My favorite books of real-life stories about struggles in life, child abuse, neglect and physical and mental abuse

Why am I passionate about this?

As a quiet and very shy child, I found myself sitting alone reading books rather than playing with other kids. My love for reading at the time was restricted to children’s books like The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe or Roald Dhal stories until I upgraded to Enid Blyton Books and Mills & Boon romances as a teen. It wasn’t until I reached my twenties when I actually found the genre I loved. It was through my love of these stories I came to realise I didn’t have to hide anymore, and my love for these stories planted a small seed in my mind that I would have the courage to write my own.

I wrote...

Sounds of Diamonds

By Nichola K. Johnson,

Book cover of Sounds of Diamonds

What is my book about?

Given away before her 1st birthday, Nikki experiences childhood dealing with abuse, bullying, neglect, and issues with race.

Brought up in her early years dreaming of her real mother, she eventually comes face to face with her in hope of becoming a real family, however, things are not what they seem, and her happy family becomes a nightmare. A story of Nikki’s struggles in finding her place in the world. A young girl who loses herself and self-belief hits rock bottom and finds herself completely alone. Reunited with her estranged father who experiences extreme challenges while he gives his life into turning things around. Together they spend their time building their very own distinctive relationship which endures many unexpected tests throughout their journey.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Queenie

Nichola K. Johnson Why did I love this book?

Carty-Williams tells a very clever and witty story of Queenie’s struggles navigating life as a young black woman in South East London, right where I grew up. I can relate to her work life, friendships, and love life so much it’s unreal. Whilst reading this book I could really feel myself within the plot as I’ve walked on some of the streets she talks about, been to places she talks about and of course, we all have a past and a story about our childhoods that make us who we are today, especially when they have been challenging. 

By Candice Carty-Williams,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Queenie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



“[B]rilliant, timely, funny, heartbreaking.” —Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

For fans ofLusterandI May Destroy You,a disarmingly honest,unapologetically black, and undeniably witty debut novel that will speak to those who have gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.

Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting…

Book cover of A Child Called It

Nichola K. Johnson Why did I love this book?

In my early twenties a friend lent me this book and said it would make me cry. I remember sitting on my bed with a bag of crisps and read half of it in one evening and the other half the next day. I was unaware child abuse existed outside of my own life and for years believed things had only happened to me, I was also unaware that you could talk about it in a book. Little Dave’s story certainly did make me cry, a lot, little did that friend know was that I had faced similar challenges as a child and related to this story on such a different level, she also didn’t realise it would begin a whole journey of my own.

By Dave Pelzer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Child Called It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tells the story of a child's abuse at the hands of his alcoholic mother.

Book cover of A Piece of Cake: A Memoir

Nichola K. Johnson Why did I love this book?

After learning that ‘memoirs’ were a thing and since I’d grown up with a troubled background myself, I wanted to find out if there were stories written by black women who had struggles in life, neglect, or abuse. After intense research I came across this and was not disappointed. Not only does Cupcake experience abuse from a very young age, she becomes an orphan, ends up as an addict and a member of a notorious gang before turning her life around. The emotions of her story are so real and raw, I felt her journey in my heart as the reader.

By Cupcake Brown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Piece of Cake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Phenomenal woman' The Oprah Magazine
'Dazzles you with the amazing change that is possible in one lifetime.' Washington Post


This is the heart-wrenching true story of a girl named Cupcake Brown.

Orphan, runaway, addict, all before she was twenty. That's when things got really interesting...

Cupcake was just eleven years old when, orphaned, she entered the child welfare system. Moved from one disastrous placement to the next, like so many, she was neglected and sexually abused.

She fed her appetite for drink and drugs by selling the only thing she had. Her body. Before long she had stumbled head…

Book cover of Ugly

Nichola K. Johnson Why did I love this book?

Once I read two books in this genre I was hooked, hooked on finding out more, hooked on realising there were people in the world like me that had been through the worst within their childhood. It was my little secret way of facing my own demons knowing I wasn’t alone. I lived in fear of my truth, yet Constance tells her truth of physical and emotional abuse as well as living through a loveless childhood flawlessly. I couldn’t put it down and read it in three days.

By Constance Briscoe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ugly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Constance's mother systematically abused her daughter, both physically and emotionally, throughout her childhood. Regularly beaten and starved, the girl was so desperate she took herself off to Social Services and tried to get taken into care. When that failed, she swallowed bleach 'because it kills all known germs and my mother always told me I was a germ'. When Constance was thirteen, her mother simply moved out, leaving her daughter to fend for herself: there was no gas, no electricity and no food.

But somehow Constance found the courage to survive her terrible start in life. This is her heartrending…

Book cover of White Oleander

Nichola K. Johnson Why did I love this book?

White Oleander tells a story about a young girl growing up the hard way after her mother murders her partner and gets sent to jail. Astrid lives her life in social care going from foster care to foster care facing so many difficult scenarios each time it’s unbelievable. A story of pure love and hate between mother and daughter and the challenges that arise in this abusive relationship. This book is so beautifully written it’s like poetry, I had to read it twice and was not surprised when it was made into a movie. 

By Janet Fitch,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked White Oleander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

White Oleander is a painfully beautiful first novel about a young girl growing up the hard way. It is a powerful story of mothers and daughters, their ambiguous alliances, their selfish love and cruel behaviour, and the search for love and identity.Astrid has been raised by her mother, a beautiful, headstrong poet. Astrid forgives her everything as her world revolves around this beautiful creature until Ingrid murders a former lover and is imprisoned for life. Astrid's fierce determination to survive and be loved makes her an unforgettable figure. 'Liquid poetry' - Oprah Winfrey 'Tangled, complex and extraordinarily moving' - Observer

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Bailey and the CEO: A Corporate Love Story

By Amy Q. Barker,

Book cover of Bailey and the CEO: A Corporate Love Story

Amy Q. Barker Author Of Lap Baby

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Nature lover Park ranger wanna be Best Nana ever

Amy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A contemporary romance novel about second chances, love in the workplace, and balancing single parenthood with a career. Bailey Grant and Fox Goodman have given up on love. They’re working hard, they’re raising kids—romance is the last thing on their minds. Until they get seated next to each other on a flight and realize they have more in common than just the company where they work.

But can a VP date the CEO? How will they make it work? Wait and see how sparks fly in this uplifting, feel-good, dual-narrative romantic read!

Bailey and the CEO: A Corporate Love Story

By Amy Q. Barker,

What is this book about?

Even from afar, you could feel it: the man's ever-present, effortless charm, looks, and for lack of a better word, swagger.
Everyone—and by everyone, I meant every female at Havelin—had speculated about his personal life. We all knew he had two sons, but what about a wife?
Not that I cared.
I was VP of Quality, a widow, and a mother raising two teenage daughters. Love was the last thing on my mind.

She was staggeringly beautiful.
And she didn’t know it. Not even in the slightest. Not a clue.
I’d never felt like this before.
Even more…

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