Books Are My Bag / Bookshop Haul

Books Are My Bag / Bookshop Haul
Books Are My Bag
ran from 9-11th October and is a nationwide campaign to celebrate bookshops and the importance of buying books on the high street. I celebrated by buying books from two bookshops: Waterstones Gower Street and Waterstones Covent Garden (last year I visited Foyles). I really do love indies – and I do support them – but I wanted to visit two bookshops that were easy for me to get to, and I knew would have the books I wanted, as it’s a busy, busy month in publishing.

I like that Gower Street and Covent Garden are both quite large bookshops. I always enjoy this quote from The Great Gatsby because I believe it to be true: “I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” I do enjoy tiny bookshops – their charm, passionate booksellers and curated stock – but I actually never feel that comfortable in them. I prefer large stores that I can get lost in and browse without feeling watched.

I originally wanted to visit a Big Bookshop Party on Saturday, but unfortunately two friends (non-readers!) rescheduled our pancake-eating date and I couldn’t bring myself to travel after such a busy week, but I did manage to buy some really wonderful books on Thursday and Friday that I cannot wait to get stuck into. Here’s what I bought for Books Are My Bag:

Books Are My Bag / Bookshop Haul
Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death by Chris Riddell
Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I bought Chris Riddell’s stunning Goth Girl last year, and although I haven’t read it yet, I though I’d treat myself to the sequel: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death. It sounds like it may feature a bake-off so I couldn’t really ask for more. (And it still has a mini book in the back!). I attended a seminar on children’s classics earlier this year and Kate Saunders was on the panel. She spoke a little about her book Five Children on the Western Front because it’s a sequel to E. Nesbit’s classic Five Children and It. As I adore wartime children’s novels, I cannot wait to get started. I’m happy that the sequel to The 5th Wave The Infinite Seahas finally been published, and as it’s one of my favourite YA science fiction novels, I hope the sequel is just as good. And lastly, I bought the science fiction-horror thriller that everyone’s been talking about, The Girl with All the Gifts.

Books Are My Bag Reading Survival Kit
And here’s the books the lovely people over at Books Are My Bag sent me part of the Reading Survival Kit (I didn’t notice that all the authors’ names began with ‘J’ until now!):

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

I was super excited to read The Bookshop Book! Jen Campbell’s official Books Are My Bag book looks at “three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents” and it sounds absolutely wonderful. Five Quarters of the Orange (recipe books, memories of war and a mysterious lady) and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (an exploration of religion and sexuality) are two books I’d heard of but didn’t know too much about. All the Truth That’s in Me – about a young girl whose tongue has been cut out and so she cannot speak about the horror she has seen – is a YA novel that I actually already have a copy of, so I passed it onto a friend to enjoy.

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My Halloween Reads

It’s only two weeks until Halloween so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my Halloween reads. I’ve owned The Diviners by Libba Bray for two and a half years so I’m excited to finally read it. I’ve just got to be prepared for gruesome murders across 1920s New York City. Watch the creepy trailer! I also thought it was time to select another book from my Roald Dahl box set, so of course The Witches was the perfect choice. I’m hoping to catch the adaptation on TV this month! And lastly, I’m going to get the chance to start the Lockwood & Co. series and read The Screaming Staircase and the sequel The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud. I’ve seen nothing but positive reviews for these books, which see teen ghost detectives spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive. Spooky!

(I’ve also blogged about more Halloween reads at the end – tell me what you’ll be reading!).

My Halloween Reads

My Halloween Reads

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Top Ten / Lies, Lying and Liars

I never lie; I think it’s immoral and abhorrent. I wouldn’t even think of doing it. I only ever read books that are one hundred percent straight with the reader because I prefer it when fictional characters tell the absolute truth. And I definitely wouldn’t write a blogpost about characters who lie, about plots that aren’t what they seem, and authors who, quite frankly, should know better.

Top Ten / Lies, Lying and Liars

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is set during 1959, while the battle for civil rights is raging. It’s Sarah Dunbar’s first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there, especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. Because it’s one thing to be frightened by the world around you – and another thing altogether when you’re terrified of what you feel inside.

