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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Tuesday 17 February 2015

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

There's a reason that this book has received so many gleaming reviews and is celebrated by so many. In ten days I was transported to 1930s Nazi Germany and fell in love with the story of Liesel Meminger, the book thief.
Firstly, we're introduced to Death. He explains that he is tired of his job and in desperate need of a holiday, but who else would carry the souls the same way that he could? In order to avoid distractions, he rarely looks down at the people who are left behind. The worst part of his job is not collecting the souls of the dead, but glancing down at the pain-stricken family and friends who have been left to grieve. 

He prefers to look at the colour of the sky, until he meets Liesel and steals her notebook. The young girls spirit and passion for words enchants him and he retells her story. Liesel has already seen more than any ten year old should have. The death of her brother haunts her, providing her with the most epic and frightening nightmares.

Her mother gives her up to a foster family, due to her ill-health and she is never seen or heard from again. Although her new carers love Liesel, there's still something missing. Set in Germany in 1939, she is apart of the Hitler Youth and the majority of the nation has been brainwashed by the words of Hitler. 

This novel explores the beauty and the power that words can have. They can control a whole nation, but they can awaken people, too. Liesel finds her place and purpose in words and begins stealing novels. First to help her to read and then to offer an escape. They will eventually lead her into telling her own story.

Markus introduces a wide range of characters and families. Each with their own problems and each psychologically whole. It can often be difficult for an author to include so many different characters and have the reader keep up, but he does this flawlessly. Liesel's relationships with her Papa, her best friend, Rudy and Jewish boy, Max become central to the story. It's wonderful to see each one unfold and develop.

It's a strange mix of humour, devastation and hope. You'll feel a wide scope of emotions when reading this novel. I cried because I was heartbroken, but I also cried because I was relieved. (Disclaimer: there was a lot of crying!)

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think?
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Sunday 15 February 2015

Showcase Sunday #17: Winter Siege

Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman*
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!

Happy Sunday, bookworms. 

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I had a great time in Chester with my Mom. Unlike most, I wasn't celebrating Valentine's Day but my mother's birthday. I treated her to a meal at Carluccio's and we picked up quite a few bargains at Cheshire Oakes along the way. 

For me, a beautiful green coat, a pair of pointed boots, a floral skirt and trousers, and for mom a brand new suit and two new pairs of shoes. The ultimate girly weekend before I move out!

As for books, I am still going strong on my six-month book buying ban and avoided every Waterstones, WHSmiths and independent book shop I passed (which was very difficult, and goes against everything I believe in!) However, I did receive Winter Siege from Transworld Publishing* this week, that has kept my book buying at bay.

Winter Siege is a medieval thriller that was written by Ariana Franklin, who is known for her historical crime novels. Sadly, her death in 2011 meant that this novel may never have been published, had it not been finished by her daughter, Samantha Norman.

The narrative follows a mercenary who watches as a little girl is attacked by his own men. For some reason, he is powerless to stop them. However, a twist of fate brings them back together and he knows that he must protect her. 

Winter Siege seems unlike anything else I've read before and I'm really looking forward to starting it.

What books have you bought/received this week?

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