Book Triggers: Why They Are Important & How To Use Them

I recently saw the lovely Bronwen at BabblesnBooks announce on Twitter that from now on, she will include triggers in her reviews. Like me, many of you reading this may have absolutely no idea what book triggers are and why we should be using them. 

So in this post, I will look to introduce what book triggers are and why it’s important that we, as book bloggers and reviewers, should be including them in our posts.

So What Are Book Triggers? 

With more diverse stories finally getting the exposure they deserve, it has become easier than ever to read honest and heartbreaking stories about the struggles within society. Yet publishers are still not including content warnings with their releases. 

Some have argued that to include trigger warnings with book reviews or publications is infantalising readers. Life doesn’t come with trigger warnings and neither should books. I can completely understand this argument but I think that difficult material should come with warnings, just like with films and television programmes.  

Picture this: you have just come out of a relationship where you were victim to domestic abuse. You are on your journey to recovery and you pick up a book in which the main character finds themselves in a violent relationship. All of sudden, those memories, anxieties and difficult flashbacks to the pain you went through come flooding back. 

THIS IS WHY WE NEED CONTENT WARNINGS. 

Trigger warnings should not be there as spoilers to the story, and neither should they discourage readers form reading any book they want to read, but with mental health being such an important topic at the minute, I think it is important that people should know if there is difficult and distressing content in the books they are reading.

You may choose to disagree with me and that is absolutely fine, but from now on, I will be including trigger warnings in my reviews. 

And Here Is How To Use Them:

There are many websites out there where you can find lots of information on different types of triggers, but I will mostly be using BookTriggerWarnings.com which has a whole wiki page on different books and their triggers. 

You can either search for the particular book you are reviewing or head to their list of warnings page. If there are any books missing from their database, you can easily create an account and add the book you have reviewed. This is especially great for new releases and less-known books which need trigger warnings too. Also, if there are any triggers that you feel are missing, you are encouraged to contact them and add your triggers to the list. 

You will find my book trigger warnings at the end of each review and I promise you, they will not spoil any of the books I’m reviewing. 

I hope this post will encourage you to think about the importance of book triggers warnings and to perhaps start including them in your reviews too. 

BLOG TOUR: Under Your Skin

Today I am privileged to be kicking off the blog tour for Rose McClelland’s brand new psychological thriller, Under Your Skin.

Thank you to Booktamins and Rose McClelland for my advanced copy and for allowing me to join the tour for such an anticipated read!

The Blurb:

When Kyle’s wife Hannah goes missing, the whole town is out in force to try to find her. One person knows where she is. One person is keeping a secret.

Detective Inspector Simon Peters and Detective Kerry Lawlor have been brought in to investigate the case, but Hannah has left no traces and Kyle has no clues.

Local Belfast resident, Julia Matthews, joins the #FindHannah campaign and becomes friendly with Kyle, sympathising with his tragedy. As Julia becomes more involved in the case than she bargained for, she begins to uncover more secrets than the police ever could.

Julia was only trying to help but she has become drawn into a web of mystery that she can’t escape.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? Well today is your lucky today because below, you can find an excerpt of the book to help give you a taste of this incredible thriller…

Excerpt

“999, what’s your emergency?”

“It’s my wife,” Kyle blurts out. “She’s gone missing.”

“How long has she been missing?” the calm, monotone responder asks.

“It’s been since nine this morning,” he says, impatience lacing his every word.

“So that’s…” Calm voice must be counting on her fingers.

“Twelve hours?”

“Yes,” he bites back. “I guess. Yes, twelve hours. It’s not like her. She’s always home by now.”

Miss Calm asks, “Any history of mental illness, sir?”

He blanches. “Who? Me?”

“No sir. Your wife?”

He bites his lip. “No,” he begins. “No, I guess not.” Although there was that time the doctor suggested anti-depressants. But no matter. Miss Calm is now on to the next question.

“So tell me what happened. When was the last time you saw her? What mood was she in? Had there been any arguments?”

