Monday, 19 October 2015

Jamie Lawson's Debut Self-Titled Album

Hello everyone! 

I realise it has been a good while since I have posted on this blog, and you may think you've found yourself in the wrong place...she's talking about music now?!

I have been extremely busy with work for uni and settling back in, so I have to confess that I haven't had time to find any amazing books worthy of a blog post! However, what is much easier to find whilst music :) I have a lot to say about Jamie Lawson and have been trying to think of who I can bore with my music ramblings...this is why I love my blog! I can ramble away into cyberspace, and I don't have to see the bored face of any unsuspecting victim!

I wake up to the radio every morning, and recently, Jamie Lawson's 'Wasn't Expecting That' has quite often been the song I have woken up to. I think it's such a beautiful song! The first word that comes to mind is 'heart-breaking''s not easy to listen to a song talking about such a beautiful romance and a happy life which ends so abruptly and tragically. Nevertheless, I am a sucker for lovely acoustics and a good male voice, so it had me gripped and hasn't let go since!

I was so intrigued that I decided to download his album, which is something I very rarely do! I usually pick and choose the songs I like. The only other people whose full albums I have downloaded are Michael Buble and Andrea Faustini!

I am so glad I did though, because I just think it's fantastic. At first listen, many people would think that the lyrics are quite depressing, but I don't see that. Let's take an example: 'Sometimes It's Hard'. This song has touched me and some other people I have sent it to, mainly because it's so honest. It's perfectly relate-able and it's what anyone who has dark days needs. It's a song that gets down there with you when you're feeling crap and says "Yes, I know you're finding life hard today, you're going through a bad time. I know how it feels, it's terrible. Just get through today, and tomorrow will be better, and next time this 'rain' comes along, you'll feel stronger to deal with it." I think that's really powerful. Sometimes, when you're feeling bad, you need someone to get down to your level and acknowledge that things are pretty crappy before they try to cheer you up! It ends on a hopeful note, reminding the listener that they are strong, and are a great person - the perfect ending!

On a similar note, I also love 'Let Love Hold You Now'. I'm sure many people can relate to that fantastic feeling when you're lying in your partner's arms and feel completely safe and contented. It's a time when all the anxieties of the day can just melt away, and that's exactly what this song describes. It has a really lovely melody too, which reminds me of a lullaby, and I have to say it has sent me to sleep on multiple occasions! (In a good way!) It just makes the listener feel so at-peace.

There is so much else I could say about this album! There are some other great songs that address different issues such as leaping into relationships, and also some really happy songs talking about the beauty of life, and the devotion of one's heart to another. I just think the lyrics are so beautiful.

To anyone who thinks it's just depressing, I would draw the example of 'Sadness' in the film 'Inside Out' - a personal fave of mine! Everyone has bad days, and sometimes the best thing isn't to ignore those days, or try to bottle those negative emotions away! People need to feel sad sometimes so that they can be more empathetic, and understand the bad days those around us have. Those who acknowledge their sad emotions as well as their joyful ones are a lot more in-touch with themselves, and it's not necessarily such a bad thing!

So really, I am writing this for 3 main reasons:
1. To thank Jamie Lawson and congratulate him on such a beautiful album. 
2. To thank Ed Sheeran for giving him the publicity he deserves! 
3. To get more people out there to go and listen to this album (if it isn't popular enough!), and to give the lyrics a chance! 

I hope you have enjoyed the slight change of topic I have brought with this blog post! If it has completely failed then don't worry, I will hop back into my book-filled comfort zone by next post! I'd love to hear from anyone else who loves this album as much as me :) 

Friday, 25 September 2015

This Term's Reading!

So, here I am, back at uni for my final year! It's really strange to be back in the city which used to feel like home, but now it feels so big and scary with all my friends having graduated! I'm going to try to limit the time I spend sitting in my room reading this year, as I have new house-mates to hopefully befriend! :) But my room would never feel complete without a nice collection of books, so I tasked Charlie with picking 25 books from my TBR jar to bring with me. 

I really like how they all sit on my fireplace! 

Here is the list:
(The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R.Carey, chosen before the 25)
1. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
2. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
3. The Missing Husband - Amanda Brooke
4. The Girl with the Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier
5. Belle de Jour
6. The Snapper - Roddy Doyle
7. Dream a Little Dream - Giovanna Fletcher
8. The Diary of a Nobody - George Grossmith
9. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
10. The Radleys - Matt Haig
11. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
12. The Game - Mandasue Heller
13. It Started with Paris - Cathy Keller
14. The Woman He Loved Before - Dorothy Koomson
15. Cold Heart- Lynda la Plante
16. The Secret Gardener - le Carre
17. Hector and the Search for Love - Francois LeLord
18. Masters of Sex - Thomas Maier
19. Love and War in the Apennines - Eric Newby
20. Us - David Nicholls
21. 1984 - George Orwell
22. Ketchup Clouds - Annabel Pitcher
23. The Dice Man - Luke Rhinehart
24. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
25. Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters

I think Charlie did a great job, there is a really vast and different mix of things here, so there should be something to suit any mood I may have! I can't wait! :) 
Have you read any of these? I'd love to hear your views in the comments :) 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Top 5 Wednesday: Books About Mental Health

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my first T5W post in what seems like ages! (It probably is ages...) I think I needed a great topic to kick my bum back into these posts, and what better one than this: books about mental health, so thank you GingerReadsLainey for choosing it! For those of you who follow my blog, I am sure you will know that I read A LOT of books about mental health. I think they play such a fascinating and crucial part in our society, as they raise awareness covertly. People who don't know that much about it may not want to sit there and read a science text book, but they will happily read a novel...never underestimate how much you can learn from a novel! The LGBTQ community has been getting fantastic coverage in fiction recently, and I think now the mental health community is at a stage where the stigma is low enough to allow for really honest accounts to find their way into mainstream fiction.

So, as you can guess, there are a lot of books for me to choose from! But here they are, my top 5 books on mental health:

5. The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks was an incredible neurologist, who sadly recently passed away. He leaves behind my favourite non-fiction book about mental health. This book contains case studies of patients Sacks dealt with who presented with extraordinary mental illness. These accounts were absolutely fascinating, and really opened my eyes to how delicate our brain is, and therefore how easily it can go wrong. Not only that, but when people think of mental illness they think of it quite closed-mindedly: depression, anxiety, schizophrenia - but there is so much more out there which is rarer, so never gets the same level of awareness. An absolutely fantastic read.

4. Henry's Demons - Patrick and Henry Cockburn

I read this book a long time ago, but it has always stuck with me as it was incredibly powerful. It is a dual point-of-view autobiography, written by Henry who suffers with schizophrenia, and his father Patrick. Henry describes what goes on in his head during his episodes, and how he feels, but what made this book so powerful was the effect that these episodes had on his father, and how his behaviour looked from outside his own head. A really great book which I am sad didn't get the publicity it deserved!

3. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

A classic, and rightly so, as this is an extremely important book! Plath wrote this when stigma shrouded mental health to a much greater degree than it does now, which made it an extremely brave thing to do at the time. It is such an observant, honest tale of mental health which I found to be extremely powerful. It is the only book I have ever read which left such an anger inside me that didn't disappear when I closed the book. It just made me so angry to read about the treatment of mental health patients in such recent history. Some of the imagery used, particularly 'the bell jar' itself was really thought-provoking and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

2. The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer

What I loved most about this book is the important question it provokes. The story of a boy who loses his brother and lives with the (unfounded) guilt that it was his fault. Bereavement is normal, to be expected, and of course, everyone deals with it differently. But at some point in his bereavement process, he descended into a poor state of mental health, culminating in schizophrenia. Where and when did that happen though? At what point do we draw the line between someone who is bereaved and not dealing with loss very well, and someone who is mentally ill? I thought this was really fascinating. Filer himself was a mental health nurse, so the account is also spot-on and very well-written. Another fab book!

1. Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig

Critics were so right about this one - it really could save lives! There was no doubt in my mind that this book had to have top spot. I knoww I have raved about this book before, but I don't think there are enough words in my vocabulary to explain quite how incredible I think this book is, so I shall just struggle on with repeating the words I have! This is Matt Haig's open and incredibly honest account of his struggle with depression and anxiety. It has everything - what seemed to trigger it, how it felt, and most importantly, what helped him to struggle on. It is a beacon of hope for anyone struggling with their mental wellbeing. There is a reason for everyone to read this book, as it contains short lists which could completely change your outlook. There are lists of things to say, and not to say, to people struggling with mental illness (and everyone, whether they know it or not, is living in close proximity to someone with mental health issues), and there is the list of 'reasons to stay alive' for people who are struggling. It would have those struggling screaming at the book saying "yes, yes, that's exactly how I feel!!" I seriously think this book should become part of the GCSE curriculum or something, just so that it forces everyone to read it! I cannot applaud Haig enough for being so brave as to share his story with the world :)

So there we have it, my top 5 books about mental health! Have you read these? Are there any others you think I should read? Please get in touch in the comments below. 

Honourable mentions also go to:
All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven
The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick

Monday, 14 September 2015

Ludlum's Bourne Trilogy

Hello my fabulous readers! I have been very busy this week reading the Bourne trilogy! 

There may be some confusion over why I am calling them 'the trilogy'. From what I understand, the fantastic Robert Ludlum wrote the first three books: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. After this, Eric van Lustbader took over. I have never seen the Bourne films, so I thought that just to tackle the first three would be a good starting point, sticking to the original author. I was quite glad I made this choice, as I ordered them online, and when they arrived, they turned out to be HUGE! They are 550, 650 and 730 pages...that's a lot of Bourne! So after that, I have to say I was quite reluctant for the Bourne trilogy to be plucked out of my TBR jar! However the day came, and Charlie looked very sheepish as he had to show me that he had picked it out! But not one to argue with the jar, I plunged straight into them!

