Book Review: All About Mia - Lisa Williamson

Book Review: All About Mia – Lisa Williamson

Mia is definitely the middle child and a bit of a trouble maker. She’s nothing like her perfect older sister Grace and that’s just fine with her. When Grace comes home and drops a bombshell, Mia waits to watch her get in trouble for once, but things don’t work out exactly how she thought they would…

I was a huge fan of Lisa Willamson’s first novel The Art of Being Normal and so picked up Mia. After reading I have been kicking myself for not reading it earlier! Once again she’s written a novel that I could not put down with a realistic plot.

Is Mia a wild child at times? Yes? Does she make mistakes? 100% but this makes her more realistic. She messes up a lot but I still found myself rooting for her the whole way through. We all made mistakes as teenagers, anyone who says they didn’t is lying!

While Mia may not always appear to be an entirely likeable character, you understand her. She is trying to figure herself out and feels in her older sister’s shadow. I could relate to her, your teenage years are confusing enough without surprise family twists!

Speaking of family, that was truly one of my favourite parts of this novel. Mia has two families, her biological family who seemed very real to me and her friends. Both of which are equally important to her and she has to learn the hard way how to open herself up to both.

It’s no surprise that I gave this 4.5 stars. I flew through this and while I worked out within a few pages what the twist would be, I still really enjoyed it. At its core this is a novel about family and finding your own space within it, I absolutely loved Mia and was thinking about her for days after!

Book Review: Let Her Fly: A Father’s Journey – Ziauddin Yousafzai

After Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban as a teenager, the world has watched as she has continued to stand up for the right to girls education. By her side has been her father, Ziauddin and now, it is time to tell his story and the fight for equality he has been working on for more than 20 years.

Malala has made no secret of the love and admiration she holds for her father and in this book it is clear to see that the love goes both ways. There were points where I felt that it was so focused on Malala, I wondered about her younger brothers. This is rectified in the book as Ziauddin talks about his sons and, equally, the struggles he has had parenting two boys in a world so different to his own.

One of the things I loved most, was the dedication to his wife. This felt so pure and wonderful that he truly believes that she is his equal and his love. It was important to see that this was so deep routed in wanting equality for his family from within his home, before extending it to the wider world.

I gave this 4 stars, I really enjoyed reading more about Ziauddin, his life and beliefs. The fact that this looked at him as a whole person, rather than just as Malala’s father. This is an intriguing look at what is an extraordinary man.

A huge thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and author for this copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: The Year I Didn’t Eat – Samuel Pollen

14-year-old Max has a fight on his hands. Living with Anorexia is tough enough without having to be at school and trying to keep it secret from your closest friends. As Max writes to ‘Ana’ and tries to navigate his illness he has to deal with the new girl at school who won’t stop staring, family drama and seeing his therapist. Can he beat this?

I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of this novel and I was immediately intrigued. There are very few stories of teenage boys going through an eating disorder, so of course, I wanted to read, I’m incredibly glad I did.

Starting and ending on Christmas day, the novel chronicles a year in Max’s life, alongside writing a diary to his disorder – aptly named Ana. This was a particular highlight for me, the writing was emotional but not sad – I actually laughed a fair bit reading this. Pollen isn’t trying to make Max a sympathy figure. The combination of the diary entries and showing some of the obsessive thoughts was incredibly well done –  I could see similarities between Max’s and my own thoughts from our respective mental illnesses.

It is mentioned a few times within the novel the disconnect that Max feels from what is stereotypically viewed as what a with Anorexia looks like – a teenage girl. By confronting this head-on, Pollen shows insight into something incredibly important – anyone can get a mental illness. The fact that Max is a teenage boy, known for being quite geeky with a loving family and great friends and still has these problems reinforces that.

This shows a new level of representation that is rarely seen, in fact, I don’t believe I have ever read a novel featuring a guy with an eating disorder – which is absurd! I’m hopeful that this will start more conversations. The fact that Pollen has drawn on his own experiences makes this even more realistic.

The novel shows not only the impact that eating disorders have on the person with the illness but also the pressure it can put on families. We meet Max’s family and often feel for them as much as him. That said, despite the hardships faced, Max’s relationship with his older brother Robin was probably my favourite part. They truly seem to care for each other and Robin’s encouragement of Geocaching really seems to be a turning point.

Of course, this is a tough read and it does give descriptions of disordered eating and calories – if these are tough for you to read it might be worth picking this up at a later point.

