Monday, 24 November 2014

Books I can't wait to read

Another month and another pile of books I can't wait to get my hands on

Read me like a book by Liz Kessler



Ashleigh Walker is in love. You know the feeling - that intense, heart-racing, all-consuming emotion that can only come with first love. It's enough to stop her worrying about bad grades at college. Enough to distract her from her parents' marriage troubles. There's just one thing bothering her . . .

Shouldn't it be her boyfriend, Dylan, who makes her feel this way - not Miss Murray, her English teacher?


I have had this on my wishlist for a long while and I was excited to see the cover go up online earlier this month. It just sounds like it is going to be awesome.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen







Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.


A new Sarah Dessen! Need I say more. 

The Beloved by Alison Rattle



Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place. Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian...

 I love Alison's books. Her previous two were just wonderful and perfect example of how Historical Fiction should be done. I need this book.

Violet and the Hidden Treasure by Harriet Whitehorn



Meet Violet Remy-Robinson, an amateur Sherlock Holmes in the making...Violet has spent her Easter holiday exploring India with Godmother Celeste, including visiting Celeste's good friend the Maharajah and meeting his very special parrot. And when she returns home, only to get a visit from the Maharajah's butler, asking her to look after the parrot, Violet couldn't be more surprised (and her cat Pudding couldn't be less pleased…). But as Violet discovers, the parrot holds the key to the Maharajah's fortune, and someone is trying to parrot-nap her! Can she discover who the culprit is before they succeed? Violet is on the case… With a beautiful hardback package complete with two colour illustrations throughout by emerging talent, Becka Moore, everyone is bound to fall in love with Violet and the colourful characters that make up her world. 

I adored the first book in this series and I need this one to find out more about Violet.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks



Fifteen-year-old Frankie Landau-Banks has grown up a lot over the summer. She's no longer daddy's little girl - and almost immediately after starting the new semester at her highly prestigious school, she bags goofy-but-gorgeous Matthew Livingston as her boyfriend. They get along great but then Frankie discovers that Matthew is a member of a boys-only secret society that specialise in 'hilarious' pranks. Which hardly seems fair... especially when Frankie knows she's smarter than any of its members. And to prove this, she's going to teach them a lesson.

Impersonating lead member Alpha by using a fake email account is surprisingly easy, and soon Frankie is setting the boys up with all sorts of ridiculous schemes and sending them on wild goose chase after wild goose chase. Alpha's not prepared to lose face and admit it's not him sending the emails - but the fun can't last forever, and soon Frankie will have to choose between what she think she wants, and the reputation she deserves.


My Thoughts
I've been waiting to review this book for a while trying to work out what to say about it and even now after several days of letting it mull over in mind I really do not have much to say. 

It was readable enough and the story went along nicely but I must admit I wasn't a fan of any of the characters and while I could see what the author was trying to do I just didn't care all that much.  

The story follows the story of Frankie quiet girl turned cool girl over the summer. Of course this means she now gets to go out with the hottest boy in school and hang about with his crowd doing all the things that the cool crowd at boarding do like have parties late at night in out of bounds area or get to sit on the best table in the canteen. I must admit this really put me off her. While I did like the fact that she was challenging the system but it felt too much like rich white girl has a paddy about being discriminated against when actually she has it pretty good and that annoyed me alot. I guess I'm back to my pet hates of YA fiction at the moment

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Anti-bullying week: Reflections

This post has been a long time coming. I've had it typed out for the best part of 18 months and never felt happy enough to post it online. I suppose because it talks about something I have never really spoken about to anyone except in snippets here and there. Largely because I've never wanted to come across as a victim to anyone and also because I think I spent a great deal of time over the last 15 years blocking the experiences out. However because it has been Anti-Bullying week I have decided to finally put it out there possibly in part to let it go at long last. It has certainly been a long time coming.



Like thousands of teenagers before and after me I had a miserable time at High School. I was reasonably clever, loved my lessons and learning. As a result I came out of school achieving decent grades enough to allow me to go on to university. Yet whenever I think about school the experience of being bullied is all that I think about.

I never suffered bullying before High School but something changed the moment I started. I was placed in mixed ability groups for several subjects with members of my form. There were some nasty characters in that group mostly made up of new faces who I hadn't been at school with before. I actually vividly remember the day the bullying started. Our class had been left alone to get on with a task while the teacher left the room. Some of students were messing around and being the geeky good girl I was I told them to shut up and get on. From that point on those students, who were part of the popular group, called me names and encouraged others to join in. It is all very well to say sticks and stones etc but when you are ridiculed every day from the moment you walk into the school building until the moment you leave it gets hard to ignore. Even then it was just something I dealt with whilst at school and at the end of the day I could go home and go back to being my usual geeky self.

