Monday, 22 August 2016

5 fab books to cosy up with

This year I am doing the Goodreads Challenge. My challenge is to read 100 books in the year. So far, I have read 70 books and am ahead of target! 

I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you my 5 favourite reads out of the 70.

1. Me Before You – by Jojo Moyes

I was gutted when this book was finished. I loved reading it so much, I didn’t want the book to end. And yet I was desperate to find out what happened. I loved the chemistry between Lou and Will. I really wanted Lou to win her secret challenge. It was interesting that, in trying to change Will, actually it was Lou who needed the real changes in her life. I liked the twist that the author put on it. 

I especially enjoyed the chapter written from the point of view of Will’s mother. That piece gave me goose-bumps. Moyes has highlighted a very controversial subject (which I won’t disclose for spoiler reasons) - one that has been on the news a lot – and shown this argument from every viewpoint – in a very emotional and powerful way. 

It is a very sad and heart-wrenching book. One that makes me think; one cannot judge, unless one has been in that person’s shoes. 

2. The Lemon Grove – by Helen Walsh

Goodness me, this book was a bit scandalicious! 

It's about a woman who goes on holiday with her husband, her step-daughter, and her step-daughter's boyfriend. The woman then starts secretly having an affair with her step-daughter's 17 year old boyfriend! 

I am not normally a fan of ‘affair’ stories but this book was exceptionally well written. The description of the scenery, the detail - it was so beautifully portrayed. And I don't think we're expected to like the characters - I think we're just supposed to be quietly horrified, as though watching through fingers - scared to see what's going to happen next, yet dying to find out what's going to happen. 

I did have to suspend disbelief however about the sexual prowess of a 17 year old guy - I fail to believe that he could have been that experienced at that age. 
A great read, really glad I chanced upon this book. It reminds me a little of 'Bonjour Tristesse' because of the awkward relationship between the daughter and step-mother.

3. The Girl on the Train - by Paula Hawkins

Wow. What a fabulous book. I wish I was able to give 6 stars out of 5. Fantastic narrative voice. Chilling, intense, intimate. This is an account of an active alcoholic - deeply entrenched in her loneliness, regret and confusion. 

I listened to this on audio and I loved the three voices. I especially loved the voice of Megan. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. Gripping and thrilling. This is the first book in a long while where, the minute I heard 'the end', I pressed 'play again' to listen to it a second time.

4. Getting Rid of Matthew - by Jane Fallon 

Hilarious book. It amazes me how the author can make the main 
character so likable when clearly she's one of the most selfish characters I've ever read about. But it's hilarious none the less. The scrapes that she gets herself into, the lies that she tells, the web of deceit that she casts herself in - all this is clearly unrealistic and unbelievable, yet it works. A very funny tale indeed.

5. Dying to be Thin – by Nikki Graham

A gripping, honest and fascinating story of one girl's struggle with anorexia. 

I had heard that Nikki suffered from anorexia - but I really did not know the extent of how much she had suffered. Not until I read this book, that is.

I remember Nikki from Big Brother of course - the tiny little blonde girl with the massive screams and horrendous temper tantrums. But this book showed a completely different side to her. I am not normally a fan of ‘celeb true story’ books – but this one was an exception. 

Through this book, I heard a completely different voice - soft, honest, brutally honest, to the point of self-deprecating on many occasions. She really left no stone unturned. She was an extremely sick girl and she shared it all with us, the reader. 

As I say, I knew she had suffered from anorexia, but I did not know that her anorexia began at the age of seven, and that she spent practically her entire childhood in and out of hospitals and institutions (from the age of 8 until the age of 16). She even spent an entire 3 years residing in Great Ormond Street Hospital. Three years! And after the 3 years, the Head Consultant dealing with Eating Disorders at Great Ormond said to Nikki's parents - "Nikki is not the worst patient I have seen suffering from anorexia - she is BY FAR the worst patient". He told her parents that there was simply nothing more that the hospital could do for her. 

She had point blank refused any help whatsoever. Refusing to eat anything. Having those vicious temper tantrums we watched on BB. She had to be "tubed" in the end - a tube up her nose to feed her because she wouldn't let food enter her mouth. And then, she kept pulling the tubes out of her nose! A point in the book where I was literally cringing and finding it so hard to read because it sounded so painful. Then, when she had pulled out 6 tubes in a row, they had to give her a permanent tube - a gastronomy - a tube constantly inserted into her stomach. And even then, she tried to poke it out and pull the stitches off! She really was a very, very sick girl. 

The thing that I found upsetting about the story (and this in no way is a reflection of the book) - is the fact that the treatment sounded so dated. Why all this force-feeding? Why not get to the root of the cause? Surely eating disorders are more about the mind than the physical? Surely it's more about emotions/ thoughts/ coping skills than the actual food? Yet all these hospitals seemed to do was force feed her until she put on weight, discharge her, she'd lose the weight again, and then she was readmitted again. A vicious cycle. 

It seemed that Nikki really poured her heart and soul into this book - it's a long intriguing read and she really does give a very detailed account of what happened to her. At times I wanted to hug her like a little sister and protect her. At other times I was shocked at the way she treated her mother - throwing her plates of food at the wall. It made me think about how this is a family disease and I wondered how much the family can enable the sufferer? I'm pretty sure if I threw a plate at the wall, my mum and dad would not have stood for it! In saying that, I'm not blaming her mum - I just think her mum sounded so out of her depth and unable to cope. She really did sound like such a sweetheart. 

It was really interesting to hear all about the Big Brother stuff and I think that the TV show meant much more to Nikki in terms of her self-esteem than any fame or money. 

It has really made me sympathise with Nikki. I'm sure that anorexia is never something that really goes away. But I hope that she is managing to keep it at bay.