Sunday, 5 July 2015

Six Stories for Summer


It's been a while, hasn't it? I thought this could be a rather fitting post considering that I am now officially on a summer break from college. As I ignore the pesky assignments that are due in September, I plan on getting a tonne of reading done. Some of these books, and the ones I want to talk about in this post, are ones that I have been meaning to read forever! Summer is the best time of year to dedicate catching up on the ever-growing and towering To-Be-Read pile.

1. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Okay, who hasn't read this yet? (*Raises hand*). At the beginning of the year THIS was the YA book to be reading. But I haven't read it yet! Oops. Come on, it's about death; I need to be emotionally prepared for this roller-coaster of sobs, A.K.A: I need to by some tissues, desperately. Meanwhile, I will continue to admire the sheer and utter beauty of the cover. JUST LOOK AT IT! 

2. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Yes, I know, I know, another one that has been out for a while. I think it will be one of those books that I either find really weird or absolutely love. Set in autumn 1686, Amsterdam, an eighteen year old Nella Oortman receives a miniature version of her home. I love, love, love magic realism so I cannot wait to dive into this world. 

3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I don't know too much about this one but I want to read it. Do you ever experience that? Do you ever see a book and know that you have to read it? I've seen a lot of high ratings for it on goodreads and just want to read it too. 

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The cover of this just screams dystopia! The thing that drew me towards this book was that it involves solving clues that as a reader we are likely to know the answers to. We can actually involve ourselves in the story world without being in the story. This is a lot of people's favourite standalone so I'm hoping I'll enjoy it. 

5. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Last summer I read Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. I adore her writing. I feel like she just nails the voice of her characters perfectly for them and for us to read. I'm not a massive romance fan but with the other two books of hers you didn't have to read it for that. Sure, it was central to the plots but there are always other things going on with the characters that are just as interesting. I just enjoy being able to read her books in so many different ways. 

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

The second dystopia on this list. I plan on reading more classics over the next year but I will definitely get through this one over the summer. One thing that fascinates me about this is the naming of the characters (particularly the women) and the concepts as well as the idea of indoctrinating children to act as spies on anyone who breaks the rules of the regime. 

Thank you for reading.
Comment below with what you plan on reading over the summer months.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

My Favourite Standalones


Today I want to share with you a few of my absolute favourite standalones. In my opinion, these are all worth a five-out-of-five-star rating. All the stars! All the joy! All the best!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Wow, oh, wow. I recently read this and it is possibly my favourite book ever! The world inside the story was easy to picture; I felt like I was peering over the narrators' shoulders all the time. The story is told by three women that we learn have connected lives as the events unfold. The protagonist, Rachel, is the main narrator and she is 'The Girl on the Train'. Every morning and evening during the week she commutes to London and while doing so she always pays particular attention to a certain house she passes. 

Overall reading experience: I had a hard time putting this one down. 

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes

I've actually done a review on this one which you can read at your leisure by clicking on any part of this sentence, go on, enjoy. Anyway, this is one of those books that I really cannot compare with another. It was fantastic! This is an urban fairytale about a teenage boy who hides in an Edwardian bath house where things aren't all as they seem. Again, this one has a few narrators, but each voice has a different style and sometimes even format. 

Overall reading experience: I could quite easily read this over and over again. 

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The thing I love most about this is that you are told that the narrator's brother is dead as soon as he introduces him. But what you don't know is how his brother died. Nicely played, author, nicely played. It's written as if you are experiencing the main character's thought process. If he wants to think it, you read it. If he doesn't, you don't. The whole story feels very real rather than a work of fiction. 

Overall reading experience: I loved the characters and felt extremely involved with the story throughout. 

What's your favourite standalone?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Becoming a Reading Activist

Hello everyone,

I want to talk about a scheme that's run across many of the public libraries in the UK. It's the Reading Agency's Summer Reading Challenge. You may have heard of it before. You may have even participated in it.

The challenge is aimed at 4-11 year olds and takes place over the summer holiday. The idea is that participating children read six books over the school holidays and get to play a bit of game alongside this! Did I mention that there are prizes involved, too? The theme for this year is Record Breakers, and you can find out more information here.

Now, it's likely that you're not between the ages mentioned above and cannot take part in the challenge. However, you do have the opportunity to volunteer as a reading activist who will help run the challenge. It is primarily aimed at 14-24 year olds to help build CVs but anyone who is above the age of the children participating can volunteer if they wish to. If this interests you, please check with your local library to see if they run the challenge and are in need of volunteers.

