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)
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
*** Trigger warnings: Suicide, suicidal thoughts and mental illness ***
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
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
Format: 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
Author: Cheryl Strayed
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
Blurb: Mark Webber was at the centre of one of the most captivating chapters in the history of Formula One. In 2010, while racing for Red Bull, he and his team mate Sebastian Vettel went head to head for the World Championship. There could only be one winner.
In his trademark straight-talking, no-nonsense style Mark reveals his amazing life on and off the Formula One race track. From his first taste of karting to his F1 debut in 2002, scoring Minardi’s first points in three years at the Australian Grand Prix, through to his first win with Red Bull at the 2009 German Grand Prix and the year he should have been crowned World Champion. Mark Webber’s journey to the top of Formula One was every bit as determined and committed as his racing. Aussie Grit is his searingly honest story. Continue reading
Blurb: Well hello to you dear book browser. So, here’s the thing: it is just me or does anyone else find that adulthood offers no refuge from the unexpected horrors, peculiar lack of physical coordination and sometimes unexplained nudity that accompanies childhood and adolescence? I am proud to say I have a wealth of awkward experiences and here I offer my 18-year-old self (and you too dear reader) some much needed caution and guidance. Let’s call it, because it’s fun, a Miran-ual. I thank you. Continue reading
“… About six months later I dropped Lyndsey a line on the dating site. I had a meeting near to where she lived and asked if she wanted to meet up for a reconciliatory drink. Her reply was that she would love to meet for a beer so she could throw it all over me. “A firm refusal but, on reflection, fair.”
Finding myself single at the age of forty was not in my life plan. I had never been very confident or particularly good at dating when I had youth and looks on my side. How the hell was I supposed to get back into meeting women now I was older, heavier, wrinklier and weighed down with emotional baggage? This is the hilarious, odd, romantic and heart-breaking story of the crazy six years that followed. In search of the elusive next Mrs G I dated everyone from my closest friend’s sister to a woman living in Moscow. I have online dated, speed dated and randomly chatted up hundreds of women, spent thousands of pounds and travelled thousands of miles.
After four years I began to think that there were no sane or balanced single women left on the planet. As years went by, however, the truth became inescapable. There was only one common factor linking all of these relationships and events together: ME! This painful lesson changed my life forever.
Join me as I reveal all…
This book was actually written by a friend of a friend and it’s had some great reviews so I was excited to give it a try. It’s also not the type of book I would normally choose to read but I’m glad I did as it was a very enjoyable and eye-opening read. ‘Tidy Up On Your Way Out’ is a true story of Dave’s search for love after his divorce. From dating sites to speed dating, adult-only holidays in Greece to chatting up women in the local pub, you join Dave on his long and very honest journey to finding ‘The One’.
Firstly, I’d just like to mention that I thought this book was exceptionally well written. As a true story I expected it to be straightforward, to the point and simple but his descriptions and language are fantastic which definitely makes it all the more interesting. For me, this book was a real eye-opener. From a 20 year-olds perspective, it was fascinating to read and hear about the awkwardness of the older-generations dating scene. It’s just as bad, if not worse, than dating in your teens and 20’s – and that’s bad enough! It’s a topic that I think most older people who are experiencing it would find difficult to speak openly about but Dave puts it all “out there” and shows you that although it can be nerve-wracking, daunting and at times, scary, it’s real. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and you may make friends or learn something about yourself along the way. Like he mentions, ‘It’s the journey, not the destination’.
I also felt quite a few mixed emotions whilst reading this book. At the beginning, Dave describes the break-up of his marriage. Which on it’s own, I think is a really courageous thing to do in terms of putting such an intimate and emotional time of your life on paper for everyone to read but I, quite-rightly, felt sad reading about it because as you read on you learn that he is a genuinely nice man with nothing but good intentions. However once the sad demise of his marriage is out the way it really is an extremely funny book. You really couldn’t make some of these weird dates and people up and I found myself not only laughing but cringing out loud at some points. Although it’s predominantly aimed at older people, I think everyone could enjoy this book. It teaches you that 1) Women are crazy but 2) There’s always hope, no matter what age you are.
1) Hi Dave, thanks for answering some questions today. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your book and what we can expect?
Tidy up on your way out is to provide documentary evidence of what has happened to the world of dating, well my world anyway. Expect laughter, tears, plenty of sagely nodding, the odd frown of disapproval and perhaps some pointers for you or your single friends.
2) At which point did you realise that you wanted to write a book?
I knew I wanted to write a book but the catalyst was splitting up with the girl I mention in the last chapter. I really thought I had done everything right that time and it still went pear shaped. What interested me was the calmness of my reaction. I was upset but calm and it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to write this stuff down.
3) Like I mentioned in my review, I thought it was very well written. Do you have any form of writing qualification or is it just a natural talent?
I would like to say its natural talent. I am not really a writer but I do seem to have an ability to tell stories and make people laugh, and perhaps help them to see something of value through my experiences. I love comedy and have spent hours watching DVD’s of my favourite shows. I think this enables me to write in a humorous style, without losing any deeper meaning. Tidy up on your way out was a team effort. I was supported by Jennifer Manson who I tell the stories to and we then shape them. In the case of Tidy up I then had it professionally edited by the wonderful Wanda Whiteley. She dropped it from 75,000 down to the clean fast paced 55,000 words you see now.
4) You mention in your book that you’re a business coach. Was does that involve?
I help business owners grow their businesses by helping them get clear about what they are doing, keeping them focussed and making sure they take action. Coaching has helped me understand people at a deeper level than I used to, which helped me see the funny side of what was otherwise a series of car crash relationships. My commercial skills have also been put to good use with marketing the book.
5) Was it daunting putting your very honest experiences out there for the world to read?
Not really. I make the point in the book that we can only ever tell stories from our own perspective. I am sure if you asked the women involved they would have explained what happened completely differently. It was a little uncomfortable when I was writing about some relationships as I am still in touch with many of the women in the book.
6) I assume you have changed names to protect peoples privacy. Do you ever get worried anyone mentioned in the book is going to read it and realise it’s them?
I have had four exes talk to me already, having read the book. They all loved it and in some cases were really surprised at how I felt about what happened. Its been lovely actually, really sweet of them.
7) Did you self-publish your book? And what made you decide to do so?
I looked for an agent for a little while but they all struggled to find a convenient genre niche for the book so no one had the bottle to take it on. My honest take after spending a bit of time understanding the industry is that it is in a colossal mess. Once I realised that I decided to do it my way and teach them a lesson LOL.
8) Are there anymore books lined up?
Oh plenty. If the demand is there I have another book of dating experiences already planned. I have been lucky to have lived a colourful life (not just in dating terms) and can see myself comedy writing about the whole spectrum of the human experience.
9) What advice can you give to aspiring authors out there?
Write for half an hour everyday, even if what you are writing is shit. Best way to defeat procrastination. Get excited by the commercial side of selling a book as well as the message/story you are writing or find someone who can do that for you.
10) Lastly, any words of wisdom to anyone who is also struggling to find ‘The One’?
The ‘one’ does not exist. You are ‘The One’. If you want to find a perfect partner start to appreciate and understand yourself and show up in the world as the best ‘you’ that you can be. That’s what the most attractive people do :-).
Born to a working class family in Essex, Dave endured a boringly happy childhood. His educational potential was largely squandered by his desire to spend his days pissing about. As a result his clerical career started at sixteen with the civil service and then the NHS. He sustained a lifestyle that saw him just about earning enough to keep himself in beer and fags until his ‘career’ hit a seam of good luck and he applied for, and got, a job two grades higher. This was the beginning of a hugely successful (but hopelessly dull) corporate career. Never confident with women, he failed to ask out pretty much every woman he fancied and ended up with an impressive catalogue of female friends. Finally summoning enough courage to alter this state of affairs, his life became one of happy mediocrity with a well paid job and an attractive but underappreciated fiancé. The relationship was to last five years but they never married. Excitement was provided by a brief flirtation with motorbikes. At 28 he confronted mortality when his mother died. Whilst on the surface he coped well with the grieving process, his life turned 360 degrees. He took a job with lots of international travel and to engaged in every adrenalin sport known to man. This wild ride lasted three years before he met, fell in love with and married his wife. Dave took to marriage like a snake takes to roller skates. His attempts to surrender to domestic routine were largely unsuccessful and led to an expanding waistline, a penchant for Austin Reed clothes and finally, eight years in, the end of the marriage. Adapting to single life pretty well, he embarked on a journey of indulging his mid life crisis. Snowboarding, sailing, flash cars and clothes, dating any woman that showed even the remotest spark of interest and partying hard. His career was the one area where success continued to seem assured, so inevitably three years after his divorce he went to work dismantling that. He engineered redundancy from a six figure salary + bonus + benefits and headed into the world with no idea what to do next. After six months of having fun, he trained, and established himself as a self employed Business Coach, a role he has stayed with to date. Through coaching he began to access new ideas and ways of looking at the world and finally finds himself content. Throughout his life only three things have been constant… the support of his family and closest friends, his love of nature and Gary Numan.
Craving change and lacking logic, at 26, Jamie, a cute and quirky Californian, impulsively moves to New Zealand to avoid dating after reading that the country’s population has 100,000 fewer men.
In her journal, she captures a hysterically honest look at herself, her past and her new wonderfully weird world filled with curious characters and slapstick situations in unbelievably bizarre jobs.
It takes a zany jaunt to the end of the Earth and a serendipitous meeting with a fellow traveller before Jamie learns what it really means to get rooted.
I was delighted when Jamie contacted me through email asking me to review her book, ‘Getting Rooted in New Zealand’. I got stuck right in and was drawn to Jamie’s different and utterly ridiculous world from the first few pages. This book is a collaboration of diary entries from when Jamie moved to New Zealand in order to escape the horrific dating scene in America as New Zealand’s population has 100,000 less men! You learn something new everyday right? Despite Jamie’s bad luck, unfortunate job placements and constant money struggles it is an exceptionally funny but brutally honest account of her life in New Zealand with a surprising but well deserved happy ending.
I was excited to give this book a try because not only has it had some great reviews, I don’t read much non-fiction, if any. One of the main things I loved about this book was that I frequently forgot I was actually reading a non-fiction novel. She doesn’t tire you out with all the boring stuff of everyday life she gets right down to the nitty gritty and with the ridiculousness of some of the situations Jamie finds herself in, it could easily be mistaken for fiction! I’ve never wrote a review of a book like this before so I’m not sure what’s appropriate and what’s not but Jamie, how did you manage to attract so many weirdo’s?! I found this book very interesting, especially learning about how different things are in New Zealand and America to over here in England, where I live. Jamie has lead a very different life and it was fascinating to read about. Although it was probably extremely frustrating for Jamie, I found it very amusing when she talked about how the people in New Zealand couldn’t understand her and the fact they use different words over there for example, calling ‘garbage’, ‘rubbish’ like we do here in the UK.
Despite all the ridiculous things that happened to her, I think Jamie was very brave for packing her bags and moving to another country alone. I would love to travel and see the world and find out what it’s like to live in another country with a different culture to the one I am used to and I found it quite inspirational that Jamie did exactly that and wasn’t afraid to admit that it wasn’t the adventure she had hoped it would be. Her trip to New Zealand was no where near perfect and she doesn’t at any point pretend it was – which I liked. She tells the truth which I think makes this book such an easy, hilarious and enjoyable read.
1) Hi Jamie! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today. I absolutely loved ‘Getting Rooted in New Zealand’. Can you tell us from your own point of view what it’s about and what we can expect?
My book is a true story. I had good, bad and weird experiences while living abroad in New Zealand. My life has been so strange it sounds like fiction, but it is really too weird to be made up. As a reader, you can expect to laugh out loud while you read Getting Rooted in New Zealand.
2) Was a book always on the cards?
No, I consider myself an accidental author. Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish.
To write my book Getting Rooted In New Zealand, I relied upon my personal journals, e-mails, and memories. Publishing my book was my way of transforming poison into medicine. I hope that it can help people that have had bad dating experiences or bad work experiences – make them laugh and not give up hope.
3) How did it feel reading back your life in New Zealand?
It made me dreadfully nostalgic and homesick for New Zealand. I organized the stories in February – summer in New Zealand winter in the UK. It was the longest winter of my life in England; I was ready to get on the next plane to Auckland.
3) Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
Yes, I plan to publish another book next year about attempting to settle in Scotland.
4) Who are some of your favourite authors?
I love Tama Janowitz, Edward Canfor-Dumas, Tom Robbins and Elizabeth Gilbert.
5) In your book you mention that you wanted to go back to school and study graphic design. Is that still something you’d like to do?
I’ve just completed a MA in Design. Designing, publishing and marketing my book was my dissertation project.
6) Did you self-publish your book? And what made you decide to do so?
Because my book was my dissertation project I had to do everything within a couple of months. Self-publishing was the fastest way to publish within the very limited time scale I had
Self-publishing is one person taking on all of the responsibilities typically held by teams of people in traditional publishing companies. It has been a steep learning curve.
7) Do you still keep in touch with any of the people you met in New Zealand?
I do keep in touch with most of the people I met in New Zealand. Some of my dearest friends in the world are in New Zealand. Although it is technically not home to me or my Scottish husband, it feels like home to us as a couple because that is where we met. We have been feeling homesick for New Zealand and really miss our friends there.
8) Was your husband supportive when you decided to turn your life in New Zealand into a book? Considering he has quite a big part in it?
My writing was one of the things that initially attracted my husband to me when we first met. He has been very supportive and encouraging of me publishing. I tried my best to respect his privacy during the process and he vetoed a few stories about him from the book that made him blush.
9) What tips/advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Be yourself and find a good editor.
10) One last thing, did you find a nice castle to get married in in the end?
We did! We got married in a little castle in Scotland at the beginning of year 2012. My husband wore a kilt. I was hoping for a white winter wedding, but we ended up getting sunshine in Scotland during the winter. It was a magical day; we had a rainbow over a loch, bunny rabbits hoping by us, birds chirping and a full moon reflecting on the loch at night.
Jamie Baywood grew up in Petaluma, California. In 2010, she made the most impulsive decision of her life by moving to New Zealand. Getting Rooted in New Zealand is her first book about her experiences living there. Jamie is now married and living happily ever after in the United Kingdom. She is working on
her second book.