The Blurb

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

‘I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.’

The Review

Some books are read for fun, some for education, some of them are read for escapism but then a book like Reasons to Stay Alive comes along and it falls into that elusive category – books you NEED to read. There are people that would question as to why they need to read a memoir. My answer to this is because Reasons to Stay Alive is so much more than a memoir of a person but it is an insight into one of the scariest most heartbreaking illnesses that there is – mental illness.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert on mental illness but I can only go with my own experiences – both as a spectator and (at times) sufferer of panic attacks to know how harrowing it can be. Matt Haig has opened the door to anyone who has no personal knowledge of this chronic condition.

In my own personal case I can justify my panic attacks; mine are down to suffering from Ulcerative Colitis. My IBD closes me off somewhat. Long journeys, walking to the local shops that are literally three minutes away – in fact, travel in general causes a stir in me that I find difficult to control. Going out is like a military operation. Routes are planned ahead with maximum places to stop in mind should my IBD play up. It probably won’t but that doesn’t stop the slow crawl of panic. The reason I am telling you this is because in Haig’s book he wrote my experience. Not something about me but his experience is exactly what I go through on a daily basis. It was eye opening and I felt – for want of a better word – ‘normal.’

The difference between Haig and I is that I know when my brain closes off and I can’t find that ceiling to the panic. Haig, it seems, does not have that luxury. That he deals with mental health issues on such a vast scale (everyday, no less) makes him a superhero in my eyes. Equally, I am eternally grateful to him for writing a book that, without a shadow of a doubt, will help those who read it. It helped me.

Whilst Reasons to Stay Alive is a book about mental health disorders should be depressing it is somewhat ironic that it leaves you feeling upbeat and positive after reading it. Matt Haig, in his almost painful honesty, may have written the book of 2015.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig is available now.

Follow Matt Haig (@matthaig1) on Twitter.

Reasons to Stay Alive

The Blurb

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in the vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 – and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.

There is a reason why Stephen King is one of the bestselling writers in the world, ever. Described in the Guardian as ‘the most remarkable storyteller in modern American literature’, Stephen King writes books that draw you in and are impossible to put down.

The Review

I have wanted to read On Writing for a long time but the thought of picking it up terrified me. Not because Stephen King is a master of the horror genre; he undoubtedly is. It was actually the fear of what came next that made me scared to read it. As a wannabe fiction author I read a lot of books about how to write and a lot of them give practical advice – do this, don’t do that etc. However, what I found when reading On Writing was more than tick boxes of what I should do; I found inspiration. I managed to plot the novel that I would like to write from beginning to end and since then I have been feeling like I have reached a creative boom. Now, I am not completely giving Stephen King credit for this, it was my idea after all, but I cannot denounce his efforts.

I didn’t really know what to expect with On Writing. I didn’t read the subheading about it being a memoir and if I had I guess what I read wouldn’t have come as much of a shock. It is a fascinating read. If it was a fictional story it is about a man who perseveres until he gets to fulfil his dream of being a writer and that is always going to be inspiring. King’s wit, wisdom and experience drip off the pages and you feel compelled to keep reading. This is by far the best (and ok, the only) writing manual/memoir that I have ever read.

Whilst the advice about writing wasn’t the typical or formulaic type that you would find in other manuals it did serve (for me anyway) as a starting off point – I probably wont remember the exact point ten books from now – in the moment, I found it to be rather useful.

It has to be said that the postscript was the best part of the book. King describes an experience of being knocked over by a bad driver with unmerciful detail that you feel like you have been knocked over yourself. His description of the event was phenomenal. Based on that reason alone, I highly recommend On Writing to anyone and everyone. There is a reason why Stephen King is a bestselling author.

On Writing by Stephen King is available now.

On Writing

Title: London Nights

Author: Lucy Lord

Pages: 34 Pages

The Blurb

A short story from the hilarious author of A Girl Called Summer – find out what Bella was up to before her Ibiza adventures!

Bella and Andy need to finish packing up their London life before their blow-out ‘Goodbye London’ party tonight. But with a screaming baby, missing moving men and some kitchen calamities, will they ever be ready on time??

A cracking short story that takes place just before the events of A Girl Called Summer.

The Review

In the third instalment of the A Girl Called Summer short story prequels we meet Bella and Andy; a young couple with a small child who are currently making the life changing move to Ibiza. However, the closer that they are getting to moving day the more stress seems to be piled upon them. Delivery people aren’t arriving to collect their final belongings, the air mattress that they are sleeping on is deflating and besides all this they have to organise, execute and attend their farewell do. It is all going on.

This is the third set of characters that we have met in this series and it is after reading London Nights that I feel I may have been a bit harsh on my review of the second in the series New York Nights. I felt in the last one that nothing seemed to happen. However, both of these books – whilst less octane than LA Nights – have provided a lot of exposition for A Girl Called Summer. So whilst the tales seem to be quite small they are in fact setting up the stories to come.

