Secret Lives – Diane Chamberlain – 2010 – Contemporary fiction

Secret Lives: Chamberlain, Diane: 8601200583113: Books

Goodreads Summary:

From the author of Lovers and Strangers, a powerful, compelling Southern novel about family secrets. An Oscar-winning actress returns to her native Virginia to script the story of the famous mother she barely knew, but she gets more than she bargained for when her uncle presents her with her mother’s private journals.

My Thoughts:

The novel mainly follows Eden’s storyline although we also get her mother’s story through the diary entries in the journal Eden’s uncle gives her.

Eden’s mother, Kate, was my favourite character in the novel. My favourite parts in Diane Chamberlain’s books are (almost) always those taking place in earlier time periods and I loved reading Kate’s journal. I didn’t want to leave Kate behind when I finished the story which is something I don’t personally often feel in books.

I loved reading about Kate and Kyle’s relationship in Kate’s diary. Although I could tell quite early where it would end up (I think because I know Chamberlain’s style so well!) I loved reading about the bittersweet journey they went on together, trying to become more independent yet also being totally dependent on each other for their emotional survival.

On the other hand, I found Eden quite a passive character. Although Kate suffers from agoraphobia she tries to take control when she can, whereas I felt like Eden just let things happen to her. Aside from finding out things from her mother’s past, I don’t think Eden really has much development between the first chapter and the last.

I really enjoyed reading Ben’s storyline – as we meet him he is being ostracised by friends after being in prison, and we learn about the crime he supposedly committed – I do think it was quite a heavy subject to have as a sideline story, so I wish there’d been a bit more time spent on it (or even a separate book!)

The time period of this book is quite interesting – although the majority portion takes place in the 90s, Kate’s journal begins in the 40s and that’s a vital part of why the story works because of her mental health struggles and the relationships she has around her. Had Kate’s story taken place in modern times, I don’t think her life would have gone the direction it does.

I gave this book 4/5 stars. I’m a big fan of Diane Chamberlain’s so I loved this book but it’s one of her earlier stories and you can tell her writing hadn’t reached its full potential here so I’d recommend her newer books if you’re not familiar with her.

On the front line with the women who fight back

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I thought the stories in this book were fascinating – Stacey really highlights some incredible women here, as well as in her documentaries and I learned a lot about issues going on that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

Although I enjoyed all of the book, the most interesting chapter to me was about the issue of femicide in Honduras. It is horrifying to me that this is going on in the 21st century, and it is something that doesn’t get talked about in UK media – almost like the British media either don’t care or don’t want to look culturally insensitive by questioning machismo. I’m so glad Stacey highlights issues like this.

I also like that Stacey gives her opinions on these subjects, but also doesn’t claim to be an expert. She has a view based on the people she’s met and her research around the issues, but the book has enough information that you can make your own opinion about how you feel.

Stacey comes across as a genuine and honest person in this book – I think that part of what people love about her is that she feels like someone who could live on your street or could be a colleague, she’s so down to earth.

I went to see Stacey talking about this book at the Sage Gateshead and I think it really added to my enjoyment. Hearing her talk about her experiences in more depth made me really excited to read the book, and I love that she always comes across in the same way whether in her book, documentaries or live.

If I had to pick a flaw with the book I’d say the chapter on Trans prostitution didn’t feel as comfortable as the other chapters – some of the women were referred to as looking masculine, or else that having intercourse with a trans woman was not as straight as having sex with a cisgender women – I don’t think the chapter was necessarily transphobic, but it didn’t feel as well-written as the rest of the book.

I gave the book 5/5. I love Stacey Dooley and hearing her experiences, both at her talk and in this book really highlighted a lot of issues women are still going through in 2020.

Winter Wonderland Book Tag

Winter is well and truly here – I’ve drank more hot chocolate than anything else these last few weeks, and I’m already dying for Summer! Today I am doing the Winter Wonderland book tag – I’m not sure who the original creator was as their video has been removed from youtube, but these are some cute winter questions to get me excited about reading!

1. What book is so happy and sweet that it warms your heart?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Eleanor is such a sweet character and I love her story of finding friendship, it’s uplifting while dealing with difficult topics.

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2. What is your favourite book with a white cover?

Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King

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3. You’re sitting in a nice comfy chair, wearing a onesie, with a lovely warm hot chocolate but what MONSTER read are you reading?

It by Stephen King: Two SKs in one tag! But this is a monster book in several meanings and it’s taking a long while to work my way through – hot chocolate would definitely help with the creepy parts.


4. It started snowing so you decided to have a snowball fight! What fictional character would you love to have the snowball fight with?

