The Blurb

Life and love lessons as told by sassy narrator Lillian as she looks back in this brilliantly written, bold debut.

Lillian, a single, well-travelled woman of a certain age, wakes up next to her married lover and looks back at her life. It’s not at all the life she expected.

Walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern options for women, Lillian has grappled with parental disappointment, society’s expectations and the vagaries of love and sex. As a narrator she’s bold and witty, and her reflections – from ‘On Getting to Sex’ to ‘On the Importance of Big Pockets’ or ‘On Leaving in Order to Stay’ – reverberate originally and unpredictably.

In Lillian on Life, Alison Jean Lester has created a brutally honest portrait of a woman living through the post-war decades of change in Munich, Paris, London and New York. Her story resonates with the glamour and energy of those cities. Smart, poignant, funny in the vein of The Best of Everything while being wholly original, Lillian on Life is as fresh and surprising as fiction gets.

The Review

Lillian on Life tells the story of a young woman’s life as she grows through to middle age. We get a glimpse into Lillian’s world in a very frank yet romantic way. We see the growth of young lady to woman through her travel and sexual awakening and exploits.

I liked Lillian on Life, it was written in a strangely companionable style, like you were sharing a night of secrets and girl chat with an old friend. It felt at once both familiar and surprising and kept me reading on to find out all the fascinating things that Lillian had done in her life. Lester has created a likeable heroine and an enjoyable story.

What is really clever about the way in which Lillian on Life has been written is that it could quite easily translate to stage or screen. It has an interesting historical quality along with modern themes and the birth of the modern woman. If cast correctly (i.e. get Jane Seymour to play Lillian) then it could be wonderfully adapted.

Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester is available now.

Lillian on Life

I recently read a short book by Jill Mansell in which she waxed lyrical about all the things that she loves. Mansell went through an alphabetical list of all the things that made her happy and it has inspired me to write my own list. Why you may ask? Well because we all focus on the bad things in life and I plan to celebrate the good things.

Here we go.

A is for Ambition

I have ambitions to be a writer, not only a book blogger although I do love doing that, but I want to write a novel. I figure that the more I say it out loud and the more people that I tell then the more motivation I will have to do it. So yes, that is why A I for ambition. I think we should all have a goal to aim towards because otherwise we are not living, we are just existing.

B is for Books

This is an easy one for me. I love books, I love reading. I rarely leave the house without a book – sometimes returning home with more than I left with. It is much to the annoyance of people around me because I have no more room for them. I am trying to read as much as I can and blog about my love of books and do reviews of them.

Let me just say what I want to say and that is that books are awesome and if you don’t agree well then you are strange. It is the tangible feel of the books and the smell of the books and the weird euphoria that you get from buying them.

C is for Chocolate

I have a few bad habits – mainly buying books. However, my one Achilles heel has to be chocolate. I don’t really eat much (my medication is a hunger suppressant) and I don’t smoke or drink alcohol but I cannot resist chocolate…or cake for that matter – now if it is chocolate cake then I am screwed!

In life we deny ourselves too many things either through diet, lack of money or whatever reason but I will very rarely say no to chocolate…or cake.

D is for Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing is one of the greatest films ever made. Fact! No one – not even the boyfriend – will convince me otherwise.

When I was little my older sister and older cousin would pretend that we were the characters from the film. Naturally, we all wanted to be Baby but since my sister was blonde and had a perm she got to be her; my cousin had black hair so she was baby’s sister and me with my red hair…well I had to be the mum.

Incidentally, in my child like mind I was convinced that I was going to marry Patrick Swayze based on the fact that in real life his wife was called Lisa and that was my name. A flawless argument I am sure you will agree.

As an adult I have realised just how sexy that film is. Seriously, if there are any dudes reading and you are wondering how to make your lady feel amorous then plan a romantic night in watching Dirty Dancing.

Also, as I have gotten older, I have learnt to stand up for myself and say “I carried a frigging watermelon and no one puts the Bentley in the corner.”

Not only is it one of the greatest film but it also has one of the greatest soundtracks.

I will forever love this movie

E is for Education

In my whole entire family – both my mum’s and dad’s side – I was the first ever person to earn a degree. In university I read English Literature and Cultural History joint honour with Media and Cultural Studies. I left Liverpool John Moores University with a 2:1 degree with honours.

I loved every moment of university and whilst I didn’t have the traditional university experience of living in the halls of residence or going out nearly every night (I went out twice in the whole time I was in university) I would do it all again. In fact, if I had infinite funds I would just keep going back to university and learning things. I love learning.

So if anyone wants to send me to university and pay for my education (this time I would study creative writing) and be my mentor then please get I touch.

