Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Quick(ish) Catch Up

I’m pretty grumpy today, mostly because it’s freezing cold and I’m not caffeinated enough and also because I got up late and didn’t have time to straighten my hair (think Hermione circa CoE) – or I guess I could have straightened my hair but then I would have had to drive to work and I’m trying not to drive to work because I keep eating Crème Eggs and large(r) lunches and If I’m going to do that I need to do walking and so I’m sat in the office in a hoody with mahoosive hair and that’s fine, normally but today I got an unexpected visit from a supplier I am in a battle with and not only did I not know they were coming, the girl was also all high heels and smart suit and perfect hair and makeup and I’m looking the most unprofessional ever and felt totally wrong footed. I’m grumpy about it. Glamourous people scare me. & holy run on sentence, batman. & I have one of those hurty pieces of skin sticking out of my nail bed, you know the ones? OUCH. Ill probably rip it off later and it will bleed and hurt more and I’ll have regrets. Such is life.

Anyhow, enough of that.

I want to talk to you (at you? to you?) today about the things I’ve been reading and watching and looking at. About what my life has looked like I guess, for the last couple of weeks. Grab a Creme Egg – because who actually cares if it’s ages off Easter, they’re in the shops now. Eat them all – and make yourself comfortable. This might get long.

The Secret Life of Bees is one of those books that I actually cannot believe it has taken me so long to read because I really really liked it. & the crazy thing about that is that if my fabulous pal Natalie hadn’t bought me a copy for Christmas I might never have read it and that is ridiculous. So so ridiculous. It’s such a me book (not about the Holocaust Helen, hush) which Natalie totally knew, mostly because I went on at her for the longest time to read The Help which is one of my faves (and its film adaptation one of my faves also) and this is a book that’s pretty much in the same vein of that.


Anyhow, The Secret Life of Bees is a book about family and equality and hate and love and what it means to be different and with all the shit that is going on in the world right now, with the real life horror show that is Donald Trump, it feels like a book that carries one of very many important messages. But it
’s also an easy read, it feels warm and comfortable. It’s the perfect book for that lazy Sunday, for the sofa and a blanket and snacks. It feels, pretty much right off the bat, like an old friend.

The book is set in South Carolina in the 1960’s, when Lily Owens thinks she killed her Mother, her Dad is a complete ass-hat and her black nanny Rosaleen, on her way to register to vote, insults the biggest racists in town and ends up in a prison cell. Lily springs her free and the two of them make a run for it, ending up in a small South Carolina town that Lily thinks holds some answers with regards to her Mum and taken in by three (black) beekeeping sisters. 

The characters are flawed, which I liked a whole lot: it kind of had that TKaM feel about it sometimes, vaguely, if I squinted. Take Lily for example, who mostly I loved, but who I also sometimes really wanted to shake; sometimes the way she treated Rosaleen made me rage, even though I knew that she loved her probably more than she loved any other person ever. That’s what made her real and that’s a big part of made this book resonate with me; Lily’s a teenager, a white girl growing up in the South where racism was so deeply ingrained that people like Lily didn’t even realise that to a degree they were part of the problem – little things said and done in a heartbeat without even realising the damage they had the potential to cause, probably, and I liked that that was addressed: unconscious prejudice.

This is a novel about race and it’s a novel about feminism and it’s the kind of novel that if I had a daughter, I would want her to read.. It’s not in your face with its messages either, not that I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR kinda books are in any way a problem at all, just that this isn’t one of them. It’s subtle but no less powerful for it. And it makes you want honey because there are bees in this book, so many bees. Which, and this might surprise you because it surprised me and is part of the reason it took me so long to pick it up – did I really want to read a book about bees? Not so much – actually works really well and makes the whole thing gel and is really clever, actually. And also interesting.  & it left me with all the feelings. Seriously, I was a hot mess of emotions when I finished this book, which is not to say it’s sad so much, more that it gets under your skin, and burrows deep into those places where your feels are kept.

