Knock Knock – Chris Merritt

 Knock Knock – Chris Merritt

Detective Inspector Dan Lockhart has seen his fair share of dead bodies in his life, as both a military man and as a police officer, so seeing the body of Natasha Mayston should not be all too surprising. Except Dan has seen this exact MO before, months prior the body of a sex worker is found in a one-star motel. However, that killer was caught and is being held awaiting trial. Dan believes they’ve caught the wrong man and that the real killer is only just getting started. He turns to psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help get inside the mind of the murderer and find a connection between these two women from different walks of life. When another body is found and Lexi fails to convince Dan’s team of her profile, she takes the hunt into her own hands, determined to prevent another murder no matter the risks involved.

Dan Lockhart is your quintessential leading man, a current Detective Inspector in London but with a tortured soul, searching for his wife who went missing without a trace a decade ago and nightmares from his time in the military. He is big, strong and reasonably attractive, as well as being a doting son. While in the military, his wife Jess goes missing one day and no one has seen or heard from her in ten years. Despite her family believing her to be deceased, Dan holds hope that she is out there somewhere and cannot bring himself to give up on her. Dan seeks out a private psychologist in an attempt to work through his trauma and builds a solid bond with Dr Green, eventually letting her in and trusting her- something he does not do easily.

Dr Lexi Green was born in Britain, however moved all around the United States with her military father. She relocates to her place of birth, working as a psychologist with the NHS in addition to seeing patients privately. She shares a flat with two other people and generally struggles to make ends meet. After a few weeks of working with Dan on his own issues, she is surprised when he calls on her help to try and build a profile on the person who has committed such violent murders. She is smart, tenacious and despite feeling out of her depth, Lexi continues to try and find clues she can follow to catch the killer and help Dan.

The relationship between Dan and Lexi was well portrayed, realistic and natural. Dan enjoys Lexi’s company, misses her when they have gone without contact and feels protective of her. He struggles with his developing feelings for Lexi, mainly guilt due to his missing wife. Lexi, in return, is unsure of her feelings as she desperately wants to help Dan and spend time with him but her position as his personal psychologist makes her question the validity of what she feels. The slow burn of their relationship moving from patient/client to colleagues and friends feels organic, there are no big declarations or romantic tropes. Just the natural progression of two people trying to navigate an evolving relationship. Author Chris Merritt is a master of storytelling and suspense, slowly building you to the point of obsession as you try and work out who the murderer is. The murders themselves are detailed enough that they’re realistic without being over the top gruesome and stand out compared to like written novels for originality. The motive is interesting and believable for everything you learn about the killer over the course of the book. It is so well crafted, switching smoothly and easily between points of view, making for a well-rounded narrative that keeps you guessing and second guessing yourself. While longer than a lot of thriller books these days, it never once felt long or like it needed to be over with, each page keeps you entranced and engaged. With modern day London as the backdrop, the stage is already well set, and Merritt builds on existing locations while not overwhelming those of us who have never been there. The characters, main and background, are all fleshed out with enough details to make you believe these people are actually walking around London not merely existing on the pages of a book. Merritt ties this story up perfectly and satisfyingly while teasing at future novels, leaving the reader eager for the next installment of Lockhart and Green. I know I will absolutely be waiting for the next one

Bad Girls With Perfect Faces – Lynn Weingarten

With just enough substance to fill out a single Netflix episode, Bad Girls with Perfect Faces left a lot to be desired in terms of being a satisfying read. Lack of world building, unique character voice and plot holes the size of a Volkswagon are contributing factors to this teen novel falling a bit flat.

Sasha has exactly one best friend in the world – Xavier. Though recently she has begun to feel like maybe there is more between them. Before she has a chance to express how she feels, Xavier’s ex-girlfriend Ivy resurfaces and forces her way back into his life. Knowing full well that Ivy is a cheat and manipulator, Sasha takes it upon herself to expose the real Ivy to her best friend and free him once and for all.

