Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding Today!

Best wishes to William & Kate. May they
have a lovely day and have a long, happy marriage!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Book Review - Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler 
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: 18th October 2010
Genre: Young Adult

Summary (Goodreads):
"Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world." 

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? 

     Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home—her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power—and the courage to fight her own inner demons? 

 I’d seen this book do the rounds on the blogs for a while and just wasn’t sure about it, but that cover…it kept drawing me back to it. Almost like Death was in my head saying, ‘Go on. Read it. You’ll be surprised.’ I wasn’t just surprised; I was left raw from understanding and love for this book. Such a serious book told with an amazing black humour.

 Like pretty much every girl alive, I have body issues, but I’ve never been in a place where I start to starve myself. I love my food too much. I would rather do some sports or increase my activities than have a battle with food, calories, and knowing how much exercise it would require to burn off anything I eat. So I never understood anorexia or bulimia. Then I read this and I could hear the ‘Thin Voice’ that was in Lisa’s head all the time, like I was Lisa, and I understood how it can happen. That one offhand comment (off Lisa’s mother), the one that the comment giver doesn’t even remember saying, changes their outlook and there’s that Thin Voice.  I understood and Kessler couldn’t have written the Thin Voice any better to make me understand.

 The scenes are set vividly; everything could be seen in my mind so clearly. When Lisa visits places struck down with famine, I could see it all, and feel it all. I don’t think I read a page of this book without feeling hungry and, even though I’ve never had an eating disorder, I had this newfound respect for how easily food is obtained in my country, or even in my life really.

 Even though it was a series subject matter, there was humour to keep it just light enough that you wanted to read on and find out if Lisa would overcome her eating disorder. If it wasn’t for the whole Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse plot, I think the humour would have been hard to involve. The weirdness of Death turning up on your doorstep and announcing you as Famine is hard not laugh at, even when you do want to cry for this girl who want accept the help she keeps being offered off friends and family.

 This is not a book to be ignored. It should be one of those books that end up on those reading lists that newspapers and arty-farty book people like to create. Not only does it make you understand how anorexia can happen, but it highlights how lucky you are to be in a country where you’re next meal doesn’t bank on how well the crops grow. Please go read it now.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Trailer

Oh guys! How epic is this trailer?! I never use the word epic because it's starting to lose its meaning, but this really is epic! They've definitely saved the best until last. Can't wait to be camping out at the premiere again like the strange, no life, person I am!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Book Review - From Notting Hill with Love...Actually by Ali McNamara

From Notting Hill with Love...Actually by Ali McNamara
Publisher: Sphere (Little, Brown imprint)
Release Date: 25th November 2010
Genre: Adult fiction/Chicklit

Summary (Amazon):

She was just a girl, standing in front of a boy ...wishing he looked more like Hugh Grant. Scarlett loves the movies. But does she love sensible fiance David just as much? With a big white wedding on the horizon, Scarlett really should have decided by now ...When she has the chance to house-sit in Notting Hill - the setting of one of her favourite movies - Scarlett jumps at the chance. But living life like a movie is trickier than it seems, especially when her new neighbour Sean is so irritating. And so irritatingly handsome, too. Scarlett soon finds herself starring in a romantic comedy of her very own: but who will end up as the leading man?

As soon as this book appeared on my radar, it was one of those I had to have yesterday. A chicklit novel with Richard Curtis’ movies as a theme in the plot? Yes please! What rom-com film, Richard Curtis loving reader wouldn’t want this for a book?

 It’s all told from Scarlett’s point-of-view and whilst I kept wanting to read one more chapter, I didn’t love the book as much as I thought I would. There were a couple of slow points, couple of predictable plotlines and I didn’t get Scarlett’s engagement with David. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact someone so full of life as Scarlett would even stay with David after a couple of weeks, never mind think about marriage. I know the reasons for it are explained in the book, and these are just fictional characters, but still…life’s too short for that nonsense! But if it wasn’t there, then there wouldn’t be much of a story to write about, so it all adds to the drama.

 I loved Scarlett. I could be Scarlett. I’m a daydreamer, constantly daydreaming about the ‘what ifs’ of my life and making a movie out of it in my head. I got Scarlett. So naturally, my hate for David, and little bit for Scarlett’s father, increased the more it went on. Everything was about the business and how it all came first whilst constantly being on Scarlett’s back. It was hateful to read. But then Oscar and Ursula came into and how I adored these two. They knew how to liven up a page by living life to the full! And they totally got Scarlett and her daydreams!

Scarlett’s interactions with Sean were just what I love in a book. Every time Scarlett wasn’t with Sean, those were the slow bits. Sean is just how a man of today should be. He thought her fanciful at first, but the more time he spent with Scarlett, the more he understood and became her enabler. I could just sigh now.

 For her first novel, I really can’t fault Ali McNamara! I only hope my first novel will be a fraction as good as this. I highly recommend it for all the reasons I said in my first paragraph! And the ending…divine! Just how a chicklit should end!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Making of Us

'Waiting On' Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell

Publisher: Century (Random Imprint)
Release Date: 12th May 2011

Summary (amazon):
In a hospice in Bury St Edmunds, a man called Daniel is slowly fading away. His friend Maggie sits with him every day; she holds his hand and she listens to the story of his life, to his regrets and to his secrets. And then he tells her about the children he has never met and never will. He talks of them wistfully. His legacy, he calls them.

Lydia, Dean and Robyn don't know each other. Yet. And they are all facing difficult changes. Lydia is still wearing the scars from her traumatic childhood and although she is wealthy and successful, her life is lonely and disjointed. Dean is a young man, burdened with unexpected responsibility, whose life is going nowhere. And Robyn wants to be a doctor, just like her father – a man she's never met. But is her whole life built on an illusion?

Three people leading three very different lives. All lost. All looking for something. But when they slowly find their way into each other’s lives, everything starts to change …

I started reading Lisa Jewell when I had not long since left school, one of my first adult books I'd read, and ten years on I still follow her books religiously. She has an amazing writing style that keeps me reading and loving the characters.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Book Review - Mrs Fry's Diary by Mrs Stephen Fry

Mrs Fry's Diary by Mrs Stephen Fry 
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 
Release Date: 15th October 2011

Summary (Amazon): 

Stephen Fry's secret wife speaks out at last...

Enjoyed a nice cuppa this morning with a HobNob and Jeremy Kyle. There was a woman on there who'd been married 16 years without realising her husband was gay. Extraordinary! Which reminds me, it's our 16th anniversary in a few weeks. What a coincidence.

Stephen Fry - actor, writer, raconteur and wit. Cerebral and sophisticated, a true Renaissance man.

Or is he?

Finally, his secret double life - the womanizing, the window-cleaning, the kebabs, the karaoke - is exclusively revealed by Edna, his devoted wife and mother of his five, six or possibly seven children. These diaries take us through a year in the life of an unwitting celebrity wife, and are rumoured to include:

- scandalous nocturnal shenanigans
- advice on childcare
- 101 things to do with a tin of Spam.

'A good diary should be like a good husband - a constant companion, a source of inspiration and, ideally, bound in leather.' - Edna Fry

 As I follow Mrs Edna Fry on Twitter, and am always chuckling away at some of the tweets that she comes up with, I knew that I had to get this book to give me a laugh, and a break from some hard going novels I’d been tackling at the time.

 Everything is tongue-in-cheek humour and you can certainly see the funny bits coming but as long as you don’t expect it to be anything but a silly book, then you can’t go far wrong with this one.

 We read about Stephen Fry’s secret life with his wife and 6+ children…they’ve lost count now, and I couldn’t help myself when I looked at the dates of what was being written in Edna’s diary and trying to figure out what Stephen would have actually been doing. I’m a bit sad like that.

