Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Book of the month - July 2013

It was tough to choose a book this month, because I read a few really, really great ones.

After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross almost took the top spot, but I finished Gone Girl right at the beginning of July, so that pipped After Tomorrow to the post.

I loved everything about Gone Girl, from the writing style, to the pacing, to the plot. It had me on the edge of my seat, and I just couldn't work out where Gillian Flynn was going to go next with her novel. This is a grand description, but Gone Girl, in my opinion, is a modern masterpiece. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?!

What's the best book you read in July?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (#10) - opening lines

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 favourite beginnings or endings in books. You're free to talk about books that started or ended just perfectly or with a bang, but I'm going to go mainly for opening lines. I've been thinking about opening lines a lot this week, so this is a good topic, but it's also a really difficult one. I've realised, in compiling this list, that many of my favourite first lines are from childhood, but I guess that's the power of a good line - it stays with you.

1. "Once upon a time..."
-traditional, various.

2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
-A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

3. "Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter."
-Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter.

4. “This is how the story begins. On a dark, dark hill, there was a dark, dark town."
-Funny Bones, Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

5.  "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
-Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J. K. Rowling.

6. "It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers."
-Matilda, Roald Dahl.

7. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." 
-Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.

8. "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
-Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.

9. "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."
-I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith.

And one powerful ending...

10. "But in the meantime, there is a second bedroom in my serviceable apartment. The bedspread is plain. A copy of Robin Hood lies on the bookshelf. And the sheets are clean."
-We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver.

If you need some inspiration, Stylist has compiled lists of the 100 best first lines from children's books and just generally, and The Telegraph has a list of 30 great opening lines here.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

My week in books (#2)

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

This week the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2013 was released, featuring both established authors and new kids on the block. Aside from anything else, it's given me a new list of books I want to read. The full list can be found here.

Radio 4's Saturday Review had a really interesting discussion this week about Tampa by Alissa Nutting. I've not read it, but it's attracted attention for its explicit descriptions (which start on page one) and documents the relationship between a female teacher and her 14-year-old male pupil. I was really intrigued by the discussion - at one point one of the reviewers said the book is so bad it would not have been published had the teacher in the novel been male and the pupil female, but publishers have been desperate for a Lolita-like novel with the male and female roles swapped for so long that it got the green light. You can listen here (the discussion about Tampa starts roughly 17 minutes in).

Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer posted a helpful list of 12 websites this week that are invaluable when blogging. You can find that here.

And finally, Bloomsbury, to promote Canada by Richard Ford, are asking people to share their favourite first lines from books. They've made a cute little video here, and you can share your favourite lines on Twitter @BloomsburyBooks using the hashtag #firstlines. I wouldn't know where to start with this, so would love to hear your favourite first lines in the comments below.

Have you discovered anything new this week when it comes to books? Share in the comments.

The Sunday Post (#16) and Showcase Sunday (#2)

  


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 this week on Girl!Reporter
Top ten Tuesday (#9) - words/topics that make you not pick up a book
Royal baby madness - Shhh! Don't Wake the Royal Baby (preview)
Alex Rider books one to five by Anthony Horowitz (review)
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (review)

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter
San Diego Comic Con - top five moments

Books I added to my shelves:

Just two this week - Sharp Objects and Dark Places, both by Gillian Flynn. I loved Gone Girl, but I'm going to have to be good and not start these until I've read a few of the other books sitting on my shelves unread.












What have you been up to this week? 




Saturday, 27 July 2013

Book review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I seem to be on a bit of an adventure kick lately with my books, so I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore was the perfect read.

John Smith and his guardian Henri move from place to place, changing their identity as they go. They're trying to stay one step ahead of the Mogadorians, an evil alien race race intent on hunting them down and killing them - because John and Henri are some of the last survivors from the planet Lorien, which the Mogadorians destroyed years ago.

John, or Number Four, is the fourth of nine children sent to earth in the hopes that one day they could return to Lorien and rebuild it. John is safe, sort of, because Numbers One through Three need to be killed before the Mogadorians can kill him. That time has now come.

