February Book Wrap Up

February Wrap Up!

 

Here we are again with another month worth of reading! Just like January, I managed to get a good number of books in…9! So here’s my monthly round up for you all!

Brave – Rose McGowan

Almost everyone has heard the name Rose McGowan in the past few months. This is the story of her life and the ‘cult of Hollywood’ as she describes it. The first woman to speak out against Harvey Weinstein after he raped her and started a movement. I gave this 5 stars, a tough but much-needed read.

A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J Maas

Last month I couldn’t help but rave about the amazing A Court of Thorns and Roses last month (review to come) I had to read the next one as soon as possible. This was the biggest one in the trilogy and I loved it, I’m 100% a fan of the series. This one also got 5 stars.

Clean – Juno Dawson

I used to like Juno Dawson’s books but this one just wasn’t good in my opinion. It made me incredibly angry and I don’t want to say anymore because there’s no point in being mean but nope, would not recommend. This got 2 stars.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay looks at the body in this non-fiction book, specifically hers and what our impressions are of ‘fat’ bodies. She talks about how being raped impacted her and how she now feels about her body. I gave it 3 stars.

Time Bomb – Joelle Charbonneau

This was an advance reader copy I received on Netgalley. The story focuses on a range of different characters and their perspectives of being inside their high school when a bomb goes off. They all need to work together while trying to protect themselves. This was an ok book, I read it quite quickly but I didn’t think it was that memorable!  This one got 3 stars.

But You Did Not Come Back – Marceline Loridan-Ivens

This was heartbreaking, really, really heartbreaking. This is a letter from Marceline to her father who was murdered in Auschwitz after they were separated. The things she would have told him in response to a letter he managed to get smuggled to her in the camp. I picked this up in passing and I’m so glad I did, it’s something that needs to be read. I gave this 5 stars.

Why Have Kids? – Jessica Valenti

I’ve read Valenti’s work before in Sex Object but this was different. I don’t have children but found this interesting from both sides. This would be a very controversial read but I still enjoyed it. That could change later on in my life. I gave it 3 stars.

A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J Maas

The final piece of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. This didn’t go exactly how I thought it would but it was still brilliant. I couldn’t wait to get through and see what happened at the end. I’m glad there’s a 4th book coming soon!

This is Really Happening – Erin Chack

Buzzfeed writer Erin Chack wrote a collection of essays about her working life, having Cancer at the age of 19 and meeting her partner whilst still a teenager. I listened to this and I enjoyed it but at times it felt a little all over the place, which is why I gave it 3 stars.

Mysogynation – Laura Bates 

I’m still reading this at the time of writing this post BUT once again Laura Bates has written brilliantly. The book is a collection of pieces she has written and published. So far, so good!

Don’t forget if you want to keep up with what I’m reading we can connect on Goodreads! What are you reading at the moment? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Sunday Seven: My To Be Read Pile

Now it’s getting colder and days curled up in blankets are more acceptable I thought I’d share some of the books on my To Be Read (TBR) pile. There’s a lot more than this, but these are some I’m planning to finish in the next few weeks.

A Clash of Kings – George R.R. Martin 

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It’s been a while since I finished the first Game of Thrones book so I thought it was time I should get stuck into the next one in the series. After all, Winter is coming.

Shrill – Lindy West 

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A fab feminist read, because I always need a good book from a kick-ass woman on the go.

The Wicked and The Divine: Rising Action – Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator), Matt Wilson (Illustrator)

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This is one of the weirdest graphic novel series’s that I read and I’m SO excited, can’t wait to get this read!

Hello Me, It’s You –  Anonymous, edited by Hannah Todd 

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I requested this from the publisher, mostly because I’m interested in what other people would say to their younger selves. I really hope this is as good as I think it’s going to be.

Belzhar – Meg Wolitzer

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A young adult novel that has something to do with Sylvia Plath? Sign me up!

In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park 

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I don’t know a lot about North Korea. I’m hoping that Yeonmi’s account, which I’ve heard only good things about, can teach me about what it’s like for the people.

Brain on Fire – Susannah Cahalan

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I’m always interested in reading other people’s accounts of their lives with mental illness. Susannah’s book was recommended to me on Goodreads.

What’s on your reading list? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl- Jesse Andrews

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“If after reading this book you come to my home and brutally murder me, I do not blame you.”

Greg tells us from the beginning that he has no friends, apart from Earl who’s the closest thing he has to a friend because they make movies together. He’s happy to be on his own, being a loner at school will get him through high school almost unnoticed. Well, that is until his mother asks him to comfort a childhood friend who has cancer, how can he say no to a person with cancer?  After Rachel stops her treatment for Leukemia, Greg decides to make a film for her and this is that story.

There was a lot of hype around this novel, especially when it was announced that it would be turned into a film. As always I wanted to read the book before seeing the film and now I don’t think I’ll be watching the film at all as this novel really isn’t what I thought it would be.

There is a time for self deprecating humour, but throughout a whole novel is not the place for it. I understand that it is part of that character and how he perceives himself and the world but the character of Greg drove me insane throughout the whole novel. It felt as if Andrews wanted us to hate the book, it got old pretty fast.

The novel just didn’t sit well with me, while at times it was honest I couldn’t get on with the narrative style, that doesn’t mean it was a bad book, just not to my taste. I think one of the things I struggled with was that I don’t think Rachel was fleshed out as well as she could have been and Earl was very stereotypical.

Overall I really didn’t like this book, there were points the felt kind of sweet but this was quickly taken away. I just felt that I couldn’t connect with Greg at all and if I’m honest he just annoyed me. This made me really sad as I’d heard so much hype about how funny and charming it was but I honestly didn’t find like that at all. With that in mind I gave it a 2 star review BUT I do think this would work a lot better as a film just because of the way in which it is written.

So, should I watch the film? Did you like the novel? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: Water For Elephants

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The novel opens with a prologue from a young Jacob Jankowski, describing the one time disaster broke out in his beloved circus, wetting the reader’s appetite for the destruction to come later on. Although after doing this the next chapter is rather depressing and slow compared to the ideas of the prologue. Fast forward a good 50/60 years and Jacob is alone grumpy, old and starting to loose his mind a little in a nursing home where the only good thing is a sweet nurse and the fact that the circus is finally coming to town possibly for the last time Jacob will ever see it (throughout the novel we are forced back and forward, which to some could be seen as slightly depressing)

After the excitement regarding the circus Jacob is forced to sit alone after an argument with a fellow resident claiming he ‘carried water for the elephants’, but going back to his youth Jacob knows this is a lie after all he was the vet on one of the ‘greatest circus’ on earth’. This sets the tone for the whole novel, as the reader is constantly drawn to and from the past which in a way makes this a story of triumph tinged with sadness throughout, as we know how it ends with Jacob waiting for his children, waiting to get back a piece of his life and true love, Marlena.

Young Jacob is a student with dreams of being a vet and getting that one girl to sleep with him, although in one day his whole life,happiness and studies are destroyed by the sudden death of his parents. Going home he learnt he has lost everything he thought he had. His father has been in crippling debt just so that Jacob had the education he needs. Alone, heartbroken and penniless Jacob has no way of going back to college and no job prospects Jacob decides to take a risk. He’s manages to wing his way onto the circus as the circus vet.

Although beware! Do not expect this novel to be all glitter, spangles and performing monkeys, Gruen’s tale will break your heart. The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth may be spectacular but in more ways than you can imagine adultery, prostitution, murder,lies,secrets and of course romance. From the very beginning Jacob is hooked on the beautiful Marlena a horse entertainer,she is truly the beauty and the heart of the circus especially with dreams of performing with the ‘dumb elephant’  Rosie,that the circus has just acquired. However there is a catch, despite Jacob’s love  for Marlena and the animals, he must work over the watchful and evil ring master, August, who is also coinsidently Marlena’s husband. Yes it is obvious he has reached a problem.

Although through the help of friends he aquires along the way (although let me tell you he starts off as the lowest of the low with a lot to learn) Jacob begins his battle to save Marlena from her abusive husband and finally teach Rosie in a way that nobody else could. It has been said that the real hero of this story is not Jacob at all, that the real hero is Rosie (for later events that I won’t spoil now), a beautiful creature who is not as ‘stupid’  that people are lead to believe. However with a bit of a psycho at the head of it all, it’s obvious that life and love will not run smoothly.

Gruen has done a beautiful job with description, it is simple to image everything you read. To see Marlena’s acts and Rosie’s beauty while feeling Jacob’s pain. The reader is transported to another time and another world the smells, the feelings, everything. The only criticism I can give is when it goes back to old Jacob, yes it’s vital and there for a reason but it does get dull and you do want to skip it, however this said once finished I put down my book and discovered it was one of the best books I have ever read.

I give this beauty 5 stars *****. For the nearly flawless storytelling and an amazing plot line! I will forever be disappointed by the circus from now on.

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!

 

 

 

Book Review: Before We Met – Lucie Whitehouse

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While Hannah waits for her husband’s flight to come in, she is none the wiser that her life is about to change. What begins as Mark missing his flight steadily spirals into something much more. As Hannah begins to investigate it appears that she has indeed become too complacent in the role of dutiful wife. As she goes deeper she starts to wonder how much can you really know about a person before you met them?

I’d heard great things about this novel, it had been compared to others such as Before I Go To Sleep. If it had such rave reviews and a hint of mystery surely I would absolutely love and devour it within a few hours? Well one part was true, I did read it within two days but found myself struggling along for at least the first few chapters. I wanted Hannah to take back the independence and the fiery attitude of a young girl who’s survived New York alone! Come on Hannah, where are you? I found her to be easily influenced and not what I would expect from the little I knew about her character.

As other reviews have mentioned Whitehouse is very keen on description, however, the majority of the time it just seemed a little bit like cotton wool. I felt like the story was just being fluffed up by endless description when I was hungrily pawing through trying to find more action within the novel and more depth to Hannah’s character. It was almost as if she was wrapped up in so much description that we couldn’t build a relationship with her. Also, the character of Mark left a lot to the imagination. I wanted to know more about him, about what kind of a man he is it all seemed a little too positive and too innocent for my liking for a large part of the novel.

Overall I’ll admit this wasn’t one of my favourite novels. I found myself rushing to the end only to be quite disappointed and in my view the majority of moments where there could have been gripping suspense were glossed over quite easily and left something lacking within the novel. I’m going to give it three stars *** I generally have mixed feelings. I doubt I would read it again but if you’re not looking for something that will keep you up all night, but still want a little bit of mystery then this novel might be for you. Sadly it wasn’t my cup of tea.

 

Chloe’s Book Haul – June 20th

If there’s one thing I cannot resist it’s offers on books, wherever I can get my hands on them bookshops, car boot sales, charity shops, online, Kindle books, you name it. While I like libraries and they were certainly important when I was younger, I love having my own books. I had two books to exchange and a £10 voucher for Waterstones, so of course I had a little buying spree today. I got six books in today’s haul, mostly on buy one get one half price and another book from Amazon that I ordered a few days ago.
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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

This novel was recommended to me by a bookseller a while ago, he had just finished reading it and said it was incredible. The novel is set in World War Two (one of my favourite settings) and it’s protagonists are a young Hitler Youth and a Blind Girl on the run with her father, I’m intrigued. I’m interested to see how Doerr presents a blind persons perspective, it’s exciting and is probably part of what sold the book to me!
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The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell 

The Bone Clocks has a stunning cover, which it what initially caught my eye. There wasn’t much information about the novel on the back but after a quick search it sounded worth picking up. If this isn’t interesting enough, I don’t know what is ‘Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena.’ I’m taking a total risk with this novel, I’ve never heard anything about it but I’m really hoping it’s something great.

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The Following Girls – Louise Levene 

I picked this up because it sounded fun but seemed to have a heart. Set in the 1970s with a 16 year old protagonist who seems like a normal teenager and possibly a little lost. According to the front cover the Sunday Telegraph called it ‘acidic social satire’, sounds good to me!

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler 

I have hear a lot about this novel. It’s been everywhere, recommended by everyone and involves one of my favourite things in literature, complex relationships. I hate the ‘normal family’ because frankly it doesn’t exist so knowing that this novel is about a whole family (although only narrated by one of them) drew me in as well as it’s raving reviews. I hope it lives up to the hype.

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Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

Another ‘wildcard’ I had to pick another on buy one get one half price, it was at the till point and all I was told was that it was good and ‘very French’. So let’s see…

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Funny Girl – Nick Hornby 

Another recommended read. Again I’ve heard a lot of good things and haven’t read much of Hornby and I might be going to a reading of his this week so I thought I might as well pick it up. I was also surprised to learn he studied at Kingston University, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it.

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How To Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

Now I read this when I was a young teenager and hated it, but now I think I didn’t really understand it, not properly at least. Now I’m going to be studying it or partly at least and I’ve watched some of her youtube videos, so let’s try again.