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IReadThereforeIBlog

IReadThereforeIBlog

Joined August 2016

Longer reviews can be found at I Read, Therefore I Blog here: ireadthereforeiblog.wordpress.com
review
IReadThereforeIBlog
Secrets So Deep | Ginny Myers Sain
Mehso-so

Ginny Myers Sain‘s paranormal YA thriller is a slow-paced affair populated with generic characters (with the exception of Avril) structured around a central play that simply didn‘t convince me as being something so extraordinary as to be Tony Award winning. Worse, the twists (with one exception) are telegraphed too early and the paranormal elements too wishy-washy. It isn‘t a bad book, but it did struggle to hold my attention.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
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Satu Hämeenaho-Fox is a writer, editor, pop culture fan and theorist. This self-help book, featuring bright and cheerful illustrations by Nastka Drabot, uses Harry Styles (including his work and things he has said) to set out some guidelines for how to live your life. There was nothing here that I disagreed with and if you know someone who is into Styles, then this is a fun, fannish book for them to check out.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
Ella and the Waves | Britta Teckentrup
Pickpick

Britta Teckentrup‘s self-illustrated picture book is a beautiful, lyrical story about finding your courage and conquering adversity. The illustrations are gorgeous and the message about persevering because there will always be someone to help you is a sensible one. Although the central metaphor may go over young readers heads, it does give them something to talk about with parents/care-givers, which adds a dimension to the book.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
Speak Out, Leonard! | Jessie James
Pickpick

Jessie James and Tamara Anegón‘s picture book sequel to LOOK OUT, LEONARD! is another charming tale about the importance of finding your voice and speaking up for yourself. Young readers will empathise with Leonard‘s shyness and I liked Anegón‘s vibrant pictures of the animals, but I wished some action had been taken against the bully and that Leonard had been told it was important to speak up not just to help others.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
Winterland: A Novel | Alan Glynn
Mehso-so

Alan Glynn‘s crime thriller makes good use of its Irish setting and the impact of property development on the economy and society but the initial murder twist is quite contrived and the plot becomes more contrived as it goes on. It‘s not helped by the fact that neither Gina, Norton nor Bolger really feel like fully realised characters, which makes it difficult to empathise with them. Ultimately it‘s not a bad read but it didn‘t really gel for me.

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The Secret Barrister is an anonymous junior barrister specialising in criminal law in England and Wales and best selling author. Their second book is a scorching polemic taking on some of the most high profile English cases of the last 20 years to look at how poor media reporting coupled with political interests misrepresent the law and how this works to the detriment of everyone by undermining the people‘s faith in the rule of law.

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Nadia Jae is a DJ on Radio 1Xtra and a TV presenter. This YA self-help book consists of 19 uplifting interviews with a mix of radio and TV presenters, actors, journalists and backstage people from a wide variety of backgrounds about how they developed their confidence and dealt with issues that may have otherwise held them back. If you have a teen interested in getting into TV or radio, then this would be a good read for them to check out.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
Whiteout | Dhonielle Clayton, Nicola Yoon, Tiffany D Jackson, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk
Mehso-so

Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon‘s YA romance follow-up to BLACKOUT has another all Black cast and good lesbian and gender-non-conforming representation but one of the chapters veers towards bi-erasure and I just couldn‘t take to Stevie or empathise with her (despite her neurodiversity). Ultimately it‘s okay, but I didn‘t enjoy it as much as BLACKOUT.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
Nothing But the Truth: A Memoir | The Secret Barrister
Pickpick

The Secret Barrister is an anonymous junior barrister specialising in criminal law in England and Wales and best selling author. Their third book is a searing memoir recounting their journey to the bar and later as a blogger and, more importantly, how working as a criminal lawyer changed their own views of criminal law and those who run up against it. It‘s honest, funny, horrifying and is a great way of learning how the legal system works.

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The 5th in Craig Graham and Mike Stirling‘s “Boomic” Beano spin-off series for readers aged 8+ is a spooky affair filled with more snot than you can shake a Kleenex at. Nigel Parkinson‘s illustrations work well with the text and although some of the characters look different to when I read the comics *cough cough* years ago but that‘s no bad thing. This is a great, silly series that would work well with reluctant readers.

