Monday, 29 February 2016

Review: My Mother's Secret by Shelia O'Flanagan


My Mother's Secret by Shelia O'Flanagan
Published by Headline Review 2016 (Paperback)
453 Pages

Thank you to Headline Review for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

When Steffie helps her two siblings organize a surprise wedding anniversary party for their parents her only worry is whether they'll be pleased. What she doesn't know is this is the day that her whole world will be turned upside down.

Jenny wants to be able to celebrate her ruby anniversary with the man she loves, but for forty years she has kept a secret. A secret that she can't bear to hide any longer. But is it ever the right time to hurt the people closest to you?

As the entire family gather to toast the happy couple, they're expecting a day to remember. The trouble is, it's not going to be for the reasons they imagined..

Thoughts

I'd never read a novel by Shelia O'Flanagan before so was rather looking forward to reading this as soon as I received it. The concept behind this novel intrigued me and I was also drawn in by the beautiful cover art (which is even more stunning in real life, trust me).

My Mother's Secret follows the story of three siblings Steffie, Roisin and Davey as they plan a surprise ruby wedding anniversary for their parents, Jenny and Pascal. With family and friends all gathered around it should be one of the best surprises of their lives, that is until the secrets start coming out.

I will admit as I was reading this novel reminded me of a soap opera in some ways, but that was fine by me as I am a lover of all things soap. It was also different for me to read a book set over a few days and that included a large family unit. I don't think I've read a book like that before, so it really did stand out. I could imagine all of the different family members vividly in my head and at times it was like I was there amongst all of the chaos, action and drama.

The secrets that spilt out during the book were slightly predictable and I had an inkling of what they were going to be before I even got to the part where they all came out. Despite this, I think they were handled by the characters in a unique way, which stood out and kept me hooked. I found myself feeling majorly sorry for Steffie at one point, but then a few pages after I found myself switching sides and feeling sorry for Jenny. I have a feeling that's what the author wanted you to feel like. They wanted your emotions to run away with you and that's what happened with me. Whilst reading my emotions were all over the place. I was happy one minute, angry the next and then crying a minute later. 

My Mother's Secret was an emotional yet heart-warming read, which kept me hooked to a point where I didn't want to put the book down. The genuine plot may have been a little predictable but that doesn't change the fact that it was honestly one of the best books I have read so far this year. I will definitely be looking up more of Shelia O'Flanagan's work.

Rating



Amy

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Saturday, 27 February 2016

February - A Look Back

So I thought that as much as I like doing all my bookish posts and love you guys reading them, I realised that I would also like to write about my personal life as well once in a while. It was then that I came up with the idea of doing a 'look back' at what's happened in my life each month. So this will be the first look back that I do. February has been a pretty interesting month and a few exciting things have happened so I am happy to be sharing with you, my lovely readers.

So February got off to a slightly slow start for me. Although, I did get moved departments at work and started as a permanent member of the Administration team. I am really enjoying it and I love being able to do paper work and be organised etc. I know it's sad but I love doing things like that. I love my colleagues and I don't get angry or upset about having to go into work any more, which I did used to get. 

I had 12 days off work which I'd been looking forward to for ages seeing as the last time I had time off was back in November. To start it off I visited my Nan and took her to her first Slimming World meeting which was great! I love the fact that she has joined and is now looking forward to healthier future. It was also my friend Erica's birthday that week so me, James, Erica and her boyfriend Craig all hung out one day and went bowling and Pizza Express and then hung out at James' with a few alcoholic beverages and played Guitar Hero. It was a lot of fun (even though I lost at Bowling, but I do suck at it!). On the very same day I found out that I'd received an Unconditional offer to study my MA in Creative, Digital and Professional Writing at London Metropolitan University. I was so happy and I did shed a few happy tears. London Met was the uni I really wanted to get into so it was very overwhelming. I start in September and I am so excited. 

