I really enjoyed looking back at my reads earlier this year, so I’ve decided to make it a thing. Therefore, I give you 6 Reads in 6 Months Part 2! This pretty much picks up from where I left off back in June, so we’ll jump right in. Compared to the last 6 months, this batch of reads was quite an intense one, as you’ll soon discover, but there were some real good ones in this round.
Breaking Mad: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety – Anna Williamson with Dr Reeta Newell (Bloomsbury, 2017) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Welcome to the therapist in your pocket – full of anxiety-busting advice, read this book to learn how to live better and restore your confidence when panic attacks. Drawing on her own personal experiences with anxiety, therapist Anna Williamson offers easy to follow, expert guidance, alongside clinical psychologist, Dr Reetta Newell.
Breaking Mad is packed with coping methods and solutions for those everyday moments where you need a helping hand. From recognising the first warning signs of anxiety, to coping with a panic attack or social anxiety, Anna and Reetta will be with you every step of the way, offering practical strategies and straightforward guidance whenever and wherever you might need it. Whether at home, on the bus, at college, just before a meeting, or even having a meltdown in the work toilet cubicle, Breaking Mad is here for you. So welcome to the club – it’s time to tackle anxiety head on!”
If you’ve read my Need to Live post Six Mental Health Books to Add to Your Wish List, you may remember this book featuring. In a bit of a strange situation to read a self help book, I read this while sat in our hotel lobby in Madeira while we were waiting for a suitable time to leave for the airport. I enjoyed it so much I continued reading it on the plane. I would really recommend this for anyone who struggles with anxiety, it’s easy to read, it doesn’t use psychology jargon and the writer talks to you as though she’s your friend rather than a professional. Williamson is a qualified therapist who has first hand experience of anxiety, and all of her management tips are tried and tested. Each chapter also has notes from clinical psychologist Dr Reeta Newell, who offers further advice and a little more in-depth information on anxiety. Generally, it’s aimed at young people, but I think anyone who suffers with anxiety would benefit because of its simplicity – I’ve even tried out a few of the techniques, and they really do work!
Clean – Juno Dawson (Quercus Children’s Books, 2018) ★★★★
From the Back:
“When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong.
Because 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.”
I read some good reviews of this so I thought I’d give it a go, and I wasn’t disappointed. Clean focuses on Lexi, a spoiled socialite who ends up in a fancy rehab centre after overdosing. As she progresses in her recovery, she must face up to her demons from the past, including the death of her best friend and her relationship with her drug addicted boyfriend. Things are complicated further when she starts falling for Brady, a fellow patient admitted for sex addiction. Overall this book was incredibly difficult to put down, but its short chapters meant it was still easy to dip in and out when needed. Given that it’s originally marketed as a young adult novel, one could argue that it’s maybe a little bit too graphic for the YA category in some places. On the whole though, even though it’s quite a difficult read in places due to the subject matter, I would strongly recommend. It’s gripping and there’s never a dull moment. Just be warned, it may be triggering for some.
I Stop Somewhere – T.E. Carter (Simon & Schuster, 2018) ★★★
From the Back:
“”When the world breaks you into pieces, sometimes you find what’s left scattered among other people’s broken parts.”
Ellie Frias has never wanted to be popular, she just wants to blend in, to be accepted. But then Caleb Breward, tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it.
Ellie loves Caleb, but sometimes she’s not sure she likes him that much – his awkward smile, the possessive way he touches her, his harsh tone, how he ignores her one minute and can’t get enough the next. And then, on one black night, Ellie discovers the monster her boyfriend really is.
Ellie wasn’t the first girl Caleb raped. But she was the first he murdered.
Now, trapped, unable to move on, she witnesses him shatter the lives of other girls again and again. Powerless and alone, Ellie tries to keep hold of happier memories, always waiting – hoping – that someone will find her.
But no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.”
I’ll say up-front, there are incredibly graphic references to sexual assault throughout, so please only read this if you feel able to, as it could be quite triggering in places. The story is told through the eyes of Ellie, who watches the world she left behind after she was brutally attacked by her boyfriend. As she witnesses other girls fall victim to the same attacks, she powerlessly waits alone, hoping that someone will discover her body and uncover the monster that her boyfriend is. My reason for the lower score is purely because the first half of the book moves at quite a slow pace, however towards the end it becomes much more difficult to put down. It’s moving and raw, and conveys such an important message, but please read with caution as it’s very intense.
Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone (Disney-Hyperion, 2017) ★★★★
From the Back:
“‘If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling…’
Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.
Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humour and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.
Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more normal than she ever has as part of the popular crowd… until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.”
As an OCD sufferer, I’m often drawn to books that focus on mental health, and when this came up in my Amazon suggestions, I knew it was one I had to try. Every Last Word tells the story of Sam, a girl who is part of one of the most popular cliques in her school. However, she suffers with OCD, which causes her to obsess over every thought, move and action she makes on a daily basis. Her friends reminded me of a more low-key version of the Plastics from Mean Girls, causing drama over boys and fashion. However, when Sam meets Caroline, she’s introduced to a secret club of misfits known as Poet’s Corner, where she’s finally able to be herself. I really related to the character of Sam in this book. While my OCD is mainly contamination based, it’s also heavily obsession based, so I felt myself sympathising with her several times throughout the book. I was gripped throughout this, especially towards the end, and – I won’t spoil it – but there was a real twist I didn’t see coming. It gives a real insight into what it’s like living with OCD, and the character of Sam is really likeable and you find yourself rooting for her.
Blood Orange – Harriet Tyce (Wildfire, 2019) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…
Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.
Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.
I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.
Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.
I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.
But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….”
Oh my god. This was intense but so, so good. Blood Orange focuses on Alison, an up and coming lawyer who is about to defend her first murder. However, while her career appears to be thriving, her family life is anything but. She drinks too much, neglects her young daughter and is having an affair with a colleague. While she’s determined to save the woman she’s defending for murder, it becomes apparent that someone knows all about her secret affair, and they want her to pay. While initially, this was quite slow to get into, after the first few chapters I couldn’t put it down. The ending was completely unexpected and I had no idea it was coming until the last few chapters, and even though Alison is quite unlikable in places, towards the end you find yourself rooting for her. I would definitely recommend this if you love a good thriller.
Twas the Night Shift Before Christmas – Adam Kay (Picador, 2019) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat . . . but 1.4 million NHS staff are heading off to work. In this perfect present for anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious, horrifying and sometimes heartbreaking peek behind the blue curtain at Christmastime. Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is a love letter to all those who spend their festive season on the front line, removing babies and baubles from the various places they get stuck, at the most wonderful time of the year.”
This is Going to Hurt has to be one of my favourite books of all time, so when I saw Adam Kay was releasing a sequel I immediately pre-ordered it. Twas the Night Shift Before Christmas did not disappoint – it highlights once again just how ridiculously hard our NHS staff work, and how much they sacrifice during the festive season. Just like its predecessor, Twas the Night Shift Before Christmas is hilarious in places, while at times utterly heartbreaking. If you were a fan of This is Going to Hurt, reading this is a no brainer. If you haven’t read either, read This is Going to Hurt first, and then read this.
All six of these books are available on Amazon and all good book retailers if you’d like to check them out!
What were your favourite reads of 2019? Did you read any of these? Let me know what you thought in the comments, and feel free to leave any recommendations!