Monday, 31 October 2016

Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2016!

I am thrilled and honoured to be one of the bloggers the gorgeous humans at Books Are My Bag reached out to for coverage on their first EVER Books Are My Bag Readers Awards – if you haven't already seen these, check 'em out and VOTE RIGHT HERE

I adore the whole Books Are My Bag movement. I've blogged about it all before – I did their Independent Bookshop Week blog tag and I got the family involved in doing a lovely 'Favourite Books' thing that week, too. 

Now, as a newly born bookseller, and a super keen one at that, I love that there's now a part I can play in my workplace for these guys. I can blow up the balloons and arrange them in the window of the shop. I can give out bookmarks, and promote the website as I do so. I can also provide customers with the unmistakable white and orange tote bags (and the special edition ones – see below!) to customers. I can also recommend the heck out of their awards shortlists, which I was fortunate enough to receive copies of.

Let's start with the bags before moving on to my many feels on the shortlists. Okay, so, the trademark orange and white bags are all well and good, but this year there are two other exciting options book lovers can get their hands on.
One features a Winnie The Pooh design, and the other has been made extra exquisite by Coralie Bickford-Smith, who wrote and designed the cover for 'The Fox and The Star', a huge seller in book stores everywhere last year (also Waterstones Book of the Year 2015, FYI).

The Readers Awards nominees are broken down into 5 shortlists to be voted for by the public, and then there's also a Readers Choice Award, which can be anything you wish, just type it in and submit!

The awards are sponsored by the babes at National Book Tokens, a company I have always been excitedly aware of but have become more familiar with recently through Stacey (who I've written with before at Pretty Books), who has absolutely outdone herself with publicity recently, like wow.

So, the categories are:
Fiction Award, Non-Fiction Award, Biography & Autobiography Award, Children's Award and Breakthrough Author. 
As mentioned earlier, I was lucky enough to be sent the complete shortlists for all these categories, and honestly I could talk about each of them all day long – and how actually the majority of them have been featured in my workplace as Books of the Month at some point, good work Waterstones! – but I am going to focus this post exclusively on the Children's nominees. I spend a lot of time in the children's and YA area of my bookshop and so I feel this is my category! 

So let's take a look at each of the shortlisted books, individually. Maybe a little note from me will help you when you go and vote

One, by Sarah Crossan.

Tippi and Grace are attached to each other. Literally, joined at the hip. They are conjoined twins. This book tells their story, through gorgeous poetry; how they start attending an actual school, find friends, and face the most ultimate of decisions. Together. 

I have written about this book before, and how it took me through an entire spectrum of emotion. 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness.

This book sits in pride of place – alongside 'One', actually – on our YA fiction table display at work.

Mikey is a regular guy. He isn't the Chosen One. No, really, he isn't. He just wants to graduate, go to prom, get with the girl he likes – all the normal stuff, y'know? Well, that proves difficult in a world that almost ends each week and must be saved by someone else constantly. 

Beetle Boy, by MG Leonard. 

We're moving into Middle Grade now! Yay! This beauty happens to be permanently faced-out in our 9-12 section at work...

This book is the beginning of a trilogy, and a perfectly unique one at that. Darkus Cuttle is striving to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his dad, in the Natural History Museum. Soon after moving in with an uncle, Darkus enlists the help of the beetles that have infested his cousins' house next door... 

The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt (illustrated by Oliver Jeffers).

This is the most ingenious and adorable picture book – I have totally bought it for a friend's son before. It's the perfect mixture of cuteness and intelligence.

It's a companion to the wildly successful 'The Day The Crayons Quit'. This time youngster Duncan discovers some crayons in dire need of rescuing.

The Bear and the Piano, by David Litchfield.

One day, a bear discovers an alien object in his woods. Slowly but surely, he teaches himself to play it. Then his talents are overheard by a man and his son, and soon he catapults into wild stardom!

