I posted 25 Books for Book Lovers earlier this month, but I wanted an excuse to take some pretty pictures of books that I already owned for Tumblr. Unfortunately, I don’t own all 25 books (and some are eBooks), but here’s some photos of the ones that I do have. You can head over to the original post to read more about the books, or I’ve put them in a handy list – including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I missed off last time – at the end of this post.
I love reading other bloggers’ monthly wrap-up posts. I’ll admit, I don’t check Bloglovin’ every day – or even every week – so these posts encourage me to read more blogposts because they’re all linked to in one place! Here’s what was on Pretty Books in February.
February went fast. I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to, but I gave nearly all of the books I did read five stars. I finally got to re-read The Book Thief. I had been worried about reading it (for years, honestly!) because it’s one of my favourite books. It would’ve been awful if I didn’t feel the same way about it, but I probably appreciated it even more, especially Markus Zusak’s beautiful writing. I’ll hopefully get to write a review as well as post my thoughts on the adaptation this month.
Books Read in February
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Sleuth on Skates by Clémentine Beauvais
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (re-read)
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
I have read 13/100 books so far this year! I also read most of Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, but I only finished it yesterday, so I cannot count this in February!
Favourite Book(s) Read in February
Okay, so I can’t really pick my favourite book ever, The Book Thief, so I’ll pick Sleuth on Skates. I really enjoyed all of the books I read this month, but Sleuth on Skates was the most fun. It’s an ingeniously complex and inventive children’s novel – with excellent foreshadowing! – and with a brilliant young protagonist at the forefront. I cannot wait to pick up the sequel, Gargoyles Gone AWOL, which I already have. I could easily pick them all, though.
On Pretty Books in February
Book Review: Trouble by Non Pratt
Book Review: Sleuth on Skates by Clementine Beauvais
Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
I’ve just started reading three books at the same time, which probably isn’t wise. I’m reading The Key to the Golden Firebird, A Boy Called Hope and Rock War. I must start reading one book at a time!
On My Radar
I was loaned The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, a book about books, by a colleague, so I can’t wait to get stuck into that. I also need to read two of the most highly anticipated young adult novels this year: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and Half Bad by Sally Green. I also have my last two library books to read: Just One Day and Just One Year by Gayle Forman.
On Pretty Books the Tumblr
I finally updated my list of young adult dystopian novels, but I’ve not added many new ones to it since I rarely read the genre these days, so if you think I’m missing any, let me know! I’m hoping my love for it will be rekindled at some point. I was also delighted to reveal the cover for The Illusionists by Laure Eve, the sequel to Fearsome Dreamer. I found this wonderful teapot, which I may have to buy once the owner of the shop is back… It also has a matching teacup and saucer!
I also posted a few favourite quotes from some of the books I read recently:
Mom. She always says to look at the big picture. How all of the little things don’t matter in the long run. I know that Mom is right about the big picture. But Dad is right too: Life is really just a bunch of nows, one after the other. The dots matter. – Rebecca Stead, Liar & Spy
If there are as many connections in your brain as there are stars in the universe, why ask for superpowers? – Clémentine Beauvais, Sleuth on Skates
For me, motivation is this horrible, scary game where I try to make myself do something while I actively avoid doing it. – Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half
Beyond the Books
I had a group of friends over for #VeronicaMarsathon, where we tried to watch season one of Veronica Mars for sixteen hours straight. We managed about twelve hours, which I don’t think is too bad. I’m really quite enjoying it; I need to finish watching the season though! I also went to the launch of Rock War by Robert Muchamore, which was at the Lockside Lounge in Camden, and went to see The Book Thief on the day of release. I went to one of my favourite tea rooms, Yumchaa, with a group of friends followed by a spending spree at Waterstones Gower Street, since there was a 20% off sale on all books (and you can see the books I bought in my book haul). I also went to see Taylor Swift twice at the O2 – I can’t believe it’s been nearly three years since I last saw her live. I’m a superfan, in case you’ve not guessed. I’ve been neglecting Netflix last month, which I really shouldn’t do because I’m actually paying for it now, but I did watch Restless, about a teenage girl who has cancer – very obviously quite suitable if you’re a fan of TFiOS. Next up might be Pretty in Pink.
Tell me about your month!
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I was asked a few weeks ago on Tumblr for 20 books that every book lover should read. Now, I wouldn’t dare suggest such a list as I’m sure there’s many wonderful and worthy books that I’d miss out, so instead I created a list of books that are perfect for book lovers – often books about books. As over 700 people liked/reblogged the list, I thought I’d make a proper blogpost about it, including a few more books (some yet to be published!). Enjoy, bookish people!
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde about Miss Thursday Next, LiteraTec, as she attempts to solve the mystery of Martin Chuzzlewit, the missing Dickens manuscript, set in an alternate reality home to literary detectives. (Review)
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield about a Gothic mystery narrated by a book lover, with an engrossing first few chapters that perfectly describe staying up reading until the early morning. (Review)
The Shadow of the Wind* by Carlos Ruiz Zafón about an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother and finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax, only to discover that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written.
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry* (also known as The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) by Gabrielle Zevin about what happens in a bookshop that changes the lives of seemingly normal but extraordinary characters.
