Posted in Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Book Review:Why am I Scared of Everything by Bethany Straker

Star Rating: 5/5
Title: Why Am I Scared of Everything?
Author: Bethany Straker
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Pages: 96
Genre: Self-Help, Anxiety, Mental Illness

Meet Regina Sharpe. She has full-blown anxiety, but she’s not alone. More than forty million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders, and women are twice as likely as men to be riddled with unfettered anxiety. Author and illustrator Bethany Straker has had personal experience dealing with anxiety, and wanted to adopt a humorous approach at addressing our common fears.

A selection of anxiety-inducing fears highlighted in the book include: Being a failure, Aging, Changing jobs, Having children, Flying, Becoming a bag lady And many more!

A little disclaimer before I begin, I was sent this book to review by the author, however this will not affect my opinion of the book and I will be as honest as I usually am.

I was incredibly excited to receive this book from the get go, it sounded just up my street. When Bethany emailed me asking me if I wanted to review it I was quick to accept! As you all know I am incredibly interested in anything related to mental health but what you may not know is that I am someone who also suffers from anxiety problems and I was interested to see anxiety from another sufferers perspective.

I like to feel like I am not alone, especially when it comes to thoughts which I think may be seen as quite unusual and this book made me feel like I was normal! I had a lot of moments where I was saying “I thought I was the only one” and there was certainly a heck of a lot of laughter.

I loved the whole layout of the book, it is beautifully illustrated by the author herself, each page a different source of anxiety explained by a character of Regina Sharpe, I don’t think I have ever related to a character more than I have her!

For a book that deals with mental illness this is an incredibly light book, I sat and read it in one sitting, feeling so happy that I wasn’t alone in some of these things, Poor Bethany was bombarded with tweets from me about how relatable this book was!

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, especially those who are big worriers, you will wonder if Bethany has crawled into your head and wrote down your thoughts!

Posted in Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Book Review: This Book is Gay by James Dawson

Star Rating: 5/5 
Title: This Book is Gay 
Author: James Dawson
Publisher: Hot Key
Pages: 208 
Genre: Non-Fiction, Young Adult, LGBT, Dating, Love

A funny and pertinent book about being lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer, transgender or just curious – for everybody, no matter their gender or sexuality.
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 gender and sexual spectrums, this frank, funny, fully 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.

I felt like I hadn’t posted in a while (I have exams starting April 27th and ending May 11th so you may see little of me around this time) and as I am having a bit of a break from revision I thought I would take the time to write a book review! I’m sure you have heard of this book before, it has hit the book community by storm and I actually had the pleasure of meeting the author and he is the most hilarious person ever, he just says it like it is and he’s just brilliant.

Onto the book. This isn’t just a sex education book, this book is a manual, this book is a guide to how life should be lived and how people should be treated. When I got this book, I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest I hadn’t heard what it was about so I figured it was probably a fiction book based on the life of a gay couple, I was so wrong! But still, that was what I thought just from the cover, but after reading the book, or should I say devouring the book, I just love how clever the title is and how well it fits into the book and its message.

Yes there are chapters on sex education, which I do think is important with any sexuality as it’s important to be safe and practice safe sex, STD’s are heavily on the rise and this book speaks about how and why they should teach this in schools as part of the sex education. It may be an embarrassing subject but isn’t it worth talking about if it stops diseases, saves lives? I think so.

This book spoke to me on so many levels, you don’t have to be a part of this community to enjoy the book and to realise that this is a problem and that it should be dealt with. James handled this topic so well, he gave the statistics, he gave the facts and he was serious about the issue whilst also making you laugh out loud (yes people do give you funny looks when you cry laughing on your commute to university).

I learnt so much from this book, he even includes a chapter where he speaks about popular holiday destinations where LGBT is still illegal and it’s just insane to think that this still happens and I am shocked that it does and it was so eye opening to read about. There is even a section dedicated to parents of children who are LGBT which I think is incredibly helpful and should be read by parents, especially those who are close minded.

My favourite part of this book was where James speaks about arguments people make against the LGBT community, particularly those who say that the Bible says it’s wrong, he also listed other things that the bible says you should and shouldn’t do so if you’re following the Bible so strictly you should also sell your daughter to slavery. Everything just made sense, it was so well written and it shows how close minded and hypocritical people are that are against LGBT.

I was pleased when I saw who the illustrator was, if you ever read the ally’s world books when you were younger like I did then you will also recognise the illustrator, The illustrations added so much to the book and to the enjoyment of it, it isn’t just a book that says “look how badly LGBT are treated”, it makes you laugh but it has a message and it’s a message that I wish more people would pay attention to.