F is for Family

This is probably a pretty cheesy one but I love my family. We have always been close but when I got sick last year we pulled together so much more. Especially my sister and I. She is a legend and I love her to bits.

G is for Gigs

Live music is one of my passions. It is probably my greatest passion although I don’t get to indulge in it as much as I used to. There is nothing like that frisson on excitement as a band that you love are getting ready to take to the stage. That feeling that for 40 minutes you are going to be lost in a world of guitar riffs and twisted lyrics. It is an incomparable feeling.

At the height of my music obsession I saw approximately 127 bands in a year. That was a good year.

H is for Hotels

My boyfriend and I live 240 miles away from each other (yep, we do the long distance thing) so when we do meet up then we tend to stay in hotels which is quite nice. It is like having a mini holiday. So we have stayed in a good selection of hotels all of which will have something that makes it special. One of the Hilton’s we have stayed in had a beautiful mezzanine whilst another Hilton hotel had an amazing Steak House restaurant nearby. However, the loveliest hotel we have stayed in was probably The Grande in Brighton. It had a gorgeous staircase. Our room had wine and chocolates in it and the staff were amazing.

Obviously, my boyfriend and I do not get to see each other as often as we would like (well asa often as I would like, I would hope he would feel the same) so it is nice to spend time in somewhere luxuriant when we are together. Saying that, if he said that he wanted to stay in a hostel or a YMCA then I would because I care more about spending time with the boyfriend than were we are.

I is for iPod

In 2005, I used a portion of my student loan to pay for a new iPod. I already had one that held 5000 songs but I am afraid that just wasn’t enough space. So I purchase the 80gb one. I filled it with songs and then life evolves and I got and iPhone and admittedly I put my sad little iPod down and forgot about it.

I was sorting my room out one day and I came across my iPod and decided I was going to go through all the songs on it and get rid of the songs that I don’t really want. This was two years ago. I am only up to the letter N. It is gonna take a while. However, I am over the hump.

J is for Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is my favourite book. It is a book I have read several times, either for pleasure or as part of my education and each time I read it I remember just how much I love it.

It is strangely comforting to have a book that you can return to time after time whenever you feel you need to. It is like the open arms of a good friend. I do plan and reading all of the work by the Bronte sisters, however, I have only read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I definitely need to catch up on my classics.

K is for Kittens

As a child, all I ever wanted was a kitten; despite my relentless begging I never won the battle against my parents. I was allowed to have goldfish (boring) and hamsters (more entertaining but still not a kitten).

My first ever pet – the goldfish – led to me procuring my pornstar name – Tip Top Harris. They were named Tip and Top because we used to call ice pops tip tops and I liked tip tops.

My hamsters had equally random names. The first one was called PJ and Duncan AKA Ant and Dec “insert the name of every song they ever sang” Bentley and the second one was called Crawl Buddy Bentley. I was a strange child I know.

L is for Liverpool and London

Ok this is a bit of a cheat. I am from Liverpool and it is one of the greatest cities in the world. I know I am biased in saying this but believe me, take a trip here and you will fall in love with this place.

One of my second favourite cities has to be London. Besides being the place that me and the boyfriend tend to meet up I think it has so much to offer. Whilst I have an ambition to write a novel I would also like to work within the publishing industry and the majority of publishing houses are based there. I can see myself strolling down the South Bank with a cup of tea on my way to work. The more time that I spend in London, the more and more I fall in love with this magical city.

M is for Matt Phil Carver

This is a massive plug. Matt Phil Carver is an amazing freelance writer. You can see a sample of his work – or just his general musings about life – over on his website www.mattphilcarver.com. Seriously, this guy can turn his hand to anything. Make sure you check him out.

N is for November Rain

I think one of the greatest songs is November Rain by Guns ‘n’ Roses. They did a live version which lasts about 12 and a half minutes and it really chills me out. If I can’t fall asleep I listen to it a few times and it seems to get me ready for sleep. I got to see Guns ‘n’ Roses (or a strange facsimile of them) a few years ago at Leeds and if I am honest it was just sad. I would have loved to see them in their glory days.

The video for November Rain is epic. As a child I had convinced myself that I wanted the wedding dress the girl wore. Looking back now the dress is incredibly tacky. I also love the guitar solo by Slash. It is amazing how he got his electric guitar to work in the desert with no amps or anything.

O is for October

I love October. The world turns orange and the leaves on the floor haven’t turned soggy yet so there is that delightful crunch underfoot. It is not too cold and it’s not too warm. It is the perfect time of year.

P is for Paris

I have already mentioned two of the cities that I love but another of them has to be Paris. I am a true Francophile. I love anything and everything to do with Paris and France. I can speak the language – not well, but better than I can speak other languages. I just love the place.

