July Reads

Another month has passed, which means it’s time for another wrap-up! I must apologise in advance for my tardiness with this post – I had written half of it before 1st August, then it fell by the wayside, but it’s here now! Better late than never, right?

Once again, my reading hasn’t been great having only read six books – I’ve found it hard to have time to pick up books, having to prioritise other things (if you haven’t taken a look at this post, please do!).

Without further ado, last month I read…

Plum by Hollie McNish (Picador Poetry) – 5/5

Plum hollie mcnish

Plum is poet Hollie McNish’s newest collection and features both new and old poetry – her recent poems are interrupted by earlier writing from her formative years – voices that are raw, honest and also very, very funny. If you’re looking to get into poetry, this is a fantastic place to start – Hollie is warm, honest, funny, sarcastic and passionate. I could listen to her poetry over and over again (a personal fave of mine is Mathematics – I encourage you to go and have a watch on YouTube!)

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound) – 5/5

Good Immigrant

This is a collection of essays written by BAME authors, edited together by Nikesh Shukla. It explores what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. The essays look at identity, culture, family and diversity; I found it enlightening, eye-opening, funny, heart-breaking and infuriating all in one. This is such an important read and one that everyone should pick up!

Them: Adventures with extremists by Jon Ronson (Picador) – 3/5

Them

It seems I was on a bit of a non-fiction roll this month! I’m a big fan of Jon Ronson’s books and my favourite of his is The Psychopath Test, however I wasn’t mad about Them: Adventures with Extremists. The book goes on a quest to explore extremism, from Islamic fundamentalists to Neo-Nazis. Originally written in 2001, this book is definitely still prevalent today; I found it fascinating in parts, but also a little boring in others.

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books) – 4/5

Front Cover Dying to Live

Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series – I loved the setting of the book, the African landscape added a different dimension, making it stand out from so many British crime books, which can sometimes feel a bit samey! If you’re looking for a fairly light crime novel, which is a bit different, then I’d definitely recommend giving the Kubu books a go. My full blog tour post is here.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait (Doubleday Books) – 2/5

OurMemoryLikeDust

This one puzzled and perplexed me – my full review can be found here. Our Memory Like Dust wasn’t completely up my street, but I definitely think you’d enjoy it if you’re a fan of light sci-fi or dystopian fiction. Chait is a complex storyteller, using many themes, characters and contemporary issues to make a wider point about society – although I think some of these points went over my head…

The Marshking’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (Sphere) – 4/5

Marshking's Daughter

Last of all, I picked up The Marshking’s Daughter to help get me out of my slump! I was hooked from the get-go; it is thrilling, suspenseful and action packed. The story is centred around a woman who was born into captivity after her Mother was abducted – I was wary that this might read like Room by Emma Donoghue. I shouldn’t have been worried as it was completely different. Dionne creates wonderful, atmospheric scenery which chills you to the core. After finishing The Marshking’s Daughter I was excited to pick up another thriller.

What did you read in July? Do you have any recommendations? 

Mental Health Awareness Week

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May), a topic that has always interested me and been close to my heart. A major new study by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that over two-thirds of Britons say that they have experienced a mental health problem, with younger people more likely than those over the age of 55 to say that they have experienced an issue. Whilst people are becoming increasingly open and sharing their mental health stories, many people still think talking about mental health is taboo and there’s a big job to be done in raising awareness.

Today I’ve put together a roundup of some books that I’ve read to educate myself and that I’ve found both really interesting and enlightening. I haven’t got the last one on the list, but had to include it as it looks like a great tool for helping manage your own mental health.

As usual, I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of the below and your thoughts on them.

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

madgirl.jpg

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness. 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.

Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax

sanenewworld

Ruby Wax – comedian, writer and mental health campaigner – shows us how our minds can jeopardise our sanity. With her own periods of depression and now a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy to draw from, she explains how our busy, chattering, self-critical thoughts drive us to anxiety and stress. If we are to break the cycle, we need to understand how our brains work, rewire our thinking and find calm in a frenetic world. Helping you become the master, not the slave, of your mind, here is the manual to saner living.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

brainonfir

Susannah Cahalan was a happy, clever, healthy twenty-four-year old. Then one day she woke up in hospital, with no memory of what had happened or how she had got there. Within weeks, she would be transformed into someone unrecognizable, descending into a state of acute psychosis, undergoing rages and convulsions, hallucinating that her father had murdered his wife; that she could control time with her mind. Everything she had taken for granted about her life, and who she was, was wiped out. This is Susannah’s story of her terrifying descent into madness and the desperate hunt for a diagnosis, as, after dozens of tests and scans, baffled doctors concluded she should be confined in a psychiatric ward. It is also the story of how one brilliant man, Syria-born Dr Najar, finally proved – using a simple pen and paper – that Susannah’s psychotic behaviour was caused by a rare autoimmune disease attacking her brain.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

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Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth. “I wrote this book because the oldest cliches remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it …Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.

