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Reasons to Stay Alive
Reasons to Stay Alive
by Matt Haig
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and important, 19 May 2015
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This review is from: Reasons to Stay Alive (Hardcover)
A wonderful and important book that should be read by anyone who doesn't 'get' mental illness and thinks it's just a case of pulling yourself together. Matt Haig is hugely successful in his aim of bringing depression and anxiety to life, and making it accessible to the reader - I defy anyone to read it and not feel his pain. He has a wonderful way with words and, despite the difficult subject matter, manages to make this a witty and uplifting read in many ways. I feel like I want to run up to all the people I've heard belittle depression and say 'look! Read this!'
I am very pleased indeed that Matt managed to recover from his dark days and has gone on to write this book, which I'm sure may just change (or even save) a few lives.


The Mirror World of Melody Black
The Mirror World of Melody Black
by Gavin Extence
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars, 19 May 2015
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I loved this book even more than 'Universe...' - funny and wise, I found it completely addictive from page one and was rooting for Abby the whole way through. A realistic and effective look at mental illness and a fantastic read. Five stars. I can't wait for more from Gavin Extence.


Me Before You
Me Before You
Price: £3.66

3.0 out of 5 stars ***SPOILERS*** A good read but lacking something, 13 May 2015
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This review is from: Me Before You (Kindle Edition)
I have just finished this and I still haven't totally made up my mind what to think about it.

It is an engaging read and had me hooked from beginning to end. It touches on some very important topics - not only the main issue (the right to die) but others such as unemployment, the caring professions, the rights of disabled people, and so on. Jojo Moyes strikes me as a very caring and insightful writer who can get right under the skin of a variety of different characters and issues.

What sat uneasily with me (and I know thousands of people disagree with me on this) was the style. The whole book is written in a chick lit way - from the front cover design to the 'hate-each-other-to-start-with' romance, to the narrative style. While I have absolutely nothing against chick lit (in fact I love it when it's done well), I think in this case it has a cheapening effect on what is an extremely serious topic. This is purely a subjective opinion - I know others think the style makes it more accessible.

Finally - and here are where the ***SPOILERS*** come in (don't say I didn't warn you!) - for some reason the ending left me cold. I am someone who tends to cry at the drop of a hat and all sorts of things move me to tears, but the ending, although undoubtedly very sad and an accurate reflection of the agony people go through in this situation, left me somewhat cold. I think the style was overblown and too 'romantic' - I think a more simple, understated style would have got the point across much better. Again this is just my subjective opinion though.

I know many people adore this book (it has probably the best review rating I have ever seen) but I didn't feel it was deserving of so much accolade. I did however very much enjoy it and it did make me think.
I was also acutely aware that practically the only character not to be given a voice was Will. We hear from Lou, her sister, Will's mum and dad and his carer, but not from him. I cannot believe this was anything other than a deliberate decision - but why? Is it to say something about disabled people not being given a voice? I'm not sure and would be interested to know the author's thoughts on this. Either way, I feel Will should really have been given at least a chapter from his point of view, and the book is sorely lacking for this.


Self-Printed (3rd Ed.): The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing
Self-Printed (3rd Ed.): The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing
by Catherine Ryan Howard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wise, funny, practical, 17 April 2015
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Excellent book - down to earth, practical, realistic and extremely entertaining. Covers all aspects of self publishing from getting your book to market to creating an online presence. Necessary reading for anyone considering self publishing.


The Book Thief
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A little bit of magic, 15 April 2015
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This review is from: The Book Thief (Paperback)
The way this book is written is truly unique, and guaranteed to give you the shivers. There are many, many stories about different aspects of the holocaust but there are none quite like this. Unusually, it is written about an ordinary German family - Leisel is taken into foster care by poor but caring parents, and the book, narrated by death, is about her experiences of falling in love with many different aspects of her life - her new papa, the boy from down the street, the Jew they hide in their basement, and of course books, which are ultimately her salvation, over and over again.

I found it a little slow to begin with, and considered giving up a few times; also at times I found the writing a little ponderous, and more about clever wording than the actual story. Also, the 'magical' and 'cosy' style of writing, although wonderful, made me feel uneasy at times - I felt that something as utterly terrible at the holocaust should not be softened round the edges in this way.