Arguments? Well yes, there had been, but that was hardly relevant.

“I saw her this morning before she headed to work. She was fine. I came home at eight tonight and she’s not here. She’s not answering her mobile. It’s not like her. I’m convinced something has happened. What if some rapist has captured her? The sooner the police look for her, the better!”

He realises that his voice is rising in octave with each sentence, but he can’t help it. What’s the point in talking so slowly on the phone when she could be sending a cop out straight away to look for her!

He feels his breathing quicken and walks over to the counter to pick up his packet of cigarettes. He pulls one out of the packet and tinges the end with his lighter.

“Can I take your name sir?” the responder asks, her voice too slow for Kyle’s liking.

“Kyle Greer,” he rattles off impatiently.

“And your wife’s name?”

“Hannah. Hannah Greer. Please hurry.”

But the responder maintains her calm, professional, monotone voice. “And your address?”

“One one seven Raven Reach, Belfast,” Kyle spits out each word as though his quick-fire responses might hasten the arrival of a policeman.

“Okay Mister Greer,” the calm responder answers with a heavy sigh. “We’ve put that on record. But I’d suggest you phone us back tomorrow if there’s still no sign of her. She may well return this evening.”

Kyle’s eyes widen. “So nothing’s going to be done?”

“We usually wait at least twenty-four hours sir, in the case of an able-bodied adult. Of course, if it

was a child or a vulnerable elderly then…”

“Fine,” Kyle cuts in. “I’ll phone back tomorrow. Thanks for your help,” he spits, with a large dose of sarcasm. He clicks the off button and heads towards the kitchen. With his cigarette dangling in the side of his mouth, he pours himself a large glass of Vodka and Coke. Noticing that his hands are shaking, probably with anger at how unhelpful the responder had been, he gulps back the drink greedily. He re-fills his glass for good measure, walks towards the back door and sits on the back doorstep, smoking the rest of his cigarette and knocking back the drink. The night air is quiet; too quiet. He sits and waits. And while he’s waiting, he can feel the warmth of the drink start to trickle down to his toes.

Author Bio:

Under Your Skin is Rose’s fourth novel but with this book, she has made a genre jump from ‘chick lit’ to psychological thriller and it is great to see her delve into a darker corner of her mind.

Rose has also written two short plays which were performed in the Black Box Theatre in Belfast. She also discusses book reviews on her YouTube channel, along with writing theatre reviews for her blog.

She loves nothing more than curling up with her cats and a good books.

The book is out tomorrow and is available to buy here on Amazon! Please be warned that this book comes with a trigger warning of domestic violence, sexual scenes and swearing.

6 Best Books of 2020 So Far

So I was tagged by Georgia at Georgia Does Books on Instagram to share my favourite 6 books of the year so far.

Looking back on all the books I’ve read this year so far, I’ve read A LOT of 4- and 3-star books and only a handful of 5-stars! So here are six of my 5-star reads I’ve read so far this year. How are we in July already? These lockdown days are just flying by…

Girl, Woman, Other

“If a woman has to cripple herself to signal her education, talent, intellect, skills and leadership potential then so be it.”

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, you will LOVE this book. Like Homegoing, the stories are entwined with each other, with Girl, Woman, Other featuring interconnected tales about a group of black British women. 

Evaristo re-visits timeless questions about feminism and identity in the experiences she narrates. Feminist thinking is constantly challenged and explored through each character, whether they be rich or poor, gay or straight, sexually confident or sexually confused, fertile or infertile, loved or hated.

Queenie

“Keep one foot on the ground when two are in the air.”

The scenes in Queenie are so honest and encapsulating that you feel like you’re there seeing and feeling everything that happens to her, with her. Perhaps this is why when you’re reading this book, all you can do is think about what happens next. Questioning how you’d react if everything was going wrong for you. 

There are a lot of lessons to be taken from Queenie, both from the character and the story itself. The ending is beautiful and left me with a warm feeling inside which I have to say, I’ve not felt so strongly from a book in a LONG time. I’m glad it ends like it ends and in a strange way, I felt happy for Queenie despite everything.

