Thoughts on… Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green (Graphic Novel)

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My first venture into the world of graphic novels has been unintentionally serious and deep. This graphic novel depicts the heartbreaking account of Katie Green’s struggle with anorexia and binge eating. Reader, I took a nose dive into a heavy, mature storyboard.


When I say mature, I mean not merely the fact it’s about eating disorders, there were some chapters that contained mature content, had I realised this I don’t think I would have read this novel. That said, I didn’t feel like it was gratuitous because it was an integral part of the plot. Generally speaking, I don’t mind a bit of mild nudity but when it got to some rather intimate images (including some between different characters) I started to feel a little bit uncomfortable, but that’s me. But it cannot be ignored that this is the author’s true story, based on fact, so to omit those parts would be tantamount to altering reality.

Green’s writing is simple, to the point and sometimes remarkably understated. The illustrations are an unusual mix of accurate and disproportionate, I don’t know if this is an intentional parallel to body dysmorphia or just Green’s drawing style. I looked up her artwork and the style is easily recognisable but I haven’t noticed the same oversight with regard to proportion in her other work which suggests it may have been intentional in Lighter Than My Shadow. It is kind of comparable to Hergé in that the faces are all fairly simple and similar, but then the other surroundings are detailed. But of course, Hergé is just a legend and it is not really a fair comparison.

I didn’t notice how the pages gradually changed colour until I was quite a fair way into the novel. It’s as though when the situation becomes more hopeful there are warmer hues and when it becomes hopeless it becomes darker and colder. A clever touch.

The illness is drawn as a scribble, one that grows or shrinks depending on its hold on Katie, and this is such an accurate way of representing disordered thinking, it is insidious and subtle, appearing gradually and then becoming all-consuming. I have never seen a better way of explaining how this sort of thinking takes over.

It’s a bit of a slow starter. We see the depiction
of a fairly normal childhood with what I feel is typical school bullying, there are also subtle clues of potential for food issues, but when the illness hits it gets such a strong grip on Katie that her parents urgently seek medical treatment for her, this pursuit takes a tragic turn which sadly compounds Katie’s problem and leads to problems with binge eating. Although I was never diagnosed anorexic I can sympathise with much of the disordered thinking, the seeing your body as parts you hate rather than as a whole, the fear of unplanned food, not understanding hunger and fullness, imagining yourself becoming huge just because of eating one “unhealthy” meal… And even the daydreaming about being able to cut out sections of fat from my body – something I remember thinking when I was still in primary school! It would seem people with a perfectionist personality and low self esteem are vulnerable to eating disorders, as is the case with Katie Green. Sadly, the illness nearly drove her to her death.

This is a brilliant insight into the mind of people with eating disorders. It is the sad, personal tale of Katie Green but there are lessons from it that apply to anybody with disordered behaviours toward food/exercise.

This is a sensitive story but one that needs to be told.


“A graphic memoir of eating disorders, abuse and recovery”



Thoughts on… Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

If you’re hoping this is a review about a Netflix series, I’m going to disappoint you. It’s my thoughts on the book the series is based on. I have not watched any of it, but I’ll confess that the somewhat morbid premise piqued my interest. When I saw the opportunity to read Thirteen Reasons Why, I didn’t hesitate.

Hannah took her life, but she recorded tapes of her reasons for doing it. From the very first tape, Hannah explains that the listener is one of the reasons why. She instructs him/her to listen to them all, then pass them on to the next person on the list. The consequences for not playing along? A copy of the tapes will be “released in a very public manner” if they don’t make it through all the people on the tapes. How can she carry out this threat posthumously? What will she reveal to compel the listeners to abide by her demands? These questions kept me hooked for the majority of the book.

The story begins on the day Clay receives the tapes. Asher throws us headlong into the action, by page 7 we are reading the contents of Cassette 1: Side A. The novel only spans a day and a night, but the contents of the tapes will forever change Clay’s life and how he views the people he thought he knew. I really enjoyed the pace of this book, there were very few – if any – words wasted describing the setting or the characters. Asher writes in the clear, concise and yet depictive style that I aspire to.

The story is written in two first person points of view: Hannah and Clay.

Rather than being separated by chapters, the book is divided into cassettes and which side of the cassette Clay is listening to. His and Hannah’s narratives run together, simultaneously, and it gives the sense of being right there in the moment. We read Hannah’s narrative on the tape, then Clay’s thoughts in response to her narrative or to what was happening around him, it is like being him, in his head, living it, experiencing the whole tragic, confusing and overwhelming unfolding of events.