I was astonished by this story. It touched me like y'all would not believe. I love any tale that focuses on dreams, and the concept of home. I weirdly completely identified with this bear. Legit, he could be me. I just can't play the piano...that's the only difference. 

The Detective Dog, by Julia Donaldson

Peter's dog named Nell, has a spectacular sense of smell!? That's right, this dog is a sniffing genius and could probably solve cases blindfolded. So when a local school's books are all stolen, who better to track down the culprit?

Oh, Julia. Darling. I see your name almost every day as I rearrange the messy children's picture books section at work. You have your own bay of shelves! I adore your work, I really do. So my expectations were high when I first opened this book – and they were not disappointed.

I couldn't possibly say which book I am backing for the Children's Fiction wait I can, ALL OF THEM! 

Okay, that's me done. For now. You can bet I'll be tweeting about this no end, and will hopefully post about the winners when they are revealed!

Readers, you must also check out my lovely pal George Lester's video about the BAMB Awards – his un-boxing of the delivery got me so excited even though I'd already un-boxed my own! 

**AND he has now uploaded a vid with mini-reviews of each book!**

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Just Some Things #6 ; Louise Jones.

This is the latest instalment in my feature Just Some Things!
In case you don't know, here's how it works...
I send a writer an individual email with prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book, and when I get the responses, I dedicate a post to them and their piece. It could be short, long, backwards, in another language, I don't mind. It'll be an adventure whatever happens! And they can use or ignore however many of the prompts they wish. 

When published on the blog, their piece will be put in first and then I'll add in a little piece beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers.

This post celebrates Louise Jones; this gal writes brilliantly about mental health, runs with royalty and works in editorial for The Mix.

Her prompt was: What's the one thing you cannot let go of?

'I can never let go of the deep-rooted anxiety that sits at the bottom of every organ, muscle, and bone in my body. It’s there like its own beating heart, the lifeline to my living and provider of substance to ensure my body can react how it should - in erratic, irrational, and frustrating ways.
I know the anxiety and the anxiety knows me. It’s like holding a child’s hand when you cross a busy road. I know the anxiety is controlled if I control it.

When people describe mental illness, they talk about it physically. The Black Dog. Does that make it easier to control? If we described it as something that isn’t physical, isn’t holdable, isn’t movable, then maybe we wouldn’t be able to control it at all. We wouldn’t be able to let go because there’d be nothing to let go of in the first place. Would that be better? If we didn’t give it meaning? Or do we need to imagine mental illness as something tangible and controllable to give it validity and understanding?

All the questioning and confusion about anxiety is almost laughable. I can hear It laughing now, sitting at the bottom of my insides and growing in size and importance. I’m fulfilling it, I’m encouraging it, I’m validating it, but not in the way I should be. Not in the way that helps me, that helps others.

But my anxiety is not me. It’s just made me its home. I’ll let it settle, despite the no rent, as long as it behaves and lets me tame it. I’ll hold on to its hand and we’ll learn from each other as we both grow in size and importance, until the contract ends and death do us part.'

Louise's blog : Twitter : Instagram.

Here is my response to the same prompt...

'Crumbs'. That's the word. Crumbs. I have never heard someone our age say that, let alone in a moment like this – you've just heard the most hideous and hurtful news, at least on my end. C r u m b s. You utter prick. I really thought you were nicer. More of a friend. You only hated me when she was around. Her, too. Crumbs.
You raise your eyebrows behind your glasses. You won't react any more than that. I know you won't. Crumbs. Slight change in pitch. That's all I can detect. That's all I'm worth. You won't be thinking about this in an hour's time. I'll think about it for the next 9 days. Until I am put to sleep. Yeah. Crumbs, indeed. Arsehole. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Recent reads: girl up and get happy.

I recently discovered A Great Read, this amazing site dedicated to selling books to us, the die-hard book lovers, at a significantly lower cost than your local high street book shop. Now, you may wonder why I'm looking at any other book seller at the moment, given that I get mad discount at my workplace, but actually some of the deals on this site worked out as even better than what I could get with my precious staff card at work! 