Is it any surprise that I gave this 5 stars?  This is a novel that needed to be written. Showing that eating disorders can affect anyone and that, by talking about it, we have more of a chance of helping those going through it. I absolutely adored this novel – it will truly make its mark. I truly feel that this will make people feel less alone.

Thank you to the author, publisher and Conker communications for the chance to read this in exchange for an open and honest review.

Book Review: Life Honestly – The Pool

A long list of women, a load of topics that aren’t spoken about enough. Collated by The Pool, this book talks about feminism and being a woman in many different ways. These are some of the most read and enjoyed pieces to have graced the The Pool website – so it’s safe to say this is going to be a good read.

The book is divided into categories such as:

Gender Politics & Power

Work

Friendship

Body

Love, Sex & Relationships

Wombs

Mind

Money

Life Lessons

Parenting

Style

All of these are incredibly important and each taught me a lesson. In particular, I found the pieces on being a working woman to be really interesting to me at this time. I was also intrigued by the parts about motherhood and the perspective that the women had – it truly was food for thought.

I’m really keen on learning about life from a variety of women. Do I agree with everything everyone says in this? No, not everything but that’s the beauty of it. I might not get to meet women like these in my everyday life but through this book, I can try to understand what life is like for women who are different to me. That is never a bad thing.  In fact, I think in today’s world we could all do with learning from each other more.

Overall I gave this 4 stars. The collection has a range of women’s voices, all of which deserve to be heard. I truly think there is something in here for everyone no matter what stage you are in your life. Mostly, when reading I just felt like there were people in the world that got me and how I was feeling, and who doesn’t need that?

Thank you to The Pool, Netgalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: I Am, I Am, I Am – Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell has had quite a life, forget a cat having nine lives, this tell the story of Maggie’s 17 brushes with death, some are remarkable, some are sad and some will send a chill down your spine. This is about everyday life, survival and appreciating the life you have.

This is a stunning memoir that I wish I could shout about from the rooftops. I listened to this as an audiobook rather than reading and I actually thought it was a great way to engage with the book, it almost made it seem more real.

Spanning decades, every chapter another tale of luck and resilience. In fact, the book itself is for Maggie’s daughter who lives with a condition that is incredibly dangerous to the point she must always be one step ahead.

I’ll admit what initially drew me to this book was the title. ‘I am, I am, I am’ is a quote from one of my favourite novels, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – linking to the idea of your heartbeat reminding you that you are alive and centring you. I liked the link, while the book doesn’t mention this, I’m hoping I’m not going out on a limb here!

Death is something that most of us don’t talk about, it’s a taboo topic in society. Of course, death is sad for those left behind, however, it is a natural part of life. While this can, at times, be an incredibly tough read some of the situations that Maggie has been in are truly horrible but it gives comfort she has survived.

This will remind you of the fragility of life, but also the beauty of it. These are not stories of bitterness or anger, instead, they are about living despite hardships. In fact, it made me reevaluate part of my life too and my own hardships.

I gave this 4.5 stars, this is an absolutely brilliant read. It really does draw you in and I genuinely cared about Maggie and wanted to know more about her and her family. If you’d like a memoir that holds your attention but also makes you think hard then this is for you.

Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Book Review: Louis and Louise

Book Review: Louis & Louise – Julie Cohen

One life, two realities. 

Born on the same day, to the same family and named after the same ancestor Louis & Louise are the same person. However, cries of ‘it’s a boy’, or ‘it’s a girl’ change everything. Seen through the eyes of  ‘Lou’ in both realities this is Julie Cohen’s most impressive novel yet. 

Wow, wow, wow. I’ve been a fan of Julie Cohen’s since reading Dear Thing a few years ago, but this was something else. I’m not sure what I expected going into this and it was truly flawless. Seeing life and how different it could be simply due to gender was so interesting. 

It’s worth pointing out that it can take a little bit of time to get used to the differences in Louis and Louise’s life and who’s who. For the first few chapters I had to really concentrate on what was going on to make sure I was following the right timeline within the novel. 

This novel will make you think about what the characters are going through and, more importantly, why these lives are so different simply because of gender. That’s one of the best parts of the novel for me – it’s taking a wider question and slipping it into a story you can get lost in. 

It’s not a surprise that I gave this 5 stars. This is a novel that has enormous heart but I think this is going to break boundaries. A huge thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for an advance copy. 

My Top 12 of 2018

My 12 Top Books of 2018!

I have been dithering over this post for SO long. I head over 100 books this year and trying to decide which ones came out on top was really hard. 

