Review: All Of The Above (Juno Dawson)

file_000-19Title: All Of The Above

Author: Juno Dawson

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release: September 2015

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+, mental health.

Which animal is similar to this book? This will be difficult to explain so just bear with me… I would compare this book to a milksnake since they’re colourful and have a lot going on within their bodies, without being ridiculously ‘out there’. They have a purpose to being so colourful (it warns off predators, not that that’s relevant to this), in the same way that this book covers a whole multitude of issues (and I’ve seen some reviews be negative about this) which I personally think are necessary and important to the story. Both the snake and the plot pull off their bright colours well, but for me, I respect snakes and I understand the appeal, however that doesn’t necessarily mean I want them draped around my neck. To translate, I understand the need for a book like this, and I see its good points, but I feel this book isn’t fully for me.

The blurb says: This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Grand arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there’s Polly…love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

I can say so many good things about this story (and trust me, I will) but I think it’ll be best to get the negative aspect out of the way first. Without spoiling much, I really feel like the asexual character was poorly misrepresented. I resent the idea that to be asexual, you have to have some kind of dislike in your body and that’s the message put across here. I like that there was an asexual character, and aside from that, I really liked that they were shown to be ‘normal’. However, I didn’t like the self-conscious link that was made there, so maybe if you wish to read a book with an asexual character, maybe try another.

However, if you’re looking for a realistic, jam-packed book filled with fun, drama and friendship, then look no further. All Of The Above manages to pack in so many typically ‘teen’ issues into just 326 pages. There’s emotional moments that make you want to cry, times you’ll laugh and instances you’ll wish were happening to you in real life. In real life, there’s often a lot going on at once, so it makes sense for so much to happen at once for the characters in the story. I feel it tackles sex in YA well too, not over-describing, but presenting it realistically in a way I think a lot of teen girls would be able to relate to.

I love the way all the characters have such hugely distinctive voices and personalities, with Polly so outgoing and Alice so not, Beasley is shy and Daisy is friendly. I lo20160802_160912ve that throughout the whole story, despite the many crossed paths and plot lines, the voices remain distinct and strong.

Seriously so much happens in this story that I feel like anything I say is a spoiler…So if you like fast-paced, realistic stories with some good diversity (especially in terms of LGBT+), then give this a go! 8 out of 10 paw prints from me!

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Review: Wing Jones (Katherine Webber)

file_000-18Title: Wing Jones

Author: Katherine Webber

Publisher: Walker Books

Release: January 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? For me, this book makes me think of sea otters since they’re so beautiful, so funny and so intelligent, but they’re also constantly at risk of being chomped on by the great white sharks that roam in the area…I felt like this book was written so well and with such lovely language, had a funny tone to it and was so cleverly written, touching on subjects which can be written badly or approached wrongly in other books etc. but there was always that feeling that everything could go horribly wrong at any minute.

The blurb says: Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

I loved this book a lot, and I’ve been waiting to read it since I heard about it at YALC in July. Although I didn’t really even know what it was about, I was excited since I’d heard so many good things and I don’t disagree with any of them; this book was seriously amazing. It follows the story of a girl called Wing whose grandparents come from China and Ghana respectively, so she doesn’t fully fit in anywhere. She then has to deal with her brother falling into a coma and subsequently discovers a passion for running.

Okay but this book is beautifully diverse; not only does it cover nationalities not often covered (as previously mentioned, the main character has grandparents from Ghana and from China so that’s a little bit different) but it also covers class differences and financial differences in a way that’s realistic and quite frankly, scary. The main thing I loved about this book is how real it is.

As soon as I started reading this, I was in the story; the writing was so  beautiful and the story was set so well (1990s Atlanta). Being biracial, especially in this time-frame, Wing has a lot to deal with and the story follows her as she tries to get through the difficult time her family is facing since it’s hard to find the money to pay for her brother’s medical bills. Running gives her an escape and I really loved the way it’s described in the book; it makes it a spiritual and mental experience as well as a physical one and I liked that the running aspect was more important than the romance plot.

I appreciate books with a satirical or jokey tone and this book did this well (the Grannies are perfect!) so I just loved the voices of all the characters and how they all entwined to create a realistic spread of personalities. The plot was heartwarming, heartbroken and tense at the same time as having that fun/chilled out undertone that just mak20160804_163103es me connect to characters a lot more.

I shall be forever wishing I knew all the characters in real life (except Heather Parker. She can do one.) so this book gets 10 paw prints out of 10! I’ll be reading more from Katherine Webber in future!