If you like TKaM (are there actually people who don’t like TKaM?) or The Help or Fried Green Tomatoes then this might be a book that you should consider picking up. Except you probably have already because I am incredibly late to this particular party. Le sigh.

Also, I’ve just read The Girl on the Train. I know, right? How am I just reading that now? I think I might actually be the last person left in the world to read this book. I get like that about a book sometimes, when it’s had all the hype. I either jump right on that bandwagon to see what all the fuss is about, or I put if off because it can’t possibly be that good.

With The Girl on the Train I put it off. Til now.

I liked it though, when I finally read it. I mean I didn’t devour it in one sitting like I half thought I might and it took me a while to really get going with the story, and Rachel kind of bugged me for a while and Anna bugged me more later on and you know actually I don’t think there is a single likeable character in this whole book which makes it a fairly interesting read actually and a good character study as well as saying rather a lot about Hawkins’ writing because keeping me engaged in a story that centres around a group of people I actually think a pretty awful, that’s kind of impressive. Although you know me – I love an unreliable narrator and this book is bursting with them. And it did grab me, once it got into its stride and once it grabbed me, it grabbed me, grabbed me to the point that I read the last just-less-than-half in a night, tucked up in bed with a Crème Egg. All the Crème Eggs all the time.

Do I need to properly review it, with a synopsis and  everything? I feel like that might be a bit meaningless now, what with everybody ever having read it and all. In a nutshell though: Rachel gets the same train every day, which stops at the same place every day and offers her tiny view at the lives of the people who live in the houses right there by the tracks. One day she sees something at one of the houses and then the lady that lives there disappears and ALL THE DRAMA.

I liked it a lot. Did I say that already? I was gripped, and it wasn’t predictable and even though I had kind of worked out where the story was going before The Big Reveal the writing was sharp enough and had enough pace and enough suspense that I still couldn’t turn pages fast enough and there were plenty of red herrings which I have liked since my Enid Blyton days although the red haired guy? What was the point of him, exactly? Were we supposed to think he did it? I didn’t; I just got irritated by not seeing the point of him and wanting to get back to the story. Also, why did the police not do more about questioning Rachel because should she not have been a suspect? She was there; she was drunk; she had no recollection of what happened and no alibi. Oh, hello PRIME SUSPECT. That was weird.

I should watch the film now I guess although Emily Blunt? Is it me or is that some strange casting?

Talking about watching, what have I been watching?

I had a big empty space once I’d finished watching Gilmore Girls which if you haven’t seen then you’re doing life wrong and perhaps at some point I shall do a post just about that how and fangirl so hard I give myself an injury (yes I did just order a hoody with In Omnia Paratus printed on the front I had a voucher don’t judge me)
You know what. Have some gifs because then you may understand why I think this show is my spirit animal:

So there was a void and I filled that void with Homeland over Christmas (and it’s now back on Channel 4 hurrahs) and now I’m all about Gossip Girl – I know, yet another party I’m late to, whoops.  It’s a funny one really, because what is it about ridiculously privileged and bitchy young adults that I find myself so drawn to? I know not. I am drawn to it though. & I think I have a crush on Blake Lively. I want to be her friend. I want to be her.  I’ve got Lemony Snicket lined up to watch next. And I really want to watch The OA mostly I think because Jason Isaacs. Also it was suggested to me yesterday that I watched that thing on the BBC with Sheridan Smith. Moorside? I didn’t because I thought it would give me a sad but I’ve been told that I should have, so perhaps I’ll do that tonight. Watch that and start a new book – either The Trouble With Goats and Sheep or a re-read. I’m sensing Handmaid’s might be due another read…..

Helen and I have watched LaLaLand recently, which I think we need to watch again mostly because on first watch both of us were what can only be described as underwhelmed, and Joy which I liked. I like Jennifer Lawrence and it was a lovely way to spend a Friday evening – a film and Chinese food and my bestie. Yes thank you that will do. Also The new Trainspotting. Anyone seen that yet?

