Review: What I Lost – Alexandra Ballard

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Genre: Contemporary, YA

Publication Date: June 6th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Format: Hardcover copy I purchased myself. 

What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again. She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size 0 obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?

(From goodreads.com)


Content warnings: eating disorders (very detailed descriptions, weight talk etc), self-harm, anxiety, depression, mental health. 

Holy crap this book. I don’t know if I just picked it up at the right time or what but it just resonated with me and I loved it. It’s raw and unfiltered but honestly just brilliant. That ending. The ending was what I needed to read, put it that way. No spoilers, don’t worry!

I loved the growth of Elizabeth as the story progresses. We hear her thoughts change and develop as time goes on, and what she learns in the process. I loved this. Nothing felt forced, she didn’t magically get better, it was real. It felt real. I have no experience of inpatient ED treatment so cannot comment on that aspect specifically, but her thought processes nonetheless felt genuine.

The friendships she made were so so beautiful and I loved each and every one of her friends. SHE HAD GOOD FRIENDS. I swear there are so many books out there which focus on mental health where the friends are just absent, but I loved her friends here. It was such a wonderful addition to the story that she still had contact with her friends from school. 

The mystery packages added an extra dimension to the story which held my interest but didn’t overshadow the main focus (Elizabeth’s recovery) which I did initially worry would happen. I loved the outcome, but will say no more about it. 

The focus on family was extremely well done too; everyone’s situation was different but shown with empathy and they felt genuine. No perfect families were included, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Everyone has their own struggles and it takes a lot for someone to recognise theirs and this was explored a lot throughout this novel. 

This review is one long gushing mess, and for that, I apologise. As long as it’s safe for you to do so, I strongly encourage you to pick this one up! I hadn’t heard of it before I stumbled upon it on Amazon, but it’s so, so worth a read. The representation (from my experience – though I don’t want to go into that too much) is extremely well done and I cannot recommend this book enough if you want a book about eating disorders. 

Rating: 5 / 5 🌟 

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Review: Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: YA, fantasy

Publication date: March 8th 2018 by Macmillan Children’s Books 

Format: eARC copy for review from Macmillan Children’s Books via Netgalley. (I later purchased my own copy from Waterstones)

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

(from goodreads.com)


I feel like this book was hyped from the minute it was first mentioned, but let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I’m not a huge fantasy fan; I enjoy the odd book now and again and I’m very picky about which ones I read. I wouldn’t have requested this if it hadn’t sounded like something I would enjoy, but I didn’t expect it to ignite a desire in me to read every fantasy book in existence. So, you know. 

I don’t even know where to start with this review, it has so much going for it. There wasn’t one aspect I didn’t love about it. The characters were incredible, the writing wonderful to read, the plot thrilling, honestly, I don’t have a bad word to say.

I loved the mix of characters; everyone was so unique and interesting and had their own way of doing things. The friendships that formed, unlikely though some may be, were real and fragile. The change in point of view and narrative voice did not put me off, as it sometimes can do in fantasy books. Instead, I got their own voices, their own thoughts, and it made the narrative richer as I could understand them a lot better. I still didn’t know who to trust at points though!

The world was incredible too. I believe it is based on Nigeria, and I truly got a sense of ‘place’ whilst I was reading (I’ve never been to Nigeria so can’t comment on that specifically, but from what I’ve heard, you can tell she based it there). The descriptions were vivid, and I could easily picture the landscape that the characters were in. 

Leading on from that to another point that should be highlighted but have no authority to speak on, is that the book is a commentary on society and the racism that underlies it. Even reading it as a white person, I could see this, and it brought home how isolated people feel, even in places where they’ve always felt was home. I knew people felt like this before, of course, but this book allowed me to see their viewpoint through their eyes, and experience it in a way I can understand a little better (if that makes any sense whatsoever). If you know any reviews by readers of colour, please link them below as I would love to read their thoughts.

The plot kept me intrigued throughout, I couldn’t put this book down (the typical one-chapter-before-bed-turns-into-a-hundred-pages kind of can’t put it down). So many things kept happening, I struggled to keep up. Though I don’t say that as a negative. I just mean it forced me to concentrate on what was going on, which made it better as I didn’t miss anything by doing that ‘I’ve read a whole page but actually read about three of the words’ thing. 

I don’t even need to tell you that I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It was truly phenomenal and I cannot wait until the sequel comes out, because THAT ENDING. Holy crap it was good. 