YOUNG ADULT AND CHILDREN’S FICTION
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys about life in the gritty 1950s New Orleans’ French Quarter, the world of a young girl living in poverty above a bookshop, and her attempts to solve a curious murder mystery. (Review)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak about Hitler’s Germany told through the eyes of a young German girl, the Jewish man hiding in her basement, and Death – and why no story should be suppressed.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell for people who spend a disproportionate amount of time on the internet, who do not distinguish between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ friends, and for whom ‘the fandom’ does not need explaining. (Review)
The Forbidden Library* by Django Wexler about a young girl who finds herself inside a book, in a world where all of magic is controlled by Readers.
NON-FICTION & POETRY
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop* by Lewis Buzbee about a former bookseller who celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore – the smell and touch of books, getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers.
One Hundred Great Books in Haiku by David Bader for a super quick read and a fun introduction to great works of literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to Orwell’s 1984.
Love, Sex, Death & Words* by John Sutherland & Stephen Fender for surprising tales from a year in literature.
Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid by Lemony Snicket about Snicket’s uproariously unhappy observations, such as ‘Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them’.
The Novel Cure* by Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin for a medical handbook with a difference. Whether you have a stubbed toe or a severe case of the blues, within these pages you’ll find a cure in the form of a novel – or a combination of novels – to help ease your pain.
My Salinger Year* by Joanna Rakoff about a young woman’s first job as an assistant to the storied literary agent of J. D. Salinger.
84, Charing Cross Rd* by Helen Hanff about a lifelong friendship that began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books.
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader* by Anne Fadiman for witty collection of essays recounting a lifelong love affair with books and language.
I’ve put an asterisk (*) next to the books I’ve not yet read. I’m sure there’s many more I’ve missed out, so let me know: which books would you suggest to book lovers?
Also check out Books for Book Lovers: In Pictures.
I picked up Hyperbole and a Half on a recent trip to Waterstones Gower St, but it wasn’t exactly a planned purchase – although it had been on my wishlist for a while and I had been thinking about buying it – because I wasn’t 100% sure that it wouldn’t just be a coffee table book that I’d flick through once, think was just okay, and then never come back to again. As it turns out, Hyperbole and a Half is well worth the purchase. I have been telling other people to read it since I finished the last story because it made such an impact on me. It won a Goodreads Choice Award for a reason, you know!
Hyperbole and a Half, as I’m sure you’re familiar, stems from Allie Brosh’s successful blog of the same name, made famous by the ‘ALL THE THINGS!’ internet meme. I discovered it one day in 2010 as I was casually browsing the internet and came across one of her illustrations. I clicked through to read more and after a few minutes I was giggling to myself, so I forwarded the blogpost onto to a friend, who responded with ‘HA! Clean ALL the things!’. I don’t really know why it resonates with people so much, perhaps because it captures such a simple, mundane moment so hilariously and accurately. Hyperbole and a Half is genuinely funny – I couldn’t resist starting it straight away and I found myself laughing out loud on the bus on the way home from the bookshop. I knew that I was going to love it.
Hyperbole and a Half is a memoir like no other. It’s particularly about Allie Brosh’s relationship with her two dogs – Simple Dog, who is unable to grasp the concept of stairs and Helper Dog, who is found to have developed a few psychotic episodes of his own, particularly involving other dogs and also snow – and her experience with depression, accompanied by simple yet brilliantly evocative illustrations. And surprisingly, these two subjects blend considerably well. Although Hyperbole and a Half tackles depression, it’s not depressing – that’s just not Allie Brosh’s style. She is immensely critical of herself, but she’s also conscious of the fact that she’s self-deprecating and that’s what makes you want to keep on reading. Allie manages to explain depression in a way that very few books do – so clear, real and understandable, not just an abstract concept that ‘happens to other people’. Hyperbole and a Half also features hilarious anecdotes from her life and childhood, from when she was determined to eat a slice of her grandfather’s birthday cake even after it was hidden from view (‘cake is the only thing that matters’) to when a goose managed to find its way into her home (‘most geese are dangerous psychopaths’). ‘Hyperbole’ is exactly the right word to describe what Allie Brosh does – it’s definitely exaggerated and ‘evokes strong feelings’, but it’s not fictional.
As for Allie Brosh’s drawings, well, I am jealous of her talent. No one has mastered MS Paint as well as she has and I cannot imagine any other style working so well. Hyperbole and a Half is a truly unique book; an incredibly honest and accurate portrayal of everyday life, and I cannot imagine anyone not laughing (even a little bit!) at her many ‘learning experiences’. Also, Allie is correct, the book is heavy.
“But she can’t do anything to prevent the world from containing other dogs, so instead, she is determined to make sure that no other dogs can enjoy existing. If she senses that another dog is enjoying itself nearby, she will do everything within her power to ruin that dog’s day”.
Published: 29th October 2013 (US) 31st October 2013 (UK)
Publisher: Touchstone (US) Square Peg (UK)
Sleuth on Skates was given to me by my friend Cait (while we were waiting at the theatre for Matilda to begin, appropriately) as she knew that I wanted to read more middle grade books. I adored the cover – I love mystery and stuff that is cute and also what’s the deal with the ducks? – so I couldn’t wait to start a fun, surprising adventure with young Sesame Seade.