I have been to Paris three times and what I love about it is that you can be looking at ridiculously modern architecture and then turn down a road and be walking on cobbles and feeling like you have been transported back in time. It is beautiful.

Paris also appeals to my romantic nature. I do try and keep this in check but just the thought of Paris brings out my truly girly side. I would love just to sit outside a café in Montmarte with a cup of chocolat chaud and a pain au chocolat whilst I wear a big red hat and write postcards to people back at home. Oooh or spend hours looking at the shelves to find a hidden gem in Shakespeare and Co.

There is so much that I still have yet to do in Paris.

J’adore Paris!

Q is for Quotes

I love a good quote and I think it is amazing when you can find a quote that says exactly what you are thinking. My favourite quote is this:

‘If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.’ – Alfred Tennyson

R is for Ramones and Ronettes

I love music, this we have previously discussed but I felt like I should mention a small (and I mean miniscule) selection of bands that I love. These include Ramones and Ronettes. Two bands at the opposite ends of the music spectrum but it just shows you the range of my music tastes. From punk to sixties girl groups, I love it all.

S is for Singing

My background is in performance art. As a child all I wanted to do was be on stage singing and acting and dancing. Unfortunately, after studying musical theatre as a BTec when I was sixteen I lost my love for it. I realised that whilst I enjoyed being on stage and performing I absolutely hated all of the bitchery that surrounded it. Nothing is as cruel as school children. It didn’t help that I was the overweight ginger kid – at one point I was picked to play the big fat woman that no one wanted to bump with…harsh. So after college I didn’t carry on with performing.

Besides a brief stint in a choir in the school that I work in my performing career was never rekindled well that was until I joined Liverpool Show Choir. I decided that I needed to socialise more and because there is a weird feeling of happiness that you get from singing I decided to join the choir. It was bloody boss! I performed on stage doing songs from Sister Act and I got to perform on stage with Brian May and musical theatre star Kerry Ellis.

Unfortunately I had to stop when I got sick but I will go back one day. If you are ever feeling pants then I challenge you to turn your music on full whack and sing your socks off. You will feel amazing, I promise you.

T is for Trains

So at the risk of sounding just a little bit nerdy I like trains. Not in a standing-on-a-platform-marking-down-the-train-numbers way but in a train travel way. My reason for this is a little bit strange. Basically, I have a chronic illness called Ulcerative Colitis which means that my large intestines don’t work as well as they should and it affects my bowels. This is never really a problem but when I am in a car, if we hit traffic I freak out because there are no bathrooms around in case I have a flare up. Somewhat ironically stress can cause a flare up – as you can see this is a vicious cycle.

However, on a train I have quick easy access to the bathrooms should I have a flare up and even if the train had to stop for any reason (like a train traffic jam?) there are still bathrooms there.

I do have a major bug bear with train travel though and that is that it doesn’t have a discount pass for me to take advantage of. Since I am not a pensioner or a parent or a full time student I don’t get discount. As a frequent traveller I think that Virgin Trains should offer something for that forgotten group of train travellers. Do you hear that, Branson?

U is for Unicorns

I believe that they exist. End of!

You can actually buy a bouquet of unicorns which is amazing.

Some the unicorn related things that I own include: a unicorn colouring in book, a unicorn cup and a unicorn onesie.

V is for Voting

I don’t know a lot about politics and I would never claim to however, I love that I have the right to vote. I love the history of the Suffragettes and how they fought and also died for me to have that right. I would never waste my vote for that very reason

W is for Words

I know this sounds like a weird one but I think words are brilliant. I don’t really have much else to say besides this. But yes, words are boss.

X is for Xmas

Bit of a cheat but hey, you try and find something that begins with an X – although I suppose xylophone players would be ok with this one. Anywho, I love Christmas. I love that it is a time of year that is chock full of tradition whether that is specific decorations that are put on the tree or the fresh bedding and new pyjamas on Christmas Eve. Anyone who doesn’t like Christmas really just needs to find the Christmas spirit!

Y is for YouTube

I spend far too much time watching videos on YouTube. Usually of animals doing hilarious things (there is one with goats singing along to popular songs which you should all check out) or of songs that I don’t have immediate access to. Isn’t it wonderful though to have this plethora of videos at your fingertips? It is amazing. I love it.

Z is for ZZZZZZZ

Bit of a cheat I know but one of my favourite things in the world is sleeping. I love it and I am a very mardy person if I don’t get enough sleep. It is even worse if I am tired and hungry. If you ever come across me when I am feeling tired and hungry then take shelter because you won’t like the person I will become.

The Blurb

From the bestselling author of If I Stay – this summer’s YA blockbuster film.

This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend’s shocking suicide.

As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her own relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.

A Phenomenally moving story, I Was Here explores the sadly all-too-familiar issue of suicide and self-harm, addressing it with sensitivity, gentility and honesty.

