Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books To Read In A Day

We often rant about how long some books are and how difficult it is to find time to read them, but it's much more unusual to rave about shorter reads, so I chose this topic for today's Top Ten Tuesday Rewind.

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books To Read In A Day

1. Cold Water, by Gwendoline Riley - atmospheric and beautiful.

2. All My Friends Are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman - imaginative, funny, and romantic.

3. Bonjour Tristesse, by Fran├žoise Sagan - absorbing and tragic.

4. The Plain Janes, by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg - a graphic novel in which four very different teenaged Janes get together and make public artworks. There's also a sequel, Janes in Love.

5. Breakers, by Julia Clarke - emotionally involving, great characterisation.

6. Life on the Refrigerator Door, by Alice Kuipers - a story told via notes from a mother and daughter to each other. A tearjerker.

7. Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation, by Martin Millar- surreal, silly, super.

8. The Butterfly Tattoo, by Philip Pullman - a short thriller with a poignant ending.

9. grl2grl, by Julie Anne Peters - a diverse and really enjoyable selection of stories about LGBT characters.

10. Festival, by David Belbin - four characters' lives become entwined at Glastonbury festival.

What shorter reads would you recommend?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Amusements 29

My #finishitfeb progress - I'm getting there!

Today is the last day of my 27th year - oh yes, it's my birthday tomorrow! Being 26 went quite well so I'm looking forward to what this year will bring. Hopefully even more good books!

Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies has created another book tag line quiz, this one is for YA published in 2014. I could only guess two of the titles but I found it quite interesting seeing all the different tag lines together. They're all very attention-grabbing. Don't forget to enter the Fluttering Butterflies blogoversary giveaway while you're there!

When Should One Quit Reading THAT Book? asks The Pewter Wolf. There aren't many books that I haven't finished, but I think I gave up on them all quite early on. I tend to persevere with most books, even if I'm not really getting into them. A book has to actively annoy me for me to put it down - there has to be something irritating about the style or the point of view.

Keeping Track of the TBR-list is a really interesting post. Daisy is far more organised than me at the moment. I used to have a very strict system but I gave it up at the start of 2014 because I was spending more time obsessing over the order in which I planned to read books than actually reading!

I was ill last week so unfortunately this list is rather short, but I'm better now and should have more time for exploring the book blogosphere in the next fortnight!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book Review: Red, by Alison Cherry

Scarletville, the USA's only redhead sanctuary, is a place where the redder your hair the better. Redheads get special treatment everywhere and brunettes and blondes are second-class citizens. No-one knows this as well as Felicity St John, whose stunning, deep red hair is entirely responsible for her place in life. Her beautiful hair, the envy of many of her peers, has gotten her one of the highly coveted places in the Miss Scarlet pageant. All Felicity's life, her mother, Ginger, has been training her to win the pageant and make them the first mother-daughter Miss Scarlets in history. But one day, Felicity recieves a terrifying message - someone at her school knows her deepest, darkest secret - Felicity's hair is dyed!

As you might assume from the description, Red is a book with quite a silly sounding premise. I thought it would be campy and fun and it was, but not to the extent that I was expecting. There are also some more serious elements to the story. When one group of people has privileges because of the way they look, you can’t help but draw parallels with real life race issues, especially as most redheads are white. Over the course of the novel we get to find out more and more about how hard life in Scarletville is for non-redheads, and Felicity slowly begins to have more sympathy for them as she worries about being outed. One of her best friends, Haylie, is quite nasty about non-redheads and doesn't change her tune during the novel, but is still someone Felicity loves and wants to keep being friends with. I really wanted some sort of comeuppance for the snootiest redheads, but there isn't any. I'm naturally opposed to any sort of injustice, but on the other hand, maybe it's not important, as Scarletville is just a small town, and the world outside of Scarletville is supposed to be just like the real world, so maybe the price the queen bee redheads pay for their status is being stuck in Scarletville! I'm not sure how I feel.

It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but once I did, I enjoyed it a lot, thanks to the fabulous characters. Felicity's little brothers are adorable and her mother is...difficult, to say the least. The best friends, Ivy and Haylie are lots of fun. I thought the character that was blackmailing Felicity was very interesting and I really wanted to know more about her - I would love to hear the story from her point of view! The drama is mostly fuelled by personality clashes and by Felicity's increasing desperation as she feels like the person who is ordering her around wants to destroy her life.

I wasn't entirely convinced that Felicity would be as oblivious to the world outside Scarletville as she is at the start, but then if Scarletville had offered her everything she wanted during her life so far, maybe she would never have bothered to look outside it.

I did enjoy Red, although it wasn't quite what I was expecting and I felt like some elements could have been fleshed out more fully. I'm looking forward to reading whatever the author does next.