In other news I am in a wall art related dilemma because I have wall space that needs filling and I keep changing my mind what to fill it with which is ridic because I’ve had my house for a year and a half now. So that’s going on, with the googling and the imagining and the deciding and the mind changing and I am driving myself so very crazy. And Irregular Choice keep releasing more shoes and they’re all so pretty I want to cry and that, pretty much, is my life.

Til next time.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Blog Tour: Burned and Broken

I’ve always liked a good detective novel. I used to power through the Dalziel and Pascoe books like nobody’s business when I was a teenager and OK, maybe I don’t read as much crime fiction these days as I used to, but I still like to get all engrossed in one every now and then. That’s why I jumped at the chance to get involved in this blog tour, actually: Burned and Broken looked like being A Good Read. It was nice to go back to a police procedural, in this world of the psychological thriller.

You’ve got a good detective duo which is always a winner with me. Pearson and Russell are no Dalziel and Pascoe, but I liked them both. There’s two stories running side by side, which I enjoyed – a young and messed up girl just out of care and wanting answers about the death of her best friend, and a detective, currently under investigation himself, found burned to death in his car. You can see where this is going, right? What’s the connection between the two – if indeed there is one.

It’s a pretty good book, all told. It starts off well, with a prologue (who doesn’t love a prologue) full of tension and then jumps back in time four days. I like that. I’ve always liked that – when you (think) you know how it’s going to end up and get the chance to see how it gets there. Backwards storytelling sort of I guess, it’s a thing I’m a fan of. I also liked the ending. The ending had me turning pages and staying up way past my bedtime and it’s always a mark of a good book when it makes me not want to stop reading and go to sleep. I am such a big fan usually of going to sleep.

It’s a little slow in the middle though, which is a shame. It loses its way somewhat and kind of drags and there was a point where I had to have a talk to myself and force myself to persevere and I did struggle a little with Hardie’s writing style. It’s very staccato, lots of full stops everywhere and I found it kind of jarring. It stopped me somehow from fully absorbing myself in the story; there was no flow. & I really wanted to be involved and just kind of wasn’t. Not in the way I expected to be anyway. I think that’s a minor niggle though – on the whole the story started out well, ended well and had enough twists and turns to stop you figuring things out too quickly and as debuts go, it’s a strong one. I’d read more of Hardie’s work for sure: I didn’t love it, but I did like it, and if it’s the first in a series – which rumour has it, it is - I’m pretty sure I’d pick up the ones to follow.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Blog Tour: A Boy Made of Blocks

I also don’t mind telling you that actually I was a tiny bit unsure that I would, at first. I don’t really know why that is, because let’s be real here: look at the blurb. It is entirely up my street. But I was dubious. I think perhaps it was the title? I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter really because I read it and I liked it a whole lot and that’s the best ever isn’t it? When you love something that you kind of really didn’t think you would?

 ‘Daddy, what are you doing?’‘What do you mean?’‘Sometimes I am stuck on a thought and I can’t get off it, not for a long time. It stays and stays. Are you stuck on a thought?’ I stop walking.

It’s OK, don’t mind me, there’s just a branch in my eye. Keep on doing your thing.

It’s just…it’s so damn lovely OK? It’s really kind of special. And it’s a bit of a thing isn’t it, Autism. There’s a lot of people writing a lot of books with a protagonist the places somewhere on the spectrum and it’s important – of course it is – but it’s also important not to get samey, not to write about something just because it’s ‘of the moment’ you know? 
Too much relevance can make a thing irrelevant. Does that make any sense? It makes all the sense in my head. It’s about bandwagons and not jumping on them, about not making something into a trope.

Which this book does not, in case you wondered if that’s where I was going. I’m absolutely not going there. I am going in the other direction entirely. A direction where there is not a bandwagon in sight. A bandwagon free zone, as it were. 

This book is refreshing and honest and all kinds of wonderful, actually. And it left me with ALL THE FEELS. Here I am, feeling all the things and wanting to do it justice and write an intelligent and thought provoking review but unable to come up with much other than THIS BOOK MADE ME MELTY AND I WANNA PLAY MINECRAFT WITH ALEX AND SAM.