One of the great things about volunteering for this is that is works around you. You choose when you want to volunteer and for how many hours. You can decide each week when you want to do it, or you can decide to commit to a couple of hours on the same day each week. My point is, by volunteering to help out you won't lose out on doing anything else you want to do over the summer. Most of the libraries will reward you with a certificate if you do over ten hours, and if you're doing two hours every day you do it then you only need to volunteer for five days.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Why I'm All For Paperbacks!


I've had this post idea for a while and in that time I have started to edge slightly towards hardcovers. Only slightly. It think it's because the corners don't bend as easily in my rucksack. Isn't that annoying? Anyway, I am still a paperback fan and these are my reasons why:

Lighter to carry

So you know I carry my books in my bag. That's not the only thing in my bag. I normally have folders and a huge bottle of water and it's just a delight to know that I can carry a book too without a lot more extra weight. And I always have a book with me.

No dust-jackets

This is my number one pet-peeve about hardcovers. The book bends one way and the dust-jacket goes the other, plus it slips. All. The. Time. (I normally end up just putting the dust-jacket aside until the book goes back onto the shelf once read). On the other hand, you've got your naked paper back. That's right, it's naked. It doesn't need to wear a jacket. It wears it's real cover out in the open for all eyes to see. What a beauty. 
I have a little story about dust-jackets on books. Have you heard of the Gone series by Michael Grant? Well, my copy of Plague was a hardcover and came with a dust-jacket. Yes, very nice and sophisticated. I take the dust-jacket off and the cover is upside down. Okay, okay, maybe the jacket was just on the wrong way, right? Right? No. The pages were the other way up from the cover! What?! Each time I read the book without the jacket it looked like I was reading it upside down!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Reading Positions

Drawing by Quentin Blake, from Matilda by Roald Dahl

This is a bit of a list/discussion post. We all know how hard it is to find the perfect reading position and be able to maintain it for however long it takes us to put the book in question down. Seriously, it's near impossible. You lay down in bed with your reading companion in hand, and five minutes later you're tossing and turning all over the place to get comfortable again!

This post is inspired by the illustrations by Quentin Blake in my favourite childhood book, Matilda by Roald Dahl. Leave me a comment below if you also adored this as a child.

1. The laying-in-bed style

Ohhhh yeah! That classic reading before sleeping position. Sounds like heaven. That is, until your arms hurt! Try laying on your side and half your face gets squished and you can't see one side of the book (even worse if you wear glasses and end up with half a skull of agony!). We've all been there, haven't we? Like every single night until our eyelids force themselves shut.

From Matilda

2. The sitting-in-the-armchair/sofa style

We do sometimes venture out of the comfort of our little nests (bedrooms) to read. The television sometimes come on as we are definitely certain that we can multi-task. Yes, fab. Totally works... nope. Our legs are usually curled up underneath us while we devour about a hundred pages because, let's face it, this reading position means business! You don't go into this kind of reading-position without a trusty cup of tea and some kind of fuel a.k.a. snacks and plenty of them.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Book Review: Cleo

Author: Lucy Coats
Rating: 2/5
Publication date: May 7th 2015

I was so looking forward to this and was extremely disappointed. I've never read historical Egyptian fiction before so my mind was completely open to the idea of it. Cleo is a modern twist on this and I will definitely not be basing my idea of the genre off of this one novel.

"Her precious mother is dead - and it isn't an accident! The young Cleopatra - Pharaoh's illegitimate daughter - must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis's power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis's power - on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo's powerful destiny is about to unfold..." (From Goodreads)

I found the plot incredibly anti-climatic. There's this initiation type thing concerning the character Cleo and the Goddess Isis. Now, it was set up in a very you either live or die way and yet the result was kind of brushed off as if it wasn't much of a big deal. It should have been a big deal!

I also struggled to connect with Cleo as a narrator. I found myself wanting her friend Charm to join the scene to make my reading experience slightly more enjoyable. I don't know whether it was because the voice of Cleopatra was used in a teen character or something else that makes me dislike Cleo. I just don't know. She was difficult to sympathise with. In the story she suffers from the loss of people she loves but somehow forgets about them quite easily.

This book is the first in a planned trilogy and is the ending quite obviously sets up for this as there is no real concluding chapter. I think there is potential for the next books to be more engaging than this one but I can't see myself reading them.

Overall, I liked the ideas behind the story but, for me, it just didn't work.

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Book Review: All I Know Now

Author: Carrie Hope Fletcher
Rating: 5/5

Blimey! This is such a fantastic read! While reading I felt like I was genuinely sitting down with Carrie, having a cup of tea and a chat about the ups and downs of life with a bunch of comical anecdotes tagged on.