The Bourne Identity got off to a great start. The story is of Jason Bourne in a journey to rebuild his life and memories after a head trauma. In the meantime, a trained assassin is hot on his trail, and his own people think he may have turned. It is a really dangerous story and is really exciting! 

The Bourne Supremacy took a completely different direction, this was a lot more political! Robert Ludlum is probably a lot more clever than I can give him credit for, as a good proportion of his intricate political plots fly straight over my head. Yet again though - a very enjoyable read!

The Bourne Ultimatum went back to what I loved - the battle between Bourne and Carlos, like in the first book. I really like that storyline as it's such a clever idea - using one assassin to lure out another. It was extremely long, but nevertheless another great read.

I should point out at this point, for those of you who have seen the films but not read the books and are completely confused, that the second and third books are a completely different story to the films! Personally, this seemed both weird and a disappointment to me! Why would you use the same name as the book but make a film with a completely different storyline? Also, I was hoping the film might make some of the complicated political themes in the second book more easy to understand, so was disappointed to find out that I wouldn't be able to see a film version!

All in all, the Bourne books are great. They have everything: crime, fraud, thrills, romance, friendship and there are constant twists and turns. The reader becomes frustrated along with the characters as allies become enemies and secrets holding the most elaborate plans become leaked and render the plan useless. I have to say that this did start to get a bit repetitive by the end of the third book as every single secret from Bourne or Carlos got leaked to the other one, but I guess that was my fault for reading all three in a row! The constant battle to establish his own identity is so powerful: is he Bourne, a cold assassin, or Webb, a family man who has enough affection to shower over his wife and children? 

I really recommend these books to anyone who loves a good thriller! Have you read the books? Although they are not the same, I'm still intrigued to watch the films!

I hope you have enjoyed my is the Lorien Legacies: all 6 in order, including the latest instalment from 10th September - The Fate of Ten! I cannot wait! 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Epic Book Haul!

Hello my lovely readers! :) I am sorry for the lack of posts recently, I have been pretty busy moving back home from my intern year before heading off to uni in a few weeks! I have however been reading a lot, and have been making my way through the first of the 3 Bourne novels, written by Ludlum. So once I have finished those, I will do a joint review. I have also recently received the latest instalment of the Lorien Legacies, so will soon be reading that, which I am very excited about! 

In the meantime, I have also been buying a fair amount of books! I would like to share them with you, as their names have gone into my TBR jar, so I may not be reviewing them for quite some time! So at least I can share the excitement in this list:
You - Caroline Kepnes
Oooh I do like to get my teeth into an epic thriller. The words "unrelenting", "terrifying" and "perversely clever" are used, which sound totally up my street! Very excited!

Am I Normal Yet? - Holly Bourne
A YA book I have heard a lot about. I am intrigued by it because what is 'normal'? It is clear there is some sort of mental health theme, which is all I need to make me pick a book up! I have heard great things, which I really hope are true as it sounds fantastic.

The Missing Husband - Amanda Brooke
Those who know me won't be surprised to hear that I picked this book out because of the adorable baby on the cover! Cover aside, the synopsis gives the story of a wife keeping a terrible secret from her husband, who then disappears. I like family-style mystery stories, so am very intrigued by it!

Do No Harm - Henry Marsh
I have wanted this for ages! I am sure people have twigged that I am fascinated by neuroscience, and this book is written by a neurosurgeon, describing his experiences and his work. I am sure this will be a great non-fiction read!

The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell
Charlie and I are so in love with this cover! I have started to notice this pattern in myself - I always seem to read books by popular authors, but never their most popular book. Don't ask me why, but it seems to be working well for me if I continue to do it. Everyone knows David Mitchell for Cloud Atlas, so I am hoping this is as good!

Not that Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham
This is one of those books that I have been waiting to come out in paperback, and it finally has! I really like funny women writing funny rants/life observations, so I am looking forward to this! :)

The First Bad Man - Miranda July
The quite literal 'dark horse' in my collection, this book has no synopsis on the back and the cover gives nothing away, which is quite a clever tactic because it made me want to discover its mystery! The reviews say things like "heartbreakingly sad, thoughtful, disgusting and hilarious", or "fills you with the urge to tell the whole world about it" or "confidently out-there and emotionally convincing"...I just hope they're right!

The Other Me - Saskia Sarginson
"Eliza Bennet has the life she's always dreamed of. She's who she wants to be, and she's with the man she loves. But Eliza is living a lie. Her real name is Klaudia Myer. And Klaudia is on the run. She's escaping her old life, ans a terrible secret buried at the heart of her family. This is the story of Eliza and Klaudia. One woman. Two lives. And a lie they cannot hide from." I really like storylines along this genre, they mystery really intrigues me, so I am looking forward to this!

We Were Liars - E.Lockhart
I have heard so much about this book from excited bloggers and booktubers that when I saw it in my local bookshop, I just had to pick it up! :)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews
I'm sure many people have heard of this book thanks to the film's incessant advertising on TV! The story really intrigued me: two boys' friendship with a girl with cancer. I am not usually the biggest fan of movie covers for books, but seeing as I wouldn't be reading the book without hearing of the story in film form, I didn't think it was so bad!