OK, let’s back up. Let’s at least try to write a proper review here.

Actually no. Let’s not. I’m just not really that person I'm sorry. I just want to tell you how much I liked it so that’s what I’m going to do, okay?



In a nutshell it’s about this guy called Alex (thirtysomething, like me. High five Alex,) and his relationship with both his wife Jody and his 8 year old son Sam, who is Autistic. 

Alex is estranged from his wife which is super sad times because he loves her and he doesn’t really get Sam, doesn’t know how to relate to him, and actually if we’re going to be blunt here is pretty much shit scared of the kid. Also super sad times because he loves him.

The thing about leaving (or being pushed from) the family home and becoming a ‘weekend Dad’ is that he’s kind of forced to deal with Sam on a deeper level; he has to handle the things that Jody would usually deal with. He has to actually see past the epic meltdowns and work out who Sam actually is and watching him do that, watching him learn about this little boy who lives in a world that is sometimes so overwhelming that he doesn’t know how to do anything other than hide from it,  it’s all kind of tortuous and wonderful.  I swear, watching these two play Minecraft together in separate houses, these two people who love each other so fucking fiercely but have never had the ability to show it, finding a way to actually really communicate is simultaneously the most wonderful and most heart-hurty thing I have read this year. It’s lush writing, absolutely lush.

(& it really makes you want to play Minecraft.)

Heart-hurty. That’s what this book was. It made my chest so tight so many times but in the most wonderful and uplifting of ways. Happysad. Which is totally an actual emotion. This book made me so very happysad. & I loved that it’s based on Keith Stuart’s own experiences with his own children, with Autism (and with Minecraft.) It shone through the pages, that love; that frustration; that whole extreme of feeling, from joy at each milestone to agony when you just can’t reach past the walls. 
It felt honest to me, and whilst I wanted to reach into the pages to hug Sam and Alex SO FREAKING HARD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW, I also wanted to reach past them to hug Keith. Not out of pity but out of….I dunno. Solidarity? No. That’s not right? Maybe not for any reason other than to say ‘thank-you, for this.’

I have absolutely no expectations that he’ll ever read this review but just in case he does: thank-you Mr Stuart for putting your heart on your proverbial sleeve and sending this book out into the world.

A Boy Made of Blocks is a delight. It’s an absolute delight and I LIKED IT. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Blog Tour: Relativity Review

Things I know, both about myself and about book blogging: I should probably never say no to a book.

Which makes it sound like I said no to this book. 

I didn’t. 

When the email landed in my inbox very nicely asking if I was interested in taking part in the blog tour for Antonia Hayes' novel Relativity, I absolutely said yes. That's kind of my (long and convoluted) point: that I should always says yes to all the books even if I know little about them because there's always a chance that doing just exactly that will make me vair happy. This book made me happy. It made me laugh and it made me a tiny bit teary sometimes and it made me angry and sympathetic and all kinds of conflicted and pretty much just a whole spectrum of unexpected emotions. I thing that’s A Good Thing though. I like books that do that to me: feelings.

So. Relativity. Lemme talk at you about it for a little minute.

S’about a boy called Ethan. I love Ethan. I want to put him in my pocket and protect him from All The Bad Things Ever. He’s excellent and he has this insane knowledge of anything to do with physics. He’s pretty special and I defy anybody ever to read this book and not wind up loving his intelligent, naive 12 year old self. What a little gem of a character he is.


He lives with his Mum, because Dad just isn’t around. He’s never been around, not since Ethan was v small and Ethan doesn’t know much about him, really. It’s all perfectly fine, until of course it isn’t. At first you kind of feel like Ethan’s dad is a bit of an asshat. Or, if you’re me then you think that, but that’s the beauty of this book. It doesn’t let you just make up your mind and stick to your guns like a guns sticking to person. It lets you make up your mind and then throws a spanner in the works and says AH YES BUT YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS DID YOU and then you feel like maybe you should change your mind. Excellent skills there Hayes.  I approve.

