A Letter to my Readers

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged.

I went back to being a full-time classroom teacher in my very own class (not covering maternity like I was in June) in September and it completely took over my life.  I went in to work, came home, fell asleep (often on the couch) and that was about it.  This was the first time since my breakdown that I had fully thrown myself into being a classroom teacher and I found it so exhausting! I kept meaning to blog and even started composing blog posts in my head but just never got around to writing anything down.  If I had any energy for work I felt I needed to use it on planning and assessment… which to be honest is the way it should be.

Another reason that I haven’t blogged for so long is that I kept feeling the necessity to write book reviews.  Reviews take ages to write and I often find that my reviews don’t actually say what I want them to because of the whole spoiler issue.  Basically, I don’t think many of my book reviews add anything to critical discussion about literature and this just makes me wonder why I write them.

So… during my blog hiatus… I’ve done a lot of thinking about the direction that I want this blog to go.  I think I need to draw a line under reviews.  I’m happy to do book-based discussion and essays but reviews… they’re not working and don’t tend to be the parts of my blog that people tend to read anyway.  Instead, I’m going to focus on lifestyle and fashion pieces… especially those which refer to geeky and literary trends.  I think this will be much more sustainable alongside a full time job (no more fretting about reviews!!!) and will ultimately be more enjoyable for me to write (and hopefully for you to read).

Hoping to see you about a whole lot more,

Mrs H.



I took myself on a date today. I started doing this a year ago when I was off work with anxiety problems.   Going out for an extended lunch on my own allowed me time to practice mindfulness techniques and just allow myself to ‘just be.’ 

I decided to take myself out for a trip out today to just try and re-group after a hectic few weeks of DIY and helping to organise my Mum’s house move. I didn’t go out for too long, just a few hours, but this was all I really needed to allow myself a little thinking space.

I went to the library to swap some books and just took in the atmosphere. I prefer to go to the library on my own rather than with my husband because I can really take my time over my choices and enjoy the whole experience. I then went to Carluccio’s and made the most of their 2 courses for £10.99 deal. It felt really self-indulgent to sit on my own and eat a starter as well as a main.  It’s interesting how you really focus on the flavours when dining on your own. I suppose it’s because you’re just eating and focusing on the experience rather than also having a conversation too.

Don’t get me wrong, I love eating in company but from time to time a good leisurely meal on my own is a real treat.


Top Five Authors on my Auto-Buy List

The lovely people at The Broke and The Bookish hold a weekly feature/web-meme/ link up entitled Top Ten Tuesday. Each week has a different theme where bloggers from around the world contribute their own top ten and are able to discuss each other’s choices. This week we are looking at the authors whose new books go straight on an auto-buy list- “I must have this!!!” I found this really hard as I don’t often auto-buy so I have capped it at five.

Neil Gaiman

It’s strange to think that I only started reading Neil Gaiman’s work in 2014. It’s the sort of writing that becomes like a friend- it stays with you and takes up your thoughts when you are sad, scared or bored. Neverwhere has gone straight onto my all-time favourites list and I’m now trying to keep one eye on new releases whilst working my way through his back catalogue of writing.

J K Rowling/ Robert Galbraith

I didn’t enjoy The Casual Vacancy (I just couldn’t get into it) but that hasn’t stopped me from automatically wanting to reading everything else that Jo Rowling writes. The Cormoran Strike books are a great combination of old-school detective writing and contemporary literary style, and I can’t wait until the next one is released.

Jon Ronson

I watched The Men Who Stare At Goats    at the cinema. It wasn’t the best film I had ever seen but the underlying issues really intrigued me so I bought the book it was based on. This plunged me into a world of weirdness that I didn’t want to leave meaning that I have since read all of Ronson’s available books and continue to pre-order any that come out. His last, So You’ve Been Publically Shamed, was really thought-provoking in this age of constant online social media trolling.

Louise O’Neill

OK, Only Ever Yours is the only book of hers that has yet been released. Her next YA novel, Asking For It, doesn’t come out until September but I already have it pre-ordered. Why? Because her writing for a teen audience is dark, unpatronising and razor sharp. The topic of her next novel (sexual abuse and victim shaming) shows that she doesn’t back away from controversial topics that teens need to be aware of. 

Joe Hill

It must be hard writing dark fantasy and horror because authors are always being compared to Stephen King. Well, what about if you are his son? Joe Hill has definitely become a respected fantasy and horror in his own right for a reason- he is great! Try the short story ‘Pop Art’ (20th Century Ghosts) for a great example of the strength of his writing.


Returning to reading

Just over a month ago I posted about the reading lull that I had been going through. I was exhausted with work and just trying to keep going until the end of term. I wanted to read but just couldn’t maintain my concentration. Now we’ve reached the holidays I’ve now reclaimed my reading mojo! 

Since school broke up on 21st July I’ve read quite a few books across a range of genres:

Short Story: In The Tall Grass- Joe Hill and Stephen King (horror)

Horror: Nos4R2- Joe Hill; The Venus Complex- Barbie Wilde

Graphic Novel: Wraith- Joe Hill and CP Wilson III (horror); Sally Heathcote Suffragette- Mary M Talbot, Bryan Talbot, Kate Charlesworth (historical fiction)

YA: Am I Normal Yet- Holly Bourne

Comic novel: Funny Girl- Nick Hornby

It’s just been really nice to jump back into reading with both feet. 


FAN FRIDAY/REVIEW: NOS4R2 and Wraith: Welcome To Christmasland

Summer. Massachusetts.

An old Silver Wraith with a frightening history. A story about one serial killer and his lingering, unfinished business.

Anyone could be next.

We’re going to Christmasland…

I’ve been trying for a while to write a review of the book NOS4R2 (known in the US as NOS4A2). Sometimes it’s difficult to write a review when you don’t really know what positive things you can say… however, I struggled to write this review for the opposite reason… it’s just so good that I risk just filling paragraphs with “Read it! Read it! Read it now!!!”  However, I was going through Twitter today and noticed that Joe Hill had tweeted this: “If you love a book, album, app, restaurant – write that good review for ’em. Balance out some of that ever-present online negativity.”  Now, I’m absolutely and completely sure that he didn’t mean it to be a plea for good reviews of his writing.  However, I took it for a sign- just get out there, write that review that you’ve been umming and aahing over and share your love for his writing.

The first Joe Hill novel that I read (well… listened to) was Horns, last year, briefly before the movie came out.  I really enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to read more of Hill’s work.  I’m currently listening to Heart-Shaped Box on audiobook and have also started reading the Locke and Key graphic novels.  I’ve really enjoyed all of these but… NOS4R2 and it’s prequel Wraith, they were probably the best works of his that I have read so far.

The title of NOS4R2 makes you think of Count Orlok and vampires.  You would be right in thinking that the villain of this piece is a vampire, but not the type that you are used to.  Charlie Manx doesn’t suck blood, he sucks the soul of young children, turning them into fun-loving killing mini-monsters with fishing hook teeth!!  This may sound a bit crazy and a little shlocky, but Joe Hill makes it completely believable.  I tried explaining the concept of the book to my husband and I could tell that he just thought it sounded like a strange drug trip but when I was reading it, it all made perfect sense.

The book hinges around the concept of inscapes, a concept developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins referring to worlds built of thought.  Charlie Manx’s inscape allows him entry to Christmasland, a world where every morning is always Christmas Day and every evening is Christmas Eve.  In fact, Hill makes references in the novel to other inscapes including ‘The Treehouse of the Mind’ from Horns, Lovecraft Keyhole (Locke and Key), The Night Road (Heart-Shaped Box) and even Pennywise Circus (IT- Stephen King, Joe Hill’s Dad btw).  There are actually quite a few little nods to King in both NOS4R2 and Wraith, which a really nice touch for the dedicated horror reader.  I really love the interconnectedness of Hill’s world and the relationships he creates with other literary works (both those of his father and other authors/poets.

There are several of Hill’s characters that I just absolutely fell in love with completely.  Hill’s heroine, Vic McQueen is both kick-ass and messed up and thus makes for a really interesting character.  I loved the concept of her own inscape, a bridge which she can cross on her bike in order to find lost items.  She was so well-written; Hill really evoked her feelings for her son beautifully.  My other favourite characters in the novel were Maggie, the librarian who uses special Scrabble tiles to discover the future, and Lou, an overweight comic-book fan.  I don’t want to give too much away about these characters but I could really happily read more about both of them!


I possibly liked Wraith even more than NOS4R2… I’m not sure it’s such a tough decision.  Again, I don’t want to give too much away about the plot because it’s so wonderful with so many twists and turns.  What I will say though is that Hill actually makes it possible to (briefly) feel sorry for such a monster as Charlie Manx.  It takes a very talented writer to create such a well-rounded unusual villain.  The illustrations by CP Wilson III are just perfect, the right balance of Christmassy twee, frightening as hell, and absolutely gorgeous.  Just the best horror comic that I have read yet!!!

wraith2 wraith3

So to sum up, I have nothing left to say except “Read it! Read it! Read it now!”


Fear, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Horror

Following a trip to the cinema to see Inside Out my husband and I spent some time discussing which of the five emotions featured in the film would probably be in charge of our control panel. Perhaps not surprisingly for a person with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, I chose Fear. Chelsea Mirze recently wrote an insightful piece for Bustle which relates Inside Out to her own experiences with GAD and is definitely worth a look. Like Chelsea, I too feel like the little purple guy is at the helm in my control centre. With the help of friends, family, fluoxetine and CBT techniques, I’m learning to live with my GAD but there are still times when Fear does become my go-to emotion.

Over the last year I have begun to understand my anxiety more and thus become able to deal with it. Interestingly, this increase in control of my fear/anxiety has correlated with a marked increase in the amount of horror fiction (books and film) that I have been consuming.

I didn’t use to like horror… or in fact anything frightening whatsoever. I spent several years avoiding the ‘Haunted Liverpool’ column in the local paper after reading a few articles led to a fear of looking out of the window at night time. The obsessive nature of my fears meant that avoided particular areas of the city (in case I saw an evil floating monk). So… why on earth is a person with problems with fear now regularly reading horror literature and watching horror films? Why is a person with anxiety issues considering attending a horror film festival? And why on earth is a person who for years (and years and years… since childhood) had a fear of clowns considering buying a Captain Spaulding Funko Pop?

One thing I have realised over the past year is that anxiety in itself is nothing to be scared of. We need it. Human beings experience anxiety as an emotion in order to keep us safe. As cavemen being scared of wild animals meant that we would know to avoid going near a hungry one! What happens in people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder is that the anxiety becomes over-active and can stop sufferers from living their lives in the manner that they desire. Indeed, I tried to actively avoid anything scary but basically ended up being scared of the possibility of being frightened (erm… a bit meta? Sorry!). What I realised is that I can’t just get rid of my GAD but I can try and face some of my fears.

Realising that anxiety (in small amounts) can keep us safe made me realise that (to an extent) it can be healthy to be scared. Horror fiction and cinema has given me an outlet to explore this, to feel exhilarated and excited by it. I still don’t think I’m up to scare mazes and horror experiences. I don’t think I ever will be… but to explore the nature of fear and what it feels to be scared through words on a page or pictures on a screen… I think that’s a good start!

No Time To Read?

I’ve often heard friends and colleagues proclaim “I’ve got no time to read”. I mean, how many of us will have no time to read but spend twenty mins a day browsing facebook or watching a TV programme we actually have no interest in? Surely it would be easy to find half an hour somewhere in the day to dedicate to reading. However, I’ve recently found myself declaring the very same phrase to my husband.  The thing is, it’s less about time than I would really like to admit and a lot more about inclination. I’ve been tired a lot recently and just haven’t felt like the mental exertion (not to mention the eye strain) of reading. I’m quite happy at the moment to waste my time on Sim City: Build It or watching The One Show because it takes very little brain power. 

I’m hoping that my inclination comes back soon as I do miss reading but in the meantime there is some pretty good TV out at the moment so that will just have to keep me going.



BOOK REVIEW: This Book Is Gay- James Dawson

Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it’s like to grow up as LGBT*. Including testimonials from people ‘across the spectrum’, this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know – from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell’s hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-read.

At the beginning of 2015 I decided to join a few different reading challenges to try and extend and diversify my reading this year.  One of the challenges I am taking part in is the LGBT Book Challenge over at Niji Feels.  So far, my LGBT reading has been limited to YA fiction so I decided to take a look at a non-fiction text intended for young adult readers.

First of all, the cover is beautiful.  The rainbow colours and the white writing just grab the attention.  It’s also great that the title (and the text inside) deals with the idea of ‘gay’ being used as a derogatory term.  This occurs a lot in schools (and not just in secondary… we hear it in primary school too) and really does need to be tackled head on.  I can imagine that the book would very informative and even comforting to an LGBT+ teen or someone questioning their sexuality.  However, this book shouldn’t just be read by those on the LGBT+ spectrum… straight teens should equip themselves with information and understanding about gender and sexuality too.

The book is clear, concise but detailed, interesting but funny.  I left the book feeling that any young person that had ever been taught PSHCE by James Dawson was incredibly lucky.  The book was inclusive and covered all aspects of LGBT+, although arguably didn’t include too much about asexuality which was a little disappointing because this is one part of the spectrum that I don’t really know much about and was hoping to learn about.

Obviously the book is meant to educate teenagers so I’m not really the target audience.  Having said that though I found it to be a really entertaining and informative read.  The writing is frank and the illustrations are funny.  I think secondary schools should ensure that their PSHCE department and their library has a copy of this book.


Getting Out of the Blog Slump

At the beginning of May I declared my intention to take part in Blog Everyday May as a way of getting myself out of a blogging slump.  I did find the posed prompts to be really useful and interesting and enjoyed the interaction with other bloggers.  However, I really struggled to find something of value to say every day.  Unlike Hannah in Girls (quoted above) I am pretty sure that I’m not the voice of my generation but I do want my blog posts to be reflective of me and what I want to say.  When I was blogging every day I feel that my voice became diluted and I became less sure of what I did want to say on the blog.  I know that I took part in NaBloPoMo in November but I was still off work back then and it gave me a focus for each day.  At the moment, getting back into work has been more of a priority (as it should be) so blogging has taken a bit of a back seat.

I have, however, sat down recently and made a few decisions about my blogging which will hopefully help to motivate me a little more.  I love book-blogging but the reviews take me ages to write and I never feel that I complete them to my satisfaction.  I think a lot of this is to do with being wary of giving spoilers.  Sometimes it’s really hard to discuss the nitty gritty of a book without giving spoilers.  Also, sometimes when you’ve really enjoyed a book it’s really hard to know what to say except “please read it.” I’ve decided that I’m going to do less reviews- I’m not going to request books on NetGalley or BookBridgr except in exceptional circumstances and I’m not going to feel like I have to do a review.  If I feel like doing a review, I will.  I won’t feel obliged to review but can choose to if I want to. I still will take part in the reading challenges and will complete reviews/discussions on the books read for this. 

However, if I’m not reviewing will there be any book content on this blog?  Well, yes I’m hoping that there will be.  More discussion pieces, lists (I love a good list- just like Rob in High Fidelity), general reflections upon books.  I think that this more relaxed approach to book blogging will mean that I stop feeling like I have to do it (which is completely not true- this is just a hobby) and will remind me why I started blogging.  I want to get that fun and joy back into blogging.

I have taken a side step into fashion and lifestyle a bit too.  I actually intend to keep this in the blog.  I enjoy discussing how I can keep literary and geeky influences in my homeware and fashion choices and feel that it adds a little variety to the blog too.

What do you think? What type of pieces would you like to read? Is there a place for fashion and lifestyle on a book blog? Is there a place for the movie/TV pieces on a book blog?