Sunday, 31 January 2016

January Review

January has whizzed by in a blur of crappy weather and too much work. Here's what I got up to bookwise.

Read in January
Shtum by Jem Lester (5 stars)
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt (2 stars)
Keep you close by Lucie Whitehouse (3 stars)
Crush by Eve Ainsworth (4 stars)
The life changing magic of not giving a f*ck (4 stars)
Love Song by Sophia Bennett (5 stars)
Anzac Boys by Tony Bradman (3 stars)
The Earth is Singing by Vanessa Curtis (5 stars)
The Blitz next door by Cathy Forde (3 stars)
Girl on a plane by Miriam Moss (3 stars)
Crooked Hearts by Lissa Evans (3 stars)
Mind your head by Juno Dawson (4 stars)
How hard can love be by Holly Bourne (5 stars)
Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley (5 stars)
The Widow by Fiona Barton (4 stars)
Royal Rebel by Meg Cabot (4 stars)
When we Collided by Emery Lord (5 stars)
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon (3 stars)
The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine (4 stars)

Book of the Month
Hard one to call because I've read lots of great books this month but if I had to pick I'd go with Love Song by Sophia Bennett. It is fabulous.



February's TBR pile
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetya
The Girl from everywhere by Heidi Heilig
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
Eleanor by Jason Gurley
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy  Chevalier
Look at me by Sarah Duguid
Strange Girls and Ordinary Women by Morgan McCarthy
I'd Tell you I'd love you but then I'd have to kill you by Ally Carter
Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan line by Rob Thomas
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
Salem Falls by Jodie Picoult
Accidental Superstar by Marianne Levy
All the birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Party Princess by Meg Cabot
Not if I see you first by Eric Lindstorm
Book of Lies by Terri Terry
Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz
Six Four by  Hideo Yokoyama
Black Arts by Andrew Prentice

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Front Lines by Michael Grant


A tense, exciting and moving new drama from the bestselling author of the GONE series.

1942. The fate of the world rests on a knife’s edge. And the soldiers who can tip the balance . . . are girls.

Set in an alternate World War II where young women are called up to fight alongside men, this is the story of Rio Richlin and her friends as they go into battle against Hitler’s forces.

But not everyone believes that they should be on the front lines. Now Rio and her friends must fight not only to survive, but to prove their courage and ingenuity. Because the fate of the world is in the hands of the soldier girls.

The first of three books, this is Michael Grant at his epic best.


My thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. Regular readers of my reviews will know I can find historical fiction tough as I get far too critical about it and alternative history can send me into violent rages of hissy fits. I am very glad to report that I didn't have a problem with this at all.

For me why it worked is because it felt real. Obviously we know girls did not serve on the front lines during World War Two but reading this it felt like they could have. The accuracy in the other parts of the story made the whole thing feel real and I really enjoyed it for that. I also really like all the main characters and finding out more about their circumstances and reasons for joining up in the first place.

I'm already desperate to read the rest of the series as I cannot wait to find out more about where this series is going.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Bookcase Showcase: Author Clare Furniss



Bookcase Showcase

Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, Kirsty. I feel very at home here as The Overflowing Library is a pretty accurate description of my house... There are piles of books everywhere, ready to topple over on the unsuspecting passerby. If we don’t build more bookshelves soon we’ll soon end up on one of those documentaries about people who have to tunnel their way out of their own house assisted by the Emergency Services.

Anyway, for the purposes of this piece I’m going to focus on the bookshelves that are my pride and joy. I had them built last year and they have lots of my favourite books on, as well as books I’ve read recently and books that are on my MUST READ THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY list. As you’ll see there’s a real range of books here: YA, adult, a few MGs, history, fantasy, fiction and non-fiction, poetry. I’m a big believer in having variety in what I read. I try to challenge myself and not just stick to the same comfortable things. It’s inspiring! At least that’s the idea...

Let’s start with the YA. A confession here: I found it really hard to read any YA while writing How Not To Disappear. I had to write it in a vacuum. It felt too easy to be influenced what I was reading, either consciously or subconsciously... which was frustrating as there were so many fantastic books coming out! So now I have the most amazing YA to look forward to:




There are a few of my all-time favourite classic YA books here - Melvin Burgess and Malorie Blackman stand out. I went on a creative writing course with them when I first started writing The Year of The Rat so I learned from the best! There’s also a little section devoted to books written by my fabulous classmates on the Bath Spa MA.



Next are the books that inspired How Not To Disappear. I did a lot of reading around How Not To Disappear - there was a lot of historical research needed as there are two storylines, one contemporary and one set in the late1950s. I loved this research and could happily have spent a year just reading and forgetting to write a book, but my editor wouldn’t let me. How unreasonable! I find photos really helpful in capturing the feel and detail of the time. I even got a book on home furnishings! I love this stuff. Immigration in the fifties is one aspect of the book and there was a brilliant book which looked at many different aspects of life for black immigrants told through first-person experiences. Totally invaluable and really fascinating stuff.