The Review

In the past month I have read three young adult books which centre on the topic of teen suicide. This contentious issue seems to be (somewhat worryingly) en vogue. As worrying as it is that books for young adults are focussing on such dark subject we have to also be thankful for them. With any book, a reader will feel a sense of escapism and whether or not the subject of the book is happy or sad the reader will learn about the consequences of a person’s actions. Therefore, we have to be thankful to the likes of Gayle Forman who, in this instance, writes about the impact that suicide can have to those you leave behind.

In I Was Here, Forman explores the dangers that the internet can provide for those who are contemplating killing themselves. How a person can learn tips on how to end your life and support from others who encourage you to take the next step or “catch the bus.”

However, what is more powerful is the sheer devastation that the character Meg leaves behind, in particular with her best friend Cody. She feels anger, rage, grief, guilt and sadness – a thesaurus of emotions that she cannot begin to fathom. In the end she tries to search for an answer, for someone to blame.

Out of the three ‘suicide stories’ that I have read recently, I believe that I Was Here is the most powerful. The sense of loss and all the emotions that come after losing someone really make this story resonate. I would implore anyone to read it.

Gayle Forman brings a unique and inspiring voice to YA fiction.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman is available now.

You can follow Gayle Forman (@gayleforman) on Twitter.

I was here

Hello lovely blog readers,

So it is another week and another weekly TBR pile blog post only I technically didn’t get through the last list therefore I am continuing to work my way through that. I am currently reading Lillian on Life but I have the following books from that same list left to read. I am going to intersperse the personal books with some review books. My new list goes:

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman (I am determined to read this one, I am being selfish and reading a non review book for a change)

Alice and the Fly by James Rice

The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

McBusted by Jennifer Parker

My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me by Hilary Winston

Love Hurts by Malorie Blackman

Standing Room Only by Eva Rice

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

The Two of Us by Andy Jones

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I have to say a big massive thank you to Liam from Bookish Ramblings who sent me this book for entering and winning a competition he hosted.)

February is a rather short month, however, I will have a week off due to half term (score) so I shall get some good bookage down time.

Also, another awesome thing that happened is that mine and Claire from A Book and Tea’s tickets for the UKYA Extravaganza arrived this week. Curiously, they arrived in the post without a stamp on the envelope…curiouser and curiouser.

Anywho, make sure you check out my A to Z of happiness that will be posted on Wednesday.

I hope you all have a great week.

L x

Title: Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness

Author: Jill Mansell

Pages: 46 pages

The Blurb

In this delightful ebook, Jill Mansell gives readers an exclusive glimpse of her life as a writer. In Jill’s world there’s a bear (not a real one), lit up by fairy lights, with zillions of happy endings buzzing around, eating Chinese takeaway for breakfast, getting up late and tweeting A LOT. Oh, and there’s been an explosion in the glitter factory!

Recommended for all withdrawal symptoms from The Unpredictable Consequences of Love, and anticipation disorder for Three Amazing Things About You.

Includes A-Z of Happiness, A Day in the Life of an Easily Distracted Writer, Author Q&A- and the opening chapters of Three Amazing Things About You.

Not a novel – but a little happiness fix.

The Review

I’ve only ever read one of Jill Mansell’s books. It was called Rumour Has It and I remember reading it on a train coming home from my grandad’s house – the journey from Eastbourne to Liverpool is a long one. This may seem insignificant to you but I know a good book if I can remember where I was when I was reading it. And although I have only ever read one of Jill Mansell’s novels I do have a collection of her books which take up plenty of room on my bookshelves ready to be read one day.

I needed to read a book for the #ShortStorySaturday segment on my blog so I chose to read Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness because let’s face it there is enough misery and dreariness in January so a book that guarantees happiness is already a winner in my eyes.

Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness happens not to be a short story (I was fooled) but a non-fiction book of things that make Jill Mansell happy – sort of like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin. And whilst it doesn’t quite fit the remit of ‘short story’ I am still going to include it here.

What I loved about this very little book (46 pages) is that it was utterly inspiring. I loved the section in which Jill Mansell describes her daily writing life and her Q and A was really entertaining. As an aspiring writer I enjoyed seeing how the other half (that being published writers) live.

Mansell’s A-Z of happiness has inspired a blog post (Wednesday, 4th February 2015) in which I will discuss my A-Z of happy things. It is so easy to slip into the moaning zone and grumbling about the bad things that go on daily. I choose the Jill Mansell way; I choose to find my happiness.

Jill Mansell’s A-Z of Happiness by Jill Mansell is available now.

You can follow Jill Mansell (@jillmansell) on Twitter.

Jill Mansell's A-Z of Happiness