Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 End of Year Book Survey

Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist) - See more at: http://www.perpetualpageturner.com/2013/12/4th-annual-end-of-year-book-survey-2013-edition.html#sthash.PHIkSvGg.dpuf
This is my first annual End of Year Book Survey, with questions taken from Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner's 4th Annual End of Year Book Survey.The survey is for books you read throughout the year, no matter when they were published, and is not limited to just books that came out in 2013. (All links for books go through to my reviews!)

Best in Books 2013

1. Best book you read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist.)
This is really difficult, since I read so many great books. I'm not going to pick just one, because there's no way I can do that, so, in no particular order...
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
Ooh, these questions are so difficult (and I'm only on the second one). I guess I'll put down The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway, which I still haven't finished. I was super excited when I started it, but lost heart half way through (it is a huge book though).


3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I loved Cinder, but sequels can be disappointing more often than not, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only did I think Scarlet was as good as Cinder, I thought it was better.

 4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?
Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, or
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas ahead of the release of Crown of Midnight.
 

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. I adore it.


6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?
Hands down Rainbow Rowell, and she was a very late discovery. I only got my hands on Eleanor & Park in November, and read Fangirl in December. I loved them both.


7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
I've read non-fiction before, but I made a concerted effort to read a lot more this year, which wasn't always easy, but I'm proud of myself for completing that challenge, and I did manage to read some great books because of it that I wouldn't ordinarily have picked up. And, not a genre, but I read my first Agatha Christie book at the end of December, and absolutely loved it. I'll definitely be reading more of her work.


8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
Fiction - Gone Girl. I was hooked when I was reading it, and thinking and theorising about it when I wasn't. 

Non-fiction - The Siege, Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, which I just could not let go of.

9. Book you read in 2013 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
I'm not a huge re-reader, apart from a select few books, but I'll probably re-read The Fault in Our Stars before the film comes out (is that next year?).



10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns not only has a gorgeous dust jacket, it also has a beautiful spine hidden underneath.


11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Cath from Fangirl.
 

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
The Fault in Our Stars (I'm aware I'm putting this down for a lot of answers).


13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
Fiction - Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. It sounds cheesy, but this book spoke to me.

Non-fiction - Lean In - Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, which had me wanting to smash glass ceilings everywhere.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

Three answers for this. The first two are Gone Girl and The Fault in Our Stars, which I owned for almost a year before I finally read them. And the third answer is The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. 


15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
Oh, I'm not sure about this one. Something I do need to start doing again is writing down my favourite quotes so I can remember them. 

16.Shortest and longest books you read in 2013? 
Shortest - Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Longest - Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns.

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc, etc)? Be careful of spoilers!

Gone Girl - the whole second half was one giant WTF moment.

18. Favorite relationship from a book you read in 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)?
Augustus and Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars.


19. Favorite book you read in 2013 from an author you’ve read previously? 

Probably Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I didn't understand fully, but I did enjoy.

20. Best book you read in 2013 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else?

Hmm, I try not to let other people influence me too much, since that means my expectations get too high. I guess I'd say The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. Although that book wasn't recommended to me, Vicky over at Books, Biscuits and Tea did say I should give Christie a try.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Young adult.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Levi from Fangirl, Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
I'm not sure if I read any debuts. Hmm.


24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman had some pretty scary and well-formed evil parts in it, and the descriptions Gaiman gave meant I could picture that world pretty well.


25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2013?
Very British Problems by Rob Temple had me laughing constantly.


26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2013?
Although I loved Fangirl more, Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park had me in buckets.


27. Book you read in 2013 that you think got overlooked this year or when it came out?
I really loved Sarah Crossan's Breathe and Resist, which I don't think many people know about. It's a brilliant pair of books set in a dystopian world where there's hardly any natural oxygen and people live in pods. Crossan's characters are brilliant, and the books are quite dark. I really think more people need to read them, and since there's only two, the series is not a huge time commitment.

Book blogging/reading life 2013


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013?
I discovered all the book blogs I follow in 2013, since this is my first year seriously book blogging. I guess if I had to pick a few I'd say Books, Biscuits and Tea, The Broke and the Bookish, Natflix and Books, A Bookish Heart and Between My Lines, but I love you all!