With the accusation of being one of the motives for Hannah’s suicide over his head, Clay feels nauseated, terrified, and yet he is compelled to keep listening. Likewise, even though I knew how the story ended for Hannah, I was compelled to keep reading.

Clay comes across as sympathetic and likeable protagonist, it is clear he cared for Hannah, so I wanted to know how he fitted into Hannah’s justification. But four people/reasons into the tapes and I began to wonder how exactly the events described could have escalated to suicide.

My reaction to the novel made me reanalyse my attitudes toward suicide and depression. I found myself thinking: These people were unkind, immature, and selfish at times, sure, but isn’t that typical of adolescence? It’s a drastic reaction to what are pretty common teenage problems. So far I only deemed the fourth person’s actions as the sort that would probably change you as a person, maybe make you more paranoid even into adult life.

As the plot progressed, I began to think about the way Hannah described it as a “snowball effect” and it made me realise that perhaps that was the whole point Jay Asher was trying to make with this novel. It’s not necessarily one singular tragedy or life-altering circumstance that results in depression and suicide, it’s the summation of problems, bigger and smaller, that suffocates a person’s ability to cope with daily life.

*SPOILER ALERT* The scene with Hannah and Clay made me cry. I don’t cry often, I really mean that. When tears come it’s always for a reason, of course, but because they happen so rarely, they always take me by surprise. Hannah and Clay’s side of the tape was charged with hope and helplessness. Knowing the way the story ended, I couldn’t help but be moved by the gloom that enveloped the image of the two unknowing, hopeful protagonists enjoying the happiness they’d craved. *SPOILER ENDS*

As with real life, Hannah’s “reasons” are linked and interwoven, some were scarring events, some led to her feeling guilty, sickened with herself, worthless, which ultimately became the crushing weight that led her to lose all hope and to finally end her existence.

Asher has masterfully captured a snapshot into the mind of a depressed and suicidal person whilst also portraying the mind of a healthy person who cares about and loses such a one. People who suffer with depression and suicidal thoughts are not any less than any of us, they are simply people who have lost hope and strength to keep going, they need help to rediscover the person they were when they used to feel like life was worth living. Are they seeking attention? Yes! Even if they push against it, they need to be reassured that they are loved, important and not alone.

So if you’re considering suicide, get help, and try not to give up before you find it. And if you are connected to somebody contemplating suicide or who is depressed, don’t focus on the reasons they give for taking their life, help them to feel loved and valued.

What I got from this book is that you can’t totally blame other people for another person’s suicide, you can’t totally blame a person who has committed suicide for their decision. It’s not about whose fault it is, it’s about remembering that our words and actions affect others and sometimes in ways we can never know, it’s about remembering to treat each other with compassion and kindness and make ourselves better people.

Remember: suicide is a permanent fix to a temporary problem/situation

There are some sexual themes, not recurring but two scenes stand out as being the sort which parents may not be comfortable letting their children read. That said, it is well written and hard to put down, I probably wouldn’t read it again any time soon because it made me sad (which I expected) but it also helped me get more compassion and understanding for people who committed suicide or have attempted it, for that reason I feel like it is an important community read.

Thoughts on… The House at 758 by Kathryn Berla

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Full disclosure: I chose this book for its cover first, and for its blurb second. Shallow, but true.

Initially, the blurb actually put me off reading the book. In part, it described a tale of “a sixteen year old girl who is grieving the untimely death of her mother when her father’s new girlfriend moves into their home… When a fellow classmate, Jake, takes a sudden interest in her, Krista feels excited for the first time in two years”

To me that was code for Tragic, Depressing Experience and Teen Drama Resolved By Cute Boy. I was ready to hit backspace but the words, “Distancing herself from those around her, Krista spends all of her time obsessively watching a mysterious house, the house at 758” that peculiar sentence along with the lovely cover made me just curious enough to give the book a try.

I am so glad I read it.

Let me tell you what this book is not:

  • this is not a depressing book
  • it’s not a teen angst book
  • it’s not a cliché YA romance
  • it’s not what I expected

Berla writes this story beautifully, her prose is descriptive but not wordy. Her character development is lifelike and endearing. She writes from the point of view of Krista, an introverted teenager struggling to adjust to life after the death of her mother. In this story we are not given an in-depth confession of her grief and pain, but it does become subtly apparent (which I was glad of seen as I wasn’t in the mood to read a book in the tone of The Bell Jar.)

