Friday, 9 February 2018

January 2018 Wrap Up

Hello All,

Since I've finally started reading again I wanted to give you a quick update on where I am and what I've read over the last month, as I don't feel comfortable enough to really write reviews on any of these. Obviously there are spoilers ahead.

1. Price and Predjudice and Zombies

This is the first book I read this year, and it was a strange experience as I have never read Pride and Predjudice so maybe I went about it in the wrong order, but I have seen the TV adaptation so I know the rough storyline. To be honest, I didn't hate this book but I didn't love it I have quite neutral feelings about it to be honest. I thought Elizabeth were strong and times which was interesting considering the setting but then they would so something so weak and submissive it would just ruin it. Although, I've got to say my favourite thing they kept in Elizabeth's awesome speech directed at Mr Darcy and that was quite entertaining paired with a fight. So if Zombies is your thing if this is for you, if you don't love Zombies you can skip this.

2. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

I flew through this book within 24 hours and really enjoyed the whole thing. I like Meria and how she interacts with her companions, although I wasn't very keen on Mather from the start something about him just felt off. I think I didn't like Mather too much because I'm tired of that whole: 'I love you but I can't be with you, but I'll lead you and be kinda controlling' male character trope that's featured in a lot of YA; so I wasn't that upset that didn't end up together. The 'plot twist' that meant Meria was actually heir to the throne did not surprise me, I kinda saw it coming and it increasingly became obvious as the book went on what was going to be revealed at the end. I'm still quite confused on how the magic works in this world, I don't quite understand how Meria is able to have magic without a conduit, but I think that will probably become clearer to me as I read more of the trilogy as I'm sure it's just something I need to revise.

3. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I loved this. It was a really entertaining read that I just kept wanting to go back to and I didn't really want it to end, which unfortunately it did. I found all the characters to be quite entertaining, and I thought the trio of protagonists we're given was an excellent and new mix I hadn't seen before. I also really enjoyed how this book was structured, you've given multiple perspectives that are in the present and past and I really enjoyed the way it jumped from the other as shapes my perspective on the story well. Overall, I think it was well written and very entertaining, however if you've got something against elephants don't pick up.

4. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I've got to say I was really disappointed with this story from Sepetys. There was a lot of hype around this book when it first came, and I was very excited because I read Between Shades of Grey a few years and thought it was amazing. This was not. I really struggled with this story. Don't get me wrong though, I think it's an interesting concept and the character of Alfred is very interesting and I liked that, I also liked how it didn't shy away from the brutality of the Second World War on either side. Also, several of the characters were great like the young boy and the Shoe Poet. However, even though I'm saying all of this, I was disappointed. I don't like the way this is structured as it felt very forced and the chapters were usually too short for me for what they were meant to convey. This book also involved quite a lot of romance between two of the protagonists that I didn't think was necessary at all, it wasn't the point of this story and I think it could have been with less focus on it even. I just have very mixed feelings about this, and maybe that is because I read Between Shades of Grey first so my expectations were too high.

5. Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller

Now this is a play I have to read for the tragedy side of my English Literature A Level, and this was a re-read. However, this is probably of my favourite and I would love to see it because I think Miller manages to do in two Acts is genius. The play is basically one big commentary on capitalism and the American Dream and how basically it's shit, which not everyone likes but a lot of the things Miller critics do ring true. Miller also able to do this in such a tragic way with the character of Willy, because you know from the very start he's doomed because the American Dream has completely ensnared him and it's fascinating. Also, it's very interesting to see the impact this has on the characters of Biff and Happy, and how the learn this - or in Happy's case not at all. It's a very quick and one I highly recommend, and I just think it's a good one.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

February 2018 TBR!

Hi All,

I think I read 20 or so books in the last year which really isn't great for me, and whilst there may have been a reason behind that I'm making myself TBR lists this year to try and ensure I actually read what I want to read this year. I'm not going to be strict about it, because at the end of the day I might just not fancy a certain type of book at that time but I may want it later, but this list will still be a rough guideline of what I plan to read.

