Wednesday, 31 July 2013

July review

July my favourite month of a the year! It's been a busy one but I have managed to get a few books in

Books Read

109) Some Girls are by Courtney Summers
110) Downside Up by Hayley Long (British Books Challenge)
111) After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross (British Books Challenge)
112) First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton (British Books Challenge)
113) The Last Letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes (British Books Challenge)
114) The Night Itself by Zoe Marriott (British Books Challenge)
115) Half Lives by Sara Grant (British Books Challenge)
116) Carnaby by Cate Sampson (British Books Challenge)
117) Dead Jealous by Sharon Jones (British Books Challenge)
118) The Evil Gazebo by Bernie Mojzes
119) Firefly: A Celebration by Joss Whedon
120) Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols
121) Faking it by Cora Carmack
122) The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher (British Books Challenge)
123) Have a Little Faith by Candy Harper (British Books Challenge)
124) Little White Lies by Katie Dale (British Books Challenge)
125) The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles (British Books Challenge)
126) Control by Kim Curran (British Books Challenge)
127) Something like Normal by Trish Doller
128) Shadow Hunter's Guide: City of Bones
129) City of Bone: Official Illustrated Movie Companion
130) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
131) Infinity by Sarag Dessen
132) Student Bodies by Sean Cummings
133) Blood Family by Anne Fine (British Books Challenge)
134) Life after Life by Kate Atkinson (British Books Challenge)

Book events attended
I went to London to a fabulous Blogger's Brunch at Ramdon House Children's Publishers. Currently I'm off in London staying with my Blogger Friend Sarah and yesterday we went on a Harry Potter themed walking tour of London.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

Even in the darkest of times—especially in the darkest of times—there is room for strength and bravery. A remarkable memoir from Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list.Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, a man named Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon Leyson’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory—a list that became world renowned: Schindler’s List.

This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s List child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Most notable is the lack of rancor, the lack of venom, and the abundance of dignity in Mr. Leyson’s telling. The Boy on the Wooden Box is a legacy of hope, a memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read.

My Thoughts
 I've been trying to write a review for this book for a month now and quite honestly I do not have the words to do it justice. It is the memoir from one of the Jewish children who was saved by Oskar Schindler. It is harrowing and disturbing. Its portrayal of human cruelties and human kindness will leave you speechless. All I can say is this book needs to be read by young and old alike so that the of atrocities committed during the holocaust are not forgotten and hopefully not repeated in the future. It is an utter gem for me as a history teacher and will be one I will continue to highly recommend for a long while to come.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Review: Casting Shadows by Sophie McKenzie

Flynn is making every effort to stay in control of his hot temper, while River feels more content than she's ever been. Together the two of them make big plans for the future, but powerful secrets lurk in the shadows, ready to threaten their happiness.

My thoughts
A very short review on this one because I don't have huge amount to say.

The book is written in classic Sophie McKenzie style meaning it was easy and fast to get through as it flowed quite happily from one page to the next and I found myself done with in within a matter of hours.

This particular instalment carries on with the story established in book one and two of River and Flynn and sees them struggling to have their relationship accepted by those around them. I must admit in this instalment I started to see the point of those around River telling her to stay away from Flynn and I did find I didn't actually like him at all in this book. I found him quite arrogant and bit too full of it which is something I didn't think before reading this book.

The story finishes on a bit of a cliffhanger as you are left with a very uncertain future for the two of them. I am still quite curious to see where I goes but not sure I am a Flynn fan anymore

Thursday, 25 July 2013

No Books Allowed (2)

Welcome to No Books Allowed. This is a new monthly feature for me hosted by Raimy from Readaraptor, which is used to discuss things things in life which aren't connected to books. This post can be used to talk about days out, music, TV, video games, films etc for all those book bloggers out there who do occasionally do stuff other than read and go to book events!

July is always my favourite month of the year. I always have loads going on during it but it's always all brilliant stuff.

School broke up yesterday. I cannot tell you how much I needed term to be over. It's been a weird year for me having had the best part of a term off but it was still manic. I now have six weeks to cram in all the things I haven't had the chance to do yet this year like sorting out the house, catching up on my reading pile and eating lots of icecream on the beach.

I spent a week this month in Bude on a school trip. It was exhausting but all kinds of fabulous as the kids I went with were fab and we got to go surfing and canoeing. The weather was glorious and it was nice to be able to spend all day in shorts and t-shirt in the sun. Highlights including eating lots of Cornish icecream and spending the afternoon in the sea on the hottest day of the year.

