Differently Normal Review

I’ve mentioned many a time on my blog over the past few months that this was the year I wanted to read more YA fiction. In truth, my experience so far hasn’t been mind-blowing (that’s a post for another day) but then Tammy Robinson’s Differently Normal happened.

For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her autistic sister happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Maddy meets Albert, the last thing on her mind is falling in love. 

Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. But then he meets Maddy, and gets a glimpse of what being part of a functioning family can be like and the tremendous sacrifices people will make for the ones they love. 

But are Maddy and Albert willing to make the biggest of sacrifices for each other? Some things, they are about to discover, are outside of their control…

Annoyingly, I was super busy when I started reading Differently Normal, so it took a good few days to get really into it but then when I did, bam, I was hooked. Firstly, I loved Albert. I’m definitely too old for him but I was loving the surfer vibes and his character felt so authentic.

I also really loved the portrayal of autism throughout the book. I’ve read some pretty shoddy depictions of autism but this was spot on. I really liked the way Bee wasn’t just used to progress the story, but a real character, and it was nice to see a depiction of autism that wasn’t a stereotypical ‘socially awkward, high-functioning’ person. I really hope this book gets people thinking about the whole spectrum of autism, instead of the one portrayal so often shown in the media.

Overall, I thought the story was great and while I’m obviously not going to give anything away, just make sure you have some tissues handy while you read.

I keep seeing the book being compared to Me Before You and The Fault in our Stars, which is a huge accolade but I really hope Differently Normal will stand out on its own because I truly enjoyed it.

Make sure to check out the other dates on the Blog Tour!

Rachel x-x-x

 

 

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May Reads

How fast has May gone? I haven’t read as much as normal this month because I’ve been so busy with uni work. But I have still managed to read three books and restarted Harry Potter so not an unsuccessful month by any stretch of the imagination.

Our Kind Of Cruelty – Araminta Hall

Mike and Verity have a special game. The Crave. They play it to prove what they already know: that Verity loves Mike. That she needs Mike. Even though she’s marrying another man. Now Mike knows that the stakes of their private game are rising. This time, someone has to die…

When I started Our Kind of Cruelty, I thought it was great. It was refreshing, a storyline that I hadn’t read before. The concept of The Crave really hooked me and the first half of the book was great. But for me, the second half tailed off a little. I won’t go into the details because spoilers but it just didn’t hold its own throughout which was disappointing.

However, having said that, I do think it’s a really good book, so maybe just not my kind of thing.


Now You See Her – Heidi Perks

Charlotte is looking after her best friend’s daughter the day she disappears. She thought the little girl was playing with her own children. She swears she only took her eyes off them for a second. Now, Charlotte must do the unthinkable, tell her best friend Harriet that her only child is missing. The child she was meant to be watching. Devastated, Harriet can no longer bear to see Charlotte. No one could expect her to trust her friend again. Only now she needs to. Because two weeks later Harriet and Charlotte are both being questioned separately by the police. And secrets are about to surface.

I don’t know if it’s alright to admit, but missing children storylines are just a bit more exciting than your average thriller aren’t they?

Something about the blurb of this novel really captured and I loved it from start to end. It’s an absolutely perfect gritty family thriller with credible characters and I really hope it’s a Summer success. What I loved most about the book was that it was different. I read so many thriller books where it’s the same old guessable conclusion and even though I had an inkling as to the ending, it wasn’t quite what I thought.

Easily one of my favourite books this year.


I Never Lie – Jody Sabral

Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic who is teetering on the brink of oblivion. Her career as a television journalist is hanging by a thread since a drunken on-air rant. When a series of murders occur within a couple of miles of her East London home she is given another chance to prove her skill and report the unfolding events. She thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory, and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?

I have a few reservations about this book. Firstly, I’m a little confused about the title, which I still can’t quite work about its relation to the content of the novel. Secondly, a lot of the book is centred around alcoholism, which isn’t a topic that excites me to read about. However, with that out the way, I did really enjoy this book.

We all know I love a thriller and although some plot points were predictable, overall it was a good read that I finished within two days.

