It’s Non-Fiction November 2018 time! Here’s my TBR…

NonFictionNovember!

It’s Non-Fiction November time again and I’ve decided to take the opportunity to try and read some of the non-fiction that has been languishing on my TBR for a while. I do read a fair bit of non-fiction anyway but it’s always nice to focus on it a bit more. I do have some fiction books that I need to read for blog tours this month so it won’t be a month entirely filled with non-fiction but the factual books will be my main focus other than review books.

Non-Fiction November is run by Olive at abookolive and Gemma at Non Fic Books.

So without further ado, here are the books I’m going to be choosing from:

Waco by David Thibedeau

As we’re already a couple of days into November I’ve already started reading this book and have been riveted by it. I’ve always had a fascination with cults but Waco is one that I’ve discovered that I didn’t know anywhere near as much about as I thought I did. I’ll be reviewing this one when I’ve finished it and have got my thoughts together.

James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel

This is an ARC that I’ve had for a while and have been putting it off because I feel a bit intimidated by it. It’s years since I’ve read anything by James Baldwin but I’m still keen to know more about him. I think this will be such an interesting read and am going to use Non-Fiction November to push myself to finally pick it up.

The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown

Shamefully this ARC has been on my TBR for around a year and I still haven’t got to it so this is high on my list to get to this month. I think it will be an easier read and something I can dip in and out of so I’m looking forward to getting to it.

Histories by Sam Guglani

This is a book I was sent for review fairly recently but I’m so keen to read this book so wanted to add it to this TBR. I think a book of stories about the NHS will make for a moving and interesting read so I’m keen to read this asap!

Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing

This is a graphic memoir of Katherine Mansfield which I treated myself to recently and I’m so looking forward to curling up with a blanket and devouring this book in an afternoon.

How to be Human by Ruby Wax

This book was sent to me for review in the summer and I really want to read it soon. Books about mental health always draw me to them so I feel sure this one will be my kind of book.

Truth or Dare by Justine Picardie

So this book has been on my TBR for years and years. I bought it in hardback when it came out as I’d loved a couple of Justine Picardie’s earlier books but for some reason I’ve never picked it up. I spotted it among my books when having a sort out in the summer and have kept it out to read so hopefully I’ll get to it this month.

The Little Big Things by Henry Fraser

This is another recent addition to my TBR and I’ve been so keen to read it. I have an incomplete spinal cord injury (amongst other things) and have been seeking out books about people who have SCI. This sounds like such an inspiring memoir and I can’t wait to read it.

Women and Power by Mary Beard

My husband bought me this for Christmas last year and it’s such a small book I feel sure I can squeeze it in at some point this month.

The Upstarts by Brad Stone

This is an audio book that I’ve had for a while and am quite keen to listen to it. It’s nice to have an audio option and this one seems like it will be an engaging and interesting read.

Deceit and Self-Deception by Robert Trivers

I’ve had this book on my TBR for quite a while and I have started reading it before but found it too much so put it down again. I do still want to read it though so I’m thinking I might read a chapter here and there over the month rather than trying to read it in one go.

Rock Stars Stole My Life by Mark Ellen

This is yet another book that I’ve had since it was first published and my husband (who’s slowly discovering a love of reading) read it over the summer and has been recommending it to me ever since. It looks like a really fun, easy read so I’m expecting that I’ll get to this one.

Mercury and Me by Jim Hutton

I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody last week (I loved it) and it made me want to read more about Freddie Mercury. It seems I’ve read all the biographies I own on him already apart from this one so I’m sure I’ll pick this up very soon.

Three Things You Need To Know About Rockets by Jessica Fox

I believe this is a book about a woman who worked at NASA and gives it all up to move to Scotland to work in a book shop. It sounds like a perfect read to me and I’m really looking forward to it.

When We Rise by Cleve Jones

I saw an interview with Cleve Jones earlier this year and found him to be such a fascinating man that I immediately bought his book. I still haven’t made time to read it though and I really want to get to it soon. Hopefully this month!

Twenty-Six Seconds by Alexandra Zapruder

This is a book about the famous Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It came up on a recommendation from Amazon a while ago and I couldn’t resist buying it!

Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I can’t resist a book about decluttering and this is my latest purchase. I like to keep myself inspired to keep my house organised so I reckon I’ll be reading this one before the month is over!

The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk

This is another book that I’ve had for a while and I’ve put off reading it while getting my health on a bit more of an even keel. It sounds like such a fascinating read about how the body and mind affect each other and how emotional issues can manifest physically, and how the body feels pain. I think this will be a brilliant read and I want to make time to properly read this so I may not get to it this month if it’s very in-depth but I would like to read it soon.

 


 

Obviously this is a long list so I know I’m very unlikely to read all of these books but I wanted to give myself options to choose from and will aim to read as many as I can.

Are you taking part in Non-Fiction November this time? What non-fiction do you plan on reading this month? I’d love to know. 🙂

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#BookReview: Knowing the Score by Judy Murray @EmmaFinnigan #KnowingTheScore

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About the Book

What happens when you find you have exceptional children?
Do you panic? Put your head in the sand? Or risk everything and jump in head first?

As mother to tennis champions Jamie and Andy Murray, Scottish National Coach, coach of the Fed Cup, and general all-round can-do woman of wonder, Judy Murray is the ultimate role model for believing in yourself and reaching out to ambition. As a parent, coach, leader, she is an inspiration who has revolutionised British tennis.

From the soggy community courts of Dunblane to the white heat of Centre Court at Wimbledon, Judy Murray’s extraordinary memoir charts the challenges she has faced, from desperate finances and growing pains to entrenched sexism.

We all need a story of ‘yes we can’ to make us believe great things are possible. This is that story.

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to be sent a copy of Knowing the Score as I’m a big tennis fan.

It’s always been apparent to me that the Murrays are a close family and that Judy is her sons’ greatest supporter. It’s seemed unfair to me over the years how she is perceived in the media as being pushy but until I read this book I had no idea how awfully she had been treated or how difficult it has been for her at times.

Murray has faced the sexism of being in a mainly male-dominated arena and has pushed through to succeed. She has made sure all the way through her career that she promotes other women and encourages girls to take up sport. I loved this aspect of the book, the way she carried on reaching for her goals even when she felt intimidated and when another door had been firmly slammed in her face. I wish it was more well known how much she has done for the tennis world, especially in how passionately she has worked at bringing more young girls into the sport. It was fascinating to learn about her own career as a tennis player, and to find out about the positions she’s held in the tennis world since then. She really is an incredible woman.

You get to see Judy Murray as a fully rounded person in this book. She openly shares the terror she felt on the day of the shootings in Dunblane, the emotions are tangible even all these years later. You get to see the love and pride she has for her two sons, and how she literally spent every penny she had, and then some, in order to help them strive for the goals they were setting themselves in the tennis world. Far from being a pushy mum, she has just always wanted to encourage them in the things they are passionate about. I also really enjoyed reading how she felt about being on Strictly and how much fun she had on that show.

I’m thrilled that Judy Murray has been able to share her story in her own words. She is an incredible woman who has fought for her two sons to have the careers that they wanted, alongside her own career as a brilliant tennis coach and mentor. She has made a point of bringing young coaches and players up with her; she has encouraged and inspired so many people within the industry.

