WWW Wednesdays (20 Nov 2019)! What are you reading this week?

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WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

A similar meme is run by Lipsyy Lost and Found where bloggers share This Week in Books #TWiB.

 

What I’m reading now: 

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

This book is so good! The amount of research that the author must have had to do in order to give such a full picture of each of these women’s life is so impressive. I’m in awe of her. This is a book that I want to both savour and devour, it’s brilliant. I have no doubt that this will be one of my standout books of the year.

Constellations by Sinead Gleason

This is also a brilliant read and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been dipping in and out of it but I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to put it down, it’s so good.

Bowie’s Bookshelf by John O’Connell

I only started this book last night so I’m not very far into it but I know I’m going to to enjoy it. I think it might be one I dip in and out of over the next week or two.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

In my quest to catch up with my NetGalley ARCS as much as I can before the year is out this book is the next on my list. I’ve only read the opening chapter so far but it feels like a very lovely, magical book.

 

What I recently finished reading:

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

This is such a lovely, romantic book and I really enjoyed it. I’ll be reviewing it next week for the blog tour so please look out for my thoughts then.

The School Friend by Alison James

This is an ARC that has been on my NetGalley shelf for a while so I finally read it this week and it was an enjoyable read.

How to be Human by Ruby Wax

This was one of my Non-Fiction November picks and I’m glad I finally read it. It’s a good overview of how to deal with emotions around certain things and has a decent guide to easy mindfulness exercises in the back. My full review is here.

Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin

I listened to the audio book of this and really enjoyed it. Armistead Maupin narrates it himself which really added to my enjoyment of his memoir. It’s made me want to start reading Tales of the City all over again so I may do that in the new year!

Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly by Jim Rogatis

I borrowed this book from the library audio books app on a whim and I’m really glad I got to listen to this one. It’s written by a journalist who has been looking into the revelations about R. Kelly since the 90s so it’s a really interesting and insightful book. I recommend it.

James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel

I’d almost finished this book when I wrote my post last week and I’m really pleased that I stuck with this one as it turned out to be such a fascinating book. It’s sparked my interest to want to read all of James Baldwin’s writing (I’ve only read a couple of his books before). My thoughts on it are here if you’d like to know more.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I listened to this on audio and I’m so glad I did. There’s nothing like a memoir that’s read by the author and this book was such a treat. I adored this book and I highly recommend it.

 

What I plan on reading next:

One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster

This is my next planned Christmas read and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got an ARC from NetGalley but I think I’m going to get the audio book so I can listen to it as I read.

When Stars Will Shine by Emma Mitchell

This is a Christmas short story collection and I’ve been so keen to start reading it so I think I’m going to dip in and out of this one over the next week or two.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This is the next book I want to read from my Non-Fiction November TBR. I’ve heard such good things about this and I can’t wait to start it.

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

This is also on my Non-Fiction November TBR and I think this is the one I’ll pick up after Three Women as I’m keen to read this one before the end of the month.

 


 

What have you been reading this week? I’d love to hear. And if you take part in WWW Wednesdays or This Week in Books please feel free to leave your link below and I’ll make sure to visit and comment on your post. 🙂

How to be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax with a Neuroscientist and a Monk #NonFiction #NonFictionNovember

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About the Book

It took us 4 billion years to evolve to where we are now. No question, anyone reading this has won the evolutionary Hunger Games by the fact you’re on all twos and not some fossil. This should make us all the happiest species alive – most of us aren’t, what’s gone wrong? We’ve started treating ourselves more like machines and less like humans. We’re so used to upgrading things like our iPhones: as soon as the new one comes out, we don’t think twice, we dump it. (Many people I know are now on iWife4 or iHusband8, the motto being, if it’s new, it’s better.)

We can’t stop the future from arriving, no matter what drugs we’re on. But even if nearly every part of us becomes robotic, we’ll still, fingers crossed, have our minds, which, hopefully, we’ll be able use for things like compassion, rather than chasing what’s ‘better’, and if we can do that we’re on the yellow brick road to happiness.

I wrote this book with a little help from a monk, who explains how the mind works, and also gives some mindfulness exercises, and a neuroscientist who explains what makes us ‘us’ in the brain. We answer every question you’ve ever had about: evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, kids, the future and compassion. How to be Human is extremely funny, true and the only manual you’ll need to help you upgrade your mind as much as you’ve upgraded your iPhone.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve had this book on my TBR for quite a while now so I added it to my non-fiction November TBR and wanted to make sure I got to it this month. I actually ended up reading it in one sitting yesterday afternoon!

How to be Human is a really honest look at how the stress in our lives affects us and what we can do about it. Ruby Wax has written this book in conjunction with a neuroscientist and a monk so it really does give a really good perspective on how we can better understand and help ourselves.

The book is set out in chapters each covering a different topic from relationships to parenthood to forgiveness. We get an overview of the topic from Ruby and then a few pages of Ruby, the monk and the neuroscientist discussing the issue. These conversations are both funny and helpful, which I liked. It’s nice to read a book that has light-hearted take on a serious issue as it makes it easier to take in the information, especially if you’re struggling with your mental health at the time.

At the end of each chapter Ruby Wax refers you to chapter 11 where you get a whole corresponding section with various mindfulness and mediation exercises to help you with the thing you’re struggling with.

I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t get as much out of this book as I’d hoped but that could be because I’m in a good mental health place these days and I’ve already discovered the huge benefits of regular mindfulness. I will say that the exercises in the back of the book are excellent – a lot of them are already a part of my daily mediation routine and I highly recommend them. Some are things you can do in the time it takes you to brush your teeth on a morning, and others requite a little longer but all will benefit your state of mind in time.

The chapter that I did find really helpful was the one at the end on forgiveness. Ruby Wax alludes to an awful relationship with her mother earlier in the book and in the forgiveness chapter she discovers more about her family in past generations. This journey and the subsequent conversation with the monk and the neuroscientist were illuminating for me. I struggle with forgiveness when someone has done something truly despicable but this book reminded me again that sometimes you have to forgive for your own sake but that doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with the person who hurt you, or even tell them they’re forgiven. It’s an important reminder, and one we perhaps all need from time to time.

I would definitely recommend How to be Human particularly if you’re struggling with your mental health a little bit and want some really easy to follow guidance on why mindfulness can help and how to go about learning to do it.

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

How to be human is out now and available here.

My Favourite Non-Fiction Books! #NonFictionNovember

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This week as part of Non-Fiction November Shelf Aware has set the prompt for us to talk about what makes a book a favourite. What qualities do you look for in non-fiction?

 

I love reading non-fiction and definitely read more of it in recent years than I ever used to before. I’m one of those readers that always has multiple books on the go at once and at least one of my books is always non-fiction.

When I first starting getting into non-fiction it was mainly through reading memoirs and biographies of people that I was interested in and I’m still drawn to them. They’re generally quite easy reads and the focus is on one person so they’re easy to follow. I find them good when my pain levels are high and I need a book that doesn’t require huge amounts of concentration. Alongside my love of memoirs are the easier non-fiction books that read almost like fiction because they’re so unputdownable!

The first grown-up non-fiction book I remember reading is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I read it the summer I was 8 and I can still remember the devastating, eye-opening impact that it had on me. The next biography that made an impact was Still Me by Christopher Reeve. I bought this in hardback the day it was released and I read it in one sitting. I was so moved by his struggle and his openness in the book. I didn’t know when I read it that one day I would be partially paralysed, it doesn’t compare to what happened to him but it does give me even more insight. I’m also recommending The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. This is a memoir of a woman who whilst ill and confined to bed takes to watching nature, this is such a beautiful book and is one I stumbled across and am so glad it found me. On a lighter note I also included Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm, which is a must-read if you were a child and teenage reader (particularly if you’re in your 40s now). I adore this book! A fun read, also for 40+ year olds is Now We Are 40 which is all about Generation X and I loved it. Finally I recommend The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater – it’s part Christmas memoir and part cookbook and it’s such a gorgeous book to read as the festive season comes around.

 

I also enjoy reading non-fiction to learn and often find myself drawn to factual books when I’ve been reading a novel or watching something on TV and want to know more. I’m more likely to fall down a rabbit-hole of one book leading to another these days and I love it when that happens. It so often ends with a book that is quite a distance subject-wise from where I started which then sends me off on another track.