So this is where I went for the two books I'll be mentioning/raving about in this post; 'Girl Up' by the legendary Laura Bates, and 'The Little Book of Hygge' by Meik Wiking, a guide to the carefree and content way the Danish folk live their lives. 

First, we'll look at 'Girl Up'.
I'll keep this review short and sweet (very unlike me, in terms of writing and physical being) because there really is just this one thing to communicate: READ. THIS. BOOK. (ASAP. PLZ.)
It's safe to say I write my fair share of book reviews in blog posts, yes. BUT I rarely full-on force my readers to grab a book immediately and cling on so hard and never let go. Y'know? So therefore you must all take this instruction quite seriously.

I first discovered Laura Bates, as I'm sure many women did, through her Everyday Sexism project. I stumbled across the hashtag on Twitter, #EverydaySexism, and was astonished. Because whoa, women everywhere are experiencing the absolute worst kinds of hateful and misogynistic behaviour from all kinds of people – it isn't just me.
Of course, I bought that first book. It sits in pride of place on my non-fic shelf, alongside several other excellent pieces of feminist literature. For some reason though, I kept seeing 'Girl Up' at work (on a table in the Smart Thinking section, hell yes) and in friends' Instagram snaps, and not buying it. I genuinely believe that was because I knew I'd love it; I knew I needed it in my life at a time when I could give it the time and attention it deserved. Or maybe I was waiting to come across A Great Read and snatch it up from them... 

'Girl Up' covers everything. I mean it. Every damn thing about being a young woman in today's society. Peer pressure, bullying, mental health, relationships, sexuality, actual sex, pornography, proper genitalia, mass media and SO MUCH MORE.
The first chapter on social media and its influence on us is entitled 'Fakebook, Fitter and Instaglam'. I mean, yes. Sold.

What I really loved was how I was able to read the book in Laura Bates' perfectly unique voice – maybe because I'd recently listened to her interview with Emma Gannon on the Ctrl Alt Delete podcast, but also because the book is written in that way, that awesome way, that makes you feel it's just for you, and a friend has written it. No bullshit, either. 100% real and honest and true. 

The book is also beautifully put together. Blunt and bright cover art is totally the way to my heart. Seeing the recommendation from Emma Watson before the introduction got me even more excited than I already was – and the artwork on the inside cover is, well, sublime. 

I plan on keeping this book close for a very long time, and if I ever decide to have kids you can bet they'll be getting a schooling from it. Of course, by then, Laura Bates will be in some position of supreme power and her messages will be streaming across the globe 24/7 – I hope so, anyway.
So thank you, Laura. Mwah. 

(Whoops, this wasn't as short as I'd planned. It's rather sweet though, right?)

The next book I'll be talking about is 'The Little Book of Hygge (The Danish Way to Live Well)', by Meik Wiking (from The Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen).
I sometimes cover in The Rye Bookshop (hold on, this is relevant) when Waterstones Hastings doesn't need me, and I am always stunned by the difference in appearance (it's approximately 1/10th of the size of the Hastings store, and quite a bit more chic tbh) and even more so by the difference in customers. Books that hardly ever see the light of day and escape the shopping centre in my usual workplace and out in the front display in Rye, and are snapped up quick. Although the Hygge hype has been big in both stores, to be fair, in Rye it has its own table. One petite set-up near the non-fic shelves there, the Hygge literature sits alongside several hand warmer cushions, scented candles, city guides and 'The Year of Living Danishly'. Hygge is a big deal. And I'm all for it. 

(The table in The Rye Bookshop; ta for the photo, Lizzie!)

Now, I will start with a confession: I, like many others it turns out, at first had no clue how to pronounce 'Hygge'. The phenomenon was coming at me full pelt, and I was welcoming it in, and yet...the pronunciation was the only grey area for me. I assumed it sounded like simply 'higg'. My bookseller friend was convinced it was 'hugguh'. A friend insisted it was how it looked; 'hyyyy-geee'. I of course Googled it to find it is in fact 'hoo-guh'. There are some lovely videos of Danes explaining the term, and I think I got the feeling just from seeing them speak about it. Seeing the true happiness that they possess and we so crave ignite and shine in their eyes.
Anyway, I needn't have concerned myself with the matter of pronunciation. Because here's the first page...

