Otherworld

Otherworld – Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller

I have no idea where to start with this! Do you ever read a book where you like it, but not as much as you wanted to? So like, it was alright, but that sounds too much like I disliked it, which I didn’t… Man, do I have thoughts!

The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.
Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.
And it’s about to change humanity forever.
Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

I first heard of this book while persuing the proofs available to win at YALC back in the summer and I remember being mind blown that Jason Segal had his name on a book cos like, that’s Marshall from HIMYM (turns out he’s actually a bestselling author WHO KNEW?!?)

It was while I was at YALC that I first heard the premise and got a bit excited for this book, I’d read and loved Ready Player One and this sounded similar and there was a lot of hype about WarCross at the time too, so I figured books about games were going to be the new big thing. Well my experience of gaming is pretty much limited to Donkey Kong and Mario Kart 8 (I’m an insomnia, so Mario and I are very well acquainted) and now having read two books about gaming, I’m quite happy for it to stay that way. This is a great critique on technology being too relied on in society and the dangers that come from having so much information available and spending too much time in a virtual world instead of a real one. The action that takes place within the game and the mystery surrounding The Company and the Otherworld really drew me in. However, the romance wasn’t so great and I just didn’t really care about it and the story itself isn’t really that fresh or new, especially if you’ve read Ready Player One.

If you have read Ready Player One, this won’t be anything new to you. There is a VR game, our main character spends a lot of time there desperately trying to beat the game in order to finally be with the girl he loves. The world building in regards to the game is a bit similar, but much more nefarious and there is also an irl mystery going on, which kept the book moving, but did keep getting bigger and bigger and it was starting to test the suspension of disbelief a tad. Like, being faced with what humans would do when they’re living a virtual reality as opposed to real life is a big enough concept, but then there was also a conspiracy with the Company and the mystery surrounding all the people from the same town with the same rare medical needs, there’s so much going on with this book!

The adventure and the world building were amazing. Literally you can’t even pause for breath because the story whizzes along – its not really a book you can get bored of in that sense. It does fall short with the characters and the narration though. Because its not a character lead story, you don’t really get to connect with them. Simon is our protagonist, but I literally couldn’t tell you anything about him personality wise and I certainly didn’t care much for him. The same with Kat, I barely knew her, so I wasn’t that fussed about the romance or really understood why Simon was so motivated by her. Especially because come the beginning of the book, Simon has just returned from several months away at boarding school, during which time, Kat has stopped talking to him for reasons that were completely unknown for the majority of the book and don’t really make that much sense when they’re revealed. We’re also told in the first chapter that Simon has been been expelled from school and is on an FBI list because his room mate used his computer to do a spot of hacking, something that Simon took the blame for… Though why anyone would take the blame for something that serious, I’m not entirely sure. Why, considering this information, he was allowed early access to Otherworld is also a bit lost on me… It was kind of hard to understand his motivations at times. Most of the story’s big questions get answered in literally the last three chapters, this is a series so I’m guessing all the finer points will be ironed out later, but I did spend most of the book being like, come on, why was Kat a target? How does it make financial sense for The Company to be doing this? And so on. Also some of the reveals were a bit on the convenient side, so I’m hoping for a plot twist in later books.

Look, I said I had a lot of thoughts, it’s difficult when you enjoyed a book but also see problems with it. Basically, I liked this, it has a lot of good stuff going for it, but some of the pacing is weird and the characters aren’t that fleshed out. It reminded me a bit of the Death Runner series in that sense, lots of action, not enough character building. Also, and I swear this is the last thing I’ll mention that annoyed me, there is a moment really early on where Simon overhears two girls trash talking Kat, so he mansplains feminism and slut shaming to them and then hacks their phones and threatens to release their nudes. Like brah? You have not grasped the fundamentals of not slut shaming.

Anyway, Otherworld was a riot, thanks to Netgalley for the hook up and I’m interested to see where this will be going.

 

Advertisements

Let me introduce you to my brain

Hey, wanna know something super not cool?
My brain sucks.

