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I HOLD YOUR HEART REVIEW | BLOG TOUR

I Hold Your Heart
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow? Buy
Source: ARC copy gifted by Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about. 

But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma's life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?


Told in both Gemma's and Aaron's words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like. 



When the chance to be part of Karen's blog tour for her new novel, I Hold Your Heart, came to me - I jumped at the opportunity. I've been a huge fan of Karen's work for a few years, and she's such an asset to the YA community; often discussing taboo topics within her books and highlighting their importance. I Hold Your Heart was no exception.

***Before you read this review, please note that I will be discussing physical, sexual, and mental abuse, and these themes are explored heavily throughout the book***

APRIL PURELY BOOKS SUBSCRIPTION | BOOK BOX CLUB UNBOXING

Today, I'm unboxing something really exciting on my blog. I got chosen as part of Book Box Club's Blogger Army a few weeks ago, and I was super excited to receive my first Purely Books parcel.

The Purely Books subscription contains the featured read of the month, a signed bookplate, and an invitation to the exclusive online book group, where you'll be joined by the author.

"Purely Books subscriptions are perfect for the reading purist, who loves great books without the goodies. We send all of our subscribers (Book Box Club and Purely Books) the same featured reads and book group invites, so all members can enjoy the bookish fun together!" (
Book Box Club)

WHERE I'VE BEEN.

It's been a long time since I've sat down and written a life update post. The past 12 months have been an absolute whirlwind, and I've not really shared too much of it online. My social medias have taken the brunt of it, and I know it's affected my platforms; in particular, my blog.

I felt like I'd achieved so much in 2017/18; my book club, my book box business launching, my bookish charity events, panels, awards - it was one of the greatest years; but also one of the most overwhelming ones. When it reached June last year, I just completely burned out. My creativity was at it's lowest, and I left social media, YouTube, and my blog for a while. Everyone else seemed so motivated online, and my complete lack of wanting to create affected my mental health massively.

Around this time, my dad got diagnosed with heart disease, and the next few months that followed were the hardest of my life. He was given months to live, and the only chance of him getting better was triple bypass surgery - and for a while, they were unsure whether he was a suitable candidate, because they thought he may be too far gone. In December, he was in surgery for 7 hours; and that surgery was successful. You may have noticed that's when I started to creep back online.

In the past year, I've been working hard on my health. But as the saying goes, another year, another chronic illness - oh, that's just me? Well, yes. I've been diagnosed with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder. As well as PoTS. As well as SvT. And I don't think I've given myself the time to accept the changes that have happened in my body in the past year. I've just been referred to hand specialists, and feet specialists, and been trying to manage my PoTS; as well as dealing with horrific pain in my joints on a daily basis. It hasn't exactly been fun, but I've really been working on my fitness levels, and I start physiotherapy in London soon.

I put on 2 stone. And then lost 2 stone. My coping mechanism over the past year has been food. Nothing soothed the pain more than a giant bar of Dairy Milk. Or a tub of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. The weight piled on fast; and it exacerbated my chronic illness, and it's symptoms. As the fog in my brain lifted after dad's surgery, I went on a diet in January, and am now back to a healthy weight. Although, I do still treat myself to the occasional giant bar of Dairy Milk...

Something that I hid well was my lack of enthusiasm for my book box business. Several times, I typed out closing down posts, and started to set things up to do so. My creative juices weren't flowing, and I felt like every box I was putting out wasn't good enough. I was always getting great feedback; but nothing I did felt enough. I look back at those boxes now, and wonder why I was so worried - I'm just as proud of them as every other box I've put out since. And I'm definitely not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Therapy. I tried it. I'll be honest, I tried everything. Truth be told, I had many suicidal periods last year. That's the real reason I came off CBT. I was asked multiple times by my therapist if I was suicidal, and they'd already told me that if I was, this treatment wouldn't be right for me - so I lied. I thought it would help me. It didn't. It got to a point last year where me and my husband were looking at rehabilitation centres for me to move into. I look back now and wonder how I let myself get that bad without seeking the help I needed. Weirdly, what pulled me out of it was my dad needing me. Something about people needing me makes me feel like I should stay.