Daisy Jones & The Six

“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody. End of fucking story.”

I couldn’t believe that this band wasn’t real and when I found this out, all I could think about was how much hard work, dedication and sleepless nights must have gone into the making of this book. Obviously writing a novel is never going to be easy and I celebrate ANYONE who does, but to write a book the way Daisy Jones & The Six is written and to make us believe that this band is so real, Taylor Jenkins Reid must be so, so proud of the work of art she has produced.

I loved this book with all my heart and to be honest, not a day goes by since reading this where I don’t think about the story and the characters. I can no longer listen to Fleetwood Mac without picturing this band. And the fact that the song lyrics to all their songs are at the back of the book, it just adds the icing to the top of the cake! I will probably re-read this book over and over again!

I See You

“If it’s just the two of you. Just you, and whoever’s behind you. Whoever is chasing you. How fast could you run then? It doesn’t matter how fast. Because there’s always someone who can run faster.”

I think that I See You has everything a good thriller should have. I was hooked by the first chapter and I just wanted to keep reading so I could gather all the clues I needed to work out the culprit.

Now that I know the ending, I think there are little (tiny, I must admit) clues that Clare Mackintosh hides in the book. Once I finished the book, I could not believe the MASSIVE twist at the end, but since looking back on the book and discussing it during the book club meeting, I can now see the little hints telling us who it was.

Once Upon A River

“There are stories that may be told aloud, and stories that must be told in whispers, and there are stories that are never told at all.”

Firstly, let me just say that I have not read a book like this one before. Ever. Diane Setterfield deserves more recognition than I could ever give her alone. This masterpiece could make those who had never dreamt of writing before, want to pick up a pen or open a new Word document and begin. 

Why, you may ask. Because I have honestly never experienced storytelling like this before. Diane Setterfield does a beautiful job of setting the scene and by doing so, she makes you feel like you’ve just tucked yourself in to be told a great secret. The secret of the river and the power of the stories it holds.

Frankissstein

“Is his story the result of his madness or the cause?”

OK, first of all…WHAT A BOOK. There are many things that this book left me thinking about. During the days spent reading it, and for many days afterwards, I was constantly in discussion with myself, my boyfriend, my friends and basically anyone who would listen, about the topics explored in this novel. I don’t think there was a topic about modern society that Jeanette Winterson left untouched. 

Overall, I incredibly enjoyed this book and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a book that questions your current way of thinking. Be careful though, once you start reading, your mind will take on a thousand questions at once, and you may find yourself wanting to discuss the topics raised in this book with anyone who will listen, so here is your warning!

Emily Bronte: The Enigma

A few years back now, I subscribed to the History Today magazine, which is a great magazine to subscribe to if you are a history fanatic (like me) and want to develop your knowledge surrounding international history. It also gives us history nerds something to look forward to each month. Upon rearranging my living space (I mean who hasn’t during lockdown), I found a copy of the August 2018 edition which featured an article written by Claire O’Callaghan about Emily Brontë named ‘The Weirdest of The Weird Sisters’.

Claire O’Callaghan is an English Lecturer at Loughborough University, who in 2018, released a book named Emily Brontë Reappraised: A View from the Twenty-First Century. The History Today article followed on from her book release and seemingly aimed to briefly unravel the many myths surrounding Emily Brontë. As I have created a new book club dedicated to reading classics, I thought it would be interesting to share the main points that Claire explores. Emily, to me, is such an interesting figure in history, who has been and continues to be so widely discussed by literary scholars.

In her essay, O’Callaghan claims that many have tried (and failed) to understand who Emily really was. It seems that across various scholarly work, Emily is remembered less fondly and rather unfairly than her novel, Wuthering Heights. Countless Brontë biographies portray Emily in a number of unflattering ways and she is widely considered to be ‘the weirdest of the weird sisters’ (As a side note, this phrase originated from a Ted Hughes poem in which he goes on about the Brontë sisters being ‘weird’ *eye roll*).

