On the bookshelf: April.

Another month, another piles of books on my bookshelf. This month’s focus – young adult novels and a self help book.

Keep scrolling for more.

Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen.
I am a pretty big fan of Sarah Dessen’s work. I’ve actually only read one of her books before – The Truth About Forever. I honestly just really enjoy Dessen’s writing style and the ease in which she delivers the story line and characters. Saint Anything definitely reinforced the love that I have for Dessen’s novels. The book is about a girl called Sydney and how her life changes after her older brother Peyton goes to jail for a drink driving offence. In an effort to remove herself from the unwanted attention at her school caused by Peyton’s sentence, Sydney moves to a new school where she meets the Chatham family described as “a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis.”
And its here she meets Mac Chatham. Gorgeous, caring and protective Mac.

The novel really talks about a lot of things like forgiveness, feeling invisible, family, friendship, creepy weird men and how hard it might be to find your place in the world. Yeah sure, there is the focus on the love story, but doesn’t every YA have that focus? What is more important here is the beautiful friendship that Sydney forms with the Chatham family. Things like that were the reason I really enjoyed this book. Coming from a place where I do feel rather lost and rather invisible I definitely resonated with it. If you are in a similar space, or want a decent read, definitely pick up Saint Anything. 

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We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide to Living with Social Anxiety – Claire Eastham.
A little plug about a self help book here and I am not even for one second ashamed. As I mentioned in my last post, I am really focusing on my own recovery at the moment and reading books and articles about my conditions are really helping me accept my illnesses and start to develop my own methods to recover – such as writing. Anyway, this book is basically a guide to anxiety. It uses the authors own experience and coping mechanisms to create this amazingly relatable book that honestly sums up some of my own experiences so well. I loved this book so bloody much I dedicated an entire blog post to it, which you can read more here (do it!!!)

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What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen
So it’s pretty clear that this month I had a little bit of an obsession with Sarah Dessen. It is definitely not my fault and I’m checking myself into author rehab as you read this… (Lol just joking). But back on track now. This book is definitely not as good as Saint Anything, in fact I enjoyed it a lot less. I think it took a long time to actually get into the story line and then really, there wasn’t too much story line there at all. It follows the story of Mclean, a teenager who has jumped from town to town with her Dad since her parents divorce.

I definitely didn’t enjoy this one as much as much as Saint Anything. I think it seemed to drag on a little too much and just seemed quite… immature to me. I really seemed like a Young Adult novel to me, which Dessen’s books don’t really seem to do. There were a few good themes though in particular identity and family which I did enjoy a lot. Not a bad book but nothing to rave about. Dessen’s writing and the themes within the novel really where the saving grace.

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Vanishing Girls – Lauren Oliver
I didn’t love this book but I didn’t reallllly hate it either. I think the one saving grace is that I LOVE Oliver’s writing style. She tends to use other elements – in this case the blog posts, the newspaper articles and the ‘social media’ element – to create her story. This, combined with her genius writing style, generally make her books a good read. But this one… I just didn’t really love. I mean it hooked me in when I read the blurb – a story about two sisters who have an inseparable bond until an undisclosed accident occurs leaving the two girls estranged. Then Dara, one of the girls, goes missing on her birthday. Her sister Nick believes it is linked to the disappearance of another young girl, 9 year-old Madeleine Snow and Nick begins the mission to find her sister. But I think that the blurb was more enthralling than the actual story.. It set up the idea of a plot that wasn’t actually in the book which was really annoying!

I think this novel is an okay read, particularly if you enjoy Oliver’s writing, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy the book.

-M x

What books have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear your recommendations. 

On the bookshelf: a book review.

Now I’m not generally one to want to write a whole blog post about just one book but when you find one that you love so much I think it is necessary to sing praise from the rooftops.

So what is this amazing book you may ask? It’s called We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide to Living with Social Anxiety by the OUTSTANDING Claire Eastham.

*For all of those who don’t want to read about me rave about a book all about social anxiety feel free to tune out now. Good, you’re gone? Back to my post*

Alright so I know this isn’t the kind of book that will appeal to everyone but since almost 11 per cent of Australians experience social anxiety in their lifetime, chances are you know someone going through it and therefore this book is relevant to you. In fact, the book has a whole section dedicated to loved ones so even if you don’t suffer from this mental illness you’ll still be able to get something out of it.

