Dear Diary: books by Giovanna Fletcher

I’ve been a fan of Giovanna Fletcher on Youtube for a while now. I love both her and Tom Fletcher and I do have to admit I have regular binge watching sessions of their videos. I’ve also become a big fan of Facebook live videos recently as well… When I went to Dubrovnik in June I decided it was high time that I started reading her books. Considering I loved her so much online I thought I would definitely love her books!

And I was definitely right.

I started with Dream a Little Dream which was perfect holiday reading and very quickly moved onto the Billy and Me series. I have just finished You’re the One That I Want.

The Billy and Me books were my favourite by far. I wouldn’t want to ruin what happens for you, but I just love the storyline. I read the first book in a night, leading to a very late night and a very tired me the next morning, but it was so worth it.

They are all quite easy reads, but have the most wonderful characters. I fell in love with so many of the characters, I never wanted the books to end!

I am seriously hoping for another Billy and Me book sometime soon…

I went to the Fabulous Night In with Giovanna Fletcher, Lindsey Kelk and Mhairi McFarlane last month. It was so much fun listening to the three authors discuss their writing processes and their upcoming books. Plus a free glass of wine on a Tuesday night is always amazing!

If anyone is looking for something to read in the lead up to Christmas I would really give these books a go, especially as the Billy and Me books have a special Christmas novella…

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Book Review #3 – The Year of Living Danishly

I finally have another book review for you lovely people! I’ve been reading this very slowly on my kindle over the last two months. My reading time has taken a massive hit since going back to Univeristy so it has definitely taken me a while to read this, but not because I haven’t loved it! Every time I have sat down to read it it has really made me feel very happy so I thought I had to share it with you…

Helen Russell takes you through her whole year of living in Denmark. She moved from London to rural Jutland. From January to December it is really interesting to see how her perspective changes. She undertakes a different topic of research each month (a bit along the same style as The Gratitude Diaries if you have read that, or my review here). Basically Russell is researching why Danes rank as the happiest people in the world. This is despite the brutally cold winters and small amount of daylight from October to March.

I found there was so much in the book I could relate to and also techniques the Danes employ which I could input into my daily life. As I was reading the last couple of chapters this week which really focus on the cold and darker days I could totally relate. The clocks have gone back and the weather has definitely gotten a lot colder. I needed a bit of a pick me up to tell me how to get through the Winter months and the last chapters of this book was definitely it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure everyone has heard of Hygge by now. It’s become super fashionable in the last month or so, but fashion aside I think it is actually something worth looking at for winter months. It effectively focuses on the idea of coziness and spending time with family. It’s curling up with a book and a cup of tea, and cruciallt some lit candles. I love this idea as I am a sucker for candles and a good book and tonne that seems like the perfect way to enjoy myself through the cold months. I’ve just started reading The Little Book of Hygge after feeling inspired by The Year of Living Danishly so I will let you know more about Hygge when I have finished it.

Not only is The Year of Living Danishly really interesting in terms of the research into happiness that Helen Russell undertakes but it was also hilarious. Russell gives a great account of her year and her life in rural Jutland and there are some real laugh out loud moments… so much so that I was told off by my mum for being too loud at one point!!

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Here’s a picture of some blue skies to take your mind off all my winter talking in this post…

Book Review #2 – Year of Yes

The Year of Yes is written by Shonda Rhimes. The Shonda Rhimes of Scandal, Greys Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, so you know it’s going to be good. I mean how could it not be when she has created and written such amazing shows?


I knew it was going to be good. I didn’t realise how emotive it would be. The book is about her year of saying yes to anything and everything in order to change her “no” attitude. It is witty, funny and relatable.

I found the first half of the book a bit storylike. She was going through the motions of telling her reader the background to her “year of yes”, her methods and her first few experiences of saying yes. The second half however was incredible. It was inspiring. It made me proud to be a woman, proud to be reading the book, and proud of our society and the steps we have made forwards.

The book talks a lot about her role in getting black woman into leading roles on tv. It had been something I had taken for granted, but I hadn’t realised that before the programmes Shonda Rhimes created there had been no leading black woman on primetime tv for years. The second half of the book details speeches she has given about this and just reading those alone are worthwhile, let alone the whole book!