Old-fashioned. People-hating. Spinster. Socially-awkward. These are just some of the words used to describe Emily, with author Muriel Spark even labelling her as ‘no normal being’. O’Callaghan claims that our understanding of Emily is limited because there was little left behind which was written by Emily herself and therefore scholars have had to rely on alternatives to try and understand who she was. These alternative narratives usually include Charlotte’s reminiscences, along with anecdotes of the family, servants and acquaintances which has ultimately resulted in the creation of Emily’s ‘obstinate’ character.

Wuthering Heights in today’s society is celebrated as a well-loved classic text but responses from early reviewers and critics weren’t exactly thrilled with the publication of her only novel. For example, a critic writing in Graham’s Magazine in July 1848 stated:

“There is an old saying that those who eat toasted cheese at night will dream of Lucifer. The author of Wuthering Heights has evidently eaten toasted cheese. How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.”

‘Vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.’ I love this description, and I love the cheese on toast comment even more! It’s funny how this critic uses the ‘never eat cheese before bed’ theory to try and explain how Emily could have created such a nightmarishly text. Another critic writing for Britannia in the same year simply wrote: “Read Jane Eyre, but burn Wuthering Heights”. Ouch.

O’Callaghan states that after Emily’s death, a number of reviews were found in her writing desk, and it makes me wonder what Emily made of reviews like these? Perhaps she loved that people hated her writing. I really hope that she looked down on critics like this for simply not being open-minded enough to admire and understand the true message behind her writing.

O’Callaghan also explores in her article how critics over the years have labelled Emily to suit their preconceptions and in doing so, she splits them into subsections which I will attempt to briefly discuss below for you. I hope this will open your eyes to how Emily has been treated over previous decades and how it differs from the treatment given to her sisters, and other writers (both male and female).

Unworldly Writer

Charlotte Brontë wrote a short ‘Biographical Notice’ after the death of Emily and Anne with the intention of clearing up the confusion surrounding her sisters’ work. Yet in doing so, she created this image of Emily as being impenetrable, stubborn and difficult. She discussed how Emily was ‘unadapted to the practical business of life’, explained how she was ‘not naturally gregarious’ and stated that her sister much preferred seclusion. Nice of her, ey! O’Callaghan argues that over time, however, cultural historians have disregarded Charlotte’s portrayal of Emily, claiming it as over-exaggerated. For example, biographers such as Juliet Barker and Lucasta Miller have shown in their work how Charlotte’s biographical notice was in actual fact part of her own strategy to control the narratives of her sisters and therefore, herself.

Charlotte wasn’t the only one to speak ill of Emily. Despite actually never meeting Emily in person according to records, Elizabeth Gaskell declared a dislike to her, noting that she had not gained a pleasant view of Emily, in comparison to Charlotte who she described as ‘genuinely good, and truly great’. Gaskell claimed that Emily was just plain rude, but it is well known by the literary community that Gaskell had the tendency to interlace fact and fiction within her writing, so some have dismissed her sour comments. Nevertheless, the image of Emily being a ‘free, wild, untameable spirit’, who was also a ‘hater of strangers’ was born, and perhaps even influenced by the responses to the publication of Wuthering Heights.

Eerie Emily

Perhaps one of the most well-known but bizarre myths surrounding Emily that O’Callaghan explores is the claim that she made herself ill. Biographer Virginia Moore, who wrote The Life and Eager Death of Emily Brontë, demonstrates this, as she claims that Emily’s mysticism ‘led her to commit suicide by self-neglect’.

If you were unaware, Emily was diagnosed with tuberculosis aged 30 and is believed to have refused medical help in the final months of her life. In September 1848, a month before Emily herself passed away, her brother Branwell sadly died from tuberculosis, with her sister Anne dying from the same illness a year later. So let’s picture this for a moment; a young girl surrounded by dying and suffering family members. Is there any wonder she battled with the decision to receive medical assistance? Perhaps seeing her family suffer, as well as suffering from the illness herself, made her feel helpless. Yet inevitably, the image of a stubborn Emily ‘willing herself to death’ was born and has since been acknowledged by many who have studied her.