It comes at you from the perspective of Ethan and both of  his parents and as none of them are particularly reliable narrators, there’s a lot to question; a lot of seeds of doubt that are planted and send you in one direction only to have you going in another in the very next chapter. Which, well it’s pretty clever, the way one minute you’re sympathetic towards one set of circumstances only to be pissed off at the same thing a few pages later. All three characters have very different, very strong voices, which I liked and they all come across really well actually considering it’s written in third person. I was totally invested in all three of them (so invested, you don’t even know): Ethan, Claire and Mark and I was torn, between wanting them to fix things and feeling like they never should.

The story is complicated enough to not be predictable, ever, but still manages to not tie you up in what is even happening here, which again: I liked a whole lot. 
It’s a shining example too I guess of there always being more than one side to a story, but it gets that message across without becoming preachy. Nobody likes preachy. Do they? Maybe they do and I am doing unfair generalising. The point is that I don’t like preachy and this book isn’t preachy. At all.  It lets you make up your own mind and haunts you a little bit with the things it makes you feel that take you totally by surprise. Explains but doesn’t excuse I suppose is the best way to describe it and trust me when I tell you there are things here that are going to get the hell under your skin. Right the way under.
It doesn’t shy away from its more difficult and more darker side either – another plus - and it absolutely does not paint a picture of good and evil even though it so very easily could.  It’s all about the shades of grey this book, and I mean that in the best possible way – that is so definitely not an EL James reference. I promise (I would never.)

It’s a book about actions and consequences and split second decisions that impact on the rest of your forever and the sometimes painful power of uncertainty.  It’s beautifully written and it’s raw and honest and heart-breaking but never ever too heavy, you know? You don’t feel dragged down by it ever and you get totally caught up in the lives of this fractured family and their struggles with blame and guilt and forgiveness and even the science stuff didn’t make my brain hurt too much. That’s a miracle I think because my brain and science? They do not go hand in hand. At all.

In a nutshell, it’s very good this book. I am grateful that I got the chance to read it and I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second in recommending it to anybody. Except maybe my BFF (but only because I know it would make her cry!)

Monday, 9 January 2017

Book Review: Sirens

Joseph Knox’s debut Sirens is a book  I think everybody should be reading. Unless you are a person who values sleep above all else. If you’re that person then maybe this book isn’t for you because I am telling you now: you will not be able to put it down. You won’t. Actually, even if you are that person, read this book. You’ll be immersed but just trust me on this: sleep is so totally overrated anyhow. I was hooked, and not just because it’s set in Manchester and so has that air of familiarity about it. I do so like a book that’s set in my sort-of neck of the woods. I like when I recognise places and names and landmarks.

I do not like when I am driving through Manchester late at night, with this book not quite finished and as such at the forefront of my mind and the road is closed and I am sent on a diversion through dark and dingy back streets that look like they could have stepped right off the pages of this book with Beetham Tower all imposing in the background and I am slightly freaked out. Not at all. Although it’s a testament maybe to how good this book is, that it got under my skin and lingered there; that even when I wasn’t curled up reading it, I couldn’t leave it alone.

It’s about a disgraced detective working undercover in Manchester’s seedy drug underworld which gets all the high fives from me because I do so love a book that’s a break from the usual formula; I like that Aiden is a sort of anti-hero. That he doesn’t tick the usual detective novel boxes. It’s not so much Aiden’s story that makes this book so special though. It’s the way it’s told. The writing. Oh God, the writing.

The writing is as atmospheric as anything I’ve read in a while, and kind of beautiful too: Knox is good at words, he’s good at making them jump off the page and come to life in front of you, at making you see and hear and feel. Evocative. That’s what his writing is, really really evocative. The setting, the story, the people. All of it, it’s so intriguing.  It never lets up either this book, never lags and it stays with you too: I felt unsettled for a while after I’d finished it and I love that . I mean, sure I read for escapism but I also kind of read to experience you know? To get under the skin of a story; to get under the skin of myself. I like a book that makes me think, that has me still thinking even after I’m done reading it. I feel linked to the characters somehow, that’s how much it’s gotten under my skin, like I lived this story, like it’s real and these things happened and these people are real and I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain. It made me feel all the things I guess, in a way that I was not entirely prepared for.