Krista’s summer is the timeline in which this 158-page novella is set. Short, huh? And yet, just long enough. We are taken from her listless days before her best friend goes away for the summer to stay with family, right up to the resolution of the mystery of the house at 758.

The romance with Jake features in this story as much as I feel it should – just enough to progress the narrative yet leave you wanting more. A lot else happens in Krista’s journey, and the lack of focus on the romance was both refreshing and realistic. Krista is tasked with looking after her grandfather for the summer, I was expecting my interest in the story to decline with his arrival, but to my delight he was so charming, interesting and fundamental to Krista’s progress in moving on with her life that I was sorry to see him go.

There were times I just couldn’t work out where the story would go, which is something I love in a book. There was far less dialogue than I have become used to, having read a lot of YA recently, but I didn’t miss it much. I guess that since Krista is more wrapped up in her thoughts than in conversation, it is only natural that we would get more summaries of conversations than play-by-play until we get to something worthwhile. Perhaps this is the author’s style, I don’t know since I haven’t read her before.

Berla made me care about the characters, especially Krista, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen to her. I guessed what the deal with the house at 758 was, but the way events unfolded with that was unexpected. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book like this, and it has made me interested in reading more books by this author.

I would recommend this novella to anybody who likes to read empathetic but non-melodramatic stories, enjoys a little romance, and is marginally interested in either San Francisco, Budapest or the Holocaust. I don’t go out of my way to read books on any of those three topics, which made this even more interesting since it offered me first person glimpses into events and places I’m not very familiar with. This was a 4 out of 5 for me and I’d definitely read it again.

Publishing Date: 17 Oct 2017

Thoughts on… The Selection & The Elite by Kiera Cass

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers to follow.

To begin with, let me clarify my intention in sharing my thoughts about these novels: I don’t wish to review them so much as to somehow resolve the conflicting thoughts and feelings that I have toward them. Of all the many books I have had the pleasure or displeasure of reading, I cannot recall reading any that have left me quite so emotionally confused. My hope is that once I have written out my thoughts (and hopefully elicited some response from people who have also read these books or can relate to what I say in some way) that I can learn some lessons in story writing and feel less unsettled.

One review I read on Goodreads about The Selection made an excellent analogy: it is like a literary equivalent of Nutella. Nutella is nutritionally empty but easy on the taste buds, likewise The Selection is intellectually vacant but a guilty pleasure to devour (but I would argue it’s more like ‘Everyday Value’ chocolate spread than the branded expensive stuff).

With each plot “twist” I already knew what was coming, with each not-so-subtle “detail” I guessed it’s future relevance and eventual consequences… and sad to say, I was right every single time. Cliché followed cliché followed cliché.

The inclusion of the “rebels” seemed contrived, the dystopian government and caste system was flimsy, the characterisation was underdeveloped and verging on caricatured, the reappearance of Aspen was disappointing, leading to the beginning of a will-they-won’t-they plot-line that was exploited to within an inch of its life.

And yet, either as a result of her writing or my brazen sentimentality, Cass was able to draw me in so that I started to actually care just enough about the unfolding of America Singer (queue dry hurl) and Maxon Schreave’s romance to keep reading. Every time I hoped he would appear on the scene, he did, and inevitably said or did the things I hoped he would. Cass hooked me in so that I was spurred on to keep reading until the wee hours of the morning… and then borrow the sequel The Elite from the library and read it within 24 hours. Why?


Admittedly, I was far more infuriated with the sequel. The whole will-they-won’t-they “drama” became increasingly stale, the indecisiveness of the protagonist and the prince showed up their inherent fickleness, fully exposing the thinly veiled shallowness of the romance, consequently I couldn’t help but discard the rest of the story that hinged on it. Seen as the dystopian element was so poorly developed, I had no reason to borrow the third book in the trilogy, The One, so I happily settled for reading the full summary on (wishing I’d done the same thing for The Elite)

To my disappointment, the author totally copped out of giving the trilogy a realistic conclusion (why hadn’t I seen that coming?) Rather than taking the opportunity to make a point, leave it on a cliff-hanger or at least surprise the reader in some way, we are left with everybody having a happily ever after and TWO epilogues! Y’know, just so all your questions about what happened next are answered. I’d never heard of a bonus epilogue until now. Mind you, all the prequels and sequels and mini-series should have been the giveaway that this author and her agent were prepared to milk the franchise until it dried up.