That's right, the lovely author says to us straight away, in the introduction, that we don't need to concern ourselves with the correct way to say Hygge. Because 'you don't spell it, you feel it'. N'aww. 

My personal favourite bits of this book were: the Hot Drinks pages within the fourth chapter 'Food and Drink'; the Danish hair rules 'casual to the point of being borderline lazy'; the Danish home decoration styles which boil down to books, blankets and cushions, ceramics, wood, vintage and above all tactile; the 'Hygge Emergency Kit' on page 134 (see below)...

I also adore the entire third chapter entitled 'Togetherness', especially the 'Socializing for Introverts' stuff. And one cute sub-section within that on how to make memories. And the graphs representing activities happiness ratings vs hours spent doing them (sex gets the highest happiness rating, lowest time spent; work has the lowest happiness rating and highest amount of time...let that sink in, guys). 

Something else I loved in this book: ALL OF THE PHOTOS. My goodness, the photography was warm and kind and gentle, but then there was also some crisp and exciting glimmers in there too. The city of Copenhagen is beyond awesome, as are Danish home interiors, as are the fashion trends, as are the animals, as are the families, and the photos show us all of that.

I implore all of you readers to give these books a spin ASAP. Get educated about womankind, and then bring on the unique Danish happy vibes. 
(And while as a chain store bookseller I couldn't possibly encourage you to use a beautiful discount webby......check out A Great Read, guys. Do it.)

Friday, 21 October 2016

How To IKEA. (The Olive Fox archive)

I recently went to IKEA with my mum to pick out the perfect piece of furniture the parents could give me as a birthday present. It was a truly magical experience. Having said that, it may have been that magical because my mama and I were adhering to the rules and listening to the advice we'd been given by friends before we set foot in that mythical environment. We joke that IKEA is a country – because my little sis once thought it was, and we don't blame her. It's another world, really!  

So, as a recent visitor, here is my advice on all things IKEA...


I seem to include this in most of my How To type posts, but yeah, snack like a gorgeous little bird, all day. IKEA drains your energy and gets you excited all at once – plus you need maximum protein for all the joyful jumping around when you see that perfect bedding set or sink for the bathroom!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

My mornings.

I unlock the car, sit behind the wheel and wait for the windows to de-mist. I reverse sharply. The neighbours are usually getting in the family cars – I see the mums prepping for the school run. The kids squeal. Little red woollen bullets shoot down the pavements, book bags and lunch boxes trailing behind. 

(Taken in the passenger seat. Never touch your phone while driving, guys)

I drive up towards that roundabout, mentally steeling myself for the 60 limit approaching and reminding myself that the cars edging up behind me aren't trying to hurt me. Maybe just intimidate. They wanna feel big.

Buses pass me. The proper fancy Rambler coaches, and those faded creamy ones that house the eager school kids in their navy uniforms – they're going where I'd go, where I'd walk to. I never got the bus. The gold on their ties gleams through the windows as it's still new, it's only October and all the days are awaiting them. I miss that. And yet I really don't. I should visit again, soon. I should text my friends there. The ones in the staff room.

There are sometimes people running along this road. I would feel so vulnerable if that were me. Not because I could get hit; because people could see me.

There's a girl who always stands right on the edge of the curb, at the bus stop on the flyover, hands in pockets and expression frighteningly blank. I drive past the road my best friend used to live in, with her gang of siblings and messed up parents. I then pass another bus stop – so many buses and stops – packed out with excitable international students. One has a tartan blanket wrapped around her, today. Most likely a private joke – it's not that cold.

Lollipop ladies are a constant hazard, these days. I never considered them before, when I first started driving to work in the summer. It's a cute profession. A bright grinning yellow vision. I always try and smile at one when she stops me. Why are they always ladies, I wonder?

