A Book and A Bag / #PackAPuffin

The folks over at Penguin Books are running a campaign called #PackAPuffin to celebrate ‘A Puffin Book’, a series of classic children’s stories that last a lifetime. I was offered a selection in exchange for sharing what I’d take with me on a trip and where I’d go, topped with the Puffin books I’d bring along. I adore children’s classics (and they’re perfect for the 2015 Classics Challenge), so I couldn’t resist taking part in the fun. Bon voyage!

A Book and a Bag / #PackAPuffin
A Day Out in London

Meet the Ruggles family from One End Street, who live in the fictional town of Otwell and have seven children. Trundling along on the busy London Underground, I’d read Eve Garnett’s The Family From One End Street (1937) and I’d take my tote bag from Daunt Books, Marylebone with me! I’d visit London’s many bookshops, browse Borough Market, and relax in Holland Park. I love reading old children’s stories about middle class families and their charming adventures in the countryside, but what about the adventures poorer children have? In The Family From One End Street, there’s many escapades and excitement, even though children are not as well-off as The Famous Five!

A Book and a Bag / #PackAPuffin

A Day Away from London

As much as I love London, I also love to get away. The United Kingdom has a lot to offer, from peaceful countryside to chocolate box towns. Although I’m not being evacuated during the Second World War, it would be the perfect opportunity to read Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom (1981) and Nina Bawden’s Carrie’s War (1973), following two children as they are made to leave their homes in London. I’d grab this wonderful tote bag that I bought in Oxford last year, depicting the opening line from Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, and explore the country, such as my recent visit to Bath or picturesque day out in Essex.

A Book and a Bag / #PackAPuffin
A Trip Abroad

Florence, Italy. Stockholm, Sweden. Melbourne, Australia – they’re all places that I’d love to visit. I’d pack my favourite backpack and take Erich Kastner’s Emil and the Detectives (1928) and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962) with me, two stories not set in the United Kingdom – one in Berlin, one that’s out of this world. I’d track down a thief with young Emil and join Meg on dangerous and extraordinary adventure. Or maybe I won’t need to leave the country. Maybe all I need is a good book!
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Adults Love Colouring Too! (Plus win a set of #ColourMeMindful books)

Adults Love Colouring Too! (Plus win a set of #ColourMeMindful books)

I am the sort of person who enjoys colouring within the lines. I try to keep colours realistic… until I get bored, and then a tree will become blue and the sun will turn red. I use both colouring pencils and pens, but I find pens much more satisfying – I love bursts of colour! I remember when I first heard about colouring books for adults. I was in a publishing meeting with an online bookshop and my manager was discussing which of our books would be suitable for their customers, and the book buyer mentioned that adult colouring books were doing particularly well. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I looked them up as soon as I got home…

Adults Love Colouring Too! (Plus win a set of #ColourMeMindful books)

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Behold the Pretty Books! / June Book Haul

Behold the Pretty Books! / June Book Haul
Here’s some of the books I acquired in June!

Jim gave me his spare copy of A Darker Shade of Magic because I really need to read one of V.E. Schwab’s books soon, especially after enjoying one of her London events recently. Daphne also gave away The Apple Tart of Hope, a gorgeous book that caught my eye a while ago, and Kate gave me The Opposite of Loneliness and The Potion Diaries! I can’t decide whether to thank or blame my friends for adding to my mountain of books. I also went to two lovely launch parties last month: Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season (review here) and Non Pratt’s Remix (review here) – two very different but excellent books!

Behold the Pretty Books! / June Book Haul

I attended a blogger breakfast at Walker Books and was given The Next Together, Drop and a beautiful new crossover edition of City of Bones. I was also sent The Extra for review, about a young girl selected by Hitler’s favourite filmmaker to work as an extra on her new film. As it’s the season for publishing parties, I was also invited to Chapter 5’s blogger event and picked up TimeBomb, Dreamland, End of Days (the last book in the Angelfall series) and Lauren Oliver’s new middle grade novel, The Shruken Head. We also got to hear from Jodi Picoult and her daughter Samantha Van Leer about their new book, Off the Page. Thank you, lovely publishers!

The Accident Season Launch

I meant to stay away from NetGalley and Edelweiss, but soon as you log in, it’s impossible not to click! I couldn’t resist downloading some contemporary YA novels: Fire Colour One Emmy & Oliver, Between The Notes, The Lies About Truth, A Step Toward Falling, Truest, What’s Broken Between Us, Blue, The Night We Said Yes and Between Us and the Moon – I’m set for the summer!

Have you read any of these?

Behold the Pretty Books! / June Book Haul Continue reading

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Classic #6)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Classic #6)

Shelved: Classic
Published: 11th July 1960
Rating: ★★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #6 / Re-Read Challenge – #1
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my sixth post for the 2015 Classics Challenge (and technically my first post for the Re-Read Challenge)!  It’s not too late to join me (and 190+ other people) in reading one classic per month.