Basically We’re All Mad Here is a guide to dealing with social anxiety and is broken down into easy to read sections. The sections discuss a lot of things like: what social anxiety actually is, treatment options, how to deal with it at school/university, how to deal with it at work, how to deal with it in other triggering situations (like on social media, on dates and at parties) and a section for loved ones. It mixes Claire’s (the author) own experience through childhood, early adulthood, breakdown and subsequent diagnosis and coping mechanisms with a few great exercises and tips.

Claire is honestly hilarious. I read the first page and wanted to be her best friend. It also felt like someone was actually talking directly to me like I was their friend rather than a book filled with lots of boring science mumbo-jumbo. I really want to praise her for making the book incredibly relatable and easy to read with her humour.

As well as some excellent advice like, JUST ACCEPT YOU HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS, the book also contains some really great quotes, great research and great resources.

Now lets cover the two teeny tiny negative parts (that aren’t really all that negative). Basically, this book is a beginners guide to dealing with social anxiety. Inside Claire writes that when she was first diagnosed ALL she wanted was a book like this that offered up a simple explanation of social anxiety as well as achievable coping mechanisms. So yeah, it’s basic and if you’ve already gone through your own diagnosis then you probably know a lot of the details in the book.

BUT WHO REALLY CARES.

It isn’t necessarily a book for someone who knows all about their condition and has their own coping mechanisms. It is a great book for someone who thinks they may have social anxiety or who has just been diagnosed or even for a loved one of someone suffering. Also I’ve known about my social anxiety for a while and I still found it relevant, relatable, funny, interesting and helpful.

The other teeny negative is that it has coping mechanisms that work for Claire but may not work for every Tom, Dick and Harry. However this is something that Claire makes clear at the start of book so I believe it counteracts the negative aspect.

And honestly, those are the only negative parts and I actually explained why they aren’t negatives at all so really it is a book full of amazing and heartfelt advice. I could not praise this book anymore. I would literally marry this book if I could (maybe that’s a little far, but you get how much I love it).

So in summary… Buy this book!!

Get it for yourself, a friend, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a parent, a sibling, WHOEVER. I can guarantee it will help someone in your life and if it doesn’t they will just laugh along because Claire is a bloody fabulous and relatable author.

Seriously, I honestly cannot recommend this book more. The advice is so practical and easy to understand its like social anxiety for dummies. By including her own personal experiences, Claire makes you feel like you aren’t in a battle that is honestly pretty terrifying. She also talks a lot about acceptance which I think is one of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness. So anyway, enough ranting from me and just buy the damn book.

-M x

PS – I also HIGHLY recommend Claire’s blog, for which the link is below. It just kept my love for her and her writing going. There are so many excellent and personal posts and more advice about mental illness. For Claire’s website ‘We’re All Mad Here’ click here. 

Have you also read this book? Or do you just have a book recommendation for me? Comment below! 🙂 

On the bookshelf: March.

One of my goals this year was to read more books. I used to absolutely love reading and would read a number of books a week. But then life happens and I went to uni and I forgot how to read anything that wasn’t a uni book or an essay. But now I am an adult with an adult job and free time and all that jazz. So, one of the first things I did when I moved to this new place was to become a member of the local library.

My goal is essentially to read a book a week. I didn’t quite achieve that during March but 3/4 isn’t bad. So since we are almost at the end of March here is a summary of the books I read over the last month and what I thought about them.

Happy Endings – Jon Rance.
I was looking forward to reading this book after I read the blurb on the back. It is about 4 people in their late 20’s – 2 couples – who are each battling with what they want from their life. Emma wants to be an actress. Her fiancee Jack wants to be a published writer, if not for himself, to save his relationship. Kate wants to travel before she turns 30 while her boyfriend, Ed just wants to settle down. The book is broken into ‘chapters’ each written from the perspectives of a different character.
As I said, I was excited to read this. I felt like the plot could go anywhere and it did – just not in the ways I was expecting (or really wanted). I was definitely a little disappointed by this one. It wasn’t so much the story line or the style of writing but the actions of the characters themselves. I got way too involved in their lives and was really disappointed in some of the character development. But then maybe that’s the sign of a good novel? I was so involved with the characters I actually got mad when they did stupid things.

Pick this up if you want an easy read and as the title suggests, a happy ending.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – E.Lockhart.
I don’t really know what I was expecting after reading the blurb of this book because it doesn’t reallllly give anything away but I think it kind of live up to my expectations. I wanted to read this book after reading We Were Liars, also by Lockhart. I absolutely loved it and loved Lockhart’s writing style. I will start off by saying this book is no where near as good as We Were Liars. It’s actually described as a ‘feminist novel’ which I don’t think it really lives up too. In fact, Frankie doesn’t seem like a feminist to me. She kind of just got more annoying and stubborn as the book progressed. And the main thing she does is follow the boys around and try to get their approval and get them to let her into their society. That is not a feminist character.
So after I’ve pointed out the negative parts there are actually two reasons why I like this book. One: it was witty. Frankie is a smart character who just really puts her mind towards the wrong things (like trying to prove herself to the males of the society).
Two: it isn’t filled with all the usual themes of a YA novel. There is a little bit of her relationship with Mathew but the main focus really is about Frankie’s obsession with the all male society at her exclusive boarding school.