In this section I’ve included Pain-Free Life by Andrea Hayes and Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch as both have massively helped me find a way to live with the chronic pain I’m permanently. I recommend them if you’re a pain sufferer. In Plain Sight is about Jimmy Savile and is such a well-written book about how his crimes were discovered. The Emperor of all Maladies and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are both about cancer. The first is a history of cancer told in such a fascinating way, it’s a brilliant book. The second is about the cells doctors took from Henrietta that are still used today but her family weren’t informed about what was done. It’s such a moving and interesting book. Death at Seaworld is a brilliant book that really opens your eyes to what is happening at Seaworld. This book made me so angry but that’s a good thing and it’s a book more people should read. Hillsborough: The Truth is the full story of what happened and is a must-read. I’ve read it twice and it’s still so shocking for so many reasons. The Looming Tower is an excellent read about the factors that led up to 9/11 and has since been adapted for TV. The Red Parts is a memoir about Nelson’s Aunt’s murder, which happened before she was born and I’ve found this has really stayed with me. Last but not least is Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, which was such an interesting read. It’s incredible to read her story and find out how she came to be an astronaut but also the extra struggles she had being the first woman, and how things had to be considered that never had before.

 

My concentration for more academic non-fiction isn’t great these days but when I want to read something to learn or to gain much more depth on a subject I will still pick these books up. I loved all the academic books that I read when I was doing my degree many years ago but I struggle now I’m out of the habit and do find these books more daunting.

Here I’m recommending just four books. The first is A Literature of their Own, which I bought in my first week at Uni when I heard Elaine Showalter was going to be giving a guest lecture. I’m such a fan of her writing now and want to re-read this one soon. I’ve also included Aspects of the Novel, which I devoured immediately after buying it and really enjoyed it. The Case of Peter Pan came in really useful for an essay I was writing but I’ve since re-read the book and find it such an interesting read. I want to read more by the author. I’m also including James Baldwin and the 1980s, which I’ve only recently finished but it’s sparked me into wanting to read so many other books so it feels right to include it.

Ultimately, I think my favourite kind of non-fiction is books that are the ones where I’m learning more about something but without the book being too academic. It means I can learn whilst enjoying my reading and it feels less pressured for me when my health isn’t so good.

 

Also, I have to squeeze in a mention that I do have something of an addiction to books about de-cluttering. I love Marie Kondo’s books (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy as it’s her method that finally clicked with me to sort my whole house out (and it’s stayed tidy ever since! Here is a post about my clutter journey.)  but if I see a book about hoarding or de-cluttering I still have to read them! I also found Banish Clutter Forever, which helped me with re-organising my house after I’d decluttered. It’s based on the idea that we always know where our toothbrush is because we keep it right where we use it so if we apply that principle to everything else we own our homes should be easier to tidy and it should be easier to find things. I’ve reviewed Un*fuck Your Habitat here if you’d like to know more about this one.

 

What are some of your favourite types of non-fiction? What are your favourite non-fiction books? If you have any recommendations for me based on any of the books in this post please let me know, I’m always looking for more books to read! 🙂

Book Reviews: James Baldwin and the 1980s | Chase the Rainbow | Furious Hours | The Dark Side of the Mind

 

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Today I’m sharing a selection of mini book reviews of some recent non-fiction books that were excellent reads!

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James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel

This book took me a while to read but I’m so glad that I kept going with it because it’s a fascinating read. I’ve read a couple of James Baldwin’s well-known books but I didn’t know as much about him and the context of when he was writing as I thought I did. This book covers sexuality, racism and the AIDS crisis all in the context of the 1980s and the political agenda of the time. I was fascinated by the chapter on AIDS and the play that Baldwin wrote that has never been published. The author brought this play, and the themes Baldwin was exploring, to life for me so whilst I might never get a chance to see or read this play I have an understanding of the work now. I was also fascinated by the chapter that focused on the Atlanta child murders. I’d heard about these murders from watching Mindhunter on Netflix but didn’t know anymore about it than that so I was appalled to read more of the background and aftermath of this case. Baldwin was fascinated by the focus on race and sexuality during the case and had a lot to say about how the case was handled. I’ve now put Baldwin’s Evidence of Things Not Seen on my wish list and I think this will be the next book of his that I pick up. This is quite an academic book but it’s absolutely well worth a read, I recommend it!

 

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Chase the Rainbow by Poorna Bell

I’ve had this book on my TBR ever since it was first published but I finally picked it up recently and I’m so glad I did. This is Poorna Bell’s story of her husband’s depression and addiction, and sadly his eventual suicide. This is such an honest and moving book, it’s hard to read at times but it’s well-written and that kept me turning the pages. Poorna Bell is so open about what happened with her husband, but also her own feelings and how it affected her living with someone who was living with demons. She explores the aftermath of her husband’s death – both the immediate weeks and then some time later. The balance of seeing the time after as she begins to heal means this book shows the whole gamut of what it is to live through what she has. I recommend this book.

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The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

I bought this book recently and put it on my Non-Fiction November TBR and I’m so glad I got to read it as it’s such a fascinating book. Kerry Daynes is a forensic psychologist and in this book she shares her stories from her very first work placement in a prison and throughout her career. She has worked with all kinds of people and this book is so interesting. You can sense her frustration when the system fails but also her satisfaction when a person is helped. Some of what Kerry has had to deal with is shocking and terrifying but you get a real sense of what day to day life is like in her job. She has worked in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, homes for vulnerable women and has also done some TV work and private practice. This is one of those non-fiction books that is almost like reading fiction in that it’s near impossible to put down once you start reading – I read it in just two sittings and really enjoyed it. I recommend it!

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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

I picked this book up because of the mention of Harper Lee and I’m so glad I did. The book isn’t all about her, but the story being told is fascinating none-the-less. The book is in three sections – the first is about Willie Maxwell, a man who murdered members of his family in order to claim the life insurance he’d taken out on them. The second part focuses on Willie’s lawyer Tom Radney and later the lawyer of the man who killed Willie. The third part of the book is the trial and this is where Harper Lee comes into it. She followed the trial closely and took notes intending to write a book. This section is so interesting as we learn about her close friendship with Truman Capote and how her helping him with In Cold Blood led her to want to write her own book about a murder trial. The whole book is fascinating though because it’s such a bizarre story and I found I just couldn’t put it down. I recommend it!

Non-Fiction November: Become the Expert… on Gender!

This week as part of Non-Fiction November the prompt set by Katie at Doing Dewey is to Be the Expert / Ask the Expert / Become the Expert. I’ve decided to go with Become the Expert as there is a topic that I’ve bought a few books on but have yet to read any of them.

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I want to learn more about gender as it seems there is more and more in the media about this and I feel like I don’t know as much as I would like to. I often think back to my own childhood as a girl with brothers and I feel like back then we all played with dolls and tractors. Lego was made in primary colours and for everyone. But when I look back at photos I’m always wearing pretty dresses and my brothers wore more practical clothes.

So these are the books I’d like to read in the coming months:

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The Gender Agenda by Ros Ball and James Millar

I think this book would be a good place for me to start as it’s a book compiled from tweets and blogs that the parents kept as their children were growing up. It feels like it will be an accessible and fairly quick read that will give me an overview of how society views boys and girls differently, and how stereotypes keep being reinforced (even when we perhaps try not to do this).

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Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

This book looks at gender from the angle of neuroscience and psychology to see whether men and women’s brains are wired differently, and to further understand what role the way we are brought up has on our adult lives. I’m fascinated to read this book, I think it will be one that really gives me much more understanding on the subject of gender.

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Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O’Toole

This book is slightly different in that it looks at gender but more specifically at women and how we dress and perform in order to fit society’s norms. I think the author is trying to challenge the stereotypes and to re-write the agenda. This book sounds so interesting to me and is one I’ve wanted to read for ages.

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The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

I had to add this book to my quest to understand more about gender as the sub-title to this book is ‘The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both’. Juno is a trans-woman so she is able to bring another perspective to my learning about gender. I’ve had this book on my TBR for a year now and haven’t managed to get to it but in putting this post together it’s reminded me how much I want to read it.

Do you have any recommendations of more books on gender that might give me further insight and understanding? I’d love to add to my TBR on this subject.

 

 

 

If You Like That, You’ll Love This! #Fiction #NonFiction #BookPairings

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It’s week 2 of Non-Fiction November and this week’s prompt is over on Sarah’s Book Shelves and it is all about pairing up non-fiction books with fiction.

I thought this was going to be really difficult but once I took a few minutes to think about it, and to scroll through my Goodreads account, I came up with a few!

Firstly I have a couple of nonfiction books to recommended.. If you loved one then I think you’ll love the other too!

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer + Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

I read both of these books in 2019 and they are both such fascinating reads. Each features explorations of very cold, inhospitable places and reflections on what happened along with some history. Dead Mountain is looking at a mysterious case from the 1950s where a group of experienced explorers all died in very strange circumstances. Into Thin Air is about a group who climb Everest in the 1990s but something goes wrong near the summit and people died. Afterwards there was a lot of discussion about the truth of what happened that day. I think if you enjoyed one of these books you would also enjoy the other.

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink + Past Caring by Audrey Jenkinson

I read these books quite a long time ago but it’s testament to them that I still remember them so clearly. The Last Act of Love is an incredibly moving book about the aftermath of an accident that seriously injured Cathy’s brother. She and her family looked after him from then on until his death. Past Caring is a book that I discovered in the months after my mum died and it was a huge help to me. It’s all about how it feels, and how to cope, when you have been a carer for a loved one who has since died. It’s hard to suddenly not be a carer anymore, to not be needed when it’s been your life for so long. I recommend both of these books – the first is a book for everyone and the second is more for if you have been caring for someone, it really is an excellent resource.

 

Then I have some fiction books that I’ve read and enjoyed so have paired them with some non-fiction titles that are linked in some way.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett + How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France AND And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Schilts

I just finished reading Full Disclosure at the weekend so I haven’t yet written my review. As soon as I started writing this post though I knew I had to include it. It’s about a teenage girl who is HIV Positive (which she contracted from her birth mother). She lives with her two dads and lives a very normal life. The book is a brilliant portrayal of what it is to live with HIV in the present day and I recommend it. I wanted to pair it with two books that both give such an excellent overview of the history of HIV and AIDS. Randy Schilts book is an older book so it doesn’t cover more recent developments but it is still a very good read. David France’s book is very recent and I found it fascinating. Both non-fiction books are well-researched but they’re written in a very accessible way and I would recommend them to anyone wanting to know more.

The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith + It’s All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan

The Things We Thought We Knew is a brilliant novel following a teenager who is bedbound with chronic pain. Through the novel we learn that her childhood best friend went missing and she has struggled to cope with the loss. Her situation is complex and I felt such sympathy for her. I adored the novel and am keen to re-read it. The non-fiction I recommend after reading the novel is It’s All in Your Head. I read this book whilst recovering from neurosurgery and I got engrossed in it. It’s a book by a doctor who is exploring illnesses where there is no apparent physical cause. She never says it’s all in your mind in a dismissive way, it’s more a fascinating look at how our minds can cause symptoms to present in the body. These symptoms need treating just as much as actual physical illness but O’Sullivan shows how patients and doctors need to be open to exploring other avenues such as psychotherapy. I loved the book and highly recommend it.

Carry You by Beth Thomas + Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman

I read Carry You about five years ago and it’s a book that’s really stayed with me. It’s a contemporary novel and the main character is trying to re-build her life after the death of her mum. I loved the book and want to re-read it soon. I’m pairing it with Motherless Daughters, which is a book I discovered in the months after my mum died. It was the book I needed in those months and I recommend it to anyone who has lost their mother. I liked how Hope tells her own story but the book also contains lots of other women’s stories too so it really is a book for any woman whose mother has died. It’s perhaps not a book if you haven’t experienced that loss but it’s one to make a note of, I have since gifted copies to friends who are grieving the loss of their own mother.

Still Lives by Maria Hummell + After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry 

I read Still Lives very recently and found it a really interesting read. It features an art exhibition by a female artist who has painted herself into the murder scene of women who became infamous after their deaths (such as Nicole Brown-Simpson). It’s a crime thriller but what stood out to me was the exploration of how society either fetishises murdered women, or it ignores them completely to focus on the killer. I’m pairing this with After the Eclipse, which is one of my favourite non-fiction books that I’ve read this year. In this book Sarah Perry writes about the murder of her mum when she was a young teenager. Sarah explores her own emotions from the time but also looks back on the time through her adult eyes. She really made me think about how in our fascination with true crime documentaries we often almost forget that the murdered woman was a person, she had a family and friends. This is a book I recommend to everyone.

The First Time Lauren Pailing by Alyson Rudd + I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

I read The First Time Lauren Pailing Died a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. It’s about Lauren Pailing and she has a fairly ordinary life but when she’s a teen she dies in an accident. At this point we see the aftermath of her death and how it affected her loved ones but we also see Lauren survive the accident and go on with her life. She later dies again and the splits occur once more and you follow all the timelines. It’s such a good read, and even though it sounds confusing I found it easy to follow. I think if you enjoyed this book you should read I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. I’m the biggest fan of her writing so was eager to read her first non-fiction writing and it’s a brilliant book. Maggie looks back on her life through each of the times that she had a brush with death. This book really resonated with me and I’m definitely going to re-read it next year. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend it.

Histories by Sam Guglani + Breaking and Mending by Joanna Cannon

Histories is an interlinked short story collection that I found really powerful. You see the hospital through the eyes of different people who are there – doctors, nurses, cleaners, admin staff and patients and each story adds depth to another story in the book. It’s a great read and really stays with you. Breaking and Mending is Joanna Cannon’s reflections on her time as a junior doctor and it’s an incredibly powerful book. I found it breathtaking in how she shows the realities of working in the NHS and it’s made such an impression on me. This is a book I recommend to everyone.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech + Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride – 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is one of my favourite novels so I recommend it if you haven’t already read it. It follows Ben who is working at a lion reserve in Africa, which he’s always dreamt of doing but he’s not happy. Over the novel we find out about Ben’s relationship with Andrew and it’s such a stunning read. It made me cry when I read it but now when I think of it I remember the beauty and hope in the early days of Ben and Andrew as they fall in love. I’m pairing this with Good As You, which is a book looking back at 30 years of what it is to be gay in Britain. It’s one of those non-fiction books that you learn things from but it’s written in such a way that you fly through it. I was picking it up every chance I had, just like I do with fiction. Both books have heartbreak and hope and I recommend them.

Accidental Emeralds by Vivienne Tuffnell + The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt

Accidental Emeralds is a poetry collection that I read around the time I started reviewing books on my blog. It’s a beautiful collection that looks at longing and love through the changing of the seasons. I loved the collection and plan to re-read it but I was very apprehensive about reviewing it because I never feel like I’m clever enough to fully understand how to write about poetry. Earlier this year I read The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt which is a brilliant book that looks at a selection of poems and explores them in a way that makes poetry feel so accessible. The book even made me re-read a poem that I detested while studying at school and I ended up finding I really enjoyed it. The Point of Poetry is for everyone and I recommend it to anyone who has ever felt intimidated to read poetry or to write about it.

The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister + Stand Against Injustice by Michelle Diskin Bates

This pairing was a late edition to this post but I wanted to include it anyway. The Evidence Against You is a crime thriller that follows a young woman as her father is about to be released from prison. He was convicted of killing her mother but now he’s  protesting his innocence. She doesn’t know what to believe but she decides to try and find out what the truth is. A couple of weeks ago I read Stand Against Injustice which is about a terrible miscarriage of justice. Barry George was wrongfully convicted of murdering TV presenter Jill Dando and this book, written by Barry’s sister, explores what the family have been through over the last twenty years. It really gives an insight into what it is having a loved one in prison, and how much it takes to fight for justice. I highly recommend this one.

 

 

Stand Against Injustice by Michelle Diskin Bates | @Michelle_Diskin @malcomdown @LoveBooksGroup

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About the Book

On April 26, 1999, BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered outside her home in London. Barry George was convicted and imprisoned for the murder but was later acquitted after an appeal and retrial. Stand Against Injustice is the powerful memoir of the sister of Barry George.

For the first time, Michelle Diskin tells her story, the human side and truth behind one of recent history’s most high profile and damaging miscarriages of justice whose life is inextricably interwoven in the drama, the trauma, the conspiracy and the fight for justice. A self-confessed “ordinary housewife,” Diskin’s voice weaves the personal everyday struggles that bring depth, color, and passion into what is an extraordinary account.

