored this one higher.
I don’t want to be too negative in these book reviews, so let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first and we can move onto the positives. The main issue I had with this book is that it’s way too descriptive. I know with this sort of genre, that’s probably the point, but I can’t bloody stand pages of unnecessary description. Just half it at least, and I can make the rest up for myself. There were multiple occasions where I was reading and just thought “for fuck sake, get on with it,” but maybe that’s just me.
I would have liked to read more about the love story between Eve and Bram, as the parts that were focused on it were great. Giovanna has written some amazing love stories in her previous novels, so I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t more of a thing in this one. Perhaps there’ll be more of it in the third instalment.
On a positive note, one thing I liked was how thought provoking the story was. As I mentioned, you’ve got similar vibes to The Handmaid’s Tale – for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s about a brutal society where women are forced into bearing children and a whole other load of shit goes down (brief plot summarisation of the year) – but there’s also a very heavy theme of artificial intelligence. The idea that when we physically die, our memories and personalities can be restored and transferred into others is some real Black Mirror shit and it certainly gets you thinking.
So, did I love The Eve Illusion? No. Not really. But will I be reading the final instalment? Obviously, yes. It ended with something incredibly predictable, but at the same time, I’m definitely interested in finding out how it all ends.
No One Can Change Your Life Except For You: How to Be the Hero of Your Own Life – Laura Whitmore (Orion Spring, 2021) ★★★
From the Back:
“‘When I was a kid, the first album I owned was by Wilson Phillips. I remember the lyric, “No one can change your life except for you.” It’s how I’ve chosen to live my life. There is freedom when you take back control. Stop waiting for someone to save you and do it yourself.’
Laura Whitmore has learned that optimism, self-belief and learning to accept yourself will bring you more than anyone else can ever give you. And she shows how her own struggles can help you through yours.
Frank, funny and inspirational, this is a book to remind you that the hero you are looking for is YOU.”
TW: Brief discussions of pregnancy loss
This has been on my TBR list for a while, and to be fair, it’s been sitting on my bookcase since May, so it was probably about time I got around to reading it. I can’t say I enjoyed this as much as I thought I would, which is a shame, but there were still some elements of the book that I enjoyed. Laura Whitmore has a real no-nonsense approach in her writing, which I love. She doesn’t bullshit you, but at the same time, she tells it how it is. She also writes with a fresh perspective on how we think and act in certain situations, and what I especially love about her writing style is that she talks to the reader like she’s a big sister or your best friend.
Her tough-love style combined with some great messages of empowerment is perfect for anyone needing a bit of a pep-talk.
Personally, while Laura’s stories were insightful and presented with some useful advice and messages, I felt as though it waffled a little in places. Plus, I think if you’re like me – a massive bloody pessimist – it can be quite hard to change your perspective to the way of thinking that she talks about throughout. Although I could certainly see the benefits of trying to change that!
All in all though, there’s no denying that Laura is an amazing role model and this is a fab book for young women to read. It has a positive, empowering message and raises some incredibly important points about careers, relationships and friendships, as well as highlighting the issues that modern women face, including sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment.
The Switch – Beth O’Leary (Quercus, 2021) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Leena is too young to feel stuck. Eileen is too old to start over. It’s time for the switch…
After blowing a big presentation at work, Leena takes a two-month sabbatical and escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen…a life swap seems the perfect solution.
But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the distractingly handsome local school teacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. In London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?”
The Switch has plenty of funny moments throughout, but there are also a number of moments that tug at the heartstrings when it comes to Leena’s sister, Carla, who died from cancer the year prior to the start of the novel. While on the surface, it’s lighthearted and funny, you’ve also got some heavier topics going on beneath it – there’s a particular focus on grief and coming to terms with loss, as well as learning to forgive yourself.
Style wise, the novel is told from both Leena and Eileen’s perspective, so the reader gets an insight into both their lives simultaneously. The beauty of this is that you can immediately see the similarities and differences between the two, which instantly makes the set up even more enjoyable.
So, closing words. Is The Switch as good as The Flat Share? I can’t say that it is, however it’s still a fantastic read and I loved every minute. As you delve into the second half of the book, it certainly becomes quite predictable, however, I’m starting to realise that for me, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Audacity – Katherine Ryan (Blink Publishing, Bonnier Books, 2021) ★★★★
From the Back:
“‘I’ve come to accept that being audacious is a gift I can’t escape.
People ‘know’ my onstage comedy persona or my scripted ballsy characters and wrongly assume that I must stomp around all day in designer dresses eviscerating those who dare to cross my path. But mostly, I’m just sat eating pickles and being nice to some dogs.
Whatever strangers think of me is fine with me. How audacious is that? I can always take a joke and I don’t waste time worrying about things I can’t control. I embrace the reality that you just can’t please everyone, so you might as well put yourself out there and have a laugh. As my mother always said, “Katherine, if we all liked the same thing, we’d all be married to your father.”
I’m often asked how I developed my lurid level of courage and assurance and for tips on how others can match. The Audacity is my blueprint for just that. You will learn:
How to Become the Most Popular Girl in School
How to Waste All Your Money on Designer Dogs
How to Attract Toxic Men…AND Keep Them Interested!
And so much more…
Secrets are my favourite things to be told and I figured I’d better tell a few juicy ones myself, too. Why not? No matter what I do, there will always be something about me that reads as simply, outrageously audacious.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
TW: Controlling behaviour, pregnancy loss
Katherine Ryan is a comedian I’ve loved and respected for a while now, so I pre-ordered her book as soon as I was able to. If you’re a fan of her podcast, Telling Everybody Everything, you will 100% love this book. She writes in the exact same style as she addresses her podcast listeners, and most importantly, she doesn’t hold back. Her honesty and candid way of talking throughout the book is both hilarious and refreshing – from growing up in a small town in Canada to working at Hooters, to making her way onto the UK comedy scene, she has some highly entertaining stories to tell, and even better, she tells them with the exact same charm, sass, and no-bullshit approach as she does in her stand-up.
While the book largely focuses on Katherine’s life, her previous relationships and her career, she also gives plenty of life lessons along the way. My favourite had to be this little gem:
“Do you like everyone in the world? Be honest – you don’t. So why even begin to give a toss about whether or not they like you?”
There were a number of stories that I loved in Katherine’s book, like reuniting with her teenage boyfriend (and now husband), Bobby K, and the time she and her friend almost appeared in a Sean Paul music video, but what I love most is her devotion and sheer adoration for her daughter, Violet. When I was a kid, it was just me and my Mum for the most part, so I can relate, and I also have so much love for the whole mother-daughter thing.
I’ll be honest, if you’re not really a fan of Katherine’s stand-up, this may not be for you. Likewise, her honesty and no-bullshit way of storytelling may not be for everyone. However, if you’re a fan of hers, I would 100% recommend The Audacity. It has some great life lessons and it’s incredibly funny in places, but you’ll also learn a few things – particularly about toxic relationships (not just romantic ones), and being a woman in what is often a male-dominated profession. Initially, you may see The Audacity as a tell-all memoir, but believe me, it’s so much more than that.
What have you been reading in November? Let me know in the comments!