Sasha is a ‘good girl’ for the most part. Whilst her mother changes personality with each new boyfriend, Sasha much prefers her own company and is completely content with being alone. She has a job at a print store, is a good student and has exactly one best friend in the world, Xavier. They have a litany of inside jokes and are inseparable, particularly after Xavier suffers a harsh breakup. Sasha dedicates her days to just being present at his side while he nurses a broken heart,realizing that this boy she once thought of as ‘average’ is anything but. Sasha is quietly spoken and quietly confident, strong in any situation. She makes the decision to tell Xavier how she truly feels about him on the eve of his birthday, until Ivy saunters back into the picture demanding Xavier’sattention.

Xavier, while physically big and strong looking, comes across as quite weak. When Ivy breaks his heart, Xavier essentially takes to his bed for a month coping with, as he says, “pills to make him happy and pills to make him sleep.” He draws silly pictures and texts them to Sasha so she can write a goofy caption, is frequently described as sweet and enjoys their mutual oddities. After having Sasha colour his hair blue, they go out for a drink to celebrate, despite being underage, and run into Ivy. He willingly leaves with her, abandoning Sasha without so much as a goodbye, to spend the night with Ivy.

Ivy is basically horrible; she does not appear to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever. She seems to be nice to her best friend Gwen at times, though indifferent at best. Xavier appears to be little more than a conquest to her, she revels in getting him to bend to her will. At the bar she merely crooks her finger and has Xavier following her to “their spot” in the woods, though he is fully aware she has brought other guys there with the sole purpose of having sex with them. She later sneaks him into her room, wakes him with sex for his birthday and then sends him on his way.

Sasha, feeling at a loss after being left behind, as well as quite a bit drunk, hatches the plan to set up a fake Instagram account with the sole purpose of proving to Xavier that Ivy is a cheat. Using old summer camp photos and a generic boy name, “Jake” is created and immediately requests to follow Ivy. Ivy and “Jake” begin to message frequently, moving to exchanging phone numbers in order to text. Despite her immense dislike of Ivy at the onset, she begrudgingly begins to feel like she is seeing what makes her tick, and that Ivy is in fact quite lonely. That is until their paths cross at a party and Ivy paints Sasha as a fool to Xavier. At this stage, in Sasha’s mind, all bets are off. She continues to suck Ivy into the Jake persona, asks repeatedly for assurances that she doesn’t have a boyfriend and eventually proposes to meet up at a local diner. Ivy readily agrees and Sasha is excited to confront her and get final proof for Xavier that Ivy isn’t all she makes out to be. Shortly before they are due to meet, Ivy contacts Jake via Instagram and alters their meeting location to her spot in the woods. From the “big reveal” onwards things spiral rapidly to the point of no return and big irrevocable decisions are made, altering the life courses of all involved.

This story is told through multiple points of view, though Xavier’s is the only one told in third person which felt disruptive to the overall flow of the book. Roughly midway through, an additional viewpoint is added, the chapters with this character’s narrative are untitled and it is shown merelyby the change of font, as well as the addition of random capitalized words. It is clearly done to demonstrate the frame of mind of the narrator but truly this could have been achieved without the jarring font changes. There was little to differentiate between Xavier and Sasha, neither character had a unique “voice” which is potentially why the author chose to use different tenses. There is a distinct lack of world building, with no clue to their actual geological location given until the latter half of the book. Aside from the colour of Xaviers hair, no one has any sort of intelligible physical description except Ivy. The interactions between Sasha and Xavier felt reasonably natural although a bit juvenile, though no one else really stands out. There is a fair amount of sex in this book,heavily implied but not described, as well as drinking and the use of drugs. It all comes across as very spoilt teenagers.

Unfortunately, no one seems to end up learning anything from the things they experience in the story, it has a very Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars feel to it – teenagers doing what they want with little to no adult oversight or repercussions for their actions. Considering what transpires in the book, being a series of spontaneous acts, it is hard to believe that they would seemingly just move on with their lives. None of the girls were particularly “bad” in the traditional, intentional senseand aside from “not classically attractive” Ivy, their faces weren’t really described so the title feels a bit off. There were no big “uh huh!” moments in this story, it just rolled along in a relatively plain way. Overall, the story concept was finethough not very original. It held my interest enough I kept turning the pages and it makes a decent quick YA read – the ideal filler book, but expectations for this book were much higher than what was delivered.