Things got worse for me once I joined the upper school. At this point I had a toxic best friend and it's only now that with hindsight I realise how much of a bully she was and how bad she was for me. We spent every waking hour together, or so it seemed, but almost overnight two things changed for our friendship. Firstly she got a boyfriend. I became the third wheel and the only way I got to see her was if I spent time with him too. I hated him mostly because he wasn't very pleasant to me but I put up with him because I wanted to spend time with my friend. Suddenly the teasing and name calling I experienced at school entered my free time as well. The next thing to happen was she decided I wasn't cool enough for her. She started telling me that she was hanging out with the popular crowd at weekends to make me jealous and feel excluded. Whether what she was saying was true I now doubt but at the time it really hurt.

This led to her breaking up with me. One day she cornered me in the corridor and broke up with me. I got the whole it's not you it's me speech, complete with the we can still be friends speech just not best friends. At the time it actually killed me a little bit inside to be so easily tossed aside by someone I loved completely as my best friend. I remember sitting in the following lesson sobbing alone as she picked up her stuff and moved across the room away from me and I couldn't work out what I had done wrong or what had changed. As a result of the break up I initially did everything I could to get back into her good books to make her like me again. Hindsight being a beautiful thing, I wonder now why on earth I cared about someone who had utterly rejected me. Despite what she had done she still held this influence over me. She started demanding that I wasn't allowed to be friends with people she didn't like. I basically agreed to it, cutting off one girl who I spent a lot of time with outside of school and going as far as teasing another one. I feel utterly ashamed now looking back because I was doing the very things I detested when they were done to me. However things were still to get worse.

There was one particular girl who had joined our friendship group that my ex best friend told me she didn't want to hang about with us anymore and that she had decided I was to be the one to get rid of her. In my best attempts to get my friend to like me again I stepped up and foolishly did as she asked telling this girl we didn't want to be friends with her. What my ex best friend neglected to tell me was that she then changed her mind and made the whole thing look like I had started a rift off my own back. My ex best friend then proceeded to tell this girl lies making up things I had said about her which resulted in her starting to bully me too. The girl in question had a nasty temper. I witnessed her punch in the face a boy who stood up her to defend me whilst I was being verbally abused and inevitably the teasing I dealt with lower down in the school escalated further with what felt like more and more people joining in, I suspect being egged on by my ex best friend.

Things all came to a head when the girl had her father regularly shout at me from a car parked outside the school as I was walking home. This terrified the life out of me and I ended up several nights in a row crying at home long after returning from school. It was never properly resolved as the school didn't seem to really care about dealing with the issues I was facing. I left school a month later after finishing my GCSEs feeling utterly alone. I spent my 16th birthday with my family as I had no friends I who I felt would want to to spend time with me. I can't believe now how clear it is that my ex best friend treated me like rubbish, almost made me into a bully agitating situations which resulted in me suffering bullying so bad I felt utterly miserable, alone and completely worthless as a human being. I've only in the last few months felt able to delete her from Facebook and out of my life for good because for so long part of me still wanted approval from her.

I was one of the lucky ones. Whilst the emotional damage cut me deep I never was physically harmed by bullying. You see in the news horrible stories of teens committing suicide because of the torment they face 24/7 because in today's age of social media and mobile phones they never get respite from those bullying them. Looking back I am so so glad that such technology didn't exist when I was a teen because at least I knew from the moment I got home I could curl up in my room and not have to face the grief anymore. 

Leaving school was an utter godsend for me. My ex best friend moved away and was only in contact via the odd email. I went to a sixth form college with very few of my former classmates which enabled me to make new friendships with people like me who made me feel worthwhile again and allowed me to come out of myself to become to the person I am today.

Being bullied has had a huge impact on my life since. I'm now into my 30s and still only just coming to terms with the torture I went through on a daily basis. My confidence still suffers from time to time. When I was an older teen I ended nights out in tears after I returning home after seeing my former bullies out in local pubs. I'd also say had I not experienced bullying I'd probably be more outgoing now as an adult because I certainly was outgoing as a child. Bullying still makes me distrustful of people, girls in particular. I think it is quite telling that even now my social circle is mostly male and made up of people older than me. I have a real issue making close female friendships that I completely trust. It took me 15 years to find a female friend I could refer to as my best friend and feel bad that it took me so long to be able to refer to her as my best friend because I was too scared that things would go wrong from the moment I said it.

