Small ways to expand your horizons

Almost every day, we’re faced with photos, tweets, Facebook ‘check-in’s’ of people jetting off across the other side of the world to go travelling. People who have spent the day in a waterfall, exploring another culture, sky-diving, snorkeling – you name it and you’ve probably seen someone you know on social media doing it. Whether you follow any travel bloggers or not, there’s always posts cropping up about why you should travel, how travel makes you a better person, how to find yourself by travelling and so on. I’m not making fun of people who travel; I think if it’s what you want to do and you have the means to do it then that’s amazing and you should totally go for it. But I am saying that not all of us can, should or want to travel. And that’s okay too.

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BOOK REVIEW: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Format: Library book
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK
Blurb: At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Happy Brain by Dean Burnett @faberbooks @portassoph @garwboy

So it would appear that on my blog this month, the general theme is “happiness” Earlier in the month I reviewed the book How To Be Happy by Eva Woods (which, spoiler alert, was incredible) and next week I have a “50 things that make me happy” post going live. Gosh, that’s an awful lot of positivity and happiness for one month isn’t it? Well, apparently not because today I’m here to talk about The Happy Brain by Dean Burnett. And then that’s enough happy-related content for the month, I think. I wouldn’t want to over do it now, would I?

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BOOK REVIEW: Life to the Limit: My Autobiography by Jenson Button

Format: Hardback, Christmas present
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK
Blurb: Jenson Button is one of the greatest racing drivers of his generation. His seventeen years in Formula 1 have seen him experience everything the sport has to offer, from nursing underpowered cars around the track to winning World Championships and everything in between.

Here, Jenson tells his full story for the first time in his own honest, intelligent and eloquent style. From growing up as part of a motor-racing-mad family under the guidance of his father, John, to arriving at Williams as a fresh-faced 20 year-old, to being written off by some as a playboy and his fight back to the very pinnacle of his sport. Jenson’s World Championship victory for the unsponsored and unfancied Brawn GP team is one of the most extraordinary against-the-odds sports stories of the century.

Jenson’s book lifts the lid on the gilded and often hidden world of Formula 1. He reveals his relationships with some of the biggest names in Formula 1- Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso as well some of the most colourful characters like Flavio Briatore, Ron Dennis, Frank Williams and serial winner Ross Brawn. Above all, he puts you right inside the cockpit, in the driving seat, travelling at over 200 miles per hour, battling the fear of death, showing you what happens when it goes wrong at high speed and allowing you to experience the euphoria of crossing the line first. Continue reading

My favourite books of 2017

If there’s one thing that never let me down this year, it was books. I’m not a fast reader and I don’t read as many books in a month / year as most other book bloggers I know but 2017 has been such a strong book year for me. Of course there’s been a couple that haven’t particularly taken my fancy – you can’t enjoy everything – but I’ve read some stellar books this year so narrowing it down to 10 favourites was really difficult. And… for the first time ever, I’m actually putting them in order. I’ve never done this because it just seems too stressful haha! Ready? Let’s see who made the top 10 steps of 2017! (Not all of these were published in 2017)

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BOOK REVIEW: No Filter by Grace Victory

Format: Hardback, birthday present!
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK
Blurb: From struggling with an eating disorder and body image issues to flashing Harry Potter (yes, that really did happen), Grace Victory has experienced it all.

Here, in No Filter, Grace shares her inspirational story of growing up in a troubled household, battling with depression and finally overcoming it all by learning to love herself just as she is. After years of self-loathing and self-destructive behaviour, she hit an all-time low but thanks to therapy, good friends and an award-winning blog, she has rebuilt herself to become a TV presenter and an inspirational role model for young people. Thanks to her bravery, instinctive honesty and ability to break down taboos, Grace is now able to speak openly about her personal battles and she regularly offers guidance to her legion of fans.

Brimming with hilarious anecdotes and no-nonsense advice, the Internet’s Big Sister tells you everything you need to know about accepting yourself and fighting back, in style. Continue reading

Book review: Project Semicolon by Amy Bluel

*** Trigger warnings: Suicide, suicidal thoughts and mental illness ***

Format: Uncorrected proof
Publisher: Harper
Links:Amazon UK  | Goodreads


Review: This doesn’t really have a blurb so I’ll just explain myself what Project Semicolon is all about. Basically, Project Semicolon is a suicide awareness organisation, founded in 2013 by Amy Bluel and is dedicated to preventing suicide. The idea of the semicolon is that in a novel, when an author uses a semicolon, it signifies that the sentence isn’t over and using a semicolon in this instance is to signify that your own personal story isn’t over, especially if you’ve been affected by severe mental health, suicidal thought or suicide attempts. This book is a collection of short paragraphs and short essays from people all over the world with a whole spectrum of mental health conditions and stories where they share what they’ve been through, their darkest times and how they’ve come through the other side. Continue reading

Book Review: Not That Kind of Love by Clare and Greg Wise 

Publisher: Quercus
Publication date: February 2018
Format: Paperback, giveaway
Blurb: A moving, thought-provoking and surprisingly humorous book which is both a description of a journey to death and a celebration of the act of living.

Based on Clare Wise’s blog, which she started when she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Not That Kind of Love charts the highs and lows of the last three years of Clare’s life. The end result is not a book that fills you with despair and anguish. On the contrary, Not That Kind of Love should be read by everybody for its candour, and for its warmth and spirit. Clare is an astonishingly dynamic, witty and fun personality, and her positivity and energy exude from every page.

As she becomes too weak to type, her brother – the actor Greg Wise – takes over, and the book morphs into a beautiful meditation on life, and the necessity of talking about death. With echoes of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal and Cathy Rentzenbrink’s The Last Act of Love, it is a very special read that rejoices in the extraordinary and often underestimated sibling bond, and the importance of making the most of the ordinary pleasures life has to offer. Continue reading

Book Review: Watching the Wheels by Damon Hill

31443959Format: Hardback, ARC
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Blurb: 2016 marks the twentieth anniversary of Damon Hill’s coronation as Formula One World Champion. For the first time ever he tells the story of his journey through the last golden era of the sport when he took on the greats including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher and emerged victorious as World Champion in 1996, stepping out of the shadow of his legendary father Graham Hill.

Away from the grid, Watching the Wheels: The Autobiography is an astonishingly candid account of what it was like to grow up as the son of one of the country’s most famous racing drivers. It also tells the unflinching story of dealing with the grief and chaos that followed his father’s tragically early death in an aircraft accident in 1975, when Damon was 15 years old.

Formula One drivers have always been aware of their mortality, and the rush that comes with the danger of racing was as intoxicating for Hill as it had been for his father’s generation, until he came face-to-face with catastrophe when his team-mate, Ayrton Senna, was killed in 1994. The swirling emotions that Hill was faced with in light of the death of Senna was a defining moment for his generation of drivers and for the first time ever Hill talks candidly about the impact that Senna had on his life, even as he watched his own son step into motor racing.

Courageously honest, and hugely rewarding, Watching the Wheels is a return to the last golden era of F1 racing, whose image still burns ferociously for those who love the sport for what it reveals about human skill in the face or near certain death. Continue reading

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

22955582Title: Wild
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Blurb: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s rapid death from cancer, her family drifted apart and her marriage crumbled. With nothing left to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk over a thousand miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line of a map. But it held a promise: a promise of piecing together a life that lay shattered at her feet. Continue reading