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Amy Richau is a freelance writer and researcher and Dan Zehr is host of the Star Wars podcast Coffee With Kenobi. I was a bit cynical about this Father‘s Day tie-in book, but it‘s actually been done very thoughtfully with Richau and Zehr drawing on a variety of Star Wars series and making some quite sensitive points about parenting and how to navigate it. If you have a Star Wars loving father, then this would be a good gift for them.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
Five Survive | Holly Jackson
Panpan

Holly Jackson‘s standalone YA thriller is a disappointing misfire. I get what Jackson was going for - an external threat becoming less dangerous than the internal threat that emerges within the group. Unfortunately the characterisation is poor, especially Red whose guilt comes across as flakiness while Oliver‘s mummy issues never convinced me while the plot points and motivations don‘t make a whole lot of sense when you think about them.

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Ian Haydn Smith is editor of BFI Filmmaker Magazine and Curzon Magazine. This is a really informative summary of 100 documentaries divided into 7 categories and taken from around the world and over the history of cinema. The summaries of the films - although brief - are very informative and the foreword to each section gives a lot of useful background. I came away from this with a list of documentaries that I really want to see.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
The Very Merry Murder Club | Patrice Lawrence, Maisie Chan, Dominique Valente, Nizrana Farook, Annabelle Sami, Elle McNicoll, Joanna Williams, Benjamin Dean, Abiola Bello, E. L. Norry
Mehso-so

Serena Patel and Robin Stevens‘s anthology of 13 winter-themed crime short stories for readers aged 9+ is a disappointing affair. None of the stories are bad but equally none of them really gripped me or stood out. I liked Harry Woodgate‘s illustrations, which bring scenes from some of the stories to life and the diversity of characters and backgrounds is good but ultimately this was a collection that left me cold rather than cheered.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
Tiger Hunt: Book 2 | Ash Stone
Mehso-so

The second in Ash Stone‘s eco-friendly illustrated adventure series for readers aged 6+ has its heart in the right place and I liked the diversity of Jeevan and his mother. However the execution was pretty flat - as are the illustrations - while the antagonists of Smith and Jones struggle to be stock characters and the depiction of Toe left me a bit uncomfortable. Ultimately this just didn‘t work for me and I wouldn‘t rush to read on.

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Panpan

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Oxford University. This centrist polemic is smug, politically naive and offers weirdly paternalistic “solutions” that fail to tackle the structural issues responsible for the rifts in society that he professes to want to resolve. As a lawyer, I also found his constant digs at lawyers to be dull and uninformed and I was really uncomfortable with the revelations about his family.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
The Lost Man | Jane Harper
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Jane Harper‘s standalone crime novel makes the most of both the oppressive nature of the Australian Outback and the loneliness of life out there to create a slow burn reveal of bad behaviour and family secrets. I particularly liked the slow reveal of Nathan and Cameron‘s backstory and characters, which worked very well and although the ending has a bit of a pat feel to it, I would definitely check out Harper‘s other books.

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Don't Touch My Hair | Emma Dabiri
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Emma Dabiri is a teaching fellow in the Africa Department at SOAs and a Visual Sociology PhD researcher at Goldsmith‘s College. This passionate, fascinating and very interesting book uses black hair as the basis for examining racial attitudes, colonial attitudes, double standards and how it damages Black people and mixes Dabiri‘s personal experience with history, sociology, and anthropology to produce a nuanced, thought-provoking read.

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Tom Chatfield is an author, tech philosopher and educator with a focus on critical thinking skills. This really useful book is aimed at students but has a lot for ‘ordinary‘ people who want to work on their critical thinking skills, including sorting through and questioning information, understanding biases and how to make a strong argument. It‘s clearly written, easy to follow and has useful summaries at the end of each chapter.

