the-wrong-knickersTitle: The Wrong Knickers – A Decade of Chaos

Author: Bryony Gordon

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Headline Review

The Blurb

Bryony Gordon survived her adolescence by dreaming about the life she’d have in her twenties: the perfect job; the lovely flat; the amazing boyfriend. The reality was something of a shock. Her Telegraphcolumn was a diary of her daily screw-ups; she lived in a series of squalid shoe boxes; and her most meaningful relationship of the entire decade was with a Marlboro Light.

Here in the Sunday Times bestselling THE WRONG KNICKERS Bryony busts open the glamorized myth of what it means to be a young (perpetually) single girl about London town, and shares the horrible and hilarious truth. The truth about picking up a colleague at the STI clinic; sinking into debt to fund a varied diet of wine, crisps and vodka; and how it feels when your dream man turns out to be a one night stand who hands you someone else’s knickers in the morning.

Bryony’s wonderfully ridiculous and ultimately redemptive story is essential reading for everyone whose ‘best years’ weren’t quite what they were expecting…

The Review

Margaret Mitchell has been quoted as saying that “life is under no obligation to give us what we expect.” And for Bryony Gordon this couldn’t be more apt; life hasn’t turned out the way she expected it to. She is in her twenties, her prime, the best years of her life and she is screwing it up royally. She is in debt, she is using drugs, she is drunk half the time (and hung over the other half) and you know what? She is having a bloody good time. The only problem is that she expected to be/have so much more by now. She hasn’t got her life together. She isn’t married; she doesn’t have the house and the 2.4 children or a comfortable amount of money in the bank and the years seem to be dwindling away as quickly as the bottles of wine she orders with her dinner.

For most, your twenties are for having fun, trying new things without the pressures of parents and education; with just the freedom of knowing you can do whatever it is you damn well want. This is a period of your life when essentially you are just a teenager with a credit card. And Bryony Gordon exemplifies that perfectly.

The Wrong Knickers is chock full of tales of sexual misadventure, recreational drug use and a total disregard for matters of health. As Gordon invites you into her twenties with unadulterated candour you feel like you are having a conversation with her and that she is confiding in you as only a close friend does. You become charmed by Gordon and her story becomes all the more relevant for two reasons. The first being because it is a true account of her life; secondly because it is far too easy to relate to the things she has done mainly because you have done half of them yourself.

As memoirs go, The Wrong Knickers has to be one of my favourites. I laughed out loud many a time and quite alarmingly recognised myself in Gordon at too many junctures in the book. What Gordon manages to do, in her own self-effacing way, is make the reader feel normal; whether that reader is currently in their twenties and feeling completely lost or if they are older and have managed to get past that feeling of utter hopelessness. Maybe they are reading from a standpoint of having their life together and are fondly looking back on all the mistakes and mishaps they made to get them there. Essentially what this book does is it allows us to realise that mistakes are a part of life, a part of our own story and every one of them has lead us to where we are today. For that, I thank you Bryony Gordon.

Follow Bryony Gordon (@bryony_gordon) on Twitter.

For more titles from Headline Review (@headlinepg) please visit the official website www.headline.co.uk.

4 Stars

 

The Lemon GroveTitle: The Lemon Grove

Author: Helen Walsh

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Tinder Press

The Blurb

Sun. Desire. Obsession. An explosive, intelligent novel from the prize-winning author of Brass.

One hot summer. One week in a villa on the outskirts of Deia, a village nestling in the rugged, mountainous west coast of the island of Mallorca. One family for whom the carefully laid jigsaw of life is about to be broken.

Jenn and her husband Greg holiday each year in Deia, enjoying languorous afternoons by the pool. But this year the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of Emma, Jenn’s stepdaughter, and her boyfriend Nathan. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by the notion of Nathan’s youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that put lives and relationships in jeopardy, and a taut narrative which percolates with enough sexual tension to make it impossible to put down.

Sultry, spare and brilliantly paced, THE LEMON GROVE is a meditation on female desire, the variations of marriage, and the politics of raising other people’s children. It is the work of a writer acutely alive to the complex workings of the human heart.

The Review

Jenn is stuck in a rut. Problem is she doesn’t know she is stuck in this rut until something comes along to make her reassess her life. That something is Nathan. Set in Deia, Mallorca, a family holiday becomes a bit of a nightmare for Jenn as she develops a crush on Nathan and tries to battle her burgeoning feelings.