I knew I was going to enjoy this book before I even started reading it but I wasn’t expecting to get so completely absorbed in it. This is a book that I will be keeping hold of as I’m sure I’ll want to re-read it in the future.

Knowing the Score is a must-read for all tennis fans, but for everyone else as well. If you love books about people who push to succeed, who empower and inspire others then this is the book for you. This is an inspirational, fascinating and very enjoyable read – I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Knowing the Score by Judy Murray with Alexandra Helmsley is out now and available here.

 

My TBR for the 20 Books of Summer Challenge!

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I’ve decided, at the last minute, that I’m going to take part in the 20 books of summer challenge again set up by Cathy at 746 Books. Last year I did read 20 books over the summer but most of them weren’t books on my planned TBR and, due to life getting in the way, I don’t think I reviewed any of them.

This year I’ve chosen twenty physical books off my TBR that I definitely want to read soon. I do read a lot of ebooks and some audio books but it’s the physical books that are taking over my house so I’m going to try and only count physical books for this challenge!

So, without further ado here are my 20 books of summer…

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

This is a non-fiction book that feels like it’s going to be a heavy read; it’s also quite a long book but I do really want to get to this soon as I’ve seen really good reviews of it.

How To Be Human by Ruby Wax

I was sent this for review and it’s a book that was already on my radar as a book I must read so I definitely want to get to this. It sounds like a fascinating look at what makes us human!

Not That Kind of Love by Clare Wise and Greg Wise

I won an advance copy of this book last year and I really wanted to read it… but somehow it’s still on my TBR! It jumped out at me when I was sorting through my books recently so I’m hoping to get to it in the coming weeks.

Our House by Louise Candlish

I also won a signed copy of this a little while ago and as I’m a huge fan of Louise Candlish I want to read it very, very soon! It sounds like a really fast-paced, thrilling read so I’m looking forward to it.

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell

This book has been on my TBR for ages and I’ve been really keen to read it but somehow haven’t picked it up yet. I’m hoping this summer will be the time!

The Second Sister by Claire Kendall

I treated myself to this last year and it’s another book that I wanted to read asap… I’m sure I’ll get to it this summer though now I’ve put it on my TBR.

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

My husband bought me this book as an Easter gift and I so badly want to read it so I’m going to make time for it in the coming weeks.

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

This is a review book that I was sent recently and I can’t wait to read it. It feels like it could be a book to read in summer so I’m adding it to this TBR.

Tell Me Lies by Rebecca Muddiman

I realise that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but this is another book that I’ve had on my TBR for ages. I don’t know why I keep doing this when it’s books that I really want to read.

The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave

This is a recent acquisition but it’s one that I want to get to while I’m still excited to read it so that it doesn’t end up languishing on the TBR mountain!

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

My husband bought me this book to cheer me up after an appointment and it feels like it’ll be perfect to read over the summer. I do love Zadie Smith’s writing to this should be a treat.

Sister Golden Hair by Darcey Steinke

I read a review of this book a few weeks ago and immediately ordered a copy of the book. This is definitely a book to read in the warm, summer months and I can’t wait!

The Lido by Libby Page

I was sent a copy of this book for review and it simply has to be in my summer TBR as I’m keen to read it as soon as I can. It sounds like a gorgeous read and one that I will love.

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

I was sent a surprise copy of this from the publisher and I kept it because it has a stunning cover and it sounds like a real me read. I’m hoping I get to this one soon as I’ve heard good things about it.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I love Rachel Joyce’s writing so much (especially Harold Fry) so I don’t know why I haven’t read this one yet (I think it’s possibly that need to always have a book left to read by a favourite author!). I’m sure I’m going to love this book!

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

I received a copy of this in the post recently and it was a lovely surprise. I adored Ruth Hogan’s previous novel and so am really looking forward to reading this book.

You, Me and Everything by Jill Mansell

This is yet another novel that has been on my bookcase for ages. I’ve kept putting this one off because I think it might be a book that makes me cry but now it’s calling to me so it’s going on my summer TBR.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve had this book a while and I’ve not stopped being keen to read it and yet I haven’t got to it yet. I will make time to sit down with this over the summer.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

I found this book on my bookcase during my recent sort out and I can’t think where it came from. I don’t remember buying it but when I read the blurb it sounded like a prescient book and one I felt I must read soon.

An Account of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It by Jessie Greengrass

This is a short story collection that I’ve had for a while now and it really jumped out at me when I was sorting my bookcases so I’m determined to get to it this summer.

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So that’s my 20 books! I’m really excited to get to all of them so I have high hopes for actually completing this challenge this year! I feel like I’ve picked a good selection with a mix of crime & thriller, non-fiction, young adult, general fiction and a short story collection so hopefully I’ll get to read them all over the next few months!

Have you read any of these books? Are there any that you recommend I get to soon? What are you planning on reading over the coming months? Here’s to a summer filled with good books!

My Top Non-Fiction Reads from 2017!

My top fiction reads of-2

Today I’m sharing my top non-fiction books that I read in 2017! I posted my fiction favourites yesterday, which you can read here, and because I have read quite a lot of non-fiction over the last year it seemed fitting that it got its own list!

So, in no particular order here are the non-fiction books that I loved in 2017:

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Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

I’ve had this book on my TBR for quite a while and finally picked it up towards the end of last year. I’m kicking myself for leaving it so long because once I picked it up I was engrossed until I finished reading the entire book. It’s a scary and fascinating story of a rare illness and how it affected her.

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The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson

This was my first ever Maggie Nelson book and it absolutely won’t be my last. Her writing is incredible and moving. This book is her exploration of her thoughts and feelings around the re-opening of the investigation into her aunt’s murder.

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The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This book is described as being a biography of cancer and it’s fascinating! I put off reading it because I worried it would be very heavy but it actually wasn’t. I learnt things that I didn’t know and it was such a page turner of a book.

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Thinking Out Loud by Rio Ferdinand with Decca Aitkenhead

This book has made my list because it was such an honest and open memoir about Rio’s grief over the loss of his wife. Later in the book he shares the things that really helped him through the darkest days and all the suggestions are excellent. I recommend this to anyone but particularly those who are grieving. You can read my full review here.

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Just Kids by Patti Smith

I’ve had this book on my TBR for quite a while and somehow never picked it up until 2017. I’m so glad that I finally got to it because I loved every second that I spent reading this book, it’s wonderful.

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Good Night and Good Riddance by David Cavanagh

This is a book containing a wide selection of John Peel’s radio shows. There are descriptions of the shows, parts of transcripts and short lists of the bands and singers he had on his show. I adored this book, it reminded me all over again how many artists I discovered through listening to John Peel.

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It’s Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice

This is another book that I put off reading for a long time because it felt like it might be a bit too close to home for me. I’m so glad that I finally read it because it’s a really moving and honest account of living with MND. It actually felt quite life-affirming and it’s a book I highly recommend.

A Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink

A Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink

This is a brilliant book that really does what it says on the cover. I read this in one sitting when I bought it and have since dipped in and out of it, it is a comfort and a solace to have this book to go back to as needed.

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Good as You by Paul Flynn

This is a non-fiction book that I bought and started reading immediately. I really enjoyed reading this, it’s a look over the last thirty years of homosexuality in Britain and it’s fascinating from beginning to end.