It Started with Paris - Cathy Kelly
Oh every girl has got to allow herself a guilty pleasure every now and then! I really love Paris, and as I may be going there soon, I thought this'd be an enjoyable read! :) PS it also has such a pretty cover!

Second Life - SJ Watson
I absolutely loved 'Before I Go to Sleep', and have wanted this ever since I was aware it was being released. However I usually wait for the paperback. Luckily for me, Charlie offered me a gift card he needed to use, so I just couldn't resist using it to get my hands on SJ Watson's next work!

Fate of Ten - Pittacus Lore
Saving the best until last...the new instalment of the Lorien Legacies from Pittacus Lore! As you may know, I am completely obsessed with this series, I am excited to read this, and as always I shall be reading all the preceding books before finishing my run with this. I have to say, although I am glad that they have finally settled on a cover design for the series, I am not the biggest fan. I will go into this more in my Lorien Legacies post once I have read it, but I think they should have stuck to one of the other designs!

So that's it, as you can see I have been a bit of a prolific buyer of books in the last two weeks! Have you read any of them - what did you think? What are you reading at the moment, or what are you excited to read? I'd love to hear in the comments below :) 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

'I Mustache You Some Questions' tag

Hello everyone, and sorry for the lack of posts in the last month! Thanks to Ria @ Lilac Diaries, my blogging life has been resurrected! She has very kindly tagged me in the 'I mustache you some questions' tag, which really makes me giggle and I'm very excited to get started, so let's hop straight to it! :)

Four jobs I would like to have:
1. Scientific researcher
2. Science teacher/lecturer
3. Psychiatrist
4. Bookseller (been there, done that, would love to go back!)

Four movies I have watched more than once:
1. Bridget Jones
2. Harry Potter
3. The Ugly Truth (Gerard Butler = hilarious)
4. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

Four books I would recommend: 
1. The Humans - Matt Haig
2. Before I Go to Sleep - SJ Watson
3. Two Brothers - Ben Elton
4. The Lorien Legacies - Pittacus Lore

Four places I have visited:
1. SO many places in France
2. Vietnam and Cambodia
3. Morocco
4. Florida (Disney - woo!)

Four things I don't eat:
1. Egg, bleurgh
2. Almonds
3. Coconut
4. Any weird organs e.g. liver, kidney

Four of my favourite foods:
1. Raspberries
2. Sorbet
3. Lemon cake
4. Pasta (any sauce, really)

Four TV shows I watch:
1. TOWIE (sorry!)
2. The X Factor
3. The Big Bang Theory
4. How I Met Your Mother

Four things I am looking forward to this year: (I'm taking this as this 'academic' year)
1. Hopefully going to study in France
2. Applying for PhDs (hopefully getting interviews!)
3. Graduating
4. Seeing what happens when I leave uni! :)

Four people I tag:
1. You - anyone reading this! Please link me your tag in the comments so I can have a nosey! :)
2. Ben @ Ben Sawyer's bookshelf
3. Opal @ Opal Swirls
4. atimethatflies
I hope I haven't embarrassed myself by tagging someone who has already done it! :)

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my tag! I think this is the first time I have done a post which isn't uniquely bookish, so it makes a refreshing change! I'd love to read everyone else's tags, so please comment below with your links! :) 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

My A-Z Author Challenge 2015 is complete!! :)

Yes, that's right, as you have probably seen already, I have completed my A-Z Author Challenge - yay! :) This has all happened in 64 days...and considering this is the first year I have had a full-time job, I am pretty daym proud of that! :) I have really enjoyed it, as it has really got me to read a whole range of new authors that I may never have normally touched, but whom have benefited from having a surname starting with an unusual letter! Having said that, I did get a bit dis-encouraged by the end, as I felt like the alphabet was dictating what I could read next! Now I have a 'TBR jar', so I won't know what I am reading next until I finish a book and pick a new one from the jar - how exciting!

Anyway, as I have finished, I thought it only fair to honour all the books that have taken part in my challenge, and I shall finish by picking a top 5! I hope you enjoy! :)

A - Mitch Albom - The First Phone Call from Heaven
B - Laura Bates - Everyday Sexism
C - John Connolly - Bad Men
D - Lucy Dillon - One Small Act of Kindness
E - Imogen Edwards-Jones - Hotel Babylon
F - Jane Fallon - The Ugly Sister
G - Jane Green - The Other Woman
H - Emma Healey - Elizabeth is Missing
I - John Irving - A Prayer for Owen Meany
J - EL James - Grey
K - Nicole Krauss - The History of Love
L - Francois Lelord - Hector and the Search for Happiness
M - Ken Macleod - Intrusion
N - Jennifer Niven - All the Bright Places
O - Maggie O'Farrell - Instructions for a Heatwave
P - Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
Q - Matthew Quick - The Silver Linings Playbook
R - Stella Rimington - The Geneva Trap
S - Alice Sebold - The Lovely Bones
T - CL Taylor - The Accident
U - Fred Uhlman - Reunion
V - Ferdinand von Schirach - The Collini Case
W - Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
X - Xinran - The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices
Y - Louise Young - The Heroes' Welcome
Z - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind

Quite a mix in there...we have crime, thrillers, young-adult, biography, non-fiction, romance, classics and other types of fiction - it's great! :) 

Aaaand my top 5 are:
5) Grey - I know people are going to seriously judge me that out of 26 books this made the top 5, but I really enjoyed it! It was very long, which I was secretly dreading, and I was actually so pleasantly surprised that it quickly shot into being one of my favourites! :) 

4) The Accident - I LOVED this, I thought the story was great, the suspense kept me hooked, and I really identified with the characters.

