Wednesday 30 September 2015


Welcome back to Top Five Wednesday! Top Five Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can see the complete list of Wednesday-ers here. This week's topic is 'banned books you've read'.

As you may know, this week is the American Library Association (ALA)'s Banned Books Week; as they describe it, an 'annual celebration of the freedom to read'. Historically, censorship has always been a problem but many books are still challenged and even banned in some places today, as their content is deemed 'inappropriate'.

From the Banned Books Week website:
"Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014, and many more go unreported."

So I've had a read of the ALA website and chosen five banned or challenged books that I've read to feature today:

01. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker.
I mentioned this book in a previous Top Five Wednesday on required reading, because this was a book that I studied in school and might not have read otherwise. As I mentioned in that post The Colour Purple focuses on the lives of African-American women in rural 1930s Georgia; it's an epistolary novel from the perspective of fourteen year old Celie, and follows her for over thirty years through her struggles with abuse, sexism, racism, love and illness. It is undoubtedly Walker's frank treatment of these themes which have made it a frequently challenged and banned book since it's publication in 1982, and I would urge you to read it.

02. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
This important book was also mentioned in my required reading post and you've definitely heard of it even if you haven't read it. It's another book which deals largely with themes of racism and the ALA has reported it as one of the most frequently challenged classics of all time, it even ranked at number 21 in the 100 most frequently challenged books of 2000-2009. How ridiculous is that? I'm glad that in the UK at least it's still a key book in literary education and is on the curriculum of many secondary schools.

03. Looking For Alaska by John Green.
Although probably my least favourite John Green novel, I still enjoyed Looking For Alaska and thought that it was beautifully written. It's a boarding school novel that follows Miles "Pudge" Halter as he meets and falls in love with fellow classmate Alaska. Looking For Alaska has been frequently challenged and even banned in some school districts since it's release. It's been described as encouraging "gateway sexual activity", as it contains one (disastrous and not at all encouraging, might I add) oral sex scene, which is one of two mildly-erotic scenes in the novel. John Green himself has addressed the complete ridiculousness of these challenges in his 2012 video entitled "I am not a pornographer".

04. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
I mentioned Perks in my top five books with mental health post as a book that helped me recognise my illness and one of my favourite books of all time, yet it's one of the most frequently challenged books of the 21st century. It was ranked at number eight in the top ten  most frequently challenged books of 2014 and has been in the top ten list six times in the last ten years. 

05. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. (not pictured)
This book isn't pictured as I don't actually own a copy but I remember reading it at school and loving it. It's about a boy named Max who, after causing havoc, is sent to his room without supper where he sails away to the island of the wild things and becomes their leader. This brilliant children's book from one of the world's most renowned illustrators was banned across the USA immediately after it's release and has since been frequently challenged because of it's realistic portrayal of children as less than angelic and it has been flagged by many as 'psychologically damaging' to young children.Yeah, right.

So those are my top five picks for banned books that I've read. I really enjoyed the research for this post and found it so interesting to see the variety of books that have been frequently challenged and banned over the years!

Have you read any of these books? What do you think about them being banned?

Monday 28 September 2015


It's the old cliché again but September really has gone by ridiculously fast, summer has faded (mostly) and I'm starting to get really excited for Autumn and all the goodness it brings. But for now let's savour September and have a look back at all the things I've been enjoying this month...

01. Fresh Flowers
This month has been a great one for flowers. Around the middle of the month my mum bought me a beautiful bunch of chrysanthemum's from Asda and they're still going! I'm so impressed with them, and they've been great for Instagram. I was also blown away this week when I received a stunning bouquet through my letterbox from my wonderful friends who wanted to cheer me up because I've been having a bit of a difficult time lately. They sent me the Eleanor bouquet from Bloom & Wild and they're just absolutely beautiful. I'm so grateful for that gift and the support of my friends, I was more than a little bit teary-eyed when it arrived.

02. Ru Paul's Drag Race
If you've never heard of Drag Race then you're seriously missing out. It's basically a reality competition to find America's next drag superstar and it's insanely addictive. My boyfriend and I actually started watching this show last year but have recently got back into it and we've gone through nearly the entire thing. It's ridiculous and hilarious and the respect I have for the talent of these queens is just through the roof. It's on Netflix, so get streaming ASAP.

03. Tidying and Organising
After buying Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying at the beginning of the month I was super motivated for a big clearout and to finally get organised. I'll go into more about the book in my monthly wrap-up but it's actually the after effects of reading it that have been a favourite this month. I've gone through every single thing I own and cleared out about 10 bin bags of stuff (I've actually lost count at this point so it could be a lot more), everything has either gone to my sister or to charity and I feel amazing! Before the clearout I had two wardrobes and a chest of drawers full of clothes, I've now managed to empty and get rid of an entire wardrobe and in it's place I'm getting a new bookcase, so it's win win! I've just really enjoyed tidying and organising everything and now have a much greater appreciation for the things I own. I would recommend that anyone get this book to get motivated to start moving towards an organised life.

04. Kiko Smart Lipstick in 913 Rosewood
I picked this up on a recent trip to Kiko in Nottingham, I'm always so impressed with the range and quality of the products in there and they're always at such crazily cheap prices! This is quite a dark pinky-nude shade and because my lips are pretty pigmented already it's definitely a my-lips-but-better shade for me. It's quite similar to both Mac's Plumful and Syrup, both of which I have, but it's less purple than Plumful and doesn't seem to wash me out as much as Syrup, It's actually super long lasting and it's perfect for everyday wear, and at £3.90 you can't go wrong!

I gave into the temptation of bookstagram and ended up ordering a couple of new magnetic bookmarks from two different Etsy shops and I love them! The little sleeping moon is from Happy Hello Co. and the zombie is from Crafted Van.

