It's Not OK to Feel Blue Review

It’s Not OK to Feel Blue, edited by Scarlett Curtis

It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue and other lies is a vast collection of writings from various celebrities and activists on mental health. It includes personal anecdotes, poetry, song lyrics and even an illustration. With such a diverse array of minds with a variety of experiences with their mental health, there really is something for everyone.

I think anyone who reads this would take away something different from it depending on who you are, how your mental health is and what you need right now. I will attempt to explain what I thought were the best bits, but I highly recommend reading this for yourself.

This book did cause me to have a minor existential crisis, when I realised I have no idea what I want with my life. That being said, the collection is overall hopeful and quite inspiring, with statistics used sparingly and only when very relevant. It wasn’t a bad existential crisis, it just really made me consider areas of my own life. I found reading other people publicly sharing their experiences quite liberating, as they addressed the shame and stigma around sharing your own mental health problems. The contributions were funny at times, heart-breaking in others, just filled with so much honesty and vulnerability.

The book addresses mental health in conjunction with cancer, being a woman, race and class among other things. It is not simply personal experiences, but also how to be an LGBTQ+ ally and what you can do or say to help when a friend or family member is struggling with their mental health. This is not just a book for those with mental health problems, because everyone has mental health and as a whole society could do with talking about it more.

So read this book. Talk to someone. Cut out toxic things in your life. Make a change, one baby step at a time. Ask your friend if they’re truly okay. Things can, and do get better.

If you want to find out more or need some support, I’ll link a few websites below that are for general mental health but if you are looking for something specific a quick google will often bring one up, especially if you don’t live in the US or UK. If you have any questions or just want to talk, feel free to contact me 🙂

UK

Childline , Shout , Mind , Time to Change , Young Minds , SANE

US

National Alliance for Mental Illness , To Write Love On Her Arms , The Trevor Project , Mental Health America

For the Immortal Review

For the Immortal by Emily Hauser

If you’ve read my review of the previous book in this trilogy, For the Winner, you’ll know that I LOVE Emily Hauser’s writing of Greek myths from a female perspective. Seriously, I found out she is a lecturer of classics at Exeter university and began considering it to apply to!

For the immortal is the stunning conclusion to Hauser’s Golden Apple trilogy, following two viewpoints- Queen of the Amazons Hippolyta and Admete, a friend of Hercules. Admete’s brother becomes ill so she goes with Hercules to first visit the amazons, then to find a golden apple.

Hippolyta is bold and brave and powerful, plagued by a mysterious past which is slowly revealed. I enjoyed Hauser’s interpretation of the amazons, them being a nomadic society of men and women. When she is captured her loneliness, pride and shame are so vividly illustrated and her actions always for the best of her people. While I found Hippolyta’s viewpoint interesting, I personally preferred Admete’s. Through her eyes the reader sees Hercules change, from Admete’s closest friend to a jerk obsessed with chasing glory. Admete is not as obviously courageous as Hippolyta, yet she confronts someone from her past, travels with a group of men who don’t want her there and thrives among the Amazons while cultivating her skills in herb healing.

Hauser has a beautiful writing style, full of descriptions weaved into the fabric of the story and little details that make the scenes all the more immersive. The prose is breath-taking from the prologue, the vast amount of time covered never boring and the alliances of the capricious Greek gods fascinating. 

The ending of the book, and therefore conclusion of the series, pulls the trilogy together in an unexpected way, linking them in ways I never foresaw. These unique interpretations of three well known myths weave gods, mortals and ancient Greek customs together, illustrating an alien world with vastly different customs in an accessible way. And there’s an epic final battle, so what more could you want?

Would I survive this book? No. I can’t live without a hot shower and lots of books. Not to mention freedom from being sold as a bride.

The Woman in Blue Review

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

I’d like to start by directing your attention to the title. Not because I have anything deep to say about it, but it rhymes which made me grin. So let’s take a moment to appreciate the rhyme.

Done? Please continue.

I really, really like the Ruth Galloway mysteries and I would definitely recommend reading them in order for maximum enjoyment, but if you really have to start partway through a series, this one isn’t too bad, since each is a mystery of its own. Of course, you won’t know any of the characters or past references, but I think it would still be enjoyable.

The Woman in Blue involves Ruth Galloway, female priests, a place known for sightings of Mary (mother of Jesus), Cathbad house-sitting, religion and hate letters. As usual, Ruth somehow ends up entangled with the police investigation after a couple of murders and several assaults on women. And Cathbad being an absolute legend, as usual.