To Cass’ credit, not killing off either of the love interests (Maxon and Aspen) did surprise me as, after all that backwards and forward, it seemed the only way for the author to have the protagonist make a decision – having it made for her!

Perhaps I misunderstood the age group this was aimed at… when I saw it was a YA dystopia I thought it would be written with readers of Divergent at best or The Hunger Games at worst in mind, when actually it is probably written for readers of Princess Tiara magazine or whatever.

I feel like it’s a shame because there are ideas in the book that I think have potential, and clearly the author can write well enough to produce a first novel that many people find readable (whether begrudgingly or not). I think it is the latter point that has left me most flummoxed, because I have been tentatively working on a dystopian sci-fi story and I really felt like the synopsis had legs… but now I am doubting my judgement when it comes to what is good reading and good writing. I don’t want my story to be the corny chocolate spread tsunami that this series is, but I want it to have that engrossing quality that keeps the reader hooked.

And for that reason, dear reader, I ask for your thoughts and your experiences on this matter – especially if you have read The Selection or another book that has left you with that reality TV guilty-pleasure feeling. Why do you think stories like this can keep you hooked? And how do you know if what you’re writing is going to appeal to other people? Are there even concrete answers to these questions?

I look forward to hearing whatever you have to say. And, of course, I apologise if I have offended you with my opinions! Ultimately, I probably should have gone with my gut instinct and not read them – the front cover repelled me for a good year or so, but then I ran out of books to borrow on the eLibrary I use and I caved. Paradoxically, it’s not that there’s so much I disliked that surprised me, it’s that I felt compelled to read the book to the end.

Thoughts on… Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title: Big Magic
Originally Published: September 22, 2015
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN: 9781408866740
Genre: self-help
Type: audiobook from Audible

It is a mystery to me how exactly I came across this book. Contrary to what might be naturally assumed, I have never read Eat, Pray, Love and had no exposure to Elizabeth Gilbert’s body of work prior to downloading the audiobook for Big Magic. I saw it come up on my recommendations on Audible a few times and in the back of my mind something told me I’d seen it before on somebody’s blog or website, maybe it was a reading list or a book review, I don’t know – but I had been aware of it subconsciously for several months without any intention of reading it. It wasn’t until I was getting desperate for an audiobook to get me through my longer office cleaning jobs that I decided to take a punt and buy it, safe in the knowledge I could return it if it didn’t interest me.

Having spent the first few years after leaving college telling myself that unless I was making money from my art, it was a waste of time and money to do it, it’s only been in the last 6 months that I’ve been gingerly trying to reawaken my creativity, gently nursing its wounded ego and trying to learn to just do it because I enjoy it, fighting against those familiar defeatist thoughts. To my delight, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses her views on creativity and her pledge to be a writer all her life because she loved the art, unconditionally, no pressure, and she encourages the same attitude in her book.

I listened to the audiobook twice, back to back. I loved so many of the things I read that I wrote them on a letter to an arty pen-pal of mine. I’ve taken photos of the quotes so I can share them with you lovely readers.


Quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Some reviewers baulk at Gilbert’s assertions that creative careers are not essential to the human race, not like practical jobs such as plumbing, dentistry, banking etc, because they feel it is an affront to their passionate pursuit of a creative career. It is important to recognise that the purpose of the book overall is to encourage everybody to pursue creativity regardless of whether it pays the bills. Gilbert believes that creativity is a fundamental part of every person and can have a place in their life, enriching their experience of living.


Quotes from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert explores some of the roadblocks that a person can put up when it comes to pursuing creativity like fear of failure, budget contraints and perfectionism. She includes quotes and anecdotes alongside her own experiences in her career as a writer and how she came to have the good fortune to quit her day job and do what she loves full-time. Meanwhile, she pragmatically acknowledges that hard work is no guarantee of success when it comes to pursuing a creative career, so it’s important to not measure one’s talent by how much revenue one’s creativity generates.


Quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


Quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


Quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book motivated me to start sharing my artwork online, I set up social media for that very purpose which I never would have had the courage to do until I read it. In the past, the fear of criticism (or worse, silence) prevented me from putting my work out there for the world to see, I felt like until my work was “better” it wasn’t ready to be shown to others. Big Magic made me take my art more seriously, encouraging me to invest more time in it, whilst at the same time helping me not take it seriously at all, thereby not putting so much stock in what other people think of it. Gilbert strongly argues that a lack of professional training such as a degree or apprenticeship doesn’t disqualify a person from creating and sharing their creativity, however not being on a formal course is not a legitimate barrier to education.


Quotes from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

In Big Magic, Gilbert shares some of her spiritual beliefs on ideas taking on a life of their own. She suggests that they are like living beings in their own right. I’m open to a bit of object empathy as a silly bit of fun, but I couldn’t tell if Gilbert was being serious or not. At times she insinuates that ideas are living entities looking for a host to inspire, a host who will do their bidding… that seems a little far-fetched to me. Personally, I simply believe there is no such thing as an original idea: we have all been influenced by what we have seen, heard, read… shaped by all our experiences, so as ‘spooky’ as it can feel sometimes when two people have the same thought, in my opinion it’s just one of life’s quirky coincidences.

As a bit of make-believe, Gilbert’s theory that ideas float around waiting to be realised is kind of sweet, but it has lead some reviewers to discredit her whole book. Regardless of whether she really believes in this or not, I didn’t feel like she was trying to make me believe in it, instead I got the impression Gilbert was trying to set the tone for the whole book, she didn’t write a guide on how to launch a creative career, a thesis on creativity or a spiritual guide – Big Magic is a book to entertain you, maybe to inspire you, but first of all it’s a book to start a conversation.


Quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Independent women in the 17th Century?


Published in 1615, the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is proving to be a surprising work. I’ve been listening to the audiobook for a couple of weeks now.

I was expecting old-worldly language and sentence structure that would have me ruminating for hours trying to decipher just what the author was trying to say, but it is turning out to be really easy to understand. That being said, I feel I must insert a disclaimer here: I’m reading an English translation so I realise my impression might be different if I were to read it in the original language it was written in (Spanish).

The story is a comical tale of an eccentric gentleman who is looking for adventures under the delusion of being a knight errand. So far, it has been entertaining and charming but also, I think, ahead of its time.

There is a speech in Part 1, chapter 14 made by a young woman which struck me as incredibly forthright, sensible and modern. I’m not a scholar on women’s rights but I do remember learning that women’s suffrage didn’t come on the scene until the late 19th century, so reading how the male author of Don Quixote wrote such a dignified speech for one of the female characters in his book was an encouraging surprise. It provided a little bit of evidence to something I have often suspected, that throughout history there have been thugs and there have been gentlemen, men who respected women and men who mistreated them. No doubt, this would have been true of women’s views of men, except of course society’s bias no doubt made it harder to be a woman than a man.

All that aside, have a read of this extract and let me know what you think:

On the summit of the rock… there appeared the shepherdess Marcela, so beautiful that her beauty exceeded its reputation. Those who had never till then beheld her gazed upon her in wonder and silence, and those who were accustomed to see her were not less amazed than those who had never seen her before.

But the instant Ambrosio saw her he addressed her with manifest indignation, “Art thou come by chance cruel basillisk of these mountains to see if in thy presence blood will flow from the wounds of this retched being thy cruelty has robbed of life? … Tell us quickly for what thou art come, or what it is thou wouldst have, for, as I know the thoughts of Chrysostom never failed to obey thee in life, I will make all these who call themselves his friends obey thee, though he be dead.”

“I come not, Ambrosia for any of the purposes thou hast named,”replied Marcela, “but to defend myself and to prove how unreasonable are all those who blame me for their sorrow and for Chrysostom’s death; and therefore I ask all of you that are here to give me your attention, for will not take much time or many words to bring the truth home to persons of sense.

Heaven has made me, so you say, beautiful, and so much so that in spite of yourselves my beauty leads you to love me; and for the love you show me you say, and even urge, that I am bound to love you. By that natural understanding which God has given me I know that everything beautiful attracts love, but I cannot see how, by reason of being loved, that which is loved for its beauty is bound to love that which loves it; besides, it may happen that the lover of that whichis beautiful may be ugly, and ugliness being detestable, it is very absurd to say, “I love thee because thou art beautiful, thou must love me though I be ugly.”