06. Candles
Candle season has definitely arrived! I don't tend to light them much in the summer as I'm just outdoors more and as it's brighter and warmer I usually forget. But as the nights draw in and the evenings generally get cosier I've been turning back towards some old favourites. Including the White Lily and Silk Pintail candle, this smells divine and burns so well (have a look on ebay, I got a pack of six for under a tenner). I'm definitely on the look out for some spicier scents for those autumnal days and maybe a pumpkin one, so if you have any recommendations please leave a comment!

07. Baths
As I said the nights are starting to draw in and for me that means regular evening baths. I don't take many baths in the summer because of the warmer weather but I've definitely enjoyed sinking into a Lush bubble bath lately. I get a lot more reading done on evenings where I have a bath because I tend to just sit there soaking and reading for over an hour, which is totally fine by me!

08. Lily Pebbles
I've been a fan of Lily Pebbles for years but I've really been enjoying her videos just lately, particularly as she's recently moved so there have been quite a lot of home-related videos which are some of my favourites. I really think that Lily works so hard and puts so much effort into her videos and it definitely shows, I would say that the quality and content of her videos is far beyond that of some of the 'bigger' YouTubers. I think she handles 'ad' videos particularly well, she always puts extra effort in and it never seems forced or fake (I actually don't see the problem with getting paid for videos as that's her job, but it's a big controversy so I thought I'd address it). I just really love every video she puts up and I look forward to the days that she uploads.

So those have more or less been my favourite things this past month. So goodbye September, but welcome October! I have some exciting things happening on the blog next month, starting promptly on Thursday so look out for that...hint: Blogtober...oooooh I wonder what it could be? Stay tuned!

Saturday 26 September 2015


It's taken me a long time to get around to writing this post because for a long time I was still trying to decide how I felt about the film and whether I wanted to write this post at all. I've been a huge fan of John Green since about 2012, I read Looking For Alaska first and although I didn't love it I did love John's work as part of the Vlogbrothers so I wanted to read more. I swiftly read The Fault in Our Stars and loved it, and then I read Paper Towns. 

At the time, Paper Towns completely floored me. It affected me in a way that no other book had before and I just loved it so much. I have since classed it as my favourite John Green book and one of my favourite books of all time. Since my first reading, I don't feel as strongly about it as I initially did, I'm aware that there are some thematic and ideological issues with the book and I'm not sure how much I love the overall message. I do still think it's a great book though and was looking forward to the film with huge anticipation. I went to see it with a friend and scribbled down my initial reactions immediately afterwards. What follows is a mixture of those reactions and some more coherent thoughts that I've developed since then.

When reading the book I didn't really connect to the side characters  and didn't much care about their part in the narrative, but in the film they were actually my favourite part. I loved the depictions of friendship and the other relationships. The Pokemon scene was so delightfully unexpected and so hilarious and real - I really believed that these were lifelong friends. I really liked the idea that Paper Towns was as much about friendship and high school as anything else.

I thought all the performances were outstanding, Cara's perhaps a little bit less (but that's probably due to my issues with her character), although her 'American' accent didn't annoy me too much. Cara did a pretty good job of embodying the Margo from the book, I just much preferred the scenes without her in. My favourite scenes were the ones that weren't Margo-centric. And here lie my problematic feelings about the film. I thought that the attempt to deconstruct the idea of the 'manic-pixie-dream-girl' was flawed and although a good attempt was made in parts, it was overall quite confusingly delivered and I'm not sure how well the message was conveyed. I went to see the film with a friend who hadn't read the book and she kind of summed it up well: "It's like they want to make it clear that she's just a person, but that she's a beautiful, quirky, mysterious person". So still maintaining the idea of Margo as a fantasy, as a mystery. For me, it just came across as quite confusing. Although, as in the book, Q states 'what a treacherous idea it is to think that a person is more than a person', by the end of the film an air of attractive mystery still seems to surround Margo, and that really bothered me.

Ben was a standout character for me. In the book I wasn't very fond of Ben and just couldn't really connect with his character but Austin Abrams, the actor who played Ben, really pulled it out on screen and made Ben so utterly real and relateable and hilarious. I particularly liked how Ben didn't buy in to the mystery of Margo. I liked that he didn't think that Margo deserved a friend like Lacey and I liked how in a particular scene, Ben and Radar's normality and realistic reactions contrasted so strongly with Q's obsession with the mystery of Margo and threw into further relief the ridiculousness of imagining other people as mythic fantasies or beacons of beautiful perfection or 'miracles'. At times the film did really well at deconstructing this trope but it fell a little flat at the end. They just slightly missed the mark. But it's ok, it was still a great movie with beautiful cinematography, outstanding performances and a cracking soundtrack - albeit a slightly confused overall message.

I don't tend to rate movies in the same way that I do books but I did really enjoy this one and will probably be picking it up when it comes out on DVD.

Have you seen Paper Towns? What did you think?

Wednesday 23 September 2015


Today I'm back with another Top Five Wednesday! Top Five Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can check out the complete list of Wednesday-ers here. This week's topic is 'title fonts on covers'.

This is such a cute lighthearted topic and gave me a chance to look over the books on my bookshelves to find the pretty title fonts. There are so many nice ones but I've just selected a few favourites here, some obvious, some not so obvious. I know that a lot goes into cover design so where possible I have tried to credit the designer/artist and noted the edition so that you can get your hands on these pretty books too! So in no particular order, let's take a look:

01. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This is the Orion Books 2013 paperback edition of Eleanor and Park and the cover is designed by Harriet Russell. I just love the title font on this one, it's so simple and sweet and is just perfect for this HEARTBREAKING but amazing YA contemporary. You can buy this edition here.

02. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Every Grisha trilogy cover is just STUNNING so really I'm cheating and choosing the whole trilogy here and representing it with Shadow and Bone. This is the Indigo Books 2014 paperback edition and the cover art is by Jen Wang whilst the cover design is by Richard Deas. The title is beautifully embossed so it really stands out and I think the font captures the mystery, regality and magic of the book whilst also referencing the book's Russian influences. This is possibly my favourite! You can buy this edition here.

03. Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle
Isn't this book just beautiful? This is the Hot Key Books 2013 paperback edition with design and lettering by Jan Bielecki. I usually don't really like photographs on book covers but this is definitely an exception. The title and the photograph work so well together and just draw you in. The title font is unlike anything I've seen before and really suits this quirky YA post-apocalyptic novel. You can buy this edition here.

04. Please Don't Come Back From the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos
This is one you probably won't have heard of and I hadn't either until I came across it at a second-hand book stall a few years ago. To be honest it was the cover that really drew me in but I also found the strange blurb very intriguing:
The summer Michael Smolij turns sixteen, his father disappears. One by one other men also vanish from the blue-collar neighborhood outside Detroit where their fathers before them had lived, raised families, and, in a more promising era, worked. One man props open the door to his shoe store and leaves a note. "I'm going to the moon," it reads. "I took the cash.".
It's an excellent book and looking at the cover again makes me want to re-read it. This is the Black Swan 2006 paperback edition with cover design and illustration by Gavin Morris. The cover is simple black and white but there's also something strange about the font which only adds to the mystery of the title, and it's nicely textured with embossing - I love tactile covers! Definitely one of my top favourites! You can buy this edition here.

05. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
I'm not the hugest fan of this book but it's still a cute story with an even cuter cover! I picked this one because the title font is in the style of handwriting which goes really well with the themes of this book. It's girly and sweet and youthful which just completely sums up To All the Boys I've Loved Before. This is the Scholastic 2014 paperback edition which I'm pretty sure was designed by Lucy Ruth Cummins. You can buy this edition here.

So those are my top five title fonts on covers! Please let me know if you've done a Top Five Wednesday post by linking it in the comments :)

*I am a Book Depository affiliate, so if you buy any books using this link or the links in the above post then I'll receive a small commission which goes towards supporting this blog!*

What do you think of these book covers?

Monday 21 September 2015


Being Me by Pete Kalu
Published by HopeRoad Publishing on 17th September 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Hope Road Publishing
Buy From Amazon

Being Me is the story of Adele, a girl with a rotten family, an aching heart, and a questionable best friend, it’s a witty, lively novel of growing up female, black, and middle class in contemporary London. As Adele navigates an everyday gauntlet of soccer matches, fights with her best friend, texts and furtive kisses with her boyfriend (her first!), and the travails of her screwed up family, Pete Kalu takes us back to those tough teen years, of learning to hold things together in the midst of chaos—and sorting things out by figuring out just who you are, and who you want to be.

I'm really happy to be kicking off the blog tour for Being Me by Pete Kalu with a piece by Pete on defying gender stereotypes in YA!


Girls defying gender roles in YA
by Pete Kalu 

In Being Me, the main character Adele defies anyone to categorise her using lazy gender stereotypes:

‘I’m not a girl, I’m not a boy! I’m me!’

Adele has wit. Speed. Ambition. Push-back. Invention. These elements of her character seem to me to exist naturally and evenly distributed across genders in our early years. Yet girls get this zest squashed out of them as they enter puberty. For evidence of this, take a look at the blog experiment ‘Run Like A Girl’

But there is positive change happening. A recent survey by The Fusion Poll suggests that 50% of Millennials believe gender exists on a spectrum rather than as a strict binary. Put another way, half of young people think gender is not restricted to simple male and female. Instead anyone can have a combination of male and female attributes. In Being Me, Adele expresses her gender in the ways she is most comfortable with.  In the first chapter you see her score a brilliant goal, then coolly mime painting her nails. We can be athletes and feminine, she is saying. Anyone attempting to reel in her devil-may-care attitude, her confidence, her nonchalance for other people’s ideas of what being a girl means are in for a hard time!

I conceived Being Me as a reworking of the Cinderella story. In the original, Cinders had a talent for dance. In Being Me it’s football. In both cases, it’s all about the footwork!  Adele shows some of the traditional Cinders ‘feminine’ tropes – she conforms to the family’s expectations of her by helping everyone - cooking, tidying up, being a good listener. Her family –Mum, Dad, brother, in their own ways, take her for granted.  I gave her a brother so the contrast in their treatment could be made apparent: the brother’s sporting achievements lauded, Adele’s ignored; the brother out all hours no questions asked, Adele quizzed and monitored.

The driven side to Adele is not all good. She shoplifts, she acts impetuously - Adele does not have much of the stereotypically female virtue of being able to wait patiently - for someone to marry you, rescue you, offer you a job etc. This is a girl who leads, who acts, even if her energies sometimes get misdirected. Yet there is good as well as bad in Adele’s intensity. She forces her mum to finally deal with demons that had been plaguing her for years.

So an acknowledgement that tenacity, ambition and irrepressibility of spirit are gender-neutral virtues has been key for me in developing a millennial girl character who does not fall into gender tropes.

Adele in Being Me sits alongside some other great non-conventional girl YA characters such as Lyra in His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, Sephy in Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy and the fascinating title heroine in Catherine Johnsons’ most recent novel, The Curious Tale of Lady Caraboo.


My rating: ☆☆

I received this book for free from HopeRoad Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Being Me is told from Adele's very realistic perspective, in her introduction she explains that what follows are her diary entries and she apologises that her story isn't neatly wrapped up because 'the way this stuff happened, there was no neat and happy ending', real life just isn't like that. It is this realism that sets Being Me apart from a lot of other YA contemporaries. There is no naive beginning, fraught middle and blissful ending - it's just life. The chapters read like a stream of consciousness; there are observations, unfiltered opinions and contradictions. It is an honest and raw insight into Adele's teenage experience, which is at once individual and universal.

