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Talking About Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon with Chrissi Reads

Published March 2, 2017 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

A new Sunday Times bestseller from Bryony Gordon, Telegraph columnist and author of the bestselling The Wrong Knickers. For readers who enjoyed Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and Ruby Wax’s Sane New World, Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

‘I loved it. A brilliant fast and funny and frank look at something that absolutely needs to be talked about in this way’ Matt Haig

Bryony Gordon has OCD.

It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humor, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What do you make of the cover, its subtitle and the title? I find it interesting that this particular cover is yellow!

BETH: Well, I had to actually pick your brain on this one as you had a lot more insights than me, haha! So the title and subtitle is Mad Girl – A Happy Life With A Mixed-Up Mind and is bright yellow. The colour yellow is notoriously quite a cheery and happy cover which is ironic considering the subject matter, a woman talking about her OCD, depression and other mental health issues. The cover immediately attracted me because of the bright cover and the suggestion that although OCD and depression are far from a barrel of laughs (I should know!) the author would take us on a journey with some dark points but some light, funny moments along the way. Mental health is not funny on any level but making light of certain experiences can give other people the bravery to face their own demons and be better equipped to deal with their problems. It certainly felt that way to me and I got a lot out of this book.

BETH: How did you feel that anxiety and depression was portrayed in Bryony’s story?

CHRISSI: Hmm… good question. I liked how there were some lighter, funnier moments within the story. I think that Bryony Gordon mixed humour in really well. But I also appreciated the moments where there were darker points to her story. It’s not sunshine and showers and it’s certainly not something to be laughed at, but in making some light jokes on the situation, Bryony is showing the reader that she’s human too and is going through a constant battle. I know for many sufferers, if not all, mental illness will always be present. It’s how you battle it that matters/

CHRISSI: Mad Girl talks about some difficult issues. Discuss how Bryony Gordon mixes humour with her descriptions of darker emotions and situations.

BETH: As I rambled on about in my previous answer (maybe I should start reading questions ahead of typing?!) Bryony deals with some very difficult issues in her book. There are eating disorders, emotional abuse, addiction… to name a few. However, it never felt too much as there was always a note of humour to make even the darker situations easier to read and experience. I felt like I had scarily so much in common with Bryony and I tend to use humour as a defence mechanism myself to deal with horrible stuff. It just made me warm to her more to be perfectly honest.

BETH: Mad Girl is described as a celebration of life with mental illness. Do you think this came across in the author’s writing?

CHRISSI: I do feel like Mad Girl does celebrate Bryony’s life with a mental illness. Despite everything that Bryony goes through, she still comes across as someone that’s enjoying her life in the main part and is desperate to not let the mental illness dictate how she lives her life. That’s inspiring!

CHRISSI: Was the humour ever too much?

BETH: For me personally, no it wasn’t. I think some of the things she talked about, especially when she talked about her first serious relationship could have really got to me and put me back into quite a dark place. However, when I felt close to feeling that way, I felt the situation in my head was defused by a hilarious line that made me smile (or laugh out loud…sorry fellow train passengers!) that cheered me up and got me out of my own head again. Without that I think it would have been too much.

BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non-fiction. How much did you enjoy this book compared to other non-fiction you’ve read?

CHRISSI: Indeed, I’m not a fan of non-fiction. However, I enjoy reading non-fiction books when they centre around a subject I’m interested in or a subject close to my heart, which in this case, is Mad Girl. I am a ‘mad girl.’ There’s an awful lot I could relate to in this book, so it didn’t feel like I was being bogged down with information. It felt like I was chatting to a friend.

CHRISSI: What do you feel you have gained from reading this book?

BETH: The knowledge that I’m not the only weirdo in the village?! No, seriously I loved reading about Bryony’s life and as I mentioned before, felt I had an awful lot in common with her. You look at other people and the success they’ve had, especially if they’ve had a lot to deal with in their past and present (and probably future) and I’m in awe of what she’s achieved. It makes me hopeful for my own future. I also think it’s so so important to talk about mental health issues and your thoughts and feelings out there so people can realise they are definitely not on their own.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I enjoyed her writing style and humour!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):


CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):




Mini Pin-It Reviews #1 – Four Author Requests

Published August 20, 2016 by bibliobeth


Hello everyone and welcome to a new feature on my blog! Due to problems with a chronic illness (which I hope to explain to you in a personal post soon) I am hugely behind with my reviews.. yes I actually have a backlog of just over a YEAR in reviews and, I have to be honest, it’s been stressing me out with the thought of never being able to catch up. Then my lovely sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads, who does something similar on her blog, gave me the fantastic idea of doing short and snappy reviews on a post-it. I just want to stress that it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the book – it’s just a good way for me for getting something out there a bit quicker for all the wonderful authors that send me books to review and for books I’ve had from NetGalley and Book Bridgr that, although read, are just languishing on the review pile!