Out and about 

Other than Bude I've not really made the most of getting out and about yet this month. I did get to go to the theatre to see Birdsong and been out for dinner with my lovely friend Lauren but that's about it. Hoping to make up for it later in the month when I'll be off to London to do a Harry Potter walking tour and stay with my equally lovely friend Sarah.

What I've been buying
 I decided to try out a Miss Glossybox subscription. I'm rubbish with makeup etc and I thought it'd be a nice way to try out new things. I must say I really do like it and am getting to try out some new products. The only shame is it is only sent out every other month.

Watching and Listening

I must admit I haven't had the chance to do much of either. I got given a copy of Harry Potter Lego for the PS3 as a present and it has pretty much taken over!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Review: The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles

Meet Rochelle Evans: pretty, popular--and never been kissed. Meet Noah Flynn: badass, volatile--and a total player. And also Elle's best friend's older brother...

When Elle decides to run a kissing booth for the school's Spring Carnival, she locks lips with Noah and her life is turned upside down. Her head says to keep away, but her heart wants to draw closer--this romance seems far from fairy tale and headed for heartbreak.

But will Elle get her happily ever after?

My Thoughts

I'll put my hands up now and say my rating is probably more due to my current reading mood which has been a little bit faddy of late.

The kissing booth is a nice effort at a YA  novel. The story revolves around good girl Elle and the romance between her and Bad Boy Noah who also happened to be Elle's best friend's elder brother.

The story was nice enough and easy to read meaning I finished in in a few hours. Noah was indeed quite hot and the romance between the two of them blossomed well enough.

However for me I wanted it to either be less British (I forgot the character was American / it was set in America) or for it to give in and be very British. I found several phrases just didn't work for me because they stood out for not being at all something an American teenager would say. I also wanted a bit more to happen and for the story to have a bit more to it. That said as it is the author's first novel it is something she'll develop over time especially when you consider how young she is. Definitely one to watch.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Bookcase Showcase: Author Abigail Haas

I moved from the UK to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, and the one thing that broke my heart was leaving most of my books behind! I allowed myself a single box of my most-beloved reads, and left the rest in storage in my mum’s attic. Oh, for my Sweet Valley Highs…

I’m a big fan of books as d├ęcor (what else do you need in an apartment?!), so I like to arrange them by color, and display them with my favorite shoes and purses. Books I will reread forever are Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, and Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos: they’re my go-to feel-good books on a bad day. In the blue stack, you can see my childhood loves A Dream of Sadler’s Wells series (which I bought up on amazon for a twitter bookclub re-read) and The Swish of the Curtain, an amazing book from the 1940s about a teen theatre company which Pamela Brown wrote when she was just 15!

Some more of my YA faves on this level: Shadow and Bone, and the amazing follow-up Siege and Storm, which I borrowed as a galley from the author, my friend Leigh Bardugo, and have yet to return. Whoops! Stephanie Perkins’ swoon-worthy Anna and the French Kiss, and Rachel Shukert’s new debut Starstuck, which is a glitzy, captivating story about three girls trying to make it in 1930s Hollywood.

Here lies the romance! There’s an amazing book-store in downtown LA packed to the rafters with $1 second-hand books. $1! I go crazy there and buy armfuls at a time of my favorite romance authors: Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, and newer fave Sarah MacLean.

This is what I like to call my vanity shelf: foreign editions and copies of my own books. When I’m having a tough writing day, or I feel really uninspired, it helps to look up here and see that I’ve done it before, and I’ll be able to do it again!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Review: Dead Silence by Kim Derting

Violet thought she’d made peace with her unique ability to sense the echoes of the dead and the imprints that cling to their killers…that is until she acquired an imprint of her own. Forced to carry a reminder of the horrible events of her kidnapping, Violet is more determined than ever to lead a normal life. However, the people who run the special investigative team Violet works for have no intention of letting her go.

When someone close to Violet becomes a suspect in a horrific murder, she finds herself pulled into a deadly hunt for a madman with an army of devoted followers. Violet has survived dangerous situations before, but she quickly discovers that protecting those closest to her is far more difficult than protecting herself.

My Thoughts
Just a quick review for the last book in the body finder series.

This final instalment is a nice read and a good book to round off the series. I won't say too much but if you have enjoyed the series so far you are bound to like this. For me it was far darker than previous books and it does feel like the series as a whole has grown up as it has gone on. I liked how you finally start to get some answers in this instalment about Violet and her abilities mostly via the journal entries Violet reads from her grandmother who had the same gift. You do very much get the idea by the end of the book that Violet is finally coming to accept her abilities and what she can do with them rather than seeing them solely as a burden.