This is not just a whodunit. This is a powerful story about of politics and corruption, of suffering and hitting rock bottom and wondering how the hell you’ll ever claw your way back up. It’s about trying to escape only to find yourself burrowing ever deeper and it’s about the sometimes self-destructiveness of human nature. It unfolds slowly and cleverly, intense and dark and incredibly detailed. And you should read it.

Monday, 28 November 2016

A (Small) Bookish Catch Up

Today we are going to catch up. And by catch up I mean I am going to talk about Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven which I loved more than I have loved anything for a long long time and also Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I should have read a long time ago and which freaked me the hell out and the new book by Jennifer Niven which I have mixed feelings about. Get comfortable lovelies.

I love Chris Cleave. Or at least I loved the only other book of his I’ve read (The Other Hand) so I was super excited to get my hands on a copy of Everyone Brave, and the proof is so pretty too, all black cover and red pages and my copy has a signature. Lush.
It’s a really really beautiful book on the inside too this one, it doesn’t just look good, it tastes good too, I’m not even kidding: ‘…a galaxy of seeds that crackled in his mouth like bereaved punctuation.´ well, just seduce me with your pretty words why don’t you Mr. Cleave.
And it’s such an incredible story. It’s set in WWII and follows young socialite Mary, determined to make a difference, Zachary a little boy who can’t be evacuated because he’s black  and nobody wants him and art restorer Alistair who finds himself in the army and it hurts and it’s wonderful and it’s witty and hurty and so freaking smart. It’s just….it’s kind of mind-blowingly good, this epic novel full of love and war and loss and bravery.


The language is beautiful, the dialogue is so snappy, and the characters like people you wind up feeling like you know (the characterisation here is so powerful oh my God and some of these people are messed up and make dubious choices but at the same time they all changed so much, grew up, lost pretty much any and all sense of innocence and made you fall in love with them. Hard.) The characters get under your skin and the setting is so real you can taste it. It took me ages to read partly because I wanted to savour every word and partly because I didn’t ever want it to be over. I got to the end and I just wanted more.  & I wanted to go back to the start and read it all over again. Which, that very rarely happens.

It’s strikingly raw and honest and bittersweet. It’s so damn powerful too, but not in an ‘in your kind of face’ kind of way you know. He’s a master of subtlety this guy and this book is all about the slow build and you don’t realise you’re feeling ALL THE THINGS until you wonder why your chest hurts and realise it’s because you’ve been holding your breath or that actually of course your face is wet  - you’re crying, damn it.

And how many books have been written about the war? SO MANY BOOKS; do you know how refreshing it is to fine one that’s not at all the same, that’s a step away from anything else you’ve read, ever? Let me tell you: so refreshing. Malta for starters, oh God, Malta. It’s always kind of surprised me, when I read a book like this how there are the things I know about, and then the things i just sort of know about you know. Like how there’s the things you learn about and hear about repeatedly and in depth and then there’s the other things, equally important that yet somehow you only really scratch the surface of. Anyway. Another thought for another day, maybe.

Everyone Brave is also a really interesting look at race, I thought so at least. I mean WWII was a war against Hitler wasn’t it, and his plans for a master race – if we’re going to really simplify it down I mean and I am totally aware that’s what I just did right there so don’t yell please  - and there we were sending our men to fight against that, whilst here at home we’re sending a little boy home from the country, back to the Blitz because his skin is the wrong colour (or because he’s in a wheelchair or she had Down’s Syndrome etc etc) I loved that juxtaposition. Loved it.
‘We are a nation of glorious cowards, ready to battle any evil but our own.’ BOOM. Also, how relevant please. Let’s not even talk about current affairs.

This is a book about love and longing, about loss and discovery, about life and it’s beautiful. This, actually, is the kind of book you dream of reading. I bet I won’t read anything to match it this year.

And then I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which is entirely different in every way. I wonder actually if I’m the only person left not to have read these books. Am I? And I’m not sure why it took me so long to be quite honest. I liked it a lot. It’s kind of like a more realistic X-Men, if an abandoned orphanage and a time loop and a load of children with extraordinary powers can be realistic. It’s a clever book, a combination of prose and these hauntingly weird photographs – which I loved, it’s such a clever and unique way of storytelling and the fact that these are actual real life photos is just…it’s pretty cool. And so mysterious. It gave me the creeps though, this book, in a major way. That’s the downside of living in your house on your own alone I think, when you have a pretty active imagination. This book creeped me out; I was too creeped out to stop reading and too creeped out to go to sleep and was just sat in my dark house by myself reading this creepy as hell book and then having to spend half an hour scrolling through Twitter to try and fend off the bad dreams. And I’m 33. Imagine if I’d read this when I was 16. Gracious. I was creeped out, but I also figured out some pretty significant plot points way before I think I was supposed to. Perhaps I’m just that smart *snorts* - although I do like to think I’m adept at spotting a little bit of foreshadowing. Mostly though, I really liked it. If you haven’t read it already and you’re looking for another series to get drawn into then you wouldn’t go far wrong starting with this. My copy is lush too, it feels so nice.

And then, after that, I read Jenniver Niven’s Holding Up the Universe which…I didn’t hate it. Actually that’s harsh. I liked it; I gave it 3 stars, but I was massively underwhelmed. That’s better.

I haven’t read Niven’s stuff before, although I’ve heard ALL THE GOOD THINGS. Like all the good things all the time everywhere. People have been going nutso for this book, so, I was hoping to be blown away. I was not. I mean, there’s good writing, Niven can certainly write and her narrative voices are strong and this was an easy read, but it felt like YA romance paint by numbers. Like here is a girl who has been ostracised by her peer group for whatever reason (in this case, her weight) and here is a boy, good looking and popular but with his own set of demons that nobody knows about (in this case he’s face blind, which we’ll come back to, because it fascinated me) and here are some other people that they know, some are nice and some are less so, and now let’s throw the girl and the boy together and see what happens. Well, what was going to happen was obvious from the very beginning. The boy and the girl fall in love.
Is that a major spoiler? No, not so much. It is exactly what you probably expect if you pick up this book. I guess it bugged me a little bit, partly because the whole love story thing happened so fast and that whole insta-love thing, it’s not my thing and also I did feel a little bit like these characters, who are supposed to represent real teens, were being used for the sake of a good old angsty love story and that’s a little bit less than good. & I kept reading Libby Strout as Libby Stout and that bugged me also.
I feel like….I feel like the issues that Niven hints at addressing here, like fat shaming and body image and mental illness and bullying and isolation are all so important and she’s on the perfect platform to really get a really important message out there and instead she uses those issues to help her tell her love story and the whole time I was just aggravated. (& kind of wishing I was re-reading Eleanor & Park again and I’m sorry I’m such a bitch) I felt like Libby’s weight and Jack’s cognitive issues were massively dumbed down and that made me sad because I was so interested and I felt like Libby’s self validation came down to whether or not she had a boyfriend and I felt like there could have been so much more story than there was.  & Libby was so self-righteous too. Although she dances a lot. Which I liked, mostly because – have you seen Whitney: Fat Girl Dancing? The whole Libby dancing thing reminded me of that. I also loved all the TKaM references. High five Jennifer Niven, high five.

