The Life-Changing Magic of Not-Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

I think I learned about Sarah Knight‘s The Life-Chaning Magic of Not Giving a Fuck almost at the same time as I learned about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Obviously, Knight’s is a parody of Kondo’s, and obviously I decided to completely forget about tidying up (major loss of time most of the times) and read about that magic of not giving a f*ck, at which someone had already told me I was quite a champion. But, before I continue, because I do give a f*ck about the lovely, amazing people who send me review copies even though I live in Spain, I would like to thank Sabrina Callahan, who very generously sent me a review copy from New York.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight

I promised I would post a picture of my pristine hard-cover review copy after I finished reading the book and here it is: no eyeliner, no coffee stains, no nothing. The book doesn’t give a f*ck about dirt.

You can check my first impression of The Life-Chaning Magic of Not Giving a Fuck here, and all I can say is that I was 100% right. The book is as good as it seems, and quite effective, I should say. Please beware that the person behind this review is a Millennial, one of those self-centred, selfish, entitled and careless people in the 20’s who are ruining the world, destroying traditional family values, and spending too much time on social media according to Baby-Boomers. If you are not familiar with these terms, I am sure a quick search on Google will solve all of your doubts. Now, why mention this when I am reviewing a book? Because Sarah Knight has written the decalogue to embody all those values that Milleanials are criticised for, but that I know make up for a happier life.

Knight’s motto is: Does this bring me joy? If the answer is no, ditch it. More or less. She creates four categories, going from easier to not give a f*ck about  ( i.e. What Penny from downstairs thinks about your new boots) to more difficult ones  (i.e Telling your sister-in-law you are not making it to her 30th birthday party across the country because there is no way you can afford it, and you don’t like parties anyway). She also helps you make lists about things that bring you joy, and does which do not, and how to not give a f*ck about the latter. This is not something simple, or easy, or free of pain, but God, does it feel good. Here’s why:

I was born a fuck-giver. Maybe you are too.

As a self-described overachieving perfectionist, I gave my fucks liberally […] to prove myself worthy of respect and admiration from my family, friends, and even casual acquaintances […] This was no way to live.

Thank you, Sarah, for an accurate, yet partial description of myself. I also consider myself an overachiever, and I am usually overworked, sleep-deprived, and thinking about a million things at the same time. I had to give up yoga because I couldn’t refrain myself from listing all the things I still had to do that day while the instructor was kindly asking me to focus on the exercises. I had to stop running because I injured myself after running 10 km in my Beginner’s Week of training. And I am usually told by my liberal, amazing parents to please go out, party until the wee hours, and come home late. Why am I telling you this? Because I never did any of the fun things until a year ago, when a break-up made me realise I had lost too much time and, like Knight, was giving my fucks to a whole lot of things that did not (and will never) bring me joy. So, I decided to return to my childhood self – the 9-year old who, upon being asked by her Catholic Grandma to please be a dear and do that First Communion thing for the family to celebrate said ‘I just don’t care about what any of you think of me’– and start doing things that made me happy. Or, as I like to call it: Work hard, party harder. However, it is hard to keep that frame of mind during the academic year, and Knight’s book just reminded me how this thing called life is done.

The book goes from easy-peasy exercises, like listing things that make you happy, to more difficult ones, like making a priorities list for family events. It is also quite prescriptive regarding how to give a f*ck, when to do it, and how many to give. The idea that I found the most inspiring is the ‘F*ck Budget’, which means setting a limit to your daily worries, or, rather, try to find balance. Knight is an expert, and she describes real-life situations in which you could choose to care, or not taking into account the amount of time, energy, and money you have already spent on others. For example, she describes how she and her husband have set up an alernative-Christmas visiting time so that neither her family, nor her husband’s cause them any trouble when deciding who to visit on Christmas’ Eve/New Year. She also deals with office gossip, and how to wisely spend money and time on your friends without feeling drained, or doing things that you wish you were not doing.

The Life-Chaning Magic of Not Giving a Fuck is much more than the ‘practical parody’ description on its cover, it is a reminder of self-love and self-care in times when being a woman still means taking care of everyone and caring about anyone. I really appreciated the tips, and I seriously recommend the book to anyone who has ever felt forced to do something that made them miserable. I am not talking about major events or health-related procedures – I know everyone hates blood tests, but they have to be done! –, but those tiny, everyday things that make you get home tired, feeling anxious and miserable. If  The Life-Chaning Magic of Not-Giving a Fuck has helped me remember something is that I should spend more time, money, and energy in those things that bring me joy (which I have in huge amounts, after Knight forced me to write a list with all of them) and spend less time, money and energy in those tasks that I feel forced to do. F*ck gender roles. F*ck please/help/care about/join/be with everyone. This is a book that reminds you how awesome your life is because you probably were too busy living for others to notice. You’re welcome.