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (January 2015) tells us that in four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car. Shortly after, she and her mother will leave the hospital and set out on a winding journey toward the Grand Canyon. All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands. And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past—and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon follows Lottie. Since her dad died, life hasn’t been the same for Lottie. But when the school suggest she joins Bake Club to get her back on track, she reluctantly agrees. Her uncertainty about Bake Club melts away as she rekindles her love of baking and gets caught up with Mac, the school rebel. Both Lottie and Mac have secrets to keep, and as Bake Club progresses towards an end-of-year competition, the tension rises between the members.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead is one of my favourite middle grade novels. Georges (the s is silent) is having trouble with some boys at school, his dad lost his job and so his mum has started working all the time – and they had to sell their house and move into an apartment. But Georges meets Safer, an unusual boy who lives on the top floor. He runs a spy club and their current case is to spy on the mysterious Mr X. But as Georges and Safer go deeper into their Mr X plan, the line between games, lies, and reality begin to blur.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is one you’ve probably already heard about. You’ve seen the praise, seen people raving about and gasping over the ending, and have been unable to avoid the hype. But I’d like you to forget about that. If a good book rests on purely having a good ending, it isn’t really a good book at all. Do not try to guess the truth; just enjoy being taken away to a private island to bask in the heat of the sun, the sound of the waves, and the privilege of wealth and aristocracy.

Top Ten / Lies, Lying and Liars

The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock is set in 1985 and 1940. When fifteen-year-old Catherine sees her best friend slip from a wild cliff path she vows never to say a word. But Catherine was the last person to see her alive. Charlie is also holding back a secret from the adults on the island. As German soldiers arrive on Guernsey, he carries out an act of rebellion with consequences that will reach far into the future – and into Catherine’s own life.

The White Lie by Andrea Gillies takes place on a hot summer’s afternoon, when Ursula Salter runs sobbing from the loch on her parents’ Scottish estate and confesses, distraught, that she has killed Michael, her 19 year old nephew. But what really happened? No body can be found, and Ursula’s story is full of contradictions. In order to protect her, the Salters come up with another version of events, a decision that some of them will come to regret.

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain is about Ivy Hart and Jane Forrester. Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters follows Alix as she learns that her girlfriend Swanee has been leading a double life–secretly dating a girl named Liana the entire time. Alix texts Liana from Swanee’s phone, pretending to be Swanee in order to gather information before finally meeting face-to-face to break the news. Brought together by lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they’d thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana.

Lies I Told by Michelle Zink (April 2015) asks: what if, after spending a lifetime deceiving everyone around you, you discovered the biggest lies were the ones you’ve told yourself? Grace Fontaine has everything: beauty, money, confidence, and the perfect family. But it’s all a lie. Grace has been adopted into a family of thieves. Grace has never had any difficulty pulling off a job, but when things start to go wrong on the biggest heist yet, Grace finds herself breaking more and more of the rules designed to keep her from getting caught… including the most important one of all: never fall for your mark.

Books Are My Bag Reading Survival Kit

Books Are My Bag Reading Survival Kit
I love chatting about books and bookshops online and I love chatting about books and bookshops offline. You just can’t stop me. Books Are My Bag kindly sent me a Reading Survival Kit full of bookish goodies, so I’m equipped and ready to tell you all about the campaign.

Books Are My Bag launched in September 2013 and is a nationwide campaign to celebrate bookshops and the importance of buying books on the high street, from both chains and indies. This year’s celebration begins on Thursday 9th October (Super Thursday, one of the busiest days of the year in the publishing calendar) followed by Big Bookshop Parties on Saturday 11th October, where they’ve aimed to get an author into every bookshop (ask your favourite/local bookshops what they’ll be doing!). Don’t know where the nearest bookshop is? Use this map! I’ll be heading to one of my favourite bookshops on Thursday to buy some books to celebrate Books Are My Bag and then hopefully back on Saturday to tell you all about their Big Bookshop Party! I loved participating in Books Are My Bag last year (you can read my blogpost all about it here) and so I’m looking forward to reading/hearing about what everyone gets up to this year.

