Talking about books, not reviewing them………

I never had any intention of reviewing books on my blog as there are marvellous book reviewers out there already, but I still want to talk about books.

I’ve just finished Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, published by Quercus books on 3rd September. I woke this morning at 10, after having a migraine yesterday and obviously needing some extra sleep. (Never sleep that late usually!) It was still lingering in my head after reading 50 pages last night.
I haven’t moved for nearly 3 hours, apart from getting up and making a cup of coffee and popping for a wee!

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I truly love a book that makes you feel like you’ve been hit with a sledgehammer, and Asking For It is one of those books.

I’m in that state now when I’m not quite sure if I can pick another book up today or even tomorrow….I might have to suffice with Marie Claire magazine or a box set.

Here are some other books that have had a similar affect on me this year, and all for various reasons.

The first is All Involved by Ryan Gattis, published by Picador. This is a sledgehammer book for me because it is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I was left reeling for days afterwards, the characters going round and round in my head. I’ve recommended this to so many people, including a 68-year-old female client of mine who was astounded that ‘this young man had written such a remarkable piece of literature’ based on true events.

Another sledgehammer book for me is The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink published by Picador. This affected me for very personal reasons and I’ve recommended it to many. It’s a book that I feel changes your outlook on life.

A couple of other sledgehammer books for me read this year are, The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett published by W&N and, Letters To The Lost by Iona Grey published by Simon and Schuster. These, because they restored my faith in love and both made me sob! You’ve got to love a book that reduces you to a weeping mess! Ask anyone who knows me well about my dating history and you’ll know why these books affected me as they did!!!!

So coming back to Asking For It. It was a tumultuous read. It’s made me feel angry, sad, shocked, and sick at times. I have shouted out loud. It is a truly powerful read because it is so so real.
I feel like Louise O’Neill is today’s hardcore equivalent of Judy Blume, dealing with controversial adolescent issues.
Louise O’Neill is an outstanding  writer, and as with Only Ever Yours writes so clearly about today’s modern society

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Talking about books, not reviewing them………

The Inspiration that is Cathy Rentzenbrink…..

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I met Cathy for the first time at the Pan Macmillan Women In Fiction party in February 2015. We talked books and Twitter and I was really chuffed that she recognised me as Matinee Girl, (don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of my fringe.)

I’d previously read on The Bookseller website that she had written a memoir and was interested to read it. The Last Act Of Love is her story of her and her brother Mattie. He was knocked over by a car when he was 16 and left in a permanent vegetative state.

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It is her story of life after the accident, of how she dealt with it , and how it affected her family.

A few months later, Cathy asked if I would cut her hair, which was obviously met with a resounding yes!

I was reading The Last Act Of Love on the tube the day she was booked in. It was an emotional read for me and I was close to tears (again) that I had to put it back in my bag. Walking from Baker Street station to the salon I had to keep telling myself to pull myself together as I had visions of her turning up for her appointment and me throwing my arms around her sobbing. Probably not a reassuring impression for a first haircut…..

I spent the most amazing 90 minutes with Cathy talking about The last Act Of Love , her life, my life, relationships, books, love, and hairdressing disasters, all whilst cutting her hair. She has ridiculously great hair to cut by the way.

I told her that her story had really resonated with me for personal reasons as I was extremely ill the same year that Mattie was knocked over. Like her family, my family had never really talked about what had happened or talked about how it had affected them. I felt encouraged to talk to my younger sister and find out how she’d actually felt throughout that whole time.

Without reading The Last Act Of Love we would never have had that conversation.

I bought copies for my Mum and sisters as a testament to how precious life is.

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Cathy is an incredible woman and courageous to write and share her story. She is truly one of the most inspiring women I have met! I have the utmost respect for her. I feel that so many people will get something out of this book. It lingers with you for a long time…….

Now for the questions……

Where are you going on holiday?

I’ve just been to the South of France for a week to stay in a big farmhouse with my friend Sophie and lots of her other friends and family. It was wonderful, we played lots of games, swam in the lake and stayed up too late.

How many books for a week away?

I need more than a book a day for a holiday. I usually take an ereader full of manuscripts and then a few real books. I much prefer reading physical books but can’t manage to carry them all.

What shampoo do you use?

I change around a bit. I like anything that smells fruity. Occasionally I buy something muddy and sludgy from Lush.

Are you doing anything nice at the weekend?

I’m going to Edinburgh to do Literary Death Match – a terrifying prospect – and an event about the science of reading. My husband is coming with me so it feels a bit like a holiday. I don’t know Scotland at all well but am going there lots for the book and have fallen in love with Edinburgh – there are so many good bookshops there.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m a Costa Judge this year so have to be mysterious about what I’m reading. It’s causing me pain not to be be able to tweet about a good book when I find one. I’m also dipping back intoA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara as I’m interviewing her soon. That’s a spectacular book.

If anyone alive or dead could tweet  about your book who would you like it to be?

Haha. Actually, it’s sort of happened in that Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm has written an amazing review for the New Statesman. He’s a neurosurgeon and a brilliant writer and I’m so pleased that he admires my book. I also have a huge crush on Sali Hughes and it was a great day when I woke up to see she’d tweeted about the book. She interviewed me and we went boozing afterwards and talked about everything ever.

One of the best things about writing the book is the tweets and emails I’ve had from strangers saying that the book has resonated with them and helped them to come to terms with a loss of their own. That makes it feel worthwhile.

Have you ever had a hair disaster?

So many! Even thinking of the sun-in years of the late eighties gives me the shivers. I was hairdresser phobic until I found you. I once ended up with a mullet that my mum fixed for me by cutting off more hair. For years my friend Sophie used to cut my hair when we were both drunk and it looked okay. Sometimes I tried to do it myself when inebriated with less good results. I once woke up with no fringe left…

I’ve been really fortunate to have seen Cathy at numerous book events including Damian Barr’s Literary Salon, In Conversation with Max Porter at Dulwich Books, and In Conversation with Matt Haig at Foyles.

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The Inspiration that is Cathy Rentzenbrink…..