Many thanks to the publisher, Quercus, for giving me the chance to read Red via NetGalley.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Being A Blogger

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Blogger

1. Keeping up to date with bookish news - before I was a blogger, I only knew that my favourite authors had new books out when I saw them in a bookshop or at the library, which is far too late! As a blogger, I get to know about books, events, conferences, and all sorts of other wonderful things that I might otherwise have missed out on.

2. Finding out what other people thought of books and issues surrounding books - I love the community. I am passionate about books, reading, writing, libraries and diversity, and love talking and reading about a wide variety of book-related issues. Being this obsessed can sometimes get a bit awkward, but most of the time it's worked out well!

3. Instant gratification - Not only do I love it when I update my blog and people comment straight away, but I also love being able to go online whenever I want and explore other people's blogs.

4. Connecting with people on other forms of social media - Blogging has lead me to find and follow so many interesting people. I am a complete Twitter addict, but I also love Instagram and Facebook.

5. Memes - a great excuse to indulge my love of lists. Oh look, I'm writing one now.

6. Communications with publishers, invites to events, and review copies - I'd be lying if I said that I didn't love all this stuff and that it didn't make me feel good!

7. It looks good on my CV - I have had a couple of conversations at job interviews about blogging and social media, even when the job wasn't directly related to those things.

8. Pretty pictures - books make great eye candy, don't they? I love finding and making pictures of books.

9. Discovering books I might otherwise not have heard of - my wishlist is always increasing and although I enjoy knowing what is popular, I love finding out about a book I might otherwise never have read.

10. Sharing my opinions - I started to blog in the first place for the same reason as almost everybody else - I thought some other people might be interested in my opinions about books. I haven't always been someone with confidence in my own opinions, and blogging has really helped me practice expressing my thoughts in written form.

Which of these reasons made your Top Ten list? Let me know in the comments! Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Make You Swoon

I've decided to do something a bit different this week! I've already done my Top Ten Favourite Romances, so this time I'm going to share books that were so beautifully written, I swooned at all the gorgeousness.

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Swoon

1. Ghostwritten, by David Mitchell - this is one of my favourite books of all time. It's neither a novel nor a collection of short stories - every section tells a different story and they are all intertwined, but it's not immediately obvious how they connect to each other. Instead, the connections are revealed as you progress through the book, and when you read it for a second time.

2. All My Friends Are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman - this is on my favourite romance list but as a book it's so funny and short and ultimately lovely that I couldn't help but put it here too.

3. Nights At The Circus/The Magic Toyshop/The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories, all by Angela Carter (yeah, I'm cheating!) - these are my three favourite books by Angela Carter. They're all retellings of fairytales or myths with lush description and wry observations, and are extremely good fun to read.

4. Dramarama, by E. Lockhart - why is this out of print? Gossip, glitter, theatre camp, and a protagonist who goes on a really interesting emotional journey. I read it in 2011 and am itching to reread it, it's so often on my mind.

5. Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner - this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but was it ever mine! Swordfighting, decadence, intrigue...writing this is making me want to reread it!

6. Journey to the River Sea, by Eva Ibbotson - a delightfully funny and charming children's novel that captured my heart. If I ever write a book half as good as this one I'll be satisfied with my life.

7. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf - easily the most accessible novel by Virginia Woolf, this is a gender-switching gallop through time and I loved it. It's also totally quotable.

8. Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer - another kids book that is completely genius. Why did I not come up with this idea?

9. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen - it took me a ridiculously long time to get around to reading this but I loved it, mostly because of the brilliant snark...

10. The Complete Works of Shakespeare - because it's Shakespeare, duh.

How did you interpret this topic? Did you choose swoonsome romances, wonderful writing, both, or something else?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Amusements 28

So many books! This is my book haul from the Friday before last - the four from Oxford University Press were given out at their Storm Your Imagination event, and the others were gifts from other bloggers except for The Worst Girlfriend in the World, which came in the post, courtesy of Atom Book.

I have been adding some new blogs to Feedly! Hopefully this will lead to more diversity in my Monday Amusements.

Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase is Desperately Seeking Romance (novels), go comment with your recommendations!

I pretty much agreed with everything Raimy at Readaraptor wrote about the book age certificate debate in Certificates for YA books? Seriously?. This debate seems to rear its silly head every couple of years and thankfully never goes anywhere.

This is Not Why YA is Important - Maggie Stiefvater hits the nail on the head.

I have an enormous collection of writing guidebooks, so I really liked L.K. Hill's mini-reviews of the how-to guides she's been reading recently.

A Daydreamer's Thoughts is hosting a Noughts & Crosses Read-A-Long! I am tempted but I read the first book fairly recently...

My favourite reviews this fortnight:
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith, at weartheoldcoat
A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, at Outlandish Lit
Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen, at Rather Be Reading
Being Sloane Jacobs, by Lauren Morrill, at Geeky Chiquitas

Is there anything you think this post should have included? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Finish It February Sign Up

I gave myself a minute to grab all the books I could see on my shelves from series that I haven't finished. You can see the results above. If I got out all the books I own from series that I haven't finished, I wouldn't be able to stack them up. The pile would be too big. I had a look at my 'series-have-started' folder on Goodreads and counted a whopping twenty-six different series that I have begun and definitely want to carry on reading.