Henri and John settle in a small town called Paradise, Ohio, where John begins to make friends (the geeky, alien-obsessed Sam), enemies (footballer Mark), and fall in love (gorgeous Sarah). But what happens when the Mogadorians begin to close in?

I Am Number Four is great reading, and relentlessly builds to its giant climax - an all out fight between the Mogadorians and John. It's huge battle scenes are easy to read and picture, and had me holding my breath in anticipation - I never believed anyone could survive. And the flashbacks to the battle on Lorien are devestating, as John watches his planet being detroyed bit by bit.

But for all its loud moments, it's the more "human" ones that make I Am Number Four such a good read. John's interactions with his classmates are shot through with the realism of being the new kid in school. And the emergence of John's powers - his Legacies - might hold a supernatural element, but they're also a metaphor for growing pains.

The relationships in I Am Number Four are key to the narrative. John's first experience of love is moving, and makes the ending of the novel more heartbreaking, his friendship with Sam is infused with loyalty, and his relationship with his dog Bernie Kosar is full of good humour. But it's John's relationship with Henri that is my favourite in the book. It's both a father/son dynamic, but also something otherworldly. Henri is John's protector, and has sacrificed a huge amount to make sure John is safe. That deep bond is clear to see in the book, whether it's through Henri's words to John or his actions, or even his appearance, which is so clearly described.

I Am Number Four is the first in a series by Pittacus Lore - the alter ego of authors James Frey and Jobie Hughes. Their clever marketing - Pittacus is a Lorien elder - adds an interesting dimension to the storytelling, which is entertaining and addictive.

How I got this book: I bought it

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Book review: Alex Rider books one to five by Anthony Horowitz


You'll notice from the title of this blog post that this is technically not a book review, it's a review of multiple books.

What can I say? I started reading Stormbreaker, the first book in Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, and before I knew it I was at the end of the fifth, Scorpia. I'd be at the end of the last, but I don't own the rest of the series.

Fourteen-year-old Alex Rider finds himself working for MI6 after his uncle Ian, a British spy, dies. Down in Cornwall, he's to infiltrate the world of Herod Sayle, a multi-billionaire businessman who's about to launch Stormbreaker into every school in the country, and his motives aren't good.

Alex is MI6's best weapon - no one suspects a 14-year-old of being a spy, and when they do, Alex somehow always manages to find his way out of whatever scrape he's in. That's why MI6 keep using him, despite Alex's reluctance.

The Alex Rider books are highly entertaining, as entertaining as they are ridiculous. I mean that in a good way. There is no way Alex would be able to get himself out of trouble all those times, but somehow he does - whether it's inescapable prison cells, hoards of soldiers armed with machine guns or a hot air balloon floating above London while an assassin throws knives at him, Alex always manages to get away.

It would be really, really unrealistic (the books also all take place within weeks of each other), if only Horowitz clearly hadn't put so much research into everything. Every single aspect of the novels seems to be meticulously researched, so much so that you find yourself ready to believe everything, if only because the evidence to back up Alex's escapes is there. 

The line-up of villains Alex encounters are brilliant, and the easiest way to describe them is to say they're out of a James Bond film. They're all slightly mad (at the very least) and over-the-top, but terrifying because of that. 

As a character, Alex is appealing. He's a realistic teenage voice, and it's interesting to watch his development over the course of the books from child to super-spy. And when a bombshell is dropped in Eagle Strike and the game changes again, Alex is taken with it and develops even more. 

Reading the books, I was slightly surprised that Horowitz hadn't been asked to write the Young Bond books, but I guess it's because Alex Rider is already a young Bond, so Horowitz would just have been rewriting this series.

If you're after adventure, adventure and more adventure, the Alex Rider series is for you. I'm off to hunt down the other novels.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Royal baby: Bloomsbury quick off the mark with Shhh! Don't Wake the Royal Baby

If you haven't heard (and where have you been?) the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a boy yesterday. The third in line to throne, who doesn't have a name yet so is going by his title of Prince Cambridge, was eagerly anticipated by everyone, including the book trade.

While there'll be plenty of books coming out soon, I think the first to hit the shelves is Bloomsbury's Shhh! Don't Wake the Royal Baby, which I know they've been working on ever since Kate's pregnancy was announced.

