Monday, 20 May 2013

Super duper personal shiz

You might have noticed I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve been trying to keep up with posts and reviews every now and then but I think I need to explain why I’ve been so quiet for the last few months – I don’t want anyone to think I’ve disappeared for good! It’s just, a few things have happened that are taking up my time and mean I don’t have as much blogging time – but I will be back properly very soon, I promise. I miss this.

 This is not actually a post I ever thought I’d write as I tend not to get too personal here (even though I know EVERY year I pledge to write more personal posts!) but, yeah, screw it, I’m going to.
 Me and Tom broke up at the beginning of March. And it was hard. It was mutual and amicable and probably the world’s smoothest, friendliest break up, which has definitely made things easier for both of us! So there have been no fights, no burning of anybody’s possessions and no general craziness but a break up is still a break up and there’s a hell of a lot of stuff to sort out.

 We were together for three years; we lived together, we have Bertie and we work together every day in the same office – it’s pretty damn complicated, as you can imagine, which is why it’s such a relief that we’ve managed to make the transition from a relationship to a friendship without much of a hitch. Because that was the main reason we broke up – we got on (and still do) so, so well and I will always consider him to be one of my closest friends but that’s all we were in the end, really good friends.

It took a while to realise it and, honestly, one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made was to instigate the conversation that led to us ending things. It’s really difficult to walk away from something that is still happy, still fun but just not quite right. When I first realised something was wrong I buried it. I forgot about it. I put it down to boredom and ‘grass is greener’ syndrome and ignored it. But then I couldn’t any more. I knew if we stayed together that feeling would grow and grow and suddenly it would become bigger than our friendship and we might lose that as well. And that wasn’t something I wasn’t willing to risk.

I had a bit of a health wobble at the beginning of this year. I won’t go into any more details as it’s all sorted now but it scared me a bit and really made me take a step back and consider things. It made me realise that I’m only 25, I could have years and years ahead of me or everything could be over tomorrow – nobody has time to sit back and let things pass by. Nobody has time to stay in something you know isn’t right because it’s comfortable, or familiar, or safe. Because that holds both of you back.

And it’s terrifying. Believe me, the last few months have been really, really scary. I’ve gone from living with my boyfriend and having my whole future mapped out to not having a single clue what life will bring me or how things will turn out. It is big and scary and sometimes overwhelming but at the same time it’s brilliant. It’s right.

I feel more like me than I have for months. And that’s definitely something to be excited about.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Review: You Don't Know Me - Sophia Bennett

Published: May 6th 2013, Chicken House
Pages: 352 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): It was all so good. Sasha and Rose. Best friends in a band, singing together. Right up to the finals of Killer Act when the judges tell them one of them must go Suddenly their friendship is put to the ultimate test. On TV in front of millions. Two girls. One huge mistake. Can they ever forgive each other?

My review: I've been reading and loving Sophia Bennett's books since day one and every time she brings out a new release I'm never sure whether she can top her previous effort. Somehow, though, she manages to do it every single time and You Don't Know Me is no exception.

Everything about the setting of You Don't Know Me feels contemporary and immediate and I know teens will just eat this one up. The references to Facebook and Twitter keep things in the here and now but there's so much else on offer it doesn't feel as though the pop culture references will date the story at all, which is definitely a good thing. The inclusion of Killer Act was genius - the way the show was designed and brought to life using a combination of the good and bad elements we all know from X Factor and the like worked perfectly.

Our heroine, Sasha, is a good girl; a nice girl, a good friend and somebody you can't help but warm to. She's everything I want a YA protagonist to be and I love that she felt real, flaws and all. That's something that Bennett explores in all of her books - flaws and weaknesses and how they can be overcome and turned into strengths.

It's impossible to read any of Bennett's books without taking some food for thought away and I love that the message is always subtly delivered without anything ever feeling preachy. There are numerous issues that are tackled throughout You Don't Know Me that are so important, especially to teenage girls and I'm so impressed with the way the body image element was handled throughout the story. It was beautifully done and I came away from the book feeling empowered and happy and like I wanted to do and big ole fist pump of victory, mashed up with hollaring some Destiny's Child lyrics around the room. As you do.

Friendship, body image, self-confidence are all integral parts of You Don't Know Me and I absolutely loved that the romantic side of things wasn't the main focus. It's there, of course, but who doesn't love a well-written, sweet love story? It's the friendship and bond between Sasha, Rose and the girls that takes centre stage here, though, and I have to champion the book for highlighting that it's friendship that will carry you through the difficult times.

You Don't Know Me is funny, touching and a beautiful coming of age story that I already can't wait to reread. Read this one curled up under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and a vanilla candle burning in the background - that's how I enjoyed it and it was pretty darn top notch. Enjoy, folks.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like - Jennifer E. Smith

Published: April 4th 2013, Headline
Pages: 407 pages, ARC
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Through a series of funny and poignant messages, Graham and Ellie make a true connection, sharing intimate details about their lives, hopes and fears. But they don't tell each other everything; Graham doesn't know the major secret hidden in Ellie's family tree, and Ellie is innocently unaware that Graham is actually a world-famous teen actor living in Los Angeles.

When the location for the shoot of Graham's new film falls through, he sees an opportunity to take their relationship from online to in-person, managing to get the production relocated to picturesque Henley, Maine, where Ellie lives. But can a star as famous as Graham have a real relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie's mom want her to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

First line: 'Hey, we're running pretty behind here.'

My review: I devoured and adored Smith's previous release (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight) at the beginning of 2012 so I was really keen to get my hands on This Is What Happy Looks Like. Getting lost inside a story is all I ever want from a novel and I definitely got lost inside Graham and Ellie's world in this gorgeous love story, which is a fun, summery read.

We're beginning to head into summer and I really fancied a light-hearted, romantic YA that would lift my spirits and help me get ready for the warmer weather - if that's the sort of mood you're in too then this is the perfect book for you.

Ellie is a likable heroine from the outset. A little snarky, definitely memorable and not your frustratingly perfect runway model. She's a real girl and that's what made me warm to her; I felt like she could be me or one of my pals who just happens to find herself in a surprising situation.

The love story is the core of This Is What Happy Looks Like and it's such a sweet, lovely relationship that I was rooting for from page one. It's nice to see something so tender and loving and based on a genuine foundation, rather than just another frustrating insta-love relationship. Smith knows how to write a love story - that's for sure!

Can somebody option this for a movie soon, please? Like, right now. A gorgeous small town setting, memorable characters and a sizzling love story - This Is What Happy Looks Like is your next summer read, trust me.