 If you follow Edna and Stephen on Twitter, then you should give this book a go.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Book Review - Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release Date: 2nd December 2010 (US)
Genre: Young Adult

Summary (Goodreads):

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

 The story didn’t completely take my breath away, but there’s something about Stephanie Perkins writing that gets you hooked and devour the book in virtually one sitting. It didn’t hurt that it was a nice, normal, no supernatural things going, teen romance.

 I wasn’t completely endeared to Anna when I first met her because she was having a big sulk about missing out on her planned senior year, missing her BFF and missing a potential hot BF relationship. That, however, is down to my personal reason of wanting to go to a boarding school growing up and my parents wouldn’t send me! And this was before Harry Potter made it trendy. But Anna regained my favour when she acknowledged what an amazing opportunity she’d be getting.

 Considering Stephanie had only spent a month in Paris, she does a fantastic job of describing the city and the places Anna visits with her new friends. I was there with Anna, visiting all these places, experiencing everything Anna was experiencing. And the characters were well rounded and flawed that you could believe them to be real people.

 As I said, the story didn’t wow me, it was the writing and Anna’s growing friendship with St. Clair. The intensity, the chemistry, the underlying need…now that blew me away! It drips off the page and smacks you around a bit to make you pay attention. I didn’t love St. Clair the way a lot of people did, but I did love the interactions he had with Anna.

 I highly recommend this if you like reading books in one sitting and being dragged into the world for a few hours!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Book Review - Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books 
Release Date: 6th January 2011 

Summary (amazon): 
Sixteen-year-old Evie has always taken comfort in the fact that she is normal, even though her best friend is a mermaid and her ex-boyfriend is a lunatic – and a faery. In a world where paranormals are monitored and controlled, Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency because of her unique ability to see through glamours. But someone – or something – starts killing vampires, werewolves and other paranormals, and Evie must figure out what’s happening before they all disappear.

Then a shapeshifter named Lend breaks into the agency, and Evie is irresistibly drawn to him, even though he makes her aware that the IPCA is not as noble as she once thought. With everything Evie believes suddenly called into question, the IPCA is attacked and she must choose who she can really trust.

And when Evie discovers she’s part of a faerie prophecy of death and destruction… so much for normal.

 When Paranormalcy started being publicised on blogs, I pined for this book, and the cover didn't hurt my need to have this book either. You can’t deny that is one awesome cover! So when I finally got my hands on it (I love you, Kindle!), I started it on a long car journey to London and that was it! I had to finish this sucker and find out what happened to Evie! I was taking my Kindle all over London and reading on two-minute tube journeys.

 From the very first page I fell in love with Evie. She’s sassy, witty and a typical teen. It was nice to read a protagonist that reacts like a teen instead of being a little too mature. My only gripe with Evie was as the story went on and more things were being revealed, it made you wonder why she had never asked these questions before, but she does acknowledge this as she learns new things from the past.

 All the characters were well-rounded and written so well that you could really imagine these beings and their mannerisms. Oh and the Faeries. The wickedness and indifference dripped off the page from them. And Lend…I wish I knew a boy like Lend when I was sixteen! So sweet and adorable, and nothing like any of the teen boys I knew.

 I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a light, fast-paced, fun read with good, strong characters. I will be making sure everyone I know (who reads YA) reads this book and Supernaturally is already on my pre-order! So what you waiting for? If you have read it, go now. Read it. Love it. Embrace it!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Book Review - Timeless by Alexandra Monir

Timeless by Alexandra Monir
Release Date: 11th January 2011

 Summary (amazon):

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

I adore the cover of this book and there was something magical and lovely about this novel. It wasn’t the best story ever written, but something about the way it was written just made me love it. I kept wanting to read a little bit more when I had work to do or had to go to sleep, which means the potential of a greatly written story is there.

 I loved the descriptions of when Michele travelled back in time and noting the differences in the décor. I could picture it all so vividly. I loved the intensity that Michele and Philip had with each other and how things worked out through the time travelling. I loved, loved, Michele’s ancestors, and I wanted to know more about them, see them through their entire lives.

 I do have a few niggles with this book though. It was predictable. I saw everything coming. Everything was slightly too obvious. I also hated the way some things were sped up, like the exchange of ‘I love yous’ between Michele and Philip was too soon, but I will admit that when you’re that age, you give into your emotions quickly. I also felt that Michele accepting the fact she’d travelled back in time was too quick too. It all felt a bit too neat how she realised what had happened and just went with it.

 Overall, it was a sweet, engaging story and it kept me gripped, which is more than enough for me. I look forward to seeing the next novel in the series, because that little cliffhanger at the end was spot on!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Book Review - My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece  by Annabel Pitcher

Release date: 1st March 2011

Amazon Summary:
Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a 'Fresh New Start'. Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn't cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

  My mum loved this book. It's rare she says she loves a book, and she's a bigger reader than me. So I think I expected big, cry-inducing, things from this book. So I’m just gonna put this out there- I didn’t love this book. 

 I remember reading books like these when I was a child, where these children have less than perfect childhoods for whatever reason and I never understood their actions or reasons for thinking the way they did. So there you have it, I didn’t ‘get’ the story. 

 I found the book a bit of an effort to read without wanting to throw it down annoyance. I know it's a YA book and I'm reading it with an adult's perspective, but I remember being Jamie's age clearly. I remember my 10th birthday too, which wasn't a barrel a laughs either, and I remember understanding things more than Jamie seemed to. But then I suppose your emotional growth will be stunted with parents like his.

 We meet Jamie just as he is about to move to the Lake District with his Dad and sister, Jasmine. The family have been falling apart since Jasmine’s twin sister, Rose, is killed by a terrorist bomb and Jamie’s Mum has left them to be with someone else. With his Dad drinking too much, Jamie hopes this move will change things for the better.

 When he gets to the Lake District, nothing changes. His Dad keeps drinking, Jasmine is never around and the only seat left in his new class at school is next to a Muslim girl, Sunya. He feels like he’s betraying his Dad by sitting next to her, and then she becomes his best friend.

 The whole story is from Jamie’s point of view and sees him coping with very adult issues because his parents have selfishly stopped being parents and have started obsessing over themselves because they lost a child, meanwhile forgetting they’ve still got two other children that need loving and protection. Jamie thinks that in doing certain things that it will bring his Mum back and make his Dad stop drinking, not completely realising that it’s beyond his control. Sunya, in some form of understanding what was happening to him, tries to make his life a little better by being his friend, even when Jamie, at first, repeatedly tries to keep her away from him.

 Whilst I wanted to see this story for what it was- how a family copes after something as devastating as this- I couldn’t. I kept blindsided with anger towards the parents of Jamie and Jasmine and I take my hat off to Annabel Pitcher for that. She may not have gotten my love for this story, but she certainly got my respect for making me feel so angry about these characters that I wanted to just shake them and tell them that Rose wasn’t their only child. Not many people can make me feel so passionately like that, even if I wasn’t uplifted by the story.

 I cannot deny that Pitcher can write a story that makes you feel a range of emotions though, so I look forward to seeing what she comes up with in future books, but this one is definitely not a keeper for me.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

'Waiting On' Wednesday: Lola and the Boy Next Door

'Waiting On' Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Publisher:  Dutton Childrens Books
Release Date: 29th September 2011

In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think.
For budding costume designer Lola Nolan, the more outrageous the outfit—more sparkly, more fun, more wild—the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins move back into the house next door. 

When the family returns and Cricket—a gifted inventor and engineer—steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I can't tell you all how much I enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss. I stayed up late for two nights on the trot frantically devouring the book when I had work the next day. Then soon as I finished it, I put this one on pre-order. September cannot come soon enough!