The book, written by Martha Mumford, is described as a "funny, tongue-in-cheek picture book about the impact of the newborn on the royal palace".

I'm told it features all the royals (the Queen is pictured parachuting on the front), and I hear it deals with the age old problem of trying to make a baby stop crying/go to sleep. It's got some cute illustrations by Ada Grey.

So if you're a big royal baby fan, this might be a purchase you want to make for your own child!

Let me know if you see any other royal baby books out there.

 

Top ten Tuesday (#9)

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 words/topics that make me not pick up a book.







1. Misery lit
This makes me sound horrible, but I have no interest in reading about the terrible things people in real life went through in their childhood.

2. Horror
I don't like being scared, so I avoid horror. I've read one horror in my time - Stephen King's Misery - and that was because it was required reading for university, and it terrified me.

3. Zombies
I love dystopian fiction, but zombies don't hold much interest. I tried Gena Showalter's Alice in Zombieland recently to see if that could change my mind, and it didn't.

4. Erotica
I love romance, and I'm a big fan of people like Nora Roberts, but I can think of nothing worse to read than 50 Shades of Grey and its ilk.

5. "The next ..."
I don't mind recommendations of the "if you like this, you might like this" sort, but books should stand on their own merits, so I don't like being told something is the next whatever. Chances are it's not.

6. Angels/fallen angels
Okay, I can't categorically say I don't like this category, since I can't recall having read too many books in the genre, but it doesn't appeal hugely. I have Fallen on my bookshelf, but it's so far down my TBR list I won't get to it for years, it seems like.

7. Magic/wizardry
I'm fine with the Harry Potter series being the only books I'm willing to like in this genre in the near future.

8. Beat literature
I've tried reading Jack Kerouac and the like, and just can't get into this style.

9. Aliens
I don't mind sci-fi, but I'm just not interested in aliens, or aliens that come to take over the planet, even though I'll watch that kind of stuff (Roswell, Battlestar Galactica, anyone?).

10. Lurid covers
Not a word or subject, but I dislike covers that make my eyes hurt. Get a proper designer!

What's on your no list?

Monday, 22 July 2013

San Diego Comic Con - top five moments

If I got a pound for every time I thought or said "I wish I could go to Comic Con" I'd be a millionaire by now.

Alas, between Thursday, July 18 and Sunday, July 21 I had to sit at home and watch the goings on at Comic Con through my social media. For those who also missed out, here's a round up of my best bits.


Veronica Mars
Yes, we're absolutely going to start here. Ever since seeing the trailer for the Veronica Mars film that was shown at Comic Con, I've been mainlining the television series in preparation. I thought my love for Veronica Mars had diminished, but the obsession has come back. I should never have forgotten, my relationship with Veronica Mars was epic, one for the ages.



Thor: The Dark World
I love superhero films, but I'm actually not a huge Thor nerd. That all changed when Loki took to the stage at Comic Con during the Marvel panel when they were discussing Thor: The Dark World. This was probably my favourite thing that happened, I love how into Comic Con all the actors and writers and directors are, they seem to love it as much as the fans.



Brave New Warriors
What a great idea for a panel - bring together everyone's favourite male heroes from the small screen (although next time, get some kick arse women for the panel too, okay Comic Con?). I watched this for Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones and Matt Smith from Doctor Who, but there's plenty of other stuff to enjoy.



Game of Thrones
I can never get enough Game of Thrones, so this of course goes in the list.



Batman/Superman
This is the one everyone's talking about, and of course it's big - Batman and Superman in the same film. Woah.




EDIT: I'd like to add in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode trailer and the Sherlock footage, but I haven't seen it and can't find it online. Boo.
 
What were your favourite Comic Con moments?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Sunday Post (#15) and Showcase Sunday (#1)


Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here. - See more at: http://www.booksbiscuitsandtea.co.uk/#sthash.469sc46F.dpuf
Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here. - See more at: http://www.booksbiscuitsandtea.co.uk/#sthash.469sc46F.dpuf
Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here. - See more at: http://www.booksbiscuitsandtea.co.uk/#sthash.469sc46F.dpuf
Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here. - See more at: http://www.booksbiscuitsandtea.co.uk/#sthash.469sc46F.dpuf

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

I've also decided to take part in Showcase Sunday, hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren. Its aim is to highlight our newest books and see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, or bought.
nspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week - See more at: http://www.booksbiscuitsandtea.co.uk/#sthash.469sc46F.dpuf
Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here. - See more at: http://www.booksbiscuitsandtea.co.uk/#sthash.469sc46F.dpuf

Book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter

Literary London: London Lines at Southbank Centre
Stacking the Shelves (#11)
My week in books (#1)

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter
DVD review: Nashville season one

Coming up next week on Girl!Reporter  
Who knows? I'm living week to week here!

Books I added to my shelves:

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grisson The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne The Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian The Dark Road by Ma Jian Strange Times, My Dear - The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature 
A War of Choice by Jack Fairweather
Mirror to Damascus by Colin Thubron
Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Shadow Dancer by Tom Bradby
Celandine by Steve Augarde   

Then by Julie Myerson
From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming



What's your news for the week?


Saturday, 20 July 2013

My week in books (#1)

My week in books is going to be a new semi-regular feature where I share things I've found interesting from the past week that concern books, literature and all things book blogging.

First up, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm really excited about the new Veronica Mars film (sneak peek here). If that wasn't exciting enough, it turns out there are going to be two new Veronica Mars books to tie in with the film. You can find out more here.

For those of you seeking some inspiration for what to read this summer, The Guardian and The Observer released a list of best holiday reads 2013 this week, which you can find here. A series of well-known novelists and writers give their suggestions, recommending everything from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to Mike Power's Drugs 2.0, which according to columnist Owen Jones is "a clever and witty take on how drug deals have gone from shady alleyways to the click of a mouse".

I'm attempting to read more non-fiction this year and not doing too well, so this piece from MindShift about getting children interested in non-fiction was fascinating, and really resonated.

And finally, we're all busy people, so this post from The Selkie Reads Stories about Android and iOS apps for book bloggers was very, very useful.

Have you discovered anything new this week when it comes to books? Share in the comments

Stacking the Shelves (#11)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, and it's all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves, be they physical or virtual, sent to you for review, bought, or borrowed from the library.

Bought
Technically, I bought none of these books. They're from a Random House staff sale, and I have connections and that connection bought them!

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grisson
The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne
The Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian
The Dark Road by Ma Jian
Strange Times, My Dear - The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature










A War of Choice by Jack Fairweather
Mirror to Damascus by Colin Thubron
Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Wonder by R. J. Palacio






 

Shadow Dancer by Tom Bradby
Celandine by Steve Augarde
Then by Julie Myerson
From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming









What have you added to your bookshelves?
 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Literary London: London Lines at Southbank Centre

One of the poetry installations at London Lines. Picture: Southbank Centre
There's always so much going on in London, so I've decided a new semi-regular feature is in order to let people know about some of the great literature themed events. 

First up is a bit of poetry in the form of London Lines, which takes place this weekend at Southbank Centre, and is completely free to view.

Why not head down, take in some poetry, and even help create some?

London Lines, a collaboration between Southbank Centre and Jaybird Live Literature, is a project featuring poetry from all of London's 33 boroughs.

After a public call-out to poetry organisations and enthusiasts, 33 poets were chosen – one for each London borough. Each of the poets either lives, works or has some other significant connection to the borough which they are representing, such as having been born there or having celebrated their marriage there. 

Poets are from a range of ages and have different heritages. 

Eleven poems by some of the poets will appear as art installations on Southbank Centre’s site and the final 22 poems will be created with the public’s help this weekend.

Art installations include a projection of poetry onto Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall which can be seen at night-time; a poem printed on wrappers covering apples at pop-up fruit stall Cherry Berry Company on Southbank Centre’s Queen’s Walk; a poem on postcards that are hidden in books in Southbank Centre’s Saison Poetry Library; and a giant mural poem on the bridge between Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Members of the public are invited to come to Southbank Centre to write a memory, story, thought or idea about a London borough that means something to them on special cards created by design and architecture duo Cabinet of Curiosity. Contributions can also be made by tweeting @litsouthbank and @JaybirdLiveLit using the hashtag #londonlines. Tweets will appear live throughout the weekend on a giant screen on Southbank Centre’s Clore Ballroom. 

The cards will be used by the 22 poets as inspiration for their final poem, which will be written overnight on Saturday. On Sunday all the cards and the final 33 poems will be installed on The Clore Ballroom in a giant 3-D map of the city created by Cabinet of Curiosity which members of the public can walk through and explore.

For more information visit Southbank Centre's website here.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

DVD review: Nashville - season one

Trashy, fun, bubblegum television - that's what Nashville is, and it's not sorry about it either.

Country music isn't as understood here in Britain as it perhaps is in America, but Nashville brings the guitars, cowboy boots, hats and more to the screen, easily translating everything for international audiences. Nashville explores plenty of everyday issues - heartbreak, family, love, success, failure - all set to a backdrop of twanging guitars and sequined tops.
 
Established Queen of Country Rayna James (Connie Britton) isn't selling records or tour tickets as fast as she used to, so her record label decides to pair her with teen country sensation Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). The two are like chalk and cheese, and clash at every opportunity, all while trying to deal with conflicts aplenty in their personal lives.

Nashville's two protagonists are both characters you love, and sometimes love to hate.

Panetierre's Juliette starts off as spoilt and annoying, but quickly gains depth and our sympathy, despite her sometimes brattish tendencies. Just when you think she's learnt something new, she proves that she's still just a girl in so many ways.

On the other hand, Britton's Rayna is all confident adult woman, and she knows how to handle herself. She's the consummate good girl, who becomes not so good as the series goes on, but her faults only make her human. And it's easy to like Rayna, who is coping with a husband who's just a bit too smooth, a father who she doesn't have the best relationship with, and a career on the wane.

Behind Rayna and Juliette are a huge cast of secondary characters.

Deacon Clayborne (Charles Esten) is Rayna's former flame and guitarist, who finds himself acting as Juliette's confidant and sage. He provides an interesting conflict for Rayna and Juliette to navigate around, and has a compelling back story himself - one I'd like to see more of without Rayna and Juliette constantly fighting over him.

His niece, Scarlett O'Connor (Clare Bowen) and her writing partner Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) are very talented, and very sweet together. Their story is a slow burn, and one I like, even though Scarlett can be a bit grating sometimes with her sweetness.

But then there are the back stories I really don't care for. These include anything to do with Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson), Scarlet's former boyfriend who's a bit of a scumbag; Rayna's husband Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), who's a womaniser; and all the political manouverings that involve Teddy, one of Rayna's friends, and her dad. All of these just distract from the main narrative of Nashville, are nothing to do with the music (apart from Avery's, but did I mention he's a scumbag?) and involve characters I find it really difficult to care about.

Nashville loses coherency when it starts to delve into its many, many side stories. The show is at its best when the concentration is on Rayna and Juliette, either as a pair or individually, and on the music. Granted, country may not be everyone's thing, but I defy you to watch Nashville and not be pulled in by its soapy nature. You'll be wanting to add a cowboy hat to your wardrobe before you know it.

Nashville - season one is out on DVD on July 15.

The Sunday Post (#14)


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

Before I get in to this week's recap, I just want to address two huge, sad stories that have broken overnight. 

Firstly, the fact that George Zimmerman has been acquited of the murder of Trayvon Martin. This stuns me. My thoughts go out to Trayvon's family, and I hope one day they get the justice they deserve.

Secondly, the passing of Cory Monteith. I've been a huge fan of Glee since day one, and have stuck with it even though good and bad. Finn was never my favourite character, but I liked Cory, his sense of humour and the fact that he was very honest about who he was. Thiry-one is no age, and my thoughts go to his family, friends and colleagues.

Now, on to the recap.

Book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter
After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross (review)
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (review)
Making History at London 2012, edited by Brendan Gallagher (review)
Stacking the Shelves (#10)

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter

Review: Thorpe Park and The Crash Pad
DVD review: The Paperboy

Coming up next week on Girl!Reporter
I'm toying with starting a new feature, so keep an eye out for that.

What have you been up to?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Stacking the Shelves (#10)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, and it's all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves, be they physical or virtual, sent to you for review, bought, or borrowed from the library.

Borrowed
Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman

Bought
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
Imran Khan The Biography by Christopher Sandford

It's been a few weeks since I've last done Stacking the Shelves, and I can't quite remember what I've bought and borrowed, so there's definitely a few missing, especially as some have gone back to the library.

What have you added to your shelves recently?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Reading challenge 2013: Making History at London 2012, edited by Brendan Gallagher

The fifth book in my challenge to ready 12 non-fiction books in 2013 is Making History at London 2012, 25 Iconic Moments of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This time a year ago I was in the middle of putting together a supplement about the Games, and preparing coverage of the Olympic Torch relay. It's amazing to think that in the two months that followed, we saw some of the best sport ever played.

I got sent Making History at London 2012 last year, at the time of its release, but after a whirlwind summer where I felt like I lived and breathed the Games, I didn't read it. It's fitting to go back to it now, as we approach the first anniversary of the Games.

Edited by Brendan Gallagher, chief sports feature writer at The Daily Telegraph, Making History at London 2012 is a collection of essays by journalists (and the design principal for the Games) on a variety of subjects, from the bid for the 2012 Games to the opening ceremony to the construction of the park to an analysis of the great sport we saw.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are touted as 'the greatest show on earth', and this book celebrates that. There are no mentions of any protests around the Games, and very few of the sporting failures. Instead, this book does what Brits so often don't do but learnt to during the Games - lauds our achievements as a nation (as well as praising a few international athletes). It's a one-sided look at the Games, but what a great side the writers picked.

As I read Tom Knight's recap of Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony, Pat Rowley's account of how Team GB women's hockey captain Kate Walsh returned to the tournament after surgery on a fractured jaw, Craig Lord's piece on Michael Phelps' historic Games, and more, I felt the emotions of London 2012 coming back to me.

It was a truly glorious summer, where all of Britain got caught up in a sense of triumph and where we watched as a Games we all held niggling doubts about went off without a hitch. Not everything great about the Games is mentioned in Making History at London 2012, but with such a phenomenally successful Games (the best in history some would say), there was no way to include it all. Gallagher says in his introduction:
"There was just so much to take in, and there still is. As ever, the greatest challenge lies in deciding what to leave out."
What's included in this book is a great selection, and the rest will live on in our memories. 

DVD review: The Paperboy starring Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey

Dark, disturbing and full of unlikeable characters, The Paperboy is a gritty thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

It's a hot summer in the 1960s, and successful reporter Ward (McConaughey) returns home to his southern town with colleague Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo). The pair are out to prove the innocence of Hillary van Wetter (John Cusack), a nasty, nasty man who has been wrongly put on death row for murdering a sheriff.

They're helped by Charlotte Bless (Kidman), a needy, overly sexualised woman who has been writing letters to van Wetter in prison, and who plans to marry him when he's released.

As Ward and Yardley dig deeper, Ward's brother Jack (Efron) becomes obsessed with Charlotte, and the group find themselves being drawn ever deeper into the swamp that is van Wetter and his family.

The Paperboy is full of black humour, interspersed with disturbing scenes which will leave you wondering where to look. Standout moments of crassness come in two scenes - the one with the jellyfish, and the one with the first visit to van Wetter in prison. Both will have you glancing away, and feature Kidman as you've never seen her before (and never want to again).

While the central aim for the characters is proving van Wetter's innocence (you can't help but wish they fail), The Paperboy isn't about who actually murdered the sheriff. That plot is simply a tool to learn more about Ward, Yardley, Jack and Charlotte, and the things they learn about each other are often unappetising but can lead to some touching moments - we are shown Ward and Jack's bond as brothers, for example, multiple times.

The Paperboy features some great performances from all its central cast, as well as from supporting actress Macy Gray, whose servant Anita is both friend, adviser and mother to Jack, and whose husky tones narrate the whole film.

A sweaty noir, The Paperboy is compelling viewing, even when you don't like what you're seeing.

•The Paperboy is out on DVD and Blu-ray from July 29.

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