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! 

Book Review: Notes On A Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig

In a world where we have constant access to social media, instant news and 24-hour access, the world can feel a little too fast. Now, I love social media, it’s one of my passions but even I need to step away sometimes. Matt Haig captures that in this book, that we as humans need to have that distance. We need to go on walks, to have someone step in sometimes and go hey, this is the real world. Well, I know I do!

I absolutely adored Matt’s previous book on mental health Reasons To Stay Alive. It talks about his own experiences of depression, as he stood at the age of 24 at the edge of a cliff, contemplating killing himself. But, how does someone get from that point? With great difficulty, but Matt has a beautiful way of writing about it. So, of course, I pre-ordered this the second I found out about it.

While I was reading this I was struggling with panic attacks, things weren’t going as planned, I’d lost my job and this is the book I needed. When I told people this book changed my life I meant it. This is broken down into short chapters, with lists, ideas and this format makes it so readable. I wasn’t sure at first but when the whole books is about breaking things down, slowing down and taking your time, it makes perfect sense.

The best thing is that Notes on a Nervous Planet doesn’t tell you to just stop using technology, sit in a field and meditate. Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to do that an avoiding the world around us isn’t possible, nor is it healthy. I was refreshing to read because it made me realise I wasn’t alone in feeling anxious about the speed of the world around us.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re struggling, if you’ve wondered if you’re alone in this then you need to read this book. Even if you haven’t I recommend reading this for a beautiful look at the world around us. This is an inspiring, thought-provoking and beautiful read.

My Top 10 Mental Health Reads

MHAW18 – My Top 10 Mental Health Reads

 

Seeing as it’s Thursday I decided that instead of my usual review, I would share with you my current top 10 books about or featuring mental health. I was really hard to decide on the final 10 but I think I have a pretty good selection.

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
This is one of my favourites books of all time. I read this when I was a student and it just connected on a level I haven’t before with any other book. The plot focuses on Esther a young woman in her early 20s and her descent into mental ill health.

Am I Normal Yet – Holly Bourne
I love Holly Bourne’s YA work and Am I Normal Yet was a great start to her spinster trilogy. Looking at OCD, how to open up to the people around you and the process of recovery. Full review right here.

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Matt Haig was on the verge of committing suicide, now he’s a best selling author. To get from one to the other he needed reasons to stay alive. This is a beautiful and brilliant book which changes lives. I wrote all about it here.

My Lovely Wife – Mark Luckach
There are very few books I’ve read from the perspective of a partner who has to watch their loved ones go through mental illness. A truly lovely and honest book. You can read my review here.

How Not To Be A Boy – Robert Webb
I’m so in love with this autobiography. This isn’t just about Webb’s life, it looks at death, gender stereotypes, sexuality and toxic masculinity. I raved about it here.

Mad Girl – Bryony Gordon
I listened to this as an audiobook and fell in love. Not only does Bryony talk about serious topics such as depression, alopecia and OCD but she also makes you laugh. I’m a huge believer in laughter being a great healer. You can read my full thoughts here.
Nina is Not Ok – Shappi Khorsandi
This is the first YA novel I’ve read looking at alcoholism in a young person. I went through so many emotions reading it. A tough but important read.

Ariel – Sylvia Plath
I know, I know Plath again BUT her poetry is incredible. This is a beautiful collection and Plath’s last before her suicide. The imagery, the emotion. I can’t get enough.
It’s All in Your Head – Rae Earl
Confession, I’d never read anything by Rae Earl before and this was a great place to start. This is part manual, part memoir and wholly excellent. I loved this and it would benefit anyone and I highly recommend it.

When We Collided – Emery Lord
This is a wonderful YA novel which isn’t obvious it is about mental illness at the beginning. This is mostly about friendship, love and healing. Two teenagers, a summer and a beautiful novel. Full review here.

 

What would you add? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: How To Stop Time – Matt Haig

How to Stop Time - Matt Haig

When you look at Tom all you would see is a 40 something History teacher but he’s a little odd, that’s because Tom is actually 400 years old. Living for centuries can take it’s toll and lately Tom is finding it more and more difficult each day. With pressure from the secret society, created to protect people like him and increasingly falling into the past can Tom hold it together or will this push him to the edge?

This is the first novel I’ve read from Matt Haig and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long! I picked it up on offer and thought it looked interesting, a good choice. The character of Tom was fantastic and incredibly well thought out. Like the rest of us he is flawed, he’s made mistakes. We learn about times of Witch trials, adventures with Shakespeare, Fitzgerald and more. Each is woven into the novel seamlessly, I didn’t feel like I was jumping from century to century.

