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!

Ask Me His Name – Elle Wright

The loss of a child is something no parent should have to go through but when they do – so many people are too scared to talk. How do you speak to someone who’s baby didn’t come home? Are you going to make it worse? Should you talk about the baby, use its name? After the loss of her own son, Teddy, Elle Wright wanted to do something.

Wow, this book. It’s hard to talk about because while it was a hard book, there were also times where I smiled. This is, ultimately, a message of hope, change and getting through something unimaginable. I actually first heard about the book in a news article and I felt I had to read it – partially because I know people who have lost babies. I wanted to try and see the world through their eyes.

Elle does not hold back throughout. She takes us deep into how she felt at the time. From her joy to be pregnant, her wishes for her baby all the way to Teddy’s struggles once born, holding her son as he passed and trying to make sense of her life after. She isn’t afraid of hiding her pain but also her frustration at being put in a box for grieving mothers.

Of course, this is a tough read. I needed to take quite a few breaks when reading it. While the book was beautifully written, of course, you do get very emotional. I felt my heart break for Teddy’s parents, his family. I wanted to cry because this is sad, but every time I was picked up by the fundraising they undertook, the hope they had and ultimately, love.

One of the best things about this book is that, at the end, we hear from the people who were around Elle – and also loved Teddy. We hear from Teddy’s Dad, Grandma, Aunt. We often think of how heartbreaking this is for the parents, but you can guarantee that there are more people than we know who are touched by baby loss.

To rate a book like this feels wrong, how can you rate someone’s pain? You can’t. That said, this was an incredible book, more than anything I want to thank Elle for sharing with us, for talking about Teddy. I can’t say that I understand just from reading this book, but now I have insight. This is written in such a beautiful way, while it is raw it also shows a real warmth. I can’t stop thinking about this book. Of course, it’s a 5-star read, I think everyone should read this.

Thank you to Elle, the publishers and Netgalley for my copy.

Book Review: Unbroken – Martine Wright

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One moment can change your life

On the morning of the 7th July 2005 Martine Wright decided to let herself sleep a little later and slightly changed her route to work after celebrating London securing the 2012 Olympics. By making these changes she found herself on a tube with a suicide bomber. After he detonated his device, Martine’s life changed forever.

In the UK the 7/7 bombings went down in history. I remember being 11 years old and hearing it over the radio while in the car with my Mum, while my Dad tried to get hold of his best friend. It was so surreal that this had happened in London and the first time I realised these things could happen to anyone.

The book starts with varying perspectives of those closest to Martine as well as herself as they all heard about the 7/7 attacks. We hear from her now-husband, her parents, siblings, friend, surgeon and herself. Her story is one that not only inspired but was also difficult to believe.

After being found horrifically injured a courageous and kind policewoman and fellow passenger stayed with Martine. Both of her legs had been blown off and she was fading fast. So much so that when she arrived at the hospital she was referred to as Hotel Unknown until her family found her.

We follow Martine from the moment she was clinging to life, throughout her recovery. She doesn’t make light of the situation she talks about the dismissal that she wouldn’t walk again, the tears she cried and times she wanted to give up. Despite everything, the months she spent in the hospital she continued to fight for the rights of those injured and the families of those killed in the struggle for financial justice.

I spent the whole book cheering Martine on, wanting her to live her life as best she could after the bombing. So, did she go back to her day job and settle down? Not quite. Martine went on to become a Paralympic hero in Volleyball, she represented her country in the city she loved with all her heart.

This is a story of survival, spirit and determination but also being human. Martine doesn’t claim she’s perfect. She shares her doubts, her struggle to carry on at times and more. However, this made me laugh so much. She’s genuinely funny and learns to live and laugh at herself.

Martine is a hero and this was an incredible read. Was it tough at times, yes but I came out with a sense of determination because if Martine can get through that, I can get through my struggles. Of course, I gave this 5 stars. A truly brilliant story and one you should pick up.

Blogmas Day 10: Books to Give This Christmas

Giving books is one of the best things about Christmas for me. If I can find a book for someone, I will. So how about some ideas that I can personally recommend to you all? These are all books that I’ve read this year and should be available in all good bookshops.

 

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Poetry

This is Rupi Kaur’s second collection and was even better than the first, which I didn’t think was possible. The collection can also work as a stand-alone collection if the person your buying for hasn’t read the first. You can read my review here.

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Young Adult 

One of the biggest superstars came back after 6 years away with a cracker. Turtles deals with the complexities of living with OCD as well as a missing mystery billionaire. You can read my review here.

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Autobiography 

This isn’t something that I would have just picked up off of the shelf, it was only after hearing an interview I decided to give it a go. This goes far beyond an autobiography it talks about gender, sexuality, loss and depression. It was really eye-opening. Review here.

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Historical Fiction

It has been a long time since I’ve read a good Historical Fiction novel. Set in the 1930s and featuring an LGBTQ protagonist this is a must-read. Review here.

Memoir 

I couldn’t just pick one these were both amazing. My Lovely Wife is about a families struggle with Bipolar Disorder through the eyes of a partner. My Shitty Twenties is the memoir of Emily who unexpectedly fell pregnant in her early 20s and what it was like to have her life change so unexpectedly, review here.