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel – a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice and hypocrisy.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in August 2010 and was looking forward to coming back to it nearly five years later. It was one of the few classics I had read at that point (although I was doing well that summer, having also just read A Clockwork Orange and The Great Gatsby). I’m not sure how I discovered it. It’s another classic that I feel I’ve always known, but photos and quotes from the book kept popping up on Tumblr, so perhaps that’s what spurred me to read it for the first time.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I have wanted to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird for a while (and it’s about time I picked up a book for the Re-Read Challenge!). I picked it to be my June classic because I wanted to make sure I read ahead of Go Set a Watchman, the newly discovered sequel set 20 years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ll also be watching the film adaptation this evening!

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Even if you’re already aware of the tensions that occurred in the Deep South during the 1930s (and continued through to the 1970s), To Kill a Mockingbird brings history to life in a compassionate and memorable way.

To Kill a Mockingbird is part coming-of-age novel and part cautionary tale about race and class, and the injustice that often comes with it. It’s an example of how foolish – and certainly persistent – prejudice is, especially when two young children can see the absurdity of it more than their adult counterparts. Even so, Scout and Jem are guilty of making judgements about people themselves and are taught to recognise this by their father, Atticus Finch.

To Kill a Mockingbird still has a lot of offer 50 years after publication. From the mystery surrounding Boo Radley and seeing Scout and Jem begin to better understand the intentions of the people in their small-town community, to the powerful case of Tom Robinson and the defense trial spearheaded by Atticus Finch, it still packs an emotional punch.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I am relieved to say that I loved it even more than when I read it the first time. I am always worried that I won’t enjoy a book the second time around, especially if it’s a favourite. But thankfully To Kill a Mockingbird holds its own.

As I read many more children’s books now than I did five years ago, I appreciated and enjoyed Scout’s voice even more, although she was always my favourite character. She vividly retells the events in To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult, reflecting upon them as experienced as a young child. I love Scout’s curiosity, humour and confidence, and I adore her complex and thoughtful relationships with everyone around her. I enjoy inquisitive characters and Scout rarely accepts what she’s told as fact – especially when it’s demanded that she has to stop reading and writing!

Even thought I already knew the outcome of To Kill a Mockingbird, it didn’t stop me from hoping and feeling the frustration and injustice that is felt by Atticus, Scout, Jem and Dill. It didn’t stop me from being unable to put the book down.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing”.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I do hope so. It’s just turned 55 years old, so it’s still a ‘young’ classic, but I doubt (sadly) that many of its lessons will stop being relevant in the future. My only worry is that Go Set a Watchman won’t live up to its predecessor, but I’m still looking forward to heading back to Maycomb. You can read the first chapter here.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love books from the point of view of a child. People who love Taylor Swift (because it’s her favourite book!). People who want to delve into modern classics. People who love history.

Have you signed up to the 2015 Classics Challenge?

Top Ten / Popular Books on My TBR

Top Ten / Popular Books on My TBR
It’s Top Ten Tuesday and today’s topic is Top Ten Hyped Books I’ve Never Read. I thought I’d change it a little – I looked at my Goodreads ‘to read’ shelf (physical books sitting on my to be read (TBR) pile) and picked out the ten most popular books, sorted by the number of ratings each book had.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (1,219,071 ratings)
I picked this up secondhand after watching the movie adaptation. I knew it was a popular book, but I’m surprised it’s the most popular out of 310 books!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (1,034,651)
I bought Gone Girl nearly two years ago along with Sharp Objects and Dark Places. I meant to read it before the movie adaptation, but obviously that went out of the window. I still want to even though I know the twist!

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (983,097)
One day I will start my A Song of Ice and Fire box set. One day.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez (461,624)
Perhaps a perfect choice for the 2015 Classics Challenge?

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (459,201)
Another one I picked up from a secondhand bookshop – and one my mum would probably love.

Divine Secrets Of The Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (417,610)
I am surprised this is one of the most read books on my TBR because I was only vaguely aware of it before I bought it. I was swayed by the Southern setting!

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (362,597)
I’ve heard a lot of excellent things about The Infernal Devices series, even from people who didn’t enjoy The Mortal Instruments. And it’s set in London!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (339,222)
A book that combines my love of books with my interest in the Second World War. I really ought to read this one soon.

Atonement by Ian McEwan (303,873)
Another book I picked up secondhand after seeing the adaptation. I remember discovering my copy on a book stall that my university ran during the week.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith (252,989)
And lastly, a book that’s high up on my classics list – a young adult, coming-of-age classic that I hope to read this year.

Have you read any of these?

Top Ten / Popular Books on My TBRTop Ten / Popular Books on My TBR

Hooray! It’s Summer!

Hooray! It's Summer!
I love, love, love YA contemporary books and as it’s now summer, it’s the perfect time to read them! I came across a post I wrote nearly two years ago entitled Hey, Look. It’s Summer! where I picked out some contemporary books to read and I thought I’d do the same again. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that one book makes a reappearance… Click on the title to go to read more about the book on Goodreads.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
It’s unfathomable that I have not yet read this because I adored Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer.

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt
I was hooked as soon as I read the words ‘road trip’.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen is hailed as the queen of summer reads and I can’t wait to read her latest.

Forever by Judy Blume
I picked Forever as my July book for the 2015 Classics Challenge! I read Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret last summer and really enjoyed it.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
This sounds like a delightful summery coming-of-age graphic novel.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
IT’S JUST ALL SO CUTE. I love the colour scheme of My Life Next Door – baby blue and yellow. Can you even get any more summery? I will finally read this.

And that’s it! I can’t wait. Have you read any of these?

If you’re in the summer mood, here’s a few more books from my ‘to read’ list: How To Be Bad, Love Bomb, Vanishing Girls, Have a Little Faith, The Miseducation of  Cameron Post, This Song Will Save Your Life, Vivian Versus the Apocalypse, Time Between Us, Roomies, The Age of Miracles, Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, All That Glitters, Fish Out of Water, The Geography of Me and You, Emmy & Oliver, Blue, The Night We Said Yes and Between Us and the Moon.

Hooray! It's Summer! Continue reading

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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

I picked up Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda after nearly all my friends had read it and said how awesome it was. And they were right.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda throws us into the relatively normal life of Simon Spier. Simon loves Oreos, listening to Elliot Smith, making references to Harry Potter… and boys. But not everyone knows about that last part. Simon is sixteen years old and gay, and the only person who knows is Blue. Blue is the pseudonym of a boy – a smart, Half-Jewish grammar nerd – from school who Simon has been chatting to via email. Simon doesn’t even know if he has met him and yet he feels like he can be himself around Blue more than anyone elseand Simon finds himself falling for him. Problem is, what can he do about it when Blue could be walking past him every day without knowing?

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an adorable contemporary romance, with many ‘squee’ moments. I loved reading Simon and Blue’s email exchange and seeing them become more honest about how they feel for each other as they revealed more and more, even without technically knowing the other’s real identity (“The closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal is probably you”). It reminded me of when I was a teenager and the friendships that formed through now-defunct instant messaging. I used to type and type and type, and I’m still friends with some of those people years later. But Simon’s in trouble. A classmate has discovered his emails and is threatening to post them on the school Tumblr unless Simon sets him up with one of his best friends, Abby. And he’s trying to deal with his other best friends Nick and Leah at the same time – how is he going to come out to people who have known him his whole life?

I adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda not because of the mystery surrounding Blue – although I was keen to find out who he really was (and I didn’t guess!) – but because there’s no major twists. No major drama, adventure or death. It’s simply about Simon growing up and navigating the world of school, family, friends – and himself. Simon isn’t a wholly likeable character, if I’m being completely honest. As we’re constantly in his head, we see the judgements he makes about people all the while worrying about being judged himself. But that’s because he’s an authentic character struggling to make sense of himself as much as he is everyone else. I also enjoyed seeing something rare in YA: a brilliant relationship between a teenager and his parents.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a majorly cute LGBT romance with awesome friends, many adorable moments, and a lot of laughs.

Published: 7th April 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books (UK) Balzer + Bray (US)
Pages: 320
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Book Review: Cowgirl by G. R. Gemin

Book Review: Cowgirl by G. R. Gemin

Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I wanted to read something a little lighter than my previous read, The Girl on the Train. Cowgirl was the perfect choice – authentic, charming and narrated by a relatable, standout voice. It cheered me right up.

I’m not particularly a fan of cows. I’m a London girl who hasn’t had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with them, although I’d occasionally see them from my university residence in the middle of the South Downs National Park. I had to cautiously tiptoe past them on the way to the tea shop with my friends. I mean, they’re huge. But Cowgirl made me wish I had a cow in my back garden.

I’ll start from the beginning. Gemma lives on the Mawr Estate in South Wales, a small, close-knit but impoverished community. Gemin does a fabulous job of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. It reminded me of growing up in London and being somewhat aware of the poverty and crime – and amount of diversity within the city – but not fully understanding it enough for it to affect the way I lived my life. Gemma doesn’t have a lot of money, her brother loves nothing more than to torment her, and her Dad has been in prison for so long that she is struggling to connect with him. But she can deal with it all as long as she has her bike – Gemma often takes it out into the Welsh countryside, away from everything and everyone.

Gemma’s part of the popular crowd but all that changes when she reluctantly becomes friends with an outsider known as Cowgirl, a quiet girl who works on her family’s farm and whose job is to look after the cows. As Gemma gets to know Cowgirl and her family a little bit better – spurred on by her outspoken Gran – she goes on an incredibly mad mission to help her new friend, save a herd of cows, and revive the community she loves.

Cowgirl was a delight to read, covering some pretty serious issues, and tackling them responsibly, while sending the reader on a hilarious, uplifting adventure. I can see why it’s up for the Branford Boase Award 2015. Funny and heartwarming, Cowgirl is a contemporary middle grade story that people of any age should pick up when they’re having a bad day.

Published: 26th March 2014
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Pages: 272