First Look: Dear Amy By Helen Callaghan

I was sent a review copy of Helen Callaghan’s upcoming release Dear Amy by the Ellie Hughes at Penguin-Random House. I expected a regular review copy, as usual, but this time, the lovely people at P-RH have outdone themselves. Here, take a look:

See? Told you. Pure bookish lush.  I was thoroughly impressed by the design of the review copy, but even more so by the help notes attached to the parcel. They look and they feel as if they were written in pencil, and they could pass for real-life notes.

Regarding the book, I haven’t fooled around much yet, because I don’t want to spoil anything. Dear Amy looks the like kind of page-turner that will make my Spring Break worth it (apart from the free time and a bit of travelling, of course). It is part of the Penguin-Random House Summer’16 catalogue and it is to be released on the 16th of June, 2016. As you can see, this post was a mere excuse to share the pictures and congratulate the publicty team behind the novel.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

I was one of the lucky readers to get a very early review copy of Megan Abbott‘s next novel, You Will Know Me, to be published in the UK on the 30th of June, 2016. I hit a reading slump and I had no idea how to get out of there. Simon Savidge was in a similar situation, and when author Paula Hawkins spotted us talking on Twitter – knowing me quite well – she recommended I gave Abbott’s novel a try. It just what I needed.

Megan Abbott has had the infinite wisdom of spotting a silence in contemporary crime fiction and she has masterfully filled it: teenage girls. No wonder her Twitter avatar is a picture of Sally Drapper, John Drapper’s rebellious teenage girl in Mad Men. If in The Fever she played with the recent epidemic fear at a high school, mid-town level, in You Will Know Me she has focused all her efforts in the pressure young women in elite sports face. If you followed the 2012 Olympics and/or you are American, I am sure you have heard of artistic gymnast McKayla Maroney. Doesn’t ring a bell? Maybe this will:

Maroney's Not-Impressed Face

Maroney became an Internet sensation and meme after showing her non-impressed face at winning silver at vault. In 2016 she announced that she no longer will compete, although she is not retiring.

After doing some research on Maroney – whom I knew previous to reading Abbott’s novel – and after much thinking, I wonder how much of You Will Know Me‘s main character, Devon Knox was inspired by Manorey herself. Although she was part of a team known as the ‘Fierce Five’, it was she who became a world-wide sensation. Both young women started competing a very young age, and both were on the Olympic path before they were 15. Take that pressure, put it on middle-class, well-intentioned parents who want nothing but success and happiness for their daughter, and Abbott will give you one of the darkest and more psychologically in-depth descriptions of self-sacrifice, success, and what it takes to be someone other people want you to be.

You Will Know Me tells Devon Know’s story, aged 16, from her mother’s point of view highlighting how these teenagers are elite professionals with all the added consequences. If adulting is already hard when you are in your thirties, imagine hitting those levels of stress and self-reliance when you are sixteen. Devon’s mother, Katie, spends up to forty hours a week at her daughter’s gym, with little Drew in tow, a wise and patient little boy who has known no other lifestyle since he was born. Katie is married to Eric, who seems to understand Devon better than she does making Katie question her own relationship with her daughter. But Katie and Eric are still in their early thirties, and when one of the young trainer’s boyfriend starts to regularly show up at the gym, trouble is ensured.

I loved every single page of You Will Know Me. Abbott has managed to combine psychological and corporeal issues in an adrenaline-filled environment and a family setting. I paid special attention to the way Abbott portrays Devon’s body: as if teenager years were not difficult enough, these elite gymnasts are fighting against biology and time, wishing for a childish body in which breasts will not appear and challenge their balance. The descriptions of Devon’s worry about growing up and developing a woman’s body, menstruation include made me cringe and understand the total need for control she had because, after all, she couldn’t control what mattered the most: her body. But not everything about Devon’s body was negativity. I took a great pleasure at the descriptions of her fit, strong body and how constant training shaped it.