Rating: 5 / 5 🌟

Review: Clean – Juno Dawson 

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Genre: YA, Contemporary 

Publication date: April 5th 2018 by Quercus Children’s Books

Format: eARC sent to me for review from Hachette Children’s Group via Netgalley (I then purchased my own copy from Waterstones)

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.

She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all … 

It’s a dirty business getting clean … 

(from goodreads.com)


Content warnings: (they are also listed just inside the book but I struggled with this book at points so I want to reiterate them here) Drug abuse / overdose, addiction (many varieties), eating disorders, mental health issues, self-harm, rehab. There are probably others that I’ve missed as it’s been a while now since I finished this, so PLEASE PLEASE check before you read and look after yourselves!

This book was amazing. I adored it. I did have to put it down for a while around a third of the way through, because it was a difficult read at the time and I needed a break from the Subject. It was nothing to do with the book itself or anything like that though, just how I was mentally at the time. 

I freely admit that when I met Juno Dawson at YALC I completely gushed about how phenomenal this book was (thankfully she was one of the nicest people ever and chatted with me about it). Lexi’s character is a complete – dare I say it – bitch to begin with, but she grows so much in the story that I actually kind of liked her by the end, or at least could empathise with her. I loved seeing her change and grow as the story progressed, I felt like I was going through things with her and learning as she learnt. 

Juno Dawson is such an incredible writer, and I’m almost ashamed to say that this is the only book of hers that I’ve read – though that will certainly change very soon! She dealt with all the topics covered (and there are a lot of topics / issues covered) sensitively but honestly. Nothing was sugar coated; the scenes were raw and painful and brutal but I felt that they were accurate and carefully depicted. 

Lexi was such a good character, I know I’ve already said how much I liked her, but she recognised her own privilege (she’s a wealthy Russian heiress), discussed what it meant to her, and still had her own issues. She screwed up and had good moments, just like any other human being. Juno Dawson pulled out all of the stops writing Lexi and created a real human character, someone who makes mistakes, is a bit of a handful (to put it nicely), and is capable of feeling (and causing) a whole range of emotions. 

Like I said, this book is not an easy read, but that doesn’t lower the rating I give it by any means. It was a personally difficult read, and if you pick it up and struggle with it, take a break. I enjoyed it so much more when I went back to it because I was in a better mindset to read it. The fact that is a challenge at times made it more realistic in my mind; life is difficult and shitty and it is not easy to get through problems, especially the likes of overcoming an addiction. It reflected the struggle of the characters so, so well, I can’t fault it for being a hard read. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, if I’m honest, though on their terms. You have to put your health first and if it’s not a good choice then that doesn’t matter. Maybe it will be some other time. However, if you feel up to reading it, please DO. You won’t regret it. It was an incredible book in so many more ways that I can even explain and honestly fills me with so much hope too. I was asked why I read books that I find to be triggering, and books like Clean are the reason why. They aren’t ‘oh-look-a-miracle-I’m-cured’, they’re gritty, tough, but also show that maybe, just maybe, things can – and will – get better. 

Also, that cover. I’m a sucker for anything rose gold, so it’s pretty much perfect.😂

Rating: 5 / 5 🌟

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare

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This is definitely one of my favourites of Shakespeare’s plays, second only to Hamlet. It funny, magical and I love the cast of characters. It’s a short play, one of the shortest I’ve read for sure, but it packs so much in and moves very quickly.

I don’t really know how to put my feelings about this play into words. This time reading it was my second time, for uni, though my first was simply because I felt like it. Unlike the other plays I’ve read for uni, it didn’t drag because it was a set text; I genuinely wanted to read it and enjoy it again.

The characters, as in all plays, are what makes this great. A fair amount does happen throughout the play to keep you interested, but the variety of different characters in this are what capture your attention and imagination. As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, there are a lot of characters, far more than you’d perhaps see in a contemporary play. But I found this one so much easier to follow than in the others. They are in distinguished groups, have their own way of addressing each other and it makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

I love this play a lot, and will definitely be rereading it at some point in the future. It’s witty, amusing, and just great entertainment. It’s nowhere near as gritty as some of Shakespeare’s other plays, but in a way, that makes it better, because you can read it whatever mood you’re in (Hamlet is absolutely wonderful and I could rave on and on about it, but even so, it’s not an uplifting, lighthearted read). I highly recommend it, especially as a route into Shakespeare – it’s quick, easy to follow, and fun.

Rating: 5 / 5 🌟

Review: Harvest – Jim Crace

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Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction, historical

Publication date: 14th February 2013 by Picador

Format: Paperback copy I purchased used.

As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders – two men and a dangerously magnetic woman – arrives on the woodland borders and puts up a make-shift camp. That same night, the local manor house is set on fire.

Over the course of seven days, Walter Thirsk sees his hamlet unmade: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, the new arrivals cruelly punished, and his neighbours held captive on suspicion of witchcraft. But something even darker is at the heart of his story, and he will be the only man left to tell it…

(from goodreads.com)


I really can’t make my mind up about this book, there were aspects that I absolutely loved, and others that just pulled it down for me.

The writing is wonderful in this book, it is lyrical, poetic, and sounds iambic throughout much of the novel. It rolls off the tongue if read aloud, and flows so beautifully when read silently. It alone makes me want to read more by Jim Crace.

However, the plot was a bit anti-climatic and – dare I say it – dull, for my liking. It’s not that things don’t happen, because they do, but there was so little drama where it felt as though there should have been, and unnecessary drama elsewhere. It’s incredibly violent in places, which does make sense and helps to build up an idea of the community and the mentality that the people had toward anyone who may interfere with their way of living, but at times I felt it a bit much and not really necessary.

The ending too, was fairly predictable, though it is likely that it was a definite choice made by the author. I had hoped for something a bit more though.

I’m not usually a historical fiction kind of person, but I did enjoy this more than I expected. It wasn’t a favourite by any means, but I think the fact that it is set in history but is not in a specific time (in just occurs in the period of enclosure – which happened over a few hundred years) made it easier to get into and read – there are no set characters from history that I had to puzzle over and admit I’d never heard of. It’s highly relevant to the present, and is, in fact, more about the present than the past in many ways. The same things that occur in the book are happening in other countries across the globe, and many of the sentiments expressed are heard commonly in conversations every day. Whilst this was written before Brexit really became a ‘thing’, it resonates a lot with what is happening in the UK at this moment in time, which definitely made it more readable for me.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, though it’s not a favourite. There are interesting images throughout, and I loved how they were subtly included – the story of Cain and Abel was so interesting as it was so easy to miss but it was still there (I have no interest in the Bible itself, but the way Jim Crace included it was extremely clever). If you like poetic writing, this is definitely a good choice, and it is worth a read, though I’d say the description given by Goodreads (above – it is also what is on the back cover of my copy) is overdramatic – it’s nowhere near as dramatic as it is made out to sound!

Rating: 3.5 / 5 🌟

Review: Evening Primrose – Kopano Matlwa

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Genre: Contemporary, fiction

Publication date: 27th July 2017 by Sceptre

Format: Hardcover copy sent to me for review from Sceptre via Bookbridgr

Told in the form of a one-sided conversation with God, Evening Primrose is the story of Masechaba, a young woman who achieves her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, yet soon faces the stark reality of South Africa’s healthcare system.

As she leaves her deeply religious mother and makes friends with the politically-minded Nyasha, Masechaba’s eyes are opened to rising xenophobic tension in the shadow of the apartheid.

Battling her own personal demons, she must decide if she should make a stand to help her friend, even if it comes at a high personal cost.

(from goodreads.com)


This book may be only 160 pages, but it packs one hell of a punch. It is raw, emotional, honest, and utterly brilliant.

I have never read a book set in South Africa before, and I know (sadly) very little about the history of the country and its people. This book has prompted me to look up more detail, as there is so much happening that I had no idea about and feel as though I should learn about. This book taught me a lot in such a small space, but it only scratched the surface and there is so much left for me to research.

Masechaba is a wonderful character, and her story is both wonderful and heartbreaking. Normally I find happy / bittersweet / positive endings in books lovely but a bit boring, but this warmed me through and through (which was kind of necessary after the previous events). So much happens in this book, I found myself sucked into the story and Masechaba’s thoughts.

The plot is fast – a huge amount happens – but fairly easy to follow. By no means is it an easy read, and there are some places where I struggled to get through (I feel here is a good place to mention trigger warnings for suicide, mental illness, and sexual assault / rape, there is also a huge amount of xenophobia – it is the main theme that the book explores). There is so much discussion about menstruation as well, which was incredible to see. I don’t think any other book I have ever read has talked about it so explicitly and so much. So good to see, honestly. Masechaba has problems with her periods and they are discussed and this is exactly what literature needs.

The narrative is fairly fragmented, as it is written in the form of diary entries. The entries are addressed to God, which I admittedly kept forgetting until I was reminded through the use of ‘you’ and ‘Jesus’ in the same sentence in a few cases. I feel that this form opened the story up to the reader though, it meant I got a better insight into Masechaba’s emotional state, her thoughts, feelings, and the pacing was a lot quicker too.

Overall, I loved this book. It wasn’t an easy read at times, purely because of the subject matter, but I equally didn’t want to put it down. It is a wonderful piece of work, full of complexities and raw moments, and I would highly recommend it.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: Hawthorn and Child – Keith Ridgway

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Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction, mystery, crime

Publication date: 4th April 2013 by Granta Books

Format: Paperback I purchased used.

Hawthorn and his partner, Child, are called to the scene of a mysterious shooting in North London. The only witness is unreliable, the clues are scarce, and the victim, a young man who lives nearby, swears he was shot by a ghost car. While Hawthorn battles with fatigue and strange dreams, the crime and the narrative slip from his grasp and the stories of other Londoners take over: a young pickpocket on the run from his boss; an editor in possession of a disturbing manuscript; a teenage girl who spends her days at the Tate Modern; and a madman who has been infected by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Haunting these disparate lives is the shadowy figure of Mishazzo, an elusive crime magnate who may be running the city, or may not exist at all.

(from goodreads.com)


I actually upped my rating on Goodreads from three (and a half) to four stars after my seminar on this book last Wednesday. I wasn’t sure what rating to give it once I’d finished it anyway, and after discussing it today I realise how interesting it is.

There is no actual plot to this book, and it is split into several short stories / chapters. They do interlink in a few cases, through minor connections, but without the characters of Hawthorn and Child there would be very little to link them at all (and even Hawthorn and Child feel like they aren’t really present in places). However, each chapter is intriguing, and though slightly odd and at times, brutal, it captured my attention and kept it throughout.

There are a lot of trigger warnings that I would have to offer with this book; suicide (very graphic), death (by various means, including the death of a baby), violence, mental illness (unspecified), homophobia, bodily fluids (of all types), and explicit sexual scenes, to name as many as I can think of at the moment (there are probably more). This book is strange, crude and doesn’t hold back. And whilst it is not pleasant to read at times (most of the time), it is incredibly interesting to analyse. Also, the way that it is written is very blunt and matter of fact, and they don’t feel particularly targeted. I’ve probably not worded / explained that very well, but what I mean is that there is absolutely no feeling that the author agrees with what is being said and that comes across very strongly. For example, the subtly homophobic comments come across as detached, and we are led to understand how these comments make Hawthorn (who is gay), feel and the impact that they can have on someone. Everything that is said in this novel (a lot is left unsaid), is said subtly, and the challenging of these terrible viewpoints (homophobic, anti-Semitic (there is a reference to ‘Jew-jokes’, but no such “jokes” are included thankfully – none that I noticed anyway, but it was getting late as I read that part so it may not have clicked)) is definitely there, just not explicitly mentioned. There is the distinct impression that the author doesn’t approve of these comments, though why, I cannot really explain, the way they are written come across as extremely disapproving (thankfully).

However, if you struggle with any of the above-mentioned triggers, this is certainly not the book for you as it is graphic and there are almost definitely books out there that directly challenge these things, or avoid them completely.

I must say that if I read this book for pleasure and in my own, free time, I doubt I would appreciate it as much as I do. There is a huge amount to say about this book when analysed, and what Ridgway is seeking to do is complex and fascinating. It is by no means an easy or ‘fun’ read, as you have probably guessed from the above paragraph.

The form is an interesting choice. It is fragmented, bitty and few questions are answered. It even states in the text that not knowing all of the answers sustains us as humans, and the text itself offers subtle explanations of Ridgway’s choices. Only after looking into it in such detail, scouring every page for recurrent themes and messages, I have begun to understand it – slightly. It is a confusing book. There is no end to be truthful, no resolution. But this book is centred around the idea of the unsaid and the unresolved, and though it feels as though it is lacking, it equally feels as though it is not. It’s very odd, but good. I do feel very conflicted about this novel, and coming back to this review to edit it before I post it, I feel different to how I did before. But the reasons why are almost unexplainable, except that my feelings about this book are as fragmented and disjointed as the book itself.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