Let’s see what the next in the series – Ibiza Nights – delivers.

London Nights by Lucy Lord is available now.

Follow Lucy Lord (@LucyLord1) on Twitter.

London Nights

The Blurb

Dear Ava,

How do you start writing a letter to someone, six years after breaking their heart?

Ava is unlucky in love as well as in life. The new office bitch has landed the dating column Ava wanted, and she can’t remember the last time she had a second date. It’s a good thing she has best friends Max and Gwen to pick up the pieces.

Deep down, Ava knows the reason why one date never turns into two – she’s in love with someone else. Someone she’s never even met.

It all started six years ago, with a letter from a secret admirer, Mr Writer…but then they suddenly stopped and Ava was heartbroken.

Now the letters have started again and Ava knows it could mean winning back the dating column at work. This time she’s determined to unmask Mr Writer…and find out once and for all if he’s Mr Right or Mr Very Definitely Wrong!

A hilarious summer read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Mhairi McFarlane and Michele Gorman

The Review

I love a good love story. More than that, I love a good happy ending. Just the Way You Are by Lynsey James is a story that can make your heart sing and will leave you with a perma-smile attached to your face. This is exactly what Just the Way You Are does to you. It is an honest-to-goodness-will-they-won’t-they tale of love and I couldn’t put it down.

Admittedly I wanted to shake some sense into our protagonist Ava; she just couldn’t see the love that was right in front of her. Her whole life she has been tied up by a feeling of being unworthy, of feeling abandoned and let down by men. Worse than that though, she blames herself. So because of that she just cannot see when someone is offering her the world. We see this throughout the book and I have to admit that it made me so frustrated. Also, if I had as many dudes after me that Ava seemed to then I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed my 20s more (they were pretty great, to be fair).

In Max, Lynsey James gave us a hero that we can all fall in love with. Who wouldn’t love him? He is Ava’s best friend, the person she tells her adventures to, the one who wipes away the tears when life kicks her hard and the person she can count on the most. Yes he is the dream.

Author – Lynsey James – is a new writer on the romantic novelist block but she is one that should not (and will not) be ignored. This lady knows how to write a passionate page turner. I hope that she is writing her next one because I cannot wait to read it!

Just The Way You Are by Lynsey James is available now.

Follow Lynsey James (@Lynsey1991) on Twitter.

Just The Way You Are

The Blurb

Life’s great when you’re 29 years old with a gorgeous girlfriend and fulfilling job. Until you have to move back in with your mum . . . Dan and Gemma have found their dream first home, but the asking price is the stuff of nightmares. The only way they’ll ever save enough for the deposit is by moving in, rent-free, with Dan’s mum. It’s a desperate solution, but it’s only for six months. And Gemma’s determined to make it work, no matter how bad things get. But between Dan’s mum’s kitchen karaoke, her constant innuendos, irrepressible argumentative streak and – worst of all – her ham and pineapple curries, life back at home would test the patience of two saints. Which Dan and Gemma most definitely are not. Then, as they’re trying to convince themselves it will all be worth it, Gemma’s past comes back to haunt her. And suddenly the foundations of their entire relationship are shaken to their core…

The Review

Gemma and Dan have a great relationship but it is put to the test when they make the very grown up decision to buy a house. To save money, they move in with Dan’s mum Belinda and it is then in the claustrophobic environment that the cracks begin to show.

Along with the house being a massive money pit it also has awkward sellers and an estate agent who doesn’t seem to be on Gem and Dan’s side. To throw in further complications Gemma’s past catches up with her; thus making the already fraught situation seem worse.

The Love Shack is a story of love. It may sound cheesy but real love. Love that is complicated by reality, the things in life that you can’t always control and I think that is why it is so good. Jane Costello has created characters that you genuinely care about and wish you were friends with so you could give them the advice that you are so intently shouting at the book, hoping that they hear what you have to say…but you know, them being fictional makes it a tad hard to do.

Personally, there was another element of the book that I enjoyed greatly was the Liverpool setting. This probably won’t titillate everyone who reads it but being a girl who was born and raised (and who still resides) in Liverpool I loved that I was able to connect the dots and really visualise actual places and to see that Costello was true to their beauty (seriously, Liverpool has some fantastic architecture) throughout The Love Shack.

I really enjoyed The Love Shack. It was a fun and to some extent easy read that did deal with some gritty issues. I think that shows Costello’s skill as a writer. As this is the first of her book that I have read I can safely say that it won’t be my last. One thing is for sure, I am now genuinely terrified about ever buying a house.

The Love Shack by Jane Costello is available now.

Follow Jane Costello (@JaneCostello) on Twitter.

The Love Shack