Book Review || Setting Boundaries by Dr Rebecca Ray

Monday, August 16, 2021

 


Setting Boundaries
Dr Rebecca Ray
29th June 2021

This was actually a joy to read, even though it was also calling me out on all of my *cough* less-than-helpful *cough* behaviours and mindsets. It gave me the perspective I needed to just step back and realise that I was allowing myself to be walked on, and then getting mad about it later, among other things. 

Setting boundaries is something that I have generally always been interested in, as I just don't feel like the average person is given much help in knowing how to do these things. It's only been in recent years, even, that I've seen individuals who have a good twenty or thirty years on me notice that their relationships with their parents have been intensely warped due to non-existent or extremely permeable boundaries: this is just not something that most people know innately how to do.

This book arrived at a time when I was really suffering with some difficulties with my neighbours, as well as wondering if a friendship of mine had reached its natural end (though that natural end came with some resentment, at least on my part). Reading this book brought home to me, once again, that good boundaries start with me, rather than some outside force, or expecting people to just know innately what my needs are and meet them using some kind of intense telepathy (honestly, when I think about it, people I know having intense telepathy skillz actually freaks me out a whole lot - better to just set the boundaries and monitor them myself...)

I felt a bit nervous that Dr Ray was going to make this into a gimmick, but, aside from a couple of naming techniques which I found a bit cheesy (but have to acknowledge that it makes it easier to remember and understand certain concepts), everything felt down-to-earth, logical, and, best of all, welcoming. I didn't feel like I was being judged for not having good boundaries or not knowing how to enforce them - Dr Ray draws on years of experience as a clinical psychologist, but also as a boundary-setter herself, and she doesn't talk down to the reader or cloak everything in useless jargon - it's all straightforward and helpful.

Basically, I really enjoyed reading this one, and will be returning to it a lot, I think.


10/10 boundaries in place.

{I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own. Thank you!!}

Book Review || The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

Monday, August 9, 2021

 


The Kingdoms

Natasha Pulley

3rd August 2021


This one was... a ride. And a half. Back and forth through time.


I'm not really sure how much to say about this one, for two reasons - 1. I think part of the reason I enjoyed my time with this one was because I had no idea what to expect; and 2. I haven't the foggiest idea of how to explain this book.


I can't deny that Natasha Pulley's writing is gorgeous, and she creates really intriguing, well-rounded characters - all with flaws and difficulties that they don't necessarily want to overcome. Part of the reason that I kept reading for so long was just that the writing was so darn beautiful and just kept pulling me back in.


However, after each reading session, I just had this overwhelming feeling of 'what...am I reading? what is happening?' - and questions similar to this. Part of that I think is intentional - Pulley doesn't necessarily want you to get your feet in this story, or at least, not have them for long. Every time I felt like I had figured out what was happening, something changed and I was immediately just baffled again. Joe, the main character, is experiencing this along with us, and so having the reader be as confused (if not more so) than the main character is a good way to keep us reading - wanting to know what happens.


Sure, yes, I get that (I hear you saying), but you said that was just 'part of it', right? Yes indeed. I couldn't help feeling just a bit alienated by all this sleight of hand and continually moving ground (much like I was on a ship, which also features heavily in this book). It started to feel a little like 'well, I can't seem to get my feet under me for very long, so why should I continue to care what happens?' It just felt a little like I was being forcibly thrown out of the story sometimes, which I didn't appreciate.


I still read to the end, though, didn't I? And I loved the ending a lot, even though I am still confused. And the character of Kite is brilliant, I adore him and the way Pulley wrote him.


So, would I recommend this book... I honestly don't know. All I can say is that I did enjoy my time with the story and the characters overall, but I am still confused as to what I just read. Take that as you will.



7/10 unbroken lighthouses.


{I received a review copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own. Thank you!!}

Book Review || Disfigured by Amanda Leduc

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

 


Disfigured
On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space
Amanda Leduc
3rd March 2020

Okay, I'm a bit late to the party on this one (like many of my reviews of late...), but I think I partially avoided this one for a while because I was nervous. 'Disabled' as a label that I lay claim to, if perhaps a little delicately - not sure if I'm allowed to hold it, have it as my own. I've been chronically ill for 20 years now, and have had chronic pain on and off throughout most of that time, but it's been hard - as I know it has been for many other people - to acknowledge and truly feel like I can accept the label of 'disabled'. Much like other people, I often feel as if the term disabled is only used for people in wheelchairs, and even though I have used a wheelchair after surgeries in the past, and have had to really consider whether that might be a regular part of my future, I haven't really been a part of that definition - even when I was actively using a Disability Support Plan at University. Some days now, I feel like a proud disabled person, other days I just feel fearful that I'm doing something wrong by claiming that label. It's a work in progress, as much of life is.

Anyway, onto the book.

Disfigured can occasionally come across as a little bit of a jumble of things - memoir, deep dives on particular fairy tales, discussions on Disney movies - all shoved into one relatively-tiny book. And, whilst I have seen a few other people complaining about how it isn't 'academic enough' or even 'pseudo-academic' (didn't know that was a thing! Learning.), I loved the exploration of this book, and how it led me through a forest of Amanda Leduc's thoughts, musings, past experiences, and research. 

Perhaps because I have always loved nature writing with a touch of memoir, I was able to just slip into this one quite easily - explorations with a touch of memoir, something of a personal essay tied together with sparkle fairy lights and barbed wire. It felt a lot like sitting down to a cup of tea with Amanda and just listening as she thought through things, and I loved that.

There are definitely some challenging things here, and I think for anyone who hasn't really thought about the ableism inherent on things like fairy tales, Disney movies, or perhaps just everyday life, it might be quite confronting. I recently had someone ask me what ableism was, and I stumbled through an approximation of an answer (never mind that I actually didn't owe them anything, my anxiety never remembers that people can just google stuff). Now I wish I could just hand them a card with google search terms on it, along with a copy of this book. Because this book did make me feel seen, it made me feel like things I had thought about and the issues in certain stories that I had noticed but not said anything about were valid and real. And it took me on a journey that I think I will return to regularly in the future whenever my own ingrained ableism starts to act up again (vicious little thing).

This has been a very random and roundabout review, but I hope it comes across that I loved this book. I may check out Amanda Leduc's fiction next. Highly recommend her work.

10/10 houses made of gingerbread (allergy friendly).

I received a review ecopy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Book Review || No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

 


No Time Like the Future
Michael J. Fox
17th November 2020

Ah, I have such fond memories of watching Michael J. Fox during daytime TV whenever Family Ties came on. And then whenever my brother wanted to watch Back to the Future. Then, when he made a guest appearance in Scrubs, I was honestly overjoyed. My point is - I quite like Michael J. Fox. I have previously read one of his other memoirs, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, and really loved it. So I was excited to get my hands on his latest.

This one is sort of a continuation of sorts, as I imagine the others are, too. After all, it's Fox continuing to tell us about things that have happened in his life. This one talks about ageing a little more, as well as mortality. There's also, of course, the underlying thread of health and illness running through, and I did have real moments of connection and understanding with a lot of these, as my own conditions develop and change. I particularly liked Fox's observations about wheelchairs, and his thoughts were much like mine were a few years ago. I don't actually use a wheelchair myself, at the moment, but sometimes, when my fatigue is especially bad, I think about whether I need to move towards them as an aid in my arsenal. 

Occasionally I did feel like Fox's privilege as a rich, well-known white man was showing without being acknowledged. This only popped up a few times, but it was enough that I found it a little frustrating. He did acknowledge a couple of times, which mollified me somewhat, but otherwise it was definitely there and took me away from what I was reading. Just a note for other readers who might feel alienated by this.

Otherwise, this was an enjoyable read, with a few real moments of connection that provoked some thinking for me. If you've read any of Fox's other memoirs, I think you'll know exactly what you're getting here - he's (mostly) optimistic, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, whilst also considering deeper topics with a gentle tone. Just a good book to read.

7.5/10 sweet turtle tattoos.



I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.



Another Update of Sorts

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

 Hello friends. How are you? It feels strange to be here again. My most recent update (on myself) happened back in January and I talked about how I wasn't really sure where I was going with this blog. I have little to say about that, honestly. I'm still posting the occasional book review, though many of them are quite late and the books I mention are relatively old. I'm still reading new releases, but I am often buying them with my own money and reading them for pleasure (shock!) and not doing much other than marking them as read and maybe giving them a star rating on Goodreads.


Things have been a little intense for me lately. (By 'lately' I do mean in the last few months.) There's been some health scares in the family, of all different kinds, and mental health issues have been pretty rough, too. My mental health has been all over the place. At the moment, I am fairly calm, (aside from needing to shoo the cat away just now because she insists on yelling at me), enjoying the visual of typing on my keyboard with a little ray of sun spilling across it. But I have had times of incredibly intense distress and fear, my anxiety has risen to the point that certain noises/sounds have become anathema to me, and I have started and ended my days trying to use food/tv/games/shopping as a way to numb myself from the intensity of the emotions that exist within me.


For those of you with mental health differences, this may all sound very familiar.


I've been doing my best to just ride out the wave, but, while it feels like this wave rises and falls, it also just keeps going and going and going, and I wonder how to get off the ride. Ultimately, I think I'm just going through some changes at the moment (this moment apparently has been going on for about two years now?) and I just need to 'hold the course' and continue trying to foster kindness for myself (and for others, I guess). Will I share more of my experiences on this blog? I'm not sure - perhaps. I don't know if it would be helpful at all for others to hear about this kind of thing, to be honest. Something else to sit with.


In other news, I have very tentatively gotten back into listening to Kpop. I have been following BTS for years, of course, but lately I felt strong enough to go back to SHINee and see what they were up to. With Taemin heading into the army for his service soon (May 31st), I have been really enjoying listening to his new mini-album, Advice, on YouTube Music. I am even thinking about purchasing a copy! I know, you may now collect your jaws from the floor on the way out. 


You know, even talking about Kpop is quite nice. Maybe I'll come back here to visit again soon. Hope you're all doing well, all my lovely lurkers.


Love to all who read.

Book Review || The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

Friday, April 9, 2021

 


The Midnight Guardians

Ross Montgomery

3rd September 2020


I had to request this one - there's a badger on the cover! That was probably my main thought when I first saw this book. When it was backed up by a synopsis that sounded interesting, I decided to give it a go.

This was clearly very deeply researched and wanted to convery a sense of the time and place in which it was set for anyone reading it - namely, around and during the time of the Blitz in London. It came across really well and I felt as if the author had done a fantastic job setting the tone to back the entire story - you felt the sense of urgency and dread throughout the novel, and even the smallest details felt relevant.

The story was also filled with whimsy and fun, when it wasn't so intense. These moments of levity really improved my enjoyment of the book, and I loved the banter between the Midnight Guardians sometimes, and the often remarked statement that having a cup of tea was needed for most things. (This tracks with my own experience growing up with two English parents...)


I have to admit, though, that this book didn't always hit the mark for me. Sometimes I found the humour a bit off (this was just a 'me' thing), and I really struggled to get into the book initially. I'm glad I stuck it out, but I do wonder if maybe the first part of the book could have been tightened up a little, or perhaps things could have been explained a little better, because I just wasn't entirely sure I cared initially.


However, this is a lovely book, dealing with real issues, with some beautiful whimsy thrown in. And you really can't go wrong with having a badger as a main character.


8/10 badgers in waistcoats.



I received a review copy of this book from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Book Review || Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Friday, April 2, 2021

 


Ariadne
Jennifer Saint
30th March 2021

This was an absolutely beautiful read: so filled with gorgeous writing and believable explorations of how the women told of in ancient Greek myth may have actually felt about their situations and the circumstances they have been put in due to the actions of Gods, Heroes, and men.

I find myself in the strange position with this book of not really knowing how to describe it. My experience of reading it was truly wonderful - any time that I couldn't be reading it due to health issues I was genuinely sad; whenever I could pick it up, I would find myself looking up an hour later having disappeared completely into the story Saint was telling. The interest in this book was only increased by the fact that my partner is currently playing the game Hades on the Switch, and finding that I could link the people and Gods desribed in the book with the characters depicted on the screen. I think this made my reading experience even more immersive and, well, fun! Thought I caution against thinking this is a fun book (the game definitely is, though).

It is so interesting throughout this book to watch Ariadne's character change and grow, and Phaedra's, too. In fact, every character introduced in the book is given such form, such amazing roundedness. And the emotions that they felt were described in such a way that I could definitely feel them, without them becoming too overwhelming or feeling like the author was trying to push my emotions in a certain way. Masterful writing.

I do have one complaint, however, even though I enjoyed this book so much. I felt as if the character of the Minotaur, Asterion, could have been explored so much more than it was. I liked the little bits that we see of him as a baby, but then he is basically just labelled 'monster' and thrown in the Labyrinth - just something to be feared, that is all. There was such a huge opportunity there to explore the realm of disfigurement, disability, bodily difference! I just felt disappointed that, whilst all the other characters felt so real, Asterion was shunted to the side, given a label, and then mostly ignored, except as a source of fear.

Having said that, I still loved this book so much. Highly recommend.

10/10 bountiful grapes hanging on the vine.


I received a review copy from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

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