Then as things settled, my parents moved abroad. And nothing prepared me for that. Everything was stable for the first time in months, and then in March this year, my parents were forced to move to Spain. I'm coping. I'm not happy, but I'm coping. I felt like I was almost back to my best, and that happened, and the cracks started appearing online again. What I've learned to do, is take a step back. If things get too much; retreat. And I think I've gotten a little too good at doing that.

And then finally (we're almost up to date), I'm moving house. This flat was our first home, and we've been living here for over 4 years; but the time has come to leave. In 15 days, we get the keys to our new home. It's exciting, but terrifying. Sooner than I expected, but everything else has changed in the past twelve months, so why not a positive change too? It's gorgeous, and I will most definitely be doing a house tour.

As I was typing this out, it dawned on me the sheer volume of what has happened in the past year. But I'm still here. I'm still creating content. I'm still singlehandedly running a business. I'm still being a good wife. A good daughter. A good sister. A good auntie. Maybe not a very good friend...but I'm working on that one. I'm doing all that I can to be okay. And I finally feel like I'm succeeding.

This isn't a big "I'M BACK" post, because I'm not sure that I am. Schedules put too pressure on me, so I post blogs and videos when the mood takes me now. You also may have noticed that my content has changed slightly over the past few months. I now talk about theatre, as well as books - and I'm having the greatest time doing it. I'm doing things for me now, not just what I think my audience wants to see; and I really think it shows.

To everyone that's messaged, tweeted, reached out in the past year - thank you. And if you're still here, thank you for sticking around. And if you're new here - boy, did you choose a heavy post to introduce yourself to me with. But a special thank you to my husband, my mum, my dad, my sister, my niece & nephew, my godmum, and the two best friends anyone could ask for. Best friends that I made through this community. 

If you made it this far, thank you for reading, and I hope to see you again soon.



MINI-REVIEW & EXTRACT | ALL WE COULD HAVE BEEN BLOG TOUR

Hello everyone! Today is the first stop on the All We Could Have Been Blog Tour. T.E. Carter's novel last year, I Stop Somewhere, was one of my absolute favourites - and her latest one didn't disappoint. In this novel, Carter explores the perspective of a criminal's sibling, and the effects it has on her life, and how she's struggling to cope with the repercussions. It's another hard-hitting book, that'll leave you in pieces. It's real, and raw - which is what I love most about Carter's writing style. 

Lexi is a very difficult character to relate to, because her character has so many layers, which means the reader struggles to see the "real" Lexi; but I think that makes her story more complex, and compelling. Her coping mechanisms aren't healthy, and the depiction of mental health in this book is so strikingly real, it's difficult to read as someone who struggles with their mental health themselves - but very needed. I adored this book - and I hope you enjoy reading the first chapter, and synopsis below.

Synopsis

162 days.  
That’s how long Lexi needs to survive at her new school. Every year, she starts somewhere else under a new name, hiding in plain sight for as long as she can manage. Her record is 134, but it's senior year now and if she can make it till June, she can disappear into the real world. Maybe a big city, where no one recognizes her and no one knows about her brother and what he did.
 
But this time things are different. This time there’s her new friend, Ryan, who makes her believe that she belongs somewhere. This time there’s Marcus, the boy who looks at her in a way no one has before. This time she’s actually started to miss her older brother, Scott, even though she knows she shouldn’t. Scott was the boy who hung out with her reading comics and riding bikes. The boy who applied Band-Aids to scraped knees and chased away spiders. But he’s also the reason that she’s been in hiding away from the world, and from herself.
 
It’s just 162 days, but for Lexi that's a few days too many. Because it turns out you can't really run away from who you are. Eventually, the truth will always catch up with you.