I absolutely adored this book and I highly recommend it to everyone. This should be a book that everybody has to read, it should be a book that is readily in libraries as well as schools, everyone would benefit from reading it.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Posted in Book Reviews, Non-fiction, Psychology

Book Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Star Rating: 5/5
Title: The Psychopath Test
Author: Jon Ronson
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 304
Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Psychopaths, Journalism

What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness.

Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything

I own quite a lot of Jon Ronson’s books. I really want a copy of his new book (So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed) and also his book on extremeists (Them) which sounds incredibly interesting. To kick off my binge into his books I decided to start with the one that I was most excited about and that was The Psychopath Test. I had heard a lot about Jon Ronson as a person, that he was incredibly witty and funny and explained things in a way that you just wanted to know more, read more, and after watching his TED talk on the psychopath checklist I instantly knew I would enjoy his books.

This book has the main focus on Bob Hare’s Psychopath Checklist which is essentially a 20 item list of traits that belong to a psychopath, the higher you score on this test the more psychopathic you are. This includes items such as “Pathological Lying” and “Impulsivity”. Jon decides to take Bob Hare’s course on how to spot a psychopath (which I am incredibly jealous of) and Jon then feels as though he has these new found psychopath spotting powers which is a really funny way of looking at it. Although it is not true that you are able to easily spot a psychopath even with knowledge of psychopaths (as Bob Hare has pointed out) it was interesting to read how Jon applied what he had learnt to the various interesting people that he met along the way.

He delves into a few questions surrounding psychopaths, he goes to meet people who are in fact not criminals but are incredibly high up in power in the world, and tries to determine whether they may infact be psychopathic which was an incredibly interesting read. The most interesting part of this book for me was Tony (not his real name of course) Jon went to visit a man called Tony who is in Broadmoor Hospital and it was so interesting to read about this man and how it lead onto Jon’s interest in psychopathy.

This book does not delve too much into the psychopath checklist itself (if you are looking specifically for a book on psychopathic traits I would recommend Bob Hares book Without Conscience) but rather it looks at the case studies of everyday people, criminals and CEO’s and how these people may relate to the checklist, I learnt about a lot of different people on the way and learnt a bit about the checklist itself, I really enjoyed this book and various different people in it. It was so incredibly funny and witty that I would highly recommend it to anyone, I can’t wait to read more from Jon Ronson.

Have you read this book? Or any other book from Jon Ronson? What did you think?

Posted in Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Book Review: The Domesticated Brain by Bruce Hood

Star Rating: 4/5
Title: The Domesticated Brain
Author: Bruce Hood
Publisher: Pelican
Pages: 352
Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Science, Biology

What makes us social animals?
Why do we behave the way we do?
How does the brain influence our behaviour?

The brain may have initially evolved to cope with a threatening world of beasts, limited food and adverse weather, but we now use it to navigate an equally unpredictable social landscape. In The Domesticated Brain, renowned psychologist Bruce Hood explores the relationship between the brain and social behaviour, looking for clues as to origins and operations of the mechanisms that keep us bound together.

I won this book in a giveaway by the psychologist magazine and they actually asked me to review it for the magazine, but as the review was only a short one and may not get published, I thought that I would review the book on my blog too.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when going into this book, I was hoping to learn more about the brain itself as this is a topic that I do struggle with, and I was not disappointed. I loved that this book had aspects of Evolutionary, Developmental and Neuro Psychology and really enjoyed learning about them all. There was also a lot of history and comparisons, I love history and this just drew me into the book even more.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog for a while you will know that my particular interest in Psychology is in forensics i.e. criminals. As soon as I opened the book and saw that one of the chapters was titled “Are we Born Bad?” I knew that I was going to enjoy this book, and I wasn’t wrong.

I’m obviously interested in the brain, being a psychology student, but with non-fiction academic reading there can sometimes be a point where you want to stop and read something more light and fun, this was not the case with the domesticated brain, it kept my interest the whole way through and also had me laughing to myself on the bus a couple of times.

I found it fascinating to read about children and how much they are influenced by the world around them, I enjoyed reading about imitation and theory of mind as well as about morality.

Overall, The domesticated brain is interesting and easy to follow. Would be suited to anyone from someone with a small interest in the topic to a keen academic. If you have an interest in this area I would highly recommend giving this book a read.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Posted in Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Book Review: The Boy in the Book by Nathan Penlington

Star Rating: 3.5/5
Title: The Boy in the Book
Author: Nathan Penlington
Publisher: Headline
Pages: 320
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, Search

As a boy Nathan Penlington had loved Choose Your Own Adventure novels. So when he came across a set of the first 106 volumes for sale on eBay, he snapped them up. Picking up the first, The Cave of Time, he was looking forward to a nostalgic trip back to his own childhood. What he discovered instead would send him off on adventure all of his own.

As he turned the pages, there was another story being written – in the margins were scribblings by the little boy who had originally owned them, a boy called Terence. There were hints on the coming adventure and jokes, but also something darker. Terence wrote about being bullied at school, the things he hated about himself, of a desperate need for friends. Later Nathan came across a few pages of diary:

Stole money from parents, bought airline ticket, ran away to Scotland.
Saturday – detention x2. Left school with intention to kill myself.
Drugs… Guns?

Even though it must have been twenty years since Terence wrote those words, it was clear that they were a cry for help. Nathan decided to answer that call: to find Terence, or at least find out what happened to him.

Nathan’s search for Terence is at once funny, moving and more than a little quixotic. There would be dead ends and crossed wires, and along the way Nathan would have to face his own childhood demons. It is a story about the dark places that can exist in any childhood, but also of the sanctuary to be found in books. And at the end of his adventure Nathan would find one more surprise: a friend.

I want to start off with a little disclaimer, I was sent this book by headline for free, however this will not effect my opinions on this book and I will still talk about what I actually think to the best of my ability.

When this book arrived I was shocked as to how big the book is!
It’s not the thickness but the size of the actual book, which is probably why it’s quite expensive for a paperback. This book is non-fiction and is the documented journey of the author to find a man. This sounds kinda strange, I admit, but let me explain; Nathan buys over 100 “Choose your own adventure” books that he used to read as a child off eBay. When they arrive a couple of pages from a diary of a boy fall out, the diary was written in the 1980’s which would mean the boy is now a man. After reading the diary entries Nathan begins to wonder what happened to this boy, whether he is even still alive, and what a lot of the notes in this diary mean. Whilst he is searching for this boy he also has to dive into his own past and bring a lot of things up that he may not want to discover.

The first thing that I absolutely adored about this book was the pure geekiness of it. There was so many facts and interesting information and there was even a part where Nathan visits a child Psychologist (so obviously I was a bit of a sucker for that) but there was just a lot of interesting and wonderful things that I learnt whilst reading this book and I did like the journey that Nathan went through, particularly when he finds a man who is creating a “diary archive” of sorts and he is collecting diaries from hundreds and hundreds of years ago and I just found it so interesting to see that teenagers never really have changed in their hormonal and over-dramatic ways.

I loved learning about the author as well, I began to really feel and like Nathan, he spoke a lot about having no friends as a child, which I could relate to and recalls about a life changing event which happens during his childhood that really made me understand about his obsessive ways, because let’s face it, it seems a little strange to go out and find some complete stranger whose diary happened to be in books you bought, but it was definitely a unique and interesting book.

Another thing I really liked about this might just be purely because of where I’m from. The author himself grew up in Rhyl which he talks about quite a lot and I used to go Rhyl beach every single year as a child and the way he spoke about Rhyl just brought memories of the beach flooding back to me which was quite nice. He also mentioned Liverpool a lot, I’m about twenty minutes train ride from Liverpool and I go to university here too, so i recognised a number of places that he mentioned in this book which was quite refreshing as most books that are in England tend to focus more on the south and neglect us poor northerners!

I did however, have one or two issues with this book. I feel like the book dragged on a little longer than it needed to and went into quite a lot of unnecessary detail, I felt like the book was more about Nathan than it was about the boy whose diary he’s found. I understand that the book is about the journey that Nathan takes because of this boy, but I just wanted more of the boy himself, maybe it was because I had expected the book to be primarily about the boy in the book that I felt a bit let down.

As I have said in previous posts I base my stars a lot on the time it takes me to read a book, if I literally can’t put a book down and find it hard to stop reading then it’s clearly an amazing book, but with this it took me quite a while to finish, almost a month infact, there was nothing there that gripped me too well. I was hooked at the start wanting to know about the boy and about the diary but that was solved in the first 100 pages or so and then I wasn’t wanting to find out the answers to some of the questions. I guess I was just hoping for something a bit different. Mainly the pace and too intense detail of this book let it down a little for me.

However, I did enjoy this book a lot and would recommend it to others, perhaps not if you don’t like too much detail and aren’t into geekery like me.

I couldn’t decide between giving this book four or three stars so I decided to meet halfway and gave it three and a half stars.

Let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it! Or recommend me something you think I’d enjoy.