Review: One More Chance by Lucy Ayrton

Dani hasn’t had an easy life. She’s made some bad choices and now she’s paying the ultimate price; prison.

With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There’s only one problem; Dani can’t stay out of trouble.

Dani’s new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There’s something about her that doesn’t add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn’t hesitate.

Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in . . .

I really love anything published by Dialogue Books, Little Brown Book Group’s imprint, designed to showcase authentic and diverse voices. Prison literature always interests me as I find it often has strong links with my work as a mental health nurse, so right from the start I was feeling good about Lucy Ayrton’s One More Chance.

Ayrton’s debut novel was inspired by her work for a woman’s prison charity, which is what gives voice to the character of Dani. Dani felt so real to me that at times I had to keep checking I was reading fiction, rather than an autobiography. Dani is representative of so many women who are sadly failed by the social services system, but I haven’t read many books where the portrayal of a female prisoner has felt so sympathetic.

Parts of the novel feel almost fairy-tale like (you’ll have to read it to understand what I mean), but it brings a whole new aspect to the novel which I’ve never seen anywhere else.

It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the prison system as well as being an all-round enjoyable book.

Rachel x-x-x

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Review: Every Colour of You – Amelia Mandeville

Truthfully, I read this book out of curiosity. I’ve watched the Mandeville Sisters on Youtube for a number of years and have always enjoyed their content. So it was especially lovely when I saw that Amelia had written a book, after watching countless videos on how she wanted to be a writer. After a wave of Youtuber-cum-novelists, it’s refreshing to see someone who has dreamt of this for a long time, not as an extra money spinner when those views are dwindling… (Make of that what you will.)

Every Colour of You is Zoe and Tristan’s story. It’s a love story but not an easy one. Zoe is full of life, Tristan would rather not be living his. Zoe is bursting with the determination to bring the colour back in to Tristan’s life. But love doesn’t always fix everything.

Firstly, the book is published by Little, Brown Book Group which is always a good sign. I don’t think I’ve ever read something by them that I haven’t loved so I was pretty confident with this one.

What I Didn’t Like

At first I wasn’t sure about the premise. It seemed a little too tropey and young adult romance stories aren’t usually my thing. But as the book progressed I enjoyed the characters. It really felt as though Zoe and Tristan were at the heart of the novel.

What I Liked

It’s clear from the off that Mandeville can tell a story. I got major John Green vibes from this which, I think is a great thing. The book was also clever in subtle ways. It was only after finishing that I turned back to the first page and saw something that made me realise how the novel might end. Something that had never occurred to me when I first opened the book. (I’m trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible so sorry if that’s majorly vague!)

I also really liked the portrayal of mental health. As a mental health nurse I often myself getting frustrated with author’s lack of realism but Mandeville handled this really well. I also hope that it will contribute to young people being more open about their mental health. And, allow people to see that it’s okay to be frustrated when someone you love is portraying symptoms of mental illness.

Mandeville can only grow as an author so I’m really excited to see what she puts out next.

Rachel x-x-x

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Small Victories: Why We Should Be Celebrating Them

According to my drafts I actually started writing this post almost a year ago. So that must make this the longest I’ve ever worked on a post. If by longest I mean I wrote an intro, left it a year and came back to it…

Anyway…

Don’t you find that life is all about the ‘big?’ I’m 25 and at this age, it feels like if you’re not getting engaged, getting a mortgage or getting pregnant then you don’t really have much to celebrate. There’s so much focus and energy put into the ‘big’ celebrations that I wonder if we ever remember to celebrate the small victories.

I’m bad at being proud of myself most of the time, especially a few months down the line from something exciting happening. So I got a job. It’s all woohoo at the time but then I just start to wonder why I’m celebrating something that everyone does. Sorry if it’s all getting a bit Camus in here, but hopefully you understand where I’m coming from.

Think about how we commend children. Woo you went to the toilet without wetting yourself or yaaay you ate all your dinner. We don’t do it as adults and honestly, it makes me a bit sad. So I think we should start celebrating all our victories, but especially the small ones. Yesss I read a whole chapter today without being distracted by my phone a million times in between. Congratulations me for going to the supermarket when really I just wanted to stay in and watch another episode of Brooklyn 99.

Basically, I don’t want to get so caught up in reaching big milestones that I forget to celebrate the small stuff, or worse, belittle my successes once the initial excitement has died down.

I didn’t really manage a lot on my to-do list or make any incredible headway on life plans today, but I did make a great coffee, braided my hair reasonably well and wrote this blog post. I should be proud of that.

What small victories have you had lately? Let me know!

Rachel x-x-x

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Is Young Adult fiction all it’s cracked up to be?

2018 was the year I was going to experiment with my reading a little more. 2017 was full of non-fiction and thrillers so I wanted to branch out and test the waters with some Young Adult fiction.

I can’t tell a lie, I had a lot of preconceptions about Young Adult lit. Partly because I don’t think I’d read any since I was about thirteen and partly because I am was a bit of a literature snob. You’ll be glad to know that this year has opened my eyes to a whole new genre, so let’s get into the nitty gritty.

According to the holy grail of Wikipedia, YA fiction is aimed at 12-18 year olds, and is usually centred around coming-of-age storylines, friendships, romances etc.

What I Read

My year started with reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which truly couldn’t have been a better book to started. I loved the story and I realised that actually the book wasn’t that different to adult fiction, it literally just featured a younger protagonist. Hear me out, okay? It wasn’t that I thought YA was stupid, it’s just that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy reading about teenagers and I figured that there wouldn’t be all the twisty twists of the crime books I love. How wrong was I?

I was honestly surprised by the themes that the book tackled and was awed at how YA could be such a great gateway to opening younger readers eyes to more complex topics. But then I sat back for a second and realised that this book wasn’t just introducing teens to these topics but me too! And I continued to see this thread running through numerous YA books that I read over the year: Juno Dawson’s Clean tackles addiction, Muhammed Khan’s I Am Thunder is a powerful depiction of Islamophobia and radicalisation and The Death and Life of Eleanor Parker by Kerry Wilkinson, which definitely met my thriller criteria.

My goal for the year was to read more Young Adult fiction whether I enjoyed my first foray into it or not. I wanted to see what else was out there and I really liked it. Maybe 2019 will be my Sci-Fi year but I’m not convinced just yet…

Do you enjoy YA? What’s your favourite genre? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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Slowing The Pace

Recently I read a quote which said “Strange, what being forced to slow down could do to a person.” It’s from a Nicholas Sparks novel and I instantly agreed with the sentiment. I’ve just moved to a countryside town in Somerset, from Leeds and before that Sheffield. Although Sheffield is a city, a lot of people agree that it doesn’t really feel like one. It’s more like a friendly town with the juxtaposition of the gorgeous Peak District on the outskirts and a cute city centre. Leeds on the other hand feels like a ‘real’ city (Sorry, Sheffield) and I loved living their for the past three years.

I loved how it busy it was at any time of day, I loved being able to go shopping in an evening or going for a coffee date with friends after university, and I really loved that there were gig venues and exciting events at my fingertips. So you could say that moving to Somerset has been a bit of a shock.

The town I live in now is very similar to where I grew up, in Grimsby. It’s small, quiet, and other than some shops and a few nice parks, there’s very little to do. Although I’ve only been here almost two months I’ve started to feel a little stifled by it. For me, countryside towns have an ‘older’ feel. I want to be in the city, doing everything all the time. Everyone has told me that living in the countryside sounds idyllic, that it must be lovely living somewhere that doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of Leeds but I’m definitely a city girl at heart.

However in the last few weeks I’ve been trying to change my mindset. It’s not that I don’t like Somerset, I really do. I love that Bristol is so close and I can get to the beach so quickly, something that I really missed living in Sheffield and Leeds, and coming from a seaside town. I’m trying to stop thinking about living in the countryside as a missed opportunity and think of it as a new opportunity in itself, by focusing on slowing my pace down.

One thing I’m really enjoying about Somerset is the number of cycle paths and parks and running trails. It’s good to be in a place where the air is fresh and where I don’t feel like I’m inhaling bad fumes whenever I go outside to exercise. There’s also a lot to be said for living in a quiet place, I’m certainly saving money because I’m not at food festivals and gigs all the time, but I still have the possibility of doing that if I visit Bristol.

There’s also a real community feel here. There are family friendly events all the time which I can’t say I ever really noticed living in a city and it’s nice to do something that I wouldn’t normally do. All in all, Somerset is allowing me the ability to notice life a little differently and to find new opportunities. And I’m learning that a slower pace of life is something to be cherished at any age.

Do you prefer living in the city or the countryside? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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