Review: Shift (Em Bailey)

file_004-4Title: Shift

Author: Em Bailey

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Release: 2012

Genre: Thriller, contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? To me, this book strongly resembles a saltwater crocodile. Many animal-lovers will tell you crocodiles are very unpredictable and there’s genuinely no telling what they’re going to do. In the same way, this book had so many twists and turns it’s unreal…Saltwater crocodiles are also notoriously aggressive and dangerous (obviously there are exceptions in domestic cases etc etc) but this book made me feel on edge and concerned for the characters in the same way the threat of a giant potentially murderous reptile would make you feel.

The blurb says: There were two things everyone knew about Miranda Vaile before she’d even started at our school. The first was that she had no parents – they were dead. The second was that they were dead because Miranda had killed them. Olive used to be the school queen-bee. But that was before her breakdown. Now she’s the class loner, and can only watch as new girl Miranda latches onto Olive’s ex-best friend Katie. Soon Miranda is talking like Katie, dressing like Katie – even going out with Katie’s boyfriend. And then Katie dies. Everyone seems to believe it was a tragic accident, but Olive isn’t so sure. What if the wild rumours are true? What if Miranda really is a killer…?

Firstly, I think I’m still in shock a little bit over the twists in this story… I can normally predict twists or see roughly what’s going to happen but with this book, I was genuinely shocked. I think I actually gasped. Out loud! And I couldn’t put it down (I read this in around two days.?) because the whole story is just tense and there’s not one part of it anyone could describe as dull. It’s so gripping and I just wanted to know what would happen next.

I love that, through Olive, the reader can experience the world through that ‘queen-bee’ persona as well as the ‘loner’. It really added to the story since she explained why Katie was behaving the way she was. I also really liked that, due to her breakdown, Olive was seeing things differently and could experience school life through a new attitude, and seemed to care less about more materialistic things. The way mental health was represented was great and I really appreciated that the story didn’t encourage any of the stigmas/bad representation mental illness receives.

I honestly really loved everything about it. I loved the pace since it moved quickly and it kept me interested; I loved the characters because I could either relate to them or I found them interesting and I loved the actual plot because it was so clever and worked 20160804_163103really well. I love that all the loose ends were tied up well in explanations throughout the story.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a dark thriller that’s impossible to put down. This gets 10 out 10 paw prints from me!

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Geeky Clean February Crate (Wonderland)

file_001-5I’ve never had a Geeky Clean crate before and the only things I’d bought from there were two Grisha lipbalms for my Mum at Christmas (which she loves and still uses) so I was pretty much completely new to the company. I’d seen a few people praise them and describe them as though they’re the best thing in the fandom/bath products world so I decided to give them a go. The January box was based on gaming and I didn’t want to buy the crate and not understand any of the references, so I decided to wait and see what the next one was and then they announced Wonderland. I also saw a post where it was said that the theme was chosen because the creator of the boxes had read Heartless (Marissa Meyer) and that is one of my favourite books in the whole wide world so I knew this was the box basically intended for me, so I ordered it. It arrived on 1.3.17 and I can honestly say there were no mistakes made in that decision…

file_003-4The first item is the White Rabbit Shower Tablet which is a kind of palm-sized bath bomb for the shower. You throw it into the shower, but at the opposite end to the plug and it fizzes away, releasing its lovely smell/vapors into the bathroom. This particular one is white with small flecks of blue and pink, and smells of basil and peppermint. Personally, I like it because it’s very strong and smells very grown-up and mature, if that makes any sense.

The next product is the Mad Tea Party Bath Tea Bag which is a teabag for your bath, as the name suggests. You hold it under the tap and let the water push out all the sfile_005-4mell, then drop it in to fully infuse with the bath water (or that’s what I do anyway, you may just be supposed to drop it into the bath and leave it). This one smells of sweet rose, tea and woody notes and I love it because it smells very fresh and outdoorsy. I love bath tea bags like this since they usually don’t add bubbles to a bath but make everything smell really nice. Sometimes there’s colour too (although I don’t think there is with this one since it looks very natural).

Next is the Jest Soap Sample which just excited me because Jest is my favourite character in Heartless and I really hoped there’d be something associated with him. And there’s this soap, so I’d be happy file_004-5no matter what it smelt like, however it does smell of mint, basil, white tea, musk and woody amber (which is a lovely combination by the way). To me, this smells pretty masculine, strong and mysterious (all qualities Jest possesses, surprisingly), so I really liked the link to Heartless here and thought it fit well. file_002-6

Next we have the Hearts vs Chess Soap Pop which is a big old pink heart on a stick which immediately excited me because it’s novelty soap and I am easily pleased…You’re supposed to remove the stick before using but I intend to leave the stick in for as long as possible, and if that means not using it for a while then so be it! This soap smells of violet, grapefruit and kumquat which is such a pretty, girly fragrance that I kind of want to never use up the soap but also kind of want to use it everyday.