Those people who claim bullying is character building and a part of growing up are wrong and wouldn't say that had they lived through the torment on a daily basis. I now teach. The thing I love about the school I teach at is that on the whole bullying isn't an issue for the majority of our kids. Don't get me wrong things aren't perfect and I don't think in a school of 1000 teenagers it ever will be but I hope to think the work I do helps to give every child a way of proactively dealing with their issues. I don't talk about what I went through as a teenager to staff or students at my school but I try to put my experience to good use to help others in similar situations. I do this by leading a peer support network run by students to offer friendly advice and, if need be, an older student to intervene and resolve an issue. I like to think it is effective as we have been recognised nationally for the work we do. I just wished that every school in the UK did similar to ensure that no child ever has to go through the things I dealt with and I take comfort in the fact that the work I lead within school is shared nationally via an anti bullying charity who produced a showcase video of the work of my team and regularly invite my students and I to talk at their events. More than anything I hope my experiences can be used to help and support others in a similar position to my teenage self. 

Now in true Kirsty style if in doubt recommend a book. The books below are two books that I think look at the subject of bullying really well, in particular being bullied by someone who should be a friend. I am really sorry I didn't have these titles to take comfort in as a teenager and I think had I had they might have given me a bit more hope for better at a time when I was feeling really alone and struggling.

Hollow Pike by James Dawson


Trouble by Non Pratt


I'm also going to recommend Wonder by RJ Palacio because it is beautiful an makes you want to be kind to everyone which is never a bad thing


If you want to help people who are bullied a brilliant charity who trains young people to help themselves and others is the Diana Award and their Anti-Bullying Ambassadors Programme. They are a really young and dynamic organisation that makes anti-bullying work cool and as a result make a huge impact in helping to reduce bullying in schools. You can donate to their work here

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Bookshop Book Blog Tour: Photo Gallery

Warning below are pictures that bookshop lovers will fall completely Head over Heels in love with. They are pictures of some of the beautiful bookshops featured in The Bookshop Book














I have five copies of The Bookshop book to giveaway to my readers. If you would like to enter leave a reply on here with your twitter handle so I contact you if you win or tweet me to enter @overflowingklc with the phrase "I want to win The Bookshop Book"

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare


Synopsis
Ever wondered about the enigmatic, mysterious warlock Magnus Bane? The only character to appear in every Shadowhunter book, Magnus has a past even more shrouded in mystery than his present. I’ve teamed up with acclaimed YA writers Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan to create the Bane Chronicles, the back (and front) story of Magnus told in ten linked tales.

Look for short stories like Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale; The Rise and Fall of the Hotel Dumort; Saving Raphael Santiago and What To Buy The Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (And Who You’re Not Officially Dating Anyway)


My thoughts
 I am a fan of both of Cassandra Clare's series set in the Shadowhunter world and am eagerly waiting the next books she writes in these world but for me something about this book just didn't do it for me. 

Granted I am not one for short stories and the historian in me like reading things in chronological order so this series of stories really messed me up because my quirky ordered brain just didn't like dipping in and out. Don't get me wrong had I just read all of the series and then this it might have been better but since there has been a 200+ book gap I couldn't remember who all the people were so I am sure I missed things.

Don't get me wrong I did like the snippets it gave about Mangus Bane because I love him as a character and I liked getting that extra information about his life and the person he is but I really felt like this was unnecessary as a book and just a case of the author trying to milk a bit more money out of the series especially when you consider how it was published (ebook serial over several months then print copy) and get more exposure for her friends who haven't been as successful as Clare with their own publishing deals.

So my advice for what it is worth is to read it sooner after finishing the series and get it from the library rather than buying it unless you are a superfan collector who needs it for your collection.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Rereading The Hunger Games

I've made no secret of the fact that I am struggling at the moment to read. Its come to the point where I've decided to do something different to get me back into reading and that something is rereading my favourite books. I have a list on goodreads of about 35 books which I love. Some of them I have read since blogging and some not. I am therefore for the time being focusing reading those I haven't read since I started blogging along with their sequels if that applied.

Simply because Mockingjay is out soon I decided to start with rereading the Hunger Games trilogy and I must say I loved every second of reading them to the point that I have it has ruined me a little bit again when it comes to reading something new. Not really the point of the exercise but nevermind I'll just have to start rereading something else.

So what did I think rereading them?

The Hunger Games


I loved rereading this book again. I loved Katniss all over again and her strength as a character. I loved the contrast between the districts and the Capital. I found myself welling up when Rue died and I quite literally found myself unable to put it down.

Now I do like the movie adaptation for this book. I watched it over the half term break we've just had and I enjoyed watching it but this time round I really did notice the little things that had been missed out. The one that annoyed me the most was the different way in which Katniss gets her Mockingjay badge in this book. The way in which she receives it in the book from Madge is so much more poignant. Which brings me to Madge. While Madge doesn't have a huge role in either book I do think she is vital mostly because she is the only female friend that Katniss seems to tolerate and I liked seeing that side of her especially in book two. The other thing I was a big sad about was how they changed the Mutts at the end that attacked the pair. By not having them have the faces of the dead tributes I felt that something was lost in that scene. The scene in the book is downright chilling whereas in the film it isn't which is a shame.

Catching Fire






I actually enjoyed this book more second time round. The first time I didn't read it back to back with book one and I think I lost something between the two mostly because I read so much. I felt like I understood this much more reading them back to back especially when it came to the other tributes. For me this book was all about the politics of the Capital and I loved getting to know more about the world.

Mockingjay


It is no secret that I was not at all impressed with Catching Fire. I hated the way they treated Katniss. I disliked the resolution to the love triangle and how that played out along with the final ending. This book is far slower to my mind and I still think it suffers for that. I still do not really see how they are going to split it into two films. All of that said I really did find myself liking this book second time round. I suspect it was because I had read it back to back and had a really good idea of the different characters and the goings on.

So all in all I am so glad I found the time to reread this series. Next up on my rereading pile are
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
Before I die by Jenny Downham
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Noughts and Crosses series by Malorie Blackman
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercey

No idea where I am going to start with these. Any recommendations??

Sunday, 2 November 2014

On positive reviews ....

Over the course of the last few weeks there has been a lot of debate, often quite intense, about book reviews and what they should or shouldn't do. I don't think there is ever going to be a magic answer plucked out of the air that will keep everyone involved happy but I wanted to put down my thoughts on the matter so I can be done with thinking about it.

For me things came to a head this weekend when a prominent author made the comment on twitter "There is too much positivity in the book world. Esp in book blogs and on Youtube. Books can't all be good can they?". This statement led to lots of bloggers and authors weighing in with their opinions on the whole matter.

Let's break it down

"There is too much positivity in the book world"
The first part of this statement I didn't object to. I am taking this statement (and the author's further tweets) to say that reviewers should be writing both positive and negative reviews. I don't see an issue with this at all. I do think people should be honest in their reviews about what they thought about a book. I don't agree with writing a positive review for a book you didn't like. All too often so much hype is built up around titles which probably don't deserve it and other wonderful books don't receive even half the recognition they deserve.Is this driven my marketing and sales from the publishing houses? Probably. I suspect if you are a huge publishing house with a huge budget for marketing and have signed the author for a six figure deal you are going to promote that book big time because at the end of the day authors and publishing houses are out to make money because if they didn't there would be not books. Yes the title being promoted might be a fantastic read but due to the subjective nature of reading I doubt it is going to be universally loved.

Therefore I do think reviewers need to be balanced and give an honest opinion and not buy into the hype. I've been known to write a negative review about titles (that I've had for review) from hugely successful authors and I'm happy to do that when I can justify why I've had such an opinion about a book. That said I wouldn't be tweeting the author with links to that review because I think that smacks of rubbing salt into the wound for something someone has spent a good chunk of their existence working on. There is a fine line being being critical and being nasty which I don't want to cross. I will put the review on goodreads and might put it on my blog if I felt so inclined. I don't see those reviews as an awful thing and I'd never be put off a book by a negative review because I know reading is so subjective. All of the books on my favourites list have one star reviews and it doesn't stop me loving them.

However the second part of the tweet annoyed me a lot.
"Esp in book blogs and on Youtube"
 I felt this statement both singled out bloggers and dismissed them and what they do as well as generalising and assuming all book blogs are the same. To my mind while bloggers are dedicated book reviewers they are not paid to do so and therefore they can do whatever the hell they like on their blogs and shouldn't have to answer to anyone unlike someone being paid for a publication to review titles. Every blog is different. Some only post positive reviews. Some do a mix. Some specialise in snarky reviews which do tear books apart. Is anyone approach right? I don't think so and that is what makes blogging such a wonderful hobby for so many people.

Now there were loads of counterarguments flung about yesterday to try and discredit bloggers who mostly only write positive reviews and I'm going to try and answer a few (to be clear I have made these up and they are not exact wording from twitter but the general idea is there)

"But you get paid. You get free books don't you?"
Yes and paid professional reviewers also get free books. Plus if you think about if for a book that retails at about £7 the blogger will then spend say 6 hours reading it and another hour writing a review and posting it to all the various places they post their review online. Thinking it of it like that it's about £1 an hour. I don't know about you but doesn't really seem like adequate payment for any service in traditional sense*. Also you are forgetting much of what bloggers review they have bought themselves because they love all the books.

*in the book stroking, opening parcel and dancing sense I think most book bloggers are more than happy with those terms and adore the publishers who send them titles beyond belief.

"But you only include positive reviews on your blog? Therefore your reviews aren't valid"
I suspect this is true for a lot of bloggers and not because they got the books for review. I can only talk for myself but these are the reasons why my reviews are mostly positive
1) If I am not enjoying a book I usually give up on it quite early on and therefore I have very little to say about it (with the exception of books that make me rage ... then a negative review might happen). I have limited reading time to fit in around the day job and the boring adult things I have to do (like hoover) and I therefore don't want to waste it reading books I don't like.
2) I have been reading extensively for the last 25 years. Since I started blogging I have read about 1000 books. I'm now at the point where I know the sort of books I'll like and not like in much the same way that I know what foods I like and don't like. I wouldn't pick up a adult horror book for much the same reasons why I wouldn't go into a restaurant and order lamb because I know however good it is I won't like it. Therefore the books I read tend to be those I'll like and therefore I generally write positive reviews about them.
3) It is easy to write a review about something you are really excited about. I can write reviews about books I loved easily. I can write reviews about books I hated easily. I struggle to write reviews about books that I felt were about the three star quality because they were OK but I didn't find them particularly great. I know that is down to my reading preferences and very often a case of "it's not you, it's me". In fact one of the reasons why you've seen so few reviews from me of late is because I've not really read anything that is above three stars and I got sick of trying to review books I wasn't fussed about.

But you're writing reviews about books by authors you've met and liked.
This is a difficult kettle of fish. There are authors out there I really like as a person and chat to regularly. I do promote their titles because I've read and loved them. I have a friend who is a YA author. I adore her and I make no secret of that. We love the same books. I'll head into the city infrequently to see her for lunch and spend all day talking about books. When I found out she was being published I was beyond excited and inevitably I loved it because we have a very similar reading brain and her book was so her. What happens if the time comes and I don't like a book of hers?? Being the wonderful person she is she'd just shrug it off in her wonderfully modest way and tell me not to worry myself about it. Me? I'd probably choose to say nothing rather than rip her book to shreds. In fact I know I've done that before for other authors who I've chatted to on twitter and then had the pleasure to meet and get my book signed at an event before actually getting a chance to read and find out their book isn't for me. Does that make me an awful blogger? I don't think so. I don't see the point in upsetting someone who I have that personal connection with because I'd worry that they'd think I was two faced. Equally I don't want to be false and promote a book I don't love because I have met that person. Therefore by choosing to say nothing I resolve both those issues.

Why are you worried about what authors you don't know think?
This leads me to all those authors I don't personally know. I can say what I want about them right? I suppose yes in theory and I'd like to think I do but some authors do not play nice. I've had friends who have been harrassed online by authors who did not like their review. Recent stories of a Scottish blogger who was attacked at work with a bottle and an author who turned up on the doorstep of a blogger I'm sure have made bloggers think. Some bloggers are only just teens. Would 13 year old me have risked a negative review when the possibility of those things outline existed? While they wouldn't stop me now, I'm not sure I would have back at 13. Would I touch titles written by the crazed authors as mentioned above now though? I highly doubt it. Admittedly they are examples of extremes of behaviour and most authors wouldn't dream of doing such a thing.

To sum up book bloggers generally are a different kettle of fish to paid professional reviewers. They are often positive because their hobby is to discuss and getting excited about books they adore and they are good at reading what they know they'll like. If they want to post most positive review that is up to them. No one should be saying what they should and shouldn't be doing.