Adele's family life isn't ideal, they are dealing with various difficulties but Being Me avoids becoming an outright 'issue' book. The writing is never maudlin or trite and Kalu never tries too hard to make Adele a stereotypical 'inspirational' character, who is overcoming her difficulties with emotional grace. Adele is instead a very real fourteen year old, she's flawed and well-rounded and human. She has good and bad traits and although she isn't perfect she's just trying to get the most out of life.

I really enjoyed the representation of female friendship in the novel, although Adele and her best friend Mikaela don't have the perfect relationship they are there for each other in a way that isn't replicated in any of Adele's relationships. Adele and Mikaela are very different from each other but they are also both headstrong and competitive which leads to frequent clashes and conflict that is resolved just as quickly as it begins. I found this to be very representative of teenage friendship; it can be dramatic but that's only because it is based on strong feelings and coming back together after conflict is easy. 

I really liked that although Adele has a boyfriend, the relationship is in the background, it is fun, sometimes comfortable and sometimes exciting but it doesn't take over the narrative - it isn't her whole life. Being Me is about Adele's life; Adele's life is about Adele and everything else is just a part of that.

In Being Me, Kalu has captured the voice of a fourteen year old girl extremely well and this showcases his flexibility and intuition as a writer. I devoured this book in two sittings and would highly recommend this to anyone from ages 14 to 114, but particularly to teenagers who want to read a voice just like theirs.


Being Me by Pete Kalu was published on September 17th 2015 and is available from Amazon now!

Saturday 19 September 2015


#RYBSAT is a readathon that was started by Miranda from Bookss101. You can watch her announcement video for RYBSAT Round 6 here!

RYBSAT stands for Read Your Bookshelf-A-Thon, and basically you just pick a spot on your bookshelf and just read from there, seeing how many books you can complete in a week. The readathon will be running from 22nd to the 29th wherever you are in the world and the idea is to join in and update your progress on social media using #RYBSAT. This is the second time I've participated in this particular readathon and I hoping it'll go better than last time!

I recently rearranged my bookshelves and have a bit more of an organised TBR shelf so I decided to just start at the beginning of that shelf. So here's a little bit about the books I'm planning to get to next week:

Blue Noon by Scott Westerfeld
This is the third book in the Midnighters trilogy and I'm really looking forward to getting back into this world and seeing how the series ends. These books are paranormal YA and I really enjoyed the first two books so I hope the third lives up to my expectations!

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I've had this and The Lost World hanging around my bookshelf for a while so I think it'll be good to finally get into it. The great thing about RYBSAT is that you only have to read the first book in a series before moving on to something else, so in order to have as much variety as possible I don't think I'll be getting to the The Lost World this week.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
After reading The Day of the Triffids earlier in the year I was desperate for some more John Wyndham so I picked this up, and typical me I let it sit on my bookshelf for half a year. This is an adult science fiction about a town where all the women become pregnant at once and give birth to children who begin to act very strangely. I'm really looking forward to this one!

Lorali by Laura Dockrill
I'm not sure I'll manage to get to this as I don't think I've read much more than three books in a week before but we'll see. Lorali is a YA fantasy about a mermaid who rejects her life in the sea to become human and is discovered by bemused sixteen year old Rory, and the story takes off from there. I haven't ever read a book about mermaids before so this will be interesting!

So those are the books I hope to get to during #RYBSAT, I'll be posting updates on Twitter and Instagram so go and follow me there to keep up :)

Will you be taking part in #RYBSAT?

Wednesday 16 September 2015


It's Top Five Wednesday time again! Top Five Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can check out the complete list of wednesday-ers here. This weeks topic is 'top books with mental health/illness.'

As someone who has been dealing with mental health issues for over a decade, this is a topic that's very close to my heart. I haven't actually read a huge amount of books where the topic of mental health is dealt with particularly well so it was actually quite easy for me to pick out those books which do. I have chosen these particular books for a variety of reasons, from realistic depictions of mental health to positive ruminations on getting better. If you are dealing with mental health issues then some of these books might be of interest to you and even if you're not then I still highly recommend all of them!

01. The Rest of us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.
The best thing about the representation of mental health in this book is that it isn't the main 'issue', some of the characters just happen to be dealing with mental health issues alongside the main storyline. I love this because it's just so representative of real life; although mental illness can often be overwhelming and the main theme of someone's life, it just as often isn't. Mental health is just one portion of life that we as humans often have to deal with, alongside everything else that's going on. Patrick Ness shows us that whilst dealing with mental health issues is extremely difficult, it isn't EVERYTHING, it is just one part of our lives, it isn't the whole of our lives. I just love this. Please read this book.

02. It's Kind of a Funny Story Ned Vizzini.
I haven't actually read this for a few years so I am a little fuzzy on it. However I do remember that it was one of the first books I read where a main character was openly dealing with mental illness, and that felt very important to me. The book is realistic and heartbreaking but also funny and surprising. Ned Vizzini was inspired to write It's Kind of a Funny Story after his own brief hospitalisation for depression and unfortunately he ended his life in 2013. For me, even though this makes the novel more difficult to read, knowing that Ned was struggling so greatly, it just shows that mental health is something that needs to be addressed, it needs to be talked about and represented in the books that we read so that awareness is spread and people get the help they need.

03. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
As with many people, this book resonated with me hugely. The main character, Charlie, suffers from depression and anxiety, and the thoughts that he expresses on every page were thoughts that had been going through my head for years. I read it at a time when, looking back, I had clearly been sturggling with mental illness for years but I was undiagnosed at that point. I didn't think that my issues were serious enough to be considered an illness but I was desperately looking for representations of how I felt so I could try and define it and work through it some how. I was shocked at how accurately Chbosky replicated the thoughts and feelings of mental illness and I was completely captivated. I also thought that the film was pretty excellent, Chbosky wrote the screenplay so it definitely lived up to my expectations. I just felt like this was me being represented, it was everything that I had been thinking and feeling and I remember sitting in the cinema and sobbing at a particular scene because it hit such a raw nerve with the things that I was going through. It's definitely one for people who are struggling to figure out what they're feeling and why they're feeling it. This is getting rambly so I'm going to stop but you should probably read this book if you haven't already.

04. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman.
I chose this as it is one of the earliest representations of mental health that I have read. First published in 1892, this story of a woman's declining mental health has become a classic due to it's status as an important early feminist text and it's representation of 19th century attitudes to women's physical and mental health. It is captivating and disturbing and speaks volumes about the stigma attached to mental health, particularly in terms of women. It's an extremely short story and I really recommend it to anyone.

05. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
I won't go on too much about this one as I've already posted a full review which you can read here. Here's a little snippet from my review which basically sums up my thoughts about this non-fiction book:
The thing about depression is that it's just so hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it. Matt Haig manages to accurately describe depression and anxiety and how he personally manages these illnesses without ever sounding maudlin, trite or preachy. I now feel I can just press this book upon people and say 'here, read this, this is me, you will know me now'. Matt Haig's writing is frank and beautiful and he manages to put into words thoughts that have been following me around for years.
It is definitely one of the best books I've read this year and one of the best books on mental health that I've ever read. It's one of those books that I want every single human to read.

So those are my top five books with mental health. I recommend that as soon as you're done reading this you go and read one of these books, because they're all brilliant.

Have you read any of these books?
If you've done a Top Five Wednesday post, please link it in the comments below!

Tuesday 15 September 2015


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My rating: ☆☆☆.75

What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle's estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won't enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty--unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him. [summary from Goodreads]

When I discovered this classic:
Much like A Little Princess and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, I used to watch the film adaption of The Secret Garden all the time as a child. I think at the time I was aware that there was a book and I acquired it at some point before now, I'm not sure where from.

Why I chose to read it:
After two months of Austen, I decided to take a break and go for a children's classic. I've always been interested to see if the book was different from the film and I hoped that the beauty of the garden would be dwelt upon in detailed, descriptive prose. I also thought it would be a nice classic to round out the summer with, by sitting in the garden and enjoying nature whilst reading about it.

What makes it a classic?
I think that it's themes of imagination and childhood fascination with learning and growing are enduring and universal. It is written in a way that is still accessible to children today and it's descriptive language really draws the reader into it's world. It is a story that (apart from the of-it's-time racism and ideas about health) pretty much stands the test of time and remains enjoyable to someone of any age.

What I thought of this classic:
I loved the beautiful descriptions of the garden and the surrounding environments of Misselthwaite Manor. In The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett gave life to the Yorkshire moors and the countryside and described the environment in so much depth that I truly felt like I was there. I can only imagine how captivating this would be for a child whose imagination is far superior to mine. I also thought that the development of the friendships between the children in the book was excellent as they were all very different in terms of background and personality but they were all equal in their enjoyment of the garden. For me this so completely encapsulates the reality of childhood friendship. Children, generally speaking, are far less awkward and far more socially adept than adults and I thought that this was portrayed excellently in the novel.

Although I did enjoy The Secret Garden there were a few things which gave me pause and stopped me from rating it quite as highly as A Little Princess or The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I personally found Mary's character development to be far too sudden. I know that children generally adapt quite easily to change but I kind of refuse to believe that a particular personality can change so easily just be the person being exposed to some old fashioned fresh air. In fact the general representation throughout the novel of nature being a cure-all was a bit too over the top for me. I do understand that this was the perculating theory of the time but I do think it takes away from the timelessness of the novel. Also as a person living with chronic illness it just kind of left a bitter taste in my mouth (but that's an extremely subjective opinion). It is definitely a good read but it's not quite as timeless as other children's classics.

Will it stay a classic?
I imagine so, I think that it's a book that is still read in primary schools and the existence of the film helps to solidify it's status as a classic and will hopefully, as it did for me, direct people towards the book.

Who I would recommend it to:
People who LOVE gardens! But seriously, anyone who wants to be transported to the great outdoors via books, and anyone who enjoys a good descriptive passage.

The 2015 Classics Challenge is hosted by Stacey of Pretty Books and you can find out more about it here.

Have you read The Secret Garden? What did you think?

Sunday 13 September 2015


August was definitely a crazy month for books! In total, I acquired 21 books, but I didn't actually buy all those so I figure it's okay. You know how this works by now so let's get right into it...

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson - £7.99, Waterstones, Liverpool.
This excellent graphic novel has been getting a lot of hype in the book community lately so I couldn't resist when I saw it in Waterstones last month. It's such a beautiful piece of art as well as a wonderful story and I'm really pleased that I've got it as I'm already planning a reread!

Penguin Little Black Classics: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime by Oscar Wilde, On the Beach at Night Alone by Walt Whitman, The Beautiful Cassandra by Jane Austen - 80p each, Waterstones, Liverpool.
Whilst in Waterstones I decided to pick up a few more Penguin Little Black Classics as they're so cheap and I think they're such a good way to try out authors I might have been intimidated by. I haven't read anything by Oscar Wilde before and I've only had a taste of Walt Whitman so I'm really looking forward to those, and I just couldn't resist Jane Austen as she's one of my all-time favourites.