2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2013?
I think my review for Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, although I desperately wanted to write masses more. If I was a student now, I'd write an essay on this book.


3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
I don't host discussions, maybe something for next year. 


4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?
Too difficult to answer. I've read lots of great posts this year, and enjoyed them all. 

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc)?
Hmm, I only started seriously book blogging this year, so I haven't participated in much. Asti's (A Bookish Heart) Bookish Games were really good fun, although I didn't survive for long!

6. Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?

Getting to interact with authors on Twitter, and seeing them recommend my reviews or just say thanks for reading their books.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My review of Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns has become my most read post ever, not just for this year.


8. Post you wished got a little more love?
The My Week in Books feature that I do (which really needs a better name). The point of the feature is to share things about books and blogging that I've found, so it would be lovely if more people saw the posts.


9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc)?

Goodness, everything. I guess Goodreads or Bloglovin' are the two most useful.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Yes! I managed my goal of reading 12 non-fiction books in 2013. You can find the full list here.

Looking ahead...

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2013 but will be your number 1 priority in 2014?

I can't say they'll be my number one priority, but I really need to read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, Inferno by Dan Brown and The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling as soon as possible.
 

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2014 (non-debut)?
Ooh, a tie between Cress by Marissa Meyer and the third book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.
 

3. 2014 debut you are most anticipating?
I have many 2014 debuts on my shelf, but one I'm really intrigued by is The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, which looks wonderful and slightly creepy.

4. Series ending you are most anticipating in 2014?
I'm not sure whether any series I'm reading are ending in 2014!
 

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2014?
Just continue blogging. I haven't come up with my challenge for 2014 yet, but keep an eye out.

Link me to your 2013 surveys, and happy reading and blogging in 2014!

Top 10 Tuesday (#16) - best books I read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, where the writers, like me, are particularly fond of lists. 

This week's topic is...top 10 books I read in 2013. This is a tough one, since I read a lot of great books, and this list will probably change right after I compile it!



Reviews:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Siege, Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Fortunately, the Milk... by Neil Gaiman
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Lean In - Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I'd love to do a honourable mentions list, but it would get ridiculously long, so I'll leave it with my top 10. What were your favourite reads of 2013?

Monday, 30 December 2013

Reading challenge 2013 - the results


Success! After failing the challenge I set myself in 2012, this year turned out much better. Wanting to up the number of non-fiction books I read, I set out to read one every month. Although it didn't quite work like that, I did manage 12 non-fiction tomes, covering everything from politics to business to the London 2012 Games and even fiction. Below is the full list of books I read, with links to the reviews...

1. Into Danger by Kate Adie
2. Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
3. The Sweetness of Life by Francois Heritier
4. Lean In - Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
5. Making History at London 2012 edited by Brendan Gallagher
6. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
7. The Siege, Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
8. London Villages, Explore the City's Best Local Neighbourhoods by Zena Alkayat
9. How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
10. Front Row, Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief by Jerry Oppenheimer
11. Very British Problems by Rob Temple
12. Dedicated to... compiled by W B Gooderham

Book review: Dedicated to... compiled by W B Gooderham

I love secondhand books, and one of the reasons I love them is for the dedications you sometimes find inside.

Who gifted the book? Who received it? Why has it now found its way into the hands of another owner?

W B Gooderham is also a fan of secondhand books, and in Dedicated to... has brought together some of the best dedications he has found inside books. Each page features a picture of the book, and the inscription page (if possible) and, usually, a typed version of the inscription, since some of the handwriting is difficult to read.

Dedicated to... is a collection of messages between friends, family, lovers, acquaintances and more. All we see is the book and the dedication, the story behind the gift is left to the reader to decide.

There are some strange messages, some quite deep, but the ones that got me most were the ones that were clearly between people in love. For example, in a copy of Embedded Anatomy: States and Industrial Transformation by Peter Evans (yes, this comes under strange too) there is a message to Kim from Stu, whose dedication ends: "I am yours always." Clearly, Stu was in love with Kim when this book was gifted, but what happened afterward? Did they have a horrid break up? Is that why Kim (presumably) gave the book away? Or did Kim give the book away because it's such a strange choice?