A troubled childhood weighted with overbearing responsibility, fear and insecurity, depression, and the challenges of marriage and adult relationships, Diskin’s life has never been easy. However, the one constant in her life – her faith in God – underpins and provides the foundation upon which she now stands – against injustice.

 

My Thoughts

I remember the news breaking about the murder of Jill Dando, it was so shocking and hard to believe. I’ve read news articles and seen documentaries about the case over the years but have never really thought about just how hard it must be for the victim of a wrongful conviction (or their close family). Stand Against Injustice is a book that gives such eye-opening insight into this and I am so glad that I got to read it.

Stand Against Injustice is written by Michelle Diskin Bates, the sister of Barry George who was wrongfully convicted of killing TV presenter Jill Dando. Michelle writes so candidly of the time period from when her brother was arrested right up to the present day. I very much appreciated her honesty and how she shares the rawness of what she, and her family, all went through. It can’t have been easy for Michelle to relive all that they have been through, and are still going through, but this is such an important book and is a story that needs to be heard.

I’ve read quite a lot of non-fiction books that focus on crime but I had no idea that when someone has their conviction quashed and is then re-tried and found not guilty, as in Barry George’s case, it isn’t necessarily considered a miscarriage of justice and therefore no compensation is awarded. It made me so angry to read how little support he has had from the state to re-build his life, had he not had Michelle and other family around him, you’re left wondering what would have happened to him.

It’s horrendous how the media treated Michelle and her family. To read of the way the media hounded her mum, and the way they made up such awful stories about Barry’s behaviour after he was released is shocking.

This wasn’t an easy read because it’s just awful to read of something like this happening to an innocent man. Stand Against Injustice is so well-written though and really does give a real insight into what it was like to go through such an horrendous ordeal. Michelle describes how harrowing it was going through her first prison visit to see Barry. She takes you through the court case and how frightening and intimidating elements of the process were. All the way through to the conviction being quashed but even that day Michelle, Barry and their family weren’t able to quietly celebrate the moment together. This book made me so angry at how they were all treated but I’m so glad that I read it because I feel I have so much more knowledge of the system and how things can go wrong than I had before. I read a lot of true crime books but this is the first book I’ve read that gives me this perspective – it’s really made me think and in future I will go into my crime reading (or documentary watching) with a much greater understanding of what it is to be in Michelle’s, and Barry’s, shoes. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a definite must read!

Many thanks to Kelly of Love Books Group for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Stand Against Injustice is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Mother of three, campaigner for justice and Committed Christian.

Michelle campaigned for eight years for the release of her disabled brother, Barry George, after he was wrongly convicted in 2001, for the high profile murder of BBC television presenter, Jill Dando. Mr George was acquitted in 2007 and sent for re-trial in 2008. He was found not guilty, by unanimous jury verdict on 1st August 2008.

Born in Fulham, London in 1955, Michelle lived in West London until 1973. She then moved to Cork, Ireland, where she lived until 2012, with her three adult children. Michelle’s first husband, Patrick, died unexpectedly in 2007 after a short illness, but, with God’s grace, she is now married again, to Peter, who supports her in her Miscarriage of Justice (MOJ) activities. They are both committed Christians, who worship at a Baptist church in Northamptonshire, taking on many responsibilities within the fellowship.

Retired now, Michelle always worked outside of the home in various industries, and at all levels from cleaner to management. Her ethos being: do the job to the best of your abilities, as a service to others, regardless of the task. She has trained as an Image Consultant and most recently, as a weight loss consultant.

Since her brother’s wrongful incarceration, she has become a public speaker at Miscarriage of Justice conferences across the UK, and has also been a guest speaker at the Spiritual Health Weekends for women, run by Nancy Goudie. Also a guest lecturer at University College Cork and Portsmouth University to Law students interested in Miscarriage of Justice. Also attending APPGs on miscarriage of justice in Parliament.

Michelle is still in touch with many families of the wrongly convicted, including those convicted under Joint Enterprise. She also has connections with various MOJ organisations, e.g. Mojo Scotland, The Innocence Project in UK Universities, and a variety of legal representatives and released victims of MOJ.
She is interested in the refusal of the Judiciary to pay compensation under section 133., ‘Not innocent enough’ or ‘A jury, properly directed, could have convicted’, both of which still affect her brother.

 

You can find the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

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My Year in Non-Fiction! #NonFicNov

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I’m taking part as Non-Fiction November again and this year there is a weekly prompt set by a different blogger each week. This week the prompt as been chosen by Julie at Julz Reads and it’s all about looking back over the non-fiction we’ve read this year.

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

 

So far since the 1st January this year I’ve read 302 books and only 68 of them have been non-fiction, which I’m disappointed by. I love non-fiction and it usually makes up around a third of my reading. Hopefully Non-Fiction November will help me focus on non-fiction for the most part this month!

 

Thinking back over 2019 I thought I’d been most drawn to true crime but when I look through my year of reading on Goodreads it seems I’ve read more medical-related books. I’ve very much enjoyed most of the non-fiction that I’ve read this year.

 

 

I think the two books that have had the most impact on me this year have been Trauma by Dr Gordon Turnbull and After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry. Trauma because it was a history of how PTSD came to be recognised as a medical condition and how the treatment has evolved over the years. The author takes us back through cases that he has worked on and it’s fascinating. I suffered with PTSD for many years so this was of particular interest to me but I really do think it’s a book everyone would find very interesting. After the Eclipse is written by a woman whose mother was murdered when she was in the house and just a young teenager at the time. It really shows the love and the mixed up emotions around such a traumatic event at a young age but it also was an important reminder to me that in all the true crime documentaries we watch and read about that there is a victim and loved ones of that victim. It really humanises and shows the other side of a murder case. These are the two books that I would most recommend of my non-fiction reading this year.

 

I’m hoping that Non-Fiction November will help me focus more on non-fiction for a few weeks but also that it will allow me to get to some non-fiction that I’ve been putting off for one reason or another. I have such a huge stack of non-fiction books on my TBR and I’m so excited to read all of those books.

Non-Fiction November 2019 TBR Books!

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Nonfiction November 2019 runs from 28th October to 30th November 2019.  This year’s hosts are Katie of DoingDewey, Rennie of What’s Nonfiction, Julz of JulzReads, Sarah of Sarah’s Bookshelves and Leann of Shelf Aware.

They’ll be posting a discussion question and link-up on the Monday of each week.  Check out this post for the schedule and prompts.

 

I love joining in with Non-Fiction November each year. I do read a reasonable amount of non-fiction throughout the year anyway but it’s great to have a month where I focus on reading more non-fiction than fiction. I’ve really struggled to pick my TBR this year as I have so many books on my TBR that I want to read so I’ve tried to pick a wide range and hope that I’m in the right mood to read most of them during the month! Ultimately I’ll just be happy to read more non-fiction than fiction throughout November.

 

So without further ado here is my TBR!

 

Firstly I have a few non-fiction books that I’ve been sent for review so I’m putting those on my list:

 

Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Life by John O’Connell

I was thrilled to get approved to read this book from NetGalley as I’ve been a huge David Bowie fan since I was a young child and think learning more about his favourite books will be so interesting.

Constellations by Sinead Gleason

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I read a very moving article in the newspaper about Sinead and one of the stories in her book. I’ve had this book on my NetGalley for a little while now and really do want to make it a priority in November.

The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer

I got this book on Read Now on NetGalley a few weeks ago. It might be a book that is too much for me to read but this is a subject that I generally want to read more about so I’m hoping I can read this one.

 

Chase the Rainbow by Poorna Bell

I’ve shamefully had this book on my review pile for over a year so I really want to make it a priority this month. The subject matter is around mental health and suicide so it won’t be an easy read but I think it’s an important book.

How to be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax

This is another book that I’ve had on my review pile for a while now and I’m still really interested to read it.

 

Then I went through my non-fiction audio books and spotted a handful that I’m really keen to listen to:

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I got this book on audio as Michelle Obama reads it herself and I’ve been wanting to listen to it ever since it was first published. I think this will be a fab listen so I’m really looking forward to this one.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

I’ve heard so many great things about this book so it’s high on my priority list for the month ahead. I think it really focuses on the women and their lives rather than how they died so I’m fascinated to listen to this one.