I love reading poetry and one of my new year’s resolutions is to start writing poetry again - haven’t done it since I was at school but always loved it. I also love the theatre and often buy the scripts of plays I go to see. I love this poetry collection from Liz Berry who writes in Black Country dialect. I went to see Ballyturk last year and as well as starring my imaginary husband Cillian Murphy it was a breathtaking play, written by Enda Walsh.



Here’s the adult section: a few books here that I read last year and lots more that I’m really looking forward to. I love Kate Atkinson and I’m reading A God in Ruins, the sequel to the brilliant Life After Life, at the moment:



And here are some biographies and non-fiction. I’m very excited about the biography of Mary Shelley and Mary Wollestencraft.



So there you have it, a small insight into my disorderly mind. If I had to pick a favourite book from all the books on these shelves? Well, it’s a tough one. This week it’s probably been this one, which accompanied the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A. He was one of my heroes and a real creative genius, totally inspiring:



And there’s this copy of A Song for Ella Grey: a beautiful book inside and out, with a lovely message from David Almond which makes me happy every time I read it - not that I’m showing off or anything. (Ok, yes I am.)




Now if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to make myself a cup of tea and choose one of these books to curl up with...

Monday, 25 January 2016

Can't wait to read

Another month, another pile of books I cannot wait for

Dumplin by Julie Murphy


Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.


I have heard nothing about good things about this. I want it. I want it lots

Wonderboy by Nicole Burstein



 A funny and frank superhero story set in the world of Othergirl.
Joseph ‘Wilco’ Wilkes is one of life’s loser’s – he’s picked on, pushed around, and bullied by the rugby boys at the posh private school he attends on a scholarship. But his life is about to change: Wilco learns he can move things with his mind. Will this be his chance to play the hero, get the girl and finally stand up for himself? Or are things just going to come crashing down around his head? Becoming a proper hero will be quite the leap of faith...


I loved othergirl. I also need this book asap.

Kill the Boyband by Goldy Moldavsky



Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band.

We didn't mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he's tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it's Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn't be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group.

We didn't mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn't. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that's what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.

How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell.


Another one I've heard loads about. I am very much looking forward to it.



The final instalment in this irresistible story of romance, sun and surf.

Seventeen-year-old Iris has returned to her hometown of Newquay. Leaving behind her promising surfing career. Leaving behind Zeke, the boy who changed her world.

She's happy to get back to her old life, her friends and family. She wants to rediscover her passion for surfing.

But Iris soon realises it won't be that simple. Because while summer romances might only last the season, first loves never truly leave you.


I love this series and I cannot wait for this. Surfing and hot boys in Cornwall. A perfect combo.

 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE HARRY POTTER SPELL




As part of the celebrations for Harry Potter Book Night: A Night of Spells, Bloomsbury Children’s Books is launching the first official global search to find the world’s favourite spell from the Harry Potter books.

The hundreds of amazing spells created by J.K. Rowling within the pages of the Harry Potter books are legendary. Full of inventiveness and cunning, these famous magical incantations protect and challenge Harry and his friends in all sorts of ways.

Bloomsbury has created a list of key spells from the books which can be found at http://bit.ly/HarryPotterSpellVote where visitors can vote. The poll opens on Thursday 21st January and closes on Tuesday 2nd February. The results will be announced on Harry Potter Book Night, Thursday 4th February. 

Will the favourite be a sly spell, a mysterious charm or a unforgiveable curse like Avada Kedavra? It’s over to the Harry Potter fans across the world to cast their vote. Vote for your favourite spell at http://bit.ly/HarryPotterSpellVote

 

Friday, 22 January 2016

How not to disappear by Clare Furniss


Hattie's summer isn't going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to "find himself" and Kat's in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum's wedding.

Oh, and she's also just discovered that she's pregnant with Reuben's baby...

Then Gloria, Hattie's great-aunt who no one previously knew even existed comes crashing into her life. Gloria's fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia.

Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery – Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are wiped from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.


My thoughts
I enjoyed Clare's previous book and as a consequence I had high hopes for this book. I am glad to report it did not disappoint at all.

I loved How not to disappear. I loved the main character Hattie and really enjoyed getting inside her head and seeing the world from her point of view. I equally loved meeting Gloria, Hattie's long lost great aunt. I particularly enjoyed seeing the relationship between the two develop. I also loved getting into Gloria's backstory over the course of the book.

A really heartfelt book which has a lot to say about family and its importance. I thoroughly recommend it.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill


Geek Girl meets Fame meets New Girl in this brilliantly funny new series!

When Elektra is discovered by an acting agent, she imagines Oscar glory can't be far away, but instead lurches from one cringe-worthy moment to the next! Just how many times can you be rejected for the part of 'Dead Girl Number Three' without losing hope? And who knew that actors were actually supposed to be multi-lingual, play seven instruments and be trained in a variety of circus skills?

Off-stage things aren't going well either - she's fallen out with her best friend, remains firmly in the friend-zone with her crush and her parents are driving her crazy. One way or another, Elektra's life is now spent waiting for the phone to ring - waiting for callback.

Can an average girl-next-door like Elektra really make it in the world of luvvies and starlets?


My thoughts
I really enjoyed Waiting for Callback.

The main character Elektra is really relatable in that is is just an ordinary teenager with all the usual problems around boyfriends, spots, friends and school work and I really enjoyed her story. In Waiting for Callback you get to see the world of acting through the eyes of an inexperienced teen actor as she makes her first steps into a world which isn't as glamourous as it seems from the outside which makes for lots of really funny moments throughout.

All in all a book I really enjoyed and definitely worth a look if you are a geek girl or flirty dancing fan.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Never Evers Blog Tour: Tom and Lucy's Favourite characters from books, TV & film.






TOM:

1. Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks). An incredibly cool, funny, well-dressed and charming man. He remains largely unflustered even when faced with some of the strangest situations and people ever to feature on television, and he has a fantastic taste in coffee and cherry pie.

2. Slater (Dazed & Confused). If you've not seen Dazed & Confused, it's up there with Adrian Mole in terms of hilariously and realistically chronicling the teenage experience. Slater is by the far best character in the film: a good-hearted and perpetually confused stoner, who is unlucky in love and has lots of interesting theories about aliens and US Presidents.

3. Nigel Tufnel (This Is Spinal Tap). Another ultimately good-hearted, but also extremely dim, character. Tufnel is arguably the funniest character in this 1984 spoof documentary about a fictional heavy metal band (arguably the funniest film of all time). He's a fairly laidback chap, as long as you don't give him unmanageably small bread before a gig, or touch (or even look at) his guitars.

LUCY:

1. Mrs Bennett (Pride & Prejudice). Because everyone’s Mum is a little bit of the ol’ Mrs B…

2. Regina George (Mean Girls). She is just the ultimate bitch. Everything about her is hideous but you can’t help but be drawn to her. Everyone went to school with a version of her and that is why she is so perfect.

3. Jordan Catalano (My So-Called Life). He is EVERYTHING. Lisa Williamson has promised me that this year she is going to dress up as him for YALC (Lisa, if you are reading this I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN). I will be Angela Chase and Tom will be Rayanne.

4. Ron Weasley (Harry Potter). My love of a funny man is well documented and as funny blokes go he is a corker.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin



Over ten years since the Nazis won the war, 18 yr old Yael has one mission: to kill Hitler - a captivating second novel from Walled City author, Ryan Graudin.

Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them-made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.Her story begins on a train.

Germania, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war. 18-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.

But first she's got to get close enough to him to do it.

Experimented on during her time at Auschwitz, Yael has the unique ability to change her appearance at will. The only part of her which always remains are the five tattooed wolves on her arm; one for each of the people she's lost. Using her abilities, she must transform into Adele Wolfe, Germany's most famous female rider and winner of the legendary Axis Tour; an epic long distance motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo, where only the strongest (and wiliest) riders survive. If she can win this, she will be able to get close enough to kill the Fuhrer and change history forever.

But with other riders sabotaging her chances at every turn, Yael's mission won't be easy. . .


My thoughts
I really enjoyed Wolf by Wolf. I was a bit worried as Nazis in fiction can really make me cross because I get all geeky and nit pick but I thought this was done really well in that regard. The main reason why I liked it was because of the main character who I loved because she was really tough. I loved following her story and got to the point where I literally couldn't put the book down because I needed to see what was going to happen next. Very much looking forward to the next instalment. 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Operation Blackout by Victor Watson


I really enjoyed this book. I always love Victor Watson's books and this one was just a fabulous as the rest.

I really enjoyed the story. It was split between two characters one boy and one girl and looks at their experiences of the war. The girl's story shows you the experience of London during the Blitz through to life as an evacuee in the Fens. The boy's story follow a young boy forced on a secret mission to England to save his family who are being threatened by the Nazis. Both eventually link up and the story is action packed and exciting from the start. I really enjoyed it and read it in one sitting unable to put it down.

This is a spin off from the Paradise Barn series I previously read and loved. There is some crossover in location and characters from that series make an appearance in this book but you don't need to have read them for this book to make sense (although I very much recommend that you do)

Monday, 11 January 2016

Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy



Helplessly drawn like moths to the light, two girls go missing in an evocative and gripping tale . . .

They called them the Moth Girls because they were attracted to the house. They were drawn to it. Or at least that is what is written in the newspapers that Mandy reads on the anniversary of when her two best friends went missing. Five years have passed since Petra and Tina were determined to explore the dilapidated house on Princess Street. But what started off as a dare ended with the two girls vanishing. As Mandy's memories of the disappearance of her two friends are ignited once again, disturbing details will resurface in her mind.


My thoughts
Moth girls is a really interesting read. It is told by switching back and forth between present day and the past and looks at the disappearance of two girls. The present day is told by their friend who blames herself for their disappearance and the past by one of the girls who disappeared.

This is a book where I will say very little in my review because whatever I say will spoil it. I really liked the story and the mystery around it and working towards finding out what happened. It is very much one of those books that I struggled to put down as I needed to know what was going to happen next

Sunday, 10 January 2016

This raging light by Estelle Laure



How is it that you suddenly notice a person? How is it that one day Digby was my best friend's admittedly cute twin brother, and then the next he stole air, gave jitters, twisted my insides up?

Lucille has bigger problems than falling for her best friend's unavailable brother. Her mom has gone, leaving her to look after her sister, Wren. With bills mounting up and appearances to keep, Lucille is raging against her life but holding it together - just.


My thoughts

Not sure the hyping up of this book helped. I was expecting to be blown away. I wasn't.

The story itself is certainly really sad. You really feel for the main character and want to go into the story and just help her out by babysitting her sister or buying her some groceries. As you read you find yourself angry at her mother for leaving the sisters to fend for themselves and making them do everything alone.

That said it felt similar to other books I've read on a similar theme and therefore a bit of me felt like I'd read it before.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Never Evers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivson






Kicked out of ballet academy and straight into a school ski trip, Mouse knows certain classmates can't wait to see her fall flat on her face. Meanwhile, Jack looks forward to danger and girls, but hasn't a clue about either. That's until French teen sensation Roland arrives in the resort - who Jack's a dead ringer for. When Roland persuades Jack to be his stand-in for a day, Jack, in disguise, declares his feelings for Mouse. But what happens when he's no longer a pop star - will it be music and magic on the slopes? 

My thoughts

I have been looking forward to Never Evers for ages after adoring Lobsters last year. Having now read it I can happily say it was just as fab as I have hoped it would be.

Think of Never Evers as Lobsters younger sibling aimed at a slightly younger audience with characters aged 14 rather than the older teens featured in Lobsters. The narrative splits between Jack and Mouse and follows them as they attend a school trip skiing in France.

The story line is really funny and I loved seeing how things played out. What I thoughts was particularly clever is the misunderstandings between the girls and the boys which you can see as a reader seeing both but each side sees differently because they don't know the whole story.

Lots of funny. Lots of teen awkwardness. I loved it.

You'll love this if you liked
Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivson
Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Icarus Show by Sally Christie



Alex has worked out a foolproof way to avoid being picked on. Don't React. It's so simple, it's brilliant! David does react and becomes an outcast, nicknamed Bogsy. He's branded a weirdo and Alex is determined to avoid the same fate. But one day, Alex gets a note in his bag that forces him out of his safe little world. Who sent the note? And is it true - will a boy really fly? A powerful story about friendship, loneliness and a strange kind of genius.

My thoughts
This book is a really thoughtful little read which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am always excited when a review book arrives from David Fickling Books. Aside from the fact that they are always a delight to receive because they are the most beautiful proofs you I always know that the stories inside are going to be wonderful.

For me The Icarus Show is a book about strange imperfect friends and the toll that bullying has on young people.

The friendships in this book are really interesting. The main character Alex spends much of his high school existence below the radar. He survives by not reacting to anything so that the bullies don't pick on him. This leaves him somewhat isolated and as a result one of the most important relationships he has is he friendship with his elderly former neighbour. Seeing that cross generation friendship is something special in how you see the way in which the pair relate too one another probably better that Alex does with his parents and definitely with his peers.

I also really enjoyed the uneasy friendship Alex develops with his classmate and neighbour Bogsey. In that friendship you can really see the toll bullying has on both boys both directly in terms of Bogsey but indirectly via Alex and the isolation it has forced him into. He is a perfect example of what it means to be completely alone in a crowd and that makes you feel for him the more you learn about him.

The end of the book left me with a lump in my throat as you see the impact said isolation tolls on both boys. Thoroughly recommended.

Friday, 1 January 2016

British Books Challenge: Link up your January Reviews here


Welcome to the first month of 2016's British Books Challenge.

If you haven't signed up yet and want to join in the fun please go to this post for details of how to do that and this post for details about the challenge itself and FAQs



The prize for this month is a copy of The Icarus Show by  donated by those lovely people over at David Fickling Books. To be in with a chance of winning simply put the link to a review of a British Book you read in January below and I'll pick a winner at random at the end of the month.