It has definitely inspired me to say yes to more things. She shows how important saying yes can be, how saying no drives you into a hole and makes you a shadow of yourself. Saying yes, whilst it may be hard, is worthwhile, and allows you to increase in confidence. I think it is true what they say, that you grow when you are outside of your comfort zone.

So. I am saying yes to life. I’m not going to say yes to everything, because frankly, I couldn’t cope with that. But I am going to say yes to more things. I have said yes to finally starting writing on this blog again even though it petrifies me that I share this with the world and it’s not just in my head. I am going to say yes to more social things, not staying inside and within my comfort zone.

Thank you once again to Shonda Rhimes for your incredible writing, once again inspiring me!

Book Review #1 – The Gratitude Diaries

Hello! I read The Gratitude Diaries back in February and it was a bit of an enlightenment moment for me to be honest. I cannot say enough how much I LOVED this book! It’s by Janice Kaplan and is divided into 4 sections, Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. In each season she focuses on different areas of her life to practice gratitude. Topics she focuses on include marriage, family, money, her career as well as health and connecting with others.

Kaplan writes from a very relatable place and it is a very easy book to read. It demonstrates how gratitude can profoundly impact how we view ourselves, others and our world, and the importance of being mindful and aware of our surroundings to avoid life just passing us by. She writes a gratitude diary for the year, writing 3 things each night for which she has been grateful for that day. She finds that re-framing her day to be grateful has a significant impact on her relationships, her health and the way she views money. This has completely inspired me so I decided to start my own back in February and I am loving it (more on that in a later post…)

Please see image of me attempting to take a photo of the book and my cat being vain and thinking I was trying to play with him. So please see photo of cat and book. (Isn’t he cute though.)

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I really loved it and could not recommend it more. (I’ve actually been hassling several family members and friends to read it for a while now. Soz. But not soz.)  I might have to go and give it a re-read around about now…

Let me know if you give it a read and what you think!

“Black Like Me” – a review

I recently read the book ‘Black Like Me’ by John Howard Griffin. It was first published in 1961 and covers the racism that was prevalent in the USA in the late 1950s. The journalist, Griffin (a white man), coloured his skin black and travelled around the South, documenting his experiences. If you haven’t read it I would truly recommend it. It is compulsory reading for High School Students in the USA and I can definitely see why!

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All my life I’ve inherently known that racism is wrong, and I have never questioned it. I have grown up in a society where I see very little racism. In fact, I’ve grown up in London which is the most culturally diverse area in the UK. Therefore, it was beyond me how and why people were racist and undertook racist acts. I couldn’t understand it. Why would you discriminate against someone solely because their skin colour was different? Why does this mean some people think that they are inferior and can be treated like second class citizens?

I did not purposely start reading ‘Black Like Me’ to specifically answer my questions, in fact it was given to me as a present. Yet, along with feeding my passion for historical information, ‘Black Like Me’ gave me an insight and did end up answering a few of my questions, emphatically at that.

The way in which Griffin undertook his tour of areas of Southern USA was this. He kept his name, his accolades and his personality, he simply changed his skin colour. Despite being the same person on the inside he faced discrimination. Thus, at a time when racism was intrinsically incorporated into society in the States, Griffin proved it wrong and demonstrated that it was futile and unjustifiable. He was the same person, so surely he should be treated in the same way no matter what his skin colour?

However, Griffin goes further than pointing out this truth; he begins to unravel why it is that people thought that blacks in the South were an inferior race. Griffin explains that because of the racist society the blacks were forced to have less access to amenities and lesser living standards, essentially living in poverty. This resulted in a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty, reinforcing the idea that blacks were actually an inferior race and incapable of living the same way that whites do. For example, blacks in the Deep South had access to poorer education; this led to an ineptitude to gain employment meaning that blacks were effectively forced into low paid and low skilled jobs. This detained them in poverty with no way out. The inability to improve one’s situation inevitably led to the social issues, such as drunkenness, that the whites associated with ‘black areas of town.’ However, Griffin points out that if whites were condemned to the same situation, they too would be in the same poverty-stricken position the blacks were in. Thus he concludes that rather than the blacks being an inferior race, they were actually simply victims to economic and social grievances. Grievances that were in desperate need of being redressed!

As you can see, my questions as to why blacks were thought to be inferior and treated as second class citizens was answered. This was a sort of enlightenment to me and instigated epiphany moment as I had never before thought of some of the issues in this context before.

‘Black Like Me’ serves as a historical documentation of life in the Deep South as well as a philosophical book about race. At the same time, however, it is incredibly easy to read!

The Guest Cat – a review

Having just finished University I felt the need to read something that wasn’t academic and wasn’t long. Ask any History student to read a long, complicated book after months of reading for their degree and they will definitely have something to say about it!

Hence why I chose to read The Guest Cat as my first read of the summer holiday. Not only that but, as I’m sure you will all realise eventually, I am a massive cat lady. My cats are like mini humans and I shower them with far too much love. So much so that they often stalk off from that one too many cuddle…

The Guest Cat is a short, but very profound story about a cat that enters the lives of a Japanese couple in the late 1980s. For anyone who loves cats, or has owned a cat at any time during their lives, you will be able to relate to the connection that the couple feel with their “guest cat” who comes to visit them.

It is the cat of their neighbours that visits the couple and you will also be able to relate to their neighbours’ reaction when they learn that their cat had a second home, and second owners. I know I am very protective of my cats!

Aside from the lovely story about the cat. The Guest Cat draws out discussion on some very profound issues that impact significantly upon today’s society. From possession, memory, commemoration, familial relationships and the housing market. This book has something that everyone can relate to in one way or another.

The philosophical discussions it describes about possession and memory are the two concepts that interested me the most. The description of the emotions of the couple who feel that, although the cat visits them everyday, and sometimes even slept with them, it still does not belong to them. The feeling of relief and completion when they do eventually own their own cat is indicative of the importance of ownership within society. The same can be said with the couple’s obsession with owning their own house. A feat that they don’t achieve, but the impact of which is diminished by their ownership of a cat. Society today is obsessed with material value, who has what, what is the latest trend and the best piece of technology. This book inadvertently describes this process of the innate human desire to say something is yours. An instinct that I would argue is taken to extreme in the current world.

A refreshing comparison can be drawn by readers between the natural world of the cat, who has no boundaries and does not have any ownership. Instead the cat enjoys the world and simply “plays”. It does as it wants without the overhanging sense of having to please anyone or having to subscribe to societal norms. This freedom that the cat brings to the book seems to rub off on the couple who experience more freedom through the cat than they ever have done before.

The Guest Cat also inadvertently describes some very poignant discussions about memory and commemoration. Having studied a module on Commemorstion at university this was an aspect that really fascinated me. The human desire to visit the grave of someone who has died. In this case the guest cat who they befriended. When this desire to visit the grave is blocked, it makes the grief worse and the couple spend their time trying to find connections to the lost cat and its grave. The idea of this grave being inherently linked to the couple’s memory of the cat is an idea that most people can relate to if they have suffered a loss in their life. Visitation of graves and rituals to remember loved ones are common and part of life after a death.

The book provides a window into Japanese culture in the framework of the cat’s entry into the lives of the couple. It informs the reader of the boom of the housing industry and the subsequent crash. This is the reality of life, but the cat seems to provide an escape from the financial problems the couple have. Perhaps the reader can take away the importance of relationships and the small things in life, rather than the problems the reality of life can bring. The in depth descriptions of the insects and natural world of the garden through the lense of the cat’s “play” does indeed intrigue the reader and show that being mindful of ones surroundings can bring so much value to life. After the death of the cat the couple cannot see the green in the same light, seeing it once again as lifeless and bland.

The Guest Cat demonstrates the significant impact animals can have on the lives of people and the important lessons they can teach us. From leading a life free of inhibitions, the joys that can be found in the small things of life, and that there can be a world of language without speech. Simply being able to understand someone from looks and actions can be just as valuable. This different sense of language that the couple learn about seems all the more important considering that they are writers themselves, they seem to learn that words are not everything. Indeed, I would argue that actions do speak louder than words. We could do with learning a thing or two about how this couple communicate with their beloved guest cat. I would thoroughly suggest this to anyone who fancies having philosophical ideas presented to them in the context of a beautiful story.