As James also had the same time off work as me, he came down to Ipswich for a few days. The first day he was down we just walked about town and went for Nandos as he had a voucher. You can't get enough of Nandos! The day after we went to see Deadpool, and it was so good! Although halfway through the film stopped as there was an emergency in the cinema foyer and our screen was being used for paramedics to come through. It couldn't be helped but the cinema did give us a free ticket for the next time we visit so it was nice of them. If you haven't seen Deadpool go and see it! I also got my tattoo cover up done, and I am so pleased! It was a two hour sitting and it did start to hurt after a while, but it was worth it. I couldn't be happier with it and it is healing nicely. 


The day before Valentines Day I finally got to use the Christmas present that James had got me. We finally went to see The Lion King in the West End. The show was amazing and I was so overwhelmed. Everything about it was perfect; the cast, the costumes, the music. I also loved how it was word to word of the film. It was a perfect day and I would love to go and see it again. You can tell by the photos below that I was just a little bit excited.

For Valentines Day James and I just stayed at his and watched a few movies and had a lovely roast. I felt like we'd already had our Valentines Day the day before, and you don't have to do something major to show someone that you love them. I liked just spending time with him. 

My 12 days off work went really quick, but I had enjoyed them so that was all the mattered. I wasn't that bothered about going back to work and I soon got into the swing of things. 

February was a good month I think, and a lot of things happened which I really enjoyed. I also got a few ARC's in the post, which is always a good thing. 

Let's hope March is just as good. Bring it on!

Amy

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Friday, 26 February 2016

My Reading Toolkit

So recently I've been having a brainstorm about other things I can feature on this blog other than book reviews and I've come up with a few good ideas which will be up on here in the coming weeks. This is one that I thought would be pretty interesting. I am going to share with you my reading 'toolkit'. It's basically what things I need to have when I'm settling down with a good book. The things that are featured are things that I can't read without, and I don't think that will be changing.

My Reading Toolkit

1) Quiet

Some people can read with noises going on around them, which is fair enough. However, I'm not one of these people. I find it hard to concentrate on the book I'm reading if there is loud noise around me. I find it difficult to focus on the story and characters and I often find myself loosing where I am in the book, causing me to read all over again. I love a nice quiet environment where there is no noise and no distractions. It's also rather peaceful.

2) A Cup of Coffee


I am a big coffee lover and I literally live off the stuff. You could call me a caffeine fiend and I always have to have a cup or two or three when I'm reading. I am really into flavoured coffees right now and my favourite make is Beanies. The photo above is just a few of what I have. My favourite is Chocolate Orange! It's just delightful! Oh and they are sweet enough by themselves so you don't need sugar/sweetener with them, which is always good.

3) Candles


Candles are my latest obsession and I don't know how I wasn't obsessed earlier. I love how they make my room pretty and smell nice. My favourite make is Yankee Candle (mainstream I know) and my favourites at the moment are the Sparkling Cinnamon and Cranberry Ice scents. Both Christmas exclusives which I managed to get at bargain prices in the January sales. Candles also seem to relax me a lot, which is always good when reading.

4) Something comfy to sit on

I know this probably goes without saying, but I love having a comfy chair or my bed to sit on when reading. When you are reading a book you want to be able to relax and just immerse yourself in the brilliance of different worlds and characters so having a comfy surface to sit on is 100% necessary. My bed is probably the comfiest place I read and it is sheer bliss.

 5) Bookmark


I'm one of these people that hates turning the pages of a book or just using a bit of scrap paper to mark my place in a book. I need to have a bookmark and if I don't then there's trouble. I have a few bookmarks, but this is the one I am using at the moment. I love the rose on it as Rose is an old family name, and it's pink which is always good! 

So there's my reading toolkit. I'd love to know what yours are? and if we have anything similar.

Amy

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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Review: Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon


Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon
Published by Hodder & Stoughton 2016
368 Pages

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Polly Vernon, Grazia columnist, Times feature writer (hair-flicker, Brazilian-waxer, jeans obsessive, outrageous flirt) presents a brave new perspective on feminism.

