Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by Maggie Hartley

Late last month, carol anne of Therapy Bits shared about some audiobooks she’d pre-ordered with the credits she’d gotten for Christmas I believe. One of the books she had ordered was Maggie Hartley’s latest foster care memoir, Behind Closed Doors. I initially misunderstood and thought the book was already out, so I tried to get it on Apple Books, but then found out it wouldn’t be out till January 6. I never pre-order books honestly, so this Thursday, it was time for me to buy it and I started reading it right away. Here’s my review.

Summary

Foster carer Maggie Hartley is finally enjoying a well-earned holiday from fostering, savoring time with her brand new baby granddaughter. One night, though, the peace and quiet is interrupted by an urgent call from Social Services. A man has been stabbed, and Social Services need to find an emergency placement for his little girl.

Maggie is used to children arriving on her doorstep at all times of the day and night, but nothing can prepare her for the sight of eleven-year-old Nancy. The little girl arrives in her pajamas, covered in blood, and mute with shock. With her mother missing and her father in intensive care, the police are desperate for answers.

Who stabbed Nancy’s father? Where is her mother? And what is Nancy hiding about her seemingly perfect family? The longer Maggie spends with her little girl, the clearer it becomes that all is not as it seems. Can Maggie discover the terrible truth of what’s been happening behind closed doors?

My Review

This story was very interesting. I loved learning about Nancy’s life and her apparently perfect family. As with most foster care memoirs I’ve read, the plot was on the predictable side, though it did have afew twists I didn’t see coming. I tend not to mind predictable stories though, but if you’re a fan of fast-paced books with lots of twists, this isn’t the right book (or genre) for you.

The characters, on the other hand, were very well-rounded. I liked how Maggie showed each person’s positive as well as negative sides. I loved how Nancy’s perspective of her family and what a normal, loving marriage is like developed over time.

I did get slightly annoyed at Maggie’s writing style occasionally, which was my reason for initially giving the book a four-star rating on Goodreads. Then I felt pressured by the community and changed it to a five-star rating. I want half stars!

Book Details

Title: Behind Closed Doors
Author: Maggie Hartley
Publisher: Seven Dials
Publication Date: January 6, 2022

bookworms monthly linky

Reading Wrap-Up (January 10, 2022) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. The year has been off to a good start in the reading department. Like I said when sharing my hopes for 2022, I fully intend on getting back into the reading groove. So far, it all seems to be going magical. Let me share what I’ve been reading recently. As usual, I’m linking up with #IMWAYR.

What I’m Currently Reading

First, somehow, I can’t remember exactly how but I believe it was through Goodreads, I stumbled upon A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult. The endings of the two Picoult books I’ve read before, My Sister’s Keeper and Handle With Care, were horribly disappointing, but I still loved her writing style enough that I want more. A Spark of Light is also a shorter read compared to her other books still on my TBR shelf, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Then, on Thursday, Maggie Hartley’s latest foster care memoir, Behind Closed Doors, came out as an eBook. I immediately bought it on Apple Books and am 81% done with it now. That’s pretty far considering I haven’t been totally engrossed in it.

Finally, yesterday, in response to #JusJoJan, I saw a post talking about a book on unicorns. It immediately inspired me to want to read a children’s book on unicorns too. I chose a book suited for slightly older children than this blogger’s granddaughter’s read, although I may read My Secret Unicorn at some point too. I decided to read the first installment in the Unicorn University series by Daisy Sunshine. This book is called Twilight, Say Cheese!. I am not yet done with the book, but am hoping to finish it later tonight.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Nothing. The most recent book I finished was Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor just before Christmas. I finished that book in one sitting, but only because it was such a short read. I enjoyed it and was intrigued by it, but I didn’t think it was as amazing as other people had said it was. I blame that on the fact that I’m not that much of a literary critic.

I still have a number of books I’m currently reading that I started way back in the first half of 2021, like After the Cure by Deirdre Gould. However, I’m quite likely not finishing those.

What I think I’ll Read Next

I am planning on reading some more chapter books on magical creatures. I currently have the first book in the Mermicorn Island series by Jason June, forgot its title, downloaded off Bookshare and am probably going to read that as soon as I finish the Daisy Sunshine chapter book. Either that or the next installment in her series.

I feel a little weird for reading mostly chapter books right now, but I’m trying to counter that with the argument that I’m not a literary critic after all. For this reason, reading doesn’t have to be a chore. Rather, I read for pleasure and that’s what matters.

Song Lyric Sunday: Kitchen

Hi everyone. It’s been forever since I took part in Song Lyric Sunday, but today, I wanted to. Today’s prompt is house/room/shower/kitchen/attic. This wasn’t as easy as it initially seemed. I mean, I know a ton of songs about “home”, but “home” isn’t necessarily the same as “house”.

Then, I was tempted to share that famous Venga Boys song. You know, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, I want you in my room? I was a little too old for this music at thirteen when the Venga Boys were popular, but still I liked them more than my younger sister did and this song was definitely a guilty pleasure.

I finally decided to check out one of my favorite country singers, Bobby Bare, on Spotify and see if he had any songs that fit the prompt. Then, I quite easily stumbled upon Singin’ in the Kitchen. I’d honestly never heard this song before and I don’t really like it now that I have, but I like Bobby Bare and am guessing this isn’t a song many others would come up with, so…

Song Title: Singin’ in the Kitchen
Singer: Bobby Bare
Songwriter: Shel Silverstein

Shall we do it? (Shall we do it?)
Okay this is, uh (no, I think we shouldn’t)
Is everybody ready now? (Yeah!) Okay!
Here we go singin’ in the kitchen, all together now, singin’ in the kitchen
Everybody singin’ in the kitchen, bangin’ on the pots and pans
Mommy and daddy singin’ in the kitchen, baby laughin’, singin’ in the kitchen
All the kids singin’ in the kitchen, bangin’ on the pots and pans
Supper’s done and the table’s clear, baby wants a bottle and I want a beer
Lord I sure am glad I’m here where there’s lots of love to share
And I clap hands and everybody sings, dishes cling and the banjo rings
There’s gravy on these guitar strings but I don’t really care
‘Cause here we are singin’ in the kitchen, all together now, singin’ in the kitchen
Everybody singin’ in the kitchen, bangin’ on the pots and pans
I’ll play the comb and you’ll play the spoons
I’ll sing the words and you’ll sing the tunes
We’ll wake up the old man in the moon ’cause we sing so loud (yeah)
I’ll hug ya all and you’ll hug mother, snuggle up close to one another
Just like bread on a piece of butter, Lord it makes me feel so proud
‘Cause here we are singin’ in the kitchen, all together now, singin’ in the kitchen
Everybody singin’ in the kitchen, bangin’ on the pots and pans
Now the fireplace embers are glowin’ red, everybody’s tired and it’s time for bed
Baby’s noddin’ his little sleepy head so let’s sing quiet now, shh!
What do we love? (Singin’ in the kitchen) can’t get enough (singin’ in the kitchen)
Whole lotta love (singin’ in the kitchen) bangin’ on the pots and pans
Mommy and daddy (singin’ in the kitchen) a little bitty baby (singin’ in the kitchen)
All the kids (singin’ in the kitchen) bangin’ on the pats and pans, shh!
Everybody singin’ in the kitchen, bangin’ on the pots and pans
Yeah, mommy and daddy singin’ in the kitchen, baby laughin’, (singin’ in the kitchen)
All the kids singin’ in the kitchen, bangin’ on the pots and pans

Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

Hi all. I finally picked up reading again last week and for a change didn’t start yet another new book. Rather, I finished a book I’d been reading for a few months already: the young adult novel A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel. I’d first heard about this book about half a year ago on another blog and immediately downloaded it off Bookshare. Now that I’ve finished reading it, here’s my review.

Summary

Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

My Review

This story is told entirely from Hannah’s perspective and that makes it a very intriguing read. At the beginning, I disliked Hannah, but rooted for her at the same time. Maybe because I can relate to her experience of, as she says it, having been “born mature” and trying to outsmart the world.

I also found that Dr. Lightfoot was a likeable character. As she tries to get it through to Hannah that she may in fact be mentally ill and Hannah tries to outsmart her, I can totally feel their dynamic and I find I’m alternatingly on either one’s side.

The book has some interesting twists that I won’t give away and, though I could see some of them coming, they were still surprising enough that the story didn’t feel predictable to me.

Sheinmel says at the end that this book isn’t meant to educate about mental illness. This may be one reason we don’t get any clarity about Hannah’s exact diagnosis. I, like most readers probably, can make a guess. Because of the lack of specifics though, I don’t really know whether Hannah’s is any good representation of the experience of severe mental illness. That’s the only thing I didn’t like about this book and the reason I ended up giving it a four-star rating. Other than that, I loved this book!

Book Details

Title: A Danger to Herself and Others
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Reading Wrap-Up (October 20, 2021)

Hi everyone on this rainy Wednesday. Today, I’m joining WWW Wednesday, a weekly book meme in which the three W’s are what we are currently reading, recently finished and are thinking of reading next. Here goes.

What I’m Currently Reading

I finally picked up After the Cure by Deirdre Gould again after several months of letting it sit there. I am slowly moving through it, but I’m determined to finish it. If for no other reason, I want to prove that I can finish a book that isn’t perfect or near-perfect. After all, when going through my Goodreads shelf, I realized I pretty much only give books I finish four or five stars.

What I Recently Finished Reading

The Bad Room by Jade Kelly. See my review. I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, but honestly it should’ve gotten 4.5 stars.

What I Think I’ll Read Next

I still have several books on my currently-reading shelf that I haven’t touched in a few weeks at least. That being said, I’m also very much interested in Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano, which a fellow blogger (sorry, can’t remember who) recommended recently.

Then there’s Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, which I discovered several months ago already but only recently decided to get my hands on. This is a young adult novel about a Black, queer, trans person’s journey of self-discovery. I really would’ve loved this as a teen, since one of the first lines of the book blurb says how Felix belongs to just a little too many minority groups. That would have been me! Well, I’m White and cisgender, but I belong to other minorities. But I digress.

Finally, I was drawn to check out The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda when I saw it on Sam’s original WWW post. All three of these books, I downloaded off Bookshare. I hope I’ll find myself finding more time and energy to read soon.

What have you been reading?

Book Review: The Bad Room by Jade Kelly

Last month, I somehow felt inspired to check out abuse survivor memoirs on Apple Books. I came across The Bad Room by Jade Kelly and it immediately appealed to me, so I decided to buy it. At first, I raced through it. Then, I fell into a reading slump. I finally finished the book yesterday.

Summary

After years of physical and mental abuse, Jade thought her kindly foster mother would be the answer to her prayers. She was wrong … this is her staggering true story.

‘This must be what prison is like,’ I thought as another hour crawled by. In fact, prison would be better … at least you knew your sentence. You could
tick off the days until you got out. In the Bad Room we had no idea how long we’d serve.

After years of constant abuse, Jade thought her foster mother Linda Black would be the answer to her prayers. Loving and nurturing, she offered ten-year-old Jade a life free of fear.

But once the regular social-worker checks stopped, Linda turned and over the next six years Jade and three other girls were kept prisoner in a bedroom
they called the ‘bad room’.

Shut away for 16 hours at a time, they were starved, violently beaten, forbidden from speaking or using the toilet and routinely humiliated. Jade was left feeling broken and suicidal.

This is the powerful true story of how one woman banished the ghosts of her past by taking dramatic action to protect the life of every vulnerable child
in care.

My Review

I was pulled in to this book right from the start. The prologue was captivating! It immediately painted a picture of what life was like in the Bad Room. Then, as Jade describes her life before being taken into foster care, the story gets slightly less fast-paced, but it’s still very intriguing.

Jade is very candid about her own faults. Like, when she’s first in care with Linda Black, she genuinely believes she is different from the other girls in care and she won’t end up being treated like them. She is also open about the moments she tells on or even lies about the others in order to (hopefully) be liked by Linda more. This shows that Jade isn’t a saint; she’s just trying to survive.

It is truly heartbreaking to see how social services fail Jade and the other girls time and time again despite the massive amounts of documentation on their case. I can relate to this in a way. For this reason, I feel that this story is very important reading material for social workers and foster carers in the UK and elsewhere. Thankfully, Jade survived to tell her story. Others may not be so lucky.

