Saturday, 31 August 2013

My week in books (#7)

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.

If you were 16 again and ordered by teachers to read this summer, what titles would you be unlocking on your Kindle or Nook? That's the question being answered here in an AARP post about reading lists for 2013. Let me know what you read/are reading at school in the comments.

You can't choose your own family, but you can definitely choose the fictional ones you hang out with. Here, author Jeremy Strong picks his top 10 funniest fictional families (yes to Matilda's weird family and to the Funnybones!).

You might have heard about the new Library of Birmingham. Rather than cutting back on library services, the city has invested millions in a huge building to house books and computers and DVDs and all sorts of other things. It opens on September 3, but you can take a peek here now.

Lisa Tuttle writes in The Guardian here about her favourite fantasy novels for 'people who don't like dragons or sexy vampires'! 

Vicky over at Books, Biscuits and Tea posted a review here of a cute Kindle cover that looks like the cover of a Jane Auten novel.

And finally, this week we lost another literary great - Seamus Heaney. His publishers, Faber, released a statement here, and they also published Digging, the opening poem from the first collection they published of his, Death of a Naturalist, here. Among my favourite lines by Heaney are the following, from The Cure at Troy (Heaney's version of Sophocles' Philoctetes), which seem a fitting way to end:
Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Book review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

There are two things in life that are certain, goes the saying - death and taxes. While there's not much of the latter in Gavin Extence's excellent debut novel The Universe Versus Alex Woods, there's certainly plenty of the former.

That's not to say that Universe is a morbid book, or even a sad one (most of the time). In fact, for a book about death, it's full of life and joy and love.

Seventeen-year-old Alex Woods is stopped at the Port of Dover. In the car next to him is a stash of cannabis and an urn of ashes. As Alex's story unravels, we get to know a boy whose life has been filled with the ordinary and the extraordinary, and with an unlikely friendship with the Kurt Vonnegut-loving pensioner down the road from him - Issac Peterson.

Told in the first person, this is a novel in which we get to know everything the forthright protagonist thinks, and he thinks a lot. Cerebral and precocious, Alex should be annoying. But he's not. He's honest and loveable and right in so many ways - the universe is the thing that's wrong.

Alex explains to the reader about the very weird thing that happened to him when he was 10 (dealing with death one) through to the diagnosis of his epilepsy (dealing with death two) to how the ashes on the seat in the car got on the seat in the car (dealing with death three) through to his questioning by Chief Inspector Hearse (come on, this one's obvious). And as he does we get to know a boy who turns into a young man who is driven by friendship and love and the desire to do good, and who is brave (what other 17-year-old could do what he did?) and kind and wise beyond his years.

In some ways Mr Peterson is Alex's opposite - he's cynical and angry and doesn't care much about day-to-day life (although he is a pacifist and active Amnesty International supporter). Until Alex makes him care. In any other story the wise old man would impart life experience on the young upstart - in Universe the roles are reversed and it's Mr Peterson who learns to live from Alex. Aside from that role reversal, the thing I loved most about Mr Peterson was that he accepted Alex for who he was, and never tried to change him.

Universe has a great supporting cast, including Alex's Tarot-card reading clairvoyant mother (who's actually pretty cool), Dr Weir and Dr Enderby (Alex's friend and his doctor respectively), and even the school bullies who unwittingly help cement Alex and Mr Peterson's friendship. Alex's world is a world full of people - we rarely see him talk much about surroundings (until Switzerland) without talking about the people in them extensively.

Perhaps what I loved most about Universe was that, even though it explored a divisive issue around death, it was primarily, in my mind, a book about people, and about friendship. When was the last time you read a great book that was just about friendship? It's been a long time for me, and I'm glad this was the book to bring me back to that type of characterisation. Despite its sad parts, Universe was uplifting because of the central relationship - a friendship of the kind that few of us are lucky to experience in a lifetime, and that Alex did in his 17 years.

How I got this book: Won from the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (#13) - most memorable secondary characters

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 10 most memorable secondary characters. For the purposes of this top 10, I'm going to take secondary to mean anyone who wasn't the protagonist, regardless of how big their role was.

1. Ron Weasley - the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Ron was everything a best friend and sidekick should be, and I loved every glimpse we got of him and his life.

2. Hermione Granger - the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
As above, Hermione was a great secondary character. Without both her and Ron, the Harry Potter books, and Harry himself, would not have been as brilliant as they were.

3. James - All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
A really intriguing secondary character, I wanted to know a lot more about James.

4. Mr Peterson - The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
I'm not actually finished with this book yet, but I love Mr Peterson for his wit and his acceptance of Alex.

5. Isabel - The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater
I loved Isabel so much, and really, really wanted to see more about her life. I thought her story was as powerful as the protagonist's, a sign of a really good secondary character.

6. Gus - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Oh Gus. What is there to say? A wonderful secondary character who we fall in love with as Hazel does.

7. Lula - The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
I recently reviewed Notorious Nineteen and said the series wasn't as good as it was when it first started. Lula, however, is still as hilarious as she was in the first book, maybe even more so. She's everything a sidekick shouldn't be, but it works.

8. Jasper Cullen - The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
Edward and Bella - *yawn*. Jasper, on the other hand, was a fascinating character and I wish we'd spent more time with him.

9. Gilbert Blythe - Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
I loved Gilbert, and his and Anne's relationship was easily the most fascinating of the book for me when I was younger.

10. Justin - Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
Justin is a character we don't know a whole lot about, but what I saw of him I really liked. I assume he will play a bigger part in the sequel.

Who are your favourite secondary characters?

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Sunday Post (#20) and Showcase Sunday (#6)

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
Review - Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich
Top 10 Tuesday (#12) - things that make life as a reader/blogger easier
Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing
Review - Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman
My week in books (#6) - a Roald Dahl competition, Margaret Atwood and how to get children reading

Books I added to my shelves

It's been a quiet week, which is no bad thing considering the amount of unread books I already own.

I won a copy of Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson from Random House (thanks!) through a Goodreads competition. This will be the first Wilson book I'll ever read - I think I was a bit too old for her novels so missed the boat, and have never got into them. I will say that I know how popular she is from when I worked at Cheltenham Festival of Literature - the queue for her book signing was longer than anyone else's!

My brother lent me A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar, which is a true story. It looks pretty good.

What have you been up to this week?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

My week in books (#6)

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.

It's a bank holiday weekend here in England, and for once the weather's going to be good apparently. At the moment, it's a bit grey and drizzly (although not cold), which is great reading weather, so I'll be immersing myself in some good books this weekend. What's your preferred reading weather?

If you want to test yourself a bit over the next few days, Buzzfeed has a quiz here on opening lines from books. Some are very obvious, others not so much. Let me know how you get on.

I'm a massive advocate for getting children reading as early as possible, since I read lots as a child and firmly believe it helped me academically, as well as just expanded my world and gave me an escape. has a piece here on how to get children to read.

For those who love Roald Dahl, TruffleShuffleBlog has teamed up with the Roald Dahl Literary Estate for a fantastic competition here. You've only got until August 28 to enter, so get going!

A couple of things to help you get inside the minds of authors:
  • I meant to link to this ages ago, but New York Magazine did a good piece on Samantha Shannon a while back, which you can find here.
  • There's a great interview on Goodreads here with Matthew Quick, who answers questions from members of the site.
  • MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood is released soon. To tide you over until it's out you can buy a t-shirt here, or watch this video interview with Atwood.
Kirsty Gunn at The Guardian has done a piece here about ultra long books coming back, and what that says about us as readers.

And finally, an amusing little amusing gossip piece here from Axegrinder about Harper Collins future office move.

Have you found anything interesting you want to share? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Book review: Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman

There's a reason Malorie Blackman has been made Children's Laureate, and that reason is that she is an excellent storyteller.

Noble Conflict is a layered look at a dystopian world where deadly force is not deployed against enemies. Instead, "terrorists" are stunned, and they are always treated well, even getting medical help before Alliance Guardians are.

Into this world comes Kasper, who has just completed his training as a Guardian. Proud to be serving his country - like his dead parents before him who were legendary Guardians - Kasper soon starts to realise everything is not as it seems. As he learns more and more about the world around him, he discovers that what he believes in and is fighting for may have been constructed on lies.

Knowledge is at the centre of Blackman's book - Kasper quickly learns that knowledge is power, but that the leaders of his world are working on the basis that the ignorance of their population is what makes them powerful.

It's a chance encounter with an Insurgent, the fighting arm of the Alliance's enemies the Crusaders, that sets Kasper on his path to knowledge, although you can see the cogs beginning to turn even before that. This is what I liked most about Kasper - he wasn't afraid to question things, and to fight for what he believed was right. It's that belief that kept him going throughout Noble Conflict, even when the boundaries of his world changed.

Rhea, the Insurgent Kasper meets, is an interesting character, but one we only really know through Kasper. Literally. After their encounter Kasper gets flashes of her life, and it's through these that he, and we, begin to suspect something is up. Kasper's encounters with Rhea reveal a lot - both about the Alliance and the Crusaders, and about Kasper himself.

Aside from Rhea, Noble Conflict is full of strong female characters, such as Guardians Janna and Mariska, who we only see briefly but who kick arse. 

I loved Mac especially, the nerdy librarian who helps Kasper with his research and opens up a world of learning for him. If this was a conventional YA novel, Rhea, Kasper and Mac's relationship would be a love triangle. Luckily, this isn't a conventional novel, and although Mac and Rhea are pitted as opposites, they're never pitted against each other as rivals for Kasper's affections. 

This choice is one of the reasons why Noble Conflict is higher class of YA novel than some out there. The other reasons include that it's a thought provoking novel about how we should question our leaders, and another still is that it's a beautifully crafted story - Blackman tells you everything her characters know and need to know, and nothing more. It makes for something quite poignant (even though I spent the last third of the novel yelling at various characters in my head), and as a standalone I thought it ended just right. 

How I got this book: From the library

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing

In honour of Elmore Leonard, who has died after having a stroke, I thought I'd take a look at his 10 rules of writing, so many of which I agree with wholeheartedly (especially numbers three and six). 

Leonard was a talented writer who'll be missed, but he has left us with his lessons and words of wisdom, which will be around for a long time.

For a more detailed extract from his book 10 Rules of Writing, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, click here.

In the meantime here's a summary of the 10:

1 Never open a book with weather.
2 Avoid prologues.
3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said".
5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control.
6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose".
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered.
9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Top Ten Tuesday (#12) - things that make life as a reader/blogger easier

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 10 thing that make my life as a reader/book blogger easier.

1. The library
I can't praise my local library service enough. As a youngster, there is no way I would have been able to afford all the books I read, so the library was an invaluable resource. As an adult, I like to support my local library so it can give others the same opportunities I had. Libraries are a gateway to the whole world, and I adore them.

2. The internet
Where else would I find out about new books, read posts by bloggers and order books I just can't wait to go into a shop and buy?

3. Bookshops
Because while the internet is great, there's nothing like being surrounded by shelves and shelves of new or second hand books. The internet won't be able to replicate the lovely smell of paper for a while.

4. Twitter
I've only recently started following many, many publishers on Twitter, and I'm discovering a whole host of new authors and books through the medium.

5. Blogger
Okay, I know it's not the best blogging platform out there, but I'm time poor and Blogger is pretty simple to use, so I like it.

6. Bloggers
Bloggers are great for finding out about book stuff and for encouraging my love of literature.

A weird one, but I love bookmarks. I'm one of those people who absolutely can't turn the corners of pages, so I need bookmarks to help me keep my place.

8. My mobile phone
Another strange one, but if I'm browsing in a bookshop or the library and see a book I want to read but haven't got time to at the moment, I'll take a photo of it and store it in my phone so I remember it for the future.

9. Goodreads
This is another tool I've only recently started using, but I'm enjoying interacting with other people, seeing what they're reading and discovering new books.

Because I'm a little bit OCD, I need somewhere I can organise my books in alphabetical order by author's surname, and piling them up on the floor doesn't enable me to do that. Hurrah for bookshelves.

What makes your life as a reader/blogger easier?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Book review: Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know I'm a fan of Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series.

I love the books because they're fun, funny and are shot through with a good bit of mayhem and mystery, and a little bit of romance.

Still, we're up to the 19th book in the series now, and I'm hoping Evanovich is drawing the story to a close.

In Notorious Nineteen Stephanie's latest mission is to track down Geoffrey Cubbins, who's gone missing from hospital. Cubbins is one of Trenton's most hated - as manager of a local care home he's stolen thousands and thousands from its elderly residents, who are on the warpath. Cubbins' disappearance, however, doesn't seem convenient.

Meanwhile, the tall, dark, handsome and mysterious Ranger has drafted Stephanie in to help him protect a long-term friend of his, who is getting married. Ranger and his friend are being threatened, and they think the threats are from a former Army buddy.

And, of course, Stephanie's still trying to figure out whether she wants to spend the rest of her life with hot cop Joe Morelli, or have fun with Ranger.

Notorious Nineteen has all the usual Evanovich highlights - a gaffe-prone Stephanie, a mystery that kept me guessing and a good dollop of danger.

As per usual, Lula had me in stitches, and the side story of the Tiki made me chuckle throughout. Grandma Mazur made a few appearances, but not nearly enough, and Stephanie's ability to land herself in strange situations and make 'friends' with the weirdest people never fails to amuse me.

But, after 19 books, I'm kind of ready for Stephanie to choose between Morelli and Ranger. While the mysteries in the last few books have been fun, they've not been nearly as fun as when the series started, and it's now all about Stephanie's Choice (yes, in capitals).

Evanovich is a great writer whose books make me laugh out loud - it's a rare writer who's good at writing funny. But I feel ready to move on now, and am hoping that the next book is the last. I'm largely with the series out of loyalty now (and for Lula and Stephanie's family). Oh, and if this series must carry on, perhaps the focus can move from Morelli/Stephanie/Ranger to Lula and Tank - they've always been hilarious.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Sunday Post (#19) and Showcase Sunday (#5)

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
Review - The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer
My week in books (#5) - a gift for book lovers, the ups and downs of being a crime writer by David Jackson and 15 books banned for absurd reasons
Review - All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Books I added to my shelves

I went to visit my friend who works for Bloomsbury this week, and got a few books and some lovely promotional stuff.

I've not heard of Alyxandra Harvey before, but I needed something to carry the books my friend gave me, so grabbed the bag and the little purse-thing. I also got a gorgeous Bloomsbury Picture Books tote, and a couple of Stravaganza bookmarks, since I'm always using scraps of paper and receipts as bookmarks.

Book wise, I picked up After Eden by Helen Douglas, Someone by Alice McDermott and When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan. These are all uncorrected proofs, so not the real covers at all.

And finally from my trip to Bloomsbury I picked up The Selfish Crocodile, a children's book in both English and Arabic.

For review, I got one book from Penguin, and it's a beauty:

 What have you been up to this week?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Book review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill


Time travel is a difficult thing to get right when it comes to books, but Cristin Terrill is beyond successful at it in All Our Yesterdays, which is one of the most haunting young adult novels I've read in a long time.

Em and Finn are locked up in cells next to each other in a mysterious government facility. Four years ago, Marina is in love with James, the super-clever brother of a senator who lives next door. Now Em and Finn must go back in time to kill James - the only way the world they currently live in will be saved.

If it sounds a little complicated, that's because it is, but Terrill makes it all easy to understand. The basic premise is that the ability to time travel led to bad things, and Em and Finn must go back in time to stop time travel ever being invented. I got this concept and the time lines far quicker than I have other time travel novels I've read.

Em and Finn's mission is a horrible one, but as a reader I knew exactly why they set out to kill James. Although Terrill doesn't show us the world outside our four main characters and some secondary ones, it's clear from the way she frames Em and Finn's life - the flashbacks/flashforwards they have, the fear running through them at all times, the coldness of the doctor and the director - that the world in the future isn't a good place.

I like that we found out so little about the future world. Terrill tells you just enough to give you a good idea of what's going on, but her concentration is on the characters, and it's the characters that make the novel shine. This is a spoiler-free review of All Our Yesterdays, so those of you who have read the book will know why I decide to talk about the characters as I do. Those who haven't read it will be grateful I've chosen this route when you do read the novel.

First up are Em and Finn. Both are tough, but clearly scared and battling demons from their past and their future. Despite knowing they have to kill James, the pair are never shown as cold-hearted or ruthless. There's a humanity to them both that makes them really appealing, and mostly that humanity comes through in the way they care for each other, and the way they care about Marina.

Oh, Marina. She's the teenage girl we all felt we were inside, even if on the outside we put on a good front. I loved Marina, and Marina loved James, perhaps to her detriment. I thought Terrill was really, really good at crafting a genuine feeling teenage girl in the midst of a dystopian novel. It's rare that you find such human characters in dystopian novels - the females are usually also warriors, something Marina is definitely not.

And James. My heart broke for James so many times over the course of All Our Yesterdays. This may be controversial, but I really liked James, despite his many, many faults. In some ways, I felt exactly what Marina felt for him, even though I knew those feelings weren't good for her or for me. But that's Terrill's power, she can make you feel such human emotions for fictional characters that you'll plow through the hurt and just carry on reading.

All Our Yesterdays is a painful novel, and really addictive. I love that it's a standalone, and not part of a series. It meant the novel had really good pacing, and an ending that was just magnificent in its sadness and triumph. This is one book that I'm going to have a hangover from for a long time.

How I got this book: From the publisher, Bloomsbury

My week in books (#5)

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, I posted last week about getting Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns (which I reviewed here) and there was lots of love for the gorgeous cover and the spine. Well, the guy who illustrated the cover, and did the drawings inside, was the wonderful Brandon Dorman. You can see more of his lovely illustrations on his official website here.

Some lists (because you know I love lists):
  • Buzzfeed did 15 books banned for the most absurd reasons. There's some unexpected ones in there, and my jaw dropped at the reasons giving for banning these novels at various times
  • Also on Buzzfeed, a contributed post by Harper Collins on 16 bookstores you have to see before you die. My goodness, some of these book shops are amazing. If you know of any that aren't in the list, let me know in the comments.
  • Talking of bookshops, The Guardian has an interactive directory here of independent book shops across Britain, and you can add any that are missing. 
  • The Guardian is also liveblogging from the Edingburgh international book festival, so if you can't get there yourself you can keep up with what's going on here.
  • Ginger over at GReads! did a list of sweet summertime back to school reads which you can find here
It can be difficult to buy presents for book loving friends, since they may already own too many (is there such a thing?) books, but I saw something else that is perfect for bookworms. The Literary Gift Company is selling this gorgeous literary map of Britain, which is just stunning.

Pan Macmillan this week featured a piece by one of their authors, David Jackson, on the ups and downs of being a crime writer. It's amusing and honest, and you can find it here.

I'm currently reading All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill and can already tell I'm going to have a book hangover after I've finished, a concept that's defined in lovely fashion here.

And finally, although not strictly a book thing but it does involve characters from literature as well as other mediums, Sophia McDougall wrote a great piece for the New Statesman here about why she hates Strong Female Characters. It's not what you think, note the caps.

Let me know if you've come across anything you want to share.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Book review: The Land of Stories - The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer

Sometimes I'd like to get sucked into a fairytale world, where I get to wear pretty dresses and run around the woods singing.

Although I'm not quite sure it would be like that, especially if the fairytale world I was getting sucked into was the one created by Chris Colfer in his The Land of Stories series.

The sequel to The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, The Enchantress Returns continues the story of twins Conner and Alex, who in the first novel fell through a book in to the fairytale kingdom, had some adventures, battled some villains, rescued some people and came back into the real world.

A little older now, the twins find themselves falling back into the book, this time to help battle the evil Enchantress, the stuff of Sleeping Beauty's nightmares.

Unlike in the first book, there's a lot more 'real life' stuff in The Enchantress Returns, and it generally works well. Alex and Conner, while dealing with the aftermath of their adventures in the Land of Stories, also have to deal with feelings of abandonment because their grandmother (the Fairy Godmother) has not contacted them in an age, and with all the feelings that come when their mother starts dating someone new. I thought this stuff helped balance out the fairytale elements, although perhaps the real world was explored a little too much (more on that in a bit).

Colfer has an absorbing writing style, and I found myself immersed in the fairytale world he created within the space of a few sentences. I knew I'd be in for a good read as I scanned the final lines of the prologue:

There was no denying it now; the kingdom’s greatest fear had come true.
“The Enchantress,” Sleeping Beauty whispered to herself. “She’s back.”
Unfortunately, Colfer suffers a little of the J.K. Rowling circa Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix here - he's got an editor who didn't use their red pen when they should have done. The Enchantress Returns clocks in at 517 pages, and I'd say at least 100 of those are unnecessary.

Colfer's writing isn't bad, by any means (he's actually a very engaging writer), but I felt the book could have moved a lot faster. After that prologue, it takes around 120 pages for the twins to actually get back to the Land of Stories (although we see glimpses of it in the narrative), which was far too long in my opinion. What comes before this is a lot of setting up, some of which, while sweet and amusing, wasn't relevant to the plot of the novel. And let's be honest, while I want a well-rounded tale, what I really wanted when I read this book was to head into the Land of Stories with Alex and Conner as quickly as possible.

Once in the Land of Stories though, the book ramps up and when the twins finally set off on their adventure proper - a balloon ride across the kingdoms to assemble the Wand of Wanderment to defeat the Enchantress - then it's a rollicking ride all the way to the end.

And the end. Goodness, the end. My heart broke, and then didn't know whether to fix itself or keep breaking. The ending of The Enchantress Returns is just painfully perfect, or perfectly painful, and Colfer knows just how to suck every bit of emotion out of you. It reminded me very much of the way a popular fantasy series ended - I'd tell you which but then you might guess how The Enchantress Returns ends.

On the way to that heartrending ending was a whole load of fun, and some genuinely scary parts. While many favourite, and not-so-favourite, fairytale characters star in The Enchantress Returns, the focus is on four we met in The Wishing Spell but didn't spend masses of time with - Froggy, Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and Jack (as in and the Beanstalk). I like this concentration, and it meant we got to know the characters really well. My favourite was Red, who may be annoying and dim and self-centred, but who I felt had a heart of gold and was really underappreciated by Goldilocks in particular. Sure, she may not be brave and clever, but she played her part in helping forge the Wand of Wonderment, and she has a good soul. While I liked Goldilocks, I didn't like her constant mocking of Red (although Red was hardly kind towards Goldilocks all the time either!).

Colfer makes good use of characters from the first novel - Trollbella is a laugh and the relationship between twins Alex and Conner has grown and is very sweet, as is their relationship with their mum - and introduces some great new ones. Among them are Rumpelstiltskin (not in the book much but who plays a crucial role every time he appears), Mother Goose (hilarious), and the Snow Queen, the Sea Witch and the Enchantress (the first two are really scary and the latter is a whole other layer of evil).

It's not only Colfer who needs to get credit for The Enchantress Returns - the book is beautifully illustrated by Brandon Dorman. The cover is gorgeous (an earlier post of mine mentioning this book saw major love given to the cover and spine), as is the map on the inside covers, but it's the black and white pencil drawings at the start of each chapter that are the real winners. Every time I started a chapter I'd stop after a few sentences and go and stare at the picture at the top of the chapter again.

The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns is an absorbing read. I can forgive its faults because it's a really, really good tale that is generally very well told. Immerse yourself in a familiar yet not familiar fairytale land, and remember to have tissues handy for that ending.

How I got this book: Bought

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Sunday Post (#18) and Showcase Sunday (#4)

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 10 Tuesday (#11) - books I wish could have had sequels
The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale (review)
My week in books (#4) - gorgeous Harry Potter covers, a dystopian fiction infographic and more
A to Z bookish survey 

Books I added to my shelves: 

The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer.

I take the jacket off books when I read them, so as not to spoil them!

For review:

Sounds Like London - 100 years of black music in the capital by Lloyd Bradley
1,000 things to do in London from Time Out - this one is not new, it's been sitting on my desk at work for months and months, but we had an office move so I brought it home.

What's your news for the week? 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A to Z bookish survey

Author you’ve read the most books from:
I read an absolute tonne of Baby-Sitters Club books when I was younger, and the same with Sweet Valley High, so either Ann M Martin or Francine Pascal. Probably the latter, since I read a lot of the Fearless series too.

Best sequel ever:
Ever? Ask me this in a week and I'll probably have a different answer, but for now I'll say Crown of Midnight (review here) by Sarah J. Maas.

Currently reading: 
The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer, Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi and Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich.

Drink of choice while reading:
Water, although I'm usually too caught up reading to drink anything.

E-reader or physical book?
Physical book, hands down.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school:
Difficult one, but probably Peeta from The Hunger Games.

Glad you gave this book a chance:
Gone Girl (review here) by Gillian Flynn. It sat on my shelf for ages and I didn't want to read it, despite the positive reviews, but I'm so glad I got over myself.

Hidden gem book:
Gentleman and Players by Joanne Harris.

Important moment in your reading life:
Discovering that book blogging is something I love doing, whether anyone's reading what I write or not.

Just finished:
The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale (review here).

Kinds of books you won’t read:
Nothing really. I'll give everything a try. Maybe zombie fiction, since I read one earlier this year and didn't like it.

Longest book you’ve read:
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, which clocks in at 944 pages.

Major book hangover because of:
A toss up between My Sister's Keeper by Jodie Picoult, which left me broken, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which left me stunned.

Number of bookcases you own:
Just the one massive one.

One book you have read multiple times:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Back to where it all began.

Preferred place to read:
My bed.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: 
"Once upon a time" - four little words that signify hope and magic to come.

Reading regret:
Not exploring the online world of book bloggers sooner.

Series you started and need to finish(all books are out in series):
Fearless by Francine Pascal.

Three of your all-time favorite books:
Just three? We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (review here) and Matilda by Roald Dahl

Unapologetic fangirl for:
Nora Roberts. My go-to for comfort fiction.

Very excited for this release more than all the others:
Resist by Sarah Crossan, the sequel to Breathe (review here).

Worst bookish habit:
Buying/borrowing too many books.

X marks the spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Your latest book purchase: 
The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

If you've done this survey, let me know in the comments.


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