Saturday, 30 June 2012

June review

Another busy month for me as I've been helping kids get ready for their GCSE exams

Read in June
Buffy season 8 graphic novels
Angel after the fall graphic novels
Someone like you by Sarah Dessen
Grave Mercy by RL Fevers
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame
Soul Fire by Kate Harrison
Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas
So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
Unison 3.0 by Andy Marino
Shift by Kim Curran
Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
Time between us by Tamara Ireland Stone
Girl in the Clockwork Collar
Glimpse by Claire Merle

Book of the Month

quite honestly nothing I've read this month has blown me away so I'm giving book of the month to


Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton because it published this month (I read it last month) and was fab

Book Events
I went off to London and for the Random House Bloggers Brunch which was generally a little bit awesome main because I got to see my lovely blogger friends and meet the amazing Laura Dockrill.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Review: Someone Like you by Sarah Dessen

Someone like you by Sarh Dessen




Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she's devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it'll never break--because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

***

This is less a review and more a fan girl waffle on about why I love Sarah Dessen.

I picked up this book because I was struggling to get through books and I needed something to kick start my reading habits again and Sarah Dessen is my go-to-girl for that sort of book. This book like her others are perfect girly summery reads which I find myself flying through. I find them effortless to read and after finishing reading them I'm left with that lovely gooey feeling of general niceness.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the friendship between the two girls Halley and Scarlett. I enjoyed seeing that wondeful best friend relationship between the two of them and seeing how they depended upon one another through think and thin. The relationship those girls have is the kind of relationship I craved as a teenager but never seemed to find amongst the girls I went to high school with.

My favourite scene has to be the prom scene towards the end. I thought it was really funny and loved seeing the lengths Halley was willing to go to keep Scarlett happy.

I also enjoyed the moral behind this book especially when looking at the relationship Halley develops with her boyfriend Macon. I thought it gavve a really good message about being comfortable in a relationship and what you are willing to do and when for the other person.

All in all a fab read which I really enjoyed.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Review: The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill



The second thrilling installment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy spinoff series

Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Richelle Mead's breathtaking Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive. In this second book, the drama is hotter, the romances are steamier, and the stakes are even higher.


***

This is less a review and more me throwing my feeling for this book out there. I was a huge fan of Vampire academy books and I have been keen to follow this series. I loved the first book but wasn't so much of a fan of this one.

For me the thing that kept me reading this book were the boys namely Adrian, Dmitri and Eddie. Just like in the previous series I love them all in their own different ways and couldn't get enough of them. I loved gettin to kow them yet again and seeing the world they live in.

I found however the book was really spoiled by Sydney. I don't remember disliking her in previous books but I really really did in this book. The main reason for this is her sheer aversion to food. My god the girl is a rake and she spends all the time worrying that she is fat and that a single calorie or sniff of sugar will make her fat. Not a brilliant role model for the teens who this book is aimed at. Equally her boyfriend (I say boyfriend I don't think that's the word for him) he absolutely the biggest freak out there. The girl dresses up and looks stunning and all he can say is 'that outfit isn't historically accurate'. What? quite honestly while I wouldn't put up with it I think they deserved each other. She also downright annoyed me at the end with the decision she made. I cannot believe how she decided to treat someone at the end of it all and it made me dislike her a lot.

So what I want to see in the next book

Less Sydney, More Vampires!!!!

more of vampire's in next book please
warriors of light

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Angel after the fall

At the beginning of the month I had a real problem getting through books so I turned to some graphic novels. I started with Buffy Season 8 but then also turned to Angel: After the Fall.


If you loved the show this mini series is a really interesting insight into where Joss Whedon took the characters next. It was fab to see the characters again but really interesting to see how very different their world is. What I did particularly love about it is that it can go anywhere and use any characters from previous series as it doesn't have the same restrictions a TV series does.

Well worth a look!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Buffy Season 8

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I loved watching the show when it was on and even now every couple of years or so we'll pull the boxset out and start watching it from the beginning again. I love the main characters especially Willow and I love the experience of getting immersed into that world again.



