Friday 8 May 2015

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Sunday 3 May 2015

Showcase Sunday #18: My Mad Fat Teenage Diary by Rae Earl

Showcase Sunday is hosted by the lovely Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea. It's a chance for bloggers to show of their weekly book swag and an opportunity to meet other bloggers and talk about all things bookish!
I have a confession to make, I bought a book! A few months ago, this wouldn't have been a problem, in fact, it would have been commonplace. (I used to like to think that I single-handedly kept Waterstones in business.) However, at the beginning of the year, I vowed to not buy any books for six months in an attempt to save money, test my will and make a significant dent in my TBR pile.
But, as you can see, that hasn't gone to plan. While waiting for a friend of mine this week, I found my way into a Cancer Research charity shop and sitting right in front of me was My Mat Fat Teenage Dairy for just £1.50! Who could honestly resist such a bargain?!

I'm still going to try to stick to buying less books until the ban is lifted in July, however, I'm still quite proud that I managed to stay out of book shops for this long. It's already a giant improvement!

The plot:

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary is the real published journal of Rae, a boy-crazed 17 year old living with her crazy mom and fighting some serious body issues. She is a sarcastic and cynical girl who takes herself very seriously.

I'm only a few pages in at the moment but I'm already realy enjoying it. And, although embarrassing to admit, I can see myself a lot in Rae when I was her age. It should be an interesting read for anyone who has kept a diary in their younger years. 

What books have you borrowed, received or bought this week?
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Saturday 2 May 2015

What I'm reading in May

I must admit, one of my favourite times is towards the end of the month when I get to choose which books I plan on reading. I know that I probably won't read all of them, but it's so satisfying to form a book list. I can't function if I don't have a list!
Last month was another crazy one for me, so I only managed to read two books; Tampa by Alissa Nutting and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Now things have settled down again, I'm looking forward to devouring more books. 

What I'm reading: 

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary by Rae Earl 

Rae is a boy-crazed 17 year old trying to find her place in the world. After a short stint in a psychiatric ward, she is ready to start college, lose her virginity and tackle her body issues. I fell in love with the TV series when it first aired in 2013, and was delighted when I found out that the show was based on the published diary of the real-life Rae. I can't wait to start reading this!

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lawycka
I haven't read any Marina Lewycka books before but I'm always excited to read work from funny female authors. This story is about two sisters who put their problems aside to save their engineer father from a gold-digging wife. My favourite type of narrative is about families and complex relationships, so this sounds right up my street.

Snow in Hell by Sophie Sparham

This is one I planned to read last month, but didn't get the chance to. Snow in Hell is Sophie's debut novel filled with necromancers, vampires and angels. I actually went to university with Sophie and can vouch for her stunning imagination. This will be the first book I've read that has been written by someone that I actually know!

World War Z by Max Brooks

I've wanted to read this book since the film version was release. A dear friend of mine read it a while ago and has been pestering me to do the same ever since. It reads as if a journalist has interviewed many different people to provide documentation for future generations, which I think is a great concept. I've not read many zombie books, so this will be a first for me.
What will you be reading this month?

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Thursday 30 April 2015

April book round up

Phew! Is it just me, or has this month flown by? This whole year in fact. It seems like only yesterday when I was planning for the new year. 

This month has been another manic one, I haven't had a moment to take a breath since I moved into my flat in March. But thankfully things seem to be slowing down to an acceptable pace again. (Still being a very busy bee, but a less frantic one.)

I've only managed to read half of the books on my list this month (due to the aforementioned craziness) but the books that I have read have been stunning! Tampa by Alissa Nutting and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay certainly didn't disappoint. You can read my full reviews, here:

Tampa by Alissa Nutting
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

What have you been reading this month?

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Tuesday 21 April 2015

Review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Warning: may contain spoilers

Katniss Everdeen returns in the explosive Hunger Games finale, Mockingjay. It contains all of the thrills and drama we've come to expect from the series, with a lot of surprises along the way. In fact, my boyfriend kept poking fun at all of the different facial expressions I kept making while engrossed in this book. I'm sure I expressed a wide collection of emotions! 