The idyllic background is cleverly juxtaposed with the ongoing inner turmoil of protagonist Jenn, who seems completely disaffected with her seemingly perfect life. She has a loving husband, a stepdaughter she has raised as her own yet we see little nuances throughout the narrative which suggest the sparkling exterior hides deeper secrets. Jenn wants a child of her own but fears the window of opportunity has closed. She wants to be able to discipline or make decisions regarding her petulant stepdaughter, Emma, without having her decisions overridden by her husband; indeed she wants a consistent and healthy relationship with Emma; all of the things that she lacks.

However, rather than stating what she wants she acts out. She jeopardises her marriage and her relationship with Emma. Most importantly she develops inappropriate feelings for Emma’s 17 year old boyfriend, Nathan.

The Lemon Grove is an impressive look at the boredom and disaffected feelings one can develop when reaching middle age. You feel Jenn is unimpressed with her station in life; she feels she hasn’t achieved anything of worth. The bitter taste of lemons is almost symbolic to the bitterness that she feels towards her life.

Initially I was weary of reading this book. The protagonist and the storyline seemed so far away from my own life I worried I wouldn’t enjoy it or feel anything for it. However, this is the kind of story that sucks you in. You can’t help but empathise with Jenn, who essentially becomes the villain of the piece, and the sumptuous description of the villa just transports you so seamlessly that you feel like you are there with this family.

If you are looking for a story that you can forget about once it is over, then I am afraid this one isn’t for you. This is the story that will stick in your mind long after you have turned the final page.

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh is available for purchase now.

Visit Helen Walsh’s official website www.helen-walsh.co.uk for more information.

For more title from Tinder Press (@TinderPress) please visit the official website www.tinderpress.co.uk.

4 Stars

 

Denial

I sat there idly dunking my Bourbon biscuit in my morning cuppa I was, momentarily, distracted by a news feature on Good Morning Britain – of which I can no longer remember. My lack of concentration was the cause of what happened next; three quarters of the biscuit fell into the sea of tea. Being held in the hot water for too long had evidently compromised the molecular integrity of the classic Bourbon.

This couldn’t be happening. It was the first biscuit. I hadn’t even tasted the tea. Now the level of liquid in my cup had risen due to the added mass of biscuit which was slowly disintegrating, laughing at me, as it drifted to the bottom of the cup. Why don’t biscuits float? It is one of the cruel realities of life. I stared at the bubbles popping up to the top as my hopes and biscuit dreams sunk seamlessly to the bottom.

Not on my watch. Oh no! I thought to myself “I will retrieve this cup of tea. I will not be defeated by a biscuit.”

Anger

In my moments of denial I failed to remember that tea, my friend, is a drink best served scorching hot. I also failed to take notice of the fact that we, as humans do not like to be burned. No, these things did not bother me as I plunged my index finger and thumb into my Moonpig picture mug (a gift from my lovely boyfiend) yet the kamikaze actions of my digits soon woke the neurons in my brain that are usually used for making logic decisions – of which this was not. A barrage of curses left my mouth (none of which I will repeat here) as my hand turned from white to pink to, eventually, an angry red.

Bargaining

Getting a spoon would be no use. By the time I had ran to the kitchen and back again the remaining biscuit would be too mushy to retrieve. I was going to have to persevere with my tea. I prayed to every available power source that my tea wouldn’t be tainted too much. That it may maintain some of that perfection that can only be found with a triangle T-Bag infused with PG Tips magic. However, the rising brown ring forming where the tea meets the cup was not looking too promising.

Depression

I tentatively lifted the cup, inspecting the aforementioned ring. I sniffed. It smelt like chocolate. I tasted. It tasted like chocolate. This normally wouldn’t be a problem. I love chocolate. It is one of my few vices. But I hate, with the passion of a thousand suns, hot chocolate. My tea, my oh so yummy tea, now tasted like death. Woe is the cup of tea. Woe is the biscuit.

Acceptance

There was only one thing for it. Rather than sitting in my miasma of depression, holding on to my tainted tea, I opted to accept this modern day tragedy and made myself a new cup. This time I kept a closer eye on my biscuits.

You're The One That I WantTitle: You’re the One That I Want

Author: Giovanna Fletcher

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Penguin

The Blurb

A new novel from the author of Billy and Me about love and the unbreakable bonds of friendship.

Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob – the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben – best man and the best friend any two people ever had.

And that’s the problem.

Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?

Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it…

(Amazon)

The Review

What would you do if you were engaged to be married to one guy but part of your heart belonged to another? What would you do if that other person was your husband-to-be’s best friend? This is the dilemma that Maddy faces.

An initial reaction to the above questions would be to dislike Maddy, to fancy her to be a bit of a flighty girl who frivolously toys with people’s emotions; however, you would be wrong. Things are never that simple. They are complicated further by the fact that Maddy, fiancé Rob and best man Ben have all been best friends since primary school. So not only is Maddy battling with her own conflicted feelings but she is trying desperately to not hurt the two men she loves the most.

You’re The One That I Want is the second novel from Giovanna Fletcher and it comes as no surprise that this girl has a talent for writing romance. Her debut novel Billy and Me was gut-wrenchingly romantic and heartbreaking in equal measure and Maddy’s story is no different. Told from a three person multi-perspective (although more heavily from Maddy and Ben’s point of view) the story offers insight into how two of the protagonists react to the obstacles and situations they are faced with. The use of multi-view was cleverly used; if it had all been told from Maddy’s perspective there is a chance that the character would have been less likeable, indeed not as easy to empathise with. The balance between the two justified the emotions and reactions of the characters. Because both Ben and Maddy tell their story so well the lines of what is right and wrong become blurred.

The one thing that Fletcher manages to do with disarming ease is to have you empathise with Maddy and feel equally conflicted. You understand implicitly why the biggest decision of her life is killing her and she makes you question the possibility of being in love with two people at once.

Who will Maddy choose in the end? Read the book to find out.

You’re The One That I Want was released 22nd May 2014 through Penguin

Follow Giovanna Fletcher (@MrsGiFletcher) on Twitter.

 

5 Stars

 

Ten weeks ago I nearly died. Have I got your attention? Good. Let’s go back to the beginning then.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in November 2012. I will b honest with you. I had never heard of UC, a cousin of mine has Crohns disease but I genuinely had no idea what UC was. I was initially medicated with Pentasa and things seemed to be getting better.

In February 2013 I developed a chest infection and subsequently had my first flare up. I was medicated with my first bout of Prednisolone steroids. They worked to an extent but it would get to one of the final weeks of medication and the flare up would come back. It was recommended by my IBD specialist nurse for me to start taking Azathioprine.

For those not in the know, Azathioprine is an immunosuppressant and it came with plenty of side effects and conditions.  I wouldn’t be allowed to spend prolonged periods in the sun but since I am not a sun worshipper that really wasn’t a problem for me. The plus side of the medication is that I would not have any more flare ups, the bad side being that essentially I was introducing a toxin to my body and I would be more susceptible to catching any bugs going around.

I started taking the medication (along with my Pentasa) in the summer. Yet something wasn’t right. I was constantly tired – nothing unusual there for someone diagnosed with UC – I was coming home from work and falling asleep instantly, I was always feeling unwell and by the time October had come along I was having another flare up alongside another chest infection. I stopped doing things that I liked to do. I stopped going to choir, going out with friends became a tiresome chore. It wasn’t fun.

I informed my IBD nurse and was booked in to hospital to have a flexible sigmoidoscopy – it was arranged for two month later, the 23rd December. In those two months I continued to get worse. After the uncomfortable procedure (that lasted less than ten minutes) both I and the nurses could see how bad the flare up was. I asked if I could come off the Azathioprine. I was told that I couldn’t and instead it was increased by 50mg. I was also medicated again with Prednisolone but neither stopped the flare up. Two weeks later I was medicated with Pentasa suppositories. Eventually the bleeding stopped but I still felt sick most of the time.

On February 15th 2014 I woke up with two big red patches on my face. I had previously suffered with acne rosacea and just assumed that I was having a little flare up with that and treated it with the cream I normally used. However, by Monday my eyes had swollen and my skin was blistering and flaking. It did not look good. Concurrent to the flaky skin I also developed several mouth ulcers – these were not your regular ulcers, they were giant strips of ulcerated skin in my mouth that Bonjela wasn’t even touching. I had also developed a boil on my chin which every so often would weep. It did not look or smell very nice.

I went to my GP who prescribed me an antihistamine however it didn’t help and after a few days I was a back at the doctors. I was then prescribed a cream. I used it but again it didn’t work.

On the 24th of February I had an appointment at the hospital, a general check up, and I saw a doctor who I had never seen before. One who didn’t know my case history, one who was literally meeting me for the first time. I asked this doctor if I could please stop taking the Azathioprine because I have knew that my health had deteriorated since being on the medication. The doctor instantly slammed me down. She told me no, and that the medication was helping me. She didn’t want to listen to my reasons for the request or listen to all the illnesses that I had had since being medicated with it. She was, however, concerned about my skin. I left this appointment feeling very disappointed. I figured that I would wait until my next appointment, hopefully with a doctor or IBD nurse I had worked with before, to discuss my concerns.

I had another trip to my GP regarding my face infection. When I was called to his room he found me struggling for breath with a racing pulse. He asked me when my last blood test was. It had taken place the week before at the hospital. He looked up the results and found that I was severely anaemic. The hospital had failed to inform me. Just to check, my GP sent me to get another blood test and a chest x-ray.

Two days later I was back at my doctors. The results of the blood test had shown that my haemoglobin levels had dropped from 93 to 79 and that I needed a blood transfusion. I was medicated for my anaemia with iron and folic acid but I needed to contact my IBD nurse to be admitted into hospital.

My nurse informed me that they didn’t have any beds available until the next day on the gastro ward however, if I got any worse or my temperature increased I was to go to A&E.

Later that night I knew something was wrong. I took the advice of my nurse and went to hospital. They were informed that I was medicated with immunosuppressants and I was to be put in a separate room however after an initial triage assessment they saw that my temperature was at a dangerous level and that my heart rate was 150bpm. They were concerned I was going to have a heart attack and put me in resuscitation.

I was sent for another chest x-ray, had blood and blood cultures taken and a stool and urine sample before I was placed on the Medical Assessment Unit. Even though I was running a temperature I felt so cold. I was given a thin sheet to cover myself with and had a fan directed on me to try and bring my temperature down. I was also fitted with the first of my many saline drips. The hospital wanted to get the blood transfusion done as soon as possible but couldn’t because of my increased temperature.

It took nearly two days for the temperature to come down. It was brought down by me being wrapped up in ice cold, wet blankets and towels.  It was the most horrific thing I have ever been through.

However, even once the blood transfusion was done I still wasn’t getting any better. The boil on my chin had begun to grow and had become angry, red and crusty. A dermatologist was sent to see me about it. She prescribed a cream which was applied but by the following day my face had swollen. It was assumed that a bad tooth that I was due to have extracted caused this so I was sent to have that removed. This didn’t fix the problem.

I was medicated with various intravenous antibiotics. The doctors kept telling my family that they would see a difference in ten hours but I was continuing to get sicker. I was having regular ECG’s, blood cultures taken for all sorts – pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV – all of which I was sure I didn’t have.

I had to have a heart ultrasound and a CT scan. When they had the results of them they saw signs of an infection on my lungs. It was decided that I need to have a bronchoscopy. Before that though, dermatology had been back to see the development of my chin. Due to its increased size (which had previously been thought to be impetigo) the doctors wanted to take some scrapings and to cut away some skin on my chin to try and diagnose what the cause was. Within two days I had a piece of my chin cut away and biopsy pieces taken from my lungs.

I was now officially fed up.

On day 13 in the hospital I was finally diagnosed with having something called Sweets Syndrome. Sweets is a really rare condition that since its discovering in 1964 by Dr Robert Sweets has only had 40 registered cases. I am case number 41. I was then medicated appropriately and besides my chin regrowth I haven’t had any real side effects. The reason I contracted it? Azathioprine. The medication that I knew was making me feel ill was in fact making me really ill.

Since leaving the hospital I have been treated by three specialists and I have been referred to a micro-surgeon. I may need surgery in the future but until my chin has fully grown back there is not much else we can do.

I still get quite shaky when I exert myself physically which some days can be as much as going to the supermarket and I did have a few weepy days when I first was discharged from the hospital but altogether I am just happy to be on the mend. The hospital staff were amazing and I have never seen people work so tirelessly to try and help someone get better. I have been back to thank them since.

I have also been told since by my main specialist and by the nurses on the ward that they did not think I would be leaving the hospital alive. They had never seen Sweets before and therefore everything they were trying was failing. Thankfully though, through their efforts I am here to tell you my IBD story.

My advice to anyone suffering with IBD in any form – you know your own body, the doctors, as brilliant as they can be only see you for a short amount of time. If you have any concerns, do not let the doctor fob you off. You know yourself better than they do. Be vigilant.

Happy Crohns and Colitis Day