Sleuth on Skates is a smart, funny new contemporary mystery series accompanied by witty illustrations, beautifully drawn by Sarah Horne, and a brilliantly loquacious heroine. Sleuth on Skates is perfect for those who want to check out more middle grade stories as it’s packed full of little references that older readers (okay, you caught me, I’m referring to adults) will enjoy as well as children. As a Marketing Executive, I found myself revelling in the scene where Sesame’s mother explains just exactly what marketing is…
Sesame Seade is a super sleuth on skates – a stealthy detective on wheels – and she has been waiting eleven years, five months and seventeen days for a mysterious mission – and now she finally has one. Sesame – also known as Sophie, for her parents inexplicably refuse to call her by her real name – finds university students either boring or disgusting, but unfortunately one of them at Christ’s College, Cambridge University, has disappeared. Jenna Jenkins has been missing for two days and although Sesame wonders for a second as to whether Jenna just went home for the weekend and her parents decided to sell her as a slave, as soon as she discovers that she was supposed to play the lead role in Swan Lake and was editor-in-chief of UniGossip magazine, Sesame accepts that not everything is as it seems in the usually disappointingly boring and mystery-free town of Cambridge.
Sleuth on Skates is an ingeniously complex and inventive children’s novel – with excellent foreshadowing! – and with a brilliant young protagonist at the forefront. If you think it looks simple and sweet, be warned, as Sesame Seade is sure to have made child Sherlock look like an amateur. If I had to be an 11-year-old again, I’d want to be as cool, as fearless and as intelligent as Sesame. It’s not often that I find books funny, I’ll be honest, but every page of Sleuth on Skates had me smiling, from Sesame’s hilarious one-liners to the frequent appearance of a certain pregnant duck. (I’d love for one to follow me around as I courageously extract key information from exclusive sources, with two best friends, Toby and Gemma, at my side!). It also made me smile because the fact that such an example of excellent children’s literature exists makes me rather happy. Clémentine Beauvais is an exceptional storyteller who understands children just as much as she understands adults, conjuring up a perfect story that almost everyone will enjoy. I mean it – I’m sharing it with everybody!
Unfortunately, I cannot write nearly as well as the wonderful Sesame Seade speaks, so I’ll leave you with some of her best moments:
‘I try not to get too attached to [students] because, like rabbits, they only last three or four years and then they’re gone’.
‘If there are as many connections in your brain as there are stars in the universe, why ask for superpowers?’
‘Normally, I would have followed Jesus’s advice since my dad works for his dad, but…’.
I now cannot wait to pick up the second in the series, Gargoyles Gone AWOL!
Published: 2nd May 2013
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
I’d like to give you a little spoiler warning. I tend to think that anything mentioned when talking about a mystery novel is sort of a spoiler, but I haven’t said anything in this review that cannot be found in the blurb, which does say who is murdered.
Murder on the Orient Express was chosen as my first classic of the year by Laura from The Girl and Her Books as part of a fun new feature that we’ll be announcing soon. It was my third Agatha Christie novel, having read Death on the Nile last year and And Then There Were None the year before. (I’m thinking that reading at least one Agatha Christie per year should become a new tradition!). Murder on the Orient Express is the tenth book in the series featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. It was first published in the USA as Murder on the Calais Coach, which was news to me as I knew it to be one of her most well-known and much-loved novels.
As soon as Hercule Poirot checks into the Tokatlian Hotel in Istanbul, he receives a telegram instructing him to cancel his arrangements and return to London, so he boards the Orient Express, heading for Paris. Poirot is soon approached by Samuel Ratchett, an American million who fears for his life. Ratchett attempts to hire Poirot as his personal detective, but he refuses and tells Ratchett: ‘I do not like your face’. In the morning, Ratchett is found dead, stabbed multiple times. The Orient Express is at a standstill due to a severe overnight snowstorm and it is not possible that the murderer could have left the train, so they must still be among them. But twelve of the passengers are found out to be enemies of Samuel Ratchett – so who could it be?
Murder on the Orient Express is, thankfully, another enjoyable ‘whodunnit’ from Agatha Christie. While reading most books, you never really know when you’re going to find out the truth, but Agatha Christie is always straight with the reader. Murder on the Orient Express is split into three parts: The Facts, The Evidence and Hercule Poirot Sits Back and Thinks (i.e. The Solution). And each piece of evidence is laid out for us clearly: The Evidence of the Secretary, The Evidence of the Valet, The Evidence of the American Lady, etc. I loved that the novel was set out in this way; I loved knowing in advance what I was going to get from each chapter, but that doesn’t make it any easier to guess who the murderer is.