I'm coming up to the rough bit now. That road crammed with tacky one-off shops, where a car comes at you from every angle. I like it, weirdly. I always catch the horribly overweight man, no doubt not as old as he looks, sitting outside that dodgy cafe with a china cup he rests on a green recycling bin. I think the dog is his. That's attached to the bin, too. School kids pat it as they pass. The sun rests on his head briefly and then disappears into the deep wrinkles around his eyes.

It's always as I descend that insanely steep hill to the shopping centre that I am overwhelmed with comfort – interrupted by a brief flash of panic and a need to check I have my parking permit, which I always do. The comfort is born from the sunshine, often. Now it's Autumn I'm noticing that as I drive in the morning, the sun is in my eyes. Then as I drive home in the evening, the sun is in my eyes. The sun won't leave me alone. It's glaring at me, demanding attention. Making sure I make the most of it before it's long gone, hidden behind a mass of thick grey. I do see you, sun, don't worry. You're right at the front of my mind, and in my eyes you are welcome any time. If I'm lucky, sometimes I'll pass that car wash place and see you shimmering in bursts as they hose the vehicles, your light buzzing through the water.

I finally make my way up 6 floors of the car park; I have a spot now, on the 6th floor, as it's handiest for getting to work. My spot is a few bays along from the valet guys. The ones who laugh and chatter in a language I don't understand, and make sure they smile at me as I walk by. I wonder if they wait for me to come in, some days. I wonder what they think when I appear. What they think of my car – and the way I walk as I pass them.

Good morning, guys.
Good morning, world. 

Better find my keys. Don't forget the parking permit. Did I bring my lunch? 
Got 'em. That's in my back pocket, too. And yes, it's in the backpack with my laptop. I'll be getting that out on my lunch break, and sitting in the cafe writing. Looking so legit. Not taking a real break. Don't need to. 

These are the mornings, that become days. They can sometimes be a highlight. Sometimes a prelude. Often a distraction. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Just Some Things #5 : L.D. Lapinski.

This is the latest instalment in my feature Just Some Things!
In case you don't know, here's how it works...
I send a writer an individual email with a series of prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book – chosen entirely at random most of the time – and then when I get the responses, I dedicate a post to them and their piece. It could be short, long, backwards, in another language, I don't mind. It'll be an adventure whatever happens! And they can use or ignore however many of the prompts they wish. 

When published on the blog, their piece will be put in first and then I'll add in a little piece beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers.

Today my guest writer is the delightful L.D. Lapinski; unpublished author and co-creator of Shift_Zine, the new quarterly online YA magazine. We met through Twitter some time ago, and I can safely say she is one of my favourite online (and now IRL) friends.

Her prompt was: Introduce your long-time imaginary friend.

   ‘You’re going to do great.’
   Cherry plucks at her skirt, trying to stretch it down a bit. ‘It’s too short.’
   ‘Well, that was the one I saw in the shop, so unless you want me to start searching online…’ I raise my eyebrows and Cherry pulls a face at me.
   ‘She might think I’m a bit…you know.’
   ‘I’m always cute.’
   I sit on the bed and watch her check herself over. Cherry’s appearance hasn’t changed much over fifteen years. Her hair is longer, and her features are less cartoon-like now, but she’s always been rosy-cheeked with auburn ringlets. Even when I didn’t know what ‘auburn’ meant, she had auburn ringlets.
   I’m still not sure what ‘ringlets’ are, but she has them.
   ‘Have you thought about what you’re going to say?’ I ask.
   Cherry touches her headband. ‘I thought I’d let her speak, first. She might want to tell me something, or…’
   ‘What did I do?’ I ask, a smile creeping onto my face.
   Cherry snorts. ‘You told me I didn’t exist. As if.’
   I burst out laughing, because that’s so Me. ‘Yeah, well, you stuck around long enough.’
   ‘I had to,’ she reminds me. ‘You were hard work, Jess. You almost imagined me away.’
   The mood freezes over. ‘Oh.’
   She pouts at her reflection, then comes to sit next to me. There are cherries on her dress. ‘Will you miss me?’
   ‘Like a hole in a parachute.’
   ‘That means ‘yes’,’ she snuggles into me, and for a moment it’s like she’s real; I can feel the weight of her in my arms and on my chest. ‘It’s time for me to move on.’
   I shrug, because I can’t think of anything else to do.
   ‘You’ve still got a bit of me,’ she looks at my desk, my laptop. On it are drafts of the novel I’m writing, where a character has auburn ringlets.
   ‘Come on,’ I say. ‘We’ll be late.’


