Book Review: Heartstopper vol 3 - Alice Oseman

Book Review: Heartstopper Volume 3 – Alice Oseman

I have to warn you at the very start of this review that it has spoilers for volume 1 and 2 so make sure you read those before this because of SPOILERS! Now you’ve been warned on to the review.

In this volume we’ll see the Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…

Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?

So I’m pretty loud about the fact that I love the Heartstopper series, it’s one of my favourites and a go to if I want cheering up. So I’ve definitely been counting down to the release of volume 3, Nick and Charlie firmly have a place in my heart. In this volume they get to know each other better and their relationship gets deeper.

What I really appreciated in this volume is that while Nick and Charlie are still very much in the honeymoon stage, they are getting to know each other better still. There are things that they need to learn about each other in terms of family, emotions and their own hearts.

The fact that this also took place in France was really fun, it added another element to the story as well as the development of the world that Alice has created. Also, she’s an incredible artist – I fell right into the city of love through the pages of this volume. We also get to know Nick and Charlie’s friends even better and they have their own lives which are seamlessly intertwined within the story.

It’s worth mentioning that there is a huge number of people that are part of the LGBTQ commnity in Alice’s books. We have those from all walks of life within the pages, at times I think it can be interesting but then I started thinking and actually there are probably more people you know that are part of the LGBTQ community than you know.

Some parts are harder to read and I would look up some trigger warnings if you are sensitive to certain topics (I don’t want to mention them here because they could be spoilery).

This was another 5 star read for me. I’m definitely going to get my hands on Alice’s other books because I think she is super talented. I’ve also been convincing every to pick up Heartstopper because I just love it so much and can’t stop gushing.

Am I Disabled?

Am I Disabled?

Being able-bodied and minded is something I think most of us take for granted until it impacts us in some way. I’ll admit it wasn’t something I thought much about myself until my accident. There’s a grey area though when your life changes in a physical or mental way that – at what point are you disabled? Who decides?

I (wrongly) thought that you had to be recieving some kind of disability assistance to be classed as disabled, however Citizens Advice states that:

“The definition is set out in section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. It says you’re disabled if:

  • you have a physical or mental impairment
  • that impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities

I have a long term condition that impacts most of my life. At my worst I struggle to move, to walk, have bad fatigue and am in so much pain I can’t concentrate on anything else. I’m not looking for sympathy that’s just the way it is sometimes. It meant I had to change a lot of things and reconsider how I was going to live the life I wanted to live with certain limitations.

Disabled is such a loaded word. We’ve been shown certain images of what disabled looks like – even if, slowly, we are becoming more educated about invisible illnesses but we’re not quite there yet. People still eye me when I sit in a seat for those who need it if I don’t have my walking stick. There have been times that I’ve taken my stick when I’m feeling ok just so I don’t get dirty look.

To me, I am disabled and I refuse to be ashamed of that. I still feel strange saying that out loud – I worry about not seeming ‘sick’ enough. I worry that I won’t be taken seriously but I’m working on it. Talking about invisible illness is a great start to making sure more people are heard and understood.

Changing the narrative is something we can all do together. Instead of seeing disabled people as those who are to be pitied or always seen as ‘brave’ for simply doing things anyone else would do. Does it often take more effort? Yes. Is it annoying? Definitely.

I’d love to hear your stories below!

Book Review: Break The Fall - Jennifer Iacopelli

Book Review: Break The Fall – Jennifer Iacopelli

Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics. A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States’ gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world.

The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most–but not all the gymnasts are as supportive.

The stories of abuse that came from the USA gymnastics team were horrible, young women had put their trust into people to help them achieve their dreams only to be mistreated. Of course, if you do struggle with abuse narratives think about that before reading, however, this is not graphic.

I actually got a copy of this over Christmas while I was working in a bookshop as it was sent from the publisher. Since reading it I haven’t shut up because it is an excellent novel. I couldn’t put this book down and when I had to I was still thinking about it.

I have to admit that this had a personal connection for me. I haven’t read a YA book that tackled spinal injuries before and I was sure that the author had experienced spinal trauma. The description of the pain, the complicated feelings about your body etc. I actually reached out to Jennifer and she was lovely and had written those parts based on research which just impressed me even more.