The stories are myriad, and in one way it would be great if the people whose messages have been printed could get in touch with Gooderham to tell him their stories (not sure how he'd feel about me volunteering him). In another way though, the mystery is what makes this book, and secondhand books, so appealing.

How I got this book: Gift from a friend

Dedicated to... is the 12th, and final, book in my challenge to read 12 non-fiction books in 2013.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Book review: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie may be a bit of an institution, but in all my years of reading The Body in the Library is the first book of hers I've picked up.

And boy, was it a treat.

Colonel and Mrs Bantry wake up one morning to discover there is a body in their library. Once they've realised it's reality, not fiction, the police are called in to try and solve the crime. Not content, Mrs Bantry gets her old friend Miss Marple in to act as a consultant and try and pin down the killer.

I always thought Christie must be a good writer - she'd have to be to be so successful still - but it was only on reading The Body in the Library that I realised how good she is. In this time where it seems one story has to be told in at least three books, or one very, very long book, Christie tells The Body in the Library in a taut 160 pages (in my edition). The plot is well-paced, it never feels rushed but at the same time there's always something happening - some character revelation, a conversation that you just know is going to be pertinent later on.

Also, the book is funny! Absolutely, unexpectedly so in many places. There were bits that made me chuckle, bits that made me laugh, bits that made me smile. It was a lovely reminder that a murder mystery doesn't need to be overwhelmingly dark to be 

I also loved how The Body in the Library felt not much like reading, and more like watching a television programme or a film. It was easy to see how the story and dialogue could be lifted right off the page and onto the screen. In fact, the 'big reveal' scene played out just like an old fashioned murder mystery television programme, something akin to Columbo.

And then there's the mystery itself. Miss Marple has it solved in about five minutes, but I felt like the police officers the book closely followed - absolutely clueless and looking in all the wrong places, but feeling it was right. Christie draws together the various threads she's woven throughout the book in a clever way, presenting me with a conclusion I just didn't see coming.

I'm a little ashamed that it's taken me this long to get round to reading a Christie mystery, but I can now hold my hands up and say I'm a convert. Hopefully I'll be better at solving the next crime I read about.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Book review: Very British Problems by Rob Temple

You know how it is, you're in a queue, and someone stands next to you, instead of behind you. Are they queuing or just loitering? Are they going to push in front? Are they just unaware of how queues work?

This, my friend, is a very British problem.

Rob Temple's book Very British Problems came about after he set up the Twitter account @soverybritish. It is, according to its blurb, a book that reveals how we're "a nation of socially awkward but well-meaning oddballs, struggling to make it through every day without saying sorry to an inanimate object". 

(By the way, British problem no. 236: Trying not to laugh out loud on the train while reading Very British Problems in case people think you're a weirdo).

The great thing about this book is that I so often found myself nodding along and going "yes, that's me". Among my favourites, and those that hit closest to home, are:
  • "Saying you're pleased with your haircut despite the deep inner sadness it's causing you." - There was this one time I got a fringe, and it was horrible and I told the hairdresser it was lovely, and I went home and almost cried.
  • "Feeling the need to pat down all your pockets, despite knowing full well you haven't got your loyalty card." - All the time, and mostly I don't even have pockets on my clothes.
  • "Sitting awkwardly for your entire journey to accommodate the staggering leg spread of the gentleman beside you." - In my new life as a rail commuter this is a daily misery.
  • "The challenge of attempting to deal with a sneeze while holding a scalding cup of tea in a surface-free area." - I don't drink tea, but this problem can be applied to drinks of any kind, I feel.
Very British Problems is a laugh-out-loud book (even if you're on the train) and one that should be passed from friend to friend so you can all exclaim about how these problems really are the sort we all encounter in everyday life. (Except then you encounter the problem of friends who turn the corners of book pages, and you can't say anything, and it's all awkward, and oh goodness...)