How to Survive a Plague- The Story of Activists and Scientists by David France

How to Survive a Plague by David France

This book took me a little while to read but it’s one that has really stayed with me. It’s a look at the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and is a really detailed account of how it was for people dying from AIDS alongside what was happening politically and medically. It’s a harrowing read but one that I highly recommend.

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I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

My list of non-fiction is roughly in no particular order but I have to be honest and admit that this book is my top non-fiction book of the entire year. I’m a massive Maggie O’Farrell fan so to read this book and find out more about her life was brilliant. There were things in this book that sent shivers down my spine because similar things have happened to me, and it really made me think. This is a book that I want to re-read this year, and I fully intend to keep on shouting from the rooftops about how amazing this book is and how everyone should read it!

I really enjoyed the non-fiction that I read in 2017 and am already looking forward to discovering lots more non-fiction in 2018. Have you got a non-fiction favourite from last year? Or any books you can recommend me? Here’s to a great reading year in 2018!

#BookReview: Year of No Clutter by Eve O. Schaub

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About the Book:

From Hoarders to The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the question of what to do with all of our stuff seems to be on everyone’s mind. Eve Schaub’s new memoir is the tale of how one woman organized an entire room in her house that had been overtaken by pointless items. It’s also a deeply inspiring and frequently hilarious examination of why we keep stuff in the first place—and how to let it all go.

Eve O. Schaub graduated from Cornell and Rochester Institute of Technology. She has written for Vermont Life and Vermont Magazine, among others. During her family’s year of no sugar, Schaub blogged regularly and was often a guest on WAMC, New York’s NPR affiliate, as well as a regular visitor to Vermont Public Radio. She lives in Vermont with her family.

My Thoughts:

I requested this book from NetGalley because I can’t resist books about clutter, which is kind of ironic given that my natural tendency is to hoard stuff!

I have to be honest and say that the first couple of chapters of this book didn’t pull me in,  reading about someone’s room full of clutter that they know has a dead mouse in, and also that a cat has peed all over made me feel a bit squeamish. This isn’t the kind of clutter situation that I can identify with. I do tend to want to keep things but I’m also quite obsessive about cleaning.

I’m so glad that I decided to give the book another go through because from the point when Eve starts to explore what makes a hoarder, and what makes her the way she is I was fascinated and I could really identify with some of the things she discovered about herself.

There is a point where she writes that as a child she believed she had to keep everything so that she’d have enough stuff to fill her own home when she was grown up, and that is just how I was too. I kept all my childhood ornaments for years because I believed that shelves had to be filled with stuff. The idea that some people had empty surfaces in their home was alien to me. Eve’s father had a problem with clutter so she sees that her issues partly came from seeing what his house was like. My mum was very sentimental and could never get rid of things that people had given her, so I can see how Eve, and I, ended up being clutter bugs.

The part that really got to me was when Eve talks about her belief that if she lets go of things that she is sentimental about then she risks losing the memory of that particular point in time: that by holding on to the object, she has a trigger to bring back the memories instantly. I struggle with this too. It’s really hard when you get to an age where you’ve lost people who meant the world to you, how do you let go of the things they gave you? I felt Eve’s pain as she tried to work out which things to keep, and which to let go of.

Eve has an issue with making decisions, she really fears making a wrong choice and believes this feeds into her obsession with keeping things. This was eye-opening for me. I’ve always been indecisive but have never connected that to the way I keep things, but it makes total sense that if you really dread making a bad decision that you would find it hard to be confident in the things you get rid of. Eve gradually learns that it’s not the end of the world if you get rid of something and later wish you hadn’t, and that’s something I’ve learnt during my regular de-cluttering sessions. To be honest, I’ve agonised over some of the things I’ve being considering getting rid of but once they’re out of my house I’ve never regretted any of it. Objects might hold memories but they can’t bring a person back, it’s how you feel in your heart that matters.

One of the things Eve struggled with most was dealing with her paperwork. She couldn’t get rid of any of it without reading it first and then had to deal with whatever memory was attached before she could move on to the next lot of papers. It really struck a chord with me when Eve said: ‘… I keep souvenirs even of negative occurrences in my life, for fear that without them I would forget that event and even any lesson learnt from that event’. It sounds utterly ridiculous to keep paperwork from the worst moments of your life, but I used to be exactly the same. My mum kept some papers that were so painful to her but she felt she couldn’t ever shred them. When she died I took the papers for safe-keeping, and added some of my own from the year my mum was dying. I kept all of her hospital letters because I didn’t want to forget, and yet I was trying to hard not to drown in all the trauma that happened in that year. I moved in with my then new boyfriend (now my husband) the year my mum died and I took all the paperwork with me because I just couldn’t leave it behind – it felt like it was haunting me. Then one day I decided enough was enough. I burnt the lot and it was so therapeutic to let it go for both me, and my mum’s memory. I try to always remember now that the things we keep will one day be someone else’s problem to deal with and it helps me get rid of stuff that’s not really important in the grand scheme of things. Eve learns the same lesson in a different way. We can’t keep everything, we don’t have the room. So if you can only keep a fraction of the stuff, pick the good stuff, the happy stuff.

This isn’t a how-to book, it’s not about helping you clear your clutter. It is one woman’s open and honest journey through her own battle with clutter but in the process of reading you will probably recognise yourself in Eve, as I did, and it will spur you on to deal with your own clutter.

I highly recommend this book. Year of No Clutter is out now and available here.

I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

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Serial memoirist Eve O. Schaub lives with her family in Vermont and enjoys performing experiments on them so she can write about it.

During 2011 Eve wrote a blog about her family’s attempt to live and eat for a year without any added sugar in their food, which became the book Year of No Sugar (Sourcebooks, 2014). She has been a guest on theDr. Oz Show, and FOX and Friends, and has appeared in numerous print and online outlets. She considers not hyperventilating on national television one of her greatest accomplishments.

Her upcoming book, Year of No Clutter, (March, 2017) reveals her deepest, darkest secret: clutter. In it, she details her struggle to transform herself from a self-described “clutter-gatherer” into a neat, organized person who can actually walk through every room of her house and does not feel the need to keep everything from childhood raincoats to cat fur. And yes, the family gets roped in on this one too.

Eve holds a BA and  BFA from Cornell University, and a MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. At various times she has been a newspaper reporter, magazine columnist, and copy writer. She likes to say that she has written for everything but the classifieds section, but in truth she did that too.

(Author bio taken from her website: EveSchaub.com)

#BookReview: Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

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About the book

Finally, a housekeeping and organizational system developed for those of us who’d describe our current living situation as a “f*cking mess” that we’re desperate to fix. Unf*ck Your Habitat is for anyone who has been left behind by traditional aspirational systems: The ones that ignore single people with full-time jobs; people without kids but living with roommates; and people with mental illnesses or physical limitations, and many others. Most organizational books are aimed at traditional homemakers, DIYers, and people who seem to have unimaginable amounts of free time. They assume we all iron our sheets, have linen napkins to match our table runners, and can keep plants alive for longer than a week. Basically, they ignore most of us living here in the real world.

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Adulting, this philosophy is decidedly more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve one that brings you happiness, not stress.