Additionally, in 1990 Katherine Frank in her work titled Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul claimed that Emily was anorexic:

“If Emily were alive today…she would most certainly be diagnosed as suffering from anorexia. Not merely her refusal to eat and her extreme slenderness and preoccupation with food and cooking, but also her obsessive need for control, her retreat into an ongoing interior fantasy world, and her social isolation are all characteristics of the ‘anorexic personality’.”

The poor girl can’t catch a break. Elsewhere, other critics have claimed that Emily was, in fact, agoraphobic; which means to have an extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.

These perceptions stem from comments made by the Brontë family friends who stated that Emily was always shy and reserved. Yet, there is no clear-cut historical evidence that Emily experienced any symptoms of agoraphobia, but we do know for certain that she did leave her home on several occasions with her sisters. So who knows if any of the above is true?

Disability Labels

O’Callaghan also explores claims that Emily suffered from autism. In 2015 (yes, that recent!) biographer Claire Harman reported that Emily was ‘an Aspergers-ey person’ due to her ‘apparent’ behaviours associated with autism. Perhaps because she was known by family and friends to be shy and prefer solitude, Harman has quickly christened her as autistic.

It is safe to say, Harman received quite a lot of backlash over her comments, one, in particular, reflecting that it is dangerous to take such a ‘freewheeling approach to characterising what it means to be on the autistic spectrum’. O’Callaghan argues that what many biographies about Charlotte tend to have in common is that they are not very sympathetic to Emily and portray her as quite a contrast to her beloved sister. Yet although various reports show that Emily was unhappy in different ways and display evidence that she preferred to be alone, there are other, more defining symptoms of autism that we have no historical evidence of and therefore, it would be simply ignorant to speak of her as having a disability simply because she preferred her own company.

In Conclusion

To conclude, what we know for certain is that Emily was the sister most adamant about concealing her identity under a pseudonym so perhaps instead of naming and shaming her, we should just respect her need for privacy? Perhaps, instead of using her reclusivity as a way to make it easier to disregard her literary work, we should be celebrating her quirks and treating her with the respect that her sisters so often receive.

I agree with O’Callaghan when she states that biographers and historians need to start approaching Emily more ethically, but sadly due to the gaps in our knowledge about her and the lack of first-hand writing by Emily, it inevitably means that it has become increasingly easier to stretch the truth too far and use it to push Emily into the eerie, reclusive and odd image that has been so often used. I think Emily, out of all the sisters, would have fitted in well with today’s society and the fact that she is so misunderstood by all who study her, makes her my favourite Brontë.

REVIEW: The Sunday Lunch Club

“There is so much more to roast beef than mere lunch. Each roast carries echoes of all the roasts that went before. No two gravy recipes are the same. Some families insist on peas; others stage a mutiny if a carrot is involved.

Why Did I Read This Book?

I saw this on Amazon and thought it looked like a nice quirky read. You know one of those lovely books where it doesn’t take much effort to get through it? After reading some harrowing and graphic thrillers recently, I thought that it would be nice to read something light and uplifting on a sunny day.

What Did I Think?

The first rule of Sunday Lunch Club is don’t make any afternoon plans. And it’s a good job that I didn’t have any plans the day I read it because I could not tear myself away from it. It’s a really easy, enlightening read and I felt attached to every single character.

What I loved most about this book was that every character has their own shit going on and when they get together, it’s like one big counseling session. It shows the strength of family and sibling love, as well as highlighting that every family has its problems and secrets.

The Piper family is far from perfect and is like one of many mismatched families in society, yet when they are all sat together, feasting on a delicious Sunday lunch, every single one of them is accepted and loved no matter what.