Picking up from Catching Fire, Katniss learns that her hometown, District 12, has been destroyed by the Capitol. She is thrust into the world of District 13 and the secret rebels who plan to overthrow President Snow and end The Hunger Games forever.

Katniss is chosen as the 'mockingjay', thanks to her iconic badge, the face of the revolution. Mockingjay has a very different feel than the previous two books (which I loved! You can check out the review here and here). The war rages on, and although we see a lot of strength from various characters, we see a more vulnerable Katniss. Some readers were disappointed by this, expecting her to be the strong and fearless girl she was in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, however, I think Mockingjay brought a more realistic element to the "girl on fire".

When put into context, Katniss had survived two arenas, watched countless people die, saw her friends tortured and saw her hometown burned to the ground. But she still managed to come out of the other side. In doesn't matter if her fire isn't as strong, the fact that she still has some left is remarkable! 

I really enjoyed Mockingjay as it gave you a perspective as to what happened after the games and what the real motives were. There's a real power struggle between President Snow and President Coin of District 13, who Katniss doesn't know if she can trust. This element was a great edition to the series.

The only thing that got slightly tedious was the love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta. And although I loved reading about her complicated and deep history with both boys (I'm team Peeta, in case you were wondering), I felt like shouting "come on, there's more important things to think about! Like the war!"

Overall, a great book and a brilliant end to a great series. I can't wait to see the second instalment of the film in November!

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Wednesday 15 April 2015

30 day journal challenge

It's no secret that I own a lot of notebooks. I've got piles and piles of pretty books just waiting to be written in. However, like a lot of others, most of my notebooks go untouched (particularly the prettiest ones). I can't stand the idea of 'ruining' a journal with something less than perfect.

I also believe that every notebook should have a theme. My worst nightmare is having absolutely everything in one pad. You can't have creative writing and shopping lists in one book! Unfortunately, this stunts me from actually using them in the way that Paperchase intended. So, I'm going to make a change!

It's been months since I completed NaNoWriMo and I've gradually fallen out of the routine of writing, which isn't good when you're trying to write a book. So to kill two birds with one pen, I've decided to take on a 30 day journal challenge. 

Each day, I'll write down a thought, an opinion or anything else that I fancy, so long as I'm writing everyday for a month. I think this will be a fun way to ease myself back into my writing routine, as well as forcing myself to write in my notebooks! 

If I can give up fizzy drinks for six weeks and write 50,000 words in a month, I think I should be able to do this! 

Have you completed a journal challenge?

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Monday 13 April 2015

Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Tampa is not for the faint-hearted as I found out when I started reading it last week. It's clear to see why it was coined as the "most controversial book of the summer" in 2013. In Alissa Nutting's debut novel, she tackles the taboo topic of pedophilia from the perspective of beautiful teacher, Celeste Price.

While Tampa was predicted to be the must-have beach book when it was first published, the subject matter unapologetically makes the reader uncomfortable (really uncomfortable!) Graphic sex scenes between a 26 year old woman and a prepubescent schoolboy isn't the easiest of topics to read about, particularly not on your morning commute!

It is clear that Alissa was influenced by Lolita and American Psycho, Celeste is a sociopath with intense desires and opinions. However, we see the world through her eyes, an uncomfortable place for the reader and it forces you to tackle the social statement Alissa Nutting intended head on.

Tampa is based on a the real-life case of Debra Lafave, who Alissa went to school with. Despite her inappropriate relationship with an underage student, Debra was deemed "too pretty" to go to prison, and although was put on three years house arrest, she served no jail time.

The story makes an example of how much physically attractiveness can benefit you, despite your crimes. Celeste uses her beauty to manipulate those around her to get what she wants, and what she wants most of all is the touch of young boys. I dare say that there would have been very different consequences if the genders were reversed and the beauty taken away.