A fab series and definitely worth a look as it has a whole host of fab characters and continues to be an engaging and interesting story throughout every book. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: After Eden by Helen Douglas

Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she's hooked. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So why doesn't he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he's taking in her.

As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

My thoughts
A really sweet love story and a nice UK YA novel which is easy to read and nice to follow.

I must admit I don't have huge amounts to say about this book. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it because I did and happily read it in a matter of hours. I liked the main characters and enjoyed seeing how the love story unfolded it and loved the time travel element of the story. It's certainly quite a soft love story which is really sweet and a bit different from other things I've read of later

Definitely worth a look. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As

Anna sets out to find her friend's killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine...

My thoughts
I can't say too much about this book as I am so scared of ruining it for someone else so this review will be brief to say the least.

Dangerous girls completely and utterly hooked me in. I literally could not put it down to the point where I was ignoring everything else I ought to be doing just to finish another chapter (then another and another).

The story starts dramatically with a transcript of a 911 call to report the discovery of the body of a girl who appears to have been stabbed in her room whilst on holiday. The girl is a one of a group of American teens who are on holiday together, one of whom who is the prime suspect in the case whose story you follow. The story that then follows looks at the background the crime and follows the trial as it is decided who killed her. I was completely engrossed by the storytelling. It is a mix of flashbacks, transcripts of interviews, TV shows and scenes as the trial all unfolds. I was kept guessing right through to the end and absolutely loved the end.

A fab read if you love murder mysteries, intrigue and to be kept guessing.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Review: Spy Society by Robin Benway

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

My thoughts
I have made a huge mistake leaving it a week before doing this review meaning all the things I was going to ramble on about are no longer in my head. Therefore this review will be quite short but don't take this as a sign that I didn't enjoy it because I really did.

For me I found this book a really fun read. The main character is a teenage spy settling into a new assignment in New York to befriend a boy and find out information about a story his father is supposed to be leaking to the press unveiling names of the several spies which would it them into danger. Quite honestly I was hooked throughout and loved following the story.

There were several things that made this book for me. I loved Maggie the main character. She is really funny and I loved seeing her try and settle into quite a normal life (albeit quite an alien one to her) and I loved the interactions she had with everyone around her. By far my favourite relationship in this book was the one she develops with her new best friend Roux. Roux is a brilliant character in all her flawed teenage ways and I loved every scene involving her and her crazy ways.

I loved the take this book had on spies. It was far more realistic than other novels I had read. No avoiding lazer beams of death or super cool gadgets. This girl is all about lock picking and safe combo breaking. Her main assignment is to get close to Jesse and find out more about his family. I loved how this played out and seeing the way in which Maggie interacted with him.

All in all a really cute read which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Half Lives Blog Tour: Time Capsule guest post by author Sara Grant

Time Capsule

My new novel Half Lives considers what we are leaving behind for future generations.The story hinges on a time capsule of sorts. While writing Half Lives, I often wondered what archaeologists might say if they unearthed a time capsule created by my teen self. How would they interpret the flotsam and jetsam of my teenage years spent in a small town in the United States? Would they ever imagine that twenty-something years later I'd be a writer living in London? More likely they’d predict that the lovesick teen who collected teen mags and wrote angsty poetry would either still be working at McDonalds or committed to an institution with a straight jacket dress code.

I have very few keepsakes from my teen years. They are stored in an old wooden toy chest in the basement of my sister's house. When I visited the US recently, I opened up this time capsule. Here are a few items I uncovered:

My complete Rick Springfield collection – Rick was a pop idol in the 80s. In the UK, he might be best known for his hit Jessie’s Girl. Rick was the first concert I ever attended, and I still have the concert program and t-shirt. I also still have the poster that hung on my wall.

Collection of scripts – I wanted to be an actress. I was in every play and musical at my high school. I played Laurie in Oklahoma as well as lesser parts in Camelot, Crucible, Music Man, West Side Story, Up the Down Staircase, Ms. Frankenstein’s Monster, and loads of others I can’t – or don’t want to – remember. I’m so thankful that those were the days before YouTube. I think there’s a VHS tape of me in a few of these high school productions, but I certainly hope the tape will have degraded by now.

Hair accessories – It was the time of big hair and lots of hair spray. I proudly sported two-inch high fringe. I used a bottle of Stiff Stuff hairspray every few weeks. By the time I left for college, you couldn’t chisel the hairspray residue off my bedroom mirror. For some reason, I now can’t for the life of me remember, during my senior year, I never styled my hair the same way twice in one week. I had an astounding array of bands, clips and bows.

Poetry – I wrote very bad, angst-ridden poetry with titles such as ‘Unnoticed Love’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ when I was in junior high and high school. If you read my collection of hand-written poetry, you’d think I was a depressed teen with a bleak outlook on life. But the truth is I only wrote poetry after a break up or late at night when pondering life, the universe and everything.

Celebrity Collage – My bedroom had a gabled ceiling. I cut out photos from celebrity magazines and created a collage of photos over my bed. I changed this masterpiece regularly depending on my current obsession. I can remember Tom Selleck, Jameson Parker, Shaun Cassidy as well as a selection of soap opera stars from shows like Young and the Restless, As the World Turns, Capitol and Guiding Light.(Most teen readers won’t know these names and faces now. My pop idols are already ancient history.)

I also found my first rejection letter. I always wanted to be a writer and was trying to get published even at the tender age thirteen. I sent a story to Seventeen magazine in 1982, and I’ve kept the rejection letter I received. 

So these are the trappings of my misspent youth. I wish I could claim well-worn copies of War and Peace or some humanitarian award rather than my certificate for senior class historian or some precious item of jewellery – other than the crown I received my senior year as Miss Choral Sweetheart. I’m not sure you’d connect the dots of this collection of junk and find the picture of the person I am today. But just like in Half Lives – ancient signs are often misinterpreted.

Half Lives Synopsis

Icie is a typical teenager, until disaster strikes. Her only hope of survival is escaping to a top-secret mountain bunker. Hundreds of years later, 18-year-old Beckett leads a cult that worships a sacred mountain. But Beckett and his beliefs are under attack. Icie and Beckett must fight to survive. They are separated by time but connected by a dangerous secret that both must protect at any cost.

About Sara Grant
Sara is an author of fiction for teens and younger readers and freelance editor of series fiction. Shehas worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books.Dark Parties, her first young adult novel,won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Europe. Her new novel for teens – titled Half Lives – is an apocalyptic thriller. She also writes – Magic Trix – a fun, magical series for younger readers.
Sara was born and raised in a small town in the Midwestern United States. She graduated from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She lives in    @authorsaragrant

Friday, 5 July 2013

Blog Tour: The History behind stormbringers by Philippa Gregory

The History Behind Stormbringers

Stormbringers is set in 15th century Italy so the geography and appearance of the setting is that of medieval Italy. The little town of Piccolo is imaginary, but it is based on what Rimini would have been like. The children's crusade which the team see as they come into town is based on the many stories of children's crusades. Historians now think that these may have been little more than short-lived risings of younger workers who marched around and caused a little local trouble, but some give credit to the suggestion that there was an uprising of young people around 1220 behind a young leader either Stephen of Cloyes or Nicholas of Germany which attempted to get to the Holy Land to convert the advancing Muslims to Christianity.  Like the Children's crusade in the novel, these attempts failed but the motif of an army of innocents is a powerful and haunting one.

The tsunami which follows the earthquake in Piccolo is of course, a natural event. There was a serious earthquake in 1348 centred on Friuli - as the village priest reports. Some people thought at the time that the gasses released by the earthquake caused the later plague.  As Luca's desire for knowledge shows - there was little understanding of earthquakes or of the resulting tidal waves. The best sources were indeed the Greek philosophers that RaduBey shows him.

RaduBey is a real character, a Christian boy taken into the care of the Ottoman dynasty and raised alongside the conquering sultan Mehmet II. His galley and his culture and wealth was typical of the Ottoman court. He speaks of the magnificent library that they had won from the Christian Byzantine empire in the city that they called Istanbul, and indeed it is from these sources that the books which would inspire the Renaissance came.

The role of the two women is based on historical fact also. As their fictional characters develop they are able to express different views of women held at the time. There was a strong belief that a woman was the servant of her husband and should be kept at home, safe from danger or challenge. Isolde expresses this view when she wants to return to the safety of her home and be the wife of a good man. Ishraq challenges this view as some of the learned women of the medieval world did. Ishraq, though she sometimes wears the dress of a Muslim woman, aspires to be free in the world to make her own choices, and she understands that she has to be free to choose everything - her work, her lover, her religion, her place.

Luca's interest in the new learning which was starting to percolate through Italian society is a characteristic of his fictional nature, but it is typical of the many men and women who understood that the revival of the Greek and Roman scholarship, the science of the Arab world, and the contemporary discoveries, were opening a new world to inquiry. Luca is a renaissance man in the sense that he wants to know things, and that for the first time in many years, men and women are able to question.