US Gymnast McKayla Maroney

Close-up of American gymnast McKayla Maroney during an exercise.

You Will Know Me is Abbott’s does a great job at inscribing complex female teenager experiences in literature, quite a pending task at the feminist literary agenda, which has limited the inscription of women’s litearture to young or middle-aged women. Now, I think it is safe to admit that You Will Know Me is one of the best books I will read this year: There is a crime, there are in-depth psychological descriptions of women of all ages, and there is a dark tension lurking at a supposedly innocent and mundane American house. Abbott has mastered the art of spotting the darkness in everyday, middle-class life, and she has become an outstanding heir to the American domestic suspense tradition.

First Look: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

First Look posts will be out FRIDAY afternoons. Thank you for reading xx

I heard of Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck (A Practical Parody) long before I learned of the original The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and the whole situation seems natural, as I’m not a great fan of tidying up but I learned about the happiness that comes from not giving a f*ck last year.

Sabrina Callahan, PR at Little Brown in the USA, sent me the book last week, and I proudly carried this little hardback copy around like it was gold. I was surprised to get a review copy sent from the US, both for copyright and shipping prices reasons, and I was also surprised by the edition. Although it is a hard-back copy, the book is quite small (13 cm x 19 cm) and perfect to carry on my handbag without causing me yet another shoulder injury. The white of the cover already promises to attract a lot of dirt – especially if I forget to put my black eyeliner into a different compartment – but its glossy quality may outlive the dangers of my handbag. I promise to post a picture of the book when I finish reading it to see the damages.

The inside promises to be nearly as good as the cover design: Knight started this book with ‘A F*cking Disclaimer’ followed by four different sections in which you will learn how to ‘stop spending time you don’t have, with people you don’t like, doing things that you don’t want’. Or what I think is the promise of a better life. She covers work, family, friends, and, at first sight, gender stereotypes with the chapter ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’. Because, let’s keep this talk real: women are brought up to give a f*ck about a million things more than men. We are trained from our childhood to take care of babies and our bodies and clothes and hair and families and work and the house… And life can become a never-ending list of things to do and worry and stress about. And it has consequences: Did you know that women actually suffer from more heart attacks than men? And did you know we tend to ignore the symptoms too?  Because this post is all about humour I want to share one of my favourite sketches with you, starring Elizabeth Banks as someone who does not look like the kind of person who has a heart attack (but actually does):

Now, back to books, and literature. I think you will hear from this book very soon. I have been longing for a non-fiction read for a while, and this sounds just perfect. Meanwhile, I would love to hear if you have read it already, and whether or not you gave a f*ck about it.

The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker

I have been following Sam Baker on Twitter since the launch of her website The Pool, a site which ‘makes interesting, inspiring, original content for busy women’. It was also on Twitter where I found out she was publishing a crime fiction novel in January 2016 entitled The Woman Who Ran with the tagline ‘How do you escape what you can’t remember?’. As you can imagine, it sounds right up my alley, so I asked Sam for a review copy and she kindly put me in contact with her team at Harper Collins and I was finally sent a review copy. Thanks to Sam and Felicity Denham for sending me the best book I have read in 2016.

The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker

Blurry notebook to avoid readers spoilers:)

Meet Helen Graham, a young woman who has recently moved to Wildfell Hall, sparking all kind of rumours about her. Is she a French actress come there to die? That happens to be the most wide-spread idea at the nearest town, where journalist Gil Markham has recently retired at 60 from his post at the local newspaper. But, who is really mademoiselle Graham and why is she living in a decaying mansion all by herself?

Sam Baker does a terrific job updating Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with contemporary and relatable characters. By keeping the names and the setting, we are given the opportunity to appreciate the original novel and its power to move and interest audiences two centuries apart. Baker’s Helen has a profession, a personal life, and participates in all the modern-world issues we would expect from a 21st character, but keeping Brontë’s connection to the land. The Dales emerge as a character that will interact with Helen and Giles, keeping with the Romantic idea of Nature as a force on itself.  However, technology and social media play a key role in the narration, proving Baker’s skills at successfully updating a classic story-line for modern audiences.