3) The First Phone Call from Heaven - For the first book of twenty-six to have kept my attention for so long must show that it was something special! I really love the magic in Albom's stories, they always make me feel warm and fuzzy once I have finished them, 

2) Intrusion - I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book because the reviews were a bit varied, but I loved it! I thought the storyline was really interesting, and I loved all the sciencey references, which seemed pretty accurate and appealed to me in particular! 

1) The Bell Jar - Without a doubt, my favourite book of this list. I just thought it was so powerfully written, and is the first book to have ever provoked such strong emotion in me that the emotion didn't go away when I shut the book! I really really think the whole world needs to read this book!! :)

I do feel a bit bad - these 2-3 line synopses do not do these books justice at all, and there were some other great ones in the mix too. All of these books have been reviewed under the A-Z tag, so if any of them interest you, please go and check out the reviews! :) Also, if you have read any of the books featured in this challenge, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Adios, amigos :) 

Z: The Shadow of the Wind

Okay, I'm sorry, I promise this will be the last review for a little while! But now...I bring you...the last book in my A-Z Author Challenge 2015 - yay!!! :)  I am so happy that I have finished it, as much as I enjoyed it, it is much more fun to have a mystery regarding what I shall read next, rather than being dictated-to by the alphabet! I now have a TBR jar (stolen from another blogger - sorry I can't remember who!), which I am very excited to start using! :)

Anyway, back to the point! This review is of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's 'The Shadow of the Wind'.

Oooh I do love being shrouded in mystery! This book had it all: mystery, intrigue, romance, heart-break, crime, passion - what else could someone want?! Critics call this the book for people who love books, because it is a celebration of the power of literature! 

Without giving too much away, the basic storyline is set in Barcelona. Daniel, a bookshop owner's son is taken by his father to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a safe haven for old books which may otherwise be destroyed. He feels drawn to 'The Shadow of the Wind', which he later finds out is the only copy of this book remaining in existence. Why, you may ask? Well, Daniel asked the same question! In his quest to discover the life and mystery of the writer, Julian Carax, Daniel gets a little more than he bargained for. Suddenly, he finds himself intertwined in an epic and complex puzzle, involving some very unlikely characters. Undeterred, he follows all the trails, which lead him to some pretty scary places! 

This story is packed full of suspense and mystery, and I actually didn't predict the ending at all! I was gripped...most of the time. For me, sometimes the plot-line advanced a little too slowly, which is why I just couldn't feel justified giving it the full 5 stars. I really enjoyed it though, and would definitely think about picking up the sequel: 'The Angel's Game', although I may give myself a Zafon break first! 

Have you read The Angel's Game? Is it similar to this, does the storyline follow this closely? Do I need to have a good memory of this book to enjoy it properly? I'd love to hear your thoughts below :) 

Y: The Heroes' Welcome

Yes yes, it's me again! I have another book review to bring you, which I finished just yesterday. This is Young's 'The Heroes' Welcome'. I have to be honest, I was desperately trying to find a Y for my A-Z challenge, and was about to give up when I saw this gorgeous cover sitting on a table in Waterstones! I just had to buy it...I didn't even really look at what it was about until I got home!

I later found out that it is a sequel to Young's 'My Dear I Wanted to Tell You', which I actually read years ago, and know I enjoyed, but wouldn't be able to tell you much of the plot except that it was a war romance set in the First World War.

In this sequel, Young deals with the 'what happens next?' Yes, you can write romantic letters which travel across oceans to each other, but what about when the war is over? If you're lucky enough that your soldier returns home, what will life be like then? No one really thinks about that!

Everyone recognises the sacrifice of soldiers who risked their lives fighting for our country, no one denies them the glory they deserve. But how many people think about the hardships they faced when they returned home? Injured, suffering with PTSD, how easy would it have been for those soldiers to integrate back into society? What about their wives? Would they still love the man they had fallen in love with before the war, or would they have changed so much they were unrecognisable? Would they be able to handle their husband's night terrors, their disfigurement, or their drink problem?

This book was really well-written, and struck a very poignant chord! It tells a story which I guess a lot of people don't even consider, and for that reason I really enjoyed it! It was daring, and not afraid to tell a story of heart-break. Not every story has a happy ending, but don't we all have to make the best of what we have?

Has anyone else read this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)

X: The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices

Hello people, and welcome back again to my book reviews as part of my A-Z author challenge! :) I now have my X to share with you...which is Xinran's 'The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices'. I am glad my challenge encouraged me to pick up an 'X', otherwise it would have been very unlikely that this book would have ever come into my possession.

The clue is in the title really...this book is a biographical work, compiling stories of women all over China who have suffered oppression or abuse in their society. Xinran is a radio presenter, who is brave enough to set up the first radio show which discusses the lives of women in China. Within hours, her answer phone and letter box are flooded with stories of women who have been waiting to be heard for so many years.

Some are really heart-breaking. There are tales of abuse, forced marriages and the struggle to develop an identity in a male-dominated world. It is difficult to imagine that these stories actually happened less than 50 years ago! It was a real awakening for me, and shifted my life back into clear perspective: women in the UK complain about the treatment of women, and maybe we should still not stop fighting for 'equality', but we should also be grateful that we do not experience the horrors of these women. If these women can live their lives with such dignity and compassion no matter what hardships they face, what excuse do we have?

W: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Hello my lovely readers, and apologies once again for my period of silence! I have been stuck in a period where I couldn't stop reading whenever I had spare time (nothing to be complained about!), but this does seem to have translated into a slight neglect for my blog! Nevertheless, I am back, with exciting news:
I have finished my A-Z Author Challenge 2015!! :) 

I am so proud of myself, and to have completed it in 64 days is a special achievement, I believe :) I shall soon be bringing you my A-Z wrap-up, but for now, a review of my book read for W: Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. 

I really like these Pulp covers of classics! I get that they're trying to modernise classics to make them more accessible to the youth of today (which is a category I still like to consider myself to be in!), so they totally worked for me! :) Let's be honest, I would have read this regardless of cover, but it's fabulous blue pages were the pushing factor which actually made me buy it! :) 

I am sure most people reading this will know the story of Dorian Gray: he sits for a painting, and becomes overwhelmed by the realisation that he will never again look as young as he does in the picture! This thought eats away at him, and he wishes that the portrait could bear the burden of ageing, while he maintained his youthful good looks forever. Well, careful what you wish for! 

I actually really enjoyed this book. In the first few chapters, Dorian makes friends with Lord Henry (Harry), who had some great things to say. He made some great observations and was extremely philosophical about life, and the human instinct, which I found really interesting. I loved the love story (can't beat the story of a strong man going weak for a girl), and it kept me really hooked!

The problem was, as the story hit about half-way, suddenly it seemed to lose its thread somewhat. At one point, there was almost an entire page listing different names of jewels which Dorian had studied, acquired or sold, and it became extremely tedious! I struggled to cling to the weak thread of the story, and although it did pick back up, I felt rather lost by this point, and almost had to crawl to the finish line. It's a shame really, because Wilde's writing showed such great promise in the first half of the book, which is why I felt guilty scoring it anything less than 4 starts on GoodReads!

What do you think of the story of Dorian Gray? As always, I'd love to hear your comments below! :) 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Character Tropes

Hello everyone and welcome back to my ever-expanding blog! Today I bring you another Top 5 Wednesday list, inspired by the wonderful GingerReadsLainey. This week's topic of 'Favourite Character Tropes' was another difficult one for me (Lainey isn't making this easy for us at the moment!), as to start with, I am ashamed to say that I didn't even know what a character trope is! I hope I have now got the gist of it, as it'll be pretty embarrassing if none of the items on this list count as character tropes, but *fingers crossed*. 

So, without further ado...I should probably just launch straight in! 

5) A man considered to be a 'player' who becomes smitten with a girl and becomes tamed.
I have to admit, I tend to see this more in films, but I am sure there are loads of books too that I am overlooking! One that springs to mind is Gideon from the Crossfire series. He is the huge player who doesn't ever commit and has a hotel room permanently rented out for when he wants to bring random girls back. Then he meets Eva, and she is the first to be allowed into his home and into his heart and he settles and devotes everything to her...I love it! :)

4) An interfering family member.
Who doesn't love a bit of a family feud or drama?! I can think of so many examples of this:
- The whole family in Almost English
- The mother-in-law in The Other Woman
- The mum in the Crossfire series
- The sister in The Ugly Sister
All of these cause family drama, and it reminds me how lucky I am to have the family I do! :)

3) Really really kind and wonderful religious people.
I'm sure this is obvious to many people, but I think that these characters in books are so fantastic as they help to neutralise some of the bad press that religious people get! What with extremism etc (wow this is getting heavy..), many atheists can't see the benefit of religion. That's why I think it is so important that religion is represented in its way of creating wonderfully patient, kind and caring people, such as:
- Owen Meany from A Prayer for Owen Meany
- those who work in the convent in Instructions for a Heatwave
- the monks in Hector's Search for Happiness
- the sisters in The Secret Life of Bees

2) A romance that grants the couple a new lease of life.
Back on the loved-up theme, I love really cheesey stories where a romance can change a person's life for the better.
- Violet and Finch in All the Bright Places
-  Pat and Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook
- Lou and Will in Me Before You
All of these characters are going through hardships, and in finding each other, they get a renewed faith in the beauty of life, and I love it! :)

1) An alien trying to make sense of human life.
This has got to be my favourite, because it makes for some hilarious writing at times! Some of my favourites are
- The Humans
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The Lorien Legacies
An 'alien's' perspective on what it is to be human can be so refreshing and amusing at the same time. These books are thoroughly entertaining, and I would highly recommend them to people who want a little taste of SciFi! :)

That's it for another Top 5 Wednesday! I hope you enjoyed it. If you know of any other books which fit my favourite tropes, please let me know! Also, I'd love to read your lists, so please post the links in the comments below :) 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesdays: Characters who are Fellow Book Nerds

Hello everyone and welcome back to my bookish blog! Today is time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Characters who are Fellow Book Nerds! It came as no surprise to me that a lot of these characters were childhood favourites of mine, as I have always been a complete geek when it comes to books! :) 

10) Isabel Archer - Portrait of a Lady
This book was an epic challenge for me - 680 pages! But I loved the fact that Isabel was the clever, intelligent one and she loved reading! I take that as no coincidence! Also, in true book geekishness, can we please all appreciate how beautiful this cover is?! I think it is one of my favourites ever!

9) Anastasia - Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey)
I may be judged for saying this, but in some ways I felt I could relate to Anastasia - I really liked her as a character! I can't lie, I wouldn't be complaining if a rich man bought me first-edition copies of a book I loved! Who wouldn't love that, let's be honest! :)

8) Liesel - The Book Thief
I don't think anyone can claim to be more committed to books than Liesel! To steal books illegally from fires and read them over and over again until you have the opportunity to steal another? I applaud that commitment to reading!

7) Alice - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
And so begins my selection of favourite childhood characters! Sitting in/under a tree in the sunshine reading a book in a pretty blue dress? What could be more peaceful?! Life goals...that is all.

6) Charlie - Perks of Being a Wallflower
I love Charlie, he is such an adorable character. He forms such a close bond with his English teacher because he gets all his favourite book recommendations and I just think that's fabulous!

5) Pat - Silver Linings Playbook
Pat is another character I just love. In an effort to win back his ex-wife, he begins to read all of the books she teaches on her syllabus, and he learns so much in the process, which I think aids his recovery! He also has very strong reactions and emotions towards certain books, which to me is the sign of a great reader!

4) Hermione - Harry Potter
Yes, she may read textbooks mainly, but we can't discriminate here! You can't really fault Hermione, she is another character who reads and is the most intelligent person there! This can't all be a coincidence...

3) Violet - All the Bright Places
Violet and Finch bond over quoting Virginia Woolfe. Bleurgh, I know, it is quite cringey, but at the same time, I don't think I could honestly say that a boy quoting my favourite authors wouldn't win me over!

2) Belle - Beauty and the Beast
I know this is slightly cheating as it is the Disney film version of this which I love most, but as I used to have a Disney book version as a child, I am counting this. As I am sure I have said before, Belle is just my idol. As her name suggests, she is beautiful, she is courageous, she loves reading, she is French AND she gets given her own library. I mean come perfect can life get?!

1) Matilda
Matilda easily swiped my top spot in this one! Matilda was one of my favourite books as a child because I loved her all through the story as she was escaping the wrath of her parents by shutting herself behind a wall of books, or wandering off to the library. For the story to then end with her having magical powers, what a great finale! She was bright, she was loved by her teachers (story of my life...joking!), and then she had magic powers! This little book geek defeated the hellish Ms Trunchbull, so this heroine deserves my top spot!

So there you have it! I have to say, this was my favourite Top 10 Tuesday: each one of these characters celebrates a slightly different reason why I love reading, and I love each and every one of them very much! Characters who love books really are the best kind :) Who are your favourite nerdy characters? 

Monday, 27 July 2015

V: The Collini Case

Hello everyone! :) Here we have yet another book which I read over my weekend! Continuing on the theme of Nazi Germany, we have 'The Collini Case' by Ferdinand von Schirach.

Collini is an Italian. He is in his 60s. He pretends to be a journalist in Germany, walks into the hotel room of an 80-year-old man whom he has never met, shoots him 4 times, and kicks him so many times that his face is completely disfigured. He then walks calmly down to the reception, tells them there has been a murder, sits quietly and waits to be arrested. 

Why would he do that? What possible cause of revenge could he have? I don't want to spoil the plot of this book too much, otherwise its charm is also ruined. 

Therefore, suffice to say that it is extremely well-researched, and thus very educational! I learned a lot from reading this book! It follows the 'Collini case', which seems so clear-cut. Collini admit to murder, his DNA is all over it, what could his motive be? This motive runs a lot deeper than anyone could have expected, and is thrilling to read.

I gave this book 3 stars because I think it could have been written a little better, but nevertheless, I do not regret a second of the time I took to read this. I learned a lot, and would still recommend it to all those interested in history, particularly German history! 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

U: The Reunion

Hello once again, my lovely readers! :) I really have read some fantastic books this weekend, and would next like to share with you my thoughts on 'The Reunion', by Fred Uhlman. I have included a link to it's GoodReads page as for some reason it is very difficult to find!