For this first post, I’ve chosen four books that I’ve been sent directly from authors (or their publisher) that I’ll still be giving a star rating/recommendation to at the end. Hope you enjoy!

1.) Getting Rooted In New Zealand by Jamie Baywood


What’s it all about?:

Craving change and lacking logic, at 26, Jamie, a cute and quirky Californian, impulsively moves to New Zealand to avoid dating after reading that the country’s population has 100,000 fewer men. In her journal, she captures a hysterically honest look at herself, her past and her new wonderfully weird world filled with curious characters and slapstick situations in unbelievably bizarre jobs. It takes a zany jaunt to the end of the Earth and a serendipitous meeting with a fellow traveler before Jamie learns what it really means to get rooted.

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Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) Off Key by Mark Robertson


What’s it all about?:

Charlotte has supported Kyle’s precarious musical career for three years. Now it’s her turn. When Kyle doesn’t want to play the breadwinner, she looks to a future on the other side of the Atlantic. Saxophonist Kyle has no money, no career and has now lost the love of his live. Can an autistic twelve-year-old boy and an alcoholic ‘has been’ be his salvation?

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Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

3.) Piano From A 4th Storey Window – Jenny Morton Potts


What’s it all about?:

Lawrence Fyre and Marin Strang aren’t like other people.

He is the eccentric owner of failing Sargasso Books in the Brighton Lanes. She is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness and isolated Spanish teacher. If they live together in his illegal, beautiful, rope laddered lock-up, can their love overcome their losses?

Original, sexy, very funny and deeply moving. An author in complete control of a number of unforgettable characters and emotional highs and lows, Jenny Morton Potts leaves the reader breathless, and wanting more.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


4.) The Death Of Danny Daggers – Haydn Wilks


What’s it all about?:

Cardiff. The last few days of summer.
Danny Daggers is about to die. He just doesn’t realise it yet.
A Leeds University student with a very popular YouTube channel, Danny Daggers is taking his alcohol-downing stunts on tour.
He’s about to find out that not everyone’s a fan.

Ji Eun is a Korean student doing work experience at the South Wales Post.
Rory Gallagher is the alcoholic veteran journo who’s mentoring her.
Carnage in Cardiff might be just what they need to begin and revive their respective careers.

Tom and Joseph work at one of Cardiff’s many call centres.
Tom is fed up of working boring jobs and living for the weekend.
Joseph is just happy to have a job.

Then there’s the Amstell brothers.
Simon’s just escaped from prison. And he happens to be the father of Joseph’s girlfriend’s son.
And his brothers happen to be psychopaths.

These stories collide and intersect over a frantic few days of heavy drinking, drugs and ultraviolence, set against a backdrop of dystopian modern Britain.

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Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art



Short Stories Challenge – Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Published October 20, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s Care all about?:

Care focuses on a woman called Tessa who is entrusted with the care of her niece for a day yet due to a drug addiction she can barely take care of herself.

What did I think?:

I’m really enjoying this short story collection by Julie Orringer and Care is another example of everything a short story should be – intriguing, informative, thrilling and satisfying, giving you just enough at the end to be pleasing, while still leaving you wanting a bit more. The main character of the story is Tessa and she is taking care of her niece Olivia for the day while her older sister is at a conference and has a whole exciting day ahead filled with ice cream, watching some sea-lions and souvenir shopping. That is, if she can stop thinking about the pills she has in her jacket pocket, “Devvie’s” and “Sallies” which, at the beginning of this story, she is determined to do without. Just feeling the familiarity of the pillbox appears to be enough initially until she finds herself getting short-tempered with her niece and decides to take a Devvie, just to make it through the day.

We don’t learn much about her life but what we do learn is enough. Her mother died when she was very young and she used to be very close with her sister Gayle (Olivia’s mother), to the point where they both made plans to live in Barcelona together. However, as Gayle grew up and met the love of her life, that notion slipped away and Tessa was left in a sort of limbo, not entirely sure what she was going to do, so heavily invested was she in the Barcelona plan. It is when Tessa meets her boyfriend Kenji that things really start falling apart. He is the one who introduces her to the drugs, they often take a concoction together and now it has become a daily ritual.

The day starts to turn sour when Olivia decides she wants a soft toy which Tessa cannot pay for then encourages her to steal and turns into her worst nightmare when just after taking another pill (a Sallie this time) Olivia goes missing. Tessa is in a bathroom stall at the time in a drugged stupor, having trouble focusing and becoming anxious as the drug takes effect. This is probably the lowest part of her life so far, when she finally realises how much she is reliant on the drug and the effect her addiction can have on her and other people’s lives.

This was a brilliant little story and had me hooked from the very first page. I was instantly interested in the character of Tessa and enjoyed finding out about her life and what had brought her to be in this very sticky situation. Of course, the tension is ramped up a notch when Olivia goes missing and I had to remind myself to slow down and savour every moment as I desperately wanted to read ahead and see what the outcome was! I don’t even feel that I can criticise any part of this story, it was beautifully written and I was quite disappointed in a way when it ended. I want to know what happens to Tessa next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Banned Books #6 Lush by Natasha Friend with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library

Published December 29, 2014 by bibliobeth



What’s it all about?:

Natasha Friend is a Judy Blume for today — clearly evident in this remarkable new novel about a girl whose father is an alcoholic and how she and her family learn to deal with his condition.

It’s hard to be a 13-year-old girl. But it’s even harder when your father’s a drunk. It adds an extra layer to everything — your family’s reactions to things, the people you’re willing to bring home, the way you see yourself and the world. For Samantha, it’s something that’s been going on for so long that she’s almost used to it. Only, you never get used to it. Especially when it starts to get worse…


Welcome to the last book in our Banned Books Challenge where very month for the last six months of 2014, I have been collaborating with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library. We have been looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

This month’s book is….

Lush by Natasha Friend

First published: 2007
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (
Chosen by: Bibliobeth
Reason: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is such a recent publication (2007) that I’m actually really surprised that it is banned/challenged in schools. Out of all the books we have read so far, this is the one that I really don’t understand the reasons behind it and it confused me so much that I actually had to leaf through the book again to try and work out why there may be problems.
CHRISSI: This is one book that I totally DO NOT see why it was challenged. I’m actually quite annoyed by it being challenged, because I actually see this book as a book that could be used to support teenagers going through the very same thing. It is a story about alcoholism- so of course it’s going to contain reference to that. As for offensive language… pffft. 
LUNA: You know I actually checked to see if there was another Lush by Natasha Friend because seriously are you kidding me? Do I understand any of the reasons – NO. The story is about a 13 year old girl dealing with her father’s alcoholism how can it not contain alcohol and its effects? The offensive language as far as I can figure out is the word “boobs”. I repeat, are you kidding me?!

How about now?

BETH: As I said above, this is a recent release, and not much has changed in seven years, so definitely NO. By banning or challenging it, I think it could be depriving teenagers of a book that could be incredibly useful if they were in a similar situation. There was a sexual scene but I really don’t think it was particularly explicit (You probably get worse on Coronation Street or Eastenders for goodness sake!)
CHRISSI: No. It could be used as a support/understanding/educative book. Just no. 
LUNA: Pfft. Don’t understand why it’s ever been challenged in the first place. I’ve said it so many times but here I go again: Don’t underestimate teenagers.

What did you think of this book?

BETH: I think this is one of my favourite books out of our banned book series. It was a beautiful and emotional rollercoaster of a read as Sam and her family learn to deal with her father’s addiction. The characters were brilliantly realised, I loved our main character Sam and her little brother Luke is too adorable for words. For me, it felt like such an authentic read that I think teenagers in the same situation could relate to the circumstances that Sam finds herself in and benefit from it.
CHRISSI: This book is potentially my favourite out of our banned book series. It contains so many important topics and as I’ve said before, I think it could be incredibly educative/supportive. I was very moved by this story. I loved it!
LUNA: I am so impressed how much of a punch this relatively short book packs. Sam has a lot to contend with, her father has been drinking for a long time but her mother isn’t acknowledging it. Sam’s father is stressed, he needs support and understanding. Sam doesn’t agree and then it comes the night he goes too far.
Natasha Friend really deals with the emotions Sam goes through brilliantly, as the reader you’re with Sam from the very beginning. I loved the friendship she strikes up with AJK. Sam’s relationship with her little brother, how she looks after him. At times my heart just ached. Lush is a great book.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!
LUNA: Absolutely
BETH’s Personal Star Rating:
I’ve really enjoyed our Banned Books Challenge this year so thanks to Chrissi Reads and Luna for making the process so fun. Next year Chrissi Reads and I will be back with more Banned Books and we’re hoping Luna may be able to drop in from time to time. Wishing everyone a very happy 2015!

Banned Books #4 – Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library

Published October 27, 2014 by bibliobeth



What’s it all about?:

Alice could be anyone – she could be someone you know, or someone you love – and Alice is in trouble …

Being fifteen is hard, but Alice seems fine. She babysits the neighbour’s kids. She is doing well at school. Someday she’d even like to get married and raise a family of her own. Then she is invited to a party, a special party where the drinks are spiked with LSD and Alice is never the same again.

This tragic and extraordinary true-life story shows the devastating effect that drug-abuse can have. But the big difference between Alice and a lot of other kids on drugs is that Alice kept a diary . . .



Welcome to a new feature on my blog! It’s Banned Books that I’m collaborating with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library on.

Every month for the rest of 2014 ChrissiReads, Luna’s Little Library and myself will be reading one Banned/Challenged Book a month. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

If you’d like to join in our discussion (and please feel free!) below is a list of what we’ll be reading:


Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Chosen by: Luna


Lush by Natasha Friend

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month……

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (previously Anonymous)

First published: 1971
Most recently in the Top Ten of Frequently Challenged Books in 2003 & 2001 (source)
Chosen by: ChrissiReads
Reasons: drugs (2003) & offensive language, sexually explicit (2001)

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: When I first began this read, I was quite surprised to learn that it was first published in 1971 as I found it read more contemporary than that – in other words, published about ten years ago or so. For the seventies, I think it was probably highly controversial when it came out even with the amount of “free love,” that was floating around at the time. I didn’t really find the language particularly offensive or find that it was sexually explicit but I am probably judging it by modern standards!
CHRISSI: I think it was probably very controversial at the time, so of course, it didn’t fit in. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that this book stood out, but I can understand why it was banned. The subject matter obviously struck a chord with many people.
LUNA: I honestly don’t know, 1971 is too long ago. My opinion of the 70s is mostly from That 70s Show that isn’t going to be an accurate reflection of the time is it? The book was published; it’s supposed to be warning regarding the dangers of drugs so it would have to be make an impact to work.

How about now?
BETH: This book deals with some very serious issues, namely teenage drug abuse. For this reason, I do understand why it is banned/challenged, especially in schools. I know that the book is meant to be quite gritty and portray a teenager coming out the other side of addiction but for me personally, I don’t think that message got across very well. At times I even felt like it glorified drug use in a way, or made it seem quite a lot of fun. Obviously that is not really a good message to send out to impressionable young people.
CHRISSI: I don’t really like that this book is marketed as non fiction. I actually thought it was a true story until I looked it further. It’s very frustrating that it’s marketed as non fiction when it’s not. Hmmmm. Non fiction or fiction aside, I don’t think it’s appropriate for use in schools. It raises very dark issues (as well as the drug use) which I don’t think are appropriate for some impressionable teenagers. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every teenager is impressionable (they’re certainly not!), but some may take the messages this book sends in the wrong way.
LUNA: It’ll come as a surprise but I have a problem with this book. It’s nothing to do with the content (the banned reasons: drugs, offensive language and sexually explicit) and everything to do with the marketing. Go Ask Alice is a work of fiction. Yet it was originally promoted as nonfiction, it’s still sold as “by Anonymous” and the copy I have has “This is Alice’s True Story” on the cover plus the blurb on the back, the foreword and the Psychologist’s Comment at the back – everything is still packaged to make out this is nonfiction.It got my back up. It is fiction and it should be presented as such.

What did you think of the book?
BETH: I have to admit, I was really, really disappointed. It’s only a short read (162 pages in my copy) and is made up of journal entries but for me it felt like a slog to get through the whole time. The main character annoyed me to the point where I wanted to throw the book across the other side of the room! And worse of all, I just didn’t believe it. Then we come to the ending… and for a second I almost upgraded my thoughts to a “three star” review until I read a bit more about the book in general. And I’m absolutely disgusted. As the girls have said, this is marketed as a work of non-fiction and if you buy into that the ending may change the way you feel about the entire book. As I later found out, it is a work of FICTION and I don’t know what else to say except that I feel really cheated and quite cross.
CHRISSI: It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be if I’m honest. I wanted to feel connected to the main character and feel sorry for her. But I didn’t. I just found her annoying- which isn’t what I wanted to feel from a teenage drug addict.
LUNA: The narrator is not likeable; I didn’t have any connection with her and found her rather whiny. Given that the point of this book if to warn of ‘what can happen’ I would have expected more empathy with the character. (Btw it’s never established what her name is.) I know the book is over 40 years old but Go Ask Alice really feels it. A lot of the time I don’t notice age with books when I’m lost in a story but I don’t think the text has dated well. Maybe it’s partly to blame for the disconnect I felt to the character/story.
I’ll admit that my opinion of Go Ask Alice was negatively influenced by the marketing before I started the book but I was hoping the content would win me round – it never really did.

Would WE recommend it?
BETH: I think it’s important that teenagers get to read the real stories behind drug addiction (get it? REAL!) but I wouldn’t recommend this one. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
CHRISSI: Possibly, but I think there are more powerful books around the same subject out there.
LUNA: If it wasn’t still labelled as a “true story” maybe but I think there are better books out there.

Beth’s personal star rating (out of 5):


Go Ask Alice definitely provided an interesting discussion for us all! Have you read it? What did you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please join us the last Monday of November when we will be discussing Luna’s banned book choice – Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden.