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‘Furiously Happy’ by Jenny Lawson #throwbackthursday #bookreview #bloggesstribe

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme to share old favourites and recommendations, and I discovered it through Between the Lines.

This is one of the books I mentioned on my post about mental health yesterday – and I recommend it to everyone!

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Waterstones   Amazon.co.uk

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.

Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. Furiously Happy is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. And who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

I’m a huge fan of Jenny Lawson’s blog ‘The Bloggess’ which has had me laughing and crying on many occasions. I also adored her first book ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’, so I was so excited to read her second book.

Jenny is breathtakingly and beautifully honest about her mental health issues. She has crippling depression and anxiety, and, on top of this, also has to contend with problems with her physical health.  I’ve read a lot of books about these issues, but never have I read an author as inspiring, as honest and open and as terribly, horribly funny as Jenny Lawson.

This book focuses more on mental illness than the first book, but is no less hilarious for that. Jenny writes about her struggles with disarming honesty, the effects it has had on her life, her career and her family. She clearly adores her family,  but they don’t escape her unusual sense of humour. The arguments she has with husband Victor are a highlight of the book, as Jenny often goes off on a tangent that Victor finds increasingly difficult and frustrating to follow. But her love for him and his for her is touchingly shown when she tells him his life would be easier without her.

“It might be easier,” he replies. “But it wouldn’t be better.”

A brief run through of some of the chapter titles tells you most of what you need to know about this book:

‘George Washington’s Dildo’

‘LOOK AT THIS GIRAFFE’

‘Death by Swans Is Not as Glamorous as You’d Expect’

and

‘Cat Lamination’

are a few of my particular favourites.

While the book is very, very funny, it’s also very, very emotional to read, at least it was for me. Jenny’s mental health issues mean that she often can’t function, that she hides in hotel rooms when she’s supposed to be promoting her work, that she often feels like a failure because she can’t cope with the things other mothers seem to excel at, like PTA meetings. But she’s determined that when she feels fine, that when she can face life, that she will really live, that she will be ‘furiously happy’. She understands that there’s a flip side to the extreme emotions that depression brings – that she has the ability to also experience extreme joy, and she’s determined that she will have a storeroom of memories for those dark times, filled with moments

‘of tightrope walking, snorkelling in long-forgotten caves, and running barefoot through cemeteries with a red ball gown trailing behind me.’

As she says, it’s not just about saving her life, it’s about making her life.

Despite great breakthroughs in recent years, mental illness still carries a stigma. But sufferers are no more to blame for their illness than people with cancer, or MS or anything. Jenny’s writing humanises mental illness. She isn’t ashamed, and neither should anyone else be. The epilogue, ‘Deep in the Trenches’ made me cry. It’s the most touching, insightful, compassionate and beautiful piece of writing I’ve ever read about living with mental illness, or helping someone you love to live and to live fully.

And I’ll always be grateful for the very clever, but characteristically quirky, ‘spoons’ analogy. I read this part of the book at exactly the right time, and it really helped with a situation where someone I love really didn’t have enough spoons. Read it – you’ll get it, and it might help you too.

I love this book, and if I could give it more stars I would. Yes, it’s incredibly funny, but it also says something extremely important. If you have mental health issues, or care for someone who does, please, please read this.

5 stars

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‘The Break’ by Marian Keyes #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Amy’s husband Hugh has run away to ‘find himself’. But will he ever come back?‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’

If only.

Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her.

He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.

Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .

However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge.

For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman?

Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .

The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.

I’ve read a lot of books by this author but not for a few years. I’m not sure why – they just haven’t been on my radar for some reason. So I was really looking forward to reading this. I remember from previous books lots of funny, real women, with real lives and believable problems. And this does deliver – some of the time. But it just misses the mark for me.

I really like Amy, and really enjoyed the antics of her Irish family – something that Keyes always writes so well. I thought Amy was well-drawn and her reactions to Hugh’s bombshell were very realistic. I felt so angry with him, but as the narrative progressed, I began to feel a little bit of sympathy. And I think it’s a real strength of the book that Amy isn’t completely blameless.

There are some great characters here, and lots of really interesting and entertaining side plots. And Amy’s relationship with her daughters and niece, and their relationships with each other bring a real warmth to the story.

I see that the author has been criticised by some reviewers for the storyline around abortion. I thought this was really well done – sensitively handled and not at all preachy. Travelling to England for an abortion is the reality for many women in Ireland – it actually happens, and the consequences can be dreadful. Well done to the author for showing what this is like. Novels should highlight the social and political issues of the time and place in which they are set – and any story set in Dublin that has female characters of child-bearing age surely is the place to show what this can be like. There has always been an edge to Marian Keyes’ work that lifts it above other novels in the genre – and that is what she has done here.

So great characters, great storylines and lots of fun and drama, but it was just a bot too long. And I really didn’t like the epilogue. It was too much, and I think the book would have been stronger without it.

It is definitely worth a read though, and I do recommend it.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

Merry Christmas!

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As 2016 draws to a close (thank god – what a crap year it’s been) just a quick post to say thank you to all the people who visit this blog, who take the time to read and comment and whose support and friendship mean a great deal to me.

The amount of views and new followers I’ve had this year has been amazing, and it’s been a joy to meet new people, to connect with other writers and bloggers, and to read and share books. It’s lovely to know there are like-minded souls out there, near and far.

Because the world is crappy right now, and sometimes the hate and the intolerance and the bigotry and the unfairness of it all can seem overwhelming. But looking at a wonderful painting, hearing a favourite song, escaping into a beautiful film and sinking into a good book, all these things make life a bit better. So thank you to all those authors who have shared their books with me this year, and to all the writers I’ve worked with. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege.

I wish you all a happy and peaceful holiday.

holidaybooklist

Guest post: reading, blogging and fit men!

I’m over on Wendy Lou’s blog today talking about reading and blogging. I’ve also managed to find an excuse to include Tom Hardy, Johnny Depp and Ryan Gosling. Click the link above to come and have a read. And in the meantime:

ryan

#AtoZChallenge – Reflections

A-to-Z Reflection [2015] - Lg

When my lovely friend and fellow blogger Rosie Amber suggested I take part in the A to Z Challenge I didn’t really know what to expect. Yes, I knew I’d be posting every day except Sundays in April, and I had an idea for a theme – writing and editing tips – but I had no idea how interesting and valuable an experience it would be.

I started off the way I always do – incredibly efficient and well-organised (to begin with). I had ten posts ready to go before the challenge actually started – all scheduled so that all I had to do was hit publish. This, however, lulled me into a false sense of security and by the time I’d reached letter ‘M’ I was writing posts the day they were due. So much for being well-organised!

The best thing about the challenge was making contact with other bloggers – bloggers and blogs mostly concerned with writing, but in a variety of genres and with a variety of interests and insights to share. These are recommended:

https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/

http://lucciagray.com/

http://www.shanayatales.com/

and of course

https://rosieamber.wordpress.com/

The trickiest thing was navigating blogs other than those on WordPress – it was irritating reading and appreciating a blog post and taking the time to add a comment only to have to jump through hoops to get the comment published. Not the bloggers fault of course, but a bit of a shame as sometimes I just gave up!

Another minor irritation was the amount of blogs listed that actually weren’t taking part. I’m pushed for time and the challenge was a big commitment. It was annoying to click on link after link to find no mention of the challenge or to read about theme reveal that looked really interesting only to find that the blogger had decided not to take part. Having said that, with the amount of blogs listed, I can understand that it would be extremely difficult and time consuming to remove these blogs from the list.

That said, I did thoroughly enjoy the challenge. I made lots of new blogging friends and had a big increase in visits to the site. And I’ll definitely take part next year. Although I’ll try and stay organised this time!