Dracula by Bram Stoker - 30p, charity shop.
I caught sight of this Vintage classic edition and thought it would be great to read in October for the 2015 Classics challenge (It's not too late to sign up!). It's got a great cover, white with just a splash of blood, suitably creepy for Halloween month.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - £2, charity shop.
I think I'm the only person who hasn't ready this modern classic by Margaret Atwood so when I spotted it in a charity shop I thought I'd better pick it up. I also reckon it could be another candidate for the classics challenge!

Remix by Non Pratt - £3.85, Asda.
This brilliant book got a lot of hype this summer so I grabbed it and read it just before the summer ended. It's about two best friends at a festival where all kinds of shenanigans ensue! (Yeah I just said shenanigans, and what?) I seriously recommend that you pick this up if you spot it because it's a brilliant story of friendship and fun.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness - £12.99, Waterstones Exclusive Edition.
I pre-ordered an exclusive signed Waterstones edition with the yellow-sprayed edges a couple of months ago and I was so happy when it arrived on publication day! It's such a beautiful book and the story isn't so bad either ;) I would frankly read anything Patrick Ness writes but this is definitely up their with my favourites.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - £7.99, Jarrold's, Cromer.
I can never pass up a visit to a bookshop when I'm nearby and find it very difficult to leave without a purchase. When I was in Jarrold's bookshop in Cromer on the bank holiday weekend I headed straight for the YA section and was pleased to find that they had a buy one get one half price offer on so I decided to pick up this much-talked-about contemporary along with...

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - £7.99 (but on a buy one get one half price offer), Jarrold's Cromer
I think I'm the only person left in the book community who hasn't read this so I thought it was about time I find out what all the hype is about. It doesn't hurt that these editions are just beautiful with their white spines and colourful covers, I may have already done an online order for the next two in the series...

Cinder by Marissa Meyer - 99p, charity shop.
I was really pleased when I spotted this in a charity shop as I've been meaning to read the Lunar Chronicles series for ages. It's one of the most hyped series on BookTube right now, especially with Winter coming out later this year. This was such a bargain at 99p!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman - £1.99, charity shop.
I'm pretty ashamed that I still haven't read anything by Neil Gaiman and this is one of his most hyped up books so I thought I'd better grab it when I saw it. I'm not actually sure what it's about but it's Neil Gaiman so I assume it's brilliant.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson - £3.99, Downtown Superstore.
As mentioned in last month's favourites I've been really into true crime lately so when I saw this book about the infamous 'psychopath test' I decided to pick it up. I like to mix it up with non-fiction now and again and I think this will be an interesting read.

Hot Key Books Proof Bundle: Lorali by Laura Dockrill, Run by Gregg Olsen, The Elites by Natasha Ngan, Big Rock and the Masked Avenger by Jim Eldridge, We Were Liars by E.Lockhart, Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
When Hot Key Books were moving offices a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be sent a bundle of spare proofs that they needed to great rid of. They were picked at random and I got a really great bunch. I already own We Were Liars and Paper Aeroplanes but it's great to have a proof of them. I'm particularly looking forward to reading Lorali because MERMAIDS and Run Gregg Olsen looks to be a really interesting YA thriller, so I'm excited to get to that!

The Wicked and the Divine, Volume One by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie - £5.39, Wordery.
After reading Nimona  I was really in the mood for more comics/graphic novels so I ordered this beauty from Wordery. The art is so beautiful and I'm already planning to get the next volume.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo - £7.66, Wordery.
I had seen a lot of people talking about this book on social media, and not just bookish people, so that had me interested. I'm always looking to reduce the amount I own and be a more organised person so I was completely sold. I've already read this and begun to implement it's wisdom so expect to read more about that in my wrap up for this month!

Those are all the books I bought in August, 21 in total, no regrets!

Have you read any of these books? What have you been buying lately?

Wednesday 9 September 2015


Welcome back to Top Five Wednesday! Top Five Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can see the complete list of Wednesday-ers here. This week's topic is 'favourite things about blogging/booktubing'.

I think this is such a lovely topic as blogging is one of the best things I have in my life right now and I'm really going to enjoy reading about/watching why others enjoy talking about books as much as I do! So in no particular order, here are my favourite things about blogging:

01. The bookish community.
The openness and friendliness of the bookish community is one of the main motivations that helped me to start my blog. I was reading a lot of blogs and watching a lot of BookTube and the things that stood out to me the most were how enthusiastic and kind everyone is and seeing all the great relationships that have formed out of just talking about books online! Since joining the community I've been introduced to some really great people and I really enjoy the interactivity of blogging. I especially love the conversations that are always happening on Twitter, whether it's just fun interactions or getting involved with big Twitter chats, it's just a great place to be! If you want to follow me on Twitter so we can talk books, you can find me at @sarahs_chapter, I'd love to get to know you!

02. Being creative with photography.
One of the most surprising, but most welcome, things that I've learned since starting my blog is that I really really love taking and editing photos. I love accompanying my blogposts with well-thought out and styled photos and I absolutely love sharing them on Instagram (@sarahschapter). Photography is one of the things I look forward to the most when planning blogposts and it's something I really enjoy working on getting better at.

03. Discovering New Books
Whether it's through social media interactions with other bloggers, opportunities from authors and publishers who've contacted me or just reading blogs, I'm always finding new books to add to my TBR. The majority of books that I've read this year are ones that I probably wouldn't have discovered without the blogging community and it's really helped me to expand my horizons in terms of genres and opened me up to reading more diverse books.

04. Reading more.
This is kind of an obvious one, but keeping to a schedule and knowing I need to create fresh content three times a week is a great motivator in getting more reading done. Since joining the blogging community I'm inspired to read a lot more often and I even think I'm enjoying the books I read more, knowing that I can share and discuss them with like-minded people. I've also really enjoyed keeping track of my reading on Goodreads, seeing how much I've read this year makes me feel wonderful and just makes me want to read even more.

05. Feeling productive.
Blogging has become a really important aspect of my life because it's something that keeps me motivated and helps me to establish a routine. I haven't spoken much about this on this blog but I've been struggling with my health for quite a long time and earlier this year I was diagnosed with ME (otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). This means that I'm limited in what I can do, normal things like running errands and socialising are very difficult for me and unfortunately at the moment I'm unable to work. So at 23 years old, I'm not really living the life I expected. Blogging is something I'm able to do as I can do it from home and on my own schedule, which means I can pace myself and only do it when I'm well enough. It makes me feel like I'm doing something productive with my life and I kind of treat it like my job (even though I'm not getting paid). I won't go on about my health much more but if you would be interested in seeing a blogpost about my experience with chronic illness then let me know.

So those are my top five favourite things about blogging! It feels so good to gush about blogging and the bookish community and I'm so excited to read and watch what everyone else has to say on the topic!

If you've done a Top Five Wednesday post please link it in the comments below, I'm always looking for new blogs to read!

Monday 7 September 2015


Seeing as we are already a week into September I thought it was about time I shared what I plan to read this month, because you were obviously all wondering! I haven't given myself too huge a list as I'm hoping to get some more spontaneous reads in later in the month. So without further ado, here's what I'm going to be reading in September:

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I think I'm the only person in the bookish community who hasn't yet started this series, so when I was in a bookshop in Cromer over the bank holiday weekend I decided it was about time I rectify that. I think I was slightly influenced by all the recent hype over the recent release of the fourth book in the series, Queen of Shadows, which made me realise quite how popular this series has become, and what I'm probably missing out on. I'm going to be starting this book soon and no doubt I'll want to be diving right into the rest of the series so I'd better pick those up!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I picked this up on the same bookshop visit because there was a buy one get one half price offer and this YA contemporary has been on my radar for a while. The book follows Simon, a junior in high school, who is just trying to figure out who he is whilst exchanging emails with anonymous love interest, Blue. But when his emails fall into the wrong hands things suddenly get very complicated for Simon. This was the first book I picked up this month so I've actually already finished it and really enjoyed it. If you're looking for a YA contemporary with great LGBTQ characters then this one's for you.

The Dumb House by John Burnside
If you've been hanging around BookTube or Twitter lately then you might have seen a bit of hype going around about this Scottish classic. Jen Campbell and Jean of BookishThoughts have both had nothing but great things to say about it and I, along with a lot of other people, haven't been able to resist the recommendation. It's kind of hard to explain so here's the book blurb:

As a child, Luke's mother often tells him the story of the Dumb House, an experiment on newborn babies raised in silence, designed to test the innateness of language. As Luke grows up, his interest in language and the delicate balance of life and death leads to amateur dissections of small animals - tiny hearts revealed still pumping, as life trickles away. But as an adult, following the death of his mother, Luke's obsession deepens, resulting in a haunting and bizarre experiment on Luke's own children.

Creepy, right? I've already read this and it's AMAZING, especially for only just over 200 pages. I'll go into more detail in my wrap up or perhaps it's own review, but if you like your stories beautifully written and your narrative dark and twisted, then you really should get your hands on this.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This was my TBR jar pick for the month and I'm really pleased with it as I haven't read Bill Bryson in a while and I don't think I would have got round to this if I hadn't picked it out of the jar as it really is quite intimidatingly large. The title is kind of self-explanatory, it's Bryson's quest to investigate how we got here, from the Big Bang to the rise of civilisation. I love Bryson's writing style and I'm always interested in reading about science and history so I'm looking forward to diving into this one.

Being Me by Pete Kalu
I was kindly sent this book for review from Hope Road Publishing and I'll be participating in the blog tour that starts with my blog on the 21st of this month so keep an eye out for that!
Being Me is the story of Adele, a girl with a rotten family, an aching heart, and a questionable best friend, it’s a witty, lively novel of growing up female, black, and middle class in contemporary London. As Adele navigates an everyday gauntlet of soccer matches, fights with her best friend, texts and furtive kisses with her boyfriend (her first!), and the travails of her screwed up family, Pete Kalu takes us back to those tough teen years, of learning to hold things together in the midst of chaos—and sorting things out by figuring out just who you are, and who you want to be. [summary from Goodreads]
I've just started this book and I'm really enjoying it so far so keep an eye out for more blogposts later in the month :)

What will you be reading this month?

Saturday 5 September 2015


# of books read: 9
Genres: 2 adult contemporary, 1 YA contemporary,  1 YA paranormal, 1 YA Fantasy, 1 non-fiction, 2 graphic novels and 1 children's classic.
Total # pages read: 2704

I'm not going to go with the usual cliché of saying that the month went by so fast because I feel like August really stretched out and as I write this, tucked up in a blanket to fight the sudden September chill, the memory of reading some of these books in the hot sunshine already seems like a lifetime ago.

I'm really pleased with both the amount of books and the mix of genres that I read last month, and I read everything on my TBR except for Harry Potter, which isn't necessarily a priority, so I'm pretty happy with that! I stepped out of my comfort zone slightly by trying New Adult and graphic novels for the first time and overall read some really excellent books. So settle down, grab a cup of tea (it really is freezing isn't it?), and let's dive into my August reads...

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover | ☆☆☆.5
I started off the month by continuing with my planned reads for the TBR Takedown readathon which included my first foray into New Adult, Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover. It follows Tate, a student nurse in her 20s, who moves in with her brother and meets his colleague and neighbour Miles. After a few encounters the two embark on a 'friends with benefits' relationship and the story takes off from there. The narrative is told in alternating chapters from Tate and Miles' points of view, just a warning it does contain some pretty explicit sex scenes so if you're uncomfortable with that then this book might not be for you.

I found this to be a completely compulsive read, I just couldn't put it down and read it in one or two sittings. I did enjoy it in general but I did have a few issues with the romance. I didn't really get along with the 'friends with benefits' arrangement and I wasn't really satisfied with the whole idea that people will change if you just wait long enough. I did enjoy Colleen Hoover's writing style though and it hasn't put me off reading more of her books in the future.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham | ☆☆☆.5
Not That Kind of Girl is a collection of 'essays' and I use that term loosely because it has connotations of stuffyness and formality, neither of which describes Lena's book. I really really enjoyed this and am already wanting to re-read it and tab all my favourite lines. I won't go into too much detail because I've already done a full review which you can read here.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | ☆☆
After seeing all the hype about this graphic novel on booktube I was dying to get my hands on it so on a rare trip to Waterstones last month I seized the opportunity and picked it up. This is the first graphic novel I've ever read and I absolutely adored it. It's about a young, kickass, shapeshifting girl who becomes the sidekick to an evil villain trying to take down the establishment, but it's about so much more than that. It's beautiful and hilarious and sad and the art is just so excellent. I want to read it again and again and I probably will.

Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld | 
This is the second book in the Midnighters trilogy so I can't really go into too much detail about the plot except to say that it's a YA paranormal series based on the idea of a secret hour which happens at midnight where everyone is frozen except for a few teenagers with interesting powers and the creatures (called 'darklings') who want to kill them. It sounds kind of cheesy but it's really such a great concept and I think it's executed really well. The world-building is brilliant and I really like the complexity of the characters. I'm really enjoying this series and hope to finish it up soon.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell | 
Attachments is an adult contemporary that follows Lincoln, the 'internet security officer' at a newspaper whose job it is to read everyone's emails. The chapters alternate between Lincoln's point of view and a set of emails exchanged between newspaper movie reviewer Beth and her friend and colleague Jennifer. Lincoln slowly finds himself falling for Beth even though he's never met her, he's just read her emails, and things just get more complicated from there. 

Although I found it a little slow going at first, when I really gave myself a chance to just sit down and get into it I found that I couldn't stop. The second half of the novel picked up majorly, it was both hilarious and heartbreaking and I even found myself close to tears by the end (something which never happens to me whilst reading!). It was just brilliant and it gave me ALL THE FEELS, highly recommend.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett | ☆.75
This was my classic pick for the month and it follows spoiled orphan Mary Lennox who moves away from India after her parents death to her distant uncle's mysterious manor house in Yorkshire. She discovers a secret garden that has been shut for ten years and that's not the only mystery the house has to hold. I won't go into too much detail on my thoughts about this one as I'm going to be reviewing it later in the month for the 2015 Classics Challenge. I did enjoy it but I had some issues that I'll go into further in my review.

Remix by Non Pratt | ☆.5
I bought Remix early on in the month and thought that I should probably read it before the summer ends so that I could properly soak up it's summery atmosphere. This is a YA contemporary from the alternating perspectives of two best friends, Ruby and Kaz, as they embark on their first festival together. It's supposed to be a weekend of celebration, epic music and, most importantly, friendship but add in some troublesome exes, new flings and new friends and it doesn't all go quite according to plan. 

I really really REALLY enjoyed this book, it just reminds me how excellent UKYA can be. Non Pratt's writing is so sharp and funny and she perfectly captures the teenage voices of her characters. I loved that although there were issues of boys and romance involved, the story was ultimately about friendship and how important female friendships are at such a formative stage. It was amazing to see hilarious, kind, self-aware, REALISTIC female protagonists dealing with things like sex, jealousy, drinking, messing up and sorting things out in a realistic way, without all the taboos and the melodrama. I did have some minor issues with how horrendously some of the male characters treated the protagonists and felt like that wasn't really addressed enough but it didn't take too much away from the book's brilliance. I don't really know what I'm saying but basically I bloody loved this and you really should read it.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness | 
This book was one of my most anticipated releases for 2015 and it finally came out on August 27th and my pre-ordered signed exclusive Waterstones edition arrived the same day *squeal*. Once I got over the beauty of the textured jacketless cover and the blue sprayed edges I dove right into the book and had it finished in a few sittings. The Rest of Us Just Live Here follows Mikey, who just wants to get through prom and graduation before one of the chosen ones blows up the high school again. 

I've always wanted to read a YA novel from the perspective of one of the ordinary people who isn't trying to save the world and is just trying to live their life whilst all the mayhem goes on around them. The Rest of Us lived up to all my expectations of this concept; it was hilarious, heartfelt and honest, and although the main characters' problems aren't world-ending it doesn't mean that they aren't just as difficult to live with and that the ordinary can't be extraordinary. Every single character was finely drawn and the world-building was so well done, creating an interesting mix of fantasy and contemporary. I also really appreciated Ness' realistic and honest handling of mental health issues, and how well mental health was blended into the narrative without it becoming a full-on 'issue' novel, because that's what it's like in real life. I absolutely loved The Rest of Us and would recommend it to everyone.

The Wicked and The Divine: Volume One by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie 
After reading Nimona earlier in the month I was really in the mood for another graphic novel, so I picked up volume one of The Wicked and The Divine from Wordery. In this series, twelve gods are incarnated as humans every ninety years, they live like celebrities for two years and then they die. I was immediately blown away by the art style, the images are beautifully detailed and full of fine lines and vibrant colours. I spent quite a long time poring over each panel because the art is so absorbing. Although I really enjoyed this volume I did find that the narrative was a little hard to follow at times and I did have to go back and reread parts to try and understand it. I'm hoping that the next volume (which is already out) has more in-depth world building but overall I'd give this a go if you're wanting to get into comics/graphic novels.

Phew! That was a long one! I hope you enjoyed my wrap up and I'll be posting my September TBR on Monday so look out for that.

What did you read in August?

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