Speaking of things which are difficult to find...did anyone else doing an A-Z author challenge find U exceptionally difficult?! I scoured the entirety of a Waterstones store and came to a grand total of three...Updike, this, and a crime series, of which they didn't have the first instalment, so that was scratched from the list of possibilities. I decided to go for this, as I have had very few dealings with novellas, and the synopsis talks of the beautiful development of a friendship - how can that be done in 74 pages? I was intrigued, so thought I'd give it a go!

This is the story of Hans, a 16-year-old Jew, living in Stuttgart in the 1930s. One day, his first true friend walks into his classroom in the form of Konradin, a Christian. The reader is expertly guided through the development and blossoming of their beautiful friendship in only around 30 pages, but yet it never seems to lack detail.

All of a sudden their friendship is turned upside down by the rise of the Nazis, and the fall in respect for the Jews. Hans suffers with extreme feeling of betrayal as he watches his friend mould into the anti-Semitic views of his family, and he himself is sent to America for safety.

The ending is so delicious and warm-hearted, it made me so happy! True friendship never really goes away, it can just sometimes take a while to find your way back to it when the world is trying to push you off its path. The story is so powerful when it asks the question: why did being a Jew and being German have to become mutually exclusive?

This novella is a great testament to the few words needed to make a powerful and poignant story if those words are expertly chosen. It's a work of art, really.

Do you enjoy reading novellas? Are they always this good?! Can anyone give me recommendations of others I might like? I would love to hear from you :) 

T: The Accident

Hello again and welcome back for the second instalment of my weekend readathon! :) This time I am going to talk to you about my 'T', which was 'The Accident' by C.L Taylor.

I really love crime novels. My favourite authors tend to focus on crime on a big level, like as part of the Ministry of Defence, or huge company fraud or international drug rings. This book really intrigued me because it was crime on a much more local level. I'll show you the synopsis that gripped me:

I just thought this was so intriguing, and had to pick it up! I have to say, I was completely hooked from the moment I started reading until the very last page. Taylor had a really clever way of keeping my attention: a chapter of the main story would be left on an epic cliffhanger, then I would be forced to hurriedly read through a diary entry from the past to get back to the main story and find out where the excitement would take me! It was like the frustration of an ad-break halfway through the climax of a film! It was just so fantastically written! There were parts that really made me laugh, there were parts that made me really feel sad for Sue and it was quite emotional! Obviously I can't give away too many details of the plot, but I think it was fab, and even the ending was just utter perfection. 

The comparison to 'Before I Go to Sleep', which is one of my all-time favourite books, is perfectly justified: it is definitely in the same league! I thoroughly recommend you pick this book up! A solid 5-stars from me! :) 

As always, let me know what you think of this book if you have read it...I really hope I encourage even just one of you to pick it up! 

S: The Lovely Bones

Hello and happy rainy weekend! :) This has been the perfect opportunity for me to have an epic read-athon, so I started my weekend on S, and am now almost finished W! :) I guess I should therefore apologise for the review spam you are likely to receive in the next few days as I catch up! :)

So, first off I bring you my review of 'The Lovely Bones', by Alice Sebold. This has been on my TBR list forever, as I have always been very intrigued by the premise: a girl being murdered and then watching what happens to her family once she is gone? Who wouldn't want to see how people reacted to their death?

So, my A-Z challenge gave me the perfect excuse to buy this book and read it as my 'S'. In my time working in Waterstones I have seen many beautiful covers for this, but this is by far my favourite, and I was so happy that it was sitting in Picadilly for me the day I wanted to buy it!

So, for me, the book started off really well. You are immediately introduced to the fact that Susie was murdered, and how that comes about. She then takes you back a few months, to give you a feeling for her personal connection to all those she then decides to watch from heaven. It gave me everything I wanted in the first 100 pages, particularly a really thought-provoking description of heaven and how it is possible to make it everything you want to be. That's a comfort, it's heart-warming and it's just lovely. 

As the police seemed to get farther and farther from solving the mystery of her crime, her family (father in particular) became more and more determined to solve it themselves. For some reason though, their frantic search for her killer wasn't nearly as saturated with emotion as it should have been. For this story to have gripped and moved me, I needed to feel a lot more strongly connected to the characters, and needed to feel close to crying along with them. In the absence of that, I actually felt that the storyline seemed pretty flat. I wasn't engaged with it, and at times became quite bored, which I am ashamed to say! 

I read the foreword after finishing it, where the writer says she first read this book in her 20s and didn't really get the deep meaning in it. She then read it again 10-15 years later and suddenly it was so much more emotive and thought-provoking. Maybe that's my issue? Maybe I should return to this in 10 years and see whether my opinion changes?

For now I just think that a lot more could have been made of such an intriguing and unique storyline! Also, the ending for me was just plain bizarre! I know the whole thing is not 'normal; or plausible, but that bit was just strange! 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one! I am sure there are many people reading this who can't believe I have anything bad to say about this book, so please make yourself known in the comments below! I'd love to talk about it :)