Such A Fun Age – Kiley Reid

I need to preface this entire review with this- I am like, white bread to the power of a million so I was a bit nervous to review this because one of the main themes of the book is race and I would hate to offend any people of colour due to my unintentional ignorance. So please, read on knowing that this is through the eyes of mayonnaise.

With the fun, flirty title you would be forgiven for assuming this was a lightweight book. Our story follows the lives of Emira, a young black woman struggling with who she wants to be in life and Alix, outwardly all together, successful and in control but constantly wanting to be more. Emira is 25, she has attended college and can type 125 words per minute. She has a tight friend group, a lot of self-confidence and absolutely zero idea what to do with her life. While her friends are making career strides and moving towards being “real adults,” to make ends meet in addition to two days a week of transcription work, she babysits for Alix. While there are two children to care for, Catherine is an infant, so the primary child is little Briar. Blonde hair, blue eyes with endless questions and anxiety, Briar is an absolute delight to read and will leave your heart aching come the final pages. The bond between Emira and Briar is incredibly pure, more mother and child than part time sitter to a charge.
Emira loves Briar and all her quirks, wanting to enrich her world and just love her.

Alix Chamberlain writes letters to get what she wants in life. When she was younger, she started to write to companies to get free things and would post about them online, building herself into a one- woman brand with the goal of empowering women. Preceding the birth of their second child, Alix and her husband, Peter, make the move from New York City to Pennsylvania. From the outside, or the little Instagram photos rather, Alix has her life together. Her husband is reasonably successful as a television anchor, they have a nice house and two little girls- baby Catherine and just turned three Briar. Using her lifetime of letters, Alix secures herself a book deal for them and hires Emira to regularly babysit- mainly Briar, so she can write. After Peter makes a remark on air with racist undertones, they find their house egged late one night, a broken window and the need to contact the police. Alix calls Emira and asks her to please take Briar for an hour or so, despite the late hour, so she doesn’t have to see the police. Emira agrees, explaining to Alix she has had two drinks and is not “dressed like a babysitter” due to being at the birthday of her friend. Alix absolutely does not care and just wants Briar out of the way so Emira makes her way to the Chamberlain house. At eleven at night this young, party ready young black woman takes Briar to a local supermarket to kill time. Briar likes to look at nuts and smell tea bags, so ideal place for her. Some impromptu dancing, a security guard, a concerned citizen and a monied white man with his camera on become the ingredients for an event that takes mere pages of the book but is the thing to knock this story onto a path I didn’t fully anticipate. It all felt utterly real, down to the way Emira brushed the entire event off and didn’t want it to become a “thing” in her life, because being slighted due to her skin tone is her everyday reality.

Alix, after hearing what transpired becomes fixated with Emira to the point of obsession, with Alix even acknowledging to herself that it is crush like. She tries to befriend her, takes to stealing glances at her phone to read her messages, justifying this to herself by saying she never tries to unlock the phone and ultimately seeing Emira as a project she is constantly thinking about. Her tolerance and
indifference to Briar is cleverly written. Her individual interactions with her eldest daughter as standalone moments don’t say much, but the further you read the more obvious it becomes. Briar is an inquisitive, talkative child with plenty of quirks and fixations. Described as having a raspy voice
and a never-ending supply of things to prattle on about, Alix, while I don’t doubt loves Briar,
struggles with her and favours baby Catherine blatantly who is content and quiet. Fundamentally, Alix isn’t a bad person, however she feels representative of a lot of white woman in similar circumstances, trying to be “woke,” (to borrow a term from today’s youths) yet is more concerned with how it makes her look than actually making strides towards any real world change. She doesn’t
think the of the end goal being; how does this help others, it all comes back to what Alix can get from it in some way, even though she doesn’t see it that way.