Drawing on her dedicated, life-long pursuit of hotness - having dismissed many of the rules on 'good' feminism at some point in the early 90s - she'll teach you everything you ever wanted to know about being a feminist when you care about how you look. When part of your brain is constantly monologuing on fashion. When you check out your own reflection in every reflective surface. When your dilapidation practices are pretty much out of control. When you just really want to be fancied.

Hot Feminist is based on a principle of non-judgement (because there's enough already), honesty about how often we mess this up, and empowerment through looks. Part memoir, part road map, it's a rolling, raucous rejection of all those things we're convinced we shouldn't think / wear/ feel/ say/ buy/ want - and a celebration of all the things we can.

It is modern feminism, with style, without 
judgement.

Thoughts

Modern day feminism is a topic that I am slowly becoming interested in after hearing a lot about it in today's media. I'm all for women's rights and after reading How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran last year I was ready to read another book about this interesting topic which is still very new to me.

I'm going to admit, firstly, that before reading this book I'd never heard of Polly Vernon, but was rather interested in reading her views on what she calls 'Hot Feminism'. Hot Feminism according to Polly is how you can still be feminist even though you care about how you look. You can be into fashion, get waxed, check your reflection 24 hours a day, want to be fancied and want to impress men and still be a feminist. Being someone that is somewhat vain, I thought I would be able to relate, but I was slightly wrong.

I thought I was going to be getting thoughts and feelings about Hot Feminism, however what I got was a tacky version of a self help book. I felt Polly to be quite demanding throughout and it was like she was telling us what she wanted us to do. I thought feminism was about being able to express yourself and standing up for what you believe in? Not this version of telling people what to do. I also felt like she rambled on for quite a bit about things that I believe had nothing to do with the feminist image she was trying to portray. 

Despite this there were a few aspects that I agreed with such as equal pay for women, tougher sentences for rape/sexual assaults and saying no. But that's as far as I got. I didn't really take anything away from this book at all, and I definitely didn't find out a lot about the modern day feminism that I was expecting. 

Overall I really didn't enjoy this book. I didn't learn anything from it and I certainly won't be looking up Polly Vernon again. If you want a decent book about modern day feminism I would suggest reading How To Be A Woman.

Rating



Amy

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Saturday, 20 February 2016

Review: Be Careful What You Witch For by Thomas Hoobler


Be Careful What You Witch For by Thomas Hoobler
Published by Booktrope 2016
192 Pages

Thank you to Booktrope for sending me this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Magic is a tricky thing. Especially when it comes from an ancient book of spells that jumps off a shelf into Olivia’s hands. Bad news for the popular girls in her new school who don’t like Olivia. But hey–now she can get the attention of her crush who’s more interested in comic book superheroes. And when she finds out her aunt is a witch, she imagines all her problems are solved. Unfortunately, not quite–what she conjures up is trouble. And the only one who can help her is an 800-year-old woman.

Thoughts

I love the YA Paranormal genre, but hadn't read much of it recently. So when I got the opportunity to read Be Careful What You Witch For I jumped at the chance. I'd never got the chance to read a book in this genre featuring Witchcraft/Wicca before, so I was rather interested to see what it was going to bring.

Be Careful What You Witch For takes us on a journey with teenager Olivia, who's parents are famous actors. When they get scheduled for a movie shoot in Egypt, Olivia, wanting to just be out of the spotlight and live a normal teenage life for a while plans to live with her Aunt Tilda in New York for the year. However, as soon as she arrives she notices something is strange about her aunt. For one thing she can read her mind and secondly she seems to think her cat is a ten year old boy! School is another thing, from her first day Olivia becomes a 'misfit', causing the popular kids to automatically dislike her, especially Queen Bee Madison. She does however develop a crush on Alex, the x-men loving, slightly dippy hunk of the school. When she visits her aunt's friend, Eva, she accidentally casts a spell, causing Alex to start an infatuation with her. As she discovers more about the magic happening around her, trouble begins to brew.

