The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

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

misfit

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

furiouslyhappy

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:

spoons

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

theflatshare

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

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Books I’ve read recently: mini reviews!

Happy Friday, lovely bookish people!

Today I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on some of the books I’ve read since my last post! I’ve actually read 5 (almost 6) books since I last updated, but I’m only reviewing 3 today otherwise this post would be ridiculously long (even for me, who can’t help but turn everything I write into a dissertation!) More mini reviews coming soon. 🙂


A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

studyincharl

This book is the first instalment in a YA mystery series following the descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (Charlotte and Jamie), who meet at boarding school, and become friends when they are both seemingly implicated in the murder of one of their classmates. They start working together to find out who is trying to set them up, and who the real murderer is.

I really enjoyed this book, but I loved the first half a lot more than the second. What I loved most about this book were the characters, and watching their friendship develop. Charlotte and Jamie are undoubtedly similar to Conan Doyle’s characters, but because this is so obviously intentional you can appreciate how well the spirit of those beloved old characters is captured in these new ones. I thought Watson was a loveable narrator, and Holmes a fascinating character. I loved seeing Sherlock’s traits in a female character; I think it’s rare to see female characters struggle to express emotions, and be unapologetically haughty, and I really enjoyed both of those things about her! I found the dialogue of both characters sharp, often funny, and I loved the banter between our two leads.

What I didn’t love so much about this story was the mystery itself. I didn’t find myself fully invested, and although I didn’t necessarily work out what was going to happen in the end, I didn’t feel all that shocked by the outcome either. The other thing is that I had to suspend my disbelief a LOT when it came to the things Holmes and Watson pulled off, but I guess that’s kind of the point; the tension and stakes were certainly high!

I definitely want to carry on with the series, because I am invested in the relationship between the characters, so I am hoping that I will feel more compelled by the mysteries in the next two books.


Never Trust a Rabbit by Jeremy Dyson

nevertrustarabbit

I found this collection very entertaining, but I had a few issues with it too. Overall the stories were dark and surreal, but unlike a lot of stories in the ‘weird fiction’ genre, these all had fairly satisfying resolutions that often had a poignant point to make. I really appreciated this, because sometimes the endings of these kinds of stories can be *too* ambiguous.

The stories I loved most in here were ‘City Deep’ and ‘The Maze’. Both of these were extremely unsettling. City Deep is about a forgotten branch of the London Underground where something ‘other’ is lurking, and I am still thinking about how spooked I was by this story. I had to take the tube the day after reading it, and my heart was beating so fast, purely from thinking about the creepiness of this story’s ending. ‘The Maze’ is about a man who remembers a maze in a park that he visited as a child, but he can’t seem to find anybody else who remembers it too. This story was weird in the best way, and the ending was quite shiversome!

I don’t think there were any stories that I wasn’t entertained by, but some of them bothered me because of the way their male narrators talked about women and women’s bodies. What I will say, however, is that the sleaziest and most unlikeable characters were not rewarded for their behaviour, so I did appreciate that, even though reading their thoughts did make me feel uncomfortable. ‘The Engine of Desire’ is a particular story I had this issue with, and I would give a trigger warning for rape with this story. However, if that is something you are okay with reading about, the story is very interesting, and the ending fantastically creepy.

The other issue I had is that there is some homophobia throughout the text, which wasn’t relevant to the stories, so had no reason for being there. This book was published almost 20 years ago, so it’s not necessarily surprising (and I am sure it would have been edited out if being published in more recent times), but it’s there, so just be aware of that going into this.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this collection. If you like all things creepy and strange, this is definitely worth picking up!


Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

lobsters

I picked this book up at YALC last year, after really enjoying Freshers by the same writing duo. I didn’t love this one quite as much as their other book, but I still found it entertaining, funny, and relatable, as well as being a quick, fun read.

The story is told in alternating perspective chapters, and follows two characters called Hannah and Sam who meet during the summer before they start university. Both characters want to lose their virginity before they go off to college, so there are a lot of references to sex in this book, and it was quite refreshing for a YA book to be so sex-positive (and in a realistic way too – yay!) The romance between Hannah and Sam was a little bit frustrating, because it took them a long time to sort themselves out and get together. I don’t mind slow burn romances, but theirs was more a case of a whole ton of miscommunication, misunderstandings, and unnecessary jealousy! I really just wanted to smack their heads together.

Despite my frustrations with the romance, I did actually like Hannah and Sam as characters, and there were a lot of hilarious side characters in this story too. One of my favourite things about this book was the comedy – Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison write humour so well. There were some characters that I hated though, one of them being Hannah’s best friend Stella. Their friendship was so toxic, and I found it hard to understand why they were even friends?!

A lot of the story focuses on the summer being a kind of limbo period for Hannah and Sam. They’ve finished school, and they’re waiting to get their exam results to find out whether they’ve got into their chosen universities. I thought the anxieties about exam results were well portrayed, and I think a lot of teenagers (and adults who have been through this experience) will relate to this! I also really enjoyed reading about the (separate) holidays our main characters go on during that summer; that period just before university is such a strange time because you feel so much more grown up than you are, and experiences like the freedom of first holidays with friends instead of parents can turn out very differently from how you expect them to be. I thought this was really well reflected in Hannah’s experience in Kavos with her friends, where her behaviour and feelings, as well as theirs, end up surprising her.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel a lot, despite a few minor frustrations, and I can’t wait to read whatever these authors come out with next.


Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear what you thought of them!

Lots of literary love, Jess xxx

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