I had asked for my Reading Survival Kit to be sent to my workplace, but it didn’t really occur to me that I’d be sitting there working away only to be given a HUGE BOX FULL OF ORANGEY GOODNESS. After I’d recovered from the orange explosion, I realised it was easy peasy to transport home! Here’s what I was sent…

Books Are My Bag Reading Survival Kit Books Are My Bag Reading Survival Kit Continue reading

Book Review: Lobsters by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

lobsters


Shelved:
Young adult fiction (contemporary, romance)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

If you loved Non Pratt’s Trouble, I’ve found the next book for you! Are teenagers in UKYA more realistic because they’re mostly read by readers who can often identify with the characters’ Britishness? Or are they just more realistic? That’s what I want to know.

Lobsters is utterly brilliant at portraying teenagers. It’s incredibly honest and I read things in this novel that I’ve never read before, which sounds really dramatic, like something quite catastrophic happens in the story, but it really just depicts aspects of everyday teenage life that we just don’t talk about much, from the embarrassing and the heart-breaking to the completely hilarious. It’s one of my favourite books of the year so far.

Sam and Hannah meet in slightly embarrassing circumstances while they’re in a bathroom during a house party – they both wanted to get away from all the chaos that ensues when you put a hundred teenagers together. Because when two people meet for the first time, they don’t always have highly intelligent and/or meaningful conversations where they instantly fall in love, Sam and Hannah have slightly-awkward-but-still-kind-of-cute banter about hot Ribena being a thing, but this is pretty much the last time we see them together for a while because Hannah goes off to meet up with her current crush Freddie (much to Sam’s disappointment), and Sam heads back to hang out with his friends who have gatecrashed the party (while Hannah is wondering who Toilet Boy is and where he come from).

Lobsters is a genuinely laugh-out-loud funny story about Sam and Hannah, two newly-turned-18-year-olds (and their group of close friends) as they try to find their way back to each other – often completely unexpectedly – while attempting to juggle the pressures of being a teenager, from peer pressure to epic misunderstandings. I adored all of the characters, even their poor decisions and lack of self-awareness. It’s what being a teenager is all about, but both groups of friends get up to a lot of fun, and this is what I loved most about it. It’s a fun story, with fun romance and a ton of moments that made me smile. But it won’t make you want to be a teenager again! #tooawkardthanks

If you’re a fan of YA contemporary, especially UKYA, you’ll want to pick up Lobsters! It’s both hilarious and honest, and full of references to British pop culture. (I’ll never not appreciated a good Harry Potter reference). I don’t often laugh out loud, but I had to try to stop myself laughing on public transport. I really want to see more from Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison, please!

Published: 5th June 2014
Publisher: Chicken House
Pages: 336

#BookADayUK September | Week Four

#BookADayUK September | Week Four
I participated in #BookADayUK in June and after a little break, I thought I’d participate again in September. This month it’s hosted by We Love This Book. I’ve also been tweeting and posting a new photo on Tumblr every day, so here’s a recap of the last week! Clicking on each image takes you to the Tumblr post.

#BookADayUK September | Week Four

22nd: Best book recommended by a bookseller
I actually don’t think I’ve ever asked a bookseller for a recommendation! But I did make my next John Wyndham purchase The Midwich Cuckoos after a bookseller recommended it while I was buying The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids.

#BookADayUK September | Week Four

23rd: Favourite prize-winning book
Ketchup Clouds is one of my favourite books of the year so far and it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2013. It’s an example of superb storytelling and a novel that encapsulates beautiful writing. Ketchup Clouds draws you in straight away and doesn’t let go until you are finally given some answers.

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Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Series:
Anna and the French Kiss (#3)
Shelved:
Young adult fiction (contemporary, romance)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Isla and the Happily Ever After was one of my most highly-anticipated novels of the year. Anna and the French Kiss is still one of my absolute favourite books and I read it for the third time this year. Did Isla beat Anna? No, but I did prefer it to Lola, and yet it made me appreciate certain aspects of Lola – such as seeing the familiar characters from a different point of view – a little more than I did before. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In Isla and the Happily Ever After, we finally get to know the shy, quiet girl who we only briefly came across in Anna and the French Kiss, but who we knew had a crush on Josh Wasserstein. But I didn’t expect her to have such strong, intense emotions. I made the same mistake so many people do about shy people. As another shy, quiet girl, I do know what it’s like for people to look at you and think you have nothing substantial to offer, and so I actually really loved getting to see the different perceptions of Isla. And boy was this story intense.

Should Isla and Josh be together? It’s something you’ll be wondering throughout the story. At times, their relationship is adorable, sweet, and you can’t help feel that their teenagerdom is restricting them from being in a proper relationship. As a non-teenager, I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. I do not need to ask my parents for permission, and Isla does remind you what it’s like to be a teenager and not have that luxury. But at other times, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was so intense that Josh and Isla were actually in a toxic relationship, like those couples who couldn’t keep away from each other at university, but now are no longer together while the ones who could quite happily not call each other every single day are still together.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is enjoyable because, like the previous two books, you can understand why they want to be together. It doesn’t simply come out of no where, and so I love that Stephanie Perkins has written about three completely different kinds of relationships, each with their own highs and lows. Even though I wasn’t completely sure whether Isla and Josh should be in a relationship, I still wanted to fight for them – especially when pesky teachers and parents became involved! It was fun getting to see their relationship develop outside of the boarding school setting, surprisingly, when they were in New York City and Barcelona. I also grew to enjoy the cameos from Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, which I wasn’t completely sure about in Lola. I said they felt like different characters, and yet in Isla I came to feel like perhaps that’s the point. We’re just seeing one perception of people all the time and it was refreshing to think, actually, is the way we see people actually the way they really are? And like most fans, I did rather enjoy that ending!

Isla and the Happily Ever marks the end of four years of young adult contemporary romance from Stephanie Perkins (although we still have her short story in My True Love Gave to Me, which will be my Christmas read), and it ended on a good note. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she can offer in her next book, a young adult horror novel!

 

Published: 14th August 2014
Publisher: Dutton (US) Usborne (UK
Pages: 375

Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer


Shelved:
Young adult fiction (contemporary, magical realism)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

“I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me”.

I really enjoyed Belzhar. I expected to, because it’s ‘literary’ YA contemporary, set in a kind of boarding school setting, with a little mystery. So yes, I did expect to enjoy it. But the more I talk about it with friends, the more I realise it did have quite an impact on me. I’d heard it was a bit ‘odd’ and ‘weird’. If you begin the book knowing that there’s a little bit of magical realism, you do expect there to be something a little different about the world the characters are living in, and in this case, it’s ‘Belzhar’.

Belzhar is a mix of contemporary fiction – a group of ‘highly intelligent’ and ‘emotional fragile’ teenagers have been sent to The Wooden Barn, a stepping stone before they can go back to ‘normal’ life and a regular school. They’re there to work through their mental state, whatever that may be – sometimes caused by a particular experience, sometimes not – and one group of students taking ‘Special Topics in English’ discover Belzhar, a place where they can revisit what they’ve been through, but without the grief and trauma.

Belzhar has received mixed reviews so far, but don’t necessarily jump straight to thinking ‘okay, well I won’t read that one’, because it’s one where it’s actually brilliant that people have had such strong feelings about particular aspects of the story or characters. (And aspects that I’m not even sure we’re meant to like). It provides a lot to talk about, and how you feel about the book – and its characters – can depend on how you feel on the day. I would have enjoyed it even more if I had empathised with the main protagonist, Jam, from the very beginning – although I’m not sure if I ever empathised with her at all, but began to simply accept – but falling in love with a boy you’ve only known for 41 days will always be difficult for me to accept. I forgave Reeve’s stereotypically British behaviour because we’re seeing him through Jam’s eyes, and this was something she particularly loved about him. Although I felt this way towards the main character, I loved the way the story was constructed and the way it progressed – I thought it was clever, unexpected and quite thought-provoking. And it noticed that often people do go through things that have a profound negative impact on them, but seem insignificant to other people. It’s a book where you could easily write a review full of spoilers because there’s a lot to discuss, mainly ‘real or not real?’ and ‘acceptable or unacceptable?’.

If you’re unsure about Belzhar and yet you usually love YA contemporary novels, give it a go because it had a lot of the things I enjoy about the genre, but it also was refreshing in the way it looked at things a little differently.

Published: 30th September 2014 (US) 9th October 2014 (UK)
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (US) Simon & Schuster (UK)
Pages: 272
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!