I found this book to have a rather interesting concept. I loved finding out all about witchcraft and discovering all the different kinds of spells that could be conjured. However, I also felt like the plot was somehow rushed. I felt like some things were explained entirely and I feel like that somehow ruined it for me. I would've loved to have known more about Eva's life and her curse and also how Aunt Tilda discovered the art of Wicca. It would've also been great to maybe meet Olivia's parents and see how they differed. 

Despite being that protagonist I found Olivia rather hard to warm up too. At the start I thought of her as a snobby girl who wanted her own way all of the time, which may have been how the author wanted her to come across at first. However, throughout reading I started to warm to her more and I did actually like her come the end. The stand out character of this book to me was Eva. I just adored the way her personality came out, and I was imagining all types of situations she could be put in. I would also love a cup of her famous tea please? 

Be Careful What You Witch For, in my opinion, is a quick, easy read. The fast moving plot slightly ruined what could've been a good book, but it made up for that with a few great characters and it's explanation of a topic that not many people know about in great detail. It's made me want to research more into Wicca, that's a fact. 

Rating



Amy

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Friday, 19 February 2016

Would You Rather (Book Edition)

I love a good quiz and I came across this Would You Rather (Book Edition) so I thought I'd give it a go! 


Would You Rather? (Book Edition)


1. Read only trilogies or stand alones?
This is a hard one! I have read a lot of trilogies, and I've enjoyed most of them. However, I hate the wait between books and I find myself getting impatient and by the time the next book comes out I tend to have forgotten what happened in the previous book. With stand alones I don't have that problem, so for that I am going to say stand alones. 


2. Read only male or female authors?

Hmmm. I have read books by both female and male authors and some I've enjoyed and some I haven't. However, most of the books I have read recently have been by female authors. I also tend to relate to the characters more if they've been written by a female, so I will go with that.


3. Shop at book shops or Amazon?

I love going into a book shop and having a browse, but I find that in-between work and socialising I don't really have time to go into one, which is a shame. I have brought a few books from Amazon and I have found them to be reasonably priced and they seem to come in great time, so I'll say Amazon for this question.


4. All books become films or TV shows?

As much as I love films that are based on books I feel that you don't get the whole story as you can't fit a 300 - 400 page book into a two hour film. So I will have to go with TV Shows. I have recently started watching the new Shadowhunters TV Series (based on The Mortal Instruments) on Netflix and I am loving it!


5. Read five pages a day or five books a week?

I am going to say five books a week, which may seem silly to some people but not for me. When I'm reading I get so into the book that I wouldn't be able to stop at just five pages. Plus if I do five books a week, I get to discover more amazing work by different authors.

6. Be a professional reviewer or author?

I'd love to be both but it's always been my dream to write a book! I have taken part in NaNoWriMo before and I have written 50,000 words of a novel which I still need to finish! I think being a professional reviewer would be awesome though.


7. Only read your top 20 books, or only ever read new books?

Read new books definitely! I just love the idea of discovering different books, plus I think I'd get bored of re-reading the same 20 books over and over again.


8. Be a librarian or a book seller?

I love my local library and I tend to visit it when I can. So I'm gonna go with librarian.


9. Only read your favourite genre, or read every genre except your favourite?

Most certainly my favourite. I feel like my favourite book genre will never die out and there are still many books within it that I have yet to read.


10. Only read physical books or only read e-books?

Ok this is a hard one for me. I have a Kindle and I find it to be a godsend when travelling and going on holiday as I don't need to lug any heavy books around with me. On the other hand I love the feeling of a physical book and the smell and I love being able to turn a physical page. There's something magical about a physical book so that wins on a whim.

So there we go! If any of you fancy giving this a go please let me know what your answers are!

Amy

x

Monday, 15 February 2016

Review: Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950's by Jennifer Worth


Call The Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950's by Jennifer Worth
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2002
340 Pages

An unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman

At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London's East End slums. The colourful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can't speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city's seedier side-illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, Call The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.