   We get to the milkshake bar three minutes late. I spot the girl immediately, sitting with her mum, nervously plaiting her fingers as she ignores the drink in front of her.
   ‘Hello,’ I say. ‘You must be Isabel?’
   She looks up, her freckles adorable against her bonfire hair. ‘Mm-hm.’
   ‘I’m Jessica,’ I smile. ‘And I’ve brought you someone you might like to meet.’
   Cherry steps out from behind me, blushing, and suddenly younger, and newer, like she’s had a fresh coat of paint. ‘Hello, Isabel.’
   Isabel waves shyly, and her mum looks as me. I nod.
   It’s going well.
   Cherry slides into the booth and a milkshake appears in front of her. ‘Hey, can you do this?’ she inhales and blows bubbles into the drink, making Isabel giggle.
   I feel a slip on my soul, like a tug at the heartstrings Cherry has plucked all these years, and suddenly she is gone, inside Isabel’s mind as she floats away.
   I fill the empty space in my head with sadness, for now.

L.D's Blog : Twitter : Instagram : Zine

Here is my response to the same prompt...

   I can hear my family, calling, searching for me downstairs. Their cries get more and more panicked, more shrill. Dad's running up the stairs, Mum's gasping repeatedly like she just cannot believe what's happening. Nor can I, really. My sister is a little more clued-in; she knows what will have made me do this. More specifically, who. I know it's her knocking on the door to the airing cupboard. I'm actually glad I've been found, the heat is stifling and my forehead is wet. My big, empty forehead. Empty? Naked? Naked. Part of my face is on show now, and part of my head.
   'Tess? You okay?'
   'Mmm,' is all I can manage. A whimper. I wipe sweat from my top lip.
   'Can I come in?'
   My sister opens the door, and light pours in from around her head. Her not-naked head. 'What's going on, petal?'
   I know she's seen, though. She will have seen it downstairs, too. The patch of hair on the living room floor. That must have worried them – it worried me, and I was the one responsible. Or was I?
   I look up at her, and see her taking in my new face – more face, more visible. No fringe covering my eyebrows any more. I cut off the front bits, the strands that covered my ears, too. My hair is closely (and unevenly) cropped to about halfway back on my head now. My sister smiles sympathetically. Then Mum's and Dad's faces appear behind her, either side. They're less sympathetic – more shocked and upset. Understandably.
   I can only be honest. It's the real reason, even if they can't see it. 'Candy made me do it.'


If you'd like to be involved in one of these Just Some Things posts, email me at

(Perfect image by Kayleigh Causton illustration)

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Taking the brain for a walk.

For those of you who don't know – I can't imagine there are many of you as, let's face it, this blog mentions it a LOT – I have a brain tumour. Read all about my diagnosis in 2014, my operations (plural), the hideous aftermath/'slow recovery' and the surprise radiotherapy RIGHT HERE (start at the oldest post!).

It still feels weird saying it. Like, you'd think after 10-15 years of letting it grow (although I was totally unaware, to be fair) and then having 2 craniotomies a year apart to dig it out (couldn't manage all of it as it's in a tricky spot. I have a wee bit left still) I'd be used to and comfortable with telling people. But I'm not. I sometimes hate telling people, actually. Breaking bad news to and bringing up a tidal wave of sympathy from others is not my favourite thing to do. But there are times when it needs to be said. For instance, I recently told a work superior about my condition because the fact that my recovery was still in progress meant I couldn't work full time – that was hard, but I felt better when I'd told her.