Having so many series 'on the go' is an endless source of annoyance and dissatisfaction, and it's all my own fault. So why haven't I finished them?

Problem One: I Don't Usually Own Book Two

This is a genuine problem, or at least it was, until recently. I only work part-time at the moment, so that I can spend serious time writing, and as a result my book budget is about £5.

For the entire year.

Okay, it's a bit more than £5, but not that much more. There are lots of series that I've started, thanks to the generosity of their publishers, who have given me book one, but I fail to continue them because I rely on the library, and my library's stock is not that great.

But now, as I mentioned in my Why I Love...Libraries video, my library has joined the London Libraries Consortium. I can finally get all those book twos, for a mere 75p a time!

Which brings me on to...

Problem Two: My Arbitary and Ridiculous Self-Imposed Library Book Restrictions

For the last four or five years I've been restricting my use of the library, in a bit to decrease the size of the pile of unread books that I own.It began with the 'every other' rule. Every other book I read had to be a book I owned. This was pretty easy to follow. But my TBR kept getting bigger.

Then I decided that I had to read three books I owned before I could read a library book. This also worked okay, but my TBR kept getting bigger. Then I decided that I had to read four books I owned before I could read a library book, but still my TBR kept getting bigger...

As a result I've mostly been reading standalones and avoiding getting into series, so that I don't get tempted to break my rules. Honestly, this has probably hindered my bids to get my TBR pile down, because I read series books faster. When I am familiar with a author's style and a narrator's voice, the pages fly by.

I was reminded of all this when my copy of Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi arrived. I still haven't read Through the Ever Night, despite loving Under the Never Sky, and I was feeling quite annoyed at myself until I saw my fellow Bookish Brits Faye and Caroline tweeting about their #finishitfeb plans.

I decided to join in immediately. I did say that I wasn't going to sign up to any reading challenges this year, so I'm not going to set any goals. I'm just going to use this theme as an excuse to abandon my silly restrictions and attempt to finish some series this month, even if I have to use the library to do so!

I'm starting with the book on the top of the pile, The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray. I love this trilogy, but The Sweet Far Thing, the final book, is 819 pages long, and it's quite hard to carry around. But the last few times I've gone out I forced myself to leave some other stuff at home so I could take it, and I've managed to  get up to page 206! This might be the only book I finish, but if so, I'll still be pretty pleased with myself!

If you'd like to join in with Finish It February you can sign up at Big Book Little Book or A Daydreamer's Thoughts. I'll be posting updates on Twitter, so keep an eye on the #finishitfeb hashtag!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Make You Cry

This is my thirtieth Top Ten Tuesday post! I don't cry at books all that often, so I admit that I struggled a little bit with this topic!

Some of these books are quite sad, as you might expect, but I do cry at happy endings sometimes as well.

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry

1. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman - I don't know how anyone could get through this book without crying at least once. Teddy :(

2. A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett - I'm not sure if I cried the first time I read this but I definitely cried at the film!

3. Pushing the Limits, by Katie McGarry - the characterisation is amazing, and I couldn't help but cry just a little bit at the end.

4. Life on the Refridgerator Door, by Alice Kuipers - this is a short and very sad book about the relationship between a girl called Claire and her mother, who is diagnosed with breast cancer.

5. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi - I think I cried twice - once at a particularly sad part in the middle of the book, and again at the end.

6. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler - this is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster!

7. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak - the ending was devastating, even though I knew it was coming, .

8. Green Fingers, by Paul May - this is a children's book that really took me by surprise. I loved it.

9. Double Act, by Jacqueline Wilson - I will forever remember sitting on my parents' old sofa and crying when formerly-inseparable twins Ruby and Garnet have their first major falling-out.

10. Noughts & Crosses, by Malorie Blackman - I didn't just cry. I also struggled to sleep afterwards. I was so shaken by the ending. It's horrible and unforgettable.

How often do you cry while reading fiction? I think I cry more at films and television shows, seeing the tragedy acted out (or CGI'd out...oh, Dobby) in front of me seems to have more of an immediate impact.

Bookish Brits Vlog 8: Why I Love...Libraries

Bookish Brits are beginning February with a Why I Love... themed fortnight! I'm kicking it all off by talking about why I love libraries.

Don't miss out on the other videos! Subscribe to the YouTube channel, follow us on Twitter, or like the Facebook page.

Things mentioned:

The London Libraries Consortium
Senate House
The British Library
Wellcome Library (a 100% free library with materials relating to medical history, medicine and biomedical science, but reference only)
Wellcome Collection
The Poetry Library


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