Thoughts

I'm not usually a big lover of Non-Fiction and prefer to read about fictional characters, places and adventures. However, as I am a big fan of the TV Series of Call the Midwife I thought it was about time I read the book it was based on. After picking the book up for a bargain price at The Works, I dived right into it and I was automatically astounded. 

The story follows the real life of Jennifer Worth, who at 22 leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in the East End of London at the start of the 1950's. We follow Jennifer as she meets people from many walks of life; including the kind hearted nuns who she learns to love, the women she delivers babies for and the prostitutes, showcasing a seedier side to the city. 

What I loved about this book was how real it was, at times I thought I was actually there with Jennifer, as she delivered newborns and learnt about the hardship some mothers went through to start a family. Also, as a young woman, I was finding it hard to believe how different things were in them times. Nowadays women can give birth in clean and safe conditions. In the 1950's things weren't so easy. 

Another thing about Call The Midwife is that it is a very emotional read, and I found myself experiencing all sorts of emotions whilst reading. One minute I'd be laughing, the next I'd be crying and I even felt anger in one or two chapters. The main reason I think I felt this was because of the character descriptions. I loved reading about the Nuns of Nonnatus house, and I especially loved Sister Monica Joan and Sister Evangelina, I found myself laughing out loud when reading about their little arguments and tiffs. On the other hand, during one part of the book, where Jenny was helping a teenager who had fallen into prostitution I started tearing up. I honestly felt so sorry for her, and just felt like I wanted to help, despite it happening over sixty years ago. 

If you love the TV Series, you will most certainly love the book! It will honestly make you wish you had lived during that time - it definitely made me wish that. Call The Midwife is an outstanding book, and I cannot wait to read the others that Jennifer Worth has written.

Rating


Amy

x



Sunday, 7 February 2016

My Weight Loss Journey

This is a different post to what I normally write on here, but it's something personal to me and that I wanted to share with you, my lovely readers. It's also been a year since I started this journey, so it only seems fitting that I write this post around this time.

I've always been a bigger person, ever since I was a child. I didn't use to let it bother me, until I got to around the age of 9/10, that's when I started noticing it and I did get picked on a bit for my size, I never fought back though, as I was an anxious child. Throughout Secondary School I always felt bigger than my friends, and as I was at the stage where I wanted to impress boys, I knew my weight was the reason boys weren't interested in me. My confidence in my looks went down dramatically and I literally had no self esteem when I left my secondary school. When I started college things started to get slightly better, as people mature a lot more once leaving school, however I did still feel like I was being judged on my size, and I think this was one of the reasons I found it hard to make friends there. When I went to University, things started to look up! For the first year I had found a lovely group of friends and flatmates and I was socialising a bit more. However, my eating habits were erratic and I often found myself ordering takeaways or cooking convenience food. I was also drinking a lot of alcohol, which is the norm at uni, but this made my weight balloon. Come my second and third years, my confidence dropped and I was withdrawing myself from socialising and I did become quite lonely. I only managed to get through them years as I really wanted my degree. Upon leaving University, I knew something had to be done about my weight, but it wasn't until I saw my graduation photos that I realised I needed to get motivated.



So, in January 2015, I, along with my mum, decided to join our local Slimming World group. I was rather nervous about it at first, as I knew I wasn't very good around people. However, my nerves were soon settled as the group was so lovely and my consultant was very welcoming and even though I was shocked when I stepped onto the scales, I wasn't judged. I also loved how I could eat as much fruit, veg, pasta, potatoes, rice etc as I wanted and also have little treats each day. Within 3 weeks I had lost half a stone, and after that happened I knew I was determined to get down to my ultimate target weight. I'd first set myself a personal goal of loosing 2 stone by June, and I was shocked when I achieved it by May. I carried on going, and even though I did gain a few times, I didn't let that put me off. I had lost 3 stone by my birthday in August, and 4 stone by November. I'd also became such an inspiration to my group that I won the groups Miss Slinky 2015 award, which I was so proud of! I was slowly getting to my target weight and on the first week of December, I finally reached my target weight! I'd lost 4st 4.5lb in total, and dropped four dress sizes and I was a different person!


