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A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner by Chris Atkins | Book Review

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ I really enjoyed this one. Stylistically it's similar to Adam Kay's This is Going to Hurt, in that it's a diary format, with a light tone and sense of humour though also covering heavier themes, giving insight into a life experience many of us will know very little about. One thing that's quickly apparent is that Chris's experience is not the norm. While he is genuinely in prison, his privilege of being white, educated and socially well supported hugely influences his experience - he recognises this himself. His mental health stays intact and his ability to be trusted to complete jobs gets him out of his cell, keeping him stimulated and also allowing better phone conversations with his family. However it is this privilege (including his previous status as documentary maker) that has helped this book be published. This does not just benefit Chris. He is giving us a genuine insight into the flaws of the prison and justice system which we would not
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Olive by Emma Gannon | Book Review

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ I devoured this warm hug of a book over one weekend. It's a light read yet nuanced too - sensitively exploring a woman's decision to be child-free. We meet Olive in her early 30s as she's lacking the maternal urges she presumed she'd have by this age, feeling that actually - maybe she doesn't want children. Through flitting between the past and present we get to know her and her group of friends, seeing their lives change through the decisions they make and how this impacts their relationships. I think so many women will see themselves in this book. I could definitely connect to that feeling of being "behind" and separate - the description of Olive being with a group of mothers feeling outside their bond and with nothing to contribute to the conversation is so perfect. We don't see characters like Olive in books or media and it's a breath of fresh air to have her here - it will mean a lot to many I'm sure. Olive's is

Summerwater by Sarah Moss | Book Review

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ In Summerwater we get snapshots of the lives of twelve holidaymakers, staying in a remote Scottish Highlands chalet park, over the course of 24 hours on one of the longest days of summer. This should have been idyllic, a holiday to remember, but instead the rain is relentless and families are forced to either face the elements or stay cooped up in claustrophobic accommodation. Each chapter focuses on an individual in a semi stream-of-conscious style, and this is what I love most about Sarah Moss's writing. The sense of interiority is rich, with hidden desires and darker feelings sat alongside humorous moments of flitting back and forth between wants and what is more socially, or environmentally, acceptable. A mum left with an unexpected hour to herself finds time passing by too quickly, hard to settle on what she really wants to do. Her thoughts turn to her body and that coarse nipple hair she wants to remove, before talking herself down - that this isn't t

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean | Book Review

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ When I first started reading this novel I thought I'd love it - the writing was beautiful and I was intrigued by the mystery of these three sisters who had gone missing in 1992. The effect of the descriptive, nostalgic prose was alluring and captured the essence of troubled adolescence over an Australian summer. However the effect was also hazy - the girls and that time were romanticised to the point of feeling unreal and so also hard to get attached to, even when darker plot points were introduced. At times I loved the turns of phrase to describe what it was to be in this group of sisters and friends, at others I struggled to find meaning in what was being written. I'm also not a big lover of detailed descriptions of nature in books and here it's ever-present, with different plants and smells described, often alongside detailed notes on how a character moves from one space to another, and these descriptions made the novel move so slowly and again limited

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell | Book Review

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ This book blew me away. A warning though - it's a tough read (TWs: sexual abuse, rape, grooming, gaslighting) in that it's graphic but also as you really feel the heaviness of what's occurring through the writing. The book tells Vanessa's story - flitting between her aged 15 when she is groomed and abused by her 42-year-old teacher, and her aged 32 as another ex-student makes an allegation of abuse, asking her to come forward too. It highlights how difficult it can be for someone like Vanessa to identify with the label of abuse, or to see herself as a victim or survivor, when she has lived through, and been manipulated into, an illusion of consent and power, and the alluring feeling of being special when you otherwise feel so alone ("I just really need it to be a love story... Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it?") The way complex trauma is depicted is spot-on - even when she is cognitively telling herself the situation is

My favourite books I've read in 2018 so far

This year my priorities have had to shift and reading and blogging have had to take a backseat. However, I've still read some brilliant books that I want to share with everyone. So, here are my reading highlights from the year so far. All links go to Goodreads pages. Let me know  what you've been enjoying reading lately :) Fiction Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman I mean, I'm sure everyone has heard about this book by now, but yeah - I loved it. This easy-to-read novel takes you into the world of Eleanor Oliphant - a lonely young woman just doing her best to get on with life in the only way she knows how. Everything changes when her life is disrupted through a chance encounter and an unlikely new friendship. It's uplifting and funny, yet painfully honest too. It wasn't perfect, I had gripes with a plot detail at the end and some of the phrasing felt contrived, but honestly, it has my whole heart. How Do You Like Me Now - Holly Bo

What I read in October 2017

Well October sped by didn't it! Here are my thoughts on the books I finished this past month. Let me know what you've been enjoying reading lately :) HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE - JK Rowling (audio) ★★★★★ This year I'm working through the Harry Potter books for the first time (yes, I know). As with all of them so far I loved this, but especially the nature of the tournament and things getting darker and grittier. HOW NOT TO BE A BOY - Robert Webb (audio) ★★★★ Robert's memoir is cleverly crafted and heartfelt. He moves between periods of time to tell the story of his life, while exploring the pressures of masculinity and gender roles generally. I feel like his honest discussion, as a man, of his experience with grief, mental health and his relationship with alcohol, will help so many. It's also an enjoyable read with the humour you'd expect from him. THORNHILL - Pam Smy ★★★★★ I read this all in one go over an evening, and it was s