Very British Problems is book 11 in my challenge to read 12 non-fiction books in 2013. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Book review: Front Row, Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief

Even if you don't follow fashion, you've probably heard of Anna Wintour, if only from the film or book The Devil Wears Prada.

While that book, written by a former assistant of Wintour's, is real life given a sheen of fiction, Jerry Oppenheimer's unauthorised biography Front Row, Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief, purports to be all reality.

From Wintour's childhood as the daughter of Evening Standard editor Charles Wintour to her ascension to editor-in-chief of American Vogue - and leader of the world's fashion industry - this book chronicles every moment that has made Wintour into what she is today.

And that is, according to Oppenheimer, one of the most feared and nastiest editors, if not women, in the world.

Of course, Wintour has a reputation. She's tough, she doesn't play nice by all accounts, and she's said to be a harsh taskmaster. But Oppenheimer seems to go out of his way to portray Wintour as nasty - there's barely a move she makes, according to this book, that doesn't have some sort of motive behind it.

Tiny little incidents are made much bigger than they seem, all in order to make Wintour seem horrible. One that sticks out, from Wintour's time at Savvy, is introduced by Oppenheimer as an incident that put Wintour's "name and the magazine's" on the line. It amounts to a photographer's assistant damaging a rug and shattering a vase, and Oppenheimer quickly wraps up the story by saying the "damage was taken care of, and Anna walked away with her reputation and job intact". Perhaps as he was writing Oppenheimer realised this incident was hardly what he made it out to be.

Oppenheimer does acknowledge Wintour's talent at her job, and even includes quotes from people who say she's tough but fair, but as soon as he's praised her he's off damning her again.

What I wanted was a book that really delved into Wintour's career and gave me an insight into her talent and her world, which I realise isn't always pretty (unless you're sitting in the front row at a fashion show). Oppenheimer's bitchy biography, while stacked full of quotes from sources and those supposedly close to Wintour, is just an extended version of a newspaper's gossip pages, and not worth the paper it's printed on. (If you want to find out more about Wintour, your time will be better spent watching The September Issue.)

How I got the book: Bought

Front Row, Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief is the 10th book in my challenge to read 12 non-fiction books in 2013.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Book review: How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis

From princesses to witches to Bridget Jones, the fictional women in our lives are numerous and different, and it's impossible not to take something from our readings of them.

The lessons we learnt from the literary heroines that have littered our lives are what Samantha Ellis examines in her brilliant book How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much. Part autobiography, part examination of the portrayal of women in literature, How To Be A Heroine is an extraordinary read which had me constantly wanting to go back and read the books of my childhood and teenage years (and beyond).

Following an argument with her best friend about who was better - Cathy Earnshaw or Jane Eyre - Ellis decided to reread the books of her past to see if the female characters still held up, all the while looking back on her own life as a Iraqi Jew growing up in London with dreams of becoming a playwright.

Ellis looks back at many of the books I've read, and her chapter on Anne of Green Gables is my favourite in the book. Anne was (is) a literary heroine of mine - fearless, clever, a feminist when there wasn't a word for it. But Ellis discovers that in sequels to L. M. Montgomery's first book, Anne becomes less of a heroine, in the same way that the March sisters don't stand up to scrutiny on her rereading of Little Women, Good Wives and Jo's Boys. Still, I'll always love Anne Shirley (and I think Ellis will too) - the key is to ignore the sequels!

Other rereadings lead Ellis to discover new things. On revisiting Gone With the Wind Ellis comes to the conclusion that while Scarlett is the obvious heroine, it's Melanie who is the true heroine of the novel, something which I have to agree with.

There are plenty of familiar characters Ellis revisits - from Elizabeth Bennett to Jane Eyre - that are familiar to me, but there are others who feature who I didn't read about as a child. One chapter focuses on Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, a book that sounds like a mash-up of something written by Jackie Collins AND Danielle Steel AND Jilly Cooper. While Ellis's examination of it make it sound like its female characters are hardly heroines, it did make me really, really want to read the book.