It is because of that there have been many drafts of this post, at one point it had over 30 books in it…yep. I’ve managed to whittle it down to 12, I mean there are 12 months in the year… 

A Court Of Thorns And Roses
A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas 

In 2018 I found one of my favourite new series’s. I’d heard all about this online and I fell in love and devoured the series as well as getting 2 of my closest friends hooked. 

This was initially a Beauty and the Beat retelling but becomes so much more. I couldn’t put these down and I can’t wait for the next in the series. My review for the first book is here

The Exact Opposite of Okay - Laura Steven
The Exact Opposite Of Okay – Laura Steven

Laura Steven’s debut was incredible. The protagonist, Izzy, is an aspiring comic and screenwriter whose life is turned upside down after a picture of her with a politicians son goes viral. 

This was not only a really funny read, but it also had a heart to it. What was unique to this novel is that the protagonist takes hold of what those are saying about her and keeps herself going with a ‘screw you’ attitude – without being robotic. Oh, and it has a kick-ass Feminist vibe. I wrote all about my love for this book here

Vox
Vox – Christina Dalcher 

I made it my mission to a get copy of this at YALC this year. A dystopian future America where women are limited to 100 words a day and confined to their homes. Until one of them is needed.

This was pretty dark and incredibly relevant to what’s happening to women’s voices and something we cannot ignore. I wrote a review after I stayed up way too late finishing it. 

This Is Going To Hurt
This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay 

A non-fiction book I think that everyone should read, in particular those making decisions about the NHS. Adam Kay was a Doctor in Gynaecology, taking us through the highs and the many lows this was a huge eye opener. 

I laughed while reading this, but I was also in tears at other moments. All I wanted to do when I finished was thank each and every one of my doctors. An incredible book that deserves all the praise it is getting. Review here

Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt
Orbiting Jupiter – Gary D. Schmidt 

When I bought this at YALC I had no idea I would be so emotionally invested in the story. A family take in a teenager who has been in a juvenile facility and is a teenage father, told through the perspective of a young boy who becomes his foster brother. 

The ending truly shocked me and it was incredibly well written as well as being quite short. You’ll love it, I want to read it again but I don’t think I’m ready for the emotions. Here’s my review.

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig
Notes On A Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

Matt Haig’s first book was brilliant, and then he released the follow-up. Matt has a way of speaking to you through whatever is going on in your life.

Feeling anxious? Ill at ease with the state of the world or what’s going on around you? This is the book for you. More info here.  

New Erotica For Feminists
New Erotica For Feminists 

Three words. Satire. Feminism. Humour. 

That’s all you need to know to fall in love with this collection. I laughed so hard but also felt really empowered after reading – all my thoughts are here.

Feminists Don't Wear Pink
Feminists Don’t Wear Pink And Other Lies

This is an amazing collection from women across all backgrounds about not just Feminism, but also what it means to be a woman. 

Not only was this a joy, it was also easy to read and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. You can read my review over here

Girl Made of Stars
Girl Made Of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake 

Something within this book spoke to my heart. Following the unimaginable pain of being caught between a best friend and brother – she has accused him of rape. She wouldn’t lie, but how could he do that? 

It took a true talent to write this book. Also, plus points for a bisexual protagonist where their sexuality isn’t the plot. My full review is here

Only Child - Rhiannon Navin
Only Child – Rhiannon Navin

I could not stop thinking about this novel after I read it. Set during and after a school shooting we see the world through the eyes of six-year-old Zach after he survives, but his older brother doesn’t. 

This will break your heart but it’s such an important read. I couldn’t believe this was a debut novel it is so well written and I think Rhiannon Navin is one to watch. I was also part of the book tour.  

Love, Hate And Other Filters
Love, Hate & Other Filters – Samira Ahmed

The first book I finished in 2018 made it to my top 12. This was an incredible debut that spoke out in defiance of hate and Islamophobia. 

I also fell in love with the protagonist Maya and her coming to terms with her own identity. This is also an own voices novel. I wrote a review about why I love it so much here

Moonrise
Moonrise – Sarah Crossan

Well, did this break my heart? Yes it did. I’d read one of Sarah Crossan’s novels before and couldn’t get on with it but the premise of this was too incredible not to try. I’m so glad I did. 

Written in poetry and telling the story of a family facing the execution of a loved one, it not only made me tear up but also want to give it to everyone I know.

There we have it, my top 12 of the year! Did any of your favourites make the list? Let me know in the comments below!