The book is written from the main character, Anna’s perspective. Her own story is both heart-warming and heartbreaking but the overall reason why I fell in love with her is that each member of her family confides in her. Whenever anything goes wrong in her siblings’ lives, Anna is there for them to rant to. She acts as the mediator in the book which cleverly allows us to get a deeper insight into each character’s story.

As a nice added touch, each chapter starts with a menu of food being served at that particular Sunday lunch. Some of the menus made me cry with laughter, whereas others simply made my mouth water. Each character has to host Sunday lunch at some point and what I think was clever by Juliet Ashton, was how each menu shows each character’s personality in the choice of food they serve.

After finishing the book, I created a little fun game that displayed some of the menus from the book for people to decide which one they love the most. Opinions were split, but I think the most popular ones were Lunch 2, 5 and 7. I’ve attached the pictures below for you to decide yourself. Let me know which ones make your mouth water too!

A Sunday roast is a comfort blanket made of meat, a link to the past, a reassurance that not everything changes.”

The Sunday Lunch Club

Rating: 3 out of 5.

ARC REVIEW: This Time Next Year

“Where do you want to be this time next year?”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This is my first NetGalley read! How exciting right? If you don’t know what NetGalley is, it’s a place where you can request to read and review new books before they are released. This was my first one and I hope they are all as good as this. 

What Did I Think? 

I had a lot of fun reading this book. It’s been a while since I read a fun rom-com like this one, and I can definitely envisage it being made into a film sometime soon. 

The book is about a woman called Minnie Cooper (I know, don’t laugh) and a man called Quinn who were born minutes apart at the same hospital on NYE. Their mothers met at the hospital and became each other’s birthing partners but that’s where their friendship drew to a close. Minnie and Quinn could not be more opposite and Minnie believes that she is jinxed as something always goes wrong on NYE/NYD. 

2020 is no exception, yet she bumps into Quinn at the NYE party. The book basically follows Minnie on her journey of self-discovery, with some touching and heartfelt stories and events added in to keep you hooked. 

I fell in love with all the characters, especially Minnie. I thought each of them had their own little quirks, but Minnie especially is who I felt closest too. She made me laugh, and she reminded me of myself in the way that she panics about everything. When even the slightest thing goes wrong, I can often find myself thinking that the whole world is against me, much like Minnie. 

What I enjoyed most about This Time Next Year was that it isn’t just a love story. It explores other important topics such as controlling relationships, anxiety, environmental issues and also soul-searching. However, this book is VERY cheesy in some parts, so if you love a good cheesy rom-com, this is the book for you! Available in the UK from October, make sure you have a note in your calendar to go grab your copy.

This Time Next Year

Rating: 4 out of 5.

REVIEW: I See You

“If it’s just the two of you. Just you, and whoever’s behind you. Whoever is chasing you. How fast could you run then? It doesn’t matter how fast. Because there’s always someone who can run faster.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was Beth’s Book Club’s Bonus Book for the month and I was so happy because I just love a good thriller. I had never read any of Clare Mackintosh’s books before but when this book was announced as the bonus book, everyone was raving about her and her other novels. After the last thriller we read being a little bit disappointing, I was hoping for good things from this book.

What Did I Think?

I think that I See You has everything a good thriller should have. I was hooked by the first chapter and I just wanted to keep reading so I could gather all the clues I needed to work out the culprit. 

Now that I know the ending, I think there are little (tiny, I must admit) clues that Clare Mackintosh hides in the book. Once I finished the book, I could not believe the MASSIVE twist at the end, but since looking back on the book and discussing it during the book club meeting this morning, I can now see the little hints telling us who it was. 

The book is told from both Zoe’s and Kelly’s perspective. This was a little confusing at first and it took awhile for my brain to get around the fact that chapters were being narrated by different characters. Zoe is terrified after seeing her picture used in an advert for a dating agency. A dating agency with a very different agenda, as the women pictured in the newspaper adverts are either robbed, raped or killed days afterwards.

This is where the character of Kelly plays an important role. With a police background and a job in helping to solve and prevent transport crime, Kelly is ultimately the only character who believes Zoe’s story and seems to be the only one taking her seriously. 

This part of the story really annoyed me. How the people closest to Zoe didn’t believe her. How her husband and children just thought she was being overdramatic or going crazy. How her boss told her to take some time off work because her mind was elsewhere. If something creepy like this was happening to me, and it was being investigated by the police, I would expect my family to operate as my support network and take my allegations seriously. 

I believe that Kelly’s narrative was important to the story because it wasn’t for her, would the investigation have ever gone ahead? However, I did find myself skim reading her chapters in order to find out what happened next in Zoe’s. 

Clare Mackintosh also does a really great job of offering different perspectives of how victims of abuse, violence and criminality think. You may just assume that every victim wants justice, but some just want to try and erase that memory/event from their story. To move on and live life how they want without having to fight for justice every waking moment.

“Every victim deals differently with what’s happened to them; some are hell-bent on revenge, others want justice, some are looking for closure and some…some just want to move on.”

My opinion of who the culprit was changed throughout the book. I got a dodgy feeling from one of the characters from the very first chapters and events in the book were just providing more and more ammunition for my thinking being correct. I was even boasting to my boyfriend that I could be a police detective because I had guessed it right. Yet how wrong I was. Not only once but twice. 

I really did enjoy this thriller and if you like a book that keeps you guessing, that makes you change your mind with every chapter, then this is for you. I love the way that Clare Mackintosh writes and I cannot wait to read her other books to see if they are just as good.

“Variety is important. Even the finest steak becomes dull when you eat it all the time.”

I See You

Rating: 5 out of 5.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Becoming

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I have recently been debating whether I should start delving into the world of audiobooks. More and more I’m questioning whether I could listen to an audiobook whilst reading another book. I don’t read several books at a time and I admire anyone who can, but for me I find it hard to be engrossed in two books at the same time. However, I signed myself up for a free audible trial and I used one of my credits to download Becoming by Michelle Obama. I’d heard such great things about this book, and often come across quotes from Michelle plastered on every motivational social media account, so I thought I’d see what all the hype is about.

“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”

What Did I Think?

I think what I liked the most about this book is how personal Michelle is. She doesn’t hold back on the raw truths of growing up, falling in love, studying hard, working even harder, and being First Lady of America. She is also very honest about her marriage with Barack and very open how their relationship was often tested by other commitments, politics and the heavy load that being a black woman in the spotlight comes hand in hand with. 

I remember Barack being voted in as President of America. I remember listening to his inauguration on the radio; seeing the pictures in the newspaper and on TV. I remember when Osama Bin Laden was captured and how Barack was held as a hero. The first black President of the United States. Obviously being British, I have no idea what it was like to live under Obama’s presidency, but I think as a bystander from across the water, a lot of people are huge fans of Barack and how he seemed to stay very down to Earth and somewhat normal and personable. 

It is no surprise then that Michelle’s account of her relationship with Obama confirms just how normal and dedicated Barack was. He wanted to make change in the world from a young age, working as a lawyer to be able to know first hand how he can use/change the law to help others. 

However, enough about Barack. As I listened to the audiobook, I just loved Michelle’s voice. You could really tell how passionate she was at times, really getting her point across. You felt the emotion in her words. When she speaks of her family and Barack, you can feel just how much she loves them. You can hear the smile on her face. 

There are some really touching moments in this book that have stuck with me. How she was so passionate about school and so dedicated to achieving the best. So scared of failure, I saw myself in her in some ways. When she failed her law bar exam, I felt her disappointment. Like Michelle, I’m absolutely terrified of failing anything and will do absolutely everything to make sure I don’t. 

I also loved when she went to Nairobi with Barack and her experience of being an African American in Africa. She was constantly asked which one of her parents were white, showing us how she felt alienated in a place where her ancestors had originated. 

When Michelle and Barack were desperately trying to get pregnant, you could feel her disappointment when yet another test comes back negative. You feel her frustration at having to struggle between wanting a child, but not wanting to let it affect her work. She talks about the battle that women go through, inevitably having to sacrifice work and other commitments/passions to ensure they are eating the right foods, taking the correct precautions and ultimately making the most of their most fertile days in the cycle, whilst men can go just about their daily business. 

She frequently discusses how annoying it was when she was going to give public speeches and all reporters cared about was where her shoes were from or who designed her outfit. The constant struggle she went through to get her voice, and more importantly, her message heard was a recurring battle throughout the book and you could sense her irritation when she was recapping her experiences. But like most women in the public eye, their opinions and voice are constantly outshone by their appearance. 

I really enjoyed listening to Michelle talk about her life, from childhood right through to sitting in a car with Melania Trump before her husband’s inauguration. She offers some really honest and real insights into the life of a politician and their families. I struggled to pick the best quotes from this book because there are so many. Every other sentence, I was like ‘Oh, that’s such a good quote.’ 

Definitely worth a listen/read. 

“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”

Becoming

Rating: 5 out of 5.

REVIEW: The Binding

‘We take memories and bind them. Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any harm. That’s all books are.’

Why Did I Read This Book?

I wouldn’t say that fantasy is usually a genre that I tend to read. In the past I have steered away from them as I have only ever come across cheesy, trying to be Lord of the Rings / Game of Thrones types. You know what I mean. However I picked this as it was ‘Bestselling’ on my Kindle app and ok, I’ll admit, it has a beautiful front cover (don’t judge!).  

What Did I Think?

I think Bridget Collins encapsulates escapist fiction in one of the most unique and inspiring ways. The whole concept of the novel is that people’s memories are removed from their recollection and bound into a book. It helps those forget traumatic and unbearable memories, but as the popularity of binding grows, it also allows the rich and powerful in society to forget their crimes and hide their sins through enforcing silence in others. 

What makes this read so encapsulating is that every detail is so exact and authentic. There are multiple themes running through this novel, yet at the heart lies a love story between two people who society prevents from being together. It reminds me very much of a Victorian society in which everyone had their little dirty secrets that they hide from everybody, as well as themselves. So if you’re thinking of delving into a parable that illustrates the necessity of living with your mistakes, or in fact, like me, you’re interested in reading some other genres, I would definitely recommend The Binding.

REVIEW: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul

‘It’s as if everybody thinks that Afghans are theirs for the taking. It’s as if we’re not real people with hearts and minds of our own. It’s as if we’re animals who need humans to shape us. By Muhammad, I know that if more of us had some education and could read, we would be a mighty force. We could rule our own lives.’

Why Did I Read This Book?

I am a huge fan of Khaled Hosseini’s novels and have been ever since reading The Kite Runner during college. The imagery he creates with his honest and heartbreaking depictions of Kabul and Afghanistan during the reign of both Soviet Russia and the Taliban is enough to shock any reader to their core. Yet his writing has inspired me to read more on this particular topic. I have wanted to read The Little Coffeeshop of Kabul for some time now, and it was definitely worth the wait.

What Did I Think?

Having grown accustomed to nothing being sacred or long-lasting in a Khaled Hosseini novel, I was expecting everything to go wrong. However, this book is so different from what I thought it would be. It focuses on relationships and how everyday life was affected by both political and religious restrictions. 

The book features multiple protagonists and there are some very raw and harrowing moments in each of their stories that prove the true hardship in living your life with various constrictions imposed by war and religion. However, what is so touching about this novel is that love always prevails, making this more a story about love rather than destruction. 

Alike Hosseini, Deborah Rodriguez writes so beautifully about Kabul, making you feel like you are right there with her.

‘It was as if you could see into the sky, through its layers, and into its core. Layers of stars, translucent blanket upon blanket. The beauty was overwhelming. The wind blew her hair, and she willed herself to stop, to breathe, to feel.’

Also, similar to Hosseini, Deborah Rodriguez is also an activist and humanitarian. She specialises in helping women out of relationships of domestic violence and chaotic circumstances, which is perhaps why this book and the stories featured within its pages are so candid and heartwarming. 

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