6 likes1 stack add
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IReadThereforeIBlog
You Need to Chill | Juno Dawson
Mehso-so

Juno Dawson‘s lgbtq+ picture book is a good way of introducing young readers to children with trans identities with the narrator‘s pragmatism contrasting with the increasingly hysterical worries of her classmates. However, while Laura Hughes‘s illustrations are great - bright, colourful, energetic and packed with character - I found Dawson‘s rhymes to be strained at times and the need to chill refrain sounds increasingly precocious.

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Bird | Brendan Kearney
Mehso-so

The 4th in Brendan Kearney‘s picture book series has the worthy aim of introducing young readers to environmental issues and what they can do to improve things but it‘s heavy-handed and some of it would go over the head of the target readership. Also, although I liked Kearney‘s stripped down illustrations, I must confess that I thought the swans were geese. Ultimately I applaud the intent but the execution didn‘t work for me here.

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IReadThereforeIBlog

The 4th in Craig Graham and Mike Stirling‘s “boomic” Beano spin-off series for readers aged 8+ is another rude and naughty giggle fest with plenty of fart jokes and pranks and it‘s good to see that Dennis‘s diverse friends are willing to engage in disgraceful behaviour. Nigel Parkinson‘s illustrations stay true to the comic while bringing dimension to the text, I enjoyed the manic energy on display and would definitely read more in this series.

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Taran Hunt‘s debut SF novel mixes TOMB RAIDER with ALIENS to action-packed effect. Sean is an interesting main character who prefers communication to violence while the dynamic between him, Indigo (a Minister) and Tamara (a Republican soldier) held my interest and the creatures are genuinely creepy. Some of the flashbacks slow the pace and I wanted more depth to the politics and history but the cliffhanger ending promises an interesting sequel.

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Jo Spain‘s standalone crime thriller is a tightly plotted affair that expertly shifts the action between the sibling narrators as they move from the night of the murder to the events of 10 years earlier. The relationship between the siblings is convincing and the slow reveal of Frazer‘s cruelties also works well but the resolution in the final quarter relies on a number of contrivances and left me wondering if one character deserved their fate.

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Mehso-so

Richard Coles‘s debut crime novel (the first in a series) is more interested in the impact of a murder on a close-knit community and in the main character‘s thoughts on murder and evil than in actually investigating whodunnit. At the same time, it is not immediately clear when this book is set and there are inconsistencies in the time line but if you can get past that, I think Coles has something interesting to offer and I would read the sequel.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
My Little Dragon | Rochelle Humes
Pickpick

Rochelle Humes‘s picture book is a cute affair aimed at encouraging younger readers to try different foods and which has some solid advice for parents and caregivers on how to handle mealtimes with young readers. Rachel Suzanne‘s illustrations are sweet without being cloying and I especially liked the hugs. All in all it‘s sweetly done and I would check out more of Blake‘s adventures with his little friends.

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Lania Narjee is an artist, educator and art psychotherapist. This inspiring book for readers aged 9+ is a hugely informative and important look at Black British people who have made a difference, whether through sport, art and music, STEM or politics with warm and evocative portrait illustrations from Chanté Timothy. I learnt a lot from this book and my only complaint was that I wanted it to be longer as the biographies are very short.

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Susie Hodge is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. This book for readers aged 8+ combines profiles of artists from Ancient Egypt to the present day with summaries of schools of art and how to make art. Hodge features a diverse selection of artists and mediums and Jessamy Hawke‘s illustrations perfectly complement the text. It‘s perfect for young readers with an interest in art because it conveys passion for the topic.

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Mark Mazower is Professor of History at Columbia University. This fascinating book looks at Mazower‘s family history starting with his grandfather, Max, a Jew born in the Russian Empire to piece together who they were and what drove them overseas. However while Mazower does his best to fill in the blanks, there is a lot of supposition here, so while you learn a lot about the politics, his family themselves remain to an extent unknowable.

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The third in Richard Osman‘s bestselling THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES is an absolute delight. Osman‘s lightness of touch carries the plot forward with a lot of humour while Ron and Ibrahim are fleshed out a lot more here than in the previous books. At the same time, Stephen‘s Alzheimer‘s is sensitively shown and is slowly becoming more heart breaking while the hint of a new Coopers Chase resident in the next book offers a lot of potential.

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The Wicked Cometh | Laura Carlin
Panpan

Laura Carlin‘s debut novel is a gothic historical thriller that effectively recreates the squalor of the 1830s but relies heavily on credibility-defying contrivance to drive the plot. The romance between Hester and Rebekah doesn‘t convince due to its ‘insta love‘ beginnings and the failure of either woman to question it in the context of the period. Ultimately this just wasn‘t for me and I can‘t say I‘d rush to read Carlin‘s other work.

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Tim Collins is an award-winning children‘s author of both fiction and non-fiction. This sensitive book (part of a series) guides readers aged 9+ through what happens when their parents split up and their emotional response to the same and Scott Garrett‘s illustrations complement the text well. However although there is good advice here I wanted some recognition of when a divorce is happening due to abuse due to the challenges it throws up.

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Anti-Racism | Arike Oke
Mehso-so

Arike Oke is the former Managing Director for Black Cultural Archives. This guide for readers aged 9+ on how to stop racism (illustrated by Scott Garrett) is well intentioned and good at describing the emotional effects of racism, bullying and micro aggressions but some of the metaphors on the dangerous effects of racism didn‘t quite work and the advice on how to counter it doesn‘t take into account structural racism within institutions.

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Our Tower | Joseph Coelho
Pickpick

Joseph Coelho and Richard Johnson‘s picture book for readers aged 6+ is a beautiful read that shows both the wonders of the natural world and the community within city tower blocks. Coelho brings an evocative lyricism to the text (although having stayed in a tower block, I did find myself having to suspend disbelief at times) while Johnson‘s illustrations are extraordinarily beautiful, using a muted palate to bring nature and city to life.

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My Perfect Cabin | Emmanuelle Mardesson
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Emmanuelle Mardesson‘s picture book (translated from French) is a thoughtful and informative look at the types of places where people around the world live. Sarah Loulendo‘s illustrations are excellent - rich in detail and expression and really conveying the landscape in which each type of cabin is set. It‘s a beautifully put together book that will make young readers think about the world around us and how people live.

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Mehso-so

Isabel Thomas is an award-winning science writer. This punchily written book for readers aged 9+ (illustrated by Alex Paterson) offers 50 ways to help save the planet, from increasing the amount of vegetables that you eat to reducing plastic consumption, recycling clothes and saving energy but seems written for more middle class readers and I can‘t see some of the suggestions (e.g. clothes swaps and giving up video games) being popular.

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Roger Hargreaves and Elizabeth Kilbey‘s picture book (part of the DISCOVER MORE ABOUT YOU SERIES) is a thoughtful guide for young readers about what to do if you feel worried or anxious and although it doesn‘t have a lot of the trade mark MR MEN AND LITTLE MISS silly humour, it‘s very reassuring and shows a lot of sympathy to the type of concerns that young readers have. As such, it‘s definitely worth your time.

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Ijeoma Oluo is a journalist and best-selling author. This book draws on US history to provide a devastating examination of the USA‘s systems which created and reinforce white, male mediocrity as a means of retaining white power. It is clearly written and makes a lot of interesting points but is very US-centric and although it discusses intersectionality at length, I wondered how much of this is grounded in patriarchy more than in race.

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A Hero Born | Jin Yong
Pickpick

This is the first ever English translation from Chinese of Jin Yong‘s classic historical fantasy tale of kung fu masters and evil empires by Anna Holmwood. Originally published in 1958 (the first in a quartet), it has an action-driven, energetic plot and although the portrayal of grumpy kung-fu masters seems stereotypical now, it was innovative at the time and there‘s a lot of fun to be had in seeing the various masters compete with each other.

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Mehso-so

Serhii Plokhy is Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University, director of its Ukrainian Research Institute and a leading authority on Eastern Europe. This book, written after Russia‘s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Donbas and Luhansk, examines Russian history to explain its nationalistic view of Ukraine but although it‘s informative, you need a background in the subject to keep up with Plokhy‘s arguments and at times I was left confused.

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IReadThereforeIBlog
The Carnival of Ash | Tom Beckerlegge
Mehso-so

Tom Beckerlegge‘s alternative historical novel has beautiful imagery and grounds the fictional city of Cadenza with an authentic sense of place. I enjoyed the conceit of dividing the city‘s overarching story between 12 individual stories (or Cantos), but too many lacked a resolution (notably the one about the Ink Maiden Hypatia) and while some characters appear in multiple Cantos, none of them are as well developed as they could be.

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Mehso-so

Ian Black is a visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and former Middle East editor for The Guardian. Published in 2017 to coincide with the Balfour Declaration‘s centenary (although the book begins in 1882 and the arrival of Zionist settlers), this book provides a plain facts account of the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that explains what happened but doesn‘t elucidate on why, leaving me with half the story.

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Panpan

Roger Hargreaves and Elizabeth Kilbey‘s picture book (part of the DISCOVER MORE ABOUT YOU SERIES) is a misfire as it lacks a lot of the MR MEN AND LITTLE MISS silly humour, Mr Bump is under-used and it confuses resilience and persistence. I needed a scene where Mr Bump explains to Little Miss Brave why it‘s important to keep going and how he keeps going even when he‘s hurt himself. As such, it‘s okay but, for me, doesn‘t achieve what it wants to

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Mandy Archer is an editorial director and experienced writer of children‘s books. This board book for readers aged 3+ (part of a series) uses sympathetic illustrations by Louise Forshaw to explain to readers why feeling worried or anxious is perfectly normal and how it‘s important to talk about any worries that you have. The flaps add a fun element to the book and there‘s a little game for readers at the end to test them on what they‘ve read.

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Be Climate Clever | Amy Meek, Ella Meek
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Amy and Ella Meek founded Kids Against Plastic in 2016 to tackle plastic waste. This informative book for readers aged 7+ (illustrated by Sarah Goodreau) uses interviews with campaigners and scientists to explain the science of climate change, debunk climate skeptic arguments while advising readers who want to become activists but I wish the Meeks had used examples (particularly failures) from their own campaign to motivate readers.

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Cixin Liu‘s award winning SF novel (the first in a trilogy) rises above dull characterisation and inconsistencies in plotting in part due to excellent translation by Ken Liu (who provides some context via footnotes), but also by the way the story uses both the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and the three-body problem from orbital mechanics to ground the rest of the plot. It held my attention but I don‘t know if I would automatically read on.

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Mehso-so

Katie and Kevin Tsang‘s SF adventure for readers aged 6+ (the first in a series) has a lot of set-up, which distorts the pacing, and hand waves over how Suzie has found herself in a TV show that‘s actually real. That said there is a lot of humour, it conveys how cool science and inventions are (provides bonus facts for readers), Amy Nguyen‘s illustrations are lively and fun and there‘s a lot of potential for future books, which I would check out.

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The Uncounted | Alex Cobham
Mehso-so

Alex Cobham is an economist and chief executive of the Tax Justice Network. This deep dive into failures in collating economic and demographic data argues that official figures are skewered against society‘s most disadvantaged and increase inequality, which is further exacerbated by multinational tax avoidance. However, the tone here assumes familiarity with the underlying subject matter and is quite academic, making it difficult to get into.

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Silk Fire | Zab Ellor
Panpan

Zabé Ellor‘s debut novel mixes fantasy and SF with LGBTQ+ characters and erotic romance to dull effect. There are too many ideas for the storyline to be coherent or gripping and the self-pitying Koré swerves between seeing sex work as a salvation and as something done by broken people. Twists are telegraphed far too early, the antagonists are caricatures and I simply didn‘t get what Ria or Faziz see in Koré beyond the physical.

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Lost in the City | Alice Courtley
Pickpick

Alice Courtley‘s self-illustrated picture book is a celebration of the life and diversity that can be found within cities while also acknowledging how overwhelming they can be. Maya‘s relationship with her Gran is warmly depicted and I liked the little game you play where you have to spot where Sammy is. The illustrations are bold and have a lot of diversity and I enjoyed how Courtley highlights some of the different things to do.