All I Know Now is a manual for those in the 'Teen Age' who need an Honorary Big Sister to help guide them through life based on said sister's experiences. The sister, in this case, being Carrie.

The book itself is split into eight acts, each of which are based on a particular subject such as the Internet and Turning That Frown Upside Down. I thought this made the book extra fun compared to the standard chapter-per-subject idea. (It's also rather fitting considering that Carrie is Eponine of Les Mierables.)

The thing I loved about this was that it didn't feel like some flawless pro-at-life was dictating how to go about being a person. Carrie's filled this with anecdotes from her not perfect but incredibly amusing Teen Age and reflected on how she sees herself now. That's it. She is giving advice to her younger self that may help you. She doesn't sit down and say 'right, here's what I think and you better jolly well do this'. She simply explains how she thinks positivity helps and gives ideas based on her own experiences.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

My Current TBR Pile (April 2015)

My TBR pile is beginning to dwindle as it feels like forever since I last bought any new books. Some of the books I have to read are ones I've owned forever but just haven't gotten around to reading yet because other, more exciting, books fall into my hands.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Confession: I haven't read this before. I know, I know. I should have read it by now, but I just haven't. While we're here, I'm also going to admit to not having read any Jane Austen novels yet either. And swiftly moving on...

2. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I picked this up at the beginning of the year because my friend was reading it and suggested it to me. It involves a scavenger hunt surrounding books from what I can tell from the synopsis, plus a love story.

3. Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

I read the first two Hush Hush books last year but decided to take a slight break from them to read other things. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the series - because I did. I enjoyed it a lot. I just wanted to read other things before returning to these books.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Book Review: Bomb

Author: Sarah Mussi
Rating: 3/5
Publication date: May 7th 2015

When Genesis goes on an internet date she is only anxious that this latest guy won't be 'The One'. She's not at all worried about meeting a dodgy bloke or getting in too deep. And when her date appears she texts her best mate, Jackson, to let him know that she thinks this time, he just might be 'The One'. And he texts her back with a huge: I LIKE.
It's the one all right. But not in the way she expects.
For when Genesis wakes up the next day, she can't remember a thing. She can't remember where she is, or how she got there. And she can hardly move because she is strapped into some kind of body armour ... and then a voice sounds in her head: 'Get on to the 37 going north. You are strapped to a vest made entirely of explosives. At the push of one button I can detonate you right where you stand.'
To her horror, Genesis has become an agent of mass destruction. The countdown to detonation begins now... (taken from Goodreads).

I received Bomb through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and I think it may have been a draft edition due to my copy being 100 pages over what is stated on Goodreads. I'm hoping that this condensed version is a lot more gripping than what I read. I felt that some parts were extremely gripping but the whole novel lacked this on a whole. Some chapters were very much there purely for transition. 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Liebster Award Nomination!

This a bit of a personal, get-to-know-me kind of post. Recently Found Some Paper did a similar post and tagged me to answer some questions of her own (ah, exciting!). You can click here if you want to have a little browse through her post. 

So, here are the questions I have been asked by Uli.

1. What’s your favourite movie of all time?
Is it bad that I don't have an answer to this? My movie-favourite is changing constantly. I think I love a film until I watch another film and instantly have the urge to persuade everyone and anyone into watching it! Just give me all the movies and all the time to watch them! But if I have to pick just one I'll go for Matilda (sorry other favourite films). Matilda is a film I've loved watching since around the age of nine. I read the book countless times as a child and it was probably my favourite childhood story of all time, too. I remember watching the film one time when I was home from school feeling ill and watching the Bruce Bogtrotter cake eating scene really didn't help - it's safe to say I didn't watch it for a while after that. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Exam Panic: REMAIN CALM!

It's that time of year again when those of us with exams approaching start to panic as everyone around us seems to have already started revising. Have you started yet?

Luckily I only have four exams this year but there is an awful lot of things of remember: every single little feature of ten pieces for Music (why, oh why, is there no scores or tracks in the exam for these?) plus general theory; a bunch of case studies with theorists, key scenes and characters for Media Studies; quotes, criticisms and terminology for Literature; frameworks, theorists and concepts for English Language.

So here a few tips that I use to make it all seem feasible.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Book Review: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern
Rating: 5/5




Now that's an enigmatic synopsis if ever I read one! The Night Circus takes place over more than two decades around the beginning of the 20th century. Expect some Gothic codes as we are in the heart of Victorian England. Note: pay attention to those dates at the top of each chapter otherwise you will be lost time-wise in this world.

The main concept is that there is a game. A game that started when six year old Celia Bowen was given back to her father, Prospero the Enchanter (and yes, that Shakespeare reference is intended and Prospero does try to call her Miranda). The opposing contender is called upon by a mysterious man in a grey suit who presents Marco. The game itself is unknown to both the players and us as readers throughout most of the novel. We know, and they know, that there is a game. But neither us know what that game is or when it will happen.

The circus itself is there venue for the game, although that is not its only function; it is a fully running circus full of illusionists, contortionists and alike. The circus is the central point for all the individual vines of plot to congregate and join together. This was something I adored about the book because there was always something happening even if it was the subtlest thing!

If you're looking for a plot-driven and fast-paced read then this may not be quite for you. The Night Circus requires dedication to read as it's not one of those books you can just read a chapter of and stop. You really need to sit down for a couple of hours and read a hundred or so pages to appreciate what is going on. Each and every detail is described to pull you into the world (you even get to taste the food, it's that great).

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Film Review: Insurgent


I have now seen Insurgent twice. The first time was on Thursday (19th March) for a 2D screening, and then I returned to the cinema with a new ticket in hand for the 3D screening yesterday (21st March).

Just to set the scene for you, the Insurgent film picks up a few days later from where the Divergent film ended (in the books, there was no time shift). Tris and Four (and Caleb) are seeking refuge in Amity whilst she finds herself suffering over the deaths of her parents and Will.

There are mixed reviews about Insurgent out there but I definitely think it was a huge step up from the first film. The main thing that stood out for me was set design. In Divergent I felt that the Dauntless compound was kind of pathetic: there was zero life and it didn't stand out whatsoever. In Insurgent, Erudite, Candor and Amity were all so unique and distinct from each other but also stood out.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Book Review: Mind Games

Author: Teri Terry
Rating: 4/5

Mind Games is a dystopian thriller which takes the idea of living virtually to the extreme. With a theme of "what makes you different makes you dangerous" it is perfect for fans of Veronica Roth's Divergent series.

"Luna has always been able to exist in virtual and real worlds at the same time, a secret she is warned to keep. She hides her ability by being a Refuser: excluded by choice from the virtual spheres others inhabit.
But when she is singled out for testing, she can't hide any longer.
The safest thing to do would be to fail, to go back to a dead-end life, no future. But Luna is starting to hope for something better, and hope is a dangerous thing..." 

I received an uncorrected proof copy through Goodreads so my opinion is not based on the final version of the novel. Also it's worth mentioning that Teri Terry is the author of the well-known Slated series, and there are some allusions to this in Mind Games.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Book Review: Portal 24

Author: Meredith Stroud
Rating: ★★★☆

Portal 24 is a Young Adult sci-fi novel which plays with the idea of time travel. The story is set around the life of teenage con-artist, Darius, in the city of Memphis. On the hot streets he cheats tourists out of their money to make a living for himself. When a mysterious woman starts following him in her car he thinks he might just have been caught for his trickery, but she turns out to be quite the opposite. She comes with a dangerous message and offers to recruit Darius into the world of Project Oberon - an organisation capable of time-travel in order to save disasters. Though there is a limit to their time travelling: they can only go back by twenty four hours and then time is up.

After having a read through Portal 24 I had mixed feelings over the plot. I thought some aspects were intriguing whilst I felt other aspects could have been further explored. In my opinion, some of the supporting characters such as Constance, Leon and Malik could have been further developed because by the end of the book we still don't know a great deal about them other than their fighting abilities.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Inside Out (Book Tag)

This week I have a book tag coming at you. It was originally created by Booktuber MathomBooks, and it's an acronym style tag.

Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough? (Discuss)

Not enough! What is this trend of just slapping reviews on the back cover? It's great that so-and-so thought it was flipping marvellous but that tells me nothing about the story. I want to know what happens, the name of the character, what the world is like! The book shop might say it's a thriller but is it? Is it really? What kind of thriller is it? Someone give me a summary and tell me! 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Book Review: The Token

Author: Natasha Rogue
Rating: ★★★★☆
The Token is a fantasy novel intertwined with romance, a classic mix for YA fiction. The main character, Callie, labels herself as a typical sixteen year old apart from her one true talent for singing.  She gets caught up in a love triangle involving a childhood friend and her best friend's brother (let the screaming drama begin). But nothing is all as it seems as Callie starts to notice suspicious behaviour from almost all her peer students at school including her best friend, Tammy. 