My Thoughts

I simply had to request this book when I saw the title as this is exactly what I needed to know in that moment – how to unf*ck my habitat! I am a fan of decluttering books – I can’t resist them (which I do realise is some kind of irony that I’m collecting books about how to stop cluttering up my house)!

My mum wasn’t a hoarder but she did find it difficult to part with things that had any kind of sentimental value and as a result I grew up with the same mindset. The amount of times I’ve not being able to get rid of something I really don’t like purely because I love the person who gave it to me is ridiculous. I need to streamline my house though – I’m now permanently disabled and housework is physically difficult for me without adding in a load of ornaments and trinkets etc.

This book is one of the best decluttering books I’ve read because it’s the only one I’ve read that acknowledges that life is busy and we don’t all have the time or energy to declutter our houses in one go. Rachel Hoffman advocates a 20/10 approach – do twenty minutes of decluttering and then have a sit down for ten minutes to take stock of things. You can do as many of these as you want in a day but she stresses that the sit down is as important as the decluttering. I had a go at this as I was reading the book and it’s a revelation how much you can get done in twenty minutes when you’re forced to focus! I’ve now adapted this into daily life and I do all the chores, as well as the decluttering, in twenty minute bursts followed by a rest.

Hoffman also includes sections for if you are ill/disabled, if you have a very busy life, if you live with someone who has a different attitude to tidying up to you, or if you live in a very small space (including if you live in one room of your parents’ home). There are short tasks given throughout the book along with longer chapters on exploring why you have clutter and how to work through having a more streamlined home.

This is a quick read but the lessons in it have been invaluable to me and genuinely have led me to re-evaluate my approach to keeping my home clutter-free. I’d recommend it to anyone who is struggling with clutter because I’m sure that everyone will find something in this book that helps them make a start.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Unf*ck Your Habitat is due to be published on 29th December in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

Review: Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera

Shame by Javinder Sanghera (My Pic)

When she was fourteen, Jasvinder Sanghera was shown a photo of the man chosen to be her husband. She was terrified. She’d witnessed the torment her sisters endured in their arranged marriages, so she ran away from home, grief-stricken when her parents disowned her. Shame” is the heart-rending true story of a young girl’s attempt to escape from a cruel, claustrophobic world where family honour mattered more than anything — sometimes more than life itself. Jasvinder’s story is one of terrible oppression, a harrowing struggle against a punitive code of honour — and, finally, triumph over adversity.

I’ve been really drawn to non-fiction recently, and have picked up quite a lot of memoirs. Shame is about a muslim woman, Jasvinder, who ran away from home in order to escape an arranged marriage and was then disowned by her family. All Jasvinder wanted was to be with the man she loved and to be able to have a relationship with her family but the two were mutually exclusive in the religion she was born in to.

Shame is really quite a shocking read at times, it’s very hard to read about how Jasvinder was treated in her early life by her parents, and then throughout her life by her siblings. I understand that it is part of the culture she lived in then but it is still very hard to understand how siblings can turn their back in such a way.

The stories that Jasvinder has shared in this book about other muslim women are very shocking. I was horrified reading about her sister and what happened to her, and also the way that nothing could be done afterwards to try and help prevent it happening to other women.

The way that Jasvinder was so shunned by her community, even after she had married, was really uncomfortable to read. I found it incredible how Jasvinder found the inner strength to pick herself up time and time again and how determined she has been to make something of her life, and to give her children a better life than she had had.

Jasvinder is very open and honest in this book, she shares many aspects of her life even the ones that perhaps don’t show her in the greatest light. I really valued that honesty, it would have been easy for her to just write about the way she was treated by other people and not to mention her own actions. I think all the things that happened to Jasvinder and to her family, combined with the things that she herself did are what made her who she is now. I was in awe of her reading about how she worked so hard to set up  a place for music women to get advice and help, and ultimately founded a place of safety where they could go. It’s such an incredible achievement and you can’t fail to be moved and inspired by this story.

Ultimately, this is a very inspiring read. Jasvinder worked hard to get an education despite all the odds and then she made it her mission in life to help other women who had experienced what she had. She has achieved such great things and is an incredible woman.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

Shame is out now and available from all good bookshops.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder via Book Bridgr in exchange for an honest review.

My Birthday Book Haul!

 

It was my birthday this week and I was very spoilt with lots of lovely new books so I thought I’d write a little blog post about them. It’s unusual for me to get so many books for my birthday so I was very excited to get so many this year!

My wonderful husband gave me a parcel before he went to work and in it were seven books! I’d actually been looking at some of these books on a very rare trip out of the house the other week but I didn’t buy them, so he went back and got them for me! 

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The books are:

A Proper Family Adventure by Chrissie Manby (I love this series so much and am pleased to have the next one to start very soon!)

The Hidden Girl by Louise Millar

More Than Just Coincidence by Julie Wassmer

Two Fridays in April by Roisin Meaney

Love in the Afternoon by Penny Vincenzi (I’ve loved all of her novels but have never read any of her short stories so I’m really looking forward to reading this one)

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer


 

 

He saved the best presents until last though as when he got home from work he helped me downstairs and gave me another stack of gifts which included these gorgeous books…

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

I’ve been wanting to read this novel ever since I first heard about it so I was beyond excited to open this parcel last night! I’ve already started reading it and it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s a beautiful looking book too – I’m so pleased to own it in hardback rather than ebook (which is what I more often than not buy these days).

 

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Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams

This is one of my childhood favourites, I have such fond memories of learning to read it by myself. I first saw this edition online a while ago and showed it to my husband as it’s so lovely but I never got around to buying it. I was so pleased to received it yesterday – it’s such a pretty hardback book and even has a yellow ribbon bookmark in it, just like my childhood books used to. I’m not reading much at the moment with feeling so unwell, and I reckon that delving into this old favourite might be just what I need! 🙂

 

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So This Is Permanence: Ian Curtis, Joy Division – Lyrics and Notebooks edited by Deborah Curtis and Jon Savage

I’m a massive Joy Division fan, and have been for years and years, and have read so many biographies of them over the years but somehow this book has passed me by. I was so thrilled when I opened it though as it’s one of the most stunning books I’ve ever owned – it doesn’t show up too well on this photo but it’s clothbound and really lovely. This is definitely a book I will treasure forever.

 

He also got me some gorgeous Michael Kors perfume in a lovely set, and next time I’m able to leave the house we’re going shopping for a new picture for the living room, which will be part of my birthday present too.

 


 

My lovely mum-in-law also spoilt me and her present included two fab souvenir books about David Bowie, they’re also books that I will treasure.

 


 

I was also given some money and a gift card, some of which I’m saving, but I couldn’t resist treating myself to some of the books that were released yesterday. These are the books I chose for myself…

How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss

The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker

While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green


 

So all-in-all it was a really lovely birthday and I’m hoping that all of my fabulous new books will help me get my reading mojo back!


 

I’m still not up to blogging regularly but I will blog as and when I can, and I will make sure to honour all my commitments to blog tours etc though. I hope to be back blogging at full speed soon but I need to get my health back on track first. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me, it really does mean a lot to me.