But supposing the beauty equal on both sides, it does not follow that the inclinations must be therefore alike, for it is not every beauty that excites love, some but pleasing the eye without winning the affection; and if every sort of beauty excited love and won the heart, the will would wander vaguely to and fro unable to make choice of any; for as there is an infinity of beautiful objects there must be an infinity of inclinations, and true love, I have heard it said, is indivisible, and must be voluntary and not compelled. If this be so, as I believe it to be, why do you desire me to bend my will by force, for no other reason but that you say you love me?

Nay—tell me—had Heaven made me ugly, as it has made me beautiful, could I with justice complain of you for not loving me? Moreover, you must remember that the beauty I possess was no choice of mine, for, be it what it may, Heaven of its bounty gave it me without my asking or choosing it; and as the viper, though it kills with it, does not deserve to be blamed for the poison it carries, as it is a gift of nature, neither do I deserve reproach for being beautiful; for beauty in a modest woman is like fire at a distance or a sharp sword; the one does not burn, the other does not cut, those who do not come too near.

Honour and virtue are the ornaments of the mind, without which the body, though it be so, has no right to pass for beautiful; but if modesty is one of the virtues that specially lend a grace and charm to mind and body, why should she who is loved for her beauty part with it to gratify one who for his pleasure alone strives with all his might and energy to rob her of it?

I was born free, and that I might live in freedom I chose the solitude of the fields; in the trees of the mountains I find society, the clear waters of the brooks are my mirrors, and to the trees and waters I make known my thoughts and charms.

I am a fire afar off, a sword laid aside. Those whom I have inspired with love by letting them see me, I have by words undeceived, and if their longings live on hope—and I have given none to Chrysostom or to any other—it cannot justly be said that the death of any is my doing, for it was rather his own obstinacy than my cruelty that killed him; and if it be made a charge against me that his wishes were honourable, and that therefore I was bound to yield to them, I answer that when on this very spot where now his grave is made he declared to me his purity of purpose, I told him that mine was to live in perpetual solitude, and that the earth alone should enjoy the fruits of my retirement and the spoils of my beauty; and if, after this open avowal, he chose to persist against hope and steer against the wind, what wonder is it that he should sink in the depths of his infatuation?

If I had encouraged him, I should be false; if I had gratified him, I should have acted against my own better resolution and purpose. He was persistent in spite of warning, he despaired without being hated.

Bethink you now if it be reasonable that his suffering should be laid to my charge. Let him who has been deceived complain, let him give way to despair whose encouraged hopes have proved vain, let him flatter himself whom I shall entice, let him boast whom I shall receive; but let not him call me cruel or homicide to whom I make no promise, upon whom I practise no deception, whom I neither entice nor receive.

It has not been so far the will of Heaven that I should love by fate, and to expect me to love by choice is idle.

Let this general declaration serve for each of my suitors on his own account, and let it be understood from this time forth that if anyone dies for me it is not of jealousy or misery he dies, for she who loves no one can give no cause for jealousy to any, and candour is not to be confounded with scorn.

Let him who calls me wild beast and basilisk, leave me alone as something noxious and evil; let him who calls me ungrateful, withhold his service; who calls me wayward, seek not my acquaintance; who calls me cruel, pursue me not; for this wild beast, this basilisk, this ungrateful, cruel, wayward being has no kind of desire to seek, serve, know, or follow them.

If Chrysostom’s impatience and violent passion killed him, why should my modest behaviour and circumspection be blamed? If I preserve my purity in the society of the trees, why should he who would have me preserve it among men, seek to rob me of it?

I have, as you know, wealth of my own, and I covet not that of others; my taste is for freedom, and I have no relish for constraint; I neither love nor hate anyone; I do not deceive this one or court that, or trifle with one or play with another.

The modest converse of the shepherd girls of these hamlets and the care of my goats are my recreations; my desires are bounded by these mountains, and if they ever wander hence it is to contemplate the beauty of the heavens, steps by which the soul travels to its primeval abode.”

With these words, and not waiting to hear a reply, she turned and passed into the thickest part of a wood that was hard by, leaving all who were there lost in admiration as much of her good sense as of her beauty.

Thoughts on… becoming a bookworm

Artist, music buff, portuguese, crafty, gypsy, hippie, weird, nice, gap-toothed etc etc…

Of the many boxes I’ve been metaphorically put into during my twenty four years on the planet, bookworm has not been one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked books, I love to visit old libraries and have a romantic attachment to bookcases, occasionally I’ve had phases of getting so immersed in a novel that I’m pretty much dead to the world, but a bookworm? My idea of a bookworm is the same as Merriam-Webster’s:


As much as I liked the idea of being that kind of person, I can’t in all honesty say I ever was.