#quietkindofthunder

To celebrate the release of A Quiet Kind Of Thunder (Sara Barnard), some bloggers are doing silences and other things to experience the impact selective mutism actually has on a person’s life. On Thursdays, I have work experience at a dog kennels and then agility with my dog in the evening, so it’s not very easy for me to do a silence (yes, I realise I could do it another day, or just note how hard it is to stay silent all day, but since everyone knows me there, it would be a little awkward and I’d rather write this). The story follows Steffi, who has selective mutism, and Rhys, who is deaf. It follows their relationship triumphs and struggles and their life at school, home and in the big, scary world. It’s out today (12th January) and I would recommend it to anyone, you can read my review here: Review.

For me, (not having selective mutism myself), having anxiety has really given me a very brief experience of the kind of emotions the main character, Steffi, feels throughout the book. I have social anxiety and I have good days and bad days. On good days, I’ll smile at you and say hi if we pass on the street. On bad days, I’ll pretend to look at my phone, avoid eye contact or even cross the road to avoid you.

I worry about what people think of me, I worry about what they say and I worry about how I come across to people I do and don’t know. When I have bad days, I don’t speak to people I don’t know at all/very well. Yet, when I don’t speak and people look at me funny, or even if they don’t acknowledge me, I worry that I’ve offended them.

As it’s mentioned in the book, I too worry that when I get off the bus without saying ‘thank you’, the driver thinks I’m rude. Or I worry that people think I’m rude when I wait outside fast food restaurants while friends buy the food, or worse still if I go in with them and they order on my behalf. But that worry can’t motivate me to talk; if anything it makes it a lot harder to talk.

Everyday, those of use lucky enough to be able to talk and hear, speak hundreds of words. We take it for granted; we can thank the bus driver, we can call a friend, we can say hi to someone walking past with a cute puppy, we can order food, we can buy books, we can ask directions or opinions or questions and we can give answers or advice or encouragement. Everyday, we choose how we use this voice. We can be kind, we can help people or we can be cruel and we can bring other people down for no reason other than pleasure.

If you had a limit on your oral wordcount, if you had days you couldn’t say anything, would you use your voice for good things? Or would you insist on proving your point, forcing people to see things your way and essentially just hurting people?

To be silent encourages thinking. Thoughts which can’t be spoken are difficult and complicated since often, those thoughts would help explain a situation “no, I’m not rude, I’m just extremely shy”, or they’d save a friendship “I’m not ignoring you, I’m just stressed and can’t talk at the moment”. Next time someone doesn’t thank you for holding a door open and instead glues their eye to the floor, or you see someone ordering food for someone else, think about how they might be feeling.

Your words matter, even if they’re not said out loud. Use them for good, because you’re lucky to be able to communicate.

Review: The One Memory Of Flora Banks (Emily Barr)

file_000-17Title: The One Memory Of Flora Banks

Author: Emily Barr

Publisher: Penguin

Release: 12th January 2017

Genre: Thriller, contemporary, YA

Which animal is similar to this book? Okay I think I’ve already used giant pandas for a comparison with another book, but I’m using them again with this book for a different reason. This book broke my heart and it was tense and emotional throughout the entire story, and I was constantly expecting it all to go wrong. In a similar way, giant pandas were steadily going extinct, mainly because they’re so difficult to care for in captivity, and once their homes had been chopped down, there was no going back…However they do not help themselves to survive; for example, there isn’t a specific breeding season, they’ll only reproduce if they happen across another panda of the opposite sex. This is risky as it’s unlikely they’ll come across another. They’re also clumsy; it’s amazing how many have injured themselves from falling out of trees etc. and this again impacts their ability to reproduce meaning they were gradually dying out. To compare it to Flora, we have to watch pandas slowly kill themselves off purely because they don’t understand that they’re harming themselves which is so similar to reading as Flora puts herself in these situations which the reader likely knows is a mistake but she doesn’t see it because of her amnesia.

The blurb says: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Wow. I won’t lie, when I first started reading this, I thought it was too heavy for me and I thought I’d got bored. But once I’d read a little more in, I started to really enjoy it and now I feel connected to Flora because ‘oh my god’ she’s amazing and so so strong. For someone who genuinely can forget when she returns from going to the loo mid-conversation, she’s incredibly strong. I feel like she would be going places in the real world.

Firstly, I loved the way it was written in her voice which was constantly changing. She developed the amnesia at the age of ten, so naturally her voice and her mindset is very immature for her age (seventeen) and being only a year older than her, it was easy for me to see the mistakes she was making and I found myself constantly stressed that she was doing completely the wrong thing. There are times she handled things in such a childish and just plain wrong way, and although I fully understand why she was doing it and where her logic was coming from, I felt very protective of her and just wanted to tell her to stop and think. Every now and then, she’d remember she was seventeen and force herself to think more maturely, and then she’d switch back to the childish thoughts, along with confused thoughts when she often didn’t remember where she was or who she was with. It was incredibly well-written.

