Blog Tour

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Today I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness. Every now and then a book comes into your life that you know will only make it better. This is one such book.

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came closer to his experiences with nature and, in particular, birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, How explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites you to discover these extraordinary effects for yourself.

‘I can’t remember the last book I read that I could say with absolute assurance would save lives. But this one will’ – Chris Packham

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Even as I sit and write this I can hear a chorus of birdsong outside. It is a constant source of comfort to me and so to take it to the next step, to spend time learning about these wonderful creatures and identifying them seems completely the right thing to do. It’s funny, but now that I think about it I can relate a great deal to what Joe talks about in Bird Therapy. Birds are naturally soothing (unless of course you are in a Hitchcock movie). They can make us stop with their sound and their beauty… and it’s almost like pausing and taking a breath. Our destructive thoughts are interrupted and for a moment nature takes over, grounding us in a way that is incredibly hard to do in the world we are living in today.

I think in so many ways Bird Therapy is a very important book.  There are frustratingly still so many issues behind discussing mental health, a stigma that still exists.  It take a great deal of courage to put yourself out there and I am always inspired and in awe of those who can talk about their personal experience with mental health.

So who is Joe Harkness?  Well if you are already someone interested in birdwatching then you may well have heard of him.  I hadn’t until I was invited to take part in this blog tour.  He works as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator, a challenging and stressful job.  He is also a very talented writer and has been writing his Bird Therapy blog for over three years.  Joe is very honest with his own health issues and this honesty is incredibly moving.  To witness, through this book, his absolute rock bottom and see how he has come back  is incredibly inspiring.  Yet is an incredibly upbeat book, filled with fascinating facts and information (and even tips on how to bring Bird Therapy into your life too).

It is beautifully written and the overpowering message for me was the importance of reconnecting.  Reconnecting with nature, the world around us and with ourselves.  I have read many books on coping with mental health issues and this seems to be a common theme.  That at times we just need to stop.  The world is racing along at high speed, everything is instant and then  gone in a heartbeat.  No wonder we are struggling to keep up.  But do we really need to?  The answer is no.  The answer is to find your happy place.  A place where the brightness overpowers the dark.  This will then help us to cope with all the other stuff that life throws at us.

Throughout my own recovery from mental health issues I found solace in the garden. I love the peace and quite, the routine of planting, weeding, and if it all goes wrong then I know that nature will recover.  There is always a fresh start (otherwise known as spring).  Joe has found his solace in birdwatching and from his despair something truly wonderful has emerged.  He is incredibly knowledgeable in what he writes and there is so much in this book that many people can relate to.  He reminds us of the simple pleasures of looking at the worlds around us.

Yes this is a book about birdwatching and mental health but it’s also a fascinating read about human nature.  Even if you have no desire to become a watcher of birds there is something in this book that will move and inspire you.   Even if you don’t suffer from mental health issues then this book will still delight in it’s celebration of nature and it will give you a better understanding of those who do suffer.  Because statistics show that each and everyone one of us either suffer or know someone who suffers form mental health issues – even if we don’t know it yet.

This is an absolutely stunning read inside and out.  The illustrations were a wonderful addition too. When I read the synopsis for the book and saw the cover I thought Bird Therapy was something very different and very special.  Now that I have read it, I would say it most definitely is.

Thank you for sharing your experience Joe.  It truly was a wonderful read.

Bird Therapy is published by Unbound.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Bird Therapy will hold a treasured spot on my bookshelves.

About the author

Joe Harkness

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Joe Harkness has been writing his Bird Therapy blog for the last three years. He has written for Birdwatch magazine. The Curlew and the i newspaper, among others. Joe also speaks about his experiences and has recorded three ‘tweets of the day’ for BBC Radio 4. He works as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator and has worked with vulnerable groups for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

You can follow Joe on Twitter at @BirdTherapy

You can also read more on Joe’s blog on the therapeutic benefits of bird watching here

The blog tour runs on until June 21st so do check out some of the other posts along the way.

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Books that adults should read, YA, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard

Fierce Fragile Hearts is the stunning companion novel to Sara Barnard’s YA bestseller Beautiful Broken Things, which was selected for the inaugural Zoella Book Club. It is about leaving the past behind, the friends who form your future, and learning to find love, in all its forms.

Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?

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I finished reading this book about two weeks ago.  Mental Health Awareness week was just round the corner. A week where we are encouraged to talk about mental health, raising awareness and remind each other that it’s okay to talk about these things.  So here I was with this book in my hands. This beautiful book  about three friends and the pain of growing up in a world that only seems to deal in sorrow and heartbreak, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. A wonderful example of how we can find truth, friendship and support through reading novels such as this.

