How to be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan

how to be a grown up

I’ll start out by saying that How to be a Grown Up isn’t the sort of thing I’d normally read – I’m just not really into this kind of book, and so it was with a little trepidation that I started reading this.  And I was pleasantly surprised!  It’s a warm, amusing and light-hearted look at Buchanan’s experiences and what she’s learnt along the way.

Synopsis, from Amazon:

For fans of Bryony Gordon and Caitlin Moran, a comforting, witty, supportive book for real twenty-something women who want to discover how they can reach the end of the ‘fun’ decade knowing exactly who they are.

Have you ever felt lost, anxious, panicky about adulthood?

Have you ever spent a hungover Sunday crying into a bowl of cereal?

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and felt nothing but green-eyed jealousy and evil thoughts?

Award-winning journalist, Grazia agony aunt and real-life big sister to five smart, stylish, stunning twenty-something young women, Daisy Buchanan has been there, done that and got the vajazzle.

In How to be a Grown Up, she dispenses all the emotional and practical advice you need to negotiate a difficult decade. Covering everything from how to become more successful and confident at work, how to feel pride in yourself without needing validation from others, how to turn rivals into mentors, and how to *really* enjoy spending time on your own, this is a warm, kind, funny voice in the dark saying “Honestly don’t worry, you’re doing your best and you’re amazing!”

How to be a Grown Up addresses many different topics – how to manage money, how to love your body, how to survive at work etc. – common areas of concern that many people have struggled with at some point in their lives.  But it isn’t a book that tells you how to fix those problems, it’s not a book that says “do this” or “don’t do that” – I found it to be much more along the lines of “this is my experience, and what I’ve learnt from it” although there are suggestions and tips at various points should you be looking to make a change of some sort.

Given the broad range of topics covered, I think it’s inevitable that I found some of them to be more interesting and relevant to me than others.  I think it’s only natural – we’re all unique, and our own experiences and lifestyles will have led us along different paths, encountering different problems along the way.  That said, I think that there is probably at least one section in this book that would help most people to feel a little better about themselves – it will be a different section for each individual, but whoever we are and whatever life we’ve chosen or ended up in, there will be problems of some kind to deal with, and they are likely to fall into one or more sections of this book.

Buchanan makes several cultural references throughout the book, and I particularly liked these, and I’ll add one of my own:

If you’ve ever felt a bit like Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30 i.e. as though, almost overnight, you’ve suddenly become an adult, thrust into a strange new world and you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, then you might like this.  I quite often feel this way, so whilst I’m not the target audience, it’s comforting to know that there are other people are in the same boat.

How to be a Grown Up is a lighthearted and amusing book that essentially says “don’t worry about it, you’re doing ok” and I think that sometimes it’s enough to be told that.

How to be a Grown Up will be published on 6 April by Headline – many thanks to Georgina Moore for sending me a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mini Ninja Book Box Unboxing – Feb 17

I’m a little late with posting my unboxing, but better late than never, right?

You may remember that in November 2016, I received the first Ninja Book Box following their extremely successfully Kickstarter campaign – you can see my unboxing of the first Ninja Book Box here.

When it was announced that the theme for February’s box was “a Shakespearean Mystery”, I was immediately intrigued, and I decided that I would get the Mini Ninja Book Box this time round.

Here is what the mini box gets you:

NBB - Feb17 - 1

Everything in the box is individually (and beautifully) wrapped.  The possible spoilers envelope, and I think that it’s a nice touch that it’s marked as such so that you can choose whether or not you open it straight away, contains a summary of the book along with why it was chosen and suggestions for further reading.

I then opened the blue package, which was the gift included in the box:

NBB - Feb17 - 2

These are three Shakespeare inspired teas:

  • Twelfth Night: A bright blend of wonderful high grade Sencha enhanced by the saltiness from Seabuck Thorn and the blue cornflower reflecting our own fresh sea air and glorious coastline
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A truly wonderful mix of chamomile, lavender and passion flower.  This is a wonderful all natural relaxant that has been known to aid restful sleep
  • Hamlet: A wonderful aromatic Oolong tea, being a gently oxidised leaf, so taking away the slightly bitter taste that you may get from a green tea.  Our particular choice of Oolong is a delicate light leaf, but still with plenty of flavours, with slight hints of peach

I drink green tea at work, but apart from that, I’m not much of a tea drinker.  I will definitely try these, however.

And then there is the book:

NBB - Feb17 - 3

Ninja Book Box specialises in books from independent publishers, and The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett is published by Alma Books.  Here’s the Goodreads synopsis:

A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolour is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalising mysteries, with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

The Bookman’s Tale is not one that I’ve come across before, and I’m excited to read it.