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The final, and easily my favourite item in the whole box, is the Queen of Hearts Soy Wax Candle which is actually incredibly stunning. To be honest, when I saw the tin, I thought it’d be a plain red candle, or maybe have a heart pattern across it. Nope; it’s a white candle with a red heart essentially stuck onto the top, letting the red bleed beautifully into the white of the main candle. It’s gorgeous, and I didn’t think I’d be able to use it because of that, but then I sniffed it and realised I have to use it. It smells of watermelon, jasmine and violet which is completely lovely and end up smelling very sweet and (to me) like the haribo heart sweets from the starmix packets.

The next box’s theme is ‘Be My Guest’, probably because of the new Beauty and The Beast film which is out this month, and I would love to order one but alas my bank balance disagrees with my need for this box. I will be buying another crate in the future, just not yet. I’ll definitely use up all these products but I’ll be sad to see them go. 10/10 would buy again!

 

Review: The State of Grace (Rachael Lucas)

file_000Title: The State of Grace

Author: Rachael Lucas

Publisher: Macmillan (mykindabook)

Release: 6th April 2017

Genre: Contemporary, mental health (Asperger’s)

Which animal is similar to this book? Okay this one’s a little bit of a stretch but just go with it please…For me, I would personally say this is a greyhound because for anyone who knows greyhounds, they are one of the breeds people are likely to say they can ‘relate to’ because they’re full of those traits which people often joke about or see in themselves. Greyhounds like to sleep a lot, enjoy food and like attention so there are quite a few greyhound owners who will say they’re like their dog. In the same way, anyone with Asperger’s or autism will really feel like this book ‘gets’ them, just as a greyhound ‘gets’ me, and since I do have Asperger’s, I feel like that about it. I can relate a lot to Grace and to the emotions she experiences, so this book is my greyhound. Greyhounds are also a very fast animal and so compare to this book in that the story is quite fast-paced. Also, greyhounds make exceptional therapy dogs and I feel like this book is kind of a ‘comfort’ book in the same way a greyhound would comfort someone who was having a bad day. I will be reading this on bad days or days I want to feel connected to someone similar to me, so I will be treating this book as kind of a go-to, comfort-read and I would advise anyone similar to me to do the same.

The blurb says: Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost. Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She’s got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that’s pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn’t make much sense to her any more. Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it’s up to Grace to fix it on her own. Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

I want all my friends to read this. I want to give this to anyone who looks at me like I’m stupid/rude, to anyone who thinks I’m a freak, to anyone and everyone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to live with Asperger’s. I feel like this is definitely one of the most important books of 2017 and I want everyone to know. The way it’s written just makes me realise how not-alone I am and I want to know Grace in reality so badly because I know we are one and the same (except for the part where she loves horses and I have quite a substantial fear of horses because they’re big and could probably kill me with their eyes).

Grace is the best character; she speaks so honestly and bluntly (in her head of course) so that even if you don’t have Asperger’s, the story will still have a good impact on you. I love the way all the characters are so distinctive and separate and I also love that each has their own sub-plot which all make sense at the end. I also love that since we’re seeing everything through Grace’s eyes, everything seems negative and all her worries affect the way the reader will see the story; I think that’s so clever and I wish I could write like that.
The story is fast-paced and at the start, everything is happening quite quickly but by the end, you will be tense, anxious and concerned for Grace as everything speeds along to a nice, relaxing, all-wrapped-up ending. I love that the end of the book actually did wrap up every mini-plot and everything was answered, because I would’ve been heartbroken if anything had been missed out. I also love the two Taylor Swift references, because I am a Swiftie at heart and I love to see references to the old, country, curly-haired Taylor Swift. I also really appreciated the German Shepherd having a good representation; that line about the perception she’s aggressive made me so happy because breed stigmas/representation is where my little animal-student heart lies…

I love that it describes that feeling of being so emotionally drained and physically tired after socialising with people because I feel like that’s an important aspect that people don’t really seem to understand unless they experience it themselves. I also love that it featured an autistic main character who has *shock* a romantic relationship. That’s often not seen as possible since autistic people supposedly have no emotions, don’t want to touch anyone or just aren’t interested in relationships. In this book, Grace is completely ‘normal’ and is a ‘normal’ teenager, just with a mental problem which affects her social skills and thinking, not her desire to date or have friendships. I also love that she’s that ‘normal’ in that she’s not a train enthusiast, can’t do complicated maths in her head and isn’t obsessed with space like a lot of autistic characters seem to be. She’s just an animal-lover who likes Doctor Who and there are quite a few of those who aren’t autistic.

