Already a month into the year? Where has the time gone?
I must admit I've had quite a selfish reading month and really indulged in reading my own books, some adult books and rereading some favourites. What else are snow days for?
Books read in January
1) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (British Books Challenge)
2) The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp
3) One Day by David Nicholl (British Books Challenge)
4) You don't have to say you love me by Sarra Manning (British Books Challenge)
5) Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse (British Books Challenge)
6) Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning (British Books Challenge)
7) The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
8) Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell (British Books Challenge)
9) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (British Books Challenge)
10) Let's get Lost by Sarra Manning (British Books Challenge)
11) Just one Day by Gayle Forman
12) Nine uses for an ex-boyfriend by Sarra Manning (British Books Challenge)
13) Waiting for Gonzo by Dave Cousins (British Books Challenge)
14) Me before you by Jojo Moyes (British Books Challenge)
15) Pretty Things by Sarra Manning (British Books Challenge)
16) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (British Books Challenge)
17) Almost True by Keren David (British Books Challenge)
18) The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris (British Books Challenge)
19) Annabel by Lauren Oliver
20) Another Life by Keren David (British Books Challenge)
21) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling (British Books Challenge)
22) The Girl you Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (British Books Challenge)
23) The Vincent Brothers by Abbi Glines
24) A Witch Alone by Ruth Warburton (British Books Challenge)
25) Killing Rachel by Anne Cassidy (British Books Challenge)
None all cancelled due to snow
Book of the Month:
You don't have to say you love me by Sarra Manning
Yes I don't read books for grown ups, yes I know but this I loved completely! Such a brilliant book!
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she's learning to live with it.
Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online ... and he kills himself.
Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down.
A searing story of love, revenge and betrayal from a bestselling author.
Undone is the third offering from author Cat Clarke and it is just brilliant. I don't think I have the words to do justice to how good this book was but I'll give it a go.
Undone is the story of Jem. Jem is in a bad place. She has been in love with her best friend Kai for as long as she can remember even though he was gay. She was able to live with it but when he's outed in a video on the Internet and he can't deal with it and kills himself and suddenly Jem's whole world falls apart. Jem is practically at the point of being completely catatonic when she is visited by Jem's sister who gives her a series of letters from Kai, one of each month of the next year which gives her a reason to live again and the opportunity to get even with the group of popular kids she holds for Kai's suicide.
Jem decides the best way to get back at those responsible for the death of Kai is to infiltrate the popular group and take them down from within. She changes the way she looks and dresses, makes friends with the enemy and starts to date the most popular boy in school. For me it was fascinating to see the transition Jem has to make to get in with the popular crowd. It said a lot about how fragile the system of popularity within a high school system actually is. The book also really highlights the devastating way in which discriminatory bullying can affect the life of a young person and how easily someone can ruin the life of another with a few choice words or put downs. Another way in which this book really hit me was the way which you really get under the skin of Jem. You really get the sense as a reader of how emotionally raw she feels as it oozes off the page and hits you full in the face. I just found myself wanting to pick her up and do whatever possible to make everything ok again.
The ending of the book is really poignant and is guaranteed to leave you a emotional wreck. Perfect and heart breaking at the same time. I pity the book I read next because it will pale in comparison in every way to undone. A brilliant read which I cannot recommend highly enough.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
A mysterious filmmaker approaches The Penny Dreadful with a proposal to turn Montgomery Flinch’s sinister stories into motion pictures. With Monty installed as the star of his production, filming begins but is plagued by a series of strange and frightening events. As Monty pleads with Penny to help him, she is drawn into the mystery, but soon finds herself trapped in a nightmare penned by her own hand. Can Penny uncover the filmmaker’s dark secret before it’s too late?
A cracking story which lived up to the anticipation. I love Penelope and the penny dreadful.
For me the best thing about this series is the feel they give you for Victorian London. Whilst there is a paranormal twist it doesn't overtake the story. For me the real joy of this book was following Penelope on her adventures around Victorian London and playing detective with her. Without giving too much away I found the story brilliantly engaging and it kept me completely hooked.
If you liked Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series you'll love this one too as it definitely has the same feel although possibly aimed at a slightly younger audience.
Fab stuff and well worth a look.
Monday, 28 January 2013
In a future where children are segregated into institutions that range from comfortable “Learning Communities” to prison-like “Local Academies”, seventeen-year-old Jackson is an academic high flyer, living in a top Learning Community and destined for a position in the Leadership. But when he is sent with his best friend Wilson to deliver a package to a factory block, the two boys are attacked, leaving Jackson badly beaten and Wilson dead.