Tampa is beautifully written, and although a disturbing read, the message behind it is demonstrated perfectly. I'll be very sad to take this book back to the library.

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Friday 10 April 2015

A day at Disney on Ice

Last Friday, I consciously choose to be around a bunch of screaming children (and adults alike) when I went to Disney on Ice!

In an attempt to relive our childhood, my dear friend Hayley and I enthusiastically ran through the gates at the NEC, Birmingham. We'd resisted the urge to don a the princess dress (unfortunately, my full length Snow White costume is still at my Mom's house...) however, we certainly made up for it at the merchandise stands!

We each bought a Chip teacup, which were almost swiped by the adorable girl sitting next to us, and a gold princess necklace each. I went with Ariel and she bought Rapunzel.

The show itself was spectacular. The shortened versions of The Little Mermaid, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast and Frozen each took my breath away. The dancers were so graceful and the stories remained true to the films. There were even some impressive acrobatic movements through into the mix with Ariel suspending herself from the ceiling.

The atmosphere was amazing and singing Let it Go at the top of my lungs along with a huge audience was amazing. I'd definitely recommend catching it if you get chance!

What's your favourite Disney story?

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Monday 6 April 2015

What I'm reading in April

Now that the dust has settled from moving house, I feel that I can finally get back to reading! It's been a while since I've been able to spend time with my beloved books. We all know that I love a list, and forward planning my reads, so let's get down to what's in store this month!

I received a beautiful package from one of my university friends, who has now written (and published!) a book. Snow in Hell is Sophie's debut novel which explores a gothic world of vampires, necromancers and hooded deceivers. I'm already intrigued! 

Midwinderblood is another fantastical book that I'll be reading. It's based in 2073 where nobody ages and no children are born. And to finish off the surreal and dystopian theme, I'll finally be finishing The Hunger Games trilogy! I've loved the previous books (you can find my reviews here and here) so I'm really looking forward to seeing how the series is tied up in Mockingjay.

Tampa is also on my list and the only book that doesn't fit the theme. It explores the complex and perverse relationship between a young teacher and her students. It's received a lot of rave reviews and was described by Dazed & Confused as "dangerous fiction".

What are you planning to read this month?

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Monday 23 March 2015

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help transports its readers back to 1960s Mississippi and introduces three inspiring, strong and intelligent women. Two black maids, Aibileen and Minnie, and a young white woman, Skeeter. The three become unlikely friends as their lives unfold and intertwine on the page.

Sometimes it was a very hard read. We're told about how a young black man was beaten so viciously that he lost his sight. His only crime was that he accidentally used a white man's bathroom. It's hard to stomach and to think that these acts of violence and hatred were a normal part of society.

However, it's not all about the mistreatment and oppression of black people, there was some very touching stories about friendship, loyalty and standing up for what you believe in. Aibileen is an incredible nanny and becomes close to each white child she takes care of, trying to teach them self-love and kindness towards others. Minnie is sassy and suffers no fools but underneath her hard exterior there is a kind and gentle person who would do absolutely anything for someone she cares about.

Skeeter helps them to put their stories into words. They write a book together about their experiences as maids and hope that it someday might get published with the intent that Mississippi will then start to change.

Kathryn Stockett did an incredible job bringing these bold characters to life. We're given the perspective of each of the women through the book and even without being told, it was clear who was narrating as they each had a distinctive voice and thought pattern.

In the epilogue I learned that Kathryn grew up with a black maid herself, one she was very close to. I started to draw similarities between her real life and the book. This made the story a lot more touching for me. I loved it and found myself experiencing a mix of emotions towards the end! 

Have you read The Help? What did you think?

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Saturday 21 March 2015

But first, let me take a shelfie


It looks like I've finally gotten herself a bookshelf! (Rather fitting really given the name of the blog!) My boyfriend and I finally moved into our new flat a couple of weeks ago and it's beginning to look a lot like home. 