Book Details

Title: The Bad Room: Held Captive and Abused by My Evil Carer. A True Story of Survival
Author: Jade Kelly
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: June 25, 2020

Reading Wrap-Up (September 20, 2021) #IMWAYR

It’s been forever since I last did a reading wrap-up. The reason is the fact that I hardly did any reading over the summer. Over the past week or two though, I picked up some books again. Let me share what I’ve been reading. As usual, I’m joining It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? or #IMWAYR for short.

What I’m Currently Reading

First up is Thrive, the third book in the Overthrow trilogy by Kenneth Oppel. It already came out in May, but because its prequel, Hatch, had such a disappointing ending, I was reluctant to start reading this one. I’m still only 6% in.

Secondly, I may have mentioned starting A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel a few months back at the recommendation of another blogger. I am reading it at a slow pace, but I think I will finish it eventually. For those not aware, this is a young adult novel about a girl locked up in a mental hospital.

Lastly, the book that really got me back into the reading groove, is an abuse survivor memoir called The Bad Room by Jade Kelly. I started reading this on Thursday and am already at 28%. This seems like a fascinating read!

What I Recently Finished Reading

Uhm, nothing. Like I said, I hardly read anything at all over the summer. I still have six books on my currently-reading shelf on Goodreads and that doesn’t include Thrive as of yet. I’m a true multi-book girl or so it seems.

What I Think I’ll Read Next

Uhm, one of those books on my currently-reading shelf I didn’t read this past week, I guess. The good part about my not having read much at all over the summer, is the fact that I hardly read book blogs or Goodreads discussions either, so I didn’t add a ton of books to my TBR pile. In fact, I’ve also for the most part stopped checking out the daily BookBub E-mail with book bargains. Over the past month, I’ve added just one free book recommended by them to my Apple Books. I did download a few books off Bookshare, but most of them are self-help books.

I did download the app Bookly, in which you can track your reading time and progress. However, I’m as of yet unwilling to pay for the subscription plan and the free plan offers hardly anything, so I deleted the app again. Instead, I’m tracking what I’m reading in my private diary.

What have you been reading lately?

Reading Wrap-Up (June 23, 2021)

Okay, I guess last Sunday’s post didn’t get me out of my writing rut. I did finally find the focus to read again though. I had started reading a book again a few weeks ago after a lot of slow reading in various books. Or rather, no reading at all even though I have a lot of books I’m in the middle of.

To celebrate the fact that I finally seem to be able to read semi-consistently again (my reading streak in Apple Books is twelve days), I’ll post a reading wrap-up. I’m joining in with WWW Wednesday.

What I’m Currently Reading

Still in the middle of The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. And My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. And After the Cure by Deirdre Gould. I think I may give up on that one, since it’s a pretty plot-dense story and there’s also a little too much profanity in it for my liking. All that being said, I’m not actually currently reading any of these books, since I spent the majority of the week trying to finish off the book I got into a few weeks ago.

What I Recently Finished Reading

For some still unknown to me reason, a few weeks ago, I was drawn to the books I’d downloaded for free thanks to BookBub. I still think I picked the one I chose pretty much at random but it was a good choice. The only reason I didn’t end up giving Once Gone (Riley Paige, #1) by Blake Pierce five stars on Goodreads, is that it’s my first traditional mystery read and I think others might be even better. I ended up giving it four stars.

What I Think I’ll Read Next

Probably another mystery. I have several of Blake Pierce’s other series starters downloaded for free. I might also check out one of the other books in the Riley Paige series.

In addition, I really need to start on Thrive (The Overthrow, #3) by Kenneth Oppel. The ending of Hatch was a little disappointing, which is why I’m not eager to start this one soon. However, I really want to finish the trilogy anyway. If for no other reason, then because it was my first read that wasn’t a standalone in a long time.

What have you been reading recently?

My Top Ten Favorite Inspirational Memoirs

Hi everyone! Today I’m joining in with Top Ten Tuesday (#TTT), a weekly book-related meme. Since I don’t read nearly as much as I would want to or as book bloggers do, I don’t participate in this meme that often. I love it though! Today its topic is a freebie, so I get to pick one. And you know, I’ve always wanted to share about my top favorite inspirational memoirs. Here goes, not in any particular order.

1. The Hospital by Barbara O’Hare. This is a truly gripping memoir by a woman who survived secret experimentation and sexual abuse in a children’s psychiatric hospital. I read it back in 2018 and still love love love it.

2. Who Will Love Me Now? by Maggie Hartley. This is my favorite foster care memoir by this author. I reviewed it last year.

3. Where Has Mummy Gone? by Cathy Glass. This is another foster care memoir. It is my absolute favorite Cathy Glass memoir, but I love many others. See my review.

4. Today I’m Alice by Alice Jamieson. This is a memoir of a woman with dissociative identity disorder. Since I have this condition too, I wanted to share at least one memoir by someone wiht DID and this is the most recently-published one I’ve read. It was still published back in 2010, but I think it’s still available.

5. Let Me Go by Casey Watson. Yet another foster care memoir. Can you tell I love this genre? I was almost going to make this list all about those. Let Me Go came out last year and I reviewed it back in October.

6. No Way Out by Kate Elysia. This is a truly gripping story. It deals with sex trafficking of young women in the UK. I was going to review this one last year too, but didn’t get down to it.

7. Finding Stevie by Cathy Glass. Yes, another Glass book. This one deals with a genderfluid teen who is being exploited online. I really liked it. See my review.

8. A Road Back from Schizophrenia by Arnhild Lauveng. I had to google its English title, as I read it in Dutch. I am not sure it’s still even available, but it was definitely a great read.

9. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. This is another older book which I read in its Dutch translation before I had access to Bookshare or eBooks. This is a memoir by an autistic person.

10. A Real Person by Gunilla Gerland. Okay, I’m getting annoying with my older books that I didn’t even read in English. Sorry. This was one of the first memoirs by an autistic person I read after being diagnosed myself.

Do you like memoirs? Any recommendations?

Book Review: A Sister’s Shame by Maggie Hartley

Hi everyone! I am pretty behind on my reading for the year, but am hoping to catch up over the coming months. I so far finished five books out of my goal of reading twenty in 2021. The most recent book I finished is A Sister’s Shame by Maggie Hartley. This book came out on April 15 and I immediately ordered it on Apple Books. I already finished it last Friday, but couldn’t find the time to review it until now.

Summary

Foster carer Maggie Hartley is used to all manner of children arriving on her doorstep, but nothing can prepare her for sisters Billy and Bo when they
arrive at her home. It is clear from the moment she sets eyes on them four-year-old Bo and seven-year-old Billy have clearly been subjected to unimaginable
neglect, and it takes all of Maggie’s skills as a foster carer to try to connect with the volatile little girls, who seem far younger than their years.

Over time, the little girls slowly emerge from their shells, and Maggie begins the difficult task of trying to gain their trust. But as time goes on, it
becomes clear that there is something much darker going on, something that will call into question everything Maggie has ever learned in all her years
as a foster carer…

My Review

Even despite the fact that the main issues in this book aren’t mentioned in the synopsis, I found this book to be on the predictable side. I could pretty quickly imagine what Billie and Bo had been and were still going through. As such, if you’re used to books with lots of twists and turns, this book isn’t for you. However, if you want to learn what fostering in the UK is really like, or if you’re interested in inspirational memoirs, this is a great book. I for one don’t really care for unexpected plot twists, so I didn’t mind the fact that this story is quite predictable. In fact, I loved to read about all the details that my imagination couldn’t fill in already.

I had only read one Maggie Hartley memoir before and that one was soon one of my favorite inspirational memoirs. That one, Who Will Love Me Now?, which I reviewed last August, deals with an older child. I usually like to read about older children more than about younger children, so that one was slightly more for me than this. However, I could definitely sympathize with Billie and Bo too, thanks to Hartley’s compassionate writing style. For this reason, I gave this book five stars on Goodreads too.

Book Details

Title: A Sister’s Shame
Author: Maggie Hartley
Publisher: Seven Dials
Publication Date: April 15, 2021