And of course, in addition to all the fictional females in the book, there is Ellis herself, whose story encompasses love and loss, failure and success. Some of the heroines Ellis rereads stand up to scrutiny, while others don't, but in the end, it doesn't really matter if they're true heroines or not - we can learn something from them all, and we can learn something from Ellis's story too.

How I got this book: From the publisher, Chatto & Windus

How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis is released in the UK on January 2, 2014.

How To Be A Heroine is the ninth book in my challenge to read 12 non-fiction books in 2013.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Sunday Post (#31) and Showcase Sunday (#17)


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren. They're a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, highlight our newest books and see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, or bought.


Added to my shelves

I've acquired a lot of books over the past few weeks, but am in the midst of a massive tidy-up, so they're scattered around the house! Here are the ones I could find:

Very British Problems by Rob Temple
It Felt Like a Kiss by Sarra Manning
The Collector by Nora Roberts
The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey
The Verdict by Nick Stone
The Martian by Andy Weir

Thanks to the guys at Transworld, Ebury, and Little, Brown for all of these.

What have you added to your shelves?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren. They're a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, highlight our newest books and see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, or bought.
- See more at: http://girlreporter.blogspot.co.uk/#sthash.Y0TdX99S.dpuf

Monday, 9 December 2013

Book review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

In these days of Tumblr and Twitter and all the rest, being a fan of something or someone is very different from what it was 20 years ago.

Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl explores fandom, using its central character Cath. Heading to college, Cath's twin Wren tells her she wants to share a room with someone else. Introvert Cath finds herself rooming with tough girl Reagan, whose boyfriend Levi is always around.

Feeling lonely, Cath continues to immerse herself in the world of Simon Snow, the central character in author Gemma T. Leslie's fantasy book series. Because in that world, Cath isn't a scared teenager, she's Magicath, awesome fanfiction writer with a following of thousands.

Cath is a wonderful character, who embodies so many of the things that many teenagers feel when they're heading away from home for the first time - unsure of their place at college, scared about making new friends, trying to find a balance between work and play. And while we don't see much of her, Wren embodies other characteristics of teenagers heading off to college - determined to throw themselves into the experience, shedding everything that's come before and reinventing yourself anew. Put them together, and Rowell has the college-bound teenager covered, the parents left behind when children leave home.

That's not to say Cath and Wren are half characters. Not at all. They're both relatable, although we see much more of Cath than we do of Wren, and when we do see the latter it's through Cath's eyes. Other characters are recognisable without being stereotypical - the professor who really helps you and inspires you (although maybe not both all the time), the dormmate you're unsure of, the people of the opposite sex you encounter and whose motives you're unsure of.

But for me, what I loved most about Fangirl was its examination of fandom and of fanfiction. The chapters are interspersed with extracts from Cath's Simon Snow fanfiction, or from the Simon Snow books themselves, which are hilarious versions of Harry Potter featuring vampires - Rowell isn't afraid to poke fun at aspects of massive selling novels.

Conversely, Rowell doesn't treat fandom or fanfiction with contempt, or look down on it, in Fangirl, and I think that's important, and brave. It's all too easy to dismiss fandom, but these communities of fans are full of creative, intelligent people whose outlet might be drawing or writing about their favourite things. Sure, some might take it too far, but for others it's a springboard into something else, or a way of finding themselves, and that's what Rowell makes it for Cath in Fangirl.

I really, really loved this book and could go on for ages about all the things I thought really worked. Just my discussion on fandom in relation to Fangirl would fill an essay, but I think it's better if you pick up the novel yourself and give it a read. Now I'm off to find a Tumblr group for fans of Fangirl...

How I got this book: Borrowed from a friend

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Sunday Post (#30) and Showcase Sunday (#16)


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren. They're a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, highlight our newest books and see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, or bought.


Book stuff
Book of the month: November 2013
Review: Just In Case by Meg Rosoff
My week in books (#14) - scary monsters and literary-inspired clothing

Added to my shelves

It was another week of getting stuff from publishers, which I'm still trying to sort through. Among the books I got was How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, which is about the things we took from the literary heroines we read about when we were younger. I got it from one of my new publishing contacts, who says she's giving it to everyone she knows because it's so great. I'm only a few chapters in, but I'm inclined to agree.

My office is also having a clear out, so I grabbed two books quickly on Friday evening, proofs of The White Princess by Philippa Gregory and Teardrop by Lauren Kate. I'm not sure I actually want to read the latter, so if anyone UK-based wants it let me know, I'm happy to pay the postage.

What have you been up to?

Saturday, 7 December 2013

My week in books (#14)



My week in books is a feature where I share things I've found interesting from the past week that concern books, literature and all things book blogging.

First up, we've probably all played Would You Rather? at some point or other. Here on Book Riot is a version for book nerds, giving you dilemmas such as: 
Would you rather...never be allowed to read the last chapter of a book but be able to read as many books as you want OR only be allowed to read one book a year, but be allowed to finish it?
Decisions, decisions.

Also on Book Riot, here is a collection of sweatshirts inspired by books. I love them all.

Flavorwire has a gallery here of the scariest monsters in children's literature. I agree with them all, but I'd also add in the witch from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and the spiders from Harry Potter and from the Lord of the Rings. What would you include?

Anna Reads has a great post here about gifts for people who love books. I'm a particular fan of the clothing she's highlighted (who doesn't want a Pride and Prejudice scarf?).

I love, love, love shoes, so when I saw this shoe, which is inspired by books, I fell in love.

And finally, if you haven't seen it yet, here's Jamie's (The Perpetual Page-Turner) annual end of year book survey. Go complete it, and let me know when you have.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Book review: Just In Case by Meg Rosoff

When 15-year-old David Case saves his baby brother Charlie from falling out of the window, it's not relief that fills the teenager, it's a sense of doom.

To escape Fate, David changes his name to Justin and attempts to disguise himself, physically and metaphorically, from being found. But as Justin navigates family, love and life, he comes to realise that maybe fate isn't something that happens to you.

That's not the best description of Just In Case, but it's the best I can give without spoiling too much. I also confess that much of this book went over my head. It's a novel about fate and how little or how much control we can exert over our paths in life, but I also felt like it was a novel about something more - perhaps a novel addressing some aspects of mental illness? Justin is consumed by terror over his fate, and his angsting, to me at least, seemed much more extreme than that of your average teenager, and that's even without his imaginary dog Boy.

I found the strongest feeling Rosoff got out of me during my reading of Just In Case was dislike. I disliked Justin's parents, who are largely absent for the novel - that was my problem, their son spirals into a depression of sorts and they just let him wander off and stay with strangers and friends. I disliked Agnes, the older, flirty, cool girl Justin falls for. She was selfish and flippant, and I wanted to shake Justin and tell him that she was never going to love him like he loved her.

There were characters I enjoyed, in particular Justin's friend Peter, and Peter's younger but extremely wise sister Dorothea. I feel they were the rational people in the novel, in the absence of any decent adults.

But mostly the novel just confused me. I didn't dislike it - I felt compelled to read to the end and I read the whole thing pretty fast - but I didn't like Just In Case either. It wasn't quite realistic enough for me to relate to it, and it wasn't quite dystopian enough for me to suspend disbelief. Instead, I was left in a limbo of not quite knowing, and it was a disappointing, rather than intriguing, not knowing. Justin may have been consumed by the thought of his fate, but his dilemma didn't consume me.

How I got this book: Purchased

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Book of the month: November 2013

The best book I read in November was...


The Siege, Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark is a really, really powerful book. I found it difficult to put down, and thought the research was impeccable, and the stories of those who suffered during the terror attacks on Mumbai were told in a compelling but touching way.

What was the best book you read in November?

The Sunday Post (#29) and Showcase Sunday (#15)


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren. They're a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, highlight our newest books and see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, or bought.


Book stuff
Review: London Villages, Explore the City's Best Local Neighbourhoods by Zena Alkayat
Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

Added to my shelves

I got lots and lots of books this week, as with my new job I've been visiting lots of publishers. I won't be sharing them all here yet though, since some of them still have release dates a long way off and I need to sort through them all. Aside from those, though, I got some great stuff through the post.


My Secret Santa present arrived (organised by The Broke and The Bookish, and sent by Kirsty-Marie at Studio Reads). Here's what Kirsty-Marie got me:

I've been wanting The Raven Boys for absolutely ages, so I'm ecstatic to finally own a copy.
I also got After Eden, which looks interesting. I have an uncorrected proof of this, but the proper version is so much more exciting looking.
I also got a beautiful bookmark that's got a really cute book charm on it (you can just see the bookmark on top of After Eden), and some chocolates, which aren't in the picture.
Thanks Kirsty-Marie!






I'm a big fan of Joss Stirling's Finding Sky series, and Oxford University Press this week sent me a copy of her new book, Storm & Stone, plus another upcoming release, Nikki Sheehan's Who Framed Klaris Cliff? Both look great, I'm looking forward to reading them.











And finally, one book given to me by one of the publishing houses I visited this week (Hachette UK) - I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

What have you added to your shelves?

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Book review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

The first I heard of Deborah Moggach's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (originally called These Foolish Things) was when the film - starring a bevy of Britain's best acting talent - was released.

I haven't seen the film, but picked up the book for a bit of light reading based on the fact that the film trailer amused me.

Doctor Ravi Kapoor is fed up with his father-in-law Norman - an insufferable old man who can't seem to keep his manners in check or his hands away from places they shouldn't be. When Ravi meets his cousin Sonny, a businessman from India on a trip to London, the two hatch a plan to open a retirement home/hotel in Bangalore.

And so a rag tag bunch of pensioners find themselves living in a hotel past its sell by date, learning about a new world while also coming to terms with the art of being old.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a fun read, and a quick one, with plenty of amusing moments and plenty of blue humour of the likes I wasn't expecting. Still, considering its main characters are a bunch of pensioners who between them have seen and done it all and who are now living each day unsure of whether they'll be around for the next, the honesty shouldn't have been that surprising.

Moggach's cast of characters is vast - there are countless residents at the Marigold Hotel, plus loved ones back home (some of whom we visit, some we don't), plus all the people who work at or around the hotel who the elderly encounter in their day to day lives. With so many characters floating around, Moggach is only able to delve deeply into the lives of a few. This meant there were some who I'd like to have seen more of, but whose storylines were left a little more vague because of space constraints - including the sweet but barely seen Graham, and the prickly Dorothy, whose back story was obviously the most interesting.

I did grow to love some characters, including Evelyn, who morphs from being a bit part to the heart of the novel. I perhaps could have done with more of her and less of some of the others, like fellow pensioner Muriel, or Evelyn's daughter Theresa and son Christopher. It was Evelyn who I felt was best able to get to the heart of what it means to be elderly, and how to cope with the difficulties advanced age brings, but also the freedoms.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an interesting examination of age, and of love, but while I liked it while I was reading it, it's not a book I would reread, or one I will spend too much time thinking about.

How I got this book: Purchased

Monday, 25 November 2013

Book review: London Villages, Explore the City's Best Local Neighbourhoods by Zena Alkayat

With its huge skyscrapers, constant traffic and jam-packed streets, it's easy to forget that London does have its quieter, less manic areas.

In London Villages, Zena Alkayat exposes some of the city's hidden gems, selecting 30 neighbourhoods split into north, south, east, west and central, and recommending some of the best places to visit in each.

Of course, there are the usual suspects, such as Columbia Road and Hampstead Village, 
but most of the places Alkayat picks are little visited by those who don't know and love them well.

This makes for great reading, and great inspiration. Alkayat recommends five places you must visit in each of the neighbourhoods she selects, from cafes to haberdasheries to galleries, but those are just the starting point for readers wishing to explore further.

There are lots of bookshops Alkayat mentions which I plan to visit, and I'll definitely be popping in to the Blue Brick Cafe, which serves a vegan and vegetarian all day menu, in East Dulwich when I get the chance.

Even Londoners who think they know it all will find Alkayat's book helpful, packed as it is with great tips for places to visit. I'll be carrying it in my bag and using it to get to know the city a bit better.