Loosing weight has helped my confidence and health so much! I no longer feel ashamed of how I look, and because of this I am now doing things that I never dreamt I'd be doing. I'm going to social events more, I'm helping out at my Slimming World group, I'm speaking up more, I'm started to gain more friends, I'm going out and not worrying about if people are looking at me and I just feel so much better. I am never ever going to back to the girl I used to be. My life has changed for the better, and I owe it all to loosing weight. 

Amy

x

Friday, 5 February 2016

Review: Once Upon a Road Trip by Angela N. Blount


Once Upon a Road Trip by Angela N. Blount
Published by Artifice Press 2015
398 Pages

Thank you to Artifice Press for sending me this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Eighteen-year-old Angeli doesn't "fit in." She's never been on a single date, and she lives vicariously through an online world of storytelling. With the pressures of choosing a practical future path bearing down, she needs a drastic change. Too old to run away from home, she opts instead to embark on a solo 2-month road trip. But her freedom is tempered by loneliness - and anxiety tests her resolve as she comes face-to-face with her quirky internet friends. 

Aside from contracting mono and repeatedly getting herself lost, Angeli's adventure is mired by more unforeseen glitches - like being detained by Canadian authorities, and a near-death experience at the hands of an overzealous amateur wrestler. Her odyssey is complicated further when she unwittingly earns the affections of two young men. One a privileged martial artist; the other a talented techie with a colorful past. 

Bewildered by the emotions they stir, Angeli spurns the idea of a doomed long-distance relationship. But she is unprepared for the determination of her hopeful suitors. In the wake of her refusal, one man will betray her, and the other will prove himself worthy of a place in her future. 

Angeli sets off in search of a better understanding of herself, the world, and her place in it. What she finds is an impractical love, with the potential to restore her faith in happy endings. 

Thoughts

So, I'd been wanting to get my hands on this book for a long while. The cover art fascinated me and I loved the concept and the fact that the book was a fictional memoir of the author. I also enjoy reading young adult coming of age stories, they always seem to leave me thinking long after I've finished the last page. I can also see myself in a lot of these stories. So when I received a copy of Once Upon a Road Trip, I couldn't wait to dive it. 

Once Upon a Road Trip follows eighteen year old Angeli, as she sets off on a 2 month solo road trip across United States and Canada to visit her internet friends from an online storywriting community. Along the way she starts to find out a lot about herself, and who she is and willingly finds her self the object of affection by two of her friends Scott and Vincent. One of them has the power to restore her belief in happy endings, but which one is it?

I must admit, I found it really hard to get into this book, despite loving the idea behind it. I must've got to the middle of the story, before I found myself becoming engrossed. I didn't find the character of Angeli to be very engaging at all, and I found myself becoming annoyed at her throughout. I felt like I didn't get to know her at all, and this may be the reason for my dislike. Some parts were also very long-winded and could've been toned down a bit. I also found the romance side to be very unbelievable, I'm someone who doesn't believe that you can fall in love after knowing someone for a few days, so I wasn't convinced on that part.

Despite this, I did feel that this book brought up a few problems that many teenagers face such as anxiety, depression, unrequited love and sex. As a sufferer of anxiety myself, I did find myself relating to that side of the story and I felt that I could understand where the characters were coming from. There is one part of the story that some readers could find quite distressing, but that I personally thought was played out very well. 

In a whole, I was rather disappointed with Once Upon a Road Trip. I just couldn't get into it and despite the themes behind the book, I just couldn't find myself engaging with any of the characters. If you like coming of age books and books about self discovery, this could be a good read for you, but in my opinion there are better ones out there.

Rating





Amy 

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