Now a few years back I start to read the Buffy season 8 Graphic Novels but lost interest simply because I was having so long between issues. However now they've finished I've finally managed to get them all and I decided to read them all in one go.

If you are a fan of the TV series I would urge you to read them. They still have all the things that I loved about the show namely awesome characters with witty dialogue and a brilliant story line. The main differences being that because anything can go because the writers and artists are not restricted by a TV budget and my word anything does go. There are so many crazy things that kick off and guest appearances from much loved characters from the shows that I was in Buffy-Geek heaven.


Monday, 25 June 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by RL LaFevers

Grave Mercy by RL Fevers
Published by Andersen Press


Young, beautiful and deadly. Trained as an assassin by the god of Death, Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany, where she finds herself under prepared - not only for the games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

***

I was really excited about starting this book. I mean look at that cover and it's about assassin nuns? Way to draw me in!

I must admit that unfortunately this book was really for me. Don't get me wrong it wasn't bad but it really didn't draw me in as well as I though it would do.

The book started well. You meet Imae, the protagonist, as she escapes a life of brutality with the man she was forced to marry. It's pacey and exciting as she makes her escape and arrives at the convent where she'll spend the next few years of her life. However I felt as soon as Ismae got to the convent the pace of the story slowed right down and it was then when I found my attention waning. 

I felt there was an awful lot of attention on the political ins and outs of the situation Ismae found herself in which I found to be quite dry and all I wanted was for Ismae to do her Assassin Ninja Nun thing that she'd be so well trained for (or so we'd been told)

One thing I did really enjoy about this book was the slow burning love story that was built up of the course of the book. If nothing else the reason why I want to read the next book is because of this element alone.

I really struggled with keeping tabs on who all the different characters were and I felt at time a bit crowded and I felt it got to the point where I didn't care who half these people were.

All in all not a bad read and I'm certainly interested to carry on with the series but I'm hoping that the next book is a bit faster paced and has a bit more going on to keep me interested throughout.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Blogger Darren from Book Zone


Kirsty asked me months and months ago if I would be interested in taking part in Bookcase Showcase, and naturally I said of course I would. Sorry it has taken so long – my only excuse is that between teaching, reading, blogging and writing some plans just tend to slip by the wayside.  I warn you in advance – I am a book addict and we are constantly running out of shelf space. This means that the majority of shelves are double-stacked (and yes, it is a pain when trying to find a specific book), and more recently I have started to box books up (all carefully wrapped in plastic to keep them nice and shiny).

I am incredibly fortunate that we could afford to have an extension added to our house a few years ago. This meant I could have my very own room, for my books CDs and records (far too many of these as well), and (in the words of my wife) any other junk I wanted to have on display. It means that after a long day at work, I can come home and surround myself with my books, guaranteed to put a smile on my face even if I have another few hours of school work to get done.



This first photo is my beloved room (and I used a cool iphone app to take this panoramic photo). The manga-style print on the right was a present from an ex-pupil in the first school I taught at. She produced a handful of them as part of her A-Level art course, and gave this one to me as I had introduced her to manga a couple of years earlier. The photo next to her was taken by a student at the school where I currently teach as part of his A-Level photography course.

 As far as shelves are concerned, on the left is my Ikea Expedit that has lived in a number of houses since I bought it back in 1999. It used to house only records but recently I have got rid of quite a few to make room for my ever-increasing collection of graphic novels.


 
The shelf on the bottom left (just below Elektra) is my triple-stacked To be Read pile. It is becoming increasingly difficult to decide just which book I am going to read next, and sometimes I just have to close my eyes and grab one from the pile. Most of the various figures have been bargain finds at car boot sales, although Rogue Trooper and Judge Anderson were treats to myself when 2000AD had a big sale at the beginning of the year.