This was honestly such a good book, I can’t say enough good things about it. I will be buying a finished copy, I will be lending it to anyone I can convince to read it and I will be praising it for months to come. This is truly an important read for anyone who has Asperger’s, knows someone who has Asperger’s or simply wants to see what it’s like. I genuinely feel books like this (as well as Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise 20160804_163103Gornall and Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne) should be taught in schools or at least strongly promoted so that they can explain these mental health issues to people who possibly don’t understand it, or who don’t want to feel like a ‘weirdo’ or like they’re alone in the world.

I kind of want a few lines of this tattooed to be honest, and I would recommend this to anyone at all; it’s such a good book and I really hope people read it and feel as connected to it as I do. So, obviously, this gets 10 out of 10 paw prints from me!

Review: Unconventional (Maggie Harcourt)

26484720_unknownTitle: Unconventional

Author: Maggie Harcourt

Publisher: Usborne

Release: 1st February 2017

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

Which animal is similar to this book? To me, this book is a cheetah, partly because of the pace at which the story moved (in case you didn’t figure that out, it moves at a fast pace). I love books which move quickly through the story (I can get bored quite quickly otherwise…) and because of the way the chapters were arranged, there was nothing unnecessary in the story, the plot was pushed forwards at a speed which kept me well and truly engaged. Also though, cheetahs are fantastic mothers (usually) and will protect their young to the death, will teach them to hunt, will teach them to run, help them climb trees when they’re too young to use their own strength to do so. All in all, they won’t leave young behind and there has been some evidence that they mourn their family too when they die. They’re emotive, caring animals who will nurture young until they’re fully ready for the world; in the same way, Unconventional is fast and it keeps you interested, but you won’t get confused or left behind, and the story is a lot more nurturing and gentle than your typical fast-paced books (fantasy, action etc). There isn’t a whole lot of action (apart from a dog-search early on!) and the story is softer and kinder and there’s a lot of emotion and you will feel things. Unconventional = gorgeous cheetah mother.

The blurb says:  Lexi Angelo has grown up helping her dad with his events business. She likes to stay behind the scenes, planning and organizing…until author Aidan Green – messy haired and annoyingly arrogant – arrives unannounced at the first event of the year. Then Lexi’s life is thrown into disarray. In a flurry of late-night conversations, mixed messages and butterflies, Lexi discovers that some things can’t be planned. Things like falling in love…

The story follows Lexi and her Dad as they host a few conventions each season – six conventions overall, I believe – (each chapter is a different convention/month spent at home planning conventions) so it really does focus on the convention aspect of the story. That’s not to say you won’t like it if you’ve never been to one (I’ve only ever been to YALC but none of it was confusing or hard to understand) and I really like how each chapter is so different to the last just because it’s set in a completely different part of Lexi’s life.

Firstly, the characters are so defined and well-built that I feel like I genuinely know Aidan and Sam especially. Nadiya is up there too of course, but Lexi is so easy to relate to that it slightly scared me… But the way that all the characters have their own distinctive voices really works, probably because there are quite a few characters, so they needed to each be strongly separate. It’s likely that if you read this book (which you definitely should!), then you will become connected at least one of the characters; for me, it has to be Sam because she’s so honest, outgoing and everything I wish I was.

I also love that this book not only follows Lexi and Aidan through their romantic ups and downs, but it also touches on friendships within the convention staff and Lexi’s family. I love her mum because she’s just such a lovely character, always saying the logical thing and helping Lexi through everything, but I also love her dad and the way he’s so good at planning things and is yet so scatter-brained.

I think one of the best parts of this story is that it focuses on a teen girl working (and doing it well!), not having to be helped/saved by a handsome male hero. I thought that in that way, it was empowering but without being obviously feminist or having that as the main plot which can sometimes put people off books.

I couldn’t even compare the plot to any other book I’ve read, but I will say that Lexi reminded me of Harriet Manners (Holly Smale’s Geek Girl series) with her organisational skills, lists, love for clipboards and sense of authority, but minus the clumsiness and inability to properly speak to people…I would recommend it to anyone who feels even vaguely interested in the story I’ve attempted to describe, because I guarantee you will love it! 10 out of 10 paw prints from me and my furry friends!