Fred and George Weasley: Who wouldn’t want a snowball fight with the twins? They’d be so fun!

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5. Sadly, your fire is beginning to go out. So what book would you tear the last few chapters out to throw into the fire?

This is a hard question! Probably P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. This was such a strong book, but the ending just fell flat for me. I wanted it to go in a particular direction, and Holly’s position at the end of the book just felt a bit anti-climactic.

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6. What book is so close to your heart that you would gift to someone this Christmas who hasn’t read before but wants to get into reading?

I never get to buy books as presents because none of my family like reading much, so if I were to buy them a book it would either be something non-fiction or with beautiful pictures.

Mr Loverman – Bernardine Evaristo – 2013 – LGBT Contemporary

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Goodreads Summary

Barrington Jedidiah Walker.
Barry to his friends.
Trouble to his wife.

Seventy-four years old, Antiguan born and bred, flamboyant Hackney personality Barry is known for his dapper taste and fondness for retro suits.

He is a husband, father and grandfather.

And for the past sixty years, he has been in a relationship with his childhood friend and soulmate, Morris.

Wife Carmel knows Barry has been cheating on her, but little does she know what is really going on. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington has big choices to make.

Mr LovermanĀ is a groundbreaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies, and shows how deep and far-reaching the consequences of prejudice and fear can be. It is also a warm-hearted, funny and life-affirming story about a character as mischievous, cheeky and downright lovable as any you’ll ever meet.


My favourite character was Morris – I loved finding out more about him, although I think the story would be so different if it was from his perspective. In particular I love the scene of him in the gay bar as you can tell he is so ready to explore that part of himself as a proud out gay man.

The story is told from Barry’s point of view. I think one of the strengths of the book is how Barry develops from quite a misogynistic, almost homophobic guy to being able to confront things he’s kept hidden all his life. It’s great to read a book with elderly protagonists – I rarely read anything with MCs above 40!
I loved the way Evaristo switched between eras in Barry’s life to show how he has gotten to where he is in his 70s. The way she describes both eras and places is very expressive, almost as if you are there in the moment with Barry – I sometimes struggle to visualise settings in books but she was so expressive, yet never overdoing it.
I loved the way the book ended – at the start of the book I really didn’t like Barry and I wasn’t sure whether to continue reading but as I continued the book got better and better. The final chapter is beautiful because it sums up Barry and Morris’ relationship, including all the flaws but still gave me an uplifting feeling.

One part of the book I wasn’t as keen on was the chapters from Carmel’s perspective. At first I couldn’t understand why Evaristo had included them as I found Carmen an unsympathetic character, but even as I understood her motives more I didn’t like the style they were written in, which was quite free-form.
I gave the book 5/5. I think this is such an important novel for the LGBT canon because it’s not often you read about m/m romances in such a realistic way in that time frame or from characters of colour.

Halloween Recommendations


Goosebuds – 3 guys talk about Goosebumps books – it’s hilarious because they rip into the books while remaining a certain fondness that you have for stuff you loved as a kid but know is a bit crap.

Books in the Freezer – For book recommendations in the horror genre

Underwood and Flinch – If you hated Twilight as a teen and wanted a much more interesting vampire, check out this podcast novel about Underwood the vampire and his manservant Flinch.


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Bird Box –
Josh Malerman
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The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
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Come Closer – Sara Gran
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The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
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The Shining – Stephen King
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Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King


For kids (or scaredycats!): Coraline, Hotel Transylvannia, Frankenweenie

Something a bit stronger!: It: Chapter 1 (I’m obsessed with this fandom!) Orphan (Isabelle Fuhrman is amazing as Esther), The Sixth Sense (remember your tissues), The Others (my favourite ghost story)

Classics everyone should see: Halloween (Michael Myers = Halloween) The Birds (underrated Hitchcock), Scream (This film is so bad but that’s the point…)

Youtube Channels (Basically my favourite creepypasta channels!)


Horror faves from my 90s childhood

Films: Scooby Doo on Zombie Island (I loved the fact that they were real monsters, not just people in masks!)

Books: Goosebumps (I loved Say Cheese and Die, Werewolf Skin, The, A Night in Terror Tower and The Ghost Next Door). Then as I got older I moved onto Point Fear – I got an audiobook of Funhouse from the library once and I was so freaked out by it.)

TV: Goosebumps (again… I loved those crappy shows) and Are you Afraid of The Dark? (my favourite one I remember was The Tale of The Prom Queen – so American!)

Idol: Wednesday Addams. I loved her and every year I dressed as her for trick or treating.

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So there you have it! Let me know your Halloween favourites down below.