Review: Survival of the Caregiver by Janice Hucknall Snyder

Survival of the Caregiver

I spotted this book on Net Galley a while ago and it jumped out at me as a must read. I have been a carer for a terminally ill family member and at the time I didn’t know were to turn for help and I was offered very little support. Since that time I’ve remained interested in books of this type because friends often come to me for advice now and I like to know which books are worth recommending.

This book is set out in an A-Z format with advice and tips on how to help your loved one, and how to make time for yourself as a carer.  Janice writes about all the practical things you need to know, but also about how to take care of you, and the person you care for, emotionally as well as physically. This guide is like having a really good friend, who has experienced all that you’re now experiencing, by your side helping you though. It’s a practical guide that offers real reassurance. Survival of a Caregiver is a no-holds barred book, Janice doesn’t shy away from any topic, which is what makes this such an invaluable resource.

Survival of the Caregiver is an American book, although it is available in the UK on Amazon, so some of the sections on medical insurance and hospice care are different in the UK. Otherwise all of Janice’s advice is universal and is sure to be invaluable to carers worldwide.

Janice cared for her husband who had multiple medical problems and although she refers to his disease and what they went through, she does always widen out the advice so it’s really applicable to people caring for someone with any disease. The fact that she refers to her own life made me feel like I was in the hands of someone who knew what they were talking about because she has also lived through it.

I think this book would also be useful for people who have a family member or close friend who is a carer because it really highlights how much strain carers can be under and how sometimes they need you to offer to give them a break, even for an hour, so they can do some shopping or have a shower etc. I don’t think society in general has any idea of how much strain some carers are under.  I know that had this book have been out when I was a carer that I would have found it useful. I literally didn’t leave my mum’s side for seven months; I didn’t know that it was okay for me to ask for help or to ask for a break and I know that my case is far from unique.

Survival of the Caregiver is an great resource that can be read from beginning to end and then easily dipped in to as and when the information needs to be referred back to. I recommend this book to carers but also to family and close friends of carers.

I rate it 4 out of 5.

Survival of the Caregiver will be published in the UK on 15th January 2016 by MSI Press and is available from Amazon. I received a review copy from the publisher via Net Galley.

*EDIT 17th February*

There is now a website linked to this book with further information, please check out the link here: Survival of the Caregiver

My Top 10 Books of 2015!

top books copy

I’ve read 167 books this year, which isn’t quite as many as I normally read but it’s not bad considering I had major surgery in the summer and didn’t read anything at all for quite a few weeks. It was still very hard to get it down to a top ten though as I have read so many great books this year. I only started blogging at the start of September and I’ve compiled my top ten from books I’ve read over the whole year so some of these books don’t have reviews.

The first nine books in my list are in no particular order as they were all fab, and are all books that are still swirling around in my mind. There was one book that I read this year that simply had to be number one, so I have made a top pick this time around!

Here goes…

(The books that I’ve reviewed have clickable links underneath the images)

My Top 10 books of 2015

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

 

Suicide Notes for Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

I read this book before I started my blog so I haven’t reviewed it but I’ve picked it for my top ten because I read it earlier this year and I can still remember the plot vividly and still think about the characters. Of all the thrillers I’ve read this year, this one was the best because it was so twisty that I just couldn’t work out who to trust or how it might end.


 

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony

I requested this book on Net Galley soon after signing up as the title just jumped out at me. This is a YA/MG novel but, like all the best books written for young people, it explores things in a way that while seemingly simple, have a huge impact on the reader. This is a brilliant novel exploring loss and grief but is also an uplifting read.


 

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh

This is another novel that I read before I started my blog so I haven’t reviewed it but even though it’s months after I read it, I still keep thinking about it and even though I know how it ends it’s definitely a book that I’d like to re-read at some point. This novel has one of the best endings, it’s so unsettling, but it works brilliantly.


 

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink

This is one of the most beautiful and heart-breaking books I have read in a really long time. Cathy’s love for her brother shines off the page and I could feel her devastation at what happened to him. It’s a very moving read.


 

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

I read this novel quite recently and it’s made my top ten because I still feel unsettled by it. The story and the characters really got under my skin and I’m still thinking about the book even now. It had a similar effect on me as Du Maurier’s Rebecca; it unnerved me and yet I want to read it again and again (even though I’m generally someone who doesn’t like to be unnerved to the degree these books make me feel!).


 

The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

I only finished this book a week or two before Christmas but it made my list because when I compared it to other contenders for my top ten, it just kept jumping out at me. It’s so different to anything I’ve read in a really long time. It made me think, it was thrilling from the first page to the last, and I really hope it becomes the first in a series!


 

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

This book is a prime example of why I never compile my top books of the year list until the very last day of the year. I only read this book over the last couple of days (and at the time of compiling this post I haven’t even finished writing my review of it!) but it had such an impact that it simply had to be in my list. This is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. It raises such important issues around rape, consent and the social media age we live in. It’s a book I urge everyone to read. It’s a disturbing read but a must-read all the same.


 

normal by graeme cameron

Normal by Graeme Cameron

This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I have never read a book before where I was in the mind of a serial killer and yet he seemed like an okay sort of man. He appears normal except for when he’s killing people, and that messes with your head in such a clever way that this book will stay with you for such a long time after you’ve read it.


 

 

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith

I was offered the chance to review this book for a blog tour and I am so glad that I said yes. I devoured this novel and absolutely adored it. It’s a mystery novel set in 1920s London and I loved everything about it. The author really captures the period so well and she has such feisty, believable characters that it was impossible to put down. It was one of only two books to be added to my favourites this year and I already can’t wait for the next in the series. I highly recommend reading this.


 

and my top book of 2015 is…

 

 

*drum roll*

 

 

Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

This book is incredible! It’s a very moving exploration of grief that will make you cry but by the end you feel such a sense of solace. Hogan looks at the different ways people grieve and the ways people try to move on; this novel is one that can be read on so many different levels. It’s a book that I know I will re-read many times in the future; I got so much comfort from it and it’s one I simply had to own in print so I could have it on my favourites book shelf where I could see it. I honestly can’t recommend this novel highly enough!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos

sky lantern matt mikalatos

 

Sky Lantern is the story of a man who finds a sky lantern at the end of his driveway, and on picking it up to put it in the bin notices a message written on it. The message is from someone called Steph and she has written it to her father about how much she misses him. Matt can’t help but think and reflect about how his own young daughters would feel if he were no longer with them, and it leads to him writing an open letter to Steph on his blog in the hope that one day she, or even his own daughters, might find the letter and be comforted.

Matt’s open letter is very moving. He deliberately made it quite non-specific so that it would apply universally but he talks about how proud a father is of his daughter and how much he loved her. He gives life advice about finding those who love you and filling your life with them. He explains that he knows you miss your father and that you can’t replace him but that you have to keep moving forward. I was crying by this point in the book, my mum died a few years ago and it made me think of her because it’s the sort of letter that I know she would have written if she had had more time. Matt’s letter reminded me a little of Mary Schmich’s commencement speech (that was later turned into a song by Baz Luhrmann called Wear Sunscreen). It’s a life-affirming letter that everyone will be able to take something from even if not all of it relates to them.

Matt’s letter ended up around the world, he received many letters from people who weren’t Steph but who appreciated the letter all the same and found comfort in it. He received many letters from women who believed they were the Steph who sent the lantern but even while Matt wasn’t sure they were the right Steph, he still wrote back and showed real kindness and compassion.

Throughout this book, Matt learns lessons himself about not taking his loved ones for granted. He is obviously a lovely dad to his children, but as is the case with all of us, life gets busy and sometimes we brush off a loved one wanting a few minutes of our time. Matt’s book is a reminder to always tell the people we love that we love them.

If I was to be at all critical it would be to say that at times this book does feel a little drawn out; I’m not sure that there was enough to make a full-length book out of this experience. Having said that, it is a very moving and life-affirming read and I’m sure it will offer great comfort to people who have been bereaved. I cried over a chapter where Matt wrote about loss and how we make sense of it and how our lives can never be the same. It’s the silly thing of still picking up the phone to call a loved one who has been gone for a while but in that moment our brains forget for an instant until the phone is in our hand. I did this so many times after my mum died so it resonated greatly for me.

It is wonderful that a new friendship came from Matt finding the sky lantern, and that he helped not just one woman find solace but hundreds or even thousands of people who were comforted by reading his letter. This beautiful book really is a lesson to us all that showing a little more kindness to others can go a really long way.

I rated this book 4 out of 5.

I received this book from Howard Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Sky Lantern is out today and available from Amazon.

Review: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

record store of the mind

I’m a child of the 80s so I grew up listening to my mum’s records but by the time I was old enough to buy music of my own vinyl was rapidly disappearing to be replaced by cassette tapes, and actually not long after that CDs began to appear in the shops. I still have such nostalgia for my mum’s records though. So when my husband started talking about getting a new sound system, it was a no brainer that we’d look for a turntable. Now we’re slowly building up quite a collection of records, and everywhere we go we keep an eye out for record stores. I love reading about record stores too so when I spotted The Record Store of the Mind on Net Galley recently, I simply had to request it!

In the introduction, Rosenthal immediately evokes the feeling of being in a record store and the feeling you get when you inspire someone else to look through the crates of records. It’s a joy to read about how he took his children around record stores and flea markets looking for a gem.

It’s also a wonderful thing to read about how many record stores are still going strong in America. There is a revival happening in the UK and it’s a great thing to see; new independent record stores are beginning to appear on the high streets once more and even the chain retailers are putting in vinyl sections once again. It makes your heart sing and one can only hope that vinyl sales continue to grow!

Rosenthal then takes the reader, chapter by chapter, through his journey in music. He shares stories of musicians he’s met and worked with, and records he’s bought and loved. He brings to our attention a mix of well-known musicians and some you many not know so much about. I’ll be honest and admit that I hadn’t heard of many of the musicians in this book but I very much enjoyed discovering them and will be seeking out some of their music next time I’m in a record store. The sheer joy and passion that Rosenthal has for music and for the musicians he has known just radiates from the page, which makes this book such an engaging read.

In amongst the chapters devoted to musicians themselves there are chapters that have a wider subject matters such as one about gigs, one devoted to the period between 1989-1997. These chapters were perhaps a little more of interest as I felt my own knowledge and reference points  helped my understanding and enjoyment. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is a joy to read and has definitely widened my interest in music even further.

This book is a reflection of thirty years of work in the music industry. This year Rosenthal celebrated the tenth anniversary of his own label Tompkins Square. His book is partly a memoir and partly a critical look over the music industry. It’s also part love letter to his own treasured collection of records, as throughout the book he often refers back to his own private collection. It was heartbreaking to read of how he lost part of his record collection and music memorabilia in hurricane Sandy.

I loved the Of Musical Interest chapter, and the Listen Up list and the Tompkins Square Discography at the end of this book, I’m definitely going to be looking out for some of the records referred to in this book. I’m always interested to try new music and find new singers and bands to listen to. This is a book that can be used as a wonderful reference after you’ve read it, I know it’s one that I will come back to again and again.

This is a book for anyone who loves, or has ever loved, listening to music on vinyl. I rated it 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Tompkins Square Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Record Store of the Mind is out today and available from Amazon!

Review: Get Yourself Organized For Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized For Christmas

I couldn’t resist requesting this book when I spotted it on Net Galley recently because I’ve previously read Kathi Lipp’s book Clutter Free and her ideas really have helped me have a much more organised (and streamlined!) home.

This is a guide to getting organised for Christmas and it’s really useful. In short, easy to follow chapters Kathi explains how to be much more organised in the run up to Christmas. Each chapter is dedicated to a different element of Christmas planning and everything is broken down into easy to manage tasks. The idea being that the planning is started early so that there is no last minute rushing to cause stress as Christmas gets closer.

Get Yourself Organised for Christmas contains chapters on a variety of Christmas tasks. It may be that not all the tasks are relevant to how you spend the holidays but the book is set out in such a way that you can mark the chapters that will be helpful to you and then focus on those. My favourite chapter, and one I will frequently refer back to, was about making a Christmas binder that I can then amend each year but will basically contain all of my lists, recipes, gift ideas etc all in one place. It’s such a simple idea yet one I’d never come up with myself.

Kathi encourages working out what the most important aspects of Christmas are to you, and your family, and then to just focus on those. She also encourages sharing tasks so that one person isn’t stressed out doing everything, and if you’re someone (like me) who isn’t good at accepting offers of help when you’re stressed, Kathi has suggestions for how to deal with this which are practical and helpful.

It’s lovely that the book includes a reminder to plan all the things that you love to do in the build up to Christmas but often run out of time for – like driving around the local area to see all the Christmas lights or making time to go into the town centre to drink a hot chocolate while mooching around soaking up the Christmas atmosphere. I always want to do this but usually remember when it’s too late so it’s good to have a reminder that these kind of things should be scheduled in if they’re important to you and your loved ones.

Kathi’s emphasis on prioritising the people who are most important really struck a chord with me and has actually helped me finally make the decision not to send any Christmas cards this year.

Kathi offers suggestions throughout this book on how to make every aspect of planning Christmas easier and much less stressful. This book just really makes you feel like you’re in good hands, that you are capable of having the relaxing, fun Christmas you’ve always dreamt about.

I rate this book 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who finds getting organised for Christmas difficult or stressful.

I received a copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas is out now and available from Amazon.

Bookish Memories – Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank

I first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl in the school summer holidays when I was eight years old. My mum had been helping out a friend of hers who was disabled (mum used to go and help her clean the house, and she’d make her lunch and anything else she needed). So in the school holidays mum used to take my younger brother and me with her. We were allowed to take a couple of quiet toys with us (in my case books, obviously!) and we had to sit quietly in a room together while mum got her jobs done.

As I’ve said in my previous Bookish Memories post (Link here) my choice of books was never censored. On the condition that I looked after the books properly, I was allowed to choose any book I wanted from my parents’ study. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young girl caught my eye simply because it was the diary of a young girl and I was a young girl so there was no way I wasn’t going to want to read it. I had no concept of what the book was about at the time, I was only eight. My mum was happy for me to read the book and, as she always did when I picked up a grown-up book, she just made sure I knew I was to ask questions about anything I didn’t understand.