My big brother is. Well, he is what you might like to call a booksnake, not a real term but if it is ever coined his photo will be pasted next to the definition. He always has at least one book to read on his person, wherever he goes, and he is not shy about taking it out and reading it when he loses interest in what is going on around him. On my wedding day, at the top table, after finishing his food, he sat for a long time reading a comic book. He’s not much of a group events person so to be honest I was just glad he came!

Anyway, I’m not about to become an introvert to the extent of my brother – at least not any time soon – but I have observed that in the last year or so I’ve caught the reading bug like never before. Or perhaps it was there all along, a dormant gene that is overactive in my brother.

The initial symptoms were innocuous. In summer 2015, a good friend lent me The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and I was gripped in the throws of a familiar bout of infatuation with a book – addicted to it and reading it at every opportunity, neglecting the majority of non-essential activities – but, of course, that book was part of a trilogy, so the affair was repeated with Catching Fire and Mockingjay causing my near-reclusive behaviour to be extended over almost a month.

My husband was extremely tolerant, he never complained, but when I guiltily remarked on how antisocially I was behaving he tittered and resumed whatever he was doing – I understood his lack of objection as affirmation that this indeed bothered him a bit but not enough to make an issue over. However, I was enjoying my little world so much that I took this as consent to carry on as I was, until the trilogy ended that is.

Some months passed while I borrowed and read mostly non-fiction self-help books while I worked on overcoming various issues with dieting, comfort eating and self-esteem. Apart from a few travel books the only fun book I tried to read was The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson which I got from the local library in June 2015, I dipped in and out of it, renewing it repeatedly until January 2016 when I gave up and took it back.

To the untrained eye, it would seem that any bookworm potential in me had dried up, but my affair with The Hunger Games was very much alive in my mind, that trilogy introduced me to the dystopia genre which gripped and thrilled my imagination in a way I hadn’t experienced for several years, so I was very much open to another book-love affair – it just had to be with the right one.

I read 1984 by George Orwell which I enjoyed even though it was a little hard going at times but I felt like it initiated me more fully into dystopia. Sadly, though, another dry spell of reading followed. I’d never made a reading list and I wasn’t aware of apps like Goodreads so it was usually a recommendation or pure chance that caused me to stumble upon the next read.

In April 2016 I remembered a conversation I’d had with a good friend who had made it her aim to become acquainted with the classics in literature. This memory along with an inactive social life and a strong inclination to isolate myself prompted me to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’d loved the TV adaptation I’d watched so it seemed like a good bet that I might like the book. Imagine my delight when I realised it was brilliantly written and not very hard to read! I was grateful to have the eBook version since it allowed me to look up definitions of words instantly, but the plot was so well paced that I didn’t mind having to look up some of the words.

While I was still reading Jane Eyre the reading bug spread and I started to compile a reading list. Suddenly, committing to reading a book without being absolutely sure I’d enjoy it didn’t seem like such a big deal – I just wanted more and more to read. I was beginning to relish in the entire experience of reading, retreating into a world of my imagination, feeding my mind with ideas and thoughts, training myself to stick to a book for several chapters irrespective of how “hooked” I was to begin with.

I thought hard of recommendations I’d received in the past, even ones I’d not been sure of at the time – I was longing for more reading material, finding much more fulfilment in wasting away 3 hours with my nose in a book (or iPad, I borrow a lot of eBooks from my library’s website) than wasting away the same amount of time mindlessly watching a movie or TV show.

Unlike moving pictures, reading thoroughly entertains me. When watching something (unless it is something I really want to see) I find myself in a concurrent state of boredom and amusement – it is easy so I keep doing it but I find myself looking for other things to do at the same time, usually I end up snacking mindlessly. With reading, I’m fully captivated.

Is it just me? Or are other people likewise simultaneously bored and entertained by TV and movies? I don’t mean to say all TV and movies, sometimes I really fancy watching something and then when I watch it I really enjoy it and it gets my full attention, but when I’m just watching something to pass the time, it rarely captures me like reading is able to.

So, friends, I think this is it, if there is a bookworm virus, I’ve caught it. If there is a bookworm gene, mine is active and replicating.