Unfortunately, my box came without the little charm that is meant to be included, although they did offer to send me one when they heard about this, which shows what great customer service they offer.

I really like the Ninja Book Box and their dedication to independent publishers.  I think that if I was going to purchase a box in the future, I would go for the full box though – I think it’s worth the additional spend to get the full box and all the wonderful gifts they provide.

You can see unboxings of the full box from fellow bloggers:

And you can find out more about Ninja Book Box at

Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield


Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that I’m a big fan of novels which take a historical, unsolved crime and put a fictional tale around it – books such as Alias Grace, The Unseeing and Burial Rites to name some of my favourites.  So, I was understandably thrilled when I received a copy of Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield, which looks at the murder of Charlotte Dymond in Cornwall in 1844.  Whilst the man accused of her murder was hanged at the time, many consider the trial and evidence to have been unsatisfactory, and in Falling Creatures, Stansfield seeks to reassess the case.

Falling Creatures is narrated by Shilly, a farmhand who works on Penhale Farm with Charlotte.  Shilly is infatuated with Charlotte – as are many men in the vicinity – and is distraught when Charlotte goes missing, and is later found on the moor with her throat cut.  Matthew, another of the farmhands, is quickly arrested, but Shilly doesn’t believe that he is responsible.

Following the trial, Shilly is approached by Mr Williams, who also wants to help Matthew, albeit for reasons that Shilly isn’t initially aware of, and the two of them seek further evidence to clear Matthew’s name.

Falling Creatures is a compelling tale, and one that I wanted to get to the bottom of in terms of identifying the culprit, although I have to admit that I didn’t feel all that much connection with the characters.  Initially, Shilly was someone who the reader doesn’t really know – very little information is given as to her background, and the only things that the reader knows about her are her feelings for Charlotte and her constant cravings for alcohol.  Given the strength of devotion to Charlotte, I hoped that she would become a much stronger character following the murder – inspired by a need for justice if nothing else – but this didn’t really happen.

If Shilly is somewhat vaguely drawn, she is at least likeable in her way.  Charlotte, on the other hand, I found to be manipulative and something of tease, assessing the local men in order to determine the marriage that could improve her standing the most, stringing them all along in the process.  Her murder was horrific, but I found that I wanted to know who killed her more from the perspective of solving the puzzle and bringing someone to justice rather than out of any need for closure for the death of a character that I liked.

The case is well thought out though, and I liked how Stansfield assessed the crime and the evidence through Shilly and Mr Williams, and whilst I didn’t take to the characters all that much, the plot did hold my attention enough that this wasn’t an issue.  I also liked the conclusion that Stansfield came to – whilst it wasn’t entirely surprising, it was well thought out, and fit with the evidence presented.

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely keen on the more supernatural side of the novel, although that is purely down to my own personal taste, and I’m sure that others will enjoy the slightly different twist that this gives to the tale.  If it was just herb lore and superstition, I think I would have enjoyed it more, as that would have been fitting with the time, but I found that it went beyond that, and for me it just didn’t sit right in the novel.

Falling Creatures will be published on 23 March 2017 by Allison and Busby. Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BTB Readathon – March 2017

As part of her Beat the Backlist challenge, Novel Knight is running four readthons throughout year to help people achieve their targets, and the first of these ran from the 10th to the 12th of March.  As this happened to coincide with a lazy weekend, I decided to take some time out from the review copies and tackle some of my backlist, and I managed to read four books over the three days (yes – it was a REALLY lazy weekend!):

Nod by Adrian Barnes


Dawn breaks and no one in the world has slept the night before.  Or almost no one.  A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same mysterious dream.  A handful of silent children can still sleep as well, but what they’re dreaming remains a mystery.  Global panic ensues.

A medical fact: after six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis sets in.  After four weeks, the body dies.  In the interim, a bizarre new world arises and swallows the old one whole.  A world called Nod.

Nod was originally published in 2012, and was republished in the UK by Titan Books in 2016.  It’s a wonderfully unique end of the world novel in which our end is brought about by an epidemic of chronic insomnia which affects 99.9% of the population.

As is often the case, there are those who will seek to take advantage of such a situation, and in Nod this comes about in the form of Charles, formerly of figure of contempt, but who has seized the opportunity to establish a new world order, and he fully intends to be at the helm.