Naturally, the first thing I unpacked was my books to fill our beautifully tall case. I've never actually had a bookshelf of my own before, just multiple DIY shelves in my room and ever-grown piles littering the floor. So I was over the moon when we realised that we'd get this bookcase in our flat when we moved in. 

I found sorting through each book and finding a place for it very soothing, and can imagine rearranging them being such a relaxing process. Of course, some of the boy's books managed to sneak their way in too. (some!) and we've decorated it with little bric-a-brac pieces. 

It was definitely one of my favourite parts of moving out!

How do you organise your books?

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Monday 23 February 2015

Second chance books

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that I'm moving out with my boyfriend in just under two weeks time (!!) It's all very exciting and I'm really enjoying choosing out bed quilts and pillows. Greg's constantly reminding me to think about the "essentials" like kettles and hoovers, but I can't help myself. I can't wait to fill up the place with pretty pictures and accessories!

As I'm slowly making my way through packing, I'm doing a lot of clearing out. The first thing I turned to was my beloved bookshelf. I've managed to bag up a lot of old books and novels that I didn't enjoy or grown out of, ready for a charity shop. However, I saved three from their fate.

These are the books that I struggled to read for quite a few different reasons, but just because I couldn't get my head around them the first time, doesn't mean they're not great books. All of these have either critical and cult acclaim and I think I should give them a second look before letting them go. 

I always think back to when I was reading Catcher in the Rye. I hated it. I didn't like the main character and I didn't really get the point of the plot, but as I stuck with it, I realised what a brilliant book it actually was. I went from loathing to loving in the space of just one chapter!

When I first tried to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn last year, I couldn't get to grips with the racist language that was casually used. This would have been true and acceptable at the time, but as a reader living in the 21st century, I found it very difficult to accept. However, it's deemed a classic tale and is loved by many. 

Whereas Cloud Atlas, I just found difficult in general. The language seemed stuffy and overtly complicated. There's also a variety of different perspectives and stories, it was hard to keep up. 

The same goes for Trainspotting, however there was the added obstacle of phonetic language. Some of the chapters are written in the Scottish accent. You'll often find yourself reading aloud to fully understand what's written when reading this book. 

However, I'm looking forward to rereading these books and seeing if my perspective is changed. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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Saturday 21 February 2015

Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Craig appears to have it all. He's got a supportive family, a group of close friends and he attends ones of the most prestigious schools in New York. If all goes well, he'll be heading to Wall Street in no time, bringing home a ridiculous amount of money and not having a care in the world. 
But, it's not as simple as that. 
He has suicidal thoughts - intense ones. He can't eat anything without throwing it back up, he can't sleep and he can't get his mind to stop racing at every opportunity. He traces every wrong decision and every mistake to its worst possible outcome. If he doesn't get a 100% in an exam, he'll convince himself that he will become homeless and die alone. 
These overwhelming pressures lead him to a psychiatric ward, and due to hospital refurbishments, the teenage patients are put into the adult ward. He meets people there that he would never of had the chance to before, and they change his perspective entirely. It turns out that a short stay in Six North hospital is just what he needs. Away from the stress of school, he is able to focus on finding the root of his depression.
It's Kind of a Story tackles a lot of serious issues, however, there is humour buried beneath them. I was on the verge of bursting into hysterics and crying on quite a few occasions. The aspects of mental health are presented with authenticity and regardless of whether you suffer with depression, I can guarantee that you'll find certain parts uncomfortably relatable. 
I later found out that Ned Vizzini spent some time in a psychiatric ward himself, battling his own demons. Unfortunately, he took his life in 2013. It really upsets me to think that this novel has more than likely helped readers who deal with mental illness but it failed to help the author.
A truly beautiful book - one that will stay with me for a long time. 

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Thursday 19 February 2015

Book Extract: Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

I'm very excited to announce my part in the Conspiracy Girl blog tour! The latest Sarah Alderson book, published by Simon & Schuster UK is now available and to celebrate I'm offering an exclusive extract to give you a taste of what's to come. 

Today we'll be taking a look at the synopsis, an exclusive extract and there will even be chance to enter a competition to get your hands on Sarah Alderson goodies.


Everybody knows about the Cooper Killings.

There was only one survivor – fifteen year-old Nic Preston.

Now eighteen, Nic is trying hard to rebuild her life. But then one night her high-security apartment is broken into. It seems the killers are back to finish the job.

Finn Carter – hacker, rule breaker, player – is the last person Nic ever wants to see again. 

He’s the reason her mother’s murderers walked free. But as the people hunting her close in, Nic has to accept that her best chance of staying alive is by staying close to Finn.

And the closer they get to the truth, and to each other, the greater the danger becomes.


Dont be mad,’ I say. I needed to run a tracer on your emails, see if anyone had hacked into your account.
Besides you, you mean?
Yeah,’ I admit.
She glares at me but I ignore it. I was only trying to look out for her. Its not like I was stalking her. So who is he?’ I ask.
Like you dont know already,’ she snorts.
 I try not to smile or laugh. OK, yeah, you got me,’ I admit. I ran a check on him. Of course I did. I ran checks on everyone you came into contact with over the last four years. But theres something about this guy Marcus that doesnt add up.’ I wonder if nows a good time to mention the waxing.
What?’ she says, laughing scornfully. Are you suggesting that Marcus is in on all this somehow?
Hes studying orthodontistry, and has a totally clean record,’ I say.
And?’ she asks, staring at me in total disbelief.
Youre seriously dating the guy?’ I ask, frowning at her. He kind of looks...
He looks what?’ she asks, her voice hitching up a notch.
Im starting to wish I hadnt brought this up. But I have, so I may as well follow through. Just,’ I say, looking for the right words, he doesnt seem like your type.
Her mouth drops open before she clamps it shut. How do you know what my type even is?’ she spits. I dont have a type!
I let out a snort. Oh, yeah you do.
She blinks at me twice in astonishment. What?’ she asks. I dont know Nic Preston very well, but Im starting to know her a lot better, and I can tell that when her voice goes low and quiet like it has just now, that shes on the verge of blowing her top.
Youve rented every Ryan Gosling movie ever made in the course of the last six months. And you have a thing for period dramas. So Im thinking your type is actually pretty obvious. You want someone whos like a cross between Noah from The Notebook and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.
She doesnt talk for a few seconds and I start to think that maybe she really is about to lose her shit. I even glance around to make sure I havent left the gun lying around. Maybe I shouldnt have let it be known that I checked her Netflix subscription while I was doing background checks. She turns back to the fire, glaring into the flames and shaking her head. My god, Finn, where do you draw the line?’ she mutters.
So why are you dating him?’ I ask.
Its just a brief flash, but I swear a tiny trace of a smile appears before she stifles it. Whats it to you?’ she demands.
Nothing,’ I say. Just curious. Im gathering evidence for my theory that short, aesthetically-challenged men have to work harder to please women, and hence make better...boyfriends.
He isnt aesthetically-challenged,’ she says indignantly, but theres that smile again which shes trying desperately to suppress. He has good teeth.

About the author  

Sarah is the author of Hunting Lila (winner of the Kingston Book Award), Losing Lila, Fated, The Sound, Out of Control and Conspiracy Girl (all Simon & Schuster).
Having spent most of her life in London, Sarah quit her job in the non profit sector in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her husband and daughter on a mission to find a new place to call home (a journey that was documented on this blog and which is shortly to be turned into a book).
After almost a year spent travelling the world, they settled in Bali where they lived for five beautiful years before the vagabonding urge became too great and they decided to embark on Can We Live Here part two. They are currently located somewhere between India, London, Canada and the US.
As well as writing young adult novels and screenplays, Sarah also writes adult fiction for Pan Macmillan (Simon & Schuster in the US) under the name Mila Gray.
Her first adult novel, Come Back To Me, was published in June 2014. The second, This One Moment, will be out in August 2015.
Sarah has co-written the Hunting Lila screenplay, which is currently in the early stages of production, and continues to blog about her life and travels.

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