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Mini Pin-It Reviews #21 – Four Random Books

Published June 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four random books for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Tamar – Mal Peet

What’s it all about?:

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.

From acclaimed British sensation Mal Peet comes a masterful story of adventure, love, secrets, and betrayal in time of war, both past and present.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) 1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen #8) – Anne Holt

What’s it all about?:

1222 is the story of how a small group of people find themselves stuck in a hotel during an apocalyptic snow storm. Following a dramatic train derailment at Finse, the conflict between the survivors escalates while a furious hurricane threatens the unprotected village. Nobody is there to help, and there is no way out of the inferno for the survivors hiding out. On the first night at the hotel, a man is found shot and murdered. The victim is Cato Hammer, a priest known nation-wide for his ability – and desire – to get in the papers. Hanne Wilhelmsen, retired Inspector at the Oslo Police, is drawn into a race against time, a murderer, and the worst storm in the Norwegian alps on record. She loses the first round. Soon, another one of God’s servants is murdered, when an icicle cuts through his body…

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) The Panda Theory – Pascal Garnier

What’s it all about?:

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he’s here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals.

His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair.

But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past . . .

Pascal Garnier is a leading figure in contemporary French literature, in the tradition of Georges Simenon. He lived in the Ardèche. Pascal Garnier died in March 2010.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Scribbles In The Margins – Daniel Gray

What’s it all about?:

We lead increasingly time-poor lifestyles, bombarded 24/7 by petrifying news bulletins, internet trolls and endless noises. Where has the joy and relaxation gone from our daily lives? Scribbles in the Margins offers a glorious antidote to that relentless modern-day information churn. It is here to remind you that books and bookshops can still sing to your heart.

Warm, heartfelt and witty, here are fifty short essays of prose poetry dedicated to the simple joy to be found in reading and the rituals around it. These are not wallowing nostalgia; they are things that remain pleasurable and right, that warm our hearts and connect us to books, to reading and to other readers: smells of books, old or new; losing an afternoon organising bookshelves; libraries; watching a child learn to read; reading in bed; impromptu bookmarks; visiting someone’s home and inspecting the bookshelves; stains and other reminders of where and when you read a book.

An attempt to fondly weigh up what makes a book so much more than paper and ink – and reading so much more than a hobby, a way of passing time or a learning process – these declarations of love demonstrate what books and reading mean to us as individuals, and the cherished part they play in our lives, from the vivid greens and purples of childhood books to the dusty comfort novels we turn to in times of adult flux.

Scribbles in the Margins is a love-letter to books and bookshops, rejoicing in the many universal and sometimes odd little ways that reading and the rituals around reading make us happy.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four YA Novels.

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Book Tag – Books Beginning With S.U.M.M.E.R.

Published June 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Summer as recently we had the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon. So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

S

What’s it all about?:

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome “with passion and without technical jargon” and demonstrates how “a slightly shabby Iron Age village” rose to become the “undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean” (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating “the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life” (Economist) in a way that makes “your hair stand on end” (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this “highly informative, highly readable” (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries. With its nuanced attention to class, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, SPQR will to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.

I have about two shelves worth of non fiction and I really need to start getting to it. I’m hoping to participate in Non Fiction November this year to try and make a start on these shelves and SPQR is very high on this list. I’ve been to Rome on holiday twice now and each time I’ve gone, I’ve adored it. I’d love to learn more about its history so this needs to be done!

U

What’s it all about?:

In this haunting, entrancing novel, Michel Faber introduces us to Isserley, a female driver who cruises the Scottish Highlands picking up hitchhikers. Scarred and awkward, yet strangely erotic and threatening, she listens to her hitchhikers as they open up to her, revealing clues about who might miss them if they should disappear. A grotesque and comical allegory, Under the Skin takes us on a heart-thumping ride through dangerous territory — our own moral instincts and the boundaries of compassion — to present a surreal representation of contemporary society run amok.

I’m a HUGE fan of Michel Faber – his book The Crimson Petal And The White is one of my all time favourite novels (and I’m planning a re-read of it soon) and I also adored The Book Of Strange New Things which I read fairly recently. I’d love to read more of his work and I’ve heard intriguing things about this novel.

M

What’s it all about?:

Mend the Living is the story of a heart transplant, centred around Simon Limbeau, the boy whose heart is given, and his family. Taking place within exactly twenty-four hours, the novel is a powerful and vast-ranging book. In her trademark masterful use of language, playing with pacing and tension and a vibrant vocabulary, de Kerangal gives us a metaphysical adventure.

This book has been on my radar for a little while now since it won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize last year. I love the idea behind it and I’ve heard nothing but good things!

M

What’s it all about?:

Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.

You might say I’m cheating as I’ve showcased this book before on my blog but you’ve guessed it, I STILL haven’t read it! This is one I’m hoping to pick up really soon, hopefully in the next couple of months and I’m very excited about it.

E

What’s it all about?:

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape. 

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

Elmet was long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction this year and short-listed for the Man Booker prize last year. I’ve heard people whose opinions I trust rave about this book and the synopsis pulls me in so I need to go for it!

R

What’s it all about?:

The true story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment.

Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

I don’t read that many memoirs but I couldn’t resist this one – it sounds fascinating! It’s also been on my TBR for a very, very long time now and I just keep forgetting about it.

 

Here ends my Books Beginning With S.U.M.M.E.R! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? If you’d like to do your own books of S.U.M.M.E.R. from your TBR, I’d love to see them.

Hope you all have a wonderful summer!

Love Beth xx

F*** You Very Much: The Surprising Truth About Why People Are So Rude – Danny Wallace

Published June 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You’re not imagining it. People are getting ruder. And this is a serious problem.

Did you know that even one rude comment in a life and death situation can decrease a surgeon’s performance by as much as 50%? That we say we don’t want rude politicians, but we vote for them anyway? Or that rude language can sway a jury in a criminal case?

Bestselling writer and broadcaster Danny Wallace (Yes Man, Awkward Situations For Men), is on a mission to understand where we have gone wrong. He travels the world interviewing neuroscientists, psychologists, NASA scientists, barristers, bin men, and bellboys. He joins a Radical Honesty group in Germany, talks to drivers about road rage in LA, and confronts his own online troll in a pub.

And in doing so, he uncovers the latest thinking about how we behave, how rudeness, once unleashed, can spread like a virus – and how even one flippant remark can snowball into disaster.

As insightful and enthralling as it is highly entertaining, F*** You Very Much is an eye-opening exploration into the worst side of human behaviour.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Chloe Rose and Ebury Press via Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of Danny Wallace’s new book in exchange for an honest review. A big thumbs up to blogger friend Stuart at Always Trust in Books for letting them know that I might enjoy this one too! And enjoy it I certainly did. I’ve read a few of the author’s previous books in my pre-blogging days such as Join Me and Yes Man and thoroughly enjoyed his writing style and sense of humour so I was pretty confident that I was going to feel the same about this one, especially when I found out the subject matter – rudeness, a HUGE bugbear of mine. I devoured this book in about a twenty-four hour period and loved every moment, particularly when Danny draws on personal experience and of course, the geek in me enjoyed when he drew on scientific research to illustrate his (many) great points.

Danny Wallace, British author of F*** You Very Much.

So, I don’t think I need to go into too much depth about the contents of this book – the title and subtitle pretty much do the job for me! It’s a fascinating insight into how our society has got ruder and Danny explores the reasons that may be behind this gradual change in attitudes. The book itself is divided up into certain sections, to name a few of my favourites: Bad Manors, Women And Rudeness, Policing Rudeness and Rudeness And Power. It’s not until the author delves deeper into the subjects of why people have become so rude that I really started to notice things in my own life that I have found more difficult in recent years. To take a personal example, I have a chronic illness and can’t stand up for long periods of time but have to make a long commute into London each day. The rudeness I’ve encountered when people glance at you and then deliberately look at their phone to avoid giving you a seat is frankly, unbelievable and can be quite upsetting.

Then there’s trolling on the Internet, particularly Twitter, a hotbed of vicious snipes and negativity. Danny recounts his own personal experience with a troll who sent him an incredibly nasty message. I won’t go into what happens with this pathetic excuse for a human being but let’s just say Danny feels somewhat vindicated in the end. Throughout the entirety of this book, the author talks about the topic of rudeness with a wry sense of humour that at points, had me cackling like a banshee.

Ah….if only all Internet trolls were as cute as this!

Although it was one particular “hotdog” related incident that was his inspiration for opening up this fascinating talking point, he also quotes some historical incidents and, as I’ve mentioned real, hard evidence to back up his claims. Some of the information he quotes is hysterical, for example, how can one naked bottom save lives and change the behaviour of a group of people? Other parts are far more sobering, like the shocking effect one stressful, rude incident can have on the performance of a doctor/surgeon leading to potentially mistakes being made and lives being at risk.

Why have we got ruder? It’s hard to say but it seems to be a growing problem. Danny invites you to think of TV personalities that are famous for being rude and people LOVE them for it. Think of Simon Cowell who says exactly what he thought on TV talent shows, Anne Robinson who delighted viewers with her put-downs on The Weakest Link and Gordon Ramsay where everyone is on tenter-hooks, waiting for him to blow his top with some poor, unsuspecting cook.

“Right, I’ll get you more pumpkin. I’ll ram it right up your f***ing a***. Would you like it whole or diced?”

Gordon Ramsay said this by the way, not me. Complaints his way please!

Finally, there is the perhaps obvious blatantly rude person in the media at the moment. You know, the one who was elected as President Of The United States. A lot of people didn’t see it coming but come it did and personally, I continue to be horrified with everything that comes out of his mouth. If that kind of person can be elected to be in charge of a country, well…..the less said about that the better otherwise I’ll just get into a massive rant. I’ll just say that the author describes Trump’s personality and the things that he has done/said so far perfectly when relating it to the topic of the book, but somehow manages to stay light-hearted and bring out that fantastic humorous side that he is well known for.

Donald Trump – Rudeness And Power?!

There’s so much to savour in this book, tasty tid-bits that I know I’m going to remember and quote to others like the information junkie that I am! It explores so many topics, including class, power, the modern world and women with such delicious detail that I could go on and on about the wealth of information covered within. One final thing – the author describes how if you experience someone being rude to you, you are statistically more likely to be rude to another person later on, maybe that day or perhaps a bit later, depending on how the incident has affected your state of mind. This absolutely horrified me as I would hate to be “that person,” and I would hope that I’m not intentionally rude to ANYONE. However, when I mused on it a bit more, I realised that it may be true. I’ve been grumpy, been upset and I’ve probably mistakenly snapped at someone else because I felt hard done by! It’s horrible to think of and I’ll certainly be checking my reactions in the future. Meanwhile, if you’re into non-fiction and fancy a few smiles and things to mull over, F*** You Very Much is definitely the book for you!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Mini Pin-It Reviews #16 – Four Books From Netgalley

Published December 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four books from Netgalley for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Dead Set (January David #3) – Will Carver

What’s it all about?:

Following on from Girl 4 and The Two, DI January David is back in a fantastic new thriller

“Detective Inspector January David doesn’t love me. He loves his missing sister. He loves his job. But he doesn’t love me. Not in the way he should. I am his wife. I am still his wife. And I will do anything for him. No matter what I have to sacrifice.”

Detective Inspector January David finds himself on forced leave when he receives an urgent telephone call from a secretive FBI agent. A body has been found in a vacant New York theater, and the murder is reminiscent of a London serial killer with whom David is well acquainted. Determined to help the investigation—and find his estranged wife who is also now living in the United States—DI January David risks his neck to travel to New York. At the same time, back in London, there is a missing girl who has shown up dead after being hugged to death in an equally perplexing case. This fast-paced, psychological thriller told in the first person will keep you guessing until the very end.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) Gift Of Time: A Family’s Diary Of Cancer – Rory MacLean

What’s it all about?:

When his mother Joan was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Rory MacLean and his wife Katrin took her into their home. For five months, as their life fragmented and turned inward, they fought both to resist and to accept the inevitable. Each gave vent to their emotions in different ways, but all three kept a diary.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

3.) Why Are You So Sad? – Jason Porter

What’s it all about?:

Have we all sunken into a species-wide bout of clinical depression?

Porter’s uproarious, intelligent debut centers on Raymond Champs, an illustrator of assembly manuals for a home furnishings corporation, who is charged with a huge task: To determine whether or not the world needs saving. It comes to him in the midst of a losing battle with insomnia — everybody he knows, and maybe everybody on the planet, is suffering from severe clinical depression. He’s nearly certain something has gone wrong. A virus perhaps. It’s in the water, or it’s in the mosquitoes, or maybe in the ranch flavored snack foods. And what if we are all too sad and dispirited to do anything about it? Obsessed as he becomes, Raymond composes an anonymous survey to submit to his unsuspecting coworkers — “Are you who you want to be?”, “Do you believe in life after death?”, “Is today better than yesterday?” — because what Raymond needs is data. He needs to know if it can be proven. It’s a big responsibility. People might not believe him. People, like his wife and his boss, might think he is losing his mind. But only because they are also losing their minds. Or are they?

Reminiscent of Gary Shteyngart, George Saunders, Douglas Coupland and Jennifer Egan, Porter’s debut is an acutely perceptive and sharply funny meditation on what makes people tick.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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4.) The Strangler Vine (Avery & Blake #1) – M.J. Carter

What’s it all about?:

Calcutta 1837. The East India Company rules India – or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing.

William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company’s army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn’t be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure.

What was it that so captivated Mountstuart about the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travellers by the roadside? Who is Jeremiah Blake and can he be trusted? And why is the whole enterprise shrouded in such secrecy?

In the dark heart of Company India, Avery will have to fight for his very life, and in defence of a truth he will wish he had never learned.

M. J. Carter is a former journalist and the author of two acclaimed works of non-fiction: Anthony Blunt: His Lives and The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS: Four books from Book Bridgr.

The Owl At The Window – Carl Gorham

Published June 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘She is dead. She was here just now and she was alive. How can she suddenly be dead? People in history are dead. Old people are dead. Grandparents are dead. Other people are dead. Not people like me. Not this person. The person I was married to. Had a child with. Not the person who was standing next to me. Chatting. Laughing. Being.’

Shock is just one of many emotions explored in award-winning TV comedy writer Carl Gorham’s account of his bereavement which is by turns deeply moving and darkly humorous.

Part love story, part widower’s diary, part tales of single parenting, it tells of his wife’s cancer, her premature death and his attempts to rebuild his life afterwards with his six -year old daughter.

Realised in a series of vivid snapshots, it takes the reader on an extraordinary journey from Oxford to Australia, from Norfolk to Hong Kong through fear, despair, pain and anger to hope, laughter and renewal.

The Owl at the Window is a fresh and original exploration of what it means to lose a partner in your forties, and how Carl learned to live again.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Coronet publishers via Book Bridgr for sending me a copy of this moving memoir of grief and loss in exchange for an honest review. I’m usually quite tentative about reading books like this as I seem to have become a more emotional reader over the last few years with stories like this affecting me more and more each time I read one. I’ve had my own personal experiences with loss and I was concerned that I would find it quite difficult to read, comparing it with my own situation, but as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to give it a chance.

You may be familiar with Carl Gorham as the creator of the cult animated show Stressed Eric which was shown on BBC 2 here in the UK and he has also written many sketches for radio and television and adapted the well loved children’s books Meg and Mog for ITV. What I hadn’t realised about Carl was the struggles he has been through as a widower and single parent when he sadly lost his wife, Vikki to a long and torturous battle with cancer. This book was told is such a delicate, gentle and occasionally quite humorous way in alternating chapters where Carl talks about his life with Vikki from their first meeting, the early days of their marriage and the adventures they went on all over the world to the present day and how he and their daughter are coping right now with the sorrow of her passing.

It’s almost guaranteed, this book is going to be heart-breaking. However, I was surprised at points by how uplifted and hopeful it made me feel. Carl is unashamedly real and raw about his feelings which I greatly appreciated but at the same time he realises that he has a responsibility to his daughter to carry on and accept the future, (despite it being not at all what they had hoped and dreamed of) for the good of both of them. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him for the way he deals with his wife’s death and continues to raise their daughter with honour and deep love for what they both created as a couple. Of course, it’s unbelievably sad and the addition of photographs, although lovely to see, reminds the reader that we are dealing with real lives and very real tragedy that someone has had to go through. I really hope the process of writing this book was therapeutic and helpful for Carl and I want to thank him for sharing it with the world, I’m certain it will help other people going through the same thing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Jane Austen At Home: A Biography – Lucy Worsley

Published June 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

What did I think?:

I have to admit to having a bit of a tentative relationship with Jane Austen when I was younger. I studied her novel Mansfield Park for English Literature A Level here in the U.K. and didn’t relish the process when I was doing it! However, it was only afterwards when I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility that I realised what a brilliant novel it actually was and it gave me a newfound respect for her writing. I now consider myself a devoted Jane Austen fan and was delighted when Hodder and Stoughton sent me a copy of Lucy Worsley’s new biography of Jane and the homes that she lived in throughout her life to celebrate the 200th anniversary of her death, bringing fresh insights into her character, family, hopes and dreams and how passionate she was about getting her work published.

Jane Austen At Home is a tremendous piece of non fiction. It’s obvious that the author is, in turn, also passionate about her subject and has carried out meticulous research in uncovering things that may have otherwise remained hidden from the general public. It was interesting to discover that a lot of things about Jane Austen were deliberately erased, like certain letters by her sister Cassandra or various tidbits of information about Jane’s personality – goodness knows why as it was perfectly obvious to me that Jane was a normal (albeit incredibly talented!) human being just like anyone else. She had multiple suitors and marriage proposals rather than being the lonely spinster that has been occasionally portrayed historically. Jane made the decision herself not to marry/have children in the end which was hugely brave at a time when marriage would have given her financial stability especially when at times her family was at risk of becoming impoverished.

I was also fascinated to learn about her work and her struggle to get published in more detail – how long it took, the difficulties she faced etc and was filled with admiration for her determination not to give up and the way she continued writing, in her own unique manner, refusing to change her style to conform with fashion. Of course, an author must draw a lot of inspiration for her characters from those around her but it was quite eye opening to discover who may have influenced some of her most beloved (and not so beloved!) characters in her real life situation. One of my favourite things about this biography was learning how much hardship Jane and her family went through i.e. being forced to move from her childhood home and sell her things, living in unsuitable places where she did not feel comfortable and constantly felt uprooted and their fight for financial security that was denied over and over again purely because they were the wrong sex.

If you’re an Austen fan like myself, Lucy Worsley has written a brilliant, captivating biography that really gets to the heart of what Jane Austen was all about as a person and as a writer. I was hugely compelled all the way through and even bitterly sad towards the end. Although we know Jane Austen died at a ridiculously young age it seems so unfair, being a writer of such promise that didn’t receive half the recognition she deserved in her lifetime. This was actually my first experience of Lucy Worsley’s writing and not only am I excited to see what she does next but I’m determined to re-visit her back catalogue. Thank you so much to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon with Chrissi Reads

Published March 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

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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):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0