I thought that the structure worked brilliantly, opening on day 18, and then reverting to day 1, as the majority of people experience their first day without having slept.  It doesn’t take long for a “them and us” attitude to become the norm, as those who can’t sleep look enviously upon those who can, eventually coming to revile those that they may have loved at some point, and the sleepers quickly learn to hide themselves away.

I did find the novel to be a little slow in places, although it’s an intriguing tale, and explores a unique apocalypse.

A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth

a kind of intimacy

Annie is obese, lonely and hopeful.  Armed with self-help books, her cat and a collection of cow-shaped milk jugs, she moves into her new home and sets about getting to know the neighbours, especially the man next door.  She ignores her neighbour’s inconvenient girlfriend, but it’s not quite as easy for Annie to dismiss her own past.  As Annie’s murky history of violence, secrets and sexual mishaps catches up with her, she cannot see that she has done anything wrong.  She’s just doing what any good neighbour would do, after all…

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I thought that Annie was a fascinating character, who was at times vulnerable, yet also a little terrifying.  It’s clear from the beginning that there’s something not quite right with her tale, and whilst she evokes sympathy, I found that I was questioning her narrative, particularly as you begin to get insights from her new neighbours.  Ashworth drip feeds Annie’s back story throughout the novel, and whilst I didn’t find it particularly surprising – there are enough hints early on that I guessed some of what happened – it was still shocking.

If I guessed Annie’s backstory, I didn’t guess the outcome of the present-day narrative, in which Annie becomes increasingly obsessed with her neighbour, Will – someone she believes she has a connection with, and who, in her mind, undoubtedly feels the same way about her.  Annie’s behaviour becomes increasingly unhinged, and leads to a stunning finale.

Told with snatches of dark humour, A Kind of Intimacy is wonderful novel about obsession with an unforgettable character.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

the long earth

1916: the Western Front.  Private Percy Blakeney wakes up.  He is lying on fresh spring grass.  He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees.  Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man’s Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin.  Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive (some said mad, others dangerous) scientist when she finds a curious gadget – a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a …potato.  It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever.

And that is an understatement if ever there was one…

The Long Earth is a novel that I’ve had on my TBR for quite some time.  I bought it as I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s work, and whilst I haven’t read anything by Stephen Baxter, I’ve heard good things.  I have to say that I was a little disappointed by it.

The title refers to a series of parallel Earths, which seem to be the same as ours in terms of the date, time of day and geography, but have been completely untouched by humans.  When the instructions for building the gadget described above are posted online, people find that they can “step” from one Earth to the next, and can keep going, possibly forever.

It took me a while to get into this novel – I thought that the premise was interesting, but the delivery fell a little flat for me, and there’s a fair amount of exposition in the beginning, necessary, perhaps, but not particularly well done.

Given this is the first in a series, it felt like a lot of scene setting, but didn’t interest me enough to make me want to rush out and buy the sequel.

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

the story of my teeth

Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sanchez is a man with a mission: he is planning to replace every last one of his unsightly teeth.  He has a few skills that might help him on his way: he can imitate Janis Joplin after two rums, he can interpret Chinese fortune cookies, he can stand an egg upright on a table, and he can float on his back.  And, of course, he is the world’s best auction caller – although other people might not realise this, because he is, by nature, very discreet.

Studying auctioneering under Grandmaster Oklahoma and the famous country singer Leroy Van Dyke, Highway travels the world, amassing his collection of ‘Collectibles’ and perfecting his own specialty: the allegoric auction.  In his quest for a perfect set of pearly whites, he finds unusual ways to raise the funds, culminating in the sale of the jewels of his collection: the teeth of the ‘notorious infamous’ – Plato, Petrarch, Chesterton, Virginia Woolf et al.

Written with elegance, wit and exhilarating boldness, Valeria Luiselli takes us on an idiosyncratic and hugely enjoyable journey that offers an insightful meditation on value, worth and creation, and the points at which they overlap.

The Story of My Teeth is a novel I picked up at last year’s Hay Festival, having enjoyed hearing Luiselli discussing her novel.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve not read anything else quite like it.  It’s humorous and borderline absurd, but extremely experimental, and it didn’t really suit my tastes, although you might enjoy it if you’re looking for something different.

I’ve since read other reviews that suggest, somewhat counterintuitively, reading the afterword first.  With hindsight, I would recommend this unconventional approach, as I think it sets the scene nicely.

Not bad, just not for me.

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen


Hannah is in her early thirties and works as a senior manager for a firm of accountants.  Attending a training course, she is thrilled when she’s told that she is being considered for promotion to director, and rushes home to tell her partner, Matt, the good news, stopping to buy champagne on the way home.