 

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This is another book that I’ve been so keen to get to and I keep hearing such good things about it so I really hope I can get to this one this month.

The Death of a President: November 1963 by William Manchester

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time but it’s really hard to find second-hand at a reasonable price. I think it was out of print when I looked for it so when I spotted it on Audible I immediately spent my credit for that month. It’s a really long book so I’m not sure I’ll get to listen to all of this in November along with all my other reading but I hope to at least start it.

 

Next there are the non-fiction ebooks that I’d like to get to:

 

Deceit and Self-Deception:  Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others by Robert Trivers

This book has been on my TBR for around three years and my interest in it has never waned. I do feel intimidated by it for some reason so I keep putting off reading it. I really want to make this a priority this month to at least get a chunk of it read as it does sound so fascinating.

A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives by Cordelia Fine

Ever since I’ve had my medical condition I’ve been fascinated by how the brain works and how it can distort things, and also how we can over-ride this. So this book caught my eye in a kindle sale recently and I’ve been so keen to read it.

The Dark Side of the Mind: True Stories from My Life as a Forensic Psychologist by Kerry Daynes

I couldn’t resist buying this book when it was recommended to me as I’m fascinated by psychology and this looks like my kind of book! I’m really keen to read this one so it might even be the book I pick up first for Non-Fiction November!

Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us by Will Storr

I’ve had this book on my TBR since it was first published and I’m still really intrigued to read it so hopefully I’ll finally get to read it this month!

Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

I’ve added this book to my TBR as I think it will be good to have a book os essays to dip in and out of throughout the month. I love Zadie Smith’s fiction but have never read any of her non-fiction so I’m really keen to read this one.

Brainstorm: Detective Stories From the World of Neurology by Suzanne O’Sullivan

I really enjoyed Suzanne O’Sullivan’s previous book It’s All In Your Head (which I read while in hospital recovering from neurosurgery!) so when I spotted she had a new book out I had to buy it. As I said about Cordelia Fine’s book earlier in this post I’m fascinated by the mind and what it can do so I think I’m going to love this book too.

Misogynies by Joan Smith

I bought this book on a whim very recently and am really looking forward to reading it. I think it’s a slightly older book on this subject but it still sounds so fascinating and I’m keen to get to this one.

Turning the Tide on Plastic: How Humanity (And You) Can Make Our Globe Clean Again by Lucy Siegle

This is a book that I really want to read soon as I’m working really hard on reducing my plastic in my home but I feel like I now need more guidance on how to reduce it further. There are some things that feel impossible to change but I know there will be ideas out there. I’m hoping this book is the one I need.

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

I read another of Johann Hari’s other books a year or two ago and found it really interesting so this one really stood out to me. I think there has been some controversy over this book but also some good reviews so I’m keen to see what I think.

How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy by Stephen Witt

I recently watched a documentary and the author of this book was on it and I thought that I’d look the book up. When I went to buy it it turned out I already owned it! So I decided that was a sign that I should read it soon!

 

And finally the print books:

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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

This is a book that I’m desperate to read but haven’t managed to purely because the type is so small I haven’t managed it. I’ve got yet more new glasses for reading recently so am hoping I can finally read it this month. I want to read this one because I LOVE Roger Waters’ album Amused to Death and this book apparently inspired the title and some of the themes on that album.

Mansfield and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Sarah Laing

I bought this book a year or so ago and am so keen to read it. It seems perfect to put on this TBR as it will be a different format of non-fiction for this month.

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox

This is another book that I’ve been so looking forward to and it looks like it might be both interesting and fun. It’s a bit of a doorstop though so I might struggle to read all of it this month but I will do my best to get to it.

 


 

Are you taking part in Non-Fiction November this time? What’s on your TBR for the month? Have you got any good non-fiction recommendations for me based on my TBR?

 

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews: Forgiveness is Really Strange, Hard Pushed, Ask Me His Name, How To Treat People, and What Dementia Teaches Us About Love!

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Today I’m continuing with my series of mini reviews and am sharing my thoughts on a selection of non-fiction books that I’ve read over the summer.

 

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Forgiveness is Really Strange by Masi Noor and Marina Cantacuzino (Illustrated by Sophie Standing)

This is a short graphic non-fiction book that is such an incredible read. I’ve read it twice now and each time it has given me something that I needed from it. It explores the idea of forgiveness in a way I haven’t seen before – I think the short paragraphs and the beautiful illustrations really made me think and ponder. It left me with a sense that forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others. I recommend this book to everyone but in particular for people who have experience trauma at the hands of another and needs an easy to grasp book that can help with understanding the nature of forgiveness.

 

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Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard

This is a book by a midwife about being a midwife in an NHS hospital and it was such an interesting and insightful read. You get such a real sense of how it is to work in hospitals, how much is expected and how short-staffed they are. What I loved about this book is the way Leah Hazard really made me feel like I was seeing her work life through her eyes. Midwives are often present for a part of someone’s story but never get to see how it turned out, and so some of the stories in this book don’t have a patient’s full story. I thought this might be frustrating but it wasn’t, I was just so in the moment with the midwife. This is a really good read and I recommend it.

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Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright

This book is incredibly moving. Elle Wright has written so openly and honestly about her experience of being pregnant and then giving birth to her beautiful baby boy, Teddy, who only lived for three days. Initially I wasn’t sure this book was for me as the writing style was very chatty but once I got into the first chapter I was engrossed in Elle’s story. I can’t even imagine what it is to go through what she has. I’ve experienced miscarriage and knowing I won’t ever have a child but that is incomparable to what Elle and her husband have been through. I loved how honest she is about how she felt along the way and also how she gives such straightforward advice on what to say if someone you love is going through the loss of a baby. I also love the way she honours Teddy and continues to encourage others to speak to her about him. I have such admiration for her. This is such a moving book to read but I’m glad I read it and I recommend it.

 

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How To Treat People by Molly Case

This book is different to what I was expecting – it’s part memoir and part science. Molly Case talks about her own life, and her work life as a nurse but interspersed with those chapters are more scientific chapters about particular medical issues or the history of a condition. I have to be honest and say that while I appreciated this book it just wasn’t fully for me. I do recommend it though because it is well written and very interesting.

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What Dementia Teaches Us About Love by Nicci Gerrard

This book is such a stunning and heart-breaking read but one that everyone should pick up and read. Nicci Gerrard takes us through the stages of her father’s dementia – from the early stages right through to death. She is so honest about his symptoms and how it affected her and the rest of their family. We need to talk about about these things and this book is such a brilliant opening to starting this discussion with your own family.  I lost my mum to cancer but part of that was a brain tumour that caused her to lose who she was and who I was so I have some sense of what it must be like to have a loved one with dementia. It’s so hard to lose someone in slow motion. I remember as a child my mum had an elderly aunt who had dementia and how distressed she found it every time she visited. This was in a time when no one really talked about it and that just always makes it worse when you can’t talk and don’t know anyone else who’s experienced it. This is why we need books like this. There are facts and figures about dementia throughout the book, as well as stories from other sufferers and their families. It’s all woven together in such a way that even though it’s harrowing to think about you just don’t want to put the book down. I highly recommend this one.

Review: Meditation for Children by Shelley Wilson | @ShelleyWilson72 @BHCPressBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Author and meditation tutor Shelley Wilson takes you on a magical journey to a calm and happy place that you and your child will love.

Children of all ages can learn and enjoy the benefits of meditation.

Designed to help access creative abilities through relaxation and imagination, these stories help develop the necessary tools needed at a young age for lifelong healthy habits of managing stress and anxiety while also improving learning skills.

Meditation for Children is a simple way to introduce children to mindfulness through guided visualization. Includes a handy reference guide and instructions.

 

My Thoughts

Meditation for Children is a wonderful book that parents can share with their children to help them relax and come to enjoy meditation as part of their everyday lives.

I don’t have children but I am someone who very much enjoys mindfulness and mediation so I was fascinated to read this book.

I very much enjoyed reading Meditation for Children, it’s a lovely book and I loved the way Shelley Wilson has made it a wonderful story book that can be enjoyed as such but has left space to imagine and to take some breaths to relax and to slow down. I can absolutely see how this is the perfect way to introduce a younger child to the idea of meditating, which as they grow can be such a great tool to help them cope with the stresses that go with growing up, going through school etc.

