book review

More recent reads: Misfit, Furiously Happy, & The Flatshare!

Hello, bookish friends!

Today I am reviewing three books I’ve read recently, all of which I enjoyed, but two in particular of which I absolutely adored, and are favourites of the year so far! ❤

Without further ado, here are my thoughts!


Misfit by Charli Howard

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Trigger warning: anxiety, anorexia, bulimia

I heard the author of this book speak at YALC last year and I thought it sounded amazing. It’s a mental-health memoir about Charli’s experiences with anxiety, anorexia, and bulimia, and how her mental illnesses were exacerbated by her time spent working in the modelling industry. I found this book so interesting, and it also made me so angry at some of the things that Charli went through. Actively being told by her agency to lose weight or lose her job when she was only a UK size 6? Utterly despicable. I already disliked the idea of an industry that puts out these images of unattainably thin women and makes us all feel bad that we don’t look like them, but hearing about how badly the people behind those images are treated made me hate it even more. The way Charli was constantly criticised about her appearance by her agency made me feel sick. It was like reading about an abusive relationship – one which she was contracted to be in.

I loved the raw honesty with which Charli told her story, although I wish the book had had more of a focus on her recovery. It is marketed towards teens, and whilst there are some empowering messages in there about how we shouldn’t let anyone dictate what is beautiful, and that all bodies of all sizes should be celebrated, I feel that teen readers who are struggling with body image and eating disorders could benefit from learning a bit more about how Charli recovered from her eating disorder, and what help she received. This section of the book felt so brief, considering what a huge and important part of the story this is. The other thing that bothered me was that there is a comment towards the end about how we can ‘choose whether [we] want to be happy or not’, and that didn’t sit well with me. Yes, in order to recover from a mental illness you have to want to, but you have to work unbelievably hard to do so; it’s not as simple as a mere choice.

Despite these issues, I thought this was an important and well-written memoir, but I would recommend this to someone who wants to learn more about eating disorders, rather than to somebody who is recovering from one. I think it could be triggering, and not necessarily helpful to that process, as the focus is more on the experience of the illness rather than the recovery from it. Charli herself points this out at the beginning of the book, and I thought that was really helpful.


Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

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This is another mental-health memoir, although it’s not structured like a memoir. It’s more like a collection of random thoughts and anecdotes, some of them related to mental illness, some of them just funny stories from the author’s life. I didn’t know much about the author going into this book, but she has a very successful blog called ‘The Bloggess’. I picked this up because of the mental health representation, rather than any particular attachment to the author, but having read this, I now want to read everything she has ever written and be her best friend.

The front cover of this book describes it as ‘a funny book about horrible things’. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this book is genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious. Like, I snorted with laughter at least once per page. Jenny’s humour can be quite whacky, and perhaps it won’t be for everyone, but she honestly had me in stitches, even when she was talking about difficult topics such as her depression and anxiety.

I loved that this book wasn’t only about mental health. Jenny Lawson is so much more than her mental illnesses, and I loved that some of the stories in here were just about weird things that have happened to her, funny arguments she’s had with her husband, and the hilarious hijinks of her taxidermy racoon (pictured on the cover). I know it seems an obvious statement – that mental illness isn’t somebody’s whole identity – but sometimes I forget this about myself, and it’s quite affirming to read something like this and think… oh yeah, my life is multi-faceted and full of hilarity too; my mental illness isn’t ME.

Whilst this book made me laugh consistently, it also really moved me in places. My favourite passage in this book was about something called ‘The Spoon Theory’, and it really resonated with me and my own experiences with depression:

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I loved this book to pieces, and I might be in love with Jenny Lawson now. I definitely want to check out her blog and other book asap.