But when she gets home, Matt isn’t there, and neither are any of his possessions.  Everything he has bought has gone, and the house looks exactly as it did before he moved in.  Even the books she’d moved into the loft to make some room for him are now back on the shelves.  To make matters worse, there are no photos of him left on her phone, his contact details have been deleted, his Facebook account deactivated.  It’s like he never existed.

Determined to find Matt, Hannah begins to investigate his disappearance.  But while she is hunting for Matt, someone is playing games with Hannah – moving things around the house, making silent calls.  Is it Matt tormenting her, or is something more sinister going on?

Gone Without a Trace is one of the novels I picked up at the Headline Blogger Night – I was intrigued by the premise of someone disappearing so completely that you might wonder if they’d ever existed.  I didn’t expect to become so completely enthralled by this novel, however.  I absolutely loved it, and read it over the course of a single day.

Hannah is a fascinating character, and you feel a great deal of sympathy for her plight, coming to hate Matt in the process.  There are often signs that a relationship is coming to an end, and yet Hannah can’t think of anything that she should have picked up to as a warning sign.  They hadn’t been arguing more than usual, they were both happy in their work and lives, and there weren’t any signs that he was having an affair.  As far as Hannah is concerned, he’s abandoned her completely, and she, understandably, wants to know why.

As you might expect, Hannah’s predicament soon begins to affect her in other ways, and she begins to struggle at work – missing important deadlines and not checking work correctly – and stops seeing friends, with the exception of her closest friend Katie, as she puts everything into finding Matt.  There are times when you want to tell her to just let it go, such is the impact on her life, although I was so drawn in to the scenario that I REALLY wanted to know why he’d left in such a way.

Gone Without a Trace that starts relatively slowly, but the pace soon quickens as Hannah’s search becomes increasingly desperate and frantic, and as a reader I found that I was completely hooked, and I think that fans of psychological thrillers will absolutely love it.  I didn’t expect the final outcome at all, and I absolutely loved the ending.  There are many books that are published with the bold claim to be the next The Girl on the Train et cetera, but this is one of the few that deserves that accolade.

Gone Without a Trace is available to purchase as an eBook (currently at the bargain price of £1.99 on Amazon) and will be published in paperback on 23 March.  Many thanks (once again!) to the team at Headline for the opportunity to read and review this novel.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Horror Movie Book Tag

horror movie book tag


  1. Please credit Princess at RoyalReader (or just Royal Reader), as the creator of this tag, and add the rules
  2. You can use the graphics provided in your post, or you’re welcome to make your own!
  3. Thank the person(s) who tagged you and let others know of their fabulous blogs
  4. Tag as many people as you want, be it 1 or 20, it’s entirely up to you!

Many thanks to Annie over at The Misstery for tagging me into this one.  If you don’t already follow Annie’s blog, you really should – she reads a wide variety of novels, and I’ve added several books to by wish list and TBR as a result of her wonderful and honest reviews!


the knowledge

It might be cheating, but I’m going to say The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell, as it’s a handy guide for restarting civilisation should the worst happen.  It covers a multitude of aspects, including how to purify water, make cloths from scratch and how to get technology going again.


the first bad man

The First Bad Man by Miranda July.  There was a lot of hype about this when it was first published a couple of years ago.  I’ve honestly no idea why – I didn’t enjoy it at all.


the handmaids tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a book that has stayed with me since I first read it at the age of 17.  I’ve reread it since then, and it’s still as powerful now as it was when I first read it.  Perhaps even more so, given what’s going on in the world…



I recently (so recently I’ve not had chance to review it yet!) read Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen.  Hannah comes home one day to find her partner, Matt, has left the house they share.  He’s taken everything of his with him, and the house looks exactly as it did before he moved in.  He’s even put Hannah’s books which had been moved to the loft back on the book shelf.  There’s no sign he was ever there, it’s like he never existed… Brilliant, brilliant book, and I did not see that twist coming at all!


charlie and the ...

A couple of years ago, Penguin released a Modern Classics edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with this wonderfully creepy cover.  It proved to be Marmite – some, like me, loved it, and others hated it.  I loved it so much that I went out and bought it, and gave it a reread for the first time since I was child.  And it’s wonderfully dark reading it now.



I’ve found this to be a particularly difficult category, as if I’m not enjoying a book, I won’t usually finish it.  But there are some that I’ve not enjoyed that I’ve really wanted to like, and that I have persevered with, one of which was J by Howard Jacobsen.  I read it in 2014 when it was first published, and I can’t really why I struggled with it so much, but I do remember it being hard work.