Moving clockwise round the room we come to the first of my Billy bookcases (thank the Lord for Ikea!). These were bought as soon as my new room and been decorated and carpeted, and were filled with books within hours of them being erected. As they are quite tall I’ve split each one into two photos.



I guess my tastes are a little eclectic, and they have changed quite a lot over the years. I love stories that are full of action and adventure (I have very boyish tastes in books and films), historical thrillers, quest stories (yes, including Dan Brown), and over the last few years I have also started to read a lot more horror. Necronomicon on the top shelf was a present from my sister-in-law and her husband and I am slowly dipping in and out of it, discovering the genius works of HP Lovecraft. Towards the bottom of this picture you can see some of my plastic-wrapped graphic novels. These are all special bookplate editions that I have started buying from the wonderful Gosh Comics in London. Some of the Marvel figures were bought on our holiday to New York, and I completed the collection via the wonder of ebay.



Further down this bookcase are more of my graphic novels. The Marvel collection has grown ridicukously over the past twelve months thanks to some very lucky car boot sale and charity shop finds. Also on these shelves are my Tintin and Asterix books, most  of which I have had since I was a child.



Now we start getting to my YA and children’s books shelves. I am quite anal when it comes to shelving series books together, which is why a get a little frustrated when publishers suddenly change cover designs mid-series, or suddenly decide that the next book in a series will be hardcover instead of paperback. The palpitations never last for long though – after all, it is what is inside the book that is the most important thing. I’m quite chuffed that I managed to get to Winchester a couple of years ago to listen to Rick Riordan as I managed to get all of my Percy Jackson books signed.


Further down that bookcase there are more children’s books and then things become a little more random, although the bottom shelf is devoted to another ever-increasing collection – annuals from the 1970s and 1980s.



More children’s and YA books on this one, including my signed copies of the brilliant Department 19 books, although there are a couple of shelves devoted to adult books, including a few guilty pleasures – the Fu Manchu books by Sax Rohmer and a few volumes of Arsene Lupin stories by Maurice Leblanc.







Further down the YA and children’s hardly get a look in. Those that appear on the uppermost shelf are mainly purchases that I made in The Strand, an awesome book store in New York. The next shelf down houses my collection of Saint books by Leslie Charteris, and most of my all-time favourite series – the Modesty Blaise books by Peter O’Donnell. I am the very proud owner of a first edition of the very first Modesty Blaise book, as well as a handful of the others. I hope to gradually build on this over the years so that one day I will have a full set of the first edition hardbacks.







This final Billy shelf is nearly all non-fiction books, most of which are historical in nature. I especially love books about London and have quite a few books about the city, some quite recently written some from the turn of the last century, and others from all the years inbetween. Pinhead on the right was another great car boot sale find.



The history books continue, as well as some rather hefty tomes about myths, legends and folklore. If you are at all interested in British folklore and history, and love dipping in and out of big, chunky encyclopaedias, then I can highly recommend three brilliant books: The Lore of the Land by Westwood and Simpson; London lore by Steve Roud; and Hibbert and Weinreb. On the right, just peeking out from below one of my decks, you can see part of the book that my wife bought me for Christmas. It is the largest book in my collection, and is a retrospective of the first 75 years of DC comics, published by Taschen, titled 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. It is a stunning book!




I tend to store books in any available space, and this is a unit underneath my record decks containing a mixed bag of how-to-DJ manuals, more history books and various art and film design books. As a DT teacher I have a silly number of design books, but thankfully I have an office at school where I can keep the vast majority of these. One of the copies of Dougal and the Blue Cat has been in possession for almost as long as I can remember. I’m not sure why I bought a second copy – I probably saw it in a charity shop and couldn’t resist.



That’s it for ‘my’ room. Over the past few years I have slowly managed to sneak other sets of shelves into various other rooms around the house. This next one is in our dining room, my excuse being that we needed some way of storing our cook books (bottom shelf, not shown).



As well as the ubiquitous set of Harry Potter books, there is also my complete set of gel-sleeved Joshua Files books by M.G. Harris. A couple of these are signed, but I hope to meet M.G. one day and get the rest of them signed. If you look carefully you will see that there is a space towards the bottom left – this is reserved for the final volume in Barry Hutchison’s fab Invisible Fiends series.


I have decided not to take photos of every book shelf in the house, but there is one more area that I want to show you. Our house comes with a bonus room – a semi-converted loft. From the outside it looks like a door to an airing cupboard, but inside are a set of steps that lead up into a room that is perfect for storing all kinds of things, and of course, more books. Again, everything is pretty much double-stacked, but this is where I keep most of my horror books, old Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie books, and pretty much any other book that there isn’t space for elsewhere. Many of the books I get sent for reviewing also end up here, once they have been read of course.



I am not by nature a show-off, but I honestly could talk about my books all day and bore you to tears. I am only sorry that I can’t show you the complete collection, but my wife would kill me if I started unpacking boxes just to take photos.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Published by Mira


‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’

Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.

When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going, California.

Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.

Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.


***

For me this book is all about relationships and many different forms they came in.

The first relationship this books tackles is that between Harper and her recently dead sister and looks at the regret Harper holds inside her for all the things she said and didn't say to her sister. I think it was a really poignant insight that anyone who has lost anyone can relate to easily.

I loved the relationship between Harper and her best friend Laney. I loved seeing how two girls who were so different could get on so well and I loved seeing the almost sisterly bond they had between them.

This closeness was contrasted with the relationship Harper had with her divorced parents. You could see the strains it had had on Harper especially as her mother was using her as a bit of emotional crutch which wasn't at all fair.

I loved the volatile and feisty and sometimes sexy relationship between Harper and Jake. I loved seeing how they interacted with one another and for me this was the driving thing about this book and the thing that kept me reading it. I enjoyed see how they sparked off one another.

A book that I enjoyed even though it didn't blow me away and an author I am keen to read more in the future.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

So ...

So today I had planned to do some kind of witty discussion post but it didn't happen. for a variety of reasons.

The main reason being that today I haven't been near a computer for the last few days because I'm been prepping the kids for GCSE exams (all 150 of them) and today because we've finally finished all the GCSE exams and because my PGCE student who has been fantastic finished his placement with me today I still haven't been able to get near a computer.

So, to cut a long story short, today ended up with me and the kids partying at lunch time in a double celebration (albeit a bitter sweet one) and saying goodbye to them all. I ate too much sugar goodness and ended up doing this...







I now hit my busiest time of the year as I decend into the madness that is examining for one of the Exam boards marking 100s of GCSE papers so if I don't reply to emails and am not to twitter don't worry. I have loads of reviews for some awesome books scheduled and will be back to normal service once the summer holidays hit!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
Published by HarperCollins



Seventeen-year-old Ginny Blackstone is off on another fun, romantic, and hilarious European adventure in this irresistible sequel to Johnson's breakout hit "13 Little Blue Envelopes."

***

I enjoyed reading The Last Little Blue Envelope and like the closure it gave the series. It was a fun, fast paced and light read which was perfect for a sunday afternoon read.

The books picks up after the first book as Ginny gets an email about the final of the 13 envelopes which she never got to read after her bag was stolen towards the end of her adventure whilst in Europe in the previous summer.

For me this book was a bit of a comfort read. You knew exactly what was going to happen from the moment you opened the first page and you pretty much had a rough idea of where the story was going to go. Don't mistake this as a criticism as it isn't because sometimes that's exactly what I want out of a book. I loved getting back to Ginny, a character I loved previously, and I enjoyed following her mad-cap adventures following the letters of her wacky aunt around europe.

The thing I loved most about this book was the characterisation. I really enjoyed getting to know Ginny again and I loved seeing her bounce off the people around her, especially Keith.

A light, enjoyable albeit predictable read which I enjoyed.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Published by HarperCollins


Thirty-five beautiful girls. Thirty-five beautiful rivals…

It’s the chance of a lifetime and 17-year-old America Singer should feel lucky. She has been chosen for The Selection, a reality TV lottery in which the special few compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon's love.

Swept up in a world of elaborate gowns, glittering jewels and decadent feasts, America is living a new and glamorous life. And the prince takes a special interest in her, much to the outrage of the others.

Rivalry within The Selection is fierce and not all of the girls are prepared to play by the rules. But what they don’t know is that America has a secret – one which could throw the whole competition… and change her life forever


***

 I've committed that silly mistake of leaving a huge gap between reading and reviewing this so I'm going to do this review slightly differently...

What I liked about it.
I liked the main character America and I found that meant I could root for her really easily as the book went on.
I loved Prince Maxon. I thought he was swoony worthy gorgeous and I enjoyed finding out more about him and the world he lived in.
I loved the glitz and the glamour of it all and I really enjoyed the concept of the selection. I loved the world set up around it and the politics and I can't wait to get more into the as the series goes on.

What I disliked
I disliked how the book didn't feel complete within itself because of the cliff-hanger. It made me feel a little cheated and I would actually recommend that maybe you don't read this bok right now but try it when the rest of the series is written and published so you can read it back to back.
The fact that it is compared to hunger games. I loved hunger games and I liked this book but they certainly aren't at all similiar apart from maybe the undercurrent of political unrest behaind the main story but even then not really.


What I want to see in the next instalment
More Prince Maxon
Less of America's old boyfriend
More of the political insights and more of the world outside of the selection.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon and Schuster



Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it's stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven't actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they've ever been before. But all of them very aware that they're battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.


***

I loved this book. It is a perfect example of the type of book I crave once summer gets near to put me in the mood for my summer holidays. It's a light and easy read with characters you can relate to and its both heart warming and heart breaking at the same time. Perfect!

There were several things I liked about this book.

I loved the relationship between Taylor and the wonderfully gorgeous Henry. I really enjoyed seeing them bond and rediscover the friendship they had lost all those year previously

I really liked the family dynamic in this book. Taylor isn't close with her family but not in a dysfunctional way. I can get a bit frustrated with books where the sisters in it are always the best of friends because if anything (and speaking for experience here) isn't it true that teenagers hate their siblings when they are young??

The thing that makes this book standout for me is the way in which it deals with loss in that it doesn't shy away from it and confronts head on the slow and agonising way in which Taylor has to watch her father slowly leave her in a really drawn out process. I must admit by the end of the book I was reading it with a lump in my throat.

All in all a perfect read for your summer holidays with real depth which you will want to devour in one sitting.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Laura Powell


E-books are not for me. I love books as physical objects almost as much as the stories they contain. I hate creased spines or mucky covers, and I try to collect hardbacks. Oh, and I believe in the saying “only fools lend books”. I’m much happier buying them for people.


Since I live in a small attic flat, I have to be really selective about which books I keep and which I give way. I aim to arrange books according to genre. Unfortunately, this system is undermined by the fact my books and shelves come in different shapes and sizes.

The usual nineteenth-century suspects are here, jostling for space with my children’s library. My favourites of these are the picture-book Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak, and The Midnight Folk by John Masefield. Authors Diana Wynne-Jones and E. Nesbit feel like old friends, and I reach for the Just William series when I’m in need of cheering up.




I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I try to swot up on ancient history (I studied Classics at university) and dip into poetry, philosophy and feminism. Crime fiction’s another interest; I’ve always wanted to write a thriller, so although Burn Mark’s full of witches and magic, there are gangsters and gun-battles too.
             

Illustration is important to me, probably because my dad’s a painter. A recent purchase is a Folio Society edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, with beautiful colour illustrations. Then there’s my precious Errol le Cain fairy-tales, sourced from E-bay, and a collection of etchings by my favourite contemporary artist, Paula Rego. Last but not least is Girl Culture by Lauren Greenfield, an anthology of photographs and interviews that explores what it’s like being young and female in the 21st century. The pictures are tender, edgy and provocative – and full of people I’d love to write about.