Everything I’ve read since May 2016 to July 2016 (the last 2 to 3 months)

Paperbacks and eBooks

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
The Maze Runner 
by James Dashner
They Eat Horses Don’t They? by Piu Marie Eatwell (unfinished)
The Death Cure by James Dashner
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Four by Veronica Roth
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Breathe by Sarah Crossan
Resist by Sarah Crossan
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J Ryan Stradal (unfinished)
Room by Emma Donoghue
Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hillary
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley
The Year of Living Danishly 
by Helen Russell
Making it Up as I Go Along by Marian Keyes
11.22.63 by Stephen King

Currently reading:
The Runaway Jury by John Grisham

Currently listening to:
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Maybe I need to calm down a little bit…

My fling with Audible – are we ready to commit?

image_1059978721My first fling with audiobooks was fast, furious and short-lived.

In the grip of my disordered eating behaviours, I was desperate for some guidance and
hoped that a free trial of Audible would grant me access to the intuitive eating bible that is Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that the audiobook was not available for the UK. True, I could have ordered a hard copy but that Adobe Photoshop PDFwould have meant being seen with it, so I settled for Michelle May’s Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat insteadAs it turned out, Dr May was probably better for me than would have been Ms Tribole’s approach, with her list of 10 intuitive eating principles and other mantras that I’d already devoured from her disciples’ blog posts. Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat was a jolly helpful audiobook which I have listened to more than twice, alongside physically reading several self-help books on eating disorders. Fun times. But seriously, despite the touchy topic of the book, I was impressed by the narration and how easy it was to listen to and concentrate on an audiobook.

After a while, I wanted to focus less on my “problem” and get back to more recreational reading/listening material. I listened to One Day by David Nicholls – it was alright, but I like the film adaptation more. My next choice was The Girl on the
by Paula Hawkins, a bestseller at the time which was heavily advertised on Spotify; so after several weeks of interrupted playlists, I was left with a cleverly imprinted bit of marketing in my subconscious. Obediently, I downloaded it. Listening to The Girl on the Train helped motivate me to go out for long walks during that gloomy, English winter, something for I which I am grateful because I was going through a period of extremely low mood, but on account of that gloomy state of mind, I found myself sympathising a little too much with the depressive protagonists… My empathy gave me imaginary, like-minded friends but left me as hopeless as ever.


Unable to find another audiobook that caught my attention, my hopes for a lifetime of adventures were dashed, I cancelled my subscription, and at least from my point of view, it was the end of my relationship with Audible and all other audiobook-kind.

I returned to my local library and strengthened my ties with my membership card, I was introduced to the her website and the world of eBooks that came with it, quite “over” my fling with Audible and pretty sure he was, likewise, done with me. Audible, however, didn’t agree, he thought we were just on a break. I didn’t hear from him for several months, then I was seduced with a deal of 3 months for £1.99 – a sucker for all things reduced and discounted, I simply could not refuse.

Since then, I’ve come across some excellent reads… or listens… what am I supposed to call them? At many of my cleaning jobs, I plug myself into my Windows phone and use the Audible app to transport myself far away from the work, almost forgetting how much I dislike it. Sometimes I have had to return audiobooks because I couldn’t get into them or they swore too much for my tolerance, but Audible understood, he didn’t interrogate me, he just took the audiobook out of my library and refunded me with a credit to spend at my leisure. I abused the freedom a bit, I must admit, and my returns are no longer being accepted, I’m being chastised, and I deserve it. Besides that, I’m really enjoying the experience. The website is easy to browse, my place in the audiobook gets synced between my iPad and my phone, the narration is quality and a “Finished” banner goes across the thumbnail of the book on the app which is highly satisfying.

But is this relationship sustainable? Can it last? Self-employed, working part-time and volunteering part-time, can I really afford to spend an extra £7.99 a month on a new audiobook? Won’t I have months where I’d prefer an ads-free subscription to Spotify? Or some data for my iPad? Or a gorgeous new nail polish? Or a fancy candle? The life I lead is simple, by choice, so I try to choose my luxuries carefully, and as much as Audible has shown me that he does, in fact, thrill and excite me, I just don’t know if I can commit for the long-haul. Let me say it for you, ain’t first world problems a pain in the Prada?

Have you tried audiobooks? What did you think? Also, do you know of anywhere to get reasonably-priced audiobooks?