1. The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Now just like most at the age of 11 I read Twilight, and like most of that age I loved it. I lived for it. I used to stay up under the covers devouring that saga and dreaming of Bella and Edward. Now, I don't think like that so much. I don't have that much, lets say, respect for the series and I have no desire to pick it  up ever again. But that being said I've been told The Host is far superior and that I'll love it, so perhaps against my better judgement I'm going to read it. Not going to lie, it's a little bit daunting at over 600 pages but I will do it - I'm 150 in already and I want to finish just to say I tried.


2. Tess of the d'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I take English Literature as one of my A Levels, and this book is part of the tragedy side of my course and is unfortunately a re-read. I hate this book with a burning passion. Do not get me started on why I would happily punch Thomas Hardy in the face for writing such a shitty shitty book. Why he did not just publish the poem and be done with it is beyond me. I honestly don't know how I'm going to get through this book for a third time, thinking about it kinda wants to make me cry and I just can't stand the thing.

3. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

This is another re-read, but I haven't read this for maybe 3 or 4 years, and at the time I gave it 5 stars and loved it. I wanted to pick it up again as I can't remember much other than thinking it was amazing and different, and it would be interesting to see if I still think that way considering how crappy my taste back then was. I am looking forward to this, but I'm also slightly apprehensive.

4. The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

To be honest with you I only want to read this because it sounds Gossip Girl trashy, and sometimes - despite what some might say, you need a trashy book in your life to make everything else around you just that little less trashy. I don't know much about this book and that's often how I like to start reading books, but I'm hoping this will fulfill my quick read needs. Also, I've got to admit part of this was a cover buy - which I know I shouldn't do but you've got to admit that cover is beautiful and the ebook was on sale on kindle and I just couldn't leave it.


5. Ice Like Fire (Snow like Fire #2) by Sara Raasch

I read Snow like Fire last month and loved it, it wasn't a great book but it was one I couldn't put down and just devoured within 24 hours. I want to read the sequel this month.. I don't know if I'm going to fit in the time to do that this month, but I want to read it soon or I'm going to forget what happened, and I don't want to have to re-read the first one.

Monday, 5 February 2018

My Mental Health Update

Dear whoever may be reading this,

I have had a whirlwind year to say the least, but I think it's finally starting to calm down now. I know this may sound familiar to a post I made before but this time I believe it.

In my last post I described what happened to me up until last March, but that's obviously no longer the complete story. I naively believed I was better then as I attended school and slept and ate more, and whilst yes that shows improvement, it did not mean I was better. Do you understand? It didn't mean I was whole in myself or living, and as stupid as that may sound it took me a few more months to figure that out.

After March, I went through an almost stagnated period with my mental health, nothing seemed to improve, but nothing was better. I wasn't better. Maybe that was because I was attending school part time and focusing on a subject again, meaning I didn't have time to focus on myself. I was surprised then that the work I had put into my mental health was not enough. I didn't realise I had to work on it everyday, and maybe that's naive, but I think that's a very common misconception with mental health.

Also, my health and the way people reacted to it even when I was improving was surprising to me, I have friends who no longer speak to me because of what happened/or was said when I was ill. That hindered my progress for a long time, and it still does but I'm learning what it means to be without them now. I'm also learning to be myself, to be someone who is completely me and no one else. This is hard. It's especially hard as I have now returned to do my final year at school again with none of my friends there, and no one appears that keen on being friends with me.

But in the last few months, life has been looking hopeful again. Whilst I was off school I picked up German to try and increase my concentration span when I was low on energy, and I now have an offer to study it at a few universities - something I wasn't sure I was ever going to experience. My remaining friendships are strong because I learnt who my real friends were and I've worked on those friendships and they make me so happy. I am doing well in school, because I'm doing what's best for me as I'm part time and only taking two subjects. But most importantly, I'm happier within myself.

I think what I'm trying to say is nothing about mental health is easy. It doesn't matter what you suffer from, whether it be big or small, it's difficult and it sucks the energy out of you sometimes. Sometimes you're going to have bad days, but those bad days will make you stronger and there are going to be so many good days - but only if you put the work in. I've learnt I've got to grow within myself, and I'm trying to learn how to accept and like myself without the validation of others. Whilst that all may sound daunting, you can live again and when you do you're stronger and you learn that nothing is more important than your own happiness.



This is compiled list of mental health helplines by The NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mental-health-helplines.aspx


Suicide crisis lines around The World: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines7

(credit for picture here)

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Mental Illness and Books

Hi All,

I appeared to have fallen off the face of The Earth for many, many months, and that feels very true in the sense that I have recently felt like I fell of the face of my world, my Earth. I haven't posted on here in really long time because I've been struggling, and it's been hard enough to convince myself to go out into public, to eat and to sleep; let alone pick up a book and read or try to write a blog post about something.

When I was 14 I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Emetophobia (which is common to be paired with anxiety), I've previously gone through therapy into attempt to treat both of these, and whilst it worked for a while it didn't last. Autumn of 2016 I  had what I would call a complete breakdown in my mental health.

My mental health and my ability to manage it has been an increasing problem over the last year, and I found myself losing more battles than I was winning. In Autumn this developed into me missing school and having to cancel social events simply because I was too unwell to attend, but somehow I maintained this belief within me that I was still - as okay as one can be; but this perception of myself was shattered in November.

In November I suffered from what I would call a complete breakdown in my mental health, it was like I stopped functioning and I didn't know how to take care of myself any longer. I stopped eating, I no longer slept and I didn't dare venture beyond the limits of my very isolated village. I no longer attended school full time - I still don't now, and I found it hard to do anything because I no longer had the energy to even sit and read for ten minutes. November was the hardest month of my life, it was like I had fallen down a well and I couldn't climb back up and out; I was having panic attacks three to five times a day and I lost weight drastically.

Considering the state I was in in November it is amazing that how I am doing now in late March. My diet has improved considerably and I'm attending my school with the intention to attempt one of my A Levels this year. My sleeping patterns are still a bit fucked, but at least now I have enough energy to workout and go about my day to day life. This has also allowed me to return to reading, and even though progress is slow and the pace at which I read is considerably slower than before it is still such a relief to be able to concentrate on a book again.

After spending my last few months in this state it made me consider the representation of mental health within Literature. I think it's rather lacking, and the most well known book that has prominently featured mental health problems that I've read is All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, which I have developed very conflicting feelings about. I have seen many people say the representation of Bipolar Disorder through Finch was accurate and that Niven encapsulated what that means well within the narrative, and I think that she represented how hopeless those with mental illnesses can feel; however I take problem with the representation of help offered in this book. I believe if you're going to write a novel heavily featuring mental illness it needs to be constructive and informative, and All The Bright Places is not, it lacks information on how to reach out for help and how it is okay to do so - mentioning school counselors and showing going on dates can help SOME people is not enough.

Within literature, particularly YA literature, we need more books representing a constructive view of mental health. We need books that show us it's okay to reach out for help, and that there are multiple ways of 'getting better' because everyone is different. Whilst I appreciate novels that prompt discussions on mental as All The Bright Places do, we need to take up responsibilities as readers and authors to recognize opening discussions and spreading awareness for mental health is not enough anymore. We need to take an active role in presenting narratives that could help people and be constructive to people who have mental illnesses, not just those who know people who do.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this, and if anyone who has any further thoughts on this I would love to hear them (even if they conflict with me own). What's more, I was largely prompted to write this because of Katytastic's recent video which I will link below.

Katytastic's recent video 

This is compiled list of mental health helplines by The NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mental-health-helplines.aspx



Sunday, 13 November 2016

Popular books I have no interest in reading...

Hey, long time no see, hope everyone is doing okay and is enjoying this beautiful Fall (definitely my favourite time of year). I'm sorry for my long absent but life has been busy and one large rollercoaster for me recently, but i'm back now (at least for now). Today I wanted to right about popular books that I just can't bring myself to read, if you've read any of these and enjoyed them then great, but they're just not for me.

1. The Vampire Academy by Richele Mead (the whole series)

I don't know if this is because I didn't hear about these
during my vampire phase (dark times people), but I just genuinely have no interest in picking this up. I know people say the name lets the book down and it's so much better than what you expect it to be, but I just can't bring myself to read about vampires in school; as well as this from what I have heard that occurs in this series, I just don't think I could be invested in that storyline ever.

2. Four by Veronica Roth

So like most people I loved Divergent and the other two book in the trilogy were eh, so why would I want to pick this up? I found Four to be quite annoying in the two installments after Divergent and I never truly was invested in him as a character, it just feels like an add on to that universe that I don't really need. I mean it has a beautiful cover, and it would look very nice on my shelves, but I have to stop buying books for that reason alone.



3. Game of Thrones by George. R. R. Martin (the whole se
ries)

I KNOW I KNOW this is so bad but I just can't bring myself to commit to a series this long, especially when I don't watch the tv series (don't yell at me, I know it's bad). I do think I would enjoy this if I ever did pick it up, but I can't bear the thought of spending so much time reading one series when I have so many other books to read; plus I am so bad with gory stuff it's shameful.

4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (the whole series)

Considering this is set in Scotland and there is so much hype around it I should really want to read this, but much like Game of Thrones I just can't bring myself to commit to this series for that long. As well as this I just don't think I would enjoy it considering what I've heard about it already, and the fact that I can't even bring myself to watch the tv show (which takes a lot less commitment) I just know I will never read this series.


5. The Raven Boys (the whole trilogy)

So back in that Vampire phase I had (I was Team Edward btw because apperently I wanted a creepy guy to watch me sleep) I also picked up Shiver and that trilogy by Maggie Steifvater, and I'm afraid to say that has put me off her books for a while. For some reason I really struggle to pick up anything else she's written, and I'm not sure why - maybe it's because it reminds me of my past self (old twihards colletcively cringe together always); but really, I can't bring myself to be interest in The Raven Boys and I'm sorry for that.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Conversion by Katherine Howe review

Hey! So as you can probably seem my blog looks completely different and yay! I love it! I hope you like it too. So a big thanks to my friend who helped me to do this, and by helped I mean he wrote all the code for me because I'm useless with computers, if you guys have any advice on how to improve it or if you just love it let me know.

When I picked up this book it was something like £2.50 on amazon, so to be honest I just noticed the mention of witches/the supernatural and the price I just immediately bought it and jumped in without knowing anything; due to this I had no idea this was based off true events which makes this book slightly better.

'It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t. First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.  Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . . Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Timesbestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?'

The only thing that kept my reading this book was the amazing premise and plot behind it. I mean, mysterious behaviour in modern times being linked to witchcraft from the 1700s - yes please, more of that please. I loved how this was written in the sense that you never really knew what was going on, which made you want to keep going and not put it down; within each chapter something new was discovered or a new link made between the past or the present. It was smart of Howe to switch the narrative between two girls in different times whom experienced this 'illness' in different ways, it me interested and invested in the narrative. 

The actual events taking place were amazing too because the illness interacted with everyone in different ways, and it was just so freaky. I loved how throughout the book we were kept guessing at what was causing this illness, and I made several guesses throughout the book that just weren't accurate at all.  Also there were some really interesting mentions of how stress can affect young people's lives, and as a 17 year old student going into year 13 I can strongly relate to all of this, I work so hard sometimes I make myself ill and it was good to see that an author recognised that students face real problem with their work and expectations. But, enough of the present, the events that took place in the past in this novel were spectacular, and I loved reading about how people's beliefs at the time impacted their view/outlook on the story being told. It was done in a really smart way as well as an account of one of those at the centre of the story. 

Now, the thing that let this book down for me was the characters and the unnecessary romances, I loved all the characters that were introduced to us in the 1700s; but those in present time were just annoying. Colleen, our main protagonist, I found whiny and confusing at times - her outlook on situations seemed to continually change and I couldn't keep up with the inconsistency with this character. Furthermore, she had an abysmal romance with a character in this book that just wasn't necessary, I understand that as teenagers we fall in love quickly - but there was just no chemistry between them and it was difficult to read. Another unnecessary romance in this book was Emma and their teacher - look I understand if she was going for the whole Aria/Ezra thing, but it didn't really help the plot move along at all, it was just a kinda weird subplot the book could have done without. I just can't stand romances/relationships that are badly written, or characters that are badly written - it almost made me put this down. 

Now the ending of this book when the whole mystery illness was solved was weird, I think it's great that this book mentioned how stress can impact people's health and all of that, and I know this is based on a true story; BUT, but, what was the point of the symbolism of the yellow bird at the end then?! I'm all for a book leaving a mystery open for us, but here the yellow bird felt like more of an afterthought from the author, if you're gonna base an ending/wrap up to a mystery on true events, it's normally best to stick to those true events and not mix supernatural premises with it otherwise it's just weird. 

Overall this book was okay, Howe totally nailed the narrative and plot of Conversion, but the characters and romances? Not so much. Which is a massive shame really because it pulled the whole book down for me, and stopped it from reaching it's full potential. Howe needs to step up her game in regards to the last two factors to write a truly good book. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A few thoughts on The Silver Star by Jeannette Wells

This was one of the few (well, it was more like many) books I stole from my parent's bookshelf and it was the first I read from that selection. This was one my mum personally recommended as she was throwing books away, and I now trust her with book recommendations more after reading this.


'It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.  An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, and the sisters start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Liz is whip-smart--an inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist, but when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz in the car with Maddox. Jeannette Walls has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.'

The plot of the book is fairly simple. Two young girls are practically left to raise themselves due to their mother's own inability to let go of her childhood dreams, as she constantly leaves them to go and explore how she can find fame. It was really interesting to see how that concept could make the girls so independent yet so vulnerable in society, it was a shock to see them go from being really strong to very weak, and it was fascinating to have that bit of insight into that sort of life. I really enjoyed the two protagonist in this book, Bean and Liz, the two sisters were really captivating and different obviously due to their upbringing, yet they were very real. Bean was a brilliant narrator as she's quite outgoing and daring, even though as a child she has a slight warped view of justice and social issues.

This book covers a range of sensitive issues from race to rape, and it's not a book that glosses over this either and pretends these problems can be solved easily by the protagonist - it faces the harsh reality of how these problems are often due to corruption in the social sector, and they can't be solved so easily. Due to this, I wouldn't recommend this book to young readers despite it's lack of graphic content, it's still not a YA novel. One of the protagonists faces the social injustices in rape culture  that was present in the time the book was set, and the scary thing is that I found that the problem in the novel it's still present in our time - even if it is not as prominent as it was then; and that scared me a lot and made me appreciate this books so much more, because I still found the message relatable. Another social issue was dressed in this book when the two girls arrived two schools in the district merged and there were quite a few racial clashes, but the end of the book it seems that society has learnt how to be tolerable of each other and how to try to understand/appreciate other people, a message that is still needed in many areas of the world today.

The symbolism of the Emus in this book was lovely, because it showed the two girls despite not fitting in and being a bit of an oddity, where beautiful and all they wanted was to be free. I think that's quite an important symbolism to have present in a novel too, that you can beautiful and wonderful without needing to be like everyone else - you don't need to conform. Naturally, with their upbringing Bean and her sisiter were never going to completely fit in and they introduce an idea that even though being different is hard, it is a thing no one should be ashamed of.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick and easy read with characters that I wanted to know more about as they grew older, and I was really pleased to find it dealt with a lot of social issues, even though they weren't fully resolved due to the character being young. I know a lot of people don't think much of this as they believe the protagonists were flat characters, and prefer Well's other books, however I've not read anything else by her and I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.