Although we’re always reminded that a horrific murder has occurred on board the train, Agatha Christie does not let this deter her from using black comedy and I loved her characters’ use of brutal honesty: ‘At the small table, sitting very upright, was one of the ugliest old ladies he had ever seen. It was an ugliness of distinction – it fascinated rather than repelled’. It’s so unexpected that it should be admired, really. It reminded me that Agatha Christie’s novels are not just a lighter version of a crime investigation show – they’re meant to be fun and enjoyable, without the violence and gore. We have a murder to solve! We might as well have a snow day, too. It’s still amusing to me that the characters are often far too unaffected by murders than they should be, but her novels are not about people as such – they’re just tools to help us solve a crime. We must look at the crime rationally, sifting through the evidence logically, and then ‘thinking it through’. Agatha Christie, as it’s been pointed out many times, is also sometimes old-fashioned to the point of being offensive. Are you Italian? Well, then you must be suspicious. Are you a woman? Well, you’re likely too weak to have committed this murder. “Poor creature, she’s a Swede.” But it is what it is and I still think it’s okay to enjoy her novels.
Unfortunately Murder on the Orient Express does not take the place as my favourite Agatha Christie novel – And Then There Were None still wins that award – but it still kept me guessing until the very end, curled up the comfort knowing that I would find out the truth soon, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. I have noticed that I do not yet own a Miss Marple novel, so I shall have to buy either The Murder at the Vicarage or The Body in the Library next… !
‘The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.’
Published: 1st January 1934
Publisher: Collins Crime Club, but edition pictured published 2007 by HarperCollins
Jim over at YA Yeah Yeah runs this fantastic feature where he – and other bloggers and authors – talk about pre-1990s YA or children’s literature. I was asked to write a guest post for the feature and I jumped at the chance to talk about one of my favourite children’s novels, Anne of Green Gables, so head over to the post to see what I had to say about this wonderful novel.
I love reading other bloggers’ monthly wrap-up posts. I’ll admit, I don’t check Bloglovin’ every day – or even every week – so these posts encourage me to read more blogposts because they’re all linked in one place! Here’s what was on Pretty Books in January. I think I’ve had a pretty good reading and blogging month considering how busy it’s been at work, but I was hoping to read 10-12 books this month. I’ll work on it! January’s an odd month because it still feels like 2013 yet suddenly it’s February. Although I’m daunted by how huge my ‘to be read’ pile is, I’m also incredibly excited by all the fantastic books I’ll get to read this year. I want to read more classics, middle grade, adult fiction, non-fiction, and young adult genres that I love, but don’t get to read as much. Yes, all the books.
Books Read in January
Fortunately, the Milk… by Neil Gaiman
Champion by Marie Lu
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
You Are the Music by Victoria Williamson
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Classics Challenge #1)
One Hundred Great Books in Haiku by David M. Bader
The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth by Julia Lee
I have read 8/100 books so far this year!
Favourite Book(s) Read in January
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. I aiming to read more middle grade fiction this year and Liar & Spy was one of the first I picked up and gosh, has it set high standards! Liar & Spy is so incredibly sophisticated and smart – heartfelt and moving, but still incredibly enjoyable. It has a wonderful host of characters that Rebecca Stead imagines brilliantly and realistically. I would also suggest checking out When You Reach Me. Rebecca Stead is now one of my favourite middle grade authors and I cannot wait until her next book!
Added to the Bookshelves
Behold the Pretty Books / December & January Book Haul
An eBook Haul
On Pretty Books in January
Book Review: Champion by Marie Lu
Book Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead
Book Reviews: When You Reach Me and Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Book Review: The Lost Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Top 10 / 2014 Débuts I’m Excited For
Top 10 / Things On My Reading Wishlist
2014 Classics Challenge
An Abundance of John Green
2013 End of Year Survey
I haven’t chosen what to read next, but I’ve just finished Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh and absolutely loved it. Will it be my favourite book read in February? You’ll have to wait and see!
On My Radar
I own all of these books, which are all fairly new, so hopefully I’ll get to read them this month – but I don’t like to plan what to read in advance, so shh, you never heard me. (Although I do want to read The Book Thief before the adaptation is released here later this month…).
On Pretty Books the Tumblr
Yes! If you don’t know, Pretty Books started on Tumblr. In January, I posted quite a few of Powell’s #LetsTalkBooks illustrations, which I love and they always get me thinking. I’ve added my responses in the tags! I posted my two overflowing TBR jars and this wonderful animated illustration of a girl reading on a rainy day. That’s me lately. Of course, I had to share The Fault in Our Stars trailer. And I’d love to see more book covers that have a little short story on the front plus a photograph of my new The Babysitter’s Club book sparked a round of nostalgia on Tumblr! I also love this alphabet of books.
Beyond the Books
As I said, it’s been a super busy month! If you’re new to Pretty Books, I work for a book publisher. It’s now February, which means I’ve spent the past month getting our catalogue together, ordering fun (and sometimes edible) goodies for our sales representatives, coordinating marketing campaigns, writing lots and lots of sales points and updating 6 months’ worth of metadata! I can tell you now that publishing does not involve sitting around reading books all day, no siree. But when I’m not at work, I’ve been attending YA blogger parties (read more about that here!), watching Frozen (and getting Let It Go stuck in my head all day), and visiting William Curley’s Dessert Bar with Cait, Daphne, Faye and Debbie. It’s exactly what it sounds like! And on Netflix, I’m watching Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Bomb Girls and a few movies.
Tell me about your month!
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Isn’t Fortunately, the Milk… such a brilliant title? I’m not quite sure what makes it so amusing, perhaps because it’s so utterly random. It’s what caught my eye (and because it’s just so shiny!). And then I found out that it’s illustrated – I’m a sucker for illustrated books. Chris Riddell is fast becoming one of my favourite illustrators. (I’ve already bought Goth Girl and the Ottoline books). And of course, I was eager to see which fantasy world Neil Gaiman would take us to next (although, I’ll admit, I’ve only read The Graveyard Book and watched Coraline). So, I was looking forward to curling up with a blanket, a cup of peppermint tea and getting stuck into my first book of the year.
Mum has left the house for a work conference and so has left Dad in charge. Of course, he forgets to stock up on milk for his children’s cereal before school. On his way home from the shop, a glittery, shimmery beam of light sucks him up into a strange disc among the clouds, controlled by green, globby, grumpy things. If you don’t think you’d appreciate a funny, silly and absurd story involving unstereotypical pirates, vampires (also known as wumpires), familiar ponies and unplanned time-travelling, Fortunately the Milk… is probably not for you and you should pick another book up instead. Now that you’re willing to try this bizarre tale, Goodreads tells me that 142 of my friends have it added it their shelves, so don’t think that it’s just for children! If you’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or watched Doctor Who, you’ll love this! It’s a pure joy to read – extremely clever and witty, accompanied by fantastical illustrations. (I also need to buy the edition illustrated by Skottie Young). Who knew that fetching a pint of milk from the corner shop – and ensuring its safety – could lead to so much trouble?
Fortunately, the Milk… has a wonderful set of characters, usefully illustrated at the back of the book, although I wish we’d heard a little more from Mad Matilda the Girl Buccaneer – who you can tell is delightful and cheeky just by the expression on her face – and the children, especially the little sister because I loved her dry sense of humour. (‘Are there any ponies in this? I thought there would be ponies by now.’). But we have a wacky host of characters to accompany us on the blue Caribbean Sea, into a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier and then catapulted into a poorly thought-out plan that involves roasted professor…
Fortunately, the Milk… is the perfect book to read if you’re having a bad day and just want to feel better. It’s a hilariously bizarre adventure, with the entertaining Professor Steg as our guide and I’d love to hear Neil Gaiman talk about it sometime. I do love a dark, sad story, but sometimes it’s just nice to smile. Fortunately, the Milk… is a good, fun story that you’ll want to share straight after you’ve read it, whether it’s with your little cousin or your grandmother. Now, which Neil Gaiman novel should I read next?
Published: 17th September 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (UK) HarperCollins (USA)
Here are the books I acquired over the past two months!
The Babysitters Club Collection (#1-3) by Ann M. Martin
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell
Ottoline at Sea by Chris Riddell
Bird by Crystal Chan
A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Burn by Monica Hesse
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Salvage by Keren David
I was talking about The Babysitters Club with Debbie on Twitter last year and I don’t think I’ve actually ever read the books, so I decided to buy this omnibus secondhand. (And she bought the first 45 books in the series!). I was also given a few books (Bird and A Room Full of Chocolate) by two lovely publishing friends, Helen and Cait. Bird featured on my Top Ten / 2014 Debuts I’m Excited For and A Room Full of Chocolate sounds like just my kind of middle grade novel.
Waterstones had a 20% off everything sale this weekend, so I bought a few books that had been on my wishlist for a while. Chris Riddell’s Ottoline novels sound adorable – and you may remember that I bought Goth Girl recently too. Ready Player One had been on my wishlist the longest, almost two years! I hope it’s worth the wait! As I love ‘all the things’, I had to buy Hyperbole and a Half, which I’m reading at the moment and loving. I finally tracked down a copy of Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And lastly, I received Burn (sequel to Stray) and Salvage for review. Salvage turned up unexpectedly so I don’t know too much about it, but it’s receiving a lot of praise so far from fellow bloggers!
Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson
The Tin Snail by Cameron McAllister
Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Sunrise by Mile Mullin
Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen
As always, I cannot seem to stop buying/downloading eBooks. (I wrote about my recent eBook haul). I downloaded Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts because it sounds like a sweeter, safer version of the TV show Bomb Girls, which I loved – it’s about a group of girls who work in a bomb factory during WWII. (It’s available on Sky and Netflix! Go watch it!). At RHCP’s recent blogger event, we were told about The Tin Snail (a delightful children’s novel set during the 1940s), The Forbidden Library (perfect for the bookish) and also Boy in the Tower (which was compared to The Day of the Triffids!) so I had to download review copies. I want to purchase a finished copy of The Forbidden Library, especially as it’s a beautiful book. And I’ve been curious about Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband since Daphne bought it on one of our many bookstore trips, so I downloaded that review copy too. I loved Ashfall, so I really need to catch up with Ashen Winter and Sunrise.
Just One Day by Gayle Foreman
Just One Year by Gayle Foreman
The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
One Hundred Great Books in Haiku by David M. Bader
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead (not pictured as I’ve already read it and taken it back!)
Aaaand I’ve also been going to the library a lot more lately. I wouldn’t have requested so many, but I thought it’d take a while for them all to come in. It didn’t… I’m most excited to read Just One Day & Just One Year plus Skulduggery Pleasant, which is one of Cait’s favourite middle grade series. I’m hoping I can read all of these without having to take them back!
And, of course, I have to share with you pretty photos of pretty books…
Hannah and Aaron are fifteen-year-old students, attending the same school and studying for their GCSEs, yet they couldn’t be more different. Hannah is quick-witted, smart and loves to have a good time (although not quite as much as her peers like to think she does), but school work is rarely on her mind as much as boys are. Aaron is a quiet boy who prefers to keep to himself, hiding from the world, trying to overcome what happened at his old school. He can barely think about it himself, let alone tell anyone else. He avoids making friends and instead volunteers at a retirement home, looking after an old man, Neville, who doesn’t even seem to like him very much. Hannah and Aaron are unlikely friends, but when Hannah falls pregnant, Aaron steps up and tells everyone that he’s the father.
I’ve said before that I find British young adult contemporary novels to be much gritter than their American counterparts. Although I love the ‘really cute’ or ‘really sad’ contemporary novels that I tend to go for, Trouble is neither. It’s a brilliantly written and wonderfully authentic and realistic novel to add to the top of the pile of this increasingly popular genre. It’s also interesting to see just how different the two covers are. If cigarette smoke was removed from the cover for John Green’s Looking for Alaska, I’d love to know what they’d make of sperm on the UK cover of Trouble! (I think it’s a fantastic cover, by the way.). Trouble stands out because it does not shy away from the awkward, uncomfortable and often harsh reality of teenage life, but it’s still funny and touching, with two endearing characters that you’ll enjoy spending time with.
Trouble is a novel about normal British teenage life, but it looks at a controversial issue: teenage pregnancy. It isn’t judgemental or stereotypical and it avoids being unrealistic or idealistic (which I feel Juno falls into, even though I enjoyed it). It’s easy to stereotype pregnant teenagers, but Non Pratt looks behind these stereotypes to tell the story of two fantastic individuals. I rarely give books five stars, but Trouble is so incredibly honest, tackling a lot of troubling (no pun intended!) issues, not just teenage pregnancy, that I feel it deserves it. Its honesty also comes from its unique narration. Alternative perspectives are not uncommon, but I’ve not come across one that has such short chapters – sometimes only half a page long – and I wouldn’t have expected it to work so well. Trouble seamlessly switches between Hannah and Aaron to gives us a genuine view of what’s happening for both teenagers and shows us how easy it is to misinterpret someone else’s intentions. We watch as both Hannah and Aaron develop as characters – Hannah realises she does not have to be who her friends expect her to be and Aaron starts to enjoy life a little more.
Trouble is an extremely fun, wonderfully British and compassionate novel with a serious side. I started to read Trouble shortly before attending the Walker Blogger Night, just to see what it was like, and before I knew it, I was dropping my current book and taking it to work with me. If you enjoy young adult contemporary, you will want to have Trouble on your shelves. Everyone will be talking about this year and you won’t want to miss out.
Head over to the Trouble Tumblr to find out more about the book!
Published: 6th March 2014 (UK) 10th June 2014 (US)
Publisher: Walker Books (UK) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (US)
Source: Thank you Walker Books for providing this book for review!
Champion is the third book in the Legend trilogy, so you might not want to continue reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.
I first found out about Legend back in February 2011 and in January 2014, I read the last book in the trilogy. At the end of Prodigy, we were left with the shocking news that Day is sick; he has a brain tumour and will most likely die. But Day and June cannot focus purely on themselves – and their fraught relationship – because the tension between the Republic and the Colonies does not look set to subside any time soon. With Day battling with crippling headaches and trying to keep his brother Eden safe, he has enough on his plate to last a lifetime. And June, as Princeps-Elect, stands alongside Anden while struggling to ensure that she keeps to her own principles. Champion is the explosive finale to one of the most enjoyable YA dystopian series’ out there.
Champion is just as fast-paced and thrilling as the previous two books. Legend fortunately is a believable and well-constructed series. Marie Lu chooses to follow a logical continuation rather than throw unbelievable choices into the mix; politics is tough, frustrating and cannot be sorted out at the push of a button. Anden has to stay true to his word, but that doesn’t mean he does not make some controversial choices. Champion also fills in the blanks that we were left with by Legend and Prodigy – I particularly enjoyed the tense snapshots of Thomas and Metias – and it provides an ending that really does make you feel like you’ve come full circle. In Champion, familiar characters try to save the broken USA that we’ve come to know over the past couple of years, and it’s not going to be an easy solution…
Day and June. June and Day. Where do I start? They are one of YA dystopia’s most loved couples. In Legend, we now see, they were just two inexperienced and terrified teenagers on the run and now they are among the most revered and trusted. Although, I will admit, it’s hard to believe that it’s up to two young people to save the world, I cannot deny it’s been a pleasure to watch them develop and mature over all three books. We see June and Day become less idealistic – and for good reason – but they are determined to be there for each other, even it isn’t going to be easy, and even if they’re not entirely sure that it’s healthy for either of them. And even if you’ve not been an advocate of June and Day throughout the series, the heartbreaking epilogue is sure to leave you with a tear in your eye.
Legend was one of the drivers of YA dystopia and it’s a series that I always suggest to people who love The Hunger Games or Divergent, but this finale will leave readers more satisfied than the former trilogies did.
Series: Bloodlines (#4)
Shelved: Young adult fiction (paranormal – vampires, magic, romance)
Published: 19th November 2013
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Books
The Fiery Heart is the fourth book in the Bloodlines series, so you might not want to continue reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.
Well, I think we all can say that Sydney Sage’s life has well and truly changed. Sydney’s discovered what the Alchemists – who she has trusted her whole life – have been hiding from her. She has accepted defeat and has thrown herself into a serious relationship with Adrian, that is, until her sister Zoe turns up. Sydney Sage is still the smart, cautious, resourceful and witty young girl that we’ve all come to know and love (if you don’t, why are you continuing with this series?!), but she’s opening herself up to new experiences. It’s dangerous, but Sydney knows that if she can discover the secret of the indigo tattoos, she can save people from being turned Strigoi – and change their world as they know it.
The Fiery Heart is the only time we’ve had a perspective from Adrian, but it’s like he’s been here the whole time. We finally get to see how much Sydney means to him – and we finally see the proper romance that Sydney and Adrian shippers have been waiting for. Sydney and Adrian, I think, are both occasionally controversial, but we see that they are genuinely good people who makes mistakes and do not necessary know what’s best for themselves. I think this is why they work – they’re opposites and can see each other’s faults and try to protect each other
I still love the paranormal-contemporary mix that Bloodlines offers. Sydney may be on a caffeine break, but she is struggling to give up anything else in her life. It essentially is a contemporary series – tackling mental illness, privacy and family issues – but occasionally dabbling with magic and vampiric characters. Sydney is being pulled in one direction by Adrian, who just wants to run away with her, and another by her undercover work, attempting to discover the secret behind the indigo tattoos, and in another by her sister, who despises vampires like Sydney used to, and who just wants to spend time with her older sister. (I couldn’t help but intensely dislike and feel sorry Zero at the same time!). The Fiery Heart is another compelling novel in the Bloodlines series – we’ve over halfway through! – and I cannot imagine what will happen in the next installment, Silver Shadows, when it’s published this summer.
Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary, mystery)
Published: 6th January 2011 (US) 1st September 2011 (UK)
Publisher: Yearling (US) Andersen Press (UK)
I first came across Rebecca Stead in Foyles, Charing Cross. It’s one of my favourite bookshops and the perfect place for a book blogger meet up, so I’m there a lot. When You Reach Me is always shelved as a staff recommendation and I pick it up every time I visit. I could tell it was a children’s – or, middle grade – novel, but not at all what it was about; I thought the cover was fairly ambiguous. As I want to read more middle grade this year, I decided to finally read it. Am I happy that I picked it up? Oh yes. When You Reach Me is masterful storytelling – a mix of contemporary, mystery and science fiction. Rebecca Stead is a wonderful storyteller, drawing us into the ordinary lives of extraordinary children.
Miranda is a smart young girl. She knows that it isn’t going to be easy for her mother to win the jackpot when she appears as a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, so she’s just going to have to help her. And Miranda’s best friend Sal got punched unexpectedly in the street by a group of boys, and he hasn’t spoken to her since. When You Reach Me is about the aftermath, and how Miranda is trying to make sense of her life. Rebecca Stead doesn’t resort to merely ‘Chapter 1′, ‘Chapter 2′ headings, no. She’s honest, lyrical and original, so her chapters are called ‘It’s About Things You Wish For’, ‘Things That Burn’ and ‘Things That Make No Sense’. Miranda’s life is altered the day that Sal is injured, but she only really becomes conscious of it when she receives a curious note: ‘I am coming to save your friend’s life, you must write me a letter. Second, please remember to mention the location of your house key’.
When You Reach Me is a letter to this mysterious stranger, enjoyable as it is eerie. As a reader, you sometimes feel suspended, as if you’re watching Miranda’s life like the stranger who has written to her, and sometimes you feel as if you are Miranda, trying to make sense of the puzzle in front of her. When You Reach Me is a brilliantly written, inventive novel – and I was extremely wrong about the cover.
‘How old is she?’ ‘Twelve’. The truth is that my book doesn’t say how old Meg is, but I am twelve, so she feels twelve to me.
As soon as I finished When You Reach Me, I couldn’t wait to start Liar & Spy; I knew it was going to be fantastic. But what I didn’t know was that Rebecca Stead has a specific writing style. A quote on the back of the book, from the Guardian, says ‘Rebecca Stead makes writing this well look easy’ and I have to echo this. Liar & Spy is so incredibly sophisticated and smart – heartfelt and moving, but still incredibly enjoyable. Liar & Spy has a wonderful host of characters that Rebecca Stead imagines brilliantly and realistically.
Georges’s (silent ‘s’) life has changed: his dad has lost his job, his mum is working all the time, and they had to leave their beloved house and move into a smaller apartment. But life starts to get a little better when he meets Safer, a boy his age who runs a spy club in the same building. Yet Liar & Spy isn’t all about the hardship that Georges goes through. It tackles serious issues, yes, but it’s also so much fun. I wanted to hang out with Candy, one of the most awesome little girls I’ve come across; I wanted to see the next message that would be written using Scrabble pieces; and I wanted to know if we’d ever find out more about the mysterious Mr X, who Georges and Safer are spying on, determined to find out why his visitors never seem to leave… And I cannot leave out endearing Bob English Who Draws, who is the only kid at school who doesn’t feel like it’s necessary to tease Georges, also known as ‘Gorgeous’.
In young adult literature, parents are often absent, but middle grade fiction allows them to be a part of their children’s lives. I adored Georges’s dad: fun and quirky and who, instead of shaking his head at the silliness that children get up to, believes that there really is a spy club in the basement, when he sees the note written on the laundry room board. Liar & Spy is another superbly written, original and moving novel from Rebecca Stead, who has become one of my favourite middle grade authors, and Liar & Spy is my favourite so far. I cannot wait until her next book!
Mom. She always says to look at the big picture. How all of the little things don’t matter in the long run. I know that Mom is right about the big picture. But Dad is right too: Life is really just a bunch of nows, one after the other. The dots matter.
I participate in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week the theme is Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist. I picked ten things I’d love to see more of in young adult and children’s fiction, but you know, not too much because we all saw what happened to dystopia…
More Southern states…
I have a slight fascination with the American South, which likely started with Taylor Swift. I know, I know, I’m sorry. I probably have a completely warped view of what it’s actually like, but if Carrie Underwood and Hart of Dixie are anything to go by, I really need to read a YA novel set in the South. I also cannot think of anywhere else in the US that’s so completely, culturally different to the UK. And so I’m intrigued.
More road trips…
I will be surprised if I don’t see ‘road trips’ on many more lists today! It’s also another alien concept to me because if you have a road trip in the UK, you won’t have to travel very far before you reach Scotland. And then you’ll have to turn around again. I love Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Picture Me Gone, Paper Towns, The Probability of Miracles – the isolation, the journals, the music, the conversation, the adventure, the diners. I also get car sick, so good luck bringing me along. (I’m also up for more travel).
More boarding schools…
Again, I’ve never attended boarding school. I actually don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it much, but I guess I’ll never know, so I’ll continue to live vicariously through novels set in boarding schools. Looking for Alaska, Night School, Girls at St Clare’s and Malory Towers, New Girl… Apparently, you’ll either have a blast or someone will try to murder you. What’s not to love?
I have voiced my concern many, many times about the lack of Christmas YA. (I also wrote a blogpost: From My Bookshelves / Books for Winter). I’ve read Let It Snow and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, but then there’s not too much left. Well, Stephanie Perkins has listened to us and My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories will be published in October. David Levithan, Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor… I. Cannot. Wait.
No, really. I’m serious. If you love dystopia, how can you not be fascinated by North Korea? One of my favourite books is Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea, which is about six people who we know eventually defected from North Korea into China. It’s perhaps a little too premature for a YA novel set in North Korea to appear, but I don’t doubt that it will eventually and I think it’d be an excellent way to educate more people about this secretive country.
It’s no secret that I love beautiful – or, pretty – books. I’d love to see more lovely book covers, elaborate production methods, and generally just more attention paid to book covers. I also think it’s something that’ll become essential (if it’s not already, which I think it is) as more people turn to eBooks. Of course, we all know the story is most important – I don’t doubt that for a second – but I love buying special editions that I want to pick up and flick through, share on Pretty Books, give as a gift or just treasure. From Vintage Children’s Classics to Royal hardbacks, books do not necessarily have to be extravagant to be beautiful.
As a Londoner, I love reading books set in my city. I love it even more when they feel authentic. How about taking a trip to east London? Or jumping on a bus? Or eating a Creme Egg? If it’s set in London, I’ll want to read it. The Day of the Triffids, Londoners, Meant to Be, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Name of the Star… I don’t mind what it’s about.
World War I and II
It’s the 100th anniversary of the First World War this year, so I’m sure loads more books will pop up. I’ve watched Bomb Girls and Downton Abbey. I grew up watching Dad’s Army and I’ve been reading Code Name Verity and Stay Where You Are and Then Leave. I finally picked up Maus last year. It’s a period of history that’s not ready to be forgotten, so I’d love to see it appear in more children’s and young adult fiction.
And also just more middle grade in general (especially contemporary and mystery)
Of course, there’s a ton of middle grade – I just need to discover the books that I’ll love! It was one of my 2014 Bookish Resolutions to read more middle grade this year and I cannot wait to get stuck in. I’ve already read Fortunately, the Milk... and I am currently reading (and loving) Liar and Spy. Who said children’s books are just for children? Not me!
Books about us!
Seeing as you’re reading this, you’re likely a ‘bookish person’ and an ‘internet person’. I’m not saying that these labels have to be all that you are, just that they are likely to be a tiny bit. It’s why you love Fangirl and The Book Thief so much. I love books about the geeky and the nerdy and the bookish and the shy. It’s perfectly fine to be all of these. It’s great, in fact. But it’s just nice to have a book confirm that you’re not the only one.
What would you like to see more of?