A pivotal part of this story rests heavily on an ever so slightly far-fetched coincidence when Emira’s boyfriend; white, successful and a handful of years older, turns out to be a person from Alix’s past. Alix is immediately dismayed by this revelation to the point that she doesn’t notice Briar becoming unwell, literally at the dinner table, due to being too caught up in her own thoughts, fixated on the idea that Kelley is only dating Emira because she is black. The interactions between Emira and Kelley felt authentic, with Kelley having genuine affection for Emira, and her for him in return. At one point she speaks of a future between them and how it would be for him, would he take their son to have his hair done, explain how to act around law enforcement simply because of his skin colour, things Kelley wouldn’t have experienced first-hand. Now, you can’t really discuss social class without talking about race but any issues with the progression of their relationship felt more about class than skin. Emira, about to be without health insurance and struggling to cover rent whilst there is Kelley who has a secure job with a fancy apartment in a good area. They are beyond living in different postcodes, they live in separate worlds with a very real monetary ravine between them.

As this book moves towards the final pages, we see Alix make bold decisions with real consequences for all involved when things don’t go, again, how she envisions. The grand finale felt a teensy bit out of pace with the rest of the book, just a touch more hurried though the circumstances are in fact quite fast paced due to what happens. Emira manages to hold her own, it isn’t a happily ever after in the traditional Disney sense (Briar will absolutely bruise your soul), but the way this book settles is authentic and satisfying.

Class and race walk hand in hand throughout this book, but never in a way that felt over the top or really thrust in your face. Kiley Reid has a unique way of telling a story, undoubtedly drawing on her own experiences as a nanny, in addition to being a woman of colour. It is fleshed out and complex without spelling out what you’re meant to think or feel, simply invoking genuine emotions. Her style of writing is so engaging this book is almost impossible to put down, flowing beautifully between dual point of views there is enough detail about the background characters that they didn’t feel flat, the dialogue is believable and appropriate for the different character interactions. However, the true magic here is how one event at the beginning of this tale, that when you read it feels like it can be its own whole different story, becomes the underpinning for so much more. From the first word to the last, this is a true triumph.

9.5/10 and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next

The Rise of Ferryn by Jessica Gadziala

Over a series of books set in the same world, we get to watch the character of Ferryn grow in the peripheral from an innocent child into a full of life, rebellious, yet still innocent teenager; until ultimately her world is brought to a crashing halt in the book “The Fall of V”. While The Fall cannot be read as a standalone, The Rise of Ferryn most definitely can be as there is enough past tense chapters to flesh out her background and it is set to be the beginning of a follow on next generation series. We start about 8 years after the events of ‘The Fall’ with Ferryn training extensively to reach her ultimate goal- turning her body and mind into a weapon so she can complete her personal mission of taking down sex traffickers. She allows herself next to no comforts in life aside from her weekly letter she writes to her mother back in her hometown of Navesink Bank.

One of the true talents of author Jessica Gadziala is her ability to build a world that is just so believable. Navesink Bank is where our hero reigns from and where criminal groups co-exist in relative harmony. While that sounds utterly impossible to happen in real life, the way she gently weaves the community together throughout each story gives it a genuine feel. There are ‘Fixers,’ private investigators, gun-running bikers, a vigilante and even a touch of a mob family, because what is a criminal world without a bit of mob? Each of these factions have their own series of books, following individual members as they meet the women they ultimately get their happily-ever-after with. Told from dual point of view each story feels fresh and new which is a true triumph when there are so many. Gadzialas’ Navesink Bank is thought out and thoughtful, managing to take the utterly brutal and at times, delightfully absurd, lives of her characters and knit them into the fabric of this world with an ease and fluidity that you just don’t often see, particularly in this world of self-published ebooks.