The Wellbeing Journal: Creative Activities to Inspire by Mind

Wellbeing journal

Explore your inner world and be inspired with The Wellbeing Journal. Developed in partnership with Mind, the mental health charity, each page of this gorgeous journal has been thoughtfully crafted and it includes activities, colouring, drawing prompts, contemplative quotes and lots of space for you to write about your own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Creativity and reflection can have a powerful, positive influence on our lives. Now, with The Wellbeing Journal, you can enjoy practising these skills every day and wherever you go.

If you’re concerned about your mental health, or you’re worried about someone you know there is plenty of help available through both Mental Health and Mind.

Spring Cosy Reading Night: My TBR

Tomorrow sees the next Cosy Reading Night take place. If you’ve not heard of the Cosy Reading Night, it’s an evening hosted by the lovely Lauren over at Lauren and the Books, which encourages you to snuggle up at home with a few books for three hours of reading bliss. You can see the announcement video here if you’d like to hear more. Lauren’s YouTube channel is full of bookish videos – her and her boyfriend David are such a funny double-act – I encourage you to go and check her out as she’s one of my favourites on BookTube!

Lauren and books
Image courtesy of Lauren and the Books

So, as mentioned the Spring edition will be taking place tomorrow (Sunday 23rd April), 7-10pm BST. I can’t wait for an evening of uninterrupted reading and I thought I’d share what I’d be reading during the evening, as well as my snacks of choice (very important!).

My books

Cosy Reading Night is taking place over three hours I thought I’d divide my reading up into hourly slots, purely so it gives me some variety during the evening.

7pm – 8pm

I think I’m going to start the night with Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine, an historical novel that “balances a Daphne du Maurier atmosphere with a mystery”. It sounds like it’ll be a dark, brooding read that will hopefully fit nicely with the cosy theme of the night. 

Beyond

Scotland,1893. Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borders. She was once close to her philanthropist father, but his silence over what really happened on the day a poacher was shot on estate land has come between them.

 An invitation to accompany her father to Canada is a chance for Evelyn to escape her limited existence. But once there, on the wild and turbulent Nipigon river, she is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, Ballantyre’s former stable hand, and once her friend. He disappeared the night of the murder, charged with the shooting. Evelyn never believed that James was guilty – and her father’s role in the killing has always been mysterious. What does he have to hide? In the wild landscape of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the secrets and lies surrounding that night are finally stripped away, with dramatic consequences.

 8pm – 9pm

Next up I’m aiming to switch over to some non-fiction. I’ve recently been working my way through Walking Through Spring by Graham Hoyland. I love nature and walking (and am a long-time National Trust lover!) so I’m finding this fascinating, although I only seem to read a small amount at a time. It’d be nice to make a dent in this one before Spring is over!

Walking

Walking Through Spring follows Graham Hoyland’s journey as he traces a new national trail, walking north with Spring from the South Coast to the Borders. Hoyland connects a labyrinth of ancient footpaths, marking each mile by planting an acorn and drawing a path of oak trees that stretch through the English countryside.

Whether it is sailing a dinghy through the Lake District or taking in an otter’s point of view down the River Eden to the Scottish border, he finds himself engaging with some of England’s best nature writers, discovering the essence of the country and meeting England’s rural characters along the way.

9pm – 10pm

Finally, I’ll either carry on with Beyond the Wild River or I’ll pick-up Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I’ve been planning to read this before the new film adaptation comes out later this year. My local library had it in stock when I last went in, which means I’ll need to read it before it needs to be returned.

AgathaChristie

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

My snacks

Obviously I’ll be drinking lots of tea, as for me it’s the perfect reading companion! In terms of snacks I’ll probably pick up some crisps and dip (sour cream and chive is my favourite, but a bit messy!) as well as some fizzy sweets – the sourer the better! When I’m reading I like to have snacks that are easy to pick up / nibble on.

The cosy factor

I’m planning on planting myself on the sofa, with comfy clothes and slippers on, wrapped under a blanket. If it’s cold (which it has been recently – where’s the sunshine?!) then I’ll light the fire and put some candles on too.

I’m looking forward to a night of pure relaxation – I’ll be doing a wrap up post next week of how my evening went. I’d also love to hear what you’ll be reading if you’re planning on taking part.