The idea of a secret society, of people being around us and not knowing was addictive. I couldn’t stop, I needed to reach the end and find out what was going to happen to Tom. There needed to be the element of danger I feel to really make the story stand out so the combination of the society and a certain beautiful French teacher was added perfectly.

I gave this 4.5 stars, a fantastic read that really drew me in. It’s hard to combine different time periods but Haig did it so well. The only reason I didn’t give this the full five stars is that I felt the ending as a little rushed for me. I can’t really say more than that as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone! That said, there would be a fantastic opportunity to have a sequel which I would love!

You can get your own copy of How to Stop Time here with my Amazon link!

March-Book-Wrap-Up

I Read 12 Books in March?!

It has been a GOOD reading month, which I think is partly due to the fact I had some time off this month and could curl up with a few more books. It’s also due to the fact I’ve spent a lot of evenings on my own, no one to talk to means you’re not ignoring anyone! Anyway on to my 12 March reads!

Ok so technically This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay was read in February but not in time for my last wrap up. I loved this memoir and think it’s an incredibly important read in modern Britain. I also read Lydie and Limited Edition, both graphic novels. Lydie was sweet but strange about a girl who believes her baby is still alive and the town who humors her. Limited Edition is about a woman in her 30s looking for love, it wasn’t my favourite but it was ok. Also I got an early release of The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R Pan, which wasn’t for me you can see why here.

Next up I finished the incredible Mysogynation by Laura Bates, once again Laura wrote a book that I wanted to shout ‘hell yeah’ at, not an easy task. Following this I read The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven which, no big deal, is currently my favourite read of the year you can read my review here. I also picked up the long awaited Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2, even more kick ass ladies and beautiful illustrations. Then I finally got around to reading The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin after I loved the film but, honestly, I was really let down by the ending.

After seeing Tony Walsh’s reading of This is The Place after the Manchester attack I needed to read his poetry. I picked up Sex & Love & Rock&Roll, it was a breath of fresh air for contemporary poetry. Next up Bygone Badass Broads by Mckenzie Lee a collection of stories about real women you might not know. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my favourite. Following this I picked up A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggests by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a very short read but an important one I feel. I also finished Nobody Told Me which chronicles Hollie McNish’s life as a mother in poetry and diary entries from finding out she’s pregnant to her child at three.

Finally, I picked up Stacey Dooley’s On the Frontline with Women Who Fight Back which I fell in love with, review to come soon! Another poetry collection as well thanks to Netgalley of Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward which was an interesting collection. I also FINALLY got around to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Allbertalli which I didn’t love as much as everyone said I would…sorry! And finally, I finished and fell in love with How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, amazing just amazing.

What have you been reading? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to keep up with what I’m reading you can connect with me on Goodreads!

 

March-Book-Wrap-Up

What I Read in March

It has been a GOOD reading month, which I think is partly due to the fact I had some time off this month and could curl up with a few more books. It’s also due to the fact I’ve spent a lot of evenings on my own, no one to talk to means you’re not ignoring anyone! Anyway on to the 12 books that I managed to read this month.

Ok so technically This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay was read in February but not in time for my last wrap up. I loved this memoir and think it’s an incredibly important read in modern Britain. I also read Lydie and Limited Edition, both graphic novels. Lydie was sweet but strange about a girl who believes her baby is still alive and the town who humors her. Limited Edition is about a woman in her 30s looking for love, it wasn’t my favourite but it was ok. Also I got an early release of The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R Pan, which wasn’t for me you can see why here.

Next up I finished the incredible Mysogynation by Laura Bates, once again Laura wrote a book that I wanted to shout ‘hell yeah’ at, not an easy task. Following this I read The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven which, no big deal, is currently my favourite read of the year you can read my review here. I also picked up the long awaited Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2, even more kick ass ladies and beautiful illustrations. Then I finally got around to reading The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin after I loved the film but, honestly, I was really let down by the ending.

After seeing Tony Walsh’s reading of This is The Place after the Manchester attack I needed to read his poetry so I picked up Sex & Love & Rock&Roll, it was a breath of fresh air for contemporary poetry. Next up Bygone Badass Broads by Mckenzie Lee a collection of stories about real women you might not know, I enjoyed it but it wasn’t my favourite. Following this I picked up A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggests by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a very short read but an important one I feel. I also finished Nobody Told Me which chronicles Hollie McNish’s life as a mother in poetry and diary entries from finding out she’s pregnant to her child at three.

