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: 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. 

Book Review: A Spark Of Light – Jodi Picoult

A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult

A normal morning changes multiple lives forever. After calls come in that a shooting has taken place in a Women’s Reproductive Health clinic, negotiator Hugh heads to the scene, what he doesn’t realise is that his 15-year-old daughter is one of the hostages.

I’ve been a Picoult fan for almost 10 years and devour her books when they come out. So, of course, I was itching to get my hands on a copy of her latest novel and as soon as I heard the subject matter I really wanted to see how she would tackle this topic. She isn’t afraid of taking on complicated issues.

As always, we are introduced to a wide range of characters, all of whom have their own complex backgrounds, thoughts and emotions. You see a snapshot into their worlds at that time. A doctor that works because of his faith, a nurse who cares for others no matter what, a pro-life campaigner caught in the crossfire, a woman who has chosen to have an abortion.

This novel is different from Picoult’s others in the way that it plays out, and initially, this threw me. This works backwards from the point of conflict to how the situation started. From this perspective, the novel was a little difficult to follow at times I was unclear who was who and how they were related for the first few chapters. So be aware of this is you are a die-hard Picoult fan.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of the novel to read on my Kindle. I’m hoping that the final novel makes it more obvious when the narrative changes, but this is minor in relation to the novel itself. There is a richness within that shows so many perspectives and ultimately, this is a novel about choice.

I gave this novel 4 stars. I thought it was well written and showed an interesting perspective. As always I could have read another 300 pages about these characters, about their lives beyond the events of this novel. Of course, it broke my heart at times and I’m pretty sure it will for most people.

Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley and Jodi Picoult for this advanced copy. You can get your own copy on the 30th October!

 

Are you going to be picking up Jodi’s latest novel? Let me know in the comments below!

September Book Haul!

September Book Haul

A birthday and no self-control means a September Book Haul! Yay! So these are the few physcial books I’ve picked up in September, I’m now on a ban…who am I kidding there’s too many amazing

Let’s get started with some of the amazing deals I got on Amazon. First up Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I keep hearing about this author and when they were £2 each I thought it was worth a go. I will report back.

Next up My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan. This is absolutely tiny but I really loved Nutshell and wanted to read something else by McEwan without a huge time commitment. I also picked up Survivors: True Stories of the Children of the Holocaust by Allan Zullo, this was on offer and I want to hear the stories that these people have so it is never forgotten.

Kick-Ass poetry by amazing women? I’m sold which is why I bought She Is Fierce by Ana Sampson. It had Sylvia Plath in so it has to be good. Next up another poetry collection, I Hope My Voice Doesn’t Skip by Alicia Cook who is known to use music within her poetry – I’m really looking forward to this one.

I’d heard a lot about this. What Would Boudicca Do? by E.Foley & B.Coates takes women from history and modern problems, how would they deal with it? This looks really fun. Next up I pre-ordered The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White, I’ve heard a lot about the podcast and ones I’ve listened to have been great.

I’m trying to savor the Saga series so I went ahead and ordered Volume 6 and Volume 7. For my birthday I got Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell in a mystery book package, New York, 1960s let’s give it a go. I also picked up Fierce Fairytales & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill on the recommendation of my friend Sarah. Who am I to say no to feminist fairytales?

Another birthday gift was My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi. This is manga that I keep seeing again and again. I ordered Vengeful by V.E Schwab ages ago thinking I’d read Vicious before…that didn’t quite go to plan but HOW BEAUTIFUL! I was also sent a copy of The Witches of St. Petersberg by Imogen Edward-Jones as part of an upcoming book tour. I didn’t want to know too much about it before going in but keep your eyes peeled!

My final two books I also got at birthday gifts, I’ve really wanted to try some Leigh Bardugo and so I didn’t just get one, I got two for my birthday! Lucky, lucky gal!

Well, that’s all the books I got in September! Now I just need to get through them all…wish me luck! Are there any you’ve read and would recommend or any on your to-read list? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review Girl Made of Stars

Book Review: Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars

When your friend accuses your twin brother of rape where do you turn? Your friend wouldn’t lie, but could the brother you love do this? Add in the complication of an ex-girlfriend and it’s enough to tear anyone apart. This is Mara’s reality.

This novel will break your heart, I need to warn you going into this. I read this while stuck in the hospital and I truly escaped into the novel and felt my heart break but was also blown away. This has so many levels, Mara’s relationship with her brother, with her parents and with her friends.

Ashley Herring Blake really captures the grey area of consent. In many cases of sexual assault, particularly when the accused and accuser know each other things get muddy. That said she has perfectly captured the complexity of the situation and at no point blames the victim.

