Book Review – Vicious – V.E Schwab

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Well, this was a bit bloody brilliant wasn’t it? Vicious was the first V.E Schwab book I read and I’m more than a little bit in love with the novel and plot. Victor and Eli are both stand out characters and, more so, I was just knocked sideways by how smart the plot was.

When I first started reading the novel I did get a bit confused, there’s quite a few characters to start with quite early on, we’re going between modern day for the characters and 10 years ago. That took quite a bit of getting used to and I had to really concentrate at times to make sure I knew what was going on. However, once I got past that I was obsessed with this book.

Personally, I love Victor he was definitely my favourite character, even if he wasn’t always likeable. I feel that all of the characters were interesting but there was just something about Victor that I found so interesting, possibly in his way of thinking, his motives. I didn’t quite connect with Eli the same way but I might in the next novel, who knows?

This is a book that really kept me reading, I needed to know what what going to happen – how the ‘game’ was going to play out and more importantly who was going to survive. And I was completely hooked. I also had a huge soft soft for Sydney and needed to know what was going to happen to her.

Also, no spoilers but that ending, THAT ENDING. I absolutely loved it and I’m quite glad I picked up both novels after Vengeful was released because while I am taking time to process between books I can go to the next one without that much of a wait.

I gave this 5 stars, I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. I am kicking myself for not picking up a V.E Schwab novel sooner. She is clearly an incredible story teller and I can’t wait to see what happens in Vengeful.

10 Things Not To Say To Chronically Ill People - And What To Say Instead

10 Things Not To Say To Chronically Ill People – And What To Say Instead

Having a chronic illness can be a bit of a minefield in itself. I’ve been thinking a lot about things that people say that isn’t helpful and what could be said instead.

A lot of the time people don’t intend to hurt someone’s feelings when they say these things but when you’re already fighting with your body 24/7 the words of someone else can make it that bit more difficult.

So, I thought I’d write a handy guide from my perspective about things not to say to a chronically ill person and what you might be able to say instead.

But you look healthy!”

First of all, thank you. Second of all, ‘looking’ healthy can take a lot of effort. I have showered, sorted my hair and maybe even put on some make up most of which makes me tired. There are many invisible illnesses, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Instead, you can comment on how great someone looks without mentioning the illness – everyone loves a boost!

You should exercise more, that’ll help

Believe me I would love to be able to exercise every week without fail. Before my accident I was horse riding at least once a week and probably in the best shape I’ve been in as an adult.

The fact of the matter is I can’t do that anymore. I have to weigh up what I’m doing that week (Do I have any big deadlines? Do I need to go somewhere for work or with friends?) with the kind of exercise.

Currently I’m trying to do something every week but when every part of me hurts like I have the flu simply walking around my flat can be pretty painful. That said, I do try and get light exercise in no matter what.

Instead, why not ask them what activities they enjoy, if they’ve found anything that helps them and offer to go with. Some of my friends are excellent at this – we might go for a light work out together and I’ll just take a book so they can carry on if it gets too much!

Have you tried going to bed earlier?

Really Susan? I hadn’t thought about going to bed earlier to be less tired! Can you detect the sarcasm? Fatigue is a bit part of some chronic illnesses. When I’m in a flare I could sleep for 12 hours and still wake up feeling exhausted. Even when I’m not in flare if I have a busy weekend socialising I probably won’t be back to my version of normal for about a week.

Instead, maybe just don’t question their habits. It’s a bit of a dick move.

How come you can go to work/go out but you can’t come to my thing?”

I work because I need money to live. If I’m low on energy that’s my priority. Next question Janet.

Instead, be understanding let them know that it can’t be east to try and manage expectations and maybe recommend doing something together that’s less energy consuming.

You’re so boring”

Here’s the thing, when you’re chronically ill you might not have the most exciting life. I know that normally I’m in my pjs by 7pm if I can be just to be comfortable.

I know that for me, personally, being called boring drives me mad and sometimes hurts my feelings. I miss being able to do fun things and not think about how long it will take for me to feel better after doing any kind of activity.

Instead, have a bit of empathy, c’mon.

You’re too young to be ill/ have that illness.

HAHAHAHAHA. I wish! I get this a lot and I know some of my fellow spoonies do too. I’ve had old people look at me in disgust with my walking stick and people eye me suspiciously and refuse to give me a seat on the tube.

Being chronically ill can impact anyone no matter what their age and because, without make-up I’m told I look 17 it does not help my case. Either way, age has nothing to do with it.

Instead, ask polite questions if they’re ok with that and ask them how it feels to be chronically ill/disabled by an illness at a young age. Also if you hear someone else making this comment, sassy replies are appreciated.

Have you tried…”

People love to recommend things to those who are chronically ill and most of the time they want to help but sometimes those recommendations can be a little ridiculous. What worked for your brothers, nephews, girlfriends turtle probably won’t work for me.

Instead, if you have heard about something they might not have – think about how you phrase it. It’s all about the phrasing, try saying something like – “I heard about this thing, it made me think of you I don’t know if it would be of any benefit?” That way you’re letting them know that you respect that they know their own body.