The story started off quite normal and quite relaxed (considering the circumstances of the protagonist) but then it quickly became a lot more serious when she jetted off to Svalbard to chase after Drake. It was then that it became a lot more tense and a lot more eerie as she did things she shouldn’t have and was essentially completely alone away from her home and family. The ending was so well put together and tied everything up, but it was still a slightly creepy ending. I did love it though; it was very clever.20160804_163746

If you like thrilling stories, with that element of twists and turns throughout the story, you will love this! It’s so well told, so realistically written and has a good pace. 9 out of 10 paw prints from me!

Lush Products Review

I love Lush and I have done for a very long time and I’ve recently been ordering quite a lot so it’s possible it’s become a bit of an addiction… I thought I’d write reviews for a few of them sincfile_002-1e I feel like a lot of the time, people can be buying them essentially blind. Also I like Lush a lot and want to share pretty pictures of them…
So the first one is the Cinnamon Reusable Bubble Wand which smells so beautiful I can’t even describe it. It’s very strongly cinnamon and I’ll probably get two baths out of with a good amount of bubbles. The stick is a cinnamon stick and there are little pieces of sage embedded in it. It’s part of the Christmas collection and is obviously very festive and I would personally recommend it to anyone wanting a fun bath with a festive, strong scent.

The second product is the Nevermind The Ballistics bath bomb which is part bath bomb and part bath oil I think (the pink half is soft and waxy). It made my bath so soft and it smelled amazing. It has a sort of sweet/fruity scent and turned the bath a beautiful orange colour once it had fully dissolved.

The last product is the Damaged Hot Oil Hair Treatment which you melt in boilingfile_008 water then put onto your hair for a while and then you wash it off. My hair is very damaged so it seemed like a good idea and it did help my hair! My hair felt super soft after I’d washed it off and the ends of my hair especially felt a lot better. The softness didn’t last a very long time for me, but I think if your hair wasn’t as damaged as mine is, you’d be fine and it’d work wonders on your hair. It didn’t smell particularly amazing but it didn’t smell horrible either; it’s purpose really was just to fix hair.

New Years Resolutions For A More Positive Outlook On Life

This past year hasn’t been fabulous for me; assignments coming out my ears, a job that didn’t last, anxiety, OCD-related problems and stress brought on by myself. I’ve decided that this year will be better and this’ll start with me having a better attitude and coping mechanisms. I put together a short list of five New Years Resolutions to help me do this, and I thought I’d share them with you, in case you wanted some inspiration too.

  1. Blog regularly. Tweet. Talk to people. Don’t be afraid of what people may say because if the worst happens, you can delete the stupid tweet, apologise and if need be, block whoever isn’t being kind. I’ve let my blogging go, forgetting to blog and putting it off because so few people read them and to me, that feels like a failure. However I realised this is my own fault since I don’t talk to people and I don’t tweet at all really. This is because I’m scared people will ignore me or just straight-up not be nice to me…Twitter is full of strange people, weird tweets and unique photos. I’m not going to be afraid to tweet, because it might well make things easier for me, and I might even make some friends in the process! I also realised the amount of people who read my blogs doesn’t matter. I’m doing it for fun and I don’t need to feel so pressured to do well since the only person who is judging me, is me.
  2. Exercise. Exercising makes people feel good about themselves, and although I know it’s unrealistic to expect myself to go the gym or run four times a week, I would like to do some form of exercise at least once a week; whether that’s yoga on my bedroom floor, jogging around the block with my dog or hiking with my dogs. I’m not as such doing it to be fit or healthy, just to feel better.
  3. Stay on top of your goals/tasks. If I do assignments/homework as soon as I get them, it’ll make life much easier and probably make them better quality work anyway since I won’t have rushed it. Also if I know what my goals in life are, it’ll make it easier to keep up with them and it’ll make them more likely to happen sooner.
  4. Ignore negativity. If someone’s moaning that they’re behind on their work, or that their life isn’t going well, don’t let it bring you down or make you feel guilty because you actually finished that work a week ago or you just got a promotion at work. It’s not your place to be ‘behind’ everyone else; of course be sympathetic towards them, but don’t let them guilt you into not being proud of your achievements. They all matter.
  5. Finally, give yourself a break once in a while. Yes, it’s nice to be productive and it’s nice to feel satisfied with the amount of things you’ve got done in a day, but working hard every single day will wipe you out and it’ll make things worse in the long run when you need a week off from college because you’re ill and stressed. Do a few hours of work in a day, then spend the evening relaxing; have a bath, go for a run, bake a cake, watch Netflix aimlessly for hours. Just take the time to relax and breathe once in a while and you’ll feel better for it.

Obviously these are things you’ve probably heard before, and they’re all a lot easier said than done, so it might be a good idea to use something like a gratitude journal to write down successes. It’ll make you feel better and make you notice positive things more.

Good luck this year, may it be the best it can be!