How To Make Enrichment for Rodents

file_006-1So it’s February and obviously I’m only just clearing out leftover boxes etc from Christmas and I received a lovely little gift set from Zoella’s Beauty Range which contained four little cardboard crackers which each held a small bottle of something gingerbread-y. I had planned to create little parcels for my pets so that they could enjoy their fun as well, so of course, two months later (woops)file_000-24, that’s what I did.

Important note: if you don’t already know, enrichment is a way of making an animal in captivity’s life more interesting and it can be via food choices/presentation, toys or a change in environment. If you want to give an animal the best welfare and happiness, enrichment is key in achieving this.

Firstly, I stuffed around half of the crackers full of hay (I packed it in tightly) which was quite easy, except I would advise on cramming it in with a pen or pencil so that you know it’s tightly packed and there’s enough in there.

Next, I dropped arofile_002-5und a handful of food into each cracker, along with two small rodent biscuits from Pets At Home. I have guinea pigs and gerbils so I made two crackers for each of them, meaning I put gerbil food in two and guinea pig food in the other two.

Finally, I stuffed the remaining part of the cracker with hay and closed it again. They went down really well with all the animals, however I would definitely recommend that if you plan to give these to guinea pigs, you either cut along the entire cracker so that there’s some give in the shape of file_000-25it, or fully supervise them whilst they’re playing with them. The guinea pig I tested them with is quite podgy (and so couldn’t get her head in very far) but the smaller one got her head trapped in the cracker (they have cardboard on the inside which acts as barbs and traps their heads) and if you don’t keep an eye on them, they could be trapped for hours and it could impact on their hydration levels, food intake and could stress them to the point of fatality. So just be careful! The gerbfile_004-3ils had no problems with them and just chewed them up, ate the food out of them and made them into bedding, so they were happy.file_005-3

Thanks to Zoella for making Christmas gift sets which are so perfect for rodent enrichment! How thoughtful of her to think of small critters at Christmas…

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Review: Letters to the Lost (Brigid Kemmerer)

file_002-2Title: Letters to the Lost

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release: 6th April 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? Has an animal ever made you cry? Or made you come close to crying? Or made you feel so much emotion you just didn’t know what to do with it all? Well have you ever been to a rescue centre and read the descriptions about each dog? Rescue dogs can have horrible backstories; one was abused, one was neglected, one grew up in a puppy farm and forced to breed puppies for years, one was a stray…the list goes on, each story as tragic and sad as the last. Then, a family comes along; each dog finds the perfect home. The dogs’ stories are emotional and unless you’re pretty heartless, you’re likely to cry or at least smile a lot…This book is so emotional (heartbreaking and heartwarming) that I would genuinely compare it to a rescue dog. If it makes you both laugh and cry, then it’s got to be a dog, but this is just a bit more sad than your standard dog’s story, so it’s a rescue dog.

The blurb says: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

As I said, this book was emotional af. I wanted to cry (I did a little, shhh…), I laughed, I felt sorry for the characters and towards the end, I was a little heartbroken. It was just so heartbreaking and powerful; I wish I could re-read it over and over with the same shock and emotions. Juliet and Declan couldn’t be more different on the exterior, so it makes it hard for them to have that connection in person, but online everything can be anonymous. I loved how their personalities were so completely different, yet had small things in common online where they could be themselves.

To me, this book is a powerful statement of how different people are anonymously where they can be themselves. It’s also powerful in that it shows how much people feel they have to hide despite there being logical reasons behind their reactions and behaviours. I love that the chapters alternate between the two characters; I feel like I know them both well now and honestly I definitely want to be friends with both of them.

Revelations, drama, secrets, mystery, friendship, difficulties, cars and photography; what more could you possibly want from a book? I sped through this in two sittings and I was actually sad when it was over, although the ending was good and summed everything up (something I definitely prefer in a book); I just simply wanted more stories of Juliet and Declan’s lives.

It is sad, but cleverly and only necessarily. I love that there’s so much backstory to both the main characters (and even some of the minor) because it means there’s th20160804_163103at added mystery in the story. I honestly don’t think I can say enough good things about this because I really don’t read books like this often, yet it was so amazing and so beautifully written that I feel I should be singing its praise to anyone who’ll listen. I think I felt every emotion possible whilst reading this and I feel like I would connect to both Juliet and Declan if I knew them in real life.

Brigid Kemmerer writes beautifully, making anyone fall head over heels for her characters. You’ll want to read it over and over again and it will make you feel. Definitely 10 out of 10 paw prints from me, and I can’t wait to read more from the author!

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!

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!