Ferryn slots beautifully into this world, as a strong young women fighting tooth and nail to rescue those without hope. Eight years holed up in relative obscurity with the communication challenged Holden Ryker (please lord let him appear in a future book), an ex spec ops soldier broken down to his very core. He takes his lifetime of training and trains her until killing another person becomes a reflex and not a thought. Like a vast majority of the other books in this world, the story has dark overtones and a penchant for murder but it’s hard to be upset about the demise of human beings as vile as kidnappers and sex traffickers. The start of the story has Ferryn convinced that while she knows she must return home, she has no hope of fitting into the large extended family she grew up with, believing herself to be altered on such a deep level she is no longer even a whisper of who she was. On the day she finally bests her mentor and unlikely companion in hand to hand combat, she knows it is time. Expecting somewhat of a welcoming committee when she arrives at the gates of the biker club her father rules over, she is surprised to find her parents and siblings are out of town and the most unlikely of men is now a member of this cut throat gang. The boy she made moon eyes over for years and promised her little girl heart she would marry is now a patched member of the Henchmen and just as stunning as she never dared let herself remember.

Vance is over two years older than Ferryn roughly and as the older brother of her childhood best friend he never let his eyes linger on her before she disappeared, though did harbour the hope that when she was older and no longer “jail bait” they could one day explore something between them. Vance is present the day that Ferryn is kidnapped in “The Fall” and being unable to save her, he feels her absence for the next eight plus years as a deep mark upon his soul. When he no longer feels a purpose in his life, he approaches Reign, president of The Henchmen MC and father of Ferryn, for a chance to prospect with the club, ultimately finding a small place in this world for himself. At times I felt that Vance was a bit too cookie cutter of man, a bit of a push over, even though overall, he is a likeable enough character. I would have loved a bit more of Vance showing that bite he has when Ferryn does eventually push his buttons as it made him more real and less of a pleaser. His sister, Iggy, who was once best friends with Ferryn doesn’t get as much face time as she deserved either and while this is potentially because she has her own story in the pipeline perhaps I still think that friendship needed more than a short chapter for them to reconnect and that there wasn’t enough anger from Iggy. If your best friend disappears off the face of the earth for almost a decade, there’s going to be some low key anger no matter how relieved you are that they’re back and safe. Iggy however, welcomes her back with not so much as a frown and they essentially pick up where they left off to a degree.

Interacting with her family and embracing the feelings growing between her and Vance, Ferryn comes to understand that although she thought the person she was before was long gone, she is in actuality still there and that it is possible for her to be both this vigilante type saviour of lost souls and Ferryn, member of a large, loud family and a partner to Vance. The true let down with this book was how easily Ferryn gave up what was, at the beginning, her life mission. She dedicated the better part of a decade as well as literal blood, sweat, tears and the creature comforts of home and family in order to become this ultimate killing machine version of herself. However, she returns from her final mission and admits to Vance that she thought she was pregnant (she isn’t) and that that event made her realise fully that she would like to have a family and is then able to let the rage go. It almost felt like a disservice to the pain and transformation this strong female character had gone through for it to end with such ease. The author closes each book with an epilogue that is told in a staggered time frame, starting at days to weeks down the line from the final chapter, up to years in the future. This is another wonderful feature of these books that truly should be appreciated however, this also enables the author to prolong the story and in the case of Ferryn, would have been the ideal place to have her continue with her mission for more than six months (though she doesn’t go on missions during that six months) and actually get something more out of all her hard work and sacrifice. There is no need to have her skip out on marrying Vance or having that future with him. Being this kick butt vigilante character doesn’t cancel out her “day life” and real relationship, they can coexist.

Overall, The Rise of Ferryn met expectations but did not exceed them. It rung true to the world of Navesink Bank but left the reader wanting that little bit more to elevate it to that extraordinary status that a character like Ferryn could achieve. There were a couple of characters introduced that intrigue for future books in this new generation series and I, without a doubt will read them on their release days. For anyone looking for a series that keeps you engaged and rooting for the main characters to have a happily ever after ending while fighting a few demons along the way, Jessica Gadziala is absolutely for you. A solid 8/10 for The Rise of Ferryn but a heartfelt 10/10 for this wonderful micro universe overall.

The Wives – Tarryn Fisher

Lord above we really wanted to love this. When Kylie and I were discussing which book we wanted to review for our first monthly review we agreed we wanted ideally a recent release. This one jumped out to me as the blurb sounded good so I think we can safely agree we went into this feeling like we had chosen a winner. 