 

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Contemporary Fiction

This is super weird but really enjoyable. Told from the perspective of an unborn foetus this looks at the world in a truly unique way. I absolutely loved it and would read it again and again.

 

IMG_5143 (1)Fantasy 

If you have someone in your life who loves Game of Thrones and is having withdrawal symptoms this is perfect. This is set before A Song of Ice and Fire but it’s just as engaging and a lot shorter than the songs in the series.

 

Have I missed any great reads? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

This post is not sponsored in any way.

Book Review: My Shitty Twenties – Emily Morris

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Emily Morris was just an average 22 year old, she loved travelling, her degree and was balancing that with a part time job. That was until she took a pregnancy test and it was positive. After the father telling her to ‘enjoy her shitty twenties,’ she knew she was going it alone.

I came across this marvel of a memoir because of a recommendation in a magazine, there was something about the title that grabbed me as well as the brilliant cover design. I’m the same age that Emily was when she found out she was pregnant so it felt very real to me.

I feel like I need to point out this book could have gone a very different direction. This is not a whiny, my life is so hard and it’s not my fault type book, not at all. This is a very different type of coming of age story. It’s Emily having to grow up and completely change the course of her life, with her son.

While reading, I honestly felt for Emily. There was no support from the father and a sense of losing her independence after she needed to leave her student accommodation to live with her Mum, away from the city she loved to care for her newborn son. I can say, hand on heart, that she is a fantastic Mum.

This book breaks down terrible stereotypes about young mothers. I think I loved it so much because she has the same spirit and determination that my Mum had when she had me at 21. That said, she shares the hard times as well, the fact that she struggled with postnatal depression and the struggles of being judged as a young mum trying to do her best.

I honestly think that this is an incredible memoir. It’s thought provoking and shows the best of a change in your life. I’ve given this book 4 stars I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to see what Emily does next.

Book Review: You Can’t Touch My Hair And Other Things I Still Have To Explain – Phoebe Robinson

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I’ll be honest, prior to picking this as an audiobook I had no idea who Phoebe was. It just sounded like a funny book with an important message. What I ended up with was a great new comedian and writer to follow and a new appreciation of what it’s like to be a Woman of Colour.

It’s not a surprise to any of you who visit my blog or any of my social media that I’m a White British woman. I fully admit that I have no idea what it’s like to live as a Woman of Colour and I never will. Phoebe’s book isn’t just about race but she really gave me insight in a firm but approachable way and made me consider things I hadn’t before. I didn’t expect that from a book that marketed as being funny.

Don’t get me wrong, Phoebe is hilarious. It’s like listening to that awesome friend with all these crazy stories that you can’t believe are true. While doing this though, she talks about Feminism, about being put down creatively, about casual racism. The bottom line is that Phoebe is fiercely relatable, I think to the majority of women. I absolutely ADORE her.

One of my favourite parts of the book (which I can guarantee works best as an audiobook) is Phoebe’s letters to her niece. Of course, they’re funny a little inappropriate and meant for when she’s older but there’s just a wonderful sense of care. That Phoebe is talking about all of these issues, not for her, not for us, but for girls of the future so the world is a little bit easier for them to navigate.

I gave this four stars. This is a brilliant, well written and hilarious book. There’s just the right mix of humour and serious thought throughout. The only tiny reason I haven’t made it five stars, is because there are points I felt dragged on a bit too long for me. It definitely is a great read or listen though! Make sure you check it out!

Book Review: The New Girl: A Trans Girl Tells It How It Is – Rhyannon Styles

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Imagine feeling lost in your own body. Imagine spending years living a lie, denying what makes you ‘you’. This was Ryan’s reality. He had to choose: die as a man or live as a woman.

Rhyannon is brilliant, to put it simply. Throughout her life she has been a light in what sounds like quite a bland place to live for someone so fabulous. After being assigned male and named Ryan at birth, Rhyannon knew she was different. From her earliest memories she wanted to be a girl. At the age of 30 her dream finally came through, this is her story.

I’m a huge fan of reading about people’s journeys and how they have faced adversity. I listened as Rhyannon narrated her story, the highs and the lows and what it was like growing up in a small town and labelled ‘gay’ to living in the city and realising who she really was.

What makes this stand out for me is how Rhyannon adresses her family and their reaction to her transition. I appreciate the honesty that she has about how she and her family differed about her being Trans, how families can struggle and feel the need to grieve the person they thought they knew. I feel this could really help young people who go through a similar experience not feel so alone.

The only issue I had with this book is that it seems to be divided in two, but not in an obvious way. Rhyannon has decided that she would first tell her story in relation to happiness and light-heartedness but later reveal her ‘b-side’ as she calls it. With this there was a bit of a risk that people would give up before that point, I know I wondered if the story was sugar coated until I got to this point. It’s not a case of wanting misery, rather I wanted to know more about how Rhyannon felt prior to transition.

I gave this 4 stars. I found Rhyannon to be intelligent, insightful and show her feelings well throughout the book. There is also humour in the book as Rhyannon looks back and considers both the good and the bad in relation to her experience. I’d definitely recommend for an informative read.