How I got this book: From the publisher Aurum for review

London Villages is book eight in my challenge to read 12 non-fiction books in 2013.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Sunday Post (#28) and Showcase Sunday (#14)


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren. They're a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, highlight our newest books and see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, or bought.


Book stuff
Review: The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
My week in books (#13) - World Book Night 2014, Sarra Manning and more

Non-book stuff
Film review: Parkland

I started my new job this week, so haven't had a whole lot of time to write/shop. I did acquire a bunch of stuff though:

Urban Outlaws by Peter Jay Black
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey by Mary Hooper
Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin
Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George

And I got a proper copy of When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan. I also own a proof of this, but haven't read it!

What have you been up to?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

My week in books (#13)


My week in books is a feature where I share things I've found interesting from the past week that concern books, literature and all things book blogging.

Natalie over at Natflix&Books mentioned last week that she'd acquired the new Sarra Manning novel, Adorkable, which sent me on a spiral remembering how much I loved Manning's Diary of a Crush columns, which were printed in J17 magazine when I was a young teenager. I already follow Manning on Twitter, so I went looking for her website, and had a great time reading about her writing. Ahh, memory lane.

With Catching Fire out this week (still haven't seen it, boo), here's a post from Gotcha Movies about 13 Young Adult Adaptations to Look Out For. Some of these look good, others I'm apprehensive about in case they spoil books I love (anything by Maggie Stiefvater).

Flavorwire has a piece here about 10 Great Books Contemporary Culture has forgotten, which is full of authors and books I've never heard of.

Book Riot has a really interesting piece here about the problem with gendered reading. I'm a big advocate of getting kids reading, and there's a particular problem with getting young boys into books. 

Hopefully that problem will be given a good kick with the selection of books for World Book Night 2014 UK and Ireland, which you can see here (a selection are also pictured below). In an effort to reach more non-readers, there are a bunch of quick reads on the list, and books chosen to specifically appeal to males (Robert Muchamore's The Recruit is a brilliant choice). You can also sign up to be a book giver on the night - I'm off to go do my application.


If you've seen anything interesting this week, share it in the comments.


MyMy week in books is a feature where I share things I've found interesting from the past week (usually) that concern books, literature and all things book blogging. - See more at: http://girlreporter.blogspot.co.uk/#sthash.rOrsYgk1.dpuf
My week in books is a feature where I share things I've found interesting from the past week (usually) that concern books, literature and all things book blogging. - See more at: http://girlreporter.blogspot.co.uk/#sthash.rOrsYgk1.dpuf

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Book review: The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, so it was with some glee I picked up The Heist, co-written with Lee Goldberg. My glee wasn't unfounded, The Heist is White Collar meets Ocean's Eleven meets Miss Congeniality, all in book form.

After years of chasing, FBI Special Agent Kate O'Hare has finally caught Nicolas Fox, a handsome, charming con man. Only he brokers a deal with Kate's bosses - he'll help Kate catch America's most wanted if the FBI keeps him out of jail.

The pair's first target is Derek Griffin, a playboy who conned clients out of millions and then ran off to an Indonesian island. Recruiting a rag tag crew of misfits, Nick and Kate head to Indonesia to catch Griffin, and get back the money he's stolen.


The Heist doesn't feature any great surprises when it comes to the main characters. A lot of what it contains has been seen before on our television or cinema screens - Nicolas has more than a whiff of Neal Caffrey from White Collar about him (no bad thing), and Kate is clever and witty and unlucky in love.

But the crew Nicolas and Kate assemble are an interesting bunch, from the egotistical actor to the speed loving 50-something who bought herself breast enhancements as part of her Big Adventure.

The book is a fun read, and does have some great elements. Kate's dad is particularly engaging, and there's a twist in the capture of Griffin that's both unexpected and fun (in a gun slinging kind of way).

The Heist made me remember why I loved Evanovich's writing so much. While the Stephanie Plum series has now gone on slightly too long and only provides minimal laughs, this book had me chuckling throughout. I hope Evanovich's partnership with Goldberg continues for a few more books, and we get to see more of Nicolas, Kate and their crew.

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