So, that summer I began to read about Anne Frank but my brother constantly got on my nerves making a noise in the room we’d been told to stay in so I wandered around this big house my mum was helping clean and I found the cloak room where all the coats and shoes were kept. I curled up on a big cushion and I read and read and read. I had no idea what was going to happen to Anne Frank and I remember being quite confused at the ending because it was so abrupt. I’d obviously not fully understood why Anne Frank and her family were hiding away in the attic in the first place. My mum did sit down with me later and she explained, so I did come to grasp what her family were hiding from and why Anne Frank died.

It’s a strange thing though because when I think back to that summer I just loved reading about Anne Frank. I found her funny and endearing; she seemed like a lovely girl who was really clever and I admired her. I could even identify with some of the things she said and the things she felt. I didn’t really understand that she was in fear for her life, I took the bits that were relevant to me and those are the bits I remember from that summer. This is why I think children should be allowed to read uncensored, because a child only takes away the things they can understand, relate to and process; everything else fades into the background.

I’ve re-read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl quite a few times since the summer I was eight. As I’ve got older and more widely read, I’ve obviously come to learn so much more about WW2. Reading about Anne Frank as an adult, with greater knowledge about what her family were hiding from, with a real awareness of the unrelenting fear they must have been feeling, I mainly feel heartbreak and anger at what she, and millions of others like her, went through. It’s all heightened by the overwhelming realisation of just how young Anne Frank was. Reading this as an eight year old, Anne Frank at thirteen seemed so much older and wiser than me. Reading it again as an adult, it is apparent that Anne Frank, although wise beyond her years in some respects, was just a very young girl who should have had a whole life in front of her.

This is still a book I treasure, it’s such an incredibly important book and one that everyone, children included, should read. The photo at the top of this post is the very copy of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl I read when I was eight. It’s more battered than I would like but it was my mum’s secondhand copy, so it’s a book that has obviously been read many times even before it came to be mine. It just never fails to amaze me how we can fall in love with books in different ways every time we re-read them, or how we come to discover new things about the books or even ourselves.

Please feel free to share some of your Bookish Memories in the comments below!

National Poetry Day 2015

Nat Poetry Day

I can’t believe that I’ve only just realised that today is National Poetry Day! I want to share a few poems from two of my favourite poets.

The first two are from Wendy Cope, whose work I adore. Wendy Cope has such a warm and wonderful style that makes every single one of her poems a joy to read. Some are amusing with a touch of sadness underneath when you stop and think, and others just really make you laugh. I have all of Cope’s collections and often just grab one of her books off my shelf to read some poems at random.

serious conserns tape

Flowers

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly bought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
The sort that minds like ours 
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile. 
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

I love this poem, there is much under the seeming simplicity of it. Sometimes I read it and think it’s a wry and cynical poem about an ex; sometimes I think it’s echoing the sentiment we all have that someone shouldn’t have when they do buy you something nice; and then other times it feels like it’s a poem about grief. Ultimately, it’s a poem about what someone almost had, and now they’re left with only memories. So from what seemed like quite a cheery poem at the start ends up feeling full of melancholy. I adore that about it because poetry should invoke strong feeling when you read it.

And my other favourite by her is:-

Lossserious concerns

The day he moved out was terrible –

That evening she went through hell.

His absence wasn’t a problem

But the corkscrew had gone as well.

I have sent a copy of this poem to so many friends over the years when they’ve been going through a break up, I just think it’s perfect!

My other favourite poet is Philip Larkin. I first read one his poems when it came up in my English A-Level class and I loved it. I then sought out all of his other works and devoured them. When it came to choosing a university I chose based on which one had the best opportunity for me to further study Larkin’s work. I have many favourite poems by him that I could pick but the first one that always comes to mind is this one.

whitsun weddings

Home Is So Sad 

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,

Shaped to the comfort of the last to go

As if to win them back. Instead, bereft

Of anyone to please, it withers so,

Having no heart to put aside the theft 

And turn again to what it started as,

A joyous shot at how things ought to be,

Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:

Look at the pictures and the cutlery.

The music in the piano stool. That vase.

The first time I read Home is so Sad I sobbed because it reminded me so much of going into my close relative’s house just after she’d died and everything was exactly as she’d left it. It was the weirdest feeling because I knew she was gone but it didn’t make sense when her cardigan was still over the back of her chair from where she’d left it just hours earlier. I’m sure many people will have the same feeling when they read this poem, that it could be about their own life. It still makes me emotional every time I read or hear this poem but poetry is supposed to have an impact on us and it’s a wonderful thing when something you’ve read many, many times can still give you goosebumps and make you cry.

Who are your favourite poets? What are some of your favourite poems? Please share them in the comments below, I’d love to hear your choices.

Review: Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett

six poets

Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin is a wonderful anthology of poetry; it’s a book that I know I will go back to time and time again. I was already a fan of Philip Larkin but I knew only little of the other five poets so it was a chance to learn more. Alan Bennett’s voice comes through as you read this anthology, his wonderful personality and enthusiasm run right through the book. It was fascinating to learn in the introduction that Bennett used to feel that ‘literature was a club of which I would never be a proper member’ and that there are still poets that he has never managed to read, and how hearing about them even now reminds him ‘how baffled one can feel in the face of books’. Immediately this is reassuring to anyone who picks this book up that they are in good hands, that this isn’t an academic book, this is a book for everyone to enjoy without needing any prior knowledge or understanding of poetry.

Alan Bennett selected over seventy poems from six poets –  Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, John Betjeman, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin for this anthology. Each poet is introduced with a brief biography, which is followed by selected poems interspersed with candid commentary. The way the book is set out, with the poets being written about in chronological order, allows the reader to easily understand how one poet was influenced or inspired by his predecessor. Some of the poems Bennett has chosen from one poet link together with poems form another in the anthology, which again makes it easy to grasp common themes and how each poet put his own stamp on a sometimes similar idea.

Bennett strikes a great balance between serious biographical information and amusing anecdotes. We learn that Larkin ordered that all his papers be destroyed after his death; that Hardy wrote a poem in tribute to the wife he treated terribly when she was alive, and then proposed to his second wife by pointing out a plot in the cemetery next to his first wife’s grave and explaining that it would be hers! Auden couldn’t bear to edit his work so he would take the best of what he’d been working on and put it together with his favourite lines saved from his other unfinished works and make it work as a single poem!

Six Poets was an utter joy to read. I thought I would enjoy the part on Larkin the most seeing as he is one of my favourite poets already but Bennett introduced the other five poets in such a way that I very much enjoyed reading about them too and feel that I have a better understanding now. It’s actually made me want to seek out more poetry, and how wonderful that is when a book can make you enthusiastic to want to find out more on a subject that has previously felt a little intimidating!

I rate this book ten out of ten and I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin is out today on Amazon.

I received this book from Yale University Press via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Bulletproof by Maci Bookout

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Following my recent binge-watch of all the Teen Mom episodes I couldn’t resist buying Maci’s autobiography as she was my favourite of the girls and her story was most interesting to me.

Throughout Teen Mom, Maci always seemed like the most together of all of the girls, parenting seemed to come very naturally to her but I often wondered how much of what we saw was her keeping a protective wall around her about how she felt in certain situations. Maci never seemed to lose her cool, even when her son’s father was being incredibly rude to her. So, she intrigued me.

Bulletproof covers everything that happened to Maci throughout Teen Mom but it gives much more insight into what was going on in her head. As I suspected, she was panicking and sad many times when she appeared so calm and in control. For a fan of the show it really gives much more rounded insight into Maci’s life.

Maci talks about her previous boyfriends – her son’s father, Ryan and also Kyle, but for all they didn’t treat her all that well, she mostly sticks to an account of what happened rather than bad-mouthing them. It is very apparent that what Maci wants most of all is for her son, Bentley to have stability in his life, and that includes her wish that his father would be around more.

It was interesting to read what happened in Maci’s life between the end of season four of Teen Mom and the start of season five. I started watching season five and had no idea that Maci and Kyle had broken up, that Maci had a new long-term boyfriend or that she was pregnant again, so it was good to be able to read what happened and fill in the gaps. It’s uplifting to read just how happy Maci is in her life, she’s an inspiration to young people.

Bulletproof is mainly straightforward autobiography but Maci has included some of her poetry within the book, which was fascinating to read. It’s very apparent that Maci loved creative writing and that it helped her work through her worries. I think so many people will identify with her poems, it’d be really interesting to read more of them.

This book is a great companion piece to the Teen Mom series. There isn’t a lot of new stuff in the book that isn’t seen on screen but it complements it very well in that we get to see Maci’s thoughts and feelings that she tends to hide on screen.

I’m sure fans of MTV’s Teen Mom, and 16 and Pregnant will enjoy reading this book. I found it to be an enjoyable read and rate it 7 out of 10.

Review: Never Too Late by Amber Portwood

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I’ve recently been binge-watching Teen Mom on Amazon Video while recovering from illness and I couldn’t resist buying this autobiography when it appeared in an Amazon email.

Never Too Late is Amber’s story, in her own words, about what really happened behind the scenes of MTV’s Teen Mom, and gives added insight into what led up to events that were shown on screen. This book covers Amber’s difficult childhood, her battle with addiction and her struggle to overcome severe anxiety and depression.

Amber is very candid throughout this book; she doesn’t shy away from the more distressing things that have happened in her life and she accepts responsibility for the things she did wrong. It would be very hard not to have sympathy for a lot of what Amber has been through, and all credit to her for being so open in this autobiography.

Never Too Late isn’t set out like a traditional autobiography, the style is very chatty and as a result some parts are a bit repetitive, and in other parts events that have happened have just been skimmed over. The timeline of her life is a little difficult to follow in places too, but again I think that’s because of the style of writing. Amber’s story feels authentic though, it is as if Amber is talking to her readers about her life rather than it being a structured account of her life.

I’m sure this book will be enjoyed by anyone who watched MTV’s 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom, and of course to all fans of Amber Portwood.

I rated this book 6 out of 10.

Never Too Late is out now and available from Amazon

#BookReview: Explain Pain by G. Larimer Moseley and David Butler

 

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This book is brilliant! It’s such a shame that the kindle version has got so many one star reviews based on how difficult the book is to read on the device because the actual content of the book is absolutely worth five stars. If you or someone you know suffers from chronic pain then this book is a must read!

Explain pain is written in layman’s terms, which I was so pleased to discover as I’m not science-minded at all. The information is given in bitesize chunks and reinforced with brilliant illustrations. It explains how pain responses are produced by the brain and why you can be left in pain long after an injury has healed.

It was recommended to me by my physiotherapist after I was diagnosed with a neurological condition that means I will spend the rest of my life dealing with severe pain. It makes such a difference to your state of mind when you can read a book like this and really understand why you have pain, how pain signals occur and most importantly to learn that there are things that you can do to help yourself deal with the pain. Since reading this book I have found distraction techniques that I now try before reaching for extra painkillers, I now understand the benefit of relaxation/breathing exercises to help work through pain and am just generally finding it a little easier to live with severe pain now I understand why it’s there. Not knowing why pain hurts can be very distressing, which then makes the pain feel worse. My pain will never not be there but this book has given me such a great understanding of why the pain is there and now I am much less fearful of it, and that enables me to focus more on trying to do things rather than avoiding through fear of pain.

After reading Explain Pain I’ve been left feeling like I finally have some control back. I’m sure this will be a book that I refer back to many, many times. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who is suffering from chronic pain.

I rate this book 10/10.

This book is out now: http://amzn.to/1iMgMjN

Review: Fragile and Perfectly Cracked by Sophie Wyndham

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Fragile and Perfectly Cracked is a memoir of a woman’s journey through her struggle to conceive focusing a lot on her miscarriages and how they left her feeling. The book is written in such a way that at times it felt almost like a stream of conscious-style of writing, that Sophie has spilled all of her pain and emotions out onto the page. Other times there is more structure but the combination made the writing feel much more heart-felt and real.

The over-riding thing that comes across in this book is Sophie’s honesty about what she has experienced, she never shied away from sharing her pain or from sharing exactly what it is like to lose a baby – from both a physical and an emotional standpoint.

Sophie really helps the reader to understand that miscarriage can leave women feeling very real grief for the baby they have lost, even when it happened in the early stages of pregnancy, and I think this is a very important issue to raise. Too often the grief following miscarriage is swept under the carpet so Sophie’s writing feels very refreshing.

This book ultimately leaves the reader with hope as Sophie gets her happy ending. (Please note this is not a spoiler, the reader discovers this on the first page). It is good the book starts by telling the reader the ultimate outcome as it means that as heartbreaking as the book is to read a lot of the time, the reader knows while reading about such intense emotional pain that Sophie wasn’t left struggling with the emotional pain of child loss.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has suffered a miscarriage and wants to feel less alone in what she has experienced. I think it would be a good book for men to read too as it gives a real insight into what a woman goes through during miscarriage and into all the complex emotions that go with the harrowing experience.

I rate this book 4 of 5 stars.

I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Fragile and Perfectly Cracked by Sophie Wyndham is out now and available here: http://amzn.to/1KarhmZ

Review: Accidental Emeralds by Vivienne Tuffnell

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This is a wonderful collection of poetry, it really does capture the feeling of longing in a beautiful and thought-provoking way.

I have to admit to having a favourite poem – Autumn Leaf. This poem just captured so much of how I’m feeling at the moment, not just as we approach the end of summer and the change of season into autumn but the many changes in my own life that I’m having to come to terms with. I just felt a feeling of not being alone in my struggles wash over me on reading these lines:

How long I may travel

I shall not know

Until I begin to sink;

The source and the sea,

They are still certain,

But the journey,

As you know, is not.

I also took a lot from Mind Mountains for similar reasons to Autumn Leaf. Just the much needed reminder that however much my own life contains me, there is so much more beyond the garden fence than my own thoughts.

Spring is…? was also a lovely poem, one that made me smile. I loved the line ‘It changes the rules and snows in May’ because that is just so much of how life is. Unpredictable and yet somehow still beautiful.

And of course I adored Urban Springtime as it gave insight into the title for this collection. Accidental emeralds is such a lovely title and to know where it comes from is a much-needed reminder that there is beauty even in things that are broken. This poem in particular will stay with me, it’s something to cling to.

Overall the collection can be enjoyed at face value as a group of poems about the changing seasons, but deeper than that is the underlying reminder that things change, things break, things pull you in different directions but there is still something beautiful in all of it if we just sit a while and take it all in.

A 10/10 star read.