So now you know. Or, you knew but have been reminded. Sorry about that. Let's get to the point of this post, shall we?

I could not have got through some aspects of my journey without the amazing people at The Brain Tumour Charity. That is a fact. They have sent me letters (thanks, Jo!) and presents, and added me to their 2000-strong sufferers' support group on Facebook – which has been mind-blowing, hearing what others are going through and giving support as well as receiving advice on certain things. And the virtual group hugs are immense.
I've also had a chance to see around their offices, which was actually really fun and enlightening. The energy in that building was warm and happy – and determined.
Recently I've been helping them out with writing bits and pieces, tweeting, and even recording a little something they could use in promo. I am always excited when an email from them appears in my inbox, and I can always make time for their projects.
So yeah, I love this charity. I really hope that someday I am in a position to donate some of my income to them, because they are attempting amazing things as well as providing support for families and friends of the afflicted, too.

The charity also does Information Days; they are like little conventions almost, when doctors and nurses and patients and their peers – anyone! – is welcome to come along and learn. My neurosurgeon actually spoke at one of these events recently, and I'm devastated I couldn't go that particular day as I was still pretty deep in post-op recovery. I am so desperate to go to the next one, though. They happen all around, but my local one would most likely be Brighton. 

(Training, on the seafront!)

The Brain Tumour Charity puts on this fantastic event called The Twilight Walk. Or rather, walks plural. They gather together volunteers, all of whom raise money individually or in groups, to walk 10km and raise awareness. The hashtag is #walkwithus, and the T-shirts are the charity's stunning trademark red. I was delighted to have been able to sign up this year, as before I've been too weak to participate. This year though, I am bringing it the hell on. I have trained as best I can with my family, my team, and we have got two of our oldest and dearest friends on board to walk with us on the day. We'll be walking in Windsor, which is such a nice thing as it's near where I was born and lived until I was two, and where I made my first friend (see below, us in the 90s. Updated photo to come). 

My team are raising money for the charity RIGHT HERE, and we are astonished and proud to have reached over £1,200. Please do have a look, my friends, and donate a few pennies if you can manage it. I will thank you with hugs, coffee and general happy brain vibes. 

I will be writing about how the event (today) goes, don't you worry. It will be in a monthly round-up soon! Until then, I am sure photos will be shared on my Twitter and on The Brain Tumour Charity's Twitter. AND their Facebook page, too. 

Wish me luck, guys! 
Let's stamp out brain tumours! 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Autumn Reading Tag!

It's happening. The leaves are turning green to golden brown, and then sadly falling to the ground, where they'll sit beneath our feet patiently waiting for frost. The candles are being lit, heating switched on overnight, and the walks to the car at the end of the day are dark and chilly. And the hipsters on Instagram are creaming themselves every time they take a photo on their iPhones. 

So, the delightful Laura N tagged me in her Autumn Reads post! Thanks, darl. Love ya.
I can count on one hand the amount of times I've actually done one of these Q and A posts that circulates but whenever I do they are always immense fun and actually make me think...crazy, I know. Okay. Let's go. 

Are there any books you plan on reading over the autumn season?

I always have books to read, like goddamn my TBR is permanently sky high. I try not to think about it too much,'s stressful af. 

So this season I am searching for a new series I can get into; seeing kids coming into the bookshop and excitedly purchasing (/getting their parents to fork out for) the latest novel in a trilogy has got me wishing I could have that feeling again. The familiarity of characters, scenes and an author's distinct writing style, something I can emotionally invest in for the long haul. I just finished reading 'The Last Beginning', the sequel (/prequel/accompanier?!) to Lauren James' gorgeous debut 'The Next Together'. I loved hanging out with the characters of Katherine and Matthew again, through their daughter Clove. The whole story made my heart race happily. 