Don’t get me wrong here, the overall story concept is good. Thursday is a woman in her late twenties, she has a good job, a beautiful condo and a husband that she adores. Downside? Her husband happens to have two other “wives”. Seth is a successful contractor who splits his time between Thursday and the other two women, jokingly called Monday and Tuesday in conversation. All three wives know the others exist but do not know anything about them aside from general geographic location. Thursday has told no one in her life she is part of a polygamist relationship, choosing to tell people her husband works out of town the bulk of the week.

This book initially moves along at the speed of molasses. It is slow and tedious despite the fact that a bit is happening. Thursday (and let me just jump in and say, you don’t even know her name is Thursday until mid-book, you just assume she is called that because its her day with her husband- like Monday and Tuesday respectively) inadvertently discovers the name and address of wife three- Hannah. She cannot resit driving down to Portland and past Hannah’s home. She goes so far as to be caught snooping by Hannah and feigns interest in her house. She is clearly torn between hating Hannah for being a part of her husband’s world, providing him with something she can’t, a baby, and wanting to be her friend because she likes her. When she is on the way out the door,she spots fingerprint like bruises on Hannah’s arm and this gets her little mind spinning. She sets out to find the first wife on the internet after seeing her name crop up on her husband’sphone. She finds Regina on a couple of dating sites and immediately sets about creating a profile using her relatives photos and strikes up a relationship with her, she is thoroughly confused when Regina’s answers to her questions counter the things her husband has said about her and she decides she needs to see Regina in person and try catch her out as a ‘cheater’ to show her husband, that way closing the nest from three wives down to two. Her next encounter with her new pal Hannah is a dinner where she spots a bruise along the apple of Hannah’s cheek. Hannah bolts abruptly mid dinner leaving Thursday confused. When she returns to her condo later her husband confronts her about where she has been and when she admits with Hannah, a fight ensues, and her husband starts implying she is crazy. Now hold onto your knickers cause this is where we take an abrupt turn.

Next chapter, literal turn of the page, we firstly learn that the protagonists name is actually Thursday (I had to literally flip back to the start to see if I had missed something) and she is now in hospital for a concussion. She asks repeatedly for Seth and when she sees him, he implies that he is not a polygamist, that she is delusional after having a late miscarriage of their baby and that he just wants her to get better. This is where the book, despite the sharp turn off the beaten path, could have grown to something wonderful but unfortunately the clunky and slightly disjointed writing style makes what had the potential for greatness just seem weak and frazzled and almost not quite thought out. We see Thursday moved from the hospital to a psychiatric ward, where we learn she was previously after the loss of her unborn baby. Nobody believes her that Seth has more than one wife and insist it is all in her head. Thursday is visited by a friend who she asks to track down Hannah, as corroboration to her tale but when her friend returns it is to say she cannot find a trace of Hannah anywhere and that when she investigated the address supplied it was a house that was actually owned by Thursday. 

Now Kylie thinks that a split personality would have been the saving grace of this tale, I think however that the overall concept is fine, that the execution is lacking and needs fine tuning. We follow Thursday out of the hospital and ward, back to her condo where Seth is her keeper to help her heal. Thursday grows increasingly convinced that Seth is against her, that he has erased things on her phone and broken her MacBook in order to convince her she is crazy. She drugs him and makes her break for freedom and her search for Hannah. When she rocks up to the house, Hannah has no idea who she is and asks her to leave. Thursday is getting increasingly confused and is unsure if perhaps she really is crazy. I think the author really could have made this brilliant, there was so much damn potential but alas, it was not to be. 

Thursday confronts Regina at work and then again at home, sharing her story of losing a baby at five months along. Surprisingly Regina contacts her to later share she also lost a baby beyond 20 weeks and has some thoughts about Seth. I am not going to dive into much more of the story because frankly if you make yourself suffer through the beginning you deserve to read the end as an underwhelming reward rather than brilliantly retold here by myself and Kylie. Suffice it to say it was weird, disjointed and fell short. Enjoy?