I absolutely loved Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and found it to be a wonderful mix of science fiction, thriller with a bit of a love story thrown in for good measure.


the belgariad

It took me an age to think of something for this category, and I’m not entirely sure that this answer is what was meant for this tag, but, in the absence of anything better:

I loved David Eddings’ series The Belgariad, which starts with Pawn of Prophecy, when I was growing up (pre and early teens).  Whilst I can see that these books are quite cliched in the “orphaned child is actually king of the world” sense now, I do still have fond memories of them, and I’ll still read them again at some point.


Sleeping Giants

For me, Sleeping Giants was one of those books that I started reading and had to keep going to find out what happened – it’s absolutely amazing.



This is another tricky one to answer, but I’ve chosen Beauty by Raphael Selbourne, which is a novel about overcoming differences, of race, in this instance, but I think that it shows that we are capable of acceptance and of seeing past the things that make us different, and that might be important should aliens come calling!

I tag:

And anyone else that would like to take part!

Blog Tour: The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown


Today I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Beth Underdown’s debut novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister.

When Alice returns to her home of Manningtree, Essex from London following the death of her husband, she isn’t sure of the reception she will receive.  Her parents have both passed away, and she is unsure of how her half-brother, Matthew, will react.  He never approved of her marriage, deeming her husband to be beneath her, and so Alice isn’t entirely surprised by the somewhat cool reception she receives, and is relieved that he is willing to take her in.

But Alice soon finds that Matthew’s status has changed since she was last in Manningtree, and he is now an important man who is often consulted upon various matters by men of standing in and around the area.  And then she begins to hear rumours of witchcraft, and learns of accusations that have been made against many of the women in and around Essex.  And of a book, in which Matthew writes the names of the accused, and the evidence against them.

Initially dismissive of the gossip, Alice becomes increasingly concerned as more women are incarcerated, and as Matthew begins to involve her in his activities…

The Witchfinder’s Sister is a stunning work of fiction, based upon the actions of Matthew Hopkins, the so-called Witchfinder General.  It opens with Alice locked in a room.  The reader doesn’t initially know why she has been locked away, and the novel then returns to a point nine months earlier and Alice’s arrival in Manningtree.  Underdown has done a fantastic job of slowly building up the tension throughout the novel, and what begins as a woman concerned with little more than how she will be received by her brother soon descends into fear on her part as she realises the activities he has become involved in.  I really enjoy novels that share a part of the ending with the reader at the outset – knowing the destination and not the path that lies between here and there can be fascinating, and so it proves to be the case here.

I thought that Underdown successfully evoked both time and place throughout the novel, both in terms of the culture and the way of life, but also the superstitions that were rife at the time.  Accusations of witchcraft were not new during Hopkins’ time, and would often be made for the most frivolous of reasons:

Talk of witchcraft was often resorted to when other charges were hard to prove.  Women were taken up for it… it was done to teach them a lesson

And so Alice is initially dismissive of the gossip – such accusations happened occasionally, but the women involved are usually released after a relatively brief period in prison.  She soon comes to realise that the situation is much more serious, however, and that the evidence that Matthew collects may result in a much harsher sentence than she would expect:

Suddenly I feared that I had been part of something that could have nothing but the reddest of ends.

The characterisation in The Witchfinder’s Sister is also excellent.  Alice is a strong individual, but very much aware that she has limited options available to her following the death of her husband, and she is almost entirely reliant upon Matthew’s kindness.  Her initial disbelief at the rumours and her situation put her in an extremely difficult position, and it was hard not to empathise with her tale.  Matthew is also a fascinating character, and I enjoyed Underdown’s dissection of what drove him to take the actions that he did.  I don’t know how much truth there is in this aspect of the novel, but I found the reasons provided to be both fascinating and plausible.

I found this to be captivating fictional account of the actions of an infamous individual, and fans of historical fiction will lap this up – I absolutely loved it.

Many thanks to Katy Loftus for providing a copy for review, and to Josie Murdoch for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.  The Witchfinder’s Sister was published by Viking on 2 March 2017 in eBook and hardback.

Rating: ★★★★★

About the Author


Beth Underdown lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. Her first novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister, is based on the life of the 1640s witchfinder Matthew Hopkins. Beth’s interest in seventeenth-century England was sparked by the work of her great-uncle David Underdown, one of that period’s foremost historians. She came across a brief mention of Matthew Hopkins while reading a book about midwifery, igniting an interest which turned into an all-consuming hunt for the elusive truth about this infamous killer.

Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour!