Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Sunday Post (#25) and Showcase Sunday (#11)

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 Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My week in books (#10) - Fortunately, The Milk..., The Book Thief from page to screen, and more.

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter
Review: The Halal Food Festival

It's been another really quiet week when it comes to book gathering. I think September has just been one of those months where I've had so much going on that books have fallen to the bottom of the list. Hopefully I can get back in the swing of things in October.

EDIT: My mum got me the below, which is so cute. The picture is roughly life-size!


What have you been up to, and what have you added to your bookshelves?  

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Review: Halal Food Festival

Food shows are big business at the moment, whatever culture or religion you are, and the UK's first Halal Food Festival tapped into that zeitgeist.

Held over three days in an exhibition space in the ExCeL in east London, the festival brought together artisan producers, celebrity chefs and foodies (nicknamed 'haloodies'). I headed down for the second day to check out all the fuss.

The festival hall was packed when we got there just after 2pm, and we got stuck right in, heading round the various stalls, trying out products and purchasing plenty along the way. A highlight was the mango fudge produced by Suffolk-based Yum Yum Tree Fudge, which nearly made me swoon.

At the cooking school area, we watched Glasgow-based chef Ajmal Mushtaq lead six people in making a chicken curry, which smelt delicious and tasted pretty good too (since we all got to try a bit). At the live cookery theatre we watched Aneesh from The Chocolatier put together something truly scrumptious looking that involved lots of chocolate and coconut.

Where the Halal Food Festival fell down, unfortunately, was in the food that you could eat. After a few hours wondering round, there's only so many samples you can eat before you want something substantial. Granted, there were some amazing stalls at the festival, selling burgers, wraps and more. But they weren't very close together, meaning it was hard to compare and contrast and decide what you wanted. A "food village" of sorts, around a seating area, would have been good.

Once you did decide what you wanted, there was the queuing. First, there wasn't really room to queue in the event space, so lines of people stretched out past other stalls, getting in the way. Second, the most popular stand had a queue that people waited in for an hour. That is absolutely ridiculous. Bigger stands, spread out a little more would have been perfect.

Obviously, the festival organisers needed to consider cost, but if I were them I would have cut the festival down to two days (yesterday's opening day was a wash, according to many stallholders I spoke to), and then spent the money saved on hiring a bigger space.

Still, this is the first time this festival has been held. With a few lessons from this year, next year's event has the potential to be bigger, and much better.

My week in books (#10)

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.

Last time I did one of these I mentioned Roald Dahl Day, which was earlier this month. There's a great Pinterest page here, with pictures of the Dahl inspired lunches people made to celebrate Roald Dahl Day. Brilliant.

One of my favourite authors is Neil Gaiman, who recently released Fortunately, The Milk... (great book with lovely illustrations, go read it if you haven't already). To celebrate, his publishers Bloomsbury asked people to put together videos raising a glass of milk, which you can find here. There are some inventive and funny ones in there.

This next one is technically not to do with books, but it is to do with writing, so I figured I could include it. Huffington Post did a round up of punctuation marks we no longer use, which you can find here. I'm a geek, so this really fascinated me.

I saw a trailer for The Book Thief recently, and it looks amazing. Here's a piece from Hollywood about how the book was turned into a film. And here's the trailer if you haven't seen it...

Here's a piece from The Guardian about a previously unknown Ian McEwan short story being discovered.

It may have been a week since news that the Man Booker Prize was going international was released, but people are still talking about. Here's a piece from The Atlantic about how the decision is a good thing.

And finally, I know nothing about Tone Almhjell's The Twistrose Key, apart from that it has a beautiful website, here.

What have you found over the past week that you've enjoyed?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Book review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Memory, myth, fairytales and a child's imagination come together in Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

A sweeping novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is both a children's book and an adult's tale.

A middle-aged man returns to the place he grew up for a family funeral. In between the service and the wake, he finds himself back at a pond on a neighbour's farm, and while there he remembers the war that raged when he was seven, and how he was saved by the Hempstocks - Old Mrs Hempstock, Ginnie Hempstock, and 11-year-old Lettie Hempstock.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a novel of myths and mysteries, and I found myself puzzled and confused at times. I'm still not sure I understood quite what happened, and whether what happened was real or not, but in this way I'm like the narrator, a man who remembers and then forgets, who doubts his memory, and whose recollections of that incident when he was seven differs from those of other people involved.

The confusion didn't mean I didn't enjoy the novel though. I found it poetic and scary, at the same time, and got caught up in the fable and fairytale elements of the book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is simultaneously a novel about the things we as children were afraid would happen if we misbehaved (letting go of someone's hand when they were keeping us safe), and a novel that is firmly rooted in a fantasy world.

Gaiman has a real way with words, using them to create images that burn themselves in your mind. At times, I was reminded of his earlier novel, Coraline. That book terrified me, and I found The Ocean at the End of the Lane employed a similar method when trying to scare the reader. Rather than the fantastical bad guys being the ones who scared me most, it was the narrator's father who won the dubious honour of being the most terrifying character in the book.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book you shouldn't think too hard about, or try to dissect or understand, or find a moral in. It's purely a story, one that confuses and scares and delights, and that's where its beauty lies.

How I got this book: From the library

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Sunday Post (#24) and Showcase Sunday (#10)

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 (#15) - autumn reading list
Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter
DVD review: Hannibal, The Complete Series One

Added to my shelves this week...

From the library:
Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Binding Chair by Kathryn Harrison
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas
The Zahir by Paulo Coelho
Just in Case by Meg Rosoff
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

It's been a pretty quiet week for me reading/blog wise, as I've had a lot going on elsewhere. What have you been up to? 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

DVD review: Hannibal, The Complete Series One

Fava beans, chianti and murder, that's what I know of Hannibal Lecter from that one time I saw Silence of the Lambs and was completely terrified.

A little older, I felt more prepared for Hannibal, which across 13 episodes develops the character of Lecter (Mads Mikkelson) into a suave, sophisticated and, dare I say it, almost likeable person, despite his murderous and cannibalistic tendencies.

Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is a brilliant criminal profiler, haunted by his ability to see into the minds of serial killers. Asked by the FBI's behavioral science unit - headed by Laurence Fishburne's Jack Crawford - to help them solve the case of a Minnesota Shrike, a serial killer who has been brutally killing college aged girls, Will soon finds himself on an ever disturbing path. As he chases more serial killers, he is unaware that the greatest one of all is sitting across from him, being his psychiatrist, acting his friend.

Hannibal is a carefully crafted procedural, which doesn't feel at all like a procedural. The case of the Minnesota Shrike unexpectedly pervades the whole series, even though the serial killer is caught in episode one, and other murders shock and disturb, and stay with Will and the team for a long time.

Dancy is an interesting choice to play Will. A pretty boy who's more often the romantic lead in films, he's not the first actor I would have picked for the nervous, deeply affected Will, but he makes it really work. Dancy's Will is likeable, and draws out the most caring instincts in the viewer - I just wanted him to be okay the whole time I was watching, and I spent plenty of time angry at other characters for not taking the cues that Will was not alright.

Among the characters I felt the most anger towards was Jack, who ploughs ahead with using Will to help him solve crimes, thinking that just having Lecter counsel Will is enough to counter the bloody and brutal sights Will is exposed to.

Of course, Lecter is a help, which is what makes him so much more disturbing than any other serial killer encountered in Hannibal. Lecter is a friend to Will, and a father figure to Abigail Hobbs, the daughter of a serial killer. He helps them both, listens to them, and genuinely cares for them (in his own way).

Mikkelson's rich tone of voice, and his stately presence, make Lecter a calming influence in many scenes, and add to the horror of those in which he kills. Lecter's enthusiasm for fine dining adds black humour to the programme (and is a nod to the fava beans and chianti), as he serves up gourmet dish after gourmet dish to his friends - all of them unknowingly eating human parts.

Hannibal is not a perfect programme. There are distractions which take away from the core of the show and are completely unnecessary - a couple of episodes are wasted on exploring Jack's relationship with his wife, only to then not even mention her for the rest of the series, and there's an aborted romance of sorts in the second half of the season. And reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) is an annoying and largely superfluous character. She's clearly around to function as a signpost, and therefore is rendered badly enough to be both unknowable and unlikeable.

Overall, though, Hannibal is an intriguing programme. It dispenses with many of the annoying cliffhangers that are so often found in drama series, meaning the surprise is not the who but the why, which is much more interesting. The killings are gruesome and of a kind I've not seen before on television (it beats Game of Thrones for horror, if not bloodshed), and the end of series one left me wanting more. Just don't eat meat while you watch.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Book review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

You know a novel is good when you read the last few sentences a handful of times, going over and over them again to make sure the sigh you've let out was indeed correct.

The Scorpio Races was one of those books. The end was beautiful and magical, and just made me sigh - with happiness, with hope, with wonder.

But it's not just the end of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races that was good, the whole book was magnificent. I'm a Stiefvater fan, so I'm a little biased, but of all her novels that I've read, this is my favourite by miles.

Every November, the island of Thisby hosts the Scorpio Races. Riders from across the island, and beyond, ride water horses - magical creatures 'born' from the sea and with an irresistable draw back to it. They're fast, and huge, and the Scorpio Races are a mix of bloodshed and triumph, as riders die to win.

In this mix this year is Puck, riding so her brother Gabe won't leave the island, and Sean, who rides every year on the trusty Corr. Puck and Sean find themselves growing closer to each other, and find their lives change in significant ways as the races approach.

Stiefvater is the queen of the slow build. Despite being set over the period of just a few weeks, The Scorpio Races feels like it should be taking place over a much longer time, but that's because Stiefvater's world is so detailed and full of depth that you're drawn in completely, and lose some sense of time. Part of that draw is the protagonists, Puck and Sean, who are my two favourite characters from all the Stiefvater books I've read.

Headstrong and emotional, Puck is the kind of honourable we'd all like to be, especially because she's as flawed as the rest of us. Her desire to keep her brother around means she does something stupid - enter the Scorpio Races - and her desire to prove everyone else wrong means she chooses to do it on her horse Dove, who is not a water horse. Foolish maybe, but I was rooting for Puck the whole way through, while simultaneously being very, very afraid of what was going to happen.

And then there's Sean. He's the strong, silent type, but with real depth and honour. As passionate as Puck, Sean shows it in different ways. He's a character who stood out from the very beginning, partly because of his connection with his water horse. Corr was as well-rounded as any human character in the novel, and I could easily see why Sean was so protective.

Stiefvater is also great at creating worlds, and Thisby is no exception. In my mind I saw it as a cold, bleak island, but with a natural beauty - like something off the coast in the cold English Channel (in the book I think it's a lot closer to America than to the UK). Thisby was a character of its own, changing moods and affecting people's lives with its actions (and those of the waters around it) in the way usually only people can. Its tight-knit community was well rendered - you could see the cosy baker's shop, the butcher's shop everyone uses as a hub for gossip, and the weird sisters who own the kooky tourist trap/alternative goods shop.

As well as the fear I felt for Puck, and for Sean, I also feared coming to the end of The Scorpio Races. The ending is perfect, so, so, perfect, but I really didn't want the book to finish, since I was so absorbed in it. The Scorpio Races is a beautiful, breathtaking novel, and one that I'll be reading all of (not just the last few sentences of) again and again.

How I got this book: Bought

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Top 10 Tuesday (#15) - autumn reading list

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 books at the top of my autumn TBR list.

There was a similar topic a few months ago - top
10 books at the top of my summer TBR list. I failed really big there, and managed to read one of those books this summer, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The other nine, which carry over into autumn, are Fallen by Lauren Kate, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, Burn Mark by Laura Powell, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, Inferno by Dan Brown, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, and Planet Google by Randall Stross.

For autumn, I add (from my shelves)...

1. The Noughts and Crosses series by Malorie Blackman
I've heard so much good stuff about this series, I'm really looking forward to eventually getting round to it.

2. Sharp Objects and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Seeing as Gone Girl was the only book I read off my summer list, chances are high that I'll read at least one of Flynn's two other novels I own this autumn.

3. The Body in the Library, The Moving Finger and Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
I've never read any Christie before, but I love a good mystery, so hope these will entertain.

4. The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman
These are billed as Harry Potter for grown-ups, which draws me in.

5. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
This is cheating, as I've already started this novel. However, it's been months since I picked it up, and it's absolutely huge, so it's going to take me a while to finish.

6. The MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood
I have all three books in my possession, and have been caught up in the buzz surrounding the release of the final novel, so really need to read them to see what all the fuss is about.

7. When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
Apparently I'll like this if I liked A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I did.

8. The Wall by William Sutcliffe
A friend recommended this, and I trust her.

9. The Island, The Thread and The Return by Victoria Hislop
I've been slowly gathering Hislop's books for a while, now it's time to start reading them.

10. The Bones series by Kathy Reichs
I love Reichs' novels for young adults, and I bought a stack of the Tempe Brennan books to read, in the hopes I'll enjoy them equally.

Yes, I'm well aware that's way more than 10, but I'm hoping if I set a really high target, I might actually get more than one of these read, and it won't be a complete fail like my summer list!

What are you hoping to read this autumn?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Sunday Post (#23) and Showcase Sunday (#9)

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: Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson
Top 10 Tuesday (#14) - from page to screen
Literary London - Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival
Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Top five favourite moments from Roald Dahl's work
My week in books (#9) - Roald Dahl Day, types of readers illustrated by cats and dogs (so cute!), Model Misfit and more

Apart from the above, I've had a quiet week - no book shopping, no trips to the library. Which is actually a good thing, because I've been concentrating on reading some of the many unread books on my shelves, which means I've got three on the go at the moment!

Let me know what you've been up to.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

My week in books (#9)

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.

Roald Dahl Day was this week, celebrating the work of one of the best children's authors ever. Here, Huffington Post put together a list of 10 fantastic quotes from his work (and you can read my favourite moment from Dahl's work here). And you can test your Roald Dahl knowledge in this quiz from The Guardian. Let me know how many you get (I got nine out of 10).

Another one from the Huffington Post, here's a list of the nine most sympathetic villains from literature.

This collection of images by Simon and Schuester on Buzzfeed is one of the cutest things I've seen recently. It's 15 types of reader, as told by cats and dogs.

To celebrate the end of New York Fashion Week, Flavorwire compiled a list of the most stylish people in literature, which you can find here.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale is on my list to read. For those of you who have already read it, here's an extract from the next novel, Model Misfit.

The League of Extraordinary Writers had a post from Marissa Meyer this week on her top 10 cyborg upgrades, which you can find here.

What have you seen this week that's caught your attention? Let me know in the comments.

Top five favourite moments from Roald Dahl's work

I grew up with Roald Dahl's work. A genius storyteller, his books weren't afraid to challenge children, and that's why they're so successful. To mark Roald Dahl Day (okay, I'm a day late), here, in no particular order, are my top five favourite moments from the works of Dahl.

1. Bruce Bogtrotter, Matilda
There's nothing about this chapter that isn't great. We all had ambitions of eating an entire chocolate cake when we were younger (I still do), but Bruce did it. And in doing so, he got one over on Miss Trunchbull.

2. Witch reveal, The Witches
Still one of the things that scares me most, the bit where the boy sees the witches unveiling their true selves at the hotel convention is terrifying.

3. Stretching Mrs Twit, The Twits
There are so many good tricks the Twits play on each other that it's difficult to pick one, but probably my favourite is when Mr Twit makes Mrs Twit thinks she's shrinking by adding length to her walking stick, and then persuading her to use a stretching machine to make herself taller. Still, she did make him eat worm spaghetti.

4. Red Riding Hood, Revolting Rhymes
I will forever remember reading about Red Riding Hood and how she 'whips a pistol from her knickers/She aims it at the creature's head/And bang bang bang she shoots him dead'. Dahl's Red Riding Hood kicked butt.

5. Difficulty, Matilda
I knew how to spell difficulty before reading Matilda, but Miss Honey's method was so much fun, I learnt it all over again. All together now: "Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs F F I, Mrs C, Mrs U, Mrs L T Y."

What do you love from Roald Dahl's work?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Book review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Every cloud has a silver lining - that's the central thought that drives Pat Peoples throughout The Silver Linings Playbook, and it's not a bad mantra to live by, although it's also not the best.

Pat is back home with his loving mum and indifferent, mean dad after an indeterminate amount of time in a 'neural health facility'. He's waiting for 'apart time' with his wife Nikki to be over. In the meantime, he's whipping himself into great physical shape, practising being kind rather than right, reading books to better himself, and catching up with the goings-on of his favourite football team. And he's dealing with depressed Tiffany, the sister-in-law of his best friend, who has taken to following him on his daily runs.

The Silver Linings Playbook is heavy on the football. The parallels with the game are obvious, from the title to the way the different stages of the game match the different stages Pat goes through in his healing process, to the way football affects his life and his relationship with his father. Being British, I don't know much about American football, so much of the football heavy, technical talk passed me by, but I didn't feel like I missed anything by not knowing the ins and outs of touchdowns and quarter backs and the like.

But for all its football talk, what The Silver Linings Playbook is really about is a person trying to come to terms with a very different life than the one he thought he'd live. Pat is troubled, clearly. No one will tell him how long he's been in the neural health facility for, no one will talk about his ex-wife Nikki, no one will acknowledge life went on without him, even though it so clearly did. It would be easy to feel incredible amounts of pity for Pat, and to feel sorry for him as a character.

Instead, Pat's boundless optimism, rather than making him annoying, makes him a really likeable character. I didn't feel pity for him, I felt admiration. I was awed at how he was determined to find his silver lining, at how determined he was to get back his ex-wife, how he was trying to better himself (although he really didn't need to) so he could accomplish his goals. Pat is a character you can't help but like.

Tiffany, on the other hand, took some work. In the same way that Pat grew to like her because she was simply around all the time and then because of who she was, I grew to like her because she was around all the time and then because of who she was, and because I could see things about her Pat could not. Even when she was acting selfish, even through the whole second half of the novel, I understood her motives, and I still liked her.

Completely unlikeable is Pat's father, who is actually the one person in the Peoples family who could really do with going to see a psychologist and working through some of his many, many problems.

Quick is great with characterisation, but also clearly put a lot of effort into the structure of The Silver Linings Playbook. It's largely a traditional first person narrative, but then seems to take a hiatus about two thirds of the way through, at which point it turns into a correspondance between two people, before heading back to its first person narrative. I found the change a little jarring, but I found it worked for the plot of the novel.

Another thing about the structure is the way that it's so clearly filmic (not an actual word), so it's easy to see why The Silver Linings Playbook was turned into a movie (which I still need to see). Pat even narrates his life like a film, which really added to the connection I felt with him, since the way he structured his storytelling was so familiar from the many, many Hollywood happy-endings films I've seen.

The Silver Linings Playbook is a great read, which made me laugh and want to cry, which was poignant and charming, and which has me looking for every silver lining.

How I got this book: Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Literary London - Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival

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.

I adore literature festivals - all those authors you love, others you discover, all those books, the poetry slams, the signings. It's a dream come true for a book lover.

From September 15 to September 17, Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival will bring three days of book bliss to north London.

Now in its fifth year, the 2013 festival features a celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who, a poetry in the park event and a special programme for children.

Authors appearing include Judith Kerr (she who wrote the legendary The Tiger Who Came to Tea), Maggie O'Farrell and Sophie Hannah.

One of the events that looks good is a conversation with Susie Orbach and Lisa Aooignanesi, who have co-edited an anthology called 50 Shades of Feminism, collecting the work of all sorts of women who write on what being a woman means to them today.

There are few misses in the programme. In fact, the only one that springs out from the pages is an event with Marcia Moody, who has written a biography of the Duchess of Cambridge (*yawn*).

As well as conversations with authors, there are creative writing workshops for budding writers. And if you don't want to let the festival go, there are a few post-festival events happening later in the year you can go and see.

For more information on Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival, click here

DISCLAIMER: One of the festival partners is owned by the company I work for.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (#14) - from page to screen

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 ten books I would love to see as movie and/or TV show (set in a perfect which the books we love aren't butchered).

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
One of the best books I've read this year, and would make a stunning mini-series.

2. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
As an actor, Colfer's writing is quite episodic already, so this would work well as a children's programme.

3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner was a really good film, and I'd hope something equally good could be done with Hosseini's second novel

4. Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman
A dystopia unlike the ones we've seen translated to the big screen before, this would have a really likeable hero.

5. After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross
A film of this would give an insight into the world that awaits if the financial crisis ever gets really, really, really bad.

6. Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
A little Black Swan-ish, this would be a dark teen film.

7. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
This could make either a film, or could be the basis of a television series. With Gossip Girl gone, 90210 going/losing the plot, and Pretty Little Liars having just revealed its biggest secret, there's a gap in the market for a high school drama.

8. The Heather Wells Mysteries by Meg Cabot
I love Heather Wells, and think she'd translate really well on film.

9. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Surely this has already been picked up by the movie studios? Let me know.

10. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
A touching story about friendship, this would have the vibe of Little Miss Sunshine or one of those kind of indie-ish films.

Alas, we don't live in a perfect world, so all these books would be ruined if turned into films or television programmes, so let's just keep them as novels! If we did live in a perfect world, though, what would you pick for the journey from page to screen?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Book review: Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson is one of the most popular children's authors in the world, and having read Hetty Feather, I can see why.

Hetty is a Foundling - left at the Foundling Hospital in London by her mother. As Hetty grows up, she discovers her headstrong ways and big personality don't always fit in, but she doesn't care, no one is going to stop Hetty Feather.

Wilson's tale features a fabulous protagonist who is clever, brave and kind, and knows what's right and isn't afraid to stand up for herself, or others.

Hetty's tale begins as she is left at the Foundling Hospital, and then taken on the train to the countryside, where she grows up with a foster family. There, she forms a close bond with Jem, one of her foster parents' real children, and Gideon, her Foundling brother. The realisation that she will one day go back to the Foundling Hospital tinges Hetty's experience with sadness, but there's plenty of drama for the young girl too.

Once back in London, Hetty can't help but get into mischief, whether it's because she's fighting with other girls at the Foundling Hospital, or trying to find her real mother.

Told in first person, Hetty's voice is quickly relatable - the book might be set in the 1800s but many of Hetty's feelings (loneliness, uncertainty, a desire to belong) are feelings that many young girls reading Wilson's work will feel as they make the transfer from one new school to another.

Hetty Feather does deal with dark issues - first experiences of death, the sinister nature of strangers, old age - but it does so deftly. There is no danger of young readers being scared off, rather, Wilson chooses to introduce most of the darker episodes in the book in a way that will inform and perhaps spark a conversation with adults in the reader's life.

A heroine who I'd be happy to have influence any young girl, Hetty Feather and her adventures make a compelling read. I'm looking forward to finding out how the young Foundling gets on in future novels.

How I got this book: A Goodreads giveaway run by the publisher, Random House (Hetty Feather is published by the Corgi Yearling imprint) - thanks guys!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Sunday Post (#22) and Showcase Sunday (#8)

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
Book of the month - August 2013
Review: Grimm Tales for Young and Old told by Philip Pullman
Review: Paper Towns by John Green
My week in books (#8) - Back to school mash-ups, Kill Your Darlings, and writing advice from authors

Non-book stuff this week on Girl!Reporter
Review: Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter

Books I added to my shelves

From the library I got:
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - yes, I got this a few weeks ago, but didn't manage to read it before it was due back at the library, so had to reserve it again!

Second hand, I bought:
Sleeping Murder, The Moving Finger and The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran 
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz 
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - I already own a copy, but the cover of this version is lush

And finally, not quite a book, but I'm putting it here because it's a notebook. I got the following Hogwarts notebook/journal when I went to the Warner Bros. tour.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

My week in books (#8)

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.

Firs up, I saw a new trailer and a clip from the upcoming film about American poet Allen Ginsberg, Kill Your Darlings. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg. You can see the trailer here, and the first clip here.

A lot of people are heading back to school this week, and to mark the occasion Penguin have done a list of literary teacher and pupil mash-ups, which is here.

Penguin was inspired to do its list by Roald Dahl Day, which is on September 13. You can find out more here about a live webcast hosted by Michael Rosen to celebrate the occasion.

If you're looking for a literary inspired/pop culture gift for someone, then there's an artist on Etsy, Karen Hallion, who has done some gorgeous notecards where she puts the TARDIS from Doctor Who into various fairytale scenarios. Here's the Snow White one, and you can see the full collection here.

Who best to give advice on how to write than a group of professional writers? Instead of asking writers to give a lecture, Wolford College asked a bunch of authors to write their advice on their hands. I adore this, and you can see all the images here.

The February 2014 Quick Reads list has been announced, and you can find it here. Quick Reads is a project to reach adults who don't usually read by introducing them to short, sharp fiction.

And finally, this Vine shows how anitcipated Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam has been. It made me laugh. Don't worry, no one was hurt in the making of the video.

What have you found this week? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Book review: Paper Towns by John Green

The first time I heard of John Green was when I watched an appearance he made, alongside Chris Colfer, at a breakfast at BookExpo America. From there, thinking he had a great sense of humour, I picked up The Fault in Our Stars, and fell in love while having my heart broken.

It's taken me a while to get round to reading his other work though, but after reading Paper Towns, I'm no less in love with Green's work (and no more healed).

Quentin Jacobsen has a night full of revenge and adventure with Margo Roth Spiegelman, the girl next door. The next day, she doesn't turn up to school.

As Quentin searches for her, he finds himself caught up in a mystery in which he learns as much about himself as he does the mysterious Margo.

Paper Towns is a moving and funny book about growing up and about the difference between what you want to see, and what's really there.

The brilliance of Paper Towns lies in the way that it's not like any other book about teenagers I've read before - part mystery, part high school drama, part romance, part Catcher in the Rye, part Gone Girl, part Gossip Girl, the mash-up shouldn't work, but it does.

Protagonist Quentin has a great voice, which I could hear in my head before I'd even finished the first page. He made me laugh, he made me sad, and at times he made me want to shake some sense in to him. Quentin is a lead character who grows and changes and comes to various realisations through the novel, and you can't help but love him every step of the way.

The supporting cast is brilliant, particularly Quentin's best friends Ben and Radar. Together, they're like the Three Musketeers, only not as cool (my kind of people). Green also creates a believable high school world, with characters like jock Jase and bully Chuck. They're stereotypes, but with Green's touch turn into three-dimensional stereotypes.

And then there's Margo. Largely absent for much of the novel, Margo is more of an idea than anything else, which goes back to the title of the book (I'll leave you to find out more about that). Margo is not at the centre of Paper Towns, the lack of Margo is. It's an interesting concept, one visited in a different way by the aforementioned Gone Girl.

Paper Towns is the kind of novel that makes you reflect (and want to read Walt Whitman), and the kind of novel that will stay with me for a long time. At least until I read my next Green novel, which will no doubt damage me a bit more damaged and make me fall in love a bit more.

How I got this book: Borrowed from the library

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Book review: Grimm Tales for Young and Old told by Philip Pullman

We all know the stories of Cinderella and Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, but how many of us have read the original versions of them? Or at least, the versions recorded by the Brothers Grimm in one of their editions of Children's and Household Tales?

I confess I haven't, so it was with very little knowledge of how the many fairytales we know today were collected that I came to this retelling of 53 of the Brother Grimm's stories by Philip Pullman.

The author of the Northern Lights series picks his favourite tales to retell, taking the versions told by the Brothers Grimm as his base, and then adding improvements as he sees fit, often taking inspiration from other recorded versions of similar stories.

What emerges is a collection of beautifully told but sometimes bizarre tales. After each one, Pullman writes an author's note, explaining the origins of the tale, the way it is structured and other information. These notes are enlightening, and heighten the experience of reading the story, although skipping them probably wouldn't mean you lose anything from the book.

Reading this book made me realise just how ridiculous many of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm are. Many feature families who desperately want children, but so often treat them badly - abandoning them, abusing them or giving them away in exchange for material possessions. There are few mothers or fathers who come out of the tales well, and even those that are forgiven for their misdeeds are done so too easily.

In addition, many of the tales seem like they are structurally missing something - a fact Pullman often points out, sometimes making suggestions for how the stories should have been fleshed out. However, it's worth bearing in mind that these are stories originally told orally, so would never have been very long, and would have changed and lost or added things from telling to telling. The structural anomalies are amusing more often than not.

Pullman includes all the most popular fairytales of today, but there are dozens in the book I didn't know. Some are sweet (The Goose Girl at the Spring), some are dark (Thousandfurs), some are clever (Farmerkin), and some are just downright ridiculous (Gambling Hans). They're all, however, compelling reads.

This collection is well put together, and I loved the author's note and the introduction by Pullman to the work of the Brothers Grimm. It also helps that the cover of this book is stunning, reflecting the gorgeous work hidden on the pages within. This is a collection of stories to go back to time and time again, and to share with young and old alike.

How I got this book: From the publisher, Penguin Classics, in exchange for an honest review. Grimm Tales for Young and Old told by Philip Pullman is out in paperback on September 5, 2013.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Review: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter

As a self-confessed Potterhead, I'm a little bit embarrassed that it's taken me so long to visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. 

Then again, I'm a purist, and don't love the films (I like them, but there's no love), so perhaps it's right that it's taken me a while. Going on the tour, though, has given me a new appreciation for the films.

Based in the Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden, where much of the interior shots of the Harry Potter films were done, the tour consists of one really massive warehouse, one still quite big warehouse, and an outside bit connecting the two together.

Our tickets were in the first time slot of the day, which was great because the attraction was busy enough to feel lively, but not busy enough that we couldn't see anything.

While waiting for the doors to open, staff were giving out tour "passports". When I asked for one, I was told they were just for children, but a moment later the woman I spoke to tapped me on the shoulder and sneakily handed me one - woo! I just wanted it as a souvenir, but I did collect the stamps on the way round the tour, which was fun.

After a short film, we headed into the Great Hall from Hogwarts. The actual Great Hall. It's set up as though filming will start any minute, and has costumes from the films dotted around the place, including Daniel Radcliffe's first Hogwarts uniform - it's tiny.

There's a guide in the Great Hall who gives you a speech, but after that you're on your own, which is how I liked it. You can buy digital guides, but save your money and just savour what you're seeing. If you have questions there's plenty of information boards around, and all the staff on duty are Potter experts.

The first warehouse is full to the brim with everything from costumes to sets (the Potions classroom is stunning) to props to broomsticks. We took our time taking in things like the boys' dormitory, Dumbledore's office and the massive sculpture from the Ministry of Magic in The Deathly Hallows.

We couldn't resist a go on the broomsticks. While the experience is great - you dress up in robes, sit on a broomstick in front of a green screen and then fly through London - you're not allowed to take any photos, since the tour wants you to buy their photos of you. It's disappointing, but the experience was fun. Plus, we took so many photos of everything else (you can see a few of the 200-plus I captured above) we didn't need to buy the broomstick ones.

One of my favourite parts was the huge cabinet full to the brim with things like copies of The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet, the admission letters to Hogwarts Harry receives and dozens of sweets and products from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Like everything else in the room, they're all genuine props from the films.

We then headed outside - make sure you see everything because the tour is forward only, no going back. The outside area includes the external sets for the Hogwarts bridge and Number 4 Privet Drive, as well as the giant chess pieces used in the film, the Knight Bus, and Hagrid's Motorbike and the Weasleys' car, all of which provided plenty of great photo opportunities.

Then it was on to the second warehouse, which was much more technical than the first. It included information on all the models made for the production, plus magnificent, detailed architectural drawings of just about everything they ever built. I thought the highlight of the tour was going to be the Diagon Alley set, which is housed in this second warehouse, but it was eclipsed at the last minute by the massive model of Hogwarts, which was used for swooping external shots.

At just over £21 each for me and three children, I thought before going the ticket was pretty expensive, but on reflection it's well worth the price. However, the tour does make its money in other ways - the most expensive gift shop I've ever come across at an attraction (I forked out almost £15 for a notebook), and extortionate prices for pictures of you riding a broomstick in front of a green screen.

If you can keep from spending all your galleons, sickles and knuts in the gift shop, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour is a perfect half day out for any Harry Potter fan.


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