The character of Audrey is easy to connect with and you really do feel for her and the rest of her teammates as your reading. Additionally, there is a real sense of the pressure these young women face, the fact that they have trained their whole lives for something only for it to be derailed at the last minute.

I think it also helps that the author has first-hand experience of gymnastics after reporting on the Olympics previously and you can tell that she understands the competition and what can happen in competition. I was completely gripped during the competition chapters, racing towards the end because I needed to know what happened.

This is going to be an important novel for 2020, we’re seeing non-fiction about the Me Too and Times Up era, this is the start of a new wave of fiction based on the aftermath. I’m pleased to see novels like this opening up the conversation and giving another dimension to it as well.

Is it any wonder that I gave this 5 stars? It absolutely incredible and so well written. In fact I’ve been recommending it to so many people. Also, just for me, it was nice to see representation post injury because it’s just something that I don’t see ever. Also, I’m definitely going to be watching the Gymnastics at Tokyo!

Heading To The Aisle – Finding My Wedding Dress!

A few weeks ago my Mumma and I headed down to Brighton and Hove with one thing in mind, to try and find my wedding dress. I’ve been looking for a long time now trying to find a shop with dresses that I liked.

I scoured website after website and kept coming back to one based in Brighton, Ocean Bridal. They seemed to have a huge mix of dresses and more than a few that I liked the look of, it also helped that when emailing I was in contact with a wonderful woman called Simone. She made me feel so relaxed about coming when I had been tying myself up in knots over it.

We were originally due to go back in November but due to some personal reasons we had to rearrange, which was not a problem at all and made me even more determined to get to this shop.

The shop itself is in Hove, a 5 minute train journey from Brighton itself and just around the corner from the station. We were greeted with a huge smile and while we waited for a few minutes met some other lovely members of staff including 2 very cute dogs.

Once in we explained it was the first wedding dress shop I’d been in for myself and I’d never put on a wedding dress before. I’d sent a few in advance that I wanted to try but was encouraged to look around and pick a few more and during the process Simone would pick a few more she thought I might like.

For someone who is incredibly self conscious trying on new clothes and gets super anxious in changing rooms I had the best time. You know they say you know your dress as soon as you put it on? I knew. I knew that dress was the one. I put it on and my reaction was ‘oh’. I felt the most beautiful I had ever felt. Bare in mind this wasn’t in my size and the final will fit like a glove.

I tried on more dresses after that but kept coming back to the first one. Nothing made me feels as good or confident. I didn’t see my flaws in that dress I just saw me and I couldn’t stop smiling. I found my dress and more importantly I felt like a damn movie star with no pressure to lose weight to fit in in or change myself. I felt beautiful.

Now, this is a difficult post to write because I can’t tell you anything! It’s not just because I’m excited to for it to be a surprise for my guests but ALSO my super sneaky fiancé has been trying to do some snooping as to which dress I got! Thankfully, I have no pictures of it on my phone (at my own request) and I am more determined than ever to keep this a secret…but the below photo gives you an idea of how excited I am and how hard it’s going to be to keep this a secret for 11 months.

Anyone want to take a guess at the kind of dress I’ll be wearing? Leave a comment below!

How To Look After Your Mental Health When The World Isn't Helping

How To Look After Your Mental Health When The World Isn’t Helping

Watching the news can stress anyone out and when you’re already got a battle in your own head sometimes it can feel like too much – trust me I’ve been there.

When I was in my late teens I would wake up in the morning and over my cup of tea I’d scroll through the BBC News app to see what had happened overnight (so, painfully British I know). It was a simpler time where the news didn’t make me want to cry. I digress, kind of.

From around 2016 I couldn’t do it anymore because it was making me incredibly miserable, I’ll leave you to work out why. In the past 4 years, I haven’t seen much improvement BUT I have come up with ways to help when the world really, really isn’t.

Don’t be afraid to take time out.

I want to know what’s going on in the world, of course I do, but if I’m not feeling great I don’t mind not reading or watching the news. If I do want to know I will make it short.

Surround yourself with the good in your life and the world

I’ll seek out good news, see friends and family that make me feel happy or fall into a good book where I can get away from the real world. Trust me, it works wonders.

Be considerate of who you’re following and how they make you feel

I’m a big believer in filling my feed with positivity and people I find interesting or can look up to. I’m not switching off from reality but things I can control I will, including my Twitter and Instagram.