Once again, an easy read but nothing to jump through hoops to read.

Breathing Under Water – Sophie Hardcastle
Another YA novel here. Breathing Under Water is Hardcastle’s debut novel and is incredibly raw, gut wrenching, and just really emotional overall. It follows the story of twins Gracie and Ben who were born nineteen minutes and eleven seconds apart (Ben being the older twin). Ben is the ‘golden boy’ – rising surf star and the one all the girls want. Because of this, Grace has always kind of blended in the background which is a pretty key plot point.
The blurb gives you are a really obvious clue that some kind of tragedy is going to happen and it is kind of easy to guess it is going to be something to do with Ben since the book is written from Grace’s perspective. I won’t give it away but basically it shows us Grace’s decline after the tragedy and her battle to find herself again. Once again, it was an easy read but the thing I liked most about this novel was the development of Grace’s character (as much as I didn’t like it in parts) and how beautifully emotive Hardcastle’s writing is. I think the themes within the book are relatable for some people, especially those who have found themselves struggling after a big life change.

-M x

What books did you read in March? Let me know in the comments below. 

Favourite reads of 2016.

So this blog post has been a looooong time coming. I mean, we’re already in March and I’m only just getting around to posting it. But I feel like it is 100 per cent worth the wait (I’m also super biased because this is my blog post..)

Anyway, I digress. This post is all about my absolute favourite reads of 2016. Now, I didn’t read a lot of books last year. I didn’t really have time, between my final year of university, working part time, completing a number of internships and trying to have a social life but it was still pretty difficult to narrow down my favourite reads. As such, they are in no decisive order. And here we go.

Amazinger Face by Zoe Foster Blake.
A book for make up lovers or make up novices like myself. Amazinger Face is an update of Foster Blakes’ 2011 book entitled AMAZING Face (in fact the cute name change is one of my favourite things about the new book). Basically the book is a bible of everything hair, make up, skin, really EVERYTHING any female ever needs to know. She lists her favourite products, makeup looks for any skin tone, practical skin care tips, and step-by-step instructions for the perfect winged liner or how to conceal day 4 unwashed hair.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
This novel was also released as a movie in 2016, so before I went to watch the movie I read the book. And I loved it! It is a thriller and boy does it thrill. The novel follows the story of Rachel and her obsession with the ‘perfect’ couple she sees each day from her commuter train to work. The couple, we learn, is everything Rachel once had – until one day they aren’t. In an effort not to spoil I’ll stop there, however I will recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl or loves a good psychological thriller. I also rate the movie.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.
Apparently I was one for books that were hitting the big screen last year. Another novel turned movie (or in this case mini-series), Big Little Lies follows the story of three very different women; Madeline, Celeste and Jane, and the lies they tell themselves (and each other) to get by. It explores a lot of different themes including domestic violence, relationships, mother-daughter dynamics and of course murder. Moriarty is a true genius. Her ability to intertwine each characters story into one another seamlessly is what makes this book so great. There are so many twists that it is impossible to predict what is around the corner.

It by Alexa Chung
While this book wasn’t released in 2016, I have only just gotten around to reading it. Part autobiography, part visual diary, part journal, this book gives you an intimate insight into the life of Alexa Chung. She shares everything from her style inspirations to boy advice (very good advice at that) and it is a great, easy read. Also A+ for being an excellent coffee table display book to make me look 100 per cent cooler than I actually am.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
This book absolutely broke my heart. I read it on the plane on the way home from my Christmas holidays and I pretty much sobbed through 3/4 of it. Glasgow is an incredible author whose gift of writing needs to be shouted from rooftops. The novel introduces us to 18 year old Charlie, who has already seen more than most people have at 18. But Charlie found a way to forget. She started to self harm. The book follows Charlie on her journey of self love and self acceptance, but not in a cliche way like you may be thinking. Girl in Pieces is incredibly raw and not at all for everyone. However, I think she explains the pain and loathing behind self harm beautifully and this book is definitely one to read.

– M x

What were your favourite books of 2016? Share them with me in the comments below!