Here’s the thing, I hate it when people post personal stuff on the internet. I mean, I can’t be the only one who scrolls through Facebook trying to locate all the memes that were funny on Tumblr 5 years ago and injures themselves from eyerolling at all the unnecessary melodrama of people’s posts. Its all ‘here’s some beef I’m starting with my best friend’ ‘here’s some goss about my ex.’ ‘urgh worst day ever!’ followed by people who normally don’t give a crap about you having their curiosity piqued and asking whats up, only to not receive a reply from the original poster. Hence why I tend to keep most of my personal stuff bottled, because I don’t want sympathy or to give someone else something to gossip about. Also because I’m aware of my privilege and I don’t want to seem whiny. But I’ve kinda gotten to the point where I’m finding it hard to keep stuff inside. So… I’m gonna talk about it I guess. Only not on Facebook. I’m sparing my fellow eye rollers that at least.

Here are a few reasons why I don’t like to talk about what is going on with my brain.
Firstly, I am really not comfortable talking about something that I’m not over yet. Secondly, I have a lot of shame and guilt associated with it. Thirdly, on the few occasions when I have tried to talk about it… Well, let’s just say I’ve not exactly had the support or the reaction that I’ve needed.
In fact, we’re only opening this can of worms today because this week, I tried once again to get a GP to listen to me and take my problems with my brain seriously. Because I live in the UK, I got to use the NHS. However because the literal devil is in charge of the country right now I can’t actually go and make an appointment to see a doctor, I have to call and leave a message and wait for a doctor to call me back and decide whether or not I’m sick enough to be worth their time. Long story short, I am still not sick enough to be worth their time. I’ve been going back and forth to a number of GPs at this surgery over the past 8 years with the same complaint. Every single time I have had the rather unhelpful advice of: “have you tried exercising?” like after 8 years that wouldn’t have been something I’ve tried. Yet again I have to sign up to a bunch of free CBT sessions. Most of which are during the day when I am occupied with my job (Which is a whole other thing) and the rest are full. So onto the waiting list I go.
Which is just peachy and has made me never want to discuss my brain with anyone ever again because yet again, it isn’t taken seriously.
As if that wasn’t enough, today I was approached by someone who proceeded to tell me about a young man they knew who had recently taken his own life, only not in the way such a subject would normally be broached, she was very disparaging of this young man, she didn’t think he should have been in mainstream school if he was suffering from a mental health issue. Later on tonight, I found out that the same young man was a member of an organisation that I am also part of. The people there spoke incredibly highly of him and talked of their sadness at losing such a popular and creative person.
Though I had decided a little while ago that I wanted to be better, tonight really made me mean it. I want to be better. I don’t want to continue down this path and have people lament the loss of my potential or bad mouth me for finding a way out. I’m just not sure how. Maybe that’s the point of this. Anyway, like I said, doesn’t exactly make me want to talk about my mental health.

Here is a list of other things that have been said to me on other occasions when I have tried to discuss the problems with my brain, just so you know I’ve already heard them and don’t want to hear them again:

  • You’re not depressed, you’re just over reacting
  • Stop being so sensitive
  • You have anxiety? Haha, but you love getting on the tube!
  • What do you have to be depressed about?
  • You’re not depressed, stop being so negative, the glass isn’t always half empty.
  • Have you tried drinking more water?
  • Why are you being so pessimistic about it?
  • Pull yourself together and stop being silly, I’m going to be late.

That one was particularly special because I was having a panic attack at the time.
World Mental Health Day was this week and seeing so many people I admire and look up to be open and talk about their experiences had me in awe, but even though it’s 2017 and Twitter has been flooded with people being supportive and sharing,  I’m not comfortable talking about my mental health partly because I’ve never actually had it taken seriously. I don’t think that’s anyone’s fault particularly, I just think its something many people are ignorant about or just don’t want to think about. Maybe its because I come from a very working class background and the kind of people I grew up around didn’t have time for things like mental illness, they had mines to mine and unions to join and work had to be done because life was about getting up, going to work, sleeping and repeating. There was no time for emotions or lack thereof. (Fun fact, even though I still think of myself as being working class, I have a therapist and I’ve eaten quinoa which is quite middle class when you think about it.)
But without meaning to, every time someone brushes me off or invalidates my feelings (or lack thereof cos full disclosure, I alternate between anger, sadness and numbness) all you do is add to the overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. To you I am over dramatic, to me, the voice in my head telling me no one cares and wondering how long it would take people to notice if I died gets louder. That one is a particular favourite of my brain, it likes to ask me that question around the moment I’m just drifting off to sleep, which then leaves me staring at my ceiling blankly for hours trying to calculate whether it would take longer than a week for anyone to get concerned about not seeing/hearing from me. It’s a riot let me tell you.
I think my other reason for not being comfortable about my mental health stems from that invalidation because mostly, when I think about how numb or angry or depressed I feel I get a sense of guilt and shame. What have I got to be depressed about? I have somewhere to live, I have a car, I live in a fairly affluent area, I have a regular wage, there are so many people in the world that have it way worse. I don’t have the right to feel like this. Which of course, makes me feel sad about feeling sad.
I’m ashamed because I’m not strong enough to cope with day to day life. I’m ashamed because for eight years I have been crying at GPs trying to explain how I feel. I’m ashamed because my mum lost the ability to walk and there I am completely healthy and yet wasting my life stuck in this black hole. Then I feel guilty for being in the black hole at all.

I can’t keep doing this.
I can’t keep pretending I’m ok. I’m not.
I can’t keep wasting my life in this void.

The bullies I face every day are nothing compared to the voice in my head. The world around me isn’t as vibrant as I know it should be. I’m fed up living life constantly exhausted from having to pretend to be smiley. I started a project in January where I decided to film my life and upload it to the internet a month at a time, so I could look back on all the things that happened in 2017 and remember the good times. I managed to get to May before finding fun things to record started to get hard. I’m pretty good at the hiding it most of the time though. Like, if you watch that video from May, you’ll see me have fun japes with socialists in Brighton. I conveniently left out the bit where I debated jumping in front of a train, thank Southern Rail for being so delayed that the platform got too busy for me to want to do it, I also left out the bit where I sat on the beach for two hours practically catatonic just listening to my mind tell me about how worthless and pathetic I was to have gone to the other side of the country on my own and to have been there for a day without once receiving so much as a marketing email. I don’t want to remember things like that. I don’t want to be writing things like this. I don’t want to make excuses or be pitied, but I do want to explain, because the way my brain is makes me irritable and I snap at people who don’t deserve it. The way my brain is makes me not trust why someone would be nice to me because clearly I am an awful person. Things like this don’t happen to nice people – hey, rationality isn’t part of the deal sadly. The way my brain is makes me not have the motivation to do any of the things it knows it enjoys. The way my brain is makes me dwell on things that are too ridiculous to fathom. The way my brain is makes me doubt everything. The way my brain is makes me sad and lonely and angry and numb and makes the world seem dark which bums people out, so I try to stay away from them. All these things are kinda getting worse, so is this an apology? Who knows.
If you’ve never experienced that, I’m super happy for you. Well, at least I think I am. I don’t actually even remember how to feign happiness any more.

Will medication help me? Who knows. Certainly not my local GP surgery cos they don’t even want to give me the option. I guess I could run more, I guess I could see therapists I probably can’t afford, I guess I could actually talk to more like minded people on the internet. I guess I could try and let go of some of that guilt and shame and open up to people.

Whatever. I hate that I did this. I’ll probs delete it soon. But like, if you know me and you’re wondering wtf is up, I’m just very tired but I want to be better and I’m trying.

Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons

Secrets of the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons – Dodie Clark

Right, let’s get this out of the way, Dodie Clark (or doddleoddle or just dodie as she is also known, no caps makes you super edgy online as my twitter follwers will attest) is a musician and YouTuber. She posts original songs, usually accompanied by a ukulele and more recently, she’s been making videos documenting her experiences with Derealisation and now she’s written a book about that experience. Having dealt with mental health issues myself, I am always interested to read more about how other people work though their struggles, which is why I was so interested to get a hold of this.

When I feel like I’m going mad I write.
A lot of my worst fears have come true; fears that felt so big I could barely hold them in my head. I was convinced that when they’d happen, the world would end.
But the world didn’t end. In fact, it pushed on and demanded to keep spinning through all sorts of mayhem, and I got through it. And because I persisted, I learned lessons about how to be a stronger, kinder, better human – lessons you can only learn by going through these sorts of things.
This is for the people with minds that just don’t stop; for those who feel everything seemingly a thousand times more than the people around them.
Here are some words I wrote.

So given that we’re all aware that we’re supposed to dislike books by YouTubers and given that I have mixed thoughts about the few books I’ve read that happened to have been written by YouTubers, what did I think of this?

Well…
The editor’s letter at the beginning of this mentions Sylvia Plath and I eye rolled so hard it hurt. I love Sylvia Plath and I hate when people are like ‘ohh like I’m cool and edgy, like Sylvia Plath’. Trust me, I have met people who genuinely say things like this.  So, even though I was interested to read this, that one sentence had me backing away slowly. But then I pulled myself together and skipped through to the only words that matter, the ones Dodie put in there and by god. If you were put off reading this because of the whole she’s a YouTuber, this is a way for publishers to make money off of her millions of young subscribers then push that thought out of your head. This isn’t Sylvia Plath, but it is, for the most part, beautiful and heart breaking and warm and endearing. Dodie writes in such an unflinchingly honest way about her experiences with mental health, emotional abuse and well… life, its refreshing and captivating.

The reason I was so interested to read this was, as I said, because I am interested in how people cope with their mental health, though this book is also about life lessons and observations, the opening chapters do deal with Dodie’s mental health experiences and the way she writes about it is captivating. As is the advice she gives about obsessions, growing up and love. Though there were times when I was left wondering who the intended audience was, some of the pages were written in a way that transcends age, others were clearly twenty something to twenty something and some spoke to the younger audience that I know Dodie has. In one way this is a plus, people of all ages can read and enjoy this book, in another I’m worried about how it will be marketed, I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on what is a solid read because no one is sure who to sell it to.

Despite only being in her early twenties, this was a great memoir. Normally I’d be like, live a little first, but honestly, there was more than enough material here to keep me engaged and essay like anecdotes were interspersed with song lyrics, journal entries, submissions from people who know Dodie well,  doodles and photographs – i had an egalley of this but the paper/hard back would be a much better reading experience and would allow you to better understand the stories the doodles, journal clippings and selected photos tell.

Also I feel there needs to be a special mention for the dedication at the beginning because it was hilarious.

All in all, though I wouldnt say this book was perfect and there were some moments that were stronger than others, this was a thoughtful, endearing memoir and though I really want to make a 6/10 reference, I think it deserves more than that!

Great Bookish Bake off – Ginger, apple and maple syrup cake

The cakes I bake and the books I read while baking them. 

Ginger, apple and maple syrup cake. Its pretty amazing.

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

I was going to make this for my birthday, because my birthday fell over rosh hashanah and who doesn’t want to apples dipped in honey? Well… apart from the fact that I don’t like honey. So I used maple syrup. And then I decided to make a cake. Only I didn’t have any ingredients, so I made it over the first weekend in October, because that’s another perfect reason to eat apples and spices. This cake is sticky, warm and comforting and completely vegan. Yaaas.

You will need:
A Betty Crocker Ginger Cake Mix
2 pink lady apples
Cinnamon
Ginger
Maple Syrup
Sugar
300ml Lemonade
Butter
Icing Sugar
Two round cake tins
A frying pan
A book. I went with The Wrath and the Dawn.

Yes, I know this is a box mix, but honestly, when you give up dairy and then realise you can make a pretty spectacular cake with only two ingredients, it makes finding egg replacers a bit pointless.
Pour your cake mix into a mixing bowl and add your lemonade, give it a good mix, folding it all in together and then separate into cake tins and cook for 30 minutes. While that’s cooking you can do a bit of reading, I was working my away through the Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, which is a retelling of 1,001 Nights… I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, the writing style is incredible, but I have a few problems with the story itself… Anyone else read it? What did you think?

When the cake is done, put those aside and get your apples. Cut these into squares and put into a frying pan, add spices, sugar and maple syrup and fry stirring continuously until the apples are soft and covered in the sticky, spicy concoction. Spoon the apples onto one of the cakes and then put the second on top, making sure to save some apples for decoration. I won’t tell you how to make icing cos I’m sure you already know, but if you’re abstaining from dairy like myself, you can use lactose free butter, it works in much the same way.
Spread over the top of the cake and add the remaining apples for decoration and voila, a warming, spicey autumnal cake for you to enjoy GBBO with!

September round up

Ah, the month of my birthday where I spend most of my time in a state of existential dread. Good times.
I had some time off this month, so naturally, I read TOO MUCH. Even so, the amount of books I have left to read is not getting any smaller, how am I supposed to read all the things?!
This month has been an interesting one, I started the month doing two hours of zumba for charity, which doesn’t sound like much of a challenge until you hear the fact that it was the first time I’ve ever done it! This month also saw Games Night part two, seeing the Adams Family and of course, turning 29 as well as the birth of my new niece!

What I read this month:

Mirror, Mirror – Cara Delevingne
See, when I saw that Cara Delevingne had written a book and it was available on Netgalley I was intregued, especially because it sounded so good! And actually I was pleasantly surprised, think Paper Towns crossed with Pretty Little Liars with a bit of Riverdale chucked in and you get Mirror Mirror. You can read my review here

Vivian Apple versus America – Katie Coyle
It has been about two years since I read the first one, but finally I got around to finishing Vivian Apple’s story! I reviewed this here (honestly, I was sent an egalley for this and should have reviewed about a million years ago but the file wouldn’t open so I couldn’t… then I saw it at the library, so the review has happened!) This was fun and I loved catching up with Vivian and Harp again!

Come Sundown – Nora Roberts
This is the first Nora Roberts book I’ve ever read, honestly, the fact that she has her name on over 200 of them is a bit daunting! This is a murder mystery of sorts set on a ranch that swings between being a little bit like the soap opera Dallas and a little bit like Emma Donaghue’s The Room. Creepy and melodramatic in all the right places, see my full review here! (I was supposed to read and review this about a million years ago, sorry. I’m back on it now!)

Shylock is my name – Howard Jacobson
You know when I was like, hey, I wanna read all the Hogarth Shakspeare books when I came across Margaret Atwood’s Hagseed? Well, I found this which is part of that collection, a retelling of the Merchant of Venice, which I’ve always avoided because I figured it would be a bit anti Semitic. However, as Jacobson himself is of the Jewish persuasion, I figured maybe not. I normally love reading Jewish writers, especially when they stick in Yiddish and stuff cos it makes me feel like I’m in on a joke, but this was a bit… I dunno, high brow? It gave me the impression that it was super clever and I wasn’t because I didn’t connect with or really understand what was going on… Maybe I should read the Merchant of Venice and it will all become clear to me!

The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-62
Have I ever mentioned before how much I love The Bell Jar? Well, I love the Bell Jar, so when I spotted this at my local library, I couldn’t not give it a go. This collection take us through Sylvia Plath’s time at college, into adulthood, marriage and up to her last year. Which is a bit of a weird thought. Anyway, I don’t know about anyone else, but reading the journals of celebrated people is always fascinating, they’re so intimate and this had so many insightful moments. There were moments that were a bit Bridget Jones which was weird and honestly reading about the only poet I like moaning about her period was a bit weird. Anyway. This was great. Read it.

Dramarama – E Lockhart
I was so sad reading this book! I have loved every E Lockhart book I’ve ever read, so when I saw this at the library I leaped on it. Only then I started reading it and realised that this wasn’t anywhere near as good as the others I’ve read which was such a disappointment. This is the story of Sadye, who meets her BFF Demi at an audition for a summer drama school that they both get into, only when she arrives, she realises that there are a lot of kids there who are professionals and feels insecure about her abilities. And for some reason, even though, this is completely new to her, is upset when she is given smaller parts… Anyway, it wasn’t the strongest of E Lockhart’s books and I’m a bit sad about it.

Everything We Keep -Kerry Lonsdale
Firstly, I am super sorry about how long this has been sat on my kindle for. I was sent this and the sequel to review a really long time ago… So… Sorry. This is the story of Aimee who ends up having to host a funeral on the day that she should be hosting her wedding, her fiancee James disappears and is declared legally dead following a boating accident. Its a very slow moving character driven book and features a lot of big ideas that seem a little flippantly used… I reviewed it here.

Everything We Left Behind – Kerry Lonsdale
I received this at the same time as the preceding book, so I reviewed them both together. This picks up immediately after the first one finishes following on James and Aimee’s story. I felt much the same way about this as the first one, you can click above to see all my thoughts, though if you’re planning on reading this duology, don’t read the blurb of this one until you’ve finished the first one because SPOILERS. These are quick and easy reads and would be great for summer, holiday reads.

Yuki Means Happiness – Alison Jean Lester
Another book for review. Sorry, are you bored of these yet? This was so different from anything I’ve read before – I wasn’t sure what to make of the narration to start with, but I got a little addicted to it after a while and ended up finishing it in a day! It follows the story of Diana, an American who is a little lost as to what to do with her life and unsure how she feels about the guy she’s been seeing, so she decides to take a job in Japan. As you do. While there she befriends the child in her care and along the way saves the child and herself while learning about an interesting new culture. I reviewed this too. Sorry.

Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard
Sometimes you just crave generic YA content and that was what this is. In fact, it was so generic, it was almost like someone went, The Hunger Games, Grisha series, Divergent and The Selection were all so good, let’s merge them all together and remarket it as though it were an original story! Basically, a society split into royals, who have Grisha like powers, and paupers live in a world where the poor must fight for the rich has a rebellion brewing and a poor girl somehow ends up with magic powers and gets caught up in the Prince’s selection for a wife ala Selection and then ends up having to live in the palace where she attempts to do a Katniss and become the face of a rebellion from behind enemy lines. Like, this could have been really good. It just wasn’t anything new.

Stay with me – Ayobami Adebayo
I keep seeing this in book hauls so naturally I picked it up when I saw it at the library and honestly this was amazing! It was very different to anything else I’ve ever read, its set in Nigeria and was aside from being interesting to see life in a completely different culture to anything I’m used to, it was also written in a really fascinating way with different characters taking over the narration and the different time periods that it came from, as well featuring some of the socio-political issues of the time.

Films I watched this month:
You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter, have been keeping up with my Film reviews in 10 tweets or less posts or this video, that I really like films and that I spend a lot of time watching them, so here are all the films (some new, some rewatches) that graced my television/cinema screen this month!

  • The Dark Tower
    While the film wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen, it left me really wanting to read more Stephen King as I’ve only read The Shining and the film referenced a character having the shine!
  • Allegiant part 1
  • The Other Boleyn Girl

TV I watched his month:

  • The Great British Bakeoff
  • Strike
  • Timeless
    The whole of series one is on netflix now, so for those of you that missed it – GET ON IT.
  • House of Cards

My favourite Instagram posts this month:

bubble waffles for breakfast

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

🌈d r a m a t i c s k i e s 🌈

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

t w e n t y n i n e

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

What I did on YouTube this month:

What I loved on YouTube this month:

Luke Cutforth’s Taylor Swift parody was the best thing ever uploaded to the internet, literally the rest of us can all go home. I will just give some honourable mentions though, Daniel J Layton’s August PMS was so poignant and highlighted a lot of things I’ve been feeling myself, Dodie Clarke‘s video about depersonalisation was super interesting and her music video for 6/10 was super good. Sophie tagged me in a dinosaur themed book tag (which I will do at some point), Sanne made a great video to all the books she will never read and Leena does it again with her Creators for Change video about whether people feel British.

Yuki means happiness

Yuki Means Happiness – Alison Jean Lester

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Japan before?
Well… I love Japan. I’ve never been there but I find the whole culture and history of Japan fascinating, I think its because it is so far removed from what life is like in the UK and the fact that they’re so good at making manga and anime and sweets. Also mochi. The food of the Gods. Anyway, because I love Japan so much, I love reading books set there, which is, combined with the cover, why I chose to request this when it was available for review, so thank you Bookbridgr for sending me a copy!

Diana is young and uneasy in a new relationship when she leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura and sets about adapting to a routine of English practice, ballet and swimming lessons, and Japanese cooking.
But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn’t as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way. 
Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman’s journey to discover her true self.

So this is the story of Diana, who after spending time qualifying to be a nurse and falling into a relationship with Porter is offered a job in Japan as a nanny for a baby she helped care for at the time of her birth and as she has no idea who she is or what she’s doing with her life and is terrified of the intimacy that a relationship entails, she moves to Japan. What follows is a journey of self discovery alongside a beautiful friendship with the three year old in her care. There is also a bit of family drama and a hint of child abuse to help keep up the tension.

When I started reading this I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with it, the narration was very odd, but it was concise and I think it summed up Diana’s character really well. It also created a beautiful picture of Japan and gave a real insight into the culture, and even though we are aware that the situation is an unusual one, I felt like I learned a lot about the setting, I want to read as many things about Japan as possible – send me recs!

Also, can we talk about that cover? The cover is beautiful!

Everything We Keep and Everything We Left Behind

Everything We Keep and Everything We Left Behind – Kerry Lonsdale.

You might have noticed that pretty much everything I’ve been posting recently is reviews, that’s because I’ve had a backlog of ARCS building up and I’m finally getting around to reading them all, so I figured as these two are part of the same series, I’d do them at the same time! As Everything We Left Behind was scheduled for release, the publisher was kind enough to send me both books so I could catch up.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.
As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.
 

So, Everything We Keep begins at James’ funeral, on what should have been Aimee’s wedding day and the book then follows the next year of her life as she tries to pick up the pieces and move on. She makes new friends, starts a new career, but she can’t seem to shake James, told through a series of flashbacks to her and James’ lives together and the present, we learn about his dysfunctional family and eventually that she was right to have questions about his disappearance.
Though this book has a few twists and turns and enough intriguing moments to keep you interested, there does seem to be a a lot of big subjects being thrown around in an almost flippant manner. One character is assumed to have disassociated fugue, yet there isn’t much gravity given to what comes across to me as being a big deal.
It’s much more of a character driven book than plot driven, with the story being second fiddle to Aimee and her supporting cast. Its a very long winded, winding story about Aimee trying to rebuild her life and get over James. There isn’t much drama, but sometimes, it’s nice to read something that meanders and lets you have time to process.

The second book picks up precisely where the first one left off, and this one follows more of Carlos’ story and ties up some loose ends involving various characters and mysteries from the first book it also features a lot of flash backs to fill in the blanks and we learn a lot more about what happened to James. I would leave the blurb here, but spoilers! This is a ‘true sequel’ you literally can’t read this without having read the first book.

This was told in much the same way and again dealt with large subjects without much gravity. Again this was character driven and they plodded along nicely. Everything We Left Behind alternates between Carlos and James, telling the whole story through flashbacks and present day. Like the first book, there is a lot of dramatic events unfolding without much actual drama or urgency.

If you’re a fan of soap operas, you’ll love these books. There are gripping stories, but some of the moments veer on the outlandish and wouldn’t be out of place in Eastenders. (Has the whole split personality thought I was dead but I’m not thing been done on there before? I think it has!) I think these two books would be perfect holiday companions, they’re the sort of thing you could lose yourself in whilst being sat by a pool or beach.

I would say that I would rather there were a bit of a cover redesign, they’re both fine covers, but they don’t match the story all that well, particularly the first one. The two girls aren’t even the same!