As the synopsis  said Fierce Fragile Hearts is a companion novel to Beautiful Broken Things where events unfolded through the voice of Caddy.  A story that culminated with a suicide attempt (unsuccessful) by one of her closest friends.  Suzanne survived but she left Brighton and her friends Caddy and Rosie in an attempt to heal.  To continue to survive.

It is now two years later and Suzanne has left her foster carers and is returning to Brighton; a place filled with memories and also the two people she loves most in the world –  Caddy and Rosie.  This time we hear through Suzanne’s voice. A voice that has suffered in her childhood in a way that has left it’s mark far more than any physical scars may show.  My heart went out to this young woman who, so desperate to let the past go, was still suffering and yet was filled with a steely determination.  When Caddy and Rosie leave for University, Suzanne is left alone but she gradually begins to adjust to her new life living alone in Brighton.  I was drawn into this tale and it made me feel.  It reminded me how lonely life can be, even when you are surrounded by the people you love.  It also reminded me how precious it is and how important it is to allow people into our lives.  It’s easy to build a wall. To avoid the chance of being pushed away, beaten or unloved. Yet then we miss out on so much.  This we can see not only through Suzanne’s relationship with Caddy and Rosie but also the new relationships she builds with the most unlikely of people.  Sometimes it’s okay to need people and accept help… and oh how I would like to meet someone like Dilys!

The thing with mental health is that there is no quick fix.  It’s something that takes time, effort and support.  Sara has touched on this beautifully in Fierce Fragile Hearts.  We can see how fragile Suzanne is but how she longs to be better.  The steps after the counselling, after medication, after the world goes back to normal… that’s when we can feel lost again.   As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety one of the things that amazed me, when I came out of my own personal fog, was that some days you still feel bad.  Yes you are ‘better’ but it can be a little scary when you suddenly feel the shadow again.  There will always be bad days.  Everyone has them.  It’s what we do to cope with them that matters.

Suzanne’s story reminded me that it’s okay to have bad days.  It’s okay to not always get it right. Suzanne has shown me that it’s our experiences and how we react to them that makes us who we are.   She tried to make herself unlovable, because the alternative frightened her and after all, why would anyone want to love her? Right? But those who truly know you will always be there for you on the other side.  Life is about give and take and Suzanne finds what she has to give the world along her way.   It’s about accepting you for who you are, good and bad, and making the very best life for yourself.  This is a story full of hope and light to help chase out the shadows and remind you that you’re never alone and that you are enough… just the way you are.

* This is a YA novel and although I feel it will be suitable for older teens please be aware that there are themes of mild drug use and sexual relations within the story line.  It is never crude or unjustified though.

About the author

Sara Barnard

61Nms7+3oZL._US230_Sara Barnard lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the ‘on’ switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of second-hand book shops at a young age. She is the author of Beautiful Broken Things.

You can follow Sara on Twitter at @saramegan

Fierce Fragile Hearts was published by Macmillan in February 2019.

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Thank you to Macmillan for providing a review copy via Netgalley.  This is one that I didn’t hesitate to buy in for the school Library. 🙂

Blog Tour, Books that adults should read, Fiction, YA, Young Adult Fiction

All We Could Have Been by T.E.Carter

Today I’m thrilled to be talking All We Could Have Been by T.E.Carter as part of the #BlogTour.  T.E.Carter will also be sharing her Top Five Books too… so read on dear reader, read on.

“I have one goal: Survive a full school year – 180 days – hiding behind a new name, new home and new persona.”

Every year, Lexi starts somewhere new and every year she has to leave. All she wants is to disappear, to go somewhere where no one knows about her brother.

But this time things are different. She is making friends and she might even be falling in love. But none of it is real. When they find out who she really is, she will lose everything. She can never run away from the truth and what her brother did.

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Lexi is running from her past.  She craves anonymity, unable to deal with sharing the real her and where she comes from.  With memories of an horrific event that left her both physically and mentally scared, Lexie finds it hard to cope and suffers extreme anxiety.  Starting yet another new school, she knows she is never safe and that once they find out about her they’ll all turn on her and she’ll end up running again.  Yet for the first time in five years she actually feels like she belongs and she begins to trust again.