Elly Griffiths is a queen of ramping up tension, and the blurred lines between religion and reality in this small village add an excellent amount of confusion to the mystery.  I’m now familiar with Griffiths’ style, with the clues appearing at the start, mysterious sightings and barely related events then towards the end things suddenly pull together I am tenser than I have ever been in my life. There’s a couple of jump scares which were fun, a dead end and excellent passing of time, never too fast or too slow. I didn’t fine this book as tense as previous ones, it was a rather slower mystery, it all culminating in one short scene which I read as fast as humanly possible.

The final scene has great atmosphere, the religious fervour, the crowds, the ominous letters. I am never disappointed by the ending of an Elly Griffiths book. Would I survive this book? Yeah, I reckon I would. Only a couple of people die, and I don’t attend many large religious gatherings. Or any at all.

Proud Review

Proud compiled by Juno Dawson

Proud is an awesome collection of unapologetically queer short stories and poems accompanied by artwork. There is a badass and powerful introduction from Juno Dawson herself then several intros from various publishing people. The collection is joyful and sweet and a celebration of pride. I’m going to give a mini review on each piece, some of them very short indeed because I don’t want to spoil anything.

We start with Dive bar, an evocative poem.

Then comes penguins, about Cameron, who is trying to come out and the gay penguins at the local zoo. I felt so bad for Cameron this is the nightmare coming out scenario since he kept getting interrupted, but also it was quite funny. So so cute

On the run follows a gay couple who are on the run after winning the lottery. It made me happy, strange but sweet

The phoenix’s fault is more fantasy based, where the emperor is looking for a wife and any woman over the age of 16 with a phoenix can apply. My thoughts were: BEST FRIENDS GAY PHOENIX DRAGON AMAZING. You want anymore and you’ll have to read it.

As the Philadelphia queer youth choir sings Katy Perry’s ‘firework’… was the thoughts of various members of the choir, quite funny.

Almost certain is about an anxious girl who loves music.  Orla is relatable, her room is her sanctuary and her parents are amazed when she goes out on a Friday night. Coming out anxiety is very relatable. So cute and sad

The other team is about a football team with a trans guy. I love the sense of camaraderie and team spirit and acceptance.

I hate Darcy Pemberley is a gay, modern Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie is absolutely savage, and I need a movie like this.

The courage of dragons is the story of a non binary person coming out at school. Dungeons and dragons themed with nicknames for their queer gang and a legendary quest involving prom.

The instructor was a girl getting driving lessons to impress the girl she has a crush on from an eccentric driving instructor. So so so so so cute.

Love poems to the city is a girl who writes love poems campaigning for gay marriage rights in Ireland. It was pretty cool.

How to come out as gay was a poem. Beautiful.

I really enjoyed this collection. It made me smile and I felt at home. There are so many books only with heterosexual characters, it’s nice to have one with mostly queer characters.

Noteworthy Review

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy is a contemporary YA novel following the antics of Jordan Sun, a girl with an alto 2 voice at a performing art boarding school. For those who the words alto 2 mean nothing, it basically means that she has a low singing voice for a girl. She is there on a scholarship, and at home she is not wealthy. After not being picked for the musical three years in a row, she sees a chance in a prestigious acapella group at her college. The only problem is it’s an all-boys group, so she does the obvious thing and dresses up as a boy. Simultaneously, we find out more about Jordan’s relationship which ended not long ago, and her family life. But it was not solely Jordan’s story, for the sharpshooters (the acapella group) and their relationships and group dynamic played a starring role with a range of different characters.

The tone of the novel is humorous while considering some really interesting topics like what it is like to be a boy and how different it is, with Jordan seeing things from a different perspective. Inevitably, she almost gives herself away several times calling out the guys for saying things about girls. While it is funny, the story is also sad as Jordan finally makes some good friends while we know that she is lying to them, and it can’t continue forever. The longer the pretence continued the more heartbroken I got because Jordan was building real relationships with the guys in the group, but all the while they couldn’t be completely real as she was lying to them.

What I really appreciated about this novel is that Riley Redgate considers the implications of what Jordan is doing when pretending to be a boy, Jordan’s discomfort at realising that the tips she is using to look like a boy are actually meant for transgender boys and pretending to be a gay boy when something happens.

I was pleased with the ending, and I will probably check out some of Riley Redgate’s other books. I would definitely survive this book, a performing arts boarding school sounds quite fun.

The Queen of Nothing Review

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

The Queen of Nothing. The final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy. Wow. Somehow I always forget how much I love Holly Black’s books until I read the next one, and fall back in love even faster than before.

The Queen of Nothing follows Jude as she returns to the Faerie Court, facing Cardan and various other figures from her past. There are duels and betrayal and plot twists and schemes and moments to shatter your hearts into tiny pieces, and I wouldn’t want it any different. Also, Jude pretends to be Taryn for a while and I am a huge fan of characters switching places, I just think it’s great fun.

Let’s start with Jude. Wonderful, powerful, brave Jude. From the very start of this book Jude is doing her own thing, carrying out illicit faerie jobs for money in the human world. I love everything about Jude, how strong and furious she is, how she schemes and fights, how she hates to be powerless. It gives me such a rush when she asserts herself as queen, refusing to bow to anyone else’s wishes (she also uses her period as an excuse to scare off a male guard which was epic). Jude isn’t particularly close with her siblings anymore, but she loves them fiercely, and the complexity of all the relationships in the book are wonderful. I haven’t read a relationship that makes me squeal like Jude’s and Cardan’s in a long time. The innuendo. The tension. The hate and fire and love. The tender moments.

Holly Black is a truly masterful writer. Even the prologue was magical. The action thrilled me, the tension had me on edge and I had to take several moments to process the deadly beauty of the Faerie Court. Holly Black can truly make me laugh, and I smiled throughout the entire book. I am in awe of Holly’s writing of the faeries, especially since they cannot lie so Holly had to find ways to lie without being untrue.  The contrast between the mortal and faerie world was brilliant, especially the depth with which growing up human in a faerie world shaped Jude, Taryn and Vivi.

When I came to the ending, I didn’t want to keep reading but I couldn’t stop racing towards it. This was the first time I’d read for a solid hour or so in a while, and it felt awesome. And terrifying because it meant the book was coming to an end. The ending (metaphorically) killed me, such delicious dark beauty and emotions and imagery. The whole book was as intoxicating and enchanting as a faerie glamour.

Would I survive this book? In the faerie world, no. In the human world, yes.

Scorn Review

Scorn compiled by Matthew Parris

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you all have a great day, and I would like to point out that reviewing a book of insults has nothing to do with today being Valentine’s Day. Lots of love to you and your books!

Scorn gave me a great evening of reading, as well as lots of insults to harass my family with. It describes itself as the ‘wittiest and wickedest insults in human history’, and it certainly includes some brilliant insults. They are arranged in several sections, including religion, class, places, morality, politics and ancient curses. Some of the insults were funnier than others, and it’s definitely important to read this book lightly and not take any of it too seriously. I didn’t find the political ones as funny as the others, but that is just personal preference- there really is something for everyone except younger readers who should under no circumstances read this.

There isn’t much else to say since it is just quote after quote, so I’m just going to list a few of my favourites here. Please do not take offense, the insults shown are supposed to be humorous and not to be taken seriously.

Never doubt the courage of the French. They are the ones who discovered snails are edible.

Doug Larson

Unmitigated noodles.

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany on the English

If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.

General Philip Sheridan

Roast beef in human form.

Horace Walpole on the inhabitants of Norfolk

Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it is important.

Eugene J. McCarthy

Watching the eurozone countries trying to resolve their debt crisis has been like watching 17 people in oven gloves manipulating a Rubik’s cube.

John Lichfield

He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.

Winston Churchill on Stanley Baldwin

When they circumcised Herbert Samuel they threw away the wrong bit.

David Lloyd George. Attrib.

A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.

W. Somerset Maugham

Brass bands are all very well in their place – outdoors and several miles away.

Sir Thomas Beecham. Attrib.

A man with a fork in a world of soup.

Noel Gallagher on Liam Gallagher

The Places I've Cried in Public Review

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

I have loved every single one of Holly Bourne’s books I have read, so on picking this one up I knew it would leave me an emotional wreck.

The story follows Amelie, a musically talented year 12 who moves from the north to south of England with her mum and her dad because her dad has a new job. The story is told from two time periods- present, after Amelie has broken up with Reese and the past, starting on Amelie’s first day at her new college. Amelie has left behind her friends and everything she knows and quickly makes new friends including a musical ‘bad boy’ Reese. In the past we see Amelie’s relationship change, while in the present we have Amelie’s reflections on everything that has happened to her as she goes to all the places she has cried because of Reese.

Amelie is a first-person narrator, seemingly a normal, relatable girl starting a new college, something many teenagers go through. She wears granny cardigans and vintage dresses and gets terrible stage fright and misses her friends back home terribly. The authentic, lovable persona of Amelie enhances the changes that happen throughout the story, how Amelie goes from a happy, hopeful girl with plans from the future to skipping lessons, sitting alone in the cafeteria and barely leaving her house.

The contrast between past and present is poignant, as Amelie slowly realise the mistakes she made and the red flags she missed while contemplating if there was anything she could have done to change the outcome. Watching Amelie come to terms with what is, quite obviously to the reader, an emotionally abusive relationship is heart-breaking, desperately begging Amelie to get rid of him while Reese manipulates Amelie repeatedly. Simultaneously, the reader can see why Amelie continues to go back to Reese however horrible he is to her, the subtle digs and preying on her vulnerability that allowed him to isolate her.

This book beautifully illustrates what a healthy relationship looks like, and what definitely isn’t a healthy relationship, as well as showing the nuances that mean it can be hard to get out of one. It is full of painfully real quotes about being in an abusive relationship, and I would definitely suggest checking some out (you can find them on the goodreads page). I didn’t connect with Amelie as much as I did with characters in some of Holly’s other books, but then again I have never been in any kind of relationship so that’s pretty understandable. This book does contain some sensitive topics, based around an abusive relationship, so just be careful if you are not okay with reading about that kind of thing.

If you haven’t read any of Holly’s other books I highly recommend them, they perfectly create what it is to be a teenager and various other issues.

Sword and Pen review

Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine

Having finished the previous one in this series January 2019, I was very excited because I loved this series but also had no idea what’s going on. Thankfully within the first chapter I was reacquainted with the characters of the series, as well as The Great Library of Alexandria where scholars and obscurists live and protect the library. If you have no idea what I’m talking about please go and read the rest of the books because this will make no sense to you.

If you insist on continuing and have no idea what’s going on, here’s a quick summary MAJOR SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS: the Great Library of Alexandria survived and still exists. There are automatons and people with a mix of alchemy and magic called obscurists. The previous head of the library, the archivist, was corrupt and has been overthrown, and he is now sitting and plotting the downfall of the library. Owning books is not allowed. The magic people, obscurists used to be imprisoned. Jess has criminal connections. His twin brother died at the end of the last book. He had a brief fling with Morgan, a powerful obscurist. Jess joined the high garda, who guard the great library. Thomas is really really smart. There are a group of people called burners who burn books in protesting the great library. Some people have invented a printing press.

So back to the review. I think the whole concept of the library system is really cool, with all knowledge being controlled by the Great Library which has denominations in other countries, and book smugglers. I was genuinely excited to see what events would unfold and let me tell you I did not expect a single one of them. A constant atmosphere of uncertainty and drama was maintained throughout the book with lots of action and twists and turns.

The book follows several individual viewpoints and different times in the novel which I enjoyed, although sometimes when switching from character to character we went back in time a bit to show what was happening in different places at the same point. I didn’t really notice for most of the book, and thankfully didn’t find it too disruptive. I forgot the main adult relationship was a gay one which was an awesome surprise, and the one thing that really stood out for me was Jess’s injury. He suffers an injury at the start of the book, and instead of it being brushed off or healing strangely fast and not bothering him, it is given the focus necessary for that type of injury which I really appreciated.

I was very happy with the ending, and the way all the characters’ storylines were wrapped up. Would I survive this book? Yeah I think so, although I’m not sure if I could live without free access to books.

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder Review

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

I was super excited to read this book, and within a few pages I was ready to cancel the rest of activities in my day to finish it!

I’m going to have to start with the setting. I hadn’t known this beforehand, but Holly Jackson is a British writer and the book is set in one of the counties near me, so I knew a lot of the places and I don’t know why but that always excites me! There were several British aspects to it, including Pippa, the main character doing an EPQ in sixth form. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s an Extended Project Qualification (a project done on a chosen subject that helps with university applications.

Pippa does her EPQ on a murder that happened a few years ago in her town, since she doesn’t believe the boy who was blamed for Andie’s murder truly killed her. As she digs deeper into it, she teams up with the alleged murderer’s younger brother and uncovers layer upon layer of coverups and secrets.

The book is written in prose, as well as having transcripts and written logs from Pippa’s EPQ. I think this was an excellent choice because it allows insights into the conversations Pippa has with suspects and witnesses first-hand, as well as knowing Pippa’s private thought processes through her written logs. The tension is slowly ramped up, until I was really quite anxious! The plot is incredibly intricate and tangled, with each thrilling clue painting a different picture of what really happened with Andie’s murder. I was absolutely addicted to the ominous and dark atmosphere.

I really liked all the characters, especially Pippa who absolutely refuses to put up with prejudices, as well as refusing to stop her EPQ or agree with anyone. I especially liked that she is a high-achieving student and the whole murder mystery began with a school project and she isn’t shown as a boring, no fun nerd. All the characters were complicated, as is necessary with a mystery, and one of my favourite bits is that in the beginning Pippa’s friends are more surprised that she’s already started her EPQ than the subject of the murder, which is very relatable. My one grumble is that when one of Pippa’s friends goes through a breakup and simply sends a text saying SOS, they all rush over to her house with chocolate and face masks and things. That’s just not very realistic, at least in my experience?

In conclusion this is an incredible, tense murder investigation by a schoolgirl who isn’t supposed to be doing it, and I loved it. SO many twists. It was even better than I expected, and it had been pretty hyped up to me!