Book Review: Staunch

Staunch by Eleanor Wood – Published March 19th 2020 by HQ

I finished this book over a week ago now but didn’t get round to writing up this review because so much has been going on. You would’ve thought the lockdown would bring weeks of relaxation and boredom, but apparently that isn’t quite the case in my house.

Anyway, onto the book. I honestly could have read the whole thing and not even realised it’s a memoir. It’s written in such a fantastic, rather comical way – it is thoroughly entertaining read despite the number of hardships and misfortune the author endures. These difficulties include bulimia, a break-up from a long-term, very serious relationship, surviving and escaping a pretty damn toxic relationship, and having her step-dad (who she is extremely close to) leave her mother, and thus, her.

Wood alternates between the ‘current’ day, where she is on holiday with three older female relatives in India, and the past – anywhere from her own past experiences to the childhood and history of her family members. It’s amazing how much detail she includes, and the anecdotes from her grandmother’s and great aunts’ pasts sound like stories in their own right. It’s quite amazing that it is all based on reality.

Side note, it’s quite funny to me that the author’s name is also Eleanor, and that she suffered with an eating disorder. It made me feel a kind of connection to her, I guess. I definitely related to her in a fair few ways.

Eleanor offers some surprisingly positive insights and revelations, especially toward the end of the book. For example, she describes how she has begun to accept the uncertainty of life and the impossibility of perfection all the time. She also mentions how she stops relying on disordered eating behaviours, as she realises that there is far more to life than shrinking yourself.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I really, really enjoyed this, which is quite surprising as I don’t usually read memoirs or anything like this, really. Eleanor is portrayed as a really likeable and relatable character, and definitely very down-to-earth and raw in discussing her experiences and thoughts. 4.5 stars!

Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: What Makes Girls Sick and Tired

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Peslouan and Genevieve Darling – eBook – Published March 18th 2019 by Second Story Press

Thank you to the author/publisher and Edelweiss+ for providing me the opportunity to read this.

This isn’t a generic comic book; it’s a non-fiction collection of feminist arguments and criticisms of society. Each page holds a single item, beginning with some variation of the title. It ranges from simple, everyday things to more serious abuse and sexism. Every piece is just as important as the last.

The art in this book was great – not too busy, with a carefully controlled colour palette. The girls are drawn to really represent the variety of us in society.

My only real criticism of this book is that there maybe wasn’t enough detail on some pages, and some things that I, personally, think to be important have been missed out. Of course, it’s impossible to include everything, but I’m not sure there was really enough in this book. 4 stars.

Graphic Novel/Illustrated Memoir Review: A Fire Story

This is similar to The Best We Could Do in that it is both a series of comics and a memoir. It’s the story of the Californian fire, and how it affected Brian Fies and his wife’s lives.

Fies begins by illustrating how the couple awoke on the night of the fire, and how they began to frantically yet methodically pack up their belongings. He details the escape, the bewilderment they felt and the huge sense of loss. Later, he really emphasises how much a person grieves for the loss of their home and belongings. It’s not the value that’s important, it’s the memories.

Throughout the book there are also several other people’s experiences. Some were also in their home at the time of the fire, while others were on holiday abroad, watching the events unfold through social media. All of these accounts had one particular thing in common: they all mention how they did not expect to be gone from their homes forever. They thought they would be able to return soon, and did not plan on leaving everything behind for the final time.

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This was a fantastic book. Fies included little comics illustrating “a day in the life” after the fire, where the little, seemingly insignificant things reminded them of their loss. He also follows up with the process of reconstructing their house – and outlines some of the difficulties they never expected to face.

The art was lovely, with enough detail to clearly illustrate the events. The dialogue was perfect and sounded completely authentic, and expressed the emotions well. 5 stars.

Book Review: Alice in The Looking Glass – A Mother and Daughter’s Experience of Anorexia

I’m probably more obsessed with ED books than is healthy, but it’s so reassuring to read other people’s experiences that are similar to my own. This book was absolutely fantastic – not only did it help me see that I’m not alone or abnormal, but I was also able to read a mother’s point of view on the experience. I understand now how awful it must have been for my own mother during my inpatient hospital stay and the initial battle of getting a diagnosis.
I found it interesting that they gave Jo (the mother)’s perspective first, instead of Alice herself. We learn about what she witnesses before we find out exactly what Alice was actually thinking and feeling.

They don’t include weights or numbers in this, which is tremendously helpful. Like Jo says, this is a competitive illness, and even parents seem to want to compete in having the “most poorly” child. But it’s so triggering for other people to read about how much weight someone lost, and it’s not really relevant. Weight loss is just a side affect of the illness, and not the main issue itself.

The reality is addressed so honestly in this book, all the feelings and experiences that we may be ashamed to admit are written in black and white. It made me feel a lot less guilty about things that I’ve felt, knowing other people have felt the same way, too. And the recovery aspect was not unrealistically easy or happy; Alice is not completely recovered even at the end of the book, but is managing her illness. That is how most of us will live for a long time, if not for the rest of our lives. But Alice expresses how she is so much happier “managing” her anorexia than she was when she was suffering years ago. It gives hope – even if you don’t fully recover, life can be good. 

I really loved this book. I’d urge anyone with a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder (or has one themselves) to read this, as it would really help seeing both perspectives on the journey. 5 stars.

Graphic Novel Guide Review: DC Essential Graphic Novels 2017

DC Essential Graphic Novels 2017

DC Essential Graphic Novels 2017 – eBook, 126 pages – Published January 10th 2017 by DC Entertainment

This is a really useful guide for anyone trying to decide how to get into comics/graphic novels, or what to buy/read next. It provides a synopsis, review quotes and images from 25 of the most “essential” novels from DC to date, as well as a suggested reading order for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Flash, Robin and more.

Some of the most important graphic novels, according to this guide, include Watchmen, Batman: The Killing JokeThe SandmanV for VendettaGotham Academy and Flashpoint. Of course, there are 19 more novels listed, too.

The guide includes stand alone novels, and Vertigo novels. There is a section dedicated to comics inspiring and inspired by TV shows or films, such as iZombie (a personal favourite that I’m dying to read). As well as a backlist for every DC and Vertigo graphic novel, the guide includes a selection of different collectables available.

Everything listed in this book has an RRP included, and the ISBN (and lots of other details) to make it easy for anyone to find and buy. The authors and artists are all credited, too.


Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

The layout of the suggested reading order pages could’ve been a bit clearer, I feel, but I think this guide served its purpose pretty well. 3.5 stars.


Book Review: The Jigsaw Man

The Jigsaw Man

The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton – Paperback, 672 pages – Published May 15th 1998 by Corgi (first published May 1st 1997)

My psychology teacher recommended this book at the start of the year, and as it’s about the field of work I’m hoping to go into I thought I’d read it. It did take me quite a while to finish, but I still really enjoyed reading it.

Paul Britton, a successful forensic/criminal psychologist, goes into detail on some of the most horrific cases the UK has seen. He discusses his role in the House of Horrors, the contamination of Heinz products, and the abduction of a newborn baby, as well as countless other murders and rapes.

As well as his psychological profiles, Britton talks about his personal experience with working with the police, and how his personal life was affected. He also mentions his NHS career in psychology.

Because this is my ideal career, I found this all very fascinating. It definitely isn’t a book for the fainthearted, though – Britton’s descriptions of crime scenes and offences are brutally honest and vivid, and I was honestly so shocked by the cases he worked on. As Britton says, it really does make you see the world in a whole different light when you’re aware of offenders walking the streets right now.

This was really interesting and gave a lot of insight into the life and career of Paul Britton. It didn’t glamorise the career or the offences committed. 4 stars.


Graphic Novel Review: The Best We Could Do


Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This isn’t really a graphic novel, but kind of an illustrated memoir. It is not a fictional story with magic or monsters; instead, it discusses so many different aspects of life, growing up in different places during different times, and being a family.


The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui – eBook (Review Copy), 330 pages – Published March 7th 2017 by Abrams

The events are not recollected chronologically, jumping from the birth of the author’s child back to the childhood of each of her parents, and then all the way back through to the present. There are dates and locations noted throughout, but I did get a tiny bit lost on occasion. (If I’m honest, though, I didn’t actually read the date on half the pages so it’s kinda my own fault.)


There are several key themes and events in this novel. One huge factor is war; how it affected the family and their life together. There’s also a lot about what it means to be family, what motherhood is and what childhood is, and also the loss of a loved one. Another massively important theme is immigration; Bui describes being a refugee, illegally sailing away from Vietnam after they surrendered, and trying to build a life as a family in a whole new country. So many people are ignorant of these issues and hardships, not realising how much some families go through just to taste happiness.

The colour scheme is rather clear – oranges and blues, mostly. It has a very watercolour-y effect, giving a sense of remembrance and recollection of the past. The art is really lovely in this – I feel it portrays the story fantastically, and is just beautiful to look at on its own.

I found it really interesting how Thi Bui focused so much on the lives of her parents before they met, emphasising how even parents are people with their own lives and pasts and problems. As she becomes a parent herself, she realises how her mother must have felt for all these years.

As someone with a pretty “boring” life, I was also really intrigued by the journey everyone in this book made. The migration to America, trying to build a life and earn money and keep safe – it was a pretty emotional journey! But Bui never dwells on these negatives, never moans or wishes for change. She just says everything as it is, which I really admire.

This is a really interesting read for anyone who likes history, learning about different cultures, or just wants to appreciate their family more. It discusses some huge issues – miscarriage, infant fatalities, immigration, war – that a lot of people could benefit from reading about. And the art is wonderful! 4 stars for this novel.

If you’re interested in this book, it’s available now on Amazon.



Book Review: Touching the Void


Touching the Void by Joe Simpson – Paperback, 224 pages – Published January 27th 1998 by Vintage Books

At school a little while ago we looked at an extract from this book, and I decided I may as well read the rest of the book too.