And there’s Jack. Jack hasn’t told his family he thinks he is face blind. He’s spent his entire life not being able to recognise faces, he doesn’t even recognise his own family and he hasn’t told a soul. A pretty big part of me found that a little hard to believe, but also kind of sad and I feel like if that were true, if that were what he had lived with for as long as he could remember, well, there’d be more of a negative impact than there was. He’s pretty well adjusted, all things considered.  Also I get that he can’t retain the knowledge, that if someone walks out of a room and then walks in again its like he’s seeing them for the first time and that he doesn’t even recognise his own family and that must be the worst ever but there’s a whole lot of ‘the woman in the kitchen’ and ‘the man I assume to be my father’ and WHO ELSE WOULD THE TWO ADULTS IN HIS HOUSE BE IF NOT HIS PARENTS? I mean, I can be sitting in my parents lounge and hear my Dad coming down the stairs and I don’t see him because there’s a wall in the way but I know its him because THERE’S NO OTHER PERSON IT COULD BE. Hashtag minor niggle. 
I did like the whole face-blindness story though and I did like Jack, I found it, and him, really interesting – 1 in 50 people are affected by Prosopagnosia, and that’s a massively high number for something  that’s relatively unknown and God it’s so frustrating when you run into someone and they start talking like they know you and you just can’t place them and how awful must it be if that’s your life, if you wake up in a morning and the person next to you in bed is as unfamiliar as a stranger in the street, if you don’t know you mum or your brother or your best friend. Horrible.

Anyway, this book is an okay book and probably loads of people will love it – hell, take a look on Goodreads, loads of people do love it. It’s just perhaps not my cup of tea. I’ll be giving All the Bright Places a go though.

So there you have it. Come back in a couple of days because before All The Eye Problems I read an exciting new book by and exciting new writer and I am excited to talk to you about it.

Friday, 25 November 2016

In which I am thankful for my peepers.

So it's been a pretty rough two weeks really, which if you follow my Twitter and/or Instagram (or know me away from the internet) you probably already know because I am ashamed to say I have been wallowing in a sea of self pity expressed mostly via social media. I know. I've been That Person. And I'm sorry.

It's been a scary time though. I've had eye problems like I've never known before. A corneal ulcer - or ulcerative acanthamoeba keratitis if you wanna be fancy; I got the eye doc to tell me that yesterday  - which was actually just the physical manifestation of a really nasty eye infection that started on my cornea and worked its way inside my eye. I know, right?
It hurt like a bitch (seriously I never knew my eyes could hurt like that) and my vision was really messed up (is still pretty shit truth be told) and everything was rubbish and for a few days there I was genuinely terrified I was going to lose the sight in my right eye. Genuinely terrified. And not just because I was being a DQ either; it was a genuine possibility.
There have been trips to the eye doctor and all manner of tortuous tests and antibiotic eye drops that I had to apply every hour - even through the night, which, well not so much fun at all  - and other drops which paralysed my eye and it's pretty much been a horror from start to finish.

However, I got the all clear yesterday. The infection has gone and the scarring is only at the edge of my iris which is as good as it can be, really and things are so much better, I just have to wait (and hope!) my vision rights itself over the next few days and I am so relieved, you have no idea.
And the whole thing has just made me realise how lucky I am you know, not just to have my sight (but oh wow, that. I will never ever take my sight for granted again) but that I have the people in my life that I do. I really am the luckiest: my parents who drove me to appointments and sat in on consultations and loved me and made it so clear that actually you're never too old to need your Mum and Dad; and the not family members, the people who called me multiple times a day just to check in and who talked me down when I was verging on hysteria, who made me laugh when actually I just wanted to cry, who drove me to the pharmacy at 9 in the morning on a Sunday, who drove me to the hospital at 9 in the morning on a Wednesday with a one year old in tow, and sat in the waiting room and didn't cry, who took me for brunch and pub lunch and pretty much kept me going, who listened and talked and rationalised and text and who figuratively 'stroked my hair and told me I was pretty.'

I am SO lucky. So lucky. I have amazing people in my life and I haven't lost my sight and actually, my life is pretty damn good and I am so grateful. So very grateful.

I guess my point is be grateful for the little things, appreciate the people that are there for you - even when times are hard and you're not at your best. Especially then - and look after your eyes. Please look after your eyes. And for the love of all that is good, don't sleep in your contacts because corneal ulcers suck.