Overall, I probably won’t remember this as anything more than “that polygamist book” and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone at all unless I particularly disliked them. There were a few aspects that could have really been dissected further, there are random touches of this, that and the other that just isn’t taken further or built on. The characters have no real depth and the world building is not there at all. Kylie and I don’t always see eye to eye about books, but we wholeheartedly agree, this is truly a letdown. Hopefully February brings us better choices!

Beautiful on the Outside – Adam Rippon

So, here we go, biographies aren’t my thing. I pride myself on reading anything and everything but if I had to pick something that didn’t really do it for me, biographies are fairly close to the bottom of my list. I just find them a bit much. My favourite type of famous person is those that just don’t seem
like they give a fuck about the fame all that much and just genuinely seem like a person you want to know. I knew of Adam Rippon in the abstract, if someone said his name to me or I read it I would know he was a figure skater and gay, that was basically it. My middle child and eldest daughter however is a massive T Swift fan and avid youtube watcher. While watching the video for YNTCD she wanted to know who all the other people were so we would pause the video and I would say who they were. Some things required a bit of explaining because she is six and a six year old essentially specialises in asking questions. So we get to Adam in his cute little snow cone outfit and I say, that’s Adam Rippon, he’s a figure skater. She didn’t know what that meant so I brought up one of his skate videos to show her and then spent the next three days, THREE days, being pestered about watching figure skating, talking about skating, listening to her hints about how we should go skating (we live in
tiny town Australia, there is zero ice) and literally watching every competitive skating video youtube has. This lead me to following Adam on the ‘gram, discovering he had a book (convenient since I review them) and obviously The Great Non-Nut event. I don’t even eat almonds guys. More about
that at the end.

Fan girl moment over (mostly) and onto the review.

From literally the dedication on you just know the type of humour Adam has and it truly shines in his story. He has managed to perfectly walk the tight rope of self-deprecation so it doesn’t feel tired or over the top, just enough to keep you chuckling to yourself, at times outright laughing and ultimately continuing to turn the page. The opening sentence launches us into his skating career with his very first time on the ice and all the disappointment that came with the lack of muff and automatic skill at the age of five. The lack of muff is the crucial issue here. We progress through his pre school crying years, his rediscovery of ice skating and the initial kindling of that fire to succeed. For me, the real MVP in these foundation years was Mama Rippon. Her utter dedication to providing Adam with the access to skating is truly admirable. I myself have five children, I know how hectic my life is, driving the kids to their activities, school things and birthday parties that seem to be never fucking ending.
Not to mention just the day to day things required when you’re the head of a home. Washing does not do itself folks. I cannot even fathom what it would be like, or how I could cope, if one of my kids was competition level and required that much more. Mama Ripp, as I shall now call her, should be made a world treasure. I would say national, but I’m not American so that would be weird.

One thing that shines in this book amongst the humour, anecdotes and blatant self-appreciation he has is this undercurrent of understated acts. The first one for me is after Adam and Mama Ripp have a conversation where she basically tells him, if he is serious about skating with an Olympic goal, she
will be serious too. Adam gets up the next morning ready to be at the rink and is faced with the reality that MR has five other children that she must get fed, dressed, lunches made for and just generally ready for the day. Instead of sulking or pitching a fit, which I am sure many children at that
age (sixth grade I believe) would have done, Adam decides that it just won’t do and takes it upon himself to get his siblings up and day ready early. His mother loves it. His siblings love it. It becomes his routine, every morning. Even if his motivation for this sort of act was self-serving, I think it beautifully shows what kind of person he must be. When presented with an obstacle to his dream he didn’t sit on the sidelines of his own future, he found a way through it. A way which doesn’t step on
others but lets him have what he needs. It’s a thing that is basically glossed over but feels like a crucial part of his character. The second stand out for me comes a bit later in the story where he is told he has won third place at a competition only to find out there was a scoring issue and he is actually in fourth position. When being apologised to by the other competitor he handles it beautifully and tells his friend that really he was never third, fourth is his rightful rank based on the
points and it isn’t his friends fault in any way. It was wonderful to be third for ten minutes but really it is yours. Again, I think this shows what sort of person Adam is and reminding us you can be competitive and crave success, you can be sad for yourself, but be a supporter of others. This is reiterated throughout the entire book when Adam celebrates the successes of his friends, commiserates with them and how even though he wants to be the best, he accepts when there is better than him. This doesn’t take away from his drive to win, it doesn’t ever, not once, come across as a “poor me” trope and he never tears another person down. It is a genuine acceptance that while
he is going to absolutely push himself to succeed, he might not and its okay for that to suck but its not due to some advantage another skater has, its due to them just being better at that time. It is refreshing to read genuine subtle self-awareness that even he doesn’t seem to notice, in a book that
is riddled with the in your face kind (he is very pretty guys- get on board).

He is blatantly honest about his struggles- financially, interpersonally, emotionally. As much as I am
sure it sucked to be living off throat itch inducing apples, sad trail mix and having a negative bank balance it was good to read and further humanised him. You knew when he said he had a negative bank balance it was real, there wasn’t a cool 6 figures in his savings account hibernating and building
interest, he was genuinely broke. The growth from awkward child who was on the outskirts to young adult with friends was lovely. While there are people out there who meet their very best friend in first grade and stay that way forever, a lot of us don’t build those close friendships until we are older. The friends he made along the way are good ones and more valuable than anything as they stand by him.

There is a chapter essentially dedicated to his coming out (not in a professional capacity) and I loved how underwhelming it was. I personally feel, Adam, darling, that the writing was perhaps on the wall
from an early age (the ill fated love of the muff?) and his friends and family had the reaction of, basically, “cool story bro, needs more dragons.” The people that mattered to him already knew without him saying, this wasn’t so much of a big confessional moment as it was him visiting his loved ones and telling them the sky was blue. That is ALMOST how life should be. Ideally we shouldn’t
have to announce which way we swing or where we fall on the kinsey scale at all. We should live in a world where you just date whoever floats (or rather rocks ) your boat. I hope in the future my children never feel they have to announce their orientation and they can just bring whomever they’re interested in home and it will just be a non event entirely.

Even though I knew how this would end, with Adam achieving his goal of making the Olympic team, the book never felt dull or drawn out. I was fully invested in his story, I even went and watched a few
of his competition videos as they were mentioned with fresh eyes, now knowing events that had lead up to that day. Its amazing we can watch someone do something we literally have never attempted in our lives and be judgemental. “Oh he didn’t land that cleanly,” “Why can’t he consistently land a quad when others can?” and so on, having firstly, zero ability ourselves and secondly no knowledge of what is happening in their lives outside of those few minutes of time. One
moment in particular is when he fails on a jump, lands awkwardly and shakes it off to keep going. The first time I saw this video I honestly thought “yikes,” the second time I watched it, tonight, knowing he literally dislocated his goddamned shoulder and just, slides it back into place and keeps going. I wanted to hug him for pushing through and being amazing but simultaneously smack him for not getting it looked at immediately.

Adams writing style flows beautifully, he is genuinely funny while not being obnoxious, except when he is being obnoxious on purpose. I loved the growth of him as a person, his ability to over come his
inner Winnie Cooper and accept that the outcome of things sometimes just is what it is. This book lays out his career from the first touch of ice ’til he lands his last competition jump and if you didn’t applaud him and his tenacity the entire way through, frankly I don’t want that sort of negativity in my life. I want Mama Rippon to adopt me, I need a Derreck and an Ashley asap and I will always be thankful to not have to poop in front of another adult. Adam draws you in with his wit and dedication to his sport but he keeps you there with his kindness, intelligence and obviously, his pretty face. While this is called ‘Beautiful on the inside,’ I think after reading this you can, hand on heart say, he is just plain lovely from the soul out.

Okay, fellow nerds, let me end this by saying if you follow Adam on Instagram (you should) and watch his stories, you may want to cast your minds back to the other week when he mentioned someone told him almonds weren’t nuts. THAT WAS ME. I did that guys. I know it was me cause he also listed all the other non nuts I told him about. I have screenshot that interaction and may or may not (absolutely, definitely will) print and frame it. My moment in the sun guys.

Create your website at
Get started