If you don’t already know, Joe Simpson suffered a serious leg injury while climbing a previously unreached summit in the Peruvian Andes, 1985. His partner, Simon Yates, had a life-changing decision to make that would determine who would live and who would not.

Joe tells his story in excruciating detail, with snippets from his partner’s point of view, too. He uses a lot of technical language as would be expected, which can sometimes go straight over the reader’s head. He describes his emotions, his physical pain after the injury, and the setting that he found himself in.

Things go well at first, but during the descent there is serious trouble. Joe and Simon work together to lower Joe with his disformed leg, and it works for some time. But eventually, Simon has to decide whether to cut the rope or not.

After his first injury, Joe manages to survive an unbelievably long fall. But now he’s stuck in the crevasse, alone, with no hopes of returning to camp alive. Meanwhile, Simon is having to overcome his guilt and travel alone, with several frostbitten fingers and no food or water. The journey that both men must take is truly amazing and although you know the general outcome, you find yourself reading on and on to see what happens next.

Although it seems like a pretty short book, it took me slightly longer than expected to finish it. The technicalities meant nothing to me most of the time, making it slightly hard to visualise the scene in detail. But I was still able to appreciate the difficulties and obstacles that the climbers had to overcome, and I am amazed at how they did it.

The photos included throughout the book (below) were really helpful for scene-setting, and show how stunning the views were over the mountain range.

I don’t read biographies that often, so I knew it wouldn’t be my favourite book. But it was good, and if you like this sort of thing then I would definitely recommend it. 3.5 stars I think.


Book Review: Breakfast with Tiffany


Breakfast With Tiffany: An Uncle’s Memoir by Edwin John Wintle – Paperback, 310 pages – Published May 1st 2006 by Pocket Books

My teacher gave me a small stack of books to read upon hearing how much I love reading, and claimed that this was her all-time favourite. Honestly, the title is what really appealed to me – clearly, it wasn’t anything to do with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I appreciated the reference.

This novel, this memoir, is a truthful, brutally honest book about life. I can’t say I know what it’s like to be in the author’s place – I’m not a man, I’m not gay, I am not the guardian of my niece and I don’t even live in America – but the little things are just so real.

Tiffany’s home life isn’t great, and one day her uncle volunteers to take her in. Never did he anticipate so much drama and pain from such a small girl. She’s thirteen when she first moves in with her Uncle Eddy, and despite being a nice girl she is known to hang around with the wrong crowd. No matter how hard he tries, Eddy cannot prevent her from finding similar friends at her new school.

The pair really go through their ups and downs, and Ed himself talks a lot about personal thoughts and issues. He’d tested HIV-positive many years ago, and was also an unsuccessful actor. He broke up with his boyfriend relatively recently, and suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. Basically, life just has not turned out the way he’d planned.

Living with a teenager teaches him a lot of things. He is reminded of his own youth, and has to get on with his life all while keeping Tiffany going too. It’s not easy. Things do get rough, and he does find himself wondering why he ever got himself into this. But in the end their relationship is good, and they have a lot of fun together.

I did find this book great. It has hints of humour, conveys the bitter truth, and even gave me a taste of what it’s like to be a guardian of a teenage girl. There are definitely references I would have appreciated more had I been older than sixteen, and many of Ed’s problems, thoughts or situations may have been more interesting or important to an older generation.

That being said, I actually kind of loved this book. It isn’t quite in my favourites – but who knows, maybe in thirty years time it will be. I think I can easily give Breakfast with Tiffany: An Uncle’s Memoir 4.5 stars out of the full five.


Book Review: The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire


The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire by Dan Howell and Phil Lester – Hardback, 224 pages – Published October 8th 2015 by Ebury Press

Two of my favourite things combined together: YouTube and reading!

The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire is just jam-packed with everything a fan could want. Stories, photos, illustrations, quizzes, trivia… There is so much going on!

Of course, the boys talk about their show on Radio 1, and all the opportunities that arose from the job – such as meeting One Direction. They also share their school experiences, their trip to Japan, and a rather unbelievable tale about what happened in Vegas…

As well as all their personal memories and journals, Dan and Phil talk about how they began their YouTube careers, and give advice to those wanting to go into the same profession. There’s even a handy generator for video ideas!

All out favourite characters are mentioned, with Jessica, Becky, Dil Howlter, Simon the shrimp and Phil’s lion having their own pages. Oh, and a double-page spread of Phil’s hamster-breeding experiences.

And yes, there is fan-fiction. Phil Lester’s tale, The Hand, features Harry Styles in a rather unexpected manner… And Dan’s The Urge is, unsurprisingly, rather strange and dark. They are surprisingly nice reads in themselves!

Everything sounds as if the boys are reading aloud to you, as they’ve managed to capture their own voices in text. It’s honestly just like watching one of their videos!

Here are some of the many visual pages in the book:

There are deep moments, weird moments, helpful moments, funny moments. I would definitely recommend that any fans of AmazingPhil and Danisnotonfire read this! I’m going to give it 4 stars, as I really enjoyed it!