Finally I picked up Stacey Dooley’s On the Frontline with Women Who Fight Back which I fell in love with, review to come soon! Another poetry collection as well thanks to Netgalley of Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward which was an interesting collection. I also FINALLY got around to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Allbertalli which I didn’t love as much as everyone said I would…sorry! And finally I finished and fell in love with How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, amazing just amazing.

What have you been reading? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to keep up with what I’m reading you can connect with me on Goodreads!

 

My Top 10 books featuring Mental Health

I love reading about mental health, I love characters who feel real to me who can educate others about all the different experiences. My Mum once asked me if it made me more depressed to read about others and it really doesn’t. On a bad day it might be a little bit more difficult but I’ll put the book down and do something else and go back later on. When I read these books I feel educated about other illnesses or other symptoms, I’m reminded that this is just a PART of a person, not everything about them and I feel comforted, like being in some kind of family of people who understand. One day I aim to write my own book about mental health, I have ideas for both fiction and nonfiction, but I’ll let you know more about that when I manage to start it! The books listed aren’t in any particular author but I loved them all and they each taught me something. Enjoy!

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The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

As my regular readers know I absolutely adore Sylvia Plath, so much so I wrote my Undergraduate dissertation on her work (see here if you want to know more!). Plath is known as much for her suicide as her work, which is a sad fact. The Bell Jar, however, was focused on Plath’s younger life as a college student who’s confused to say the least and the impact this has on her mental health. Few novels have spoken to me in the way this one has, one of my ultimate favourites, written in a time where women couldn’t speak about mental illness, but Sylvia defied them all.

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Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Haig’s book is recent but now well known. This book is for not only people living with a mental health condition but also for their loved ones. The tone of the book is refreshingly honest and open, imagining conversations between past and present self and really showing you that life is worth living, even if it tries to kick your butt. See my review here.

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Brave Girl Eating- Harriet Brown

Memoirs like this appear to be few and far between, while we’re used to reading memoirs from survivors of eating disorders it’s uncommon to read the perspective of the family around them. Brave Girl Eating is written by a mother who is watching her daughter starve herself to death, it’s about trying to understand and support her while dealing with her own emotions and caring for the rest of her family. An incredible book I could not recommend enough.

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini

The first YA novel in this list, Vizzini really understood what he was writing about and how to portray it. The best thing about this novel is the way in which recovery was written about and how people hide their illness. Lovable characters and a great ending too. Read my review here.

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All of the Above – Juno Dawson

This novel really reminded me of the importance of friends in the face of mental illness. I’m a firm believer that having friends who have been mentally ill is one of the most precious things, having someone that understands and has been through what you’re going through is such a relief. Dawson takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions with this novel I laughed, I cried and I loved all of the characters. A definite must read.

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The Time In Between – Nancy Tucker

Nancy’s memoir of life with an eating disorder was both charming and fascinating. I also admired the fact that she refused to use numbers in the memoir, as she didn’t want it to encourage anyone else with an eating disorder, she is very mindful of this. The book goes through not only Nancy’s fight and recovery but also the reasons behind her eating disorder as she understands what they are. Wonderfully written and well thought out too.

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The Skeleton Cupboard – Tanya Byron

Another memoir that shows a fascinating perspective. We often forget that mental health professionals are people too. The novel follows the now well known Tanya Byron’s early years training to be a clinical psychologist dealing with the reason she chose this path, her patients, supervisors and the emotional hardships of doing this work. It made me really think of all the people working in mental health and appreciate all that they have to go through.

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The Illustrated Mum – Jacqueline Wilson

Wilson never shied away from dealing with difficult subjects in children’s novels. The Illustrated Mum was my first encounter with mental illness in literature, of course I didn’t really understand at the time but I just accepted that the Mum was poorly. That was that. The older I get I realise how heartbreaking this book was and how much it might help children with mentally ill parents to know they’re not alone. Dolphin and Star’s Mum has tattoos all over her body, a big temper and the girls manage as best as they can with her various moods, as an older reader I now understand that the Mum has Bipolar Disorder. These kind of books teach kids about different people and situations, I think Wilson’s books made me the empathic person I am today. Even as an adult this is worth a read.

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Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic – Carrie Fisher 

For my last two I have included Carrie Fisher’s memoirs. They’ve had mixed reviews on amazon and goodreads but personally I loved them. Carrie talks openly about shock therapy, the influence her childhood had and the life she lived alongside having undiagnosed bipolar disorder. The best part though is Carrie’s humor, I like it when people can still have humor talking about mental health, because we’re still people and it’s about knowing what’s appropriate. The only downside to these is that they’re short, I’d love to have known more BUT these were also used when Carrie went on tour with them so I understand. Either way for me humor is vital in defeating low days and Carrie certainly has a lot of it!