In the era of #MeToo more stories like this are being heard and even though this novel is fictional it reinforces the message: you deserve to be heard. While this is from Mara’s perspective, this does not take away from the emotions of someone to have gone through such an event. It is superbly written

On another note, I love, love, love that there was a bisexual main character. There are very few I’ve seen that show interest in both sexes within the novel, that was a huge thing for me. This isn’t a huge plot point or a twist it just is what it is and I applaud that.

If you haven’t guessed already, I gave this novel 5 stars. It really is a brilliantly written novel which has heart as well as complexity. This is the kind of novel that should be taught in school, that will give young people something to relate to.

I’d love to hear your thoughts you’ve read this novel. Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here – Jay Coles

Tyler Johnson Was Here

A party, a raid, a body. Marvin Johnson wants to be closer to his twin brother, who’s been drifting recently. After going to a party with him, Marvin’s life will change forever. Shots are fired and in the middle of a police raid Marvin loses sight of Tyler, what he doesn’t know is that he’ll never see him alive again. After searching Marvin gets the news that Tyler is dead, murdered by a police officer. How can he make sense of the world now?

This book is a masterpiece. I absolutely loved this and it deserves to be read everywhere. I had to go to Foyles in London (which I’m not complaining about it’s one of the best shops in the world) to get this and I haven’t seen it in any local stores! But why did I love it so much?

At the beginning of the novel, we meet Marvin, a high school straight A student with a bright future ahead of him. Kind, quiet and caring Marvin is worried about his twin brother, which leads to the previously mentioned party, and Tyler’s death. The novel quickly delves into the world of racial hatred and shooting of young, unarmed black men that we see again and again in the US.

This is a novel, ultimately about family and identity. The fact that Tyler is murdered at the hands of a police officer isn’t the shocking part to the family. These boys are brought up to be wary of police and that was heartbreaking. Their father is already in prison, their mother working as hard as she can to raise them. Is it any wonder that without his brother by his side Marvin feels lost and confused.

A central part of this novel is how Marvin see’s himself. Should he be continuing to try his hardest, to be respectful and separate himself from the stereotype of where he’s from when that’s all people see? Or should he just embrace it? There are parts within the novel where you just want to reach out to him, especially when he mentions his brother has ‘become a hashtag’.

I gave this novel 5 stars. It’s an important read for modern times. Incredibly, this is Jay Coles’s debut novel I can’t wait to see what he does next.

What I Read in June!

Well, I may be a little late but what would my website be without a monthly reading round-up? I read 15 books in June, I know! This was down to a mix of having a lot of time at home in the evening, being really poorly and just loving what I was reading. This is going to be a long one so let’s go.

First up was my YA Feminist fantasy with Moxie, teenagers, Riot Grrls and taking on sexism it got 4 stars from me. Next, I tried two ARCs I received, one a graphic novel called Maggy Garrisson and a poetry collection called Grabbing Pussy neither of these ones that I enjoyed and both got 2 stars. Then on to another ARC, Chloe Coles’ Bookshop Girl, a genuinely sweet novel I gave this 3 stars.

I’d been listening to Open on Audible for a long time and finally finished it this month with a 3 star rating, an ok book but I don’t think there was much new information in it. After this another ARC poetry collection, Glimmerglass, unfortunately, it was only a 2 star read for me. Then things picked up with the incredible Tyler Johnson Was Here, an incredible novel based on the Black Lives Matter movement 5 stars. Then an incredible collection for the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, this was such an emotional read and 5 stars.

I listened to 30 Things Before 30 which I needed in my life if you’re in your 20s and wondering what on earth you’re doing read this 5 star book. Then we went on to possibly my favourite book of the year so far, Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher I read this in a matter of hours, 5 stars. I also gave a novel I’ve wanted to try for a while a go, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t quite know why but I loved this and now I can’t wait to watch the film too – 4 stars. I was also sent a copy of Convenience Store Woman, a quirky new novel which I gave 4 stars you can read my review here.

My final poetry collection of the month was Everything All At Once by Steve Camden this was such an amazing concept it goes through a week in a secondary school it. An excellent idea and one to get excited about 4.5 stars. The next novel broke my heart a little bit, Girl Made of Stars looks at sexual assault, family and relationships and hallelujah we had a bisexual main character. This was a 5 star read, absolutely incredible. Finally this month I read a memoir called Surviving The Angel of Death by Eva Mozes Kor, a tough but needed read which also got 5 stars.

 

What did you read in June, let me know in the comments below!