It’s impossible to run away from a past that won’t stay buried but perhaps this time Lexie is tired of running.  Perhaps this time she has something worth fighting for. What comes next is a story of courage and a fight for survival and acceptance.  Beautiful, compelling and utterly heartbreaking, this is another amazing novel from T.E.Carter.  All We Could Have Been shows that we can’t always control what happens to us but we can learn to accept and cope with it and that I think is an important message.  This is a wonderfully thought-provoking YA novel that covers themes of trauma, self harm, anxiety and OCD.  But more importantly it speaks of survival and learning to live again.

‘But then I think about the good stuff…And it’s all reason to fight for myself, but then…then my brain does what it does, and the world becomes chaos and confusion, and I can’t do it anymore.  I just wish I was doing it right.’

Thank you so much to wonderful Eve at S&S for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for sharing this amazing book with me.

About the author

T.E. Carter

Top Five Books –

A caveat here: This list could change on any given day, but here are five books I
enjoyed that are on my mind right now!
1. A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin: With Game of Thrones wrapping
up, this series is clearly on my mind. The reason I really love this book is
because it captures everything that the show lacks, and that’s the quiet in-
between moments. I love the show (although I’m saying this with no idea how
Season 8 will play out and I’m a bit wary of how I’ll feel when it’s done), but as
with any adaptation, there are those little character moments that get left off
the screen. There’s an intimacy to the narrative that would be impossible to
translate to screen lest the show be 30 episodes per season, and this book
seems to be the place where the road really split for the characters.

2. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger: I know. It’s about as generic and
cliché as you can get, and Holden’s a pretty divisive character. But when I
was growing up, there wasn’t much out there in terms of YA. You could keep
reading children’s books; you could move to adult writers like Stephen King;
or you could read teen horror like RL Stine and Christopher Pike. While I
actually loved those books, there was nothing in them that reflected back my
own experiences, but when I first read The Catcher in the Rye, I felt like the
world made a bit more sense. My small town felt just a bit bigger; my
experiences and perspectives felt just a bit more “normal;” and my fears felt
just a bit less scary.

3. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: I’m not sure why this book is on my mind, but
maybe it’s just the changes of the seasons in New England. What I love about
this story, though, is the absolute commitment Wharton has to truth. It’s a
short read, but it’s one of the most devastating stories I’ve ever read. I’m a
really big fan of novels that don’t try to stick a pretty bow on life, and this novel
does the opposite. It’s brutal.

4. Man-Eaters by Chelsea Cain: This comic series isn’t that far along right now,
but it’s amazing. It’s fearless, in-your-face, feminist satire, and I highly
recommend it if that’s your thing!

5. Life is Strange and Before the Storm: Not a book, but I’m cheating. Not only is
the narrative incredible across both games, but Chloe Price is one of my
favorite characters of all time from any medium. I also think it was genius to
put out Life is Strange first; all your actions come to a close only for you to get
Chloe’s story after the fact, and if you saved Arcadia Bay, playing through
Before the Storm is haunting.

T.E. Carter was born and raised in New England. Throughout her career, she has done a lot of things, she has always loved to read and still loves stories in any medium (books, movies, video games, etc.). When she’s not writing, she can generally be found reading classic literature, obsessing over Game of Thrones (100% Team Lannister), playing Xbox, organizing her comic collection, or binge-watching baking competitions. She continues to live in New England with her husband and two cats. All We Could Have Been is her second novel for young adults.

@hashtagereads #AllWeCouldHaveBeen

All We Could Have Been by T.E. Carter is out 2nd May (£7.99 Paperback, Simon & Schuster UK)

Author Letter:

Dear Reader,

Thank you for sharing in Lexi’s journey. ALL WE COULD HAVE BEEN stems from several personal experiences and outside influences, but I mostly wanted to think about how much control we have (or should have) over our own narratives. I also thought about how this is even more significant when processing trauma or grief, and Lexi was created from that.

Our world moves so quickly, and while that has a lot of benefits, it also means we have been conditioned to think and react almost immediately. As a result, our personal narratives are often shaped outside of ourselves, crafted from one piece here and there, until a series of stories are united into a cohesive whole. Rarely, though, does that whole reflect the truth of the people we are, instead illustrating the perceptions of the circle of people around us.

Through this novel, I tried to talk about taking back your own narrative. While our pasts do define and shape us to some degree, we are also so much more than external factors that we can’t control. Traumatic experiences can change how we think, and they often limit our ability to believe in our own agency. We all deserve to find and reclaim our own truth, though.

Thank you for reading and for giving Lexi (and readers like Lexi) the power to regain her story.

Regards,

TE Carter

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