The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

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I listened to this as an audiobook, and absolutely adored it! It’s a heart-warming rom-com about Tiffy and Leon, who share a flat (and a bed) but have never met each other. One of them works nights, and the other during the day, so they never cross paths in person, but they start getting to know each other by leaving each other messages on post-it notes around their flat. I absolutely adored the main characters and the developing relationship between them. I loved how outgoing and fun and herself Tiffy was. I loved her thoughtfulness and her curiosity. Leon was introverted, awkward and sarcastic, but he had such a pure and lovely heart. He was so caring, so decent. The romance was perfectly paced, and the chemistry was spot on. It gave me the warm fuzzies, the butterflies – everything you want from a romance. The notes they wrote to each other made me laugh, and I loved the awkwardness of their first face to face encounter! It made me smile so much.

All the characters, even the minor ones, were well-developed and fleshed out. I found myself really caring about all of the subplots, and I loved that there was more to this book than the romance. Some of them were quite hard-hitting (Leon’s brother Richie is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and Tiffy is being harassed by her emotionally abusive ex boyfriend), whilst others were light and heart-warming (Tiffy, a book editor, is working with an eccentric author on a book about crochet, and Leon, a palliative care nurse, is trying to track down the long lost love of one of his patients). I was so invested in every storyline, and that’s a testament to how much I cared about Tiffy and Leon. I felt gutted when things went badly for them, and genuine joy when things worked out. I don’t have any personal experience with emotionally abusive relationships, but I thought Tiffy’s storyline was so well handled, and it was amazing to see her start to recover from this, not as a result of her new relationship, but because of her own inner strength, and the support of her friends. I think it raised some important awareness about this type of abuse.

I don’t have a bad word to say about this book. It was a wonderful pick-me up, and one of my favourite things I’ve read this year.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 🙂 

Lots of literary love, Jess! xxx

book review

My new favourite book of 2017: ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Gail Honeyman. HarperCollins. May 2017.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. That, combined with her unusual appearance (scarred cheek, tendency to wear the same clothes year in, year out), means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kind of friends who rescue each other from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.


I finished this book over a week ago, and I’ve been struggling to review it ever since. I loved it so much that I almost want to keep it all to myself, but I won’t, because I’m not selfish, and I want you guys to fall in love with it as much as I did.

I don’t read much adult fiction, because I find that YA fiction generally does a better job of handling the issues I am interested in. One such issue is a mental health, and I’ve found in the past that the only adult books which focus on mental health I can find are of the pretentious, literary variety. I feel blessed to have found this book, because not only does it portray mental health struggles, childhood trauma, and loneliness very well, but it’s also very down to earth and relatable. It’s a wonderfully written book, and it moved me so much. I have a feeling this book will become an all-time favourite.

I have thankfully never experienced trauma like Eleanor’s, but I have experienced clinical depression, and I have felt lonely. The chapters where Eleanor is going through a bout of depression were fantastically written. I have never seen depression portrayed so accurately; I feel so often that depression in books is only talked about in terms of suicidal thoughts and self-harm, and that the other symptoms of the illness, particularly the physical ones, never really appear on the page. This depiction was so relatable that it made me cry – not because it made me feel depressed, but because it made me feel understood. I also loved the focus on mindfulness as Eleanor starts her journey of recovery; Eleanor slowed right down and started noticing things around her, paying attention to the tiny, wonderful details of her world, and that is something which has been a big part of my own recovery; it was brilliant to see it championed in this book.

When I initially picked up this book, I was actually expecting it to be about autism or aspergers syndrome. The blurb talks about Eleanor’s inability to deviate from routine, and the way she struggles to understand social situations. However, as I got further into the book, I realised that Eleanor’s routines are her coping mechanism for dealing with her loneliness, and her lack of social understanding is a product of her upbringing, coupled with the fact that she is so often alone. Eleanor lives on her own, has no friends, talks to her mum just once a week, and she spends all of her time outside of work on her own. The most heartbreaking thing about the way Eleanor’s loneliness was handled in this book was that, despite insisting she is ‘fine’ with being on her own, her reactions whenever anyone showed her the tiniest morsel of kindness spoke volumes. It was both sad and heartwarming to see how touched Eleanor could be by something as simple as having a cup of tea made for her.

I wanted to give Eleanor the BIGGEST hug, not just because I felt sorry for her, but because she was such an endearing character. She had such an odd, formal way of speaking (quirky in a completely undeliberate way), and such a lack of social awareness (she could often be quite rude without realising or meaning to); she was characterised in such a humorous way that you couldn’t help but laugh at, and love, her all the more for it. Another thing I adored about Eleanor was that she had absolutely no problem whatsoever with being an oddball. She knew that other people found her strange, and she didn’t mind at all. Eleanor was just Eleanor… completely herself.

What I loved most of all about this story was the focus on friendship. This isn’t really a romance (though I believe one could blossom beyond the final page of this book), but instead is an incredibly compelling, moving story of friendship. I loved Raymond so, so much. He was an ordinary guy, with the odd gross habit, but a thoroughly, thoroughly decent one. Sammy (the old man whom Raymond and Eleanor rescue at the beginning of the novel) was also a real sweetie. The kindness Raymond and Sammy show to Eleanor in this novel is so simple, yet so touching, and I loved the way their friendship helps Eleanor to start taking small steps outside of her comfort zone, by providing an antidote to the loneliness she has been living with for so long, and a support system to be there for when she begins confronting some of the darker parts of her past she has kept buried since childhood.

I don’t want to say too much more about this book, because I would rather you discovered it for yourself, but I strongly urge you to pick this one up; it is so, so touching, so sweet, so funny, so sad, but so ultimately uplifting. I finished this book feeling so emotional, but in a good way. It is certainly the best book I have read this year, but I would go as far as to say it is also one of the best books I have ever read.

discussion post

Self-care tips for book bloggers

Hello, you lovely people, and a happy Friday to you!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been struggling with blogging recently, and with reading too. I’m feeling burned-out and tired, which prevents me from enjoying reading as much as I normally do, and as for blogging… that feels impossible.

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A lot of the way I’m feeling is due to my anxiety, but all of us can feel this way at times, regardless of mental health issues, because book-blogging, though we love it, can be stressful and overwhelming.

FOR EXAMPLE…

Sometimes we find ourselves drowning in a sea of ARCs, and, although ARCs are an honour and a privilege, drowning isn’t fun for anyone.

Sometimes we have a million things we WANT to read, but can’t, because of all the books we HAVE to read, so we spend hours staring at our shelves in a state of panic, not reading anything at all.

Sometimes, we don’t want to read, and we just want to watch Netflix, y’know?

All of these things make it pretty damn difficult to keep up with our blogs, and feel calm.

But, there are lots of little things we can do to help ourselves when we feel like we’re crumbling under this pressure.

Those little things are small, but vital, acts of self-care.

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As somebody who suffers from anxiety and depression, I have come to appreciate just how important self-care is when I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and exhausted. Self-care can be anything from scheduling time for relaxation, to saying ‘no’ to things when I’m not feeling well enough to do them.

But looking after yourself is important no matter what the state of your mental health might be. Putting yourself first is not selfish, it’s not weak, and your health is entirely more important than your blog, at the end of the day.

If you are finding book-blogging stressful and overwhelming in any way right now, here are some self-care tips (with a bookish/blogging slant) that you might find helpful. 😊


GIVE YOURELF TIME TO RELAX

Get into a blanket/onesie/cosy get-up of you choosing, surround yourself with snacks and beverages, turn off your phone, ignore your loved ones(!), and spend some quality time with a book. Reading a book just for fun – one that you have no intention of reviewing – removes all pressure from your reading experience.

If you decide, afterwards, that you want to review the book, you can, but go in telling yourself that this is for pure enjoyment, nothing more, and you’ll find the whole thing so much more relaxing.

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SAY NO

Learning to say no is extremely important if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is okay to put yourself, and your health, first.

It’s okay to say no to review requests, and if you have ALL THE ARCS stacked on top of you, Buckaroo stylee, however tempting it may be, DO NOT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, REQUEST ANY MORE. It’s extra pressure that you don’t need right now, and that book will be there waiting for you later down the line, once it has been released, and you actually have the time and energy to read it.

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STOP BUYING BOOKS

I know, I know, this sounds like sacrilege. But, similarly to being approved for a bunch of ARCs you don’t have the time or inclination to read, having lots of unread books on your shelf can be really overwhelming if you’re feeling low. And, if you’re buying more books every week, no matter how gloriously shiny their covers may be, you’re just adding to the problem.

Ban yourself from buying books, and focus on reading the ones you’ve got. If you don’t feel like reading any of them at the moment, do something else – it will be healthier for you to watch a bit of TV, or have a relaxing bath, than try to struggle through a book you’re not into, feeling increasingly guiltier about it with every page. And, if you want to treat yourself to a pick-me-up,  you can always spend your money on something other than a book; chocolate, wine, bubble bath, stationary… basically comforting things that you don’t have to read.

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So, if you find yourself drawn to a bookshop, wrench yourself away; you’ll feel far better about yourself, and your shelves, if you do.


DITCH THE NEW RELEASES

As book-bloggers, we constantly feel pressure to read the books that EVERYONE is talking about. But we don’t HAVE to read them RIGHT NOW if the pressure is getting to us. Those books don’t have a sell-by date. We’ll get to them when we’re ready.

Re-reading an old favourite book instead can be a real treat, and there is no pressure involved, because we don’t need to decide how we feel about the book, and what star rating to give it – we already know we adore it, and that it will do our mental health the world of good.

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DO A BOOK TAG

Book tags are fun, and approx. a million times less pressurised than writing a book review where you have to analyse the crap out of everything.

If book tags are too much for you right now, that’s absolutely fine, but if you sit down and give one a go, just for fun, you might find yourself getting back into the swing of things.

Plus, book tags generally contain more gif-usage and more fangirling than reviews, both of which are highly efficient at boosting your endorphin levels. FACT.

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DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP

This is easier said than done – I beat myself up constantly – but remind yourself that NOBODY IS JUDGING YOU EXCEPT FOR YOURSELF. Nobody is looking at your blog and thinking ‘what a failure, she never posts anymore, compared to I, superwoman, who whacks out a post every day of the week.’

Superwoman is too busy doing Superwoman to notice, so you just do you… whatever you have to offer is enough for now, and makes you Superwoman/man in my eyes.

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HAVE A BREAK

Take a hiatus if you need one. You can announce it, if that makes you feel more comfortable, but if you don’t want to, there is no shame in going off-road for a while, without telling anyone. YOU DO NOT NEED TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF.

The blogging community isn’t going anywhere, and you will not be forgotten, but if you’re worried about disappearing, you can always keep in contact with everyone by liking or commenting on their posts (which is a lot easier than writing your own when you’re feeling burned out.)

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LOOK AFTER YOURSELF IN GENERAL

This is not related to books or blogging, but if you are feeling low, basic things can feel impossible, let alone keeping up with a hobby. Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, getting some exercise, and breathing fresh air are all vital, and do as much good for your mental health as they do your physical health.

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I hope these tips have been helpful, and that some of them work for you! 😊 Do you have any self-care tips for when you’re feeling overwhelmed? I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend filled with books and cake!

Gif credit: Giphy

discussion post

Book-blogging with anxiety (a post containing virtual hugs, and kittens.)

Hi guys! I’ve been thinking about posting this for some time, and as today is World Mental Health Day, it seems like the right time to throw these thoughts out into the blogosphere. I have a tendency to feel like I’m alone in how I’m feeling, but the truth is, lots of people within the book-blogging community struggle with mental health conditions, so this is me reaching out and saying that if you yourself feel that way, you are not alone.

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever explicitly said so on my blog, but I suffer from depression and anxiety. Sometimes the way I’m feeling gets in the way of blogging, as you can probably tell from how sporadic a blogger I’ve been over the past few months. I’m trying at the moment – it’s very hard, but I’m trying – to convince myself that I should NOT feel guilty about this.

Book-blogging can be stressful at the best of times, and I know I’m not alone in all of the anxieties I experience with this hobby. I LOVE blogging, I love the community, I love discussing books with you guys and fangirling and being part of something so awesome. But there are so many stresses and struggles that sit alongside the good stuff, which are only amplified by anxiety and depression, and I know I’m not alone in this:

I can’t be the only one who sees how many books another human is reading and reviewing per week and feels stressed that it’s been two weeks and I haven’t finished a single book because I can’t concentrate right now

I can’t be the only one who gets panicky because it’s been more than a week and I haven’t replied to my blog comments because I’m overwhelmed, and what if everyone thinks I’m rude and ignorant and lazy

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I can’t be the only one who worries that I’ll be forgotten because I haven’t posted anything in ten days and I don’t know when I’ll be able to because my brain is full of fog and just picking what to have for lunch is a challenge right now

I can’t be the only one who sees other bloggers giving advice like ‘you should try to blog every day, or a least 4 times a week’ and wants to curl up in a little ball of unworthiness because I am clearly not trying hard enough

I can’t be the only one whose heart starts beating faster when somebody says they want to read a book I’ve reviewed, because what if they hate it? What if they never trust my opinion again? And worse still, what if they find it problematic and get offended by it and hate me for encouraging them to read it?

I can’t be the only one who gets anxious when everyone around me is reviewing a new release and I haven’t even read it yet, because reading books is hard when you’re so tired you’re barely alive

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And I certainly can’t be the only one who thinks what I’ve written is a pile of crap when my stats aren’t very good. That I’m a big fat failure full stop.

In fact, I know I’m not the only one.


I’ve decided it’s high time we stopped feeling so guilty. Blogging is supposed to be enjoyable, but sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes, anxiety and depression can make blogging feel like climbing a mountain. But it’s okay:

It’s okay if it takes us two weeks, three weeks, a month, to read one book.

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It’s okay if it takes us a while to get back to people who’ve commented on our posts – they’ll understand. They won’t throw rocks at us.

It’s okay if we don’t blog for a month – everyone takes hiatuses.

It’s okay not to blog every single day. It’s enough that we’re getting up and getting through the day. We matter more than our blogs, at the end of the day.

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In fact, it’s perfectly okay to do something OTHER than blogging when we get home from a mentally exhausting day at work/school/other gruelling reality thing. It’s okay to binge-watch something on Netflix instead of reading. It’s okay to get into bed at 9.30, even if that is earlier than our Granny retires to hers.

It’s okay if we like a book and somebody else doesn’t – everyone has different opinions, and nobody is going to throw rocks at us for expressing ours.

It’s okay if we don’t review a new release; we can read and review whatever we want, it’s our blog! And we don’t even HAVE to review a book – we could just read it for fun and not worry about it. Nobody is going to throw rocks at us if we don’t come up with 1,000 sparklingly witty and insightful words about Empire of Storms. (In fact, nobody throws rocks in the book blogging community full stop. We’re all lovely human beings.)

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It’s also okay if we don’t get a gazillion views on one of our blog posts. We’re blogging because we enjoy it, and stats don’t matter. Oh and while we’re at it, our blog is not crap, and neither are we.

Basically, it’s okay to give ourselves a break. STOP BEATING OURSELVES UP. We deserve to be happy, and blogging isn’t going anywhere. It’ll still be there when we feel up to it again. And so will all the wonderful people in this community, who understand, and may even feel the same way. 🙂


Much love to you all and hope you have a lovely week. And if any of the above is familiar to you, I am always here for anyone who needs a virtual hug right now.

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Image source: Giphy