Monday, 18 June 2018

Review of 'No Filter' by Grace Victory

Review of 'No Filter' by Grace Victory

This year so far I've read more semi-autobiographical/non-fiction/self-help books than I have done in the rest of my life put together, and I'm kind of digging it. I've always found mental health based books a bit too tricky to handle: often they go in too deep, making them triggering, and then they 'resolve' it by telling you how to fix things (which never actually works).

I knew from the offset that Grace's book wouldn't be one of those. Grace Victory is a blogger and Youtuber from the UK who absolutely spends her time lifting people up. She's endlessly supporting the body positivity movement, crying out against racism, and genuinely making the world a better place. The idea of buying a Youtuber's autobiography had never appealed to me until Grace brought one out, because I knew it'd be different.

No Filter is a mixture between a look back on Grace's younger years and her growth from them, as well as an amazing resource for all kinds of issues. Grace tackles domestic abuse, PTSD, sexual abuse, self harm, depression, anxiety, loneliness, body image and just about everything a teenage girl could deal with. And not only does she talk about them in a non-judgemental way, she offers a whole variety of different websites you can get help from, phone numbers you can call and places to find information about what you're struggling with. There's no 'one size fits all' approach; as someone who's struggled in the past, Grace has clearly thought about the contents of this in a lot of detail and really considered all the different ways in which people might need to be helped.

I really think the consideration that she's put into this book is what makes it a winner. It's clear that Grace has put her absolute heart and soul into this book without making it a thing that's just nice for her to reflect on. She's hit the nail on the head with finding the thin line between giving details about your issues, and triggering people, or allowing them to go away with ideas about ways they can self-sabotage. And this isn't something that comes easy: so much care has been put into it, and this is why I think it's an incredible read.

This is a must-read for teen girls, and those in their early twenties, especially if you're going through a bit of a rough patch!


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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Review of 'Dadland' by Keggie Carew

Review of 'Dadland' by Keggie Carew

There are definitely a few set criteria that I judge a book on: its cover needs to appeal to me, the font needs to be a good size (12 Times New Roman is my dream) and the title has to intrigue me. Dadland was a book club pick at work, and it didn't fit any of my criteria, but I was determined to give it a go anyway. As it turns out, I should stick to my three-step book choosing plan ...

Dadland is written by the daughter of Tom Carew, an ex-special forces soldier in the UK suffering from dementia. As Tom loses more and more of the memories of his life, Keggie is determined to bring them to the surface. Tom was a guerilla soldier parachuted into France, and later Burma, in the second world war. Keggie narrates the stories of his bold encounters in France, interspersed with mind-blowing statistics. This was my favourite part of the book, but from then on it really went downhill.

As Keggie reflected on her dad's early life, she also described him as a father. Here's where the problems started for me: Keggie adores her father, and it's easy to see in the book. She looks up to him, she cares for him, she views him as a hero. Yet, he was a terrible father. She narrates the story in such a way that we blame her mentally ill mother for his affair, and we blame the war for his inability to spare one kind thought for anyone but himself. It's when you take a step back from this biography that you begin to see that everything has a severe bias.

The majority of the 'action' of the novel takes place in Burma, and here's where things started to drag. Each of the main characters here has multiple names that get used interchangeably and it makes this a book that you can't just leave and pick straight up again; you need to work to keep staying interested and sure of what's going on. 

All in all, I was SO hopeful when I started reading this, as the first couple of hundred pages were very strong, but it definitely tailed off as you got further through the book.

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Review of 'The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling' by Henry Fielding

Review of 'History of Tom Jones, A Foundling' by Henry Fielding

Whenever I pick up a physical book, and it looks a little *too* long, I always check the font to see if it's a full on tome. But I never check when I'm downloading books to my kindle, which is how this happened. The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling is a full on 900-odd page doorstop that took me three months to get through on my kindle, but was still an interesting read for sure.

One of the earliest English novels, Tom Jones was published in 1749. It's a bildungsroman, which means that it follows the story of someone's growth from childhood to adulthood, and even death. Tom Jones was abandoned as a baby on the bed of Squire Allworthy, who took him in out of the goodness of his heart. Allworthy's sister Bridget begs him to take on the baby, as she knows it will struggle to survive outside of this family. Filled with jealousy as they're brought up together, Bridget's son Master Blifil begins to accuse Tom of crimes he's innocent of. Eventually succumbing to the deception, Squire Allworthy turfs Tom out of his home, devastated that the teen would do what he believes he's done.


And here's where it gets a bit comical, in the same strain as a bawdy Shakespeare play. Tom sleeps around, getting into mishaps and hiding under beds. He lives a sexually debauched life, but maintains his moral compass in all other areas. Eventually all the threads of the story come together in a happy ending (my fave tbh).


Although it took a whole lotta time to get through, I did enjoy this. It really did remind me of a tongue-in-cheek Renaissance play, but the action was extended over 900 pages (help), rather than 5 Acts. Tom was a bit of a trope, a man that loves getting drunk and falling into trouble with the ladies, but is 'actually really good on the inside'. Master Blifil is a great wicked character who stirs the point and twists perspectives at every moment.

The ending genuinely had me shocked, and tied up every loose end which I LOVED. I didn't expect to have had the wool pulled over my eyes in this plot, and it was genuinely a great way to finish things off.

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Saturday, 7 April 2018

Review of 'Between the Lies' by Cathy Macphail

Review of 'Between the Lies' by Cathy Macphail

It's been a bit of a 'long time no see' situation on here recently hasn't it? I've got a whole stack of books I've read all sitting waiting for me to write about, so hopefully this month will be a little less of a ghost town.

When I first picked up Between the Lies by Cathy Macphail I completely didn't realise that I'd actually read a book by the same author almost a decade ago. Did anyone else read Roxy's Baby as a teen?? Cathy's back with a brand new release in 2018 and it's fab.

I always get so put off by books with massive text, because it makes me think that they're for younger teens and that there's not that much plot. But, despite the font size, this was such a dark YA thriller filled with so many twists in the plot. I read most of it in one sitting because I was absolutely hooked.

Abbie, the main character, has no friends at school, and at home her dad's always off working on some campaign or another. She feels completely alone. And then Judith, one of the most popular girls in her year, goes missing. Who's the one person she texts? Abbie. The girls confided in one another in the school toilets a few days before Judith went missing, but no one else knows that, and can't understand why Abbie's the one being contacted. 

As Abbie launches her own campaign to bring Judith home, it begins to be clear that there's more to the story that meets the eye. What really is going on between Abbie and Judith? And what will happen when Judith returns and everyone forgets about Abbie again?

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Sunday, 18 March 2018

Review of 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood

Review of 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood

Let's kick start this by saying that this is the best/scariest/most profound book I've read in a LONG time. I mean, I always thought I'd like Margaret Atwood's work, but I never thought I'd find it this life altering. The Handmaid's Tale has made me think twice about everything I do. I feel like even more of an eco-warrior than I ever have been, and I'm absolutely petrified about the harm we're causing to our world, and to each other. 

The Handmaid's Tale is set in a dystopian future. In this world, all the plastic that we've dumped into the ocean has reduced the fertility of humans so much that the population is seriously declining (FYI, the whole plastic reducing fertility thing is something that's actually starting to happen). Modern consumerist society has been erased and replaced by a world filled with rations and re-using everything as much as we can. 

It's a world where everyone has their proper place in society, and people are ranked. Our narrator is a handmaid. She wears red and is effectively brought up to become a surrogate mother for an important man and his ageing wife. When handmaids stop being fertile, they go to the place everyone fears: the colonies. Here, women are forced to clear up nuclear waste, effectively signing their own death warrant.

As the novel progresses, the narrator is put in a series of very difficult situations, and there are so many twists and turns and heart racing moments for the reader. I found this book so moving because the handmaiden's personality absolutely shines through. Atwood doesn't let you forget that she's a person behind the status she's been given. She had a life before her world changed into this dystopia and she has desires and emotions just like us.

I want to read so much more from this author now, as this book was incredibly powerful. I would definitely recommend it if you want to read a (fairly) modern feminist novel.

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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Review of 'Burntface: Scarred for Life' by Annette Swann

Review of 'Burntface: Scarred for Life' by Annette Swann

I think we all know that this isn't the kind of book I usually go for, but, it's good to step out of your comfort zone and try something new really, isn't it? When Annette reached out to me on Instagram and asked if I'd like to give her book a go I went for it.

Burntface is an autobiographical novel all about Annette's experiences as a child who became a burn victim. This is something I really don't, or didn't, know anything about. Autobiographies just aren't my thing, but I found the first half of this genuinely interesting, and a bit educational.

Through Annette I discovered a lot more of the science behind the kind of recovery a burns victim can have, statistics about burns victims and a myriad of ways that accidents can happen. 

I really did enjoy the first half of the book, and would recommend reading it for that, but the second half just tailed off for me. It became a little judgemental about the way that the younger (i.e. my) generation live our lives, and to be honest, I wasn't there for it. I felt like the second half was a bit of a chance for the author to reminisce over her adolescence, rather than a chance to write a book with real plot. As I've said before, I don't read many autobiographies (if any really), so I'm not sure if it's just the style of that genre that doesn't interest me, but towards the end I really was waiting for the book to finish.

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Review of 'Eleanor and Park' by Rainbow Rowell

Review of 'Eleanor and Park' by Rainbow Rowell

I'm *almost* caught up on my book reviews now, which is basically a miracle. I'm only a couple behind now and hopefully they'll be up soon! I'm so ready for my Goodreads target to actually show where I really am.

I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell a few months ago and it felt like a complete breath of fresh air for me, but it wasn't until I read Eleanor and Park that I realised why. Rowell's protagonists are the characters that would be the best friend or the sister or the acquaintance of the main character in another book. Her main characters aren't stereotypically beautiful, or popular, or super clever, or all of the above. They're the people that get overlooked in life, and in literature.

Eleanor is a chubby ginger girl whose family are utterly poor. She shares a bedroom with all of her siblings, she wears second hand clothes and if anything gets broken it has to be fixed. When she starts going to a new school she very soon becomes the target of bullies. With an abusive stepdad at home and these girls making her life a misery at school, there's not much for Eleanor to look forward to.

... That is until she meets Park. Park's someone that the bullies leave alone (it may or may not have something to do with his incredible martial arts skills). He's scared that talking to Eleanor on the bus will make him the bullies' new target, but he's intrigued by her. 

Could Park help Eleanor see the light in her life? Or is he going to look down on her like everyone else does ...

I loved this young adult novel: the main characters were different to the ones that always seem to crop up in other books, and it made this such an interesting read.


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