The book opens with a how to guide that explains how meditation can be helpful and also suggests ways to use the book and how to incorporate meditating into your and your child’s lives. There are then ten very short stories (that each take under 5 minutes to read aloud) that are fabulous and really help you visualise the world being described. Each story is accompanied with gorgeous illustrations that are vivid and bright and really give a sense of the world you’re about to travel in to. They all follow a similar idea of closing your eyes, slowly breathing in and out and then imagining the story that is being read to you. This is great as it will help a child know that this is a special story and as they grow older they will understand how to use the tools that meditation gives us – being able to relax and unwind.

I very much enjoyed this book and love how it makes coming to meditation easy for children but it’s clearly been properly researched and will definitely create a helpful skill that a child can use throughout their life. I can see echoes of how I was taught to meditate as an adult, and how I use it in my life now so it’s absolutely going to be a fantastic resource for children and their parents. Meditation for Children is a book that I wish I had when I was a child. Knowing how much meditation helps me in my every day life now I feel sure it would have been just as beneficial when I was younger. I highly recommend this book if you have young children in your life, it really is an invaluable book for helping your child to relax and find inner calm.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Meditation for Children is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Shelley Wilson is an award-winning motivational blogger, speaker, meditation tutor, Reiki master, and author. Her multi-award winning motivational and personal development blog has received several awards and has been named a Top 10 UK Personal Development Blog. She resides in Solihull, West Midlands, UK, where she lives with her three teenagers.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: Head Shot Victoria Nixon | @VictoriaNixon_ @annecater @Unbounders #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A girl from a Yorkshire mining town is barely thirteen when her father kills himself – her brother finds him dying. At sixteen she’s spotted by a rock star and becomes an international Vogue model. Seven years later her brother kills himself in her New York apartment and her mother dies too. With no family left, her life is now one of extreme choices. Fifty years later, Victoria confronts her past and takes her readers on an unflinching voyage through her experiences as a model and beyond. Speaking frankly about loss, love, friendship and ambition, Head Shot is a book of inspiration and purpose. Packed with astonishing images by the photographers Victoria worked with, and the defiant fashions she wore throughout her career, it also bears witness to a time of unparalleled cultural energy and invention; it’s a story in which bags and shoes can, and do, sit right next to life and death.

 

My Thoughts

Head Shot is an incredible memoir; Victoria Nixon so honestly and openly looks back on her life and career. I finished reading this book a few days ago now and am still trying to find the words for this review.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was because the Victoria Nixon lost her mum at a similar age that I was when I lost my mum and I find myself drawn to books where people explore how they cope with losing their mother whilst in their 20s. The book that I got gave me what I was expecting but so much more besides.

Victoria Nixon takes us through how she came to be a model, you get to hear of the photographers she has worked with and other models she has got to know. I loved hearing about the stars of the day that she came into contact with – such as Brian Eno! There is no name-dropping in this book, all the stories Victoria shares feel a real part of her life story and so come up in an organic way. She never seemed to be affected by the showbiz life but seemed to just be enjoying her life and working hard to be a success.

It was heartbreaking to read of her father’s death when she was only a young teenager. I can’t imagine the pain of that and how it affects a person. Victoria shares her emotions and how it led to her life becoming what it did. I very much appreciated how sensitively and honestly she looks back at her father’s death, you can see how much she loved him. Sadly for Victoria she also lost her brother to suicide when she was in her 20s. This was an incredibly moving part of the book to read. The struggles Nick had had and the way his family had tried so hard to help him were very moving to read about. Victoria doesn’t shy away from discussing mental health in her book, she clearly cares very deeply about the subject.

The loss of her mother also when she was in her 20s was a shock for her and it changed how she felt about her life. I can really identify with this. I think when you’re very close to a parent and you lose them when you’re at a stage in life of being independent but also knowing that you can always go home if you need to, it’s very hard. I have such admiration for how Victoria dealt with her grief, and how she coped with all the pain life has thrown at her. She doesn’t dwell, she reflects on things but she always knew she had to pick herself up and keep going. I found her such an inspiring person to read about.

I very much enjoyed learning about the modelling industry in the 60s and 70s. I’m not really into fashion but it was fascinating to read about what it was like to be a model, and to hear about the not-so-glamourous side of things. Nixon is clearly a very driven and determined woman and she continued to push through during the difficult times. There are lighter moments throughout the book too, moments that will make you giggle and some stories that might make you raise an eyebrow.

There are photos throughout this book and I loved seeing them. They relate to stories Nixon has shared and it really brought the book to life. I love hearing the back story to an image and so this was a joy to have in this book.

Head Shot is such an incredible memoir! It’s a stunning and candid look back at a life that will leave you feeling inspired. Victoria Nixon’s passion and determination shines through and I’m so glad I got to read about her life. I loved this book so much, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read! I very highly recommend this!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Head Shot is out now in hardback and available here. The ebook is due for release on 15 August and can be pre-ordered at the same link.

 

About the Author

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Victoria Nixon was eighteen when she was discovered by Helmut Newton, who photographed her for Vogue . This launched her international modelling career, which led to her being named the Daily Mail ’s ‘Face of 1968’.

After modelling, she went on to become an award-winning advertising copywriter, television producer and magazine editor. In the 1990s she opened the first deli in the UK to ban plastic packaging, and in 2002 her first book, ‘Supermodels’ Beauty Secrets‘ , was published, followed by ‘Supermodels’ Diet Secrets‘ in 2004. She is cofounder and managing director of a company which designs and manufactures humanitarian aid products used worldwide

Links-http://www.victorianixon.com/

Twitter @VictoriaNixon_

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt |@joenutt_author @unbounders @annecater #randomthingstours

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About the Book

What’s the point of poetry? It s a question asked in classrooms all over the world, but it rarely receives a satisfactory answer. Which is why so many people, who read all kinds of books, never read poetry after leaving school. Exploring twenty-two works from poets as varied as William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove and Hollie McNish, this book makes the case for what poetry has to offer us, what it can tell us about the things that matter in life.

Each poem is discussed with humour and refreshing clarity, using a mixture of anecdote and literary criticism that has been honed over a lifetime of teaching. Poetry can enrich our lives, if we’ll let it. The Point of Poetry is the perfect companion for anyone looking to discover how.

 

My Thoughts

I have a few favourite few poems from over the years but I aren’t much of a reader of poetry generally, I’ve always found it really intimidating. I did discover some love for poetry when I did an A-Level in English Lit as a mature student and was tasked with analysing Philip Larkin’s Mr Bleaney.  I loved reading and re-reading this poem, and went on to read everything Larkin had written. I still find other poets intimidating though. The Point of Poetry is a wonderful book that has opened my eyes to the joy of poems.

Joe Nutt opens this book with an introduction that immediately made me feel at ease and in safe hands. He takes away the fear of poetry very quickly. Each chapter looks at a different poem and Nutt takes us through the poem giving some background, relating it to present day and making you eager to actually read the poem for yourself and see what you can discover in it. I loved that the poem discussed is placed at the end of each chapter as by the time I got to it I was excited to read it, whether it was a poem I already knew or one I’d never heard of before.

I also really appreciate that Nutt didn’t just pick well-known poems, although there are some in the book, but also that he didn’t just pick poems that he loves. There are poems such as Vicki Feaver’s The Gun which he has issues with but still felt it warranted being read and explored in this book. The selection really made me think about my own reactions to the poems individually and as a whole as I got further into this book, and left me mulling over my thoughts long after I’d finished reading.

I think the chapter that grabbed me the most was the one about Holly McNish. I’d heard of her before but had never read (or watched her perform) her poetry before. I was fascinated by her poem Famous For What? and am definitely going to buy one or two of her collections very soon. I also very much enjoyed the chapter on Rita Dove’s The Bistro Styx, and the comparisons with Philip Larkin’s Church Going so I will be seeking out more of her work too.

I also want to mention the chapter on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I had to study this poem in my second year at secondary school and I hated it! I loved English, it was my favourite subject and I loved reading but the way the teacher taught us that poem made it feel never-ending and unbearable. I’ve loathed it ever since because it always takes me back to those lessons. However, Nutt’s exploration of this poem has made me see it in a different light – I’ve since sought out my copy and re-reading it now as a 40 year old I found so much more in it and I’m so glad that I had my eyes opened to it.

I’ve always been much more drawn to poems that make me feel something. Often poems that make me cry are the ones that stay with me. I feel like this book has reminded me that different poems bring out different emotions and that I should be more open-minded and actually have more faith in my own abilities to find things in poems from now on.

I do have to quickly mention how beautiful this book is. It’s a gorgeous hardback and the endpapers have a lovely illustration of keys on them (which immediately made me feel that perhaps this book could unlock the world of poetry for me, and it did just that!).

I absolutely loved this book! I feel that it’s given me back the confidence to start picking up more poetry collections again and to spend time reading poems out loud and taking time to really think about them. Not only that, it’s made me excited to read poetry again!  I’m so glad I read The Point of Poetry and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

Many thanks to Unbound for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Point of Poetry is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Joe Nutt Author Picture

Joe Nutt’s nineteen years teaching experience in the UK unusually ranged from the highly selective, private sector to challenging, inner city state schools. In 2000, he was seconded to work on a Department for Education project from his English teaching post at the City of London School and quickly established a new, commercial career but continued to write for English Literature students. He has written books on Shakespeare, John Donne and most recently a Guidebook to Paradise Lost arguably the most difficult poem in the English canon, for one of the world’s leading academic publishers. He publishes educational research internationally and is a national, and international conference speaker. He is now one of the leading educationalists in the UK and writes a fortnightly column for the Times Educational Supplement.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

FINAL Point of Poetry Blog Tour Poster

 

 

Book Review: Are You The F**king Doctor? by Dr. Liam Farrell | @drlfarrell @annecater #RandomThingsTours #IrishMed

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About the Book

‘General practice is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond. Science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings: here be dragons. Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible. Anything can walk through our door…’

Family doctor, Irishman, musician, award-winning author, anarchist and recovering morphine addict, Liam became a columnist for the BMJ in 1994. He went on to write for many major publications, winning a series of prestigious awards; in 2005, he was the first doctor to win Columnist of the Year in the Periodical Publishers Association awards.

The book contains a selection of Liam’s best work, from his columns, blogs and short stories.Brilliantly funny, glittering with literary allusion and darkly wicked humour, this book is much more than a collection of stand-alone anecdotes and whimsical reflections, rather a compelling chronicle of the daily struggles – and personal costs – of a doctor at the coalface.

 

My Thoughts

Are You The F**king Doctor? is a collection of Dr Liam Farrell’s columns and blog posts from over a period of many years. The collection is comprised of the humorous and the moving, along with some short stories inspired by his experiences as a GP.

The opening of this book was unexpected as Farrell writes very openly and honestly about his becoming addicted to morphine, and his subsequent journey to getting off it. It initially seemed a little odd to me to open the book with this story but actually it was great to see such honesty right from the beginning and to have a real insight into the man behind the following chapters. As I got further into the book it felt that knowing the author’s own medical struggles meant I warmed to him as he wrote about his patients, especially the ones that somewhat tried his patience at times!

I loved the way that this book was full of humour and the way that Farrell uses humour to get his point across to his readers. The repeated references to the over-use of antibiotics, and to patients who seek antibiotics for every ailment they suffer from made a strong point, but it’s done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that it didn’t feel like being lectured to.

The pressures of being a GP are apparent throughout this book. It must be so frustrating to have such a short time for consultations and then to have that compounded by some worried well patients bringing a long list with them, while there are other patients that really do need more time and it just isn’t there. There is a piece that shows just how hard it is being a junior doctor in a hospital when Farrell was on duty in one department and called for a consult from another department. In a roundabout way he was told that he was doing both of those roles and to get on with it. The piece is written in a humorous way but it really did bring me up short to think of working under those pressures.

One of my favourite recollections in the book was the reference to his elderly aunt, who was rather difficult, and the Wii! I completely agree with the idea of putting Wiis in all old people’s homes – they are wonderful for giving people a fun way to gain better balance and strength. There is also an amusing moment when a patient reveals her new baby daughter’s name. It seems she’s unknowingly named her after a medication (although her husband may well have known)! This whole post made me giggle to myself!

I wasn’t expecting so many literary references when I started this book but I very much appreciated them. Many of the references I knew of but others I didn’t and it sent me off looking into them – it’s always brilliant when a book leads you to seek out further learning and insight.

Dr Liam Farrell really shows the other side of medicine – it gives such an insight for patients into what doctors have to deal with on a daily basis. This is such an engaging read and has something in it for everyone to enjoy and get something out of. It’s so honest, very amusing and downright brilliant! I definitely recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Are You The F**king Doctor? is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Dr-Liam-Farrell

Dr Liam Farrell is from Rostrevor, Co Down, Ireland. He was a family doctor in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for 20 years, and is an award-winning writer and a seasoned broadcaster. He is married to Brid, and has three children Jack, Katie, and Grace.

He was a columnist for the British Medical Journal for 20 years and currently writes for GP, the leading newspaper for general practitioners in the UK. He has also been a columnist for the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. He wrote the entry on ‘Sex’ for The Oxford Companion to the Body.

On Twitter he curates #Irishmed, a weekly tweetchat on all things medical, which has a global following. He also co-curates #WritersWise, a regular tweetchat for writers, with novelist Sharon Thompson.
He was the medical columnist for the BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra 1996-98; presented the series Health-Check for Ulster TV in 2002, and was medical consultant for both series of Country Practice in 2000 and 2002 for BBC Northern Ireland.

His awards include Columnist of the Year at Irish Medical Media Awards 2003, Periodical Publishers Association of Great Britain 2006 and Medical Journalist’s Society, London 2011, and Advancing Health through Media at the Zenith Global Healthcare Awards 2018.He was shortlisted for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition in 2008.

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

Doctor Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview | Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau (with Leon Whiteson and Aviva Layton)

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About the Book

Twenty-five years ago, the FBI staged a deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Texas. David Thibodeau survived to tell the story.
When he first met the man who called himself David Koresh, David Thibodeau was a drummer in a local a rock band. Though he had never been religious in the slightest, Thibodeau gradually became a follower and moved to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. He remained there until April 19, 1993, when the compound was stormed and burned to the ground after a 51-day standoff with government authorities.

In this compelling account–now with an updated epilogue that revisits remaining survivors–Thibodeau explores why so many people came to believe that Koresh was divinely inspired. We meet the men, women, and children of Mt. Carmel. We get inside the day-to-day life of the community. We also understand Thibodeau’s brutally honest assessment of the United States government’s actions. The result is a memoir that reads like a thriller, with each page taking us closer to the eventual inferno.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted when the publicist for Waco: A Survivor’s Story contacted me to ask if I’d like to read this book as I’m fascinated by cults but didn’t know a huge amount about Waco.

Thidobeau is very honest in this book, which I appreciated but it does make for uncomfortable reading at times. The issue of Waco’s leader David Koresh abusing underage girls and the people around him being okay with this at the time is shocking. Thidobeau does explore his own feelings about this later on in the book though and I felt that this was a great insight into how a person can have power over others while they feel they are completely free thinking.

This is a memoir and as such we get the viewpoint of the person writing it so as I don’t know a huge amount about Waco it was hard for me to know how much of what Thidobeau said was absolute fact and how much was what he believed to be true. I know this is the case with all memoirs but I felt it more with this one. Having said that the way the authorities approached dealing with Waco was very shocking to read, it’s beyond me to understand how anyone would think it was okay to approach ending the siege in the way they did especially knowing there were still children inside the buildings.

I really liked that we get Thidobeau’s thoughts on the aftermath of Waco too. He tells of the arrests that were made of the people who survived and what happened to those people, and he talks of his own experiences. I can’t imagine what it must be like to begin to come to terms with what happened within a cult, that was a place that he had really believed in, and to start to re-build a new life.

Overall this book does give a really good insight into how people are drawn into cults like this one, and how they become convinced that what is happening within the the cult is okay and normal. I did find it a really interesting read, and feel I have a better understanding of what happened at Waco.

This is a gripping memoir and one that whilst obviously non-fiction it reads at the pace of a thriller. I read it in two sittings and it was a book I was thinking about in the time when I wasn’t reading it.

All in all I’m really glad that I read this book, and as with all good non-fiction it has made me want to go and read more about Waco in the future.

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

Waco: A Survivor’s Story is out now and available here.

My Top Non-Fiction Reads 2018!

My Favourite Books 0f 2018!-2

Today I’m sharing my non-fiction reads from 2018! I read 290 books last year and 79 of those were non-fiction so I’ve picked my top 12. Yesterday I shared my favourite fiction reads of the year and you can find that here if you’d like to read it.

Illusion of Justice by Jerome Buting

I was late getting to Making a Murderer but I finally watched season one earlier this year  and immediately looked to see if there were any books on the case. This is written by one of Steven Avery’s lawyers and was a really fascinating read. I watched season 2 as soon as it was on Netflix and see that there’s a possibility that these lawyers could have done more but at the time of reading it felt like a really good insight into the case and that they’d done all they could within the restraints they had.

My Life in Football by Kevin Keegan

I listened to this on audio and really enjoyed it. It was a hard listen at times being a Newcastle United fan and hearing in Keegan’s own words how badly he was treated at the club. It was interesting to learn more about Keegan’s life though and I found this book near impossible to stop listening to.

How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb

I got this for Christmas in 2017 and it’d been calling to me from my TBR all year so I was glad to finally read it. It’s such an open and honest memoir and I found it such an interesting read.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

This is a really in-depth book about what led to 9/11. It’s obviously not always an easy subject to read about in terms of what happened but the way this book is written makes it one you don’t want to put down. It gave me a much better understanding of what happened in the years preceding 9/11. It’s such an important book and one I definitely recommend.

Knowing the Score by Judy Murray

I very much enjoyed this book having been a fan of Judy Murray for a while now. It gave such insight into her character and her strength and I was so inspired by just how much she’s done for female tennis players over the years. I have a full review of this book so if you’d like to know more click the title above.

Life to the Limit by Jenson Button

I listened to this as an audio book after buying it in an Audible sale a few weeks ago. I used to be such big F1 fan so was keen to know more behind the scenes of Button’s career. There is much of that but this is also a love letter to his late father, John and I found is so much more moving than I expected.

So Here It Is by Dave Hill

I initially wanted to read this because I grew up hearing Slade as my late mum was a huge fan. The book is so well-written and is so full of honesty and openness that I enjoyed it on its own merits. I have a full review of this so if you’d like to know more about what I thought click the title above.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

This book was sheer joy to read! I love books about books anyway but this one really grabbed me as I’m assuming Mangan is a similar age to me as we read many of the same books in childhood. It was a real nostalgic read and led to me buying copies of childhood books that I loved but had sadly long since lost. I recommend this to all bookworms!

The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare

This is a beautiful, lyrical journal about the changing of the season into winter. It’s a mediation on all the changes that occur as winter hits. This book struck such a chord with me and gave me such comfort and solace at a time of year that I needed it most. This is a book I will return to again and again.

This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was another Christmas gift from 2017, which I read fairly early on in 2018 but it’s stayed with me ever since. It’s a funny book, and a sad book but mostly it’s just an honest diary of a junior doctor’s experience of working in the NHS.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I bought this as soon as it came out as I can’t resist well written true crime. This was a fascinating account of one woman’s growing obsession with the Golden State Killer and her feeling that she had his name almost within her grasp. The author sadly died before she finished this book so there is a real poignancy in the reading experience because of that. It’s a brilliant book though.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (and Spark Joy) by Marie Kondo

This had to be my number one non-fiction book of the year because it has changed my life. Spark Joy I read for the first time in 2018, whereas The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was a re-read (although the first time I read it, I didn’t grasp the good bits as I was too focused on what felt odd in her methods). I read these books at the start of the year and immediately wanted to follow her method properly as my house was over-run with stuff. It really worked for me this time and I’ve spent months going through every single item that I own and have finally got rid of all the clutter. I naturally want to hoard things but I’m now so much better at just getting rid of things that I don’t love. I’ve never had so much space in my own home before and it feels wonderful. I’ve definitely got the decluttering bug now as every time I’m dusting I immediately put in the charity box anything that doesn’t make me happy.

 


 

So that’s my favourite non-fiction that I read in 2018. Did you read any good non-fiction last year? I’d love to know what your favourite book (or books!) was. Don’t forget you can find my favourite novels in yesterday’s post here if you’d like to see my fiction book picks of the year.

Non-Fiction November Wrap-Up! #NonFictionNovember2018

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I always enjoy joining in with Non-Fiction November but the month always goes by so fast! This year I had quite a lot of fiction to read and review so couldn’t focus entirely on non-fiction but I still read more of it than I thought I would… sixteen non-fiction books in total!

Of my planned non-fiction TBR I managed to read:

Waco by David Thibodeau

This is a memoir of a man who survived the Waco siege. It’s a really interesting read and I recommend it.

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown

I enjoyed reading this book and have actually already reviewed it so you can read what I thought here if you’d like to.

The Upstarts by Brad Stone

I listened to the audiobook of this and I have to be honest and say that I found it a little disappointing. It just wasn’t as engaging as I’d hoped it was going to be, although it was still interesting to read how companies like AirBnB and Uber got started.

Mercury and Me by Jim Hutton

Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White

Even though I am now finally winning the battle with clutter (ever since I did the KonMari method earlier this year my house is staying clutter-free) I still can’t resist reading books about it. There were some useful ideas in this book and I definitely recommend it.

Three Things You Need to Know about Rockets by Jessica Fox

I’d had this book on my TBR for years as I was saving it for the right time. Unfortunately though I just didn’t enjoy it all that much. It wasn’t what it felt like it was going to be and was lacking in something for me. It has had lots of good reviews though so it may well be that it just wasn’t for me.

 

I then completely deviated from my planned non-fiction reads and picked up these books too:

The Diary of Two Nobodies by Mary Killen and Giles Wood

I love watching Giles and Mary on Gogglebox so was really looking forward to reading this book by them and I’m so happy to say that I enjoyed it. They’re just how they are on TV and it was a joy to read this.

I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

This was a fascinating read about a woman who looks into the life of her rapist. She had buried her emotions for many years and then goes on a journey to know more about the man who attacked her. It wasn’t as emotional read as I was expecting but it was still very interesting and gripping.

I’ll Be There For You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller

I listened to the audio book of this and it was such a fun, nostalgic read. I recommend it to all Friends fans!

No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s by Andy McSmith

This is another book that I’ve had on my TBR for such a long time but I’m so glad I picked it up because it was such a good read. It was really accessible non-fiction but it helps puts some things in context from the 80s with regards politics and what was happening at the time.

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale

I’d forgotten I owned this audio book so when I spotted it in my Audible app during November I immediately started listening. I love Kate Summerscale’s writing and this book lived up to my expectations, it was so interesting.

How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb

I got this book for Christmas last year and have been so badly wanting to read it so I’m glad to have read it in November. I really, really enjoyed this, it was even better than I thought it was going to be.

Life to the Limit: My Autobiography by Jenson Button

I was a huge F1 fan for many years and followed Jenson Button’s career in the sport. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages so when it was in a recent sale on Audible I snapped it up. I very much enjoyed this book. It’s a really open and honest look at his career, and also a love letter to his late father.

Under the Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence by William Clegg QC

I downloaded this from NetGalley on a whim recently and I’m so glad I did as it was such a good read. I actually managed to review this straight away so you can read more of my thoughts here if you’d like to.

My Life in Football: The Autobiography by Kevin Keegan

I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether I wanted to read this book at the moment. I’m a Newcastle United supporter and the way the club treated Kevin Keegan, and the way the current owner is running the club makes it not fun at all. Anyway, I saw the audio book in a recent sale and decided to give it a go. It was such a good read, I’m glad I read it but it did make me so angry all over again at how he was treated. I definitely recommend the book though.

Mother of a Suicide: The Battle for the Truth Behind a Mental Health Cover-up by Joanna Lane

This book often pops up on recommendations for me in Goodreads so I finally picked it up just the other day. I don’t know what to say about this one. I feel for Joanna, and I admire her determination to find answers and her fight to get the medical profession to listen but the book felt like it needed editing. I also wish it’d had more of a sense of her emotion rather than just the facts of what was happening.

 

 

Did you take part in Non-Fiction November? Or have you read any good non-fiction recently? I’d love to know if you’ve read any of the books in my post, or if you have any non-fiction you can recommend to me. I’m always on the look out for new books. 🙂

 

 

 

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. 🙂

#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

Maci Bookout

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

Nevertoolate

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

 

8311_explain-pain1

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

Version 2

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

Version 2

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.