Think positive!

I try my damned hardest to be positive where I can but living a life full of pain definitely wears you down. Telling someone to think positive can not only be irritating bust also hurtful. Think about why they might be so down and how you can help before saying it. Also word to the wise, comparing it to another illness is also not a reason to be positive.

Instead, let people have their moment – life with a Chronic Illness can suck! But also remind them of the things they’re good at, you can feel totally useless when you’re in flare.

I know how you feel “

Unless you have a chronic illness, I’m sorry but you don’t. As much as people are trying to be empathetic here it can be so frustrating. You might be tired/ aching/ feel run down after the weekend but I promise you it’s not the same.

Instead, ask them if there is anything you can do to help or if they want to talk through stuff. Or just acknowledge that you don’t know how they feel exactly but you can empathise.

Don’t take XX/ Does medication really work?”

Ah, commenting on someone else’s medication or treatment plan. This is a big one that, again, is often well meaning. A lot of the time people have heard horror stories of a certain drug and some don’t believe in taking medication at all.

From personal experience finding a medication that even remotely helps your symptoms can take a long time and causes a lot of side effects. For me alone I’ve had to try medication that has made me vomit, have headaches, increased my anxiety to the point of having panic attacks, have heart palpitations, night sweats and lots of other wonderful things.

Instead, if you really want to talk medication ask them about their experiences but honestly? I’d just leave it alone – it’s a deeply personal thing!

Is there anything you’d add or do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments below!

Book Review: Birthday – Meredith Russo

Two kids, Morgan and Eric, are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, realize how inextricably they are a part of each other. 

After reading Meredith Russo’s first novel and absolutely adoring it I knew I had to pick up this one as soon as I could get my hands on it. And, as I hoped, the book did not disappoint.

The fact this book is spread out across 5 years just adds to how impressed I was by it. It’s not easy to have characters show growth in such a short space of time and it was pulled off really well. Both Eric and Morgan evolve throughout the novel but also keep the essence of who they are when we meet them in the first chapter.

I think the book could have been double the length and I’d still have loved it. I can understand why it wasn’t but the issues within are so complex I wanted to know even more. In particular, I wanted to know more about the relationship between them both when they were small, more about Morgan’s mother and their relationship.

It’s undeniable that this is an incredibly tough read at times, I fought back tears while reading and wanted to reach through the book and hug both of the characters. That said, most of my love went to Morgan, I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a body that isn’t mine and have to pretend around the people you love. It also made me consider the fact that we really don’t know what’s going on in a someones head and the need to be kind to people.

Meredith Russo herself is a trans women and I think this only adds to what we can learn as a reader. Russo is writing Morgan’s struggle with her body through the lense of someone who has been through it. We definitely need more own voices novels and Russo is one to watch.

I don’t think it’s going to be any surprise that I gave this 5 stars. This was incredibly well written and I felt very emotional reading. While I am not trans, I can appreciate that as Russo writes, she is writing from the heart. I’ve recommended this to so many friends already as soon as I finished it.

Heading To The Aisle: Finding Your Venue

I’m back with a bit of wedding chat – hooray! Now, things have ramped up at little bit since I last wrote about feeling overwhelmed about where to start and what to do. We now have a date, a registrar and a venue, yep check me about! I’m going to become a Mrs on the 16th January 2021, eek!

With no doubt one of the biggest things is getting your venue right. When we got engaged I was reluctant to look at any big venues, I was worried about the money we would spend but thanks to a bit of gentle nagging my Mum got me to visit two of the bigger and more impressive venues in my hometown and, don’t tell her, but she was completely right.

To say I’m in love with my venue is an understatement, I got a gut feeling as soon as we walked up that this was the place for me. The first time I saw it I went with my Mum and got a full tour – I’d recommend going on an open day/evening as they will set it up for how it may look for a wedding.

My wedding venue!

There are a million posts online about what questions you should ask but my main advice is ask about things that are important to you as well as the boring admin things. For me the important things were that the ceremony and evening were at the same place, accessibility, the guests rooms and what we would be eating, for Ali the sound, the way it was lit and layout were important.

It has to be said that without our parents wanting to help us I would have set my sights on a smaller venue. I’m aware how lucky we are that our parents want to help. That’s something I will say, don’t assume either way. I didn’t want to assume our parents would help, so I didn’t look at the beautiful venues. Have a conversation with everyone involved and see where things stand – you might be pleasantly surprised.

Really, your venue should make you feel happy and comfortable. I could visualise myself saying I do in the room where our ceremony will be held. Also, take your time! I only booked ours so quickly because I knew it was right for us, if you haven’t found it yet then take your time to look around and see what’s available.

Book Review: Heartstopper Volume 2

“Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.”

Heartstopper Volume 1 was one of my favourite reads of this year and then Volume 2 came along and cemented it. I’ve been a fan of Alice Oseman for a while – she’s a clearly a talented writer, but also seems like a lovely human being (I’m determined to get to a signing this year. Seeing as this is about Volume 2 it will contain some spoilers if you haven’t read the first book – so pop back once you have!

We start off with the aftermath of Charlie and Nick’s first kiss which I am ALL about and squealed when it happened, but was it the right thing to do? As both boys question what happened and how they feel about it I found myself rooting for them even harder than I had before.

Charlie and Nick are absolutely adorable but they also become real people and I feel in the second volume we get to know them much more. We meet their families, get to know their friends and how they feel about themselves and their sexuality.

I also appreciate the fact that Oseman doesn’t assume in this book. I’ve seen it before in novels were there is one kiss and suddenly the person is gay, there’s not thinking about it. For Nick especially there is a question mark, he does have to work himself out and there’s no pressure. Also there is fantastic representation of all those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Also we had a short story at the back about Tara and Darcey. Can we please have more of that? Because I also love them and I would love to see more cute stories about f/f romance as well as m/m romance.

There’s no surprise that I gave this 5 stars. Alice Oseman knows how to write not only a love story but also a story about friendship which is rare. A truly wonderful and uplifting book and I can’t wait for Volume 3!

Have you read and of Alice Oseman’s books? Let me know what your favourites are in the comments below!

What I Read In July 2019

Another month gone and 9 more books read. Yep, this month I managed to read 9 books and I’m pretty chuffed with myself! July was a super busy month so I didn’t have much hope. That said, it was a good mix of graphic novels, poetry, audiobooks and physical books.

Heartstopper volume 2 came out in July and it was just as perfect as volume 1 , perhaps even more so? I can’t say too much because it would spoil the first one but this is such a cute read and it’s going to be a TV show and I am SO THERE.

Next up was an ARC I was excited to receive because I LOVED Disconnected Vol 1 , this was just as good and I can’t stop thinking about it a month after reading. A full review to come closer to release!

I listened to Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come by Jessica Pan as an audiobook and it was an interesting book. Following Jessica’s attempts to be an extrovert definitely gave her some interesting challenges and also made me consider my own life as an introvert. I gave it 4 stars and would recommend giving the audiobook a go.

I picked up Look Closer by Stewart Lewis at YALC last year and didn’t get around to it but I’m really kicking myself for not getting to it. Tegan’s story is touching and looks at the abilities she gains while grieving her father’s death.

I finally got around to The Power by Naomi Alderman for my new book group I’m a part of it’s set in an alternate world where women can use an electrical current that runs through them and they gain power all over the world. I liked this book and gave it a 4/5 stars – my book group liked it too!

Next up, Calm the F**k Down by Sarah Knight. I like Sarah Knight’s book for the pick me up they give me. She’s straight talking and I always feel more focused after listening. I’m already working on when I should use my freak out funds, 4.5 stars.

I read 2 of my YALC books in July. First up was Misfit by Charli Howard, a memoir of her life living with an eating disorder and in the modelling world. This was a 3.5 star for me and quite hard to read. I’d definitely say to go into this knowing it could be difficult if you’ve had any problems with eating or weight in the past – just a heads up.

Next was There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker. I’d picked this up in the bookshop a few times and then saw it half price at YALC. Unfortunately this one wasn’t for me. I gave it a 2 star rating – there were a few poems I liked but overall I just couldn’t get on with the style.

I just finished Vicious a few hours before midnight on the 31st July and wow, just wow. I can’t believe I waited so long to pick up a V.E Schwab. I met her at YALC and she was absolutely lovely (I was half way through this when meeting her) and very excited that it was my first novel of hers. I’m now eyeing all her other books and can’t wait to get on to Vengeful.

What did you read in July? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: White Rose – Kip Wilson

Disillusioned by the propaganda of Nazi Germany, Sophie Scholl, her brother, and his fellow soldiers formed the White Rose, a group that wrote and distributed anonymous letters criticizing the Nazi regime and calling for action from their fellow German citizens. The following year, Sophie and her brother were arrested for treason and interrogated for information about their collaborators.

I heard about Sophie and the White Rose a while ago after watching a short documentary so when I heard that this would coming out I was intrigued – particularly as it is written in verse. The book spans a few years of Sophie’s life as she tries to make sense of the world around her, be a young woman and fight for justice.

This is very much Sophie’s story. While, of course, the others members are mentioned if you’d like to know more about them there is definitely more research that can be done and that’s something I will undertake myself. We see events unfolding through her perspective, which her feelings towards those she loves and what her motivations would have been.

The book is a fairly quick read as it is written in verse, which isn’t something I pick up often. While I do appreciate the way it was written and think it was impactful I felt there was a certain level of information lacking so if you’re looking for something with a lot of detail this might not be the right book for you. That said, Sophie and her story does really come alive in this, so I would still recommend picking it up as a starting point to her story and that of the White Rose.

Overall I gave this book 4 stars. It’s a really clever way to tell Sophie’s story and I think it will definitely show a whole new audience her courage and bravery in the face of the Nazis. As mentioned I would have liked to have known more about the others who were executed alongside Sophie but this her story and what lead to the end of her life.