Because I want to keep this review free of any kind of spoilers, I will only say that Helen Graham is the kind of character that I love spending time with. She is hard-working, strong, she stood for herself, and she is a mystery on herself: The Woman Who Ran is the perfect example of character study in crime fiction. I finished the book more than a month ago and she has remained with me. As you read, you get to know a little bit more about her, and Baker did an outstanding job at inscribing contemporary gender issues and struggles. I was also reminded of the time-consuming luxury object that my iPhone is, and how it was both improved and troubled our relationship with time, leisure, and other people. So much so, that I took a great pleasure at taking notes by hand on my Moleskine notebook, while I read.

The Woman Who Ran is contemporary crime fiction and English classic literature at the same time. It is also a mystery and a magnificent character study. The Woman Who Ran is the tale of a female character who could belong in the in the 19th or the 21st century. But above all, it is the story of a woman who belongs in high-quality literature written by women.

First Look: Meagan Abbott’s You Will Know Me (Out June 2016)

Tonight I am inaugurating a new section on the blog. I have realised that I get a lot of review copies, and when they arrive I usually look at the edition, the cover design, maybe read a few pages, or the author’s bio if I don’t know them… So, it was time I shared this with you! The new section is called ‘First Look’ and you will find it filed in the Random category on the menu bar. I will try to keep it interesting showing you early review copies, or beautiful editions, but I will post about books that I get from my beloved one as well. I hope you enjoy it!

I was one of the lucky bloggers who got an early advanced review copy of Megan Abbott’s next novel You Will Know Me, to be released in the UK by Little Brown next June.

You Will Know Me - Cover

You Will Know Me - Back

 As I’ve said, it is an early advanced copy, so I am loving all the praise for Abbott on the cover, it is making me purchase all of her books and read non-stop for weeks. I really like the size of the edition as well, and the font is just perfect. It happens sometimes with ARCs that the font is either too big, or there are some mistakes, but this one is perfect.

Regarding the story, I am loving it. Although it arrived early last February, I put the book on the To-Be-Read shelf with the others. However, I was sharing some grief over my month-old reading slump this week with Simon Savidge on Twitter when author Paula Hawkins – remember that little book called The Girl on the Train? Yep, that Hawkins – stepped in and said I should give Abbott’s new novel a try. Because I love Paula’s style, and she has been over here and knows what I enjoy, I decided to give a try. What a bookish sixth sense! I read 60 pages in one sitting the other night. Doesn’t seem like much, but I started reading after I couldn’t sleep at 1 am and stayed awake for longer than I would like to admit to every worried about my sleep.

You Will Know Me tells the story of Devon Knox, a high-profile American gymnast who is willing to do everything to get into the Olympic team. The story is told from her mother’s point of view, and there are a lot of very dark and wise reflections on family life and mother-daugther relationships. I won’t spoilt it, and I am certainly sharing a much in-depth impression when I review it, but I can assure you this is definitely one book to keep an eye on this summer.

And now I’m off to read until my eyelids drop. Happy reading!

It’s Monday! What are You Reading?

Hi, everyone! There have been barely no updates this past months because I have been sick – nothing serious – but after a second round of antibiotics for quite a case of tonsillitis I’m hopefully back on the mend after a second round of antibiotics. This means I haven’t read much, although I managed to finish reading The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker and I will reviewing it soon.

If you follow me on Twitter, you must have seen my doubts about my current read. Because of my PhD I decided to buy a few forensic crime fiction novels and give them a try. One that came highly recommended to me was Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter (Grant County #1). I bought it last October along with the first installment in the Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen and have only recently given it a try. I was disgusted, and scared and found it quite gritty. Okay, maybe not that disgusted or scared, but reading felt like one of those disturbing Criminal Minds episodes you’d rather not see when you’re home alone. I posted about my feelings on Twitter and two great fans of the series who know me quite well as a reader recommended I kept on reading. So, the moments I’m feeling better I’m giving the book a second try.

IMG_7688

I also bought a second-hand edition of Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan #1) by Kathy Reichs after binge-watching Bones while sick. If I was ranting about Slaughter being graphic in a disturbing way, turns out only forensic anthropology could comfort me. Talk about ironies!

I have also been thinking about joining Tiny Letter and write a weekly ‘column’ on themes that I’m passionate about but that would not necessarily fit the blog such as make-up, hair, growing-up, travelling, love, bags, and anything in between.  If I finally do, I will post about it here for anyone interested in reading my rants and proclamations of love for matte lipstick:)

That’s all for now. I will hopefully post a review this week, so keep an eye on the blog. I would also love to know what have you read this month, and if you’ve discovered any new authors. Twitter has been full of praise for Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, and Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman.