Sooo big news…

So I’ve been a bit of a ghost recently and that’s because of some really great news! I’m pregnant! 12 weeks and 5 days to be specific and that’s why I’ve been so quiet recently.

TFG's Bean

Firstly, I’ve been so knackered its unbelievable! I mean seriously! I don’t think I’ve slept this much since I was a kid! You think you know what to expect from pregnancy when you read the books and the blogs and talk to friends. Let me tell you, no you don’t! There is no possible way to know what pregnancy is going to feel like for you, but don’t be scared just keep doing your best to look after yourself and most importantly – ASK QUESTIONS!

I’ve also been struggling to keep my mouth shut and not scream it from the rooftops. I really am useless at keeping secrets like this, other people’s sure! But not mine. The thing is, as much as I wanted to tell everyone, I was terrified to do so after I lost a pregnancy last year quite early on. It’s like someone was holding a pillow over me, I was fighting to be strong and happy and excited but I was stifled and scared. It’s like my own emotions and hormones were stopping me from being excited and doing what I wanted to – shouting it from the rooftops.

This feeling of numbness and almost pressure and detachment from the excitement I wanted to feel was a bit scary. Was this normal? Do other people feel like this? Will it pass? Is there something wrong with me?

I think these feelings are pretty normal from people I’ve spoken to and other stories I’ve read, the problem comes when it becomes too much to cope with. When you feel down and horrible all the time, this is time to definitely get help. Luckily I just feel numb and not bad about anything, I can still get excited and coo over things I just wish it didn’t feel so unreal!

British Book Challenge 2017ANYWAY! So that’s my big news, I’m hoping that now I’ve hit the second trimester I’m going to have a bit more energy and can get back on track with my personal reading challenge, the British Books Challenge and hopefully get back to blogging more often!

Lucy At Home
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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I am usually one of the last to any party, especially when it comes to interesting books and music. This is one such time. I learnt about the existence of this book by seeing the many fantastic trailers for the film adaptation that has recently been made. From these trailers I was totally hooked and had to find out more! Lo and behold there was a book! Totally made my day as whenever I see a film that looks great if there is a book behind it then it is usually awesome. I wasn’t wrong about this.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.” 
(Goodreads)

Now, without giving too much away,A Monster Calls by Patrick Nessthe basic story of this book is of a 13 year old boy who is dealing with
the ongoing serious illness of his mother. In this horrific time he conjures a monster, a being from the ancient world, who goes with him through this journey.

I found the story compelling and the writing undeniably brilliant, in the early pages it reminded me a lot of The Hobbit. The way that Patrick Ness deals with the everyday, the fantastic and the serious in factual, simple and yet humorous language is irresistible. Written for teenagers I think the balance of the language strikes a good mix of being simple and direct enough for the younger ages, whilst still being irresistible for young adults and older.

Being someone who has lost a close family member to cancer, having been through it step by step, a carer and a fighter alongside them, this book inevitably struck a serious and painful chord for me. The book did it in such a powerful way that it made me proud of the way it deals with the topic. It made me want to go out and give a copy to anyone I know who has been through such a situation. It is important because it deals with such serious themes, but doesn’t diminish the situation or patronise the reader. Yes it was painful, yes the last 40-60 pages of my copy are now tear and snot stained but at the end I heaved a great sigh and felt like a kind of poke-the-bruise, cathartic therapy.

You may now be thinking, this is not the book for me – too mushy – too emotional – too serious – too painful – I’m too raw for this. Quite simply put, you are wrong. This book is a must read. I am starting to realise I am saying this a lot recently, but I’ve just been spoilt with fantastic choices! I can honestly say I am so glad I picked this up and have no doubts that my copy will now be doing the rounds of my close family and friends – but I will make sure that I get it back and revisit it again, probably many times over!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

British Book Challenge 2017

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Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson was another book recommended by Chelley Toy from Tales of Yesterday Book Blog, it is by the Author of the Month book for January for the British Book Challenge 2017. I wasn’t too sure at first as I never quite manage to finish non-fiction books, however the subject of this one intrigued me – even more so after I’d read the Amazon sample.

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world. (Goodreads)

At the tender age of 27 and as someone who works within the Great British education system I found the premise for this book interesting, a way to talk about, outline what it is and potentially help those with mental health issues. This is definitely the topic du jour at the moment in the press, whether for good or bad. I was curious if this book could honestly and openly discuss these issues without being patronising, generalising, stereotyping, judging, or just down right preaching – and you know what? It did and I was very impressed.

As a young adult I struggled with my own serious mental health issues and fought my way through some very dark days and I often wonder if this experience colours how I see and react to the information that is now in the press about those who struggle with illnesses such as Depression and Anxiety. After reading Mind Your Head I can honestly say that each page resonates with me and I found myself nodding, agreeing and laughing along with Juno Dawson. Yes, laughing, you read that right. One of my favourite part of the books was the screenshot above, the one explaining that yes mental health issues are serious and tough to deal with, but they are a health issue and just like a broken wrist – sometimes a bit of humour is needed to help us deal with them and find ways to cope. Making something special or unique or only discussed in a quiet whisper in a private back room makes them harder to deal with, not easier.

So! The book! The reason I often struggle with non-fiction is the lack of pace and movement, I feel like i’m reading a text-book at school again and that was never fun. With Juno Dawson’s Mind Your Head I didn’t think that once, the writing is engaging and moves at a steady natural pace from topic to explanation to discussion to personal experiences and on again to the next. The voice is lighthearted and amusing, but also compassionate and serious where needed and they tackle some extremely difficult issues in a very impressive manner. The addition of explanations and opinions from Dr Olivia, personal experiences and stories of other people and glossary terms throughout give the feel of sitting in a chic London coffee shop all chatting and exchanging experience, help, advice and most importantly an understanding ear.

The resources used in the book, that is the links to websites and companies currently available to help people in the UK is invaluable. In other cases of texts like this it often simply refers you to the GP or school counsellor as a place to get help, Juno looks at more than just these two resources and honestly analyses what help they can give and what other resources are out there, indeed linking to them and sharing experiences.

The bit I want to stress most about this book, the bit that I think is the most important is that it is honest and kind, it addresses the very real issues that young people today are dealing with and could honestly help someone understand what it is they are feeling. Covering everything from recognising every day stress to eating disorders to self harm to drug and alcohol use. I can honestly say that this is a book I will be strongly recommending to my friends, those who may benefit from its help personally, those with children, my colleagues who work with children to young adults alike and yes, those who have no idea about any of “that stuff” and maybe just need their eyes opening a bit. A very useful book and definitely much needed in today’s society!

British Book Challenge 2017

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Gilded Cage by Vic James

I downloaded Gilded Cage by Vic James on the recommendation of Chelley Toy from Tales of Yesterday Book Blog, it is one of the Debut of the Month books for January for the British Book Challenge 2017. And I am so glad that I did! From start to finish I didn’t put the book down once, even for my scrumptious tea cooked by my long-suffering husband.

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy? (Goodreads)

When I read the Goodreads summary for Gilded Cage I wasn’t particularly excited, but within 5 minutes of reading this book I knew that I was hooked and would greedily devour the trilogy without a second thought. The story is based in a sort of alternative reality for the world today, same countries, regions, traditions but with one big difference – the presence and influence of Skill in the world. Skill is magic for want of a better word and the aristocrats of England have it they are the Equals, the commoners are those without skill and those who must give up a decade of their lives in slave labour (think national service). This difference has led to a gaping difference in how society has grown and developed.

It is in this new society that we meet our main characters, you are first introduced to this world through Luke, a commoner, who is about to be dragged from his comfy family life and into the slavetown of Millmoor. His family has made the decision to complete their slavedays now, all together, but of course something goes wrong. So whilst Luke’s parents, sisters Abi and Daisy head off to the grand estate of the Parva-Jardines Luke heads to what is essentially a work camp. There he meets a ragtag group of revolutionaries and his story unfolds. I liked Luke, he is a believable character and you do warm to him easily. You feel his pain as he takes the beatings from the guards, his worry and concern for his family, his determination to make a difference no matter how small.

As for the rest of the family, their plan for all of them to serve their slavedays at Kyneston estate didn’t quite turn out. Instead Abi, Daisy and their parents are delivered to this grand family as a broken unit, Abi feels she is to blame as she sought out this assignment for the whole family in the first place and now they are split and Luke is alone. Curious about the world of those with Skill, Abi, a clever but naive girl has spent too long reading romance novels which seems to steer her in the wrong direction. Despite being accepted to medical school and having more than enough brains, it is this schoolgirl fantasy of forbidden love which gets her into trouble. I found Abi harder to warm to than other characters, flitting from determined and level-headed to girlish and just downright silly.

However, the characters that most fascinated me were those with Skill; the Equals. You are supposed to be fascinated by them, they are different, secret, holed away in their estates with the power to delete the memories and knowledge of any commoner who finds out something they shouldn’t. The development of these characters was what I found the most addictive part of the book, you start with impressions and ideas and some of them are wholly flipped on their head and some characters you just keep learning more and more about them.

The book is told from multiple first person narratives, switching between protagonists at a brisk pace keeping you interested and eager to find out what happens next. There are plenty of twists and turns, some of which you see coming and some that you don’t and leave you sat with your gob open like a right sexy minx. Overall, there is a dark and gritty feeling that you aren’t quite expecting from the opening few pages and it draws you into their world in such a way that its impossible to escape, it becomes your reality whilst you read. This is undoubtedly why I picked up and finished this book in under 6 hours, I cant honestly say another book has gripped me like this for quite a while.

Whilst I’m not a hardcore fantasy reader, I do like to get stuck into the big stories and as a fan of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and more this is a trilogy I am really looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into!

British Book Challenge 2017

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Escape by Kate Cann

Kate Cann was one of my favourite Young Adult Fiction authors and I read quite a few of her books in my mid to late teenage years, so when I spotted Escape as one I had missed I was very excited to pick it up.

Escape by Kate Cann

Rowan thinks spending her gap year in the USA will be the best thing she’s ever done. Her family’s driving her mad, and she desperately needs to get away from the relentless what-are-you-going-to-do-with-the-rest-of-your-life? parental pressure.

America, land of the free here I come…

But after starting to work for psychotic Sha and her hot-housed kid in Seattle, Rowan feels more trapped than ever. Enough is enough. Taking Iggy the unloved iguana with her – he deserves some freedom, too – she hits the road. Suddenly, with only a rescued lizard for company and California in her sights, she’s sure escaping to America was the best thing to do after all… (Goodreads)

As usual Cann’s writing style is easily accessible and instantly engaging. Escape is pure escapism – sorry I had to say it – bringing you into Rowan’s world and whilst this isn’t as fun when stuck in the cramped Nanny room, once you get to the lake its pure heaven. Cann has you drooling over scents, landscapes, food and *ahem* men in this story the way only a good story-teller can. So whether you are snuggling under a duvet in December or sunning it on a sandy white beach in August, this is the perfect book to warm you up.

You warm to Rowan easily, which is handy as a main character, you feel her frustration, excitement, trepidation and go through her romance woes right along side her. Although at times you feel like screaming at her its part of the pull of the story, you have to see if she gets through it.

I loved the addition of Iggy the iguana, he gives another dimension, another pull to the story and although used mainly as a catalyst I love his cheeky character.

One thing that stood out to me about Cann’s books when I first started to read them was the sex scenes, at the age I started reading them this was a new addition as my previous young adult fiction had skirted round the edges of an age group not quite ready for this. Cann focusses on the 18-21 character age group, so sex is starting to be a key point of their life and she uses this in her writing to explore and understand the characters further. In Escape, these scenes are written well with no awkwardness and add to the story well – not to mention a very enjoyable bit of escapist sizzle…

Overall, this is a great easy read book that is well written and provides a great opportunity for escapism. As a fan of Kate Cann’s writing this book was as expected and I thoroughly enjoyed it, looking forward to many more from this author (including the ones I’ve already ordered and got stashed in the corner).

British Book Challenge 2017

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Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway is a book that I have started, put down and started and put down a thousand times. After graduating with a degree in English I am not quite sure how I managed not to read it until now but, now that I have ill have a go at reviewing it.

Mrs Dalloway Cover Image

So just to start with, here is a quick summary from my Wordsworth Classics copy –

Virginia Woolf’s singular technique in Mrs Dalloway heralds a break with the traditional novel form and reflects a genuine humanity and a concern with the experiences that both enrich and stultify existence. Society hostess, Clarissa Dalloway is giving a party.

Her thoughts and sensations on that one day, and the interior monologues of others whose lives are interwoven with hers gradually reveal the characters of the central protagonists. Clarissa’s life is touched by tragedy as the events in her day run parallel to those of Septimus Warren Smith, whose madness escalates as his life draws towards inevitable suicide.

I did find the book a little difficult to get into at first and so had to return to some advice my mum gave me as a kid when I started reading Lord of the Rings at aged nine. “If a passage confuses you, read it twice and then move on – if its important it’ll slot in, if it’s not it won’t matter.” It was the best advice I was ever given for tackling new texts. This was a tactic I had to employ a lot with Virginia Woolf’s novel, not because the text was necessarily difficult but because of how it was written. Mrs Dalloway is written from the point of view of each of the characters switching from one to the other in a stream of consciousness style. This can make it difficult to get into when reading it, however once you have settled in to the style you are transported and are well and truly in the minds of Woolf’s characters. A true form of escapism into someone else’s world.

The imagery throughout is beautiful, taking you into little corners of London and showing it in ways you had never thought of before. The writing really truly does draw you in to the world and time of Mrs Dalloway and her contemporaries. You see the world from their point of view, through their memories and personalities, from Septimus’ depressive and manic states to Hugh’s ambition and pompousness.

I have to say, although I found the book difficult at first as a reader who enjoys chapters and structure (even though I write more like Woolf) I became inevitably sucked into this world. I enjoyed learning more about the characters, their pasts and the way this influenced how they see their lives and the world around them. I’m going to leave the academic reviews and insights into the meanings and interpretations of Woolf’s texts and characters to those much cleverer than me. Overall it was a fascinating way to travel London in the summer of 1922 and I would recommend this book.

British Book Challenge 2017

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Personal Reading Challenge 2017

Personal Reading Challenge 2017

For 2017 I have set myself a personal challenge to read a book a week or 52 books before the end of the year!

British Book Challenge 2017

This is also linked in with me taking part in the British Book Challenge 2017. Which is being hosted by Chelley Toy at Tales of Yesterday Book Blog.

Tales of Yesterday

In this post i am going to link to each of the 52 books i have read and reviewed, another way to make sure i do it!!!

  1. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  2. Escape by Kate Cann
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  3. Gilded Cage by Vic James
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  4. Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson
    • For The Fat Girl’s review click here
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  5. After You by Jojo Moyes
    • The Fat Girl’s review to come shortly
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
  6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
    • The Fat Girl’s review to come shortly
    • For Goodreads reviews click here
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