I loved reading this. I would have given it five stars but I'm not sure I would read it again as one of the great things about the narrative is the mystery of who all the characters are. At first, I thought it would be another okay-ish read but honestly? I could not stop reading! There are so many plot twists but not enough to overwhelm you. As you read through the story, the person who we think is the villain is suddenly the good guy and another person takes his/her place.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

My Most Anticipated Book-to-Film Adaptations 2015

This year I've already been to the cinema a bunch of times to see the latest films including The Theory of Everything and Into the Woods to name but a few. But what I want to talk about is the upcoming book-to-film adaptations due to come to screen this year.

Insurgent (20th March)

I'm extremely excited to see Insurgent come to the screen as I believe the change in director has resulted in a better adaptation than Divergent was. Veronica Roth announced that the box in the trailer is part of a scene which sees most of the simulations in one, and I think it will be interesting to see how the film recreates those. 

Naomi Watts as Evelyn is a casting I'm still undecided on. In the trailer she appeared, in my opinion, to be slightly too young to be Tobias' mother. Another casting I'm on edge about is Edgar. He's part of the factionless in the trailer so I have a feeling he has been used instead of Edward since the iconic butter-knife scene didn't make the final cut in the first film.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Entering the World of The Girl with All the Gifts

I recently finished reading The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey and wondered what it would be like to enter the world of the characters. The book is about a ten year-old girl, Melanie, who is a subject of scientific research due to her strength against a disease outbreak. The author takes the idea of a zombie-apocalypse world and turns it into something much more complicated with meaning and emotion.

Warning: this post contains spoilers for those who have yet to read The Girl with All the Gifts.

Let's take Melanie. She's a ten year-old girl whose only memories involve the base and the people who work/live there. Most of us would probably be terrified if an army group pointed guns at us each morning in order to tie us to a chair. Obviously she understands that she is a potential danger to these people due to her hungry need to devour human flesh but she is still an extremely audacious girl. I can guarantee that if I were in her position I would not feel able to tease Sergeant Parks in a way alike to her.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Book Review: Peilis

Author: Kit Masters
Publication date: 31st July 2013
Rating: ★★★☆☆

   Last year I won Kit Master's novel entitled Peilis through a goodreads give-away via the website's First Reads scheme. I put off reading until this year as it is so different to what I usually read.

   The title comes from the Lithuanian term for knife which is a huge theme throughout the novel. Told from a twenty-nine year old teacher's point of view, the story explores the dangers of adolescent school chaos. This narrator is very much an observer who exposes the reader to the social infection which is rapidly tearing through the education system.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Journey

   The leaves sweep across the paved path, allowing the sunrise to make an entrance. Birds scatter the planes of land searching for crumbs if golden glitter. The wind is calm with sudden rushes of speed helping the world take off for the morning. There's a mist to the land; a shade protecting us from the dangers which lie ahead.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Bookmark Making Tutorial


This week I made a few corner bookmarks and decided to create a tutorial so you too can make them.

What you'll need:

  • Plain card
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Scissors
  • Coloured paper
  • Glue stick

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Book Review: The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

Author: Caroline Smailes
Publication date: 11th April 2013
Rating: ★★★★★

   Wherever you may live there is always that one building of mystery and suspicion.  What if that building was an Edwardian bathing house called The Oracle?

   The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a contemporary fairy tale set in the familiarity of an urban territory. It is a pool of morals and consequences to dive into for the characters; each of who we get to know through the multiple narrative voice which allocates each chapter to a character and their classical element.

   The chapters are, for the most part, quite short. This makes it perfect for the busy reader. Each character has a distinct voice, and the style changes from prose and script to create a little variation.

   Smailes references Waterloo Road multiple times, using the programme length of one hour as a unit of time for Arthur. Dora the Explorer is mentioned - "I'm like Dora the Explorer but less Spanish" - which I haven't been able to get out of my mind since I came across it! The human brain is a strange but beautiful place.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Resolutions to Make and (probably) Break


By now we've all seen midnight strike on New Year's and toasted to a "happy new year" whilst either in bed, partying the night away to the fireworks, or elsewhere (I was stretched out on my sofa whilst watching Adam Lambert rocking out with Brian May and Roger Taylor on the TV). 

The first of January is the day when we all make resolutions which are likely to be broken within a week. Maybe you want to give up chocolate - we've all been there before.

Or maybe you want to increase your fitness (let me know how the gym membership works out... some relationships just aren't meant to be).

Now, I've never been one for resolutions. The idea of restricting myself brings pain to my soul. However in saying that, this year I have come up with a few resolutions that ADD to my life.