But despite my reservations, I loved The Book Thief in so many different ways, and would defy anyone not to shed a tear or two while reading it. 4 stars.


Gold
Gold
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but..., 10 April 2015
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This review is from: Gold (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book, for the most part - Chris Cleave is very good at ramping up the emotion and he also has a lovely turn of phrase, describing common things in unusual ways. I definitely wasn't bored and it was fascinating getting a glimpse inside this driven, obsessive world - unlike other readers I didn't feel the book was too 'sports heavy' and I felt he wove the information about cycling seamlessly into the narrative.

However, what tends to grate on me about Chris Cleave's books in general is a sense that they seem a bit calculated and contrived. He is good at picking a 'now' topic and putting it out there at just the right time. Every character has a heartrending situation to deal with - whether a poorly child (in my opinion the most heart breaking aspect of the book) or a dead brother or mental health problems. It reads a bit like an X Factor list of sob stories. I know this is the stuff of fiction and I can't really put my finger on why it annoys me, but it does. I think the author is capable of much more than he has shown us in The Other Hand, Incendiary and now Gold - my feeling is that he needs to trust himself to fill a story without resorting to 'drama of the week' tactics. Just my opinion though.


Saving My Knees: How I Proved My Doctors Wrong and Beat Chronic Knee Pain
Saving My Knees: How I Proved My Doctors Wrong and Beat Chronic Knee Pain
Price: £7.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm., 10 April 2015
I loved the concept of this book and I'm grateful to the author for writing it - it provides hope for people who've had their hopes dashed time and time again. However it was a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack - his story is interesting (and I like reading a good autobiography) but I think most people reading this are after a solid plan for their knees rather than a life story. It's difficult trying to sift through it to find out exactly what he did - I think he should have provided a lot more detail. Essentially his advice boils down to - keep moving, but not too much, listen to your knees but not in a 'stop when it hurts' kind of way, lose weight, eat well. Sorry, but I knew this stuff already. 3 stars.


Before I Go To Sleep
Before I Go To Sleep
Price: £3.03

2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, 10 April 2015
I have to say I didn't like this book at all and was bored throughout. The concept was ludicrous, in particular the ending which had me throwing up my arms in disbelief. I found the central character very unlikeable and drab, and I found her responses to her appalling predicament very unbelievable. She experiences shock the first time, but after that (presumably because the author was wary of becoming repetitive) she comes to terms with an overwhelming situation incredibly quickly. I also felt the male author's attempt at a female perspective was artificial and a bit crass at times. The style is terse and monotonous, written in a 'thriller' style but awkwardly so.

Obviously lots of people adore this book - unfortunately I am not one of them.


The Shock of the Fall
The Shock of the Fall
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, uplifting, gripping, 10 April 2015
A terrific read - I don't think I've ever come across such a consistent and believable narrative voice. Nathan Filer also avoids falling into the trap common to this sort of novel of turning his characters into a 'walking list of symptoms' - this book is about schizophrenia, but it's about so much more than that too. It's upsetting in parts but it is also a hopeful and at times joyful read - I was hooked from beginning to end. A fantastic book.


Inside the O'Briens
Inside the O'Briens
by Lisa Genova
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Another stunning read from Lisa Genova, 9 April 2015
This review is from: Inside the O'Briens (Hardcover)
In my opinion Lisa Genova is one of the best writers around at the moment. 'Still Alice' was nothing short of a masterpiece and haunts me still, and 'Inside the O'Briens' is another heartbreaking, arresting read. Lisa Genova has the effortless skill of weaving scientific facts into a powerful story without ever wearing her research on her sleeve - I learned a lot about Huntington's but never felt this information took over from the story itself. I felt as if this was a real family - I felt as if it could be any family, anywhere, and it made me cry for all the real families going through this terribly cruel ordeal. My only gripe (not really a gripe at all) is that I think the author has painted herself into a niche which can seem a bit 'film of the week' - her scientific background makes her well-suited to writing this type of 'disease' story but I think she could be capable of so much more, and in so doing would reach a wider audience. That's just my opinion though. A fantastic read - a stunningly talented author. I'm looking forward to reading 'Love Anthony' next.


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