I’m a sucker for a good twist and this definitely had a few to keep momentum, but not one of my favourite books this year.

What did you read in May? Let me know your recommendations.

Rachel x-x-x

 

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New Chapter

At the beginning of this year I was getting married, in two week’s time in fact. The date is burned into my brain. It was going to be an anniversary date to remember for the rest of my life.

And now, I’m not.

The date is simply going to fade into the oblivion of the other 364 days in the year.

A hard part of this whole experience is juggling other people’s expectations and opinions. When they hear that I’m not getting married anymore, they assume a relationship breakdown and that isn’t the case. We’re together and happy. Obviously I’m not going to go into the ins and outs but we’re just not getting married.  But of course everyone will have their opinions so I’ve just got really good at smiling, nodding and acting like I’m taking things on board when I’m actually thinking about what to have for dinner.

I’ve really been umming and ahhing over publishing this post for a number of reasons. In spite of my blog, I’m a really private person and I just wasn’t sure about putting this on the internet.

But in the end, I’ve decided yes, because the part I’ve found so difficult is comparing my life to everyone else’s. Through the filters of Instagram and the highlights reels we portray online, it can seem like everyone is living in a fairytale of Starbucks and cocktails. But that’s not real life and sometimes it’s important to share the bad parts too.

I have multiple friends getting married this year, and while that’s difficult in some ways, I’m also really happy for them. Their relationship isn’t mine and their lives aren’t mine and we’re all just taking different paths. But man is it hard to not compare yourself to everybody who is seemingly ‘moving on with their lives.’ But in the last couple of months I’ve taken a step back and seen that things are moving just fine with my life. I was just struggling to see that in the greyer days.

We’re a few months on now and things are significantly better. Learning not to compare yourself to others is a challenge and one that needs to be worked on. It won’t come overnight but it’s a lesson for life.

Rachel x-x-x

 

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Fresh Starts, Cider Headaches and Home

I like gravy on my chips. I don’t wear a coat on nights out, regardless of how cold it is outside. And you’d better believe I have a bottle of Henderson’s Relish in the cupboard AT ALL TIMES.

The secret’s out. I’m a Northerner. But in the next few months I’ll be swapping God’s Own Country for Somerset.

The best part of all of this is that I’ve never set foot even close to Somerset. The furthest south of England I’ve been is London, I literally have no clue what the West of the country is like. So you might wonder why exactly I’m moving to a random place in the country (notably famous for cider which gives me a headache) with no experience of it.

Let me answer that with the truth. I don’t really know either. I admit, it sounds a little like I’m under some witness protection programme or I’m running away from a crazy situation but honestly I just want a fresh start. And my craving for pastures new is nothing unusual for me.

I’ve never been the kind of person who feels at ‘home’ in one particular place. My wanderlust far exceeds any longing to be in one place for a period of time. If I wasn’t so partial to baths and bookcases, I’d quite happily live out of a caravan for the rest of my life, never staying in one place for too long.

I’ve lived in 10 different houses in 5 different towns across 3 countries.

There was my childhood home, a place that almost feels like another life. Leaving old homes feels a bit like grief. I don’t remember what the doors sounded like when they shut or how the floorboards creaked. But when I conjure the image up in my head I feel warmth.

Then there’s the ‘new house.’ A place my parents don’t even live anymore but will always feel ‘new’ because it was never really home for me. At the same time, I was living in the squalor of student houses. 7 years, 6 awful, damp, unwashed plate filled, sticky tabled houses in England, Germany and the Netherlands and finally a nice flat.

Which brings me to now. In four months I’ll be living somewhere that I don’t even know exists yet, starting a new life, a fresh start, a whole new chapter. It’s exciting and scary and I’m ready for a lifetime of new ‘homes’ wherever they may be.

What does home mean to you? Let me know in the comments. 

Rachel x-x-x

 

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Morro Bay, California

I adore the sea. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt a pull to be near it. My childhood was filled with beach trips, crazy golf and ice cream on the promenade, and later in my teenage years, the seaside became the perfect spot to hang out. It certainly wasn’t anything like Morro Bay, with Cleethorpes being a little colder, windier and a lot more grey, but the sea is part of me.

Having spent the last seven years living in Sheffield and Leeds (pretty much as far away from the sea as you can get in England), Morro Bay really satisfied that craving to smell the salty sea air and the slosh of the water.

We pulled into Morro Bay late at night, after a six hour drive along the Californian coast. The glinting neon red motel sign made me do a double take. Was a young man with the skeleton of his dead mother in the basement going to show us to our room and then murder me in the shower? I hoped not, but honestly couldn’t be sure.

We clambered out of the car, full from some terrible American fast food restaurant and immediately I jumped out of my skin, pointing into the bushes at what now looked like nothing and began reporting sightings of a “big cat.” Obviously with no evidence, Brandon didn’t believe me, but I’m telling you it was a lynx. And when you come from England where the deadliest animal is probably a badger, it was pretty scary.

We booked in, answered a flurry of questions about the royal wedding (obviously) and found our room. You probably have an image in your mind of an American motel room, right? That’s exactly how it looked, all the way down to the sporadic bathroom light which made for a pretty creepy shower experience.

Sadly Morro Bay was only a pit stop on our road trip to San Francisco so we couldn’t linger in the city too much the following morning.

Morro Bay has a population of 10,000 but you could easily be fooled into thinking it was more like 10 people. The city gets its name from Morro Rock named from the Spanish and Portuguese word meaning a hill-shaped rock formation.

A little stroll took us down to the docks, where we were met with the sight of the most beautiful blue waters as well as whale watching boats and the cutest sea lions laying out in the sunshine.

If you ever find yourself in San Luis Obispo County on the West Coast of California (unlikely, I guess but still), definitely check out this gorgeous city. Aside from the bay there isn’t a whole load to do around here. But it seemed like the perfect place to do nothing, and what’s better than that?

Rachel x-x-x

 

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6 Daily To Dos

Life is a bit complicated isn’t it? When you multiply the million things that need doing with the million things you want to do, you end up with a trillion things that don’t get done.

In the last month or so, my life has been filled with deadlines and stress, leaving very little time to do anything but work. However amongst all of the sleepless nights and less than healthy convenience dinners, there are a few things I’ve been making sure I do daily to make life that little bit simpler.

These probably seem like the easiest tasks in the world, but they’re often the ones that get left behind when life gets a bit fraught.

Make Your Bed

If I know I need to be out of the house because I have plans, I have no problem getting up and out of bed. But on those days where I know I’m just going to be getting work done from home, it’s really easy to just slip back in after breakfast and sloth about until midday. Making your bed is the simplest barrier that tells your head you’re not getting back in now until bedtime.

Drink Water

Bad skin? Drink water. Get headaches? Drink water. Trying not to eat everything in sight? Drink water. I often get headaches but find that I can keep them at bay by drinking enough water every day. It also feels like an accomplishment to have drunk enough on the days where you haven’t managed to get anything else done.

Exercise

I (try to) exercise every single day. By this I definitely don’t mean going to the gym or for a run. Most days it’s yoga or pilates but on my off days it’s as simple as doing some stretching. Yes, getting your heart rate up is really good for you but if you’re aiming to exercise every day, you probably don’t have time for a half hour run.

Do something for me

My least favourite days are the days when you’re so busy you don’t have time to do a thing for yourself. I love me time and when I don’t get it, I get pretty irritated. I love stretching myself so each day I either practice guitar or keyboard, listen to a podcast or improve my German or Dutch. I always feel so much better at the end of the day if I’ve made the effort to improve myself.

Read

Reading is a habit that I can now proudly say I do every day without fail. My favourite time to read is mid afternoon with a cup of coffee but that’s realistic for everyday so I make sure that I read at least one chapter at bedtime. I find that reading really clears my mind of real life and helps me to stay imaginative and creative.

Take a break

Lunchtime is my sacred time. Whether I’m at home or out of the house, that half hour (admittedly when I’m at home, sometimes an hour and a half, nobody’s perfect), is for eating and doing nothing else. However busy you are find at least half an hour to switch off, whether it’s for meditation, just sitting quietly or going for a walk.

 

What are your daily to dos? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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