Find comedy about the situation – or let someone else do it for you

In the UK I love The Last Leg and Have I Got News For You. I also watch a LOT of the late-night hosts in the UK via YouTube, I love the Jimmy’s and my fave Stephen Colbert to see the news in an amusing but still intelligent way.

Talk about how you feel

I can guarantee that other people will feel the same; overwhelmed and more than likely fed up.

Remember, it may look bleak but it won’t always be

It’s called a news cycle for a reason, we’re going to get through it.

Book Review: Dear Girls - Ali Wong

Book Review: Dear Girls – Ali Wong

‘Ali Wong’s heartfelt and hilarious letters to her daughters (the two she put to work while they were still in utero), covering everything they need to know in life, like the unpleasant details of dating, how to be a working mom in a male-dominated profession, and how she trapped their dad.’

After watching Ali Wong’s two Netflix specials and her recent interviews I can say that I am a fan (so much so I am gutted I can’t afford tickets to her London show in June!). So when I heard she’d released a book for her daughters – and the rest of us I knew I needed to read about life and the world according to Ali.

This is absolutely hilarious, and would you expect any less? When picking it up I knew I had to listen to the audiobook that Ali herself narrates because it felt like a 3rd Netflix special and I am so here for that! I had to stifle quite a few laughs while listening because her signature humor is there!

There is a mix of truly hilarious stories that she makes clear her daughters aren’t to read until they’re MUCH older and really heartfelt pieces. I was particularly touched by her vulnerability about her miscarriage and how she felt. I really hope after reading more women can feel able to open up.

It’s clear from this book that Ali Wong is much more than a stand up comedian, she’s an absolute boss. You can see that’s she’s worked hard, stood up to misogyny and is balancing being one of the funniest comedians and a good Mum at the same time. Also, the chapter by her Husband is adorable, absolutely bloody adorable.

This was a solid 4.5 starts for me. Incredibly funny, well written and I think Ali’s daughters will really love reading this as they get older. Also, as I said before, if you get a chance listen to the audiobook because it really is a treat.

Book Tour: Always Here For You – Miriam Halahmy

14-year-old Holly is lonely. Her parents are never around after Gran’s Crisis and best friend Amy to Canada, loved-up with her new boyfriend, Gabe. Holly has no-one to hang out with at school apart from moody Ellen and misfit Tim.

Home alone in Brighton with no-one to talk to, Holly is at rock bottom. That is, until she finds Jay. Caring, funny and with so much in common, Jay is the perfect guy. They chat online, but Holly knows to be careful, she’s heard the horror stories. As they grow closer and closer, chatting with Jay is all that makes Holly happy. Mum and Dad’s rows get more intense and Amy’s radio silence continues; the only one who understands is Jay. As Holly lets her guard down, is Jay all he seems? Is Holly in too deep? And is it too late?

Today I’m taking part in a book tour for Miriam Halahmy’s latest young adult novel tackling the online world and how people may not be all they seem.

This novel reminded me of the kind I read growing up, one of my childhood heroes was Jacqueline Wilson who also took on tough topics and broke them down for younger audiences. I can see this being a great read for younger teens and can be a good opener to talking about who is really behind the screen.

I was one of the internet babies and by the time I started my first year of school we already had a computer in the classroom. As I got older and spent hours on MSN Messenger (rest in peace old friend) these kinds of issues were more prevalent. I will say that I was terrified of strangers on the internet and my Mum was pretty hot on checking what I was doing online but, that said, it was a lot easier then when the only computer was in the living room… wow I sound old! Anyway I digress…

This is a great read to get the conversation going but also, I think, for parents giving them insight into how a young person may fall victim to this kind of situation.

I really enjoyed seeing the other characters grow and develop through the story as well as Holly, I think it would be really interesting to learn more about each of their lives (personally, I think it would be a great series!). They all seemed very real and it helped that the descriptions of Brighton were very easy to visualise.

The only thing I would mention is that some of the language seemed a little outdated at times. There were a few occasions where I stopped and thought I don’t think that a teenager today would say this! Also the word hussy is mentioned – I’m not sure that the young teens I know would know what that meant! These didn’t take away from the book for the most part, just something I noticed while reading.

I gave this book 4 stars. A solid read and one I think young people should be encouraged to read. Thank you to Miriam and ZunTold for sending me a copy in exchange for this review and for inviting me to be a part of this book tour.