At some point before winter sets in I'd really like to polish off my non-fic TBR shelf. I have all manner of beautiful biographies and essays awaiting me in there.

Also I want to get back into my graphic novels. I only buy and read a select few (A fave is 'Sex Criminals', hell yeah, forever grateful to my pal Jack C for introducing me to that wicked world) and I truly love them. Just the other day I was shelving in the kids' section and I came across Raina Telgemeier's 'Ghosts' and after accidentally reading 40 pages I realised I needed to squirrel it away for myself, obvs. 

September brings back school memories: what book did you most enjoy studying? And what were your favourite and least favourite school subjects?

I actually wrote a blog post ages ago about my favourite books that I discovered through school/college/uni. There are so many! 

I enjoyed studying/performing the Simon Stephens play 'Punk Rock' in Drama AS Level. I was properly drawn in by the more gruesome original fairy tales I studied in my second year at uni – specifically Angela Carter, my goodness, that woman...
I remember also loving all the middle grade Phillip Pullman when I was at secondary school; I'd take each one out of the library week by week and devour them (hidden in textbooks during science lessons, usually). And Lemony Snicket was my jam in primary school. I remember feeling so cool and edgy reading his brilliantly depressing stories about the Baudelaire orphans in between classes. (I loved Klaus so much he featured in a post once, too) 

October means Halloween: Do you enjoy scary books and films? If so what are some of your favourites? 

I am the worst with scary films. Like, no thank you. Same with books – while I enjoy a good tingling thriller as much as anyone, I have to really psych myself up and commit to them, not let myself chicken out. 

I used to LOVE 'The Woman In Black'; I saw the play twice in the West End when I was a teenager and I actually never read the book but would love to. I saw the film as well, on Valentines Day in fresher year of uni, with the guy I fancied who kindly held my popcorn bucket when I was busy screaming into my hands.

(The play was still scarier, btw) 

With November it’s time for Bonfire Night and firework displays. What’s the most exciting book you’ve ever read that really kept you gripped? 

I properly LOVE my home town's bonfire celebrations. They are always magical – a huge event for me, my family and my friends. My town. I couldn't give a shit about fireworks though, tbh. Once you've stood outside in the cold and watched them for about 5 minutes, it gets dull and samey in my opinion. Sorry. 

Books that are more exciting for me than fireworks would be... 

  • 'Viral', by Helen Fitzpatrick. Recently read and am only slightly ashamed to say I loved a bit too much...
  • 'The Last Beginning', by Lauren James. I just finished this book and it made my brain short circuit a few times. (If you wanna read this guys, read 'The Next Together' first, yeah?)
    (Just realised I mentioned this book at the beginning of this post, too. I JUST LOVE IT, OKAY?!)

  • 'Only Ever Yours', by Louise O'Neill. The whole way through I was screaming internally with maximum excitement and mild horror.
  • 'Paper Butterflies', by Lisa Heathfield. And 'Seed', by Lisa Heathfield. Holy shit, Lisa Heathfield tho. Read her words and be enchanted and weirdly unsettled. Thank me later.

What book is your favourite cosy comfort read?

I've actually been thinking about re-reading 'One Day' soon. It never fails to warm me up and get the feels out. That's my go-to cosy fiction. 

I also have always enjoyed curling up with one of my many PostSecret books. There's nothing as warming and lovely as relating to others; seeing yourself in their secrets and knowing you are not alone. 

Curled up with a good book, what is your hot drink of choice? 

I am always up for coffee. OR if it's early in the morning, a green tea. OR if it's late at night, a peppermint tea. Mmm. 

Any plans you’re looking forward to over the next few months? 

SO MANY. Book launches and panels, shows, a house warming (on Halloween), my town's bonfire night...

But the plans I'm most excited and yet terrified about? Lecturing at the University of Winchester. About blogging. *squeals*

This was mad fun. I now nominate... 

...Because if I tag enough people, at least one of them will do it, right?! 

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