Confused and upset, Jackson returns to his Learning Community only to be dismissed by his teachers who claim not to know him. Sent to an Academy, an institute set up to train factory workers, Jackson finds himself immersed in a world that couldn’t be further removed than the comfortable life he’s used to; a harsh, violent, semi-articulate society where the students have created their own hierarchy based on fighting ability.
Using his wits to survive, Jackson starts to realise that his whole life has been based on half-truths. And in order to survive he needs to expose the lies that surround the Academy and find out the truth about who he really is. As he builds alliances and begins to educate those closest to him, a plan for rebellion and escape gradually comes into shape...
I really enjoyed this book
It is a UK dystopian which is edgy and exciting. The world established is terrifyingly realistic and creepy. I loved seeing how the different strands of society had become segregated and the impact that had on the life chances of the individuals effected by the segregation starting with very very basically the way they spoke but right up to the opportunities and experiences available to them.
I loved loved loved the fact that the kids with all the power and respect in this book were the red heads and that everyone wanted to have hair like them. In a society were red heads can be ridiculed soled because of a feature they were born with and can't control as an accepted norm I loved this! The way in which the society in the academy worked was fascinating with youngsters fighting for status. Lord of the flies esque and really chilling!
I loved seeing the world through the eyes of the main character. He enters this world where he is suddenly reliant on a whole new skill set after spending his life getting by on his own intelligence. I enjoyed seeing his frustration as he tried to explain ideas and theories to the children he met who had been brought up in a world full of indoctrination which made them not bother to think for themselves. I particularly thought this was really telling when he was trying to point out government use of propaganda in news broadcasts.
An intesting start to what promises to be a cracking series.
Sunday, 27 January 2013
Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last…
I must admit I was dreading reading this one as in my head it was my least favourite from the series but actually I really loved it.
In my head it was just book one rehashed but actually I found it was so much more. You meet Dobby for the first time and Mr Weasley and you get to see the Weasley home for the first time. Yes you could say it was quite similar in format but I really enjoyed following the story of Harry Ron and Hermione as they got a little bit older, a little bit wiser but still up to all their old tricks while still being in that pre hormone phase. I did however forget how darn annoying Lockhart is. Grrrr that man!
A read comfort read and a delight to be sure!
Saturday, 26 January 2013
I am truly delighted to be doing this post and when I say delighted I mean the skippy smiley kind and not the kind that I have to pretend to be when I open a present from my Auntie Joyce.
I love the idea of showcasing my books, but little things seem to keep me from inviting people in to have a look. There’s my writing schedule, the untidiness of the house, the fact that no one wants to visit since that misunderstanding at Halloween – how was I supposed to know that when it comes to fake corpses you can go too realistic?
Despite the fact that there is matter reproducing in my kitchen sink, you’ll notice that my bookshelves are pretty tidy. This is because I think arranging books into height order is much more important than scrubbing stuff.
I reckon there are enough YA and MG books in my house to build a temple to Philip Pullman (but I’ve totally never woken the children up in the middle of the night to help me prove that theory) however, because I don’t want anyone’s eyes to bleed (despite what last year’s trick-or-treaters might say) I have decided to offer up an edited selection of my bookshelves.
This is one of two Adult shelves. Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, lots of Dickens and a separate Fantasy section.
UK and US editions of The Princess Bride. When I worked at Waterstones, The Princess Bride was only published in America. I was desperate for a copy so I rang an American wholesaler to order one. The only problem was that they had a minimum order of 100 books. Well . . . I did really want that book, so I ordered them. (I should mention at this point that I was not the fiction buyer; I was the Saturday girl.) When they arrived I was a bit worried that someone important might notice 100 books they weren’t expecting, but fortunately they sold quickly. Or I should say: I sold them quickly. Nothing like fear of discovery to motivate a seller. Every time someone bought a different book I said, ‘Do you want a Princess Bride with that?’
Amazingly, once the first lot sold out someone ordered more. And more. It became one of our bestsellers. Shortly after that Bloomsbury brought out a UK edition of The Princess Bride and in my head I’m completely responsible for that. (Bear in mind that in my head I’m also the obvious choice to replace Darcy Bussell on Strictly and a future roller disco champion. I’m not the most reliable of sources.)
And if you think that sounds unlikely you should hear the story of how I introduced America to Harry Potter.
I love books and I love vintage things. If you want to make me melt into a puddle; show me a vintage book.
Our Vintage Puffins mantelpiece is in the bedroom. Where’s yours?
These are my favourites.
This collection is mostly school stories. They’ve got really topping titles like ‘The Queer New Girl.’
Vintage Ladybird books.
I know that there were some disappointing parts of the 70s: the fashion, the sexism in the workplace, the fact that I wasn’t born, but they did produce these beauties. I love the painted illustrations.
These are from the 50s.
Being a gay ice-cream van in the 1950s wasn’t as difficult as you might imagine.
This is my recent YA and MG shelf.
Some proof copies. My favourites are Stardust and The White Darkness.
So that’s the beginning. I’ll save the 80s kids’ books, the picture books, the comics, the Christmas shelf (yep, really) and further stories of international book relations for another time. You’ll love the one about how I got the Hunger Games film off the ground.
Friday, 25 January 2013
Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.
Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer.
This book isn't as good as I hoped it might be for several reasons.
To start on a positive note this book does what it wants it that it shocks and it is really quite sad. You really feel for the young girl at the centre of this book and see how the sheer neglect she has suffer at the hands of her mother has driven her into the life she has ended up living.
However for me this book is lacking. The story itself is very simply written and quite basic in the choice of writing of style which makes it read, if it weren't for the content, like a book for a much younger audience. I do feel that maybe the book is designed to shock with the sexual explicit content and it didn't feel to me like it had a whole lot of substance to it.
All in all not really the book for me.
Thursday, 24 January 2013
Sweet, bookish Neve Slater always plays by the rules. And the number one rule is that good-natured fat girls like her don’t get guys like gorgeous, handsome William, heir to Neve's heart since university. But William’s been in LA for three years, and Neve’s been slimming down and re-inventing herself so that when he returns, he’ll fall head over heels in love with the new, improved her.
So she’s not that interested in other men. Until her sister Celia points out that if Neve wants William to think she's an experienced love-goddess and not the fumbling, awkward girl he left behind, then she’d better get some, well, experience.
What Neve needs is someone to show her the ropes, someone like Celia’s colleague Max. Wicked, shallow, sexy Max. And since he’s such a man-slut, and so not Neve’s type, she certainly won’t fall for him. Because William is the man for her… right?
Somewhere between losing weight and losing her inhibitions, Neve’s lost her heart – but to who?
Yet another Sarra Manning book which I couldn't put down. Quite honestly I love this lady's writing and can't get enough. You don't have to say you love me was another brilliant read which I enjoyed thoroughly.
You don't have to say you love me is the story of Neve. Neve is in love with William and has been for years. Unfortunately he is both yet to notice her in that way and currently overseas. Neve cannot wait until the day he returns to the UK and falls madly in love with her. The problem is Neve is somewhat lacking in experience with men and has been directed by her younger sister to get some to prepare for William's return.
For me there were several things I loved about this book because they made me think.
Firstly I loved Neve as a character. She is a complex little soul hiding behind a whole lot of self esteem issues after being hugely over weight in her younger year. This has affected her greatly in her confidence levels meaning she has never been able to feel like she has the ability to be attractive to men. This book said a lot about the way in women can make themselves feel worse about their own body because of the pressure they feel from the media etc to need to look 'perfect'. In my minds eye I saw Neve as a really fat girl the way she discussed her own body and problem areas but yet you find out that actually she is a smaller size than the average for the UK. It was fascinating to see how it impacted on her life and the way she held herself because in her minds eye she was gross overweight and repulsive when everyone saw her very differently.
I really loved the relationship between Neve and Max, the man she decides to 'practice' having a relationship with her. Quite honestly Neve's quirks and way were hilarious to see through Max's eyes as he got to know her better. I loved how the two of them acted as a couple and watching them fall for each other without wanting to admit it and quite honestly by the end of the book I wanted to be their official cheerleader to champion their relationship even when they weren't so keen. One section where Neve, the academic is taken off to a WAG wedding by Max was so brilliantly funny it was untrue. Oh and the sexy times and tension between the two was totally steamy!
Another reason why Neve was so under confident was due to the bullying she faced as a teenager as the hands of her now sister in law. I actually loved the way this was done in the book because people often think of bullying as something that happens to kids and they get over it but actually you could see that despite all Neve's achievements the way in which she was treated continued to affect her adult life in a huge way.
All in all a book I would highly recommend and look forward to adding to my 'reread regularly' pile.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
KYLIE: MEXICO WHAT? I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY, and is this a wedding band on my finger.
MAX: It all started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics. Okay, it was kind of hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded in Tijuana. With less than twenty-four hours before graduation. Awesome.
WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring their passports across the border -- but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started.
LILY: I just walked in on my boyfriend, Max Langston, canoodling with Kylie Flores, freak of the century. Still, I can't completely hold it against him. He NEEDS me. It's even clearer now. And I'm not giving him up without a fight.
I really enjoyed from what I remember and thought it was a really cute story.
The story starts in the middle of the action. Kylie wakes up hungover next to the best looking boy in school called Max in Mexico and wearing what appears to be a wedding ring. If it couldn't get any worse standing over her is Max's girlfriend Lily. All this on the morning of her graduation ceremony she she is supposed to giving the valedictorian speech!
The thing that really dragged me in and made me really enjoy this book was the characterisation. I normally struggle with books told from a variety of points of views but in this case it really worked. I really felt like I got to know each of the characters and loved them all individually.
For me this story was about relationships and seeing people for who they really are. I loved the relationship between Max and Kylie. Up until the events of the book they've barely talked despite being in the same school for years Kylie is the brightest girl in school and Max is the coolest boy in school. Despite appearing to be worlds apart once they are forced to talk they actually find they have more in common than they both realised. The other relationship I loved in this book was the one between Kylie and her best friend Will. I loved the way they looked out for each other and how they just took each other for the people they are. Quite honestly the of is the best friend I wanted in high school and never had.
The story unfolds brilliantly and had a feel of watching a movie whilst reading it. It's funny, heart warming and pacey throughout and keeps you wanting to read more. A real page turner which I will be recommending to other regularly.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
In a stirring chronicle, Doreen Rappaport brings to light the courage of countless Jews who organized to sabotage the Nazis and help other Jews during the Holocaust.
Under the noses of the military, Georges Loinger smuggles thousands of children out of occupied France into Switzerland. In Belgium, three resisters ambush a train, allowing scores of Jews to flee from the cattle cars. In Poland, four brothers lead more than 1,200 ghetto refugees into the forest to build a guerilla force and self-sufficient village. And twelve-year-old Motele Shlayan entertains German officers with his violin moments before setting off a bomb. Through twenty-one meticulously researched accounts — some chronicled in book form for the first time — Doreen Rappaport illuminates the defiance of tens of thousands of Jews across eleven Nazi-occupied countries during World War II. In answer to the genocidal madness that was Hitler’s Holocaust, the only response they could abide was resistance, and their greatest weapons were courage, ingenuity, the will to survive, and the resolve to save others or to die trying.
Extensive end matter includes: - timeline of important events
- pronunciation guide
- source notes
- maps integrated throughout text
This isn't the sort of book I normally review however I wanted to add a little bit on it on here because it really is a brilliant book which was an absolutely fascinating read. I was very pleased to see the use of the collection of pictures and drawings from the children from Theresienstadt ghetto which I've only seen before in one non uk published book before. They are heart breaking and insightful.
Highly recommended for children / teens studying the holocaust I will be using it extensively at school
Monday, 21 January 2013
When people ask me where do your ideas come from? I can’t really answer except to say that my characters come first, never the place or the situation they find themselves in. I see them before anything else then the ideas seem to grow from them. So for this series of blogs about writing guess where I’m going to start!
In any of my stories the characters have to appear real and not like planks of wood or lumps of clay. They’ve got to walk and talk, live and breathe, laugh and cry, even though they’re just made up characters.
Megan and Jackson are made up characters. They’re not based on anyone at all. Megan came first. Though when I started the story eleven years before it was published, Megan was a boy and I think I called him Josh.
I write a lot of stories told through the eyes of boys. These are printed in the sort of magazine you mums or grandmas might read, or might listen to on the radio. They can be anything between 1000 and 8000 words but mainly they’re around 2000. The trouble is I couldn’t make Josh feel as if he was real enough for the length of a novel, but once he became Megan I could.
By the way, I still don’t know what Megan looks like except that once she had lots of long brown hair and then she had no hair at all and wore wigs. I don’t know if she has freckles or what colour her eyes are. I do know that once she was athletic –she played football for the school, she trained regularly – and she enjoyed PE – so perhaps you can build up your own picture of her.
Exact details about looks aren’t always necessary. Sometimes it’s nice to concentrate on the most important part of a character’s appearance. For me, it was Megan’s hair. I could have said that it was long and brown hair and it’s important to know this. Megan’s hair is the thing that defines her, it’s part of her personality. But instead of just telling you that she had long brown hair, I wanted you to feel every strand of it, to see the colour of it, feel the importance of it, to smell the shampoo and conditioner that Megan washed it with. So I left it until Jackson was trying to cut it all off, until the chopped off pieces landed on the floor, until Megan herself examined those pieces and saw for the first time that her hair wasn’t just brown at all. There were strands of red and gold, dark brown and light brown. I spent some time and some words on the description, slowing down the action, so that I could try to understand what it meant to lose it all.
It was an entirely different process when I was writing about Jackson. I wanted you to see what he looked like and to know what Megan saw; why he was so absolutely gorgeous; why everyone really loved him. I wanted you to know him. But because I was telling the story using a single viewpoint, I didn’t want to switch and have Jackson’s thoughts interfering with the story, yet I still needed to make him as strong and real as Megan. So his looks and actions, his words and facial expressions were vital, in fact everything about him that Megan could possibly see or feel built up a picture of him.
Using these techniques, making my characters laugh and cry, walk and talk, and in Megan’s case think and wonder about things, I began to care for them. This is crucial. If I can’t care about my characters then I can’t expect anyone else to.
Sunday, 20 January 2013
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.
Where do I start with this review? I must admit it seems like I'm in a minority being someone who didn't love it.
For me this book could have been so much more. I loved the first section, the romance, the excitement and the ending left me desperate to read more. So much about what I read I loved. Quite honestly I don't think you could have asked for better when it comes to writing style as the story is beautifully written and therefore makes it a pleasure to read.
However I did find at times I just wasn't engaged. The middle part of the book involves a lot of the main character wallowing in self indulgent misery just because of a boy whom she met completely by chance. She knows very little about him, he abandons her in a foreign country (I'll come back to that) and yet she spends the next few months utterly miserable of someone who seems isn't worth all the grief. I must admit I was also annoyed by the "abandonment" and the way she didn't even try to find out more. She could have left a message with her bag but instead she goes off crying without a backward glance. Surely she could have realised that there must be more to the story??
Will I read the next book? Yes definitely as I need to know what happens next and I need to fill in all the gaps about Wilhelm's story but not a book I loved as much as everyone else seems to.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
I've always wanted a wall of books, so my husband built one for me:
In more detail, here are a couple of key shelves packed with books and authors who inspire me. First up, my fantasy/paranormal collection:
Next, a section of my young adult and adult collection, with two of my all-time favourite books featured out front (by Australian authors, no less):
Friday, 18 January 2013
Changing the genre – adding fantasy to a classic
When I first, rather shyly, starting writing fantasy in 1999, I was surprised by the unexpected enthusiasm of my first reader, my husband Daniel Keene. He is a serious playwright, and unlike me had never been in the least interested in genre literature. I’ve read genre novels as well as “serious” literature all my life, but Daniel was a purist; he had never read a fantasy novel until he read mine. I’m proud to say that as a result, these days he is much more well-rounded.
In any case, he turned out to be the best first reader. He demanded new chapters impatiently. He’d listen for hours while I rambled on about what I was writing. He came up with all sorts of impossible plot suggestions, cheerfully nodding when I told him they were no use at all, and permitted me to pick his brains on the minutae of dramatic structure, at which he is an expert. And when I expressed astonishment at his unexpected interest, he said, well, it’s just like any other kind of writing: every book has to create a reality. It’s just more obvious when you are inventing a different world.
This is the seductive thing about writing a novel: whether it’s a story that faithfully represents the world as we know it in every detail, or the most mind-bendingly strange speculative fiction, you are creating a world that you hope will live in a reader’s imagination. The only tool you have is your words. The rest is a matter of differing sensibilities, differing experience, differing tastes.
I like writing fantasy because it gives me a lot of freedom. I don’t have to be beholden to history as it is: I can make up my own. Maybe what interests me most of all about writing stories is the the power of their underlying metaphors. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is a story about many things, but it is also a metaphor about the peril of obsession, how love can be indistinguishable from hatred. I was interested in adding a few metaphors of my own: in particular, how sexism can limit or destroy the possibilities of women, and how those kinds of oppressions are bound up with the economics of class.
I wasn’t interested in writing a Mr-Darcy-meets-Zombie-Vampires mash-up. For me the fantasy elements had to be more than an add-on; they had to be part of the metaphorical flesh of the book I was writing. They had to be at its heart. Adding magic, as an analogue of personal and social power, seemed like an obvious step, and I guess the rest unrolled from there. Once you begin to create a new reality in a book, it generates its own imperatives and logic as you write. Then it’s a matter of keeping faith with all the details of your imagination. And as Daniel said, this is true of every book ever written.