Book Review: I Just Want to Be Loved by Casey Watson

Hi everyone. Like I said when writing my reading wrap-up last week, Casey Watson had a new foster care memoir out. Actually, it came out in mid-April already but I didn’t find out until a few weeks ago. Even though I was worried that Apple Books might mess with the book, I decided to buy it anyway and guess what? It was fine! Here’s my review.

Summary

After taking a few weeks off work, Casey is presented with a new foster child: 14-year-old Elise, whose Mum left her at just five years old.

At first, she’s no trouble at all, that is until she falsely accuses another carer, Jan, of acting inappropriately towards her. It turns out this isn’t the first lie Elise has told – her previous carer was constantly following up allegations Elise had made of people bullying her, trying to have sex with her, or hurting her physically. With some reservations, Casey agrees to take Elise on long-term, but when she makes some dark claims about her mum, Casey doesn’t know whether to believe her. In any case, she is determined to find out the truth…

My Review

As regular readers of this blog will know, I love foster care memoirs. I especially love reading about older children and teens, as their personalities are usually more formed, for the obvious reason, than those of young children. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Elise at first: she seems really shallow. This does get me wondering whether this book is going to be boring. But the exact opposite is true.

Most foster care memoirs aren’t too fast-paced and I can usually see the twists coming. This one, though, was far from predictable. Since the chapters also didn’t have titles, I couldn’t guess what was coming from there.

The story was written in such a manner that I kept going along with the characters’ emotions. As such, at first, I felt like Elise, much like the teen in one of Casey’s other books was quite difficult, to the point where, if she’d been an adult, she’d be diagnosed with some cluster B personality disorder. Of course, this makes the dramatic change in Elise’s behavior after her disclosures hard to believe, but then again she’s a teen, not a grown-up.

Overall, I found this story really evocative and gave it a solid five stars. I liked it at least as much as the one I linked above, which I also gave five stars.

Book Details

Title: I Just Want to Be Loved
Author: Casey Watson
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: April 14, 2022

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.

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

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

Reading Wrap-Up (April 12, 2021) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. It’s a cold, windy and rainy Monday here. Perfect for reading. Not that I’ve done a huge amount of it, but I’d still like to join in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? or #IMWAYR. Let me share some of my bookish thoughts.

Life Update

I’m feeling okay today. Not bad, not great. I am loving looking through my tons of writing prompts, but none seem to inspire me right now. That is, I did open the app Drafts on my iPhone again yesterday and discovered a number of freewrites and poems I’d written. That did inspire me a little.

What I’m Currently Reading

Well, honestly, too many books to count. I’ve mostly been reading bits here and there and then putting down a book again.

I picked up the second book in the Church Dogs of Charleston series by Melissa Storm a few weeks ago, as it was free. It’s a cute read.

Then I’m still reading The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. I finally read a bit in this novel again a few days back, but well, I don’t think I’m in the mood for complicated adult novels at this point.

Finally, I was somehow interested in reading abuse survivor memoirs again, so downloaded the preview of You are Mine by Isabelle Eriksson. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to buy the actual book.

I’ve also been paging through a ton of books on journaling, but I don’t think that counts as actual reading.

What I Recently Finished Reading

I got Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart off Bookshare in an impulse a few weeks ago and raced through it. I wrote a review last Tuesday.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

Both Casey Watson and Maggie Hartley have a foster care memoir out this Thursday, so probably one of those. I also have been asking around in a Christian book group on Facebook about realistic contemporary fiction. I got a lot of replies and am still sorting through them, so I may want to buy a book by one of the recommended authors.

What have you been reading lately?

#IWSG: Favorite Genres to Read

IWSG

Welcome to another installment in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) meeting. This past month, I’d set my expectations pretty high and, as such, was disappointed. I participated in #Write28Days with the aim of writing each day. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work out. I wrote 23 posts over the month of February. I also didn’t really broaden my horizons with respect to writing. That is, most of my posts were securely within my comfort zone. I really hope to be doing better this month.

Now on to the March 3 question: Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

Let me begin by saying my writing comfort zone is pretty narrow. I mostly write personal essays, if that’s even what my blog posts can be called. I would really like to write a memoir at some point, but I’ve been telling myself and others that for many years and yet never got down to actually doing it.

When I do write creatively, it’s usually poetry or very short pieces of flash fiction. I used to write some short stories and even have a young adult novel that I started writing as a teen yet never finished and that’s incredibly unimaginative I think.

My reading preferences do partly match my writing preferences, in that my favorite genre to read is memoir. Next to that comes young adult fiction about real problems, like the aforementioned work in progress also is.

I also read books that I couldn’t possibly be writing myself. Oh wait, I can’t really write a book at all, but oh well. I mean, I’ve recently developed an interest in science fiction and the like. I also occasionally read romance novels.

I rarely if ever read traditionally published poetry. That being said, I do love to read poems published on other people’s blogs. Same for personal essays and flash fiction. I mean, I’ve read a few books that were basically anthologies of personal essays, but I prefer to check out blogs for those.

With respect to what motivates my reading choice, I’m a true mood reader. I read a pretty wide variety of books, but they have to suit my mood at that time. I usually choose books based on the blurb. I can’t see the covers, obviously and I rarely read reviews on Amazon or Apple Books. When I do read reviews, it’s on other people’s blogs.

What about you? What motivates your reading choice?

Book Review: A Life Lost by Cathy Glass

Already some months ago, I found out about Cathy Glass’ new foster care memoir, A Life Lost. It didn’t come out till February 18 though and I never pre-order books. I waited for the release date and then immediately bought the eBook on Apple Books. Even though I was reading several other books, I gave priority to this one. I finished it yesterday. Today, I’m ready for a review.

Summary

Jackson is aggressive, confrontational and often volatile. His mother, Kayla, is crippled with grief after tragically losing her husband and eldest son.
Struggling to cope, she puts Jackson into foster care.

Cathy, his carer, encourages Jackson to talk about what has happened to his family, but he just won’t engage. His actions continue to test and worry everyone.

Then, in a dramatic turn of events, the true reason for Jackson’s behaviour comes to light …

My Review

This is a remarkable story. I had already read several of Cathy Glass’ other foster care memoirs, so already knew I liked her writing style. However, some of the books are a bit too predictable for my liking. This one wasn’t. It wasn’t too suspenseful for my liking either. In fact, Cathy used the exact right balance between tension and predictability. For this reason, I had some idea of the reason for Jackson’s behavior, but it still came as enough of a surprise.

This story is not just about Jackson, but also about Tilly, another child in Cathy’s care. I hadn’t read Cathy’s previous book, A Terrible Secret, which introduces Tilly, but I didn’t feel I was missing information. Cathy takes care to explain enough that each memoir can be read as a standalone and yet keeps her explanations brief enough that it doesn’t get boring if you’ve read many of her other books.

One thing that made me feel a little uncomfortable, but in a good way, was the story’s ending. It is sad, but then again sadness is part of life.

I totally loved this story and gave it five stars on Goodreads. I really hope this isn’t Cathy Glass’ last memoir.

Book Details

Title: A Life Lost: Jackson Is Haunted by a Secret from His Past
Author: Cathy Glass
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: February 18, 2021

Book Review: Let Me Go by Casey Watson

Last week, I found out Amazon.nl now accepts iDEAL, the Dutch payment method via your bank account. Unfortunately, as of yet, it doesn’t accept this method for digital purchases such as Kindle books. I didn’t realize this until I had already bought a book with my husband’s credit card. Honestly, I think it’s stupid that they won’t accept iDEAL for digital purchases, but oh well. Anyway, looking back maybe I should’ve purchased a book that isn’t on Apple Books, but I ended up purchasing Let Me Go, Casey Watson’s latest foster care memoir. This book came out last August, but I wasn’t really interested in reading it up till now. Read on to see what I thought.

Summary

Let Me Go is the powerful new memoir from foster carer and Sunday Times bestselling author Casey Watson.

Harley, 13, has been sectioned under the mental health act after attempting suicide. She was spotted climbing the railings on a footbridge that crossed a busy motorway and pulled to safety by a member of the public. After six weeks in hospital, social services are looking for a short-term placement so she can be kept safe while family therapy takes place. Harley has a family – a widowed mother and an older sister, Milly, who left home with her long-term boyfriend just over a year ago. There is no prospect of Harley going home just yet though, as her mum, who has learning difficulties and addictions issues, feels she cannot cope. So she arrives with Casey and Mike under a twenty-eight day care order.

As Harley tries to hurl herself out of the moving car on the way home, it quickly becomes clear she is in urgent need of help. Three weeks into the placement, after Harley has made various attempts to abscond, it seems like zero progress is being made. Then all of sudden there is an unexpected breakthrough, and light at the end of a long dark tunnel, but only once Harley is finally able to share the truth about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a very dangerous man.

My Review

This book is a sad look into the errors of the care system. Harley is deemed “care-seeking” (the politically correct term for attention-seeking) by the mental health professionals and is, for this reason, refused mental health care even though she’s clearly at risk. I mean, I honestly don’t feel that anyone in their right mind would make multiple even half-hearted attempts at suicide. In fact, I’m so happy the mental health system here in the Netherlands at least allowed care based on “adjustment disorder” (serious distress due to environmental circumstances) back in my day. It doesn’t anymore, unfortunately.

I was, at first, convinced Harley was at least at risk of developing emotionally unstable (borderline) personality disorder. This can’t be diagnosed in children her age, but it sure seemed she would meet the criteria at some point. BPD is, though, usually a trauma-based condition. So is Harley’s condition, as it turns out.

I had lots of sympathy for Harley, even as Casey and Mike almost lost it with her. This is in part due to the similarities between her experience and mine, but also due to Casey’s caring writing style.

Still, the book dragged a little at first. That’s probably to illustrate how little progress was made at first. Once Harley’s real situation is clear, things after all move more quickly.

At the end, Casey explains some of the issues with the 28-day care order. This was really interesting to read.

Overall, I really loved this book. I should’ve read it as soon as it came out.

Book Details

Title: Let Me Go: Abused and Afraid, She Has Nothing to Live for
Author: Casey Watson
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: August 6, 2020

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